Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jive Walking

I saw an amazing thing while I was at work today.  I arrived at a meeting 30 minutes ahead of time because my brain kept telling me I needed to be there at 3 even thought my calendar clearly stated the meeting started at 3:30.  My brain does this to me quite often - I keep trying to get it to straighten up but it just won't listen.  Does this happen to anyone else?  Am I the only one out there with a renegade brain?

So what did I do with my new found 30 minutes?  First I panicked (which is sadly - all too often my first instinct).  30 minutes?  I arrived 30 minutes early?  I have proposals I could be finishing, important calls to be making!  My next thought was, maybe I have time to go & grab a diet coke.  You know, the delicious soda fountain kind.  I even had a cup in the car so I would just have to pay for a refill instead of FULL PRICE.  Because Heaven forbid that I actually stay put for 30 minutes, especially when there is diet coke out there calling to me.  However, I suppressed the urge to leave.  Actually, it was laziness.  Once I considered all the walking, driving and finding a new parking space once I returned, that diet coke was history.  I love diet coke tremendously - but I was just too darn tired to put forth the effort.  It was as I was reaching the no diet coke decision that I actually saw something amazing.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a young man "Jive Walking" toward the building.  He wore bright purple pants, a bright orange hat, and a striped shirt that was (you guessed it) bright purple and orange.  He reached the door just as a lady about my age (frumpy & fortyish) had made it halfway across the lobby.  He stood there holding the door until she had exited the building all the while whistling a darn happy tune.  This young man then proceeded to "Jive Walk"  all the way across the lobby, finagled his way through security and over to the elevator.  He didn't miss a beat - combining the walk & whistle in fascinating fashion.  I was sad when the elevator doors closed and I couldn't see or hear him anymore.  But wouldn't you know it, when he exited the elevator several floors up I could hear his whistle and envision his smile and his walk for several more minutes.  In that instant, I knew I was a different woman.

How on earth, you might ask, did I find this to be amazing?  Life changing even?  I mean, the world is full of quirky, happy people and I just had the good fortune to run in to one of them.  Well, let me tell you.  This young man was amazing and had a life changing impact on me because he did all of this while on crutches and with only one leg.  Yep - you read that right - only one leg.  How, you might ask, does a young man with only one leg "Jive Walk" while using crutches?  My answer - I have absolutely no idea, but he sure as hell did.

So - the next time my renegade brain schedules two appointments at the same time, gets to me to where I'm supposed to be at the wrong time, forgets to tell me to pick up my kid on time, or simply refuses to work - I'm going to remember the man in purple & "Jive Walk" my way outta there.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mourning

So - a dear friend of mine asked me on Friday night, "Why don't you blog anymore?". "That's a good question" my husband responded. My answer to both of them was a tired - it's complicated. Honestly, the best answer is two fold: First, I am not a good liar & I don't know how much of my life I was willing to put down for anyone to read. And second, I am just exhausted. Emotionally and physically exhausted. But then again, who isn't these days? In many ways I've been in a mourning holding pattern for nearly 3 years. Mourning a number of losses that I still find it difficult to talk about. However, the last few months I've actually been thinking about writing again - and maybe I just needed a little push to give it a try. Thank you Kim, for the push. Thank you to my friends & family who have loved me through thick & thin. I think it's about time I got out of the holding pattern and live life without the mourninging for a while.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Some lessons learned as a "Working Mom"

First let me say that I hate the title "working mom". Now that someone actually pays me to get up in the morning and get a job done during the day does not negate the fact that I worked before. It's just that no one paid me to do my work as a stay-at-home mom. It doesn't mean I wasn't working. I just wasn't working for someone else who paid me to do my job.

Before I went "back to the office" I pretty much got to pick and choose what & when I did what I did. My days were actually quite organized into laundry day, shopping/errand day, cleaning house day, volunteer at the school day - well, I'm sure you get the picture. These were days that I planned my kids breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks down to the tiniest detail. I didn't feel ultra organized, but now I look back on it all, I was a tad over the top. But I loved it.

Then came my 39th birthday. This was the day that I "went back to work". Let me tell you, it was not a good day. I came home every day for the first few weeks and bawled. Yes, bawled. There's just no other way to describe it. Then, something funny started to happen. I started to "own" my job. I started to enjoy it. The bawling settled down to a few crying sessions here and there - but on the whole, I felt empowered. I felt smart. I felt like I could tackle a task and have it DONE, and someone would pay me to do it. At first I felt a little guilty about enjoying my job - but it didn't take long for me to realize that if I have to be working outside the home, I might as well be giving it all I've got.

This transition from stay-at-home to working mom hasn't been easy. I've landed a number of bumps and bruises along the way. It's definitely been a learning process - and here are a few of my first lessons learned:
  1. I'm not the young professional with boundless energy like I used to be. I am not the cute, perky employee of yester year. I'm more like the old reliable. That's a hard one to face.
  2. My kids are pretty darn strong. They've stepped up to the plate. Many of the things I used to keep myself so busy with before, are things my kids can do on their own. This means there is jelly in the peanut butter jar, crumpled clothes in their closets and school projects that are completely kid manufactured. Our lives are messy, but things are getting done.
  3. Messy ain't so bad. I mean, seriously, who really cares? I have yet to have someone come into my house to count the times I've swept or vacuumed the floor.
  4. I will forget treat days at soccer, carpool & cub scouts. I can't beat myself up over it, I just have to do my best, accept the mistakes & move on.
  5. I used to waste a lot of time and money on stuff that honestly DID NOT MATTER.
  6. The things that matter and the things that don't are much more clearly defined. And I simply don't have time for the latter anymore.
  7. My husband rocks. He does laundry, makes meals, runs carpool and volunteers at class parties. He has pulled more than his fair share of the load without a word of complaint.

So, to sum it all up - I'm old, tired, messy and disorganized, but more grounded, focused & content. I guess crazier things have happened.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

I miss you. It’s been nearly 4 months since you left and I still miss you. Desperately. Everyday. I see you everywhere and in everything. It’s heartbreaking and comforting all at the same time.

Do you still see me? Do you hear me crying to God at night? I keep asking Him to tell you that I love you. I hope He has. I need for you to know. I need for you to know that you are a wonderful father and I am so very proud to be your daughter. I need you to know how honored I am to be a little piece of you still living on this earth.

Dad, there is something I need to tell you. You gave me some advice about how I was raising my kids last summer. It made me mad. It made me want to fight back with some harsh words. Instead I just kept it inside. I want you to know that you were right. You were right all along. Please keep sending me your advice. I need it, even when I refuse to realize I need it. I’m stubborn like you, so sometimes it takes a little while to sink in.

I’m trying to be tough, but sometimes I can’t. I’m trying to work hard and be a woman of my word. I’m doing my best to make you proud. I hope you are watching.

I love you dad.

Your daughter,

Kristen

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Myron Emil "Andy" Anderson 1942 - 2010








I gave the life sketch of my father, Andy Anderson, today at his funeral. Here are the words I prepared and delivered:

I am honored to be able to share a little about the life of my father with each of you. It is a priviledge, and honestly, it is one of the remaining gifts I can give him. Please be patient with me, as this will be hard. My heart along with my families, and so many of yours, is broken. A daughter never expects to lose her father so early, so unexpectedly. Especially my dad. He was larger than life to me. I think deep down I still believed he was indestructible. I vividly remember the last time I hugged him just over a month ago. I was struggling and needed my dad & Joyce’s advice. Before he left he gave me a huge hug with that 6 foot four frame. I remember feeling his warmth and his strength. It was as though he passed it on to me, and helped me to know that I could make it through anything. Little did I know how much I would draw upon that last hug of his to make it through this trial we are facing now.

Dad would not have wanted to have me stand here and speak in sorrow. He would want a celebration. And boy, did that man love a good celebration. He would want this to be a celebration of his life. That’s exactly how I am going to structure my thoughts this morning, as a celebration of the life of Andy Anderson.

Dad was born March 21, 1942 in Logan, Utah to Clyde and Wanda Anderson. In fact, his mother passed away just before this past Thanksgiving, and as I watched him take charge in planning Grandma’s funeral, I felt immense pride in being an Anderson, and especially in being his daughter. He is the oldest of five children. His younger brother Ron preceded him in death, but he is survived by his brother Gordon, and his sisters Debbie and Maxine.

Dad spent the majority of his childhood and teenage years right in Salt Lake City. He learned hard and valuable lessons about life, himself, who he was, and who he wanted to be. As an adult he lived all over the Salt Lake Valley, in Bountiful, Park City, Farmington, London, England and his beloved St. George. Wherever he lived, his presence was felt and lives were changed. He didn’t barge into your life with a lot of fanfare. But once he was in your life, you knew it, and you wanted him there. Dad was someone who knew what he wanted, and lived that way.

Dad was a simple man, but at the same time, he was a man who had many layers. He was like a good book that you can’t put down for fear that you might miss something.
I’d like to share some of the many chapters of his life that made up who he was.

He knew how to love

When dad was in Jr. High he fell for a girl at school by the name of Kathy Morris. He didn’t know her real well, but he wanted to. She was actually dating one of his good friends. One day he showed up on her doorstep with his dog Sandy. She didn’t really know who he was or how he knew where she lived, but he kept coming back until she agreed to date him. He was so handsome and funny. They went to movies, had bonfires at Saltair, and took long walks just holding hands. It wasn’t until later that she learned dad had secretly followed her home from school one day to find out where that pretty blond lived. They were married shortly after high school and after many years of waiting were finally blessed with two (and might I add fabulous) children.

They divorced after 16 years of marriage, yet made sure that above all else their children’s needs came first. To this day I can honestly say that neither of them ever disparaged the other in my presence. That alone taught me a lot about my father’s character.

Thankfully, Dad found love again. And this time, it was the love of his life. After some prodding from friends, my dad, and even my mom – Joyce Bingham Willmore finally gave my dad a shot. He actually didn’t give her much of a choice. He called Joyce one night to ask her out, but she was going out to eat and dance with some friends. Well lo and behold - my father took matters into his own hands, and showed up at the restaurant anyway. He crashed their girl’s night out. She remembers him walking in, in his crisp white shirt, looking handsome as ever and asking her to dance. They danced all night, and it wasn’t long before they both knew that something special was happening. I remember hanging out with them at my dad’s little apartment in Bountiful and washing the boat. They splashed, flirted with and teased one another like they were teenagers. I was only twelve, but it still obvious to me that my dad had fallen head over heels in love.

They were married on July 20, 1983 in a gorgeous country wedding. Joyce had two sons, Eric and Terry Willmore, and on that day the six of us became a family. Now blending a family from two separate ones is not an easy task. Nor is it something that can be accomplished in a month, a year, or even a decade. But I thank God for the day my father met his amazing wife. She is his other half. His perfect match. And she brought my father back to me.

He was dedicated to his children

When we were young, Rhett and I remember going to be with our dad over weekends. He’d come pick us up in his big motorhome and take us out to his place. I remember Rhett sitting in the front passenger seat, and I would sit on a small ledge right beside the driver’s seat. I would have to pay attention, because if I didn’t Dad would grab my knee and tickle it every time I got distracted. When we arrived he would feed us what we thought was a gourmet meal of warmed up bean with bacon soup and smashed up white bread for dipping. Once he even forgot to feed me, but I was so darn scared of him that I didn’t dare tell him that I was starving.

As we got older, we spent great time together snow skiing and boating. The boys were the dare devils, I was the fraidy cat, and dad and Joyce kept us all together.

Once he made homemade macaroni and cheese just like grandma Anderson used to make. Rhett and Eric sat at the bar trying desperately to gag down their dinner. Finally dad said in his loud, gruff voice, “What’s the problem, my mom used to make this all the time and it’s delicious.” He then proceeded to take a bite, looked at the boys and pronounced the meal to be disgusting, and threw it all away.

Rhett remembers dad throwing thousands and thousands of baseballs to him while playing catch or for batting practice. He coached his little league teams, and when Rhett was in High School he would look beyond the edge of the field and find dad was there, watching him from his car for every single baseball practice.

I remember driving to Lake Powell, just the two of us, me and my dad, singing along with Neil Diamond and Sheena Easton. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. My dad taught me how to drive a stick shift in the Bountiful High School parking lot. He didn’t freak out when I smashed in the side of his van while I was in college, probably because I was freaking out enough for the both of us, plus it gave him something he could tease me about forever.

I remember him coming with Joyce and Grandma Bingham to pick me up when I was finished with my mission. I remember running into his arms and sobbing because I had missed him so much. We toured the countryside, met people I loved, and he cried every time I spoke.

Dad loved us kids. He wasn’t a gooey, mushy sort of dad – but we knew he was proud of us, that his love was real and would never waiver. When his grandkids came along, the love in his heart expanded exponentially to include them all. Whether it was golfing, swimming, fishing, or his abundant teasing, he loved to spend time with each of them. Grandpa Andy always was and will continue to be one of their greatest heroes.

He was an athlete

Everything about him made him an excellent athlete. His height, his build, his focus and determination. His willingness to work and work and work until he got it right.

Dad played baseball and Basketball in Jr. High and High School. After graduation he got into Fast Pitch Softball, and boy was he was amazing. For his first national fast pitch softball tournament my mom and dad borrowed my grandpa’s brand new car so they could drive all the way to Illinois to play. Rhett and I spent half of our childhood in the playground, dirt and stands surrounding the ball park watching our dad play ball. I remember him playing catcher, he was number 8, and they called him “Stretch”.

In 1986, he and a bunch of his buddies were inducted into the Utah Softball Hall of Fame. Dad was very humble about it all, and honestly didn’t talk about it much, but I know that he was thrilled to be honored for playing a game that he loved with friends that he loved even more.

Then there was golf. Oh how my dad loved golf. He read about golf, talked about golf, and when he wasn’t playing – I’m positive he dreamt about golf. When he was on the golf course he was in his element. He was so ticked that he couldn’t get out for a game the last few months. He wouldn’t have minded his back hurting at all, if only he could only get out and hit a few balls.

Anyone who ever watched my dad swing a driver definitely never forgot it. He could whip men half his age, including my husband and brothers. The funny thing too, was that everyone LOVED to play with him, from young kids to old guys, it didn’t matter. He was so fun to be around and he was GOOD. I mean, how could you not love playing with a man who wore orange golf shoes?

He was educated and well read

He felt that education was a life long process. Dad graduated from Granite High School in 1960, he attended the University of Utah and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1965, and received his Masters of Physical Therapy from Stanford University in 1966. The world was his oyster, and he wanted to learn all that he could from it.

Dad was always reading something. It didn’t matter the topic or genre, if it was a good book, then he was hooked. Reading was something he and I had in common. I loved to hunt and find the perfect books for him to read. I loved discussing the stories, ideas and philosophies we were reading about. He was incredibly intelligent and open minded.

One of his favorite things was learning to play the piano. How he loved that beautiful black baby grand that had been a gift from his sweet wife. He would practice for hours. He told me that his goal was to be able to sit down with any piece of music, and play it on the spot. He even took lessons while they were living in London. Once we had him over for dinner when he was retired and Joyce was out of town on business. He quickly started getting restless and finally gathered up his stuff and announced that he needed to get home. I asked why he was leaving so early, as it was only 6 pm. “I need to practice the piano” he said, “I’ve got two hours of practice I need to get in tonight”. Classic Andy.

He was a hard worker

I think he was born with the ability and aptitude for hard work built right into his genetic make-up. He simply didn’t know any other way to do things other than by working hard at them. He started a paper route at a young age, waking up before dawn in order to get all of his papers delivered. Making sure to get all of the money collected from his customers was his least favorite part. But he knew if they didn’t pay, he didn’t get paid, so he just did it. That was the story Rhett and I heard if we ever complained about something being hard. We learned not to complain pretty quickly.

He seemed to be able to do anything or be anything. He worked as a barber along side his dad while he attended the University of Utah. He started and developed two successful businesses; Active Marketing and Thread and Ink Design. He could fix pretty much anything that needed to be fixed. He was a man who knew the value of hard work, and he made sure that he passed that on to his children.

Rhett remembers asking dad for 20 bucks to go to the movies with his friends. Dad said “sure” and then had Rhett wash and wax the van in order to earn it. With dad, nothing came free, and if you wanted something, you had to work for it.

Dad was incredibly proud of the fact that he did not pay for his children’s college education. Now that wasn’t nearly as exciting of a prospect for us kids as we lived on ramen noodles, and worked numerous jobs to pay for school and the bills. But I’ll tell you what; there is an enormous amount of satisfaction that came from getting our degrees from our own blood, sweat and tears. He understood that when we couldn’t. We were pushed, and learned we could achieve anything by working hard and following our dreams.

He was a man who loved adventure

We spent a lot of time at Lake Powell over the years. Dad would always be a bundle of stress until we had that boat in the water. Then, magically, a different side of him would appear. We would travel the entire lake, looking for new canyons to explore and different hikes to take. Dad always, always drove the boat. He was the captain of our family in more ways than one.

Dad and Joyce traveled the world together. With family and dear friends, they crossed the globe seeking out new experiences and cultures. Dad climbed the Great Wall of China, stood in awe St. Peter’s Basilica, and wore his famous red shoes all over England and half of Western Europe. He not only read about life, he lived it, and he lived it with passion.

He was a man of impeccable character

He was full of integrity, loyalty and honesty. He said what he meant and meant what he said. And by golly, you’d better do the same. He was someone you could trust, someone who kept his word.

We learned that you should never ask dad his opinion if you didn’t want the truth. Because that’s what you’d always get from him. I don’t think the man knew how to lie. I remember going to him with problems that I thought were down right discouraging, and having him say so matter of fact, “Kristen, you can do that” o r “Kristen, everyone doesn’t approach this the same way you do, and you can’t expect them to”.

He was humble. When his business was honored for being among the 100 fastest growing small businesses in Utah for several years in a row, he was embarrassed. He felt awkward for receiving an award just for living his life the best way he knew how.

He was loyal to a fault. Once dad was your friend, he was your friend forever. And if anyone ever hurt you – then watch out – he was there to defend you and he did not forget easily. He had the sincere talent of making and keeping life long friends.

I will always remember and admire his loyalty towards Joyce. He was immensely proud of her and all that she had accomplished in life. Talking about her would always light up his face. He was a strong man who revered women, especially the woman he loved.

Our amazing husband, father, grandfather and friend, Myron Emil “Andy” Anderson, unexpectedly left this earthly life the afternoon of Sunday, January 3, 2010. He was truly a giant among men.

Dad, I miss you and I love you. The thought that I will not hear your voice, your laugh, or feel your touch again in this life breaks my heart in two. But I know, that your spirit lives on, and it will live forever. I know there is a God in Heaven, that He loves us, and because of Him I will see you again someday. Until then my sweet father, enjoy your new adventure, learn all that you can, I can only imagine the books you must be reading. Play golf everyday on those immaculate courses on high. We will all do every within our power to honor your memory, to live our lives with honesty, integrity and passion. To always seek out new and great adventures. Your memory and life will never be forgotten. Until we meet again dad.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Aha Moment

I have been applying for jobs lately. Yea, not a very fun thing to do when you've been out of the professional workforce for 10 plus years. Putting together my resume would have been hilarious had it not been so sad. I mean, how do you explain the talents you have and the experience you've gained due to being to being a stay at home mom? If I were honest, it could have looked something like this:

Stay at home mom 1999 - Present
  • Vast experience in laundry, dishes, menu planning and conflict resolution. Knows how to clean up messes - especially ones that are not her own.
  • Incredible ability to multi-task, manage projects, and stay within budgets.
  • Self motivated and not afraid to get her hands dirty.
  • Knows how to work her ass off with a smile on her face.

I've quickly learned that the corporate world does not place ANY value on these skills that I have learned as a stay at home mom. Even the substantial volunteer experience I have gained - especially over the last five years - only looks impressive until they realize that NO ONE PAID ME TO DO IT. I mean, how could it really be that important if someone actually got me to do it for free. Silly me.

So, I came home from one of these interviews absolutely exhausted a few weeks ago. If it weren't for this stupid recession, I wouldn't even be interviewing in the first place. I'd still be doing all of my hard work for free. My husband had generously gotten the kids a snack and started on their homework. I felt out of it the entire night because I wasn't at home for the entire routine. After tucking them all into bed, I ignored the laundry and dirty dishes and went into my room to think. Yes all of you out there in corporate world, I actually DO THINK. As I sat on my bed thinking about how in the world I could possibly do it all if I could finally convince someone to give me a job for more than $10 per hour - I had an amazing experience. It was like a door in my mind was opened allowing me to see and understand something I hadn't yet grasped, even though I thought I had. These are the words that came into my mind:

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU WILL EVER DO.

I pictured my children from infancy to adulthood and finally understood -

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WILL EVER DO.

Suddenly I knew, that if at all possible, I needed to continue to stay at home with these kids. These beautiful, frustrating, gifts from God. They need me. They need a mom who will listen. Who will be her when they get home from school. Who will be an advocate for them throughout their education. They need their mom. And if I have to sell all of my worldly possessions in order to be there for them, then so be it. They need me. And even though this is not the way I envisioned myself making my mark on the world - this is it. Raising these three children is absolutely and unequivocally THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WILL EVER DO. EVER.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sometimes there just aren't enough rocks.


It’s been coming on for a long time now. An emotional breakdown that is. Due to various events and circumstances – this year has been a hard one for my little family. Just one of those “Refiners Fire” experiences we all go through, that hurt like hell while you are in the midst of them, but at the end you can look back and even be grateful for. I’m looking forward to the gratitude stage, as I’m not quite there yet.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came a little over a week ago. I forgot to do something for my friend that she was counting on me to do. I was supposed to take her kids to an activity they had been looking forward to, and wouldn’t you know it, I forgot. Normally I would kick myself for not keeping it together, apologize profusely, and do something to try and make up for it. But not this time. This time I completely lost it. I started sobbing uncontrollably while we were talking on the phone (my poor friend – thank goodness she still likes me) and when we hung up I went into my closet and bawled. I mean bawled like a baby. Do you ever have those moments when you think, “S@#t! I just can’t do this anymore!”? This was one of those moments. I was at the end my rope & just plain tired of hanging on.

My sweet husband finally found me, listened to my numerous bottled up reasons for losing it, and then he did an amazing thing. He sat right in front of me and looked directly into my eyes and said with complete conviction, “Kristen, I think you have done some of your best mothering this year. We have had a lot going on. You have been our rock, the glue that holds us all together.” From the look in his eyes I knew he meant it. And then to emphasize the fact that emotionally losing it every now and then is an okay thing, he used one of our favorite Forrest Gump lines, “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

So Mike just took over. He planned a weekend “mommy time-out” for me. His mom met us half way from Teton Valley and then took me up to stay with her for four days. Four days to do anything I wanted. The first day I took a five hour nap. Seriously. Five hours. And yes, I was able to sleep that same night without a problem. I read Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol , and finished reading the Book of Mormon. I took multiple naps each day. It took me until the last day to have the energy to venture out on a short hike. My mother-in-law made me her delicious homemade sweet rolls and even bought me a fresh lime freeze. I’ve now returned home refreshed and renewed. Sometimes when there aren’t enough rocks to keep on throwing, it helps to back up and take a look at why you’re throwing them in the first place. It feels good to know I don’t need to throw anymore of them, at least for a little while.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This birthday girl knows how to party!

Kassidy's birthday was exactly one month ago. Here she is with her brother and sister a few years ago. Kass is the peacemaker in our family. She is thoughtful, kind, and the ultimate "big sister". Watching her grow is awe inspiring and overwhelming.
This year for her birthday she wanted to plan her entire party. She came up with the theme, the menu, all of the ideas and basically told me exactly what she needed me to do. She wanted to have a "Mystery" party where all of her guests showed up in "gowns" and had to solve a mystery that occurred during the party.
Each invitation gave every guest a character name for the party. Caleb was her butler and checked off each guest as she arrived. The girls showed up dressed to play their part. It was so much fun to watch them come in dresses, with their hair all done and jewelry on.

The first activity was decorating masks that the girls could wear throughout the night. Yes - she even convinced her little brother to wear his suit to the party in order to look more like a butler.

The dinner was served in the dining room. Kassidy wanted everything to look "fancy" as they dined on pizza, watermelon, jello and strawberry lemonade.

Kassidy with her maid & butler :)

After dinner, a charity auction was held in our living room. This was pretty much the only part she allowed me to plan. Here are all of the guests waiting for the auction to begin.

Kassidy held up the first item up for auction. It was an "expensive" necklace inside a satin jewelry box. She fainted (which was hilarious btw) when she opened the box and realized the necklace had been stolen.
Thankfully the cook (aka - the mom) recognized that this must be the work of the "sticky fingers bandit" after seeing the signature sticky fingerprint inside the box. A sticky finger print was often left by this thief after he or she had stolen something. Thankfully I happened to have "mystery kits" right there to allow everyone to keep track of clues.

The first place the guest wanted to check for clues was in the kitchen. I mean, that's probably the best place to get sticky treats if you want them. I had a picture here showing the kids finding the next clue but somehow deleted it and I'm too tired to download it again. As they entered the kitchen they found the tv remote for the tv downstairs with another sticky fingerprint right on it. After writing down the clue, we all ran downstairs. I love Kassidy's face here. Her shock looks so lady-like as they find the next clue. Downstairs on the couch in front of the tv they found a bunch of mail with sticky fingerprints all over the envelopes. There was even a half eaten doughnut on top of the mail

The kids all ran to the mail box only to find Kassidy's grandma's car keys. The keys had sticky doughnut fingerprints all over them. Here are the kids literally sprinting to the garage to look for the next clue.

After searching through grandma's car, Kassidy found an entire doughnut along with her grandma Kathy's "To Do List" that had been left on the driver seat. The things her grandma had to do were: 1. Buy doughnuts, 2. Steal necklace, and 3. Watch "The Price is Right". This is Kassidy realizing that her grandma must be the sticky finger bandit. Oh, the horror!

Next, everyone rushed down to grandma Kathy's room. As they entered they found a very guilty looking grandma wearing the auction necklace, eating a doughnut and watching "The Price is Right". It was so much fun - even for the cook!
Here are "The Grandmas" enjoying the party.
Happy Birthday my sweet girl! I'm grateful for every moment that I get to spend being your mother! Even after 11 years, you continue to amaze me every day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Too vivid of an imagination

I went to IHOP with the kids and Grandma Kathy yesterday morning. There was a lady walking from table to table making balloon shapes for all the kids - working for tips. As we ate our breakfast Kaitlyn & Caleb asked nearly NON-STOP, "Can I have a balloon Mom?". "How come she isn't here yet Mom?" and "What kind of balloons do you think she makes Mom?". I was about ready to scream at the balloon lady, "WILL YOU JUST GET OVER HERE ALREADY SO I CAN EAT MY BREAKFAST IN PEACE!?!?". Instead I said calmly to my children, "You are going to have to be patient, there are a lot of kids who want balloons, okay".

Just a side note - One of the most difficult parts of motherhood for me is calmly saying one thing while my mind is SCREAMING something else. Still haven't quite mastered it. But being kicked out of IHOP for yelling at the sweet balloon lady was a good deterent.

Fortunately, the balloon lady finally made it to our table before the kids and I had a major melt down and happily pumped out a black weiner dog (for Caleb), a red kitty cat (for Kaitlyn), and a pink humming bird (for Grandma Kathy). Kassidy quietly insisted that she simply did not want a balloon animal, even after several attempts by miss balloon lady to convince her.

After the balloon lady left, I thought to myself, "Darn it. My baby is too old for balloon animals". The sadness stuck in my heart until we reached the car. As soon as Kass sat in the passenger seat beside me she looked at me and said, "Do you know why I didn't want a balloon Mom?". I tried to act all casual as I replied, "No sweetheart, why didn't you want a balloon animal?" while inside I was thinking she was going to say they are for babies, or that they are so lame, or heaven forbid that she just flat out admit that she is too grown up now for something as frivolous as balloon animals. Once again I was able to control my inner voice and just wait for her to answer. And do you know what she said? She said, "I really like balloon animals. But as soon as I saw the lady making them I made up my mind that I wasn't going to get one. I didn't want one because I love them so much and I pretend like they are my real pet and then when they pop it's like my pet has died and it makes me really sad."

I was dumb founded. What do you say to that? I've always encouraged my kids to develop their imaginations and obviously they've done a fantastic job. But a balloon animal as a pet? Had I pushed them overboard? Had I turned my child into the BACKYARDIGANS on steroids? After pondering her comment for a few moments I finally said, "Yeah, that must be really sad honey" and then screamed inside, "HOORAY! She's still my little girl!!" The imagination is here to stay, hopefully for a LONG while, and I'm certainly not going to worry about it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our Summer - the "Reader's Digest" version


Building an AWESOME sandcastle


Two girls laying out by their Aunt Kami. This was too cute!!


Kassidy & friends celebrate the first day of summer

I've been without a computer for about 3 weeks. The summer weeks before that I was "reunion obsessed". Add those two together with a dash of overwhelming emotion and I get an entire summer with one post on my blog. So here is the "Reader's Digest" version. Not as good as the real thing, but hopefully enough to get the story told, and hopefully enough to get me back into the blogging saddle again.

Summer Story #1 - "My Daughter the Party Planner"

Kassidy has always planned parties. When she was about 2 and a half she invited nearly the entire neighborhood to her "Gooey Party". I'm not kidding. Eventually she had invited so many children that I actually had to come up with something. I had numerous kids on the street asking me, "Miss Kristen, when is Kassidy going to have her goey party?" The only problem was WHAT IN THE HECK IS A GOOEY PARTY???? But that's a story for another time. Luckily, Kassidy is now at the age where she can plan the details of the party, invite the guests, and then tell me what I need to do. The last of school this year was Kassidy's first sleepover party with a few of her closest friends from school. They played night games, made homemade pizza, gave themselves facials, and stayed up late at night talking & giggling. Needless to say, Mike and I didn't sleep much.


Summer Story #2 - "Booty Freeze at Bear Lake"

My mom has a fantastic cabin at Bear Lake that she owns with the rest of her siblings. We go there every summer for a week and have a great time. This year it was FREEZING! Let me repeat that - IT WAS FREEZING!! Bear Lake is a mountain lake. It never gets incredibly warm to begin with. With an unusually cold Spring here in Utah- the lake felt like glacier run off. It rained nearly every day and only one of those days got above 70 degrees. It was still a blast. First of, Mike's mom came with us as well this year. She & my mom are a hoot when they are together. More than once Mike would say, "Now Grandmas, if I get any more lip from you I'm gonna pull this van over and make you both walk". This of course just made us all giggle more. We played games, watched movies, did crafts, and even went to the beach to jet ski nearly every day. Call us crazy - but sometimes crazy can be a lot of fun.


Summer Story #3 - Yellowstone
Our family vacations this year were products of the recession - and much closer to home. We spent a very long day in Yellowstone National Park and had a fantastic time. From Old Faithful to mud pots, we saw all we possibly could within the hours of daylight. On one hike the kids were whining about the difficult climb and all I could think of was "I obviously do not subject my children to hard physical labor nearly enough!" We read Harry Potter together during the drive and played a license plate game where we found 40 of the 50 United States represented. It helped all of us appreciate the beauty found within this country just a little more.
I think I'll just stop with three - otherwise I will never publish this post. I hope you all had a wonderful summer and are ready to jump right in to Fall.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BHS Class of 1989 Reunion


BHS Class of 1989 Classmate Social (Thursday night)

I suddenly feel as though I can blog again. My 20th High School reunion - the one I've been completely obsessed about for months - is over. My mind is no longer completely occupied with menu options & ticket sales. I can finally focus on everyday mommy concerns once again. Today I even ran three errands and was able to immediately recall the location of my car keys, cell phone, and purse prior to each outing. I even did the laundry, fed my children 3 meals & baked brownies. I feel almost normal again! However, before I move on with my life AFTER the reunion, I ought to share photos and a few thoughts about what I loved about the big bash.


Kass helped with nametags & taking money at the Classmate Social. She's wearing my Senior Class Officer sweater. I realize she is my daughter & I'm just a tad prejudiced, but I think she is gorgeous. Mike's already making battle plans for scaring the boys away. I'm just gearing up for the emotions, drama & tears.



Therese, Amy & Me at the main event Friday Night
My 20th High School Reunion was held up at the Red Pine Lodge at the Canyons Ski Resort in Park City. I have to admit, the location all by itself was just plain cool. We all took a gondola ride up the gorgeous mountainside to the Lodge. The night started with appetizers and mingling outside, followed with a yummy meal and a program inside the lodge, with a finale of catching up under the stars, dancing, and being silly inside the photo booth that took hilarious pictures. I wanted it to be an amazing night, and I have to admit that it was. Here are a few of my favorite things.
  1. LOCATION, location, location!!! The top of a ski hill in Park City is absolutely stunning.
  2. LAUGHING, laughing, & more laughing!!! I laughed with the great friends I've made while planning the reunion, laughed some more with friends I haven't seen in years, and even more with the ones who have stood beside me the entire 20 years. AND I laughed hysterically at the program as Jared & Brian made fun of big hair, mullets & photo shopped images of classmates.
  3. MIKE! Yes, my husband. He came early, set up decorations, movies, nametags, and nearly everything else. He put up with his crazy wife all summer and socialized with all my old high school friends. He danced with me, and found new friends while I made sure the evening was running smoothly. On the gondola ride down at the end of the night he rubbed my feet because they hurt so much. He proved to me once again how incredible he is, and why I love him so damn much! He even met old boyfriends & told me what nice guys they were.
  4. The AFTER PARTY! Staying up until 5:30 am with friends was the most memorable way to end the night.
  5. Dancing to 80's music! Need I say more?
  6. Sharing a suite at the hotel with some fabulous friends!

I think this one is funny. I'm standing next to Shane & his wife Tracy. He was the guy I thought I was going to marry, before I served my mission. As things turned out, he met Tracy & married her while I was gone. Of course, I'm eternally grateful now, seeing as I met and married Mike - who (as anyone who knows us would know) is my perfect match. I actually got to know Tracy a little bit at our reunion - and she is quite an amazing lady.


Angela, Amy & Me - the morning (actually afternoon) after. We had breakfast/lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Park City. My stomache wasn't very happy with me!



Mike & I spent an extra day & night in Park City so we could relax a little. Here we are riding the ski lift to ride the Alpine Slide. We also saw a concert in the park with a bunch of hippies. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. And now I can move on with my life with a little less stress and a lot more memories.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I am officially getting old

There are many signs that I'm getting old. Like the gray hair (that I've actually had since I was 25 due to STRESS) or the plethora of wrinkles and age spots on my face. And let's not forget my complete lack of mental sharpness. These days my I'm quite happy when I can remember the names and birthdays of my children - and consider being "sharp as a butter knife" a good thing. Those days of being "sharp as a tack" are long, long gone.

One of the signs of my ever aging mind and body is the fact that I am currently planning my 20th high school reunion. It has consumed me for a while now. The selling of tickets, planning of events and finding the right entertainment have caused me a few sleepless nights. No one tells you when you are 17 years old and running for Senior Class Office (because you WANT to plan your High School reunions) how incredibly busy you will be in your future life, and the obstacles & yes even stomach ulcers that may come along with it.

At the same time however, they don't tell you how amazingly fun it will be either. Working with people you haven't seen in 20 years, and even some who you never even knew when you were in high school. After nearly every time we meet together, I find myself contemplating how just down right cool these people are. All the "high school" crap has been peeled away throughout these last 20 years, leaving the hearts and minds of some pretty strong people completely exposed. I've grown to love some of them for the first time, and the rest of them I've grown to love all over again.

It's teaching me that I really don't mind getting old. Okay, so I really don't appreciate how difficult it can be to get back up again after I've been sitting on the ground for a while, but other than that sort of stuff - getting older has been much more fun than I ever thought it would be. I've been wondering why God doesn't let our bodies, hearts & minds be at their absolute prime at exactly the same time. I guess it could be dangerous. I'm beginning to understand what they mean when they say "beauty is wasted on the young". But then again, with age I'm gaining an internal peace & confidence that physical appearance simply cannot create. Why does it take 38 years to figure that one out?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Mahem

Visiting Grandpa Ricks' grave at with the Tetons in the background
Batter up! Caleb waiting for his chance to bat.

Kaitlyn just being cute.

Kassidy and her friend Alexa at their school "state fair". Her bottle person is Eartha Kitt.

Grandma Kathy's condo after demolition!

Jardine's!!! They have a drive-up window so I don't even have to get out the car to get a diet coke. They also have the BEST ice and the sweetest ladies who own the place. I often begin and end my days (especially in May) at Jardine's.


March Madness has been something of a special holiday in our home for our entire marriage. I have learned to embrace it, understand it, and yes, even love it. But with the addition of kids, and especially now that all of them are in school, I'm now understanding that there is another "M" month every year that truly deserves a chaotic title as well. I'm referring to the completely crazy month of May.

It's a month that I have a love-hate relationship with. It contains many activities, holidays and celebrations that I adore - all smushed in with panic attacks, tears & exhaustion from the enormous amount of activity packed into a short 31 days. I'm considering calling it "May Mahem" but I'm looking for any suggestions as to what it should be titled. Let me know what you think.

Here is a quick look at the month of May for the Ricks family this year:

  • Kaitlyn's birthday!!! Seeing as it occurred at the beginning of the month, I actually wrote about it since I was still able to form complete sentences without tearing up or falling into a deep sleep at the time.
  • Mike & I celebrated 15 years of marriage! Celebrating was strictly limited to mushy cards and kisses - due to the crazy day & a cute sister who ran out of gas on the freeway that night.

  • Mother's Day! I let everyone wait on me for an entire day - and it was sublime! I have to admit, it is one of my favorite days of the year since I pretty much get to do whatever I want (within reason of course).
  • School Projects. Yes - with the end of the school year closing in, many of those all important projects are coming due. We made posters, miniature floats (like the parade type of float) and a bottle person (seriously, you can't make this stuff up). The kids were writing biographies and book reports. Studying for CRT's (whatever the heck that means!) and other end of year tests. They memorized poems, states & their capitals, and of course those never ending "math facts". This was all on top of their regular school work & homework - which seemed to be assigned in abundance as well.
  • School Programs. Gotta love 'em! The fairs, field trips, "culminating activities", school olympics, and end of year programs. It's hard for me to keep them all straight & to make sure that I'm seen by my children at each and every one of them. They will continue right up until the last day of school.

  • SPORTS! It's that time of year. Baseball and soccer dominate three to four evenings a week this month. Thank goodness we've got nothing else on our plates! Actually, we didn't use "plates" very much this month - dinner usually consisted of food stuffed into paper bags or $5 pizza from Little Caesars.
  • DRAMA! Kassidy has been taking drama classes this entire school year, and they ended it with putting on a musical production - High School Musical. NOTE TO READERS: I didn't "do" drama growing up. I didn't "do" singing either. Holy CRAP a lot of work goes into that stuff! I had absolutely no idea. It consumed weeknights and every Saturday since March. The third week of May Kassidy rehearsed every evening for 4 or 5 hours. Then she had three performances. It was a SERIOUS production, with major work required by all the of the participants. Once again, I HAD NO IDEA!!! Also, I have never been away from her that much for so long - and I missed her desperately. Needless to say, I cried & grinned uncontrollably each time I watched her perform.
  • Memorial Day! We drove to Idaho on Sunday (the morning after Kassidy's last performance), stopping at the graves of our loved ones along the way. It was a bitter-sweet experience. The absence of Mike's dad was incredibly painful for all of us, but the closeness we had all gained during his illness & death was evident in all we did the entire weekend. He has left an amazing legacy!
  • Watching Kami (my sister) perform! This was last night, and lasted 3 hours. She sang back-up for other performers and then performed a solo. Once again, I cried. She is a very talented singer. It's a talent she OBVIOUSLY gets from her father (sorry mom, but it's true). I kept thinking that he must be up in heaven watching her, and feeling incredibly proud. It made me wish I could hear the two of them sing together with him playing his guitar.
  • And last but certainly not least, is something that has been ever present the entire month. Remodeling my mom's new condo. Mike has been in charge, and has done a fantastic job. From demo, hiring contractors, to picking out and purchasing all the supplies - he has been on top of things. I did help out a little, and learned a few new things in the process like: using big tools to tear stuff up is great for anger management, and that old men with nothing else going on in their lives besides being President of the condo HOA will make you mop the garage (and no amount of reasoning will make them change their minds).

That brings me to today - the last day of May. We are going to let it go out with bang by watching a movie & snuggling on the couch, while munching on Mike's homemade carmel popcorn. It'll be the perfect ending to a perfectly crazy May!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Sweet & Sassy Kaitlyn!

We call Kaitlyn "Sparkle" because her eyes light up everytime she smiles!
Kaitlyn has always been very shy. A sure sign that she is feeling shy is when she sticks her fingers in her mouth.

Kaitlyn making wishes at her Grandma Ricks' house.


Kaitlyn wanted to take her friends ice skating for her 6th birthday. Eight 6 year olds ice skating is very stressful on mom, but the kids had a ball!


Last Saturday was Kaitlyn’s 6th birthday. If I were on top of things, I’d have posted this on her actual birthday. Instead, I’m writing it on my Anniversary. Maybe I’ll write about my Anniversary on Mother’s Day J.

Kaitlyn is my dichotomy. She is incredibly shy in groups or in front of people she doesn’t know very well, but in our home she is the clown, the ham, THE entertainer. Kaitlyn is smart as a whip with rock solid determination. When she decides to do something, she does it. End of story.

This is my child who cherishes flash cards, homework, and practice. No lie. At school she is the first one with her hand up to answer a question, then impossible to understand because she sticks her fingers in her mouth.

Before Kaitlyn was born, Mike and I literally laid out a plan for how to deal with my post-partum depression. The plan mainly consisted of my getting on medication (prozac), and hiring a nanny for the summer (Robyn – who was awesome btw!). The result was something I had never experienced previously – thoroughly enjoying a new born baby. Please don’t get me wrong, I love all my kids. I loved them all as babies. But my experience with Kaitlyn was completely different, as my emotions were in check and I was actually well rested.

I remember staying up with Kaitlyn all night long when she was fussy. I would hold her with her head on my shoulder with her legs all scrunched up – like only newborn babies can do – and savoring every moment. I loved the way she smelled, the feel of her fuzzy hair on my cheeks, and the sound of her breathing. Then Robyn would walk in at 8am and I would hand her Kaitlyn and go upstairs to take a nap. Like I said, a completely new experience.

I love you Kaitlyn! I love your soft squeaky voice, your curly hair, and even the way you yell at anyone or anything that gets in your way. I love to watch you practice cartwheels, soccer, reading, math and swimming. I love snuggling with you in the morning, and tickling you for hours. You are tough, tender and absolutely amazing! Happy Birthday!


video

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Fine Day

My "Square Foot Garden" is full of dirt and ready for planting. This is one of three planting boxes scattered around my yard.

Kaitlyn swinging high!

Caleb & Daddy fighting with his Transformers. I should probably specify here that they are Caleb's Transformers - he just "shares" them with his dad :)


This will be the year that I start a new kind of garden. A "Square Foot Garden" that is. After being convinced by Chelsea and Maureen that this is THE way to garden, and after yet another dismal attempt at gardening last year, I've been all over the square foot garden thing. I spent the winter reading and obsessing over the book about the square foot gardening method. Then a few weeks ago Mike built my very own square foot gardening boxes. Today I finally mixed the very specific compost/vermiculite/peat moss mixture and shoveled it into the boxes. Mike helped me with the messy job - and now we have 3 garden boxes ready for planting. I am so excited, and honestly a little worried. I mean, what if my vegetable still don't grow after moving to this supposedly "fail proof" system? I guess it will officially mean that I was not meant to garden in this life. But at least I gave it a good try.

Working outside, watching my kids play in the sunshine & hang out with their dad, has turned today into one fine day. To finish things off, my mom (who lives with us until her condo is ready) made a delicious spagetti dinner with salad & garlic bread for all of us to enjoy. Our family tradition during dinner is for each person to share two things that were their favorite parts of the day. The kids favorites included playing with friends, watching basketball with dad, and jumping on the trampoline. When it came to be my turn I said, "My favorite part of today is right now eating dinner with my family, and doing dirt with dad." As soon as I said "doing dirt with dad" I started to blush & my mom started to laugh. Mike then said, "No Kristen, that's for later tonight".

Needless to say, we had a great evening, and it promises to only get better. So please excuse me now, I've got some dirt to go and take care of. :)