Family Trip to Arizona

We had bad timing for our trip. (Record-breaking, sweltering hot temperatures in Phoenix.) We got a speeding ticket on the drive down. (But this time it was Steve, not me!) The housekeeper at our hotel threw away a bag full of laundry. (But it was mostly easily-replaceable kids' clothes and whites. Yes, those whites.) And the drive home through Grand Canyon National Park took over 15 hours, and I had to slam on the brakes about 15 times for deer. (And we didn't even break down and buy a DVD player.)

But don't worry, there were PLENTY of highlights:

1. Waking up to this beautiful sunrise at Lake Powell.

2. Arriving at our hotel and finding out it was even nicer than it looked online. And then learning about the activities they had for kids, every hour, all weekend long. This was a pleasant surprise, since we've stayed at a few resorts where we've been very embarrassed to even have kids with us.

3. Going to eat at a couple of really neat restaurants. And noticing every little detail. The picture of the gum paper is for you, Angie. And I really really wish I could eat that chicken & mozzarella sandwich right now.

4. Seeing Kim (Kerns) Rolfe and family. It was the first time I had seen her since the day she was married, some nine years ago. And reminiscing about Uintah High School basketball trips while Steve searched for the missing key. (I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of Kim and her cute girls!)

5. Taking the girls to get their hair cut. And adding a little color. (More on that later.)

6. Swimming in the pools. All eight of them. Actually, I think we only swam in four. And went down the 138-foot waterslide dozens and dozens of times. And watched College Road Trip from the pool on Saturday night.

7. The part where the manager of the hotel called and said that since the housekeeper threw away our bag of laundry, they would credit our account for one night's stay and to expect a phone call from their insurance company about reimbursing us for the cost of the clothes.

8. Hundreds and hundreds of these incredible Saguaro cactuses. You can learn all about them on the Kids Menu at Sonora Grill.

9. Watching these four kids experience the Grand Canyon for the first time. The IMAX movie is right: pictures and words just don't do it justice.

10. Going on family vacations where there is no cell phone coverage.

11. Paying Lucy to be quiet for two straight hours on the drive home! (No picture needed. Just imagine silence.)


I Love Crocs

I bought Rachel and Lucy their first pair of Crocs three years ago, after half of my class showed up to preschool wearing them. (Adorned with various jibbitz, of course.) I have been in love with Crocs ever since. (Well, after we figured out their sizes. They run a little large.)

The girls love picking out a new color each spring. I love spraying them off with the hose, rinsing them in the sink, and even throwing them in the dishwasher. They were the perfect transition from Robeez for Adam, who refused to wear hard-soled shoes. I've never worn a pair myself, but I hear they are quite comfortable from people like Rachel, Lucy, and even my dad.

I've found my share of bargains on Crocs in the past, but this one might be the best. Crocs.com has a Buy One, Get One Free promotion right now. (Limited styles, of course, but the Girls Mary Jane and the Girls Alice styles are included.) They're throwing in free shipping, so you can get 2 pairs of kids Crocs for as little as fifteen bucks.

Happy Shopping! And hurry, they will go fast at this price!


My grandpa's garden

I have always been in love with my grandpa's garden. And now I miss it dearly. I miss weeding the perfectly manicured rows. I miss putting clean tools away in the shed. And I miss the gardening tips from the ultimate gardener.

Last week, my friend, Molly, drove up to Logan with me and captured some of the memories. I can't wait to see all of them.


The harvest is on

This morning they looked like this:

Now they look like this:

I love this time of year.


Brand New Day

Went to the Treehouse in the morning. (Adam didn't push anyone down.)

Found a twenty-dollar bill in the laundry. (And then I found another one!)

Got a cd with pictures of the girls at Lake Tahoe. (Love travelling with photographer friends.)

Derrick picked up Mykaeleigh and took her to the hospital. (Test results were negative.)

No homework on Fridays. (Thank goodness.)

Put together Mykaeleigh's newly painted crib. (I love the bedding.)

Ate dinner with my husband at a local fundraiser. (And met some new friends.)

Took the kids to our first Ogden Raptor's baseball game. (Steve joined us for the ninth inning.)

Life is looking much better. (Thanks for the love.)

P.S. We needed a picture because #1 We were all together, and awake, at the same time. #2 It was our first Raptor's game. #3 It was Derrick's first baseball game EVER. (He says cricket is better.)

P.P.S. Thanks for the offers to help with the menus. We did hire someone to help. The problem comes when we have unbelievable rounds of minor edits and want to be able to do them ourselves. I think we've come to the conclusion to switch to InDesign.

P.P.P.S. Listen to this song. I can't figure out how to make it play while you're reading this post.


Rough day(s): the unabridged version

Lest you think my life is perfect and all I do is take pictures of my well-behaved cute kids and decide what amazing dish I am going to eat at Sonora Grill for dinner, I thought you should know that I have bad days. Yesterday was a rough one. Today hasn't been much better. (Sonora Grill is a convenient backup for dinner on days, like yesterday, when my husband asks me to ignore the kids and housework responsibilities for another two hours while I make the forty-second revision to the drink menu, using a computer program that I am terribly incompetent in.)

The morning started out with another round of daily tears from Rachel. Apparently, the first day of school was the only one without tears. Now I get to deal with a six-year old who has unbelievably obsessive issues with her school uniform. Who knew anyone could have so many preferences about fabrics, sleeve lengths, sock lengths, textures, etc.? I don't know if I could handle all of the controversies that would come with a wardrobe full of regular school clothes.

It didn't help that Steve told me I got an F for back to school. First of all, it's not easy having your kids start school a week earlier than everyone else. Especially when your friends think you should still be out recreating with them. And I thought having two kids in school would create all sorts of extra time for me. Not so. And don't get me started on the homework. I think the adjustment from half-day kindergarten to full-day first grade is enough, as is. Rachel doesn't need an hour-and-a-half of homework on top of that. And neither do I.

Adam isn't sleeping well at night, and therefore, isn't exactly pleasant during the day. Someone taught him how to hit, and he thinks it's okay to tell his mother "NO!" Every night we get to pick between no medicine or his new prescription sleeping pills. If we can get him to take a whole pill, he has a good chance of sleeping through the night. But if he detects the bitter medicine and doesn't ingest enough of it, he ends up hallucinating about spiders, bears, and other scary creatures. Without any medicine, Adam has night terrors, tosses and turns like crazy, and exhibits other strange behaviors that rival the hallucinations.

And why in the world did I think that the first week back to school was the appropriate time to finally switch Adam to full-time underwear? Two pairs of wet underwear and one pair of smelly underwear a day helped me change my mind really fast. (He's back in Pull-Ups.)

Then I got a phone call from Derrick's lawyer. I have restrained myself from complaining about custodial issues over the internet. Until today. The twenty-day waiting period, in which Derrick's lawyer was prevented from proceeding with any legal actions because Jasmine's second lawyer quit on her, was over. Jasmine took off with Mykaeleigh on August 5, and refused all communication with Derrick for fifteen days. That's a long time for a dad who is supposed to have court-ordered time with his daughter every day. He had no idea where she was, who she was with, or when she was coming back. Well, actually, I had an idea. I figured she might show up today, just in time for another child support check. She did.

But back to yesterday. Derrick's lawyer gave us instructions how to go to Juvenile Court and file a child protective order for Mykaeleigh. I spent a couple hours typing up the statement, revising it with the lawyer over the phone, and preparing to go to court. There were only a few complications along the way, like when Derrick locked his keys (and his phone) inside his car in South Ogden, in front of the house where Jasmine most recently resided, with her pregnant teenage friend, who likes to yell at Derrick even more than she does.

Writing the statement brought a lot of emotions close to the surface. Putting the whole story together like that and remembering so much of the reality Derrick faces was extremely disheartening. And it created a lot of very valid, even frightening, concerns for Mykaeleigh's safety. Derrick and I made it to court and filed the lengthy petition with high hopes, but received a phone call two hours later saying it was dismissed. The judge said there was "expressed need" that it be brought to attention of the District Court. Thanks. We were hoping your court would help us. Because we were hoping for a change in custody today. (And it was really nice coming to your court where we don't have to pay a lawyer $200 per hour, like we do at District Court.)

We were all a bit frustrated with our futile efforts, so I decided we should go visit our neighbor. The one who was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic esophageal cancer one month ago. The one who had just picked out paint colors for the beautiful Victorian house she and her husband moved into this spring. The one who used to take Rachel and Lucy of Narnia on bike rides and showed them all of the short cuts through the Eccles Community Art Center. She just underwent her second round of chemotherapy on Tuesday. She and her husband were both wearing masks over their face because her white blood cell count is so low, but she still came to the door to see the kids and accept the pear baby food we brought her. It did put our problems into perspective. That's for sure. But instead of cheering me up like doing things like that usually do, it just about broke my heart.

I did enjoy diner on the patio at Sonora Grill with Angie, Heidi, and only six kids. It was the bright spot of my day. (Now that you two know all of the details about the rest of my day, you'll understand why I wasn't really phased by the kids picking all of the flowers in the courtyard. And you'll understand why I never made my bed or finished the dishes either.)

I stayed up late, making the final revision to the drink menu and getting them print-ready. I was so relieved to be finished. But then I got a phone call from Steve this morning telling me there was a problem with one of the files. I spent an hour or so trying to figure it out before I gave up and told him I needed to be done. I was serious too.

I had some errands to make. Well, one in particular. You see, I have this daughter who needed a couple more uniform shirts from Gymboree. I knew she needed them two days ago, when they were on sale, but figured I would wait for Circle of Friends to start today, so they would be an additional thirty percent off. But I was wrong. Gymboree loves to put things back to full-price when those sort of sales start. So I paid more for them, which, as hard as that is for me, wasn't the real problem. The problem was Adam. At first he was enjoying our little shopping trip and pulled at least nineteen baby girl items off the rack, telling me they were cute. But then it got to be about 12:30 pm, and he lost it. He screamed and cried and kicked and wailed. I received plenty of sympathy looks and heard plenty of comments like, "It's okay, we've all been there." and "It must be somebody's naptime!" I was in line ready to pay and get out of there when I got a phone call.

It was Derrick and he told me it was an emergency. Jasmine finally texted him and told him he could come pick up Mykaeleigh, but only if he signed a paper saying he would return her at his normal time. (He was supposed to have her for a two-week extended time period right about the time Jasmine disappeared with her.) After spending an hour trying to get ahold of the lawyer, and then consulting with him, Derrick signed the paper so he could get at least some time with Mykaeleigh. He also needed to take her to be tested to see if she has been exposed to drugs, as suggested by Child and Family Services.

Let's just say we ran into a lot of dead ends and it really shouldn't be that difficult for a father to get a drug test for his own baby. Especially when there is plenty of reason to believe it might turn out to be positive. We went to Professional Services, the outpatient laboratory at McKay-Dee, down to Porter Family Clinic and placed phone calls to pediatricians, Child and Family Services, and back to the outpatient lab. The whole time we were there, we really just wanted to be home with Mykaeleigh. Giving her a bath, trimming her nails, and taking care of the other things that her mother seems to skip over. We finally ended up in the emergency room, where we explained the situation for the eighth time and were assured they could complete the tests quickly so Derrick could get Mykaeleigh back to Jasmine on time. They didn't, and we had to leave without a test. And Derrick had to give Mykaeleigh back to Jasmine and hope that she'll be there when he goes to pick her up tomorrow.

But don't worry, tomorrow is going to be a good day. I'm ready for one.


First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for Rachel and Lucy.
I am a huge fan of school uniforms. Easy, inexpensive, and mighty cute.
They love their new shoes. (Thanks, Gloria.)
And necklaces. (Thanks, Jed.)
Rachel was embarrassed to have her picture taken and couldn't stop laughing.
Lucy was crazy excited for school. Can you tell?
There was no crying this morning.
But there might be tonight. (Too much homework.)
Steve says that's probably why they were chosen "Charter School of the Year."

Since the girls weren't home to clean the house for me, I put Adam to work today.
He can actually hold himself up like that to "wash" the dishes for about 10 minutes.
Then his poor arms needs a break. And I have to clean up the puddles.

Our new favorite television show

Steve and I have enjoyed the first two episodes of ABC's new reality television show, Shark Tank.

We like listening to what the investors have to say about the businesses and inventions. And we can't believe that guy turned down a million bucks for his LifeBelt invention.

Set your recorders, or tune in. Sunday nights, 9:00 pm.


Ballard Family Reunion

Last Saturday, we attended the annual Ballard Family Reunion. This year it was held in exotic Henefer, Utah. Where else could I catch my husband and my father-in-law wearing pig noses? My mother-in-law, Gloria, and my sister-in-law, Angie Wirick, were in charge of the games, so everyone had lots of fun. (As a side note, Angie reciprocated to my recent comment about her and started a blog. Hurray!)

. . . . . . . .

In other news, we had a little miracle happen at our house today. Adam was almost to the stairs, when he turned around and came up to me carrying a jar of peanuts and asked, "I take upstairs?" I said no. He said, "Okay, Mommy." And then, he put the jar down on the kitchen stool, turned around, and walked upstairs. (Amazing.)


This should lure Steve home from work early tonight:

Every night, when I pick up Steve from work, he asks me if we have bread at home. (For his beloved peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.) And tonight, for the very first time, I will be able to say, "Yes. I made some."

And while I was at it, I made some fresh mozzarella cheese. And a huge pot of Vegetable Medley soup. And I picked the most beautiful (and tasty) tomatoes in the whole world. And we have a plate of homemade cookies from Kacie. See for yourself:

Okay, so I really can't take too much credit for the beautiful bread or the amazing cheese since the beginning steps were completed for me at a cooking class last night. And for those of you who were there, please don't judge my completed cheese. It might look funny, but it still tastes good. I might have run into some problems with the part about being patient.

Vegetable Medley was one of my Grandma Malouf's signature dishes. For a few years, I made and freezed it in great quantities to last through the winter. We got a little burned out one year, so we took a little break. Well, it's back. And it's better (and prettier) than ever with all of these different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. It's the sort of soup that you'll want to leave your house and come back in while its simmering on the stove, just to re-enjoy the smells, full strength.

Here's how you make Vegetable Medley, but it's all done to taste and availability, so you can tweak the quantities, as needed.

Saute 2-4 cloves of garlic and 2 onions in olive oil. Add a handful of chopped basil leaves and 10-12 tomatoes, chopped in large chunks. (My grandma always peeled hers, but I don't bother.) Then add all of the other fresh vegetables you have, chopped or sliced as you like them. (Zucchini, crookneck squash, carrots, green beans, corn, eggplant.) Salt and pepper to taste and simmer as long as you can.

Carrots are especially good in Vegetable Medley, so don't leave them out. The only vegetable I advise skipping is potatoes. They change the consistency of the soup too much. We don't use eggplant either. In fact, we finally quit growing them. They might be pretty in the garden (and win your kids a bunch of blue ribbons at the county fair), but it felt like every recipe we had for eggplant was merely trying to cover up the taste of the eggplant. So, what's the point?

I think it's safe to say that my recreating days of summer are officially over. It's on to the harvest. Good news for my family: I am back in the kitchen. Dinner will be served again.

Holy Tomatoes

I think the tomatoes might be at their peak. (At least I kind of hope so. . . They take a while to pick.)

The Green Pineapple variety is finally ripe. They are soooooo good.


It just about makes me cry

to find all of these crazy travel deals and never be able to take them.

(Yes, I went to jetblue.com to daydream about all of their amazing destinations.)


Uncle Ray's House: Another Generation of Raspberry Pickers

We went to Uncle Ray's house on Friday for some raspberry picking. While we were there, we did some tire swinging, trampoline jumping, apricot eating, and rope swinging. (Yes, I said we.)

It felt a bit nostalgic to watch my kids enjoying the same things I did as a kid. Raspberry picking was a cherished activity on our annual summer trips to Logan. And I could dig up a picture of Sam, taken when he was about Adam's age, on that same tire swing. Thanks, Uncle Ray and Aunt Sharyl!