Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy Thoughts in the Fall

Oh, glorious, glorious fall!  It's hard not to enjoy life in the fall.  Here is what is making me smile these days.

1. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  I've eaten my weight in them this week, but it's okay because they are veggie cookies!

  After 3 weeks of piano lessons Cannon is a composer.
Here's his catchy title--"FlashDash".  I wonder if he's ever heard of Flash Dance?

Big brother wrestling with little brothers.  It's loud, dangerous, and will most certainly end in tears; but it's too much fun.

Here is a note that Faith wrote to Cannon recently.  A friendly reminder that we never judge little kids attempts at writing on their own free will.  Clark and Bethany spell just fine and theirs used to look a lot like this.  I will translate- Dear Cannon, You are my BFF.  Do you want to play servants today 'cause I do.  When I am done with my school I will get you to play servants.  BFF.

Bethany and Elinor built a luxury manor out of Legos this week. 
I want to live there!  Look, the pool is so big it has its own speedboat!

  Here is Cannon's inspiration for composing "FlashDash".   She is one of my very talented and very sweet little piano students.

Abe is sporting the pirate earring Cannon got at his friend's birthday party last Saturday.  Abe has worked so much this summer and we've missed him terribly.  He spent a weekday afternoon with us this week-- what a treat!

Abe took the opportunity to teach Cannon how to ride a two-wheeler.  
 Cannon caught right on and Faith declared him the quickest learner of all the kids.

Elinor and her good friend working on her electricity and circuits class.  She loves it.  

The girls love to read at bedtime.  They are reading the Percy Jackson series again.  And just as I know they won't play with Legos forever, I know they won't have American Doll posters and snuggle with stuffed animals for much longer.  They'll grow up, and that's a good thing too, but I see absolutely no need to rush things.

Cannon is playing on a very simple fall soccer league.  As I have mentioned before, my children do not excel on the soccer field.  Let's take that a step further.  My children don't really excel in any team sports.  We have a very long history of being a part of chronically losing teams.  No matter.  We enjoy the experience anyway.  Perhaps even more so, because there is never ANY pressure to win  
But Cannon was all confidence before his first game, and he does have a little more ability than some family members. But, truth be told, by the second game he was happy to take his turn sitting out and snuggling with his mama.  All of my children like the game of soccer in theory, but in practice they aren't as interested.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pottery Barn

I used to be tormented by Pottery Barn catalogs. 

They would come in the mail and I would lust after the adorable matching furniture, the quality bedspreads, the baskets with monogrammed liners.  I envisioned happy children keeping everything organized with their names in wooden letter blocks on the walls.  They and their friends would play with toys on beautiful, plush floors rugs.

Like I said, I used to be tormented.  Then life happened to me and I grew up.
These three children were so happy to be tucked into bed on the floor by their sweet older sister.   The room was a mess with not a single piece of matching furniture.  Cannon appears to have on matching pajamas, Faith's are way too small and George is sleeping in his clothes. 

 The irony is that they are all covered with a green blanket I bought for Clark when he was about four.  It's from Pottery Barn.  I don't think they're impressed.

These kids almost never go out to eat.  If they ever go to a movie theater it is certainly the dollar theater.  Most of their clothes are hand-me-downs.  Their summer vacations are family reunions.    

There are times I wish we had "more" to give our little people.  But this evening wasn't one of those times.  We had dinner together, followed by a Family Home Evening led by a Priesthood holding father.  We enjoyed big bowls of ice cream and we ecstatically cheered while watching American Ninja Warrior together.   That is really living!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Real Life

As fabulous as this past weekend was, we've returned to real life.  Real life has its charms as well.

Like last night at dinner.  I cooked a turkey.  A full turkey.  What was the occasion for a full turkey in the middle of September?  Truth be told, it has been in our deep freezer since last Thanksgiving and I was getting worried about it.  How long would it stay good?  So I put it into the fridge to defrost, but I still didn't get to it for a little while.  Then I started worrying about how long it would stay good in the fridge?  Finally yesterday I cooked it up in the simplest possible way-- no fancy marinades-- just a bit of butter and salt and pepper, covered it with foil and cooked it all day.  Lo and behold!  It worked!  And it was pretty tasty.  I've tasted better, but it was good.  I made mashed potatoes and gravy and told the children we were having thanksgiving to celebrate the "Miracle of the Carpool."  I'll tell you more about that in a minute.

The children were ecstatic.  "WHAT?!  Mom made turkey and mashed potatoes for dinner?! HOORAY!  Oh Mother!  This is so good!  Thank you so much for making it."

I'm not exaggerating.  They were truly thankful and enjoying the feast.  All except for George that is.  He sat in his little blue booster chair refusing to partake of the goodness.  This isn't so unusual for him.  Often we have to prime the pump to get him to eat.  That means we force feed one small little bite and then he realizes he likes it and then he happily eats on his own.  9 out of 10 times priming the pump is very effective.  But that one time when it is not effective can get ugly.  And last night it did.  He was mad and the mashed potatoes and gravy were just too grotesque.  He gagged and puked.
Yep.  I force fed my kid and he threw up.  Feeling pretty good about my mothering skills.

Tonight there was some redemption.  I made a turkey soup-- following absolutely no recipe I might add-- and it was quite tasty.
But would George agree?  Would he partake?  Would he suspect it was made from the same ingredients that nearly killed him 24 hours earlier?
  It worked!!!  He ate his soup and who would have guessed that it was the carrots that won him over. 
We're in full swing with school and I will say I am quite happy with how the school year has started off.  We have our traditional paper and pencil work, but each of the kids also has an online technology class.  Elinor is doing an Electronics and Circuitry class with a Snap Circuits Kit.  Bethany is doing  Foundations of Drawing, Sculpting, and Animation and Faith is doing Foundations of Engineering with an Engino Simple Machines Set.
Abe started to help Faith build a design this evening, only to discover what I already suspected.  We were short quite a few pieces and will have to wait for them to mail them to us.  I spent too long making an inventory of what we had and what we were missing.  I would like to be compensated for my time.
I've spent a lot of time getting everyone set up on their online courses and getting all our ducks in a row.  I think there is a lot of value in technology and online education, but I'll admit it is a challenge to get it all figured out.  I'd rather stick to paper and pencils, but because I'm pretty sure education and society will continue to move that direction, I'll get on board and try to understand it better.

I almost forgot I said I'd tell you about the Miracle of the Carpool.  Here's the long version.
Last Wednesday was audition day for both Elinor and Bethany.  Elinor was trying out for the Riverton Children's Choir and Bethany for the Lyceum Orchestra.  They seemed just fine, but I was a nervous wreck.  I hear there are some mothers who don't feel judged when their children are being judged, but I'm afraid I'm not one of them.
Because the auditions were at the same time in different counties Abe took Elinor to her audition where she sparkled and shined and made it into the Concert Choir and was very happy.
I took Bethany to her audition in American Fork where I sufficiently freaked her out by wigging out myself.  She's done tons of recitals, but an audition is something very different.  At recitals we say, "Hey, nobody is judging you.  They just want to hear you play.  It's a chance to show-off what you've learned".
But at an audition, judging you is exactly what they are doing.  Looking for mistakes.  Looking for bad technique.
 Fortunately Bethany made it into the orchestra she was hoping for as well.  We were both so happy.

Enter the problem of driving everyone to where they need to be in addition to teaching piano lessons and homeschooling and every other crazy thing we do.  Hmm.  How am I going to do this?  There are always ways to work things out so I fell back on my mantra, "I'll make it work."  But how?

Two phone calls this week were serious answers to prayers.  First my neighbor and friend, Jenn, said she'd be happy to drive the six girls in the neighborhood to and from choir each Monday.  Can you hear the angels singing-- "Ahhhhhh!"
Then I called Sherry whose son Benjamin does Speech and Debate in Sandy on Wednesday morning with Bethany and he also does this orchestra in American Fork Wednesday afternoons.  I tried to set up a carpool trade (that totally would have been to my advantage) where I would drive to Sandy and she would do American Fork.  Miracles of miracles she tells me she would really like to drive to and from both so she will have time for walking and reading.  She said that after many many years of homeschooling many children she is looking forward to the time to exercise and meditate and read.
Can you hear the hallelujah chorus?

I guess I'm not the one who is going to make it work.  Thank you, thank you to my carpooling angels.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book Club Retreat 2013

This post is going to look an awful lot like bragging.  Look at us!  Look what we got to do!  Look who we know!  We're so cool!
 I do apologize if it comes off that way and I'm not sure of how to get around that.  We just spent an extended weekend with our long-time homeschool book club friends and it was AWESOME!  But let me preface the post by sharing a conversation I had this weekend with a friend in our family book club we've been a part of for the last nine years.

Dave Y. says to me, "Betsy, we sure do enjoy you and Abe and your family."
     I replied, "Thank you.  We think you all are so spectacular that sometimes we're afraid we don't quite measure up.  Christine-- the fitness and fashion guru, Dave Y.-- the musical artistic genius, David F. the wildly successful CEO of a tech company, Andrea-- the self taught expert on everything and queen of organizing, Steve--the outdoorsy BYU professor, Adrianne-- the organizer of First Lego League in Utah, JL-- so focused and organized.  Wow!-- We enjoy all of your company so much but we don't have much to offer you.
     Dave says, "Well, it's kind of like this guy I knew in college.  He was a drummer in a band.  This band was never going to go anywhere and he wasn't a very good drummer.  In fact, he was pretty crummy, but he was a really great guy and they all liked him.  They enjoyed having him around so they didn't want to get rid of him."  

So I'm thinking, I guess in our book club we're the crummy drummer! We aren't terribly spectacular in any particular area except that they like us and enjoy our company and so they keep us around.....I'll take it! 

I tell this story, not in any way to place myself on the pity pot.  I was already aware that I'm more of a crummy-drummer-type so this wasn't offensive to me-- nor did Dave say it or mean it in any unkind way at all.  I've always been good at recognizing great qualities in other people that I want to emulate.  You don't have to be good at everything-- you just have to be friends with someone who is.  

But even more than that, I realized that Heavenly Father blesses us with not only what we can do ourselves, but he can provide opportunities for us to benefit from other peoples' talents and blessings as well.  So before I get really obnoxious with all these pictures and tales of the good times had, please know that I recognize these blessings of great friends and the good things that follow are one of God's greatest gifts to me. 

Furthermore, I am grateful for all of my children and I do not resent in anyway the time and energy and resources they take.  I know this is where God would have me put my time and I love it and I love them.  But I'm not blind.  I know that because I spend my life in raising so many little people, there are other areas that I do not excel.  I feel that one of the ways I am blessed is to have relationships with other people and families that do excel where I may not.  So even though I'm a likable crummy drummer-- my family can still be influenced by the fitness guru and the tech guy and the artistic genius. 

The short of it is that my friends are awesome and we're not worthy!  Now, onto the good times.
Our annual book club retreat is a highlight of our year every September.  In the past we've camped or rented a vacation home or condo.  This year the Flynn's graciously opened their home and newly completed pool for our recreational pleasure.  I declare this to be our best retreat yet!
The pool is a good place to begin.  Andrea led us ladies in Aqua Zumba.
 Hours and hours and hours were spent swimming in the nicest pool I've ever been in.  And the best of all was that on Thursday evening Faith and Cannon could not swim by themselves and by Saturday afternoon they were all over the place and jumping off the diving board alone.  According to Cannon, he is now a "self-swimmer".
In this picture they are all doing the "shark dance" as led by Abraham the Pied-Piper of children.
A few of my favorites-- Gracie being graceful.
Faith being brave.
Cannon throwing caution to the wind and attempting a front flip.
Bethany showing off!  Abe would give out scores for everyone's tricks.  The first score was a 7.5, but the scores inflated and ended up at 500,000.  He was so generous.
The girls of the crazy sock club just before our hike.
The gang up by the waterfall.
These girls have played together since they were 3 and 4 years old.
The guys had plenty of time for hanging out as well.  They spent all day Thursday at the Salt Lake Comic Con manning a booth showing off the FRC robot from last year.   They played a lot of D&D.
 They stayed up ALL night watching the three Lord of the Rings movies and this is how we found them Saturday morning with the movie still blaring. 
They played quite a bit of Minecraft as well.  Clark was seriously pooped by Saturday night.
We played more of our nerdy history timeline games.
Cannon and Bella enjoying the Legos we brought from home.  This is a crowd that appreciates Legos.
We enjoyed our first group talent show.
  Lots of music was shared.
Cub Scout quality skits.
A Shakespeare monologue.
The boys worked up a rather dramatic rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Elinor enjoyed Yoga with Christine and the ladies.
The adults went out to see Austenland (which I loved) and out to eat at Royal India.  It was my first time eating Indian food.  It was delish!
What better way to end than with a family dance of vintage dances.  So much fun with families dancing together.  Moms, dads, siblings, friends.  Just grab a partner and have fun.  It makes me so happy just to think about it. 
Shh, don't tell him, but I may be dancing with my future son-in-law in this picture.  Tee-hee-hee!
I suppose I'll begin and end with swimming.  George was great the whole weekend.  He loved the pool and fortunately he was not much of a daredevil.  
Cannon would shout out, "CANNON-BALL!" each time he flew off the diving board.
It was a good, good weekend.
And that is a nice, nice view.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

This is the Life

We did get quite a bit of school work done in our first full week of school but here are a few of the not-so-academic highlights of the week.
Faith and her friend buried each other in Legos.  Our family room floor is very often covered with Legos that are supposed to stay on the big white sheet, but usually end up spread all over the house.
Cannon with one of his many spaceship creations.
Bethany received her Bamboo Splash tablet in the mail for her tech art class this year.  She's not so much into technology, but she was digging the technology combined with art.
Bethany and Elinor made a big batch of snicker doodles to take to a baptism for her 2nd cousin on Saturday.  This second cousin is the daughter of my closest cousin who recently moved back to Utah from California and we're thrilled to get to see them more often.
Here Cannon was demonstrating the relaxation technique known as "hum-itating".  You stand on your head and hum while meditating.
Clark went fishing with Grandpa Cannon on Friday afternoon/evening and they were wildly successful!
Too bad I don't like fish--we've got a lot of them!
Faith was so excited to lose her second tooth this evening.  At 7 1/2 it is about time these teeth started coming out.
Here was my favorite moment of the week.  Cannon came to me and said, "Mom, I think I'm ready to start piano lessons".
Music to my ears!  So we got out the beginning books and a new notebook did his first lesson.  He has enjoyed his practice time this week.  Fun for us both.