Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer 2009

I am heartbroken. I took lots of pictures throughout the first part of the summer (see "older posts"), but then when I flew to Utah for my grandmother's funeral last month, I arrived back home without my camera. Documentation of Lucy's birthday (including the most awesome homemade pirate ship cake you have ever seen!!) plus so many other summer scenes.... all lost. And then I haven't had time to buy a new camera yet. So... from the last day of school last year to the first day of school this year (yesterday), you will have to use your imagination to fill in the visuals. Here are some written highlights of Summer 2009 (in no particular order):

1. Day trips without a newborn! Toddlers are tricky, but any time I hear a newborn scream that baby-goat cry and the mother has to screech to a halt to nurse or swaddle or otherwise mimic a womb, I am grateful to be 17 months past the "Child Production" finish line. Day trips were so much better this summer than last! Amusement parks, museums, etc... it's all getting easier and easier.

2. Camping at Kirby Cove. If I were more patient I would browse the web to post a picture of this place. Imagine a forest in the mountains, huge redwood trees and gorgeous greenery. You pitch your tent on the crest of a hill overlooking.... the ocean! And then you hike down the hill, turn a corner, and discover that you are literally at the base of the Golden Gate bridge. Rope swings hang from trees that swing out to the ocean. Seals' faces bob up to look at you from the waves. In the pitch black of night, you see Peter Pan's ship float through the sky, since you can't see where the ocean stops and the sky begins. I took the three girls to this enchanted spot along with a few other families from our ward, and I can't wait to go back next year. Stone is invited when he stops stepping off of cliffs and eating rocks.

3. Sisters Retreat in Utah! I left all four kiddos with Erik for four days in June, and met my three sisters and my mom in Salt Lake for the closeness and hilarity that only happens with family. (Rachel, it is mandatory that you attend next time!) Pedicures and makeovers, long walks, left-handed bowling and arm-wrestling, making homemade cleaning supplies and scrap books, late night grocery store trips, and the familiar comfort of cooking together in Mom and Dad's kitchen, and sitting at that same kitchen table and having Dad call on someone to say the prayer. So much love.

4. Lucy's birthday! I threw that six-year-old one heck of a pirate party, and as I said, I am just sick that there is no record of it. The costumes, the treasure hunt at "CariBUBBean Park," the pinata, the chocolate cake in the shape of a pirate ship, the crafts, the THIRTY six-year-old guests, and just her huge smiles throughout the day. It was a wonderful birthday.

5. An all-day, adults-only cruise around the Bay with most of our best friends. We were all giddy, it was so fun to be out on the water without our kids! An amazing spread of food, games, talking, hiking on Angel Island (and the most amazing views of the city and islands)... it was magical. Thank you, Chris and Wendy!

6. Family trip to Colorado! We found a great deal on airfare to Denver, and decided to take the kids to visit their adopted cousins, the Stouts. We go waaaaayyyy back with Zach and Kristy.... Zach was one of my first friends at BYU (we hung out with the same friends until I started dating Erik and Zach started dating Kristy), and then Zach and Erik served in the same mission in Argentina. Then they were our first "couples" friends when we were engaged and then married.... and finally, they were our best friends here in Northern California until they broke our hearts and moved to Colorado a couple of years ago. Kristy and I have taken turns being pregnant through the years, and our complete gaggle of children include ages 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2, and 1. We made it through the week without a rental car, filling both their cars to capacity with children, and eliciting stares (of admiration? horror? hard to tell...) wherever we went, especially when it was just Kristy and I. We did soooo many fun things:

Boulder Reservoir (Lindsay and Kaylee took a swim test and swam all around in the deep part of the reservoir! And the kids built sand castles, forts and mermaid tails for hours and hours. Stone ate his weight of sand.)

Denver Natural History Museum. So many fun memories for me! And Sophie was particularly enchanted by a bird that looked just like "Kevin" on the movie "Up." A week later I couldn't remember the name of that bird (I had only read it a couple of times on the plaque), and Sophie said, "do you mean the double-waddled cassawary?" Which it was.

Water World!! We left the five little ones with two babysitters, and took the four big girls to Water World, America's largest water park. It was sunny, it was rainy, it was warm, it was freezing, the rides were fun, the rides were scary, and it was overall a wonderful day.

The Bay (another water park), the fitness center pool, and the neighborhood pool. These kids got plenty of water time and exercise!

Kristy and I ran together most mornings. Such great conversation. So much in common. Such amazing empathy and support. Zach and Erik worked side by side in the basement office.

The kids ran around their big, gorgeous house together, and usually didn't want to be interrupted to do anything else. They built a school, countless forts, polly pocket worlds and rock and crystal stores. The Stout kids were remarkably generous and patient as they had their home turf invaded - the sharing and the kindness (and the personality matches!) were incredible.

There was also something so special about being near the Rocky Mountains. My parents don't live in Colorado anymore, but that thin, dry air, the blue spruces and aspen trees, the summer afternoon lightning storms all mean "home" to me. We took the girls for a walk in Boulder Canyon and they were in awe of those gorgeous rock formations. It's Lindsay's birth place, so she feels a connection there too.

7. A visit from Erik's aunt Franceskay and her 6-year-old daughter, Holland. What a special weekend! We packed in a ton - the San Jose Children's Museum, park play time, a Thai dinner out, cruising downtown mountain view and listening to a band of ancient chinese instruments, ice cream cones, the Palo Alto Farmers' Market, and late night talks. Erik was out of town while they visited, so it was a girls' weekend extravaganza, and so much fun!

8. Visits from Grammy and Grandpa to and from their trip to Armenia and Iran (thank goodness they're safe!), and seeing the movie "Up," one of my favorite movies ever, with Erik and his dad.

9. Being with my mom and the rest of my family last month. Even though the reason for the reunion was sad (the passing of my mom's mom), it was a beautiful feeling to all be together, our appreciation for life and each other heightened by the awareness of our mortality. I really, really, really love my family.

10. The best part of the summer for us: Watching the kids' relationships deepen. We stayed busy and had a lot of time with friends and family, but we had enough down-time at home that the children really turned to each other as play mates. Lindsay and Lucy run around holding hands now, and often fall asleep cuddling in one bed (though their beds are right next to each other, it's not close enough). And Sophie is maturing to the point that when Lindsay is gone, she can hang with Lucy as almost an equal. Little Stone is the light of our lives, and will catch up as a play mate soon. This year is going to be so wonderful! What a blessed summer.

Pictures coming next time!

Last Day of School, June '09

Lindsay and Lucy both hopped into the minivan on the last day of school last June... and burst into tears. They had such a wonderful 2nd grade and Kindergarten year. This is Lucy with her beloved Maestra Ramirez.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Spotlight on Stone

Stone gets to visit Church Nursery almost every week, since Erik is on baby duty every week while I play the piano for the older kids' singing time. So he takes Stone into Sophie's class, where at least Stone has toys to play with. Today, Erik had to teach the men's group while I played the piano, and the Nursery leaders said Stone could just stay in there with the older kids. When we came back to get him, the teachers said he was more comfortable and engaged than many of the older children... so much so that the teachers had him participate in all the activities, and only remembered that he was still a baby when it was coloring time, and instead of drawing a picture, he started eating the crayons. Atta boy!

He is growing up though, and life is just getting sweeter and easier as he starts to sign and talk. Favorite words: Mama, Dada, Diddin (Lindsay), Bue (book) Wa-wah (water), Bah (bottle), Bapth (bath), Ba-hoom (Bathroom, which he says whenever he sees a bathroom or hears someone say the word), Dah (dog, which he adores more than almost anything else in life), Ha ha! (whenever we do the "that's funny" ha-ha, Stone parrots it. Which means we do it over and over again, just to hear his cute little voice.) We love this boy!!

This boy requires full-time, hands-on attention every moment he is awake. He is climbing (stairs, playground equipment, stools, tables), running (toward streets or bodies of water), eating (sometimes food, but just as often, rocks, dirt and sand, and almost a snail today until I shrieked and intervened), kissing (any other baby), hugging (kids and dogs) and exploring every minute. In this picture he is running between rows of blackberry bushes on our berry-picking adventure with friends.

Capitola Beach

Beach day with the Furrs, McDonalds and Andersons. He was mesmerized by the waves (but luckily didn't want to go in them).

Water Baby

Stone started saying "wah-weh" (water) a few weeks ago, and both says and signs "bath" all the time. He loves water! Pools, baths, fountains, puddles, fresh water, salt water, stagnant water. He loves to drink it, to bathe in it, to splash in it.

Written in Stone

Since Lindsay was a baby, people have always commented about Lindsay's, and then Lucy's, and then Sophie's ability to sit still and focus on books. We had wondered if a boy would be different (everyone said he would be), but it appears that a Y chromosome and the love of literature are not mutually exclusive. (At least not in a McPhie-Allebest family, where the males and females alike have printed words flowing in our veins in place of blood!) We are delighted to see our little buddy run to the bookshelf many times every day, sometimes bringing us stacks of books and backing up onto our laps (one time, Erik was standing by the couch, and Stone pushed Erik down onto the couch, then climbed up onto his lap with a book) or simply sitting in the middle of a pile of books, looking at the pictures and turning the pages himself. He loves all of us to read to him, and we all eat it up, since it's the only time he'll sit still to snuggle.

Lindsay and Lucy will have the important role of being the oldest cousins to a throng of worshipful younger cousins. Sophie has one cousin her age, whom she adores. But Stone has lucked out! Not only does he have two girl cousins within a year of him, he also has two boy cousins who not only sandwich him in age, but also live 5 minutes away. Scott and Rachel's boys, Tyler and Cameron, have always been Lindsay, Lucy and Sophie's little angels, and now they are becoming Stone's best friends. The Sunday this picture was taken, they showed up at our house unannounced, coincidentally wearing the exact same outfits! Great minds dress alike.

We love that he does things just to be funny now. He puts on our glasses, then looks at us for our reaction. He thinks pulling on things is hilarious (like shoelaces, hair, dangly earrings). He, for some reason we can't figure out, cannot stop laughing when we wiggle our feet at him. Especially my pink-painted toenails.

Playing hide and seek in the pan cupboard

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday Picnic at the Oakland Temple

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As I sometimes do when Erik is out of town, I over-planned to avoid disaster and ended up having a much more productive, patient, super-fun four days than I would have in our normal routine. My fears of a long, stir-crazy Sunday led me to pack a magnificent picnic (cream cheese, tomato and cucumber sandwiches highly recommended), load up my lovies in the mini-van, and drive 45 minutes to the Oakland Temple to spend the afternoon walking around the grounds and the visitors' center. The adventure when I almost ran out of gas on the freeway, then coasted to a stop at a gas station in the heart of gang-banger Oakland (the girls in the car saying "we're praying that we'll be safe, Mommy!") only intensified the joy of arriving at that castle-like white building atop a luciously green hill, looking out over the entire bay. It was a clear, perfect day and the kids were overjoyed to run around among the flowers and visit their home temple for the first time.

We loved envisioning the kids' weddings here - the most important part in Sophie's mind being the dress, veil, shoes, flowers and earrings, of course (which supercede even the groom).
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The kids loved imagining what their grandpa must have looked like as he walked in those doors as a 19-year-old, living in the Bay area and preparing to go on his mission.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009


Some gems from the past couple of weeks:

Lucy had endured a long carpool afternoon in the car, and had needed to use the restroom for hours. She was close to an accident, so I asked her if she would make it. Her reply: "Don't worry. My bladder just grabbed my pee pee by its pants and yanked it back inside. Now it's sitting on the couch watching t.v., just waiting to come out."

Sophie (with fists clenched, leg stomping): "WHY AM I NOT AN ADULT YET???"

Also from Sophie: "I want lucy's tea set so bad, when I look at it my eyes glow."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Heart of Stone

A person as fond of puns as I am should never be allowed to name a child "stone." It will never end, in case you're wondering.

Our sweet little boy is officially a toddler! He's been walking for two weeks, and is much faster, funnier, and more dangerous now. Formerly quite safe on the stairs, he is now trying everything big-kid style, and wants to try an upright descent instead of backwards on his tummy. He loves the slide at the park, and is starting to communicate via signs and words.

Stoney's words: His own language, which includes a lot of sounds like "ushe" and "she-she." Or maybe he's trying to say "jie-jie," as in "sister" in Mandarin. That would be appropriate.

His English words are: Dada, Mama, Dog (always followed by woof! woof!), No, Ai-Oo (thank you), and two-syllable sounds that sound like "Ih-Ee" for both Lindsay and Lucy.

Las Vegas

I have the most amazing sisters. In the Fall, my sister Courtney flew out to babysit our girls while Erik and I escaped for a long weekend to Yosemite (which will be documented in retroactive posts). In April, my sister Lindsay did the same thing. Is there a greater gift? Nay, there cannot be. Picture, if you will, our house full of an 8-year-old, a 5-year-old, two 3-year-olds, a 1-year-old, and a 6-month old. And one adult. They barely fit in the mini-van, and as we left, we were only mostly sure that no one had the stomach flu (they were okay while we were gone, but we sent Lindsay and her kids home with the vomits as a party favor).

Our trip was all about filling the bucket back up, after a long time draining. We checked into the Bellagio at noon, I walked into our room, dropped my suitcase, kicked off my shoes, and climbed into bed and slept for 3 hours. And thus began four delicious days of rejuvenation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Erik shooting hoops with Shaquille O'Neal (on Madame Trousead's basketball court).
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We saw dolphins! These two were a mother and a baby boy, who copied her every move, turning when she turned, surfacing when she surfaced, squeaking when she squeaked. I teased Erik that Stone was going to be similarly Mama-whipped - that he will only want to read and write and play the piano and won't have any interest in sports. He didn't think it was funny. (Aren't those dolphins amazing?? I had never seen one so close.)
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Am I the only one who screeches to a halt when I pass a fancy bakery, spends 10 minutes admiring the gorgeous desserts, imagines every nuance of flavor in every single concoction, and never, ever orders one? This one was a long time coming. And oh my, it was worth every one of the 20 minutes I took deciding (and the 2,000 calories).
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Touring the hotels was like walking through a 3-D travel scrapbook. "Remember Venice?" I swooned as we strolled through the Venetian. We sat by the faux Trevi fountain at Ceasar's Palace, rode a roller coaster atop New York, New York, frollicked through Thai-style jungly gardens at Mandalay Bay. All fake and gimmicky, in the middle of the Nevada desert, but even that was sentimental as I remembered the first time I ever drove down the strip: 19 years old, in the back seat of Erik's parents' mini van as we drove through from Southern California to Provo, Utah, to take Erik to the MTC for his mission.
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Of all the culinary wizardry on the Las Vegas strip, we were most excited about Bobby Flay's Mesa Restaurant. Hopes were high, after years of late-night food-lust watching Iron Chef America. The lunch menu did not disappoint, and was quite affordable.
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mandalay Bay Pool


Three things I love: My new swimsuit (I have not loved a swimsuit this much since my red one from 2nd grade. I found at least 4 I loved from, but this was my favorite), my Contemporary American Short Story text book (nestled under a beach towel, not pictured), which I sank into for hours and hours each lazy afternoon, and the Mandalay Bay pool. Noelle, you were right about the lazy river!
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Sophie sings her favorite song

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


This photo is perfect because it shows me getting eaten alive by my child. I am both in pain from his sharp teeth and fingernails and in rapture from the love. My face is both beautifully smiling and grotesquely grimacing. You can see my wrinkles. I am embracing the great joy of my life - my baby, right outside the door on Stanford campus where I am currently taking a Lit class that makes me want to go back to school. My last baby is weaned, and I vascillate frequently and dramatically between giddiness (from the freedom of never gestating, birthing or nursing a baby again) and grief (from the sorrow of never gestating, birthing or nursing a baby again). My body has done its sacred work and it's over now. I am sleeping through the night again, running early in the morning with friends, volunteering at the kids' school, going out to my class and girls' nights and dates with Erik in the evenings... I am as happy as I have ever been. And yet I ache every day and have to fight the urge to sit Stone down when he tries to walk. I can't wait for him to be old enough that we can all go on all the rides at Disneyland, but I still cry every time I think about him not nursing any more. Why is it so complicated to be a woman?
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Lindsay, Age 8

I was spraying sunblock onto the kids last week when Lindsay ran in, announcing, "Mom, you've got to stop using spray cans! They contribute to global warming." Lindsay is eight years old, and ready to take on all the world's issues. I literally can not keep up with her appetite for books - she brings novels home from the library and reads through bus rides, meals and play time until she finishes them the same day. It's darling to hear her occasionally pronounce words wrong that she knows in print, but has never heard used (she said someone was a "lunatic," for example, emphasis on the "a") or use old-fashioned grammar if she's been reading Dickens or Twain or something. The only thing that can get Lindsay's nose out of a book is riding her bike or scooter or playing with friends. Or practicing the piano! She started studying at Christie Peery Skousen's academy a few months ago, and told me that "Aura Lee" is the most beautiful melody she's ever heard. She loves to play it, and my heart bursts when I hear her using expressive dynamics or figuring out music by ear.
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Lucy, Age 5

Last night we were talking about what our body is made of (skin, bones, muscle, etc.), and Lucy knew all sorts of amazing facts. Then she quizzed us "and what is each ear made of?" "What?" we asked. "Half a falafel!! Hahahahaha!!" And off she ran. This is classic Lucy - she'll be wearing a beautiful dress with jewelry and flowers in her hair ("Is it okay if I'm more like Glinda than Elphaba?" she asked me once), and if you say "you look gorgeous" she'll reward you with a weird facial contortion and a burst of jibberish. She loves to make people laugh (especially her little brother, who laughs harder with Lucy than with anyone else). Lucy also loves climbing on every conceivable surface, and her jaw dropped in delight when I told her that some people love Gymnastics so much (and work so hard at it) that they start to go to more than one class per week. She tells me she doesn't want to do ballet (despite her dancer's body and crazy-flexible feet), but she can rock out to ABBA's "Man After Midnight" like you've never seen. Lucy loves money (she'll do any chore for a quarter), she does an incredible British accent, she gives tight, heartfelt hugs, and writes love notes to all of us almost every day.
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Sophie, Age 3

I just started reading the book "The Spirited Child" and wondered who gave the author permission to write Sophie's biography. It describes "spirited children" as "normal... but more." I was just reading Sophie's journal, remembering that as an infant she would laugh and cry hysterically with no warning and for no understandable reason. Then at 1 year old she used to study my mouth as I talked, craving expression and acquiring signs and words as fast as we could feed them to her. One day at 22 months old, she took my face in her little hands and said: "I want to be an astronomer and look at stars with a telescope." She still laughs hysterically, she still throws tantrums your nervous system will never forget, and she still frequently takes my face in her hands and articulates the yearnings of her soul. Also, she loves ABBA music, mermaids, and nachos, and today she said "I don't like flip flops because they give my foot a wedgie."
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Stone, Age 1

Stone is a toothy, laughy stair-climber who has discovered how to throw balls and ride our bathroom scale like it's a rodeo bull. He also loves pushing around his favorite red plastic car and sneaking into bathrooms to splash in the toilet water. Discovering how excited we get when he imitates us, he has mastered "bye-bye" waving, kissing, talking on the phone ("Uh?" he intones, like "hello?"), and all the actions of patty-cake (though only sometimes in the right order). He has taken 5 steps several times each day this week, and my favorite development happened tonight: Lindsay had gotten hurt and was crying hard, and Stoney speed-crawled up to her, pulled himself up on her leg and reached up for her to hold him. She picked him up and he planted an unsolicited open-mouth "Mmmaaaaa" kiss on her cheek and laid his head down on her shoulder.

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This year Erik and I celebrate 14 years of in-loveness, 10 years of marriage, 8 years as parents, and 1 year of parenting our complete family. Stone is weaned, sleeping throught the night, and starting to walk, and a new phase of life is beginning. We are no longer bearing children - just raising them. The next 20 years are going to be awesome!
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Our old car. Hilarious!
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