Sunday, July 16, 2017

Triple goal-days and a dead fish.

I don't remember if I ever mentioned it, but Gideon is now crawling! Three weeks ago, on our vacation, he started scooting around on his stomach. By the time we got back, he could push himself up to all fours and then to sitting. Over the last two weeks, he progressed from scooting to crawling, and now he mostly crawls. He does the one-knee-and-one-foot crawl that most of our kids have done at this stage. It's very cute.

Gideon has also started signing more, usually by clasping his hands together and bouncing them up and down, but sometimes by patting his tummy. He also occasionally sticks his finger in his mouth to sign water.

Both of those were goals for Gideon, so we had a goal day party. Timmy decided to pass off on his color goal, so he identified something of the correct color each time we said it, for a dozen basic colors. So it was a triple goal day party on Saturday. Timmy picked the menu: shells with sausages and mushrooms, in a homemade white sauce with Havarti cheese, watermelon, and chips. Alison is very proud of her good eater (and wishes to hide the memory of all the goal day parties at which we've had Kraft mac'n'cheese). He wanted blueberry cake as a dessert, and Alison made one. It was a delicious party and we were very excited for our boys.

Also this week, we took X-rays and scheduled the surgery for Timmy's thumb and big toe. His surgery will be August 30th, and Alison's parents are coming to visit that week to help out. We really like his doctor and he seems very confident that the surgery will be simple and smooth.

Mike and Alison got a babysitter and went to the bookstore for a date. They discussed travel options again and found a book called "DK Eyewitness Family Guide to Italy" that Alison really wants to use to plan their trip. They also decided to spend plenty of time in Alba for the annual truffle festival and go truffle hunting when they go.

Alison went to her first meeting with the League of Utah Writers. She bought a membership with her birthday money and plans to start writing fiction again. Her first meeting was a little intimidating; the members are really good and many of them are published authors. She's excited to learn from them.

One of our fish died this week, and we realized that our filter is worn out. We replaced all the water while waiting for the new filter to arrive, and we hope that the other two fish survive until it gets here. They look much healthier with the new water, so maybe it will work.

The kids never once managed to get the toy library unlocked this week, but they still managed to have overwhelming Team Cleans. It's amazing how they find stuff to strew around the house, even when their toys are taken away. When we discussed this in Family Meeting, the kids' first solution was to lock up more stuff. We had to explain to them that we could not lock up clothes, dishes, library books, handouts from church, toothbrushes, and everything else that was covering the floor. Even if we did, they would surely find other things to leave around, given their track record. We decided to implement a new idea that Mike came up with. Each person starts the week with 10 tokens. If anyone sees anyone else leave something out, the person who sees can tell the person to either pick it up or give them a token. Whoever ends up with lots of tokens gets a treat. The goal is for the kids to police themselves and each other, so that the adults don't have to, because that simply doesn't happen at our house. We'll see how it works.

Finally, we reupholstered the armrests on the lazyboy, since they were pretty beat up. We used old jeans as a material, and they match the material of the lazyboy surprisingly well. This was a good thing to find out.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

More vacation and dancing.

On the way to our vacation last week we listened to some books on tape. The highlight of the books we listened to was "Diary of a Mad Brownie." It was a fun book about a faerie that was supposed to clean up a bedroom of a slob. It was highly funny.

We arrived in southern Utah and eventually found the cabin that Mike's parents rented for the Yoder reunion. It was a bit of a difficult job finding it. The cabin was beautiful, and we had a great time there. The cabin had a lot of mosquitoes (the kids think that this is the most pertinent bit of information about the cabin.) We spent an awesome day at the mouth of the Narrows in Zion's.

The kids slept on bunk beds with Max, and the trip was very fun. Apparently Mike and Alison are bad at taking pictures, because we have no pictures of the entire trip.

Next, we went to California to visit the Poulsons. The trip was long, but the kids were pretty good. The thing that the kids think is the most important to tell about this trip is that the Poulsons had a tiny home, and that the kids slept on a couch, and that the parents slept in a hammock outside.

One day we went to the Huntington Gardens near the Poulson's house. It was very beautiful. The Japanese garden was amazingly similar to Japan; it brought back tons of memories. We left the older kids there with Julie and then went to JPL - Craig's work. He showed us around the campus and it was very impressive. We got to see all kinds of space robots! The kids loved the rainforest building while we were gone; Rea said there were rain showers every few minutes.

We also went to the zoo & the beach on different days. Both were fun.

On Sunday we drove home, and it took most of the day. The kids were mostly good again.

For the 4th of July we had a fireworks barbecue at the Strombergs house. It was yummy and fun. We didn't even blow anyone up. Timmy loved the fireworks best. Sara loved the popcorn firework best (which was our grand finale).

It was very hot this week, but it seemed like too much work to make it to the pool until Thursday. Alison is so glad they went then, because Sara had a swimming breakthrough! She is FINALLY putting her head underwater and floating on her back! It's fabulous! If she keeps this up, she'll be swimming on her own in a week or two. Alison is so excited!

On Thursday Mike went to a board game design guild meeting and played an interesting game. The kids watched a movie.

Saturday we got a lot done. Alison wanted to deep clean the front room. We took a while, but we got through it. Alison also had Mike build a lock or the kids toy closet, so that they don't get out random toys all day. Sara has been having a hard time getting done with her cleaning duties during team clean because she gets out all of the toys and leaves them on the floor when she is done with them. Mike also fixed the kitchen sink faucet (which had been having problems with its level of flow.) It is now working fine.

Saturday night we got out the Playstation 2 and had a big DDR dance party. It was fun and enjoyable exercise.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Vacation Week

Alison and the kids were happy to get back to the pool to resume their swimming lessons during the first half of the week. Sara and Timmy are making good progress, and Gideon likes the water as long as he has a full body bathing suit. Rea is still swimming like a fish.

For Rea's date on Wednesday we had cake and watched an episode of My Little Ponies.

Becky's family was in in springville for the second half of the week, so Alison and the Kids drive down there daily to visit them. Grandma Julie and Grandpa Craig drove up to visit, and so they got to see them too.

Rea particularly liked a magic show that they saw at the library. They also went to the Bean Museum in Provo and went to the splash pad every day.

Gideon started crawling for real this week. He can only army crawl, but that is way more locomotion than he has done before. He also has gotten up on all fours, and flopped forward - which is fairly effective when he wants to move forward a little bit. We are expecting that he will master the more normal "crawling on all fours" motion soon.

On Monday Mike took the day off from work and we all drove down to southern Utah for a Yoder family reunion,  and also a road trip to visit the Poulson family in California. We had a bit of a hard time finding the place, but we got there eventually.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Celebratory Weekend.

During the first half of this week, Alison was sick for most of the time, which prevented them from doing as many things as they normally do. The kids missed the pool the most.

Mike went to his design guild on Tuesday and played Grab the Loot. It went well, and he got a lot of good ideas.

On Friday Mike was told that his game was chosen as the winner of the Button Shy Wallet Game Design contest. His game (The Perfect Moment) is now being considered for publication by Button Shy Games. Winning a contest with one of his games has been a long term goal for Mike, so he is really excited about this.

After learning this, Mike decided to bring home sushi for dinner. The mood felt very celebratory.

On Saturday we celebrated Timmy's third birthday. He loved all of his presents, and spent much of the day playing with them. When we got bored of watching this, we told him to bring his toys to go strawberry picking. The three oldest family members picked pretty much the whole time and got a lot of strawberries, and the younger ones helped some and played some. Gideon was very happy to sit in the grass and eat as many strawberries as his sisters brought to him. He is so grown up now.

Timmy chose to have macaroni and cheese and hotdogs and watermelon for his special lunch, and also wanted lemon cake for his desert. We ran out of time to bake the cake, but we plan on doing that really soon.

After a while, we went outside and installed the pump that Timmy wanted for one of his presents. It is a red handled hand pump that pumps real water. Mike buried a five gallon bucket, and the pump has a pipe that rests on the bottom of the bucket. We put a drip line from our sprinkler down into the bucket, which should keep it full, and not waste more water than we would have been spraying down in that part of our yard anyway.

We eventually plan on making it catch the water and reroute it into the bucket again, but that hasn't yet happened. Perhaps next weekend it will.

In the evening we went to a ward barbecue, which was really fun, and also happened to be at the same stake center that we have been picking strawberries at.

Saturday evening we also finished up the initial stages of our second cheddaneer (cheddar flavored paneer), which tastes pretty darn good. We pressed it all of Sunday and it is now in the fridge. It doesn't taste anything like cheddar, but it has a nice flavor, and is finished in one day. We added in some annatto, so it is also orange in color.

Sunday was fathers day and Timmy's real birthday. Alison didn't have ward council, so the morning was much more relaxed than usual. We played Timmy's birthday game for the first time (and then three more times after that). Timmy decided that the aliens should be the good guys for the third and fourth game, so we had evil robots and brave aliens. It was fun. He even followed the rules.

After church we had Mike's father's day quiche, and then Becky and Chauncy came over, and we talked in the front yard while the kids all played. It was good to see them.

Finally, we ended the day with a instant lazymike strawberry pie. The instantness of it was derived from the fact that we froze some of our strawberries and then used them to chill the pie to eating consistency in about five minutes. This wouldn't work with store strawberries as they are so big, but with wild strawberries it worked fine. We still have one piecrust left, so we will probably have another pie sometime soon.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Strawberry Planet

On Tuesday Mike had a work team building where he painted a picture. It was pretty fun. He probably wouldn't buy paints to paint on his own, but he found painting to be enjoyable.

Tuesday we had Mike's friend Lauren and his family come over for dinner. It was a fun challenge to cook for someone on a low FODMAPs diet, which their oldest son is on. Lauren is working with a startup on the side, programming an app for physical therapists, and invited Mike to join him. Mike is not quite ready to give his hobby time over to programming for free, but he did get an email this week from BYU-I asking if he would be interested in part-time work as a online adjunct professor, and he filled out the application. He and Alison both love teaching, and this would be an ideal retirement job for him if it works out, he likes it, and he could teach a couple of classes every semester.

Mike also joined another game design contest this week- this time he is making a game for kids out of parts that were selected at random for him by the person holding the contest. He got the following parts:

So far he has designed two games, one where the kids run around a zoo and try to become brave enough to befriend a spooky animated t-shirt, and the other one where everyone is trying to catch gnomes. The younger kids liked the spooky t-shirt one best, and the older kids liked the gnomes one best. Perhaps he will combine them to the same game. He has a month to work on it.

The kids had a fabulous time having Max over, even though we had a bug going around the family: a day or two of low fever and lethargy, with some nausea or sore throats. Everyone got it in turn, so we had to skip a couple of days of swimming. We still managed two or three trips to the pool, though. We also spent a lot of time at parks and Wheeler Farm. Max was not used to the idea that Alison is only willing to pack up five kids if we're going somewhere for at least several hours; he wasn't as happy to just play wherever we were for hours on end. On the other hand, he was much more motivated to do our daily duties than any of our kids. He was always the first one done and ready to go in the morning, while the Brown kids just wander off and play. It was thanks to him that we managed to get above 30 pins in our daily duties chart, which earned the kids a pizza party at the pool with Daddy.

Max was not a fan of the way we cook, which Mike summed up as "mostly vegetables." He had very good table manners, but he would ask every day if we could have pizza, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, pancakes with syrup, or at least dessert every night. Instead, we offered vegetarian curry, penne and cauliflower in tomato sauce, german pancakes with vegetables or berries, and tacos, and we only had dessert once. He must be glad to be home!

On Saturday Max left in the morning, and at lunch time we went to the pool with a pizza to celebrate the kids' work at getting their daily duties done. We ate pizza first, and then we went swimming. Rea is swimming very well, and Sara is getting much braver than she used to be. Timmy even left the stairs to play in the shallow water a few times.

Rea felt so brave that she jumped off of the diving board in the deep end and swam back to the side by herself. It was a fun trip to the pool.

We also picked strawberries on Saturday. The strawberry patch was finally ripe, and we got a pretty good haul. We ended up with so many that we made a pie and jam with half of them, and have been enjoying the other half of them raw.

Rea really wanted to pick enough to make a pie, so she picked really well. She was quite proud of her haul.

Gideon and Alison were napping while we went over to pick them, so they didn't get to eat as many as we did. Gideon does, however love fresh strawberries.

Sunday morning while Alison was at ward council Mike and Timmy worked on a birthday present for him. It is named "Robots fighting Aliens and saving Princesses". It is a board game, and is pretty much what you would expect based on the name. We hope to get it finished before his birthday. So far we have robots, aliens, good aliens, hero robots, a map, and a box (with cover art). We still need to add on the princesses, and perhaps codify some rules, but Timmy is really liking it as it currently stands.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Land Before Times Tables

Monday was a holiday! Mike had Memorial Day off work, and we had our first barbecue of the season, and the barbecue didn't even blow up or light on fire or anything! Mike made hamburger patties with blue cheese in them, which were great; we also had vegetable skewers with bell pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms in a soy sauce and pineapple juice marinade, which Alison (and everyone) loved, and watermelon, and hot dogs for the kids.

Then we went to the play "Pirates of the Caribeener" at the Off Broadway Theater. The kids were ecstatic; they love the OBT plays. They enjoyed this one; Rea might have understood some of the jokes, but probably not because she's never seen Pirates of the Caribbean or Sponge Bob, which was the other reference they pulled in. But they all enjoyed the story and the singing and dancing anyway. Gideon didn't even scream, even though he was obviously very tired but unable to sleep in the noise. Best baby ever!

On Tuesday, we went to Forest Kindergarten and found that the pool was open after school hours! The kids were very upset that we hadn't brought swim gear, so the next day we went and bought our pool pass and swam. It was great. Sara has gotten so brave in the water! She walked all the way across the pool (in the 3 ft depth area) and wall-walked all around. She talks excitedly of swimming lessons, but is very hesitant every time Alison tells her that they will start by putting her face in the water. But she will probably get over that and learn to swim this summer, because she is so excited and brave.

Alison and the kids met with their new Forest Kindergarten friends on Tuesday, and somehow almost all of the Quints dolls got taken out of Alison's bag and lost on the playground. They were very upset, especially Rea. Then, when they went back to swim Wednesday and Thursday, they found half of them! They were very happy and grateful for answers to prayer. They are still hoping to find the rest.
Thursday Mike went to Board Game Design Guild. He played some guy's game and the game was actually pretty good! (Some of the games that come into the BGDG are not very good.) He had fun and the guy was also open to feedback, which is very important. It was the type of experience he wants to have every week.

Friday we went looking for strawberries for date night, but it's a little too early still; we only got about 7 ripe ones. But we found tons of green ones, so we'll go back soon.

We did pretty well this week at speaking French. Rea is very good at figuring out what Alison's gestures and pointing mean when she's speaking French, and Sara still really likes French lessons.

The kids asked for drawing lessons, so Alison pulled out her volume of "Drawing with Children." This book was highly recommended and says it can start with 4 year olds, so she bought it and tried it when Rea was 4. It didn't work. But now, Rea is old enough that it's going really well. She has made some amazing realistic drawings of birds and nests this week. It is really cool to compare her symbolic drawings (normal preschool drawings) with her representational ones; she's done some of both this week, and it's fun to see the difference.

Our fish are still alive after another week. We're pretty proud of that accomplishment.

Saturday we realized that Gideon was getting sick. He has a mild fever and is very cuddly. He usually manages to be pretty happy when he wakes up, but it only lasts a few minutes before he wants to cuddle back to sleep.

Saturday Mike built an extractor fan for the 3D printer and realized that the Raspberry Pi was not working. We bought a monitor to use for it that also worked as a TV for our VCR, but the kids broke it. So Mike pulled out Alison's little college laptop and was using that, and eventually ended up using his Christmas computer to run the 3D printer.

Using the old laptop, we found all of Alison's NaNo novels. She reread two of them this weekend and was surprised to find that they're actually pretty good. While she was writing them, she was somewhat unimpressed, but with a few years' break, she sees a lot of good in them. Mike is editing his NaNo novel "In Which a Prince Burns Things," and Alison is going to start editing one of hers too.

Since we wrote about everyone else, we should note that Timmy is now using logic. He is out of the "Why did you do it?" "Because I did it!" stage, and he can participate in conversations with his own understanding. Today at dinner, times tables were mentioned, and he eagerly announced that we watched a movie about dinosaurs called, "The Land Before Time." He is making connections and learning all the time. It's great.

Finally, Scott called Mike today and said that Max was very unhappy at the friends' house he'd been staying at while Scott and Sheila are on vacation in Ireland, so could he come to us? We said of course, so this evening we picked him up and he'll be here through Saturday. The kids are ecstatic and having lots of fun together. So maybe Alison will just have to sit around and hold a sick baby this week, without also amusing older kids. That would be nice.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Birthday Week!

This week in Family Meeting we decided that Alison would speak French with the kids when Mike was home. We have been trying it. The kids complain sometimes, but they're getting better at figuring out what Alison means. Mike had to translate a lot at first, but less as the week went by. Sara also really enjoys getting a French lesson every day.

Rea and Alison saw an ad for a collection of books called the Herb Fairies. They are very excited about the idea of learning about medicinal plants in fun stories, but the company only opens enrollment for one week a year, and Alison bought an expensive music program this month, so we'll have to wait. Rea read the free sample and now is eager to collect and use medicinal herbs. She regularly gets a collecting bag and gathers supplies for her herbal shop.

Tuesday we got lots of exercise. We walked about half a mile to playgroup, then Mommy and Gideon walked home and rode the bucket bike a mile to the grocery store and a mile home. Then we walked back from playgroup, and later in the day took another walk (bike ride for Rea). It was a lovely day and we had fun. That night Mike went to Board Game Design Guild and the kids watched The Land Before Time for the first time. It was a little scary for them, but they enjoyed it.

Wednesday was Mommy's birthday! It was very fun. Mike stopped on his way home and and picked up sushi for dinner. Alison wanted to have a picnic, but the weather looked unpromising, so we tried to have the picnic at our patio table. Halfway through, the wind got too strong for comfort, so we moved the picnic to the floor of the living room. It was fun. After we cleaned up dinner, Alison opened her gifts: a pocketknife for Forest Kindergarten, an exercise band for her exercise program, a clip that's supposed to make it easy to cut girls' hair straight and cute, a math teaching set (that was tons of work for Mike - a digital purchase that he had to download, print, cut out, and box up for her), and a pump for the water feature we're designing for the front yard. Then we played all the traditional Poulson family birthday party games: The Paper Bag Game, Keep It Up, Balloon Stomp, Heavy Heavy Hangs, etc. And had chocolate cake and sang Happy Birthday. It was a great evening.

Thursday Alison and the kids met a new family who will do Forest Kindergarten with them for the first half of the summer (they're expecting a baby mid-July). The kids had a fabulous time together and the moms have a lot in common. Rea wants to note that they are trying to set "a deadfall to catch a groundhog and sell it for two dollars and three quarters." We have tried to gently suggest that this might not be the best idea, but she is convinced it will work. Thursday night Alison went to a Relief Society activity and everyone else played Legos for Timmy's date night.

Friday night the kids watched a movie while the parents did a game-playing date. We played two new games: The Bird Told Me to Do It and Nerdy Inventions. They were interesting, though not new all-time favorites.

Saturday Mike finally got licence plates for his new car. He and Alison almost completed polishing the rule book for Terran League of Defense Robots, which he is submitting to a contest by the end of the month. Mike and the kids went to play at the school playground for a while, too.

Sunday after church we walked around delivering reimbursement checks (Mike is the financial clerk) and one of the people we delivered to gave the kids lollipops. They thought that was important enough to certainly be in the blog post.