Friday, February 27, 2015

February Treat Plan

For February, we decided to loosen up our January treat plan rules a bit.   All through January if we were given treats for whatever reason  we would set them aside for 'after our January plan'. Or when we didn't stop at the bakery for free cookies at Lee's or pick up donuts along with Tuesday Flowers... we were telling the kids 'not this month, we're doing our January treat plan...'  so it felt like it wouldn't be totally fair to them to just stick with the same rules once January was over without making any changes or allowances. Also, with Valentine's day (classroom parties,  treats from neighbors and friends, etc.) we thought it would be easier to be less strict about the rules.

So, our February treat plan rules were:
1) We won't buy any treats or junk food
2) Desserts only on dessert days/Valentine's day
3) We'll choose non-treat/food rewards
3) We can eat any treats that we are given

Great things:

We continued to eat a lot less sugar than we normally would. We had fun making desserts together a bit, though we cheated a few times and ate some of the leftover treats from January that we'd hidden in the freezer. (Which seemed like a great idea at the time, but overall made the treat plan less fun I think). I loved trying a fun new dessert of peppermint muddy buddies.

I realized this month that I was really missing baking (and also I was missing surprising the kids with fun after school snacks like chocolate chip cookies).  So I found some ways to fit more baking in with healthier muffins and even tried out these "cookies" (which actually turned out to be a hit!)

Rough things:

I went to a little party early in the month and ate a bunch of candy (because it was 'allowed' with our new rules), and I felt so sick afterwards that I was super ready to get back on a better eating plan. It was trickier to stick with this plan and feel awesome though. For example, a friend gave me a big, darling Valentine sugar cookie -  and even though I was 'allowed' to eat any treats I was given, I also remembered how yucky I might feel, but then it looked so good, but then I wanted to feel good, but then look at those cute sprinkles... the biggest problem for me was that I had to think more about treats and whether I should or shouldn't eat them, and I was bugged that I would spend so much time worrying about it.

Valentine's Day with all of it's treats for the kids was tough, especially because eating so many sweets made them want to eat even more sweets...

Overall though, I think hooray! Next month I think we'll go back to our January rules (though I can hardly believe I'm the one voting for that!) I think this is so good, so I'm hoping we can somehow make these 'rules' a more permanent habit for our family.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

And some more February/Valentine fun

1.  red and pink squares painting project  2.  a spur-of-the-moment cookie cutter garland (which makes me so happy every day!)  3. watercolor hearts brightening our kitchen  4. Ellie's Valentine from Jordan (+ Ellie's birthday circles turned Valentine decorations lined up on the wall behind)        5.  happy Porter with one of our balloons   6.  roses from my sweetheart 7.  a drawing/present from my little sweetheart Ellie  8. Landon the waiter hard at work at the Brough Cafe

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Raspberry Patch Clean up/ Another Fresh Start

Clean up pics by Ellie
I spent an afternoon last week working on clearing out my raspberry patch (with some great helpers) and getting it ready for Spring. Last year when I tackled my raspberry patch, I was surprised at what a mess it had become without me even realizing it, but also hopeful at its fresh start and a bit of a fresh start of my own too. I didn't realize then (gratefully) how many more stops/starts  it would take for me to really get my feet under me again. But it feels like I'm finally getting there. Besides the beautiful Spring we've had (even if it is too early), I'm feeling so much better and brighter myself. And oh! I'm so grateful!

(Some evidence of this year's progress: Last year I spent an afternoon and cut back/pulled out all of the old branches and piled them on the lawn, where they sat for several days/weeks?  until I went to Jordan for help and he finished the job for me :)  This year I spent an afternoon and cut back/pulled out all the branches, then with some help from Landon, I cleaned them all up too! )

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Portuguese Practice

In a verbling chat
Jordan has been wanting to try out verbling ever since he heard about it a few years ago. It's a company that connects you with personalized online language classes or tutoring. Last week Jordan finally got to try it out. He went online and found a Portuguese tutor that looked like a good fit, scheduled a time slot for after the kids would be in bed, paid the fee, and that was it. When it was time for the tutoring session, he just logged in and he got to spend an hour  speaking with a guy who lives in northern Brazil, practicing his Portuguese, asking questions and finding out more details about important things to keep in mind as we're making our travel plans. And Jordan really loved it (on a scale of 1-10, definitely a 10)

I love that smile of Jordan's!
Jordan had so much fun with it that he also set up a time for Landon to have a mini-lesson, which he did on Saturday. And wow! It was so fun to watch Landon speaking and hear how well he could communicate and understand. The tutor was super and Landon had fun talking and learning about animals in Brazil, soccer,  school, etc.  Such fun!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tickets to Brazil


It's official -- our plane tickets are purchased! We're really on our way to this big adventure! This was definitely the most intense step until we hop on that plane.  Back in college, I lived in an apartment with a long narrow street/driveway leading into it -- It always made me so nervous to drive through when another car would be coming the other way that I would have to fight myself to not just squeeze my eyes shut till the car had passed. And I kind of felt like that here -- once all the decisions were made at last, It was probably good that Jordan just went and purchased the tickets while I helped the kids so I could just focus hard on something else and try not to think of all the reasons why I should run tell him 'wait!'

It was crazy how many details we had to figure out to finally click 'buy' on our tickets though. Travel dates and schedules for everyone involved,  most cost-efficient while still reasonable days/times (Jordan spent hours on this!), coordinating two different departure cities, best layover options,  seat arrangements and assignments (top priority: how can we help Porter not keep an entire plane full of people awake all night long?), trip insurance? credit card points? day trips combined with arrivals/departures? Lots of little decisions to make.

 Next up is Visas and then we're on to the fun of picking out what destinations will fill our days while we're there.  I've been practicing my Portuguese (reading) searching for good Brazilian 'mom blogs' to help me find the best ideas of where to stay, places to visit, fun things to do with kids, etc .

Hooray for this exciting adventure ahead!!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Painting time

Idea from mermag (though we just hung ours up in the kitchen instead of making Valentine's)

A few weeks ago,  Jordan's team at Bonobos was taking the afternoon off for a company activity where they were going to a cool painting place. So, Jordan took the afternoon off and was looking for  a painting project he could do with Ellie. I've had this idea in mind for years now, and it was the perfect time to finally get to it. This project was super fun to do. Jordan even wrote a program for himself to help him paint each square truly randomly. And Ellie got a bit tired half way through so I got to finish for her (and it was so fun - I think we'll have to do this again!)

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Almost cleaned up, and yep the kids will still eat these :)

A few days ago, Porter dropped our big container of goldfish on the floor and they kind of flew out in all directions across the floor.  My first reaction was quickly changed by Ellie's immediate response to start cleaning up and Owen's great reaction to the flying fish:

"Whoa! .... That was awesome!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Apple Tree Work

Something about these neat piles of branches all around our lawn I think is so pretty :)
Jodan spent much of the day on Monday working on pruning our apple tree, and there is still quite a bit more to do. The last time we had it pruned, I kind of panicked with how much was cut off... so it's been a few years since it's had a thorough pruning. Finally I was okay with taking care of our great climbing tree  (plus it's easier without it's leaves when the change isn't quite so drastic) so Jordan set to work. And what a job!  Hopefully this Fall will be busy with apple picking and lots of apple recipes.

(This kind of Spring cleaning always makes me think of one of my favorite talks  - " I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be.")

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lunch Breaks

Two days a week, Jordan takes his lunch break to watch the little boys while I go and volunteer in Landon and Ellie's classes. I love to help out in their classrooms -  just to feel what it's like in their classes, get to know their teachers and friends a little bit, and hopefully be a help too.  (And practice my Portuguese in Landon's class!) Jordan has had some fun days lately playing with Owen and Porter too, playing cars or blocks or whatever Owen thinks of (like building the great block tower above!)

Monday, February 16, 2015

February Campfire

To celebrate President's Day (with time off from school and work) and our beautiful February, we made plans for a breakfast campfire this morning. With temperatures nowhere near our last winter campfire, we thought we'd be all set with our great layers of bundling. Unfortunately, Porter had a hard time keeping his shoes and gloves on, and even a beautiful morning was still quite chilly for his bare hands and feet which meant a sad little guy. So Porter and I spent some time keeping warm in the van while Jordan cooked a delicious pancake breakfast and we waited for the sun to come up over the mountains.

Then with full tummies and some warmer sunshine, we had a great time walking along the little trails and keeping warm by the fire... and next time we'll bundle little Porter even better. :)


A few weeks ago, one of the kids had a mini-disaster as they were working on a surprise project. Jordan was super encouraging and said something like "the mistake doesn't matter - what matters is what a super great thing you were doing!" I just loved that and have been trying to remember it. We want to create happy memories for our family, and I think it's helpful to remember that the mistakes (or the cold toes/retreat to the van) don't matter as much as the happy little moments.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Magic Beans

As a parent, I've always felt like it has been so important to make sure my kids understand the truth about things. We'll play pretend and imagine, but always with the clear understanding that this is pretend. Or when the tooth fairy visits, the kids get quarters and an authentic tooth fairy note, but they know it's a fun game we play, not a real little person who leaves a surprise under their pillows.  

But finally their sweet imaginations have gotten the best of me, and I can't help  but just let them imagine. The kids love to collect those long boomerang shaped seed pods that fall from the trees at the park, and open them up to find all the seeds inside. Some time ago, I can't remember why, they decided that these were 'magic beans'.  So this Spring (Spring!) Ellie and Owen have been so excited to plant their magic beans in the round-a-bout in hopes of a tree to come. And I just love it so much. So we don't talk about February in Logan and how the seeds will freeze, (and I don't even know - do trees grow from these kinds of seeds?) or about if a tree did manage to pop up how it would be mowed with the rest of the grass...  I just let them imagine together, with Ellie telling Owen all about what is to come, "maybe a little tree will grow here and it will get bigger and bigger...." or "we have to remember to go and water our seeds today Owen!"  And maybe a tree will grow, and probably not, and either way what a fun little experiment for these two.  (Right?)  And either way, it makes me excited for the (real) Spring, when I know they'll be excited to help plant seeds in our garden and see the real magic of little plants popping up and great things growing. 

More Valentine fun

We had such a fun surprise on the way to school one morning this week. Someone had filled the tree at the roundabout with all of these bright happy Valentine's hearts. What a treat for our neighborhood - such a fun sight to see!

We had a happy Valentine's day yesterday. The highlight was a special dinner Jordan helped the kids get ready for.  Landon and Ellie acted as the chefs + waiter/waitress as they prepared and served a delicious meal to Jordan and I at the fancy "Brough Cafe".  Complete with beautiful roses at the table and our nicest dishes,  salad, rolls and chicken cordon bleu and even a delicious dessert of cookies and ice cream, plus lovely music in the background and exceptional service (I'd recommend to anyone :) It was just a lovely evening.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Watercolor Hearts

A sampling from our hearts project

A fun Valentine's Day project -- we left our paints and green tape out for a few days at the beginning of the month and everyone had fun making these beautiful watercolor hearts. I loved Ellie's carefully chosen colors neatly blended, and was surprised too at how much I loved the boys' with all the variety of colors and how well they blended on the watercolor paper. So fun!

Friday, February 13, 2015

A day off

Bedtime Reading time a few months ago

Ellie had the day off from school yesterday, and these two had such a fun time playing together through the morning. Building tracks and playing trains, a walk/bike-ride (not their favorite, but mine), planting 'magic beans' and playing at the round-a-bout... I think these kids are lucky to have each other.

Also, last night before reading time and bed, Ellie came out to the book shelf and asked 'What books do you think Owen will like?" He sure loves being read to and it is such fun to have our little reader Ellie loving to read to her little brother.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pre- Adventure Season

We took advantage of the beautiful afternoon today and took a long walk down the hill to pick up a Panda Express dinner. Porter was a happy camper (with one emergency stop at the gas station on the way home for peanut butter crackers). Landon rode and was super tough on the hill back home. Owen was a great little trooper on his balance bike with some stroller riding at the end. And Ellie was a happy scooter rider/ stroller rider.  (And Jordan managed to push all three kids + scooter + balance bike for the last bit when the kids ran out of steam).  It was just a great little adventure that made me excited for our fun adventuring season ahead.

We are loving these beautiful February days!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Jordan just got a great 'go ahead' from work on our trip to Brazil, and suddenly it feels like maybe it's a real thing we're going to do. The next step on our checklist (plane tickets!) is the final 'yes, we're really doing this'  Time to get back on track with some more intense duolingo practice!

Visiting Dad at Work

Owen loves to stop by the office to visit Jordan at work. With a special snack or a recently colored picture in hand, he'll open our back patio door and look out across the grass. A careful check through the office windows and then "his headphones are not on!" (the all clear that Jordan isn't in a meeting), and then he's out the door. Then one stepping stone at a time (usually with cold bare feet) he'll make his way out with his treasure to deliver. And a few minutes later he'll be back with a proud report of his happy little visit. Such a sweet part of these working-from-home days.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A good big brother/ race track fun

Landon has such a talent for leading the other kids in fun play time adventures. I just love these moments when all of them are having fun together! (And hooray for the cool blue race track!)

Here's a little video with more race track fun:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Science Fair

We had some grumpy times, but looking at these fun pictures, I hope Landon and Ellie will remember the happy times of our muffin science fair project! :)

And do you want to know the answer? The over-mixed muffins turned out very smooth and very peaked on top. The kids liked them the best ("can I have another over-mixed one please!?"), but I thought they were turned out a bit too tough inside.  We sure like muffins around here, so this was a really fun project that I'm sure will be remembered.

A discovery

A sleepy Landon baby!
We've had this high chair for 8+ years now, and it has been great except impossible to clean (besides the tray), and so usually very super dirty all around the frame. Today I found a brilliant discovery though!  I set it in the kids bath and turned on the hot shower then left it for 5-10 minutes. When I got back all it needed was about 3 minutes of wiping down the edges and it looked amazing! Hooray for a clean high chair once again!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Welcome Home!

Fall leaf February clean up
We are so happy to have Jordan back home! After a morning of just relaxing and enjoying Jordan's homecoming, we celebrated with a fun lunch of bread twists and salad at Pizza Factory, and then enjoyed all afternoon outside on this crazy beautiful day. The park was busy all day with kite flyers, frisbee players, walkers, runners, kids and families... oh! What a beautiful day! We tackled some yard work leftover from the Fall and Jordan and I talked out some Brazil plans while  Ellie and Landon played with friends and Owen and Porter so happily explored outside. Then a pizza movie party to end the day, and a happy day it was!

It's been such a delight to watch Porter rediscover what 'outside' really means. At one point he sat at the top of the mini hill where our lawn and our neighbors' connect, then scooted himself down - one little scoot at a time - saying 'Wheeeeee!"

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Homework Time

I recently read an article from a mother who believes strongly that young kids shouldn't be doing homework, and so her kids don't. She talks with their teachers and is very respectful, but she focuses their family time on the things she feels like matter most. I thought that was really great. I'm not planning on veto-ing homework for our family, but it did make me rethink whether our after school homework time was really the best. I know well what areas my kids are great in and where they need more practice, so  I've started to work on making our homework time more meaningful and not just hurriedly getting through what was assigned. (And with a little extra sleep, that is feeling more possible!) We've started doing little extension activities I'll think of, or at least having conversations about the take home books Ellie.  For Landon, homework that feels like busy-work I just let slide, and then I've also made more of an effort to encourage neat handwriting and thoughtful responses on the work he is doing. And I've been trying to think of fun activities we can do all together too. This week, we've all been playing a Valentine's math facts game as part of homework time,  and the kids have really loved it.

{I wrote down numbers on a bunch of hearts, and we spread them around the front room. Then I ask each child a question one at at time - number recognition for Owen, add and subtract for Ellie, and tougher multiplication/division for Landon. They have to find the heart with the answer, hand it to me, then run around the loop of our upstairs, and then they can get a new question. Landon had fun yesterday taking over my role of asking questions too.}

I love doing little projects and games like these, so I'm feeling so happy to be taking the time to do them these days!

Changes, Progress, Sweetly Sleeping

A few days ago, Porter woke up from his nap a little sleepy still. I brought him out to sit with me while I finished my Duolingo lessons. I was loving to hold him - so calm and so still! Before long, I looked down and he had fallen right to sleep in my arms. What a sweet few minutes to just hold this sweetly sleeping boy!

And speaking of sleep... (I'm always speaking of sleep when it comes to Porter I think!)

This week, I feel like maybe we're making some progress. We had some crazy nights last week, and then switched things up a bit which I think has helped.  His recent nights have been something like this:

6:30/7:00 bedtime
up once or twice before our bedtime around 10:00
10:00-5:00 up 2-4 times
5:00-6:30 up lots and lots and lots of times until we finally get him up (tired and worn out - like his mommy!) at our official wake up time.

The last few nights have been more like this:
6:30 bedtime
up once or twice before my 10:00 bedtime
10:00-5:00 up only once or twice
5:00-6:30 up just a few times, and then happily awake and ready to play at 6:30

I'll still celebrate next time we have a 'sleeping through the night' night, but even these little changes have felt pretty huge to me!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January Treat Plan Update

pears here

While we ate our cookies and ice cream on January 31st, I asked everyone what they thought were the best and hardest parts of our January treat plan --

-  I liked not having treats be rewards, and finding other things that were better rewards than treats.
-  I liked just making things together
-  I liked saving money when we didn't buy desserts or treats or junk food
- I liked our pineapple snack treat and how it felt like even more of a treat since we weren't eating so many other sweet things.

- I really liked how we got to make a lot of homemade desserts
- It was hard to not get cookies or doughnuts at Lee's
- I disliked not buying any treats
- (What was hard to go without?) Life Cinnamon

- I like that you (Debbie) let me be in charge of making a dessert!
- I liked having the desserts on some days
- It was kind of hard for me to not eat my birthday treats

Owen: (very focused on his cookie eating :)
-  I liked Ellie to make cookies and ice cream
- I liked the cookies
- I like to smash the cookies

- I loved most that I felt like we were doing this great healthy thing for our family, and something I never thought I was even capable of doing.  (Which sounds so silly since now it seems like such a no-big-deal thing, but it sure felt like a big deal before! :)
- I liked that dessert days were extra special and we got to take time to plan out and make an extra special treat for our family.
- I loved that we were all working together as a family. That was such a great motivation to me and so fun.
- It was super cool to see that my tastes really changed. The second time we had chocolate chip cookies in the month, I couldn't believe how crazy sweet they tasted!
- At first it was hard to have all the Christmas treats hidden away and not want to munch on them, but it pretty quickly became no big deal.
- I liked that I didn't have to be tempted at all the treats on display at the grocery store - having a set rule made it super easy to ignore all that.
- And now I'm excited to keep up with a good February treat plan!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


'Happy Valentine's day' from here

Ellie has been working hard for the last week on making her class Valentines. 100% Ellie designed and made cards, attached to some cute notebooks (that were on their way from my craft room to a donation box, but were found just in time to become Valentine gifts). This holiday has brought such fun crafting/making time.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Owen and Porter Play Time: Part II

I'd been checking on the happily playing boys every 15 minutes or so. They raced cars down the table slide for a long time, then I saw Owen getting out a box of activities I have set aside to do with the kids. He seemed to be interested in just a fun letters game so I didn't worry about it and kept enjoying this surprise morning of getting-things-done. After almost 2 hours, I started to hear a little Porter sadness and headed downstairs to get the boys. Imagine my surprise to see a very purple and pink Porter climbing up the stairs to meet me! Owen was right behind with suspiciously colored hands, arms and legs... A few more steps and I saw the very purple and pink carpet, and the empty tie-die box nearby, with several dripping bottles.  A few more steps along the colorful path and then a very pink bathroom (with super cute little purple footprints all over the 3 rugs.)

My 2 hours of get-things-done were well paid for the rest of the day with a few hours of bathroom cleaning (and still tie-dyed grout/cabinet spots/etc. ) and a few more hours of carpet cleaning (and quite possibly permanent pink carpet).

Porter was quite upset about the whole ordeal (or maybe just that he didn't get to play in the colorful toilet anymore). But Owen didn't seem too worried. Mom was taking pictures, he got to practice his color mixing we've been learning about ("I tried all the colors together and guess what! It made brown!!") He and Porter got to have matching purple hands and feet all day (any ideas? more bath time?) Not too bad! (He's a tough one to get mad at anyway because he's full of such happiness, but I did try to remind him throughout the day that this was not something to be repeated!)

I've been trying out a cleaning trick tonight where you put a solution on ("Juice Out"), let it sit, then put a hot iron on it (with a  wet towel between) for 5 minutes, then scrub and repeat. So far it's helping, but there are a lot of spots to work through and scrub (and I just finished up the bottle)... But it looks like with a few more evenings of cleaning, we can get at least from a hot pink to a lovely light pink :)

Owen and Porter Play Time: Part I

I got the kids ready and off to school this morning then came home to start on my morning jobs. Happily, Porter and Owen were just being great buddies and went downstairs to play all by themselves - hooray! Then, they just kept playing and playing and playing. I got all my morning jobs done, some great planning, a shower (!) and more. They played happily for almost 2 hours, with just some very quick checks from me every once in a while - amazing! Hooray for these two little brothers who had such a fun time playing together today!