Monday, August 31, 2015


Yesterday afternoon, we were sitting out in the front talking/reading/watching the kids play. And suddenly Owen came out from the garage and rode his bike across the front lawn -- his no training wheels bike! He's had a few trial runs and some practice sessions with Jordan.  On Friday, I had tried taking him for a practice ride, but he was so wobbly that my back quickly tired from leaning over to keep him upright. So we were completely surprised that he just figured it out! This morning, Owen road his new bike on our morning walk and was just a super rider "This is fun!"

And a few other bike-riding bits:

I've been going on an early morning bike-ride with friends once a week for the last several weeks this summer. Our first few rides were the most beautiful, with the sky slowly brightening as we rode through the quiet farms and neighborhoods. Our last few rides have stayed dark till our return home, but it has still been so beautiful and refreshing and fun. (Except that I always want to turn off my alarm when it wakes me at 4:45!)

This weekend our family rode bikes downtown for a Friday night pizza dinner out. And Landon completely amazed us riding all the way up Old Main, without stopping once! (That is something I have never come close to doing!)

For a while, I'd had to stop biking because my arms were hurting too much. I'd stopped in at the bike shops here in Logan to ask for advice on changing the fit of my bike, and hadn't found any super answers. Finally after telling Jordan again about how I wanted my arms to rest just like this... he thought of just turning my handlebars around backwards. (And I have to say that I fought his idea a bit - you can't just turn the handlebars backwards, right?)  But he did it, and ta-da! I'm riding again. My steering is a bit more wobbly (or a lot more wobbly when I'm going slow + pulling Owen on the tag-along) but it improved the issue with my arms dramatically and I've been so happy to be riding again!

Friday, August 28, 2015

todays thoughts on being a mom

Happy Owen, home after a mini-meltdown at the library
Years ago, when I was a pretty brand-new mom, I went to a few Women's Conference classes at BYU. One of the presentations was some kind of a panel discussion in the ballroom at the Wilk... I don't remember much at all about it, except one woman who was sharing something along these lines -

"I always wanted to be a mother" (me: paying attention, that's me too!)

"I was so happy to become a mother and welcome our precious little children to our family" (me: yes! me too! isn't it wonderful?)

"Sometime around the time that my fourth child was born, I started to find that I wasn't enjoying motherhood as much as I'd always hoped and dreamed (me: oh, that's sad! how could you not enjoy this special role? )

"I found myself feeling easily frustrated with little things that I knew I ought to be cheerfully handling. Tired of solving fights and quarrels, and just feeling a bit discouraged..."  (me: too bad! how sad to miss out on such a sweet time of life! I'll never feel like that...)

"Until finally one day I ..."

And I think I must have gotten distracted right then somehow. But as my children have grown and I've gone through years of sleepless nights and welcomed a fourth child to our family as well... I've remembered so often that little talk and wondered what her answer was, until one you day you what? What was the magical cure that turned things around? What helped you take each day as it came and love it and cherish it and be grateful to love and serve no matter what kinds of messes or arguments you have to work through?

Though even if I could go back and hear the rest of her story, I suppose that I probably would have found not a miraculous "how to live each day rosily" answer. Probably, like the rest of her story that I now understand more personally, I would have found suggestions and thoughts and answers that I've also learned.

To love these little children. To take care of myself. To find a way to get the sleep that I need. To look to the Lord. To study the scriptures and fill my life with the best things. To let go of the little things. To forgive. To be kind. And patient. To speak kindly. To take time to notice all the wonderful parts of life. To not worry if some days are hard. To keep trying, praying, working, loving.

(And just to note, I'm not having a motherhood crisis -- just remembering again these thoughts and taking time to think about them. :)

Today at the library Owen had a little fall apart moment (which felt big to me) and I had Porter in one arm and a stack of books + Porter's shoes in the other and I was trying to get Owen to either stop yelling so we could go check out or to come outside with me till he was calmed down. And  I was frustrated with myself for being embarrassed at the other story time mom's glancing in the direction of my yelling child "just leave me here!"

And I'm listening to Owen now, in quiet time downstairs, singing away while he plays. And wishing I could have remembered just to slow down and speak kindly. I know this little Owen so well and I know how to help him, and I wish I would have taken time to do it.  Certainly I can next time though.

I've thought a lot lately about Elder Wirthlin's little phrase "Come what may, and love it." And even though I haven't always found the way to do that, I feel like as much as anything else that is the magic answer to happiness in motherhood. When it comes to those little things that I get frustrated about and then frustrated for feeling that way... those are almost always instances where if I'd applied that bit of counsel, I would have, well, loved it!

So I'm going to try it out. This time of motherhood is the life that I dreamed about and planned for and chose, and choose now. And I want to love it!

(So, since I'm committing -- next time Porter has a rough night and then wants to start the day at 5:00... I will groggily wake up and remind myself to be grateful for his exceptional early morning happiness  and I will love our wake up time, even if it may be earlier than I would wish :)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Google Hangouts

Jordan's family joined us via google hangout to celebrate Porter's birthday this week. And when I pulled up this picture, it just made me stop to notice what an amazing thing this is - that Grammie and Grandpa from Livermore, April from Concord (-ish), Drew and Carter from Redmond, and Nathan from Provo could all hop on their computers for 15 minutes and watch our 2-year-old Porter opening presents in our living room. Pretty cool.  (And thanks guys for joining us!)

And a fun memory: I don't remember the details, but sometime when Skype was pretty new, Jordan rigged up something so that we could play pictionary with his parents or siblings. I can't remember exactly who, but I think we had three of us playing from different states.  And whether Grandpa Johnston was watching us or just heard about it, I remember he said something like "I can't even wrap my brain around how this could be possible!" But there's Porter 2-years-old who thinks it's just how things are done! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Porter's favorite spot to play - swinging in the apple tree
We think it may be from our unusually warm winter/spring with no late frost after the apple blossoms came, but whatever the reason, we have had an amazing quantity of apples this year. And many/most of them have just fallen off the tree, to be scooped up and thrown away for 2 cents a piece... (next year we will finally do some preventative work in the Spring to hopefully have fewer worms in the Fall)

One afternoon I was finding that a lot of the lawn apples were actually not too bad. And I even spent some time picking some apples from the tree. Then we had the question of what to do with all these apples, since you can only have so many apple pies (and actually once each Fall is about good for me).

So I made a big  batch of applesauce, and left the skins on which made it a beautiful pink color. Without sugar added, the kids don't love it but it's perfect for baking. Or I can always add sugar when we serve it and then it's delicious too.

And I made a few trays of dried apple chips. I realized when they were finished that maybe I'd sliced them too thinly or dried them too crisply, because the edges are actually kind of sharp! But still a fun little snack.

And the best discovery of all (because I still had lots of apples left after those efforts) was frozen apples. We've been having smoothies a lot lately and I recently tried throwing apple slices in which was pretty good. So I tried freezing them for smoothies and they worked perfectly. I just chopped them up (I found the quickest way was to just chop off the sides around the core - it probably wastes more apple, but since these were all apples that would have otherwise been sent to the green bin, I didn't mind). Then I dipped them in some pineapple juice/water, spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze, then packaged them up in ziplocs and we're set. Smoothie-ready apples for the next few months!

Our smoothie recipe lately:

1 handful of frozen apples
1 orange
1 peach
1 banana (frozen or not)
a few handfuls of spinach
1/2 cup or so of yogurt
milk (1/2 - 1 cup?)

I'll sometimes add in or substitute whatever else we have on hand (pineapple, berries, kale, mango, carrots, sometimes maracuja concentrate... )

And I love it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Summertime Little Things

The last few days have been 90's and hot and such a surprise because I was all set for Fall when the kids went back to school! We're celebrating Porter's Birthday today ( or as Porter has been saying - "Birthday Cake Night!") and still feeling out what the perfect routine for our days will be as we get back into this school year time.  

So while we're shifting out of summertime, here are some fun little things from these summer days -

What could be better than a freezer shelf stocked with homemade strawberry jam? These two were great little helpers :)

Our ward's annual pioneer day parade (more fun than you might guess from Ellie/Owen's serious expressions!) My red, white & blue decorations on Jordan's unicycle caused a technical malfunction (the streamers wrapped around one of the pedals so tightly that it fell off!) but fortunately, we stopped right in front of the right neighbors' house (Ed Redd) who ran inside for tools and helped us with a parade route repair before we caught up with the kids at the pancake breakfast.

Landon just moved up in Scouts to Bears and was excited to join his friends there who had moved up before (though he was sad to leave his scout leaders who he knew loved him so much!)

This little Porter is as crazy as can be a bout being "up a counter?!" If I am cooking, he is sure to be up on the counter with me, sometimes helping and many times throwing things off as quickly as he can (carrot sticks, shredded wheat, oatmeal... )

We had this pool out back for a while with just a little bit of water and it seemed like every day Porter would end up sitting in the pool, soaking wet and fully clothed (and so happy!)

We decided to be super brave and all go to the ward campout (even me and Porter,  even overnight, even though we might have said at one point that we wouldn't try a campout till all of our children slept through the night... but we were excited)

We had a fun time setting up camp (with these great handcarts for hauling gear/children) and visiting with friends. After dinner, it started raining but we all just huddled in close under the canopy and ate treats while a few brave ones roasted marshmallows in the rain. Finally Porter and Owen were ready for bed so Jordan went to help them get to sleep and found lots and lots of puddles in our tent -- it was not quite so waterproof as we thought! So rather than enduring a soggy, wet night, we packed everything back up again (with such kind help from a friend too) and hurried home to our own dry beds.

April was in town for a quick weekend visit and we all loved seeing her. We had the tent set up (drying out from the ward campout) so the kids had a some fun April play time out there. 

Our perfect climbing tree out back had a bunch of branches that had died, so Jordan took a Saturday to finally clear it all out and prune it back. We had a ton of branches to clean up and the kids and I worked hard to help through the afternoon. Then Landon got home from soccer in the evening and he and Jordan stayed up late (with the flood lights out and everything) working so hard together to get it all cleaned up. (It's a big deal for us to start and finish a project like this in one day!)

Just cute kiddos :) Our summer movie/screen time was pretty minimal, but every once in a while they'd set up here at the foot of my bed to watch a movie. (Usually Porter's favorite - "Jake a pirate!")

And haircuts! All the kids + Jordan got back to school haircuts. My roommate in college, Laura, used to cut hair for a bunch of the guys in the ward, including Jordan. At one point, she told me "Once you're married, I'm not cutting Jordan's hair anymore, so you better learn" (or something like that :) so she taught me and after 10 years of haircuts plus trims for 4 kids, those lessons (and the clippers she gave me too!)  have been well used!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wright Brothers / Small Business

First Flight image here

I woke up Friday still feeling not-so-great with a little cold/allergies/something, so Jordan took the day off work to help with the kids. (A note: Jordan has a great vacation/sick leave policy at work, but still I have a hard time asking him to take a day off unless I am completely out of commission. He convinced me this time though and I was grateful for the help and the little jobs he took care of too  -like new tires for the van!)

So while Jordan helped out with the little boys, I spent a good part of the day resting and reading The Wright Brothers, which I absolutely loved. My favorite quote from the book (by a nephew of the brothers) -- 
"History was being made in their bicycle shop and in their home, but the making was so obscured by the commonplace that I did not recognize it until may years later"
It was such a fun story of patient experimenting and researching and learning and succeeding! That night I finished it and laid in bed wondering and brainstorming about what amazing things Jordan and I could do for the history books :)  (Another note: I always love reading about the latest new startups and tech businesses and mom/family businesses. I think it would be so fun to start a (side) business with Jordan.)

Also (speaking of small businesses) I had such a fun discovery this past week. Early this summer, I bought a beautiful blanket from a cute little online shop, Little Unicorn,  after seeing a post up on SayYes . (Now based in San Francisco, I started following Liz's blog 'SayYesToHoboken' back when we took our first trip out to visit Animoto and I was looking for kid-friendly Hoboken ideas).

It was such a darling blanket, with perfect packaging so I had since bought two more for baby gifts.  Then last week, I met with some friends at the park for an end of the summer play day, and one of them mentioned the new business she and her husband had been working on. And it was Little Unicorn! What a fun surprise! (And really, their blankets are so beautiful, you should go see :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back to School!

First day of school pics + Back to school waffles&eggs by Jordan

And they're off!

Landon raced ahead on his bike the last bit of our ride to school this morning, and happily found his new class on his own.  (I'd say 'when did he get so independent?'  but truly he would have taken himself in to kindergarten if I'd have let him :) No first day jitters for Landon ("just the tests - that's the only thing that makes me worried about school") Just happiness and excitement and looking forward to seeing and being with all his friends again.   So hooray for this great boy! I'm hoping his teachers will love him and he'll make great new friends and enjoy all of his old friends and feel happy and loved. I sure love Landon and I'm so happy he has loved school so much.

Ellie and I went to back to school night yesterday (while Landon stayed home to play Imperial Assault with Jordan)  Afterwards,  we sat under a tree at the school and Ellie had me read "The Night Before Kindergarten" ("but say First Grade instead") A silly little book with a surprise ending of all the moms and dads missing their kindergarteners (first graders) and crying and coming in for one last hug while the kids happily learned and sang and played and stood on their heads ("I don't think we'll do that in P.E. unless we put something soft down on the ground first because the gym floor is very hard...") Happily both Ellie and I avoided any farewell tears at school, but oh I sure am going to miss my little girl!

The little boys and I walked in with Ellie while she hung up her backpack by her English class, then went back to her Portuguese class (her biggest worry right now - "I can't understand anything they say!") I waited just inside the door while Ellie found her seat and started a coloring page, then she gathered all her courage and gave me a little "I'm ready to stay on my own now" nod.  And off we went. And I've just been  sending happy, brave thoughts her way all day today and hoping the best for her first full day of school!

And now on to another new stage of life with these little ones,  just me and these two little boys filling our days together!

A quieter lunchtime today with me and the little boys!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is that your little boy singing there on the roundabout?

Yesterday morning, Owen was super excited about making breakfast while I went for my morning walk. I'd stopped just a bit past the roundabout to untangle my headphones, and Owen came racing out to find me. ("So, Mom. This is what happened. I was trying to pour Landon's honey bunches of oats and the bag just kept falling out and falling out!") We came up with a solution and I reminded him to wait for me at home in case of any more breakfast making trouble. 15 minutes later, I was walking past the park on my way back home and could see little Owen up ahead standing at the roundabout. I passed our sweet neighbor and she stopped to make sure the sweetly singing little boy was mine (and not some other early riser hanging out there alone!) I got a bit closer and he raced to meet me "I waited for 29 seconds and then when I said 29 I ran to you!" Such happy little moments, I sure love this Owen.

from Ellie, instructions on how to make a rainbow twirly magic wand (and if you saw the process, you'd know these instructions were exactly right! )

Also -
This morning Landon was playing at a friends house and Ellie and Owen were downstairs playing just so wonderfully while Porter and I hung out upstairs. I was talking to Ellie later, and I told her how I guessed that Owen was really going to miss her when she was back to school - how he'd miss playing with her and learning from her and doing projects and games together with her. And this was her response -

"Well. Maybe some of the days I can make a list of some project ideas and lessons and things to play and practice and you can work on it and do those things with Owen while I'm gone!"

I sure love this little Ellie too!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Morning Jobs

nope, these boys aren't our regular vacuum crew, but they were happy little helpers for one morning!

I've learned as a mom that once I feel like I have things figured out in some way- the right system or the right response or the right routine... things change and it's time to start brainstorming again. Still, it's so exciting when I find something that just works. Since the kids are heading back to school later this week, all of our systems and routines are going to be up in the air for a bit as we find our rhythm, but I still wanted to celebrate what worked this summer.

For our first few weeks of summer (more than a few actually), our morning jobs were taking us all morning long. And it was kind of miserable! Lots of 'come on guys, keep working' 'come on guys, we've got to finish' 'come on guys...' (no fun!) I kept hoping maybe it would just get easier or the kids would do better at cleaning up as they played... and we slowly, slowly got a little better at things, but it was still not going too smoothly.

I'd recently re-read something about what makes people happiest with their jobs -- things like being challenged and having autonomy. So where I had been aiming to make our morning jobs a big group effort - yay! we're working together and helping each other! I decided to try a different strategy. Instead of all of us working together on cleaning up the whole house and the kids working together on their 'super helper jobs', I started assigning each of the kids their own set of tasks that they could do just on their own. And it was like a miracle! Suddenly instead of working till 10 or 11, we were finishing at 8 or 9 -- Woohoo! As we kept at it for a few weeks, the miracle of it did wear off a bit :) but we've still been quick and there has been much less nagging-by-mom and we've all been much happier workers each morning.

So hooray for a little change that made a big difference for us! Now we'll see what we can come up with for back-to-school routines that work!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy Weekend

(At the Stake Primary Carnival -- a fuzzy picture of a picture from my phone since I haven't learned how to transfer photos!)

Whoosh -  we've had quite a week ! We talked to the kids last weekend about what great things they'd like to squeeze in to our end of the summer time, and made lots of plans for this last full week of summer break... and then poor little Ellie got super sick. And Owen and Porter got just sick enough to be feeling grumpy and have a hard time sleeping (which meant rough sleep for Jordan and I...) And Landon (who has already had his fair share of summer sick days) was healthy and happy and full of energy and feeling a bit restless with all of those fun plans on hold...

But we've made it to Friday, and Porter and Owen and Ellie all slept well last night (hip, hip, hooray!!) and Ellie was better enough to make it the primary carnival the kids have looked forward to all week. (Although she had a quick switch from a week long diet of rice chex and pedialite to cotton candy and laffy taffy, so we'll see how long she keeps feeling awesome...) Our Stake Primary President loves to put on productions and has such a talent for making things so beautiful/darling/creative&cute. So it was amazing, and the kids had a super time.

And now hooray for the weekend. On our schedule we have shoe shopping to do and maybe school supply shopping and yard work and Stake Conference plus a singing practice for the big kids.  And hopefully we'll have 4 all-better kids by next week for our very last few days of summer and the first days back to school!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

on feeling afraid vs. making plans

Our girl from Ipanema
This weekend, we drove through beautiful canyons near Logan on our way to a campout with our ward. The last little while had us following switchbacks on a narrow road above a reservoir, and I was feeling pretty nervous. (I'm afraid of lots of things. And I have an overactive imagination when it comes to what-if's...what if suddenly I couldn't stop at one of these turns and we kept going and went  over the edge...?)

After driving along this way a bit, Ellie asked from the back seat "What if our car drove off over the cliff there?" To which I wanted to answer "Don't think about it Ellie - it's too scary to imagine!" But I didn't.

Then she added "And what if my window broke open?" (me - imagining terrible answers to that question, and still wanting to say let's talk about something else! But I didn't)

Then the real problem solving came "And then when we fell in the water, I could just climb out the window. And I could climb up on top of the roof and I'd use our van kind of like a boat!"

And I suddenly realized how wonderful and amazing that Ellie could imagine all these things, just like I was -  but not feel overly scared or worried or like she needed to try to think of something else,  but instead she just figured out what to do! (not that her plan was fool-proof in this case, but that wasn't the point anyway :)

 I tend to get scared of lots of things, so I just loved Ellie's sweet example of making plans and not just getting stuck feeling scared.  And I just love how sweet and happy and innocent and wonderful this little girl is too!

Monday, August 10, 2015

on second thought

big brother Landon meeting baby Ellie (and my favorite blanket in the background)

When Jordan read my last post about organizing and clearing things out, his first reaction was "You got rid of that blanket?!"   Which of course had me quickly start to regret my eagerness to clean things out, and wish so much that I had at least thought to keep a little piece of fabric to keep in a special spot in my drawers where I could see it and touch it whenever I wanted...

Also this weekend, I had a few minutes of panic on Sunday morning when I thought that I'd accidentally donated one of my running shoes and one of my Sunday shoes. (I keep the DI box in my closet next to my shoes, and I'd just emptied it for a drop off this weekend. Knowing how much Porter loves to play in my closet, when one of each pair of shoes was missing, I worried that he'd dropped them in the box and I'd sent them off without noticing!) Fortunately, I found them neatly packed up (thank you Porter!) in an old shoe box that normally holds my spare chacos. Phewph!

So, there you go. All of my 'yay for organizing' on Friday wasn't quite so strong on Sunday :) A funny thing about blogging is that I just record and share these little tiny snippets of what is happening, or how I feel, or what's true for me at that moment. And of course life changes and sometimes it is just funny to go back and see what I thought/felt/knew at one point and how those things may or may not last forever.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how with the age of each of our children right now, we kind of felt like we were in a sweet spot. And then the following week came and we just had some super hard, hard days.  And I remember thinking something like 'if this is our sweet spot, we are in serious trouble!'  Though  now a few more weeks have passed and we've had some hard days and some sweet days (of course) and happy and rough moments... of course.

I sure love recording the mostly sweet little moments and memories here though. And the little discoveries and thoughts and tiny little snapshots of life today, even/especially knowing how different life will be tomorrow and all the other days.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tidying Up

For the last long while, I've been working on simplifying/organizing/routinizing to hopefully make things run more smoothly at our house. And one part of that has been to keep extra stuff to a minimum. I've always had a D.I. Box in my closet, collecting no-longer-treasures, and every once in a while before a drop off trip, I'd search the house for anything else I could donate. At the beginning of the summer, I did a more thorough search for items to contribute to a yard sale with my sister, so basically I felt like I'd cleared things out pretty well.

Then I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up last month. While I'm not so sure about the 'life changing part' (and I haven't felt compelled to follow her plan precisely),   I have sure been enjoying tidying up even more.

In the past month, I've donated about 14 garbage bags full, plus thrown away and recycled at least that much.  And it's been a fun summer hobby! (Seriously, I get some kind of a thrill from finding items to donate or discard -- like a backward sort of treasure hunt!)

Here's what I liked most about this book:

* I loved the idea of letting go of no longer loved and used items with a thank you for their service.

It was this idea that helped me say farewell to my beloved blanket (above) that has long been packed in a box deep in our storage room, too shredded and worn to use or repair. Instead of keeping it packaged up there forever, I took a few minutes to remember all the happiness and comfort and sweet feelings I'd had from that blanket. I took a picture so I won't forget,  and off it went.

 I sent off stacks of fabrics, like the pinks, oranges and yellows I'd picked out years ago for a baby blanket that was never made. Pulling these out of their box gave me the chance to remember the excitement I'd had - newly pregnant with one of our little ones, walking the fabric aisles, choosing which colors I loved, planning and preparing and dreaming of a little baby to come. And I'm not sure why I never made that little blanket, but for the last several years, seeing those fabrics only made me feel bad that I hadn't ever gotten around to it, or pressured to add it to my to-do list. So instead I kept the sweet memory and sent the fabrics on.

* I loved the idea of caring better for the things we own.

Years ago, I was looking through a Pottery Barn catalog with Jordan and he was kind of bugged by the beautiful layouts. Not that they were so beautiful, but that they had taken these beautiful (and expensive!) couches and beds and blankets and throws and displayed them kind of haphazardly. Purposely haphazardly obviously, but something about the $200 wool throw just tossed across the half-made bed seemed not quite right to him.

So reading this and thinking about taking care of the stuff in our home, I remembered that and realized that was kind of how we were living. We have so much, and ought to show our gratitude by taking better care of our things. So I'm working on this.  With little things like making our bed in the morning (this has been one of my New Year's Resolutions since we were married I think!) Or setting my shoes neatly in their spot in the closet instead of kicking them off into wherever they may land. I think there is definitely more to this for me so we'll see how it goes.

* I loved the idea of keeping only those things that spark joy.

This is her general guideline for cleaning and clearing out your home - 'does it spark joy'? Thinking about this as I organized gave me permission to get rid of all the in-between sized socks, the kids clothes that I always scoot to the back, bottom spaces of the dresser drawers (just for emergency), the files and files and files of paperwork (nope, I don't need utility statements from 2006), and the broken books or toys that I thought I'd get to repairing someday but I really probably wouldn't.

On the other side though, this idea also encouraged me to get my hot glue gun and actually repair some of those things that really did bring joy to me or the kids. And I felt like I had permission to keep some of the little things I never use but really love - just because they make me happy.

I think this strategy is a little trickier when you have a family - what sparks joy for Landon (everything he's ever owned) doesn't necessarily bring me great happiness, but it's not my place to get rid of.  Also, while extra toothpaste isn't so thrilling or joyful, it does make life easier to not run out and that's worth the effort of having it.

I'm still in the middle of my giant-house-clean-up/clear-out, and I'm still having such fun with it, so we'll see if maybe by the time I'm through if my tidying up will really be life-changing. Or if (more likely) school starts and the seasons change and I decide I'm done with my summer organizing hobby and am ready to just enjoy my slightly less-cluttered home. :)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

apple pie time

Our apples have been early this year, and since we didn't spray, we've been paying the kids pennies to clean up the wormy apples off the lawn. Earlier this week Landon and Owen were working hard and collected about 400 little apples -- and we had just enough great ones from that batch for one apple pie. (Plus a few almost great ones that the kids munched on too)

Fall is on the way! Our corner tree that always changes early has bright red leaves falling already. And the kids have just 2 weeks left of summer break and then it's back to school and a full day for Ellie! I'm going to miss this little Ellie with the new change, and Landon too, though I'm also excited for some time for just me and the little boys at home to do puzzles and play with the blue track and read books...

So I'm planning and prepping for a busy back to school time, and we're enjoying these bright warm days of summer! I picked out just a few more country books for our last school time afternoons and I'm trying to use our time well to fill these last summer days with happy adventures.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Let me take you to Rio! Brazil Part 12

We almost didn't go to Rio - We were super late making up our minds about our day trip there, and prices had gone up on airfare. But at the last minute (practically) we decided to just go for it, and I'm so happy we did. We had a busy, happy day trip and loved what we got to see and do!

April, Jordan and I took Landon and Ellie and we flew in to Rio on a morning flight from São Paulo. (Super cool thing: we'd left ourselves plenty of time by getting to the airport quite early. As we were finishing our check in, we had the option to just take an earlier flight rather than waiting for another 1 1/2 hours until our scheduled one - awesome! The same thing happened on our return trip home - we got there early that evening, just in case, and ended up moving up to an earlier flight than we had scheduled - hooray for flexible airports!)

We got to Rio and let the kids climb and play in the trees and rocks just outside while we planned our route to the nearest bus stop. 

Soccer courts (if I remember right there was just one after another of these, side by side, for at least a block or more)
While we were in Brazil, Jordan and April used google maps to figure out which buses to get and where. So we caught our bus and got a little mini-tour of the city on our way to our first stop - Copacabana beach!

And oh, it was beautiful! I just loved the amazing mix of skyscrapers, mountains, sand and ocean. These kids had fun splashing and digging and building. 

 I hadn't thought ahead about stopping at the beach (or dressed/packed for it), so I just sat back and happily watched and enjoyed the amazing views. 

The last few years, we've watched the fireworks on Copacabana beach for New Year's Eve (since Brazil is a few hours ahead of us, and an early new year celebration is just right for us right now :)
And the craziest bit of our trip for me was just realizing we were there -- in that same spot where we'd watched the enormous crowds celebrating for the past few years, across the world from us -- and we were right there in that spot - we were really having this great adventure!

Along the beach, there were several of these giant, detailed sandcastles. Only after we'd seen a few of them did we realize maybe they were wood castles+sand, but they were still fun to look at :)

We were eating at Gaucho Grill one day (before we'd really gotten serious about taking our trip) and Ellie saw a view of the Christ the Redeemer Statue on their big tv screen up on the wall, and said  "I want to go there!" And though we didn't take the ride up to the statue itself, we caught little glimpses of it throughout our day in the city.  (Like just barely up above that "Copacabana Palace" building above)

As we finished at Copacabana, we walked along the (super cool!) sidewalk while April and Landon walked along the beach on our way to Ipanema Beach.

(Landon and April)

 We stopped to grab some flipflops for Landon (who had very soggy shoes...) And also stepped inside this fun t-shirt store with the coolest fabric wall-papering (I'm still trying to figure out a place we could do this in our home, because I just loved it so!)

Then a quick stop at "The Girl from Ipanema" park

And a short stay at Ipanema Beach (here's our own little girl from Ipanema :) Oh, so beautiful!

We started our search for lunch, and saw a 'farmers market' that we stepped in to explore. But we quickly made our way back out - the market had just ended and all of the booths were closing up -- and it was pretty crazy and chaotic (and smelly with lots of fish/fish parts still awaiting clean up...)

So on we went to our last stop at the Botanical Garden. And it was just amazing. 

We saw this little guy and his monkey friends climbing in a tree near the entrance.

And stopped for a late lunch at the garden's restaurant - a great little French Cafe.

And then exploring! Such an incredibly beautiful place. The wildness of the rainforest with the earthy trails and the bright exotic flowers...

There's Ellie's favorite statue again! 

And we can chill in my gazebo, gazebo... 

That philodendron! This is my favorite inside plant because it is super, amazingly resilient -- but I never imagined what it would look like in the real world! (We saw several other familiar plants - only wild and enormous and happily growing in every which way instead of carefully placed in a little pot on the counter)

And another gazebo - the song is true! :)

I don't know if I've ever been in a more beautiful place, really. What a delight! But, as our last stop, we finally had to hurry ourselves out to make it back to the airport. 

We bartered for a good taxi fare and the driver (eager for the work) agreed to take us on a little detour past the lake on the way to the airport. And what a view. Again, such stunning contrasts -  Those mountains! That skyline! The beautiful lake! And all mixed together, what a beautiful place.