A Little of This and That in April

May 21, 2018

April might just be my favorite month of the year. I love the warm weather and the flowering trees and the rain. I love the memories of Aprils past: the end of the college semester, graduation, my wedding day, Ian's birth. I relish the added minutes of sunlight each day. And . . . I'm always super annoyed when it snows. But it always does. So at least now I just expect it.

Our April was filled with . . .

Going . . . to General Conference on Temple Square. It was Maxwell's first time to go to the Conference Center, and the look of wonder and excitement on his face when we walked into that majestic hall was priceless.

Working . . . in the mornings. I mentioned a few months ago that I got a job as a manuscript reviewer with Deseret Book. Now that I'm several months into it, I can tell you that I am enjoying it so much, and it has fit into my day just exactly like I wanted it to. I get up at 5:30 in the morning and read/write for about an hour. This translates to about three manuscripts a month. I have only read a couple of things that were truly painful or tedious to get through, and a few have been quite exceptional. It's been a great way to start my days, and I'm grateful that I'm able to work just the amount of time that I wanted.

Getting . . . in a few more hugs from Mike's parents before they flew back to Germany.  Their visits are never long enough, but we sure try to pack in as much time with them as possible.

Spending . . . time with Mike's cousin, Laura, and her ten (yes, ten!) kids. We went to his family's cabin and spent the day roaming the woods, roasting hot dogs, and talking. Most of the time, I feel like I have a pretty big family with five boys, but that day, I felt like a total slacker! But really, it was so much fun to spend time with them, and all of my kids had a friend (or two!).

Being . . . released from my church calling. For the past three-and-a-half years, I have been serving as a counselor in my ward's Relief Society presidency. It was a wonderful, stretching experience for me. By far, my favorite part about it was getting to know all of the dear women in my neighborhood. I will treasure those relationships forever. But, I'm not going to lie, I'm feeling pretty free now without so many responsibilities!

Losing . . . a first tooth . . . and a second tooth . . . and a third tooth. Actually, the third tooth didn't come out until the beginning of May, but Bradley lost all three within a period of ten days. That's a pretty fast way to make money for a six-year-old. Two interesting and related facts: Maxwell has still not lost any teeth (and so Bradley lords it over him just a bit); Ian has exactly the same three teeth Bradley does not have (which we all find incredibly funny).

Listening . . . to audiobooks. Last year was not a great audiobook year for me, but this year, I'm back on the bandwagon and loving it. I find myself justifying knitting for an hour if I can get through an hour of an audiobook at the same time (actually, two hours, since I listen at double speed). That's a suuuuuuper productive way to maximize my hobbies, don't you think?

Dyeing . . . Easter eggs, one week after the fact. This was a lesson to me about not forcing activities into some preconceived time slot. We didn't have time to dye Easter eggs on Easter weekend, and rather than trying to cram it into a fifteen-minute window or just giving up on it all together, we just decided to wait until things had calmed down. And it was so great. We dyed them on a quiet evening with no other plans, and the kids literally worked on them for two hours.

Hosting . . . our 4th Annual Pie Party. In the past, we've tried to hold it as close to March 14th as possible, but every Saturday in March was either rainy or snowy or booked with another activity. So it didn't happen until April 21st, which also happened to be Ian's first birthday. He took a nap through most of it, but it was quite a party: 44 pies and over 180 guests. And the most beautiful sunshiny weather we could have asked for that was well worth the postponement.

Realizing . . . that having older kids is not half bad. In fact, it's pretty awesome. One day Aaron needed a book from the library, and the library closest to our house didn't have it, but another branch did. I was out with all the kids, and I really didn't want to get all of them out of their seats for just one book, so I sent Aaron in alone. And even though he had never been in that library before, he found the correct section of the library, located the book, and checked it out all by himself. That's just one small example, but it totally made my day.

Celebrating . . . our two April birthdays. Mike got a cherry pie (that he made for himself), and Ian got a chocolate kitty cake (because his first word was "kitty").

Starting . . . a couple of new knitting projects: a little dress for a new niece (which I've already finished) and a shawl for one of my aunts. Oh, and buying yarn for three more projects.

Attending . . . my sister's graduation at BYU. She received her masters in piano performance, and I am so proud of her (and also a little sad that there will not be any more concerts or recitals to go to).

Scooting . . . in an unusual way. Ian decided it was too difficult to go from sitting to crawling, so he decided to just scoot around on his bum instead. He wiggles his hips from side to side and gets around pretty quickly if he's on a smooth surface.

Going . . . on some fun dates, including to a performance of Riverdance and out to dinner for some Aussie barbeque with Mike's brother and sister-in-law. Making weekly dates a priority is one of the best things we've done for our marriage.

Suffering . . . through one of the worst colds of my life. I thought it was just going to be a mild spring cold, but then it moved into my sinuses, and it felt like they were filled up with concrete. I was so miserable, I actually went to the doctor for an antibiotic (which I hadn't done since I was pregnant with Bradley).

Getting . . . away for the weekend to celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary (and the successful end of our diet!). Dates are great, but mini-vacations are even better. This one was just to Park City and only for one night, but it didn't matter. We weren't on anyone's timetable except our own. We ate like kings. And we slept in until 7:30! (Our kids have us trained, and we couldn't stay asleep longer than that.) Our friends met us for dinner, and then we wandered the nearly empty streets because we timed our trip perfectly for the off-season (bad if you like skiing, good if you don't like crowds). Oh, and did I mention the weather was perfect?

Playing . . . with friends: Clark, all day, every day. He never has had enough of friends, and this introvert is having a hard time understanding it.

Watching . . . the boys in their Hamilton performances. The drama teacher at the boys' elementary school taught each class a song from Hamilton, which they then performed during Art Night. The performances themselves were very well done, but Art Night was so packed and chaotic and crazy that we almost missed both Maxwell and Aaron.

Hearing . . . Ian say "bye-bye." He might not be walking (or crawling), but we're hearing a new word every few days, and I love it. One of my favorites from April was when Mike was leaving for work, and I said, "Bye," and then Ian waved and said, "bye-bye" like he had been saying it his whole life.

Reliving . . . some of my happiest days. When I was down in Provo for my sister's graduation, I had a glorious walk across campus all by myself. Mike dropped me off on the south side of campus at the base of the long flight of stairs I must have climbed a thousand times over my college career. As I started walking up them, I experienced this overwhelming rush of happiness. It was as if every single happy memory converged in that moment and instilled itself into my soul. That sounds extremely dramatic, I know, but I can't think of any other way to describe it.  Even though I can't take a good selfie to save my life, I had to document the moment. I was simply elated.

I think that's a wrap on April. And now May is far enough gone, I might as well get started writing it up, too!

What did you do in April?

The Book Blab Episode 17: All Things Book Clubs Plus Two of Our Favorite Books for Mother's Day

May 10, 2018

Well, that was kind of a long hiatus, but Suzanne and I are finally back with another episode of The Book Blab! This one was worth the wait though, I promise.

Long-time readers will know that I have been a dedicated member of my book club (actually, several) for many years. Suzanne, it turns out, is the same, and between the two of us, we have quite the array of experiences. We had fun reminiscing about the various book clubs we've participated in, and we also shared a few tips and tricks for how to make a book club work no matter your situation.

The time flew, as it always does, and so we never got around to actually talking about the kinds of books that work well in a book club, so stay tuned for part two of this discussion!

As always, we'd love to hear about what your experience in a book club has been like, what some of your favorite book club reads have been, and why you think book clubs are so amazing (because you do think they're amazing, right?!).

Enjoy! (Oh, and p.s., please excuse the little technical glitches in this episode. We had a bit of a slow connection.)

1:00 - Life updates
1:50 - Today's topic: book clubs
2:40 - Why would you want to be in a book club?
  • 3:20 - A book club lets you discuss those books that beg to be discussed
  • 4:08 - A book club helps you see a certain book in a new way
  • 4:16 - It's fun to socialize with other readers
  • 5:10 - A succinct answer to that question
5:58 - A few descriptions of some of the book clubs we've been in
  • 6:17 - Suzanne's traditional book club in Chicago
  • 7:50 - Suzanne's casual book club in Houston
  • 8:03 - Suzanne's Learning Circle through the Power of Moms organization
  • 9:22 - Amy's education group
  • 10:15 - Suzanne's brand new book club in Kansas City
  • 10:33 - Suzanne's virtual book club with former college roommates
  • 11:57 - Amy's neighborhood book club
  • 12:58 - Amy's very traditional, very serious book club
  • 15:55 - Amy's family reunion book club
  • 17:00 - Suzanne's family book club (and surprising confession!)
  • 17:53 - Amy's plans for a book club with her kids this summer
  • 19:30 - The Book Blab mini-book clubs
20:18 - Helpful tips for making a book club work well
25:36 - A few ideas for how to start a book club
29:26 - Two of our favorite books about motherhood
  • 30:05 - Suzanne's recommendation
  • 31:20 - Amy's recommendation
33:47 - Conclusion

Books and links talked about during the show:

The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
Power of Moms Learning Circles
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
Mini-book clubs on The Book Blab (Episode 6 on A Man Called Ove and Episode 13 on The Girl Who Drank the Moon)
Educated by Tara Westover (Suzanne's review)
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Amy's review // Suzanne's review)
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan (Amy's review)

Deep Thoughts on Having a One-Year-Old

May 4, 2018

I had always wanted an April baby. I guess the fifth time's the charm.

The day was warm and sunny and smelled of cherry blossoms. The birth was relaxed and easy and filled with laughter. Both were perfect in their own way.

So maybe I can be forgiven for idealizing Ian's life just a little bit. Some of my dreams came true that day.

As this past year rushed by (at the speed of light, so it seemed), I found myself clinging to Ian's babyness: those squishy thighs, those soft cheeks, those baby blue eyes. As he reached each milestone, part of me wept, even while cheering him on.

Fortunately, he has taken his time with the milestones--at least the ones that involved movement--and that has helped ease the pain. He rolled pretty much exclusively until he was about ten months old. Then he learned how to army crawl. And just recently, he has begun scooting on his bum. That's because he still doesn't know how to get from a sitting to a crawling position or vice versa. Which means that if I sit him down,  he pretty much stays where he is, especially if he's on something that's difficult to scoot around on, like grass.

Before I had Ian, I knew slow movers existed. I just didn't know how wonderful they were. To be able to hold Ian on my lap and not have him constantly wriggling to get down is such a joy.

Because here's the other thing: in every other way, he's just like a one-year-old. He carries on "conversations" with us, says a few words, copies noises we make, laughs at our funny expressions and jokes, eats like a champ, delights in new toys, claps his little hands, and gives the best snuggles. It is so magical to have all of the personality of a one-year-old without all of the stress.

But I know these days are numbered. In fact, last week I took him to the doctor's for his one year check-up, and although Dr. VanDenBergh wasn't concerned per se about Ian's lack of crawling, it did make him think that Ian's hemoglobin level might be low. So he tested it, and sure enough, it was. We started giving him an iron supplement, and I'm not kidding when I tell you that the very next day (the very next day!) Ian got up on his hands and knees and then pushed up to his feet to get into a downward dog position. So maybe the iron is just the oomph he needed to get himself up off the ground. Either way, he's not going to be content with his current transportation options for much longer.

I've tried to enjoy each of my babies fully, completely, and not wish away the fleeting time. But it has felt more desperate with Ian. Is this how it feels with your last baby?

Because I don't know. There haven't been any flashing lights or loud proclamations, metaphorically speaking. Maybe there never will be. I think a part of me will always yearn for a baby but maybe not because I actually want another baby but rather I just want my own babies back.

I feel all this pressure, but I think it's pressure I've brought upon myself. If Ian really is our last, I want to feel like we're ending on a high note. I want him to be the most perfect baby that ever was and complete our family like the candle on his birthday cake. Because of that I've been quick to identify the good (he takes a binky!!!) and slow to find the bad (he gagged on all solid food for three months!).

When you think about it, this isn't really a bad way of looking at life. But it's also not really fair to Ian if it means I'm putting impossibly high expectations on him, nor is it fair to another possible child in our future who would undoubtedly be compared to our perfect "last" baby.

And so I'm realizing, once again, how important it is to just live in the present. And not just with one-year-old Ian. But with three-year-old Clark and six-year-old Bradley and eight-year-old Maxwell and nine-year-old Aaron.

I don't know what the future holds, but at this very moment, everything feels exactly right. Not that everything is perfect but that I think our family is exactly what it's supposed to be like right now. And that feels good.

What I Read in April

Apr 30, 2018

Technically, April isn't quite over, but it's close enough that I know I'm not going to finish any more books before midnight tonight. So here's what I read this month:

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
I decided I wanted to read this book to my kids (even though Aaron had already read it himself) since the movie was coming out. But then, everything I've heard about the movie has been incredibly lame, so we have not rushed out to see it, but I'm still glad we read the book.

I know I read this book when I was a child, but I only remembered two things from it: Charles Wallace fixing his mom and Meg a midnight snack and all of the children bouncing their balls in synchronization with each other. Now that I've read it again, I can't believe I had no recollection of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, or Mrs. Which; or zapping through time and space; or Charles Wallace being hypnotized and turning into a shell; or a living brain pulsing on a pedestal. It's funny what the mind latches onto and remembers.

This book might have been a little too scary for Max and Bradley. I don't think it gave either of them nightmares, but at one point, Max shrieked at me to stop reading, and that's usually a pretty good indication that it has crossed the line into the "too intense" category. But we asked Aaron to spoil the ending for us, and then he allowed me to continue.

I know this book won a Newbery, helped establish a genre, and is beloved by many, but it just isn't my favorite. I have nothing against the book itself; I just can't ever seem to fully invest in science fiction.

Even though we haven't seen the movie yet, my hold for the graphic novel adaptation came in literally the day after we finished this book, and my boys devoured it one, two, three, as soon as I brought it home. I didn't get a chance to read it before it had to go back to the library, but they said it stayed pretty true to the original.

2. Brideshead Revisited: the Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder by Evelyn Waugh
April was classics month for my book club, and this was the selected read. It had actually been on my to-read list for awhile, so I was grateful for the incentive to finally read it.

And I needed it. The knowledge that I would have someone to discuss it with when I was done was maybe the only thing that helped me get through the first couple of hours of listening. It was rough: it begins with Charles Ryder in the army in World War II. When he finds out his division is going to be staying at a large manor called Brideshead, his mind flashes back to twenty years before when he spent a great deal of time there with the Marchmain family. But first, you have to get through his first year at Oxford, during which part I spent the whole time wondering what was real and what was only perceived because they were all too drunk to see straight.

It picked up, or at least became more interesting to me, after he started spending more time with the whole Marchmain family, and not just Sebastian. But I can't say I ever liked the story. Each character was complex and incredibly flawed, and I had more sympathy for some (Julia) than for others (Charles). It reminded me a lot of Rules of Civility, probably because of the time period (the two novels are about fifteen years apart, but still felt similar) but also because all of the characters make such stupid choices. However, I adored the writing in Rules of Civility, and I found it a little tedious and at times cryptic in Brideshead Revisited.

But I think the main reason for my distaste is that I despised, absolutely despised, Charles Ryder. And it's hard to like a book when you dislike the main character so much. I know most people at my book club didn't agree with me, but I found his selfishness to be quite sickening.

Speaking of book club though, if I had read this book on my own, I probably would have hated it. Chances are, I might have even abandoned it partway through. But getting the chance to discuss it with other readers who felt just as baffled and confused as I did at times (what was the deal with Sebastian's teddy bear anyway?) made all the painful moments worth it. In fact, the discussion was so good that I would be quick to recommend this as an excellent choice for others looking for good book club material (although, fair warning, I feel like you'd need a group of fairly serious readers to tackle this one).

Mature content: infidelity (off-stage) and lots of drinking

3. Pie by Sarah Weeks
I checked out this book from the library because I thought it would make the perfect readaloud for March since we like to go all out for Pi(e) Day. But then, other books pushed their way ahead, and we didn't get to it. As it turned out, we didn't get to Pie Day either because of the cold, snowy weather in March, which meant that both the book and the party got pushed back to April. Coincidence? I think not.

This book was a happy surprise. We chose it because of its subject matter, and while there are certainly many tantalizing descriptions of pies, we ended up loving it for its story. When Aunt Polly, world-famous pie maker, dies unexpectedly, she leaves her beloved pie shop to Reverend Flowers, her grumpy cat, Lardo, to Alice, and her top secret pie crust recipe to . . . Lardo. That's right. She leaves her recipe to a cat, and a most unlikeable cat at that. Many people are desperate for that recipe, and after Aunt Polly's apartment is found ransacked, Alice knows this is serious and she has to get to the bottom of it.

I feel a little guilty for liking this book so much because last month I talked about a book called Zinnia and the Bees, and one of the main things that bugged me about it was that Zinnia's mother has a complete personality shift at the end. Well, the same thing happened in this book. Alice's mother is selfish and bratty, and then, all of a sudden, she's not. It's ridiculously convenient, and yet, it didn't bother me in this story the way it did with Zinnia. Maybe it was because I was reading it to my kids, and my ability to suspend my disbelief is naturally extended when I'm with them. But really, I think it was just because we were having so much fun with this story, so I was willing to overlook little pet peeves. Plus, I really loved Sarah Weeks' writing style, especially the way she so easily and naturally filled in the back story. You didn't even realize a flashback was happening until it was over.

And of course, this book fulfilled its main purpose, which was to get all of us hyped up and excited for forty-four pies and one hundred and eighty friends and neighbors at our annual pie party.

P.S. Deal alert: the paperback is less than $3 on Amazon right now, so you might want to snag one if it sounds good.

4. And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle
Yes. YES. YESSSSSSS. My search for a clean, well-written, interesting young adult novel was finally rewarded. I would feel comfortable recommending this to any teenager (and plenty of adults as well).

This is one of Madeleine L'Engle's early, early novels. Published in 1949, it takes place right after WWII in a boarding school in the Swiss Alps. The setting is breathtaking (as you might imagine), and there is plenty of skiing to go around (this would be a perfect winter read). Philippa, or Flip as she is usually called, has been enrolled at the boarding school because her mother died and her father is an artist and must travel for work. She . . . does not have the best attitude about it. She feels like she doesn't relate to any of the other girls and consequently spends most of her free time seeking out places to be alone.

One day she is out exploring and comes upon a little chateau nestled among the trees. There is a dog that she immediately recognizes because she'd been pummeled over by him when she and her father had been staying at the beach right before they took the train to Switzerland. But more interesting than the dog is the dog's owner--a boy named Paul who is as nice as he is handsome. Flip starts sneaking out on Sunday afternoons to spend time with Paul, and having a real friend gives Flip the confidence to overcome some of her shyness at school.

There's more, too: a dark, troubling side of Paul, a creepy hobo who wanders the hills, secret ski lessons, and an art teacher who mentors Flip when she needs it most. And even though Flip and Paul spend all that time alone together, they never do more than hold hands. Madeleine L'Engle nailed the innocent, clean romance.

My one issue (observation? complaint?) was that as the story progressed, Paul seemed younger and younger to me. I'm sure this had to do with the fact that as you learn more about his past, he seems more vulnerable because of all that he's been through.

Although the book was published in 1949, it was revised and reissued in 1983. I originally started with the 1983 edition from the library, but when that copy had to go back, I switched to the 1949 edition on my kindle. It sounds like there are differences between the two, but for my part, I couldn't see what those were.

I can't tell you how good it felt to read a young adult novel that I actually enjoyed and would eagerly recommend to others. This book was a major win for me.

P.S. And right now, the kindle edition is only $4.

What books did you read this month? Anything worth recommending? Share in the comments!

How I Involve My Kids in Helping Out Around the House

Apr 20, 2018

When I wrote that post last month about celebrating our unique mothering strengths, I listed "teaching my kids how to work" as one of the things I like to do.

Today I thought I'd offer a bit more of an explanation.

When I said that, I didn't mean we always have a spotlessly clean house or that I have a perfect system for getting my kids to do chores. Like most things in life, it is a constantly shifting routine that changes with my kids' ages and stages.

However, teaching my kids both the value of work and how to do it is a priority to me, and because of that, I make sure they have daily and weekly opportunities to be contributing members of our family.

Before I share some of the nitty gritty details however, I have to tell you my personal motto. When kids are helping around the house, it is highly probable that THEIR finished task won't look like YOUR finished task, not to mention it will probably take them twice as long. It can be easy to watch their sloppy efforts, throw up your hands in frustration, and say, "Never mind! Go play! I'll do it myself."

But stop. Take a deep breath. And repeat after me: It's better than it was. Really, I promise you it is. If they're vacuuming, they're sucking up something. If they're dusting, it's less dusty than it was. If they're washing the windows, at least some fingerprints are disappearing (and okay, maybe a few streaks are taking their places). Sometimes I spend most of Saturday morning chores turning a blind eye to the things I can still see and instead say to myself, It's better than it was. It's better than it was.

That doesn't mean I never offer correction or instruction, but it is important for me not to get hung up on the tiny little perfections. I let my kids take ownership of the job they've done, and I try be grateful that it's better than it was.

Now I'll share a little bit about how we break down the work in our house, as well as a list of the tasks my kids help with. We have daily responsibilities, family expectations, Saturday chores, and summer jobs.

On a daily basis, each child is expected to:
  • make his bed
  • practice the piano
  • brush his teeth
  • straighten up his bedroom
  • do any assignments he didn't finish at school
You'll notice that there aren't a lot of traditional chores on this list. That hasn't always been the case, but it's what is working for us right now, mainly because those chores that used to be part of the morning routine are now reserved for other times (see below). These are the things that I feel are essential for a productive morning. (However, just this week, I reminded the boys that I expect them to pick up their bedrooms before they leave for school, and I was met with blank stares and protests of, "I have never heard you say that before." Sigh. This is why I sometimes feel like I'm beating my head against a brick wall.)

Part of the reason why I've chosen to keep daily chores to a minimum is because I expect them to just help out when I need it. Being part of a family means contributing to the care and upkeep and cleanliness of the home. So while they don't have very many formal daily chores, they are given "in the moment" jobs multiple times a day. These requests might include:
  • Pick up 20 items in the family room
  • Do a two-minute speed clean up
  • Sweep the floor
  • Put away the laundry
  • Wipe down the kitchen table
  • Put all the toys away in the backyard
  • Clean up a game that a younger sibling left out
  • Play with the baby
  • Wipe down the bathroom counter
  • Take out the trash
And here's a little tip one of my friends shared with me. If I phrase the request as, "Would you be willing to . . ." rather than "I need you to . . . " my kids are much more likely to respond cheerfully. I don't know why. But just changing the phrasing helps a ton.

The daily cleaning is mostly fast and superficial. It keeps the surfaces clean and the living spaces neat. It's reactive (i.e., someone spilled milk so it must be cleaned up). We reserve the heavy duty, deep cleaning for Saturday morning.

I instituted Saturday morning chores over a year ago, and it is still working so well. I think most families do some form of Saturday cleaning, but up until a year ago, ours was definitely more of the casual variety, and consequently, my kids always felt it was negotiable and worth complaining about. Now it's set with clear expectations: the whole family (including Mike and me) will clean for two hours on Saturday morning. It's amazing how much we're able to get done during that time, and many of the odd jobs that were being neglected before are now getting done much more regularly (long before they're a blatant problem).

Chores are begun immediately after breakfast. I usually write up a list for each boy so he can check off each task when it's completed. This list of jobs is meant to take about two hours to finish (although they've been known to stretch it out much longer . . . ). Occasionally, to change things up, we'll forego the lists and Mike will direct the cleaning, giving them one task at a time and having them come to him when it's completed to get another one. (Notice I said Mike will do that. I prefer the lists so they're not coming to me every two minutes. He prefers to just work hard and fast together.)

Here is a sampling of Saturday morning jobs:
  • Clean bedroom (this is different from the daily task; it's much more thorough)
  • Clean under bed
  • Organize closet
  • Vacuum couches
  • Dust living room
  • Clean baseboards
  • Scrub down kitchen chairs and benches
  • Wipe down light switches and door knobs
  • Wipe down kitchen cupboards
  • Organize pantry
  • Vacuum around edges
  • Clean windows
  • Fold laundry
  • Sweep out car port
  • Clean out van
  • Vacuum van
  • Vacuum family room/living room/bedrooms/etc.
  • Vacuum under couches
  • Sweep and straighten shoe closet
  • Organize game closet
  • Straighten book shelves in library
  • Clean out fridge
  • Wipe down microwave
  • Mop kitchen floor
  • Clean mirrors
  • Clean toilets
I know someone will ask what chores three-year-old Clark does, and the truth is, we let him do whatever will keep him busy and occupied while the rest of us are working. Sometimes he's doing little odd jobs, sometimes he's shadowing an older brother, and sometimes he's playing. Most of the time, he's begging for a snack. Because he's Clark. I think one of the best ways to teach a younger child to work is just to let them see everyone else working and incorporate them into the mix as much as possible. There's a certain camaraderie that comes from working together and the younger ones will feel that and want to be a part of it.

The final component in our cleaning regimen is summer jobs. I use the summer months as a time to teach my kids new skills. Each child learns how to do several new household tasks over the summer. Last summer, Aaron learned how to thoroughly clean the bathroom (toilet, sink, floor, etc.) and do the laundry from start to finish. Maxwell learned how to wash the dishes and weed the garden. Bradley learned how wipe down the kitchen table and sweep.

They also get a longer list of daily jobs in the summer because they have more time and the house seems to get messier since they're all home all day. Their new skills are usually a part of their daily routine, and this gives them lots of additional practice as well.

That's a pretty good rundown of how things go at our house. It's not a perfect system. Just last week, I realized I haven't been having my kids help with cleanup after dinner, and I feel like that would be a good idea. My kids don't always help willingly and cheerfully. And sometimes I send them all to the backyard because it's so much easier to just do it myself.

But most of the time, I stick with it because I feel like instilling a strong work ethic in kids is so important to their future success as adults. And also because now that I've invested the time to train them, they actually can be quite helpful.

And on days when chores are not completed the way I want them to, I remind myself, "It's better than it was." 

Do you have some "cleaning with kids" tips? Share them in the comments!

A Little of This and That in March

Apr 13, 2018

Sometimes when I sit down to write these monthly update posts, I suddenly realize I don't have any photos to go along with our activities. That . . . is not the case with March. It was a busy month, and I didn't forget my camera for any of it.

In light of that, this is going to be a picture-heavy update. March's activities included . . .

Celebrating . . . Maxwell's eighth birthday. I went on a field trip with his class, Mike made him an iridescent beetle cake (because bugs are still his love language), and he got to eat salmon and roasted asparagus for dinner (his choice).

Attending . . . my sister's graduate piano recital. Oh man, she was sooooooo good. Max and Aaron came with us, and afterwards Max declared that it "felt like it was only ten minutes long," which was the highest compliment he could think of. Later in the month, she also rocked her oral exams, so I'm pretty proud of her (and I'm dreaming of the day when, maybe, I can take piano lessons from her!).

Going . . . to Music and the Spoken Word with my parents and siblings, specifically to hear Brian Mathias in his debut performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I mentioned a couple of months ago that Brian, one of my friends from my college days, was hired as a new Tabernacle organist. It was amazing to hear him play with the Choir. I even teared up a little. It's just pretty thrilling to see someone catch their dream, you know?

Forgetting . . . about St. Patrick's Day. I mean, it's not like I was planning a big celebration or anything, but we usually pull out the green tablecloth and candlesticks and let the boys eat a couple of bowls of authentic Lucky Charms. So at 7:30 am (when we realized our oversight), Mike rushed to the grocery store, we scattered some gold eggs (the store was out of gold coins) on the table, put a few drops of food coloring in the milk, and called it a win. Plus, that night, Mike actually made corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread, so I guess we did more than I realized.

Steeking . . . my cardigan. In knitting, a steek is used when you knit something in the round and then cut down the center of a column of stitches to open it up--essentially turning a sweater into a cardigan. Most of the time you reinforce the stitches around the steek (I definitely did with mine), but even with that, I was terrified (and almost physically ill) at the prospect of cutting up my many hours of hard work. Two things gave me the courage to finally do it: 1) I kept repeating this mantra in my head: Knitting doesn't like to unravel sideways, Knitting doesn't like to unravel sideways and 2) I wasn't going to be able to wear it without cutting it, so it was worthless to me whether I cut it and ruined it or just left it alone. So I gritted my teeth and did it, and it all worked out (see below).

Finishing . . . my cardigan. After the dreaded steek was over, all I had to do was knit the collar, and it was finished! This was the Watkins Cardigan by Whitney Hayward, and the yarn I used was Quince and Co. Puffin. I love the way it turned out. It's big and squishy and so, so warm. Since we've been having such a cold spring, I've actually been wearing it quite a bit, and it makes me happy every time I put it on.

Racing . . . in the pinewood derby. Both Maxwell and Aaron made cars this year, and Aaron came in 6th overall, which was an improvement over last year. Basically, they're happy if they win at least one race, which they both did, so it was a good night.

Going . . .  to one of BYU's family concerts. Every year, BYU puts together a series of several concerts that are designed for children. They are shorter than normal performances (under an hour) with lots of interaction and opportunities to move. There is no age restriction, and they are absolutely free. We decided to go to the one by Men's Chorus and Women's Chorus since my sister sings with Women's Chorus. It was a fantastic program, and all of my kids loved it.

Showing . . . off BYU to our kids. Mike and I always have the BEST time being back on campus, and it's even better when we have our kids with us and we can relive the glory days, as it were. This time, we went to the Eyring Science Center, where Mike lived for most of his college career. The foyer is filled with a bunch of hands-on exhibits, and we spent a good hour playing with them. The boys especially loved the vortex cannon.

Being . . . tourists in our own state. The boys were on spring break at the same time Mike's parents were here from Germany. This had many advantages, of course, because we had the freedom to see them as often as their schedules would allow. But it meant that we couldn't exactly go anywhere for spring break because we wanted to stay close to where the action was. So we decided to go on a day trip and see some "Utah" things we'd never seen before, namely the Hill Aerospace Museum (before we even got out of the car, Max declared, "This is way cooler than I thought it was going to be!"), Promontory Point (which involved a history lesson as well), and the Spiral Jetty (a large-scale art piece on the salt flats of the Great Salt Lake). It turned into such a fun day, and it was pretty obvious that we weren't hitting the usual spring break attractions because we didn't fight a single crowd.

Spending . . . time with Grandpa Paul and Grandma Jill. As I already mentioned, Mike's parents were here for the couple of weeks surrounding General Conference. Even though they have a lot of kids (nine) and even more grandkids (thirty-four), they are always so good to give each family some one-on-one time, not to mention packing in the family parties. Always a treat.

Being . . . baptized. That would be Maxwell, but the rest of us were all there to support him, including aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, and grandpas. Max happened to be the only child being baptized in our entire stake in March, so we got to plan the whole program, which made it even more special. Aaron and Grandma Jill gave the opening and closing prayers. Cousin Steven played the piano; Uncle Gordy led the music. Grandma B and Aunt Sonja gave the talks. Aunt Angela and Aunt Anna played a piano duet. And of course, Mike baptized him. It was a beautiful, special day, and Maxwell beamed with happiness.

Hosting . . . our third annual neighborhood Easter egg hunt. We invite anyone (12 and under) who wants to participate to bring over a dozen filled eggs the day before. Then we hide them in our yard plus three other neighbors' on Saturday morning. Everyone comes over, we divide the kids by ages, and they have a great time finding twelve eggs. It doesn't have the frenzied, greedy feeling that so many egg hunts seem to have, and everyone hangs out afterwards playing and chatting.

And that's a wrap for March! Tell me about your month in the comments!

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