I started documenting all our ornaments last year and got through a fair chunk of them. But we have added more in the past year and there's still more after that!
Ornament #1- Gatlinburg Black Bear
We took a Christmas trip with my family down to Gatlinburg, TN (Smokey Mountains) last year and while there we stopped by a little craft mall that was having a Christmas sale. We had been looking for a Christmas ornament to commemorate our trip but weren't satisfied with the selection at Dollywood. We didn't want just any ornament, we wanted one that signified that particular part of the country. Lucky for us, we found this ornament on sale at the little mall and the lady personalized it for us for free! In all our trips to the Smokies, we have never seen a black bear. That doesn't stop us from looking or knowing that they are there :)
During the summer Reed and I laid out all the options for Lara's schooling and it was a hard decision to make. There are lots of aspects that went into the making of our choice (We involved Lara in the process too) and I've given it a few months before I have concluded that it was the right decision.
Choice #1- Staying at my school. Lara has loved it there with the teachers, the kids, and the work. She, however, did not like having to stay 1-2.5 extra hours after school while I worked since there were days I worked until 5:30 or later. She also knew that she wasn't going to have her same teachers as the year previously, if she were to return, and most of her friends were going back to district (yay!). There was also the money issue- school costs!
Choice #2- Public school. I am not bragging when I say that Lara is smart. I am merely stating fact. She is very bright and learns things quickly. We had Lara evaluated to see if she could attend first grade instead of Kindergarten since she had done the K work in school already and had met the expectations if not excelled. Even though I was homeschooled, I didn't want to rule out the possibility of her accessing a public education. The school district came back and said that although she was advanced in reading, she was only average in math, and her IQ score was average, therefore she didn't qualify for immediate acceleration. I think I would have been more willing to send her to public school if the district had been willing to work with us at some level. Strike 1: The people who attended our meeting had not even met Lara, they were going on pure test scores and the evaluations of other people who were doing pure evaluations, not even giving their opinions. Strike 2: You want to get on my bad side then try putting words in my mouth. Saying things like "I know you were expecting better news" or "We know you are disappointed" does not bode well for our relationship. Strike 3: Telling me that there are first graders who can't do what Lara can do and yet she still doesn't qualify for acceleration doesn't make sense to me. Reed and I both knew that this was not the best option for her.
Choice #3- Homeschool. There was a time in my life (I don't remember when. College maybe?) when I emphatically said that I would not homeschool my kids. Not because I didn't think it was a great option, only because I felt I couldn't do it. My mom put a lot of time and effort into homeschooling and I just didn't want to go through all that work. I changed my mind at some point, probably when Lara was born, and said that I would try it when I got the chance. When thinking of educational options for Lara, homeschooling was out there but how could we do that when I still needed to work? My mom and my mother-in-law were willing to help out with this but I felt like it was my responsibility to homeschool, if that's the way we went. I had immediately ruled this possibility out until my sister (She gave me a blog nickname so I should probably give her one. Maybe, Ms. Organized? Probably nicer than Ms. Anal :)! Love ya' Suki!) pointed out that either way someone else was doing the education, either a teacher or a family member. I had never thought about that. So the option went back on the table.
Our decision- OHDELA. I love explaining Lara's school to people because the answer is not a straight "She's homeschooled." Technically, she is not homeschooled because OHDELA is on on-line public school and is completely tuition-free. My brother is part of OHDELA and after reading about it and of course talking to my Mom, Reed and I decided that this was great. One of my OTHER sisters (Um, Yoshi?) would come to stay with us during the week and be our live-in Nanny. She is mostly in charge of Lara's school work and keeps things running smoothly. Lara was so excited about getting her own computer, printer, books, etc. OHDELA sent her all of that FREE OF CHARGE! Reed and I get to do schoolwork with her on days off, or in the evenings, and she gets one day of schoolwork with Grandma Piano. She looks forwards to Thursdays also with Grandma Flute for extracurricular field trips.
After a few weeks, I saw a total difference in Lara. Don't get me wrong, she LOVED her school last year. It is tiring for an introvert to be in school all day, especially with how long the days were with my schedule. Thanks to this book I knew what was going on. She would be so crabby when we got home and now she is happy in the evenings! I even noticed that she can socialize more easily when the time comes. Now that her energy isn't being drained all day she is more willing to talk and participate during music class or social group. There have been a few rough patches, like the last few weeks where she only wanted me to do schoolwork with her and cried every time I left the house. A sticker chart cleared that up immediately (yay behavior training). We all have been happier and know that this was the best thing for all of us. Reed and I are still looking forward to the day when I can stay home but for right now this is all right and has been a blessing in our lives.
Oh, what's that you say? January was a long time ago? Oh yes, I am the perfect procrastinator. How about we just say that I am getting a head start on next year?
My resolution- Every day, I will either do something with my hair OR do my make-up OR both.
With Reed being gone for 7 WHOLE DAYS this week, life has been quite hectic to say the least. Luckily I had my sister, Lindey, with me for a few of those days. Even then trying to get out the door or to bed on time was quite a chore. So I am not sure why I picked this week to make a resolution that involves getting up early in order to look decent. Maybe it's because I have been feeling lately that I need to take more pride in my appearance. I always look good for professional presentations, special visitors, church, and other special events. I just don't always do that during regular days, especially since I work in a place where the dress code does not need to be business casual every day. I have also been trying new things with the girls and their hair (another blog post in the making) so why not just extend that to me? This week we had a choir concert at Helping Hands and I decided that I needed to start my resolution that day.
I have been studying several blogs from Pinterest about cute hairstyles for girls and some of them show which ones translate well to adults. (I swear, all of these blogs are from Mormon women.) I was using this particular one (see below) that night for the girls so I chose another hairstyle from there for me that would be easy and quick for the next morning. I have also been diligently viewing How-to videos from Melaleuca (which is where I buy my make-up) on their Five-Minute Face and their Classic. Lara even watched them with me and thought they were fascinating. http://www.melaleuca.com/SeiBella/Content.aspx?Page=Sei_Bella_How_To_Videos
There are lots of ways you can incorporate the twist into the rest of your hair; messy bun, side ponytail, hiding the twist under longer sections of hair and leave the rest down, etc. I decided to pull the rest back in a wrap ponytail (where you take strands, wrap it around the band, then bobbypin).
Since this was a special event I decided to wear nice clothes AND wear make-up so my appearance was quite complete. My poor co-workers would compliment me on how great I looked and then realize that I might be offended so they would say things like "Oh, you look good all the time." I had to just laugh and say "No, I really don't and it's something that I'm working on. Thanks for the compliment!" It was just a testament to me that this is something I need to do. I do want to show that my body is a temple and that I can keep it as beautiful as the sacred buildings that all Latter-Day Saints hold dear to their hearts.
Next step, exercising. *sigh* One step at a time. I think I will master this resolution before tackling THAT one.
Things have been very crazy at our house for the last few weeks. Reed was going to be gone at a scout camp-out for my birthday so we didn't plan to do anything. Or so I thought. The next day Reed handed me an envelope with the start of a birthday scavenger! I took Lara and Vivi with me and off we went on a merry chase. At the end I got yummy brownies and a brand-new digital camera! My husband is very creative and I think this showcases that very well. He has always loved composing limericks so that is the form that my clues were in.
We traveled to Washington D.C. in early August with the Robinson grandparents and family to attend the temple with Reed's sister, Ruth, who was receiving her endowments for the first time. We decided to stay in the city so we could do touristy stuff and hang out with cousins. It was our first time riding the Metro and neither Reed nor I had visited the Smithsonians in years! We hit 3 of them in one day- American History, Natural History, and Air & Space.
Thanks to Grandma Piano, all 5 girls had matching glittery shirts and shorts for the trip. Mariella is not pictured because before we left the hotel she choked and threw up all over hers. Bummer.
Let me tell you, we were stopped soooooo many times so that people (mostly Asian) could take pictures of our quadruplets or of Mariella, probably because of her red hair. One time I was standing at a counter waiting for some information and turned around to find several young Chinese women crouched down taking pictures with Mariella. While everyone was watching the butterflies at the Natural History museum, Reed counted 8 cameras taking pictures of the girls. We stopped trying to explain that the girls weren't quadruplets or even twins :) I joked that we should have just set up a both and charged everyone a dime. We would have been rich.
Reed turned 30 last week and he had asked for no presents and just a small party. I acquiesced to one of those requests and it wasn't the party. I figured reaching such a milestone deserved a medium-sized party so we invited family and close friends to a cook-out at Highbanks Park. It turned out to be a beautiful evening and the food was delicious. We had specialty brats and sausages, grilled zucchini and portabello mushrooms, pasta and potato salad, watermelon, and for dessert 30 pieces of chocolate covered bacon. Delicious. We had tried chocolate covered bacon at the fair and loved it so I looked up a recipe and it was mucho easy. I had a couple different toppings- almonds, pecans, brown sugar, and coconut. My favorite were the pecans!
Last Thursday I left on a vacation with my family to Buffalo, NY which included trips to Palmyra, Niagara Falls, and Darien Lake. At Darien Lake, an amusement park, I hurriedly rushed Lara and Vivi to the bathroom with my camera in my hand. 5 minutes later I realized I left my camera in said bathroom and ran, and I mean ran, to go retrieve it. Gone. I rushed to the security office to see if someone had returned it and filled out a report. I knew I would never see the camera again. I don't care about the camera, it was on it's last legs. What I want is the SD card. Pictures from the Hill Cumorah Pageant, the girls on the trolley at Niagara Falls and climbing the rocks, from rides at Darien Lake. Pictures I can never get back. Luckily I had recently uploaded past pictures to the computer so I only lost pictures from this trip and I can only laugh at the dishonest people who took my camera. The zoom doesn't work, the button to control the flash doesn't work, the display screen was gradually turning black, and sometimes the lens shutter didn't fully open. Haha, people. If you really needed a camera so badly that you needed to semi-steal one then you deserve it. I just wish you would return the SD card with adorable pictures of my adorable girls on it.
We took a trip to Nauvoo to watch my cousin perform in the Living Legends show at the end of June. Reed and I hadn't been back to Nauvoo since our last youth conference and it had changed a lot! The girls had a blast at an area called Pioneer Pastimes which had 2 miniature log cabins, tables of games, and dress-up. We had to drag them away after 2 hours! Here is a video that we shot of Vivi that makes me so proud. Notice what she is doing while she cleans and takes care of the house? She is singing!
It didn't seem very long ago that Mariella was born but here she is, 1 year old! This picture was taken at Auntie Kimmi's graduation party which took place on Mariella's birthday. She is wearing an outfit given to her by Grandma Piano. Mariella laughed and clapped her hands when she saw it so I think she likes it :)
Mariella is a talkative, smart, happy baby who brings much joy into our lives. Her sisters absolutely adore her and she reciprocates, most of the time :) She especially loves her big sister, Lara, who enjoys taking on the role of "responsible eldest" and makes sure that Mariella doesn't fall down the stairs or stick her hands in the toilet.
Here are a few fun facts about Mariella-
1. She is a blabber-mouth. My goodness, she is going to be a talker.
2. She is my earliest walker so far, starting at 10 1/2 months and getting really good by 11 months. Nooooo!!!!!
3. Like I mentioned before, Mariella loves Lara. She will often wake up and call "Lala?" or walk down the hall yelling "Lala! Lala!"
4. Mariella has definitely been my clingiest baby. I'm sure a lot of it is her personality and I also think it is because I left her side for only 30 minutes when she was admitted to Children's Hospital at a week old. Babies are so impressionable!
5. I think the cutest thing is seeing Mariella fold her arms and say prayers. It makes me feel good that she has seen prayer permeate our lives so much that she has learned at an early age.
I was asked to speak on Mother's Day in church, much to Reed's delight :) I have only given one talk in the almost 7 years we have been married and Reed was NOT liking that. I try to remind him that I bear my testimony every time I participate in a special musical number but I think he was still happy to hear me talk on Sunday. Anyways, one of the ward members said I should share the talk so here it is.
A few weeks ago a well-known figure in the political
world made some inflammatory remarks about the wife of a presidential candidate
and her role as a stay-at-home mom.
Stay-at-home moms everywhere took to social media to denounce these
remarks and to make a stand. Although I
am not a stay-at-home mom, I am a full-time mom and so I was still interested in the debate. As I read the rebuttels, comments, and
passionate remarks, I realized that
there was a bigger picture involved.
Those offensive remarks attacked not only stay-at-home moms but mothers
of all kinds and most of all, those remarks showed the world’s view on
motherhood and that this sacred calling is under attack. This is nothing new. I found numerous talks warning about Satan’s
attack on the home and on mothers, the earliest I saw was by Spencer W. Kimball
but I am sure if I had continued looking there would have been even earlier
ones. Even in the famous Proverb “Who
can find a virtuous woman?” the wording
implies that even back then there was a scarcity of women who were willing to
accept this divine role.
So how can we, as women, keep our testimonies strong
while receiving such negative messages from the media and the world? I want to share some things that I found that
I, myself, want to remember when the going gets rough.
The first is that our role as mothers is a divine
one. It didn’t start with birth and it
doesn’t end in death. It is an eternal
role. The family proclamation states
that “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and
righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and
protection for their families. Mothers
are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” In an address given at a relief society
fireside in 1979, Spencer W. Kimball said “Remember,
in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments
while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do
not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of
what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those things which long ago
were expected of you just as are those we sustain as prophets and
Sheri Dew said in a 2001
conference address- “Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father
blessed His sons with priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling
endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an
unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate. As
President J. Reuben Clark Jr. declared, motherhood is “as divinely called, as
eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.”8
I find comfort knowing that my
role as a mother is an eternal one.
Heavenly Father wouldn’t have given me this terrific responsibility if I
didn’t have the tools needed to succeed.
This leads into the second thought.
We have help. I admit that sometimes it is much easier to
go to work then it is stay at home. And
I work with children so that’s saying a lot!
I get easily frustrated when there’s laundry to do, meals to cook, a
house to clean, tired children, fussy teething babies, etc, etc. I’m sure everyone can put together their own
list. And I have to admit that the
thought has crossed my mind- “why did I pick this when I am clearly not cut out
for this?” It is during times like these
when I really need to remember that I am not alone. From the family proclamation- HUSBAND AND WIFEhave
a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.
“Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm
127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children
in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs,
and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of
God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers
and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these
ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal
plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be
reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.In these sacred responsibilities, fathers
and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. “
grateful I am that Reed and I are a partnership. Not only a partnership between him and I but
between us and God. During the nights
when Reed is at scouts, or working late, or gone for the week at a scout
training, I can always call on my Heavenly Father to help me fill in the cracks. I think my kids know this also since every
once in a while they will pray “Help Mommy to be patient.”
we are needed. In a 1997 conference
address, Jeffrey R. Holland said- Yours
is the grand tradition of Eve, the mother of all the humanfamily, the one who
understood that she and Adamhadto
fall in order that “men [and women] might be”9and that there would be joy. Yours is the grand tradition
of Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel, without whom there could not have been those
magnificent patriarchal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which bless us
all. Yours is the grand tradition of Lois and Eunice and the mothers of the
2,000 stripling warriors. Yours is the grand tradition of Mary, chosen and
foreordained from before this world was, to conceive, carry, and bear the Son
of God Himself. We thank all of you, including our own mothers, and tell you
there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in
the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life
of His daughters and sons, so thatimmortalityand eternal life can come in those celestial realms on
high.” Sheri L. Dew- Every one of us has
an overarching obligation to model righteous womanhood because our youth may
not see it anywhere else. Every sister in Relief Society, which is the most
significant community of women on this side of the veil, is responsible to help
our young women make a joyful transition into Relief Society. This means our
friendship with them must begin long before they turn 18. Every one of us can
mother someone—beginning, of course, with the children in our own families but
extending far beyond. Every one of us can show by word and by deed that the
work of women in the Lord’s kingdom is magnificent and holy. I repeat:We are all mothers in Israel,and our calling is to love and help
lead the rising generation through the dangerous streets of mortality.”
I love this last quote because
she points out that this for ALL women. Women
come in all shapes and sizes, all walks of life, and all have special strengths
and challenges. The divine role of
motherhood is in all of them, no matter what.
I am grateful to my own mother
who embraced her divine role of motherhood.
My mom is a smart, driven woman who could have done anything she wanted
to with her life. In her teenage years
she had a plan to go to college, study music education, graduate, maybe get
married in her late 20’s and maybe have a few kids in her early 30’s. While at BYU she met my Dad and you could say
the rest is history. I am the oldest of
7 children all of whom she homeschooled.
I am glad she changed her mind.
I am grateful for the opportunity
I have to grow in my role as a mother.
Although I hate doing dishes, am not a very good cook, and can’t sew, and
my house usually looks like a tornado hit it, I hope that my children won’t
remember all that. I hope they remember
the tickle fights, the jokes, the dance parties, reading books together. I hope they remember acting out the story of
the Zoramites on the rameumptum. I hope
they remember the spirit that they feel when we sing hymns and primary songs
together. And I hope they know that I
have a testimony of this gospel. I would
like to close with this quote from Ann Romney.
She wrote an article about being a mom of 5 boys for a newspaper and
this is her closing statement.
your mothers. The ones who wiped your tears, who were at every ball game or
ballet recital. The ones who believed in you, even when nobody else did, even
when maybe you didn't believe in yourself.Women wear many hats in their lives.
Daughter, sister, student, breadwinner. But no matter where we are or what
we're doing, one hat that moms never take off is the crown of motherhood.
Lara and Vivi have claimed this chair as their "stage" and frequently sing or play their violins while standing on the arms. No, I haven't started them in lessons yet, they just play with the violins. Since this way is the only way people will see Lara perform, here are a few videos.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I didn't realize that you couldn't watch these videos if the videos are not marked public on Facebook. So here are the actual videos.
Well, it was easy... if you can sew. And I can't. So most of the dresses were made by Auntie Suki who, thankfully, is a very good seamstress. A lot of this was done on vacation! And I'm still not finished with Vivi's because, of course, I had to mess up her dress and it doesn't fit quite right. They still looked cute on Easter although I don't have a picture of Mariella.
*sigh* I am super behind on keeping up with this blog. I will say that I think I have some pretty good excuses. Our month has been waaaaaaayyyyy busy. First week was spring break vacation at Myrtle Beach, so much fun and there will be pictures soon. Second week, I was gone in Grand Rapids, MI for a music therapy regional conference. Third week, Reed was gone at a scout training in Indiana. This week, Just regular life and it is still super busy. But I have super cute kids who have been relatively well-behaved and that makes all the difference! The above picture is from Easter at Nana's house where Grandma Piano and Grandpa Tuba set up an awesome egg hunt for the cousins.
Lara's birthday was a few weeks ago and I'm just now getting around to posting about it. Bad Mommy.
Lara asked for a pink dinosaur cake and, thanks to Pinterest, I found an easy template. I'm not sure why she wanted a pink dinosaur but, hey, it's better than Dora. :)
We ended up moving her party to our church because there were so many family members coming. We loved having everyone there and the cousins enjoyed playing together.
Reed and I thought long and hard about what to give Lara for her birthday. We finally settled on a journal because she loooooooves writing.
Since she is 5, here are 5 facts about Lara.
1. She is smart. No, I'm not just being a proud mother. She is super smart. She loves reading, writing, math, and social studies. Where did she get those studious genes?
2. She is artistic. She definitely draws better than I do. Must have got that from Reed.
3. Lara is a wonderful big sister to Vivi and Mariella. She enjoys pretend-playing with Vivi and has changed diapers on Mariella. Such a big help!
4. Lara is a musical genius. OK, I might be exaggerating that a little bit :). But she does have a good ear for melody and rhythm. It is a very common occurrence at our house for Lara to pull out her guitar and lead us in her own Music Together class. She has already said that she wants to be a music teacher
when she grows up.
5. Lara may be quiet but she is a good friend. I have seen her hug a new girl in her church class to help the girl feel welcome in her new class. She often tries to comfort Vivi when upset, hence the two of them sleeping on the same bed for over a month now. She has such a loving heart and is a great blessing in our lives.
I can't believe that it's been 5 years. We're looking forward to seeing how she grows!
Lara: Daddy, when you were little did you have an iPad?
Reed: Nope, I didn't even have a computer.
Lara, incredulously: What?! You didn't have an iPad, computer, or a laptop?!
Lara: Well, I want an iPad and not just at school.
Reed told her that if she bought it with her own money, she could have an iPad whenever she wanted. (And note that we only 1 out of 3 of those things she mentioned and an iPad or the laptop is not one of them). Sheesh, she's gonna think CD's are ancient.
Recently it came into the news that Heidi Klum and Seal were getting divorced. I was pretty sad since I always root for the celebrity marriages because they always seem doomed. That is, I was sad until I read their reason that was cited for the divorce. "We have just grown apart." If I were a swearing person I would say something else, but since I am not I will just say THAT ISN'T A GOOD ENOUGH EXCUSE! People, WAKE UP! Being married takes work, yes, WORK. One of my favorite books that I read and re-read says that if we had the same mindset of our marriage as we do the other aspects of our lives then our introductions should include "Hi, I'm Valerie, I'm a music therapist and a full-time mom, and I work hard at my marriage."
Reed and I have had several rough patches in our marriage and although the idea of divorce has crossed my mind in those crises, I always come back to the fact that I didn't get married to get divorced and I am better off with him than without him. If I feel like we're growing apart than I need to take responsibility for my part in our marriage. It's nobody else's job. I am committed to our marriage and I know Reed is too.
On a side note, everyone should read All You Need is Love and Other Lies About Marriage.
Reed related this story as told by Vivi's teacher at school.
"We have a picture of a girl with her finger over her lips that we use to help the children know when it's time to be quiet. Vivi had just earned computer time and was playing while I and some fellow teachers were talking. All of a sudden I notice that Vivi is standing in front me with the picture of the girl. She holds up the picture, puts her finger over her lips and emphatically says "Shhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!", then very seriously replaces the picture in it's proper place." Hilarious :)
Lara: Daddy, how do I play this game?
Reed: You have to push the buttons to make all of the lights go out.
Genevieve Noelle is a Christmas Eve baby so I'm just way behind in posting about her birthday. She asked for a dragon cake and luckily I was able to find a simple tutorial on-line. It used a square and a round cake, gumdrops, licorice, and colored frosting.
She was very excited to see the finished product and wanted everyone to know what a dragon sounded like.
We were at the Christmas cabin with the Robinsons and since it was only a few minutes away from my family, they came over for dinner and party. Somehow I didn't get any pictures of her opening her presents. Bummer since she was really cute. She received a dragon pillow pet from Grandma Piano and Grandpa Chips, and Grandma Flute and Grandpa Tuba gave her a Polar Express train set. She was ecstatic for both!
A quick update on the Vivsters-
1. She will start preschool at HHC in a few days. She's ready to say bye-bye to daycare.
2. She started Sunbeams on Sunday and couldn't be happier. Luckily I am in the primary presidency and can make sure there are plenty of wiggle breaks for a very active 3-year-old.
3. She and Lara wear the same size shoe and pretty much share clothes.
4. Not sure how much she actually weighs but probably in the 35 pound range.
5. Love the hair! She has ringlets galore.
6. The girl has one volume- LOUD. And she gives everything 110%.
7. Genevieve brings an enthusiasm and joy into our lives and we are so happy that she is in our family!