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The first and second grades stole my boys today. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Yes, I'm totally one of those weird parents who dreads the beginning of every school year. I like my kids. I like having them around. I like extra family time. I like lazy mornings that don't require them catching a bus. Oh sigh. For the record, I do like them to learn too, but on days like today I wish I was a homeschooling mom. My husband hates the idea, so I'm not one, but sometimes I think I'd love it.  But, so not the point. My boys love going to school too. They love learning, the smart, little whipper snappers. They LOVE PE. They love playing with their friends. They love their teachers and eating lunch out of a box. So, all in all, it was a good day. Their teachers are "SO NICE!" Tanner got "no homework!" Hunter did. "Good thing (he) like(s) to read!"

Uh, yeah, Tanner is wearing a Duck Dynasty shirt, thank you for asking. Don't think Hunter doesn't have four of his own or anything. We'll probably see nothing but Uncle Si's face around here. Whatever. Even in redneck shirts those are about the cutest boys I've ever seen. Not that I'm partial or anything.

Hunter ~ 2nd Grade
Hunter ~ 2nd Grade
Tanner ~ 1st Grade
Tanner ~ 1st Grade

Love these kiddos to death. Happy First Day of School, boys!

 

 

 

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Seriously! I am! In case you were all worried that my kids had quit doing ridiculous things because of my lack of sharing, I am now assuring you that they're as crazy as ever. I've just been writing columns with all of the good material that they shove down my throat. It should keep me busy for decades.

My first column appeared today and it will be updated every Monday on The Reflector's website (it's a Western Washington newspaper, if you were wondering). So, if you love me here, please love me there!:) I'll post the links here on my blog as well, but they'll be under the 'Writing' tab.

Today's article, Back from the Edge, is already there for your reading pleasure. I hope. I mean, I hope it's a great experience and not that I hope it's there. It's there. I've seen it.

I was nominated for another blogging award while I was on vacation! I'm extremely flattered and grateful that there are people who like reading my mindless drivel about my experiences with life. Seriously though, I enjoy sharing the good and the crazy that come out of this house. And I'm touched that people like to read about it.

Nichole over at Things My Daughters Told Me nominated me for this award as well! I REALLY like that she has nominated me for both of these awards because she is, hands down, one of my favorite reads. I never read one of her posts without laughing out loud. And I'm not just saying that. She makes me snicker with delight . . . mostly because I can perfectly understand everything that she experiences as a mother. She tells the truth and she makes it laughable instead of depressing. And I like that. Negativity never helped anyone. So go give her some blog love. You will not be sorry.

The rules for this award are as follows:

1. Thank the super sweet blogger who nominated you for the award.
2. Nominate a baker’s dozen of the bloggers who you think deserve the award.
3. Send them a comment to let them know they’ve been nominated.
4. Answer five super sweet questions.
5. Now, SMILE!

Is it weird that I feel like I'm judged more by my answers to these award questions than my blog content? I think I'm starting to sweat . . .

1. Cookies or cake?

Cookies. Without question. Dangle a cookie in front of my face and I'll eat 63. Unless you put something like raisins or craisins in them, in which case I'll pretend to eat them and then spit them out in a napkin that I'll dispose of when you're not looking.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla?

I laughed that Nichole said vanilla and then felt the need to defend herself. Let's face it, people act like vanilla is boring. But I love vanilla. And I hate chocolate. My mom couldn't even eat chocolate when she was pregnant with me because it would make her sick. That's how much I hate it. I hate it with some sort of inherent loathing. I will not eat chocolate cake or ice cream or milkshakes or hot chocolate . . . none of it. I can tolerate chocolate if it's drowning in pretzels and nuts and caramel and other goodness, but it's still not what I'd choose. And in vanilla's defense, I'm one of the coolest chicks you'll ever meet, so it obviously can't be that bad.

3. What is your favorite sweet treat?

Honestly, I think forcing me to confess my maple bar addiction is a bit mean-spirited for a super sweet award, but I'm not much good at lying, so there it is. I love donuts. Especially maple bars. I wouldn't care if they made me gain five pounds per bite. I'd still eat them. Often.

4. When do you crave sweet things the most?

Only when there's none to be found. I could generally care less about sweets if my cupboards are full of them, but the second there is nothing there I have this supernatural urge to go on a sugar binge. I have no explanation for it. I imagine it's how a prisoner feels as she awaits her freedom.

5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?

Haha, I have no idea. Come to think of it, most of my nicknames are obnoxious as opposed to sweet. Maybe I was given this award by mistake...

A baker's dozen of super sweet bloggers. Oh my. I had a hard time with this last time. Here goes. And someone please be impressed that I knew a baker's dozen was thirteen and not twelve.

  1. The Adventures of Supermom
  2. Love Life With Kids
  3. Biscuits 'n Crazy
  4. Becoming Cliche
  5. Memories by Me Photography
  6. Inspiring Kids
  7. Living, Loving, and Learning Together
  8. Sue Likkel

Okay, I hope no one gets irate with me or anything, but a bunch of the blogs I would choose have already been nominated for the award and searching for ones that haven't is proving exhausting. I hope this means that I only read really good blogs. Anyway, I'll try to add some more when I run across them, but for now you get eight. I hope I don't get banned from the blogging universe because I like it here. Now I just have to remember to go tell all of my favorite bloggers that I nominated them. No promises.:)

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Truthfully, I still don't exactly know what this award means. All I know is that I got nominated for it by another blogger and I'm beyond flattered. Especially since the gal who nominated me writes one of my favorite blogs. Head on over to Things My Daughters Told Me and you'll see why. Nichole's downright funny . . . and honest . . . and that honesty is probably what makes her so funny. If you're a parent, you'll laugh. If you're not a parent, you'll still laugh. It'll just be at us instead of with us. Anyway, I hope she knows how honored and grateful I am.

My first thought when I found out she nominated me for this award: "Okay . . . well . . . either this means I'm a really well-rounded blogger or my readers think I'm A.D.D." After a little research I'm thinking it's neither one and it just means she likes my blog. Awesome. High compliment coming from her. I'll take it.

So, there are also rules that go along with this award.

  • I get to display the award on my blog. I'd feign some sort of embarrassment, but who am I kidding? It makes me feel all puffed up and cool, so I'll take it.
  • I'm required to write this post, linking back to the blog who nominated me . . . which I will gladly do.
  • Next, I get to present 15 other awesome blogs with this award.
  • I also have to comment on their blog and let them know that I did it . . . otherwise how would they know they'd just been granted bragging rights?
  • Lastly, I have to post 7 interesting things about myself in this post. I'm not sure how interesting I am, but you'll be able to mock me at least.

Fifteen all-stars (besides Nichole who would've been on my list):

  1. Mommie Diaries ~ Funny. Period.
  2. Carrie L. Sunday ~ Honest and Inspirational.
  3. Love Life With Kids ~ A really inspirational and uplifting blog.
  4. Living, Loving and Learning Together ~ Dedicated, Funny, Great Resource for Ideas.
  5. Jogging Dad ~ Love hearing a dad's perspective. Plus he's a funny dad.
  6. Biscuits 'n Crazy ~ Down-to-Earth and genuine. Plus there are recipes . . . can't go wrong with that.
  7. The Adventures of Supermom ~ She's hilarious, especially when she's pregnant.
  8. Inspiring Kids ~ If you need a parenting pick-me-up, this is the place.
  9. Toddler Bombs ~ Two different moms sharing their stories. Funny.
  10. No Apologies Parenting ~ Three moms, three countries, three different perspectives. Cool stuff.
  11. Sue Likkel ~ Great writer, great thoughts. Plus she's from Washington . . . which I think is an obvious charm.
  12. Movin My Wagon Over ~ This gal cracks me up.
  13. Libertydee ~ Funny and honest.
  14. How To Ruin A Toddler's Day ~ Laugh out loud funny . . . and all true.
  15. Expat Baby Adventures ~ She's well-traveled and I really love reading about her.

You should probably visit all of these blogs. I don't share this information for no reason, you know. And you can thank me later.

I wonder if I can even think up seven semi-interesting things about myself.

  1. I'm pretty darn short. When I informed my six year old son, Tanner, that he'd probably be shorter than his sister because of height-deficient genes, he threw himself down on the couch and pathetically moaned, "Why did you do this to me!?" I know plenty of parents have teenagers who have claimed ruined lives because of them, but six year olds? Claim to fame right here.
  2. Would you believe me if I told you I was balding? Because I am. Two-thirds of my hair down the drain . . . literally. I wear a lot of baseball caps and buy really expensive shampoo to combat my misfortune. It might help if I knew why it was falling out . . .
  3. I won my fourth grade spelling bee. And I've been annoyed by grammatical and spelling errors ever since. I'm afraid it's a cross I must bear in exchange for that sweet victory.
  4. When I'm pregnant I typically throw up 24 hours a day for about 5 or 6 months and still manage to gain 50 lbs. Everybody has to have a talent.
  5. I'm scared of fish (because of a tiger muskie horror story I heard on the news once about one of these 5 foot long terrors biting off a kid's thumb). Did I mention that we live at a fish hatchery because that's what my husband does for a living . . . raises tiger muskies (among other less threatening fish)? How's that for irony?
  6. I'm obsessed with wearing flip-flops. I'm pretty sure I've been moments away from amputation multiple times because I idiotically wear them even in freezing temperatures (even though I own a million pairs of shoes). I also wear white after Labor Day, so it's not like fashion is my thing anyway.
  7. I love sour candy. I love it so much that I'll eat it  until my mouth is raw and I'm sweating under my eyes. True story.

Anyway, thanks to all of my readers, old and new, for thinking that I have something important and worthwhile to share. I'm touched (and I'm being sincere, not sarcastic).

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Since I've started my 365 Days of Gratitude Through My Lens photo project, I've become a little concerned that people might start to think that my life is all rainbows and butterflies, scattered with children with adorable eyes and gorgeous grins. The adorable eyes and gorgeous grins part is true (Seriously, what do you want me to say? We're passing on some really good genes here.), but the rainbows and butterflies part would be more accurately described as thundershowers with a sprinkling of elk intestines.

I know you think I'm joking, but I'm not. I don't joke. I'm also going to rise above your doubt and spare you any photo proof.

So there I was, finishing up editing a bunch of photos of sweet children on their horses at STRIDES, when Kyle starts watching a video he borrowed from his buddy. I don't know the title because I'm too scared that I might actually catch a glimpse of the cover art to even look.

"Hey Bri, check this out!"

I turn around to see a guy pulling the stomach and intestines out of a dead elk.  The only coherent thought I had, besides a slathering of disgust, was: "Is he serious!?"

Who on Earth married this guy anyway!?

He just sat there snickering.

The worst part was, as I sat there editing, I kept feeling this sick compulsion to turn around and look. It was just like driving past the scene of a fatal accident. You try to avert your eyes, but to no avail. You slow down, your eyes drawn to the shocking wreckage. Finally I figured I was better off in my bed reading a good book. I was right.

I'm married to a redneck. My children are headed down this path. My oldest recently informed me that I needed to sign him up for the hunter's safety course so he can start hunting when he's eight. I stared at him, teetering between washing his mouth out with soap and getting him therapy. I chose not to answer and silently kicked myself for naming him Hunter. It was all part of my husband's elaborate plan . . . well, as elaborate as redneck plans get.

I should do something drastic, but instead I'm going to go cook dinner. Mostly because my husband just got home and is now re-watching that same video . . . with all of my children. Where are my butterflies and rainbows again?

 

 

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I've been thinking a lot this week about education. I want to finish my bachelor's degree, but I can't decide on a major. I also can't decide which university because it will most likely have to be completed online. That's not a big deal. I finished my associate's degree almost entirely online through the local community college. I just want to make sure it's a good program and a good fit . . . and that it doesn't steal all of my money.

This has also reminded me of the general attitude people have towards mothers pursuing degrees who are "just moms" and "aren't going to use it anyway." The sentiment has always annoyed me, but I've learned to let it roll off of my back. Mostly because I know that someone that ignorant couldn't do my job, nor do they understand what it requires.

I served an 18-month mission for my church instead of attending school during that time and had only completed a quarter of college by the time I was married. It ended up taking me eight years to finish my AA degree. Eight years and three kids later. Sure, I thought about quitting. That would have been easier. And yes, I'm fully aware that no degree is required to run my household or raise my children. But the only reason a requirement doesn't exist is because there is no employer there to pay my salary either. So I didn't quit. I kept going. I graduated with high honors because it mattered that much to me. And I'm going to tell you why.

Motherhood doesn't come with an instruction manual. There isn't a program or field of study that can adequately prepare you for it. The salary forever remains at zero. There is no health or dental insurance, no sick pay, no paid vacation, no retirement plan, no gym membership, and no union to fight your battles for you. And motherhood is hard. If any mother ever tells you it's easy, she's lying . . . either to spare your feelings or her own. So, I'm knee deep in a job that pays me nothing and that I could never be adequately trained or prepared for. And the grouchy women at the grocery store give me the evil eye when my toddler throws a tantrum mid-aisle. They look at me as if I obviously should know exactly what to do every time . . . as if I were getting paid to prevent this from happening.

About a month ago I was walking into a grocery store. I only had my two little girls with me, so relatively it was a piece of cake. A woman was coming out of the store with eight children in tow. She had two little ones in a double stroller in front of her and was pulling a cart heaped with groceries and two more little ones. An older child was helping push the cart and three more were walking alongside. I felt the need to tell her she was doing great. I'd say that I didn't know what possessed me to say it, but I believe in a God who directs His children to make each other's burdens lighter. I looked her right in the eye. She looked exhausted, almost haggard, but not unfulfilled and certainly not unhappy. My feet stopped moving. I said, "Good for you."

"What?" she said, looking confused.

"I said, 'good for you.' You're doing great. Just thought you should know."

I watched the tears well up in her eyes in two seconds flat. And it all came pouring out. "Some lady just told me I obviously had my hands way too full and that she felt bad for me. It made me feel like I was doing something wrong. Maybe I shouldn't have brought all of my kids in here after I'd taken them on a hike. Maybe it was too long of a day. But I needed groceries and I thought they were behaving relatively well....." She went on and on.

"You don't need to apologize to me. I am number two of eight children. My family life was amazing. I just felt like I should tell you that you were doing a great thing."

Silence. "Thank you so much."

"Any time."

It was an uplifting and wonderfully inspired conversation. And then I suddenly felt the need to find whoever the other woman was and give her a piece of my mind. I didn't, of course. And even if I had, she wouldn't have understood a word I was saying. Just like the people who think I'm just a mom and don't need a degree aren't going to understand what I'm saying.

Mothers have as much reason, if not more, as everyone else to receive a quality and well-rounded education. There is no program that will teach me all I need to know, but there are plenty of classes and fields that can better prepare me for the tough job I have in store. And not just a tough job, but the most important job if you want to know my true feelings on the subject. I will fight anyone who tells me that motherhood is an inferior position in this life. And I will annihilate them in that debate because I'm that certain that I'm right.

I came across a quote yesterday that firmed up my resolve to sit down and write this post. It's from S. Michael Wilcox:

There is no accomplishment which will require greater dedication, intellect, and the refined emotions of the soul than to raise a child to dignity, independence, and holiness in a decadent and fallen world.

What the mystery woman couldn't see, or refused to see, was that this mother of eight young children was doing everything she could do to raise successful adults. What kind of mother takes EIGHT children hiking . . . and then to the grocery store!? A good one. What kind of mother kills herself trying to get an education that will not only serve her well, but her children too? A good one. What kind of mother manages to finish her grocery shopping through a 30-minute screaming fit? A darn good one.

These mothers, in fact most mothers I know, are using every ounce of restraint and smarts and devotion that their souls can muster up to accomplish the task before them. Motherhood is not only a job, but a process of refinement that does as much for the mother as it does for her children. Saying we're "just moms" is about as ridiculous as declaring that so-and-so is just the CEO. He doesn't need any special training or education. As a matter of fact, you probably don't need to pay any attention to him at all. His position is inferior at best. Give the training and the resources to someone that matters more to the company. Right. It's absurd.

So can I just announce that the world, as a whole, is grossly underestimating its most powerful group of women. What happens inside the walls of these homes will do more to shape your countries and this world than anything that is happening outside of them. Respect the mothers. Support their education. Share your wisdom. Lend a helping hand. Tell them thank you. And realize that you're dealing with those who are tougher than tough, yet softer than soft. You're dealing with women who are strong and educated and refined and talented and smart. You're looking at hands that work and lift and pray. You can't possibly understand the depth of what's required or given. So give a smile or a hug or anything that will instill faith and uplift. We're more powerful than you know. Plus we're nice to look at.

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My 15 month old started saying 'Jeep' today. She learned how to fold her arms first, so I think that means there's still hope for her. I can't decide if Kyle brainwashes our children or if there's actually some sort of Jeep-obsessed dominant gene being passed to them. Why must everything that comes from me be recessive!?

 

Avery also yelled out 'Amen' after our prayer at dinner. Can I pretend that she learned that word first? Please.

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We've lived mostly on the east side of Washington state ever since we've been married. And I like it over here. It's nice to not have my psychotic hair turn into an unmanageable frizz ball the second I finish blowing it dry. However, there are things I really miss about the west side. A lot of things actually.

As far as I'm concerned, the Pacific Northwest possesses unparalleled beauty. And it's everywhere. You don't have to travel to find it. Everything's green . . . even the weeds you wish would die.

Beard's Hollow, Washington
Hiking by Moulton Falls, Washington
Hiking by Moulton Falls, Washington

I miss boats. And regardless of what anyone tells you, no one on the east side owns an impressive boat. They just don't.

Port of Ilwaco, Washington
Port of Ilwaco, Washington

My husband and I took a little trip for our anniversary that's at the end of this month. Nine years. It was an impressive feat, trust us. We left the kids with my parents and headed over to the coast for a couple of days. I love the coast and we had a blast. Maybe next year my feet will land me in Jamaican sand.

Long Beach, Washington
Long Beach, Washington
Beard's Hollow, Washington
West coast, Washington

Kyle always looks like he's frowning. Don't worry. He loves me. Try not to be alarmed by it.:)

Washington coast at Beard's Hollow
Washington coast at Beard's Hollow
Beard's Hollow, WA
Beard's Hollow, WA

 

Bald Eagle, Washington Coast
Bald Eagle, Washington Coast

There were bald eagles everywhere. And golden eagles actually. One of them ate a baby duckling right off the shore and so I was a little less impressed with them after that, but they're still quite the sight. I didn't have a zoom lens on my camera, so this will have to do.

Seaview, Washington
Seaview, Washington

My husband's favorite thing about Washington beaches? You can drive right on.

Long Beach, WA
Long Beach, WA

His ultimate favorite thing? His Jeep. I think he took more photos of it than he did of me, so here is one in his honor. He told me he'd take more photos of me if I'd throw myself over the hood. I decided to pass.

Long Beach, WA
Long Beach, WA

We bought a stunt kite and flew it. Kyle's going to tell you that I kept crashing it and that he has more natural talent, but he's lying. I'm just better at nose dives and he's jealous.

Long Beach, WA
Long Beach, WA
Washington coast at Beard's Hollow
Washington coast at Beard's Hollow

Oh, and yes, he always does wear shoes on the beach. Good luck trying to correct that.

Do you know what else I miss? Rain. Not always, but sometimes. I hate the rain when I have to go somewhere and look presentable. I hate it when my pants drag in puddles and I'm wet to my knees (because I'm about as short as a person comes). But I love listening to it on the roof. I love watching it come down. And I love running in it. My sister took this photo for me. I had to reenact my run like 8 times to get it. My dad's a newspaper publisher and says that no newsworthy photos are reenacted, but sometimes you do what you have to do. I personally think my sister made me do it 8 times so that my run would end up being way longer than hers, but I can't prove it or anything.

Battle Ground, Washington
Battle Ground, Washington

And I miss playing in the rain. I'd almost forgotten. Luckily my awesome sister-in-law always remembers stuff like this and we took the kids out and let them get soaked. They were in heaven. It's the simple things, folks.

Battle Ground
Battle Ground
Battle Ground
Battle Ground

Excellent form, Tanner. You'd think he was born on the west side or something. Oh wait . . . he was. The only one of my kids and it's serving him well.

Battle Ground
Battle Ground
Battle Ground
Battle Ground

My nephew, Greyson. The one with the insightful mother. He knew how to properly get wet.

There are things to love everywhere. Complaints about the west side that I hear make me smile. They don't know what they're missing. It's all about attitude. Right, Avery?

Moulton Falls, Washington
Moulton Falls, Washington

 

 

Being a mom is a lot like fighting for survival. You instinctively know what you have to do to survive and you systematically ignore the less crucial things. The more kids you have, the more this instinct is compounded.

So imagine my surprise and bewilderment the past two days as I've found myself comparatively alone. Kyle took the boys on a father and sons camp out. They're in heaven . . . him as much as them. I suddenly just have two cutesy, little girls roaming the place. And yes, I'm aware that during most school days we're in this exact scenario, but it's not the same thing. I'm still running errands for Kyle, getting boys off to school and home from school, helping with homework, fighting bedtime and cooking beefy, heavy meals for a lot of manly, growing boys/men.

I've had time. As in time to wash, fold and put away 6 loads of laundry and counting. As in time to thoroughly scrub my kids' bathroom, including replacing the shower curtain with the new one I bought over a week ago. As in time to make two batches of strawberry freezer jam . . . something I've never done . . . ever. As in time to go shopping for some shoes to fit on Avery's chubby, baby feet. As in time to play, play, play and still manage to keep my house mostly clean.

It's been heavenly. I'm not going to lie. But it's also been a bit sad. Because regardless of the lighter burden that I've felt for a couple days, I've discovered there are things I can't live without. My boys obviously fall into that category (all three of them), but I was already aware of that. I miss silly things. I miss seeing this everywhere I go, any time Hunter is home:

Who would miss stepping on marbles and hearing them smash into the walls of their house? This mom. I miss the extra work because somehow it symbolizes my love for this family. I miss crazy bedtimes and boy giggles and stepping on Legos. I even miss my husband watching Duck Dynasty EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Oh, Uncle Si.

So my point is, vacations are nice. Breaks are refreshing and occasionally welcome. But what's even more refreshing and welcome is the new perspective I have on loving and serving the family I've got. I'm excited for them to get home.