Wednesday, April 25, 2012

dad's advice

This morning, Emmy told her dad and I the latest news from first grade, speaking in her million-words-a-minute style.  "Mom.  Dad.  Yesterday, this boy in my class (whose shall go unnamed), wrote a note to my friend, and the note said, 'You are so beautiful to me.  Can I have your phone number, please.' "  With her juicy bit of news spilled out, she nodded and reaffirmed, "He wrote that.  He really did."

Her dad responded with the appropriate (and hoped for) shock and awe.  "Wow.  That's heavy stuff!"  And then he doled out his own bit of advice to his girl.  "Okay, Em.  If you get a note like that, here's what you do.  You write one back that says this:  1-800-forget-about-it." 

Of course, Emmy's eyes sparkled.  I'm pretty sure she can't wait to try it out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

spring break with the cousins

This year we spent a fun spring break at Bear Lake with the cousins.  As I looked through the gazillion pictures of the reunion, I realized that I don't think my kids realize how good they have it.  On both sides of our families, their cousins are some of their best friends.  They have super fun Aunt and Uncles, and grandparents whom they adore.  I've come to the conclusion that there is no greater blessing than a supportive, loving family.  I loved when I heard one of the teenage cousins comment that when they had told some friends they were going to a family reunion over spring break, the friends had felt pity for her.  This was baffling for her, and made her realize that obviously, they've never been to one of the Croney family reunions.  For the cousins, it's one of the best weekends of the year! 

The cabin we stayed at this year was super fun:  slides going from floor-to-floor, an indoor basketball court, playground, and trampoline, theater room, and much more.  We all had lots of fun playing "speed", and there was always a line-up of aunts, uncles, and cousins at the basketball hoop- cheering and talking a little smack on each other, of course.

(I love Kadin's pose in the background of this picture!)

One night we had a homemade ice cream contest, with each family coming up with a "secret recipe" and everyone voting on the best one.  When I asked Courtney what kind we should make, he suggested Mud Pie, one of our favorites.  Western Family Mud Pie, that is.  So.  I bought two quarts and hid them in the freezer.  When everyone started working on their ice cream, they were a bit confused at why we weren't getting in on the action.  "Don't  you need to get your ice cream started?" was the question we kept getting asked.  Finally, I sneaked our ice cream maker out to the garage and scraped our "home-made" ice cream into it.  Wa-La! 

The best part is that when the tasting started, everyone raved about our killer recipe, and we got a hundred questions about what we put in it, how did we get it to be so thick, and on and on.  Finally (after we had won, hands down), Jodi teased that she didn't think we could have made such great ice cream, and joked that we must have gone and bought it.  We all had a great laugh when we admitted our guilt!  Pretty sneaky, we are!

One afternoon all the uncles started a boxing tournament.  I panicked a few times as I saw what looked like pretty heated matches between cousins.  The guys kept assuring me that things like that  make boys better friends.  It looked to be true, as a few minutes after they'd gotten done trying to knock each other out, I'd see them smiling and slapping each other on the back.  Obviously, I have a thing or two to learn about boys.

Uncle Shawn had a funny joke to play, when he held his plate up and asked Jodi and Grandma to smell his cake to see if they thought it smelled "funny".  You can see what he had in mind, but we all got a great laugh out of it. 

Sunday afternoon, we had Grandma's traditional Easter hunt.  There was so much candy!  You can see the basketball court is just covered. . .the whole house looked that way. (The uncles seem to have the same "no fuss" mentality.  Instead of carefully setting the candy out, they just threw handfuls at a time.

A favorite part of the cabin was the tube slides that went from floor-to-floor.  When we first got there, the uncles devised a great method of delivering luggage to the two lower floors:  just chuck them down the slides!  It made for an easy arrival!  Also, Uncle AJ and the kids worked out a fun game, which was to see how many people they could pack into the slide at once.  The final record?  Fourteen!

Another fun game the kids loved playing was Sardines.  Each night, they waited 'til dark and then coerced as many uncles and aunts as they could to play.  With the lights out, it was pitch black, and made for a super fun game.  Even the littlest kids played, and we all laughed and squealed a lot as the uncles loved thinking up ways to scare us all. 

Another favorite?  Grandma had taken our old home videos and had them recorded onto DVD.  We spent hours Sunday night laughing at the good 'ol days. 

And so, another fun family reunion goes down in the books.  One afternoon I was sitting in the kitchen when one of the older cousins told me, "The thing I love about family reunions is that all of the Aunts and Uncles act like kids.  Where else do you see grown-ups flying down the slide, jumping on the trampoline, and playing crazy jokes on each other?"  It's true, we had a great time.  Two thumbs up for super-fun family reunions!

Friday, April 20, 2012

easter egg hunting at grandma and grandpa jones

the easter bunny comes early

Since we were going to be away with the cousins for Easter, the girls were a little councerned about how the Easter bunny would find us this year.  We suggested they might write a note to the floppy eared guy (girl?) explaining the situation.  They did just that, and being the flexible holiday helper that he (she?) is, it turned out just find.  I'll tell you what, the Easter Bunny aims to please. 

As requested, the delivery came three days early.  Turns out, it doesn't matter too much which day the goods arrive, the recipients seem to be thrilled.  Funny how baskets full of chocolate produce baskets full of smiles, regardless of the day.

Let the bargaining begin!

the littles

Claire loves Samuel.  He may view this as a good or bad thing, depending on the moment. 

The other day I walked into the family room to find him hanging by his feet off the living room couch, as she was trying to pull him up beside her.  After I rescued him, I talked with Claire, trying to figure out what in the heck she was doing.  Turns out, she just wanted him to sit by her so they could watch a movie together.  Lucky for us, he's such a mellow fellow, he just takes it all in stride.  In fact, he thinks she's pretty great too, and lights up whenever they're together. 

Yesterday as I sat on the floor playing with the two of them, I was imagining the two of them growing up together.  I find myself calling the older three girls "the bigs", and these two "the littles".  It was fun to think of the "littles" running outside together next summer, climbing up the steps of the school bus together, and then being teenagers together someday.  Here's to hoping they'll always want to hang out.

current family favorite

When the girls found this shirt in Aunt Haylee's box of hand-me-downs (where almost all of Mr. Sam's clothes come from!), they were so excited!  They made an immediate and unanimous decision:  Samuel is definitely the "current family favorite" around this place.  The first person everyone wants to see when they walk through the door, and the last one to get a hug at bedtime, this little guy is quite popular.  Although, he better enjoy the title.  He's pretty much crawling, and will soon be able to get just about anywhere, anything that he wants.  He doesn't know it yet, but his popularity status may soon change.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

the old tree

It's official- our "snake tree" is gone. 

The house we live in now was once my grandma Sally's.  Having been lucky enough to grow up just down the road, my siblings and I spent much of our childhood in what is now my yard.  It's funny, but I  have very few memories of playing outside in my own yard as a child.  Most of them involve Grandma's house.  I smile when I think of building boats to float in the canal (and praying Grandma didn't catch us).  We loved the monkey bars, the teeter totter- all a part of the world's best swing set my grandpa had built long before I was even born.  We slept outside on the patio and watched the stars, hunted for asparagus down the lane, and played kick-the-can on summer nights. 

Then there was "the tree".  Grandma's yard was full of all sorts of trees, but this one was the best of all.  A huge old willow tree, it's roots crawled above the ground so that we could practice walking along them.  It's branches opened up wide all the way down to the roots, making it the perfect house, fort, or whatever we were playing at the time.  One of the roots was assigned as our "sidewalk", leading up to the perfect "door", and plenty of room to put a rug and a table right inside on the "floor" of our house.  Oh, and the branches.  Perfect for climbing, we spent hours shimmying up their trunks.  I even remember my sister climbing up with one hand and holding the most newly arrived kitten with her other arm.  Best of all, the willow branches hung down to create curtains enough for us to feel like it was our own private world. 

One of the best branches held the ladder. The story is that my Grandpa found it somewhere and brought it home while my mom was still a little girl. It was the perfect toy to swing on, and there's not a child who didn't love to see how high they dared climb while it swung from side to side. Another branch held our hammock, the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
If there ever was a perfect tree, this was it.

But all good things must come to an end.  Even the best things, it seems.  You see, our perfect tree was getting very old.  Branches were rotting out, and a few years back, Courtney had to cut off a few that threatened to fall onto the playhouse.  He talked of cutting the whole thing down, but mortified, the girls and I talked him out of it.  Worst of all, our favorite tree started collecting snakes.  Snakes!  When I finally convinced him that they were harboring in the tree, he put a hose into one of the holes and they slowly started coming out until he had shot 27 of them. 

We tried thinking of anything and everything to fix the snake problem, but then I was told that once snakes found a home, they would start coming from miles around to gather for the party.  My worst fear!  I explained to the girls that if the snakes move in, I'm afraid I'd have to move out.  We finally realized that the tree had lived a good life.  Last Saturday, Courtney spend the day cutting down the old tree, whilst the girls spent the day in tears.  They sobbed and told me that they had hoped their children would play in it someday.  I admitted I had hoped the same.  One asked if I thought Grandma Sally was a little bit sad, and I replied that I thought she might be. 

Dad has promised to build something really cool to take it's place.  A cool tower with a zip line, he hopes.  Oh, and a place to hang the hammock and Great-Grandpa Colin's old ladder.  We can't forget that.

As Courtney finished pulling the stump out of the ground, one of the girls tearfully asked me if I thought we'd see the old tree in heaven.  I hadn't ever thought about it, but I guessed that maybe we would.  And wouldn't that be nice? 

After all, I can't imagine Heaven would be complete without a perfect old tree.

efficient vs. effective

Lately, Claire loves to make cookies.  Almost every day she puts in a request for cookie making.  Chocolate chip, please.  And we have to use our aprons and "crazy voices" (think Julia Child).  These activiites aren't so good for my hips, but we sure have fun and our finished product produces a great afterschool snack for the big girls. 

A few weeks ago we were elbow deep in flour when it occured to me that making cookies with a three year old isn't very efficient.  It almost always results in a bigger mess than if I were to bake by myself.  We'd use a few less eggs  to be sure (due to the one or two that seem to always be an "oops!").  And I'm positive I could have the task done in much less time if I were working alone. 

It reminded me of something a member of our stake presidency counseled in a meeting a while back.  He spoke of how the Savior didn't minister in an efficient way.  Instead, he was effective.  He loved, healed, and ministered to the one.  His focus wasn't on time constraints and to-do lists.  I'm sure he wasn't one bit worried about the quickest way to get things done.

He was focused on teaching the one.

A few days later, I was getting ready to paint Ryenne and Kate's room when Ryenne asked if she could help.  My instinct was to say no, that painting was something I did by myself.  You know, the efficient response.  Fortunately, I remembered what I had been taught.  I said yes, and we went to work.  Thank goodness I did.  While perched on the bunk bed as we painted, I learned what she and her friends liked to do during lunch break.  She shared secrets.  Because I let myself be inneficient, I learned who the cutest/nicest boys in the sixth grade are (sorry, I'm sworn to secrecy).  She asked me what "pride in your work" means.  After I explained, she was certain that's how she felt about her newly painted room.  She was proud of what she'd accomplished, and she deserved to be!  What's more, we had a great time together. 

I was reminded once again that being effective is much, much more important than being efficient.