October

For her own sake, October is wonderful. I must make myself forget that October foretells winter, the most dreary of seasons. Aside from my birthday, October means beautiful colors, perfect weather (if you live in Denver), great clothes, pumpkin flavored everything, and above all, HALLOWEEN! You'll hear about that last bit next week, but for now I'll address some of the other joys of this fine month.

Our Joy School took its first field trip last week, to a pumpkin patch. Asher ran around gleefully the whole time, and Finn tripped on pumpkin vines every five feet and ended up very frustrated and muddy. I was preoccupied with finding a perfect pumpkin for each of them, and in hindsight I probably shouldn't have bothered. Despite carefully combing every pumpkin in sight, both of my overpriced purchases lean heavily when placed on flat ground. 

After paying too much money to pick our own irregularly-shaped pumpkins, the kids jumped around in bouncy castles, ran threw a hay bale maze, and other various attractions.

Finn was having a "lick everything" kind of day. The worst was the bar on the donkey pen.

Finn was having a "lick everything" kind of day. The worst was the bar on the donkey pen.

October this year also means making the most of our zoo membership. Our membership expires at the end of the month, and I don't plan to renew it right away. We went early in the month and marveled at "Washed Ashore," which is a traveling exhibit made of sea garbage turned into various ocean creatures. My favorite was the shark, but everything was pretty eye-popping.

My littlest sidekick, before he busted out of his stroller.

My littlest sidekick, before he busted out of his stroller.

The boys also loved the primates. I see a lot of familial similarities here. 

Perhaps the biggest news I'd like to share of this month is something that no one but me will find exciting. I finished painting the eaves on our house! I've been working on this since July, and braved great heights, rickety ladders, and hordes of wasps to do it. Finn was a great mascot and a terrible help, as he climbed any chair or ladder I was standing on. Somehow his cuteness gets him out of everything.

And here are some random pictures that are too good to keep to myself.

Finn is learning body parts. Every time I ask him where his nose is, his finger goes up it.

Finn is learning body parts. Every time I ask him where his nose is, his finger goes up it.

He's very proud of that tongue.

He's very proud of that tongue.

Asher was "being a pants monster," which I'm pretty sure was just a cover for "I thought my pants were a shirt."

Asher was "being a pants monster," which I'm pretty sure was just a cover for "I thought my pants were a shirt."

Cutest little bathers anywhere!

Cutest little bathers anywhere!

Happy Birthday to ME!

I felt a mighty fine birthday coming on this year, and I was not disappointed! It was the best birthday in memory. Most of the birthdays in my 20s kinda sucked, some to the point of making me want to abandon the practice altogether. But, 29, you have redeemed birthdays for me! I figure if the next 11 years of being 29 are as good as the first day, I've got it made.

All of the best birthdays are not confined to a single day, and mine was more of a birthday weekend. Friday I met two friends at Hammond's Candy Factory for a free tour, which the kids loved. I loved the part afterward, or would have loved it if Finn wasn't doing his best to wreck the store and Asher wasn't so handsy. Let's put it this way: I bought way too much chocolate and I WILL enjoy its consumption. 

Asher and his buddy Nathan Duncan

Asher and his buddy Nathan Duncan

"Wook! Dey're making candy for us!"

"Wook! Dey're making candy for us!"

Just when I think he's past that stage, he surprises me and licks the floor because "It's candy!"

Just when I think he's past that stage, he surprises me and licks the floor because "It's candy!"

After the tour, we met Dave for a little family lunch at an Indian place, and that night I went out for a girls' night at my friend Miranda's house. All of us mormon mommies had a grand time playing goofy games that should not be so amusing sans alcohol, gorging ourselves on all things pumpkin, and staying out way too late.

Saturday, my actual birthday, I woke to Dave whispering that he was going to Kneaders to get me something delicious. (Kneaders is a recent discovery, a fantastic bakery that makes incredible French toast, and I don't even like French Toast. Basically, they are cinnamon rolls in caramel syrup.) I passed out again and woke to a smorgasbord of French toast with all the fixins and muffins. That alone was enough to leave me grinning the rest of the day, but as soon as breakfast was over we packed up the boys for the museum. We met my friend Kaci and her family for an IMAX movie. Then the boys played in City Park, chasing geese and trying to catch falling leaves. The weather was warm and clear, and I felt so lucky to be born this time of year. 



Shaybee's Totally Awesome Day continued with a nap while Dave cooked my requested meal of this and this. Oh, and he got me a cheesecake and made two kinds of delicious berry topping. Normally we go out for my birthday dinner, but this meal rivaled anything we could have ordered.

 

After dinner Kaci and I went to the Fort Collins temple cultural celebration, a performance put on by over 4,000 teenagers in the area to honor the dedication of the new Fort Collins temple. I'd heard months ago that the cultural celebration would take place on my birthday, but was also told that tickets would only be available to the youth and their families. But by a stroke of luck, I landed a ticket the day before and felt like Cinderella going to the ball! Kaci and I barely squeaked in before it started, but miraculously got close seats. Best part of the night: President Uchtdorf and Elder Renlund were there! I know we're not supposed to have favorites, but they are definitely favorites for me. We were close enough that I could hear President Uchtdorf without his microphone. Partway through the performance we were joined by my friend Sarah, who had been there all day as a youth leader. For months she and the youth have met once or twice a week to rehearse, and I know it was exhausting. I so appreciated all the effort that went into it—Dave (watching via home broadcast) said you could hear the collective sigh of relief from all the leaders present. :)

President Uchtdorf! Elder Renlund is seated right behind him.

President Uchtdorf! Elder Renlund is seated right behind him.

The replica of the temple was REALLY cool!

The replica of the temple was REALLY cool!

Not a great pic, but what can ya do with stadium lighting?

Not a great pic, but what can ya do with stadium lighting?



I went to bed that night as one happy girl. Dave really put himself out there to make sure I had a perfect day, even changing all of Finn's poopy diapers/wiping Asher. It's the little things, I tell ya.

Sunday was the wonderful day of the Fort Collins temple dedication. Sarah and her family spent the day at our house, swapping kids so that she and her husband could go to one session together and Dave and I could also. It was such an uplifting experience, with really touching talks that made Dave and I recommit to attending the temple more often. My favorite speaker asked, "Which way does your tent face?" We were reminded that our tent must face the temple. I was reminded of how essential regular temple attendance is. Crazy thing: Whenever I plan to go to the temple, it seems like a big pain and I come up with lots of excuses not to go. And whenever I go, I come home feeling so happy and so spiritually FULL. Nothing rivals that feeling. I know that I carry that joy and blessing home with me to my family, and our home/"tent" will be blessed if Dave and I attend regularly.

So yeah, 29 was pretty great. I'll have no problem turning 29 again next year.

I give this birthday two thumbs up! Or, I would if I wasn't using the other to take a bathroom selfie, something strictly relegated to the 29-and-under crowd.

I give this birthday two thumbs up! Or, I would if I wasn't using the other to take a bathroom selfie, something strictly relegated to the 29-and-under crowd.

September

September is still summer (mostly), right? That would explain why my "slow-down" month wasn't a slow-down at all. Labor Day weekend we went camping for three days, the next was Dave's birthday, the next we went to Wyoming for various family affairs, the next was the Star Valley Temple open house (again in Wyoming), and the next was a visit from Chris and Co. to see the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park and to watch general conference. Somehow I have more pictures of the stuff in between, but that's good too!

LABOR DAY CAMPOUT

Those three days of camping can mostly be summed up thus: relentlessly hot or pouring rain with thunder and lighting. I can't say I enjoyed the camping very much, as the weather was uncooperative and the location was dependent on Dave's hunting license, which made for a less-than-picturesque camp sight. Nonetheless, the boys were happy to be outside and ride the four-wheeler around. The highlight was definitely the day we went to nearby Vernal and visited Dinosaur National Monument. The wall of embedded dinosaur bones is amazing, and I was definitely more impressed with it now than when I was seven. I kept with tradition and bought both boys a toy dinosaur, which was probably the most memorable part for them. They mostly ran around and got scolded for climbing the exhibits.

Finn, like his brother, adores the outdoors.

Finn, like his brother, adores the outdoors.

Asher lounging on the leg bone of something prehistoric.

Asher lounging on the leg bone of something prehistoric.

Finn posing in front of the wall of bones.

Finn posing in front of the wall of bones.

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DAVE'S BIRTHDAY

Dave's big 3-3 was a low-key affair, as he prefers. I made him a gluten-free cake that the boys were clearly thrilled with.

The next day, Asher was overcome with temptation. Me, preparing to change Finn's diaper and hearing a disturbance: "Asher, what are you getting into?" Asher sprinting into view with his face covered in frosting: "Nuffing, Mama! I not doing anyfing!" Me, assessing the damage to the remaining cake: "That was bad, Asher, very naughty!" Asher, howling: "It was Finn! Finn did it!"

The next day, Asher was overcome with temptation.

Me, preparing to change Finn's diaper and hearing a disturbance:
"Asher, what are you getting into?"
Asher sprinting into view with his face covered in frosting: "Nuffing, Mama! I not doing anyfing!"
Me, assessing the damage to the remaining cake: "That was bad, Asher, very naughty!"
Asher, howling: "It was Finn! Finn did it!"

FAMILY WEEKEND

The weekend of the 16th-18th was a rush of birthday celebration, wedding, and mission homecoming. My dad turned 70 on Friday, and though I gave him the option to go anywhere he liked on us (in RS, but still), he picked a place he was unsure about because he knew we'd like it. It was a new Hibachi grill place, and though we waited eons for our food, the entertainment was unrivaled! I've been to several hibachi grills, and this hibachi chef was head and shoulders above everyone else. He was hilarious to the point of pleasing the toughest crowd—my dad—who was very lucky that I didn't out him as a birthday boy. They would have put a hat on him and set it on fire. I left him with a peach pie I'd made earlier in the day. I hope he felt loved!

That night we stayed at my brother Michael's house, which afforded him the opportunity to introduce my boys to video games. If any single, eligible lady is reading this, you need to scoop this guy up. He is by far the most eligible bachelor I know, and he likes kids!

That night we stayed at my brother Michael's house, which afforded him the opportunity to introduce my boys to video games. If any single, eligible lady is reading this, you need to scoop this guy up. He is by far the most eligible bachelor I know, and he likes kids!

I somehow have no pics of the wedding we attended or the homecoming (two of Dave's cousins), but we did get to see a lot of Dave's family. Here is Asher on Great Grandpa Brinkerhoff's lap. Great Grandpa Brinkerhoff is almost a third parent to Dave.

I somehow have no pics of the wedding we attended or the homecoming (two of Dave's cousins), but we did get to see a lot of Dave's family. Here is Asher on Great Grandpa Brinkerhoff's lap. Great Grandpa Brinkerhoff is almost a third parent to Dave.

STAR VALLEY TEMPLE OPEN HOUSE

Dave took Asher hunting the Friday (left Thursday night) before the open house on Saturday, which meant 24 hours of Finn to myself. While it was extremely weird to spend a night at home without my Ash Man, I loved letting Finn be an only child for a day. The Star Valley Temple open house went even less smoothly than the Fort Collins one. The nearly three-hour drive up and back was extremely cramped in the back seat of my car between Asher and Finn (my dad was shotgun), and Finn howled at me most of the time in anger that I was right there and wouldn't get him out. This was accompanied by much hair-pulling and shirt-tugging. 

Once there, we missed meeting up with my sister Stephanie and her family, and didn't see them at all during the open house. I don't know if far too many people showed up without a reservation, or it was a matter of disorganization, but we sat in the chapel at the stake center, elbow-to-elbow, for a full hour before we could watch the orientation video. The cultural hall, where Stephanie sat, was equally packed. The people directing the event got confused about the order in which people had arrived, so some who arrived later than us left sooner (including Steph & Co.). My kids' patience was gone long before we got to the temple, and as one who reserved tickets the second the went up for reservation, I was annoyed. Nobody even asked if we had a reservation, and I was not feeling very charitable toward those many many people I viewed as imposters. As soon as the video began, Finn threw a fit and I had to take him out and nurse him. He started to fall asleep, but I had to rejoin my family for the brief bus ride from the stake center to the temple.

The temple was beautiful, and very similar in style to the Fort Collins, with white tile and dark wood throughout. Many of the paintings were also the same. The kids were not enthused, though at one point Asher took a running leap off the kneeling platform in the instruction room. My strongest impression was how TINY the temple was! I've been in the Kona and Lubbock temples, which both seem large in comparison. Maybe the size was also a factor in how backed-up the crowds were? We were done in almost no time. After the open house, we planned to meet up with Stephanie for lunch, but that too fell through. We drove by them on a street corner, and that was all we saw of them in Star Valley.

I know this all seems very rant-y, but it was a huge bummer after driving eight hours.

He's such a ham, as he demonstrated when we stopped at Burger King on the way to Rock Springs.

He's such a ham, as he demonstrated when we stopped at Burger King on the way to Rock Springs.

Slurping ketchup

Slurping ketchup

Our one photo of the open house. It was snowy and freezing outside, so no "real" temple pics. Pappy has an anti-smiling-for-photos policy. I don't think he was really so unhappy.

Our one photo of the open house. It was snowy and freezing outside, so no "real" temple pics. Pappy has an anti-smiling-for-photos policy. I don't think he was really so unhappy.

DIERKS BENTLEY CONCERT

The day after I got home from Rock Springs we attended a Dierks Bentley concert. I'm no fan of country, but our friends Daven and Savanna reserved the tickets and I really wanted to go to Red Rocks. Dierks Bentley, it turns out, is Country Lite, and they definitely have some catchy tunes. I lucked out majorly with finding a teenage babysitter til midnight on a school night, who magically got even nurse-me-to-sleep-til-I'm-five Finn to sleep. It was really a great night with great friends, and I hope I get to go again!

ASHER GOT A BIKE!

Asher's slacker mom, who knew he needed a bike since July, finally ordered him one. He loves it of course, though I struggle to find time to take him out and practice with him. I'm suddenly very grateful that I grew up on a mostly flat, dead-end street. I now live on a hill on a through street, so I have to go out with Asher and closely supervise.

Poor Finn. Floppy hat, less-than-glamorous ride, and he knows it.

Poor Finn. Floppy hat, less-than-glamorous ride, and he knows it.

Finn LOVES Asher's bike and helmet. (HDR sometimes looks weird on my phone.)

Finn LOVES Asher's bike and helmet. (HDR sometimes looks weird on my phone.)

ELK-WATCHING AT ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

It's become a Brinkerhoff family tradition to visit RMNP at the end of every September. The elk put on a better show than ever this year, and Asher is now old enough to be into it. I attempted some cute pics, with limited success,

A photo that makes Dave's heart swell with pride.

A photo that makes Dave's heart swell with pride.

Liam was posing much better than Finn...

Liam was posing much better than Finn...

...who was doing this.

...who was doing this.

There was a very cute "playing with sticks" bit.

There was a very cute "playing with sticks" bit.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD

Or, lots more picture that the world deserves to see.

Finn had a ball one day rolling around the carpet sans clothing. I should try it.

Finn had a ball one day rolling around the carpet sans clothing. I should try it.

Asher said, "I'm a baby bird in an egg!" And of course he needed a mama bird to sit on him.

Asher said, "I'm a baby bird in an egg!" And of course he needed a mama bird to sit on him.

This kid has a charm about him that will not be denied.

This kid has a charm about him that will not be denied.

My first week teaching Joy School. We were learning about the five (main) senses, and what better way to illustrate the joys of touch with 3-4-year-olds than shaving cream?

My first week teaching Joy School. We were learning about the five (main) senses, and what better way to illustrate the joys of touch with 3-4-year-olds than shaving cream?

Finn took a five-hour nap, and this was the result.

Finn took a five-hour nap, and this was the result.

Asher has recently developed a very vivid imagination and thrilling dream life, both of which center on monsters. He talks of them endlessly, and tells me very interesting tales of "David" shooting them, after which the monster might fall out of a tree and break his arm or catch fire or both. One morning, story has it that his "basket hoop" from his bedroom "walked upstairs like a monster." In the pic above, he is showing me where (in the garage) an orange dragon appeared the night before. This was his first order of business for the day.

Asher has recently developed a very vivid imagination and thrilling dream life, both of which center on monsters. He talks of them endlessly, and tells me very interesting tales of "David" shooting them, after which the monster might fall out of a tree and break his arm or catch fire or both. One morning, story has it that his "basket hoop" from his bedroom "walked upstairs like a monster." In the pic above, he is showing me where (in the garage) an orange dragon appeared the night before. This was his first order of business for the day.

We found this guy on the back patio. "Don't hurt the mantis, Asher. He's a good buggy." "Yeah, him don't have guns."

We found this guy on the back patio.

"Don't hurt the mantis, Asher. He's a good buggy."

"Yeah, him don't have guns."

Look closely, and you will see that he FINALLY has a top tooth! That is, in addition to the top molar that sneaked in to my surprise just days before. Top Front Tooth #2 has since breached also.

Look closely, and you will see that he FINALLY has a top tooth! That is, in addition to the top molar that sneaked in to my surprise just days before. Top Front Tooth #2 has since breached also.

They are impossibly cute, and ALL mine.

They are impossibly cute, and ALL mine.

August Rush

August was a month of catch-up. Our absence for the latter half of July necessitated some scrambling to get our garden back in order, and there were lots of friends to see and adventures to have before the "lazy" days of summer were over. Every June I think that summer will be a time to relax and slow down, and by August I'm reminded that summer is the busiest time of the year. August was another fun-filled month, even if it did leave me desperate for a breather.

 

PLAYING CATCH-UP

Finn, fresh from the freedom of Grandma's huge yard and open doors, woke up from a nap and immediately brought me his shoes. (Who needs pants?) Fine by me, with all the weeding and pruning required by my neglected garden.

Finn, fresh from the freedom of Grandma's huge yard and open doors, woke up from a nap and immediately brought me his shoes. (Who needs pants?) Fine by me, with all the weeding and pruning required by my neglected garden.

The tastiest fruits of my labors. Store-bought tomatoes bear no resemblance.

The tastiest fruits of my labors. Store-bought tomatoes bear no resemblance.

This summer we found ourselves overrun by wasps. In the course of painting the eaves, I realized that this was their residence. I hung sticky traps at each entrance to a nest (with impressive results). The process was terrifying. If you look closely, you can see I was getting dive-bombed by a wasp mid-snapshot. I would definitely be in Gryffindor.

This summer we found ourselves overrun by wasps. In the course of painting the eaves, I realized that this was their residence. I hung sticky traps at each entrance to a nest (with impressive results). The process was terrifying. If you look closely, you can see I was getting dive-bombed by a wasp mid-snapshot. I would definitely be in Gryffindor.

Re-stocking the galley, at Costco. Neither wants for personality.  

Re-stocking the galley, at Costco. Neither wants for personality.

 

THE WARD CAMP-OUT

Finn being extremely adorable, surely trying to compensate for his sleepless night at daybreak waking.

Finn being extremely adorable, surely trying to compensate for his sleepless night at daybreak waking.

Finn and I went on a little walk when he woke up and the butt-crack of dawn, so as not to disturb our fellow tent-mates.

Finn and I went on a little walk when he woke up and the butt-crack of dawn, so as not to disturb our fellow tent-mates.

Asher would have run off the other kids in the ward and become one of The Lost Boys if the opportunity had presented itself. There was a very makeshift kid-made cabin in a little gully, for which Asher was consigned to make improvements. His job was collecting leaves for a pillow.

Asher would have run off the other kids in the ward and become one of The Lost Boys if the opportunity had presented itself. There was a very makeshift kid-made cabin in a little gully, for which Asher was consigned to make improvements. His job was collecting leaves for a pillow.

   

 

 

LAKESIDE

Somehow, despite making the same mistake last year, we again missed out on Lakeside Amusement park until August. It's really perfect for young kids without breaking the bank. Finn surprised me by being big enough for some of the rides, and Asher was the adorable big brother.

Asher and I riding "The Whip" August, 2016.

Asher and I riding "The Whip" August, 2016.

Asher and I riding "The Whip" August, 2015.

Asher and I riding "The Whip" August, 2015.

Finn was tired, and so was Dave. They both went home, and Asher and I stayed out WAAAAY past his bedtime. I don't remember how rotten Asher was the next day, but I do remember how fun it was to have some one-on-one fun with my firstborn.  

Finn was tired, and so was Dave. They both went home, and Asher and I stayed out WAAAAY past his bedtime. I don't remember how rotten Asher was the next day, but I do remember how fun it was to have some one-on-one fun with my firstborn.

 

PARK DAYS

Being gone so much in June and July meant missing one of my favorite parts of summer: park playgroup with our friends from church. Here are a couple of Finn enjoying his first summer being able to play at the park.

This was taken just a few minutes before I had a major freak-out because I couldn't find Asher. Chaotic park + 749 kids + hiding Asher = paper sack over my head (almost).

This was taken just a few minutes before I had a major freak-out because I couldn't find Asher. Chaotic park + 749 kids + hiding Asher = paper sack over my head (almost).

That smug face gets me every time!  

That smug face gets me every time!

 

THE CIRCUS

A series of events lead to me being kidnapped from my gardening duties by my friend Sarah, who whisked my offspring and me off to a night at the circus. Asher was a nut, Finn nonplussed. I'd never been to a circus, and it was a nice break after a week of Dave being in North Dakota.

       

 

 

 

 

FORT COLLINS TEMPLE OPEN HOUSE

We have eagerly been awaiting the opening of the Ft. Collins temple ever since it was announced more than five years ago. We will be just north of the southern boundary in the new temple district, meaning we may or may not always go to "our" new temple (really, it depends on traffic whether Ft. Collins or Denver takes less drive time). Still, it's a rare and happy thing to have a new temple built so close! It's been enlightening to see just how much effort goes into putting on an open house and a cultural celebration, though I'm certainly on the outermost periphery of all such preparations. We were thrilled to finally get to attend the open house on August 20th, and even more thrilled to spend the weekend with Dave's sister Kary and her family from Iowa. The open house did not go smoothly with our children, but the good news is that I'll have more opportunities to see the temple as I attend it post-dedication.

The Sprague and Brinkerhoff cousins. We went for an afternoon hike together in the hills near Ft. Collins.

The Sprague and Brinkerhoff cousins. We went for an afternoon hike together in the hills near Ft. Collins.

Lucas (one month older) is hilarious with Finn! I love that both of my boys have cousins so close to their age.

Lucas (one month older) is hilarious with Finn! I love that both of my boys have cousins so close to their age.

Finn was not shy about helping himself, and Lucas was happy to share.

Finn was not shy about helping himself, and Lucas was happy to share.

My boys were exhausted as we did a 5:45 pm session at the open house after an afternoon hiking with no naps. Finn was whiny and wiggly the whole time, and Asher didn't see the point in hanging around gawking at paintings or chandeliers if he wasn't allowed to climb on the furniture. I could tell that it was beautiful and more spacious than the Denver temple, with lots of lovely paintings and murals, but not much beyond that. MUST GO BACK SOON. It will be dedicated October 16th!  

My boys were exhausted as we did a 5:45 pm session at the open house after an afternoon hiking with no naps. Finn was whiny and wiggly the whole time, and Asher didn't see the point in hanging around gawking at paintings or chandeliers if he wasn't allowed to climb on the furniture. I could tell that it was beautiful and more spacious than the Denver temple, with lots of lovely paintings and murals, but not much beyond that. MUST GO BACK SOON. It will be dedicated October 16th!

 

WATER WORLD VISIT

Dave's brother Chris, wife Susie, and son Liam came to visit and do Water World at the end of August. I've heard from many friends that Water World beats Elitches and all other amusement parks hands-down, and it seemed a real shame that we live so close and have never gone. We even get pretty steep resident discounts, although I had to jump through about 50 hoops just to prove that I'm a resident and wasn't able to do so for Asher. I was so disgusted by the resident card process by the time I got to Water World that I desperately hoped it did not disappoint. How disappointed I was. Asher was already more expensive to admit than Dave or me by merit of his unproven residency and the fact that he just barely met the 40" cut-off. I was relieved that he met the cut-off, because obviously that meant he got to ride a bunch of rides that the free under-40" crowd did not qualify for, right? Wrong. Even though I donated a kidney to get him in, the minimum height on every height-restricted ride was 42" or higher. Complete rip-off. I bluffed him into one 42" ride and it went okay so I figured we could do another. We stood in line for about 45 minutes and as soon as I saw the enormous raft at the top, we came back down without riding. (Perspective: that's 45 minutes of standing in the sun with no toys with a THREE-YEAR-OLD.) Add to this the fact that Dave and I were handing off Finn the whole time, and those 45 minutes of wasted time accounted for the vast majority of my Finn-free time. I know this is a total rant, but I have rarely been so livid with any establishment. The whole experience was not helped by me waking up with a horrendously sore throat that morning that nothing short of NSAIDs would touch. Maybe I'll go back when my kids are two feet taller. And a plague has wiped out the hordes. 

In happier news, Liam (two months younger than Finn) is adorable and so are these pictures of the two of them playing together.

       

 

 

 

 

MISCELLANEOUS GOODNESS

Asher calls dust motes "crumbs" and was kindly shooting them "So they don't bite you!" He's gallant, this one.

Asher calls dust motes "crumbs" and was kindly shooting them "So they don't bite you!" He's gallant, this one.

I took my boys to the museum with my friend, Miranda and her kids. I thought Finn wanted to sit on the dinosaur with Asher. I thought wrong.

I took my boys to the museum with my friend, Miranda and her kids. I thought Finn wanted to sit on the dinosaur with Asher. I thought wrong.

PRESCHOOL

Nothing says end of summer like back to school. There was no "back" about it for us, as it was a first! Asher started Joy School, which is a home-based co-op preschool program that I'm doing with three other moms of kids born in 2012, all of whom I know through church. I'm still trying to convince Asher that preschool is not just playgroup, but he loves it. I've been a little nervous, given that he's quite a bit younger than the other kids (the only one not starting Kindergarten next year), and a boy. Still, Joy School is very low pressure and Asher thrives on his time with his friends. Isn't he the cutest?

Wyoming, Week Two

Week Two in the homeland was no less full of adventure!

Finn's first time on a trampoline, in Grandma's backyard. You could say it was a hit, until Asher brought a remote-control car onboard and kept running Finn down.

Finn's first time on a trampoline, in Grandma's backyard. You could say it was a hit, until Asher brought a remote-control car onboard and kept running Finn down.

I picked this book out of my MIL's library to read to Asher before bed. She is an LCSW with lots of therapy books, which explains why I accidentally told my loin fruit that he was adopted.

I picked this book out of my MIL's library to read to Asher before bed. She is an LCSW with lots of therapy books, which explains why I accidentally told my loin fruit that he was adopted.

I took Asher to the church parking lot to test him out on the bike that Grandpa bought. He was a natural! (with training wheels) Finn played the jealous little brother role beautifully.

I took Asher to the church parking lot to test him out on the bike that Grandpa bought. He was a natural! (with training wheels) Finn played the jealous little brother role beautifully.

Finn learned how to sneak into the chicken pen.

Finn learned how to sneak into the chicken pen.

THE MOST REDNECK THING I'VE EVER DONE. Still worth it. We took the boys to the demolition derby at the Park County Fair, which is basically a dream come true for any three-year-old boy. Dave translated the most redneck aspects for me. Asher still talks about it. 

THE MOST REDNECK THING I'VE EVER DONE. Still worth it. We took the boys to the demolition derby at the Park County Fair, which is basically a dream come true for any three-year-old boy. Dave translated the most redneck aspects for me. Asher still talks about it. 

All the Brinkerhoff guys.

All the Brinkerhoff guys.

After the derby, we took the boys around the animal exhibits. Asher melted my heart whenever we saw an animal by itself. He would say, "Wook, he sad! He misses his mom!" And when he saw two animals penned together, he cried, "Wook, he happy! He has his mom!" To hear that the root of happiness, in his little world, is the presence of "Mom"...I love this kid! 

After the derby, we took the boys around the animal exhibits. Asher melted my heart whenever we saw an animal by itself. He would say, "Wook, he sad! He misses his mom!" And when he saw two animals penned together, he cried, "Wook, he happy! He has his mom!" To hear that the root of happiness, in his little world, is the presence of "Mom"...I love this kid! 

This picture sums up why Dave wants to move to the country.

This picture sums up why Dave wants to move to the country.

The trip home to Colorado went more quickly and smoothly than ever, until we exited the interstate. A smell like rotting feet filled the truck, and Dave and I made bets on what it was. Horrendous though it was to discover that my child had dipped his hand in his own feces, sampled it, and wiped it everywhere within reach, I had a smile on my face. Why, you ask? As soon as we pulled onto our street we saw that our 27 next-door neighbors were moving, along with their four dogs and police records. I couldn't have asked for a better end to our trip.

The trip home to Colorado went more quickly and smoothly than ever, until we exited the interstate. A smell like rotting feet filled the truck, and Dave and I made bets on what it was. Horrendous though it was to discover that my child had dipped his hand in his own feces, sampled it, and wiped it everywhere within reach, I had a smile on my face. Why, you ask? As soon as we pulled onto our street we saw that our 27 next-door neighbors were moving, along with their four dogs and police records. I couldn't have asked for a better end to our trip.

Wyoming, Week One

The Adventures of Asher and Finn at Grandma's house, in pictures. Mostly we explored the wonders of Grandma and Grandpa's country livin': running through the sprinklers, chasing the ducks and chickens, sneaking things out of Grandpa's shed, and pestering the dog. These boys relish the freedom of running in and out all day! To polish off our week, we took a day trip to Yellowstone. 

 

Playing Outside

Grandpa moved the swing and adjusted the sprinkler to spray Asher as he swung. Asher was a very good sport!

Grandpa moved the swing and adjusted the sprinkler to spray Asher as he swung. Asher was a very good sport!

Jumping on the tramp...before Grandpa moved the sprinkler to spray it, too.

Jumping on the tramp...before Grandpa moved the sprinkler to spray it, too.

Finn wants to be just like his big brother and do all the same things. Even when he actually hates those things.

Finn wants to be just like his big brother and do all the same things. Even when he actually hates those things.

Toddling around Grandma's garden, barefoot.

Toddling around Grandma's garden, barefoot.

You see that speck of a dog out in the field? You see that speck of a boy chasing him? Also barefoot.

You see that speck of a dog out in the field? You see that speck of a boy chasing him? Also barefoot.

 

At the Playground

Oh, that face. He was smugly content just to swing idly back and forth, while Asher constantly insisted I push him more so he could "Touch da sky!"

Oh, that face. He was smugly content just to swing idly back and forth, while Asher constantly insisted I push him more so he could "Touch da sky!"

Again with that face! Asher is stabilizing Finn; the pic doesn't show how fast they are spinning.

Again with that face! Asher is stabilizing Finn; the pic doesn't show how fast they are spinning.

Finn wanted to go down but didn't know how. Asher was impatient.

Finn wanted to go down but didn't know how. Asher was impatient.

I took these boys to a splash pad. Finn was completely happy to stay in the shade with his mama.

I took these boys to a splash pad. Finn was completely happy to stay in the shade with his mama.

Asher was gone the second I finished applying his sunscreen.

Asher was gone the second I finished applying his sunscreen.

 

Yellowstone

Walking into the General Store near Fishing Bridge.

Walking into the General Store near Fishing Bridge.

We arrived just in time to see Old Faithful erupting.

We arrived just in time to see Old Faithful erupting.

From the onset of our trip to Yellowstone, Asher was desperate to see the volcano, or as he says it, "Gocano." He was not satisfied with my "you're standing on it, it's an underground caldera" explanation. It took awhile to convince him that all the little boiling hot springs and geysers were not volcanoes. Perhaps I should have let him run with it.

From the onset of our trip to Yellowstone, Asher was desperate to see the volcano, or as he says it, "Gocano." He was not satisfied with my "you're standing on it, it's an underground caldera" explanation. It took awhile to convince him that all the little boiling hot springs and geysers were not volcanoes. Perhaps I should have let him run with it.

I did my best to explain hot springs and geysers. He was mostly mollified, though always on the lookout for that "gocano." Everything I told him, he repeated to Grandma, Grandpa, and random tourists. I believe he has a promising future as a park tour guide. When Grandpa asked, "Where did you learn all of this?" Asher replied, "In Cowowado."

I did my best to explain hot springs and geysers. He was mostly mollified, though always on the lookout for that "gocano." Everything I told him, he repeated to Grandma, Grandpa, and random tourists. I believe he has a promising future as a park tour guide. When Grandpa asked, "Where did you learn all of this?" Asher replied, "In Cowowado."

One last pic before I handed off the backpack to Grandma. Our whole group hiked as far as Morning Glory hot spring in the Upper Geyser Basin, then the grandparents turned back with Finn. Asher and I continued across the highway north to see the rest of the geysers on our own, before getting picked up.

One last pic before I handed off the backpack to Grandma. Our whole group hiked as far as Morning Glory hot spring in the Upper Geyser Basin, then the grandparents turned back with Finn. Asher and I continued across the highway north to see the rest of the geysers on our own, before getting picked up.

Finn wasn't sure about the switch-off, though he did great once I was out of sight. He LOVES hikes in the pack!

Finn wasn't sure about the switch-off, though he did great once I was out of sight. He LOVES hikes in the pack!

Cutest tour guide I've ever seen!

Cutest tour guide I've ever seen!

The money shot! I snapped this beauty next to one of the least visited hot springs. I love this kid!

The money shot! I snapped this beauty next to one of the least visited hot springs. I love this kid!

 

Random Adventures

At a church preparedness activity in Cody, someone brought a pet baby raccoon. Her name was Trash Panda. My first time touching a raccoon! The kids were mesmerized.

At a church preparedness activity in Cody, someone brought a pet baby raccoon. Her name was Trash Panda. My first time touching a raccoon! The kids were mesmerized.

My very own Trash Panda. Grandma's house is not baby-proofed, so I have been busy. Trash Panda also dumped Buddy's food and water dishes and broke the DVD player.

My very own Trash Panda. Grandma's house is not baby-proofed, so I have been busy. Trash Panda also dumped Buddy's food and water dishes and broke the DVD player.

Eating WAAAY too many blueberries. Messes at both ends. Also covered in over two dozen mosquito bites, poor baby.

Eating WAAAY too many blueberries. Messes at both ends. Also covered in over two dozen mosquito bites, poor baby.

I don't know what possessed him, but before church he "pooped on da concrete." Right in front of Grandma's car. Once I wiped all the poop off his butt, legs, and feet (he tried to put his pajama bottoms back on with a poopy bum), he got a bath.

I don't know what possessed him, but before church he "pooped on da concrete." Right in front of Grandma's car. Once I wiped all the poop off his butt, legs, and feet (he tried to put his pajama bottoms back on with a poopy bum), he got a bath.

Constructed 100% by Asher. Not bad for a 3.5 year old!

Constructed 100% by Asher. Not bad for a 3.5 year old!

Exchanging foam bullet fire with Great Grandpa AB. When AB shot him, Asher would say, "Don't shoot me, you skunk!" We also got to see some of Dave's cousins, aunts, and uncles at (great) Uncle Gary's house. Asher was the life of the party, as always.

Exchanging foam bullet fire with Great Grandpa AB. When AB shot him, Asher would say, "Don't shoot me, you skunk!" We also got to see some of Dave's cousins, aunts, and uncles at (great) Uncle Gary's house. Asher was the life of the party, as always.

Wyoming, Here We Come!

We are healthy! This has been the strangest virus with which I've ever had the misfortune of becoming acquainted. Much of the past week has revolved around the question: What is the new symptom of the day? Blisters in my throat, then hands, then feet, then lips, then a lovely rash, each appearing day by day. My poor baby had it the worst of all.  was fortunate never to have the big, painful blisters that Finn did, which made him cry to be held because it hurt to walk. Mine were a fine peppering of pinpricks. Only Asher escaped this miserable second chapter.

Most of my week was spent on a ladder, painting the eaves on our house and trying not to drop the brush from my prickly fingers. The boys were quite accommodating, playing with the hose and squirting water everywhere. Asher insisted on helping me paint, so I put together a paint roller for him with a bucket of water. He proceeded to "paint" just about everything, including my car. (If you put racing stripes on it, it's a race car ya know.) I had a tremendously embarrassing moment in the front yard, during which I hope none of the neighbors were looking out. I forgot that there was a bucket of paint sitting at the top of my ladder. When I repositioned the ladder I was reminded of the bucket as it smacked painfully into the back of my head, before splattering the flower bed and lawn. Four days later my head is still tender. Fortunately it had only a little paint in it, or I'd have probably been unconscious. I got the entire front of the house (eaves) painted and some of the back, so it's a very good start.

Friday we left for The North Country (AKA, Powell, Wyoming) to visit Dave's parents. Dave is working in North Dakota for the next two weeks, but detoured to Powell to drop us off with his family. He has spent the weekend with us, and in the morning he leaves to work 10 days straight in Stanley. He'll be back in two weeks to spend another weekend here before we head home. The boys LOOOVE grandma's house, with its open doors, vast yard, chickens, ducks, horses, dirt, rocks, and ever-rotating supply of new toys. Grandma took Asher to the store to buy a squirt gun last night, which he has used to terrorize everyone who comes near, particularly the ducks and Grandpa. Neither of them ever wants to sleep; there is too much fun to be had! My agenda for the next two weeks is to temper Asher's feral soul, and keep Finn from toddling off to the highway or the canal. 

Yesterday we had a little picnic up in the Bighorn mountains. The boys (mostly just Asher) rode a horse led by Dave, and even Grandma got a little ride. It's been about 16 years since Momma Brink was seen on the back of a horse, and it was some effort getting there, but she rides again! Dave wrested the reins from her and pulled her along on a little loop just like he did Asher. Both of them were laughing so hard, it's a wonder she didn't fall off. After that rather undignified episode, she took a little jaunt off into the trees with Bart on his horse, and showed that she still knows a thing or two.

Don't you just want to squeeze him?

Don't you just want to squeeze him?

I'm sure we'll have lots of adventures to report in the next two weeks, but for now I'll leave off with a couple of sweet Asher-isms. One happened as we were leaving town Friday. Dave had to leave the boys alone in the truck for a few minutes. The truck was still in his sight, though the boys couldn't see him. When Dave came back, Asher declared, "We were worried about you Dave!" (Have I mentioned that Asher calls him Dave? It's a lost cause.)

Asher-ism #2 occurred as we drove down from the Bighorns after our picnic. Jan and I had driven the boys up around noon, as Dave and his dad had gone up earlier on their own to ride horses in the morning. On the way back Dave offered to take Asher home in the truck, and I congratulated him on being "one of the guys." Apparently Asher felt differently. Most of the way home he bawled, "I want my mom! She break my heart!" That one really gets at my mommy feels. Asher is highly independent, but once in awhile he lets his guard down and lets me know that he needs his momma. I treasure those moments!

The Hostess with the Mostest (Germs)

I have majorly fallen off the weekly blogging wagon, and as life has taken its usual uptick in busy-ness for the summer, I have much to catch up on. I'm sure not to do it justice, but here are the highlights:

We played host to lots of family and friends in the month of June, first with our friends, the Martin family. They came for their very last spinal tap/chemo treatment for their daughter Lilly, who completes treatment for leukemia tomorrow!!! Lilly was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia May of 2014, at age four. Now six, and with a promising prognosis, she completes her treatment. Background: Jake Martin was friends with Dave their freshmen year of college at the University of Wyoming, and they had not seen each other in over ten years. Fast forward to May of 2014, when Jake is married to Jessica, living in Scottsbluff NE with their three girls. Lilly, the middle child, was diagnosed at Presbyterian St. Luke's in Denver, where she would receive her next two+ years of treatment. Jake contacted Dave, and so began our great friendship with their family. We've played host to them many times over the past two years, whenever they needed a place to stay. We've watched each other's family's grow, each adding a new child. I've taken a bit (teeny bit) of a crash course in pediatric cancer, and I'm so excited for them to be done with this chapter! We'll still see them often, as Lilly will have many screenings over the next years. It is not an easy road, even now, and I sympathize with the hurdles that remain. Chemo drugs, even when they do their job, have life-long side effects. I no longer take for granted that my children are healthy.

Next to visit was Dave's sister Kary and her family, four children and her husband Jeremy. They stayed only one night, for which it was Jeremy's fondest dream to go to Casa Bonita. How to put it...Casa Bonita, local landmark that it is, is equal parts slummy restaurant, cheesy theater, and kids' carnival. It's fun for the kids, and I hear it was once well-run, but... The food, for which you must stand in a sweaty line for about 45 minutes, is barely above convenience store quality, and you HAVE TO buy an entree, as that's the admission price. It's dirty, run-down, overpriced, garish, loud, and somehow always packed. But we went. The highlight of the trip was staying up with Kary after the kids all went to bed and getting a rare chat. We typically only get to see them once per year.

Last we played host to my sister-in-law Sarah (wife of my brother Ryan) and her three wonderful kids, passing through between their home of upstate New York and a family reunion in southern Colorado. They are some of my most favorite people on the planet, and I pinch myself when I think that I get to be related to them! Forever! We played at a waterpark, and Sarah took the kids who were up to it to Lakeside Amusement Park. (Bless her for rolling with it when Asher got too busy and peed his pants!) I missed the latter because of Finn's clinginess. That was the real downer of their visit (and subsequent family interactions). Finn inexplicably developed an acute case of stranger danger exactly when my family arrived. His doting cousins could not even pick him up without sending him into hysterics. Asher, at least, responded to his cousins' invitations without a backward glance.

Asher, as usual, making a spectacle of his craziness.

Asher, as usual, making a spectacle of his craziness.

Finn thought the fountains were hi-LAR-ious...as long as Mom was nearby. Apparently he acted like he'd been abducted when I left him with his Auntie Sarah for 20 minutes to go down the big slides with Asher.

Finn thought the fountains were hi-LAR-ious...as long as Mom was nearby. Apparently he acted like he'd been abducted when I left him with his Auntie Sarah for 20 minutes to go down the big slides with Asher.

Asher LOVED his cousins and auntie. He just didn't want to stop playing for a photo.

Asher LOVED his cousins and auntie. He just didn't want to stop playing for a photo.

In between the many visits, I got Asher screened by Children's Hospital Colorado, who found that he definitely would benefit from some more speech therapy. I'm highly ambivalent about their screening process, but suffice it to say that I'm sure the therapy will help, and it's paid for by insurance. I'm anxious to see what they do.

Finn, on the other hand, seems to be brimming with language. He makes simplified attempts at "ball," "block," and "book," (they all sound like "ba"), in addition to "mama" and "dada." Tonight when we Facetimed my in-laws he repeatedly said "BYYYYE!" And that's not the half of it. He excitedly walks around the house, pointing to everything and jabbering, often with an inquisitive "Dah?" This means, "Cool, tell me about this!" And so I do. One of his faaavorite things to hear about are the little decorative fox plaques that I painted for his bedroom wall, which hang over his crib. I love that he loves them! He's figuring out his body parts, and knows his toes at least. He can follow some simple commands, like "put that back," "throw this away," and "bring me the shoe." He catches on to activities like cleaning up toys, and helps. I suppose this is all typical sixteen-month-old behavior, but it blows me away. Asher didn't do any of the this stuff until he was about two years old, and after months of speech therapy. I feel somewhat vindicated that Finn is picking this stuff up, that Asher's slower pace of speech is not because of me. And I'm really grateful that, fingers crossed, we won't have to put Finn on the therapy track, because I both love and hate it. Bottom line: my boys are very different. This I know, though they both are so young. But I love them both whole-heartedly and stand in awe of each of their strengths, excited for the breadth of experiences they are sure to give me as their mother!

Finn is mostly not terrible about getting into things, but he can empty my dishrag drawer faster than you can refold a single one of them.

Finn is mostly not terrible about getting into things, but he can empty my dishrag drawer faster than you can refold a single one of them.

If you look close you'll see Asher is inside there. He came up with idea of stacking the laundry baskets like this, him inside as the baby bird. (We love the book Are You My Mother?) If I could figure out how to embed a video you would would see him standing up—hatching—with the laundry basket on his head, a fine impression of a befuddled chick.

If you look close you'll see Asher is inside there. He came up with idea of stacking the laundry baskets like this, him inside as the baby bird. (We love the book Are You My Mother?) If I could figure out how to embed a video you would would see him standing up—hatching—with the laundry basket on his head, a fine impression of a befuddled chick.

At the conclusion of all of our visits, we ourselves sojourned to the neighborhood of Heber, Utah for a family reunion with Dave's family. We were missing his little sister who is on her mission, and his youngest brother and his family, who go to California in the summer to sell pest control. But we had a pleasant visit with Dave's other brother Brad and his family, Kary and her family, and my parents-in-law. We celebrated our ninth anniversary, though with great frustration, as we had to bring Finn to dinner and he was predictably a nightmare. We also celebrated the fresh news that my sister-in-law is expecting, after a lot of difficulty and just short of an attempt at in vitro. Mostly we lazed about the cabin, though the highlight for me was FINALLY getting to ride, and drive, the four-wheeler that we've owned for probably two years.

When he could catch Finn, Lucas (one month older) LOVED him and gave him hugs.

When he could catch Finn, Lucas (one month older) LOVED him and gave him hugs.

Just before bed, cuddled up next to Dad. These boys increasingly adore each other!

Just before bed, cuddled up next to Dad. These boys increasingly adore each other!

Blowing raspberry kisses.

Blowing raspberry kisses.

Funniest moment at the cabin: Finn was terrified of the gaps in the planks of the deck. He refused to move, acting like a cow stuck at a cattleguard.

Funniest moment at the cabin: Finn was terrified of the gaps in the planks of the deck. He refused to move, acting like a cow stuck at a cattleguard.

The lowlight of the experience haunts me still. It was discovered while we were there that Kary's middle boy, Jacob, had Hand Foot and Mouth disease. I shuddered when confirming that, yep, those sores look just like what Asher and I had on his first birthday. I found small comfort in the fact that Asher and I were probably safe, but worried about Finn and the other kids who hadn't had it. My worst fears were confirmed, as the virus proceeded to ravage through the other children. All but one of Kary's four became sick, as did Brad's boy Tanden. The odd thing was that no one but Jacob developed the typical symptoms. Most were barfing, though Tanden could have passed for a classic flu victim. Dave felt vindicated in his hatred of Casa Bonita, insisting that that establishment was the origin of the virus.

On the day that we were supposed to leave the cabin and head to Wyoming for two days of camping, Asher woke up barfing. And barfing. Starting at 5 am, he hurled every 20 minutes or so, interspersed with the occasional diarrhea. It was an ironically proud moment when I found he could aim for the toilet with both ends, and correctly prioritize which end needed it most. He was sicker than anyone had been despite having had it before. Dave and I had no other choice but to pack up, cancel our camping trip, and drive the 500 miles to home. We managed admirably, I must say, helped immensely by the fact that both boys slept most of the way. I figured Finn was just exhausted because he'd woken up so early, but about halfway home he too started barfing every 20 minutes. My job was the be sandwiched in the tiny backseat between the carseats, catching barf whenever I heard it approaching, soothing where necessary. It was bliss to arrive home.

The next day saw both Dave and I come down with the bug. I got off easiest, suffering little more than tummy upset. Dave fared worse, and even more so our toilet. Asher and Finn seemed recovered on the Fourth of July, a rather bleak day of Dave and I puttering around the house moaning about our churning interiors. Asher relapsed as we sat on the front lawn watching fireworks from all the surrounding suburbs. I knew all was not well when he asked to sit with me under a blanket on the hot night, but was thankful for the cover when he barfed all over it. 

By Wednesday, when no sores had appeared, I declared us healed. We went to playgroup, had babysitters for the kids a couple times, attended a ward party, and I even got the house clean(ish). Dave and I went on a date Saturday night to a Korean BBQ place, which was....interesting. They really like to pickle stuff. I tried all twenty-something dishes they brought out, including the fried whole shrimp. That, though, required a bribe of Coldstone to follow (the heads and shells were still on).

Perhaps I should have been more leery of the sore throat creeping up on me, but I resigned myself to a little summer cold. No flags were raised when, before bed, Dave mentioned off-handedly that the bottoms of his feet had been hurting. It wasn't until the next day, when sitting in church, that the pieces fit together. One little sore on Finn's hand put me on high alert. I peeled back his socks right there in the back of Sunday School, and glaring red sores stared back at me. Dave took him home, and I stayed with Asher and hoped I wasn't spreading anything. Later we looked in Finn's mouth and mine, our throats identically red and spotty. No apparent sores on Dave's feet, but my previous experience taught me that there were far more of the deep sores than I could see, most of them hidden under callouses. Asher, at least, seems fine.

So, yeah. I really hope we haven't infected half the ward. I had no idea the virus would lie symptomless and dormant for days before again rearing its ugly head. We've taken to calling Dave's sister "Typhoid Kary," but perhaps we're no better. To put the cherry on top of this fabulous Sunday, I dropped my phone for the bazillionth time this evening, but for the first time completely shattered the screen. Every time I touch the screen, strands of glass stick to my fingers. So I get to take my diseased self to the Verizon store tomorrow and buy a new phone tomorrow. This week can only get better, right?

Adventure, Comedy, Tragedy, and Bromance

When Dave returned from Canada, we were both exhausted. I was so relieved to have him home, and no less so after a humiliating episode during Sacrament meeting wherein Asher turned off the lights and I had to immediately haul both boys out in my arms with the entire congregation turned to see. It was very tempting to lie around the house on Memorial Day and see how much napping could be accomplished. But by that time I found being stuck at home highly agitating, and so I decided that we should accept the invitation of some friends to accompany them on a hike in the mountains.

The hike did not disappoint. Again we were rewarded with beautiful weather, and breathtaking views. The company was wonderful also, and though I don't mind hiking on my own, conversation makes it better. Between ourselves and the other two families, there were eight children under 10 years old. We were not fast hikers, and Asher wanted to lead the pack. We often had to call him back from getting out of sight, and if another child got in front of him he would dash ahead. The trail was uphill for most of the first two or three miles, but he didn't mind in the least. When we came upon a rattlesnake rattling in the middle of the trail, I realized the danger of him being ahead, and made sure one of us was with him after that. Our group would come across two more before the hike was over.

Again, Finn was marvelous all five miles. He napped, and pulled my hair more than I would have liked, but cried little. My boys are going to be serious outdoorsmen!

Yep, I carried him the whole way!

Yep, I carried him the whole way!

Our view of the Flatirons and Asher being his usual self for a photo.

Our view of the Flatirons and Asher being his usual self for a photo.

I suppose I'd be pretty happy too about being carried through such a pretty place.

I suppose I'd be pretty happy too about being carried through such a pretty place.

Coming back down on the switchbacks, we got quite a ways ahead of the group. Boy's got legs!

Coming back down on the switchbacks, we got quite a ways ahead of the group. Boy's got legs!

The boys took a refreshing venture into the stream at the end of the hike.

The boys took a refreshing venture into the stream at the end of the hike.

The Wednesday after Memorial Day I took the boys to the visiting robot exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It was fantastic! Dave took Asher when it first opened a couple months ago, but I hadn't been. Nor had my friend Kaci and her two kids. There are dozens of robots, demonstrating all sorts of abilities. Highlights pictured below.

These boys are priceless! They were watching robots playing soccer. I think Raegan (in the background) is feeding Finn.

These boys are priceless! They were watching robots playing soccer. I think Raegan (in the background) is feeding Finn.

This little one was highly entertaining. With the push of a button, he would do the splits, take a bow, perform a push-up, or any of several other moves.

This little one was highly entertaining. With the push of a button, he would do the splits, take a bow, perform a push-up, or any of several other moves.

Okay, so Asher was inexplicably bored by this. But I though the drone demo was cool!

Okay, so Asher was inexplicably bored by this. But I though the drone demo was cool!

Putting together a circuit board.

Putting together a circuit board.

My favorite part of the exhibit were these little magnetically connecting blocks that could be assembled in different ways to form robots. Some had wheels, others were batteries, some had lights, and there were others that I don't recall. The lady overseeing them said Asher had a real knack for it. He had a hard time leaving the exhibit after that.

My favorite part of the exhibit were these little magnetically connecting blocks that could be assembled in different ways to form robots. Some had wheels, others were batteries, some had lights, and there were others that I don't recall. The lady overseeing them said Asher had a real knack for it. He had a hard time leaving the exhibit after that.

These boys are such friends! Don't let Asher's long face fool you. He usually does something goofy when asked to pose.

These boys are such friends! Don't let Asher's long face fool you. He usually does something goofy when asked to pose.

Thursday we left for Rock Springs and the high school graduation of my oldest niece, Kira. The boys were atrocious on the ride, and I didn't regret one bit my embargo on long road trips thus far in 2016. Friday Dave took Asher fishing (first time!) in the mountains north of Cokeville, a solid 3 1/2 hours from Rock Springs. He met with his brother and family, and was expected back in the evening. As evening approached nightfall and I still hadn't heard anything from him, I assumed the fishing must have been very good. That was, after all, why he'd traveled to that distant location. A worse explanation arouse about 8 o'clock, when a text came in saying that the truck had some serious problems and was broken down, followed by a plea to head for Cokeville ASAP. The next two hours were full of confusion as we tried to contact each other and relay the particulars of whether or not he need transport only for himself and Asher, or also for the four-wheeler, which would necessitate that we borrow my Dad's truck. This was further complicated by the fact that my dad was himself still traveling back into town from an outdoor excursion. Then, of course, we also didn't know where we were to meet him, as his brother hadn't decided how far he would drive to drop him off, and once on the road there was no telling if our cell coverage would be good enough to receive calls. At length my oldest brother and brother-in-law set out to retrieve only Dave and Asher, kindly leaving me to stay with Finn. They returned around 1:30 am.

By both accounts it had been a golden day, up until Dave forded a creek in his pickup and sucked water into the air intake. Asher and his cousin Tanden hiked and fished and threw rocks to their heart's content. The fishing was, in fact, very good. At one point Asher dropped his pants, pooped, and immediately returned to throwing rocks with his pants around his ankles. Upon leaving, Asher declared "I love fishing and I love throwing rocks!" He slept nearly the whole way back to Rock Springs, even as broken up as the trip was by multiple car transfers.

Saturday I was left to ready the boys for graduation while Dave arranged to meet a tow truck. My dad very kindly let us borrow his truck, and helped transport me and my enormous car seats in the back of his little Jeep. It was a feat, I tell you. We had to park a distance away and walk, and by the time we got there we only found seats by shoving stuff off of some "saved" spaces. I can only console myself that as loud and active as my boys were, they were not half as disruptive as the folks who did eventually show up to claim their seats (sadly, they still had enough room to sit next to us). The ceremony was as good as could be expected without being half as long, and at least I can say that I was not so distracted by Asher's jabbering that I missed Kira's name being called (my dad couldn't say the same). 

I was a little astonished, as I was at my own graduation, at all the people that made such a big deal of the thing. Not to poo-poo my niece, as she did very well in high school, graduated with honors and lots of scholarships, and plans to have a very respectable career. But that's kind of my point. High school is just a stepping off point, and frankly, it isn't that hard just to graduate. Somehow I feel that those who celebrate graduation as some sort of massive accomplishment anticipate very few future achievements.

After the ceremony we had a barbecue at my sister Stephanie's house, which she worried was too modest an effort in light of some more extravagant parties. But it was just right: good food, good family. This was succeeded by a game of Settlers of Catan in which we all lost spectacularly to Tephie, and I was apparently very entertaining in my loopiness. It was too short a trip, seemingly made shorter by the fiasco with the truck, but good nonetheless.

And here is a random pic of Asher, one where I actually got him to not pull faces as soon as I whipped out my phone. Heaven help me!

And here is a random pic of Asher, one where I actually got him to not pull faces as soon as I whipped out my phone. Heaven help me!

The Balm of Sunshine

The week that Dave went to Canada to shoot bears was so exhausting an experience that I am only now endeavoring to relay it. Really, I'm far too tired even now, and I must incite my old caveat that this is not a place where I showcase my writing skills. It's a place where I come late at night (generally), to drop a pin on my life and make record of what often feels like an endless succession of wiping things, feeding people, and also wiping people.

I can't explain what exactly is so exhausting and sanity-corroding about staying home full time with small children to someone who has never done it. The very act of it is joyful, precious, and far more sweet than even Hallmark can express. But the endlessness of it is a challenge beyond words, one that is broken up when Dave comes home in the evening and on weekends. But when he's gone...sometimes I think the clock slips backward. I can manage quite well on my own for about three days, but I've discovered that is my limit. After that, the evenings drag on without hope of reprieve, and bedtime seems to never come. It's not just that he shoulders some of the burden of childcare, as that is offset by the fact that I have to cook, do extra laundry, and keep the house respectably clean. It's the emotional offloading that is essential.

He left on a Sunday and would come back on the next. By Wednesday, I was waving the white flag. I texted him that afternoon that my sanity was dangling by a thread, the boys would surely be the end of me. Our communications were limited to texts, as his cell service was very patchy and weak. Seemingly in response to my text, and yet with no acknowledgment of it, he sent back a picture of a peaceful forest glen, which he would be overlooking from his tree stand for the next eight hours. On his backside. I couldn't tell if he hadn't heard my cry of desperation, or if he was mocking me. That was a very angry day.

The next day I was pulled away from my resentful thoughts by some very practical needs. On the way home from playgroup at the park, Asher projectile vomited, repeatedly, in the car. If my joy was not complete in this, it was made whole in discovering as I drew his bath that the water heater was not working properly. I can count myself lucky that Asher did not throw up any more, and admit that I expected barf to make an appearance with Dave gone so long. With some help from a friend, I got the pilot light relit, but it went out. Again, and again. It would work long enough to heat the water some, and then go out completely.

Friday I called half a dozen plumbers. One came out for a consult, and he lead the chorus telling me "just get a new water heater." On my last call for second (etc.) opinions, I talked with a plumber who seemed to truly contemplate my situation. "Doesn't sound like anything is broken if it's running that long. It might just be that it's dusty and overheating."

And so, armed with a couple screwdrivers, a vacuum, and a can of compressed air, I pulled apart the panel door to the burner assembly. As with the dishwasher a few weeks previous, my optimism quickly turned to I'm probably going to break something, but it's too late to turn back now. There was some bending of metal involved, some removal of insulation, and an omnipresent fear that I would cause a gas leak and blow up the house. But in the end I got it all back together roughly as before, with less dust. And it wouldn't light. For five minutes I tried again and again, and when if finally did light, the scene was pretty similar to Tom Hanks's first fire in Castaway

Thus buoyed by my success (and grateful for a thoughtful plumber,) I felt equal to another feat the next day. Dirty as was the house and frazzled as were my nerves, I knew we had to get out. I packed a cranky Finn into my hiking backpack, and resolved on a long hike. I parked the car at a nearby park, and we ventured down a trail and up a hill toward Standley Lake. Really, it's a reservoir (no respectable reservoir will admit such), but it's very pretty, set against the backdrop of the Rockies.

We walked a good distance around it, and on the way back stopped to get our feet wet at the boat ramp (there aren't many beaches). Or if you're Asher, much more than your feet. Finn, on being set down at the water's edge, tried to stand on one foot like a flamingo. When left to his own devices, he crept out of reach of the waves. Ever the adventurous one, Asher splashed and screamed theatrically every time the water came for him. He made friends with a man and his dog, channeling his outgoing father.

The day was nearer perfection than I could have hoped. The weather was sublime, Finn slept much of the way and only pulled my hair a little near the end, and Asher was cheerful in walking the whole four miles. That boy is in his element in the outdoors. Often I think, as he tears around the house making bizarre noises, that I'm trying to keep an orangutan for a pet. But outside he knows exactly what to do, thrills with exertion, and becomes quite conversational. Everything about him is shown to its best advantage. If he had been a hunter gatherer child, he would have been the best of them.

Summiting this hill was the only time he really complained, and only at the top when he was slipping.

Summiting this hill was the only time he really complained, and only at the top when he was slipping.

I unsuccessfully attempted to toss him over a mud puddle and save his shoes from getting muddy. He fell flat on his back.

I unsuccessfully attempted to toss him over a mud puddle and save his shoes from getting muddy. He fell flat on his back.

With his new friend, coaxing Maggie the fourteen-year-old dog out of the water.

With his new friend, coaxing Maggie the fourteen-year-old dog out of the water.

Finn, still making up his mind about this aquatic business.

Finn, still making up his mind about this aquatic business.

Finn preferred to be dry, thank you.

Finn preferred to be dry, thank you.

This look captures all his joy in being outside, and the beauty of the scene.

This look captures all his joy in being outside, and the beauty of the scene.

That hike taught me—also in words I can't quite form—just how relaxing and rejuvenating it is to be outdoors and getting exercise. My children could not have been better, and I resolved then to take many hikes with them over the course of what will surely be a very fun summer.

Paper Fireballs and a Basket Seat Built for Two

On the eve of The First Annual Brinkerhoff Game Extravaganza, we took a brief jaunt up to Fort Collins to meet Dave's brother Chris and his family. Chris sells pest control in California every summer to make money for the school year, now accompanied by his wife Susie and baby son Liam. They had just finished finals and were leaving the next day for California, so we wanted to see them before they left. We met for dinner (Afghan food—yum!) and took the kids to a couple parks to play.

Though Liam is two months younger than Finn, they are roughly the same size and mobility level. They are hilarious together! Finn mauls Liam in an apparent effort to hug and kiss him, which is reasonably well-tolerated. They followed each other around on the playground equipment, crawling all the way. And we managed to fit them both in a basket-seat swing for an overdose of one-year-old cuteness.

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Hugs...

Hugs...

...and kisses!

...and kisses!

We stopped for a peak at the soon-to-be-dedicated Fort Collins Temple on the way home. It's beautiful!

We stopped for a peak at the soon-to-be-dedicated Fort Collins Temple on the way home. It's beautiful!

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I've put my cake decorating hat on the shelf for the time being, but thrilled at the opportunity this week to make a baby shower cake for a friend. She likes frogs, chocolate, and is having a boy. How to combine them? Not bad results, I think. It's the first perfectly square layer cake I've made, and three layers even. The only snafu was when I put the lid on the cake carrier and crushed the crown.

~ * ~

Friday was a day I had anticipated for a long, long time. Have you seen Tangled? You know the lantern festival, where they light all those paper lanterns and they float off into the sky and it's all amazing and magical? So, they do that here and I was dying to go. Except I kept forgetting to sign up for the one in Denver, which of course sold out. So I signed up for the one in Colorado Springs...which was actually another 30 miles south of Colorado Springs. Which is basically a two-hour drive from our house. I marketed this expedition to Dave as a day trip in which we could check out various attractions in CS, which we have scarcely visited, ending with a magical evening at the lantern festival. But then the weather was awful on the Saturday that they had scheduled it in April, so they moved it to a Friday in May. I tried to count myself lucky that the new date fell between Dave's work trip in Houston and his bear hunt in Canada, the brief two-day window that he would be home in the midst of a nearly two-week absence. But I was disappointed that because it was on a Friday, Dave would have to work and our day trip became a very long drive only for the lantern festival. And anyone who knows Dave can probably guess that he was not that enthused about a lantern festival.

It was a disaster. We left at four o'clock, which left plenty of time to make it before dark, but cost us an extra 45 minutes in rush hour traffic. By the time we arrived everyone was extremely grumpy. This was all made much worse by me forgetting to pack camp chairs, which meant that our only seating on the hard, weedy ground was a small baby blanket that I had in the car. I thought we would light the lanterns shortly after dark, but it was an hour and a half after (three hours after we arrived) that they finally gave the go-ahead for the lighting.

By then we were all very grumpy, and the kids were an hour past bedtime. It was suddenly windy, which proved calamitous. The lanterns took forever to light, with the wind sending the flames all over the place. I thought the lantern itself more likely to catch fire. Once the fuel cell at the bottom of the lantern caught fire, we were to set the lantern on the ground and let the air inside the lantern heat up. The lantern, basically a paper bag, was supposed to start tugging to lift off, and then we were supposed to gently ease it off like a hot air balloon launching. 

Dave went first. He patiently set his lantern on the ground and waited. Several times he tried to help it take off, but it never got hot enough and would immediately crash back down. He eventually discovered that the lantern had a hole in the top that leaked all the hot air. He crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. I tried just as valiantly with mine, waiting a long time to let it take off. Finally I felt it tugging off the ground, and deemed it ready. The lantern made it maybe 10 feet off the ground before the wind drove it back down into the crowd. I chased it down, apologized for my errant paper fireball, and tried again. And again. Every time the wind sent it right back down into another screaming festival-goer, me dashing behind ("I'm sorry!...So sorry!"), until I discovered that one of the crashes had put a giant hole in the top. I stomped out the flame and angrily shoved mine in the trash also. (I'm so glad I paid $35 apiece for those flaming pieces of crap.)

I looked around. I had run a long way chasing my lantern. I hurried back to where I thought Dave and the boys were, and couldn't quite figure out where that was. It was dark except for the lanterns, and it was a huge crowd of moving people. To make matters worse, my phone was in the backpack with Dave. I frantically searched and searched, but never could find my little family. I tried to calm myself, and guessed that perhaps Dave had packed up and gone to the car. So I ran to the parking lot and searched for him there. For another agonizing ten minutes I struggled to find the car. They weren't there. By this time the crowd had mostly migrated to the parking lot, so I returned to the arena, scanning the stream of exiting people. Finally I found them. I was so relieved! It had probably been a half hour by then. Dave was not pleased, and couldn't understand why I didn't have my phone on me. (Stupid women's pants—my front pockets were merely decorative, the back ones not deep enough to keep my phone from falling out). So, we didn't leave until 10:30 pm, with two exhausted and unhappy children. I barely managed the long drive without falling asleep myself.

Let this, dear reader, be a lesson in Internet life vs. real life. I told you how bad that night sucked, but I could have just as easily showed you all these pictures of my cute family eating s'mores and decorating lanterns and let you think it was not a fiasco. But I'm honest.

Asher adding a few final touches to Lightning McQueen

Asher adding a few final touches to Lightning McQueen

Dave fitting Asher with glow stick glasses

Dave fitting Asher with glow stick glasses

Dave trying to fill his lantern with hot air.

Dave trying to fill his lantern with hot air.

My equally futile attempt.

My equally futile attempt.

~ * ~

Last night was as lovely as Friday was awful. Dave and I got a sitter and went on a date for the first time in far too many months. We tried a delicious new Thai restaurant, hit up DQ on the way home, and enjoyed some family time with the boys around the campfire in our backyard before bed. It doesn't make for a great narrative, and I have no photos, but it was lovely. I guess it goes to show that sometimes all the enviable photos you see online are really miserable people with nothing better to do than take pictures, while the best moments go undocumented. Thank goodness for last night, because Dave left to hunt bears in Canada today and Friday would have been a rotten send-off. I'm sure an entire week with my husband out of the country will make for more interesting tales next Sunday.

The First Annual Brinkerhoff Game Extravaganza

I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew, and never more so than when it came to The First Annual Brinkerhoff Game Extravaganza. It was an undertaking of such epic proportions that, for the first time since I began this blog, I took a Sunday off from blogging to recuperate. But now I'm back, playing catch-up, and ready to relate my shenanigans.

It was an idea born of a particularly bad day of solo parenting, in which I stayed up late watching Jimmy Fallon video clips of games he plays on his show. They are brilliant. Box of Lies! Egg Roulette! I know I'll never be on late night TV, but I wanted to play too. And I wanted to see my friends smash eggs on their heads.

So, Dave and I picked a date months in advance, made a plan, and got to work. For weeks I worked on our yard, planting and weeding. We cleaned the patio, cleared out the garage, shopped for the barbeque, and prepared the many games. Truly, the most difficult task was narrowing down our invite list. We wanted to invite about 50 people, which was simply not possible. We had to exclude some larger families that we would have loved to invite. Normally I'm quite satisfied with the size of our house and yard, but on such occasions I want a mansion.

When the big day finally arrived, we had an obstacle course, a frisbee golf challenge, a croquet challenge, and a giant game of relay race tic-tac-toe. Each of those games were played at-will, whenever our guests wanted to give them a go. The "spectator" games were the main event. These were: Arm Wrestling, Box of Lies, Egg Roulette, and Put it on a Cracker.

Arm wrestling was a hit, and got the ball rolling with lots of energy and excitement. Box of Lies, which I had eagerly anticipated, was a total flop. As on Jimmy Fallon, I assembled some truly bizarre items, but my guests did not find them nearly as hilarious as I did. And being so stymied by the oddity of these items, almost no one lied. Put it on a Cracker was amusing for those who stayed long enough to play.

The big hit of the party was Egg Roulette. I hadn't planned on playing, but when the time came I figured that if I expected my guests to crack raw eggs on their heads, I had better participate. Of course I got two raw eggs, and my opponent got none. (The upside is that I now know that eggs are stronger than any hair gel, should I ever need to construct a gravity-defying hairdo.) Dave also got off scott-free. One friend cracked his first raw egg with such gusto that I basically got showered with a third raw egg standing behind him, as did the ceiling and much of the garage. I thought that couldn't be topped, until Daven and Savanna Lake played. They were the last round, and their dozen eggs were a mystery. We had combined a bunch of eggs from partially used cartons, and had no idea of the hard-boiled/raw ratio. For several turns there were no raw eggs, until Daven picked one out-of-turn that he knew was raw by shaking it, and hucked it at Savanna's head. She retaliated by smashing the rest of the carton on him, which was no less than five raw eggs. All of the work of the previous weeks was worth it for that moment.

True mommy muscles, arm wrestling with one arm and a kid in the other.

True mommy muscles, arm wrestling with one arm and a kid in the other.

Daven's well-deserved aftermath. 

Daven's well-deserved aftermath. 

The real challenge of the obstacle course was finishing before any of the kids disassembled it and beat you with pool noodles.

The real challenge of the obstacle course was finishing before any of the kids disassembled it and beat you with pool noodles.

Wasabi, pickles, mustard, and ranch dressing...yummy.

Wasabi, pickles, mustard, and ranch dressing...yummy.

A Note On Motherhood

Motherhood: When the accomplishment of one week without potty accidents is swallowed up in exasperation that the toddler just dumped liquid ant bait on the rug. But the exasperation is overturned because he just TOLD YOU when he needed to go to the bathroom, and actually did it!!! But now the baby is throwing up, and the toddler just ran through it. And while you mop up, the baby empties your wallet. But look, the baby just took several steps on his own! And the toddler is doing the worm in the nude, yelling, "Nakey bum! Nakey bum!" which is one of the funniest things you've ever seen. And whew-y, the toddler is in bed, you're coming down the home stretch...but now you've been barfed on again.

Motherhood, an emotional obstacle course, a cacophony of discordant experiences in which you ricochet through elation, despair, hilarity, shock, frustration, nostalgia, disappointment, adoration, anxiety, pride, desperation, determination, heartache, and joy. There's no telling which turn the ride will take next, but you always know where it will stop: utter exhaustion.

 

...and some photos of the boys and me on Mother's Day:

Holding On...Not Too Tightly

Finn is taking much longer to leave behind his babyhood than did Asher. At first I thought it was just my perception, my reluctance to let another child slip from the cuddly sweetness of an infant to the rambunctious rough-and-tumble of a toddler. But no, Finn is legitimately less eager for independence and adventure. At 13.5 months, he still crawls everywhere. He's been capable of taking a couple steps since his birthday, but prefers all fours. He still needs me to nurse him to sleep, still likes to be swaddled, still takes two naps a day if I let him. And I'm okay with that. I insist that he stay my baby, and he's complicit. 

I dread the day that I'm done having babies. There is so much joy and anticipation and wonder at inviting new little ones into my family—who will they be? I have found nothing more euphoric than cradling a newborn. And yet, I've a feeling there are hidden delights around the bend of parenthood.

This week the weather unexpectedly sent my sister and niece my way for a night, along with three others who were traveling to Kentucky for a national speech tournament. Their stay was brief, but I got to observe my sister and the coach advising the three student competitors. I reveled vicariously in their speeching, bouncing Finn and wrestling Asher while they delivered their pieces in my living room. I watched my sister finely tweaking her daughter, the nuanced instruction feeling a million miles down the road from the rough corrections I must make on a minute-by-minute basis ("Don't sit on your brother!" "Shoes are not edible!") And when they left, I yearned to go with them.

My children will grow. Bigger, and further from me. Sometimes it will be a jubilant process: Asher has not had a potty accident for three days, and yesterday was my first time taking him to a movie at the theater! Other milestones will be bittersweet: I don't know how much longer I'll be able to nurse Finn; we are both holding on. But I look forward to the opportunities that new vistas hold. And I try not to be too sad.

Luckily, The Jungle Book was not too scary for Asher, despite some truly unsettling scenes. But he was ready to leave well before the end. Next time I'll get him popcorn!

Luckily, The Jungle Book was not too scary for Asher, despite some truly unsettling scenes. But he was ready to leave well before the end. Next time I'll get him popcorn!

Unlimited kisses are my fee for nursing. He doesn't seem to mind.

Unlimited kisses are my fee for nursing. He doesn't seem to mind.

To Catch a Thief

In case we weren't being tried enough as it was this week, Dave and I faced another case of thieves reaching into our pockets...or more literally, our cars. *We* had left one of the trucks and my Journey unlocked Monday night, and someone broke into them that night. Dave lost a cell phone charger and a can of bear spray. I lost a wad of cash, my "in case I leave my wallet at home when I go to buy groceries" money. I'm not sure how much it was, though I'm guessing it was on the order of $60-$100. The thief was clearly not very bright. Dave's things were strewn across the floor and the glovebox left open, alerting him to the theft right away, which otherwise might have gone undetected. The thief also missed the several places that Dave had stashed money. My car was less obviously disturbed, and I didn't realize it had been hit until Wednesday. I was relieved to see that the idiot did not take my garage door opener, which would have granted him access to much more loot. Considering that our cars had not been locked, we chalked it up to a lesson learned and moved on. Still, it was hard to shake the feeling of being violated.

Dave has long suspected our neighbors of being thieves. He has not liked the large clan since they moved in last summer. The head of the house is a "street tough" youth pastor with eight children (some grown), an ex husband, a grandchild, and various other odds and ends somehow crammed under one roof. I'm being generous in saying I don't care for them either. Their barking dogs drive me up the wall, they've trashed the once-respectable yard, there are always cars coming and going, and they occasionally have loud and odoriferous (i.e., pot-smoking) gatherings at odd hours. But, they are generally friendly and I don't have any reason to think them dishonest. Dave had his eye on one teenage boy in particular. We both hoped it wasn't any of them.

Saturday night came, and we had just returned from our day trip to the mountains. I had the boys in the house, and Dave was unpacking things in the driveway. He looked up to see a Hispanic teenage boy in a black hoodie, eying the open doors of the vehicles. The boy saw Dave and looked away, walking on. Dave nonchalantly walked around the back of the bed of his truck, grabbed his binoculars, and took his post in the shadows. The boy crossed the street to the opposite side, then crossed back to our side. Two doors down, he found an unlocked car and rummaged through it. Dave watched as the boy shut the door, waited for the light to turn off, and took off at a run.

It was at this point that I walked outside, Finn on my hip, to see a very excited Dave running out from behind his truck, binoculars in hand. He grabbed a gun, hopped in his pickup, and shouted over his shoulder, "I'll be right back!" My mouth hung open as I watched his taillights disappear at the end of the street. There was nothing to do but wait inside. I couldn't imagine what had prompted his odd departure.

A few minutes later, Dave returned triumphantly. "I busted him!" He announced proudly. He related his tale of sleuthing, how he'd called the cops as he patrolled our street, circling down and back until the police had arrived. The boy had been found huddled behind a parked car at the end of the street, seemingly high. Adderall, the police posited. Dave took his first ride in the back of a patrol car, just to the end of our street to identify the boy. He confessed, saying he owed some people some money. There was no way to prove that he was the culprit of the earlier crimes, though we are certain he was. There will be no warrant to search for what else he might have stolen, and he did not in fact take anything from the car Dave saw him enter. The charges will likely be minor, though hopefully enough to make him reconsider the direction he is going. He's only 13 or 14 years old.

Our youth pastor neighbor came out of her house, poked her head in the back of the patrol car, and gave that boy a call to come to Jesus. He had been seen trying to take a bike out of her yard earlier in the day. He was in tears by the time she finished her diatribe on how he was ruining his life. For our part, we're just very glad he doesn't live under her roof. And I am very glad that Dave is not the next George Zimmerman. And that he didn't mention to the police that he had a gun on his vigilante patrol.

Oddly, Dave talked to the boy a few weeks ago. We were all in the backyard when the boy knocked on our gate. He had seen a small piece of luggage sitting in front of our house, and wondered if he might have it. We agreed, as it was only waiting to be taken to Goodwill. What we didn't learn until last night was that the boy had in fact tried to take the luggage, and our neighbors had intercepted him and insisted that he ask. Sadly, he then came back to steal from us. But we find it rather encouraging that our neighbors, numerous as they are, have been keeping an eye out for us. It's an ironic silver lining to the ordeal.

I couldn't help but recall the sign across the street. That fella suddenly looked very familiar. Wouldn't you agree?

Shaybee and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

As reported from the trenches last post, my week began with a broken dishwasher. First-world problem, I know. But I'm basically the slowest dish-washer ever, and when potty-training any additional aggravation is enough to push me over the edge. My dishwasher had broken on Tuesday of the week before, and I'd called a company called Brand Source to repair it. Their website claims "Fast same day service," but they weren't able to send a tech out until Friday, who spent about 20 minutes diagnosing the problem. He ordered a new control panel ($150), and assured me that it would arrive on Monday, when I would get a call to schedule a repair time for Tuesday.

Monday came and went—no call. That night I stayed up until 3:30 finishing my book club book—The Language of Flowers—which was absolutely lovely, but left me ill-equipped to handle what would be an awful Tuesday. I called first thing that morning to find out my appointment window, and was told that the part will not be in until the 25th! That would mean and additional SIX DAYS with no dishwasher, certainly not something I would have agreed to.  I called around and found a company that would do the repair within a couple hours. I called BS again to cancel my order and was told that I would be charged a $67 restocking fee. I told them that was ridiculous, and after a long and heated argument was told that this was "non-negotiable." Shortly thereafter, our other repair man came and fixed the dishwasher. 

A few hours later, I got another call from BS informing me that the part was in, and they were ready to schedule my appointment. Apparently, they were not only confused about when the part would come in (either six days from then or that day), but they didn't have any record of my call a few hours earlier. I told them that the dishwasher was already fixed by someone else because they weren't going to fix it for another week. Then BS changed the story to me owing them $67 for the technician diagnosing the problem, AND $41 for the restocking (I don't understanding the shifting numbers). Again a heated argument followed, in which I pointed out that I would not have gone with someone else had I known that the part would be in that day, nor would I have agreed to the service the previous Friday if I had been told it would take 10 days to get the part in. BS simply said, "It seems we've reached an impasse. We will send you a bill soon."

I was so incredibly angry, I was shaking. I've never lost my cool like that with a customer service rep, but I've never been treated with so little regard, or observed such incompetence. I was sick at the thought of having to pay $108 to a company that had done nothing for me, in addition to the $380 I'd paid to get my dishwasher fixed. I might as well have bought a new dishwasher. Surely, any reasonable person could see the mistakes their company had made, apologize, and in the very least rescind the restocking fee. One of the reps actually told me, "Well I didn't tell you that the part would be in today!" All part of their "Fast same day service!" Ha! If the part had not come in until the 25th as they projected, it would have taken a full 14 days, minimum, to get my dishwasher running again.

The consequences of my outrage began to manifest themselves within hours. The very kind and capable owner of By Choice Appliance Repair (Rob) had recently left, my friend Sarah and I had worked out and got some endorphins going, and I was just starting to prepare lunch for my boys. Then the familiar blind spots appeared. Or, rather, bits of my visual field disappeared. I put together the equation: Intense stress —> Intense exercise —> migraine. The blood vessels in my brain constrict when I'm under stress, then swell suddenly when I exercise, stretching the nerve fibers which wrap around them. Invariably I begin with migrating blind spots, then strange clusters or streaks of flashing light, which then dissipate to be replaced by a throbbing headache. Occasionally there's some nausea or numbness in my lips or fingers to make things interesting. The headache can usually be tempered quite a bit by ibuprofen if I take it at the first onset of the aura, but the whole thing is hugely unsettling and temporarily disabling just the same.

So, there I was with vision a mess, Finn on my hip, making a sandwich, when Asher starts yelling behind me, "Where the comb go?" I had seen him out of the corner of my eye a minute ago pushing the comb against the dishwasher door, but saw no reason for concern. Yet somehow, the comb suddenly seemed lost inside the door. I felt the hollow space under the brand new control panel, where my hand clasps the grip to open the door. Except instead of a grip, there was nothing but a hole. And when a fumbled around in my semi-blindness for the comb, I felt a nasty shock. I screamed, wondered if Finn had been shocked too, and sat down on the floor bawling. I cried, Finn cried, Asher cried. I was sure Asher had busted the dishwasher again, and we were probably going to have to drop another $380 for a second new control panel.

I pulled myself together, put Finn down for his nap, and called my sister to vent. Once my vision returned, I took apart the door to find the comb and see if Asher had somehow pushed the grip inside the door, exposing the wires. I found the comb, and it was soon apparent that the grip piece was missing. I called By Choice again, and the very kind receptionist (the owner's wife) sent her husband back to my house within 20 minutes. He apologized profusely, explaining that typically the grip is already installed in the control panel, but he had overlooked its omission this time. Within five minutes he fixed the problem and was on his way.

The next day looked more promising. I attended my book group, but soon after I arrived the blind spots ate their way through my vision yet again. I quietly asked the host for some ibuprofen and stalled my departure until I felt safe to drive. That night I tried running my dishwasher again, and was frustrated almost to the point of hysterics when the thing would not start. I couldn't believe I would have to call the repairman again. Dave took Asher swimming at the rec center, and was mildly horrified to realize that he was arriving just in time for our ward's Young Women swim night. He said he felt like a creeper. I thought it was hilarious.

Thursday began with a nasty surprise. Let me remind you that on top of everything else, I am still potty training Asher. That morning I opened Asher's bedroom door to find him naked from the waist down, which was a sure indication of an accident. Immediately I turned to see his box of wipes on the dresser, a turd smashed under the lid. I can only assume that he pooped his diaper before I came down, and was afraid of me finding it. So he stashed in a place that he thought I wouldn't see.(?!?) 

Then, with what was beginning to feel like my new morning routine I again called the repair man. Rob was over within 20 minutes, and I gave him my baffled explanation: "I know you got it to work when you were here, but when I tried it, it wouldn't start. The button just blinks and the cycle never starts. Maybe my son broke something else when he shoved the comb in there?" Within five minutes, he had the dishwasher humming again. Apparently some electric piece that registers when the door is closed was loose. He snapped it firmly in place and finally, after more than a week, I was running a load of dishes again. I was astounded at the quality of service offered by Rob and his sweet wife, and how starkly it contrasted with what felt like theft by Brand Source.

I mulled over my options in my mind. 1) Pay Brand Source despite serious objections against their ethics and competence. 2) Take them to small claims court and see if I can get a little extra out of them. It was no exaggeration to say that they had caused me pain and suffering, given the days of migraines and the growing pain and stiffness in my neck that was then starting to become problematic. 3) Tell my bank to refuse the charge, then write BS a check only for the amount I thought fair. 4) Call in a third party like the Better Business Bureau or Tom Martino of AM radio fame. I weighed all the options. I quickly decided to file a claim with the BBB, but didn't have much faith in a company like BS caring enough about customer satisfaction to try to reach a resolution with me.

I hoped that BS would refund the $150 deposit that I'd foolishly made and then send me a bill, as their snotty customer rep had said he would. That would save me the difficulty of asking my bank to refuse the charge. But, after Dave called BS, he informed me that would not be the case. BS will take the $108 that they believed I owed them, and send me a refund for the remaining $42. Considering that I never authorized the restocking fee, I consider that theft. Lesson learned about paying for services not yet rendered. Now I have only to decide how aggressively I should pursue the company. Their online reviews are atrocious—a lot of people with similar experiences who feel that BS was hugely incompetent and dishonest. The same rep that made my blood boil hung up on Dave. It makes me desperately want to go after them, and yet there are risks. Obviously I have found the situation more stressful than I can handle, so I would have to keep a lid on my emotions. I'm also as yet unsure of the fees and risks of small claims litigation.

Friday brought with it a new wave of stress. My cake class had its final session for Course 3 (Fondant). Every week I stress about getting everything prepared, making sure the kids are taken care of, either by Dave or a babysitter, and getting out the door in good time. This week was especially bad, as I had to bake a cake, make it square, and ice it. As per usual, the cake came out way too late. The hot car did me no favors, and my cake was an oozing, lopsided mess by the time I reached Michael's. My disgruntled teacher helped me cajole it into workable shape, just in time to see my friend Kacy come in with an even more disheveled wreck. We were a sad pair, but I was past caring at that point. My neck was bordering on unbearable by then, and I had concluded that the muscles on one side were tensing from all the stress. I tried to focus on calming myself, and keeping my head above water. 

Saturday, despite my reservations and agonizingly painful neck, I packed up the boys to go to the mountains. Dave and his friend Daven had left early in the morning to go hiking for shed antlers, and my friend Savanna and I were to bring lunch and come for a picnic. I gritted my teeth and worked around my near-inability to turn my head, trying to pack as quickly as possible. But by the time Savanna had pulled up, a streak of flashing lights had appeared, in the shape of a glittering hair plastered to my eyeball. I gave in and took some ibuprofen, which had the added benefit of reducing my neck pain. For the first time in days the pain was mild enough to ignore. We had a wonderful drive up, only slightly dampered by Finn's near-constant crying. Once there, we enjoyed a long lunch next to a slow river, a warm day under gray spring skies that eventually began to sprinkle. Asher thoroughly enjoyed running around with his very best friend Emery, the two of them chasing each other with sticks. At one point Emery threw her arms around Asher's neck and Asher responded with a heartfelt, "I love you Emery!" Yet again I missed out on riding our four-wheeler (two years we've had it and I've still never ridden it), but it was a fun little trip just the same. We had to leave as the rain moved in, but the departure was sweetened by the promise of discount sushi in the ski town of Dillon. (Gotte love the offseason.) Dave is listening to all the Harry Potters again, so we spent a good portion of our drive home immersed in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Once home, we packed the boys in, Dave turned vigilante, and I gave Asher a crummy haircut. It was after 10 o'clock before I got the boys in bed, and crazy girl that I am, I stayed up until 4:30 to decorate my cake I'd made the day before. My neck was inexplicably feeling better I was relishing feeling normal again.


Today our boys were absolute monsters in church. They were both exhausted from late bedtimes last night, and thus rambunctious, needy, and whiny. After church we had some friends over for dinner, which was lovely in that Dave did all the cooking, but still exhausting when I've stayed up so late. They have fours kids, so fortunately they seemed completely unfazed when Asher sneaked into the living room to pee copiously on the carpet. I was extremely annoyed to abandon my plate and feel around the room for the puddle,  then mop the pee trail that he'd made throughout the house. I HATE POTTY TRAINING!!! It is inconceivably hard to remain calm every time he has an accident, when sometimes it takes me a half-hour to clean up. I am steam-cleaning the carpets once he is reliably trained.

Tonight ended with a bang. I was so eager to finally get the boys to bed, but as soon as I laid Finn in his crib he had a massive barf all over his mattress and rug. I am praying that he does not have a bug. The last thing I need is somebody else's bodily fluids to mop up. Surely this week cannot be as terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, as the last?

One of the two times that day that they dumped a cannister of Puffs and went to town. And because I was so far beyond caring, I let them.

One of the two times that day that they dumped a cannister of Puffs and went to town. And because I was so far beyond caring, I let them.

The week that I taught my kid to use the John, and did not get dismembered

Let it be written in the annals of Brinkerhoff history that this was the week when the dishwasher broke, Dave left town, and I potty trained Asher. Yes, in that order.

There are few chores I detest as much as hand washing dishes, and so I was horrified when the Start button for my dishwasher didn't respond on Tuesday morning. Don't buy a Maytag, guys. We've had ours for four-and-a-half years, and this is the second time we've had this problem. Dave didn't have time to check into it before heading to Vernal for work, and so I turned to Google in desperation. Here we see if Dave reads my blog. I took the door apart per Google's suggestion and tried to troubleshoot the thing (surprise, Honey!) The only thing I learned is that I have no idea what I'm doing and I deserve to be one of the suckers who pays the extra $200 in labor, in addition to the $150 for a new button panel. And I get to wait until Tuesday for the part to come in and the service guy to come back. 

Because handwashing a stack of dishes every night after a day of wrangling the kids solo wasn't enough, I decided to potty train Asher starting Wednesday. I had picked the day a week ahead based on the forecast, and was determined not to alter course, dishwasher be damned. The plan was to do the "backyard method," wherein Asher runs around in his undies all day and pees at-will until he figures out that it's not cool to be soaked in your own urine, and agrees to use the toilet instead. But, because I have another child who likes his naps indoors and eating gravel outside, our potty training took place mostly inside. The first 24 hours were ROUGH. The next 24 hours was slightly better, and since then there have been zero accidents! Full disclosure: He still wears a diaper to sleep, because he takes a sippy to bed and frequently floods his way out of even an overnight diaper. Undies at night are out of the question for awhile. But still, he's doing great. Far better than I expected. He went to church today and a ward party last night without incident. Now we just have to step down the hourly bathroom visits and teach him to recognize himself when he needs to go.

Definitely the most bizarre accident Asher had. You can't see the puddle of pee on the floor below him, but trust me, it's there! I don't understand how this is less difficult than peeing in the toilet.

Definitely the most bizarre accident Asher had. You can't see the puddle of pee on the floor below him, but trust me, it's there! I don't understand how this is less difficult than peeing in the toilet.

The true difficulty of potty training—as related to you by an expert of five days experience—is having the will to not give up. Every morning I am overwhelmed at the prospect of stripping Asher down every hour (at first it was every 20 minutes) and making him sit on the toilet, constantly asking if he needs to poo, and keeping a vigilant eye glued to him lest he sneak off for 30 seconds to poop behind the recliner. It's exhausting, folks. By afternoon I am pooped. There is the nagging temptation to just throw a diaper on him and take a break. But I know that will just confuse him and draw out the process. So, we've ripped off the bandaid and there's no looking back! I'm sure he'll have accidents here and there for the next few weeks and months, but I'm really excited to (hopefully) have a kid who is reasonably potty-trained by the time we want to go on our summer travels. And in the fall: PRESCHOOL!!!

I have to tell you though, that kid says some funny stuff. Not entirely appropriate, but that's what makes it so priceless. We make him sit to pee (no fire hoses, thank you), but we have to tell him "point your penis down" so that it goes in the toilet. (This was a bit of a learning curve, for both of us.) So what does Asher tell me now when I have to pee? "Point you big penis down, Mom!" I guess my penis is "big" because I'm an adult? He also tells me my nose and butt are big...at least I'm not compensating for anything.

In other news, we got socked by another massive snow storm this weekend. Not sure on the snowfall total, but definitely more than a foot. Dave had planned to go hiking for antlers on his way back to Colorado, which would have put him home Saturday night. Instead he came home early on Friday and beat the storm. We were grateful to have him home for once, especially when it came to shoveling all that heavy, wet snow! And what do I do when we get smothered in wet snow? If I'm not building a giant snowman in our yard, I'm doing it in someone else's. It's a thing. It's called a snowman-o-gram. And even though it's kind of a secret, I can put it out on my blog because all of two people read this. So, it goes something like this. Dave and I (more recently just me) build a snowman and leave it on a friend's doorstep. This must be done stealthily, so that the person doesn't discover said snow person until the alarming moment they open their door and are confronted by a looming, pebble-encrusted face. Sometimes we have pre-built the giant snowballs to be assembled quickly on-site, other times we work under cover of darkness or while our friends aren't home.
So, last night after we put the kids to bed, I suited up in my all-black snow gear and drove to my friends Sarah's house. It was after 10 o'clock when I left, and there were still a few lights on in her basement. Most of her windows appeared uncovered. At first I was extremely apprehensive; I knew that if she or her husband, Cameron, looked out that I would be spotted immediately. Does Cameron have guns? I thought. I think he has guns. Would he shoot me just for being on his lawn? But my concerns eased when, after a half hour, no face appeared at the window. The neighbor's dog barked loudly for a long time, yet no one seemed alarmed. I concluded that Sarah and her family must be asleep, the basement lights on only for the kids' sake. And so I stopped checking the windows. The snow conditions couldn't have been better. The big snowballs came together almost through magnetic attraction, requiring mimmal patting down on my part. They stacked with ease, and within an hour I had an eight-foot snowman directly in front of her door. I wasn't as careful as I usually am about packing in the gaps between the stacked balls to ensure stability. The thing only had to last until morning. In my head I rehearsed what I would say the next day, when Sarah would surely accuse me of the prank. I'd deny it and enjoy watching her interrogate any other possible suspect, before eventually coming clean.

Such daydreams were wasted. In the midst of giving my snowman a bushy grass mustache, the front door was flung open! For a brief second I considered sprinting away, but it was impossible in my (Dave's) enormous snow boots. Sarah appeared, laughing, in the doorway, and I narrowly avoided peeing my pants. "You scared me to death!" I exclaimed, though I suppose she had more right to that statement than I did. I was enormously disappointed at having been caught, but highly amused at the details of my discovery. As Sarah told it:

"We were watching a movie in the basement, then we came upstairs to go to bed. Cameron looked out the window to see how much snow we had, and said, 'Sarah! There's someone on our lawn, some homeless Hispanic lady is building something on our lawn! Call the cops!' I said, 'Wait, are you sure this isn't a prank? Is this someone we know?' And then Cameron said, 'Wait, don't call the cops. I think it's Shayla.' And then I looked out the window and saw it was you!"

She also told me that Cameron had a machete—"More for scaring people than for actual use"—and so I was doubly glad to have been discovered before I was arrested, shot, or dismembered. The silver lining was that I got a picture with my snowy friend, who was taller than the picture suggests. Also, in my haste to build up, I didn't properly stabilize the thing (you can see he's leaning) and he was in shambles by the next morning. I suppose there's some deeper lesson on "firm foundations" here, which I will surely remember next time I snowman-o-gram a friend.

This evening Dave and I signed up for a website that links to familysearch.org, and tells you how closely related you are to a spouse, a friend, or a famous person. It turns out that I'm his ninth cousin...as is Barack Obama. I do not anticipate our children having eleven fingers.

And in closing, here is a random picture of our perfect child. He is wonderful and charming and so sweet that I often have to "take a hit" off of him (i.e., Finn kisses) just to remind myself that I really do love my children and shouldn't strangle either one of them, even if they poop their pants 15 minutes after I begged them to poop on the toilet.

Function over Form

Growing up, my dad always reiterated that I was not cut out for sports. I "didn't have the build" that those jock girls did. In retrospect I think he had some very old-school ideas about girls who played sports being butch or manly in some way. I think I would have been fine. I certainly had (have) the competitive drive, but I think I missed that window to develop the requisite coordination. Other kids went to school with at least a base-level understanding of soccer and basketball. I'm pretty sure that by the time I was lumped in with those kids, by brain had already weeded out any neurons required for athleticism. I was usually one of the last kids to get picked for teams.

I always regretted the missed opportunities of playing sports, and so I joined the tennis team my senior year. My dad warned of failure, but also agreed to play me for practice. I wasn't great, but I also wasn't bad for my first year. My coach told me he wished I'd joined as a freshman. Yeah, me too, I thought.

Fast forward a few years, and I decided to try running. I was more surprised at this development than anyone, given that It had always been something I detested. Kids would jeer at my knock-knees, my feet flaring out to the sides as I ran. In the early grades, I was always one of the last girls to finish the mile. The boys sat on the sidelines and watched while the girls ran (and visa versa), which made it doubly embarrassing. I always got a stitch in my side or shin splints, even when I wasn't winded. I had decided early on that I simply wasn't made to run.

Yet I always admired runners, amazed that anyone could just go like that for miles and miles. In rare moments, when none of my peers were around, I even liked it. And so at the age of 23, I decided to give running a second chance. And something just clicked. No stitch in my side, no shin splints. No one to make fun of my awkward gate. I genuinely enjoyed it.

I ran a 5K, then a 10K. I wasn't impressing anyone of course—except myself. For the first time in my life, I saw value in my body for something it could do. All my life, I'd been taught to value my body merely for its appearance. I was always mindful of my weight, my clothes, hair, and makeup. Being proud of my body for its function was new and exhilarating territory.

Shortly thereafter I became pregnant. For the first time I saw value in my body for something it could do, completely in spite of how it looked. My belly swelled to unattractive proportions, and yet I was glowingly proud of the life that kicked and rolled within. Pregnancy seemed to suit me, as I avoided or only suffered mildly from many of the common pregnancy ailments. However, I foresaw birth as a grotesque event for which I knew my husband must be present, yet I secretly wished he could be blindfolded. When the time came and I was able to push my baby out with no interventions and no pain killers, I was more proud of my body than I ever had been. I had never looked more awful, with my deflated belly and 25 pounds of padding, but I felt like a million bucks. My husband seemed just as proud.

My pride melted away much faster than the pounds. A few months later, utterly exhausted and still in my "fat pants," I felt depressed. A lifetime of valuing my body for its appearance had laid a deep foundation of thought patterns that overrode my pride in creating a child. I just didn't feel like "me" anymore. I picked up running again, and seven months after Asher was born I ran my first half marathon. I whittled myself back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, and...quit running altogether. The half marathon and the training left me with nine blisters on my poorly-aligned feet, and a knee that hurt for weeks. It had mainly been about the weight-loss anyway, right?

Fast forward another year. Still acceptably thin, I became pregnant with my second child. I again marveled at my body's ability to create and bear a baby, then got sucked into the post-baby body blues. I lost the weight quicker this time, but was mildly horrified at how out of shape I was when I first worked out. I was so sore, from shoulders to ankles, that I wanted to lie in bed for two days. Still, I committed to finishing a month-long exercise program, and by the end of the month I was much stronger.

I noticed, though, that something about my stomach did not look right. If I leaned back and relaxed my abs (what was left of them), a bulge appeared along the midline in my stomach, creating an odd domed appearance. When I pressed on it, my stomach felt tender, as if I was poking my guts. Come to think of it, there had been a sore spot there for months, just north of my belly button, which twinged when I bent over the crib rail or if I was kneaded by a small foot. I saw a general practitioner, then a physical therapist, and learned that the bulge was called diastasis recti. "Diastasis" means "separation," and "recti" refers to the abdominus rectus muscle. Basically, (the way my PT described it) the ab muscles sit side-by-side at the midline on top of connective tissue. When a woman is pregnant, muscles separate to accommodate the growing baby. Typically, the muscles come back together within a few months of giving birth. But frequently it doesn't; the connective tissue is too stretched out. I don't know how accurate these statistics are, but some suggest that it happens in a third of women after a first pregnancy, and two thirds of women after a second (I assume the rate climbs with additional pregnancies). I'd heard of "the mommy pooch" or "mummy tummy," but frankly I think most women who have it don't realize they do, or what it truly is. In all of my rather exhaustive reading about pregnancy and birth, I had never encountered it. Neither my PT nor the GP had satisfactory answers to many questions. Can it be prevented? What made me more likely to get it? Will my separation worsen with subsequent pregnancies? Will exercise reduce my risk of worsening the gap? No one seemed to know. The general practitioner hadn't ever seen anyone for it, and wasn't even aware that physical therapists provided help for the condition until I told him so and asked for a referral.

And that little pain above my belly button? Likely an umbilical hernia, the general practitioner said, though it was impossible to confirm without an ultrasound. Diastasis recti is never painful in itself, and there was a definite twinge of pain now and again. I remembered a time in my pregnancy with Asher that my belly just HURT, to the point that I would sometimes walk around with my hand pressed on the sore spot to counter the painful stretching. I even Googled "umbilical hernia" once. The doctor didn't seem worried about it, didn't think that it would worsen with more pregnancies, and said simply to come back if the pain increased. The physical therapist prescribed me an exercise routine (lots of planks, no sit-ups or crunches), and sent me on my way. I felt empowered and excited to get in great shape.

Except I didn't. I would run here and there, do an exercise video, or lift weights. Once I went to a free crossfit class at the "box" where Dave goes, and was mildly humiliated to find that I was nearly the worst one there. Even the "bigger" girls in the class schooled me on all the strength exercises. My workouts were few and far between, as I struggled to find the time and consider myself enough of a priority. I could justify the time and energy if I needed to lose weight, but once I reached my goal I made excuses. I forgot that exercise makes me feel good, and that is even more important than how I look. Emotionally I am happier, mentally I am sharper, and I feel more confident in my body, even if it doesn't look any different. Additionally, I'm more motivated to eat healthfully and in moderation. It's also important to me that I model healthy habits for my boys, who really love being outside and are nearly always well-behaved in the stroller.

But I repeatedly forget all of that. Working out at home requires that I get up early, and staying up late gives me the alone time that I need to refuel. I have to pick. I can and should run, but pushing two kids in double stroller (roughly 100 lbs) in a hilly neighborhood is exhausting, even when you have a Cadillac stroller. Making excuses is far easier than making the time, especially when I am constantly confronted with (literal) piles of to-dos. How do I justify going for a jog when my pantry is a jumbled mess, or the kids' clothes have been sitting folded in the hamper for two days? It is so SO difficult to live and work in the same place. I envy those for whom "work life" and "home life" are not the same thing, though I wouldn't give up staying home with my boys.

Truly, the only way I can frame exercising regularly in way that is justifiable is to remind myself that I'm teaching my boys good habits. They will be more active and healthy if that example is set for them at an early age. They will enjoy being outside if I take them on runs. I will be more fit and I'll play a more active role in the lives of my grandchildren if I develop lifelong habits of health. The guilt I feel over the perpetual crumbs in the cracks of my kitchen table will be forgotten, but the runs to the park will not.

Momma Brink In the city

The big news of the week was a visit from Grandma. Momma Brink flew in for a fast trip/long layover on her way to see Dave's sister in Iowa. She was here for less than 48 hours, but we made sure it was action-packed. She rough-housed with Asher(!), gave Finn about 2,000 kisses, and made quilts for everyone. We almost got thrown out of JoAnn's for that last bit, but the quilts are lovely and we adore them! Add quilt-tying to my domestic resume. We talked all day while she sewed, and I briefly yearned for the good old days when all my relations would have lived within a five-mile radius.. She adores her grandsons, and Asher was basically glued to her the entire time. Here she is, on our baby monitor, "putting Asher down for a nap." I'll let you conclude who put who down for a nap.

Super grainy, but Asher is hiding under his blanket, or "being a shadow," as he puts it.

Super grainy, but Asher is hiding under his blanket, or "being a shadow," as he puts it.

Grandma tickling our little shadow.

Grandma tickling our little shadow.

Last of all we took a field trip downtown and met Dave after work. As we approached the city, Momma Brink said, "My sons are living very differently than I have." Yes, downtown Denver is about as far as one can get from a Wyoming town of 5,000 people, as he frequently reminds me. We braved the crusty why-must-you-bring-your-children-out-in-public looks of other diners at Maggiano's, then took a brief tour down 16th Street mall, wrapping up our venture with a visit to Dave's office. He works in one of the tallest buildings downtown, which I think is fun and he finds miserable. Here is Momma Brink with our boys at Dave's desk.

My sister once told me that people are more forgiving of misbehaving children who are well-dressed. I am mindful of that advice whenever I take them anyplace nice.

My sister once told me that people are more forgiving of misbehaving children who are well-dressed. I am mindful of that advice whenever I take them anyplace nice.

We said goodbye to Grandma with heavy hearts. I wish my boys could grow up closer to our families, but engineering jobs are in short supply in Wyoming, as are jobs in general with the current energy industry.

Friday night was a blessed girls' night with a bunch of fellow young moms at my friend Miranda's house. Nothing rejuvenates the maternal soul quite like talking birth stories and breastfeeding into the wee hours, with thousands of empty calories at hand.

This weekend was General Conference. As usual, I didn't hear nearly as much of it as I would have liked, particularly given the two small loud people who remain convinced that my attention should be perpetually directed at them. I definitely felt like a slacker mom when I invited one of my friends and her three-year-old daughter over, and saw her special activity folder and nest of neatly labeled treat bags, one for each apostle and member of the First Presidency. 

Of course, her daughter sat quietly most of the time and participated as directed, while Asher posed a greater distraction to her than her own daughter. Honestly, when company comes over I might as well not exist. Asher directs all his questions, demands, and monologues at other adults, even those he does not know. I become incapable of even re-filling his sippy. As Dave puts it, he is a very friendly puppy who could likely go home with anyone and lead a contented life.

I was again reminded of this today, when some new friends came over for lunch and conference, and I had to put Asher down for a nap just so he would stop pestering our guests. Also, we will not be playing croquet again until all of our children are eight or older. I think Asher picked up everyone's ball at least once and made off with it. Worst was when he tried to throw mine over the fence.

I am lucky in that he says the most heart-warmingly adorable things, usually first thing in the morning. The other morning he looked up at me with bright, hopeful eyes, and said, "Need to read a book about creatures!" So naturally I dropped everything and did just that. I'd like to see you resist his appeals to cuddle or be read to. These are a few of my favorite things! 

He has always turned back into a pumpkin (read: raging three-year-old) by bedtime, but I adore him first thing in the morning.

He has always turned back into a pumpkin (read: raging three-year-old) by bedtime, but I adore him first thing in the morning.

Finn has been a clingy little dear this week. Never truly rotten, just a little sad. I assumed he was teething, and sure enough I discovered a red bump and a nearly emerged tooth yesterday. The world's cutest hillbilly will soon be symmetrical again. Well, his ears don't match, but we still find him utterly delectable. I'm sure you can see why.

Finn is repulsed by grass. He will not venture off the blanket, which works well for me working in the yard. 

Finn is repulsed by grass. He will not venture off the blanket, which works well for me working in the yard. 

I'm Dreaming of a White Easter

In keeping with our "What can life throw at us while mom is flying solo?" theme, we got pounded by an unprecedented amount of snow while Dave was out of town this week. Officially, and by my own amateur measurements, our suburb got exactly two feet of snow. Sopping wet snow. I woke to the sound of the power going out (i.e, my baby monitor started beeping at me because there was no signal from the boys' rooms). For two and a half hours I fretted over the realization that, even though we are well-equipped with heaters, stoves, lanterns, and the natural gas to power them, I didn't have a clue how to operate any of it. Fortunately, the power was back on by 10:45. Un-fortunately, my report of a power failure to Xcel Energy was not answered until evening of the next day, when two(?) crews of repairmen inexplicably turned up. I consider myself warned, and have now been briefed on said equipment.

I will forgive any amount of snow, at any time of year, if I can make an epic snowman of it. Constructing gigantic snowmen is one of my greatest joys in life. So, instead of shoveling walks like any proper adult, Asher and I made this:

I suppose dinosaurs and snow did not coexist prehistorically, but its time they got together. It must be nearly to-scale at eight feet tall.

I suppose dinosaurs and snow did not coexist prehistorically, but its time they got together. It must be nearly to-scale at eight feet tall.

Okay, so he didn't actually help much. What he did do was plaster many little snowballs around the side of the snowman:

...and pepper me with snowballs. And generally had a wonderful time being a three-year-old in snow up to his belly button.

Getting ready to make a snowball to huck at his mother.

Getting ready to make a snowball to huck at his mother.

My dad used to threaten to throw me in a snowbank. Turns out, it's a pretty good threat.

My dad used to threaten to throw me in a snowbank. Turns out, it's a pretty good threat.

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Porpoising through the snow.

Porpoising through the snow.

The best part was that Finn took a three-hour nap. Clearly, he endorsed our snow activities. Because I spent my Finn-free window of the day playing, I had to shovel for hours after the kids were asleep. Even going to bed sore and exhausted at 1:30 am, it was worth it.

Today was Easter. I was lazy again this year and did not celebrate the week with daily family scripture readings or any such spiritual preparations. At this point Asher wouldn't get anything out of it, though I'm sure I would. Nor does he know anything about the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny was never a thing at my house, so frankly I'm not excited about starting up a tradition. I suppose I'll get peer-pressured into it eventually when Asher wonders why we got overlooked. I really wish Easter, at least, could just be about Christ. But I can't complain about Cadbury eggs. We did get together with our friends, the Lakes, to do a very simple joint Easter egg hunt for their daughter Emery and Asher. It had to be indoors because of all the snow.

It was a challenge to convince Asher to find all the eggs and THEN eat the candy. He wanted to eat every bit of candy the second he found it.

It was a challenge to convince Asher to find all the eggs and THEN eat the candy. He wanted to eat every bit of candy the second he found it.

Tonight we had dinner at the home of a family in our ward. In addition to being our friends, the mom of the family is also Dave's cousin's sister-in-law. (Small, small world when you're Mormon.) Dave's cousin (who Dave was close to growing up), was also at dinner with his family. A great time was had by all! Asher especially enjoyed their chickens, rabbits, and sheep. Lots of little friends to play with + a petting zoo = a boy who threw punches when his Dad pulled him away to go home. Finn coped with a nearly-napless day by cuddling on my lap most of the time. My goodness that child is affectionate! My mother referred to me as "the appendage," and he was surely taking after me today. I love it.

The cake I made for Easter, showcasing the cake-decorating skills I've learned in my second course.

The cake I made for Easter, showcasing the cake-decorating skills I've learned in my second course.

The basket-weave looked pretty near-perfect until Asher took a swipe at it. I hope the taste of buttercream was worth the time out and tears. After staying up until 4:30 to finish on this thing, I was NOT happy.

The basket-weave looked pretty near-perfect until Asher took a swipe at it. I hope the taste of buttercream was worth the time out and tears. After staying up until 4:30 to finish on this thing, I was NOT happy.