Monday, December 31, 2012

Heavenly Father Loves Me

A big focus of this year's primary theme (I Am a Child of God) is on teaching the children how to learn for themselves that their Heavenly Father loves them.  Not as a whole (although he does), but individually, specifically, each one of them. 

In our primary we've decided to center our spotlights around the theme of love.  One reason is because last year I really appreciated that the previous "ladies in charge" had centered their spotlights around the annual theme because I was able to use the children's responses to personalize our annual primary program.  Good idea, right?  I thought so. 

After talking about the theme as a presidency (the four of us ladies who are currently over-seeing the primary aged children) we decided to have our spotlights focus on what we saw as the two main focuses of this years theme and then I made some spotlight sheets.   

As it says on the bottom of our spotlight sheet, after being chosen as the spotlight, the child will get to come and put a warm, fuzzy in our jar.  We're going to use little yarn balls as our warm fuzzies and we chose those because it is often how we feel the Holy Ghost showing us our Heavenly Father's love.  I also love the idea of watching the jar of warm, fuzzies grow throughout the year!

We have a fairly small primary and so we'll be done with our spotlights before the year is even half over.  This is another reason I really like this idea for the spotlights, we can continue to talk about Heavenly Father's love and fill our jar even after we've officially spotlighted everyone.  Every week we'll either ask for a volunteer or draw a name out of our jar for someone to come up and tell us how they have felt Heavenly Father's love in their lives.  The intent is to get the kids looking for the small things that happen in their daily lives.

I'm very excited about this idea and can't wait to get started using it (I'd be happy to share my sheet with anyone who'd like a copy, just shoot me an email!).  How is the theme being implemented in your primaries?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Years Eve Cookies

Every year I do a Christmas cookie plate to take around to a few friends and neighbors.  Okay, okay, I'll admit it.  The biggest reason I make them is so that I can eat all the left overs.  Yep.  And yum!

This year I was a little slow.  We did school right up until the weekend before Christmas and I just couldn't seem to find an extra second let alone the few hours I needed.  I'd actually decided to just scrap the whole thing until one of my friends asked if I had done my plates yet and proceeded to say how very much she was looking forward to it.  Darn (and sort of yay, wasn't that nice of her?). 

So I made a plate of yumminess, except this year they were New Years cookies instead of Christmas cookies. 

My main, #1 goal this year was to simplify.  That's been more of a life goal that strictly a cookie plate making goal, but it worked amazingly well for the cookies, too.  I decided to just make 3 different items and in addition to make them SIMPLE!  They all turned out amazing and, even better, amazingly easy.

What do you think?  They look good don't they?  And better yet, they are.

Every year I make peanut butter balls (some of my Utah friends call them buckeyes, but I always grew up calling them plain old peanut butter balls) and then spend WAY too much time dipping them in chocolate.  This year (after seeing the idea on pinterest) I decided to make my pb balls into bark.  Did I mention simple?  Yes?  Well, these were the simplest and so yummy.  All you do is, melt dipping chocolate and pour onto some parchment paper, freezing until hard.  Layer your favorite peanut butter ball filling recipe on top of the hardened chocolate and then pour a second layer of chocolate on top.  Once it's hard, cut it up.  I even think the messier it is, the cooler it looks. 

I also love mint and encorporate it in some form every year.  This year I tried a new recipe I found on pinterest called White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge.  Umm, yum?  And it is.  It turned out to be a Taste of Homes recipe and you can find it here.  I highly recommend it.

Last are the sugar cookies.  I usually make them with my kids, spending hours cutting out cute Christmas shapes and decorating them.  We still make cookies together, but in the numbers I need for my plates, it takes a long time.  A really long time.  A really, really long time.

This year I saw the cutest idea!  You'll never guess where.  Okay, fine, it WAS pinterest (wahoo for pinterest!).  Step one, make your favorite sugar cookie recipe.  Mine is found in my favorite-est cookbook, Our Best Bites (it also has my very favorite alfredo, pizza dough, pizza sauce, strawberry cheesecake bars and so many other recipes).  Next, seperate your dough into two equal portions and dye one of them another color.  Then lay the two color on top of each other, rolling them up to create this super cool (and quick and easy) pinwheel.  Afterwards, I rolled mine in sprinkles for a little more color and festivity before sticking the whole log in the freezer.  Once they were hard, just cut them into slices and bake. 

I am very happy with how they turned out.  What are your favorite treats to make during the holidays?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Primary theme: Armor of God guy

I finally decided which guy I wanted to use and after downloading him from the Teaching LDS Children website, I opened him up in Photoshop and decided to try my hand at drawing the extra pieces on the computer. 

My computer drawing skills aren't amazing, but I'm happy with how it turned out.
I ended up using the exact guy (except I made him bigger) that you can download from the link above with only a few of my own additions.  I added right and left gloves, a cape/cloak and the title of liberty. 
From the Teaching LDS Children website you can download a full picture and all the pieces (except the ones I made) in both an 8.5x11 size and an 11x17 size.
Mine is 24x36.  I'm never sure which size is supposed to go first...height?  width?  The one I made is 36" tall and 24" wide made to fit the center section of a tri-fold presentation board (I think I'm going to put each months theme on the fold out flaps).  To print out the individual pieces, I made pdf's the biggest I could print in color, which is 11x17.  On each pdf I fit as many parts as possible and I still ended up with several. 
I was able to fit all the pieces really well except for the title of liberty, which at the 11x17 size ended up on FOUR different sheets.  I haven't decided yet if I want to get it printed at the 24x36 size, or print the four 11x17 sheets and then tape them together.  I'm leaning towards the four because it doesn't cost anything extra and after laminating it, I don't think it'll matter.
This is what he ended up looking like.  I have to say, I think he turned out pretty good (I'm not biased or anything).  If you'd like me to send you all the pieces, leave a comment or send me an email!
Have a wonderful year!
Update 5/10/13: I ended up getting a primary bulletin board in our foyer just recently and posted a picture about it in this post if you'd like to check it out!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Through the Years

There are certain times where I try really hard to take pictures of all my kids every year.  Christmas is one of those times. 

And you'd think, easy peasy (as my kids would say), right? Yeah, okay, it is, I just haven't quite made it every year.  Almost though.

I was looking back through the pictures today.  It was so fun to see how chubby Ben was, how goofy James was (and still is) and how Makenna has always tried to take care of (aka: boss around) her younger brothers.

In fact, it was so much fun I thought I'd share a couple with you.  You know, as a sort of Merry Christmas.  I hope you enjoy them!

Our first baby's very first Christmas.  I just want to jump in the picture and squeeze Makenna's cheeks!!

Makenna's big blue eyes are my very favorite part of this pic.  And her eyelashes.

If there is a way to look at this picture and not smile, I haven't figured it out.  It's like she's sharing an inside joke with the reindeer.  Adorable!

Okay, here are my two lost years.  Darn.  I think if I ask around my mother in law probably has pictures from 2004, but 2005 was the year we moved into our new home just a few weeks before Christmas.  I can't even remember that Christmas.  I may have blocked it out.
Here's Ben!  He's been around for the previous two Christmas's, but it's his first official (that I can find) Christmas picture.  Makenna worked so hard to get him to smile, she kept tickling his legs and if you look, you can see her hand going off the bottom of the picture tickling his toes to get this laugh.  What a great big sister!

Makenna, Ben and James in front of the tree.  I love Christmas trees.  A lot.

Every year we open one present on Christmas Eve.  Every year the present we open is PJ's.  Every year my kids are surprised (how long with that last?) and super excited!

Josh's first Christmas.  With his arrival, our family was/is finally complete.  Full of three lively boys and a miny mommy.

This blinged out card was our Christmas card picture.  If you look closely, you can tell that Josh's head was pasted from another picture.  Does anyone else have luck with getting all their kids to smile at the very same time?  Oh yeah, smile and look at the camera and not be smiling because they are doing something to one of their siblings?  If you do, could you tell me your trick?

I can't believe how much they've grown.  It's crazy to think that Makenna is more than half way to moving out.  Going to college (or getting married...holy cow...I think I might need a paper bag to breathe in) and starting her own life.  They are all so precious to me.  I'm so blessed to be able to spend so much time with them.  To love them and learn and grow right along side them.  Man, my life is pretty darn great.

I hope you've had a fantastic Christmas and wish all of you a wonderful new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


I have a secret to share.  I am full of conflicting wishes and desires. 

There is a part of me that would love to try living downtown in a big city.  I think being able to walk or take some sort of light rail to museums and restaurants and shows would be amazing!  I was first drawn to downtown living when I heard about the Hancock Building in downtown Chicago.
Isn't it beautiful?  Did you know that while the first half is commercial, the top half is all residential?  Imagine being able to take an elevator to work?  To the pool?  To the grocery store?  How cool would that be?  Plus, it's relatively close to the lake which has a fantastic path for walking, jogging and just being outside (when it's not winter and freezing).
But then, there's this other side of me.  This other part that seems to be growing over the years.  I've been reading several books lately on gardening, raising animals, and backyard homesteading.  Yes, I did just say homestead.  My husband thinks I have some survivalist in me...and maybe I do.  Just a little. 
I'm intrigued by the idea of being self sufficient.  Not enough to want to do all the crazy LOT of work it would take to be entirely self sufficient, but enough to want to know how to provide for myself and my family.  And there are lots of small things I can do now while not being too survivalist-ey.
For example, I could have chickens.  I really want chickens.  I don't have chickens, but I have been reading about them lately.
My most recent read is titled Keeping Chickens.  It's also the first one I've read that focuses exclusively on chickens and it's pretty interesting.  I've learned there's an awful lot I don't know about chickens.  I do know that I don't want chickens for meat.  I think it'd be fun to have my kids help me raise them (making them pets and un-eatable) as a sort of science/life/service/responsibility project. 
I've loved the book (so far, almost done).  Of course, I don't have any actual experience trying to use the information she's providing, so I suppose I can't personally say it's accurate, but it has good reviews and seems to be pretty comprehensive. 
So comprehensive in fact that I've learned a few things I'm not sure I really wanted to know.  I mean, they are things I would need to know if I end up raising chickens, but did I really need to know that the whites of eggs are made from the mucous collected around the yolk on it's voyage through the oviduct?  Mucous is not a yummy sounding word.  Not even a little.
The book also includes some building plans.  One of them is for a cute, small coop.  I'm not sure exactly what type of coop I'd opt for, but there are so many CUTE ones out there.
Like this adorable one I found on Backyard Chickens.  Pretty great, right?  There are lots and lots of free plans and ideas online.  Even though I love the look of the permanent coops, I'm drawn to the tractor type (a coop on wheels) a little more.  Maybe because this is not our permanent home and I don't want to invest too much in something we're going to leave behind.  I also like the idea of moving the chickens around our yard and fertilizing at the very same time. 
So, what do you think?  Ever raised chickens and have some great advice for getting started?  Ever wanted to or read about it and have a great book/website/magazine to recommend?  I'm all ears!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Primary Theme: I Am a Child of God

I've been looking and thinking and I'm still not 100% sure how I'm going to display the armor.  Probably because I haven't sat down to get it done yet.  I'm not usually a procrastinator like this, but because I have been, I thought I'd share what I've found with you in case you need some good ideas and want to get going on yours.

I've found a TON of super cute armor of God pictures.  My current plan is to pick one, print it to the size I need and then draw or add the extra pieces that aren't included.  Not like "free hand because I'm such a great artist" draw.  It'll be more like I can handle "drawing a few lines to at least loosely resemble a cape" draw.  And I figured for the knee pads, I can probably cut the shoes and shin guard looking things in half and use the shin guards (does anyone know what they're actually called?) for the knee pads.  Which only leaves gloves and the title of liberty which I figure I can muddle my way through also.

1. This first set has both a boy and a girl, more realistic that I found on Pinterest.  I can't figure out where they originated.  When I click on the link it says something about the link being bad.  So click the link above to view the pictures to give yourself some ideas.

2. The next set is more cartoon-like and I found them on cute family home evening blog.  If you click on the picture (on the family home evening blog it gets much bigger and would be better for printing.  The only downside to this one is you have to draw your own cute guy/girl to go underneath it.

3. This set is meant to be a magnetic quiet book page and you can look at it here.  The guy is really pretty cute, but the dpi isn't too high so I'm not sure what it would look like if you tried to make it big enough to print out for a poster. 
4. I found these cute boy and girl Armor of God dress up dolls to purchase here.  On the plus side, because you would be downloading them (as opposed to either a copy and paste or a direct save from a blog), the dpi would be high enough that they would look better than some of the others after you'd made them big enough for a poster board.  But for me, the negative side is that they are more cartoon-ish, they sort of remind of Elmer Fudd from Bugs Bunny.

5. This blog has some cute ideas for actually dressing up the kids.  In fact, my husband had a great idea (that I can't figure out a way to actually do) to purchase a dress up outfit (like this one here).  None of the ones I've found have all of the parts, but you could probably fill in with what it doesn't come with from home (for example, we have capes, knee pads and gloves just floating around at my house).  The part I'm not certain of is displaying it...if I had some sort of mannequin or something similar, maybe.  But I don't and can't think of a way to have it up every Sunday, which I really want to do.

6. There's also this super cute armor of god girl from Melonheadz (if you've never gotten on her website before, you should, there is so much stinkin' cute clipart).  She even has a boy, too.  With both of these, you'd have to print one the size you wanted and then trace their bodies (excluding the armor) to get your pre-girl or boy.  Then cut out all the different pieces from what you originally printed (hopefully that made as much sense typed out as it did in my head).  You'd have to color it, too, but it might be fun to personalize it.  Or you could even color it in photoshop (or something similar) before printing if you have access to it.

7. Last but not least, I found another more realistic guy here.  It already has all the different pieces separated so you can just print them out.  It seems much simpler than some of the other options and it even looks pretty good.
Maybe my problem is too many options (sorry if I just passed that problem along to you), I'm sure I'll get over it soon.  Mostly because the year is just about up and I don't have any other options.  :)  I'll make sure to post about (and maybe even take a picture or two) of my guy or girl when I get it finished.
Before I go, I have one more amazing idea to share with you. It's one I got from a lovely lady who saw my previous post.  Janet said, "I had a thought, maybe you already thought of this, but I always like to give the children an action item or challenge, depending on the month's theme you can challenge them- for example with the sword of truth- challenge them to read the scriptures and gain truth.... with the gauntlets/gloves- challenge them to serve their family..... with the kneepads- to pray.... etc"  I hadn't thought of it and just in case you hadn't either, I wanted to share. 
If any of you have any other great ideas to go along with the Armor of God theme or if you already have yours done, I'd love to hear all about them!  If you're in the same boat as me, good luck on finding what will work best for you and your primary!
You can find my first post about 2013 Armor of God outline here.

Update 12/27/2012: I finally chose my Armor of God Guy and added my own pieces, you can read about it here.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I just started reading a fictional series of books called The Great and Terrible.  Today I finished the first book, Prologue: The Brothers and I really liked it. 

I like it even though it's not a super happy everything goes right sort of book, which is what I usually gravitate towards if I'm reading strictly for fun.  It talks about the forces of good and evil.  Yeah, I know, all books to some extent seem to be about the fight between good and evil, but this book had varying degrees of both and it was those degrees that I found disturbing and hard.

There were those that chose evil knowing it was evil and chose it anyway.  I can see choosing to do wrong things while thinking you are right, but to KNOWINGLY choose evil is something I don't understand. 

Then there were those that did not choose evil, but they did not choose to fight for good either.  They stayed just on this side of good, but weren't willing to do any real work.  Why?

It ended (of course) with a win for the good guys but with portents for much more hardship to come (it's a series remember).  As I already mentioned I finished the book on good note, I liked it and the ending, but it made me think about what sort of person I am today.  What do my actions say about me?

While all of this was running through my head, I called my mom and heard for the first time about the elementary school shootings in Connecticut.  Just on the heels of the mall shootings near Portland, Oregon (in the mall I grew up going to, where my family still lives) and I was reeling. 

The first few thoughts to run through my head were somewhere along the lines of, "Why?"  "How could this happen?" "What sort of world do we live in?"  Then I came across this amazing picture of a sunrise one of my friends had posted to their feed on Facebook.

Underneath it was this quote (I added the bolding):
"Everyone has experienced discouragement and difficulty. Indeed, there are times when the darkness may seem unbearable. It is in these times that the divine principles of the restored gospel we hope in can uphold us and carry us until, once again, we walk in the light."

- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

To me, the key seems to be faith.  Do we have enough faith, enough hope to choose good?  Enough to choose to act?  To continue moving towards our Heavenly Father with love even "when the darkness may seem unbearable?"  I know that there is good out there.  I know that we all have a loving Heavenly Father who is willing to comfort and carry us if we ask.  I am so thankful for that knowledge.  If you'd like to learn more about the restored gospel mentioned by President Uchtdorf, you can go here

Please join me in praying for the families of the victims and for the hearts of everyone touched by this tragedy.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homeschooling Journey - 3

(See part 1 here and part 2 here)
Once I realized that homeschooling had moved not just to a REAL option (from the last resort, only if I have to option) but to my maybe number ONE option, things started to get interesting.  I started to tell people about my possible plans.
My husband just plain told me he thought I was crazy.  As he had already come to that conclusion years ago, I wasn't too worried.  Don't think badly of him, he also said that he'd support any decision I made and he meant it.  He's pretty amazing that way.
My best friend told also told me I was crazy.  She then looked at me for a minute, got a thoughtful sort of look on her face and then said something along the lines of, "Okay, but please, promise me you won't get crazy."  Because, we all know that homeschoolers are crazy.  Well, maybe not crazy, but we've all heard stories (even if many of them are about someones sister's, cousin's, next door neighbors, best friends acquaintance) and so I promised I'd do my very best to not get crazier than I already was.
I also read some more.  I know, I have a problem.  Research is my friend.  The more information I have the more confident I feel in my decision (it's one of the reasons why I saw more than 50 houses the first time we purchased a home). 
After reading, or at least looking through, most of the books having anything to do with homeschooling in my library, these ended up being my favorite.
The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.  I know, you're shocked.  Well, I checked it out again and this time I read through the first section to get an idea of how my first grade year with Ben might go.  Out of all the books and types of homeschooling I'd studied, classical spoke to me the most.  After reading reviews of it (and knowing my over planned and over scheduled tendencies), I did know I wanted to take it slow if I made this life altering decision. 
That would be the best advice I could give to anyone thinking about homeschooling.  Take it slow.  You do not have to (nor should you) do everything.  Start with the basics and then you can always add to them as you and your children feel the desire.  Looking back I'm so happy that's how I started.
As I am a lover of options I also really loved 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy.  In the beginning it even has a quiz you can take to discover your teaching style and your kids learning styles.  It then tells you which curriculum matches up with your family the best.  
Even though I was heavily leaning toward classical, I really enjoyed reading Lisa Whelchel's book titled, So You're Thinking About Homeschooling.  It gives a short description of many different methods of homeschooling.  There is no one "right" way and this book helped solidify my desire to homeschool classically.
You know, IF I decided to homeschool.  For months I did some pretty serious fence sitting.  I just couldn't make up my mind.  I was terrified of making the wrong choice and forever (even though I'd decided it would be a year to year decision) scarring my children.
I can pinpoint the moment I decided consciously to homeschool Ben.  It's a little silly (okay, a lot).  I'm pretty sure I'd already subconsciously decided, but hadn't been ready to come out of the closet as it were.  We were out to dinner with my in-laws who were in town visiting.  I was sitting by my sister-in-law talking about the possibility of homeschooling when my mother-in-law overheard me.  She looked over and said something to the effect of, "You don't want to do that."  I don't remember now if she said anything else, but that was enough for me. 
I'm not really the rebellious type, but I've always had this urge to do the opposite of whatever someone tells me.  I think it's a teenage thing that I haven't quite gotten out of my system yet.  After putting the kids to bed after dinner, I turned to Steve and said, "I'm doing it.  I've decided, we're homeschooling."  And we did.
I can't say that I've never looked back or had doubts that I made the right choice (or that I continue to).  I can say that Homeschooling my children is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.  Hands down.  It's a blessing that I'm thankful for everyday (even the days I want to hide in my closet and hope they can't find me). 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Yesterday, while driving home from the grocery store with Steve, we were talking about the amazing-ness of technology and what it might be like for our kids. 

Our conversation started because I had been transferring money from one account to another while walking through the parking lot on my phone.  Isn't that amazing?!  I was telling Steve how astounding I found it and mentioned that it won't be astounding to our kids, it'll just be how things have always been.  Which is crazy in and of itself.

Or maybe it'll be even crazier.  Probably crazier.  Steve said he thought they would be able to just walk straight out of the grocery store after filling their carts because there would be a scanner on the way out that automatically registered all groceries at once and took money from your account all on its own.

How nuts would that be?  Then he mentioned that our kids might never use money.  I mean dollars and coins, holding in your hand money.  If it really does become all automatic, what will their perception of money be?  For example, I've found it much easier to spend money electronically than with cash.  There's something about watching my "wad" of cash grow smaller and smaller that's a little sad.  Unfortunately, I don't have the same attachment with my debit card.

Making sure my kids learn about money isn't a new worry for me.  I want my kids to know how to earn, budget, save and spend their money.  One way I've tried to teach them this is by talking to them about our money.  Ever since the kids were small (okay, they're still small), I've tried to instill in them a sense of the relationship between work and money.  When we go to the bank I always talk about how Dad works hard to earn our money and the money he earns is put in the bank so that I can go there and get it (or use it if we're talking about a debit card) for things like groceries or gas.  I want them to understand that the bank is not a magic money house and my debit card doesn't magically pay for our groceries.

I wasn't sure if they understood until one day a couple summers ago.  James was 3 and we were walking through Sams Club doing some grocery shopping together. If you've ever been in Sams (or Costco) you know that they have big displays in the center section, sometimes even hanging from the ceiling. 

James when he was 3...I just want to squeeze his cheaks!

During the summer they almost always have one of those big, wooden play-sets up.  On the day of our shopping trip, James looked over at the really very cool play-set and said he wanted it for our house.  I smiled and told him that would be wonderful, but it wasn't in our budget.  He got thoughtful for a minute and then said, "I think Daddy needs to go to work on the weekends."  I was confused and asked him what he meant.  He very seriously explained that if Daddy worked more we would have more money and then we could buy it.

I laughed (and am laughing right now), but I was also proud and excited.  Even at 3 James understood that in order to have money, you have to work for it.  It was a pretty great mom moment for me.
Have you had any great moments where something you'd been trying to teach your kids just clicked?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Season Traditions

I'm a big believer in family traditions.  I always looked forward to them growing up and have tried really hard to make sure that my family finds our own. 

For the Christmas season we have a few of my very favorites.  The day after Thanksgiving we always set up our tree and decorate the house. 

(By the way, do you notice how most of the ornaments start a few feet from the top of the tree?)

This year, the kids were more excited than me.  A couple weeks before Thanksgiving they had three separate countdowns going on.  Each day Makenna would say "Five more days until Thanksgiving break, eleven more days until Thanksgiving, and TWELVE MORE DAYS UNTIL WE DECORATE THE HOUSE!"  I promise, I'm not making up the all-caps, it's really how she talked. 

We always go see the Christmas village in a town near us.  We usually go during the day and then once at night.  This year I'm not sure if we'll go during the day (it was always with some field trip or other and this is my first year not having any of my kids in any school outside our home), but we are planning to head over there this evening.  I'm even thinking about adding to our tradition this year. 

On Pinterest, I found this amazing looking crock pot hot chocolate recipe (You can find the recipe on a blog titled Creating Through Life).  I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it and I think I've found it.  I'll make it this afternoon and it'll be ready and waiting for us when we get back with frozen fingers and toes from the Christmas village.  It's going to be so good...I think I'm starting to salivate right now!

Every year we also visit Temple Square down in Salt Lake City.  It's beautiful.  They wrap lights around so many of the trees and have a giant nativity, plus all the tours in each building.  If you live anywhere near, or are visiting, you should really take the time to drive down and walk around.  Better yet, find a Trax or Frontrunner station near you and take that down instead.  Kids (and grownups) love it, plus you don't have to try and find parking. 

Another tradition we have is baking/making Christmas plates.  Every year I tell myself to keep it simple and for some reason (read about my overcomplication complex here) I always end up making tons of very different candies and cookies and dipping most of them in something and drizzling stuff over the rest, which all takes hours and hours.  Maybe one of these years I'll tone it down a little.  Maybe.  It could happen.  I'm still narrowing down my list of treats this year and I'll do another post about them with we get them done.  After we finish baking and decorating, we take them around to our neighbors and friends.  Always fun! 

This year I'm thinking of starting a new tradition.  We usually buy the kids an ornament every year, but this year we're going to start making them.  I've found so many cute, fun and simple ones on Pinterest.  My favorite one so far takes plain ball ornaments and with the addition of a handprint and the use of a few markers (that even my 3 year old can do) covers them in snowmen (found on Pinterest)!  I bought a few plain ornaments yesterday so we could get started tomorrow.

What are your favorite Christmas season traditions?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Homeschooling Journey - 2

Somewhere around reading The Well-Trained Mind for the first time I was having another first.  Previously, I had always LOVED Makenna's teachers.  They were easy to communicate with and I could almost daily see how much Makenna loved them and going to school. 
During her third grade year that didn't completely change, but neither of us were feeling quite as much love.  Makenna was finishing her work too quickly for the rest of the class and became a distraction.  Despite her teachers assurances that Makenna would have other things she could do, nothing seemed to happen. 
My husband and I talked about the possibility of skipping a grade and tried to figure out things we could do at home to help her.  Homeschooling still never crossed my mind.  I'm a little slow, I mentioned that last time, right?  My recalculating?  Well, the recalculations started with whether or not to skip a grade.  We decided not to for a variety of reasons and then headed into her fourth grade year optimistic that a change of teacher might be just the ticket.
Unfortunately, Makenna's fourth grade year started a lot like her third grade year.  Which brought about our next plan, the talented and gifted program offered by our school district.  It didn't start until fifth grade, but we decided we'd wait it out and if she didn't test into it, we'd talk about "other options" then. 
I don't know where, I can't remember a specific incident, but at sometime it occurred to me that I could homeschool.  You know, if there were absolutely no other options.  Even though I was very reticent, it was an option and so I started to research. 
I checked out books from the library about a few different way to homeschool and I read a few blogs.  I also went back as far as you could in Pioneer Woman's homeschooling section and read every single post.  Yeah, my husband agrees with you, that was a little nuts.  I loved every minute it though.   
I read and read and thought and thought (and prayed a heck of a lot) until one day I realized homeschooling had moved from a last resort to an actual option.  Something I might consider doing even if I had other options.  Crazy.
About that time we found out Makenna got into the talented and gifted program.  It's funny, but I was almost disappointed.  I mean, I was happy for her (she was ecstatic), but I felt like it closed a door I was just starting to want to open.
Then it occurred to me that I could still homeschool, I have other kids, just because my journey had progressed so far due to Makenna didn't mean it had to only involve her.  That was a big leap for me.  A life changing leap. 
Next week I'll tell about the rest of my leap into homeschooling story, you aren't going to want to miss it (or maybe you will...but I'll pretend you don't, you don't mind do you?).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Movies

I LOVE Christmas movies and  I have three favorites. Want to hear about them?  Oh, good...

First, for obvious reasons, White Christmas.  Well, okay, they may be obvious, but I'll tell you my reasons anyway.  It's my favorite sort of romance.  The, "I don't really like you" meets "Man you're actually pretty cool and I think maybe..."  Plus, they sing!  How could it get better than that?!

Second, Miracle on 34th Street.  I love the magic.  I love the idea of something bigger, something fantastical and by the end I find myself seeing the magic in my life.  I also want to give (or show) the magic to those around me.  This feeling is one of my very favorite things about the Christmas season.

My last favorite is Christmas Carol.  Not just Disney's new version, any version.  There are so many out there and I've loved every single one I've seen.  Who doesn't love second chance movies?  I get to relearn how the power truly does lie within me to change (or stay the same).  I can be whoever I want!  How cool is that?  Although, slightly terrifying at the very same time.

I addition to those, I also love to watch just about any Christmas romantic comedy I can get my hands on.  I get super sappy over every ABC Family, Lifetime, and Halmark movie out there.  You know what I'm talking about right, those seriously cheesy ones?  Yep, those. 

Christmas movies are so much fun.  Watching them with my kids just makes them better.  I love to think that I'm passing down my traditions, my favorites to them.  Someday maybe they'll sit down with their kids to watch White Christmas.  Tonight we're watching A Christmas Carol.

What are you watching with your family?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Faith In God

I have a tendency to think too big in pretty much all areas of my life.  I don't just want to have my cake and eat it too, I want to grow the wheat, harvest it, collect the eggs from my chickens (that I've previously hatched as chicks)...then not just make it, but make it cute and/or beautiful and finally, eat it in a beautifully decorated room.  Is anyone else laughing (or rolling their eyes)? 

I tell myself (over and over) that knowing is progress.  Actually, a lot of the time I am able to scale back if I stop and think about the big picture by asking myself what is really important.  Or what am I really trying to end up with and do I really have to "harvest my own wheat" to get there? 

Take, for example, my plans for Faith in God for next year.  In in our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), we have a program for all children ages 8-11 called Faith in God. 

Our church's website describes the program like this: "The Faith in God program is designed to help each Primary child ages 8 through 11 become all that Heavenly Father wants them to become.  As they do so, girls will be prepared to continue their spiritual growth in the Young Women program and boys will be worthy and ready to receive the Aaronic Priesthood."

When each child turns 8, we give them a booklet with the program information in it and then they can work on it in their families or in programs they participate in during the week.  And while that might seem like good enough, recently I have been feeling that we need to incorporate it more in our Sunday lessons. 

My first plan was to read through the two Sunday manuals (46, 2 to 3 page lessons in each) and match different Faith in God activities with at least one lesson a month.  Not only that, but I wanted to make little handouts to give the teachers to give their students. 

Yes, I know, sort of time demandlingly crazy.  After thinking about it for a while, I decided that what I really wanted to do was provide the teachers with a simpler way to use the Faith in God activities as they are inspired to with their individual children. 

To accomplish this, I made a topical index of all the activities.  This was simple, didn't take much time and has already been super helpful to me at home with my own kids.

The first section is what I decided was the main topic the activity is on.  The second section is which section the activity comes from in the Faith in God booklet (Learning and Living the Gospel, Serving Others, Developing Talents).  The last section is a very short description of what the activity requires. 

I plan to talk with the teachers to encourage them to use the Faith in God booklets in their lessons and how they might do that.  I'll also stick this topical index in their lesson notebooks (along with their own copies of the Faith in God booklets) to make it easier to see which activities go along with what they are already teaching.  When we incorporate all the different programs of primary together it's amazing how well everything fits and builds on each other.

What are you planning to try out (work on) in your primaries or classes next year?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Teaching Kids About Money

Somewhere around 9 years ago I was wandering around my favorite local library and I came across several books about money education.  I remember very vividly thinking the books looked really good.  I even thought about checking them out then, but figured I didn't really need them with only a 2 year old running around.  I'd find them later.  You know, when I needed them.

I've been thinking about those books (and of course, I can't remember their titles) that I was so sure would be perfect for a year or so now.  Thinking I should really try and find something like them at my library.  Unfortunately, I'm occasionally a bit of a procrastinator.  Thankfully, technology often steps in to nudge me/help me get headed back in the right direction.

A few days ago, I came across a fantastic idea on Pinterest.  Laurel from the blog Ducks in a Row and I already agree on many things.  First, we also give our kids an allowance that is not tied to chores.  I'm a firm believer in not paying them for the chores that I feel are a part being a member of our family (although, I'm not opposed to paying them set fees to do extra chores).  Second, we also pay our kids $1 for every year of their age.  Unlike Laurel, we don't start their allowance until our kids turn 8, but after that it's just the same.

What I really love, something I've wanted to do, but wasn't sure how is her family bank.  She has a notebook with a register in it for her kids (along with their spending money).  A register!  That's such a GREAT IDEA!  Why is it that the super great ideas I never think up on my own are always also super simple?  I always think things need to be complicated.  Well, they don't!
My kids keep their money at the bank (it's a ton easier for me to just set up an automatic transfer every month), but it's hard for them to wrap their head around or keep track of exactly what they have and how they're really spending it. 
Right now during homeschool, we do real life math on Fridays.  We talk about how the math they're learning (or will learn) can be used in other areas of life and this will fit in perfect.  Every month we can sit down and go over what money they have and see what they're doing with it. 

I'm going to get started on this over the weekend and am looking for other ideas.  Do you know any great websites?  Good books?  Fun (and informative) curricula for teaching kids about money?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homeschooling Journey - 1

Recently I came up with a fantastic way to describe how I deal with change to my husband.  I am like an old GPS unit.  Have you used one of those?  The really cool ones that freeze up when you make a wrong turn (or don't turn when you should)?  Not only does ours freeze up, but it slowly and with an awesome monotone says, "Recalculating....Recalculating...Recalculating."  It's totally me.

When my plans get changed (aka: life happens), I always have a recalculating moment.  Sometimes it's short and I'm off on my way with my newly acquired plans, but other times it takes just a "smidge" longer.

This is one of the biggest reasons I can't believe I'm homeschooling today.  It was completely and totally not in my plans.  I was counting down the years until my youngest was in kindergarten (I actually figured out which year while I was pregnant with him, it would have been 2014) when I was going to finish my degree and get a job.  I was going to find something I could be passionate about, something I loved where I could make a difference.  You know, I'm laughing right now because that is exactly what I'm doing today...and it's not even close to what I thought would give me those feelings.

Somewhere around 2 to 3 years ago I was reading a magazine (for the life of me I can't remember exactly which one it was now, but that's not the important part) and in that elusive magazine was an article (or ad) about Bakerella.  Have you heard of her?  She's pretty awesome.  Her cake pops are adorable and so are her posts.  I quickly bacame an avid reader and while on her blog one day, I read about another blogger who'd named herself the Pioneer Woman.  Huh, I thought, interesting name, who's that?  So, I clicked myself over to PW's blog and took a look around.

Okay, I'll confess, I didn't do too much looking around that first day.  I looked at her blog with all her tabs and information and I thought something along the lines of, "Holy Cow!"  And then I closed down the internet and moved on to other things.  But, another day, when I was feeling a little braver (remember, new things take a little getting used to...yes, I know I can be silly), I got back on and started to look over her site.  Did you know PW has a homeschooling section?  It's fantastic!  I've never met Heather (a contributer) but I love her anyway.  She's been instrumental in my homeschooling story.

Looking through posts one day I came across one by Heather where she talks about a book she loves called The Well-Trained Mind (which teaches how to provide a classical education at home) and as I am a lover of books myself, I decided to see if my library had it and they did.  Yipeee!  If you've never happened across it before, it's GIGANTIC!  Sort of overwhelmingly large, but thankfully easily broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks. 

The first section shows you how to homeschool kindergarten through 4th grades.  The second is 5th through 8th grades and the third is, you guessed it, 9th through 12th grades.  I skipped right over those sections the first time I checked it out (yes, I did just say first time) and only read the fourth and last section which is all about homeschooling and why you might want to (or not want to).

After I finished reading it, I returned the book and that was it.  Pretty much.  I didn't read any other books on homeschooling, I didn't really get on PW's blog much at all (not like my current daily stalking...shoot, did I type that out loud?) and the thought of ME homeschooling never crossed my mind.  It was interesting, sure, but SO not a part of my plans. 

Stay tuned for part 2 to see how masterfully my life and plans were changed a little recalculation at a time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Spiral Jetty

Steve has been wanting to go out and see the Spiral Jetty for a while now and we finally made the trek out yesterday. 

It was a little hazy yesterday, so you can't quite tell where the lake stops and the sky starts.

It even looks a little like the mountains in the distance are floating in the air.

The kids had a TON of fun trying (emphasis on TRY) to stay on the rocks and out of the water.

Ben and Makenna made it all the way into the center of the spiral with only a minimal amount of water getting involved.

It was beautiful and a lot of fun.  If you're ever in northern Utah, you should check it out!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanks giving

This past Sunday we sat around as a family and talked about what we're thankful for.  After picking something we tried to think of a way we could SHOW our thanks.  I'm a big believer in setting achievable, mark off-able goals and for the most part, we were able to think of something that fit the bill. 

I didn't write down who said which and I can't quite remember them all, so I'll just list off the thankful item and our goal to show our thanks next to it.

#1. Family: Play together daily
#2. Earth: Pick up trash around our neighborhood and at the park near our home
#3. Books: Donate books we no longer use to a charitable organization
#4. Jesus: Serve Him every day by following His commandments
#5. Trees: Rake leaves and trim our trees to keep our yard and trees looking nice
#6. Learning: Learn how Thanksgiving really started and why we celebrate it today

We've already done a few of these, but still have a few more to go.  I love what happens to my life when I consistently have a thankful heart.  As cheesy as it sounds, while it's not always easy to be thankful, it's always worth it. 

I challenge all of you to find something you're thankful for in your life and then show your thanks.  You'll be happier for it!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I love doing crafts with my kids.  To bad you can't tell by how often I do them.  I'm a, "If it isn't on a list, it doesn't get done," sort of girl and I don't have a normal craft time stuck on our daily school charts (or our daily chore charts), so it doesn't happen nearly as consistently as I'd like.  Maybe I should add it to our school charts.  We do have an art day...hmm, something to think about.

This Thanksgiving, I didn't want to not get around to doing any crafts again.  Thankfully, this year I have Pinterest.  Who loves Pinterest?!  I started out with a holiday board and ended up having to make boards for all the major holidays because I was pinning so many amazing ideas.  I went through my Thanksgiving board last weekend and picked out a few projects I wanted to tackle with my kids this week. 

I decided to start with the most involved project and, in hindsight, it's a good thing I did.  It took quite a bit longer than I thought it would.  I was surprised how much the kids loved EVERY SECOND of it.  I have to admit, I have a hard time just letting my kids do their own crafts, but I did my best to sit back and just watch/advise.  I'm so happy with how well it went and how GREAT they turned out!

The original idea is here.  I mostly followed the very well written instructions, but I did adjust a few things because I'm a fan of using what I already have around the house as much as possible.I did go and buy the small paper bowls for the turkey bodies, I couldn't figure a way to use anything I already had (and didn't care if it was destroyed).

Day one involved painting the bowls and toilet paper rolls then setting them aside to dry.  Day two was cutting out the feet (the kids hand prints, so CUTE), feathers, and hats and gluing on the beaks, eyes and gobbler. 

Last, we stuck it all together.  What do you think?  What was your favorite craft/project for Thanksgiving this year?

Happy Thanksgiving, from our turkeys to yours!!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Just for fun

I love to read to learn new things.  I'll read anything that has to do with almost any area of my life: cookbooks, budgeting/savings books, parenting books, marriage books, finding happiness/peace/joy books, gardening books, inspirational books, exercise/triathlon/cycling books...and I not only learn a lot, I usually have a lot of fun doing it.

Sometimes though, I need a book that's good for nothing.  Well, not really nothing, but a book where I don't learn anything reading.  A fluff book.  A turn off my brain and sit for hours living in another universe sort of book.

My favorite genre of books for this fluffy-ness has always been fantasy.  Who couldn't use a little more magic in their lives (no, I have never tried to psychically move my remote control closer to me, that would just be crazy)?    One of my very favorite fantasy authors is Mercedes Lackey.  She's written more than 100 books.  Yes, I did just say more than 100.  Is that as crazy to you as it is to me?  Who has that many stories in their heads?!?
Okay, okay, they probably weren't all their together clamoring to get out, but it's still an amazing accomplishment.  I've been thinking about Mercedes Lackey today because I got online to update my Amazon wishlist (for Christmas, only 36 more days!  I'm not panicing, nope) and discovered she has several new books out that I haven't read! 

First, that's a travesty, how could I not have known?  Well, not checking and being fairly oblivious to most of life outside my home are probably equally culprits, but still.  And second, I need to rectify this problem immediately.  Starting with the Collegium Chronicles...I thought there was only one book and their are FOUR! I must have missed the s on the end of chronicles.

I've been reading pretty non stop over the last few months and lately I've been feeling the urge to go fluffy (I originally typed brainless where fluffy currently sits, but couldnt' leave it because instantly 10 different sarcastic -yet loving- remarks my husband would make after reading it popped into my head). 

I'm pretty seriously excited.  Library, here I come. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Butterfly Circus

If you haven't had a chance to watch the short film The Butterfly Circus on youtube, you should. 

It's about 20 minutes long so plan for more that just a short 5 minute video.

My favorite part?  One line by the circus master (I'm not sure if that's actually his title, but go with me here), "The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph."

Awesome (in the awe inspiring sort of way).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Studying General Conference Addresses

I've had many goals over the years related to fitting the General Conference addresses into my life.  Some worked great and others sort of (really) flopped.  This conference was different for me.  I'm not sure why, but I was more excited to watch and be involved in the teachings that I ever have before.

My goal this time around is to learn purposefully.  To me this means to not just listen and read the talks, but to focus on what each one means for me. 

My first step, phase one of my plan, has been going on for a few weeks.  I work out every morning to a few different videos and even though I really do like Tony Horton, I don't enjoy listening to his banter the fiftieth time quite as much as I did the first.  My solution?  I downloaded the General Conference sessions to Itunes and listen to it much louder than Mr. Horton every morning while working out.  It's been GREAT so far (sorry Tony)!

Phase two started yesterday when I finally got my General Conference Ensign.  Yipee!!  At first I decided I would use two highlighters (I LOVE highlighters).  One to mark those bits and pieces that really stood out to me and the second to mark the Do's.  The main point the speaker was trying to make, as I read I ask myself over and over, "What does he/she want me to DO?"

As I've started reading it's been really cool because often those do's are connected with blessings.  When I find those great If/Then statements I use the same Do highlighter, but I also write if and then next to the section.

As I read today, I added two more pens.  First, I have a third highlighter (yes, one more), this one to mark those things that I feel will help me with my church responsibilities in the primary. 

The last bit I've added is a pen.  Just a regular ball point pen to write my thoughts and feelings in the margins. 

I am surprised and excited to feel inspired in all areas of my life.  In only the first two talks!  I am also surprised how much more I'm getting out of the talks by really taking the time to read slowly and more thoughtfully.

How do you bring General Conference into your lives?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Homeschool Checklist #3

Makenna's checklist is very similar to both Ben and James, just even more expanded.  This is my first year homeschooling her,so we had quite a bit of adjustment waiting for us at the beginning of the year. 

It was a little rough, but thankfully we've worked through it and are both really liking it now.  Looking back, the three biggest things that helped Makenna's (and my) day run smoother were:

#1. Having assigned seats.  I'm laughing right now because this still seems crazy to me, but I know it made a HUGE difference in her day.  She needed to know that her seat was in the same spot every day.  I'm not sure why, maybe to make it seem more like regular school, but I do know she needed it.  How?  Well, when she asked me if we had assigned seats, I said, "Nope."  And then when I walked into the schoolroom the next morning, both boys told me excitedly that they each had their very own assigned seat!  I immediately looked at Makenna and she was grinning like crazy.  Another reason?  They're still "assigned" 3 months later.

#2. Having a slightly more regular schedule.  Makenna is used to having the same subjects at the same time every day and she really (REALLY) had a hard time when I told her that we had to be a little more flexible than that.  We compromised by making the checklist more routine-ed by attempting to work on the same subjects in the same order every day.

#3.  The backbone of our school day is...

...the schedule/checklist.  I love that it gives the kids a sense of control over their day.  They can look at it and see exactly what they need to do every day.  The know what's left and as we've gotten farther into school (and made a few changes to the checklists), they know how long each subject usually takes.  It's even better for Ben and Makenna because there is so much they can do on their own.  For example, Makenna's blue highlighted sections are ones she either needs to do with me on or are subjects that we do together as a family.  She knows that she can do everything else as quickly (or slowly) as she wants as long as they all get done before the end of the day.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous to have Makenna home this year.  Partly because she's older and has a more demanding curriculum but also partly because we are so very similar (in both good and unfortunately, not good ways).  What I've discovered?  I LOVE IT!  Every day isn't easy, but I love having her here with me.  I love getting to learn with her.  It is seriously fun. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Strategic Surrender

I'm not sure why I put strategic.  Maybe it makes me feel better about the surrender part. 

I have some sort of strange the world's going to end, survivalist impulses that express themselves in all sorts of strange ways (I also think it'd be fun to live downtown in a big city where you can walk everywhere, I'm full of contradictions).

For my blog this impluse has shown up in naming my kids by an initial.  Except I didn't do a very good job at it.  I knew that as I typed my posts I frequently spelled out their names, but I thought I caught them all and fixed them before posting.  I didn't.  Shoot. 

I'm a little OCD and the thought of having two different naming systems used irratically sort of wigs me out.  Not a lot, but probably enough that it isn't exactly normal.  Don't tell.

The point to my whole post and the surrendering is that I'm going to type out their names from now on.  Probably nothing terrible will happen.  Most likely.  Chances are.

M is Makenna, my darling (and only) fiesty, sarcastic 11 year old daughter.

B is Ben, my slightly spacey and completely loving 8 year old son.

J is James, my 5 year old Jimmy James (he actually wrote his name like that for almost a year) with the biggest most charismatic smile.

P is Josh.  Yep, Josh.  Okay, his name is Joshua Paine and having two J's wouldn't just been confusing.  Josh is 3 years old and is my, "Me, too!" kid.  He wants to do everything his older brothers do and just about worships James.

Just so you know.

Monday, November 12, 2012

General Conference Goal - Family Home Evening

For family night tonight, we picked another talk from General Conference to delve into a little more and set a goal from.  The talk we picked (okay, I picked this one) was from Sister Linda Burton of the Relief Society General Presidency.  I picked a simple and powerful talk.  An easy topic for all of my kids while still teaching an important principle.

The title to Sister Burton's talk is First Observe, Then Serve.  Enough said.  I tried to find something online that I could use, a pre-made family home evening or some ideas for teaching about the General Conference talks.  I couldn't find anything!  I think I'm still in shock.  Google let me down.  Google found me lots of super fun activities, coloring sheets and anything else you can think to do during conference.  I wonder if there are others who use conference talks to make family home evenings.  Cute ones.  Fun ones (but most of all simple).  There must be.  If you know of any, pretty please pass them along.

Until then, I'll just limp along on my own. 

Due to my super late start, today's really was barely even a limp.  I pulled up the talk on our ROKU (I love our ROKU!) and skipped ahead to where Sister Burton introduces the idea.  Just after talking about how observing and serving are Christ-like principles, she shares a few examples from everyday life.  We watching for a few of those and then we talked about them. 

After discussing her examples, we thought of ways we could serve each other everyday.  Or serve our friends in simple and small yet meaningful ways.  Tomorrow we'll add observing and serving to our monthly chore/goal charts so we can mark our progress.

I'm still loving the conference tree.  So great.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Top 3 Favorites

#1. B often asks me what I'm making for dinner.  I always say, "Food."  He always sighs and says, "What kind of food?" I tell him, "Yummy food."  He then sighs again, a little exasperatedly and walks away saying, "Mom!"  One of my favorite things is how he's changed his question.  He walks into the kitchen and with a smile on his face asks, "Mom, what kind of yummy food are you making tonight?"  So great.

#2. I love that P always wants to sit with me.  Today, I sat down on the couch to help J with a game he was playing and P ran over and sat on my lap.  Then he squirmed for a minute and slid off to one side.  He grabbed my hand and held it up while he rubbed his face against it....and then he moved my hand down to hold his foot.  I don't know what it is, but he loves it when I hold his feet while he sits with me.  I can't decide if it's cute or just funny.

(this is P, don't you just want to squeeze him?!)

#3. M is now old enough to watch the boys.  Today Steve (the husband) and I went out and did some shopping and didn't have to bring all four kids with us.  We didn't even have to take one of them.  We took NONE of them!  Oh my's amazing!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Goals and Chores

A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away...) I made my kids chore charts.  They worked really well keeping all of us on track.  And then we started homeschool.

Our previous chore charts had four separate sections: my body, my home, my testimony and my brain.  Each category had different chores and/or goals to work on during the day, but after starting homeschool, some of the categories were redundant.

Combine that with the annual goals we make (we sit down together every January and talk about what we want to work on and get accomplished during the year in different aspects of our lives) and then hardly talk about afterwards and I knew I needed to revamp my system.  I just wasn't sure how.

After reading that Gretchen Rubin's most successful part of her Happiness Project (no, I swear I'm not a just seems like it recently) was her resolutions chart I got excited.  After checking it out, I finally had my plan.

I combined my favorite parts of both charts and came up with this.  I think it turned out pretty good (although the real test will be over the next few weeks as we're using them).  Our previous charts were weekly and I felt like I was using (wasting) way too much paper, thus the new ones are monthly (let's just hope we don't lose them).  I broke our chart up into three sections, the first two bringing in all the items we still need from the previous chore charts but organized in a way that makes better sense for us now.

The first section includes all the things that they should (ideally) get done before our 8:30am school start time.  But if they somehow don't get to all of it (read imagining slight sarcasm and a loving/exasperated smile), it needs to be done before they can play. 

The second section says before the end of the day and really means sometime before bedtime. 

The last section is another addition/change from our old chore charts and probably the part I'm most excited about.  We now have a place for some of those annual goals, not to mark when they're done, but to keep track of how often we're actually working on them.  To track our progress.  Plus, as we set family goals (which we've started doing a few times a month) we can write them in so we don't forget about them in the hustle and bustle of life.  I purposefully didn't type these in because I'm thinking they'll change depending on what each child is working on that month.

This is B's chore chart (you might have already noticed), but each of my kid's charts looks very similar.  The differences are in exactly which cleaning chores they are currently assigned to do. 

I was thinking I'd even have them make different marks to check them off depending on how well (attitude mostly) they get their chores done.  Then at the end of the month, we can look back and see what progress has been made, which is the best part.

I'll keep you updated on how well they're working out for us!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


While I know it's important to stop and smell the roses, M takes it to a whole new level.  She gets distracted and stares out the window or ends up dancing around the kitchen (yes, it is adorable...but I REALLY want my dishes done sometime before she's ready to move out in 6 or 7 years).

She always retorts that she can't, if she goes any faster, she'll just have to redo...{fill in the blank}.  And I will admit, that does happen.  Too often.

I then tell her that I didn't mean to go faster than she is capable, I want her to go as quickly as she can while still doing a good job.

We've had this conversation more times than I want to remember.  But I now have the solution. 

Today I found the perfect quote.  I either want to tattoo it to her forhead or stick it on her wall in super HUGE vinyl letters.  Probably the vinyl, I might get in trouble if I tried the tattoo.

"Hurry up slowly."

When I read this I immediately thought of Makenna.  To me it says exactly what I'm always telling her.  Do what you can to the best of your ability.  Do it as quickly as you can, but not so fast that you're messing up or getting frustrated. 

Now I just need a cricut.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

More Checklists

The day we've all been waiting for...B's weekly schedule!

Okay, maybe you weren't all waiting.  Shoot.  Anyway...

B is my 2nd grader and his schedule is slightly different from J's. 

The first thing you'll notice is the yellow.  These are sections that B can do on his own.  He usually gets a start on these first thing in the morning while I'm helping J.  Next we move to the work M, B, and J do together (like I mentioned in my previous post about J's day) and then we do the work B and J do together.  After that's done (and J is finished up for the day), B and I do his last few bits and pieces together (only writing and grammar most days).  B generally finishes up his day reading. 

His favorite subject right now is math, but only because he gets to do it on the computer.  We are trying out Teaching Textbooks this year and we're all (especially B) liking it a lot so far. 

I am so proud of how far he has come and how hard he is willing to work everyday.  I've been homeschooling B the longest so it's easier for me to see how much he has grown.  Don't get me wrong, we have some rough days (B tends to get distracted by pretty much anything), but the good outweighs any hard bits.  A lot.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What we read...

I came across a quote while looking at Gretchen Rubin’s blog (the author of The Happiness Project) yesterday that I loved.  It made me both smile and think "YES!" 

Samuel Johnson: “What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression  If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.”
There are many books that I think I should want to read.  Books that I know are good and that I would learn and grow from reading, but I have a hard time making myself start.  When I do start, I have a hard time getting engaged, staying engaged and getting the book finished.  Then I feel guilty  for not being more excited to read books that I think I should (and yes I know that’s a little silly). 
This quote resonated with me because it offers an explanation.  And more than that, just by reading this and knowing that someone else struggled with some books (and others struggle, Gretchen did post the quote) makes me feel better. 
I will still try to get myself to read books that are outside my comfort zone, books that I KNOW are good for me.  I’ll just cut myself some slack when it’s hard, after all, only half my mind is available to enjoy it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Yesterday, at B's baptism, M gave a fantastic talk.  In it she taught a little bit about testimony and I kept thinking about it today. 

Today's sacrament meeting (one segment of church where we meet as a congregation and have the opportunity to teach each other by speaking and singing together) was fast and testimony meeting.  It's a little different than the other weeks for two reasons.  First, many choose to come to church fasting for a particular purpose (to grow in some fashion personally or for someone in need or for anything you would like) and second, there aren't assigned speakers.  After the normal opening, anyone in the congregation who feels inspired can get up and share their testimony. 

As I was listening to the testimonies, I thought about one comment that M made yesterday.  She said that when we're younger (like B), we have simpler testimonies, but don't worry, they'll grow.  While she's right, if B chooses to read his scriptures and live the commandments his testimony will grow, but I hope it is always simple. 

Knowing with the absolute certainty of a child that Heavenly Father and Jesus love us, that Jesus died and lives again for us and that Joseph Smith truly did restore the fullness of the gospel is life changing.  One woman shared that she wished she could get up with the same ease and enthusiasm as the children.  The kids SHINE as they share their testimonies.  I hope Ben will always be that way, that his testimony will both grow and stay simple.  Simple and powerful.
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