Monday, September 29, 2014

Spiderman Cake

I made a Spiderman cake this week for our friend's son who was turning six. His mom, Gigi, took our family pictures this year so this was our swap! I worked on the cake during the day over a couple of days so Jane was my helper, see:
Helping to lick the frosting off the whisks :). No wonder they always offer to help!

I covered both the 6 inch and the 9 inch cakes in buttercream (both are filled in the middle with buttercream as well...bake two cakes in each size and put them together). I had to use about half a bottle of Wilton red to get this color :). Black was similar too..though if you started with chocolate frosting for the black, you wouldn't need as much color. After I frost the cakes I let them sit for about 20 minutes to allow the meringue powder to do it's thing (1 Tbsp meringue powder in a 4c of powdered sugar frosting recipe) and crust over just slightly, and then I roll over the cakes with my high density foam paint roller in order to get a smoother frosting.

Next I cut out the fondant shapes for spidermans head and face by first tracing it onto parchment paper and then placing it on the fondant and cutting around the parchment.

For the spiderwebs, I used a ruler to make light indentations so everything was even and uniform. Then I went over it with my black buttercream and tip number 3. 

Next I rolled out the black fondant, traced out a city, cut the city into about fourths for easier transferring and then 'glued' it onto the side of the 6 inch cake with a little bit of water and frosting. I stacked the cakes and then rolled out a little white fondant.

I used the white fondant for the inside of the eyes, the clock and the windows, gluing them on with a little water and a paint brush.

I used black color and a toothpick to make the face of the clock.

I was pleased with the way it turned out and so was Ethan which was the most important thing! Overall, it took me about 6-8 hours which included baking, cutting, making and coloring frosting and fondant and decorating.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My little helpers

 When the kids are gone at school the girls and I have some time to bake, clean and play together. We made several things this week, one of which was whole wheat cheez-its.

 During Nora's nap, after Jane and I do school time, Jane likes to color or work puzzles.

Nice work Jane!
And after Nora wakes up, sometimes we'll go outside for a bit or sometimes the girls will dress-up and dance. Love these girls!

Monday, September 22, 2014

An apology note and soccer season

 Last Sunday morning was rough getting our children, well, one in particular, ready for church. Charles tends to wait to get things done and then do it all at the last second, which doesn't always mesh well with my prepared and organized habits. We've got a good system down for school where he has a chore chart and checks things off as he goes and gets a reward for being done by a certain time each morning, but we haven't come up with something like that for Sundays, but I think I will put something together soon :).

After church Sunday, we asked Charles to stay in his room until he wrote us an apology note. I wanted to make sure he knew which of his behaviors/actions had caused problems that morning. He handed me the note below, after about ten minutes; It seems to me that he got it. I had a hard morning as well and I was not as patient and loving of a mother as I should have been, so I apologized to him as well and told him some specific things I did wrong that I have been working on. And I have to say, this past week was a really good one, and this past Sunday I did so much better, even though he started off with similar behaviors and actions, BUT he got MUCH better as I showed love and patience and was "firm but kind" (line from Mary Poppins and Sound of Music, I believe). My positive reactions seemed to put out the fire, rather than fuel it, as it had done the previous week. I had a lot of help from the Lord, through focused scripture study and prayer throughout this past week; I know that the Lord's thoughts are not my thoughts, or His ways my ways (Isaiah 55:8) but I turned to Him because I needed to learn from Him, and I did. I really felt His help in my life, His peace, His love, and I felt that, just as the scripture says in Doctrine and Covenants 11, that he blessed me with the Spirit and that it enlightened my mind. Here is the scripture verse: "I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;" I am so grateful we have a loving Heavenly Father and brother, Jesus Christ, who give us a perfect example to follow and who know us so well that they can help us through anything and everything if we will just turn to them for guidance.
Switching gears, I took this picture of the girls getting a little exercise doing a kids dance video. Annabelle joined in with her younger sisters once her homework and piano was done.

 I'm not really sure who took this picture or when it was taken. It looks like Nora was upset about something and Annabelle and I are trying to make her feel better :).
Elisabeth has soccer practice every Monday and Friday nights from 6-7pm which I don't love, but at least her practice is at a field within walking distance. 
The weather is still warm and beautiful so if dinner is ready and kids are done with chores by the time Elisabeth has to go, we all walk/ride bikes down to the park and play while she practices. 

Here is a short video I took of 2-year-old Nora cheering on Elisabeth during her soccer game last weekend. Her cheers worked because Elisabeth scored! They've had three games this season and this was her teams first goal so it was pretty exciting; as they get older, soccer is a lower scoring game.  Annabelle scored twice during her Saturday game as well!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chores and reward system

I'm always looking for new ways to help keep my kids motivated to get things done. We've used chore charts for a long time, and we still do because they work really well. But I wanted something a little more. We've done fuzzy jars that you fill up with fuzzy balls when you do good things and then once it's full you get a prize of some sort. At the kids school, the teachers give out "Hawk High Fives" which is just a piece of paper that kids will get when they're on task or going above and beyond etc and my kids seem to respond well with that so we thought we'd try something similar at home.
Scott created these, "Smith Star" cards that Jane and I colored and laminated.
When the kids are on task or doing something above and beyond I will write their name on a star with a dry erase marker, along with what they did like, "Service" or "on task" or "responsible" etc, and give it to them. They keep them in an envelope and once they get 20 they can turn them in for a "Bedtime Pass" which is something we've given to them for Christmas stocking stuffers and Easter basket fillers over the past couple of years that they love. They can turn in their bed time pass when there is not school the next day, and stay up later with mom and dad and watch a movie that they choose from either Redbox or the library and we'll make popcorn. They love it and I love that it's very inexpensive and we get to have some extra one-on-one time together.
When we were visiting our friends in Utah, Maren had a chore jar (or something like it) and I loved the idea so we've made something similar. This jar/mug is full of popsicle sticks that each have a chore written on them. If a child is causing problems or isn't listening we'll ask them to go pull a chore from the jar and complete it because well, we think they need something more to do with their time that is productive. It helps them get back on track.
So here they are, our new chores and reward system strategies(we keep this on the kitchen counter for easy access since we basically live in there):
And our old and tried and true chore chart which we keep on the fridge:

I was shocked and amazed when on day 2 of using these, our son came straight in from school, at a quick snack, cleaned up, jumped on the piano and practiced for 30 minutes and then went straight to the kitchen table to do his homework! He got a star for sure, and then because he finished up so quick he had time to go outside and play before dad got home and we had dinner. If only this happened every day....I'm hoping it will happen a lot more often with some of our new reward systems in place. I'll try and remember to post an update next month.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Potty training, kid dates and such

About a month ago I thought I'd try potty training Nora since she seemed interested and was talking about being stinky or wet. Well, that lasted for about a day. I had her bare bummed and she had several wet accidents and all the kids were at home with us and it was just too stressful for me. BUT, I think it really helped her recognize in that one day, what it felt like to have pee running down your leg and to start recognizing what it felt like just before it was going to happen. And in fact, at the beginning of the day she would just tell me "potty" as she was peeing, but towards the end of the day she would tell me just before she needed to go, but we never made it to the toilet in time that first day. Fast forward a month later (she is now 28 months) to last week; I decided to give it another shot since the kids are all in school and I can usually be home for several hours during the day most week days. I needed to be able to potty train for a block of time during the day, but not the whole day because I'm still a busy mom who has other things to get done, for instance, I volunteer in all three of my kids school classes, I belong to a singing group that meets each week, I do a Costco run once a week and we have a library day. I try and give ourselves between a two and four hour block when we're home and she can be bottomless, either in the morning or after nap time, sometimes both but rarely with our schedule. I am amazed at what she's accomplished so far. She has been bottomless every day this week with ZERO accidents and she's gone pee in the potty every day sometimes several times a day and SHE TELLS ME WHEN SHE NEEDS TO GO, EVERY TIME! I don't even have to ask her! Wow. She has certainly made this easy for me. When she does need to go, she'll find me and say something like, "Mommy, a potty." And I'll say, "you need to go potty?" She'll respond with a yes and I'll say, "Okay, let's go." We walk to the potty which is the toilet nearest our kitchen, since that's usually where we are during the day, she'll climb up on the stool in front of the toilet and sit on the little blue seat that I've set on top of the toilet for small bums :). We usually sit there for less than a minute, being very quiet and still so we can hear the tinkle :), and so she can be still enough to allow it come out, and then once she goes we'll clap and cheer, wipe, wash hands and then she's goes back to whatever she was doing before. I think she's been the easiest of my five, well maybe she's tied with Charles, he was really easy too; and maybe that's because I waited a little longer, until they were closer to 2 1/2. But it could be for various reasons.

Nora, you're a champ! She even went poo in the toilet last night(day 6 of potty training) after telling us she needed to go(she previously had been waiting until I'd put a diaper on her to go to bed)! I'm hoping in a few days that we can try her in panties and see if she'll still be accident-less, but her diapers are usually wet so I'm worried about her doing the same thing with panties, but we'll see. We'll try night-time training once she's dry for several nights in a row.
Switching gears, here are a couple of pictures from dates with our kids this past weekend. Jane wanted to eat dinner at Chick-Fil-A and get frozen yogurt. So we did. I packed some leftover lentil soup since I am not a fan of fast food and I don't like spending $6 on their puny salads that have meat on them which I don't like. I did get some frozen yogurt though...I can't seem to turn down an opportunity to get a sorbet with mochi(small, soft, rice candy)!

That same night Elisabeth's school choir was singing the Star Spangle Banner for the pregame at the Rapids MLS (soccer) game, so Scott and Elisabeth made it a date night. After the game they grabbed a few things from the store for me and got burgers and fries from Wendys. I think it was Elisabeth's first experience eating out late which was kind of fun for her :).

Yum, this was my greek lentil soup with a homemade wheat roll. But I took it in a thermos when we ate at Chick-Fil-A; this picture was from dinner the night before.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Soccer and Date Night with Annabelle

 We told each of the kids that they could pick one sport this year to participate in. Annabelle and Elisabeth chose soccer which started up this past week (Charles wants to do baseball in the Spring). They each had a game on Saturday. Elisabeth is in the age group now where the teams travel so our game was in Boulder. We have to be there thirty minutes early to warm up and with drive time and playing time, we were gone from the house for three hours that morning for Elisabeth's game. The kids were excited to have more time to listen to Harry Potter while we drove, but I'm not gonna lie, three hours on a Saturday for one game is not exactly how I wanted to spend my least we're all together. Nora and I walked around during the soccer warm-ups and we met this crazy white cat that acted like a dog, rolling around on the ground, jumping and running, and it was so social!
We came home for an hour, at lunch, gave Nora a short nap and headed over to Annabelle's game. Hers are all local which is good. This was Annabelle's first soccer game and she did very well. She scored three goals, though they only play three on three and there is no goalie so it was a very high scoring game.
 That night while Scott and the big kids watched the BYU football game (I watched part), Annabelle and I went on a date. We walked up to Zinga frozen yogurt(about a ten-fifteen minute walk) and chit-chatted on our walk and while we ate. I love that she'll still hold hands with me while we walk! :)
 This girl is so fun and social, but all our kids are! I'm grateful for family and for temples that allow us to be sealed together for eternity! Wouldn't want it any other way!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Big helper and snack shelf

 Nora is at an age where she likes to "help" with everything. I have the word help in quotation marks because even though she thinks she's helping, it's really not much help, and in fact, can be quite the opposite :).  She wants to help dress herself which ends up taking half an hour, she wants to help brush her teeth and then we have toothpaste all over the counter, she wants to help me make green smoothies in the morning by adding in the peeled banana and then pushing the 'smoothie' button on my full Blendtec when I'm not looking and the lid is not on. She likes to 'help' me grocery shop by adding random things in the store to my cart. Nora likes to help us fold laundry, which makes the kids particularly frustrated because they many times are the ones to fold the laundry and Nora will take clothing items from their already folded piles, unfold what they've done and try and fold it back up and put it on their stack of clothes which sometimes makes their entire pile fall over. But, that being said, Nora is learning and growing and we're doing our best to teach her the correct way to do things in a patient and loving way, which is easier said than done :). Here is Nora helping dad cook. This is one of her absolute favorite things to do and whenever I'm in the kitchen she walks up to where I'm standing, lifts her arms up high and says, "Up-a-me", which I know to mean, pick me up,  and when I do, she always likes to sit on the counter or on my hip and help me with whatever I'm cooking.

When we were visiting Maren and Brian last week, I loved that Maren had a snack shelf for the kids that they could reach. I decided to make one when we got home. I had kept a bunch of my cashew containers that I got from Costco (they are pictured here with red lids) so I put snacks in them that I know my kids like and that I'm fine with them eating, and put them all on one shelf(they were in several spots before) in our pantry that even Nora can reach. The kids generally go here after school if I didn't make muffins or protein balls/bars already, and I'll also have out some fruit and veggies, usually apple slices and carrots with ranch. In these containers I have air popped popcorn I made that day, peanuts, cashews, raisins, granola, and dried apple slices. I like that Nora comes to the shelf whenever she's hungry and helps herself; this time she really is being helpful, unless she makes a mess with it, but her messes are fewer than what they used to be.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Road Trip to Utah: part 2

 Labor Day morning after breakfast we went to Salt Lake City and hiked Ensign Peak with the Wilcox family. We had hiked it once or twice before but this was the Wilcoxes first time. Maren and I were the photographers and we walked around with our phone cameras taking pictures :).

 Ensign Peak is significant because it's where the Mormon pioneers had come and brought the prophet Brigham Young up by wagon or cart because he was bed ridden and sick. Once they got up to this peak and looked around, he knew at once that this was the place the prophet had seen in a vision as to where the Latter-Day-Saints would live without persecution. Of course back then all it was was desert land, but now it's a very developed and prosperous area where many Mormons continue to live.

 I took this picture of the Salt Lake Temple from out my window as we drove by :).
Monday afternoon our family and the Wilcox's went to the Scott's for a BBQ. Kim has been my good friend for years as have her children with our children so it was fun to spend some time together. Alicia Clayton and her husband came by as well so we were able to visit with them. 

 Once the BBQ was done we went back to Wilcox's to pick up the peaches our boys had picked off the tree at our house that morning(our new tenants don't like peaches which seems crazy to me!)  some of which we shared with a couple of neighbors, the others I brought home to freeze, and then we drove to the Ludwigs.
 The kids and dads played soccer for a bit, we ate dinner and then they played kickball while Elisa and I chatted like old times :).

 We stayed with them Monday night and Tuesday morning we got back in the van and headed for home.
 8 hours of Harry Potter on audio book later and we were home! Nora watched a movie during part of the drive and played on the kindle for a bit and slept for awhile, and ate a lot :). Our family tends to eat way too much on road trips; no wonder we feel crappy afterward. We'll figure it out one of these times. I really think we need to get on a schedule with specific times to eat and what we're eating and try not to stray from that too much. If we just ate how we ate at home, and when we ate at home, we'd be fine. But because we're sitting there for hours with nothing to do besides listen to a book, we just snack, and snack and snack.
 Here is one batch of peach slices. I froze several of these sheet cake pan sizes full of peach slices which we'll have for our smoothies. We had a wonderful time in Utah and wished we had a few days longer so we could see more of our friends. We love our friends and neighbors from Utah; they will always hold a special place in our hearts.