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Goodbye, 2016: 2016 highlights include awesome family vacation to Portland with the Prestons, Knott's and Soak City, hosting various family, Zootopia Halloween, many beach trips, swimming in the rain, Spring and Fall breaks in Utah, Harry Potter at Universal, and of course lots of Disneyland. There was less hiking and more whining than I'd like, but overall a great year.
I actually feel a little guilty because I see a lot of complaints about 2016 (some legit). And I think we had a pretty great year. But I'm not ashamed of it, and this I my blog. Here's to an even better 2017!

Cause I'm Happy: Im decluttering and I recently was flipping through some of my old journals. It seems a great theme of trying to figure out who I am. What am I good at. What makes me special. Then, further in my reading, and further in my life, came the acknowledgment that my goal in life is to make people happy. I love making people smile. It was interesting to see that theme emerge in my introspection.

Scoot a Scoop: Sienna says "scoop" instead of "scoot." Let me scoop my blanket over. Not entirely off-base I guess.

She has discovered mom will peel apples for her (to avoid peels all over the house). She only likes "up" apples, which I think means not the core.

We recently set up the little IKEA play tent in her room. After two nights of having the camping tent in our living room. Sienna slept in the tent for over a week, I think, until I put it away. It was fun to read a bedtime story in there with her, and Arthur liked it as well.

Monday, 7:15 PM: Dalton has started tennis after school on Mondays. Immediately after that, we drove Maggie to gymnastics 20 minutes away. Her class is from 5-6:30. We're still working out the logistics of what to do with the other three kids during that time (also, its dark), but getting home at 6:45 has been perfect. I let the kids eat more dinner if they're hungry, then everyone gets jammies on and goes to bed. At the same time. Normally Arthur is in bed before 7, sienna around 7, and the older two at 7:30. But there's no sense in messing with separate bedtimes on Mondays. They're all tired too, so they go to sleep and the house is quickly quiet. After such a busy afternoon, it's a good feeling.

Thank You, Internet: My brother lives 2800 miles away, and my sister lives 5400 miles away, and we just spent five minutes discussing clothing hangers in our childhood home.

Family History, They Are Doing It: I'm a ward family history consultant. It's fun, mostly Sunday calling. Tonight the beehives went to the family history center, so I showed up to help them. It was so fun! I helped a few girls find a spot to work on and practice attaching records.

John has been getting home after 8 every night, even though he is very ill. So I lucked out that he was home tonight. Now (9 pm) he is working, on the phone, and hacking up a lung. Worst time of year to be sick.

Sunday Morning: The kids and I have been trying to plan ahead for some Sunday morning fun since we don't have church until 12:30 and John is gone to meetings. Today was rough because it was raining. We made homemade chocolate pudding and did a big puzzle together.

Dishwashing: I recently wrote about how I've been feeling the laundry and dishwashing toll of a family of six. I started running the dishwasher every night and it has made a difference in how I go about the day. First of all, I tend to not to much as far as work in the evenings. After dinner, I'm just done. So this has helped me do one more thing, and get the kitchen nice and clean.

Secondly, it's really nice to wake up to! Sometimes I even get the dishes unloaded at night, but otherwise I just do it while we're doing breakfast and lunches in the morning.

Bye Bye Baby: I did some cleaning, organizing, decluttering and arranging today. Like twenty times I thought of ways I can organize, places I can put things once Arthur doesn't dump stuff out anymore. And it made me SO SAD! He's going to be grown up before I know it.

Morning: I got up after 7 this morning, and left by 8. Everyone was up with John and he had some breakfasts going. Kids all got themselves dressed (except Arthur, who went out the door in his Pjs). I started laundry, had help unloading the dishwasher, and put together two lunches and two morning snacks (with very low options due to the tail end of the spending freeze). Maggie and Dalton both did piano. Maggie did reading.

Maggie headed out the door to bike to school. I dropp d Sienna and Arthur off at the neighbor's. Dalton drove with me to school, where I'm waiting for reading groups to start. I love a good productive morning.

31 Days of Less Stuff: My neighbor and I decided to do 12 30-day challenges this year. Then it turned into a year long decluttering challenge and the 30-day challenges. And then the decluttering turned into deep-cleaning. So it's more work than I bargained for, but amazing.

The challenge for January was a spending freeze. John and I decided on eating out once or twice, $200 on groceries, and $100 on John's groceries. And not buying anything else. I think we spent about $1200 on groceries in December, so this alone is a huge savings.

The final totals:
$199 on groceries
No eating out, except free meals at chick fil a from receipt day
No spending during 9 Disneyland visits
No amazon orders

The kids' post-freeze requests: Dalton wanted chips, and orangsicle yogurt. Maggie wanted lunchables. John wanted orange juice. I wanted ice cream.

Meal planning is key to a challenge like this. I have plenty of food on hand, even at the end of the month, there was still lots of food. I mostly spent the budget on dairy, produce, and baby food. Unfortunately, I didn't shop much less. I had about 20 purchases made, including neighbors picking up stuff for me. So that was kind of annoying. I'd like to shop less frequently.

This month's decluttering area was the kitchen. I am doing double speed, since we are hoping to move this summer, so I did the dining room as well. This included cleaning out the fridge and pantry (worked well with the spending freeze), scrubbing the floor, going through the piano books, rearranging the cupboards, throwing out a lot of food, and getting rid of some items so I can now enjoy white space in my drawers and cupboards.

Next up: decluttering office and crafts, and EXERCISING.

Long Night:

I got a lot of twenty minute naps last night. About twenty minutes after I went to bed, I heard Sienna messing around in the bathroom. She gets up and goes potty, but seemed to be taking longer than usual so I checked on her and tucked her into bed. It smelled like throw up. She admitted to it, but wouldn't tell me where because she had "cleaned it up." Luckily/or not, I immediately discovered I was standing in it. She had dabbed with a handful of baby washcloths and put them in the sink. I cleaned everything up and went to bed. Twenty minutes later she was throwing up again. And twenty minutes after that. I slept about 1 1/2 hours, then woke up to check on her. All was good so I went back to bed. At 4:30, we got up to change a battery in the smoke detector. An hour later, Sienna was up throwing up. Half an hour after that, Arthur was up. I changed him and gave him a squeeze, and put him back in bed like I sometime do, but twenty minutes later he was up for good.

Surprisingly, the rest of the day went well. We ran a quick errand, I played lots of games with Sienna. Arthur didn't take an afternoon nap, but was fine. I made an easy dinner and a Texas sheet cake. Sienna and Arthur went to bed early.

Maggie's Testimony: I was home from church yesterday with sick Dalton, so John took the girls and they sat with our usual helpful family. Apparently Maggie decided to bear her testimony, and take Sienna up with her.

She told me she said "Hello, Brothers and Sisters. My name is Maggie and I want to bear my testimony. I know the church is true, and we should pass off Articles of Faith, not to get candy, but to learn the gospel." And then she helped Sienna say the First Article of Faith.

I told Maggie to take Sienna to Primary and help her pass off her First Article of Faith, but she says she didn't misunderstand, she just felt like doing it.

Quarter Feb Check In: We're already one week into February, but my challenges for this month are going great. The 30 Day challenge is to exercise every day. Other than Sunday, I have been doing 30 Day Shred every night, and actually putting some good effort into it. I thought I would hate having to exercise, but it feels good to have done it.

The decluttering rooms for this month are craft/office. For me, I am doing the Master Bedroom (not the closet, so basically the desk), and under the stairs. I've piddled through some stuff, but now I've gotten a few things done ruthlessly. First I did the shelf under the stairs where we keep church shoes and rain boots, ice chests and a couple other random things. Then I decided to hang my stroller hooks on the bar at the back of the closet so all the bags (extra backpacks, swim bags) aren't on the floor. I haven't finished with the bags but I love having them off the floor. Today I did all the writing utensils in the house. Tons. Of. Pencils. And Markers. And Colored Pencils. Tons. I got rid of a bunch, and the organized the two 3-drawer craft carts. With all the stuff I threw out, I was able to sort the drawers spaciously into writing/drawing stuff, scratch paper (there's a ton right now because, decluttering), and activities (construction paper, glitter glue, water colors, etc). The other cart's drawers are craft supplies (pipe cleaners, glue, scissors), sensory (playdough and tools, shaving cream), and paint and paint brushes. While I had the carts out, I vacuumed and clean the walls, and then I had to do the shoe basket so the floor wouldn't be covered in sand again. We each have a pair of sneakers and a pair of flip flops in the basket, but I'm open to other organization ideas.

In the office, the only thing I've done 100% is the Box of Important Files. I went through it, then I realized I did a poor job and went through it again, each paper. I've gone through data CDs, craft stuff, the other file boxes etc. but nothing else 100% yet.

Fun Mom: I used to be a fun mom, and did all sorts of crafts and activities with little Maggie and little Dalton. I've been getting some of that back the last couple weeks. Sienna has been asking to do "actibies", and why not? Part of it is that my overall productivity has increased. Part of it is that doing such things is less overwhelming in an overwhelmed house. Part of it is that the fewer toys lying around, the more interested she has in playing. Glad to be fun mom again. Hope I can keep it up.

Sick House: Everyone has taken turns being sick with a stomach bug. Sienna got sick Thursday. Dalton got sick Saturday. John got sick Sunday. And Sienna again. Arthur got sick Thursday. Maggie got sick Saturday. So it's been ten days already, and I am waiting for the 6th shoe to drop.

Told Ya: I started throwing up a few hours after my last entry.

Hard Worker: I told Sienna to get her shoes on for gymnastics and I heard her muttering "ugh, why do I have to work so hard like Tiana?"

She found a fold over elastic headband and has been wearing it around her waist as a "tool belt" day and night for over a month now. It's adorable, and hilarious. It was originally to hold her Handy Manny tools, but she also wears it to reference Chico Bon Bon: Monkey With a Toolbelt. My favorite is today she wore it over her leotard and tights to gymnastics and looked very much like a tiny Jane Fonda.

Secret's Out: On the 31st, John and I made 14 hearts for each of the kids with things we loved about them. Then, each night I hung a new one on their doors. Sienna asked me on the last day, "do you know who is putting these hearts on my door?" I said "it was me and dad!" It sure is nice to have a holiday where I don't have to lie about who's giving them stuff.

In the Night: Sienna woke me up at 2 am last night, wanting me to put baby Pegasus' blanket on him. This is just the sort of thing Maggie used to wake up and scream about. Dalton just wanted to come snuggle in our bed.

Forenose : Sienna: mom! Look what happened to my four nose!
Your what?
Sienna: my four nose! (Points to spot between forehead and nose.)

Can't stop laughing.

The Weekend: Friday night John and Dalton biked to Walgreens to pick out some treats. Then we had a family movie night, watching the last Indiana Jones movie (watched all four over the past couple weeks.)

We had a bit of a lazy Saturday. Sometimes it's nice not to go to Disneyland. The kids did chores. John worked. Everyone played outside for hours. The kids and the neighbors put on a fancy Valentines show for us. Then, John and I went on a date!

About once a pass year, we go on a Disney date and this Saturday was the night. First, we used a parent swap for Indiana jones I got when my cousin David and his family were visiting this week. We had reservations at Cafe Orleans so John could get a Monte Christo. We walked around, it was pretty crowded and the parade was about to start. We checked out the stores, walked to the front on the backstage. Then we used fast passes to Big Thunder. We got to see some of the parade on our way out.

Cookie Monster: John heard noises in the night so he went out and found Sienna putting around and getting back in bed, as she sometimes does. He bent down to give her a kiss and discovered cookie crumbs all over her pillow. The girl who ate no dinner got up in the middle of the night to eat a lofthouse cookie.

Like New: Today during Sienna's gymnastics class, I went to LensCrafters to get my glasses fixed. My regular glasses are too loose, I can't even wear them while exercising. And my sunglasses recently lost a screw. There was, miraculously, no wait so I was in and out of there in 15 minutes. I am so glad I live in a day and age where I can SEE!

Morning Walk: This morning I walked the kids to school. They went on their scooters, and I pushed Arthur in the stroller. It was a beautiful day. On the way home, we met a friend in the ward walking her dog, and we walked back together. It was very nice to chat. And Arthur liked the doggie.

Flowers: Some sort of flowering vine is growing inside our little patio. Every time I take out a dirty diaper, I get a whiff of the honeysuckle-like fragrance and it reminds me of summers outside as a kid.

Fasting: I'm still getting used to Fast Sundays after nursing Arthur. I really enjoyed the first counselor's testimony about attitude and being grateful. I kept thinking all day of a friend who recently discovered a brain tumor, hopefully benign. Yes, I was hungry, but so many people have much harder lives than I.

Spring Walk: Spring weather is here, in all its fickle glory. It rained during church yesterday. Today was just this side of chilly, but actually a really beautiful day. I took the kids to the park this morning, and we also walked to pick up the first graders from school. It's supposed to get considerably warmer this week. I love living in Southern California where it's always moderate. This weather is my fave.

Ode to Laundry Day: I finally got back on track (after Arthur baby laundry) to doing laundry one day a week. I feel like laundry takes up the whole day whether it's one load or four. So I'm back to doing all my laundry on one day. I have actually been getting it started Monday night, which means I can get it all washed and dried before noon.

Here are some laundry statistics:

Number of loads washed today: 6 (including one load of towels)
Percent of Dalton's laundry inside out: 80
Number of single socks, despite washing every single piece of laundry in the house: 6 (they were all found by the time it was put away.
Percent of kids' laundry that gets folded: ZERO
Number of pairs of underwear Sienna went through this week: 13

What's That I Hear?: We took the whole family to see Moana at the dollar theater today. I bought a few of the songs a month ago, but only Dalton had seen the movie. Arthur was about as well-behaved as you might expect a 1 year old in a dark theater to be. But every time one of the songs I bought came on - he sat completely still to watch and listen! It was pretty funny how he recognized the songs.

Finding a Friend in the MIrror: In cleaning out my desk. I found a paper with notes from the book Finding a Friend in the Mirror by Shane Barker. It's even dated 6/10/01. I found the notes I took very interesting, and also great advice for just about anyone! Be happy!

Influence and example - you make a difference
Talents and abilities
you're somebody's best friend, favorite person.
Don't compare when you're unalike - different skills and talents
Think of what you are, not what you're not.
appreciate your worth
Think only good thoughts - think of successes
Always be at your best
Pat yourself on the back

Don't get caught up in what's wrong in your life - look for the good.
Concentrate on what you do have
No one is perfect
You can have fun when it rains

3 things you're proud of (accomplishments)
3 things right about you
turn faults into assets
List things you worry about yourself - try to do something positive with them

Finding talents:
consider what you like
analyse it
try it
use it, polish it, use it to bless lives
pray for guidance

Try everything
try an interest or talent of a friends
Make a long list of things you've never done
Try three this week.
Don't let fear stop you.

Don't miss out because you're afraid
ask - you never know
do it NOW!

Plan tomorrow, next week, next month, next year
think of areas you want to improve
What do you want to achieve
What can you do right now.
review often

If you can't find happiness or success now, you won't be able to later
Don't wait for a better opportunity
Picture the type of person you'd like to be - then Start Now

Confidence -believe in yourself

Don't give up when everything seems against you.
Fight back. Make the came-from-behind win.
Don't give up!
Fight Back!

Find people who look on the bright side, love life, love people
Join large groups of people

Find activities that make it hard not to be happy.
Don't mope in front of the TV, get your heart pounding
Or maybe a certain place

Make someone's day brighter.

A Tiss and a Hug: Sienna loves to give people a kiss ("tiss") and a hug when they leave, or take a nap. Sometimes she is too late, so she invented something where she stands with her arms wide. A hug for when they've already left. She calls this a "benis."

: I don't want to be a queen! I want to be a princess!"

Things I Found Arthur Playing With: One year old
A firecracker
A balloon
A bottle of iron pills
An open container of cayenne pepper
Food coloring

Double Digits: Ten things I love about Maggie:

1. She is a great big sister. Arthur adores her. I frequently find her playing nicely with Sienna, especially if it's just the two of them outside. And she and Dalton have created entire fantasy worlds together.

2. She chooses the right. She always gets the "integrity" award at school for doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.

3. Her music skills are rapidly improving. I love listening to her play the piano and practice the viola.

4. She's smart. I never have to help her with homework or review. She's a little too smart for her own good, and goes through tests too fast sometimes, though.

5. She's creative. She is always drawing comics, and creating games.

6. She's snugly. I think it's mostly to put off bedtime. But I'll take it!

7. She's responsible. I love watching her be a good big sister, do her chores without being told to,

8. She's adventurous. She loves the fiercest roller coasters and expanding her independence a little at a time.

9. She likes tacos. Nuff said.

10. She has confidence. If I could guarantee maggie keeps any of her traits throughout her life, this is one I would choose. (After kindness, most important thing ever.) I love that she KNOWS she is smart, and fun, and beautiful.

Sunny Sienna: Sienna is so fun. She is always doing and saying silly 4 year old things that make me laugh. This afternoon, we went through the Taco Bell drive they to get Maggie some dinner before gymnastics. The same 16 year old white kid as previous weeks was there. Sienna tells from the back seat "he doesn't speak English!" She thinks English is any language she doesn't understand.

One thing I don't like about Sienna is how she follows Arthur around bothering him all day. John commented that in all the pictures he takes of the kids, she is touching him. He is taking her to Utah this week, and I think it will be a nice break for Arthur. But she does make me laugh.

Day Off: I am lucky enough to have a neighbor watch my kids on Tuesdays while I volunteer at school and do whatever else I need to. Usually I'm working, cleaning, or running errands the whole time, but without the constant interruptions of young children, it feels like a day off.

This week I decluttered sewing supplies and the bathrooms and the hall closet. I also had the kids help me do games after school.

We have one of Maggie's friends sleeping over. Her mom is at the hospital with her aunt. Made me extra grateful for neighbor's who help out.

Waffles: John has taken Sienna off to Utah to visit his parents. As long as we were driving to Long Beach to drop them at the airport, we went to the new Waffle Love store and had a cinna love waffle for lunch.

Arthur Disney Date: On Friday, I took Arthur to Disneyland all by himself. Sienna was in Utah with John and the other two kids were at school. We got there early, ride a few rides and saw lots of characters. He is totally in his element, playing with Pluto, laughing at Goofy, trying to sit on Donald's non-existent lap, knocking Mickey over. We had a great time.

Bookaholic: Im a total binge reader. I'll go months without reading anything, then read a book a day for weeks. Obsessed.

Simple Three: Three things I've started this year, within the monthly challenges, that have made my life a lot more simple.

Running the dishwasher every night. I enjoy cooking more when I don't try to limit my dishes.

Shopping once a week. Or less often at least. I've been shopping while Maggie is at gymnastics on Monday nights. And thirdly, there's a dollar store nearby, which is saving me a lot. Today I bought five boxes of Reese's puffs, baby squeezes (2/$.99) and organic strawberries. Among other things.

Art Class: A new community center opened near us and they were offering free art classes to celebrate. I signed Maggie and Dalton up and completely FORGOT Dalton's. Today was Maggie's class. She and her friend did Van Gogh style paintings. They had a good time. I'm glad there's a closer community center option for us. And I love the inexpensive city classes offered.

P&Q: My neighbor was out of town a couple days this week so I helped watch her kids. It really wasn't a big deal. I even found myself at Costco with her 2 year old and none of my own kids. But today was a nice cozy day with my own two little ones.

Of course Sienna threw two exhaustive tantrums today. But never mind that.

Screamy Snug: Arthur woke up screaming at 9:30 tonight. Bad dream, maybe, as he seemed fine. I picked him up and he clung to me. So I rocked him and we had a great snuggle as he went back to sleep. I love that sweet boy, and will take any cuddles I get.

Lucky Disney Day: Today we had a lucky Disney day. We woke up a little later than usual so it was almost opening time when we got off the freeway. We ended up making eight u-turns waiting for the Pumbaa lot to open - out favorite place to park! We went on lots of rides and the kids did Jr. Chef cooking with Goofy. Then, we went to get free chocolate bunnies from ghiradelli and ended up ordering a cocoa float. But they messed the order up and we ended up only paying $5 - for two! And they were delicious.

Arthur's Molars: Thank goodness for ibuprofen and oragel. Arthur just watched the last half of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them with us. He's been crying all day, when not held.

Carpool: Arthur is sick and didn't nap according to plan today. I got him up and we went to get gas and a car wash and cough medicine for Dalton. He fell asleep in the car on the way home. Luckily, I was able to get another mom in our carpool to cover for me.

Sienna is all signed up for TK. We are being sent to a school even farther than Dalton went, but she has friends who'll be going there, too. Hopefully we can work something out!

Non-Flake: I have some friends. Some are flaky. But some are really wonderful. They bring piano books for you to borrow, and remember the first time you ask. They return things you lend them. They buy you groceries. They pick up your kids. They bring you extra dinner when you are too tired or busy (or lazy) to make some for yourself. They share extra dessert with you. They meet you at the park so you can chat and ignore your kids. They love -and discipline - your kids as their own.

Long Day: Today was a long day filled with obvious blessings, generally in the form of sleep. John left at 5:45 for a day trip to Las Vegas. I thought Arthur would wake up when he left, but he actually slept until after 7!

I went on the fourth grade field trip, which was basically a five mile walk. We walked over to the nature preserve, around the loop, and back to the school. They had set up a police escort, which was kind of fun, and also helpful. It's hard to get 140 people across the street at a time.

Then I picked up my little kids and Arthur hadn't napped yet. And he took a long one so even after I prepped some dinner stuff and made lunch for Sienna and me, I still got a little nap. Then I made dinner. If I'd know what was in store for this day, I wouldn't have planned something so fancy. Arthur actually took another nap, which was helpeful. Between his cold and teething, he's whiny. Maggie helped with Arthur, and Dalton did a "surprise" which consisted of picking up the ENTIRE house, and making everyone's beds. So sweet!

We had all four missionaries serving in our ward over for dinner. John actually made it home from the airport just as we were eating. I made potato soup, rolls, salad, and chocolate-strawberry trifle. It was delicious.

March Challenges: The March decluttering challenge was the rest of my bedroom, closet, and both upstairs bathrooms. And all the board games in the house, because 1/3 of them are in my closet. One of the goals I had was to wear all of my shirts, which I managed to do. I also wore all the Sunday clothes I wanted to try out. I have others I didn't wear, but they are ones I wear regularly. I cleaned out my sewing stuff - again - and did two unfinished projects. I decluttered under all the sinks, both medicine cabinets, and the box of medicines in the hall closet. The kids helped me sort through all the games and got rid of a few. I tossed all the underwear and socks I don't like, and bought some new shorts and capris for the summer.

My closet has a lot of Easter and Spring Fling stuff in it still, and I only got one of the bathrooms deep cleaned, but I am happy with the progress in March.

The other challenge was a gratitude journal. I tried to do daily blog posts on things I was grateful for, without explicitly saying as much. We were going for an easier challenge in March, and maybe it was a bit too easy because we weren't as successful. But it was a worthy exercise.

She's Just Saying What Everyone's Thinking: Sienna: But Dad just went to work yesterday!

Trucks: Arthur has started saying a new word: uh oh. He is on the verge of learning to speak, and becoming a little person instead of my baby.

He is very into trucks. Trucks in books, trucks on his clothes, toy trucks in his hands, and trucks outside. We've been closely watching the garbage man (and garbage truck videos on YouTube) for a few weeks and last night we met him. Arthur was pretty impressed. He's learned the sign, and it's just about the cutest thing ever.

Words Arthur Learned this Week:

Moo
Uh-oh
Glub, while pointing to Dory or fish, not sure where he learned that.
Pooh

He signs "sleep, more, truck, all done" and he can also say dada and mama and sss for cheese and ssss da for "what's that" or "who's that?" Which I apparently say to him all the time. He says something for blankie or night night or Mickey but I haven't figured it out yet.

Day Off Deal: Tuesday is my day off, so I volunteered in Dalton's class, did five load of laundry, finished cleaning up Easter stuff, vacuumed and cleaned the carpets and stairs, cleaned the walls and doors in the kids' rooms and made a deal with myself that if I cleaned the kitchen floor I could sit around and eat candy the rest of the time (so now I'm blogging). But I didn't have to do any of the hard stuff (parenting, living life with constant interruptions). Whew.

Beach and Bread: Another Tuesday in the books. The first grade reading group was cancelled today and it was low tide, so I went to the beach instead. I walked along three coves in Laguna Beach looking for sea glass. Fisherman's Cove was the most successful, the same results I had last time. Lots of teeny pieces, a couple medium ones, and an interesting piece of art glass with color embedded in it. Pretty recent, but this is Laguna Beach after all.

This month's challenge is to try 30 new recipes, so when I got home I made bread, caramels, and a new salad for dinner. Cooking instead of cleaning like last week!

April Challenges Update: The April challenges were to drink a smoothie every day and declutter the kids' rooms. I did ok with smoothies. About the same 75% success rate as our other challenges. Decluttering went well. I went through all the kids' clothes. I sorted the books but didn't get rid of much. And I didn't really do the toys because I'm comfortable with the point where I've gotten the toys. I cleared off their shelves, scrubbed the Little Tikes table, and did some other cleaning stuff.

Die!: Arthur learned to say "bye!" except he says "die!" exactly like Dalton used to.

Sofia: Sienna has what one might call an imaginary friend. Her name is Sofia. She "only comes out for one day" but she seems to be here more lately. Sofia eats invisible food (whew) and sometimes has a bed made up for her, next to Sienna. When we play games, Sofia gets a turn. She sits in the seat next to Sienna in the car, unless Maggie is there. She likes to play outside with Sienna during the day when I'm cleaning the garage (this month's decluttering challenge).

Morning Snuggle:

Me with Arthur's toes: Is this my breakfast? It's so tasty!
Sienna: No! It has eyeballs!

So apparently I can't nibble on Arthur, because he has eyeballs. Haha.

Everything I Do: Dalton does that thing where kids complain that mom's get Mother's Day AND a birthday.

Me: Dalt, everything I do, all day long, every day is for you.

Dalt: loooong pause. ... It's hard to think of something [that's not for him].

New Food: May's challenge was to try 30 new recipes and I did it! We did it - several of them were John's. Other than things we've made before, a really long time ago, there were only two stand out recipes. And one of those two, we'd HAD before, even though we'd never made it. The rest were all things which at least sounded or looked good enough for me to try making them. I think those are pretty dismal stats on the recipes out there.

Hawaii: We went to Hawaii! We picked the big island, because we like to do more than hang out at the beach, and there is lots to do there. We stayed in Waikoloa, at a condo, but we had pool access at the Hilton resort. As soon as we landed, we bought Dramamine for Dalton, who threw up in the car, the shuttle bus, the airplane, and the Kona airport while John was purchasing the medicine. Luckily, that was the last of illness for anyone on our trip. Next, we went to Costco and bought food for our stay. We saved a lot of money doctoring up premade stuff from Costco, and eating cereal at the condo for breakfast.

Tuesday we went to a nearby beach. We rented a double kayak and paddled around the bay. Arthur slept nearly two hours in the sand. The kayak was so fun, we all got to try it, and it was only $50 for 2 hours. Money well spent.

Wednesday was a long day. We drove around the south side of the island (the long way). We stopped at a black sand beach, which was so cool to see, but we didn't see any sea turtles. I did find a couple pieces of sea glass though. Next, we went to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Maggie has a free national parks pass for fourth graders, so we got in free! We looked at the craters with the binoculars, wandered around the steam vents, and hiked in the dark through a lava tube. Pretty cool!

We went up to Hilo for John and the older kids to do a helicopter ride. They got to see lava in the crater, and also hitting the ocean.

The littles and I had just under two hours to kill in Hilo during the helicopter tour. We went to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. Free, and awesome. I wish we'd had more time to spend. Sienna loved all the benches decorated as animals and flowers. There was also an awesome playground. Unfortunately, it was too hot to enjoy either, but it's usually rainy (Rainforest Zoo... get it?). We saw tigers, lemurs, all sorts of tropical birds, anteaters.

Then we went to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory. As we drove through the macadamia nut orchards, I told Sienna the story of auntie Rachel getting a macadamia nut stuck in her nose. She came back with "we could get things out of our nose. We can get boogers out of our nose."

Thursday was another rest day. We went to a new beach. It had trees shading the shore, and a rope swing. We were able to see some fish swimming around while we floated on boogie boards in the warm, clear water, and some crabs in the rocks along the edge of the cove. We went to the pool just outside our condo in the evening. So convenient that we left the older kids at home playing Roblox.

Friday we drove around the north side of the island. We had malasadas, went to a few points of interest then stopped at a famous sea glass beach for me. Unfortunately the tide wasn't great, and the beach was difficult to access. But Dalt and I scrambled down and found a few pieces while the others waited in the car. Then we went to Rainbow Falls, definitely the highlight. Everyone had a blast climbing the banyan trees and playing in the shade. We also climbed over the rocks and dipped our toes into the pools at the top of the falls. Our final stop was the Mauna Kea visitor center, where we were hopping to use the solar telescope. But the whole mountain was shrouded in mist. Disappointing, but the Rainbow Falls made up for it.

Saturday we took turns doing a submarine cruise. We wanted to do zip lining but even Maggie didn't weigh enough. We picked the submarine because Sienna was big enough, and she didn't get to do the helicopter. On the girls' trip, we saw three little dolphins, a barracuda, and a lot of different fish. It was pretty cool just to be on the submarine.

In the evening we went for one last swim at the Hilton pool. Water slides, hot tub, towels we didn't have to carry to the car. We also saw a sea turtle in their lagoon.

Then we took the red eye home. Yikes. Arthur slept on the airplane floor for three hours. Everyone but Sienna crashed when we got home. It's bedtime and we're all exhausted! Hopefully we can reset after tonight. What a fun trip. John always plans the most fun things. The kids had trouble picking a favorite thing. I liked the Rainbow Falls and kayaking the best probably. But everything we did was great! Actually, maybe my favorite was John not working. Hurray for actual vacation!

Food Court: The last time we were in Utah, Susan and I left the kids home with dad and grandpa and went to Sam's Club. I convinced her to get a churro and a pretzel and a coke and we sat in the food court and ate our snack. I think she thought I was a bit silly, reveling in my kid-free outing and treat (she probably thinks I'm a bit silly most of the time), but I think she secretly enjoyed that little break as much as I did.

Neighborhood Pool Dance: I've written before about the choreography of neighborhood helpfulness (which is still going on - I went to Costco for three today). Now that my kids are on swim team, we're having the same dance at the pool. The other parents are in and out, dropping off kids. I'm mostly the only one staying the whole time, unless I leave early and get Maggie a ride home, so maybe I'm the only one who sees this. There are about 14 kids from our ward on the team.

I arrive at the pool. I let in one kid who's been dropped off, and a parent dropping off two more. (Stupid pool keys were added this year). One kid is already waiting inside without parent. I sunscreen my kids and an extra. Maggie gets dropped off by the piano teacher (also in the ward), and brings in a swimsuit for a kid who's not here yet. Other kid gets dropped off. Another parent arrives with two more kids. Mom who dropped off two comes back with baby, and an extra swim diaper for me. Snacks are shared. Toys are shared. Everyone has fun.

Waffles: Our waffle iron died after nearly 14 years. We eat a lot of waffles, so I'm surprised it lasted this long. I got a similar waffle maker for $30, but this one makes FOUR instead of two waffles. And now I don't have to spend all of dinner making more waffles. Yay!

Splash: All four of our kids went swimming today. Maggie and Dalton had a swim meet in the morning. They got some time improvements and Dalton even won his heat. He got disqualified (still learning the strokes!) but was so fast. Sienna also got to do the little kid race. She was the fastest and the hosting team gave all the little kids medals, and a bag with lollipops and stickers. So fun!

We went to dinner at Tender Greens and the kids ran around on the fake grass after. Sienna went to go see her "friend ocean", the fountain. Dalton and I were taking selfies and silly videos when Maggie calls me over because Arthur has fallen into the fountain. It sort of seems like that was inevitable. He was drenched - I wrung water out of his sneakers! And a spectator kindly gave us a dry diaper to put on him.

Meanwhile, Dalton has continued to take videos on my phone, so we managed to capture the moment.

Poisonous Wolf Pee: Dalton came into our room at 2:30 this morning. Talking loudly.

I had a dream that Skyler and I were playing outside and we saw one of those bunnies that bites and pees poisonous wolfblood.

What?!

He didn't say "wolfblood", it was some made up word. But we couldn't remember exactly in the daylight.

I told him that rabbits don't bite and took him back to bed. "But what about other animals that pee poisonous wolfblood?"

There's no such thing! Animals pee pee. There's no poisonous animals around here anyway. Etc.

By this point, he's woken up Arthur who was then awake for an hour and a half.

I texted John when Dalton won his 25 Fly heat at his swim meet later that morning. He responded: Way to go! Must be the poison wolf pee.

Update: Some time later, Dalton told me it was like "the place we were going to stay with the water slides." Great Wolf Lodge. He was saying "wolfslodge".

Bullseye For the Win: Sienna has been asking to play the boardwalk games at California Adventure for some time. Yesterday we finally did it. She and Dalton raced in a game where you roll balls to move your horse forward. Dalton won, but not by much. The cast member held up the prize choices and Dalton immediately turned to Sienna and asked which one she wanted. She picked a horse like Bullseye, and is now best friends with him, thanks to her sweet brother.

Drive to Utah: We drove to Utah on Monday. John and I got up at 4:30 and we left at 5. We got to his parents house around 4, so the drive only took 12 hours. We made four stops, two gas, lunch, and an hour detour for the ace ice drive and 1 mile hike in Kolob Canyon, which was beautiful. Arthur took two twenty minute naps and grumped a lot, but overall was ok. The big kids didn't fight AT ALL. A Christmas miracle.

Neigh: Arthur was asleep between me and John Tuesday morning. He called out loudly, and clearly NEIGH!

So we went to Wheeler Farm in the morning. We met some of my cousins (and doggies) there and had fun on the playground and checking out the animals.

In the afternoon we went to the Murray Rec Center pool to enjoy the water slide. Arthur was obsessed. "More slide!" He wore me and John out.

Kindness Points: Twice today, Sienna called Arthur "kindful". He is a sweet boy, even when she bugs him and teaches him how to hit.

Green: I deleted a few friends (actual friends) from my Instagram feed because I hated the way I get when I looked at their posts. This is also one of many reasons don't follow corporations. From my personal psychoanalysis it seems I am envious of the following things.

People who go on girls weekends (like all the time).
Free Disney stuff.
People who seem to have unlimited amounts of money to spend of stuff I wouldn't spend money on even if I had money to spend on it.
People who travel incessantly.
People who do cool stuff. But in excess. Because doing cool stuff is fun. I just wish I could do it all the time.

Just give me all the money for Disney and travel and we'll be good.

Sigh. Funny, though. The things that get under our skin.

Eclipse: Today was the famous eclipse. We only got about 70% coverage in our area. I didn't plan well, but we got to have a fun experience. Some neighbors were outside and let us borrow their glasses. Other neighbor's made the viewing boxes and we got to check the eclipse out that way.

Peoples Is Peoples : Last night, while the girls were in gymnastics and the boys were home with dad, I stopped into Target to make a return. As I was walking across the street, everything suddenly get very surreal. Like, what is this life I'm living? in a kind of first world way.

When I approached the return counter, several young men employees were joking about a TV show. This turned into a conversation about Kids These Days and screens and the cashier made a comment about something he had learned in his child development class. It struck me that I wouldn't have expected him to be taking child development; I wouldn't have thought of him being in school at all. I would have only thought of him as a Target employee, but he is a person as well.

Duty and Honor: Me: Want to go put these clothes in the laundry basket for me?

Sienna: That would be an honor!

101 Picnics: Sienna's favorite thing to do when she gets home from school is have a picnic lunch in the living room while watching a movie. Picnic just means she has to eat on a blanket so she doesn't make a mess. Today she brought home a 101 Dalmatian book from the school library, so we read that, then watched the movie while she had her picnic lunch. She had two bowls of pasta with red sauce and Parmesan, almost an entire package of blueberries, a string cheese, and a package of fruit snacks.

Little Gymnast: Today I took Arthur to open baby gym at the place Sienna and Maggie have gymnastics. I don't think it ever occurred to him that he could have fun there; he's usually stuck in a chair being bored. It took him a while to warm up, but he had fun throwing blocks into the pit, playing with the giant exercise balls, and going down the slide. We had some friends there too, so I had fun too.

Household List: My cousin Alyson came to help me when Maggie was a couple weeks old. She got up in the night with the baby, cooked amazing food from scratch, did laundry, gave me breastfeeding help. When I commented she wasn't getting much of a vacation, she laughed and said something implying it was a whole different kind of break. Her boys were maybe 5 and 7 at the time.

I am fascinated by the invisible mental burden of moms (as homemakers). I've spent hours over the past few weeks coordinating, organizing, cooking, planning, shopping, and preparing to leave my kids. John is more than capable, and they'll be watched by my neighbor, with whom they're probably overly familiar. But I still had to pass on the details of our life, and John still has his day job.

I made a list for my neighbor of when she'll have the kids and a few little things she'll be helping with. Then I made John a detailed schedule of the week, and an even more detailed schedule of things that needed to happen every day.

John: "Drive to gym?" Am I just supposed to know what time?
Me: That's Tressa's. If it was on your list, I would have put the exact time you need to leave and what car seats to take and address and phone number and coaches names...
John: And emergency contacts!

Tressa and I have a bit of a shared mental burden... which makes it easier on both of us!

Play Time: Today for her sharing day, Sienna was supposed to bring something she found on a nature walk. She shared some fluffy grass stuff she and John found at the park. She was very proud of it.

After school she was throwing around words like "pollination" and "harvest" and telling me how the white part of the apple she was eating is called the flesh.

I am loving her TK class and the emphases on playing and learning through play and real life, rather than worksheets.

We've been playing lots of games together. My Little Pony memory and Sophia the First Spot It, etc. I get to witness her learning through play first hand, and it's marvelous.

Seasons of Love: Last night I dreamt I was in a bedroom with five of my cousins, and our relief society president was reading a church announcement from her computer at a desk in the corner. Something we disagreed with. When I turned around, all of my cousins had changed into fandom shirts saying various things of underlying dissent. Jill was wearing a shirt that said "five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes to love."

I See London: For my birthday/kindness points/new auntiness, I got to go to London for 8 days to visit Rachel, Brett and their new baby Theo. It was a very fun and relaxing trip. I pretty much snuggled Theo, did stuff around the flat, and went for long walks with my sister.

We did some organizing and decluttering. I hemmed some curtains. We returned baby gifts and walked back from the mall via the Olympic Park. We wandered in the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park near the flat. We went for a touristy walk up the Victoria Embankment, across Westminster Bridge, back down the south bank, stopping for Greek street food and the view from Tate Modern, and walking back across to St. Paul's. And we walked down the canal to the river and back in the rain. Theo slept a lot while we walked, so we walked a lot.

Rachel and Brett are good parents, and Theo is a good baby. It was a pleasure to hang out on their home, cooking, playing games, and lots of laughing.

I was pretty glad to get back to my own babies, even though they're much more difficult. I'm sure John was glad to have me back, too. It was an exhausting week for him.

Legoland Birthday: Dalton begged to go to Legoland for his birthday. There was no school that day, and we didn't have a party last year, so it was hard to say no. I took him and one friend from school and we had a great time. We did some coasters, then the boys played in the castle play place for an hour, then built and raced cars for an hour. They held and official race, and they both won! We went on the new Ninjago ride, where we shot our powers at the bad guys in 3D. We also got to explore the aquarium. It was great birthday fun.

Village Errands: I write about this all the time... but I came home from getting Sienna from school, and my Costco order was sitting in my garage. This is the life! I felt a bit silly earlier this morning, walking over to Tressa's with three bags of glow sticks, strawberries, and dollar store snack deals, but our Village makes my life so much easier.

Anemone: I took Arthur to the beach early one morning. It was about 8:30 and 58 degrees when we got there. Which seemed surprisingly warm in the sun. The low tide was quite high, so I only found a few pieces of sea glass, but he found lots of shells, and we were able to climb on the rocks and explore the tide pools. Arthur learned the word “anemone” and learned how to touch their tentacles to make them think you’re food. They are sticky, and close up and try to eat you. He thought it was hilarious! I love my beach buddy.

To Cook or Not To Cook: Yesterday was a busy day, planned down to the minute, so of course Maggie woke up sick and missed school. I shipped Arthur off to the neighbors for the whole day, left Maggie at home for one errand and dragged her on another. I had a meeting at school, and then Dalton had cooking class. Which was cancelled, though no one informed me. I am quite used to getting phone calls that whatever Dalton signed up for has been cancelled. So 45 minutes was wasted driving around town with four grumpy kids in the car. Poor Dalt was so sad. This always happens to him.

Sienna’s school had a fundraiser at McDonald’s so we went to pick up food. They wrote down her name and class, so opedully she’ll get some credit for going. The principal and teachers were there bringing out trays of food. It was pretty fun.

In between all that, I made a Rapunzel dress for Sienna’s second Halloween costume.

Arthur Gets Glasses: By the time Arthur was 6 months old, we began to suspect his wandering left eye was not normal. The pediatrician referred us to a pediatric eye surgeon at 9 months; she didn't notice anything unusual but showed me how to take flash pictures to see if the eye was misaligned.

A year and several dozen flash pictures later, I took Arthur back to the eye doctor. He has intermittent exotropia, a kind of strabismus. She noticed it right away, flipped through two of the pictures, and began talking options. She ended up prescribing glasses for his minor near sightedness, and we are hoping that makes it easier for him to control his eye, and we can avoid surgery.

So now Arthur wears glasses like mom and dad. He adjusted to them surprisingly well. I say, as he takes them off and throws them at me.

Dalton’s Baptism: Dalton William Chadwick

I have a little sister Sienna, baby Arthur is super cute, mom and dad are super nice, big Sister Maggie plays with me a lot.

Favorite scripture story: The one when they lower the man through the roof because it was so crowded. Because it’s funny they went through the roof.

Favorite song: Gethsemane

His unique talent is swimming.

Special qualities that prepared him for baptism are that he’s kind and forgives right away.

5th Grade Lyfe: Maggie and I argued about whose life is harder. She said “I have to follow Arthur around and clean up after him” and I said “…” She said “you finished college already!” and I said “so I have a college degree to follow Arthur around and apparently it only takes a fourth grade education.”

Milestone: Arthur’s reached the point where he’ll sit for and enjoy a picture book, which opens up a whole new world.

Be Careful What You Wish For: Arthur finally got his wish, and helped himself to a bullion cube in its shiny wrapping. Told ya, kid.

Pajama Day: Today was pajama day at school for red ribbon week. I thought it was fun that the kids thought nothing of ever actually getting dressed and had dinner and piano lessons in their pajamas. Dalton got out clean pajamas to change into after showering, but showed up wet in the same PJs. I told him to go put on the clean ones and he never did. He couldn’t find them. They were in the dirty laundry basket.

He also got himself his own bowl of ice cream for dessert. Arthur got out a spoon, climbed up on the chair behind him and started poking his spoon in. His giant plastic serving spoon. Also, Arthur didn’t actually want any ice cream because he doesn’t eat food.

However, I only let him have one squeezey this afternoon and he eventually ate a yogurt tube, and then had four chicken nuggets and tasted a tater tot at dinner time. Unbelievable.

Also, unbelievably hot. We get random hot days in October from the Santa Ana winds every year, but this year was ridiculous. Car said 109° today. Melting.

Ladies Who Lunch: Maggie is trying to get Dalton to play with her outside but he’s still in his pajamas. Didn’t get dressed when I asked him to and now Arthur is asleepin his room.

“Who’s outside at this time of day? They’re either at work or at some fancy restaurant.“

Bubbles: This morning while I was cleaning, Arthur got out the bubble bath and pour th rest of the container into the bathtub. I mean, at least he poured it into the bathtub. I closed the drain and then tonight, gave the kids the bubbliest bubble bath ever. I had to give them a shower after to rinse all the bubbles off and actually wash them.

Rainday : This morning was wet and a little sprinkly. Arthur first woke up at 5:20 - Daylight Savings Time has ended. We went for a walk to the hot tub. The long way because the first pool we went to was closed. The kids watched Christmas shows and played iPad most of the day. Arthur took a nice early nap, and we went early to church so I could join the choir in practicing Christmas music, which was really fun.

I taught a Sunday school lesson on family history today. I read the New Era story my mom wrote about her dad’s contact lenses. And I took the actual contact lenses to show everyone. We talked about different ways we can do family history and temple work just a bit in our lives to get the Spirit of Elijah.

After church John made pulled pork sandwiches and roasted veggies. We went for a walk. Made Arthur stay up until nearly 7. He was losing it, but I think he was really hungry because he didn’t eat dinner. I’ve been giving him fewer squeezes and offering him more real food, but I think he’s just eating less. Maybe drinking more milk. I guess I’m saving money. :/

Arthur Has Weird Ideas: Q: What is more difficult than buckling a toddler who doesn't want to be buckled?

A: Buckling a toddler who thinks he is being tickled.

Wah, Truck, Wah: Between daylight savings and Arthur not eating food, he has been really grumpy today. I took him for a walk along the busy street to see lots of trucks go by. He started grumping as soon as we got back home.

Stuff Sienna’s Been Playing With: Sienna likes to play with random stuff. And by “random stuff” I mean “trash”.

Envelope for a card I tried to mail. I had to get a new one.
Garbage pick up bill for our house in Utah.
Halloween card from grandma and grandpa.
Thank you card from a birthday party she went to. This is her “computer” (laptop).
Cardboard boxes. She begs to keep every one that enters our house.

Wake Up, Fire Truck: If Arthur wakes up happy, he is usually jabbering and telling all sorts of stories when o go get him. For a long time he would tell me about the beach, and anemones, and how they eat you. The other day we saw a fire truck bring paramedics to tend to a girl who had fallen at the park and got an owie (she was fine). Now he says fire truck! And owie doctor!

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