Monday, February 29, 2016

Doing the Impossible

I've had that last post on my brain for awhile.  Every day as I teach school and deal with five thousand interruptions per hour, I think, "I really should try to write down what this is like."  I go back and forth between thinking it's funny and thinking something like "If people only knew what I deal with every minute of every day they would never believe it!  I mean, this is crazy!  Who does this?"

So what I did was one day while I was teaching I kept a piece of paper next to me and I wrote down every interruption that happened all morning.  What I wrote in that last post was absolutely authentic, though those interruptions happened more like over the course of an hour or two and not while I was just reading one short paragraph.  Though sometimes reading one paragraph is like that.  But anyway, overall that list of interruptions one morning was a perfect sample of the usual fare around here at this stage of the game.

Anyway, I go about my days with that one detached part of my brain watching what I am doing and saying "good gravy, how do you even?"  And my brain is absolutely right.  Because, what I do is impossible.  It is absolutely impossible.  Every day I begin the day with a list of tasks that is simply beyond the capacity of any mortal, and that's before the barrage of interruptions.  I gamely dive in and do the best I can, but there is no way I can pull it all off.  I never do.

One can get rather discouraged under such circumstances, and sometimes I do.  And sometimes I stress about it because I think I should be doing more, that maybe if I just tried harder I could make it all happen.

Recently I listened to the worldwide devotional talk that President Russell M.Nelson gave in January called "Becoming True Millennials."  Wow, it was just what I needed!  If you haven't read it yet, you really need to.  It was so, so good.  He was so totally talking to me when he said,

"Expect and prepare to accomplish the impossible.  God has always asked His covenant children to do difficult things. Because you are covenant-keeping sons and daughters of God, living in the latter part of these latter days, the Lord will ask you to do difficult things....
...As a True Millennial whom the Lord can count on, you will make history too! You will be asked to accept challenging assignments and become an instrument in the Lord’s hands. And He will enable you to accomplish the impossible.
How will you accomplish the impossible? By doing whatever it takes to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ by increasing your understanding of the doctrine taught in His restored Church and by relentlessly seeking truth. As a True Millennial, anchored in pure doctrine, when you are asked to do impossible things, you will be able to step forward with faith and dogged persistence and cheerfully do all that lies in your power to fulfill the purposes of the Lord.
You will have days when you will be thoroughly discouraged. So, pray for courage not to give up! 
...I promise you that as you follow Jesus Christ, you will find sustained peace and true joy. As you keep your covenants with increasing precision, and as you defend the Church and kingdom of God on the earth today, the Lord will bless you with strength and wisdom to accomplish the impossible."

Reading that helped me make a mental shift that has been really helpful to me.  What I do every day really is impossible.  It's not just that I'm failing at something I should be able to do if I just tried hard enough, or if the kids would just be more cooperative.  It truly is impossible and that's okay.  Having President Nelson tell me that impossible tasks are to be expected has allowed me to better accept my reality and let go of those feelings of self-blame or self-pity that sometimes pop up.  If impossible tasks are to be expected, how lucky am I that my impossible task can be so fun and rewarding and involves the best people ever?

I am resolved, as I always have been, to do the absolute best I can.  And I know that when I do, the Lord, who set this task before me, will cause many marvelous miracles to unfold.  So along the way I have got to enjoy and not just endure.

Since I read Elder Nelson's talk, quotes about accomplishing the impossible have been jumping out at me (I love how that works!)  I feel even more strengthened when I read things like these two quotes from A. W. Tozer:

"God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible.  What a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves."

"How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none."

I am grateful that I know so clearly that He wants me to homeschool my children right now.  I am so, so, so grateful that I can.  I am so grateful for the health and strength I have to tackle it every day.  And since I've had this mental shift I have been making more of an effort to notice the progress, to see the good that is happening with my kids and not get so hung up on how crazy hard it is.  There are so many good things going on, even amidst the disruptions.

But I'm glad I wrote all those disruptions down so that we can laugh about them in years to come!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

How to Teach History to Eight Children

Teaching History in homeschool is easy and enjoyable!  Simply settle into your favorite chair and pile a cuddly tot or two onto your lap.  Pull out an excellent book such as Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World, and begin to read.   Your little ones will gather 'round and listen intently, like so:

During the Seven Years' War, Britain had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds defending the American colonies.  The British thought 

"MOM!  The baby is on the table again!"
Roo, please get her down, then push the chairs in--- oh, and why don't you put her in the high chair and give her some bread.  Oh, and Fish, please go finish your breakfast at the table in the breakfast room.  We don't want stickies on the homeschool table. 

that it was high time for the colonies to put some of that money back into England's treasury.  And the simplest way to do that was 

"WAAAAAAH!  Rabbit knocked over my block tower!"
"It was an accident!" 
I'm sorry Peanut, you can build another one.  
"Mom, have you seen my Wordsmith assignment?"
(Sigh.) I don't know, Bean.  Try on top of the filing cabinet.  
"Mom! I have a runny nose!"
Yes, Frog.  Here's a tissue.

to pass laws 

"MOM!  I have a runny nose!"
Yes, Frog, I know!
 

 requiring Americans to

"MOM!  I HAVE A RUNNY NOSE!"
YES, Fro--OUCH!!!! Who pulled my hair?  Peanut, please get off the back of the chair.  
"Mom, it's not on top of the filing cabinet."
Try the box of scrap paper on the---
"THE BABY HAS A POOPY DIAPER!!!"
"MOM, I HAVE A RUNNY NOSE!!!"
Okay, guys, hang on.  I just have to change this diaper real quick and help Frog wipe his nose.  Don't go away.  
 "Hey, Mom, last night I had a dream that we were back in Utah at Grandma's house only it was made of cheese and there were penguins everywhere and I could fly but only when I was touching peanut butter, so--"
"MOM!  Bean pushed me!"
"I did not!  But she's not supposed to be playing the piano right now!"
That's true.  Rabbit, stay off the piano.  Bean, do not manhandle your little sister.  Okay, guys, diaper is changed.  Let me just get settled here...
"HE TOOK MY SPOT!  I WAS SITTING BY MOM!"
"WAAAAHHH!!! I WANT TO SIT NEXT TO MOM!!!"
Peanut, let Frog have a turn.  Why don't you go get out the pattern blocks?  All right, where were we?
 
 pay extra taxes.  So Parliament and the king's ministers wrote a series of new tax laws, called Acts.  The first tax law, the Sugar Act, was passed just one year after the Treaty of Paris.  Now, Americans had to pay extra money for all sugar and molasses that came into American ports--unless the sugar came from 

"WAAAAAAH!!!!!!"
Someone go get the baby out of the high chair.  And by the way, where is the other baby?  
"She went upstairs just now."
Fish, you run up and make sure all the doors are shut and locked up there so she doesn't choke on Legos.  
"MOM!  Frog is hogging all the yellow blocks!"
Frog, come back and sit on my lap.  It *was* your turn.  Yes, bring the animal book.  Good idea.

Britain.  The Americans hated the Sugar Act.  And they hated the Stamp Act, which was passed the following year, even more.  The Stamp Act told them to

 "Look Mom!  A baby elephant!"
Yes, Frog.
"Mom, look!  A baby elephant!"
Yes, Frog!  I see!   FISH!!! Come back downstairs please!  You're supposed to be listening to History!  Bring the baby too, while you're at it.  
"A baby elephant, Mom!"
Yes, Frog!  It's a very nice baby elephant.  Now please be quiet so Mommy can read aloud.  

 pay extra money to Britain every time they bought newspapers, pamphlets, dice, or playing cards.  And every time a legal document like a will or a diploma was written,

*Thunk*  "WAAAAAAH!!!!"   
Oh dear, poor Twig bonked her head.  Bring her to me, please.  Oh, poor sweet Twig.  I'm so sorry.
 "Mom, I got a paper cut."
I'm sorry, Roo.  
"It's bleeding a lot."
Go get a band-aid then. 

 the colonist who owned it had to pay a fee to get it "stamped" and made official.  All of this money went to Britain. 


"Wait, what did you say?"  
Well--
"Mom!  look at the baby elephant!"
Frog!  Please stop!
"Lunch time!"
Yes, Bean, by all means... 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fifteen Months

We're a quarter of the way though the second year with these twinses.  They are so cute toddling around the house on their unsteady little legs, or relaxing on Roo's big fuzzy pillow in their jammies.

We almost never get them mixed up anymore.  Maybe it's because Leaf's hair sticks up a lot more than Twig's, or maybe it's that their eyes are shaped a little different.  They still do look a lot a like, though, and a lady at the store the other day was sure they were identical.  I always enjoy hearing people's opinions on that matter. 


Eight is Great

My Rabbit recently had her eighth birthday.  Oh, how I love this sweet girl of mine!  She is smart and capable, tender-hearted and caring, feisty and strong-willed.  She can screech like a banshee when provoked, but when she's happy she sings--and sings beautifully.  She is usually happy. 

Not long ago, I felt like she was growing up so fast, and moving away from us at an alarming rate.  Especially when she was in school, I felt like she was detaching herself from us and latching onto the big, busy, exciting world as fast as she could.  I worried about this, that I hadn't had time to prepare her for the various pitfalls she would encounter.  And I was sad that she was spreading her wings so quickly after such a short time in the nest. 

This last year plus has been such a gift, having her home with me.  She has been happy at home, and in fact recently wrote a paragraph about how much she loves homeschool.  It's like she willingly settled back down into the nest, and I have loved that.  She is such a blessing to have at home in so many ways, from her melodious piano playing to her competent help with the chores to the evidence of her creativity everywhere.  Mostly I just enjoy her usually sunny disposition, her happy smile, her loves and snuggles. 

I think she had a wonderful birthday.  She wanted hamburgers, and with this mild weather we were able to cook them outdoors.  She wanted cupcakes, so I baked some and let the kids go crazy with the frosting and sprinkles.  And she had a long list of presents she wanted, but seemed very pleased with the few small gifts we bought her.  Here are pictures. 









One Fine Day

Last Friday, after they were through with their school work, my kids went outside and built this:


By Saturday afternoon, it looked like this:


(The pictures show Peanut and Frog, but it was really Fish and Roo and Rabbit that did most of the construction.)  

I'm so grateful that my kids have time to do things like this, and that they like to do things like this.  Homeschooling is very, very hard, but it is also wonderful and amazing. 

Signs of Spring

We've had a mild winter, and spring is coming early.  I went out with Peanut and Frog on Saturday to explore the yard and look for early signs of spring.  We found some! 

Buds on the honeysuckle vine:


And then lots of little green fingers from the bulbs I planted last fall:





I really enjoy winter, even here where it rarely snows.  I love the bare branches of the trees against the sky, and I love the angle of the light.  This year I really appreciated the break from the demands of the yard.  I have enough to do in the house right now, and I have projects that I want to do that I can't work on when I have to spend my spare time gardening.   I could definitely handle some more weeks of winter: I could finish that quilt, for one thing. 

But it is always, always so exciting to see signs of spring!  I can get excited about getting my hands in the dirt and growing wonderful things! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Valentine's Day

Last week was Valentine's Day.  It's not my favorite holiday, but kids think it's fun, and I love to make things fun for my kids when I can.  This year, however, my brain is nearly always completely maxed out.  Just ask my kids: Mom is always saying "All circuits are busy.  Please try your call again later." when they try to talk to me. 

I would love to have a Valentine's party where we make Valentines for loved ones, as well as a special Valentine's meal.  I would love to do something to make each child feel special and loved.  But not this year.  All circuits are busy.  Please try again next year. 

The one thing I did was this: when I was at Aldi a few days before they had heart-shaped pasta and I bought some.  So for dinner that night I cooked the heart-shaped pasta and made a creamy sauce to go with it.  That's it.  Hardly different than a normal meal at our house, except for the color and shape of the noodles, and yet the kids were SO excited about this "special meal."  Roo put on a tablecloth and set the table all nice. 



After church, when I was heading off to take a nap, Roo asked if she could get out the construction paper and make some Valentines.  I said "okay, but try not to make a huge mess," and then I went to sleep.  When I woke up, I discovered this on my bedroom door:


It says, "welcome to the room of hearts."  Then inside my bedroom, there were hearts taped all over the walls. 



So I think the kids had a happy Valentine's Day, despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact, that I didn't do anything much for them. 

A Conversation With Bean

Bean and I were talking the other day about life and some of our past experiences.  We were talking about the two months he spent in 5th grade in public school.  He was reflecting on what a life-changing experience it was for him.  He learned so much in just a few short weeks.  He told me, "I wish we had moved up there a little sooner so I could have been in that class longer." 

That really made me stop and think. 

Three years ago right now (just three years!) we were living on our farm in Oklahoma and the Badger was interviewing for the new job out west.  I knew we needed to move, but I was hoping and praying that we could have just a little more time in Oklahoma before we left.  We had just started that homeschool co-op and the kids were doing well in gymnastics.  I wanted a chance to finish out the year in those activities, among others.  I asked the Badger, "do they really need you now?  Can't you start in April or May?"  No, they couldn't.  That really frustrated me, and made the whole situation harder to deal with.

But, off we went.  It was hard.  It was rather traumatic, in fact.  Selling the farm, selling the animals, yanking out our roots....

But looking back on it, Bean wishes we could have left sooner.  Because now he knows what was coming.  Ms. M's amazing 5th grade class.  I had no idea we'd be public schooling-- I had no plan to do so, especially since it was so late in the school year.  But the Lord had other plans, which He was very clear about to me, and they were amazing plans.  

That was good for us to think about right now.  It's been almost a year since we moved to Kansas, and it still doesn't feel quite like home.  We have had some good experiences and met some wonderful people, but there has also been a lot of struggle.  Bean, especially, has had a hard time.  He doesn't have many friends, he doesn't have the outlets he has enjoyed in the past (like the trampoline or woods to play in), or the freedom he had in our last town where he could ride his bike everywhere.  He hasn't gotten out of the house a whole lot over the last year.  For him, this has been a really hard year. 

We haven't yet seen the "aha, that's why" about Kansas yet.  Life isn't bad here by any means, but so far my kids have not had anywhere near the opportunities and experiences that were causing them to thrive when we lived out west.  They've kind of been floundering. 

I know, though, that sometimes you don't see it for years.  My parents moved me from Minnesota to Provo when I was 15.  I was so miserable that first year.  I was definitely floundering, after coming from a situation where I had had some really amazing opportunities.  I didn't feel like I fit in at school.  It was hard to make friends.  It took a long time before I felt comfortable, and years before I could see all the reasons why it was a good idea. 

Here's one reason:  my first year in Utah-- my sophomore year-- I had an English teacher that ended up making a huge difference in my life.  It was a regular English class and I should have been in Honors, so honestly I thought it was boring and there was nothing special about the teacher at first.  But by the end of the year, she had come to appreciate my skills and so asked me to be her Teacher's Assistant the following year.  That sounded fun and easy, so I agreed. 

TA-ing for Miss D not only gave me a feeling that I belonged somewhere, but Miss D and I became friends. I agreed to TA for her again my senior year.  At the beginning of that year, she said, "I'm planning a trip to Africa next June.  Do you want to come with me?"  After I recovered from shock, I said, "absolutely!" and I started saving my money.

That trip to Africa was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it shaped who I am in so many ways.  If that had been the only reason I had to move from Minnesota to Utah, it would have been worth it.  But there were so many other reasons as well, and in the end I am so grateful for that horrible, difficult move.

Miss D and I are still friends.  She has a small farm with horses and donkeys that the kids always beg to visit whenever we are in Utah, so she is now a beloved part of their lives as well.  

When the boys complain about going to Wednesday night activities at the church because they don't feel like they fit in with the boys their age, I tell them, "Keep going.  Always go.  It might be boring and you might hate it.  But you never know when an opportunity might come to you from someone there.  Maybe one of the leaders there will notice a quality you have and offer you an internship or a job in the future.  Maybe over time you might develop one of the best friendships of your life with someone who you didn't really like at first.  It might seem like no big deal now, but it could be life-changing." 

I still feel a lot of pain when I think about our last move.  And even after a year I still feel like things are upside down and backwards.  But someday, the conversation will come where we say, "it was all worth it because if we hadn't moved to Kansas we wouldn't have been able to ______________."  And we will all nod our heads and say "yes, the Lord had His hand in it all along."  


Twin Favorites

The twins each have their favorite thing to do right now. 

Leaf likes to climb on the table. 


Twig likes to write on walls and other such surfaces with whatever writing implement the older kids have left lying around.  


Twig, you've broken my heart.  I was hoping at least one of my kids would be left handed like their mother.  You were my last hope.   But I'll forgive you because I can tell you are going to be very talented with that pencil, even if it's in your right hand.  


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Photos of the Family Store

It wasn't very long ago that I blogged about our Family Store and how much we all love it. Recently I made some improvements to the setup and I decided to take some pictures.

 One of my favorite things about this awesome house I live in is my bedroom.  It's huge, and it has three walk-in closets.  There's one for the Badger right next to the bathroom, one for me inside the bathroom, and then this third closet.  It's a cedar closet, and it takes up the space above the stairs.  It works really well for off-season clothing storage. 


It's also the perfect place to keep the Family Store tub. 


The babies' changing table (actually an antique dresser) is right outside this closet, and so when it's Family Store time I simply pull out the tub and then swing the changing table out from the wall.  Pivoting it 90 degrees, it faces the big double door entrance to my room with plenty of space for little shoppers to come in,as well as plenty of space for the shopkeeper behind. 



The offerings at the store are a little skinny at the moment (down to only one coloring book, and the craft supplies need replenishing) but I took these pictures anyway because I wanted to show you my wonderful jars.  After we moved here and I discovered how perfect the changing table worked for this task and how much it looked like an actual store counter, I thought, "wouldn't it be awesome to put the candy in glass jars just like stores in the olden days?"  I started watching for something that wasn't too expensive, and finally found the perfect jars at Hobby Lobby.  They were about $2 each on sale.   The Family Store has been super popular no matter how I've done it (usually just a few things spread out on my bed) but making it look more and more like an actual store has been really fun, and I think it has made it extra special for the kids as well.  I plan to buy some more jars in time, and I hope to figure out some other fun ways to display my wares as well. 

They always line up out in the hall with whatever container they can find, be it a pillowcase or a Tupperware, and eagerly await their turn.  There's a Christmas Morning feeling every time.  It never seems to get old. 






A Healthy Treat

Don't get me wrong, I do still like to try to eat healthy.  Since I've been limiting my sugar intake, I do put a little more effort into treats that I can eat.  I've got a favorite right now that I thought I would share with you. 

I call them Date Balls.  As in, the fruit, not the social excursion.  But you can call them whatever you want. 

1 cup pecans (or almonds)
1 heaping cup oats
2 cups pitted dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/4 cup or so of water
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (these do have some sugar, so you can leave them out if you feel the need)

Put the nuts, oatmeal, fruit, cocoa powder, and vanilla in the food processor and process it thoroughly.  Then add enough water so that the mixture will come together into balls (the amount will depend on what variety of date you use; medjool dates will probably need less water than deglet noors.)  Then add the chocolate chips and pulse until they are mixed in.  Call your kids in and have them help you squish this lovely glop into balls.  Then eat and enjoy!




Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tuesday

Yesterday was an ordinary homeschool Tuesday that says much about my life lately.  Here are some of the things that went on. 

Fish has been having chronic stomach pain for over a month.  We have had him in to see a doctor, as well as trying various natural remedies.   So far we have not yet hit on a solution, though some things help.   This has been extremely frustrating for many reasons, not the least of which is that he mostly doesn't feel well enough to do things.  He has done very little school work.  He hasn't been able to go on runs with me anymore,  and he was so excited about training for a 5k along with me.  I feel so bad for him having to deal with all this pain all the time.  Today we discovered that he usually feels well enough to read aloud and he did a lot of reading to Roo and Rabbit. 

What did he read?  Well, I recently discovered that Roo has never read the Narnia series.  This despite the fact that we own two versions of the books (plus one in Swedish) and at least two different audio versions.   We are solid Narnia fans, and Bean and Fish know the stories inside and out.  I just assumed the younger kids would enter Narnia automatically.   Well, somehow Roo never did.  So I assigned her to read them last week and she was having a hard time getting into them on her own.  When one of my kids is having a hard time getting into a book I want them to read I just read the first few chapters aloud and that usually gets them hooked.  After that they finish on their own very quickly.  But I was too busy to read aloud, so I handed the book to Fish.   That was a good choice.  That kid has such a great reading voice and he does British accents very well.  I loved hearing how he read the Cockney cab driver in The Magician's Nephew.   Absolutely delightful.  

Meanwhile,  Peanut has been reaching new pinnacles of naughtiness.  She and Frog are very disruptive during school time, and when they go upstairs to play I breathe a sigh of relief.  All is quiet and I am teaching and after awhile I realize that all is way too quiet.  I always lock my bedroom before I come downstairs in the morning,  but now she can pick the lock.  So on this particular day she climbed up and got ahold of a little decorative jar full of sand from the Oregon Coast that I got on my first trip there in 1998.  A very sentimental little decoration, considering what the Oregon Coast means to our family.  Well, she washed all that sand down the drain of my bathroom sink. 

Then she cut Frog's hair to shreds.  Oh, it looks awful!  I am just so grateful that she left her own alone this time.  At least we can easily give Frog a buzz. 

She really seems to love to cut hair.  Perhaps she will go to beauty school.  

I must must MUST find a way to spend more time with Peanut.  I must.  She wants to learn to read, but I have started the 100 lessons book with her and it's clear her brain isn't ready.  She cannot remember her letter sounds yet.  It is actually a huge blessing to me that she is a late bloomer and not yet ready for academics, since I don't have much time to work with her.  I want her to spend lots of time in constructive play, and be read aloud to a lot.  That is what we did with Bean.  So that's the goal: the reality is that much of her play is rather destructive and I have dropped off on Five in a Row, even though I know it's the best thing ever.    I am making an effort to read aloud to her more, checking out picture books from the library and then cuddling up in my big chair with Peanut and Frog and a stack of books.  I love those moments and I am trying to make them happen more often. 

I took Bean to the Y for swim practice and while he was swimming I had a great workout.  I ran/walked 2 miles on the track and I felt great.  I am still only running probably about half of that (run a lap, walk a lap,) but running is getting easier and easier.  I feel less and less like I am running uphill through peanut butter.  I am actually starting to enjoy it.  I definitely enjoy the high I get afterwards. After the track I used the strength circuit machines for awhile.   I love those things; they really work well for me.  I love the feeling that I am getting stronger and healthier.   

All in all, it was a good day. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ten

My oldest daughter, my sweet sweet Roo, has now been on earth for a decade.  I would like to write something eloquent and profound about her impact on my life.  However, my brain as of late is something akin to an worn-out dog chew toy. 

Which is why I am so grateful for Roo.  She helps me so much.  She is usually cheerful and willing to do whatever she is asked.  More and more she can help play with and entertain the babies.  She almost always does her school work diligently and on her own.  She loves art and all things creative, and I am very much looking forward to the years ahead when she can help me decorate the house for holidays and special events.  Already she loves to set the table for dinner, which makes me happy. 

You should hear her laugh!  Roo's laugh is a glorious thing.   It bubbles up out of her, spreading joy to all within hearing range. 

She wanted pizza and brownie sundaes for her birthday.  I was grateful that this was an easy meal.  I don't have a lot of extra bandwidth for celebrations lately, so easy is good. 


She wanted art things and stuff for her room.  We got her a lamp, a fuzzy purple body pillow, and a fashion design notebook.  She was so happy. 



She is easy to please and usually happy, as she always has been.  I hope and pray that she will continue to shine so as she heads into the years ahead that can be very turbulent.  Certainly I remind myself every day to not take this sweet girl for granted and to enjoy these precious years I have with her. 

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I cook differently than I used to.  

I hate to say it, but with such a large family, the pendulum is swinging back toward easy and cheap.  After years of striving toward as whole, organic, and natural of foods as possible, this is sometimes backtracking a bit.  

I still value whole, organic, natural and all that.  And there are some things that I will never ever buy, such as margarine instead of real butter.  However, living on this earth is toxic no matter how careful you are about your food, and life is also about balance.  And I need to make huge quantities of food three times a day on a budget, both of time and of money. Mostly of time.  I need easy.  I need fast.  

Some cheap, easy things are super healthy.  Like split pea soup in the crockpot.  Or oatmeal for breakfast.   I do have quite a few recipes like that.  Some, like split peas and lentils,  my family will only tolerate occasionally.   Others,  like bean burritos, we eat a lot of.  We have bean burritos probably twice a week and luckily none of us have gotten tired of them yet.  We also eat mountains of homemade bread.   The Badger mostly makes it these days, since I have a tendency to do dumb things like forget to put it in the oven for hours and hours.   Or forget to make it at all.  

So I guess in a lot of ways we still eat pretty healthy.  But a few unhealthy things have been making a comeback in our diet.  And I don't feel guilty about it, because I know I am doing the best I can under the circumstances.

For example: condensed cream of chicken soup.  I swore off it years ago because of all the scary chemicals.  The few recipes that call for it that we loved too much to give up I just adapted and made them with a white sauce instead.  A little extra work, but they tasted pretty good.  

Well, now Aldi has this thing where they have gotten rid of several big offenders in their private label foods: stuff like MSG and high-fructose corn syrup.  Love you,  Aldi!  So I have started picking up a few cans of cream of chicken soup here and there.  I know it still isn't good for you,  but with the MSG gone it's not as bad.  So now we eat it sometimes.  

My favorite thing right now is canned chicken.  I am in love with canned chicken.  No boiling and shredding and afterward scrubbing out that weird white foamy stuff that cakes on the kettle.  Just open a couple cans and drop it in.  Please don't tell me what's in it or why it's terrible for us.  I'm sure it is.  But oh, I love it so.

Tonight's dinner was an old recipe that had fallen by the wayside as I was questing after better nutrition: chicken enchilada casserole.   Basically, you layer corn tortillas in a casserole pan along with a sauce of cream of chicken soup,  canned chicken, diced green chiles, cumin, and a little milk.  Go back and forth with the layers a couple of times, and then top the whole thing with cheese and bake, covered,  until bubbly.  It is so fast and easy and yummy.   And not so unhealthy if you cook some veggies to go on the side and throw together a salad while it's all cooking (love you, bagged lettuce!)  

Another great thing about easy recipes is that they make it easy to get the kids involved in the kitchen.  And that makes cooking a lot of fun!


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Walking Twig

For the record, Twig has crossed over to using walking as her primary mode of transportation.  Leaf is still 50/50 at this point. 


There's just something extra cute about Twig toddling around that brings me a constant stream of delight throughout the day.  Maybe it's that she's so short and small, yet she looks so determined. 

Raiding the cupboard full of plastic storage containers is a huge favorite with both twins right now, as you can see.

Memory Memories

Growing up, my family's favorite game was Memory.  It was a game the entire family could play at the same time, and we often did.  I have many fond memories of playing Memory with my parents and older siblings, stacking up the matches we won and comparing piles at the end to see whose was tallest.  We had an old set of cards that had been around a lot longer than me, which had interesting and rather odd pictures on them that are burned deeply into my... memory.  The cards had chew marks on the backs from where my older sister Pineapple had strategically bitten them when she was young so that she could get matches without trying.  And many of the pictures had developed names and personalities over the years: "Yellow Girl," "Tiger in the Window," and everyone's favorite: the coveted, fought-over "Dorcalestic Exclusivus" (don't ask.)

Hang on, hang on, this is the internet, so....

Aha!


Vintage 1966 Memory by Milton Bradley.  Oh, the memories!  So many hours spent turning these cards over and over. 

I don't know if this was a deliberate move by my parents, but all those games of Memory were excellent for our young brains.  I am grateful for time spent as a family strengthening our mental muscles. 

I bought a set of Memory cards for my kids several years ago.  The cards seemed rather blah to me.  They were just random, simply-drawn pictures, nothing special.  Nothing that you would give names and histories to.  And certainly nothing worth bestowing a title like "Dorcalestic Exclusivus" upon (again, don't ask.  I'm not even sure I know exactly.  I am the youngest, after all.) 

Sometimes the kids would play Memory, but not much, and I never was very excited about playing with them.  Mostly, they started taking the cards out and doing other stuff with them.  They'd put a handful of them in a purse or backpack to carry with them somewhere.  I started finding them ALL OVER: the car, the yard, the bathroom.  And after awhile, I started throwing them away.  My inner child told me I was committing a grievous crime, but my outer mom needed less clutter in her life. 

Really, I thought, "let's wait until we can find a Memory set worth preserving." 

I found one this last Christmas.  The ironic thing is that it was a cheap set that cost five bucks at Walmart.  But the cards are Dr. Seuss. 

If there's one other thing I grew up with, it was Dr. Seuss books.  We had nearly all of them and we read them until we had mostly memorized them.  I love, love, love, love Dr. Seuss. 

I love these cards!  We get the game set up, and the kids start turning over the cards, and I see the pictures, and I start spouting off long Dr. Seuss quotes.  I can't help myself. 

The Lorax:

...He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice
that was sharpish and bossy.
Mister! he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees....

The Wubble Chap from I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew:

I pulled, pulled and pulled.  Then the next thing I knew,
I was pulling the camel, and Wubble chap too!
"Now really!" I thought, "This is rather unfair!"
But he said, "don't you stew, I am doing my share.
This is called teamwork.  I furnish the brains.
You furnish the muscles, the aches, and the pains...

The Fish from The Cat in the Hat

But our fish said, "no! no!
Make that cat go away!
Tell that cat in the hat you do not want to play!
He should not be here.  He should not be about.
He should not be here when your mother is out...."

And on, and on...

I have been having a lot of fum playing Dr. Seuss Matching with the Rabbit, Peanut, and Frog, mostly.  It brings back many wonderful memories.

Frog Builds



I love it when my kids do awesome creative things with blocks and stuff. 

Hello?



Leaf is always trying to get her little paws on my phone.  When she does manage to find it unattended, she knows exactly what to do with it!

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Frog Marching


One of the ways I am very blessed is that I don't usually have to buy very many clothes for my children.  We have been the grateful recipients of many, many hand-me-downs over the years.  (We have also been the giver of quite a few hand-me-downs, but I doubt the recipients of our old clothes were very grateful!)  Right before we left Utah, we were given a bunch of clothes. 

First, my friend Sarah, who has twins who are a couple years older than mine, gave me all her size 12 months and 18 months clothes.  She has a knack for picking out adorable coordinating outfits for her girls and now I get to reap the benefits.  My twins will be very adorably dressed this coming year, and I'm so thrilled and thankful.

We also were given several large bags of clothing by my sister-in-law Aunt Lovely.  They were all for Roo and Frog and I have been so grateful to have them because Aunt Lovely and I share the same love of simple, classic styles in kids' clothes.  This is especially nice in the sizes for older girls, when such clothes can be hard to find.

Going through a bag of hand-me-downs is always so fun because you never know what you're going to find.  Sometimes there are nuggets of clothing gold.  Sometimes there are things completely unexpected that make you smile.  In the bag for Frog was this shirt with this funny picture of "a frog marching."  If you know me, it's just the sort of quirky thing that I love.  And Frog loves this shirt too.  And it makes us happy because it makes us think of wonderful cousins and kind people and sharing... and frogs marching.  Yay!



Recent Snapshot

Here is what I wrote for my diary app on my phone on Tuesday, fleshed out for a blog post.   It's a good slice of my life these days, so I thought I would share.

What a day... I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck.  The twins had kept me up from about 1 am until 4 with snotty noses and coughs.  The boys came and got the twins when they woke up at 6 or 7, which allowed me to sleep until 8.  That was a blessing.   But I was still starting the day way behind the curve, and coming downstairs to find the twins gleefully playing with the spelling tile board.  All the carefully arranged tiles were in a heap on the floor and I thought "here we go again..."  Yesterday I felt like I spent the entire day cleaning up messes and putting away things that had been dumped out yet again, all while trying to teach school and running on 5 hours of sleep.  I was beyond exhausted when I went to bed last night and then of course I was up half the night again, so the day's prognosis looked somewhat grim.


Homeschool actually went pretty well, though.   The kids mostly did their work.  Bean was kind of hard and he didn't do most he was supposed to (nothing new there), but Fish and Roo and even the Rabbit did pretty well.  I was grateful for that.  And they were actually sympathetic to my fatigue, encouraging me to take a nap as soon as lunch was over.  That's kind of rare for them, so I felt like we were all being extra blessed.

I made chocolate pancakes for lunch.  That sounds really decadent, but really I just stirred cocoa powder into our regular pancake batter.  They weren't any sweeter than normal, but when you put maple syrup on them they tasted great.   They were pretty popular. 

Then, a nap!  I took a long one in Bean's bed, and I slept deeply.  Oh, how heavenly it was!  

But the best part was when I got up.  I came downstairs and all was quiet.  All the kids but Bean were playing in the girls' room. Bean was on the computer.   He had soft music playing that I could hear as I came downstairs to a notably tidy living room.  I walked into the breakfast room.  It was tidy, and the floor had been swept.  The kitchen counters were clear and the sink was empty of dishes.  I started to feel like I was in the twilight zone.  I walked into the homeschool room and it was also tidy, the table completely clear.  Wow!  And there was Bean, showing me his outline for his Wordsmith assignment,  and it was very, very good.  Double wow!

There was a crockpot full of almost-cooked beans that the Badger had started before he went to work, but we were out of cheese and tortillas, so Bean suggested I make a quick run to the store.  The Rabbit, of all people, was apparently responsible for most of the cleanup, so I took her with me.  We had such a fun time together.   I love one-on-ones with my kids.

Came home and made bean burritos, which we eat at least once a week and no one ever seems to get tired of.   I read the rest of Ben and Me aloud (a great read-aloud, by the way, and a great intro to Benjamin Franklin and his times for the younger elementary student).  Then I went upstairs to work on Roo's quilt.  I moved the sewing machine up there earlier in the day so I could lay the quilt squares out on carpet while I worked.  The kids managed to knock my sewing machine over at some point and it turned out that the thing that holds the thread and goes up and down was bent and the machine would not work.  I opened it up and used pliers to try to bend it back into place.  I got it bent enough that it works now, but it makes a funny noise.  I did get one section of blocks sewn together though.   While I sewed, Roo came and sat by me so I could help her with long division.  I enjoyed working with her.  

The day turned out way better than I had feared.  Just another example of how when things get extra hard (sick twins, not enough sleep), I get extra blessings (a clean house with willing helpers is NOT the norm around here: at the time I am tying this on Friday night, the living room is partly cloudy with scattered toys, the floors are overcast with thick crumbs, and there is an impressive buildup of cumulus dishes in the kitchen.  But it's okay because the twins are better now, I'm more rested and more calm, and it's the weekend so I know someone will get to those things eventually.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Leaf Climbs

Leaf is very very proud of her new climbing talents that she has developed over the last few days.  Not only can she climb up on all our chairs, but once she's there it's a piece of cake to get onto the table. 





I think I took these pictures on Saturday.  At that point I thought she was pretty cute, and all my kids went through this stage and I don't remember it being that bad.  Then we started back up with homeschool today and I realized that having two babies constantly trying to get on the table is pretty much a nightmare.  I can't even keep my older kids on task, let alone constantly be policing the table and getting the kids to remember to push in their chairs and put their books and pencils away before the babies climb up there and destroy. 

Twins!  They said the first year was the hardest.  I don't think "they" homeschool.