Saturday, January 24, 2015

Angry Pain and Sweet Friendships

I'm on Day 2 of Post Spine Injection, and it's going alright.  I wish I could have some more of that Valium they gave me right before the procedure, because it made that day a whole lot of fun.  Everything was funny, and I was shot up with so much Lidocaine that I couldn't feel my butt for hours, which was absolutely hilarious to me.  My kids are still making fun of me for how often I said the word "balloon" and then would just laugh uncontrollably.  Balloon?  Why is that even funny?  Penguin made me a list of more "happy words" to read and laugh about: lagoon, raccoon, rangoon, jelly, bazinga...I still chuckle when I read it.

The cortisone isn't supposed to start kicking in until later today or tomorrow, but I think I'm starting to feel it already--there's no crazy, make-you-gasp-when-you-move pain screaming down the back of my left leg anymore, and the tightness in my hips has been subsiding all morning.  There's pressure and stiffness throughout my lower body still, which can be expected after a week of avoiding moving anything at all, but not a whole lot of angry pain.

Relief.  Calmness.  Appreciation.

Which is good, because Bluebird's Italian Cooking School birthday party is scheduled to happen in a week, and Junebug's Kawaii party a week after that.  As you can imagine, I'm a little behind in my preparations.  I'm just not going to stress about them.  If the decorations and food aren't 100% what I'd like them to be, it doesn't matter.  What does matter is my physical therapy, and the fact that a party is about spending time with people you like, and that's more important than what the party looks like.  Health and relationships, people.  Those are the goals.  The pretty-to-look-at parts are the frosting--memorable and sweet, but just one little layer of something much bigger.

We have been well cared for by our neighbors, so everything is pretty amazing, especially considering the situation.  My house is clean, thanks to my awesome kids staying on top of their chores; we're eating healthy, thanks to the delicious dinners that have been prepared by our friends; the day of the procedure went smoothly in regards to all the logistics of needing a driver to take me to and from the doctor, and someone to watch Monkeyboy; and we even have clean laundry, thanks to a very kind and understanding soul.  I love my neighbors.  We live in a great neighborhood.

Contentment.  Gratitude.  Comfort.

Hard things are so much easier to handle with friends.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursdays are not my favorite right now

Two Thursdays ago:  The whole mistaken-identity lawsuit thing.  Got it sorted out.

Last Thursday:  A very upsetting experience involving a bully and one of my children.  Got it somewhat sorted out.

This Thursday:  Spinal injection, followed by two days of mandatory bed rest.  Barring any complications, things are set up rather well given the situation.  My Relief Society sisters are amazing.

Needless to say, things are absolutely crazy around here, and they're not going to get un-crazy for a while.

I humbly beseech you for your prayers during this time of rehabilitation, and for your understanding in regards to my absence here on the blog.  There needs to be some serious physical therapy and re-working of my activity level, and it will more than likely leave me rather exhausted in the immediate future.  Add that to all the other major upheavals in our daily lives and you have a recipe for "Not Enough Time to do All the Things I Used to Do."

Hopefully things calm down soon.  Take care!

Friday, January 9, 2015

An Open Letter to the Law Offices of Siegfried & Jensen, Salt Lake City, Utah

Y'all need to get your investigator(s) in line.

Yesterday, I was forced to spend my afternoon frantically texting, phoning, and scanning documents while reminding myself to breathe and not let my imagination get carried away with worst-case scenarios.  This on an afternoon that I had originally designated for the solving of various domestic problems one has after living abroad for five months, and baking some snowflake cookies.

And, why?  Because your legal investigator(s) mistakenly decided that my husband was a defendant in one of your lawsuits; an action they took with no thought or regard for how it would affect me, the future of my family's domestic bliss, or my cookie dough fun time.

You need to apologize to me and my family and set things right.  I am a homemaker, not some law firm's intern.

As far as "setting things right" goes, a reimbursement check for $20.04 would be nice, as I was too busy running about town trying to scan and email the legal documents to my lawyer brother-in-law and my husband, who is out of the country this week, to make dinner for my four children, thus necessitating a stop at the Del Taco drive-thru.

You can also add on a sum for the emotional distress that included and is not limited to: horror, fear, confusement, anxiety, anger, and stress so exacerbated that it made Del Taco drive-thru seem like a good idea; AND whatever amount you deem appropriate for the ensuing gastro-intestinal distress two of my children experienced after dining at the aforementioned restaurant, and the resultant fatigue and irritability I've suffered due to loss of sleep while dealing with my children's afflictions.  (But not really, because I think "emotional distress" is a stupid thing to pay money for.)

My (awesome) brother-in-law IN CALIFORNIA was able to locate the actual Michael Brook you want to sue within a short time of learning of the mistaken accusation against his brother.  Your investigator(s) did a spectacularly poor research job.  Seriously, how do you confuse an engineer in Spanish Fork with an insurance agent in Sandy?  They don't even have the same middle name!

Best of luck to your plaintiff; I pity him/her for having gone through what s/he has gone through that would deem this lawsuit necessary.  Add that pity to my list of emotional distresses.

I've lived through a motorcycle crash, the ordeal of watching my mother go through brain cancer, and my house burning down, and they pale somewhat in comparison to what it felt like to temporarily believe that my husband was being sued for the amount listed in that court document.

Furthermore, your investigator(s) can't read addresses, as evidenced by the fact that s/he tried to serve the summons to my neighbor who lives eight doors down the street from me.  Also, you might want to remind your investigator(s) that a mother tends to know what her own children look like, and that she does not appreciate being told that one of her children is a 24 year old Mexican woman.  Yeah, no...my daughter is 10, and very white.  I'm absolutely positive about this fact.

Dear goodness, all of what happened yesterday was insane.  And pretty embarrassing for your firm.  I repeat my topic sentence:  Y'all need to get your investigators in line.

Sincerely,
Cara Brooke
(Brooke with an "e," in case you didn't notice.)



Credit due where credit is due:
I was musing on the events of yesterday when
this Sheldon Cooper speech popped into my mind.
I thought it would work well, given the context.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Birthday Season is Upon Us

Do you remember, two years ago, when I threw the coolest baking birthday party and Snow White birthday party for my February girls?  Do you also remember that I only do cool birthday parties in odd years because it takes so much stinkin' work to pull off said cool birthday parties?  Did you realize that 2015 is an odd year?

It begins...

Bluebird, culinary-obsessed as she is, has decided to make the "culinary party" theme a tradition, and she wants to throw an "Italian cooking school" party.  I'm having fun putting this one together, as I really enjoy doing fun activities with girls in this age range.  (Can we take a moment to wipe away a small tear at the realization that my eldest child is turning eleven in a month?!  Jiminy...)

And then, two weeks later, Junebug is having a Kawaii party, which is just so freakishly fantastic that I break out into a goofy smile every time it crosses my mind.  (For those of you not in the know, Kawaii is that over-the-top cutesy Japanese "look"--like Hello Kitty.)  I could have a lot of fun with that theme, the trick is knowing where to say "no" to the ideas.

So, it was nice knowing y'all, but putting together two birthday parties and also putting my house back together after being gone for five months means I'm going to spend a lot more time curled up on the floor crying and rocking myself.  If I didn't love how these parties turn out in the end, I'd run away from these ideas, screaming.  But, thankfully for my kids, I'm a little birthday party-obsessed and will probably always embrace this descent into madness.

However, the descent into madness usually involves a fervent desire to vent, so you might just hear from me a little more over the next six weeks...

And then we'll get to go through the fun of getting ready for Penguin's overdue baptism in April, followed a week later by Monkeyboy's birthday party.

Party hard or go home.

*For the record, I did intend to throw both Penguin and Monkeyboy some awesome parties in 2013, but I blew out my back at Junebug's birthday party, and spent most of the rest of that year flat on my back while it healed.  Hard to do anything, let alone throw parties, in that state.  I plan to make it up to them this year.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014

I've spent a few minutes scrolling through my blog posts from the past year, and it honestly does not feel like those things happened.  I mean, two and a half weeks ago I flew home from Australia.  We lived in Australia for five months, but now we're back in our home and it feels like it was a movie I watched...there's no way something like that actually took place.  I never thought I'd live somewhere like that, and now I can say that I have.  It's surreal.

2014 was...busy, challenging, and overwhelming.  After 2013's back injury, I threw myself into 2014 with passion, only to feel like I couldn't quite get ahead, ever.  Michael traveled a lot, and it was very difficult to homeschool, keep the house in order, or move ahead on anything while he was away.

I let the girls sign up for sports, which took up a lot of time.  It's insane to shuttle the kids around for that stuff, but at year's end I'm so glad we did it.  Penguin loved soccer and gymnastics and is eagerly awaiting getting back into both, and Bluebird went out for fastpitch, which I was really nervous about, given that she's wary of new things and hadn't shown any inclination towards the sport ever before, but she blossomed over the course of the season.  I was so proud of her.  I hope she plays again this year.


I helped throw a baby shower for my dear friend, Rachel, and it was a smashing success.  That was one of my favorite things of this past year.  I love to throw a party, I loved the reason we were celebrating, and it was just so much fun to do something so elegant.  I love my kids' birthday parties, but grown-up stuff is just so much more appealing to a grown-up, you know?  That was a lot of fun.  I felt like I was able to expand into a lot of my potential with that event.  I always want to do nice things, but I'm limited most of the time, so it was nice to do an "all-out" thing that turned out so well.

I also made a work of art in 2014, the Storybook Hexagon Quilt.  I'm still fairly new to the quilting scene, so it was scary to give myself over to my heart's desire to create something I was sure would be incredibly beyond my fledgling abilities, but that quilt turned out spectacularly.  I don't think I mentioned it on the blog, but I made the quilt for Rachel's baby girl, who arrived in June.

When I found out that Rachel was pregnant, I was overjoyed for her, but also knew I needed to respect her personal space and not be all like, "LET'S TALK ABOUT THE BAY-BEEEEEE!" all the time.  I was going to channel my enthusiasm into a simple little quilt that would allow me to flex my FMQ skills, but I happened to see those ridiculously cute fairy tale prints, and they just seemed so perfect for a child of Rachel's because Rachel likes Japanese things and she practically has a Master's in Literature...and that's when the vision happened.

It was such a huge undertaking for me, but I had to do it.  HAD TO.  Any time I felt like making up an excuse to knock on her door and harass her, I'd spend some time with the Storybook Hexagon Quilt first.  (I think my actions helped preserve our friendship, because, oh boy, did I want to stalk her and her growing belly.  I was just so stinkin' happy for her!)

Rachel was absolutely shocked when I gave her the quilt because I had led her to believe I was making it for one of my own girls.  While I was in Australia, she wrote me letters and included pictures of her growing baby girl, always laying atop the quilt.  Such a feel good project, even many months afterwards.

The girls and I were cast in our stake's musical, which was very exciting.  But then we learned that we would be moving to Australia, and that our departure date was smack-dab in the middle of the musical's run, so we had to resign.  (It later turned out that we left an entire month later than our original plans, but I'm so glad we weren't in the musical during that time with all the preparations we had to make!)


And then it was all about Australia.  Oh, the packing.  The securing of services to keep our home functioning and our pets alive during our absence.  The stress of visas, passports, and plane tickets.  We did manage some time at Disneyland, which was a great day.


And then we did it--we moved to Australia.




And it was harder than I ever believed it could possibly be.  I mean, it's a first-world country and they spoke English, how hard could it be?  It was beautiful, there were lots of neat things to see and experience, we had great neighbors and a great ward...but it was hard.  Things were just different, all the time, and I had to constantly remain conscious of everything so that I could remember all the different things and not make mistakes.  It was exhausting, despite the general awesomeness of the things we were able to see.







Which led to the decision to put the girls into school while we were there.  I was just maxed-out with everything, and had to make some cuts.  It was a great decision, and we enjoyed our time with their adorable little school.  I wish I could find a school like that here where we live in the States.


And then it's all a blur.  The girls caught the bus at 6:45am and got home at 4:30pm.  I worked hard to keep our rental from getting dingy, ran errands with Monkeyboy, spent a ridiculous amount of time line-drying clothing, and did a lot of cooking because Australian take-out did not agree with us.

I managed to make some fair progress on two big projects, the Peacock Feathers Stole and the Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt, and knit up a pair of socks as well.




We had the missionaries over for Thanksgiving, and it did my heart good.  My goodness, it was a lot of work to make that meal, what with continually converting my American recipes into metric and Celsius, and trying to figure out substitutes for ingredients I could not find in Australia.  In the end, I figured it out, and we had a lovely meal with four very happy guys.  It was a great experience.



We visited the Australia Zoo.





We were able to observe a wild sea turtle lay her eggs.



And then it was time to go home.

Since we've been back, it's been a whirlwind of cleaning, unpacking, Christmas, and throwing a New Year's Day brunch.






A whole year in 1,136 words.  It seems like it should take more words than that, especially with the events that happened.

Regardless of what has happened over the course of a year, I think the most important question to ask myself at the end of it is, "Am I a better person now than I was at the beginning of the year?"  Because, really, that's all that matters in the end.  Did I progress?  Did I do anything to make this world better?

Yes.

I'm happier now.  Not because I can say that I lived in a foreign country, or because I've fed a kangaroo, or because I went to Disneyland.  I'm happier now because living in Australia opened my eyes to how unnecessarily busy I was with things that didn't even make me happy, and it also made me see how much my homemaking matters in regards to my family's happiness.  I've gone through experiences that will help me be kinder to others in difficult situations.  I've experienced what it feels like to really let myself go and do the best job I can do with something, and how great that feels afterwards, despite how much extra work it might have required.  I experienced the fun of working with a group and the end result actually turning out nicely.  I re-learned how much I love my home.  I re-learned how good my life is on a regular, ordinary day.

Big things happened in 2014.  2014 was busy.  2014 asked a lot of me--I had to sacrifice some things, and I had to learn to trust in my abilities a little more than I have for a very long time.  But each of those experiences ended positively, which makes me think that I've been hiding and protecting myself a little too much.  I'm looking forward to putting these realizations into play a little more in 2015.

Thank you for your kind words, whether you chose to send them through comments or emails.  I love hearing from each and every one of you, and it means a lot to me when you take time out of your busy lives to write a few words to me, whether you know me in real life or whether we've never had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face.  I wish you and your families a beautiful new year in 2015, and look forward to sharing more of my family and my experiences as the year unfolds.  Blessings to you all.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Home

My calendar has sent me numerous "write [insert topic here] blog post" reminders, and I've ignored every single one of them.

Because I'm home.

And I love being in my home, and I don't want to pop my little home bubble and deal with the outside world.


We've been home for a week and a half now, and it's just been so lovely...as long as you ignore all the cleaning, unpacking, switching out of summer clothes for winter clothes, decorating for Christmas, shopping for Christmas, and all the extras that come with the holiday season that are usually really nice, but kind of overwhelming when you've just arrived home after living abroad for five months.

There was nothing organized about this Christmas whatsoever, everything was last minute!  But we knew that would be the case when we signed up to return in mid-December, so I had a strict "no sighing" policy for myself in regards to how Christmas turned out this year.  And, in order to get any justifiable amount of work done around here, I delegated out a lot of tasks to my children, who were so incredibly happy to do their share if it meant being in charge of something to do with Christmas.  That meant less Christmas funnery for myself, but it was OK because the children really had a lot of fun with their responsibilities--I even let them decorate the tree by themselves!

I unpacked two boxes of Christmas decorations only--the tree decorations, and the box with some serving pieces and a few decorative items that I set up on the piano.  No greenery, no wall anythings.  It looks fine.

The house isn't as clean as I'd like it to be...but we still went caroling and had friends over for cocoa and cookies afterwards.  It was fine.

The presents were ordered the Friday before Christmas.  It was fine.

I planned our Christmas dinner a week beforehand.  It was fine.

Don't get me wrong, I will in no way alter how I like to do Christmas after this "simplified" experience, but it was good that it was still incredibly sufficient without all the little extras I prefer to have in abundance.  It's good to experience things differently every now and then.  I've had more time to just sit and do some of the "lazy" things--watching more movies with the family, sipping apple cider with the kids after they come in from playing in the snow, snuggling with Michael, petting the dog.  All good things.  There's been lots of good things this Christmas.





But the best thing is that we are home.  We can phone friends and family whenever we want, we're greeted by friends and neighbors when we go out, we sleep in our own beds, and we drive our own cars.  I even have a sewing machine downstairs, hiding somewhere amongst the wall of boxes that greets me when I enter my craft room.  Everything is familiar and comfortable.  I am so incredibly grateful for the experience of living in Australia these past months, because one of things the experience has taught me is how much I love my home.

Michael and I have made a home here; our own little place on our own little spit of dirt.  It's ours, and it is good.


Merry Christmas.  I hope this little note finds you warm and comfortable in your homes, wherever they may be found on the map.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

An Encounter with a Sea Turtle




We live down the way from one of the largest Loggerhead turtle rookeries in the world.  While researching the various things to do while we were in Australia, the Mon Repos Turtle Encounter quickly rose to the top of the list.  You get to actually observe, right up close, a sea turtle dig its egg nest, lay its eggs, and then return to sea.

We decided that the evening of the last day of school was a perfect time to schedule our tour--no need to worry about waking up early in the morning if the turtles didn't show up until after midnight.

No worries, a turtle showed up a mere thirty minutes after we arrived!

The kids were not big fans of the walk to the turtle's location--the beach is almost pitch dark (lights confuse the turtles), and we actually had to stop a few times to let more sea turtles cross the beach in front of us.  Then one of those sea turtles decided that she really wasn't in an egg-laying mood, so she turned around at the top of the beach and made her way back into the ocean.  It's pretty neat to watch the "dark rock" moving along in the darkness, but kids aren't the best at waiting for things to happen at a turtle's literal pace.  :)

Eventually we made it to "our" sea turtle, who was in the process of digging her nest hole.  That's kind of fun to watch because she uses her back legs to reeeeeeach down, scoop up sand, and then brings it up and flings it out to the side.  Then the egg laying happens and it's just really neat.  Once she's in her egg-laying trance, you can take pictures all you want...at least until another sea turtle pulls up beside your group and you can't have any lights on for fear of confusing that one as well.

Our turtle laid her eggs in a somewhat unsafe zone, so once she returned to the ocean, the park volunteers dug up the eggs (all 132 of them!) and asked us to help transport the eggs to a safer location.




I took two eggs to the new nest myself, but then spent the rest of the time sitting next to Michael on the beach because he was holding a sleeping Monkeyboy.  Oh, the stars...with no light around to diminish them, it was breathtaking--I saw clusters around Orion that I've never seen before.

While we were sitting, another sea turtle pulled its self up alongside us, about forty feet away, but then she spooked and high-tailed it back to the sea.  The park volunteers have to keep track of each turtle that visits the rookery, regardless of whether they lay eggs or not, so they had to run after it before it got back to the water, which is just hilarious when you think about it.  The turtles are so big and powerful that it takes two men pushing against them to make them stop long enough to do a tag check.  In the case of this fleeing turtle, only one guy caught up to it at first, and was rewarded with being pushed backwards towards the ocean until his mates caught up.  It was such a weird thing to witness!

On the way back we had to stop two more times to allow safe turtle crossings, and walked over quite a few turtle trails in the sand.  It's just so awesome to see all that!

We were prepared to spend hours upon hours at the rookery, but we pulled back into our driveway at 10pm, which is great when you have four young kids.  Had we decided to stay longer here in Australia, I was looking forward to going back to witness the little hatchlings make their way to the sea.

Each female will lay five batches of eggs over the course of eight weeks or so, with about 120-200 eggs in each batch.  The hatchlings emerge in 6-8 weeks, and it's estimated that 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood.  (Ouch.)  The temperature of the sand where the eggs are laid determines the gender of the hatchlings.  Warmer sand means more females, cooler sand gives you more males.

Our particular turtle was first tagged at Mon Repos in 2005, laid eggs at Mon Repos again in 2011, and this was her first nesting this year.

Way cool.  Best thirty bucks I've ever spent.