Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My playroom decorating plan

Our playroom is not bare, that's for sure. But the walls don't have any decoration on them. I've kind of toyed (get it, ha ha) with a lot of different ideas for giving it some decoration, but nothing ever really hit me as right.

But I decided to take some pictures of the kids' favorite toys (thanks for the idea Raquel!) and then frame them and hang them.

Admittedly, some of the pictures are of some odd toys (and the Jack-in-the-Box looks a little creepy to me), but they are the kids favorites. Well, I need a couple more of Hannah's favorites, but she kept running off with them while I was trying to take the pictures. Who knew toys moved faster than kids when you took their pictures?

So, I am collecting opinions on whether I should do them in black and white or color. The walls are three shades of tan, since the playroom is right off of the family room downstairs, if that makes a difference in your call.

Here is a slideshow of the pictures, in black and white and color. I think you just click View All Images. I think?

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Utah Experience

So, one of my friend's mom and family is coming to Utah from Wisconsin in mid-August. They will be in Provo.

SO, assuming Provo is your homebase, my Utah friends (and alllllll of you who have lived in Utah, gone to school here, etc.), what things are parts of the Utah Experience you CANNOT miss? What restraunts? Museums? Outdoor or indoor venues?

A mix of things that scream UTAH! would be appreciated. Come on, help me out here. I won't mention my thoughts on this, so I don't bias anyone. But please post your favorite spots.

This is too funny not to share


Friday, July 25, 2008

WHY am I up so late?

Michael is off sleeping at my mom's house. He went golfing with her and Uncle Darick and drove the golf cart to boot.

Hannah is sleeping at Darwin's mom's house at the girl cousin sleepover. They are playing with the new/old dollhouse Grandma renovated and getting a pedicure.

McKay fell asleep happy after we found a lost Eric Carle book and Teletubbies video while cleaning the basement tonight.

Garrett is asleep after a long day of potty training, with some forward momentum.

Ella is also asleep, cradled in daddy's arms as he checks the internet on the other downstairs computer.

I have been so tired all day I felt like I could barely breathe. My eyes just wanted to slide closed and my brain felt like my computer when it updates and pops up those messages "Your brain needs to restart. Brain will shut down in 4:59. Restart now? Restart later?" and I had to incessently mentally press "restart later" all day long.

So the real question is...what on EARTH am I doing sitting up at 12:34 am?

Soliciting potty training advice

So, we're tentatively embarking on potty-training Garrett. I mean, you just never know. We could finish tomorrow. We could stop, retrench, and begin again in 2009. Its all so unpredictable.

And while I have potty trained 3 of my kids, I have learned one thing. (Ok, more than one thing. But one REALLY important thing.) It is different for each child. What Michael responded to, McKay didn't care for. What really inspired Hannah was different for the boys.

And truly, I think the "magic trick" for each kid came from someone other than me. Tracee, a neighbor helpfully mentioned boxer's shorts for Michael. Gold! Pure gold. 5 accidents one day. Got boxers. Zero accidents the next. Potty training accomplished! McKay's Kindergarten teacher mentioned doing something to keep him on the potty for a long time, so he could relax enough. So we got the "Pee pee TV"--a portable DVD player with "bathroom-only" DVDs. Excellent. Done in a week. With Hannah, Cat mentioned telling her daughter to "make tinkle sounds." Well, that clicked to Hannah. Voila!

So, hit me with your best stuff! We're gonna try it out!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What kind of summer do your kids have?

Some friends were discussing summer routines and it got me curious.

Here in Utah it is pretty much the play all day, come home when the streetlights turn on, get really tan with all the outdoor time-type of summer that rules the day. We swim. We go to parades. We jump on the trampoline. I'd say we eat watermelon, but Darwin is allergic. Basically we have that "all-American-summer." Maybe it is because there are so many stay-at-home moms. Probably.

Granted, we have a little structure. Hannah had a reading class in June/early July. Michael has scouts. McKay has his speech stuff. Michael, McKay and Hannah have piano. So, there is practice for piano, badges to be worked on, speech stuff to practice, reading to work on, etc. Of course there are bedrooms and the playroom to be cleaned.

But otherwise, their schedules are generally wide open. And, I will admit, with the sun not going down until 10 pm, the kids can be seen out playing until 8:45 usually. They need a bath every morning almost due to the dirt and sweat and sidewalk chalk and various other summer grimies.

I think it has been a good thing for the kids, overall. A break from the constant routine. McKay has sort of had a chance to regroup and get re-energized on the school front. He seemed like he was getting worn out and it was affecting his school focus.

But then I am hearing more and more about summer camps, and sports camps, and music camps, and classes and such all day for kids during the summer. I had never considered this kind of summer. I can see where this would be a need if both parents were working. And the kids probably do have a lot of fun. But it doesn't seem to be the situation where I live. The lazy summer days are the way of life here.

So, what is it like where you live? What were your summers like as a kid? Are these free-for-all summers coming to an end? Is that a good thing or not?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Update on Hannah and the bus

Hannah gets to ride the bus with her brothers. If they are both absent one day, then I will have to drive her, but that is not a huge issue.

This will make it a lot easier on me. I won't have to drop Hannah off and then park, and take Michael, McKay, Garrett and Ella to McKay's classroom everyday to drop McKay off. McKay won't have a fit at school everyday as I leave. Overall, I think this will work nicely.

Besides, I do admit I am fairly spoiled. I get to have the bus come to my doorstep and pick my kids up for school. Ya know, that's what I keep perpetuating the autism fraud. (Continuing my eyerolling at Michael Savage.)

Hannah is thrilled that she gets to ride the bus to school. We are so close to the school that we figured she would always be driven or walk. But she'll get to ride the bus until she is in 4th grade and then for 7th and 9th grades. Kinda nice.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And one last post today. Just for laughs.

It might interest you to note that the Harry Potter Princess is also wearing a Superman cape.

He is indeed A Man for All Seasons.


This one is from Kathryn. Mostly fun...but a little embarassing. But all in the name of entertainment, right?

Picture Blog Tag.
The rules are you have to take ten pictures of the following things. And you have to do it right away. No straightening, cleaning or wiping your child's nose. Then you tag five others.

1. The fridge -

2. The closet - Messy. But it's small, so one does what one must. (I also could not get the whole shot, because Ella's crib is in our room, and it blocks easy access to my closet.

3. A self portrait. Ok, I seriously could not do this one. I hate taking pictures of myself and I looked DREADFUL. I had had 5 extra littles over today, it was hot and humid and I looked frightening. I tried to be a good sport, but I about cried at the thought of me with no make-up, hair frizzed to death by the humidity, sweaty...I just could not do it. You all still love me, right? Me and my aparantly fragile psyche?

4. Your favorite room - Our bathroom. We tore it to shreds (or to two-by-fours) with our friends and redid it our way. Other rooms are on the agenda (and we did redo the downstairs bathroom and the floors, etc.), but this is my favorite so far.

5. The kitchen sink - Ok, good thing I have to bleach it everyday. It is scratched and needs to be replaced (the kitchen cabinets, counter, sink and faucet are on the agenda next to be redone--we even have the faucet purchased), so it needs to be bleached everyday or it gets icky-looking and I worry about the bacteria the scratches could harbor. Still, boring and ugly.

6. The laundry room - aka, the downstairs bathroom. But look at all the laundry I did today. The piles on the washer are the kids' clothes and the basket is linens and socks.

7. The toilet. Man, you guys are lucky. I have to clean it about twice a day, with all the boys (one potty-training) and all the little kids over. This could have been baaaaad.

8. What are your kids doing right now? When the pictures were taken, the 4 oldest were at with my brother and mom looking at floats for the 24th of July (hence me checking blogs, seeing I was tagged, and taking pictures...), so this is Ella.

9. Your dream vacation - I am dying to take the kids to Disneyland again. They LOVED it when we went a couple of years ago. They are older and I would love to see their faces. (A close second is Washington DC again, just like when we went for Darwin's job training...a big 3-bedroom apartment, a minivan, etc. 7 weeks to hang out and look around...but NO crazy floor guy.)

10. Your favorite shoes - My NEW ones. I rarely get new shoes, so I like them when I get them! Otherwise, it is NO shoes. Even on hot streets.

Ok, so usually when I tag people, they don't do it. So I will just say whoever wants to do it, please do.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Savage attack on autistic families

Political shock jock Michael Savage is not going to be getting a Christmas card from me, that's for sure.

While I understand that Savage earns his bread and butter with scathing commentary on politicians and entertainers, I am really sickened by his latest target. Autistic kids, who he feels are all "brats" who have not been told to "quit acting like idiots." He also claimed autism was a "fraud." I find myself feeling ashamed of him. Its a bit like watching the biggest kid in the school pick on the smallest kindergartener. The big man with a radio show picking on the non-verbal children. I find myself recoiling in disgust. Targeting adults, especially those in powerful positions, and even more especially those who abuse that trust...I can live with that. But targeting children? Disabled children, many of whom have no voice with which to defend themselves? Unconcionable.

SAVAGE: Now, you want me to tell you my opinion on autism, since I’m not talking about autism? A fraud, a racket. For a long while, we were hearing that every minority child had asthma. Why did they sudden ⎯ why was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because I’ll tell you why: The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in and was told [fake cough], “When the nurse looks at you, you go [fake cough], ‘I don’t know, the dust got me.’ ” See, everyone had asthma from the minority community. That was number one.
Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is.
What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, “Don’t act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.”
Autism ⎯ everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, “Don’t behave like a fool.” The worst thing he said ⎯ “Don't behave like a fool. Don’t be anybody’s dummy. Don’t sound like an idiot. Don’t act like a girl. Don’t cry.” That’s what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You’re turning your son into a girl, and you’re turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That’s why we have the politicians we have.

Huh, so is he saying McKay perpetrated this fraud? Goodness, I am glad to know this. He is not only not disabled, he is a genius. He had this all figured out by about 20 months. Now THAT is cunning. We'd all best be on our guard. He's poised to be a supervillian for sure.

Or is he implying that Darwin and I choose to fake the autism to cover our bad parenting or for money? Well, autism has certainly lined our pockets. Our insurance company won't touch anything to do with autism. We get no government money. We DO pay quite a lot for meager therapies however. Yes, autism is a cash cow that everyone can't wait to get in on.

Maybe we do it because we LIKE the stares in the supermarket when McKay starts flapping? We like the stress of wondering where McKay has wandered off to? We like dealing with all the unsolicited parenting advice? Maybe we are all waiting with baited breath for OUR turn to be kicked off of a plane, have OUR child voted out of their classroom, or dragged from a restaurant by the police? (For the record, all of those have happened to autistic families in the last few months.) Maybe it is because we all love wondering what the future holds for our child, and worrying about it when we consider most of the options.

It's so upsetting that even after countless advocates have tried to edcuated the aparantly uninformed Mr. Savage, he continues to stand by his statements. How sad to reduce a whole group of children to the catagory "Brats." In reality, these are some of the most inspiring kids anyone can meet. Due to differences in their brain make-up, even things like lights, sounds, and movements can be overwheling and painful. Language doesn't come naturally, nor does understanding and decoding social cues. So these kids are behind the eight ball to even begin to interact, but many, like Michael and McKay, struggle everyday to do so, even though most people expect Michael and McKay to make all the concessions. There are some who will come halfway and a very few who go even further and reach their hand out. But Michael and McKay keep trying, even when it is painful, confusing, or upsetting.

But now, thanks to the efforts of Michael Savage, it is just that much harder on families who are already overburdened with difficulties. There WILL be people who will latch on to this idea. Like the notion of "refrigerator mothers" of the past causing the autism of their children, it is now the "passive parent" who allows their child to be a "brat." I guess we ought to keep the autistic kids locked away in the house and never allow them in public.

I am eagerly awaiting his follow-ups to this piece. May I suggest, "Indviduals with Parkinson's: Sit still, dummy", or maybe, "Children with Downs: Wipe that look off your face and stop acting like an idiot." Yep, I think Mr. Savage has a surefire way to deal with disabilities. Let's abuse them and berate them, and magically disabilities will disappear. How sad that he can't embrace the differences and see what these "out-of-the-box thinkers" bring to the table. Someone really ought to have smacked Einstein and Thomas Edison and made them act more normal. Obviously, Bill Gates (a suspected Aspie) is an idiot. History is replete with exceptional individuals suspected of being on the autistic spectrum. We should have locked them all away with a good slap.

One thing we truly believe and often tell curious children who ask about McKay is that Jesus sent McKay here to teach people how to be nice. Sadly, Michael Savage has not gotten the memo on that lesson.


So, I pilfered this off of Kathryn's blog. Well, in my defense, the pilfering was PART of the rules. It was not a random pilfer. So, this oughtta be fairly amusing. What do you remember about us?

Please be kind, because I know where a lot of you live. I also know quite a few of your mothers.

Here's the directions:
1. As a comment on this post, leave one memory that you had with any of the family together with you. It doesn't matter if you know us a little or a lot, anything you can remember! (Especially the stuff that makes us laugh!!)

2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you.

If you leave a memory about us, we'll assume you're playing the game and we'll come to your blog and leave one about you. (bwa-ha-ha!!) If you don't want to play on your blog, or if you don't have a blog, we'll get our memory to you another way.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

I just want to show off how cute Hannah is

There really is no other reason for the post. Just "Hannah is cute."


Kim tagged me!

Ten years ago: We were celebrating our first anniversary and Darwin was looking for a chemical engineering job. I was going to BYU and working at the Sugar Shack in the evenings.

Five things on today's to-do list: Sunday, so it is fairly short. Get up, get showered and dressed, get all the kids washed and dressed, get to church, and cooking dinner. How 'bout that?

A snack I enjoy: Good Rachel likes carrot sticks with BYU Ranch dressing. Evil Rachel likes Skittles.

Things I would do if I were a millionaire: Man, pay off this house. Get real therapy for McKay. Gosh...I can barely dream beyond those.

Places I have lived: Uh, Utah. And--well, no, just Utah.

I tag Cynthia, Ruth, Alison, Christie and Megan.

The Brownie "recipe"

Brownie mix is a great thing to hide veggie purees and stuff in. Mainly because it is SO dark and very rich. So while brownies aren't health food, they can be a conduit for getting veggies into kids. So not health food, but not a total food villian.

Since there are so many different mixes out there, it is not a cut-and-dried thing. The beans/egg and oil substitution is not a 1:1 thing. If you try that, the brownies will be too dry. But the normal-sized box in the store is about the ticket to making it easy, since it is 1 can beans to 1 box mix. (I like the Hershey's one, because they add little Hershey's kisses in the mix and it jumbled the texture even more, all the better to disguise the purees!)

For the beans, put the beans and the liquid into the blender or food processor and pulse them until they are smooth.

Now, seriously, you will love this. Just plop the can of beans into the dry brownie mix and mix it up. And that is IT! No eggs. No oil. No water. Beans and brownies. They are a little more cakey than original brownies, but hey, we're working with BEANS, so you have to cut them some slack.

I use black beans, because they tend to be the superbeans of the bean family and they LOOK chocolatey. So if I ever get caught in my trickery...I could try to look innocent.

Now you WILL have to cook them for about 10 minutes longer, or they will be a little bit too wet to cut easily.

I will do another post on purees in general. But here is a quick teaser. If you want to make your kids mac and cheese from the box more healthy, here's a tip. You can steam some cauliflower and blend that and a bit of the steaming water and plop the mixture into an ice cube tray. Freeze the mixure and put them in freezer bags. Now when you mix up a box of mac and cheese, just pop one or two of the cauliflower cubes into the mix. It really changes nothing, in terms of texture and taste. Cauliflower is very mild.

And if you are tight on baby food in the baby food aisle are a good sub in a pinch.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Food Wars

So in the ongoing battle of nutrition that goes on in the house, sneakiness and marketing play an important role. Like, tonight, we had chicken parmesean for dinner. Yummy! Unless you're a kid. Then you're contractually obligated to clamp your mouth shut and refuse to try. But if you're not having "Parmeasean Chicken", but rather "Pizza Chicken"...well, the union won't come after you. As a member of the Union of Children, you are released from the Clamp and Refuse Clause if you are presented with food from the "Pizza Family." Oh and notice how I also adhere to the Non-Touching Food Group Conventions of 1999? Hey, what can I say? I'm all about Dinner Table Peace.

Which leads to this...

I have other extremely extremely sneaky ways to get nutrition into my kids (that make this look like child's play.) I will post sometime about my brownies that use beans instead of oil and have spinach and blueberries mixed in...all without being something you can taste. I can see you shuddering. But really, if you don't tell, they won't know. Hmm, I think you're still shuddering, aren't you?

Seriously, they need to offer a PhD in this stuff. I have never worked so hard in my life.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

School stuff is starting

We got the boys letters from the transportation department today. The first sign that school is looming. Because they changed around the boundries for our school's autism unit last year, we are also going to be changing start times. We've always had the boys starting school at 8 am. In Kindergarten, McKay's bus would pick him up at 6:55 am. (He was going to a different school for Kindergarten. One about ten miles away.) This year, we've moved to 9:15. I think the boys will appreciate the change. But it brings up an interesting question. What to do with Hannah? I think the bus will take her too. I know some siblings have been allowed to ride the bus as well. Since Hannah will be starting Kindergarten at the same school I can either drive them all, or they can all take the bus, but I can't leave the boys for the bus to pick up while I drive Hannah. I also can't let Hannah be late everyday while we wait for the bus. So I will call tomorrow and figure out which it will be. Most likely Hannah will get to ride the bus, which I think will thrill her.

We're lucky that our neighborhood school just happens to be the one with the most awesome autism unit in it. For this reason alone, we will probably stay in this house until the boys are done with 6th grade at least. That way we can't get moved out of the boundries of the school. It is also really nice that the boys get the normalcy of attending the same school as their neighborhood/church peers. I think that is really important.

Summer is ticking by. This is another reminder of it. In some ways this has been a hard hard draining summer. But it is always bittersweet to see summer going.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Are you all jealous?

Well, you should be. ;)

Yesterday was so much fun. We had our good friends the Winters over and we had a real summer shebang. We BBQed burgers on the grill, made homemade root beer (wow, it turned out GOOD!), and made homemade ice cream.

Oh, you're jealous of the menu? No no, that was not what I meant.

Here is the part that is the jealous part. So Christie and I got to chit-chat, swap tips for Photoshop and camera workings, and just enjoy having some wonderful adult interaction that we often miss out on during the day-to-day with so many little kids. All the while those awesome men we married were in the back with all the kids (eleven in the house at one point...our 5, their 4, and 2 neighbor kids) cooking, mixing up root beer and ice cream and chatting. AND at the end of the evening, the men pretty much supervised the kids cleaning up the playroom and their bedrooms and did a major portion of the kitchen clean up too.

Did we marry great guys or WHAT?

Ok, you can commence with the jealous now. ;)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just a sweet kid picture

He IS wearing clothes. It was a swimming suit. We went to the pack meeting at the park. It was a water activity. But McKay decided about 15 minutes into it that he was going home. So Darwin watched the other kids and I walked home with McKay. He sat on one of the rocks in the front for quite awhile, and I practiced using the manual mode and trying to get the right exposures. I think we both had a lot of fun.

McKay is kind of a tricky model, because he has a hard time looking right at people, so he is always looking off into the distance. He also is NEVER ever still. So focus is a challenge. I also learned that, if left to its own devices, my camera will invariably choose ears to focus on. So I have to take control and tell it I want the EYES to be the center of focus. It's all interesting to learn. McKay kept telling me, "A model has to stay very still." I think he got that from Max and Ruby.

Besides, it is probably a good idea to always have a clear, very current picture of McKay on hand...just in case.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My camera is back!

And I am feeling all vindicated. The camera repair techs confirmed that the auto-focus system was defective. Hence, my working up a literal sweat to get focused pictures...and still not having them focused EXACTLY the way I wanted them to be. But then it makes me stop and ponder--I might just be a little OCD to notice that the sharpest focus is not the eyes, but rather the front hairline.

I think the poor Fed Ex man was a little scared when I wrenched open the door and snatched the box from his hands, exclaiming, "FINALLY!" (I did calm down enough to calmly sign his little thing and wish him a nice day.)

Anyway, yay, my camera is back! With focus!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ella's 4 month stats

Ella had her 4 month check-up. She's doing great! She is 14 lbs. (60%), 25 inches (75%)and her head is 41 cm (65%). She's almost doubled her birthweight!

Gosh, it seems to all be flying by.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday excitement

We set out all the clothes the night before, got up early enough to shower and dress everyone on time. Boys hair was cut, so not much brushing was needed. We were primed to be on time for church...until McKay decided 5 minutes before church to run off. We loaded everyone in the van and noticed McKay was gone. Problem was...he likes to run into people's houses, and everyone was at church.

So Darwin started knocking on doors to see if McKay would come running out and I started driving up and down the busy streets and to the park to look in the backyards of the houses. Then I went to the church to see if he ran on ahead and went to the nursery. No such luck. I also secured subs for the nursery while I ran in.

We kept sweeping the area, and our best guess was that he was hunkered down in someone's house. Sunday is a bad day for running.

Darwin's van was dead, so I stopped home and we jumped it. Darwin started driving too, with the plan to circle back by the house every few minutes. As Darwin started driving off, he noticed two police officers by the park. He decided to stop and ask for help, and they had McKay. They had called McKay's teacher and knew his last name. So, it all worked out, after an hour of looking.

He had run by the stake center and gone into someone's house. A totally different routine. He's been so good about NOT running for the last 3 or so weeks. I don't know what prompted the run today. Either way, I hope it was just a deviation from the norm and NOT the new norm.

So, back to putting our phone number on his arm in Sharpie again.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fourth of July!

This was a really fun year. For the last couple years, I was the ward activities committee chairperson. Fourth of July was one of the big activities and so I would be up until late at night prepping the stuff for the big 4th of July breakfast and then we would be up at about 4 am to save the park and set up the slip and slide and start cooking breakfast.

This year...I just got to ENJOY! It was nice.

Garrett was completely unsure of the slip and slide. He did go down once. He preferred the playground.

Hannah loved it and went over and over. Even once, she got caught in a crush of crazy, teenaged boys. She was rather unhappy to have gotten smushed between all of them.

McKay went down a couple times but he preferred to stand in the puddle on the basketball court.

Michael also went down a bunch, but he went over earlier with Darwin and I was home waiting for the kids to wake up and I got them ready and sent them over as they woke up. SO I didn't get any pictures of Michael, because he walked back home before I got over.

McKay went down a couple times but he preferred to stand in the puddle on the basketball court.

Michael also went down a bunch, but he went over earlier with Darwin and I was home waiting for the kids to wake up and I got them ready and sent them over as they woke up. SO I didn't get any pictures of Michael, because he walked back home before I got over.

Ella mainly just sat in the stroller or in my arms and watched the goings-on and enjoyed. It was not too hot and kind of overcast, so it felt really nice outside.

Then later that evening we went to Darwin's sister Alison's house and had delicious BBQed pizza ala Steven. (If he wasn't such a successful professional, I would totally reccomend that he open a restraunt. He is a great cook!) Then we did fireworks.

What a fun day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Waiting for a friend

McKay's Teletubby dolls needed washing. McKay kept coming back to check up on the pogress. He's had the dolls since he was about 2.5 years old. They have never gotten old to him. They have also been all over the place. Stores, Washington D.C., the doctor, name it.

It really makes me feel good about my toy-buying dollars. They are not wasted.

We've been robbed!

Oh, ok, not really robbed.

For some reason, for the last week McKay has found the above extremely entertaining. He can't tip over the upstairs couches, so he just moves those couches around.

At least it gives me a good chance to keep it clean under the couches!