Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ellie's class today / dancing

cute Ellie, just because I can remember how cute her little dancing was at this age :)
Today when I went in to help in Ellie's class, I got there just in time for a little dance party. They all lined up and followed their teacher around the class, tapping and stepping and dancing along with Xuxa. And it was just the sweetest, happiest little time to get to be a part of! 

A few highlights: 

- I've been helping little groups in Ellie's English class, so I've finally gotten to know most of the kids. All the little smiles and waves as they came past my spot in the classroom just made me so happy. 

- Ellie was sending hugs my way from across the room, so I blew her a kiss as she passed. A minute later, another little boy came by and blew me a kiss too :)

And the funny little comments! 

- from the boy leading a little group, "Get ready for a wild ride!" 
- from a shoulder slumped boy, "I'm allergic to walking"
- a secret shared from one little girl, "I want to dance with Jimmy!"
- and from a little punkster, "This is the baddest Portuguese thing we've ever done."
- from the girl swinging her arms and skipping wildly, "This is so relaxing!"

What a fun bright part of my morning!

And a cute little Ellie dancer --

Monday, November 23, 2015

I was a great sleeper!

Porter woke up a few mornings ago and said first thing, "I was a great sleeper!" And he was! He'd woken a few times and cried for just a tiny bit before calming himself and going back to sleep. And the next night he slept all night long!

We've been working on getting Porter to sleep all through the night in his own room, so this was so super exciting. The last few nights (and last night especially) have been not so great. But at least there's hope!

I realized this last little while how much I have to be thankful for with Porter's sleep, even if he does still wake at night. He goes to bed for naps and bedtime so happily and willingly and falls asleep by himself without a bit of trouble. And he takes great naps every day after lunch. So hooray for those great things and for a few great nights too!

Friday, November 20, 2015

I wish I could read!

For preschool time lately we've been working on letter sounds and how sounds hook together to make words. I go back and forth about how much focus to put on reading kinds of things and how much on other types of projects. Owen has been excited about the idea of learning to read lately though, so that's what we've been doing.  This week we were doing activities about beginning sounds in words, and I was also trying to help Owen practice saying each sound in the words to see how the sounds all blend together. That part was kind of more than he was understanding, so I decided to set that aside for now and just focus on the individual sounds some more.  Then yesterday, we started the same kinds of activities but with middle (vowel) sounds. And suddenly he was sounding out and reading these words - it was so fun! He was super excited to see what he could do, and it was just fun for me to see this next little step start to click.

(We used this little worksheet all week. First Owen did the stamping activity that it was made for. Then he cut out all the words and pictures and played a matching game with them. Then we glued them all on another paper and played a bingo game with just the words. Then Owen wanted to play a game about just the letter sounds, so we cut all the words out again, separating the first letters and played a game  with those. Then we started over again with the middle sounds and we'll work/play with those for a few more days :)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The get out dance/ high chair mischief

We were finding  with mealtimes that if Porter was finished eating and we didn't notice in time, he would just throw his bowl/plate/dinner off his high chair and onto the floor. A few weeks ago, I was bending over next to his high chair picking something up when he decided he was done with his bowl full of chili and tossed it overboard - right on my head! Fortunately, it landed right side up, but then bounced off and splattered all across the floor/wall/etc. So we finally made it a priority to teach little Porter what he should do when he's finished eating. (Setting his bowl on the table and saying "Mommy, I'm done!")  As we started teaching him, we made a big celebration each time he followed our new pattern. So now for our end of meal time, instead of spilled oatmeal, etc. (though we still have that sometimes too) we have a plate set neatly on the table and sweet Porter saying "Mommy, I'm done --  Hip Hip Hooray!!"

I don't remember how or when it started, but at some point Porter started his get out dance. When he was ready to get out of the high chair, he'd stand up and dance singing "get owwwwt get owwwwt..." The kids think this is the funniest thing. "Porter, do the get out dance!" One night this week, we again had  all four children around the table at the end of dinner standing on their chairs dancing away singing  "get owwwwt, get owwwwt!"

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


thumbprint cookie partners

Something we have been working on this last month or so is finishing what we start around the house. (Or in other words, cleaning up after ourselves! Not that we're starting from scratch, but just that we all tend to get distracted and move on to the next thing before we've really finished cleaning up whatever we were working on.)  We were starting to get into the often overwhelmed with messiness stage, so it was time to try something.  And this has helped.  So far, it has mostly made a difference around mealtimes. The kids have learned to not just clear their places, but put their dishes right into the dishwasher. (And this one little step has probably made the biggest difference!) After dinner, we all stay in the kitchen until dinner is all cleaned up. There's more we can do here but I've been grateful for the little improvements!

A few other little things -

Last week Kathie and I made applesauce and the kitchen was a pretty sticky mess (with juicy apples combined with the morning's maple syrup snow cone left to melt at the kitchen table as well as some sticky spills from the night before...) And so I filled the sink with hot soapy water and scrubbed and mopped till it was sparkling clean again. And it was a big deal -- a big batch of applesauce and a clean kitchen all in one day! (It definitely helped to have Kathie's help and her company!)

For the past few months when I've gone grocery shopping, I've come home and prepped all the fresh fruits and veggies along with putting all the groceries away. (washing/chopping/etc.) And it has been so great to have those things more easily accessible and our fridge neater and tidier too.

But, a few months ago if I'd been given this suggestion I would have either brushed it off or felt totally discouraged because who has energy left to even put the groceries away after a grocery shopping trip? So I'm happy to have found something that works great for me now, and also very sure that it wasn't something I should have been doing all along. It's just nice since it works right now.

So I'm feeling grateful for these little things that make life smoother, and even more grateful for life being smooth enough to figure out and have energy to do these little things!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

on teaching (a few random thoughts)

This morning I was reading a news article about the current shortage in Special Education teachers (which seemed very much the same as I remember the situation being when I was teaching) and the pressure of all the paperwork, etc. The article wasn't anything thrilling, but the timing was perfect since I'd just dreamed about this last night --

I was teaching again and I went in to school one morning to find a small pile of student files: IEP's waiting to be done that I had overlooked. The familiar dread set in, And I thought in my dream something like "Maybe I can just tell the director that I will be a great teacher and show up every day and do my best to teach and help these students, but  she'll have to find someone else to handle the meetings and paperwork for me." (I have a feeling that maybe wouldn't have gone over so well in real life :)

I only taught for two years, and that was nearly ten years ago, so I think it's so funny that I'll still have dreams like these (full of such worry!) or the even more common scenario where my class is  filing in and taking their seats (or not) and I'm scrambling at the front of the room to pull together some kind of lesson at the (very!) last minute.

A few weeks ago, I had so much fun putting together some writing activities for some of the small groups in Ellie's class. And I remembered as I was doing it how I used to think that I might enjoy the lesson/activity preparations even more than the actual teaching. (Is that terrible?)  Once there was a whole group of students in the classroom in front of me, all of my best planned activities somehow didn't work out as perfectly as I'd imagined :)  And a few weeks in, I've found that my best little writing center ideas are fine, but definitely not working out in any perfect way!

I think all of that is why I love doing preschool time at home with my kids so much.  I get to be creative and think of simple little games and lessons, and they don't have to be fancy or perfect. I get to teach my favorite people in the world. And since I'm teaching just one child at a time, we can work at exactly what level they are on.  There is no paperwork, there are no meetings to schedule with other parents. No stress (I've never had preschool-time nightmares! ) If I forget to plan an activity or run out of time,  I can make something up in the few minutes before quiet time ends. And if my best planned activities don't seem to work, we can always switch to playing cars and try again tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November so far

last November at our favorite rainbow campground spot
We had two quick visits from Kathie and Winslow for a few days and then April for a few days -- a fun filled week!

Pizza Rat...  (we have Landon and his friends from school to thank for this one!)
And primary songs for the primary program yesterday!

This weekend we rode bikes/jogged to Waffle Love for a fun try-lots-of-kinds-of-waffles lunch with April.

Our apples, at last! One more big batch of applesauce and a few more dehydrators full of extra crispy dried apples... and we decided we're ready to be done. Any apples still on the tree will be lovely little ornaments for the Winter :)

I had fun finding and making a set of activities and worksheets for Ellie's class to use for a writing center and it has been fun to add her English class to my weekly volunteering schedule (hooray for Jordan's lunch break time and his happiness to let me do this!)

Jordan taught Ellie Imperial Assault and she was as excited as Landon was disappointed that now it could be Ellie and Dad's game too.

Once Upon an Alphabet again and again (and again!) We've missed the last few story times at the library, which means I haven't been back to renew/return my books, which means this one is most likely accruing fines, but at least we're enjoying it! (Tomorrow I'll return it at story time, right?) And I want to read all of Oliver Jeffers books now.

Inside Out for our latest pizza movie party.

On getting things organized, routinized, etc. (always?) Today we started a new tidying up job system, and we're crossing our fingers for success!

Thumbprint cookies. Jordan made these with Ellie a few weeks ago and then again before church yesterday to share with his Young Men's class. (And of course there were extras :) The kids were asking and asking, and Jordan finally told them he'd give three cookies to anyone who could stand on their head for 10 seconds. So they all practiced and practiced and Landon did it! (And Jordan too! He made the record at 39 seconds even!)

I've gotten excited about my morning walks again. I hadn't realized quite what had me not looking forward to getting out the door for a while (besides the chillyness of course). Then one day Owen was too cold to ride his bike so he hopped in the stroller and immediately I realized how much I'd been missing my walks as my own time. Our summer days of walking/Owen biking were fun and happy for sure. But I really had missed the time to just listen to music and walk and think and plan. Now that it's cold enough, the boys are both happy (mostly) to be bundled up in the stroller to talk and play with each other, and I'm excited for the little change.

A bit roughly while we try to help Porter transition to sleeping in his tent the whole night. (We'll get there, right?)

All the great fun of our Brazil trip as I helped a friend get started with their plans to go in the Spring. And of course looking back at all the wonderful parts, the visa hassle/hotel finding /vaccines don't seem nearly so bad :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

sharing stories

We had a fun quick visit from Kathie and Winslow this week (and now April for a few days too - such fun visitors!) Kathie brought up a few boxes for Jordan of scout awards, school papers, etc. It was as sweet as can be  to watch and listen to Ellie reading stories written by Jordan when he was just about her age!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jordan's newest mode of transportation

Landon finally got out his pogo stick from last Christmas and quickly beat his past records -- zero on day one, then 8, then 11, then 63, 87, then 386!  Jordan wanted to join in on the fun so he ordered himself a grown up sized pogo stick (plus a new one for Landon made for big kids), and these guys have had just a super time playing and jumping around. A few times Landon has grabbed his pogo stick instead of his bike as he headed out the door to a friend's house. And I think it won't be long before Jordan is taking his for a ride up around the Bonneville trail (like his unicycle!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


We've sure loved these warm Fall days! Our first freezing temperatures just arrived, so we had a few last great yard working days this past weekend, and then last night we had our first real snow! The kids were so excited that we had to quickly wrap up FHE so they could have a chance to run and play in the snow for just a few minutes before bed.

This morning, Jordan and Landon went sledding for their early morning time (at 6:00!) Hooray for Jordan's enthusiasm to match Landon's love for the snow!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Hero of the day

Yesterday I got to go in to Ellie's class for a few minutes to help celebrate Ellie as "Hero of the Day". She showed off a poster she'd made of her favorite things, then her teacher told some wonderful things about her. Then I got to share a few things about Ellie -- and she had helped me in advance by making me a list of all the things I should talk about :) Art and reading and playing with friends and her family, writing and drawing and making books... and she had me read a little book she'd written too. (super cute) Then all of her classmates got a turn to ask questions or say something and it was just as sweet as can be.

"What's your favorite number?" 
"I think you're really nice" 
"What's your favorite kind of animal?" 
"I just really like you a lot Ellie!"

It was fun taking a few minutes to really think about Ellie and what she loves these days. Most of all, she is such a maker.  She loves to write stories, draw pictures, make books, make homework for Owen or extra math practice for herself, plan activities and games, build and fix and repair with her tools, think of recipes and help cook... What wonderful talents Ellie has!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Skunk (a fun new book + facing a fear)

So, for several months Owen was/has been afraid of skunks. I think it must have started with a Wild Kratts episode, because we haven't had any in-person skunk encounters to get him worried. But it was a serious thing.

For a few months (or at least it felt that way... any memory of middle of the night issues are always a little fuzzy...) Owen would wake up several nights a week in the middle of the night, jump out of bed and race out into the hall calling for Mom or Dad. "I thought I saw a skunk!"

(a side note: I'm sad when my children have nightmares. But I'm grateful that the scariest thing Owen can imagine, even in his sleep, is a skunk!)

No amount of reassuring or logical explanations seemed to help much. But then... we found this book!

We had just read and loved Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett. I saw this at the library with the new books, and the fun cover illustration plus new favorite author caught my attention. Then, I thought - will this be traumatic for Owen? Or will he love it? And will it maybe help with the skunk fear?

I sat down with Owen at the library and told him I found a book that looks super fun. It's a silly book about an animal that you sometimes feel scared about - do you have a guess? (A skunk?)

And it was super! :)

A man finds a skunk on his doorstep, and the skunk follows him around his daily activities until the man finally sneaks away to find a new house and new friends. But then he starts to worry about his little skunk friend and in the end the roles have switched. The story is so fun and silly and the illustrations are wonderful.

We read this over and over (though maybe not quite as much as Sam and Dave dig a hole -- you should read that too, it's very cute!)

And, hip hip hooray! Owen has been hugely less worried about skunks. Maybe the book and maybe just more talking about it and maybe he's four years old and these stages just pass quickly :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

our morning

 This morning I got home from helping in Ellie's Portuguese class, and it was so windy and rainy and blustery that I just couldn't get us out the door again to head to story time. So we stayed home, warm and cozy and made chicken pot pie for dinner (!) And since we were starting at 9:30 in the morning, I knew we had plenty of time for little boy help,  so Owen peeled all the carrots and potatoes while Porter played in his bar stool train under the counter. Then while we waited for things to boil, we started on a triple batch of carrot muffins (this almost-winter Fall time has me feeling like I need to do something to get ready for winter -- like fill our freezer with muffins?)  My patience wore down a little when Porter joined in... oh! I love cooking with these boys, but this little one sure loves to cause mischief while he's helping! But we managed happily and even baked and blended some squash to freeze for later. And finally play dough time with the boys "And you play with us Mom!"

October Little Things

Welcome to November! We've had such a quick change of weather. November has brought the almost winter kind of Fall, and we've said goodbye to our amazing end of summer kind of Fall that we enjoyed so much for all of October.  (I'm pretty sure this is our first Logan October without snow!) But it's still so beautiful and colorful and lovely. :)

Here are a few/a bunch of little memories from October: 

Apple pie time -- Jordan would get an apple on the slicer tool then Porter would say (every time) my turn! then give it a turn or two and hand the job over to Jordan to quickly finish the apple "that's better!" then repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Raspberries! Just like our apples, our raspberry patch kind of went crazy this year in how much fruit we had. What a treat to pick a giant bowl full and then watch as the kids ate them all up!

This it the first Fall that our Ginkgo tree has lost its leaves gradually -- and I think it probably had a lot to do with the kids climbing up and shaking it's leaves off each afternoon :) I still haven't been able to rake up these leaves because for the last few weeks the kids have had so much fun raking, piling, jumping in and throwing these leaves!

And more apples... it has sure been a lot of work to not waste these apples! Last week I made applesauce with a friend who helped me bottle it. Then more applesauce, a dehydrator full of apple leather, then full of dried apples, then more dried apples and more applesauce...

A Happy Halloween evening, playing Ooga Booga while we waited for the Jack-O-Lantern dinner to finish baking. 

Landon finished reading all of the Harry Potter books, then started again with #1 and is now at the beginning of book 4 (this time reading just the most exciting parts :)

Just cute Owen and some happy play time.  Owen had been saving up his money that he earned for dishes, etc. for pretty much his whole life. So, he had quite a little savings stash (which he had no idea what the point of was or what to do with). We were out shopping one day and he saw a set of (nine!) cars that he really wanted and he was just thrilled that he could buy it!

Jordan taught the kids how to play Heart and Soul on the piano and Landon especially has just loved playing it. Heart and Soul has most definitely been the soundtrack of our October.

Our neighbor Paul was replacing their roof and Jordan had a fun time helping out on a couple of afternoons. One beautiful Saturday, the kids set up chairs on our side of the lawn and just sat to watch the show!

Just a silly thing - I set out some little Fall decorations and when Porter saw this jar, he was very excited about the "smoothie!" A little while later, Ellie came home from school and was excited to see all the decorations and said something like "and what a pretty smoothie!" :)

More art projects from sweet Ellie

More ginkgo tree fun

We went to the American West Heritage Center with Jen & Jeremiah & Ethan, and the kids all had a great time (even though we got to the giant slide a little too late -- something to look forward to next year :) This is waiting by the parking lot where Jordan had the kids running laps.

Landon had earned some little animal prizes from the library at school and loved them so much that he decided to order a big set for himself online. Opening up his packages and seeing how each animal fit together, he was just as thrilled as can be. "This is the best day of my life!"

And, of course, more apples! We made apple juice! Since we don't have a juicer, we made it in the blender and used a strainer to smoosh the juice out. The first time it took a mixing bowl full of apples and an hour to make a quart of juice. The second time was just about 20 minutes though as I'd figured out some better ways to do it. Two great things - it was delicious and it used up a bunch of apples all at once :)