Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's a bird...It's a's

a hat?

No it's SUPERMAN. And BATMAN. And ROBIN. Wait...its the comic book lovers dream theme park. Disneyland is to Mickey Mouse as Six Flags is to Superman. So in Ryan world it is also the happiest place on earth.

Nope not Ryan. It's Lish today. I wanted you to all know that today (the 29th) is Ryan's birthday! He is currently asleep in Trent's car driving home to Trent's house after a long day of fun and queasiness at Six Flags, topped off by a delicious burger animal style and a boat load of fries at In-N-Out.
He did send me a few texts through out the day. Some with pics. These came after a conversation that went a little like this.
RY: It's hot! I slathered on the sunscreen, but I can already tell I am going to fry!
ME: Buy a hat.
RY: Oh yea. Duh.
ME: Get a Superman one.

I think he did a good job choosing.
Another favorite convo today went like this.
RY: This place is awesome. I love you so much! Thank you again.
ME: I am glad you are having fun. Happy Birthday baby!
RY: Tell Luke I just saw ROBIN! (he is Luke's fav by the way)
Did I mention that I sent him to Cali to spend his birthday with his brothers and dad for his gift this year? It originally started out as "hey would you like to go to Disneyland for free on your birthday? I will buy you a ticket and you can go see Trent." But Trent being who he is responded with "We may as well make it worth the effort and go somewhere that has fun rides. Lets do Six Flags."
Nick and Adam and Dad all decided to join him too. Only Adam stayed home to watch the birth of child number two instead.
Here is another fav.
RY: I have time to talk. Dad and I are taking a break while Nick and Trent ride a ride.
ME: Oh yeah? Did you yak?
RY: Almost. Mostly I am just tired. Dad is too.

And the most recent text went something like this.
RY: Now I know why I love ketchup. Check out the corner of this pic.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cast away

Hey. This is Ryan. Emma got her cast yesterday and the only thing that really redeemed the doctor was that it is bright pink.

Apparently, after another round of x-rays, the doctor had to re-set the bone so that it would heal correctly. Not good. There was a lot of tears and fortunately I wasn't there to see them. Lish and I prefer the divide and conquer approach when it comes to doctor's appointments, Wal-Mart trips, baths, church ... In fact, this is our formation on the pew at church:

The X's represent children and the O's represent parents. (Notice Clark is strategically place on a parent's lap, usually Lisha's, and away from Tyrannosaurus Emma to avoid unecessary screaming.)

We arrived from Target just in time to see the aftermath of The Trauma, Part II. Poor little Emma was not in a good mood and I considered giving her the prescription of Baby Vicadin. She settled for Children's Tylenol and realized that the cast was actually a good thing, blocking any unwanted poking from her siblings. It's just hard for her to move the arm up and down.

Another bit of good news is that she will only have the cast on for four weeks. Medicine has come a long way since we were kids and this was the benefit.

Although another painful crying fit while trying to bathe her happened today, she quickly recovered and bounded off to play with friends.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Break

Hey. This is Ryan. If the summer keeps goin' the way it's goin', all four of my kids will have had some sort of tragic accident.

Little Emma fell off of the trampoline last night and broke her arm. It was very traumatic.

I was working on folding and putting away the three-day, six-foot pile of laundry when I heard another scream from the backyard, "I BROKE MY ARM!"

Because I know my kids inherited the drama queen gene (from their mother, I'm sure of it!), I sauntered over to the back door when Ally the Narrator sprinted in. "DAD, EMMA REALLY BROKE HER ARM. SHE REALLY DID AND IT'S REAL THIS TIME!" As if there had been fake times when Emma broke her arm. (She's our first kid to break a bone, believe it or not.)

Because 300 of the neighbor kids were in our backyard, too, there was a unified chorus of street urchins to verify The Narrator's report. I scanned the crowd and saw Emma still yelling and crying. As she walked toward me, I instantly knew it was broken as well. She looked like she had a teen-sized bicep and she flapped her limp right arm up and down with the left hand as she wailed, "I don't want a broken arm! See, it's broken! It's BROKEN!"

The Narrator stepped up and admitted through tears, "I didn't mean to push her off!" This led to me to shove her through the door and yell, "YOU PUSHED HER OFF THE TRAMP?! GET IN YOUR ROOM AND I'LL DEAL WITH YOU LATER."

I had other things to deal with, mainly all the kids were in their swimsuits because we had put the sprinkler under the tramp. I was undressing Emma as two of our neighbors dropped by to help me. They are wonderful, but my feelings of inadequacy resurfaced when they asked what they could do. I mumbled, "Um, can you take Ally and Luke?" since Clark was with Lisha at Enrichment Night. The one neighbor said, "No problem" and the other neighbor was talking on her cell phone to her mother, an EMT. She offered advice and I ignored her. I know she meant well, but besides my TV medical experience (which I've already talked about), all my First Aid Merit Badge skills rushed back to my mind.

Then, remembering Lisha, I dialed her number. "Yes?" she answered.

"Um, we have to go to the hospital. Emma broke her arm."


"Really, really," I replied. That was the conversation. You gotta love a husband and wife's ESP after nine years of marriage. Unfortunately, this was the first activity she was in charge of since being put in as Relief Society 2nd Counselor. She was going to have to delegate. I hung up and focused back to getting Emma's arm through the pink shirt I had found for her.

Because the 300 neighborhood kids had 300 big mouths, word spread across the block like wildfire. Pretty soon our yard was full of gawkers and random people shouting suggestions like, "Don't move her arm!" and "Wiggle her fingers!" I waved to them like some kind of actor on a stage, trying to dismiss the crowd, but no one moved. It was then I noticed Emma's face had gone ashen white. She was going into shock. I wrapped her in her blanket and left through the crowd.

A quick stop to pick up Lisha and we were on our way. Emma was whimpering pretty good now so Lish stroked her hair in an effort to calm her down. We arrived at the emergency room and prepared to wait. Our friend, Edwin, is a doctor there, but he was at a family reunion. From hanging out with him, we knew this ER was a good one as far as wait time went, so I knew it wouldn't be too long. It was instantaneous. A nurse came out and took Emma and me into a side room to do vitals, etc., while Lish filled out the paperwork.

X-rays, pain meds, IV's - all this was a blur because Emma was mostly interested in watching "Phineas and Ferb" on Disney Channel (we'd gotten rid of satellite to discourage couch-potatoism during the summer and to alleviate one more monthly bill).

They ended up knocking her out while they set the bone and applied the splint. That was probably the hardest thing to watch. She just drifted asleep, midsentence. Then, she moaned a little when they set the bone and moved her arm. That was hard, too, knowing she could feel the pain on some level though unconscious.

The best part for Emma - besides "Phineas and Ferb" - was the free teddy bear provided with her health care. She was very brave and we are very proud of her. She got home around 10:30 p.m. and fell right asleep.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. As a result from our investigation as to how the accident really happened - Emma wasn't pushed. All of the kids collaborated the same story as this: Emma slipped on the slick tramp mat, fell and hit her arm on the bar and fell off. That's the story and they're sticking to it. I apologized to Ally and told her she was off the hook.

So, will we get rid of the trampoline now? No. Accidents happen. If anything, this served as a proper warning to the rest of the neighborhood kids. It was pretty traumatic just to witness it. When asked last night if they wanted to jump on the trampoline, our twin neighbor boys just shook their heads and buried their faces into their mother's lap.

What's your worst trampoline story? Reeeaaaddyyyy .... POST!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

If ye do what I say, ye shall get Dollar Tree

Hey. This is Ryan. Let's be honest. Church for parents with young children can be, to the say the least, a less-than-spiritual experience. We're busy trying to "teach" the children to be reverent when, in fact, we're probably more disruptive by hissing directives throughout the entire hour-long service. Case in point, Luke likes to be selective with the bread in the sacrament tray. That means he touches every piece of bread until he finds the biggest one. This led me to quietly whisper, "Luke! They are all Jesus' body, so just pick one and eat it!"

That did not compute in his four-year-old brain. "Jesus' body? Gross!" he must have thought because he promptly stuck his tongue out complete with chewed bread and plopped the remains on the pew. That did not fly with me as I had personally vaccumed the chapel, pews and all, the day before. It put me in a pretty foul mood.

But, despite the mood, something happened that Sunday that hadn't happened for almost nine years - I felt the Spirit at church. And it happened in Young Men's class, no less. I am blessed to be a part of a young men's organization with awesome boys and even better leaders. My presidency consists of great men who know the meaning of service. To put it plainly, we care about the boys' spiritual, mental and physical growth. Here's the epiphany, though. As the Young Men's secretary gave his lesson, I glanced around at the boys. They were participating, listening and actually learning stuff about the Gospel. What he was teaching was this - that if God is our Father in Heaven, then it's not far off to imagine that he would want the same things that our fathers here on Earth would want from us: obedience.

I thought about my role as a father. What makes me the happiest with my kids? When they do something without me asking. What prompted that thought was that Ally and Luke had done something completely out of character earlier that week: they had performed some small task without being asked to do it. Luke had taken out all the trashes and Ally had straightened up her room without being prompted by Lish or me. It had made us feel so good about our children. We wanted to reward them somehow. I personally wanted to shower them with candy and dimes (a hot commodity at our house). Instead we went to Dollar Tree where they got to pick out one item.

That's where the epiphany and parallel to our Heavenly Father came from. Do you think if we do something good in life without thoughts of being rewarded that He is as happy as I was? I like to think He is. I hope I do good things without thinking, "Man, You better be watching and taking notes!" It kind of defeats the purpose.

So, that was my epiphany. I shared it with the boys in class and they all seemed to agree. At least, I think the blank stares and strained head bobs meant they agreed. Or they were just tolerating my ramblings. Anyway, what's your take on my epiphany? Had an epiphany of your own whilst at church despite fighting a dirty hand picking for the biggest pieces of sacrament? Comment away, friends!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beware of Tyrannosaurus Emma

Hey. This is Ryan. I'll never forget sitting in terror with Dee and Dallas Wilkins as we watched a Tyrannosaurus rex menace stranded islanders in "Jurassic Park." If there was one survival skill I learned (if I happened upon the King of Dinosaurs on my mission in Brazil two weeks later) was that if I remained still and quiet, it wouldn't attack. That, apparently, is a natural instinct that comes with birth as witnessed last week with Clark.

Our T rex goes by the name of Emma. Just as T rexes were ferocious mothers, Emma is one ferocious mother as well. She tends to over-mother, causing animals and babies to cower in fear. Do you remember cartoon, "Tiny Toon Adventures"? Do you remember Elmyra - the little girl that would never leave animals alone and "loved" them to death? That's our Emma.

For example, we decided it would be a good idea to get a couple of kittens when we lived in Lamar a few years back. They were really cute. We named them Fergie and Shakira. The kids were pretty good with them, except Emma. The problem is that she wants kittens and puppies and babies and whatever else to remain in the spot she puts them. She would constantly put Shakira and Fergie in their "Kitten House," which they would instantly leave. She would follow them and put them back in. It was no surprise to us when they had run away after we left them in the care of a neighbor while we vacationed in Idaho. For some reason, I've always pictured Shakira whispering to Fergie, "Now's our chance! Let's get out of here!" and bolting through the gate for the Emma-free plains of Colorado and Kansas.

This is what is happening with Clark now. She wants this newly mobile baby to stay on the spot she designates as his habitat. Clark just wants to get away. I can't tell you how many times Lisha and I have explained/yelled/chastised her for not being "soft" with Clark. It has happened so much now that she is grounded from carrying Clark.

Clark, however, is probably the smartest baby on Earth. Or maybe he's just made cautionary adaptations from being dropped, poked, hit, screamed at or generally bugged by three older siblings. When we went to Yellowstone last week, we had gone into the wilderness at the edge of the Old Faithful parking lot to eat our picnic lunch. As we made our sandwiches and doled out the rest of the food to the other nine children, we sat Clark up on the blanket and gave him some snacks, too.

Emma, seeing he was alone, pounced like a lioness and began to do her usual yelling/cooing to get his attention and make him smile. That was when I saw Clark use his camouflage skills. His back went rigid and his stare went blank as she yelled in his ear. He completely froze and stared forward, not daring to move or make a sound. The adults noticed this and started murmuring to each other.

It was like they taught us in "Jurassic Park": when approached by a dangerous animal, freeze and play dead. Emma, confused by his non-reaction, yelled her "hey, babys" and "boos" even louder to elicit some response. None. Clark was a baby statue. Finally, in her frustration, this T rex reached out, grabbed her prey by the cheeks and forced him to look at her. He squealed in protest and we had to chase her away.

Clark has since used this tactic with the rest of the kids and me, too. He goes into Baby Statue mode whenever he wants to stay safe from tickling hands or the ever-present facial tissue.

How about you? Ever notice your kids do some natural survival tactic in order to live one more day amongst pesky siblings?

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Hey. This is Ryan. I'm blogging this now because I don't want to lose a single detail from what just happened.

I was in FarmTown when my quiet afternoon was shattered with, "I'M GONNA DIE!" It came from the backyard, where the kids were romping around in the sprinklers, and it came from Luke.

I figured he must have been stung by a bee, but I still jumped up and ran to the kitchen door in time to see Luke sprint to the gate. "Dad, I ... I ...," he stammered. He wasn't making enough conversational progress so Ally the Narrator jumped in. "Lukey is choking on a lemon thingy! He was just sucking it and BAM! Crying." So sensitive.

Lukey grabbed his throat and screamed, "I'M CHOKING! I'M CHOKING! I'M DYING!"

I tried to make sense of what was happening - very quickly, I might add - and realized it had to be the lemon disc candy I had given the children not three minutes before. I had even smiled to myself because I had actually said "yes" to something. I was a Good Dad today!

Well, that three-minute sense of dadphoria quickly evaporated as I watched my boy clutch his neck. You see, in this family, (and by this family, I mean Lisha's family, of which I am now a part and thus subject to its history and legends) there is a legend sung around the campfire and whenever an occasion presents peanut-sized anything. Once upon a time, Lisha's little sister, Samantha, had eaten a peanut M&M. Instead of swallowing it, she inhaled it. Inhaled it right into her lungs. (That's called aspiration, by the way.) She was just an infant, so whenever the devil candy shows up, all the Smith Sisters grab their infants and run in an effort to protect that from ever happening again. Now that legend was all too real. Luke was living it due to the lemon disc lodged in his throat.

In my mind, just one scenario was taking place right in front of me. He was aspirating the candy. My mind jumped to rushing to the ER, getting him dressed, getting me dressed (I'm still wearing my swimsuit and tanktop from swimming earlier today), calling the neighbors to take care of the girls and Clark, wondering if I'll make it in time, etc. These thoughts sped through my brain in a matter of seconds. That's when all my training as a faithful viewer of ER, House and Scrubs paid off. I could do this. I could get that disc out!

I did what any good parent does when their kid is choking: I pounded the heck out of his back. When that didn't work, I shoved my finger as far down his throat as I could get it. He started gagging and a little bile came out. Not good enough. I shoved my whole hand into his mouth this time, wiggling my fingers as to tickle his thrower-upper thingy in his throat. (Sorry, my TV medical training didn't come with anatomy vocabulary. The only medical vocab I know is "stat" and "CBC.")

He gagged again. He was sobbing by now, convinced he was in the throes of death. "Is it out?" I shouted.

"No," he cried, grabbing his throat. "It's still in there! Get it, Dad! Get it!"

Did I mention Ally was right next to me, offering her medical advice in her Chipmunk-On-Helium voice? It was mostly, "Can you touch it? It's a lemon thingy, Daddy. A le-mon thing-y! It's. In. His. Throat!" Like her sounding it out made it any clearer of what was in there. It wasn't a bike tire, for crying out loud. And I knew it was in his throat. Duh.

"Hey, Nurse Ally," I snarled. "Get outta here!" She ran a full two feet and observed from there.

The situation played out like this for a terrifying two minutes - me shoving a finger down his throat and Lukey puking a little liquid at a time. I slammed him in the back again and glanced up to see a crowd of neighbors gathering at the edge of the drive. "It's OK!" I lied as I half-smiled. "He's OK! We're handling it!"

I waved them away and turned back to Luke. I put my finger as far down his throat as I dared so as not to lodge the candy any further. I held my finger there until I felt the warm puke surround my hand. I pulled my hand away and he vomited in the gravel driveway. We looked down to examine what had just come out. There, amongst the cheese slices that once adorned his sandwich at lunch, was a lemon disk - broken in four wedges. The cheese saved the day.

In my TV medical opinion, the size of the cheese and velocity of the vomit forced the lemon candy up and out.

Luke was fine. He took three big swallows from the hose and then rinsed off his puke-covered upper body. I went into the kitchen sink to rinse of my finger- which still faintly smells like kid barf. I held him and rocked him until he calmed down. The poor little guy!

He's now actually napping at my feet as I type this. The trauma must have tuckered the little guy out. At least now we have a new chapter to add to the scary campfire tale.

Lukey sleeps on the floor next to Dad after his scary ordeal with the lemon disc candy.

Post Script: This is Lisha and I want to formally apologize for the picture of puke on my blog. I am really sorry you had to see that. I guess it could be a lot worse right?


Hey. This is Ryan. I was thinking about this post all last weekend due to the fact that Clark's poop seems to have lost the cute, new baby butter smell. Yup, this post is all about poop.

As I mopped up Clark's back and front ... again ... of his toxic yellow excrement, I noticed I do something only a parent would do. I inspect his poop. You've heard of C.S.I. - Crime Scene Investigators? Well, I'm a C.P.I. That's right, I'm a Certified Poop Investigator.

How do you become a C.P.I., you may ask? It helps if you are a parent. We parents tend to be immune to the many fluids that come out of our children. From barf to blood, we tend to ignore the ghastly and get right down to business. Like the other day, Luke got one of his monster nose bleeds. As children screamed and pointed, I calmly walked over and commanded his nose to stop bleeding. That's how it works. Parents command the respect of all bodily fluids. But my business is poop. And, thanks to Clark, corn and other assorted baby laxatives, business is good.

Here's the process: First, start breathing through your mouth. Ignore the runny nose and try to think happy-smell thoughts, like roses, Hawaii, fresh baked bread. Wait. Scratch the last one. It may deter you from ever going to a Great Harvest Bakery again. Think, instead, of fresh rain. Yeah. Fresh rain will work.

Now, open up the package. Think of it like a Christmas present. A Christmas present from the Grinch. Try to get excited to discover what's inside. Just don't shake it to get a clue of the contents. Never, ever shake a baby. They say it will cause brain damage to the kid, but I'd like to think it's because that is one soda you don't want exploding all over your face.

Next, examine contents carefully. I find myself imagining I'm on a really stinky scavenger hunt or a detective on C.S.I. I delicately sift through the diaper and try to pinpoint meals we had previously like, "Oh, there's the watermelon we had for lunch," "Heeeey, there's them peas" or "So that's what happened to that penny."

Finally, wrap the gift up again so that your garbage technician can enjoy, just as you have. In this case, it's OK to regift. After all, poop is the gift that keeps on giving ... and giving ... and giving ... and giving.

Now congratulate yourself. You've dissected another diaper and successfully completed your training as a C.P.I. If your kid is anything like my kid, you'll never run out of chances to prove yourself a worthy investigator. It's a stinky job, but someone's got to do it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ally and Joshua (and Third-Wheel Luke), sittin' in a tree ...

Hey. This is Ryan. I just wanted to share what was in my inbox yesterday. Ever since Lisha was pregnant with Ally, I've subscribed to They send you e-mail updates of the normal phases of where your child should be developmentally. Here's what it said about Ally: "Many 8-year-olds love to talk. Consider this evidence of their rapidly developing brain. You get a window into what they're thinking about, and they gain the benefits of a language workout. Sometimes you might wish for a little quiet – but the typically taciturn teen years will come all too soon. Meantime, appreciate this verbal agility for the sign of advancement that it is."

Well, duh.

But, here's the real story for today.

We had a great extended weekend at Yellowstone National Park last week. Lisha's college roommate/best friend, Mary Anne, along with her family were passing through on their way home to Fort Collins, Colo., and decided to swing through Idaho Falls to "do something." We were excited they decided to extend the mileage of their trip because they are so great and we love them like family. Together, Lish and Mary came up with the idea to go to Yellowstone, which is about three hours away. We love that area and wanted to go camping. Lisha's other best friend, Jen, with whom she grew up and was roommates with as well, lives in town, too. They all wanted to do something together. But Jen and her husband own a cabin near Yellowstone, so of course, Jen offered the cabin.

Are you still with me?

Let me tell you about Jen and Edwin. They are the nicest, most humble, most down-to-Earth people you will ever meet. Lisha grew up with her as they lived just down the road and attended the same church and everything. They were very close all growing up. Upon graduating from Poky High School, they decided to room together at Ricks College. That's where they met Mary Anne. They became even closer and have remained that way throughout the years.

I met Jen and Edwin when we were married. I instantly liked/respected Edwin. He is one of the most spiritual and grounded people I have ever met. He's also a doctor. When I met them, we were all in college and poor. We had babies close to the same time, too. Joshua was born two months before Ally. It was fun for us to compare their progress. Except they could not have been more opposite. While Ally was a petite, dainty little girl, Joshua was a monster baby - all fat rolls and chub. He was so cute. And huge. We used to put them together and giggle at the baby versions of Jabba the Hutt and Princess Leia. (Well, I did because I'm a 16-year-old in my brain. But, seriously, this baby was enormous!)

When we moved back to Idaho Falls, we reacquainted ourselves with Jen and Edwin and their family. Our families had both grown - we have four kids and they have five - but our friendship has never been better. Joshua still is big (tall, in the 97th percentile) while Ally is still petite (in the seventh percentile for height).

We couldn't have had a better time with our three families. None of our kids fought (that's huge!) and we gave into the kids' begging and switched kids and cars while we drove through the park without too much of an incident. We took Joshua, who took a seat in the back of our van next to Ally, while Luke stayed in the middle bench by Clark. They marvelled at bison, elk, a coyote and bald eagles next to our car and anxiously scanned the forest and plains for a glimpse of an elusive grizzly bear. (We never saw one, but it was fun just to look.)

When the animals were scarce, the two eight-year-olds chatted it up in the alleged privacy of the back seat as Luke tried to contribute his four-year-old views on life as well. While Lish grabbed a quick nap next to me, I decided to try and hear what these two were talking about. I have to admit, I got a little sad while I listened to them. They were having an actual conversation. I don't know what I expected to hear. I mean, they've outgrown any discussion of the latest Elmo's World episode and, "What's-your-favorite-color-I-like-cheese" talk. But, their conversation was so, I don't know, grown up. Well, grown-up kid talk. It mostly consisted of Joshua telling Ally and Luke how good he is at everything. (That made me laugh. Especially when he told them his basketball skills were equal to a young Kobe Bryant.) But what really made me laugh was when I really focused on what they were saying whilst looking in the rearview mirror to capture all the nonverbal cues, as well. Here's the conversation as I started to listen in:

"Come on," Ally pleaded as Joshua smiled shyly. "Just tell me the name of your girlfriend!"

"Noooo," he answered, suddenly scanning the forest edge for anything to distract Ally from her question. "I don't really want to. It's private."

"You can tell me," she continued. "I won't tell your mom. I promise."

"Dude. Dude. Dude," Luke interrupted. (Yes, my son says "dude." Just like his dad.) "Tell me, OK? I won't tell Ally." Luke looks up to Joshua and it's a major competition between him and Ally to whom will dominate Joshua's time and attention.

"Turn around, Luke!" I yelled, worried I would put a halt to the conversation because I was just as interested to hear as the other two.

Josh turned away again, but smiled as his face went red. In an effort to appease the two Hansen reporters, he said and grinned, "OK, OK. I'll tell you the first letter." Then he blushed even more.

This seemed to satisfy Luke and Ally because they started bouncing up and down, waiting to hear the letter of the mystery girl. I was interested, too. "It's 'A,'" he said and went a shade of red I bet even Crayola had never heard of. He started studying his hands.

Silence. Awkward silence. Ally's face flushed to the exact same color. Luke looked confused and wondered what could possibly start with "A" other than "apple" and "alligator."

Ally said what I was thinking while I discovered my heart had to be racing just as fast as her heart. But the look on her face was priceless. She got this serious look on her face and her voice dropped as she said, "I think I know who it is!"

I couldn't hold it in any longer. I started chuckling watching this third-grade soap opera in the back of a Grand Caravan. I also got butterflies just as I imagine Ally had, too. It was the cutest thing to witness.

Josh must have gotten nervous because then he blurted out, "The next letter is 'M!'"

Ally's expression went from lovestruck to dumbstruck and then, in a wild attempt to figure out her rival, started guessing names that could possibly belong to his "girlfriend." "Amber. It's Amber? Amber, right? Wait. Kamber. Is it Kamber? Do you know a Kamber? Who's Kamber?"
"I said it started with an 'A,'" Josh teased, now fully aware he was in control of the situation once again.

Joshua led her on a little more and I turned my attention back to the road. I woke Lish up to tell her what had just happened, but she mumbled something and tipped her head back to sleep.

And that was it. Dramatic scene played out. The rest of the weekend, the two played so well together. They played card games, rode bikes together and fished together. Joshua was always extra sweet to Ally - teaching her to cast a fishing line or (this was scary) how to turn on and drive a four wheeler. (We caught them before they actually shifted into gear!) We four parents would just sit back at certain moments and watch the sweetness play out. I know! They are only eight years old, but it was still so cute!

The final thing that sealed the deal and, in our minds, set the betrothal, was when we went to an ice cream parlor in West Yellowstone. We decided that we would all pair up and share ice cream sundaes. Instantly, Josh and Ally grabbed each other to buddy up and share. They sat together, alone in a booth, and shared their sundaes. I caught Jen and Edwin watching the two kids with stars in their eyes and remarking how cute they were together. Lish and I then looked over to see Ally and Joshua talking and sharing and eating ice cream, which led to our own, "Ooooh, so cute!"

So, I don't know. It's the first time I've seen Ally in "friend love." Yes, once again ... I know she's only eight. But if you would have seen it, you would have been as gaga as we were. It made me wonder if I treat my wife like that anymore. I mean, do you remember the first weeks, months, whatever when you and your true love were just gaga over each other? We've been married nine wonderful years. But nine years and life tends to de-gaga you.

I think of our conversations back then - dreams, hopes, "you're so awesome and cute and fun." I remember looking in Lisha's eyes and thinking, "Dang, I can see eternity. And eternity is fine!" Do we still have that? I look into Lisha's eyes now and think, "Which kid will die if I don't intervene?" Our conversations now consist of, "Whose turn is it to clean the barf out of the carpet?" and "So-and-so called and if we don't pay such-and-such bill, it will go to collections."

I say it's time to go into crush mode again. Tonight I have an opportunity to go to the new Harry Potter film with my amazing wife. Here's my goal: I will NOT talk about puke, poop, bills and daily minutia that would make teenagers roll their eyes and escape into iPodLand. I will, however, go back to the "Dang, girl, you so hot" and "Let's talk about our hopes and dreams."

Ally and Josh taught me a great lesson last weekend. Don't let life suck away the eight-year-old puppy love from your relationship. Or else life will just suck.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ally, the Narrator of Everything

Ally's self-portrait or What Happens When I leave the Camera in the Car

Hey. This is Ryan. My life comes with a soundtrack. And that soundtrack is narration by our oldest daughter, Ally.

Now before all you holier-than-thou parents start commenting about how I need to love my kids' quirks before they grow into teenagers and ignore you, let me tell you this: I teach high school. I know what my kids will turn into. I can't wait to be ignored. Plus, you don't have every single happening of the day dictated back to you like a pint-size stenographer. The kid does not stop talking. In fact, the teachers at school have a special, made-up condition specifically formulated for this kid's problem: talky. I'm pretty sure that's not a word. But, there is nothing better to describe Ally. She is "talky."

Ally's been talking since she was about 11 months old. That is not an exaggeration. She has been formulating sentences since then. It used to be a cute parlor trick. Like a monkey doing what the ringmaster wills it to. But now, the monkey has turned into a gorilla with a mouth, lung capacity and vocabulary the size of New Hampshire.

An average day begins like this:

7 a.m.: Door opens. Ally sticks her head in. "I'm up. Just thought you'd like to know." We didn't. Lish and I roll over and try to go back to sleep. (It is summer, after all, and my professional right to sleep in!)

7:04 a.m.: Door opens again. "I peed. It's yellow."

7:04:45 a.m.: Door opens. "I think I'll read in bed. Today I'll be reading my fairy books. You think that's good, Dad? I need to get them back to the library because they're due soon. Don't forget about Patrick's birthday party today, Dad. We still need to get him a present. Do you think he likes Pokémon? Maybe that's a good idea. Or a coloring book! We got that for him last year, but he seemed to really like that. Oh! I know! A Pokémon coloring book. Yeah, that's just about perfect. Right, Dad? OK, I'm going to read now. I won't wake Emma up. I think she peed her bed. It stinks pretty bad but I'll be OK. I'm going up in my bunk now. Dad? Dad? Did you hear me? I'm leaving."

"Yes, Ally! Go back to bed!"

7:06 a.m.: (Calls from her room) "I'm on Chapter 4 now! Whew! I'm just reading away! Can you believe how much I'm reading? It's sure a lot. Don't you think, Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? I'm talking to you. Hey, Mom?"

This goes on. All. Day. Long. Lisha doesn't get the full force of her talkiness either, by the way, due to the fact that Ally is in school for most of the day normally. She gets a break. The summer, however, is a whole other story. One that Ally is happy to tell you for four hours.

Not only does she narrate the day's goings-on, but she talks for Emma, too. This really irritates Lisha because she knows firsthand about being the "shunned" second-born. Emma has gotten used to not saying what she feels because for the six years of existence, she's never really been allowed to divulge her inner-most thoughts. That's Ally's job. Here's a sample conversation:

"Emma, how was Church today? What did you guys talk about in class?"

"She learned about reverence," Ally says before Emma can process the question.

"How would you know? You weren't there."

"Because I know her. That's what she learned." (She actually learned about "God Made the Animals," but changed her answer to "Reverence" so as not to rock the boat. It's a tactic that all three younger siblings have learned - even Clark, who can't talk yet. When we ask him in our baby talk, "How is da baby? How is da Baby Clawk?" Ally will say, "He's good." Clark just nods in agreement because he knows.)

We've tried to teach her about filtering what she says. In fact, at dinner yesterday Lisha taught her about "thinking about what you're going to say and then asking yourself, 'Will Daddy get upset if I say that?'"

That little piece of advice came from Saturday's explosion in Target. Granted it was the Fourth of July and she was excited. This exacerbates the problem and sends the talkiness to Warp 5. Not only does she jabber constantly, her voice rises and the speed increases as well. Like a squirrel that just sucked helium.

She had been talking all day nonstop about fireworks, getting Fourth of July earrings at the $1 Spot at Target, sparklers, butterflies, Ice Age 3, Alvin and the Chipmunks ("The Squeak"uel), the Jonas Brothers, what the Jonas Brothers might be singing tonight at Stadium Fire, I wish we were going to the Stadium of Fire, Brittany (her cousin) is so lucky, dancing at the Stadium of Fire, what time we need to get ready to go to the waterfront to see the fireworks, the neon glow-in-the-dark necklaces we got at the dollar store for the fireworks ... and on and on and on and on.

I couldn't take it anymore. In the seclusion of the young men's clothing aisle, I grabbed her cheeks and growled, "If you don't stop talking, I will rip your mouth off." That is not physically possible. Don't judge me. I would never do anything like that, but it had been going on for weeks. She even talks in her sleep! Well, she shrank back and Lisha pulled me aside and said, "Really? Rip her mouth off? Couldn't there be a better way to have handled that?"

"Yeah, there might have possibly been a better way I could have told her I was going to rip her mouth off, but I can't take it any more!" I whined.

Meanwhile, Ally was crying and holding her hands to her mouth. I felt horrible. I hugged her and told her I was sorry and that I wasn't going to rip her mouth off. "I just need a break from the talking," I said.

Lish told me to go to the Electronics Department to cool off. (She knows me way too well because while looking at Charlie's Angels Season 2 DVDs, I got a grip on myself.)

The thing is, just telling her what was bugging me seemed to do the trick. She wasn't as talky the rest of the day. I know one day I'm going to beg her to talk with me. I really do. I just need to know how to deal with it today. One thing that has really suppressed my anger is blogging. I tend to see how funny something is now rather than get emotional in the moment. Maybe that's why I needed to blog. I needed to cleanse my emotional outbreaks before they could happen.

Ally and I are getting better. She is a wonderful helper to me and always willing to do what I need around the house. She is very obedient. The problem is that we are way too similar. Once I realize that, I can learn to deal with her like I always wanted my parents to deal with me - I just wanted someone to see and hear me and acknowledge I was there. (I also sympathize with my dad now, too. Sheesh. What a saint!)

I hope this post won't cause someone to report me for mouth-ripping-off. A relationship with your kids takes patience and time and this time, I lost my patience. I'm learning from that and learning to accept my daughter for the wonderful little person she is. Now, let's hope she will accept me for all my faults, now and in the future.

Clark is 10 months old!

Hey. This is Ryan. I had to share this pic because it's way too cute. (And brought to us by our 9-year-old niece, Grace.) I believe that you're never too young to start taking photos. I often give our camera, under supervision of course, to our young friends and kids to try their hands at photography. But, on to the point ...

Clark is 10 months old and despite the fact that we have four kids and they drive me up the wall, I'm starting to wonder if we should have another one. I miss that new baby smell ... and not the butter poop smell, the other smell. He's crawling and pulling himself up onto things. Where does the time go? Pretty soon he'll be talking back like all my other kids. Boo hoo.

Bad Dad in the House

Hey. This is Ryan. It's been a while and as one of our friends pointed out, my farm in Farm Town looks good so I'm obviously online. Why haven't I posted? Because I'm tired as of late and it doesn't take brain cells to plant digital grapes and harvest fake potatoes at 11 p.m. That's why.

Well, I'm posting now, so here's the deal:

Apparently I'm a good dad now. That is, according to Luke's philosophy on life. You see, the other day I was walking through the front room, doing a different kind of harvest - half-peed underpants, Crocs and soggy swimsuits. Those things tend to crop up whenever I cave to their pleadings of setting up the Slip 'n' Slide in the backyard. I can usually follow the trail 20 minutes later to the front room where they sit with their naked butts on the couch, draped in damp towels and watching Backyardigans for the 3,000th time.

As I gathered my next laundry load, Luke asked if he could have a Popsicle. I have given up on telling them "no" all day long, so I mumbled, "Sure," and went back to picking up pee pants.

"Yay," he cried as he raced for the freezer. He stopped to give me a hug and with a grateful look said, "You're a Good Dad now."

"Oh?" I replied. "I wasn't a Good Dad yesterday?"

"No," he said. "You were a Bad Dad yesterday."

I thought about all I had done that day in comparison with the day before to earn the new title of "Good Dad." Did it come with a medal or a trophy? That would be cool.

"Why am I Good Dad today and not yesterday?" I asked.

"Because you didn't say 'no' to me." And he bounded off to get his grape Otter Pop.

So that's all it takes. Good to know. I might say "yes" more often. But only if I get that medal.

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