Thursday, December 19, 2013

Almost there!

Our halls have been decked since the day after Thanksgiving, and yet I still can't believe how close Christmas is. I keep feeling like I should do more with the kids to help them create memories of the Christmas season. Yet every time I go to start a project, it just seems like I'm forcing it. It feels like I'm adding chaos just for the sake of "tradition", though not even our traditions! So, this final week, we're doing less and just being more. Hopefully the memories of playing, laughing, singing, and snuggling will be even sweeter than a gingerbread house. And hopefully, in all this sweet time together, we can talk even more about Christ--because that is what it is all about, after all.

Friday, December 13, 2013


I think it must be true. Any day is made better with freshly baked cookies. Especially with a face as cute as this to share them with:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


We are getting our first real snow of the season today. 
The past day or two my mind has been heavy with thoughts about serving the Young Women and about our family. But somehow, sitting here with a warm bowl of miso soup, watching the snow fall, my thoughts are simply on the beauty and quiet of this day. That white, falling blanket is such a comfort, and so cleansing. 

I plan on spending many minutes just looking out the windows today. Yes, naturevision; soup; bread; books. My day is planned.

Friday, December 6, 2013

for Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Beautiful Books

We are ever on the look out for new children's books with which to fall in love. In our last library haul, we happened upon THREE we can't stop reading/looking at.

Mary Had  A Little Lamb has been a favorite of Lucy's since she was a baby. We usually pick out a copy illustrated by Tomie dePaola to borrow, but this week we went for one illustrated by Salley Mavor. I am in love. She uses fabric relief to create her illustrations, and it is quite incredible. I love looking at the different materials and fabric patterns/textures she chose for each page.

Charlotte Zolotow is an author I have taken notice of in the past couple years. Like Cynthia Rylant, I have loved pretty much everything we have read by her. However, in her book When The Wind Stops not only is the author wonderful, but the illustrator is wonderful as well. Zolotow, combined with Stefano Vitale, makes for a winning combination. The story is very sweet as you hear a mama and little boy talking about how nothing ends, it just becomes something else.

The third book that caught my attention is one by Nikki McClure called Mama, Is It Summer Yet? While the illustrations in the other two books are fairly whimsical, these illustrations are bold, cut-paper art pieces that are simple yet dramatic. I also love the story of a boy asking his mother over and over, "mama, is it summer yet?" and her responses as she turns him to the cues of nature to seek out his answer.

Another book worth mentioning is by the same illustrator as When the Wind Stops, Stefano Vitale. The Folks in the Valley: A Pennsylvania Dutch ABC by Jim Aylesworth is a fun combination of ABCs review and a look into the simple life of the Pennsylvania Dutch--and you know how we love anything farm-based here!

So, there you have it. Some beautiful books. Any books you have fallen in love with recently?

Monday, December 2, 2013


I took the children to a little park for a picnic the other day. We ate, played, explored, and enjoyed that we had the space all to ourselves. 

After spending some time down by the water at the far end of the park, we turned around to pack things up and I noticed another car had pulled up. Then I noticed the group it had brought. There were three boys and one girl, probably in their late teens or early twenties, all wearing dark, baggy clothing and smoking at the picnic tables without any type of smile or happy conversation among them.

I will admit that my first reaction was to hurry the children along to pack up. We were getting ready to leave anyway, but I wasn't impressed with our new company. We grabbed our blanket, bag, and remaining food, did one last trip down the slide, and were soon all buckled into the van.

As we were preparing to drive away, I glanced at their car and noticed something I didn't expect: a funeral tag hung from their rearview mirror. I looked back to the small group and suddenly I saw them with new eyes. They weren't just a group of angst--filled teenagers looking for a place to smoke and complain about jobs or college classes or the government. They were most likely a close group of friends that were all hurting together, trying to overcome their pain from a loss that affected them all. Their clothes and faces were dark because they were mourning. 

Suddenly, I wished that there was something I could have done besides shuffle my children away. I had quickly judged them and wanted some way to take it back. Although I can't change that day, I hope that I will remember it's lesson far into the future--to be kind, because we truly never know what others are experiencing.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Taking bets.

How long until little man pulls the tree over?
I'm hoping at least a day.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Last night, after a wonderful day with friends, family, and good food, we went through the motions of the bedtime routine. After jammies were on, teeth were brushed, scriptures read, and prayers said, we gave out hugs and kisses and broke into two groups: Marty with the girls to tuck them in with a story, and me with the baby to nurse him to sleep. 

Within a minute or two of getting settled with Ezra, in came a sad Lucy. She just wanted to snuggle with mama. I didn't have the heart to turn her away, so in to bed she came. 

After finishing his story for Dot, Marty came on back and crawled into bed , tired from a long day of helping with the kids (while I cooked and cleaned), and playing host. The four of us scooted around until we were cozy enough and closed our eyes. 

But not for long! Dorothy realized she was all alone, and she is not one to be left out of a party. She crawled up and made space between daddy and baby. There we all were, the five of us, scrunched up together, poking each other with elbows, knees, and toes, sharing the same air, and it was perfect. I fell asleep giving thanks for my sweet, growing brood. It was the perfect end to our day of thanks. 

Or so I thought. I woke up around 9:30, still surrounded by bodies, and decided that I wouldn't feel it was so perfect if we attempted the entire night that way. So I carefully untangled myself and moved the girls both back to their own spots. I also remembered I had bubbling stock to check, so I crept downstairs, checked the stock, and then realized how peaceful the house was. In all that quiet, I made my way to the bookcases, picked out a book, and spent the next hour cuddled up in a blanket doing something I really love: reading without disruption! 

I crawled back into my *more* empty bed around 11, feeling greatful for the TWO perfect endings I was blessed to have on Thanksgiving day. Life truly is good.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


It is raining today. A gloomy, heavy, cold November rain. And I am grateful for it. There will be no part of me that is filled with the urge to pack up all the children and go run an errand or try to entertain ourselves. No. Today will be simple. Pancakes and warm peppermint tea to fill our bellies; the baking of holiday pies; lots and lots of books read snuggled up on the couch. 

The rest of this week has had a pace that I detest. I like to be productive, but not busy. And busy we have been. So today I will look out at the soppy world and enjoy the short list of to dos that will dictate the spending of our time. A little recharge before the house is again filled with extras tomorrow.

Monday, November 25, 2013


We finally had a Saturday with no obligations, so we asked the girls, "what should we do as a family?" They discussed ideas together and then said, " we want to go down to the beach and work on our collections." Our house is turning into a bit of a nature museum with all the little treasures they find scattered about. There are shells, rocks, feathers, and even bones (probably from past turkey dinners--although they SO want to believe they could be dinosaurs). 

The sun was shining, but the biting wind made it feel down below freezing. We wrapped everyone in as many layers as we could convince them to wear, and off we went.
We scoured the beach for a good half hour before our ears were aching and our fingers were feeling a little too numb for fun. But good collections were never made without a little hardship and adventure.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Like a rockstar.

Last night, Marty was off chaperoning a school dance, Isamu was at a hockey game and all night games event, and I was cozy in my jammies at home. I knew how to party. I made some ginger&honey tea, got out my knitting, and put on Pride and Prejudice. That's how I roll.

Friday, November 22, 2013


I always feel the need to get outside as much as possible this time of year. Maybe it is because my body knows the winter months will soon be here. Maybe it is just the smell and crunch of leaves under my feet. Either way, I am glad the children are willing to follow me on these random adventures.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Living on an old pasture, we don't have any established trees on our property. So we are very grateful for our neighbor's huge old maple that drops a boatload of leaves across our property.

These kids are brutal. They'll even attack an innocent photographer. All in the name of fall fun!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


"It was so wonderful to be there, safe at home, sheltered from the winds and the cold. Laura thought that this must be a little bit like Heaven, where the weary are at rest. She could not imagine that Heaven was better than being where she was, slowly growing warm and comfortable, sipping the hot, sweet, ginger tea, seeing Ma, and Grace, and Pa and Carrie, and Mary all enjoying their own cups of it and hearing the storm that could not touch them here."

~from The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, November 18, 2013

Back to October: Pumpkin Carving

I was finally brave enough to attempt pumpkin carving with the children this year. Maybe having a teenager in the house made me feel like it was more doable. Still, I took baby steps. We decided that we would all make one pumpkin together. The girls decided on the face (they went a very traditional route), and everyone that was willing scooped out the innards. Nobody, including the teenager, was actually interested in the knife handling. So this mama took on that responsibility. Gladly. No stitches; smiling faces; one glowing jack-o-lantern. Success!
And while she enjoyed the final product, this was Dorothy's reaction to the carving:
"Mom, it is SOOOOOO STINKY!" My sensitive little bugger. She has also been known to cry while apple picking because of the smell of the smooshed apples on the ground. Baby steps.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Shaking out the grumpy buns.

Every once in a while I have a day, or even a stretch of days, that are just plain grumpy. Everything is annoying. Everyone is annoying. I look forward to bedtime and peace and quiet more than ever. This week was one of those icky yucky stretch of days that I just couldn't shake.

Finally, by Friday I felt like I had turned the corner. But today--this beautiful fall day--TODAY was just plain delicious! We put every other obligation aside and we did what we love most: we got ourselves outside. I have no pictures to document the deliciousness, but my heart will remember it all. Leaving behind my phone/camera was part of the beauty.

The first thing we did was get out for a hike. We crossed wooden bridges over babbling brooks; we identified leaves and trees; we looked at the age of trees by counting tree rings; we told the history behind the rock walls that cover this part of the country; we listened to bird calls. It was enchanting. Really. Sometimes I have a hard time pulling myself out of the woods. I want to put up a little house and stay where I can't see anything but trees.

But we had to come out of the woods when the excitement of nature turned into whines. After a few nibbles and drinks of water, everyone was in good spirits again. We watched a group of mallard ducks swimming along a stream. I couldn't help but giggle at their little orange feet paddling them along.

We decided to take the scenic route home, which lead us right past the farm where uncle T used to live AND where Marty and I had our first date. We knew that T's friend now runs the farm, so we decided to stop in for old time's sake. It just so happened to be a day where they were selling beautiful fall veggies and beef from a cow we actually knew. We became part of the excitement on the farm, walking around to see all the animals, and bringing home an unexpected package of ground beef for future meatballs and spaghetti.

Somewhere along our adventures, I decided that I wanted to have a fire and roast marshmallows to end the day. The only kink in the plan is that we have no fire pit. However, we do have a lot of empty garden this time of year. So the girls and I hauled rocks from around the yard to the empty back garden area and created a make-shift pit. After an early dinner, we headed outside to end the night under the stars, eating smores (Isamu for the first time!), and telling our favorite parts of the day.

I feel like this whole day was a tender mercy just for me. My soul needed some refilling.

My cup runneth over. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Summer Flashback

In August we were able to take a quick trip up to Maine to visit Marty's brother--the REAL farmer in the family (we like to think we are farming down here, but Uncle T shows us what it really means). There is such a Garden of Eden feel on their farm at the height of summer. Within 20 feet from our sweet cabin, I think we had at least 6 different kinds of fruit and an entire vegetable garden growing beautifully.

The children spent their time building forts in the woods, playing around the animals, trying to catch frogs in the pond, and other simple activities. They felt free, and it was fun to watch their creativity and enthusiasm.

Their property came with three cabins already built near the woods, and we stayed in the one closest to the main house. It was so peaceful in our little space that overlooked the majority of the farm. When I would lay down with Ezra for his nap, I was so enchanted with our space I would dream about living in a one room cabin with no electricity. I'm sure in the dead of winter that would get really old, but in August it seemed like a completely reasonable wish.

It is always nice to get back home and to routine, but I was a little sad to drive away from the farm this time. I'm so grateful for such a beautiful place to visit and to experience such a neat and necessary way of life.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Room for one more...

A few weeks ago we had the missionaries over for dinner. As we were chatting, it came up that the new set of sisters our ward would be receiving would need a place to stay for a bit when they first arrived. Marty casually mentioned that we could make room for them if needed, but we didn't really think much about it. However, a few days later we got a phone call. "Brother Vieira, does your offer still stand?" Oh, boy. "Yes!" we said. And then we got to work cleaning and rearranging.

Well, a day or two later we got another phone call from some friends in the ward. "We know of an exchange student from Japan that is still looking for placement. Would you be interested?" No! Absolutely not. Those were my initial gut reactions. But then I started thinking that we should at least pray about it so Heavenly Father could confirm my gut reactions. Always dangerous:) After thinking and praying for a day or two, I told Marty that we needed to make room for one more. We WERE supposed to take in this Japanese exchange student after all. At least we had a few weeks to prepare still.

The sisters moved in with us right before September began. Oh, how I love sister missionaries! It was wonderful to have them in our home. Our children were obsessed and stalked them to no end. I would often find them sitting outside their door in the morning--listening. "Mom! WHAT are those sisters doing in there?! WHEN will they come down for breakfast?!" When that tactic wasn't working they would go out in the front yard and try to see as much as possible through their windows on the second floor. "Mom, I saw one!! She was reading her scriptures!!" All that studying about drove our kids crazy. They couldn't understand why the sisters would not just come down and play with them! I loved it. And Sister Lee and Sister Palmer did, too. They will forever be honorary family members.

We spent a glorious two weeks with the missionaries down the hall. Then, as quickly as they came, they packed up their things and headed on over to their official apartment that was now ready for them. And we were left with one day to get things ready for our new arrival. We scrubbed, and washed, and vacuumed, and rearranged some more. Then, we packed everyone up in the mini van and went to pick up our 15 year old son.

I can already see why Heavenly Father sent Isamu to us for this year. He is just perfect for our family. The first morning, probably still dizzy from the time change, he sat down to show the girls how to do origami. He shows love to our children, he is polite and humble, and he is hard-working. His example will be greatly appreciated all through the year. I can already imagine that I will be sad to see him return home next June. His humility is probably what stands out to me the most. We felt like our offering to him was humble: a bed, desk, and dresser in our busy home. His first response was, "I've never had my own room before! Thank you!" I worried for weeks about what he would like to eat. He has eaten everything put before him without complaint. The fact that we can offer him choices for breakfast is luxury to him. He is used to natto (fermented soy beans) and rice to start every day.

I am learning what it truly means to be humble and grateful through this teenage boy. I am feeling like we have more than we could ever need as I look around at our home. Why is it that I EVER feel like we need more? While he learns English and experiences a new corner of the world, I will be learning what it truly means to simplify and find joy in the abundance of little things that make life so sweet. 

 (new family picture--courtesy of Dorothy)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Let's Review

Tonight during family scripture study:

Marty: Dorothy, what were the names of Nephi's older brothers?

Dot: Laman and.....Lemon oil?

Close enough, my dear:)

Friday, August 9, 2013


Goose is a total Ham. I want to be as funny as her when I grow up:)

Dot's First Talk

Our sweet little Polka gave her first official Primary talk last Sunday. With Marty's recent release, we were both free to watch her and support her on her special day. (As a side note, Marty was called in as the Young Men's President for our ward--in case you were wondering!). Dorothy literally spent hours preparing her talk. She and I spent time brainstorming and talking. Then she and Marty spent more time together on it as she drew a picture for each part. She insisted on not only drawing a picture, but also writing out each piece. I am so proud of her for wanting to go the extra mile. Here she is with the final product.

"Heavenly Father hears and answers my prayers"
 "Before we eat"
"Before long trips"
(I love that this particular long trip is in a covered wagon)
"When we need comfort"
(she wanted to draw Christ coming to her when she is crying)
"To keep us safe and warm"
(this is when the power went out during last winter's blizzard. She remembered praying and then before we fell asleep the power came back on."
"When I pray I am talking to God."
"Morning Prayers"
"Understand scriptures"
(she ended by saying that our prayers can help us better understand the scriptures and find answers.)

What a neat experience to watch the testimony of such a sweet little spirit develop. I am feeling so blessed to be a mother and to have these experiences.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Art Folders

For the time being, our dining room has become the official art station. We have moved meals to the kitchen nook, and the girls have free reign to draw, paint, cut and glue, and create to their heart's content. While I love this arrangement for many reasons, I do NOT love when the floor becomes so littered with discarded pictures that we are all slipping and sliding across it. So, on a recent trip to Target, I let the girls each pick an art folder to hold their favorite pieces.

I love how their personalities come through in their choices. My serious little artist, Dorothy, chose the artsy looking white with paint splotches. My silly and care-free little artist, Lucy, chose the Yoga Dogs--and could not be persuaded otherwise! 

Now our dining room floor is a bit cleaner, safer, and I find a reason to smile every time I see their folders.