Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pumpkin Carving, etc.

It's been a good week. We finally got around to carving pumpkins this weekend. I was surprised at how much Brigham enjoyed it! He loved sticking his hand in there and pulling out little seeds, holding them above his head in victory. It was pretty cute. Kelsey still doesn't care for it, and the older three did great. We only got 3 pumpkins this year so there was some sharing and partnering up, but it worked out fine. 

 Above: their "yucky" face.   Below: "scary" face

Beautiful sunrise this morning. I took this picture from the girls' bedroom (hence the light fixture reflected in the top). They have a great view of the mountains and sunrises. Never mind all the houses and driveways :). 
Briggs is getting a lot more confident with his walking, and finally walking more than crawling. He's better at turning, stopping and starting, and even walking while holding things. The difficulty is when we put shoes on him. He does great at home barefoot, but when we go out in public and he has shoes, he trips a lot more. But we're getting there!

Kelsey's been working hard this week and not wearing pull-ups at night, and NOT peeing the bed. I've been having to get up several times during the night thanks to Briggs teething and Kelsey peeing. It's not very fun, but she has stayed dry the last two nights! So we're making progress. She has a "Pee-Free Chart" hanging in the kitchen and whenever she is all dry in the morning she gets to put a sticker on it. When she gets 5 stickers she gets to go pick out a toy or a treat at the store. She is very motivated by her "Pee-Fwee Chawt".

Wednesday we left the girls dance class early to go to the dentist. All 5 kids had an appointment, and this practice is SO helpful in trying to schedule them all at the same time so we don't have to keep coming back. The lady at the front desk when I was checking in she's like "Wow! It's Weston hour! Thank you so much for showing up!" haha. No cavities for anyone. Briggs had his first appointment, which he hated every second of. He screamed and thrashed around like it was pure torture. But the worst part was when the dentist talked to me afterwards and said we need to get rid of his binky.
I don't think he understands how much that binky affects the peace in our home, and therefore my sanity. I told Kenny about it and he's really good about taking it away from him as soon as he gets home. But I still give it to him to go to sleep. I feel like it's just cruel to take it away right now where he's still got 2 molars cutting through. My poor sweet baby turns into quite the monster whenever he's teething. I know he's suffering. I can't wait till it all passes.

Wed. night I told them it was my last night of coming to scouts. Yay! Thursday night we had a training from the Stake for our ward primary presidency. Friday we had some fun family games like hide and seek (that's a family favorite) and the "squares game". Kenny invented that game last year and they hadn't played it for a while. Our living room rug has lots of big squares on it. All the kids stand in a line and get asked a question individually, usually related to something they've been learning about in school. (But sometimes it's things like, "What is grandma's name?" or something like that) Anyway if they get the question right they move up a square and the first person to make it to the other end of the rug, wins.

Our fridge was being overrun with eggs and so I just posted on our ward and our old ward's RS facebook pages that we were selling them. We brought the price down to 18 for $5 and now we've got a long waiting list! Plus 3 or 4 people that want weekly orders. We can't even do that many or we wouldn't have any eggs leftover for us. But anyway, Tyler and Brynlee are making pretty good, regular money doing this. It's good to teach them money management and they get excited about paying tithing, and the freedom of deciding what they want to buy when we're at the store. So far they haven't actually bought anything, but they like having the option. Thanks to a great interview we listened to about teaching kids about finances, we borrowed the "48 Hour Rule" which means no impulse buying. If they see something they want they have to have it on their wish list for 48 hours before we can go back and buy it. Also doing the 10/20/70 principle where 10% goes to tithing, 20% goes to long-term savings, and 70% is their discretionary fund where they choose how to spend (or save) it.

Saturday was very busy and productive. All the Saturday cleaning, plus 6 loads of laundry (including washing everyone's sheets and putting them all back on 5 beds), meal planning and grocery shopping, making dessert for a funeral at the church, Kenny was gone 3 times doing different service things for EQ. Tyler also had a play date over here (Kenny hates when I call it a play date for 8 year old boys) but his friends Max and Scott came over for a couple hours and it made him pretty happy. Oh and that's the night we carved pumpkins.

I never mentioned this earlier, but it should be in our family journal that we were quite worried about Kenny losing his job. He found out at the end of August that they were going to be making some serious cuts and laying off a lot of people. The price of oil is just so low! So for a month and a half we were just sort of waiting to find out if he would still be employed. Thankfully, our prayers were answered and he was lucky enough to keep his job. They may do some more cuts again at the beginning of next year. We'll just have to see how things play out.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October So Far

 I love watching this tank eat. He astounds me with how much he loves food and will eat SO much.

 We thoroughly enjoyed General Conference weekend and kept tradition by making delicious cinnamon rolls!

 One day at the park, I was still coming from the parking lot with Briggs and all the others had run ahead. I got there only to find that Bryn had just kicked Ty's fairly new soccer ball into the lake and  they were all watching it float away. Eventually it went to the other side and stopped next to a dock. But after Ty and Bryn walked all the way around to retrieve it, they got stopped a few yards from where it was by a huge chain link fence. So we gave up and went home. The next day (or maybe 2 days later) I was driving by and thought I would look to see if I could find the ball. Sure enough, it had floated over to where we could now get to it! So we stopped and reached with a long stick and got it back. Cool story huh? :)

 There were SO many dead salmon there, it was stinky and gross. But Brynlee was fascinated by it and was using a long stick to pick them all up and make a big pile of dead fish. She was poking at them and inspecting them. I was so disturbed but she thought it was really cool.

The sun doesn't shine very often so when it does we get OUT! This was a wonderful afternoon of the library and then the park for a couple hour. We even ran into some friends at the park that made it even more fun.

Made caramel apples on a stick for FHE one night.

My favorite part of fall is the return of sunsets! I love that I can watch the sun set out my back window while I stand at the sink washing dishes. It makes dish duty more enjoyable :).

This past weekend, Kenny and i somehow managed to sneak in 2 dates, two nights in a row! On Friday we drove into Anchorage and ran some errands, then dropped our kids off at Andy and Shalee's and went to the temple. We are so grateful to them for watching them. It's wonderful to have family nearby. Then last night we got a babysitter and went to the adult session of stake conference. It's been a very spiritually-filling weekend. My favorite part of yesterday was that we got all of our Saturday cleaning done nice and early in the morning. So the whole afternoon we had open. Tyler and Kenny had started building a big marble thing together, and the girls wanted to have some "girl time" with me. So we went and pulled out my fabric bin and they wanted to learn how to sew! It ended up being a really fun activity to do together and they were just beaming with pride. Brynlee kept saying, "sewing is so easy!" haha. Bryn started with a blanket and Madison made a pillow, then Bryn wanted to make a pillow too. Of course I did most of the work and helped them along the way, but it was fun to teach them some ironing and sewing. They just ate it up. Kelsey would sit on my lap and put her fingers on the fabric to help guide it in and she felt pretty good about her contribution too. She liked to cut scraps up and play with the pins. It was a memorable day.

Briggs sort of went back and forth destroying and wreaking havoc wherever he possibly could. But that is the job of a 1 year old and he does it very well! He's getting more confident each day with his walking, and finally learned how to stand up by himself this weekend which is a big deal.

I know this post is getting ultra long. But last Friday, the 9th I have some notes written in my phone because my heart was so full that night and I wanted to remember it. So I better put it here in our family journal. I wrote...
"Today was a really good day. Aside from our normal school stuff, we had a fun "field trip" with our CC friends at open gym at Denali Gymnastics.  After that we went out to lunch together which was a really special treat. We came home and read some books, then worked together all afternoon. We cleaned out the disgusting chicken coop, and cleaned and vacuumed out the van. At one point we thought we had lost a chicken, but she eventually came back so no harm done. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. None of that sounds very exciting but there was such a good spirit, and I know the kids could feel it. At dinner time when we go around and play the "high/low" game, none of them had any "lows" to report. They were all saying what a great day it had been. They all made comments about how working together really is so fun. Madison told me I was her favorite girl in the world. Brynlee admiringly told Tyler that he was her favorite. Kelsey said Bryn was her favorite. And Tyler said Briggs was his favorite. :) Kenny came home and was so funny in playing with Briggs and the other kids. We all just think Brigham is the cutest dang kid in the world. Brynlee also worked so hard in making me a little shoe box full of treasures she created. Including a necklace made of yarn and beads, some cute pictures and small fabric flowers that I'm not sure where she got them. But she put her whole heart into that gift and I really appreciated the gesture :). That girl has a big heart. After dinner we made caramel popcorn and the kids had a movie night, while Kenny helped me with the dishes. I am just feeling so very blessed for such incredible kids and a great husband. It's a wonderful life."


A few weeks ago my mom sent this glorious package in the mail. It was pretty much like Christmas morning for the little girls as it contained several dolls and TONS of doll clothes and accessories. They were, and still are, in doll heaven! There's not a day that goes by they don't all have a doll (or many) in their arms. They come with us in the car, they get their diapers changed, their outfits changed, they sit at the table to eat with us, etc. etc. It takes the girls all a lot longer to do their morning chores because they're all getting their dolls dressed too! haha. But it is really precious to see them, and what great mothering practice. I occasionally snap a picture that makes me giggle when I see these babies all over the house. One day Madison remarked, "This place is like Baby-ville! And I am the mommy!" One day Tyler was getting after Madi for not helping to clean up the living room along with everyone else and she snapped back, "Ty! I have THREE BABIES to take care of!!" Her motherly duties were obviously far more important. :)

When the package arrived! It began immediately.

Since we only have one "real" high chair, Brynlee decided to make one for her doll. I thought it was so creative and cute.

 They're all tucked in and ready for bed.
 But there's one privileged baby that gets to sleep right by Madison every night. You may think that's just trash underneath the baby, but no. Madison cut that out and colored it herself with the intent of making her dolly a bed. I make her slide it underneath her bed in the morning, though. :)

These dolls are a bit big to fit in the doll house, but they still try.

A Few More September (oops)

Apparently I haven't taken off the pictures from my phone for a while and there were lots I missed when I did my "September" post. So I'm just going to throw them in here and sort it all out when I make my book.

The first 4 are of us just messing around while waiting for Tyler at soccer practice. The girls were wrestling a lot and finding little larvae inside the leaves and just keeping themselves entertained. :)

One time when we were in Anchorage we stopped to play at Cheney Lake, which is one lake/playground we used to visit all the time because it was the closest one to our house for the first year of living in AK. It's where Ann Reed and i used to go running a couple mornings a week during the summer. We missed it and just had to pay it a visit.

Tried to get a family selfie but Briggs was mad and Brynlee wouldn't come. So there it is :)

 Oh and we got our first snow of the year. It melted that day, don't worry.

 Cute girls going to dance class together.

This made me laugh so hard. My crazy Bryn. We were trying to do some math flash cards in the car while waiting for the little girls' dance and she was hyper! She went upside down like this and said, "I need to be upside down like this... it makes my brain think faster".

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Homeschool...for now

One of the funny things about keeping a written record, is that whenever I look back and read from stuff in the past, I'm sort of embarrassed. I can now do it in good humor, and just laugh at myself and be grateful that I am (hopefully) continually progressing and improving. I feel that way with our homeschool, too. I certainly don't have it all figured out. Every year we make changes and do things differently. And even from month to month or week to week. The good news is I'm totally able and allowed to do that! Our family is always evolving and changing. As children grow they're always in new stages and we have to adapt to that. You may have a newborn at the beginning of the year, but guess what? That baby grows! Their nap schedule changes, feeding, everything. I learn more, or the kids are ready to learn more and be challenged further. All of these are good things, but it makes it hard to answer people's questions such as, "What do you do for homeschool?" I want to say, well this is what we did this week! Or this month here's our schedule. So anyway, I guess that's my little disclaimer as I now record what has been sort of the flow of our daily lives for the last month or so.

When the "school year" first started up again, I don't think I was fully prepared. I mean I was in some ways; I had signed them all up on time for what we had previously decided they would participate in this year. But I didn't really have a nailed down game plan. And it showed! Oh my it was stressful. I wanted to pull my hair out almost every day and I felt like I couldn't stay on top of things, my mental stress was way too high. I expressed all these concerns and thoughts with Kenny one night, although it came out as more of an exasperated "I'M GOING TO PUT THEM ALL IN PUBLIC SCHOOL!" Type of a reaction. Thankfully he can always talk me down from the ledge and he has much better vision than me. He asked me what the end goal was. Other than, "I want them to be smart and love learning" I had nothing. He helped me to see that I had to start with the end in mind, and then work backwards. Here's the things I want them to know or have mastered (some are more tangible than others) by the end of the year. Here's some smaller goals throughout the year to get to that point, and then what does that mean for our daily schedule.



That's what I was so desperately in need of. I know that a lot of people can do "unschooling" or just kind of fly by the seat of their pants. But I definitely cannot. I like lists, I like schedules, and then we can adapt or change spur of the moment if needed. But we at least need to have a foundation, a solid starting point. So I got on google docs and made a nice little schedule for both Tyler and Brynlee. It's printed out and taped up on the wall right by our homeschool desk. If ever they're unsure of what they should be doing, (or if they're way off task) they can look at that and know what's expected. It's not every hour of the day. Trust me they have plenty of "free time" to play and pursue their own creative interests. But there are certain things they need to get done every day.

Mornings are a big deal to me. I get up around 5:30-5:45 and do an Insanity workout. Then I shower and read my scriptures and try to get some reading of another book until the kids wake up. I feel SO much better about myself and my day when I've got all that done before anyone's awake. There's a lot of days Briggs wakes up at some point during that time, but I can handle just him. :)
 Then we do breakfast and devotional at 8:00. Ideally they have their morning chores done before that time. (Morning chores= say prayers, get dressed, clean up clothes, make bed, brush teeth.) But where they're still so young, there's some days where the girls aren't quite awake, or Briggs is asleep so Tyler can't get into his room to get his stuff done. But mostly it works. So we do prayer, a song, and read from the illustrated scripture books. Right now we're in the Book of Mormon (again). Then we go over our poem or scripture that we memorize together. By 8:30 Ty does piano practicing, and ideally Bryn should do her violin at the same time, in a different room. But because I have to practice the whole time with Bryn, and Tyler often needs my help too, or the little girls still need their hair done or Brigham needs a diaper change, or we have to clean up from Cato, or a million other reasons, I often bump Brynlee's practicing to later in the day when things have settled down.

We always have to do our CC memory work, but we do that in the car while we're driving, or take 15 min. to review it at home if we're not running around that day.

They are both doing Saxon Math. They each do their spelling words (either written or orally to me) from The Natural Speller by Kathryn Stout. They're both supposed to read for 20-30 minutes a day. I let them choose what they want to read, but there's a couple times I have to help make a better choice. Bryn likes to pick books she knows by heart instead of higher-reading ones that will challenge her a bit. On M W F there's an hour blocked out for "mom teaching time" and this is where I fill in with The Family School. Over the summer I tried it out for like $1 a month to see if we liked it. And at first I wasn't going to continue with it, but I changed my mind. So now I use it for History lesson on Mondays, Science lesson on Wednesdays, and Music (or Art) on Fridays. I reference it for other things to get ideas, but don't carry out their full lesson. Anyway I've really liked that, and I know the kids enjoy it too. That always has handwriting practice that comes with it.

Extracurricular activities:
Monday is Tyler's piano lesson, but that's the only interruption to our day which I'm so grateful for. And it's not until 11:30, so it's a good benchmark to try and get everything done before we stop for that.

Tuesday Tyler goes to FIELD School out in Palmer. It used to be called farm school, but they just changed the name this year. I drop him off at 9:30, and don't pick him up until 2:30. It's the longest he's been away from home doing his own thing and I think it's awesome. He loves it and so do I. They are outside almost the whole time. The focus of his class this year is on trees and all things forestry. It's called the "natural numbers and nouns" class. After I drop him off we go straight to Brynlee's violin lesson. She's just blossoming with a new-found confidence in this and I love watching her. The only annoying thing about it is her teacher has only one son, who's now a teenager. So she's not very understanding about little kids. Madison and Kelsey sit on the steps down by the front door and I bring the iPad and snacks and headphones and demand that they don't make a peep, and don't come up the stairs. It's pretty stupid, but I don't know what else to do about it. The teacher we were going to have for Bryn had to cancel at the last minute because she just has too much going on and couldn't take any more students. But I told her that when she does start taking students again, we'd love to switch ;). Not because Bryn's teacher isn't good, but because extra kids is just part of the package with us.  Also later that day, at 4:15 Brynlee has her dance class.

(Pretty much we are in and out of the car a lot Tues.-Thurs. and I don't like it. But it's sort of too late to change it. Live and learn I suppose. Next semester we'll make better time choices.)

Wednesday: Madison and Kelsey have their dance class at 9:30. This is probably the first thing that would go if I could change anything. I won't have them doing it the second half of the year. At least not at this time. They do love it, and it's been lots of fun for them. But I hate the interruption. We just bring stuff in the car to do while we sit and wait for them. Later at 2 p.m. Tyler has his cello lesson. That night we have Cub Scouts. I'm still in charge of that by default because they still haven't called anyone else to it!

On Thursdays we are still doing Classical Conversations again this year. We really love that and I can't say enough good about it. We are there from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and it feels like a full day.

Because the older two end up getting a lot more of my time, I try to make sure and get "one-on-one" time with Madison and Kelsey each day for about 30 min. each. With Madison we always do a reading lesson from the book, "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". She is really just doing so awesome with that and loves it so much. She also has some Explode the Code workbooks, and Kumon workbooks, learning to write letters and numbers that she likes to do with me. For Kelsey, she mostly just likes me to read the stack of books she picks out. But we also like to pull out the white board and practice writing her name. :)

Since work is also a big part of their learning, we still do each child has 2 days (except Kels has one) where they are Mom's Kitchen Helper. They are in charge of setting the table that day, and they help cook and clean up. Also, whoever's "day" it is are in charge of collecting the eggs and checking on the chicken's food and water. They all take turns with Cato, taking him out to go potty and cleaning up after him if he does go in the house.

We read a lot during the day, but we always have a "family read-aloud" going where I read out loud to them about a chapter a day. We are currently reading The Wind in the Willows. We found a beautiful copy from the library with lots of illustrations to help keep their attention. :)

So yes there's a million interruptions every day and some days don't go well at all. But for the most part, our schedule has really helped things to run a lot smoother and we all feel good about what has been accomplished at the end of each day.

I'm also taking some free online courses at Hillsdale College. It makes me wish SO badly I could go back to school. It kills me how little time I have to study and read when I wish i could spend hours a day (selfishly) on my own learning. But I just finished up the course K-12 Education: Theory and Practice. It was awesome. I just started Constitution 101. There's always a lot of suggested supplemental readings along with each course that is fun to delve into. For example, I'm reading Plato's Republic right now (and Little Women, but that's just strictly for pleasure), which I never thought about reading before.

Introducing, Cato

We've had a puppy for 17 whole days now so I think it's time I introduce him. I know I've mentioned him in a previous post, but that's about it. So here's some pictures of our new puppy. He's a maltese, so he will stay very little his whole life, which I love. Big dogs mean big poops! Not only that but the bigger the dog, the more you have to take them outside on long walks to get their energy out. That's very hard to do in our long winters with so many little kids. (Pretty much impossible I'd say). So a dog that can wear himself out just running around inside your house is perfect for me. Not only that, but he doesn't shed!! That was a huge requirement for me. 

We've tried having a dog in the past. We ended up having to get rid of him right before we moved out here to Wasilla. It wasn't really because we were moving, but more because he was just not a good fit for our family. He needed someone that loved to clean up massive amounts of dog hair every day, and someone that had the time and knowledge to train him. He was mean and barked all the time if there was someone he didn't know, he peed like every second of the day. If you looked at him, he peed. If he got excited when Kenny came home, he peed. It was ridiculous. So to have Cato is a huge difference and it has been seriously a night and day experience. Cato is super loving and friendly and playful. He isn't big enough to hurt the kids, he NEVER barks unless Briggs steps on him or something and then he lets out a little whimper. He still has an accident about once a day in the house, but he's figuring it out really quickly and doing well. He's been lots of fun for the kids, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I need to get some pictures of him with Tyler. They are really good buddies, too. The reason Ty isn't in these is because these are all from the first night we brought him home at 9 weeks old. We picked him up, then had to drop Tyler off at soccer practice! It was torture for him haha. But anyway, that's why it's only the girls. Madison is still the same with animals. She won't really hold him or pet him much. But she says she likes him, so that's good. She's just not quite as comfortable with animals as the others.

His name is a little strange, probably. We had been tossing around lots of names and writing everyone's ideas on the white board. But when we picked him up, the name Cato came to my mind and I loved it! Everyone else agreed that it was a good fit, and it stuck. If you don't know anything about Cato you can read a little here. (Basically he's famous for standing up to Julius Caesar.) 

In a way I'm almost sad that we actually got the dog. Because for weeks (and probably months) leading up to it they were all begging for a dog and Kenny would just keep telling them that they had to prove they were responsible. So they were working extra hard and being more diligent about cleaning, etc. So now we don't have that awesome motivation to bribe encourage them in their cleaning! :) But, he has been a good little addition to the home so I guess it's a good trade.

Without further ado, here's our little buddy...

 He was pretty hairy and stinky when we got him. So Kenny gave him a bath in our sink and trimmed his hair up nicely so he could see! Without all his fluffy hair he looked like a little white rat! haha.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Family Pictures

 We got family pictures taken back in September. I just got them back this week and I am so happy with how they turned out. (I also put a bunch in the last post, too.) Seeing these pictures of my family makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. :) It makes me think about all my blessings, and I just feel so grateful. I sure love this clan. And I love the beautiful scenery!!