Friday, May 27, 2011


moms of girls brought delicious salads, and my partners in crime, Tiffany Richards and Jeanette Hamilton brought amazing home made breadsticks and rolls to add to our luncheon affair.

moms of boys brought tasty desserts, which went untouched until we moved them from the library, where no one would congregate, to the kitchen counter top.

have you ever heard of the "not so big house" philosophy? It basically sets out to prove that social psychology does not lend to people congregating in formal spaces. I believe this to the core, so was not surprised when only one soul even tried to venture into the music room for a place to sit and eat. They didn't last long-the room went empty the entire afternoon, despite having great seating and a pretty view out the window.

50 people or more made themselves at home in the kitchen and den area. I felt slightly embarrassed to see them sitting all over our oh so dirty/used up couch, but hopefully they were enjoying one another enough to pay little attention to the decor!

white flower bouquets were all over the house, trying to bring a bit of the garden into the Spruces on a very rainy day

Just thought I'd try and SQUEEZE one more thing into the month of May...a pot luck luncheon for mothers of 7th grade kids. We had planned for this to be a 'garden party' but with non stop rains through the week we had to move the festivities into the Spruces...we had to SQUEEZE into the house...get it?

I was determined to meet the women whose children influence my Brynley so much. I wanted them to know me, to know that I want to know who they are. Bryn spends time in their homes. She watches them. They are a pattern for her to follow, an example for an impressionable girl. I wanted to know what kinds of impressions she is getting when she crowds into her friends houses weekend after weekend.

And I wanted these great women to see that my door is open wide, they can send the girls (and the boys who follow...) into my home and I will feed them, and give them a safe place to be as they run into their teenage years.

I felt it was a great success! Over 50 mothers crammed into the kitchen, shaking hands, sharing food and stories about their kids. It was fun to hear from and meet again some High School friends whose girls are friends of Bryn.

Just like the girls who crowd around our kitchen island, their mothers didn't spend much time in the formal rooms of our home-they wanted to be in the close quarters of the kitchen, gabbing and nibbling, smiling and enjoying one another despite the lack of seating and the general 'tight squeeze'.

I remember clearly a friend sharing with me that on the night of her oldest son's high school graduation she met some his friends' parents for the very first time. I didn't want to have that experience, I want to know the parents who know my child. I hope this was a first step in that happy direction.

Trying to squeeze in a little more of "life" before the month of May has ended; we are packing for a trip to Boise, and delivering birthday invitations for Porter's birthday party. We are squeezing every last drop of energy out of my being but maybe as the end of May approaches I can start to view the hope of a calm JUNE and find the strength to see May to its finish...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

10 years of Summer Journals...

an evolution of summer journals. Our first, the little Swedish notebooks with my personal decorative touches...the last, a one inch binder decorated by Bryn and full of things I want her to read, ponder, and revel in all summer long

Mason's entry from July 2001: 'today my mom is in PERIS. Jessuka came too.' The picture is of John teaching Mason how to ride his two was different then, and I'm so glad I have a taste of it from my little boy's perspective

setting and monitoring personal goals has always been a part of our summer journals. We choose goals that develop our mind, our body and our spirit, and we take stock in our progress throughout the short sunny season.

spiritual thoughts are also a part of our summer curriculum. For the younger ones, I'm trying to help them learn how to seek habits that will help them draw closer to God. For the older ones, talks and quotes that can help them recognize the Holy Ghost, feel His witness of Christ's love and reality, and help them desire to seek a life that is in line with Christ's teachings

thoughts on personal health are also a part of our summer journals. 'Food Rules' are a favorite of mine, and we will pattern our summer eating and cooking based upon these great and important rules for healthy living.

Reading lists and shelves of new books are all part of my plan
I choose more classic novels
"Little Women" for Madi
"Tom Sawyer" for Porter
"Red Scarf Girl" for Bryn
"A Tale of Two Cities" for Mason

Greek mythology for all
and many many others...

as well as work books to keep algebra fresh, alphabets remembered and reading and writing increased.

This week I am determined to put our summer journals together.

This is a tradition that is now a decade old.

Our journals have gone from a small way to document life in Sweden (summer 2001 was spent in and around Stockholm with visits to Portugal and Bavaria) to an entire 'summer system' which is designed to keep our kids learning, help me inspire them to learn and think and grow, and keep them ready for the coming school year.

The older kids have left the actual daily ritual of writing to answer the daily questions and prompts. For them these journals are more like inspiration books, with reading lists, calendars of the summer's events and inspirational talks and quotes to read and memorize. They will have fewer paragraphs to write and more lists. The little ones on the other hand will continue to daily practice complete sentences and using descriptive words etc.

the journals evolve over time.

I'm excited to share some of what we do with you, maybe it will inspire you to do exactly what is right for your family during the summer...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One Quiet Minute

Some Quiet minutes make mothering Heavenly

each morning we encourage our children to take a 'quiet minute'. This is a time for them to begin their day with personal prayer and a thought from the scriptures. It is self directed. We would never perscribe what they need to do, we only provide the encouragement to take time to put God first each day.

Usually this time is compiled of a very quick prayer, sometimes in a very public place-just to get the 'chore' done. But sometimes thoughtful moments come when the children read scripture or retreat to their rooms to privately seek Heaven.

This morning, as happens on many, I was invited to listen in on Lucy's morning prayer. It went like this;

Hebenly Fader,
Thank you that we could go to school today
Thank thee that we can help Molly be on time to school
Thank thee that we can learn.
Thank thee for our church
Thank thee that dad will come home safe
Jesus Christ, Amen

For that 15 seconds the earth was quiet and I felt Lucy reach for Heaven. And I felt Heaven reaching back.

seconds like that make mothering a calling of honor for me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Channeling Super Strength

'She's Super!' Madi's slogan for Student Council Elections
held this week...

The countdown is on: this is the last FULL week of school. Two half weeks happen after this. The pace is completely frenetic. I skipped a PTA luncheon today to catch up on the housework. Then, instead of zipping from one domestic assignment to the next, I moved at a snail's pace...I am burned out.

Going to bed too late for the hour that I wake, I fell asleep twice today while listening to Molly read to me. After publishing these thoughts I will proceed to the medicine cupboard where I keep Coca Cola for migraine headache relief (I am not a soda drinker). I don't have a migraine yet, but I have to stay awake for so many more hours I think I'll resort to the caffeine.

We've had a party for everyone this year whose had a birthday so far. Today I realized that on top of the party that's happening here on Thursday (supposed to be an outside pot luck luncheon but thunder storms are in the forecast, so now we are re-arranging furniture to seat upwards of 50 mothers coming to eat and chat about life with a 7th grader) I've got Porter's birthday party coming the day after school gets out. Invitations must be made and delivered, and the yard tidied up again before the insanity of May has ended.

I need some super strength.

As I drove this afternoon my mind wandered to my tendency to give advice to just about everyone. I seem to think I know how to help others with the words that I might say. It occurred to me as I was pondering that I really don't know it all; in fact; I really don't know much of anything...and the things I seem most confident to counsel others about are things I haven't applied diligently in my life (daily scripture STUDY and daily acts of selflessness) for months and months and months.

And those are the things that provide the kind of strength to cheerfully proceed, super strength or not, through the good and busy times in my life.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Case of the disappearing Post and a Call for Quotes...

sleuthing out my missing blog post

Hi friends, hope you are enjoying a beautiful spring day. I wonder if anyone out there has had a post just 'disappear' before? It happened to me today! Yesterday's chocolate chip cookie recipe went missing for a while, then made it back to the blog this afternoon. When I checked my settings it didn't even appear as a draft or in the line-up, SO WEIRD. I'd love to hear from any of you if this has happened before. Never in 6 years of blogging has a posted post gone AWOL...

This weekend I will begin my yearly summer journal preparations. This time I PROMISE I'll have attachments for you to use or to tweak to your personal liking. As part of our yearly tradition I always prepare things for our kids to MEMORIZE. Poetry, scripture, quotes and such.

This year, I wonder if you'd help? I'd love any quotes, poems or thoughts that are meaningful to you-they might be short (for my younger set) or longer. Serious or funny. Whatever has inspired you - send it on to me! I'll post them along with the other printables and you can share this tradition with us!

thank you in advance for helping me make summer a meaningful time for me and for my children. Happy Weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Favorite Bake Sale Cookies

after the dough is made, we scoop it onto a couple of cookie sheets and freeze the 'dough balls' so our treats are ready for baking whenever we are ready for them!

once the dough balls are frozen, we 'package' them in batches of a dozen. It would also be very simple to put them in big gallon sized bags and then just use as many as you need. That would save plastic use as well! then just pop the bags in the freezer and hope someone asks you to bring cookies to something...

not our most 'artful' photograph of delicious food, but you get the idea that a cookie fresh out of the oven is delicious even when not framed well in the photo...notice the cookie in the corner of the pan has already been enjoyed, our kids can't keep their hands off them, and neither can I...

This time of year we have to bring treat after treat to one event or another. Often fund-raisers for school or sports, it is important to have a confection that will catch the eye of a distinguishing buyer...

THIS is the cookie of choice in our family-we keep the dough on hand in our freezer so they can be baked and served at a moment's notice. Brynley and I can basically make them without a recipe to follow. I like to add both milk and semi sweet chocolate, and I only go for the good quality chocolate! No nestle, but Guittard chocolate chips are in order for these incredible morsels.

The batch is HUGE. like making a doulbe batch of any other recipe, so keep this in mind when choosing your mixing bowl!

The recipe was shared with us while living in Flower Mound, Texas. Becky Speakman-we bless your name every time your yummy cookies come out of our oven or are given to our neighbors! Thank you for your gift of this recipe!

Becky Speakman's cookies:
1 lb. softened butter (salted is actually best for this cookie)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
2 T vanilla

cream these together.
Then mix in:

3 eggs

1 t. salt
1 t. soda
5 1/2 cups flour

blend together, but do not over mix.

Add 1 1/2 packages chocolate chips. We often 'push the envelope' and add two bags, one milk and one semi sweet.

bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Anatomy of a Teenage Birthday Party

the only place at the Spruces big enough for this crowd was OUTSIDE

Sidewalk chalk, pogo sticks and scooters were some of the activities waiting for party guests

'find the pineapple' was a fun way for kids to start the party. 12 pineapples were hidden in the front yards of our home and the neighbors. The kids who found the fruit took it home as a prize

TONS OF FOOD! Hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, fruit, veggies, drinks, popcorn from the rented popcorn machine, and movie snacks not to mention the big birthday cake. And both boys and girls helped themselves freely. I loved using the old fashioned burger baskets lined with checkered paper. And John was a short order cook who made things hot n' ready...

Sharon Cliff's chocolate cake was amazing with almond buttercream frosting. Mason is wearing his favorite birthday gift; a t-shirt made by his friend advertising the most watched tv show in our house and the show Mason played for his friends in the back yard: PSYCH

So, of all the birthday parties we've thrown this year, I feel like this was the most fun for me. That is mostly because Mason didn't care much what happened, as long as we had food to eat and PSYCH episodes to watch on the outdoor movie wall. He and I and Brynley brainstormed for a few minutes to have some alternative activities for those not interested in the quirky comedy/mystery show. In the end it was my imagination and a lot of hoping that brought it all together.

While kids arrived they were invited to sluth out the hidden pineapples on our street. This is a direct nod to the tv show, as they hide a pineapple somewhere in each episode. Sidewalk chalk, pogo sticks, bouncy balls, and dry erase boards were all in tubs around the yard marked 'play with me'. The kids scooters and tricycles were also entertaining for this teenage crowd. The dry erase boards were meant to be used for outdoor Pictionary, but the kids had a blast writing words in chinese and just doodling with them. The pogo sticks were meant for younger kids, but these guys didn't care much-they challenged each other to see who could bounce the longest (we had two sticks) and they seemed to have a blast.

After a huge dinner, the kids jumped on the tramp and talked and texted (!) until it was dark enough to start the show. Madi was an awesome popcorn maker, and the kids really chowed down on all the party candy while they watched the heroes take down the bad guys. The kids who weren't interested in tv shows came inside and played the piano, and went in the front yard to make s'mores at the firepit or play glow in the dark frisbee.

John was an amazing help to me-and our weekly babysitter Emily was a huge help too. Mason worked hard to get outdoor tables and chairs out, and to basically follow orders as I told him what to do. I was proud of his preparation and happy he enjoyed such a fun evening. Turns out some of those texts that were flying after dinner were to summon other kids to join the party. I guess we were throwing a good one, and friends wanted other friends to join in.

The more the merrier.

Happy Big 16 to Mason. It was great to meet the kids he wants to hang around with, and it was fun for me to see if I could entertain an older crowd.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Lucy's ballet and the month of May

Lucy was Lovely today

Lucy performed this morning in a sweet ballet recital. Much time and effort had been given for her to have an 'authentic' ballet experience, with lights, proper use of ballet terms, a beautiful costume and a lovely ballet teacher. Because of the odd time of day (9:30 a.m.) I was the only 'Lucy Fan' in attendance. I was to record the entire recital for the family to watch. I remembered the camera, and had even put it in the car on my first trip out this morning to drive the kindergarten carpool.

but I forgot the extra battery.

Very little of Lucy's grace and beauty were captured for posterity.
I shed a tear and texted John:

'May stinks so bad...'

you see, last night was Molly's kindergarten program. We used the battery (and the memory card) to film her (and we were SO PROUD, she was awesome!). Because the program ended after bedtime, we rushed home and went through the bedtime routine-and because it was Mason's birthday, we added a cake cutting and tasting to that routine. And because it was Mason's birthday and I wanted to be 'all that' to Mason, I had taken the time to bring popsicles to Rugby practice and had NOT taken the time to make sure Molly had done her nightly reading for school. So while I cleaned up (partially at that) the birthday cake and dinner dishes (which had gone undone so we could get to the program on time) John had done the painstaking nightly reading duty. And then there was the ballet costume to assemble (where were the ballet shoes?!) before I could sleep. Instead of my morning work out I did a load of laundry and a load of dishes, and I was stern with the kids to get their morning chores done before they skipped off to school and.....

you see what May is like?

I've been involved in a weekly 'boot camp' of sorts to get ready for triathlon season. As part of my training I've been swimming, in a group, with a coach. Sometimes the coach yells that we should only breath every 9 strokes as part of a training drill. With the group in the water in front and behind and to the side of me, I often come up on the 9th stroke, completely gasping for air, only to get a gulp of someone else's wake. That is what May is like.

Lucy was a beautiful dancer today. And she will have recitals in her future which will include flowers from her father and kisses from brothers, sisters, grandparents et al. And this May, like the others, will pass. But mornings like this one leave me truly pondering if its worth all the gasping and groping for air in order to make it to all that we've opened up for our children to do. Some times I think we might be happier than we think if there were fewer recitals and more time for nightly reading. Less gasping for air and more growing in the garden.

Until I know what to do I'll gasp my way through May. But sometimes I think if I'd stop and breath I'd hear a whisper telling me that our family can slow down and still be happy. We could do less and enjoy more. We can be simple and still sophisticated and educated. Calm and Creative. More able to breath together....

Monday, May 02, 2011

Sixteen today

He is as excited about this birthday as he is a trip to the dentist. He, my 'Peter Pan' child, who does not want the responsibility of growing up at all cannot escape the milestone birthday.

We have 3 summers left. And before they pass we will have driving tests and double dates and AP tests and life lessons. I think he is ready for all of it..

Today we celebrated with gifts and cookies for breakfast. a greasy burger delivered at school for lunch, and tonight a rendition from 'happy birthday' as only the Highland Rugby Team could render: kia Kaha! On Friday we host a blowout bash in the back yard (bless the weather change!). Episodes of 'Psych' and lots of food and a firepit and a few pineapples (inside joke to any Psych fans). Girls and boys will attend-new territory for our family and new territory for Mason too.

Happy Birthday Mason. I love you more than words...