Tuesday, September 11, 2018

It's autumn!!

Today Matthew and I ran through our first crunchy leaves and I thought hip hip hurray, best time of the year!!! We had a weekend of nonstop rain (like 8 inches) and cool temps, so you better believe we fried scones and mulled cider and got ourselves some apple-cinnamon candle-burning going on (and pulled out the fall decorations!).

I went to New York a couple weeks ago to help my sister Ruth & her family through her fourth round of chemo--hopefully it was the last really terrible one. It was, quite frankly, so hard to see her in so much pain. But conversely, really good to be there and be able to talk with her when she was feeling well enough and make food and take care of kiddos when she wasn't. (And I had some pretty glorious alone time which NEVER happens in my regular life--one afternoon I went to the 9/11 museum, one afternoon I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, and another day I ran 14 miles around the city from Battery Park to Central Park.)

This weekend I'm going to Michigan with Matthew to see my parents and Elise's family (they're visiting from Utah). I'm sad to leave the rest of my kiddos behind, but they just have too much going on to leave, and Neil is so darn busy that he needs the work time at home. Hopefully Matthew doesn't miss everyone too much and enjoys the cousin time! I'm looking forward to apple cider mills and donuts and family.

Matthew and I have settled into somewhat of a schedule with the older kids gone all day--if he's slept through the older kids leaving we go back to my bed and snuggle for a few minutes after he first wakes up (then he starts saying things like "PAMPANKS MOLK DOWN!") and we go downstairs to feed him breakfast, then we do some housework, then we read stories, then we head outside for a run, then we do whatever event we have planned that day (grocery shopping, library storytime, playdate with friends, etc.). And then once he goes down for a nap I either do a house project or grading or--and this feels SOOOO wonderfully indulgent!!--I read a book and take a quick nap. It is AWESOME. And totally helps me gear up for the crazy pace when the older kids get home, especially since Neil is often out of town or working late or something like that. Today as I walked upstairs with my giant stack of books (this morning our run was to the library!) and thought, "Surely I could be doing something more productive with my time..." and then I thought, you know, it's okay to love reading so dang much and not feel guilty about it. And honestly, if I cleaned out one of the downstairs coat closets (which was what I felt like I should be doing) nobody would notice or care! Plus I've been doing Apartment Therapy's September Sweep and I know it's going to have me clean that closet out anyway. ;-) And last week during naptime I remortared the fireplace and painted the back door and refinished the laundry room sink so quite frankly I'm doing pretty well on projects, hah!

**This post brought to you by the brief lull in the storm after Juliet's cross-country meet while we wait for dinner to cook before we go to Isaac's classroom playdate at the park and hopefully get everyone in bed in a timely manner and maybe I will still be awake when Neil gets home??**

***ps no pics because I always used to steal them from facebook, but I quit facebook awhile back so if you want to see pics, just follow me on IG. It's private but I'll approve you. ;-)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Another school year

Finding myself with a brief window of time to do some quick typing and updates on the kiddos, since we started school last week.

Abigail is in eighth grade this year. She has a great group of friends that I just adore, and I love all their parents too so that's nice as well. :-)  Even though they mostly don't have classes together, there's still lots of weekend hangouts so we parents are doing our best to keep these friendships going strong into high school (gasp!!) next year. Our high school is HUGE (5000 students) so we really want to make sure they've got a core group of support! It's crazy to me to think about high school already but when I signed the paper acknowledging that yes I understood that her advanced math classes would be counted on her high school transcript...yeah, suddenly felt very real.

Abigail is taking a lot of engineering electives this year--STEM, robotics, and coding. She's also taking Spanish and advanced ceramics--she absolutely loved her art classes last year and had a real struggle over whether she should stick with art or take the position she was offered by the journalism teacher as an editor on either the school paper or the yearbook. I'm glad she went with art--I did journalism in high school and loved it (did I ever mention that I was accepted into a mass communications graduate program?) but as an adult I find artistic expression much more enjoyable (plus she made some AMAZING stuff last year and I'm really looking forward to what she does this year! She auditioned for the school musical this week and is planning to join the space & rocketry club again, as well as MathCounts. Prepping for her planned career as an aerospace engineer! Abigail is focusing on swimming this fall/winter and doing club swimming to prep for swim team next summer (swimming is a BIG DEAL here with 32 state championships in a row for the high school women's team). And we're on year 8 (!!) of piano lessons!

Juliet is in sixth grade, and she's done so well with the transition to middle school! The poor kid has zero classes with her best friends from last year, but she assured me that she's good at making new friends, and so far, so good. Fingers crossed. :-)

Jules is taking orchestra (violin) as one of her electives, and mixed media, digital learning, STEM, and French as her others. She's also running cross country, which has been exhausting and exhilarating for her! Juliet has by far been the busiest of the kids this summer with orchestra camp for three weeks in June and cross-country beginning in early August. She's also continuing with piano and looking ahead to what extracurricular clubs she'd like to join (coding? Star Wars? Makers?). So many fun choices! And continuing with piano, of course!

Isaac is loving scouts (can you tell?) and having a great time so far in 4th grade--ten of his classmates from last year are in his class, so that was pretty exciting! He had a great time all summer swimming at the pool with his pals, and zips right through his homework, piano, and lunch-packing after school so that he can hop on his bike and go out with his friends (I love our neighborhood so so so much). He's also focusing on swimming this fall (thank heavens because those long baseball games last spring about did me in) and is joining the coding and robotics club, the international music ensemble, and the math club (oh my gosh our school has the best clubs!!). He's doing fifth grade math this year and totally inherited his dad's math brain which is good for us all!

Lukey is in 2nd grade (which is when high ability starts, hurray!) and 3rd grade math. Sadly this little sheep was shorn not too long after the picture was taken, but man did we have fun with Luke's luscious locks this summer, especially since he spent every spare minute in the pool! He's playing soccer this fall and doing the watercolors club and math club. He was also super super excited to find so many friends in his classroom, and is adjusting to piano practice (it's always hard once the initial excitement passes!). Luke thrives with physical activity so soccer, swimming, and ridiculous amounts of scooter-riding keep him happy!

Nathan is one very happy kindergartener--my first one to go full day! I initially approached the school about doing half-day but they were very firm about only doing full day, and honestly, Nathan is SO dang ready for it--he just has endless amounts of energy and never slows down or stops talking. So he has been loving kindergarten! He's the first one up and ready and always has his lunch packed for the next day within five minutes of getting home from school.

Nathan is playing soccer this fall and doing the kindergarten engineering club--lucky boy! He was a little sad that two of his really good friends weren't in his class, but fortunately he DID have one good friend in there, and they all reunited on the playground, so all was well...and being Nathan he knew everyone's first and last names in his class by the end of the week!

And Matthew and I are hanging out all day together! We're finding our groove--lots of stories and snuggling and organizing and tromping around town doing errands. (And lots of home projects and running for me!)

Cheers to another great school year!

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Toasted Coconut Muesli with Cardamom, Ginger, and Dried Fruit

things I could be blogging about: I turned 35, we went on a ten-day spur-of-the-moment camping trip to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Utah, Isaac turned 9, the kids start school in less than 2 weeks and the summer is almost over, Isaac started orthodontia, my sister started chemo, our garden is crazy huge, I've been doing tons of home projects, my tumors were benign.

things I'm going to blog about: the recipe for this muesli, because I wrote it up for a friend today and people are always asking for it.

so here it is. 

Toasted Coconut Muesli with Cardamom, Ginger, and Dried Fruit
6 c. old-fashioned oats
1 c. shredded coconut
1 c. pepitas
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. flax seeds (honestly for this part I just throw in all the seed varieties I have on hand). 
optional: chopped nuts (we like slivered almonds)

Combine that list of ingredients, and then boil together scant cup of sugar, 1/4 c. oil (I like to use coconut oil) and 1/4 c. water. Or you could just do 3/4 c. honey and 1/4 c. oil but I usually end up using sugar because I'd rather save my honey for other things where I notice it more. Then I add a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ginger, and cardomom (sometimes I throw in fennel or nutmeg or whatever seems good), boil everything until the sugar has dissolved, and stir it into the oats mixture.

Grease 2 rimmed baking sheets, divide the mixture in half, spread evenly on sheets, and bake at 300 for 22 minutes, stopping halfway through to stir/swap sheets' places if your oven doesn't accommodate them side by side. Remove immediately from baking sheets when done so they don't continue to cook.

Then I like to add dried fruit--my kids' favorites are slivered apricots, Craisins, raisins, dates, prunes, etc. 

And voila! Should keep in an airtight container until you've eaten it up (which is about 3 days in my house so I don't know how long it would last otherwise!)
ps I like to buy my spice's from Penzey's. They are awesome. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018


I've been wanting to blog for awhile but my heart has been so heavy. Finally sitting down today to jot down a few things.

Yesterday I had outpatient surgery to remove a (likely) benign 5-cm tumor from the base of my skull. It was not fun--very painful and involved shaving part of my head--and I would be feeling a lot more sorry for myself, except that my sister was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and nothing can compare to how devastated I am by her diagnosis.

It's been really hard for me to do much of anything the last couple of weeks other than think about her and pray and cry. There were about four days in a row where Neil would get home from work and I would just go to bed because I had exhausted all my emotional resources and I had to just go cry somewhere away from the kids and just be alone.

I really don't know what else to say. This has been so big and so consuming. And there have been some other things weighing on me that I can't talk about here, but right now is a pretty heavy time. I threw away my prescription for Percocet post-surgery because I think I would be far too susceptible to opiod addiction right now.

I guess what I want to say is that just because there are good things in my life--or anyone's life--it doesn't mean that there aren't also awful terrible things. There are still so many little things I find joy in--(houseplants! yesterday's solo ten miles before the sun came up! my crazy huge garden! date nights with neil!) that make life wonderful, and then there are other things that make it achingly awful and unbearable. And right now it totally goes minute to minute on whether the good things or the bad things are more influential.

It's been a hard summer. I've felt pretty inadequate as a mother and worried that we're not doing many fun things. (Apparently it's easy for me to discount trips to the Outer Banks and Yellowstone and just focus on the days where we stayed in our pajamas and one child complained about being bored.)  I've gone back and forth between loving having all my children home--they're so wonderful and delightful and I never want them to go back to school!!!--and thinking I will go INSANE with the mess and the chaos and the bickering.

This I know about myself: I need a spotless home to feel my best.

Also I have six children.

But for now, it's quiet with Matthew asleep, Neil and the kids went to see Incredibles 2 for Isaac's birthday (how is he already 9???!!) and my mile-long to-do list is beckoning me even more than the throbbing pain in my skull which is begging for a nap and more Tylenol, so I will end this here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Happy days

Dear younger children, your lives aren’t documented the way your older siblings’ are not because I love you any less, but because we are so much busier! But honestly, Matthew, even though you barely exist on this blog, I don’t think it’s possible for any younger sibling to be cherished more than you! (And you’re all over Instagram.)

Life these days is busy and happy. Jam-packed full of goodness and learning and growth. I want to have a record of these “normal” days like i do for the days with the older kids when they were young, so here’s yesterday: early five miles before the kids were awake, home to start laundry and breakfast, grocery store with Nathan and Matthew while Luke and Isaac played downstairs and the girls slept in (teenagers???!!!), making jam, then chores and piano, IKEA for lunch and to throw Matthew in the stuffed kitties, pool in the afternoon, dinner on the deck, biking to the playground with a strawberry pie for dessert, scriptures and prayer and collapsing into bed. I’m tired all the time but it’s a good tired—3 weeks into summer vacation and we are mostly through the camps and just settling in to our summer rhythm.

And I continue to be crazy giddy happy and in love with our life here. So so so so so so so happy it basically is constantly bursting out of me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Summer Reading 2018

I figure since most of my kids are 4 books into their summer reading lists, I really should post these already!!

 Here are the lists the kiddos are working through this year (we have a few repeats from last summer since several of the children asked to swap out books once they got really into a series--my strategy is often to ask them to read the first in the series in hopes that they get hooked!). I ask the kids to read specifically from their lists for 30 minutes a day, so the children who fall in love with their books and keep reading (rather than switching back to whatever else they're reading) generally make it most of the way through their lists...and a certain child reads the assigned book for exactly 30 minutes (setting a timer) and then goes back to the previous activity. Different strokes!

Abigail (just finished 7th grade)
1) Rilla of Ingleside (L.M. Montgomery)
2) A Wizard's Dozen (ed. Michael Stearns)
3) The Sherwood Ring
4) Cart and Cwidder (Diana Wynne Jones)
5) Drowned Ammet (Diana Wynne Jones)
6) Trickster's Choice (Tamora Pierce)
7) Trickster's Queen (Tamora Pierce)
8) The Outlaws of Sherwood (Robin McKinley)
9) Hawk of May (Gillian Bradshaw)
10) The Demon King (Cinda Williams Chima)
11) The Phantom Tollbooth  (Norton Juster)
12) The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom)
13) Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie)--link is to my absolute favorite edition with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, but you can certainly find a more inexpensive version! ;-)
14) The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
15) Puck of Pook's Hill (Rudyard Kipling)
16) A Year in Provence (Peter Mayle)
17) Monsoon Diary (Shoba Narayan)
18) Assassin's Apprentice (Robin Hobb)

Juliet (just finished 5th grade)
1) Eragon (Christopher Paolini)
2) Watership Down (Richard Adams)
3)The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)
4) Cart and Cwidder (Diana Wynne Jones)
5) Drowned Ammet (Diana Wynne Jones)
6) A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
7) Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! (Terry Brooks)
8) The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare)
9) The Oracle Betrayed (Catherine Fisher)
10) Eight Cousins (Louisa May Alcott)
11) Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
12) Swiss Family Robinson (Johann David Wyss)
13) Sorcery and Cecilia (Wrede/Stevermer)
14) The Giver (Lois Lowry)
15) Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson)

Isaac (just finished 3rd grade)
1) Time Cat (Lloyd Alexander)
2) From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Koningsburg)
3) The Egypt Game (Zilpha Keatley Snyder)
4) Charmed Life (Dianna Wynne Jones)
5) The Lives of Christopher Chant (Dianna Wynne Jones)
6) The Wheel on the School (Meindert deJong)
7-11) The Chronicles of Prydain  (Lloyd Alexander)
--The Book of Three
--The Black Cauldron
--The Castle of Llyr
--Taran Wanderer
--The High King

Luke (just finished 1st grade)
1) Grip of the Shadow Plague (Brandon Mull)
2) Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (Brandon Mull)
3) Keys to the Demon Prison (Brandon Mull)
4) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Rowling)...etc. Hoping this takes off and he likes it more than he did last summer ;-). He started Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series the last week of school, whipped through the first two, and is now most of the way through the fourth one, so I would not be surprised if he finishes the Harry Potter series by the end of summer.

Summer Reading 2017
Summer Reading 2016

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

the years are short

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.” --Mary Jean Irion

I've been thinking a lot lately about the passage of time in my life as a mother. We are in the thick of "birthday season" right now with Abigail turning 13 two weeks ago and Nathan turning 5 last week and Luke turning 7 next week. I literally have 21 days left of having two children at home during the schooldays. Ever. For the rest of my life.

I will never again have two of my babies home during the school day.

For some reason that is hitting me so much harder than having a teenager--the teen years are new to me but the years of reading stories and taking walks in the sunshine have been my life for more than a decade. And since we moved things have already changed so much--Nathan goes to preschool every afternoon rather than just three times a week; we are busier in the mornings with house projects (and the house is so much bigger that I spend much more time cleaning), the older kids get home an hour earlier, etc. I feel like the pace of life has accelerated dramatically in the last six months and I still haven't caught up.

I'm typing this right now while Matthew naps. The house is silent. Outside I can see the cherry, crabapple, and pear blossoms blowing in the wind--petals are drifting down to carpet the grass with pale-pink snow. I'm so grateful for my beautiful life and my sweet children, and for the years I have had with tiny little people occupying my days.

Next year I will only have Matthew home with me during the day. And then a few years after that he will start kindergarten, and the year after that Abigail will leave for college.

It goes so fast.  
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