Dinner with the Bakers

We had the Bakers over for dinner tonight and had the best time. I made Coquilles Saint Jacques, lamb chops, Anson Mills polenta integrale, swiss chard with orange and shallots, Blue Sky bran muffins, and chocolate buckwheat cake. I woke up this morning dreaming of all of the things I wanted to cook, and I was hoping against hope the Bakers were free to join us. We beat the odds and caught them on an open Sunday!

While they were here, my mom shared her amazing conversion story, and that is always a powerful faith booster for everyone. We all enjoyed talking so much.

Here are some random pictures from the days I haven’t blogged!

Lydia took this picture of her dolls after playing with them for hours one day.

Lydia took this picture of her dolls after playing with them for hours one day.

My mom and Ammon love to dance. Sometimes it is the only thing that calms Ammon down!

My mom and Ammon love to dance. Sometimes it is the only thing that calms Ammon down!

IMG_4642

I found these two cuddling when I came down the stairs this morning.

I found these two cuddling when I came down the stairs this morning.

Abe travels

Abe left for an overnight trip to Philadelphia today, and wow, am I a mess without him. Ammon is the sweetest boy ever, but he is such a handful because he gets into everything (sweetly, of course). I felt demoralized at the prospect of watching him without Abe coming home at 5:30 to take over, and so I went the lazy route and took Ammon to the basement for the evening. He was content to destroy everything in sight while I watched The Imitation Game. It made the time fly! But I still miss Abe. Good thing he gets home tomorrow.

I spent the morning meditating on how much love I wanted to pour into my kids today, and then Lydia’s harp practice happened. Honestly, most of the time I wonder why I lose my temper with her because she is such  a sweet, thoughtful girl. For example, today she made a lovely snack for Mary filled with all of her favorite foods. She is so affectionate and is absolutely the greatest help I could ever imagine with Ammon. She has the most tender heart, and I have never once caught her lying. She is honest, kind and loving.

But then at the harp she transforms into this illogical, atavistic, screaming creature. I am easily triggered by illogical, atavistic, screaming creatures. When we are at the harp, all of the sudden I understand all of my past frustrations and displays of human weakness. I also am very likely to express my rage in inappropriate vocal decibels, and occasionally I even say things I deeply regret afterward. I will probably mourn today’s harp practice as I fall asleep tonight. Sigh.

I wish I had a more positive note to end on, or at least a picture to throw on here. Sadly, Ammon threw my phone down between the couch and the wall during Lydia’s harp practice, and I have not yet retrieved it. When I retrieve it tomorrow, I hope to capture some happy highlights of a hopefully better day!

Dinosaur National Monument

We decided to take a day trip to Dinosaur National Monument today. It is three hours away, and we have been wanting to go for almost a year. We finally followed through today!

Abe and I started the day by taking Ammon in the stroller on a quick run around our neighborhood. Then we came home and got everyone ready to go. Even though our goal was to leave by 8:30 am, we were finally out of the door by 10am.

The drive to the monument was incredibly peaceful and pleasant. All of the kids were so happy to be on a trip, and Abe and I were happy to all be together for such a continuous stretch of time.

The girls hugged their stuffed dinos and read dino books on the way there.

The girls hugged their stuffed dinos and read dino books on the way there.

I drove while the kids and I listened to classic fables on tape and Abe finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning. Our GPS gave us our only stressful moments when we neared the monument. Instead of taking us directly there, the GPS directed us through the mountains on a really random, deserted road. We were nervous but soooo relieved when we finally made it!

These are our happy, triumphant selves upon arriving at the entrance to the monument:

IMG_4597 IMG_4600

Then we had a wonderful time exploring the visitor center and monument. It’s so amazing!

IMG_1985 IMG_1988 IMG_1991

The girls earned their junior ranger badges

The girls earned their junior ranger badges.

 

IMG_1998 IMG_2003 IMG_2005 IMG_2007 IMG_2011 IMG_2018 IMG_2019After the monument, we headed back to Vernal. Our friends, the Harbucks, had strongly recommended a pizza restaurant in Vernal and so we checked it out.

IMG_2020 IMG_2024 IMG_2023 IMG_2028 IMG_2033

IMG_2034 IMG_2032And we drove home while listening to a Nancy Drew novel. Lydia was Nancy Drew for Halloween and we have been on a kick ever since. Abe and I are about to finish the novel right now because, in spite of ourselves, we are on pins and needles to hear the ending.

Lydia’s new virus

On Sunday we realized Lydia has Fifth’s Disease, otherwise known as Slapped Cheeks Disease, otherwise known as the parvovirus. It is not serious, but the poor thing has been miserable for several day now, and it was a relief to have it figured out.

The sad part is that she will have to deal with the rashes for a couple of weeks, and the only real remedy is rest. I have noticed she breaks out into rashes and her temperature spikes after exertion, and I am wondering how she is going to find rest in the middle of her busy schedule this week. I have offered to let her stay home from every activity, but she loves everything and always prefers to just follow her schedule.

Abe had a flood of spiritual insight in the morning and spent hours writing in his journal. Afterward he felt bad for neglecting Lydia, but he made up for that by playing dolls and Minnie Mouse with Lydia until I got home from church.

We had Hawaiian haystacks for dinner, and I discovered a new way to make the sauce. I kept searching for recipes that did not include condensed cream of chicken soup, but that seems to be the Mormon standby. Finally yesterday I just made a quick Thai coconut sauce, and that was sooooo much better than the condensed soup sauce.

After dinner the girls and I read for over an hour. Abe took a picture when Ammon came over to us. We had so much fun.

IMG_1972

Mary gets a piano teacher, and the pace of life in general

Mary and my mom spend a lot of time together. I have a couple pictures of times when I have caught them snuggling together.

IMG_4586 IMG_4557

I am very focused on Lydia and Ammon right now, but I am hoping that will shift soon. On Friday we met Daniel Olsen, an incredible piano teacher. He was everything I was looking for in a piano teacher and more. After we talked for an hour, he tested Mary on the piano and pronounced her ready to start lessons! She already has great hand position and strong, independent fingers.

We all walked out of that meeting elated. I feel that with a good teacher, an involved parent, and a consistent, rigorous practice schedule–in the words of Suzuki–Every Child Can. Finding such an incredible teacher felt like a miracle and evidence of God’s hand in our lives. Utah is replete with piano teachers, but finding a good one–that is a challenge.

I feel confident I found a teacher that can take Mary (and my other kids) through until college, and I will never have to worry that they will outgrow him or that his methods are unsound. Of course, by the time I have all my kids enrolled with him, we will be paying more than we pay for our mortgage in piano lessons every month…not to mention all of their other instruments and other activities on top of that…but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes, right????? God gave the Israelites water from the rock, and he sent these kids to me so I can give equip them with skills and experiences that will form them into beautiful, accomplished human beings. I feel confident He will provide the resources to make it happen. Until then, we are starting with just Mary. I will enroll Lydia when Abe gets his next promotion. (Oh, by the way, Abe, I forgot to tell you, but that is how we are using your next raise. I love you! 🙂 )

With Lydia in school, life has gotten really busy (for me! For Abe it was already crazy busy.). I spend each morning physically wrestling with and bathing the kids to get them fed and ready for the day, and then we plunge into harp practice, homework, and reading to the kids. Then I feed everyone a quick lunch, bustle Lydia to school, and come back to put Ammon down for his nap before I collapse in my bed. If I have energy, I will fold laundry or do something otherwise productive, but most of the time I am just too exhausted.

Then I go pick up Lydia and start the round of afternoon activities. The girls do ballet and ice skating, and Lydia does musical theater on top of that. When ice skating stops they will sail straight into their swimming lessons. Half of the time I feel too busy to make dinner so we eat leftovers or food storage, but on days when I am home, I cook dinner while Ammon toddles around dismantling the house. Oh, and there’s Ammon–we tidy the house, sweep and wipe the floors multiple times a day because every time we let him loose he creates a tornado of messes everywhere he walks.

But I am still nagged by the feeling that I could do be doing more for my kids. I have taken them to almost every museum/zoo/aquarium in a fifty mile radius (many of them multiple times), I take them to the park, and we go to the library every week. We have play dates. And after all that, even though I am pregnant and half dead from exertion, I constantly feel like I should be exposing them to more. So over the weekend I scheduled in family trips to the orchestra, the ballet, and a folk dance festival. I am considering climbing camp and soccer camp for Lydia.

Writing this all out makes life sounds crazy, but there seem to be so many things in life to learn and experience, and childhood is such a great window for these experiences! I am trying to pack their little lives with joyful experiences and opportunities to develop skills and discipline for their later lives. I want them to enjoy their bodies and know how to use them in lots of different ways.

So, anyway, that’s the rhythm of life right now. I have to teach a church lesson on the power of prayer in a couple hours, and I have spent the whole morning doing catch up blogs instead of praying over my lesson. Maybe I will go eat breakfast and shift focus now. Hopefully this week I will be better about blogging so I don’t have to do a crazy blogging marathon next weekend!

Tooth Fairy mishap

On Thursday night Lydia lost her wiggly tooth…and the tooth fairy forgot to come!!! We were all aghast at the situation. I’ll be honest, I also wondered if I can responsibly handle the tooth fairy situation. How many teeth does every child lose????

Anyway, Lydia dictated this adorable letter to the tooth fairy and stuck it under her pillow on Friday night in her second attempt to make contact.

IMG_4577Here’s what it says:

Dear Tooth Fairy,

Why didn’t you bring me anything? Were you sick? Or did you have did you have too many kids to deliver so you missed me? And do you have a pretty house? Do you have pets with funny names? Another fairy came to our house and had pets with funny names. I am not mad about the tooth problem. Do you have a cousin? Or are you a grown-up or a kid? I hope you can get this note. I love you, Tooth Fairy!

Love,

Lydia

That last exclamation point after “I love you, Tooth Fairy!” was part of Lydia’s express dictation, and every time I read her letter out loud, she made sure I made my voice appropriately enthused when I read that sentence. She loves the Tooth Fairy. I just hope the Tooth Fairy doesn’t let her down in the future.

Here is Abe’s (A.K.A., “the Tooth Fairy”) written response that we thankfully remembered to put under her pillow on Friday night.

IMG_1894 IMG_1895

On Friday I also took Mary and Ammon to the Bean Museum while Lydia was in school. Mary was our fearless leader and lead us around the entire museum twice.

IMG_4579

Afterwards we went out for Indian food because I have been craving it. Abe joined us and picked up Lydia from school to join us too.

IMG_4581 IMG_4584

Park day

On Thursday I took the kids to the park before ice skating. The weather has been mild for February, and I was feeling cooped up in the house.

I kind of hate the fact that our house has dark floors, but on the other hand I feel ashamed of the fact that I hate this. I know there are people with actual problems in the world, so dark floors really aren’t that big of a deal…except that I am in the house with the kids for most of the day, and I really think I would feel more uplifted if there were lighter floors. More natural light in general would be great, but lighter floors would help offset the lack of light. Anyway, that’s me being spoiled and petulant–and going to the park helped me forget how oppressed I feel by the dark palate at home.

Before we left for the park, the girls played dress up. Or rather, Lydia dressed Mary up in various outfits. Then Lydia took this picture of her handiwork.

Before we left for the park, the girls played dress up. Or rather, Lydia dressed Mary up in various outfits. Then Lydia took this picture of her handiwork.

Lydia also took this picture of me. I am looking very strained because getting the kids ready to leave the house is very grating on my nerves. I have to repeat myself a billion times for them to get on their shoes, their coats, etc., and in the meantime--for this round--Lydia was snapping pictures. :) :) :)

Lydia also took this picture of me. I am looking very strained because getting the kids ready to leave the house is very grating on my nerves. I have to repeat myself a billion times for them to get on their shoes, their coats, etc., and in the meantime–for this round–Lydia was snapping pictures. 🙂 🙂 🙂

IMG_4572

Mary's pigtails would be craaazy with static after the slide. I didn't quite ever catch them at their height because in a picture because I was also making sure Ammon did not try to kill himself at any given moment. This was the best I got.

Mary’s pigtails would be craaazy with static after the slide. I didn’t quite ever catch them at their height because in a picture because I was also making sure Ammon did not try to kill himself at any given moment. This was the best I got.

IMG_4576

Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day was the best one I have ever had. I think having kids who are excited about the holiday helped. Lydia spent the whole day in a state of euphoria. After her harp lesson, we had heart shaped pancakes, berry sauce and whipped cream for breakfast while the girls read Nana’s beautiful, vintage Valentine’s Day cards. Then we all read books (and did a little homework) until it was time for Lydia’s school.

At school she was over-the-moon happy with her class Valentine party, and for the rest of the day she walked around beaming. After school I gave the girls a mini heart-shaped box of chocolates for the most ridiculous, unhealthy after-school-snack ever. They liked it.

I also got strawberries, melting chocolate, and candy for the kids to dip them in. One of the neighbors happened to be over playing, so she joined in.

IMG_4559

Ammon was very intrigued by the dipped strawberries. We allowed him to eat an embarrassing number of them with (instead of???) dinner.

Ammon was very intrigued by the dipped strawberries. We allowed him to eat an embarrassing number of them with (instead of???) dinner.

IMG_4563

Abe brought all of us some beautiful flowers and individual, thoughtfully written cards for Valentine’s day.

IMG_4565

He ordered heart-shaped pizzas for everyone at home, and then he and I went out on a date.

We started off at a bookstore in downtown Provo. We were both absorbed in some books when a lovely young couple started making conversation with us. Neither of us realized they were talking to us, so we did not respond until they persisted, and then of course we engaged. They were so nice! One was a middle school English teacher, and the other was just starting college. They enlightened us on the difference between Mormon writers Hugh Nibley and Cleon Skousen. (Abe was perusing the Skousen section.)

They also complimented me on the fact that I was reading Mormon feminist essays. I actually hated most of what I was reading and spent the next thirty minutes venting to Abe about various things that bugged me in the essays, but I smiled and moved the conversation on.

The bookstore closed then, and so we drove to Communal for dinner. Here are pictures of our dinner. We (Abe) had no shame and took pictures of everything. (Well, almost everything. I don’t usually eat pork, and the main course was pork belly. I found it revolting. The restaurant was nice and gave me a sweet potato stuffed with delicious lentils and kale instead.)IMG_1892 IMG_1890

This was the most delicious quail and polenta I have ever had. The menu says it was "Anson Mills polenta," so I went right home and ordered some. I can't wait to try to cook this at home!

This was the most delicious quail and polenta I have ever had. The menu says it was “Anson Mills polenta,” so I went right home and ordered some. I can’t wait to try to cook this at home!

IMG_1893

I loved having all of the evening to talk with Abe without the kids interrupting every five minutes, and I also loved how happy the kids were all day. Every part of the day felt happy. Like I said, this was the best Valentine’s Day ever (for me, at least)!!!

Master class, singing, and Valentines

On Saturday Lydia had a master class with Heidi Lehwalder, Salzedo’s last student. She (Heidi) was lovely. After playing her pieces, Lydia sat there wiggling her loose tooth and looking blankly around the room. Abe and I were extra attentive and polite in the hopes that Heidi would not notice.

Here’s a video of some of the master class:

Here is a contrasting video of Lydia practicing for her musical theater class. We took this yesterday. She is a whole lot less shy at home!

And here’s a picture of Lydia, Mary, and I making valentines for Lydia’s class party.

IMG_1883 (1)

IMG_1888

Lydia’s first day of school

Today was Lydia’s first day of school! She had a wonderful time at school. She reported that everyone wanted to be her friend and lots of people said her hair was pretty. She said she did not know how to respond to all of the people asking to be her friend, but she was thrilled that everyone was so friendly.

Mary and I were very busy while Lydia was at school. We drove to her old school and withdrew Lydia. It was actually a cathartic experience. I was able to talk to some other homeschool moms and process what has happened with other moms in similar situations. I appreciated their wisdom. (Also, Abe offered me an hour of comforting wisdom last night after I cried. I’m lucky to have so many wise sources of insight in my life.)

After we withdrew Lydia, I enrolled Mary in kindergarten for next year. She is very excited.

Then we went shopping and picked up Lydia.

When we came home, the reality of the new schedule sunk in on Lydia. I have been warning her for months that if we enroll her in school, her free time will diminish. She never grasped the concept until tonight. After her snack, she had an hour of homework and missed playing with her friend who came over. Mary got to play with him instead, and Lydia had to work. Then we had dinner, after which there was more homework, FHE, and bed. (Thank goodness we took care of the hour and a half of harp in the morning, otherwise we would be up until 10!)

Lydia was, to put it mildly, disappointed in her lack of free time today. I was too, but I tried for months to preserve that for her, and it did not work out. So here we are. I am just grateful she at least enjoys the school part of going to school, even if she does not like the schedule.

I should have taken a picture of her on the first day, but I forgot. Maybe tomorrow. Here are some pictures Abe took yesterday of Ammon.

Lydia wrote Abe a birthday card. He took a picture.

Lydia wrote Abe a birthday card. He kept it until yesterday, when he took a picture to justify throwing it away. We are drowning in stuff again and desperately need to Marie Kondo the house.

IMG_1852 IMG_1856