Thursday, January 28, 2016

100% Genuine

I snapped these pictures of Lincoln a while back.
I've been studying a lot about self-acceptance lately in a sincere effort to overcome my many insecurities
(some physical, others not)
and along the way I've concluded that much of the charm and adorable nature of little children
is due to their complete genuineness and comfort with themselves.
Their facial expressions are absolutely natural,
they don't care if their faces are covered with slobber and there is goop running out of their noses,
comparison with others is never on their agenda,
and they delight to see themselves.

In fact, just as I was preparing this post, Lincoln came into the room and saw the pictures of himself and remarked,
"'s Lincoln!" and then stopped to admire the pictures with an enormous smile on his face.

When I was loading the pictures onto the computer, Sam complimented my appearance
and I said, "I guess if Lincoln can be cute with a runny nose and slobber all over his chin, maybe I can be cute, too..."
and Sam responded, "He's cute because of those things!"

So that is why I wanted to capture these moments--
because even though his face was slimy and his hair was unkempt,
he was 100% genuine and his love of life and comfort with himself shines through.

I couldn't resist touching up just one, though, because...really...those eyes!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Gap in His Smile

This happened last week.
I'm pretty sure he's not old enough for this,
and I'm definitely not old enough for it!

I was sitting at the kitchen table when Talmage nervously came running up the stairs and said,
"I broke my tooth!"
I said, "What?!" as I looked at him in surprise.
Upon further investigation and explanation, I learned that he had been trying to pry apart two Legos and in the process had pulled his tooth hard enough to make it very wiggly.
And I was surprised to see his permanent tooth making its way through behind his baby tooth!

I told him to leave it and it would probably fall out later in the day or within a couple of days,
but a few hours later it was hurting and bleeding every time anything touched it,
so I told him it he needed to let me pull it out.
My little sweetheart was so apprehensive, and as I reached to pull him onto my lap he said,
"Can I do something first??"
"What?" I inquired.
"Say a prayer!" he replied.

I (obviously) agreed, and he tenderly knelt by the side of the couch and prayed that it wouldn't hurt too much and that it would be okay, and then he calmly and soberly sat on my lap while I gripped his tooth, gave it a solid yank, and popped it right out without a peep from my boy.

Sometimes life's little moments are the most precious.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Little Bit Dreary

Oh, January.
I admit, I'm struggling just a little bit with you this year.
I love the variety of the seasons in Utah,
but this winter has me feeling like I may never be completely warm again!
The kids are perpetually sick,
we're all going a bit stir-crazy,
and Wesley left a shoe in the backyard that has been buried beneath the snow for months.

In the midst of it all, though, I can recognize and appreciate the beauty of fresh snow.
And it makes for beautiful photos.
And Sam continues to love the winter--it lifts my spirits a bit to see his excitement.
So while I'm longing for evenings spent playing in the backyard, long afternoons playing in the water and reading in the shade, fireworks and camping trips and ice cream cones and BBQs...
there is tremendous joy in the moment as well.

And now I think I'll put on my sweats and crawl under a couple of down-filled blankets.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Washington, D.C. Grandkid Birthday Party

Back before Christmas, my sister flew in from Washington, D.C. and wanted to throw a big birthday party for all of her nieces and nephews since she is not able to be here for their birthdays. She had the great idea to have a Washington, D.C. theme and the kids played pin the top hat on Abraham Lincoln, they did relay races with colonial clothing, they decorated "white houses" for Christmas, they ate flag cake, and they even had a visit from George and Martha Washington!
(Weren't my parents amazing? My mom read a picture book about the white house and my dad had the kids captivated with his telling of the stories of George Washington's heroic deeds and the miracles that took place during the Revolutionary War. And I think that may have been the first (and probably the last!) wig my mom has ever worn in her life!)

Thanks for hosting such a great party, Aunt Breanne! (And Mom, Dad, and Aunt Avalon!)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Favorite Resources for Teaching Preschoolers to Read

I'm in no hurry to make my kids stop playing and grow up,
but I think there is something really neat about teaching a child to read.
As I grew up, I was an avid reader, and I wanted to introduce my children to that world of reading at an early age, which has given them a jump-start academically but also helped them feel more connected to the world.
I began serious efforts to teach Talmage to read around his 5th birthday,
but Wesley was very anxious to begin learning,
so we started shortly after he turned 4.
They did already know their letters and the basic sound each letter makes, which helped speed the process along,
but there have also been some key resources that have played a big role in the process.
I thought I would share my favorites today!

This is the main book we use, recommended to me by my sister, and I absolutely love it. It is split into fairly short lessons and divided conceptually into categories that just make sense. I love that this book is based on patterns. English often seems so strange and many children learn to read primarily by learning sight words. This book sticks to patterns. For example, do you know when 'c' makes a hard sound versus when it makes a soft sound? In English, 'c' typically makes a soft sound when followed by an 'e,' 'i,' or 'y,' as in 'cinch' or 'cell.' I had no idea there was a pattern associated with that! Because this book emphasizes patterns, by the time all the lessons are complete, your child should be reading at an intermediate level, and the patterns can be applied to very difficult or unfamiliar words as well.

I also love that this book doesn't have pictures. While it makes things somewhat dry for the child, the lessons are short enough that it is very manageable to make it through without pictures. And there is no guessing that can occur based on the picture. The child actually has to sound out, "I can ride a bike," rather than concluding that the words say that after looking at a picture. This makes a huge difference, because little kids use pictures very frequently to make assumptions about words. My 4-year-old and I do one lesson per day right now, and it usually takes us less than 10 minutes.

I love so many Usborne books for emergent readers, but this series is one of my favorites. One of the best features about the series is that the first books feature a parent part and a child part. So the child doesn't get tired of reading and they still get an exciting story while taking a turn to say their part (which my kids have found to be really fun!). By about mid-way through the series, the child reads the entire book independently and the stories get progressively more complex and lengthy as the series continues. It sells for about $70 and you have to go through a consultant, but that includes 15 hardback books with comprehension activities at the end of each story, so it really is a great value.

There is a huge variety of BOB books available! They are very simple books with simple pen-line drawings that somehow manage to draw kids in and captivate them. My boys have loved them! I especially love using Sets 1 and 2.

Again, this is an Usborne book, so it works best to go through a consultant to purchase it, but it is an excellent buy! It's a beautiful hardback book with fold-out pages and contains 12 phonics readers for $20. My children adore these stories, and they were developed in conjunction with language specialists to focus on specific phonemes in each story. That means that most of the confusing patterns in the English language are not present in these stories, making them a great choice for early readers. The animals are a riot, and there is a little yellow duck to find on each page to help the child stay interested and give them a brief break from sounding out words.

Each child is different and progresses at their own rate, but when your child is ready to begin learning to read, I highly recommend these books. Even if they are already in school, they will progress much faster through focused lessons at home. And it's just so gratifying to watch their abilities unfold and their excitement mount as they learn!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

December's Festivities

We had a lovely Christmas together as a family,
and celebrating with our extended families as well.
(Don't mind that random section of lights at the top of the tree that suddenly stopped working one day...)
The kids loved their gifts,
and Sam and I received many wonderful things as well.
We had many family projects in the works that made Christmas Eve almost impossibly busy,
but somehow our list was checked off until everything important had been accomplished
and we headed over to my parents' to spend the evening with them...
feasting, performing, discussing scripture, opening gifts, and making memories.
I think Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year!
We continued the festivities as Sam, the boys, and I celebrated together on Christmas morning,
and then celebrated with Sam's family later that day.
The boys were showered with thoughtful gifts from family members.
And although the antique teeter totter in the photo above wasn't the highlight on Christmas, it has been one of the most-enjoyed gifts since! It's done wonders for the stir-crazy blues winter and cold weather tend to bring. It's just like one I have fond memories of playing with as a child at my aunt's house, and it is almost as fun for adults as it is for the kids.
It has an unassuming appearance, but if you try it out you'll understand.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Sam took me to the jeweler where he got my ring.
The story behind my ring is one full of many fascinating and interesting miracles,
and we've never returned to the jeweler since we got married since we've lived in Texas most of that time.
I admired the tri-stone design for rings because of the symbolism--the two side diamonds representing Sam and I and the center one representing God. It's biggest because He comes first in our relationship and He is what unites us and makes it possible for us to be together eternally.
They did a tune-up on my ring and commented on its unique design and the incredible circumstances involved in its purchase. I had to smile when the store manager talked with me about Sam's research and began referring to him as "the genius." He then showed me a $40,000 bracelet he said we could purchase when Sam became a rich and famous scientist.
Ha! If we happen to have an extra $40,000 lying around someday, you can bet it won't be spent on diamonds.

2 days later, we were celebrating our seventh anniversary as we re-lived our first date and Sam presented me with incredibly thoughtful portions of a "treatise" at various stages along our journey.
I still remember my excitement when Sam called and asked me out.
(I had admired him from afar for several weeks.)
He proposed 3 ideas for our date and asked if I had a preference.
I was amazed at his thoughtfulness and organization and expressed no specific preference.
But I was thrilled when he suggested we visit the Planetarium in Salt Lake City (an hour's drive from our college town) because, as he said, "It's kind of nice to get out of Provo sometimes."
I was just excited to have 2+ hours of uninterrupted, one-on-one conversation with this intriguing man I had been drawn to from the beginning.
And that date made it very clear to us that we connected with one another on a deep level.
The conversation naturally progressed very quickly beyond surface-level, trivial topics and grew into deep discussions about subjects dear to our hearts.
I lay on my bed after he brought me home, overcome with a strange feeling...
a realization that my relationship with this man could easily go far and the contemplation of all that would entail.
Little did I know what joy awaited us!
We recently spoke of how the struggles we both faced to fit in well and socially connect with others as we grew had made our relationship all the more treasured because we had finally discovered someone who got us--we understand one another on a deep and intimate level that is beyond what I can describe.
And after seven years of marriage, that level of understanding and connection has only deepened
and left me feeling more united than ever with the man of my dreams.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Our Reading Routine

I like routine and schedules to a fault.
And by that I mean that if something is not scheduled into our normal routine,
I really struggle to get it done.
And if something throws off our normal routine, I am really unproductive for the whole day.
Doctor's appointment in the morning? I can pretty much count on getting nothing done for the remainder of the day because I feel aimless when my routine is disrupted.

Because of that,
we tend to have a really rigid routine.
Life has taught me that it is unrealistic to expect that we will always stick to it precisely,
but it does provide a basic framework for the day.
Certain chores are assigned to specific days, we plan outings for certain days of the week, I have specific time set aside to spend time doing activities with the kids, and I've recently adopted a weekly schedule of breakfasts and lunches for my kids so I know exactly what to do each day.
I tend to expect the day to go like a well-oiled machine--and it seldom does.
But the closer I stick to my routine, the more productive I am and the more balanced I feel.

A few years ago, life got busy enough that there were days I put the kids to bed and realized that, aside from our scripture reading, I hadn't read to them at all that day.
And that really bothered me.
So, I fell back on my coping mechanism and scheduled it into the routine.
And now, our planned reading happens during our morning "school time,"
while the kids eat lunch,
before nap time (in conjunction with a reading lesson),
and before bed time (chapter book reading along with scripture reading).

Relying so heavily on routine wouldn't work for everyone,
but it's what keeps me sane
and about the only thing I've found that consistently enables me to accomplish what I need to and achieve something that approaches balance in life.

Within the next couple of days, I'll be sharing some of my favorite resources for teaching kids to read.
Stay tuned if you're interested!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016

A "Motherhood Moment"

Poor Lincoln has been pretty sick the last few days.
After I took him to the doctor and was told he likely had either RSV or mild pneumonia,
I was told he didn't need to go to the hospital for testing since he was eating and drinking, but they would treat him for both, just to be careful.
I went to the grocery store after his appointment to pick up his medicine,
and while the prescription was being filled I did a little shopping.

And there, right in the front of the store,
my poor baby had such a severe coughing fit he threw up all over me.
Motherhood has many moments of beauty, but that was not one of the finer ones.
I developed a greater appreciation for the baby wipes in my purse as I began trying to wipe up the mess the best I could
while also trying to ignore the concerned stares of passers-by.

Needless to say, we've been spending a lot of time resting over the last little while.
And Lincoln developed quite the affinity for "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" as I used the computer to try to get him to lie still when his coughing and distress got intense.
I'm so glad he's finally on the mend!

I'm also glad it's date night, we finally got a Costco membership, our car has seat warmers in it, my husband sends me ridiculous e-mails that make me smile (in "Ewokese," yesterday), my mom trimmed my hair and gave it a fresh color, and my 4-year-old loves cuddles and butterfly kisses.
Things are looking up!

Happy weekend to you!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Back from the Break and the Bean Museum

That unintended little break over the holidays was due to a host of things--
mainly getting a new computer
(huge cheer! no more waiting 5 minutes for a page to load! no more computer shutting off randomly right in the middle of my work and taking 15 minutes to get going again! no more notices that I can't download what I need because my operating system is too old!)
which has carried with it a lot of good things,
but has also required me to come up with a new system for loading/saving/editing photos (different OS)
and left me needing to transfer over many files.

But the slight inconvenience is so worth it!

In any case, we had a great Christmas and New Year's,
and holiday posts will (probably) come soon.

In the meantime, are any of you Utah people in search of a good winter outing for the little ones?
We are always looking for good, free "field trips,"
a challenge made greater during winter months.
A while back I decided to take my little ones down to BYU to visit the Bean Museum,
a highly understated, amazing venue for the display of hundreds of stuffed animals!
The Bean Museum has been completely re-done since I was a student there, and the displays are pretty impressive. 2 17-foot giraffes greet you in the atrium of the museum, and when I asked I was told that all of the animals displayed in the museum are real...from the liger to the crocodiles.

But I think my favorite part was the new Boyd K. Packer gallery,
featuring hundreds of pieces of his artwork, dating back to his childhood.
That man was a wonder at carving!
His birds are stunning, and as is usually the case with artwork, pictures simply can't do them justice.
We added a lunch-trip to the BYU Creamery to our museum fun (Graham Canyon ice cream, anyone?), and I had lots of fun reminiscing to the kids (and my sister, who came along for the trip) about our memories as we drove around Provo and walked around the BYU Campus.
Goodness, we love that place!

We had a lovely outing,
but I'm already looking forward to our next trip to Cougar Town.
We still need to hike to the Y, take the trail to Stewart Falls, walk through the MOA, and visit my old workplace and former employer!
And we definitely need another Creamery trip.

(Talmage brought along his infrared night-vision spy goggles. Just in case.)

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