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

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer is pretty chill

You know you are awesome when you can totally rock the backyard in pajama pants, fuzzy blankets and pillows (cause lying straight on the slightly dew damp ground would be silly). 

These guys are awesome.

Hope you are having a great start to your summer (even if it isn't officially summer yet).  And for those of you with kids finishing school this week first of all I am jealous and secondly congrats and hope you have all kinds of family adventures planned until you ship them off to school again next fall.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memoial Day

Just a quick shout out to all of those who have served our country over the years.  I have a very deep love for this nation and I will forever be grateful for those who put their lives on a dangerous path to protect the freedoms that I get to enjoy.  If you are serving or have ever served or have been the support system for someone who served in any branch of the military I just want to say thank you.  Your sacrifice and service are very much appreciated and although the rest of us can never really repay you I hope you feel how grateful we are.

Also, to my Grandpa Grange (who worked magic as a supply clerk in the Philippines) and to Josh's Uncle Dade (who guided -- that's the soft, civilian term -- new recruits as a drill sergeant and died of exposure to war related chemicals) an extra special thanks for your love and example and dedication.  We would not be who we are without the service you gave.  We love you all the way to the clouds. 

On top of all that, also I want to say thanks and I love you to sweet family members who have made their way home to Heaven from my family.  I love you Grammie and can't wait to tell stories together with you when I catch up with you again.  Also Haddie and Marnie, your lives were short, but very very sweet and it will be fun to get to know you both someday.  And to ancestors and family for generations long past, thank you for the life you built so that I could piggyback on your love and learning.  I am thankful for the family I came from and I am especially grateful for the family I am building and without these beautiful people who strolled the earth before me I wouldn't have that chance.

Love you all.  Happy Memorial Day.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hale Theatre Adventure

Last Sunday we took the kids on an outing.  My mom had arranged for a large group to attend a Sunday production at the Hale Centre Theatre and our crew of eight got to be part of the crew she invited. 

If you've never been to the Hale Theatre you should fix that as soon as you can.  This quaint little theater in the round is amazing and you will love whatever production you happen to see.  I've been viewing their plays since jr. high (which is a lot of years) and they really do an incredible job.  You'll like it; I promise!

Anyway, so on some lucky Sundays, the actors put on "fireside" programs that are free to the public (although you have to arrange attendance ahead of time so that 7000 people don't show up for one show).  I have taken my young women to see the production a few times over the years, but this time I got to take my kidlets.

To be honest, we should have left the youngest two at home.  While the play is fun and spiritual and entertaining, it is not a cartoon so the two and four year olds were not very much enamored with the performance.  That's my bad.  I thought we could keep them focused, but it was hard.

That said, the rest of the kids LOVED it!  The three oldest in particular were completely taken with the play and they came away having had an unforgettable experience. 

Bryce was particularly taken with the production and decided (all on his own) that he was going to get the autographs of these vaguely sort of famous local actors.  He got a paper and pen from his grandmother and he went from person to person making sure he got the signature of each and every person in the play.  It was adorable to watch.  He was thrilled.  He came home excited to put the now highly valued paper in his scrapbook and save it for his posterity.  How sweet is that.

What a fun way so spend a Sunday evening.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Crohn's is Showing

Last week I trundled over to the office of my gastroenterologist.  It wasn't just for fun (who goes to see a GI just for kicks and giggles?...maybe someone, but not me).  I told you a few weeks ago that my Crohn's is Crohnsing again so we're working on that.

Well, after this last stint on Entocort (not my favorite medication) I haven't seen much improvement at all in my symptoms.  My right abdomen still aches almost all the time but it gets especially angry in the morning and evening and after I eat.  I won't go into all of it (no one wants to read a whiny blog), but suffice it to say I think I might could very happily live without this malady in my life.

Anyway, since Entocort hasn't done much for me this time around (frown) it seems as though it is time to plunge into another form of treatment.

Have you ever heard of anti-tumor necrosis factor medications?  No worries, I hadn't either (seriously, who names these things?).  While I am not really thrilled to be headed for a drug that has the words "tumor" and "necrosis" in the title, I am hopeful that these concoctions will help bring my disease into control.  I feel pretty lucky that despite the Crohn's fun I get to face I still have an incredible life and I still have the energy and gumption to be able to enjoy days with my kidlets.

The downside to these medications (besides their foreboding title) is that once you start on them there is no stopping.  If you miss treatments or stop taking them your body tends to become immune very quickly so once you hop on the anti-TNF bandwagon it is a life sentence.

The other not so exciting part is that these drugs are generally administered through a shot every two weeks or through an IV every 6-8 weeks.  That means that not only will I be tied to a medication for the rest of forever, but I will also be tied to frequent visits to my friendly, neighborhood hospital/lab/whatever.  Not what I was hoping for when I naively wandered in to see my GI.

(Learn more about anti TNF drugs and Crohn's disease here.)

Still, I have to say that I am immensely grateful that there is likely a light at them end of my intestinal tunnel.  I am very thankful for the blessings of modern medicine and the professionals who dedicate their lives to helping those of us who need them.  I will be having lots of inoculations in the near future (anti-TNFs suppress your immune system so I need to become immune to as many things as possible before I start them) as well as some exciting genetic testing, but with any luck this path will soften my future and help me be able to focus on my life more fully, rather than being distracted by Crohn's disease.

This should be quite an adventure!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Books on the Menu

Last week I had an incredible opportunity.  I was invited to attend a luncheon with Covenant Communications (a pretty big publisher of LDS books).  I felt pretty privileged to have the chance to go because I am just a cheesy little stay-at-home mom who occasionally writes book reviews. 

I wasn't sure how I was going to get away from my two youngest sweethearts and pick up my kindergartner since the meeting was in American Fork, but Josh swooped in to save the day (he does that for me).  He took the day off and completely spoiled the kids even more firmly securing his spot as "favorite parent."  I don't mind that, he's my favorite too so I can't really blame them.

So, this conference was aimed at bringing together book bloggers and authors to try to develop that relationship and lay footings to help the two work more closely (and smoothly) together. 

The woman in charge, Kelly Smurthwaite, is amazing.  I have worked with her a few times before as I've been writing for the Deseret News and I just think the world of her, but meeting her in person solidified that.  I'm not sure there is a sweeter (or cuter) person on the planet.  She was great.

Anyway, I am neither a book blogger nor an author per se, but since I do a fair number of book reviews for the Deseret News it was nice for me to be able to be there (thanks for letting me tag along).  I got to meet several authors that I have read like the wonderful Heather Moore, the very versatile Julie Wright and Sarah Eden, a favorite of my extended female family (her Regency romances are scrumptuous, you should try them). 

I also came home with a bag of treats...no, it wasn't candy..it was much better (unless you ask my two littlest ones because their sweet tooth is stronger than their literary desires for now...we're working on that).



I got to meet two out of three of these authors (do I sound sort of pathetic, I just happen to like to meet incredible people).  Kathi Peterson is an old pro in the writing business, but A.L. Sowards (aka "Amanda") is new to the field and is absolutely adorable.  It was great to get to chat with her, what a sweetheart (if you get a chance to meet her, you should do it, you'll like her).  I am excited to read her book (which is a WWII suspense novel). 

It was just so much fun to spend a couple of hours with women who love books as much as I do (OK, probably they love them even more, but I'm not sure I'm entirely willing to admit that).  I am always impressed when someone can manage to write an entire book.  Sometimes I have a hard time shaping 400-600 words into what I want for an article...to pull together 50,000 seems like an impossible task if you ask me.

It really was a great lunch and I'm grateful that I had the chance to be a part of it. 

(Also, take a peek at this cute video several of the authors put together about what it takes to write a book.)


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Everything's comin' up roses...

OK, actually the roses aren't blooming yet...but lots of other things are.  What a great treat for the weekend after a bit of a crazy week (we'll chat about that later).

I hope all your flowers are blooming and all your days are sunny and bright (unless you are like me and you crave those darkened, rainy days...then I hope for showers for you -- hard ones, that soak everything and smell delicious).

Have a fabulous weekend.

As a side note, nursery labels declare that Snapdragons are annuals, but I have to tell
you we bought one six pack of them nine years ago and now my yard is littered
with clusters of these laughing flowers and I LOVE it!  Our Snapdragons grow to be almost three
feet tall and change colors every year.  It's great.  The perennial fairy must have
sprinkled them with her fancy proliferation dust.  Thanks perennial fairy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ups and Downs With the Baby Girl

Ellie has had a pretty big week (at least for a two year old).

On Monday morning she woke up like any other day and played and laughed and all that good stuff.  However, when I went to put her shoes and socks on, this is what I found on her feet.  (Lovely, right.)

Well, I vaguely recalled that my mom had mentioned that hand, foot and mouth disease had been going around at her daycare.  So I checked out the hands of my princess and found this.

She had fewer sores on her hands, but they were still there.  Super fun.  Thankfully, the blisters really didn't bother her much.  That was a nice little treat.  We have had hand, foot and mouth before, but last time around (when ALL six kids took turns with it) the nasty part was that everyone got canker sores (big, ugly ones) in their mouths.  This time around Ellie did get a vague sort of rash around the outside of her mouth, but nothing else. 

Poor kid, she had had a slight fever about a week before she broke out in blisters, but because she is also working on getting teeth and she didn't have any other symptoms we really didn't think anything of it.  I hope we didn't inadvertently spread this all over before we found out we had it.  I'm really sorry if we accidentally gave it to your family. 

Thankfully, none of the other kids seem to have this illness yet (knock on wood).  Ellie is currently covered in bandaids because she wants to cover up her "swords" (that's two year old for sores).  Silly little girl.

On a happier note, this week Ellie got new bedding for her bed and she is THRILLED about that.  One of our awesome neighbors (who, by the way, has showered us with hand me downs for years and we LOVE it!) brought over this adorable lady bug bedroom set that Ellie immediately fell in love with.

The incredible part to me is that Ellie's old comforter (which was a hand me down to us when Aubrey was two years old so it had served our family faithfully for many years) was starting to feel the strain of years of dedicated use.  The fabric was sort of falling apart and had developed tiny little holes all over it from wash after wash after wash.  I had been watching the secondhand store and the clearance racks for a new comforter for Ellie for a few weeks so I feel very blessed that this set wandered its way into our household (you simply cannot convince me that God doesn't know our needs and will bless us with them in His time). 

Once we we got Ellie's bed all put together, she invited everyone to climb on and wrestle.  It was very sweet.  I just love that little girl.  She's had an interesting week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Family Chore Chart

At our house we call Saturday "chore day."  On Saturday, besides cleaning their bedrooms and making their beds, our kids are also assigned a few extra jobs to help our house stay semi-tidy and help things run smoothly. 

As part of "chore day" everyone has to empty his or her bedroom garbage can, vacuum the bedroom floor and put away his or her laundry.  Since the garbage and laundry and floor mess belong to the children we feel like it is their responsibility to take care of those and we don't feel one bit ogre-ish having them take care of those chores. 

But on top of those simple once a week tasks each child is assigned a couple of additional jobs (yup, we're slave drivers over here).  These jobs are usually things that aren't that hard, but help maintain our house and keep it resembling a dirt free zone (ha ha, at least that's the idea).

Anyway, the point is a few weeks ago I decided to make a "chore day" chore chart so the kids didn't have to follow me around in the morning asking for the easiest jobs and so I no longer have to think on my feet what things to have each child do.  This alternating wheel of household assignments has been a fabulous addition to our family.  I love that no one fights over jobs anymore (you know you're in trouble when kids are fighting over which chores they want to do).  I love that things are more organized (I really am a type A personality at heart, although you probably wouldn't know it anymore). 

This chart has worked wonders for us, and maybe it will help you out as well.  What ideas do you have to keep your kids from fighting about the things you ask them to do?  I'd love to hear your thoughts or what works in your house.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Moms write on the blackboard of your soul

Motherhood means the world to me.

I looked forward to being a mom from the time I was tiny.  I didn't ask much more from life than to be somebody's mommy.  Luckily I ended up with six amazing somebody's that I get to mommy and I could not be happier with that.

I love to wander through the memories of my life as a mother, but not today.

Today I want to tell you about MY mom.

My mom gave birth to me when she was a whopping 22 years old and she had been married for just under a year.  What an adjustment I brought to her life.  I was the oldest of five children, and the only girl (which worked out nicely as I was never interested in frilly girliness, I was a tomboy if ever there was one).

My mom ran an in home daycare for most of my growing up life.  Because of that she has mothered literally hundreds of children over the years.  Some of them still stay in contact with her even though she hasn't seem them in ages.  She didn't always love raising other people's children (that is a hard job for sure), but she did it so that she could stay at home with us.  We weren't rich and instead of leaving us to go to work every day she chose to take the headache and planning of a housefull of kids (some hers and some not) by the horns to bring income home in a way that also let her greet us as we came home from school and hug us when we needed support RIGHT NOW!

My mom taught me to sing no matter what.  As a family we leaned to harmonize around the piano when we were very young.  My brothers and my dad are blessed with bEaUtIFuL singing voices, but I can at least carry a tune.  Mom signed us up to perform at ward parties and christmas shows and old folks homes so that we had something to prepare and work for.  We made the rounds for several  years and she created the shows we presented which often included unusual bits like gurgling water to a tune and playing a saw with a violin bow.  We also learned to play the spoons and jaws harp. 

Mom also expected us to work...hard.  She loved to take us to someone's garden (our grandma's, a neighbors, the LDS church's) and set us loose on the weeds.  We harvested peaches and tomatoes and cherries so that we could cart them home and spend hours canning them.  We were loaned out for ward and neighborhood projects because my mom wanted us to learn to do a job and do it well.  We had chores every day and were expected to help take care of our house.  It wasn't exactly my favorite thing growing up, but now I am glad for the whining and fussing she endured and the fact that she taught us to sing while we worked (it really does make the job go faster).

Mom taught us how to learn.  She often sent us to the dictionary or the encyclopedia (there was no wikipedia in those days) to find an answer to a question.  She taught us how to use the libaray (that was back in the time of the Dewey Decimal System) and how to search the scriptures for answers.  She encouraged us to be creative and think outside what was expected.  I remember that she let us help color relief society handouts (even when our coloring wasn't perfect), she expected us to learn to cook and she always read my stories and poems, even when they were horrible (which was often). 

She also respected our feelings.  I specifically remember as a pre-teen asking her to stop calling me her "baby doll" because it was embarrasing to me.  What a silly thing to care about, but she didn't argue with me, she didn't fuss or ignore me, she just stopped.  That's what a good mom will do.

Mom also planned the BEST vacations.  We did a lot of camping (there were not really developed campsites then, we just sort of pulled off the road in a place that was sort of flat and did the best we could...and we sure loved tromping through the woods) but we also visited Muir Woods, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, Catalina Island, Disneyland, the Space Needle in Seattle and a host of other sites in the western United States.  We were always on a budget (we stayed in some of those fancy hotels that used to have the vibrating beds, do you remember those?  As a kid that feature seemed like luxury...yeah, awesome) but we always had a great time.  When we traveled, Mom made a fabric cabinet that hung over the seat of our Crown Victoria (a car that resembles a boat) with pockets galore each containing something to help entertain us.  She had wrapped surprises to open along the way at designated place and loads of those awesome "beep...turn the page" book/cassette tape combos to help pass the time.  Oh, and we sang a lot while in the car.  That I remember for sure.

I guess what I am really trying to ge across is that my mom was pretty incredible.  We never had a lot of things, but she put us first.  Her kids were her whole world and we knew it.  From her, I learned how to focus on what matters most and to let other things fall through my fingers without fighting too hard to hold on to them. 

She is a pretty amazing person, at least if you ask me.

Happy Mother's Day Mom.

My mom mothering my sweethearts as well.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Flying High

One of the most incredible inventions that a child has ever invented may be the words, "Mom, come see what I can do."

As the mom, these words have a magical power that immediately pulls you away from whatever other important thing you may be involved in and deposits you in the backyard or the bedroom or the living room for incredible feats of bravery and skill...or in this case, swinging.

Logan has been dependant on my pushes in order to enjoy the wind in his face from the pendulum action of the swing...until this weekend.

While I was in the kitchen making dinner, one of those magical "Mom, come see what I can do"'s wafted in through the open window.  I grabbed the camera (generally a required element for these moments) and scuttled into the back yard to see the display.

I was thrilled to find my four year old pumping his legs back and forth as he soared over the grass (OK, it's only a few feet up, but still) ALL  BY  HIMSELF!

I was pretty proud, and so was he.  What a beautiful way to spend an evening.

(Great job, my sweetheart.  You really are amazing, Logan!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

We "lava" our teachers

This week is teacher appreciation week at the school.

Last week (while we were off track) I got a call from the PTA president asking if I wold make a poster to celebrate Aubrey's fourth grade teacher, Miss Hall.

So, we kicked around some ideas (you are the "bomb,"  you are a "home run" teacher...obviously the boys were involved in the discussion as a poster of a bomb or a huge bat and ball are pretty boyish ideas).  Finally, after discussing dozens of ideas, Aubrey settled on a volcanic theme and this is what we put together.

Aubrey and I worked together to create the poster.  She painted the volcano, I cut out the curly lava sprays.  She used my Cricket to cut out the words and then she used glitter glue to decorate the "ash" hearts that are spewing from the lava. 

I think it turned out pretty well.  I hope Miss Hall feels appreciated, she has been a very good teacher for Aubrey. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A couple of good reads

Have you sampled these books yet?

If you haven't, I think you should.

The "Newport Ladies Book Club" will (by the end of this year) be a set of four books written by four different female authors (Julie Wright, Josi Kilpack, Annette Lyon and Heather Moore...learn more about them and the series by visiting  http://thenewportladiesbookclub.blogspot.com/).  The first two books in the set, "Olivia" and "Daisy," are already out.  The intriguing thing about this series is that each book covers basically the same span of time, but is written from the point of view of each of the main characters.  So, although some of the events from the books overlap, the thoughts and feelings of each piece of the story are completely unique. 

I thought this was a really fun idea and it has been fun to indulge in the first two books so far. 

I have read and enjoyed Julie Wright and Heather Moore before, but the other authors are new to me so it is fun to bathe in their literary voice and story timbre. I love that the characters are each created by different women because it forces a completely unique tone into each heroine. 

The novels (at least the first two) each delve into the life of a woman facing a difficult, but very real problem. 

Olivia is a mother of four and step mother of two.  She adores her husband and family, but her husband, Nick, has become very distant and closed of late.  As she tries to draw him back into family life and help him see how much she loves him, he seems to pull further and further away.  She watches helplessly as her life slowly tears into ragged fragments.  Olivia must find strength in new friends (welcome adorable book club ladies) and within herself to stitch things back together with a hopefully happy, if unexpected, ending.

Daisy is a forty-something mother of two grown daughters.  As her youngest girl approaches high school graduation, Daisy is desperately looking forward to returning to a life focused on her own desires rather than absorbed by her daughters.  However, an unexpected series of events leaves Daisy facing a path she never imagined and forcing her to make choices she didn't think she would ever face.  Her support system shatters (pretty heart achingly) around her and she is left to pull herself out of despair and turmoil (with a bit of help from her book club buddies).

Mostly I love that these books are so real.  These seem like women I know, women I have talked to, women I would be glad to be in a book club with (if I happened to be in a book club...oh, wouldn't I love that).  I may not know people with this exact set of trials and struggles, but their lives ring true to me and that really pulled me into the stories.

As an added bonus, the books that the ladies in the stories read for their monthly book meeting have tempted me as well.  I have put a couple of them on hold at the library and am looking forward to indulging in some new paper and ink adventures.

Anyway, I think you should read them (the Newport series books, I mean).  Click on each of the titles in my "Books Read in 2012" sidebar to learn what Goodreads has to say about the tales.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Summer closes in

As the weather starts to get warmer I remember some of the theings that I love about summer (even if fall is my favorite).

One of the best things in the world is when an ordinary evening spent watering the lawn magically turns into a soggy adventure involving fully clothed children and a squeaky sprinkler. 

I really love this sort of thing.

Oh the joy!

You gotta love it, baby!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Monkey bread (for my monkeys)

One of our favorite things to do when the kids are off track is to have fun breakfasts together.

When school is in session it is hard for us to find the time (or the bonus energy) in the morning to make a fancy breakfast.  But when our mornings can be stretched out longer than an hour we LOVE working together to create a pseudo-gourmet feast in the morning.

One of our favorite morning meals is Monkey Bread.

We have bought it frozen several times, but for Christmas I got this awesome cookbook that had a recipe to make it for ourselves.  I had to make a few adjustments to accommodate the size of our family and our personal preferences, but it is super delicious and not hard to throw together at all.

Here's how it's done:

1 1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
4 (7.5 - 8 oz) cans of refrigerator biscuits
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey

(This recipe easily serves all eight of us.)

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray  your friendly neighborhood bundt pan with cooking spray and set it aside.

2. Mix the sugar and cinnamon into a gallon sized zip seal bag and shake it a bit to mix it.

3. Open your refrigerator biscuits (and if you are like me cringe while you hold the paper opening strip and shake them as far from yourself as possible to get them to open because you HATE that pop more than almost anything else in the world) and cut them into fourths with kitchen scissors. 

 4. Add these dough blobs a few at a time to the zip seal bag and shake them to coat them with the sugar/cinnamon mixture (seriously, only add a few at a time because if you just dump them all in there they moosh together and don't get coated and they turn into one gigantic dough ball).

5. Place your coated dough into your bundt pan.  Don't just dump them from the bag because you will likely have extra sugar and you don't want it all over in your pan.

6. In a separate microwavable bowl add your butter, brown sugar and honey.  Put these in the microwave for about 1 minute and stir together (they should be melted when you are done). 

7. Slowly drizzle your butter/sugar syrup over the top of the dough in your bundt pan.  Be sure to get some syrup on every part of the bread.

8. Bake for 20 minutes or until he brad is golden brown.  Take it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes (the syrup coating will be REALLY hot and will burn your mouth...I promise, I've learned from experience).  Invert your pan and let your delicious concoction fall out onto a plate (it comes out really easily). 

Now for the best part...


You can't beat a table full of adorable kidlets happily eating a tasty breakfast together.  Gotta love life as a family!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Along came a spider...

We have some swings in our back yard. 

My kids have gotten taller of late and it was becoming difficult for most of them to pump on the swings without dragging their feet on the ground so I decided it was time to move the swings up a bit.

That meant I needed to cut away some of the protective plastic to expose the metal swing chain underneath so that I could hook those lovely links to the crossbeam and the swings would sit higher off the ground (you get the idea).

So, I grabbed my industrial strength scissors and started into the job.

Then a horrible brown spider scuttled out of the plastic coating, across my hand and jumped for his life onto the grass below.

I screamed.

(I do that when I encountered spiders and I'm not ready to be brave.)

After that first face off with an arachnid I became more cautious. 

But to my dismay, every single one of these plastic protected chains housed at least one disgusting eight legged creature.  YUCK!

But I had to be courageous.  My children were watching and I don't want my ridiculous fear passed on to them if I can help it.

The last chain contained this lovely bit of spider heaven (which I promptly destroyed).  Normally I tell the kids that spiders outside of our house get to live because we are in their home (if they are inside then it is death by shoe and I refuse to feel bad about it).  But in this case I decided our swing set was an extension of our house so no mercy was applied.

This was not quite what I expected when I started the swing heightening chore.

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