Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Becky the Writer

A few months ago, I was asked, "What did you want to be when you grew up?"
"A writer," I said. 
"Oh... are you a writer?"
I said, "YES."

Am I? 
I write, certainly. I write every day. 
Journal entries, poems, very long text messages, even occasionally manuscripts for children's books. But it was hard to say, 
"Yes, I am a writer," 
because I very rarely get paid for all that writing. Working at Seek Learning Magazine, I felt a little more like a real writer. I was writing articles and publishing them! I was getting paid... a little. 

But sometimes, I look at my life and I think, There's nothing else I could have become. I had to be a writer. God made me a writer.  My life formed me into a writer. Even if I never publish another book: I am a writer. 

Here is a timeline of my life. I think you will see, my career choices were limited:

Becky is Born: 
Finding that breastfeeding is extremely boring, Becky's mother passes time by reading the entire Wheel of Time series aloud to her newborn. A love of sci-fi is kindled in Becky's infant breast.

Age 3: 
Becky dictates her first poem. It is about a toe named Moe. Becky's Dad declares her a poetic genius. Surely, she will grow up to be a poet! (This is agreeable to all.)

Age 8: 
Becky reads the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. Here is a real conversation between Becky and her mother:

Mother: You know, the first time that I read the Chronicles of Narnia, I stayed home sick all week so that I could finish the whole series.
Becky: I want to stay home and read the whole series!
Mother: Oh, but you can only stay home and read them if you're really sick. 
Becky: I am! 
Mother: I believe you. Go get back into bed and bring your books. 

Becky learns an important lesson. Books are more important than school. 

Age 9: 
Becky begins writing extensive fan-fiction based on the Redwall series. She reads every Roald Dahl book she can get her hands on and also begins writing very gruesome poetry in the vein of Dirty Beasts.

Age 10: 
Becky's 4th grade teacher reads The Hobbit aloud to Becky's class. Becky's eyes are opened. It is the beginning of a new world. 
Becky also sets her sheets on fire, while trying to read under the covers. She pretends to sleep through the fire alarm, hoping that her parents don't notice that the sheets are smoking. 
They do notice. 

Age 11: 
For Christmas, Becky receives the first three Harry Potter books. She reads them in 72 hours. Then she reads them again. And again. And again. It is the beginning of a life-long obsession. 
Becky also reads Anne of Green Gables. She has found a bosom friend and kindred spirit in Anne Shirley. More than any other fictional character, Anne is Becky. Becky is Anne. They are two starry-eyed, dramatic chatterbox peas in a pod. 

Age 12: 
Becky learns that The Hobbit has sequels. She reads the Lord of the Rings for the first time. Her entire brain explodes. It is the greatest thing ever written. She spends an unholy amount of time trying to translate her own poetry into Elvish. 
Becky's first poem is published in the local newspaper. It is neither gruesome nor Elvish. It is very patriotic. 

Age 13: 
Becky is accused of cheating when she gets 100% on a comprehension exam about the book To Kill a Mockingbird. She shouts at her teacher and tells him that she is smarter than he is. 
She has extremely high self esteem and an extremely low tolerance for people that don't care about books as much as she does. 
She also fights with a teacher who tells her that favourite does not have a U in it. Of course it does. 
Becky knows it does. 

Age 14: 
Becky joins the school newspaper and yearbook.  She starts a new hobby, which she never gives up: writing down conversations that she eavesdrops on. There is almost nothing quite as delightful as the strange "dialogue" that comes out of people's mouths when they don't know they're being spied on. 

Age 15: 
One day, driving down a dark and snowy road in the middle of nowhere, her Dad pulls the car over. They get out into the snowy forest and Becky's Dad recites Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. 
"Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though. He will not see me stopping here, to watch his woods fill up with snow."
Inspired, Becky decides to memorize a new poem every week. The first poem that she learns by heart is I taste a liquor never brewed by Emily Dickinson. She still knows it. She is still waiting patiently for someone to need it recited so that she can perform. 

Age 16: 
Becky joins the Speech Team. She competes in "Storytelling," a category that requires the memorization of several folktales and a dramatic retelling in your own words. She rarely wins awards, but she has found a passion. She loves to retell stories in new ways. 
Becky also discovers Mary Oliver. A different English teacher accuses her of cheating when she writes an impassioned essay about her poetry. Once again, Becky is scornful and unforgiving.

Age 17: 
Becky starts her first writing group. She writes three very poor novels:
The first is a dystopian sci-fi that takes place in a future world where men have been eliminated and each woman helps maintain the human race by giving birth to her own clone. 
The second is a portal fantasy, where a young girl escapes reality by falling down a trap door in her bedroom which leads to a magical wonderland. 
The last is a true Anne Shirely masterpiece: When a poor girl falls in love with her best friend's wealthy brother, their friendship is over... also everyone dies. 
Becky sends her stories to her friend. He tries to edit out all the romance. 
He sends his stories to her. She tries to edit out all the sword fights. 

Age 18: 
Becky attends BYU on a writing scholarship. She decides that she should probably study English, because that is how she will get to read lots of books and write lots of poetry. 
She brings all of her Harry Potter books and Extended Lord of the Rings DVDs to her dorm room, because she cannot be without them, even for one semester. Her roommate has a replica of Arwen's sword in her room. The bosom sisters spend the semester knitting while listening to Harry Potter audiobooks and reading aloud to each other. 
They throw Harry Potter a birthday party on July 31st. Then, they throw him a party the next year. And the next. Forever. They make Harry treacle tarts, but he doesn't come. 

Age 19:
Becky goes on a blind date with a man who insults James Barry and Peter Pan within minutes of the date beginning. She decides to never see him again. 
Later, she changes her mind and marries him. But first, she makes him read all of the Harry Potter books. It is part of their courtship. 

Age 20: 
Becky writes her first novel that is not garbage.  She has figured out how to write what she knows.  It's a coming of age story, as all great stories are. 

Age 21: 
Becky is pregnant with twins. She tries to name them Fred and George, but her husband disapproves. She starts a blog for a tech class and is soon one of the top Twin Mommy Bloggers in the country. She loves writing and writes a post every single day. Sometimes, she writes two or three posts a day. She makes friends from all over the world. 

Age 22: 
Overwhelmed by exhaustion and postpartum depression, Becky marches into a used bookstore and chooses the thickest, least expensive book on the shelf marked "Classics." She knows, books can heal her. 
The book is East of Eden. 
Once again, the world is made new. It is like nothing she has ever read.
She reads it again. Again. Again. 
It changes her. 

Age 23: 
Becky reads Lord of the Rings aloud to her husband and small children. She will read it to them again. Again. Again. She wants to write books, but for now she is too tired. Instead, she writes a poem every day. They are much better than her Elvish poems. 
Every day, she reads poems to her toddlers. A.A. Milne and Robert Frost. Mary Oliver and Jack Prelutsky. Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe. 
She contradicts herself. 
She contains multitudes.

Age 24:
Becky is invited by a professor to attend a writing conference. She meets with an agent there and he says, "Please send me your novel!" He wants to help her publish it. 
Becky goes home and considers sending her novel. She really does. 
But she is so tired. She is pregnant again. 
She never gets around to it. 
She does not regret this. It wasn't the right time. 
Someday, the time will be right. Her books will be published. 
For now, she will read 100 picture books a day to a small and captive audience. This is called "market research."

Age 25:
Becky has another baby. She tries very hard to name him Samwise, but again she is thwarted by her opinionated husband. Combating postpartum depression again, Becky reads the Lord of the Rings aloud to her infant who is not named Samwise.
She also begins reading classics to her big kids.  Robin Hood, the Hobbit, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, A Little Princess, Tuck Everlasting, A Wrinkle in Time, Little House in the Big Woods... They are only 3 years old, but they love to snuggle close and listen. 
They have many deep conversations about right and wrong, truth and lies, life and death, love and hatred. 

Age 26:
One day, Becky is reading Charlotte's Web aloud. A warm breeze is blowing and all of Charlotte's children are calling "Goodbye! Goodbye!" as they float away from the barn. Becky is holding her children and weeping. They are weeping, too. She looks up, out the front window, and sees the neighbor kids walking home from the school bus. It is 4pm. He's been gone from home all day!
Becky makes a decision. 
She is not sending her kids to school. 
If her children attend school, who will she read books to all day?
If her children attend school, someone else will read books to them!
No. They will be homeschooled. 
They will stay home and Becky will read books to them every single day. Hundreds of books. Thousands. 

Age 27:
Becky prays, asking God for help raising her children. She receives a powerful answer. It is time to begin memorizing beautiful words again. 
Every single morning, Becky recites a scripture verse and poem with her kids until they all have it memorized. Within a year, they have memorized over 50 verses of scripture and two dozen poems. 
The first things they memorized were: Nobody by Emily Dickinson and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Becky teaches her children to dictate their own poetry. Their poems include many "thees" and "thous."

Age 28:
Another baby is born. She is named after her grandmother... and also, secretly, after Louisa Mae Alcott. Becky begins designing her own homeschool curriculums. 
The word "Curriculum" is used here to describe long lists of books. 
Books about seeds and mushrooms and honeybees. Books about the civil war, about Polynesian way finders, about medieval plagues. Books of Shakespeare. Caterpillars. Airplanes. The Cultural Revolution. 
And Becky writes every day. 
She always writes every day. 
She reads and she writes and she just can't help it. 

Age 29:
Becky splurges on a Webster's 1828 Dictionary at a curriculum fair. She spends literal hours reading the dictionary. She is in love with her dictionary. She recommends the dictionary to people on a weekly basis and makes her kids look up words in the dictionary on a daily basis. 
This is probably not normal behavior. 

Age 30:
Becky helps start a magazine for mothers who love God and love to homeschool. She writes and edits and designs and writes. It is a delight to create. 
She also co-authors and self publishes her first book, Christlike Attributes. It is exciting, but it is not enough. 
Her son tells her, "I want to write a real book. Not just a book for my mom, but a book that they have in libraries!" 
That is also what Becky wants. 

Age 31: 
Becky discovers that she loves picture book biographies, perhaps more than any other genre. Well... not more. But very much. 
The people in Becky's house drown under piles of books. The books are everywhere. 
(This is where the books belong.)
Becky helps publish the second issue of her magazine. She writes articles about storytelling, poetry, memorization, and writing. She delights in motherhood and writes love letters to her life and her children every single day. 
She also writes her first picture book manuscript. It is very long. It is trying to be a novel. 
She writes another picture book. And another. 

Age 32: 
One day, Becky has a realization. Everyone is sleeping through the night. No one is breastfeeding.
Sometimes, Becky has entire stretches of time that are uninterrupted by children. 
She opens up a note on her phone. It is called, "Books to Write."
It is a list of ideas.
Becky begins writing. 
(She had never really stopped writing.)

Age 33:
Becky comes of age in the shire. Hobbits, of course, aren't considered fully grown until they are 33 years old. 
Now that Becky is fully grown, she is ready to get to work. She is ready to write like she means it. 
She attends a writers conference. It feels like deja vu. A different book publisher reads her book and says the same thing that she heard so long ago. 
"Send me your manuscript! Let's turn this into a book!"
This time, it's the right time. 

This time, when someone asks, "Are you a writer?"
Becky won't hesitate. 
The answer is yes. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Homeschool Days

Well, it has been one year since my last post.
So I guess it's time to say something.
I wanted to write a little about how we do school these days- mostly for my own sake, since I assume I will not remember in 6 months, let alone when Louise is 8 and I'm wondering what on earth we used to do for second graders.

We are eclectic homeschoolers- which means that I don't adhere to any specific philosophy of education. I love much of Charlotte Mason (like short lessons, nature study, narrations and copywork), but find a lot of it to be tedious or out of date. For example, I like letting my kids read fact-books and  picture-books, although Ms. Mason disapproved of both.
Classical Education doesn't generally sit well with me, although our favorite curriculum (Story of the World) is by Susan Wise Bauer- the classical education Queen.
So anyway.
Here's what we do.

Every morning we start with breakfast. Travis makes breakfast while I read from the Book of Mormon aloud. During breakfast we also do our current scripture memory verse, because I use a notecard with the verse on it as my bookmark in the Scriptures. We don't read a lot, maybe 10 verses most days. Then we talk about it or the schedule for the day.

After breakfast we move into Morning Tasks and Daily Devotional.
The kids are in charge of completing their own Morning Tasks. For Grey and Micah (age 8) that includes:
Getting Dressed
Brushing Hair and Teeth
Reading Scriptures (illustrated story, not the actual Word)
Practicing Piano

August (age 5) is supposed to get dressed (he almost never does), brush his hair and teeth (he's middling at this), and help unload the dishwasher (he can do this, but usually it's so slow that Travis takes over.)
I generally allow for about an hour for this to get done, during which time I look at our schedule and decide what needs to be done that day, clean up breakfast and read to August and Louise.

Then we start Daily Devotional and Second Breakfast. The kids usually all eat a bowl of cereal while we do DD.
We start with our Hymn for the month, and a morning prayer (unless we already said it when Travis left for work).

Daily Devotional includes the following:
Monthly Hymn. Hymns don't usually last an actual month. We just start and stop when we are done with them. We sing the first verse every day for a week, and the first and second every day for the second week and so on. If the hymn has 4 verses, it does actually take us a month.  I have a playlist of all the hymns we've learned and I play it on the kitchen speakers when it's time for everyone to gather for DD.

New poem from our current poet of study.  Usually a poet lasts about 6 weeks. We don't analyze the poem.  I just read it aloud while everyone closes their eyes, and then everyone has a turn telling how the poem made them feel or what they imagined happening. Our only goal is to be exposed to good poetry and delight in it.

Recite our current memory-poem. We either listen to a recording of the poem, recite it together, or I recite it line by line (and they repeat), depending on how well we know it. When everyone knows it without help, the poem moves into our Poetry Review folder and we start a new poem.

Review 2-3 memory poems and 2-3 memory scriptures. Grey and Micah take turns leading the poetry and leading the scriptures. The scriptures are on 5x8 notecards and the poetry is in a folder, and whoever is leading just reads the next few poems/scriptures aloud and the rest of us try to recite it along with him. This helps us retain what we've learned.

Read a Fable. I have a book of short animal fables. They're usually only a page long. I will read one, and then August tries to tell it back to me. One of the older boys will get to fill in any gaps that August missed, and then the other boy will tell me what he thinks the moral of the story is. I try not to correct them, even when their morals are totally wrong! I just let them form their own thoughts about it and discuss it with each other.

Picture Study or Handwriting or Art Lesson: We rotate through the following, usually doing a picture study on Monday/Wednesday and Handwriting Tuesday/Thursday (or so) and an art lesson on Friday.
Picture Study: We have one artist that we study for a while (a month, six weeks?) and on Picture Study days we generally just look at and discuss of piece of his/her art. Sometimes I also read aloud a book or story about the artist.
Handwriting: The kids have cursive workbooks which they love and they each do 2-3 pages, depending on how long it takes them to work. I read a book aloud while they do, either a fairy tale, a chapter from a read aloud, or a picture book from the library.  They write for as long as I read.
Art Lesson: We have a few art-lesson books, so generally I give a short instruction and then let them work until they're done.

On Friday's we have Sweetened Condensed Daily Devotional, which means that we generally do a Hymn, our current memory-poem and scripture and then art. Then the kids are free until our Nature Group meets in the afternoon. (So yes, we only "do school" 4 days a week.)

On Monday-Thursday the kids disperse again for about 15 minutes, and then we start school.
I try to have them write something every day, do math, and narration. Then, usually 1-2 other "subjects" and after lunch we try to do something fun.

Core Subjects:
Reading: We don't have any reading lessons or Language Arts, really. We do copywork, and discuss the grammar of the sentences they are copying, but we don't do spelling or anything. The kids read for pleasure all day and I read aloud to them constantly. So that's that. The best way to improve at reading when you're 8 is to enjoy it.

Writing: I mean physically writing, not creative writing. For this, I try to have them write 1-3 sentences a day. That's it! They usually do a science, history or scripture copywork. For example, on Monday they wrote "Clovis united all the barbarians into one tribe, the Franks." and today (Wednesday) they wrote, "He made a new set of laws, a new capital city, and made everyone be a Christian." And yesterday they wrote "Christ is like a mother hen that protects us underneath her wings." And they wrote Thank You cards for their birthday gifts.

Math: We are really liking Miquon Math. It's fairly easy, but building steadily in difficulty. I usually have the kids do 2-3 pages in their workbooks and we discuss it and check their work. It takes less than 15 minutes, but they do a little every day.

Narration: "Narration" is a funny subject and everyone I talk to does it differently. I'm realizing it may be one of the most important things we do! Eventually the kids will type their own, but for now they dictate. The way we do it is this: The big boys each have a Google Doc called "Micah's Narration" and "Grey's Narration."
Everyday they have to narrate two subjects to me. Their subjects are: personal scripture study, history, science, journal, and books. I just ask them to tell me what they want to remember about a given topic, and type down everything they say.
They usually narrate their scripture story from the day, and one other thing. I'll ask them to do history or science the day after we study it together, or I'll ask for a journal entry after something exciting happens (like their recent baptisms) or a book entry if I know they just finished a book they enjoyed.
They don't think of it as a test, but a record of the things they've learned. They love seeing how long their documents are getting. They're funny and insightful.
I can't type as fast as they speak, so they'll stop and re-read what I've written while I catch up and then they'll tell me things they forgot.
I ask them questions like, "What happened next?" "Do you remember what her name was?" or "Why do you think he did that?" which can help them think of what else to say, but I don't ask questions like "What were the four barbarian tribes called?"
I want it to be more of a big-juicy conversation and less like a quiz.

 Those are the subjects we study every day (that we have school)! These are the other things I put on our Weekly To-Do List (not all of these things go on the list every week. Just some combination of things.)

History Chapter- I read a chapter aloud from our history curriculum, Story of the World. The kids know they're expected to narrate it back to me, so they pay attention- but they're usually working on a craft while I read.
History Copywork- This is when they write 1-2 sentences and illustrate it, like I shared before.
History Craft- I am pretty picky about crafts. For example, they need to be very open-ended, and require very little from me. So we aren't making salt-dough maps or something I have to prepare or supervise.
But today the kids made gargoyles from air-dry clay (because we read about cathedrals). Other crafts we've done include making cardboard viking ships, bamboo Chinese scrolls, Japanese woodblocks (out of foam)
History Dinner- About once a month the kids and I will plan a meal around what we are studying. Sushi, or figs, or roasted pig. I try not to be TOO crazy about it.
History Library Books- Whatever our study unit is, I get about 30-50 books from the library on the topic. The kids read a lot of them on their own, but I also make an effort to read 1-2 aloud a week (like when they're doing handwriting)


We don't usually do science and history the same week. Or month. Or semester.
Usually we do History for 6 weeks, focusing on a period of time (obviously now we are learning about Medieval France) and then do science for 6 weeks, focusing on a subject like "Biomes" or "The Human Body."  So we do all the same things for science as for history.
Science Narrations, copywork, library books, crafts/ experiments and field trips.

In fairness, I think there is a lot of overlap in Science and history. While learning about the plague, we've been discussing germs and medicine. While learning about the solar system, we studied Galileo and Copernicus.

Creative Writing: Usually this is connected to what we are doing during the week, and I try to find opportunities to have the kids write stories or poems. Ballads when we read Beowulf, Haikus when we studied Japan, etc. (The purpose of Creative Writing IS NOT to teach grammar. It is to teach kids that what they think is valuable and worth sharing.)

Mapmaking: I really enjoyed Mapmaking with Children, which taught me that kids need to understand that maps represent places before they can actually understand world maps. So most of our mapmaking is actually just MAKING MAPS of our house (for treasure hunts), of the trip to Piano Lessons, or building things out of blocks and making a map of it to recreate.
Occasionally we find places on the globe that we've discussed for history.

Scriptures / Come, Follow Me: On Saturday or Sunday, Travis and the kids play videogames or watch a movie together and I plan out 4-6 CFM lessons. We usually have one together during Sunday Dinner, one for Family Night on Monday and then the rest are part of our school week. The kids usually do 1-2 copywork sentences about it. I'll ask them "What do you want to say for Scripture Journal?" and they'll say "Jesus had twelve apostles to help him teach and heal" for example. I write that on a white board and they copy it into their Copywork Journals.

Nature Study: I am terrible at this. Mostly it's just identifying birds and trees on our hikes, but occasionally we do a lesson from Exploring Nature With Children or we track the moon or weather for the week.

Poetry Teatime: Easily our favorite thing to do every week, and my kids don't believe it's school! I sometimes make a treat, but I also often just slice apples and put out bowls of peanut butter for dipping. Everyone takes turns reading poems aloud that they like. August and Louise pick out poems they want us to read for them.

Games: I actually write games on our to-do list for the week, or we run out of time for games- but games are a great way to learn. We often play games on Friday or in the afternoons after the kids are done with school, but their friends aren't home yet.

Every morning while the kids do their Morning Tasks, I write down what I want to accomplish on a white board.
Today, I wrote:

History Journal
Laundry/Bathroom (boys jobs)
Gargoyles / The Duke and the Peasant (the project we did, and the book I read aloud while they worked)
Evergreens (nature study)

We finished the first three tasks and Daily Devotional by noon. We had lunch and I read a chapter of our family Read-Aloud book (just started Half-Magic). Then when Louise took a nap the kids made Gargoyles and I read a library book.
Everyone was outside playing by 1pm.

They haven't finished their chores yet, but I think we'll do it tonight and we haven't studied Evergreens yet, but we are going to drive up into the Mountains for a half hour before dinner. (So right now, as soon as I finish this blogpost.)

School is ever-changing for us, and we've been really great about school for a few months. Our current routine is productive and yet really relaxed and provides  lots of time to play and create.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hiking With Kids

Hey, remember me? I used to blog here every single day of the week.
Well, here I am for my twice-yearly post.
I shall post again in... November, if you're lucky.

About four years ago, another mom invited me to join her on a weekly "Mom and Kids Hike." They would meet at a trailhead and hike with their kids.
I literally had a panic attack at the thought. Hiking. WITH KIDS? With no husbands? In the mountains where there is no cellphone service?!
Was this woman actually insane?

But compare that to us last year! Last year we invited a few friends up to hike with us and one woman said, "I wish we hiked more, but it's just so much easier to go to the park instead."
And I straight-up scorned her.
Hiking in the mountains is NOT harder than going to the park. To go to the park you have to pack sunscreen, waterbottles, and snacks. Going to the mountains requires all the same things. It is the same as going to the park.
That's a big change of attitude in four years!

In fact, last summer the kids and I averaged about 3 hikes a week.
Thrice a week! Hiking in the mountains! With kids and no husband!
To be fair, I went from having 3 year old twins to having 6 year old twins, but I do have 2 more kids besides! Aaaand, to be double-fair, I use the phrase "hiking" broadly, as you might discover if you read on.

So if you find hiking with your kids is basically a nightmare or you're afraid to take kids hiking, here are some things that helped my kids fall in love with the mountains- and as we all know, if your kids love something, they're much more willing to do it without whining.

1. Buy them good gear.
This seems silly, I know. Your kids should be able to love the outdoors without hi-tech gizmos and gadgets. But they deserve the basics. Good shoes, a backpack, a water bottle.
On many, many occasions friends have asked us, "Will you take us hiking with you?" They saw our pictures (which are phenomenally beautiful, if I do say so myself) and they thought, "I want to go there and I want my kids to experience that!"
And they show up at the trailhead in flipflops!
10 minutes into the hike, all the children are crying. Your kids are going to want to climb rocks, ford rivers, and sometimes even walk downhill on sandy ground! Gasp! They will slip, slide, get hurt, sore, and be angry if they don't have good shoes on.
This is in no way an advertisement or even an affiliate link. Buy your kids Keens. They're sturdy, close-toed sandals that have grippy bottoms, can get wet, and will last through every single one of your children. And having gear (like a hiking backpack or a special waterbottle) is more fun for kids. They like having hiking gear. "Get your backpacks, we're going hiking!" and they know which bag is theirs, what fun things are inside (field guides, pocket knives, etc), and they like it.

2. Make them carry everything. 
Hiking sucks for Moms because you're carrying all your whiny kids' crap. Stop doing that. Every single child should have a backpack on, and that backpack should have a waterbottle and 1 billion snacks (more about that in a minute).
Yes. Your two year old should have a backpack.
Maybe your two-year old's backpack is empty, but he is getting used to carrying it.

3. It's not about the destination.
It's not. It's not. You will not make it to your destination so stop even thinking about it.
If you go on a grueling hike as an adult and you make it to the apex of the mountain, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Your child feels a sense of betrayal.
You forced them to be miserable and all they got was an amazing view? For most children- that's not worth it.
The hike itself needs to be fun. The hike needs to be fun, or you'll never make any destination. You will give up because everything is terrible. (Esp. your child.)
On more than one occasion, we've gotten 3/4 of the way through a hike and my kids have announced that they were ready to turn around.
Now that we have taught them to keep pushing forward, I sometimes say "No, let's power through, we are almost there!"
But most of the time, I say "Okay! Let's turn around!" It drives my husband crazy. He wants that destination.
But I don't want the kids to think of hiking as a chore. It's a treat! If you forced your child to eat an extra ice cream even though they didn't want it- it would fast become torture.
Hiking is like ice cream. Leave them wanting more!

4. Let your child choose their own adventure.
Along the same note as above: The purpose of hiking with kids is not to get to the destination. It's not even to hike, really! It's to help your child fall in love with the outdoors.
Hiking is a great opportunity to get outside, get moving, and go somewhere new. But when we "hike," we probably spend 1/2 -2/3 of the time- not hiking. Instead, the kids are exploring a pool in the river, climbing a big rock or tree by the side of the trail, or picking dandelions and blowing their seeds around.
 Sometimes we go "on a hike" and make it a quarter mile from the trailhead. Then the kids want to stop and build a fort.
Let them do that. That's why you stuck a book in your backpack. (Bonus Tip: Stick a book in your backpack.) If you spend 3 hours in the mountains and you never made it past that first quarter mile, who cares? When your kids discover that they love to be outside and explore nature, it's a lot easier to say "Let's hike a little farther- I think there's a cool waterfall ahead!"
When they love exploring nature, they'll want to see that waterfall- even if the climb is harder than a stroll around the block.

5. Bring 1 Billion Snacks.
This might be common sense to everyone but me- but when we first started hiking, I didn't bring anything but a spare diaper. I would think, "We are only going to be out for an hour. They wouldn't have a snack if we were at home."
No. Bring snacks.
First, it's a lot more tiring hiking than being at home. They will be hungry. Hungry kids are terrible kids.
Second, snacks are amazing bribery. Every time my kids want to stop for a break, I say "Run ahead and find the perfect spot for us to stop for a snack." They usually go another  eighth to quarter mile looking for just the right fallen log. Then everyone sits and has a 5 minute break, eats a snack, and is ready to go again.
Third, hiking snacks are special. I don't generally let the kids eat fruit leathers, granola bars, applesauce pouches, or mini bags of chips at home. Those are hiking-only snacks. My kids are willing to put up with a lot in order to get those snacks.
And saying "There's a chocolate chip cookie waiting in the car for every boy that gets to the top without whining!" is always helpful, too.

6. Hike New Places. Hike Old Places.
I think every other hike we go on is a new hike. We are blessed to live in an amazing place with lots of recreation areas around us. If you aren't in such a place- you just do what you have to do. But hiking familiar hikes has a lot of benefits and so does hiking a new trail.
Hiking somewhere familiar helps your child form a bond and a friendship with a place. On certain beloved hikes, my kids spend the whole time yelling things like "Hurry, the magical trees that take you back in time are just ahead!" or "We've almost made it to Friendship Spring!" or "Let's run ahead and wait for Mom in the Secret Ninja Campout!"
(Those are all actual places that they "discovered" and named.) It is fun to visit in different seasons and see familiar nature change. It is fun to bring friends and introduce them to the places we love.
But new hikes and locations are an adventure! And they give us the chance to discover a new favorite Secret Copse of Trees.

7. Get off the Sidewalk and Away From People. 
Sidewalks are boring.
When you search on the internet for "Kid Friendly Hikes" everything that comes up is paved.
I know why people think that's kid-friendly. It's so you can push strollers.
That's boring for your kid and it sucks for you. If you can, leave your stroller at home and go somewhere terrible instead. Yes, that's right.
Everything that you think is terrible about hiking is extremely fun for children. Climbing rocks? Wading through mud? Battling your way through vines?
Sounds like a super fun adventure to a knight! Flat, gravel trails that attract trail-running and people with dogs are boring and crowded. Don't hike them. Hike somewhere where you're all alone and you're having an adventure.
P.S. Another beautiful thing about being alone and in wilderness is that you never have to say things to your kid like, "Don't wave that stick around, you'll hit someone!" or "Please don't scream like a terrifying monster, you're making that small child cry." or "Stop throwing sand, that other mom is giving me the evil eye!"
You can just say, "Go a little farther away from me before you start peeing on everything in sight."
(I assume these are the sort of things that all mothers say all the time.)

8. Stop Telling Them to Be Careful
Sometimes when we hike with grandmothers or friends without kids, those adults spend a lot of their time shouting "BE CAREFUL! Get away from that ledge! Don't go near the water! That branch doesn't look strong enough! Don't eat that weird bug!"
Yeah. Kids are stupid. They do dangerous things. And every mother has her own limits, but a good limit is this: Is my child going to die if he climbs that rock?
Mostly likely, the worst that will happen is he'll get a concussion. The best that will happen is he will gain independence, improve his balance and problem solving skills, and experience immediate consequences for foolish actions. If you really can't stop yourself from warning your child, say things like "If you fall in the river, you'll have cold feet for the rest of the hike" or maybe even, "That rock looks a little slippery, what can you hold on to while you climb?"
Then your kid will use his brain a little, but also he will keep adventuring.

9. Learn about Where You Are (But Don't Overdo It)
Get a couple of field guides about where you live, and stick one in everyone's backpack. It's fun to point out things, "This is a maple tree. Look at the way its leaf is shaped, can you find any more Maple Trees?" or maybe "Look at that cute little woodpecker, let's see if we can identify it!"
Knowing the names of trees, flowers, birds, and rocks is fun. Seeing a bird in nature that you studied at home is like seeing an old friend unexpectedly.
BUT, don't turn hiking into studying. We used to bring nature journals, and I would try to sit my kids down and make them write about things they identified.
Guess what. They hated it. It was torture.
They didn't have time to sit and draw when they could be catching lizards!
Maybe your child loves to journal in nature. But if they don't? Who cares!

10. Make Hiking a Given, not a Surprise
We hike every single Tuesday and Thursday in the summertime. When they get up, they expect it. They're not surprised and horrified, "But today I wanted to jump on the tramp with Aurora!" They know it's coming so there is no fight.
We also usually do a spontaneous hike or two each week, when I wake up and think "Get me to the mountains before I accidentally kill everyone!" and those are the hikes my kids sometimes fight. And those are the fights they sometimes win.
Set an expectation, and then stick to it. 

11. Hike With Friends
My last tip for you is easy: Take your bestie.
Hiking with many children is really hard. Everyone moves at a different pace, everyone has a different idea of where to stop, when to turn around, and whether or not it's fun pee on things outside.
But hiking with a few friends is a must. Mom has someone to talk to, and keep her company. Someone to buckle the baby-carrier for her. Someone to go for help if you're bitten by a rattlesnake, etc.
And kids have someone to show off for.
Kids are much, much less whiny if there's someone else there with them. Especially if the other child is saying things like, "I heard a chickadee call!" or "Let's pretend we are Moccasins and hide and spy on our moms while they hike!"
So find a child like that (may I recommend a homeschooled weirdo?).
Then if you have a child that moves quickly and a child that wanders slowly behind you- they're easier to split up. Big kids can run ahead, little kids can dawdle. Moms can walk in the middle and say things like, "Does that sound like fun-screaming or hurt-screaming?"And they can just keep talking and wondering without going to rescue anyone, because one of the best parts of hiking with kids is just totally ignoring your kids for long periods of time.

Sigh. Hurry up and get here, Spring! I'm ready to get outside again!
(Was this post an excuse to post a bunch of pictures of us hiking? Yes.)


Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Study in Eyes

Louise's eyes are definitely blue- and yet, they are distinctly different than the blue eyes of Grey and Micah. So I started trying to find pictures of all my kids eyes to compare... and of course I got carried away. So here you go.





Then I made this little collage, like a crazy person with lots of free time. (I don't have lots of free time and am also hopefully not crazy.)
What do you think? I think Lu's eyes are shaped the most like Grey's eyes. August and Micah's eyes have a sorta downward slant on the outside, but are SUCH different colors, and Micah's eyes are so heavily lidded.
This is apparently how I exert my mental energies, comparing my children's eyeballs.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Grey and Louise, a Love Story

Grey and Louise love each other. They love each other more than any of my other children love each other. I suspect they love each other more than either of them love their parents.
I find, my feelings aren't hurt.

Grey was reading out loud to Louise, and I pulled out my camera. I love the natural evolution of pictures here.

As Grey read, he became distracted by Louise and started talking sweet to her and trying to make her smile.

He (obviously) was forced to abandon his book, and pay more attention to her. And give her kisses.

Also, as a bonus: I try to take pictures of my children and they try to be as annoyed by it as possible.
Little do they know, I even love their annoyed faces.

How I love this young man boy!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dandelion Wishes

Thank goodness we have a busy single mother and city council woman living next door! Besides being an awesome human being, she also has a fairly unkept yard- which keeps the Pitcher family from being the only slobs on the block.
I think all the very tidy old people on our street use their hedge trimmers EVERY DAY.
And we mow the lawn... well, almost never. Like, thrice a summer? Some of us have other things to do! Like keep children alive and be civically engaged! (We are not civically engaged. That would be our neighbor.)
But a few weeks ago, I looked over the back fence and noticed a veritable dandelion paradise. As the sun was sinking, I herded my children over into the neighbor's yard to stage a photoshoot.
Dandelions are good for something! (Also, they're good for bees. Also, I just kinda like them in general.)
Well, I didn't herd everyone. Grey was resting on the couch with a newly broken leg! Which I was pretty convinced wasn't broken. Despite my pleading, he refused to hobble over and blow weed-seeds around the neighborhood with us. Looking back, I find I can forgive him. facepalm
Louise also went to bed. But I forced my other children to participate!

At first, it was just fun to run around and blow out dandelions. After about 15 minutes, I asked Micah, "What are you wishing for?"
"What do you mean?"

They didn't know that you're supposed to make wishes when you blow out a dandelion! I guess I'm failing as a whimsy free-spirited mother.
I explained about the wish-fulfilling abilities of dandelions. Micah promptly picked another dandelion and whispered, "I wish I could always be kind!" and August, ever the mimic, picked one and also said, "Be kind!"

They're really good human beings.
I always wish for a million dollars or surprise thunderstorms, but I guess I've got a lot to learn.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Five Months Old + A Baby Blessing

Like magic, Louise continues to grow bigger. I recently was thinking: babies get cuter, smarter, funnier, more fun, easier, and better at everything as they get older.
And yet, those first few months are still somehow the best months of all. 
I'm trying to not be a really giant drama queen every time Louise crashes through another milestone, but it's tough. 

At five months old, she is so happy. I love these pictures, because I feel like they're so accurate to her personality. She is constantly smiling, chatting, and trying to get the attention of the people around her. She doesn't like being held facing me, she always wants to look around! She is definitely an extrovert, she gets excited and happy whenever we are with people. In Sunday School, our class sits in a circle and she sits on my lap. When she's awake, she spends the whole hour looking around the room, panting in excitement, and occasionally bursting into excited laughter. She's so happy to be surrounded by smiling people!
She laughs and giggles very easily, almost constantly- especially at her brothers. They can make her laugh much harder than Travis or I can. She loves her brothers and doesn't mind if they flop her around or are too rough or too noisy. She loves it all! Soon she'll be wrestling and crawling after them. 
On a few occasions when she's been face to face with other babies her size, she gets so excited! She starts panting and trying frantically to grab on to them. I predict she'll be one of those girls who loves baby dolls.
She is basically a baby doll, too. Everywhere we go, little girls come out of the walls and inch up to see her. "Oh! What a pretty baby! Can I hold her?" is something I hear every single time we leave the house. She has those big blue eyes and rosy cheeks that make her irresistible.

She still only has two teeth, and isn't mobile. She can sit up by herself, but gets tired or loses her balance within about 10  minutes. She can roll (and does instantly) when she's on her stomach, but hasn't figured out back to front yet. She doesn't like tummy time, and get frustrated with me very quickly (as pictured!) if I keep flipping her back over on to her stomach. 

Louise is getting very good at grabbing things, and her favorite things to hold on to are her toes and our fingers - all of which go right into her mouth. She's not as drooly as my other kids, but she is just as anxious to eat as they are. She gets very offended if we dare to eat in front of her without handing over our food. 

She chews on apple slices, watermelon, and bananas while we eat. The bananas are her favorite thing in the whole world- but slippery! So everytime she drops her banana, she SCREECHES. Also, she can scream SO loudly, and she does it when she is clearly not hurt, but angry. I'm a little worried about my ability to deal with future toddler-tantrums from this one!
She is a pretty good sleeper- amazing during the day, usually taking 2 three-hour naps! At nigh she sleeps about 12 hours, but wakes up twice to nurse. Which means I'm still getting up every night at 1am and 4am. But she sleeps so well in between eating and goes to sleep without any help, so I can't let her cry it out or anything. She obviously knows how to self-soothe and is actually hungry!

A few weeks ago, she was finally blessed at church! Mormons traditionally do a baby blessing when babies are a few weeks or months old. Similar to a Christening, it's a public prayer given in front of our congregation- typically given by the baby's father. Travis gave a really sweet blessing, and our families were able to come and participate. 

Some of the things Travis said in his prayer were that Louise would grow and develop normally and to be strong and happy.  That she would develop spiritually, find her talents, desires and purpose in this life and use them to build the kingdom of God.  He blessed her with a desire to serve and be aware of the needs of others around her, and to find joy doing so.  To love the scriptures and rely on inspiration of the Spirit and the leaders of the Church. And to have a desire to make and keep covenants pertaining to the gospel and help with the building of the kingdom of God.
Louise with her Dad and both Grandpas on her blessing day.