Sunday, November 23, 2014

I'm Ba-ack!

After taking a four-and-a-half-month hiatus from blogging, I finally decided to get back into it. And cooking and cleaning and exercising and reading the Bible and all the other things I've taken a hiatus from. And I have my better half to thank for it.

A few weeks ago, Ryan starts reading a book he got at a coaching clinic. It inspires him. The end of the books goes on to challenge him to read a whole bunch more books on leadership.  So, he goes for it. And gets all sorts of great ideas to improve his coaching and his life. And mine, too, apparently. This, while I'm in the midst of an "I'm a first-year teacher again" slump. He's all eating healthy and working out and being positive and setting goals and I just want to gripe about how tall my ungraded paper stack is and how I don't have my lesson plans made for next week and the laundry is overflowing. Zig Ziggler responds to my whining with motivational advice about making important things a priority and making good choices even if they're hard ones and I'm just like, shut up and pass me a cookie.

But he finally got to me. Well, him and a snow day. For once this school year I was able to get caught up in every area of my life and feel a little margin and I had a weak moment and agreed to work out with him and a few of his runners after school the next day. I nearly died. But then I felt amazing and went on to have the most productive evening of my life. I came back for more the rest of the week and even though I can barely walk, I've never felt better. Well, maybe not NEVER, but not for a long time. I've exercised five days this week, only eaten sweets on one day (unless you count a super tiny sliver of homemade toffee that the lunch lady practically forced me to try...), read the Bible and prayed regularly, kept the laundry folded and put away, kept the house in relative cleanliness, got ahead on some school stuff, and wrote seven blog posts! Whattya think of that, Ziggy?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All In

My hubs is a coach. Not just any kind of coach. He's the all in kind. He sits home crunching numbers for hours after races. He researches training techniques, injury treatment, shoe types for overpronation. He knows what overpronation means. And he loves his sport, but he loves his athletes more. He agonizes over the girl whose mom barely lets her stay for practice, knowing that she might have to quit and then do no telling what during her after school hours. He stresses over how to get the boy he knows can run minutes faster to believe it himself. He gives me motivational pre-race talks without even realizing he's doing it. He sets goals with his runners and his team--and his heart breaks when they don't achieve them. Then, he gets back up and figures out how to make sure it doesn't happen again.

We have a yearly end-of-season party at our house, affectionately dubbed "Laytonfest" by his team a few years ago. You'd think the basketball goal and trampoline (we bounced the springs off of our old one) were for our own kids, but we didn't wait until Christmas to purchase them. We did make sure they were assembled in time for Laytonfest. That's what this team is to him - his kids. And when they're wrestling with my little boys and drinking my hot chocolate, they're my kids, too.

My hubs is a coach. And I couldn't be more proud!

Friday, October 17, 2014


My little man is not so little.

He lost his tooth just before his birthday. Literally. It rolled down the drain. 

So he made a fake tooth for the tooth fairy, who was apparently off duty that night, which resulted in tears the next morning and a sneaky maneuver (even though he's always known who the tooth fairy is, we pretend for the fun of it) to save the day. My favorite thing about these pictures? The Optimus Prime costume. That's our boy. Always in some super hero get-up, conquering the world. And he believes he can, too. He can do anything in his mind. When we talk about what to do in case of bad guys, brothers drowning, or other emergencies, he always argues with us that yes he CAN beat up the bad guy and/or pull Max off the bottom of the deep end (I just realized how morbid we are!). In fact, he argues with us about EVERY.THIN.G. Usually his argument consists of a) he knows more than us and/or b) he can do more than we think he can. In his mind, there is nothing this stubborn, confident little dude can't do. 

So, at his birthday party, he wanted to decorate his own cake--and cookies, too, he decided. I'm a little OCD and the cake and cookies have always kinda been my baby, so it wasn't easy for me to let go. First, I had him do the design and told him I would execute it. He plan involved a detailed diagram of the cake - blue frosting, then "a layer of golden sugar and then ANOTHER layer of blue frosting so you can't see the golden sugar, then the Hero Factory H on top with golden icing and then everyone will bite into the cake and be like, 'What! There's even more sugar inside!'" I had to nix the golden sugar, but I told him I could do the H logo. Then, on the day of the party, he decided he wanted to frost it.

This is what he was going for, but he wanted lightning bolts coming out the side.


This is what he piped.

Nailed it.

This boy may not be a cake boss (yet - he's got a pretty good start, though), but I love that he believes he can do anything. And if he'll tack on "with Christ" to that belief, he'll be right!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School

I'm actually typing this post in November, so I have the benefit of knowing the future, but when this picture was taken on the first day of school this year, our family was a mix of excitement and fear.

No, Max didn't take this picture. We figured a selfie was more reliable than a Max-ie.

Reed and Calvin were starting at a new school. I was starting the new job I'd been so hesitant to go for for so many years.  The new teacher orientation and professional development days had been great. So great, in fact, that I'd cried to Ryan on the way home one day that "I love our new life!" But the first day of school is where the rubber meets the road, man. Our boys had been to summer school, but that was with waaaay fewer kids then they'd be with today. As for me, every teacher is pumped about school when there are no kids around. Your lessons go perfectly in your head and your classroom is spotless. But introduce the munchkins into the equation and things can get interesting. And I would be working with shorter munchkins this year! Two years shorter! 

I have to admit, third grade took a month or so to get used to. I mean, the friendly sarcasm that worked so well on ten-year olds went right over the head of my eight-year-olds! But about October, I started to realize that the kids that seemed like tiny babies to me in August had made HUGE changes in behavior AND performance. Let's be honest, I had too. The learning curve is big in third grade - for the students and the new teacher. And the halls seemed to shrink, too. It's late November as I type this and I'm happy to report that all my doubts about making this change have been erased. Yes, I still miss the people I left, but I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be - and I'm lovin' it! 

As for the boys, Calvin has been flourishing this year! Reed's age and personality have made the transition a little harder for him, but he's doing well. He's made new friends and enjoys himself at school. If it ever comes up in conversation, he'll admit that he still wishes he were with his old friends, but it comes up less and less often. 

I remember my first year at my old job. A lot of the pressures were similar. Feeling a little out of place. Being scared that you weren't competent. Having to make everything from scratch. I told Ryan at one point that year that I loved the teaching part, but the minute the kids left the room I felt like I was drowning. Well, I have to say this year I feel a lot like the first-year teacher again - Only this time I have three kids and have to leave by 4:30 to get to the sitter's on time! But, Cross Country season ended a few weeks ago, and our whole family has been riding together. I grade while we talk and for the first time in months I'm feeling a little margin clear up in our lives. And I know from experience, it's just going to keep getting better!

And now, just for the viewing pleasure of the aunts and grandmas, here are the rest of the back-to-school photos we shot. I fully intended to put these up on facebook that night, but life got in the way and I lost the camera (in the console of the car) and didn't discover it until a few weeks ago. 

Monday, August 4, 2014


When I look back over my blog, I realize that squash has been a problem blessing in our household for many years. And, due to picky eaters, I've had to develop many ways to cleverly disguise it. There were the gold doubloons, the squash Parmesan, and several other ways to eat and/or get rid of this prolific vegetable. This summer, inspired by this pin,  I added squash pizza to my repertoire (we called them squizzas). The boys ate it, but they didn't love it. Then, I invented squachos. The concept is simple, shred yellow squash over chips, then cover with cheese and melt in the oven. Once you put salsa on top, you can't tell what's squash and what's cheese. See?

Genius, right? The boys munched happily and I mentally patted myself on the back. For about five minutes. Then, Reed said, "Wait a minute.... What's this?"

Foiled again...


- tortilla chips
- yellow squash
- yellow cheese (Colby Jack is the best disguise, since it's two-toned)
- salsa
- sour cream
- guacamole
- taco meat

1) Spread chips on a baking sheet.
2) Shred squash over chips. Shred cheese over that. 
3) Mix with your fingers to maximize the disguise.
4) Broil until cheese melts enough to cover any sign of squash.
5) Top with salsa and other nacho toppings.
6) Wait with bated breath to see how long it takes your kids to discover your dirty little secret. Hope that they get a little nutrition in before that inevitable moment.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bathroom Redo

Well, the crazy summer didn't see many projects from this girl, but I finally got around to one I've been dreaming up for a while. First, the before. Another one of those hideous towel rings flanked by redundant outlet action. I already eradicated the mirror image of this with my Rub a Dub pallet art on the other side of the bathroom.

First, I cut, sanded, and stained some cheap 1"x 2" wood for shelf support and 1" x 8" planks for shelves. I pre-drilled holes in the support wood and attached them to the wall. This is actually the same process I used to build the white shelves in my craft area, minus the corbels I used for support for those longer shelves.

Then, like any project I undertake, things didn't go as planned, and I had to use some creative engineering. First, the shelves didn't want to stay on the supports, so I had to use tiny nails to attach them. Then, I couldn't figure out how to attractively camouflage the outlet collection. I went to my favorite source of wisdom, inspiration (and time wastage): Pinterest, and found this idea (the one on the right. There was no image or directions for just the basket of light bulbs, but the picture was all I needed):

Image found at:
Tinkering around with the idea caused all kinds of new problems. How do you get power to one of the light bulbs?  Answer: use wire cutters to remove a few of the wire sections so you can stick the light bulb's bootie out.

How do you hide all the excess cord from the Ikea light bulb cord? Answer: Shove it in a jar and disguise it with cotton balls.

And when the basket didn't look right on the shelf by the outlets, how do you get the cord to the plug in? Answer: Use a drill and a screw driver to hack a really tacky hole in one of the shelves and hope you don't change your mind about it.

I folded up some towels to cover up those unsightly outlets and attached a plank of wood below with vintage red faucet handles (actually drawer pulls) for a towel hook. 

And here's the whole shebang  (and the little shebanger in pirate pants who walked right into my picture...)

There's just one final set of problems to solve. What do you do when your husband declares it's too dangerous to keep the light bulb lamp plugged in and constantly takes the towels off of the shelf instead of from the way more convenient stack under the sink (and behind a step stool)? Answer: Shake your head. And fist.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Camp Allen

I guess it's official. Reed is no longer a little kid. He's big enough to go to summer camp. Overnight. For a week. With no parental contact. At all.

And he did great. Mama even did fine. Until it was time to pick him up. When we parked, we saw a little blonde head rushing out of the church van. He ran to us, crying. I felt horrible for not calling or sending a package or visiting or picking him up and taking him home so he didn't have to suffer a week of misery at that terrible place!

After hugs all around, though, I asked him if he was ok and he said, "Yeah! It was awesome!" Turns out he wasn't miserable at all.  He just got homesick the day he knew he was coming home. In fact, when he started telling us every.single.detail. about his experience, it sounds like it may have been the best week of his life! It was the quietest week of ours, but it sure was good to have him back!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer "Break" So Far

Whew! I'm not sure where our first four weeks of summer went, but they're gone. Here's a peek at what we've been up to:

- Ryan (with help of secretary Tobi) coordinates a first-ever fundraiser for his Cross Country team - a Dash of Color 5K and mile race.

collage and photos by Karen Belcher

photo by ESP (Eric Shrum Photography)

photo by ESP

photo by ESP

photo by ESP

photo by ESP
- Bigguns start summer school at their new district! This requires two trips to town a day - one at 6:45 a.m. Luckily, it still gets good ratings!
- Ryan and Tobi start and coach a club track team, requiring four practices a week, four weekend meets, ordering equipment, begging hurdles off of a high school, lots of paper work, and tons of tracking down teenagers to try to keep everything going!

- Ballplaying four nights a week. Daddy coached Cal's T-ball and Reed's parent pitch teams. Two weeks of rain required an upgrade in our texting plan, due to all the "Is the game cancelled?" conversations.

Thank you, Sherry Long, for taking photos. I've been a major slacker!

- Max tags along to almost every game and practice and we try to keep him happy (which is not easy when every time he tries to race a runner they "beated" him!)
- We babysit our two-year-old niece during her Daddy's work times for a week. I still can't do piggies.
- Two bouts of sickness.
- Minimum of 16 trips to town (20 mn one way) per week
- Trip to Kansas to visit family. A great time by all!

-  Usually-nine-hour drive home from Kansas with frequent pit stops for a child with diarrhea.

Did we overcommit? Probably. But we survived, and, after one more week of ball and track, July looks free and clear!

A Tale of Two Sickies

A bug has swept through our household, illustrating what we already knew -- these kids are like night and day. Consider:

Sickie A:

Is “sick” off and on for three weeks.

Sickie B:

Is “sick” only when they are currently throwing up - or don’t feel like going to summer school (never mind that this happened days before the first physical symptoms). 

Sickie A:

Misses two days of school, has nurse call me to pick him up early another day, and skips several of brother’s T-ball games.

Sickie B:

Misses a day of school and doesn’t understand why he isn’t allowed to play in his T-ball game that night.

Sickie A:

Spends his sick days home laying around moping, reading, not eating, and asking “How much longer will my stomach hurt?” 

Sickie B:

After vomiting and watery diarrhea, rallies and proceeds to don a Batman costume and attack his baby brother with plastic balls. Is unfazed by the series of toot-squirts that follow - other than expressing anger the “I didn’t have ANY warning!” and disappointment that his Wolverine jumpsuit has to go in the washer. 

Sickie A:

Carries a barf bucket with him EVERYwhere he goes for days after his last barf incident, “just in case.”

Sickie B:

Throws up in bed, doesn’t tell a soul, rolls around in it all night, then gets mad when I make him take a shower the next morning.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Just because I want to remember how they played the Wii at this age, even though, right now, I want to kill them every time they do.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wise Stranger

The woman who sat beside us at the restaurant today got quite the show. She saw a lot of wiggles. I'm fairly certain she felt some, too, given the range or our wiggliest child who sat not six inches from her chair. She saw our kids get up to the bathroom two times. EACH! (Well, she was only there for the contagious poop round, but trust me, lady, there was an identical pee round not five minutes prior). She saw Max drop two forks on the ground. Hopefully she didn't see me "wipe the germs" off of fork number two because I was too embarrassed to bug the waitress who had already witnessed the three-ring circus that performed before a new seating arrangement was issued.

This poor lady (and half of the restaurant, I'm sure) heard loud comments on other customers' clothing, tattles about what each boy was doing to another, demands for explanations on why we ordered water instead of soda, and inquiries into the whereabouts of the beloved restaurant owner (a.k.a. "the Oreo man" because of previous generous table visits). She heard me ask Calvin to please stop kicking me, no less than 14 times. If she was listening closely, she also heard hushed, but increasingly aggravated explanations and corrections from Ryan and I.

Then, when bellies were full and cake and cobbler were on the table and Ryan and I could finally get an adult-to-adult word in edgewise, she heard us try to mentally re-create our calendar for the week, unsure of which night was T-ball and which was parent pitch, if there was a conflict with the PTO meeting or if we could attend, how many nights this week we'd have to crock pot it or eat out, and how badly we didn't want to add a whole-crew grocery run to our list for that day, but how it seemed unavoidable.

When Ryan left to pay the cashier, trailing two stained mouths behind, I tried to make our table look not quite so tornadic before I grabbed a sticky little hand and followed. The lady caught my eye, gave me a warm smile and said something that brought me to embarrassing tears right there on the spot. "They'll be all grown up soon."

Thank you, random lady, for not glaring at us when we interrupted your quiet Sunday afternoon dinner for the umpteenth time. For not elbowing our wiggle worm back (actually...) And for giving me a message that was exactly what I needed. Part hope and part warning.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Problem Solvers

I needed to kill some time with the two littles munchkins tonight. We chose the city park. I told the boys I'd play with them (translation: lift up to the "zip line," push on the merry-go-round, and otherwise satisfy their whims) for a little, but then I was going to the picnic tables to grade papers. When that time came, Calvin honed in on a giant boulder and started climbing. Max joined in on the fun, but soon was hollering that he needed a "boost-ie." I ignored him, feeling slightly guilty, but rationalizing it by thinking that I was fostering independence. Well, what do you know? I was right!

Within a few minutes, the boys had run across the park, found a "step stool" (a chunk of bark off of a log), and drug it over to the boulder. Soon, I heard, "Mom! I got up!" Sure enough, Little Bit was sharing the role of king of the mountain with his big brother.

Providing assistance for my kiddos may not get me off my butt, but cute photo opps usually will. I crossed to the boulder and got to capture their process. Melt my heart!