Jul 29, 2011

The Daily Checklist

This year's brain child for summer work has been very successful!  I'd be remiss if I didn't include it in our family history archives.

Each week I print out a half-sheet checklist for Zach and Tyler that has a list of their daily chores.  They have to work through the list before having recreational time, be it with friends, out of doors, or some form of electronic media.  Most days, the list is an extremely effective way to keep the boys occupied and out of trouble for at least a couple of hours.  Plus, they have to *gasp* use their brains! 

Most of the activities are self-explanatory, but here's a little filler on a few.

The boys practice math facts with Wrap-Ups, work sheets, flash cards, and the Timez Attack website.  Their "workbook" assignments are also math-focused.  I print off worksheets (mostly using this site and this site) based on the skills they need to master.  Tyler has been working on multi-digit addition and subtraction (emphasis on carrying and borrowing); inverse operations; and basic facts.  Zachary is practicing multi-digit multiplication; long division; order of operations; and percent of/fraction of problems.  I am very pleased with their progress, and hopefully their teachers will be, too.

Here's a sample of Tyler's work:

And here's Zach working on his math assignment.  He prefers the floor and I've decided not to fight it!

The boys also have a wide variety of writing journal assignments.  Sometimes I pull a topic out of my head and make them write a page.  Sometimes we do a cooperative exercise.  Sometimes I print off word searches or crossword puzzles.  I also use this great book for fun ideas on occasion.  The other day Zach and Tyler made word collages about summer.  They didn't turn out as artistically as I was hoping, but they are still fun.  I'm considering making one myself!

Our reading challenge is coming right along.  We are almost ready to color in the next block, which will bring us to the 8,000 page mark.  Garry and Tyler are the most prolific readers, with Zach and I lagging far behind.  Tyler is just a voracious reader and has blasted through his books.  What a champ.

The "daily chore" portion of the checklist varies from day to day.  I hand out work assignments based on the needs of the house and/or what I don't feel like doing!  Ha!

Zach and Tyler now have lots of experience with cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes, vacuuming, sweeping, wiping walls, and yard work. Today Zach even mowed the lawn all by himself!  Most days the chores are much smaller and simpler than that, though.  So if they haven't learned anything else this summer, the boys have developed a work ethic that will serve them well.

This routine of summer learning is the best one I've implemented so far.  It is simple and flexible, and Zach and Tyler are old enough that they are mostly self-sufficient.  I hope that the academic activities have been a successful summer bridge for them, too.  And maybe, just maybe, they have enjoyed themselves a little along the way.  (I know I have.)  Now I just need to figure out how to modify The Daily Checklist for the school year!

Jul 28, 2011

Best news ever

I've had a burning question since January that was finally answered in a happy way today. Gavin has been accepted to District 20's Colorado Preschool Program!  This is a truly incredible opportunity for Gavin, and I am certain is the perfect place for him to begin his scholastic experience.  With teachers who are trained to understand and manage sensory disorders, Gavin will have the best chance for success in a classroom setting.  I firmly believe that his preschool years will be a defining time in his life, ones that will help him develop the skills he needs not only for school functionality, but for success in life in general.  I could not be more thrilled.

It is amazing to ponder the miraculous way that this blessing has unfolded.  From the sweet friend who initially set us on the path (you're the best, Sunny!) to the insurance denial that led to exploring district services, from the pediatrician's perfect letter of advocacy to quiet moments of inspiration for me at the kitchen table, from occupational therapy to formal preschool evaluation, it is clear that Heavenly Father's hand has been in all of the details.  I have certainly had moments of fear and doubt along the way.  The last few months have definitely been frustrating at times.  But today, as I sobbed my way through a prayer of thanks, I had the strong reassurance that Heavenly Father knows my name--and he knows what my little boy needs.  That may be the greatest blessing of all.

Jul 27, 2011

Photo Ops

This week I managed to capture some fun and random shots of the kids.  Why not throw them all together in one post?

Exhibit A: Lexi + Marker = Mess.  Zach used the blue marker to fill in the latest segment on our summer reading chart and apparently failed to put it away.  Remarkably, Lexi only used herself as a canvas and didn't get ink on her pajamas (perhaps because she took off her pants first), the furniture, the carpet, or the walls.  And it all came off with a baby wipe.

Exhibit B: Gavin making Jell-O.  He disproved the adage, "A watched pot never boils," because believe you me, he sat and stared at that water until he just about burned his nose off.  And then he got to stir, which was the reward for such patience.

Exhibit C: The girl and her loveys.  Lexi has been extra emotional/clingy/cuddly since her separation from us in early July.  Whenever she is upset, she requires Betsy and a blanky.  I don't remember what offended her on this day, but I was sweating just looking at her all wrapped up.

Exhibit D: Boys in trees.  The boys and their friends have rediscovered the trees in the green space behind our house this week.  Gavin loves to join the big kids but usually stays in the 5-10-feet-above-ground range, which is much better than his tree-climbing escapades in our yard.  Don't get me wrong; I'm still nervous about it.  But sometimes he's too fast for me and I can't keep his feet on the ground!

Exhibit E: Exhausted girl.  The pixie couldn't even make it to her bed after lunch, even though she begged for "one more show" before nap time.  When I suggested she bring a pillow and blanket to the couch, this is what happened.  Silly girl.

Middle-of-the-Night Letters

Dear Recliner,

I have a love/hate relationship with you.  I love that you came to us, free of charge, from a sweet family in the ward when I had an IV (and then a PICC line).  You made sleeping possible for several weeks.  You brought a change of scenery when I was bed-ridden.  You have been a blessing, too, during this wicked third trimester.  I can rest my head and prop up my feet and watch TV, all at the same time.  You are reasonably comfortable (my short stature does not properly align my neck with your upper contours) and are often a cure for insomnia and heartburn.

However, your color, shape, and style are extremely ugly.  Our small living room really doesn't have space to accommodate your hugeness.  My children use your foot rest as a weapon against each other and bang your back into the wall.  Your worn spots are sticky, and when I sit in you (and want to rest my head), I can't wear a ponytail.  Pfft.

Love (hate) you anyway,

The pregnant lady


Dear Colorado weather,

People have been complaining about your fickle nature lately, i.e. the thunderstorms that follow the afternoon heat.  For the record (and I hope you are listening), I absolutely adore the almost-daily rain showers that cool off this crazy place.  The cooler evenings/mornings are saving my sanity (and my fat, fat feet).  Keep 'em comin'.

A grateful citizen


Dear Random Citizen,

I promise we are working on a name for you.  You will eventually learn (if you don't already know) that each of your parents is very passionate and stubborn.  We each have a treasured, favorite name that is close to our hearts, and neither of us wants to give it up.  Your name will most likely be a product of negotiation, but let it be a lasting reminder that if marriage has taught us one thing, it is the art of compromise.  I hope you like it.

Much love,

Your adoring parents


Dear Sonic,

I wish you delivered in the middle of the night.  I have a serious craving for tots.  And a grape cream slush.  And peanut M&Ms.

A faithful customer


Dear Carpet Guy,

Thanks for coming out to look at the stains in my beautiful new(ish) carpet.  The babysitter didn't mean to spill red nail polish on my bedroom floor, and she also didn't know that nail polish remover is a bad way to remove nail polish from carpet.  She is properly repentant, and I am encouraged that you think the stain might be, too.

Ditto for the black paint spill in Zach's bedroom.  What possessed him to paint his cub scout totem pole in his closet, I will never know.  But it won't happen again.

See you Tuesday.  May your chemicals work so we can avoid a "surgical repair."

Your client


Dear parents who give their own children music lessons,

I am afraid that I lack the discipline to do this.  I need tips.  Or maybe a babysitter.  Help!

A bad, bad teacher


Dear Pediatric PA,

I love you.  I really do.  But today, when you told me Lexi's rapidly-spreading rash was flat warts, I kind of freaked out.  I imagined that within a week she'd look like the Elephant Man.  But guess what?  The dermatologist said her bumps are the result of an allergic reaction and can be managed with Benadryl and hydrocortisone cream.  You were wrong, and I am so, so glad.

But I'll see you next time we need a same-day appointment.

Lexi's mom

P.S.  Thanks for being patient with Bartle, party of 5.8 today, and for not making comments about my size or large posterity.


Dear Alexis,

It is 2:24 a.m. and you are up for the fourth time tonight.  What gives?  I thought the Benadryl we gave you at dinner for your crazy skin would knock you out for a solid 10 hours.  Go to sleep!

Your tired mama


Dear Dish Network,

I guess we're through!  We are embarking on the new world of streaming television via whiz-bang Blu-Ray players.  In three months, thanks to the money we'll save by not paying for Dish services, we will have re-couped the cost of the players and enjoy much cheaper screen time.

But I will really miss BYU TV.

The wife of a technology fanatic


Dear Universe (because I'm not really sure who to address this one to),

How is it that I have four friends with children getting married this month?  Am I old enough to have arrived at that station in life where my refrigerator is decorated with wedding announcements?  As I was writing out congratulatory notes this evening, I had distinct memories of opening my own wedding cards and gifts.  More times than not, I was surprised that I didn't know the giver.  Then my mom (or Garry's mom) would say, "Oh, Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so are our friends, dear."  I'm thinking three of the four kids on my fridge will have the same reaction.  But I love their parents dearly, so it's just fine.

Mrs. So-and-so


Dear Baby Girl,

(How lucky are you to get two letters in one night?)

Thanks for the awesome kick-and-wiggle show during these wee hours.  As I have reclined in this ugly chair (next to the open window, with my feet up, trying to deal with heartburn/insomnia at two in the morning) and balanced the laptop between my belly and the arm rest, you have been bouncing all over the place.  I love it!  Your kicks have been strong enough to jolt the computer and cause typos and much laughter.

It  is wonderfully reassuring to know you're doing so well in there.  I hope your lungs are maturing and your body is fattening up (need some more ice cream?) for life in the outside world.  If you haven't noticed, your current home is trying to squeeze you out on a regular basis.  I want you to be as healthy as possible, of course, but certainly wouldn't mind if you arrived ahead of schedule.  Any hints on when that might be would be vastly appreciated, because lining up care for all of your siblings during labor and delivery is a constant cause of concern.  Between end-of-summer vacations and the start of school, it's a pretty crazy time of year to have a baby.

How about a weekend?

Much love,

Your mama

Jul 26, 2011

a bed post

Yesterday afternoon I saw Gavin run into the backyard with his bed pillow.  I asked him not to; he totally ignored me.  A few minutes later I went outside to collect him, and this is what I found:

Yep, two little monkeys, snug as bugs in a....toy box.  I can't imagine how uncomfortable that must have been, but Gavin and Lexi were very upset when I wouldn't allow them to nap in the toy box. Crazy kids!

Lexi is loving her little toddler bed.  She generally stays in bed very well and obviously feels like such a big girl.  She enjoys playing with the toys on her night stand before she falls asleep.  We usually check on her later and find a random assortment of toys tucked in around her.

In other bed news, Baby Girl's bed is now ready to go.  Her little corner of the office doesn't offer all the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies a new baby at our house, but space and practicality trump all.  

When Baby is sleeping well (dare I say "through the night"?), we will transition her to the crib and see how the room-sharing thing goes.  Just in case she is a fantastic sleeper right off the bat (ha!), that bed is ready, too.

As for me, I'm spending as much time in my own bed as possible.  Doesn't it look so peaceful and inviting?

It's a little crazy to contemplate entering the newborn phase when I'm still doped up on nausea meds.  I'm sad that I haven't had a single day's reprieve from feeling yucky and wish I felt closer to my "A-game" as the baby's birth approaches.  But hearing from my doctor yesterday that my body is starting to progress toward delivery gave me a significant emotional boost.  Perhaps I won't be pregnant forever.  I am confident that whatever this little girl brings to our family, it will be a welcome change.  We are all VERY ready to meet her!

Jul 25, 2011

Sunday night at the movies

I captured some fun family video this weekend.  I say "fun," but I suppose that's a pretty subjective term.  Family videos aren't always entertaining for the people not on the video. Anyway...

Video One: Tyler on the piano.  We are slogging through piano lessons.  I'm finding it difficult to give Zach and Tyler weekly lessons.  They go so much better when Garry is home to referee the little ones, but our Saturdays tend to be very full and I'm totally out of energy in the evenings.  The boys do practice very regularly, however, so I guess that is something.  This clip shows Tyler practicing a song called "Alouette," which is his current favorite.  The blanket wrapped around his waist was to help guard against the "cold."  Saturday was the first morning in weeks that I wasn't sweating when I woke up, but the kids were supposedly freezing with all the windows open!

Video Two: Lexi singing.  On Saturday night Lexi wanted to cuddle in my bed.  I was happy to oblige, since I had a terrible nausea day and desperately wanted to fall into a coma for the next few weeks.  Within minutes, Lexi was entertaining me by singing her usual bedtimes songs to me (instead of the other way around).  Hopefully you can understand her (or get the gist, anyway).  I think her little singing voice is adorable.  The songs on the video include: Zippity Do-Dah, I am a Child of God, Leo the Lion, How Much is That Doggie in the Window?, ABCs, A-l-e-x-i-s, and Popcorn Popping.

Video Three: Starring Gavin, with supporting stars Lexi and Tyler.  Gavin walked in just after I finished up with Lexi and wanted to get in on the game.  He started off singing a lovely song, but things got pretty silly after that.  Tyler and Lexi joined the fun after a few minutes.  So if you are in the mood to laugh at crazy children who will not hold still (at all), this video is for you!'

P.S.  Zachary wanted nothing to do with the video camera.

Jul 22, 2011

Swimming through summer

We have reached the point of summer where most of the calendared adventures we have been looking forward to are finished.  Running camp, Mom camp, baseball, grandparent vacation, and now swimming lessons are a thing of the past.  Although we still have three weeks (from Monday) until school starts, I am looking forward to a little lull in our schedule.

I didn't think it would be so tough to make it to 8:00 a.m. swimming lessons every day.  After all, the kids are up at the crack of dawn, and I totally thought I'd wait to shower until after lessons every day.  However, on nearly every day of swimming lessons, I had an appointment at 9:00 or 10:00 (OT, OB, scripture class, district preschool stuff, etc.), so I had to hit the ground running by 6:30 a.m.  I also didn't anticipate that Gavin would hate swimming lessons and thus have to be corralled on the sidelines for 45 minutes every day.  For these reasons, the boys will not enjoy a second session of swimming lessons this year.

Zach and Ty had a great time in their classes, though, and passed with flying colors.  This is the second or third time Zach has passed Level 5 (Stroke Refinement), but the next level is only offered a couple of times per summer and is never convenient for us.  Tyler passed Level 3 (Stroke Development), which is a great milestone.  It's wonderful to have strong swimmers in the family.

So what will we do for the rest of the summer?  Well, I'm sure water will be popular.  Today the kids ran in the sprinklers, which we haven't run for a while since it has been raining in the afternoons.  The grass was rather parched, so it was a win-win situation.  For the record, Tyler makes the best faces while sprinting through the water.

I mostly sat inside in the recliner by the window, watching the kids play and enjoying my foot rest and a fan in my face.  But I did venture out to take pictures a few times and to cool my hot, fat, miserable feet in the cold water.  Gavin was happy to spray them for me.

Yeah, we'll be doing this a lot.

The frozen food section

Some lovely ladies in my ward helped me make 15 meals for my freezer this morning. Thanks to their efforts, some of my own, and the help of another friend who picked up ingredients from my house and prepared three meals in her kitchen, our freezer is fully stocked!  I'm sad I don't have a picture of my happy helpers (Kym, Jennie, Shelly, Amie, Marcia, and Cindy), but I'll always remember them!

On Wednesday night we had a scare with the freezer.  I went out to retrieve something for dinner and found that the food in the door was softening (though still very cold).  The interior light was on and the motor was still humming, so I shut the door tight and hoped for the best.  It has been an expensive year (with more to come!) and I couldn't imagine needing to replace our freezer, let alone lose all of the frozen meals it held.  Thankfully, it seems that a not-shut-tight-enough door was the culprit, and most of our food was saved. Phew!

This is one more item on my Before Baby Bucket List that I am thrilled to cross off. 

Jul 20, 2011

Jam session

Last night Garry helped me cross "make strawberry jam" off my Before Baby Bucket List.  As we worked together, my mind scrolled through many jam-making memories, including the first year Garry and I made strawberry jam.  It was my first time making jam outside my mother's kitchen and I had no idea how many strawberries I had purchased.  I was pregnant with Zach and we were living in a tiny apartment in Provo.  We had so much jam that we had to give about half of it away because we needed the freezer space! But we made some great memories.

Last night wasn't so magical, but the creative process was pretty satisfying.

I did have to do the dishes first.

Garry and I had a pretty efficient system going.  We also made banana bread during the jam waiting periods.  Toward the end, when we ran out of plastic containers (and realized we were out of milk), Garry made a quick jaunt to the grocery store.

Not a bad night's work.  I was so grateful for Garry's help.  We accomplished all of this in 2.5 hours.  It would have taken so much longer by myself.

Twenty-nine pints of jam (five of them raspberry) should get us through lots of pb&j sandwiches.

Go away, bumps!

After almost a year, Lexi's molluscum rash is finally going away.
It is red and scabby and totally irritating our sweet little girl,
but I am so happy that pretty soon, she will have relief.

For now, we are using lots of Band-Aids.

Go away bumps!
We won't miss you.

Tuesday night at the park

Last night I picked up pizza and took the kids to the park for dinner.  It was the perfect "ahhhhh" at the end of a long and hot day.  A thunderstorm rolled in and cooled us off and the kids had a great time running around.  After a little while, Garry met us there for some family fun.

We were all excited to watch Gavin perform on the monkey bars again.  He wasn't quite as confident with an audience, but I caught a couple videos with him in action.

Garry and I spent the rest of our time at the park watching our little monkeys climb, hang, jump, swing, and slide.  It was such a pleasant evening!

Jul 19, 2011

Fun in the sun

Gavin and Lexi enjoyed some pool time yesterday afternoon.  I sat in a lawn chair in the shade and enjoyed the cool-ish breeze.  It was a nice way to kill an hour before Daddy came home from work.

The Littles are asking for a repeat, and it's only 9:30 a.m.

pass it on!

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