Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wesley's Birthday

Wesley's birthday was on October 22.
Elsie was just 6 days old, and I'm afraid that in my newborn haze I failed on the pictures--sorry, Wes!
He requested a vanilla cake with ombre nutella and vanilla frosting, decorated with dragons and a knight.
He wanted chicken alfredo spaghetti, apples, and Italian bread for dinner.
He finished off the day with some gifts--a camera, the game Forbidden Island, and a drawing book from us, along with books, Legos, and an awesome chemistry magic set from grandparents and Aunt Amanda!

Wesley is so easy to please.
It was difficult for me to figure out what to give him for his birthday, because he has so few requests and is pretty content. He is grateful and responsible and proactive, and I am so proud of him and the boy he is growing to be.

Monday, November 23, 2020


November 2019

In a family this size and at this stage of life, it feels like there is a constant argument or squabble to resolve. But then moments crop up from time to time that show how deeply loyal these boys are to one another. Witnessing that is one of my favorite parts of motherhood.

Like years ago, when Talmage was 5 or 6, he and Wesley were playing outside. Wesley accidentally dropped a toy down inside the window well and was evidently quite upset. Talmage came running inside and told us what had happened. "But I mourned with those that mourn and dropped mine in, too!" he exclaimed.

Or the other day, when I was making a smoothie.
Lincoln was holding Elsie at the time. He hates the loud noise the blender makes, but when I turned on the blender, instead of covering his own ears, he put his hands over Elsie's ears so she wouldn't be bothered by the noise! 

Or most recently, on Friday, some neighbors came over and were playing basketball outside on our driveway with Talmage, Wesley, and Maxwell.
There had been an issue with one of the neighbor boys trying to "attack Maxwell," as the boys told me, to take a ball away from him, so I had gone outside to talk to him and explain that, at our house, we need to use words to solve problems. I pumped up another basketball for him and went inside, thinking all was well.
But it wasn't much longer before the boys came back into the house with quite the tale to tell.

Apparently the boy had continued to try to take the ball away from Maxwell after I went inside. Talmage and Wesley had stood up for Maxwell, so the boy went back to his house and came back holding Sprite, ready to throw it at them.
Talmage stood his ground as the boy approached him and calmly told him that even if he dunked him in Sprite, he would not get angry.
The boy shouted, "YES YOU WILL!" and then threw Sprite all over Talmage. 

When Talmage didn't retaliate, he told them he was going to kill them.
He went home and came back wearing a mask and holding a metal baseball bat.
He started swinging the bat wildly at them. Talmage, Wesley, and the boy's older brother stood in front of Maxwell to protect him while dodging the bat themselves.

At that point they came inside to tell me what had been happening.
Talmage was covered in sticky Sprite and had to take a shower.
I was horrified to hear the story. These boys play together often and I had not seen this super aggressive side come out before. The mama bear inside me was admittedly quite riled as I thought of him swinging a metal bat at them. Someone could have easily been badly hurt!
But my heart was simultaneously warmed to hear how Talmage and Wesley defended Maxwell and how they physically stood between him and the other boy, protecting him with their own bodies.

I'm so grateful for the bond these sweet children of mine share with each other
and hope it lasts throughout their lives.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Little Things to Remember

Part of the reason I try to blog consistently is so that I will have a record of the inconsequential things that happen on a day-to-day basis, that I may not otherwise think to record but that I want to be able to look back on and remember.
Here are a few more of those little moments we've had lately:

-Benson continues to amuse us to no end with his antics. The other day I lay Elsie down on our giant LoveSac in the playroom and stepped out for a moment. She was sleeping and Maxwell and Benson were playing on the floor. Suddenly I heard her start crying. Suspecting that Benson had been messing with her and woken her up, I went running into the playroom. Benson was rolling around on the floor, dramatically gasping, "She pushed me ober! She pushed me ober!" Yesterday I served him chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup for lunch and he looked suspiciously at the sticky, sugary food on his plate and said (totally deadpan), "Does this taste like carrots?" Also, the way he pronounces "flamingo" cracks me up..."fickamango."

-Maxwell continues to absolutely adore Elsie. But he has some rather...choice...words he uses to describe her cuteness. For some reason, he thinks the word "dumpy" means "extremely cute." It is so funny to have him walk into a room and take a look at Elsie and squeal with delight, "She's soooo DUMPY!" And this morning as I was getting her dressed he was fawning over her and then said, "She's so saggy baggy! Just like the saggy baggy elephant! It's soooo cute!"

-I heard on the news yesterday that Amazon has rolled out a new program called "Amazon Pharmacy" that is selling prescription drugs. I am definitely guilty of defaulting to Amazon for just about everything outside of groceries (it's just so convenient!!) but lately I've started to feel uneasy about the massive monopoly it is it time to wean myself off of it, at least in part?

-On voting day, I drove past the church where we were assigned to vote on my way home from school pick-up. I wanted to see how late they were open to ensure I could go after Sam finished work, when I wouldn't have to have the kids with me. I didn't see any hours posted, but there was a man outside the church holding a political sign. I drove up next to him and asked if he knew how late they were open. "I'm not sure, but this is quick," he replied. "It'll only take you like 3 minutes." I thanked him and said that I would come back later, since I had all my kids with me. "You can park your van right here next to me and I'll watch them while you go in and vote!" he offered. I politely declined and again said that I would come back later, but I had to smile at the feeling of friendliness and trust that exists in our little town. When I returned that evening to vote, the woman leaving the building in front of me was clearly an immigrant. Someone asked her if it was her first time voting and, when she replied in the affirmative, all the volunteers started clapping for her! I love living in this kind, welcoming community.

-Also, I was totally surprised by how into the voting process and results Talmage, Wesley, and Lincoln were. They were glued to the computer screen, continually hitting refresh to view updated results as they rolled in that evening. Talmage was spouting off facts left and right to the others about which way various states tend to go politically, how the electoral college works, candidates' differing views, and numerous other things while Wesley and Lincoln listened with fascinated interest. I have no idea where he learned so much about it all, and I was really surprised by their enthusiasm, considering I had almost no interest in politics until I was about 25! They burst through the door the next day after school and immediately asked to pull up election results so they could see the update. Lincoln sadly lamented that he wished Sam could be the president because he thought he would be a better option than either candidate. I can't say I disagree with him! ;)

-A couple of weeks after Elsie was born, my sweet friend Sheri arrived at my house with about $70 worth of Costco dinners for us...salad, a pan of macaroni and cheese, two large platters of street tacos, a box of frozen pizzas, a large container of cookies...I was totally overwhelmed by her kindness, but she was apologetic that it wasn't homemade and that she hadn't lined up more people to bring dinners. I tried to express how grateful I was and exclaimed that no apology was necessary! Further probing revealed that she'd been dealing with MAJOR house problems in three different ways over the past few days, including having no heat (the weather had gotten quite chilly at that point), and a sewage pipe getting blocked by the neighbor's tree roots and overflowing through the tub and toilet, flooding her house with nasty, brown water and destroying her floors! Needless to say, I felt very sheepish accepting all the dinners she was giving us when clearly she needed them more than I. That is the kind of selfless, loving person she is. Another of my friends wrote about her,
"She's the friend version of a first responder. You know, the person who shows up on someone's door step while others are still in the 'I should...' phase. I think service is seriously in her DNA because you will always, I mean ALWAYS, find her quietly serving. She's searching out someone to chat with who looks lonely, she's volunteering (or being volunteered) to make something beautiful for an event, she's listening and nodding while you tell her everything's fine and you don't need anything and then somehow finding the thing you really need and doing it. She is the kind of friend you don't really deserve but are desperately grateful for."
 I aspire to be more like her.

-Talmage won his class spelling bee, so he will be competing in the school spelling bee soon and he is SO excited about it. The excitement about spelling in general has been high in our home as a result, so the boys have been asking us to give them difficult words to spell at dinner. We would give them random words to spell as we drove around during our trip to Utah last year and oddly all three older boys were super entertained by it. They just love spelling.

-We really haven't been hit hard at all by the pandemic, so I know I have little to complain about. In many ways, the changes in the world have actually worked to our advantage and my heart aches for the countless people who have been so profoundly affected on so many levels. In spite of realizing that, sometimes the world feels very heavy and overwhelming to me, and I just desperately want everything to go back to normal. I was feeling that very much the other day and Maxwell prayed, "Thank Thee that everything is open church, and the library, and even school," and I had to smile at his simple, optimistic gratitude. I might feel grumpy about masks, no singing, and staying 6 feet away from people at church, but he is just grateful it's open again.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Reality Check

"Look, Mommy! We're warthogs!"

 I know I tend to put a positive spin on most aspects of life,
and as I look back on what I've shared since Elsie's birth (she's 1 month old today!),
I recognize that I've made it sound as if things have been "practically perfect in every way" since her arrival.
While the transition has been easier than some, and the events surrounding her birth have been particularly nice this time around, the fact remains that having 6 kids gets downright insane at times.

Today after school...
-I stopped to pick up an online grocery order, but they were behind and my order wasn't ready so I was told to come back in 30 minutes. 45 minutes later I returned to the store and it still wasn't ready, so I came home with all 6 kids empty-handed.
-Talmage had a batman mask that Maxwell wanted and Maxwell started chasing him, which caused Talmage to slip in his sock-clad feet and smack his forehead HARD on the corner of the table in the living room. It was a terrible irony that the plastic mask which had caused the issue in the first place was also what saved him from having some likely stitches along his forehead! But he was in a lot of pain for some time.
-Maxwell was sobbing for upwards of half an hour because his favorite shirt has gotten too small and has been handed down to Benson.
-Benson dumped water all over the carpet.
-Elsie woke up and became very fussy and agitated and would only be calm if I played white noise loudly, swaddled her tightly, and held her while jiggling and patting her.
-Wesley was trying to go through a book order with me and we were trying to decide on a book online.
-Lincoln's backpack had ripped at school and we needed to find a suitable one to order and he also wanted to work on his essay about pandas.

Everything seemed to stack up simultaneously and Sam came out of the bedroom after ending his work day to a rather chaotic group. I had to laugh as I explained one issue after another. He had a good dinnertime appetizer of a small scoop of ice cream for each kid. I know eating desserts as a coping mechanism gets a bad rap, but sometimes I think it is one of the best solutions!

Thankfully, the evening ended well.
After dinner the grocery order was finally ready to pick up
and for our Family Home Evening activity I introduced the boys to a game I played almost every day with my best friend in 8th grade American History (sorry, Mr. Kirby!). Person A draws dots randomly, Person B connects them into an enclosed shape, and Person C (or Person A again) turns the shape into a picture.
It was a riot to see what everyone came up with and the boys LOVED it.
Talmage was a bit appalled that I actually sat in the back of the class passing papers back and forth to my friend as we entertained ourselves through the history lectures. "You seriously did that??"

Life is definitely busy,
and loud,
and messy,
and chaotic,
but each day we are learning and growing and little by little creating something beautiful out of the mess.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Paternity Leave

Sam has always taken a week or so off of work at the birth of a new baby,
but St. Jude generously offers 6 weeks of paid paternity leave when a baby is born!
Unfortunately we didn't get to take advantage of that perk when Benson was born, because you had to have been employed for at least 6 months and Sam had only been employed for 5 months (boo!), but we scored with Elsie!
We decided that 2 weeks would be ample time for us to adjust and that the full 6 weeks would be a bit much for Sam to take off work, so we enjoyed a golden 2 weeks of paternity leave and it was glorious!

My mom was here for the first 2 days of the first week,
and I felt so grateful. She did what she always does and entertained the kids, cleaned the house, did my laundry, stocked our fridge and pantry with delicious, novel food, made dinners, and showered us all with love.
We were sad to see her go and so thankful she was willing to make the sacrifice to come be with us.

And my sister, Breanne, was here for the remainder of that week! The boys LOVED the extra attention from her and it was so nice to have an extra set of hands to take kids on walks or throw them into the pouf or hold Elsie.
Just look at all those happy faces!

For the second week, Sam took the kids to school and picked them up every day and entertained Maxwell and Benson during the day...doing countless puzzles, going on a daily walk or bike ride to playgrounds, playing lots of rounds of alphabet Go Fish, and reading stories on a constant repeat. He made lunches and helped with homework and managed the morning rush and put kids down for naps. And we had SO much fun just staring at our new little Elsie Girl and enjoying her together. During the day we all took turns holding her and at night Sam and I stayed up late watching her, commenting on her piercing stare, comparing her features to our other kids', bathing her, and cuddling her and it was pretty much bliss.
We found ourselves feeling an increase in love for ALL our kids during this sweet period.

And watching Sam with a daughter has been the sweetest thing.
He loves his baby girl!

After two weeks we settled back into the swing of things, but it has still been very calm and peaceful.
Pregnancy during COVID restrictions wasn't my favorite, but postpartum during COVID restrictions has been amazing! There are almost no extra demands on our time, outside of school, work, and church, and we have been able to fully soak in this newborn phase.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Luckiest Girls

The boys were SO ecstatic to welcome Elsie into our family.
They are constantly melting my heart with the things they do and say to her.

-Maxwell pausing to shower her with kisses just about every time he passes by and crying because he never wants her to grow up at all.

-Wesley greeting her with "How's my cute girl?" or "Are you my girl?" (I seriously can't get over this one...gets me every time!)

-Lincoln continually stating that she's the cutest baby in the world. That tenderhearted boy has also teared up on two different occasions while holding her because he just thinks she is so adorable and he loves her so much!

-Talmage begging me to e-mail pictures to teachers at school and then, after I sent pictures with him in his backpack to show, bringing home almost daily reports of comments different teachers have made. He is so proud of her.

-Benson spontaneously singing "You are my Sunshine" to her. Normally he mixes up the words on purpose to be silly, but he actually sang it the right way just for her!

-When we opened the door after arriving home from the hospital and Maxwell greeted Elsie with a big, "Elsie Junior!" He got mixed up with her middle name (June), but the nickname "Junior" stuck quickly. For the first couple of weeks Benson would forget her name and call her "Baby Junior." Sam still tacks "Junior" onto her name, and it very well may be a nickname for life.

-The way Wesley grabbed his camera and started snapping pictures of Elsie alongside me when I was working on her newborn pictures. He LOVED those pictures he took. A few days later, someone mistakenly deleted all the pictures on his camera. He was so devastated to lose his pictures of Elsie that it just broke my heart! I told him we would set up newborn pictures again and let him do another photo shoot.

-The way Maxwell gets so into her clothes and bows. A few days after she was born, he peeked into her cradle and saw her swaddled with just a small piece of her shirt poking out. He looked up at me and said soberly, "I can see she has on a beautiful shirt."

-Talmage and Wesley joyfully cradling her at Church.

-Benson holding her and then rubbing his nose against her head while softly saying, "I lub you so bery much!"

-Finding a picture shoved under my bedroom door in the morning that Lincoln drew, complete with "I love you Elsie" written across the top.

-Maxwell praying and saying, "Thank thee that the new baby came, and that she's the cutest one in our family, and that all her noises are so cute," (while meanwhile she was screaming in the other room).

Seriously, if they keep all this up as she grows she is going to be the most spoiled, doted on little princess there ever was.
Between these sweet boys and their incredible daddy, I think she and I are the luckiest girls.
I begged a photo shoot out of them all, and I just can't get enough of these pictures.

Monday, November 9, 2020

First Bath

 Elsie's cord fell off when she was just 1 week old, so she earned her first real bubble bath!
Little Miss Long Girl barely fit in the sink, but we made it work.
She cried for just a second at first and then instantly got super relaxed. She is a big fan of baths.
She especially seemed to love it when we were scrubbing her hair with her little brush.

And for comparison's sake, here are all the boys in their first baths:



Oh, how seeing all those newborn baby faces pulls at my heartstrings!
In general, we think she looks the most like Lincoln but she definitely has her own look to her as well.
Hooray for milestones!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

I Love Our School

The other day, Lincoln came home with an assignment from school. On the back, he had randomly written this note to his teacher (name removed for privacy). His enthusiastic message made me smile so, so much. His adoration is well-earned, though--the boys truly do go to a school with such amazing teachers! A few examples, in addition to ones I have already shared on this blog:

Exhibit A: The Monday morning after Elsie was born, I received an e-mail from Lincoln's teacher to congratulate us. She then asked me if we could use dinner and said she would love to send dinner home from school with Lincoln one day. I was totally blown away--his school teacher was offering to prepare dinner for us?!? She is so amazingly kind and thoughtful and Lincoln loves her.

Exhibit B: I told Sam I kind of feel like I'm famous when I go to the kids' school. So many teachers seem to have a general feel for our family and what is going on. When we went to back-to-school day before school started, for example, Talmage's teacher from 2 years ago gushed over how excited she was about our baby and how she had heard it was a girl (from who? my kids hadn't even been back at school yet!). She also exclaimed over the fact that she was SO disappointed that Wesley wasn't in her class and said that he had initially been put in her class but then some changes had been made so he was shifted. Another teacher came running up to my window in the car pick-up line the day before Elsie's due date to tell me that she would be praying for us. When Sam was managing school drop-off and pick-up during his paternity leave, the school secretary asked him in the car line if everything was okay with me and the baby because she had noticed the change in the pick-up routine. At the end of the school year, the kids' teachers have requested to be my friend on Facebook and then comment so kindly on what I share on Facebook. My kids come home with tales of teachers calling out to them individually in the hallways or in other circumstances--some of whom have never even taught any of my kids. I'm sure the teachers give this kind of individualized attention to all of their students, and it definitely makes us feel loved.

Exhibit C: Although he's still in elementary school, Talmage has several different teachers for his various school subjects. He had to stay home sick for a few days back at the beginning of the year, and I received a phone call from his math teacher. I had e-mailed his homeroom teacher to explain that he was sick, but evidently that information had not been passed along to all of his teachers, so his math teacher was just taking the time to call and make sure he was okay since she hadn't seen him in class!

Exhibit D: A few days ago I received a phone call from the school. I answered and was startled to hear the principal introducing herself on the other end! She said, "Is this Wesley and Lincoln's mom?" A huge pit formed in my stomach instantly as I waited to hear what was wrong...was someone hurt? Had they done something bad? But no. She told me that they were doing something new called a "student shout-out," and Wesley and Lincoln had been chosen for it on the same day, as brothers. She shared with me that Wesley had been asked once to help a younger student navigate the car pick-up line but that he had continued to check in with the student throughout the year and make sure he was okay and knew where he needed to go. She also shared that Lincoln is always positive, enthusiastic, and happy about what he is asked to do and that "he is a blessing to be around." She asked for my permission to post a photo of the two of them on Twitter and then hung up. It took a good 15 minutes for my heart to stop pounding for the scare she gave me by calling (I'd never spoken to the principal before), but I was so thankful she had taken the time to share that with me!

Exhibit E: Lincoln's teacher sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago, explaining that she knew the assigned homework was not providing him with a challenge. She had thought up a new system of homework for him specifically, that would involve him choosing a topic every two weeks to research and then write a short essay on. After he chooses his topic, she even goes to the effort to check out books from the school library for him to bring home to use in his research!

Exhibit F: Both Wesley and Lincoln's Kindergarten teachers made large, personalized scrapbooks for every student in their classes. They saved some of their work from the year to include and they took pictures of each student on special dress-up days or during other celebrations throughout the year and then collected them all into beautiful memory books for the parents! As I flipped through Wesley's book when he received it, I was overwhelmed when I thought about all the time and effort that had gone into it.

The teachers at the boys' school have given such personalized care and teaching. I have been so, so grateful for the school experiences we have had here!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Talmage's Birthday

 Talmage's 11th birthday was the day after Elsie's due date.
He was really hoping she would be born on his birthday, but it was just not to be.
He did, however, get a birthday present he was very thrilled about...our ward started meeting again in person every week for Church! Our first day back was on his birthday!

He wanted a peanut butter Oreo ice cream pie for his birthday cake--a very convenient choice for me since I could make it in advance in case the baby arrived in the midst of our celebrations.

His actual presents were also exciting--a ukulele with a book of Primary songs to learn with it, Sushi Go Party!, Legos, a hover soccer ball, some books, and such.
He requested cheese tortellini, twice baked potatoes, and chocolate bran muffins for his birthday dinner.
We had a very low-key day with my frustrating, inconsistent contractions and low energy level, but he was happy and enjoyed his celebration!
We're so grateful this boy joined our family 11 years ago. He didn't really even cry at birth and just immediately pried his eyes open against the bright light and started darting them around, taking in his surroundings. He hasn't stopped observing and soaking in knowledge since that moment and we are so excited to see what great things he chooses to do with his life!

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