Saturday, April 25, 2009

The iPod Quest: Week 1 Report

Yeah, I know, we're full of drama -- everything's either a "saga" or a "quest" at our house.

All drama aside, Alex is doing great. This week he swept two driveways, washed a car, mowed two lawns, and weeded two flower beds. Here he is weeding away like an iPod-obsessed animal:

Looks like he has dirt in his teeth from all that weeding. He's hard core like that.

So you're probably curious to know the grand total of his earnings. Drum roll please...

The wildman earned no less than $35.40. If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'. That puts him ahead of his goal of $30 per week. After paying 10% to tithing, 10% to savings, and 10% to his mission fund, he's left with $24.78 in the iPod fund.

What's cool about this whole thing is all the teaching moments that arise for a wide range of topics.

For example, he's learning a lot of math. Every day that he comes home with money, we sit down and walk through the math. He's learning addition, subtraction, decimal points, and percentages.

He's learning how to present himself, do a door approach, and interact with customers. (Yes, Kristi, we had a nice talk after he finished at your house. I told him that he can only go into customers' houses to go to the bathroom or to call us when he's done).

He's learning that it's much easier to market to a warm market, rather than to make cold contacts. (Thanks so much to everyone who has offered to give him jobs!)

He's learning about how circumstances and people fall into place as soon as we commit to a goal.

He's learning to be a finisher (although I have to manage that part).

He's learning that commitments can be hard (he hasn't played much with friends this week, and it's a constant struggle for him).

He's learning the satisfaction of receiving fair pay for honest work.

He's learning that we can earn and achieve anything we want in this life through focus, dedication, and persistence.

He's learning the value of delayed gratification.

I could continue. He's such a good kid and I'm so proud of him. I think I'm going to be more excited to buy the iPod than he is.

Thanks again to everyone giving him opportunities to achieve his goal. Thanks for being patient and understanding with him. Thanks for not giving him something when he hasn't earned it. Parenting is definitely a community effort, and we very much appreciate your support, guidance, and encouragement in the lives of our children.

The Garden Saga Continues

"Gardening requires lots of water -- most of it in the form of perspiration." -Lou Erickson
I spent about five hours in the garden today, which added about five years to my back.

It's coming along well. The good news is that everything that came up is growing much faster than we anticipated. The bad news is that we had quite a bit that didn't come up, and all our tomatoes died.

Today I weeded, then replanted the tomatoes, as well as all the gaps in everything else.

The corn, spinach, and carrots did pretty well, with just a few gaps. The squash -- the cockroach of garden plants -- is thriving as expected. The lettuce had some pretty big gaps. Only one plant of each came up on the bean, broccoli, watermelon, and cucumber. Only a handful of peas came up, and hardly any green onions.

Luckily, we have a long growing season, so everything should be fine.

And here's the best news: We ate our first harvest last week -- cilantro that we put in pico de gallo. So I guess that makes us official.

Friday, April 24, 2009

April Date with Alex & Mom

We went to Camp Mabry for their exhibition that day. His favorite part was the World War II re-enactment. Don't know where the pictures of that part went, though.

My Trip to the Grocery Store

I went to the store to buy chicken and rice. That's all, just chicken and rice. But this is what I came home with.

Our food budget goes WAY up when I'm pregnant.

To truly put this in context, we never buy soda, chips, cookies, processed cheese slices, or even cereal for that matter at any other time throughout the year.

I'm totally getting fat.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Alex's iPod Quest Begins

Alex is such an amazing kid.

Since he was about six, he's always paid tithing and put 10% into savings and 10% into his mission fund. He's always been very good with his money and very coachable.

The other day he had $1.50. We were going to Wal-Mart and he wanted to buy a carrying case for an old cell phone that we gave him (doesn't work, he just thinks it's cool). We never dictate how he spends his money -- he knows it's always his choice.

But I thought it was time for a lesson in delayed gratification. I knew what would happen to the carrying case -- it would get discarded in a couple of days, lost in piles of unvalued toys.

So Alex and I sat down and listed all of the things he would like to buy. The list included such things as Transformers, a machete, Nintendo DS games, and an iPod. I asked what he wanted most on the list, and he responded, "An iPod."

So issued a challenge to him to set a goal to purchase an iPod and to not spend any money on anything else until he bought his iPod. He committed.

Setting the Goal

So we sat down and went through the whole goal-setting process. After making our calculations and mapping out a plan, we printed out the following page and taped it to his wall:

"I will buy an iPod Nano by May 20th, 2009.

"In order to do this, I need to earn $95.00. I have 23 earning days from today, which means that I must make at least $4.13 per day.

"I commit to earning five dollars every day except Sundays. I commit to paying 10% of everything I earn to tithing, 10% to savings, and 10% to my mission fund. I commit to saving every other dollar I earn. I will not spend any money on anything else until I buy my iPod.

"Ways I Can Earn Money: Mow Lawns, Wash Windows, Wash Cars, House Chores, Babysitting, Sell Candy, Walk Dogs, Recycle"

He reads it out loud twice a day. After reading it, he spends a few minutes visualizing accomplishing his goal, holding his iPod, feeling the headphones in his ears, etc.

The Rubber Hits the Road

Yesterday was his first official earning day. We told him we'd pay him $5 to mow our lawn, front and back.

I want him to learn how to mow perfectly so I don't have to manage the process and to ensure he'll do a good job on other people's lawns. So the deal is that for everything he misses that I have to point out, $.50 is subtracted from the total price. As I expected, there were so many missed spots that he lost the entire amount. But it was good practice and he's getting better.

By this time it was 4:30 in the afternoon, and he only had until 5:30 before dinner and Family Night. Undeterred, he went knocking doors. I had helped him create a door approach: "Hi, I'm Alex Fish and I would love to mow your lawn for $5. I have my own lawn mower, and if I don't do a good job you don't owe me anything. Can I mow your lawn?"

Sure enough, he was able to get work from two neighbors. They didn't need their lawns mowed, but they had him sweep their driveways and sidewalks. Would you believe it? The kid earned a whopping $10.30 his very first earning day.

Lessons Learned

As he was mowing our lawn, four of his friends came to the house and begged him to play. Wanting him to understand the choice, I explained that for every day he missed, it added $5 to the next day, so if he missed today, tomorrow he would have to earn $10 to make up for it, etc.

You could see how torn he was. He wanted to play with his friends so badly, but he chose to stick with it. He's learning that commitment entails sacrifice.

Then, as we were getting ready for bed, he came to me and said, "I get so scared to knock on doors and say what you taught me to say. But when I get scared I just think of my commitment and it helps me to just do it."

Like I said, the kid is amazing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Alex's Primary Talk

Most people know that we do things a little differently around our house with our kids.

One of those ways is that we've never forced/coerced Alex to participate in Primary. And can I just tell you, it's been a challenge at times because I have felt the judgments of Primary leaders who don't fully agree with our way.

I remember as a kid feeling so inadequate and being so scared of Primary because participation was expected. We just feel that forcing kids before they are ready does more damage than good, so we decided to let him decide when he's ready.

The last time Alex gave a talk was in Sacrament Meeting when he was about 6. He's agreed to give talks in Primary since then, but when it comes right up to the delivery, he chickens out, his nerves get the best of him.

Well, last Sunday, at 9.5 yrs. old, he decided he was ready and he delivered. Steve and I (and Alex too) were so proud. What a fun day.

I sat in the back, he knew I was there, he stumbled on a few words and the brand-new Primary president stepped up to lend a hand. He paused after the periods, he remembered to pause when he asked the kids a question.

I hope he remembers how he felt after he did it, and I hope he has a chance very soon to do it again :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

R-O-U-T-I-N-E Spells Love

This post is to get Karina back for proclaiming our mushy love to the world in a previous post.

This is a poem I wrote for Karina for Mother's Day, 2008:

R-O-U-T-I-N-E Spells Love

At 16, love is in the feeling.
The oft-confusing awakening, the eager anticipation
of a prom date, the giddiness of a phone call or a note
from “the one.”

At 21, love is in the long, late hours
speaking dreamily of the envisioned future. The fervent hopes,
carefully-crafted plans, and naïve declarations of
“how it’s going to be.”

At 25, love is in the excitement of discovery
…and getting past the disappointment of many
unexpected discoveries.

At 30, love is in the routine.

The day-in and day-out cooking and cleaning and working and
earning and spending and weighing and balancing and
juggling and striving and hurting and fighting and
forgiving and sinning and repenting and
laughing and crying and praying and
learning and growing and deciding
and regretting and hoping
and trying.

It’s in my inability to write a poem uninterrupted
because you’re cooking dinner and the baby is crying
and the toddler peed her pants.

It’s in the decreased frequency and duration of love-making
because the baby sleeps in our bed and there’s always
some child or some mess or some matter of business to attend to.

It’s in the dissatisfaction of extra pounds and a receding hairline
and the comforting knowledge that we look better to each other every day.

It’s in the stifling confinement of family movies and going to the park and library to cater to the kids and badly-needed vacations missed and earnestly-wanted clothes and amenities gone un-bought and cavities gone un-filled and living on rice and pancakes and living in a cramped basement with no TV and no money and estranged friends.

It’s in the getting up each and every day to do
it all over again when that’s the last thing
you want to do.

It’s in learning to cheerfully accept and love all of the above by
supporting and serving and compensating for one another.

It’s in the overwhelming boredom of the daily, mundane, repetitious ROUTINE.

And one day we’ll wake up contentedly and turn to each other and you’ll smile at me gracefully through your wrinkles and I’ll touch your face gently with arthritic, worn-out hands and say, “Wasn’t that the most exhilarating, fascinating, joyful, and fulfilling ride imaginable?” And a solitary tear will drip from your beautiful eyes as you nod in agreement and we’ll tenderly embrace with
the consummate love of survivors.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Baby at 9 weeks

It's all good. I had my ultrasound the other day and Baby looks great...well, Baby looks like an alien, but has a nice strong heart beat. I'm at 9 weeks now.

And the ultrasound only cost me $75, which is great because I thought it was going to cost $160. PLUS, they're going to let me come back later to find out the sex of the baby at no extra charge. Gotta love that.

I also love the Unisom and B6 combo that is allowing me to function a lot better than I ever have with my other pregnancies. (knock on wood)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Where Is My Mind?

Where is my mind? What happened to living in the present? I was just starting to get really good at living in the present, enjoying each moment with the kids, finding joy in the little things, I learned to laugh at the tantrums, look past the messiness of the house...and then I got pregnant.

If you've ever miscarried in any, way, shape, or form, and then been pregnant again, you'll probably relate to how I'm feeling today.

I'm 7.5 weeks pregnant and I couldn't sleep for 2.5 hours last night because I was obsessed with the fact that I probably miscarried this baby. I even brought myself to tears because I convinced myself so thoroughly.

After all, when I went to bed last night I wasn't feeling sick. I didn't need to eat the Saltines that are on my nightstand. I wasn't woozy when I got up to walk to my bathroom for something. I didn't feel like I needed to pee every two hours in the night. There was that one time that Libby leaned on me with her elbow right on my womb and it sent a stabbing pain through me. I have a history of three other known miscarriages. When I found out I was pregnant, I'd wished I wasn't...if only for a moment. At 7.5 weeks, shouldn't I be getting sicker every day and not feeling better? Where did my hot flashes go? Why am I now perpetually cold?

In my mind, I am either too sick to think straight, or I'm not sick enough and I'm plagued with thoughts of despair. There's too much to think about.

Today, I simply must know that everything is okay...or that it's not okay and then I've got to move on, but I must know today because I am not present for anyone and I don't think it's possible for me to be present until I know. I've got to go see the midwife to hear the baby's heartbeat.

This is hard for me to put out there because it sounds so obsessive. I'm not comfortable exposing myself in this way.

I was emboldened after watching an Oprah show about mothers. Apparently there's not enough honesty about motherhood going around. They didn't even touch on pregnancy, so I thought I would. I hope you'll share what's on your mind too.

It felt good to listen to other mothers talk about the crazy things they do and feel as mothers, and how hard it is to be a mom. I felt validated and justified.

I know that, for me, what may come across to some as dishonesty is that I'm simply trying to be positive. I'm trying really hard not to only be obsessed about me and this baby right now. I mentioned before in "Fake It Till You Make It" that at least "faking it" during the rough time of pregnancy will make everyone around me happy.

Even President Monson told a story during General Conference about the man he knew who was on his death bed and yet was always smiling. Remember the man who was bringing Pres. Monson's garbage can back up the hill to his house when he was in a worse condition to do so than most others?

Just how does that relate to me right now? Was that man "faking it" so as to make everyone around him happy, or was it his natural disposition? Does the point of the story relate to me, right now?

I know this. I know that the scriptures are true, and they say that if you want to find yourself, you need to lose yourself in the service of others.

I know that President Monson is a prophet of God and that if I continue to heed his counsel, I will be happier than in any other way.

I know that I have a tendency to find answers to my questions from "the world." But not this time.

Well...I know I feel a lot better.

But just to make sure we're clear: We do want this baby. We want Baby #4 to be here on earth with us more than we want anything else. There's nothing that brings us more happiness than our family.

This will be us in early November (only we'll be at home and in my bed instead of the hospital...I hope:)

Sunday, April 5, 2009


It's an old picture, but it captures her personality well.

At 3.5 yrs. old, Libby has a fantastic imagination. Last Friday evening, Steve and Alex were busy reading Ender's Game downstairs, so it was just the girls and me upstairs left to play.

With Libby in the lead as the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz, she told me, "I'll get you and your little dog too." But then she wanted to be, now she wanted to be Glinda the Good, she wanted to be Dorothy and hold Toto. She then informed me (repeatedly) that I have a Toto too so be careful where I sit and what I do so that he doesn't get squished.

After spending some time in the Land of Oz with the Munchkins and the Scarecrow and Tinman and Cowardly Lion, it was Mommy's turn to take Libby to Disneyland...but we still had our "two Totos" as she calls them...and it was so much fun.

Even Avery just sat on my lap happily through the whole adventure. I think she was into it. She's growing up. (Cry, sniff, sniff)

Okay. So we did everything at Disneyland, twice, because we went two days in a row and stayed the night at the Disneyland hotel. We went on every ride, we buckled our Totos on every ride, we ate every type of food, we saw all the Disney characters. It was so much fun.

Tonight Libby didn't want to have a bath, but I noticed she was playing with her Toto, so I said, "Maybe Toto wants a bath." Well, of course he would, so into the bath went Avery, Libby and Toto.

She made sure the water wasn't too hot for Toto, taught Toto karate in the bath, told me to turn the water off so that the water didn't go above his nose, and Toto was the first thing she saved when she noticed that Avery had pooped in the bath water.

I love Libby's spunky personality.

Today she picked a wild flower, said she could get married with it, and when Daddy said, "Who are you going to marry, Libby?" she determinedly said, "Daddy!"

Libby, I can totally relate :) I love you so much!

Science Day - Isotropy

Isotropy is uniformity in all directions. With just corn starch and water you can have tons of fun with this cool experiment.

Origami and Magic

Grandma gave Alex an origami book because Alex loves working with his hands -- whether it's learning to make knots in ropes, origami, Lego's, magic tricks.

But magic is his latest adventure, and here was a cool one that I did catch on video but I'm too lazy to figure out how to do the technology right now, so just trust me that you would have been impressed :)

Dirty bruise

For a week I noticed this on Alex's leg, but I thought it was dirty smudge spot.

I finally said, "Alex, I know you've had showers recently, but you need to wash off that dirty spot."

"It won't come off. I think it's a bruise."

Sure enough. He figures he got it when he hit his leg on the edge of a bucket near the trampoline.

And I guess I'm posting this because Alex will think it's cool, years from now, that we have documentation of his injuries.