Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Christmas! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Harrison sang in the Primary choir!

Christmas 2011

Carter and Harrison loved making a gingerbread house.

Christmas is such a wonderful time. I adore that this season celebrates Heavenly Father's ultimate gift to the world- Jesus Christ. Our family focused on having a Christ-centered Christmas by doing scripture readings, a Jesse tree, and attending Church meetings and performances. We minimalized gift giving, and we returned the magic of Christmas to where it should be- on faith, family, and friends.

Kurt and Harrison catch a movie while Carter takes a nap.

Harrison and Carter exchanged their gifts- and enchanged a brotherly hug!

Carter opens his gifts from Grandma and Grandpa Lyle!

 Harrison was thrilled to open Grandpa and Grandma Lyle's gifts!

Carter was thrilled to get a 50 States activity book! He loves getting new things for homeschool! Thanks Grandpa and Grandma Lyle!

Does Harrison love Grandpa and Grandma Lyle's gift? YES!

Carter was thrilled to get Legos from Mom and Dad!

They loved their gifts from Santa!

Harrison loves Toy Story! Thanks Grandpa and Grandma Lyle!

Kurt, Abi, and Harrison put together Legos!

 Carter, Sean, and Harrison- Christmas Day 2011

Sean and Carter put together Legos!

 The boys love Legos! Can you tell???

Life is full of sweet surpises

Everyday's a gift

The sun comes up and I can feel it lift my spirit

Fills me up with laughter, fills me up with song

I look into the eyes of love and know that I belong

Bless us all, who gather here

The loving family I hold dear

No place on earth, compares with home

And every path will bring me back from where I roam

Bless us all, that as we live

We always comfort and forgive

We have so much, that we can share

With those in need we see around us everywhere

Let us always love eachother

Lead us to the light

Let us hear the voice of reason, singing in the night

Let us run from anger and catch us when we fall

Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please

Bless us one and all

Bless us all with playful years

With noisy games and joyful tears

We reach for you and we stand tall

And in our prayers and dreams

We ask you bless us all

We reach for you and we stand tall

And in our prayers and dreams we ask you

Bless us all.

-Song from Muppet Christmas Carol

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa Train!

Recently I have been seeing my parents a little bit. One of the things they requested was to take the kids to the Santa Train. Uncle Brian, Sean, Carter, Harrison, and Grandpa Russ all rode the Santa Train together while Kurt and I had a date! The little guys adored seeing Santa (again!) and they are always thrilled to ride trains!!! After the Santa Train event, Grandpa and Grandma took everyone to lunch at McDonalds and let the kids run around like crazy in the Playland! The kids love being together and it was a good chance for all of us adults to catch up. Big thanks to Uncle Brian for snapping all of the photos of the kids =)

 The boys are so excited to ride the train!

 Cartermania enjoys looking out the windows. 

 I never noticed before this picture, Carter has the exact same smile as Grandpa Russ.

 I love this picture. It captures Harrison's personality so well! 

 Harrison shows off his ticket.

I love Sean's little face! So kissable!

 Harrison and Grandpa are actually looking at Santa. I love how lit-up my father's eyes are in this picture. Christmas with children really does bring back the magic.

 The boys ride the train, eat candy canes, and have a blast!

 The boys pose with Santa! They loved the Santa Train!

Kurt took me on such a nice date- we had a wonderful time! We continued our date after the boys went to bed- we watched a movie and made fudge together!

Christmas Pageant!

This year was the first year my boys were in a Christmas Pageant! Carter was a shepherd and Harrison was a little donkey! The pageant was during the last week of my classes, but that did not stop me from making their costumes! I had such a blast! I loved having an excuse to pull out my sewing machine and being able to make their costumes was truly a dream come true! No... really... it was. I always envisioned what it would be like to be a mother, and whenever a chance to do one of these maternal rites of passage arrives I get a thrill! I did not have the time to do anything very elaborate- but they were adorable nonetheless!

Very proud of their costumes. Harrison shows us his donkey tail, lol!

 This is the entire Primary! 

 Carter with Santa.

 Harrison with Santa.

Sean with Santa.

Perfect Moment

Ever have a moment where you stop, take a look around, and realize that the moment is perfect? I had one of those a few weeks ago.

My desire for perfection has often lead me to miss wonderful opportunities to bond with family and friends. In my not-so-distant past, I believed that perfection meant a perfectly ordered home, perfectly cooked and beautiful dinner, perfectly groomed family, all children behaving perfectly. Perfection meant straight lines with everything in its place, and the appearance of order and control- even if it meant my family was miserable and I had been screaming all day. I always loved kids in general, but I loved order and perfection more- and those became the foundation for how I ran my home. Children are messy, but the messes that my children would create were almost maddening! Dealing with picking up after little people was always a hard thing for me, and it annoyed me greatly. "Don't they understand I want the house to be perfect!?" "If the house isn't perfect, I cannot possibly be happy or have a good day!!!" "UGH! ANOTHER MESS!?!?!" "I have to clean this up, what will _____ think of me if the house isn't perfect!?" My inner dialogue was filled with criticisms and task lists. There were days where I would have sworn that my children were following me and destroying any housework I had just accomplished. The to-do lists seemed endless, and my need for perfection dominated my day and dictated my mood. If I wasn't cleaning, I was researching how to clean something (it is not enough to just clean something, it has to be cleaned perfectly), or looking at pictures of perfect homes- stewing in frustration over not being able to have the perfect life I wanted. What a waste of time!

I have gotten better over the years. Living in a small house with five other people (all male) really helped me learn to get a grip and be able to deal with imperfection. I can remember, after quickly sweeping the floor for the third time in two hours, chanting to myself the FlyLady saying, "Even housework done imperfectly still blesses my family." FlyLady's philosophy was the only thing that could calm my anxiety for not scrubbing the entire floor rather than sweeping another small mess. Yes, I did get better, but I still had much to learn.

Homeschooling has been amazing. I did not know I could love my children exponentially more than I did before! Spending my days with them is such a joy, and getting to learn with them has been life changing. I have seen the amazing creativity that can come from a room filled with scattered toys, tossed bedding, and pajama-clad children. I have spent more time with friends who couldn't possibly care any less about the condition of my home or whether or not my children had perfectly styled hair. I have found the freedom that comes with realizing that good is good enough, and that perfect is not necessary. 

No longer do I strive for perfect order, instead I strive for perfect spirit. I want to create an atmosphere that is welcoming, comfortable, and safe. Sure, I still cringe when my children make a huge mess. Yes, I still feel a bit of anxiety when I notice things out of place or dirty. However, scripture study, mandatory rest time (I "clock out" at 9pm, and I do NOT work on Sundays), and spending more time with my family have all helped me calm down a great deal. Anxiety soon passes and is replaced by happy memories of times together, rather than an unnecessary need for "perfection" all around me. Cleaning still happens, and happens often. My children spend ~2 hours per day cleaning, I spend all day homemaking, and Kurt does the dishes and helps as needed (like during Finals week, on my birthday, or if I am sick- ALL of which happened last week!!! AHHH!!). We work together, and our home is generally in decent order. And I am okay with that =)

In The Book of Mormon, we read, "And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation."

By remembering that I do not need a perfect home, but I should strive for perfect love- I can know I am focused on the right things.

A few weeks ago, Sean came over to spend the night with us. The boys came home, tossed their coats and shoes, and ran upstairs to play together. I walked behind and when I saw the mess I smiled and snapped a photo. The kids would all eventually put the coats away, but in that moment they were too excited to manage to remember. I could have shouted and interrupted their joyful playing- but I didn't need to. The mess could wait- they were busy making memories. This moment- seeing Sean's coat on the floor, scattered among my own boys' shoes and jackets- was perfection because it meant we were together.


In November we studied birds! Harrison decided on our topic, and our unit was so much fun! We read more books than are pictured, but I did not think to take a shot of the books until the end of the unit. We average one trip to the library each week, so I am working on figuring out a good way to catalog all of our readings- obviously a picture will not work! **This blog post is so late due to lack of time in December. 

The boys did a few crafts, print-outs, read a lot of books, and worked hands-on with Blue! At the end of our unit we found a nest that had blown out of a tree near our home. The boys really enjoyed wearing gloves and getting a chance to view and touch a nest up close!

Small sample of our Bird unit work.

 The boys worked with shapes and colors, as we first discussed bird anatomy.

Reading about nests is fun- but handling a nest was even better! Carter loved seeing and touching the abandoned nest!

 Harrison did not find the nest as wonderful. He was a bit grossed out.

The boys really enjoyed doing bird math! Harrison counted and colored while practicing his writing. Carter added the birds on every page, until he had added the entire book! Both boys enjoy dressing up, and while Harrison may demand to wear pajamas, Carter loves being Santa. And of course, our day cannot be complete without Blue (on Santa's collar).

The kids were thrilled when it snowed! They were sad it melted, but decided to cheer themselves by asking to make paper snowflakes to decorate!

 Cutting shapes!

The boys were in awe of how beautiful the snowflakes looked! I was just in awe at how adorable they look when they are excited about something. I love this picture- they are so thrilled about their creations, and I am happy to have snapped the moment!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


On Friday night we were so thrilled because we got to have Sean sleep over! We miss Sean so much, and it was such a great time!

The kids had a blast playing with their Star Wars toys! Our boys let Sean choose the character he wanted to be first, and I was so proud of them! Sean was Obi Wan, Carter was Darth Vader, and Harrison was R2.

As soon as Kurt was home from work we took the boys to dinner. It was adorable when the owner of the restaurant ran over to him, called him by name, and hugged him. I guess we picked a place he would like! He didn't request to go there, but apparently he is a regular! LOL!

When dinner was finished we went home for our homeschool lesson. We did core work during the day, but our main lesson needed night-time! Our lesson was about Christmas tree-toppers. Specifically, we discussed angels and stars. To discuss the reason behind Christmas tree stars we took the boys outside, rested on blankets, and talked about the three wise men who followed a star. It was such a peaceful moment, and the boys loved hearing us talk about the star. We explained that most of the stars in our sky now, looked down upon the baby Jesus during his birth and life on Earth. The kids LOVED that image, and felt so special to be under so many of the same stars that were gazed upon by our Savior!

After our lesson we took the boys inside to watch Christmas movies. They got to eat popcorn! Popcorn is a special treat, since we don't normally eat grains- so the boys were thrilled! After the movies were over, the boys were all tucked into bed, their room decorated with their own Christmas tree and Christmas lights. They all got kisses and hugs, and we expressed our love for them.

In the morning Kurt made Sean's favorite breakfast: bacon and eggs! Sean is a bacon freak- he ate four pieces! Our boys were very upset when Sean had to leave, but his Dad missed him and needed him back, lol. With sad hearts the boys said their goodbyes, and promptly asked me when they would get to see Sean again. With any luck, it will be soon =)

We miss that little punkin so much!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1st!!!

I have been SO excited for December to start! Traditional Advent started this past Sunday, and our Jesse Tree started on Tuesday, but most of the Christmas countdowns and other Advent calendars start today! I was so thrilled because we finally finished our wonderful "Birds" homeschool unit, and I decided that all this month's lessons will be Christmas themed!

This is our Jesse tree, so far. It is a small, inexpensive, fiber-optic tree that we plan on reusing every year. The ornaments were print-outs included in our Jesse Tree devotional book. I printed the ornaments in color, and Kurt and I cut them out and mounted them on red paper. We thought it looked pretty cute with sparkling ribbons to hold the ornaments in place on the tree.

This is our Jesse Tree devotional book. I printed the free ebook, put the pages in sheet protectors, and stored them in this binder. Kurt picked out the green colored binder, I love that he helped me with this project, and it felt like our own little mini-date! Carter is pictured in the background, being a little goof-ball! Our Advent wreath is pictured at the right.

 My parents bought this countdown Advent calendar for the boys. Each window opens to reveal a small treat. Every single window that opens prompts the mechanical Santa and elf to dance, with lights that illuminate the dancing scene. Each of the twenty-four doors not only makes the Santa and elf dance, but each one plays its own Christmas song! Twenty-four different songs!

Sadly, Harrison is not feeling well at all today. While Harrison rested, Carter had some special morning time alone and enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa. The boys are allowed to have candy-canes occasionally, and Carter asked if he could put his inside the cocoa. His sweet little face is so adorable!

 I am using a ToddlerBites ebook as the foundation of our homeschool studies. The ToddlerBites book is the "Reasons for the Season" and explains a lot of the reasons that we have certain decorations or traditions- ranging from why we hang Christmas lights to why we make gingerbread men. Every day, the book starts with a theme, gives the week's biblical family memory verse, contains a discussion starter, has a discussion plan, includes an activity idea, prayer, and has a "further activity" to enrich the lesson more! I printed the book, put the pages in clear sheet protectors, and am using a binder to keep it all together. I love this ebook! It was offered on the ToddlerBites site, free of charge, and contains so much information! The discussions are full of historical information about the different "reasons" at elementary-school age-appropriate levels. The activities are cute, inexpensive, and fun! I am supplementing the daily "reasons" with additional print-outs, crafts, and fun activities. I love this month!

The "Reasons for the Season" page and just a few of the additional print-outs for today. Today was the reason behind Christmas trees! It was a nice history of the early Christmas trees! I can't wait to finish today's craft with Carter, I have been putting it off, hoping Harrison will feel well enough to join us. Let's hope!

With all of these activities and plans for the kids, I have found that I have been forgetting to take care of myself. Wouldn't ya guess that today I found yet another Advent calendar? Only this time, it is a calendar for me! The calendar is free, and was created here. The goal? To get twenty-four people to sign up to follow this Advent challenge for better health. I am so excited! What a wonderful way to remind myself to be healthy! Between finals (ick!), my birthday (AHHH!), and Christmas- there is a lot going on this month! One of the first things that falls through the cracks, for me, is taking care of myself- so this is the perfect reminder!!! If you would like to follow along, just print this calendar, and tell Amy you are accepting the challenge!

Happy December 1st! I hope this is the best holiday season yet!