Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday Evening

The twins are finally asleep, and I get to type with both hands!  I should go to bed too, but this is too good of an opportunity to pass up.  I'm just going to blab on and on about stuff.

Bean is reading The Other Side of Heaven by John H. Groberg.  I've been trying to get him to read it for awhile now and it finally took.  He's loving it.  As I knew he would if I could just get him started.  It's hard to get teenagers to do stuff like read a book you want them to read.  I remember when I was about Bean's age my dad gave me a copy of Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Goodness knows I needed it.  But I didn't read it.  Because I was a teenager and he was Dad.  That was stupid of me.  I wish I had.  Sorry, Dad.

Bean is DRIVING now.  He has a learner's permit.  I've only driven with him once so far and I found myself completely freaking out, to my surprise.  "AAAAH!!!! My KID is DRIVING THIS CAAAAAAAAARRRRR!!!!"  Bean thought it was funny.  I'm grateful the Badger has been driving with him and teaching him.  I don't think that I'm going to be a very good driving teacher.  I'll potty train 'em, you teach 'em to drive, okay Honey?

They're going to grow up and move away!  Even those cute cuddly little twins that want to cling to me 24 hours a day.  Isn't that awful?

I remember when I was about Roo's age my mom used to put one hand on top of my head and then tap on it with her fist, like she was hammering me down.  "Stop growing!" she'd say.  Well, it didn't work.  I'm 37 and I have eight children.  Sorry, Mom.  I don't think it's going to work with Roo either.  Roo hasn't changed much over the last couple of years and she is still small for her age.  So it seems like this will last forever.  But she is on the verge of big changes.  Sigh.

I'm getting ready to make some improvements to my living room.  I've been waiting for this for a long time.  It means a lot to me and I'm really excited about it.  First up will be window treatments.  New lamps are also in order, and I have been looking everywhere for the perfect rug.  I still haven't found it yet, but I will.  There will be some other decorative items as well.  I can't wait!

I have to say, I'm not really crazy about most of the current home decor trends.  This whole mid-century thing?  Not my thing.  I have to look hard to find stuff I like.  I love the looking though.

The Rabbit is upset because Peanut went to a birthday party last week and Roo has been invited to one this week.  The Rabbit, despite the fact that she is friendliest person in our family, has not been invited to a birthday party outside our family in three years. She has lots of friends, but for some reason there just haven't been any birthday party invites for awhile.  I deliberately try to teach my children not to be jealous, but it takes time and maturity before those lessons fully sink in, especially for some kids.

The weather has been colder this weekend.  I don't mind a bit.  In my mind, February should be cold.
And I should go to bed.  Goodnight!

Egg

The Badger gave Frog a stuffed bear for his birthday last December.  Frog Loves his bear.  He named him Egg.  Isn't that the best name?  I just love this adorable fuzzy bear named Egg.  He makes me so happy.


I really loved stuffed animals when I was a kid.  They were cherished friends.  Bean and Fish were never really into stuffed animals when they were little, and that was kind of disappointing.  Now I have several kids that love and treasure their animals and I love to watch it.  Frog might be the most attached to his of any of my kids.  

A New Trampoline

One of the highlights of life when I was a kid was jumping on trampolines.  We never had one ourselves, nor did any of our neighbors or close friends.  Trampolines weren't very common in Minnesota back then (they were much more common in Utah for some reason.)  But every now and then we were visiting someone (usually in Utah) and they had a trampoline.  And I thought it was heaven.  

I wanted my kids to have one, and that finally happened back in 2010 when our neighbor in Oklahoma gave us one.  We got so much mileage out of that thing.  The kids were Always jumping on it.  The novelty never wore off.  Bean practically lived on it for a couple of years.  

One day in 2014 it broke.  One of the metal joints just snapped, we think because we had it on uneven ground for awhile.  That was a sad day.  

I've been wanting to replace it ever since, and we finally did!  We had some money we set aside each month last year as an incentive to help us stay on track with our family scripture study.  We were going to use it on a family trip, but we decided to put it toward a trampoline instead.  We made it a birthday present for the Rabbit.  

Here is a picture I snapped while the Badger was still working on putting up the net.  You can see the kids couldn't wait!


I think we got a good one; I read lots of reviews before buying, and we didn't buy the cheapest one.  We also made sure we got one with a high weight limit because my football lineman son weighs more than the weight limit on most tramps, and he LOVES to jump.  

As I read those reviews, I read about how many people think backyard trampolines are too dangerous.  The American Academy of Pediatrics wants to have them banned.  

Yes, they are dangerous.  We had a broken arm with our last trampoline.  However.  We also had kids that were getting a TON of exercise and staying in better shape.  Also, they were spending a lot less time on screens and using their imagination more.  It was well worth it, and I think there are plenty of other things kids have and do that are just as dangerous.  

We are pretty excited about our new trampoline!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Happy Birthday Rabbit!

NINE years ago now, my little Rabbit was born.  I have such fond memories of that day.


Oh, how I have loved these last nine years, being this little grl's mother!  She is so full of energy.  It is usually happy energy.  When it's not, she's as intense as a Kansas thunderstorm, but the sun comes out quickly again and the fun continues.

The Rabbit really cares about people.  She is so full of love.  She is often marvelously thoughtful.  She loves to be with friends and she loves to talk.

The Rabbit is very capable and competent and brave.  When she decides she's going to do something, she does it.  When she decides she's not going to do something, it's really hard to get her to.

Th Rabbit loves music.  She loves to sing and play the piano, and she has considerable talent.  Same with art and writing.  She says she wants to be an author when she grows up.

We had a fun family party for her.  She wanted Domino's Pizza-- not our family's usual pick, but a fun choice.


And then she saw this ice cream cake on Pinterest and that's what she wanted.  She Made Sure that I bought All the Right Ingredients for it, and she mostly put it together herself.  It turned out fabulous, and was a big hit, as you can see.






We gave her a couple of small presents: a book and an outfit for her doll.  There is also one large present that I will showcase in a later post.  I love this picture: such a typical Rabbit face.


Here are the clothes on the doll:



Happy birthday to my dear, dear Rabbit!

Leaf's Class

I would never have signed Leaf up for a gymnastics class if I hadn't had a voucher for a free one.  She's two... what's the point of signing her up for classes, right?  But I figured there was no point in letting the voucher go to waste.

Leaf LOVES her gymnastics class.  I have been very pleasantly surprised.  I have had so much fun taking her to the gym and watching her climb and balance and bounce.  I have long been a proponent of gymnastics for children-- the skills they develop in the gym spill over into every aspect of the rest of their lives.  But now I see that it can start when they are toddlers.  Balance, coordination, problem solving, listening, following directions... the list goes on.



Leaf excels at the climbing activities.  She hasn't figured out jumping yet, but the coach says that usually comes after they're two and a half.  It will be fun to watch her skills develop!

Still

When Frog was a baby, he loved to play with my hair, especially when he was falling asleep.  I loved the feeling of his chubby little fingers twining through my hair.

He still does this.  It's still his preferred method of falling asleep, when he can get away with it.  He does it throughout the day too, whenever he catches me sitting down.


I love it.  I will miss it when he grows out of it.

Signs of Spring

   February has not felt like February this year.  We have had the loveliest weather.  And early in the month I started seeing little green fingers poking up in my flower beds.

There were crocuses by the middle of the month.  



We might have daffodils before it's even March.  And I need to do some weeding.


My perennials are waking up.  This is my blanketflower.


I'm not ready for spring!  I like long winter evenings by the fire when my kids are at home and not running all over the neighborhood.  I am so busy with everything else in my life when I don't have to think about yardwork that I wonder how on earth I ever manage when I have to add weeding and pruning and mowing and mulching to the mix.

But then I remember how wonderful it is to get my hands in the dirt.  How happy and healthy the kids are when they spend hours outdoors in imaginative play.  How beautiful my flowers look when they're all blooming.

Yes, I think I can be ready for an early spring.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Is

I have been working with Peanut since August to teach her the alphabet and its sounds.  It has been a real challenge for Peanut.  She has not picked up these things qickly and easily.  However, she continues to work hard and I am proud of her.  

Things that seem so simple have been difficult for her.  For months, she struggled with the letter C.  I went over it with her again and again and again in various contexts and formats, and yet she could not remember it.  But one day it finally clicked.  She knows C now, but R is giving her trouble.  R and N. 

Let me tell you, this has been a tremendous lesson in patience for me.  I had to learn to not get extremely frustrated when she would look at a letter I knew she had correctly identified many times before over a period of weeks and say "I don't know that one."   "AAARGH!!! YES YOU DO!!!!  oops, I mean, it's okay, dear.  That's T."   I think I am a more calm, patient teacher now.  

She reminds me a lot of Bean... I used to feel like he was a flickering light bulb.  When he was "on," he knew things and did well.  When he was "off," he didn't know anything, even stuff I knew he knew.  He grew out of it, so I know that Peanut will too.  

When I was struggling so much with Bean years ago I read a lot of stuff.  So many homeschoolers said "if your kid is having a hard time with reading, leave them alone.  Maybe they won't read until they are nine.  That's okay."  With Bean, I had to have faith in this, having never seen it firsthand.  He was nine before he read fluently, but when I put him in public school at the end of 5th grade (age 11) he was not behind at all in reading.  So I think a lot about that, and about how something I read said that there is a reading center in the brain and if you teach a child to read before their reading center is developed, they have to put the information in other places and it makes it harder for them.  Some kids develop that reading center later, just like some babies learn to walk later.  It's okay.  

That all being said, I don't feel like I should just completely leave Peanut alone right now.  For one thing, she wants to learn.  She wants to be able to read like her friends do.  She loves having her own language books like her sisters and she wants to work out of them.  For another thing, I don't think it's unrealistic to try to teach a SIX year old the ABCs.  In this case, I think repetition and consistent practice are what's needed.  So we continue to work on those letters.  

Because letters and their sounds don't come quickly and easily, working on sight words has been overwhelming to her and asking her to sound things out has often made her come unglued.  I was hoping to start her on the Good and the Beautiful Kindergarten book after Christmas, when we finished the preschool book.  But it's clear she's not quite ready for that yet.  So we're mostly still working on letter identification and sounds.  However, we are also doing lessons from the "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" book.  We are on about lesson 25 at this point, and in that book she does sound out simple words made of a few selected letters.  She does really well with this when I bribe her with chocolate chips.  

Because everything is such a struggle, those moments when she finally gets something really shine.  Small victories are a big deal.  For a long time, she would sound out words and then have no memory of them afterwards.  She could do the same word over and over again for days and look at it like she had never seen it before.  So it was huge and exciting recently when she recognized the word "is."  Now she sees it everywhere and it's so fun!  On Sunday in Sacrament Meeting we pull out the hymn book and she finds "is."  When I read her stories, she looks for "is."  

It's amazing how one tiny word can give me so much hope.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Moments of Bliss

A few years from now, when I don't have any littles anymore, I think moments like these are what I'm going to miss the most.  



They are so sweet when they're asleep.  Nothing is getting destroyed, so you can just stop for a minute and go to pieces over those wee tiny toes and those little noodle fingers and those round, rosy, cheeks.  Those are the moments where your heart fills to overflowing, when you know that being a mom is the best job in the universe.

Just for Fun

I'm not going to explain this picture.  I'm just going to post it here and let you figure it out yourself.  


In My Kitchen

Here are some pictures of some of the things one finds in my kitchen these days.  

First, lots of clutter.  It seems like I am constantly decluttering the kitchen, and both the Badger and I feel like we are constantly washing dishes.  And yet, it always seems to look something like this, even right after I clean it.  (I should take a picture of it when it's really messy... that would be more impressive.)



I could literally spend all day cooking, washing dishes, wiping counters, and putting things away.  And then my kitchen would look perfect... at bedtime.  But there are other things I want to do with my time.  And there are ten people in my family.  So I try not to let the clutter bother me too much.  

Instead, I try to find happiness in little things, despite the chaos around me.  Like this itty bitty pitcher.  The Badger bought me a set of three small glass pitchers for Christmas.  They were a total surprise and I love them.  They are so cute!  This one is the smallest of the three.


Here is another thing you will find in my kitchen lately: children cooking.  Our plan to have each of the older kids take a night each week to cook dinner is actually working out fairly well.  Maybe because cooking is fun... the plan to have everyone have a dish chore after dinner hasn't worked nearly as well.  We need to work on that.  But for now, I'm just glad to have some help with the cooking. Teaching children to cook is a little bit terrifying.  You know there are going to be mishaps... like a certain one of my children who recently put half a CUP of salt into the cookie dough instead of half a teaspoon.  My frugal nature cringes at the waste.  On the other hand, my lazy nature loves it when I don't have to make dinner, so we will perservere.  


And finally, you will see this in my kitchen every day.  It's the best!


Afternoon at the Park

We really have had some lovely weather lately.  I love that about Kansas winters.  Sometimes we have cold and snow, but we also have plenty of mild days.

Here are some pictures of a recent afternoon at the park.  I must say, I am not as good about taking the children to the park as I think I should be.  We don't go terribly often, and it's usually the Badger that instigates it.  Whenever we do go, I am always surprised at how much my children enjoy it.  It seems such an ordinary thing to do and it doesn't cost anything but gas.  And yet, the kids just love it.


This trip we all got a kick out of watching Leaf.  Leaf loves to climb.  She is fearless when it comes to climbing playground equipment.  Brave, determined, and sure-footed, she carefully makes her way to the top.





Eleven

My oldest daughter is now eleven.

Oh Roo, what a blessing you are to this family.  You have always been a peacemaker in this home, with your gentle, calming influence, as well as your delightful, musical laugh.  But now your capabilities are increasing.  Not only can you bake and babysit and wield a broom, but your talents with decorating and beautifying are much appreciated.

Roo is an artist.  Her drawings are whimsical and charming.  She has a rich imagination.  She loves music.  She has recently become quite proficient in reading the notes on a music staff.  Lately it seems every time I turn around she is playing the piano, finding books on the music shelf that are at her level and just playing through them.  How fun this is to listen to.

For her birthday, she requested enchiladas and chocolate cake.  We had a wonderful time together celebrating our Roo.




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Leaf's Hairdo

So, I decided that one way we would help people tell the twins apart was different hairstyles.  I am going to keep Twig's bangs trimmed and keep her hair short in the back.  I am going to let Leaf's bangs grow out and keep her hair long.  

Leaf's bangs get in her eyes though, so I've started giving her pigtails.  Oh, the cuteness!




It strikes me that she looks a lot older with her hair done up.  I guess technically she is older than Twig.  In any case, it's definitely easy to tell them apart.  (Their nursery leaders at church love it!)


Leaf at Target

My favorite thing is one-on-one times with my kids, even if it's just a trip to the store. 


Frog and Badger

The Badger is a very loving father, and his kids absolutely adore him.  We sure are grateful for all he does for us.  Thanks, Badger, for being awesome. 


Selfie with the Twins



My kids love to take selfies.  Me, not so much.  I always think I come out looking... well, not like myself.   Like the camera distorts my nose or something.  




It's an interesting time we are living in.  Here we are trying to get a handle on our own technology use while simultaneously trying to parent children who are eagerly latching on to the technology and needing much supervision therewith.  Meanwhile, the technology is evolving so rapidly it makes your head spin.  We are going to look back years hence with 20/20 hindsight and see all that we did wrong.  But right here in the middle of this fast-moving current we are just doing the best we can.  For good or for ill, though, I think we are all having a lot of fun with it. 

Plumfield Progress

It's been a steep learning curve for Bean and Fish this year at Plumfield School.  We knew it would be.  As their homeschool teacher, I knew they had some major deficiencies because there were just some things I either couldn't do with them or they wouldn't do for me at home.  Taking notes, taking quizzes, studying for tests and taking them, writing papers... these were things that I knew they needed help with.  Lots of help. 
Plumfield has transformed these boys of mine.  It has been hard for them, but they have worked hard.  Amazing things are happening.  I am continually astounded by the growth I see.  Here are two small examples. 
Bean recently took a driver's ed class.  A day or two after his classroom experience, I was going through some piles of papers.  I found notes that he had taken at driver's ed.  NOTES.  They gave him a study guide to fill out and he did that, but in addition, entirely on his own volition, he took five pages-- front and back-- of his own notes.  Organized, legible notes.  I just stared at them in shock and awe.   BEAN. TOOK. NOTES.  After having a front row seat to all Bean's struggles with written language, this was a miracle. 
Recently, the kids and I were at a museum.  One display had a brain teaser where you had to put certain numbers in a grid so that they added up a certain way.  A challenge, to be sure.  Fish took it.  He sat there thinking and reasoning and trying different possibilities for a long time.  Finally, he solved it.  He was so thrilled!  So was I.  Prior to Plumfield, he might have messed with the puzzle for a minute, but he would have quickly given up and said, "oh well, it's too hard."  Plumfield has increased his ability to focus and problem-solve.  It has also increased his confidence in his ability to do these things. 
I am really proud of my boys.   Plumfield has not been easy.  They do not waste the students' time down there, and then the boys come home with quite a bit of homework.  Staying on top of it all has been a challenge.  At first they didn't like it very much because it was so hard compared to homeschool.  But now they are getting used to it and they love it. 
I told the boys at the beginning of the year that Plumfield would be the making of them.  I can see that happening already.  It's miraculous and beautiful. 
As I write this, I can't help but think that if I had read this post six or seven years ago  when I was really struggling with honeschooling young Bean and Fish I may have felt some resentment or jealousy towards the author.  "Oh, fine.  You get to send your boys to an awesome private school... of course they're thriving!  But we're not all that lucky."  Hang on, there, Birrd-of-days-gone-by.  Keep praying, keep trusting, keep believing that God is leading you on this path of raising your children and He will provide what you and they need each step of the way.  I am sure of this. 


Thursday, February 2, 2017

A New Game

The kids' new favorite thing to do is pile all kinds of pillows and blankets and stuffed animals on the stair landing and then leap into them from the highest stair they dare. 
This drives some people in this house crazy because it's very difficult to get up and down the stairs when they are so cluttered. 
But I can't help think, I would have loved to have done that when I was their age. 

On the Go

I spend more and more of my time driving around, picking up and dropping off various children.  
For the most part, I enjoy this. 
Sometimes the little ones want to go with me.  Sometimes they scream and fuss if they have to go.  Usually if I have to take them, they don't want to go, but if I could leave them home, they suddenly insist on going. 
If I am leaving and the little ones are staying, they MUST have a hug before I leave.  They all come running and cling to me like I am going away to the Gulag.  Peanut most especially.  If I am running late, this drives me nuts, because I don't have time for lengty, dramatic goodbyes.  If I am not running late, my mind goes back to a decade ago, when we lived on the west coast.  Bean and Fish would do the exact same thing.   You would think they were never going to see me again, the way they carried on every time I left.  And now they are independent teenagers.  "Oh, Mom's leaving?  Good."  So I know it's just a phase, and I need to enjoy it while I can. 


Grapefruit

Bean likes grapefruit.  He says it reminds him of when he was a small child and his grandpa used to eat grapefruit.  If Bean was hanging around, Grandpa would give him bites.   It's a good memory for him. 
I have to say that it's absolutely delightful to me when my older children get nostalgic about their childhoods.  As a mom, you're just trying to survive.  When years later they say with fondness, "I remember how we used to __________" it's very heart-warming. 



Dirty and Happy

It cracks me up at this age how their faces are usually filthy and they don't even seem to notice.