New Adventure

I’ve started a new blog. Don’t worry! I’m still blogging here! This will just be way more personal. My new blog is all about parenting and raising a family in Arizona. I’m still working out all the kinks and trying to get it just where I want it, but I’ve started and wouldn’t mind a few of my friends coming through and commenting while I get it going. It’s called “Hot But Happy: Adventures in Arizona” and can be found here: arizonamomof4.wordpress.com

 

Swimming School

If, like the Chocolate Phoenix family, you feel that you cannot afford swimming lessons…

And if, like the Chocolate Phoenix family, you find that you spend the majority of your summer in the pool…

(Because if, like the Chocolate Phoenix family, you live in Phoenix and it’s too hot to do anything except spend the majority of your summer in the pool…)

And if, like the Chocolate Phoenix family, you wish your children had just a little bit of independence so no one is hanging on your neck while you’re trying to keep yourself afloat…

Then you should follow the CHOCOLATE PHOENIX SCHOOL OF SWIMMING METHOD. It’s easy. I’ll share with you our secret to swimming. (Note: I know that this isn’t a real method. This is just what we did with our kids. It’s not something we even thought out. So don’t anyone actually try this and then blame me when it doesn’t work or your kid drowns. You know your kid. You do what will work for your kid! I take NO responsibility for anyone else.)

First, get your kids comfortable with the water by making them get in the pool just about every day, no matter what. Got a migraine? Take some Exceddrin and go anyway. Sunburned? Put on extra sunscreen, try to stay in the shade and go anyway. Just don’t feel like going? Too bad. Go anyway.

Our kids wear arm floaties or a life jacket so they are completely happy to swim and don’t have to just sit on the step or hang on to Mom or Dad.  We still stay near them and keep an eye on them, but having floaties or a life jacket really makes a difference and gives our kids a lot more freedom in the water. They learn to kick and paddle (you can only paddle with your arms with a life jacket, though). We teach them how to plug their nose and jump in. They like to put their face under water and wear goggles and “dive” (because of life jackets, we have to push them pretty hard) for toys. They learn to hold their breath and not be afraid of the water or of not being able to always have their feet touching the ground.

Then, when they have hit about age four or five, they need incentive. Last summer, Dallin wanted to jump off the diving board at a public pool. He wasn’t allowed to wear a life jacket for that, and we told him he had to be able to jump in the water and swim to the other side without a life jacket. Apparently that was all the incentive he needed. He took his life jacket off and just went for it. Within three days he was ready to jump off the diving board! Amazing! Before that, he literally sank like a rock. I honestly never thought he’d learn to swim on his own.

If you can’t find the right incentive, you bargain. With Parker this summer, we told him he could swim all he wanted with the life jacket, but he had to take it off and do some swimming for 5 minutes every single time we went to the pool. He was so scared he would cry and shake violently. He did this for weeks. However, he could actually swim for a few feet just fine. We had to convince him to keep doing it. We bargained for just five minutes. This past week, when he took the life jacket off, he no longer shook with fear. He whimpered a bit, but swam anyway. His death grip on my got a little looser. We bargained for longer and longer bits of time. Yesterday, we got him to take off the jacket and cheered him on as he swam further and further. Then I asked him if he wanted to jump into the pool and swim. We just wanted to see if he could do it. I don’t know where this sudden bravery came from, but Parker just climbed out of the pool, back up several feet, shouted, “Cannon ball!!!!” and jumped in the pool towards Ches. Then he popped up, and swam to his dad. It. Was. AMAZING. And he had so much fun doing it that he continued to do it! Over and over again! And he just kept swimming!!

Once you have your child okay with swimming small bits on their own, you go back to the pool. A lot. They have to remember that they can do this! So back to the pool we went today. Parker didn’t even want to take the life jacket as a “just in case”. He knew he could swim. And he does just fine. It’s awesome.

I knew Parker would be swimming on his own this summer. I honestly didn’t expect it to happen this soon! We’re all very excited for him. Now, if you’ll excuse me, the pool awaits…

Just Another Manic… Wednesday?

It feels like today should be Monday. My morning was that great.

I woke up at 4:30 am and my arm was completely asleep because Parker had crawled into our bed and curled up with me. I had no idea. I took him back to his bed and discovered a kind of ringing in my ear. I say it’s a ringing, because it has that same feel, but the sound isn’t a ringing sound. It’s more like white noise. Sometimes it sounds like radio static and sometimes it almost sounds like a slight buzzing of bugs and chirping crickets. It overwhelms me. It took me almost and hour to get back to sleep. It is now almost 2:30 in the afternoon and that ringing is still there. It’s driving me crazy!

My alarm went off at 7 am, but because I was so tired I hit snooze. At 7:10, I forgot the alarm had already gone off and I hit snooze again. At 7:20, I convinced myself to actually get up. I had to take a shower before the boys got up, and I usually wake them up at 7:30. By the time I got out of the shower and dressed myself, it was 7:45. Thankfully the boys got right up and ate breakfast quickly.

Because of Parker’s field trip, I had to make two extra lunches today. I was running around trying to get everything together and find water bottles, etc., and trying to convince the boys they don’t need me to do every little thing for them. They still haven’t figured that out. Grumble, growl.

We had our morning prayer at 8:25. I was driving to school this morning and planning on going straight to the zoo from there. We were supposed to meet Parker’s class at 9:30. I still hadn’t had breakfast, so I grabbed a banana. It took several minutes to get out the door, so we didn’t leave our house until 8:35. Not cool.  I picked up the carpool kids, and one of them mentioned that today is Picture Day.

I forgot.

My kids were dressed, but in just whatever t-shirts and I hadn’t even bothered with their hair! So we sped home and I ran inside the house. I grabbed the first “nice” shirts I could find that didn’t need ironing and a new pair of shorts for Dallin that would actually match, ran back to the van, threw the clothes at the boys, and said, “Change in the car!” Poor Rachel had to cover her eyes for the majority of the ride to school. At least Aiden and Dallin are decently dressed. I asked Aiden to go to the bathroom sometime this morning and run water through his hair with his fingers in the hopes of making it more presentable. Oh well. We just won’t buy those pictures, I suppose.

I dropped the kids off at school right after the first bell rang at 8:50. They ran in before they had to check in as tardy. Ugh. I’m pretty sure they all made it.

The road I normally drive up has a lot of construction, but there is another road that will go straight up to the 60, so I decided that would probably be quicker. I wasn’t sure we’d make it by 9:30, so this was my best shot. Until I discovered there was a major accident. Add the normal traffic congestion from the ASU students… and we were being diverted… back to the road with all the construction that I was hoping to avoid.

At 9:10, just as I was entering the 60, and right after I almost had an accident by cutting someone off that I just didn’t see (my bad!! I’m still so sorry!!), I called Parker’s preschool teacher to say we were running late and wouldn’t be meeting everyone else. Luckily for us, we were going to have to go through the normal Zoo entrance because I have a membership. Sigh.

We made it to the Zoo at 9:35. Not bad timing!!

The rest of the day went well. We had tons of fun at the Zoo. We saw giraffes, zebras, monkeys, a wallaby, flamingos, turtles, and elephants. We even got to pet sting rays at Sting Ray Bay. That was so fun!! Parker rode on the carousal twice and spent lots of time playing in the treehouse play area and at a rope web (he says he’s Spiderman). We both had a great time. And now… I need a nap.

Library Policy

I spent a good part of Saturday morning looking up books that I wanted to check out at the library, only to find most of them were checked out. So I placed them all on hold. Then Ches and I rounded up the kids and headed off to the library to just get whatever other books we could find (and return the ones that were due, of course). Two hours later, we returned home with our “book box” overflowing, as usual. Not even 10 minutes later, the library called to say one of the books I had placed on hold was now at the library and could be picked up within the next five days. Grrrrr. I wasn’t planning on going back to the library for a couple of weeks, actually. Luckily, my friend Kim spends a lot of time going by the library, so she took my library card and picked up the book for me last night.

Ches and I were gone last night (sold another item off Craigslist! YAY! So we were delivering it to a disabled guy that bought it) and I forgot to take my cell phone. Which is too bad because Kim needed my library pin number to check out the book. So she went to the front desk and said, “I can’t remember my pin number and I have been calling home to get it, but there’s no answer!” The librarian kindly said, “Oh, I can pull that up for you right here!” She wrote it down on a card for Kim (who was pretending to be me), and the book got checked out (yay! Now I get to finally read “Inkheart”!).

Then Kim said, “Oh, and you know what, my first name is spelled wrong in the system. Can we get that fixed?” You see, even though I had signed the card and filled out the forms correctly, someone had typed my name into the system as SHRIAH. It’s funny because whenever I get an automated call from the library they pronounce it just like that. It sounds like the first couple of years I was married and couldn’t say my whole name because my new last name starts with that “SH” sound. For some reason I always managed to say, “My name is Shariah Sh–” and sound completely drunk. Why is it that the good little Mormon girl is the one who always sounds drunk or looks high in pictures?? I’m NOT! Anyway…

So Kim points out to the librarian that the name should be spelled SARIAH instead of SHRIAH and the librarian says, “Oh, we can’t change that without picture ID. Sorry.”

So Kim and I spent a good portion of our walk last night laughing over the fact that the library has no problem just handing out pin numbers to people with library cards, but they can’t change the name in the system (even if it’s clearly written correctly on the back of the card) without picture ID. It’s really funny, although I can’t help but be a little worried about security there now.

Pool Stuff

Living in Arizona is great. It’s so beautiful and there are so many outdoorsy things to do. In the winter. Living in Arizona in the summer is hot and miserable. Some people handle it just fine, but I find it too harsh. There are a few things I can do to beat the heat. One thing is going swimming. I think that it’s pretty much a requirement to have a pool when you live in Arizona. If you don’t have a private pool, you either become really close with someone who has a pool, or you live in a community with a pool. Sometimes I realize just how blessed we are to live in the neighborhood we do. We have three community pools for our use. That’s right, I said three. One of the pools is just a few steps from home.

There are so many advantages to having a community pool rather than a private one. We don’t have to deal with maintenance. The HOA takes care of the repairs and hires the cleaning guys. I don’t have to do a thing. We don’t have to take up the majority of our yard with a pool. Now, in the house that we have, we don’t have room for a wading pool in our yard, but that’s neither here nor there. If we actually had a yard, I would want it for my kids to run around and kick balls and climb trees. I would want it for gardening (Ches wants a vegetable garden, I want a flower garden). I would want it for trees. And perhaps even a trampoline. Not a pool taking up all that space. With a community pool we don’t have to worry about what to do with the pool in the winter or how good of a fence we have around the pool. We don’t have to worry about my kid drowning in my backyard pool. We see news reports several times a week here during the summer about young children drowning in the family pool. It’s sad. It’s horrific. I don’t want to chance it.

As you can see, I love having a community pool that we can use any time (within the posted hours, of course). It’s especially nice when you’re poor like us and can’t afford to go on vacations and have nothing else to do all summer in this oppressive Arizona heat. It’s also great because we don’t even have the money to go to public pools. It’s a special treat to go somewhere else to swim. We love the pools we have, though. Who needs a water slide, dump buckets, lazy river, or whirlpool? (Okay, so we love that stuff. That’s part of the special treat, though!)

There are definite disadvantages to not having a private pool, however. Usually it doesn’t bother me at all. Today I was bothered.

I know it’s Memorial Day and so I knew it would be busy. We aren’t the only ones who enjoy swimming on Memorial Day. Not a big deal. I was pleasantly surprised to find several friends at the pool. Made it a lot more fun for the boys. I was not-so-pleasantly surprised to see some adults in the pool with an inflatable raft playing beer pong in one corner of the pool. Especially when the second rule posted for everyone to see is “No open alcohol within the pool gates”. Now, I’m not going to care that much if someone is drinking (Seriously, I get it. It’s Memorial Day and so you’re drinking beer and swimming and having a BBQ! That’s what people do!), but really? IN the pool? Whatever. They stayed in their corner and played their little game (for the entire hour and a half we were there. Hmmm. Not counting the time before we got there, not to mention that they were still playing when we left), but it was still bothersome to me that people would do that in a pool where a bunch of young kids were. They were completely blocking one of the two sets of stairs. Little kids are trying to get in and out of the pool! Gah. Oh well. They stayed to themselves and didn’t get obnoxious or anything, so we didn’t say anything to them. Just stewed to ourselves (and with our friends).

More people came to the pool. A lot of people came to the pool. Not a big deal. Except no one was using good manners. No one was watching. Kids of all ages and sizes would run and jump in the pool without watching where they were going and who was already in the pool. I was mainly worried about Parker, who only swims with floaties and doesn’t like his face in the water. Some kid jumped on Ches’ head. Their parents weren’t any better. Throwing balls and yelling and just not watching out. One young dad was only at the pool with his baby for about 10 minutes. He couldn’t do anything without some big kids jumping in and splashing the baby.

We left because we were not comfortable with the amount of people in the pool, with the amount of drinking that was going on, and with the lack of consideration for anyone else actually in the water. It just didn’t feel safe.

We’ll go back tomorrow and I’m sure there won’t even be half the amount of people there. We’ll get back to being able to play and feel safe and just have fun in the pool. And hey, if you’re ever bored, come on over. We love to swim with our friends!

Overwhelmed

In September I received an email from a girl at church saying there is a new choral organization here in the East Valley (called the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization) and they are holding auditions for the adult choir. It also mentioned an orchestra. My interest was suddenly peaked (we all know I don’t sing. I can’t sing. Well, I can. Everyone CAN sing. I just can’t sing well. So of course I was interested in the orchestra).

Not much earlier Ches and I had been discussing our finances and we were busy putting several of our items up for sale on Craigslist. I considered putting my flute up. I just don’t play anymore, I’m not teaching lessons, I let it sit and collect dust. I’m ashamed to say that after all the schooling and work I’ve put into it, this is what happened. I missed playing in a good ensemble. My best memories of university life was playing in the Symphonic Band at Ricks College. I’ve played in lots of other ensembles in high school, at Ricks, and at University of Idaho, but there was something special about Symphonic Band. Maybe it was having Bro. Nielson for a director. Maybe it was rehearsing and performing in the Barrus Concert Hall. Maybe it was opening every rehearsal and performance with a prayer. Whatever it was, I haven’t had that experience anywhere else, at any other time.

So I was missing playing and considering giving up my flute entirely, when I got this email. I decided to give it a shot, and I emailed the organization for information about orchestral auditions. I immediately received an answer… auditions were in two days. TWO DAYS. I spent the next two days madly practicing a couple of pieces and some scales and just praying that I wouldn’t embarrass myself. I figured I had a slim chance of making this orchestra, but you know the saying: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I was so nervous, but the directors, brothers Brett and Brandon Stewart, were friendly and made me feel comfortable. I played, they listened, we talked for a couple of minutes about the pieces and if I knew any other instrumentalists (they were quite excited to hear about my trumpet player husband, but since Ches’ high school concert was scheduled for the same night at this concert, he didn’t audition). They told me I played beautifully, and I was really pleased with the audition.

Because it’s a new organization, it took them a while to find instrumentalists to audition and fill the sections of the orchestra. The first week of November I got the email: I was accepted into the orchestra! I went to my first rehearsal the next week, and found I was playing third flute and piccolo. (I have since passed the picc parts to the other flutists and hope to be able to play them for the next concert. Piccolo and I have a stormy relationship right now). It is a full symphony orchestra. We accompany five choirs (one adult, the rest children’s and youth choirs of differing ages). It is a major thing!

Our concert is this Thursday. We had a major rehearsal this past Saturday. As I play in this orchestra and listen to the different choirs sing, I am overwhelmed. It’s a good feeling, though. I am just amazed at the talent of the people sitting around me. I am amazed at the beauty of this music. I don’t know if I’ll make it through this concert without tears because of all that I feel when I hear this music. It is so awesome to be a part of something so big and beautiful. The other thing I have noticed is how much this reminds me of being at Ricks. I know that this music can be played by any great musicians and it will be beautiful. But it won’t have the same feeling. When we play and the choirs sing, I know the Spirit of the Lord is with us. I can feel it in the depths of my soul. This is no ordinary symphony. These are no ordinary choirs.

I wish that I could have each of you come to my concert. We are performing music that is all about the true meaning of Christmas… we are telling the story of the wondrous birth of our Saviour. I cannot properly put words to my feelings about this. It is all feeling. I want you all there so you can feel what I feel.

I am so blessed to be a part of this organization. There are many times where I feel inadequate as a musician, a mother, a wife or just as a person. I never measure up to what I should be. But when I am sitting in this orchestra, I feel strong. I feel full. I know that I may not be as talented as I wish I was, but I do have talent, and God gave it to me. I am blessed to be able to use that talent in His glory, in His name. It is truly overwhelming to be surrounded by this music and feel His love for me in the midst of playing.

I don’t often get “religious” when I’m talking or writing, but I do not apologize for doing so now. This has been an amazing, overwhelming, spiritual time for me, and I just want to share it with you, my friends.

Mmmmm, Bacon

The weather here has cooled off enough that we are able to go to the park after school again. It’s nice. (And let me just mention that it was suggested a few weeks ago that we start up “park days” after school again because the temperature would only be 97. Yeah.) The park is practically across the street from our house, and it’s where the bus stop is, so while Aiden does not ride the bus anymore, we meet at the park after school and play with kids who do ride the bus. Everyone gets all their wiggles out by running and screaming for a couple of hours, then it’s dinner time, homework time, then bedtime. I love it.

There are a lot of boys in the neighborhood, which is nice for my three boys. Not to say that there aren’t any girls. There are. I’m just not as aware because my boys pretty much only play with other boys (except for Ellie. All three of the boys love Ellie. Parker loves her the most, however, and calls her “My Ellie, My Friend Ellie” so much that whenever we see her Aiden or Dallin now say “Look Parker, there’s Your Friend Ellie!”). Boys, I am noticing, are extremely loud and overly active. They make weird sounds for everything and just can’t stop moving. I can’t get them to sit still for 2 seconds and take a drink of water. They bounce on the bench and look all around while taking a drink before they toss the water bottle to me and run off again. The boys chase each other with invisible guns and swords and yell at the top of their lungs. I’ve learned to tune most of it out as I would rather listen to something one of the moms is telling me rather than screaming from my son that the droids are attacking. The droids (or the clones) are always attacking.

One day last week I noticed that a girl was chasing Aiden. I didn’t think much of it, as she has two older brothers and she is in Aiden’s school and Primary classes. She can hold her own with boys, and she and Aiden see each other a lot so they seem friendly. Then I realized this girl was chasing Aiden, yelling, “Bacon!!!” over and over again. Turns out the girls in Aiden’s 2nd grade class like to chase the boys around during recess and call them bacon.

I had a great time teasing Aiden that the girls like him because everybody loves bacon and obviously she likes Aiden if she is going to call him bacon and chase him until she gets her bacon. Aiden didn’t find it as amusing as I did. I can’t wait ’til he’s in high school and I can really tease him about girls. Heh. (I’m such a good mom. So nice.)