Monday, October 24, 2016

A Perfect Afternoon

Oh, these glorious October days!  How I love them!  Recently we had our second annual fall poetry reading.  It was absolute heaven.  We sat outside under the ash tree with a bowl of popcorn and read poems about fall.  When we were done, we stayed out and played in the leaves for a couple of hours.  It was just magical.

I took a ton of pictures.  You're welcome, Mom!

Here we go outside to get started...

The kids are so excited to play!

Roo settles into the leaves...

...and starts writing in her nature journal (another marvelous product from Jenny Phillips!)


And poems!

Here is Peanut reciting her caterpillar poem she memorized.

Happy Frog...

Gotta rake up a big leaf pile..

Rolling around in crunchy leaves is so fun...

Elf hair...

The light just kept getting more and more golden.  So I had to keep snapping pictures.

Frog wanted to rake the leaves off the tree.

Oh, my wonderful Frog!

"October's bright blue weather..."

Yes, I was enjoying myself!  I even had my autumn leaf shirt on.

It was just a perfect afternoon.

Twenty Three Months

Oh, the twins!

So, back when Bean was a baby I read a lot of parenting books.  One of them said you should really make an effort to never put a negative label on your kids.  Never call them mean names, you know?  I read that and I thought "of course I will never do that!!!"  And for the most part, I haven't.  However, I may or may not occasionally refer to the twins as "the monsters."  And maybe, just maybe I have called them "the evil twins" once or twice.

I'm just trying to keep it real.  Please don't judge.

They are into EVERYTHING.  Constantly!  While I am cleaning up one mess they are making another.  They bite each other and spit out their half-chewed food and empty the garbage.  I am pretty used to toddlers by now, but they have taken things to a whole new level.  Sometimes I don't handle it very well.

They are also the cutest things I have ever seen in my life.

They are snuggly and giggly and loving and lovable.  And we adore them.  Of course.  When those little arms wrap around your neck all is forgiven.

Some more recent pictures... Here, Twig has rounded up all the toy horses she can find and has carried them back to a remote corner to play with them.

Along comes Leaf with a piece of chocolate zucchini cake.

I wish I could figure out who cut Twig's bangs.  No one will confess.  It might have been Twig herself.  Yikes!  It does make it easier to tell them apart though.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Perfect for Peanut

I got an email from the Good and the Beautiful curriculum last week.  In it they announced that they had just released a Pre-K book.  I was so excited!  Just what Peanut needs!  I ordered it on the spot and it shipped to me super quick.

Peanut was so excited to have her very own Good and the Beautiful book just like her sisters.  She begged me to get started on it right then.  So we did.

And I love this book!  It is darling!  The cute pictures make the activities so engaging.  I was using Sandi Queen's Language Lessons for Little Ones to help Peanut learn her letters.  I love the fine art and poetry in that book and it is certainly easy to use, but in terms of Peanut learning her letters it just wasn't enough.  This new Good and the Beautiful book is just what we needed.

The more I use Jenny Phillips's curriculum, the more I love it.  I am so grateful that she had the vision and inspiration to create such a valuable resource for homeschoolers.

Here is Peanut working on the letter clouds activity.  Frog is helping her out.  They are loving it and so am I.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Putting Down Roots

When we first arrived here in Kansas I felt so painfully uprooted.  I knew I would need time to recover.  I have always tried to bloom where I'm planted, but one has to recover from transplant shock before one can bloom. 

I remember the first time we moved to Kansas, back in 2008.  I really liked it here then.  It reminded me so much of Minnesota,  where I grew up, only not so cold in the winter (and that was a good thing!)  At that time,  I thought we would be here permanently and I dove into making it home.  I did my best to bloom, I found lots of wonderful people and places and opportunities for my kids, and I was happy.  After only being here 19 months, the Badger suddenly lost his job and we moved back to Utah.  I was fine with that because Utah is where my family is. 

When we came back out here a year and a half ago,  it was hard to leave family.  I wasn't unhappy about being in Kansas,  but I wasn't thrilled either, after everything we had been through.

Last April, after living here for a year, we took a trip to Utah.  I was so excited to be there and see my family and hike in the mountains and eat Cafe Rio and all that good Utah stuff.  I wondered how I could bear to go back to Kansas at the end of our trip.  But, back we went.  When we arrived, I felt something unexpected: the sense of poignant relief and comfort you feel when you have come home.  Somehow, despite all our floundering and despite the damage we are still healing from, Kansas has become home to me. 

There is so much to love here, and I consciously choose to love it.  I love the trees, especially the stately oaks.  I love the farm fields.  I love the sunsets and the moon rises.  I love our ward and our neighborhood and the boys' school and the YMCA.  I love the stores I shop at, and my proximity to the ones I love best.  I love the neat grid of the roads and the slower tempo of traffic. It really is a great place to be, and I am very grateful to be here. 

For the first few months we were here I could have easily packed up and left again, going back west.  I ached still for our magical little mountain town we left behind, as well as our family in Utah.  I still ache for those places somewhat, but choosing to love and enjoy Kansas means I have been driving roots deep into this prairie soil. 

And oh, how those roots want to settle in permanently!  To be able to say, "yes, we are from Kansas, we have lived there for years."  To see all my children grow up and graduate from Plumfield.   To have years and years worth of pictures of the kids at the same pumpkin patch, at the same Fourth of July parade.  I really, really want to be done moving around.  I want stability and tradition and a geographic anchor for the family and I am fine with that being right here. 

Will we stay here? I don't know.  But I can't worry about what tomorrow will bring.  For now, Kansas is home and I am happy here. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016


I have been called mom for nearly 16 years now and sometimes it still feels weird.  What?  Me?  A mom?  I feel like I just graduated from college.

It's especially weird coming from my teenagers because I feel like one of them myself, and yet they are rolling their eyes and saying "oh, MOM" in that voice that says "stop being so lame."  And that's me.  Me! 

I hear "Mom?" approximately 85,000 times per day.  When I am not weary I remember what a beautiful sound that is.  I am very aware of some who ache to be called Mom, and that makes me very grateful.

Bean, Fish, Roo, and Frog call me Mom.  The Rabbit calls me Mama and Peanut calls me Mother in the sweetest little voice.  "Mother?"  I need to get a recording of that.  I will miss it someday. 

I love being Mom, Mama, and Mother even though I don't feel old enough or experienced enough.  It's the best thing that has ever happened to me. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Scrambled Eggs

Yummy yummy!

A Tired Rabbit

I have taken some pretty weird pictures over the years of my kids falling asleep in strange places or awkward positions, but I think this is one of the weirdest.


Oh, I am enjoying October!  The leaves are starting to turn here and there, though they are mostly still a rather weary green at this point.  The prairie grasses are a soft blond, the soybean fields are a bright, golden yellow, and the rust-colored tops of the sorghum plants are striking.  

 It's time to get out my beloved comfy, snuggly-warm clothes.  Hoodies are just heaven, especially on a crisp October evening walk.

Just so you know, the only thing cuter in the entire world than a toddler in sleepers is TWO toddlers in sleepers. 

We have had the perfect amount of wild winds and angry rains to break up the usually sunny, mild weather. 

We've already had our annual pumpkin patch trip, which is a highlight for me.  It wasn't the easiest trip with me as the only adult with six little ones, but it was still fun.  I learned that while the animal backpack leashes were a good idea, trying to hold two leashes at once didn't work so hot.  One baby out on a leash and one in the stroller, trading off every little bit, was the way to go. 

We just finished our first homeschool break week and it is a nice reprieve.   Six weeks on/one week off works perfect for me.  With a week off I was excited to really clean my house.   My schedule is so demanding lately that a funny thing has happened to me: I get excited when I actually have time to clean.  It's so lovely making order out of the chaos and making my home pretty again (even if it's just for a few seconds until the twins come along!)  It makes me so grateful for what I have.  If you had told me years ago that the day would come when cleaning was my hobby and my break from life, I would have thrown something at you. 

Football is tremendously demanding on our evenings but it gets us out of the house into this lovely weather.  Often we drive to away games and we get to enjoy the beauty of the prairie in the fall as we drive.  I love watching Bean's team play.   Something clicked for me this year and the game is starting to make sense.  After all these years sitting on the sidelines saying "Yay, team!   I have no idea what's going on!" I am finally starting to understand football.   It makes it all the more enjoyable. 

Life is good, my friends.  Even the spiderwebs are beautiful right now.  

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Twenty Two Months

I am a bit late for my monthly update on the twins, but they are now 22 months old and I will tell you all you need to know about them. 


The end.

Just kidding.  

The sleep thing has been a huge issue lately,  as I mentioned in my last post. 

I do not think they could possibly get any cuter.  They say more and more words, and I love this age of monosyllabic speech. They are learning parts of the body: "Nose!"  They love animals.  "Puppy!" 

They have lost interest in the stove ("hot!") but they love to push the buttons on the dishwasher, turning it on when it should be off.   They can reach farther and father back on the kitchen counters, grabbing whatever they can get their hands on that people have inadvertently left within their reach, such as knives.  Twig just got to where she can reach the spigot of our Berkey water filter and she loves to fill whatever cup or container she can find and then carry it around, sloshing water in her wake.  Twig really loves water.  If she can get on the counter and play in the sink she is thrilled.  

Leaf's not into water, but she's on a quest to unroll all the toilet paper in the house.

It is so cute to see them moving into the realm of imaginary play.  I have put away most of the baby toys (rattles, teethers, etc.) and filled the toy baskets with things like Little People farm and Schleich figures.  Tonight we got out the doll house stuff for the first time in awhile and it was so darling to see them playing with it.  

Anything and everything that possibly can be turned into a step stool will be.  Cardboard boxes, laundry baskets (after they empty out all the clothes), toy buckets...

They love books and will let you read to them.  And they LOVE to get ahold of pencils/crayons/pens/whatever and "write" on anything they can find.  

All of my other kids could be contained at this age for quite some time in their high chairs.  Buckle them in, give them some Cheerios or a banana or whatever, and they'd be good to go for a long time. You could unload the dishwasher and mop the kitchen floor in peace!   But not the twins.  They don't really like being in their high chairs.  One of the chairs is too easy to climb out of, so only one of them can ever be secure at a time (I need to fix this, but... life is happening.)  A good deal of the time they do not have meals in their high chairs.  They just come up to anyone who has a dish of food and say "bite?  bite?  BITE?" until they get a bite.  Chew, swallow, repeat.  You can't eat anything around here without a baby on each side of you saying "bite?" in stereo until your plate is empty.  We've learned to pile our plates high so we have plenty to share.  

It actually works better to feed them on the fly like that because they will eat just about anything from my spoon, but when they are self-feeding in their chairs they throw most things on the floor.  I would say they are picky eaters but they aren't when it's coming from my plate.  It is hard to get them to drink though.  They do not like water or milk and we are reluctant to give them much juice.  We just keep pushing the water and hope that they are getting enough even though they don't drink much of any given cup.  

I want to write down as much as possible about them so that I can remember it in years to come, especially when they have kids of their own and say "Mom, I never did this, did I?"  And I can prove to them that "yes, you did."  However, I have unwisely stayed up late writing this and I'm going to pay for it early tomorrow morning, so I'd better sign off now.  I will try to get some pictures on here soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I am still alive!  I am just in the process of adjusting to this new current I am swimming in.  It moves pretty fast! 

I found out three years ago that having kids in both homeschool and regular school breeds a special kind of insanity.  I'm back in that world again and it's crazy and fun at the same time.  Having kids in every stage from high school down to nurselings is also a unique blend of wonderful and total bananas. 

The day starts bright and early with making sure Bean gets to and from early morning seminary.  

No, wait--actually the day starts when Their Imperial Majesties Leaf and Twig decree it shall start.   Sometimes that is at 4 or 4:30 am. Usually I make it until my 5:45 alarm and I think "oh good, I am going to drive Bean over there and then catch another 45 minutes of sleep in the back of the van."  But almost without fail, no matter how careful I am getting out of bed, one of the twins wakes up.  She wakes her sister and by the time I head out the door I have two chattering,  giggling little fuzzballs careening madly around my house.  By the time I return from the dropoff, most everyone has been roused. 

The next big event is getting the boys off to their school, which I shall call Plumfield, after the school in Little Men.  Since they are older,  they are responsible enough to pack their own lunches and get themselves ready.  We have a neighbor we carpool with,  so some mornings I drive and others I don't.   On the mornings I drive we must load all the little ones in the car. 
Plumfield is some distance from us, across town.  That puts us right on the thick of rush hour traffic,  which is always exciting.  

Back home again, I dive into my roll as homeschool teacher.  This is the easiest year I have ever had in regards to the actual homeschool.   Roo and the Rabbit do much of their work independently, and having to frequently remind the Rabbit to stay on task is nothing like the epic battles Bean and I used to get into.  I am much enjoying the time I have left over to work with Peanut and sometimes Frog.  Two mornings a week Frog goes to the preschool co-op and then I really have a chance to focus on Peanut.

Of course the easiness of homeschool is tempered by the difficulty of taking care of busy,  high-need twins, as well as the monumental amount of housework that presents itself in a household such as mine. 

I do try to get a nap right after lunch.   It doesn't always work but we always make the attempt.  

Mid-afternoon it's time either for the boys to appear at home or for me to venture out to pick them up.  And then comes the part of the day that I dread: asking them how much homework they have and what they need my help with.  

I guess there are two factors at work here.  The first is that I am so used to being their teacher and having to coach them through every bit of school work they do that I have been feeling the burden of their homework more than I probably should.  But the second factor is knowing that they are a bit behind the curve when it comes to knowing how to do basic things that school kids do: taking notes, studying for tests, writing papers, etc.  I know that they are going to need extra help from me at home to get them up to speed in their new school environment.   After a long homeschool day, though, when there's dinner to make and messes to tidy and fussy twins to soothe,  I am just not very excited about helping Bean put his writing in MLA format or helping Fish understand metric conversion.  So I always hope they will say "not much homework tonight, Mom, and I can do it on my own." 
Which they usually do.  They are getting up to speed very quickly and doing better at school than I anticipated.  It definitely has been a learning curve though.   I am grateful for both the small class sizes at Plumfield and for their teachers' patience and understanding, having worked with plenty of other transitioning homeschoolers.

Our evenings usually include football, and I have to say that it is quite a sacrifice to have Bean in football.   It takes so much time!  I feel strongly though, that this is something Bean needs to do.   He is having a good season and learning so much.  It is wonderful to see him growing.  It makes it all worth it.  

While he is footballing, I try to go work out.  I am redoubling my efforts in this regard.  I slacked off for awhile with everything going on, but it's something I really need to prioritize because when I improve my health the whole family benefits.   

Back home in the evening it is time to put the littles to bed, finish being the homework coach, and maybe do some dishes.  If the Badger isn't too tired, he will do the dishes and work with the kids to straighten up the house.  I am sure grateful for that.  

Finally,  the name of the game is getting to bed as early as possible because it all starts obscenely early again the next morning.   I have not totally figured out how to replace that late-evening time I used to spend on the computer paying bills, shopping for family needs, and doing social media.  Of course the social media isn't essential.  I have cut my Facebook time down to almost nothing and that is probably a good thing.  But I do wish I could blog more.  Hopefully I will!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

To My Posterity

I have been thinking about what my kids are going to say about me sixty or seventy years from now.  I imagine their conversations.  "Remember how Mom used to talk to the moon?"  "Remember how Mom loved the sound of certain words and would repeat them over and over again just to enjoy the way they sounded?  Like 'popsicle?' or 'bee balm?'"  "Remember how Mom used to make faces at us through the car windows while she was pumping gas at the gas station?"

It's kind of freaky to think about, because I know that the way I see myself is a bit different than how they see me.  And they sometimes see things that I wish they wouldn't: embarrassing things or things I don't like about myself.  I wonder what they will remember years from now.  "Remember how Mom was always scratching her nose?"  I have hayfever.  My nose itches a lot.  I don't like it, but there you go.  "Remember how Mom used to get so impatient with us?"  Sigh.  I am not as good of a mother as I would like to be.  But hopefully they will also say "Remember how Mom always apologized after she got grumpy with us?"  Because I usually do.  I hope they appreciate that.

There are a lot of things I hope they see about me, that I hope they will remember someday.

I hope they see that I am totally in love with the beauties of this amazing, fascinating world we live on.  There's a quote by Marjory Hinckley where she says that if you have intellectual curiosity, the world will always be your pumpkin, full of magic and wonder.  Yes, yes, yes, that's me!

I hope they understand that my family is the best thing that ever happened to me and that I completely adore each of them.  I am just amazed at the priceless jewel that is each one of my children and the fact that I am lucky enough to have eight of them just thrills me to death.

I hope they have no doubts about my faith in Jesus Christ, and my love of His gospel.  I hope they see me doing all I can to serve Him and keep the covenants I have made with Him.

They see me do a lot of things, some of which matter a lot and others that matter less, some that I want to do and some that I have to do.  I hope they understand that music affects me profoundly and that I cherish each experience I have to sing in a choir or play the piano.  I hope they know that growing things in the garden is a soothing and nourishing experience to my soul.  I hope they understand that I have a powerful drive to create and that I find deep satisfaction in making beautiful, useful, or tasty things with my hands.  I hope they know that although I struggle with spending too much time using technology, I deliberately choose to do good, uplifting things with that technology.

I hope they remember me as a proactive person.  I have faults and weaknesses, but I try to improve myself and I hope they see that.

As I think about this, I think about not only my children, but their children and their children after them.  There will come a point where those descendents will not have known me in their earthly life, but they will have me inside them, and when they will find out about what I was like, they will say, "Wow, me too!"  That is just an amazing thought, isn't it?

Someday, there may be a great-great grandson who also talks to the moon.  A great-great-great granddaughter who collects blue and white china (maybe even has some of mine!)  Maybe there will be a little boy generations from now who just loves to collect acorns.  Think of me, little one.  Acorns are my favorite.  I am right there with you.

Wow.  Here I am, insignificant little me, here in my little house with my eight little children running around making messes, and I'm caught up in these exhausting days trying to teach them and make them into good humans and that's my whole world right now, and I forget where this all leads.  Time will pass and my children will grow up and someday they will be not just parents but grandparents... great-grandparents... my influence will spread outward like ripples on a pond.  That's really something to ponder....

Hymn 291 "Turn Your Hearts," verse four:

Turn in love to all your children
Generations yet to be
May your deeds of gospel giving
Temple service, righteous living
Bless them all eternally

Edible Cells

They turned out great!  We had so much fun with them.

Since I did this with Bean three years ago, I knew that it was best to eat them right away before the candy oozed into the Jello and it was all gross.  So we did.