Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year's Resolutions 2015

The title of the post is somewhat misleading, as neither Joe nor I make any formal resolutions, and we especially avoid the cliche of making such resolutions at the new year. The new year, however, was precluded by a decently large fight - heated discussion, lengthy disagreement, whatever you might call it - between Joe and I. Marriage is full of highs and lows, and while this was certainly no picnic I doubt it will register on the grand scale when we hit our Golden Anniversary (only 42 years to go!). Good things come out of communication challenges, though, and as we overcame our "bump in the road" we came up with a few resolutions for ourselves.

For me:
1. Wait until Joe gets home to serve dinner. 
Should not be a big deal, especially since he gets home between 5:30 and 6, but for those 2 1/2 years he worked graveyards we ate before he left - at 4:00. We got very used to dinner at 4:00. So when it's 4 and you're waiting for another 90 minutes, time draaaaags; when you've got 4 hungry kids and the food pretty much prepared and you still have 90 minutes, well... you just go ahead and serve dinner. So I would feed the kids and then serve Joe when he got home, which was not perfect but suited me just fine. A large part of our discussion was that I just go about our daily life as if Joe weren't around, including eating a family meal without him, so I resolved to have snacks prepared for 4:00 so we could eat dinner together as a family every night. So far, so good! Joe has been very happy and there is a lovely side effect of ravenous kids who are more willing to try everything on their plate.
2. Do "mundane" as a family.
We had a discussion a year or more ago that the kids were much easier to manage when we employed the "divide and conquer" method. I would take two kids to the grocery store, Joe would take 2 kids to Lowe's, we'd meet home for lunch. Or one of us would run the errands while the other stayed home with kids; often the errands were run by Joe, who feels cooped up if he's home more than one entire day (which he was with his old schedule). We kept this approach even as the kids got older and Joe's schedule changed, so he felt that rather than being a good thing it had become Joe the Errand Boy. The kids are (slightly) better shoppers now, so we decided we needed to start doing those mundane things (like running errands) together on Joe's days off.
3. Work on having the kids take a larger share in cleaning.
This one killed me. For years I have felt very frustrated that upon marriage Joe and I were 50/50 - we cooked dinner together, then cleaned the house (okay, tiny apartment) together, and then got to chill out together. When kids came my role at home got more serious, and about that time Joe's work life was getting more serious so that home balance tipped like a teeter-totter and the housekeeping was up to me. I was unprepared! And not only was I unprepared, I then had very small children, was pregnant, and upgraded to a much larger living space complete with huge amounts of yard work. Only when I would fail for an extended period of time would Joe step in to clean, and then it was only out of frustration, not love. So for those years since we've had kids it has been a battle for myself to be as good at keeping the house as Joe WANTS me to be. So now that I have really felt in control of housework, Joe threw it out that I need to be hounding the kids to do the cleaning. UGH. If it's not cleaning, it's parenting about cleaning.... so I sighed a big sigh and resolved to be better, and you know what? I have been better, and it has been good. The kids seem, if not happy, at least resigned to cleaning for 30 minutes each night before Joe gets home. They pick up, vacuum, put away clothes, etc, while I can clean the kitchen and get dinner ready for the table. Now the whole house gets cleaner while the kids are kept busy and dad's arrival home signals delicious food... I have to admit, it all worked out perfectly, and I have Joe to thank!

For Joe:
1. Initiate kid time (specifically reading)
I understand it is important for meals to be made and housework to be done, but I recognize that our kids will not recall a happy childhood because our floor were always mopped; no, a happy childhood is built on memories made together. For me, a special way to spend time together is reading - you get physical touch from snuggling, quiet time with no distractions,  AND they get the benefit of literacy! What could be better?  Cleaning is never REALLY done, and you can't read together and clean at the same time, so at some point you have to decided that reading together is more important than the mopping you could be doing. You just have to sit down in a dirty house as read to those lovely children. Joe, bless his heart, had no idea I felt this way, he just thought I used reading as a way to get a break from the mess (okay, it's partly true, especially if I'm reading for myself). I explained as plainly as I could how important reading to your kids is, and how awesome it would be if HE suggested that HE read to them instead. I would just die of happiness! So he agreed to work on it, he HAS worked on it, and I HAVE noticed and appreciated the extra books getting read while relationships are bonded and memories are made.
2. Appreciate what he has.
While we were coming up with all these *wonderful* ideas that this *wonderful* wife needed to work on, I began feeling overwhelmed with all the things I needed to change, yet it wasn't me who started the argument... so why was it me who needed to repent? I realized that while all of his complaints may be valid, he has many blessings that he was conveniently ignoring. Ignoring blessings leads to feelings of dissatisfaction; while I will never be perfect (there will ALWAYS be something to nit-pick), there will always be things to be thankful for. When he starts focusing on the things that are great (great meal, healthy kids, happy wife) the stuff that's not so perfect can fade into the background.
3. Shower Kirsta with compliments.
Yep, I came up with this one. I came up with it 17 years ago, though, and wrote it in my journal; it was in a list of qualities I wanted in a husband. I re-discovered this list while transferring my journals to electronic format and laughed about it for a minute, but then thought seriously - this is important! Getting compliments really makes me feel loved, and someone who feels loved is more likely to act in a positive way than someone who is nagged. Nag me all you want about the house and I'll become resentful (I AM trying my hardest, you jerk), but compliment me that you noticed I vacuumed? I'll make it a point to do it TWICE as much so I can get twice the compliments. We both get what we want! And not just housekeeping - it ties back to appreciating what he has. I work hard to keep myself in good shape, to dress nicely and look pretty, and it's something I do for myself but which directly benefits him, so if he compliments me I am more likely to keep it up! Frequently he talks about his coworker's blues about his wife who isn't trying in those ways anymore.... well if you feel appreciative that I am not that way, then tell me! Expressing gratitude increases feelings of gratitude, and the uplift in attitude is REALLY a win-win. Give your wife a compliment (or 100) and make your day better in numerous ways!

So those are our personal resolutions for 2015. In more run-of-the-mill resolutions, we also resolve to seriously finish up those 99% done projects we have in every room of the house...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lights Out

Our family - kids especially - enjoy practicing power-out nights. It stemmed from an evening about 2 years ago when the power actually went out, prompting Joe in a fit of preparedness to buy 3 kerosene lamps. By the time he got home from the store the power came on about 10 minutes later, but we were so enjoying the light of the lamps we turned the electricity right back off. Ever since then we have had practice nights where, just for fun, we turn off all the lights and try not to use any electricity.

Monday was no practice. Joe doesn't work Mondays, so he was home, and we were in the middle of a very regular day doing whatever it is we regular people do. The power went out at 2:30, and we had a small celebration - woohoo! What fun! We'll have a power-out practice for REAL! The day was cold so Joe went and split more logs for the fire, but of course it wasn't even dark enough to need those kerosene lamps. The hours passed, and around 4 we were thinking about dinner (we are geezers when it comes to mealtimes), but still - no power. We are industrious, and were hungry for warm food on such a chilly day, so Joe retrieved our camping propane stove* from the attic and in out kitchen we pulled together a delicious meal of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Just to top off the self-sufficient feel we had home-canned peaches on the side. It was DELICIOUS, and made all the more so by eating by the light of newly-lit lamps.

be fooled - it looks light outside and we're the dummies who need a lamp, but really....
Using the flash you can see about how dark it REALLY was. The inside, of course, was not nearly this light (except for this one second when I used my flash).

The rest of the evening was passed uneventfully in front of a toasty fire. We played Snail's Pace Race (a new game from Joe's sister and BIL), read Esio Trot by Roald Dahl, and told stories from our own childhoods at the kids' requests. With the day dark for so long, and no electricity to tell us otherwise, we had the kids in bed by 7:00, though unfortunately Ethan had a tough time without his fan on for white noise - we'll have to prep him a few times this summer before going camping! How spoiled he is. We adults were off to bed at 8:30 ourselves... just in time for the electricity to get turned back on! Then it's like a slap in the face - only 8:30! We should stay up! We should play games! We should read books! We could work on the kitchen! But the poor Excel guys were having a heckuva time, the lights were back out in less than 10 minutes, and then we were happily back to bed without feeling guilty that we COULD be doing something productive. Hard to do drywall texture by the light of a kerosene lamp.

 *If anyone is worried that we used propane inside, well... we weren't. If we were cooking by propane in the bathroom with the door closed, 3 meals a day, YES, I think that would be a bad idea. For the nights, though, it was one meal, quick to heat, and I wouldn't exactly call our kitchen an enclosed space these days. Kitchen remodel pictures to come.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas week

Our week before Christmas started out very nicely. Sacrament meeting on Sunday was good - it's nice to have the Primary kids sing, and to have the choir sing, and since I was involved in both of those it was mostly nice to have it over and done with.

Instead of sticking around for the rest of church, though, we made a last-minute jaunt up to Denver to visit Joe's grandma, Eva Jacobs. Months ago I ordered a photographic ABC book, each letter represented by a photo of our kids or our family, and months ago we had intended to deliver it to her; unfortunately, months slipped by while we failed to visit and so the Sunday before Christmas we decided we HAD TO make it up there. So we did! Brought the book (she loved it), had delicious homemade chicken noodle soup (her absolute specialty) and fried potatoes (her second specialty), and she made the kids delicious goody bags filled with candy and clementines (maybe I lied, goody bags are her specialty!). We usually stay the night but wanted to get back home to press forward on some major kitchen renovations, so we stayed until 7:30 and headed home.

(Side note: The kids were really wonderful on the trip! 3 of them napped on the way up, and they all fell asleep on the way home. I know, it's only a two hour drive, ANY kid should be able to handle that, but I really hate traveling with kids! Probably for 2 primary reasons: we do not travel at night, so they typically do not sleep, and we do not have a DVD player in the car, so they are not distracted while they are not sleeping. It contrasts so starkly with driving up to Denver after Thanksgiving break to drop off Karl at the airport. Joe and I left the kids home sleeping and watched by Kari, so it was just the two of us on the way home, talking and drinking soda, and the time flew! Nobody whined or needed to pee or was bugging their sibling... so compare that to driving with kids? I hate driving with kids.)

But I digress. We got home at 9:30, tucked all our sleepyheads in bed, and went to sleep, but woke up at 2:30 in the morning to Ethan throwing up. SO GLAD we didn't spend the night! The next day Joe felt under the weather (thankfully did not have work that day), and that night Eli threw up. The next morning Joe was still feeling iffy but went to work, and I felt sliiiiightly under the weather so I rushed to make sure everything was set for Christmas and I bought lots of Ginger Ale and saltine crackers for my sick-os. On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, I was SO glad I'd bought those sick supplied because I felt really wretched!  Joe had gone to work sick, yet again; in spite of my insistence that nobody wants a pale-green co-worker, he insisted that he was in charge of some building alarm systems for the Christmas shut-down. It's the only day of the entire year that the Target Distribution Center is shut down, so it's a big deal, and it was HIS big deal, so no sick days allowed... or something. Anyway, we finally woke up this morning on Christmas feeling DECENT. Not all the way better, but pretty fine, which was a huge improvement! Eli and Ethan seem all recovered as well, and Patrick and Caroline didn't get sick, so our Christmas miracle was everyone feeling DECENT. It's the small miracles that mean the most!

Our other small miracle was the silver lining that being sick gave to us: being forced to stay home and relax.  As I mentioned, we're in the throws of another kitchen update so I had plans to run to Lowe's for paint samples and tile, we needed to drop old cabinets by the Re-Store, I was going to get out my steam cleaner and attack that floor again...

Joe moved the door! used to be to the right of the stove, now it to the left of the fridge. The old location will be covered with new cabinets and countertop to nearly double our kitchen space. SOOOO exciting!

Also, last year I noticed that out Christmas stockings, while cute, are very narrow and their knitted design leaves a lot of thread draped through the innards, so it's very nearly impossible to stick anything in the stockings! So I had big plans to run to Hobby Lobby for some felt, make up cute stocking I saw on Pinterest, stay up late working on those and probably be too tired for the kids in the morning... Also, we wanted to make treats for the neighbors, so I had lots of baking I wanted to do, but didn't want to include kids because there is a 100% chance that they will sneeze into the batter... ALSO I needed pictures printed at a 1-hour kiosk so I could send out holiday cards to all those we love and miss... Basically, I had a lot of things "to do" and not so many things built around the kids. ENTER THE STOMACH FLU. When that hit, I knew we weren't going anywhere. Crafts were put on hold, cards were given up for dead, baking was a no-go (even if done by myself, it's from a sick household), and we were staying put (except for my run for Ginger Ale and crackers). The only way to make staying put tolerable is to make it fun, so each day chopped firewood (the kids loved that) and built a fire,

we read books, I played kid board games, we popped popcorn and watched Christmas movies (and I watched with them! I never do that!), we played toys and play-doh and we colored and built forts... and it was AWESOME. Being forced to slow down threatened to make me resentful of the adult things I was missing, and even more-so GUILTY about the things I thought I should be doing, but it really made me appreciate the childish things I WOULD have missed if we had been well. I am not saying I'm GLAD we were sick over Christmas break, but it always has a way of putting your real blessings, of health and family, into perspective. Nobody will remember that they didn't get a hand-mailed Christmas card from us (though they may remember the poem...), but I think my kids will remember warm and cozy times from this Christmas, even if it involved some being sick.

Now, this is my Official Christmas Post, so I took some Official Christmas Pictures on my camera, but our SD card reader walked off the computer desk (Eeeee-thaaaaan....) so you only get the few from our iPad today.

Caroline painting ponies from an art kit from the Gus grandparents. She was so focused!

Ethan enjoying new jammies. His favorite show is Bubble Guppies, so we bought him a BG bus, right behind him.

The boys showing some more Gus grandparent gifts - books! Books galore! The gift of reading lasts a lifetime, thanks to all who gave us books at any point this year! We love our miniature library.

Whenever I find that SD card reader I'll post the few other photos I took...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We all scream for Ethan... to stop screaming!

Ethan is quite the little man these days. His hair doesn't grow, it explodes from his head in every direction. He is loud... I mean, Eli has always been a pretty loud kid, but Ethan just blows him out of the water, and it is awful. He screams when he's sad, screams when he's scared, shrieks when he's having fun, and (I'm pretty sure) shrieks just to get on my nerves. It works! When he is particularly sad I ask him if he needs to go to time-out, which he often says "yes" to and then walks himself over to the stairs and pulls himself together, then is back at 'em; when he is obnoxiously shrieking I ask if he needs time-out and he says "no" and runs away to shriek somewhere else.

Seriously, the "no" is going to kill me, I can't believe how much he says it! I don't want it to be a power struggle when he is defying me, so I look him dead in the eye and tell him, "you say 'okay mommy'"... and pretty much that gets me another "no" and a runaway toddler. I'm trying not to take it too seriously right now, and that's the last-child syndrome in play right there - you can bet your bottom dollar I was correcting that behavior with every ounce of energy I had when Patrick was this age! But now... meh. He'll get over it, and I'll go have some chocolate while contemplating how I hope he doesn't turn into a juvenile delinquent.

Still being my one and only baby he has the run of my lap and my hip. I did NOT carry anyone else around when they were two, they just had to fend for themselves while I took care of the next sweet and precious usurper of their baby-hood throne, but Ethan has not been usurped! Luckily for me he still loves to snuggle, and I love being snuggled, so he nestles himself right in... and then gets huffy because my long hair is obviously in his way! He tries to push it over my shoulder, preferably back behind BOTH shoulders so no strays tickle his nose, and even better yet, mom should wear ponytails 24/7 for maximum snuggle-ability. I think it's cute.

Also cute: he started using the word "beautiful." He has so far called Caroline beautiful, our neighbor boys beautiful, and his matchbox cars beautiful. I think he just applies it to things he really likes.

He wants to help me bake and cook, so I have to sneak in my baking while he naps (usually 12ish-2ish), and when he's awake I stiff-arm the chair he's struggling to jam up to the stove so he can help me (i.e., burn his fingers on a hot pan and cry for the next hour). It's interesting. In lieu of the battle we have started a routine of one episode of Bubble Guppies before lunch and dinner (it's the perfect amount of time to boil a pot of noodles or make a side of rice), so I my cooking remains unsullied and his fingers can remain un-burned. It works.

And that's about it for Ethan! Here he helped quality control taste-test Caroline's birthday cake.

The day's not over until you've worn something completely ridiculous, like racquetball goggles.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I see what you're saying, dad...

A few weeks ago my parents were here for Thanksgiving, along with our brother Karl, and my dad was nudging me that my blog has been sorely neglected. Of course, I thought, it's been a few weeks... so tonight I sat down to fill in a post or two and MAN! I've only posted about 5 times since the summer ended! Just terrible. But lamenting is not what this blog is about! Starting from where we are and moving forward, that's what we do best! That's probably what I do best because I want to forget, and want other people to forget, that I make mistakes, and I would like to avoid revisiting those uncomfortable moments if at all possible. I'm just waiting for Alzheimers to set in so I can finally comfortably live my life. But moving on....

Thanksgiving was great! I was so awesome to have family here... more family than already lives across the street, that is... and the kids really reveled in their grandparents being around. My dad got Nerf footballs for the boys and tried teaching them to throw and catch; he declared them "atrocious," but at least they had fun! He also taught Patrick how to play chess; unfortunately, chess is one of those "use it or lose it" kind of skill games, so I suppose it falls to Joe and I now to practice getting trounced at chess rather than simply enjoying a lively and mindless round of Pass the Pigs. During the week we ate like kings! I think Kari and I outdid ourselves planning delicious meals, and my parents outdid themselves bringing in delicious take-out for the gaps in our planning. You just don't want to cook EVERY DAY of vacation, right? And there was even one day where we were so perpetually full we skipped dinner entirely and just brought in DQ Blizzards around 8 p.m. Thanksgiving itself was a feast - I had a goal of not fatally ruining any of the dishes I was in charge of, and I happily succeeded! My turkey was gorgeous, done on time, and carved like a pro by myself; my sweet potato casserole was to die for (yes, people have actually died from how good it is); and this year I even remembered to put sugar in my pumpkin pie! No flops from my kitchen! Karl was the only one who hit the gym during the week, so the rest of us ended our Thanksgiving break with a little extra waddle in our step. Which is exactly how Thanksgiving should be.

Unfortunately, with Thanksgiving so late this year, people left our homes and BOOM! December hit the next day. I was thoroughly unprepared. I had great intentions to do some of the activities we did last year, Gratitude Bags and whatnot, but by the time I pulled myself together it was mid-month and it just wasn't gonna happen. But not to fear! We've had fun along the way. We got our christmas tree, a sprightly little thing from Lowe's, and Joe set it up without ANY cursing and flinging of objects - a Christmas miracle right there! I whipped up some salt dough and had the kids roll it, cut it into ornaments, I baked them, then they painted all the ornaments, and THOSE are our Christmas tree decorations.

I have beautiful ornaments, many from my childhood and more beautiful additions as my children have arrived, but I keep remembering my Epic Fit of 2012 and how stressed I was about kids breaking things and I think.... let's keep this easy, breezy, and happily breakable! I think the tree looks great, they are so proud of themselves and their hard work, and everyone wins while my precious things stay intact for one more year until the kids are slightly older and less clumsy. I promise I'll get them all out! Just not this Christmas.

One of the reasons I did not hit December's ground running was that I was in a bit of a crafting bind. Since this fall I have slooooowly been plugging away on a Busy Book for Elsha's son Daniel, to help with fine motor skills, but the time had come to put my nose to the grindstone and crank the book out. Right at that grindstone moment a call came in for a sewing favor and I was immediately redirected into a 10-hour project of creating a full-body costume of the dog Spike, Snoopy's brother, for a Peanuts Christmas play at a local school. Whoa! Unexpected! So as soon as I got that done I could get my nose to the grindstone, except WHOOPS! Time to pull something together for Caroline's birthday! Okay, first nose to the grindstone on a cake and a gift, THEN busy book... So I finished the costume, finished the birthday, and finally finished the busy book and NOW I'm ready for an old-fashioned Christmas countdown... starting on December 17th. BAAAAAAH. So we do what we do, I get Christmas-y where I can, and mostly I turn on Pandora to blast holiday music so it seems like whatever I am doing (whether decorating a tree, crafting, or just washing dishes) is a holiday-themed event.

Now it's time for Elsha to avert her eyes while I get braggadocios about that busy book! Here it is:
 Cover page. Nobody's hands in particular, I free-handed them. Pun-y, but true. All the pages are edged with binding for a nice polished look.
 Instead of a straight abacus page I put lettered beads, and each line spells the name of someone in their family.

 Zippers. You can never have too many zippers.

 Velcro page. The frog's mouth opens up, his tongue is elastic and is attached to the back of the page through a small hole in his mouth. the end of his tongue is the hook side of velcro, and all the fly wings are the loop side of velcro, with a button for the body just for cute's sake.

 The button page. The tires button on and off, but are handily attached to the page so you don't end up with a cute but tire-less page (my main complaint on the way most busy books are created).

 A page of my own invention! Pockets. The pig is for saving, the pocket for shopping, and the money is laminated monopoly money. Lucky for me, we have a Monopoly game we never play since we discovered Monopoly Deal, which is 1,000 time better and faster and funner (funner? Yep, funner).

 Hide-and-seek and clasp page. Both dog ears fold down to reveal and bug, and handily (and cutely) cover the dog's eyes. They are googley eyes - to make sure they stay put I hot-glued them and then sewed them to the page. The eyes are made of pretty thin plastic so a sharp needle went right through and I tacked them each down in four spots. No choking hazards for my nephew! The collar is a clasp, and the tongue above it is free to wag.

 Back page. I didn't want anything movable, since it's a cover and could potentially get ripped off, so I just did a nice alphabet with iron-on letters.

All in all this trumped the Spike costume in time spent, but I am so happy at how it turned out! Possibly even MORE pleased that I knuckled down and got it done and mailed in time for Christmas! See, who needs countdown activities when there are Christmas miracles happening all around us?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Say it loud, say it clear

Random things the kids say that make me laugh

Caroline really loves unicorns and pegasus, but she pronounces it "pig-a-thif" and she is very particular that she pronounce it incorrectly every time.

Patrick was showing me that in school they learned about the "magic e" which, when places at the end of the word, make the vowel in front of it make a long sound (ex: mat v. mate). They also learned about "Defender D" and I have no idea what they actually learned because he incorrectly told me that a "d" makes an "e" at the end no longer magical. He explained, "I rid my bike." Ummmm.... nope.

Ethan is speaking better each day but sometimes he talks nonstop, especially when he's frustrated, and I assumed he was explaining to me in gibberish why he was so mad, which was kinda cute. With his voice inflection it actually sounds to me like a line from Dances With Wolves where one of the Native Americans is explaining about buffalo and he says (please forgive my phonetic spelling) "Tu mani tu tonk a obwa-chi." so when Ethan gibbers his frustration at me I would respond "tu mani tu tonk a obwa-chi!" Finally I figured out he is repeating "I want it," which is more like "IwanitIwanitIwanit," which is MUCH less cute.

Back on the cute side of Ethan, instead of naming emergency vehicles individually (like fire truck or police car) he calls anything with flashing lights a "wee-o wee-o." He uses this term in sentences, like "I see wee-o wee-o."

This morning after we read scriptures, which were talking about following Jesus and avoiding the influence of Satan, Patrick said, "mom, I know Satan's name. It's Christopher." Bwahahahahaha! You mean Lucifer, my dear.

Can't leave the adults out. I bought 2 10 lb. bags of potatoes, one for me and one for Kari, since they're on sale for 99 cents each. We already have potatoes but thought we should freeze some (we're both stocking up on food storage as Ebola continues to spread. Better safe than sorry), so I was carrying the bags to her house so we could peel, blanche, and freeze them. WELL. Two 10 lb. bags were making my hands cramp, so I hefted them into my arms but then the potatoes were slipping one by one from the top of the bag to the bottom so I had the keep hitching the slippery bags up... it's not a long trip across the street but these were giving me all kinds of trouble! In my frustration I thought, "Man, this is like trying to carry a sack of.... OH MAN.... that's was the saying is for! Like carrying a sack of potatoes!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Backyard photos

Patrick has entire photo albums dedicated to him because we took so many photos, but as we've added kids we've been less apt to pull out the camera and ended up with fewer pictures of our four than I ever had of our one. Not that I can rectify that in a day, but I thought I'd pull out the camera on this beautiful October day and take a few snaps of Caroline and Ethan while the big boys were at school.

 She looooves taking photos