Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Babies Are for Cuddling

One thing has become clear the past few months since Emma has joined our ranks: I turn into a bigger softie with each baby. Let me explain.

God sent Jake to us as our first child to teach us how to be parents. Jake takes his job very, very seriously and has from the day we brought him home from the hospital. When Jake was a baby I would listen enviously to moms who claimed they could just lay their baby in a crib and the child would calmly drift off to sleep alone. Jake was a baby who demanded (loudly and in no uncertain terms) that he be held at all times, conscious or otherwise. And in the process Cameron and I were molded into much more sensitive parents than we might have been.

When Abby and then Grace came along I tried to see if either one of them were interested in going to sleep without being held or rocked. Both of them showed brief interest then decided being held was much better. I decided I couldn't really blame them and acquiesced to their wishes.

Then this week I noticed Emma trying to settle herself into deeper sleep. She squirmed around, and I silently observed and debated. Should I pick her up or let her sort it out alone? She wasn't crying. Of course I've been told many times through the years that babies have to learn to be independent and it's better if they learn sleep skills by themselves.

Good thing I'm not running for any sleep trainer awards. My soft side won out. (It seems it always does.) I picked up Emma, snuggled her, and went to sit in the rocking chair. I couldn't have been happier with my choice.
Independence is for 16-year-olds. Babies are for cuddling.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Finding the Joy

Recently Cameron and I were having one of those late-night (read: after 9pm) talks where we discuss our family, our goals, and our progress. Cameron expressed the sentiment that if we're not generally happy on most days (minus moments of stress, the occasional all-out bad day, etc.) we might want to change some things. I shared with him my moments of joy from taking care of the kids that day. And the next day, the concept of joy in small moments stuck with me.

Joy is watching Abby and Grace sit on Cameron's legs while he does sit ups. They giggle, bounce, and rock, and I wonder how I got such a wonderful husband and such cute, happy girls.

Joy is watching Grace try to play with Emma, who is laying innocently in the middle of my bed. Grace gets right up in Emma's face and announces that she is a monster who is going to eat Emma. Emma remains unfazed by this threat, and Grace continues happily talking to her.

Joy is listening from the next room while Abby "reads" Grace a book.

Joy is getting spontaneous love notes from Jake.
Joy is racing boisterously around the house giving the kids piggy-back rides.

Joy is having Emma smile at me...or even just look contentedly around the room. (Just about anything she does melts my heart. I'm a sucker for babies.)
Right now I have four children, ages six to zero, and life isn't all that easy. But there are lots of moments of joy that shine through all the hard work. When I count my blessings, those four awesome kids and terrific husband are at the top of my list.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Starting Out Young

It was a fairly peaceful evening at our house. All four kids were in the kitchen "helping" me make pizza pockets for dinner. Jake grated cheese. Abby and Grace added toppings. Emma "supervised" from her chair, and from time to time I would ask one of the kids to talk to Emma so she got enough attention.

After a couple minutes I overheard this:

Jake: "Abby, can you talk to Emma? She likes it if you talk to her about John Deere."

I tried not to laugh out loud. Then I looked over to see that one of Jake's John Deere tractors had been placed on top of Emma's blanket.
Jake has apparently arrived at a timeless conclusion at a very young age: train up a child in the way she should go, and when she is old she will not depart from it.

Indoctrinate Emma with a love of John Deere from infancy and make up for the fact that you have three little sisters and nary a brother. I guess I can't blame him.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Homemade Marshmallow Recipe

Thanksgiving weekend is one of the highlights of my year. I absolutely love it. And it has very little to do with the big turkey dinner. 
Abby and Grace sporting their Indian vests and turkey headbands they made this week
The year Cameron and I were engaged we spent the day after Thanksgiving visiting some old friends of mine. We went to the temple afterwards then stopped in at a tepanyaki grill in the area for dinner. I'd never been to a tepanyaki grill before that night. The chef did a great job with all the typical tricks--making an onion-ring volcano, spinning eggs on his spatula, flipping shrimp into everyone's mouths, etc. I snuggled up to Cameron and enjoyed it all. On our way home we remembered that they would be turning on the Christmas lights on Temple Square, so we stopped to enjoy all the lights and nativity sets. The snow was falling softly, we were so in love, and everything seemed magical. We decided to make it a yearly tradition.

So now every year on the day after Thanksgiving we haul out all the Christmas decorations and have a wonderful morning setting up our tree and lights and listening to festive music. Cameron and I go on a lunch date to a tepanyaki grill. In the late afternoon we bundle everyone up and go to Temple Square to see all the nativity sets and be there when they turn on the Christmas lights. Then we go home for hot cocoa and our annual homemade marshmallows. We only make these once a year, but Cameron and the kids really wish it was more often!

Here's the recipe:
2-1/2 T. unflavored gelatin (I use 3 individual packets of Knox)
1 c. plus 1 T. water
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
dash of salt
2 t. vanilla extract

 First you want to coat a square pan with cooking spray and dust it like crazy with powdered sugar.
Then stir 1/2 c. of the water and the gelatin in a stand mixer and let it rest for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 c. water in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then turn the heat up to medium-high and bring it to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium and boil and stir till it reaches 244 F on a candy thermometer--maybe 15 minutes or so. 
Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, turn the mixer on to medium low. Now slowly pour the sugar mixture into your stand mixer bowl. Turn the mixer up to high and beat 15 minutes. Your mixture will be thick, white, and maybe triple in volume. 
Add the vanilla extract and 1 T. water and beat till combined. Your marshmallow batter will be very sticky. Spoon it into the prepared pan and let it stand uncovered overnight. 
If you don't mind a sticky mess (or if you need an excuse to give your kids a bath) you can let your kids go to town with the bowl, whisk, and such. It makes you very popular with your kids for at least a few minutes.
This was our kids last year enjoying the marshmallow scrapings
When you're ready to cut the marshmallows the next day, ease your huge chunk of fluffy goodness out onto a cutting board dusted with powdered sugar. I must admit that cutting something this sticky isn't easy, and we've experimented with some different methods through the years. Our best success is by using some kitchen scissors which we wet occasionally to make the process smoother. Cut it into squares and dust them with powdered sugar. 
We also like to dust some of our marshmallows with baking cocoa or toasted coconut. (I just toast my coconut in a non-stick skillet on the stove. But keep an eye on it--those lovely sweetened flecks can burn in a hurry!) 
Because they don't have any eggs (as some marshmallow recipes do), you can just store these in an airtight container for a few days. 

Enjoy! (And may these wonderful little pieces give you just one more thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving...)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Joy of Having a 2 Year Old

It was Monday and I had been buried in laundry up to my eyebrows and tending an infant who doesn't nap so well. By the time Cameron got home, I was frazzled and all too happy to take him up on an offer of a nice bubble bath while he put the kids to bed. (Dang, I got a good husband!)

However, before I could even make it to the tub, the true highlight of the day came when Grace plopped her soggy-diapered bottom on top of Cameron's face (he was laying on the floor trying to relax) and announced, "I'm sitting on Daddy's head." She proceeded to sing a song and look at a book and pretend that such behavior was completely normal. (Now might be a good time to mention that not only is Cameron a good husband, he is an extremely tolerant father with such antics.)
Such moments comprise the joy of having a 2-year-old with a budding sense of humor. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Law of Decreasing Intelligence

Lately I like to quip about what our life will be like in another 13 years when we have three teenage girls under one roof. Then I had an experience that prompted me to just be grateful we've had three girls in a row. I call the principle the Law of Decreasing Intelligence.

It was a lovely fall day, and I had decided to take the kids to a local living history sort of farm to see the animals and enjoy the nice autumn weather. When it was time to go Jake and a friend were engrossed by a serious Lego construction project. So I invited Jake's friend to join us on our outing.

I wasn't sure if I was delusional or Supermom for taking five kids under the age of seven out in public. But away we went, and it all was going well enough. Once we got to the farm I noticed the boys collecting several sticks. They started out using the sticks for little sword fights. But soon the sticks were used to poke at the goats. Then they were catapulted into the chicken cages and a couple of the fowl narrowly avoided being clonked by raining missiles. I couldn't get the kids on to the next thing quickly enough.

And thus I realized that while Jake by himself might make reasonably good decisions, if he is paired with another little boy the sum total of their intelligence decreases.
In a few more years I will have three teenage girls and perhaps I will need to seek shelter from the hormones and melodrama. For now I'll just be grateful for only one son and only occasional subjection to the Law of Decreasing Intelligence.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Little Pumpkin Patch

The year Jake was born a neighbor gave us a little pumpkin Halloween suit that didn't fit her little boy. We had a great time taking pictures of our little pumpkin that year.
A couple years later Abby got to take her turn...
Then Grace...

And now Emma.
I never would have dreamed we would have used this same suit for four kids, but I sure love our little pumpkin patch.