Friday, January 29, 2016

Week Off

I can't believe how time-poor I am at this stage in my life.  And when I say I can't believe it I mean it: one of my biggest challenges right now is that I persist in thinking I can get far more done than I really can.  My brain just cannot seem to understand that things I used to have time for I now do not.  It is a challenge to keep from getting extremely frustrated at how I am constantly behind where I think I should be. 

I often reflect on how we all have a unique combination of time, money, and energy/health, and it changes as we enter different phases of our life.  Throughout my adult life there have been times when I had lots of time but no money,  times when money wasn't so tight but I was ill with pregnancy,  and times like now when I have pretty good health but my time is squeezed like never before. 

As we learned in last General Conference, when your facilities are limited it causes you to focus on spending them on what is really important.   And I think that's why God tests us with poverty in each of these areas at different stages of our life.  I think He wants to see what we will do with our money when we don't have much, with our time when we don't have much, and with our energy when our health is poor. 

Some of us get tested on the abundance side of these resources as well, though it's easy to think we are not getting as much as we think we should have, even when we have an abundance. 

But I am getting sidetracked with this philosophizing.  This past week has been a week off school for us and I am so grateful for the break.  I needed it something awful.  Homeschool, for all it is amazing and exhilarating and exciting,  is also frustrating, grueling, and exhausting.  It is mentally,  physically,  and emotionally draining.   Learning to pace yourself is an absolute must.   I am still learning, which might be why last week I was about to turn into a screaming maniac, but I have learned that this "break every six weeks" plan is a really good one for me. 

I kept thinking of things I wanted to get done during the break, and I started a little list in my planner.  I was in love with the idea that I was going to have some time to do things I almost never get to do: creative things and fun things and "just because" things.  A whole week to dedicate to such things!  The luxury!  I have been on fire with two sewing projects lately: a quilt and some bags for the girls to take to church on Sunday.   Two birthday parties are coming up soon that need planning.  A stack of boxes in the basement needs my mad sorting skills.  Seed catalogs stacking up in my reading basket say, "your week off would be a great time to start your garden plan."  And surely I can read "The Wilder Life" before it's due back at the library?   My brain said all that was reasonable, with a whole week off. 

The most pressing need, though, was an overhaul of the homeschool room.  We have now reached the halfway point in our year and that is a time to regroup.  A time to dump the clutter,  get rid of what's not working, and make plans for the next 18 weeks.  I planned to take a couple of days for this. 

And of course, that's about all I got done this week.  It's not even quite done yet, but after I spend all of tomorrow on it I should be done. 

But!  I am so grateful that I have been able to get organized again!  This truly was the best thing for me to spend mt time on. 

It is so hard to find time for teacher prep when you homeschool,  and teacher prep is really important.   Things run so much smoother when you are organized.   I am hoping for some smoother sailing ahead.  (Notice I did not say smooth, just smoother.)   Some small changes have been made that will hopefully make things easier for all of us.  And I am really excited about some of the things we are going to be learning. 

Funny how as a homeschool teacher I get so, so excited about what I'm going to be teaching, and then by the end of a week or even a day I am a hysterical wreck wondering why on earth I do this to myself, but then I get excited about it again.  Anyone relate? 

I am so grateful for my life and where I am right now and the eight amazing children I have.  I don't really want to be anywhere else doing anything else. 

Birrd, it's okay if you return library books unread.  It's okay if the boxes in the basement don't get sorted until summer break.  It's okay if you don't buy all the perfect varieties of seeds and garden plants at the best prices from the right companies.  It's even okay if you don't sweep your bathroom floor for a few more days.  The bags don't have to be done by the girls' birthdays.   It's okay.  Really. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fourteen Months

Fourteen month old twins are so amazingly adorable.  They are cuddly and giggly and fun. 

Leaf has always been a little ahead of Twig developmentally,  and she took her first steps a week or so before Twig did.  But at this point Twig is closer to walking fluently than Leaf.  Twig often takes many steps on her own, and she loves to hold someone's finger and walk around the house.  (Oh, the utter cuteness of little people learning to walk, and the utter joy of having a tiny hand holding your finger as you help them walk!)  Leaf can take unaided steps too, she just isn't doing it as often.  She wants to move around in an upright position though,  so she does something that none of my other kids have ever done before: she walks around on her knees.  It's pretty funny.  

They are both very happy little people.   Leaf is a little more vivacious, but Twig is definitely a cheerful soul.   We love listening to them laugh!

Watching them interact with each other is getting more and more fun.  One day they were playing peek a boo with each other in their high chairs.  I have never seen anything cuter.  Another time Roo was feeding them bananas and they were both looking at each other and saying "mmm mmm mmm."  They often move around the room together and work in tandem to explore (destroy!) something such as a basket of toys or a bookshelf.  Less fun is when they hit or push each other, which I see being a major challenge in the next several months as they both decide they want the same thing at the same time. 

They eat a ton, and they love most things. 
Sleeping is gradually going better overall.  It's a "two steps forward, one step back" scenario for sure.  We'll have a good night where they only wake up once or twice (typical of my infants at this age) and I will think "finally!" and relish the fact that I got 7 hours of sleep total and then they will keep me up for hours the next couple of nights and I will be trying to make it through the morning on four hours of sleep (nap time is a necessity for me, I am telling you, and I am so grateful for older kids who can watch younger ones while I catch up on sleep!) 

One interesting thing is that we are almost done with binkies.  Neither one of them want a binky at night, and Leaf will almost never take one at all anymore.  She spits it back at you most of the time.  Twig often takes one at nap time or just when when she's playing around.  And they can still be really helpful when I need to hold one baby off for a few minutes because it's not their turn to nurse yet.  We look forward to being done with binkies forever though, and it's a relief that, unlike with most of our kids, it doesn't look like it's going to be much of a fight to take them away.

They are both so fascinated with electronic devices.   They want our phones and that computer keyboard something awful.  It's hard for me to get anything done at the computer these days. 

I will try to get some more pictures taken soon.  They are hard to photograph lately because they move around so much!   I have lots of blurry photos on my camera right now.  Also, several times they have been so cute so we went to grab the camera and when we got back they weren't doing whatever cute thing anymore.   But I will keep trying,  and hopefully soon I can capture some of the 14-month-old twin cuteness that we live with every day around here.  Lucky us!  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Planning

Last year I went to the BYU bookstore to buy my yearly refill for my beloved Franklin planner, and I came out with this instead. 

I loved this planner!  It is designed by an LDS mom for LDS moms, and I think the woman must be my soul-sister because she totally speaks my planner language.  Since I use my planner as a kind of replacement for my poor, mangled, mom-of-eight brain, having something that so closely meets my needs is a big blessing.  She designed the planner with a lot of versatility, and yet there is a space for everything I need to keep track of, including visiting teaching and family home evening.   If you want to take a closer look, here's her website

At the end of the year I was pleased with the shape the planner was in.  With an outfit like mine, I was worried that it would be a torn, trashed wreck by December.  But it still looks good.  I am sold.

So I got a new one for this year.  They have many cover choices, and I love this purple and silver!  One thing about the planner is that the lines to write on are small.  I was on their website and I saw that she recommends these fine-line markers.  I splurged and bought a set and I love them so much.  I am one of those strange people that likes to make my planner pretty and colorful, so I have been having so much fun with these.  And the marker points are so fine that the small lines in the planner don't matter at all. 


She's made some small tweaks this year with the pages and I like it even better.  I am looking forward to a wonderful, well-planned 2016! 

Twins Eating Pinto Beans

Enjoy the smiles! 





Tuesday, January 12, 2016

5K Training

I have started back up training for a 5K race.  As I have said before, this is a huge deal for me.  For most people, running 5K is not a huge deal, but I am the kid that always came in dead last  in the junior high gym class mile run.  After that humiliation I gave up most things aerobic and became a very sedentary sloth for the next decade.  As a young mother I started exercising again, but over the last fourteen years I have alternated these periods of fitness with periods of debilitating pregnancy.  I'm starting from pretty close to the bottom of the pile, and I've got a long way to go. 

A year ago when I was living with my in-laws and had their extra help, I had a daily exercise routine.  I walked every afternoon after my nap and before dinner.  Each day I went father, until most days I was walking a full 5K.  Yay!  I knew I could walk the distance.  Now, how to run it?  I came up with a plan that felt doable for me.  I decided that I would keep walking the 5K every other day.  On alternate days, I would go for a 1-mile "run."  I use the word "run" very loosely.  I plotted a 1-mile loop on gmap-pedometer.com, and every time I did it I would run as much of it as I could.  I had heard people say they started out by alternating running 10 steps with walking 10 steps.  For me, I started out running 10 steps and then walking 50 steps.  Or more.  But you have to start somewhere. 

There was definitely a voice in my head that said "you're so bad at this that it's obvious this isn't for you.  You're not like the people who run, you never have been. Why are you even trying?"  And honestly, I'm not totally sure why I'm doing this.  I have found methods of exercising that I like much, much better than running.  Why did I get that bee in my bonnet about running a 5K?  I don't know, but for whatever reason it won't go away, and it's great to have a specific, measurable goal. 

Things were coming along, but then my goal dropped off my radar screen when we moved to Kansas last spring.  For most of last year, I was just trying to keep my nose above water taking care of all my responsibilities.  I knew though, that as soon as I could, I would start training again. 

The time is now. 

I started back up with my 1-mile runs last week.  I still can't run a mile, by the way.  But I think I can almost jog half of it at this point, in chunks.  Starting next month I am going to gradually start increasing the distance, even if I still can't jog all of it.  I figure if I add half a mile each month, I can do 3 miles by the end of May, which is prime 5K season.  I hope it works.

Honestly, when I run, I feel like I am made of cement, dragging a ball and chain, and traveling upstream through peanut butter.  I can't say that I enjoy it, and mostly the dominant thought in my head is "it takes less than 20 minutes.  You can suffer through it."  But!  I love the way I feel when I'm done.  LOVE it!  That's what keeps me going back for more. 

They said that my ability to run would increase every day, and it does.  Honestly, I am surprised at how fast this happens.  It makes it kind of exciting.  Instead of dreading the day's run, you look forward to seeing how much farther you are going to run before you have to switch back to walking.  I pick out landmarks as I jog: mailboxes, lightposts, fire hydrants.  Yesterday I could only jog to the red mailbox; today I made it to the fire hydrant 5 yards beyond! 

Also, it's fun to watch my time come down.  For the record, last Monday I did the mile loop in 17 minutes and 17 seconds.  I am telling you that because it's pretty pathetic, so it makes a great "before," don't you think?  Yesterday, my time was 15:54.  Isn't that cool?  It's still pathetic, but it's a huge improvement.  And I hope that by sharing my pathetic-ness I can be an inspiration to someone.  If you also want to run but are afraid of being so turtle-y slow that you shouldn't even bother to try, remember there's me out there.  I'll be your turtle running buddy amongst all those crazy running rabbits. 

I think for my first 5K I might buy that shirt that says "I'm slower than Internet Explorer on 90's Dial-Up, But I Run." 

Midyear Order

We're almost halfway through our school year, so I just put in an order with Rainbow Resource to bring in a few new things for next semester.  I thought my homeschooler readers would be interested in what I got, so I'm sharing. 

  • A new science book: Apologia's Land AnimalsWe are just finishing up Botany; we're trying to get through 2 volumes a year.  
  • Editor in Chief level A-1 software.  I love Critical Thinking Company, and we've done some of their Editor-in-Chief pages in their other language books before.  I wanted to get books for Bean, Fish, and Roo to help them have a sharper eye in their writing, and I am hoping that the software will be just as good as the books (and cheaper, for 3 students!)  Since Bean and Fish find language quite challenging, I think it will work to have them all at the same level.
  • Building Thinking Skills Volume 3 for Bean.  I meant to buy this last fall and start him on it but then I didn't.  I have really prioritized thinking skills in our homeschool and I love these books from Critical Thinking Company.  The jury's still out on how much these books will help my kids in the long run, but I think they are valuable.  
  • BambinoLUK and some workbooks to go with it.  I have been using the miniLUK set with the Rabbit for awhile now and I like it enough that I am buying the little-kid version for Peanut (and I betcha Frog will want in-- he's a sharp little critter.)  It's a great tool because it's hands-on so they think they're just having fun but actually they are learning and problem solving.  Peanut needs some things like this right now. 
  • Poke-A-Dot book: Old McDonald's Farm.  I got this for Frog mostly.  I think he is ready to start learning to count, and the little popping things in this book are supposed to be great for kiddos at that stage.  
 It's always fun to get new things, but at this rather dreary time of the year, I think it's pretty exciting. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Big Beast

We have been needing a bigger vehicle for many months, but we weren't sure what we were going to do about it.  Once the financial dust settled after we arrived here, we realized it would be awhile before we could afford much of a car payment.  How do you find a 12- or 15-passenger van for really cheap and yet know that it's in good enough shape to be a reliable family vehicle?

I will tell you how.  You leave it in the hands of the Lord.  I believe that when we do what He asks us to do, He provides a way for us to do it.  Having eight children has been a leap of faith, since we are not rich.  But He has never let us down.  So when it came to having a bigger vehicle, we prayed, and then since we didn't see a way at the time we left it in His hands for the time being and tried to be patient.  It looked to me from where I was sitting that it would be a long time-- another year, perhaps-- before we could buy anything.

Out of the blue, the Badger's brother called us in mid-December.  The organization he works for was selling off a 12-passenger van from their fleet.  It was old, but impeccably maintained and in very good shape.  The price was really low-- low enough that we could afford payments.  Talk about a blessing!

In all our van research, we had identified some things we really wanted, such as a tow hitch, cargo space, and a color other than white.  This van had most everything on our list (no back-up camera, but we can add that later.)

The week before Christmas the Badger flew out to get it.  The transaction and transportation went smoothly.  Merry Christmas to us!  We now have a vehicle that our entire family can ride in together.  We can now discuss possibilities for going on family vacations this year, or even just going out of town for a day trip.  What an amazing blessing!

Here it is in the driveway behind our old van (I took this picture on Christmas morning when I was photographing all our presents.)  They are both GMCs made only a couple years apart, so the instrument panels are very similar.  That has been nice!



You may remember that I have been harboring apprehensions for years about driving such a large vehicle.  And this thing is every bit as huge as I had imagined.  We keep saying what a big beast it is, so that's probably the name that's going to stick.

But what I never realized is how fun it is to drive something so big and powerful.  It's got a V-8 engine and when you hit the gas it really goes.  Yes, the tiny parking lot in front of the post office is a pain to maneuver, but driving it mostly is a total hoot.  I can't believe I'm saying that!

And, friends, the room this thing has inside!   The luxury of not being totally squished!  Being able to designate spots for each car seat where they can stay!  Having two more seats than we even need!

We feel very, very blessed. 



Recent Snapshots

Sunday is a great day to upload photos.  Here's what came off my camera today.  It's always fun to see what's on there because these days there are always pictures I did not take, so I never know what's going to appear. 

 Here we are putting away all the Christmas decorations.  It was a big, messy job. 



We got a new easel for Christmas.  An easel was under the tree in 2006, when Bean and Fish were little, and it served us well until it got left behind when we left Oklahoma.  It has been getting constant use and I have frequently wondered what I was thinking as I try to police the dry erase markers and keep them off of walls and clothing (and out of babies' mouths!) 

Here, Peanut drew characters from Star Wars.  Can you tell which one is Yoda?


Hello, Leaf!


Peanut loves art!  


Twig has been dressed in an adorable snowsuit with ears because she is going to go with Mommy on some errands.  One of her sisters has added a clip-on bow-- so cute!


I love Twig-smiles.  


Leaf is not going with on this outing, so she is not wearing a snow suit.  Usually when I go to the store or wherever I take only one twin and one or two of the middle kids.   It works out well that way: I only have to deal with one baby and the Badger only has to deal with one baby. 


I also love Leaf-smiles!


Oh, my beautiful children!  I am so lucky.  




A Project Finished




I made the top for this Christmas throw quilt four years ago.  It was such a thrill to finally get it finished!  Okay, I thought I was going to finish it in December and actually finished in January, but it's all ready for next Christmas season now!   Eleven months early!

I just love how it turned out.  I love a dark pine green and a bright rich red and a pure snow white for Christmas.  I love homey, pioneery-looking half-square-triangle quilts anytime of year.  

My sewing machine calls to me.  Sometimes I wish it wouldn't, since I can find so very little time for it at this stage of my life.  On the other hand, I am very grateful for this deep, pressing need I have to create. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Just Now

We just saw Twig take her first steps!  Leaf took a few steps on New Year's Eve and has taken a couple here and there since then.  (George has been the perfect training device; they both LOVE to walk behind George.)  Wow, folks, we're going to have toddling twins here pretty soon.  I don't know whether I am excited or terrified. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Scripture Power

Today we had a great pep talk in church about reading the Book of Mormon.  That is something that I definitely do fairly consistently, but my enthusiasm wanes sometimes.  At the moment, I am super pumped up about it.

I have read this quote by Marion G. Romney many times, but I really needed to hear it again today:

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

I need these blessings in my home!  Don't we all?  And yes, we do read family scriptures here at the Birrd's nest, but not as well as we should.  Despite the fact that we try to do it every day, we don't. At the moment we're in the beginning of Helaman, and we probably started a year and a half ago... it's been so long that I can't even remember.  

I have a new Book of Mormon reading chart in my new 2016 planner and I'm feeling super motivated there.  Today I felt inspired to get my family a little more motivated too, and the idea came to me that we need to set a time goal because it will give us an incentive to not miss days.  And I'm thinking a big reward at the end too.  I look forward to discussing this all with the family at Family Home Evening tomorrow night and making some plans that hopefully everyone will be excited about.  

I will read them all this Ezra Taft Benson quote too:

"There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance." (October 1986 General Conference)

Welcome 2016!

I am excited for 2016.  I like even-numbered years. 

I love the chance we have in January to look back on the past year and look forward to the next year.  I love recommitting myself and making plans to help me do better, be better. 

At the beginning of 2015 there was a lot of uncertainty in my life but I was looking forward to some healing and renewal after the difficult pregnancy with twins.  There was some healing and renewal last year, but it came very slowly as caring for said twins kept me in survival mode much of the year.  I am grateful for the progress made, but there is still a ways to go and I hope that 2016 will bring me more physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength and balance. 

I lost 40 pounds last year and I am really happy about that.  (Actually, I lost 45 but gained 5 back during the holidays, but I planned on that happening...)  This year I only have to lose 15 or 20, but then I have to keep it off.  This won't be a problem if I can get back into regular exercise.  And that's a major priority for me right now, because there are several people in this household who desperately need regular exercise and we need to make a plan for all of us.  I am still determined to be able to do a 5K sometime... this spring, hopefully. 

I did pretty good moderating my sugar intake for much of last year.  Sometimes the addictive tendencies would flare up and I would have to go off it completely, but often I was able to enjoy some treats once or twice a week without going overboard.   In December I went back into full addict mode, especially the week between Christmas and New Year's.  Oh, the yummy things I ate!  Oh, the appalling quantities of yummy things I ate!  I always do this, and I let myself do this.  I know I am good about getting back on the wagon in January. 

It is hard getting back on the wagon though.  The first day of denying yourself is the hardest.  For this, I am grateful for the law of the fast that we Mormons observe.  Today was "quit sugar cold turkey" day (usually I do that on January 1st but my sisters were here visiting for New Year's so I gave it two more days.)  It was also Fast Sunday.  We are supposed to fast for two meals as an exercise of faith, but those with health considerations (such as women who are pregnant or nursing) can modify that as they see fit.  Several friends of mine are going through some very challenging things in their lives and one of my friends asked if we as friends could all fast and pray today for these people who are so burdened.  It was just the motivation I needed.  I decided to abstain from both sugar and dairy products today.  That didn't sound very hard and it didn't sound like very much, but wow, it was really hard.  I did it though, and I am so grateful for the chance to break out of the addictive cycles I've been in.  Tomorrow will be easier.  I will eat dairy again, but I'm going to stay off sugar completely for awhile. 

It will be easier knowing I am so close to my goals.  I am almost to my goal size, and that means I will have the fun of acquiring a new wardrobe of comfortable clothes that I feel good and look good in.  I have that to look forward to this spring.