Sunday, February 28, 2016

Snapshot of our life right now–Winter 2016

IMG_3211I haven’t written down a snapshot of our life for a while now…but I love doing it.  Something about stepping back and documenting the every day happenings around here helps me see the bigger picture, and I’ve learned that seeing the whole makes all the little parts (both the dull and the shining) work together to create something beautiful.  So here goes (in 20 min before I’ve got to dash).


  • First?  I like to dumpster dive.  I just have to admit it.  I’m always scanning piles of trash on trash day to see if there are any treasures left for me.  This particular pile of trash gifted us a perfect bookshelf for Charlie’s under the bed workshop.  Sure it was used and not well made to begin with, but you can’t really argue with free!  I’ve really found a lot of great things on the side of the road.  (Jeff may be a little embarrassed that I’m admitting this).  I’m all about recycling though, does that make it more acceptable?
  • I have a lot more time during the day without kids, which actually doesn’t free me up as much as I though it would.  There are still just as many things to do, and now with big kids staying up late to finish things up I no longer have my evenings.  So life is still full. I do have to say thought, it’s nice to have so many big chunks of time to get work done without a toddler or baby to interrupt my thoughts.  I’m starting to get my brain back a bit, and now that it’s coming back I can’t imagine how I did so much with so many little kids in tow.
  • And on that note, just this morning I was thinking about how much more freedom I have suddenly as a mom.  No more car seats to buckle, I have a lot more driving to do with things kids are involved in, but I can leave little kids home with big kids for drop offs and pick ups.  Hazel has started babysitting for us so we can go on a close by date, and she LOVEs it.  We all do.  That is freedom!  I don’t have to get up in the night ever, and if I do, it feels strangely nice, reminiscent of all those mid night hours I burned in getting us all to where we are now. I love crawling back into a warm bed to go back to sleep. I always feel really grateful at that moment (reminiscent I think of all those nursing hormones that made me feel so happy as I fell back asleep).  Anyway, things are shifting and feeling harder and more constrained on on end, but freer on the other.  IMG_3247
  • These big kids of ours are getting more and more stretched by school and other stuff.  We’re trying our best to preserve their childhood, and I think they’re not too overscheduled, but still, there’s a lot more expected of them.  And they are raising to the challenge (maybe bumping their way along the road is a better way to say it).  They really do own the work they have to do, we don’t help them much.  That means they are often getting up at 5am to finish projects that they’ve mismanaged and sometimes not getting things done just right or on time, but they’re learning lessons and working hard and making corrections and I really think that’s what it’s about. 
  • We’ve gone through so many Saturday chore variations.  For about two years we were having our kids spend about an hour (or two if they’re totally distracted for most of it) cleaning their rooms and their “zones.”  It wasn’t my favorite part of the week, in fact, I was always so happy to have something that got me out of being there to be the task master.  It’s so much easier to clean things yourself, and I do such a better job.  But I firmly believe that these kids need to know how to work hard.  They did a pretty good job with this system, but we’ve just changed it up in the last month and I think we all like the change (probably mostly because it’s new).  Now I write a list of 8 chores that really need doing and the kids each pick two and they seem recharged and ready for this new system.  I think it’s just refreshing to switch things up every so often.  Not sure how long this one is going to last.
  • Also on Saturdays we get to go to the Malden High School swim clinic.  Our town isn’t swanky by any stretch, but I love it.  There are lots of cool things going on, and one of them is swim clinic.  Every other Saturday during the winter the high school swim team runs a free clinic for anyone who wants to join.  This means that each kid usually gets his/her own teenage coach for an hour.  They have so much fun swimming.  And Jeff usually takes them which gives me a big chunk of time to clean the house the way I want it cleaned!


  • Mornings have suddenly become quite lively around here.  For some reason both my big kids have decided that they’d rather do their homework early.  So they get up.  Guys, they get themselves up!  Early!  I never ever thought that would happen when this year started.  It was painful to try to drag them out of bed.  But somehow things have shifted and we’ve settled into an earlier morning.   The big kids get up sometime between 5 and 6.  They do homework and practice and get ready while I run.  Hazel always wants some time to read or play her little imagination games (she’s still such a kid at heart).  Strange to have my kids up before me….but I love it.  When I get home from my run it’s always a mad dash to get lunches made, bellies full, back packs packed, kids dressed.  Emmeline is always asking multiple times if we’re going to be late, but we’re usually not.  They rush in usually seconds before the bell rings. 
  • Our drives to school are much quicker this year since we don’t have a carpool.  We’ve had our share of stressful, complaining rides to school.  But I think I have to say that most of the time the drive is pleasant.  I love the chance to be together first thing, to listen to some fun music, or work on memorizing something.  We always have a quick prayer before they barrel out of there and run in.  I love it how Charlie always waits for Emmeline and they run in together, sometimes holding hands, their backpacks bouncing behind them. 
  • The kids stopped walking home from school like they did in the fall.  It’s too cold.  So I pick them up at the corner.  This is kind of big for me.  With no kindergartener I can sit lazily in my car and wait for them to walk to me.  Sometimes I miss the school yard, but most of the time I love catching my breath.  If I’m late they walk to the convenience store for a treat.  That’s not my favorite, since it’s always candy.  IMG_2609
  • We still only have one bathroom, and it’s a tiny one.  And it’s pink.  And I’m so grateful for it. One toilet is tricky with six busy bodies in the house, but we’re making it work.  There’s an open door policy and a non-transparent shower curtain and only a few fist fights over who gets to go in first.  We have explored every option out there for obtaining a second toilet, but they’ve all failed us.  We’ve all spent energy complaining over our toilet poverty and it’s given us the chance to think about so many people in the world who don’t even have running water.  One toilet is better than none!  We are the second owners of our house since 1927.  The family who lived here before raised four children here to adulthood. If the Eisners did it, so can we.  So we’re embracing it, making it a part of our family culture.  As Hazel says, “We’re the Shumways with one toilet!” 
  • We’ve been spending a lot of time at the rock climbing gym.  I found out that our insurance will pay for three months of family gym membership, so I found the funnest (and most expensive) gym to join and we committed to going every chance we get. We are all (with the exception of Jeff) loving the challenge, the chance to be active with all the cold, the adrenaline that pulses through us as we climb so high.  I love being out of the house a few afternoons a week for a few hours.  Makes me engage, and that feels good.   IMG_2648
  • I still get Peter to myself for some chunks of time during the week.  He is such a great little companion.  Always full of sunshine.  I especially love taking him to the grocery store.  Funny because I hated taking my oldest to the store.  It’s funny how much more enjoyable things get when you see them ending.  IMG_2649
  • I snapped this picture of him one day at Market Basket.  That song from Groundhogs day, you know the one that wakes him up day after day, was on the overhead speakers as I shopped and it made me laugh.  Grocery shopping is just like groundhogs day.  Over and over and over.  IMG_2700
  • And while we’re on groceries, my friend totaled up the number of hours she spends feeding her children.  35!  Isn’t that crazy, but I believe it.  It’s almost a full time job planning, shopping, loading, unloading, unpacking, putting away, prepping, cooking and eating and cleaning up.  I’m working on ways to simplify that without resorting to lots of processed/prepared food.  And that is hard to do! But we’re all working at it and we’re getting faster and better at it.  Any tips?  I’m always on the look out for basic, healthy, don’t-need-a-recipe ideas that use healthy ingredients that are easy-ish to keep on hand. I’m trying to figure out foods that don’t require as much planning and mind work. IMG_2713
  • I’m also trying to use up leftovers more and Hazel came up with this brilliant plan called the left-over café. When the fridge is bursting with things that no one really is excited to eat up we get them all out and put them on the island.  Then everyone gets $10 from Em’s cash register and puts what they want on a plate.  The cashier then rings them up and puts it in the microwave and there you go, easy, recycled dinner and happy children.  Not sure how many times this will get them excited about left overs, but we’re going to exhaust this one.  
  • We’ve had a really mild winter (especially when braced for something like last year).  But we have had a few storms.  I love watching my kids together in the snow.  I love it that they’re big enough to go play in it by themselves.  Peter and Emmeline last forever out there.  IMG_2745
  • Speaking of Em and Peter.  These two are really such sweet friends.  80% of the time they play so nicely together.  I love what they play and how.  It’s mostly Em bossing around Peter, but most of the time she does it in a really loving way.  And she picks things to play that he really likes.  Their favorite lately is to play spies.  And I can almost always trick Em into getting their mission to be something that I need them to do for me (like clean the room).
  • Em is still our organizer.  She lays out Peter's clothes, she knows where things are.  She reminds me of important things.  She is always up on her own.  And usually getting Peter up too.  We certainly aren't out of the woods with her, she is pretty uncontrollable at times, but when she is good, she is golden.


  • It seems like we always have some kind of house project going on, whether it's one that is truly urgent or falsely urgent is under hot debate between me and Jeff.  I have found that the only way to get things done around here is to create a false sense of urgency and Jeff has seen through my designs.  Still, it seems there is always something that needs to be fixed or organized.  And I'm so thankful for a very handy husband who can help me make all my house dreams come true :).  My phone photo folder is always filled with pictures like this, things to show the home depot workers so that they can help us fix our problems. IMG_3693
  • I spray painted the heck out of the inside of our rusting old medicine cabinet.  I know that rust is going to creep back in, but I’ll take that happy bring clean whiteness for as long as it lasts.   Amazing what a little change like that can make. IMG_2800 
  • Peter and I are both really into Yoga lately.  He is happy as can be doing these funny youtube videos called "Cosmic Kids."  Try them, your kids will be hooked. And to me it feels like guilt free screen time.  I've been doing a very different youtube variety of yoga called the Yoga Fix 90 by Leslie Fightmaster (isn't that the greatest last name for a yoga instructor?).  I'm LOVING it.  Each session is about 30 min and if you watch it via youtube it will keep track of which ones you've done so that you can just start the next one when you have a free half hour.  I love that part about it, because I've been guilty many times of wasting all my allocated work out time to trying to figure out which workout to do.  I can't say enough good things about what Leslie is doing for my overall wellbeing.  I don't do it everyday like I think you're supposed to, but I'm finding the more I do it the more I want to do it.  It's a great combination of getting a workout and a massage and meditating all at the same time.   If you're newish to Yoga you might want to start with her 30 day beginner challenge. 
  • Here’s classic Emmeline type A these days:IMG_2803-2
  • Totally Em to “take a break to cuddle”  She’s a cuddly little biscuit. IMG_3064IMG_2810
  • Peter’s quite into birthday party’s for his stuffed animals. This ^^ is Duke turning 1.  And there is always an assortment of action figures and little plastic dollar store barbies in our bath tub.  I find these things much cuter than I did when they belonged to Charlie and Hazel. The remnants of little imaginations strewn around the house are feeling more nostalgic since I know how quickly they’ll be gone. IMG_3062
  • This is a horrible picture, but I want to document that we’re all going through a painting phase right now.  And our good friend Stacy comes over often to join in.  Got the planet idea from my new favorite artist friend Leslie Graff.  Her stuff is pretty amazing.IMG_3590
  • Hazel is really turning into a great little funky artist.  Love her style.  And her high pony tail.  



  • We’re trying (but mostly failing) to make Sunday walks in the cemetery a regular occurrence.  It’s like pulling teeth to get these kids outside after we get home from church and fed.  But we are all always filled with life and vigor when we do.  IMG_3114
  • And I love the chance to be unplugged from all my duties and just be with my kids.  I wind up noticing things about them that I don’t see when I’m hustling us through every day.  Like these eyelashes!IMG_3124IMG_3133
  • Em is into fashion.  High heels and all.  who’s she gonna be? 
  • This is starting to feel like more of a snapshot of Emmeline and Peter.  But I guess the under documentation of the big kids is also a facet of our lives right now.  It’s just harder to get pictures of the big kids. Hazel is busy and it’s nearly impossible to catch Charlie in a photo (unless he is photo bombing or sneakily taking the picture of himself instead of of us).  IMG_3761IMG_3760
  • I can’t for the life of me train my kids to stop stealing my phone and taking selfies. 
  • Hazel finally got her own personal screen (ipod touch).  This was a big jump for us, I was worried that a screen would suck her away into a virtual world.  But she has loved feeing “trusted” and has been super awesome with it.  She doesn’t have internet, has only a few really pretty quirky cool game apps and spends most of her time on it editing pretty artsy photos and selfies.  She’s super responsible about turning it in at night and following the rules.  And she feels so much more freedom which has been good for all of us. FullSizeRender
  • We’re still trying and struggling to do scripture study.  Jeff has decided that 2 verses each is all we can handle and I’ve quit resisting this decision.  He’s a wise dad and finally we’re making it through without someone storming off.  Any brilliant family scripture study ideas out there?IMG_3163
  • We’re loving this granola recipe from my bro Jo and adapted by my SIL Julie.  It’s just so darn hard to keep it in stock.


  • The Krucks are still a huge part of our life.  Heidi is my friend who is always up for adventuring together or with our kids.  And these two new addition Krucks are such good friends to Em and Peter.  Full of life.
  • And Heidi is the friend I wish everyone could have. She is a constant.  Always there, always dependable, always helpful, always someone who can help me see more clearly.  We still run together most mornings and processing life with her has helped me navigate so many challenges.     IMG_3213
  • This little text convo ^^ was from a pretty rotten day.  I’ve always toyed with the idea of homeschooling my kids, teaching them is my favorite part of motherhood.  So on our second snow-day in a row I decided I’d do a mock homeschool day, see what it might be like to have all four at home.   I had great visions of so many great things we could do together.  But boy was it a disaster.  Lots of fighting and resisting and frustration.  Of course I don’t think homeschooling them would look quite like what I had planned for that day, of course we’d settle into a better rhythm, but boy, that was a tough one.    At Heidi’s urging I went out for a little walk right at sunset after a heavy wet snow.  It was just the balm my soul needed.    IMG_3210IMG_3241


  • I think this instagram post came in that same day too.  God was looking out for me I think.


  • I spend a lot of my time during Boston’s February and March checking weather in other places and dreaming we lived someplace where it’s sunny and 72 for ten days in a row.  IMG_8228I’m trying my best to soak in the chaos and mayhem of this phase of our lives.  The crowed kitchen full of hungry growing children, the growing bigger bodies filling up every inch of our lives.  We are all becoming and while there are plenty of growing pains for all of us,and as challenging as it is,  I’m realizing as I write and look at these photos,  the whole of it is pretty incredible.    IMG_8298


  1. My kids enjoy yoga too! (Actually, so do I, but I can't seem to motivate myself to get back into it at the moment). They were given a DVD called 'Once Upon A Mat' about 3 christmases ago and it still gets used regularly AND I giggled when reading you thoughts about guilt free screen time, because I have had exactly the same thoughts about yoga time!

    1. I'll have to check that one out! Cosmic kids might get old after a while! Thanks.

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  3. One of my favorite tricks for yummy, easy, whole foods is roasting veggies at a really high temp (450 ish) with some olive oil and salt. The best way to eat Broccoli and/or Cauliflower in my opinion. And kid friendly too! Also great for butternut squash and, of course, potatoes of all sorts. Another favorite of mine is Trader Joes, although I'm not sure this meets your standards of "unprocessed." We love their spinach ravioli, for example. Spinach ravioli + red +sauce+ roast garlic broccoli makes a great midweek dinner with 5 - 10 minutes of hands on prep time. They also have great boxed soups etc.

    1. Great ideas! Cauliflower is the one roasted veggie all four kids will eat. I'll
      Have to try broccoli.

  4. If you don't mind me asking, do your younger two share a room and your older two share a room? I have an older boy and girl and younger boy and girl too and currently they are all in one room but when we move this summer we will have room to split them up. The older two are best buds and it would make a lot of sense to keep them together because they need to wake up earlier for school etc but I don't know about the boy/girl privacy issue as they start to get older (they are five and seven now). Anyway I am wondering if that's how you do it and if it works for you

    1. Our house is a funny layout. Jeff and I and the two youngest take up the two medium sized rooms. There are two other tiny rooms (just enough space to squeeze a twin bed into, so Hazel and Charlie each have there own. This sometimes makes me sad, I think I might prefer it if they shared a room.

  5. The one "toilet" home isn't just a thing of the 20's. But going from two toilets (at some point in life) back to one must be difficult. Have you considered moving?

    1. Yes! We would love to love into a house with two toilets! We've tried many times, but the finances just don't work out. Sadly we bought this house at the peak of the housing bubble. It's not a bad place to be stuck though. We're learning lots of helpful skills having to share one toilet. :)

  6. To change things up once in a while, I would make each child a special chore list. This could include things like 25 jumping jacks, cleaning your siblings room for 10 minutes, running outside to the front porch and shouting, "I am the greatest", setting the kitchen timer for three minutes and seeing how many dishes you could wash and dry, and "only "clean the shower while wearing your bathing suit, pet the cat, vacuum the family room dancing and while singing as loud as you can, etc. My children loved this on Saturdays. It really did help to motivate them and to view chores in a different way, while they were young.
    Also, I quite love your house. For many of my growing up years we lived in a house similar to yours. There were six of us in all. For four years we lived in a rental that we could opt to live in with my father's new job. It was exciting. The home was a historical home and 6500 sq ft. We had five bathrooms, and five bedrooms. Looking back, it was a great adventure. We opened up our home to anyone and everyone for activities. But, because our home was so big we somewhat lost the closeness and life lessons of sharing, and of being close in proximity to each other each day. It was harder to keep up what was happening in each others lives. We really didn't need to share space because there was so much of it. My siblings and I have talked about this ever so often. We all have agreed that we loved living in a smaller home versus a huge home.
    Enjoying your thoughts and perspective.

    1. Love these ideas!!!! I'm trying these funny chores tomorrow.

      And I'm really thankful for the growing up in a small house perspective! I've thought of it many times over he past week. Thank you for that.

  7. I love these kinds of posts/entries that document the moments of day to day life. It's inspiring! I don't have a blog, but after reading this post and thinking about how much your kids will love having these details recorded, it makes me want to do a better job recording my family's day to day activities and simple details of life. I do love to take photos of day to day happenings though! :)

    We had struggled with our family scripture time too, and found it challenging because our kids ages range from almost 4 to 14. But my mom gave our family "The Book of Mormon for Young Readers" by Kelli Coughanour for Christmas, and it has made all the difference. I love how the author puts into parenthesis definitions of highlighted words in each verse that might be hard for kids to understand. When we read the verses, we just read those definitions/ explanations as though they were included right in the Book of Mormon. I also love how she gives little challenges to memorize scriptures, but instead of a whole verse, it's just one phrase or sentence of a verse. I highly recommend this book, as we've had the most success with our scripture reading now than ever before. One thing to note about it though, is that it isn't a complete copy of The Book of Mormon, but rather a significant portion of it, designed for younger readers as it states in the title. Here is the link through Deseret Book if you are interested:

    Sure enjoyed reading this "Snapshot" post! Best Wishes!

    1. Thank you, excited to check that book out, sounds like something we'd love.

  8. This might seem random, but have you considered where you will send your kids for middle and high school? I'm from topsfield and I went to Masco but my brother went to Malden Catholic and my sister went to the governor's academy. There are a lot of options around Boston for private schools that offer a fabulous education. My family definitely did not full tuition for my sister as governors is verrrrrryyy expensive. Just wondering is you have thought about it! I loved public school but my siblings had good experiences too.

    1. I think if we stick around here we'll stick with the public schools, or maybe homeschool at some point. I've been pretty pleased with the public school my kids attend and have heard good things about the high school. I know there are some really great private schools
      Around here, but oh, the money!!!

  9. Anonymous9:07 AM

    It is visible that having kids away during the day has been a huge relief for you. You sound much more optimistic.

  10. i LOVE your posts!!! the internet can be a very deceiving place and one can feel so imperfect after reading other people's perfect posts. i love how you don't create a potemkin village. you have a skilled gift at staying positive yet also conveying that life/has its ups and downs. your life is beautiful and your children are healthy and vibrant and smart and are an incredible and talented mother. i know you love life and it shows in all you do. keep up the great work! xo

    1. Thanks Nancy! I'm glad that love for life shows through all the tough parts.

  11. Such a refreshing post, I love reading your thoughts on raising small kids. Random question, how do you pronounce your daughter, Emmeline's name? My daughter is Emmalyn (EmmaLynn) and there were so many different ways to spell it but my husband and I finally agreed to spell it like you say it :)

    1. Emmeline is like Caroline but with Emma at the beginning. We had a hard time deciding on the spelling too. Em often sighs her artwork M----- for m line. :). I love emmalyn too, very cute.

  12. Sayds, I live this post! So much of real life. It males me want to do some documenting like this. Each day is filled with the busy, crazy, and sometimes mundane that I lose track of the big picture sometime and how it all come together. And we have only been reading one verse a piece (I sometimes squeeze in 2 on my turn) for a while! 2 verses sounds like a total victory! In the morning, we recite an article of faith right before school. For us the less is more woks best right now. Love you!

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