Thursday, August 25, 2016

A visit from the Bodens

My sister Erin and her family came to visit! We actually got to see them twice; first for a few days before they drove to see friends in Minnesota. And then again when they stopped to stay with us on their way back home. We had a good time together. Some highlights include:
-going to the Hands on Museum together
-eating Washtenaw Dairy ice cream
-picnic in the park
-picking blueberries
-visiting the downtown library
-hiking to the creek
-staying up late to play board games
-evening walks to pass all of the dumpsters.  Natalie was thrilled to find a great desk chair (that swivels!) that they were able to fit in the car and take home! 
-a quick car tour of campus (which was a highlight until Peter threw up in the car, which was a low light.)

We definitely didn't get to do everything we wanted to, which is just another reason for the Bodens to come and visit another time.  :)

And the only picture I took was this of the crew after picking blueberries!  Love you Bodens!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What is the craziest thing you've ever done?

A couple weeks ago I was driving in a car of other ladies and we were all asked this question.  I didn't really have anything to add.  Maybe the river floating adventure we had just gone on together?! Or going into a bar where we had to show ID afterwards to get fries?! Two things I'd never done before.  I think I live a pretty quiet life. 

Defining "crazy" is interesting because you have crazy as in wild, or adventurous, or against the norm, or just uncharacteristic for you.  If you know me you can see if you can figure out which type of "crazy" each of these things are.  Anyway, here's what I came up with as the craziest things I've done.
  • Going on a 18 month mission to Honduras (a country that has the highest murder rate and has been called the most dangerous country in the world.)
  • Having 5 kids
  • Going to Bolivia with John shortly after we were married without knowing where we were going to live.  (Spoiler: It all turned out wonderfully and we stayed with a lady we met at church our first Sunday there.  And we found out I was pregnant while in Bolivia too.)
  • Letting John cut my hair.
  • Running for student council positions in high school and later being a presenter at the National Student Council convention
  • Being separate from John for three months while he did an internship in Geneva and Isaac and Amy were little.  (It wasn't too crazy because we were able to live with my parents during that time.)
  • Moving into strangers' house for the summer in Maryland while John did an internship.  (This was probably crazier for them than for me as their kids were all grown and we had a 8 month old and a 2.5 year old and I'm sure we .)  Sharing the kitchen was not my favorite thing.
  • Homeschooling my oldest child for kindergarten and giving birth to my fourth child during the same school year.
  • Driving across the country while 8 months pregnant. Twice.
What is the craziest thing you've ever done?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Fun in the summer time

A few people have asked me how the summer has been with all the kids home from school.  It has been wonderful!  There is less time for me but so much more time for family and I love that.  Here's a picture recap of some summer fun.

We made Joanna a balance bike by removing the pedals from this one.  (Our neighbor had chain clippers which was helpful.)  Then we just bought her one with training wheels that's the same size.  She rides it all around and Peter has learned to ride her old trike.  Isaac got a new bike also because his old one was so small and his knees almost hit the handlebars.  He's been riding a lot more with his friends on the new bike.

There is a splash pad about 20 minutes away.  This is a picture pre head bonk on the sidewalk.  This was a few weeks ago when Scott had just learned to crawl and the sidewalk was dangerous.  His scab has healed now.

 We cram too many kids into a small pool at times. 

Outside play!

We went on a hike at Ford Lake with John one Saturday morning.  It rained on us and we saw a ton of different birds and other wildlife.

We visit the Botanical Gardens.  Every Monday morning they have a kids activity that we've now made a weekly tradition.  Our favorite was when each child got to cut three flowers and make a bouquet to take home.

Joanna with her bouquet and a small stone turtle and rabbit.

We went to a dairy farm where we fed the horses,

met the cows,

and watched them be milked.  It was fascinating.

One muggy afternoon John suggested we take everyone to the church where there is air conditioning.  We made a gaga ball pit with tables and shot balls with the sling shot across the gym. We did stay about 5 minutes longer than our children's good mood spans because at least 3 or 4 were crying on the way home for various reasons. Good indoor entertainment.  We may do this again in the winter.

We went to the fountain on North Campus.  It is all one depth (about a foot) and the perfect place to play.

At first Peter did NOT want to be in the water, but slowly he warmed up to it and ended by walking around the whole thing by himself.

That's Isaac sticking his head directly over the fountain.

And we stopped at the wave field on our way home.

Quick shot before church.  Peter is in a I-don't-like-to-go-to-church phase.  Every time I wear a skirt he tells me, "It's not Sunday!" But sometimes it is Sunday and getting him into Sunday clothes often involves a little wrestling.  So this is what he wore last week.  It fit's all the requirements: White shirt? Check. Tie? check, he chose Santa.  Pants? Sort of check, it was not worth fighting over so "short pants" wins.  Shoes and socks? Check; don't the stripes go well with the plaid shorts?!  He's two so he can rock the look of a two year old who dressed himself.

Blueberry picking.  Our favorite blueberry place is a run down farm that is a little on the wild side but the owners are so kind and I'm pretty sure they always undercharge us.  Plus they let the kids pet their dogs.  We'll keep returning.

Morning science experiments got a little messy.

I'm not sure if Scott really liked this wrestling, but it beats being on the bottom of the pile.

Scott has discovered the joy of the sandboxes.

We went to the 4H fair and met up with a bunch of friends from our ward.  We saw all the animals and loved seeing the horses doing their routines.  Peter said he was grateful for horsies for his gratitui tonight and then asked John and I if we were grateful for hoseies too.  Yup, we are.

And we still have almost a month of summer left!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kids' menu planning

For one of our "life lessons" this summer I taught the kids about menu and meal planning and then they each got to plan and prepare their own dinner.  They really liked this idea!  Isaac got into writing menus that included about 8 items each.  After making his first menu he realized that planning is fun, but making involves lots of work, so maybe simple is better. 

The kids each got a 3x5 card to write their menu.  Peter would draw a mark on his paper and then say something he wanted to eat.  It ended up being chicken, potatoes and broccoli.  Joanna wanted noodles (the normal kind she said which translated to no sauce on them), peaches and cucumbers.  Amy made ravioli, fruit salad, carrots sticks and cupcakes (she loved decorating them with frosting and sprinkles). Isaac wrote pizza (cheese and pepperoni), veggie wraps, gogurt, fruit salad, sparkling water, dirt and worms, sunflower seeds and then modified it a little by foregoing the veggie wraps and instead making a green salad with blueberries in it to count as a fruit and a vegetable. 
Some of the kids even set the table in a fancy way, using the china dishes.

My new meal was tonight where I served sautéed summer squash and zucchini along with some eggplant that we got at the farmer's market this week.  It was the first time my kids ate eggplant and I wasn't even sure I would enjoy it, but we all did!  Although Amy told me it wasn't her favorite thing and she had to be bribed with dessert (strawberries with whip cream) to finish it.  And Peter didn't take more than a bite.  But most of us ate it happily and Joanna told me the eggplant was so yummy.  I think having the kids pick out the vegetables at the farmer's market helped them be willing to try it.

Family (reunion) Time!

By the end of the summer we will have been able to see all of our siblings and parents!  That is pretty amazing to me.

We started off by driving to the Richardson Family Reunion in Colorado via Missouri and staying with my parents who just started their mission in Independence.  (They are record preservation specialists and work in the National Archive in Kansas City digitizing old records.)  We loved seeing Nana and Poppy as missionaries!  Together we went to the Visitor’s Center, then John took the little three home for bed and Isaac, Amy and I went with Nana and Poppy to Liberty Jail. 

The next day we drove to Colorado, stopping for Sacrament meeting in Junction City, Kansas which has a large military membership.  Being in a military branch for fast Sunday at 4th of July was a special experience and I was struck at the commitment of these members to their God and their country. 

We made it to the YMCA of the Rockies by dinner time Sunday night.  All of the Richardson’s were able to be there and we had a fun filled few days.  Each day was packed with activities: swimming, tubing down a hill, hiking, roller skating, devotionals, talent show, family movie night, adult meetings, naps, miniature golf, eating in the cafeteria, and all sorts of memory making.  Everyone had a blast, we only wish it could have been longer as we love to be together and didn’t get to talk with everyone as much as we would have liked.  I also didn't take many pictures, especially of the kids with their cousins!

After the reunion we drove to Broomfield and stayed the evening with the Kaisers.  We went on a picnic/walk and our kids loved playing with cousin Rhett.  The adults and Isaac stayed up to play a game and I was struck with how much fun we have with the Kaisers.  Michelle and Andre are a blast!  If only we lived closer we could have more of these get togethers and game nights!

From CO we drove back to MO and stayed with my parents again.  We were able to stay over Saturday and explore Kansas City a bit.  It is the home of Hallmark cards and we went to Kaleidoscope where you get to make art with left over Hallmark supplies, for free!  That is right up the alley of my children!  We all left with a bag of art we had made.  We also went to a splash pad and back to the Visitor’s Center to see the parts we had missed the week before.  The same sister missionary was able to take us through again.

Sunday we drove home, stopping to take the sacrament in a random ward in Columbia, Missouri.  The next day the children slept in a bit, sleeping well in their own beds.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

All About Me: Amy!

Amy wants to do an "about me" page all about her, so here we go! (She came up with all of the prompts and answers.)

Favorite Colors: pink, purple, blue, yellow, red and orange, turquoise and violet.
Favorite activities: going to the park, going to the pool, drawing, going to the temple with my family
Favorite books: Fancy Nancy, Just Like Dora, Curious George books
Favorite toys: dolls, balls, stickers, art supplies, doll house
Favorite things: bows, skirts, dresses
Favorite treats: oreos, cake, ice cream, cookies, brownies

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Syrian Refugee Project

About a month ago our ward (church congregation) announced an opportunity to help 100 Syrian families who have recently been relocated to Michigan.  The project included tying 100 fleece blankets, painting 100 pots and planting small plants in them (we were informed that giving a potted plant is a traditional Syrian welcoming gift), and assembling 100 hygiene kits.  Our deadline was July 17th so that the items could be handed out at a large picnic for Syrian refugee families that is to be held in a city an hour away. 

It was amazing to see how everyone got involved as our ward rallied together.  As our Relief Society president said, "the fleece blankets are going like hot cakes!" as so many wanted to take one home to tie.  People brought in donations for the hygiene kits and filled boxes in the foyers.  I brought one blanket home for our family to work on, but it soon became apparent that it was a little complicated for the children and John and I ended up tying it one evening (while watching Random Act on BYU TV- I love that show!)

While we were out of town the ward gathered to paint the pots and assemble the hygiene kits and tie the last few blankets.  John was in charge of making sure the kits were complete, so when we returned he counted them and tallied up what we still needed: some toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner.  Isaac and I went to the grocery stone one evening this week and bought what was missing.  The cashier asked if we really liked the brand of shampoo we were buying because we were purchasing so much, and so we got to explain the project to him.

On Wednesday afternoon the cub scout and activity day girls met and planted the plants in the pots that had been painted.  Things are coming together.  There are blankets locked in the library and potted plants in classrooms throughout the church building!

Tomorrow afternoon some from the ward will be taking everything to the picnic.  But there are a handful of families in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area who will not be able to make it to the picnic, so Thursday night the Primary president emailed out to find people to make deliveries to these families.  I volunteered right away because I love when my children have opportunities to see how service impacts others and I love being able to serve as a family.  

This morning we went on a hike and then stopped to deliver our gifts to two families.  The first family was a husband and wife.  They had a translation app on their phone so they could talk to us in Arabic and we could respond in English and the translation would be spoken.  It wasn't perfect, but it worked well enough.  We learned that they had been displaced for 5 years and had been living in Jordan for the past 4 years.  Some of their children were killed in Syria, although how many was unclear with translation.  They have been in the US for two months.  The wife had made treats and put out three plates of Syrian cookies for us which were fun to try.  They told us that their daughter, son-in-law and grandchild live in the same apartment complex and we realized that they were the other family we were delivering to.  And then the son-in-law came over so we gave the gifts to him and talked a while longer.  Before coming to the US the father had been a painter and the son in law a men's haircutter.  They are grateful to be here and were so kind and thankful.  I hope that they can find peace and stability here and begin to put their lives back together. 

I was so impressed with how well our children did during this time with the Syrian family.  They didn't really understand what was going on, especially the little ones, but they were calm and let the adults talk.  They mostly sat still and ate cookies.  I was so grateful they were well behaved!

I am also so grateful for the experience we had to deliver the gifts to these families.  It was a special experience to meet these people, something I will remember and I hope the children will too.

And we learned to say thank you in Arabic: Shukran.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The first week of summer

I think I am really going to love this summer!  I really enjoy doing things with all of my children. Adventures together are awesome! And it doesn't take much to be an adventure. Grocery shopping with all five is less so, but we survived that this week so I'm sure we can continue to make it work.

I am also getting glimpses of what it is like to have big kids as Isaac (and even Amy) can do more and more to help and lead. Yesterday I just asked him to work on cleaning the bathroom and he did and I didn't have to nag him and I didn't have do it!

Talking with another mom before school was out I said that I was sure there would be days I wished they were back in school. But then I thought about it and I don't think that will be true.  Moments of crazy, yes, but I am so glad to have Isaac and Amy home with us.  As a mom who dreams of homeschooling my kids someday, summer is awesome!

The kids and I made up a little schedule for week days that goes like this...although the timing is flexible depending on Scott's naps or the time things open or we need to be somewhere.

7-9 - kids wake up sometime in here and do their "high five" (breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth and hair, say prayers and make bed.)
9-9:30 - devotional or life lesson
9:30-11:30 - outing
12- lunch
1-2:30 - learning time (country studies, computer time, journals, workbooks, etc) (Peter is napping or at least in his room for this)
3- snack
3-5 free play, usually outside
5:30 - dinner

The kids have gotten so excited about "life lessons"! We made a whole list of things they want to learn.  This week included how to fold different pieces of laundry, how to move clothes from the washing machine to the dryer, how to tie shoes and what food groups to include when packing your lunch.  Simple and useful.

The big kids have been in swim lessons which was out main outting each morning, except Friday when we went for a hike.  Isaac is actually swimming albeit somewhat haltingly.

For our country last week we studied Russia (and went to an Easter European market - so fun!) and this coming week it's Comoros, an island off the eastern coast of Africa.  Isaac chose it. :). The kids write a little and draw the flag in their passports.

The kids have also wanted to color things from Russia so we've printed off some nesting doll and St. Basil's Cathedral coloring pages from the internet.

My project of the week has been sanding and painting a bed ward members gave us. It was painted a light green color that didn't match anything and was peeling off. The challenge is the bed posts are spirals. And it's a canopy bed, so the spirals just keep going!  I sanded so much that when I closed my eyes to pray I would see the spiral. Ugh. It's not done, but the head and footboard are so I put the bed together to see what it will all look like. The kids love it and Amy wonders when it will be her turn to sleep in it. Isaac wants to hang sheets up and over it so it will be like Harry Potter's bed. (He and John are reading the second book right now.)

The kids also finished the summer reading program at the library. Luckily there is an online ongoing option to keep them excited all summer long.

And now a smattering of random pictures...

Walking to meet John after work on a day he was working at the VA which is a 15 minute walk from home. Peter really wanted to push Scott and Scott was having the ride of his life!

Isaac checked out this badminton set from the library and has been playing everyday with me, the neighborhood kids and their dads. It's actually quite fun. Here he is playing with our Korean neighbor Gil and his dad.

Isaac did a free two night soccer clinic and not only did they give the players shirts, but Amy, Joanna and Peter as well. They did a pretty good job of wooing us- if we ever did league soccer I might choose them.

We had friends over for dinner who we've known since we moved to Michigan the first time in 2009. (They actually helped us unload the moving truck that night.) It was fun to chat and reminisce together. Their daughter and Amy are two days apart in age.

We also had our neighbors the Wilson's over for dinner as they are moving this week. They are such great people and we will miss them!
On Friday's hike we invited Joseph to come, but he had swim, so we promised to do another home to the creek in the afternoon. The afternoon hike ended up being me and seven little kids. The hike part was fine, but by the water I started to get really nervous. 1 to 7 is not the best ratio of adults to kids around water. Luckily no one drown and our Peter was the only one who fell and got wet.

And I got my hair cut. It's short! But so quick and easy to do.

One last note: Scott is 9 months old, has his first tooth and is sleeping through the night! Happy dances all around!  With the kids nor having to be out the door at 7:40 am I have been able to go walking in the mornings! It is wonderful! And I figured out that I can listen to scriptures and conference talks with text to speech as I walk (my phone only works with wifi) Double wonderful! This week I went with Scott twice and once alone. The others were usually sleeping as I left and awake with John when I returned.