Sunday, June 28, 2015

Signing Time Concert

(I haven't posted a video like this before, so I apologize if you got a notice about it and it didn't work. I've tried to fix it before reposting.)

As a family, we have really been enjoying singing time. Wiggles occasionally verbalizes a word, but it's not often. Usually he just signs.

And oh does he sign! So signing time has allowed all of us to communicate with him far more than we could otherwise.

A few weeks ago we got to go to a Signing Time concert! It was on a Saturday morning in a park... and Snuggle Puppy was invited up on stage to dance with Rachel Coleman during the song "Turtle Rock". I could be a bit biased, but I thought it was awesome. Google automatically generated a video about our day, and except for one totally random photo in the middle that has nothing to do with anyone I know, they (it?) did a good job. (Update: I think I was able to remove the random extra picture!) I have very mixed feelings about it, but I decided it was neat enough to share here. :)

... An hour later, I'm thinking that fixing this post was way harder than it should have been. I'm pretty sure that, in the end, I succeeded! If I didn't, please let me know, and I will decide whether I will spend any more time learning how to fix this.

Resenting Duck Tape

I have wondered if "Duck Tape" or "Duct Tape" was correct; they both are! Or so say the sources that google referred me to.

So I've never been much of a Duck Tape person. Case in point, I majored in mathematics (a far more abstract, I-don't-care-if-there-is-a-practical-application-because-isn't-this-cool!? field) rather than, say, engineering. (I remember in school joking about how much the engineers drove us nuts with their duct tape solutions, because they didn't care if they could prove mathematically what was going to work - they were happy to slap duct tape on it and be done with it! And really, who wants to do things that way?) Lately, though I've increasingly needed to fix things, and repeatedly I have found that a neat, could-have-come-out-of-a-box fix hasn't really been possible. I like things to be pretty and exact and measurable and... maybe I'm a bit of a perfectionist. It's not so much that I care what other people think or see; I want it to look pretty for myself!

For example, I was very pleased a few months ago when I figured out how to install hardware-mounted baby gates on our stairs without actually mounting the screws into the ballisters at all. I used 1x4 boards and heavy duty zip ties.
Our cat goes under these gates in well under 3 seconds by lifting them on the end by the hinge. Though sometimes frustrating, that is mostly good, because this is the kind of gate we use to keep Wiggles from playing in the cat box.
Other solutions have been far less pretty. I needed to keep Wiggles from being able to drag his shoe on the tire when he was in the toddler seat on my bike. I solved that problem using a 2 liter bottle and regular zip ties.

I needed baby gates to keep Wiggles out of the kitchen, because I find far greater peace in my life when he simply can't wander in there any time I'm not watching. In fact, it's really best if he can't get into the dining room either. I solved this one using the play yard (which is a set of 6 baby gates that can be used individually or together, and as a row or a closed unit) with a 1x2 board and some more zip ties, combined with a baby gate that was hardware mounted to a nearby wall. Right now a chair is keeping Wiggles from just pushing his way into the kitchen... sometimes... and sometimes it doesn't keep him from doing it, but it's so much better than it was before that it has been worth it.
I don't like how bulky this solution was, and it's really not particularly pretty - but it has been effective at improving my life, so I continue to use it.

Wiggles loves to get into the diaper bag; perhaps this would be okay, except that I keep my wallet in it and he loves to dump my wallet and spread the contents far across... fill in the blank: the house, the store, the car, the park, etc. So I built a shelf to keep the diaper bag easily accessible but out of his reach. Tux Man wasn't even home when I put it up; I was very pleased that the first two screws I put in went directly into the stud. Then I discovered that the stud was 16" from the corner, and the shelf was only about 14" deep. I ended up taking a tiny shelf that was laying around in the garage and mounting it behind my new shelf. The project took 3 or 4 times as long as I expected, and was many times more complicated than I had planned on, but in the end I got it done.
It's harder to see in this picture, but there is a white shelf behind the wooden shelf. At least they are mostly level, and mostly level with each other.
It's not as pretty as I would have liked, but it worked. That's the bottom line. I kind of don't like it; I'd rather my solutions be the kind I could box up and hand to someone else and say "Here, this is an awesome way to do it!" instead of "Heh, yeah, it worked but don't look too close." I feel, though, that these duck-tape-approaches - or rather, the willingness to take a duck-tape-approach - is a necessary skill and it's about time I developed it. Hopefully as I keep going I'll get better at it, and thereby it will become less frustrating and more enjoyable over time.

Friday, June 19, 2015


For numerous reasons, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches members to spend one night a week dedicated to family time; it's called "Family Home Evening" (or FHE). Once a month, we meet up with Tux Man's parents and siblings - those who haven't moved away from the area - for a lesson and a treat and a little bit of time together.

This week was one such gathering, and Tux Man chased Wiggles while I had a wonderful time playing with my new camera! That night made it feel like I'd had a good birthday after all, especially since we had strawberry short cakes for desert. (I took over 180 pictures that night, so I really have only included a few here....)


"Ashes! Ashes!" (asking to play ring-around-the-rosie)
Wiggles' cousin took his hand to make sure he got to play!

I love this picture, but I'm still very much learning my camera so it isn't as in focus as I'd like. 

Lovely evening

Last night, I got to spend my evening here:

Before coming home, I spent a few minutes playing with my camera.

The whole evening was awesome.

Free At Last!

I finally got my bike rig up up and working! I am free! I can exercise with both babies, and not rely on someone else to keep them. (I do leave my babies with my husband or a babysitter sometimes, but I'd rather spend that time doing other things than exercise. Being able to exercise while still caring for them myself is extremely important to me.)

All told, I calculated that I'm probably hauling about 350 lbs. Hopefully pulling all that will be good preparation for the two triathlons I'm hoping to do in August!

Me @ 35 yrs & Strawberry @ 4 months

Last week was my birthday. It was definitely one for the memory books! I want to use this blog to share what is really going on in our lives - both the good and the bad - and my birthday definitely had plenty of both. The story is a bit long, so feel free to just skip through the pictures if you like; they are definitely the best part.

The night before, Strawberry started the hard, barking cough of croup. The morning of my birthday, she was having enough difficulty breathing that I knew I needed to take her to the doctor. After examining her and determining that she might need a nebulizer treatment of epinephrine, the doctor called Primary Children's Hospital to see if we needed travel there (drive of 45+ min north) or if they could keep us at the doctor's office. Strawberry started having enough trouble breathing that they decided to send us straight downstairs to the emergency room in the same building. I was grateful that Tux Man works less than 10 minutes from there, so he was able to join me and I didn't have to field to babies - one of them quite sick - in the emergency room by myself.
Marvelously happy baby, even when sick
Meanwhile, Snuggle Puppy had an opportunity that week to attend "Math Adventure Camp" at UVU (30 min south). I got a new camera for my birthday, actually a couple days before, and I had hoped to spend that morning taking pictures of him shooting his rocket he had built at camp. Most of the week he took the train back and forth, because the camp was across the parking lot from the train station, but rocket shooting was at a different location on campus. He needed to take the train and then a bus, and he was late because we had planned for me to drive him (and then I headed for the doctor's office instead); I was worried he would be really late, so I called my brother-in-law and asked him to meet Snuggle Puppy at the train station and drive him so that he wouldn't have to take the bus. Snuggle Puppy had forgotten his cell phone at school the previous day, he and his uncle missed each other, and I ended up with my 12-year-old in a unknown location, half an hour from home, with no cell phone, while I sat in the emergency room with my 4 month old having breathing problems, all on my birthday!
In the Emergency Room, getting ready to go home
I was able to call the UVU campus operator and track down the right department secretary who kindly went outside to the rocket launch and confirmed that my son had safely arrived. They initially gave Strawberry an oral steroid, and before they were able to give the epi nebulizer treatment she started doing better so they ended up just observing us for several hours, until we were certain the steroid had worked and she would not need the nebulizer, and then they let us go home.

Snuggle Puppy accidentally got on the wrong bus (to his credit, it was labeled as the right bus) and wasn't able to get back home until 2 1/2 hours after his camp ended. Eventually, though, everyone was safe at home again, I got a lovely afternoon nap, we had our traditional Papa Murphy's BBQ Chicken Pizza for dinner (my favorite for many years now), and we even enjoyed running to Kneader's for my free birthday pastry. The day definitely ended far better than it started, thank Goodness!

Turtle and Snuggle Puppy gave Wiggles a bath during my nap
Strawberry enjoyed nuzzling the fuzzy blanket
A few days later, Strawberry turned 4 months old, and a few days after that, we passed the "three-months-after-my-due-date" day. That means that we no longer have to take her to the emergency room if she gets a fever of 100.4. In theory we don't have to worry so much when she catches a common cold either, though it seems likely she'll be like Turtle and Snuggle Puppy, each of whom went to the emergency room with breathing problems on several occasions.

It is so wonderful to have Wiggles and Strawberry in our lives. Even though there are almost eleven years between Snuggle Puppy and Wiggles, it's hard to imagine not having these two babies with us. They bring constant and extraordinary delight - like today, when Wiggles decided that Strawberry needed to wear his (Wiggle's) shoes.

I think that in spite of the challenges our family has faced in the last year and a half - and those we will continue to face - it's going to be a good year, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What Works for Us

I was inspired by this post and this one to brainstorm some of the things that work for our family. A few things came immediately to mind, and after discussing it as a family, we came up with several more. (Sorry, kids, I'm not including all of them here.) Interestingly, most of what we came up is really just stuff that makes the logistics of everyday life easier, rather than family culture / philosophy of discipline / etc. stuff. Thus, many of these are just apps, but they seriously help our family function better.

- Time of Learning: This is probably the most unique but definitely one of the most valuable things that we do as a family, that really works for us. We used to do scripture study at night, and when we moved that to morning, we found that we really missed being together for a few minutes before bed. So, we began having "Time of Learning" every night. We have studied ham radio and sign language, watched Crash Course World History and random youtube videos on blood type, and listened to audio books. Our goal is to spend 15 minutes - though it is frequently more like 30-45 - but we love the opportunity to share interesting stuff from our lives and to learn and grow together. It is awesome.

- Exercise: Eight and a half years ago, I herniated two disks in my back. I spent most of that first year in bed, and I've been back down many times since then. I am fortunate to now be able to control my pain entirely through consistent exercise; I have learned this because, when I don't exercise, I loose the ability to walk. I list this as something that works for our family because 1) I need the support from my husband and kids to be able to exercise, and because they respect the positive impact it has on all our lives, they give that support willingly and 2) now that I've really been consistent for about three years, I see my children consistently trying to exercise!
5k race, March 2013
5k race, March 2015

- Family Council: When we don't have family council, the kids really feel the lack because this is when we discuss schedules and they learn what is going on each week! The agenda includes discussing calendar, finances, menus, Library books due / books on hold to be picked up, who changes the cat box that week, when to go to the temple that week, when each person can exercise (and who keeps the babies at that time), and any other stuff that needs to be addressed. I think everything else on my list comes into play during family council.

- Dinner Duty and Dish Duty: Each of the older kids takes at least one night a week for cooking dinner, and 1-2 nights a week of "dish duty". They have complete control over when they do the dishes... mostly. They can do them at night after dinner, or in the middle of the night, or when they get up in the morning - but at 3:00 pm, if the dishes aren't done, all other activities become secondary because the dishes need to be done before dinner starts being prepared at 4:00 pm. Even with this standard it doesn't always happen, but it's tremendously better than it used to be, and for me, only cooking a couple nights a week has brought joy back into my food preparation.

- Google Calendar: When we first started using this, we realized that it stopped marital arguments before they began, because it increased communication with no additional effort from the people involved. Now, as I tell my children, "If it's not on the calendar then it doesn't exist."

- Chore Wars: We started out using this to track all chores, but we've given that up; we have been using it to track chores that kids get paid for, and that's been working for over a year and a half. We tried time cards before, but it was just to hard to keep track of them. With chore wars, they just log each chore that they complete and then on pay day they "use" the "gold" on their virtual account as we transfer dollars from our bank account to theirs. They only get paid for the jobs I would pay someone outside the family for - namely mowing the lawn and scrubbing the bathrooms, and babysitting if it's so that mommy and daddy can go on a date - and that works well for us. For all other jobs, everyone is required to contribute because we all live here.

- Mint: This (free) website has done more to improve our finances than anything else we have ever tried. Even on the months when we spend way more than we make, we know how much we are spending and where it is going! Being able to track this in real time while at the store has allowed us to make far better decisions than we could before.

- Kids Place app: I got a new phone in February, but my old phone still works. By installing this app, I've been able to give my kids access to whatever apps I choose (library, mint, calendar, our Kindle account, our Nook account, scriptures, etc.) without giving them unlimited unfiltered internet access. The phone stays in the house to be shared between the kids, but it means they always have access to these things without having to ask to be logged in.

 - Our Groceries: This website & app keep track of our various shopping lists and keeps them updated between phones. This means I can call or text Tux Man and say "I'm going to the store, do we need anything?" and he can update the list, and I can then check it while in the store and get what we need without having to make an extra trip. :)

Incidentally, except for the pictures of the two 5k races, all of the above pictures have happened during / as distractions from family council / time of learning / scripture study / etc. Lest you think too highly of our functionality... well, anybody who knows us well shouldn't have that problem. :)