Friday, May 22, 2015

Here we go!

image here
I talked to my sister recently about our trip, and she mentioned how her husband had joked, something like "Debbie won't go sky-diving but she'll take 4 kids to Brazil?"  (Not without the secret weapon of grandparents + Aunt April! )

And now, we're on our way! (We'll leave our house at 11:00 today and we'll land in Sao Paulo about 9:00 tomorrow morning!)

I just read a sweet book, Courage for Beginners, and I read it at just the right time to help calm my worries about such a new, big, different, exciting adventure. All the time I was packing up yesterday, I'd stop for a minute every once in a while between the rush of packing and realize, this is for real - we're actually taking our family to Brazil tomorrow...!    And I'd think of this favorite line and feel braver and happier: 

Here is a girl who will fear all the fear and go forward anyway. 

Really, we've been so busy with all the getting ready that I've felt much less worried than I would have expected from myself. :) And hooray for that!

And, off we go!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Porter lately

Oh, I love these times!

Porter + Sleep:

Hooray for better sleep these days! A few months ago, Porter was sick and I brought him into bed with me for a few nights to help us both get through the nights a little easier. And it was so nice not to be getting out of bed throughout the night that we decided to make it a more permanent situation. We brought his crib into our room and smooshed it between our bed and the wall, with one side of the crib off, so as he wakes through the night I can just reach over to him and I get to stay in bed all night (and oh, what a luxury that is!) 
(I know there was a time when if anyone ever told me they were considering a set up like this, I would have quickly thought of all the reasons it was a terrible idea and how it would ruin their child's sleep, etc. but I couldn't be more grateful for the better sleep I've finally been able to get these last few months!)

Often after nap time, Porter will wake up but not be quite ready to wake up. So, I'll hold him while I read for 20 minutes or so and he'll drift right back to sleep in my arms (oh, I love this!), then wake up happy and alert and ready for the afternoon. 

Porter + Talking: 

Hooray for a sweetly talking little boy! Porter's in such a fun stage of new words every day and copying whatever we say that he can recognize. It is so fun. Our favorites lately - 

-- "Okay!" (with such enthusiasm -- a mother's dream response!) 
-- and not so dreamy "Whymom? (one word, which he obviously doesn't know the meaning of but he knows it's what the big kids say to mom's requests sometimes!)
-- "Porter" about the sweetest sound of all :)

Porter + Mischief: 

We had this short but wonderful reprieve when Porter kind of lost interest in climbing on the kitchen counters. But, he has recently re-discovered not only that he loves to climb, but also that he can push the kitchen stools anywhere he wants and then climb 'up high!'  

He also loves to empty our kitchen cupboards and pantry. We had several rounds of spices all over the kitchen floor before I finally thought to move the extra spices to a higher shelf (our vacuum cleaner still smells like cumin each time we vaccuum though!)

Porter + Love

Porter loves to read books, "go running!" around the house with the big kids, climb into his sleep tent at night, color (on any nearby surface...), sit on the counter to help with cooking, play play dough, go for walks in the stroller...

And we sure love this little Porter!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jordan's new look

As part of our trip preparations, we had to make sure that we were all up to date on important vaccines. One of the recommended ones had the option of pills for Jordan and me and the big kids, so we opted for that over another poke. Jordan explained to the kids on the way home how these worked - how they put just a tiny bit of the weak germs into these little pills, so our bodies can learn how to fight them and then protect us in case we get a lot of those same but stronger germs later on.  The first night we went to take our pills though, Jordan realized maybe it had been a mistake to explain all that to Ellie. No matter what he said, he could not convince her to purposely put those germs into her little body!
After an hour of further explanations, how-vaccines-work videos, and other negotiating, Ellie came up with a (random!) plan.

"If you will grow a beard, I'll do it!"

We had 4 doses to take, one every other day. And the deal was each time if she swallowed her pill without complaint, Jordan wouldn't shave until the next time and if she did awesome every time, he wouldn't shave till we left for Brazil. (For the record, I wasn't a part of these negotiations :)

And that Ellie did awesome - and I think Jordan really liked the excuse her little plan gave him to try out a new look for just a little while!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Have I done any good

Ellie in our FHE song-leading spot

Jordan and Landon have been getting up early most mornings for the last several months to have a short little scripture reading/ morning devotional time. A little while ago, they started singing each day "Have I done any good in the world today?" and Jordan mentioned to me that they were trying to think of a better line to replace  'if not I have failed indeed' I remembered as a teenager how much I liked that song, but how much that line caused me stress! :)

So, here is our own new and improved version (And to Will L. Thompson, we hope you don't mind our change!)

Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
Have I shown love in word and deed?
Has anyone's burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    Hooray for soccer, and other Landon fun

    happy soccer playing brothers

    Landon's soccer season is just about over, and it has been such fun. I went alone to his game on Saturday because it was a rainy, rainy day (and we thought it would be a little tricky for all the other kids in the rain...). Happily, that meant I just got to really focus and watch him play, and oh! it is so fun! It's been so great to watch Landon and all of the boys on his team working so hard and learning new things and listening to their coaches... His coaches are really amazing, and even though I'm not sure that the boys have won many games this season, I've always left each game feeling so proud of them and the good skills they're learning and great players they're becoming -- and I think the boys feel that way too.

    Also this weekend, Landon bought himself a football and spent all weekend playing catch with whoever he could get the attention of at the moment "Pass!" I think Landon's happiest moments with me and Jordan are just times like these - playing pass with the football, catch with a baseball, or tossing the frisbee back and forth. I need to remember that, so I'll be ready for the next 'want to play?'

    Sunday, May 17, 2015

    Conference Thoughts

    Friday, May 15, 2015


    I read this recently in a sweet book, Ida B. and I just loved it. It seemed like the perfect description of what home school would look like if we did it and did it well. And really this is normally how our preschool time has gone. Every once in a while we'll have a period of more structured preschool time, and probably (hopefully) this summer will be a bit more structured just to help me keep things sane. But, this little description really I think is just perfect!

    Here in the final stretch of the school year, we got busy with Jordan's travels and now distracted with our Brazil preparations, and homework time has definitely become just a 'get-it-done' time. But for a while I was working on making that after school time more meaningful/useful with some extra projects. I jotted down notes about one day's extra homework assignment and thought it was just fun to go back and remember.

    Ellie and Owen and I had made some green spinach muffins earlier that day, so we had the recipe still out on the counter.

    Landon's extra homework was to neatly re-write the recipe, doubled. (handwriting practice and adding fractions practice)

    Ellie's job was to draw each ingredient from the recipe (reading, comprehension, and drawing practice)

    And Owen's job was to tell me the first sound of each ingredient as I read it to him. (listening, phonics - "flour?" "fffff")

    Thursday, May 14, 2015

    It is great to be so happy on a busy afternoon

    A few months ago,  there was a day where I was back and forth in and out of the school most of the day long. Volunteering in Ellie's class (which turned out to be their Valentine's party, so fun!),  picking up Landon and playing on the playground with Ellie, Owen and Porter, setting up for the Science Fair, Parent Teacher Conferences and more playground time, home for dinner, then back for the science fair that evening -phewph!

    But every time I think of that day (and many other less hectic, but still busy days), I think of this line from one of my favorite lullabies,

    "It is great to be so happy on a busy afternoon."

    Not long ago, just getting the kids to and from school felt like about all I could manage in a day. And staying for a few minutes to play on the playground at pick-up time seemed seemed truly daunting. I was prepared for brand new little Porter to rock our world for a little while, but I hadn't anticipated just how long it would take for me to figure out how to mother four little ones. {Or , definitely related,  how long it would take to find a livable sleep arrangement} And oh! how I wanted to just be able to do and be all the things!

    And of course, every afternoon these days isn't a perfectly happy, busy one. But I've felt so grateful on so many days recently just to feel like a bit more like I can do the things I need and want to do. And even though those things are little (morning jobs, going for a walk, making dinners, planning for primary, visiting the library for story time...)  they feel big for me right now and I'm so happy to be doing them.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Eat the good stuff

    Artwork by Ellie, a new favorite quote from recently watched Ratatouille

    There are a lot more healthy changes we can make, but it has been exciting and fun to see the little progress we're making this year. I'm definitely at an in-between place right now trying to decide what a great long-term plan is. But I thought it would be fun to note some of our little changes so far.

    + I don't have to decide each time I go grocery shopping if we're going to stop by the bakery for doughnuts, since we've already made that decision.  (Yay! And sometimes ah, man!)

    + During the day (in between our several meals/snacks) when I have the munchies, I grab a few pieces of frosted shredded wheat or dried apricots or apples instead of a piece of candy or a few cookies/brownies from the freezer. Jordan's favorite mid-day snacks are roasted brussel sprouts or asparagus!

    + At night when I want a little sweet snack, I have a bowl of frosted shredded wheat or cheerios or Special K instead of ice cream or some other sweet dessert (This swap has helped me notice whether I am hungry or just want something sweet. I could eat a brownie or a bowl of ice cream hungry or not, but a bowl full of shredded wheat is too much if I'm really not hungry!)

    + When we do have dessert nights, we make 1/2 or 1/4 batches so that we don't have leftovers. And it's fun to make plans in advance for a dessert that sounds especially good.

    + It is super nice not to be tempted while shopping (especially at Walmart) by all of the seasonal treats that are so super cute and colorful and delicious looking... because I just know we're not going to by them, and that's that.

    + With lunch, we'll have apple slices or pear slices instead of a little treat on the side (though sometimes I do miss that little treat on the side!)

    + I've had fun experimenting with my favorite muffin recipes to make them a little healthier, but still fun as an after school snack. Also we still enjoy our oatmeal snack bites/"healthy cookies" every once in a while

    + We've been cooking with half white/half brown rice for a long time. Recently we ran out of white rice so I made just brown, and we realized that we all like it just as well. Hooray for an easy switch!

    + I've been cooking more and more with whole wheat flour - in muffins and bread the kids don't mind/notice, (the kids even prefer honey whole wheat bread to regular sandwich bread now!)  but in pancakes they often mention how they like Landon's (white flour pancakes) better.  :)

    + I've been working on switching to real maple syrup  for our Tuesday special breakfast days, but the kids so far would rather have jam with their pancakes than the real (substitute "yucky!") maple syrup (I think it's great though, also, I'm not sure if this is even super important to me, but we'll keep trying for a bit and see :)

    + I told Landon I was going to sign up to bring treats to soccer and he was greatly distressed, "you'll just bring something healthy like carrot sticks or something!" (We're taking treats tonight and though I teased that I'd bring roasted asparagus and carrot juice, it's capri sun + chocolate chip granola bars... I'm not sure yet what the perfect balance or what I think is best in fun vs. healthy eating for things like this, but for now fun it is :)

    +  I've been feeling so much better since we started this. I also made some other significant changes all at the same time though, so it's hard to say what has made the biggest difference. But one thing is that I've had fewer headaches and I think that is definitely related to eating less sugar.

    + I've learned to cook with kale! For some reason this has been so exciting to me. I was sure I wouldn't like it, but I tried it and was so happily surprised. And it's one thing that just makes me feel like I'm doing a good job eating well, "I eat kale!"

    + We're still working on figuring out what we'd like to be our habit treat-wise for parties or celebrations or vacations. But for now, it's great to have made such great little changes to our every day eating!

    Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    Jordan's ManTime

    The meditation cabin at Jordan's Canada conference center/cabin retreat

    A few months's ago, I read about a men's retreat The Nesting Place was hosting -- ManTime at the Barn --
    "A weekend that you think about when you see all those fun women’s blogging conference and you wish there was something for your husband to attend.A weekend here on our property, where the guys eat meat, sit around a huge bonfire, hang out with purpose and spend time outdoors..."
    It made me start to think about what kind of a set up there would have to be for Jordan to get excited about something like this (I couldn't think of it!) But it wasn't long before Jordan suggested just the thing -- a week with his brother Drew in Washington, followed by another week of  working vacation, coding with coworkers/friends from Bonobos and FreeRunning at a cabin in Canada. It just worked out that the two events were back to back (meaning Jordan would be gone for 2 weeks!)  He was excited enough about both of them though that I mustered all the energy I could find and sent him off!

    And he had a great time. And we did too even :) The kids and I made a fun habit of playing Uno or Monopoly Deal at bedtime most nights, and my visiting teachers were super nice to watch the boys so I could still go to Landon and Ellie's classes. And we made a big list full of ideas of fun things to do during those two weeks, but it turned out that just our regular life had enough events and activities and soccer games that we hardly even checked our list!   (Of course, we had some not-great times too -- The second evening he was gone, I was in tears and thinking "why did I ever agree to this???" And the half-way point was this exact circumstance --

    But by the last few days, though we were greatly looking forward to Jordan's return,  it also felt like, "wow! that went quickly! I still have more projects I was going to get done :)"  

    We are sure happy to have Jordan back home though! (And happy that he could have such a fun adventure too!)

    Monday, May 11, 2015

    Ellie, you are just too beautiful!

    A bride and groom drawing by Ellie

    Last week after school, Ellie had a 'super funny!' story to tell us. As she was packing up her things from her cubby, one of the boys in her class said to her,

    "Ellie, you are just too beautiful! I'm going to have to marry you!"

    Sunday, May 10, 2015

    Conference Thoughts

    Elder Bednar's talk from April conference talked all about how to 'hush our fears.' And I loved  how he described what to do about even our everyday fears  - "But can we hush the fears that so easily and frequently beset us in our contemporary world? The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes."

    I often get fearful when Jordan is out of town. On his latest trip, I went to bed the first night and instead of my usual night-time jitters of being on my own (ish -- my own + 4 little ones...), I felt unmistakable and wonderful peace. What a wonderful blessing and all the other nights that followed, I just had to remind myself of that sweet feeling I'd had and I could hush my fears and sleep sweetly.

    Read the full talk here - Therefore They Hushed Their Fears

    A Happy Mother's Day for the Grandmas we love

    (Video below) 

    Friday, May 8, 2015

    Landon's speech

    Landon has been practicing and practicing this speech all week, and today was the big day! We went to watch his school assembly, and he did a super job! It was really great to watch all the kids give the speeches they had prepared and see their cute posters up "Vote for me!"  I don't love that they have an election for such young students, but I think Landon has learned a lot in the process, and it's been neat to see him working and practicing so hard.

    Thursday, May 7, 2015

    Snap & Splash

    Our good friends, Damaris and Steven Kjar, have been working on creating and marketing a cool outside water toy. It's a set of pvc pipes and connectors (like you've probably seen, only brighter and cuter), but the coolest part is the connectors are all super easy to put together and take apart so even little kids can make all sorts of different sprinkler type set ups with them. They've printed the parts on their 3D printer and have just launched a kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise enough  money to mass produce and market the sets.

    We had a fun time last weekend at their launch party where Landon had a blast running through the (still freezing cold!) water with each of the configurations they tried out. (And Ellie and Owen enjoyed sitting close, munching on cotton candy, and watching all the kids running around :)

    I think it is so super great that the Kjars had this fun idea and are really working to see what they can do to make it grow - I'm so impressed!

    Check out their kickstarter campaign to see more about the water constructor sets or to support their goal!

    Wednesday, May 6, 2015

    April meal plan/treat plan updates

    Meal plan: Super, great, hooray for simple dinner time!

    Treat plan:
    I'm full of questions right now about how things should go for our families 'treat plan'. We did great in April. We stuck to our rules and had some fun dessert nights.  Those desserts were much simpler this month - chocolate/cream cheese frosting sandwich cookies and m&m cookies,  pistachio pudding and chocolate pudding and rice krispie treats...  The kids have gotten excited about being in charge of dessert nights, and that is super fun.

     When we started our January treat plan, it really was an experiment of 'can we actually do this for a month?' And we did, and it was great - so much so that we've just most mostly kept going!

    Now I'm trying to work out  how things should look long term. What should be our family 'rules' and why? I'm leaning more and more to less and less when it comes to sugar. But still I do miss  things like surprising the kids with chocolate chip cookies after school. And I'd like to get to the point where there aren't any rules anymore, it's all just normal/natural/how we do things in our family. So we'll keep working at it and figuring out what will work best for us. In the meantime, hooray for healthier eating!

    Tuesday, May 5, 2015

    Shopping with little ones

    I usually do what I can to run errands on my own.  Grocery shopping we can manage just fine, but anything beyond that, I try to do during Jordan's lunch breaks, nap times, or after work. This week though I had a few errands that I wanted to get done enough to even bring the kids along. Yesterday, the little boys and I picked up Ellie from school and went to make a couple of super quick stops. Our first stop was a run in to Old Navy to return something and pick up a few t-shirts for me and the kids. With Porter in my arms and Ellie and Owen searching for all the mirrors in the store (noisily enough that I always knew where they were, but not quite noisy enough that I was overly worried about bothering the other shoppers...) I felt like we still made it through the errand pretty well. Until I opened up our bag this morning and found not the t-shirts I'd picked out, but an entire bag full of little boy white t-shirts in various sizes. I can only imagine that I set down my own pile of t-shirts to chase after little Porter for a moment and then picked up the stores neatly folded display pile of white shirts by mistake. And with all three little ones around me/in my arms while checking out, I didn't even notice that all the cashier was ringing up (right in front of me!) were these white shirts -  what a funny mistake!

    Monday, May 4, 2015

    Some days are like that

    A sweet note from my little Ellie (given to me a few days ago after the little boys, with a little encouragement by their should-have-known-better big brother emptied the Costco-size laundry detergent all over the laundry room) I'm so grateful for reminders like this little note, given with such love. 
    We had quite an evening yesterday. I talked with my Uncle for a few minutes just after I'd put the kids to bed, and when he asked how the kids were doing, I was a bit alarmed to find myself telling him about our crazy evening with the toilet overflowing and Porter crying in distress, overdue for bedtime... and then I surprised myself even more, answering truthfully when he said "You must be exhausted!" I suppose I was too tired to even come up with a cheerful statement in response! (Like this wonderful story Heidi Swinton told at a recent Relief Society activity we had)

    Certainly things are looking brighter today though, and yet again I'm recommitted to "not talk meanly".

    Sunday, May 3, 2015

    Conference Thoughts

    We've had an evening tonight where family life wasn't as glowing and picturesque as this. But  I read this weeks ago and loved it because I've often felt the truth of it. And today I'm noticing that it's not in having picture-perfect families that we have the opportunity to be 'a light on a hill', but more just in our eternal perspective on families. It's not that we never mess up (certainly. ask the Brough children today and they will let you know!)  but that we know it's worth it to try again tomorrow and again and again to strengthen and nurture our families the best we can. 

    Also, my favorite talk on motherhood (especially for days like today!) by Elder Holland
    Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be. 

    Friday, May 1, 2015

    Repeating Patterns in Action

    When Ellie and I were learning and practicing with repeating patterns, I knew I wanted to find more ways to use that new technique because it was just so fun. About the same time, I'd been on the lookout for some tiny animal print fabric that I could use to make some things for the zoo. When I couldn't find just what I was looking for, I decided to try out some (very) basic fabric design!

    I made a repeating pattern with some cute little dear , using basically the same technique as we did with paper and crayons, but on the computer. It's not perfect, but it was just what I was looking for.

     A little section taken from a bigger section of several squares pieced together
    Once I had my pattern finished, I just uploaded the image to spoonflower, placed my order, and a little while later, I got my little fat quarter sample in the mail! 

    all those cute momma and baby deer!

    Yesterday evening, I listened to a favorite podcast and sewed up four darling little deer bow ties (And I still have enough fabric left for some other cute thing...) And today I dropped them off with a few other things at the Zoo gift shop after storytime!

    (But not before a few silly face pictures with Owen!)

    I'm so excited about this project. It was so fun to make these cute bowties with my own little design - so fun to be involved with creating each step of the process!