Friday, April 29, 2011

My baby . . . she wrote me a letter!

Our girl comes home today—and I can't wait! I woke up this morning feeling almost giddy with excitement!

Yesterday, the trusty postman dropped a letter in the mailbox. He must have known how desperate I was getting to hear from her! This is what it had to say:

Guess the intimacy with slime is part of the curriculum and wasn't just my camp counselor playing a dirty trick. And while she may be growing up, here's hoping the "gross-ness" of that first kiss stays with her for a while . . .

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Letting go . . .

I sent my baby girl off to Science Camp this week. She's been looking forward to this week for months—maybe even years. It's a rite of passage of sorts . . . a week in the woods with her class, and no parents hovering about. No electronics (including cell phones) were allowed, so she's completely out of reach.

For months, I've known this was coming and I was so excited for her! I kept thinking back to my own version of science camp, called Outdoor School, when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I had the best time. At least I think I did. My only real memory of the week was having to lick a banana slug to test out the natural anesthetic properties of its slime . . .

As the day of her departure got closer, the realization of her leaving began to sink in. The thought of not seeing her, of not hugging her, or kissing her goodnight, of not hearing her giggle or talk (or even talk back . . .) for an entire 5 days started to fill me with a bit of sadness.

The night before she left, I sat down to write her a few letters to send for her to open each day. As I told her how much I loved her, how happy I was that she got to have this amazing adventure, and how lucky I was to be her mom, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. I figured I'd get all the tears out and be done and ready to send her off with a smile.

Monday morning, I got up early and came down to make pancakes for a special breakfast. When Olivia walked in the kitchen, the floodgates opened up. Between my quiet sobs, I managed to squeak out "I'm sorry if I cry honey, I'm not sad . . . I just love you so much."

She came over and gave me a big hug. As she looked up at my teary eyes, she smiled and said "Geez mom. If you're crying like this when I'm just going to Science Camp for a week, what are you going to do when I leave for college?"

We lugged all her stuff to school, underwent some last minute instructions and direction from her teacher, and then it was time to go.

As she passed by me walking out to the bus and saw me with my camera aimed and ready to click, she shot me a look of death and said "Come ON Mom, seriously?"

I wasn't the only one snapping photos!

Bags were packed with a week's worth of clothes, sleeping bags and pillows rolled together, and there was a mad dash to get on the bus.

Olivia waited patiently with her best buddies—they were the last ones to get their bags stashed below the bus.

I watched her line up with her class before boarding the bus, all of them equally filled with excitement and anticipation of what was to come. I wondered how we got to this point.

When did this little person who filled me with so much joy and love . . .

become this big person that gives so much joy and love to everyone she meets?

The house feels a little empty this week. My heart feels even more empty. It's amazing how the dynamics of our family change with one person gone. I frequently find my thoughts turning to her. Wondering what she's doing, if she's warm enough, if she likes the food, if she's remembering to brush her teeth. And then the tears start up, and I have to distract myself with something else for a while.

The boys both miss their big sister. Grant keeps saying funny things like "I can't believe Olivia is old enough to go Science Camp. I miss her . . ." Jack has said several times "I really miss Olivia. I can't wait til she comes home."

I know that no matter how many times I watch my child drive away, I'll feel that tug in my heart. And yet, letting them each go is a necessary part of life. And when that day comes in a few years when Olivia drives away for good, she'll be ready.

I wish I could say the same for me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In her words . . .

When I woke up my computer this morning, I saw an essay Olivia wrote for school this week. She's become quite independent in her homework, which is wonderful! She was working on it last night before bed, and I didn't see it when she finished.

Apparently, at least in her mind, life isn't easy at 11.

"In my family, I am the oldest. There are some advantages and disadvantages about being the oldest. There is no one older to pick on you or make you feel like a “kid”. Being the oldest makes me feel older than I am. It also gives me more responsibility. It can be cool but can get uncool so fast.

An advantage is there is no one to pick on you. I think if I had an older sibling, they would make me feel like a “kid” because I’m not as old as them. Luckily though, that isn’t my case.

Another advantage is that it makes me feel older than I really am. My two brothers always look up to me for advice, which could or couldn’t be a good thing. It stinks because I am the role model for my brothers and I have to be pretty much on my beat behavior when I’m around them. It is mostly a good thing though.

A disadvantage is that it gives me more responsibility. I probably have 3 times more chores that I do and I probably have 10 times more homework than them. I could list my daily chores and homework but that could take a while.

Being the oldest comes with a lot of responsibility (and chores). Everyone has an important part in their family, no matter how much they love it or hate it. I always keep in mind that things are the way they are for a reason so just stick with it and things will turn around (hopefully)."

It's funny to me how she thinks she has so many chores. We have a housekeeper that comes every two weeks so there's no real scrubbing of toilets, floors, or showers. We have a gardener that does the yard, so she doesn't have to mow the lawn, trim trees, or pull weeds. I do the laundry, though I do ask the kids to put their own clothes away. Her chores literally consist of unloading one rack in the dishwasher, keeping her room picked up, feeding her rabbit, setting the dinner table, and a few extra odds and ends. But to hear her tell it, we're running a child labor camp.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Extreme Room Makeover" - Teenage Style!

When Olivia turned 5, we had just moved into our house in Fremont, and I wanted to decorate her room. I bought an adorable quilt from Pottery Barn Kids, painted and hung a wallpaper border. It was darling.

This was the day we said good-bye to our house in Fremont,
and the only picture I could find of her room!

Fast forward a few years, and she started begging for a makeover. She wanted something "more grown up . . . more teenager-y". When she turned 10, we ditched the cutesy quilt and replaced it with a bold polka dot comforter set, but the walls still screamed "little girl"! I kept promising her we'd paint.

Then we decided to move!

Olivia picked out her room in the new house. Her choice?

She opted for a smaller bedroom and closet than the other options, because this room had its own bathroom attached.

When we first saw the house, we thought this room had a 1/2 bath, not a full.
It's an itty-bitty bathroom—when the door is open, the shower is out of view.
But it's all hers, and she loves it!

We promised her that we'd redo her room this year, in honor of her turning 12 and graduating from Primary at church into the Young Women program—a big step for her. But we told her that whatever we did to her room now had to last her until she leaves for college in 6 years (did I just say that? Is she really leaving for college in 6 years????)

For almost a year now, she's been poring through PB Teen catalogs, trying to picture various bedding sets and room designs. Some seemed too trendy, others too bright, others were still too "young" to last through high school. A few weeks back, she landed on this.

The set seemed to be the perfect combination of fun and bright, and something that she won't outgrow too quick.

Then came the task of picking a paint color. She wanted something bright. I wanted something tasteful, yet feminine. We brought Steve in on the planning, and he quickly came up with a color scheme that sounded perfect.

Over the weekend, we transformed the room.

Three walls are a blue-ish lavender color. The wall where her window and mirrored closet are is a chocolate brown.

We splurged on a plush brown rug for the floor, it looks great!

We bought the mirror to hang above her dresser, filling up a blank wall and adding some style.

We still need to hang a few pictures and re-cover a bulletin board to break up the wall between her desk and bed.

Her bathroom is a bright pink. And I mean BRIGHT!

We may do away with the monkey artwork. . . a remnant of younger years.

She'll have no trouble feeling cheerful being in there as she wakes up early in the morning, although she may have some trouble when it comes time to learning to tastefully apply makeup . . .

When all was said and done, I couldn't believe how beautiful it turned out. The pictures don't do it justice. It literally looks like it belongs in a magazine. I have to give Steve a lot of the credit here - he has such an eye for colors and design, and is able to pick out little detaily finishing touches to tie it all together (he picked out the pink lamp on the nightstand . . . it ties in the bathroom color and the pink on the quilt perfectly!)

Olivia is floating on Cloud-9, and has promised to keep her room as neat and tidy as it is today for the rest of her years here.

I won't hold my breath!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Great Outdoors . . . in our own backyard!

Over spring break last week, we took a quick weekend trip to Yosemite. We've wanted to take the kids there for the past few years—ever since Steve and I visited for our anniversary three years ago. But we knew a fair amount of walking would be in the plan, and didn't want to be lugging a toddler on our backs. Grant is finally old enough to walk on his own (most of the time), with only minimal complaining.

We weren't sure if we would be able to get there—the week prior, everything had been shut down due to record snowfall and a power outage. We closely watched the weather forecast, and sun and above-freezing temperatures were in the works, so we decided to go for it! We were not disappointed.

We had an early morning breakfast at McD's and hit the road. It was our first real outing in the new car, and we tested out the REC (Rearseat Entertainment Center). The kids watched a movie in the backseat with their wireless headphones, while Steve and I listened to the XM Top 20 countdown over and over on Sirius Radio. It was awesome.

The incredible amounts of snow this year have resulted in absolutely spectacular waterfalls. We pulled over several times to check out the views.

We asked some random guy to take a picture of us.
We'd intended to showcase the waterfall behind us.
Instead, we ended up with mostly the road.
Oh well—you get what you pay for, right?

Our first stop in Yosemite Valley was Bridalveil Falls. A quick 1/2 mile hike took us to a bridge below the falls. We were roughly a quarter mile from the base of the falls. But from the water showering down, we may as well have been standing underneath!

We checked into our hotel later Saturday afternoon. We stayed at the Yosemite Lodge, right in the heart of the Valley. The kids love staying in a hotel. Our room was nothing spectacular, but the kids were ready to move in for good.

An afternoon rain shower gave us a good excuse to lay down and take a nap.

Or pretend to . . .

I figured this was a perfect opportunity to fool around with the
"Hipstamatic" app on my iPhone, with some fun results!

We had a lovely dinner at the upscale restaurant on-site. We had an amazing view of Yosemite Falls from our table.

Honestly, I think the view from my side of the table was equally as glorious.

Sunday morning, we woke up early and fueled our bodies for a hike up Yosemite Falls. We had intended to hike the trail to the Upper Falls, but because of all the snow still on the ground, we got a little off course.

We ended up exploring gigantic granite boulders.

"Help Mom and Dad . . . this boulder is going to crush us!!!!"

Jack harnessed his inner mountain goat and literally scampered over and around boulders and rocks alongside a stream.

Before Steve and I even blinked, he was out of sight. I had to bite my tongue to keep from freaking out, although I did manage to yell out several warnings like "Slow down!", "Be careful!", "Don't go any farther!", and "Jack—STOP RIGHT NOW!!!!"

I need to work on my ability to keep my mouth shut and let my boys be boys (and my girl too!). Testing physical limits and abilities plays an important role in their development, and I don't want to be a heli-mom (you know the ones . . . that hover about their kids like a helicopter). We didn't have a single scraped knee or elbow. Not sure if that was because I was praying nonstop, or that my kids are more competent, agile, and coordinated than I give them credit for. The only real casualties of the weekend were some very wet shoes from scampering through the snow!

When we crossed the bridge at the lower falls, a vibrant rainbow was shining through the water. It was breathtaking.

As we were wandering around the Lodge, tour bus after tour bus arrived full of visitors from all over the globe. I couldn't help but marvel at how people come from around the world to visit something that for us, is practically in our backyard. Cameras were snapping like mad at creatures that we often consider pests. Dozens of tourists were circled around a little chipmunk in the parking lot nibbling on a discarded Cheeto. It occurred to me that in many parts of the world, high rise apartment buildings and skyscrapers fill the landscape, leaving no room for the creatures that we see on an almost daily basis!

The time together made both Steve and I realize that we need to do things like this more often. No electronics (except the movie in the car, and my iPhone of course . . . aka "My Other Half"—hey, I used it to take lots of pictures!). The kids got along famously, but of course I couldn't capture a single picture with them all looking at the camera and smiling angelically . . .

As we were leaving the Valley Sunday afternoon, the sky was a brilliant blue. As we passed El Capitan, it literally took our breath away.

Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and is only a 2 1/2 hour drive away. I foresee many more adventures!