Monday, December 29, 2014

Our year

We didn't send out Christmas cards this year with the customary Christmas letter. I just never got around to choosing cards and getting them ordered and instead of stressing about it I just let it go. One of the things I like to do this time of year, as I take down my old calendar and put up the new one, is flip through and months and see what we wrote on the calendar. It's fun to go back and remember birthdays and specials occasions and even things like my first day back to work or the little weekend we spent in St. George. Here's a little look back at what we did this year:
On Logan's 6th birthday I had to get up early and get across town for my Substitute Teacher orientation. I hated that I missed making his birthday breakfast. I had my birthday and we had the Pinewood Derby (Trevor's last one as a Cub Scout).

I served as the Day Camp leader for our Cub Scout Pack and had some planning meetings; Dave and I had a Valentine's date planned, but something happened with the babysitting we set up; we got to hang out with Darth Vader at the Blue and Gold dinner!

We on a garden tour with a friend and learned lots of good stuff, Trevor turned 11, got all ready for Day Camp and spent the three days at camp with Colin and I worked a lot. Spring is a busy time for substitute teachers. Dave quit his job and started his own company!

Trevor received his Arrow of Light award for Cub Scouts, had his first testing in karate and went to his first camp-out as an 11 year old scout, Spring Break and Trevor and I got to visit the middle school for an orientation.

Colin turned 9 and Dave turned 40. I wanted to throw a big party, but Dave didn't want all the fuss. Instead we had a weekend at a hotel, went to the movies, out to dinner, breakfast and massages. My nephew Riley had his Eagle Court of Honor this month and Trevor decided he wanted to get lots of Merit badges lie his cousin and it was Trevor's last dance Festival.

Beginning of summer vacation. Dave, the crossing guard retired. He has been the crossing guard since Trevor was in kindergarten and the boys loved him. I had the kids at school make him cards and letters and we surprised him with them all on the last day of school. We took a short trip to St. George to visit some friends, Dave was gone for a week for Scout Camp and my oldest niece graduated from high school.

A whole lot of nothing happened this month. Swimming, a family hike and not much else.

We ended the summer with a family trip to St. George. Trevor started middle school, Colin went into 4th grade and Logan 1st grade. I finally started to enjoy my days home with no kids and wasn't as sad with the house all to myself.

Went to Reno for Lauren's baptism, Colin started taking piano lessons, Dave had knee surgery and Trevor survived a huge rain storm during a camping trip.

October, November and December
Homework and holidays pretty much sums up the last 3 months of the year

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Parent's Guide To Surviving Middle School - Part 1

This kid started middle school this year. Seems impossible, I know. He's not old enough for that. I'm not old enough for that. I knew it would be a struggle for all of us and it would take time getting into the groove of things and getting used to all the changes. but so far middle school has been kicking our butts. It's not been all bad. Actually it's been pretty good. But as a parent, middle school has been like a part-time job. I feel like Trevor's personal secretary/assistant because if not for all the work I've been doing he'd be in bad shape. Maybe it's different for us - I have heard that girls do very well in middle school because they are typically more organized and that makes it easier for them. Maybe it's harder for us because of Trevor's ADD and his constant forgetfulness and lack of any and all organizational skills. Whatever it is, I have learned a lot and I am here to share what I have learned. Take notes, there might be a quiz at the end.
1. Teach your child how to open a combination lock long before the first day of school. It took Trevor 3 weeks, a You Tube video (yes, I'm not kidding), and a trip to Target for locks to practice with before he could finally use his locker at school. Do your kid a favor and make them an expert at combination locks by the end of 5th grade.
2. Find out who has classes with your kid and get to know those kids. Get their numbers. You will be ever so grateful to those friends when you can call or text them for info on homework and what is going on in class when your kid is clueless and forgets everything that happened that day.
3. It's never too early to check on your kid in class and find out what his grades are BEFORE the first progress reports go out. Teachers might think of Infinite Campus as an Infinite Headache but it's been my Very. Best. Friend. When your kid forgets to turn things in as much as my kid does you will be checking that website fifty times a day to get info and keep up on his grades and assignments. Which leads us into....
4. Don't be afraid to e-mail the teachers. I e-mail at least one of Trevor's teachers every week. I ask questions about missing assignments, upcoming projects, grades and his behavior in class. It might seem a little overbearing or that I am a helicopter mom, but seriously I don't want my kid failing 6th grade because I didn't communicate with his teachers enough. Which leads us into.....
5. When your kid's teachers respond to your e-mails or meet for a parent/teacher conference (yep, had one of those already) send them a nice e-mail thanking them for their time and cooperation and support. If you're a nice parent they will be more willing to work with you AND your kid. If you're a mean, cranky, annoying parent they might just ignore your e-mails.
6. This is a big one - be super organized. Teach your kid how to be super organized. It will be hard, it will take time, it will get on your nerves but it will be all worth it in the end when your kid goes to college and he can finally manage his time and turn in his assignments on the due date (I am hoping and praying this happens one day).
7. And the most important thing I have learned so far - when your kid wants to talk to you about what's going on at school listen, just listen. Don't try and solve his problems, or give him advice, or tell him what you would have done in that situation unless he asks you. Give him lots of hugs, tell him you love him no matter what and always listen to what he has to say.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Book page paper flowers

A long time ago I made this wreath. I thought I was so crafty and that it turned out so super cute. I did really like it but when I got it out the other day to hang on the door it just looked a little old and sad and dated. It's those flowers. I decided I didn't like them anymore. I have seen cute flowers made of felt but then my sister mentioned making flowers out of sheet music and that made me think of my book page wreath which made me think book page paper flowers. So I looked on Pinterest and found this tutorial on making paper flowers and I set to work. I ripped pages out of a book I knew I was never going to read again and started making my flowers. The first few came out a little crappy and weird, but the more I did the better they looked. I always say I'm not crafty but I can sure follow directions well and appear to be crafty. Once my flowers were all made I used a blow dryer to heat up the glue on the wreath, carefully took the old flowers off and glued the new book page paper flowers on. I now have a cute back to school wreath. My kids and Dave liked it okay but they never get very excited about my crafts or decorations. Men. Check out my new and improved wreath!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our super fun and exciting Summer Vacation

Last year I wanted to take the kids on a really fun summer vacation. We had some money saved so I planned a trip to Lego Land (technically it was the weekend after Labor Day so it really wasn't a "summer vacation") and had a great time. We stayed at the Lego Land hotel, got hopper passes for the theme park and water park and had a really fabulous time. The kids still talk about how much fun that trip was. Well this year was a little different. With Dave starting his own business we've had to be careful spending money and decided we would not be taking a summer trip. We had other fun things planned, but a vacation was not in the picture. Then a sweet friend of mine offered us a free place to stay in St. George and we planned a fun little family weekend. I know St. George does not sound like the most fun and exciting place to visit but on our way home, when we asked the kids if they had a good time, Logan's response was, "It was as fun as Lego Land." What? Huh? And that was when it hit me. The kids don't care where we go or what we do or how much money it costs. All they care about is that we do something and we do it together. Here are some of the fun things we did:
Our first stop was the Wildlife Museum. The boys love looking at all of the animals.
This was Logan's favorite part of the trip
A treat at the Sweet Tooth Fairy. Colin used his spending money to buy Lego candy
We visited some Church History spots - the Tabernacle was the first and the boys like hearing how it was built and taking a tour inside
This was the first store in St. George. The shoes on the top shelf are original shoes that were sold at the store.
Brigham Young's Winter Home. 
A sister missionary from South Africa took our family picture at the temple's visitor center. Colin loved that this statue is just like the one he saw in Salt Lake (but the one in Salt Lake is bigger)

Walking around the temple 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fruit salad

I'm not the best gardener. But that doesn't keep me from imagining that one day I will have a garden/ yard that looks like this
or like this
or even this

It's a big dream of mine that one day I will have a really lovely garden. That the things I plant will actually grow and grow well. I have had a few successes. We had corn one year, green beans, carrots. I have little teeny tiny strawberries every once in a while and we did have 5 delicious peaches this year from our new tree. I always grow lettuce because that seems to be the only thing I am really successful at and the last few days I keep making Italian food so I can use our fresh basil. 
So today a box came for me. Inside was a Peach Sorbet Blueberry bush. It's supposed to have leaves all year - they get purple in the fall and winter and in the spring they green up and there are pink blossoms. The blueberries are supposed to be sweet and taste like peach cobbler with blueberries. When I read that I had to order one. And it was on sale! I planted it in the same area as my peach tree and then inspiration struck. I should have a fruit salad garden. So I went to work. I moved my strawberries from one part of the garden in with the peach tree and blueberry bush and moved my sad looking Clementine tree in there too. It's not the most lush looking garden but it's not too bad. And I imagine that it will look really pretty in the spring with all the blossoms. I keep thinking that if I keep trying, one of these days I will finally get gardening right. 
This is my pumpkin patch. It's growing so well this year, but I am not sure if I'll get any pumpkins. All I seem to have are male flowers so far.  I am trying to be patient and hope that one of these days a female will show up and we'll get at least one pumpkin this year.

My new Fruit Salad garden. My peach tree did really well this year and the fruit was so good. I transplanted the strawberries along the boarder so I hope they survive and don't die on me. The bush on the left is my new blueberry bush and the little branch in the middle is my sad Clementine tree. It still has green leaves so there is still hope for it!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The dorm room

When we first moved into this house we wanted all three boys to share a room. We were going to do bunk beds and a twin bed, but then I had scary images of boys jumping off the top bunk and trying to swing from the ceiling fan. So Dave just put their beds down and I loved it. I thought it looked like a dorm room. For a short time Trevor had his own room, but after sleeping on the floor almost every night in his old room we just moved him back. I love that they all share, but lately I have been wanting to make some changes to their bedroom. It's always a mess with crap everywhere and even when they clean their room they can only keep it that way for about a day. I knew I needed to get rid of the junk and that we needed more storage or something. I searched Pinterest yesterday and came across images like these:

If only my boys' room looked like a magazine page. But it doesn't. And I didn't want to go spend money on shelves or storage/organization stuff. So I used what I had, rearranged the room a little, threw away a bunch
of junk and ended up with a neat and tidy room. 
We don't have any shelves up for their stuff, so under the beds each boy has plastic storage bins for toys. I also used dresser drawers from a broken dresser under Colin and Logan's beds to store their pajamas since we don't have big dressers for clothes
I love these little storage cubes we got from Target years ago. They have held up so well and served many purposes. Logan's holds his clothes and Colin's is for all of his drawing notebooks and has a shelf for books
At night the boys get to sit in bed and read. Now we have some storage for books. I can switch out the books every month so they have new choices
A while ago we added a shelf/rack to their closet. After cleaning out all the junk I realize my boys really have hardly any clothes. No wonder Logan wears the same three shirts over and over again
Colin's side. The extra shelf/hanger space will be good as they get older and get more clothes. I wonder if they will still want to all share when they are teenagers...I hope so
I love how the beds are arranged now. There is still space to play and it's nice that everything can be stored under the bed or in the closet
And since their room was finally clean they all wanted to play in it together. We'll see how long that lasts.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Favorite 4th memories

Some of my favorite childhood memories are from 4th of July at my Grandma's house. I don't remember everything but the thing that stood out the most was me as a little girl, looking around at all the people there and thinking how lucky I was to have such a big family. There were always lots of aunts and uncles around, cousins to play with, my grandparents and friends and neighbors. You could never be bored because there was always someone there to be with or play with. Even when I got scared of the fireworks and ran in the house to watch form the front window, my cousin was there right with me. Last night my family and I all gathered at my grandma's house to watch the fireworks. There were aunts (just one uncle) lots of cousins to play with, grandparents, and a great-grandma. All night I watched my kids with their cousins. It didn't matter how old they were or if they were a boy or a girl or if they saw that cousin last month or last year, they all just got along. They all played and talked and joked and laughed. I love that my kids have their cousins to grow up with. I love that they are all friends. I love that, like me, they will look back and their favorite memories will be of the times they got to spend with their family. I'm so grateful to live where I live. To have my family close. To be able to have the religion I want, for my husband to have the freedom choose his job, for my kids to go to good schools with good teachers who love them. I'm so grateful we can sit outside at night and play and watch fireworks and celebrate the birth of our nation. Happy 4th of July!! (And Mom, I like Macy's idea - "We should have a cousin sleep over.")

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer Home Tour

Before we got rid of our cable TV, one of my favorite channels to watch was HGTV. I loved seeing how people decorated their homes. Since I can't watch those shows anymore, I love that lots of blogs do Home Tours. Picture after picture of immaculate homes, fun decorating ideas and me dreaming about what my house would look like if I was crafty and talented in the area of home DIY. This past week, as I was getting ready to have my kids home for the summer I checked out this Summer Home Tour on one of my favorite blogs. There is also a link to even more homes to look at. After looking at all the beautiful homes I was inspired to take pictures of my house and share how we decorate for summer. Enjoy my own Summer Home Tour!
In our family room we usually have some kind of fort or tent set up during the warm summer months. The kids love to play in their special hide-a-way and it's also great when entertaining their friends.
We recently moved all of our toys in the TV room and made it the "fun room". In the summer we like the "tornado of toys" look. Since it's often too dang hot to play outside the kids will fight play in the TV room while they watch movie after movie after movie.

TV/Play/reading/let's make the biggest mess we can room

In the summer we like to decorate our kitchen table with paper, colored pencils, tape, glue, crayons, scissors and all other kinds of art supplies. 

Random paper crafts placed around the house for those fun pops of color

We like the "unmade bed" look in our home over the summer. It makes the house feel more casual and gives our home that "lived in" feel

Every now and then you can find a shirtless boy in pajama pants reading in his unmade bed. 

Towels are often found on bedroom and bathroom floors in the summer since we love to swim and no one seems to know how to hang them back up.

Storm troopers and Darth Vadar add to the playful atmosphere of our summer home!
Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek into our home! How do you like to decorate for summer?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Summer School

I know lots of my friends are just like me and anticipating the beginning of summer. And with summer vacation comes Summer School! I love planning a schedule for my kids to follow over the summer and incorporating some fun educational games and activities. Here are some of my favorite Summer School websites:
  • Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool I LOVE this website. I used it a lot when I homeschooled Trevor. You can find things for all grade levels and all subject areas. You can find videos, games, stories, projects and more. There are lots of fun science activities, music to listen to and links to other great websites. 
  • Xtra Math - This program is awesome! My kids all did this last summer and they will do it again. The best things about this program is it teaches kids to memorize simple math facts so they can do math in their head faster. The program takes only about 10 minutes a day and you will be sent weekly e-mails to see your child's progress. Kids can do it all on their own and I like to make it one of their daily tasks to do over the summer.
  • FunBrain - This is one of my "summer school" websites for my kids. Over the summer my kids have a few days a week where their computer time has to be one of my approved summer school sites. I love it because all of the games are educational and my kids don't complain about playing it.
  • Cool Math Games - My boys love these games. They play this website at school and over the summer it's one of their favorites.
  • Blast Off To Reading - This is a workbook I purchased for Colin. He really struggles in reading (we think he has a mild form of dyslexia) and we are going to be using this over the summer to help with his reading. I have a friend using this book for her son and she loves it. If you have a struggling reader, this would be a great tool to use over the summer. (There are different books for all ages/grade levels).
What are some of your favorite Summer School activities?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DIY - Decorative pillows

I am not a crafty person, nor am I good at home decorating. But one of my New Year's resolutions was to learn more about interior design/home decorating, so I've been determined to make/buy something for my house. For the longest time I've wanted some cute, decorative pillows for my living room couches. These couches were our first ever new furniture purchase when we were newlyweds. We bought them when we bought our first house and they have been the best couches ever. They were inexpensive and they are 12 years old and still in the best condition. But they needed updating. I tried a slipcover but it looked horrible. Dave told me to go find some cute pillows, but they are so expensive. I could not bring myself to spend that much money on a few pillows. And then I saw THIS post on one of my favorite blogs and decided I could do the same thing with place mats. I ran to Target, found some place mats on sale for $2.48 each and made my own decorative pillows. So cute, super cheap and easy (especially if you have an awesome mom who can sew!). I love how they turned out and the splash of color they add to the living room. Go buy a place mat! Make a pillow!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why I love being a working mom

I don't want to offend anyone, but this has been on my mind lately. I keep wondering if there are other moms out there who feel the same way I do. I love my kids. I love being a mom. But I am not the best baby/toddler mom. Before I got married, before I even graduated from college, I knew I wanted to stay home with my kids when they were little, but I also knew that I wanted to work or do something other then just being a mom. I hope that phrase isn't offensive. "Just being a mom." I have heard women say that before when they introduce themselves: "I'm just a mom." And I know that is the most important thing I can do and will ever do, but I wanted to be able to do more because I knew that one day my kids would all be at school and I would be left home alone. I always had a plan that once my kids were in school all day I would substitute teach. And now I do. And I love it. And I noticed something when I started working again. I was happy. I felt smart and like I was contributing to my community. I like eating lunch in the teachers' lounge and having other grown ups to talk to. I got all giddy and excited when I got my first paycheck in the mail. I felt like I was doing something good for myself and my family. I have always known that I am not the best baby/toddler/little-kid-under-the-age-of-4-Mom. The older my kids get, the more I like being a mom. I didn't NOT like being home with my kids when they were little, but it's not something I would want to go back and do again. It was not my favorite stage in life. I knew I wanted kids and I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I also knew that my personality and my talents were better for older kids. And now that my kids are older and now that I can work because they are all in school I am a happier person and a happier mom. I am a better mom because I get to work. I get to do something for me and not just do for everyone else. I get to go out and be with lots of other people for the day and not just be confined to my little house. I know there are lots of women out there who love having babies and little ones home with them. That is awesome for them. That is so great that they love that stage of motherhood. But I didn't necessarily love it. There were definitely great moments during those stages of my kids' lives. I have very fond memories of my kids when they were little and I did enjoy them when they were babies and toddlers. But I am so glad for new stages and new opportunities. Yes, I made the choice to be a stay-home mom and I am grateful I was able to do that. I think it was important. But I am also grateful that I now have the opportunity to work. I look at my friends who worked while their kids were young (and the ones who are doing it now) and I applaud them. They are awesome. They do an amazing job balancing everything and they are amazing mothers. And my friends who don't want to work and who love being homemakers - you're awesome too! I sometimes wish I could be more like that. I love how we're all different, how we all mother in different ways and have different strengths when it comes to raising our kids. No one is right and no one is wrong. We all do what is best for us and our families. And on the days I get to work and see my kids in the halls at school (or better yet, be their teacher for the day) I feel so lucky. I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Oatmeal Wheat Pancakes

We are a cereal family. I have about a hundred boxes of cereal in the pantry and we will eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But sometimes I get tired of cereal and I want a real breakfast. Saturdays are usually the time I make something for breakfast and today I wanted to try a new pancake recipe. Dave and I have been trying to eat healthier so I found 2 recipes in my Cooking Light Cookbook and combined them to make this recipe for Oatmeal Wheat Pancakes:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/4 cups White Wheat Flour (yes, this is whole wheat flour - just made from white wheat and not red wheat)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl whisk together the milk and yogurt. Add the oats and stir. let sit for 10 minutes. Add the oil and egg and whisk until combined. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined. It should be a thick batter, but if it's too thick add a little milk. Cook like regular pancakes.
Trevor wanted chocolate chips in his - the rest of the family had already eaten so no one else got to try them. The verdict: Trevor said, "These are healthy? They taste so good!" I loved them. They came out really thick and hearty. The serving size is 2 pancakes (I usually eat 3 or 4) but 2 was just enough. And they keep you full all morning long. This made enough batter for 10 pancakes so I froze the extras to have for busy mornings when I don't want cereal. Try em! You'll like em!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Garlic Cheese Bread

I needed something the other night to go along with my spaghetti and meatballs. I had a really good bread stick recipe from Pinterest that I have used before so I thought about making those. Then I saw a recipe on Facebook that looked so good. So I combined the two and come up with this:

Here is the recipe:
For the dough-
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 - 3 1/4 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

In a standing mixer mix water, yeast and sugar and let stand 5-10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix until dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. Dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover and let rise about an hour.
After rising, punch dough. Make small rolls with the dough. Dip the rolls in the following mixture:
1 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1-2 teaspoons dried parsley or chopped fresh parsley

After dipping the rolls into the butter (make sure they get completely coated), roll in grated Parmesan cheese. Place rolls in greased baking dish  (my rolls were all squished together to make pull-apart rolls) and drizzle any remaining butter. Because we all know butter makes everything better. You can even add more cheese on top if you like. Cover and let rise about an hour. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

These got two thumbs up from everyone. We loved them! Dave and Trevor were super impressed when I brought them to the table. "You made those? From scratch?" Why yes, yes I did.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Freezer Meals

Last week my friend came over so we could make some freezer meals. I don't do a ton of complete freezer meals, but I do a few things that help make dinner faster and easier. When my friend was here we made meatballs, cooked ground beef, shredded chicken and a freezer meal from THIS website. I gave my friend a list of dinners with recipes she could make easily by using her cooked ground beef, shredded chicken or the meatballs. When you cook meat and then freeze it, you save a ton of time when it comes to making dinner. I always have cooked ground beef and chicken in the freezer and I try and keep my pantry full of things I can use for casseroles, soups, chili, pasta dishes, etc. When I make my grocery list I first make a menu for that week and then make my list off of that. Lots of times I don't have to buy any meat or pantry items since I already have them. I also like to look for sales and buy lots of meat when it's on sale and then cook and freeze it (freeze in 2 cup portions) or make a freezer meal. Today I saw that chicken thighs were on sale at Smiths for 99 cents a pound. I LOVE chicken thighs because they are so cheap and I think they taste better than chicken breasts. Today I baked my chicken at 375 for an hour, covered. Once it's cooked the skin comes right off and the chicken just falls off the bone. I paid $5.76 for the chicken and I can make three meals from that as well as have enough for leftovers for lunch. Want to save money on ground beef? Smiths marks down their beef EVERY MORNING. Whatever they did not sale the day before gets marked down the next morning. It has to get marked down by 9 a.m. so go shopping early to get the good deals. My friend got ground beef for $1.99 a pound last week because she looked for the marked down packages. (They don't always have marked down beef - it's only if they don't sell it all the day before. Talk to the butcher at your favorite store and ask when they put out their marked down meat to get the best deals) I also keep lots of frozen veggies ready for side dishes and have chopped lettuce ready to make a quick salad for dinner. I buy a package of 3 Romain hearts at Smiths for $2.99. I wash and then chop the lettuce, place it in a ziplock bag with a paper towel and I have lettuce ready for salad or sandwiches all week long. I love adding chopped apples and dried cranberries to salads, or chopped dried apricots and croutons. And when it's all ready to go I'm more motivated to make a salad for lunch or dinner or to add lettuce to my sandwiches. I love cooking dinner for my family and with our schedules getting busy and me going back to work (yay!) it's nice to know I can do a little prep work ahead of time and keep dinner one of my favorite times of the day.