Thursday, July 24, 2014

All is well! All is well!

Before zipping ourselves into our sleeping bags last Monday night, we checked the weather forecast, which said Tuesday was going to be a rainy, rainy day. We'd already been rained on several times and our tent did a wonderful job of keeping us dry but we didn't really want to pack up in the rain so we planned ahead and set our alarm for 7:00 AM. The forecast called for rain at 9:00 AM.

At 6:00 AM I heard the first few drops of rain hit our tent and soon it was raining furiously, with no hint of ever letting up.

I couldn't sleep so I got up and started packing what I could, but only after taking pictures of my sweet sleeping children. Poor Miriam had been booted out of her bed by Rachel and was sleeping on the floor of the tent. It reminded me of the song There Were Ten in the Bed only in this instance it was the big one who said "Roll over!" and the little one who fell out!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Niagara Falls (July 14, 2014)

If you can find a place to park you can gawk at the falls all you want—for free. We didn't know that before we arrived. The website was rather vague on this matter. We could not figure it out and weren't too keen on spending a hundred bucks to see the falls. Turns out, only they park attractions cost money. The park itself is free.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Rachel's first day of grade two...and other Monday tales

This morning Rachel woke up with her alarm and got herself ready for school so that she could sit and read for a while (she's already finished The Witches and is now halfway through The BFG—and she only got them yesterday).

We took her first-day-of-school pictures inside because it was raining cats and dogs.



Niagara Falls, part 1

We were warned about Niagara Falls before we visited. We were told that they might be a little less impressive than we imagined them to be—rather like visiting Mt. Rushmore, which, let's face it, is kind of a let down. It's not that Mt. Rushmore isn't monolithic in proportion—because at 60 feet tall I'm fairly sure they're the biggest heads I've ever seen (for comparison, the Statue of Liberty's head (which I haven't seen except from an airplane, maybe) is only 8 feet tall)—it's simply that it seems like they should be bigger. You get there and you think to yourself, "Huh. I thought they'd be bigger."

I don't know if it's because you can't hike very close to them. Or if it's because films that feature them use photographic tricks to make them appear even larger than life than they are. Whatever the case, they're just a little disappointing.

Then again, I had heard so many disparaging remarks about Mr. Rushmore that by the time we could see the four presidents' faces I found myself rather surprised by how large they were—my hopes had been dampened that much.

So I wasn't quite sure what to expect when it came to Niagara Falls. I've been dreaming of going to Niagara Falls for a long time. When we were crossing one of Grand Island's bridges on our way to visit the falls Andrew turned to me and said, "Did you ever imagine you'd visit Niagara Falls with me?"

"I have done more things with you than I ever imagined I would," I said. "I was raised in a small town, remember? I'm not sure I ever realized how big the world was."

Because, frankly, Niagara Falls is small potatoes compared to some of the adventures Andrew's convinced me to embark on. Not that I didn't have any adventures before we were married, because I had some of those, too, but let's just say that the past 8.5 years have held more surprises than I would have guessed.

Anyway, when I was in grade 7 or 8 and my brother David was in grade 9 or 10 and we were living in that small town I mentioned, David got to go on a a band trip to Toronto. He has a picture of a squirrel attacking him in some park:

[David—picture or it didn't happen!]

And he told me all about Niagara Falls—how you could walk across a bridge to the States (for a toll; it's free to enter Canada, I'm just sayin'), how there was more water running over those cliffs than you could even wrap your head around, how he and his friends had such an awesomely amazing time.

I was so excited for band tour (technically I think we called it a camp? a retreat?) when I was in grade nine but...

We went to Banff.

Banff.

Two. Hours. From. My. House. BANFF.

(We also went to Red Deer later in the year for a competition—the day my grandpa died, actually—but that was also two hours away and it was only a day trip and we won a lot of awards but then I didn't even care because my grandpa died so that trip kind of stunk).

Not that I've ever been jealous of my amazingly talented, incredibly intelligent, and handsome older brother or anything, but come on—Banff?!

Banff was fun and all, but in the back of my mind I was hoping for something a little more exotic, a little less backyardish. And maybe a little less under five feet of snow. But I've been known to be picky.

Going into this trip I had in my mind two battling narratives of Niagara Falls: the "meh" versus the "legendary."

I have to admit, our entire family was pretty impressed (though less impressed with the visitor's center because that was a sketchy/scary mess). We parked in some random parking garage a short walk from the falls (because apparently the the official national park lot fills up quickly) and found our way to the park easily enough. We soon found ourselves walking beside the Niagara River, rushing along its way, frothing with white water, hurdling to its death-defying leap over the cliffs.

"This is already impressive," I said in hushed tones to Andrew. "That river is big. I don't think I've seen that much water in any river in Utah..."

(It was "because Utah" that our friend told us we wouldn't find Niagara that impressive—and Utah does have some spectacular landscapes Niagara, I think, can maintain its bragging rights.)

And then?!

And then we got here and the river disappeared.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rachel's 7th Birthday

This morning I walked out of my bedroom to find Rachel at the breakfast table.

"Happy Birthday *clap* to you!" I sang (to the tune of "You've Had a Birthday"—our primary usually claps on the rest in the last measure).

"Thanks," Rachel blushed.

"CAKE!" Benjamin demanded. "Where-y go?"

"It's in the fridge," I said. "We're not going to have cake until after dinner."

"Oh," he said sadly.

"Do you like cake?" I asked.

"Es," he nodded gravely.

Rachel had a happy morning getting ready for church. Birthdays are quite exciting because you get to do everything for the first time as a seven-year-old (or whatever the case may be). So, she got to brush her hair for the first time as a seven-year-old and get dressed for the first time as a seven-year-old and do all other such menial tasks for the first time as a seven-year-old and that served to make even the dullest task at least slightly more exciting.

Birthday eves are equally exciting because you get to do everything for the last time as a six-year-old (or whatever the case may be).

We milk motivation for all its worth at this house.

Today was a long day at church again. We were supposed to be there early for choir and then, of course, we stay late for choir, too. I packed a lunch, got my things ready for class, helped get the kids ready, and got ready myself. We left the house in time to pick up a friend needing a ride but I noticed on the way that I'd forgotten to put my wedding ring back on yesterday after I finished with Rachel's cake.

No matter, one can survive without a wedding ring for the day. I mentioned it to Andrew but insisted we didn't need to go back home...until I realized that I'd also neglected to put deodorant on. While one can live without a wedding ring for a day, it's a little more difficult to live without deodorant for the day (while remaining friends with everyone). So we went back home after picking up our friend.

We missed before-church choir practice but were still plenty early for church. Sacrament meeting was fine—the kids were much better behaved on their own turf than they were last week while we were visiting in Palmyra—and so was primary. It was almost relaxing to be in charge of just one class!

Rachel got sung to, of course, and she was so embarrassed to have to stand up in front of everyone that she stared at me, wide-eyed, the whole time. So I made faces at her because what else is a mother supposed to do?

After church Rachel had fun playing with her friend Carolina (and Miriam and Benjamin) while Andrew and I were busy with choir. Poor Benjamin had an embarrassing moment when he was strutting across the stand, smiling at the lovely choir ladies on the first row. His head was turned to smile at everyone and he was clearly not watching because before anyone could stop him he smacked into a wall and fell over backwards. He was the saddest boy in the world.

I was rather flustered because I was holding one of my friend Magie's twins and I had hand him off suddenly (and didn't ever get him back—*sniff*—that's the danger of passing babies off!) and run to my own baby, who's more of a boy, I suppose.

It was rather comical once Benjamin stopped screaming. I keep seeing him run straight into the wall in my mind and every single time it's hilarious.


Anyway, Rachel was excited when it was time to come home because going home meant presents and cake and birthday dinner. She wanted pancakes for her birthday dinner but wisely suggested we have pancakes the night before her birthday (since she knows how I feel about having dessert after pancakes—no way, José) and we had tortellini for dinner today.

Presents were fun. Benjamin hasn't quite grasped the concept that other people have birthdays besides him. He kept getting in the way, trying to "help," while shouting, "And me! And me! And me!"


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tom Riddle's Diary Cake

Sometimes I think my children think I am way more creative than I am. Like the time Rachel asked me to help her make a Magic Tree House costume (as in the actual tree house in a tree). Or like the time she asked me to make a birthday cake of Tom Riddle's diary with a basilisk fang sticking out of it.

Sheesh, children.

I spent quite a bit of time looking for inspiration on teh interwebz. There are a lot of Harry Potter cakes out there, but this was the site I found most useful. It shows how to make an old book. It was really quite simple. I followed the directions almost exactly as they are there: I used a strawberry cake mix to make a 9x13 cake, carved it into a book shape, and covered it with buttercream icing. Then I made some marshmallow fondant and let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours (not eight because who has that sort of forethought?). I rolled it out, flipped it onto the cake, trimmed it to size, and then marked out pages with the back of a butter knife. Using a pastry brush, I dusted it with cinnamon to make the pages look old (because I don't eat chocolate). I rolled out a second piece of fondant to make the top page all crumpled and dusted that with cinnamon, too.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sunday Afternoon

It was raining cats and dogs by the time church got out. Benjamin had been running wild for most of Relief Society so I eventually moved into the hall with him where I found a nice comfy chair and wrestled with him until he gave up and fell asleep. That was about five minutes before classes started pouring into the hallways.

"Oh, that is the worst!" a woman said to me with pity when she came out of Relief Society. "That's like when you're on a long drive and your baby falls asleep five minutes before you pull into the driveway. Then you just have to wake them up to bring them into the house and then they figure they've had a nap so there's no sense in taking another one."

That woman certainly knew what she was talking about. And it really was about as bad as that. Benjamin woke up on the way to the car, of course, since he felt like he was suddenly thrown from a comfortable bed into a cold shower. As predicted, Benjamin woke up with even more energy than he'd fallen asleep with.

Andrew was feeling so sick (once upon a time (on Saturday) we had bagels and muffins for lunch—the kids and I were eating bits off bagels when I noticed some mold and began eating with more caution. Andrew, however, had scarfed a muffin, which he admitted tasted a little off after I discovered the mold, and was having some food poisoning symptoms). He wanted nothing better than to take a long nap.

But we were in the middle of a torrential downpour! We couldn't go back to camp! Going back to camp would mean being stuck in a tent with a riled up toddler for the entire afternoon. That simply wasn’t going to promote family unity so we determined we’d revisit the nearby church history sites.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees...

We hadn't even arrived in Palmyra when the neighbour we asked to check our mail for us sent me a message:
There are tons of these really big buzzing bugs in your yard. I didn't get close enough to see for sure if they were a kind of bee or not because honestly they were freaking me out. Just wanted you to know in case there is a hive somewhere near you.
I told her that we'd check it out when we came home (because what else were we going to do?) and in the meantime she was very brave and continued to collect our mail for us (or forced her children to, either way we're grateful).

We hadn't noticed any such creatures before we left on our trip, but sure enough, upon arriving home we noticed that our front yard was swarming with gigantic, buzzing, yellow-bodied insects. We observed them from a distance at first (because we didn't want to go poking around too closely in case we should stumble into a nest) and noticed that they seemed to be congregating around our tree. The funny thing was that once they were on the tree they seemed to be mingling amicably with some shiny green beetles that were sharing the vicinity.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sunday Shenanigans

Sunday was kind of a crazy day. The kids had stayed up somewhat later than they were used to (we didn't get back to the campground until around 11:30 PM) and had gone to bed sniffling about having been condemned to die a fiery death in hell...over a loudspeaker. Then we had to wake up and get ready for church a few hours earlier than we were used to (the ward here meets at 9:00 AM while our home ward meets at 10:50 AM).

The church was packed. The chapel was filled and they had chairs set up in the chapel overflow, the cultural hall, the second cultural hall, and the stage in the very back. Andrew heard they set up 1200 chairs in the expanded chapel.

The meeting was also piped into the Relief Society room and the primary room.

It was fun to meet for a regular sacrament meeting with such a big congregation. Usually when we meet in numbers that large it's for a more unusual meeting like stake conference.

Benjamin continued his wild antics from the night before. Andrew and I took turns carrying him out. He's usually not too loud vocally but we were sitting on metal folding chairs and, boy, are those things ever fun to pound on! And then it's so terribly disappointing when your parents interrupt your pounding that your only choice is to howl about it. *sigh*

We were in and out a lot.

I Spy

Going to church history sites is fun because you never quite know who you'll run into.

This trip we ran into Larry Draper, one of my old coworkers from the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. We worked in Special Collections together seven years ago (I quit the day (two hours before) Rachel was born). He recently retired and is now on a mission—here in Palmyra—with his wife.