Sunday, June 04, 2017

Spring catch-up...birthdays, sports, and school!

 Oh gosh, so much has been happening!!!

Abigail turned 12 in April and my parents met us at the temple. We had a really wonderful morning--my dad & Neil baptized Abigail for the family names that my mom & Neil's mom had collected for Abigail (while my mom hung out with Nathan and Matthew outside the temple), and then my dad, Neil, and Abigail chilled with the little boys while Mom & I did the iniatory ordinances for those names. It was so so so so so wonderful.

Then my parents took us out for Indian food, which was also wonderful. :-)

That night Juliet & I ran her Girls on the Run 5k--she did the whole thing without walking, even though she wasn't feeling fantastic and it was SUPER SUPER hot (easily the hottest day by a good 20 degrees we'd had yet that spring). She wanted to hold my hand every step of the way and I was so proud of her! My mom snapped this picture of us at the finish line (she was there cheering us on with Matthew).

Meanwhile Abigail was at softball practice and my dad & Neil were at Isaac's game with the younger boys. Pretty much our life is spring ball right now.

The next day was the birthday of Luke the Magnificent, Magician Extraordinaire!!

He was very specific about wanting a "sneaky cake--white on the outside with my name in blue, and then CRAZY inside!"

The kids all had a piano recital after baseball/softball practice this morning, which my parents were able to attend. It was so neat to have them there! I don't think I took any pictures--oops.

And then it was off to Luke's first softball game!

We celebrated Nathan's birthday a few weeks before; he had some of his little friends over for a lunch party and some playtime. I didn't take a single picture, but Nate LOVED it so much--we ate "dirt cups" and had construction hats and served a construction themed- lunch (I can't remember everything now but I know we had clementines for wrecking balls, chicken nuggets for boulders, carrots for logs, etc. And we had baguettes and roasted tomato bisque to appeal to adult palates as well).

 We got some new chicks and our old chickens went to a new farm, where presumably they are happily laying away. I was SO sad to see our older hens go--they are nearing the end of their laying career, so we let each kid pick out 2 chicks this year with the understanding that we would have to rehome the older hens once the chicks got big enough. But four of our chicks died (and it was absolutely awful--totally devastating to everyone, especially since 3 of the chicks were killed by a predator when they were pullets and had really developed some personality and had been around long enough for the kids to really love them).

Here is Nate with one of the six remaining new chickens--Excavator. The ones left are Darth Vader, Excavator, Goldie, Raccoon, Spot, and Parsley (who survived being pecked by the older hens whereas sweet tiny Nutmeg managed did not--she wriggled through a gap in the chicken wire and it was very very sad and awful; Parsley's pecking happened after the young pullets were 8 weeks old and we'd very carefully integrated them in with the older hens, and after 12 hours when Parsley had been attacked we decided we really had to move the older hens on...argh).

I know this photo wasn't from Mother's Day--maybe the week after? My six cuties! (We matched because we were singing in church that day and I wanted us to look a little more visually coordinated!)

We finished up another year of school and we are 4/4 for kindergarteners starting to read the Harry Potter books at the end of kindergarten! I was really not thrilled with Luke's teacher this year, so I was happy that his school day ended up being only 2 hours every day. I actually didn't have him go the last 4 days after his teacher went on maternity leave and the substitute lost Luke on her first day. Yep, we're done. 

Isaac finished up his first year of high ability with his fabulous teacher who I love so so much! He was invited to skip 3rd-grade math and do 4th-grade math next year, so he's super excited about that!! I didn't get a picture of Jules with her teacher, but she has her same teacher next year for 4/5 and I am so grateful--I just love her teacher to pieces. So different from Isaac's amazing teacher and so wonderful in her way. Those two have really lucked out on teachers this year; Jules was also on the 4/5 highest honor roll for the year (they don't do one for 2nd grade, but Isaac had straight A's all year) and Abigail was on the highest honor roll and got a bunch of awards--one for English, another for band. She had a great year but I wasn't really blown away by her teachers.

And boy were we excited to be done with school this year--not least because we were headed down to Tennessee the next day for a week of camping, hiking, and Dollywood-attending!

But before I blog about vacation, a few more baseball pics...nice and blurry for most of these, but with a few great sharp ones taken by my friend with her nice camera when her son's team was playing Isaac's (thanks again, Melissa!!)

Neil is Luke's head coach this year for t-ball; it's been really fun for them both!

Abigail has had a fabulous time with her softball team--her coaches are awesome and the girls on her team are so sweet!

When we started the season, all of our kids were total novice players. It's been awesome to watch their improvement in both skill and confidence!

I confess that I'm not the biggest fan of frantically rushing everyone through dinner/packing up dinner to eat at the fields/figuring out how to get 3 kids to games & practices all over town, but the kids have LOVED LOVED LOVED the spring ball season so much that it looks like it's in our future for the next 18 years!

Mattycakes is 8 months old!

Oh goodness. Matthew is at the cutest sweetest stage right now--the one where you think you could happily have a million babies! I must admit, he's a pretty nice antidote to some of the angsty door-slamming happening around here with the older kids.

At eight months, Matthew is crawling all over and starting to pull himself up onto things (today he pulled up on his crib mobile--goodbye, mobile!). If there is a person lying on the floor in his way, he crawls right up and over them, leaving a drooly little snail-track in his wake! He cut six teeth simultaneously around 7 months, and they are finally all through, giving him a little jack-o-lantern smile. He's getting pretty good at taking 2 consistent naps and is sooo close to sleeping through the night, but the poor kid doesn't get to have the most consistent evening schedule thanks to the 1001 baseball/softball/t-ball games we have every week. Methinks his nighttime sleep will get better once the spring sports season ends.

If Matthew could live on bananas and sweet potatoes, he would! He's very big on feeding himself these days and it's a bit of a struggle to get him to take a bottle or eat his oatmeal/formula mush (still nursing, but not the greatest nurser, so we will usually try to get 2 oz of formula in him 3x/day). But he will always open his mouth if one of his siblings is around to make him laugh and we sneak in a lot of spoonfuls that way!

Matthew is absolutely cherished and adored by every single person in our family. He is so sweet and darling and I love watching the older kids interact with him--I expected that the girls would totally dote on him, but it's been really sweet seeing how obsessed Isaac & Luke are with him too. Isaac confided to me that his goal is to make Matthew love him more than all the other kids, and so he has a special "Matthew sweet voice" that he reserves for Matty. And Luke will spend SO long just lying on the floor letting Matthew yank on his hair, or gently tickling Matthew's tummy, or slowly crawling towards Matthew while growling (which is so, so, so hilarious to Matthew--he laughs so much that he falls over). They spend a lot of time lying on their stomachs face to face bonking noses while Luke sings little songs to Matthew. Nathan also adores him but hasn't quite got the "fragile baby" thing down; he wants to roll around with Matty like he does with the older kids! (And he keeps trying to share his Legos with Matthew, argh!!)

We are so grateful for our sweet little Matthew--our gift from God!

Summer Reading 2017

Yesterday I was chatting with a dear friend who has taught 3 of my children (oh, how we missed her this year!). She asked me if I had created our summer reading lists for this year yet, which reminded me that I need to post them!!

There's more details about our summer reading in this post from last year, along with last year's lists, but the short version is that every summer I help my kids pick out 10-15 books that I think they really should read. :-) We try to mix in a lot of fun stuff, so it's not all heavy heavy classics, but basically my goal for this is to get them away from whatever junky books are popular in their classrooms (Warriors and Wings of Fire series, I'm looking at you!) and back into the really good reads that are just absolutely delightful and ones that I love myself. Our lists are pretty fantasy-heavy since that's what we love. :-) I also often ask them to read the first book in a series and figure that they will finish reading the rest of the series or zip through all the books we own by a new-to-them author; the kids probably read 3-4 times as many books over the summer as are actually on these lists, but these are the ones that they're "required" to read. And I always figure that the oldest 3 will reread all 7 Harry Potter books at least once every summer (note: from looking back at last year's post, I thought Isaac would stop at book 4, but he tromped right on through book 7 and then started back at the beginning again!).

In brief, this is my way of ensuring that they read new books along with old favorites. All 3 of my oldest children have very different approaches to reading (to be honest, I was preeeetty devastated when Abigail read the first 3 Anne books over Christmas break and was just like "meh"), and Juliet is still much more apt to try new books than her siblings, so a lot of the books Abigail is reading are ones that Jules has already read and quite a few are ones that Isaac has read.

So without further ado, here are this year's lists:

Abigail (just finished 6th grade):
1) The Oracle Betrayed (Catherine Fisher)
2) Elantris (Brandon Sanderson)
3) The Dark is Rising sequence (Susan Cooper): Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, Silver on the Tree
4) Banner in the Sky (James Ramsey Ullman)
5) The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)
6) All Things Bright and Beautiful (James Herriot)
7) The King of Attolia (Megan Whalen Turner)
8) A Conspiracy of Kings (Megan Whalen Turner
9) The Memory Thief (Bryce Moore--another fun one from my grad school buddy! )
10) The Truthteller's Tale (Sharon Shinn)
11) The Dalemark Quartet (Diana Wynne Jones): Cart and Cwidder, Drowned Ammet, The Spellcoats, The Crown of Dalemark
12) Dark Lord of Derkholm (Diana Wynne Jones)--Abigail brought this on our trip to the Smokies last week and was so engrossed that she was reading by firelight while the rest of us were playing cards and roasting marshmallows! One of my absolute favorites too.
13) Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Patricia Wrede & Carolyn Stevermer)
14) The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (Maria Augusta Trapp)
15) Eye of the World (Robert Jordan)

Juliet (just finished 4th grade):
1) Johnny Tremain (Esther Forbes)
2) Calamity (Brandon Sanderson)
3) A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Madeline L'Engle)
4) Watership Down (Richard Adams)
5) Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites (Chris Heimerdinger)
7) Cart & Cwidder (Diana Wynne Jones)
8) Drowned Ammet (Diana Wynne Jones)
9) The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)
10) Beauty (Robin McKinley)
11) Spindle's End (Robin McKinley)
12) Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)
13 Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier)
14) The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (Maria Augusta Trapp)
15) The Wheel on the School (Meindert DeJong)

Isaac (just finished 2nd grade)
1) The Grey King (Susan Cooper)
2) Silver on the Tree (Susan Cooper)
3) Time Cat (Lloyd Alexander)
4) The Black Stallion (Walter Farley)
5) From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Koningsbury)
6) The Egypt Game (Zilpha Keatly Snyder)
7) The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkein)
8) The Wheel on the School (Meindert DeJong)
9) Charmed Life (Diana Wynne Jones)
10) The Lives of Christopher Chant (Diana Wynne Jones)
11) The Iron Trial (Holly Black & Cassandra Clare)

Luke (just finished kindergarten)
1) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)
2) As many Magic Treehouse & Calvin & Hobbes book as his little heart desires--he's still such a new reader that I'm mostly just encouraging him to read whatever he wants. :-) True story--the Calvin & Hobbes books are probably THE most-read books we own. We're on our second set and there is always always always someone curled up in one of the grey chairs with a Calvin & Hobbes book!

Monday, April 17, 2017


Right now we are trying to make one of the biggest decisions we will (likely) ever make in the life of our family. I have cried and prayed and rejoiced and cried and sobbed and and prayed some more so, so, so many times in the last week. I don't know how the heck I would be surviving this right now without Neil by my side.

And my baby had an EEG and I cried a lot more. 

It's really crazy around here. So much has happened. So, so, so much, even just in regular daily life. There is so much to blog about, but right now I am barely staying afloat (also before all this stuff came up we signed all the kids up for spring sports, and I literally did not even imagine that there would be 3 games per week per kid so I will let you just do the math on that one for a minute).

I have to go do my yoga now for my rotated/tilted pelvis (another fun story) so I'm just going to leave this picture from a few weeks ago when I set a new PR for the half-marathon and had just the best time running with my kids. Every time I look at this photo it makes me so happy--it's the background and lock screen on my phone because I want to feel like Luke did on this day, and it reminds me to try to find the good in all of this right now. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Marching along and totally bragging about my kids

 If I'm being perfectly honest, blogging is about the last thing I want to do tonight--I just got the kids in bed but I've already had to go in once to tell Nathan to stop screeching and I can hear Matthew fussing, so my time is limited (and Neil isn't home so I'm flying solo on the bedtime-stuffing-kids-back-in-bed-thing).

But it's been too long since I've blogged and I keep thinking that there are things I need to write down--some parenting successes and whatnot because heaven knows I need reminders of those!!!

A snippet from my response to the family email on Sunday, since I don't have time to write it all out again--the short version is that all the kids are working SO dang hard in school right now and I am so so so proud of them. Abigail has had kind of a hard time with the introduction of the Chromebook, especially since the teachers totally just let the kids do whatever on it during the school day and don't police it (at least not the way I think they should), but after we talked about it with her she totally got on top of it and has been super careful about her usage of the Chromebook and her grades have really reflected her hard work; she's at the top of every class and is always winning the in-class Quizlet and Cahoot competitions. Juliet has had a hard time with some of the math stuff this year and has been studying like crazy and was just beaming when she came home yesterday and told me that there was one A and one B on her geometry test, and no C's, and everyone else in the class failed it--and she got the A. I am so darn proud of their hard work and if I'm going to brag about it anywhere it's going to be here, right?! And Isaac is seriously just continuing to blow us away with his crazy hard work and his awesome creativity; he has 100 percents in every subject and his teacher keeps emphasizing how incredibly gifted he is beyond what she has normally seen in 28 years of teaching and in teaching the high-ability class since its inception. I went in for Luke's conference yesterday and his teacher was like, "Well, um, here are his test scores, and I guess there's not really anything to say because he's so high above grade level...he's a really awesome kid." He's reading at a third-grade level now (at least--I'm not 100% positive because the third-grade stuff is really easy for him still) and I keep having to pull him back to the kindergarten and first grade math stuff just to make sure we've covered all our bases before we move on!

Email snippet:
"We just wrapped up the third quarter--only 9 more weeks to go until the kids are done with school! I'm super proud of all of them; everyone had straight A's this quarter, and we've had a lurking B bounce back and forth between two of the kids in the previous 2 quarters, so this represents some really diligent work from the girls on some specific targeted areas--"slow down and do your best work" is somewhat of a mantra around here these days! Luke's teacher has requested that he stay full-day over the next nine weeks, and I have mixed feelings about that, so we'll see. He definitely doesn't need it academically (he's at a third-grade reading level now and he's halfway through the first grade math stuff), and I'm not super convinced that he needs it socially, so that's going to be a big decision to make this week (I don't really love his teacher--she's nice, but just sort of okay and not very motivated). Abigail has her spring band concert tomorrow night and we're counting down the next two weeks until baseball (Isaac), T-ball (Luke), and softball (Abigail) start! Juliet has really been loving Girls on the Run and I'm so glad that she can participate in that this year! Matthew is greatly enjoying solid foods (peas, not so much, green smoothies mixed with oatmeal YES!!!) and is just on the cusp of being able to sit independently. He's getting pretty good at rolling and inch-worming to get to where he wants to go, and his fan club is as adoring as ever, especially when it's time to get him dressed--it reminds me so much of when Elise and Rosalind would beg to get baby Abigail into her sleeper!"

 In other news we were sick for three weeks straight; it totally stunk.


Can't believe this guy is almost six months old!!! He is trying SO hard to crawl. Just an absolute bundle of sunshine.

 Instagram caption for this image: "

There are two "best parts" to my day--reading stories with the children is the first, but the second is working with the "dinner helper" every night as we cook dinner together. These days we are reaping the rewards of a lot of patient training with our dinner jobs and it is amazing. Last night we got home from clarinet lessons and track practice with a hungry baby and no dinner prepped beforehand. I went to nurse Matthew while Abigail made dinner (broiled lime tilapia, steamed broccoli, and fresh plums). Luke set the table, and after dinner Juliet washed all the dishes while Isaac wiped the table and swept the floor...with no complaints from a single one of them. It's taken SO much effort to make this happen--but you guys, it was worth the effort. I may yet turn this horde into a bunch of functional adults!! (Now excuse me while I go tell my boys to hose the mud off themselves before dinner.)"

Seriously, these kids are pretty awesome. I was telling Neil last night (since he was gone again) that Isaac took forever eating dinner so he ended up doing dishes up until right before bedtime, and the little boys were doing something he really wanted to join in on, and he just kept right on with the dishes and said once, "Mom, I'd sure like to be with the boys, but I know this is the consequence because I took so long eating and now I need to do my dinner job when everyone else has free time." Aaaahhhh it is clicking!! I have to remember this for Nathan because he's driving me nuts lately and never ever listens to me. It will come!

But meanwhile Nathan is still pretty cute with his "struction vehicles" and his play-doh mess--he could seriously sit here all day listening to Classical Kids and driving his trucks around.

The other day we tried to scientifically figure out who has the longest eyelashes--pretty sure it's Nathan but it might be Isaac. It's close.

Matthew has discovered his toes and he loves them greatly.

 Contemplative little boys on a walk last week...

 And then a random snowy day!!!

Boys snuggling together yesterday morning after all the biggies left for the day

 And Abigail's band concert a few nights back--did I get a good shot of the band? Nope.

We actually weren't planning to take everyone to this because it was pretty late, but when I said something about Abigail getting ready to leave everyone was like WHAT WE ARE COMING IT IS MUSIC AND WE LOVE IT. And then they sat there raptly listening (well, Juliet had a really good book so she read) through the whole thing. I took the littlest boys home about five minutes before it ended so we wouldn't get stuck in traffic (or get rear-ended like the last concert) and Neil said a guy asked him if those were all his kids, and then said they were the most well-behaved children he'd ever seen. So that was nice to hear! (Because usually they're not.)

My fat-faced little lovey and his sticky-out ears.

 And I can't even tell you how much joy and peace of mind those chunky thighs bring me after Nathan!!!

And now he's REALLY howling so that's me over and out.

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