Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Swedish Cardamom Bread

We made this bread for the second time last night. I've been wanting it for a while, but couldn't find the recipe we'd used before. Figured I should post it on here in case the same problem happens again. It's delicious and really easy to make! Cardamom is on the expensive side, but you don't use a lot at a time so it lasts.

  • 1/2 Cup Butter or Margarine
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 2 Tsp. Ground Cardamom
  • 1 Pkg. of Yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 Cups of Flour

Dissolve yeast in approximately 3 tablespoons of warm water, cover and let it foam up for 15 minutes. Meantime, put butter and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn off heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add sugar, salt, and cardamom. Then add simmering milk to dry mix, add eggs, then add the yeast. Mix well. Then add aproximately 4 cups of flour to liquid ingredients until mixture begins to pull away from sides. Cover and let rise in warm area until it doubles.

After it doubles, take dough out, knead it and divide into halves. Then divide each half into 3 parts. Roll each part into balls, then roll balls into even strands. Take one greased cookie sheet and braid strands together on sheet side by side to make two separate loaves. Cover and let rise until loaves double. (After a half hour of waiting my taste buds won out and I just cooked it. Rose fine in the oven.)

Lightly brush on a mixture of egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water on top of loaves. Bake on 350 for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Random December-ness

We have a tradition that started last year - checking out a bunch of Christmas books from the library and keeping them under the tree with the Christmas books we own to read throughout the Christmas season. I keep trying to brainwash the kids into how much fun it would be to wake up Christmas morning and just find books as gifts, but I haven't quite sold them on it yet. If they only knew all the wonderful choices Santa has had to choose from for each of them!

(I took a picture but with all the Christmas rush haven't taken it off the camera. So just imagine for now. Maybe someday I'll post it.)

I was pulling out the materials we needed to make more felt ornaments this year and found 3 books in a 4 book set that I bought last year for a certain little girl. She got one for Christmas and I forgot about the rest. Oops. Would be fun to travel in time back a year and find out why they were hiding in there.

Love the whole online shopping thing. How parents did it before, I don't know. So nice to research, read reviews, compare prices, then with a few clicks your order is on its way. One thing has me scratching my head, though. Amazon, or people that sell on amazon, change their prices really frequently. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. There is a book sitting in the "buy later" section of my shopping cart that drops by a penny or two every day. One of these days it will be free, and then I will buy it. Something else was $19.99 when I added it to my cart. A few days later it was $39.99. Then it partially dropped down again. It's an addiction now, so I have to pull up my cart just to see how the price has changed. One day it was $85! Supply and demand maybe? Who knows, but wow.

Back to late presents, though. I finished the quilt that I gave to my sister and brother-in-law for Christmas last year - hooray! It turned out just as amazing and beautiful as I knew it would. I thought I had quite a bit done, but it took me sewing while watching most of the first four Harry Potter movies to finish it up.

(Again, I have a picture waiting on the camera.)

Jamie was gone for almost 20 days in a row (came home for one night, not even 24 hours) starting the early morning after Thanksgiving. It was mostly for training back in Massachusetts, but then off working. The song "I'll Be Home For Christmas" became a lot more meaningful because we really missed having him around. Since he got home he's been cooking like crazy, always a bonus.

Anyway, back to finishing up those final few Christmas surprises!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Current Reading System

My reading and actually finishing a book has really dropped in the past few months. Dramatically. But I have an interesting new way to read. See, there are so so many interesting books out there, and only so little time to read them all in. When I do park myself to read it's far more studious than it's been before, and I really try to dig out the messages I need to learn from what I'm reading.

Since that takes a lot more effort and concentration, without blocks of unadulterated time it just doesn't happen.

So. Now when I hear about a really interesting book I check it out from the library and it sits next to the couch with all our other library books. When my card is (again/always) getting full and I have more holds waiting, I look through the books I actually checked out for myself, see if they are some I really want to look into more and return those I don't. I will usually at least look through the table of contents and maybe flip to a chapter or two, read a little, and either put it back in the pile or add it to my library bag to be returned. Fiction usually gets the first chapter read. Very few books actually get read all the way through. Except all the fun children's books. If I checked them out I read them to myself and decide whether it's good enough for me to read with everyone else or not. (Sidenote: We have some new favorite children's books, the Dragon books by Dav Pilkey. We read and giggled over the first two again and again and again, and had to track down all the others at the library.)

I usually make 2 trips a week to pick up holds, because twice a week I'm right in the same neighborhood. There are always things waiting for me.

I started this new system without realizing it. I try to narrow myself down and decide on a book (or three - currently "Power of Positive Parenting," "Song of the Lark," and "Leadership Education") to read and finish, but there are so many others out there that compel me to at least take a look. I have to wonder if I'm transitioning towards something else. Maybe one of these days I will wake up and realize I don't want to read everything, and I only want to read certain things. Or maybe it's a pregnant thing, and after this baby is born I'll have some focus again.

Only time will tell. I'll let you know if I notice it's happened.

Books I recently checked out:
"I am Murdered: George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson, and the Killing that Shocked a New Nation"
"The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything"
"The Pioneer Woman Cooks" by Ree Drummond
"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"
"Arming Your Children with the Gospel"
"Hiking and Backpacking"
"John Adams" by David McCullough
"The Jackrabbit Factor"
"The Power of Positive Parenting"
"Thou Shall Prosper" (was going to take this back today but the table of contents kept it here)
"Usborne Book of Peoples of the World"

For even more fun, some of the books currently on my hold list at the library:
"Bridge at Andau"
"The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game"
"Christlike Parenting"
"The Christmas Sweater"
"The Duggars: 20 and Counting!"
"The Help"
"My First Summer in the Sierra"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Craftiness

One of our family traditions on my mom's side of the family is to exchange ornaments with all the cousins and now our kids. My grandma has 40 grandkids I believe, ranging in age from 38 to 5. Adding the great-grandkids in creates even more variety.

I was being called the family scrooge for a couple of years when I started saying that we should do away with this one for a variety of reasons that I will not go into here, but when I thought of a fun way to do the ornaments we would be exchanging that the kids could be involved with as well, I decided I could still handle it.

These are our ornaments from last year - a doughnut, a black penguin, a pink penguin, a cupcake, a gingerbread man, and a licorice ice cream cone (my favorite flavor, by the way, thank you Farr's Ice Cream).

The fried egg is an ornament on a lot of Christmas trees in our family, a symbol of my grandparent's farm, the chickens they had, and the Barker eggs they sold back in the good ol' days. The others were all just for fun.

Felt ornaments are really easy to make! When I was first looking for ideas I did a search in Google images and on flikr for felt ornaments to get some ideas of things we could do. Then I would either sketch out a design on paper, or being the non-artist I am, if it was something more involved I copy/pasted the picture into Word, size the picture to about how big I wanted the ornament to be, and have a template. I didn't feel bad borrowing their ideas - ours are not nearly as high tech as many of the others out there, and I'm not planning to sell them. Ideas for ornaments can come from anywhere, though - coloring books, clip art, the person's interests, etc. These amazing ones even say the ideas came from a Little Golden Book.

After you have a template, use it to cut out the felt pieces. In some cases you might want multiple copies of the template to cut up for the different pieces.

Then you can either sew the pieces together by machine or by hand. We did all our stitching by hand.

When stitching the back to the front, leave an opening for a bit of stuffing if you'd like, sew up the hole, and voila! You're done! Be creative and enjoy. They really are a lot of fun to make.

To show off my amazing sewing skills (cough cough), here's a picture of the quilt I finished the end of November 2008 that was supposed to be given to my brother's family Christmas 2007. I'm a slacker, what can I say. But it was worth the wait, no?

Right now I'm trying to finish up the quilt I gave to my sister and her husband for Christmas 2008 (it's amazingly cute, I'll have to post pictures after I give it to them), so I can get working on the quilt I'm supposed to make for my sister for Christmas 2009. If you want to come visit, feel free! Just know the house will be a disaster.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lead Like You Love It

When I posted this entry I mentioned another I had been writing on leadership with a conductor as the example of the principle (mostly written back in January, by the way). A friend told me tonight that I need to be blogging more about this kind of thing, so here we go.

So first, the example. About a year ago I was at a meeting one evening with a large group of boy scout leaders. They announced the opening song and prayer, and the organist began to play. The music conductor stood up in his scout uniform before the large roomful of people, and as the words began, he started leading us in the song like there wasn't another place in the world he would rather be. He was smiling and singing away, looking like he was having the time of his life.

I couldn't hardly keep my eyes off him, he was so fun to watch! I wondered what I was missing just sitting there in the audience, rather than up there leading. I don't remember if he was leading 'correctly,' but correctly or not, people were happily following him. He was there to do the job, do his best, and have a great time doing it. I would bet I wasn't the only person who noticed. I think I learned more from that man that I did from the rest of the meeting (sorry other speakers). His simple example taught me mountains.


I thought of this while watching the musical performance of "Air and Simple Gifts" by John Williams during President Obama's inauguration. Of course each of the four musicians are top performers and leaders in their fields, but Yo-Yo Ma especially held my attention because he looked like he was having a blast. I watched the performance twice that day and was captivated by him both times. While pointing and telling the kids we own some of his CDs and he's famous because he's been on Arthur (check him out at 1:00 and 3:20, somehow his ears are bigger when he's a cartoon), I couldn't help but mention, "Look how much fun he's having!" (Maybe he was grinning knowing that we were listening to a recording so everyone didn't have to listen to their cold out-of-tune instruments, but who's to say for sure?)

We've all been around someone in a leadership position that complains, joking or not, about what they do. It's hard to follow someone that isn't happy about their job, even jokingly. They give the impression that they are there as a place holder, wishing their time was over rather than someone there to really lead, serve, and do their best. People don't look to complainers for an example.

On the other hand, people that are willingly and happily doing the work they are there to do become a great example to everyone that sees them. While I was a nursery leader for our church, meeting with the 18 months to 3 year old children every Sunday, I made it a personal goal of mine to show up early and always be happy while I was there. I wanted people to wonder what they were missing out on. Early on there were probably days when I was doing my best to paste on a smile, but an interesting by-product of that is after a while I didn't have to pretend anymore. When someone made a comment about me being "stuck" in there, I would let them know why I love it.

I'm certainly not always perfect at this, but it's something I've tried to apply. At home I think it's especially important to show our families that we love to be with and lead them. I've heard stories of girls not wanting to be mothers because of the example their own mothers showed of being so displeased with the job.

We are being watched more than we could ever imagine. Let your joyful service be an example to those around you, and people will follow. "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:12). Cheesy, but it follows the musical examples, and you probably will be surprised by the miraculous results of your joyful attitude.


P.S. I attended the same meeting a month ago, and I was most excited about going because I was so hoping to see the same man conducting the music again. Unfortunately, they had someone else, and she didn't look nearly as happy to be there.

Another great post on what someone has learned from conductors (to add to my own ah-ha's about that):  http://michaelhyatt.com/50-8-leadership-lessons-from-a-symphony-conductor-podcast.html

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rough Week, Made Better

A week ago tonight Melanie started fevering and Erin started throwing up. Erin was fine the next morning, happily sneaking Halloween candy bars.

I stayed home with the girls from church Sunday to make sure they were healthy, including Carolyn, figuring she sleeps in the same room as the two sickos and could easily pick it up. I kept thinking all day that while Melanie was still fevering off and on, I could have taken the other two. That night Carolyn let me know it was good that she stayed home. After a very rough night, she also perked up pretty quickly the next morning.

Monday and Tuesday my kids thought I was a big mean ogre, not letting them play with anyone. I kept telling them that it's just better they not play in case they pass the sickness on, because then they wouldn't be able to play with their friends even longer. They don't get that at all. Funny, though, about 5 minutes after Adam got off the phone with a friend telling him how mean I am and won't let him play, he was laying on the couch. After some prodding, he told me his stomach was hurting. That evening, he delivered as well.

Everyone has been fine since. So why am I sharing this?!?

Because I'm grateful for good friends.

If the rest of my week hadn't been so busy (along with all this, I get to talk in church on Sunday), I would be posting pictures of the kids eating pizza Tuesday night. Our good friend Todd heard that I was dealing with all this on my own (Jamie was out of town through a lot of the "fun"), and had pizza delivered to us for dinner. Thank you Todd! It was delicious and lifted my whole day knowing I wouldn't have to figure out dinner that night.

The next day I got a call from my mom, telling me what she was making for dinner and offered to bring some over when it was ready. Since everyone was still fine at that point, I made some certified germ-free rolls (touched only by my sterilized hands) to send home with her to enjoy with the dinner she had put together. Thanks to you too Mom!

It's amazing the difference a little food can make. Or maybe it's true, that it really is the thought that counts. Thanks for thinking of us!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Do You Care?

I hate forwards. Do people really think those threats of misfortune, death, or dismemberment are real? If an e-mail was really that powerful, there would be a lot of misery in our home. None of my neighbors have received a great sum of money from any source, though I've had that variety sent on more than my delete button wants to remember.

Once in a while there are gems, though, and thanks to the people that have sent me those. Here's one I got recently that has had me thinking about it ever since.

You don't have to actually answer the questions (though you can if you want). Just read straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name five people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners. (Adam could probably do that)

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners. I have to wonder how long the glory lasts for these people.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.

And might I add, these are the "awards" that matter.

We have choices to make every day: to give of ourselves to others, or to continue through our own personal agendas. No matter how much we WANT to be in the second category for other people, when we are too concerned about the daily to-do's it limits our opportunities to reach out to other people. Basically it's a choice between mediocre and being great.

"The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day." --C.S. Lewis

A wonderful reminder - especially since we were surprised last night with one kiddo with a fever and another throwing up. :) I hope that maybe someday the little bodies I get to mother would include me in some of their second quiz answers.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Surrounded by Greatness, or When I Grow Up

I feel like I'm surrounded by greatness on so many levels. I made a list of lots of people I want to be like in some way or another, and was going to abbreviate them for only me to know, then I decided even that wasn't necessary. I know who my greats are, you should all get your own.

I want to be a spouse like...
I want to be a parent like...
I want to be a leader like....
I want to be wise like...
I want to be a homemaker like...
I want to be caring like...
I want to be a listener like...
I want to be a declutterer like...
I want to be a thinker like...
I want to study like...
I want to be politically knowledgeable like...
I want to build greatness in others like...

I have two or three people for most of those, sometimes more.

It would be a whole lot easier if I didn't know so many great and amazing people. I know we're not supposed to compare ourselves to others, but they say that the only way to bring someone to a higher level is to be higher yourself. So here are all these people at some higher level than me, and I feel like I'm slowly working my way up the mountain at every opportunity to join them, taking every chance I can to rub shoulders with them and learn from them.

Maybe bit by bit I'm picking up little pebbles (maybe even sometimes a gem or two) to add to myself. And maybe someday I'll be a knoll, or maybe even a small hill that someone else could look up to for something.

Dallin H. Oaks once said, "In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to knowsomething, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something."

I love looking for the greatness in other people. There is so much out there, people striving to do more and be more at whatever they are. I feel like there is something admirable in everyone, even if sometimes you have to look a little closer for it. More and more I see why it's such a terrible thing for people to hide their candle under a bushel, when it could be giving light to all those around them.

Even more exciting, I love watching the greatness growing in my children, seeing them come into the gifts God has blessed them with. I can't wait to see who they become.

P.S. Lest you think me wise already with the whole pebble/mountain thing, a hill or mountain of pebbles really would be a terrible thing to climb up, don't you think? So it's really a very silly analogy.

P.P.S. The song "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" just gained a whole new meaning for me. I'm going to look just like this someday when I get there.

P.P.P.S. By the way, Maria wasn't anywhere near 'there' at this point in the movie, really just beginning on her climb. (See, more faulty wisdom.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Parenting Lesson for the Day

I needed this today. Take a look (it's SO worth it).

Lead Like the Great Conductors

Now really, don't read on until you've watched that or you won't get most of the rest. It's 20 minutes if you just watch it straight through (took me at least an hour because I was taking crazy amounts of notes).

I love to learn about leadership. I love how leadership principles apply in so many many ways. In fact, I'm even very slowly working on a book about leadership. I have a few posts I've written about leadership that have never been posted with the book in mind. Maybe I don't want bad feedback on something that is so deep in my heart. One post even involves a great conductor I saw in person once. Maybe I'll have to share that since it's so closely related to this.

So about this particular leadership lesson from Itay Talgam. I want to lead like the greats, especially when it comes to leading my children. Unfortunately today was a Riccardo Muti kind of day. How things slide down that slope I don't know. I don't have the excuse that I was trying to tell a story as beautiful as Mozart's.

About my own mother. She's not one that most would call a great leader, but she's someone I've been trying to study and figure out for a very long time. I read something a few months ago that opened my eyes to her leadership a bit, and I wish I had written it down, but as it stands I'll have to try to find it again. I don't remember her ever being like Muti, or most of those conductors. I would put her in the category of the last Bernstein clip. I don't remember a lot of lectures or instruction from her during our growing up years (maybe she's rolling her eyes right now at my great memory), but like the orchestra, I guess we knew what was expected, how to make it great, and we did it. And she has five awesome children to show for it.

I am not that parent! And far too many days I find myself sweating by the end. Do I look at the "trombones" too much?

I don't know if I'll ever be a Berstein, but maybe I can at least make it to Kleiber.

"You have the plan in your head, you know what to do, and you become a partner to create the sound as you take the ride."

"When it's needed, the authority is there." (Poor trumpet guy!)

"He's there 100%, but not commanding, not telling what to do. Rather enjoying what the soloist is doing."

Thank goodness tomorrow is another day. There's always another concert to play. It's their story that needs to be nurtured and told, not mine. Hopefully the conductor shows up more prepared. At least they haven't fired me yet!

(For your viewing enjoyment, here's the full version of that last Bernstein clip.)

Creativity Slump?

It's been over two weeks since I last posted. Sad! That doesn't mean this is the first thought I've started to write up since then, but it's the first one that I'm determined to post. There is another close. Maybe.

Jamie read me a quote in "The Summer of the Great-Grandmother" by Madeline L'Engle that might account for my lack of producing something enlightening enough I feel worth publishing.

My creativity is being drained. When I was pregnant with Josephine, a friend who was a successful dancer and the mother of several children told me that a woman cannot be creative in two ways simultaneously, and that I would not be able to write while I was carrying the baby. Obviously she could not do a tour jete when she was five months pregnant, but I saw no reason not to go on writing, and write I did. The odd thing is that nothing I wrote during my pregnancies ever came, itself, to term. It was like practicing finger exercises, absolutely essential for the playing of the fugue, but it did not lead to the fugue till after the baby was born. I do not understand this, but I do not think it coincidence.

I'm teaching a writing class to 13 9-11 year olds at a homeschool co-op every Thursday. In many ways I wish I were taking the class instead of teaching it. Isn't that strange? If I'm teaching it, I should know more than the kids I'm teaching. Well, to a point I do, but as the teacher I don't actually have to produce a book through the course of the class like the kids do. They've all been writing these wonderful stories, and while you could say I'm improving my teaching skills, my being inspirational skills, or my "look, you just have to write a story, okay?" bossy skills, I haven't done an ounce of writing myself. I am not a fiction writer, so it could be helpful to be forced into it.

I did sign up for a fiction writing class in college once. I thought it would be a great opportunity to practice that, while before my writing had been about research, analyzing literature, or essay writing. I showed up the first night of class. The teacher started off by saying that the next week we need to bring a sample of some fiction we had written, or get something written to bring that next week. I went into shock at that point. I thought I was there to LEARN to write fiction, not walk in already knowing how to write it. I don't think I heard another word said, and I quickly dropped the class.

In the book I'm using for the co-op class, it lists six reasons why people do not write:

1. The have no guarantee of readers.
2. They have no deadlines.
3. They don't have an editor.
4. They don't know how to edit their own work.
5. They don't write often enough.
6. They have too little or no regard for the reader.

I think the two biggest that apply for me are deadlines and not writing often enough. I know my mom at least reads this so I have a reader, after all those English classes I hope I can spell and turn a phrase or two without sounding too terrible, and I do keep readers in mind and try not to make things too boring. Keyword: Try

My pal Karen and I have talked about starting a writing group which would certainly alleviate all the problems above, but with just the two of us interested so far, a writing duo isn't nearly as exciting as a writing group.

Anyway, dear reader, since I do have regard for you, I'm going to close this up. But if you don't see anything posted for a while again, just assume that my preggo brain is working to create elsewhere.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I'm really impressed with all we've been able to accomplish this week. Tuesday and Wednesday we got amazing amounts done. Thursday we were gone most of the day so not much. Friday and Saturday not as much as the first two days, but still progress, beautiful progress. It's such a great feeling! Don't come over expecting everything to be spotless because we still most definitely live here, but I won't be nearly as anxious about people discovering what lies beneath.

Speaking of progressing, other things are progressing as well, including another secret I've been holding onto for a while. Secret for about 13 weeks actually, though the secret has been progressing for about 18. Here's a clue:

Didn't help? Maybe this...

Still no? How about this:

NUMBER SIX that is.

If from all that you still don't know what the picture below means, maybe the Motor Mouth post will help clue you in.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Have a Secret

I have more than one actually, but this is a really good one. It's one I just learned about, and I can't believe the difference it's making in our home. I'm smiling more because the world is a brighter more beautiful place.

Ready for this?

Kids can work.

Really! I again have to thank Lara for inspiring me in this. Work in the morning, learn in the afternoon. That's what we've been doing. Well, yesterday when we really started we were on such a roll that I just worked them as long as I possibly could, which for some ended up being most of the day. We cleaned out the fridge, under the kitchen sink, washed windows, cleaned above the cupboards and washed everything up there, and cleaned the bathroom. Woo hoo! Then we did all the regular frontroom/kitchen cleaning, sweeping, mopping, dishes, vacuuming, dusting, etc. etc. All this was done with very little complaining.

This morning we got the lazy susan cleaned out and washed (honey, why do we have four bottles of molasses?), and the coat closet emptied so we can figure out what's too small or who has been handed down more jackets than they actually need, and got some things in the backyard headed to the trash.

We still started our day with our morning devotional, some history, and a newer addition to our morning, reading from the "Book of Virtues." Then off to work.

I've always worked harder with someone working along with me, so that's a bonus. The other bigger part of the secret is that when I'm sick of part of a job, I can pass it on! (Don't tell the kids.) I can also say things like "Oops, you need to get that spot right there a bit better."

Now that you know the secret, try it, you'll love it!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Personal Revelation

I've been tossing a question around in my head for a while. I love to learn new things and want to constantly be learning and studying great books, but lately I've felt really disorganized in that. Like I had no direction, no goal, no anything. So every time I was ready to move onto something new I just felt lost as to where to go, and I've ended up reading less because of it. Saturday afternoon I was driving home from helping to paint the barn at my grandma's house, thinking about it again.

Saturday night I attended the general Relief Society meeting. I don't think there was anything said that made me think of it, but at one point the same question popped into my head, and a moment later I had my answer. I need to study things about home and family.

Before going to bed that night I took a few minutes to stare at my bookshelf and pulled off most of the books that I felt like could fit into that category. Here's a partial list:

Daisy Chain by Charlotte Mary Yonge (currently reading)
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott
Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Little Britches by Ralph Moody
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey
The Power of a Positive Mom by Karol Ladd
The Book of Mormon: It Begins with a Family (essays)
The Book of Mormon: A Pattern for Parenting by Geri Brinley
Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinkley
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss (thanks Lara)

Like I said, a partial list. There are some here that might leave people scratching their heads but I have my reasons how they fit into home and family. It was also just perusing the bookshelf next to my bed, not all the other bookshelves throughout the house. I'll stick with these for now.

This also includes home and family skills I need to learn. The ever-hovering cleaning/decluttering skill I find so hard to keep up with, canning, meal planning, gardening, and many other skills I can learn to strengthen my home and family. All the things I'm currently a failure at. This list could go on for miles, but I'll spare you the gory details.

I'm excited! I noticed a book that I had checked out from the library recently that doesn't fit here, and I can easily decide to take it back for now and save it for another time. Doesn't mean I'm not willing to throw in other books, but that my focus is on home and family.

Direction. Purpose. Peace.

Any other suggestions for my list?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Always Out of Order

I have three or four posts I've started in the past week or so but haven't finished, adding to the many others in the same category. We'll see if this one gets officially published.

I'm so out of order. An example from this morning. I had a bracelet I needed to ship, really quick and easy style. I needed to get online (there's the downfall!) to check the size since I hadn't written it down, and after checking my e-mail, reading a couple blog posts quick, e-mailing my visiting teaching partner, I finally turned to make the bracelet. At the same moment I heard the mail lady driving up the street. Oops. Now I get to go drop it off at the blue mailbox up the street instead just at my own mailbox. That's what I mean, always out of order. Something else I need to learn - priorities!!!

On a random sidenote, we have all been looking very religious lately, well the kids at least, trying to choose which jeans were the least holey when we have to venture out in public. Yesterday I went to Savers (if you don't know, like DI only they organize their jeans way better so I can actually find what I'm looking for. DI, could you fix that? No sizes on the racks really bugs me. Maybe you have a system and I just haven't figured it out yet. I promise I'll ask about it sometime). I love buying my jeans there, because I hate how much jeans cost, especially ones that actually look nice. Several years ago I stopped buying jeans for the kids there because instead of the knees lasting a few months they started lasting only one month, thus making it not very cost effective. I decided to take the plunge again and see if that still held true, thoroughly inspecting the knees of course. Happily, I walked out with at least two pairs of jeans each (in some cases they'll have some to grow into) for five of us.

Monday, September 14, 2009

One Year at a Time

Early in 2008 I declared it the year to clear things out. No, I'm not done. In my defense, I've heard it said that it didn't take a day (or a year in this case) to get that deep, so it's going to take more than a day (or year) to clear it out. Besides the whole 5 kids and lots of other things to do factor.

Still, I got a lovely surprise about how much I've learned and how my attitude has changed when I attended an organization class Saturday put on by my amazing and talented friendKaren. I don't think there was anything overly new for me in that realm that she shared (other than another burst of motivation to keep it going), but the biggest realization I got there was that rather than feeling anxious while I listened, feeling like it was something I should be doing and internally coming up with all kinds of reasons why I shouldn't/couldn't get rid of things I didn't need to hold on to anymore, it was refreshing and exciting to be there, knowing that the weight of all those feelings isn't on me ANY MORE! That I can get rid of things and it's okay, and wonderful even! Hooray! Thank you Karen for the big part you've had to play in that, Lara for yours a lot through your blog (and a quote recently while talking to her, "Just throw it away, you'll be glad you did" - she's right), and the authors who've written books or articles I've happened upon to help my heart change as much as it has.

Oh wait, before I move on, something I did learn from Karen at the class that has already been proving helpful - tell the kids they only have to clean up the things they want to keep. Genius! I told that to my boys, and I don't think I've ever seen their room cleaned so well. They didn't have time to finish what they were working on, but I was impressed. Very impressed. I'm so glad there are so many people smarter than me.

This year, I decided back in January, was my year to learn to make bread. It took some reading and playing and messing up, but I feel very great about my bread making efforts. We make a triple batch of rolls about every week, if not more often when I'm more on top of it. I've learned that rolls go faster than a loaf of bread so I make those the most. Just easier for the kids to grab and eat without having to deal with cutting it. My learning has paid off enough that I even taught a class on making bread Saturday!

Isn't it great how learning new things pays off? If those were the only two things I'd learned in the past two years I would still feel pretty darn good about myself. A slow learner, but still making progress. With all the years ahead, if I learned one more cool thing like that every year, just think about how amazing I would be!!!

Exciting things to learn practice a lot in the future: canning, sewing, meal planning, piano (after years of piano lessons, I was teaching two of the kids how to sight read using Jon Schmidt's method and really learning it for myself!), and some other things I thought of earlier but can't remember right now.

Learned anything exciting and new lately?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Habit Breaking

I was feeling so punished at the beginning of my week without internet. Since I'm a tough girl and know I can put up with a lot, I have to put on my tough girl face about that, so everyone would know that really I was surviving. (But wait, did that last post sound a little more whiney than tough girl?)

Well either way, she finally did come out. And I started really enjoying my evenings without wasting using my time to catch up on e-mail and blogs. And rather than using the computer for downtime I would find other methods (sorry, still not housecleaning) to settle my brain for a few moments.

I realized some funny irony about the whole situation a couple days ago. A few weeks ago I got really really really really really sick of the TV, so I "broke" it - unplugged it, but not in the way I normally would straight from the wall, but just the TV cord into the power strip that then connects to the wall. The kids were baffled, and for several days our house was blissfully TV-less. It amazed me how quickly they stopped turning to it at every bored moment. Now it is much easier to regulate, and when mom says "no" like I still have to sometimes, they just go find something else to do.

Maybe I needed the same lesson. Even though it's been up since Wednesday night, I'm not back into old habits yet. I was having fun with the 7 day blogging thing and overcoming some of the reasons I don't blog much (more on that since I learned about that a few days ago), but there are so many exciting things out there to see and do. Like pilates. The kids and I have been doing pilates here and there. And hello! It's always good to work on my forever expanding reading list.

See, it was all for the good. Thanks for breaking the internet for me, Jamie. Told you I don't hate you!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wasn't That Thoughtful?

*The quote above is from my favorite Fairy Tale Theater show, Cinderella. Matthew Broderick is in it. You should really watch it. If you can't find a copy through the library, I have one I would love to share. It's worth it. I was introduced to it by a friend and eventual roommate of mine, and I would love to pass along it's greatness.*

Sorry 7 day challenge readers. I promise I fully intended to finish it through. I had lovely little blog post ideas dancing through my head, just waiting to come to fruition.


Jamie went out of town Thursday. Wednesday night he said, "Oh, by the way, I am changing [something something with our internet], so it might go down tomorrow. And guess what? I won't be back until Friday and will probably just meet you at the singles branch campout that night, so if there is a problem, I won't be able to do anything about it until we get back on Saturday. IF THEN. Mwa-ha-ha!"

My first thought (I kid you not) was, "But, but... I'm on a 7 day challenge!!!"

Come to find out when we got home today, no one told him he had to buy their modem to make the [something something change] work, so while he was able to order the modem today, it won't ship till Monday, and coming slow boat it won't arrive till Wednesday OR SO.

Feel free to cry a few tears for me.

It's funny really how attached to the internet I am.

Thursday morning I got up and checked my e-mail just fine. The kids and I planned to go to a rocket booster test at ATK near Promontory Point, and before we left I thought I should read the e-mail about it again to make sure I had all the info I needed. About 9:45 I realized the internet was down. I debated whether to trust what I remembered or not, and not wanting to drive an hour to find out I got something wrong I ran to the library. Which provided another opportunity, since I could pick up a book on CD for us to listen to on our way there and back ("Peter Pan"). After all that, the rocket booster test counted down to 20 seconds and stopped. Some hydrolic problem that couldn't be fixed. We stopped by the Bear River Bird Refuge on the way home so it wasn't an entirely lost trip.

Friday before heading up to the campout we couldn't find Jamie's fishing license for him, and Sam was DYING to go fishing since he got a fly pole for his birthday. I'm also giving a talk Sunday and though I was done writing it, there was a story I wanted to print. So on our way to the campout we drove by my mom's house, printed out a fishing license for Jamie, and printed out the story.

Upon realizing the internet wouldn't be fixed today (Adam and I were already planning another trip to the library), Jamie got me on through dial-up. This is a very annoying trip down memory lane, but don't get me wrong, I'm grateful! My e-mail box needed some serious attention.

Besides looking for a little sympathy from all of you wonderful souls reading this any time you feel like from your high speed internet connections.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chicken vs. Eagle

*I promise the chicken theme is entirely unintended! Maybe it's my desire for chickens unconsciously waving its little hand to remind me (as if I need that - I have chicken books sitting around in various stages of being read).*

I always prided myself in school for being a top student. Unfortunately, the rewards in real life, or at least in my real life, are far less evident than an A on a paper, test, or report card. I have so many areas that I know I'm average or below average, that I know I could be better at.

I was reminded of the parable of the chickens and the eagle recently. If you haven't read this story, go right now and do it. There are lots of versions of this story out there with differences here and there, but I really like that one.

Every time I've heard that I've paused long enough to think "I want to be an eagle!" How long that motivating feeling lasts depends on the circumstances where I heard it and what happens to be going on in my life right then, but I think I'm gleaning a bit more out of the story this time, or at least trying to.

Adam will be starting up with a new homeschool group in a couple weeks, and they had a little kickoff hike Saturday, after which they got their notebooks for the coming year. The chicken/eagle story is in it, and printed on the back are some questions to ponder. Here they are for your own internal searching and improvement enjoyment:

Who has expectations for you life?
What high expectations do you need help to meet? Who is your "naturalist"?
Are there any unrealistic expectations people have for you? (yourself included!)
What "chicken" behaviors do you hold on to? Why do you hang on to them?
How can you get rid of your "chicken" behaviors?
What "eagle" purpose do you have?
If you were the eagle, what is one thing that you can relate to?

And a few others to add:
Are you a chicken or an eagle?
Isn't it time to spread your wings and make majestic circles in the air?
What's keeping you?
When is the last time you dreamed something for yourself and did it?

The questions helped me think through things I need to be doing (or stop doing) to help myself become the eagle I want to be. Chickens are cool and all, but if someone offered me a chicken or an eagle, I would take the eagle anyday. Even if I didn't get to scramble up their eggs.

And for your viewing enjoyment, a slightly different version of the chicken and eagle story told very well and with accompanying music to boot.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our Million Dollar Chicken Nugget

I've decided to take Kathryn's 7 day blog challenge. She's pretty darn amazing, so I figure anything that she does I should do too. This is also challenge I think I could probably do. I've seen 30 day challenges before, but after 30 days of me every day, the three people subscribed to my blog would probably unsubscribe, and then where would I be?

Before I begin, no, we didn't buy any chickens in the past day that we then turned into a really amazing nugget.

I watched the children of a lady I visit teach last month, and she bought my kids and I McDonald's for lunch as a thank you. She didn't have to do that, but I'm always grateful not to have to make a meal. Adam was eating away at some chicken nuggests when he noticed this very happy chicken nugget.

I promise there was no picture editing done there except a little brightness/contrast control since the picture came out a bit dark and I really wanted you all to see that lovely chicken face.

After taking a couple of pictures, Adam ate the chicken, and I'm sure felt a lovely happy feeling inside.

A few days later I was telling some family members about the nugget, and my sister told me I should have listed it on eBay. DUH! I didn't even think about that. I don't know how much people normally pay for this kind of thing, but I've been kicking myself ever since. Maybe there is some rich old McDonald's chicken nugget collector out there. Even if it sold for the price of a brand spanking new box of chicken nuggets, that would have been a fine story to share for years to come. As it is, all we have are these pictures. Sigh!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bawk! Bawk!

On the last day of our vacation mentioned in the previous post, we stopped at Cove Fort (north of Beaver, UT) for Cove Fort Days. They had lots of great pioneery displays and activities, including carriage rides, corn husk doll making, games, and of course Cove Fort tours. We got there towards the end, just as some of the activities were shutting down (barely got our carriage ride!).

While some of us were finishing up our corn husk dolls, some of the others wandered to where a guy had a couple of chickens pecking around. So when we finished we joined them. The guy asked if we have chickens (no) then asked if we are interested in having them (yes). He then proceeded to share lots of great information about chickens, plus a book recommendation (I always love that). We talked for 15-20 minutes, and now I really want some chickens!

We go through a lot of eggs at our house (Sammy's new cooking talent is cooking two fried eggs in the pan at the same time), so that would be nice to help alleviate that. Plus the kids are always asking about a pet, so why not get something useful?

I'm apparently not the only one in the area thinking this. There have been several changes and discussions about changes in chicken ordinances in cities around here. Karen told me the other day that in Clinton's upcoming elections they are expecting chickens to be a hot topic (more useful than many of the other things they talk about, I'd say).

Another proof I just found. I checked out a few books about chickens from the library. I put several on hold before going in, which was good because ours had none just sitting on the shelf. Even the co-head library lady that wanted to help me look again when I mentioned it commented that there is obviously a need for more. Thank goodness they just got another new one in, newly published this year.

And for a fun bit of chicken nostalgia...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Get It Out of Here!

We took a lovely vacation camping this past week, first just our family, then meeting up with our local church singles branch that Jamie is involved with. It was a wonderful few days, but something struck me on the way home. There was never any complaining from my kids about being bored, yet there were no toys there, no television, no video games. They spent their time playing games together, heading outside to look for interesting things, going on hikes, etc.

More inspiration to get tossing!

I ravaged the girls' room for the most part of yesterday. Since they don't want to take care of the things in their room, I decided that anything I wasn't willing to take care of could go. That ended up being one kitchen garbage bag full for the trash, and a big black garbage sack mostly full for the DI. As many times as I've done this you would think they would have nothing left in their room, but they still do. A LOT less, though. And I'm not even done yet. I still need to hit their clothes hard, because that seems to end up being a big portion of their mess. I've also told them that I'm liable to get sick of more stuff if I have to keep taking care of their things for them.

Before I started tossing Carolyn told me I couldn't get rid of any of her friends like her hippo and her pig and I told her of course I wouldn't. After I took the bags out she checked again about those, then asked me if I had taken her monkeys or her purse. I told her those were safe too. See, she really doesn't need much.

I'm not as extreme as Lara yet (a worthwhile read, I would love to hear your opinion), but I'm far closer to that than how I used to be.

The Shakespearean "rub" in this case is that it's far easier to do this with the kids' stuff than it is mine. I'm leaps and bounds better in that too, and I still blame time as a huge factor, but I NEVER get in my bedroom to do some real tossing. I also blame the fact that any time I go in there little people follow and I don't like everyone following me in there, and by the time they are in bed I don't want to think about cleaning in there.

Do you ever find yourself giving your children advice that you should be following as well? Like this morning, I walked into their beautiful bedroom to put some laundry away. Melanie was all spread out, lying on the floor coloring. Direct quote out of my mouth (after I said it I wrote it down): "Isn't it nice when your room is clean, and you have a nice place where you can go and hang out and just BE?" I need to talk to myself more often.

P.S. I have some really fun pictures from our trip that maybe someday I'll post, but when I'm in a cleaning frenzy I have to run with it seeing as how it doesn't happen all that often.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ay, There’s the Rub!

At 4:30 am the night after posting that last post, I woke up thinking about another quote from L'Engle's "Circle of Quiet" (sorry folks, Madeleine is in me; plan on hearing about her for a while):

"You are basically not teaching a subject, you are teaching children. Subjects can probably be better taught by machines than by you. But if we teach our children only by machines, what will we get? Little machines. They need you, you as persons." And I quoted Emerson: "What you are speaks so loudly over your head that I cannot hear what you say."

So I know, with a sense of responsibility that hits me with a cold fist in the pit of my stomach, that what I am is going to make more difference to my own children and those I talk to and teach than anything I tell them. (156)

If my goal, then, is that my children are often coming face to face with greatness, I need to do what I can to become great. Ay, Hamlet, there IS the rub.

This reminds me of Mrs. March in Little Women telling Jo, "I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example. . . The love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy."

Back to Madeleine (feel free to substitute "teacher" with "parent"):

All teachers must face the fact that they are potential points of reference. The greatest challenge a teacher has to accept is the courage to be; if we are, we make mistakes; we say too much where we should have said nothing; we do not speak where a word might have made all the difference. If we are, we will make terrible errors. Be we still have to have the courage to struggle on, trusting in our own points of reference to show us the way." (181)

(Sidenote: I LOVE everything she said about points of reference. Get the book and read the rest.)

This "become what you want your kids to become" IS NOT EASY! Mrs. March was apparently excellent enough at it that her girls didn't believe she ever had any faults. But she is a fictional character, and you and I are not. It's a comfort to read all this greatness from Madeleine, yet have her confess things like "When I scrubbed the kitchen floor, the family cheered. I couldn't make a decent pie crust. I always managed to get something red in with the white laundry in the washing machine, so that everybody wore streaky pink underwear" (21).

I know I have plenty of areas to improve, things like personal discipline, housework, consistency, not procrastinating, housework, and housework among many other things. Madeleine gives a few others to add to her list as well. "I would, quite often, like to be grown up, wise, and sophisticated. But" she adds, "these gifts are not mine" (42). That brings out something I love about Madeleine - her word choice. She is excellent at finding just the right word, and I never would have thought of those things (except maybe being wise) as gifts. But if they are, then other things I wouldn't always see as gifts are also gifts. Like maybe the ability to play!

I've been trying to wrap things up for this post off and on for a while now but it hasn't happened yet. I will have to tie things up in another post, if even then.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Face to Face with Greatness

I have been feeling very uncreative lately. Like someone stuck a cork in my bottle of creative juices. I was blaming this on Madeline L'Engle's "Circle of Quiet," which I am currently reading. Hands down one of the best books I've read. Beautiful and inspiring, full of greatness and truth, but maybe my head is so full of that that until I'm done with it my own thoughts won't flow as freely. Or maybe it's something else entirely. Maybe I just have nothing to say.

Because of that I'm going to share some of Madeline's greatness. There are so so many things I could share (and I'm sure you'll be hearing more of her), but there is something that makes me say "YES!" every time she mentions something about it, because it's something I strive for and is a goal in teaching my children as well - coming face to face with greatness.

Oliver DeMille states that "reading and working with greatness inspires selves to become greater," and "who we are changes as we aspire."

Madeline L'Engle talks about it in this way:

"When we talk about ourselves as being part of the company of such people as Mozart or van Gogh or Dostoevsky, it has nothing to do with comparisons, or pitting talent against talent; it has everything to do with a way of looking at the universe. My husband said, "But people might think you're putting yourself alongside Dostoevsky." The idea is so impossible that I can only laugh in incredulity. Dostoevsky is a giant; I look up to him; I sit at his feet; perhaps I will be able to learn something from him. But we do face the same direction, no matter how giant his stride, how small mine" (38).

When she was being rejected by publishers, "It was great writing which kept me going" (39).

And more:

"Nobody can teach creative writing--run like made from anybody who thinks he can. But one can teach practices, like finger exercises on the piano; one can share the tools of the trade, and what one has gleaned from the great writers: it is the great writers themselves who do the teaching" (61).

"A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn't diminish us, but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe. This surge of creativity has nothing to do with competition, or degree of talent. When I hear a superb pianist, I can't wait to get to my own piano, and I play about as well now as I did when I was ten. A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write. This response on the part of any artist is the need to make incarnate the new awareness we have been granted through the genius of someone else...

"It is beauty crying out for more beauty" (147).

I actually feel terrible in a way for sharing this now, knowing that she'll be dropping more gems on this through the rest of the book. But here I go to hit the publish button, all in the name of sharing greatness.

I am loving learning from Madeline.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Feeling Adventureous

Wanted to share, I just made myself a green smoothie with spinach and frozen pie cherries. Wow. It's very different. I doubt my body will know what to do with all this wholesome goodness.

Sammy and Erin had some too (less than an inch in their cups) and both said it was good. Erin wanted more, Sammy didn't.

I thought about chasing it with a brownie, but decided that would defeat the purpose.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Help Me Help Myself

Given that scout camp is coming up and I always go crazy with some project while some of my men folk are gone, I've been trying to decide what to do this year. Here is a list I've been putting together of possibles, and I would love to have some input. An informal poll, if you will. I was going to include pictures, but just imagine the worst and you'll probably be close, so please chime in and let me know what you think I should do and why.

* Basement clean out (again)
* Paint (this would include areas of the kitchen and hallway especially)
* Garage clean out
* Sew my sister and brother-in-law's awesome quilt that I owe them for last Christmas (no, sis, you aren't allowed to vote)
* Our bedroom (let me just say ugh right now - ugh)
* Lay around, read, eat bon bons, and watch movies.
* Oh yah, and play with the kids (pretty much a given, as if they would let me leave them alone)

If I think of any more I'll add them on. Feel free to come back and vote more than once, because unless your really persuasive, it will probably be whatever I feel like doing when I wake up that morning, or after the kids go to bed and I can really get things done.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dear New Journal,

So. I wrote my name in the front, declaring this officially mine. I've been thinking I need to journal more but I'm not into the "this happened then that happened"-ness of my journals in the past. I've been loving the blogging thing, but some thoughts are so random that I don't feel a whole blog post would even be worth it, though they are still my thoughts that I might want to use later.

Things like:
* I don't like being loud when I walk (think flip flops)
* Started potty training Erin again, going good so far

By the way, so far this is in pencil. I know pen is supposed to be more "archivalish," but I mess up. To me erase is better than messy scribble out. Plus sometimes I might not like my handwriting and want to rewrite more carefully.

Also, page 1 didn't sit back nicely, so rather than starting there I started here. Which could actually be a bonus. Maybe sometime I could create a little index of things I want to refer to.

Well anyway, here goes!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Recipe for Hyperactivity

For everyone out there that wants super hyperactive children like mine, make things like this for dinner.

That's right, chocolate waffles with chocolate syrup. They wanted chocolate milk too, but I've got to draw the line SOMEWHERE, right?

Here's Sammy in a stupor from the sugar high. We only do this about 3 times a week year, so they've got to load up when we do.

But see, no one is complaining! It's even plate-lickin' good.

Why of course I'll share the recipe! I know you're dying to make some too.


½ c. butter (melted)
6 Tbsp. cocoa
¾ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla

Blend butter and cocoa together, add the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth. Batter will be thick. Cook 1-3 minutes. Doesn’t make very many, so you’ll probably want to at least double this.

Another great dinner idea I got from my aunt (she has 8 wonderful children, so if she does it it's as good as gospel) is to make regular waffles and top them with ice cream, strawberries, and whipped cream. Great for hot summer days, and yummy!!! Wait a minute - we'll have to try that with the chocolate waffles too!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Banana Boats in a Pizza Box

In this episode of "coolest mom ever," we'll start with the pizza box oven. Google pizza box oven and you'll find lots of descriptions that are basically the same on how to make one.

Basically, cut out part of the lid to use as a reflector to direct sunlight into the box, cover that and the bottom of the box with aluminum foil, cover the hole you made in the lid with saran wrap to keep the heat inside while still allowing the sun to heat things up, and put a piece of black construction paper in the bottom to help absorb the heat. They also suggest using string or something else to angle the lid just right so it can direct the most sunlight in.

One of the sites I looked at mentioned that they can get up to 275 degrees. You can see our thermometer in the picture above because I was interested to know how hot it would get. Ours made it to 217, and it was a pretty throw-it-together kind of project. Maybe we'll attempt to make it better sometime, maybe not.

My main goal in doing this was to make banana boats. I remember doing it at girls camp ages ago and thought it would be fun. Cut your banana open down the side with the peel on, open it up a bit, and shove in marshmallows and chocolate chips. I guess you can also do this around a campfire, wrapping your banana up in aluminum foil and setting it in the coals.

Melanie isn't a banana fan, so she used graham crackers instead to make a s'more.

A recipe I saw online said the campfire method takes about 5 minutes. We left these on for something like 20, though maybe they could have been taken off sooner. I noticed the temperature dropped quickly when we lifted the lid to put everything inside, so I didn't do any checking to see if they were ready besides seeing the chocolate chips really melted.

It also helped when the sun went behind a bunch of clouds and our temperature started dropping again. "They're done!"

They all loved them! I had more pictures but they involved a lot more goo on the face and in the mouth, so I'll spare you the gory details. But here is Adam trying to duplicate the expression of a woman on the back of our latest box of Cheerios (she is very excited to be lowering her cholesterol). I mean, showing you how happy he is to have such a really really cool mom.

P.S. I didn't get one. I planned on tossing one in after theirs were all done since our "oven" was already pretty crowded, but that cloud cover was there to stay. Major setback in a solar powered pizza box oven. Oh well, that just means we get to do it again!

Potion Station Sensation

First of all, a huge thank you to Kathryn who stole the idea from someone else but passed it on so I could steal it (I even stole the name of this post from her). I am always looking for ways to keep my "coolest mom in the neighborhood" status, and this is super cool.

So the basics. The idea is to gather fun things for your kids to mix together and make "potions." For our first time, I went with 4 colors of jell-o (the cheapest I could find), baking soda, vinegar, and water.

Disclaimer here - my children are not usually slow and methodical. To illustrate, I heard someone say once that when it's time to eat you can tell someone that comes from a small family vs. someone that comes from a large family. Someone from a small family will stand back and slowly make their way to the food. Someone from a large family jumps on it, because they know if they don't, the food is leaving. So yah, that's our family in a nutshell in basically any situation.

In this case, I set out some fun potion making items, four of our five kids jumped in to participate, plus two of my nieces and two neighbors were over. Only so much to go around, right? Eight kids around a few potion making items = lots of scrambling, lots of chaos, and lots of fun.

Again, nothing too high tech was involved, but the kids' reactions were priceless. I didn't tell them what any of the items were, just told them to mix and see what they could come up with. Carolyn was the first to get the baking soda/vinegar mix.

Immediately everyone else wanted theirs to foam, and wanted me to add whatever it was they needed. I told them to keep trying things, but when some still didn't get it to work I helped them out.

One of our extras repeated about four times, "This is so MESSY!" Yessiree!

When the ingredients were used up and they were done mixing their own potions with each others' potions, I asked them what would happen if someone drank their potion. I should have taken video of that, because by the time things were cleaned up and back to normal I couldn't remember what everyone said. One was really green so it was decided that would make them really strong and turn them green like the hulk. One would turn you into a frog or an ogre. One would make people fly. I don't know about you, but I would have a hard time getting this one to my lips, let alone down the hatch.

Next time it would be fun to try red cabbage water, and for sure I've got to include glitter. When we were done with the "organized" activity (I use that term very loosely), the kids took off with the cups and mixed up mud, sticks, leaves, probably bugs, and who knows what else.

For more ideas, here are some other potion makers and magic stew makers. Oh, and probably the best tip Kathryn gave - do it somewhere that you can hose off when you're done. Love that easy cleanup.

Homeschool Bonus - Lots and Lots of Greats

I went to a meeting last night about a homeschool group Adam will be in next year. Before I go more into what I was going to say about that, first let's go somewhere else.

At this point a few years ago we would have been enjoying the summer, looking towards a new school year. Eventually upon arriving to back to school night, we would meet our children's teachers for the upcoming year and walk away either thinking a teacher would probably work pretty well with our child, really concerned about how things would work out, or somewhere in the middle, just waiting to see, ready to take things as they came.

Adam went to public school through 4th grade, Sammy through 3rd, and Melanie into a month of 1st grade. With all those teachers, I can think of two teachers that I look back and feel really grateful that my kids were able to work with them. Both are women I would love to live on the same street as me, one especially I deeply admire. Sammy had her, and he still gets a boost when we see her once in a while.

Back to the meeting I went to last night. This group will involve a couple of advisors (parents of youth in the group) plus a lot of mentors that will come in to help with different subjects/projects/planning/etc. (mostly parents, but others will be brought in as well as needed). Some of the parents there I had met a few times, others I hadn't at all, but leaving the meeting I was so excited about what great people they all were, and I cannot wait for Adam to be able to associate with them. Not to mention the good he'll get from being around the other great kids involved in the group.

Adam was involved with another group last year (that he'll be in again this coming year), and I was equally impressed with the women that mentors the kids in that group and the positive peer pressure from the other youth there. I was thrilled to drop him off every week, knowing he would hop in my car a couple hours later better from his time there.

I really enjoy being able to homeschool my kids and spending the time together learning that we do. But I feel like these extra opportunities, the wealth of great people and great kids my children are able to associate with, are amazing side bonuses that I can't imagine doing without anymore.

Thank you Kitty and Sherrylyn, thank you Renae, Salena, and Kathy, and thank you Mary and Tonya and all the other great moms, dads, and kids my children will get to work with this coming year! (I was going to link to some of them, but I don't want to make you all jealous.) Thank you for being the kind of women that make me wish I could trade places with my children and learn from you instead. I don't doubt that my children will remember them and the lessons they teach for years and years to come.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Life of Fred Math Review - Day 1

About a week ago I heard about Life of Fred, a math book series, for the first time. After laughing (ha, laughing!) my way through some of the sample pages, I showed it to Adam and Sammy. They laughed as well and wanted me to go through more of it ("Sorry kids, they don't put the whole book online because they want you to actually buy it"), so I bought it. Another bonus to the fun content, they are not expensive!

It arrived today. "Hey look kids, Life of Fred came!" I set it down and promptly forgot about it.

I was gone for a few hours this evening, and when I got home I went in to tell Adam good night. He said something I thought I would never hear from him. "I read seven chapters of that math book." Picked myself up off the floor. "Did you do any of the math?" "Yes."

For a day 1 review, I would have to say I like it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

One of My Favorite Things

I consider myself a very simple person. Easily pleased, easily amused (ask Adam - at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple today he quoted something from Kung Fu Panda, "I've only seen paintings of that painting," every time we walked past a picture and I laughed EVERY TIME), and I don't need too many creature comforts. So even though Holly inspired me to want to post about my favorite things since she likes to post about her favorite things and her things that bug, I haven't come up with much of anything. But here, at last, I'm going to share one of my favorite things. I've been meaning to for a while, but I was urged on today by a quote in "Prince Caspian" by C.S. Lewis.

In the story, King Peter is getting ready to send his challenge to the fake king Miraz (Caspian's uncle). He turns to Cornelius, Caspian's teacher, and asks him, "Have you pen and ink, Master Doctor?" Cornelius replies, "A scholar is never without them, your majesty."

These awesome little pencils are how this scholar always (or close to it) keeps her "pen and ink" with her.

These Mini MVP pencils by Pentel are just over 4" long and fit happily into my back pocket. When I was in AP English my teacher, Mrs. Barry, told us that we should never read without a pencil in hand. I took that to heart and love to underline and jot down notes while I read, so my current book usually has one of these pencils hooked onto it. I get a little frustrated with myself when I go to write something down while reading and that pencil has been removed. I have them everywhere in the house, but they hide any time Jamie needs to write down a phone message.

I first found these at our local Wal-mart, but I went looking for them recently and couldn't find them. Ours is undergoing some remodeling (who knows why, it's only something like 5 years old), so I'm hoping they were out or they hadn't been moved to their new place during the whole presto chango. But I checked another Wal-mart and they didn't have any either. Unnerving. In searching for a picture to share (too lazy to pull the picture I took off my camera) I found this eBay auction for 11 packs of these wonderful little guys, coming out to only $.56/pencil, $2.81/pack (normally about the $4 range). Don't be surprised if one of their auctions comes up sold soon...

Isn't Jamie a lucky guy? Most women want clothes or jewelry. I'm drooling over pencils.

Someday I'm probably going to give this my strangest post ever award. Thanks Holly for the inspiration.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Google It

I love the internet. I initially met Jamie there, so what's not to love? Anytime I need to know anything, I google it and find my answer. Jamie and I were just sitting and watching a show on BYU-TV, one of the people introduced sounded familiar, so I googled his name and we learned some interesting information about him that enriched what we were watching. Using Pledge for cleaning tips? Google it. Temperature of the sun? Google it. Great chimichanga recipe? Google it. Catch part of a C.S. Lewis quote and want to know the rest? Google it. Want to know how many queries google gets per day? I just googled it - a statistic from 2006 said 400 million per day.

I was very happy in that life until I listened to a CES talk by David Bednar called "Things as They Really Are." Excellent, very doctrinal talk about the counterfeits Satan presents before us, including many things he uses so we are "bodiless" like him. For instance, people that get so involved with video games that those become their life when they should be out experiencing things for real.

So what did we do before the days of google? Many things would involve a lot of research. Finding answers now at our fingertips would have been significantly more difficult to come across, and I'm sure many questions just went unanswered. But in many more everyday cases, is the ease of googling stopping you from going to someone you know would have the answer? In my googling at least, probably. Am I choosing to be bodiless because it's so much easier than making a phone call? Am I making this out to be more than it really is???

It's not just about google either. When I was a newish mom I learned about yahoogroups and joined a few for moms like me. When I had a question about potty training, sleep issues, or what to feed a child that won't eat anything, I would toss a message out on there knowing I would immediately have a pool of a few hundred women and their variety of experiences ready with willing support and answers. I enjoyed that for a long time until I realized that those women may have a lot of experience, but they really didn't know me. They didn't know my background, my family, my friends, or my experiences, only the small dimension of myself that I shared on there. And likewise, I didn't know them at all. I've been on small, closer knit groups as well, but even those left me feeling the lack of real shared personal in-body everyday experiences.

So I'm totally not saying google and mommy yahoogroups are evil, but... well, I remember hearing once that you should never leave a compliment unsaid, because in not giving it you are losing an opportunity to lift that person. Maybe it's similar when you could go to someone for information.

Just for a moment, think how it feels to have someone call on you for your experience and expertise, not to even ask you to do something, just to pick your brain. Don't you feel wise and knowledgeable? Probably feels good to help. And when someone comes to you with a need they need filled, even just to ask a question, the relationship is strengthened. Even if only a bit, it is strengthened. So in going to sure and easy sources instead of someone you know, are you missing out on a good in-body experience?

It makes me want to try an experiment, that for one month every time I come up with a question or the kids bring me one, I try the question on as many "real" people as I can for a week (without being ridiculous about it like stopping people in Wal-mart) and see what we can learn from the "real" people we know. For the first question, Sammy told me earlier that Playdoh was originally created to use as a cleaning tool (he learned that in a game we've got). I asked him what it was used for and he said it didn't say. I have an idea, and like crazy I wanted to google it and find out, but for now, anyone know? (Without googling - google it for yourself if you'd like, but don't tell unless you really know.)

I don't know. Maybe I'm just up in the night, but it all makes me want to pick up the phone more. You?

P.S. I apologize in advance for the loud children background noise. I promise it's a recording we play just for fun, and I respond to it sometimes as part of the ploy. My children don't sound like that at all.
P.P.S. Jamie just showed new gaming technology to the boys and me tonight. While freakishly cool (really, watch it), where does it fall in light of all this?
P.P.P.S. I should have kept track of how many times I googled during this post, because there were several, going back to look, at least 6 or 7.