Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer plans...

I took some time over our holiday weekend to brainstorm and come up with some plans for our summer days (pre-baby summer days at least). To help the kids out, I even wrote out a schedule for our first planned day today with morning jobs, movie time, biking at the church, and school time. 


For the last few months we've had a great little system set up where if the kids are being mean to each other or rude to mom or dad, they have to grab a little job from our job bowl to do. (3-4 minute jobs, things like 'vacuum the kitchen rug' or 'clean up the cars in the basement'). Lately, it has not been working quite so well with some of our children because they get so upset about getting a job that things quickly spiral downhill and the jobs add up and up... 

So our morning jobs stretched through all the other items on our schedule this morning with a new record of 27 jobs in a row (this takes some creativity to think of that many 3 minute jobs!)

Fortunately, that meant our morning was freed up and we could easily help out to watch cousin Ethan :)

And before lunchtime the jobs were done, the house was cleaner, and all the kids were happily playing again. Phewph. 

Maybe we'll try our schedule again tomorrow. I really am excited still and hopeful for some better summer mornings! 

Hooray for Porter!

I canceled our diaper subscription on Amazon, and for the first time in about 10 years we have no children in diapers!
(For about one more month...)
 (Jordan is more excited about this than I am :)
(Probably because I know that a potty training 2-year-old requires much more energy than a 2-year-old in diapers...)

On our flight home from London, Porter kept telling me that he needed to go potty on the toilet. I quickly decided that I wasn't going to begin potty training on an international flight in an airplane restroom.

So we returned home, and sure enough he was just ready for potty training. I've always set aside a full day for a potty-training-in-a-day kind of thing with the other kids (and it's always ended up being pretty soon after we have a new baby!) I'd thought about getting this on the calendar, but Porter just decided to be in charge and do things his way.

One thing I remember being hard with potty training was remembering to ask the kids every once in a while if they need to go potty. Not with Porter. We had a few weeks of about 12 potty breaks a day. Our first reward option (a  bag full of lollipops) was gone in about 3 days. And his nursery leaders thought it was pretty funny a few sundays ago when they had to come find me in primary about 4 times!

But we're mostly done with treats except the rare time he thinks of it, and mostly done with accidents (fingers crossed) and hooray for this little Porter! :)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A few little things on weights and measurements and babies

a brand new Porter baby with a yawn :)
I had a follow-up ultrasound at my doctors appointment this week (for an earlier issue, all is well :) But the doctor was a bit surprised as he started taking measurements... apparently this little guy is not going to be so little! He's already close to 7 lbs (6.75), with 6 more weeks to go!


Except for the post baby time, my weight has always been very predictable. In all of my pregnancies, no matter where I've begun I've always ended up at the same weight by the end of pregnancy. And in the last few months, I can pretty much figure how many weeks are left by how many pounds are left before that set number. With Landon, of course I always just knew exactly where I was at "18 weeks and 3 days..." but of course that keeping track has lessened with each pregnancy, till this time I'd mostly just be reminded at each of my checkups. Ellie asked me a bit ago how many more weeks till the baby would come, so we looked it up and it was 6 1/2 weeks. Sure enough, the next day when I weighed myself I had 6.5 pounds to go to that final weight of mine!  (And no, it isn't always that precise, but it was a funny coincidence! :)


All of a sudden with six weeks to go, it feels like, "There's just six weeks to go!!!" I finally called the doula who helped with Porter's delivery and I'm still waiting to see if she'll be available so last minute. I'm thinking about whether we ought to finally replace our infant car seat. Making sleeping plans. Planning easy dinners. Tucking away cookie dough and muffins into the freezer... And starting to feel a bit nervous as the countdown quickly goes on!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Welcome to summer vacation!

Landon and Ellie finished school yesterday with a half day and now our summer vacation has officially begun! Yesterday we celebrated with a bikeride to Lee's (+ dinner at the Deli) (all after quite a bit of angst - some of our children have a hard time adjusting to a less set schedule...)
This morning we finished up morning jobs and then went to the church parking lot where the kids all rode bikes/scooters around (even Porter worked on mastering his 'new' scooter - cute kid!)

I'm still working on figuring out what our summer days will look like (or, our June days. July and August we'll just have to see what comes! :) But after such a beautiful morning, I'm thinking part of our schedule every day needs to include some great outside time like we had today.

After enough biking/scootering, we had some play time and such and made blueberry muffins, had a picnic at the roundabout, and now we've reached naptime and we'll see what else we come up with for the day (and for the summer!)

Here we go!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

sick kids & recovering & other thoughts

For the past week & a half or so, we've had sick kids at our house. Porter started out with croup and for once I even took him in to the doctor on just the second day. They gave him some steroids for the croup and chest x-rays (no pneumonia) but it was still several more days before he had much improvement. In the meantime, Owen came down with the same thing along with croup. Then Ellie and Landon... ( thankfully, Jordan and I have stayed well!) By Sunday, all the kids were recovering mostly, but I was on my own at church while Jordan stayed home to take over care for these kiddos.

All through last week we had lots and lots of resting time. Sweet Porter and Owen would both get up to play for about 2 minutes and then quickly be back to "will you rest with me in your bed?" And Ellie and Landon both had a few pretty similar days too.

This week, they've all been better enough for back to school, play, etc. (and jobs! this is the first time I've noticed what a help the kids really are in keeping our house neat with their daily jobs!) So hooray for recovering!

However, in the last two days we've also had a major breakdown from each of the kids. And each time (you'd think I'd catch on quicker...) it has been because we were expecting them to do something that would normally be a no-big-deal thing, but in their still recovering/over-tired & worn out state, little things have quickly turned into big things.

I've been doing a lot of thinking/praying/planning about what things I can do now & later to help make life go more smoothly when our new baby comes. And something about seeing how much my kids really just needed some extra gentleness and patience was a good reminder for me. Before Porter was born, the little message that kept sticking with me again and again was this -- 'babies deserve to rock our worlds for a little while.' (And, oh that little Porter baby certainly did!) Taking care of these sick kiddos this week, and in other thoughts the last little while, it seems like I keep being reminded that to take care of myself and my family with this new little baby to come I'm going to need to remember to be a little more gentle and patient with myself too (no matter how much I may want to be the super mom who can do and be all the things...)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

London Part 4

Friday: Relaxing/Clean up, Lost My Name, Picadilly Circus
By Friday, the kids were ready for some time to just play and relax. Jordan was going in to work for the morning, so we decided to just hang out at the flat. (And after a week with long days of adventures and late evening returns, there was a lot of tidying to be done too!)

Playing dress up -- hooray for a flat where other little boys live!

planning for how to lure the neighbor's cats back to the patio outside

After lunch we went to meet Jordan at the Lost My Name office - hooray! Jordan gave us a little tour and introduced us to some of the people he works with. And Ellie and Owen even got to help out with a little photo shoot! :)
After Ellie was finished being photographed, the designers let her take a turn as photographer :)

Lost My Name collage by Kathie

A few fun things: Their office space was a lot like some of Animoto's early office spaces -- a bit warehouse-turned-office space-ish, but lots of natural light, window panes as walls, bright couches, quirky little decorations (plus fun little stuffed animal characters from the books - super cute!), an open kitchen w/ snacks, cereal, etc. and in-the-works projects all around. Very fun. And tons of bikes at the door too, plus a group who took their lunch breaks to go running -- Jordan fits right in! 

After we finished up, we had just a short time before dinner so we decided to stop by "The Museum of Childhood" that was nearby. It was pretty cool, but very much more of a museum about childhood, than for children. (from Landon, "They had lots of cool toys and stuff but they were all in these big glass cases.") Still the kids had fun looking at the doll houses and trying out the rocking horses. 

That evening, we headed to Picadilly Circus -- and right when we got off the subway/bus (I can't remember! :) it felt very much like New York -- energetic and busy and active and bustling and productive...  (Something very fun about London was that each neighborhood had such a distinct feel to it!)

A cool light installation + fun/fancy touristy shopping spot

We stopped to grab a bubble tea smoothie for Kathie to try (a favorite Jordan discovered on a recent trip to Bonobos). Then headed to our destination - the Rainforest Cafe. Landon was in heaven to walk through the animal themed gift shop at the front of the restaurant, but we quickly made other dinner plans when we saw the prices on the menu. Across the street to Jamie Olivers and we were set. 

Just one more post to come I think :)

Monday, May 23, 2016

fun run

Landon has been looking forward to his 4th/5th grade fun run. Porter and I went to cheer for him (though Porter's cheers were mostly coughs, and I left Ellie and Owen both sick at home watching Mulan -- all these poor sick kiddos!)

The runners all did great and it was fun to see all the excitement of the day.

(And Landon can now run a mile much faster than my fastest ever!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Being a grown up (the good & bad)

(If this is true, I have an extra patient, extra tiny little adventurous bird inside of me :)  image here

I can't remember when I realized that part of being a grown up was that I didn't have to do go on roller coasters any more, but whenever it was, I know that I loved the idea.  No more roller coasters, or zip lines or high dives or water slides, or any other of those kinds of things that I made myself do as a teenager because even more than I dreaded the adventure was the worry of being left out of the fun... But as a grown up? I could just say no! No guilt or worry, I could just choose not to do those things. How wonderful!

But, of course there would be a catch. And one that I blissfully didn't see coming at first ---

I don't have to do any of those things any more (woohoo!). But I have to let my kids do them. And I'm afraid that I think this part is even worse!

Landon's at the aquatic center today with all of his friends from school for a field trip. And I wanted so much to outlaw the steep slide. And the deeper pool. And pretty much anything besides the kiddie pool and the water playground... And all of the 'what if's' seem even more terrifying when I imagine them happening with my little boy than just me. Ugh.

I know he'll come home  grinning and just as happy as can be from a day of such fun and adventure.  But oh, it's hard to be a brave mom!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

London Part 3

The pirate ship park in Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park - my most anticipated sight to visit :)

Thursday: Pirate Ship Park & Kings Cross Theatre

As we were making plans for things to do in London, I loved the ideas from Janssen at everydayreading, who lived in London for a few months with her little family.  After reading about the Diana Memorial playground, I was super excited to visit with the kids! I showed Owen pictures before we left, so he especially shared in my excitement about the pirate ship park.  And it really was a very fun playground. 

An added bonus: we picked up a great lunch + ice cream at the park cafe. I ordered a kids meal and it was probably my favorite London meal of all -- yummy flat bread pizza, fresh fruit & some super yummy fresh squeezed orange juice (at a park cafe!) Plus delicious strawberry ice cream that tasted like homemade - yum!

swimming in the sand?
sailing his own little life boat

The kids had been working to earn an ice cream treat and were excited to get that reward, but the park was just so fun that a few of them even said, "I guess I wish we didn't get ice cream because then we could have had just a little more time to play pirates!"

After our pirate adventures, we were off to Kings Cross Theatre for a really fun show - The Railway Children. The theater was built just for this show, and it was fantastic. It had the feel of the Hale Center Theater, except instead of the circle stage in the middle, the stage in the center was made up of various platforms running along a track that moved in and out as the settings changed (or to make room for the real steam engine coming in!) The theater wasn't very full, so they moved our tickets to the front row which was so fun! It was a small theater anyway but front row was even better, plus as the actors mingled before the show and during intermission, a few stopped to visit with us and with the kids and that made it even more special :)


(A funny thing about the show: we all thought it was an adaptation of the box car children... so as the show continued and the mother and father were still very much a part of the storyline, we kept wondering when the terrible tragedy was going to strike leaving the children orphaned! Finally, at half time we reviewed our programs and found it was an entirely different story, so then we could relax a bit about all that!)

Since we were right there, we stopped by Kings Cross station and Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4 --

Harry Potter Landon at Kings Cross Station

We stopped for dinner at the closest restaurants before heading home -- a sushi bar and a "California Burritos and Tacos" place (funny to visit in London :) Every once in a while, I had a hard time understanding the accent of store clerks or waiters and this was one of those -- I was already ordering a little funny trying to pick out what the kids were most likely to eat. And then the woman at the counter (think Cafe Rio) had to ask about 5 times if I wanted "corn or flour" tortillas  (and I just kept thinking, I'm sure she's not asking if I want cauliflower, but what could she be asking?)

Jordan found a fun new treat for us to all share for dessert -- Dorayakis!

(yummier than they look here)
I had just watched a Japanese movie all about a dorayaki baker on the flight, so it was fun to get to try this new-to-us treat! (Kind of a pancake sandwich with delicious creamy strawberry/chocolate filling -- much more delicious than the traditional red bean paste sounded to me :)

Before starting our trek home, we stopped super quick for the kids to try out the little swing in this giant bird cage... (This makes me laugh now -- you'd think with a video like this that I was capturing the fun of just taking our time and stopping to try out whatever fun an interesting things we happened to come across. The truth was that we'd passed this a few times, and I was very tired, so finally each child got to swing for all of about 5 seconds  before I rushed the next child on... I think I was very anxious to get home!)

More to come! :)

Friday, May 13, 2016

On his way!

Jordan has been traveling and traveling the last couple of weeks. He stayed in London to work for another week after the rest of us came back home. Then a quick stop in New York to meet up with a few friends. Then off to Toronto for another week at a conference he was presenting at. And now he's in the air on his way home - hooray! A few times over the last couple of days, I've said something to the kids like "I'm just talking to Dad" (on the phone) or "Do you want to say hi to Dad?" And they have jumped up with "Dad's home?!!!" They are all excited for him to be back too!

I sure love this guy!

I noticed this past week that it seems like as far as schedules, it has been pretty doable to get dinner at a normal time and the kids to bed at a normal time, jobs done, etc. and I think the reason is that without Jordan here we just don't really do anything!  Besides the set things that are on the calendar, when it's just me in charge we stick with the routines and the day-to-day things. So along with every other reason I'm happy to have Jordan back, it will be fun to have some adventures again too! :)

Brazil Presentation

Right before our trip to London, Landon gave a presentation to his class at school all about our trip to Brazil (it took us almost the full school year to finally get this all prepared!) He did such a great job and it was so fun to watch and listen to him telling the stories and details of what he saw and learned in Brazil (all in Portuguese!)  Such a treat!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

a moment of empathy

This afternoon at the library I was looking through the cart of just-returned, waiting to be shelved books when I spotted this "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer." And in just that first second I had this huge feeling come over me that even now thinking of it brings me to tears. I could just remember and feel so clearly and so completely the desperate days (x 4 babies/toddlers) of checking out not just one but every sleep book at the library and searching, hoping, praying for a way to get a little more sleep.  And oh, that overwhelming feeling of tiredness (that is coming my way again soon enough).

 I wanted to find the mom who just turned this book in and give her a great big hug and tell her "I know how hard this is. And it's really hard! And you're probably doing better than you think." And if I could go back and give myself that hug and that pep talk, I'd probably include "Please just be kind to yourself and know that this is hard, and don't feel so bad about all the things you wish you could be doing better right now. Don't get discouraged when you see or think of all the other moms who seem to be able to handle things so much better. Don't worry about all that. You won't be so tired forever.  Just do the best you can."

London Part 2

Chasing the birds at London Fields next to our flat

Tuesday: Shopping, Parks & the London Eye

Tuesday we wanted to visit some of the great parks around us. Unfortunately, London was much colder than we had anticipated -- even with several layers, watching the kids at the park was still pretty chilly! Still we managed to fit in a few and the kids had a super time.

A little bit of one of the playgrounds at London Fields, the park next to our flat. 
Our flat was right next to London Fields which had tons of beautiful giant trees, lots of green space, pigeons to chase, and a few playgrounds too.

We stopped at one for a while on our way out for the day and another on our way back in the afternoon.

From the top of the London Eye, the kids spotted a log playground and when we made our way down, Landon knew just how to get there. This was one of the kids favorite places we visited.

The kids favorite playground, made all of logs and rope

We found a great little department store where we were able to buy Porter some shoes (and he was so happy to be out of the stroller and walking at last!) and a few other fun little things to bring back home. (Scarves for me, a soft fluffly heart pillow for Ellie, British flag socks for Jordan, and a flag shirt for Landon) (That evening we stopped at a grocery store for dinner groceries, and I think because we were all a bit hungry and tired, I ended up leaving with a basket full of all sorts of treats :)

Then on to the London Eye!

The London Eye! (View from a stop on Monday's bus tour)

This is basically a giant ferris wheel, except that each little pod is fully enclosed in glass and fits about 25 people. You take just one rotation and it's about 30 minutes long giving you great views of London.  I think everyone really loved it.

Jordan + Big Ben from the London Eye

The Thames river from the London Eye + Landon & his new London sweatshirt

By Tuesday evening, Porter was correcting us when we'd tell him we were going home -- "You mean back to our flat?" About this point in the trip, Owen was also starting to ask, "Why do we keep doing adventures each day?"

Wednesday: Hampton Court Palace

Jordan and Ellie and I all had visiting a castle at the top of our list of things to do in London. Jordan and I realized as we were searching for where we'd like to visit that we were both picturing something that would have to wait for a visit to another European country someday (or enjoy in our imaginations)  -- a beautiful countryside with rambling stone walls (and maybe some sheep) where we'd walk through for a while and then suddenly stumble along a beautiful castle...

But we still made it to a castle and Hampton Court Palace was very cool. 

Three little princes/kings/wizards at Hampton Court Palace

The kids all got to dress up as we arrived and were excited to tour the castle as princes, princesses, kings and wizards. 

They had a great little show that they acted out, with us as members of the court, as they led us throughout the castle (a fun and much more interesting way to get a tour :) Landon was mesmerized by this and thrilled when he got to take part a bit near the end. 

Ellie worked hard on completing the garden scavenger hunt type game -- and the gardens really were beautiful!

Beautiful gardens at Hampton Court

Me and my sweetheart!

One tiny part of this amazing playground

There was a really amazing playground that the kids loved. A sandbox surrounded by a giant dragon, tall towers and high narrow bridges, smaller palaces, and tons of green space to run and play... so fun!

Our London crew (minus Jordan as the photographer here) after a train ride to Hampton Court Palace

More to come! :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

London! (Part 1)


At the very end of March, Jordan was excited to start his new job with Lost My Name. They are a children's book company based in London that makes personalized children's books, and Jordan will be working on their online shop. As their first U.S. employee, it took a while to get all the logistics worked out in hiring Jordan but since he's begun everything has been very smooth!

They wanted him to come out for a bit to meet all the team in person, and we decided to take the opportunity to all go visit this new place.  So, here's a little about the Brough's in London!

(A funny note: a few days after we returned from our trip, I was browsing a new blog I'd come across and saw pictures of their family with several young kids visiting a far off place (I think Brussels) and my first thought was 'who really does that?' and then I realized - I guess we do!)

Friday/Saturday:  travel + a little exploration

Friday morning we woke up to find that one of our flights for that afternoon had been canceled and we had to super quickly come up with a new travel plan (which is not easy to do for a family of 6 at the last minute!) Jordan managed to get everything taken care of and it just turned out that we had to race a bit through the morning to get things all packed up a few hours earlier than planned. (In our rush, we managed to get to the airport before we realized Porter was shoe-less, so he spent his first few days in London in socks until we could find him some shoes! :)

Getting settled for a great plane ride
We had a flight to Georgia (where we stopped for a quick dinner at the same spot as last year en route to Brazil!), then an overnight to London (where again the kids slept pretty well and the grown-ups not so well... though with less stress this time about it since we knew what to expect). Then a long trek through customs and the airport where we met Kathie and made our way together to our flat. Hooray!

We stayed here in East London (near Lost My Name) in a great little flat in a residential area right next to London Fields (found on airbnb).  The owners had two little boys, and so the kids were super excited to have lots of new and interesting toys and games to play with.  (And they were excited to find two copies of The Little Boy Who Lost His Name on the bookshelves!) It was a bit of a journey each day to go into the center of London, but I loved staying in a less touristy and more regular neighborhood just to get a feel for what it might be like to really live in a place like that.

Outside our flat -- the kids played lots of tag here, especially because it often took us a little while to gather everyone out the door, and also to lock or unlock the door with three separate - all a bit tricky - locks! (An interesting thing -- many of the doors in London that we saw didn't have door knobs on the side like we have. Lots had center knobs (that didn't turn, just for pulling the door closed) or no knob at all. They just had locks where you would expect to see the door knob)

Saturday afternoon, Kathie and I got some sleep while Jordan took the kids on some exploring around the neighborhood.

A quick rest on a Dad exploring trip

Once I woke up, we set out to find some fish & chips + dinner for me. I was still pretty groggy and a bit overwhelmed at the bustling Broadway Market, but when we stepped into a grocery store I felt much more at ease with a more familiar environment! :) (And I enjoyed my frozen pizza while Jordan and Kathie and the kids enjoyed fish&chips + some steak and kidney pie!)

Sunday: church

We forgot to pick up Oyster cards and realized too late that the buses wouldn't take cash. So we set out Sunday morning on a longish walk to church. Halfway there, we decided to get an Uber car so that at least some of us could make it on time. Happily, the driver was super nice and let us all squeeze in. :)

(from google maps)
I always love attending church in new places. It's just so interesting to see how much things are the same and what little things are different. The ward we visited met at a school, and with our kids, the primary went from 8 total to 12. For opening exercises and class (split up just junior/senior), we sat around the the tables in a classroom for a lesson on baptism. Then for sharing time we met in the cafeteria downstairs and had a tiny little passover meal and learned about passover (which was that day). Landon was having a great time being daring with the other older boys to try the horseradish and then racing to find water with them afterwards.

(happily, we had more than 24 hours!)

Sunday night we took a little time to make plans for the week and decide what things we most wanted to do.

Monday - Tours

Owen and Porter's favorite show right now is Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And one of their favorite episodes is "Battle for the Book" where they travel to London. They were super excited to find out we were going to that same place, and were especially looking forward to seeing Big Ben which Jake and his crew saw in the movie "That's the biggest clock I've ever seen!"

(A funny thing -- I had a super hard time committing to our trip. So much that Jordan was ready to buy plane tickets one evening and I just couldn't do it, then by the next morning they'd gone up in price by about $1500 and we had to come up with a whole new schedule. Just before we did buy our tickets, I was so stressed and indecisive and just went to my room to lay down for a few minutes. The boys had been in there watching a movie and I soon found myself listening to "Ahoy London!" as Jake and his mateys traveled to England, just what I was feeling a little too scared to do!)

Big Ben -- the kids most anticipated sight to see thanks to 'Jake-a-pirates' and Cubby's "That's the biggest clock I've ever seen!"

We went on a hop on/hop off bus tour for a chance to see some of the major sights and get a feel for the city.

A rainy but happy ride (Jordan + Porter taking a turn at the back of the bus)
It was a fun way to travel around the city in the open top bus and briefly see lots of the sites throughout the center of town.

A mid-tour ice cream-for-lunch break

One of our stops was another little boat tour along the Thames river. A bit slow, but throughout the rest of our trip it was fun to see and recognize many of the sites we'd passed.

A boat ride/tour along the Thames river

The tower bridge in the background -- this was the sight Porter got most excited about -- "Look at that castle bridge!"

More to come! :)