"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Friday, September 28, 2012

factual friday

"The time ... the time ... who's got the time?!" 
The Mad Hatter Tea Party, Alice in Wonderland

It's been a crazy week from one thing to the next. Not a second to write, or think, or do ... anything.  

And suddenly I've got a very awake, smiley as heck, baby who knows when I'm no longer playing the talk-to-me-game. It's bi-polar ... and time consuming.

One evening this week did find us home. In a thunderstorm.  With dinner on at 5. Kids flying through homework. And there was nothing to do but lay the first fire of the season in the fireplace, make some hot chocolate with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and curl up in our pj's for an episode of our current favorite show before our 7:30 family devotional and bedtime.

It was magic.

Magic is rare.

We don't miss television service but do adore watching this show from our Netflix instant Que:

All of the kids ... even the big ones ... find Beaver and Wally's antics entertaining as well as creatively inspiring. I'm in love with June and Ward. So much so, Newel has to remind me that it's just a television show. I know that. I'm not crazy. But it's still indicative of the times in which the scripts were written. 

I love how June cooks and cleans all day. I love that she always serves a small dessert and stands ready with afternoon snacks and conversation. I love that they sit as a family and eat off of china in the dining room. I love those kids manners. I love that they have responsibilities. I love the way that Wally and Beaver don't always get along but are always respectful. I love how their friends try to pull a fast one. I love the parental frustrations. I love the sensible discipline. I love the references to father's yelling at kids or lovingly "knocking 'em around". I love the school scenes with their standing to address the teacher. I love that there's no handholding through homework and full responsibility for educational outcome. I love that June and Ward listen intently to scenarios of after school sporting events but rarely sit sideline. I love the kid independence. I love that the kids are always sending away for mail order stuff to entertain themselves. I love the way the boys dress. I love the way June dresses ....

And I know, I know ... it's a television show ... but I enjoyed many a long talk with my Grandmother on our summer trip .. and she said the 50's were very much like that.

And I think I was born in the wrong era.

Still, we love to congregate when we can and watch this show together as a family and get inspired to up our game a bit around here. There's not much television out there anymore that has that effect.

Half way through the first quarter this week, we had parent teacher conferences. I always think of it as "parent teacher beat down". Not this time. Everyone was doing so well. In particular, my oldest boy. It's rare, so I'm relishing it, but for the first time in 13 years, I had an entire row of teachers glow about Christian. And I mean glow.

He's in it to win it this year .. so far ... and even I see a difference. Must have something to do with that cell phone he's hoping for as he enters high school next year. 

Whatever. I'll take it. Cuz it felt so, so SO much better to come home from a conference and do a happy praise dance around him rather than all those other times of the "hey, you gotta want it or it ain't gonna happen" speech.

That same boy came home from school with the old "ketchup and rubber buns" joke from my own child hood. He told it to every one of us. Then he and Grant lay on the floor laughing till I thought they'd wet their pants. Then I begged them not to go to school and tell that joke because I'm pretty sure the teachers presenting the assembly on "harassment and degradation of fellow female students" would not find it as lightly funny.  

And then I felt that I do live in a sticky era with so very many tricky lines not to cross .

I'm still staring at the same paint line in the kitchen after a week of Newel on a business trip and every intention of moving forward.

Didn't happen.

But for what it's worth, I did finally fit in some early morning minutes of exercise and surprisingly do love the endorphin boost.

Even if it tries it's very best to kill my will power to leave this far too cozy afternoon spot between these two.

And those are the facts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

laundry solutions

We can all blame our mothers for something, right? It's a therapeutic trend, I guess.

I know my kids will. It's a given and I can take it.

Inevitably, no matter how good a job mom does, there's some hang up we all walk away with as a product of our upbringing.

Just ask my sister.  She won't touch spaghetti because she claims it was mom's staple meal for her to make.

I didn't grow up in that era on that end of the family, so I wouldn't know.

But I did grow up in the front end of the "laundry days".

Man, o man, were there mountains of laundry to do for eleven people and my Saturday job was to make a dent in that pile.

I know now mom was teaching valuable skills. Just the same, I look at a pile of laundry like my sister looks at a plate of spaghetti.  So, I lay it on mom that I stink at laundry.  She doesn't mind. She understands, actually.

That said ... I've been trying over time to come up with some workable solutions for my own household of nine.

Giving children their own responsibilities ... that's working ... slowly.
Downsizing closets.
Labeled laundry baskets and take away laundry room shelves.
Designated days.
Monogrammed towel ownership.

You name it ... I've tried it ... and some of it works for awhile. And some of it doesn't seem to catch on for very long.

I could chalk it up to being a laundry failure, but I just tell myself that anyone who says they've got it all figured out and working like a well oiled machine, has got to be bending the truth.

Cuz some weeks are busier than others and well, most solutions involving an organized life seem to be cyclic.

Right now, I'm in the cycle of getting kids to do their own because the number one rule in my mothering world is "If I hate it, delegate it!" ;)

The thorn in our laundry side has got to be the socks.  The socks!  I'm driven mad by the socks. They get lost. They get holes. Though I try to buy the same color or brand for each individual, I can never seem to get it right.

And I get this....

The basket of mismatched, just grab what ever you can wear today ... socks.

So ... Here's our current solution.

Each child ... six pairs. Wear them. Toss them in your labeled basket. At your laundry time, pair them with the connectors, wash them, dry them, rematch them with your folded laundry straight from the dryer and return my homemade milk cap connector to the jar on top of the machines.

In theory, each should always know and keep track of what they have.

It should work ... at least for awhile.

And when it doesn't, I'll just be grateful we don't hate spaghetti.

Friday, September 21, 2012

factual friday

No glitz, no glam, just an iPhone cam and a snapshot look into everyday life.

Pretty much, most of what I do around here gets mocked.  Remember mimicking your mother's phone call in the background just to aggravate her?  Yeah, what goes around comes around.

The first time we started up my band new mail-ordered gas fire pit, the never-before-used piping spewed flames, singeing the hair from Newel's arms.

Now, all I hear is "Everyone suit up, Mom wants the pit lit... another one of her brilliant ideas." And this is what I get. See? Mockery.

Grant is a baby whispering guru. Really. He calms her every time.

He also thinks they look a lot alike with their eyes closed. If I compared a baby picture of each child, she would be an exact replica of all of them.

I thought we would be friends forever.

I guess not.

It's not the baby confined in the car seat that really slows me down from place to place. It's the suddenly willful three year old in tow.

Who, incidentally, is only potty trained when she wants to be.

Sometimes when Newel is traveling for the week, I take it upon myself to think up things that, at the time, sound like a good idea ... like late night frozen yogurt.

But these outings almost always end with kids doing something off the wall. Sometimes literally. 

Another one of those was dinner at Ikea last week.

Ending in all the kids reverse treadmillin' it on those crazy escalators.

I really should remember this when I envision rainbow and butterfly outings with everyone.

Christian, by the way, caught another squirrel this week and tried to convince me to let him cook it on our BBQ. He claimed that with enough Chalula sauce, he'd heard it might be pretty good.

I was adamant with my "No". 

He disappeared and returned with a leash in one hand saying that if I wouldn't let him cook it, he might as well train it like a monkey.

Yes, I'm pretty sure we are going to end up with a disease, one way or another.

No, I did not let him leash the squirrel.

If I were to lay like this for most of my day, I would have abs of steel. Rather, I have those same buttery thighs.

Eliza and I, in one of our friendlier moments, made four dozen rolls together one afternoon. I think we ate one dozen before the other kids got home.

Hence those buttery thighs, I guess.

I sat utterly enjoying a sleeping baby on my lap and simultaneously lamenting the need for a clone so I could hold and hold, clear of conscience while completing needful chores at the same time.

Celia, lounging and listening, commented that chores could wait but babies wouldn't.

I told her that was so sweet ... and to go and get those dishes done.

That'll teach members of my clone army to lounge in my presence. ;)

And ... I cannot get enough of touching Charlotte's hair.

My job at church is to visit other wards on occasion during their Sunday meetings. In the quietest part of one meeting, Charlotte filled and filled and filled her diaper. I exited to sympathetic smiles.

I forgot to bring a change of clothes for her.

Working around the baby wreckage, I wondered what the other church going members would think if they were to find me bathing a naked infant in their bathroom sink.

Then I walked around for the rest of the meetings with said naked baby swaddled in a blanket, pretending her clothes weren't missing.

I'm glad I can lend some reality to the plethora of polished stake leadership.

And just because it's my favorite picture of the week ....

Those are the facts.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

lunch solutions

Not everything I dream up works.  But when it does ... well, there's an internal private celebration in this mother's heart.

A while back, there was too much sibling contention for my liking and I couldn't quite solve how to hurdle the discontent.

My heart kept telling me they just needed more opportunities to serve each other because doing something for someone else turns selfishness around .. most of the time. My brain said punish the masses till they can be nice.

And maybe I was doing a little too much for them that they could do for themselves .. and each other.

I set a plan for each child to take charge of the day's lunch making for everyone. Learn what they like and don't and provide that lunch just as they would like it provided to them.

There were a lot of groans at first.  And it was hard to wake one child earlier than the rest to get the job done sufficiently.

So, I switched it around to the night before prep. Now each has a night to get everything ready for the morning. We've had spectacular success and very few complaints. Maybe it helped that they were relieved to no longer be awoken at 5:30 a.m for the job :)

Whatever the transformation, each child has learned just what the other's preferences are and mornings are easier in getting every shift out the door with a hot breakfast and a smile from a less stressed mother.

I've seen an unsolicited transformation in taking the responsibilies above and beyond.


And sometimes, one steps in to help another just for the companionship ... and the grape catching fun.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

key lime pie

Annie asks for this every year for her birthday.  It's her favorite.  It's not her birthday but I thought I'd give it a whirl because I like to see her smile just the same. It was easy and great for company.

Beware ... it's addicting.  And it's richly sweet ... so a small slice goes a long way.

Or feel free to balance the amount of filling, crust, and cream to make a pie less "to die for" ... literally.

Mostly, enjoy it's simplicity.

Easy Key Lime Pie

20 key limes (or 12-15 regular limes) Equaling 3/4 cup of juice
2 cans fat free sweetened condensed milk 
1/2 cup light sour cream 
1 tsp grated lime zest

1 prepared graham cracker crust 
2 cups crushed graham crackers mixed with 3 Tbls melted butter and pressed into a 9 inch pie pan to make a homemade graham cracker crust

Whip the sweetened condensed milk and the sour cream to smooth.
Add the juice of the squeezed limes. Tip: I cut my limes into quarters and crushed with a garlic press to juice them. Add zest.
 Whip to smooth.

Pour into pie crust.

Bake 350 degrees for 10 −12 minutes until firmed and tiny pin prick surface bubbles appear.

Cool and serve with whip cream and lime wedge for garnish

Monday, September 17, 2012

commanding chief of the boat

Anyone visiting our home lately has raised their eyebrows and asked, "Sailboats?"

No ... I tell them on closer look ... music leading.

In Mormon-ville, the place where I spend so much of my time ... every child stands ready to jump in and play the piano anytime, anywhere, in any meeting that has need .. by the age of eight.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

It is one very valuable skill as a missionary.

And I think nearly every mother knows that and gives it a whirl.

And that's great until it really just isn't your thing.

And I mean REALLY isn't your thing.

A few months ago, his group of boys was asked to provide a chorister for the opening exercises to the men's meeting. Not one other boy was willing to stand up front and "humiliate" himself.

But Christian isn't super self conscious.

He said he just drew his name in the air to the beat of the music.

I told him I could teach him correctly if he'd like.

He said, only if I'd buy him his own hymn book.

I said, only if he'd endure my awful playing as he learns to lead.

He's braved the learning curve.

And I've tried not to embarrass him by poking my head in there too often to see how he's doing.

One Sunday, Newel came home and told how Christian stopped the men as none of them were singing, re-announced the page number, waited till they were ready and started once again.

Christian said he'd felt dumb.  Newel said he'd looked commanding.

And now he has command over what I hope will be a valuable skill of a different sort.

Friday, September 14, 2012

factual friday

In really blurry iPhone pictures because sometimes that's the only thing at hand.

I don't even know what the story line was.
But the antics were great.
Ending in the need for a Heimlich maneuver.

The late nights can get crazy but I'm loving teenage hood.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

new years resolutions

I'm not great at them in January, but then, my fiscal year for goal setting always seems to begin in August with the arrival of a new school year. We've been at it a bit now, and so far so good.

Maybe it's laying awake after feeding newbee in the quiet of night that gets my mind to churning but I can't help making 2 a.m lists of ways I'm going to do better, be better and help our family become more. Blame it on the quest for a scheduled life following the birth of a baby, I guess.

Traveling across the country at the end of the summer with plenty of time to think, I finally had a moment to make a list of all the areas I'd like to see our kids stretch. I read my list out loud to Newel.  He said it exhausted him.

But, there's so much more teaching to cram into these short years.

And it can't all be done at once.

And some of it lights a fire in me but then unfortunately gets shelved cuz life's busy.

And then I'm left feeling just like I do at bathing suit season when I wished I'd started working out ages ago.

So much depends on self motivation and initiative by the kids themselves and a little nudge in the right direction by their mother doesn't hurt :)

If I don't make a plan or write things down, I just know I'll always walk around wishing these kids were better at writing thank you notes or recording in journals or incorporating exercise into their days .... and on and on and on.

So ... this year there's a plan of action and it's working ever so very nicely. Before school began, I created goal setting charts.

The goal sheets cover four categories of growth:

1)Spiritual, 2)Physical, 3)Intellectual, 4) Emotional  Each child set their own goals for each group. There's a calendar to check off their progress. The goals should have a plan as to how they hope to succeed (I'm hoping over time they expand on that goal setting skill to be more specific in their planning).


Spiritual Goals include nightly scripture reading, work in our primary and youth program books — Faith in God, Personal Progress or Duty to God — daily reading from the Strength of Youth or New Era magazine, better remembrance of personal prayer both morning and night ... or any other areas they'd like to strengthen themselves.

Physical Goals include adding any sort of exercise program, healthy eating habits, improvements in dress and grooming, etc ..etc .. etc. (Self motivation in this area really helps me because I cannot remember to clip 70 additional fingers and toes or floss potentially 224 teeth twice a day).

Intellectual Goals are of a self improvement nature. Time management, reading, musical development, journal writing, school expectations, hobby or talent development. Really anything that expands horizons.

Emotional Goals revolve around what to do to be a builder in our family.  Avoid name calling? Give compliments? Serve an individual family member? Make daily thankful lists? Express love? Respond quickly and kindly?  How will you build.

And then, at the bottom of the page is listed their current chores and economy.  This is so I can remember to get a verbal acknowledgement as to how they think they are pulling their weight at fulfilling responsibilities to help our family run smoothly and individually save money on the side for college, missions, etc.

The sheet itself, looks like this:

Fresh goals are made on the first Monday of every month in a little Family Home evening planning session.

Each month's goals are given a final evaluation in a personal interview with Newel (or myself) on the first Sunday of the following month.

Every night as part of my bedtime routine, I remind each child to check off their goals and as I ask how they think they are doing, conversations ensue.  When they don't think I'm nagging — they get excited to do better.

At the end of each month, I keep the previous sheets in a binder to compare progress, improve on our goal setting and avoid too much repetition.

I've loved some of their choices for goals they'd like to see achieved in themselves.

I'm holding him to these and I've seen huge improvement.

Some things we are superb at and others not.  Sometimes there just needs to be more time in the day but we'll get there.

Some I'd like to continue indefinitely just because sharpening those skills brings about my favorite times of the day.

And, I've even made my own!

Now all those characteristics I hope to ingrain in these guys, might actually stand a chance.

Monday, September 10, 2012

hoppin' aboard the train

I caught a whiff of that buttered popcorn aroma that screams newborn blowout.  I sent Eliza for a diaper and wipes and sitting on the floor, worked my way gingerly around that lovely, infant, soul-staining yellow. How can one baby possibly produce their entire weight in this stuff?

Eliza arrived with aid in hand, surveyed the situation and wrinkled her face in disgust followed by uncontrollable dry heaving.

I choked on my own laughter.

Right back atcha, sister, cuz nothing feels more "wrong" when changing a tiny hiney next to a three year old one.

A friend of the most darling little boy, asked back in the summer if I had any secrets to potty training.  Fleetingly, my mind swept over all of those techniques I'd heard of along the path to potty training five other children. There are those who swear by them and they always make me smile.

I can't help it that my internal self is longing to wrap a loving arm around their shoulders and say, "That's fantastic!  ... Until you get that one boy or girl :)"

But I don't.

"My best tip ..." I said to my friend, "is to remember that they don't go to college in diapers. At least ... I've never heard of anyone who did."

My oldest had my undivided attention and jumped right aboard that train. My second hid in a closet mocking me until he was six. I kid cuz I love and he knows it. Everyone else trained by sibling example while I was off tending to new baby.

Because training takes training and I couldn't train myself to remember my own name.

And what speaks to one child may be different for another.  Maybe it's treats,

or stickers,

or charts,

or a competition :)

No matter ...

It won't happen until they're ready.

And you can make yourself crazy.

And you have to take your own emotions out of the equation.

And most of all remember .... they don't go to college in diapers ... maybe.