Sunday, January 31, 2021

Talmage Receives the Priesthood


Talmage received the Aaronic priesthood on the evening of January 10 in Family Home Evening.
Because of COVID restrictions, Sam ordained him in our home and he taught a lesson about the priesthood.
The following Sunday, Talmage passed the Sacrament for the first time in our at-home church meeting.
I was surprised by the misty eyes I got as I watched him carefully bring us the bread and water. His brothers stared up at him with the biggest smiles on their faces as they recognized the important step he had taken. He is such a wonderful role model to his younger brothers and I am so grateful to see his growth and development.

He has been learning some hymns on the piano, so he accompanied the closing song for our Sacrament Meeting as well. I never thought I would really enjoy other stages of life as much as the little-kid stage, but it is turning out to be quite remarkable to see our children bloom. I'm loving this stage just as much, but for different reasons.

In other Sabbath-day news, the contention in our home has really peaked over the past month or so.
I think the combination of colder weather, being cooped up inside, and COVID has the kids at each others' throats. 
Sam gave a great talk last week about how "a soft answer turneth away wrath." This week I wanted to piggy-back off of his talk and talk about how charity "seeketh not her own."
We've had many issues lately over silly matters of selfishness, like one person setting a toy down and then going to get it one minute later and another person having it, claiming, "You set it down!"
Or someone getting up to get a drink and another person taking their spot while they are gone.
These little issues quickly build into a big explosion.

So I talked to Sam about my plans before we started church, and then when it was time for my talk I said I needed to grab something from the other room. While I was in the other room, Sam sat down on the piano bench--which is where I had been sitting, and where the person giving the talk always sits.
I walked back into the room, holding a plate, and stopped next to the piano bench. 

"Um, is it okay if I sit there? I was sitting there." I said.
"No, it was empty when I came in here," he said. "You weren't here."
"I just left for a minute! I had to go grab this but I was coming right back!"
"You weren't here! It was empty!"
"I need to sit on the piano bench so everyone can see me! This is where the person giving the talk always sits!"
We continued back and forth for a few more rounds before I sat down on the piano bench and tried to push him off. In fury, I threw the plate on the ground and it shattered.

The boys were giggling so hard. We tried hard to make it look like we were having a real disagreement and didn't take on childish tones to our voices, but they were not fooled in the least--not even when the plate broke!
"This is part of your talk!" they were saying.

And so it was.
Sam cleaned up the broken plate while I talked to them about how our anger and our contentious words can break things even more important than a plate (which I had broken for shock value, hoping they would remember this message). I mentioned various creations that had been destroyed and injuries that had been inflicted (see Maxwell's black eye below). And then we talked about how, most importantly, our hearts and our relationships can be broken by unkind words.
I talked to them about a chain that is built link by link until it leads to a bomb that explodes when both participants in an argument stand their ground and neither chooses to be a peacemaker. I encouraged them to try to "break the chain," and Sam and I acted out two scenarios of what could have happened. 
First, I walked in and saw him sitting on the piano bench, so I chose a different chair to sit in.
Simple. No broken plate. No angry words.
Next, I walked in and told him I had been sitting there, and he quickly apologized and got up and moved.
Simple. No broken plate. No angry words.
We discussed how we don't always need to seek justice--because charity "seeketh not her own."

And then I informed them that I would be making a kindness chart that, when filled up, would result in a family ice cream sundae party.
I reminded them of the catch phrases we would be using to remind them.
Like, "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
"Break the chain."
"Remember the plate."

And I closed with my testimony about the peace and love that can fill our home when we choose to not have contention.
Here's hoping this helps...because we've really been at our wits' ends this past month.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Black-Eyed Club

 A few days after Lincoln's broken tooth incident, Maxwell was having a dispute with one of his siblings (hint: it wasn't Elsie) and he ended up getting pushed in the argument. He fell and hit his eye on the edge of the (carpeted!) stairs.
It immediately started swelling and the next day he had a pretty impressive shiner.

Poor kid.
I guess he was just getting initiated into the black-eyed club.
We've got a nice little collection.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Starting the New Year with a Bang

 We all slept in on New Year's Day after our late night.
I was getting ready the next morning when I heard a HUGE shriek from out in the living room. Sam was out with the boys, so I didn't react immediately, but when it was followed by another shriek, even louder this time, I ran out of the bedroom to see what was happening.
Sam was holding a screaming Lincoln and blood was dripping from his mouth.
"I think he broke his tooth," Sam reported.
Sure enough, Lincoln's brand-new front tooth was broken diagonally across it and his lip was swelling rapidly.

Evidently, he had been diving with a pillow held on his torso to slide on the floor penguin-style. Unfortunately, he miscalculated on one dive and instead did a faceplant right into the hardwood floor. I called the pediatric dentist, but they were closed since it was New Year's Day.
However, they had a number to call the on-call dentist, so I called and left a message.
In the meantime, I started texting a friend in the ward who is a dental assistant, and ultimately Sam ended up taking Lincoln to go see a dentist in the ward who was very kind and willing to take a look.
While they were gone, the on-call dentist called me back and we chatted about the tooth. He said that it would be fine to wait until Monday (it was Friday) to bring him into the dentist if he could handle the pain. He said often the initial pain they feel is just from the impact of the break, and he very well may be able to eat and drink without too much pain over the weekend. He told me to call him back if Lincoln was in excruciating pain, but otherwise to give him some Tylenol and see how he did.

But after the dentist in our ward looked at Lincoln's tooth, he said the pulp was exposed and would likely continue to be really painful for him. Unfortunately, the office where he works didn't have the appropriate materials for him to fix Lincoln's tooth, but I texted the on-call dentist and explained the update. Initially, he said that Lincoln still may be fine with the pulp exposed a little and to still try some Tylenol, and maybe some orthodontic wax over it. But a few minutes later he called me back and said that he was going to be going to visit his brother an hour away the following day, and he didn't want us to have an emergency situation when he wasn't nearby, so he wondered if we could meet him at the office for him to do what he could without a dental assistant to get us through the weekend.
Sam took him in and Lincoln was happy as a clam when he came back, armed with a milkshake and claiming the tooth didn't hurt at all anymore!

On Monday, I took Lincoln into the dentist and a different dentist completed the repair by building up the tooth. It will be replaced with a crown in his late teenage years, but this is the best solution for now in his developing mouth.
It was a little bit tricky to do since his brand-new teeth are still at kind of crooked angles they had to follow, but I think they did a great job.
Hopefully it stays put--the dentist said he sees some kids every few months to get it re-fixed, while others keep the same repair all the way until their teenage years. It just depends on how active they are.
For now, he's lost the privilege of biting into an apple without cutting it, but other than that he's back to normal!

Thank you, awesome dentists!!
And welcome, 2021...

Monday, January 25, 2021

COVID for Christmas Part 12: New Year's Eve

 New Year's Eve is quickly becoming one of my favorite holidays!
I was so excited to celebrate at home with our family, as our kids are getting old enough to be a lot of fun to play games and ring in the new year with.
We started the evening's festivities by unveiling our New Year's family highlight video of 2020.
Sam set up the projector and we watched it on the living room wall.
Watching our memories together filled us with so much joy and gratitude. I have watched the video almost every day since then...sometimes it feels like the kids argue all day long and Sam and I are spending our lives cleaning up after them, but watching that movie reminds me exactly why I've always wanted to have a large family and the amazing opportunities we have together. It's a boost every single time, and it's become one of my very favorite traditions.
After that fun beginning, we put out a fondue spread for dinner...cheese fondue and chocolate fondue with lots of dipping options! We also included some pizza, per the kids' request.
We snacked on fondue all evening.

After dinner, we had the kids get ready for bed and then we put on a movie for the little ones while Talmage, Wesley, and Lincoln played games with Sam and I until midnight. Lincoln bounced back and forth between the games and the movies, and Benson surprised me by lasting all the way until 11:30 pm! Lincoln was done in at that point, too, and he was so happy to go to bed. But Maxwell, Wesley, and Talmage pressed on until midnight!
Talmage had just learned about a Danish tradition of jumping off a chair to "jump into the new year" at midnight, so at 11:59, Sam, Talmage, and I all climbed on chairs and as soon as my phone changed we jumped into the new year. I loved the idea!

And that concludes our "COVID for Christmas" series. I genuinely hope that our boys will look back on this time with fondness and a desire to always make the best of their circumstances, especially in the face of disappointment.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

COVID for Christmas Part 11: Snowball Fight and Sledding

On Tuesday, I got up to Talmage happily handing me this checklist.

He and the other boys had gotten themselves and the little ones ready and done all their chores without any prodding from me--it was such a welcome surprise!
We had a pretty laid back day and I did a lot of catching up from all of our celebrations.
After dinner, we pulled out our set of about 40 stuffed snowballs and had a free-for-all snowball fight together. It was pretty intense!

But Wednesday's activity was even more so.
I duct taped cardboard boxes all the way down the stairs, hauled our big LoveSac out of the playroom and put it at the bottom of the stairs, and then we took turns "sledding" down the stairs in a sleeping bag.
It's crazy how much more terrifying it is to do things like this as an adult than it was as a kid.
I guess I just don't bounce when dropped quite the way I used to!
This was such a fun activity, though, and almost made up for missed sledding opportunities.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

COVID for Christmas Part 10: Zoom Cousins' Party

On the 10th day of COVID quarantine, my mom and my sisters put together a Zoom party with the Utah cousins.
There was a variety of activities we could do here while they did it there, and then we would periodically get on Zoom to discuss or show what we did.
My boys had a lot of fun with it!
The agenda:
9am: Zoom music video explanation
Breanne assigned us different parts of "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" to make videos to. Later in the day she compiled all the video clips into a music video. The boys LOVED doing this and they laughed ridiculously hard when we watched the video all put together. They were very amused by their cousins' antics! I was going to post the video, but I'm not sure about the copyright restrictions on the song, so you'll just have to imagine it instead. :)

10am: Zoom for paper Christmas tree craft instructions
We then made these cute Christmas trees out of paper:

11am: Zoom for blob opera explanations
The boys had fun playing with the blob opera feature on the Google Arts & Culture app.

Noon: break for lunch

1pm: Book treasure hunt
The cousins in Utah did an actual treasure hunt with clues describing different books. I didn't end up putting together a treasure hunt for my kids, but later in the day we did a guessing game with the book clues they had put together.

2pm: Zoom stop action video explanation
We used an app to make a short stop-action video and share it. The group in Utah made a video to share with us as well! This was our video:

After we finished the fun Zoom activities, we spent most of the rest of the day reading A Return to Christmas and finished all but the last few pages.
It was so nice of our family in Utah to come up with fun activities that the kids could participate in from home!

Friday, January 22, 2021

COVID for Christmas Part 9: Elsie's Baby Blessing & 12th Anniversary

Sunday the 27th was our 12th anniversary!
I knew we wouldn't be doing much to celebrate the day, but I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to a delicious pancake breakfast made by Sam, a beautiful letter, and the first year of my blog printed into a book!
He is really just so great.

We continued the day with our at-home church meeting,
and that afternoon we blessed Elsie.
I was so excited when I was pregnant with Elsie to realize that our trip to Utah would be the perfect time to bless her. There is something so beautiful to me about seeing a tiny baby surrounded with love and support from family as they begin their journey here on the Earth,
but most of our babies' blessings have not looked like that ideal, as we have generally been far away from family and various church responsibilities fill up the day. (I mean, remember the craziness of Wesley's blessing day?)
So I was a little bit sad that COVID ruined yet another anticipated event.
But nonetheless I put Elsie in her blessing dress and did a photo shoot with her and then Sam gave her a beautiful blessing with family members joining in on Zoom.
Elsie was having a really fussy day, but thankfully she stayed happy during her blessing and we managed to catch a few cute pictures!

After Elsie's blessing, we had dinner and our family home evening lesson.
Then we got all the boys except Talmage settled down for an early bedtime,
and we tuned into a Zoom meeting with my parents and some other family members for a special presentation for Talmage and his cousins.
He and two other boy cousins are the oldest grandkids on my side, and they were all born within 2 months of each other, which means they were all preparing to receive the priesthood!
My dad talked to them about priesthood power and how it differs from worldly power--how priesthood power comes through love instead of fear.
The boys were then presented with new ties to wear the first time they got to pass the sacrament (Talmage's was mailed to us). It was a meaningful discussion and I'm grateful we were able to join in even from a distance.

We sent Talmage to bed right after that, and Sam and I joined the missionaries on a three-way phone call with a new member to talk about tithing. We were able to testify of blessings that have come into our lives through paying our tithing.
We each shared a story from our grad school years when we saw specific blessings that we felt came as a result of paying our tithing. As tough and tight as those grad school years were, I'm so grateful for them and for the constant experiences we had of seeing God's Hand in our lives, providing for us!

That ended our anniversary--a bit anticlimactic, I suppose, but very representative of what the past 12 years have looked like...lots of babies, lots of wonderful experiences with the Gospel, and lots of love along the way.

What more could I ask for?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

COVID for Christmas Part 8: Making Bowls

Are you getting tired of these "COVID for Christmas" posts yet?
I've still got a handful of them...someday maybe I'll actually be caught up with blogging.
We spent most of the day after Christmas continuing to play with new gifts.
After Maxwell and Benson were down for naps, I got out our big activity for the day.

After I posted on Facebook, asking for fun ideas of things to do during our quarantine,
the kids' teacher arranged for her son (who owns a pottery studio in Memphis) to put together an at-home pottery kit for us! I purchased it and she kindly delivered the kit to our doorstep.
I presented it to the family on Christmas morning, and the following day we got to work making our bowls.

The kit included clay for everyone and tools from the shop.
After we finished making the bowls, we would choose glaze colors and deliver the bowls and tools back to his shop, where they would be fired.
It was incredibly nice of them to arrange all of this for us, and we had a great time making our bowls!
Micah (the studio owner) even had a video tutorial online that we could access that showed us the proper technique to make the bowls and roll out the coils evenly.

We're excited to get our bowls back!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

COVID for Christmas Part 7: Christmas Day

I heard the boys' excited voices around 6:00 on Christmas morning.
I was already up at the computer, writing a note to stick in Sam's stocking,
but I kept them waiting and playing upstairs until about 7:00 when Sam woke up.

We keep things fairly simple for Christmas--
a stocking from Santa,
3 gifts from Sam and I,
and one gift from a sibling,
plus kind gifts from extended family.

But in spite of that simplicity (or perhaps because of it?) the boys get SO excited about the littlest things on Christmas morning. Their stockings were laid out when they came down and, in spite of the fact that they just had some snacks, socks or masks, and a hot wheels car in them, they were over the moon.
(I mean, can you help but love Maxwell's enthusiasm about his socks??)

We let them race the cars and enjoy some of the snacks, and then eventually we went around and let everyone open one gift.
We like to spread out gift opening over Christmas morning--I've found that, for our kids, they are happier and much more grateful if they have 20 minutes or so to soak in each gift before moving on to another one.
It was so fun to introduce the kids to a classic 90's toy from my childhood-Wesley loves his Lite-Brite!

Then we settled down to eat our Christmas breakfast,
complete with overnight sticky buns, Simply Orange, Greek yogurt, and lots of bacon.

And then we spent the rest of the day opening gifts, playing with them, and relaxing at home.
As disappointed as we were to not be able to go to Utah, I do love a nice, quiet Christmas at home.

Talmage was thrilled with his new Chess set--the old one had seen much better days.

These Oregon Trail books Lincoln got are so fun! They are like the Choose Your Own Adventure books, but on the Oregon Trail.

But Lincoln said his favorite gift was getting to hold Elsie again.
We hadn't bothered to keep him away from the family after his positive COVID test, but I did feel a little hesitant about him holding Elsie in spite of the low risk it is to her. I just get stressed when newborns are sick in any way, and it takes me right back to when newborn Wesley was hospitalized with RSV. So I told him to wait until Christmas to hold her and he was so happy to have her in his arms again!

I got a crazy deal on them, so we gave the three oldest boys subscriptions to KiwiCo boxes--Tinker Crates for Wesley and Lincoln and Eureka Crates for Talmage. They have loved them! Talmage built a wooden ukulele that he had to string and everything, and they've also made a spinning art machine, a walking robot, a locking safe, and a cool UV light double pendulum so far.

The stilts from Grandma Sue have also been a huge hit. I think this picture of Talmage and Wesley helping Maxwell with them is my favorite from the day!

This doorway swing has been SO fun for the kids. We haven't wanted to invest in an outdoor swing set while we are renting since it would be such a hassle to move, so this provides an excellent alternative!

And they were more than a little excited about the snowcone machine and syrups from Aunt Amanda...

...and the spikeball set from Aunt Kellie. The boys caught on to this faster than I expected and it has been a great indoor sport option!

We put on a Christmas cartoon for the kids in the late afternoon while Sam and I cleaned up the fun disaster that Christmas brings, and then we ate pizza for dinner.
It was a truly marvelous Christmas.

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