Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Last weeks before being a family of 7

With the bookshelf made and baby #5 close approaching we decided not to tackle any new projects and instead focus on cleaning up. Enter (quite belatedly) Nesting Mode. I had a list of big things on the horizen for a couple of months: Primary Program, Charlie's Birthday, Halloween, Faith In God special meeting, bookshelf, then Thanksgiving was the last one before I thought baby would be born. (Freddy's birthday was actually before the due date, but I really feel like this one would come early.) Chris worked hard and cleaned out the shop area of the garage and put up some shelves to organize tools. We had a big bon fire to burn a small portion of the LARGE scrap wood piles we've been hoarding.  I love this picture because its all my boys looking so handsome. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Chris' profile from behind? 

The weather has been nice - really November is like the perfect month (weather-wise) here. The kids have been playing outside alot. They found this run down shed in the back woods and explored it enough to find a bunch of random supplies like bricks, old window screens, metal poles, fencing material etc. They pulled a bunch of this stuff out and starting building a fort along the edge of the yard. They like to bring out nerf guns and 'snipe' bad guys/zombies. 

Chris' robot team had a demonstration for the end of their semester and I took the kids to see him/them after school one day. We've been taking Alec's friend, Twain home from school every day so far this year so he came too.  We're all excited to see how this robot team does in the NASA robotic mining competition in FL this next May.

With Thanksgiving behind us we can decorate and really celebrate Christmas! We bought a tree at a local all-profits-go-to-Charity tree lot. It was only $25! I let the kids help decorate the nice tree this year because I was too tired to fight them on it. They did awesome. I really love our tree and it helps everything feel like Christmas.  We ordered a new couch (with Thom and Brittany's family coming for Christmas and overlapping with my parents for a few days after we really wanted everyone to be comfortable). I can't wait for it to come.

Our Branch is trying something new this year for our Christmas Party - led mostly by my good friend Audra. We're doing a 'Night in Bethlehem.' Chris got asked to be the roman centurian that comes to every classroom and demands their attendance on an upcoming date to be taxed. He did pretty awesome. Chris has a solo at this party, and the primary kids sing a song, and my boys participate in a small group boys group, and I have a solo. Its 3 days before my due date. We'll see what happens. :)

On the second to last day of preschool, because some kids were sick and another kid's family decided that they couldn't make December work so they just won't come this month. (UGH!) we ended up with only 2 kids. It was a real blessing in disguise because Alec had a Christmas concert that I really wanted to go to but thought I couldn't because of preschool.  I arranged things last minute so I brought Freddy and our 1 preschool friend to Alec's concert. It was fun to surprise Alec and get a feel for his life at school.  His team sang Deck the Halls, Joy to the World and All Around the Wold at Christmas Time. They did great!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thanksgiving and a Preschool Update

Time for a little preschool update. We've had some really fun preschool days learning about corn and harvest and thanksgiving. The other kid who was barely too young for the deadline, dropped out and let me know the morning of the first preschool day in November. :( I don't feel like I can advertise the spot much knowing that theres just two weeks before Thanksgiving break and then I'll be so close to my due date that preschool could be put on pause any minute.  I am really sad and kinda annoyed at people dropping out last minute. I wish there was something I could do to make every kid love it as much as most of the kids seem to. Oh well. The rest of the kids have definitely settled into the typical routine just LOVE coming. Their parents say things like, "She wishes she could live at Preschool" or "She asks me every day if its Preschool" or when the kids cry because their parents come to pick them up and they don't want to go.  I kinda like that. 

I had contemplated not really cooking a Thanksgiving dinner this year since being a few weeks away from my due date. Chris and I were both intrigued with the idea of just going out to eat for Thanksgiving dinner like my sister, Tiffany did 2 years ago when she had a baby due in December. If this baby came as early as Freddy did, he would be born a few days after Thanksgiving Day. But then two of our favorite families here suggested doing Thanksgiving all together and mentioned how our house was the biggest one.  I also liked the idea of using our nice new kitchen to its fullest capacity. A few extra people were added last minute and we ended up hosting dinner for 22 people.  We did the turkey, jello, rolls, drinks and blueberry cream cheese pie.  Everything was delicious and seeing so many favorite people is always super fun.  I also love the extra push to get the house looking really clean and nice; although it was all pretty exhausting. They were really helpful and had everything cleaned up before the bulk of them left including the extra tables put away and the floor swept! It was lovely.   We are so grateful for good food, family recipes, and great friends.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Building a Built-in Bookshelf

One of the built-ins that we had planned on doing was in the space created in the landing when it was converted from a bedroom to a landing during the first remodel. Here's the space from way back then:

Where the wall is pink in the photo above was a perfect space for a built-in bookshelf. We used an old bookcase to house most of the books in the meantime. The problem was, we needed way more space for our children's books.

So with Thanksgiving break around the corner and us not going anywhere since baby #5 was due pretty soon after, we thought it was a perfect time for a project! (correction - I thought it was a perfect time... then again, I think almost ANY time is a perfect time for a project - I love projects!)

We've accumulated enough tools and some exposure to skills over the course of the last year or so and Chris is super sweet to delve into uncomfortable new worlds for me. We took a few weeks to plan it out and more than 1/2 of the wood was scraps from our remodels.  So the project only cost maybe $80?

By far the trickiest thing was getting the crown molding on the top with the angled ceilings. UGH. Glad that's behind us.  It has sooo much more space for books and we even have plans to put a small TV and Wii there during the Christmas break so when we have Thom and Brittany's family over we can send the kids up to the landing for some screen time and enjoy some quiet down by the couch in the family room.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Freddy's cute, an electrical ditch and a Robot Field Trip

Freddy is so adorable. He loves to snuggle still and is so quiet at nap time... he just doesn't like to sleep in his own bed upstairs for naps because its too far away from me. Which, kinda stinks sometimes. I can usually get him to go if I bribe him with a handful of marshmallows or some other treat to munch on as he falls asleep.  I love how he loves to dress up and its fun to see him wearing costumes I've made years ago... I just wish he'd stay in one costume at least longer than it takes me to put it on him! 

The wooded lot next to ours sold earlier this year to a nice family with two kids just older than Alec. They cleared some land and are building a house! I love that the neighborhood is getting some new families.  Apparently, the easiest way to get electrical power is to access it from the powerline on our property.  The electricity guy has come to talk to me about it a few times during business hours without notice so Chris has never been home. I hate making decisions on my own, I can never remember everything they say just right and its hard answering Chris' questions. But with Chris hating to make phone calls, we usually just get stuck with whatever I can remember. Anyway, this is just a long way of saying we now have an electrical ditch going across the side of our front yard. Apparently they hit 2 water lines as they dug.  That's crazy because its SO out of the way from where I would imagine our water lines went. So weird.

Chris and the MSU robotics team got to be involved with a big PEAK field trip that the 2nd graders went on... so Freddy and I tagged along and watched Chris give a presentation to Gwen and her PEAK friends and teachers. One of the things I love about living here is the unity and comradery  between the public schools and the university. Also with the small town feel of seeing people you know in most large group situations.  Chris is great with kids, I love watching him do the stuff he's good at.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


We continued the Halloween festivities with our Branch's annual Truck or Treat and Chili Cook off Party on Friday the 20th. The Primary usually is in charge of this, but I was a little burnt out and we still had the program coming up in a week and the party would be when Chris was out of town AND the day before Charlie's birthday party so I told the Branch Council that if they wanted to do this, we'd need to divide all the responsibilities up. People still wanted to do it, so we assigned out tasks and called it good.  I was hoping to not actually be 'in charge' of it and just have a assignment, but alas, old habits die hard and people just kept assuming I was in charge and treated me as such.  Besides without a real leader, some of the last minute details can come as a surprise and I ended up running around like a crazy chicken the day of trying to make sure it all ended up ok.  I missed Chris' help tremendously, but was so glad my friend Shuniqua was around to help me hand out candy and get set up. 

Freddy was Captain America, Charlie was Iron Man, Alec was a soccer player, and Gwen was a ballerina. 

Being very pregnant, I thought resurrecting my cow costume from when I was pregnant with Alec was in order. Something had happened to all of the spots, so the kids helped me draw them on.  Also, I had to make new teats for my udder. We had about 20 minutes to get EVERYONE costumed and loaded up in the car. It was such a busy day.  We had a really good turn out and I thought my friend's Lexi and Troy (a scarecrow and a farmer) costumes completed my look so we got a picture.

The kids had a blast and everything turned out just fine. People were so helpful in cleaning up so I didn't have to be the last one there. Shuniqua and I won 2nd place for our Chili again (which we made the day before) and the kids got LOTS of candy.  I let them stay up sorting and trading with each other because I really wanted Chris' help putting them to bed. His airplane was delayed though so I ended up doing it by my self anyway.  He had been in Ohio on a business trip for one of his projects for 2 nights. 

The next weekend, Gwen was invited to go to party at our neighbors barn just across and down the road a bit from us. She got to reconnect with her two best friends from 1st grade. Super fun.

We managed to squeeze in Pumpkin carving the night before Halloween. Freddy was old enough to really get it this year and he came up with his design and scooped out his seeds all by himself. ("with blood dripping down") Alec did his entire pumpkin all by himself - including the cutting! Gwen and Charlie came up with awesome designs too and were heavily involved.  Some traditions are just more fun as the kids get a little bit older.  A friend told us to wipe bleach along the inside of the pumpkins after they're carved to get them to last longer.  We tried it and it worked a little bit. They probably lasted 2 weeks. 

Halloween day was a Tuesday this year so we had a fun little party in preschool.

Then after a quick dinner of peas and potatoes while Gwen was at ballet, we met up at a friends neighborhood and went trick or treating for 30-40 minutes, then drove to another neighborhood of someone in our branch who invited us to come there and did another 30 minutes or so. The kids got SO MUCH CANDY and the weather was so nice. I was exhausted by the end of the day and had to visit the bathroom twice at various friend's houses. This baby is sure growing!

Chris and I put the kids to bed just a tiny bit later than normal and still had time to watch a movie on Plex (we love you, Jared!) that is acclaimed as the most true-to-the-book version of Frankenstein.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Primary Program Success!

It was a little less stressful this year getting together the primary program since I'd already been in charge of it the year before. I kept some of the things I thought worked well, dropped the ones that didn't and added a few new tricks. This year, it went SO SO SO good. We had so many compliments and had almost everyone in tears by the end. :) Plus, I DIDN'T come home and cry this year, so win win!

We have less kids this year (only 13) than last year (20) and so some things were eaiser... like interviewing the kids for their parts. I kept a lot of the kids talks throughout the year too and used some of them for their parts so some kids I didn't even have to interview. I knew I wanted to use our two oldest primary kids (Alec and his friend Benjamin) to be narrators again and so I sat down and wrote out an outline with the two narrators talking back and forth to each other tying together the monthly themes.  Then I created a list of questions for each theme that I could use in my interviews with the kids. I really enjoy taking the kids one by one out of their class or sharing time for about a 5 minute conversation where I ask them some of those questions and try and explore their life experiences regarding the gospel topics.  Kids really do say the darnedest things.  I record the interviews so I can make sure I have their exact wording. Then I pick 1 or 2 questions that they had a lot of good stuff to say about, trying to balance it out amongst all the kids so each monthly topic is covered by 2-4 kids. It worked out that everyone had two parts this year.

It kind of sounds like a long process, but it goes by pretty fast and it allows each child's part to be so authentic and heartfelt. It makes for a program that truly is full of the children's individual candid testimonies.  With the older kids, I throw in some of the monthly scriptures at the beginning or end of their part that goes a long with what they're saying.  The kids parts seriously make the program. They spoke of honest things like, "Sometimes I get mad at my sisters when they do a wrong move during a chess game" or "I spit water all over my sister and even though it wasn't even that bad she planned to spit water on me. But I know she forgave me because she eventually played with me again. Sometimes you don't have to say the words, I forgive you, to forgive someone. You have to just let it go and move on."  or "I try to be like Moroni by showing my faith. I believe in church and I go to church. I believe in reading the scriptures and I read them every night. I'm up to 13 verses a day and I'm already in 3rd Nephi." or  "Jesus was a nice guy. He loves everybody. I can love everyone too. I give my family hugs every morning." (that last one was one of Freddy's parts).

We held one Sunday practice during class and sharing time the Sunday before the program and then met again for about an hour on Saturday, the day before the program.  My good friend is the music leader and she did an AMAZING job teaching the songs throughout the whole year, so that the kids knew all the verses to all the songs without needing any kind of prompts. Plus, she picked a really special new song that the kids just love. Its called, I will be what I believe. The end has the chorus of Army of Helaman overlapping with the chorus from the song. We asked the YW and YM to come up and sing the Army of Helaman part with us and it turned out SO GREAT.

I sat on the floor by the mic, so I could help with parts for the non-readers, and get the stool ready for our shortest kids.  I organized the program for the kids into colored groups. Each song has a color and the kids who have a part after that song are in that color group. I have a flip chart next to me that shows the color group we're currently on and the color/song coming up. Then after each song I just hold out the flip chart and mouth, "Yellow group" and the kids usually remember which color their are (or they can see their name written) and get in the right order for the microphone.  I have the program itself divided by these groups too, so that I have one piece of paper on the podium for each group to read off of and I switch out the next group's sheet during the standing up of the songs.

I had the sister missionaries and Chris come sit up on the stand to help the kids since we had no teachers available to sit up there during the program (one of them is the pianist and the other couldn't make it) then my one counselor I put by the microphone controls to monitor those and help the children line up in the correct order for their parts.

All of this helped me to be able to focus and listen to what the kids were saying and sort of just enjoy the program as it went a long. If we had extra time to fill at the end, I wanted to be able to be in the zone and share my own testimony, but as it turned out, I didn't have to say anything! No adult did, except the Branch President who kind of bore a short testimony as he closed the meeting.  (He was in tears too, by the way) Really almost everyone was.   Like one little boy in our primary was so moved by the song, I will be what I Believe at the end that he started crying (like scrunched up face, wiping away tears with his sleeve) crying.  I had tears myself, and when it was all over and I was gathering up my stuff I could see red eyes on almost everyone in the congregation.

Alec did an amazing job narrating. He had so many parts and added animation to his voice and spoke slowly. Its crazy to think that he's going to be the oldest kid in Primary in just 6 months and then he'll be 12 in a year and move on!! what?!?! Charlie had some really cool insight in one of his parts and laid out some good doctrine on the sacrament and repentance in his other.  I liked when he said something like, "Choices and consequences are like a fox and his tail. One end always goes with the other. You get to pick your choice but you can't pick the consequence." Charlie even volunteered last minute to read one of the 'guest' parts I had written in, in case some of our less actives showed up and wanted to participate.  Gwen did a great job as well and is a really good singer.  I love how I can count on her to sit by some of the more rowdy kids and not get rowdy with them.  A few people told me Freddy kinda stole the show. He ended up on Chris' lap for 1/2 of the program and Chris helped him do some of the actions for the Wise Man and the Foolish Man song and apparently Freddy's face was of PURE JOY and delight. Also every time he got up to say his parts, he would take his time stepping up and take a big deep breath as he looked out at the congregation before starting. Super super cute.

Mostly I think I feel so good about it because its OVER! And besides every day stuff like teaching preschool, Thanksgiving, and Freddy's birthday, it was the LAST BIG THING on my plate before the baby comes. Well, I am planning on doing a small Faith in God show and tell meeting sometime in November but thats going to be during the 2nd hour and pretty low key, so it almost doesn't count.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Charlie's turns 9!

Charlie wanted a sports themed party. We found some free printable invites online and modified them just slightly to match the sports he wanted to focus on: Basketball, Soccer, Football and Baseball. Then he proceeded to invite like 20 friends. He's such a friendly boy and even wanted to invite people in other grades that he barely knew. (I think partly because he was choosing people good at sports to be on his team when we played the games at his party - haha!). 

With the branch Halloween party the night before and Chris being out of town just before it as well, it was a kind of, throw everything together in the morning kind of a deal. We had popcorn, muddy buddies, gaterades and some games for the kids. Chris made some sports obstacle course games up and I led the kids in a pin-the-foot-ball-in-the-uprights game. (All of this per Charlie's request)


Then we had cake and opened presents. Charlie was so cute and excited about everything he was given, saying things like, "Oh!! I've always wanted something like this" or "I LOVE IT!" Alot of the kids wanted him to open the presents up right then to play with and Charlie wasn't up for that. I was both a little embarrassed and proud to see how he wasn't going to give in to peer pressure.

He loves the new boots he got from G and G Dixie and almost immediately knew what he was going to buy with the money from G and G Betteridge (arm warmer things that football players wear).  The only present Chris and I got him was a new bike.  Poor Charlie has been riding a bike smaller than Gwen's for the past few months and has never had a new bike - seeing as how he usually just uses Alec's old ones. 

Charlie's real birthday day was the next day on a Sunday so we gave him breakfast in bed (Crepes - his all time favorite ... which were thankfully left overs since Sunday mornings are really hectic and early for us). I had surprised Charlie by getting a few new things for his room: a new bedspread, a few pillows, curtains and some posters.  He again did such a great job of oogling over the new things and being really cute and grateful. 

Charlie is SO sweet and kind with Frederick. We moved Freddy and the little bunkbed into his room the week before to get ready for the baby and he's only been excited to share. Charlie is outgoing, friendly, tender-hearted, athletic, and busy. He's really enjoyed reading this year - especially books about "guys that do cool stuff outside with animals" like the books by Bill Wallace.  He loves sports and even wears sports clothes under his school uniform. He likes to dress up in matching outfits with Freddy for Church, and is kind of a goofball in primary, but usually does a pretty good job toning it down when asked to.  He is such a sweet boy and we love having him in our family. We love you, Charlie!