Saturday, May 31, 2014


We're heading to San Diego in just over a week.  Kent's family is having a "reunion" (just his parents and all his siblings...but these are the only times that all of us are all together at the same time.)

As part of this reunion, we have a traditional Family Talent Show.  Think, the talent show from Dan in Real Life.   Silly, happy, easygoing fun.

One of my goals for myself that I set on my mommy vacation last month was to learn a new piano piece.  What better motivation than to do it for an actual talent show?

So, I picked a song a couple of weeks ago, and I've been practicing. And practicing. And practicing.  
I may have picked a song just a tad bit too difficult....
BUT, it has been so wonderful to have a reason to practice this hard.  I'm talking at least an hour a day, some days more (which isn't much if you're a real piano performer....but for a mom of very young humans, this is a rather daunting task.)

There are six measures in this song in particular that have been incredibly challenging for me.  
I kinda love it.
I love to feel my brain working, my posture improving (sitting at the piano has always been good for that,) my fingers moving. I actually love the relentless metronome, pushing me forward, no chance for hesitation.  I love to finally be at a point where I know the notes and can work on the musical side.  Phrasing, motion, tension, release.  

I'm still not sure if I'll be ready in time, thankfully I know I'm loved enough that no one will care if it isn't perfect.  (...right?) 
I'm going to need another talent show after this one so I have a reason to keep playing. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Nicholas "graduates"

 Last week was Nicholas's preschool graduation.
I have to admit, I was surprised at how much fun this was for him, and all of us.
At the start, they marched around the room to Pomp and Circumstance, and Nicholas had the proudest perma-grin on his face.  I might have teared up a little bit.  He is adorable.
 Mrs. Redd has been one of the best things that has ever happened to Nicholas.  When he started school a year ago, he was shy, cautious, uncertain of new situations, and had zero interest in learning letters, numbers, or really anything from me.  
In Mrs. Redd's class, he blossomed.  He thrived.  The school environment, the structure, the fun, and the love she so obviously has for her students was exactly what he needed.  
And now? He's reading, guys.  Really truly reading.  It's incredible. 
(And I've learned so very much patience is required in helping an emergent reader. Whew!)

The day after the graduation, they had a little last hurrah at the splash park.  It was kind of windy and chilly that day, so Nicholas and his friends spent their time happily running around on the grass, playing some bad guys/good guys game.  

Up until this year of school, whenever I'd take Nicholas to a playgroup or a friend's house, he'd opt to sit quietly by me, watching the other kids play.  He never felt comfortable actually joining in.
So to see him running wildly, laughing, playing, even sometimes leading, with the kids made my mama heart so very happy.
It's been a great year for my Nicholas.

He's done with Mrs. Redd's preschool, but we're going to be sending him to another preschool for next year.  He's one of those mid-August birthdays....we had the hardest time deciding what to do for him, but we have chosen what feels right for our family; holding him back one year, one year to play and grow and get new experiences, before we start the whole "school" thing feels best for all of us.

And Mrs. Redd better still be teaching in a couple of years, because Ellie is already talking about when she goes to Mrs. Redd's school. ;)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

water table

A few weeks ago, Kent told me he wanted to build a water table for the kids.
I thought that sounded like a fantastic idea, so we started researching, made a rough plan, and then, just went for it.

Version 1.0:  
 Had a few kinks to work out:  the table's walls were much too short, the pump was too strong for the amount of water the table could hold, and our tote at the top completely cracked and broke apart when we tried to drill holes into it.
Also, the plastic sheeting tore and leaked.

A few days later we tried again.  Kent worked on it all Saturday afternoon, and by evening, this is what we had: 

 I'm not even sure what that girl's name is that Nicholas was playing with....the water table has become a child magnet for kids from all over the neighborhood.  

We still have many improvements to make--we need to waterproof the wood or find some other material so we don't have to use plastic, we need to widen the waterspout so the water doesn't get so high in the table, we'd like to get some sort of shade tent to put up during the mornings so they can pay with it in the shade, etc.

We're figuring we won't keep this up permanently--just set it up for a week or so, then store it away for a while so we can pull it out again and have it be new and exciting all over again.
All on his own, Nicholas figured out how to rig up a pulley system with yarn to lift his toys back onto the table.  I was quite impressed.

I think this has been one of the most fun projects we've done together as a family. Working on construction, noticing flaws (typically involving someone getting really wet when something breaks,) and seeing how. much. fun. the kids are having with it. 

Yesterday I counted seven children other than our own playing with the table.  Yep, that's just the way we wanted it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I am amazed

Potty training.
It's that thing that every parent dreads, hangs over your head for months, until you finally have the courage to start...and sometimes it takes months (many months!) and many thrown away pairs of underwear, before the child finally learns to go number 2 on the potty. Yes, I speak from experience.

Potty training was the pits our first time. I was bribing with entire cakes by the end. Seriously.

So, naturally, I dreaded training Ellie.
I am shocked.

We started last Tuesday. Here's how it went:
Day 1: four (or more) hours sitting on the potty. Nada.  As soon as she got up?  I found myself rinsing out four pairs of panties in one hour's time. Thought we'd try again (maybe) the next day.

Day 2: I put on her panties in the morning. While I was upstairs I heard Nick shouting "she did it!"
Yep, she had. All by herself.
She had 2 accidents (one at Target, but I was prepared with a towel, grocery sack, and clean clothes in my purse), but also used the potty completely on her own 4 or 5 more times.

Day 3: she's trained. Really. She goes when she needs to go, without telling me until she's all done.
We even spent the whole morning running errands and she successfully used the potty at home depot and the cupcake shop.

We have the occasional accident, but mostly, she's got it. And all I ever used was a couple of chocolate chips to reward her.

I'm pretty much in shock.
Maybe it was because she's a girl? The timing? Her personality? Or all three?

I don't know, but I'm incredibly happy about it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

the wise man....obeys his parents

A few weeks ago I planned a super awesome Family Home Evening lesson.  
For our family, FHE is typically us sitting together in the piano room, singing a few songs, sharing a (very) brief message from the Behold Your Little Ones nursery manual, bearing a speedy testimony, and then playing Simon Says for the last fifteen minutes.  
Teeny tiny attention spans around here.

So, when I got the idea to make graham cracker houses, tell them the parable of the wise man and the foolish man, and talk about building our lives on a firm foundation, 
I was pretty excited.  
And I remember thinking, as I got everything set up and ready to go before dinner, 
"This is going to be so fun, and it's so simple it can't get messed up." 
Famous last words.

Well, our children have both been really struggling with trying to be in charge around here lately, and our authoritative parenting skills have been tested, tested, and tested again.

Long story short, the kids went to bed early, to much tears and lots of hugs but no giving in, and we didn't get to do our Family Home Evening on Monday night. 

Nicholas was super sweet the next day, though, and he and Ellie worked their hardest to earn the chance to do our cracker houses after dinner that night. 

So, Tuesday night, after dinner (during which they were both exceptionally well behaved), 
We built cracker houses, we sang songs, 
We talked about Jesus and His parables,
and we ate lots of sprinkles.
A Tuesday-night FHE success.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

flat tire award

Last week was our cub scouts troop's pinewood derby.
I'm in cub scouts (Cub Committee Chair), as my assigned calling for our ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They asked me to make a cake,
to be given to the boy whose car lost the races. 
A "flat tire award" cake.

I've forgotten a lot of things since my cake decorating class I took in college, 
but I still have fun just being creative and making something with my hands.

Plus, far too much of what I do every day lacks visible progress.
Dishes? Laundry? Feeding the children? Playing with the children? Exercising?
All going to have to be done again tomorrow.

So I'm pretty happy when I get a chance to create something I can actually finish.  

Nicholas was dying to eat this cake.  I took him with me to the derby, and he had a blast. We had to go early so I could help set up, and he was racing around the church gym, dancing to the music, and making instant friends with every person who made eye contact.

After it was over we handed out the awards, and on our way home, Nicholas just kept giggling and saying,
"I can't believe that boy lost and got to take home the cake! I can't believe he lost!"
"Mommy, when I'm a scout, I'm so excited to make a car so I can lose so I can eat your cake."

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nicholas and Ellie Speak

At Maui Chill, one of our family's happy places (frozen yogurt).  They wouldn't even stop chewing long enough to smile for me.  I think Ellie was attempting some sort of happy face back there, but I can't be sure.

Nicholas:  As I put him to bed one night. He looks up at me sweetly, pats my face, and says, "Mom, I trust your judgement. That means I'm not mad at you."

Ellie: Out of the blue while we ate lunch together. "Um, so, Mommy?  Rainbows are very pretty but 'em taste really yucky."

Nicholas: looking at a photo of a baby on the computer: "Is it a boy or a girl baby?"  I told him it was a boy. "Whew! Lucky for him!"
This is the shirt he picked out.  Too bad it doesn't come in orange....

Nicholas: Sighs dramatically while sitting in the shade. "I appreciate this tree for giving us shade today." (what 4-year-old talks like this??)

Ellie: walked up to our friends who were staying in the cabin with us over Spring Break  "I love you guys, and it's time for you to go home now."

Nicholas: Grammer told him how lucky he is to have such a nice mommy and daddy.  "Yep. My mommy is nice and smart, and my daddy is nice and smart, and magic."

Nicholas: "The green otter pops taste like Indians."

And this is why shopping is never dull with these two. I turn around to see this happening behind me.

In my bathroom one morning, Nicholas asked: "Mommy, can I play with the cotton balls? Cotton balls are my favorite!"
Ellie jumped in then. "Can me have money?? Money's mine favorite."

Nicholas: saw a carved wooden bear at Big Trees State Park in California. "I think that bear is trying to be a model."
Ellie: Nicholas wasn't sharing his cookie with her. She fell to her knees, put her hands over her chest, and cried, "Nikus! You break mine heart!"

Ellie: was pretending to "fix" my hand. "The doctor fixed your hand now, Mommy. I fixed your hand. I'm a doctor. I'm Doctor Seuss!"

Nicholas: watching a silly song about bad haircuts. I said, "that's pretty funny. Should I give you a bad haircut?"  Without looking up from the show, he answered, "Nope, Mom. You already did."  I cut his hair last week....

Sunday, May 11, 2014

tulip festival, aka "good intentions"

Just over a week ago, I took the kids to the tulip festival.
We loved it last year when we went, 
so I thought it would be a really fun activity. 
We were even going to be meeting some friends there.
 It was gorgeous there, of course,
but my kids didn't seem to appreciate it.
Of course. What fun is a garden full of flowers to a four-year-old boy?
What I'd forgotten is that last time we went, 
we had Grandma. And Josh and Alicia.
And my sister Sarah.

If we have Sarah, pretty much anything will be fun.

 They had these awesome lawn games.
Nicholas threw a fit because he didn't want to share.

 A brief moment of happiness as she peeked through a tulip.

 It really was so beautiful, 
but I wasn't feeling super great (I came down with a stomach flu that very night...),
and the kids were hungry (we ate our picnic lunch only five minutes after arrival), 
the lines were long, and it was too close to preschool/naptime.
 We had a massive tantrum about halfway through, when I told Nicholas he could have some M&M's from the vending machine (desperate times, people), but then the machine was broken.
Both kids, screaming.  
I think my friends, both there with their only children, both pregnant with their second babies, were more than a little traumatized.
 It isn't always that hard with two.  
Really it isn't.  

Just sometimes, the good intentions you have of a super fun outing end up,
well, a little less than super fun.
And usually, the times you have no set plan, nowhere to be, and nothing structured to do but just be together, those are the times that are always super fun.  
Maybe someday I'll learn to remember this.

As we pulled out of the parking lot that afternoon,
Nicholas asked me "Why did you bring us to this stupid place, Mommy?" (I was so frustrated that I didn't even have the patience to remind him that we don't say "stupid." I just kept my mouth closed and took long, deep breaths.)
Because, Nicholas, I had good intentions.
Next time. Next time we'll bring Sarah.

Friday, May 9, 2014


I just love May.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

mommy vacation

Last weekend, I went to Texas.  All by myself.
I learned right away that I'm both more relaxed, yet also more insecure when I travel completely alone, vs. traveling solo with kids.
Something about having children to distract me/give me focus and purpose as I navigate? I couldn't quite figure it out, but I really did feel less confident traveling by myself than I always have when I travel alone with the kids.

While in Texas for a weekend,
I rented the tiniest car I've ever been in.
 Kinda looks like the blueberry, no?
It was surprisingly hard to drive this. I guess I'm used to driving my van.  
It was also strange to adjust to driving again in a state where the speed limit is treated as the limit, instead of something everyone automatically drives at least ten over.
Utah drivers are fast. Texas drivers are slow.  I can't say which is better.

I spent a lot of quiet time alone on this trip.
Once I decided to embrace it, 
I loved it.

I visited many dear friends, met new babies, and re-met many darling children.
Anita and her beautiful kiddos took me to the most darling bakery I've ever seen.  
Bird Bakery

Since I crashed the Foulk's anniversary on Thursday, I got to snuggle this big guy on Friday night while they went out on a date.
 Mmmm, he's so yummy.

 I made dinner on Sunday, butternut black bean enchiladas, one of my favorites.
Saturday night I ventured to the theme park grocery store. (That place is HUGE, guys.  Like a Costco and a Super Walmart mushed together with an Albertsons.)  
I needed to get jalapeños.

Luckily, this was Texas.
 Yep, an entire section just for jalapeños.
I also picked up some Bluebell ice cream while I was there.  Of course.

On Saturday morning, Alli and I gathered some friends and we took a girl's trip to Beorne, a darling little city in Hill Country.  
We went to the farmer's market (top picture) and sampled many jams and jellies, 
we passed on many many other jams and jellies--Texans like their wine and alcohol even more than they like jalapeños, it would seem.
I bought apple butter and almond lotion from some awesome, sweet ladies who make everything from scratch with all ingredients they grow and harvest on their own farms.  So neat.

After the market, we ate an early lunch at a super cute German restaurant, 
then we went shopping.
Well, mostly just window shopping.
 We did notice how interesting it was that none of us bought any of the beautiful things we found at all the shops, until we got to this, the gourmet food market.
Guess that shows what we value most.  

We had way too much fun browsing an antiques shop.
Where I got cozy with these truly terrifying Easter Bunnies.

Mostly, this trip I spent by sleeping in, visiting people I love and miss, staying up too late in Alli's cozy living room talking about pretty much everything, and spending some quality alone time to think, ponder, and set goals for myself.

 My last night there I sat next to this heavenly jasmine bush and took some time to put together and write down all my thoughts over the weekend;
things I want to do for myself, 
what I want to be for my family and friends, and how I want to improve my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  

It was a fantastic trip, and I was so happy to get back to my family.  
The kids had way too much fun at Grandma and Grandpa's (naturally), and in her prayer the night I got back, Ellie said,
"Thank you for us being back at ours house, and please bless that Mommy will leave again."
Always nice to know I'm loved.