Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Plot-Grip


February is proving to be almost as low-key as January was.
Today was warm and sunny,
and we had a pretty laid-back agenda.
We did some housework, hit story time at the library, took Talmage and Wesley to their church activity, and stopped by the grocery store.
I also spent far too much time reading my book I checked out,
which is why I stick mainly to non-fiction.
The suspense just gets to me and I find myself neglecting what I really ought to be doing (like, you know, folding the laundry)!

Speaking of reading, Maxwell loves to choose stories that have an element of suspense in them.
But whenever it gets a little scary or someone is about to get in trouble,
he covers his eyes or his ears.
And yet, he chooses those books over and over again!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Mini-Golf and Trader Joe's


On Saturday, I took Wesley mini-golfing for his monthly outing.
It was our first time visiting this particular course,
and I was a bit disappointed when I pulled up and the holes were simple putting greens without any fun decorations or obstacles.
But once we started playing, we had a great time regardless!
The highlight was when Wesley got a hole-in-one!!
Afterward we picked up a smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe (the closest substitute we can find for Jamba Juice...so sad that the closest one is in Nashville! And there they have FIVE locations...come on, share some love with Memphis, people!).
I love spending time with my boy!


Yesterday the kids didn't have school for Presidents' Day.
They spent the day riding bikes and playing with some neighborhood kids, for the most part.
I did take them to Trader Joe's to celebrate and told them they could each choose one snack to share.
I always stick out like a sore thumb when I go out in public with all five boys,
but especially when I go to a place like Trader Joe's where the average clientele is a single, hipster millennial.
Pardon me while we take up an entire aisle of the small store!
Of course I got stopped throughout the store while people made comments like,
"That's a lot of boys!"
"You're so blessed!"
"Do you homeschool?"
"They're so well-behaved!"
"Are you going to try for a girl?"
For the most part I don't mind being a spectacle, especially when they're well-behaved.
On one trip to the library a while back, I had forgotten the stroller and was struggling to get our mountains of books checked out while holding Benson, keeping Maxwell close to me, and keeping the others in check.
The librarian said something like, "Well, I was going to ask if you were going to try for a girl, but I think you've got enough on your plate..." :D

Monday, February 17, 2020

Valentine's Day 2020


I just love Valentine's Day!
Our celebrations started the day before Valentine's Day. When the boys got home from school, I asked if I could kiss their faces with lipstick and do a little Valentine's Day photo shoot.
Talmage and Wesley are probably getting a bit too old for this sort of thing...
Talmage was totally willing to go along with my antics, but Wesley was shifting about uncomfortably and saying, "This is SO embarrassing!" Haha. They were such good sports.


I had set out a bunch of craft supplies and metal Valentine's mailboxes for each member of the family,
so after our little photo shoot the boys got to work making valentines.
The cute little buckets were like 89 cents at Walmart and they made everything so festive!
They worked through the afternoon and evening on valentines,
and Sam and I worked together late at night to make our own valentines for each of the boys.
(After Sam got back from the laundromat, where he did 7 industrial washer-sized loads of laundry because our dryer is out of commission and we are at the mercy of our landlord to get things going again. That's no joke with 5 little boys! *sob*)


The next morning, everyone woke up to Valentine's surprises and we had a breakfast of Kodiak cakes with homemade chocolate syrup and chocolate milk.
The boys scurried off to school for their Valentine's parties and festivities. We've been using these printable fruit valentines for the past 3 or 4 years now, and I still just love them!


Meanwhile, Maxwell and I prepared more valentines to hand out at a potluck pizza party lunch with friends! The boys just had a half day of school for parent/teacher conferences, so after school we headed over to our friends' house and they had a ball with a grand total of 24 kids packed into one house! I whipped up a silly little chip graphic and we put together these chip valentines to hand out, in addition to the fruit ones.


The boys had gotten free happy meal coupons with their report cards, so we picked up some happy meals for dinner.
Our sweet friends had offered to come over with their 1-year-old boy and stay with the boys while Sam and I had a Valentine's date! They even brought sugar cookies and decorating supplies so the kids could decorate cookies while we were out! 
We added another check mark to our monthly ethnic food adventuring and tried out a Mongolian stir-fry grill. It was fun to experience-a waitress brought us each a bowl and then we went down a line where there were over 80 different meats, vegetables, sauces, spices, and other toppings we could pile in our bowls. There was a giant circular grill at the end of the line and we told them what grain we wanted to add to our assortment, and then they cooked it all to perfection-super fascinating to watch!
We topped it off with hot chocolate from the Godiva store, which is the BEST hot chocolate I've ever tasted. 


We attempted to watch some more of a 1950s version of A Christmas Carol after our date, but (as usual) I fell asleep after about 10 or 15 minutes.
Poor Sam...I am the worst movie-watching companion ever.
I don't know what it is, but movies have very predictably put me to sleep ever since I was a young girl.
All in all, it was a fantastic holiday.
I LOVE to celebrate LOVE!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Taking the Time to Understand


Several months ago, I played Legos with the boys.
It's not something I often do--largely because we try to keep the Legos away from babies and toddlers so I am typically tied up with a baby while the others play together.
And when Benson is napping, Maxwell is usually napping also, in his room where all the Legos are.
So, while I have helped assemble Lego sets, I have seldom come up with an idea of my own and worked to build it.

A couple of hours later, I had finally finished building a very simple treehouse,
and I was totally surprised by how much work it took.
Coming up with an idea,
sifting through all the pieces trying to find ones that would work,
building and resolving weak areas...
it was all such a long process.

And then I thought,
a little guiltily,
about the times in the past when the boys had shown me a creation and I had glanced at it and smiled and said, "Oh, cooool!" without really taking in all the details.
Or the times I had been quick to tell them we needed to take the creations apart to put the Legos away.
Or the times I had gotten after them for being harsh when a brother broke their creation.

All those times, I didn't have a real grasp of the effort that had gone into their work.
It helped me realize how important it is to take the time to learn about and understand my kids' passions as they grow...
to read enough of their favorite books to be conversant when they tell me about an exciting part
or to play a sport enough to fully appreciate an amazing play they did
or to try designing my own paper airplane before I throw that box of 100 in the trash without a second glance.

So many parts of parenting are a tough balance--
I mean, I'm still not going to hang onto hundreds of paper airplanes, even when I realize how hard they are to design, but maybe I would have him pull out a couple of favorites before the box reaches the recycling dumpster.
But I'm always grateful for a chance to improve.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Time-Lapse Clean-Up

You know how sometimes you stumble across things in parenting that just work?
And then they become a standard part of parenting for years?

Like how we discovered our toddlers really like their independence, so merely saying "I'll grab you," when they disobey results in immediate obedience. You know, like--"Stop throwing your food on the ground." And then when they continue, "I'll grab you." 
Grab them to what, you may ask?
Grab them to stop the behavior.
That's it.
It works like a charm on our independent little boys beginning at about age 2.

Another thing we stumbled upon is a clean-up song.
At transition points, like before we leave the house or right before bed,
I will often tell them that we need to clean up really hard for one song,
and then I turn on a fast-paced, energetic song the kids love while we all work as hard as we can.
The house usually becomes almost completely tidy, and it only takes about 4 minutes!
Plus, the kids think it is fun to play a favorite song loud and clean up fast.

Tonight, however, I tried something a friend suggested,
and the boys LOVED it.
They needed to clean up the play room, so I filmed them cleaning with the time-lapse camera setting on my phone and then we watched it at the end. They thought it was the coolest thing.
I know my kids are entertained pretty easily--but then, so are their parents!
Hooray for another happy cleaning strategy.


Monday, February 10, 2020

A Day in the Life 2020

It's been almost three years since I wrote "A Day in the Life,"
so I thought it would be fun for me to record another day for me to remember later on.
Once again, here is another (slightly more productive than usual) ordinary day in my life.
Another state, another house, another baby, and two more boys in school, and yet not much has changed!

6:20-I wake up. Sam has finished breakfast and is heading into the bathroom to shower and get ready and I am reminded of how I really need to get back in the habit of setting an alarm to wake up so I can shower before Sam leaves for the day, which gets our day going on the right foot. Ah, well...I doze a bit in bed and then scroll through my phone, reading a couple of blogs for a few minutes to pry my tired eyes open.

6:40-I force myself out of bed, throw on my shoes, and gather all of the kids into the car to take Sam to the bus stop. I'm feeling grateful we're about to get another car so our mornings can be a little less hectic! On the way, I ask Sam if we can pick him up from work and go to a member-party at the science museum. He agrees and we make plans before we say our family prayer and tell him good-bye.

7:00-We are home again, and it is go time. The boys finish up their chores ("The Big 5"--say prayers, get dressed, brush teeth, make bed, secret service chore) and work on their lunches while I make oatmeal and a smoothie for breakfast. Talmage packs a "cheesestick sandwich," goldfish, and a yogurt. Wesley opts for mini pancakes with syrup, a granola bar, and goldfish. Lincoln chooses leftover bunny pasta, goldfish, and a yogurt. We gather at the table for a quick breakfast and I comb the older boys' hair. Talmage is wearing shorts and a T-Shirt, as usual, despite the cold, winter weather.



7:43-The boys are heading out the door into the car again. I notice Benson's diaper is leaking, so I frantically change him before I load him into the car and rush out. If we get to the school after 8, I have to go into the office and check the boys in and I am still in my pajamas, so I am hustling along to make sure we get there on time! We've never been late but sometimes we cut it way too close for comfort. We make our way through the car drop off line and I give my usual farewell spiel to the boys--"I love you! Have a great day! Be good, do your best, and feed the good wolf!" (That line comes from this story.)

8:05-I pull back into the garage at home with Maxwell and Benson, and my cell phone dings. I see a text from Sam saying that he was able to get time off so we can go to Nauvoo during Spring Break! Hooray!! I am so excited! I get a few minutes of quiet to spend in morning prayer while Maxwell and Benson finish their breakfast at the table. Some days we go for a bike ride, but today it is very cold and raining, so instead I eat breakfast and do some computer work, get the kids ready and say prayers with them, and do some tidying.



9:00-I turn on an episode of "Wild Kratts" for Maxwell and Benson to watch while I get ready. I know the show lasts 25 minutes, after which they will be begging for entry into my bathroom and then tearing apart the cupboards climbing on the counter, and getting into my make-up and hair supplies, so I hurry things along quickly. Benson doesn't enjoy watching a show very much yet, but he plays nicely for the most part while Maxwell learns about animals. When I am done getting ready, I work my way through the house, tidying and doing some deeper cleaning--vacuuming and sweeping and wiping things down, emptying the dishwasher, and starting the laundry. Maxwell and Benson munch on fruit leather and granola bars and alternate between playing together and hovering at my feet while I clean up the house.

10:45-Time to stop cleaning. I read a couple of stories to Maxwell and Benson, and then we head out the door to go to IKEA. Every month we budget a little money for me to spend on decorating and furnishing our home, and over the last 2 years our house has transformed from a big, empty, cold cavern into a place we can be happy to call home. I look forward to each month's project, and this month I am on the hunt for some throw pillows to tie together all of our seating in two different rooms. I measure some pillows, put on shoes and comb the boys' hair, and we head out.




1:00-We are finally home. What I expected to take 45 minutes instead took an hour and a half as I walked through the maze of IKEA 3 times, enlisted the help of an employee who spent 20 minutes combing through the store as well, and ultimately had to leave with my errand only half accomplished. Benson falls asleep on the drive home, but wakes up when I try to lay him in his crib--I am hoping he will go back to sleep after lunch! Nap time will be late today. I prepare a lunch of Dino-Buddies chicken, applesauce, cheese sticks, milk, and veggie straws, switch the laundry to the dryer, mix up some cookies for a package I am preparing to send, and put together some of the pillows I purchased. I also read a story to Maxwell and Benson while they eat their lunch, and afterward they spend a few minutes playing with wooden trucks together.






2:04-I change Benson's diaper, read him his favorite book (HUG), sing him a song, and lay him down. When we transitioned Maxwell out of his crib two years ago, we got into the habit of laying on the bedroom floor while he fell asleep for his nap and we have never stopped. So I read him To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street and lay on his floor. Often I fall asleep, too, and take a quick cat nap, but today I manage to stay awake and he is asleep within minutes.

2:25-I come back downstairs and clean up lunch and roll the cookie dough into balls to bake. While the cookies bake, I write a blog post.




3:15-I begin my scripture study. I start reading the day's assignment for Come, Follow Me.

3:19-I am startled by a knock at the door--the older boys are home 20 minutes early! Apparently they had a substitute bus driver who took the bus route in reverse. I am grateful she let them off the bus since they technically aren't allowed to get off if I am not outside to meet them. Talmage has slipped in a mossy mud puddle on the sidewalk and the back of him is completely covered in mud. I stop him in his tracks and get him to change, treat his pants with Shout and prepare an after-school snack of homemade nachos. I explain to the boys that I was just in the middle of my scripture study, so while they read books, eat, and start their chores and piano practice, I continue to read my scriptures. I also realize I never ate lunch and eat some food while I read. Normally I enjoy a bowl of cereal, but today I branch out and eat some leftover coconut chicken and rice.







4:00-Benson and Maxwell are awake from their naps, and both are grumpy and needing post-nap snuggles. I hold them on the couch for a while, but we need to get ready to leave for the science museum, so eventually I put them down and help all the kids get ready, fill up water bottles for the drive, and heat up some pasta to bring to Sam. Benson cries during most of this time. He tends to be very high-maintenance in the late afternoon hours and often cries a lot.




4:30-We back out of the garage and arrive to pick up Sam from work at 5:00 on the dot. He meets us at the car and we drive a few miles to the science museum to attend the party. A new exhibit about the first exploration of Antarctica has opened and there are free shows in the planetarium. The last party we went to had a nice hot-dog dinner provided, but this one has a much smaller spread of a few appetizers and desserts. Had I known I would have fed the boys dinner before we left, but they all seem content, thankfully. Sam has an Elders' Quorum Presidency meeting that starts at 7:00, so at 6:20 we head out the door. Unfortunately, we are almost out of gas and the first gas station we go to has broken pumps (a normal occurrence in Memphis). Now we are really rushed, and we scout out another gas station and this time successfully get gas in the car and head on our way. We drop Sam off at his meeting and drive home.

7:30-We are finally home! I am exhausted, but the kids still need dinner and showers, and I promised Lincoln earlier in the week that he would be able to have his first piano lesson that day! So I throw some cereal, leftover pancakes, and goldfish on the table and we quickly eat a simple dinner. The older boys and Maxwell take showers while I give Lincoln a mini-lesson (much to his delight!). Lincoln and Benson then take showers and I put Benson to bed while the others work on S.P.O.T. (their nightly routine of reading Scriptures, saying Prayers, going pOtty, and brushing Teeth). I help Lincoln and Maxwell with their routine, and we are just settling in to read a chapter from their illustrated scriptures when Sam walks in from his meeting! He joins us for the illustrated scriptures, family prayer, and our Come, Follow Me family scripture study from The Book of Mormon. I read aloud a chapter from Holes, the chapter book I am currently reading to the boys.

8:48-The boys are finally all tucked in bed and it is SNOWING here in Memphis! Such excitement! Sam and I set a timer for 20 minutes and begin our nightly clean-up. Several months ago we decided we were spending too much of the evening cleaning, so we decided to start with the 20 minute timer and it has worked wonders! Knowing we only have 20 minutes makes us super efficient, so the house hasn't been any messier--and in fact, may even be cleaner than it used to be. After our clean-up is complete, Sam runs on the treadmill while I work on updating our budget spreadsheet, check my e-mail and social media, and work on filing our taxes.

10:47-That's a wrap! It's been an exhausting but happy and productive day.

Friday, February 7, 2020

January in a Nutshell

I just love January.
I know it has kind of a bad rap among the general public,
but hear me out.

After all the dust settles after the holiday season,
I love having a month with virtually NO departure from the everyday routine.
Life is predictable, I get so many projects taken care of that have been hanging over me, I get in lots of slow-paced bonding time with the little ones at home, we save up a ton of money with no extra expenses, I get the organizing bug every year (and the organizing supplies are on sale at the stores!), and school has no major projects or other extras.
I understand that a lot of people think it's too slow-paced,
but I welcome the chance to slow down.

With our first week of January being spent in Utah
and another week being spent with the black plague racing around our house,
there isn't a whole lot to report,
but here are the main events of the month:

Lego Building
The boys came home from Utah with many Lego sets. Coincidentally, they ended up with 5 different space-themed sets, so they had fun building a mega space set-up!

Lots of Story Reading
With all that down time, we had plenty of time to read a mountain of books to the little ones.

...and Lots of Sleeping
Of course, all that reading and sickness leads to a sure result.

A Little Screen Time
And I just couldn't resist the way Benson copied Maxwell's every move while they were watching "Wild Kratts."

Maxwell's Puzzle Obsession Ignites
This 4-foot long puzzle is a favorite!

100th Day of School
Talmage and Wesley dressed up as 100-year olds, and Lincoln and I glued a 100-piece puzzle to a dollar store T-shirt. He thought it was the coolest thing! Here he is posing as the tiger on his shirt.

Ice Skating with Talmage
My outing with Talmage this month was a trip to the skating rink! We had so much fun skating together and he made great progress!

Anniversary Dinner
Sam planned an anniversary date to a nicer Italian restaurant called Ronnie Grisanti's. He knew it was going to be a step up from our usual fare with entrees averaging about $25 each, but we were not prepared for the incredibly fancy environment. It became evident as soon as we pulled up and saw the valet parking (we parked our old mini-van ourselves, thankyouverymuch). I guess Sam had e-mailed to get a reservation and had specifically mentioned that it was for our anniversary and requested a nice place to sit. They took his request very seriously and escorted us to a private room up a stairwell where we sat next to a window that overlooked all the guests eating below. The room was quiet, with just a few guests, and a large screen with a digital fire set the tone on one wall. Our waiter came over and started listing the off-the-menu options and I was right on the verge of bursting into laughter because each entree he listed had about 10 components, half of which I had never heard of. Thankfully I was able to hold in the laughter! Throughout the evening, multiple employees came to our table to meet us and wish us a happy anniversary, and the owner (or maybe manager?) specifically noted Sam's St. Jude e-mail address and thanked him for the work he does. We felt like quite the spectacle. They treated us to a slice of lemon-ricotta cheesecake after our (super delicious) meal, and the whole time Sam and I tried not to be too self-conscious about our jeans. Haha, like I said, we were unprepared for such a fancy place!
Afterward, we picked up hot chocolate from Panera and went to a nearby park to walk around the lake. I had SO much fun laughing over the fact that they forgot to add the chocolate to my hot chocolate, playing a spontaneous game of tag Sam started on the playground in which I accidentally smacked him on the head, and seeing how close we could get to a blue heron on the water! (Can you see it below?) At one point it was perched on a dock and I asked Sam to guess how close we could get to it before it flew away. He said he thought as soon as we stepped on the dock it would take off, and I guessed that we could get to the third post on the railing. We crept slowly and silently onto the dock, and it was TOO funny when the heron flew away exactly when we got to the third post, just as I guessed! He kept flying off to different spots of the lake so we encountered him three times in the darkness. Somehow playing tag on a children's playground seemed to suit us a little better than our fine-dining experience, but both were so fun!!

And Lots of Hanging Out at Home
...too much of which usually makes me stir-crazy, but I enjoy it when I have lots of projects going!



**Today's Tidbit: We finally decided to sign Talmage up for soccer--something he has been wanting for years. When we told him a few nights ago, he jumped out of bed and gave us both the biggest hug. We told the boys we thought we would sign them up for a sport when they were 10, so a conversation immediately commenced regarding what sport each would choose. Wesley is set on BMX racing since our 6-year-old neighbor across the street is like a world-class champion and goes on TV and everything! Haha, we will see about that...
But Talmage was SO happy that he made us a sign the following morning and taped it on the wall outside our room with some candy bars for us to find. This morning I discovered Talmage and Wesley had gotten Benson up out of bed when he woke up and were getting him dressed on their own and Lincoln said, "I think it's because they're so happy you signed Talmage up for soccer!" I guess making him wait so long made him extra grateful!
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