Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Big Question

I am sitting here having an argument with Frog (yes, two-year-old Frog) about which twin is which.   He is insisting that Leaf is Twig and Twig is Leaf. 

Almost everyone at this point thinks they are identical.   But I still don't.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nine Months

Happy nine months to my twins!  They have now been out as long as they were in.  And we are three fourths of the way through their first year. 

I have to say that in some ways they are getting easier.  They are slowly sleeping better, especially as we add more and more solids into their diet. 

In the last few weeks their personalities have become more distinct.  For months, they mostly acted the same.  But lately, they are more and more different.  So I would like to talk about them separately. 

First, we will discuss Leaf.  Leaf is a very happy, enthusiastic person.  She is vibrantly energetic and is quick to explore and try new things.  She loves to eat almost every solid food I have tried her on, with the exception of some "mixed vegetables" baby food that she turned her nose up at today.  She has gained a lot of weight and while still on the small side of average, she is a solid, good-sized kid.  She has four teeth.  This morning Rabbit and Peanut taught her how to clap her hands, which was adorable.  She is a turbo-crawler, climbs stairs in the blink of an eye, and we once found her inside the lazy susan in the kitchen. 

Twig is a happy person, but she is more reserved.  She has more of a soft sweetness about her, whereas Leaf is more exuberant.  We have been working hard to help Twig gain weight.  She has finally topped 13 pounds, but she is still very petite and somewhat delicate-looking.  But while she is consistently a week or two behind Leaf in every new skill she develops (for instance no clapping yet), she is still rapidly gaining skills.  She crawls fluently and also loves to climb the stairs.  She has started pulling herself up to furniture, which Leaf has been doing for awhile now.  She is harder to feed: she doesn't like baby oatmeal.  I think it's the chunkiness, because she is happy to eat baby food that is completely pureed.  For awhile she would only eat it out of a squeeze pouch, but now she will take it from a spoon as well.  And she loves those baby puffs.  When we started to get her to eat pureed baby food and puffs she really turned the corner on her weight gain.  I am hoping to convince her to eat coconut oil soon because I know that will help.  I would still like to see her gain quite a bit more weight.  She has three teeth; I am sure the fourth will appear soon (top center.) 

One thing that is interesting to me is that I can now tell their cries apart.  I always figured I would be able to tell the twins apart by their cries, but until recently I couldn't.  Lately I can tell that Leaf has a slightly lower voice than Twig. 

I am hoping to get some adorable pictures of them soon and get them posted on here.  But I at least wanted to make some notes about their development. 

At first it was terrifying to me to have TWO crawling babies.  But now I think it's really adorable.  They are so cute.  I think I am starting to get used to having twins, though it is still not easy.  Maybe it's just so much better now that I am not suffering from so many effects of chronic sleep deprivation.  I am still behind on sleep, but it's not anything like it was.  The dizziness is gone, for one thing-- hooray! 

Well, I have two poopy diapers to change before I go to bed, so I will leave off. 

A Big Step For Frog

A couple weeks ago Frog started taking off his diaper and sitting on the potty. 

It has been my strict policy over the years not to try to potty train my kids until after their third birthday.  None of them have been remotely ready before then. 

Until Frog. 

So I took Frog to the store and bought him a package of underwear with Charlie Brown and Snoopy on it.  Frog likes Peanuts. 

And it's been so easy.  I have never had a kid who caught on to potty training even remotely as quickly as Frog.  He's got it down.  He has even been dry at night. 

You still have to remind him to go, and if I forget to do that we have accidents, but that's normal. 

I really feel that this is a tender mercy of the Lord.  I am barely keeping my nose above water right now with twins and eight kids and homeschool.   Plus, money is tight and a little savings on diapers is welcome (I also recently stopped buying pull-ups for Peanut to wear to bed at night and so far, so good.)  So it is a relief to have a child potty train early and quickly. 

Frog is a remarkable little boy.  I sure love him. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

And So It Begins

Today was our first day of homeschool and it was a roller coaster.  It was long, it was tiring, it was sometimes frustrating, and it was sometimes exhilarating. 

It took us a long time to get through stuff because things were new and the kids needed to get used to what they needed to do.  There was a lot of debating: "well, why can't I do it this way?" and distraction: "hey, Mom, you know what I want for my birthday dinner next year?"  This kind of stuff drives me crazy, but it's a constant, so I am trying to learn NOT to let it drive me crazy while at the same time gradually training them out of those behaviors.  Because if I don't not let it drive me crazy then I will be crazy very quickly.   Literally crazy.  I don't want to go there. 

There was also a lot of disruption from the younger kids.  Frog felt compelled to holler at the top of his lungs every time I tried to have a group lesson so that no one could hear a word I said.  Peanut is going through this thing where just the littlest things make her wail and cry and carry on for ages, and then she has to curl up on my lap for a long time, preventing me from moving around the room like I need to at times.  I got out the Lincoln logs to keep Peanut and Frog busy for awhile this morning and after a few minutes it was one big Lincoln log fight after another.  There was lots of crying and even some pinching and kicking and biting.  It was exciting.  But there again, this will be my homeschool reality for the next several years (can you imagine when it's the twins?)  So I have to figure out a way to deal with it, or at least choose to not let it upset me. 

The twins were actually pretty good today.  I mean, they were nine-month-old babies, with all that entails, but they weren't unusually difficult. 

Bean was far more difficult than the twins.  He only did half his work.  He dawdled around and ignored me half the time and disappeared to his room or the basement.  And this is after I had him help me select his curriculum so that it was something he would agree to do.  And this is the first day of school.  Day one and we're already behind.  I thought I was finally past that with Bean and it's discouraging to see that we're still dealing with these same issues that have held him back for years.  

However, many good things happened at my house today.  Some real learning happened, some kids at some points caught a little bit of a vision of the thrill of learning, and then there were a couple of very spiritual moments.  In those moments I saw the importance of the things that I am able to teach them at home which they are not able to learn in a public school setting and I knew that this really is what they most need.  There was also a very sweet moment where I felt that I had help from my grandparents on the other side of the veil. I am so grateful for those glimpses that I am on the right track.  I am also grateful for the things I am excited about in our curriculum this year, and that some of the kids are excited about some of those things too.

I am weary right now, and if I think about it, the thought of doing this every day for a whole school year and for many school years after that makes me want to cry and cry.  It's just so much and it's so hard.  But I can take it one day at a time.  Yes, I can do that.  I did it today, and even though I dropped some balls I still juggled a lot of them and that's pretty cool.  I can do it again tomorrow.  I can do hard things, and doing hard things will make me strong.  And like I said before, out of small and simple things great things will  be brought to pass.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Star






Bean just earned his Star rank in scouts, as well as nine new merit badges for a total of eighteen.  We have really been emphasizing scouts lately, and we have a goal to be working on his Eagle project next summer, as long as the LDS scouting world doesn't go up in smoke before then. 

I am not one to comment on current events much, but I will say that the policy decisions the Boy Scouts has made this summer and the LDS church's subsequent statement of concern have made me sad.  There is a lot of talk right now about what the LDS church will do with its relationship with scouting and it seems the opinion of many LDS people is "goodbye BSA and good riddance."  Many people seem to feel that scouts is a hassle and an unfair use of resources.  For my boys, scouts is a tremendous blessing.  As a homeschooler, anything that can give my boys external structure is a huge load off of me.  Things that push my boys to become better-- to have useful skills, to be more physically fit, to have better character-- but where I am not the one that has to do all the pushing are incredibly valuable to me.  I have so appreciated the many good scout leaders who have had such a positive influence on my boys.  I have been thrilled to see their experiences at scout camp, where they have achieved tremendous growth that I could never have provided for them in my homeschool. 

I'm sitting here thinking about this, Peanut and Frog are whining, and Leaf needs a diaper change bad... I could sit here and write about what might happen and how I would feel about any of those scenarios, but I need to spend my time looking after my little ones and not speculating on the internet.  So I guess what it boils down to is this: whatever happens with scouting in the future, I will always be grateful for what it has done for my boys to this point. 

Busy Twins

Get ready for a bunch of pictures of the twins...


Play time:


Fish time:





Leaf takes on the bookshelf:


Twig practices self-feeding:





And both of them are budding musicians:




Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday Journal Entry

Here's my diary entry for this evening.  It's just one of those that's pretty indicative of my current life so I thought I would share. 

I spent the morning working on homeschool planning on the computer while encouraging the children to locate the missing overdue library books.  It took them all morning but they finally found everything except one Hank the Cowdog CD.  So we headed off to the library right after lunch.   I only took six kids with me; I left Bean home with Twig.   Let me tell you, six kids is a piece of cake.  Especially if there's only one baby.

Fish has been wanting to watch National Treasure,  so I checked it out from the library.   Then I let the little kids get a Richard Scarry DVD.  That's how I got a nap: the boys rocked Leaf to sleep and watched National Treasure, the younger kiddos watched the kid's movie and I slept for an hour with Twig. 

Then it was off to football practice.   I decided to go to the store and get the few things I needed and then go back to practice and wait the last hour there... it was such a lovely evening and there were plenty of kids running around that looked like they would be fun for my kids to play with.  At one point I had to go hunting for a missing Rabbit, only to find her high up in a tree.  So they had fun, and I met another mom who was nice and held one of the twins for me. 

When I got home we worked on straightening up the house because of course it was a wreck as usual.  I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the kitchen floor because I was tired of it being so nasty.  I sweep daily and mop fairly often but there are all these little stuck-on bits that just don't come off unless you scrub them with a scrubber.   Now my kitchen floor looks fantastic.  I need to do the dining room next (ran out of steam) and I need to scrub more often (and teach the kids to do it!) 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Getting Ready

I have been feeling overwhelmed by the approach of the new homeschool year this year (something about having to teach four grades at once while simultaneously caring for four small children and keeping semi-order around my house and preparing food for ten people three times a day....) 

But I am trying.  So I sat down Sunday and looked at the calendar.   I remembered a suggestion I heard a few years ago: six week chunks of school followed by a one week break.  Like the six days of creation followed by a day of rest.  Six of those terms and you have a 180-day school year.  It sounds good to me this year.  So I put it up against the calendar and tried to align things to my satisfaction.   I found that in order for the breaks to fall where I want them, we need to start school August 24th.  Ugh.  I am not ready.  I wanted to wait another week or two.  But my desire to have the predictability of the "six weeks on, one week off" outweighs this.  My kids need as much structure as I can possibly give them. 

I am therefore in full-blown Homeschool Planning Mode, and my house is crumbling around me as I turn to the computer every spare moment I have to try to get everything ready by Monday. 

My enthusiasm goes up and down.  When I am online looking at curriculum and planning how we are going to do things,  I am super excited.   When I start to think about how we have very little money to buy curriculum this year and can really only buy the stuff we absolutely need, or when I start thinking about how my brilliant plans for a daily schedule always come unraveled as life gets in the way especially with my very needy and screamy little ones, and of course my highly un-motivated older kids take any excuse to run for the hills the minute I am distracted, and I have to fight a thousand battles just to get the kids to learn a little bit of the stuff in the awesome curriculum I find, then I feel weary and discouraged.  Oh no, here we go again, I say.  Do I have to do this? 

I can tell you that I would NOT do this if I didn't think it was what the Lord wanted for my children.  I promise I don't do this because it's fun and easy.  But I can tell you that I know that it is what He wants me to do.  And so I will muster up all the excitement and energy I can, I will fight the discouragement and feelings of failure, and I will do my very very best to give my kids the best education I can.  I know what a good education looks like and I know I can teach them so much, as much as they will let me. 

I think the adversary hits homeschooling moms pretty hard at the beginning of the school year, and I know that many of the feelings I am having (discouraged, tired, overwhelmed, daunted, etc.) do not come from God.  And so I am choosing to go on and to trust Him, that He will open up a way even when it seems impossible.   That what I am doing will be enough even though I am so often sure that it isn't.   I am still struggling with these feelings, but that's understandable: the war we fought in Heaven before we came to earth continues here every day in our minds.  I can expect to have to fight off the thoughts fed to me by the little imp on my shoulder.   But I know that I have an angel on my other shoulder,  and in fact I have angels all round about me to bear me up.  I have felt them and I pray daily for their continued assistance.  

And so we go forward!   Here's to a great school year!  Remember that by small and simple things great things are brought to pass. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pie Bandits

I have to tell you a story about those peach pies I made that I mentioned in my last post.   We ate one that Saturday night.  Our fridge was jam-packed, so I put the other pie in the little fridge upstairs in our bedroom.   I figured it would make a great treat for Family Home Evening on Monday night.  

That Monday afternoon Bean went upstairs for something and pretty soon I hear "Mom!"  As I was hurrying up the stairs I figured Peanut and Frog were at it again... those two are absolutely unbelievable when they are together... what did they destroy this time?   When Bean motioned me into my room I suddenly knew: the pie.  I prepared myself for the worst. 

The fridge had little white smears of whipped cream on it, the kind made by tiny fingers.  When I opened the fridge, I saw a pie with a chunk of whipped cream missing and a plastic Schleich princess in a green dress standing next to the pie.  I also saw that they had been using Mr. Potato Head's ear as a spoon.  

I couldn't help it.  I burst out laughing.   I laughed so hard that I had to lie down on the floor and beat my fists on the carpet.  The sudden inclination to laugh surprised me as much as it surprised Bean.  He has seen me get mad at Peanut and Frog's escapades a few times.   So he expected me to get upset.  I am not sure why I didn't: maybe because it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be (the pie was far from ruined), maybe it was the plastic princess standing over the pie in her regal green dress, or maybe, just maybe I am getting a little better at handling things with the kids. 

Kids are an incredible course in self-improvement.   They will stretch you in ways you didn't even know you could stretch.  For example, I did not think I had a problem with anger before I had kids... I was seldom angry, and when I was I was usually pretty calm about it.  I wasn't much of one to yell or fly off the handle.  Heh heh.  Now I have the temptation to yell or fly off the handle almost every minute of every day.  I cave in to that temptation more than I would like.  However, what my kids don't usually see and what I hope someday they will understand, is that there are lots of small, private victories: times where I could have yelled but that I chose to speak softly or to laugh instead.   And even though I am far from where I want to be, I am gradually improving. 

I personally think the self-improvement course you get from having children is the best thing that can happen to a person.  I hope to come out of it much improved.  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Saturday Evening

I am sitting here nursing a baby so I thought I would talk to my blog a little bit.   I spend a lot of time nursing babies, as you can imagine.   Sometimes I look around at the mess while I'm nursing and feel frustrated that I never serm to be able to get anything done.   Sometimes I am grateful for the chance to put my feet up and not do anything house-related for awhile.   And always I am grateful for the chance to snuggle a sweet baby. 

We have been doing frequent weight checks at the doctor because of the twins' small size, especially Twig.  The doctor is very reassured by Twig's general good health and age-appropriate development,  but we both feel it is prudent to keep a close eye on the situation.   Twig still weighs less than 13 pounds, but she is gaining slowly.  

Both the Badger and I did a lot of cooking today.  He made four loaves of bread and a huge batch of spaghetti for dinner.   I made a double batch of banana bread and two peach pies... we had bought a case of peaches and they were all suddenly on the verge of going bad, so yesterday the Badger peeled and sliced them all and stuck them in the fridge.  Today we needed fridge space so we needed to do something with the huge tub of peaches.  Fresh peach pie seemed like a good idea.  Don't be too impressed: I made graham cracker crusts.   Roo and her neighbor friend Grace helped me.  It was fun to cook with them. 

Anyway, that all ought to hold us for a couple of days, maybe.  Food disappears quickly around here, so it's a good thing that both the Badger and I love to cook and bake. 

Bean is playing football this season.  Practices started this week.  I didn't feel good about other opportunities for him to play as I investigated them earlier in the summer,  but then this one came up and finally something felt right.  It's so good to see him working hard and getting in better shape.  And between his massive size and his experience, he is quite an asset to his team.  Getting him to and from all the practices is a bit of a strain on our family, but I think it is very much worth it.  And I am looking forward to some exciting football games!

Now I just have to find the right things for my other kids to do this fall. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bonus Pictures

Ah, the things I find on my camera when I upload photos!  Most of these bonus pictures are blurry and have bad composition, but sometimes there are some keepers.  Here is Frog in Fish's hat:


Someone (Rabbit I think) got down to Leaf's level for this one:


This last one was a little blurry, but it made me laugh.  Off they go!


Feeding Leaf

Leaf loves baby food!  Twig gags when you try to spoon-feed her, but Leaf attacks the spoon like a piranha.  She's fun to feed.  She also likes to wave her tongue around while you're trying to put the spoon in (because she's so excited about it) and so the food goes everywhere.  It's a messy process, feeding an 8-month-old.  








We are trying to help the twins gain weight a little faster, especially Twig. So I make this awesome concoction of baby food, baby oatmeal powder, formula, and a little coconut oil. It's powerful. Leaf loves it, and I can tell it's helping her put on weight. I wish Twig would eat it too-- Miss Twig who has been absolutely refusing bottles for awhile now-- but I figure that if Leaf eats a lot of solids that will mean more mommy milk for Twig. And that is the best we can do for now.

The Sailor Suit


When Bean and Fish were little tykes, I often thought how fun it would be to dress them up a bit.  I saw pictures of cute little boys in seersucker or sailor suits and I thought "my son would be so cute dressed up like that!"  But that was back in the day when we were always so totally broke.  "That's okay," I thought, "I'm going to have a ton of kids so I am sure eventually I will get to do things like that down the road when we are rolling in the dough." 

Well, we do have a ton of kids.  But we've run out of steam in terms of having more, and that means we're now looking at last chances.  If there was something I wanted to do with one of my babies or toddlers, I'd better get on it because there's not going to be a next go-around. 

We're still not rolling in the dough, but I had to buy a sailor suit for my little Frog.  I got a good deal on one on Zulily recently.  The thing is, I knew that, unlike his older brothers as toddlers, Frog was going to LOVE this sailor suit.  He was going to wear it with great relish and gusto.  Yup, he does. 

Frog wears his sailor suit every Sunday.  I snapped this real quick when we were on our way to church... I just realized that he is not wearing the hat.  That's because I had to hide the hat since he was so upset that I wouldn't let him wear it to church (I'm telling you, he loves this sailor suit!)  I intend to do a photoshoot as the summer wanes and the temperatures outside come down a bit, but I'm glad I got this picture in the mean time.