Thursday, April 24, 2014

I Run Back to My Mother's Arms

Dropping Ender off for school is hard for me emotionally. Almost every time. Because I remember what school felt like. I remember how sometimes it was so hard to go, to leave my comfortable home and face the day. And some days at school are really tough to get through. It's like all of those memories and feelings come up when I see Ender peek out the window of the van as we pull up to his school.
This morning, he was about to step out of the van when he jumped back and gave me a tight hug. It was a spontaneous action full of meaning. I watched him go through the school gate. But I had a harder time than usual this morning because of a song that started playing right then.
Enya's "Evacuee" from Shepherd Moons. I loved Enya growing up. And then I grew out of it. Her music really doesn't mean as much to me anymore. But I keep it around, because it happens to be one of the better solutions for my worst days; when the kids are misbehaving and I can feel myself ready to explode at them, I put on Enya to help numb away my frustrations. It works. Yesterday was just such a day, so an Enya CD was already in the van. I don't really care if you're a fan of Enya or not, since I understand either way, but let me share the lyrics of the song that played this morning, at the moment Ender jumped back to hug me:

Each time on my leaving home
I run back to my mother's arms,
one last hold and then it's over.

Watching me, you know I cry,
you wave a kiss to say goodbye,
Feel the sky fall down upon me!

All I am,
a child with promises
All I have
are miles full of promises of home.

If only I could stay with you,
my train moves on, you're gone from view,
Now I must wait until it's over.

Days will pass, your words to me,
it seems so long; eternity,
but I must wait until it's over.

The words in Enya's song really caught me off guard and surprised me in bringing up the emotions I was trying to smooth over. After the difficulty of yesterday, I was trying especially hard to be soft with my children, to remember and see their sweetness instead of focusing on little see their potential as children of God. A child with promises...
School is hard. It is emotionally hard for Ender sometimes, even though he is a fantastic student and enjoys his friends. It's a different world. And school is hard for me, not only because it takes away some of my illusion of "control" in Ender's life, but also because it draws a stark curtain of contrast between that world and our home world. Our home becomes ever more important as a haven for Ender. He needs to feel loved and safe here to combat the difficulties of school. Even on the best days at home, if he's had a hard day at school, it affects us all.
I suppose that's why my heart aches when I drop him off for school. I want so badly for him to have a beautiful day, to feel confident and cared for. I want so badly for his friends and teachers to see the wonderful spirit I see in him. I pray fervently every time he steps out of the van that he'll have a really happy day, that he'll be strong, that he will feel smart and be kind. Sometimes he seems like such a little boy in such a big world.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Paper Duck - Instructions for Kids

When I picked up Ender from school yesterday, there was a girl holding a little paper duck she had made. It looked pretty cute and different from a lot of paper crafts I've seen, so I decided Ender and I would try our hand at making one when we got home.
Since I did it by sight, I may have done things differently, but the outcome is pretty much the same. So here is the paper duck:

So...I used staples and tape here and there, because I get really impatient with glue.

It would probably look more Easter-worthy if it were yellow or pastel, I guess, but Ender chose blue. He also later colored spots on it to make it even more cute! Ender and Scarlett each made their own as well. I should have taken pictures before Scarlett decided it was fun to smash the paper ducks...

If you can't piece it together from looking at it (or you don't feel like it--and trust me, I'm not judging you either way), I decided to put together some instructions that hopefully kids can understand, since this is a project for children anyway. Younger children will definitely need help!


  1. scissors
  2. paper
  3. gluestick

You may print and use the guideline to trace the parts onto your colored paper.
To print, right click and save image. Align paper for landscape printing.

  • White eye circles
  • Colored double-circle for behind the eyes
  • 2 feet
  • 1 bill 
  • 2 wings
  • 1 tail
  • 4 skinny strips of paper, equal in length

When making the bill/beak, fold your paper in half and line up the trace-shape so that the dotted line ("on fold") is on the folded edge of your paper. Only cut the curved line of the beak, not the dotted line on the fold. When you finish cutting, the paper will open like a mouth.

After cutting out your pieces, follow these instructions:

A. Put glue in the middle of one of the strips of paper. Lay a second strip across the glue. Try to match up the middle of the first strip with the middle of the second strip.

B. Repeat this process by putting glue in the middle of the second strip now.

C. Lay a third strip across the second one, at an angle like a piece of the letter X (again trying to match up the middle of each strip).

D. Put glue on the middle of the third strip.

E. Now place the last strip across the middle of the third strip, like the other piece of the letter X.

F. All the strips put together will now look like a + and an x laid on top of each other.

This part may be the most difficult. Look at the picture of the completed duck for reference.

A. Grab the top and bottom of the first strip you used (the ends of the vertical line). Bring the tips together and glue. Do not glue the ends to the middles of the other strips; think of the picture of the completed duck. You are making a sort of bubble-shaped body.

B. Now grab the ends of the second strip (the horizontal line). Glue the tips together on the tips of the first strip.

C. Now grab the ends of the third strip. Glue the tips together on the top of the first and second strips.

D. Now grab the ends of the last strip and glue its tips together on the top of the other strips. You may want to press the ends together while the glue dries. You have made a paper ball! This is the body of the duck.

A. Glue the eye circles onto the piece made for the back of the eyes.

B. Draw pupils on the eyes.

C. Glue the eyes onto the body (use the tab; you may want to fold the tab a little first to help the eyes stand up from the body). You may glue the eyes near the top of one of the strips or directly on top of the body.

It is starting to look more like a duck!

A. Glue the tongue inside the bill.

B. Glue the bill onto the tab that is part of the back-of-the-eyes piece.

C. Draw two little nostrils on the bill.

A. Glue the first foot underneath the body...

B. And glue the second foot underneath the body.

A. Pay attention to which side of the wing you put your glue so that the "ruffle" of feathers face the right way. Glue the first wing onto one side of the body. The wings can point up or down, or you can even fold them slightly so they stick straight out from the body.

B. Glue the second wing on the other side of the body.

A. This is the last step! Glue the tail onto the back of the duck's body, and you are finished!

With this bubble-shaped body, the paper duck is kind of bouncy and fun to toss around in your hands. Once you know how to make the body, you can be creative with the extra body parts and make all kinds of animals! What pieces would you need to make a bunny? A sheep? Or even an elephant? You can certainly branch out from typical Easter animals!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

NeverEnding Laundry

A laundry system that works, finally! I always knew I should keep up with the laundry by doing it regularly so it wouldn't turn into a resistentialistic Mount Everest of smelly underwear, old towels, socks, t-shirts and favorite jeans that have waited so long to be washed we actually start missing them ("remember those pants? Those were the days..."). But it always turned into something more like "Keeping Up With the Laundrashians," which is to say, so ridiculously unrealistic for my lifestyle.

UNTIL NOW! *said in Cinematic Baritone*

I am blessed to have a dryer. For a long time, I air-dried my clothes when we moved here and realized our gas dryer was incompatible with our house. I got used to that task enough that I didn't resent it, but it was really, really time consuming. With the help of loving friends, we finally acquired an electric dryer, and the world rejoiced. My husband rejoiced! My children rejoiced!
My overloaded hampers rejoiced!
I rejoiced too, despite the vastitude of laundering I foresaw in my immediate future. 

Then we started the dryer. 

It shrieked like a banshee. A banshee getting her toenails pulled off. 

Thus began a tradition of escaping the house in a frenzied rush every time we dried a load of laundry. Aaaand... thus continued  the tradition of falling behind in the demanding chore. It was too easy to put off doing any laundry when I knew I would either have to walk around the house like a zombie as the dryer sawed my brains into mush or leave the house and Do Something (not to mention Wear Clothes Like You Are Ready to Do Something).

But after one of my Biannual Laundry Revolution Days recently, in which I wash all the laundry in the world, I got smart. I got logical. I realized that I should coordinate my regular outings with loads of laundry (I know what you're thinking-- "she must have finally dyed her hair too, because only a blonde wouldn't figure that out")(just kidding, take it easy, blondies! I'm one of you, to an extent). Seriously, though, that's all it took. 
I leave the house AT LEAST once a week. Generally, I leave the house about 3 or 4 times a week for long enough to never hear the poor, tortured Banshee Dryer. But even during the weeks that I only leave ONCE, that is one load of laundry that will get washed and dried...and here's the cool part: it will get folded and put away, too. 
Because one load is not so intimidating. The clothes might sit in the dryer for a night. Maybe even two nights, maybe. But the clothes will get folded and put away sooner than later because that's all there is! 

You know how laundry probably inspired The NeverEnding Story just because laundry is the embodiment of the title alone? When I do laundry this way, in this pathetic little bite-sized routine, I actually get the satisfaction of finishing. 

Because I wash ONE load (while I get ready to go have fun somewhere)...

Then I dry ONE load (while I go have fun somewhere)...

Then I fold ONE load (while I enjoy watching a TV show sans guilt)...

And I put that ONE load away (while I hope that for once my daughter won't pull the clothes out of her dresser and throw them on the floor)(in which case I shove the clothes all back into her dresser because why fold a load twice?)...

And that's all there is, and somehow it's enough to keep up.

No pressure. Except to Wear Clothes Like You Are Ready to Do Something, but let's be honest...a lot of us stay-at-home moms could be more like just-usually-at-home moms.

The pregnant hampers can all wait for their staggered due dates (and I can make them go past term if I feel like it; I'm just awesomely mean like that).

UPDATE: It has been over a month since I started doing laundry this is blessing my life, that's for sure. 
UPDATE 2: This method is STILL working for me! I forget sometimes to do any laundry when I'm headed out of the house, but the attitude of taking it all load by load as well as day by day has really helped me stop stressing about laundry. I believe that is called "success" in the housekeeping world...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

General Conference Preparation

I'm a little late for posting last month's "creation," but that's life. It's a fairly simple one this time as far as how much artistic thought I put into it, but it is useful and applicable! April General Conference is this weekend, and this time I really want to help the kids enjoy it. I tend to get a little cranky if they're disruptive (which is ridiculous because I'm supposed to be trying  to feel the Spirit, right?), so I'm following the crowd with the idea of General Conference Packets-- basically Conference-related activities to help kids stretch their attention span throughout the meetings.
I used to leave the kids to their own devices, feeling like they ought to simply figure out how to deal with boredom and just pay attention. After all, my childhood memories of General Conference are very narrow: I was content to draw and draw and draw while I listened with half a mind. But who says my memories are perfect? Maybe there were sessions of Conference that I don't remember because I wasn't sitting still at all! And kids aren't ME.

Now, don't get too excited. I don't have a PDF of my special packet. I didn't go all out like that. What I did do is gather materials that seemed appropriate for Ender. A little from one packet, a little from another, and some of my own things thrown in. 
I didn't make one for Scarlett (not being unfair, I just know what I'm up against, and a packet isn't the answer for her).
I considered what things I hoped Ender would be thinking about, what I hoped he would be feeling, and what he would enjoy coloring. He really loves coloring, and he's extremely good at it. So Ender's packet includes a few different sections, the first section covering more activities and the rest being for coloring:

  • TALKS:
    -Some charts and pictures to help him pay attention to speakers and try to identify the prophet and apostles
    -Names of apostles written in traceable font so he can practice writing them
    -A page where he is encouraged to write how he feels when he listens to the prophet
    -A color-by-number page organized by themes (when he hears specific words, he can color numbered segments of a picture)
    -Coloring picture of Latter-day prophets from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson
    -More coloring pages depicting various stories from the scriptures (Nephi, Joseph Smith, David and Goliath, Noah's Ark, etc.)
    -A family tree to fill in with drawings of family members
    -A "happy home" picture to color
    -A temple picture to color
    This section is made entirely of images I saved from Google Image searches. Using the image search tools, select a "line drawing" picture type and "black and white" for color. 
    -The Earth with the sun and moon
    -Sea creatures
    -Woodland creatures
    -Other animals
    -What do you think Heavenly Father looks like?
    -Draw what you think it is like in Heaven.
    -What is your favorite thing to do with your sister?
    -Draw something you remember from your Adventures with Daddy.
    -What do you think the baby will look like when he is born?

In addition to the packet, I will be prepared to set the kids up with various quiet activities to keep their little hands busy when they get tired of coloring pages.

  • Drawing on a large whiteboard we can prop against the wall under the TV (seems the same as coloring, but it's novel and exciting for the kids)
  • Playdough with cookie cutters
  • Paper crafts (we have an old Childcraft Make and Do book the kids love to look through)
  • Pipe Cleaner "sculpting"
  • Puzzles
  • Building a couch-fort (as long as it doesn't block the TV, haha!)

Since Conference is several hours total (6-8 hrs over two days), I am also gearing up for some major snacks and appetizers. My kids love to snack on food, and if there's something accessible for them, they are more likely to stay entertained and happy. I don't generally do food like that; I can't handle the constant preparation and mess/cleanup of frequent snacking (not to mention the resulting lack of appetite for actual meals), so I encourage the kids to stick to mealtimes with only small snacks between. When Conference comes, however, I'm pulling out all the stops! I want my kids to be easily consoled should any of us lose patience. So here are some kid-friendly appetizer ideas I'm gathering for a . . .

General Conference Smorgasbord!

  • Popcorn
  • Cookies (I could link a recipe or two hundred, but I figure everyone has their favorite)
  • Chips and Salsa/Dip 
  • Veggies
  • Fruit
  • Cold Cuts (cheese and crackers and slices of meat)
  • Mini Sandwiches (I'm talking about cutting up "normal" sandwiches; there are fancy tea sandwich recipes out there, but that's not where I'm headed with this)

Options requiring more significant preparation time:

  • Pretzel Bites and Cheese
    UPDATE: That was a new recipe for us...and I wasn't that impressed. :( 
  • Pigs-in-a-Blanket
    UPDATE: Nothing really to add here except that you'll want to watch the baking time. Make the crescent roll strips pretty small for the smokies.
  • Layered Bean Dip
    UPDATE: This is the kind of thing that doesn't have to have a recipe; I included it for people who appreciate a recipe/list anyway, but I threw mine together without one.
  • Chex Snack Mix
    UPDATE: This recipe is's also pretty salty and garlic-y. Not the "best" like it says, but good.