end of '15

Slice is gone to a fire, and all the kids are in bed (at 8:53) thanks to a feverish illness that has been hanging around here all week. I guess it's a good time to blog.
I've been thinking about the past year, what I've done, and what - if any - progress I've made.  Only came up with a few things. I guess that's better than none?

In 2015, I:

1. Started collecting art ... really collecting it. Growing up I never thought about having original art in my future home. It wasn't important to me. Now it is! And I'm grateful for a husband who not only humors me, but participates in the process. I discovered some new artists this year and gathered a few meaningful pieces, some after extensive searching. (Of course, my poor phone photos don't do them justice.)
my own Annie K. Blake painting! I love it.
2. Dreamed of starting a business. I am seriously racking my brains for career/life solutions that don't involve Slice working 14-hour days. Chalk it up to the many days I spent as a single parent this year. Still working on on it, guys.

3. Sang. This year I had the opportunity to do something for myself, and I took it. I sang in UBOC for two semesters and loved it. So many times in my BYU choir days I thought I'd never have a chance to sing in a good choir again. How glad I am that I was wrong!

4. Let go. Of a lot of things. I was trying to impress certain people, trying to do as much as I see so many people doing, and I. just. can't. I'm trying to accept that my health/energy level/kids will not allow me to do it all. I'm trying not to compare myself to them, and I AM at least getting better at it.

5. Failed at a LOT of things. Like giving my kids regular chores or even a regular schedule (except for naps, of course). Keeping on top of my callings, kids' school and extracurricular stuff. Organizing and printing family photos the way I'd like to. Maintaining a yard or even generally-clean house.  Posting regularly in a blog.  Not getting pregnant. 

6. Succeeded in figuring out what I really want in life. Not a bigger house or more clothes/toys/products/whatever! Not more things to take care of! But more carefully gathered things to love, and more deliberate moments with the PEOPLE I love.  I resolve to be more deliberate in 2016.


Emma's 4th

Dear Emma girl,

You are four! Finally!! You've been asking for months when you'd be four because your cousin and bestie Gracie is four. This morning you asked to Skype Gracie, so you could ask if she's still four like you. Some things are realllly important.

You're starting to LOVE paper and writing utensils. Crayons, pencils, markers, pens, paintbrushes, it doesn't really matter, you just want to use it. You leave artwork all over the house and throw a fit if you find any of it in the trash later. I'm getting better at taking out the trash consistently!

It seems like you have to wait forever for everything, because you have an older brother. In the last year you started going to primary, preschool and ballet, all of which you begged to do for a long time before you were able to. I love to watch you dance! You're picking up on ballet pretty quickly, and I'm not surprised.

I think you'll be reading soon. You already know all your letters and sounds, and you've started writing out your own versions of words. Will's just ahead of you but it's my FAVORITE thing in the world to hear him reading to you. The two of you are frenemies in the truest sense of the word. You really love each other, but boy do you know how to push each other's buttons. You are also a sweet, doting older sister to Lex. Anytime she is crying you will bring her something to hold - blanket, soft toy (hers or yours), whatever is handy.

Your personality is getting stronger and stronger! I can't count how often other people tell me how much they love you (ward members, mostly). You can be really hilarious sometimes. Other times, we aren't sure what to do with you. I tell myself that this is a good sign of things to come. I seriously hope you prove me right on this.

It's been four years since you came into this world, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  Thanks for letting me be your mom!



I didn't make it through November posting every day. I DID post more than all of last year combined, so I'll count that as a victory.

Plumb tuckered out.  
Cheeto hands!
To catch us up on the Cali trip, the second day at Disneyland was much better than the first.  We did California Adventure that day and actually figured out the FastPass. Ha! We rode more rides and just had a better time overall, despite the colder weather.  Somehow my pregnant self did MUCH better than at Universal Studios two years ago, even though I was only about 3 weeks farther along that time.  Maybe it was the Florida humidity that did me in?

Both nights we stayed until 11ish so we didn't get back to the house until after midnight. Thursday morning (Thanksgiving) we woke up, ate and packed the car and headed out. We hit the traffic I thought we'd be able to avoid. Darn Southern California. Such bad drivers.

The traffic was awful leaving the valley, and again at the Nevada border.  That was bad timing because we were out of gas.  Oops!  Good thing we made it into town before disaster struck.
We ate at the Greek restaurant again, our Thanksgiving meal, if you will.  It was a little ... different.

We didn't get back to Cedar until 8:00 Utah time. Lex was so happy to see us!! And we were happy to see snow the next morning.

Friday we ate Thanksgiving dinner with Slice's family and stayed up way too late watching Guardians of the Galaxy.  Saturday we packed AGAIN and headed out at noon.  We stopped at Costco in Spanish Fork and hit a snowstorm AGAIN going through Indian Canyon.  That time it was dark.  Another hour added to an already-long drive.

All in all, the trip was surprisingly relaxing. I asked Slice several times why, and we decided that not having Lex with us made all the difference. We love her to pieces, but roadtrips with less-than-2-year-olds are the pits. Not only that, but doing anything with two kids is SO MUCH easier than doing it with three.
But you already knew that.


Disney Day One

There were five billion people in the park so every line was wayyyy long. Slice and I are hoping that the kids remember something besides standing in line. Ugh.
Also, my whole body hurts. I don't know if I can do Day Two.
We'll see.


The beach

Missed yesterday. By the time I was headed to bed at midnight (California time!) I was too exhausted to post.
Saturday morning bright and early, Slice and I drove to the Newport Beach temple for the 7:00 session. It was in Samoan! And the by the time we got out the temperature was already almost 90°. CRAZY.  Crazy awesome, that is. 
We met Matt & Kim at Downtown Disney after lunch.  Lego store was the biggest hit. The kids wanted to stay and build cars to race forever.

Yesterday we went to church with our generous hosts (Slice's uncle & aunt) and relaxed. After an early dinner we drove out to Newport Beach, didn't get there until later than we hoped. The kids loved it anyway:

This morning we headed back out there for the day. And now I'm wondering how I've stayed away from Cali for 15 years. Newport Beach is heaven!!

The weather was so incredibly perfect, the water glittered like gold. The only thing that marred this gorgeous day was the parking ticket we found on our window 10 minutes after the freaking parking meter ran out. 



Warm weather makes me a happy gal. I should probably move somewhere else.


What we learned today

1. Road trips with very small children are basically the worst.
2. If you can go two different ways from  point A to point B, whichever way you choose will be the one with a snowstorm.
3. Leaving a 20-month old for a week is much easier AFTER a 5-hour drive during which she had 3 bad diapers and made both older siblings cry.
4. Baker, California has a really great Greek restaurant with REALLY GREAT food.
5. Once you hit the California border, speed limits become more like suggestions.
6. How to spell San Bernardino. It has two Rs!?



We're still here. Home. Slice didn't get off work until 5:00 today and we decided NOT to drive five hours in the dark. We've both hit deer in the last few months, and that's made us a little more paranoid.
Turns out, there was a 6-car accident on highway 40 in Fruitland right around when we would have been driving through there. Caused by ..... a deer!


Wednesday Wanderlust

November makes me want to travel.  Not just because it's fall and the impending doom of winter makes me want to curl up and cry hibernate, but because I've been to some pretty awesome places IN November.

You might recognize this Staatsoper from the latest Mission:Impossible

Vienna Boys' Choir!

Home of DaVinci's Last Supper



You may recall - from the last two specifically - that a trip during pregnancy is enough to cure me for a long time.  Well, whaddayouknow, we planned a trip for this November before I even got pregnant.  (Although it's not the big expensive one we planned way ahead, in case you're wondering. That's next summer.)

Tomorrow evening we will be on our way to sunny Southern California, via Cedar City where Slice's parents live.  They offered to take Lex while we spend 6 days in Cali, doing Disneyland and stuff.  Let me repeat: they offered to take Lex.
We'll feel a little bad about leaving her there, because we haven't yet left her for any length of time and she'll be a little lost without her siblings. But the idea of 12+ hours in a car and Disneyland with only two kids (who will actually remember it) is just too sweet to pass up. Also, she'll get completely spoiled by her grandparents, while they have some good bonding time. I'm all about bonding time.

But right now, I have 4 loads of laundry to do; Slice is nearing the end of a one-day roundtrip visit to New Mexico.  Poor guy's been in a truck since before 7:00 a.m. and has taken a longer drive than the one we'll be making over the next two days.
About that laundry....


The food

We're going through a phase here (PLEASE LET IT BE JUST A PHASE) where food is something of a struggle. To be more specific, Will and Emma like opposite foods.
I honestly don't think they do it on purpose because it isn't that obvious; the more I think about it, the more ridiculous it seems.

Right now, the foods that Emma refuses to eat are the ones Will would eat exclusively: toast, bagels, German pancakes, quesadillas, cinnamon/orange rolls. For the life of me, I can't figure out why she won't eat cinnamon or orange rolls.

The foods that Emma asks for are the ones that Will needs persuading to eat. (In some cases, he won't touch them no matter the method of persuasion.) Spaghettios, stew on rice, soup, string cheese, oatmeal, alllllll the yogurt. Most cooked vegetables and anything with multiple foods touching each other, like all the best foods in the world.

They're both obsessed with blueberries but won't try fried eggs or, heaven forbid, noodles with SAUCE on them. Will hates potatoes in every form. Lex eats anything and everything I give her, which makes me love her even more.

(Until I remember that both my older two were that way in the beginning ...)


Mondays make me lose my mind

AT least one day a week I wonder what the heck I'm doing with my life.

At least one of those days, every week, is Monday.

Mondays are crazy.  The entire house is a disaster from the weekend (when we were doing everything BUT cleaning), I have mounds of laundry to do, Will needs to be fed and out the door at 11:45, Lex needs to be fed and in bed by 1:00, Emma needs to be fed and entertained by 2:45.

At 2:45, one of my homeschool groups comes and talks about history (around my newly-cleaned kitchen table) for an hour. I give pop quizzes, print maps, look up Youtube videos to show. We write essays and practice calligraphy and talk about Cyrus the Great or the French Revolution.

After the kids leave, Will gets home, the babysitter comes, and then I teach piano lessons for two hours.  By the time I'm done it's 5:30 and I'm famished, but I still have to make dinner. Slice usually gets home after me - if he gets home at all. Some Mondays he works late, and then he goes straight to his fire meeting. The kids don't even see him on those days.

Occasionally I'm good and do a little FHE lesson, but more often, I'm lying flat on the couch while we watch a show or play together before the (awful routine and) blessed bedtime comes.  My only consolation is that after Monday is over, my week just got easier.


The Video Playlist

I have a list of things that I hope, when I die, I can see re-played in video (or similar) form. Mostly funny things that my family and I discuss on a regular basis. A few things on this list:

Braden running into the house after a lightning strike really close to the house. (He broke the door frame!)

Brent coming out on stage for a number in Forever Plaid - wearing a fruit hat and coconut bra.

My whole family WATCHING Brent come out on stage wearing that.  I nearly fell out of my chair, I was laughing so hard. It was so unexpected.

Matt's response when mom served us cooked spinach for the first time in his living memory - "is this poop?"

What's on your life video Playlist?


the Buddha

This week my 6th graders learned about the beginnings of Hinduism and Buddhism.  We talked about the Caste System, Siddhartha and the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism (simplified):

1. Life is suffering
2. The cause of suffering is desire
3. To free ourselves from suffering, we must free ourselves from desire
4. The eight-fold path leads to release from suffering, or Nirvana

And I had an epiphany -  Minimalism is Buddhism!  (Just with less religion....)  Check out the posts at Becoming Minimalist.  Be happy with what you have .... unclutter your life ... wanting more stuff will lead you to unhappiness ...
There you have it.

Your random thought for the day.



Two weeks ago we took photos for two events in one night - a formal Masquerade Ball at a local event center, and the high school Halloween dance.  We weren't exactly dressed for either occasion.  But hey, what can you do.

This pose looks so awkward right now.  What the heck am I doing.


How to Get Pregnant in a Totally Made-Up Number of Steps

1.  Plan an expensive vacation 18 months in advance.  Maybe start talking about doing a Ragnar, and look at taking a trip to Europe too.

2.  Tell everyone who will listen that you don't want to get pregnant for another year. Partly because of that expensive vacation you don't want to take a new baby on.

3.  Get diagnosed with "a new strain of Epstein-Barr virus."

4.  Follow your fertility tracker app religiously - erring on the SUPER EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS side, actually.

5.  Stop talking to everyone who heard you saying you didn't want to have a baby soon because ....

6.  You're pregnant! And after the disbelief comes the acceptance, and then the anticipation, and then remembering that

7.  You've always considered unexpected pregnancies to be one of God's ways of reminding us that He's in charge. And,

8.  Apparently some of us need LOTS OF REMINDERS of that.


Backyard Chickens

Earlier this year, after years of deliberation (truly), we got some baby chicks.  For the first few months they lived in my parents' garage.  We let them out almost every day to get sunshine and eat bugs, and Slice picked one that became his favorite.  He fed it extra food and handled it more than the others. He got a little attached. (It was hilarious.) 
We named the favorite chick Nugget.

In the meantime, Slice worked on a chicken coop in our backyard.  It rained much more than usual during the building process, naturally.  But Will, my Dad and my brothers helped a lot. It was good bonding time. (Right, Slice?)

Darn coop took wayyyyyy longer to finish than it should have.  You know how these things go.

 When the coop was finally ready, we moved them in. It wasn't long before we heard crowing in the early mornings ... coming from none other than precious Nugget. Poor Slice had to find him a new home. We were not about to have a rooster crowing in our backyard every morning.  No sirree.

Around that same time, another one got sick.  We never quite figured out what it was. Slice will swear that she was egg-bound, but I'm still not convinced. After a few days of close care and major pampering (we kept her in the house, gave her warm baths in the kitchen sink, tried to feed her by syringe), she died.  Two chickens down.

I let them roam for too long and the front door  was open....
By the end of summer we were checking for eggs every day, to no avail.  After several weeks of this, Slice came inside one night, hollering for me to "COME SEE THIS!! RIGHT NOW! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!" 
It scared me until I realized he was just excited.  We got an egg - and it was huge! Not your typical tiny first egg.  Turned out to be a double yolk.  The kids are still talking about that.

They were all a little slow to start, but they're getting to be pretty good layers.  We usually get 5-6 eggs a day. More than we eat, so we're able to share with our neighbors.  Maybe that'll keep them quiet about us having chickens in our backyard.

(Kidding!  They're totally legal!  We checked..... )


Monday Minimalism

When I was working at BYU Student Employment, one of my coworkers took me out to lunch one day.  He had a second job at Eddie Bauer in the mall, and he was telling me how much he liked it there.
"Everyone's happy in the store, because they're shopping and getting their retail therapy, you know?"

I probably nodded in agreement to avoid continuing that conversation ... but I think it was the first time I'd heard the term, and I haven't forgotten it.  In fact, I've been fascinated with "retail therapy," and materialism in general, ever since.

I've read article after article that I wish I had compiled somewhere.  The one about why people in poverty buy a Rollex (or Oakleys, or whatever ridiculously-priced superfluous thing) with their first paycheck.  The ones about people living out of vehicles to save money and/or just to be different. This one about exactly how much stuff we consume. The ones about the tiny house movement. The one about the mother who took away her kids' toys and asked family members for experiences as gifts. The ones about capsule wardrobes and Marie Kondo's Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (first step: GET RID OF STUFF).

Also fascinating: the culture and process of accumulation.
My grandmother's hoard of Christmas decorations and goblets, her ever-growing pile of beautiful trinkets that "you'll get when I die!" (When none of us really want them.)

My great-grandparents' habit of stuffing cash into nooks and crannies, and old copies of the Church News, never to be thrown away.  The Great Depression made them do it.

Other friends and family members who spend their waking hours looking for deals, only to spend more than the rest of us who aren't buying things all the time.

The recent surge in house-party businesses, where a hostess and consultant team up to take advantage of the weaker parts of female human nature. (These are especially discomforting to me.) Why do we buy stuff when we get together??

Most recently I'm wondering if the work climate in this country is what perpetuates the vicious cycle. You spend most of your days working, working, working to get ahead. When you get some time off, you "deserve" to spend that hard-earned cash.  On the other hand,  if you're a stay-at-home mom with a never-there husband, you "deserve" to surround yourself with the things that you want.  I understand all of these positions completely.

So the siren song of minimalism is a tempting one for me. I haven't taken any drastic measures but I am still, always, careful to keep my consumerist demon in check. She rears her ugly head on occasion, and I am always ashamed. I've been the one with no money who obsesses over the things she can't buy. I've been the one to buy superfluous stuff with that first paycheck. I've been there, and I've learned from it.

But some days, I think what would make me the happiest is to leave the rat race completely. No more 60+ hour workweeks for Slice.  No more mortgage or utilities or picking up all the clothes and toys AGAIN. Just living on the bare minimum, and making a great life of it.

Anyone have ideas on how I can?


Sunday Son

This happened a little while ago.

Turns out, Will was right!


Saturday Spectre

My second "first" of the week - just saw my first James Bond movie. We went to see Spectre for a date tonight (complete with cheap fast food dinner, Roosevelt now has a Taco Bell!). Slice left his wallet at the Taco Bell and then I left my phone in the movie theater. We are on a roll.
Also, we found the best babysitter ever. She does dishes, cleans house and reads Harry Potter until we get home. I think I'll just have her move in.


Friday fun

We've done some fun things this year that I barely mentioned elsewhere online because, you know, burglars.  The biggest was a road trip we took at the very end of March to Missouri.  I've had siblings living in St. Louis for like 10 years, but Slice had never been there. (I went in 2007 on a college road trip.) We drove straight to St. Louis  - through the night - to my brother Jordan's and spent a few days with his fam.
4 a.m. pit stop just past Denver.  We hit some snow and almost a few deer ...
so  much of this.

Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, from a distance
Date night

Then we drove 5 hours back west to stay with Brent's fam.  We actually met them at Far West, and played in St. Joseph for the next few days.  It was NOT long enough.


Leila got baptized between sessions of General Conference on Saturday, then we headed back home (through the night again!!) via Nebraska & Wyoming. We pulled into our driveway at 7:00 a.m. on Easter morning.

It was a whirlwind trip and I still wish we'd had even one extra day.  But after we planned it all out, I realized that we'd committed to taking Prom pictures for Altamont High the first Saturday night of the trip.
Ugh.  Money.

(At least the Prom pics looked good!)