Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Creative Boy

I marvel at the creativity I see in children.
Like when they spell their name with Jenga blocks
or make a cast out of a coloring book cover and then sleep with it on.
On Sunday, Talmage told me he knows everything.
In a subtle attempt to humble him, I replied, "Oh, really? What is 72 divided by 9?"
He thought for a moment and then confidently replied, "8!"
His lucky guess (NO he can't divide!) did nothing to deflate his 4-year-old ego.

Also, there is just something about a freshly bathed little chub...
don't you just want to squish him??

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Best Part of the Day

Over the past few years, we've tried many different methods of family scripture study.
Finally, about 6 months ago, we discovered a method of studying the scriptures
that has worked better than I ever hoped.
Each night, after our routine of
dinner
showers
clean-up
brush teeth
storytime
illustrated scripture story
and prayers,
we tuck the boys into bed with a stack of picture books
(they seem to learn better when they're multi-tasking)
and we read aloud from the Book of Mormon for 15-20 minutes.

I've been surprised as the boys have listened attentively,

asked thoughtful questions,
and retained details from the stories we are reading.

Some of that retention is demonstrated in rather humorous ways:


-When Talmage was 2, he was having an incredibly difficult morning. I asked him if he would like to spend some time in his room to cool off and he shouted at me, "NO! I'm being mean like Nehor!"


-On one of our return flights from Utah, Talmage began repeatedly declaring to the woman next to us, "Wickedness never was happiness!" As he ate his goldfish snack, he modified the scripture and began telling her, "Wicked fish never was happy fish!"


-A few months ago I told Talmage that we were going to save some food for Sam. He replied, "We're going to lay it up?" (As in 'lay it up' from Jacob 5.)


-Talmage was angry one morning and he told me, "Now I'm wroth!"


-When I read that Alma taught the people the words of Abinadi, Talmage said, "That means he told them, 'I say unto you, Nay!' (as in Mosiah 13:26)


-The other day Talmage wanted to have his own Title of Liberty, so I strung his blanket onto his toy broomstick and he went outside to wave it around. Since the blanket was quite heavy, it wasn't blowing around as much as he had evidently envisioned. A gust of wind came up and he excitedly hollered a prayer: "Send more wind so my Title of Liberty will blow out straight!!"


We're looking forward to having our family party when we finish the Book of Mormon together!

Monday, April 28, 2014

And the Little One Said, "Roll Over!"

This past Friday night,
Sam was out of town again presenting research.
Halfway through the night I awoke and found Wesley in the bed 
next to me, sleeping soundly.
A few minutes later
(or was it a few hours?)
I was startled awake as Talmage ran into the room
exclaiming with excitement, "I'm dressed!"
I groggily looked at his jeans and T-shirt and then looked at the clock.
3:24 am.
"It's still the middle of the night, Buddy..." I croaked.
"Why don't you go lay down on the couch and go back to sleep?"
"But I want to sleep in here!" he protested.
I was in no mood to deal with tantrums
and risk waking the sleeping 7-month-old with obstinate yelling.
Grabbing a pillow and blanket I said,
"Okay, but be still so you don't wake Wesley up,"
and resigned myself to the couch instead.

So we had one in a hotel, one on the couch,
two little boys occupying their parents' bed,
and the baby sleeping soundly through the night in his crib.

Go figure.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

A friend of mine brought fruit salsa and cinnamon chips to our house when we had them over for dinner over a year ago. When I asked her how to make it, she mentioned the things that were in it, but no amounts, so I just kind of tried my own thing. I discovered that this recipe has a lot of flexibility to it. For this batch I believe I used:
1 mango
2 kiwi
1 apple
2-3 Tbsp. apple jelly
You simply combine them in the mini-chopper/food processor, or you can chop finely/crush the fruit by hand. For a prettier version, I have used strawberries in place of the mango. The apple and apple jelly provide a good foundation to give the salsa some solid matter to hold the whole thing together so you don't end up dipping chips into fruit juice that slides right off. Other than those 2 ingredients, though, the recipe is pretty adaptable. Just use a couple of different kinds of somewhat soft, juicy fruits you think would go well together. For the chips, you simply cut tortillas into strips, spray with Pam, sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar, and bake at 350 until tortilla chips are crisp (usually 10-20 minutes).
Do not use homemade tortillas. They are TOO thick, and if they are cooked until they are crisp, they will be very difficult to chew.
If you do, you may decide they just are not getting crispy after 30 minutes in the oven.
Then you may think it would be a good idea to broil them.
If that happens, you will be startled to see that the sugar has been carmelized and burned after just a couple of minutes.
You will take the pan out of the oven and set it on the table to take a picture of your ruined chips.
For the split second your back is turned, your toddler will reach up to get a chip and burn himself on the pan which has just been in the broiler.
After you get that taken care of, you will spill the chips all over the floor.
While you are cleaning those up, dinner will burn too.
Of course, all of that trauma is just hypothetical...not that I know from experience or anything. :) Here is what I imagine such burned, carmelized chips would look like:
Okay, so it wasn't hypothetical. Suffice it to say, next time we make these chips, I will be getting tortillas from the store. I would rather avoid all of the trauma listed above. And my teeth will thank me, too, as these chips were more like rocks.

A Picture Per Hour

Six.

Seven.

Eight.

Nine.

Ten.

Eleven.

Twelve.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.

Six.

Seven.

Eight.

Nine.

Ten.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Synergistic Veggies

Today I was chopping veggies for dinner.
As I sliced squash, zucchini, red peppers, and onions,
I marveled at the beauty and bounty before me that the Lord provided
through this incredible earth.

And then I began thinking about synergy.

Sam has this book he loves called The 3rd Alternative.
The basic idea is that instead of compromising
when we have differing viewpoints, we can find a third solution that is better for both of us.
Instead of both parties sacrificing a portion of their desires,
they come to a solution that satisfies all of their desires and then some.

One thing I didn't know about Sam when we got married
was how health-conscious he was.
As a cancer scientist, he has strong views about the types of foods we should eat
and those we should avoid.
I remember one day shortly after we got married
when I pulled out a box of my very most favorite cereal.
I said something like, "I know you don't want to eat this but I'm just going to, okay?"
He said playfully, "Well, it's good that when you die from cancer the preservatives will keep you from turning black!"
(He can't believe he said that now, but it was honestly all in good fun.)
Needless to say, I reluctantly threw the cereal in the trash.

And at first, I felt like we had opposing views--
he wanted wholesome and nutritious (regardless of taste),
and I was focused on what tasted good.

But then I learned about this lurking "third alternative"
in food that was both nutritious and delicious
(and beautiful as a bonus!).
I learned about the transforming abilities of
olive oil, feta cheese, kosher salt,
avocado, fresh lime juice, cilantro,
roasted almonds, sweet potatoes, basil, and black beans.

I became a better cook,
our eating habits changed for the better,
and we both thoroughly enjoyed our new meals.

It's interesting to try to find other "third alternatives"
in our interactions with others when disagreements arise.

Sam once told me he likes to disagree because it helps us learn from one another.
But then, he's a little crazy. ;)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saying No


When Sam and I got married,
I thought I was pretty well equipped for motherhood.
I'm one of 7 children and I was 11 when the last was born,
so I had a lot of experience babysitting
both in and out of my family.
My parents had us cook dinner once each week
beginning when I was 5 years old.
I had taken numerous child development courses in high school and college,
and I even worked at a day care/preschool during high school.

But it's funny how sometimes you think you know how things go,

and then you are surprised to learn there is an entire dimension
you never knew existed.

There have been several aspects of motherhood that I've been very surprised by--one of which is the frequency with which I have to say no.


Don't pick your nose.

Chew with your mouth closed.
Stop hitting.
You need to ask nicely.
Don't climb up the balcony railing.
Don't drive your cars on the piano.
Stop throwing your food at your brother.
You can't have a snack right now.
Get back in bed.
Don't lay on the baby.
Stop jumping on the bed.
No throwing toys.
Don't play with the computer.

And on...and on...and on.
All day long.

Sometimes it seems like just about every natural tendency

toddlers and preschoolers have needs correction.
It's understandably frustrating for my kids
(even when the "no" is delivered in a positive way)
and it's really exhausting for me.
It's tough to strike the balance between allowing kids to be kids
and training them to be respectful and polite.

I've noticed that one thing has made a difference, however,

and that is to briefly reconsider the necessity of saying "no"
each time I say it.
And sometimes, I find that it really doesn't need to be said.
Often, it really does need to be said.
But that brief pause helps me select the battles
that are truly worth fighting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Two-and-a-Half

Today this kid is 2.5 years old.
He is intense about everything he does.
The doctor was amazed at his endless energy
as he ran back and forth and spun in circles around the examining room.
He's like a determined little whirlwind
with bright blue eyes.
He keeps us on our toes and makes every day an adventure!
So glad to have our Wes-Wes.

Knox Blox (Fruit Juice Jigglers)

I used to think Jell-O jigglers were such a fun treat! I was thrilled when I found this more nutritious option. We cut some with cookie cutters and cut the rest into squares. You can use any fruit juice, as far as I know (even not 100% juice), so I'm looking forward to experimenting with more! We used plain ol' orange juice this time and they turned out great.


Recipe from Knox Gelatine

4 envelopes (1 box) Unflavored Knox Gelatine
1 cup cold fruit juice
3 cups fruit juice, heated to boiling
2 Tbsp. sugar or honey, optional

Sprinkle gelatin over cold juice in large bowl; let stand 1 minute. Add hot juice and stir until gelatin completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in sugar or honey if desired. Pour into 9x13 pan (I also think it would be fun to try them in candy molds!). Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. Store in refrigerator.

Monday, April 21, 2014

An Unpleasant Easter Surprise


We had a low-key, but happy Easter celebration together as a family.
After Church, a (somewhat) traditional Easter dinner
was followed by a simple Easter devotional.
On Saturday, I planned a very small egg hunt for the boys in the backyard.
As I've mentioned before, our yard is more like a huge field,
filled with bristly weeds and terrible bugs.

(Once we were visiting Utah and Talmage lay down in my parents' yard
and squealed with delight,
"Look, Mommy! I'm LAYING on the grass!"
These poor children have no idea what they're missing!)

But I digress.

I thought I was being very economical as I purchased one bag
of mini Oreos and put two in each egg.
I scattered them around the yard,
and as the boys hunted for them I delighted in their excitement
as they ran from egg to egg, dodging fire ant hills in the process.

We went in the house to reveal the spoils,
and sat down in the living room and began opening eggs.
Suddenly I screamed as I opened an egg and dumped a swarm of fire ants in my lap.
I looked into the bag and found ants crawling over the eggs in a frenzy.
I frantically swatted my arms and pants and tried to salvage the Oreos before my poor children were covered in blistering bites.
I guess in the 10 minutes the eggs were in the grass
the ants crawled in the tiny holes in each egg
and began a sumptuous Oreo feast.

I finally determined my efforts were sufficient and tied up the bag with a few remaining eggs and tossed it in the garage.

Interestingly, the boys didn't bat an eye through the process.
Evidently they are used to invasions of bugs.
I'm not sure this is a good thing.

I was reminded of the year the Easter Bunny hid my sister's basket
behind the curtains on a window sill when we lived in another suburb of Houston as children.
I think she was traumatized for life when she discovered her basket
and found that sugar ants (at least they weren't fire ants)
had beat her to it.
Her basket was completely infested with ants!
I think somehow the Easter Bunny saved face with some leftovers
he had conveniently left my parents.

Ah, Texas...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Because of Him

I have been thinking a lot about the effect Jesus Christ has had in my life,
especially with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 
"Because of Him" Easter initiative.


Because of Him...
What are the major ways I finish this sentence in my day-to-day life?

As a mother of young children, one thing I see every day is that
Because of Him my efforts are made good enough
when alone they simply aren't.

Because of Him I want to live my life in a more pure, holy, charitable way.

And of course, Because of Him my family can enjoy this happiness together eternally.

Every single positive thing in my life can be traced back to Jesus of Nazareth.
Every. Single. Good. Thing.

And with joy I sing with millions around the world,
"Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: 'I know that my Redeemer lives!'"

"Christ's victory over death ended the human predicament. Now there are only personal predicaments, and from these too we may be rescued by following the teachings of him who rescued us from general extinction."
-Neal A. Maxwell


P.S. Don't miss the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's performance of The Messiah this weekend! View tonight at 7:30 pm MDT at www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/messiah or watch it throughout Easter weekend at www.YouTube.com/MormonTabChoir.
I can't wait!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Plain and Simple Joy at the Park

Just about the only thing we enjoyed about having Sam gone in California last week
was having a car during the day again.
One beautiful morning was well-spent at the park.
Playgrounds have gotten so modern looking.
Check out this 4-man teeter totter with pod seats!
Only Texas would have a state flag rock climbing wall.
Awesome.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Daddy Games

Sniggle Wiggle
1. Hold a boy upside-down by his feet.
2. Walk around declaring, "I have a sniggle wiggle! I have a sniggle wiggle!"
3. As you approach a family member ask, "Will you tickle my sniggle wiggle?"
4. Cling to writhing boy's ankles as family member tickles to their heart's content.

Rock
1. Stand against the wall with your eyes closed and your arms held out from your sides a bit.
2. Say very soberly and quietly with a deep voice, "Rock."
3. Freeze in place for several seconds (feel free to build suspense here) and then slowly walk toward boys with arms outstretched and eyes closed.
4. Block their attempts to get away and tickle them.
*Note: "Confused rock" encourages even greater shouts of laughter as you wander aimlessly about the house before suddenly swerving to tickle said boys.

Battering Ram
1. Hold a child horizontally in your arms.
2. While swinging back and forth say, "1...2...3...Battering Ram!!!"
3. On "Battering Ram," toss child onto a soft surface.

Lincoln Chase
1. Hold baby Lincoln in your outstretched arms.
2. Chase boys around the house exclaiming, "Lincoln chase, Lincoln chase, Lincoln chaaaaase!"
3. Tag boys with Lincoln and tickle. Try not to smash the baby in the process.

Horsey Rides
1. While holding boys, trounce properly around the room singing, "This is the way the lady rides, clippity-clop, clippity-clop, clippity-clop."
2. Increase to a skip and sing, "This is the way the gentleman rides, gallop-a-trot, gallop-a-trot, gallop-a-trot."
3. Jump around the room, throwing a child up into the air repeatedly as you sing, "This is the way the cowboy rides, giddy-up giddy-yah, giddy-up giddy-yah, giddy-up giddy-YAH!!!!"
4. Repeat until you collapse. Then play "Rock" some more to catch your breath (see above).

Find a Funny Hat
1. Say dramatically, "1...2...3...FIND A FUNNY HAT!"
2. All participants grab a nearby object and hold it on top of their heads while laughing hysterically.
3. Repeat. A lot.

Boy-Launcher
1. Does this really warrant instructions?

And then wonder why there is so much crying when playtime comes to an end.
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