Friday, January 29, 2016

Reading lately

Pioneer Woman Dinnertime Kathie and I were stranded at a used bookstore in Washington for a few hours one afternoon. After I'd browsed and browsed to my hearts content, I found this book and settled down on a wooden chair near the children's book and read it cover to cover. (Sort of -- I read all the commentary and skimmed the best looking recipes :)

Stuck This picture book was Owen's Christmas present this year. And it's such a fun story that it was one of the presents I was most excited to give. A little boy's kite gets stuck in a tree and he spends the afternoon working to get it unstuck (but ends up with a tree overflowing with paint, firemen, a whale...) very silly and just so fun.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy I can only remember one book that I've read + finished and didn't like more than this one (Of Mice and men in high school English -- I don't even remember much of the story, but I very much remember throwing the book across the room because it made me so mad!)  We read this for book group and when I almost thought I couldn't make it through another page (not that it was so terrible really, just kind of nonsense?) , I realized I'd finished the book! (The kindle version said I was only at 64% but the last 1/3 was book group stuff, etc.) After talking to others at book group though, I disliked the book a lot less :)

Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother I loved this. There were definitely some over-the-top parenting strategies, but the things that really struck me as "I'd never do that!" were really just the things that I do more of than I wish. Even if I didn't agree with her style, her intentional mothering helped me rethink my own intentions. And it was just so interesting to see inside the life of a family very different from ours.

Michael Vey (book 1) This was Landon's Christmas present and I read it first just to make sure it would be good for him. It was a fun enough story that I have the 2nd on hold at the library (for me!).

Peter and the Starcatchers Jordan and Landon started reading this out loud together and I thought I was just catching up to them to join in, but then I got hooked and read the whole thing on my own again. These are fun and silly and I'm excited to re-read the rest. (They are much more fun listening to Jordan read though, so I'm going to try to be more patient and stick with them next time.)

The Gifts of Imperfection - I loved this. It was perfect for me right now and included so many things that I felt like I should be working on. I read the kindle version and highlighted a phrase from nearly every page. I've gone back a few times to re-read my highlights and I think I want to just make notes of each topic to focus on one at a time for a little while. And I'm excited to read more of her books.

Okay for Now - This is a companion/sequel to The Wednesday Wars that I really liked. And I think I liked this even more. Although, I cried through the whole book. (And I can't even remember the last time a book made me cry!) With heartache for Doug Swieteck and all the real kids in the world with similar stories. And with tenderness for all the goodness of the characters surrounding him and for all the goodness in the world and the people who I've known and have shown such love for me.

Humans of NY Stories - I didn't get very far into this before I decided the language was too much for me. I love the beautiful and inspiring stories and pictures he gathered, but not so much the rest.

How to be Lovely - I wanted to like this, just because I found it from a fun book club group on instagram where I've loved a lot of the recommendations. But it was kind of like a little souvenir book that you'd find if you'd just visited an Audrey Hepburn museum exhibit... so maybe you'd love it if you were already really so super interested?

Island of the Blue Dolphins - This was one that has been on my bookshelf for ages and I hadn't read it since I was a kid. What I loved most was reading the afterward and finding out it was based on a true story - can you even imagine??

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The little boy who lost his name

Jordan discovered recently a fun book company that makes personalized children's books ( We ordered one for Owen, and it is just super cute. The little boy follows a trail of adventures through the story, picking up letters as he goes (an O from the ostritch, W from the wizard, E from the elephant, and N from the Narwhal) and in the end, happily finds his name. Ellie and Landon are hoping for their own books some time and they all had fun playing with the site to see what kind of a story they could find for names like "Anastasia" (with 4 A's) or Landon's choice, something like  "blablaglubglub".

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

around here

snow shoe adventure prep

Around here...

-- We made banana bread and muffins this morning and our kitchen smells just wonderful.

-- It is bright and beautiful (and cold of course :) and we are counting down the days till February. January has been crazy. But we're hoping some major things will be wrapped up/cleared up/worked out by the end of the month and for sure Jordan won't have to work any more nights or weekends. Woohoo!

-- I'm helping out with the Manners Tea at the kids school in a few weeks. We wanted to do some kind of a presentation about being kind, so I went in yesterday and worked with the lighthouse team to make a little movie. It was silly and fun and we got all the clips recorded in the 30 minutes we had, then I came home and put them together in an animoto and I think it'll work :)

-- I'd sent an email to the rest of the group involved with the steering committee with my concerns about some development the city is proposing near our home. In response, one of our city council members that I've really admired (Herm Olsen) reached out to me and took time to meet and talk about my concerns and what we could do, and I was just really grateful for that effort.  I'm still anxious about the whole issue though and trying hard to organize my thoughts well for the planning commission meeting tomorrow night.

-- Owen has been hooked on war (the card game) for the past few weeks. He's thrilled when he can find a partner, but almost just as happy to play his new favorite game on his own.

-- We're cleaning up spills. And more spills. And more spills. Porter has always kind of had a thing for disasters... but in the past week or so it's gotten a bit out of control. Pretty much anything he can get his hands on that has a bunch of something (the hot cocoa mix, the kids legos...) it's sure to be spilled and quickly scattered. I'm not sure what the solution is to this stage, any ideas?

-- Landon and I stayed up last night to work on his minion car for the pinewood derby tonight, and the kids are all excited for the little event.

-- I've been trying out new recipes (more about those later, maybe?) and have been so happily surprised with the last few and how quickly they've come together.

--  I brought home a pot of pink tulips that were on sale at Sam's club today and they are so bright and cheery on our kitchen table!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Ellie Anne!

We had a little birthday party on Saturday for Ellie. She and I sat down one evening over Christmas break and Ellie came up with a theme (A Castle Pajama Party -- "so it's fun for boys and girls" ), and we made a list of possible activities. A few days before the party, we narrowed down our activity list and Ellie made me a shopping list. When I realized the day before that I hadn't done much preparation, I was a bit worried till I reviewed my list and remembered everything was pretty low key  (Which turned out to be an extra good thing, because Jordan got sick the morning of the party so I was on my own to make things work!)

Don't eat Pete, a cup castle contest, cookies on a string, and a lava jumping (long jump) contest, a homemade piƱata (which Ellie saved an oatmeal container especially  for a few weeks early) and some cake and ice cream and Ellie and her friends had a happy time!

Ellie at seven years old: 

Favorite foods: Kitkats (but no plain chocolate), Chick-fil-a sandwiches (but no other sandwiches), cookie dough ice cream

Favorite colors: yellow, then purple, and blue is great to use because it always makes all the other colors next to it look good. 

When she grows up, she wants to be: A scientist (who will do projects and experiments for people when they want to figure something out), and an art teacher (with an art studio right at her house), and a mom. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

a few little pregnancy thoughts

and a cute baby Ellie just because

When I was pregnant with Landon, I remember thinking I'd just tell my friends at work when I started to show, probably around 3 months or so. But then that time came and went and 4 months came and went and 5 months was approaching (or  somewhere in there, I can't remember exactly) and I was still snapping up my favorite jeans...when thankfully my best friend let the secret slip and then I could stop worrying about when the right time would be :)

After that experience, with every following pregnancy, I was sure in the first few months that I must be having twins because my tummy was growing so quickly! And for the first three months of each pregnancy, I just had this constant worry getting dressed every day of "oh dear, this makes me look pregnant!"

Until this pregnancy (at last, hooray!) Somewhere in the post baby-weight time after Porter was born (a time which also stretched out significantly with each baby), I finally found some better clothes to wear! Clothes that didn't make me stress about whether I still looked pregnant when my baby was x number of months/years old. Clothes that helped me settle into the important truths I'd found and was working to remember. 

I can't remember getting dressed one morning in the last 16 weeks and feeling any concern about looking pregnant. If the thought crossed my mind, it was immediately followed by the happy conclusion - "I am pregnant! How wonderful!" My jeans have gotten a little snugger along the way and I grabbed a hair tie for the top button on my favorite pair last week. And I've happily worn my favorite sweatshirts and pullovers through these winter months. 

And yesterday as we bundled up for snow shoeing and I had my snug under-layers on I looked in the mirror and saw that I really did look pregnant. And I was so excited that I went out and showed the kids - look how my belly is growing!

What a happy feeling. I hadn't stopped to think about all this so much, but what a blessing it has been to just be happy and content with my body these past few months and not have all that extra worry and concern that I carried with me along with my other tiny growing babies. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

just a lot

just for fun, brothers + blanket fort
whoosh. This has been an intense January.

A few days ago, one of us (I'll protect our identity here :) was pulling out of the garage for a meeting and suddenly there was a loud crashing sound... and a broken garage door. (At least it was just the bottom of the door that hadn't made it open quite yet, not the whole door crashed through, that's good right?)

I think it was a bit of a 'hey guys, maybe you're spreading yourselves a little thin?" message. But we've kept on and our efforts to resolve the problem so far have been working hard each time we come and go to get the buttons just right and hopefully get the door at least mostly closed.

You always hear the advice not to spend too much time looking forward to some future time when things will be happier/calmer/better... but truly I think Jordan and I will both just be breathing a little easier in a few more weeks when things are settled a bit more!

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Last week's homemade mac&cheese by Ellie 

Week 2 of my new try-new-recipes goal has been a fun success.

We made molasses bread (fine, but made delicious with a neighbor's cider cinnamon spread). I'm new enough to making homemade breads that I thought I'd timed all the rising/etc.  to be ready for an after school snack, but instead we had it for a just before dinner snack. Also, I think because our kitchen is a bit cold maybe it didn't rise as much as it should have? Maybe I'll try again sometime if we get through the 2 extra loaves now in the freezer :)

Last night I made this indian butter chicken.  (I don't know what the difference is between 'butter chicken' and 'chicken masala' or ' chicken tikka masala'... but this tasted just like my favorite chicken tikka masala from our favorite  Indian restaurant here in Logan) It was great! This was another one I wasn't so sure if I'd like, and I was pretty sure the kids wouldn't eat. But I thought it was super, and the kids even liked it a bit too -- hooray! Jordan and I had the leftovers today for lunch piled with shredded cabbage (me) and lots of other veggies too for Jordan. I also made this Indian flat bread, which was not awesome. We ate it, but it was not so great -- definitely a new recipe next time.

And last weekend Ellie tried out her new kids cookbook with homemade macaroni and cheese. I'd love to find a really fantastic mac&cheese recipe to add to our dinner rotations this year. This was fine (and very fun to help Ellie!) but we all decided that we need to keep searching for a favorite.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

sick / vidangel

from great (free to use) image collection at pexels

This weekend,  I came down with a yucky (but gratefully short-lived) stomach bug. While I rested in bed and lived off of popsicles and 7-up for a few days, Jordan did a great job keeping all the kids alive and happy. :) 

And while I was sick, I finally took the chance to try out vidangel on my own. It's like the old clean flicks, but for streaming -- basically you can watch movies without the language/sex/violence/etc. I pretty much just watch kids movies these days because I don't want to be surprised with any of that, so I think vidangel is pretty cool. I watched A Beautiful Mind (long on my to-watch-someday list) and Lincoln (which definitely made me want to read/learn more). Both were great and it was especially nice, once I was feeling better to realize that I felt much less blah since I hadn't spent all my time with silly netflix episodes (though there was a little of that too). 

Probably the best part of the recuperating time though was little Porter climbing into bed next to me, adjusting the blankets just so and telling me "I'm coming to rest with you too!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

hooray for journals

my treasure box of journals, about age 10-20

This morning I put on my favorite sweatshirt -- grey with a row of flowers and a tiny little "Brigham Young University", a childsize XL because the kids sizes were cheaper and I was a new college freshman when I bought it.   Scuffs and tears, I thought how this might just be its last winter.

And just like I usually do when I wear it, I remembered the picture I have, 15 years ago now,  in the same sweatshirt standing on the rocks on the San Diego beach with my good friend Laura.

Fifteen years ago! My new Heritage Halls roommate Laura was taking a quick road trip home and invited me to go along. And I felt so very, very loved.

I pulled my box of journals down from the top closet shelf this morning, just to remember that little trip. And what a delight! What sweet, happy memories of a little weekend and of such a happy and hopeful fresh beginning time of life.

...The whole drive as I looked out at those beautiful stars, I was just struck by all the things that are right in my life right now and all the wonderful opportunities and advantages that really have come to me... I just feel like I am in control of my life.  And what an incredible feeling that is!

Well my weekend in Santee is 'quickly drawing to an end' and it has been absolutely wonderful... It is so cool to me to just be here and be a part of so much love. 

And a bit later,  in a list of "I am grateful for..."

for the knowledge that as long as I am doing my best to do what I know is right -- everything will work out.  It will all work out. To know that my Father in Heaven wants me to be happy. Happy for all eternity! ... He knows what he's doing! He knows what I need ... and knows how to help me reach those things. 

for my life! For the wonderful feeling that I have of just everything being right in the world! Right with my life! Things are not perfect - no - but despite the stress and confusion I am feeling now - I am happy! What an incredible thing!

Friday, January 8, 2016

new recipes

I haven't totally settled on my new year's goals yet, but something I've just felt excited about in the last week or so is trying out some new recipes. (Pretty much the opposite of what I felt last year when we did this plan for about 5 months!) I'm thinking maybe one new recipe each week (or maybe, less ambitious and more likely to succeed -- cook something besides muffins from a recipe (new or not) once each week?)

This week, the boys and I made this applesauce bread. I thought I'd try it mostly as written for the first time, but with a cup of sugar, it was definitely closer to applesauce cake for me. I think we'll make it again w/ half the sugar and less nutmeg and see if it's just right.  (The kids of course loved it as is!) This and at least half of the ideas on my list of new recipes to try have come from this blog - melskitchencafe.

Also, last night I made an Asian noodle soup with beef from Jordan's new cookbook (America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook). Jordan had picked it out for the menu this week, and I was pretty sure I'd be trying it to be nice and then finding something else to eat. (And I was about 99% sure the kids would be trying it because they had to and then finding something else to eat...)

But, it turned out great! Jordan and I both really liked it, and the kids even liked it pretty well too. (They were careful to leave behind the spinach and cabbage, but liked the noodles and beef). Hooray for a surprise success!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


the happiest dentist-goer, playing with Photo Booth 

 The kids all had dentist appointments yesterday, which by itself can be a bit of an overwhelming thing for me. I've gotten over my terrible fear of the dentist, but it still takes a lot for me to be so cheerful and happy and honest and supportive to help my kids feel safe and fine about the dentist. Ellie and Owen had checkups and Landon was scheduled to have three cavities filled. I realized at the last minute that I wasn't going to be able to help all of them at the same time. So, I asked for help and my sister Jen came to the rescue and came along with us to stick with Ellie and Owen while I helped Landon and kept track of Porter.

Landon had a really rough dentist appointment a few months ago (which meant I did too!) And when I set up this one, I planned to have Jordan take over. Unfortunately he had a meeting come up at the same time, so it was left to me. And oh! this poor Landon! He left with a small filling, a big filling, and a (kids) crown, and it was hard and sad and exhausting! Part of it I know just has to be hard -- but the dentist and assistant were just not very compassionate. Landon (who is a tough kid!) was in tears trying to tell them it was hurting too much and they'd just say "it doesn't hurt, it's numb"
Oh, so frustrating. And time to find a new dentist.

But we made all made it through, and Jen was a wonderful help which I was so grateful for!

Also yesterday --
 A visit from Owen's primary teacher, a play day for Ellie, soap carving at scouts for Landon,  a lot of intense work-kinds of things for Jordan all through the day plus some extra work in the evening after the kids went to bed, and a short dinner/star wars party in the evening (and into bed for me with a good book by 8:15!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

change/ a new phone

little Ellie with a computer mouse 'I'm talking on the phone'
I'm not big on trying new things. If something still even kind of sort of works, I'll stick with it just as long as possible. As a tech guy, this can sometimes be somewhat frustrating to Jordan who is always excited to try (and share) the latest and greatest with me.

I had my first laptop for years and years, and Jordan just finally got to pick out a new one for me last year, only as the reward for some of kind of a contest we'd made between us.

I  kept my first cell phone for about 9 years (with so many new pieces and parts cobbled together in repairs over the years that by the end of it's long life, it really wasn't technically the same phone.) My replacement wasn't an awesome choice though since for the last year  it rings/dings only about 25% of the time I have a call or text.

But with the alternative being to try something new... I've stuck with the silly broken phone. Jordan had a perfectly good phone that he's been encouraging me to use for the last 6 months, but I've been stubborn about my old broken phone being good enough, I don't need a fancy new phone...

But, Jordan finally got through. He picked out a cute little case for the perfectly great phone (in the perfect color) and a cute little cover and he wrapped it up and gave it to me for Christmas. Now it wasn't so easy to turn down!

So now I have a new phone, and if you call me, I might even hear it and answer!  It took only a few days before I realized how silly I'd been to stick with a broken phone all this time. (I'll even put it in writing for my sweetheart -- Jordan you were right!)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Back to regular life

lunch break blue track time with the boys
We had a really great, really long Christmas Break this year. Lots of board games and a few outside adventures and some time with friends, just a little bit of sick time, and lots of family time. This weekend as it was wrapping up, I started to feel stressed about getting back into regular life. But even if it does mean being certain places at certain times again, I'm seeing today that regular life for us was probably not worth stressing about! :)

Ellie spent Sunday evening taking a bath, laying out her clothes, and packing her lunch so she could be all ready for back to school and not have a too-hectic or hurried morning. This morning the big kids got off to school, the boys and I did some grocery shopping (with an ambitious menu plan for the week!), and we had movie time/shower time. Then I went to have a little school lunch date with Ellie while Jordan and the boys played blue track. Then a little computer work for a church project while the boys soaked themselves and the bathroom playing in the sink, lunch and naps and that was our regular life morning!

(My 'ambitious' dinner plan for the week (mostly ambitious because it is a plan at all! :)

stir fry (+ rice, smoothies)
homemade mac&cheese by Ellie (+ fruit salad, veggies)
hamburgers by Landon (+ sweet potato fries, oranges, veggies & dip)
sweet & sour meatballs (+ rice, pineapple, veggies)
enchiladas (+ chips, corn, fruit)
Asian beef & noodle soup by Jordan (+ rice, fruit, Asian salad)

plus sometime for a snack: molasses bread

Friday, January 1, 2016

Piano lessons update

a sweet little Ellie angel
I've been teaching Landon and Ellie piano for about three months now, and I thought it was a good time for an update.


* Landon has formed a natural path through the front room with a stop at the piano for a quick 'heart and soul' or 'pizza rat' or another favorite song or two pretty much every time he walks though the room.

* Ellie told me today "Listen! I just learned three new songs!" and then played Deck the Halls, Fairest little Jesus Child, and Once within a Lowly Stable that she'd figured out by ear.  I love this!

* The kids both quickly learned the right hand part to  Jingle Bells during Christmas break (Landon reading the music I'd printed and Ellie by ear). It was so super fun to sit by them and play a little Jingle Bell duet again and again!

Still to figure out:

* Although both Ellie and Landon sit down to play nearly every day, neither of them actually practice what we're working on in lessons.  They are both loving to play the piano, so I haven't wanted to push the official practicing too hard.  But at some point they do need to practice some of the basics to improve, right?

* A young woman from our ward comes over every Monday to watch Porter and Owen so I can give focused piano lesson time to Ellie and Landon. This has been super great, except that Porter more and more wants to just be where I am which makes it pretty hard to teach. I don't know what the solution is. I'm sure I could just let him watch Jake-a-pirates and he'd be happy, but I'd still rather find a way for him to have a happy play time with Owen and the babysitter... So I'm not sure, but we've had a little break for Christmas so maybe we can figure it out as we jump back in.


Hooray for all the happy piano playing filling our home these days!