A New Man

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Gavin has changed almost as if overnight. He has a quiet confidence about him. You should have seen him pass the sacrament yesterday. He bravely puts himself out there for the good of the team. During Priesthood Opening Exercises the deacons were asked to have a spokesperson talk about Scout Camp. Gavin and Matt were the only ones who went. Matt asked Gavin if he wanted to do it. He didn’t do it to pass the buck or anything. He was giving Gavin the opportunity if he wanted it. Gavin took it. He stood up and boldly told stories of camp.

He wasn’t able to help set up the Primary room since he was learning the passing routes. After church was over he came into the Primary room asking how he could help.

Gavin: I am ready to help. What can I do?

We tried to ask the Primary President’s husband if we could carry things out to his car. He kept blowing us off. I was confused until his wife walked in the room. We asked her if we could help carry her decorations to her car. Her husband said he didn’t even recognize any of the stuff as theirs. We were willing to help but between the two of them they gathered it all up and walked out.

Throughout the day Gavin will ask if he can help me in any way. Without asking he grabbed the large outdoor garbage can yesterday.

Me: What are you doing?
Gavin: I’m going to throw away the fruit that’s on the ground.
Me: That’s nice but we’re going to church in an hour. Can’t you do this tomorrow?

It turns out he had slipped in the fruit and his pants were covered in red sludge. Why he was playing outside just before church was a moment of mental relapse I suppose. I do appreciate his willingness to correct the problem. Today I told the kids to do it. Gavin wanted to do it all himself. While he is definitely different he is still the same old Gavin. A chip off his mom’s block. I don’t always like help either. I made all three of them work on the fruit together.

My favorite Gavin story happened at dinner last night. Out of the blue he said that he felt the Spirit at camp. I guess he was talking with some boys and they were telling personal spiritual stories. Gavin said he had felt the Holy Ghost before but this time he definitely felt it. I thought that was pretty cool. Even his prayers seem more thoughtful.

He doesn’t seem to be going through the motions. He is very present and aware in his life as a new priesthood holder.

I noticed a positive change in him when he started middle school. It was as if he decided that he was going to do this school thing and that he would do it well. I saw him step outside of himself and try new things. He had the same attitude with Scouts. I love how he set goals for himself and got to work to accomplish those goals. He earned seven merit badges at camp this last week!

I see him have the same determined mindset as a new youth in church. After he learned the passing routes he practiced singing with the youth who had a musical number planned for the Sacrament Meeting program. He passed the sacrament for the first time ever and later in the meeting he walked up with the rest of the 12-17 year olds and sang.

He’s still the same Gavin. He still fights with his brother and sister and he still makes silly mistakes. Somehow he has changed though. He is a little bit different. More mature and certainly much taller. It’s nice that he is different. He’s my size which makes him feel like more of a peer than my child I need to yell at! He’s a great kid. We’re all happy to have him home.

Day on the Bay

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My mom loves to visit San Francisco. We try to fit in a visit to the city with her as often as we can. San Francisco was on the agenda for Monday. We didn’t know what we wanted to do but we had a lot of fun ideas.

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Heath and I decided that we could do an Alcatraz tour. In all the time we have lived here we have never gone on an Alcatraz tour. Our kids were too little and then when they got big enough to handle walking on their own we completely forgot about it. It was the perfect plan to go now. Well, all the way until Heath looked online for ticket information.

Tickets were completely sold out for months. Can you say tourist season? It has been a very long time since we took a day trip into the city and we forgot about tourist season. Heath goes into the city every day to work. But his building is no longer on the Embarcadero in Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s amazing how often he has relocated to a building in that same area.

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He’s in the financial district now and hasn’t changed.

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We could see his building at various times throughout our day. As we drove in he would point it out. He says his building looks like the tweezers in the skyline. Then he would describe it as the building that separates into two towers at the top. I thought I knew which one was his. He would try to point out the correct building and I would get nervous and tell him to just drive! Nerves may always accompany me into the city.

This time wasn’t too bad. It’s the city driving that always gets to me. It is good for me to go back occasionally. My heart races and I hate being in the thick of it all. As we come off the Bay Bridge and I look up at the massive buildings, I have the same thought. I can’t believe we lived here for six weeks! It’s a reminder that I am stronger than I think. But I digress.

Our potential plans included a myriad of tours. I loved the Duck Tour we went on in Seattle. I have seen Duck Tours driving around in San Francisco. Nearly every morning that I would walk my two babies to the park I would see a Duck Tour. The people on board seemed so happy even though most pedestrians were very vocal with their taunts and jeers. Jealousy. Heath has been on bus tours of San Francisco and said it was really fun. A few weeks before Gwen was born Grandma and Grandpa took Heath and the boys into the city for a Bay Tour. I stayed home with a pregnancy headache and have been jealous of them ever since!

One thing I have always wanted to do was get a family picture in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. With Gavin freshly at Scout Camp it would have made for a sad picture without him. We didn’t make it to the park anyway.

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This is a great family picture in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The first plan we looked into ended up being the activity for the day. We asked about a Bay Tour. The lady told us one was leaving in 10 minutes. It was perfect! We paid for tickets and headed straight onto the boat. The tour that we went on was a longer boat ride. It was scheduled to last 90 minutes. I was so excited.

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Gwen wasn’t so sure. I hate how much anxiety has touched my kids. I hate to think they have learned these reactions from me. Gwen doesn’t hide her feelings. Whatever she is feeling she lets everyone know. And she was not interested in climbing onto a boat.

Part of the problem was the fact that we boarded so late compared to others. There were no seats inside and there wasn’t much standing room left in front of the windows. In order to see we kept climbing until we made it to the top deck. Unfortunately every seat up there was also taken. We stood in front of a hand rail and I hugged and hugged my Little Miss hoping to calm her nerves.

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Parker was a good big brother as he tried to help Gwen stop being nervous. My mom and I talked to her. We all wanted her to have fun but she was determined to let Fear run the controls in her mind. She kept telling me she wanted to go downstairs. I wasn’t interested in trying not to fall on our heads as I took her down the stairs on a rocking boat. I hadn’t gotten my sea legs yet. When she kept insisting she needed to use the bathroom I finally took her down.

We somehow managed to move through the static crowd and made it to the stairs. I told Gwen to hold on tight. My mom asked if we were coming back up and I told her I sure hoped so. Gwen and I walked down to the restrooms. She walked in and did her thing. As soon as she came out she grabbed my hand and took the lead. I had not said one word to her but she led me all the way back up to the top deck. Her nerves were gone as soon as her nervous bladder was taken care of. She was fine for the rest of the trip.

There was a lady sitting on the last bench right in front of where we were standing. She kept getting up to take pictures. She was away from her seat for longer periods each time she got up. Gwen watched carefully and when the lady got up again Gwen swooped in to take her seat. It didn’t take long for the man sitting next to the lady to get up and join her.

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Parker took his seat. The two of them played and giggled and enjoyed hanging out with each other for the rest of the trip.

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These collapsible binoculars came with the price of the kids tickets. Gwen and Parker looked out at the water with them once or twice. They had more fun turning them backwards and looking at each other exclaiming how small they looked! It was so cute watching them play together. They have their moments when they argue and fight. They have more moments where they so obviously love each other as a brother and sister. 

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It was awesome going underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Look at the Golden Gate Bridge! An icon of San Francisco. It was a beautiful day too. So beautiful and sunny that Heath and Barry fried their faces. Gwen and Parker were a little pink. We were pretty well protected from the sun with our jackets on. It was a typical windy day in the city.

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So we didn’t get to go to Alcatraz for a tour. The Bay Tour we took circled the island very slowly. We learned so much about the island and its prison history with our audio tour. It was fascinating to hear so many facts and stories. Most of the stories were told by prison guards who used to work there.

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The island started out as a literal rock in the middle of the bay. Soil and plants were imported. Water and electricity were also imported. There was not a drop of fresh water on the entire island except for what was brought in from the mainland. They never said why the prison was shut down. My assumption is because it was too expensive to maintain. There were never more than 300 prisoners at one time. That’s still a lot of men to take care of.

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A few prisoners tried to escape. Nobody made it without being caught or drowning first. It must have been excruciating to realize you were stuck on an island a mere mile and a half from freedom. The place was heavily guarded and the water was icy cold with boats patrolling the area.

One man spent ten whole years carefully stealing a prison guard uniform, one piece at a time, including dog tags, out of the laundry he was in charge of. Ten whole years! It was half his sentence. He made it into a boat before someone realized he didn’t belong there and was hauled back to Alcatraz. The patience and ingenuity of the prisoners was amazing. Some stories were chilling like the prisoner who got into a fight with a barber and used the scissors as a weapon. Blood was splattered everywhere. That story was told by a prison guard. It was his recollection of his very first day on the job! Holy cow!

The prisoners were well fed. It was a heavy carb, protein, and fat laden diet with decadent desserts. If the prisoners didn’t finish all their food they were not allowed to eat anything the next day! I didn’t understand the thought process behind that other than the theory of keeping the men happy. Maybe they hoped the prisoners would eat themselves into a heart attack or gout.

For Christmas one year the prisoners formed a band playing a variety of instruments. The man telling the story said they butchered every song they played but they were happy doing something different.

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I still want to go on the Alcatraz tour but I feel satisfied for now with the amazing stories we were told as our boat circled the island. Maybe in the fall we can take the kids out of school for a day and go on a tour. The weather will be much warmer in the fall too.

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We didn’t see many seals or se lions even though the audio made it sound like there would be a lot. It’s been in the news lately that there just aren’t that many animals on the docks by Fisherman’s Wharf anymore. Nobody really knows why. It could be the warmer water temperatures with the unpredictable weather we have had. The animals arrived soon after the Loma Prieta earthquake but now they have mysteriously left.

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Another fun tour we thought about for a few seconds was this Rocket Boat Tour. It looks like a large ski boat that shows the riders a good time on the bay. I think both Gwen and Parker would have peed their pants if we did that! It looks fun though.

After our tour we went to lunch at Wipeout Grill. It’s been years since we ate there. Gwen was a little tike in a stroller the last time we ate there. The food was pretty good. We all got burritos. Parker loved the bathrooms the best.

Parker: Everyone goes into the bathroom together. Then you go into a little room with a ROOF on top! (You had to hear him say it to really appreciate the emphasis he put on the words) Then everyone washes their hands together outside.

It was a pretty accurate description. The restrooms were designed to fit the surfer theme of the restaurant. It was a coed line that led to maybe six separate water closets. As soon as one was vacant you could go in. Parker did say it was important to lock the door so the dial just under the door handle outside switched from vacant to occupied.

Each water closet was just a room with a door and a toilet. Adjacent to the line of people was a trough style sink with maybe four faucets for hand washing. The whole are had a striped canopy on the ceiling as if it was a roof at the beach. There were flip flops strung along the top of the wall for decoration. That was Gwen’s favorite part.

We walked around Fisherman’s Wharf a little after lunch. We popped into a couple stores that looked interesting. The best store was a puzzle store. They had tons of wooden puzzles that would blow anyone’s mind. We bought a matchstick game that I need to learn how to play. Gwen watched that demonstration. We also got a triangle puzzle. There are balls connected in different shapes and you have to figure out how to put them all back together on the triangle. It’s harder than it looks. There are about 25 solutions too. You can also use the balls to create a 3D triangle. The final game we bought is 3D Tic Tac Toe. That was a really fun place and we found some really fun games and puzzles.

An ice cream shop along the pier had the most delicious smells wafting around. They were making fresh waffle cones. Everyone really wanted one. I’m not much of an ice cream person. Most of it doesn’t tempt me at all. The Ben and Jerry’s kiosk had my attention though. I guess I’m an ice cream snob. If I’m going to eat it I want it to be the good stuff. So we got Ben and Jerry’s cones.

Parker grumpily chose not to have any ice cream. He was mad that we didn’t buy him a stuffed toy to remember the trip. He insisted he would forget the entire experience unless we bought another family pet. Gwen agreed. Mom and Dad stood their ground and no pets were purchased. The games from the puzzle store were enough.

Ice cream dripped as we licked and walked our way back to the parking garage. We piled back into the van and drove home. It was a great day and we all had so much fun.

Milestone Birthday

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For a year now Gwen has frequently said the phrase, “Gavin is almost a man!” When she wasn’t saying that she would put her two index fingers up next to each other and in her best Valley girl voice would say, “He’s eleven!”

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Now Gavin is twelve and has been given the responsibilities of a man. What happened to my baby?

Sunday was an extra special day. Birthdays are always special occasions but milestone birthdays that land on Sundays are extra special. After all the fanfare of fireworks and celebrating the Nation’s birthday, Gavin celebrated his own birthday on Sunday. While Grandma C, Gwen, Parker, and I went to the Oakland Temple grounds, Gavin met with the Bishop.

In Sacrament Meeting the Bishop called Gavin up to the pulpit. The Bishop said he had interviewed Gavin and found him worthy to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and ordain him to the office of Deacon. The audience was asked to sustain the action or oppose if they chose to. I noticed Gavin never did vote. He’s supposed to vote for himself. The Bishop didn’t notice and didn’t say anything.

Then Gavin was asked to recite his favorite Article of Faith. He recited the 5th:

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Tradition in our Ward congregation is that after the graduating Primary student recites an Article of Faith of their choosing, they choose one for the Bishop to recite. Gavin had Bishop Black recite the 12th:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Gavin was so funny. He was turned toward the Bishop almost the whole time as if they were having their own personal conversation and the rest of us were flies on the wall watching. After the Bishop recited his Article of Faith he told Gavin, “We won’t tell anyone that I have the scriptures opened to the Articles of Faith up here!”

Heath conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on Gavin during Deacon’s Quorum meeting during the last hour of church. I took advantage of that opportunity to not return to Primary but to go to Relief Society with my moms after the blessing.

There wasn’t enough time for Gavin to learn the Sacrament passing routes during class since class time was cut short. The boys will meet this Sunday morning for Gavin to learn the routes. I don’t think it has sunk in yet that he will be passing the Sacrament with the other boys this Sunday!

I have been fine with every age Gavin has been until now. This whole turning 12 and receiving the priesthood thing is a bit overwhelming for me. I know if I blink he will be 18 and receiving the Melchizedek priesthood preparing to serve a mission. Maybe I shouldn’t blink. Gavin’s cousin Garrett was recently ordained an elder and received the Melchizedek priesthood. Yep, I really shouldn’t blink.

Gavin’s birthday is always preceded by fireworks and celebrating the 4th of July. Since his birthday fell on a Sunday this year we let him choose the meals for both the 4th and 5th. He loves tri tip and all the carb laden foods that we usually eat with it. But he loves his dad’s homemade burgers better. So we did tri tip on the 4th and burgers on his birthday. He could not have been happier than he was with mustard dripping down his chin.

Gavin-birthday,-gazebo,-and-curtains-004After dinner we did the whole gift part of the celebration. Gavin is a pain to give gifts to. He and his dad are two peas in a pod. They don’t want much. Just expensive computer software. It’s really hard to shop for these two. After much head banging we came up with a couple ideas for Gavin that also allowed him to have something to open. This picture in particular reminds me of pictures I took of Heath on his first birthday after we were married. Both Heath and Gavin have this overly done smile of excitement. They are two peas in a pod and they make me laugh.

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Parker very sweetly drew a picture of Darth Vader for Gavin.

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Gavin painstakingly opened every card and gift. We were shouting at him to just rip it already! This was the card I made for him announcing that we would buy him new running shoes. I also put in a charm from Fitness Finders. They give me so many extra charms when I order the feet. This was a runner charm. Gavin claimed it was adorable. His words. This kid is too much!

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Grandma W talked Garrett into giving Gavin something special for his birthday. Garrett gave him a t-shirt he wore when he won a race. That’s pretty significant. Grandma and Grandpa gave Gavin a new shirt and shorts to run in. They are made of special fabric that helps keep him cool as he runs. They also gave him the book titled The Perfect Mile.

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Grandma C gave him a tie and tie tack for church. She also gave him cash. Gavin was pretty excited about that because he also got cash from Grandma Holmes.

Grandma W made the gooiest chocolate cake ever. We put candles in it and sang to Gavin.

Gavin was extremely lucky to have the dates work out for him to go to Scout Camp. The next morning, mere hours after he officially turned 12, he drug himself out of bed to go camping. We have missed him ever since.

He probably was rained on today and I hope there weren’t any thunderstorms nearby. His Scout leader who is also our home teacher called Monday night. Heath freaked out a little when he saw the caller ID. The call was nothing to worry about. It was just to inform us that some of the leaders needed to be home for Saturday. So some kids may be dropped off at their houses in the middle of the night! If we didn’t get a knock on the door at 1:00 am we could assume Gavin would be home Saturday afternoon as originally planned.

It’s strange not having Gavin around. I watch Gwen and Parker play together and I think this must be what it’s like to only have two kids. It’s an aching-someone-is-missing sort of feeling. When they fight I miss Gavin’s glares. I just miss that boy. Every time we eat I get out a cup for him even if I’m thinking of how weird it is to be a family of four. Old habits die hard.

Not only are Gwen and Parker Frenemies, they have a symbiotic relationship. Gwen has been sleeping in Parker’s bed since Gavin left. Parker sleeps in Gavin’s bed. He agreed to let Gwen sleep in his bed because Parker misses Gavin so much he doesn’t want to be in that room alone. Gwen still hasn’t forgiven us for not giving her a sister. So score for her she gets to have a roommate for a week. She has agreed to keeping the light off in favor of simply being allowed to sleep in the boys’ room. Wins all around.

Grandparent Week

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What a week with grandparents! My mom arrived last Friday evening and left Tuesday afternoon. She texted me Tuesday morning asking if I was ready yet and if I wanted to go for a walk with her. We had enough time for a short walk through the park before we met with Heath’s parents at Black Bear Diner for brunch.

At first I thought maybe my mom wanted to get me alone to tell me something secret. She just wanted to spend more time with me before she left. I was very grateful for the extra time.

After brunch we all hugged goodbye. I got in the car and was immediately sad. I missed my mom already. Gavin left Monday morning and my mom left the next day. Then Heath’s parents left the day after that. It was too many people leaving! All I can say is I’m glad Heath was able to choose to do his business trip later and not this month.

Gavin-birthday,-gazebo,-and-curtains-023The last time I wrote was on Thursday after we had spent the majority of the day building a lattice screen for the gazebo. Isn’t it so pretty? I love it. Heath and his dad worked more on it Friday morning before lunch then finished up later that day.

On Friday we met up with Dawn’s best friend (one of the twins) from childhood and her husband for lunch. These women had not seen each other in 50 years! They reconnected on Facebook and were excited to reunite in person while Dawn and Barry were visiting us.

Heath put the husband at ease with engaging conversation. He has such a knack for that. I put people at ease in a way that they confess things to me – sins, secrets, I’m considered a personal shrink. It’s a strange gift to have. But Heath can put the most uncomfortable person at ease in any social situation to the point that they actually enjoy themselves. That’s how this retired police chief felt. He ended up being so happy he went to lunch with his wife and her friend’s family.

Dawn and I went to JoAnn’s for our traditional craft store run. Heath wanted his dad to help him with the gazebo. I wanted curtains. I have been wanting curtains in the master bathroom and the laundry room for quite some time. The sun rises in our bathroom that sits over the garage that is not insulated. It gets hot fast in the summer. I imagine some sort of window covering would help. The laundry room is the only room that has no blinds. Our next door neighbor has a window on that side of his house and can see in anytime he wants. I do get dressed to do laundry. Even if it’s just underwear, I’m covered. But still. How about some privacy?

I also wanted decorative drapes for the gazebo. This gazebo has blessed our lives for years. For some reason this spring and summer I have been bit by some crazy bug that makes me want to nest in there. I want that gazebo to be more comfortable and homey. I want it to be an outdoor living space that is a wonderful extension of the house. I want to be out there more than I am. A magazine showed an outdoor space with cheap curtains made of painter’s drop cloths. I have been coveting the idea ever since. Of course I found some pretty outdoor fabric instead of painter’s drop cloths.

Dawn made the laundry and gazebo curtains for me before she left. I guess I’m on my own for the bathroom. It is the smallest window so it shouldn’t be too tough. I hope anyway!

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This is the window treatment for the laundry room. I think the orange is so cute. I wanted to introduce a really bright and fun color in there. A color that isn’t found anywhere else in the house. It’s a laundry/mudroom. It needs a fun color. This is outdoor fabric but I love it. The best part is it gives the room a pink glow all day. As the light shines through the window it’s filtered through the fabric and gives the room a warm glow. The room never feels hot but it definitely feels cooler in there, even while I do laundry. This gives me hope for my bathroom.

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Looking out then looking in the gazebo. You can see the lattice behind the chairs. The magnets are working out of their pockets in the side seams. But the drapes have stayed in place for two days now.

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The flowers were my first attempt at making the gazebo more homey. Then we bought the rug. The clock has been around for a little while. I would put it on a chair so I could see it from the pool. Heath and his dad figured out a way to hang it up inside the gazebo. Heath drilled holes in the top and bottom so he could thread wire through and twist it to the metal side. Once the clock was secure Heath said something about what a pain it would be to change the batteries when that time came. About an hour later we were watching TV and I could see the clock from where I was sitting. Yeah, it’s about 25 minutes slow! And it isn’t accurate with the temperature. The coldest I have ever seen is 80 degrees. The hottest is 120. Neither are ever true.

Saturday was Independence Day. We all went to see Inside Out. What a great movie! It was pretty deep for a Disney Pixar film. You can definitely see why child psychologists are using it in their discussions with children. The movie created this inside view of the human mind and all its emotions. Now there is a concrete way to discuss emotions and to possibly understand what is happening.

I loved how the family moved to San Francisco. That was such a culture shock for me when my family moved eight years ago. I really related to everything the family in the movie was going through. The whole moving truck problem in the movie reminded me of our own roadblocks with the sale of our house falling through not once, but twice. Living in a new place is hard enough. Living in one of the nation’s most expensive cities with no money is quite a trial of faith for sure.

The pizza scene was the best. “Congratulations San Francisco! You’ve ruined pizza!” Truer words have never been spoken. I laughed my butt off at that scene in the movie. We had our own pizza experience in San Francisco. I think some places just overthink food. I loved the movie.

Afterwards we went to lunch at Johnny Garlic, a restaurant owned by Guy Fieri. The food was really good. Gavin and Grandpa both had the macaroni and cheese burger. It had pasta on it and onions and a burger patty with cheese and probably mushrooms and condiments along with the kitchen sink. You name it and it was piled on that burger. Shocker of all shockers, Gavin ate his garlic fries … and liked them! This is a boy who regularly turns his nose up at every fast food joint because he can smell the fries and he claims they make him sick. He’s so funny about food.

For dinner we had tri tip, cheese bread, potato salad, my mom made suddenly salad, and a veggie platter. We had a choice of beverages. Gavin chose root beer. That night Heath and I had just climbed into bed ready to relax in front of Netflix before falling asleep. Gavin walked in and said, “I just threw up all my dinner. I feel much better now.” My little bulimic in training! Oh my goodness. We told him he had overeaten and he should be fine by morning. Luckily he was. There was no time to get sick when he was leaving for Scout Camp early Monday morning.

The kids played in the pool on Saturday while the adults sat around chatting in the gazebo. When it finally got dark enough we had our own firework show in the backyard. My mom brought sparklers with her to share with the kids. Heath bought some real fireworks at a stand with a sign that said they were illegal in our city. Fabulous.

It was a little breezy that night and we were concerned about our contraband. We had situated ourselves in the backyard next to the pool. One, to be inconspicuous and two, to have easy access to water should we need it. Gwen is a California girl through and through. She has never seen real fireworks except from the street when we watched the County Fair firework show last year. She did not like our fireworks. She stood in the doorway to the garage shutting the door every time the fuse was successfully lit. She did say that Fear was taking over the controls in her mind. I thought that was a great movie reference.

When we shut down the firework show my mom pulled out glow sticks. They were gigantic and really bright. The kids had so much fun playing with those. Gavin even made up a dance with them. He was whipping them around his head and through his legs like a ninja. It was an impressive display. My mom got video of him on her phone and Heath’s mom took pictures and video with her camera. Heath and I just sat there enjoying the moment. We have nothing to show for it.

At one point Heath took Gwen and Parker’s sticks and asked if they wanted to play Chinese Numbers. They were amazed by how well I knew my Chinese numbers. Parker almost had it figured it out. At least he thought he did. But it’s tricky. (wink wink) I started to lose my touch after a while. It was dark and someone was always blocking my view of Heath’s fingers. He was hoping I would realize he was playing Howard Wolowitz style. He would have accepted any number I threw out. But I didn’t catch the telepathic message. We gathered the sticks and told the kids they needed to get ready for bed since it was so late.

It was the first of several late nights. We had so much fun with all the grandparents.

Sticky

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I feel like I have been sticky for days. It’s because the weather has been so hot lately. Hot I can handle. It’s the heat combined with the humidity that really does me in. Right about now I would welcome cement boogers just to escape this humidity!

It was a fairly cloudy day today which meant we never cooled down overnight. The clouds were like a Tupperware lid keeping the heat and moisture locked in tight. The clouds were welcome throughout the day. With a bit of a breeze and the sun hiding behind clouds it was almost pleasant outside.

Heath and his dad had plans to build on to our gazebo platform. The plan was to put lattice around the sides that get the most wind and sun in the afternoon. They started working this morning and I sort of wandered out there. I love home improvement projects and I just couldn’t stay away.

They let me play with them. I helped screw these gigantic screws through huge pillars and into the platform. It’s amazing how hard that actually was. It helped when we bought a new ratchet. The size was finally right and the handle was longer. It didn’t dig into my hand nearly as much.

It took most of the day but we finished the lattice screen as planned. We still need to put some 2×4’s on top to help secure some of the lattice. But it’s basically done.

With the extra clouds it was hard to tell if the inside of the gazebo was nice because of the cooler day or because we did something good. I hope it’s because we did something good. When the sun did peek out we noticed there was a lot more shade in the gazebo. I think this might be the beginning of something wonderful.

And to think I called the gazebo my sanctuary when there was no platform. There was a concrete step from the back door in the middle of everything that took up all the space and I still called it my sanctuary! We keep improving it bit by bit. It is becoming much more inviting and wonderful. The savings on our energy bill are certainly welcome too.

Heath relaxed in the pool when we finished working. I stayed sticky. Grandma deserves the grand prize though. She played with the kids all day long. Between popsicle drips and no sense of personal space, the kids were the stickiest!

105 is not Fair!

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The temperature may have been melting hot but we sure had fun at the County Fair yesterday.

We got there early enough that we had to wait twenty minutes before they would let us in. At least we were able to wait in the shade. Two minutes before opening time and those cops still wouldn’t allow anyone through the metal detector! At 11:00 on the dot they allowed the lines to move. The Fair closes down at 11:00 pm. We did not make it that long. We lasted until about 4:00-ish.

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The train building was Gwen’s favorite part. That girl loves trains. She was awestruck in there while wishing she could trade lives with the guys running the trains. The displays were definitely impressive.

There was a tent all about renewable energy. They had a lot of fun activities inside. The kids took turns with a hand crank trying to create enough energy to turn on a lightbulb. The LED light lit up right away. The regular incandescent bulb took a lot of time and effort.

There was a wall of fans blowing. I would imagine those fans were appreciated for the ability to keep the tropical air moving as well as the role they played in teaching children about wind energy. The kids created their own windmills to try out in front of the fans. We learned that three blades are optimal with each blade turned at a small angle. Heath built his own windmill on his own. He used the knowledge he gleaned from the kids’ presentation to make the best windmill in our family.

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The last activity was super fun. Parker and Gwen were the drivers while Gavin and I created energy for the cars by pedaling bikes. The race would have been much more exciting if Gwen and Parker could steer. They kept letting the cars ram into the walls. The presenter guy had to keep rescuing the cars. I didn’t pedal much. I stopped every time Gwen hit a wall. The kids had fun though. Parker earned a ribbon for winning the race. Then the boys raced again and Gavin got a ribbon. Gwen asked for one so the guy gave her a different colored ribbon since he didn’t have any second place ribbons!

My favorite part of any Fair are the art projects inside the buildings. Not only are the buildings air conditioned but I could stay in there all day staring at the drawings and paintings. I feel like there isn’t as much art in our county fair here compared to what I grew up seeing in Salt Lake City.

As we wandered around we noticed a couple tables set up around the room for make and take activities. Gwen had fun making a rainbow colored worm out of construction paper. The ladies at the table said there was a Lego table the boys may be interested in.

They also said there was a scavenger hunt. Parker was all over the scavenger hunt. There was a list of entries to look for. Next to the entry there was a star with a letter in it. You plug in the letter in the puzzle at the bottom of the page to spell out a special message. Scavenger hunts were in two buildings. Gwen did one in another building. When the puzzle was solved you could turn it in for a ribbon that said you were a Fair enthusiast.

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Heath and Parker noticed a pinewood derby display. They were both annoyed with the Tardis entries that won first place. They kept saying that Parker’s car blew those other Tardis cars out of the water. I agree. Maybe we need to start entering our pinewood derby cars in the Fair.

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We liked this minion card the best. It says Thanks a Minion!

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The best Fair activity – the number one reason why we go to the Fair – is the pig races. We have enjoyed these Alaskan pig races since Gwen was still a baby in a stroller.

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This time was particularly special because Heath was given a special job. They asked for volunteers and honestly I didn’t even see him raise his hand. I just knew that suddenly he was picked out of the crowd to help. He handed me his camera and got up to help. His job was to open the gates at the start of each race.

We learned that they put chocolate chip cookie crumbles in the lanes to motivate the pigs to even get in there. It was funny because there were always two pigs bunched up in one lane every single time. The guy had to pick up one of the pigs and put it in the empty lane. I don’t know if they normally do that. It was the first time we ever saw it. Silly pigs.

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There is always a race where the pigs have to hurdle over a fence. I’m impressed with these action shots I got of the slowest pig knocking the fence over. He did it to the fence on the other of the track too.

By the way, Heath got his own ribbon for helping out. I have pictures of him receiving it and shaking the MC’s hand. None of them look that great though. Gwen and Parker are standing in the way and there is a big pole in front of Heath and the other guy. I kind of felt a little star struck to be able to talk to these two guys who run the races. We have been watching them from the stands for years. This is the first time we talked to them and were so involved. It was truly a happy ending to a really fun day.

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After the races we knew we had to buy a plush pig to join our other family plush pets. There were two adjoining tents on the other side of the track that people were encouraged to check out. The first tent had Strawberry the pig inside and you could get your picture taken with her. We paid for the print and the guy took pictures with our camera as well.

The second tent had t-shirts and plush pigs. We got into a bit of an argument with Parker over what to buy. In the end we bought the large pig for the family. He wanted his own pig. And we bought him a t-shirt as a fun memory.

Our pig is named Joe. Sloppy Joe. Gwen was spoiled early in our day with a life size toothpick style umbrella. The kind you get in fruity drinks. She wanted a parasol really bad. It was blazing hot and she had chosen not to wear her hat. Heath spoils her like crazy and he impulsively bought her the “parasol” for $5. I figured it was only fair we get Parker something too. Nothing really jumped out for Gavin. He’s much more easygoing than his siblings anyway. He doesn’t need the stuff to have a good time. I just need the Diet Coke and I’m happy.

After the pig races we decided we had all the fun we ever wanted from the Fair. Plus Grandma and Grandpa were on their way. We drug our dusty, sweaty selves into the van where we saw the temperature was 105. When we got home we turned on the news and they kept warning people to conserve energy so there wouldn’t be power outages while people tried to cool their homes. It was such a hot day!

Poor Grandma and Grandpa. They came from record highs in the Seattle area to unbearably hot conditions in the Bay Area. Sorry two of our kids were born in July!

More adventures on the surface of the sun

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Moist hands are usually a sign of stress. Elbows don’t normally drip. Most people don’t often take walks in the middle of the day during a heat wave. We did.

My phone registered the temperature at 88 degrees just before our walk. The app isn’t always the most accurate. I believe it was hotter than that. Still, I warned the kids that it was already really hot outside. Did they really want to walk to Mr. Pickles? Yes they did.

In hindsight I maybe should have talked more about it. Maybe I should have helped them understand that walking a mile to pick up lunch when it’s a million degrees outside isn’t that fun. Maybe I should have suggested we drive and eat in the comfort of our own air conditioned home. But I didn’t. And we walked.

Tomorrow we’re going to the Fair. It’s supposed to be the hottest day of the week and we’re going to the Fair. If we’re lucky it won’t be too crowded. Middle of the week, broiling hot, we could get lucky with a less crowded experience. As I walked with my kids in the blazing sun I told them it was good practice for our day at the Fair. They were happy on the way to the sandwich shop.

Coming back was another story altogether.

As soon as we left the shop Gavin started on his soda. He’s no dummy. We got to the playground we wanted to picnic at. It was crawling with red t-shirts. Obviously some group of kids were on a field trip to the park. I assumed there would be more of them at the picnic tables. I really didn’t want to crash their party so we walked on.

Poor Gwen was dying. She never really complained about the heat. She was hungry and tired and really wanted her juice. Gavin didn’t have much of his drink left by the time we made it to the next playground. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of day. The whole playground was in full sun. Normally that’s a great playground because the trees shade it so well. Normally we don’t go there at lunchtime either.

There were two picnic tables but they were in full sun too. I let Gwen sit down for a minute to rest. Then we continued our trek through the park. Parker and I were thinking we would just go home. Why bother stopping at the last playground by our house when we could just finish going home?

We got to the last playground and saw our friends were still there. As we started our adventure we saw our friends. It was strange because a kid said hi to us as we walked toward the park. I didn’t know who he was but he was friendly so I waved. Then another kid said, “Hi Gavin!” We had taken enough steps closer that I finally recognized them as Luke and Blake. They were sitting on a blanket in the shade while their brothers played on the playground. We exchanged pleasantries as I kept walking with my kids.

Our friends were still there after our extra long trip to eat. I decided it made sense to stop and hang out with them. We swarmed the picnic table and the kids dove into their food. Well Gavin dove into his sandwich. The other two took long swigs. Gavin was out of drink by this time and had nothing else to do but eat. Gwen finished her whole juice box before unwrapping her sandwich.

I talked with Carissa and Sara a little bit. Then they started gathering their things and their kids. We had joined the party just as they were leaving! Carissa did say that they hang out at the park every Tuesday and we were welcome to join them anytime. I’m thinking next time we can skip the pilgrimage to Mr. Pickles.

Our friends left and we finished eating. I told the kids we should go home and hop in the pool. Once again they needed to rest first. They asked if I could read to them. So I started a very girly book. Weeks ago Gwen watched some gymnast movie on Netflix. I told her I have a whole series of books called The Gymnasts that she might like. These are books I bought as a child. They were so similar to the movie’s plot that I knew Gwen would like them. The boys did not like the book. I didn’t figure they would. They listened because they were too tired to get up and leave!

Gwen and Parker were happy to mark off two more steps on their library reading program cards. We all got into our suits to play in the pool. The water wasn’t even cool and refreshing. It was warm and lovely, don’t get me wrong. But I didn’t feel any cooler after being in the pool. It was just another day on the sun. Heath said he saw 103 in his car on the way home from work. Yeah that’s hot!

Not a bad way to waste time

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There was no schedule. May the winds of fancy blow as they may.

Sleeping in has become our new norm. It’s summer so I don’t even care! The kids play together while I go through my morning routine. I could hear their footsteps in the gazebo. I don’t know what they were playing but they were having fun.

Gwen asked if she could watch a DVD while I did her hair. Yesterday she watched the story of Ruth from the Living Scriptures. She thought Ruth was a girl worth emulating and admiring. The best part for Gwen was when I told her that because of Ruth’s choices she met Boaz. They married and through their line Christ was born. That blew Gwen’s mind. She grabbed The King is Born to watch next. That was the movie she wanted to watch today.

At the end of June we watched the story of Christ’s birth. The boys gravitated to the family room. It’s interesting how the kids can’t hear us call them when they are in their bedrooms but they always know when the TV is on. They slowly filter in and find a seat to watch. Even though it wasn’t a popular TV cartoon they were mesmerized.

Each video ends with a quiz. We took all three versions of the quiz scoring 97, 98, and 100 out of 100. We missed one question giving us a score of 98. The 97 was because we used our “helps.” I refuse to call them cheats because it’s important to know where to find answers. The kids were bummed that we lost a point each time we watched the video clip or checked the scripture reference to find the correct answer. I told them that in real life it’s okay if they need to look up an answer. We talked about all the ways they could do that if someone asked them a gospel question they didn’t have a ready answer for. During the questions Gwen would refer to her Girls Who Choose God book for answers. They know where to find answers and that’s a good thing.

It was so cool to discuss scriptural stories with my kids. The bonus questions are always from a video clip of a different scriptural story. One clip was about Abraham sacrificing Isaac. We talked about why the Lord would ask Abraham to do that. Parker realized it was a test to see how much Abraham was willing to follow the Lord. They liked that story. Another clip was about David being chosen to be king. Gwen realized it was the same David I had told her about and that Jesus came through that line. The circle was complete. She put another DVD out to watch tomorrow. I don’t know how long this will last but I figure it’s a worthwhile way to spend time with my kids each morning.

After lunch we dropped off some library books. I told the kids I would take them to a park on the way home. Gwen has been telling us about the park getting a new playground. We thought we would check it out.

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The new playground equipment is pretty cool. I have never seen anything quite like it. It seems to invite creativity. Gavin said the play structures in the front playground (there is another one on the other side of the bridge) were an obstacle course. It’s definitely set up like one. It also looks like it’s begging for kids to pretend the ground is hot lava. My kids did both.

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It was warmer outside than I originally thought. This park is located on the surface of the sun. It’s a park that I love to go to in the winter on a sunny day. The temperature is perfect that way. In the summer the heat is intense. There is not a drop of shade anywhere on the playground. So in the summer you really should only go to this park in the morning or to play in the water. Only the splash pad has been turned off due to drought.

red-faceThe drinking fountains were turned off years ago. Parker was dying of thirst. Sitting in the shade didn’t even help. His face was beet red and he was visibly sweating so we left. I was impressed we had lasted as long as we did on the surface of the sun.

He was pretty upset I would take his picture when we got home. You can’t really tell how red his face was. It reminded me that my mom said I was the reason why my parents bought a swamp cooler. She said when I was a baby my face would get so red in the summer heat it was almost purple. They felt bad that I was so hot and miserable so they broke down and bought a swamp cooler. Parker looked like misery personified.

I told the kids they could have a frozen treat and then we could swim in the pool. Parker was so zapped from the heat he just wanted to lay down. So I finished reading Bad Unicorn. I read for a couple hours with a 30 minute nap in the middle. That book puts me to sleep! But we finished. The boys loved the book. Gwen and I were confused and bored by it. It was a fun story though. Definitely perfect for the 8-12 year old boy crowd.

I was feeling like we had wasted our afternoon. So I have hardly any steps on my Fitbit, big deal. We had a great day! And how would I rather my kids sit around the house? Watching TV for a couple hours doing nothing or playing quietly while I read to them? They love having me read out loud to them. That is our favorite summer tradition.

Changes

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Too many changes are happening. Most of these changes I have known about. It’s always hard when the time comes.

My friend said goodbye today. I didn’t think it would hurt so much. We haven’t been as close lately. Her oldest is nine months younger than my youngest. Eventually the age gap in our children took a toll. We have been running in different circles not really finding as much time to come together as friends.

She hugged me so tight today to say goodbye. I know how hard this move is on her. We know a lot of things about each other and have been each other’s advocate in so many ways. I didn’t think it would hurt so much to say goodbye but it does. I will really miss her.

What really worries me about her leaving is how she admitted she’s not good at keeping in touch. I have learned those are death words. But then again I have had good friends claim they will stay in touch and they don’t. I have even tried to stay in touch with people but they eventually stop responding. Moving is just a death sentence. This friend means a lot to me. We have seen each other through things that we didn’t always trust to others. I’ll do my best to stay in touch.

She told me that another friend of mine, someone who used to live here, lost her sister to cancer recently. My heart aches for her. What a devastating loss.

Gavin is turning 12 in a week. I’m more excited for him than anything else. It is strange though. Today was his last day in Primary. My baby is growing up.

Parker cannot accept some of the changes happening to his older brother. Gavin is lucky enough to go to Scout camp for a week. He leaves the day after his birthday. Parker got it in his head that Gavin was leaving tomorrow. He has been weird all weekend. One minute he’s picking fights with Gavin and the next he’s near tears hugging Gavin’s legs.

He really had a hard time in Primary today. I don’t know that I have ever seen my boys sit together or acknowledge one another at all in the years they have attended Primary together. I do remember Gavin was so excited to show Parker the way to Primary when Parker graduated from Nursery. Holy cow that was a million years ago!

Today Parker sat behind Gavin and kept poking him and talking to him and bugging him. I should have realized what was happening but it never occurred to me that Parker was struggling with this change. He hates that Gavin won’t be in Primary anymore. And of course there was the added misconception that Gavin would go to camp tomorrow morning!

The deacons cannot wait for Gavin to join them. There are only two deacons so you can imagine how excited they are to welcome Gavin. By the end of August the Primary will lose four boys to the deacon’s quorum. Gavin is the only one lucky enough to go to Scout camp this year. It helps that he turns 12 the day before!

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We spent most of the weekend getting Gavin’s stuff together. Heath bought him a new backpack. The kid could go backpacking through Europe with that thing.

Parker keeps saying he’s jelly. Jelly is short for jealous. He is dying watching Gavin prepare for so much fun. I keep telling him he can do the same thing in two years but it does little to soothe the pain of the here and now.

It’s starting to hit me that Gavin will be gone for a week. And he’s only 12 years old! Although it brings up a lot of memories for Heath and me about our camping trips as youth. I was 10 years old the first time I went away for a week. That was the first time I went to Diabetic Camp. I was so homesick. It didn’t help that I had horrible camp counselors. One mom complained because her daughter was a seasoned camper having been diagnosed at 18 months. Those counselors were severely reprimanded and asked to never come back.

Mostly I remember how much fun it was to go to Diabetic Camp and Girls Camp. Gavin is going to have a blast. He won’t have time to be homesick. Parker, on the other hand, will really struggle to find meaning in life without his brother.

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Look how big that pack is! I thought his school backpack was heavy. I wonder if he will be able to walk with this on his back. If he falls he may be a paralyzed turtle.

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Jelly Parker had to put the pack on himself. He stumbled around a lot until he found his sea legs. Don’t you love how the boys both look like old men on vacation with their black dress socks left over from church? Don’t you love that look of sheer joy on Parker’s face? We have pictures of that same face on his fourth birthday. Lately Parker’s face reminds me of how he looked as a baby and a little boy. He’s growing up but some things never change. For that I am grateful.

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Gwen has to do anything Parker does. She gets jelly of him. In fact she took the day pack and wouldn’t give it to Parker. He chased her around the house with the hello huge backpack on. I was impressed.

Eventually we convinced Gwen to give the day pack to Parker so he could wear it on his chest. She still wanted to get in on all the action. Knowing she would never be able to handle the weight of the real equipment she found her own version.

It will be interesting to have Gavin gone. I’m just glad we have family in town to help fill the time.

There are so many changes right now. At the same time some things never change. On Wednesday we celebrate our 8th anniversary here. Which means that Memorial Day weekend was my 8th blogiversary.

I used to write nearly daily. I still try to but now that my kids aren’t babies anymore it’s harder to come up with interesting stories to tell. It’s also hard to come up with a good blogging time. Gwen claims she never sees me because I’m always blogging! Funny since I miss so many days because inspiration doesn’t hit in a timely manner or I get busy living life.

To catch up, on Thursday I took Gwen visiting teaching with me. My companion was out of town and I needed to go before the sister left for the summer. I don’t normally do this even though I should. I prayed that I would know how to help this sister. She has a tendency to barrage my companion and me with parenting questions. On Thursday she kept saying things like, “I’m so glad you said that. Now I don’t feel so alone.” or “I was just praying about that this morning!” That was a neat experience to realize I was an instrument in the Lord’s hands to bless one of His children.

On Friday we went to a park day playdate to say goodbye to our friends who are leaving. It was a million degrees so it was nice for the kids to play at a splash pad. I’m just glad we were able to find a working splash pad. All the ones here have been shut down. It was recycled water but hey, it was water and the kids had fun.

We also watched McFarland late Friday night. What a great movie. I love those inspiring movies that are based on a true story. I think it inspired Gavin to keep running. I was not inspired to run. I would rather live vicariously through movies. I love that the coach couldn’t run. He rode his daughter’s old beat up bike alongside the boys as they ran. He recognized their talent for running and helped them realize their potential.

About a month or so ago I finished reading The Boys in the Boat. If you want an inspiring true story told well, that is your story. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. That was an amazing story. There are so many good lessons to be learned from it too. Great book.

Yesterday was just clean clean clean clean clean in preparation for changes. Based on the state of my house now you would never know I did anything. The only constant is change.

Tomorrowland

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Gwen wanted to pose in front of the minions. This is the movie Parker wants to watch for his birthday. I think it looks cute. So far I have liked all the minion movies.

What we did watch was Tomorrowland. That was a really fun movie. I really liked it. I never know how to talk about movies though. I’m afraid if I say anything I will spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. I loved the sci-fi and the creativity and ingenuity of the characters. I loved the robots. They were so polite and friendly yet they were the bad guys. It was nice when they kept losing their heads. That was fun.

I really liked the scene when Frank told Casey she would lose 95% of her blood sugar in a matter of seconds. “It will make you feel like you want to die but you’ll be okay.” So true! And I love how she more or less crawled out of the vessel then chugged two Cokes. Athena opened one and Casey chugged it in two seconds. Frank took the other one for himself and Casey took it out of his hands to chug it just as fast as the first one. It was funny because I’ve been there. I know exactly how she felt.

The timing of the movie wasn’t great. It started at 11:50. The kids slept in this morning. I kept wondering if I should just wake them up so we could fit in lunch before leaving. I let them sleep in. Gwen and Parker were up around 8:30 and Gavin finally graced us with his presence a little after 9:00. Late lunch it is!

I told the kids to have a snack before we left. They ate a little but not much. It’s like they had just had breakfast or something. So I filled three sandwich baggies full of animal crackers. The snacks made my purse look a little weird. It was too obviously full. I knew if anyone asked I could just tell them I’m diabetic and need the snacks. In the end I took a bigger purse. It was full of animal cracker bags, rock hard fruit snacks because they’re old, and a couple packs of gum. I was ready for anything.

My kids are old enough to sit through a movie without getting all fussy so I never did give anyone any gum. Gwen said she needed to use the bathroom. She had gone before we left and I made everyone go again as soon as we got our tickets. How could she need to go again? I gave her a bag of crackers thinking that might help. Maybe absorb the extra moisture in her body or something!

It worked for a while but she asked to go again. I could see she really was antsy and probably needed to go. I was annoyed I had to leave with her in the middle of a movie she has seen before but I haven’t. It was good I took her when I did. She clearly needed the potty break. At least she was quick about things. It doesn’t sound like I missed too much.

I offered Gavin some crackers. He ate them all and he hates animal crackers. Parker was the cutest though. When I offered him some he told me he wasn’t very hungry. When we got home he was very hungry and said he should have had some crackers. But he was afraid we would get caught! How funny is that! He knew I had packed a bunch of snacks for everyone. I had told him not to tell anyone because technically you’re not supposed to sneak in food. They want people to spend more money on popcorn, candy, and drinks. I love Parker. He’s too funny.

The movie was much longer than I thought it would be. We got home around 2:30 and lunch was ready several minutes later. Tomorrow we’ll have to eat three normal meals at normal times. The movie was worth it though. That was a fun way to spend a couple hours. It was a great movie too. I loved it.

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