Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - Annual Review

What to say about 2012.  It's been a year unlike any other for us.  Busier, for the most part.  It's been a good one.  No major traumas or dramas.  But the kids are growing older and time seems to be slipping faster and faster through our fingers.

In a large-ish nutshell:

*Hannah turned 14 in May.  She enjoyed her first youth conference in June - also her first dance!  She started high school in the fall.  This was a big change for us.  It's been several years since I've had a kid in full time school.  Suddenly she's gone a lot. Not just at school, but with many extra-curricular activities as well.  She's in her school jazz quartet as a keyboardist and learning SO many new things that her years of piano lessons hadn't taught her.  Jazz is such a different style than classical (or hymns!) so it's been a fun change for her and super educational.  This is in addition to her regular classical-style piano lessons.  She also played her second ever season of soccer this fall on the rec league team.  She has improved so much from last year.  It was really fun to watch her and see how her understanding of the game and her ability to play it have magnified.
  Hannah was nervous to go to the charter school this year, as she didn't really know anyone in it (other than some passing acquaintances).  Josh and I met with the high school teacher before the year started and just fell in LOVE with her.  She is one of those once in a life time teachers who really loves the kids, has great goals for her class, and wonderful personal values (with which we felt comfortable having her be a major influence in our child's life for so many hours a day).  Since school started, Hannah has made some lovely friendships and has a great group of like-minded students with which to hang out.  So far, we're really happy with the decision to send her to Three Rivers.  

*Brynne turned 12 in March.  She was eager to be old enough for the Church's youth program and join Hannah there.  This spring she competed in Odyssey of the Mind at the state level.  It's fun to watch Brynne act.  If you know her as a shy, reserved person, you would be surprised at how she unleashes her personality when she is on stage.  She is a good actress!  Brynne is taking violin lessons - she is midway through her second year and still loving it.  Her Christmas/Birthday gift this year was a new (nicer!) violin.  It's so fun to hear her play it.  
   This year Brynne is technically attending Three Rivers charter school, but she is doing independent study.  The school provides materials and we can ask for guidance.  But for the most part, I help her structure and schedule her study time and she teaches herself.  We meet with a teacher once a month or so to check in and show Brynne's work.  She's not interested in going to school on campus, so this is a great compromise for us.  Many of you know that last year Brynne won the local VFW Patriot's Pen essay contest.  She entered again this year, and as the only applicant was a shoo-in for the district competition!  She wins some scholarship money, so it's a great thing!  Brynne also played soccer this year - I think it was her 5th season.  The biggest thing we noticed was how much more aggressive she was on the field. As one of the taller players (yes!  our Brynne!) it was fun to watch her start to come into her own and take advantage of her natural speed and coordination.

*Logan - a.k.a "the Loganator" - turned 9 in April.  He is such a funny kid.  He loves the computer. Loves sports. LOVES Cub Scouts.  Scout day is his favorite day of the week.  We've had a lot of fun doing scout activities along with school stuff.  Logan played his second season of soccer this year.  He's a quick little guy, but a little leery of getting bowled over in a head-to-head confrontation with another player, or the ball.  It makes me laugh to watch him duck when someone kicks the ball straight at his head.  I'd duck too!    One of the best things about Logan is his thoughtfulness.  He's known as the guy who holds doors for everyone, who sets up the Primary room for his teacher each week, and gives hand and back massages to anyone who's looking a little tense.  He's pretty skilled at it, too!
  Logan loves music.  I haven't started him in formal lessons yet, but he's been learning to play his favorite songs by ear on the piano.  He also loves to dance.  He's like a mini Zac Efron, and I've been trying to convince him that it is NOT girly to take dancing lessons.  He could take jazz or hip hop - no pink tu-tus required (he's mortally afraid of girly things).  He's finally starting to think about it seriously and I'm hoping to get him into a class in the near future.

*Kenna will be five in a month (my only non-spring birthday amongst the kids). Technically a preschooler, she is starting to show interest in learning to read, though I think it will be a while before she really starts reading.  She is turning into a great artist and loves to color and draw.  I love four year olds because they are so hilarious.  Kenna is one of those highly verbal, big word using kids who pops out the most interesting comments.  The other day she told me that things were getting out of control in her life.  I could totally empathize!  
   After spending most of her early years wanting nothing to do with her brother, he has recently become her most favorite person on earth.  And he accommodates her.  She creates all sorts of fantastical pretend play for him to join.  She hasn't been really big into learning new physical skills such as bike riding (until Natalie learned to ride Kenna's bike), but we are just enjoying this kid so much.  She was a difficult baby, but she has turned into a really fun, loving kid.

*What can I say about the baby of the family?  Natalie turned 3 in March.  Her personality is really starting to shine.  She is opinionated, independent, loving, and loud.  I'm just now getting her toilet trained because once she learned it, she stopped, and hasn't cared to do it until recently.  She tells us all, often, how much she loves us, and enjoys a good snuggle.  But try getting her to do anything she isn't in the mood for and you're in for a fight.  A loud one.  Ahhh, to be the youngest.  Good thing she has Kenna to keep her in line.  Natalie is really into computers, surprisingly enough. She runs the DVD player, knows how to play music on the computer, and enjoys various apps on my tablet.  Sometimes this worries me, but we try to maintain balance.

As a family, we've had a few highlights this year.

  • In May we took the kids to Sacramento for a family trip.  It was technically a home-school field-trip to wrap up a year of California History studies.  We had a fantastic weekend together.

  • Josh took the older girls with him on his business trip to Santa Cruz in June.  I don't know how much fun they had between the hanging out with friends, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, but the girls were good sports about it.  Rough, right?

  • At the beginning of our summer, after looking at the calendar, I realized that we had only ONE short weekend that was still empty and was determined to squeeze a family camping trip into that time.  And by short, I mean one night.  We did it.  We drove 45 minutes away to Hendy Woods and had the best time.  Josh's parents came out for part of the day to enjoy dinner and campfire time with us.  We went on hikes through the beautiful redwoods and made s'mores after dinner (of course!).  It was fast, but I'm so glad we took the time to do it.  Family vacations are the best!

  • I was able to attend a couple days of Girls Camp with Hannah and Brynne in July.  Came home to a husband who'd been dealing with two very sick little girls.   They got better just in time to join their siblings on a special trip with Grandpa and Grandma R. to Idaho and Utah for a family reunion and other fun.  Kenna still talks about "the long trip we took with Grandma".  The sheer length of the drive was apparently the most memorable part for her.  She remembers that they stayed in three hotel rooms and saw four temples.  Fun times!  They had a great time, actually.  I'm impressed that the grandparents were willing to make the trip - and also impressed that they survived it!

  • While the kids were gone, Josh and I spent a week in Switzerland with my sister, her husband, and my parents.  Josh had a bad head cold and I wasn't feeling too hot for most of the week, but we still managed to enjoy ourselves.  It was fun to travel together and see some incredible scenery and adorable villages.  It's always nice to be back home with the family, though.

  • At the end of September I took the three youngest kids with me to visit my parents and siblings out of state.  Josh stayed home with the two older girls, and his Dad (who also happened to be a bachelor that week) came out to keep them all company.  Brynne was really looking forward to cooking the meals and getting some quality time with Grandpa.  They enjoyed themselves, I think.  I know I had a nice time with my young children. The little ones were fantastic on the drive.  I had been nervous about the long trip with no big kid helpers, but movies, plenty of stops, and of course yummy roadtrip snacks make any trip fun.  We hit a pumpkin patch with the cousins and Grandma and Grandpa T.  Every time we see a pumpkin at the grocery store now, Kenna and Natalie remind me that they've been to a real pumpkin patch.  I love vacationing in the fall since we don't get a lot of fall colors on the coast.  It's nice to go "over the hill" and be able to see them.  Not to mention, being able to see all four of my sisters on one big trip - what a bonus.  A little girl time is always a fun thing!

  • In October Josh entered a community chili cook-off - and won!  He's got a stellar recipe that he's happy to share with anyone that would like to give it a try.

See.  I told you it was a large-ish nutshell!  We've had a great year full of blessings.  We look forward to more time enjoying each other as a family AND hopefully spending lots of time with the friends and extended family that we love so much!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Animals are guaranteed to drive you crazy!

A few days after Satin got her stitches, the vet called to check up on her.  I said everything seemed fine.  Then I thought to actually look at her stitches, since it had been at least two days since I had done that.  I was surprised to find that they were GONE.  She had bitten them all off, and the wound was starting to re-open.  I called the vet, had to rush the cat down for a quick re-do , and she was given one of those lovely cone collars that you sometimes see dogs wearing.  Oh, she was miserable.  I think she thought she was in a narrow tunnel that she couldn't get out of - some sort of terrible nightmare.  She walked and danced around backwards for two days.  She escaped from that collar twice, and since we were tired to fighting with her over it, we have resorted to the slightly less troublesome ACE bandage.  I think it was a stroke of pure genius by Josh and I.

I swear she thinks her body is paralyzed.  She slinks around - or even refuses to move her legs and just sort of rolls off the couch and around on the floor.  She's a little better today; moving around a bit and eating more.  Even begging to be let outside (which is currently off limits).  I'll be glad when she's all healed up and we can get back to our regular lives.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The weather outside is Frightful!

For one reason after another, we've been grateful that we opted not to travel this Christmas (although we still miss seeing our families - it's the actual travel that we're glad to be skipping).  Most recently, having four of our five kids get sick this week.  Brynne is the current sickie.  She barely made it out of bed to open presents this morning, but I think she's starting to feel better.  Aren't you all glad we didn't come share our germs with you?

But even with the germs (or maybe because of the germs) it's been a very relaxing couple of days leading up to Christmas.  We kept it super simple this year.  Like, really simple.  To the point that I was panicking last night thinking that maybe the kids would be disappointed with their gifts and stocking stuffers.   I don't think they even noticed that there were fewer gifts this year than in years past.  The most fun they always have is giving gifts to their siblings and watching them unwrap those.  I think that's the most fun for me, too!

Anyway, between the cat's stitches and twice-daily antibiotic regimen, the wintry weather, and the miserable, germy kids, being in our cozy home has been the best possible option for us.
Love to all our friends and family!   May your Christmas day be Merry and Bright!

If you didn't see it, there's a 2012 review on a separate page (see tab just under the picture at the top of the blog).

Now on to 2013!

Friday, December 14, 2012


We had to try out our new curlers on the little girls last night.  Natalie took hers out during the night, so she just has beachy waves.  Kenna was more disciplined (in fact, I had to convince her not to leave them in all day).   Also, Kenna got to spend her birthday money today.

And Natty has been into trying on shoes that are too big...but she's so cute - she chose her outfit today!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Five is Fun!

Dang, we love this kid!  We had a super fun birthday today.  Swimming at the aquatic center.  A "star" birthday cake (per her request).  Friends over to play.  And presents, of course!

I think she giggled non-stop through the entire day.  It's so fun when birthdays are magic for kids.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Swimming Season

So December got designated the season for swimming.

I've been giving Logan one-on-one lessons at the pool every day since last Monday.  He needs them.  Group lessons weren't working for him, and I couldn't hack the expense of private lessons.  So I thought we'd try having consistent lessons together for the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We spend 20-30 minutes working together, then he gets free time while I swim a few laps and take a shower.

So far it's working great.  He has really dense bones so floating is a real challenge for him.  His recent swim teacher, who's been teaching for about 100 years, called him a "sinker" which is entirely accurate.  He'll probably never float really well.  But if he can keep moving, he does okay.  His big challenge is not running out of air.

BUT we've made a lot of progress.  For the first time in his life he swam his little self into the deep end on his back - keeping his face above water for that long was a huge step.  We're using flippers as a tool to help him worry less about sinking and be able to concentrate on proper breathing, arm movements, etc.  He's flipper-free on his back after 6 lessons, but still using flippers when he swims on his stomach.  I'm hoping to get him to the point where he can take regular lessons in January.  The breathing thing is probably his biggest challenge at this point.  I feel that once he gets that taken care of, he will be good to go.

Since I've been swimming so much with Logan, the little girls have been begging for their turn.  I told them after Christmas.  But then I told Natalie she couldn't go because she didn't use the toilet all the time (she is STILL having accidents because she just doesn't care enough!!).  Surprise, surprise, she has stopped having accidents and talks all the time about when she's going to go swimming.  She's even stayed dry all night.  I knew she could do it, since she did it for MONTHS this spring.  This kid has been driving me bananas with her refusal to do this.  Is it because she's the youngest?    Apparently swimming was a big enough incentive (for now).  We'll see how long it lasts.  But I'm not taking her swimming until we don't consider ourselves in toilet-training phase at ALL.  Just to rub it in a little (and hopefully keep her motivated), I'm going to take Kenna to the pool on her birthday.  After all, she's been toilet-trained for a couple years now!  I think she deserves it!

In the words of the immortal Dora, "just keep swimming".

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

We've been busy here!

We had a nice Thanksgiving.  Josh's parents were able to come out and join us for a couple nights so we got to spend all of Thanksgiving day together.  We had the missionaries over for breakfast (pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sweet potatoes!!), and lots of yummy snacks all morning.  For dinner I cooked Turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans with bacon and onions, and homemade rolls and cranberry sauce.  Grandma brought her incredible dressing, a yummy persimmon steamed pudding (like an old timey plum pudding, which is actually a cake), pumpkin pie and plenty of whipped cream.  The kids helped me make cherry and apple pies, too.  So that was our feast.  It was a LOT of food, but oh-so-good as it always is.

And then to work off our feast, on Friday Josh and I got started reorganizing our house a bit.  I know.  I can't help myself.

We decided to downsize from two computers to just one (for now).  At some point we'll probably get a laptop.  But we're going to see how it goes with just one.  And not only that, but we moved it onto the hall desk and totally cleared out our huge computer armoire.  It's ready to go into the garage while it awaits a new home.  So that space in the dining room is going to be where my new piano ends up once we can round up five other guys to help Josh move it (aren't you glad you all live too far to help with that?).    We used to be very caught up in having the computer in the living area for two reasons - one is that it is the best computer safety tool, counseled by prophets of God.  Second is that we wanted to be able to watch movies on our projector from off our computer, and we didn't want massively long cords roping around our house.
The movie reason is moot - our new DVD player will stream wirelessly from the internet or from our computer.  LOVE IT!!
And, the new hallway location actually works really well because I can see the computer screen from the living room.  I tested it out yesterday as Hannah was supposedly working on geometry and all I could see were christmas youtube videos on her screen.

"Uh, Hannah, how's that geometry going?"
Back to math.  :-)

I'm such a mean mom.  But hey - it was her choice to do math! She's trying to get caught up (more on that later).

We made room for our Christmas tree, which arrives TODAY - fun!  AND, one of Hannah's chores this week was to sand and repaint the low bookshelf in my living room that I've had since she was one and never done anything with.  We painted it an off-white, since I have a lot of brown furniture in my house, and it was going up against my accent wall.  She did a nice job - especially considering it was her first time wielding a sander and painting!  That job is finished and the bookshelf is back in it's place and awaiting Christmas decorations to make it festive.

Finally - the reason Hannah is doing geometry on her week off of school.  After a conference with Hannah and her teacher, and looking at her 8th grade test results and the results of a test she took this fall, her teacher thought that Hannah might be better served by getting geometry done this year (she's currently in Algebra, but her grade is over 100%).  She thinks Hannah isn't being challenged enough AND that since Hannah seems to really love science, taking more advanced mathematics in high school would be super beneficial to her.  This will allow her to take Calculus her senior year.  So Hannah emailed her math teacher and he got her started - told her to use the holidays to catch up to where they are.   And there you go!  One of the joys of a small school that tries to be flexible and curtail the educational experience to fit the needs of the child.  She's also getting extra grammar/reading/writing assignments from her teacher to help fill in her time. Lucky girl!  But seriously, the girl never had any homework, and she had a lot of free time at school.  Now we're hoping she'll feel a lot busier at school.

Josh and I did a little online Black Friday Shopping.  We just kind of kept our eyes open for a steal of a deal on something we have been in the market for.  One thing I noticed is that not all the deals are "deals".  I think that the original price is often raised right before Thanksgiving so that the discounted price looks even better.  I saw that in a couple things, most noticeably the ipod nano that Josh bought in October.  He thought he'd be disappointed when he saw the black friday price, but it was only $4 cheaper than the price he paid last month.  So you really have to be a smart shopper.  The only big thing we got was a Cuisinart food processor, which was really a bargain.  Josh will use it for salsa making, and I can actually use it to make bread dough, which I'm excited to try.  Merry Christmas to us!  Oh, one last thing about that.  When I found it on Amazon's website, it said that all the items were "claimed", but that I could put it in my cart.  If one became available I would have 15 minutes to purchase it, or it would go to the next person in line.  So I did, and it was actually immediately available.  So the lesson there was, 100% claimed does not mean 100% purchased.  The risk is that you get placed in a position of making a last minute impulse purchase, so you have to watch yourself!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Soccer Finale

All the kids had a great season.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Brynner's Essay

Every year the VFW sponsors an essay contest.  Last year Brynne won.  This year she is the only entrant (so we expect a win).  BUT, she wrote a really good essay this year, so I'm going to share it!  The subject that she was given is also the title.  She's limited to 400 words.

What I would tell America's Founding Fathers

If I met America's Founding Fathers there are many things I would tell them and many things they might wonder about today's world.

One thing I would tell the Founding Fathers is about the Constitution. The Founding Fathers signed the Constitution on September 17,1787. Since then there has been 27 amendments, or changes made in it. One of the amendments made was that no citizen's vote can be taken away because of his race, color, or because he was once a slave. Another one gave women the right to vote. The Bill of Rights was also added. I know that if I had written or signed something like the Constitution, I would be interested to know if it was still used and if it had been changed,so that is one thing I would tell the Founding Fathers.

Another thing I would tell them about would be the telephone. The word Telephone comes from a Greek root meaning far speaking. The first telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, about ninety years after the Founding Fathers. At first some people dismissed Graham Bell's “speaking telephone” as a scientific toy of little value. Others saw as an invasion in privacy. By 1917 nearly all of the United States had telephone service. Since the Founding Fathers did not see any of this I think that they would find it very interesting.

The last thing I would like to tell the Founding Fathers is about America today. When the Founding Fathers built our government, and America began to grow it was practically nothing compared to other countries. Now it is one of the richest and most advanced countries in the world. In some places around the world other countries model their government after ours, which is something I would definitely want to tell the Founding Fathers. Another thing about America is that people come here for a better life or to be free. I think that the Founding Fathers would be proud of America, and the achievements of the people in it.

America is a beautiful place in spite of its faults and I think that the Founding Fathers should be proud to be a part of the beginning of such a wonderful country.