Easter 2018

Before going to bed on Easter Sunday, Brooklyn told me, “Mom, I want to get a time machine for Christmas, so I can go back to Easter again.”

In other words, Easter weekend was pretty great.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures on Easter Sunday. I must have been tired or busy or both.

But it’s true that the kids had a great weekend. Oddly, our kids look forward to listening to General Conference. They like to color and listen and the older kids like taking notes. They like the fun breaks in between sessions when we try to do something very active together to get the wiggles out. They’re not perfectly attentive, but they do well. And the little ones always ask me to replay conference on the Monday after so they can sit and color and listen like they did before. There is a special spirit in our home during these meetings, and they feel it and want to replicate it after the big weekend is over.

Like at Christmas time, we had a lot of different visitors over two weeks. Four different groups came and went with only a day or less in between to wash sheets and towels and prep for the next set of guests. We were happy to have all of them, but having many visitors along with the work of a brand new puppy wore me out.

The week before Easter, our kids had Spring break. And two days before that, Rick and Ricky went to Disneyland.

While they were at the “happiest place on earth,” we got Winter.

The first day of spring break consisted of us cleaning, shopping, and preparing for guests. We also took Winter on her first outing/walk.

This little outing turned into quite an ordeal which probably deserves its own post entitled, “Ricky Gets Lost and MacGyverMom Saves His Life.” It’s a great story that is probably better told in person with exaggerated hand gestures and facial expressions, but maybe I can do it justice with written word. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll get it on here.

The day after I saved Ricky’s life, Chelsey, Kenzie, Riley, and Jake came for a few days. We so enjoyed spending time with them–even if we mostly hung out in the backyard with the puppy and practiced sweet Ripstick skills. Again, I wish I had taken more pictures.

I was super grateful to Chelsey for getting me to the top of the Seven Falls hike, finally!

I love to hike, but don’t get out on hikes too often. First of all, hiking with small children is slow and painful. It’s nearly impossible to get more than a half mile in without more adult help. Second, I’m too scared to go on my own–what if I got lost or hurt? So, I either get Rick to watch little children and take older children or plan on not going very far very quickly.

My guess is that this particular hike was about 6-7 miles round trip, so it took us about 4 hours. It was harder and longer than I thought, but it was worth the view at the top and worth it to say I actually made it. I tried to get the older kids to the top last fall, and we tried with some of the kids the day before, but both times we left too close to noon. Hiking at noon in Arizona–even in the fall or spring is unpleasant. But Chelsey got us out the door around 9 am and we persevered. Coming down at noon was pretty hot, there were a few good trips and slips, and both Chelsey and I turned our ankles, but we did it!

The evening after our hike, we all headed north to Mesa for the Easter Pageant.

The pageant was a lot different than I thought it would be. After attending the Nauvoo pageant for years, I expected something similar–a live show. This one was awkwardly scripted and seemed out of date. I know some my wonder how the story of Jesus Christ’s life can seem “out of date” but it’s the presentation, telling, and musical numbers that seemed antiquated–not the actual story or quoted scripture. This was the last year for the pageant for the foreseeable future, so I guess it was good for us to experience it. I’m hoping if they begin the tradition after the Mesa temple reopens, the program will also have undergone remodeling and updates.

That evening, we brought Anjee’s kids, Kelsey and Josh, home with us to spend the weekend while Anjee and Jeremy prepped their house to go on the market.

They had a great visit with us–just playing with the puppy, swimming, playing basketball and soccer and football. On Saturday, we watched General Conference and balanced going to basketball games.

Sunday was Easter. I made a nice ham dinner which we ate for lunch. I was completely exhausted because a few of the kids hardly slept with their excitement over the Easter bunny’s arrival. I think I have said this before, but holidays never truly feel like holidays to me because there’s just so much work involved–planning, decorating, making food, cleaning, gift giving, etc. Maybe it’s just the life of a mom. I guess I rather be busy than bored.

So, Easter was great. Anjee’s family left during the afternoon session of General Conference. I had finally gone upstairs for a nap so missed them leave.

That afternoon, we took Winter for her first family walk. It was slow with many, many stops.

I’m learning a lot about raising a puppy. I assumed dogs naturally like walks. I had no idea they have to be taught–same thing with playing fetch. I’m definitely in over my head.

Advertisements

Winter Basketball 2018

How many Mergenthaler blog posts have “basketball” in the title? Our kids do try other things. In fact, Sean is on swim team and I think it might kill me. He has practice every day Monday through Friday for an hour, and meets on Saturday (which I’m supposed to sign up to help at–how do you help at a swim meet with a 2-year-old?).

Back to basketball–our boys play with the Tucson Dragons. Rick has developed a relationship with the guys that run the organization, so he is able to coach. Time constraints only allow for him to coach one team at a time, so this time he coached Sean’s team. We were a little nervous about Sean playing on a 3rd/4th grade team (he’s in 2nd grade), but with Dad coaching he was fine. In fact, he learned a lot very quickly, and by the end of the season was defending against 4th graders and getting rebounds all of the time. At his last practice, he won Bump against one of his older teammates who thinks he is better than he is because he makes a lot of points in games.

I was able to go to two of Sean’s games. He is number 50.

It’s always fun to watch Rick coach. He enjoys the boys and he’s good and positive with them. Parents love him coaching their boys, and I’m no exception there. Andrew’s and Sean’s teams did very well in the final tournament. The last games were intense and exciting and they were matched against good teams.

Andrew’s last game was especially fun to watch. His friend made a three-point shot at the buzzer to tie the game. They finally lost by a few points in double overtime. Andrew played very well and was an awesome defender.

Both of the boys came home with silver medals for the season. Ricky will play again starting in May. Andrew wants to take a break and try football. Sean is trying swim team. I’m trying to keep it all together with a busy family schedule. It’s worth it to see the kids improve and learn and stay physically active.

Dreams Do Come True!

Makayla has wanted a dog her whole life. She was never scared of other people’s dogs. She loved them–big and small.

For her first years of life, pet ownership was not financially possible. Rick had a PhD program to get through. Besides that, our backyard was very, very small. I had other reasons for not getting a pet. Our family was growing, and sleep deprivation with a newborn does not encourage a mom to seek out new ways to have more work to do with even less sleep.

We did have a dog run in our tiny backyard in Everett. Once, a family in our ward that knew how much young Makayla loved dogs and that we had a dog run asked us to babysit their puppy over a weekend. I don’t know what insanity compelled me to say yes. I’m going to blame my shrunken post-partum brain and my need to please others. Andrew was less than 6 months old and Ricky was a very early riser. Makayla was experiencing night terrors most nights. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours at a time in quite a while, so my brain was not firing on all cylinders. As the time approached to babysit a yappy new puppy, my dread grew. I was hardly taking care of my four kids, for goodness sake! What person in their right mind would inflict a sleepless two nights upon me with their untrained vocal kick dog?!? I did something shameful. I called just the day before the scheduled puppy sitting and said I couldn’t handle their puppy. I was just too overwhelmed and overtired to take on the responsibility–even for two days and nights. I still feel bad about the last minute cancellation which left them to scramble for a new dog sitter, but also a little angry that this person asked me in the first place. Obviously they didn’t clearly see how hard things were for me.

When Rick graduated and we prepared to move to Iowa with a well-paid job, we hinted to the kids that we could get a much bigger yard, and maybe a dog.

We lied.

Well, we didn’t purposely lie. We just didn’t quite grasp the severity of the Iowan winters, the scope of our house remodeling, and the 3 additional children that would join our family (4 children if you count adding Reyes to the mix when Sean was just a few months old).

We still couldn’t handle a dog. Not even a fish! We had a bunch of kids! Our house was already overrun with “animals.” That’s what we told the kids until they may have possibly began to resent each other for existing.

One day, in desperation, Makayla made a sign and placed it in our front yard near the sidewalk. It said, “FREE PUPPIES! Put them right here!” The sign included a glittery arrow pointing to a basket with a blanket.

Unfortunately, her puppy basket remained barren. Another time, she threatened to not believe in Santa Claus anymore if he didn’t bring a puppy for Christmas.

Santa brought a Fur Real breathing and purring cat.

She was slightly mollified, but her Christmas sparkle dulled significantly.

And then we learned that Gavin would probably be our last baby and we moved to a warmer climate with a nice fenced yard and the begging, cajoling, pleading, and planning became incessant.

Somehow we cracked. And we got a puppy.

This is Winter. She’s a golden retriever and she’s very sweet. We named her Winter because she is white, obviously, but also because she is the only white winter we expect to see much of here in Tucson and she was born in January. The kids were super excited to have her.

We have had her two weeks now. She is learning quickly. Either I’m an excellent dog trainer or she’s smart. I think it’s the latter.

But, here are my true feelings–I don’t really want a dog. Rick doesn’t really want a dog. Puppies are a lot of work and not a whole lot of reward. They’re messy and they smell and they bark.

But, Makayla’s dreams have come true. You would think after the years and years of deprivation she would be with the puppy every second, constantly catering to its needs.

Nope.

You know what she said to me the other day as I begged her to please take Winter out to do her business? “I think I’m not really a dog person.” What?!?! I could have thrown that dog down her throat.

Good thing I’m not that violent. And good thing Andrew and Brooklyn are smitten with Winter and are willing to take on the responsibilities of caring for her. Ricky too. Sean likes her a little.

So, we have a dog. Insert eye roll and big sigh here.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like her and she LOVES me. I think she will be a great exercise companion once I get her trained to walk more than ten steps before laying down or sniffing the roadside. And she already keeps Andrew and Brooklyn happy and busy, so that’s good. She has a lovely personality and isn’t too hyper for a puppy.

I go back and forth between regretting the decision to get a dog and thinking it will be OK in the long run. Honestly, I feel like I have been tricked.

I mistakenly believed I could count on our crew of kids to clean up after, feed, train, play with, walk, and generally care for the puppy. But, as with all things, I am the mom and I am the one who is home most of the time. Whatever work isn’t done by the kids becomes my work. I should have known this because it’s true with every bit of family work around the house. I can either do more work or work at making them do their work. Neither option is appealing.

I also feel like Rick has tricked me. He said, “Sure, I think we can get a dog. I think it would be a good thing.” When a shelter asked if we would consider two dogs, he actually said, “Maybe we should. They could play with each other.” I immediately nixed that idea. Double the dogs means double everything else–mess, poop, digging, walking, barking. But Rick’s positive attitude about dog ownership gave me confidence. I thought, “Maybe we can do this. Maybe we can get a dog for the kids and not completely lose our sanity.”

But, after a rough day and loud evening of barking, he lost it. I asked him to please help me with something dog related (I can’t remember what it was now) and he said, “I never wanted a dog. It’s not my responsibility.” Yep, I’ve been duped. So much for “Maybe we can get a dog.”

Can you tell I’m a little bitter? Like I said before, it’s a good thing some of the kids love her. And it’s good that she’s super cute and furry and has a nice personality. Everything will be OK in the long run–even if Makayla’s dreams have turned into my nightmares.

We will get along just fine…eventually.

Everyday Life

Just two days after our big Trek weekend, our Cub Scout troop had the Blue and Gold Banquet. We traveled to a Mexican fiesta for dinner.  I helped set up and take down decorations and cooked five pounds of hamburger for our tacos.

Andrew received his Webelos award.

He’s not wearing his Cub Scout shirt because Sean and he are sharing one and Andrew is happy to let Sean wear it. Sean is a little annoyed that I haven’t updated the patches in the shirt so it looks like he has all his rankings and that he is still part of the Hawkeye Area Council. I think updating the shirt is a pain and I will only do it for Sean because it’s important to him. Our Blue and Gold fiesta even had piñatas!Our yard here in Tucson is a big project.  I love it and think it’s beautiful, but wish I had the time to care for the plants the way they need to be cared for.  The previous owners put a lot of thought into planning the plants and their locations.  They must have loved butterflies, hummingbirds, color, and citrus.  The first months we lived here were very hot and dry and our watering system wasn’t working properly.  Because we were buried in other projects, some of our plants suffered from the heat and died.  Now I am working to find replacements for the plants.  We have some ever-blooming bushes on one side of the pool that were a mystery to me until a couple of weeks ago.  Three of the bushes died last summer and I have been wandering the gardening sections of the stores hoping to see a match so at least I would know what they were called.  Do you have any guesses? Here are some clues–the hummingbirds and butterflies love them.  They are suited to full sun and tropical temperatures.  They are usually pink, but one of our bushes is white and a coupe are pink and white.

Here’s the answer:  salvia or Mexican sage.  I still need to do some repair work to the drip lines and map out where I should plant the peach tree I bought (and plant it soon).

Gavin still likes me to take his picture when we drop off or pick up Brooklyn from preschool.  He loves that pink and purple backpack!  He brought it to church today with a stuffed dog and three binkies inside.I have been trying to slowly wean him away from his binkies.  He loves them like Sean did.  He likes to carry them around.  I’m working on getting him to leave them in his bed for bed time, but sometimes he just needs a little snuggle time with his binky.  And sometimes I’m too nice to take it away.And sometimes I let Brooklyn skip preschool to stay home and play with a friend.  They had a good time eating lunch outside together and playing and playing and playing.  I love it when my kids can be happy, imaginative, content, and active outside for hours.  It helps to have a good friend who is like that too.These little handprints have been on my mirror for a few weeks.  I think about cleaning them off, but I kind of like the look of them.

I’m still working on that little narrative about my Grandma’s experiences in Mesa, Arizona.  I got into contact with one of my mom’s cousins this week and he sent me some fun pictures that I didn’t already have.

I am enjoying taking a little time a few days a week to research their experiences and write a paragraph or two.  The project is going very slowly, but it’s still interesting and fun for me and I am learning a lot.

Trek

At the end of February, Rick and I participated in Trek with youth and other leaders from our area. Explaining Trek to people who are not members of our church creates an interesting conversation. Did you know there will be a movie based on the LDS activity called Trek?

https://youtu.be/WXotjO3f0sQ

Trek is a faith-building activity for youth in our church who are between 14 and 18 years old. Essentially, it is a re-enactment of the handcart pioneers and meant to help kids relate to their ancestors and gain a greater appreciation for their blessings. There are built-in challenges for the kids regarding physical work, testimony sharing, team building, etc.

Kids who participate are divided into families with a Ma and Pa as leaders. Families are grouped into companies with Captains. In our case, there were 7 kids in our family and 3 families in our company. There were 6 companies in all for this experience.

Rick and I were asked last fall if we would be a Ma and Pa for Trek. Neither of us experienced Trek before, and we were excited and a little nervous to participate. Mostly, I was glad for the opportunity to be there with Makayla who was very nervous about going.

Here in Arizona, we do a winter trek because trekking in the summer would be life-threatening. Many of my Midwestern friends will think a winter trek in Arizona would be no big deal, and normally it wouldn’t be, but Trek fell on an unusually cold weekend. We had highs in the 50s and lows in the teens with horrible wind Friday afternoon through the evening. My Midwestern friends may still laugh and try to tell me that’s not cold, but there’s a difference between being outside in those temperatures for a couple hours and camping for three days and two nights. It was rough and most of these kids from the southwest don’t know how to dress for cold weather. Even our Makayla was stubborn about wearing a beanie and gloves.

I was more nervous about the cold weather than the physical challenges of pushing a handcart or camping and it turned out that the cold weather was the hardest part for me.

In spite of the cold, we had a lot of good experiences. We had exceptional kids in our family. They were hard-working, helpful, and positive. This is a picture of us meeting our family for the first time. We tried to show our excitement at meeting them without scaring them. They seem to be smiling, so that’s a good sign. This is our first family picture. Emily did such a nice job making our flag. If we ever use it again, I will fill in the letters of our last name at the top of the flag so you can read it better. The first day was very long. The kids were all up super early to be at the church by 6 am and to travel to the Trek site by 7:30.

We met our families, put together our handcarts, loaded up their gear, and began a very long day of walking with a ton of stops. The stops were frustrating for our group because they were anxious to get to camp and get settled. The schedule had us arriving in camp by 3 pm and with all the stops and delays, we didn’t pull in until after 6 pm where we promptly began making dinner in the dark.

Our family could have easily crossed the miles quickly because we had some good hard workers who didn’t shy from physical challenges. Their frustration at being stopped so often helped them learn patience and the value of looking outward to help other families who were struggling.

One of our last challenges that day required the families to completely unload the handcarts, disassemble them, and carry everything through a long tunnel to reassemble and reload on the other side. This is a picture of some of us waiting for the wrenches to be found so we could finish reassembling the cart. And this picture is on the other side of the tunnel with Rick and our boy, Riley, carrying the base of the handcart while I handle the heavy lifting (rope). This is a picture of our family on the last day. Our company captains are also in there. Notice, I’m still wearing my heavy coat. It took me three days after we were home to finally feel warm. This is Makayla’s family. I was so happy she had her friend Elise with her. Makayla said they were a good pair because when Elise was grumpy, Makayla would encourage her and vice versa. This is Makayla’s family again on the first day. The first day’s trek was long and winding without too many steep hills. The second day was very hilly and rocky and quite a challenge with the carts.

I worried more about Makayla’s experience in Trek than anything else. She was adamant about not going right up until the night before. She was worried about the physical challenges among other things. Rick and I kept encouraging her telling her that she could do hard things, but I worried the experience would be like her 4th year girls’ camp hike. She went on that hike about a week after we moved here, not knowing anybody and has a miserable experience. I was so happy that this time she found the experience worthwhile and actually enjoyed some of it. She had spiritual experiences and her prayers were answered along with mine.

I am glad we had the opportunity to serve some of the youth in our stake. I was impressed with their goodness and grew to love the kids in our family as well as others. My heart was drawn out to those with very difficult challenges including addictions, mental health issues, and waning testimonies. These kids are persevering through very difficult challenges and Heavenly Father loves them. I have a lot of hope for what they can be and the great things they can do.

While Rick and I were Trekking in the frozen desert, Anjee and Jeremy took such good care of our younger kids. This was a greater sacrifice than Rick and I roughing it for a few days. The kids had a great time with their cousins. I felt bad about not being able to call them much because we had no way to charge our phones. I was happy they had a good time together and so grateful to Anjee and Jeremy for taking on such a challenge. Brooklyn missed me, but I don’t think Gavin did. In fact, just two days ago he asked if he could go on a trip to Aunt Anjee’s again.

Makayla

This girl!!!  I just love her to pieces!  She’s a gorgeous, funny, deep-thinker.  Two days after Sean’s 8th birthday, we got to celebrate Makayla’s 16th.

Makayla didn’t want a big party even though Sweet Sixteen is a big deal.  She worried about planning an event that would keep her friends happy and engaged without awkwardness.  She also doesn’t like to be the center of attention.  The pressure of being the party planner, hostess, and focus of compliments and “happy birthdays” was just too much for her to have a birthday party with friends.  Makayla is happiest at home wrapped in a blanket with hot chocolate and a good book or baking in the kitchen while The British Baking Show plays on the TV in the background.  We tried to keep her birthday low-key while also sharing how much we love her and helping her feel special. She was lucky this year that her birthday fell on a Saturday, so we could have a fun day celebrating as a family.

On the Friday night before her birthday, the celebrating began.  Rick and Ricky were on a campout, so I put the younger kids to bed and Makayla, Andrew, and I stayed up late to watch one of Makayla’s favorite movies–Flipped.  She slept late on Saturday and didn’t have to do any Saturday chores (that’s a big deal!!).  In the morning, I picked up Bruegger’s Bagels (her favorite flavor is cinnamon sugar).  After lunch, she came along to Andrew’s basketball game and afterward we stopped at The Puppy Place to see the puppies.

We picked up a Cold Stone ice cream cake on the way home and had Pasta Roni White Shells and Cheddar for dinner.  She opened her presents and we ate a little cake before Rick and I took her to the movies.  Unfortunately, we got to the movies too late and the theater was sold out for Jumanjii 3.  Instead of the movie, we went to Kneaders to get smoothies, salad, and half-price treats.

I feel so blessed to be this young lady’s mom!  She is teaching me a lot about pushing through adversity and looking toward others to help them feel included and loved.  We just went on Trek together (she wasn’t in our family, but I saw her often).  I was so impressed with her efforts to include others and help other people who were struggling.  She knows what it’s like to feel anxious and nervous–especially in social situations and she is pushing through her hesitations to help others who might feel the same way.

Want to know a sad story?  Twelve days ago I lost Makayla’s phone and I still haven’t been able to find it!  She has been pretty patient about this blunder aside from a few jabs at my memory incompetence.  I really do want to find that phone.  It’s driving me crazy!

Sean

Eight is great! We were so happy to celebrate Sean’s birthday last month.

On his big day, he went to school and shared mini cinnamon rolls with his classmates. After school, he went rock hunting in the yard. He also had special visitors from the Primary Presidency on his birthday. They came to talk with him about his upcoming baptism. He was looking forward to their visit and enjoyed being the center of attention for a little while.

We had pizza for dinner. Sean loves thoughtful gifts, so opening his birthday presents and playing with them was the highlight of his day. He received some great presents including a misting water bottle, jumping remote control car, a book just for adventuring boys, some games, walkie talkies, and other fun things.

Andrew and Sean continued the tradition of the “birthday polar jump.” Makayla’s birthday was two days later. She discontinued the tradition.

Sean’s birthday cake was the most delicious cake we have had in a while and that’s saying something because our birthday cakes are really good! Dad made a homemade chocolate cake in three layers. I made our fudge frosting, and layered the cake with frosting, Oreos, and whip cream. It was perfection!

Sean was baptized on February 10. I love baptisms because I know I will feel the Spirit. Sean didn’t have a whole lot to say about his baptism. If somebody asked him how he felt, he would say, “I felt warm.” The inquirer would nod their head and smile thinking he was talking about the Spirit, and Sean would add, “Because the water was warm.” I love that Sean always tries to be completely honest. He was told in his confirmation blessing that he will be a valiant leader in the church and I can tell he is already learning lessons and preparing to serve.

I love these kids!!

These two sweet friends are in Sean’s Primary class. My friend Karitza sent these super cute and delicious cookies for the occasion.

I love this young man and am so excited for all the great things he will experience and learn in the upcoming years. He is a great example to our family. He is a hard worker and super good at doing quality work – especially organizing the game room or tidying his room. He’s excellent at following directions and checking off items on a list. When he loses his temper, he always make sure to apologize and ask for forgiveness. He pays attention to what he learns in church and at home and tries to improve himself a little bit each day. He is thoughtful and caring and kind. Happy birthday Sean!!

The Wilds

Last Friday was Wilderness Day.

In the morning, I was distracted by too many things to do in too little time. When I left to pick up Brooklyn from preschool, I accidentally left the garage open. We came home to a curve-billed thrasher flapping around in the garage. (Are you impressed with my bird identification skills?). We have some big windows on one side of the garage. Despite my attempts to free the bird by opening all the doors, it kept slamming into the windows. I pulled out a big, blue tarp and slowly guided (scared) it out.

After school, Andrew disappeared for a little bit. I was busy prepping a bunch of food and packing for Ricky and Rick to go camping, so I didn’t think too much of his absence until he came in the kitchen looking a little pale.

He had been in our side yard looking for precious rocks and minerals because I told him a true story of a girl who lived in the desert and liked to collect turquoise, garnets, and geodes. He was scanning his surroundings for shiny rocks or when he noticed an odd brown rock had moved. It was a bobcat, laying on the ground about 15 feet from him! He slowly backed away and came in the house to tell me. I went with him to check it out and took a picture (from farther than 15 feet away, of course).

We decided it’s probably better to go out with a buddy and tell Mom. The bobcat was sitting on the path that Ricky takes from the bus stop, so I drove down to the bus stop to pick him up. I think the bobcat was harmless and just resting. I’m sure it would have ran away if Ricky or Andrew accidentally got too close, but it’s better to be safe. Bobcats and coyotes have been on the trail other days when the kids have been walking home and the animals just keep their distance.

When I got home from driving Ricky to his camp out and Andrew and Sean to basketball, I decided I’d take a little break and enjoy the sunset. My phone just doesn’t do the sunsets here justice, but I’m still compelled to capture them anyway. I always imagined the desert as brown and mundane. I was wrong. I might be biased, but Tucson is a beautiful desert and much greener than I expected with the mesquite trees, saguaros, and palo verde trees. It’s certainly not a barren, sandy desert. And there’s so much color! The sunsets are spectacular.

I took Gavin for a little walk around the yard to enjoy the sunset and as we got closer to his swing, we could smell the fragrant new flowers in our big tree. They smelled so good that I decided to delay making dinner just a little longer and push Gavin on the swing. When we got under the tree, we heard buzzing. I’m not sure why I didn’t hear it before because it’s loud enough to hear from the back door if you’re paying attention. The bees love the smell of the flowers too! The buzzing was so loud, I thought we had a hive, so we went inside to research what to do about an unwanted hive.

I learned that we probably don’t have a hive, but we do have two giant African sumac trees that are known for blooming in January or February with small, fragrant green flowers that attract droves of bees. I also learned that some people in Tucson consider African sumac trees to be an invasive weed. I think these trees are beautiful and could almost call them my favorites if they weren’t competing against our orange and lemon trees. I was a little disappointed that they’re considered invasive bee-attractors.

It turns out that, like the bobcat, the bees were not at all interested in us. Andrew went out the next day to swing and listen to the calm buzzing and the bees were so busy with the flowers, they didn’t come near.

I love living here and learning about the plants and animals that are unique to our area. I’m also trying to learn the names of all the tropical plants in our yard. This one is hibiscus:

Brooklyn Is a Handful

Before I talk about Brooklyn’s birthday, I guess I need to explain the joke in the title. Rick asked me why I said Brooklyn is a handful because she is actually pretty easy to take care of. I had to explain that it’s just a joke: she is five years old, there are five fingers on your hand, so she is a handful. Do you get it? I guess a joke is not that great if you have to explain it, but I don’t want you thinking that she’s a difficult child.

Brooklyn had a fantastic birthday. She had been counting down the weeks, then days since Christmas.

When she woke up in the morning, she got on her new striped dress and prepared for preschool.

In the hustle and bustle of me getting lunches made, kids dressed, messes cleaned, and people fed, she interrupted with, “I’m 5. I should be able to read.”

“Yes, a lot of 5-year olds read. You are very capable of learning.”

“You should teach me right now, then.”

If only teaching somebody to read was as quick as that. I told her we could spend some time each day on reading skills, but not before driving everybody to school. That satisfied her.

On the way to preschool she asked, “Do I start Kindergarten today? Five year olds go to Kindergarten.”

I assured her that she would go to Kindergarten in August, but the first day of Kindergarten is about 7 1/2 months away. Until then, she would get to go to preschool 3 days a week, then have summer break, and then start Kindergarten.

At preschool, she got a crown and birthday bag. She also provided cute butterfly plates and napkins for snack time (Kids don’t bring birthday treats to preschool).

At home, she helped me make the birthday cake. When the big kids got home from school, she talked Andrew into swimming with her. They jumped into the cold pool water a few times, but mostly stayed in the hot tub. When the kids were outside swimming, she had another big five-year old question, “Do five-year olds pick their noses?”“Of course they don’t because they’re too grown up for that.”

As she picked her nose, she responded, “Well, I’m not actually five-years old until tonight. And I like to pick my nose, so I probably won’t obey that rule.”

The rest of the night was great. We had homemade pizza for dinner. At dinner we each shared some of our favorite things about Brooklyn. Gavin shared that he likes to play “doggies” with her. Andrew likes to read Junie B. Jones to her. Makayla likes her brutal honesty. Dad likes her hugs and smiles. After dinner, we ate cake and ice cream and opened presents. We spent the rest of the night playing with her fun presents. She got a pink karaoke microphone and a disco light–we are expecting a lot of crazy dance parties in the future.

I love having Brooklyn in our family. She is energetic, friendly, spunky and fun. She is growing out of her bossiness a little bit and is more willing to go with the flow than she used to be. She is very sweet with Gavin and they play lots of fun games together. She loves to be outside, but doesn’t like to be sweaty and hot because she doesn’t want to have a “tomato face.” I love being Brooklyn’s mom and am looking forward to all the fun things she will get to do this year because she’s finally five.

This Week’s Snapshots

The boys looked so handsome last Sunday. I didn’t get a picture of Ricky or Rick, but they looked handsome too.

Waiting for Brooklyn to get out of preschool can be entertaining.

We had so many lemons from our lemon tree! The other morning, I decided to make strawberry lemonade–delicious! I have about 40 quart size bags of lemon juice in the freezer–we will have lemonade all summer long!We had some beautiful sunsets this week. Emily sent me this cute picture of her and Avery at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. That’s about it for this week. Next week, Brooklyn turns five years old!!