Monday, March 31, 2008

The Storied Scriptures

A few years ago, I found a really awesome LDS homeschooling website called The School of Abraham. It is filled with some incredible stuff. The thing that really caught my eye, however was something called The Storied Scriptures. A woman named Penny Gardner created this. I LOVE it. It basically takes the scriptures and extracts some small, short, and simple verses to illustrate the major stories in the scriptures. I loved it so much when I found it that I decided to copy it all down for later, just in case it went away for some reason. I'm so glad I did! Over the past week or so, I've felt VERY prompted to begin earnest scripture study with the boys. I have found a few other sites that I just love. One is called Discover the Scriptures and they offer a CD-ROM of Book of Mormon activities (puzzles, games, entries, drawing pages, trivia, etc.) for 1st-3rd graders for only $15. I am definitely going to get it and incorporate it into the school year next year. In the meantime, I have done a few other things.

I printed a copy of the new portrait of our first presidency. I also found on the Discover site a list of "24 Scriptures Every Kid Should Know". I printed out the first one and put it up on on our desk. Ethan noticed it first thing this morning and read it out loud. He has read it a few times. He even has it almost memorized this afternoon! I'm so proud of him. I am hoping to change these out every week or every other week, depending on how long it takes us to memorize them. If we do a new one every other week, we will have memorized all 24 in a year! Here is the first scripture for this week:

1 Nephi 3:7
"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded."

Next thing...

On the Discover site, they offer a FREE (as in ZERO dollars and ZERO cents) booklet for children about our new prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I printed it out and started going through it today with Ethan. He LOVED it. We read a few very short and simple things about President Monson's past (the fact that when he was a boy he shared his rabbits with a poor child so they'd have more than cereal for Christmas dinner, the fact that he once saved a woman from drowning, and the fact that he was called to be a bishop at the young age of 22!) Ethan wrote in this book and then together we completed a crossword puzzle based on the stories. It was fun! This free packet was a sneak peek at a whole series they are working on about all of our prophets. I'm excited for that to be released!

And last... I began the Storied Scriptures reading. This will be short and simple. I had to cut the reading for today in half because my goal is to just get SOME reading in and SOME discussion. If they start getting antsy or bored, it's time to quit. I don't want this to be a painful experience. I'd rather it be fun.

So today we read 1 Nephi 1:1-4. We started by saying a prayer. We talked about how Nephi had wonderful parents and how the Lord was proud of him. We also talked about the fact that he was announcing that he was going to make a record (or journal) of his life. We decided that we all need to be doing that too and I told Ethan we would get him a formal journal to write in. We discussed Jerusalem and got out our nifty globe to find Israel and Jerusalem on it. They were really excited to see how close Israel is to Turkey, where daddy spent part of his childhood! Then we talked about the prophets who came and told the people they needed to repent - meaning they needed to sincerely tell Heavenly Father that they were sorry for the things they had done wrong.... or else the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed. Then the boys drew pictures. I told them they could draw pictures of anything they wanted about today's reading. Is it any wonder they chose to draw bombs and weapons destroying the city? It's funny... they are ALL BOY!

This all sounds like a lot. But I don't think we spent more than about 45 minutes on it. It felt really good to be incorporating that into our school day. And even when school is out for the summer, we can continue to have daily scripture study. I also like the idea of journaling for Ethan. One thing we need to continue working on all summer is handwriting and this will most certainly help. Besides, it's always more fun when you can write what you WANT as opposed to what someone else thinks you should be writing.

Ethan had really good questions today as we were reading...

  • Is Nephi dead now?
  • Is Jerusalem still around?
  • Was this a long time ago?
It was fun having good, fun dialog!

I'll definitely have to write more about this as it evolves! I'm so excited!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Winter in spring

On Tuesday evening, I took the kids to the store. When we went in the store, it was COLD and drizzling just a tiny bit. We were in there for a good thirty minutes or so. When we came out, I could see that it was really coming down. But I was busy trying to get the kids to look both ways before darting into the street and then busy getting them to get their belts on. By the time I actually started the engine and looked out the windshield, I was amazed to see that it wasn't raining as much as it was SNOWING! Snow in spring! Snow at the END of March! WOW! That is really, really rare for western WA. Besides, we really didn't have much of a winter. There was hardly any snow at all this past winter. Imagine our surprise when it showed up in spring. The forecast for today was LOTS of snow and indeed, we got a nice covering here in Federal Way. We took a break in the middle of the day to go out and enjoy the big flakes. Evan asked, "Mom, can we get a Christmas tree?" Hahaha... he associates the snow with Christmas! You wouldn't know it too look at these pictures that Easter was this past Sunday! Easter... synonymous with baby chicks and green grass and cute little Easter dresses for girls... certainly not snow, gray clouds, and temperatures in the low 30s!

I included a couple of videos here. They were shot today and I stand corrected on the date. I mistakenly said in the video that the date is the 27th of March. In fact, today is the 28th!

When we were done, at the boys' request the three of us each enjoyed a nice mug of homemade hot cocoa with a dash of cinnamon sprinkled on top. Mmmm, mmmm good! I used the recipe off the back of the Hershey's Cocoa box. Unlike the prepackaged varieties, this recipe has no corn syrup or trans fats in it. There is sugar, but you can't really get away from that if you want to enjoy a good mug of cocoa. I cut the recipe in half and it was perfect for the three of us! Here it is:

Favorite Hot Cocoa
Top of stove six servings:

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
Dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in saucepan; stir in water.
2. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir 2 minutes.
3. Stir in milk and heat. DO NOT BOIL.
4. Remove from heat; add vanilla.


Thoughts on raising a couple of pyromaniacs

So Mike decided to break in our "new" fireplace last night! The fireplace itself is not new, but it recently got a face lift (we tiled over the brick) and a new set of doors. It's really beautiful and we're happy with how it came out! Mike lit a log and tossed it in and boy was it beautiful. He also lit a couple of candles on top of the mantel. The effect was really pretty. Some time later, Ethan brought us a piece of paper that was burned and charred on the edges. Apparently, Evan had been playing with the candle flame and when Mike went to look, there were ashes on the floor. Aye, aye, aye!! So Evan got yelled at sufficiently.

It reminds me... not so long ago (maybe 6 months?), Ethan came out of the bathroom screaming and yelling. Obviously there was something seriously wrong. I ran in there and was shocked to see, on my bathroom vanity, a large piece of cardboard... BURNING! Big flames! I can't remember how he did it. I think he figured out how to light a match. But I have to say it made my heart race. If he had decided to toss it into the paper-filled garbage and then walked away in an attempt to hide it, we could have lost our whole house.

But I can't be too angry... I distinctly remember when I was just about his age. We were visiting someone else's home and I thought it would be funny to try and light matches myself. I succeeded and then got scared so I dropped the match onto the CARPET and stomped on it. Thankfully I had shoes on. But it didn't stop my cousin from telling on me and boy did I get in serious trouble. I think I can actually remember the spankings and the way they felt.

We don't want our kids to be afraid of fire and we don't want to ban them from fire. Our goal is to teach them to use matches responsibly and only after asking and only in our presence. Crazy!

Here are some pictures from last night:

Game time

I love my husband for a myriad of reasons. One of those reasons is because he is such an awesome dad. Last night, while I was cleaning up and getting dinner ready, he got down on the floor and played Candyland and Zingo with the kids. It's true what they say... kids really do just want your time. They want to be with you and hang out with you. Thank you Mike for being such an amazing father!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Final verdict: Stone free!

Well, Mike is officially kidney stone-free! I accompanied him on Monday to his follow up appointment. First he went and had an xray done and then we headed over to the clinic. The nurse explained to us that new discomfort and bleeding he was experiencing were likely due to the stent, especially since the xray looked fine. I was shocked at huge the stent was when they pulled it. No wonder he was having bleeding and pain! But since its removal, life seems to be back to normal for Mike. He's been exceptionally good with his water intake. I'm really proud of him. He has also stayed away from soda and has really been trying hard to eat better! Way to go Mike!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So long Mr. Skunk!

We are finally skunk free around these parts! Well, at least we hope we are. As previously mentioned, one not-so-lucky skunk found its way into the trap we had in the backyard. No small feat considering we didn't even have any bait in it. But the guy down at Del's Feed store told us that they are very curious creatures and will explore and inspect anything new in its surroundings. Sure enough, this fellow did.

I didn't know what to do with the darned thing. Mike was gone to Port Orchard with the boys. I had been up all day the day before and all night working. So I just went to bed and decided to think about it. Oh, I should mention that I did call King County Animal Control. They didn't answer the phone (of course not, it was Saturday). So I visited their website and they were very specific about the fact that they only deal with domesticated animals. The page said to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife. And of course they too were closed on the weekend.

I felt so bad... It rained all day on Sunday and the poor skunk was out in the rain. I refused to go near it for obvious reasons. By Monday morning, I was feeling REALLY bad. The poor thing had been there for two days with nothing to eat. So I threw it a handful of sunflower seeds. That afternoon, we were able to get the names and numbers of a couple of people who will come and pick up the creatures. One company offered to come that evening. I knew the guy meant business when he suited up and got on a gas mask!! We kept the kids indoors and tried to keep them quiet so the guy could sneak up on the skunk as easily as possible. He put a piece of plastic over the cage first to avoid getting sprayed directly. Then he picked up the whole trap and put it in a large garbage bag and then carried it out to the back of his truck where he got out of the suit and mask. Somewhere between the backyard and the front, it did spray. The smell was terribly overpowering and I could feel my throat burning. We left to do some shopping and when we got back, we realized that our house smelled terrible and we opened all the doors and windows and turned on the fans to air the place out. YUCK!

But I'm happy to say that the skunk is gone and I pray that others do not return. Hopefully, if any came by over the weekend, they spied their comrade stuck in the trap and it served as a warning to stay away. It cost us $45 for the trap and $45 for the pickup... and it was worth every penny! Here are some humorous pictures. They were of course all taken from inside and through the glass. As Mike would say, "I'm dumb. I'm not stupid."

A tribute to Special

The name “Special” has two connotations in our home… and indeed, both must be capitalized for they are both names. “Special” is what we call Ethan. Mike started calling him, “My special” a long time ago and before you knew it, Special became a nickname. Ethan’s very special blanket is also known as Special. Special has his own personality and our lives would not be the same without him. He has played an integral role in our home since before Ethan was born.

When I was pregnant with Ethan, my friend Michelle Johnson organized a baby shower for me at her home. We had chosen a theme for his nursery that was called “Blue Jean Teddy Bear”. We had the crib bedding and many other accessories that go along with the theme. A crib-sized blanket came with the set. But lo and behold, Michelle made me a blanket in the same theme, except hers was much, much nicer and much softer. I fell in love with the backing she used for it. When Ethan was born, that blanket became his “security blanket” and he slept with it nearly every night. When he was a few months old, he began having “finger time”. He would (and still does) suck on the index finger of his left hand and he sucks on it upside down. He quickly learned how to have finger time while at the same time snuggling his blanket between his hands. Then he’d take a corner of the blanket and flick his nose with it rhythmically while sucking on his finger. As he got older, he’d even “share” with us, leaning over and flicking our noses with the corner of his blanket.

As time went on, we would always say, “Ethan, where is your special blanket?” And soon, it became known as just plain “Special”. Special has been everywhere with us. Special went to Hawaii when Ethan was just a year old. Special has been on ferry rides, to Canada, to Utah, and down to Oregon. In fact, we almost had a tragic loss in Oregon last year. Ethan’s only responsibility as we were checking out was to keep an eye on special. As we piled into the car and got ready to leave, he let out a yell and said, “WAIT! I can’t find Special!” We looked and looked around the car but he was nowhere to be found. As we continued to look, huge crocodile tears filled Ethan’s eyes and began spilling down his cheeks. Quiet crying soon turned into mild hysteria at the thought of leaving Oregon without him. As any good mother would do, I trekked back into the hotel and offered my plight to the concierge at the desk. She kind of laughed and said, “I have a little boy. I understand.” I told her that I’d sooner wait all day to find it than to endure a trip home without Special. The housekeeping staff found it and brought it down to me and all was made right in Ethan’s world.

There have been times when Ethan has “lost” Special in our home. He’s hidden it for safe keeping and then forgotten where it was hiding. This is always a challenge because he will not go to sleep without it. I think Ethan would stay up all night if had to. Recently, he and Mike and Evan went out to Port Orchard to visit with Mary and Jay’s family. They decided to stay the night and he hadn’t taken Special with him. There were lots of tears shed over that. I believe it was his first official sleep without Special and although he was sad, he handled it well. I called him and told him I’d keep Special safe and warm and he was happy with that arrangement. This coming May, we are taking a trip to Utah and I know that Special will come along. What would a trip be without him?

One of my favorite stories from my childhood is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. I began reading the story to Ethan and made the observation that the Rabbit could very easily be compared to Special. Here are some parts of the story that really warmed my heart.

Here’s to Special… who is very REAL to us!

…"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him…

That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy's bed. At first he found it rather uncomfortable, for the Boy hugged him very tight, and sometimes he rolled over on him, and sometimes he pushed him so far under the pillow that the Rabbit could scarcely breathe. And he missed, too, those long moonlight hours in the nursery, when all the house was silent, and his talks with the Skin Horse. But very soon he grew to like it, for the Boy used to talk to him, and made nice tunnels for him under the bedclothes that he said were like the burrows the real rabbits lived in. And they had splendid games together, in whispers, when Nana had gone away to her supper and left the night-light burning on the mantelpiece. And when the Boy dropped off to sleep, the Rabbit would snuggle down close under his little warm chin and dream, with the Boy's hands clasped close round him all night long.

And so time went on, and the little Rabbit was very happy–so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier and shabbier, and his tail becoming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nose where the Boy had kissed him.

Spring came, and they had long days in the garden, for wherever the Boy went the Rabbit went too. He had rides in the wheelbarrow, and picnics on the grass, and lovely fairy huts built for him under the raspberry canes behind the flower border. And once, when the Boy was called away suddenly to go out to tea, the Rabbit was left out on the lawn until long after dusk, and Nana had to come and look for him with the candle because the Boy couldn't go to sleep unless he was there. He was wet through with the dew and quite earthy from diving into the burrows the Boy had made for him in the flower bed, and Nana grumbled as she rubbed him off with a corner of her apron.

"You must have your old Bunny!" she said. "Fancy all that fuss for a toy!"

The Boy sat up in bed and stretched out his hands.

"Give me my Bunny!" he said. "You mustn't say that. He isn't a toy. He's REAL!"

When the little Rabbit heard that he was happy, for he knew that what the Skin Horse had said was true at last. The nursery magic had happened to him, and he was a toy no longer. He was Real. The Boy himself had said it…

Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn't matter.

Here are a few more pictures of Special through the years:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

More stones?

My poor Mike. It's been exactly a month since Mike's ordeal with kidney stones began. Yes... because it happened the weekend of Ted's wedding, which was February 23rd. A couple of days ago, Mike started urinating some blood again and there were some black flecks that came out. Honestly, I wasn't worried. I just figured some remaining stone fragments were coming down. It got better and the urine cleared. Yesterday, he packed up our kids, Stephanie, AJ, and Jorrell and went out to Mary and Jay's in Port Orchard to spend the night. Their plan was to have an Easter egg hunt today and a nice meal. Mike called me at work last night. I think it was around 8:30pm or so and started the conversation with, "You're never gonna believe this."

He had started urinating more blood. But worse than that, the flank pain is back. It's on the left side, where the stent is. It's so strange because the urologist told me that everything had been broken up. The stone that was in the left ureter wasn't blasted as finely as the rest, but that's why they put the stent in. And his urine output and symptoms have been fine. So it's so strange. Is this the leftover remnants of that large stone in the left ureter? Has it just taken a month to come out? If so, why? And why so much pain since there is a stent there that should help with its passage? If it has nothing to do with that stone, is it a new stone? And if it's a new stone, how did it get missed on the CT scans? Or if it's a new one, how did it form so quickly? What is Mike eating or not eating or drinking or not drinking that is causing this rapid formation of stones?

So many questions... no answers. He is brining everyone back tonight. I'm really worried about him. He is supposed to have a follow up appointment on Monday... an appointment where they were supposed to possibly remove the stent. He also goes in Monday for follow up films. I hope he makes it that long. If not, it's back to the ER we go. I feel so bad for him. It's hard to see him hurting and worried. SIGH.

What to do with Mr. Skunk

For a long time now, we've had a serious problem with... ahem... eau de skunk... YUCK! We got a reprieve in the winter but now that spring has officially sprung, so too have the skunks. We were greeted some days ago with that all-too familiar odor. We are pretty sure that one or more are living under our deck. We are tired of it. After seeking opinions on the matter, we decided to trap it in a humane trap. Well, the good news is that we caught one. (And let me just say for the record that these creatures are more monstrous than I ever imagined. When I think of a skunk, I think of a little furry thing... like the size of a squirrel... you know, a little thing hopping around in Bambi. I was NOT prepared for an animal this big. I had to take several long looks into the cage because I wasn't sure if we'd caught a stray cat or a skunk. After it raised its head for a second, I realized it was indeed a skunk... a very LARGE skunk!)

I mentioned the good news above... but good news always keeps company with bad... what the heck are we supposed to do with it now? I called King County animal control. They don't deal with wildlife. Only domestic problems. They refer wildlife out to the department of fish and wildlife. Couldn't find a number on their site to save my life. I called Mike and told him. I don't know. All I know right now is that I'm DEAD... been up since yesterday morning, worked all night and work again tonight. So I need SLEEP. I'll post an update when there is something to update!

Making books

Susan Gaylord has a website called Making Books with Children. It's a cool site and I've been receiving her newsletters for some time. Yesterday, she sent a newsletter that had links to some You Tube videos she has made. Unable to resist, I began watching them. Ethan happened to be watching too and was excited. He hurriedly said, "I can make a book mom", after which he stapled three pieces of paper together and called it good. So I set out to make her Accordion Book. How easy! And what a great way to reuse paper and make the kids feel proud of themselves. After we had assembled the books, the kids decorated them with drawings, pictures, macaroni, and glitter. I have to say, I was proud of them and they had a lot of fun. Evan kept on saying, "Thanks for doing this with us mom!" Who knew I'd get such kudos from something so simple!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The First Presidency - A New Portrait

Here is the official portrait of our new First Presidency: Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. What a beautiful picture! As I look at this portrait, it is very easy to see the light of God shining on each of their faces and in their eyes as well. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these men are called of God to lead our church today.

My testimony was strengthened today, just by looking at this picture. If we follow the counsel of these men and we follow Christ, it doesn't matter what trials we are asked to face... ultimately all will be well. I want to get this picture framed. In my mind I can hear the choir singing...

We thank thee, O God, for a prophet
To guide us in these latter days.
We thank thee for sending the gospel
To lighten our minds with its rays.
We thank thee for every blessing
Bestowed by thy bounteous hand.
We feel it a pleasure to serve thee
And love to obey thy command.

A field trip to the dentist

Ethan's teacher (Jennifer Stegeman) arranged a field trip to a dentist office in Renton. The name of the office is The Kids Dentist. I must say, we had a really great time... well, Ethan and I did. Evan was in usual form... angry at the world and upset that we had to be there. Quite frankly, he embarrassed me most of the trip. The staff there went out of their way to be nice to him and he constantly got angry and was rude, saying things like, "I don't WANT to do that" and "I HATE THIS PLACE!" It took everything in me to remain calm and patient with him. I wanted to haul him out to the car and leave him there, but that wasn't an option. I couldn't leave Ethan because he needs nearly CONSTANT reminders not to touch things and to stay out of things he shouldn't be in. He does well, he just needs to be reminded. At one point, I sat Evan down on the ground and made him stay there. UGH...

Aside from that behavior, we did have a good time. Ethan really got into things. A couple of months ago, we had a science lesson on the mouth and he must've retained something because when the doctor asked a question about the teeth, Ethan proudly answered, "The parts are the crown, enamel, and root! I floss my roots!" That elicited good chuckles from the staff. He was also eager to announce that we had just been to the dentist, that his brother had cavities, and that it was going to "cost my mom and dad millions of dollars!"

The boys got to watch an animated video about dental superheroes. Then they toured the office and then got to use the dental alginate to make thumb casts. Then they got to don mask, gloves, and goggles and use a dental mirror to peer at teeth in each others' mouths. It was fun. All in all a good trip and it certainly helped to solidify Ethan's resolve to keep his teeth brushed to avoid the nasty cavity critters!

Here are some pictures from our day: