Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jane's 6th Birthday and Easter

Jane requested a Frozen ice cream cake for her birthday. She didn't want any cake, just ice cream and toppings. She helped crush vanilla cookies and we put that on the bottom and in between the layers of ice cream. 
 Our springform pan made this pretty easy, though you do need to make it a day or two in advance so it has time to freeze before you frost it. We lined the spring form with saran wrap, put in the cookies, icecream, more cookies, icecream and then put it in the freezer. The next day we pulled it out of the spring form pan and took of the plastic wrap, setting it back onto the metal part of the spring form pan and then covered it in frosting. Bake into the freezer it went and then once all frozen again we pulled it out and added some decorations.
Jane requested cereal for breakfast (it's what they usually request because we never have it). 

 This is not my idea of fun (city Easter Egg Hunt) because it's too crowded and noisy but our older kids found out about it and told the younger ones and since it was Jane's birthday and she wanted to go, we went along with it :). They had multiple roped off Easter Egg hunting areas around this huge park for different age groups: 2 and under, 3-5, 6-9, 10-12 etc.
 Here she is in her cute new outfit and her Easter hunting loot.
 Scott found this used bike for $35 which was better quality and cheaper than Walmart bikes and Jane loves it. Her old bike was getting too small and the next bike up that we had was a little too big; she needed help to get on and off, so this is in between the two.
 Her Frozen ice cream cake.
 She invited over a few girls from church/the neighborhood and had a party later that afternoon.
 Elisabeth, Annabelle and their friend Maddie helped run most of the games. Here is 'pin the nose on Olaf'.

 The cotton ball game, or 'get as many snowballs as you can'.
 Frozen Bingo,
 and hot potato, or cold snowball :),
 Sunday morning the kids followed the paper Easter Egg clues to get to their baskets. They got some fun snacks like Annie's crackers and fruit snacks, Izze drink, lemon almonds, fruit leather and the home made peanut butter eggs, a cadbury egg, plus some bubbles, the Hank Smith collection of cds and the home made lotion.
 Dad and Nora had a little siesta in the afternoon.
 Easter dinner: chicken, potatoes and roasted veggies.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Spring Break: Homemade Easter gifts and the garden (work before play)

I remember when Charles was a lot younger and he used to do this all the time. He would pull some bedding onto the floor and sleep next to his bed, or sleep close to the door, sometimes when he was upset, sometimes just because. He hasn't done this in years but this past week he was upset about something (he was also hungry and tired which makes everything 10x worse) so our ten-year-old pulled his covers off, in defiance, and then a couple of minutes later I walked in to invite him to join us for dinner and he was fast asleep. We woke him after a bit and he was ready to eat and felt much better :). 
 In preparation for Easter, Scott and I made a couple of gifts for the kids. I made these Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs which are SO good(get the recipe by clicking on that link),
and Scott and I made them an all natural lotion that they love, and which they always take from our bathroom so we thought it'd be nice if they each had their own. 
It takes about 20 minutes of active work time to make this lotion, and then you have to let it set up in the fridge for a couple of hours and then it's done and good to be stored in your bathroom or wherever. Here's the recipe:
Whipped Body Butter (white chocolate)
1/4 c shea butter
1/4 c cocoa butter (or can do all shea)
1/4 c coconut oil
1/4 c almond oil or fractionated coconut oil
5 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops melaleuca/tea tree essential oil
Combine all ingredients except essential oils, in a double boiler. Gently melt and stir over medium-low heat until liquid. Allow to sit and cool, at least to room temperature, (can speed this process in fridge), then add in the essential oils. Return to fridge and allow to chill until hardened, about 2 hours. Whip with a hand mixer until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Store in airtight container.  
 The kids had three days off of school for Spring Break (Thursday, Friday and Monday) which gave us time to get the weeds out of the garden in preparation for planting. Once everyone's chores were done in the morning (cleaning room, dishes, piano, cello etc), we all went out back and worked in the yard for about 30-45 minutes. We worked hard and the garden is all ready now for compost and then planting! We have three garden beds so we're going to put the each of the three oldest kids in charge of a garden bed and they'll also get to help choose what's being planted. We were done with all chores and everything by around lunch time and after lunch they were free to play outdoors with friends for a few hours....we're trying to only allow media(kindle, tv, computer, everything) on Saturdays, unless they need it for school, and even that time has to be earned during the week. So far, so good!
This is the chart I quickly wrote up before they were awake Thursday morning so we were all on the same page:
Elisabeth and Charles asked if they could put together an Easter Egg hunt for our younger girls on Thursday afternoon. They gathered together some candies they had saved from school and church and found some little objects like erasers etc that they put into plastic eggs and hid around the back yard. The girls were allowed 10 eggs each and they were thrilled :).  

 Saturday afternoon we found Nora here on the side of the couch, fast asleep. I don't know how that was comfortable.

I snapped this picture during our nightly family scripture/prayer time because all the kiddos were sitting together on the same couch, which normally doesn't happen. Usually I have one on my lap and two on each side of me with a couple on the other couch by Scott, but on this night Scott and I had the love seat to ourselves :).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Elaine Dalton, Morning Schedules

My friend Amanda invited me to attend a meeting in her mom's stake where Elaine Dalton, the former general young women's president, would be speaking. She has been one of my favorite general conference speakers, partly because I love her life's stories about running and marathons but also because she radiates this love and light that you can feel even through a TV screen. We arrived about 15 minutes early and were able to talk with her before it started. I asked her the same thing I asked Elder Oaks a few months back when he visited our stake(You can find that blog post by clicking HERE), curious to know if she has a morning schedule and if so, what that is...I love learning about others morning schedules.  And of course, she does. She wakes up at 530, says a prayer, goes for a run for about an hour, which ends up being around 5-6 miles, while listening to general conference talks and some James Taylor on her ipod, comes home and has a protein shake, and then changes clothes and reads from her scriptures and visits with her husband, who has also recently returned from exercise. In turn, she wanted to know what Elder Oaks response was and I told her it's similar to hers, that he's up at 5am, reads scriptures, goes for a walk, usually 2 miles, and then comes home and showers and shaves and has breakfast. Even before I asked, I was 99% sure they both would be early risers because I know from experience that those quiet, early morning hours are a perfect for filling your own personal tank, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It's a great time for study and to receive personal revelation because it's usually a time that is interruption free, and your body and mind are alert and active from having just rested (as long as you also go to be early enough, which is also very important). In Mark chapter 1 verse 35 we learn that Christ did this. It says, "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." A friend of mine recently sent me this article called, 'Filled with Life and Energy', which was printed in the July 2015 Ensign magazine. I love the story that was told at the beginning, which had advice given to Marion G Romney from Harold B. Lee, a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles. Harold B. Lee said, "If you are to be successful as a General Authority, you will need to be inspired. You will need to receive inspiration. I will give you one piece of advice: Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested and then in the quiet of those early morning hours, you will receive more flashes of inspiration and insight than at any other time of the day." 

And switching gears, Saturday our kids attended a ward primary activity where they went to different stations and learned about the stories from the Old Testament. I had never seen anything like this before; the primary presidency did a beautiful job and it was neat to see the kids participating and better learning the stories of the Old Testament. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Practicing Responsibility, Dinner Partners, Sick AB

Ever since attending stake conference last week on preparing missionaries (charles was with us), he has been so on top of things! He's been setting his alarm every morning instead of just twice a week on orchestra mornings, waking up at 6am, and getting all of his stuff done before school: cleaning bedroom, making bed, playing cello for 20 min, playing piano for 30 min, making his lunch, unloading his dishwasher, and doing it all without a word from me or Scott, except for the occasional reminder to give his sisters space...he is very loving :). The Lord and his expectations are motivating and inspiring! And if we raise the bar, they will step up their game :). 
 A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we've started scheduling the kids each week for a night to help make dinner; they helped before but not every week. We have all been loving this! They love learning new recipes, I love that they are learning how to make a variety of dishes, and I love having a family member as a cooking partner in the kitchen with me which makes it more enjoyable :). Nora and Jane do more of the mixing, pushing buttons on appliances and supervised measuring, but the older kids, especially Charles and Elisabeth, can do most of it all on their own, and they like to. So I'll stand next to them and will talk them through steps that might need a little more explanation, or help if they need assistance, but mostly I'm just their watching and talking with them. Here is Elisabeth making an Indian dish.
 For our FHE activity this week we did a video Grandma Smith sent us online where you plank to the song Cha Cha Slide. You end up planking for a couple of minutes which was fun and challenging.
 Remember how Nora had a fever for 5 days a couple of weeks ago? Well Annabelle got it this past week and she missed school the entire week. Her fever finally broke on day 6, the morning after she was given a priesthood blessing from Scott and our friend Aaron. I am so grateful for priesthood power that the Lord has given us to use to bless and heal. I took this picture one day as Annabelle practiced piano (I didn't make her practice, but said she could if she felt okay enough and she wanted to most days because even though she was feverish and more tired, she had moments when she felt okay and wanted to do something) because she would ask Nora to come in and dance as she played...I think they were playing house :).
Last time we went to the library, Nora came home with a kids yoga dvd :). I put it on for her one morning and she ran upstairs and put on her exercise clothes, ran back down and did the entire video :). 

 And she was really good at it :).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Church Art Museum, Jane's Date, and How to Raise a Successful Missionary

I like this picture that Elisabeth snapped for Nora as she danced in the kitchen :). It's pretty normal to have someone singing, dancing, humming, playing the piano, or doing something musical at all times of the day. 
 The kids had a half day Thursday and no school Friday so I told them if they got all their stuff done (piano, chores etc), Friday morning by around 9-930ish, I would take them to temple square to see the updated Church Art History Museum and the children's area there. Can you see them in the picture below of the Salt Lake City temple?
 On the first floor of the Art Museum they had a 5 minute video you could watch of the first vision and the screen wrapped around the sides, which was cool, but it also made me a little dizzy when the camera moved in and out or up and down. I have a sensitive stomach. They had Hyrum Smith's actual clothes from when he was shot in carthage, and you can see the bullet hole! They had the clothing and pocket watches of many of the latter-day saints from that time in history, as well as other interesting artifacts. Below the kids listen to part of a scripture and then are supposed to act as scribe and write what was said to see if they'd be a good scribe :).
 Upstairs is the children's area and though it's a bit smaller, they still had some fun things for all my kids to do. Nora liked the little kid play area with the soft camels to climb on.
 The older kids enjoyed making pictures from these shapes,
 painting on a computer screen,
 and building temples with blocks. We spent about an hour and a half in the museum which was a good amount of time for them.
 March is Jane's month for her date night with mom and dad. Each of the children take a turn from month to month having a date with us and so it ends up being about 2 dates with mom and dad in the year, plus we take them on one-on-one dates or outings on occasion, which are many times a trip to the store with just mom or to home depot with just dad. Jane turns 6 this month and already got some birthday money from Granny Garnica, so first up on our date was to find new white church shoes. After she found the perfect shoes (her only criteria was that they MUST have a heel, which sounds like the opposite of something I would want :)) we went to Roxberry Juice and Jane got an all fruit smoothie and Scott and I got fresh juice. I LOVE fresh juice! Mine had carrots, lemon, apples and ginger and was delicious! We came home and got in pj's, and Jane of course put on her new church shoes,
and then we watched an episode of Studio C while we did a craft project that her Aunt Becca had brought out last weekend when they were here for Annabelle's baptism.
Saturday was busier than usual. I went for a 5 mile jog with my neighbor Lisa, took Jane to a gymnastics evaluation by 830am, Scott went for a jog, I went to a funeral of a sweet neighbor, took Annabelle and Charles to Federation(piano thing where they're judged on a piece or two) and Scott and I went to the temple. We came home and had dinner with the family and then Scott, Charles, Annabelle and I went to the adult session of stake conference where we sang in a family choir. The stake conference speakers were awesome, their names are Brad and Sandy Harris, and they taught us how to better prepare our children for missions; they just published a book called, A Parents Guide to Raising a Successful Missionary. A few things they mentioned that they think are extremely important (which they learned from their own experience from working at the MTC for years and from interviewing many, many mission presidents) are to: 1) make sure your child has an 'away from home' experience where they are gone for a week or longer; many kids come to MTC and it's their first time away from home and they feel very home sick and want to go home. This can include scout or young women camps, going to school or working away from home for a summer. 2) teach them to work; allow them to have a job that's not working for mom and dad; give them responsibilities at home, get them involved in sports or music where they need to learn to work and be disciplined.  3)give them leadership opportunities; allow them to lead. Allow them to be in charge of something. For this one I thought we should have the kids start not only helping make dinner, but once they're 10-12, have them also write down the grocerys they need for the dinner, we'll give them the money and they can come to the store with us and buy the ingredients and then make dinner on their own following a recipe. They also mentioned that many of the new missionaries have communication problems because they're so used to texting and emailing that they get really nervous and uncomfortable if they have to make a phone call or talk to an actual person. They suggested putting limits on usage, teaching them to only use electronics as a tool(ie calendar, scriptures, talks, etc but not for gaming and facebook and time wasting things), and putting them away in parents bedroom each night after a certain time. I also think it'd be good not to get electronics out until all important things are done like chores, scriptures, piano, homework etc (I do this for myself too; I do not even look at my phone until after I've read my scriptures and exercised), and to put them away during dinner so the family has time to connect. 

After stake conference we stopped by Kneaders where all pastries are half off on Saturday night after 8pm, and we got each of the children a treat and took them home to share. Elisabeth was wonderful and babysat twice that day, when we went to the temple and during stake conference! We have really good kids and we are so grateful for them and all their hard work. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

AC Piano Recital, Nora All Better, Cooking with Mom

I saw this shirt while I was shopping and laughed out loud because I thought we were one of a very few that used this term, "hangry", meaning hungry and angry :). 
Charles and Annabelle had a piano recital this week and also Federation on Saturday. For Federation they just play a memorized piece or two in front of a panel of three judges. It only took about 5 minutes. We'll get the notes from the judges at their next piano lesson. This allows the kids to get some good feedback, mostly of which is positive.
After their recital Tuesday night we went to Menchies and got frozen yogurt with our friends the Ludwigs, whose son also played at the recital.
Nora is all better now from her high fevers. She ended up having a high fever for 5 days which was long. Here she is on her bed that she made all by herself :).
This week Jane and Annabelle helped make whole wheat tortillas which we had for dinner one night. I love having the kids help in the kitchen making meals, and I love that they are learning to make all sorts of foods which I think they will thank me for one day :).