Women are like lionesses at the gate of the home. . . . She guards that gate, and things matter to that family if they matter to her. . . . Sisters, you are each like the lioness at the gate. This means that there has to be some prioritizing. I was taught years ago that when our priorities are out of order, we lose power. If we need power and influence to carry out our mission, then our priorities have to be straight.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Happy Boy

I guess if you have to be sick in the summer, being sick when the Olympics are on is the right time to do it.  You don't feel so bad about laying on the couch watching 15 hours of TV, 'cause your kids are getting educated in geography, humanities, sportsmanship, counting and numbers - you name it.  There are never-ending educational opportunities with the Olympics!

And your kids can have a blast trying to re-create the current sport being broadcast in your living room.  My kids especially love duplicating the swimming strokes.  And crazy gymnastics moves.  This may result in a trip to the emergency room later.

This boy is making me happy today while I lay miserable on the couch.

Who can be too miserable with that around? 

Remember when I hosted the Winter Olympics?  Here's a glimpse into our Summer Olympic fun:

I wish I would have taken more pictures.  Oh well.  We had fun and it was a sweet preschool reunion for me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Summer of Letters

Today I looked like a confused tourist.  Snapping pictures while sitting at stop lights, in parking lots, and inside stores.  The kids excitedly pointing and squealing and begging me to "take a picture of this one, Mommy!"

We were the letter A paparazzi.  And boy, did we hound that letter!  There was no hiding place too obscure, no size too small, no font too obscure for our well-trained eyes.  (And no amount of embarrassment to prevent the photo taking either.)

Our "Summer of Letters" started off with a bang today.  Look for us on more letter scavenger hunts around town.  No letters are safe!

Also included in our summer term:

* Practicing writing our names (R - letters in her name, S - capital to start, lowercase the rest)
Although, I personally like their signatures just fine the way they are.  And I am NOT looking forward to the day when Shae stops writing her S like a 2.  Plus, she prefers to write her favorite nickname: "2HAE2HAE" instead of Shaelyn.  Handwriting to me is like an indicator of childhood being left behind.  
And this Momma's not ready.

* Pencil holding in all its glory (complete with some really new awesome pencils and pencil grips)

* Plus non-letter-related fun with our newest subscription to Kiwi Crate!  
Read a really great review of Kiwi Crate here.
Or visit the official Kiwi Crate site here.
(But if you're going to subscribe, tell me first, because I can get you a referral discount.)

Happy Summer Schooling!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Living Out Fantasies

So here I am thinking that I'm all original figuring out Katniss' wrap-around braid and duplicating it on myself.

Only to get out to Utah and find that every girl under the age of 25 is doing their hair like that every day.

Maybe that's why one of the camp counselors at the family camp we went to thought I was either part of the teens or young adult group.

Ok, let's be honest.  It wasn't just the braid.  Although I'm sure that didn't help matters.  Maybe when I'm an old lady people will finally believe that I'm an adult.

However, the Katniss braid was crucial for the mid-morning activity.

I guess I'm the girl on fire in this picture.  Or a ghost.

It's a dang good thing I don't have to rely on my ability to put an arrow through an animal's eye to eat, 'cause I'd starve to death.  Not only due to my horrible aim, but also my lack of upper-body strength.  Nothing will make you feel more out of shape than realizing that you can't even pull the string back on the bow without your arms breaking into convulsive shakes.  (Maybe that contributed to the poor aim...)

If I'm ever reaped into the Hunger Games, do me a favor and delete all the words that accompany these pictures.  'Cause the pictures by themselves (without the honest commentary) are something Ceaser Flickerman could work with.  They'd get me a 6 alone, don't you think?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Family Outing

To kick-off the summer, the Aagard family ransacked the shoe department of our local Target.

PS - I have the ugliest feet in the world, but the shoes are cute, right?  
(And a pedicure wouldn't hurt, either...)

PPS - Michael was taking a nap during the making of this post.

PPPS - Yes, Christian is WALKING!!!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Miss Shelley Presents

I am so proud of these girls.  

Proud of the shy ones who overcame fears this year.  

Proud of the crazy ones who buckled down and got serious this year.  

Proud of the new ones who made new friends this year.  

Proud that when I say words like "battement" and "en bas" they know exactly what I'm talking about.

They were very excited about tonight.  I was too.  

I'm so pleased with how it turned out.  Thank you to all who made it a success!

(It takes a certain kind of man to be married to a woman like me.  I am very lucky.  A big thank you to my sweet husband who ran errands, climbed ladders, prepped and cleaned, and most importantly, calmed me down.  I couldn't do any of this without him.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

One Room Down

Only 10 more to go!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Updates for the Grandparents

I'm kinda sick of blogging.  The older my children get (and the more of them we have), the more private I want my life to be.  But for our extended family, this is a sad proposition.  Because our kids' grandparents live all the way across the country, and only really get to see their grandkids via technology like Skype and this here blog.

So to update the interested grandparents:

Shaelyn has started taking piano lessons.  She's had a grand total of 1 lesson so far.  She is so excited.  We set a goal for her to practice every day for 10 minutes, but she has probably practiced more like 30-40 minutes each day, because she feels the need to put on a performance each time she practices.  (Why didn't I see this coming?!)  She sets up little chairs, sends us invitations, and invites us all to come see her amazing skills at playing the high notes and the low notes.  She even emcee's for herself, and her intro is always the same: "Ladies and gentlemen.  For the first time ever, Shaelyn will play the piano for you!  Please clap for her!"

She still mixes up her right hand and left hand, and ends up singing "I play all the high notes" when she's playing with her left hand.  But I have been so impressed with what she has mastered in a week.  She can tell you, and in great detail, all about middle C, measures, quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes.  We put a sticker on middle C on our keyboard at home.  (She chose a watermelon sticker - it was so random it made me laugh.)  She prides herself in being able to find the right keys to play on the keyboard based on where middle C is, and she's right every time.

I'm interested to see if this level of excitement continues after next week's lesson.

Funny/cute story:
While driving in the car one day, Shaelyn was drawing pictures of different seasons and holding them up so I could see them.  I was praising her for her work when she announced, "Hold on, Mommy.  I'm going to draw a picture that you're going to love.  You're going to love it so much it will make you cry."  She then drew a picture of me and her doing ballet together.
Does that girl have my number or what?

Rachelle has blossomed recently and seems very old to me lately.  Her vocabulary has noticeably increased and her long hair makes her look more like her big sister.  I have stopped thinking people are stupid when they ask me in public if my girls are twins, because I have confused her for her big sister on a number of occasions.  She has mastered her ABC's visually this month and I am very proud of her.  She loves coloring and can keep herself occupied for an hour or more coloring in her coloring books.  Her coloring skills have also increased dramatically and I can barely distinguish her work from her big sister's.  She has also really stepped it up in ballet and is going to be in the recital this month - if she isn't too shy once the audience is all there watching.  She is definitely my shy kid.

She has become a big fan of Blue's Clues and likes to draw clues in her "notebook."  She sings along with the show and loves when they sit down in the thinking chair to "think, think, thi-i-i-i-nk."  I think the big draw for her to this show is the fact that Blue is a puppy.  She is still a big animal lover.  I took her to a pet store the other day while Shaelyn was in school and we spent 2 hours looking at all the puppies, kitties, bunnies, birds, and fishies.  She will probably be a vet or zookeeper when she grows up.

Funny/cute story:
While driving around, Rachelle has noticed that several people have Clemson Tiger paws on their cars.  But to Rachelle, these aren't Clemson paws, they are Blue's Clues paws.  So she will excitedly announce, "Mommy, there's a clue!" and then draw the car in her notebook.
Love that girl!

Christian is not yet walking, but is on the verge.  He has taken his first steps, but with his laid back personality, he just isn't tenaciously striving for walking (or any motor skill) the way his sisters did.  I am perfectly OK with this.  He can stand up in the middle of the room from a sitting position without holding on to anything, and can balance like this for days.  A few times now, he has stepped forward once or twice before deciding that crawling is much faster and will get him to the toy he wants.  And when you have two big sisters constantly hovering over you, speed is of the essence.

He is, however, a little chatterbox and loves to sing and talk to me.  He has 7 teeth and his smile is the cutest thing you've ever seen.  He loves to make animal noises, and his two favorites are howling at the moon, and braying like an elephant.  He also loves to say "uh-oh" and has that word on auto-repeat all day.  He loves blowing and giving kisses, and has to kiss each member of the family before bed.  His favorite thing to do is to read books - with me or by himself.  He loves to turn the pages and point at everything he knows on the page.  He can sit still for a very long time to hear his favorite book read over and over and over.  (His current favorite book is "This is the Way" - thanks Grandma!)  He will bring it to me to read to him and curl up in my lap with his head resting on my chest without any coaxing from me.

He is definitely a momma's boy.

Funny/cute story:
There is an elephant on the first page in his favorite book, and he loves it when I make an elephant sound.  Recently he has realized that there are elephants to be found all over the place in our house, and has delighted in constantly braying with spit flying everywhere.  So you can imagine his delight when he realized that his lovey blanket and his stuffed animal that he sleeps with are both elephants!  I love watching him sleepily bray at them before he decides to suck his thumb and drift to sleep.
He is the sweetest baby on the planet.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Different Colored Eggs

Today I was playing baseball in the backyard with the kids.  Shaelyn was pitching, I was hitting, Rachelle was twirling, and Christian was eating all the clover flowers he could find.  (There's a lot to find.)  We had just bought a new ball and bat today for me and Shaelyn to play with.  They both are made from very lightweight foam and the ball doesn't really travel - in fact it's hard to even pitch it right.

So leave it to me to hit it over the fence into our backyard-neighbors' yard.

Yes, that's right.  The neighbor whom I've talked to only 3 times in the 6 years that we have lived here.  The neighbor who comes from another country and speaks with a heavy accent.  The neighbor who keeps her yard in disarray, who's killed all her grass, who never edges her part of the sidewalk so weeds grow all over it.  The neighbor who has recently procured some chickens.

That neighbor.

The neighbor whose laundry I look at through my dirty windows and proclaim it to be unclean, so to speak.

The few times I have spoken to her, she has been very nice.  And I've learned a few things about her.  She comes from Jordan.  She is an avid gardener (despite the lack of grass).  She has 4 children and 3 grandchildren.

Yet in spite of those friendly interludes, I hesitated going over to retrieve the ball from her backyard.  I was close to telling Shaelyn to forget it, that the ball was lost forever, when I saw her eyes brimming with tears.

So I gathered my little ducks and we paraded over to the backyard-neighbors' house.  She greeted me with a hug.  Remembered my name.  And my daughter's names.  And that Christian had just turned 1, because her granddaughter and he are only 2 days apart in age.  She proudly trotted us out the backyard to get the ball, showing us all the new things that were growing in her multiple gardens.  She had us meet the chickens, showed us where she had built various pens and fencing and coups.  She told me of how she had called the city, called our HOA, and had made sure she was meeting all the requirements for having chickens in her backyard.

Then she invited me in to her home, and showed me pictures of all her kids and grandkids.  Told me of where they live and work.  Her sons are all successful in science fields, like computer programming and bio engineering.  Her daughter is a stay-at-home-mom.  She told me how beautiful I was, how beautiful my kids are, how much she loves being my backyard neighbor and hearing their little voices, their little laughter, their little shrieks of life while she's working in her garden.

She told me of her job, how she cares for a mentally and physically handicapped boy all day.  She showed me pictures of him.  And talked so lovingly of him I would have thought she was his own mother.

As I went to leave, she bestowed me with numerous gifts.  Fresh eggs from her chickens.  Branches from her rosemary plant.  Handfuls of honeysuckle flowers for the girls to suck on.  She told me to not be a stranger, to come over any time, and hugged me and each one of my children as we left.

When we got home, I made fresh scrambled eggs for the kids.  And I put the 2 we didn't eat in the carton with my other store-bought eggs.  The difference in appearance is striking.  The pristine, perfectly white, all uniform eggs next to the two brown, spotted, uniquely shaped eggs.  And yet, the "different looking" eggs tasted so much better.

Shame washed over me.  Based on outward appearance only, my backyard neighbor is different.  And certainly her choice in how she maintains her yard is an outward appearance for the whole neighborhood to see.  Even though Michael and I aren't the best at keeping our yard looking award-winning, I will admit the condition of our neighbor's yard has caused us some consternation over the years.

And although I don't avoid her because of the state of her yard, if I'm being honest, I do avoid her because of her thick accent and different customs and the thought that we don't have much in common.  It's much easier to be friends with my neighbors who live like I live, who do things the way that I do things, who eat the same foods I eat.

And yet my neighbor is an egg with a rich flavor.  She has a big heart.  She loves her children.  She serves others.  She knows much more about living off the land than I could ever hope to.  She's a hard worker.  And she's very giving.

How much have I, or for that matter our neighborhood, been missing out on by only choosing the eggs that look/sound/act like me?  How much richer could my life have been these last 6 years if I had washed my own windows, gotten over my own fear of the different, and extended friendship sooner?

And I realized, yet again, that I still have a lot to learn about being compassionate.  About seeing strengths and ignoring weaknesses.  About finding similarities and celebrating differences.

About truly loving the way that God loves.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If I had a Facebook page...

... here would be my two latest status updates:

Yesterday I got a drink from the FUTURE!
You see, technology is taking over everything, including soda fountain dispensers in restaurants.  (This will also tell you how much we eat out.  Read: NEVER.)  I took the kids to Moe's on a whim to get some kinda-decent Mexican food that was not cooked by me.  When I walked over to where the drink dispenser usually was, I found myself confused.  There was a tiny (comparably) red Coke machine that looked like it would give you only ice.  Only upon inspection did I realize that it was a touch-screen, and that it could basically deliver on any drink your heart could conjure.

Lemonade?  Yes please!  Which flavor?  Orange, grape, raspberry, strawberry, lime...?

When it delivered a perfectly balanced strawberry lemonade, I wanted to hug it.

Shaelyn called it an iPad that gives you drinks.

I contributed to a Presidential campaign for the first time.
I have never financially supported a candidate, but Mitt just had the perfect sticker for my car.  (Whoops, my policy to keep my blog politics-free just went right out the window...)

Can I add Ann Romney to my short list of heroes?  Right now, that list only includes Marjorie Hinckley and, of course, Julie Beck.  But pretty soon it might include a classy First Lady.  And I'm not talking about the one who likes to show off her toned arms.

I really hope when I'm a grandma, I can have a birthday video like this made for me.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Cake

I didn't necessarily intend for my babies' first birthday cake to become The First Birthday Cake.  But they have.  And so far, the cakes have captured something about that baby.  Their personality or a nickname or what has represented them for the past year.

So trying to come up with something for The Boy was hard.  Especially knowing that we would be camping on his birthday and I wouldn't have hours on end to devote to making a cake.  But beyond that, what really defined him?  I call him The Boy, or Little Boy - what kind of cake does that evoke?  He must have something in his right hand at all times - usually a marker or a wooden peg or something cylindrical - so was a long cylinder cake in order?  He's by far the happiest, most contended little baby on the planet - so I seriously considered just a big smiley-face cake.

But what I came up with (with the help of some design coaching from a friend) was perfect.  It was quick and easy.  It was cute.  It had toys on top - and really, how can you go wrong with that?

Most importantly, it represented the Little Boy I love so much.  It was a yummy, easy-going cake that made me smile.  Exactly how I'd describe my sweet little 1-year-old.

And FINALLY - I had a baby that really dug in!