Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reading Journal: How to Get Your Child to Eat (But Not Too Much)

Basic Ideas:

There is a division of responsibility when it comes to your child's eating.

YOU are responsible for providing meal structure, scheduled meals and snacks, and a nice eating environment.  YOU are responsible for selecting what foods are available.  Kids have small stomachs and need to eat every 3 or so hours, so plan accordingly.

YOUR CHILD is responsible for choosing if, what, and how much to eat of what is available when it is available.  

Never, ever bribe, beg, or cajole your child to eat.  Let them choose.  Left to their own devices, kids are actually pretty good regulators of their own nutritional intake.  (As long as they don't have unfettered access to sugary foods.)

Make sure that you're reasonable in providing some food that your children will eat, particularly for snacks.  At mealtimes,  Satter recommends putting bread or something similar on the table so that if your child doesn't like anything else being served, he or she can at least fill up on bread.

If you're having dessert, serve it along with the rest of the dinner.  Everyone gets just one serving.   Usually the kids will eat their dessert first, but upon realizing they are not filled up by dessert, they will eat the other foods too.  This prevents overeating in order to get dessert, and then eating dessert on an already-too-full stomach.

It takes a while for kids to get used to a new food.  They may have to see it and smell it many times before they'll taste it.  They may have to taste it several times before they like it.  Allow them to explore without pressure.


I read this book because I got tired of feeding my kids snacks on demand and then watching them pick at their meals.  It all makes good sense to me and I'm trying to get better at incorporating the principles and not letting my kids always decide what they're going to eat and when.  I wish that I had done this from the very beginning with my boys, though, because bad habits die hard.

Monday, April 22, 2013

In Loving Memory: Mice

In March of 2012, Briar and I brought home a ferret from PetCo  I wanted to name him Gordon, after the spiky-haired tattooed salesguy who helped us pick him out.  But when Liam saw him running around he called out "Mice!" and the name stuck.  Mice was also frequently referred to as "Briar's Rat," "That Rat," or "The Ratling."   (According to Soren, his full name was Mice Mice Gordon Ratling Skousen.)

Mice enjoyed stealing socks, slippers, small toys, and other small miscellaneous items and stashing them in his hiding places in the loveseat and under a drawer in the kitchen.  In one stash raid, Briar uncovered thirty two socks that he had quietly collected.  He loved being let loose in the house at night and would run around with his back arched, making a quiet happy squeaking noise while he gathered up things for his nests.

Mice spent many a happy hour cuddling with Briar, delighting and amusing her with his cuteness and antics. Soren thought it was amazing when they took him outside for a walk one day and his tail puffed up gigantically with excitement.  Liam made it a point to give him a kiss every morning.

Mice became ill on a Sunday night a few weeks ago.  He stopped eating and running around.  We took him to the vet on Tuesday, who said that he had an intestinal obstruction and had to have a surgery.  The surgery revealed three chunks of hackey sack that had been clogging up his stomach and small intestine.  Unfortunately, he didn't recover from the surgery and passed away two days later.

We'll miss you, Mice Micey.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Slice of Monte's Life

This is a friend of ours who is trying to win a scholarship for his next semester of college.  Please "like" this video on YouTube.  The person with the most "likes" wins!


In Loving Memory: Charlene

Charlene was born to a timid grey tabby in 1997.  We got her from a friend of mine who told me that her father was a murderous tomcat who stalked the neighborhood where she lived, a mean cat with a little black mustache and a brutal reputation that earned him the nickname Hitler.

Charlene took after her dad, mostly.  As a kitten she ran wildly around the house, attacking anything that moved.  You would be innocently walking across the house, minding your own business, and she would grab onto your ankles with her needle-like claws and hold on tight while you tried to walk.  I imagine she looked something like a tiny supplicant begging for mercy.

She never purred.

We heard that having a batch of kittens would sometimes mellow out a cat, so we let Charlene have one batch of kittens before she was spayed.  She was a terrible mother, and motherhood did not mellow her out at all.

When Abraham and I moved in with my parents after graduating from college, we brought with us a little button quail named Braveheart.  That button quail became the bane of Charlene's existence.  She spent hours staring at his cage, calculating ways to bring about his demise and subsequent consumption.  When her machinations proved fruitless, she fell into a deep depression, sleeping excessively and urinating on the furniture, something she'd never done before.  When Braveheart passed away in 2006, her depression immediately lifted.

My mom had another cat for a while, an orange tabby kitten named Tigger.  Charlene hated him, too.  When Tigger was hit and killed by a car a few months after arriving at my parents' home, we all suspected Charlene had lured him into the road when she saw the oncoming vehicle.

Over the years, Charlene mellowed out quite a bit.  She was never friendly with small children, but she did spend long hours sitting on my mom's and dad's laps.  My best memories of Charlene come from the wee hours of the night, when I would get up to take care of infant Soren.  She was always up during the night with me, winding around my legs while I changed Soren's diapers.  During those times she would purr an audible purr, which from her was as rare and beautiful as a blue moon.  It was nice to have a little company during those long nights.

Charlene enjoyed mousing and napping in sunbeams.  She became ill a few weeks ago and passed away in my parents' home at the age of 16.  She was a good, albeit cantankerous, kitty and we will miss her.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Brothers: April 2013

Hanging out in their fort.   

Engaged in a very intense game of Risk.   

Soren thanking Liam for being the one who got into trouble this time.  

Bed time with Daddy.  

Armored wrestling.  


Monday, April 15, 2013

Soren Update: April 2013

One night for Family Home Evening we were playing a game about safety.  I had Abe, Liam, and Soren line up on the edge of the rug and explained that I would ask them each a question about safety.  If they answered the question correctly, they would be able to take a step forward.  If they answered the question incorrectly, they would have to take a step back.  The first one to make it to the other side of the rug would be the winner.

I started with Daddy.  "You're playing in the neighborhood when you look up and realize you don't recognize any of the houses.  You don't know how to get back to your house.  What do you do?"

"Call someone on my cell phone," answered Daddy.

So we had a little discussion about what a child would do in said circumstances, and I moved on to Liam.

"Liam, I said.  What is your full name?"

"Four!" he answered confidently.

So we had a little discussion about that.

Then it was Soren's turn.

"Soren, you find a power strip and use it to plug in as many electrical devices as you possibly can.  Is that safe?  Or unsafe?"

Soren burst into tears and ran out of the room.

I followed the sound of the slamming bedroom door and found Soren sprawled out on a mattress, covered in a blanket, sobbing and moaning.  "I'm never going to win!" he shouted.  "I hate this stupid game!"

I realized immediately that he thought that because the scenario I had given him was an unsafe scenario, it meant he would have to take a step back.  It took a lot of fast talking, but I was finally able to persuade him to return to the game, answer the question correctly, and take a step forward.

And that scenario pretty much sums up our family.

Soren read a whole story all by himself!  Here, he's reading it to Grandma.  

My mother was delighted when Soren sat down with her one day to tell her all about his previous night's dream.  She, in turn, told him about her dream and they had a lovely conversation.  "It was the cutest thing!  He's just becoming a real person!" she said. 

  At our house, we party in our underpants.  

Soren lost his first tooth!  Bottom left, from his perspective.  I noticed it was missing while he was having a bath one morning and was horrified that he had lost a tooth and no one had told me.  Turns out he swallowed it while eating an apple.  The tooth fairy couldn't come and take a swallowed tooth, so I just gave him a dollar as a congratulations.  This was about as normal a lost-tooth-displaying pose as I could persuade him to strike.  

Decorating Easter eggs. 

Being his usual vivacious self.  

At some point during the last couple of months, Soren decided to throw both his box fan and his tower fan out his second-story window.  I no longer remember the circumstances behind said throwing, but I think he did it when he was mad about having to go to his room for some infraction or another.  We didn't discover the thrown fans until bedtime, when I went to turn one on for some white noise.  Let's just say that was a less-pleasant bedtime.

Soren does this obscene dance move that involves sticking his rear end out and spanking it repeatedly.  I've told him he probably shouldn't do this move at school.  I swear he did not learn it from me.

One night as I was tucking Soren into bed, he told me, "I can't decide if I love you.  Sometimes I love you and sometimes I don't."  I told him I was pretty sure he always loved me but sometimes he didn't like me and sometimes he did.  "That's how I feel about you!" I told him.

One evening when I was cooking dinner, I sliced off a slice of cheese for Soren with the same knife I had used to chop up a jalapeno.  He thought the "spicy cheese" was FABULOUS and borrowed part of a sliced jalapeno, rubbing it on everything he ate for the rest of the evening.  He informed me that he really wanted a jalapeno for his next birthday.

Soren and I were talking about the kids in his kindergarten class (I volunteer in his classroom for an hour twice a month).  I said, "Do you know who I just love?"  and he asked, "Who?"  "Raina!" I said.  "Ohhhhh!  Me too!" he said, girlfriend-style.  "She's so sweet!"

Soren told me one night that Daddy had told him they didn't have school on Friday because the teachers needed a break from the kids.  "But that's not true!" he said.  "I know Mrs. Hayes loves me."

Soren thinks it's hilarious to say "Ibegofyou!" when asking for something.  I thought it was funny too....the first 90 times.

For Christmas we gave Soren a kid camera.  That was the best fifty bucks we ever spent.  He spends so much time with that thing...taking pictures, making videos, recording audio, and playing the little games programmed onto it.

During prayers, Soren frequently blesses "the multiverse-- and ALL the multiverses."

One day Soren sat down with Liam and drew several pictures.  Then he pointed at each picture and asked Liam what it was.  At the end of this session, he said, "You may go.  Thank you for testing!"

One day I came home from work to discover that Liam's fingernails had been painted, his hair had been very unevenly trimmed, and he smelled like hairspray.  Soren told me he'd been trying to make him look handsome.  

Our three-year-old neighbor girl, whom Soren calls "Ackdonald" (her name is Aidaneh), came over one day and built something out of the boys' cardboard bricks.  She told Soren she had a surprise for him and brought him into the room to show him.  He was soooo sweet.  "Wow Ackdonald!" he said.  "I like how you made this!  This is the best surprise in the whole world ever!"

Soren came home from school one day while Liam and I were out walking.  He was only alone for a few minutes, but he totally took charge of the situation.  He found my phone, then dug through a drawer full of papers to find one with his address and my phone number, and tried to call me.  He got a busy signal both times.  When I finally walked in, he demanded to know who I'd been talking to that whole time.

For Valentine's day I gave each of the boys a small heart-shaped box of chocolates.  Soren hurried and ate his dinner, then snuck off to his room to eat his Valentines where Liam wouldn't see him.  He bit into one and then came running into the kitchen, "Oh, Mommy!  These are so good!  They're like crushed-up skittles wrapped in chocolate!"  He rhapsodized similarly for each candy.    

Speaking of Valentine's day, I should remark here that Abe and the boys were very good to me for V day this year.  They cleaned up the house, bought me flowers, and cooked dinner.  When I walked in from work the boys popped out from behind a chair and shouted, "surprise!"  Best surprise in the whole world ever!

While reading about the original Passover in our illustrated Bible stories book, Soren remarked that he thought it was a little strange that Jesus would just kill all those people.  "I agree," I told him.  "It seems weird to me too.  I don't really understand it."  Soren thought for a while and then smiled.  "I know!" he said.  "After the Pharaoh lets the Israelites go, he'll resurrect all of the sons!"  That would be the fair thing to do.  Hope that's what God did.

Soren never, ever, ever lets my life get boring.  What would I ever do without him?  Sure love that kid.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Liam Update: April 2013

Last week I read an article about preparing your family for General Conference.  It described several families with young children who had established families traditions to help their children enjoy conference and begin at an early age to listen to the words of the prophet and apostles.  "That's what I want for my family!" I said.  "We can do those things!"  So I began prepping the kids for Conference, telling them how wonderful it would be.  I removed the centerfold picture of all the general authorities from the most recent conference Ensign so they could try to pick out the speakers.  I borrowed some candy from Briar to use as rewards for the kids' hearing key words like "prayer" or "temple."  Conference time finally came.  I will spare you the gory details, but let's just say that our general conference didn't go like the Ensign article's general conference.  Let's just say that the first session culminated with Soren declaring venomously that he didn't care about "the stupid President Monson," he cared about jelly beans.    Let's just say that Mommy's energy drained from her body and she ended up curled on the couch in the fetal position while the boys hunched over the bowl of jelly beans like couple of predators with a fresh kill.

I completely changed my game plan for the afternoon session.  I decided to clean up the kitchen and cook a nice dinner while the children played a computer game.  I got a lot more out of the second session.  But then no one would eat the nice dinner.  Not even Abe.

So I retreated to the basement, where I deteriorated into a hysterical ball of tears and giggling.  Abe sat at my feet, patting my legs and wondering if maybe I didn't have PMS.  Finally, Liam heard the commotion and made his way very carefully down the stairs.  Standing in the doorway, he looked in with grave concern on his face.  "Mommy crying?"  he asked.  "Mommy sad?"   "Oh, it's okay, sweetie," I told him, trying to look happy.  He broke into a sunshine smile and toddled over to the couch, climbing up and snuggling with me.  "Okay, Mommy," he said, all sparkly eyes and rosy cheeks.  He gave me a great big hug and a kiss and all my frustrations melted away.  I'm so grateful for our little angel.

Last month Liam started attending the special education preschool offered by the school district.  They did some testing on him and were like, "Oh!  Hey!  This four-year-old is more like a two-and-a-half-year-old!  He could probably benefit from some special education!"  And so off he goes, for two hours a day, two hours a week, which seems to me to be just about right.

Here he is on his very first day of school:

About to leave!

Here in the classroom!  

(Soren is behind Liam in both pictures because I couldn't get Liam to stop rocking back and forth between his feet, so Soren volunteered to hold him in place for me.  Also, the very bad haircut is a buzz cut that resulted from a very-close-to-the-scalp-in-places haircut that Soren gave him.)

....and this was his very first bus ride!  He panicked for just a moment when I started to walk away, but then calmed down and looked out the window.  "Bye Daddy!" he said, waving at Abe.

He's only been able to go to school a handful of times, due to Parent/Teacher Conference and Spring Break, and he can't really tell me much about what's going on or how he feels about it, which causes me a little anxiety.  However, Briar texted me one day to say that when he got off the bus one day,  he marched up the steps into the house excitedly, shouting to me about how his day was.  I asked her what he was saying and she responded, "Well, it was something like, 'Mommy!  Hwwgwf!  Jfeddh!  And so on.'"  But it seemed to be positive, so I took that to be a good sign.

Eating a bowl of "pillow cereal" (frosted mini wheats.)  

Ready for a fiesta. 

Wearing Mommy's makeup.  

Pretending that he, too, has lost a tooth (Soren lost his first tooth!) 

"Wootch dis, Mommy!"  He likes to have his remote control truck do flips off the couch.  

Just being adorable.  

Helping me crisp some chickpeas.  

Dyeing Easter eggs.  

Some other notes:

One week someone had just begun to say the closing prayer in Relief Society when Liam came bursting through the front door. He spotted me immediately and rushed over, face glowing, chubby hands clutching the birthday gift he had received in Primary that day.  "Bertday!"  he shouted, oblivious to the setting.  My friend Shacone leaned over and remarked, "I think that's the cutest thing I've ever seen!"  Agreed.

Liam has periodic bursts of runny stools that will sometimes last for weeks.  They come and go and are never tied to any other symptoms, so we've always just kind of waved them off as being a kid thing.  A month or so ago, however, we decided it might be best to have him tested for allergies and a possible gluten sensitivity (Abe's mother and a couple of his siblings have Celiac disease).  So we went to the doctor and they had to do a blood draw.  Liam was an absolute dream during the whole procedure.  He lay very quietly and very still on the soft exam table.  He didn't cry at all when they poked him.  He waited patiently while they filled three little vials with his blood.  He just seemed so meek and humble and submissive.  It both warmed and broke my heart.

One night during family prayers, Soren was saying the prayer.  He was going through the usual litany of family members, blessing Mommy and Daddy and Soren and Liam and Briar and Mice Mice, but while he was listing people, Liam kept whispering a prompt to him: "Clee! Clee!"  He wanted to make sure that Soren blessed their Auntie Collette.

At dinner I very gracefully managed to cut my thumb on a serrated knife.  Liam made sure to kiss my owie better.  Thrice.

Liam loves a toy guitar that Soren received for his birthday.  It doesn't make a very musical noise, but he'll sit and strum it while I sing songs.  One day I heard him sitting alone in his room, strumming and singing by himself.

Liam's version of striking up a conversation goes like this:  "Uh, Mommy?"  "Yes?"  "Uh, cars, a trucks, a air-panes, a cookies, and nuffing."  He will repeat this statement (and similar ones) ad nauseum until you repeat it back in acknowledgment.

When Liam doesn't get his way, he'll often hang his head in sad disappointment and walk slowly to his bedroom.  One day when I told him "no" he lay down on the floor and rested his head on his hands.  Pretty adorable.

Liam's favorite thing in all the world is to be chased around.  At home it's a fun game, but he particularly enjoys running away from me in public settings, giggling wildly. Church, parking lots, stores...it's all fair game.

His second favorite thing in the world is covering his eyes while I wonder aloud where my little boy has gone.  He'll uncover his face with an "air-ee-is!" and laugh at my surprise that he was right there the whole time.  He will play either of these games on continuous repeat for as long as someone is willing to participate.

Liam is shockingly good at hitting a regular-sized baseball with a regular-sized bat.

Liam is never thirsty; he is, however, often "hungry for water."

I love this child!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Liam is FOUR

 Abe made these hang-from-the-ceiling decorations at my request.  I thought they were quite darling.  He said he thought they looked like we had hung pieces of garbage from the ceiling.  

 Abe wrapped Liam's presents in news roll paper and had the boys decorate the gifts.  


This is the first somewhat effort-requiring birthday cake I have ever made.  It is a bit rough around the edges, but Liam loved it.  


 The world's cutest boys.  

 Liam was very excited to see Grandma and Grandpa.  He ran to the door when they came in, exclaiming, "Meeum's Birthday!"

I think Abe must have arranged this photoshoot and prompted his adorable poses.  


The cousins brought themselves.   


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