Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cute Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn is developing quite the personality. She is always coming up with new and cute things. Although her speech is limited, I know she understands so much more than she can convey. One thing's for sure: we're all crazy in love with her.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Window Valances

Well, I finally pulled out the fabric that has been sitting up in my closet for several months and turned it into valances for the kids' rooms. The boys' room is decorated in a Cars theme, and this fabric really pulls it together. Forrest found this diamond plate out in the garage and cut it to fit over the top of the curtain rod, which he spray painted red to match. I think it adds a custom touch.

The girls room is very pink (I like it that way and will keep it that way until they are old enough to protest.) The princess fabric is very suiting for them.

Ashlee's bed stays looking this nice due to the fact that she often sleeps with her brothers. I don't mind- it's one less bed for me to make in the morning! Sometimes it's nice to have a space in your home that does not look so "lived in."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Schooooool's Out... For.. Summer...

Oh happy day. Ashlee's last day of 4th grade. Tomorrow marks the beginning of a long, carefree summer vacation. Today we celebrated by going to the Folsom Aquatic Center. While other parents are thinking of what they're going to do with their kids for the next 3 months, I am thinking of all that we're not going to have to do. Yes, the prospect of homeschooling not one but two (official) children lies in the not-so-distant future, and I will eagerly approach the new school year with my usual enthusiasm when that time comes. But for now, my thoughts are turned towards swimming, bronzing in the sun, berry picking, camping, sprinklers and blow-up pools, eating homemade ice-cream (tonight it was chocolate) while doing nothing, waking up and not having to sit down at the kitchen table with a stack of books, allowing my children to be "off task," staying extra long at the park and not feeling guilty about it, dreaming and setting all of my goals for next year, and being more of a mommy and less of a teacher. I know my kids will continue to learn and grow over the summer, and I fully intend on keeping them active and engaged; it will just be in a more "unschooled" way. Homeschooling has been a challenge, but it has also been one of the most rewarding things I've done with my children aside from giving birth to them. Sometimes I find myself gritting my teeth and gnawing at the bit, and, on more than one occassion I've had to resist the temptation to "just put them back in public school." Yet somehow I manage to press onward and upward.

ON THAT NOTE: let me add a disclaimer. This does not (and I've said this before) imply that I will homeschool all of my children for all their years of school. I take it one child at a time, one year at a time. Bite-sized pieces, people. However, I do consider myself to be an advocate of homeschooling, and the benefits thus far have outweighed the challenges. A laboring woman is often told to take her contractions one at a time, as each one is bringing her closer to her baby. She may struggle, resist, hold back, or even swear. But ultimately, intuitively, she knows she is fighting the good fight, and in the end she will have her reward. Such is me: I may resist homeschooling (at times) to the end, but one day I will wake up and it will all be over. I like to think I will have fought the good fight. I intuitively feel I am doing what is best for my children. Until then, I will cherish every moment.

"Now, fathers and mothers, appreciate your children. Don't turn them over to somebody else to train and educate in regard to matters of eternal life. That is your privilege, and it is a privilege. Teach them to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord, and then in time of need they can go to him and he will answer their prayers. It will be astonishing to you the great happiness that will come into your home that you theretofore have not enjoyed, if you will follow this counsel."

-George Albert Smith (Conference Report, October 1948, p. 166)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Strawberry Fest (continued)

I had some strawberry ice-cream left over from the weekend, so I made these strawberry ice cream brownie cupcakes. We went to Tommy and Vera's last night for dinner and night swimming, and this is what we brought for dessert. They are really easy (you can use any brownie recipe and homemade or store-bought ice-cream) but watch out... they disappear quickly! I found the recipe on this blog (this is a picture of her cupcakes by the way, not mine. Mine were not nearly as pretty.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Weekend

We decided we were in need of a good family day, so we packed up and headed to the river. It's amazing how much fun $3 (entrance fee) and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can buy you!

Forrest insisted that we wear these silly straw hats. I got some strange looks when I went into the grocery store to buy ice and drinks.

Kaitlyn loved sticking her toes in the water. That's about as far as she would go on her own.

Ashlee, on the other hand, had no reservations about going in the water. She must've been numb.

We built sand castles...

and searched for pretty rocks. Later on we headed up to the grassy area for some soccer and frisbee. The weather was perfect- not too hot, and it was a good time. Just what the family needed.

Today- ready for church.

Jacob was asked to give a talk in Primary today on baptism and confirmation. Here he is coloring his picture. As we were practicing this morning and I was rehearsing to him what to say, he took over and started reading off the page. This kid amazes me! He's smart, just like his sister.

Strawberry Fest

We picked up a half flat of strawberries from the stand on the side of the road on Friday, and we had to make good use of them, so we had a strawberry fest!

We got the idea for homemade strawberry-yogurt popsicles from my friend Katie's blog. I don't know what tempted me more- the popsicle or her daughter eating one! (so cute.) These were yummy. Thanks for the idea, Katie.

Noah went straight for the freezer Saturday morning. The kids had them for breakfast. We made 3 batches in all.

Aren't they pretty and swirly?

Well-liked by all.

After the popsicles, we pulled out the old-fashioned ice-cream maker that Forrest bought me last summer. We prefer the traditional method with the wooden bucket, ice, and rock salt.

Step 1: mash strawberries and sugar.

Step 2: cook milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until slightly thickened.

Step 3: add the cream.

Step 4: mix in strawberries.

We chilled it in the fridge for a few hours, and it was ready to go in the machine when we came home from the river yesterday. We all had big bowls of it. Yummy!

And there are strawberries to spare...

Friday, May 22, 2009

She Finished

Ashlee finished the first Harry Potter book this afternoon, just 48 hours after she started it. We are ready for book #2. That's my girl.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Night-time Routine

In an effort to keep the kids contained during the nightly routine of bathing, brushing, and dressing, I've gotten them in the habit of sitting in their room with a book as soon as they are ready for bed. Little Kaitlyn is picking up on this quite well. It always amazes me how much the younger ones look up to and learn from the older ones. It makes my job so much easier.

She just grabs a book and plops down.

Ashlee just started reading the first Harry Potter book. She is hooked. I catch her sneaking the night-light up a notch so she can read in bed. Tonight this bothered Jacob (she chooses to sleep in the boys' room sometimes) so I allowed her to come into my room and read for a bit while the boys fell asleep. She is surely a night owl and is always the last one to fall asleep. Good thing she can take advantage of sleeping in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ashlee's Piano Recital

Ashlee's piano instructor, Kyra. We met her at church, and she is the sweetest girl.

The recital was held at Piano Arts in Rancho Cordova. The students had the luxury of playing on a beautiful grand concert piano.

I told Ashlee this is the nicest piano she will ever play on, so to take advantage of it.

We were glad she chose to wear her black and gold dress- she matched the piano perfectly!

Kyra is due to have her 3rd girl mid-June, so we'll be taking a break for the summer.

Ashlee did really well on her first piece (which was supposed to be a duet with the instructor, but she ended up playing it alone.) Swan Lake, however, was her piece that wooed the audience (with the exception of the not-so-happy 2 year old wailing in the background.) She got a little performance anxiety and choked up a bit in the middle, but she recovered well. I felt really bad because she cried a little bit when she came and sat back down. The compliments she received after the performance helped to lift her spirits back up. Thank you Kyra, all the children did wonderful! We are so grateful Ashlee is developing this talent.

Crazy Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn's latest technique when she wants something and is not being acknowledged quickly enough is to yell in a deep voice while shaking her head back in forth. This cracks Ashlee and I up, and she certainly succeeds in getting our attention. I think the kids had too many cookies after the piano recital, and this was the aftermath.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

10k- the good, the bad, and the ugly

What a fun, fun day. We woke up early (which was a little hard because we were all still tired from our Marine World trip the day before,) got dressed in our running attire, and shoveled down some whole wheat toast. Forrest was very helpful in getting the kids ready so I could concentrate on myself. My mom rode down with us, and we arrived at The Parkway at about 7:45 a.m.

The kids 1/2 mile race was first. Ashlee did really well; she was passing kids up left and right. She says she fell once, but I missed that one. The place was packed.

Afterwards they had a raffle for the kids where they gave away 8 free bikes and tons of other prizes. Ashlee got a coupon for a free chiropractic exam, a 3 day pass to Family Fitness, and a free personal pizza from Round Table. Then we headed across the street for my race, which started at 8:25 a.m. I was a little nervous, but ready to go. There were 306 runners competing.

Here's me coming up to the finish line.

Finally, the battle wounds. Check out those blisters! I guess I ignored the pain while I was running, but the first thing I did after crossing the finish line was kick off my shoes. It doesn't make sense that I got blisters, because I was wearing the same shoes that I always run in. I think it was the heat.

Well, I have to say that I was a little disappointed in my time of 1:11:42. I placed 224 out of 306 runners, so I don't think I was as prepared as I could've been. During my training, I consistently ran a 10 min. mile, so I was hoping to come in around 60 min. or less. The heat was a killer, and that is what slowed me down. During the first 3 miles I estimated myself to be in about the top 30-50% of runners, but towards the 2nd half (miles 3-6) runners started passing me up and I had to stop and walk quite a few times. And, the last mile was uphill in the direct sun, which didn't help! I didn't have a watch, so it was difficult to guage my progress. Also, next time I would definitely like to run with a buddy. It was hard being alone. I tried to talk to people a few times, but they all had their little i-pods plugged into their ears, so they were non-responsive.

Overall, this was a good experience. It was fun having my family there waiting for me at the finish line. I also liked being in a diverse group of people who all had one goal in mind- to do their best and finish! I saw all sorts of runners- some were as young as 12, while others were as old as 70. Some were heavy and some were thin. There were even a couple of moms pushing strollers- I about died when the lady with the double stroller came running past me. It took all of my will power not to grab onto the handle (whether to help myself or slow her down, I can not say.) They say these runs are addicting. Yesterday I was saying, "I don't think I want to do that again any time soon." But today I am already ready. It's kind of like labor- you forget the pain after a while. There is another one in August, and I just might run it. Only this time I will know to do my long run more often, and to train in the heat. Running has become one of my favorite passions, even when I am only competing against myself. This 10k was a good culmination to all of my training. It was worth the rain, the hail, the heat, the geese, the pecking birds- all of it. I look forward to taking what I learned from it to improve from here. Until then, I'll see you on the trails...

Marine World

On Friday the kids and I took a field trip (is it still called that when you're homeschooling?) down to Marine World... excuse me, to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo.

These elephants were huge in real life. Jacob thought it was funny that the one was giving the other a piggy back ride. We'll just leave that one alone...

The kids loved seeing the dolphins in their tank. They were swimming in circles and being very playful.

This one was funny- Ashlee was leaning with her back against the glass casually eating her chips when a dolphin swam up behind her. She about jumped out of her pants.

They acknowledged the boys face-to-face.

It took Kaitlyn a while to figure out what the heck we were looking at behind the glass, but she too was fascinated once she discovered them.

Beautiful flowers... and children.

The killer whale show has always been my favorite. Shouka was being a little bit defiant and didn't want to do all of her tricks, but she was fun to see nonetheless. Ashlee and Jacob sat in the very front while I sat in back with Noah and Kaitlyn, so we watched them get soaked when the whale came by and splashed them with her fin.


The kids were dying to go on some rides after we saw the animals. This is where I lost my cell phone (Kaitlyn threw it out of her stroller.) Thankfully some nice lady found it and brought it to the lost and found, where I was able to retrieve it before going home.

Our last stop was this huge water play structure for the kids. They had a blast, and were grateful for the cooling-off. (Poor Noah had to sit out because we didn't bring his cast cover.)