The Fourth Grade Teacher

My fourth grade teacher’s name was Lavona Areghini. “Lavona from Sedona, Arizona,” she told us one day, making the room full of nine-year-olds giggle. She was an experienced teacher when I came into her grade, and her room was always warm and welcoming.

I’m sure I learned long division in her class, and I know we read some classics together. She introduced me to one of my favorite authors when she read Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming aloud in class after lunch recess every day for a week or so. I never wanted her to stop reading. I represented our class in the school spelling bee that year.  I got straight As. My handwriting looked like my dad’s.


There were probably other important facts and skills that I picked up there as well, but the most important thing I remember about that year was being loved. Mrs. Areghini loved her job, and she loved her students, and we all knew it. And that’s what good teachers are about.

The next year we faced a family tragedy, and though I had just begun fifth grade when it happened, I went back to Mrs. Areghini’s room when I needed to feel safe. In fact I spent a few months at the beginning of the year kind of in a stupor, and one day purely out of habit I returned to that place of comfort. I was so embarrassed when I realized I had stumbled back into her room, now full of a new class of fourth-graders, but she was welcoming and kind and accommodating even after I interrupted her new class — all the things I needed in that moment.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week in the US. I’ve been appreciating teachers in my heart for the last couple of weeks, since a writer friend posted on Facebook about catching up on recording her personal history. She has been posting excerpts to keep herself motivated and working. Susan had gotten as far as fourth grade when we saw this post:

“Someone posted today how grateful they are for a teacher helping their child, and I reflected on the teachers who made a difference in my son’s life and mine. And then I realized that both of our favorite teachers of all time were our fourth grade teachers and both of them are my FB friends. My fourth grade teacher even came to one of my book launch parties! Thank you … for making such a difference in my son’s life. And thank you … for making a difference in mine.”

Our school year is almost over. The last official day for our district is May 21, but we’re leaving early to go on an epic family adventure so my daughter will finish school next week. It is time to show our gratitude and appreciation to our third grade teacher and then get ready to relax and recharge and learn by experience for a few weeks.

And then, after our family experiences of the summer, my Pioneer Girl will begin her own fourth grade adventure. We looked through my school scrapbook this afternoon, and I told her that fourth grade is a great year. I wish her success in her academics and personal growth, but most of all I wish her a teacher who loves, like Mrs. Areghini loved.

Talent Show!

This week I attended a church group talent show featuring five girls between the ages of 8 and 11.  It was a wonderful hour celebrating their talents and hard work over the last year.  One girl performed a piano solo and then a duet with her mother, and another girl displayed a beautiful painting she had made.  We enjoyed a fun fairy tale story written and read by another girl. My Pioneer Girl and her friend sang and danced along to one of their favorite songs — with Miss Pickle rapping the good parts, too.

The girls’ teacher opened the evening with a story about talents from The Friend magazine.  You should click over and read it, but it’s about Lacy, a little girl on her way home from a talent show much like the one we were watching, and how she felt less talented than those who danced and sang and had a “family band.”  But with her mother’s encouragement, over the course of the next week Lacy realized that she had a special talent for welcoming and comforting the foster children who came to stay with her family.

Brittany knelt by her bed. It amazed Lacy how easily all her sisters and brothers learned to pray. With a little prompting, Brittany began. “Dear Hebenly Father, please bless Lacy. She loves me. Amen.”

Tears stung Lacy’s eyes. A million thoughts flashed through her mind. She knew a little about each of the children who had joined her family before they came. All of them had suffered more than Lacy could imagine. Each had brought her or his own special spirit into her family, and Lacy loved them all. She enjoyed helping to care for them. She read to them and played games with them. She helped them to dress and did their hair. Most of all, she tried to help them to be happy, to feel safe, and to know that Heavenly Father loved them.

Lacy hugged Brittany as she tucked her in. “I really do love you, Brittany. You’re a wonderful sister.”

I loved this story because Lacy took some time to find a talent that God had given her, and she really thought about what she was good at.  And I love that the talent that she found was caring for children who needed her in a tough moment.

Pioneer Girls look for ways they can bless the lives of those around them, just like Lacy did.  They search for their personal talents and develop them through dedication and practice, and use them to make the world a better place for themselves, their families, and everyone around them.

No such thing as a “Dad Job”

Today I fixed the chain on my littlest Pioneer Girl’s bike.

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There used to be a time when, in a fit of not-wanting-to-do-that-right-now, I told my little kids that that sort of thing was a “Dad Job,” and they would have to wait until Dad got home and ask Dad to do it.  That went for such things as getting the screwdriver to remove the battery cover to change the batteries in the loudest favorite racecar, or fixing the squeaky drawer, or starting the grill for dinner, or anything that made me go outside and work where it’s hot.  (This is Arizona, people.)

Then one day I thought about what I was teaching my kids about what girls can do.  And it wasn’t the right thing.  Blergh.

I grew up in a house with no boys.  It was me, my mom, and my little sister, and we did everything.  My mom was especially great about it.  If there was something she needed done and she didn’t know how or didn’t have the right tools, we had an amazing Grampop a few miles away who had the tools and the knowledge to do pretty much anything.  But my mom never asked him to do it for her — she always asked him to show her, so that she could do it next time.  And he was super supportive of her and patient as she learned.

I watched my mom do everything, from running both an office and a household on her own, to cutting pieces of wood with heavy machinery in our backyard to create art,  to things as simple as arranging the logistics of our annual vacations.  Eventually she passed some of those jobs down to me.  I remember all three of us sitting around the cordless phone with a notepad (pre-Internet, people!) as I called and got rates, compared locations and prices, and then finalized the hotel and rental car arrangements for our trip to Seattle the summer that I turned 12.

And now I’m telling my kid that I can’t use a screwdriver to change some batteries?  Dude.

So a couple of months ago I stopped saying “Dad Job” to my children, and I got out the tool box.  My girls see me get my hands dirty and fix their bikes.   My boy knows that I can run the lawnmower or jump-start a car. They’re learning, by watching me and working with me, that there’s no such thing as a “Dad Job.” Girls can do anything.

Meet Mackenzie

Mackenzie Teo became a Pioneer when she was 17 years old.


Mackenzie spent more than half her life in foster care before she was adopted in November 2014, six months before she would have aged out of the system. Because she was an older child when she entered the care of the state, her chances of being adopted were not good. She spent time in 26 different “placements,” including group homes. She considers two of them “good” — stable, loving, kind, supportive — placements.

When Mackenzie first met the family who would eventually adopt her, she had one pair of shoes that were two and a half sizes too small. They had holes everywhere. She wore an ill-fitting dress, the nicest she could find, and these blownout brown sneakers. She wore those shoes everywhere — to church, to school, to meet the people she hoped would become her family — because they were the only shoes she had.

A couple of years later, when Mackenzie came back to this family, this time forever, she had no shoes. She borrowed a pair of sandals that were three sizes too small for the day she saw her foster mom again. She had attended school barefoot for weeks because the group home she lived in didn’t provide her shoes like they should have.

When Mackenzie was finally adopted, she asked her mom for 17,000 pairs of shoes. In Arizona, where Mackenzie lives with her family, the most recent official statistics say that 16,990 children are in the custody of the state, living with foster families, in group homes, or with extended family members. Nearly 17,000 children — Mackenzie wanted to draw attention to that number. Mackenzie wants to help those children.

Mackenzie asked for 17,000 pairs of shoes so that she could help people visualize how many children are in foster care, how many children need help.

Together with her mom, Mackenzie is collecting those 17,000 pairs of new children’s shoes to make a video that will help people understand the needs of children in her state. When the video is completed and published, Mackenzie wants to donate those shoes to the children who need them.

The Foster Children’s Rights Coalition is helping Mackenzie with this project, which she calls Footsteps.  Her story has been told in The New York Times and in The Huffington Post and in The Arizona Republic.

Mackenzie is a brave, strong young woman, but sharing her story is not easy.  She’d prefer that many of these details remain private, that she didn’t have to become known as “a foster child” before being known as a smart girl who likes to cook and spend time with her family.  But Mackenzie is putting the needs of other kids before her own and trying to call attention to a problem and find ways to fix it.  She hopes that sharing her story changes things for others.

Mackenzie has found a smart way to better the lives of children who often can’t speak for themselves, while she’s still a teenager herself.   Mackenzie is a Pioneer.

Something to Read: The New Small Person

Here’s a book about two little black boys that I think all kinds of kids should read:


“The New Small Person” by Lauren Child

I picked up this book because it’s by Lauren Child, and in our house we love Lauren Child.  I also picked it up because it has two little black boys on the front, and there are not enough little black boys, even in books, in our house.

My favorite thing about this book was what happened when I read it to my five-year-old and we got to the third page.

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Even though my boy is pretty white, he looked at this picture and he said,

“That’s me, right, Mom?  Because I like jelly beans, too.”

And, you guys, when a little white boy immediately identifies with a little black boy, whether in a book or on a playground or at school or whatever, that’s the beginning of the fix of a lot of our problems.

*     *     *     *     *

This article published in Slate last year has some great ideas about thinking about race and then talking about it with kids.  Black kids get race talks from their parents all the time.  I think white kids should, too.

*     *     *     *     *


Lola and Lotta

Lauren Child is one of our favorite children’s book authors.  She writes the
Charlie and Lola series, which we all adore.  The kids love that Charlie and Lola are funny; I love that Charlie and Lola are funny while being kind to each other.  The big brother doesn’t pick on the little sister or call her names.  They are nice.  Charlie and Lola are white, and Lola’s best friend, Lotta, is black — and a great recurring character.

(Bonus: My kids start speaking in tiny British accents after watching episodes of the TV series based on the books.  “It’s an absolute disaster, Charlie!  What are we going to do???”)

Big ideas, little books.

Last weekend our family was invited to a birthday party for my friend.  It was Pi(e) Day so we all brought a pie to share and she brought in barbecue from our delicious local barbecue joint.  It was totally low-key and lots of fun and a great way to celebrate with a good friend.

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Juice’s homemade birthday card – his idea and his design!

My kids know this friend from church where she serves in the Primary, our children’s ministry.  They love her because she’s great and because they always hear me talk about what a blessing she is in her service, so they made her some pretty sweet birthday cards.  When you’re old (like we are), birthdays become less about gifts and more about friends, but I still wanted to give her a little something to let her know how much I do appreciate her friendship.  I like to write (obvs), and I love a really good pen and notecards or a notebook, so I thought maybe I’d give her something like that.

I found a small notebook that was the perfect purse size (Juice helped me pick out just the right one for this friend), and then I grabbed one of my favorite pens from the secret stash that no one in my house knows about (because hands off my pens!).   We tied it up with a little string and attached my own birthday note to it and headed out to the party.

We had a wonderful evening, but the best part was the next day when I got a text from my friend.  She said:


“I have to tell you: ever since I can remember and still to this day, my Mom carries a tiny notebook (like the one you gave me) in her purse with a blue bic pen.  When she thinks of things, needs a reminder, wants to write something to remember, or whatever, it’s right to that notebook.  When one gets full, she writes the important things (passwords, bill due dates, phone numbers, emergency info) in the new one and puts the old one in a drawer.  My siblings don’t know it, but I’m fighting for those notebooks and her calendars someday!  So thanks for evoking some very sentimental and heartfelt feelings for me!”


So first, I loved receiving this text and feeling like a small thing that I did for my friend ended up being very meaningful for her.  That made me feel good.  Score!

Second, I love how much she cherishes these notes kept by her mother.  Don’t we all love these little insights we get into people by examining what they choose to record?  Not to mention the life-changing experiences we get to read about, or the moments their faith was tried and shaken or strengthened.

These things, whether recorded in a small notebook or on a blog or in a formal journal (or even on Facebook!), can become great memories or inspirations to those we choose to share them with.  The experiences we record can inspire our future selves, remind us of lessons we’ve learned, or become ideas we use to teach others.

My mom was looking for a misplaced copy of her grandfather’s life story the other day.  As she was going through her box of family history notes and photos and journals, she came upon an old journal she had kept at a particularly hard time in her life.  She called me the next morning to tell me about the evening she had spent reliving those difficult days and the relief she felt that they were behind her.  There was also a sense of pride there, the affirmation that “I can do hard things.”  There were notes on conversations with her husband, who has passed away, and memories of ways she helped and was helped by her children.  She’s still talking about how wonderful it was to read those words again.

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A page from my missionary journal – eating ice cream in -25C weather with my beloved companion, Tatyana Sergeeva, in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia. December 1998.

I’ve been a sporadic journaler myself.  I journaled a lot on my mission.  I had a blog when my first kid was little, but after we moved closer to family, and then added Kid Two and Kid Three, the time I had to devote to the blog became more sparse and my posts became intermittent at best.  Scrapbooking became too time consuming, but eventually I found a new great system that has helped me record our family memories.  (More on that later.)  My people love to look at our family photo albums and the old blog.  They love to hear stories about “when you were little” and about when I was little, and about their grandparents and great-grandparents.

I hope that the stories and photos I record for my family will inspire them someday, and that telling the stories of our family members will help them develop a sense of their history and heritage, and that these memories will both ground them and encourage them to pursue their dreams.


A Grateful Heart

So last week I introduced you to my kids.  That was really just a preface to this post, because I’ve noticed this character trait in one of those kids, and I love it, and I wanted to write about it, but I thought you should probably know that I have kids before I started expounding their virtues.  (Also, you should know that they’re real kids and they wake me up too early in the morning and they throw toys over the back fence into the neighbor’s yard almost every time they go outside, and one of them won’t fully potty train [not a sore spot, obvs] and sometimes they sneak ice cream sandwiches in the morning before breakfast, and too often they sass me.   But I love them and they’re great, and here’s a story to prove that.)

Last week Miss Pickle had a field trip to our city’s Science Center.  Our family bought a year-long membership through one of those discount sites, so instead of applying to chaperone (they have so many parents that want to go that there’s a lottery, people), we just decided that I would just go and take the little siblings and we’d all have fun at the Science Center for a day.  We tagged along with Pickle’s friends and talked about desert roadtrips with another mom and the kids played with physics and it was fun.

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RoRo and her magnetic dancing “ghosts.”

Then it was over and it was time to go.  The schoolbuses left and took the big sister, and I told the preschoolers they had time for one more activity before we had to go to.  Of course they chose WaterBalls, so they would be soaked when it was time to leave, but they met their deadline with happy hearts, so, fine.

We walked out the door and into the sunshine.  Juice chased some pigeons.  RoRo held my hand.  We got to the parking garage and Juice took my other hand and stole my heart.  “Thanks for bringing us to this museum, Mama.  This was a really fun day.”

Oh, spontaneous gratitude from a preschooler!  This is not an unusual thing for him to do, but it just never gets old to me.  Nearly every time we get done with something fun, there he is, grabbing my hand or hugging my leg, his naughty (naughty is also one of his character traits) little face beaming, grateful for the little joy he just experienced.

This boy of mine simply came with a grateful heart.  It is just one of his gifts.  It comes easily and naturally to him, and I think it will make his life better.   My girls have their own gifts (more on that later), but this one is particularly his.

What is also beautiful about this to me is that he is giving this gift to his little sister.  RoRo emulates his example.  It is less spontaneous for her, but when she sees him thank me, or anyone, for something, she repeats it, and it’s real for her.  She is developing this trait that she sees in him.

As I compliment the other two on their good manners and point out to them how good it feels to express gratitude, the big one is catching on, too.  Miss Pickle is finding ways and moments to offer thanks.  She is very proud of herself when she does it, and I am deliberate in pointing out to her how good it feels because I want it to become one of her character traits.  I think that Pioneer Girls have these good traits, and they can learn to develop those that they value.

As I’m encourging the development of this particular trait in my big girl, I’ve found that the gratitude journal really works.  (Thanks, Oprah.)  Our girls’ group at church has repeatedly helped the girls create different kinds of gratitude journals to promote both personal journaling and an “attitude of gratitude.”

A couple of years ago a friend of mine mentioned that she had a journal that she shared with her son, who is a few years older than our Pickle.  The two of them passed this journal back and forth, asking each other questions, answering, doodling, just communicating.  I loved the idea and as soon as the Pickle had some writing skills, we started the same exercise.  It has been a lot of fun and helped our relationship grow.

Last week I ordered this gratitude journal to continue the tradition in a more focused way.  We’ve only started to share it, but I already see the development of this attribute in my beautiful girl.  The journal has prompts, which she does really well with, and it’s fun for us to both take a little bit of the page and share our happiness with each other.

Our boy has brought a good gift into our home.  I’m grateful for him.

Family Future and Family History

This weekend I did something that I thought was going to be a charitable act but turned out to be amazing and wonderful and a little overwhelming.  It connected me to some people that have been lost to me for a while, and I am very glad to have them back.

One of the aspirations of the Pioneer Girls project is to connect children, especially girls, with their ancestors and heritage in a deep and meaningful way.  My Pioneer Pickle had a great experience learning about our own family history on a daytrip to the mountains.

In a beautiful little town a couple hours north of my home, my favorite Grampop’s brother lives in an assisted living facility.  Uncle Jack will turn 95 years old this summer, and he doesn’t get around so great anymore.  My Grampop, his younger brother and only sibling, passed away a few years ago.  Jack’s wife died a couple of years before that.  His daughter and main caregiver died rather unexpectedly a few months ago, leaving my mom and her brothers his closest living relatives.  His loving son-in-law is still managing his care from his own home out of state, but we are now geographically Jack’s closest family.

My mom had been feeling a pull to get up there to visit him for a few months, so when we found ourselves each with a free Saturday (when does that happen?), we decided to make the drive up and visit him.  We loaded up my kids in the minivan, turned on Lightning McQueen and headed up the road.

A few hours later we found ourselves walking into this facility, tracking down a man I hadn’t seen since my very early childhood.  Grampop and his brother had been estranged for nearly all of my life because of some misunderstandings and the famous Gephart Hard-Headedness.  They had reconciled about a year before my Grampop’s passing, and it was sweet.

We found Uncle Jack in his room, asleep in front of Lonesome Dove on his small personal TV.  My mom woke him up with a one-armed hug and “Uncle Jack! Do you know who I am?”  Luckily he is a light sleeper and a sharp man — he recognized her right away and welcomed her with a hug.  She turned his wheelchair around so he could see me, a great-niece he hadn’t seen since I was maybe eight, and meet my kids.  His face lit up at the sight of this small group of children.  You know those old people miss the excitement and happiness that follows preschoolers around.

My mom gave him some treats and my kids taped the pictures they had colored for him — bright, colorful rainbows for springtime — to his walls.  They sang “America the Beautiful” and “I Am a Child of God.”  As they sang other residents came out of their rooms and maneuvered their chairs down the hall so they could see the faces and hear the voices of the “little angels” (their words, not mine :)).  My mom snapped a picture with my phone because she loved the look on his face as my kids sang to him.

Uncle Jack is an old cowboy.  He was never a particularly tender man.  His language is rough, like the desert country he grew up in.  But his humor is still quick, and sharp, and he was so happy to see us.  I saw my Grampop in him, in his eyes and in his mannerisms.  It was good to see him again.

We took Uncle Jack outside for some fresh air.  He watched my kids turn cartwheels and flip somersaults in the grass.  Juice was excited to learn about the model train room Jack had in his cabin years ago, and that my mom has video of the setup he’ll be able to watch.  We took pictures.  The kids took turns giving him hugs and telling him things they want my Grampop, their “Cowboy Grandpa” to know.  They know this is Uncle Jack and not Cowboy Grandpa, but they also know that the two are brothers, so Jack will get the message to his brother, right?


We took him back inside and set him up with his lunch and said our goodbyes, promising to mail copies of the photos we took and to come back soon.

It’s hard to see people living in those sorts of facilities.  It’s hard for me to leave them there.  But I was so glad we went.  I felt like it was meaningful to him to connect with his family again, and it certainly was wonderful for me to get a glimpse of my Grampop through him.

I didn’t look at the photos my mom took until we got home that night.  I got the kids to the table with some dinner and then pulled my phone out to email the pictures to her.  As I did some quick edits on them, cropping and lightening, I swiped to this photo and had to stop.


It’s nothing fancy.  The lighting’s not great, and I’ve certainly looked better.  But as I looked at that picture I had the distinct feeling that my Grampop was happy, that we had done something good for his brother and he was happy about it.

I’m so glad we went.  I hope we brightened his day a little.  I hope my kids will remember the feeling of helping a good man feel loved and appreciated. I hope they will remember this trip and meeting their Uncle Jack, and that they’ll connect that memory to all the stories I tell them about their family and who and where I came from, and they’ll take that history with them as they create the future of our family.


Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges first day of school as depicted by Norman Rockwell in his painting "The Problem We All Live With."

Ruby Bridges’ first day of school as depicted by Norman Rockwell in his painting “The Problem We All Live With.”

Ruby Bridges became a Pioneer when she was six years old.

In the summer of 1960, Ruby was getting ready to start first grade.  Last year, in kindergarten, Ruby went to the same school as all the kids on her street attended, Johnson Lockett Elementary School across town.  Johnson Lockett was the city’s school for black children.  All the kids from her street went there.  Her mama was friends with the teachers.  She was comfortable.  She fit in.  She loved school.

Ruby’s parents had never learned to read or write, but they wanted more for their children.  They were a family of faith, and they knew the scriptures well.  They had memorized whole passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament, and they taught the principles to their children.  They were excited to send Ruby to learn.  Someday she could read the Bible to them.

Ruby lived in Louisiana, and Louisiana did things a certain way.  Even though the neighborhood school was closer to Ruby’s house, it was only for white kids.  Ruby wasn’t welcome there.

Then the news came that Integration was coming to Ruby’s town.  All the black kindergarten children were tested to see if they would be able to make the transition to the white schools — which had better books, better resources, and better-trained teachers.  Many people didn’t want the black children and white children going to school together, so they made the test very hard.

But Ruby was smart. Ruby passed their test.

Ruby and four other children were selected to begin integration in New Orleans in November 1960.  The other children were from a different neighborhood, so they were allowed to attend school together.  Ruby would be the only black child enrolled at her neighborhood school, William Frantz Public School.

Federal marshals had to escort Ruby to her classes for the first full month because people threatened to hurt her and her family.  Most of the white parents pulled their kids out of the school.  Ruby went to first grade all by herself, learning from a white teacher on her own, day after day.

Ruby was a girl of great faith.  As she walked past those howling mobs every morning and every afternoon, Ruby kept a prayer in her heart.  One day when a doctor asked her why she prayed for them, Ruby told him that they needed praying for.  He asked her what she said in her prayers, and she told him.  Her prayers went like this:

“Please, God, try to forgive those people.  Because even if they say those bad things, they don’t know what they’re doing.  So you could forgive them, just like You did those folks a long time ago when they said terrible things about You.”*

Ruby’s teacher, Mrs. Henry, came to love Ruby like a daughter.  They spent all day every day together until the end of the school year.

The next year when Ruby went to second grade, she went to William Frantz again, but this time there were no marshals.  This time there was a classroom full of children.  This time there were other black children in the school.

Ruby paved the way for black children and white children to learn together, play together, and eventually work together in New Orleans.  Ruby has written books and started a foundation to help William Frantz Public School — which is now full of black children.

Ruby Bridges was a Pioneer.

*Ruby’s prayer was recorded by Dr. Robert Coles in his book, “The Story of Ruby Bridges.”  An interview about her desire to pray for those who persecuted her and the faith of her family can be found here.  Please be aware, an offensive term is used to describe Ruby in the clip.

Meet my kids.

I have three kids. They’re great. I really like my kids. (Whew.)

Since I’m a mom and spend nearly every minute with at least one kid physically on me, if you come back to this site ever again (please, please, come back!) you’ll probably read things about them. Especially since the oldest kid was the inspiration for this project. So maybe I should say something about them here, so you know who I’m talking about.

We’ll call the oldest Pickle, since that’s what we call her around here. She’s eight right now, in third grade. She loves to read (hallelujah), and create amazing things with paper, and she’s quite sporty. She likes to run and skate and bike and jump and swim and pretty much anything outside. She plays team sports at recess with her friends even though I don’t think I’ve ever put her on a sports team. She would much rather do than watch. But more than either of those I think she would like to talk.  She’s a talker.  She adores her dad.
She loves to read and draw, but her favorite subject at school is math. She’s taking piano lessons (because I’m making her), and she can memorize anything if it’s put to music. Once she gets a song figured out, it’s in there forever. I taught her to spell her name by singing the letters and she could do it when she was two, almost before she could talk.
She wants you to know that she loves to make Valentines and she’s a very happy girl.

The middle kid is the only boy (so far), and we can call him Juice, since that’s what we call him most of the time. He’s five and finishing his third (and last) year of preschool. He really wants a brother to be on the “boys team,” and he wants him to be named Clarence (sorry, buster). When it’s time to clean out his room and get rid of “baby toys,” he wants to put them in a box and save them for Clarence.
He is our Puzzlemaster. He’s learning to write all his numbers and letters and he really wants to read. (I should probably teach him, but I’m probably going to leave that to Kindergarten.) He has his big sister’s fascination with numbers and he likes to figure out simple addition problems, and he’s so proud when Pickle can answer the really hard questions, like what’s 100+100, without even a thought. She’s amazing in his eyes.
I asked him what he wanted you to know, and he said, “I want them to know that Jesus is our Savior.” (I meant to ask if there was anything he wanted you to know about him, but I guess that is probably the most important thing you can know, so learn that lesson from my five-year-old.)

The last one (so far), my baby, we’ll call RoRo. (I would call her Baby, which is what we usually call her, but hopefully before too long there will be another Baby around here and she’ll have to graduate to a big-girl name.)  She’s three-and-a-half and in her first year of preschool.  She was my buddy for a long time, the only one at home with me those few hours a week that Juice was in preschool, but she was so sad when he got to go play with friends and create things and learn that I put her in a little school, too.  She loves ponies and tea parties and peanutbutterjelly.  She is almost potty-trained, and has been almost potty-trained for over a year.  She’ll get it, right?  Before she leaves for college she’ll have a streak of like five dry days?  Right?  (Should I put that on the Internet?  Remember, future employers, this is a pseudonym.  Note to baby daughter: don’t put your mom’s name on your resume.)  She is pretty sweet and she loves babies and she will set the table for you at every meal.  If she’s mad she pouts, and she can stick that lower lip out for days.
She wants you to know that she wants a pony birthday cake.  Because that’s what you want people to know when you’re three and your birthday is more than four months away.

So, that’s them.  All my kids are adopted, so you can look forward to posts about that in the future.  The oldest one is black, so I feel strongly about multiculturalism and diversity and learning about and loving each other.  Two of them are girls, so I feel strongly about women’s issues and respect between the genders.  We are all a bunch of Mormons, and I believe the Church is true, so there will be some posts about that, too.

My kids are all very different.  There’s definitely something to the nature-versus-nurture thing.  Some things they came with, and some we’ve tried to teach them.  All of it I hope they will harness and turn into something great.