I feel like my last post all about our summer fun has given you the impression that our summer was great and wonderful and perfect and parts of it were, but just between you and me, this past summer was a hard one for me. My kids were incapable of getting along with each other for any stretch of time. They were fighting all. the. time. I felt like I was losing my mind and that I was failing as a parent. Even though school brings with it its own set of frustrations and annoyances, I was ready to trade our summer situation for school in the hopes that the new school year would reset and revitalize us. So far things have been pretty good. I’ll give you a child-by-child summary.

***Brooke***

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Brooke is starting fourth grade. She made herself a headband just for the occasion. Brooke was convinced she was not excited about starting school. Then she looked at the class list and was disappointed by who was and was not in her class and was further annoyed. The last couple of weeks before school started she would say things like, “Mom. I’m not going to school on the first day of school. I’m just staying home.” To which I would say something like, “You have to go to school. It’s the law.” To which she would retort, “The law? The LAW?! There’s a law that says I have to be ripped away from my dear, sweet mother for SIX HOURS every day?! How does that make sense? Shouldn’t I be able to be with my family?”

Please, no one tell her that home school exists.

Luckily, the morning of school she got ready and went without complaint. It’s been a mixed bag when she comes home about whether it was a good day or not. The first day it was, ‘I HATE French. I can’t understand my teacher. It’s the worst. English is so much better.” The second day it was, “Ugh. My English teacher is too strict. French is so much better.” The third day it was, “My teacher kept saying, ‘Brooke. Where are your papers? Brooke, I can’t keep giving you new papers every time you lose them.'”

One day Brooke came home super excited. She told me and Dallas all about what she had done at school that day. The conversation went something like this:

Brooke: “My teacher gave us all pink erasers and I had the idea to carve wheels into the bottom of my eraser and name him Eddie Racer, so he’s actually Eddie Racer/Ed Eraser/E. Racer. Get it?”

Me: “That’s actually…brilliant.”

Brooke (gloating): “I know. It was such a good idea.”

Me: “The only thing is, I’m wondering what your teacher was talking about as you were busy carving wheels into your eraser.”

Brooke (only just now realizing she may have missed hearing something important): *blink* *blink*

The next day:

Brooke: “Today I took E. Racer and drew all over the wheels to make them black so when I erase with him it makes black smudges all over my paper and it’s like he’s going so fast he’s burning rubber. Burning rubber. Get it?”

Me: “That’s actually…brilliant.”

Brooke (gloating): “I know. It was such a good idea.”

Me: “Once again, I’m wondering what your teacher was talking…” (noticing her eyes glazing over) “…oh, never mind.”

Another day:

Brooke: “My teacher said our math paper was going to be tricky today. As soon as she said that I felt my heart crumble into a million little caterpillars that wiggled into my stomach and turned to butterflies.”  A+ for imagery on that one, Brooke.

In an effort to teach responsibility, Brooke has a planner she is supposed to bring home and have me sign every day. I think in the two weeks she’s had it she’s remembered to bring it home about 50% of the time. This less-than-stellar track record has caused some problems. If it’s not signed, she loses points, and if she loses so many points she will miss a class party. Obviously she needed a solution and simply remembering to bring her planner home and having me sign it wasn’t working so she resorted to her plan B which was forgery. She got busted by her teacher because along with forging my name on the wrong day, it of course looked nothing like my signature, and everything like a fourth grader trying to be sneaky. When she came home, I saw what she had done and we had a nice little chat about how forgery is a serious thing and that we believe in being honest even if it means she has to turn in her planner without a signature from time to time.

Between the whole E. Racer thing and this I’m pretty sure I’m raising either a creative genius or a future felon. At this point it could go either way. Someone hold me.

***Caroline***

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Caroline is starting second grade. She saw Brooke’s headband and ran back inside to grab one of her own, so it was a headband kind of day for us. I had all sorts of grand plans of having the kids do schoolwork during the summer to keep up with things, but that didn’t happen hardly ever. A couple of days before school started I forced Caroline to write a story about her day. I was charmed by her spelling of the word “gymnastics”.

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Last year Caroline had a really strict teacher. I could tell as the year went on that some days she felt really anxious when it was time to go to school. She is a good student and doesn’t get in trouble, but the worry of possibly getting in trouble was too much for her at times. This year her teachers seem a lot more relaxed, and while I know one of them is somewhat strict, he also jokes around with the kids and makes them laugh which is a good balance. I feel like Caroline has a little bit more of a bounce in her step these days which is a relief to see after last year when she was so weighted down with worry.

Both girls before school:

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Caroline was nervous/excited and Brooke was faking her enthusiasm like a pro.

***Spencer***

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This little guy is a new kindergartener.

Before school started I had him practice writing his name to make sure he still remembered how. He did and then drew me the cutest picture ever:
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My little Spencer has been perplexing me for a year now. Up until age 4 he was happy, easy-going, friendly, and basically everything you could want in a child. Then last summer I noticed him start to grow anxious in new situations. He would cling to me and refuse to go play. He stopped talking around most people he didn’t know well. I didn’t know what was causing this change or what to do. I was so nervous for him to do kindergarten. I had visions of him having panic attacks each morning just thinking about going.

Spencer’s teacher sent a getting-to-know-you email out before school started and asked if there was anything we thought she needed to know. I emailed her back some of my worries that Spencer would be really shy and nervous about school. On the first day of school the parents got to go with their kindergarteners for orientation. Sure enough Spencer clung to me as I expected. His teacher greeted us at the door and asked him some questions. He didn’t say a word. I gave the teacher an I-told-you-he-would-be-like-this look.

The one glimmer of hope I had throughout all of this was that Spencer was actually so excited for kindergarten. I don’t even know what about it made him excited, but even towards the end of preschool last year he started begging to be able to go to kindergarten. I had to make him a little calendar so we could count down the days until kindergarten began. I marked the days where I got to go with him for orientation and testing. Then I drew a big circle around the day where he would go on his own. He carefully crossed off each day. He loved the days when we went together. Finally the day came when he was on his own.

I took him to school. The bell rang. He ran over to me. I held his hand and walked him to his line, said good-bye, and walked away. And he was fine:

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(He’s the one that’s a head shorter than everyone else.)

I watched him walk in the classroom. He was fine. I left.

I picked him up at the end of the day. He was fine. HE WAS FINE! I made eye contact with his teacher and gave a questioning look. She gave me a thumbs up and said he did great. I could not have been more shocked. In the days since school started I feel like I have my happy, easy-going, sweet boy back. He’s still not the most talkative kid, but maybe it’s because I’m used to his sisters and he’s just a fellow of fewer words. Whatever it is, it’s been so refreshing to see this new confidence in him. I feel like he’s turning into the cutest little big boy and I love it.

One exciting aspect of school for Spencer is that he gets homework now. I die of cuteness when I see him huddled over his school paper with his pencil poised. His first homework assignment had him draw a picture of an object that begins with A.

Spencer: “What can I draw?”

Me: “An apple?”

Spencer: “No.”

Me: “An astronaut? An acorn? An ape? An arrow?”

Spencer: “No. Those are too hard to draw.”

Me: “An apple is easy. Just draw a circle and a line coming out the top.”

Spencer: “I can’t do that.”

Me: “An ambulance! Draw an ambulance!”

Spencer (face lighting up): “Yes. I can draw that.”

Two minutes later.

Spencer: “Now a picture that starts with B. Bus.”

Two minutes later:

Spencer: “C? That’s easy. Car.”

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Will we be able to come up with vehicles that begin with every letter of the alphabet in the upcoming weeks? Stay tuned!

***Madison***

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This is her smile-for-the-camera face.

Madison doesn’t get to go to school unless you count taking Spencer to kindergarten which believe me, she counts. She loves to go play on the playground before the bell rings and it turns out Spencer and Madison are adorable together when it’s just the two of them. When the big girls are around Spencer likes to try to play with them and it tends to bother one or both of them, but when it’s just Madison he’s the sweetest big brother. He takes her all around the playground showing her the fun things and protecting her from the bigger kids.

Also, when we’re home he’ll take her by the hand and say, “Come on, Madison! Let’s go play!” Then he’ll walk her to the bedrooms and they’ll play for hours together. The first time this happened, I didn’t see them surface until close to lunchtime. I was busy cleaning up the kitchen and living room and didn’t check on them because I believe in letting sleeping dogs lie. The next time this happened, I did check on them. I found them in Brooke and Caroline’s room playing with all of the toys that the big girls expressly forbid them to play with, namely their Legos. Hoo boy were the girls fit to be tied when they came home and saw that Spencer and Madison had messed up their Lego city. It was then that I realized why Spencer was so cute in making sure Madison came with him to play. As Brooke and Caroline started ripping into him he was able to say in all half-truth honesty, “It was Madison. She is the one who was playing with your Legos.”

Since Spencer has afternoon kindergarten I’ve been salivating at the fact that I will get to drop him off, come home, put Madison down for a nap and have two and a half glorious hours to myself. Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found thee! Then the day, THE VERY DAY before Spencer went to school on his own for the first time Madison learned how to climb out of her crib meaning she is now trying to climb out all the time thus making nap time a difficult chore. Sigh. Just when I thought I had arrived motherhood sucker punches me yet again.

***Conclusion***

We got this (I think). We are ready for this school year (I hope)…just as long as Madison keeps her afternoon nap (Please!).

School has started which means I’m going to do in one blog post that which I should have been doing all summer which is telling you all about what we did. Get ready. We’re just going for it – I’m not breaking this into small doses.

We went to Rocky Mountain Raceways to see the oval track races. Once again we had the time of our lives. Madison loved seeing Rockette, the girl mascot greeting people…

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…Until Rockette tried to hold her.

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That did not go over well. Madison watched her like a hawk the rest of the night and whimpered anytime she felt Rockette was about to violate her personal space again.

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Brooke got bored at the racetrack and found entertainment in taking selfies:

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For her birthday we enrolled Brooke in an art class. This was a picture she drew in her sketch pad. She was pretty proud of that curled tail:

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Brooke made a car out of wood chips. The car even had a trunk that could open:

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We played at a ton of parks:

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The three big kids took swimming lessons. Caroline got over her fear of the diving board:

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Spencer (somewhat) got over his fear of being in new situations with people he doesn’t know while waist high in water:

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We went to Lagoon:

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This cracked me up. Madison was just flirting with my camera phone taking picture after picture as we waited for that Chinese dragon ride to start.
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And this is what she looked like at the end of that ride. It went a bit faster than she was ready for:

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On the log ride. Spencer had just noticed the drop we were about to go down:

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Caroline’s dream came true and she got to take more gymnastics classes:

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Some friends had all the neighborhood kids over on the last day of school for a water party:

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We went to the air show. It was hot and crowded and we had to walk almost three miles just to get in, and it was hot and crowded and the kids were bugging each other the whole time and it was hot and crowded and ugh. I pretty much hated it which made me sad because it’s actually really fun when it’s not so blasted hot.

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Brooke and Caroline had birthdays! Brooke turned 9:

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Caroline is now 7. I can’t figure out where her picture is of her standing next to her sevens. Mom fail. 🙁

Caroline wanted an Olaf cake:

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Brooke wanted Congo bars. She was feeling a little sick so we just stuck all her candles in her own personal bar:

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We went to Seven Peaks a lot:

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We went on hikes:

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We went camping:

 

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Spencer loves a good ghost story:

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Brooke loves to be the one frightening everyone:

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Brooke engineered a way to roast her marshmallow without needing to hold her stick:

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More swimming lesson pictures:

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We went to children’s museums:

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We went to the Founder’s Day celebration in Fruit Heights. We just happened to be playing at the castle park there the day before the celebration and met the people who were in charge. They invited us to come and said there’d be free root beer and free popcorn and free popsicles and free bounce houses and free train rides and free prizes. My kids could not contain their disbelief and excitement that all that could be theirs for free, so the next day we went back to party. It was fun.

Free balloon animals:

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Brooke made some “grasses” as she waited in line:

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Free train barrel ride:

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We went to the library a bunch:

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Dallas went backpacking for a week with his friend:

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And he got this close to a bear. Eeeek!

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We went over to my aunt’s house a couple of times and played with her chickens and ate her delicious food:

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Brooke tied water balloons together to make a huge balloon mass:


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Madison is working on climbing the baby tree in our front yard:

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The kids have made countless things from Legos:

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And with that, you’ve made it to the end!

A year ago we found out my parents would be serving as mission president and wife and would leave this past June. They were assigned to serve in the California Carlsbad mission.

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While I have been in mourning that they wouldn’t be around for the next three years, the mission call did come with some perks. We were able to go with them when they were set apart by Elder Andersen and Elder Christensen. We gathered in the room where the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have their meetings:

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It was really inspiring to watch my parents prepare so intensely for this service. I had no idea how much preparation mission presidents and wives do before their missions, but the answer is A LOT. Exclamation point. Exclamation point.

All of my siblings and their families were able to come and spend time together before my parents left. We snapped some family and sibling pictures before everyone again scattered themselves across the country:
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We had fun with the whole family in town doing a lot of “lasts” with my parents. We had a big family dinner:

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We had a final Golden Corral experience:

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My parents took us to Texas Roadhouse one last time and the girls got to sit in the saddle to celebrate their birthdays:

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My kids had Grandpa give them airplane rides to our car one last time:

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While Laurie and her kids were still here we had even more fun at the Discovery Gateway museum:

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We took the Texans to the mountains for a good ol’ Utah cookout:

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Brooke was pretty proud of this slime ball she made:

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We also hit up our neighborhood splash pad:

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And just like that my parents have already been out on their mission for over 2 months! Just 34 to go!

 

A few weeks ago our friends asked if we had any plans for the day. Our answer was no, so they invited us to meet them at the Fairy Forest in Kamas. It was magical!

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We loved walking around looking at all the painted rocks and fairy homes.

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The kids had a great time throwing rocks in the river:

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Afterwords we ate at a local restaurant. We banished the kids to their own table:

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We let the baby girls choose some jukebox tunes:

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And that freed us up enough to take a selfie:

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Madison (wanting more lasagna): “More Elsa Anna please.”

***

Madison was sitting in the shopping cart and was unable to reach a bag of gummy bears on the shelf. After squirming and grunting and yelping she said in exasperation trying to find the right words, “Mom! I need it touching my hand!”

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***

Madison was a little feverish.

Me: “Do you want some medicine?”

Madison whipped her head around to look at me and said forcefully, “Are you crazy?! It’s MADison, not MEDicine.”

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Spencer: “Madison was crying so much it was raining cats and dogs on her face!”

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Spencer: “I had a dream about dinosaurs. My dream production was working quite well that time.”

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We were in the car listening to kid songs. “Rock-a-bye Baby” came on.

Brooke: “The cradle will fall?! This is a really dangerous lullaby.”