Friday, August 29, 2008

Performance Review

"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance." (Lord Goring from An Ideal Husband)

The other day, Christian's second level manager (his boss' boss) called Christian into his office to give him some advice --when he told me about it, I couldn't stop laughing.

His boss said that Christian is good at his job, hard working, all that... and gave him a few areas to work on. My favorite are:
1. Manage your arrogance
2. Learn humility

So--any of you who know Christian, what do you think?

I love it that these things were listed separately--maybe they needed to be emphasized? Christian had to ask a question--"What should I do when I disagree with you and I feel I'm right?"

(note--this boss is quitting his job and leaving--I think both he and Christian were being somewhat more candid than they might otherwise be)

Summer Projects

School starts next week! Hannah will start 1st grade (yes, she's still just 5...) and Rachel will start her 3rd year of preschool (she's 4). I thought this might be a good time to review my progress on all those summer projects I wanted to work on.

grow strawberries and make jam:actual fruit yield: 5 plants, 5 strawberries, no jam

plant a garden:ummm, didn't happen (no, those are not tomatoes)

paint the kitchen:well, at least I sort of started

hang pictures (so it feels more homey around here)ummm, didn't happen
(My excuse is that soon after moving, my kids poked holes in and-or broke the frames of nearly everything I used to hang on my walls. To hang something is to buy something new...)

Finish Hannah's quilt:not quite (but it better get done before her birthday!)

I suffer from an acute case of "blogger envy." I spend an obscene amount of time searching through blogs (my new favorite is the lazy organizer--see link on sidebar) and I am amazed by what other moms seem to be able to accomplish. I'm developing something of an inferiority complex (there are other moms with four kids who have their lives in order and manage to sew a few dresses, paint a few rooms, and do all the things I say I enjoy doing...).
That being said, I've always known I'm more of an idea person than a doer. Its why I loved my interior design classes so much, but haven't actually used the skills much since graduating.
And, come on, I have four young kids and am trying to learn ASL! So despite my uncompleted projects, I have to say I enjoyed my summer, and as much as I love my kids, I'm ready for school to start again!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The many faces of my kids

Proudly showing off his new "Duck" and "Goose."
Still trying to eat her hair...
Two cool chicks
My big kid
Face painting at the Hands and Voices picnic (for families with deaf children).

And there's a normal smile :)

Canine Kid


Aaron is like a little puppy. He usually crawls on all fours (rather than his knees) and his canine teeth have grown in before his front teeth. I tried really hard to get a good picture (I'm including some of the more desperate picts), as well as a good video of his funny crawl. Here's the best I have.
Yes, I held him upside down to try and get a picture of his teeth. He didn't seem to mind, but the flash is kind of obnoxious.
And yes, we've considered getting him a doggy bowl since he insists on eating food off the floor anyway--we might as well give him a clean place to get it from. video

Harry Potter closet


We have a cool basement (see post here).
The Harry Potter Closet is a small closet in the 4th bedroom that is placed under the stairs. It is the kind of place kids love to play. Some of the older kids in our neighborhood--Hannah's favorite friend, Caitlin, and her brother Alec (they're from England!) came to play and decked out the closet like Harry Potter might have liked--including, unfortunately, writing all over the walls.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Couponing

I'm looking for advice on lowering our monthly grocery bills. With six people to feed, it seems like we're always spending more than we want to. I love clipping coupons, but we don't get a newspaper and I can't seem to make sense of online coupon-ing. Has anyone out there had a success story/advice to share? How do you keep your grocery expenses low?

Kids at Play


The laundry basket can be a car, train, anything...and Hannah is happy to give rides.

The other day we babysat for a girl we didn't know--her family was visiting from Utah and they needed some help. Hannah loved having a buddy all day long, and before too long, they were calling each other best-friends. We did a craft together-- painting plaster ponies I bought at Walmart-- and the girls were painting them alike, so they'd always remember each other. So cute! Isn't it so sweet how easy it is for little people to make friends?
The kids are in a major fort-buidling phase. It takes some of the pressure off cleaning the living room. Rachel was sick last week. She hates taking naps...but somehow didn't mind falling asleep on the kitchen floor.

It Worked For Me

I just wanted to share some of my new favorite Mom-tips.
I tried this new casserole the other day, and I loved it. The kids didn't like it so much, but that probably indicates that it tastes good, more than anything else. I used Rice Pilaf instead of Chicken-flavored rice (probably doesn't matter either way) and added cheese (because everything is better with cheese. I was thinking that going a month without cheese would probably make a bigger health impact than going without chocolate, but Christian wouldn't support me in that).

For the past few weeks I've been trying out a new system for doing housework. (I tried the Fly-Lady, but just got annoyed with all the repetitive e-mail reminders). I simply listed all the things I think I should be doing daily, weekly, or occassionaly and developed a checklist. I count my attempts, even if something isn't done perfectly (because perfection doesn't happen). I set a goal for each week (lately, 40 check-marks), then mark things off as they get done. I even get to count things I assign my kids or hubby--the point is that things get done. If I don't do something one week, I make it a priority the next. I try to include the things I struggle with the most as well as the things I usually do, so I can feel some success and track progress. So far, its a good system for me. I've laminated the chart and posted it in the kitchen so I can see it. I've done a similar thing (using Active Allowance) for the kids--including things like brushing teeth and bathing as well as chores, and laminated and posted those as well. I set a minimum number of points they need to earn, and pay 10 cents per extra point they earn. So far, as long as I do my part, that is working as well. Hannah especially loves the chance to work and earn a little money. I still struggle with washing the floor (something so simple, yet so hard to actually do...), but thanks to this system, it gets done at least every other week (gross, I know. With four kids, it needs to be done daily).

Just thought I'd share.

Kid Update: Aaron at 11 months

He's nearly a year old! Hard to believe... especially when I think of the pain I was in last year at this time.
He's crawling all over. He can balance on his own, but doesn't like to. He hasn't even attempted walking on his own, but he walks around furniture and my legs like a pro. He has four teeth, and although usually the front teeth are the first to come in, his canine teeth came in first--like a little puppy (or vampire, as my friend Jessica says). Also, he has gorgeous "girly" hair. Its getting really long (long enough for pony tails and bows, if he was a girl) and I ought to cut it, but I just can't bring myself to do it yet. We call him our ATB--All Terrain Baby. He can switch from the normal crawl to the "stink bug crawl" with ease as he switches from carpet to tile, grass to cement, or just cause he wants to. It sure is cute. He also likes to growl. My girls have taught him well. He is really into an indepent feeding phase now, and its really messy. If I try to give him baby food, he swats at the spoon so it splatters all over. He loves to demolish canned green beans and smear wet graham cracker all over his face. Its a challenge to find veggies that he will actually eat. I think his taste buds have finally evolved so he realizes just how gross some of the things I used to give him are. However, he loves (and lets me spoon-fed him) Yo-Baby yogurt. If you have any advice on great, healthy finger foods for older babies, let me know! We are also graduating from formula to whole milk. Just as I love the idea of no longer buying big kid diapers for Nathan, I love the thought of never buying formula again.

Nathan and his amazing bladder

Oh, the joys of potty training. Check out this mess on our kitchen floor.

There is an airplane science museum near our house--the Air Zoo. We told Nathan that when he is completely out of diapers and has stopped making messes, we'll take him there (it's like, $10 per person after discount). To get there, he's putting marshmellows in a small canning jar every time he has success and takes one out for every accident. We bought him cool dinosaur undies, but the first few weeks we had him use Rachel's panties-pink stripes. I figured no one would care. Kind of funny watching him run around the house (pants-less) and seeing those pink undies on my little man.

By the way, that mess above is actually from when I spilled a jar of pickles. But it looked really similar to other messes I've cleaned up these past two weeks. In the spirit of sharing way more than anyone wants to hear, he had an accident at lunch time on the kitchen chair and as I was cleaning it up, it spilled on my bare feet. In the words of my older brother, Brian, when my younger brother needed some bathroom help ("Come wipe me!"), "Oh, joy!" I am truly excited to stop buying size 5 diapers, though.

Olympic Memories

I love the Olympics. Watching other people at the height of their physical ability is almost as good as being able to do those amazing feats myself. Christian and I watched most of the opening ceremonies Friday night and were sufficiently impressed. I nearly let Hannah stay up to watch, but she had a busy day and started throwing fits, so off to bed she went. Luckily, she wakes up super early every morning and caught a replay Saturday morning (she saw the torch lighting). Swimming and gymnastics are my favorite summer events.
Rewind six years. We lived in Utah during the 2002 winter Olympics. We had been married less than two months and BYU took an extra week off so students could participate. My Dad lived in Salt Lake City at the time and fled the state to avoid the crowds. We happily took a break from Provo to stay at his place and wander around Salt Lake, just to enjoy the Olympic "vibe." It was so fun just to see the crowds, visit the new stores and restaurants, and feel part of the excitement. I was also so impressed with Christian's family--they are very musical and have ties to Germany (missions served, lived there during military service, lots of friends there...) had the opportunity to play their musical instruments for German representatives. I married into such a cool family! Sorry, no pictures. This was before we owned a digital camera. Since I was a few weeks pregnant at the time, Hannah kind-of, sort-of went along, as well.

Christian's parents decided that this was something their family should participate in. They generously took us to one of the events with them--women's hockey, played in the Peak's Ice Arena in Provo (surprisingly familiar for something as big and exciting as the Olympics). Kazakstan vs. Russia. Kazakstan didn't preform all that well. It was actually a disaster. Even in the Olympics, not all the athletes are world-class. I remember thinking that even I (and I'm not an athlete) could have played better. We really tried hard not to laugh (how mean am I?). But it was fun, all the same. Just to be there and know that I could watch and help cheer on some women in their Olympic dream--even if it was far from being a medal-contest. Good memories.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Chocolate Update

Well, one week down, three to go, and so far, so good.
I chose chocolate because not only do I crave it almost constantly, I am usually disappointed after I give in. I mean, there's a lot of bad chocolate out there (most store-bought cookies and brownies, most candy bars, and, I'm sorry to say, nearly everything at potluck dinners. It might look pretty, but it doesn't satisfy) . My plan (after this month) is to stick to the good stuff--if I'm going to give in, it better be for something good. (When I get more organized, I'll post recipies for some of my favorites)
The other reason I chose to do this is that every day around 2:00 I get a huge sweets craving. I think it has something to do with needing a mid-day pick-me-up. I often give in, but I find that it doesn't really fix the problem. So, I'm working on finding alternatives, such as a nap (luxury!), drinking enough water, or getting sufficient exercise. I'm even looking for a recipe for home-made energy bars (that taste good...). I'll let you know if I have a breakthrough. Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chocolate-free


Hold me accountable--for the month of August, I've decided to avoid all chocolate. Its my biggest weakness, and I rarely go a day without some kind of chocolate. So, as an exercise in self-control (and an attempt to not sabotage my regular exercise) I'm going to break the habit...for a month at least.
In September, I'm planning on making my from-scratch chocolate-peanut butter-nutella brownies (thanks for the recipe, Sarah), the brownies that are responsible for at least 5lbs of weight gain during my pregnancy with Rachel. How's that for planning ahead?