Saturday, December 24, 2011

So this is Christmas

As a kid growing up, Christmas was absolutely magical. As my kids get older and I watch them wriggle with excitement like puppies, I remember how hard it was to wait until Christmas day Our house was always decorated to the nines, our doorbell would ring nightly with neighbors bringing homemade gifts, and wrapped presents would magically appear under the tree. We spent hours arranging, stacking, rearranging and restacking presents under the tree, comparing, shaking, counting, and in general making my mom crazy. The door to her sewing room was frequently shut, although she would measure us several times during the season, always telling us to "Be quiet and don't ask any questions." With six kids running around, my parents decided to have us draw names among the siblings on or around Thanksgiving. The idea was not only to buy a gift for that person, but to spend the whole season of Christmas doing acts of anonymous service for that person. December was always spent sneaking around making someone's bed, leaving treats on pillows, and trying to figure out who drew your name.

On Christmas Eve, we all loaded into the big red van and made the trip to visit the Grandmas. When we were younger, my Grandma Call hosted a yearly Christmas party on Christmas Eve. While it was incredibly important for my grandma to have all her children and grandchildren together, it was torturous for us to mingle and make conversations with relatives that we only saw once a year. The cheek pinching and the "Now, who do you belong to again?" was inevitable, as was the chili with optional noodles that Grandma cooked. Once the excitement died down, we trekked to see my other grandma, where we badgered her with questions about why she didn't have a real Christmas tree, and wound up her ceramic music boxes so that "Oh Holy Night" and "Silver Bells" were playing simultaneously. Once my grandparents had opened their presents, (usually a Peppridge Farm food basket for Grandpa and a book for Grandma) we bounced off the walls until Mom and Dad loaded us back into the van. It wasn't until we were all quite a bit older that we realized that my mom had been stashing presents at Grandma's, and that they loaded the present in the back of the van on Christmas Eve, covered them with blankets and hoped that we didn't see anything.

Once we got home, we opened the one present from our brother or sister, and got sent to bed for the torturous night long wait. One year, my brothers convinced me to set my alarm for 4 am so we could go see our presents. My brother set my alarm wrong, and it went off at 1 am, 2 am, 3 am, etc all night long. My parents used to yell at us that no one was allowed out of their rooms until 6am. I don't know if that ever happened.Santa presents were left unwrapped, arranged carefully in piles with our stocking on top. Bikes, trikes, stereos, all made frequent appearances. After we tore through, opened and examined all our Santa gifts, we put our loot away, had breakfast and then it was "Christmas torture:" every room in the house had to be clean and vacuumed, and we all had to be dressed with our rooms immaculate before we could open presents under the tree. Now, I like a clean room as much as the next person, but I still think that was a little over the top.

As a teenager, my Christmases were filled with music and performances. As a senior, I was in seven performing groups, and I think I counted 21 performance in 13 days. I carried 3-4 uniforms in my car at all times, and vividly remember changing from my Jordan Youth Symphony Uniform (tuxedo shirt, black skirt, red bow tie and cummerbund, (yes, we were stylin', shut up!)) into my Madrigals uniform (black one piece pantsuit with a black embroidered jacket) while stopped at a stoplight in downtown Salt Lake City. It was a crazy busy time, but I was exhausted and exhilarated by the constant performing.

 Ashylnn decorating the tree, 2008

Tom and I have had twelve Christmases together. Some have been leaner than others, but there's always been love, excitement,  and joy. 
Christmas, 2008

 I smiled today when I realized two out of the last three Christmases we've had a brand new baby to celebrate with us. 
Baby Max in the Christmas stocking

Ian, Christmas 2010, overflowing with excitement

I'm particularly excited about Christmas this year. Not only have I been an online shopping ninja, but I've very excited about the gifts we've secured for everyone. I can't wait to see the kids opening their presents tomorrow, and that anticipation has had me smiling for a month! We've baked cookies, cut out snowflakes, delivered neighbor gifts, and attended several of Abby's Christmas performances. I missed playing Christmas music on my violin so much that I volunteered Abby and me to play a musical number in church last week. We've bought and wrapped presents, and the tree is stocked.
Abby, Abravenel Hall, 2011

My kids today are as excited as I've ever seen them. Abby in particular has so much nervous anticipation flowing through her body that she can't sit still. And here's the funny thing: I remember feeling like that. I remember driving my mom crazy on Christmas Eve asking if we could "Just open one present, please, please, please?" and having her banish me out of the kitchen so she could get things done.

I wonder sometimes if we've done enough. Baked enough, sung enough Christmas songs, read enough scriptures. Have we focused enough on service, love, and what Christmas is really about? Will my kids be able to look back and say their childhood Christmases were magic? I hope so, because I'm fully planning on tomorrow being magical.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas- Mom Style

So is everyone else tired of being bombarded with ads advertising everything from plastic surgery to plastic toys as the perfect Christmas gifts for you? The other day, I heard that ridiculous "Twelve Days of Christmas" song and realized that what I want for Christmas has nothing to do with cashmere sweaters, drummers drumming or gold rings. So here, for the benefit of my girls, my husband, and anyone else who is wondering what I want for Christmas, is my Christmas list...

The Twelve Days of Christmas- Mom Style

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
A full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Five vacations planned. (And paid for!)
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Six vacuumed rooms,
Five vacations planned. (And paid for!)
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Seven gourmet meals,
Six vacuumed rooms,
Five vacations planned. (And paid for!)
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Eight girls' nights out,
Seven gourmet meals,
Six vacuumed rooms,
Five vacations planned. (And paid for!)
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Nine days with no fighting,
Eight girls' nights out,
Seven gourmet meals,
Six vacuumed rooms,
Five vacations planned. (And paid for!)
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Ten pedicured toes,
Nine days without whining,
Eight girls' nights out,
Seven gourmet meals,
Six vacuumed rooms,
Five vacations planned. (And paid for!)
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Eleven full body massages,
Ten pedicured toes,
Nine days without bickering,
Eight girls' nights out,
Seven gourmet meals,
Six vacuumed rooms,
Five vacations planned. (And paid for!)
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Twelve months of housecleaning,
Eleven full body massages,
Ten pedicured toes,
Nine days without crying,
Eight girls' nights out,
Seven gourmet meals,
Six vacuumed rooms,
Five vacations planned. (And paid for!)
Four happy children,
Three bars of chocolate,
Two potty trained toddlers,
And a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

So friends, what's on your list? And really, I know it's a big list. I'd settle for the sleep...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mush Brain

My brain has turned to mush.

I've been the single parent on call for seven full days. We've done Christmas concerts, violin and piano lessons, school every day.  Yesterday, I took all four kids on multiple errands, including the bank, the outlet malls, and the evil store ending in -Mart. We wrapped presents, and as of yesterday, the blessed Christmas shopping is done.

We even went to the ward Christmas party. Ian was less than enthusiastic about the fat man in the red suit.

Today though, was a mess. We've officially entered the stage with Ian where you get dressed up to walk the halls for 3 hours. Problem was, I had three other kids in the mix. The highlight of sacrament meeting came when Ian slipped off the bench when he was trying to escape and opened up a cut behind his ear. We came home from church, had soup from a can and watched a movie.

I'm done with single mom duty. Done. Don't know how actual single moms do it.

I keep reminding myself that my husband will be home Tuesday. Then I want to be the one to run off to Europe.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday mind dump

In the wee, frozen hours of this Monday morning, I took my dear sweet husband to the airport to board the first of several planes bound for Europe. Nope, not kidding. I know he is at least visiting Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Finland, and Rome. Yup. Rome at Christmas. Jealous, me? Of course not.

If you've hung around this blog for any length of time, (and why wouldn't you? The writing has been so incredibly riveting lately, especially the part where I just don't write for weeks on end...) you know that my husband's international travel habits and I don't get along so well. He's been international 3 times, and 2 out of those 3 times, someone has ended up in the ER, or gotten stitches, or a combination of the 2. I'm thinking tomorrow, I'll make a trip to the store for bubble wrap, duct tape, children's ibuprofen, and extra Diet Coke. That should keep us for eight days, right?

But here's some good news: my Christmas shopping for my kids is done. Thank you Amazon and your brilliant 2-day free shipping. A good portion of the non-Santa gifts are wrapped and under the tree as well, which as any 8 year old can tell you, is pure and complete torture! And also on the Christmas front, the tree has only tipped over once so far. I think that's a record.

People keep asking me if we're going to homeschool next year. While I'd be lying if I didn't say that the thought of kicking the girls out the door at 8:35 to go to school sounds like a good idea at least two mornings a week, we're also starting to find our groove. I don't know what will happen next year. I can barely remember what day it is, and that's on a good day. But, I do know that for the first time, my girls are starting to write cohesive, coherent paragraphs and papers. This is new, and I am proud. And, Ashlynn only throws a fit about division once a week now, so we're definitely making progress.

My baby still does not sleep through the night. Not even close. I have attempted night weaning twice, and it has failed miserably both times. Someday, I will sleep again.

Most of the time, I really love my job as a violin teacher, I do. But I'm really ready for Christmas break to roll it's way around here. Is that bad? Mostly, I want to not teach lessons at 6:15 am for at least a week or two. And I wouldn't mind having an afternoon or two to lounge around in my pajamas, read a novel, and eat Nutella out of the jar with a spoon. Perhaps I should inform my children of my plans.

Speaking of, how is it that I have gone my whole life without buying a jar of Nutella until now? I will have to buy extra for the next 30+ years to make up for it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Birthday Baby

It doesn't seem possible. A year ago in a hospital room during a blinding snowstorm, we met Ian for the first time.

Now, he's a walking, talking, tornado of a toddler who's celebrating his first birthday today.

He's brought a sense of completeness and balance to our family. When we met him for the first time, it wasn't so much a "I'm so glad to meet you!" as it was "Oh, I'm so glad you're here. We've been waiting for you!"
He's adored by his sisters, and tolerated by Max, who gets annoyed when Ian follows him around wanting to do everything he does.

His favorite foods are undoubtedly breastmilk, bananas, pretzels, and anything sweet he can con someone into giving him. He loves wrestling and will often try to tackle Max just to instigate a wrestling match. He's a Mommy's boy through and through, at least for now.

He has the most adorable dimples and a smile that melts me. Every single time.
He doesn't sleep much at night. But we're working on that. He has the world's loudest shriek and we wish there was a way to work on that.
He folds his arms whenever we say a prayer, and waves his arms like a conductor anytime he hears music. He also tries to sing along, which never fails to make everyone around him smile.
He doesn't realize he's supposed to be the baby. He started walking when he was just barely 9 months, and said his first words shortly after. He hates his high chair, and almost always refuses to drink out of a sippy cup in favor of whatever we're drinking instead. 

He wasn't at all planned. It took me a long time to get used to the idea that he was coming. But now, sweet Ian, we don't know what we would do without you. So fun that we get to do your party during Thanksgiving tomorrow. So fitting. Happy Birthday Little Buddy! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

When the going gets tough, the tough write poetry

I've been trying to nightwean the baby. The thinking is, he's almost a year old and should be able to last the night without nursing 47 times. I tend to be a bit less than pleasant when I've been woken up multiple times all night long for a year solid. But since I'm not a cry-it-out mom, I've been trying for something more gentle. I think it will work eventually, but let's just say I didn't know it was possible to be more tired than I already was.

We commenced our adventures in homeschooling this morning with poetry. Abby and Ashlynn were supposed to be reading and then writing their own poetry. So they started reading their poems, outloud. Each trying to out do the other when it came to loudness. It was then that I declared that they were to read all poems to themselves. Then the writing commenced. They were grouchy, I was grouchy and sleep deprived. I was wondering if I could send them to public school just for a day or two.  So then, I texted a friend, complaining, venting. Bless her, she wrote me back in rhyme. And so for most of the rest of the day, our messages were in couplet form. Credits to Morgan in red.

Grammar, poetry, sentences, you stink.
Working on English is a waste of ink.

My sister, my brothers, they're driving me crazy.
I wish I could just watch TV and be lazy.

Haiku isn't hard.
Sometimes it doesn't make sense.

Pulling out wipes is lots of fun.
This making of messes is never done.

Speaking in rhymes is ever so amusing.
Except for my girls, it is confusing.

Tell them it's easy and really a gas!
They just have to focus, they'll get it, en masse!

Now the time has come for me to shower.
When I am done, I shall smell like a flower.

Showers lovely.
They keep me from being fugly.
(I think this one was my favorite of the whole day!)

The word "fugly" gets you extra credit.
I laughed really hard when I read it.

Ian and Max are both super snotty.
They wipe boogers on me so I can feel like a hottie.

Why must they always wipe it on Mom?
A tiny little booger bomb?
(I never said it was going to be uplifting poetry!)

And then we switched to limmericks:

There once was a mom who was tired,
Because all her kids were so wired.
She tied them up tight,
And turned out the light,
And said "If you don't go to sleep, you're all fired."

Lest you think that today was all about bad texted poetry, we did actually something. This is Ashlynn's masterpiece of the poetry unit so far, written while studying Shel Silverstein and hyperbole.

Isn't she cute? She had a piano recital tonight and was amazing! Musical and a writer! I'll keep this one...

Stinky Boy
by Ashlynn Smith

There once was a boy who would not take a bath.
He hated using soap as much as doing math.

He smelled like stinky fries and rotten eggs.
He had beetles crawling up and down his legs.

He never changed his clothes and it made his skin turn black.
He nearly gave his mom a great big heart attack.

But one stormy day he got caught out in the rain.
It washed the boy all clean, and he didn't even complain.

So there you have it. Stacy, Morgan, and Ashlynn. Poet Laureates. We're excited about our upcoming book tour. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You've had a birthday

Yesterday, Max, our tiny baby turned three. How this is possible, I don't know.

Max is our miracle baby.  His birth was a result of years of longing, praying, and planning, and I still look back on those wonder-filled moments and days after his birth with fondness and love. Max has gone through more trials and surgeries and sheer crap than most people do in their lifetime, and you'd never know it to look at him.

So here, in no particular order, are Max facts.

Age: 3 (Although he still says 2!)

Hair: Blond, curly and crazy.

Favorite Toy: Without question, his Woody doll from "Toy Story." We've had this particular doll since the original "Toy Story" came out, but Max has loved it the best. He carries it with him everywhere, sleeps with it, and wo be unto us if we can't find him come bedtime. A few days ago, Max had hidden Woody away in one of the girls' purses causing much chaos, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth when bedtime came around and we couldn't find him. He even woke up at 2 am crying "Woody! I need my Woody! Find my Woody, please!" We may need to buy another one, just to have on standby.

Favorite Article of Clothing: A ratty worn red cowboy hat. He found it at a neighbor's house when he went over to play, and wouldn't give it back. We ended up buying a replacement hat for the neighbor boy. And other than that, see above. Except we won't let him sleep with it on or wear it to church. Mean parents, we are.

Favorite Food: Broccoli. Peas. Carrots. All things vegetables. He's the only kid I've ever known that will not only eat his vegetables first, but usually will ignore everything else on his plate in favor of the green things. Not that he hasn't been known to climb on up the counter and sneak a while bunch of cookies at once.

Favorite Movie: It's a tie between "Toy Story" (1,2,or 3, he's not picky) and "Tangled." He can recite entire scenes of "Tangled" at will, which just proves that he belongs to me and will fit right in when it comes to spewing obscure movie lines at dinner.

Likes: Basketball, football, baseball, anything that involves a ball. Playing outside, shadowing his sisters, dancing and singing at music class, Elmo, Sesame Street, playing xbox, jumping on Daddy, (and Mom if Dad isn't around,) and all things iPhone.

Dislikes: Baby brother getting in his space, bedtime, hair brushing, teeth brushing, other people actually having the nerve to take "Max's phone!"

Not at All Interested In: Potty Training. I asked him today when he was going to use the potty. His answer: "Not today. Birthday." When I reminded him he just had a birthday, he replied, "No go potty Mama." Sigh.

Sweet Max. There isn't a day that goes by where he doesn't make us laugh and have us counting our blessings that he's ours. Happy Birthday, Buddy. And for the love, will you stop growing up so fast already?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Balance, or the lack thereof

This mom thing, it's kicking my butt.

You know, there are some moments where I feel like I have everything under control. Like my girls might actually be learning things and my toddlers might survive another week without major bloodshed.

But they are mere moments. Blips on the screen.

Lately it seems like those moments, the good ones where I actually feel like a competent human being, are ever so quickly usurped by crying children. Or bleeding children. Or children with fevers, babies who shriek loudly for no apparent reason, children who stomp their feet and throw giant tantrums because they don't want to pratice their musical instrument, or children who don't belong to me but who need me to teach them a violin lesson.

I feel most days as if I'm walking a tightrope, balancing all the different parts and pieces of me, all the people who depend on me or expect things from me, and all my duties and responsibilities.

I wonder, most days, if it is really possible to balance everything. To give every part of my life, every person who is important to me, and every responsibility that is mine equal and appropriate amounts of love and TLC.  I don't think it is. Or I at least hope it isn't, because if it is, I'm failing miserably.

It just seems that if we're having a wonderful school day with my girls, that my house will inevitably look like a bomb exploded. If I'm paying bills and answering emails and trying to do all those adult things that keep my household functioning and running, babies will cry, or siblings will argue or the phone will ring or the dinner will burn, or someone (or multiple someones) will be crying. And some days, if I attempt to do anything at all, the baby will shriek his ear piercing shriek at the top of his lungs for no reason, and I will have no choice but to hold him, and nurse him, and chase him around the house chanting "Run, run, run, I'm going to get you!" just to get him to laugh and stop screaming for one blessed minute.

I am well aware that I chose this. All of it. The violin teaching, the homeschooling, the parenting. I am working towards loving my choice.

But damn if it isn't hard. When the baby cuts his finger, is bleeding everywhere and we can't decide if he need stitches or not, when the kids are all yelling at each other and I've been teaching all day and am exhausted because of the boys waking up at an unholy hour due to the *&%$ time change, when the two year old throws a toy and breaks a plate, and Dad is leaving on church business while 3 out of 4 kids are crying, it's hard not to throw in the towel and run away screaming.

So I'm going to bed, friends. And I'm going to try again tomorrow. For balance, for serenity, for less yelling, more laughing, less chaos and more sleep.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Learn Something New Everyday

We've been doing lots of learning round these parts. And I'm not talking just long division type learning either, although there's been plenty of that too.

For example, I've learned that an 11 month old can run a 103 degree fever for five days before the doctors get worried. 

I've also learned that one of Max's brand new ear tubes is likely making it's way out of position, causing a pediatrician to once again say, "I've never seen this before."  I have not yet learned whether there is a warranty on ear tubes. Doubtful.

I've relearned that mouth injuries bleed. A lot. 

I'm also relearning long division and double digit multiplication. My poor girls. I don't like it anymore now than when I learned it in elementary school.

I've learned multiple injections of lidocaine and massive amounts of laughing gas aren't enough to keep me from feeling the dentist's drill. Ouch. I'm going to learn about oral sedatives when I go back on Monday to get the rest of my dental work finished. 

I've learned that allowing my 6:30 am violin students to switch lessons is a very bad idea. Inevitably, someone is going to forget about the switch, leaving me awake for no reason on the one day the sick baby actually sleeps in.

I've learned that cancelling my daughter's violin lesson when your baby has a fever of 103 and your toddler is screaming that his ear hurts might be the best possible decision. 

I've also learned that chocolate chip pumpkin bread, some good friends to vent to, and a Saturday afternoon nap will go a long way towards making me feel better after a long week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Things haven't been super easy around here lately. It's nothing big and drastic, but life's little (and not ao little) disasters have been weighing me down a bit.

But you know what? I'm pretty blessed. God must have known how much help I would need, because he sent me some pretty amazing friends.

Like a friend who, after learning I was having a really crappy day yesterday, not only sent me text messages of encouragement, but also let herself into my house, ignored the bags of trash sitting on the stairs, (my husband forgot to take the trash out last week, and these were bags of birthday wrappings and bows waiting for dark so they could be stuffed in some unsuspecting neighbor's trash,) and left me a large Diet Coke, a Krispy Kreme donut, and suckers for the kids on my kitchen counter.

Or then there's the friend who lets me go on and on and on about everything that's bugging me, complain about all the crap that I think I'm going through, when she is dealing with literal crap (I'm not kidding, people!) that the sewer people in her town decided to send up through her toilets.

And then there's another friend, who also happens to be my mom, who opened up her cabin, (which I'm convinced is one of the best places on earth) to us and my four untrained monkeys this week so we could have a few days away. Within minutes of arriving, I felt better. Clearer.

So tonight, I'm grateful. And determined that I need to do better at being that kind of friend.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Well, Since You Asked...

"Hey," I hear you asking, "I haven't heard from Stacy lately. I wonder what's she's been up to."

Well, well, I'm glad you asked.

We've been homeschooling. (Forgive the crappy picture- I believe that Max was the photographer here.)

 Max has been eating the Base-10 blocks that Ashlynn was using to learn multiplication,
And then scattering them all over the house.

We've been field-tripping on Fridays, where we river-walked,

fed the ducks,

and let them nibble on Ian's toes.

We watched General Conference and bottled lots and lots and lots of pears.

We did a little bit of laundry, (Ian is forever after in charge of the laundry. I'm all about training him young and all that. After all, it's about time he started pulling his weight around this place!)

We've been sleeping. Here and there. Ok, maybe they've been sleeping.
We've been chasing after Ian who is walking, and running, shredding toilet paper, squirting toothpaste all over the carpet, and all those other things toddlers do. And talking. (Did I mention he's only ten months old? I don't think he realizes that he's a baby.) He has a vocabulary or two words: "Ma!" which he yells at me approximately 257 times a day, and "Plop!" He has long thought this was the funniest word in the English language, and now amuses us all when he says is repeatedly to anyone who will listen.
We've gotten haircuts,
We've instituted a new excercise regimen,

And we've done a whole lot of practicing. A lot. As in, the whole family can now sing the Fiocco Allegro for memory. Abby is audtioning for the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of America, held in Minneapolis in conjunction with the SAA Conference. If she gets accepted, she'll play in an orchestra of 9 and 10 year olds from all over the Americas at the SAA convention over Memorial Day Weekend in 2012. We recorded this video yesterday.

And yesterday, as an added bonus, I looked around my kitchen to find that all four of my children were crying simultaneously. That takes some serious parenting skills my friends.

So we've been busy. Happy. Tired. Wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe I'll take the crying kids one at a time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Suzuki Square?

Anyone who has been around Suzuki music for any significant amount of time has undoubtedly heard about the "Suzuki Triangle."

The idea is that the teacher, parent and student all have equal responsibility for success. If any of the three corners of the triangle are missing, the likelihood of the student progressing or enjoying music is much smaller.

I realized this week that I might have a little helper on my side when Max went to the bottom of the stairs and started yelling at Abby at the top of his lungs. Abby was practicing the Fiocco "Allegro" and possibly making it sound more like the Fiocco "Presto," (You know you're a music geek if you understand that lame joke,) and Max decided he needed to help with the practicing.  After a few minutes, I finally figured out what he was yelling.

"Abby! Too fast! Turn on metronome!"

I about died laughing.

Maybe I can retire as the practice parent and hire Max as the Suzuki sibling. Obviously he knows exactly what to say. And he's not even three! (I'm so proud.)

And maybe at our house, we'll turn the triangle into a Suzuki Square. You know: parent, child, teacher, and overly helpful sibling.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To make a musician

I'm not sure that Ian has a choice in whether or not he'll play an instrument. His only dilemma will be which one to choose...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Another reason we'll be paying off medical bills for the rest of our lives

It's been a long time since my I've answered the phone and heard this on the other end:

"Hello? Is this Maxwell's mom? This is so-and-so from Primary Children's Hospital and I'm just calling to get some information about Maxwell for his surgery tomorrow."

What? You didn't know we were having surgery this week? Neither did we.

Usually, it takes 4-6 weeks to get in to see the ENTs at Primary's. When I called about the world's worst ear infection last week, they got me in in less than a week.

When I schlepped all 4 kids to the hospital for the appointment, the doctor told us that his previously placed ear tube was causing the infection, and it needed to be removed and replaced with a new, non-infected tube as soon as possible. He also suggested removing Max's adenoids because they often are inflamed and contribute to ear infections.

So I was thinking we would book a surgery date in a few weeks. Nope. Try two days. He really did mean as soon as possible.

I really hate taking my little boy in for surgery, no matter how minor. Not fun. Not even remotely. If we never, ever have to hand him over the an anesthesiologist again it will be perfectly fine with me.

Poor Max started screaming the minute they put the hospital bracelet on him, and didn't stop until way after the dose of versed kicked in. Although I have to admit that Tom and I got a chuckle out of the fact that they didn't even ask us if we wanted it, they just ordered it. I supposed him kicking at and running away from the staff probably gave them their first clue.

 The worst part? We know that he remembers. Somewhere, deep in his psyche, he remembers at least parts of the experiences he's had before. The sight of the blue hospital band triggered a fear and rage so deep that there was nothing we could do to console him. 

Luckily, ear tubes and adenoids make for an easy, relatively quick surgery. He woke up from the anesthesia yelling "No Doctors! No Doctors!" but a dose of pain meds took care of everything relatively quickly. We hung out in the hospital until we could get him to drink something, and were more than happy to be headed home.

The afternoon was up and down. Once we finally got him to eat something he started acting a little bit more normal, and was even able to charm one of my violin students into asking "Didn't he have surgery today?" And while things got really ugly when the pain meds wore off, we dosed him up quickly, and got another good laugh out of our drugged up little boy falling asleep in his bowl of cereal.

I'm glad it's done and over with. Glad not to have to wait for weeks, dreading another surgery. Thankful that we're entering cold and flu season with a fresh set of tubes and less chances of ear infections for Max. But seriously. My poor little boy. I wish he could catch a break somewhere.

Oh, and that goes for our medical bills too.

 Dear IHC: Just put this one one our tab, m'kay?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's quiet at my house.

All four children are sleeping. (For now. Knock on wood.)

I'm at a computer.

These are three very big, very rare events at my house.

I'd celebrate, but I don't want to wake anyone up.

So we're homeschooling. It's overwhelming, and joyful, and maddening, and exciting, and lots of other -ings all at once. I haven't yet figured out how to school the girls, help them both practice their instruments, take care of the babies, teach the lessons and make sure the house keeps functioning. It's a lot. There's always at least one someone who needs me. Whether it's Ashlynn who needs help with spelling words, or Abby who can't quite put together the passage in Fiocco Allegro, or Max who wants to play/get thrown in the air/needs a snack five minutes after breakfast ended or Ian who just NEEDS everything, I'm spread pretty thin.

My friend Morgan wrote this post today, and already said everything I was feeling. So you know, just head over there and pretend that I wrote that. It reminded me again that I chose this. I can make it what we need it to be. And we're only three weeks in. We'll be fine. There are bright spots.

For instance, I folded a million loads of laundry today, and was so obscenely proud of myself, (and impressed with my laundry stacking abilities) that I took a picture!

And, Ashlynn sat at the kitchen table completely unprompted today to work on a story she's been writing. She's taken her little composition book everywhere with her the past few days, and has written at least six pages of a story. Today she wrote uninterrupted for more than an hour. She was thrilled. So was I.

In other news, since my husband has been home for a record six days in a row, we bought a car. It's been in the works for a while, but now was the time. Not only because we're both in the same state, or because we got a screaming "Labor Day SALE SALE SALE!!!" deal, but because Tom's boss told him straight up that it wasn't acceptable for him to be one of the faces of his company driving the beat up gray Granny car he's been driving for the past three years. I don't understand what her problem was. After all, the bashes in the side of the car just added character, and the worn out muffler just made it so that we knew exactly when he was arriving home.

Just for the record, this picture shows only one of two huge dents placed in Tom's car by our oh-so-nice-neighbors, who not only find it incredibly difficult not to back into our car when they're pulling out of their driveway, but that much more sdifficult to actually REPORT it. I can't say that we'll miss our Gray Dodge. Especially not when there's a brand new, less than 100 miles on it, silver-blue Nissan sitting in the driveway.

Just to further complicate things, the baby took two steps Tuesday. And more yesterday. He's nine months old. It's not even funny. He's thrilled, and has proceeded to empty grabage cans, play in the toilet, pull books off the bookshelf like it's his mission in life, and whack his poor little head on everything in sight. He's obviously ignored my instructions to stay little for as long as possible. He's naughty that way. And if the kid would just sleep for more than an hour at a shot, I could probably conquer the world. Seriously, we suspect he's paying us back for all those easy naps we got when he was tiny.

Not to be outdone, Max has managed to cultivate what may be the world's worst ear infection. Did you know that ears stink when they get infected? Neither did I. But it's true. And it might just be the worst smell in the world. Because it's Max, we've been through a round of antibiotic drops, and have almost finished a course of oral antibiotics without much change. We got his ear cultured yesterday so we could get a better picture of what we're dealing with. The pediatrician thinks it might be staff or MRSA, but then said it would be "really rare" for that to show up in a child. Yup. She obviously isn't our regular pediatrician or she would know better than to say "really rare." She told us that it may be time to look at getting Max's adenoids and tonsils removed along with putting in a new set of tubes. We have an appointment back at Primary Children's Tuesday morning for an ENT consult. Sigh. I haven't missed the medical roller coaster AT ALL.

Maybe I should have the girls interview one of Max's doctors and call it a homeschooling project. Hmmm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not Back to School

I have no computer. Sigh. My desktop and laptop were in the shop and I picked them up yesterday. Unfortunately, the laptop was not actually repaired, (Good thing we paid $75 bucks to have it fixed...) and I'm not smart enough to hook our desktop up, and my husband is still out of town. (This is week six of six straight on the road. Yes, we are excited to see him on days other than Saturday and Sunday.)

So blogging from the iPhone is fun, yes?

Tomorrow is the first day of school for the neighborhood. I just made waffle batter for our not-back-to-school breakfast. We've been going at the homeschool thing strong for almost 3 weeks now, and today was my first "Why did I think this was a good idea" day. Abby decided she needed 2 1/2 hours for spelling and vocabulary, then had to finish everything else in the van on the way to her first violin lesson of the new school year.

I'm still pretty convinced we're doing the right thing in keeping the girls home. But that doesn't mean I won't still wonder about it tomorrow morning around, say, 8:25 am.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'll just crawl under my rock now

So I have to know.

Have you ever had one of those days where you're feeling all put together and cute because you're wearing the cute new shirt you snagged when you were supposed to be back-to-school shopping, and then you're feeling proud of yourself because not only did you teach a bunch of violin lessons, but you practiced with two kids and then worked on grammar, vocabulary, math and spelling with them, and THEN you were ambitious/motivated/crazy enough to go to the post office, the copy store and the district office where you filled out your homeschooling affidavit,(gulp),only to come home and find the size sticker for that snazzy new shirt is still stuck on your shirt right over your right boob?

Me neither. That would be incredibly embarrassing.

(It was the left boob. And it might explain the looks of pity and the "You must have your hands full!" comments I got everywhere I went today.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And now, for some poetry

Scriptures read.
Prayers said.
Baby fed. (And fed, and fed)
To bed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Excuses, excuses

Yes, I am still alive.


As for my unexplained absence from the computer, I have some good excuses.

Wanna hear them? (Of course you do. I know you do. Why else do you come to my blog?)

Remember how we decided to homeschool? And how I worried that I was going to go a little crazy? Yeah. So here's the thing. I'm still convinced it's the right decision for our family, but I also think it's going to end up the kind of full-blown crazy that only my family can pull off.

We're homeschooling using k12. The great thing about it is that all your curriculum for the whole year is shipped to you free at the beginning of the school year. Some of the instruction is done online, but all the reading books, science experiments, and even a blow-up globe ended up on our porch on Monday afternoon courtesy of the UPS guy. My husband took one look at all the stuff strewn everywhere and quipped, "Are you sure they didn't send you everything for K through 12?"

I had great dreams of getting everything perfectly organized, catalogued, and ready for a grand and ceremonious start. The girls thought Monday's delivery was Christmas and wanted all the boxes opened at once. Abby begged to start homeschooling atleast 572 times before Monday was over. it was as good a time as any to introduce her to the word "perseverate."
This is what my floor looked like Monday afternoon. And this is after we unpacked two full boxes. Do me a favor and ignore the pile of laundry on the floor. I seem to have forgotten how much laundry is involved in a household of six, and Mt Idon'twannafoldlaundry had once again grown to epic proportions.

So now, two days later, we've worked on English literature, Math, Science, and Art. Still to come is grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and history. (Sheesh!) I'm still trying to figure out how the puzzle pieces all fit, and how we're going to do all of that plus the hours of practicing and lessons. Like I said, I had grand intentions of getting completely organized, and was going to type and display lists and schedules and lists of schedules, but since this is the first time in a week I've had a chance to sit down at the computer, naturally I'm blogging about it instead.

So why besides the pile of curriculum in my front room have I not been able to accomplish anything, you ask? Let me show you one little picture.
Yes, this would be my darling Ian, who at the time of this picture had just discovered the wonders of watermelon, taco meat, and fresh guacamole eaten off a spoon.

He looks very sweet. Looks are deceiving.

Remember how he was the easy baby? The baby that slept? Well, now it's all about Ian's revenge.

This little boy seems to have forgotten what it means to sleep, or at least sleep consistently. Where I used to be able to set a stopwatch by his naptimes, now we could have a two and a half hour nap, or a five minute nap. Who knows. And once he finally decides to wind down and sleep at night, I could be required to put him back to sleep 1-4 times or more before I finally give up and go to bed myself.

He's crawling everywhere, but his favorite is cruising along the furniture and walls at alarming speed. Today he reached the dubious milestone of learning to unroll entire rolls of toilet paper. Sigh.

And with all those milestones comes the sheer delight of separation anxiet and we have a wicked case in full swing. With three others, I thought I had seen my share of it, but this one might be the worst. Or maybe I've blocked out all the others, which is a distinct possibility. What I didn't remember is constantly having a weepy, sad, whining baby pulling himself up on your leg, or having that same clingy cling monster scream and try desperately to climb out of the shopping cart and into your arms in the grocery store just because a stranger dared to say "Hi" to him.

So I'm tired. Much too tired. Like probably more tired than when he was a newborn tired. And I know it will pass, and I have high hopes that he'll eventually sleep and that I won't have to nurse him back to sleep every 45 minutes all night long. (Last night I was half asleep and telling Ian "There's no more milk, baby, it's all gone." If only you could reason with an 8 month old...)

So tell me it will get better. Tell me I won't always feel this overwhelmed about homeschooling. Tell me I will sleep again someday. Tell me you're bringing me chocolate and Diet Coke. Tell me my husband might someday stop traveling. Tell me you understand. Tell me a joke. Tell me anything! (I might be a bit starved for adult interaction, can ya tell?)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Let the Wild Rumpus Start

My girls are home!

And if you're thinking to yourself, "Wait. Since when does Stacy have 3 daughters?" I don't, really. She's the girls' best friend, K, and she may as well be mine. Let's just say that everyone is have a very joyous reunion. I don't know if I've heard this much giggling and squealing, since, well, ever.

My baby is crawling!

And I forgot how adorable crawling babies are, and how much trouble they can get in in no time flat. I turned my back the other day and found him in the bathroom with a tipped over garbage can eating a dirty diaper. Shudder. Guess this means I'm going to have to vacuum way more often. And re-teach the girls about the importance of closed bathroom doors.

And I have the cold from you know where. It has been hanging around off and on for the better part of two weeks, and yesterday I started sounding like an asthmatic dying from emphysema and ended up needing to break out this:

And my husband is who knows where. Phoenix? Vegas? Somewhere hot. But that's not really news, and I don't have a picture to go with it, (mostly because I can't, for the life of me, remember where he is,) so never mind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No, Max!

Ok, friends, do you know this book? You should.

It's one of our favorites, and has been for a long time.  Poor little David is always getting into trouble.  We read the books with the girls and found them both cute and charming.

Except now, we have our own little David.  His name is Max. His antics as of late are neither cute, nor charming. We no longer read these books to Max for fear of giving him ideas.

Here are some of the latest gems.  And I swear to you, all of these have come out of my real, live situations that have actually happened in the last few days. My only regret is that we don't have the hilarious illustrations to go with them.

No, Max. You may not strangle your brother with the vacuum cord.

No, Max. You may not strangle yourself with the string from your balloon either.

No, Max.  You may not run behind the Panda Express counter to use their phone.

No, Max.  We do not bite other people's toes.

No, Max. You may not empty out all the ice and water out of the soda cooler with your cup.

No, Max. You certainly may not spit your drink out in the soda cooler.

No, Max!  You absolutely may not put your whole head in the soda cooler and drink the water!

and for the win....

No, Max!  You may not strip all your clothes and diaper off while you're in the backyard and Mom is nursing the baby so that you can play in the puddled rainwater left in the upside down swimming pool stark naked!  (Do you see the discarded diaper in the background? Priceless.)

Now if I only knew the phone number for David Shannon's editor...


Thursday, July 21, 2011


Abby and Ashlynn have been in Kansas with their grandparents for almost three weeks.

Tom is traveling again, and if I have his agenda right, he's in Washington DC today and tomorrow.

It feels very strange to have my family scattered all over the country.  It's just been me and the little boys all week long.

The first few days without the girls were amazingly quiet and peaceful.  The boys went to bed early and we enjoyed having time to ourselves.  Now, it just seems lonely.  We miss them on Sunday nights when we make chocolate chip cookies and watch a movie, and I miss them on homemade pizza night when I have no one clamoring to help put the cheese on the pizza.

And I miss them at night, when I pass an empty room, and my mother's instinct feels unsettled because two of my children aren't home in their beds where they belong.

Don't get me wrong, they're having a great time.  They're staying up late, eating tons of junk, and playing with the animals.  Grandma is buying them many, many things, and we've only had one or two sad calls home.

As for my husband, well, let's just say I'm doing my best to be the supportive wife.  A few years ago, I had a friend whose husband traveled every other week, and I always shook my head and wondered how she did it.  Now I can say from first hand experience, it ain't easy.  Especially on days like today when I have a nasty cold, two cranky boys, and no one to hand them off to at 6:00.

This truly has been the summer of many travels.  I'm ready for everyone I love to come home and be settled under one roof for a while.  Tom's traveling weekly until late August.  He'll be home on the weekends, but will be racking up the frequent flier miles traveling all over the country until then. 

And while I enjoy having life be somewhat calmer and slower paced for a bit, and like that macaroni and cheese becomes a gourmet dinner when there's only Max to impress, I've decided that I'd rather have the scattered pieces of my heart back home where they belong.

Monday, July 18, 2011

You're going to miss this

I'm sure I won't surprise anyone when I say that mothering small children is hard. 

As my nine year old would say, "Duh, Mom."

There are the times you've been up all night for so many nights in a row that you don't know what it would feel like to sleep for more than two hours in a stretch.  There are times when you're covered head to toe in someone else's bodily fluids and there are times where the noise level in your home rivals that of a jet engine at takeoff.  There are times where your doctor and prescription copays roughly equal your grocery budget for the month as well as times where you're so buried in laundry and housework that you think it might be easier to just firebomb your house to the ground and start over.

 Inevitably, when I'm ready to resign from motherhood forever and run away to the nearest tropical island, someone tells me: "Just wait. You'll miss this someday when your kids are grown and gone."  There's been a great discussion going on over on Steph's blog about this very thing.   She mentions this quote by President Monson:

“If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.”
Every time I read this quote or hear someone say anything resembling "You're going to miss this," I alternately want to laugh or shake them.  What am I going to miss?  Being so exhausted that I can't think straight?  Feeling like my head is going to explode when my girls are singing the latest stupid song at the top of their lungs?  Sweeping Cheerios, dead grass, clumps of dirt and who knows what off my kitchen floor three times a day?  I honestly don't think I'll miss any of those things.

I've been thinking about this idea a lot the past few days.  Here's what I've decided: First, when President Monson says "You will miss them profoundly" I really think he's talking about the children and not the fingerprints and dirty laundry.  I am not at all attached to the dirty laundry or the toys that seem to multiply and scatter everywhere.  Second, I'm thinking that I'll probably miss more about having young kids than I realize.

I'll miss Ian's light up the room smile every time he sees me, even if I've only been gone for two minutes.

I'll miss Max's crazy head of curls, because I know it's only a matter of time before he'll want it cut short.

I'll miss Ashlynn reaching up to  hold my hand when we go running errands.

I'll miss my talks with Abby on the forever longs drives to violin and back.

I'll miss kissing the soft cheeks of my little boys, and blowing kisses on their tummies to screams of giggles.

I'll miss rocking and nursing a baby.  There are no words for how peaceful and contented it feels to have a baby fall asleep in my arms or over my shoulder.

I'll miss cuddling with my little boys and watching them close their eyes as they fall asleep.
I'll miss messy faces,

and even messier hair.

I'll miss watching my my girls take such joy in making their little brothers laugh, reading to them, or playing silly games.

I'll miss how a $20 wading pool can keep everyone in the neighborhood happy for hours on end, and I'll miss the squeals of joy when they jump into a pool full of cold water from the hose.

I'll miss watching Ian trying to eat the cat, the basketball, and most recently, Dad's head as he was riding on his shoulders.

I'll miss handsome boys and beautiful girls dressed in Sunday best.

I'll miss my kids dressed in whatever they manage to find around the house, and how Max is convinced that the only true pair of flip flops is a mis-matched pair of flip flops.

I'll miss how Max says "Fip Fops."

I'll miss little boys splashing in the bathtub together, and lifting them out of the bathtub, clean, fresh, warm, and smelling like baby shampoo.

I'll miss finding random pictures on my cell phone.

I'll miss bedtime stories and endless repetitions of all things Mo Willems.

I'll miss ice cream covered faces.

I'll miss infectious baby giggles, and how once you get a baby giggling, you'll do all you can to keep them giggling.  I love how when the girls hear Ian belly laughing, they'll come running from wherever they are in the house to see what is so funny.

I'll miss Sunday afternoon walks, games of UNO with the girls after the boys go to bed, and our weekly batch of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven.

I'll miss being able to fix the bumps, bruises and various owies with a kiss, some cuddles, and a bandaid.

I already miss the tiny newborns snuggled up right underneath your chin, with their impossibly small clothes, and their fingernails barely big enough to see.

I'll miss them looking to me with their eyes full of trust, as if I have all the answers and can make all the problems go away.

I'll miss the milestones: the rolling over, crawling, walking, riding a bike, the sheer wonder in discovering the world for the first time.

I'll miss the girls coming to cuddle up right next to me while we're watching a movie or reading scriptures.

I'll miss Max climbing up on my lap and asking "More tickles?"

I'll miss the crazy, rambling stories the girls tell.

I'll miss hours and hours spent at every park in our town, and how all it takes it 20 minutes on the swings and slides to turn the day around.

I'll miss Ashlynn's letters and drawings left on my bed, in my drawers or on the refrigerator saying "I love you Mom!"

I'll miss watching my kids turn into people with their own personalities, likes and dislikes, dreams and goals.

I'll miss watching my kids interact with, take care of, and love each other.

So maybe I won't miss the piles of dirty dishes, the endless trips to the pediatrician, or the mountains of laundry.  (Will those ever really go away?)  But maybe President Monson was on to something.  Because I think there are a lot of things I will miss profoundly.

What will you miss the most?
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