Monday, August 31, 2009


Today I took all 4 heathens to Costco.
By myself
I know, I know, I'm just like Super Woman!
They are convinced we go there exclusively for the free samples.
Groceries? Who needs 'em?
They can spot an old lady with a hair net a mile away.
As soon as they see one they are jumping up and down practically dragging me and my cart over to the tasty morsel.
Even baby Cakes has discovered the hidden treasures that those shiny metal stands can hold.
Over the last few years I have worked very hard to teach my kids to be patient and quiet when they see the shiny metal tables and rubber gloves dishing out tasty treats.
If they are extra naughty and loud I have been known to leave the store without letting them sample even one crumb of the delicacies.
They really hate that so most of the time they are on good behavior.
They do still let me know as soon as one is in sight.
Then they have ants in their pants until I finally mosey on over to their afternoon snack.
Today a small miracle happened.
We rounded the corner to come face to face with a large tray of miniature granola bars.
Beano looked up at me with his big blue eyes and asked me ever so tenderly if he could please have a sample. I gave him and Doodle my consent and they picked up their snack as I grabbed one for Dubs and Baby.
But here's the thing. They both picked it up between their thumbs and pointer fingers, with their pinkies slightly extended.
Doodle proceeded to curtsy delicately as Sam bowed his head and they said in unison,
"Thank you!"
OK, OK, they did not really bow and curtsy, but for those few moments they were perfect children.
It could have been a commercial for free samples.
It was a truly beautiful moment.
They have also learned that if they tell the sample lady thank you sometimes they are invited to take another taste.
(Little do they know it's the big beautiful eyes, not the words, cuz it never works for me)
So after they said thank you the sample lady looked at me and said,
" Thank you for being a wonderful mother!"
What? Me? Well, um, thanks!
I tried to stammer some response of that sort as I pushed our cart onto the next isle.
But then I got to thinking, it was really nice of that lady to say that to me.
She does not know me from Adam, yet she took the time to say a kind word. Maybe she was the mother to 4 small children once and knows how seldom we busy mothers hear a word of praise about the work we do.
Regardless, it really brightened my spirits.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm really doing that great, it seems like a constant battle.
I think we all need to be more like that free sample lady at Costco.
When we see something that we think is good, we need to verbalize it.
We need to let our friends know when they are doing a great job.
We need to do more lifting of spirits instead of tearing each other down.
So this incident made me think about this video I had seen on my friend Lara's blog a while ago and I just had to share.
Warning: It is a tad cheesy. Just pretend it's normal for bearded men to tell perfect strangers how beautiful and amazing they are. And also, the moment when he finds her in the passport photo shop is priceless!
Happy watching!
P.S. I think you are all amazing and beautiful and I am in awe of all your many talents!
There consider yourself validated!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Total Misunderstanding

The funniest thing happened today.
Doodle and I were sitting in Sacrament Meeting as the Bishop was announcing the speakers for the meeting.
Here's what he said:
"After we hear from Sister Dickson we will have a rest hymn."
I did not catch the page number of the hymn or the title of the sweet cadences to be sung later in the meeting.
Before he had a chance to announce the hymn Doodle turned to me with wide eyes, a look of complete shock and horror on her face.
"Why are they going to arrest him?"
It took me a minute to understand why she though someone was being arrested.
Then I just laughed.
I tried to explain that 'a rest hymn' was a song sung in between the speakers, to give our minds and ears a break from all that listening.
I think she understood after my feeble explanation.
I am just happy that she is trying to listen in church!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cheap, Cheap, Cheap

That's me, queen of thrift.
If there's a deal to be had, you better believe I'll have it!
Want to know the fun things we have done for free or cheap the last few months?
OK, I'll try to remember them all.
We have gone to the Roy Aquatic center 3 times for free.
We have seen Bugs in 3-D at the Imax in Salt Lake for free, plus played at the Planitarium.
We have played in fountains and splash pads in the park.

We have gone to the Toadally Frogs exhibit at the Utah Museum of Natural History.
Plus we spent the rest of the day wandering through the rest of that amazing museum.
For Free!
We have seen concerts in the park.
We have seen family feature films such as Horton Hears a Who on the big screen, no charge.
We have gone to free Orchestra performances of a Sunday evening.
We got a membership to the Ogden Nature Center for $35 for the whole year.
That membership also includes free admission to Union station and Dinosaur Park every week day.
We also get free admission to Hoggle Zoo the First Thursday of the month and free admission to Tracey Aviary one day a month as well.
If we break it down that equals just about $1 per person/venue if we only hit each venue once in the year.
So far we have been to the first three things at least 3 times.
Cheap entertainment, I tell you!
Plus it's educational.

Want to know Beano's favorite cheap entertainment?
Hill Aerospace Museum.
This particular day they were doing a rocket launcher crafty thingy.
All the kids made a rocket out of paper and foam and tape. Then they took them outside to the launcher they had set up. Beano's went so far up we lost track of it with our eyes and it never came down.
Seriously, it was G-O-N-E!
Beano was convinced it really launched into outer space.
I did not have the heart to tell him it probably landed on the roof of a near by building.
But he did not go home empty handed. The man in charge of the crafty thingy gave Beano his rocket. Beano thanked him, but I could tell he really just wanted his rocket back.
Poor heart broken boy!
Hill Aerospace Museum is free all day every day. Except if you go into the gift shop.
Cuz then you might be really tempted to buy the boy something really cool.

And educational.
For his birthday of course, which is only a few weeks away anyway!
The coolest part of the museum?
The real life SR-71 Blackbird.
All I can say is, fastest plane ever flown, black, sleek, reconnaissance satellites, Mach 3.
I could go on and on about it.
It really is awe inspiring to see one up close and personal. It makes you just want to touch it, and drool, just a little.
I really wanted a picture of it last time we were there, but the Air Force was doing some sort of ceremony right in the museum right in front of the Blackbird.
How Rude!
Didn't they know that would ruin my photo op!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to School

It's that time of the year again.
All the school supplies are dirt cheap in every store in town.
Back to school jeans are on sale in every ad in the Sunday newspaper.
Backpacks are being stuffed with
notebooks and pencils and crayons and rulers.
Teachers are going back to get their class rooms prepared and ready for back to school night.
The PTAs all around the country are meeting and assigning new presidents and rallying for the coming year.
The school bus is literally just around the corner.
This time of year lots of people start to ask me about my decision to home school.
Even at Mr Birds company BBQ I found myself surrounded by women with questions about this crazy decision I made to keep my kids home with me, rather than follow the norm and enroll them in public school.
Good thing I'm passionate about what I do, I could keep talking about it way longer than any of them have any interest in listening.
I could name this post 101 reasons I home school, but I'll spare you.
So here are just a few of my top reasons why I love home school. In fact I love it so much I officially started our school year last week! I just could not wait another day.
  • I love being with my kids. I really do. When Doodle was nearing school age I got sick in the stomach thinking of putting her on that school bus and not seeing her all day long. That sick feeling went away and was immediately replaced with peace and comfort as soon as I decided to home school. I have learned to listen to those gut wrenching feelings.
  • I love to play. I love to load the kids in the car with a lunch and snacks and explore a new museum or mountain or factory tour. It make me feel like a kid again.
  • I love watching my kids learn. I love seeing first hand their progress and seeing a new concept sink in.
  • What else would I do all day? OK, really, I know I could come up with about a million and one things to do, but nothing I have ever done thus far feels as rewarding as this, not even serving my mission (it's a close second though).
  • I love starting our day with scriptures and prayers and a good story from The Friend.
  • I love the structure of our school days. I love being in our routine and knowing what comes next.
  • I love having a nice home cooked breakfast with the kids every morning and not feeling rushed to meet the school bus. I also love not having to wait for the school bus in the afternoons. If I am out and about I don't have to worry about being home by 3 to meet the bus. My day is my own.
  • I love that my kids are each others very best friends.
  • I love being the administrator, principal, teacher and PTA all at once. If I decide I don't like how a certain program is going, I change it right then and there, no red tape.
  • I love teaching my kids what I think is important, and not what the bureaucrats think they ought to be learning. If I want to take a week to teach them the proper way to scrub the tile floors, I will (some day my daughters-in-law will thank me!). I love taking a week and reading about nothing else besides airplanes or horses or frogs.
  • I love that my kids don't have to raise their hand to go potty. I love that if they get hungry they don't have to wait until the lunch bell to eat. I love that if they get tired they can nap or simply curl up on the couch beside me in their blanket while I read to them for as long as they can listen.
  • I love discovering new books that I never new I'd love, like Little Britches and Laddie and Winnie The Pooh.
  • I think I'm loving to learn more than the kids are. I missed so much of this stuff growing up and now I just feel like a kid again.
  • I love cancelling school for a good horse ride.
  • I love watching Beanos face when I pour the baking soda into the vinegar. Priceless!
OK, I'll stop. This is getting close to 101.
I better hurry and wrap up this post.
It's a school night you know!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

From Baby to Boy

These two photographs were taken exactly one year part, to the day.
Look what happened?
What have I been telling you all this time?!?
I keep saying my baby is growing up too fast.

But you didn't believe me, did you?
Look, he's not even a baby anymore.
In the first photo he had no teeth, zero, nada, none!
Now he has 16!! He has all of them until his 2 year old molars come in. That's more than a tooth a month.
And look at his hair.
He went from baldy to lots of curly shaggy locks in no time.
In fact I just cut all of those honey colored locks off a few days ago. I can't talk about it, I'm still in mourning.
He went from fat and pudgy to tall and skinny.
He went form belly crawling to running at top speed.
He went from nursing to solids.
He went from cooing and drooling to talking.
He went form rattles to jets and hot wheels.
He went from baby to little boy.
And you know what else?
He went even deeper into my heart.
Oh how this mommy loves that little, little boy. It feels as though my heart just might burst!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Evolution of Me

I swear it was just last week I was lamenting about yet another birthday sneaking up on me.
Yet here I find myself on the Eve of the Anniversary of my birth, again!
Somehow the years keep passing faster and faster.
Where is the pause button?

Last night my wonderful sister-in-law who is actually more like my real sister, Lisa had a wonderful birthday dinner for me at her house.

I asked if I could make my own birthday cake. She said of course (she loves my cakes almost as much as I do)!

You see, I like to make my own cake because I like to know what's in it. I don't want any box mix filled with heaven only knows what toxic chemicals, so I feel much better making them from scratch, with wholesome ingredients like butter and sugar!

I was telling my really real sister about my birthday cake this morning and she insisted it was just not right that I had to make myself a birthday cake.
She is still traumatized by the time when she was a kid, I believe it was just after my parent's brutal divorce, when my mom literally forced her to make herself a birthday cake.
She said even now she would rather go without a cake than have to make her own.
This conversation got me thinking about myself.
I did not have the ideal upbringing, far from it. My parents divorced when I was very small.
I don't know many of the details of what happened way back then.
I have heard my moms version of the story and I have heard my dad's version.
Surprisingly they are completely different.
Polar opposite in fact.
As I was growing up there was not a lot of love in my single mother home. My mom struggled with depression and rarely put her book down long enough to look me in the eye, let alone have a conversation about my life.
My dad struggled with alcoholism and always lived far away. Visits from him were slim to none. When he did come around I felt scared and confused as to how I was supposed to act around this man who claimed to be my father.
All these circumstances did not play well on my self esteem.
I felt unloved, unworthy, I wondered why I was so unlovable. I wondered if I was even worth loving. Most times I felt like a shadow.
I had no voice of my own and making a decision was like trying to get oil from a water spout.
And conflict? Forget it! I would have rather crawled under a rock with a rattle snake than face any type of conflict.
Yet somehow forces were at work with me. When I was a teenager I had many very influential friends and church leaders. Many of whom I thank to this day for their love and examples of what family is supposed to be. I saw their families and I knew that I wanted a good happy family of my own when I grew up.
Through the principles of the gospel I learned that our choices determine our futures.
Good Choices=Happiness
Bad Choices=Sadness and suffering
(I had seen that 1st hand from my parents)
I decided as a young adult I needed to be living the kind of life I wanted.
I struggled through the feelings of abandonment and found safety in my Father in Heavens love for me. To this day the power of the Atonement has made me the person I am now.
I still have my struggles, but boy, have I come a long way.

This morning I found myself telling my sister, "I love myself just as much as I love my kids, why shouldn't I make myself a cake?"
Did you hear that? I love myself!

I am confident in the woman I have become. I love my home and my family and I know what I want for them. I love the fact that I home school my kids and that I can do it with confidence and love. I love our mini farm and giggling children. I love making healthy meals for my family and knowing I am giving them the absolute best that I can. I really do love who I have become. I feel like my Father in Heaven loves me too and is daily aware of me and my hopes and dreams. All of my dreams for myself way back then have come true, and then some! I feel like, with His help, I could climb mountains.

Oh wait, I already have!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Library

We used to have a living room in the basement that was Mr Bird's dream room.
From the day I met him he always wanted a theatre room in his house.
When we moved here he set out to meet that goal. We brought the big blue couch down stairs along with a puffy love sac on which to lounge during movies.
He installed and wired complete in wall surround sound speakers. When the movie had a scene with a train it sounded like it came from one side of the room to the other. When there was a fighting scene I ducked for cover from the bullets that seemed to be coming from behind me on the left.
Mr Bird built a ceiling mount for his state of the art projector. He then ran wires through the ceiling to the closet which held the computer, the brains of our television watching experience. Have I mentioned he's a genius? I have no clue how he did all this stuff.
Somehow he got all of our movies on his hard drive and with the click of a button our favorite movies and shows were at our fingertips. He downloaded some program that works like TiVo, except free. We watched any show we wanted totally commercial free, and since the shows were recorded we watched them on our time table.
We never missed an episode of our favorite programs.
It took a long time to get his set up just how he wanted it. It took drilling holes through sheet rock to run wires, patching and painting said holes, hunting down remotes that would work on his computer/recording program, hours of converting movies, researching the best equipment and painting a screen, complete with wooden trim, right on our wall.
It was like going to the movies in our own home.
Until the projector died.

(See the movie screen and speakers on the wall?)

Suddenly we were faced with a delima.

For over a year, since we got nose deep in home school, it was getting harder and harder for me to justify a whole room of our home being dedicated to T.V.

We were cramped for school space, but we made it work. We got a huge book shelf for up stairs to store our rapidly multiplying books and school supplies. We held school at the kitchen table or in the office or in the living room on the big blue couch.

When the projector died (after my mixer and camera and several other highly priced plastic items also bit the dust) we were slow in making plans for its replacement. At this point we loved the set up, but were not watching much T.V. at all. We'd watch a movie together with the kids about once a week and it was never on during the days anymore. Mr Bird and I would sit together after the kids went to bed and fight over who got to watch their favorite shows (for some reason he did not want to watch Oprah or The biggest Loser with me).
After it was gone a few weeks we realized we did not miss it much.
On a whim we decided to wait a year to replace the projector and then see what happens.
A few weeks after that we decided we really could use that space for a library.
Our school supplies and books seem to be growing faster that our kids. We have found ourselves with boxes of books with no homes on the shelves.
So we acquired some new bookshelves, a child size table big enough for art projects and puzzles and these:

Mr Bird made the kids chalk boards. He did this way back in February. They've been hanging in the living room and we use them all the time. They are the only thing from the living room that will keep its home.

Did you know Home Depot sells chalk board paint? You can paint anything you want with it and you have an instant chalk board. The best part is that it comes in white and you can choose from many fabulous colors to tint the paint.
No ugly green or grey for us!
We decided to give our library an Americana theme, hence the red and blue chalk boards.
Each kid gets their own chalk board, so no fighting.
The rest of the library is still coming together. Today Mr Bird tore down the projector screen so he can paint the walls back to their original color. I have lots of plans for our little library, I'll have to post as they all come together.

It's Mr Bird great? He so selflessly gave up his dream for the sake of his children.
He is such a good man, I feel so blessed to have him, forever no less!
Plus, is there anything hotter than a man with
Power Tools?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Power and Beauty

This is why I read to my kids:

He had seen a copy of the Iliad lying on the table. "You are reading this?" he asked.

"I have read it many times. Now I read it to my son."

"But he is too young!" The man protested, almost angry.

"Is he? Who is to say? How young is too young to begin to discover the power and the beauty of words? Perhaps he will not understand, but there is a clash of shields and a call of trumpets in those lines. One cannot begin too young nor linger too long with learning.

"Who knows how much he will remember? Who knows how deep the intellect? In some year yet unborn he may hear those words again, or read them, and find something hauntingly familiar, as of something long ago heard and only half remembered.

"Yet perhaps it is only that I like to hear those rolling cadences. People, I think, read too much to themselves; they should read aloud from time to time to hear the language, to feel the sounds..."

My father was a tall man, and now he stood up. "My friend," he said, "I do not know what else I shall leave my son, but if I have left him with a love of language , of literature, a taste of Homer, for the poets, the people who have told our story-and by 'our' I mean the story of mankind-then he will have legacy enough."

-Excerpt from my latest favorite book, The Lonesome Gods by Louis L'Amour

Amen, Louis, Amen!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Parenting 101: Teaching Your Children to Love Reading

I thought that since I'm a perfect mother and all, that I'd share some of my wisdom with all of my lovely friends.
Yes, we all know I'm practically perfect in every way.
Always have been, always will be.
*Ahem, right.*
The truth is 99% of the time I have no clue how to parent effectively.
I hope I'm doing the best I can and really I just want to be with my kids and to have fun with them. I am always asking my parenting mentors (my sisters and sisters-in-law and a few amazing friends) what they did when their kids were young. Even then most of the time I am simply guessing.
A while ago I made a comment on face book about how my children and I have quiet time and they sit nicely and read during the afternoon when Baby is napping.
One of my friends later asked me how on earth I get my children to sit still and read (or look at pictures in books for the little boys).
I got to thinking about how the process began and I thought I'd share what has worked for me.
Keep in mind I am not a professional, merely an amateur at this parenting stuff. I did not get this out of a book, I just wanted to read with my kids and this is what worked for us. Maybe it will help some of you to have the blessed quiet hour with your kids even after they outgrow naps.
Let me tell ya, it is heaven when they are all quiet and learning and happy.
Makes this mommy very content.
  • Start reading to them when they are very, very small. The smaller the better. Even if it's just tiny books to start with. For babies, books with lots of colorful pictures of wildlife are perfect. You can point to animals all day long and mimic their sounds.
  • Have a goal. My goal was to continue quiet time beyonds naps (for my sanity) and to develop in my children a deep and lasting love of reading and learning and a love for the classics.
  • As your children grow, expand your reading as appropriate. I started reading chapter books like Winnie the Pooh and The Velveteen Rabbit (that one makes my cry every time) when Doodle was 3, Beano was 2 and Dubs was just a baby.
  • Start the chapter books slowly. Don't make them listen for hours on end. At that age I read in 5-10 minute intervals 2-3 times a day.
  • Be consistent. If you have a day when no one is listening and they are all wriggly, don't give up. Try again the next day, and the next, and the next. I promise they'll get better, and so will you.
  • End with a cliff hanger and talk about what you think might happen next. Get into it and make it exciting, so they are begging you to read more so they can find out what will happen next.
  • Give them something to occupy their hands. Doodle loved doing those lace up games and Beano loved pushing toy cars around. As long as they were quiet I was happy. You would be surprised how much they really are listening even when it seems they are not.
  • Set ground rules for reading time. My biggest rule is that they must be quiet while I read. If Beano's car started making noise he had to take it up stairs. He did not want to be upstairs, he wanted to be with us, so it only took a few times of sending him away before he got it.
  • Have designated reading time set. Plan it like you would meals and bed time. We have 3 designated reading times every day. I read aloud to them during our school day (which has not happen much this summer), we have quiet reading time after lunch when Baby is napping, then I read aloud to them again before bed. School reading is something school related, usually a library book about some topic they are interested in learning about that week. Nap time reading is their choice. Bed time reading is a novel we read together as a family. Right now we are reading The Secret Garden. It's Doodle favorite. We listened to it once on audio and she loved it so much she had to buy it and now we are reading it together before bed. Dubs usually falls asleep before we're even half way through a chapter, but that's cool with me.
  • Make reading the better choice. I don't force them to read. During nap time they can chose to either read or look at books or take a nap or sit silently and stare at the ceiling. There are no other options. If they whail out that they don't want to read, fine by me, they have 2 other options to chose from. 99 out of 100 times, they chose books. We also have started letting them take books to bed with them. We pushed bed time up by half an hour and they can have lights on for 30 minutes to look at books. If they chose not to look at books that does not mean they can stay up 1/2 hour later to play, they may chose to go straight to sleep however, which they sometimes do.
  • Read above their level and they'll rise to it. We stop frequently during our reading so we can talk about vocabulary or concepts or moral lessons being taught. This is the only way to learn. We have learned so much from the characters we have read about, I would not trade these lessons for all the gold in the world, they are priceless. They may not get everything happening in the story the first time they hear it, but they will learn to love it. They have the rest of their little lives to reread the classics and to continue to learn from them.
  • Let them see you reading. I read during quiet time every day with my kids. They see me laugh at the funny parts and they're dying to know what's so funny. They see me cry when it's tragic or touching. Then they want to know what's wrong. Share with them the things you read. Let them know you truly, deeply love books, and they will too. Let them see, in you, the magic that happens to your soul when you are touched by the magic of a book.
  • Listen to audio books. Check them out at your local library. We almost always have one going in the car. Sometimes we'll get home from our trips and sit in the car for 10 more minutes until the chapter ends, we just cant get enough. Another great source is librivox. Many books that are in the public domain are in audio on librivox and available for free download. Did you hear that people, FREE! Mr Bird puts them on my ipod and we listen to them in the car. There are nearly 400 children books to chose from with many more listed as works in progress.
  • If you really want to be fanatical, like me, ditch the T.V. all together and limit video games. We no longer have t.v. It is no longer an option to go watch the boob tube when we're bored. We pick up books. I don't know how many times I find Doodle sitting quietly on her bed reading even when it's not nap time. She constantly has a line of 3-4 books she is reading at one time. That makes me so happy! We do watch the occasional movie on the computer and Mr Bird plays video games with the boys a couple of times a weeks, but we don't rely on those mediums for the bulk of our entertainment. Trust me, it's hard to give it up at first, but after a while you'll wonder how on earth you ever thought it was OK to waste that much time everyday. It's one of those things that you'll never say, "Gee, I really wish I had watched more T.V. when my kids were small!"