Friday, December 24, 2010

Joy to the World!

A very merry Christmas from our family to yours!
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Update--we're in Utah

Quick update for those who want to know what's going on in our lives! We're in Utah, staying in temporary lodging on Hill Air Force Base while we look for a permanent home. I'm getting anxious to be settled, but since we may be buying a home that could take awhile. I found a home I like--the house isn't large, but it has a big yard that lends itself nicely to my grandiose gardening visions. And it has a nice treehouse in the back yard, which lends itself to the children's grandiose adventure visions. It's a foreclosure, so needs a little work--mostly cosmetic, the paint and carpet aren't looking too good. If we get a good deal on it we can afford to replace those. We're attending church today in the local LDS ward, so we'll get a better feel for the neighborhood.
I'm super excited to have a new nephew, six days old today--we haven't been down to visit yet, but will get to see him soon. This is my sister's first baby, and we were so happy to hear everything went well with the birth.
So--there's my update, prayers for us to find a good home and get settled quickly would be welcome! Christmas is coming, and a reunion with almost all of my family, gathering from around the world. We feel very blessed, and wish the same for all of you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

How does a homeschooler change a light bulb?

I'm not sure where this originated, but I've seen it a couple of places and got a laugh out of it--soooo true. We can make a unit study out of anything...

Q: How does a homeschooler change a light bulb?

A: First, mom checks out three books on electricity out of the library, then the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison and do a skit based on his life.

Next, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles.

Next, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of bulbs as well as prices and figure out how much change they’ll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill.

On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abraham Lincoln, as his picture is on the five dollar bill.

Finally, after building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed.

And there is light.

Music at our house

I thought I should clarify my last post regarding all the musical instruments. Yes, we currently have a lot more instruments than we have musicians. Actually, the only one of my children who has taken music lessons out of the home is Lily, who has taken violin, piano, and cello lessons (although not all at the same time, I was trying to give her a feel for both string instruments so she could choose herself what she wants to study; I would like all my children to have some basic piano competency.) I tried to start Luke in violin lessons last fall, but he wasn't quite ready to stay still and pay attention. I play violin and viola, and especially enjoy playing in groups when the opportunity arises. Most of the instruments in my house are not in current use--I basically have one in each child's size, and one in each future size because I found instruments I liked at a good price. And yes, I have duplicates of a couple--because I found something better later! I'm working on finding new homes for the duplicate sizes, though I sometimes loan an instrument to a friend to help them get their child started--I think the whole world benefits when more children are exposed to music.
I have a hard time explaining why music is so important to me. I am far from being the most musically accomplished of my own family, and am definitely not professional musician caliber! I always loved music, but lacked the discipline to practice consistently. I still love music, and still lack discipline--I guess some things never change! I especially enjoy ensemble playing. From the time I was 7 or 8 my siblings and I played trio and quartet music together, especially at Christmastime. As more children joined in (I am third of ten children) the ensemble grew. At home we stuck to violin, viola, and cello, although in high school I enjoyed playing flute in the band (we had a really awful band, but it was fun anyway). In college I played in a couple of orchestras and for one semester in a small celtic ensemble. I have since found opportunities to play in community and church orchestras, and very much enjoy them.
So when I think of music for my own family, I imagine a whole family enjoying making music together. I suppose that is why all the various sizes of small instruments have been so tempting for me--somehow I feel that if I at least provide an instrument (yes, even for the baby...) I can make that vision a reality. If any of my children become serious musician that will have to be through their own drive and ambition--if that is their calling they will know it. What I want to do is make music a part of our lives, part of our family, something that we can share with each other and with those around us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Moving and Music

Well, everything is boxed up, the big truck is coming the morning to take it all kids have been having fun climbing on all the boxes!
Yesterday when the packers were here I went through the house making an inventory of "high value" items (defined as anything worth more than $100 per pound). The inventory was mostly musical instruments...6 violins, 2 cellos, 1 guitar and 1 trombone. There's also a piano, but that goes on a different inventory. That, by the way, is in addition to the 3 violins and 1 viola that are going with us in the car, and 2 small violins I just mailed to my nephews. My poor husband, before we were married, pulled me aside one day and told me he wasn't sure he could afford to buy string instruments (my parents had just given me a new bow for Christmas and he was shocked to learn how much it cost!) With visions of a small family orchestra dancing in my head, I just can't seem to help acquiring instruments in various sizes when I find a good deal!

I'm looking forward to a Christmastime reunion w├Čth my family and lots of music!

Monday, November 8, 2010


Oh boy am I going to miss Trader Joe's. The adventuresome trader has apparently not set up any outposts in Utah yet--too far in the back country I guess.
The kids and I went grocery shopping today. Here are the things they begged me to buy:

brussel sprouts
butternut squash
cheese puffs
gummi bears

Yes, my kids really do beg for brussel sprouts. We cooked them tonight with daikon and portobello mushroom soup. Yummy! I hadn't have daikon in a long time--I should buy it more often.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The only constant in life is change

So, we really are leaving California.
I know, I haven't blogged in months. Blame it on the new baby. Or the 7 week business trip that took us to Alabama and back, putting several thousand miles on our van and sorely testing the patience of both parents and children (actually, the kids turned out to be incredibly good travelers--the long car trip was a lot less stressful than I expected.) Or the news that my husband has a new job assignment in a different state and all the complications that come with getting ready for a move.
Alternatively, you can just call me lazy.
We enjoyed our cross-country adventure. I even took a few pictures, I'll try to post some here soon. We drove through most of the southern border states--California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. We didn't do much site-seeing along the way, although we did make time to see the Alamo in San Antonio. We also visited lots of family, in Texas and in Alabama. I'm not sure about my count, but I think we managed at least brief visits with about 24 of my kids' 30+ cousins. We love cousins and look forward to getting better acquainted with some of them in the near future.
We had a wonderful visit with my husband's parents and other family members in the Houston area, and had the privilege of holding a baby blessing (a child's first ordinance in our church) for baby Mark with his grandfather and great-grandfather participating. Then we went on to Alabama, and the kids and I hung out at the hotel pool and enjoyed the Montgomery Zoo while Dad participated in a leadership course. I was thoroughly impressed by people's friendliness and hospitality in Alabama--truly worthy of emulation!
We found out during our first week in Montgomery that my husband had been selected for a 2 year career broadening assignment at Hill AFB in Utah, and they wanted him to report there in November. So we're moving--Thanksgiving week. We're excited--both Dan and I have family in Utah, and we've been looking for a long time now for a way out of California. Don't get me wrong, we've thoroughly enjoyed our time here--but the cost of housing makes a growing family really hard to sustain. We're ready to move out of two bedrooms! Utah is way more affordable, even if we do have to leave our perfect weather behind. Actually, I think my kids are looking forward to having some snow to play in--hopefully they still feel that way in March!
So life continues to be busy--we're packing up, trying to de-junk and get rid of whatever we can; moving is great motivation for letting go of stuff. We're sad to say goodbye to friends, but hope to stay in touch--and we're ready and excited for some new adventures!

Election results etc.

Well, we went and voted last night. I did my part. Can't say I'm happy with the results posted for the Golden State this morning--I don't think a single one of my candidates won their race. I'm particularly unhappy about this state's choice of governor and lieutenant governor, although I would also have dearly loved to see someone new in our Senate and House positions.
Oh, and property management just raised our rent.

That's it, I'm leaving California!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kid Quote

Luke's version of pediatrician: pedinutritionist

I like it. The children were playing a hospital game today and I was enjoying listening in.

We're busy, I have lots to share but no time to do it in! The last couple of weeks have been full of adventures, and it seems we have many more ahead...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Irregular plurals...

Esther was struggling to reconcile her experience of the irregular plural form of foot (feet) yesterday with her understanding of the rule for forming plurals (add an s); here is an approximation of the conversation:

Esther: Look at my feet!
Mom: Very nice feet...
Esther: I have two...foots.
Mom: You do have two feet.
Esther: No! You have feet, I have foots!

And apparently satisfied with her resolution, she went off to play.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Luke is in the bathroom singing over and over this phrase: "You'll never get recycling again!" in a very operatic voice...I have no idea why!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nothing-artificial playdough

I just wanted to pass along a link to this great tutorial explaining how to use natural, home-made dyes to dye your own playdough. By the way, if you've never made your own playdough, it's really, really easy so don't be intimidated!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Family Mission Statement

We've been working on this for awhile, here is a tentative final draft:

"We, the .......... Family, were established as an eternal family by the authority and power of our Heavenly Father. Our Father in Heaven has placed each of us in this family in order to help and support one another in fulfilling our divinely ordained purposes on this Earth. As children of God, we seek to live in accordance with His will and commandments, and to someday return to Him, together with every member of our eternal family.

We help one another in this endeavor by applying the principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities as a family. We follow our family compass in seeking to fill our minds with truth, fill our hearts with love, and fill our lives with service. As individuals and as a family we seek the Lord's guidance in our lives, and strive to keep the commandments of God and to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all that we do. We choose to use our time, talents, and resources for the best purposes, and to maintain a standard of excellence, goodness, and virtue in every area of our lives. We seek to strengthen and support one another in all righteous endeavors and to stand as lights and examples to those around us so that they too will desire to draw nearer to God. We know that, as we do these things, we will find peace and joy in this life even in the midst of trials, and that in time we will enjoy the blessings of Eternal Life as a family."

A Few of my Favorite People

Mark--growing up fast!
Lily on a camel ride at the zoo
In the rainforest exhibit
Esther, Luke, Lily, Mark and Dad
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sharing the pool

Lily is taking a swimming class this week--at the base pool. This morning, another class was taking place at the same time: a unit of Marines were training for combat operations in water. The picture's a bit blurry because it comes from a friend's cell phone, but here you see a swimming instructor with a child (not mine so I blurred the face) just a few feet from one of the Marines swimming in full combat gear, rifle at the ready...

The kids were having a hard time focusing on their swimming lessons, especially the boys...

In other news, Esther swallowed a marble today--a metal one from a magnetic construction set. She had to get an X-ray just to make sure it was indeed swallowed and not inhaled. Sure enough there was a bright white circle in her stomach...
I guess if you're going to swallow something other than food, a marble's not a bad choice--it's nice and round so it's unlikely to get stuck or cause any damage as it works it's way through the digestive tract!
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Kid Quotes

Today's quotes are brought to you by Lily, age 6, and Esther, age 2:

Lily, distressed to see mom cutting broccoli for a dinner dish:
"Mom, don't you know that adding broccoli to that unimproves the flavor?"

And my favorite, from this morning's family devotional--
Dad (reading about the baptism of Jesus): "The Holy Ghost descended in the form of a ___" (pauses for the children to respond)
Esther: "Octopus!"

Needless to say, it took us awhile to return to some semblance of reverence and continue the scripture reading...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sumo Baby

I think Mark is out to set a record for infant weight gain. At 5 weeks, he weighed 14 lb 9 oz; he's been gaining over a pound a week since he was born. I think he does a good sumo wrestler imitation...
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Environment matters

A young friend spent the afternoon here recently, and I watched her playing with math manipulatives with my children, reading books, and eating fruit for snacks. When I have been in this child's home, I have noticed that she spends her time playing video games and snacking on chips, soda and ice cream. Why does she choose different activities and snacks at our house? Because the available choices are different. Video games and junk food snacks are not available in my home, but books, open-ended toys and manipulatives, and fruit are. My own children, in an environment where videos, electronic games, and junk food are available readily choose these things because they bring instant gratification. If we want our children to make healthier choices for their bodies and minds, we need to carefully consider what choices we are making available to them in their environments.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Adventures in mathland

We're doing a mini-unit study this week focused on math. I made a giant number line on the sidewalk, and we played games with skip-counting and addition/subtraction. For the addition game I took 2 small wooden cube blocks and made them into dice, one with the typical number dots and the other with addition and subtraction signs (5 addition and 1 subtraction). Our number line ran from -9 to 40. The children took turns rolling the dice then moving forward or back as indicated. The game ended when everyone made it to 40.
For lunch we had pizza--a great chance to discuss fractions!

Creativity in Action

I went looking for my broom, and discovered it in the children's room. Luke's comment: "We made that so we could slide down from the bunkbed."
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Monday, July 5, 2010


This is what I found in my linen cupboard today--treasures collected by Luke and Esther. It looks to me like they got something from every room in the house...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The ability to say "NO" to second things is the key to saying "YES" to first things." --Stephen Covey

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Boys and Girls

I remember telling my mother, shortly after Luke was born, that I didn't feel like I was connecting with him in the same way I had with Lily. Her response was "that's because he's a boy". I couldn't figure out how being a boy would make much difference--he was, after all, a newborn baby--my baby--and other than the obvious I didn't see many differences between the sexes at that point. I found myself thinking about the issue again the other day, as I realized that I sense that same difference in my relationship with Mark as compared to how I remember feeling with big sister Esther just a couple of years ago. Talking with my sister it occurred to me that part of what I am sensing really might lie in innate male/female differences, specifically differences in social interaction. Both Lily and Esther, even as tiny newborns, were very social--they would meet your eyes, mimic facial expressions, initiate and maintain social interactions from the very beginning. Mark isn't like that. He will meet my eyes, but I can't keep his attention, even by talking or making faces at him (he was a bit intrigued by my repeatedly sticking my tongue out at him...) When Mark is awake, his eyes and his head are always moving, scanning the room. He can track motion--I tried moving one hand slowly back and forth in front of his face, and he would follow it first with his eyes, then by turning his head. I remember reading somewhere (maybe in James Dobson's book on raising boys?) that boys' eyes are physically different from girls--they have more rod cells, which are particularly good at detecting motion. That might have something to do with little boys' interest in everything that moves--balls, cars, airplanes, etc. Girls have more cone cells, which are sensitive to color and texture...

Just some intriguing thoughts to keep me busy while I enjoy my baby :-)

Baby antics


Lily as a Baby

OK, so newborns don't do much other than eat and sleep...but Mark has given me a few moments to remember.
About a week ago, I was holding Mark in my lap when he suddenly started screaming in obvious distress. It took me a moment to spot the source of the trouble--He had one hand closed tightly around a fistful of his own hair, and was yanking pretty hard on it. Of course he had no idea that he was causing his own distress! I had to pry his fingers loose. All that hair can be a real liability when you don't yet have control of your hands...
Yesterday Mark gave me a real reason to smile. I was holding him (I do that a lot!) while he slept, and was watching his eyes moving in his dream. He smiled--a real smile--then laughed! I remember Lily doing this--laughing in her sleep, long before she ever laughed while awake. I always thought she must be dreaming of heaven. Funny, Mark has reminded me from the beginning of Lily as a baby--and Lily did the hair-pulling trick too!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mark's Birth Story

For those who like to know the details...

I admit I had a hard time waiting to go into labor with this baby. I blame Esther for that--until she showed up 11 days early, I just expected my babies to come some time after their presumed due date. Mark went almost a week past his due date, the longest of any of my babies--and I had been holding my breath waiting to go into labor for two and a half weeks!

Labor was different this time around, too. With each of my other children, I had maybe 12-24 hours of very mild contractions before active labor started, they seemed to just gradually increase in intensity until I felt like I was "really" in labor. This time, I had irregular contractions starting Sunday evening, ranging from 15 to 30 minutes minutes apart--but they felt like real contractions. About 2:00 AM on Monday morning I decided to take a shower (since I wasn't sleeping) and discovered some bleeding--enough to make me concerned. We decided to go into the hospital and make sure everything was OK. A very kind neighbour came over to stay with the children. I felt silly walking into labor and delivery knowing I wasn't in active labor yet, but had a very kind nurse (Nicole) who, after verifying that baby was doing fine and the bleeding was nothing to be concerned about, sent me home with orders not to have the baby before 7:00 PM when she would be back on duty. I thought (or hoped!) baby would arrive before that...
Well, I spent the rest of the night and a good part of Monday trying to get some rest in between the contractions that kept coming about 20 minutes apart. I went for several walks, hoping to get things moving a bit faster--I felt like at the rate things were going I was going to be in labor for a week! Finally around 2:oo PM the contractions started getting closer together, and by about 3:30 I thought it was time to drop the kids off with friends and go to the hospital. I think we got to the hospital sometime around 4:00. Interestingly the hardest period of labor this time around was that half hour when we were trying to get the kids taken care of and get to the hospital--the contractions seemed harder and closer together, but maybe it was just that I couldn't focus on relaxing and dealing with them. It wasn't transition stage at all--actually, I never really experienced an intense transition with this labor. Once in the hospital I waited while they got their mandatory fetal monitor strip, then escaped to take a long shower. After the shower the nurse had me lie on my left side because the baby's heart rate was decelerating with each contraction--not only did the decels go away, but I went from about 6 cm to fully dilated within about half an hour and without any increase in discomfort--that surprised me, I had mostly been laboring in an upright position thinking that would speed things along.
That's when things got hard. My OB suggested I start pushing; I really didn't feel like pushing. I made a couple of half-hearted attempts, then waited out a few more contractions hoping the urge to push would materialize. It didn't. I tried pushing in different positions--I very much missed having a squatting bar available, as I had found one very helpful with my first two births. I found pushing much harder with this birth than with any of my others (and especially compared to Esther's water birth). The doctor assured me that the baby's head was descending just fine whenever I tried to push--but it hurt! A lot. I suppose to make up for the rest of labor being easier this time around! I tried every position I could think of. The doctor kept encouraging me to "hold my breath and count to ten"--not, generally, my favorite technique for getting a baby out but to be honest I think it's the only way I was going to get this baby out! I needed every bit of urging/encouragement I could get. I usually dislike having anyone push me to do something (my parents can attest to that characteristic from the time I was a toddler). This doctor was definitely pushing me, and my husband kept turning to me and saying "is that OK?"--he knows I don't like to be pushed. But I sensed at the time and still feel now that I had to be pushed if I was going to get that baby out.
And I did. Mark made it into the world with a slightly molded head (my other kids had not really had any noticeable molding). He was a nice purple color...didn't take his first breath for a few seconds, he was lying on my belly and the nurse was rubbing him with a towel. When he did breathe it was to start wailing and not stop--I guess the birth had not been a fun experience for him either! He pinked up very nicely, and I got to sit up and try to get him to nurse (he wasn't interested quite yet). Dad cut the umbilical cord, the doctor put a single stitch where I had a small laceration, and we all got to celebrate. There wasn't any big rush to take the baby off to examine and weigh--I felt like I had as much time as I wanted to just get to know him. When they did weigh him I was honestly shocked to see the numbers on the scale--9 lb 6.7 oz! Luke, my next-biggest baby, had been 8 lb 7 oz. Esther had weighed in at only 7 lb 1 oz. I guess I have the answer to why pushing was so much harder this time around--there was just more baby to push out! Actually, I wasn't pushing for that long--it was probably about 40 minutes between when the doctor first suggested I try pushing until the baby was born, but I wasn't really trying very hard until the last 15-20 minutes. Pushing was just so much harder/more painful than with the other babies... (note to self: put in a special request for a smaller baby next time!)

So there's the story :-) I can't complain--no complications, and an incredibly handsome little boy to join our family! I liked this hospital--it is smaller than those I have been in before, I was able to hold the baby for most of the routine evaluations, I got to give him his first bath (that is, I did my best to wash out all the gunk that was in his hair--the rest of him didn't seem to need washing)--and there were fewer post-partum interruptions, especially at night (I've never figure out how they expect a mother to rest and recover when someone is coming in every twenty minutes to take her temperature and blood pressure.) Not that I rested anyway--I seem to go into a sort of hyper-alert state for the first few days after having a baby. I can't relax, I especially can't sleep...I notice every noise, movement, etc. I figure it must be nature's way of making sure I'm aware of the new baby, but it gets rather frustrating as the sleep deprivation adds up! It's not the baby's fault, and not the hospital's fault--it's internal and doesn't go away until about 4 days after the birth.

So I was happy with the birth. Different from the others--I guess every birth is different. Oh yeah, and Nicole (my nurse from Sunday night) made it back in time to see the baby born :-)

The first two weeks

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

More baby pics

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It's a Boy!

Born June 14th at 7:41 PM
9.6 lbs (!!!)
20 inches
100% loved

I don't share real names online, but he'll be going by Mark on the blog.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I got a burst of energy last week (after a long month of feeling constantly tired). I put it to good use--I cleaned the carpets in the living room and the children's bedroom, cleaned out the fridge, and did a lot of organizing (well, that's still in progress...especially the bookshelves). I had one minor catastrophe in the process: I was cleaning off the top of my fridge and grabbed the fire extinguisher I keep up there. Apparently, the pin was somehow lost (I suspect a certain young monkey who will go un-named...) and when I grabbed the extinguisher I set it off--all over me and all over the kitchen. That was frustrating, just when I was feeling so proud of myself for getting the fridge cleaned! It did motivate me to give the kitchen an extra-good cleaning though...
Most of my nesting energy seems to have evaporated this week, I'm hoping to pull enough together today to finish with my book organizing. Lily will help--she came to me a few days ago with a proposition to earn money for something she wants to buy: she will do extra chore assignments for me at the price of 25 cents for ten minutes of work. I sometimes have to remind her that she needs to be working the full 10 minutes, not talking (she has trouble doing both at once), but over all it has been a good arrangement and so far and she has earned $2.75.

I found my camera :-)

Yesterday at the park...
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Homework: or, reason 312 I'm glad my kids are not in school

A 4th grade neighbor girl came by the other day to ask if I could help her with some homework. After looking through the packet (mostly worksheets stapled together), I could see why she was confused. The assignments were badly written, with unclear directions and no clear objectives--and in some cases no good answer available. For example, one page asked students to read pairs of words and mark whether they were antonyms or synonyms. Some of the pairs included were credit/debt; tax/payment; settler/immigrant; colony/community. To my mind, NONE of those pairs are clearly synonyms or antonyms. The words may be related, and even in some cases interchangeable, but the correlation between, say, settler and immigrant, or colony and community, really does not match any definition of synonym I'm familiar with (and they obviously are not antonyms). As for credit and debt, or tax and payment...I won't even get started!
Another friend showed me her son's kindergarten homework packet, and I was even less impressed. His assignments ranged from memorizing spelling words for a test (spelling tests in kindergarten?!) to coloring all the squares on a page red and all the circles yellow. The spelling words, by the way, included such whoppers as "without" and "through"--words I might expect to see on, say, a third-grade level. Which of course made the "color the shapes" page seem even more ridiculous; if a child at the end of kindergarten doesn't yet know the difference between a circle and a square, I don't think a worksheet is the way to teach it. And for the vast majority of children who have no trouble recognizing such shapes, the page was pure busywork and a waste of good time.
Honestly, I don't see the point of sending this kind of work home with children--they've already spent hours doing similar things in the classroom, let them come home and spend time with their families or riding their bikes. Please give them a chance to be kids!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How to eat an avocado...

Esther wanted to eat an avocado and mom was occupied, so she decided to help herself. She came up with a unique method: she stuck a screw-driver into the avocado to make a hole, then squeezed to get squishy avocado flesh out to eat. Ah, the ingenuity of two-year-olds...

The End of the Road

This baby will be coming soon! That thought is on my mind constantly lately--my due date is about two weeks out, which means...well, all it really means is that I'll probably be having a baby sometime in the next four weeks or so. Sometimes I really wish the timing were not so uncertain! People keep asking me if I'm "ready"--I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean. What is being ready for a baby? I've got plenty of things in mind I'd like to do before the baby comes, primarily getting my house in better order. Some will get done, doubtless many will not. In the end it won't matter--we'll have a new baby to love a cherish and brighten our lives. How could I not be ready for that?
Of course, I've got to get through labor first...

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Memory...

Have you ever noticed that American money has a distinctive smell? I don't often carry cash, but I want to try a cash budget for a change (as a way of actually making myself stick to a budget!), so Saturday I went to the bank and brought home a couple of week's worth of expenses in cash. As I pulled those paper bills out of my purse this afternoon, I caught of whiff of a scent that immediately took me back to corn-selling season when I was a child. Our house sat at the edge of about 25 acres of fields belonging to my grandfather, and a couple of those fields were always planted with sweet corn which we would sell from the back of the pickup-truck or a tractor trailer parked by the road in front of the house. I remember "helping" sell from the time I was very small, but the summer I was 8 was the first time I was allowed to take responsibility myself for minding the sales. We used to keep coins from sales (and for change) in a muffin tin; cash and checks were taken inside regularly and kept in a tupperware type container on a shelf of the bookcase just inside the door. Those are the images that come to my mind when I catch the scent of a dollar bill. Corn-season must have been hectic from the adults' perspective, but the memories that come back to my mind are of the excitement and pleasure of being a contributing part of a family enterprise.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Lily has demonstrated her ability to play multiple roles recently, here are a few examples from yesterday...

My new dietician:
Yesterday I took the children to the library booksale and let them each pick out a couple of books. Lily chose a book on pregnancy and childbirth, which she carefully perused in the car on the way home. This morning, she informed me that we needed to make hard-boiled eggs for breakfast; apparently the "pregnancy diet" section of the book recommends eating a hard-boiled egg every day.

The Tooth-Fairy's Secretary:
Lily lost a tooth yesterday--her 8th, I believe; she seems to be on the fast-track in tooth development! Last night as we were all getting ready for bed she overheard me saying I hoped sleep well. She quickly reminded me that I couldn't sleep ALL night because the tooth fairy had to remember to come during the night!

Luke burned his toes--not a serious burn, but he was rather noisy about it. Believe it or not, the culprit was hot pizza; I was cutting the pizza, and apparently a piece touched his toes. No, I was not cutting the pizza on the floor--his toes were on the table, and I had not noticed them there! I admit to being less than sympathetic about the injury, but Lily jumped in to rescue her brother: she brought him a bowl of ice-water for his foot, then made him up a nice bed so he could recover!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gratitude goes a long way...

Moment of honesty: I'm tired. I can't remember the last time I got a really decent night's sleep. It seems there's always something to interfere--a late night, sick kids, baby kicking, or just no comfortable position for sleep with a watermelon for a belly. Whatever energy I start the morning with is gone by noon, and I feel like I am just dragging through the rest of the day. But one little incident this evening showed me how far a little bit of appreciation can go to lighten our load and brighten the day! Esther was sitting on my lap at dinner time so I could help her eat; in between two bites of spaghetti she turned her sauce-covered face to me and said "Thank you mom, for giving me food."
Suddenly I felt a lot happier and not nearly so tired.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mormon Monday: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus

Our church holds a General Conference every 6 months, a time when thousands gather at church headquarters in Salt Lake City and millions watch and listen in via radio, satellite, and internet broadcasts around the world to hear messages of inspiration and instruction from our church leaders. The messages are always inspiring and often convicting, and are a spiritual highlight of the year for me. Unfortunately I have not yet discovered a way to get three small children to sit and listen quietly through a combined 8 hours of conference sessions over a two-day period! We try to catch as much of conference as we can, but I'm sure I wasn't able to really listen to more than 1/4 of the talks last month. Fortunately, they are all available online--you can find them here.

One morning last week I was having a hard time motivating myself to clean the kitchen (that seems to take an enormous amount of motivational energy--I'm sure it deserves its own Law of Physics!) I decided to jumpstart myself by listening to conference talks on my MP3 player, and randomly selected this talk by Neil L. Andersen. His words struck me powerfully, and I have been thinking about them ever since. Here is a part of his talk:

"We hold in our arms the rising generation. They come to this earth with important responsibilities and great spiritual capacities. We cannot be casual in how we prepare them. Our challenge as parents and teachers is not to create a spiritual core in their souls but rather to fan the flame of their spiritual core already aglow with the fire of their premortal faith.

This afternoon I wish to emphasize the plea of a child from a Primary song:

Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear,
Things I would ask him to tell me if he were here.6

In our world today, each child, each young man and young woman needs his or her own conversion to the truth. Each needs his or her own light, his or her own “steadfast and immovable”7 faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, independent of parents, youth leaders, and supportive friends.

The stories of Jesus can be like a rushing wind across the embers of faith in the hearts of our children. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”8 The stories of Jesus shared over and over bring faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strength to the foundation of testimony. Can you think of a more valuable gift for our children?"

Because I have chosen to homeschool my children, I spend a lot of time and energy researching and pondering educational goals, methods, and curricula. I wonder if I am giving sufficient thought to my children's spiritual education? I am sure that question is one that every parent could ask themself. Do we think more about whether our children are learning to read than we do about whether they are learning to love the scriptures? Are we more concerned about their mastery of mathematical facts and operations than about their mastery of right and wrong choices? Do we get more excited about a first soccer goal than about a first independent prayer? Do we spend more time and energy helping them prepare for their first piano recital than for their baptism? Are we encouraging their expanding knowledge of the workings of the world through science but neglecting to guide their understanding of the Creator of the Universe and their own place and purpose in it?

Once again, I find myself needing to realign my expenditure of time and effort in regards to my family with my true values and priorities.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Mom, I came to tell you..."

Lily just came bouncing into the room: "Mom, I came to tell you!"
"I figured out seven plus seven is fourteen!"
"That's right! Good figuring."
"Seven plus two is nine, seven plus three is ten, and so on..."
And she bounced back out to finish her lunch.

I love watching the spontaneous learning that happens when kids are left to their own devices to explore and ponder the world.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Passionate Learning

This morning I was thinking about teachers and learners, and whether learning should ever feel like drudgery. I'm convinced that, while hard work is usually a part of the learning process, drudgery does not need to be. In fact, anytime a learning task becomes drudgery, very little true learning will take place.
So how do we learn--and how should be teach? I think the answer to both questions is the same: great teaching and true learning only occur where there is interest, even passionate interest, in a subject. The learning process is further catalyzed when the relationship between teacher and learner is one of real interest--the kind of interest in another person that can come only from real love for that person.
When a student is already passionate about a topic, the most that may be needed from a teacher or mentor is a little guidance along the way. Learning takes place because the student feels an appetite for knowledge and is ready to actively pursue learning. But what if the appetite is not there? That is where the role of a passionate teacher or mentor becomes critical. I remember a particular college professor who inspired a great appetite for learning in his students. His area of expertise was microbiology, and he was truly passionate about the subject. The minute he walked into the lecture hall students would sit up and lean forward in their chairs, energized by his energy and interested by his interest. His classes were some of the hardest I took in college, but they were also some of the best. By contrast, I remember signing up several semesters in a row for a calculus class. I would walk into class the first day, and there at the board would be a professor who seemed tired and bored; you felt that he had taught this class hundreds of times in the past and found nothing of interest in the subject. Every semester, I dropped that class after the first session--all I could see ahead was months of drudgery. In both the microbiology and the calculus classes, I arrived the first day with a moderate interest in the subject matter--in one case, that interest was fueled by the spark from a passionate teacher; in the other, it was virtually extinguished.
As teachers, we sometimes find ourselves faced with the problem of teaching something about which we are not passionate. What can we do? I don't think that trying to pretend a passion for a subject that we don't actually feel is effective--students will be able to discern that difference. I do think it is possible to ignite passion in ourselves. Every subject has fascinating aspects, but we may need to dig a little deeper or try a different approach before we find our own inspiration. If that fails, maybe we can find someone to teach who is passionate about the subject--or we can let that subject drop for a time a go where our own and our students' interests lead us. Ultimately, such an approach will result in much greater and deeper learning that hundreds of hours of slogging through something that feels like drudgery.


I really like biology, and decided to try some dissections with the kids (I thought if I introduced them now they might not shy away from them later). Lily and Luke were fascinated to discover the inner workings of a number of specimens, including a sea star and a crayfish.

Home-Made Learning Games: King's Ransom

I was in a creative mood the other day and drew up this game to help Lily learn her addition facts for 9's; it could easily be modified for any math facts. If you read my post about visiting Durnstein Castle in Austria, you can guess where the inspiration came from--King Richard the Lion-Hearted of England was held captive there until the English found out where he was and eventually ransomed him. The goal of this game was to ransom the king held captive in the castle.
I wrote the addition problems for 9's around the edges of the board (ours happened to be shield-shaped, left over from another project, but any poster board would work well). I chose an amount for the ransom, in this case 50 cents (I had just picked up a roll of nickels at the bank and thought I would throw in some money practice by using those to collect the ransom). I made up cards with the numbers 9-18, and every player started with 5. The game is played by rolling a die and moving your playing piece to the appropriate problem square. If you have a number card with the answer to that question, you get to trade it in for a nickel and roll again. If you don't have the right answer card, you draw a card from the draw pile; if that card matches you can play it and go on, if not your turn ends. My children enjoyed the game but were getting anxious to move on to something else before anyone had acquired the requisite 10 nickels to ransom the king, so Lily and Luke pooled their funds and freed the king that way. I think next time we play I might spice things up a bit by throwing in random squares requiring the player who lands on them to do something other than answering a math problem--say, twenty jumping jacks (anything active is good!) in order to earn their coin. And maybe each square could earn a different coin--that way they would get more money practice! The ransom amount too could vary...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Durnstein Castle Hike post # 3

In the dungeon--they say Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned in this castle. Wonder if they kept him in a dungeon?

Grandma can out-hike all of us!

Time to relax after the hike down. Grandpa treated the kids to icecream--they later told me that was the best part of the adventure!