Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013 on FB

Jan 1: The Tolman family won the Salmon radio's 60's songs montage contest again on New Years Eve! It was a great night with Josh's family.

Jan. 6: I was wearing a long beaded necklace, and it suddenly broke and beads went everywhere. Kanyon said he knew why: "Because your neck is getting so old, mom".

Jan. 9: Have you ever been told that what you do doesn't matter? hurts. It hurts something fierce. So much so, in fact, that my desire to go to work has left me.

Jan. 11: My oldest son is opening a facebook account today, now that he's officially come of age! Happy 13th birthday, Ammon! I can't believe I am now a mother of a teenager!!!!

Jan. 13: Tried a new recipe today for Ammon's birthday dessert: chocolate chip cheesecake squares. It was fairly easy and the boys liked it: spread chocolate chip cookie dough in a pan, cover with cheesecake filling, add another layer of chocolate chip cookie dough on top, then bake it and cool it and eat it, yum yum.

Jan. 14: to the anonymous person who sent me flowers today, thank you. the lilies are gorgeous and smell terrific and they definitely put a smile on my face!

Jan. 19: I can't stop singing the songs I've been teaching my students lately...I sing them in my head morning and night. For the 4th graders, it's Schoolhouse Rock's "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly". For the 3rd graders, it's Disney's "You got a friend in me". For the 2nd graders, it's Dr. Seuss's "It's Possible".

Jan. 22: So during the second half of Ammon's basketball game tonight, on impulse, I started singing super loud (and of course it suddenly got quiet in the crowd) "This team is on FIRE!" --to the tune of "this girl is on fire". After the game, Ammon texted me "Mom, was that you singing so loud in the middle of my game?". Uh...yeah, guilty.

Jan. 25: I look forward to Friday mornings each week, so that I can finally sleep in. And every Friday morning, the kids are up early and yelling & fighting with each other and it ruins my morning plans.

Jan. 25: I'm so happy to say that today ended better than it started: Jonah won the pinewood derby tonight, Micah had a fast car, too, as well as good sportsmanship, and Ammon was a starter at his basketball game, he played well, and their team won again!

Jan. 28: 4 new inches of packing snow, sunshine, and a Sunday afternoon were the perfect elements to go sledding, tubing, and building a snow cave with the boys today! And I loved every minute of it!

Jan. 29: I got a drastic hair cut from my norm, it's now short and spikey instead of a straight A-line. I've been asked by TWO kids at school this week "You're having a bad hair day", and told by THREE other students "Your hair is messy". Thankfully, I work with many women teachers who've complimented it multiple times, or I'd start getting a complex!

Monday, January 28, 2013

musical fingers & singers

December is a busy month. As a music teacher, it's even busier with musical shows. I had several of my students involved in multiple performances...and they all made me so proud and remind me why I love my job so much.
At the beginning of December, I volunteered to have my 4th grade students sing the national anthem at a high school boys' basketball game. I'd never done this before, and it was quite the process. I had to communicate and work with several people on the high school level to get it all coordinated. I teach three 4th grade classes, totalling over 60 students. It was a voluntary assignment, and I needed signed parent slips from each of them saying whether or night they would be coming. After figuring out who would be joining us, we spent an hour one afternoon walking over to the high school and practicing during school. The night of the performance, I had to rearrange and line-up the students and supervise them until it was time for them to sing. And all of that work was worth it. It was an amazing sight to see 40 kids be patriotic and sing the Star-Spangled Banner. I was so proud of them! I received several compliments from audience members who also loved their performance.
The Kindergarten Christmas program was the week before Christmas break. I created this year's program based on the book "Snowman at Christmas". I teach 3 classes of Kindergarten students, totalling over 60 kids, and they helped me decorate the stage by cutting out their own snowflakes. Mrs. Foote, one of the Kindergarten teachers, is also an artist. She created a snowy mountain backrop for a cultural performance at the 2000 SLC winter olympics, and I asked her if we could borrow that to put on the stage, which she agreed to do. It made the stage look awesome for their show! I purchased a large inflatable snowman to complete the decorations, since the book was all about snowmen. This is my classroom & the decorated stage:
I asked the Superintendent to come and narrate the book, and during different parts of the book, we paused the story and sang a song relating to what was happening.  We had been learning and practicing songs for this show since October. We sang 10 songs in all: "Hello Friends", "Falling Snow", "The Snowman", "Frosty the Snowman", "Santa Clause is Coming to Town", "Jingle Bells", "Deck the Halls", "Oh Christmas Tree", "Away in a Manger", and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". The kids walked onto the stage while a funny variation of the song "Once there was a Snowman" was playing. There were two students who got to jingle bells during the song "Jingle Bells", and for the song "Deck the Halls" one of my 5th grade students accompanied us on a fiddle. It was a fun program and the kids did so well! They performed the show twice--once for the studentbody as their dress rehearsal, and once for their parents. I was so happy with their performances! They did a great job!

I enjoyed having my son in the production as well! He was standing on the opposite side of the stage from where I was sitting, so I didn't see him a lot during the show. Thankfully, Josh videotaped it for me, and I was able to see Kanyon participating in the entire program, and it made my heart happy!

The final music program that my students were involved in was the High School's Christmas Concert. My students have never before combined with the middle school and high school at a concert. It was exciting and the 5th graders were so anxious for it! All the 48 5th grade students except 2 participated. Here they are getting set up in the high school gym (Salmon doesn't have an auditorium):

I'd been teaching them to play the recorder since October. They played 3 songs on their recorders together at the concert. The first song was "Shoheen Sho", a Welsh lullaby that I had them play with a harp accompaniment on CD in the background. It was beautiful! The next two songs were Christmas tunes: "Jingle Bells" and "Jolly Old St. Nick".
After they were done playing their recorders, we also sang one song for the audience. The students all set their recorders down, stood up, walked by me, each collecting a wrist bell, and took their places on the 3-tier risers. They sang the song "Jingle Bell Rock", and they used the wrist bells rhythmically during parts of the song when they weren't singing. There were also two air guitar soloists, who were a big hit. The crowd loved this song, and so did the 5th graders! I tried to upload the video of it, but it wouldn't work. This 5-second clip is the beginning, when the students had all just gotten on the risers and we were waiting for Mr. Anderson (my supervisor & the high school/middle school music teacher) to turn on the microphones (I had students introduce each song, so there's one girl standing by the mic):

The 5th graders did an awesome job, and I was swelling with emotion to see them put their hearts into the performance after all the work we'd done! It's moments like these that make me so happy to be an elementary music teacher! The Kindergarten program & 5th grade show were on consecutive days, and it was stressful trying to accomodate the scheduling! So, I was also very glad when the performances were done and I could relax over Christmas Break!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

baby, it's cold outside

It's been a very cold winter. For the past two weeks alone, our lows every day have been in the negative digits. Whenever I step outside, my nose innards freeze. I've got to admit that I hate that feeling. I'm so tired of the bitter cold! But, being so cold all the time has made me aware of many blessings, and I feel so grateful. 

So thankful for snow that covers the ground that glitters in the frozen air.
So thankful for frosty trees that make the area look like a magical winter wonderland. 
So thankful for a wood stove that provides heat for our house 
So thankful for a deck to store the wood so close to the door next to the wood stove.
So thankful for a husband who cuts and chops the wood and builds the fires.
So thankful for strong boys who carry the chopped wood from the wood pile to the deck.
So thankful for our home with good insulation, and no frozen water pipes (our old house had frozen pipes every winter and I don't miss that one bit).
So thankful for the cars that continue to start in the morning (only one has given us trouble).
So thankful that none of our kids have gotten the flu that's been going around this season.
So thankful for space in our home, so that we're not all cramped & piled on top of each other since we're spending a lot of time inside together.
So thankful that I have a warm coat that covers me (a true gift as it was leftover from a coat drive).
 So thankful for a bed that I love that keeps me warm and cozy at night so that I can sleep.
So thankful for jobs that provide for our necessities, including the electricity so that we are kept out of the dark.
So thankful for my health, and ability to keep my body warm. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

it's all down hill from there

In the middle of December, we had our first good snowfall. We spent the Saturday morning the week of the first snowfall sliding in the snow. Ammon invited some friends over, and the kids played and played outside for 2 hours. It was so much fun for all of us!

They began the day by sledding on the hill adjacent to our house:

Edward kept bringing more snow over with his backhoe and then distributing it along with Josh onto the sled hill with shovels.

After the boys felt that they could master the jump that Edward built, the boys began going in succession to make things more exciting!

Kanyon is afraid of going too fast on the steep hill, so after he watched the boys for a while, then he decided he would try the area next to it--it's slower, but also a lot bumpier with rocks and weeds.

When the boys were done with sledding, then they began tubing down the hill instead:

After they tired of tubing, then Josh and Edward tied toboggans behind 4-wheelers and took the boys for a ride on our driveway, in the field below our house, and along the snow-covered road.

Kanyon was afraid of being pulled behind the fast 4-wheeler, so when the boys all returned, he took a ride with Grandpa pulling him instead.

It was a fabulously fun Saturday snow morning for the boys. I was so grateful to receive enough snow so that we could enjoy the day this way. Last year we didn't receive hardly any snow, and it was a tough winter to endure without the enjoyment of sledding days like this!

Monday, January 21, 2013

pumpkin puree process

I get asked a lot about how I make pumpkin puree. We have managed a pumpkin patch for 4 years now, and I've made puree from pumpkins left over after sales were through each year. In years past, I've made puree out of 20-40 lb. pumpkins. This year, we had all smaller pumpkins left, so this year's puree was made from 40 pumpkins that all weighed between 2 - 4 pounds. 

The first step is wash the pumpkin. Then cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and scoop out the pulp. From there, cut the pumpkin into medium-size chunks. With the small size of this year's pumpkins, I cut them into 4 pieces. After cutting the pieces, I place them face-down on a cookie sheet. When the cookie sheet is full of pieces, pour a 1/2 inch of water into the pan.

Bake the pumpkins in the oven at 375* for 1 hour. The skin of the pumpkin will begin turning brown, and the flesh underneath is soft.

The cooked pumpkins need to cool for 10 - 30 minutes, then when they are cool enough to touch, pull off the skins. The flesh is super moist. Place the flesh inside a food processor. Puree the flesh until it's smooth and there's no visible chunks.

Since it is still so moist, it needs to be strained. Pour the contents out of the food processor into wire-mesh collanders. This is the longest part of the process--it needs to be strained for a minimum of 30 minutes to get a lot of the water content out.

After the puree has been strained, pour 3 cups of it into a blender. I add 1/2 cup of sugar to the blend. But if you use pie pumpkins, adding sugar is not necessary. Since I've been using large pumpkins for the previous 3 years, I added sugar to sweeten the puree so that it wouldn't taste like squash. Mix the puree & sugar until well blended and sugar is dissolved.

Pour the puree from the blender into quart-size freezer bags. Squeeze as much air out of it before sealing the bag shut. Each bag is the equivalent of a 29 oz. can. Lay the bags flat before placing in the freezer (I stack them).

Once I've started a round of pumpkins, I do several rounds because the job is sticky & messy, and I hate cleaning it all up. So, if I can get as many rounds done in one day as possible, it's less clean-up than if I did one round a day for however many days. I start an assembly line and have several things going at takes several hours to get a few rounds done, but I start getting in the groove.

I worked on making the puree this year for 3 days at the end of November/beginning of December (that's when I finally had the time to invest in the process). There were 40 pumpkins to do, and I'd been storing them inside my house since Halloween so that they wouldn't be subject to the frost outside. I divided the pumpkins into rounds. Each round consisted of approximately 3 pumpkins. The first two days I did 4 rounds, and the third day I did 6 rounds. It isn't difficult to make, just time-consuming. I've never made so much puree before--this year's total was 28 quart-size bags! It was tedious at times, but the end result was so rewarding! I love looking at all the completed bags of puree. And the homemade puree is so delicious! Recipes used with homemade pumpkin puree taste so much better than ones using store-bought canned puree. When using the pumpkin puree in a recipe, all you have to do is pull a bag out of the freezer, place in a sink full of hot water, and it's ready to be used in 20 minutes!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

candy cottages

At Family Home Evening on the first Monday night in December, the boys and I put together a gingerbread house kit that my mom had given us. The kit included four little cottages, 2 colors of frosting, and 2 kinds of small candies. I put together the little houses after school and let the frosting set up for a few hours before we'd be decorating them. I'd learned my lesson in previous years that it's best not to put them together right before you try man-handling them with more frosting and applying candies. 

The boys each picked one of the four small, uniquely shaped houses. I found extra candies in Josh's stash that I poured in separate containers, I set out the frosting, put the houses on cardboard pieces, and the boys got to work.

Well, more accurately speaking, 3 of the boys got to work. Ammon didn't want to participate because he thought he was too old to decorate a gingerbread house. I disagreed with that thought, but couldn't convince him otherwise. I wasn't about to let the 4th house go to waste, especially since I like decorating them myself, so I joined the boys at the table, while Ammon and Josh watched a basketball game on TV (you can see Ammon in the back of this picture on the couch playing on his laptop).

The boys meticulously placed candies on the frosted sections of their house. I helped Kanyon apply his frosting, and he placed the candies himself. I helped Jonah and Micah with just the frosting on their windows, the rest of their frosting and candy applying was done completely on their own. I enjoyed watching their creative work!

 They were so proud of their work! When we completed the houses, then we worked on making walkways on the cardboard pieces, too. As soon as they finished, the boys instantly wanted to know when they could start eating them. Can you believe I made them wait a week for the houses to be on display before I let them devour them?! They couldn't! But they were good boys and waited 6 days before breaking off candies to eat!

I just loved their little houses and having their creative artwork be on display that week! I had Josh & Ammon guess who's house belonged to who, and they had a hard time picking. We were so impressed with our boys' artistic work, especially compared to previous years' decorated gingerbread houses. The cottages were fit for the likings of Hansel and Gretel!

Kanyon's A-Frame Masterpiece with pretty sweetarts all in rows and a big door mantle :

Micah's house with a gumdrop-covered roof, and an awesome little wreath:

Jonah's flat-roofed house covered in mini candies, adorned with red windows:

I had a lot of fun working on my own house, especially trying to make bows out of frosting. I liked making it symmetrical and colorful and decorative. I loved my little house, and I was glad for the opportunity to decorate a house along with my boys.

 It was a fun activity for Family Home Evening! Thanks mom for providing our family with such a treat!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I wev him, too

Yesterday, my 5-year-old Kanyon said to me, "Mom, wanna know the difference between oi-o and o-we-o? Oi-o is what you put in cars, and o-we-o is the black & white cookies that we eat." I love his cute little speech, and the way that he pronounces some of his sounds and words!

He calls semi trucks "somebody" trucks, and sometimes when we're driving, he'll point out the somebody trucks that are angry, and the somebody trucks that are happy. The angry trucks have squareish fronts and look grumpy, and the happy trucks have more roundish fronts and seem to be smiling. I love the way he thinks and looks at life!

We were working on New Year's goals the other night at Family Home Evening, and I was trying to help Kanyon make realistic goals for himself for 2013. He will be 6 next month, and I was giving him ideas for what the other boys were able to do at the age of 6. So I said to him "I think one of your goals should be doing chores all by yourself". He instantly replied "no. that's too hard for me. Maybe...I can just do only wash windows by myself". I should explain--when I was teaching him how to do chores this last summer, that was his favorite chore to do by himself. I explained to him that goals are supposed to help us improve and be better, and since he already knew how to wash windows by himself, he didn't need to make that be a goal. I said "Maybe you could clean your room by yourself this year". He said "no. that's too hard for me". I said "Maybe you could do your own laundry this year". He said "no. that is too hard for me. I can only wash windows by myself". So I gave up giving him ideas.

Kanyon is a super smart little boy, and is constantly fascinated with mathematical equations. One day a few months ago, he stated aloud math additions from 1-100 in sequential order (what's 1+1, then 2+1, then 3+1, etc. all the way to 99+1). When we are sitting in the car driving to or from town, he will frequently quiz me on math. "Mom, what's one plus seven?" When I tell him the answer is 8, then he will come up with a different addition problem that equals the same answer, like "Mom, what's five plus three?". He's been doing bigger problems lately in his head that are in the twenties and hundreds. and asking me the answer to make sure that he has it right. I'm always amazed at how good he is at math at just the age of 5, and sometimes I'm dumb-struck as to what makes him think up unique math questions at the strangest of times.

His teacher Mrs. Foote told me this week that Kanyon scored the highest points of any kindergartner in the school on the IRI (Idaho Reading Indicator) test they just completed. I love listening to him try to read and sound out words. This week at bedtime I read him a book, and I had him read the small and easy words to me. I loved listening to him sound out the letters and words, and it made me so happy to just listen to him. He wrote me a card at school the other day. He sounded out the letters in his head, and wrote his own words "I wev tolman". After he gave me the card, I was trying to figure it out. He said "Mom, how do you spell 'wuv'?". I told him "L-O-V-E". "Oh", he replied. He then pointed to each word on the card and said, "I...wuv...Mrs. Tolman". (I teach him music at school, and Mrs. Foote had all the class write or draw thank you cards to me--which is why he didn't write the word 'mom'). My heart instantly melted. I love that little boy!

It's both difficult and rewarding to watch your youngest child age. I relish in each of his developmental stages more because I know he's our last. Kanyon has had some developmental difficulties, so I am especially grateful for the things he's able to achieve and accomplish, and sometimes I think "I'm glad that's the last time we'll have to go through that", and on that same note, sometimes I'm sad to think "that's the last time we'll experience that". Like for instance, with potty training, I was happy that was the last time I had to go through it, and with teaching chores, I will be glad to not have to do spend the long time it takes to teach each chore again. But with half-days of kindergarten learning, I'm sad to know this is the last time I will have a son in kindergarten. And with listening to his speech develop properly, leaving behind the cute toddler words, I will be sad to know that I won't hear my child speak that way again.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Thanksgiving and Things

The week of Thanksgiving, we only had a 2-day school week. I took those two days off of work to mend from my knee surgery the previous Friday. On Monday morning when everyone else went to school and work, I was home alone, and I was feeling lonely and pretty sorry for myself. But the remainder of the week quickly helped me forget those feelings of self-pity. 

Kanyon's Kindergarten class had a feast on Tuesday morning, and I was so grateful that since I was off work, I was able to attend it! His little kindergarten class is so adorable, and I enjoyed spending time with them. His teacher Mrs. Foote, had taught the class how to set the table and how to have table manners prior to the snack feast. 
 Kanyon likes spray cheese, so I decorated ritz crackers with smiley faces of cheese on them as our contributions to the feast.
The students in the class had all made Indian hats as homage to the original Thanksgiving feast, and when the class had all gotten their food from the buffet table, then they all got to put their hats on. They were so cute!

On Tuesday night, my parents came up to visit overnight. I was so grateful to see them! We didn't do much, but my mom brought dinner, and we relaxed in typical fashion that evening...

On Wednesday, my parents left, and Josh's brother Malachi and his friend Molly came to town. We went to see the matinee of "Wreck-it Ralph" at the theater in town. All of us really liked it, and it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, we spent the morning helping prepare the day's feast. Josh made mashed potatoes and cooked the hams. Kathy made rolls and gravy and they had the turkey deep-fried. Scott brought pies, Gideon and Barb brought salads, and the meal was ready to go at 1:00.

Thanksgiving dinner was at Ed & Kathy's house this year. All of Josh's siblings and families came! Uncle Tim & Aunt Barb were there too, as well as Barb's son Scott & his girlfriend Erin. It was a delicious meal!

That afternoon, the adults took naps and rested, while the kids played in and outside together. Thankfully the weather was nice, and they had a great time running around, shooting play guns, and playing tag.

That night, I pulled out my new game "Things" and we all played it together. This has become my most favorite game lately. We'd played it with my parents a few days earlier, too, but this time we had about 15 people playing it. I've never had such a fun time playing that game--we played with adults and kids, and it was hilarious to hear people's responses. For example, the card that said "Things you wouldn't do at a funeral", Gideon's response was "Sing 'Now Let Us Rejoice'". We all burst out laughing when we heard it. Then Jonah asked "Why would lettuce sing anyway?" which made it even funnier! I had a fabulous time with Josh's family and truly enjoyed spending the Thanksgiving day with them!

The next day, on Friday, a big group went to go cut down Christmas trees together, our annual tradition. I was unable to go, but the group had a great time in the beautiful weather and picked out some great trees together.

Josh's sister Tiffany and her family left on Friday afternoon. The boys had such a fun time playing with their cousins and were sad to see them go. On Friday night, we went to see the Parade of Lights show on Main Street in Salmon. I loved seeing the entries in the parade and seeing some of my students on the sidelines, too.

Despite the fact that I was healing from surgery, I had a terrific Thanksgiving week. The highlights for me were eating good food (and leftovers, too), playing Things with Josh's family, attending Kanyon's kindergarten feast, and visiting with my parents. I felt truly blessed and thankful to have had such a wonderful holiday and break from work.