Saturday, November 9, 2013


One of our best fall days so far....
Mom--it's ok, you can stay here. I have things to do.

Fall is almost over! I can't believe it. It really shook me up when my kids told me yesterday that they felt like time is passing 'so fast mom--it feels like Dallin was just born!'. I thought adults were the only one who could sense that fast pace of time. Since we are looking forward to Thanksgiving now, I wanted to share a bit about this fall. There was one day when David was going to be gone most of the day and so I decided that rather than waste the bizarrely beautiful, warm fall weather, that the boys and I would turn it into a Fall Surprise Party. I love surprising others with things I know they will love and so I relished teasing them a bit to hurry and finish their chores cause they don't want to miss the awesome surprise I had in store for them.  We left close to lunch time so for a fun treat I took the boys to pick up something to eat at Wendies. I rarely to a fast food run so they knew this was part of the fun surprise. They were happily munching away as I drove them across town and over toward the opposite side of the valley. They hounded me about where we were going but I just smiled and shook my head---nope! Not telling. As I got closer to our destination the boys started yelling that they knew what the surprise was...the Pumpkin Patch! There are some wonderful people who put together a fun straw maze for kids, hay rides and a pumpkin patch to pick out of. They also have this cute old fashioned 'Mercantile' type store that sells mostly cutesy things like candles, soaps, and figurines. So we paid the admittance fee (just $2 for the older two boys and Dallin and I were free) and went to play in the straw maze. The boys ran ahead, leaving me and Dallin in their dust and were having a blast as they found hidden scary surprises in the maze. I had to laugh when I cam across a skeletal deer carcass in the maze with some pretend  people party (arms, legs) in the rib Eastern Oregon! I loved watching Dallin charge ahead, so bravely going around every corner with purpose. He almost seemed to resent that I was following him.Once I even had to ask Eli to help cause he crawled through a hole in the straw bales and I couldn't reach him. Eli and Preston are such good big brothers. When we were done with the maze we found that the mercantile store sold salt water taffy and suckers. The boys wanted the suckers (they were those big fun flavored ones) and I wanted the taffy so we got our treats and headed out very content. We all shared 'tastes' with Dallin and Preston decided as his suckers was almost gone that he would let Dallin have the rest. I had to stop for some gas and when I looked back at Dallin sucking away he gave me a huge grin. What a life.

After they pumpkin patch the boys were thanking me for the day, what a great surprise etc., but I told them we weren't done! I wouldn't tell them where we were going but we drove and drove back toward our side of town. They were speculating about what we else we could possibly do and then I slowed down as we got to Riverside Park. I got out some rakes I had stowed in the back of the suburban and we had a ball raking up the huge drifts of leaves (the park has some wonderful big maple trees) and pushed all of them into a big pile. Then we began to play! We burried eachother in the leaves, have leaf fights etc. The big boys were having a great wild time with it. Dallin would throw a couple handfuls and then try to run off toward the playground. I would let him go several yards before I would scoop him up and bring him back. Once though I let him get closer and I noticed two of Eli's boy classmates in the park. I invited them (and their Moms) to come play in the leaves with us. They ran over and gleefully dove in. This is where it got a little funny. When Preston realized that their were other people (and not his own particular friends) being crazy about the leaves, he all of sudden became very possessive. "You guys are messing up our pile, don't throw the leaves etc. etc." I tried to reason with him that we are all playing, and it's fin to throw them...I demonstrated how easy it was to rake the leaves back into a pile. Instead of calming down Preston became angry and anxious, scooping up big piles of leaves from the main pile to 'go make my own stack--and you guys can't play with it!'. It was too funny! Poor kid.

David surprises the boys that same weekend with three huge pumpkins that a friend gave the family. They are really enormous kinds of pumpkins so the boys were thrilled. David, who usually lets me take on the pumpkin carving duties, realized that he had an electric saw that might be perfect for carving this large thick-walled pumpkin! We went online and as a family picked out a face we liked. Eli and David wanted scary faces, Preston wanted a 'not scary face' or at least a smile and I was indifferent. We ended up with a smiling scary face. Then my job was to sketch it onto the pumpkin (mean while the boys are scooping out the 'guts'). At last David brought in the knife looking electric saw and began carving. It was so impressive how nice and quick the carving went! At lsat we found a candle put it inside and lit up the jack-o-lantern. The boys raced to turn off the lights and then we all gazed admiringly at the family handy work.

Halloween was last week. Eli knew who wanted to be a scary chef with the chef costume his Aunt Ana had gotten him the previous Christmas. I had bought Dallin a cute Dragon costume that I picked because it was a warm and had a hood. and Preston had been planning to be another transformer. Halloween landed on a Thursday this year and the boys still have school the next day, so we didn't have any huge plans for Halloween beyond the classic trick-or-treating. Suffice it to say, I wasn't really into the idea of building Preston another Transformer costume. Last year we had made an Optimus Prime costume out of boxes and spray paint. I love making it with him--and was so happy that he loved the final product so much, but this year he was at a school that doesn't celebrate Halloween and except for the dark door to door trick-or-treating he would have no where to where his costume. I kept putting things off until the day before Halloween and finally we went to look for stuff to make his costume. I tried to convince him to pick something else as we didn't have the time or money to make a costume he was gonna where in the dark and cold for an hour. He stubbornly refused every idea as I took him (and his two brothers) to four different stores. At last I said, ok, I'm done you are going to have to figure something out with what we have at home. The next day after school we got the kids ready. Eli was fun---he wanted a scary face which was easy! Dallin, I put in his costume and he flipped out. Absolutely hated his costume (the hood annoyed him) and he was hysterical by the time I pulled the costume off him. Preston was sullen and said he just wouldn't go, but at least decided to be Ironman with an Ironman mask and a large red sweater. I planned to stay with the still sobbing Dallin at home (although I was disappointed--I wanted to go join the fun too!). But then I remembered a pair of superman pajamas he had gotten from his cousin. It even had a little cape! So we got him in his pj costume and least we got out the door to collect bags of candy!

My favorite moment from that evening was when I was walking with the big boys up the street (David was hanging with Dallin at his parents house for a bit) and Eli suddenly said, "Mom, you know what I love most about Halloween?" I assumed he was going to talk about the plentiful treats but he surprised me with, "I love how we get to go say hi to all these people we have never met!" I laughed cause it was so like his Grandpa Westenskow and so opposite of his dad.

All in all, it's been a pretty good fall! Even thought I don't' love the cold of winter, I am looking forward to the cozy days of reading to the kids in front of the fire, or watching a movie with some hot cocoa in hand.  I know that before long I am going to look back and say, "Where did the time go?"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fire in the hole!

 It's October and I have to give you an image. It's 8 AM and you see a woman with a baby in tow...wearing a nice black dress coat pushing a cart full of splatter targets and clay pigeons and infant cold medicine. Yep--that was me. Top priorities on my list. You see, David has bought the boys a 'Rascal' 22 gun. It's basically a 22 but smaller for kids to be able to use. He has taken out the kids a couple times and they have shot pop cans filled with their own pee....charming I know. They have a blast though and I love that David and the boys are bonding over such fun memories. However, last night Eli told me that he is becoming a pretty good shot and 'Mom--I only missed a squirrel by six inches!". Now I love to be delighted with my kids accomplishments--that's why they are excited to tell me things--cause I love to be happy with them! HE looked confused when my face fell a bit and I with what I am sure looked like an injured small smile I said, "Why would you shoot a squirrel?" Now I know men and boys have been entertained for years by running around shooting birds and squirrels....but it doesn't mean I like it or approved it. After a discussion (which is a small word compared to the reality of the discussion) as to why I don't like the idea of hunting animals we aren't going to use or eat, the boys seemed to understand. I didn't want to spoil their fun though and have enjoyed shooting targets myself. I remembered a fun time when my friends and I went with some boys to clay pigeon shoot (they are clay discs you throw in the air and try to shoot---and they shatter on impact). I had a lot of fun and was so thrilled when I shot and shattered a clay pigeon! So after that discussion and realizing I better have a great alternative for my boys...I found that I could buy 90 clay pigeons for just $10 at walmart. I also went online for more fun target ideas that don't spill innocent blood and here is what I found: water balloons as targets, filling empty plastic bottle with food colored water as targets, crackers (feed the birds!) strung up as targets, squash (feed our chickens!) etc. I can't wait to show my boys the cool fun targets they will get to shoot and I love that they will have a lot of fun---without wasting life. :)

So the boys have a wonderful Grandmother---well two really, but the one that lives in La Grande has this absolute creative wonderful mind when it come to holidays. She loves to make the magic in creative fun ways so the other day, in the mailbox we found a letter from 'The Witch'. The witch invited us to a wonderful Halloween dinner featuring Mummy Bones (BBQ Ribs), Squashed Troll (Squash), Cheesy bat tongs( cheesy pasta), Ghost Hats (biscuits), Witches teeth (corn),and  Graveyard Garden (salad). It was so fun! She wore a witches hat and an owl necklace and she had made little creative signs which she had put into each of the dishes and her rule was that we had to refer to the dishes as the names she had given them. The boys were of course delighted and exclaimed how it was "the best Halloween Dinner ever!" Then Grandma brought out dessert. Chocolate Spider Cake! She used chocolate truffles for the spider body and cut black licorice to make the legs and red licorice for the eyes.

So it has been getting cooler and we have had several days with a fire to warm up the house. Normally we stack the wood all in the front closet so it's out of the way. I saw we, but it is really David and the boys. Normally the big boys (Preston and Eli) do it, but one day David set a smaller piece down and Dallin got to it and grunted with the effort, but picked it up and solemnly carried it to the closet. We laughed at his cute little face so solemn with the weight of his duty being filled and then when he would set it down he would swing his arms and brush his hands together. We sheered for him and since then he has become a regular little helper.

I know it has been a while since I have been on this blog. But the summer was so busy and full. I have a lot of pics and so perhaps some cold wintry day when I am longing for summer, I will post our summer pics and stories!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Family Reunion Pics!

We paid for the copyright of the pics--and she can make more editing changes as needed. These were the best, in her opinion, of each of the poses. Let me know what you think and if you think there needs to be any changes (she can edit heads from other pics etc.) ~Olivia

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Magical Number 8

Last weekend was Preston's birthday---he was turning 8! We are not big party people but Preston is kind of a romantic and had always dreamed of having a party with lots of friends, balloons, streamers, games etc etc. I promised him when he turned 8 he could have a party so this birthday was one that he has literally been counting down to for the last year. Since fall he had been planning things he wanted to do for his birthday and though his ideas would change from time to time, one thing was constant: Transformers! I had promised we would make a pinata and coming from my half Mexican background I knew how to make one. We mixed up the flour and water for the past and cut up strips of newspaper after blowing up the ultra large balloon we got. The boys were enthusiastic about the process---flour goop and paper--what fun! I was not as enthusiastic as I knew this was a messy several day process. On day two with the soggy paper not quite dried our balloon lost most of it's air and we had the choice to either start over (this was four days from the birthday--so wasn't really an option) or pull out my other Mexican gift of being innovative. SO we found a baby wipe cardboard box and painted it grey (we were making Megatron cause Preston wanted to beat up a bad guy from Transformers) then we used glitter paint, contruction paper, glue, duct tape and scotch tape to finish the look. Preston was thrilled and I was relieved to be able to deliver on my promise for a pinata.

Pinata Megatron---who wouldn't want to take a swing at an evil face like that?

 The day of the actual birthday arrived and with the house still a mess and guests (7 boys had been invited---5 were coming)set to arrive at 10AM I slept restlessly getting up at 5AM when I tossed and turned from about 3:30 on. So I got up and looked at my messy kitchen, the bags of streamers that Preston begged to have. I found some scotch tape (a miracle, as it is usually lost in Preston's toy box somewhere) and begin taping up streamers, frosting cupcakes and cleaning the kitchen all at once. It was rather disorderly and inefficient as I moved from one project to another frantically trying to get as much done before Dallin woke up.

Decorating done

Birthday birthday everywhere!
O. Prime Cupcakes--with a Bumblebee twist
Preston woke up at about 5:50AM (early for him, but not too bizarre. I realized I was out of soemthing and so decided to take preston for a special Mom and Preston only birthday breakfast while the rest of the family still slumbered. We went to Denny's where Preston ordered pancakes and rootbeer. He was dear to converse with about his birthday party and about being 8. I really enjoyed that we had that time in the morning like that. At last we were home and house was ready! The house was clean and even lunch stuff was prepped (we were making mini pizzas). I opted NOT to mop the floors as I knew that with 8 boys tromping in and out of the house--it would be pointless.The boys arrived and they were immediately running amok n the farm--trying to catch rabbits, eating the fruit (but now touching the veggies) I set out for snacks and playing loudly in every way they could think of. The parents looked at me with amused sympathy as they dropped off their boys saying: "Good luck!" I had scheduled the party for 4 hours (10am til 2pm) and I naively laughed and said--"Oh, it's gonna fly by!". It mostly did the first two hours....we got lunch successfully done with only minimal damage (Mom, someone spilled all the chips--Mom, Eli drank all the apple juice, Mom--Kenny never got his pizza! etc etc.) After lunch we got out the pinata. Preston and his friends manfully strung up the pinata on a plum tree, I found an old tie to use as a blindfold (which we eventually didn't use cause the pinata was so tough---we needed to beat it with full sight!). The boy's took turns swinging at it--clamoring and yelling out cheers as Megatron slowly lost his evil features to the beating the boys gleefully gave him. At long last the pinata came down and candy was everywhere! The boys scooped it into piles and exclaimed over the many dollar story trinkets that they found in their pile.


 I handed all the boys a grocery bag to hold their goodies and they distractedly with mouths full of lollipops and tootsie rolls climbed into the house to do a birthday (cup)cake and presents. At last all the main birthday events were over and I glanced at the clock exhausted and horrified to find we still  had over an hour left. I told the boys to go play--but some of the boys were too into their candy, others wanted to play inside with Preston's new toys and so I just relaxed---allowed the boys to play however they wanted as long as they were being safe and not hurting anything or anyone. When the first parent arrived I was thrilled to see them! The boys left one by one and the house mellowed out. Preston was wrapped up in the new Transformers items he had received as a gift but he came over to me as I was throwing away the last of the wrapping paper and gave me a huge hug. "Thanks Mom--that was an even better birthday party than I thought!".
Preston was also looking really forward to being baptized. We decided to have his baptismal date set for the a week after his birthday (yesterday). It was so special to prepare the program for his baptism. David is an amazing Dad when it comes to spritually preparing the kids to make sacred covenants. We really believe in the importance of our children understanind the 'why' behind all of the gospel principles we try to live by. We don't want our kids to get baptized simpky out of tradition (aka it's what you do when you turn eight when you are LDS...) but we wanted them to understand what kind of covenant they were making (first teaching what a covenant is). We wanted them to udnertand that baptism isn't just an event that makes you the center of attention for day, but actually a life long commitment to be follower of Jesus Christ, to try to live like Christ by keeping the commandments (discussing those in detail) and repenting (discussing why and how we repent etc) when we make mistakes and commit sins. We had SEVERAL family nights about these subjects in the last several months--sometimes tears and serious discussions ensued. It was really neat for Preston to decide after all of these discussions that he was excited to take on this responsibility of making the baptismal covenant. My Mom, Sister, brother and five nieces and nephews came from my side of the family. David's parents attended from his side of the family. I felt responsible to help get the little nieces and nephews ready for the baptism so actually from the stress of dealing with the little kids and Dallin, I never did get a picture of Preston in his baptismal clothes--I feel badly about that, but the baptism was so special. Here is what we had on the front of the program:

Preston and cousin Christian eating lunch a couple hours before the baptism.

The actual baptism went off without a hitch and it was a neat moment to see Preston come out dripping wet with David smiling and hugging him after. What a neat moment! Dallin was being rather difficult so I wasn't able to pay very close attention. but it was fantastic to see the solemn respectful and happy expression on Preston's face.

Carol, Preston's grandma gave a talk about baptism and really caught his attention by using the Transformers characters as a reminder that we can 'transform' into our best selves as we keep the covenants we make.
Eli sang as a special musical number. We were not sure if he would be able to go through with the solo he planned to sing, He can get rather shy and if anyone looks at him wrong or laughs, he often will flee a situation. We were nervous for him as he planned to sing acapella. We had been challenged by our leaders to learn and memorize all teh verses of Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth and Eli has proudly taken that Challenger to heart--pushing our family to complete the challenge. So, it was no surprise that that song was the one he chose to sing for Preston's baptism. He started off with some quivery notes focusing on his Dad but by the end he was singing strong and true, bravely looking into the faces of the small audience he had there. My heart was so full. Even with Dallin fussing in the background he never missed a note or a word. I spoke about the gift of the Holy Ghost and how the Holy Ghost had once warned me to save Preston when he had fallen out of a tree but his coat got hung up on a branch and was choking him and another time when I had miscarried a baby but was comforted by the spirit knowing that there was a special baby that was going to come to our family when the time was right (Preston was born less then a year after that). The spirit in the room was palpable inspite of the younger children fidgeting and baby's fussing. It was a really sweet day.

OUr own little farmhands---digging a ditch or something....who knows? I just get the VERY dirty clothes after.
Dallin enjoying the finer things in life aka a tiny ice cream cone exactly the right size!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring Feva!

New Baby Chicks March 2013

"You know what would be a really great April Fools joke Mom?" Eli asked me the other morning. "What," I asked unaware of the great idea he had hatched. "It would be hilarious if someone peed down our chimney and put the fire out!" I admit I had to laugh---it was disgusting yes, but I had to admire the creativity.
  Spring means new projects (David is painting the outside of our house--we are so excited!), mud, Easter and a little more sunshine induced cheer! I love that.

 Preston started an Art class. He is not quite so enthusiastic about it as he reported they had to draw their hands last week--and it was hard! He was hoping to be drawing Transformers by now, but apparently the art teacher didn't get his memo. Even though he has whined a bit about how 'boring' the class is, he has been telling me that he is excited to sketch this and that (all Transformer related things).

Eli started a gymnastics class--he loves it. He loves to be active, run, move--and get all riled up. The fact that he is the only boy in the class really doesn't seem to bother him as he seems to still consider girls (although he has noticed some are 'really pretty') as just any other friend. His teacher is a Zumba student of mine and she told me how his first question was "When are we going to learn backflips?" She explained that they would be able to learn those when they were ready, but it would not be for years probably. She said how when he do a running somersault roll he would back up---lift one leg like a cartoon character---make a tough grimace and wiggle his fisted fingers in anticipation before running and diving into his roll. It just cracked her up.

Dallin is getting more mobile every day. He still is not standing on his own (like his adorable cousin Griffin) but has mastered the art of propelling himself backward and around. He has yet to move forward and crawling on hands and knees doesn't seem to appeal to him yet--he prefers the stomach to the ground method. The greatest thing is that Dallin now gives us kisses. You know how babies do that open mouse kiss---they kind of lean in with an open mouth and cover your nose, your chin or eyeball with their mouth. So cute! He is a chunk and Preston told me today when he held him for a couple seconds that Dallin felt so heavy he felt like his back was going to break. I am guessing Dallin is around 23-25's crazy!

Happy Spring to Everyone!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Triblets Reclean!

Smug Dallin
 I didn't post last week cause I went shopping out of town with a friend all day Saturday. It has been my first time away from the family for more than three hours since before Dallin was born---and was very refreshing! I think it's really important to have time away now and then from everyone. Gave me a chance to remember not to be taking things for granted. I came home missing my family and bearing gifts for all. For Dallin I got this adorable little Sunday suit from Burlington Coat Factory. He looks like like a tiny portly banker and when he throws a tantrum in it--he looks like a furious stock broker--it's pretty funny!

One of the funniest things to me and what I wish I could literally record on a daily basis are the funny things my kids say. It's so hard to remember some of the things they say even though at the time I am thinking "I have got to remember that!"

Parking Lot Sandal Fest
On Friday I decided to take the boys to go buy some new athletic shoes. They don't have any right now, just work boots, snow boots and Sunday shoes. So we went to Payless Shoe and didn't find any shoes I wanted to get for the boys---but found sandals on sale....and what do you know---they had some in Dallin's size too! Now, Dallin isn't even walking so I know it's silly, but the boys were ecstatic to all be 'twins' as Eli exclaimed over and over. The cashier lady heard him and said, "Well actually you will be triplets!" He looked confused so I explained that in this case triplets were three people who looked alike. He lit up and said, " Exactly now we are 'Triblets'!" They were so excited to all wear the same sandals (although as you can imagine Dallin was pretty much indifferent) but as I was trying to unlock the door with baby and purse in my arms I realized Preston was frantically ripping off his shoes to try to get his new sandals on before I was done unlocking the doors. I started laughing and told them to go ahead and put them on. They sat down right there in the parking lot and put on their sandals while I stood guard.


 Eli is great at coming up with all kinds of interesting things. He says some things like 'Flamily (family)' and its so endearing that we can't bear to correct him much yet. Some other Eli'isms I love:
Funny Eli---(yes he is asleep with ear phones and a candy cane in....)

Hork: ie. "Don't just hork it down!" meaning scarf or gobble-up greedily.
Gigundous: "It was the most gigundous cookie I had ever seen!". It's a great mix between giganitc and humongous.
Waddle: " I know how to waddle Dallin now" meaning Swaddle.
B**** Black: ( first word clue rhymes with Witch). This one I had to correct him on eventually, but the first time I heard him say this, he was 5 and was helping me set up my class in the building I rent from. It is really dark in the building before I get all the lights on and he was making conversation with me trying to sound very grown-up and said, "Wow mom, it sure is b**** black in here!" I wasn't sure I heard him right so I asked him to repeat himself. Yep...he did. I had to try not to smile cause it was so innocent.
Drawling: "Drawling family near each week we'll keep love burning bright" (2nd verse of Home Can Be  a Heaven on Earth) instead of 'drawing'
Eli on the 'Running Machine 'carpet''. He loves it!
There are lots more but I can't think of them at the moment. Eli is just such a character! He is so earnest and really wants to share information with others--and never hesitates to use big new words he picks up--even if he isn't totally clear on their meaning or pronouncement. I love that about him! he makes people laugh without intending to, and I have to be careful because he is sensitive and if he thinks people are laughing at him even in an 'Oh how cute' kind of a way--he shuts down and becomes embarrassed. Very endearing kid.

Boys pumped up and rushing to help make Sunday dinner
Preston finished folding napkins 'Preston style'
Preston is pretty clear with all his words---he is a cautious by nature and likes to be sure of what he is saying usually. The time he isn't is when he is singing the Transformer movie theme song (by Linkin Park 'New Divide') He really cracks me up with it because it is his 'pump up' song. When I ask him to do a chore, within in minutes he begins humming or belting out, "So give me reason to turn me up, to watch mm memory reclean!" (The lyrics actually say, "So give me reason, to prove me wrong to wash this memory clean"). He also likes to sing the beginning notes which are a kind of this bass guitar strum building up which he voices as 'Down! down! down! down!" in a deep manly voice. My favorite is when he can convince Eli to sing with him and I hear both boys belting out the Preston version of the song which is the first verse and chorus sung over and over with filler words and murmuring sounds when he isn't sure of the right word.  Today he and Eli made out main course for Sunday dinner. Not feeling like cooking anything too complicated---and being a bit calculating I decided to just do twice baked potatoes and salad for dinner. I knew if I called it 'salad' though there would be whining so instead I asked the boys if they wanted to chop (using action words goes a long way!) some vegetables for me--any ones they thought would be good in a design-your-own-salad-buffet! I have learned if I give things better names and give them some freedom--they are so much more willing to do and eat new things. They started pulling everything out of the fridge---carrots, tomatoes, beans, bell peppers, celery---and a chopping session began with 'New Divide' as the background music courtesy of Preston. I tended to Dallin and watched amazed as my busy boys excitedly got all the stuff ready for our salad buffet. They even set the table without me asking and Preston even folded napkins (he folds them like paper airplanes and put the cups precariously on the nose of the airplane) for everyone (Mom---the rest of the napkin opens up like a billow when I do this, isn't it cool?). There is some power in that Transformer pump-up song!

(Yawn!) Ok, the night is 'drawling' to a close so I am going to sign off. I am off to 'reclean' my face and try not to hork down anything too gigundous before I get myself off to bed...goodnight!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Best Day Ever!

"We are so lucky! We got to have chips with lunch, we got to have friends and go to lego hour and get icecream and now we are going to have a family party---this is like the best day ever!"A direct quote from Eli as I drove us home (pretty knackered as the British like to say) after our lego/icecream playdate.

David has been out of town since yesterday morning. Friday's are busy work days in general, so to have the boys all day alone, it was even busier. The day flew in a productive way for me, but I felt like I neglected to spend focused quality time with my older boys. So today, Saturday, I tried to make it all about them. The boys do complain about missing having friends around, so on the weekends I try to have some kind of fun friend-time set up. Today I had promised the boys that they could each invite a friend to go with us to Lego Hour at our public library and then I would take them all out for ice cream.

After finally tracking down a friend for each of them, we headed to the library. Our library here is fantastic! They are always doing interesting classes and workshops, beyond just story hour---like how to up-cycle old books into art, or creating fun reading challenges etc. On Friday's they bring out these big bins of legos and invite kids to come play with them. There are hardly ever many kids there--maybe just one or two (the times I have taken the boys) so they really can just play and use their imagination to build fanciful transportation devices and buildings. I was toting my chunky little Dallin and I forgot how the promise of fun, mixed with four boys can combust like a tiny flame set to gasoline. As soon as we arrived at the library and all four little boys were together they jumped into turbo gear racing around the outside of the library building, climbing over the cement retaining wall in the front like monkeys. After finally getting them all back to the front door, scolding them and then guiding them into the lego area, they settled into play mode. I sat with Dallin, playing with him, while I listened to the boys excitedly swap ideas and jokes, claiming interesting lego pieces for their creations, and arguing about what kinds of vehicles and buildings they thought each other were creating. Eventually they became a happy demolition team of giants, destroying the little buildings and vehicles they had made so creatively with glee, amid laughter. Eli's little friend seemed to remember the mention of ice cream and asked me when we might to that phase of the playdate. The library closed at 4PM so we left then to go get ice cream. The shop I like to get it at sells inexpensive, but generous kids cones--- plus it was just down a couple block from the library.  After collecting jackets (it was not very cold, luckily!) we walked down. I say walk, but really the boys sprinted as I hollered at them to stop at the end of the sidewalk. I am sure we made several drivers nervous with these little boys darting around on the side walk, so close to a busy street. I'm also fairly sure we were an interesting spectacle to see....tired looking mother with frizzy hair pulled into a messy bun, lugging a marshmallow-y serious looking baby (he always looks SO serious in a new situation) trailing after four sprinting boys who were yelling and knocking into each other--laughing like loons. The boys picked out their ice cream flavors and I let them all sit at one table together and I sat at the next so I could listen to their funny conversation. A conversation between 6-7 (almost 8 year olds') is hilarious! They thought it was so funny to call each other 'her' or 'she' and were cracking each other up by deciding that their cup was a 'she' and the door too...and maybe their ice cream! And then Eli suggested they should make a club about calling things 'hers' and 'she's'!

The weather was so mild that after our ice cream, we walked back to the little town square and I let them run and play there while I checked in with the other moms, to let them know their kids would be home in a bit. While I was making those phone calls, the boys were playing in a huge tree that is usually decorated each winter with Christmas lights. They were ecstatic when they found some 'crystals' which were actually discarded empty Christmas lights---they weren't even actual bulbs, just the plastic hollow covering for a light.

Eventually we loaded back into the car (crystals and all) and I took the friends home. Preston decided his 'crystal' could also double as a musical instrument so we sang I am A Child of God all the way home with Preston 'doot-dooting'  into his 'Rhythm maker' as he proudly dubbed his new instrument. After we got home, Preston decided his 'crystal' could become part of his treasure chest of jewels (aka an old school supply box, mended with duct tape which holds, marbles, beads and some pennies) that he plans to bury at the coast when we go for vacation this summer.

We had picked out a family movie at a Redbox to watch for our family party and they were really excited about the prospect of our evening party together. Part of me had been tempted to just let them watch the movie together as I finish a good book, but I remembered how fun it was to me when I was little and my mom or dad would watch a movie or play a game with me (even though I am sure they would have preferred doing something else!) just made it so much more special. Those times made me feel more connected to them on a light silly level and made me feel like our family was not just connected out of responsibility and growing up stuff but because we also had fun together too. I had secretly gotten some popcorn and some popsicles for movie treats (which I used as leverage to make them eat ALL their dinner salad) and I admit I was as excited about the treats as the boys! After dinner and Dallin (who was totally exhausted by the hoopla of the day) went to bed, we put in our movie and settled in to watch it. We had gotten Ice Age: The Continental Drift and it was funny! We were laughing the whole way through in-between handfuls of popcorn and licks of popsicles. After the movie we all had to quote our favorite movie lines---bursting into periodic laughter until the boys teeth were brushed and they were in bed.

 I really do have fun doing things like that--it's one of my favorite things about being a parent. I love getting to do things, in the name of bonding with your kids- and creating memories. Holidays, playing board games, re-reading favorite childhood books (we are going through Beverly Cleary books right now) and just acting silly---remembering how to play in general are all some really great perks of parenthood!

 It was a great day. I know that they are precious--these days that seem to almost have a protective magical shield around them in the name of 'childhood'. Someday my boys' high chatty voices will grow deep and their words will become more serious. Their shoulders will become broader as they carry more of a worldly burden on them and their eyes will have a more depth as they began to experience for themselves what pain and sorrow really are...but for now their energetic, whimsical ways remind me what an enchanting world a child can live in and I revel in the fact that I get to be invited back into it from time to time. And when I snuggle up with two warm little boys leaning into me, laughing heartily ( and I have the peaceful knowledge of another tiny boy tucked into his bed for the night)...we are very lucky indeed!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Peanut Butter and Diaper Ponderings

So today I was craving peanut butter. I am allergic to peanuts....kind of. Well I have something called Exercise -Induced Anaphylaxis. It's this rare allergic disorder where I have sudden allergic reactions after eating trigger foods (some of mine are peanuts, pistachios, ibuprofen, sprouts, jicama, garbanzo beans, soy...etc.etc. ) during or after I exercise. I end up with huge hives covering my body---it's terrible looking and feeling! However, if I eat some of those same trigger foods (like peanuts and pistachios--I can live without the rest) without exercising, I don't have any reaction at all. It's weird. So since I exercise for a living, I eat peanut butter on my weekends....and I look sooo foward to it! Almond butter is good (thank-goodness I am not allergic to almonds at all!), but it's just not the same.

Is there anything better then peanut butter and chocolate? Ok, peanut butter and jelly are close but peanut butter and chocolate are a marriage of amazing flavors! You get the salty, the sweet, the melty-ness, the fattiness....mmmm! So, after church I decided to make the rest of my aerated chocolate kisses (that David had mistakenly gotten when I asked him to pick up some chocolate kisses) into the centers of some delicious peanut butter cookies! By the way, what is with this aerated chocolate? I think it's a conspiracy (a brilliant, but maddening one) that Hershey has cooked up to save money.  Hershey's is making these aerated kisses, that basically have lots of little air pockets inside---to make it very 'melty chocolate eating experience' but I think it's to cut cost on the manufacturing of chocolate (if you can cut out even 5% of chocolate product from each kiss, it's gotta add up right?) but still charge the same price...and even tout a lower calorie content per kiss! Big fat conspiracy! Ok, well not a conspiracy cause they aren't trying to hide the air pockets--it does say to expect air pockets on the package. I guess it is a win-win for those who like chocolate that melts quickly and if Hershey cuts costs AND we don't consume as many calories---it is pretty brilliant I guess...(she admitted begrudgingly).

Ok so cookies: We had some leftover green sugar crystals from Christmas so we made some four leaf clover peanut butter cookies! Silly I know as it's not even March, but this is my version of a rain dance, or rather a spring dance (bring on Spring already!). Plus I just finished a read called 'Violets of March' it's bubble gum reading (mindless entertainment---not the best literature, but necessary in these long winter months!), kind of a romantic mystery so March, green, spring, clovers, St. Patricks day, cookies....that is my line of thought.  We didn't have enough kisses or green sugar for all the dough, so we did multi-colored sprinkles and jam too. To make four leaf clovers, I just rolled little balls of dough, stuck four together and pressed them into the green sugar sprinkles---we baked them for 8 of their 10 minutes, then pressed the kisses in the center and baked them for 2 more min (now there is some melty chocolate for ya!) and voila!

Preston and Eli had the temptation-filled task of unwrapping the kisses. They were hilarious, as they began to speak in high pitched voiced for the kisses, creating a whole story line about the kiss creatures attending school and snubbing one of the kisses who lost its pointed top. Does everyone talk for inanimate objects or is this just running in my family line? They get the creating weird voices thing from me, and I got it from my mom. I actually normally just talk for my babies....I don't usually talk for inanimate objects. When the boys were babies I would speak for them, the way my mom would speak for her babies and pets way back when. We make funny comments and sing silly songs. So we skip the whole baby talk thing...I don't talk to my babies with baby talk (I talk to them like I talk to any kid) but I talk for them in a silly voice....I can't help it! So, these days I  talk for Dallin, I make this obnoxious high pitched voice (sometimes with a bad british accent) and say sarcastic things as if from Dallin's point of view--the boys find this hilarious and often say, "Mom can you do Dallin's voice? Dallin! What do you think of my hair style?" I usually oblige with some dry witty comment and I admit, I am often as amused as the boys.

So as the boys created a world for their little chocolate kiss creatures, Dallin sat in his bumbo seat, eyeing the ingredients around him with a look of interest and reaching out to knock bottles and boxes (and a carton of eggs!) over or onto the floor when I put them within his reach. He made occasional sarcastic comments about his brothers and how the peanut butter resembled something he had seen in a diaper recently (as you can imagine potty humor goes over well with the boys right now---and I admit I indulge them here and there...but it's not me, it's Dallin!). We had a great time!

Dallin George...with an Alfalfa hairstyle courtesy of Preston

Speaking of diapers, today when I was changing a dirty diaper at church in the mother's lounge, I began to sing "Poopy man, poopy man!" to the chorus of "Choose the Right". I realized how sacrilegious that probably sounded and realized a lot of my silly songs I sing to Dallin are to the tunes of hymns. I like to sing the tune of 'Carry On' with "Dallin George, Dallin George, Dallin George!" in it's place. I have also found myself singing "I am a stinky man...." to the tune of I am a child of God. Apparently my musical inspiration mostly comes when Dallin is on the diaper changing table. Wow,  I am realizing there are a lot of quirks I picked up from my mother, and where did she get them? Maybe 100 years ago I had an aunt or great-great-grandmother making up silly irreverent songs too right?  I can just imagine a maternal ancestor with fat baby in in a sunbonnet singing (set to the tune of 'America the Beautiful'.... or 'Oh Christmas Tree' come to think of it) "Oh babyface, oh babyface you mussed your pantaloons.....!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Little School on the Farm


Field Trip To Fire Museum
Homeschooling has been such a breeze and every moment has been wonderful! The richness of each lesson I lovingly spend time organizing and executing, along with the enriching field trips that we do weekly have brought my children so much joy and love of learning. Both children on on the verge of genius now and I can credit it all to my devoted, scholarly and nurturing lessons that fill most of every day......

Just kidding! I just wanted to get all the unrealistic ideas of what I might say out of the way.

So we have been plugging away in a not too organized fashion with our schooling. I had to laugh at myself a little cause the other day a good friend of mine who is also homeschooling told me how they are doing a unit on the human body, It sounds like she is doing some really cool projects and lessons around the theme. It sounds so fantastic---but so unlikely to happen at our house. I know how neat something like that would be but I swear I am a little ADD. I teach my kids the way I tend to think....very scattered and on whatever seems to pique my or their interest at the moment. (ie: Mom, how deep is the Nile? I don't know lets look it up! It's 33 lets look up the biggest spider in the world!). We have had the 'wow--lets write it on the calendar!' days where we hit every subject we can....language arts, social studies, science, art, math and a cooking class for good measure--but they are few and far between. Then there are other days where a trip to the grocery store, cleaning the house and dropping by the library makes up our school day. There are also the totally lazy days (please tell me everyone has these!) where I halfheartedly listen to the kids read to me while I feed Dallin---we stumble through some verbal math (hey kids who can tell me what 14 take away 3 is?)and then I put on a movie and the baby for a nap so I can get something done....and sometimes that something is a nap. I'm being brutally honest here! In between all those extremes we have some average days with computer, pencil/paper assignments and lots of reading. We are for sure not going to win Homeschool Family on the year.

Good news though! The boys had to do some testing last week and in the reading/letter stuff (yes, that is the technical term) both boys scored above average. Math they both did very well also, so away we go with our ADD schooling. It must not be terrible, right?

Oh back to those sugar cookies (see? ADD!): I had a little dough left on Monday and so the boys each picked out a cookie cutter and I let them frost their baked creation with the little remnants of frosting leftover from the big frosting craze earlier. Their creations ended up a purply gray mottled tone as the boys were mostly interested in trying to pack on as much frosting as possible. Then I had the boys write a 'story' to go with their cookie before they could eat them and here is what we ended up with. Here is what Preston's says...with corrected spelling: "This is Grandpa Rat (he thought it was very funny to name his fish 'Rat'---gotta love first grade humor!). Grandpa Rat and Grandma Gingy want to get married. At the wedding they fight. Then they stop. Then they laugh. The end."

And don't forget Eli's He is much more to the point...I think he may have swallowed about 60 times during the writing of this little story as he anticipated the sugary treat to crunch into at the end of the assignment: "This is Grandma Gingy. She wants to be eaten. The end."

I feel like maybe the marriage must not have worked out so well after all....

 Anyway, so more to the point we have our good days, our bad days ("Mom I  HATE writing (or math, or reading etc.etc.) this is the WORST day EVER!!!!" and the classic "Why do I have to do this, you are so mean!"). I won't even say that every day is interesting. It's not...some days end and I have no real clear idea what we did or if there was anything significant the kids would be able to take from the day, but you know what? Life is good. We are healthy, the boys are creative (lets play Puss and Boots and use our new pocket knives to carve a P into the couch! And yes, that really poor ugly couch!)), learning and growing and in the end, I have noticed the boys have become even closer friends these last few months. We still have the knock-down-drag-outs, but I also get to witness the moments of "Eli, do you want me to read you this book?" Or "Here Preston, I'll help you finish your math so we can start recess!" There are the moments where I think, "Man, I am so good!" and other moments when I think, "I hope DHS doesn't catch wind of this!"

And...even on the days when I don't really remember any huge 'ah-hah!' groundbreaking moments, I do feel pretty confident in thinking that at some point, amid the whining, bribing and threatening of our school day, that we likely had a few laughs and sweet moments. I just hope those moments of joy are the ones that paint the boys memory of this year of homeschooling.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pour Some Sugar.....

I love sugar cookies! They are a lot of work to make, but I don't think any other kind of cookie can come close when it comes to the joy the SIGHT of these automatically make in a person.

When I was a kid we made sugar cookies a few times around holidays. It wasn't too often, becuase now as a mother I understand that not only is it a time consuming project but a huge mess too. Really, to do the whole roll, cut and frost project you should set apart the better part of a day. Well I love making these sugary confections and love to eat them almost as much as I enjoy giving them away. Because of the lack of self control around them I limit them to only certain holidays.....Valentine's Day, Easter and Halloween (I know---there is too much sugar on Halloween---but the cookie cutters are awesome!). Well Valentine's day is this next Thursday and since the week days are so hectic I decided to make them this weekend.

Ok, and to be honest I had my tax appointment and I really love my accountant, Stuart. 'Specially knowing he works hard with me (and so sternly!) to make sure I find every thing I can to make the least painful tax experience for my little business possible. Last year I made him some of these cookies and he called raving about how they were the best sugar cookies he had ever had and asked if he could buy some from me for his entire office for Valentines Day. :) I had him subtract the cost of the cookies from my final bill and it saved me $30 so a girl can scheme a little right?

So there I was making the cookies, planning out how many I would need to give to all my visiting teaching families as well as David's home teaching families and then a few friends who really love cookies and don't mind the occasional butter/sugar binge. With Valentine's Day coming up I obviously had to cut out some hearts, but Eli had gotten some 'Ninja Bread Man' cookie cutters for Christmas so we had to try those out too( and if you ask me fighting guys are as symbolic of Valentines Day as hearts) and Preston found a beehive cookie cutter that made him think of Grandpa (the beekeepper) so we had to make some of those too. The cookies came out perfect and I was humming away ("Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting...." was the Ninjamen's fault. Too bad that was the only part I know of the song) knowing this was going to be a home run kind of a cookie day. I whipped up some butter frosting (real butter, whole milk, powder sugar and almond extract make the best sugar cookie frosting EVER). I sadly was running out of time so I determined to make only three colors of frosting rather than the 5 or 6 we usually like to turn out. After mixing up the frosting into pretty colors I found to my dismay that I was out of zip lock bags. I like piping the icing onto the cookies. Its faster, easier cleanup and looks better (I think) then frosting them with a knife or spatula.  Luckily I, being my innovative father's daughter found some breastmilk storage bags in the bag of the drawer. They were not as ideal as the ziplock bags as they had this annoying 'no-spill' feature that mean the plastic was folded into a shelf at the bottom, so it was hard to cut my hole for piping, but it worked.

Breastmilk storage turned frosting piping bags.(*note that there was never actually any breast-milk stored in the bags.)

There they are! See the Ninja guy at the top?

 And just in time! I had enough time to let the frosting set while I ran to get dressed for our tax appointment (the house was a wreck, but it's Satuday so who cares?) and I came back to find Preston helping clean up....or helping himself, maybe both? Sneaky, sneaky boy.

Meantime, Eli (who had been outside with David) came bursting in with David following (why are they still outside at this point? We should be cleaned up and in the car) but before I can scold anyone Eli's is saying "Mom, Mom!" and David is saying "Olivia, you have to see this!" And in came Eli proudly, yet gently holding onto a little baby bunny. He was solid black with the softest fur. We all had to take a turn holding him naturally and we cooed over his cute little self. Eli looked so happy and proud:

  Somehow we managed to clean up and get the kids dressed and ready out the door for our tax appointment...and Stuart loved the cookies. However, we decided Dallin wasn't allowed at the next tax appointment, he might be a handsome tax break but he was no fun in the actual appointment.

So today (Sunday) I decided to finish frosting the cookies to take to the rest of the families. For our wedding (10 years ago--wow, really?) one of Carol's neighbors gave me some 'Mormon' cookie cutters. They are so funny! I have a temple, a covered wagon, a beehive and an Angel Moroni. There is a family in our ward who would especially appreciate those cookies. So I cut out a bunch of them. I held up the one of the Angel Moroni and asked the boys, "Can you tell what this is?" They both studied it and then Eli, with a  flash of inspiration said "It's a man blowing a horn and riding one of those one wheeled bikes!" What a mental image-- it made me laugh and he was right, it did look like that!So I wrote 'Moroni' on the cookies so there was no mistaking it for the families'

 Finally the the huge sugar project concluded. I delivered cookies all around and we finished off the mellow Sunday evening with the Swiss Family Robinson movie (tree houses, three brothers, tigers, and pirates...what's not to love?) and lounging about in our casual Sunday attire....Dallin likes to be really cas'.

Now I am off to start a cookie fast (I swear, I have eaten at least a dozen cookies by myself today!) and say a special prayer of gratitude that not only did I finally dispatch of (almost) all of the cookies to other loving homes, but that my job involves working-out hard every day this next week!

"Everybody was kung fu fighting......"