Monday, December 26, 2016

Shining Like a Star

We acted out the nativity at a family party.  All the kids were adorable - at least mine were.  ;-)

Freddie is on the ground in the middle there, wearing a red shirt and a sheepskin.  He is a sheep and practiced his bleating very well.  Angel is the shepherd on the left in the pink pants.  Only fashion-forward shepherds could wear pink pants back in the day.  And Georgie is standing on the table, valiantly keeping his arms up as high as he can, for he is the star.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Honor Your Parents

Yes, children!  Did you see what today's challenge is?  HONOR YOUR PARENTS!  Be nice to me! Do what I say!  I'm so funny that I make them all roll their eyes.  Pick those eyeballs up off the floor, children.  You might need them someday.

So maybe the little video here says it more nicely than I did.  Watch it and think about it for a minute.  It says Jesus honored his parents, which makes me think of Joseph the carpenter.  I have a special spot in my heart for him, since he willingly stepped in and raised another man's son as his own.  Just like my sweet Trent has done for my older boys.  I am so grateful for the parenting and strength and love that he shares with all of us.

I wasn't particularly close to my mom growing up.  I loved her lots, and I knew she loved me.  I knew it.  But we clashed in some ways.  My dad said it was like living with two queen bees!  I wish I could talk to her and tell her how sorry I am for that.  I wish I was a better daughter... but I didn't know how at the time.  I would love to sit down with her and ask her advice about a number of things that I can see she did really well: welcoming other people into the family, maintaining calm in a crisis, encouraging people to do their best, holding your tongue instead of blurting out awkward things...  Love that lady, and I'm proud to be her daughter.

We live with my dad, so we see him all the time.  He has Parkinson's and dementia, so life is a bit tricky for him and will only get more so.   Today I sat with him and just listened to him talk.  He told me about how the pollen that is in his bedroom is thicker in the morning and dissipates as the day goes on.  He told me there are spiderwebs and strands or cords that hang from the ceiling.  Water condenses on the strands and when they get too big, they drop off and he can hear them hit the floor or feel them hit his head.  He thinks they make his bedcovers damp and cold in the morning.  But he says the pollen is beautiful, shimmering with purple and different colors. Sometimes he is frustrated that I can't see and hear all the things he does.  His world looks different than mine sometimes, and I think it sounds lovely and magical.

He can still walk and get around most of the time.  On bad days, he'll use his walker to stay safer.  His feet and legs freeze up sometimes, and he is stuck for a few moments until the brain messages finally get down to them.  He says he has to get his landing gear down and locked before he starts to walk.  His balance is poor and he tips a lot.  Most of time Trent or I are near enough to catch him - we are never far away - but sometimes he falls.  He spends most of his day sleeping or watching TV in his room, and sometimes both at the same time!  I hold his cold, thin hand when we go for a walk up the street and he tells me about the cars he has had, or about winning tennis championships in his glory days, or about what he would like to do next on the model train layout in his garage.

He can't live by himself, as he'd be lost trying to cook in the kitchen.  I made a grilled cheese sandwich for his lunch today, with extra cheese and butter for more calories.  I hid a can of Ensure and some black beans in his banana and peach shake to add some protein and nutrition.  He's missing a few teeth so it's hard to eat, plus he tires out quickly, so we do what we can to help him stay healthy.

It's not easy to be a caregiver, but for us, it's the right thing to do.  Dad gets to stay in his own house, sleep in his own bed, do his own hobbies in his own garage, and greet the neighbors he's known for 40 years at his own church.  We really didn't know what we were getting into when we moved in, and it's become more challenging since then.  It's not so bad when we can share the care around.  Angel likes to fetch things for him.  The boys look out after him.  Trent shaves him for Sunday and cleans up his toilet (which is something I can not bring myself to do!).  I think we are often too rowdy and busy for him, but he patiently puts up with us.  We're glad we are here, and glad he is still here.  I love my dad.

Oh, and as long as you are here, you can read this old, finally finished post about hidden blessings  from last April!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Little Overwhelmed and Pizza

Deferred maintenance can be a killer.  On a house, not keeping things up over time will lead to left messes, decay and  eventually structural issues.  Not keeping a car running well will kill it even faster.  As I'm looking at my blog, I'm glad it doesn't break down, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done - and I haven't been doing it!  Notice how young my children look in the header?  They are quite a bit older now.  I'd like to update the background too, now that we don't have current world travelers.  And I just found a whole pile of old posts that I had started, but never got finished.  Sigh.  There is always something, isn't there?

So I don't know if I'll post every day, or even every other day.  But I am going to start chipping away at my old stuff.  Like this post from last April about what we had for dinner.  New and complete!  And then I will feel like I've been productive.

Honestly, it's been hard to feel productive lately.  My health hasn't been exactly bright and perky, so I haven't wanted to be up and doing things.  I've not been feeling well in the mornings, so I haven't been walking the kids to school.  There have been some difficult family things going on, so it's sometimes hard to find my happy.  And my dad has been more shaky, so I can't even leave the house until someone comes to spell me off.  So maybe this is a perfect time to start writing again.  Then I feel like I've accomplished something even when I have just been sitting on the couch.  Hooray for little wins!

But hey!  We did do something good today!  Have you seen the "Light the World" challenge?  It's being put on for the month of December by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Every day, we see one trait or characteristic of Christ, then we see how we can do better in that way.  Today is the kickoff, and it's a day of service.  Please click on the link there.  The videos are so well done and inspiring!

We learned that there are 60,000 refugees who now live in our state, and that they are in need of food for the holidays.  Our closest refugee center was asking for rice and bean meal packs.  It costs 5 or 6 dollars for a pound of beans, 2 pounds of rice, and 5 pounds of flour.  This week, the kids have been doing chores to earn their own $5 to help with this effort.  We went to the store and picked up the supplies.  They were excited to pick out which kind of beans they wanted, and help tie a pretty ribbon around each package.  Tomorrow, Trent will take them to the refugee center.  It doesn't seem like much, but I think every little bit helps.

And then, if we needed a reminder that good things come back to those who do good, our neighbor brought us pizza for dinner.  This is a snapshot of the leftovers.  We have the best neighbors!  And when we try to do our part to make it a better world, I think we become better neighbors too.

Maybe we are more productive than we think we are.  Maybe there are ways we can help and serve, even if it's only a drop.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When My Memory Fades

I forget things.  Not just because I'm getting older, but also because moments change.  When the house is a disaster and all the pennies need pinching and I'm hungry but there is nothing for me to eat and the kids are fighting with each other and we are LATE AGAIN! it is hard to remember that there are times that go well.  But there are good moments.  Lots of them, in fact.  So I need to write them down, because that's how I remember better.  I think that is one of the great blessings of the scriptures - they make our collective memories bigger.  And it's nice to remember the good things, especially when hard times hit.


Alec came over to change his oil.  I have appreciated how Trent has taught the boys how to fix and maintain a car.  When Alec's new car spilled oil all over the driveway, Alec was good to come back and clean it up.  He stayed for a bit and we ended up all eating hamburgers in the kitchen together - 12 of us with Grandma Jeanne that day.  It so warms my mother-heart to be together.


We were driving home from a late-night family gathering in the big van.  I love being in our big van, even though I don't particularly like driving our giant, unwieldy van -  because it means we can be all together.  Something is missing when we have to take two or three cars instead.  Eddie started saying things in a British accent that evidently wasn't quite up to snuff.  Before long, David, Chris, and Ben were all criticizing  his attempt, but each fake accent was different than the one before.  I think we all ended up in giggles at all those bad accents.  British giggles, mind you.


When someone does an especially good job on a school paper or artwork, we hang in on the refrigerator.  I was pleasantly surprised when Chris asked at the end of his senior year if he could put his well-done-paper one the fridge, since he usually does not like to be the center of attention.  The next time I walked past the kitchen, it looked like this!  It was so fun we left it that way, all covered with his awards and achievements, for the whole summer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Family Funnies

Even though I haven't been blogging, I have been collecting little snippets of our family life.  Some are funny, some are sweet, and some are just happy family moments that I'd like to snuggle up in and enjoy for a long time.  As much as I'd like to remember them forever, I know myself better than that.  If I don't write it down, it is lost and gone.  End of story.

We went to a family reunion recently, and they talked about having a family talent show.  At dinner, we discussed what talents are, and what we could do for the show.  Angel was more than excited with all sorts of ideas.  "Ooh!" she squealed, "I'm going to draw some pictures!"  Freddie pondered for a few minutes before somberly announcing, "My talent is reading."   Georgie didn't have to think long before he let us know what he planned, "I'm going to hoop a hula.  I like hooping."

Angel loves watching all kinds of animals and birds.  She told us she wanted a bird to make a nest in her lower lip and lay and egg there.  "When it hatches, I can raise it for my very own.  It would be glorious!"

Trent took Freddie on an errand in the car.  After a few minutes, Freddie innocently asked, "Dad, why didn't you use the [tongue clicking]?"  Thinking.  You mean the blinkers?  Yes, that.  Busted by the six-year-old back seat driver!

Georgie had been in the car too long.  In desperation, he demanded, "I want to walk home for the last block!"  When the answer was in the negative, he insisted, "Then I will cry all the way home!"  Freddie muttered under his breath, "Oh, just let him walk!"

Freddie let us know an important upcoming event.  "I'm gonna change my name when I grow up.  I'm gonna change my name to... (thinking)... Hot Sauce."  Not to be outdone, Georgie will also change his name.  When asked what his new name will be, he replied matter-of-factly, "I'm Batman!"

Monday, November 28, 2016

Must Right the Not Writing

A few years ago, one of my sons implored me to never stop blogging.  "How will we ever know when we did things?  Or remember our family stories if you don't write them down, Mom?"  His plaintive request caught me totally off-guard.  I didn't think he read the blog at all, or even really knew that I wrote.  Especially since he was in an I-don't-care-about-this-family kind of stage.  So I kept writing.  Every now and then, life gets crazy and other things are more important than writing, so I pause.  But I miss it.  It's hard to jump back in and not feel guilty that there are things that I didn't record that I wanted to - that's why the pauses last longer than I want them to.  I feel like I have to play catch-up before I can jump back into today.

In the past half year, we have gone from Mom and Dad, six kids and Opa, with two missionaries out, to both missionaries home and eleven people in this house!  At the end of the summer we had a wedding and two other boys going away to college, so we were down three.  David and Eddie were happy to move into Chris's old bedroom (it has a window!), and the twins got to move out of the room they shared with Angel.  Yes, we had eight children in three bedrooms for a while - although some of the older boys preferred to couch-surf rather than sleep downstairs.  It seems funny to say that the house is quieter and feels empty now, because there are still five kids plus two parents plus a grandparent who still eat, sleep, and hang out on the premises.

But it is a little empty.  Alec and his new bride have a cozy little apartment a few towns over, and seem to be living happily.  Do we need a bloggy name for her?  Does it need to match up with Alec's letter A, or should we begin with B since that is the next girl name in the alphabet after Angel?  Let's call her Belle, just for fun, and because it fits her.  Ben's university is in the next town over from the university Chris chose, so they are sharing an apartment and commuting.  I love to hear them tease and bicker over bedtimes and groceries, and I'm glad they have each other.  My mother-heart has grown a few sizes to include a new family member, and to love my boys as the adults they are becoming.  I pray every night that they will all find real happiness and fulfillment in their chosen areas.

David is a sophomore this year, so I have him in the nest for two more years while he grows his flight-feathers.  I'm so impressed with how he handles the challenges he faces, and how he determinedly gets back up every time.  He is learning such good things!  Eddie is in eighth grade and finding his groove in his studies and groups of friends.  He and David clash on a regular basis over the standard sibling things, but I'm glad that they like each other anyway and manage to set things straight.  If we could figure out how to simultaneously play music and have quiet; turn the lights on and have dark, we would be a thousand times more peaceful.  And rich, if we could sell that technology!

Our Angel is eight and thriving in second grade.  Her social butterflightiness (can I combine "social butterfly" and "flightiness"?) is calming down several notches, and she spends a great deal of time writing and drawing pictures, or playing school with her little brothers.  When she has been quiet for a long time, I know her imagination has been captured by a good book.  Freddie and Georgie are in the first grade.  Gone all day!  I love to hear the commotion that descends upon the house when the three of them come tramping in after school.  And then my mother-heart is happy: my children are home!

Yes, dear son, I'll keep blogging.  There are so many things for me to write about and I miss it when I don't.  We have a great family, don't you think?  If I don't jot down the things I am ever so grateful for, then I forget.

And I don't ever want to forget.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Save the Day!

Or maybe save all the food today.  It's harvest season, which means that we are in the kitchen most of the time.  This year I'm actually canning, whereas last year I only did a little because I had been so sick.  And the year before I did nearly none, since we were moving in.  That's an interesting transition, and it tells me that this year is better than the past two have been.  Sometimes it's hard to see gradual improvement.  

I did a few dozen quarts of applesauce, and wrecked my right pointer finger doing all the cutting.  The apples were on the green side, so they were a bit tougher to cut through.  The applesauce is still good though, even if it is more tart.

I can't tell you how excited I was when I sent the twins outside with their big white bowls to get more apples - and they came back empty.  No more apples!  These boxes were full to overflowing - and we haven't even started on the apples from our own trees!  They won't be ripe for a few more weeks.

I'm always amazed at the wonders of our beautiful world when I'm canning.  Aren't these peaches gorgeous?  The colors are vibrant and living, sustaining and improving our lives.  Thanks, Lord, for this amazing planet!  I love, love, love bottled peaches.  And I hate peeling peaches.  Fortunately for me, my sweet husband doesn't mind, so he peeled and I made jam - rows and rows of bottles full of it.

I was poking about in the storage room for a good shelf to load all the bottles onto.  We haven't really cleaned out the storage room since we moved in, and it isn't really set up efficiently.  I moved a couple of cans, and the whole shelf fell out!  I'm glad I didn't have it full of glass jars.  So we need to fix and shore up the shelves in the storage room, but the produce won't quit coming!  I moved things around as best I could, and made room for the peach jam with the apricot jam we did earlier this summer.  

Before Trent could start shelf-fixing, the grapes ripened, and we've spent the past week doing what must be a million batches of grape juice.  I'm generous to myself here, because Trent has done all the work on this one.  The kids love the juice, and I try to not imagine it spilled on... on anything.

Our excitement of next week: tomatoes!  The pears are on right now as well, and then our apples will be last.  At least, I think they will be last. 

I opened a new bottle full of apple butter from a couple of years ago, and spread some of its dark sweetness onto a hot piece of whole wheat toast.  Yum.  Having food in my pantries makes all the hard work worth it.  And now I want another slice of toast!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Labor Day Chill

I guess it is the end of summer.  Sigh.  I love having my kids at home.  I love not having to get up at any particular time.  I especially love not having to get up early.  Like before 9 or 10.  I know, I grumble too much.  But I am excited for this new year.  I am so glad that my children have the opportunity to go to school and learn.  I am looking forward to having a quiet house.  I like having these changing seasons in life - it's never boring!

basking in the sun, and pretending I'm warm

To celebrate Labor Day (and to make up for not using our season passes, not once!), we went to the waterpark.  It was to be a day filled with water slides and lazy rivers and wave pools and laying in the sun and trying to avoid sunburn.  Unfortunately, the day was cloudy and unseasonably cool, which meant that only the most daring of the boys even wanted to get in the water.  The wave pool was somewhat warm, but the breeze was uncomfortably cold.  It didn't take long for the littlest ones to get chilled through, and want nothing more than to be swaddled in a big, dry towel.

We even managed to visit with Ben, who has spent his summer with crazy-busy hours as a manager of the food areas.  He looks good in his no-nonsense black non-slip shoes!  I'm glad he got a good job for the summer and has been able to save up money for college.

Yeah, we didn't last very long.  Hooray for not getting sunburned, though!  And now the kids can't say I never took them to the waterpark.  It was just too much of a challenge to gather up the strength, all of them, and Opa.  He didn't want to come today, so that made it possible for us to come.

I was able to snap a picture of everyone but Ben, who was busy working, and David, who had a splendid time on the water slides in spite of the cold.  He is our most adventurous one, after all.  Sometimes I wonder if the effort to have a family outing is worth it, but I love to see the happy in their faces.  We're making memories, at least!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fancy Duds

We're getting ready for a wedding.  Alec wants all of his brothers in tuxedos, and I know they will be so handsome!  We generally don't mind dressing up at our house.  We gathered up all the boys and high-tailed it over to the tux rental shop.  Oh wait.  I'm missing a part.  That's the part where we pulled out all the tuxes that we own, spread them all over the living room for a few days, made everyone try them all on, and after wondering why we have all these pieces that no one fits!, then we headed to the tux shop.

I just had to snap this picture of my oh-so-tall Ben, getting fitted for tuxedo pants.  The store people are more worried about getting the waist right, since the legs are more easily measured and hemmed.  How fancy are we, with our ankles hanging out, and our tennis shoes?  They had a nice soft chair I could loll in while the boys passed out threats if I laughed at their trying-tuxes-on-ing.  I didn't laugh, honest.  But I didn't make any promises about later.

Angle's outfit was less of a laughing matter.  Alec's finance and her mother picked out the pattern, purchased all the fabric, and all I had to do was sew it together.  "All I had to do..."  I spent the summer sewing a quilt for the happy couple, and my sewing machine was pooped out.  So instead of getting it serviced and the tension fixed, I sewed another project.  With rolled circular hems.  And skipped stitches and broken threads like crazy.  There may have been bad words and maybe even tears.  In then end, I had to beg my professional-seamstress sister-in-law to finish the last rolled him and insert the zipper, because the sewing machine and I are not on speaking terms any more.  

But the dress was beautiful, fancy enough to hold her own in the sea of formal black tuxedos.  Lovely enough to make a little girl feel like a princess.  Formal enough... to roll around in the grass while we were supposed to be taking portraits?  I guess that's just right for us.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The End of School

I didn't record the end of school here, but it was a happy time.  I love getting my kids home for the summer!  Check out these cute little faces.  Maybe they aren't being so cute right now!  This will be the first summer vacation for the twins, and they aren't really happy about it.  Freddie will not miss walking home after school every day.  But they think they will miss their friends, and they love going to school.  They don't understand why they have to stop going to school for a few months.  I'm glad they have had a good experience in kindergarten.

David just finished his last year at the junior high, and Eddie his first year there.  I loved just sitting back and watching the two of them flip through the junior high yearbook together.  I don't think either of them budged for hours.

I didn't get a picture of our girl, but her world is falling apart!  She is in mourning for her little friends that she won't be able to see all summer long!  You should hear her lament.  With a pouty face, it's "alllll summer loooooong!"  Like they were dying or something.  Pretty pathetic.  I'm sure she'll manage, because she's not generally looking for drama, but her friends are important to her and she loves being with other people.  Like her daddy, she is.

Here is the biggest change at the end of this school year.  Chris is done - oh happy day!  He has not been fond of being in high school, and really couldn't wait to get done with it.  I'm glad he managed to finish all of his requirements anyway.  He hates having me take his picture, so this is a splendidly pleasant face.  It will be fun to see where he chooses to go in his life.

And that is the end of the school year.  Some summers are full of goings, some are more lazy.  As much as I would love to just relax and vacation at the beach this summer, I know it will be more on the busy side.  My oldest three boys will be working, Ben will be coming home, we have a wedding coming up, and at the end of the summer, all three of them will be moving out.

This is our last summer together, and I plan to cherish every little tidbit I get.  We will have 11 people living in our house for a few months, and after this, the whole dynamic of our family changes.  Not in a bad way, but change is often fun and melancholy at the same time.  Who knows what we will look like next summer?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Announcing an Addition!

Alec has been busy since he got home.  He had to renew his driver's license, get a job, find an apartment, figure out what he was going to do for college, find some transportation...  Whew.  Adulting is a lot of hard work!  High on his list of priorities was getting back to this pretty gal he hadn't seen for two years.  It's a long time to be apart.

Unwilling to be apart any longer, they didn't waste any time to become engaged and start planning a wedding.  

Yeah, ring-buying is another one of those adulty things than takes some good decision-making skills and grown-up amounts of money.  I'll just be a wee bit flattered that he wanted a small amount of assistance from Mom.

I read something somewhere that said the purpose of a parent, when dealing with children, was to introduce the children to new things and help them figure out how to deal with those new things.  Short of having his own children, I don't think there is really anything new of significance to introduce to this boy.  So good luck on your adulting!  Have a happy marriage!  Be a responsible human being!  I'm pretty excited for them to learn all kinds of new things - now together.

It's fun to watch your kids grow up (especially when you get to continue calling them "my baby" in secret.  Shh!).

P.S.  I'm not dealing very well with the idea of becoming a mother-in-law.  I have two of the sweetest, kind-hearted women for my mothers-in-law, so that helps.  But it just sounds sinister, doesn't it?  It seems only a small step down from "wicked step-mother."  I hope I can be a reasonably good mother-in-law.  I do like my future daugher-in-law - I think she's just what my boy needs!

And I miss my mom, who could help introduce me to this new thing and help me figure out how to deal with it well.  We never outgrow our mothers.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mission Monday

I've saved Monday for missionaries for over two years now.  Here we are, at the end of these missions, and I'm not sure what to think about it.  I'll not miss staying up late on Sunday nights and writing letters to them.  But I will.  That was a constant time I could spend on loving my boys.  I look forward to a hug and getting to see a smiling face.  I am enjoying watching the constant growth toward responsible adulthood.

Here is Ben's next-to-last letter.  He has been working in the mission office for the past few weeks, helping with the administrative responsibilities of running a mission.  He has also been able to still work with some people in his area, as well as traveling to the different parts of the mission with the mission president.  He has loved it all, and I'm sure he will miss it dearly.

Wednesday was back in my area with my companions. I went with Elder Covey and we went looking for families. We found one. Then we taught our fantastic recent convert family that got baptized last week. They are doing great! They have their baptismal certificates framed in their living room and they were raving about the blessings of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. There's nothing like that.

On Thursday... we (went) to go pick President Foote up from the airport, he was coming back from Fort Dauphin and Toliara. So we drove him home and talked to him while we waited in traffic. For a very long time. I love President! He's the coolest guy in the world!

Sunday we went to church. I love church. Then we taught and tracted and found a new family. J. is from Fianarantsoa and is a retired soldier, then his wife, M.L. is from Toliara. They were so inviting and brought us into their house before we could even introduce ourselves. Then they felt terrible that they didn't have any food to give us. People are so GOOD.

Yes, people are so good.  What a beautiful lesson to learn.

Read the rest of his week here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Colorful Blessings

It's nice to have good food.  Sometimes, I open my refrigerator and I suddenly morph into Mother Hubbard.  Even if there is lots of stuff in there, it often is food I cannot eat.  I feel like I'm dying of thirst in the middle of a waterfall, where there is plenty for everyone else, but not for me.  And it's easy to feel just a little shade of grumpy about it.  It's also easy to get an awful lot grumpy about it and melt into a poor-me pity party worthy of a toddler who didn't get an extra piece of candy.

In reality, we have plenty.  Of everything.  And getting the food I need to keep me from getting stomachaches, or feeling bloated, or having to spend the rest of the day in bed is as easy as going to the store and picking it up.  I don't have to special order anything.  I don't have to wait for it to grow.  I don't have to go great distances.  We are so blessed, really.  It's easy to forget that.

I went to the store and went bananas in the produce section.  I should get one cart for my produce and another one for everything else.  Getting enough fresh things to feed a large family takes up lot of real estate in the cart.  I like unpacking all the bags when I get home and seeing all the colorful fruits and vegetables lines up on the counter.  They look so delicious!

How lucky we are to have so much good food so easy to get!  I need to remember what a blessing that is.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Track and Field

Our lives are running along faster than I want them to.  Maybe I should tie on some good shoes and try to keep up?

My three big boys were in track this year. Sidenote: I amuse myself with how the family grows and how I refer to my kids. For years, the oldest the boys were "the big boys" and David and Eddie were "the little boys."  Then the newest little ones were "small fry."  Then we had "the missionaries" and David joined Chris in the "big kids" group while Eddie and Angel were the "elementary kids" in 6th grade and kindergarten, respectively. This past year, Eddie went up to the junior high and we again had "big boys" in high school and junior high,  while the "small fry" were all in elementary school. Next year, I guess Eddie and David will be our "big boys," and the older the will be our "college boys. "  Life keeps moving along, doesn't it?   'Scuse me for a moment whilst I dab at my eyes and sing "Sunrise,  Sunset."

Ahem.  Back to track. Chris is partial to the hurdles. David did the 100, 200, and 400 meter races, as well as the 400 relay and shot put. That boy had always had tons of energy!  I remember watching him run up the street, his little chubby legs blurring to keep up with his older brothers. Eddie tried out the long jump and high jump for his first year.

It's fun to watch them run,  but it's hard to sit through hours and hours of a track meet, trying to entertain my small fry while waiting for the few minutes or even seconds of the event I wanted to see.  I go to a few meets, but not all of them. I didn't get any pictures of Eddie or Chris, but these photos came from David running in our regional finals. I love his intense concentration.  This boy has focus!

But no, I won't be running.  I don't have it in me to do physical things that energetic or require endurance.  Jay did.  He liked to go running every now and then, or do something to just push his body to its absolute limits.  It felt great to him.  For me, if I'm running, you'd best come see what's wrong, because there must be a bear or something chasing me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On the Computer

We're not always on the computer, but when we want to be, we can sure load them up. We have three desktop computers in the office, plus a few tablets and phones. 

I have a laptop that doesn't live in the office because I like to sit on my squishy soft couch. And the office floor is to cold. But I digress.

It was fun to walk by the office and see all my at-home boys piled in there, playing games with each other. The room is sometimes quiet, then erupts in cheers or exclamations or groans. I'm glad they play together!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

This was the best part of my Mother's Day,  by far - being together with my kids.  I really don't need roses or special dinners (although I like them very much - don't get me wrong!  Keep those coming!).  But what I long for most is to have my family together and just basking in the air they breathe.  Makes me happy.

The missionary call didn't happen until late in the evening (which was early in the morning in Madagascar!), so the little ones were only able to visit for a few minutes before they needed to head off to bed. Trent was coming down with a fever, so he turned in earlier as well. 

It was fun to just sit around and visit with all these boys. I love sitting back and listening to them tell stories and joke with each other. One at a time they all got tired and left, so I got a few minutes of one-on-one with my boy.

He'll be home soon, and we're looking forward to it. He has been missed around here!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Times Two

These two characters are six years old. Wow. They have been talking about their birthday for a long time now. The measure of having a good friend in their kindergarten class is whether you invite them to your birthday party. And when you don't like a former friend, they are no longer invited. Such kindergarten drama! And due to their spring birthdays, we have heard all about the intended guest list for a long, long time.

When my oldest boys were little, I told them they could have a birthday party every other year, on the even numbers.  So a sixth birthday is a friend party.  Darn. I wasn't feeling healthy enough to really throw a party, but I felt like I had to... that sounds more negative than I mean it to. I didn't mind throwing them a party, but this year I would have preferred to skip it.  Fortunately, we know how to throw an even lower-than-low-key party.

We invited a small herd of children and we blew bubbles and drew with sidewalk chalk and played with balloons - outside. We went inside, did presents, ate chocolate cake, and we're done!  The two sanity-savers for me were having it outside and specifying the end time on the invitations. I can handle anything for an hour.

We all had a good time, and the twins loved it.

Happy birthday, Freddie! I love how you climb in bed with me to snuggle in the mornings. Your willingness to keep trying will be good for you through your whole life.

Happy birthday. Georgie!  Your curiosity and quick mind will always help you learn things. I love that you are brave and willing to try new things - even beans. 

I really can't believe they are six.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Senior Prom

What girl wouldn't be pleased to go to prom with this good-looking boy?  Maybe I'm biased, but sheesh!  Don't you see how awesome he is?  (It's part of my job to be an embarrassing mother.  It comes naturally.)  I'm just every now and then amazed at how he has grown.  Just yesterday he was a chubby little toddler, but in the next breath he will be an adult.  Don't breathe.

He waited until the last minute to get his tie and make his corsage, but I wasn't worried about it because he has done this before.  There are the pictures he sent me:

He calls the ribbons and filler on the corsage "garbage," but I think he has a better handle on fluff and frills than most boys his age.  Heck, than most men!  I'm pretty pleased that my boys have learned this little craft - it has been fun to do with them, and has saved them quite a bit of money!

Continue not breathing...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Healthy Soups

Girl's Night Out

I spent the weekend with four of my lovely sisters-in-law.  These ones are the good women my brothers picked to marry.  So glad I get to be family with them!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Hairy Subjects

Yup.  We do hair in this family.  We eat and it grows.  Eddie has since had a haircut, but David is still growing his out.  We'll see what kind of red-headed awesomeness he can come up with by the end of the summer!

Weeding Strawberries

Right now we have more strawberries in the patch than weeds.  That will change soon, I'm sure, so for right now we will take a picture of it to enjoy later.

General Conference

When we were listening to General Conference, Georgie wanted some paper so he could take notes, too.  Across the top of the page he very carefully wrote, "Things Jesus said."  He was so cute!  You can watch Conference here.

Chris and the Science Fair

Here is a quick snapshot of Chris being awarded a large trophy at the state science fair.  I'm still not sure what he did to earn it, but that is why he is the smarty-pants and not me.

I liked the back of the shirts they gave out as part of the fair.  Isn't that the truth?  "Impossible only means you haven't found the solution yet."  What a good reminder.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yummy Chili

I was wondering what to make for dinner yesterday when my neighbor called.  She had made a big pot of chili for dinner the other night, and her children charitably declined to eat the leftovers because they knew we wanted it for dinner.  I made a pan full of cornbread and popped it into the oven.  Once our house was starting to smell delicious, I ran across the street and got the chili.  All this "popping" and "running" makes it sound like I was moving quickly.  Fear not - I still move in slow-motion.  I just want to sound more animated than I really am.  How I really live is hanging out on the couch and taking lots of naps.  Three-toed sloths have nothing on me in the slow department!

This is not chili but a delicious black bean soup she made for me last week.  Recipe below.

But last night, we had delicious home-made chili.  Thanks, nice neighbor lady and your very accommodating children!  You can cook for me anytime!

Black Bottom Soup (pictured above)
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed (or 4 1/2 cups homecooked beans)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (or 1-2 tomatoes, chopped)
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Throw it all in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about half an hour.  Serve in a bowl over a scoop of cooked rice.  Garnish with chopped green onion and fresh tomatoes.

Fresh tomatoes.  Yummy.  I think I need to eat some soup and then think about planting a garden.  And bless my neighbors!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Supper on a Bread Slice

My mom wan't a great cook.  Mind you, she wasn't a bad cook by any means, and we were always fed.  Mom just wasn't fond of the traditional homemaking tasks.  Her dinner mainstays were simple and came out of boxes or cans.  One easy dinner I remember was called Supper on a Bread Slice.   It's not a very imaginative name, but I've never been able to come up with something better.

It's easy, and the kids love it.  Well, my brothers did as kids.  I didn't care much for it  - maybe because the sauce made the bread soggy?  But when Jay and I were newlyweds, visiting back home and Mom made this, he loved it too.  So I had to make Supper on a Bread Slice in my home, too.  And my kids love it.  It's basically hamburger pizza on French bread, but we have done it a number of ways.

Slice a loaf of bread in half lengthwise.  Place halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet.  Spread tomato sauce on both halves.  Cover with cooked, crumbled hamburger and grated cheddar cheese.  Bake at about 350 until heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly.  Do we cover it before baking?  I don't remember, so maybe.

I cook onions in with the hamburger to give it a bit more flavor.  Other variation are using spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, or barbecue sauce.  Sprinkle green onions, chopped fresh parsley, diced tomatoes, sliced olives, or chopped green peppers over the hamburger for a different feel.  Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses are both delicious, and I'll bet I could even sneak leftover cooked vegetables under the cheese and no one would complain.  We make 3 French loaves worth, and every crumb is gone.  Gone!

It's a real family-pleaser of a meal, except for the mother.  I don't even have to worry about it anymore though, since white bread, hamburger, and cheese are now on my don't-work-well-with-my-body list.  I'll have something else thankyouverymuch.  So nobody complains.  Win.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Blessings in Disguise

We had a women's meeting at church recently, where they were addressing some of the difficult things we go through.  They asked everyone to contribute a one- or two-word description of some of their hardest trials.  They gave me the list and wanted me to write the words on labels to be displayed on a wall at the meeting.  

The list was heartbreaking.  Rape.  Death of a child.  Bankruptcy.  Chronic illness.  Drug addiction.  Cheating spouse.  Depression.  Wayward children.  Widowhood.  My soul ached for these beautiful women.  Some of the challenges I know about - most I have no idea.  There were other less obvious trials that can be just as difficult and heart-wrenching: moving, difficult job, motherhood, messes, marriage, can't find joy...  I cried as I wrote the words.

Then something interesting happened.  It was surprisingly difficult to write these hard words in the beautiful script they wanted.  But as I saw the finished labels pile up, looking lovely and peaceful, I realized that some of these things that are sometimes so hard, like health or marriage or children, were actually some of my biggest blessings!  After the meeting, I asked for some of the labels and took them home.  I hung them next to my bed so I could see them often.  

It's a good reminder that it's often up to me to decide whether my challenges are trials or blessings.  They might just be two sides of the same coin!  Maybe that's some of what the Lord was talking about when He said that we need to have opposition in life.   It has made me a little more grateful for the adventures that come in my life.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mission Monday

As the weather here moves into spring and warmer, it is growing cooler in Madagascar.  Ben told me that it's not as rainy as it has been.  Although it isn't as hot as it has been, it's still plenty warm!  I am glad he will be coming home to our summer instead of in the middle of winter.  I think he would freeze to death!

That's one of many things I can be thankful for.  I think I'll challenge the kids to write down as many blessings as they can think of in just a few minutes.  I think we would all be surprised at how many good things are all around us.  That's one thing Ben did in his last letter.  It's always interesting to see what other people are thankful for - and usually we are happy about things that we haven't always have.  Life lived too easily makes us complacent and we don't notice how good we have it.  I'm humbled by some of the things Ben mentions in his thankful list:

My stomach is not having problems.
I don't have a headache.
The power is going right now.
This cyber has GREAT internet.
I have clothes.
A roof that doesn't leak.
Washing machines and dryers
A stove.
My bed.
My parents were sealed in the temple and I was born in that covenant.
I've been healthy enough to do everything I could possibly need to this week.

That last one really got me, especially since I haven't been particularly healthy recently.  But I think I've been healthy enough to do the things that are most important.  Thinking about our blessings really does make us realize just how many blessings we have.  I am for thankful when I count my blessings!

More Madagascar blessings here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Happy at Home

Every day, I see so many little scenes that make my mother-heart happy.  I walk past a room and see a happy moment or hear joy shooting about and I think THIS is it.  This is the good life that I've been working for all these mothering hours.  I just want to soak in all the happiness and memorize the faces and never, ever forget.  And then something else happens and I do forget.

Some things that happen often enough that I remember:  Freddy loves to listen to Josh Groban's "Don't Give Up."  I think it is one of Eddie's favorite songs too.  Freddy puts the CD in the digital piano and sings his little heart out.  Georgie joins in, but Freddy really belts it out.  Often.  And during the worst possible moments: we have company, Trent and I are trying to have a difficult parent discussion, I'm on the phone...  Many times, Eddie will sing along, too.  His voice is just starting to change, but he wants to be a deep bass so he tries to sing lower than he actually can.  That song has a wide range, and it's cute to listen to Eddie struggle to hit the notes, or switch to a lower register and still struggle.  Anything to avoid showing that a teenaged boy can hit high notes, right?  Hearing them sing just makes me happy.

Legos happen here all,  the.  time.  The older boys have always bought new Lego sets with the birthday and Christmas money they get from Grandma Jeanne.  Hooray for generous grandparents!  So they each have quite a stash of Legos, in various stages of assemblement.  We also have a big bin full of more plain bricks that Gram found at a thrift store and gave to us for Christmas.  We have such wonderful grandparents!  AND we have two bins full of Legos that live here at the house that were Grandma Susie's.  I think I see a theme running here with grandmothers and Legos.  On Sunday afternoons, the back room becomes Lego Central and they all get out their bricks and start building.  Older, younger - age and gender don't matter as they invent and create and play...together.  That's the best part.  Together.

Another music thing I like is hearing the kids play the piano.  We have two pianos: a digital one and an acoustic piano, sitting side-by-side in the front room.  The rule is that whoever started making music first gets dibs on the airspace, but the digital piano has earphones, so two work mostly well.  David plays by ear, and will sit down and pick out a song.  He teaches the twins how to one-finger some songs, and I enjoy listening to them all play different parts of "Ode to Joy" or other little songs.  Love the music in our home.

I love walking into a room and seeing two boys engrossed in conversation.  Or one boy leaning over another on the computer, helping him figure out his technical difficulties.  Or hearing someone announce he is going on a bike ride, inviting others to go with him, and leaving the house with a group.  Or hearing giggles under a blanket fort that the big boys built for the little ones.  Or seeing the kids take turns pushing each other on the swings.

These are a mother's payday.  This is when the hard work, the late hours, the heartache and tears are all worth it.  And I want to cherish each of these moments and remember them forever, but I can't.  Fortunately, new joys are always coming up to replace the old, faded ones and life is still good.

I hope that one day when I'm old and my brain isn't working quite like it does now, those happy bits will come back to me at random times.  My rocking chair will slow down, I'll set down my knitting needles and laugh - a little gravely old lady chuckle - and be happy all over again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New Chore Chart

I was at my brother's house and saw a nifty chore chart he had.  There was a row for each child, magnets for each chore, and five columns: jobs to do, assigned to you, finished, approved, and needs help.  Most of the jobs start out in the first column, which is owned by everyone, and then either the child picks a certain number of chores or they get assigned out.  As soon as the job belongs to a child, they move the magnet to that second column.

As the child finished a job, she moves that chore magnet to the "finished" column, and the parent checks it off and moves it to the "approved" column, When I asked him about the "help" column, he explained that it was for jobs that the child could ordinarily do independently, but something unusual is preventing its completion, like the lawn mower ran out of gas.  I think he got this from his job - or maybe he made it up.  I dunno which, but my brother is crazy organized like that.

I loved it, and determined to make my own.  Since I didn't have magnets, I started out with jobs scrawled on sticky notes and stuck on the fridge.  That's the largest smooth space we have, since all the walls are coated with that extra-lumpy orange peel texturing.  I grabbed some random washi tape from my one-day-I'll-do-something-cute stash, and marked off a grid - older kids on the freezer and younger kids on the fridge.  The sticky notes soon lost their sticky, and I held them on the fridge with magnets.  It worked fairly well, but looked a mess.  

The chore chart's next incarnation happened when I found some clear glass stones and decided to do a little craft project.  I chose pretty paper in different colors to differentiate between daily, weekly, and periodic chores.  I cut them down , wrote the name of the chore in a nice font, and glued them to the backs of the stones with clear-drying glue.  As soon as they were completely dry, sanded the edges of the paper to make it smooth and hot-glued on a magnet.  Tada!  What a great crafter I am!

For two whole days, the fridge was a happy thing to behold.  All the chores were on cute little magnets, all organized in their slightly less-than-level grids.  I even thought about fixing the lines.  I told the kids we were going to make a new, concerted effort to get the chores done.  Anyone with all daily chores in the "approved" column would get dinner.  Hooray for incentives!

It was a little bit hard to read the chores through the rounded glass, but no matter.  We could get close and peer at them.  The colors I so carefully chose didn't show up well, either, but cute trumps practicality!  Yes!

And then on the third day, I realized that our magnets were stronger than the glue that held the paper to the glass stone.  When the kids tried to move a chore (or more often, playing with them), the glass came off but the magnet stayed stuck to the fridge.  I glued several back on before I gave up.  There is now a small pile of glass stones with lovely paper - but no magnet, or magnets glued securely to naked paper - sitting the next to the refrigerator.  The pile is growing each day.  

And now that I think about it, at no time during all this lovely crafting, have the chores actually gotten done any better.  Sigh.  Back to the drawing board.