September 23, 2018

Minimalist Christmas Letters for Large Families

Sometimes Christmas gets overwhelming, especially when you have many kids who are eager to ask the world of Santa.  For larger families, giving everything everyone wants for Christmas is completely impossible.  What's worse is that so often only a month or two the gifts are scattered and not interesting anymore.  Not worth it!
After talking with friends who feel the same, I decided that there is a different (possibly an even better way) to approach Santa.
This year we are asking for some things in a structured way that lets the kids dream and think of new possibilities.  We're asking for experiences instead of things (visiting a children's museum or tickets to the movies or  going to a restaurant), a few things that are exciting (like a surfing), some real needs (think socks, underwear, etc) and new books or things to try (have you ever heard 'why don't we ever buy takis chips?' or some other thing you'd never buy?  Let them ask away here)

It's important to note that I've clearly told my kiddos that Santa will likely bring one of their ideas from each category.  Not all of them.  Expectations are important here!

So, if you'd like to branch out as well, and try a different idea for Christmas lists, try ours! You're welcome to download it here!

Happy Giving!

April 23, 2017

beauty may be worth the pain

Finally, this project is complete!  I actually finished it and in the whirlwind didn't post.  I'm sorry!  Your lives go on just fine, though, I realize i'm not holding up anyone's dreams :)

But I'm happy with how it finished!

Am I happy enough to do it again?  Well I still remember the way it felt trying to get it to turn out well.  That was no small feat.  And Don't look closely, or you'll see why.

Notice the pattern painting in on itself in the upper right hand corner here?  Yes, I wanted to just wall paper over it all.  However I was lucky to find that if you just paint it all out, imperfect and iffy, you can just go back over where the blue lines should be, and your eye seams it together as if they're all the same size.  Thank you brain tricks.

Maybe we should call this wall my homage to the 'Magic Eye' books of the 90s.  On a side note, it does make a darling background for me to sell potential etsy products!  We'll see if I've got the energy for this one :)

For now, it's landscaping time, and we're taking this yard to another dimension:

More to come on that next! And by next I mean hopefully with months.  Sorry guys, I know I'm lame, but I do love you!

February 24, 2017

It's getting real in here

So if you remember I posted a couple of days ago about trying to figure out how to create my own stencil equipped with My Silhouette machine and paint.

My first attempt was terrible, as the plastic was too thin and totally failed. Not to be deterred I went to my local Ace Hardware and found a 'for rent' plastic sign that had a good weight and was easy to cut with my Silhouette.
Hold on I shouldn't say easy, I should say complicated, but easy if you know what you're doing. What I found that was NOT necessary was

February 23, 2017

Stencil Factory

We just moved into our new home, and couldn't be more excited!  We love the area, the people in our neighborhood and the big back yard (that will take a pretty penny to landscape, not my favorite part).

We built with Journey's End Homes, which was an amazing experience for so many reasons.  Chiefly because 1. They're totally honest 2. They only do 3 homes at a time, so they're really on top of things 3. You don't work through any agents, rather directly with the builder (who is so great at what he does) and 4. They really try to make what you want the biggest deal.  We were totally taken care of, and they even let us do our own sub contracting (I put in the board and batten!).  There's plenty there for a whole other post.

Now that we are in our new home (pictures to come) I'm trying to stencil a wall, the only accent wall in the main space.  Of course I'm too picky to just use one from hobby Lobby and I'm too cheap to order one from Etsy, so I made my own design.  This one:

I plan to do some of the arrows in a third color, hopefully it achieves the effect I'd like.  Speaking of, buying all the paint at the local restore (habitat for humanity) kind makes that tricky.

So, being the cheap gal that I am (remember no etsy?) I tried to use the plastic cover of my 2x24 silhouette mat as the stencil.  Go ahead, I'm laughing too.  Pretty much a novice mistake.  This is what happened:

It was like trying to stencil with a plastic soda can ring.  Baaaaad.  So, my next idea is to make the stencil out of one of these bad boys:

A for rent sign!  It's just light weight enough that my silhouette can likely cut it and just heavy enough that it will make a thick stencil hang right.

Hopefully tonight I'll have updates on this project for you. 

August 3, 2016

How is it to raise 5 kids, you ask?

We're living with my in laws while the majority of our things are boxed up waiting to be moved into a storage unit as we build a new house!  It's like a dream come true, though a hard one, because we love the people we're surrounded by here.  Before I go too far, here's the funniest thing that happened today:

I surprised Budge and Limmer when I found them sneakily peeing on the back window of Dan's truck.  I yelled their names and they whipped around so scared that they could barely get their trousers up in time and as he turned, Lim shot Budge in the back of the head. They were so mad.  And embarrassed.  Budge went into total denial mode, and Lim was so embarrassed he wouldn't come in the house for a good while. He may also have been afraid of getting in trouble.  I couldn't stop laughing for way too long.

H has been so good lately too, but with this tinge of stubbornness in her that refuses to retreat when she thinks she's being blamed (for anything) or in trouble.  From knocking the baby down (sweet James) to hitting her brother on the back right in front of me, it's not her fault.  On the other hand, she's declared me her best friend and we've been jumping on the trampoline together, doing nails and (always) practicing makeup.

She's so incredibly sweet, and also gets her heart broken easily, for example when she goes to a friend's house to find out her friend is really hosting a party for another group of girls and she's told "sorry, there's no way you can help with this party".  Left out and feeling rejected for 2 hours, she still wants to play with that same little girl the next day.

Budge is as smart as a whip and loves making new connections.  He's also really competitive, and loves anything gaming.  He will do just about anything to earn time on Minecraft, or grandma's wii.  I think Dan is pretty determined to not have our boys experience gaming on our console, because he grew up without gaming, and later became wrapped up in it.  Never such that he couldn't stop, but he sees a pitfall there and wants to keep our boys out of it.  I agree, but also think of it as inevitable that they will become gamers to a degree.  And I don't want them being left out and unable to relate to their friends.

Limmer feels the same way.  He's so in love with gaming, and will do whatever to earn it.  The difference being, he'll do whatever to earn all sorts of rewards.  Money, candy, gum, the ability to choose the flavor of ice cream for the family.  He's really great that way, and works surprisingly hard.  The boy probably is my best helper right now, and doesn't try to run away at the first mention of chores.  He's doing well in school and also is super smart.  He reads really well, and is gentle and sometimes withdrawn.  I worry sometimes that he's too sullen, but he also has such strong bouts of pure joy (like when James learns to whip his head from side to side telling us no to his veggies) that I think he's going to be just fine.

O is a picaro if there ever was one. The boy screams at the top of his lungs in a piercing pitch just because he can.  I think, though, that we've tamed the firey tongue he gets whenever he's upset.  'stupid, shut up, I hate you" have all been washed out of his mouth so many times now.  He's finally getting the hang of it, though, and when he's really steamed up mad, he'll say "meanie Head" which is totally ok with me.  He is super snuggly and every night wants to sleep in our bed for the warmth of snuggling mom and Dad.  He's darling that way, and comes up with the funniest things to say.  His little mind is always cranking away and sometimes he comes up for air just long enough to ask quesitons like: "Mom, a whale's teeth don't want to bite us, right?"  So cute, and so easily impressed upon.  He is our joy and some days our curse.

Speaking of joy, James is pure sweetness.  That's the nickname I chose for him, despite its feminine associations, because the babe is just pure sweetness.  He fills me up and gives all of us huge doses of happiness and satisfaction at having him in our family.  The kids all want turns holding him, often.  Their joy from him and their satisfaction at teaching him something new is super easy to see, and they try to ge good to him.  He's walking along couches at 8 months and is trying to speak different words.  He says dada but that's about it.  His babble ususally includes a sth, and mamama too.  Sweet observant boy.

I suppose this is it: family ups and downs at its finest.  I never dreamed our family would become my every worry, every grin and every happiness.  I'm so thankful for them and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that teaches me how to do all this.  And our good parents as well.

September 15, 2015

2 universal truths

In our house, there are 2 universal truths (among others)

1. If there is a spill in any room of the house, I will find it and step in it.

2. If I have a cup of water around (which I do daily), my toddler will drink it and spill it.

This makes it pretty rough to keep my temper, see, as I routinely step in a puddle of water (though we don't discriminate around here: honey, grape juice, nerds are all free game when it comes to what constitutes a 'puddle') only to realize it was my own water that I'm stepping in.  *sigh.

So after getting after my kids for the seemingly 80th time about cleaning up after themselves, picking up what they drop and or kick, and not touching (and unrolling yards at a time of tape) my projects, my voice was razor sharp.  Seeing this, my husband invited me to relax, which was really not the right thing to say, and if my eyes didn't indicate I was furious, my avoidance of him for the next hour did.   In the end, he was right.  I hate swallowing my pride.  Hate it. I'm still kind of getting my back up about this.

Anyway, after all that, and looking forward to a night cleaning up after the churning mess of trash and dishes that threatens to swallow all of us daily, I was feeling pretty frustrated/emotional/hangry.  I sat down to stew with my sweet new baby James (1 mo. old) and he did the most unexpected, sweet thing.

I had him on my shoulder, burping him, when he picked up his wobbly head, turned to face me, and put his open mouth on my cheek slowly, almost intentionally.  This was not rooting.  This was the most controlled neck action I've ever seen from him.  Then he put his nose on my nose, and just breathed there for a while.  I was so surprised, I just kinda laughed.  Then he did it again and again, like he was trying to give me kisses.  Slow, wobbly approach, mouth open and eyes big just kinda kissing my cheek.

It was so gentle and purposeful I cried.  It felt like he was thanking me.  Like somewhere in all that effort was a little love and gratitude for his life.  Maybe for his dinner. I don't know, but the feeling was strong, and perfect for that moment.

Just enough perfection to keep this old momma going for another busy night.

I'm so thankful for him and the sweet miracle he is.  We love having you in our family, sweet baby James.

June 21, 2015

The end of the school year is here!

I haven't posted in while, partly because of my schedule, and partly because of my bad attitude, but thanks to a little love from my sis (who is far from me, so she reads this) I'm excited to post again.  And boy howdy have we been deep in 'doing'.

The school year ended for us, and I cannot believe the number of parties, celebrations, awards assemblies and to-do items that sprung up in the last weeks.  I can barely turn our library books, people.  This is overdrive, and I'm at the front of ship carrying 4 kiddos and a hardworking husband (who tries to be here to help as often as he can) who each have commitments.  It's just like that too, stopping a whole ship at some small port to get off and get on several times a day.  And pregnant ladies don't just set out on trips like that.  They need a bum pillow everywhere they go.  And someone to open the door so they can heft the giant 2 year old in when he wants to chase birds.

January 24, 2015

What it means to 'over do it'

I generally know that I have the personality that LOVES to overdo events.  So I should not be surprised that the holidays were for us a smorgasbord (thank you Charlotte's Web for teaching me that word) that left me (and my hubby) feeling over extended and ready to hibernate.

But it was wonderful too.

Want to know what we were up to?

Thanksgiving was so perfect, with a family meal where we all shared the load, and the kiddos and I made cornucopias for treats at each place setting.

You fill the bottom of a waffle cone with water, and let it sit in the cup for about 5 seconds.

Thank your helper for doing them fast.

Then set them on a plate to microwave for 30 seconds (which makes them pliable)

December 1, 2014

What you talkin 'bout, Phyllis?

My husband's nickname is Phyllis.  It came from my inability to get the saying right from Webster, the 90s tv show.  Instead of saying 'what you talkin bout, Willis?', it came out Phyllis, and was so funny that it just stuck.  He's a good sport.

He's a good sport too about his recent back surgery.  But today is day 2 post-op, and it IS NOT a good day.

Poor Dan has burney shooting pain down his leg and numbness as well.  The nurses told us that today is supposed to be the worst day, until day 5 when it will ease up a little.  Oh man.

But we've had some really great experiences along the way.  Being in the hospital for the 2 days we stayed was actually a really great bonding time.  Since kids weren't allowed to visit, it was just Dan and I.  We played quiz up and most of the time had the TV off, and just talked.  It was like we were dating again.  Soo cool.  The nurses showed me how to unhook him to help him go to the bathroom, and were so good to answer my every question (it's not enough for me to know that poor lung expansion causes a fever - I need to know why).  We had such great care.

We met a couple who were there visiting people from the church, letting us know about meeting times and offering help if needed, and they were so great. As it turns out I went to school with their daughter, and we both served missions in Argentina.  It was so great to meet them, and we asked them to give Dan a blessing (something that any worthy priesthood holder in my faith can give).  It was comforting and powerful, and even given direction that as we serve each other our marriage would be strengthened.  It changed my perspective about taking care of my invalid husband.  It makes me eager to serve him, knowing that it will have long lasting benefits for our marriage. And I think it was completely true in the case of my brain surgery.  I have never known appreciation and love like I did when he took such unselfish care of me both in the hospital and during my healing.  That made a place in me I never knew could exist.  Every time I try to explain how much it changed me to have him serve me like that I just cry.  Those feelings are too tangled into the deeper parts of my heart to sort out.  I just love him so much more for it, and I'm happy to serve him as well as I possibly can.

Which brings me to a stickier topic.  Taking care of my sweet hubbin while also taking care of our kids.  So far, my in laws (amazing people that they are) have taken the kids during our hospital stay and then again today so we can have a quiet house.  I've only had our 2 year old, and honestly with just him it feels like I've had another baby.  He throws fits when he doesn't have the attention he's used to and I'm just not willing to stop and love on him until I can help his dad where I need to.

My good friend (who brought us 3, yes THREE meals yesterday) said that it was the most stressful time of her life to take care of her operated upon husband and her kiddos.  What kind of mom has the time to make 3 meals for a sick friend?   She's amazing.

But we have great support and friends and family who are so quick to help us (including a wonderful friend who came last night on very short notice to cover for the late hospital release and extra HOUR of driving around we did to find a pharmacy that was stocked with narcotics!  Thank you, FDA for moving narcotics to the next level of security.

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Ours was amazing and my weepy self was so content that day to look around our dinner table with so many of my loved ones there.  That's all that really matters in the end.  We are truly so rich!

November 17, 2014

Best stocking stuffers under $5

I believe some of the cheapest (or maybe most frugal?) people live in Utah.  I love Utah, and I claim it as my own, but really, I'm very accustomed to people (even myself *yikes) saying "Oh I could totally make that", about something that is already decently priced.  So, we're cheap.  And talented to make stuff at home.

Because of that cheapness, when it comes to stocking stuffers (while most people think size) I think dollar signs.  I want it to be like dollar store cheap to get into a stocking.  So, for all my like-minded friends, here is a glorious list to keep you under budget this Christmas

Finger Puppets - 3.00 shipped

There are even cheaper versions of these.  Just follow the link and related searches will give you options down to a dollar!  At the least these are brilliant for keeping kids quite in church.  But be careful, they come by slow boat from China.  I'd order 2-3 weeks ahead of time.

Adult Watches - 3.58 shipped

November 15, 2014

Hilarious note about UT licence plates

Last night Dan and I were driving home with a car full of kiddos.  Ahead of us I noticed a Utah licence plate that I've never seen.

"What's that on that licence plate?" I asked.  "A geisha and a bear?!"

"I'm pretty sure that's the huamane treatment for pets plate, babe."

It looked like this:

Imagine it from like 15 feet away and in the evening.

I don't know why the ASPCA wants to put a geisha on there.  Heehee.

I hope you're getting ready for Thanksgiving!  Yay for fall and the holidays!

November 1, 2014

Helping kids to tell time

Time is a complete anomaly for most kids under the age of 7.  I think that you could say 'Ok, I'll be back in 10 minutes to check if your room is clean' as well as you could say 'I'll be back in 24 hours to check on you' and to them it would be the same.

So, to help my kids to tell time, I came up with this little beauty.

It's not the most complicated thing.  I point to the time when we have to go to school each morning and there are their shining faces indicating that when the short hand points to the orange arrow, it's time.  

It's helpful, if not at least original.  Please excuse the mondo face of my sweet baby.  He's sleeping and so sweet, but it can startle you if you don't know what's happening.

I hope this helps your tots to understand the concept of time better!

October 19, 2014

Halloween decor and Fall Fun

Who can resist the Fall when there are field trips to go on, pumpkins to carve, harvests to gather and apple crisp to eat?  Yay fall is here! 

I have volunteered to chaperon for this field trip with each of my kids, very selfishly too.  I love the delight that the kids experience as they go through a corn maze, and the games that they enjoy at the end.  The pumpkin picking is so exciting for them, and they could care less that they are hungry or tired when they see all the fun themed playground toys.  There is even a kid-zoo spot, where farm animals live.  I'd pretty much elbow out other moms to get to the sign up sheet for this field trip.

This is L loving on his pumpin and Chester (the preschool pet stow away that comes on certain field trips.  Who knew raccoons are so docile?)

This is notable, because it's difficult for L to feel like he even wants to do some of this stuff.  He usually holds back until everyone is done with the activity until he wants to join.  He is so handsome when he smiles!  Good job, buddy!

Amazing play-land and spooky tunnels to crawl through.

I love this musty smelling pumpkin.  It's right next to the animal habitat, and I'm pretty sure that goat stink is on that baby for life.  But the kids don't care at all.

October 16, 2014

Mommyhood and a movie review

As I was wiping the table off tonight, collecting huge gobs of spilled food and rocks (normal at the dinner table, right?) I realized that these sweet years of chaotic littles and their treasures won't be long.

We just saw meet the Mormons, which is a movie about who Mormons are and what makes them tick.  (see the trailer)  I truly think they captured an honest sense of who LDS people are. I know more people like the 6 families featured in the film than I can count. It was beautiful to me and made me want to do something amazing or really be amazing at something. My sweet hubby laughed at me and sincerely said 'honey, you already do amazing things'. While I don't see it, it made me want to do amazing things with the talents god has blessed me with.

 In the movie, the missionary mom watches her boy grow up and then prepare and leave for a mission.  You see her past and the choices that meant she had him when she was 16.  Their story continues in pictures right up until his mission.  It's amazingly fast.  And It isn't long for me either. Our oldest is 8, and it seems like just a few months ago that I was coaching myself in my head, thinking 'if I can just get her to 8, I'll have it made'.  Check on part one, not so much part two.

Anyhow, I loved the movie. I was inspired by the simple acts that brought greatness to the lives of each person in the film, and I recognize that their faith in Jesus Christ motivated that in each case.

I hope you take the chance to go see it.

October 6, 2014

Brain Surgery part 2

For Part one, follow this link

True to form, as I have done several times, I only spoke in Spanish after my brain surgery.  Not that I can even remember these conversations, but everyone else does.  Don't ask me what that's about.  I have no idea.

I clearly remembered my anesthesiologist name, who was the last person I had seen before surgery and had a crazy long name.  Like Dufenbergershlick.  I don't remember speaking Spanish, but I do remember the very surprised face of the anesthesiologist and hearing the assistant say, "wow, she remembered your name".

And almost as if I had perfectly orchestrated a joke, I scared a poor CNA to death.  I had a pre-op nurse named Elizabeth, whose name I also remembered after surgery.  As the post-op nurses (totally new to me) were wheeling me to the neural intensive care unit (NICU), I began asking (in Spanish) for Elizabeth.  "Things would be a lot better if I could just get a little water," I said to her.  But everyone was too stunned to answer.  The CNA, who happened to be the only one there who spoke Spanish, was also named Elizabeth.  She thought I knew who she was, or maybe had some kind of ESP.

A couple of hours into recovery, she reluctantly peeked into our room to ask if  I knew her.  I said no, wondering if I should.  She explained the whole thing to me and confessed it freaked her out a little.  Poor lady!

The neurosurgery residents came by and assessed my responses to toe-poking, finger counting, and speech recollection.  My results were good, and it appeared that the surrounding areas of my brain were unharmed by the surgery.  My blood work was promising and my Doctor said that all was going well and we could be released in as soon as 3 days.

My sweet husband was so kind and attentive, and a natural at unplugging the monitors and machines every time I had to get out of bed to go to the bathroom.  He stayed near through my long naps and my first bites of Jello.  He even got our 3 kids, who were staying with my amazing in-laws on face time.  I wasn't sure that I wanted the kids to be upset by how I looked, but I tentatively talked to them.  Unfortunately, the screen froze on the faces of my sweet kiddos right as they took in what Mommy looked like, and they looked so scared by me that I couldn't help busting into tears and losing it.  I wasn't sure I was ok, so Dan turned off the video and we finished on the phone.

October 3, 2014

DIY Creepy Halloween Mirror Wreath

Today was much better (anxiety wise) than yesterday.  My upset stomach continued until about 7pm, but really, others often have it so much worse.  Maybe we all ate the same lead paint chips when we were young.  Sheesh.  Sometimes I wish there were more defined causes to the onset of anxiety.

On another note, Halloween is fast approaching, and I have promised many a great diy holiday projects.  Meet the creepy wreath!  Appropriate for small kiddos, and older ones alike. The best part?  IT COST ME LESS THAN 4.00!!  Yay for a DIY project!

Here's how she went down:


the mirror (a serving platter from Dollar tree, which happens to be reflective)
a diaper (or ask for a free one from you neighbor with 4 kids.  She's bound to have one.)
Scraps of satiny emerald green fabric...from a dress your grandma made you when you were 12
    (thanks grandma!)
Scraps of black felt and old lace (optional)
2 fake plant stems from the dollar tree as well (any creepy stem with black fuzz on it works)
Raffia or straw
6-10 purple fuzzies or pom pom balls (optional)
12-15 black feathers (from a craft store - I already had these)
glue gun (are you a DIYer?  You already have this)
a scrap of white toole - or tole.  Why doesn't English spell like it sounds? (any mesh fabric will do.
    You only need like a 7x9" piece)


This is the creepiest part of the mirror, and really just a feat of imagination.  This is also the coolest part, according to my kids.  They can't believe the scary fingers are really just diapers.

1. Get your diaper out, and cut 4 pieces of 1.5x3" strips.  The stuffing will want to come out,  I know.

2. Now you roll up your little strip length wise, and tape it 1/3 of the way up.  Bend the roll in half, and THEN tighten it on the un-taped section.  Once you've got it pretty tight, tape in place. Stay with me, I know this is weird.

3. You can tighten the tip even further and tape it again, making it pointy like the fingernail of a witch finger.  Depending upon how tightly you rolled each section, it should stay pretty bent and pointy!  It's ok if not.  Try it again, or accept that your fingers are arthritic and won't bend like they used to.

4.  Finally, wrap the whole thing in your shimmery green black fabric.  Use the glue gun to tack it down, and make sure to burn your fingers at least 6 times. Sacrifice makes it valuable :)  Cut out some raisin size fingernails from the black fabric and glue them on there.

5. Position all 4 fingers into the most natural look you can.  I recommend posing your own fingers and then modeling the diaper fingers after that.  Glue the unfinished bottoms to the back of the mirror, and then again at the lip of the front of the mirror.  Cut a strip of felt out to cover the back of fingers on the mirror and glue it down.  Cut out a piece of lace and glue it on the knuckles and on top of the black felt. Now it looks like a sleeve.


1. Get your piece of white mesh and fold it over itself.
2. Cut a tear drop shape out of both pieces, so that you get two ghost heads.
3. Fold one of the heads down by 1/3  (tip of the tear drop downward) and cut out some pointed oval
    length-wise slits for eyes.
4. Unfold.
5. Fold the whole head in half, and cut a long wavy mouth.  Now you have a screaming ghost.
6. Using spray adhesive (or the glue gun) tack down the screaming ghost to the mirror.
7. Bunch up the fabric of the uncut ghost head and tack it down the same way, but make it a little
    bunchy and irregular.  That gives it dimension.


1. Get several pieces of raffia and wrap around the stems.  Keep going until you've wrapped up 3-4
    inches of the stem.
2. Tie a square knot.

3. Cut off the excess close to the knot, so it looks like broom ends.
4. Arrange branches to poke out and jut like a creepy tree.
5. Glue along the side of the mirror, and hold it there for a few seconds till it sets.


1. Arrange 12-15 black feathers along the bottom of the mirror
2. Glue the stems only in place, letting the tufts on top free to blow.
3. Enjoy that your mirror has no crow, just the remnants of one.
4. Glue on a few purple pom pom balls/fuzzies because your kids like to think they're spiders

tape on a wire to the back of your mirror with packing tape, and you are ready to hang!

You can add a 'boo' on there, or even write some creepy message in red/black sharpie if you want!  I'd love to know if you make one of these! Have fun and Happy Halloween!