Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Summer Schooling

There are infinite moments from this summer I wish I could put in a box and open up when I needed a sweet memory of my children. They have stolen my heart--usually in the quiet moments, or the little one-on-one conversations that somehow slip into the day's cracks, and every now and then, the wild crazy moments that take up so much of the day. I want to remember this summer like a deep aching in my heart. It's been beautiful. 

So, here are some remembrances--my electronic box I can open up when I need to trigger some beautiful memories.

 Jackson and Allie discovered each other as playmates this summer. It was amazing for them... and the rest of us. They have played together for a number of years, but it usually took a lot of adult influence to get it going. This summer however, they independently built worlds of make believe, with conversations like "how 'bout dis horsey is allergic to water" (says Allie), and Jackson responds with a "Ya, and she has to always have an umbrella over her." The world would melt away if I started talking, so I kept quiet and enjoyed from afar. Most of the time it had to be without the added influence of Porter--though he even was able to get a membership card to many of their games. 

It was the first time in my life, I understood homeschool, and could see it working. If my own children actually played together without needing adult influence or a park's play structure--I could see why it would be worth giving up any semblance of kid-free time. Work in the morning, play and learn from each other in the afternoon. We are far from doing homeschool--in fact, we feel super blessed to be able to send them to a fantastic school with great teachers and peers--but I get it. And I sigh in relief to understand it.

We schooled a lot this summer--in the unschooled, carefree delightful sort of way.

Here are some of those moments:

We schooled ourselves on how to enjoy that solar eclipse [and goodness I was floored by how cool the glasses make it. Thank you to our awesome neighbor who let us borrow hers!]

We learned how to swim, and played in water all Summer long!

We read lots of books, and had the arduous task of writing 50 of them down for our summer reading challenge (whew!)

And we have learned how to make this little baby one smiley, happy guy. Apparently, he should not be consuming dairy, soy or wheat (and who knows what else). We'll see how long his cow can maintain that diet. Eeek!

Ethan [EESAN PEETAH BWOWN!! as Porter calls him while twisting his head a centimeter from Ethan's face], is functioning as human, and surviving because everyone watches Porter like a hawk to ensure no damage. We're not sure if it was natural, or influenced by Porter, but Ethan lost most of his luscious, dark curly hair and after an awkward couple of weeks in July, is now sporting very light brown hair. He smiles all day long, and is adored by all who meet him.

We learned it is harder to transport a family of six around, especially after flying somewhere. We don't fit in a small car any more, but we had very generous grandparents who let us use and dirty their cars (multiple different ones).

Porter and Allie kept track of our summer vacations, beginning in April when we started buying plane tickets. Allie would ask frequently about our trip to Arizona, usually wondering if we could buy some gum for our trip next week (it was a good 2 months before). Porter, would say "morrow day we go Orgen? [Oregon]," and when you would tell him we had 3 weeks until we left, he would nod knowing with his eyebrows scrunched and say something like, "no morrow go Orgin." Oh it was heart melting. These trips mostly included cousin and grandparent love--which continues to grow exponentially!

We realized a few days before our flight to AZ, that we had a 3-hour layover in Minneapolis. WHAT!? Our favorite Richards cousins were there to greet us with Pizza and an awesome setup of tables and chairs to use. What a fun blessing since they couldn't make it to the reunion. 

Saw real volcanoes (5 from this one perch)

And something that looked like one (Meteor!)

We had a tender blessing for Ethan. My parents were planning to make it, but ended up needing to phone in. We were thrilled to have so much family present--electronically and in person.

Thank you family for feeding us, vehicalling us and spending so much time with us. We sure love you all!

One giant accomplishment came last week, when we finished reading the Book of Mormon as a family! We learned we could do it in only 4 years--reading one column a day. Jackson was a little disappointed to learn that we just start over at the beginning the next day. ha ha!

Sad to say goodbye to such a lovely summer, but excited for cool weather and the adventure of having 2 in school. On to new adventures!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Some miracles to catch up on

I'm on break from teaching my music class, which means my computer time isn't consumed with me just sending emails and planning lessons. Perhaps I can organize pictures, and even... [miracle] write a blog post! There are only a few things to mention. For now, we will skip summer, and start with some little miracles we're enjoying this fall.

The 6 year old

Jackson is back at school--a new school--but for the relief of his brain and limbs, any stimulation will do. The first day of school I did remember to take a picture [miracle]. My Mother may have been the only person who saw it within a week, and only after she reminded me a few times. So, always the trend follower [much too late], here is Jackson's first day of school picture!

Apparently my camera wanted to focus on the bush. But you get the tucked-in shirt idea (strange school rule).

1st grade has been thrilling and... a lot more work than Kindergarten. He's definitely risen to most challenges, but it has been amazing to see his reading jump from beginner to... fluent. Honestly, reading is one of those miracles that you have to patiently watch it occur, because there is no way to explain the ridiculousness of the written English language. Holy smokes. I'm glad he finally started to pick up the obscure rules that make no sense, because as soon as we hit short, but bizarrely spelled words like "through" or "design" [present in tonight's reading choice] I am at a loss of how to explain it or remember it. [My brain also does not accept it is as a good idea.... kind of like tucking in a scooby doo T-shirt.]

The 4 year old (who is almost 5 in August)

Allie had her first piano recital. She asked to have a piano lessons 3 weeks ago, and I thought... why not? So, we did one 15 min lesson, in a pre-school aged book I had on hand. Despite being drained by the end of the lesson, she tinkered around with what I gave her, and was refreshed and ready for another the next day. I was shocked, and thrilled, and thus started Allie's 3 week journey into piano. So far, we have a 10 min lesson most weekdays when Porter is napping, and then I give her 2-3 songs to practice. Practicing was not something I though could happen. BUT she does it. She plays the songs and the accompanying CD all day long, and by the time we have another lesson, she's ready for something new. This has been so different from what I ever imagined, it really is a miracle. I am under the assumption it may end soon, but in the meantime, she has shown me her incredible internal beat, and an uncanny ability to play the same song 50 times in a day. So whatever happens, a successful 3 weeks is great! When I asked her if she wanted to play in my "studio's" fall recital, she was thrilled, and pulled it off quite well (much better than her Mother). We'll see if she keeps going, but boy we're having fun right now!

The almost 2 year old

Porter grew some hair. To the point that we might need to cut it [miracle]. And... he's going to be 2 in a couple weeks. WHAT?! He runs, jumps, giggles, pulls hair, climbs, slides, raises his eyebrows, and talks in one syllable, one word sentences (which drives us all crazy, including his frustrated self). Breakfast cereal is just starting to shake out beyond the words "tha" or "thi" {that/this}, and it's a huge relief. We are currently able understand the difference between "pees," "ba" and "cheer" {rice crispies/bran/cheerios}, but still working on shredded wheat, honey bunches, and whatever else he sees. He understands a lot, and can give very clear "nnnoo" answers to many futile requests, but keeps us all smiling as we watch his mind process the world and the constant stimulation that are always present!

The 22 week old... WHAT?! 

AND if you couldn't tell from the recital video... we will have one more little one joining us in March. AND much to Allie's initial dismay, it will be a BOY! We are all excited about it, even Allie.

This pregnancy feels like a little miracle, as we were all thrown on our heads when I got to lay in bed and put Mark in charge of doing everything for weeks 8 and 9. The kids survived on the olympics and breakfast foods for all meals. [We definitely blew the now defunct screen limits from the pediatric society--clocking at least 5 hours of tv a day.] Mark held us together really well, and Zofran patched me up enough to become functional by week 10. There was still much breakfast to be had all day long, accompanied by ample screen time, but boy we were grateful for that miracle pill. Amazingly enough, by week 14, I could cook again. To all my dear friends (and family!) who have survived much worse, what a sacrifice. You are my heroes. 

We are very excited for another little one, and I can say I'm even grateful we have to go through the painful process of deciding on another boy name. Taking all suggestions again! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Baby Bird Eats

We found ourselves a little baby bird a few weeks ago. Jackson came across it after accidentally kicking it. My first inclination was to just leave it, and let... nature take it's course? Seriously, I had no idea what to do, but the kids were very confident that we would save the bird.

So, after seeing more empathy out of Jackson than I thought he was capable of, and Allie at her max of sweetness with an "Oh he's so cute! Where is his Mommy?" every 2 minuets, I knew we had to do something. We started with the local nature center, who instructed us to look for a nest, and if we couldn't find one, call the animal rescue league. The animal rescue league had extensive instructions on how to help baby birds, so we followed the instructions, and eventually got in touch with a woman who took on baby birds. [Side note: Mother birds cannot smell human touch. It is perfectly safe to lift a bird into a nest. Who knew I had been deceived by such a prevalent urban legend for so long!]

After what felt like a jarring 20 minuet ride to Ms. Catherine's house, we bequeathed the little birdie to a volunteer expert who assured Allie, she would try to be a good Mommy for the bird. Allie, most of the way home was seriously concerned with how Ms. Catherine could be the bird's Mother, and how in the world the bird was going to find its real Mother. I hardly blame Allie in her concern, I was mostly curious how in the world the bird was going to eat without a mother bird to chew and regurgitate food into its little peeping mouth. Ms. Catherine assured me that she has food for the bird. Who knew!

Our own little baby bird has been learning to feed himself, and learning how to express which foods he actually wants to eat. He can now lead us to the fridge and point. This pointing method led to the great discovery of his love for Kalamata Olives. Oh my goodness, his diet. The suspense and surprises never end.

We now have an enormous Costco sized bottle of Kalamata olives, which he stopped eating after 2 days. This is definitely not Jackson, who will eat the exact same thing everyday for 6 months (certainly good and bad things to that issue). Porter's taste buds and psyche is much harder to pin down, and it's definitely STILL killing me. Mostly because if he eats well, he sleeps well--so it's personal.

Though, they have different eating styles, Jackson and Porter are definitely brothers. Little P man has taken on the trains, just like big bro, and he has taken to insisting on bringing certain items with him. I love this post of Jackson doing the exact same thing at this age. The umbrella has been a favorite of late, but during a rainy day walk, he wanted to solidify it with the real professional look.

My baby bird is growing up!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Got Teeth?

Oh neglected blog. So many neglected aspects of life... like teeth! I had four cavities at the dentist this week. FOUR!? While some in our family are decaying, others are growing, and others are receiving strange nightly fairies....

Porter, happens to have 8 teeth up front, four molars and no canines. You would think with a mouth like that, he would love to use his pearly whites, but alas. The boy still has an aversion to most foods. Sigh. Veggie Straws, strawberries and blueberries are his usual go-tos, and even then he'll reject them on a whim.

(Look closely at his eyelashes in this picture. He woke up from a nap having perfectly crimped his right eyelashes. It was quite the trip to look at him!)

And here's our recently turned 6 year old (though age 5 in this picture), with a gaping hole in his mouth [and a lovely half-stache scab--they're really quite vogue, you know]. This past year has been a good one for Jackson, as he's grown in maturity, silliness, mental skills, and athletic prose. We love his enthusiasm and energy, and curiosity for life. He crossed the momentous rite of tooth passage at school with very little fanfare. His tooth had been wiggling for a good month, and then fell out without him realizing it.

Of course, there was no sign of the tooth, so a detailed note was given and left up to the tooth fairy to decipher:

Poor little Allie was quite frightened of someone coming into their room in the middle of the night--fairy or no fairy. I don't blame her--the tradition is a bit strange and creepy. Luckily we were able to quell her fears with the thought of glitter and fairy-like wings. She is going through a strong scared phase, where the slightest thing can set her imaginative mind a-light. We remember Jackson going through a similar stage at age 3, but Allies big eyelashes and cuddly nature, sure makes me want to pull all the fears away [until it's the 3rd night in a row I've been woken up]. Hopefully the tooth fairy fear has completely left, since I think the fairy will be needing to make another visit quite soon--hopefully with real evidence this next time.

In other news, little P man has given up crawling for the more efficient use of his feet. Woot woot! In mid-April (at 16 1/2 months) he finally decided it was worth his time to put to use all the steps he's been practicing for 4 months. It is darling, and so much easier on his clothes. Yay Porter!

(Here are the kids on Easter--and Porter still pulling his crawling moves)

And here is our family playing Red Light Green Light for family night this week, and Porter playing along with nimble speed! Sorry for the film quality, multi tasking is so... difficult!

We're so thrilled he's walking, Mark's even got him T-ing up for summer golf. Porter's first shot was a hole-in-one--we think this new standing skill is going to be a fantastic thing for him. Watch out Tiger... or err Jordan, or who ever is the top dog these days, you ain't seen nothin' like the little toothed P-man.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Porter experienced his first snow as a human who reacts (and can sit, etc). His introduction was a nice quiet way to start the crescendo to the snotastic climax.

A couple of Sunday's ago, it started snowing before church. Since we get to have church at 3pm, there was plenty of time to frolic and taste the white flakes that were not sticking at all.

Superb photo grabbing opportunities for sure--even with a line of snot coming down your nose.

We worked hard to catch and taste the snow, and enjoy it as much as possible.

Everyone started to get really excited by Tuesday, when word came in of a blizzard that was headed our way the following weekend. Especially as the estimated snowfall kept climbing. So, of course, no one paid any attention to the inch that was reported to come during rush hour, on a 20 degree weather day. It was definitely a minor dusting, but we were sure thrilled to not be on the road Wednesday evening when 10 min drives turned into hour and a half parking lot crashes. And what a shocker to have no school on Thursday!

Blizzard warmup:

This was Porter's first snow playing outfit, and we were glad we found some other clothes by the blizzard...

...because that snow sure came! And boy howdy did we play like crazy. Friday there was no school again, as it was to start snowing at noon. So, we had a sledding party when there was enough snow to handle the sled.

The driveway was a fantastic warm up to the next day's snow dump.

Porter was much more prepared clothing-wise during the blizzard. The first 4 times I took him out in all his gear, he helped me find it, and asked to go out. After that, he fought it. I can't imagine why--I'm sure he had all the mobility he could ever wish for.

By Saturday morning, the snow was too deep to sled on our own hill, so we trekked it to the dream hill of the neighborhood, that you can never use because of cars, and we used it! There were no cars, but some car tracks, which had packed it down a bit. A perfect sledding spot!

Jackson's gauge throughout the whole ordeal was if we could see the bush or not. This was taken Saturday afternoon, but it was gone Sunday morning.

Around 1pm on Saturday, I thought the storm was dying down, but it just kept coming, clear until 11pm on Saturday night. The kids went out during some of the heavier wind, and only stayed out 20 min (compared to their normal 2 hour stamina). We were so lucky the winds weren't worse--most of the storm was just plain fun!

Sunday morning, the bush was buried, and there were the most interesting snow drifts, creating a sand dune dessert throughout the yard. 25" was the reading we heard, and that was exactly what it felt like.

Here's the steps to our basement. Quite the artful snow wave!

We had quite a few lost boots as the kids went tromping around. At one point, it took us 10 min to find Allies boot among the snow. We banished her from un-touched snow for a while.

We were all dug out by Monday, but we didn't dare leave the house until the roads near us were plowed. At least 5 cars an hour were getting stuck at our hilly intersection. On Tuesday, we got heavy machinery and we were able to make it to the grocery store. Jackson got to stay home the whole week (+ Monday's teacher work day[!]), and Mark didn't have a full day of work until Friday. 

The snow thankfully helped to quell the onslaught of potential cabin fever, as Jackson and the neighborhood boys had all sorts of snowball fights, sledding extravaganzas and fort digging escapades all week.

Allie enjoyed sledding, shoveling, eating snow (inspired by Jackson who took in copious amounts of very dirty snow), and good naps everyday. Awesome.

Porter definitely preferred the lighter dusting, and wasn't much interested in moving once he got outside. I'm not sure if it was the overwhelming height of the snow, or the size 6 snow boots I thrust onto his feet. Either way, he's excited to hopefully visit parks a bit more, now that it's melting a bit.

We felt so lucky to have such a fun week of family time, and we're feeling glad the groundhog said spring should be a-comin' soon, we have had a great fill of snow for the year! And to our friends and family who live through this all the time, we have no sense of envy. We're happy to live a bit further south, and have this feel like an anomaly!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Little P man's the big 1... or was the big 1

Porter's birthday was December 5th. It is Jan 14th today. December is really such a black hole for good habits, I don't feel bad I haven't posted this yet, but I do feel a renewed feeling of determinitaion (that inevitably comes in January).

We had such a lovely time celebrating Porter, it is definitely worth capturing. The birthday celebrations landed on the first Saturday of the month, and as such were squeezed for time because of Xmas decorating and an intense ward Xmas party, but Porter received lots of love and attention, and we think he even had fun!

 I tried to imagine what Porter might want to do for his birthday, and all I could come up with was climb! He has been such a climber lately, he'll take on chairs, stairs, couches, stools--anything with a slight elevation. So, I decided a soft playroom would be his dream come true (and his siblings would enjoy it also).

Like many realized dreams, it took him a while to figure out how to really enjoy the room. He observed J & A (and Mark) who got right down to business jumping, sliding and tackling their way through the room. Porter eventually figured out some of the room's secrets and after 20 min or so, decided he loved it. Whew! He crawled, climbed, slid and romped around that room.

Because of all the other commitments for the day, he got to have his "party" right after lunch--which also happened to be right after his nap. What a happy idea! There were no appetites to spoil and no tired kids. I was surprised by how excited he was for most of the event. He definitely knew something special was going on.

 *Don't mind the pink bib. I switched it [to purple] when I realized all his first birthday's pictures would be shot in pink, but this was just too cute of a picture.

He loved unwrapping his [2] presents. I think he knew he was the only one getting them!

Porter chose to eat his dairy-free frosted cake in careful finger pinches. It sure took a while, but he did do some damage. It was great delayed gratification practice for his siblings who had such a difficult time watching him eat the frosting at a snails pace, while they got none. If you want to see this snail-like episode you can watch it here along with all the distractions his siblings could think of. 

Since turning one, not much has changed. He still climbs, still grunts (though is starting to explore new consonants), and continues to wow the world with his big blue eyes (and no hair). I'm predicting he'll walk within the month... but I think I thought that last month, so who knows! 

Happy Birthday little P man. You are well loved!

(Post-cake Xmas light helpers--another fun thing to climb on!)