2021

This has been a busy year for us. I simultaneously can’t figure out how the time has gone by so fast and how we fit so much into just twelve months. Tomorrow will be 2022 and the start of twelve more months of adventures.

In January Fritz and Adrian got their first semester report cards for 7th and 9th grades and both did amazing for their first time in public school since kindergarten and second grade. We also continued trying to figure out just how much food to make to feed our small army (spoiler alert: it’s always too much or too little).

In February we put up a baby urinal in our bathroom and it’s been the best thing we could have done. There was more figuring out how to feed our small army (we’ve pretty much got it down now). We got a playground put up in our backyard. We ended up with COVID in the house and had to quarantine at the same time pretty much the entire state of Texas shut down due to a freak snowstorm and crazy cold (we got lucky and never lost power).

In March I started getting more creative with Mayci’s hair. All the adults in the house got vaccinated for COVID. Zeke turned six on Pi Day. The next day Noah had surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids and have tubes put in his ears. We got brave and took all six kids to HEB for the first time.

In April I sprained my foot when I gracefully fell down the stairs of The Beast. We also discovered Zeke has hair like Fritz’s: It grows SO fast!

In May our six-year-old officially changed his name to Zeke. School got out and so Mayci finished pre-k, Zeke finished kindergarten, Adrian finished 7th grade, and Fritz finished 9th grade.

In June the kids were bored of their 11-week summer vacation within about 30 seconds so we started our summer schedule which continued the entire summer and worked great. We got Fritz’s end of course results (all three passed). We entered Birthday Season when Adrian turned 13 on Juneteenth. The end of the month the twins turned two.

In July we got Adrian’s STAAR test results (he did great especially because it was his first time taking that sort of test). On the 6th Nicholas turned 3. And then on the 11th Fritz turned 15. Adrian saved all year and enlisted the help of a few other people in order to give Fritz an Oculus Quest 2 for his birthday. On the 18th Anthony turned 4 ending our intense streak of five birthdays in less than three weeks. Fritz got all registered for the virtual school for 10th grade.

In August we finished birthday season on the 2nd when Mayci turned 5. Zeke and Mayci both took off in their reading (best decision ever to work on teaching them how to read over the summer). We found out who the three elementary schoolers’ teachers would be (they’ve all been the perfect teacher for each kid, especially Zeke’s). In the middle of the month it was time for four of the kids to be off to pre-k, kindergarten, 1st, and 8th grades (and Nicky moved to a new room at preschool). A week later Fritz started 10th grade. Just before the end of the month my beautiful mother turned three-quarters of a century old.

In September we started getting monthly boxes of Young Adult books from Literati for Adrian (love those books). Dance classes started up for Zeke and Mayci. I did the most complicated and beautiful hairstyle on Mayci that I’ve done so far (53 twists). The twins moved out of their cribs and into their big boy beds. We took four of the kids to the movies for the first time. Mayci went to dance camp at the high school and got to perform at halftime at a football game.

In October we pulled Nicholas out of preschool. We got the four littlest boys new church clothes. I did some fancy hair on both Mayci and Haley. We had some really cute costumed kids on Halloween.

In November Jamie and I went to see The Beach Boys again. Lola moved in with Cameron and Tami and it’s helped Nicky’s eczema so much (he’s allergic to dogs). We celebrated Jamie’s 46th birthday and one year since we adopted the kids by playing at a trampoline park. We got our family pictures taken. I started having more time to read again thanks to Haley playing with the twinplets six hours a week and the kids getting a little older and more independent.

In December Nicky suddenly started looking much older and bigger than his little brothers. Anthony’s dreams came true when we put a Christmas tree in our living room. My Daddy turned 77 on Christmas Eve.

And now here we are on New Year’s Eve looking forward to what 2022 will bring us. We know a few things like Trek for the big boys, Fritz being ordained to the office of Priest, Birthday Season ending with us having 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14 and 16-year-olds, Ani turning 22 in February, Zeke turning 7 in March, me turning 44 in April, Cameron turning 21 in October, and Jamie turning 47 in November the same day we hit two years since the kids were adopted, and having kids starting pre-k, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 11th grades in August. Whatever else 2022 has in store for us, I know it will be awesome!

Allergic to Dogs

A few months ago we got Nicky allergy tested and it turns out he is very allergic to dogs. So we began trying to find a home for Lola. No one wants a cranky ten-year-old chihuahua. A couple weeks ago Cameron decided to see if Lola and his dog could get along. She really has always been his dog anyway. We were all surprised when the two dogs quickly learned to at least tolerate each other.

In the time since Lola moved in with Cameron Nicky’s eczema has improved at least 90%. He had some nasty patches that developed once we pulled him out of daycare (so he was around Lola 24/7). Those have pretty much all resolved. We’ve always suspected his eczema is related to allergies since Zyrtec helps, but now we know for sure.

We had Fritz allergy tested at the same time Nicky was. He is not allergic to dogs, but he is allergic to most pollens and is very allergic to leaf mold. Lola would go out and roll in the leaves and what not and bring in the allergens for Fritz to breathe. Long Haul COVID for him has included an intense increase in how his body reacts to allergens. With Lola at Cameron’s, he, too, is breathing so much better, is not as tired, and is even talking a little clearer.

It’s weird not having Lola around after 8 years, but Cameron is so happy to have her. He just loves that little dog. So between his happiness having her live with him and Fritz and Nicholas being so much healthier now, it was definitely the right choice to have her move.

Lola’s Turn

Every morning I get out the hair stuff and this blue cube and the kids take turns sitting on the cube and getting their hair done. A couple weeks ago Lola decided she wanted to have her turn as well, so now every morning I include her brush in the hair stuff I pull out of the cabinet and she gets her turn on the cube, too.
lola

Keeping the House Clean

As I mentioned in my post about my morning routine, I really like to have the house clean all the time in order to make my days go smoother and for me to be a better mother. I also mentioned that keeping the house clean and organized does not come naturally to me. It is something I have worked on for years, tweaking what I do and incorporating new routines as needed.

For the last few years, I’ve used my bullet journal to help keep me on track and reach my goals for cleaning. Each month I make a page for my daily/weekly/monthly to do’s with squares for the dates to complete each task. As I complete each thing, I color it in. I love coloring in those squares. Having all the day’s boxes colored in is such a great feeling, almost better than the feeling of having a clean house.

clean

I of course have all the things in my morning routine on that page. Then I have some things on the computer that I do every day (daily thread on a Facebook group, adding to my letter to my aunt, updating our finances, a batch of indexing, taking a picture each day, and scrapbooking that picture for Project 365). Fritz does the 7 Minute Workout each day as well.

Once a month, on the first, I clean the dishwasher, the garbage disposal, and the washing machine. I deep clean the stove using the special cleaner and razor blade. I change my sponge and switch the little picture on the welcome sign my sister made me years ago. I rearrange our Lego calendar for the new month. I rub the vinyl letters on the living room wall to make sure they don’t fall off (vinyl letters and super textured walls don’t mix super well). And I clean the couch using leather wipes. Also once a month, on the 11th, Lola gets her heartworm preventative medication. Once a month, on the third Saturday I wash our sheets (twice a year I also wash the mattress covers and twice a year I wash the blankets and quilts).

I have several things I do once a week. Sundays I send an email to my oldest niece who is serving a mission for the Church in St. George Utah, Fritz cleans Rae’s cage, and we put the Sacrament in a baggie to take to church (those of us with Celiac eat Nut Thins instead of bread; for some reason when church switched from 9 to 10:30 we kept forgetting to take our special sacrament so I added it to my to do page). Mondays and Thursday I have a box for bringing in the trash cans (we can get fined by the HOA if they are still out the next morning). On Mondays, I clean the filter in our dishwasher with a toothbrush. Wednesdays I print the letter to my aunt and also send a copy of it by email to my mother-in-law in Ireland. Thursdays I mail the letter to my aunt. Also on Thursdays I make menus for the next week, order groceries (which we usually pick up Friday evening or Saturday morning), and make a list of what I’ll need to do to prep our food for the week once the groceries have been picked up. Saturdays I refill Ani’s pill containers for the week.

Not something I put on my to do page, but that helps with keeping the house nice, I often walk around the house while I read. It kind of kills two birds with one stone. I get exercise and I get some reading done, too. Sometimes I’ll grab one thing that is out of place as I make my circuit (which goes around most of the bottom floor). I put it where it belongs (or on the stairs to go up) as I continue around the circle. It’s a really painless way of straightening up.

It’s amazing how much these things, none of which take very long, contributes to the beauty and mood of our house. I encourage everyone to come up with simple things you can do each day in your home. I guarantee you will not be sorry!

Science: Birds

Week 7 of school we learned about birds using Layers of Learning, year 3 unit 4.

We set up an experiment to dissolve an eggshell with vinegar.
birds1

It worked!
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We learned about bird anatomy. Rae helped out by being a living model.
birds2

We examined bird feathers.
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We watched a couple YouTube videos.
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We made peanut butter and birdseed pinecones for the wild birds and hung them in the tree in our front yard.
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We matched what various birds eat to the size and shape of their bills.

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We dissected owl pellets.

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10-Day Social Media Fast

At the Women’s Session of General Conference, President Nelson invited us to do four things:

1. Participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other negative or impure media
2. Read the Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year
3. Establish a pattern of regular temple attendance
4. Participate fully in Relief Society

So, to complete number one, the evening of Sunday, October 7th, I deleted all my links on my computer to social media and deleted the apps off my phone. The exception was Instagram. I have one account for pictures of Rae and I follow lots of conure and other bird accounts and those pictures make me very happy. On my personal account, which I mainly use to post pictures of what we did in school each day, I started following a whole bunch of church-related accounts that post things like a scripture or temple picture each day (I didn’t realize just how beautiful the Tucson AZ temple is!). As for number two, I was already up to 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon so that’s totally doable. Numbers three and four I’ll have to think a bit about.

Day 1socialmediaday1
The first day was Columbus Day so Jamie was off work and we didn’t have school. That probably made it a lot easier. I had put off sweeping and mopping most of the rooms in the house the previous week (I sweep weekly and also mop monthly) so I did all of that over the course of the day. I caught up on some blog posts I’d half done. I did some laundry from putting it in the washer to putting it away all nice and folded. But, most importantly, for the first time in weeks I didn’t feel like my insides were vibrating. I felt comfortable. I already know a few of the more contentious and/or whiny people that I will unfriend or unfollow when I return to social media. By the way, I feel way better when my house is clean. So starting out with all the sweeping and mopping, while a lot of work, definitely helped contribute to the calm, peaceful feeling I had by the middle of the day.

Day 2
socialmediaday2The second day actually went quite easily. I don’t miss Facebook or Twitter at all which is weird since the new iOS tells me I’m on them for hours every day. And that doesn’t count the time I spend on them on my computer. That’s a lot of hours a day I’m reclaiming. Also, I am mentally present for these amazing guys and that’s the most important thing of all. Usually I mindlessly check social media throughout the day and I realized that even though I’m there, I’m not there. Today I sat and watched some episodes of Mind Field (Vsauce on YouTube) with them. They were fascinating and we all learned some stuff. This morning, Cameron made a pancake creation. It was a stack of regular size pancakes surrounded with overlapping upright small pancakes with a giant pancake on top. He wouldn’t let us eat any pancakes until he finished his creation. I commented that I didn’t take a picture before we started eating it and Fritz said isn’t that the point of making stuff like that (as my best friend said, that was the most 2018 thing ever). Cameron told him he did it just for the personal satisfaction. But I started thinking. What are my actions teaching Fritz?

Day 3
socialmediaday3I am fascinated by how much I am getting done. I’m getting all the school stuff graded and put away soon after the boys complete it. I sweep whichever floor is supposed to be swept that day pretty early in the day rather than putting it off until late when I just don’t feel like doing it and end up not getting it done at all. I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon every morning rather than scrolling through social media and that’s been a really nice start to my day. Today I was a little concerned about what I would do when I went to pick Cameron up from instructor training. I forgot to bring my Kindle and usually I sit and scroll through Facebook or Twitter while waiting for him to come out. I ended up spending the time adding today’s video clips and editing our weekly school video. It was such a great use of my time. It was something I needed to get done and I had nothing else to do while sitting in the car. So I guess this fast is teaching me to make better choices for what I am using my time for.

Day 4
socialmediaday4A really weird thing has happened. I love to read, but recently I’ve found myself reading a little bit at a time, more avoiding reading than actually reading. Reading a book takes a lot more focus than just scrolling through social media where things are in little, tiny bits. Since I started the social media fast, I’ve discovered that focusing on reading is easy again. Maybe it’s because I can’t use social media right now. Maybe it’s because I’m getting unused to tiny bits here and there. I don’t know. But for whatever reason I’m enjoying reading for long periods of time again.

Day 5
socialmediaday5
Last night an indie author I like sent her most recent manuscript to me to Dragon Edit. I’ve been doing this for her for a while now. She dictates her books and as anyone who has used a dictating program knows, it doesn’t always understand her totally correctly. So she sends it to me and I go through it and fix it up into proper English and then send it back to her so she can edit it into a proper book. I really enjoy doing it (especially seeing how her books go from very rough draft to finished product). So, anyway, I spent the day Dragon Editing her next book, Forbidden Knowledge. Usually, I go back and forth doing a page or two and then checking Facebook or Twitter. This time I just did the editing. And it made it way easier, actually. Because I was actually focused on the job I was doing. That was nice.

Day 6socialmediaday6
This morning we had to get up and pretty much right away go over to the church to help clean the building. This threw off my new routine. Before this social media fast, when I woke up in the morning I’d lay in bed and scroll through Facebook and Twitter before getting up. Since I started it, I’ve been reading at least one chapter in the Book of Mormon instead. I didn’t have time to do that this morning and I really, really missed it. It’s such an amazing way to start my day. I still read my three chapters at some point during the day, but it was different from reading first thing in the morning. That’s definitely a habit I want to keep after this 10-day fast is over! (By the way, my arm hurts. We got our flu shots this afternoon. I spent the time waiting for them to call us in reading in the Book of Mormon. I always feel calm reading it, so I’d say I made a very good choice in reading it before getting a shot.)

Day 7
socialmediaday7The new iOS tells you every week how much you’ve been using your phone. It’s pretty crazy to see all the hours added up by category at the end of the week. No surprise that my usage went down a lot over the previous week since my social media fast started on Monday. The majority of my time on my phone this week was actually reading scriptures. Kindle + Gospel Library app was almost 7 hours. I read scriptures on the Gospel Library app and the guidebook I’m using to study the Book of Mormon is in the Kindle app. The next highest app use was messages. The majority of that time was texting back and forth with my daughter. The previous seven days the majority of my phone time was on Facebook and Twitter. I’m actually considering not putting those apps back on my phone later this week at the end of the 10 day fast.

Day 8
socialmediaday8I thought this social media fast would be hard. I really did. But it hasn’t been. In fact, it’s been fantastic. I don’t want it to end. I’ve wondered how a few people who post on Facebook regularly were doing (so I know they will definitely stay on my friends list), but I haven’t missed the contention on there at all. I really haven’t missed the contention on Twitter. Whenever I leave the Temple, I feel totally calm, almost like my insides are vibrating in harmony with… something. Anyway, it’s a wonderful, peaceful feeling that lasts a few hours. Since I started this social media fast, that’s how I’ve felt most of the time. It’s been nice and is a feeling I definitely want to hold on to. (PS I finished reading 2 Nephi this morning.)

Day 9
socialmediaday9Last night I was thinking that I need to get to work figuring out how to implement numbers 3 and 4 on the list of things President Nelson asked us to do. I’m obviously almost done with number 1 and number 2 is going great. But I haven’t even started on the other two things yet. I’m thinking since we still have a few weeks until the temple reopens that I’ll do a search on LDS.org about the temple or read a book or something. Then after it reopens, I was thinking because we live so close to the temple, we can run up there for a little while on the Tuesdays that Adrian has Scouts after we drop the boys off at church (that’s twice a month). Participating fully in Relief Society is a little more complicated since I currently serve in Nursery. President Nelson said something about reading the Relief Society declaration, so I’ll do that. Our ward sends out an email saying what the next lesson will be, so I’ll read along. I figure I can know what they are talking about in class even if I can’t be in there with them on Sundays.

Day 10
socialmediaday10Check it out. I finished through Jacob this morning! Today is the last day of the social media fast. Tomorrow I can go back to using social media however I want. It’s funny, but I don’t really want to. In his talk where he invited the women to go on this 10-day social media fast, President Nelson said the following:

What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little?

I’ve noticed that I am calmer. I feel better. I’m more in tune with the Spirit. I’m a better mother. I’ve read more and enjoyed that reading more. My house is cleaner. I’m happier. School even has been going better. My little boys have been asking more Gospel questions and I’ve found that easy answers for them have just popped into my head. There is a definite change in where I now want to spend my time and energy. I’m not going to bother putting the Facebook and Twitter apps back on my phone. I’m going to dramatically cut down my membership in groups on Facebook and unfollow or unfriend many people on Facebook and Twitter. I might keep right on reading three chapters in the Book of Mormon every day because I’m really enjoying it. I’ve discovered I’m happiest when my time and energy are on my family and the Lord. Have my priorities shifted? Yeah. And maybe not just a little.

All my life I have found that when I follow the Prophet, I never go wrong. These four invitations by our dear President Nelson are no exception. They were the right things for me at the right time and I am grateful for his prophetic counsel. I am thankful that I immediately made a plan to follow what he asked. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but it kind of changed my life.