...and they all lived happily ever after...

...and they all lived happily ever after...

Monday, April 30, 2012

A little bit of white trash (seriously)

You know that embarrassing moment when you notice you have been walking around with a bit of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe?

Sometimes that happens to houses too.

Actually, this bit of bonus toilet paper came to us courtesy of the little birds that are building a nest in our rain gutter.  They come back every year and honestly I don't mind sharing my house with them, but if they are going to continue bringing stuff like this into my house, I just may have to lay down the law.

(FYI, we did retrieve -- carefully and in a way that involved disposable gloves -- and dispose of this little piece of nastiness so we're pretending everything is ok now.  Still, who knows what else they have in there.  Ugh.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What's in a name

This makes me sooooo proud that I could burst.  Logan has had a harder time with letters than some of the other kids (although numbers, adding all that kind of thing is easy as pie for him). 

We have been working really hard this past few weeks on writing his name, and in the last few days this is what has happened.  He came home from pre-school with a note from very impressed teachers (this is HUGE improvement) and I am just pleased as punch.  What an amazing little boy.

(Incidentally, I don't think pie is easy -- especially the crust, I have only ever managed gross ones -- and I have no idea how in the world punch could feel pleased, but you get the idea.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eating out of the ordinary

Since the weather has been fabulous of late, we have tried to take advantage of it.  My ten year old daughter decided to arrange a family picnic one afternoon last week.  She made lunch and dished the plates and found a perfect picnic blanket and set everything up for a wonderful lunchtime adventure (it is always more fun to eat outside than inside).

The kids all had a wonderful time bathing in the sun while munching on chicken nuggets and applesauce. 

I think it is a beautiful thing to break up the monotony of day after day after day with these small blossoming moments.  Sometimes we have picnic, sometimes we eat underneath the table (we generally pretend we are on a spaceship when we do that), sometimes we pack lunches in brown sacks and eat them in the car while we drive to nowhere in particular. 

I believe it is these out of the ordinary pages in our biography that will stand out and remind my crew of little people that life is be lived and enjoyed.  At least, that's what I hope they get from it.

That and that their mother loves them all the way to the moon....and back.

(Why Aubrey decided to set up the blanket on the cement patio rather than on the lush --ok, patchy -- grass is beyond me, but to each his own.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Send Hymn to Bed

One of our family new years goals was to learn a new hymn from the big hymn book (that's what we call the one that isn't the children's hymn book at our house) every month throughout the year.

So far so good.  We started with "Called to Serve" (the older kids already sort of knew that one so it was a good place to start) then we headed on to "The Spirit of God" and "We are all Enlisted" (kids loved the idea of a war anthem) and now we're on to "Come, Come Ye Saints."  Lest you think Josh and I are being overly bossy you should know that each month we have allowed one of the children to choose a the hymn for the month so these songs are their choices, not ours.

We learn two verses of each song and at the end of the month the kids have to sing it to Josh and me on their own to pass it off.  It's pretty adorable to watch actually.  They get sort of nervous even though the only thing that would happen if they didn't know the song is that we would sing it some more. 

Anyway, the point is we are learning some hymns...but our little ones like to spice it up a bit.  They have taken to leading the music every night (an event that used to be reserved for family home evening on Monday nights) and Ellie just loves dancing as we sing.  She does tend to belt out her particular favorite bits of the song, but the rest of the time she just twirls and bounces and struts and tumbles and is adorable.  Bedtime at our house is not overly subdued, but it is incredibly smile inducing.  At least for me it is.

Thought I'd share a glimpse.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sleeping Babes

Good heavens, they are so adorable when they're sleeping.

('Course, I think they're adorable not matter what...but there's something magical about sleeping babes.)

(P.S. Aubrey did not make this post because she refused to be asleep any of the several nights I came in trying to get her picture...spoil sport.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Crohn's, a new chapter

This is the face of Crohn's disease.

But you already knew that.

I am in the middle of a pretty nasty Crohn's flare right now so Crohn's and I aren't exactly on speaking terms at the moment.  It's back on Entocort for me (a nasty bit of medicine that does clear up symptoms over time, but brings some menace of its own into life).

But I am not writing this to complain.  I actually have a few good words to say about the disease that has wound its way into my life.

If you have known me much at all or for any period of time you know that in my life I could feel guilty about just about anything.  You bring up a problem and I could come up with a way that somehow I made it worse or caused it or didn't help alleviate it or something.  Josh used to call me The Queen of Guilty and he was right.  I often wore other people's problems like some women wear shoes (oh how I love shoes). 

When someone came to me with an issue or a struggle I had a tendency to sort of take it on and adopt it as my own.  This is not healthy; I do not suggest it.  

I am not a social person by any stretch of the imagination, but I do adore people.  I really do.  I just couldn't manage to figure out how to care about people without also worrying about their lives and their problems whether I could actually help fix them or not.

Well, when I first met Crohn's disease I quickly discovered that stress and worry are ENORMOUS triggers for my friendly neighborhood intestinal disorder.  The more I fretted about something the more intense my symptoms became (and that is not just me, I have read case after case after case in which other Crohn's owners report the same thing).  I am telling you there is a very direct connection and I paid for every moment of worry and stress that I allowed into my life those first months.

And so, I was forced to put a lid on the stressers in my life.  I had to let things go that I would normally have batted around for days.  I had to let concern be enough and not let it swell into worry.  I had to shelf my need to manage everything and instead let life happen around me (and I mean both in and out of my home because there is plenty of stress hiding in the corners around here as well).

Recently I have been in the throes of what would normally have been a very stressful situation for me.  I have a friend who is struggling in her marriage and wants me to mother her through her problems.  She is a wonderful person and I love her, but I just can't do it.  I cannot fix her life and I cannot let her become a weight on mine by trying to hide here rather than face her struggles. 

The other night I mentioned to Josh some of her concerns.  I said I felt bad for her but I knew I couldn't fix it and I hoped she could work things out.  He smiled at me in an odd way.  I asked about that and he said he was very pleased because for the first time he could remember I wasn't taking on the problem as though I needed to fix it.  I was trying to be sympathetic but I was not trying to take on her issue or meddle in the middle of it.

That made me smile because he is so right.  It is not that I don't care, but this is not my monkey (that's what Josh says...he was always telling me "Don't take her monkey!  You have enough of your own.").  I still love her and am concerned for her and will pray for her and try to be supportive, but it is a beautiful thing not to feel burdened by something that has nothing to do with me. 

What an important lesson Crohn's disease has brought to me.  I do wish I had managed to learn it without the malady, but I guess that was not in the cards for me.  Even in the throes of something that is ugly and foul there is often a hidden gem if we let ourselves see it. 

I'm not sure I can exactly say I am grateful for Crohn's disease, but I am grateful for the chance to learn and grow and continue to work at becoming something better than I am today.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Shakin' things up

Yesterday, here in Utah we had a state-wide emergency "shake down."  This event was essentially a gigantic earthquake drill for anyone and everyone willing to participate.  I think pretty much every school and government agency participated and I know lots of other businesses and families took part as well.

Our family was one of those.  We try to stay up on emergency preparedness (as much as we can) but honestly we probably don't pay as much attention to it as we should.

Anyway, so at 10:15 Tuesday morning when the radio started broadcasting the loud meeping that alerts people to important announcements, we played right along.  We ducked and covered under tables and on bunk beds in whatever room we happened to be in at the time.

Then, we all hurried to the basement to retrieve our emergency kits and met up in the living room for a little bit of a refresher course on family emergency protocol.

The kids were pretty excited to rummage through their emergency kits and see what was in there (the highlight of the kits was the cigarette lighter that each back pack held...some of those tried to sneak out of the room, but no worries, they were all returned to their proper places before the drill was done).

I do not profess to be any sort of expert on 72 hour kits, but we have done our best to put together what our family might need in an emergency.  We divvied all the loot into eight backpacks (packed lightly for the smaller DeMouxs) and we've practiced running to the basement, gathering our packs and heading for the car many times over the years. 

Each year we pull out the packs and remove old food and meds to replace them with new stuff as needed.  Several years ago we invested in a whole bunch of MRE's (meals ready to eat) from the army/navy store nearby.  These meals last approximately 10 years so in a few more years we'll need to change those out, but for now we're good.

Ellie enjoyed helping remove last years fruit snacks, canned chili, tuna fish, fruit cocktail and Ramen noodles and the like and replacing them with new ones.  She had fun and I loved having her involved.

Here's (mostly) what we have in our packs:

There is a zip seal bag of food for each person for each day (3 day supply).  We won't be eating like kings -- this is survival, not fine dining after all.  Our meals include things like a packet of oatmeal, a package of Ramen noodles, some crackers and an MRE (we have one MRE per person per day so there will be one good solid meal -- maybe not delicious, but still filling).  We also invested in heating packs for our MRE's so we can "cook" them with minimal water.  We have things like canned chili, cup of soup mix, granola bars, hard candies to suck on, gum and other bits and pieces. 

We included one bottle of water in each person's bag and we intend to have Josh and I each grab one of our 5 gallon jugs should we ever need to leave in a hurry.  (Water is awfully heavy, especially for small people.) 

Also in our emergency kit we've included a thermal blanket for each person, a couple of small cooking pots, plastic utensils, candles, matches, paper, pens, a bit of cash, a flashlight/radio combo, a couple towels, clothespins, a can opener and plastic plates and cups.

Our last treasures include diapers in varying sizes (great for babies, but also for bleeding, pillows, spills, splints and who can imagine what else), wet wipes, whistles, feminine hygiene products (also great for bleeding), basic medical supplies, lotion, soap and a couple of balls to play with (six kids, remember, we will definitely need something to do). 

This year we got rid of our baby bottles and formula as that is no longer a necessity for us. 

I realize that our packs are by no means complete or an exhaustive example of everything we could use in an emergency, but I feel pretty pleased that we have what we do and that in an emergency we would have something to help us get through.

While things weren't perfect, I'd still say this little drill was a pretty big success. 

All packed up and ready to head out to find safety (except we need to get our shoes on first).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ellie dresses up (and dresses down)

Ellie likes to dress up.

She loves to wear my clothes, and -- especially -- my shoes.

She has a severe affinity for shoes.

She gets that from me.

 (It is an addiction, although I control it because I would feel horribly guilty telling the kids, "We can't afford soccer this year, but I can manage to scrape together funds for a new pair of heels."  My feelings of guilt bring balance to the force.)

Still, Ellie (often in company with her big sister) loves to strut her stuff in oversized footwear.

And sometimes she likes to dress down instead of up.

Silly little girl.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A moment of politics (and a shout out to moms of any career)

Ok, while I try really hard to stay politically informed and as politically active as I can, I don't love arguing politics.  People tend to be tightly tied to their political views and I don't love feeling like a discussion is morphing into a fight.

So, while I try to keep up on what is going on locally and nationally in the political sphere, I don't often drag conversations into this arena (although I will definitely voice my opinions if the topic comes up). 

Well, recently a discussion has come up in the presidential campaign that I just can't ignore. Democratic consultant, Hilary Rosen, made a comment that really annoyed me (and by annoyed I mean made me freakin' mad).  During an interview (watch it here), Ms. Rosen remarked that Ann Romney, a stay-at-home mother who raised five boys, had "never worked a day in her life."

Now, you have to understand that Rosen was bothered that presidential candidate Mitt Romney has stated on several occasions that his wife (in so many words) is his in house expert on women's issues particularly relating to the economy.  Rosen took exception to this idea saying (in essence) that since Ann has not worked outside the home she is out of touch with the real world and its economical intricacies.  (To be fair just about every major Democratic group has called for Rosen to apologize and has disagreed with her ridiculous comments...her version of an apology is to say it was a poor choice of words which doesn't sound like an apology to me AT ALL.)

Right, in order for a woman (or anyone for that matter) to understand what is going on in the world, the government, the financial institutions or even the family finances she obviously must be gainfully employed by some organization.  Staying at home does not qualify as work.

This is not the first time a small minded view like this has crept up in the world, but this time it happens to be on a pretty big stage.  (I wonder what Rosen would have said about Eleanor Roosevelt?)

To insinuate that stay-at-home mothers -- no matter their financial status -- are somehow less attuned to the dealings of the world because their chosen career plants them in a not for profit, UN thanked, often UN noticed roll is asinine.

If I shipped my children off to daycare every day and invited other parents to replace my kids with their kids so that I could raise those little ones while paying someone else to raise mine, that would make me more capable of thought, fiscal understanding and political savvy? 

I think not.

Our chosen career path -- whether we are investment counselors or Realtors or teachers or nurses or at-home moms or political consultants or mechanics or whatever else -- has nothing to do with our understanding or involvement in financial dynamics. 

Look, I stay at home with my kids every day.  I read Arthur books and play Connect Four and clean up juice spills and change diapers all day long.  But I also run our family finances.  I create the budget.  I pay the bills.  I read up on investment opportunities and allocate 401k funds and plan for college savings and all that other juicy stuff.  I read about presidential politics and study local candidates including judges and school board nominees.  I don't think my choice to be a mom to my children has hobbled me when it comes to thinking through tough economic and governmental topics.  Placing my children at the center of my life keeps me grounded and helps me stay focused on what matters most.  Anyone who puts their family first -- no matter what their career is -- can claim that same benefit for themselves.

So, Ms. Rosen, all that I have to say to you is that in my opinion YOU are the one who is out of touch.  A good long look in the mirror just might be in order. 

But that's just my view.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More Good Books (glad to have them in my house)

I read these books this past week.  My kids and I had been exposed to the original 39 clues books a while ago (my boys in particular are HUGE fans) but I hadn't read this new series completely. 

So when a request went out for someone to read and review the newest book in the series ("The Dead of Night") for the Deseret News, I jumped at the chance.  These books are really fun and very intelligent.  They kind of remind me of Artemis Fowl blended with Percy Jackson.  They are just a great little adventure series.

I think every reader of chapter books in our house has plunged into these stories in the past week and everyone has come up for air only when required (you know for necessities like eating and school).  We have devoured these stories and all of us (child and adult readers alike) have loved them.

In case you were wondering, I highly recommend this series.

I'll let you know when the review publishes (not that you need it so much now since you read this).

Seriously, good little books.

(As an added bonus, when the paper sent me to books to read and review they sent library editions so these are awesome sturdy and will last a good long time...love it!)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Josh's Brilliance

We pretty much have to...um...lets call it "strongly encourage"... our children to get their chores done every morning. 

It's not like we are slave drivers or anything, our poor, picked on offspring are not overly burdened with morning chores (everyone has to clean his/her bedroom, make the bed and everyone from first grade on has to straighten one additional room and practice the piano -- we sort of figure since it is their clothes and toys that are left all over it is fair to ask them to help clean up the mess). 

Well, surprisingly, our children don't like cleaning up.  (Hey, me too...how come no one seems to care about that?)

So they whine about it and dawdle and dilly dally and fuss and it is not unusual to find (after they have left for school of course) that someone didn't do whatever it is they were supposed to do.

This is very frustrating for me.  I already sit a the downstairs computer every morning to try to urge my kidlets to stay on task (as if there is nothing better I could be doing with my time in the morning).  I tried making them chore charts to help them stay focused (the charts were awesome, wish that would have worked).  We tried not letting kids go to school until their jobs were done and passed off, but that just made for getting to school late and I HATE being late so that didn't work out (and only some of the children cared about not being on time). 

We tried only giving allowance for the days that chores were done, which should have worked, but come the end of the week when we pay allowance we sometimes struggled to remember who had done what and who hadn't.

So, Josh came up with a beautiful solution. 

We created an allowance cup for each child (except Ellie who doesn't care about money yet, she would be happier if we paid her in sequins or smarties).  At the beginning of the week we put ten shiny dimes into their cup (I realize $1 per week for allowance is not much, but we aren't rich and paying five children adds up fast).  Then, each day, at my leisure (so I am not saddled with checking it before they leave for school which can be a crazy time of day) I can check the chores and if they are not done I remove a dime from that child's cup.  On Saturday, the cup of coins becomes theirs, but all week they have a physical reminder of how well or how poorly they have performed their jobs.  We also award extra dimes for bonus jobs that the kids do without being asked or things they volunteer to help with.

We have been doing this for several weeks (I didn't want to post it until I was sure it would work) and it is FABULOUS!  The threat of losing money that would be theirs otherwise is a great motivator for my kids. 

Thanks, Joshua, for another wonderful parenting solution (when all of my brilliance didn't work out at all). 

What great ideas do you have that help your children do the things you ask of them, I'd love to hear your secrts.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

There are so many wonderful things about Easter.  I love that on this holiday my flowers are starting to bloom, my flowering pear tree is a beautiful mass of popping buds and my vegetable garden is starting to look like a vegetable garden instead of a pile of dirt.

But Easter means more than that at our house (at least that's what we aim for).  To me Easter means...

1. Coloring Easter Eggs

2. Easter Egg Hunts

3. Spending time with family

(no pictures, dead camera battery...frown)
4. Beautiful girls in springy dresses

But most of all it means I have a Savior who lived and died for me.  A big brother who loves me no matter what, the kind of amazing friend who helps me up when I have stumbled and cheers me on when I'm struggling.

I hope you all feel the peace and love of our Savior this Easter (and always...or at least lots of the time).

Happy Easter Everyone!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fraternal Twin Outings (not identical, but showed up at the same time)

Each set of our children got to go on an outing this past weekend.  They were both great adventures and I'm glad we got to do fun things with the kids.

The bottom half of the kidlets (the younger ones) were treated to a trip to the zoo.  G had the day off because of parent teacher conferences so we loaded up our crew and meandered to Salt Lake for some fun.

The kids were thrilled with the trip.  They were a bit disappointed when we found that prices for the zoo train have gone up so we didn't have enough cash for a ride -- poor, heartbroken, deprived children.  Anyway, so we wandered the animal enclosures and had a great time even without any locomotion. 

At this monkey house (feels just like home) Logan excitedly called me over to see the "skunk monkeys."  (See them in the bottom corner?)  I thought that was a pretty fitting name for them.

Ellie was sure these pachyderms were just large cows.  We've taught her what monkeys and lions and horses and sheep say and look like, guess we forgot an animal.

G was fascinated with this rhinocerous' rear end and told me he would never want to brush his teeth with that toothbrush (notice the creature's tail does look like a nasty old toothbrush).

Josh is much more fascinated by creatures with stealth and deadliness so he has an affinity for wolves and tigers.

Oh, and I was there too.  Notice Logan looking weird...yea, that's how he acted in every...single...picture of the day.  I do love that kid; it will be so fun to show those off when he is a teenager.

What an adorable set of zoo goers (at least if you ask me).

And the ride home was pretty entertaining as well.

So then it was time to do something awesome with the older kids.  We feelt pretty lucky and had scored six tickets to LDS general conference for the Saturday afternoon session.  We invited my parents to come with us and I took the three oldest kids to general conference.

We opted to take Trax downtown and forgo the whole parking nightmare.  Two of the three oldest DeMoux sprites had never ridden Trax so that was an adventure in and of itself (and Bryce got to act like an old pro on the train). 

Even though we left our house two hours before the session, we still cut it pretty close time wise.  We arrived at the conference center about 1:30 (we were supposed to be in our seats by then, but we didn't make that).

The kids were not very thrilled to have to wait in the horrendous line with the sun beating down on them (poor dears -- somehow hey don't complain nearly as much when waiting in line a Lagoon).

This was the line behind us once we started moving toward an entrance. It was really nice to have my parents with us.  My mom has a way with my kids (actually all kids) so having her influence handy was wonderful. 

We listened to conference (ok, the kids listened while doing activity packets I had printed for them because I am nothing if not practical and I know 11, 10 and 8 year olds will likely have a hard time sitting still and not moving for two hours straight).

It was a fabulous session.  I particularly enjoyed Elder Holland's talk about the parable of the laborers.  I had never thought of that parable in the terms that he shared and I  learned a lot (I always do...no wonder I LOVE general conference). 

On the conference center balcony with the Salt Lake Temple in the background.

Surprisingly (at least to me), when I asked the kids at dinner on Sunday evening what they had learned from conference all three of the oldest kids shared messages that had been taught in the Saturday afternoon session that we attended.  I fully expected them to remember a story or phrase from another session (because they were more focused on drawing and word puzzles while in the conference center)  but no, being there influenced them more than I thought and that made my heart smile just a bit. 

Lest you think we are overly spiritual (insert gigantic laugh here), our kids don't just sit and listen to conference all weekend.   We expect them to come and listen whenever the prophet speaks, although we often pull out our conference bingo boards during those talks to help keep them from squabbling (that doesn't always work...like for example Sunday morning when kids were screaming and elbowing each other and crying while we tried to hear what President Monson was saying...sigh). 

We also have conference tuned on every radio in the house that weekend so as the kids play and color and eat and whatever else hopefully some bits will sink into their brains while their defenses are down (at least that's the plan).  We do ask kids 8 and older to watch one full session; they get to choose which one.  Since we took the three oldest downtown that took care of our full session requirement, and we got an adventure out of the deal as well.

You can tell just by looking at them that they are incredible...at least I can.

It was a beautiful day and the kids were amazing.  They sat quietly and sang exuberantly along to the intermediate hymn ("Called to Serve" which was a hymn we learned as a family earlier in the year so they were pretty pleased to know all the words without looking at the monitor).  I really was just so proud of them that I thought I would burst.  They are incredible little people. 

Both outings were a success.  Chalk one up for the DeMoux grown ups, good work US!  (High five, honey.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April Fools

Sunday was April Fools Day.

I looooove April Fools Day.

I rarely need an excuse to play little pranks on my family, but a whole day intentionally dedicated to that idea is a wonderful thing in my book.

I planned out my little pranks so I would be all ready for the big day. (I only like to play small harmless pranks so that it stays in fun instead of hurting feelings or ruining clothing or whatever...also, as it was Sunday I didn't want to do anything too wild.)

So, the kids woke up to doorknobs lightly slathered with vaseline, a bar of soap painted with clear nailpolish so that it would not lather, cardboard bits in their sweet rolls, electrical tape over the tv remote sensors (so they simply would not work) and the like.

We all laughed and had fun and ganged up to tease our dad a bit with hidden shoes and glasses...


it was time to brush our teeth.  I had dobbed a tiny bit of Orajel on each of my unsuspecting victim's toothbrushes so when they brushed their mouth and tongue tingled and felt a bit numb (it only lasted a couple of minutes).  Josh and the kids all laughed...well...all but one.

I won't name names, but we had one little person who was hurt when she was the brunt of this joke.  Poor kid.  We tried to be kind and console her, but she would have none of it.  She was offended and she wanted to be sure we knew it.  I apologized that I hurt her feelings, but I couldn't keep from laughing when she took the whole thing sooooo seriously.  Good thing I didn't put mini water balloons in the toe of her shoes like I considered doing. 

Hope you all had a very tricky April Fools Day.

Pouting at the wrongs poured out upon her by her mother.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I'm so excited for spring I wet my plants

(Don't you love that title...I didn't make it up, I stole it from a sign I saw, but I think it is fabulous.)

These are the pretty little faces that are poking up through the ground to greet me this week!

I'm so happy to see you little ones.

You are beautiful, and in a few short weeks you will be very, very tasty as well.

(I love a good garden.)
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