Monday, June 30, 2008

Second Chances and a Recipe

In light of the fact that I have been too busy with mothering lately to blog as much as I would like, I am going to extend the date for submissions to Relishing Motherhood's writing contest. The contest will go through Wednesday, July 16th, and the winner will be announced no later than the following Monday.

I am sure that the reason that only a couple of you have entered is because you have been so swamped with important summertime activities like swimming, vacationing, organizing your house, and reading a book while your kids rot in front of the TV for a few hours. It couldn't possibly be that my readers haven't had any ah-ha moments in motherhood, nor that they aren't clamoring for a copy of my cookbook! I'm sure that it has to be something else. In fact, I am going to sweeten the deal a little (assuming that anyone is interested in this giveaway.) I will send a CD copy of this cookbook to everyone who submits an entry! That means that if you win you get all the glory and accolades, but even if you don't, you'll get a prize for participation. Because let's face it--what I really want is for people to share things that they've learned about motherhood. That way we can learn from each other. (If you don't have a blog, or if your blog is dedicated to something specific like cooking, all things organic, or underwater basket weaving, feel free to submit your essay to me via email--sleepymumATgmailDOTcom-- and I will post it on my own blog for the readers to enjoy.)

Okay, hopefully that is enough of a pep talk. Maybe I just need to accept defeat and move on--but I'm too stubborn to do so at this point.

I thought I'd take a minute to share a recipe with you. One of my favorite things since childhood has been homemade wheat bread. My mom made it for us while we were growing up. I have made it sporadically throughout my mothering years, and have made it twice a week for the past six months (I haven't had to buy any sandwich bread, which has been so great.) I have been playing with the recipe a bit lately to fill it up with healthy things, since my kids will eat bread like there's no tomorrow. So, here's the recipe and I'll include a few options at the bottom.

Rhonda's Whole Wheat Bread

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • scant Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 6 cups whole wheat flour (I like white wheat flour best, from whole white wheat)
Mix ingredients in a stand mixer with a dough hook for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, proof the yeast:
  • 3/4 cup very warm water
  • 3 Tablespoons yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
When yeast is proofed, add to bread mixture along with:
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups white, all-purpose flour
Mix on low or medium to incorporate, then on high for 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.

Turn out into bowl sprayed with cooking spray and allow to rise in a warm place for 25 minutes. Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and separate into four loaves. Shape loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Allow to rise for 25 minutes more.

Bake in 350 oven for 25-30 minutes, until bread is golden brown. Remove from oven and from pans immediately. Rub or brush tops of the loaves with butter. Allow to cool on wire cooling rack.

Variations: Substitute 1/4 cup of the oil with an equal amount of applesauce. Substitute 1/2 cup flour with equal amount ground flax seed (my current favorite), toasted wheat germ, or leftover oatmeal. Add 1/2 cup sunflower seeds with final 4 cups of flour (my kids don't love this version).

This bread is perfect for toast, sandwiches, or just with some butter on it. I generally freeze the loaves that I won't use immediately and then defrost them at room temp one at a time as needed. Since it is summer, I generally start this as soon as I wake up in the morning or after I've put the kids to bed, since I don't like to have the oven on in the middle of the day. It takes about 2 hours from start to finish.

Now, go write your entry for the contest!:)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thoughts on Motherhood

Only 3 more days to enter the writing contest! Don't delay! Leave a comment here, with a link to your post.

Finally I am getting around to writing the post for my writing contest. No, my post will not be considered for the fabulous prize--a CD copy of my 2007 cookbook, plus all the glory of having won the contest. Only your entries, dear readers, will be in the running for such prestige. I do, however, seek to inspire you to ponder your own epiphanies on motherhood (and to share them with us.)

I started off feeling fairly confident that I would be a good mother. As the oldest of six, I had a lot of experience with mothering. I had been baby hungry for years, possibly decades, before I had Kimball when I was nearly 27. I'm sure that I had some neuroses even then, but I really began to question whether I was cut out to be a good mother when I had my second child.

I really struggled for the first six months that I had two little ones, 22 months apart. Looking back, it seems so obvious that I would struggle; Henry was colicky, Kimball was on the autistic spectrum (which we didn't know yet,) my husband was in graduate school full time while trying to support our family (and the Young Men's president at church, which is a demanding responsibility); I was working on a Master's degree from home (which I eventually dropped out of), substitute teaching once or twice a week, and a perfectionist. :) I learned during those months that I had a short temper, was easily frustrated, and was capable of yelling at my kids--things that I hadn't really imagined before. And it hurt. I wanted to be the perfect mother that I envisioned, and I knew that I wasn't her.

Thankfully, my transition to three children was much gentler. Jared bought a practice that was less than a mile away when Ian was two months old, so he was often home for lunch and didn't spend any time commuting. Ian was a perfect baby; by the time he was six weeks old, he was sleeping 10 hours at night without waking up to nurse, and a couple of weeks later he had upped that to 12 hours. We were starting to recognize that Kimball might have some special needs, and although it was an overwhelming thought, it also meant that we could get help. Nevertheless, I continued to be plagued with feelings of self-doubt, guilt, and inadequacy. I wondered if I was really cut out to be the mother to the big family that I had always dreamed of. I wondered if three boys would be our family.

One day in Relief Society (our Sunday church meeting for women,) my heart was heavy. The lesson was on motherhood and I was feeling inadequate. I was the RS President at the time, so I was sitting in the front, trying not to let my misery show on my face. The sister giving the lesson was praising her daughter-in-law as an amazing mother of five children, one of whom had Down's Syndrome. Her MIL talked about her unending patience, her constantly cheerful spirit, her unwavering faith. I know that we aren't supposed to compare ourselves to each other, but I was feeling worse and worse about myself. Why did I feel so easily overwhelmed with my three boys? Why did I lose my patience and yell at them? How could I conceive of having more children when I was such a stress case already?

Thankfully, the mother in question was present, visiting from another congregation that day. She raised her hand and said, "You are being far too generous. I have days all the time when I lose my patience. I wonder why the Lord would send me these children, who are so overwhelming to me at times. I struggle with feeling like I am a good mother."

I wanted to kiss her for her honesty. I wondered if all the mothers I admired felt the same way.

Suddenly, I felt the spirit wash over me. I sensed that Heavenly Father was comforting me, and in that moment it was as if I could hear Him telling me that I was a good mother. I also knew then that I could and should have more children and that He would help me become the mother that I wanted to be. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I felt this sweet reassurance from a Father who knew my pain and who loved me.

It has really been a process for me, but I have noticed in the years that followed that experience that I feel guilty and inadequate less and less. I do not think that this is because I have become the perfect mother. I do think that it is a blessing from a loving Heavenly Father. I have spent a lot of time studying what the scriptures and modern day prophets teach about motherhood and have spent lots of time on my knees asking the Lord for help and direction. I now feel that being a mother is just exactly what the Lord wants me to do and that He is making me into the woman that He knows I can become. I have taken greater joy in motherhood and found peace without finding the perfection I thought I needed. My house is still messy lots of the time, I still yell at my kids some (many) days, and occasionally I let my kids watch way too much TV. But I also know that the challenges of motherhood are teaching me things that I couldn't learn elsewhere. My children know that they are loved and valued. They know that I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His Church. And even if they need professional counseling when they are older (which my mother reassures me is inevitable,) my children will still be okay because of those things.

Now, I feel strongly about helping other mothers feel that they are enough. Every mother needs to know that if she is doing her best, relying on the Lord, and pushing forward to do better, that she is a good mother to her children. And knowing that frees us up to relish motherhood in more situations and on a daily basis.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

Today I turned 35 years old. I think that it is the first birthday in years where I actually felt older. And more mature, somehow. For one thing, instead of wanting the entire month to be about me and my birthday, I am feeling lower key. Not bummed or anything, I just feel like it's not that big of a deal. I am not the kind of person who fears getting older (mostly) --I do sometimes feel sad about how quickly life seems to be moving along, though.

Jared made me an amazing breakfast this morning. The boys made me some adorable birthday cards--Henry created a treasure hunt for me to hunt for his. We are having family here for dinner and games tonight. I have visitors in town (so fun.) And I have a tremendously flat tire on my new van. Drat. Happy birthday!

Anyhow, I thought it was time to check in on my 40 Things To Do Before I'm 40 list. It hasn't been that long since I made it, but I have checked a few things off. I plan to revisit the list with updates on my birthdays until I can check them all off.

  1. Get under 150 pounds without having a limb amputated. Heck, I'd take under 160, but we'll say under 150. (Not even close)
  2. Scan all my photos that are pre-digital camera. (ugh. If someone else wants to do it for me, I won't mind taking this off the list!) (Nope)
  3. Paint my kitchen cupboards. It's been on my to-do wish list since we bought the house four years ago. Sigh. Maybe I don't like the direction this list is taking. Let's try a different route. (Not yet)
  4. Use my passport again (which probably means I'm due for a new one.) My last passport-requiring trip was in spring of 1999. (I wish)
  5. Brush up on my Russian so that I'm not too scared to speak Russian to the Russian-speakers that are everywhere around here, especially at Costco. Plus it may come in handy if #4 involves a Russian speaking country. (Not enough to take credit for.)
  6. Teach my kids Russian. It's ridiculous that we haven't done that, since Jared & I are both speakers (he more than I these days.) (I have plans to start this in the fall.)
  7. Read War and Peace. (I haven't been in the mood.)
  8. And The Brothers Karamazov. I'm ashamed of myself to say that even though some of my favorite books are by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, I've never read these two. (See #7)
  9. Learn to sew well enough to make something that I'll actually use. Okay, something better than an apron. This could be a dress for Bronwen, drapes for my house, etc. The said item will not be mostly made by my sister and/or mother as have my previous sewing projects! (Not yet. Sheesh. Maybe this was a bad idea!)
  10. Win a cooking recipe contest. Ideally, one that involves a cash prize.:) (I have to enter a recipe contest first.)
  11. Participate in a 5k for a good cause. I've been meaning to do Race for the Cure for years. Or The Run to Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving Day. (Race for the Cure came and went without me this year.)
  12. Run a 5k for a good cause! Since I'm not what you'd call a runner, this will be a big accomplishment. (I've got to be able to run more than a quarter mile first.)
  13. Learn to love hiking and expose my kids to the great hikes available near our home. (This one is in progress. We have been taking lots of nature walks, but so far none of them have been very strenuous.)
  14. Establish a family hobby of hiking. (See #13.)
  15. Plant a garden. (Yeah! I did this one. Completed April 2008.)
  16. Actually tend it, harvest, and eat what I grow. I'm hoping to do this this year, but haven't quite gotten the beds prepared yet. I'd better hurry--it's time. (In progress, but I think I can check this one off, too, since we are actually producing food and eating it. Success! Summer 2008.)
  17. Have no consumer debt and be well on our way to out of debt completely. (Not done, but I also haven't added to our consumer debt.:)
  18. Have two months' living expenses in our savings' account. This must happen sooner than five years from now, but I still want it to be there then!:) (Not there yet, but a bit farther than I was when I wrote the list.)
  19. Learn to love Isaiah. I read Isaiah because I'm obedient, but not because I enjoy it or take the time to decipher it. (See #7.)
  20. Learn to make cream puffs. Because I need more cream puffs in my life!:) (Done! Father's Day 2008. I had forgotten that I put this on the list, but it was a good one. Now I know how easy they are and I won't be intimidated anymore by their loveliness.)
  21. Maybe 40 is too many things! This list already feels long. I'd better make a few easier ones, like: Turn 39. (Give me a few more years, please!)
  22. Have another baby. Maybe two. I'm just getting it out there now, so that people can quit asking me if we're "done," and to avoid having them ask me, "was this planned?" when they find out that I'm pregnant again. (It really is crazy how many people feel comfortable asking such questions, including perfect strangers. Aren't those kind of personal in nature?) Not that I'm pregnant again. But I plan to be before I'm 40, which is the point of this list. (I am not pregnant, nor have I had another child in the last few months. But this is still in the plans. Strangely, lots of people have been inquiring lately as to how soon we're having another one. I'm not sure if they are pushing us towards it or hoping we've changed our minds! Not that it matters what other people think about the size of our family. Which is good, because most people out there think that you are really fringe if you have five kids. Let alone homeschool them!)
  23. Write/keep another blog, entirely dedicated to food, recipes, and menu plans. (Not ready to do this right now. Still trying to keep my head above water in the other areas of my life.)
  24. Write/keep another blog, entirely dedicated to homeschooling. (Done. I wish I spent more time on it, but I'm trying to keep the time I spend blogging reasonable. Blog began April 2008.)
  25. Get my master bedroom windows treated with something other than the metal blinds that were there when we moved in. (I've picked out the fabric.)
  26. Paint the master bedroom. (Done May 2008. Thanks, Christine and Mandy! Still need to get the master bathroom painted.)
  27. Actually hang a wall of family pictures. (Puleeze! How well do you know me?)
  28. Find something that I like AND can afford to hang on the dining room walls, which are blank. (Not done.)
  29. Memorize The Family: A Proclamation to the World. (I've got one paragraph memorized. I am easily distracted, so it's been a few months since I worked on this.)
  30. Start practicing the piano again with some regularity. (The regularity part has not happened. But I did get out some old sheet music a few weeks ago and have been playing a few times a week. Still needs work, but it is in progress.)
  31. Develop a healthier relationship with cake. (This has not been a good cake week for me.) (Define healthier.)
  32. Develop a habit of writing (and actually mailing) thank you cards. I am terrible at this, and yet I believe that it is so important. The paradox between ideals and reality is not fun! (Sadly, no progress here. I actually wrote a thank you card to Teresa last week and don't know where I put it. Typical.)
  33. Help my children develop a habit of writing thank you cards. (No. I need a time out.)
  34. Mail the thank you cards that I teach my children to write! (Had they written any, I surely would not have mailed them.)
  35. Re-read Shakespeare. Probably with my kids. (Not yet, but soon.)
  36. Take an html class. (Are you reading this, Mindy?) (No, but Mindy and I are discussing it.)
  37. Learn how to not accumulate things we don't need. This will not only save money, but will reduce the clutter around my house. (I have been making progress on this, but I'm not fixed yet. I have been studying materialism and worldliness in my scripture study and that has helped. I have stuck to my new, smaller budget for five months now!)
  38. This is harder than I thought, and most of you have probably stopped reading by now anyway, so I'll just leave it at 38. Maybe I'll come back and add something later. That's it--I'm just leaving room for a few more additions. I'm still not feeling inspired to add any here. Partly because I still have a lot to accomplish. But I've got a few years left.

So, there you have it. I am pleased to see some progress made, and I shouldn't be surprised that I haven't done more of them--this list was not intended to be accomplished in three months, after all.

So, have a piece of cake today and think of me.
You can have a healthier relationship with cake some other time. :)

(Photo is of my darling nephew, Scotty, who is visiting for a few days with his mommy, auntie, and second cousin.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Twilight Camper

So, Kimball is experiencing his first Cub Scout camp. In our area, instead of having "Day Camp," they call it Twilight Camp and schedule it from 4:00-8:00 pm (I'm sure in order to accommodate more parent helpers.)

He is having the time of his life and comes home every night sweaty, filthy, and bubbling over with stories about what he has done. Last night I stood and watched him take a shower because I wanted to be sure that he was actually using soap on his muddy, chalk-covered self (you know how boys like to call "wet" the same as "clean",) and he was cracking me up showing me the proper stance for archery. I asked if he felt like Robin Hood (they are using a Sherwood Forest/King Arthur theme, "Cubs of the Round Table"), and he said, "Nah, I felt more like a beginning archer. I'm not that good. YET."

Later, I was reading through is camp memory book that he had been working on and died laughing over this entry:

I am choosing to not be dismayed over the fact that his highlights so far both involve weaponry (let alone that they require better hand-eye coordination than he and I have combined!) He's a little boy and I fully expected him to like those events. I'm just glad that he can go to cub camp to do that kind of thing, because I don't see archery or BB gun shooting becoming a part of our homeschool curriculum!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Relishing Motherhood's First Contest

One of the purposes of this blog is to help me remember to relish my motherhood. So often I get swept up in the to-do list, in the rush-rush of everyday life, in the seemingly endless piles of laundry, grocery lists, and bits of who-knows-what that need to be vacuumed from my 28 year old carpet. And yet, if I let those things define my day, my job, my life, then I've missed the whole point. I am not a stay at home mom because of those things. We could easily outsource those things if I had a full time paying-me-what-I'm-worth kind of job. We have chosen for me to be at home for the sake of our children and our marriage and our family. So why would I let my mind be consumed with the less meaningful aspects of motherhood?

I have found great joy in motherhood in the past year as I have actively sought it. Some days, I have to put "have fun with the kids" on my to-do list so that I remember. Some days I get bogged down in the other stuff and forget to relish. But as I have sought to have fun, to enjoy, to savor, I have shared such sweet moments with my children and our family. Moments that I would have missed if I hadn't slowed down and looked for the opportunities. That is one of the things that I love about homeschooling--the time that we spend learning together is quality time spent together. Every. Single. Day.

Anyhow, in a desire to share the love, I am sponsoring a writing contest.

The Topic:
An Ah-ha Moment of Motherhood. Tell me about a time when something really clicked for you and you saw motherhood in a new way. Or when you felt enlightenment in regards to your role as a mother or how you should handle a situation in your family. Or when you had an epiphany about your own mother. You get the picture. I'll be posting mine in the next couple of days.

The Rules:
Write a new post on the above topic on your blog. Be sure to leave me a comment on this post so that my readers and I can come over to your blog and read it. And please mention the contest and link to this post when you write your contest entry, so that if your readers want to participate, they'll know how to. The contest begins immediately and will go through June 30th.

The Judge:
My darling MIL, Myrna, will be our judge. She is uber-qualified as a mother, an accomplished writer, and has all the qualities one might want in a judge. She does like chocolate if you are into bribes!:)

The Prize:
A CD copy of my 2007 original cookbook, Come to Family Dinner, with over 75 of my favorite recipes for everything from Rustic Rosemary Country Bread to Apple Raspberry Crisp, and includes all of my original cheesecake recipes. I may even bake a goodie to send along with the cookbook--if I'm in a good mood and not too crazy busy, mind you.:)

If you don't have a blog and still wish to participate, please email me your entry. I claim the right to post any such entries on my blog (giving you the credit for writing it, naturally.)

Awards Show

I recently was given my first blog award by my dear friend and most excellent food blogger, Prudence Pennywise. Who, me? I'm not worthy-- especially with the sluggish pace I've had lately when it comes to posting. I will pass along the award, however, as it gives me a chance to praise other bloggers who are more deserving. (And if you haven't checked out Prudy's blog, you should. I have tried three or four of her recipes in the past week and have found each of them to be phenomenal. Then again, I have been using many of her recipes for years, because everything she touches is bound to be delicious.)

One of my favorite bloggers is a fellow classical homeschooler. I love reading her blog and feel like we have been friends for years even though we've never met. Sonja at the Wonder Years has lots of wonderful ideas, a gift at bringing images to life through words (and with her new SLR camera,) and has such an uplifting attitude toward motherhood. I always feel better for having read her blog.

Another blog whose posts I look forward to is Mindyluwho. Her posts have not been very frequent lately, but they are always meaty and inspiring. She has an entire series of posts on the writings of Isaiah with the insights she gained as she studied Isaiah chapter by chapter in 2007. I definitely think you should take a gander at her blog if you want to be spiritually fed.

My last "E for excellent award" goes to Daring Young Mom, who never fails to crack me up. Her blog has far more readers than this humble little blog of mine, and she may not want to even post this award--chances are she has received it before. But I wanted my readers to wander over and fall in love with her wit. She is easy to relate to and finds the humor in everyday mothering situations.

So go forth and read. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ten Reasons

I have the best in-laws you could ask for. I don't think I appreciated this as a newlywed. We had the usual adjustments to make to each other as families with different ways tried to blend together. But as the years have gone on, I've realized how blessed I am to have Jared's parents (and his siblings and their spouses) in my life. When people complain about their in-laws, I simply can't relate.
So, with Father's Day coming, I wanted to do a tribute to them. I didn't have my act together at Mothers' Day to do the post about my MIL that I had planned, so they'll get double billing here. These ten reasons are not a top ten list because they are in no particular order, so don't get fired up because one might be more important than the other. I've got better things to do then spend an extra 20 minutes moving them around once I've written this post!:)

Ten Reasons I Love My In-laws
  1. They love to play games. We have so much fun together playing games. This is something that allowed us to bond from an early point in our relationship, since I love to play games. Currently, we play games together most Sunday nights. It is not unusual to have them come by on a Friday or Saturday night to play games after the kids are in bed. Some of our favorites include Rook, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Golf, Hand and Foot (if Jared's not playing), and Acquire.
  2. They seek out to establish traditions with their grandchildren. With my kids, these traditions include making gingerbread houses every Christmas, going to the dollar movies (and getting popcorn there), dying Easter eggs, and something as simple as going to a "play place" at a fast food restaurant together.
  3. They bought a house with a pool. Not because they love to swim, or because Dad likes to clean a pool, but because they wanted us to come over often. And we do. All summer long.
  4. They taught my husband to love the gospel, to study the scriptures, to attend the temple, to serve in the Church, and to put his family first.
  5. They come to kids' soccer games, preschool graduations, grandparent's day at school (even though they know it's just about coercing them to buy books at the book fair,) birthday parties, etc. They always come to our ward's 4th of July breakfast with us--and show up with a vehicle decorated for the parade (knowing that I never have my act together well enough to have done this for my own kids.) And they let all the kids in the ward try it out because it is the coolest one there.
  6. They know how to relax and have fun. I guess that is obvious by the previous reasons listed, but it helps to balance out my neurotic and uptight ways. I have learned a lot about how to enjoy my family from their example.
  7. Dad often drops by or calls in the middle of the day to see if I need a break. And I know I can call him if I need help with something. Yesterday when Kimball came down with the stomach flu AGAIN (we have been smitten this year), he came and took Ian and Henry to swimming lessons for me. Then he dropped some things off for me at Jared's office. Then, he took Mom out to lunch, then came back to our house to play Loot with Alli and I while the kids were napping. A few hours later he was back to go with Jared & Henry to Jared's indoor soccer game. I'm not sure when yesterday he spent doing the things that HE needed to get done. (Rumor has it he does actually work sometimes!) He spends his time on his family.
  8. Mom reads to the kids and puts them to bed for us most Sunday nights when we are clearly tired of being their parents! She sings them special "Grammy songs" that I can never get right when they request them from me. When Kimball was a baby and we lived in different states, she made an audio tape (remember those) of herself reading several board books, singing "Grammy songs," and talking to him. He listened to it 25 times a day. She works hard to have a good relationship with them.
  9. They keep our kids overnight once in a while so that Jared and I can get away. Not only is that heavenly for the parents of four young children, but our kids look forward to those sleep overs and always ask us if we can stay away longer next time. So they must be doing fun stuff!
  10. They have always treated me like I was their daughter and not an in-law at all. And as the years have gone by, I can hardly tell the difference between their family and mine--we are all family. I remember once about a year ago that Dad and I had a misunderstanding and I could tell that he was mad at me. As I was talking to Mom about it, she, assuming that I was crying because I was mad at him, too, said, "Oh, honey, it'll be okay. You're just upset with him because he's not your dad. (Meaning that if he were my dad, I'd be over it already.) You guys will be fine after a while." But I knew that I was so upset because he is my dad. Especially with my dad gone, he has filled that role for me. And I was devastated that he could be hurt and angry about something that I said and hoped that it wouldn't hurt our relationship, because I couldn't expect him to forgive me the way he would his own daughter. But he did. They both always have claimed me as theirs. And that is the best reason of all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Torturing My Kids

I'm the meanest mom on the planet. Just ask my kids.

You've heard me complain before about how frustrating it is to feed picky eaters. I know that I'm not alone in this. I really make an effort to serve healthy foods-- almost every meal has a salad, at least one vegetable, and some fruit. We eat more whole grains than not. My downfall, which cannot help but be translated to theirs as well, is my sweet tooth combined with my passion for baking. Plus, I guess I have catered to their picky ways, even though I have tried to avoid it. They each have the things that they like to eat and manage to just fill up on those, which mostly involves one pet vegetable, most fruits, pinto beans, and breads in any variety as long as nothing in them appears to be a seed. Some of my boys will eat chicken and meat, others will not.

Well, Tuesday night, after going through way too much effort to get my kids to eat their beef and broccoli stir fry with brown rice, I announced that we were having a day of fruits and vegetables tomorrow. I did let them choose one serving of whole grains this morning, but the rest of the day their options were veggies and fruits. They seemed to do okay until dinner time (let's face it--by then they were starving) when I served roasted sweet potato discs, parmesan and panko-crusted broccoli with a cheesy sauce (I took some liberties with the recipe), zucchini oven chips (breaded in milk and panko and baked), and a big green salad. I'll admit that I would have loved a slab of crusty bread with it, but it was all quite good and I was proud of myself for coming up with a meal of multiple veggies, each of them distinct and delicious, and all in about 45 minutes.

The boys were less impressed. They couldn't believe that there was "nothing we like" for dinner. Bronwen gobbled it down with glee. Henry and Ian discovered that the sweet potatoes were better than they looked and the overdone ones were kinda like chips. Henry actually ate his entire green salad, complete with kidney beans, olives, cucumbers, and tomatoes--and asked for more. Kimball licked the broccoli (I had him pegged as the one who would gobble it down. I was wrong), nibbled at his Romaine, and whimpered in spite of warnings from his dad against whining. At one point, he insisted the the taste of broccoli had blinded him in one eye, leading me to do an impression from A Christmas Story "It was . . . broccoli poisoning!" (in the movie it's soap poisoning, but the melodramatics were the same.)

Later, as I was sitting in their room, nursing their wounds as they dressed for bed, Henry asked, "Mom, how long we going to have nothing but fruits and vegetables?" To which I responded, "From now on!" He looked at me slyly and said, "Nah, you'll forget before that."

Drat. He knows me too well.

"Well," I said, "I guess we'll have to keep doing it until we can be enthusiastic about having broccoli for dinner. When you are as excited about broccoli as you are about bread, we'll have succeeded."

"You see," I added, "I've realized that I've been a bad mom." I was about to tell them how I had failed them by not teaching them to like vegetables more, let alone a wider variety of whole grains, or foods that are mixed together, actually touching each other on the plate.

"Oh, Mom, you were doing perfectly well until today!" Kimball said passionately. "Why won't you reform?"

"Yeah, Mom. Go back to your old ways!" said Henry.

I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing. Which only made them feel all the more persecuted.

We'll see. Henry is probably right. I may tire of this experiment before they have learned what I want them to learn. But I haven't given up yet. Tomorrow I'm thinking I'll go soft on them and prepare pizza--with caramelized onions and portabella mushrooms on it. Doesn't that sound great with a tossed salad? I can't wait for their reactions. Never a dull moment around here.

Saying Goodbye to Kindergarten

Henry had his last day of kindergarten a week ago. We were already a couple of months into the school year when we felt inspired to start a family homeschool, and we gave Henry the option of finishing out the year in kindergarten since it was in the afternoons and he could participate with us in the mornings. Even though the scheduling was often a pain (interrupting lessons so that we could rush him off to school, for instance,) I am so glad that Henry spent this year in kindergarten.

For one thing, Henry fell in love with his teacher, Mrs. R. I know that this is a pretty common occurrence, but up until last fall I don't think that Henry had been in love with anyone but his mommy. This was a big deal for him. And I watched him blossom as she poured out love on him, praised him, and appreciated him. She always had something special to share with me and acted like he was her favorite kid, but I watched her with other students and their parents; I think that one of her gifts is to make everyone feel like her favorite. When she and Henry said good-bye on the last day of school, both she and I had tears in our eyes. Henry looked between us, confused by our weeping. But I knew that she had touched his life, and he, hers.

Henry also made big strides in overcoming some bashfulness this year. I hadn't really realized that he was bashful until sometime last year when I observed him in a large group and saw that he always gravitated toward the adults or just hung back from the crowd. At home he has no problem asserting himself, but I watched him struggle to keep his place in line or ask for something he needed, especially if it involved getting someone's attention. Now he seems much more confident in himself in big group situations.

Henry has been able to see himself as smart. We make a big effort to not compare him to his brothers, especially when it comes to intelligence, but Henry has grown up comparing himself to his older brother. Kimball is advanced academically for his own age, but even if he wasn't, it would be hard for a younger sibling to measure up to that at this point in his life. We have always reassured Henry that Kimball is older and a lot of the skills that Henry will acquire as he gets older. Being in a group of his peers has helped him to gain confidence in his abilities, as he found that he excelled in the kindergarten curriculum. He has always loved learning and never complained about spending all morning in homeschool and all afternoon in kindergarten. He just drinks it all in. Now Henry knows what we already did--that he is smart and capable.

All of these reasons will surely have my critics wondering if we should be moving forward with the plan to homeschool Henry full time next year. I will admit that it gives me pause as well. But we will move forward with the faith that if the Lord has prompted us to do it, then it must be the right thing for him. I know that Heavenly Father will continue to direct our family as we strive to rely on Him and seek His guidance. If we feel prompted to return Henry (or any of our kids) to public school, you can bet we will do so. Until then, I feel so grateful that he had these experiences and opportunities in kindergarten. Perhaps they will prepare him for what lies ahead in homeschooling.

What I want to know is this: if we homeschool year round, how will we know when to have a celebratory last-day-of-school lunch, like this one at Red Robin? The kids ate like they'd never seen a french fry before!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Reasons to Adore My Husband

(Not that you should adore him. These are reasons for me to adore him.)

Saturday, I had the chance to go to San Francisco for the day with a few friends and sisters (my SIL, Lindsee was visiting from Salt Lake City) to have a Mom's Day Off. This trip was facilitated by my husband in two ways:
  1. He kept the kids all day. (And cleaned the house, to boot!)
  2. He convinced a friend who owns a limo service to take us at no charge. Hazatah!
We spent the day in the Union Square shopping district. We all bought a little, but no one went crazy. We had a great time being together, looking for the perfect purchase, soaking up the city and the great architecture (especially at Neiman Marcus and Williams-Sonoma), and enjoying fabulous food. Here are a few of the highlights, although I confess that the camera stayed in my purse for much of the day. It was a completely frivolous day, which feels good once in a while.

Chuck William's personal table, which was on the third floor of the four-story Williams-Sonoma flagship store. Or should I just call it paradise? What I should have captured with my camera was the long wall of linens. Breathtaking is not too strong a word.

The foyer of Neiman Marcus, which holds all the cosmetic counters. Although our group spent 45 minutes in this store, I never got past the Laura Mercier counter, where I got a little make-over. I splurged on the best tinted moisturizer I've ever found and a new lipstick. Happy birthday to me!:) Heard rumors that the others fell in love with a pair of $4,000 shoes. Yikes!

Here is the dome above the cosmetic counters. It came piece by piece from the Paris store.

We had lunch at Max's on the Square (the Max's near us closed it's doors two years ago and we've never forgotten how much we loved it); and dinner at Lupa, one of my favorite restaurants ever. Somehow I mostly got pictures of Isaac, our only male and baby, enjoying his food. He had the waiters at Lupa wrapped around his finger. At one point they even picked him up and showed him the cooking area!

A little girl's apron we loved in Anthropologie; there wasn't much we didn't love in that store. Unfortunately it was our last store of the day and didn't get the time it really deserved. (Confession-- we took a picture hoping that someone could duplicate this for less than the $24 price tag. That's so very Mormon of me:)

Other highlights which deserved a photo but didn't get one include: a group of women doing what can only be described as synchronized swimming on bars in the square; finding H&M, which is often featured on What Not to Wear--and discovering it to be very affordable; the two story Talbot's, with huge comfy chairs to take a quick break on; the lemon white chocolate tart at Lupa's; and not having to drive home when we were exhausted, full, and a bit drowsy.

Better yet, when I got home my house was spotless and my children fast asleep. I hope the other girls can say the same!

Thanks, honey! You're the best.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

T is for Toddler

This week, I'm joining Mrs. Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday blog party.

I've been waxing nostalgic today, since Henry, my second born, had his "kindergarten celebration" today (I'm so glad they didn't call it graduation,) and I have been thinking about how quickly my kids are growing up. So I thought I'd indulge myself with a few photos of my kidlets as toddlers.

Bronwen is at this stage right now and we find that everything she does is adorable! There are so many things I love about having a one-year-old; that is, until I try to keep her quiet and still for a kindergarten celebration and then try to keep her out of the red punch and cookies afterwards.

I guess that technically, Ian is still a toddler at 3 1/2, but I don't think of him that way anymore. He is straddling the categories of little kid/big kid in our family--and perhaps he always will. Half the time, he gets to go with the big boys, half the time he's being put down for a nap like a baby. He has been such a hysterical toddler, with a funny little personality that keeps us laughing all the time. (These photos were taken last October, just before he turned 3, when he was most certainly a toddler.)

As I watched Henry today, celebrating the end of an era, I thought of the little one-year old that he was when we first moved here, away from Southern California. He followed me around constantly with picture books, begging me to read. Some things never change! He always has been (since Ian came along) and always will be an adoring big brother to his younger siblings. (These photos were taken in 2004, when Henry was 2 years old.)

Kimball, now 8, was a funny little professor as a toddler. His extensive vocabulary, exceptional diction, and adorable spectacles definitely contributed. He was the first grandbaby in my family and got plenty of attention for it. He loved phones, stereos, remotes, and other gadgets. (These photos were taken when he was 1 and 2 years old.)

I love these little creatures that have been given to me by God to care for, nurture, and teach. I pray every day that I will be equal to the task and that some day they will look back on these years as fondly as I do.