Monday, January 27, 2014

Pieces of Yesterday

Thinking about how far Bean has come makes me think about how far I have come.  Recently I posted one of my first blog posts, about how challenging it was to teach the preschool co-op.  I am such a different person now, and I think I am a much better mother.  And I am so grateful for that! 

Looking back on those early blog posts, there was one more that really stood out to me that I want to share on here.  I called it "Pieces of Yesterday" and I wrote it in early 2005.   


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I just cleaned out an old "junk" drawer of mine. I have this antique hutch that I used as a desk when I was a teenager and somehow the contents of the various drawers have remained untouched through marriage, children, and several moves. This drawer contained little treasures that were important to me then. At that time I really loved interesting little things, usually something useful in an unusual disguise, such as a pen shaped like an asparagus spear. I found many such things in this drawer. A keychain from Switzerland shaped like a shoe with flower embroidery on the side. A beautiful box that some expensive soap came in. Glow-in-the-dark silly putty. My old Rubix cube, sitting now in my lap waiting to see if I can still remember the formulas to solve it. Several packets of seeds for the most bizarre things: venus fly traps, Edelweiss flowers, and elm trees: awaiting the day when my love of gardening would emerge from its black thumb cocoon (they're going in my seed starting tray this spring!) My favorite sunglasses that I bought at Urban Outfitters in San Francisco, sitting next to the Elvis sunglasses we bought at the dollar store the summer I directed the roadshow. My old walkman made out of clear green plastic. A box of oil pastels from when I still had time to draw. A wisteria sachet that doesn't smell much anymore but has such a pretty package that I can't throw it away. A fake belly button ring. A little Lego man. A rubber cockroach (we successfully scared a waitress at a pizza place with that little guy my senior year of high school.) A stack of patches from a tour of Europe that never got sewn on to anything. Looking into this drawer was like looking at who I was when I was younger. I loved things that were beautiful and things that were bizarre. I was intelligent and creative and well-traveled, and I appreciated the little things in the world around me.

It was strange to go through this drawer because I have been thinking in just the last couple of days about who I am now. I must still be that same girl, but I feel like I am so completely different. Lately I feel like I'm finally developing a strong sense of self-worth for the first time in my life. I feel a connection to my past, to my mother and grandmothers and great grandmothers, women I have long admired and now feel like I am finally taking a place among their ranks. I feel like I have finally gotten to the point where I have enough strength and courage and skills and know how to work hard enough that I will eventually become another strong link in the chain of the generations. I feel like I am beginning to live up to the legacy of the women in my past and understand how it can and must be passed on to future generations of women. I can see that I still have a long way to go to fully live up to my potential, but I can also see how far I have come from who I was. I think I was a neat young girl, fun to be with and very talented. But now I have deepened and become so much more. I still like things that are both useful and amusing (like I have a wire whisk shaped like a duck) but now my satisfaction in life comes from putting in a productive day's work and not from having a drawer of oddities. Now my joy in life comes not from solving the Rubix Cube or feeling the silly putty squish between my fingers, but from loving and nurturing my husband and children and caring for our home. I guess what I am describing is the classic process of growing up, of maturing, a process I am really understanding for the first time.

I was actually thinking this morning of putting together a basket of items that represent who I am now. I thought this might be an interesting way to come to a better understanding of myself. Now that I've been through this drawer I could compare the two containers and what they represent. When I was in college, I figured I was pretty well "grown up" and had a good idea of what I was like. I had everything in life categorized by "like" and "don't like", or "interesting" and "boring," and that's who I was. I was rather pleased that I felt like I was a very unique person who was very different from the rest of my family. I felt secure in my individuality. Then, over the last several months as I have been taking care of my own home and my children, my tastes and interests have changed dramatically. Things that had been neatly cubbyholed as "don't like" were dragged out and considered and I would say, "Wow! This is great! What was I thinking?" This has happened so many times lately that my whole foundation of self-knowledge feels a little bit shaken up at times-- "Wait a minute! Maybe I don't hate football!" But the odd thing is, that if I was to make that basket of Me Now, each of the items in there would also be found in the basket of my mother or of my grandmothers. And now, instead of enjoying my uniqueness, I am enjoying being so much like these women because I respect them so much and as I said above, that means I am starting to repsect myself and understand that I can be like them. I can also still be my own self. I can take what they have given me and add to it: they have given me a love of faith and knowledge and of domestic skills, I can add things like my interest in natural remedies and alternative health. They have given me a love of art and music, I can add my love of Geography and the cultures and peoples of the world. All this I can pass on to my daughters as a foundation for them to build on, and to which they can add their own unique pieces and then pass on to the next generation.

And I think I will hang on to the silly putty and the Rubix Cube for my daughters as well.

Mornings


My mornings are good mornings.  They are challenging mornings, but they are fun. 

Whenever I have struggles with Bean over his homeschooling stuff, I have to remind myself how far he has come.  I have to think back on the huge tantrums he used to throw and how sometimes one little math problem would turn into an all-day thing.  The problems I have with him now pale in comparison.  Yes, sometimes I can't get him to write.  Yes, he still slithers away every time my back is turned and holes up in his bedroom with a fantasy novel.  Yes, he says "I'm hungry" every ten minutes and frequently wastes time attempting to negotiate for snacks.  Yes, I frequently have to tell him to sit up and pull the blanket off his head.  But he does 80% of the work on our schedule, and that's incredible considering where he was a year or two ago (maybe 20 or 30%?)  

We are moving forward.  Still slowly, but steadily.  He is in Level 3 now of All About Spelling and between that program and spellingcity.com, I have noticed much improvement in his spelling.  He still chips away at Latin.   We've been working on it for years now and he's still in Level 1, but the important thing is that he likes it still.  We just finished a volume of Apologia science (birds and insects) and I will be ordering another one-- I hope to get him through two complete volumes this school year.   We are cruising through Story of the World Volume 3 and I LOVE studying that with him.  He and I both really enjoy history and that is probably the highlight of our day. 

I have to say, it sure is nice that he goes to the public school for math.  He is doing well there.  His teacher is one of his youth leaders at church, so I can get the full story.  He really is handling it just fine. 

Meanwhile, I also have two babies at home with me in the mornings. 

People often ask how you homeschool with babies and toddlers around.  I have to say that sometimes it is just not easy.  Peanut is going through this very needy phase and she often makes things very complicated.  She wants me to wrap her up like a baby and hold her and rock her.  I try to accommodate her as much as I can, and I am making a deliberate effort to give her a little more attention, but that is a challenge when Bean only stays on task when I am totally focused on him. 

Timing is important.  The later in the morning we go, the more difficult the little ones are to manage.  Sometimes I am tempted to postpone school an hour or so in the mornings to get something done, but it always backfires because then by the time I am trying to do school in earnest the babies are clinging to me and crying and we can't get anything done. 

On the other hand, I love to see the close bond between Bean and the babies.  They wouldn't be as close to him if he was gone all day.  I think it helps them a lot to have that relationship. And sometimes we all have a lot of fun together. 

I am grateful to have these mornings with Bean and my little ones.  I am grateful I am able to give Bean the one-on-one tutoring he has been needing desperately.  I am grateful for the relationships we are all developing.  I really miss my other kids during the day, but this setup is exactly what we all needed and I am so grateful for the way it is working out. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why I Buy Organic

Back when I was a teenager, I would sometimes find myself in a health food store with one of my crazy granola relatives.  I would see the organic produce sitting there.  It always looked really bad compared to what I was used to seeing in the produce aisle: shriveled and spotted.  And it had these price tags on it that were insane.  I would think "who in their right mind buys that ugly, expensive stuff?"  

Well, then I got married and I started getting kind of granola myself and I read some stuff about pesticides and farming practices and at last I understood the Why.  But now there was the How.  We were on a very tight budget.  We could barely afford to buy produce at all, let alone organic produce.  

I didn't really start buying much organic produce until four years ago, when we got into the Bountiful Baskets food co-op.  A regular Bountiful Basket is $15, which is a heckuva deal, but for only $10 more, you can get an organic basket, which for organic produce is an unbelievable deal.  One week I tried it and I was hooked.  
Do you know why?  


It's because organic produce tastes better.  I am so tired of wooden apples, cardboard cucumbers, and tasteless tomatoes.  That rarely happens with organic produce.  The stuff is juicy and flavorful and it makes me excited about eating vegetables again.  

Oh, and don't even get me started on strawberries.  Grocery store strawberries are so nasty.  They're big and red and pretty, but they taste like balsa wood.  Do yourself a favor sometime and fork out for a carton of organic strawberries when they come in season and then you'll know what strawberries were meant to taste like.  Me, I'm never going back, even if the higher price means that they are a rare treat at my house.  I'd rather eat them less often and really enjoy them.  

And fruits and vegetables should be enjoyed.  They should even be hugged.  



I am really grateful to Bountiful Baskets for making organic more affordable, though I am finding that it is becoming more affordable in general.  If you watch store ads, you can get good deals.  And with six kids, believe me, I am all about deals. 

But mostly I am about yummy food.  


You Seek Yoda

Back in the 1990's my family started playing a little game.  It started when I got a plastic Yoda figurine from a Taco Bell meal.  One day my sister set him in the middle of a decorative wreath hanging on the wall.  It took a little while before we noticed him there, and that's how the game began.  Yoda would get hidden somewhere-- not in some obscure place, but where someone would find him when going about their daily routine.  You'd go to brush your teeth, or prepare oatmeal, and you would be greeted by a wise green smile.  






It was always a concern that Yoda would be lost permanently, so I was always on the lookout for an extra Yoda.  One day about 10 years ago I hit the jackpot.  I was at the dollar store and they had Star Wars soaps.  I hunted through the entire pile and bought every single one that had Yoda in it.  I think there were 5 or 6.  I gave a couple to my siblings who wanted to keep the Yoda Game going at their house and then I kept several for spares.  It was a really cute little Yoda too, even better than my original Taco Bell one, which I blogged about back in 2008.  

I have been doing a lot of sorting and organizing lately, and when you go through old boxes that have been buried for years through several moves, you find the darndest stuff.  I just found the last of the Yodas still entombed in soap.  




The soap is looking pretty bad, but Yoda is still in there, patiently waiting for the day he is needed.  I was so happy to find this!  Long live the Yoda Game!

P.S. The Rabbit is currently my most enthusiastic Yoda finder and hider.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

After and Before

Last January, I set one goal.  My goal was to lose sixty pounds. 

You know what?  I got halfway there. 

I wish I didn't have thirty pounds to lose still.  But I am glad that thirty pounds are gone.  If I hadn't tried, I wouldn't have lost anything. 

So, those pictures in my last post are my "after thirty pounds and before thirty more pounds" pictures. 

You know what?  Food is a battle for me every single day of my life.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.  But I keep trying. 

Nearly all the weight I lost last year was in the first half of the year.  During the second half I see-sawed between good health habits and overindulgence.  I wanted to be able to enjoy certain food items and occasions, even knowing that by allowing myself this privilege I would usually binge.  I actually did a pretty good job balancing if all I had wanted to do was maintain my weight, and I feel really good about that.  Also, I am physically in better shape than I was and I feel really really good about that. 

In December I didn't even try to be healthy.  I actually think that's okay because it's part of a cycle: the overindulgence of December leads to firm conviction to make a fresh start in January, the benefits of which, for me at least, end up far outweighing the negative effects of the Holiday season on my health.  

And I am always really good at making a fresh start in January.  I play these little mental games with myself: "starting January first you will stop eating sugar and you will also do this, this, and this" and it works as long as I get on it as soon as the new year rolls around. 

So what has been on my mind this January is how to proceed with this weight loss thing.  I knew some things needed to change.   Exercise and avoiding sugar weren't quite enough.  I needed to do more.  I have a huge problem with sugar addiction, but I also have a tendency to eat way too many carbs in the form of breads and cereals and pastas.

So during the first few days of the month, as I was going through sugar detox, I thought about this all the time.  The problem was, I wanted to take some serious time to sit down and research all this nutrition stuff.  I felt like there was a lot I needed to know.  I am interested in learning about the ketogenic diet.  I am interested in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, which incorporates stuff like soaked grains and homemade fermented foods.  I am very interested in the work of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride entitled Gut and Psychology Syndrome.  But psychologically I needed to make some changes NOW since it was already January (I'm funny that way) and I didn't have the luxury of being able to sit down and do nothing but read for several days.  Meanwhile, I was hungry.  And my kids were hungry.  Life was moving along, and quickly. 

I didn't have the time or the mental/emotional energy to read about and implement and whole new diet plan this January.  At some point I might do that.  For now, I'm just doing more baby steps.  In addition to being back off refined sugar, I am working on eating the correct amount of carbs.  Eating too few carbs makes me weak and shaky.  But once I start eating them I have a hard time stopping.  So I have been training myself to look at carbs with extreme caution.  And I am trying to make pasta a very rare treat.  

It's going well.  I am back in weight-loss mode.  I did pick up a little weight during December (maybe 3 or 4 pounds) and that's already gone.   I am feeling encouraged.  I am feeling motivated.  And I am feeling healthier and more energetic.  I know that in time I am going to reach my goals. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cashmere

Last November, my incredibly generous and thoughtful sister Crocodile called me and asked what I wanted for Christmas.  She had my name this year in the family gift-giving rotation.

I decided to be honest.  I said, "Okay, this is really silly and I don't know why I am telling you this because this is way out of your budget, but I want a cashmere sweater.   It's totally ridiculous of me, since it is completely impractical with six young children and a tight budget, but for some inexplicable reason I have been secretly wishing for a cashmere sweater for years now." 

And I have, it's true.  I guess I read the Land's End catalogs and I read about how soft and warm and nice their cashmere is.  I guess I am attracted to quality and timeless beauty.  But I am not into things that are appalling expensive, so I would not buy myself a cashmere sweater, nor would I ask the Badger to buy me one. 

My sister, who has a life where she has to dress very nice most of the time, said "oh yes, I can understand that.  I own several cashmere sweaters and I love them." 

So guess what she did?  She gave me two of her cashmere sweaters that she wasn't really wearing as much anymore.  Seriously.  I told you, she is the most generous and thoughtful sister on the planet. 

I now own TWO cashmere sweaters... wow!  What luxury! 

I love that they are soft and not the least bit itchy.  They are not thick and bulky, and yet they are extremely warm.  This one is a very basic style and I have been wearing it around the house a lot.  It is that magical blend of extremely-comfortable-perfect-fit for my around-the-house life and yet it looks nice when I go somewhere because it's cashmere.  


This one is a Sunday sweater, that I wear to church and other nice occasions.  It has a cute ruffle on it.  It is really beautiful. 


I feel so special and so lucky!  Thank you so much, dear sister, for making my crazy dream come true! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Flight by Oneida

There are a lot of logistics involved in the management of large families.  One of the little things that seems obvious but that I never thought about before is that as our family has grown we need more silverware. 

Good-quality silverware is not exactly cheap, but it is a long-term investment.  With the exception of the handful of pieces over the years that your small children throw in the trash, bury in the yard, or flush down the toilet, it is something that you are going to have for a long long time. 

That was on my mind as a young bride-to-be when the Badger and I went to ZCMI (a historic Utah department store back in the day) to pick out items for our wedding registry.  I admired my mother's silverware that she had registered for during her engagement almost forty years before.  The high-quality stainless she chose for everyday use was simple, with no embellishments.  It  was elegant.  It was timeless.  It had held up well for decades. 

Looking at the selection of Oneida stainless steel flatware in the store, I saw a pattern that was just what I had in mind.  It was called "Flight" and it had one simple curved line on the handle that took it just a step above totally plain.  Not only did it really appeal to me, I also thought the style would hold up over the years and never look dated.  It was perfect. 

The Badger did not like it.  He preferred a style with ornate flowers on the handle. 

I was stunned.  He was supposed to agree with me.  That was what the bridal registry was all about, wasn't it?  The woman chooses what she likes and the man says "yes, dear," and everyone's happy, right? 

Oh, the silly ideas we all get about love and romance and marriage when we're young...

We were kind of peeved at each other, but we talked about it.  He expressed to me that the flowery silverware reminded him of his grandmother's house.  To him, his grandmother was the very soul of class and elegance and good hospitality.  He wanted to model our home after hers, down to the flatware.  

At the time I had not yet met Grandma Edna, but I had heard enough about her to respect his feelings on this.  (In after years I was privileged on many occasions to be the recipient of Grandma Edna's hospitality, and found her to be everything the Badger claimed and more.)  But I still didn't like the flowery silverware.  It wasn't me. 

So there we both were at a stalemate in the housewares department.  Both of us wanted to emulate the women in our lives who we considered to have taste and class.  For the Badger, that meant ornate.  For me, that meant simple.  We were both right, which is often the case with these kinds of disagreements.  But it was hard to see past our feelings at that moment. 

In the end, the Badger kindly backed down and let me have "Flight" with the understanding that someday we would get some real silver silverware with the most ornate flowery pattern we could find.  At this moment, with a house full of tiny kids, owning real silver is pretty far down on my priority list, but I still hope to fulfill the Badger's wish someday. 

We registered for the box of Flight stainless with eight place settings plus the 4-piece serving set.  I was surprised at how much it cost-- I'd had no idea that silverware was so expensive.  I think it was about $65 or $70 at the time.  I was touched and humbled that the Badger's best friend's parents bought it for us. 

It has served us well.   I love it just as much now as I did fourteen years ago. 

When the Badger's sister got married a year and a half later, she chose the same pattern.  Whenever we visit each other and we're helping in each other's kitchens, we smile when we open the silverware drawer.  Then we compliment each other on our excellent taste.   

At one point a few years ago we were finding ourselves running a little short on spoons, so I bought an additional set of place settings for four.  I figured service for twelve ought to be enough even for a good-sized family. 

But it isn't.  This fall silverware again started becoming a huge issue. 

I wondered if Flight would even still be available after fourteen years.   I found it on Amazon, much to my satisfaction.  The service for 8 set like we got for our wedding was $80, which was more than I can spend without planning, so I waited.

Then in October we found ourselves in a larger town one day.  I was doing some shopping and decided to stop in at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to use a 20% off coupon I had.  I checked their selection of flatware and, sure enough, they still had Flight on display (at the same price as Amazon) but it was currently out-of-stock on the shelf.

I went up front and asked if they had more in the back.  When she looked it up on the computer for me she said that she could order it and have it shipped to my house.  And the smaller sets-- service for four-- were on sale.  They were half their normal price: $20 instead of $40.  Unheard of.  And I could still use the 20% off coupon on top of that.

So after verifying that it really was the exact same thing, I ordered four boxes.  At that price, I was going to make sure we had enough to last us forever, no matter how much our family grows.  My inner tightwad is still crowing over getting 16 place settings for less than the price of 8. 

Now I am pretty sure I will never have to buy silverware again.  Even when we hosted the Beaver family at Thanksgiving and there were 20 people in the house we never ran out of silverware, since I guess I now own service for 28. 

In order to accommodate all of it, we now have two silverware drawers.  They are small drawers right next to each other.  One has forks and knives and one has spoons and serving spoons.  You know you have a big family when you have two silverware drawers.  I love it!

It feels good to have plenty of silverware, especially silverware that still makes me happy every time I look at it because I just like it.  Thank you, Badger, for letting me have my preference.  Isn't it pretty?


Monday, January 13, 2014

On the Verge of Greatness

One of the most delightful things about our house lately has been watching Prince Charming practice his walking skills. 

It started not long after he turned thirteen months, which is how it always is for my kiddos.  They all started walking fluently between fourteen and fifteen months.  Prince Charming has been standing himself up to furniture for ages and even standing alone for awhile, but recently he started having very earnest Walking Practice Sessions. 

He gets in this mood where he really wants to work on this.  It's really funny.  He gets really excited and really focused.  He stands up and he smiles and maybe claps or waves his arms happily a little bit.  Then he tries to shift his weight and he falls down.  And he laughs.  And he gets right back up again and repeats the process.  After a few tries he crawls around on hands and feet in a circle just to remind himself that he can shift his weight and move his feet.  Then he stands up and tries again.  Then he falls.  And he laughs.  Then he gets up and tries again.  Etc.  It is so fun to watch. 

On Saturday morning, January 11, he finally succeeded in taking a step.  I was gone picking up our Bountiful Basket, but the Badger and Fish and Roo saw him take a total of three steps.  We were all so excited!

That evening I got him practicing again.  This picture was taken right before....



...and this picture right after...


his fourth step.  Good job, little guy!  I can't imagine you walking everywhere because you've been crawling so long, but soon you will be and then we won't even remember what it was like when all you could do was crawl. 

Watching him has been such an inspiration to me.  He doesn't get frustrated even though it has been a long, slow process.  When he falls, he laughs and tries again.  And for every time he falls down, he gets up again.  That's what good old Brother Guernsey said in our Sacrament Meeting yesterday: enduring to the end is really just getting back up again every time you fall.



P.S.  Peanut wanted her picture taken too.  And Bean snuck up behind her and photobombed:
 
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Nine Years of Blogging

After I wrote a few days ago about my blog, I decided to dig through the dusty archives of cyberspace and find the first blog posts I ever wrote.  It turns out my first post Ever was on January 13th, 2005, if you can believe it.  Nine years ago today. 

I had forgotten the reason I started blogging.  A friend of ours was a web developer and he was managing a website for a company that sold herbal formulas.  He needed someone to do some publicity-type stuff for the company and he thought of me since I had a background in alternative health.  In addition to a number of other writing projects, he encouraged me to start a personal blog and mention the company and its products.  Blogging must have been very new at the time. 

I didn't end up working for him for very long and it was so insignificant that I had forgotten about it, but got me into blogging. 

So to celebrate the birthday of my first blog (I have been through 4 or 5 URLs over the years and they were protected until 2008) I will post here the second blog post I ever wrote, which I find amusing.  (My first post is a very boring "hi, I am going to start a blog" sort of thing which I will spare you.) 

So here is my post, entitled "Woes of a Reluctant Preschool Teacher."  At the time Bean was 3 1/2 and Fish was 1 1/2 and we were part of a neighborhood co-op preschool, which meant I had to teach every five or six weeks.  You will see here how I felt about that. 

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Today was the day of the month that I dread the very most: the day I teach Bean’s preschool co-op. Pre-school children make me very nervous, especially when they are not my own. I think I still have not gotten over my own preschool experience in 1984, where I was ostracized by my classmates because I was shy and had to wear my older sisters’ hand-me-down polyester bell-bottoms from the 70’s. It’s amazing to me that even in pre-school we were all aware of who the “popular” kids were, and that never changed throughout all the years I went to elementary school with those same kids. They didn’t like me when I was four, and that meant they didn’t ever like me.

But Bean is so different from how I was. Physically, he’s a very handsome child, with blond hair and big blue eyes. He’s a people person and he thrives off contact with his peers. They’ve always seemed to respond very well to him and I’ve had a secret delight in that. All these kids in his pre-school group are kids we’ve known since he was 16 months old and we first moved to this subdivision. Their mothers are all attentive, caring stay-at-home moms who are my good friends. Our kids have always played together famously. That is the only reason why I agreed to get involved in this co-op, against all misgivings about my ability to come up with clever lessons for a group of three-year-olds.

This week I wasn’t thinking about clever lessons, I was thinking about survival. I was supposed to have my turn next week, but Allison’s baby was sick and I volunteered to switch with her when I saw her Wednesday evening, which didn’t give me much time to prepare. But I was banking on Bean’s Christmas toys providing the bulk of the morning’s entertainment. He got one of those big horses that are mounted on springs for kids to ride and that has been a magnet for every kid that has come over since then. And my brother gave us two BIG buckets of colorful plastic gears that even I can spend hours playing with. I imagined little future engineers happily sitting on my living room floor, absorbed in gear-building activities for hours. It was going to work out fine. But here’s what actually happened:

8:30 AM—I finally drag myself out of bed after being up with Fish during the night. The clutter in the living room has to be picked up, I Have to shower, and we all need to eat breakfast—and we have half an hour to accomplish this. Luckily the Badger is home to help, though he’ll slink away once preschool starts.
8:53 AM—I dash in to the computer room to print out online coloring book pages for the letter “M.” While I am finishing this, Annie arrives, followed by Chris. The Badger lets them in.
9:15 AM—Chris is ferociously riding the horse, Annie is saying that Chris is her boyfriend. Claire and Abby have not yet arrived. I call Claire’s mom and find out that she has just enrolled Claire in our friend Janet’s preschool. Jealously wells up inside me because that’s where Bean would be going if we had any money for it, and then I would be paying Janet to come up with cute lessons and I would truly get a break. But, YES! One less kid to deal with for the morning! And maybe Abby is sick? I call my friend Emily. Nope, they’re just running late.
9:20 AM—Annie and Chris have decided to gang up against Bean. Annie says things like, “Boyfriend, shoot Bean. Go get your gun and I’ll guard your horse.” It’s a Western movie in my own living room, only my son is the bad guy. I’m supposed to be the Nice Teacher, but I feel like wringing Annie’s neck. How dare she be so mean to my little boy? I used to have visions of her as Bean's Prom date, but now she’s turning into a brat! And Bean is going to have to go through the social torture his mother did. Time to get out the gears.
9:30 AM—Bean and I are building a large and interesting network of gears. Annie and Chris ignore us at first, but gradually decide that the gears look kind of neat. They start on their own conglomeration and pretty soon we are both reaching for the same pieces. Annie insists that they are hers, I tell her that she is at Bean's house and all the toys are his and if she doesn’t want to share she can go elsewhere. She turns to Chris and says “Let’s go to a different place, Honey.” They go into Bean’s bedroom and abandon their engineering project.
9:50 AM—I duck into my bedroom for a minute to get something and the Badger asks, “how’s it going?” I tell him that I’m trying to be calm but they’re being mean to Bean. He immediately says “What? They’re being mean to my son? Not for long!” and heads out into the living room with me following trying to remind him that he’s a lot bigger than they are. We are saved by the arrival of Abby.
10:00 AM—Abby changes the whole dynamic of the morning. Now she and Annie stick together like glue and Chris starts to play with Bean. Everyone is getting along better until...
10:15 AM—Abby has not yet had a turn on the horse, so she tries to get on. Chris gets upset and tries to pull her off. He throws a fit and hits me when I intervene (Chris is famous for hitting). I put him in Time Out, which Bean thinks is the best thing ever. He gleefully helps me enforce Chris’s time out. That’s Bean—he loves to be the one in charge.
10:30 AM—I’m not getting away with just letting them play all morning. Time to get out the crayons. We talk about what starts with the letter “M” and they color a picture of a mouse. Suddenly it dawns on me that M is for MAP and—Hello!--I have a degree in Geography, for Pete’s sake.
10:40 AM—I bring out Bean’s wooden Map of the United States puzzle. We talk about the USA and they are actually acting interested. We dump out the pieces and they take turns putting them back in. Chris talks about how he is going to go to Japan this summer to see his grandparents so I grab a globe and show the kids where Japan is and how he will get there. They are actually enjoying this. Chris and Abby are really good at figuring out where the pieces go. Annie is not so spatially-minded, but she likes having a turn to put a piece in. When we finish Chris and Abby say “let’s do it again!” So I dump it out. Annie says “I don’t want to” and leaves to go play. Abby decides to go follow her and Chris and Bean follow suit, leaving me to reassemble the Lower 48 alone.
11:00 AM—I can’t give up, I was actually teaching them something for a few minutes there. So I call them all back to the table and tell them that they can make their own maps. Abby draws a very imaginative map of her house. Chris is hiding under the table and won’t come out. Annie and Bean make me draw maps for them, after which Bean joins Chris under the table but Annie folds up her map and puts it in her pocket, to have “in case I get lost.”
11:15 AM—Time to make lunch. Peanut butter sandwiches and grapes are ready in five minutes and I realize that 11:20 is a little early to eat, but the kids say they’re hungry. The first time I fed these kids I found out that Bean is Not a picky eater compared to his peers. They would all say “I don’t like this,” and look up at me like they expected me to magically change it into an ice cream sundae. So I came up with one of my more brilliant ideas: the Red Plate. The Red Plate sits in the middle of the table. If you don’t like something on your plate, don’t bother me about it, put it on the Red Plate. If you see something on the Red Plate that you like, you may take it. It works. I love it. So lunch went Okay. Abby ate three sandwiches. Annie ate one bite of sandwich and three grapes. They are both thin as rails, which is something I will never understand.
11:45 AM—I enlist the kids’ help in picking up the sea of gears that is flooding my living room. Surprisingly, they all pitch in. I give them one more coloring page.
12:00 Noon—The Moms show up and my ordeal is finally over. We all agree that three hours is a little too long, but I don’t want to change it to just two. That’s not enough time for the moms to get anything done while their kids are gone. I figure that one extra torturous hour when I teach buys me 3 Bean-free hours when the others teach. But don’t ask me to extend it to four hours. I need a nap.
12:30 PM—I am asleep.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why I Finally Joined Pinterest

I wrote a post nearly two years ago where I mentioned how I wasn't sure about whether or not I should join Pinterest.   I thought it might be too big of a time sucker.  So I didn't join for more than a year after that. 

Then my sister Pineapple came to visit last spring.  And she showed me what she does with Pinterest and it made me so happy that I signed up. 

My sister Pineapple, ten years older than me, has this amazing gift.  She is a magnet for all things beautiful and uplifting.  There is this cloud of loveliness and happiness all around her.  You should see her purse.  And her house.  Every little detail, down to her pens and her pillboxes, is just gorgeous.  Her style is classic and refined with lots of floral patterns and I grew up holding it as the gold standard. 

In fact, my whole life I have been trying to be more like her, to be positive, make the world around me more beautiful, and take delight in the little things.  I am so lucky to have her for a sister. 

She uses Pinterest to pin pictures of beautiful, happy things.  She has all these boards just full of all the loveliness this world has to offer.   Lots of flowers and gardens and things she loves like sheep.  She pulls them up on her phone and flips through them when she needs a boost.  She and her amazing artist husband pin beautiful things for each other that they know they will like.  It's amazing the way her boards are such a beautiful portrayal of her unique and lovely style: almost like a visual record of her soul. 

This was a new take on Pinterest for me.  I had heard of people using it as a way to collect the useful and clever.  I had heard of people pinning lots of crafting ideas and home management tips.  I had heard lots of jokes about Pinterest envy and people spending so much time on Pinterest looking at creative things they could do that they never actually did anything in real life.  But I had never before thought of Pinterest as a place where I could simply find joy and delight in God's creations, or as a place where I could create a visual representation of that which my soul rejoices in and longs for.

So Pinterest has become a wonderful part of my life.   I have subscribed to feeds about things that I think are beautiful and wonderful and that make me happy: things like gardens, some travel pictures, autumn leaves...  I don't spent a lot of time there, despite what the Badger thinks, but every day I get on for a little bit and just soak up a little beauty and happiness.  And I say a prayer of thanks to God for His beautiful creations.  It is a really uplifting experience.   

A little while ago I was up with a sick baby in the middle of the night.  Sitting in the rocking chair with my smartphone I had been rocking so long I had exhausted everything on Facebook and my Pinterest feed.  So I went to Pinterest's home page and I selected "humor."  Hey, it was 3 am.  I was rather disgusted with what showed up: a long feed full of popular pins that were supposed to be funny but none of them were.  Many of them were vulgar.  It was not beautiful, it was not uplifting.  It was a complete waste of time.

It made me realize that Pinterest really is what you make of it.  It's a reflection of what you like and what you desire.  There is much in the world that is dark and disturbing, or even just crass and unrefined.  But there is so much beauty and goodness too.  It's nice to be able to collect some of this in one place and rejoice in it. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Here Comes Trouble

And aren't they cute?




Getting Organized

I just ordered new pages for my old friend, my trusty Franklin Planner.  

I've had this thing for years... can you tell?


I have always loved to plan.  I am one of those people who loves checking off things on checklists.  Franklin Covey came into my life in college and it was a perfect match.  Together, we've navigated successfully through18-credit-hour semesters as well as wedding planning, concurrent soccer/football/gymnastics schedules and major moves.  With lots of little check marks along the way. 

Last year I didn't buy pages-- they're kind of expensive and I have to order them online and I just never got around to it.  I kept planning though: I just used blank planner pages I already had and fudged my way through.

And then in September I got my smartphone and I thought I was done with my Franklin.  Everything would be on my phone in one convenient place, including my calendar and task list.  

But I am not liking the calendar on my phone.  I like some things about it, especially the convenience, but other things are driving me crazy.  For example, if I put something on my task list and then the due date passes and I didn't get it done it disappears to a really hard place to find.  And then instead of me saying "oh no, I was supposed to do that yesterday!" and getting it done just a little bit late I completely forget about it and don't do it at all. 

So it's little things like that that made me reorder some planner pages.  Electronics are awesome, but sometimes you just can't beat a pencil and paper. 

Plus you can doodle in the margins. Or your kids can draw great masterpieces over nearly every single page:


Most people don't feel the same way I do.  Franklin planners are dying out.  Franklin Covey has shut many of its retail stores and the selection of page styles has sadly dwindled.  But, for now at least, I can still get my page refills.  It's so invigorating to get a packet of fresh new planner pages for a new year. 

Here is January spread out before me ready for me to take charge of:



I can't wait to make some lists and then lots and lots of happy little check marks!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why I Blog

The blogging fad is over.  Blogging, at least as a record of your personal life, isn't the trendy thing to do like it was in oh, say, 2008.  My blog reader has a big long list of subscriptions to personal blogs and only a small handful regularly show up on my feed anymore.  Most of them are dead, or nearly so, much to my chagrin.  I really enjoyed reading all those personal blogs of old friends and family members. 

I think a lot of people find it easier to just update their status on Facebook than to update their blog.  I don't blame them.  It is easier and faster.  It's a funny thing about Facebook-- it sort of sucks you in and it's its own little world.  I know people who camp on Facebook and instantly "like" anything I post but who won't make the jump off Facebook to read something on my blog if I post the link.  Either it's too big a jump out of their rut or it's too intimate a connection to me to visit my blog.  I'm not criticizing them, I just think it's really interesting.  One of those social dynamics of the technology age that future sociologists will write papers about.

So, anyway, blogs.  I realized the other day that most of the people who are still blogging regularly are people who feel like they really have something to say.  They are full of deep and profound thoughts.  They have advice to give, or helpful hints.  They outlasted the fad because they're brilliant and clever and talented and like to write and have developed a following of loyal readers. 

So with my blog still plugging along, I kind of feel like a minnow trying to swim with the big fish. 

There was a time when I hoped my blog would become really popular.  Back a few years ago there were some Mommy Blogs that had scores of readers and the writers were actually making money from their blogs, or were being given complementary products to review... products like stays at vacation resorts...  I must admit I had some envy for awhile and I spent some time thinking how I could present my little slice of life in a more captivating manner.  

But then I realized that I didn't want the pressure to perform.  I didn't want to always have to be brilliant, or witty, or profound.  I just wanted to write what I wanted to write when I wanted to write it.  If people read it, fine.  If they didn't, it didn't matter.  I knew at least my close family members would appreciate the pictures of the kids.  Beyond that, if here or there I helped or touched someone-- or even made them laugh-- that would just be an added bonus. 

Blogging has always been a natural fit for me.  My first blog post was in January of 2005... the dark ages before I even had a digital camera.  When I started back up again after Roo was born in 2006 I discovered the thrill of posting pictures with the text and I've been in love with blogging ever since. 

Just so you know, I constantly compose blog posts in my mind. 

With this year's January re-evaluation of my life, I ask myself briefly if I really should keep spending precious time on this.  I am so busy-- we are all so busy-- and higher priorities is undoubtedly why many blogs have died.  Which I totally understand.  But for me, the question of "should I keep doing this?" is silly-- of course I will.  This is my outlet and it's just what I need.  I get to take/edit pictures and write, all of which I love, and even better: I get to think about writing while I wash dishes and fold laundry.   How cool is that?  If anything, I will make a resolution to blog more, if I can.

So the next question is: how should I approach this?  Should I give more day-to-day details, like a diary, or should I go more in the direction or advice/helpful hints/product reviews/etc.? 

Being the youngest child in a very intelligent and talented family means I have never felt like an expert.   As I was growing up I didn't learn anything that everyone else didn't already know, and as an adult I still see myself as the kid who is finally cluing in.  But I've realized lately that now that I am older and have been around the block a few times there is actually quite a lot I can teach to those just starting out on the path I've been traveling for awhile.  It may sound stupid that that was a huge revelation for me, but it was.  And another thing I've become aware of more lately is how really unusual it is to be a stay-at-home mom of six.  I'm not like everyone else these days.  I have a unique voice and perhaps I might try to hit a few new notes.  

But still, even with those realizations, I don't want to try to force this blog into any particular shape.  I don't want to feel like I have to do it any certain way.  It's still just my personal blog and you know how it is:  sometimes I write a useful product review, sometimes I post 136 nearly-identical pictures of my baby, and sometimes I ramble on and on about things like septic tanks.  First and foremost, this is my outlet for self-expression in whatever form feels necessary at the time.  I am blogging to process my life, and I am learning a lot about myself as I do so.  That is why it is worth my time.  If you find it worth your time, you are almost certainly a kindred spirit and I would rather blog to make a few kindred spirits smile than blog for fame and fortune. 

I would like to thank you for reading.  There are not many of you, but I know there are a few more than I realize.  Every once in awhile I will hear tell of an acquaintance or distant relative who enjoyed something I wrote who I never had a clue was reading my blog, and that makes me feel really really happy.  I am glad to let all of you into my little world.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Best Part of December

There were many exciting things happening this past December.  The kids were in an almost-constant state of excitement about one thing or another.  It was so fun to see them so happy. 

As for me, I was very excited about one thing in particular: holiday concerts.  The kids had several performances in December and those were what I looked forward to most.  The concerts were a real treat and I loved every minute of every one of them.  There was Bean and Fish's children's choir, Roo's orchestra, Roo's YMCA singing group, and finally, the holiday program at the elementary school. 

I have lots of warm, fuzzy memories of the holiday concert at school when I was a kid.  My parents were always really excited to come.  The walls of the school gym were covered with our Christmas art projects: construction paper trees and paper plate Santas with cotton ball beards.  I remember filing onto the risers with the other kids from my grade--all dressed in our nicest clothes-- and performing our special numbers we had learned.  Miss Peterson, our totally awesome music teacher, always selected a few kids to come forward on each song and do something special: ring a handbell or play a rhythm instrument or something.  In 5th grade I sang a solo verse of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in a new red-and-green-plaid taffeta dress my mother had made for me.  Alan Linscheid, the husband of my beloved third grade teacher, was always there with his large and very mysterious video camera.  He would give his video of the event to the local TV station, who would broadcast it at a later date, much to the excitement of us kids, even though the quality of home video cameras and TVs back in those days was such that you could barely tell who was who on stage.

So the Christmas concert was one of those things I was really looking forward to about having the kids in school.  And I was not disappointed.  It was absolutely delightful.  It was a little different than back in the 80's:  the music teacher controlled the music from an iPod in her hand and we all picked up our copy of the DVD the next day. 

But now I understand why my parents were so excited about my holiday concert.  The kids were so cute and the songs were so fun and the whole thing was absolutely heartwarming.  Here is the second grade singing a sugar plum song:



And here is the 4th grade singing John Denver's "Christmas for Cowboys,"  long a favorite of mine and absolutely priceless when sung by a bunch of ten year olds who live in cowboy country. 


Can you see Fish on the back row?


I am so glad whenever my children have a chance to perform on stage in front of people.  It is so good for them.  And it is so much fun for me to watch their emerging talents! 
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Friday, January 3, 2014

Kitchen Critters

Peanut loves to get into things in the kitchen.  She can often be found on the counters rooting through the cupboards.  We really have to watch her closely.  Now Prince Charming has learned to climb.  Peanut pulls a stool over to get up onto the counter and he's right behind her on the stool grabbing everything he can get his hands on.   So we watch him closely too.  And sometimes it's just so cute to watch. 


 
 
 
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A Very Merry Christmas

Christmas at our house was marvelous this year.  This is one of those times when having a whole bunch of little kids is just the best.  Here are a few photos of our Christmas morning:


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


...And I told you I would post a picture of our house with our Christmas lights in the snow.  Here it is.  We definitely had a white Christmas!  I can't remember when I last had a white Christmas...not since I was a kid.  It was very nostalgic and sentimental to have snow covering the ground on Christmas day. 
 
 
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