Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013!

First there were the traditional Halloween after school treats.

Nathaniel burst in the door after school saying, "Mom, I hope you made a lot of snacks because Benjamin is bringing home a whole gang of people!"

Fortunately, he dropped off a few along the way and it was only one friend who came home with him.

 And now I introduce to you: The 11th Doctor (Nathaniel), The 9th Doctor (Caleb), Oberon- King of the Faeries (Benjamin), A red faerie (Benjamin's friend), and a cute little witch (Lilyanna).
 They made me take lots of pictures, so they could pose differently with their sonic screwdrivers, of course.

And then we ended the night (after trick or treating through lots of wind and rain) with delicious mummy meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I love dancing. Not me personally doing it, but watching others do it. I'm amazed at the grace and control that dancers have over their bodies and how effortless they make it all look.

My four youngest kids all dance, and three of them are good at it. One of them enjoys it, but has to work harder for it than everyone else.

I realized that I needed a dance class. I've taken gazillions of exercise classes over the last 20 years, but not a single dance class. I haven't had to do any choreography for anything in more than a decade, so I was rusty.

Heather the Awesome suggested a year or two ago that we take a belly dancing class that was being offered up at our rec center, and finally last fall everything lined up to make it doable.

It's been a little over a year now that we've been taking the class, and I am SOOOO glad that she suggested it. Our teacher is wonderful! She makes everything seem completely attainable, but is realistic that practice is necessary. And I've had the opportunity to perform with her and my amazing classmates at both a belly dance workshop/retreat and several smaller community gatherings.

I feel like belly dance might be one of the forms of dance that is the most accepting of all body types. I know that seems weird since we all imagine perfectly shaped women in their little bikini tops and toned abs. For the most part it isn't that.  It's normal looking women who have learned how to isolate muscles that I wasn't even aware of having before I started belly dance.  And for some moves, the more belly the better!

I'm not quite ready to bare my belly while dancing, but I'm becoming more accepting of the idea.  Thanks in part to my religious beliefs and standards of modesty and in equal part the tremendous number of scars left by being pregnant with excessively large babies, I'm still a bit hesitant to don a spangly bra and let the rest of my torso hang out.  But I think I'll get there eventually.

Here are a few of my favorite ladies from our very first performance last Spring:

I've been pleased to learn that my body is capable of more than I'd ever believed. I always assumed there were people who could move "like that" and people who simply couldn't.  I placed myself firmly in the latter category.  However, with practice and the right teacher many things can be learned.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wherein I empathize with animal mothers who eat their young...

Sunday evening Nathaniel said the prayer for our family before the kids went up to bed.  Here's an excerpt:

"And please bless us that we'll have a good week at school and that Dad will have a good week at work and that Mom won't spend all of Dad's money by going to the spa three times a day."

For the record, I have never been to a spa.


Let alone three times in one day.

Also, Todd is a notorious cheapskate, but has never said anything about me wasting money, so I know Nathaniel didn't hear it from him.

No, the blessed boy came up with that one all on his own.  And after the prayer when I asked him what that was all about, just kept digging himself into a deeper hole by talking.

And again, I was comforted by the fact that both Benjamin and Caleb knew that he should not have said it in the first place, and CERTAINLY should have stopped talking afterwards!

There's hope for the rest of them.

To Nathaniel's future wife: I'm so sorry. I promise I didn't do it. He's always been like this.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Nightly Occurance

When I went to college, I took with me a lovely feather comforter which my freshman year boyfriend eventually renamed the b.f.f.f.c. (big fluffy feather flannel comforter) due to my attachment to it. I would gleefully return to my dorm room after classes and curl up inside of it.  I loved that comforter and it's flannel duvet cover.

When Todd and I got married, I knew he was allergic to everything in the universe and as a mark of how much I loved him, I agreed to no longer use my b.f.f.f.c.!  (Seriously, people, if that's not love, I don't know what is!)

After a few years of marriage, Todd discovered that there was such a thing as hypo-allergenic feather comforters, and as a mark of how much he loved me, agreed to give it a go.  And that's what we've enjoyed using ever since!

The last year, though, it's become evident that it might be time for a new comforter.  Each night Todd has to shake the blanket so the feathers are evenly distributed and then each morning we wake up to this:

No, that's not someone sleeping in the bed. That's how the feathers are when we wake up in the morning. Now that the cold weather has set in, Todd and I sleep back to back in the middle of the bed  for warmth.  And when we wake up, all the feathers have fled to one side or the other, but none on top of us.

Well, at least I know what my November expense sheet will lead with...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Drama Llamas

Nathaniel and Caleb were recently in a production of "Fantastic Mr. Fox". Nathaniel was one of the farmers and had the most wonderful Scottish accent. I was truly impressed by it.  Caleb played a drunken rat and had way too much fun with that role.  

 The also both got to be chickens for part of the play.
I'm so grateful to live in an area where we have resources like a fabulous community center and a wonderful drama instructor as well as a good pool of talented kids who enjoy participating in such things.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

This sums things up nicely I think

We spent 4 hours at the church today. Mostly setting up and then cleaning up for the Halloween party/Chili contest. The rest was actually participating at the party. These kids all helped with the setting up and cleaning up.  Caleb was in charge of that cute little boy so his parents could help. Benjamin and Nathaniel were very helpful with the grunt work of setting up tables and chairs.

In case you were wondering, Benjamin was dressed as Oberon, king of the faeries. Nathaniel was the 11th Doctor, the little boy who's not mine was a pirate, and Caleb was the 9th doctor.

Friday, October 25, 2013


I give up.  I have been sick for so long I don't remember healthy.  I have tried zinc, vitamins, teas, otc drugs, and yoga.  I didn't want to go back on antiobiotics since we were just on those for walking pneumonia a couple months ago. The cnp took one look at me and told me I needed to rest. She told me I was "ragged" and my immune system was "shot" and that I need to sleep and sleep and sleep and rest. She actually ordered me home to bed for the weekend. (I didn't mention that I'm one of the people in charge of the annual church chili contest/Halloween party tomorrow.)

Anyway. Yay drugs, and extra vitamin c, and medically ordered naps!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"A nest for birds, There ain't no words For the beauty, splendor, the wonder of my HAIR"

I can't stop quoting the musical "Hair" in reference to Caleb. So here is the song that is stuck in my head every time hair is mentioned. This is from the Broadway revival a few years ago. (Amusingly, I just remembered being in NYC at the time. We were celebrating our 10th anniversary and had been to see a different show the night before. The next morning we were standing in line at the TKTS booth trying to decide whether to see another show or go to the Manhattan LDS temple.  There wasn't much available that morning, so in the end our choice was Hair or the temple. I would like to say the answer was obvious, but I did pause for a moment. This is why it's good to marry a better influence. ;) )

I mentioned the other day that Caleb was going to get his hair cut in preparation for Halloween.  Here is the after:

I guess a picture of the before would be nice, too:

But here is my favorite part of this story. Caleb gathered all the hair from his haircut and brought it home in a plastic bag.  After we got home we finished up his school work and then his friends started coming over after school. Each time the doorbell rang, he'd invite his friends back to see his new pet.  He was showing them this:

Yes. That's his hair. Yes. It's in an animal cage.  Most people initially thought it was a guinea pig until Caleb would whip off his hat to reveal his freshly shorn head.  He told this story tonight to his drama teacher and she said to him, "You are what we love best about drama."  True dat.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What I'm Doing Tonight!!

There is a revival of Steven Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along on London's West End right now! Alas, London is a bit too far, rabid Sondheim fan though I am. However!  Tonight they are showing the revival in a few theaters across the U.S.!  And I'm a rabid enough fan that even though 3 of my kids have scouts tonight and Wednesdays are normally horrific in their business, I have found a babysitter for the girl and one person to shuttle my boys to and another to shuttle them fro, so Todd and I can go watch a movie of a play.

I've seen a few previews, and I've decided that the only thing that might make tonight a little less happy for me is that because it's a bunch of Brits doing American accents they sometimes hang on to that "r" sound in their words a bit more than an actual American might. I'll try to take of my proper diction ears for the night, though, and just enjoy the whole experience!

Here's one of my favorites:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Musical Monday

Because I have sinus pressure so crazy, my head is trying to explode. Seems like a good time to dust off an old favorite.  Mostly so I don't have to think too hard. Three different versions of a lovely, simple song. Which one is your favorite?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Fire burn and cauldron bubble!"

On Friday my kids had off from school, I had an awful sinus headache, and Lilyanna was starting to feel better, so I decided to bargain with her (thinking it was a safe bet and I wouldn't have to pay up) that if she took a nap, I would take her to the Halloween party at our town's rec center that evening.  Properly motivated, she climbed the stairs almost immediately. I still didn't think she would do it. After all, my children believe that sleep is for the weak! (I'm so lucky...)  I figured she'd look at books for a little while in her bed and then try to come down and tell me she already took a nap.  But when I went upstairs, she was sound asleep!  

Granted, I paid for it later in that she didn't fall asleep until 11:30 pm.

So, I got to take her to the rec center.  It was just she and I, which was fun. In years past, I've always had to navigate the crowds with multiple children, so to just have one to focus on was a pleasure.  We also made it through all the activities in record time because Lilyanna is a line cutter.  I would stand  in line holding her hand explaining that we had to wait for something, when she would see other kids up ahead being let in and make a break for it.  The people opening the doors and gates just assumed she was supposed to be with the group coming in, and by the time I would catch up to her, she was already in.  While I don't condone this sort of thing, it was nice to not spend so much time standing in line.

Predictably, she loved the whole thing. And she really does make a pretty cute little witch.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why 2013 is a bad year to be a pet in the Smith's house:

Yesterday we lost a beloved member of our family. Florida the Hamster. She was an early Christmas gift from Nathaniel and Benjamin to Caleb 2 years ago.  She was the offspring of Benjamin's classroom pet who came from the pet store and SURPRISE! gave birth a few weeks later.  I think mostly because she was handled a lot by the classroom students right from the beginning, she was one of the sweetest hamsters I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She was always very happy to be held and cuddle.  We will miss her a lot, but are happy that she died peacefully and we found her quickly thereafter. 
Caleb asked for a picture with her before he buried her next to Nico, the Hedgehog in the backyard.

Given the current stats on pets in our house in the last few months, I have to wonder if Gimli, the dwarf hamster, is starting to feel a little bit nervous...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Disturbing trends

Do you see this?

This ear stretching thing grosses me out. I can't look at it, actually.  When I go into a place of business and am helped or served by someone with this type of thing in their ear, I can't look at their head.  I'm sure they're very nice people, in fact some of THE nicest sales people I've ever had wear this in their ears. I'm not passing judgement on them as people, I just can't look at it.

 In other words, it's not them. It's me.

A young man just knocked on my door to try to sell me something who had these gauges in his ear, and I can't even tell you what he was selling because I was trying to get the door closed so fast.

I don't have my own ears even pierced.  Not once!  I've never been a fan of putting holes in my body that don't naturally occur. And this style is such an extreme of that idea, that I can't stomach it.

So, I apologize if you've been trying to talk to me and I seem distracted. I'm trying not to be sick. Or stick my finger in your ear lobe and pull really hard.  (It's an impulse I constantly fight.  Even with long dangly earrings.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

And I owe it all...

to PBS Kids.

Lately, Lilyanna has been pointing out and correctly identifying letters everywhere. I figured it was a byproduct of her brother being homeschooled...even though we don't really practice individual letters except for cursive.

She's been sick for the last few days. Today she finally feels well enough to be bored with being sick, but not well enough to get up and play. This was yesterday:

She slept for 20 hrs yesterday. Literally. I would wake her up every now and again to try to make her eat and drink and take her temperature, but other than that, she slept in my arms most of the day.

Anyway, this morning she asked if she could watch netflix. After some Angelina Ballerina, she asked for Super Why. I've never actually watched this show before. It's a show I let her watch so I can take a shower or help Caleb with work when he needs it's quiet.  Turns out her academic brilliance thus far is thanks to PBS Kids.

I feel decidedly less brilliant now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"My long beautiful hair"

(Today's title is a quote from "Hair")

Caleb has beautiful hair. It is so thick that I've had more than one hairdresser suggest to me that I should really take him someplace that specializes in Asian hair.

I really try to convince Caleb to shave his head at the beginning of each summer just because of the amount of time he spends in chlorine all summer. His hair turns to straw by fall, otherwise. This was only the second year he refused to do it, and nothing I said (or anybody else said) would convince him to reverse his decision.

However, after a brief trim a few weeks ago, he announced that he planned to be the 9th Doctor Who for Halloween. This guy:

He's already got the eyes, the cheek bones and the leather jacket, but notice the hair?

So, now Caleb has decided that he's going to shave his head in preparation for Halloween! He'll be cold this winter, but I'll take what I can get at this point. (I'm still finding sand from a summer beach trip hiding in his hair.  Yikes!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mars and Venus

I've previously mentioned how bad Todd is at noticing hair cuts, etc.  I typically will text him from the hairdresser to remind him that he needs to comment (nicely) on my hair when I get home.

This sweet husband of mine had a day off today and offered to watch the kids so I could have the day off, too! I booked myself a hair appointment and assembled some friends for lunch to make it a truly happy day.

When I got home this afternoon (after getting 4 inches cut off and a whole lot of high and low lights), the only person who noticed my hair was Lilyanna. Lilyanna is 3 and has been delirious from a high fever most of today.  The delirious 3 year old noticed my hair but not EVERY SINGLE MALE living in my house!

At dinner after I'd been home for 4 hours and they still hadn't noticed, I announced at the dinner table that they were all in trouble.  Todd immediately repented and gushed compliments. Caleb said, "Oh, yeah, I noticed the color, I just forgot to say something." Nathaniel dug himself a deeper hole by saying, "How could I notice? It looks exactly the same!" Followed by, "You always wear your hair up, how am I supposed to tell that it's shorter?"  Benjamin redeemed himself slightly by warning Nathaniel to stop talking, and to never repeat any of those statements to any girl friends.  So there's hope there.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

"There's nothing more inconvenient than a queen with a head cold!"

The quote from above, in case you didn't recognize it, was uttered by Robert Preston's character in Victor Victoria and I think about it every time I get a cold. It helps me giggle through all of the not so fun symptoms.
While not entirely recovered from walking pneumonia that we contracted in August, we have managed to come down with head colds. The above picture, for the record, is no longer an accurate representation of things at our house. Although, in our early years of marriage, it was closer to the truth. ;)

Lilyanna and I are home sick from church today. She can't go into the nursery with her current symptoms and taking her to Sacrament Meeting without allowing her to go to nursery afterwards is the cruelest torture we could ever inflict upon her. Yes, we've tried it before.

She and I are celebrating the Sabbath here at home. We have a deal. I get to listen to a few chapters of scripture while she plays quietly, and then we get to watch a Veggie Tales episode while cuddling under a blanket.

And now I need to go find another tissue box.

Happy Sabbath!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Of Course I Can!..."

This is what I've been doing this week!  Ever since our week long power outage 5 years ago, I've been much more enthusiastic about canning. I've learned to only can the things we will absolutely use, though. There is nothing more demoralizing than having to throw away canned goods that you devoted your time, energy, efforts and resources over.  (Apple butter and mixed berry low sugar jelly of 2005, pickled green tomatoes of 2007, to name a few.)  

My family consistently loves and uses strawberry jam, applesauce, apple pie filling, salsa, pickles, tomato juice, diced tomatoes (SO MUCH BETTER than the stuff bought from the store!) and peaches.  So that's what I focus the majority of my time and energy on. Although occasionally I will make a small batch of something new just to try it.  That's how the apple pie filling* made it in to our rotation years ago. 

Happy Harvest everyone!

*I don't use the food coloring in this recipe. Also, according to people in the know about this sort of thing, cornstarch isn't a shelf stable ingredient. However, I've never had a problem with this recipe. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Magic Clip dresses!

If you have to buy anything for a little girl any time soon, and she happens to be at that age where she loves dressing dolls but doesn't yet have the manual dexterity to really do it, BUY HER THESE!!!  Especially if you like her parents.

The dresses are pretty and function like clothes pins (squeeze the bottom of the dress together and it comes apart at the top so you can get the doll out. Pinch the next dress open and drop the doll in. GENIUS!), so the child can easily get the doll dressed and undressed 362 times each hour without needing help. It makes everyone in our house happier.

Lilyanna plays with these things happily for hours! I like these toys less than when Benjamin became obsessed with little plastic dinosaurs at this age, because I thought of that as an educational pursuit, but who am I to complain about whatever it takes to get her to play independently?

Best $4.99 spent ever. (I got them on sale at Target this summer.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"A Wonderful Town"

Guess who just scored crazily cheap plane tickets to NY???  We'll be celebrating our 15th wedding  anniversary in one of my favorite cities!  Two of my delightful neighbors agreed to take my kids for a couple of nights before I even bought the tickets, bless them!  

Hooray hooray hooray!

Now to find a place to stay...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"We all have work Let no one shirk!"

When I was a little girl, "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel" was one of my favorite hymns. I would ask my Dad to sing it while I sat watching him shave in the mornings. I never thought until typing that about how tricky it must have been for him to sing such a robust song while shaving...  Frankly, I like it at a faster clip than this MoTab version, but there aren't that many versions online to choose from.

I am by nature a lazy person. I would much rather do nothing than do something. However, I recognize that laziness isn't helpful. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem sitting and reading. Or taking a nap. But if I were doing only those things all the time (which sound really tempting), it wouldn't work. Dinner needs be cooked, groceries bought, lesson plans made, appointments kept, etc.  And I do like a certain amount of keeping busy. I just appreciate more down time than some of the busy bees of the world.

I don't know that I would have been good at teaching my children to work otherwise, but the circumstances of our life have made it so much of the housework and yardwork falls on my shoulders along with all the other daily and parenting responsibilities. And I can't do it all.

Over the years my kids have taken on more chores around the house. Jobs are not perfectly done. Sometimes children need to be called back several times to do a complete job, but they understand that if they don't get their jobs done, our household runs less smoothly. There is less time for fun.

This spring we told our children that we were going to take our mostly annual trip west, but that they would be responsible for helping to pay for it. We put each kid in charge of a different category: hotels, food, and gas money. Then we calculated what it would cost and came up with a list of jobs that needed to be done inside and outside and assigned dollar amounts to them. So, yes we're still paying for all of vacation, but our kids have literally EARNED it.  Here are some things they've done this summer:

Caleb chopped down the bushes that used to be here, Benjamin built the box to frame the garden in, and Nathaniel helped put down mulch and plant some flowers.
The garden box in the picture above is where that mess off to the right in this picture used to be.

This was just one coat, but Caleb stained and sealed our pretty Adirondack chairs to protect them from the elements.
This sad looking deck has needed to be taken down for some time. All three boys and I worked on taking it apart using nothing but hand tools, then we power washed the concrete patio that was hiding underneath.

There was much shoveling and power washing necessary to reveal said patio.

These are just a few projects. There was also a whole lot of weeding, more garden box building, wallpaper stripping, lawn mowing, etc. But they all worked hard to earn enough to cover what we needed for our journey. Best of all they now understand how much it takes to go on a big road trip!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Huaca

Today the air finally feels crisp and fall-like!  I spent the weekend listening to General Conference, eating too much unhealthy food, and canning apple pie filling.

Today I'm trying to clean up the disaster that is my house after all of us did nothing but eat and watch General Conference for two days.

We all know that I can't be bothered to JUST clean. So I keep taking breaks and reading a chapter or two of  "The Huaca" by my friend Marcia Mickelson. This is Marcia's 4th published book and I'm really enjoying it so far.  Todd and Marcia went to high school together, and then she and I both had our first babies right around the same time. I love that despite having 3 boys and working, she has still written 4 novels. She's kind of my hero, and an all around fantastic person.

And now, I've got to hurry and finish my chapter, then finish cleaning the living room before my piano students get here!