A whole bunch about us you may have never wanted to know.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Valentine's Day

I can't believe I was going to forget to post Shayla's cute hairdo for Valentine's Day! Not only is this a cute style, but with red hair it's PERFECT on her! (Thanks, Melissa, for all of your hair ideas. :)

Isn't this adorable?

The other cute thing that happened was that Becca came home with a pillow pet from her boyfriend. She walked in with it, Austin reached out his hands and wouldn't give it back for a VERY long time, much to Becca's dismay:

Yup, my 17-year-old and baby were fighting over a pillow pet. It has now disappeared into Becca's room never to see the light of day again ... but once it does, I think Austin will take another turn. :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Science Fair

This year was Tyler's first ever science fair. In fact, this is the first time any of our kids have been involved in a science fair. Sounds scary to me, because I am not a scientist by nature (at least not complex science :).

So I was totally relieved when Tyler picked a very simple project. Maybe I should back up here and say that Paul had to do a science project at the end of last year. He picked something so complex I couldn't even understand exactly what he was saying in his report. (It had something to do with using microcalorimetery to measure the heat in dirt to determine the amount of nutrients in samples from our garden and a neighbor's garden.) Needless to say, I was more stressed about Paul than his project (then again, he understood what he was doing, and I thought he was getting in over his head ... and was glad to be wrong) so I was really not looking forward to more stress from another science project.

Their instructions came home with a list of ideas, and Tyler picked one: Does the design of a paper airplane affect the distance it will fly? He chose five different airplane styles and created them. Then to make sure it wasn't someone's throwing style that affected the planes' distances, he had five different people throw the airplanes. We measured them in between each time and he came up with the averages.

He had a blast doing the project -- not only did he learn some new ways to fold paper airplanes (he wouldn't use mine, although I think it would have won ;), but he got lots of family involved. Those honored with throwing his planes (in addition to himself) were his brother Zachary, his cousin Nick, his Uncle Dustin and his Grandpa. How cool is that? (BTW, the plain ol' dart design was the winner. :)

He put together his display and it looked great:

One more fifth-grade project down. We can do this! :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A is for Austin!

They say you take fewer pictures as you go down in kids. I think we're the opposite -- we take more each child! Of course, we didn't have Becca during her first 10 years, so we have very few pictures. We thought we took a lot with Tyler and Zachary, but we were limited by the costs of film and developing. However, enter digital and we can snap to our heart's content ... and our heart isn't content easily! :)

Anyway, my little Austin is adorable. Some of his latest busy-ness:

He has found a little sun hat I sewed at a Relief Society activity. It's getting a little small for him, and he can't always put it on just right, but he's adorable when he puts it on:
Baby School with Shayla (teacher) and Austin (student)
Dude. I'm adorable. :)

I think I've mentioned that one of his favorite things is being able to get into the pantry by himself. No wonder when we have "treats" we don't normally have:
Froot Loops anyone?
And he always loves stories. Poor kid doesn't get read to as much as he'd like, but he also enjoys taking picture walks on his own:
Hey! You caught me reading!

 This little guy is so extremely loved!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Captivity vs. Freedom

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of captivity and freedom. This has nothing to do with politics or the state of any nation, although I do believe there are a lot of political messes out there. I'm talking about us as individuals and the freedoms we enjoy or the captivities in which we find ourselves ensnared.

So I've come to this conclusion: Any time we should do something, but it looks like a captivity or confinement, it probably leads to freedom. And any time we don't do something because we want to be free, it probably leads to captivity. Clear as mud?

Suppose I want the freedom from counting calories or watching what I eat? I know this one from experience -- I have never counted calories because it feels like too much of a burden. What does this "freedom" lead to? Captivity. Captivity of a body that has health problems. Captivity of a body that doesn't move as quickly or as freely as I'd like. Captivity of tiredness because my body is not fit. Dang -- that freedom didn't turn out as I wanted it to.

This applies to so many things: Suppose I want the freedom of no budget. I will be led to the captivity of debt, which can quickly become overwhelming. However, suppose I am captive/confined to living within a budget. My credit rocks. I can qualify for loans as necessary. I don't have interest to pay. I have retirement to live on instead of being captive to working past retirement age. I will eventually be able to do more because of limiting myself now. So what seems confining can actually lead to freedom.

This applies to so much in the gospel. Want "freedom" as a teenager to do what you want? You risk the captivity of STDs, drug addiction and screwing up your entire life (and your kids' lives as well). You want the freedom of doing your own thing instead of serving others? You risk the captivity of selfishness and loneliness.

So why do we fall for it and sometimes do those very things that lead to captivity? Because Satan is that good. He has a plan, and his plan is to put us into captivity at any cost. He has a way of taking something that leads to freedom and making it look so hard and confining that we do what's easier NOW and what feels better in the moment ... which is what always leads to captivity. What a cunning, yet convincing, liar he is!

This all reminds me of a quote my mom kept on the fridge growing up: "The greatest source of unhappiness is giving up that which we want most for that which we want at the moment." So true! In doing all of this thinking I hope I can detect satan's lies more completely and beat him at his own game by choosing truth, even though it's generally more difficult in the moment. After all, the truth will make us free -- spiritually, physically and emotionally.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Little Goofball

You have never met a baby more hilarious than our little Austin. He'll do anything to get us to laugh, and he just genuinely enjoys life. He is a little stinker, but if his antics make someone cry, he's quick about giving them a hug to make them feel better.

Anyway, one day I went to get him up from his nap and this is what I found:

Yup, socks on the hands. When I laughed, he decided that was a great joke and kept them on for the next half hour after he woke up. It was fun to watch him try to do his normal playing with socks on his hands:

We love our little goofball!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


If there's one thing my kids love, it's using their chopsticks to eat sticky rice! At one point we had only two sets, given to us by a kind neighbor who knew Tyler HAD to have the pig set. Having only two pairs wasn't working so well as Shayla got older and my friend Hilary's girls wanted some to eat with as well. So we tracked down some more (yay Internet!) and got enough that now everybody can have a pair:


This year my boys conned me into signing them up for basketball. It really isn't TOO bad, except that Tyler's practice is smack dab in the middle of our cub scouts. So one of us has to leave the 10 crazy boys and take him to practice. (No worries -- we have another leader here and Becca as well, so there's never a leader left alone. Although if you think I'd get "fired" for doing that, maybe I really am ... ;)

My boys have loved playing. They're not nearly as aggressive as I was playing sports, so sometimes it's hard for me to watch them play. But they enjoy it and don't care whether they win or lose (I was a lot more competitive and wanted to win), so they're having a lot of fun.

 What other boy do you know who would wear a polo shirt under his jersey? So funny ...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


You're all probably thinking from the title that this is going to be some mushy post about my wonderful husband. Ha! Tricked you. Although I do love him and think he's great, this post is about Becca.

Last week Becca tried out for her school Sweethearts' queen. Each club nominated someone from their club to participate, and Becca was chosen by her club. She was a bit nervous about doing it and if she would be embarrassed, but I told her if she thought it would be fun to go for it! It's her senior year, after all. :)

So, on Monday there was a pie-eating contest -- Becca finished about mid-way through the group:


Tuesday she had to milk a cow. She's scarred and promises not to drink milk for a month. It doesn't help that they had them milk the cow from behind (um, wrong way folks!) so the cow pooped on her arm. It also helped even less that every time the cow moved even an inch Becca got startled and splashed milk up onto herself, meaning she had to replace that milk so her cup would be full. Needless to say, she came in last by far and took a nice, hot shower when she got home:

Wednesday they designed boutineers. I was hoping it was going to be a whole floral arrangement, because this is a task she could have used her artsy brain to make something great! But they obviously couldn't afford flowers for 20 girls, so each one got to make only a small arrangement. She still did a good job:

Thursday was the cake-decorating. I really tried to press her into doing something a little fancier, but she insisted the sheep she wanted to do would be cute. It was. But she came home feeling really stupid, because all of the other girls' cakes were phenomenal. Oh well -- lesson learned? Mother truly does know best. ;)
Oh, I should mention that the theme was "Holding out for a hero" and it is hosted by the FFA. So Becca's cake is a combo of using an ag animal and the theme together.

On Friday there was an assembly where they had to do a relay race against teachers. Becca beat her teacher with the roping and running combo:

And then the girls had to dress up in their dresses and auction off their cakes. This part made me EXTREMELY nervous. Becca was already to the point where she decided she was embarrassed over the whole thing. She knew the girls would be sitting in the stands judging her dress (just as she said she's done every other year), and she was afraid nobody would bid on her cake. I was really not feeling like spending $20 for a cake, but I was feeling like I might need to dish out to save some humiliation. Then again, is that humiliating if your mom is the one to buy the cake? Oh, the stress on a teen girl and her mother!!! But it was her choice to participate, so at least it was self-inflicted stress for her.

Good news -- she had several bidders on her cake. And although her cake went for the lowest amount of them all, there was another cake sold for the same amount and one for only a few dollars more. PHEW! She was embarrassed b/c there was a mix-up with someone winning and then saying they hadn't bid that high, but a REALLY awesome boy stepped up to the auctioneer almost immediately and said he would buy the cake for the higher price. I need to hunt down that boy and thank him profusely for saving her more embarrassment. (The whole thing was really so fast that I had to ask the person next to me what had happened, and I had been watching because it was Becca. I assured her of this multiple times when she got home and was embarrassed by it.) I seriously had been really stressed all night and morning thinking about it.

I was really happy to see that it was students buying their peers' cakes. I was afraid parents would come in and drive up the prices for their own daughters' cakes. (It happened when I was in high school, only it was lunch baskets, not cakes. And no, I did not participate! I was never as bold as Becca is.) I guess that worrying was for naught. I don't think I saw one parent/grandparent buy a cake. I was so glad to see that.

Anyway, here she is introducing her cake. Yes, her eyes are closed, but I used this picture anyway so you can try to see some of the other cakes in the background (my boys would love that R2-D2 cake!):

Anyway, Becca decided it wasn't as fun as she thought it would be, but she felt like she got to serve a few people along the way so it had been worth it. She's great at thinking of others and helping them out when needed (sometimes to a fault :).

Saturday was the dance! Becca asked a great guy in our ward. When they arrived here for dinner, I couldn't believe how they all matched without planning it:

She had fun at the dance, so at least her Sweethearts week finished off well:

And one last little proud moment. The girls in our ward generally wear their dance dresses the day after a dance. However, we read in the New Era back in the fall that this is discouraged as it draws attention to you (which actually is what modesty is supposed to avoid), and it points out which girls didn't get asked to a dance. So, Becca showed up to church Sunday morning in her plain ol' Sunday clothes. Other girls wore their beautiful dresses as usual. I asked her if she felt weird not wearing her dress, but she said she was more concerned about what to say when the girls who knew she went to Sweethearts asked her why she wasn't in her dress. Turns out she was honest when they asked (which they did), and the girls wearing their dresses didn't take offense. As I looked at those girls in their beautiful dresses, I thought of how much more beautiful Becca was in following the counsel of the prophet. She is a good girl. :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Water boy

Austin has decided that running water is the coolest thing ever. When he takes a bath, he wants the water running the entire bath long (we usually get him out when all the warm water is gone). He'll stand on a stool at the kitchen sink for half an hour easily just playing in the running water. (Of course, he always ends up completely wet and has to be changed ... but sometimes those 30 minutes are worth it. :)

Anyway, I took pictures of him hanging out and playing in the bathroom. This time I was smart and unclothed him before he played. Yes, I can learn new tricks. Anyway, he has a blast playing and loves any time I turn it on for him. (Fortunately he can't reach it to turn it on himself yet.) What a cute boy!

I just love, love, love baby hands and feet. Especially hands. How can you not find them just adorable?

Hockey pucks

So I'm trying to get back into blogging, and I hope that it will help me capture little tidbits of my kids and their personalities. I wouldn't have though to take a picture of this except that I found it so gross (and funny).

Becca tends to like her cookies overdone. In fact, she had to learn when making cookies that if she cooks them as dark/hard as SHE likes, then she's got to eat them alone. I think her preference is as much nostalgia as taste -- this is how she had them at Grandma Brown's growing up, which is the only place she got homemade cookies.

Anyway, last time I made cookies I put in the last batch and totally forgot to set the timer. I didn't remember for a while. I pulled out the cookies and just laughed -- they were definitely not edible. Here's how they looked, next to a perfectly baked cookie:

Could you tell which was which? ;) As a joke, I offered them to Becca and said they were all hers. Of course, I knew she would tell me she didn't like them that dark. However, I was shocked when she picked one up and actually started to eat it! I had to document:

Ew!!! I guess I should just be happy to have someone to eat my "oops" cookies. :)

Other interesting eating habits (aka, they drive me crazy!):
- Eating pizza with both hands (three to four fingers on top, thumbs on bottom) at ALL times (even with only two bites left) so no toppings fall off
- Pushing all the cereal under the milk 10 times before taking the first bite
- Using Italian dressing on taco salad (what????)

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I recently read a blog from a mother of nine kids talking to mothers of one child. She basically said that she believes it's easier to have nine kids than it was to just have one when she was learning and adjusting to motherhood. I read her post agreeing that learning to be a mom is tough work. However, I shook my head and thought, "Are you nuts?!? Nine easier than one?!!!"

My introduction to motherhood was wonderful, as I'm sure any mother would agree. I had a beautiful baby boy ... who I only got to spend six weeks with full-time. That's right, only six weeks. I was new enough at my company that the Family and Medical Leave Act didn't apply to me, and we had unexpected payments to family the week before our baby was due -- so finances and having to return to work so soon were a lot more stressful to me than was becoming a mother. I wasn't a stressed-out mom who worried about doing everything "right." I figured if I loved my baby and took care of him, I didn't have to worry about which diapers to use, how to stimulate his mind enough, etc. Not that motherhood was an easy task by any  means, but working full time as a mother was what made it hard for me. I've heard non-working moms have very long days where they try everything they can to fill them in anticipation of their husbands returning home. So, I suppose no matter which way you do it, it's probably a hard adjustment.

Then I had my second little guys 20 months later. He was a joy, and I was blessed to be able to stay home full time with them at this point. However, this was also when my husband began a terrible journey through depression, triggered by his Dad's sudden decline in health and eventual death. Two was hard for me, but I also know it was partially because I was doing it mostly alone at this point. I remember asking a lady in my ward with six kids how she did it. She said that after her first three (who she adopted very quickly) that there is a big break before they added the next three. For some reason I liked hearing this from a woman who seemed so capable.

Number three came in a different way for us when Becca moved in with us at age 10. She definitely eased the constant needs of the little boys, because she loved to play with them. We did have to deal with emotional issues and teach basic skills like brushing teeth, shampooing hair, etc. However, that was still much easier than having a newborn, so three (which I hear is the breaker for many) wasn't too bad for me.

Enter Shayla as number four, and life was grand. Becca was 12, Tyler was 5, and Zachary was 3. I decided three years apart between kids was perfect! Shayla coming to our family was like a joy being added, not any additional responsibility or work. I don't even know how to describe that it truly was easier at that point than it ever had been -- I had a mentally healthy husband and three kids who loved to help out with the new baby. In fact, there were days, maybe even weeks, where we had no temper tantrums.

I figured it would be much the same when Austin joined our home four years later. Boy was I wrong! He has been the most mild, laid-back, easiest baby on the planet. I tell people if all the babies were like Austin then people would have 20. :) However, having five has been so difficult! It is just a lot of kids who need you, and often at the same time. It seems I'm always running around to the latest play, program, dentist appointment, etc. and when I'm home I'm cleaning, doing laundry, attending to current needs (including those of a very talkative teen), etc. I realize there is just a LOT to do with five children.

I think I most realized this during the summer when my older boys (who are pretty self-sufficient, or so I thought) went to spend a few days with my brother and sister-in-law. I was sitting here one day thinking, "Why is it so nice right now? Oh yeah, it's because three is easier than five! Duh!"

I know that each mother has her own unique set of circumstances that might make any number more or less difficult. (Like, for example, I have two callings right now -- scouts and RS presidency -- so maybe that's why five is overwhelming?) Regardless, though, no matter how many kids you have and how much work it is, it is ALWAYS worth it ... even if you feel like your kids are throwing tomatoes at you, figuratively speaking of course. :)

So, to the mom of one, or two, or three, or even four children: Don't judge me when I sometimes lose paperwork. Or when my daughter's hair isn't always combed. Or when my house is a mess, which is always. Or when I sometimes choose to let the kids hand in their homework late. Or when I don't spend 20 minutes with each child memorizing times-tables. Or when, heaven forbid, we eat easy-to-make-but-not-so-healthy casseroles. I just don't have time to do it all. What I do have is time to love my kids in the best way I know how -- and when that doesn't include a bath everyday, so be it.

I figure I'll clean the house, eat perfectly healthy and be organized to a fault when the kids move out. Unless I have grandkids, of course, in which case I might never get to it. :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Scrapbooking submissions

The last post shows I'm not fond of Becca's abstract art. That said, she is a phenomenally talented -- and fast -- scrapbooker! Here are some pages she submitted for printing in a magazine -- let's hope her work is selected!

The last one is my favorite. And the sickening thing is that she can spit these out in minutes. I mean literally minutes! Hopefully one day she'll make money off of them, because she certainly isn't making any progress on getting a real job. ;)

Abstract art

I have a confession: I think abstract art is dumb. If I can't tell what the picture is, why is it art? And if the artist can't explain why they "felt" to paint something, why is it any better than my kindergartener's drawings? Mind you, I'm left-brained. So Becca has painted many, many, many paintings this year in her own abstract way that make me just shrug. I guess you can probably tell that I don't appreciate much of her art. I appreciate art that obviously shows talent. I'm not saying abstract artists aren't talented, but even I could create abstract art with my left-brained lack of art ... and nobody could tell me it was bad because it's abstract. See my point?

But at least someone appreciates Becca's abstract art. She was selected as a finalist in the Dr. Seuss art scholarship competition. In fact, her artwork is going to hang in a Dr. Seuss show in a Denver museum. Here is the artwork she submitted:

This is how she describes it:
"Going out into the world, not one person has all the ideas and all the answers, but one person may contribute to those ideas and may create answers. This painting is a portrait of me and my reflections on this idea. I'm going to go places but there is a fence or a barrier that keeps me from never knowing everything, but like the arrows express, I can always contribute my little pieces of mind."

Now we've got to decide on whether or not to hop in the car and drive to Denver. It's a very long drive, especially for a left-brained person to go to see previously seen art in a new venue ... :)

Other pieces of her art, for your viewing pleasure:

I had to throw in the last two just to show that she DOES have talent. :)