Saturday, August 29, 2020

Sunflower Maternity Pictures

The Agricenter plants fields of sunflowers every year, just so the public can come enjoy them and take pictures.
I never used to be a fan of taking maternity pictures, and you can see that clearly in the awkward, stiff smiles of my obligatory tummy pictures of my first three pregnancies.
But a couple of things happened before my pregnancy with Maxwell that gave me a gradual change of heart.
1) I got a DSLR camera and became very interested in photography, and
2) I started making a conscious effort to get in front of the camera more to help me grow in confidence and overcome my insecurities and self-hatred. I started trying to embrace the person I am, including physically, and started getting in pictures more, regardless of how silly I felt in the beginning.

I still do feel a little silly, but I've made a lot of progress.
And I've grown to treasure these captures of a sacred moment in my life.
I love taking maternity pictures of others because I feel like pregnancy and motherhood really is such a beautiful thing, but it feels faaaar from it. I love the opportunity to bring out the beauty in the midst of the misery, framing the immense sacrifice that is being made out of pure, divinely given love.

So, given all of that, I asked Talmage if he would be willing to come with me to the sunflower fields and snap a few photos of me.
He is always excited to use my camera, so he was more than willing.
When we arrived at the sunflower fields, I was dismayed to see that there were dozens of people filling the fields and, with it being almost sunset, most of the sunflowers had drooped their heads for the night. That meant that those dozens of people were crammed into one small section and we were going to have to maneuver around everyone. We hurried over, walking along the bumpy ground, and in my haste I didn't step carefully enough in my high wedges I was wearing. My ankle twisted and I went down hard, falling super awkwardly in front of all those people!
Talmage, bless his heart, did not laugh or act super embarrassed that his mom had just faceplanted. He just exclaimed, "Mom, are you okay? Is the baby okay??"
Only my pride was injured, so I stood up and brushed myself off and we carried on.
We eventually found a good spot without people in the background and he patiently snapped away as I instructed him on where to put the focus dot and how to frame the picture.

I'm already forming plans to bring baby girl back to this field in a year to take her pictures!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Today's Tidbits

This morning Maxwell had his well-child visit. I assured him that he didn't need to get any shots today...I was pretty sure he wasn't due for any and, I thought, if I turned out to be wrong he could get them at one of our upcoming appointments we'll have for the other kids. Maxwell always takes his doctor's appointments SO seriously. He is completely silent and as still as a statue, doing exactly what they ask him. At the end of his appointment, the doctor said he was due for his last two immunizations. "Uh-oh..." I said. "I told him he didn't have to get any today. Let's see what he says." I turned to Maxwell and explained that I was wrong--that he needed two more shots before Kindergarten. I asked if it was okay if they did them today or if we needed to wait until another day and he soberly said it was okay to do it today. He was so brave about it--again, he lay as still as a statue and didn't make a peep through the two shots, but as soon as the nurse walked out of the room, he crumpled against me with the most pained expression on his face (still not crying) and said in a tiny voice, "That hurt a lot." I think it broke my heart more than crying would have!

We picked up chocolate chip cookies from Chick-fil-a to reward his bravery. You'd think the drive-thru line wouldn't be too terrible at 10:30 am, but here in our town Chick-fil-a is always packed. As a result, Benson fell asleep in the car and when we got home I got him out of his carseat and set him down on the ground and he promptly doubled over, laying his head on the floor of the car, and went back to sleep in that odd position!

Last night we smelled the strong scent of something burning. We walked through the house, trying to pinpoint the smell. Was it the oven? The dryer? A light? We would smell it at varying strengths throughout the downstairs and couldn't find anything that seemed to be the culprit. We were reading scriptures with the boys up in their room when we heard a strange humming sound that lasted for about 30 seconds, a couple of minutes apart. Sam went into the attic space to investigate and discovered that our downstairs air conditioning was trying but failing to kick on. A bit of research online showed us that it was also the culprit of the burning smell. So we switched off the A/C last night. Our house is currently 80 degrees and it's almost 10:30 pm! Hopefully it will get fixed tomorrow.

The aftermath of Hurricane Laura is projected to juuust miss Memphis tonight. But we're getting a pretty intense storm regardless. We were on tornado watch this evening and, although it never got very windy, after dinner Sam noticed a large branch that had broken off the tree above our backyard and was caught between two other branches such that it was about 12 or 13 feet up, waiting to fall. He sent all the boys inside and got out the ladder and did some maneuvering to get the branch down. All 5 boys were pressed up against the windows watching with the funniest commentary as they watched him work. "OOOHHH, that was a close one! Oh, he's going to use the chain--that's so resourceful! And brave! Wow, look at him!" I'm sure part of their fascination was due to the fact that we had just talked about Hurricane Laura at the dinner table and mentioned that a few people had died from trees falling on their homes. As soon as Sam safely got the branch down they burst out of the house, cheering at the top of their lungs and running over to investigate. He was pretty much the rockstar of the evening. Then they worked together to break/cut the branch apart and pile it into the garbage can.

I can tell my anemia has improved so much! I am no longer gasping for air all the time and I have a lot more energy. But I am still eating ice a LOT. The boys (especially Wesley, Maxwell, and Benson) love to eat ice, too, and Maxwell and Benson are always stealing handfuls of my ice. I've been referring to Maxwell as "my little ice burglar" today and he thinks it's so funny. In his evening prayers he said, "Thank thee that Mommy calls me her do you call me? Thank thee that Mommy calls me her ice burglar." 

Wesley had his ENT appointment earlier this week to address his chronic coughing and sniffing. After x-rays of his sinuses, an examination, and a review of the history of appointments and treatments we've tried, the doctor suggested a 3-pronged medication approach for 30 days after which they will do a small CT scan and come up with an action plan to maintain clear sinuses (if the medication plan works) or to continue to try to get rid of the cough. I'm glad we're on the track to getting answers, finally--but he was NOT a fan of the thiiiick antibiotic he had to take tonight. We may have to see how he does with swallowing pills so he isn't gagging every night.

Talmage has been given family history homework over the past couple of days. He has been assigned to find out what countries his family came to America from and also make a family tree several generations back. Hooray for the fantastic tools on FamilySearch that make that job so easy! We printed out fan charts for him to show his teacher. It is such a treasure trove!

And then tonight I meant to be productive and even started folding the laundry, but after folding just a few things the heat started to get to me in our hot house, so instead I checked social media and ate Blue Bell cookies n' cream with Reeses magic shell on it and called it good. That's almost as productive, right?

Also, I feel it noteworthy that Benson has taken to calling Maxwell "Bro" and "Dude" all the time while they are playing and also frequently shouts, "THAT WAS EPIC!!!" He is our little two-year-old teenager.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Little Ones

I love my mornings with these two little ones.
Maxwell is analytical, responsible, and often serious. Benson is our little class clown and is constantly doing and saying ridiculous things to try to get laughs.
They are so different from each other but they have the sweetest little relationship.
They are just the best of friends.
A few funny moments from the past little while:

-Benson LOVES to sing. He also loves listening to music, especially in the car. He was singing the song "Risen" a few days ago, and he sweetly sang/said, "Hallelujah...please turn it up...HALLELUJAH!!!" He has also been known to tell others to "please turn it off" when he doesn't want them to sing.

-Benson loves the song "You are my Sunshine." Sometimes at the end of the song, he will substitute our names so he sings, "Please don't take my Mommy away" (or whoever he's talking about). Other times he will substitute other random objects like, "Please don't take my stairs away" while walking down the stairs or randomly "Please don't take my diaper away..."

-I've been canning peaches. Maxwell enjoyed sitting on a stool next to the sink, taking the pits out of the peaches as I cut them. He kept putting his hands close to where I was working, so I warned him to please keep his hands away from my knife because I didn't want to accidentally cut him. "Yeah," he said matter-of-factly. "Because then your little buddy would get killed." What?! He was just so nonchalant about the whole idea! I had to quickly correct that thinking. Yikes!

-Maxwell has gotten some interesting ideas in his head about Coronavirus. The other day he explained, "Corona is canker sores. And Coronavirus is when you get really sick." A few days ago we were in a store and Benson took his mask off. "Oh no!!!" Maxwell exclaimed. "Benson took his mask off! He's going to get Coronavirus!" And another day he explained, "A fever is when you cough and you ask your mom for a Capri-Sun and sometimes she gives it to you and sometimes she doesn't."

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Climb

A few months ago, BYU Vocal Point and Peter Hollens came out with a new song.
"The Climb" was apparently made popular by Miley Cyrus years ago, but since my knowledge of pop culture is about zero, this was the first time I could remember hearing the song.
I was struck by the words and thought they were so fitting given the current challenges in the world.

"There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb."

Over the past five months especially, things have seemed kind of stagnant.
I've often felt like life is on hold, like I'm just waiting for my figurative mountains to move before making real progress. Life will start again once I'm not pregnant, when COVID-19 is just a weird memory, when we finally settle down and buy a house, etc. etc.
But in reality, life is happening NOW and it isn't about arriving at some future destination--it's about what I am doing each moment of each day along the way.

Accentuating the positives in the current moment helps me keep my focus on the present instead of always looking to the future. So, in that spirit...

Things I Will Miss About COVID-19
-Sam Working from Home--It has been so nice to see him periodically throughout the day, to eat lunch together, to be able to run errands on my own during nap time, to eliminate commute time, and to get more sleep! It's going to be a weird adjustment when he is no longer here throughout the day and I'm going to miss him!
-A Calm Schedule--While we miss our extracurricular activities, it has been a blessing (especially while pregnant) to have such a calm, quiet life. I've had virtually no responsibilities outside our family, and I've welcomed the break.
-At-Home Church--I have definitely missed going to Church. But we've also had some really sweet moments with our at-home church meetings and I'm sure part of me will miss that. We never have to rush to get kids ready and out the door on time either, or worry about missed naps or any other schedule related challenges.
-Sleep--Well, now that school has started I am getting up pretty early, but for a solid 5 months I got to sleep in every day!! That was amazing for this pregnancy, what with all the insomnia and sleep issues I've had. Sleep is one of the best ways for me to deal with challenging situations, so getting lots of sleep over the past while has been amazing.
-Flexible Shopping/Errand Running Options--As a mom of lots of young kids, it has been nice to have so many stores open up curbside delivery and for other appointments to take place at home, over video chat.
-Keeping My Kids Home--The kids have some great neighborhood friends, and they've actually still been playing with some of them...but it's been mainly outside. For the most part, the boys have played with each other and I've loved seeing their bond grow. I always struggle a little bit with whether or not to let my kids go play at friends' houses. Do I know the parents well enough? Are they going to be overwhelming the family? How often is too much to be socially accepted? How long should I let them stay? What if their brothers want to come too--how many should I let go? And then there is always dealing with the angry ones who don't get to go. It's been nice to let all of that go.

Things I Will Miss About Being Pregnant
Admittedly, this one was a lot harder for me to come up with some things on...I am not at all a fan of pregnancy. But I thought of a few things!
-Napping With My Little Ones--I take a nap with Maxwell and Benson almost every afternoon. Their bedroom is quiet and cool and it has blackout curtains, so it is such a peaceful, comfortable place to rest. Watching their little bodies sink into relaxation and sleeping next to them has been so wonderful. Once the baby is born, I won't be needing a nap every day and I will also be more consumed with her needs so I won't have this luxury often.
-General Anticipation--It is always so fun during pregnancy to imagine what the baby will look like, to think about our future life with a new little one, to discuss names, and to make preparations. I love having something to look forward to and work toward with excitement!
-Having a Set Deadline for Projects--For most of my pregnancies, I have made a list early on of projects I want to accomplish before the baby is born. A lot of those things have been on the back burner for a long time, but having a deadline of a baby being born motivates me to finally get them done! I love feeling productive.
-Outpouring of Support--I have so appreciated baby girl gifts randomly dropped by or people checking in with me about my pregnancy.

Things I Will Miss About Renting
I've loved houses since I was a teenager--in fact, I would even walk through model homes just for fun when I was in high school! So never owning a home has been hard for me because there are so many projects in a house and in a yard that I have whirling around in my mind that I'd love to do. But renting definitely has its perks.
-Not Paying for Repairs--In the last little while, we've had a French drain installed in the backyard, the yard leveled and sod laid, a leaky toilet fixed, the kitchen faucet and bathroom shower faucet replaced, the water heater replaced, the rain gutters cleaned out, the house power washed, and the washer replaced. And we haven't had to pay a cent for any of that! I know it is going to be a rude awakening to have to pay for repairs (or even repair materials) when we own a house.
-Not Doing Yard Work--The yard work has been taken care of in most of our rentals, including this one. I actually usually see this as a drawback, because I LOVE doing yard work and, like I said, there is much I imagine in our future yard. But when life is crazy, it is also nice to know that we don't have any yard work on our to-do list.
-Job Flexibility--Sam's current position isn't permanent, so we know we'll be moving sometime in the next year or two. Having the flexibility to pick up and move at a moment's notice, without worrying about selling a house or whether we'll make money on the sale of a house, definitely makes things easier. We have needed that flexibility throughout Sam's career, so renting has been a blessing.
-Learning What We Really Want--We've rented for so long and in so many different homes that we now have a solid idea of what our actual priorities are when it comes to buying a house. Things that we wouldn't have thought would be a big deal we now have on our list of deal-breakers thanks to renting!

I am always looking toward the future and making long-term plans, which can be helpful, but I'm grateful this weird year has helped me see how important it is to enjoy the here and NOW.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Back to School: COVID Version

It was a real struggle for us to figure out whether to send the boys back to school this year.
Our options were
1) in-person learning with social distancing and extra cautionary measures in place
2) distance learning with lots of time in video conferencing
3) homeschooling.

Distance learning was going to be totally impractical and really not feasible with our family...trying to supervise three kids on Zoom for hours every day with the general chaos and noise that surrounds Benson and Maxwell? Have I mentioned how much I dislike video conferencing in general? We quickly ruled that out. 
We have done quite a bit of research about the effects of COVID-19 on children and newborns, and we had virtually no health concerns for our kids in sending them back to school. But I wasn't at all sure about putting them in an environment where they were wearing masks, staying away from their peers, and having to stay in the same desk for virtually the entire school day. It sounded more like prison than elementary school. 
I love so much about homeschooling and that was definitely my favorite option for the short-term. But Talmage was devastated about the prospect of missing his last year of elementary school, Wesley would miss out on testing for APEX and other activities, and I knew that if we took a year off it would be a struggle to get everything squared away when it was time to put them back in school. And we've already decided not to homeschool long-term, so being able to transition them back in when all this has blown over is pretty important to us.

After carefully reviewing the back-to-school plan the school sent out, e-mailing teachers about what things would look like in school, and a lot of thought and discussion, we made the decision to try sending them back and, if it was too cumbersome or difficult for the kids, we would pull them out and homeschool for the year.

So far the boys have loved school though, in spite of all the changes!
When we committed to in-person learning, the plan for the school was to only require masks at arrival and dismissal or in the hallways, but just before school started the governor encouraged all schools to require masks so they adjusted their plan to require masks more. I was really worried about how the boys would do with masks all day.
As it turns out, Lincoln only has to wear his at arrival and dismissal while Wesley and Talmage wear theirs all day with 5-minute breaks throughout the day and breaks at lunch, PE, and recess. Wesley and Talmage haven't minded wearing masks and quickly got used to wearing them all day.
Their desks are spread 6 feet apart in the classrooms and they stay in their desks for the majority of their learning time, with art, music, etc. teachers rotating between classrooms.
They eat lunch in the cafeteria once a week and eat at their desks the rest of the time.
The school has an iPad or laptop prepared for each child in case schools need to shut down, but with the vague information we've been given it seems that they won't shut down the school unless there start to be a lot of cases within the school.
It all sounds like a lot to manage to me but, like I said, the boys have seemed to love being back in school and we always have the option to pull them out and homeschool if it ends up not working out.

(Just look at that toothless grin!!!)

Their teachers have been amazing with everything they are dealing with.
Can you even imagine being a teacher right now?
A few things to consider:
-if there is a positive case in their household, they have to quarantine for a whopping 24 days. They are "generously" given 10 days of sick time related to COVID, and after that they have to take vacation time or unpaid leave.
-they now have to be the mask police and had to spend the first day of school going over health procedures and teaching kids the proper way to wash hands.
-they have to ensure their students maintain social distancing throughout the day.
-they have to manage kids who are going stir-crazy from sitting in the same desk all day long.
-they are given virtually no advance notice about what the school plans are--my next-door neighbor is a teacher and she said they find out just one day before parents!
-they have to plan the year without even knowing the school's plan for what threshold they will allow before shutting down...meaning they really don't know what to plan for, even with their in-person students.
-they have to have parent meetings on Zoom.
-they have to juggle in-person and distance learners.
-they have to worry about their own health concerns and the health and safety of those within their families while being surrounded by kids all day who pick their noses and don't cover their coughs and spread germs over every available surface.
-they have to creatively adapt to not having any shared equipment within a class.
-they no longer have periods when their classroom is empty due to a class being at art or music.
-they are dealing with lots of frustrated parents and lots of questions they have no answers to.
-and they can choose to accept everything or quit their job, but there is no long-term leave option or anything in-between.

I can't imagine how FRUSTRATING the school year must be for these teachers. And yet, at least in my kids' cases, they have responded to the challenges with positivity, enthusiasm, and creativity.
I haven't heard a single negative comment from any of my kids' teachers and I have been amazed by their creative responses to the restrictions in place.
For example, Lincoln's teacher helps wiggly 1st graders by having them switch between sitting in their chairs and sitting on their desks. Lincoln thinks it is SO cool that he gets to sit on his desk for learning!

Talmage's teacher from last year posted this on Facebook:
Unprecedented. New Normal. Impossible. Overwhelming. Unsafe. Socially Distant. Virtual. Confusing. Anxiety Inducing. Stressful. Scary.

These are all adjectives that I keep hearing, and have honestly used myself at times, when describing the upcoming school year. As can be expected, everyone has different views and opinions on how this should look. Different families have different needs. And that is okay! As a teacher, my mind is swimming with so many things. I think of a challenge this year may hold, and before I can even process a solution I think of another issue that I need to consider. But, as we are planning for this year and all of the unknowns, there is one thing I keep coming back passion behind why I am a teacher. You see, I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. It was the only thing I ever really considered. And when I've thought back on why, the answer is very clear! I wanted to be a teacher because when I was growing up, I had teachers who loved me well, invested in me, believed in me, made me feel special, and taught me way more about being a good person than they ever taught me about their respective subjects. And I always knew that doing the same thing for students some day - making them feel loved and influencing who they grow up to be - had to be one of the most rewarding things anyone could do.

So, as I have thought and thought about this year, one thing that I keep thinking is, "Oh man! This is the time for teachers to shine!" What a wonderful opportunity we have to provide some sort of consistency, love, patience, and encouragement during a time that is fraught with so many adjectives! We have the opportunity to create an environment that parents can trust if they have to/choose to have their children return in person. And we have the opportunity to help students feel loved and connected if they are learning from home.

Am I still anxious? Sure! I have my moments that I am beyond overwhelmed by all of it, but I am praying constantly that as we proceed through this year - either in person or virtually - us teachers can be used to help families remove at least a few of those adjectives during a difficult time.

That is the kind of response these teachers have given, and I have been almost moved to tears as I see all of the effort they are putting into making the school year happy and successful in spite of all the challenges.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Back to School Feast 2020

The Back to School Feast has become one of the most highly anticipated events for the boys.
I didn't do much to change things up this year from last year,
so we had a similar spread of lunchbox-style snacks, individual drinks, alphabet cookies spread around the table, and markers scattered around to draw on the brown paper that covered the table.
Drawing on the table started on a whim one year, but it is now one of their favorite things about the feast!
There are always some pretty humorous drawings and they are happy to sit at the table for a looong time, drawing and eating their favorite foods.

This year they chose:
Talmage-Wendy's Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers
Wesley-Cinnamon Rolls
Lincoln-Bunny Pasta
Benson-Dino Buddies
(I told you they have gone easy on me lately! Easiest feast ever!)

After everyone was stuffed, we sat down in the living room and opened their new books.
This year Talmage, Wesley, and Lincoln each received one book in the Mysteries of Cove trilogy (which they have absolutely loved!!).
Maxwell received Extra Yarn and Benson received After the Fall (one of my personal favorites!).

We then introduced the theme for the year.
We wanted to choose something that would give the boys strength in all the difficulties they would surely face--whether it be challenges within the school (like wearing masks) or in-person school getting cancelled partway through or having to quarantine or having favorite events cancelled.
Ultimately, we decided on a portion of Joshua 1:9:
"Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

I'll expound more on how their school is responding to COVID later,
but for now I'll just say that the boys have not been "dismayed" in the least in spite of the changes.
They have LOVED being back at school.
Well, I guess Lincoln has been a little disgruntled. Today he told me that first grade is boring because they are still doing Kindergarten work. The poor boy loves multiplication story problems and reading chapter books hundreds of pages long but has to sit through lessons on what "th" says.
Hopefully they continue to have a positive experience throughout the year,
but if not I hope they can draw strength from the family theme.

We topped off the evening with our traditional "smart cookies" (cookie/ice cream sandwiches--this year we did salted caramel truffle ice cream with snickerdoodles and they were DE-licious!).
Then we called it a night and we tucked all the boys into bed full of food and anticipation for the coming year.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Maxwell's 4th Birthday

Maxwell turned 4 on August 3!

Early in the day, Aunt Breanne took him to Frost Bake Shop to choose birthday cookies.
He was super analytical and serious about it and didn't say a word as they surveyed the display case and Breanne commented on a number of delicious looking cookies.
At last, he very decisively announced, "I want a corn cookie."
In the midst of all the amazing cookies, there were a few sugar cookies made to look like vegetables. Once his mind was made up, there was no swaying him otherwise. That whole process is so Maxwell.

He requested a panda bear cake.
It ended up being 2 layers of chocolate cake with a layer of Oreo ice cream fudge sandwiched in between, the ears and nose shaped out of brownies, all covered in cream cheese frosting with Oreo crumbs for facial features.
I am always too critical of my cakes and see lots of imperfections when I look at them.
I want them to taste good, so I sacrifice on the ease of materials to work with in favor of more delicious components and then assembly is often frustrating.
After every birthday, I feel very ready to retire the tradition of having a cake that looks like something and just serve a yummy cake that looks like...well, like cake!
But then, without fail, the boys get sooo enthusiastic and excited about the cakes that I just can't bring myself to call it quits.

Maxwell was clearly thrilled about his panda bear cake in spite of the melting frosting, lopsided smile, and messy Oreo crumbs.

For his birthday dinner, he requested Dino-Buddies, bunny pasta, and goldfish.
Thankfully the kids have gone really easy on me with their meal requests lately!

After dinner, he opened presents! His main gift from Sam and I was a tent. He was so excited about it!
He also received a play-dough road construction set (with a gravel machine that cuts the play-dough into gravel!), a 4-foot long dinosaur puzzle, number-bots (from Grandma Sue), Legos and dolphin water guns (from Aunt Amanda and family), and a toy camera that really works (from Grammy and Grandpa)!

But my heart just melted over Talmage's gift to him.
About a year and a half ago, Sam's sister Amanda and her family came to visit us.
We went to the zoo, where Amanda bought each of the kids something at the gift shop.
She bought Maxwell a stuffed tiger, which he named "Stripes" and immediately became attached to.
Somehow, at the end of last year, in the midst of all our Christmas festivities and our trip to Utah, Stripes got lost. I assumed he would turn up eventually, as lost toys often do, but there we were, many months later, and Stripes was still nowhere to be found.
Talmage decided to use his own money to buy Maxwell a new Stripes. He remembered the brand and Talmage and I then looked online until we found the exact one he had gotten from the gift shop, which we then ordered for Maxwell.
He was SO happy to have Stripes again!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Daily Fun with Aunt Breanne

Looking back at the recent blog posts I've done, it kind of looks like we were playing hard all Summer.
The truth is, I've been so weak, shaky, and breathless this Summer that I've spent a LOT of it resting.
One small outing would usually leave me winded and exhausted for the remainder of the day,
and a bigger activity would typically take an additional day to recover from.

So it was extra wonderful to have Breanne here for a good chunk of the Summer.
Not only did it provide me with motivation to do fun things with the kids in spite of my low energy level,
but she played with and entertained the kids to no end while we were at home which made things happier for them and made it possible for me to rest more.

Some snapshots of daily life with Aunt Breanne:

The boys loved playing some games with Breanne. And Benson was so proud of pattern he made with the Mancala rocks.

Breanne rigged up her hammock her first morning here to be a chair in the front yard. It didn't last long, but there was plenty of cuddle time in our hammock in the backyard!
(Side note: Yesterday Benson started running his fingers through the hammock strings saying, "Strum, strum, strum...I'm playing the guitar!" Pretty clever!)

The boys loved leaving "Ant Breane" mystery love notes on her bed.

Breanne joined us for at-home Church all month.
The last picture there is from when I was teaching a Primary lesson and I let each of the boys take a turn being the "leader" as an object lesson. When it was Benson's turn to lead (pictured), he started doing the goofiest poses that had us all in stitches!

We hit up Aldi, where Breanne felt like she had finally gone home. (You're missing out, Utah people!)

Lots of story time...

...and lots of yummy drinks and snacks she handed out!

She captured lots of day-to-day moments, like when Sam got the boys to kneel down and hold him up or when Benson fell asleep holding this flashlight he wouldn't surrender

Lots of bonding with Benson. He was pretty scared when she appeared in our house the first morning she was here (she had arrived late the night before, so it was strange to have someone unknown suddenly in the house!), but he very quickly warmed up and they became best buds. Now he keeps asking me to "say hi to Aunt Breanne" on the phone or asks if she is coming over. In that last picture, he put on the backpack one morning and told her he was "ready to go to school!!" So she took him out to her car and they pretended to go to school.

And here is a video that shows how adamant he was about seeing her, even after she had left our house. He was persistently banging on the guest room door and shouting to her, although it was empty... He wouldn't accept our explanations that she had left.
(Don't mind the pj shorts with the button-up shirt. Some days it just isn't worth the battle...)

Sunday evening snack times...she told us it was National Ice Cream Day, which motivated me to make chocolate brownie ice cream to enjoy one Sunday evening. Another Sunday evening she made angel food cake churro bites which the boys quickly devoured!

She took the boys on walks...

...and appreciated nature's beauties with them.

She kept them all entertained and happy while Sam and I were on our overnighter (here Maxwell is showing the sandwich that Talmage cut into a fun shape for him for lunch while we were gone).

She even took each of the 4 oldest boys on one-on-one outings to do something fun with her!

Yes, there's no doubt about it, having Breanne here made Summer much more exciting.
I hope she's enjoying her new adventure in a new city (at the very least it's a quieter adventure than she had with us!), but she is definitely missed at this house.
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