Tuesday, February 23, 2010

FHE Winter Olympics

We couldn't take a trip to Vancouver so we brought the Olympics to our house.

After a spiritual thought by Tyce, we athletes prepared for the events. Go Team Jones!

The first sport was curling. We all watched curling for the first time this weekend, and it was strangely fascinating. For our game, each competitor blew his cotton ball towards the target using a straw. The older kids and the parents got three blows to get from one side of the table to the center. It was pretty close!

The second event was Army-man speed-skating.

Two competitors launched their skaters toward the finish line, in three heats. Those little dudes are fast!

Our third event was the two-man stairway bobsled.

It was a pretty short course. But it was fun and the partnerships traded to keep things interesting.

For refreshments we told the kids to always work hard and "go for the gold" in everything they do.

"Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain." ~Author Unknown

Monday, February 22, 2010

Poetry I Have Written

I found a file with my original poetry, mostly hand-written, mostly soul-bearingly vulnerable (i.e. embarrassing). My high school self was a ball of emotion, angst and longing.

But because I like you, I will share. I think this one is pretty good, actually. But man, does it bring back the stress of 10th grade.

P.S. This is a about a boy. (Surprise!)


all started out as friends
all ended up as enemies and
no one person can quite understand
what happened, yet
we all agree it's changed
     it's changed

You used to be close enough
     to whisper softly in my ear
Now I only see the anger in your eyes
     and hope you can't get close enough
     to bite my head off

All around me I notice a mindless following

They parade silently in a circle with
     a solemn expression of distrust and hate
          (They're so much like you)

Anyone who isn't you
     stands in the middle
     with a confused smile
          until they realize who you really are

Running away only ensures entrapment

It's all a game with you
     no one can win
No one can feed your ego
     as well as you can

I'm not sure what's right
     and I know how much is wrong
          I know
     that even though it's like this
     I would do
     to have YOU back again

I cry as I listen to us
     struggle to play the notes
          of a happy song

The more we try to harmonize
     the more I hate the disonance of
          the silent whisper

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Went to Houston By Myself

Vacationing alone = relaxing.

Coming home from vacation = a shock to the system.


But let's talk about the weekend, where I was footloose and child-free. My wonderful husband arranged for me to visit my parents for three days, alone. He and the kids had Presidents' Day off, so they handled life at home. How nice!

I started my trip by posing next to a very popular person. But I was too embarrassed to try for a better photo. We practically have matching outfits. And we're both pretty well-known in our respective fields, even if one of us is cardboard. I didn't want to attract a crowd.

On Saturday I went on a walk with my dad on a chilly mid-morning, just like we used to.

I accomplanied my parents on their Saturday ritual of eating at Los Vega and then grocery shopping at Target. ("So we can make our Target stock go up," says my dad.)

Good thing I returned that stolen basket when I did.

Next on the schedule was reading, napping, and watching the Olympics.

Sunday was church and an open house for the Arntsens, who are going on a mission to Brazil. After that, reading, napping, and watching the Olympics.

The days were easy. Quiet. Nice. I won a gold medal in the 500-meter chillax-a-thon. 

On Monday I enjoyed visiting people. First stop: the Ottosens.

Nate and Ben were cleaning but chatted with me for a while.

And Kim and Heather and I went out to lunch at Chuy's for some girl time.

(Sorry, boys!)

After that we did some shoe shopping (Kim) and wandered the aisles of The Container Store. It was fun, and I love those girls! Next time we'll have to add Betsie.

After that: Thomas and Niki's house.

I think I was there a couple of hours, but it felt like only minutes. I love their family--Thomas, Niki, Emma (hiding), and Ian. It was great to see them.

And then it was time to pack up and come back home.

I didn't think I needed the time away, until I had to come back. And then I realized that I wanted to hide under the guest bed at my parents' house indefinitely.

There are so many things I love about Houston. Even though I've lived here longer than I lived there, to me, Houston is still home.

Besides, where else can you see this?

I sure do love my parents and my sisters and my friends. Thank you for having me!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day

Last night we had our family Valentine's Day dinner. I abandoned the heart-shaped food theme and we had a taco bar. (Spaghetti tacos for those who wanted them.) I still made a treat and little cards. Those are pretty much my two favorite things, treats and cards.

Today are the kids' Valentine's Day parties.

For cards, Mary got baby wild animals.

Harrison got X-Men.

Cameron got Batman.

Tyce got the same thing as every kid in junior high--nothing. (Sad!)

The little boys have their preschool party this afternoon. Mary had to decorate a shoe box for her festivities today. I remember doing that, and my creations were always symmetrical and 2-dimensional. (You saw those cards I made? Imagine that, on a box.)

But you know Mary!

There's nothing simple about that girl.

They're kissing monkeys on a tropical island. Even their tails make a heart.

She was jazzed about taking it to school today. But she insisted on riding her scooter AND carrying the box, so I hope it makes it in one piece.

I love Valentine's Day.
I love red. I love hearts. I never knew it before today, but I love kissing monkeys.

(Meaning monkeys that kiss, hello.)

And I love all of the great people in my life. You make me happy.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Organizational Befores and Afters

Do you suffer from Crowded Hallway Syndrome? Are baskets of waiting-to-be-folded laundry getting you down? Do your children search and destroy the house looking for pants while their dresser drawers lie empty?

Then you will love the patented Fold As You Go system, brought to you by the Hardys!

First, clear off your laundry room's shelf. Relocate cleaners and paper goods.

Second, line up your baskets. Label the shelf, if you desire, with each family member's name. Put two baskets on the floor, one for towels and one for bedding.

Third, take laundry out of the dryer one piece at a time. Toss in the appropriate basket.

Fourth, have people take baskets to their rooms weekly, where they have been instructed to fold and put away their clothes. (But turn a blind eye to the folding part.)

Fifth, enjoy your clean and organized laundry room with nothing jamming up the hallway!


Now on to a different matter.

You may remember that my New Year's resolution last year was to clean my closet. You may also remember that I lost the kids' Christmas Eve pajamas in here, and you can see why.

Anything that didn't have a real home ended up here. That was my real problem. Yes, I had too many clothes. But it was the boxes of photographs and holiday decorations, the kids' "grow-into" clothes, leftovers from craft projects, and hidden birthday presents (that I couldn't find) that really did me in.

So I threw out half of what was in there. I bought a few organizers. And now . . . it is like my own little room! I even hung my Young Women's quilt.

It's been over a month and the closet still looks the same. That is to say, awesome.

Like most people who live with messes I never intended to tolerate chaos; I just didn't know how to tame the growing monster.

(Do you love it? Keep it. Not sure? Toss it.)

I only show you these atrocities to prove that if I can get organized, so can you.

So do it! I'll be here to cheer you on.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Kids at Stake Conference

I don't like to dwell on the negative but I have to say that church this weekend was terrible.

I know the meeting was good because I could kind of hear it but I didn't get much out of it.

Mary refused to come because instead of actually getting ready to go, she decided to color in her room. And then when it came down to the wire and we were loading ourselves into the car, she insisted that she HAD to eat breakfast and do her hair. So I know it sounds mean but we left her--but not to punish her. She has done this before and I know it is a control issue but it really does make me angry.

So we didn't start off on the best foot.

Then Harrison pushed his boundaries with Bryce, like he does every weekend, even going so far as to make a huge mess in the living room. Bryce said calmly, "Okay, clean it up." And Harrison asked, "Did you notice I poured water on the rug?" He wanted to make sure his hard work had not gone unnoticed.

At church he was no different; kicking the chair, exiting the row and wandering. They made it about 5 minutes before going to time-out in a classroom, and then eventually home when things didn't get better. So that left me with two.

Cameron is still the loudest child in church--even in stake conference. He sat on Tyce's lap, and Tyce kept biting his ear. Cam liked it and said, "Do it harder," but as loud as you can imagine without yelling. I told Tyce to stop but he developed selective deafness and couldn't hear me. Finally he bit Cam's ear too hard and the whole chapel heard, "OW."

During the congregational hymn Cameron stood on a chair between Tyce and me, and "sang" along, which was funny and cute. But when he noticed that Tyce and I were giggling he sang even louder . . . which was not funny or cute. After we'd successfuly shushed him, the song was over. Everyone sat down and Cameron said," That guy in front of us is BALD. Well, at least to me he is."

I wanted to die. What do I say to that? "He's not bald . . . okay, you're right. He is."

Tyce took Cameron on a much-needed walk. Alone and uninterrupted, I listened to two really great speakers.

When the boys came back Cam said, "Tyce let me jump off a stack of chairs onto a table!"

I gave Tyce my raised eyebrow, and he mimed that "Wha? I don't know what he's talking about," sign.

Then there was more ear-biting.

And I took Cameron out myself. But he yelled, "I want Tyce! I want to jump off the chairs!"

After a drink at the water fountain and a stroll around the building, he wanted to sit on the stage. So I let him sit on the edge. But he wanted to move farther this way, and back that way, and stand up, and go down the stairs. But I said, over and over, "You can sit right here with your arms folded or get down." Finally he got frustrated and shouted, "Why do we always have to follow your rules?"

Luckily, by then it was time for the closing hymn.

And Cameron wanted to do headstands during the closing prayer.

Someone reached over and patted my arm. "This too shall pass," she said.

It was one of the longest 2-hour meetings of my life.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Life is a Party

Especially when Mary is around!

She loves to throw parties for her little brothers. In fact, she used her Christmas money to buy party supplies like balloons and goody bags.

(And then she told me later, "Sheesh! Those kids don't really appreciate the money I spend on them!")

One party was an space-themed party.

They played pin-the-eye-on-the-alien and made alien masks.

She also threw a castle-themed party, where the kids had a balloon jousting event on their stick horses.

The boys are really lucky to have such a fun sister, don't you think?

Speaking of fun, Tyce had a little get-together on Friday night with Brandon, Skye, and Ashley! It was awesome to have those 8th graders over and playing games.

This is an aside, but Mary said, "Sara and I are rooting for the Colts in the Super Bowl. Yeah, we had to pick in class, and we chose the Colts because colts are baby horses." Tyce also rooted for the Colts because of the BYU alumni on the team . . . until the middle of the 4th quarter. Then he switched sides and did a victory dance with those crazy Cajuns. Who Dat?


Sorry if you've tried to call the Nestle Crunch hotline lately . . . apparently they reverted to their "boring" menu and there's nothing fun to hear. :(

Friday, February 5, 2010

Joy in the Journey

"Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed . . . Life is just like an old time rail journey . . . delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is . . . to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride." 

— Gordon B. Hinckley

I love this.

Sometimes my life is thrilling: family vacations! romantic get-aways! Season premiers of LOST! I am in love with my fabulous husband, my children are talented and well-behaved, and I am on top of the world!

Sometimes my life is boring: laundry . . . dishes . . . scrubbing. Again. And bossing kids around. Again. Looking in the mirror and deciding if my hair is passable, or if I have to actually take a shower. Again.

But if I've learned anything from Relief Society it's that the joy is in the journey.

I have to find the beauty in the mundane, in order to appreciate the glorious in the spectacular.

The more I look for the good, the more I see.

The more I listen for the good, the more I hear.

The joy is in the journey. The bumpy, rocky, sometimes-boring, but sometimes-thrilling journey.

And I am enjoying the ride. 


This is the teary post-script.

I want to tell you how much I love my family and friends. My parents--I love you for everything you have do and continue to do for me. My parents-in-law--you are wonderful and accept me as your own. My sisters-in-law Kim, Heather, Betsie, and Brooklyn--you are my sisters and I love you so much. David, my brother--you are so special to me and I love you more than you know. My brothers-in-law Nate and Andy--you will always be part of the family. My grandma, aunt and uncle, and cousins Chris and Jenn--I wish we were geographically closer because I love you. My nieces Cambria, Maya, Evangeline, Kess, and Kira--you are beautiful and fill my life with happiness. My nephew Ben--you are Tyce's special buddy and I love that you two have each other.

My friends, near and far, old and new, young and not-so-young--you are what keeps me grounded as a person. With you I can laugh, cry, and be myself. Thank you.

And to my husband and children--well, there's just too much to say. I will sum it up with those three little words, but know that they are packed with meaning: Give me cheesecake.

Just kidding.



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our Story of Adoption--Part 6

Forgot where we left off? Read Part 5 here.

We immediately showed Tyce our small stash of toys.

"You like balls? Here's a red one. Good throw! Okay, you're done . . . How about blocks? Can you stack these? Boom! You're the human wrecking ball. Again? No? I'll bet you're a good colorer . . . let's try these crayons."

In only 15 minutes, we'd exhausted all our resources.

And the novelty of his new environment had worn off.

And he cried.

He ran from room to room, looking for something--anything--familiar, getting more and more upset. His cries broke our hearts, and we looked at each other.

"What do we do?" I asked.

"What have we done?" Bryce asked.

No two parents--temporary or not--ever felt more inadequate. But this was no time for second-guessing our abilities. Tonight we were his mom and dad--and we needed to act like it.

Bryce picked Tyce up. "Hey little buddy, it's okay. I know you miss what you're used to. It must be confusing to see that everything is different. But you're going to be okay. Shhhh, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay . . . "

As Tyce calmed down, Bryce and I began to believe it, too. Grateful for the schedule his houseparents had prepared, we got him into pajamas, gave him a snack, and lay him in his crib. We sang songs. We had made it through one night. We were okay.

I went to work that Monday, but Bryce had winter break from school. He and Tyce spent their time at the park, at Astros games, and with my parents (Mopsie and Grandpa). His first Christmas with us was only 8 days after his arrival. It was overwhelming; back then I hadn't adopted the "three presents" mindset. The poor boy nearly drowned in gifts--dozens and dozens of new toys, clothes, and books. He was lovingly showered from every angle: his Casa friends; his new grandparents, aunts and uncles; and us, his new parents. But he got bored of opening them all and went to sit in a giant box. I think none of us will ever forget the sight of that little toddler wearing a Santa hat, sitting in his cardboard cave.

As foster parents we tried to be loving without getting too attached. If you had known little Tyce, you would know that was nearly impossible to do.

Bryce and I went to many trainings and seminars. We learned about emotional issues and legal issues. We learned everything we could in order to help us be good parents to our little guy.

As foster placements often go, his short-term stay turned into a long-term stay. On the one hand I hoped for reunification, because I would never vote against the triumph of the human spirit. I knew that his birth family loved him, despite their problems. I knew it. It was heart-wrenching for me to want something for them and for myself at the same time. I also felt that he was meant to be part of OUR family, and we hoped Tyce could be ours forever.

In November 1999, that day did come.

He was adopted. Adopted after almost 2 years in our home. Adopted and finally sharing our last name--though he'd been a Jones in our hearts for a very long time.

In September 2000, he was sealed to us, in what our friend Teresa aptly called a "spiritual adoption", in the Houston temple. Because the temple was brand new, Tyce had the honor of being the first child sealed to his parents by adoption. When an ordinance worker, an older gentleman, put out his hand to shake Tyce's, Tyce slapped him the biggest high-five that sealing room had ever seen.

But not to make our story sound so simple, we also had baby Mary then. And Pablo. And Joseph. And Juwan.

And life running a group foster home was more than crazy.

But by the grace of God, we were okay.

Monday, February 1, 2010

When You Don't Pay Attention

This is what happens.

Scenario 1.

"Does anyone want another grilled cheese sandwich?"

"Yes, I do."

"Okay, I'll make one while you're playing, and I'll let you know when it's done."

(Two hours later....)

"Uh, how about a banana instead?"

But wait, didn't you order it well-done?

Scenario 2.

"Mom, I want to sue that lady at Target because these Bella Sara cards were more than the sign said they were."

"Yeah, I know sometimes things are in the wrong place. That's frustrating."

"I'm going to whine about this the whole way home, about how I've been victimized by the evil checker and how suing her would solve all my problems."*

"Oh boy, I'm so glad we went shopping today!"

* You can thank me for the condensed version.


As a bonus, we inadvertently brought home a souvenier.

(Would you like a basket, ma'am?
No thanks, I've brought my own.)

That's how we roll. Functional, stylish, and stolen.