Saturday, January 31, 2009

Slave Labor

We may quite possibly have come up with the best ever way to get the girls to do their jobs each day. (Okay, I'll come out and say right now that by "we" I mean "Chris", but since we're married and what's mine is his and vice versa, I feel justified in sharing the credit.) We divided the house into three areas, made laminated charts detailing the expectations for daily jobs and Saturday jobs in each area, attached pretty clipboards and dry-erase markers, and hung them up all fancy-like on hooks in the playroom.

The daily jobs have gone well all week, but Saturday is always the test because the jobs are bigger. This morning, though, everyone was raring to go, so we put the girls to work first thing.

(we have swim lessons on Saturday mornings, hence the swimsuits - we get ready for swimming before breakfast around here)

Things did go more quickly than usual because the girls knew exactly what was expected of them rather than our usual routine, which is for them to claim numerous times that they're finished, only to have us call them back over and over again for various things they've "forgotten" to do. With a checklist, there's no "forgetting".

So while the girls worked hard and gleefully checked things off, Mom and Dad had some relaxing, cleaning-free time.

The house looks fabulous and I didn't lift a finger! Check with me in a month to see whether this lasts, or whether it's just a temporary reaction to the newness of the idea, but right now Chris and I feel like we should write a book on how to get your kids to clean the house for you!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Thoughts Thursday

We washed the cover to Vicki's car seat last night, and this is what I found in the morning when I picked up the seat. It made my day.

The other day I went upstairs while Ellie finished her lunch. After a while I heard her yelling, "Mom! Can I come out of time out now?" Not having actually put her in time out, I figured I better investigate. Apparently she decided to finger paint with her yogurt, and then realized that she probably shouldn't have done it. Nothing like a semi-responsible kid to make a mom smile.

I love the hymns at church. I love how I can almost always find meaning in them that's relevant to my life. We got to church a little late on Sunday. Getting three girls out the door for church, even by 1:00 in the afternoon, is something of an ordeal. The opening hymn on Sunday was "Gently Raise the Sacred Strain", and we walked in just as the congregation started verse 2: "Holy day, devoid of strife." I couldn't stop laughing at the irony. Yep, relevant.

Little girls in matching jammies are too cute for words. This morning the little girl I babysit showed up in PJs that match the ones Ellie got for Christmas. All three of us were delighted by this.

I've been doing a lot of thinking the past few days about tolerance and love, and how those attributes relate to the internet. I don't really feel like saying much more about this right now, but it's on my mind.

I feel like I've accomplished so much lately, organization-wise. The downstairs coat closet is now clean, in case anyone wondered, and I spent today cleaning the playroom (including the closet!) I'm slowly getting there (how pathetic is it that we've lived here for nearly 4 years and I'm just now "getting there"?) Of course, as soon as I get the entire house organized, one of two things will happen: the world will end, or we'll have to move for some reason and I'll have to start all over again.

Why is it that no one wants to playing a room when it's already messy, but as soon as I organize everything and have it perfectly clean, the 3-year-old double tornado rips through, laying waste to an entire afternoon's work?

I absolutely loved this post. I could have written it. I wish I had.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter Music Program

Last Tuesday was Lexi's music program at school. It was supposed to be in December, but it got cancelled because of the snow. It was kind of a bummer, because Chris was home for the original date, but he had to be in CA last week and missed it. He missed it last year, too, so it was a double bummer, but he took Lexi out for ice cream when he got home to make up for it. Honestly, for her the ice cream was way better than some old music program anyway!

Here she is waiting to get started:

(Sorry the pictures are all really grainy. It's impossible to take decent pictures in the gym at school, at least with my camera.) She was happy to stand next to her current best friend Kinsey, and her buddy Daniel is looking handsome in his blazer in the row behind her.

They sang three songs, one about elves working on shoes, one about snow, and a really cute one about it being the season of love. I did notice that they cut all Christmas references (apart from Jingle Bells, which I suppose isn't technically Christmassy, since anyone can enjoy riding in a one-horse open sleigh.) Here's Lexi showing her actions expertise. At least we know she pays attention, even though she really doesn't sing.

And here is a shot of her pouting, in true Lexi fashion, when she didn't get a set of bells to ring during the Jingle Bells finale. Poor kid, life is so tough.

She got over it quickly, though (also in true Lexi fashion - a real roller coaster, that one.) It was a fun program and she did a great job! We really love the girls' school and the fact that they still make a big deal out of the music classes. Hooray for the arts!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Random Thoughts Thursday

Guess what? I am awesome. No, really! I figured out how to use Chris's skill saw (at least I think it's a skill saw. It's kind of scary, that's all I know for sure) on Tuesday, all by myself, and cut some 2x4's to block the space underneath the girls' bunkbed so I don't have to take the mattress off and shovel out half their clothes, doll shoes, and last month's homework ever again!

The USB port on the computer is broken. I just discovered this. And I have tons of pictures to get off the camera, some of which I was planning on posting here soon, because there's been a shocking lack of pictures of the girls lately. Lovely. I have no idea how to fix it (something fell off), or if it can be fixed. And Chris is in CA for another night. Good times.

Since Chris is in CA again, tonight is fold laundry while watching "The Office" night. Of course, there's more laundry than there are minutes in "The Office", so I may be watching a few other shows as well.

Why do kids have to grow so fast? Not only are my babies getting really big, but none of their clothes fit them anymore.

We have way too many stuffed kitties in this house. From where I'm sitting I can count 5, and that doesn't include the ones in the girls' room.

I feel like I'm finally getting my house back to its organized state after...well, I don't know after what, since I can't actually remember the last time my entire house was organized all at once. There's this tornado-type thing called kids, see...But now the downstairs is clean (except for the coat closet, but I'm getting to that), my bedroom is clean (except for the closet, but that's penciled in for tomorrow, possibly. Oh, and my craft (read: junk) closet, but there's just no way to keep that clean, so we just ignore it), the girls' room is spotless (well, there's the crib pieces and all the clothes that don't fit anyone in the closet, but other than that...okay, closets really aren't my strong point, I'm seeing that now.) Here I sit in the playroom/office, surrounded by toys no one really cares about until I threaten to get rid of them, but the rest of the house is clean! (Just don't look in the closets)

I really hate laundry. I mean really. I don't think I'd mind it so much if there was an end in sight, but it just never, ever ends. Ever. Maybe we should become nudists.

Wall-E is the cutest robot ever. Ellie watches him every day, and he's still cute.

Ask me in two weeks if I still think that.

Lindsey, I sent you an email. Where's my invite? ;)

When Ellie and her friends play "the honey game", I always have to be the grandma. Why is that?

I need more good books to read.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Answers for Carrie and Rachel

At first I was just going to answer this in the comments, but I couldn’t make it short enough to feel like I was actually answering your questions. It's never been my intention for this blog to be political in any way (yes, I know I had an Obama doohickey during the election, but that was as far as I ever intended to go), but I don’t feel like I can leave this unanswered. I considered just emailing you guys, but then I thought that there might be other people who wonder the same things and are waiting to see how I respond (ah, the pressure of being a blogger!) So, in order to compromise with myself, I’ve gone with the “short” answer, and hopefully this will help you guys better understand why so many of us are so excited about President Obama. (Also, please know that I’m not offended or upset in any way, just unsure of how to approach this on a blog that has always been intended to be more of a family journal-type thingy. But then again, I suppose this is journal-worthy.)

As for what I think Obama will do to help our children fly that other presidents haven’t, the answer is pretty simple, and fits with the context of that quote. He is continuing to break down the barriers of race. The color of a person’s skin truly does not matter anymore. 50 years ago my daughters couldn’t have sat next to their aunt and uncle on the bus, something that, as we welcome the first African-American President, they can’t even begin to imagine (who wouldn’t want to sit next to Erica or Scotty on the bus?)

I was so proud to be an American yesterday as I watched the inauguration. I couldn’t stop the tears. Obama may not be perfect. I’m realistic enough to expect that it’s likely that he will not be able to follow through on all his pre-election promises. But for me, the fact that he is striving to work in the direction he is means a lot. I feel like he has my interests at heart. I’m hopeful for what he can do to bring the economy back out of the hole it’s in right now. I’m encouraged that he advocates affordable health care for everyone. This is a biggie for me – we went through a time when Chris did not have insurance, and we constantly prayed that nothing would happen to him. At that time, the girls and I fortunately qualified for Medicaid, but without that we wouldn’t have had insurance, either. Right now we can’t afford the insurance plan offered through Chris’s office and had to sign up for an individual plan instead. But we are lucky that we can afford to do that – so many people, and so many of them are children, are going without necessary health care right now because they just plain can’t afford it. I just don’t think this is right. I say we as a country can’t afford for people not to have the health care they need. Obama’s goals for education are important to me as well. I don’t think the No Child Left Behind plan is working as well in practice as it does in theory. Obama has promised to reform this. Without good and well-rounded education, our children cannot fly. I also do not agree with many of Pres. Bush’s views on the war in Iraq and am looking forward to the day when our troops are no longer there. The Obama campaign slogan was “Change We Can Believe In”, and I truly do believe in his potential to make the changes our country needs. I recently read Dreams from My Father, and I’m impressed with him as a man as much, if not more, as I am with him as a leader. If you want to understand more who he is and where he’s coming from, it’s a great read, and it was written before he’d even begun his campaign for senator, so it doesn’t come with a political agenda.

I hope this answered your questions, at least a little bit! Thanks for giving me the chance to ponder all this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Barack could run. Barack ran so our children could fly."

I'm not sure who first said that, but I heard it shortly after the election, and it brought me to tears. It may be more contextually appropriate to be quoted by an African-American, but then again, maybe not. All our children need to fly, and they need to fly together regardless of race or ethnicity.

Here's to hoping that the next four years (and more!) will bring us the change we need!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Random Thoughts Thursday

This morning a sweet little old lady knocked on my door on behalf of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She called me honey, oohed and aahed over Ellie’s ballerina princess dress, was amazed to learn I had two older children, said I was “slim and petite”, shared her love of Jesus with me, nodded in agreement as I expressed my faith in Him, and wished His blessings upon me as she turned to go, leaving me with only a small flier offering Biblical answers to some of life’s common questions. Mormons should seriously consider sending little old ladies door-to-door. They’re much harder to say no to than 19-year-old boys. After she left I felt bad that I hadn’t asked her in for hot cocoa at the very least. With that power, she’ll probably convert half the neighborhood in one day!

I’m concerned that I’m becoming a Twilight addict. This is most likely your fault, Pam. I am now determined to learn Bella’s Lullaby on the piano, and I will probably buy the movie when it comes out on DVD, in the hopes that I can convince Chris to watch it with me (like that’ll ever happen!)

I have another school uniform committee meeting tonight. Supposedly the principal has made an executive decision in regards to color. My sources tell me this is a decision I will approve of, but if that’s the case then, based on the atmosphere of the last meeting, it’s likely that most of the other parents present will not approve, resulting in an interesting meeting tonight.

Why do two of my children still feel the need for me to accompany them to the bathroom at 4:00 in the morning?

In true blogger fashion, I’m working on a list of 100 things about me (despite having passed my 100th post quite some time ago). It’s not as easy as it sounds.

I am really interested in Chinese culture right now (no particular reason for sharing this, just because I can, I guess.)

I just joined an online opinion poll service that promises rewards that are good enough to sound promising without being too good to be true. We’ll see how it goes.

I won the lottery again! Seriously, I need to change my email address or something, because unfortunately the lottery winning emails are the least my worries as far as spam goes. Some of those messages…ew!

Salvation just arrived in the mail, in the form of a package from Grandma E. containing a few random belongings we left behind, including – oh glorious day! – Dora Saves the Snow Princess!!! Ellie and her friend are now in Dora-induced heaven and are no longer arguing over puzzle pieces. Thank you, Grandma!

Lori, I promise I will answer your question soon. I just have a hard time narrowing it down to that one moment of perfect happiness you demanded. (Pardon my Seriously, So Blessed moment, but really, I have a pretty dang good life!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

They're Ba-ack!

Yep, it's Girl Scout cookie time again! Let the craziness begin...

To anyone living near us: you know who to call! To everyone else: we'd be happy to supply you with a cookie fix (we pay shipping costs!), or you can check this website for cookie sales near you.

We're just striving to make a difference, one box of cookies at a time :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ancient Chinese Wisdom

Any of you who know Chris well will understand how appropriate it was for him to find this fortune in his cookie:

You would make an excellent critic
in anything that peaks your interest!

Ask a stupid question...

Last night Ellie handed me the letter I on the left. Then she came back to Chris with the one on the right and said, "Here, Daddy, this I is for you. You get a little one because you have a teeny tiny butt." (note: we are discouraging this word, but when big sister picks it up at school and thinks it's funny...sigh) (second note: no he doesn't!!!)

So Chris is laughing hysterically, comparing our Is. And I make the stupid choice and ask Ellie, "How come my I is so big?"

She didn't even look up from her next project while she replied, "Because you have a really big bum, Mom."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Random Thoughts Thursday

Here it is: the Best. Hat. Ever. I think anyone who loves the outdoors will see the need for this priceless item. You will need to read the comments to fully appreciate it, although the photo definitely speaks for itself. (thanks for this, Dave!)

Speaking of photos, here is a shot of how Ellie packed for our trip:

She was very excited to do it all by herself, and I had to repack while she was in bed because she was offended that I thought she hadn't done it right. She packed, for two weeks of vacation, a pair of PJs, three shirts, and a teddy bear. Who needs underpants?

I have decided that the amount of time spent waiting in the checkout line at Costco increases exponentially with the number of children you brought with you, times the crankiness of said children. And the speed of the checkout lines on either side increases at an equal rate.

It's really hard to get back into a routine when you've had two weeks of little or no responsibility. I do have to say, thought, that my girls have been really good about being ready for school on time the past three days. This is particularly impressive because all three days they've gone to school 40 minutes early with Lexi's teacher when she dropped off her daughter.

I will clarify now: they have been really good about being ready. Getting ready is a completely different story.

I took this picture on our trip. That's all the sign said. What does it mean?

Chris's brother Scotty had his tonsils out a couple of days before we left to come back home. It's not a fun experience for an adult, and he was pretty miserable afterward. Every single time we've prayed since we've been home Ellie has reminded us to pray for Uncle Scotty. With all those prayers, he's gotta be feeling at least a little better!

Coming home to a clean house is the nicest feeling in the world. If only it would stay clean...

I was going through some old files on the computer and found this conversation from several months ago that I'd most likely recorded for the purpose of posting it here. However, I don't think I ever actually did, so I'm sharing it now:
  • Ellie: MOM!
  • Me: What?
  • E: (leans conversationally on her hand)...yeah.
  • M: Yeah?
  • E: You know...
  • M: (thoroughly confused) You know?
  • E: NO! It's MY turn to say "you know"!
  • M: Okaaaay...
  • E: You know...
  • M: know.
  • E: (covering my mouth with her hand) NO! It's NOT your turn!!!
  • M: Sorry.
  • E: You know...

I also found this picture, from Dec. 2005. We get a lot of strange squirrels around these parts.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Vacation Post

Be ye warned...this is an extremely picture-laden post!

We had a fabulous time in Utah over Christmas break! It was so nice to be able to see friends and family, and to get to spend a little more time than usual there. Our trip in words and pictures:

One of the first things the girls did after we got there was build a snow cave with their Uncle Blaine.

As you can see, they managed to make it big enough for all four of them to fit inside. Not comfortably, mind you, but still...

We stayed at Grandma & Grandpa Ebert's house, and the girls had a blast playing with their cousins Abbie and Savannah, and Erica's boyfriend's daughter Haylie, who's practically a cousin.

Lexi, Haylie, Ellie, Abbie, & Vicki

There's always plenty going on at the Eberts'. Scotty is home getting ready to go on a mission, and the girls loved having their huge football-player uncle to boss around.

We went up to Grandma and Grandpa Youngberg's on Tuesday, where Grandma let the girls open an early Christmas present, which turned out to be a cardboard playhouse that they could decorate themselves. They spent most of the morning working on it before their coloring arms got tired.

The Youngbergs live in the mountains, so there was close to 2 feet of untouched snow for the girls to play in.

On Christmas Eve we followed the Ebert tradition of going skiing. Vicki and Lexi were both set to join us, but when Lexi learned (the morning of) that the alternative was going sledding with Grandma, she opted out. Vicki, on the other hand, has been skiing for about 4 years now, and wouldn't miss it. And this year she really got it. It was so much fun to ski with her and not be held up so much. She loves it.

Christmas morning dawned a little too early for some of us. The stomach flu that Lexi brought from Oregon made its way through all three girls, finishing off with Vicki late Christmas Eve. So she and I were up most of the night, but she didn't want to miss out on presents and insisted that we get her up when her sisters were ready.

And despite feeling horrible, she was thrilled to death to find that Santa had left her a sewing machine of her very own! And terribly pleased that it says, right on the box, "This is not a toy!"

For the month and a half leading up to Christmas, Ellie has held firm in the belief that Santa would bring her a drum. She was quite positive about this, and fortunately Santa didn't disappoint!

Lexi in going through a Hannah Montana obsession right now, and Santa was well aware of that, too. That guy doesn't miss much. She was very excited to receive a Hannah Montana fleece blanket.

After opening the rest of our presents and ensuring that Vicki was finished throwing up (okay, maybe praying is more like it), we headed up to the Youngbergs' for another round of Christmas.

Grandma and Grandpa got the girls matching plaid PJs and...slippers!

We, along with my brothers, got my sister this awesome t-shirt:

And she got Chris and I comfy jammy pants!

The girls had a sleepover for a couple of nights with Grandma and Grandpa Y., subjecting them and Adrienne to some more of Santa's presents: Barbie and the Diamond Castle and Dora Saves the Snow Princess. But we also let them borrow Wall-E, so that has to count for something!

While the girls were at Grandma's, Chris and I enjoyed some quiet time. Among other things, we went out to dinner with my Study Abroad buddies. Usually just us girls go out, but we decided to invite the hubbies this year, and they all got along swimmingly. Woohoo! Now we can plan our reunion in London (which should have been this last summer - 10 years goes by really fast!)

Heidi, Carrie, Angie, Me - London girls!

I kind of forgot I had my camera for most of the rest of the trip, but we enjoyed swimming, sledding, multiple snowy drives up Parley's canyon, more playing with cousins, a party with Chris's high school friends - there are 13 (and 3/4) kids between us now! - and the UofU/Alabama football game. The girls have never seen their father so worked up. He's not a huge sports fan, but Utah football is a different story.

On the Saturday before we left we got all the Youngbergs (plus Adrie's boyfriend James - yay, we finally got to meet him properly!) together at Robbie and Rebecca's apartment for a tasty lunch and a rousing game of Scene It. Adrie, James, and Alan (oh, and Ellie) beat the pants off the rest of us, which is surprising considering Robbie majored in film. The girls played with my camera most of the afternoon, so I will do another post with the fabulous shots they got, but I had to include this one because it's a treasure:

There's apparently actually quite the story behind these sunglasses (or, more appropriately, the picture of these lovely people in these, um, beautiful sunglasses). Rob & Reb, you're such trendsetters!

Here's the whole fam, cheesing out:

Dad, Mom, Alan, Ellie, me, Lexi, Chris, Adrie, Vicki, James, Rebecca, & Robbie

After this party, we headed back to the Eberts' for packing and last-minute playing with Abbie and Savannah. The drive home was blessedly uneventful, and the snow in Portland thankfully held off until we had unloaded the car and were snug, safe, and warm in our little house (minus two fish). We had a blast in Utah and it was sad to leave, but then again it's really nice to be back in our own beds!

Monday, January 5, 2009

R.I.P., fishies

We came home from vacation to find that two of our fish had gone on to a better place.

Alas, SarahBellaLinaRiffSammyYoungbergEbert and Nemo (aka Memo) have gone to meet their Maker. (Ellie wants to know when Heavenly Father is going to send them back.) We lay no blame on the friends who were feeding them for us, although they feel terrible.

We had a nice little funeral for them last night, around the toilet bowl. We all said goodbye, and Ellie told Nemo, "I love you." Heartbreaking. Then we flushed them away and moved on. They were fish, life goes on. We will probably replace them in the next few weeks.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Random Thoughts Thursday

Happy New Year!!!

We stayed up to ring in the New Year last night. And by "we", I mean Chris, Vicki, and I, along with Grandma E. (who went to bed 5 minutes before midnight) and Scotty and his friend Sasha. Ellie crashed around 9:30, and Lexi dragged off to bed around 10, but Vicki was absolutely determined to stay up until midnight. Since she doesn't actually sleep, it wasn't that big of a deal. We watched Kung Fu Panda for the second time in a row. It was a good thing we'd just barely watched it, since I slept through the middle. Vicki was the most wide-awake person in the room when the ball dropped at midnight, and then we cruelly sent her to bed before collapsing ourselves. We're such party people.

I missed doing my Random Thoughts post last week, but it didn't seem appropriate for Christmas. Now I've forgotten all the random stuff I was going to post about last week.

I'm glad my children aren't throwing up anymore.

Emily and I saw Twilight this afternoon. Her first time, my second. I still like it. But Jasper makes me laugh and I still think Alice doesn't look right. And the "spider monkey" line has got to be the stupidest movie line of the year.

I can't believe our vacation is almost over. Part of me is hoping for huge storms again this weekend so we get snowed in and have to spend more time with family. The other part of me is longing for my own bed and my own pillow.

I also enjoy not having to entertain my own children at all for two weeks. Grandmas are awesome.

I looked at the word "entertain" in that last sentence for five full minutes, trying to figure out what was wrong with it, before I realized I had spelled it "entertian". Vacation is making me slow.

Yesterday we got to take the girls on a private tour of the soon to be opened Draper Temple.

Chris's dad has been in charge of the physical facilities crew, getting things ready for the open house, which starts next week. Since we'll be home then, he was able to make arrangements for us to get an early sneak peek. It was a really awesome experience to be able to show the girls what the temple looks like inside. Ellie and her cousin Abbie weren't terribly impressed (when I told Ellie it was Jesus' house she said, "No it's not, it's the temple!") but they loved all the pictures of Jesus and wanted to touch EVERYTHING. Lexi loved seeing the Bride's dressing room and all the sparkly chandeliers. But it had the greatest impact on Vicki. She's at an age where she'll remember this, at least part of it, forever, and she was very quiet and contemplative the whole time. Even when we were outside afterward, she just stood by the car looking up at the spire and the Angel Moroni statue. And as for me, well, standing in the Bride's dressing room watching as my father-in-law stood each of his granddaughters next to a dressing table, I got choked up. I get emotional at the weirdest times, but it just struck me how beautiful it was, and how much I wanted my girls to be able to be the brides getting ready in a room like that one day. (One day in the very distant future, of course.) It was also very awesome to be standing together in the sealing room, looking into the "forever mirrors", which are two huge mirrors on opposite sides of the room. When you look into one with the other behind you, you can see yourself and those around you reflected forever, a reminder of the eternity you have when you're sealed together in the temple. Beautiful.

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