Tuesday, July 31, 2012

All Together Again: Day 6

A day at the beach!  Always a crowd pleaser.  (And I don't know why one of my sleeves is up and one is down.  I noticed it's like that in every picture of me.  Guess I'll have one tan shoulder and one white one!)  I got up early to make food.  A double batch of Rice Krispie Treats, piles of turkey and cheese sandwiches (made to each kid's liking), fruit, chips, drinks, etc.)  I packed up our cooler and beach bag, and each kid grabbed a towel.  We headed out the door at 9:30am, picked up Aiden's friend Travis this time and drove to Santa Monica Pier.

I'm really not that much of a beach lover.  I love the view and the sounds and watching the kids have a blast, but I try to avoid the sand (nearly impossible) and water, and too much of the sun.  Increasingly these days I'm even trying to avoid having to wear a swim suit.  Oy.  Must. Get. Back. In. Shape.  So, anyway, we get there and trudge through a mile of sand carrying loads of beach gear.  I set up camp (the blanket, chairs, the umbrella, cooler, food, towels, etc.)  Then I start slathering kids with sunscreen.  Meanwhile, each kid jumps right into his/her beach role:

Lyndsay soaks up the sun like a princess, always way more coordinated than anyone else on the beach, and trying to stay pretty.  (Since it was still early, it was a bit cool, thus the skirt.)

Dylan goes right to digging The World's Biggest Hole.  And invariably, the lifeguards come over to me and tell me about the "new law" that says that no one can dig a hole deeper than two feet on a beach because the sand might collapse and kill someone.  And then he has to fill it back in.  And every time I act like it's the first time I've ever heard that, and oh, my, I'm so sorry, we didn't know.

Aiden and Travis were excited to work on sandcastles.  Above is my Sand Castle Kit.  I got the idea from a Martha Stewart episode on her Summertime Favorites DVD that I rented from Netflix back in March.  She had a competitive sandcastle sculptor show some techniques for sandcastle building and tools that are great for adding details.  I've been so excited to take it to the beach and give it a try.

Here are Aiden and Travis getting started on their foundation.  Turns out though, that the sand at this particular beach kinda stinks for construction.  It's not fine enough and it doesn't stick together well.  But they had some good trials, and practiced some of the techniques.

Here's Aiden working on staircases.

And his finished mini-castle.

Of course, Conor always wants to be buried, and truthfully, it's much easier for the other kids if he is.

Now, here it looks like Dylan is just casually eating some lunch.  But he's not.  He's secretly throwing pieces of bread and Doritos over Lyndsay, to attract seagulls.

First there is one bird.

Then there are many!

Conor's favorite part is "playing in the sea."  That boy loves the beach like nobody's business.  Always has.

Lyndsay is deciding she'll go in the water with the boys.  Actually, she didn't have much of a choice.  Dylan told her if she didn't, he would drag her on her towel down to the water.

But she mostly plays it safe with Conor in the more shallow water.  The boys out there, see them?  They were just hanging out there, jumping the waves, when a sea lion came just a few feet from them and popped his head up to look at them!  It was so cool!

I think the water was pretty cold.

I love this picture of Dylan.

This is Lyndsay after she "drowned."  She finally went out deeper with the boys, saw a huge wave coming, turned to run, with a look of terror on her face, and then she was gone.  When she came back up, she was Not. Happy.

I was laughing.

And here's what I did, besides take pictures and pass out food: read!  Love a good book on the beach, especially when it's not too hot.  

Another great day together.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

All Together Again: Day 5

Today we set up a swim day for the big kids.  A friend in another ward has a really cool pool with an amazing water slide and they welcome others to use it.  I wanted the kids to have some sibling time without Mom around, so they could just relax and enjoy themselves together.  They took three siblings from another family with them, packed a picnic lunch (well, with Subway sandwiches), and away they went.  I stayed home with Conor and cleaned and did mountains of laundry.  I gave Lyns the camera and asked that she please take pictures!  

 Crazy Aiden.

There goes Dylan!  Pretty cool water slide, huh?  Not that I'll ever go down it, but the kids sure love it!  And climbing up all those stairs helps to really wear them out.

Then in the late afternoon, we packed up and headed over to Dodger Stadium for a baseball game!  I was giddy with excitement.  Baseball is pretty much the only sport I really understand, know the rules to, and can follow.  Plus, my dad is a huge baseball fan and he took us to games as often as he could when we were kids.  For that reason, I'll always be a Phillies fan, but I like to root for my home team too.  Tonight's game was against the Diamondbacks, who used to be my home team (and is Dylan's current home team), so I thought it worked out perfectly.  We got seats in the All-You-Can-Eat Pavilion, and that was a good idea.  We had such a good time.  Even though the Dodger's got creamed.

The big kids.  We had Lyndsay's friend Emily come along with us too.

And you know Conor's gonna jump in every possible picture.

My brown-eyed loves.

And the blue-eyed crew.  Dylan was sick of the sun being in his eyes for the pics, and being all squished up, so he said he was "done."

And he was serious.

Man, we had a good time, though.  I loved sitting by my Dylan boy.  He cracks me up, that one, and it was such a nice feeling to just all be together laughing and cheering our teams on.  And he and I got to be driven crazy by Conor who was like a caged animal all night long.  I suppose in his defense, we did arrive 2 hours early and baseball games are long.  One of the highlights was when he picked up his giant pixie stick, upside down and poured the powder all over his lap, his shoes, my shoes and feet (in sandals!  Gross!) and the guy next to us.  Yeah, we were a hit.

We were out here, Center Field, first row.  We actually really liked our seats, and we got to watch Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp real close the whole night.  Awesomeness.

Love us some baseball!  What a great night!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

All Together Again: Day 4

The Sabbath.  

I had decided well ahead of time not to sabotage this day.  I did not call Dylan and remind him to bring Sunday clothes.  Whatever will be, will be, I resolved.  I'm not giving any more of my Sabbath days to grouchy teens.  I need them too much in order to get through the rest of the week.  

In fact, last night I just casually asked Dylan if he'd brought his Sunday clothes and he said no.  Then he said he wouldn't be going with us because he didn't feel comfortable.  I replied that everyone is always welcome at Church, proper clothing or not, current belief or not, and that if he wanted to join us, we would be leaving at 8:45am.  About ten minutes later he said he guessed he'd go.  

In the morning, he guessed he'd come after Sacrament meeting.  We left without him, and without hard feelings.  I was a little relieved, actually, because when he came with us during his Christmas visit he was so irreverent and disruptive that I was in tears.  

The meetings were fantastic.  One of our missionaries played a viola duet with the piano, a beautiful arrangement of "I Know that My Redeemer Lives."  It was so moving.  And in Primary, where I serve as the chorister, I got to have the entire hour for singing time and we played a Tic-Tac-Sing game I'd prepared to help review our Program songs.  The kids loved it and we all had a great time together.  I always come out of Primary on Cloud 9.  

But Dylan never showed up.  And when we got home, he wasn't there.  

The kids were concerned that he should "get in trouble" for not coming, for lying.  But I wasn't mad.  I really wasn't even disappointed.  That's where he is right now, I said.  And we can't let his choices bring us down, when we're the ones that went to Church.  Let's just have a happy day.  He came through the door a little while later.  He'd met a friend (who was on his way to Church himself) and they'd gone to McDonald's.  

No comment.  

I made a 7-layer bean dip for lunch.  We took naps.  Dylan wanted to leave again to go hang out with some friends, which we normally do not allow on Sundays.  I told him I'd like him to stay for Family Home Evening first (which I'd planned to hold tonight instead of Monday night since we're going to a baseball game tomorrow night) and then he was free to go. 

I'd thought hard and prayed long about what we should talk about in FHE.  I didn't want it to be too religious or preachy, because I was sensitive to Dylan's feelings.  But I wanted it to bring us together and create an atmosphere where the Spirit could be felt, if invited.  Family was the topic.  More specifically: What You're Made Of.  I wrote to both of my parents and asked them for ancestor stories that illustrated positive character traits.  I got some great stuff in return.  

A World War I adventure/mystery/love story from my dad that takes place on two continents.  

Pioneer journal entries from my 3rd great-grandparents who traveled separately across the plains (they weren't married yet) from my mom.

This is my great-great-great grandfather, Edmund Lovell Ellsworth, who led the first pioneer handcart company across the plains.  We read from his diary, as well as from his future wife's, Mary Ann Jones. We talked about the sacrifices they had to make, the courage they had, their great faith to suffer deprivation and loss all because they believed in a living prophet and wanted to be near him.  That's what my kids (and me) are made of.  They can suffer loss and heartache and keep on walking.  And they can turn challenges into victories.  

Then my mom sent me this other cool story about her 8th Great Grandfather (my 9th, the kids' 10th), Salvatore Muscoe Sr., who was an Italian stone cutter.  He had moved to London after the great fire of 1666 and his skill as a stone cutter was employed in the rebuilding of the city.  He worked under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren in the construction of St. Paul's Cathedral.  I showed the kids some pictures of St. Paul's Cathedral so they could appreciate the beauty and majesty of that impressive structure, the intricate detail of the stone work.  Dylan, who's toyed with the idea of architecture, seemed interested.  This is who you come from, I told them.  You are made of talent and hard work and an eye for beauty.  This building still stands as a witness of what you're made of.  Salvatore Muscoe Sr. emigrated from London to Virginia in about 1685.

We talked about how each of us is connected to all who have come before, and all who will come after.  They were given the privilege of being born in this country because of the decisions that their ancestors made before them.  They were given the privilege of being born members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of the decisions that their ancestors made before them, and all of those ancestors who came from royalty, the ancestors who were soldiers and fought in great battles throughout history, and the ancestors who crossed the plains as pioneers are still aware of them (and me!) as family and are ever-present, hoping that we will take what they prepared for us and pass it on.  I told them that there really aren't any choices that they make that only affect them, because we are all connected.  Decisions they make will affect generations to come and they can take the gifts of their family history and press forward in faith and courage and determination.  Even in the face of hardship and struggle and loss.  That's the legacy they've been given.

We will be a family living in three different states in just a few weeks.  But my hope is that we will remain connected to each other, and that our choices will reflect that as we go on to do great things in life.

I hope they were listening.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

All Together Again: Day 3

Today would be better.  I told the kids to be ready to leave at 8am for a hike in Eaton Canyon.  At the last minute, Dylan decided he didn't want to go because of his chronic knee pain.  He felt sure his knees wouldn't be able to handle it and then he'd just be hurting for the next few days.  The other kids were pretty annoyed by that (thinking that it was kind of a cop-out excuse since he doesn't always baby his knees), but I put them in the car and talked with Dylan privately for a while.  I know he's so super frustrated by the pain in his body.  He's so young and he feels like he's been cursed with a faulty body that holds him back from the things he wants to do.  He feels like doctors can't help him and there's nothing he can do and it's incredibly discouraging and frustrating to him, and I think it's the pain and frustration that colors his outlook on other things in life.  He feels like it's just not fair.  And it isn't, true.  We talked about that too.  My heart breaks for him.  We had a nice chat and in the end, I left the decision up to him whether he joined us or not.  He opted to sit this activity out, so we left him at home.  

Eaton Canyon is in Pasadena, and hiking it was on my summer goal list.  Though there are several different hikes in Eaton Canyon, we wanted the waterfall one, and according to the internet, it was 1.5 miles each way, so we brought Conor along.  

Yeah, it was not 1.5 miles.  At least 3 each way.  At least.  But we had a good time, and it was beautiful, not too hot, and great exercise.  At the end of our trail was the waterfall (not too substantial since it's been such a dry summer, but exciting nonetheless. It was a pleasant reward.  The boys took off their shirts and shoes and played in the water.  

On the way back, Aiden and Sean hiked in the (mostly) dry riverbed, while Lyndsay, Conor, and I hiked on the trail, crossing the streambed periodically.  After some time of not seeing the boys, we decided we'd better wait for them on the side of the trail, since their hike was more cumbersome and time-consuming than ours.  But they didn't come, and they didn't answer our calls (as in screaming their names calls, not phone calls---Aiden had the backpack with the cell phones, water, and car keys in it.)  Conor was very worried.  "They're lost," he kept saying.  "They're never going to find us."  

"Have some faith, Conor," I'd reply.  "They're good scouts and they know how to follow a trail."  We decided to keep walking after waiting about 20 minutes, thinking that even though we hadn't seen them, surely they would think to work their way toward the trail head.  We got a little farther down the trail and saw a small crowd gathered looking at something.  It was a huge rattlesnake slowly slithering in the bushes just off the trail.  I had never seen a rattlesnake so big!  We watched it for a while, and then it moved to cross the trail, which it did, leisurely.  We gave it space, but man, was it cool to see!  Just after it slithered into the bushes on the opposite side of the trail, out of sight, around the corner came Aiden and Sean.  Finally!  Turns out, they had decided to sit and wait for us, thinking they were ahead of us on the trail.  No matter, everyone was safe, and we hiked the last bit to the end.  We were tired!  We had hiked for over 3 hours.  And listened to Conor micromanage the entire way.

We stopped for In-N-Out burgers on the way home and then we showered and rested a bit.  Adam took Sean home, and I took my kids out to the mall so Lyndsay could get a few things she needed and I got Dylan some things he needed for the new school year.  We walked over to the Americana and watched the fountains, and then headed home.  For dinner I made cheesesteaks, and the kids hung out in the family room watching America's Funniest Home Videos.  The mood was so much better.  

Some pics of the day:

Some of the trail was easy like this, just packed sand.  But other parts were a little trickier, climbing up and down rocks and crossing the streambed.  Not too hard, but definitely challenging for Conor.  He was such a trouper!

Aiden was heroic, sometimes carrying Conor across the rocky parts.

This scene?  All of them in one room, getting along, and laughing together?  Makes my heart so happy.