Thursday, July 2, 2020

Random Smiles

-Last week we were on the freeway, driving home from swimming lessons, when a car passed by us with a man sitting on top of the car. On the freeway! He was waving his arms around and then he took his shirt off and threw it. I decided to report it, and after my phone call the boys were very concerned and we started talking about why that was a bad idea. I reminded them of Newton's law about how an object in motion likes to stay in motion and asked what would happen if the driver suddenly slammed on his brakes. When we got home, they burst into the house to tell Sam what we had seen and Lincoln exclaimed, "That's REALLY bad, because of Newton's law of motion!"

-The next day, we were on a family bike ride. We reached a crosswalk of a somewhat busy street. Normally in this area, drivers disregard the flashing lights on a crosswalk and we have to wait until a decent-sized gap in traffic comes before we can cross. But on this day, a friendly policeman pulled up as we approached the crosswalk, and he turned on his lights to stop traffic for us! I told the boys to wave as we crossed, meaning a brief wave to thank the policeman, but instead they enthusiastically waved at him the entire way across the street! Their exuberant 10 seconds or so of waving made them ride slower and more erratically as we crossed, and I was desperately calling to them to try to get them to stop waving and focus on where they were going. But as we passed the police car, Lincoln yelled out, "Did you get the guy who was riding on top of the car???" Wrong police department, bud! Needless to say, I felt like quite the spectacle.

-Speaking of being a spectacle, today I took the kids to the library, and as I was unloading things from the car a woman parked one spot away from me asked if I knew of a local tow truck company. I told her the name of one owned by someone in my ward, but then asked if her car wouldn't start and whether she needed a jump. She told me it wouldn't start but seemed to have no idea whether or not a jump would help. I am embarrassingly deficient in my car knowledge, but I do know how to give a jump--at least in theory. I know the basic steps and what to do, but doing them with confidence is another story entirely. I've seen people do it wrong before and there have been major sparks flying! I know there's an order to unclamping the jumper cables afterward and I'm slightly unsure about whether I have the black clamp hooked onto something that is truly grounded. I consulted the owner's manual of our car before I began, and my confidence wasn't helped any by the warning in the manual that, if done incorrectly, the battery may explode. Sam has given jumps so many times and I always blissfully just sit in the car! I was regretting my ignorance when I saw a man get into a public works truck across the parking lot. I totally waved him down and asked if he knew how to give a jump and he saved the day and did it for me. I was pretty embarrassed at my incompetence. Time for me to practice actually jump starting a car a few times with Sam coaching me... I'm so glad that man saved the day for me and got her car started, though!

-I've been potty training Benson this week. It's gone pretty smoothly so far! He's been going potty on the toilet off and on for months now, so the job was already half done. He's still in a diaper when he sleeps, though, and today he made a messy diaper during his nap. As I was changing him afterward, Maxwell came into the room. Benson immediately said, "Hi, Maxwell! Wook...bowel movement." (Somehow "bowel movement" has become a noun at our house rather than just a verb.) And then, in the sweetest, most adorable tone laced with genuine surprise, he said, "It's not a cookie! It's not!"

-Maxwell is incredibly observant. If we need help finding something, Maxwell is a good one to ask. Tonight Sam was playing outside with all the boys and I was in the bedroom taking care of some things. Unbeknownst to either of us, one of the boys plugged the bathroom sink and left the water running. This could have been a truly disastrous situation, but amazingly Maxwell came inside for some reason and took note of the overflowing sink and then went running outside to tell Sam. By the time Sam got to it, the bathroom floor was covered in water but it hadn't reached the carpet outside the door yet! All it took was a couple of towels to clean it up and as a bonus, the bathroom floor got scrubbed. As Sam was telling me what happened and I was thanking Maxwell he said, "Yeah, because it was going to make a puddle!" Ha. Yes, that would definitely be a puddle.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Harry Potter Feast

Sam has been reading the Harry Potter series for the first time this year.
He is currently reading the 7th book and has loved them!
It has been SO much fun to discuss them with him. It's almost been like I've been reading them for the first time all over again as he expresses his thought process with the different twists and turns in the books.
In light of that, I thought it would be fun to have a Harry Potter feast for his birthday!

In preparation, I read aloud the first Harry Potter book to the kids so they would all have a working knowledge of the different elements we would use. (Talmage has read them but because of the social dynamic and some of the things that happen in the later books, I make my kids wait until they're 10 to read them all.)
Initially, I planned on playing a modified version of Quidditch, playing "Beanboozled," making wands, and more in addition to the feast. But it ended up that his birthday fell right before his huge grant deadline and it just wasn't going to work to take a full afternoon to celebrate with him.
So we did a smaller birthday celebration and postponed the Harry Potter party until the Saturday before Father's Day, and then we ended up doing just the feast+some themed presents, but it was a lot of fun regardless!

I took foods that were specifically mentioned in Harry Potter (especially the big back to school feast).
On the menu:
-rotisserie chicken
-roasted potatoes
-savory pumpkin pasties (recipe here)
-french bread (not actually mentioned in the books, but a good addition to the feast)
-golden snitches (the boys made wings and glued them to Ferrero Rocher balls-an idea I saw online)
-chocolate frogs (mold here)
-cauldron cakes (recipe here)
-butter beer (recipe here)
-pumpkin juice (recipe here)

I bought some cheap pairs of Harry Potter glasses for each of us, and I got the fun goblets at the dollar store--they are surprisingly really heavy-duty!
When we got everything set up, it made for quite a fun spread.

The plate of desserts was a hit with the kids.
Talmage made chocolate frog cards for different witches and wizards that were placed under the dessert plates.

Talmage cleverly made an owl delivering a Happy Father's Day note to Sam and put it by his plate.

Talmage, Wesley, and Lincoln all worked on decorations that they hung around the dining room.
(A flag representing the four Hogwarts houses)

(A dementor)

The Mirror of Erised--Talmage drew our entire family being together in it, including the new baby, because that is what makes him happiest. Heart eyes!

And there were some illustrations of different spells as well.

Benson sat down and dove into his chocolate frog before we even said the prayer.

These boys had SO much fun helping me get everything ready and enjoying the feast!
I think the butter beer was the crowd favorite.

After the feast, we gave Sam some Father's Day presents--two Harry Potter games (Hogwarts Battle and Beanboozled). We tried out Hogwarts Battle for our date the following Friday, and it was a lot of fun! Talmage and Wesley loved playing it with Sam later on, too. Poor Lincoln couldn't handle the suspense again, just like with Pandemic.
This was such a fun celebration!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Birthday Fun

Lucky for me, my birthday fell on a Saturday this year, which meant we got to spend the entire day with Sam! His big work project ended just in time to give him a totally free Saturday.
We toyed with exploring another bike trail, but ultimately we decided on one of my favorite activities: picking berries at Cedar Hill Farm.
After sleeping in and then waking up to yummy chocolate chip pancakes made by Sam, we got ready and headed out.
I always know at the outset that the boys won't last more than about 10 minutes picking berries, especially in the hot sun, but thankfully there is a super fun pirate ship adjacent to the berry patch and Sam kindly took all the boys over to play while I finished up.

The real highlight of Cedar Hill is the amazing playground. Whether we are sitting in the shade observing, pushing kids on the tire swing, or watching the fun on the zipline, it is so enjoyable for the entire family.

The three oldest had SO much fun playing on this tire swing this year (sadly, the giant tractor tire swing was out of commission). In the middle of their playing, they came over to me and informed me that since it was my birthday, they were going to give me a birthday swing and then all three of them pushed me around and around while I sat awkwardly in the tire.

After the farm, we stopped at The Dip, which is a fun old-fashioned ice cream stand and burger grill with delicious, unique flavors of ice cream. We got the "mini" size, but we definitely need to remember to get the "baby" size, because it was sooo much ice cream. I thoroughly enjoyed my monkey bread ice cream (with chunks of real monkey bread in it)!

We were pretty hot and exhausted when we got home, but Sam headed out to the grocery store while I took a nap and then lay in the hammock reading while the boys played with water. Sam came home and slaved away in the kitchen making my favorite dinner--cilantro lime quesadillas!
Just take a look at this many amazing flavors packed into every bite.

He picked up a Baskin Robbins ice cream brownie pizza and it was delicious! I opened a couple of small gifts and later on used birthday money from Sam's and my parents to pitch in with Sam's bigger gift to me...a Vitamix blender! I guess I'm a real adult since I was so excited about a high-powered blender, but it has been so fun. I have made a number of fun things in it already, including:
-homemade peanut butter (plus we added a little chocolate to it)
-whole wheat pancakes (It ground up the wheat kernels like a dream, and so quickly! My ordinary blender could never handle hard wheat.)
-a snowcone
-chocolate sorbet

Our smoothies have been totally smooth and velvety, even when using almost all frozen fruit, and it has been fun to test its capabilities in some of the other things. The chocolate sorbet was incredible!
Since we make so many smoothies, the blender will be well used for many years to come.
All in all, it was a great birthday!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Swimming and Fear

This week and last, the boys have been taking swimming lessons (hooray for the fact that we found someone teaching!).
This is Maxwell's first round of lessons ever, and he really hasn't been in the water too much in years past.
Add to that his introverted nature and his caution about trying new experiences,
and I wasn't at all sure how lessons would go.
I was surprised when he was a perfect angel for his first lesson and did everything the teacher asked without the slightest protest. He was laser-focused and kept practicing everything she showed him while he sat on the steps as she worked with his classmates.
So I was totally surprised when, the next day, he threw a huge fit and was completely terrified to get back in the water for his lesson. It was a miserable hour and he spent much of it sobbing.
The next day I came more prepared...I wore my swimsuit and got into the water with him when it was time for his lesson. I worked on skills with him as his teacher showed me what to do, but it was still a pretty rough 45 minutes.

So it was on to the next strategy to help him overcome his fear.
The next day I took him to Dollar Tree and we picked out a bunch of prizes to put in a gift bag he chose.
Each day he completes his swimming lesson without protest and does the things the teacher asks (with me by his side in the water), he gets to choose a prize out of the bag to keep.
I've been so proud of him as he has learned the skills and made so much progress over the last couple of lessons! Today he was putting his face in the water and swimming with little assistance like a champ at the end of his lesson!
He went down the slide about 15 times in a row with me at the bottom and didn't even protest if I let his face go under when I caught him.

Somehow, it is SO satisfying to me to see my kids overcome a fear.
I am constantly telling them that I never want them to not do something because of fear--if they choose not to do something, it should be out of wisdom. It's not being brave to do something foolish or really dangerous, but choosing not to do something relatively safe because of fear is something I never want them to do.
I want them to know they are in control of their fears and they shouldn't let fear control them.
And every time I see them succeed at something they were previously afraid of,
my heart absolutely sings.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Library Days

Weekly library days with all the boys are one of the greatest joys of Summer for me.
We caravan into the library and drop off our enormous mountain of books to return,
and then the boys head back to the children's section where they are instantly absorbed, the musty, comforting smell of old and new paper surrounding us on every side.
I push Benson in the stroller through the aisles, picking out challenging books to assign the three oldest boys to read and scanning through picture books for winners to read to the little ones.
Checking out is always a bit of a process, but the librarians are patient with our dozens of books and multiple library cards.
Sometimes we walk up onto the bridge by the parking lot to look for turtles in the stream below--and there are usually quite a few!

Upon our return, the boys instantly spread out through the house to read and piles of library books appear everywhere. We have kids on the couches, on the floor, in the hammock, and propped in crazy positions while I head into the kitchen.
In place of lunch, I prepare a spread of snacks that the boys can munch on all afternoon as they read.
(Today's variety included fluffernutter sandwich triangles, popcorn, grapes, strawberries, dried mangoes, quesadillas, and chocolate spinach protein smoothies.)
The afternoon is typically as quiet as it gets at our house as the boys are absorbed in their books, working their way through their piles.

I am so incredibly grateful the library closures didn't last too long.
When so many of our favorite summer haunts are closed or have significant restrictions upon them,
the library has saved the day for our family.

Monday, June 22, 2020

24 Weeks

Picture from about a week ago, at 23 weeks

24 weeks along and doing pretty well!
I realize I have it pretty easy when it comes to pregnancy...I know plenty who are throwing up constantly, who are put on bedrest, who have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, who are at risk for a very premature delivery, or even who have almost died bringing another life to the Earth.
So I recognize that I have little room to whine, and then I feel like a wimp because I find it so difficult to just keep my head up, to care for my family's many needs, and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It just feels like my body is working so hard just to stay alive while growing a baby and the smallest things, like walking up the stairs, leave me feeling completely winded and gasping for air. There are many days when I feel like I'm struggling for air all day, as if I've just been sprinting, but it lasts all day. I'm not sure why that is--maybe a result of my low iron levels?
My heart rhythm has normalized for the most part and I only occasionally have arrhythmia, which my doctor isn't worried about at all.
Circulation issues and resulting constant leg pain is just starting, but as long as I'm not on my feet all day it hasn't gotten too bad yet.
I'm still craving constant fruit smoothies and lots of ice.
Insomnia is still a pretty frequent companion, but there has been some improvement.
We are making progress on settling on a name...after looking through 1,000+ names we have come up with about 4 we would both consider.
I'm about to transition Benson out of his crib so I can start getting the nursery ready and add some GIRLY touches!

Maxwell is the only one of the boys who has felt the baby move so far, and he was absolutely squealing with delight. He is so intrigued and the best appreciator of all the baby clothes I bring home. "Oh, she will love this one, because it has hearts on it!" He is convinced we should name the baby "Cutie."
Benson still seems pretty clueless, but I think he will start to understand as my tummy is getting bigger.
Overall, this pregnancy has been much better than the last so far.

A month or so ago, Lincoln walked into the kitchen, where I was working, and sighed dramatically.
"I wish I was a mom," he said.
"...Why?" I asked as my mountain of responsibilities came to my mind.
"You get to have lemonade, you get a blanket, and you get to have a baby!" he said with plenty of annoyance.
(Drinking water was making me pretty nauseated at that point so I would sometimes dump a flavor packet into my water to make it easier on my stomach, and I had just gotten a new super-soft blanket for Mother's Day.)
Amused, I tried to explain to Lincoln that being a mom required a ton of work and that having a baby wasn't exactly fun...that it meant that I was sick and exhausted and in near-constant pain. But as he walked away, still annoyed that I had a special drink, I realized that, given the choice to hand off childbearing to someone else (say, husbands for example...) I wouldn't do it.
It isn't easy, but at the same time it feels like a precious gift and an unbelievable privilege to have this role in bringing forth new life.
I already feel such a deep bond and connection with this baby within me and I am incredibly grateful.

Monday, June 15, 2020


Just a few snapshots of my favorite picture Lincoln has drawn lately: Enos, praying in the woods.

I can't get over his adorable details! Like in this picture, notice the apple core discarded on the ground.

And here, the animals he was hunting and the variety of weapons he brought.

And here, the adorable birds landing in their nest.
And the sky is covered with stars to show that Enos prayed all day long and into the night.

Every day I clean up SO many drawings from the boys. It is hard to pick and choose which ones to save. Sadly, someone threw this one of Lincoln's in the trash shortly after I saw it, and I had to dig it out to take some pictures of it so we could at least have some record of it! (Thus the ripped, wrinkled appearance.)
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