Monday, October 31, 2011


I've convinced myself that a mere monthly blogpost will have to do here, at least until I train my kids to do their own laundry! Please pretend that these stories were cleverly reported throughout the month, instead of quickly cataloged here on the 30th. 

We recently bought a "trail-a-bike" from our friends, and we are loving it! After a few days on it, Zachary was able to ride a two-wheeler for the first time! Now Michael is graduated from the Burley and onto the trail-a-bike. Here's the grown-up guy now:
One Saturday Zachary pleaded for us to all ride up to the church (5 miles away). We ended up driving halfway there and biking the rest, which was still a taxing climb for our young bikers in the freezing wind. Running and biking are especially rewarding here at the edge of town: 
Bonus: yesterday we discovered a sidewalk route to a huge nearby park. I love seeing the boys set goals and then meet them--biking has become a (nearly) everyday activity here!

Eric's Orlando Trip
Eric had an opportunity to present at a major ophthalmology conference this month. His brother and dad (also ophthalmologists) presented as well. Love this picture of Eric and his bro:
They settled down for a picture with their mom:
And here's Eric on his birthday in Orlando (we celebrated later, don't worry!).

The home front
Although we missed Eric physically being here, I felt like he was more "here" because I got to talk to him on the phone for more than usual every day. Plus, when I know that he's gone I get into super-planner mode--we kept very busy!
Of course we had to go to the apple farm a couple times, because apple-picking season is only too short, and so is boyhood!

I once read a book that advised letting your children know a certain place in nature "intimately." I've tried to familiarize my boys with a few special natural places that they can know deeply. This apple farm is one of these places.
The school put on a costume party and BINGO night, and we frolicked around in our costumes for the evening. Jacob designed his own costume this year--he was Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole. I loved the idea--and I loved that he wanted details like the "Fram" mug (labeled with the name of the ship that took Amundsen and his team to Antarctica). Only a few people have known who Amundsen is, but that's okay. Jacob knows!
The kids had their Primary program, which was honestly one of the best I've ever seen, despite their having 100+ kids onstage! Jacob invited a friend:
Embarrassing confession: After church Zachary wanted to make pumpkin pies. I only had a big can of pumpkin, which makes two pies. I figured that we could share the extras with our neighbors after FHE, but come Monday evening both pies were completely GONE! Yes, the boys and I ate two pies in under 24 hours. We even had whipped cream on top. Oh, the gluttony!
We filled the other days with bike rides to the park
and fun outdoors.
(We even saw a flying monkey once.)

Eric's birthday surprise
I have never been more excited for a birthday present than I was for Eric's this year. While he was out of town, the kids and I took the storage-shed of a garage (this is when everything was moved to the center)
and turned it into a well-organized, beautiful place. We assembled new steel shelving, put up wall mounts for the bikes, hung racks to store the bike helmets, hung hooks for lawn tools, and cleaned every corner. I still have a few racks to hang, and sometime when the cars are out I will have to take my "after" picture.
Also, I have to give a shout out to my dad, who I called more than a few times for help on things that weren't working. Another experience I'm grateful for: I said a fervent prayer once in regards to a stud finder that would not find any studs. (Maybe the insulation was thick? I haven't figured out why it wasn't working--it worked on other walls.) Within seconds, it occurred to me that I could find the studs on the other side of the wall, measure the distance with a level, and then mark points. They were 16" apart on the inside wall, and so I marked out 16" on the outside wall with a level, and then checked for studs with a finishing nail. This experience was very faith-promoting for me--I would not have thought of that process on my own. I feel like our Heavenly Father answers prayers in loving, simple ways.
Well, Eric loved the surprise, and we were all happy to have him home again.

A day with Grandpa and Kim
My younger sister moved across the country this week, and so she and my dad stopped by on their way East. The kids were off of school and Eric got off of work, and so it was a mini-vacation for everyone!
We climbed the tower in Blue Mounds, made tin foil dinners,
and played in the leaves.
Maxey-pumpkin, you are adorable!
In the afternoon we built a bonfire and roasted s'mores. (Do I mention s'mores in every post? Honey Maid should pay me royalties.) We were generating 7-foot-high flames for a while there:
We were sad to see them go.

Halloween fun
Our ward threw an amazing Fall Festival, complete with dinner, a pie contest, a costume contest, a parade, trunk-or-treat, the works!
Here we are: Max as a cow (I couldn't find his hat--oops!), Eric as a baseball player, Michael as a wizard, Zachary as a knight, Amy as "Miss Mush" the lunch lady, Adam as a tiger, and Jacob as Mr. Amundsen.
Strange coincidence: When I told Kim that I was dressing up as a lunch lady, she ran to her car and retrieved an authentic 4 oz. school lunch scoop (she used to work at a preschool). It was the perfect accessory, and I ended up getting "Best Female" costume--ah yeah!  
I guess that's a wrap--I hear a baby awake now, and that's my cue to shut the computer down! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

September Stories

September was stressful. One reason was that we had twenty-one doctor's appointments within the month! To me that means at least twenty-one phone calls to receptionists, dozens of calls to babysitters, several notes to teachers, and hours of worry. Half of it was to check up on Max's condition through the spina bifida clinic here. He's doing okay. The other visits were check-ups for the boys and for Zachary's kidney monitoring. And one visit was for Eric, who walked into a clinic complaining of chest pain and was taken by ambulance to the hospital (which, comically, was next door). He was not having a heart attack--he is a stress case from work, and his body is fighting back! Work is the other reason that September was stressful. Eric has pulled ahead full-throttle into his studying. Any time he's sitting down, he's reading; any time he's standing up, he's listening to his audio study guides. (He uses an earpiece in one ear--I keep thinking of the seashells in Fahrenheit 451.) I'm proud of him for his diligence, but I'm also trying to manage my larger workload.

With that (long) caveat, let me also report that September was beautiful. As I was scanning through our photos, I longed for these special moments with my boys. They and Eric are my fuel! Here's what we've been doing this month:

Michael is busy each week attending his co-op preschools and a music class. They have show-and-tell every day in preschool, and they sit on these placemats that we made. It's adorable.
One day the ice cream truck came down our street and so we splurged and bought each boy a popsicle, because ice cream trucks never, ever come down our street! Encouraged by his success, the ice cream man came back the very next day. The boys dumped their banks and bought popsicles all in coins. When the truck came again, however, the market had run dry. The kids didn't feel like they had that kind of money to spare, and so they quit buying and he quit coming. The end. 
One night for home evening we wanted to go roast s'mores, but we kept striking out on parks--why did none of them have a fire pit?! Finally we pulled over in this muddy creek bed and made a fire. I kept saying, "This is a memory, guys!" and Eric kept saying, "Aren't you guys having fun?" I think that we were trying to convince ourselves--the kids are always having fun.
One week I taught preschool three times, all on birds. Check out our packing paper bird nest and awesome beaks! We had seven kids decked out in beaks.
Later on Michael had a friend over and we made "bird pudding." I don't know why I was so into birds that week!
All my kids love kitchen crafts--I think that even Adam could fend for himself for weeks, he's so independent. Here he's made himself a six-decker peanut-butter sandwich, without a lick of help (or permission) from his mother. Gourmet!
There were some perfect days, crystallizing days when we felt as if autumn could just linger here indefinitely. A beautiful farm near our house had perfectly ripe raspberries for $2.75/pint, and so we went and picked some.
This picture is Wisconsin to me: the farms are picture-book beautiful.
Here's a different farm, with a delightful little market. 
I bought the boys bottles to feed the baby goats. They finished the bottles and then went after our jackets, naughty kids!
One evening we went on a 4-mile bike ride through a trail in the woods. Zachary was a real champ, finishing up as the youngest biker--he probably had to complete about twice as many rotations as the rest of us!
I always squish the little boys all into the Burley even though it's made for only two kids. Is that horrible? They look cozy enough.

Two funny backpack findings:
1. I gave the kids corn on the cob in their lunchboxes one day. Both boys ate the corn, wrapped the cob back up in foil, and then put it back in the lunch bag. I laughed when I opened them. Why did both boys think that they should return the cob to me?

2. The other day I found that Jacob had revised an item on his spelling homework. Look at number 10:
Yes, he crossed out the "three" and wrote "ten." When I saw it, I laughed aloud again. That it just the theme of my life: why do something easy when you could easily make it harder? Sheesh. What am I teaching my children?

Three fun field trips:
1. I went along with Jacob's class to a nature center, where they spent a morning catching bugs and pond creatures. It's the sort of thing I did every single day of my childhood--I felt seven years old, too, with my hands in the pond mud. 

2. I also got to go to Zachary's field trip to a farm. We fed dried corn to the goats and Zachary giggled and whispered to me. I was glad that I could just be his mom for a day. 
3. The little'uns and I have been trying to navigate our way downtown with the free campus bus. One day we went to the university's dairy; another day we went to the geology museum. But seriously, the field trip is the bus ride!

For Michael's birthday, we bought a bouquet of helium balloons, and they've stayed up for almost two weeks now! They remind me of upbeat, darling Michael, now four! 
We decided to camp for his birthday present--we went back to a spot that Michael had chosen earlier in the year. It's since become a favorite place.
 In our family, we teach s'mores in infancy! Roast, Maxey-baby, Roast!
 And hallelujah--here's Eric, earpiece-free, documented relaxing for a moment!
 The next day we climbed up this 60-foot-tall tower to see beautiful Blue Mounds area--check out my self-timer magic.

We topped off the month with a visit to Minneapolis, where Eric's sister and family have recently moved. We got there late and transferred the kids into their beds. We heard squeals of joy at 6:30 the next morning, when the cousins woke up and discovered each other! They played non-stop the entire weekend.
I caught the five-year-olds enjoying some "conference popcorn," our tradition for the past few General Conference weekends. I don't know why I didn't line up all the boys together--between our two families, we have nine boys! It sure made for an energy-packed visit!
On the way home, we stopped by "Spoonbridge and Cherry" in Minneapolis's Sculpture Garden. Apparently Eric did a report on Minnesota in third grade and has been wanting to see this sculpture ever since then. Check! The kids got a kick out of it.
Oh, and doesn't this picture of me look like a candid celebrity mom shot? Eric teases me incessantly about these glasses.
Well, it is way past my bedtime now! But how could I not record such precious times? Every time I feel like my plate is too full and that I can't do this, I think, "but I am doing it." I'm doing it and loving it.