Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bubba's Playground

Welcome to Bubba's playground!

This weekend I was reminded that children don't need much to be entertained. Forced to unplug from the distractions of the world, we all took a collective deep breath, took a step back... (*insert more figurative nonsense here*) and basked in the quiet, yet incredibly stunning, back drop of our family's new cabin.
 Let me be clear. When I say "we;" I mean that our family cabin belongs to Bubba and Nanna Teresa; and when I say "new;" I mean that it is "new to the family." The cabin was built years ago but is in great condition and is located in a beautiful, albeit remote, canyon near Bryce Canyon.

Even without electricity, our family was able to fully "recharge" this weekend. However, the trip was nearly put off as a heavy rain threatened our plans just as we arrived at that last stretch of road. Portions of the road had been damaged, flooded and altered by the recent down poor. ATV riders and the Chief Rancher nearby warned us that certain areas of the road leading up to the cabin were "sketchy." You bet I was concerned, but my savvy, challenge loving, husband remained cool under pressure.

"My heart is singing!" Andrew said as he offered me a truly happy smile. This was all before we safely made it to the front door of the cabin. The scenery accompanied by the smell of pine had him buzzing in his seat instantly. Our sequoia was a muddy mess (which filled his heart with GLEE!!) when we finally pulled in.

The exploring finally began!

With the cabin sitting at the top of a hill, the children were free to roam to their heart's content as they were kept safe under our watchful-ish gaze. They first checked out the cabin and then the bunk house (where they'd all choose to sleep together).
It wasn't long until they were fastening their helmets for a four wheeler ride. They'd return home with mud on their clothes and dirt in their teeth because that's what happens when you smile the whole time your cruising on one of those things.
Exploring the trials on the ATVs was where I focused my energy during Forrest's naps. Andrew and I were even granted a "date ride" up the canyon while Nanna watched the kids for us. Having that time alone together was a true gift. Thank you, Nanna.
The kids discovered a make believe wonderland which was situated along a charming little creek where forts had lovingly and thoughtfully been built by the adventurous and creative Stratton clan who came before.
Andrew and his Dad repaired portions of the road together with the tractor our first morning there. That particular activity was Andrew's favorite part of the day, according to him. They also enjoyed shooting guns together. Guns make me nervous so I kind of disappear when that begins.
Delicious food, chatting with Teresa and listening to the kids and their silly conversations were also personal highlights.

Things I learned about my kids this week: Lottie and Henry do really well seated on both sides of Forrest in the car. They share the burden of keeping Forrest happy, retrieving his binkies and seem to have fun with each other as the make up silly chants, repeat said chants over and over and "ooh and ahh" over how adorable Forrest is. Forrest basks in the generosity of their attention. Meanwhile, Eliza has it made in the shade in the back seat where she alternates between reading Harry Potter, writes a book that she hopes will one day be published and create art. Her faithful sidekick, Grace, observed the entire time.

Forrest talks himself to sleep. There was no crying involved. He'd be gibber gabbering away and then suddenly go quiet. Lottie and I slept upstairs together while Andrew and the big kids were in the bunk house. This gave me the chance to "go to bed" with Lottie each night. We also napped together. She was super cuddly and affectionate as she glued her little arms to my face, back, arms, etc. I love her so much.
Henry cries when it's time to release his treasured pets. Whether it's a horny toad, salamander or lizard, he can't hold back the tears when it's time to return them to their nature home.
Wait. I already knew that about him. And, he's just like his Dad. He told my Mom recently:

"I'm an outdoor type of person, Nana. Not an indoor..." Truth.
You can't tell from this photo, but his face was caked in dirt. 

Something else I already knew, Eliza likes to be in charge and needs to have some time away from her siblings or else she might boil over which, in turn, causes me to boil over.

The whole experience: the good, the bad and the ugly...


made for a memorable, happy weekend. We're very excited for the return trips that await our family. Thanks again Bubba and Nanna! We love you.

Cherry Hill

While the Mays cousins were in town, we tried our best to meet together often. On one of those occasions, we took our first trip to Cherry Hill. It was a thrilling night as we watched Andrew and Henry brave "cardiac canyon," which is an intense tube ride experience. Andrew did his part to make sure Henry didn't tip out of his tube; something I appreciated more than Henry did.
Lottie instantly found her thrill on the pirate ship slide. Along with her look-a-like cousin Sara, the pair returned again and again to the top of that slide. Lottie's enthusiasm never wavered. In fact, it took a lot of persuading to convince Lottie to head over to the lazy river with me.
Eliza basked in the freedom to explore Cherry Hill with her older cousins. They promised to "look after her." I felt at ease as I factored in her swimming abilities, the myriad of life guards and the shallow depths of the attractions.
As for Forrest, to his great dismay, he was left at home with a babysitter. We took an evening trip to Cherry Hill which coincided with his bed time. However, after leaving him alone with the sitter for our outing to Lagoon a week before, Forrest was really beginning to feel abandoned. In fact, when we saw said babysitters at Church on Sunday, he clung to me and wailed. It's very rude of him, yes, but I can't say I blame him. It's one thing to leave your baby with his siblings for a night out with Daddy, but to leave him for an extended period of time, without his brother and sisters... well, I  understand his feelings!
Even so, it was a treat to be able to splash and swim with the older kids in the pools, etc. Hopefully, with time, Forrest will make peace with his babysitters and forgive me for the time spent apart. :)
The night ended with a dance party on the grass; born of a live band. I danced like a fool along with the children and relished in their acceptance of my free spirit and embarrassing (to some) behavior. It was one of my favorite summer moments.

The Summer of the Diving Board

I'm pleased to report that children were able to put their swimming skills into practice thanks to the generous invitation of friends and family to swim at their respective pools. Eliza took her first jump off a diving board, sans life jacket, while attending an Activity Day's outing. Having heard of her success, I wasn't surprised to see her run to the diving board at "the club;" the pool where Bubba and Nanna Teresa swim.
Bubba taught her the art of splashing innocent, picture taking, bystanders.

A few days later, our neighbors the Waterfalls invited us to swim. Scott and Nancy have adorable grandchildren who play with my kids when they come to Utah to vacation. These children are darling and I can understand completely my kid's fondness for them.
One hot day, they invited us to come over and swim. Andrew was working from home which made it possible for him to join us after "commuting home from work" (read: walking up the stairs!). It was a beautiful afternoon. Before attempting the diving board, Andrew warmed Henry up. Belly flops followed.
That didn't deter Henry. Moments later, I marveled as this happened.
Winston loved this more than my kids did!

Pioneer day we met with the Mays crew one last time before Jen and the kids would be returning to Alaska. Jen's parents were kind enough to have us all over for a fun night of pizza and swimming. 
Having recently had his immunizations, Forrest had a mild fever and a non-mild (read: disagreeable) temperament that night. He was still still everyone's favorite little fishy when he decided that, yes; he would tolerate the pool for a few minutes. 
It was a fun night and hopefully a happy send off for the Jen and the kids. We'll miss them a lot. 

The Flegal Fish

Weber State is where my children attend swimming lessons. It was our third session in the three years that we've lived here and I've been a satisfied, grateful Mom following each experience. This summer was different as it marked the first time that Lottie was old enough to participate. She didn't have to vocalize her happiness to finally be included in what the big kids were doing as it was demonstrated in her total willingness to participate each day.

After our first lesson,  as I pulled the car into the garage, I instructed the following:

"Kids, please remember to bring your towels inside with you. Drop them by the washing machine so I can have them ready for our lessons tomorrow."

"Wait!" Lottie began. "You mean, we're going there again... tomorrow?' She was astonished. Another funny thing she said was on the way to their lessons a few days into the session. 

"Mom, my teacher keeps forgetting to get me a life jacket." :) 

My little fish each passed their respective class! I felt proud of them each day as I wrapped their wet bodies in the warmth of their towel and kissed their chlorine flavored cheeks. On that last day, I carefully read their swimming "report card" which highlighted their accomplishments. It was all fine and well, but if I had just one suggestion it would be to provide the parents who successfully chased, occupied and kept their young toddlers away from the steep, concrete bleacher steps a report of our own; complete with a giant gold star sticker. 

"You did it!" The report would say. "Congratulations on keeping your non-swimming child safe while trying to observe the rest of your children's lessons!" The post script would read: 

"Now go and enjoy a Diet Coke. You've earned it." As inconvenient as it was to chase and occupy curious Forrest during their lessons, the memory of having Lottie being "that" child remain clear in my memory. In a matter of Mom minutes, Forrest will be the child stepping into the pool for his first official lesson. And, if my prediction comes to pass, he will also be blessed to have a loving, watchful sister there to hold his hand too.

Each lesson began with the children receiving instruction outside of the pool. During these times, I'd often catch Henry's arm around Lottie. Without any prodding from me, he did this. Henry is without a doubt fiercely protective of those he loves.  

The last day of lessons, parents are allowed to watch on the side of pool as opposed to up in the bleachers. I was free to take video and photos while Curious Forrest was secure in his stroller.

"Grandpa Bob" was Henry's instructor. Last year, he was Eliza's. I just think the world of him. He's a great teacher and a great person.
Also, during their final lesson, Eliza's class was invited to play a game with the older children. It terrified her!
Eliza and her cute friend Kayla 

A look back:
Weber State swim lessons February 2012
Weber State swim lessons August 2013