Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pictures of our week

The school year is over.  It was kind of a let down this year.  I have a lot to write about and explain as far as school goes but not enough time right now to say much about it so for now I'll just say that it is over and we are enjoying summer.  I have a bunch of photos and it's late so I can't say too much about them.  
1.  This girl.  She is so cute.  She's been going in the potty about once a day now.  I am not pushing her, just ask her if she wants to sit on the potty and if she does then great!  Some times she wants to and other times she doesn't.  She is on the right track.  She is adorable and mostly such an obedient little girl and only some times tries to see how far she can push us.  She is loving having her brothers home now.  

2.  All three boys got awards at the school awards assembly.  I couldn't get Eli to smile.  He says he did but I have the pictures to prove that he doesn't really know how to smile.  This is the best I got.  All three boys got awards for being on the honor roll all year and also for citizenship.  

3.  I'm still trudging along in the weight loss department.  I also have a lot of thoughts on this but won't take the time right now to write very much.  I've lost a pant size and I'm working on the next pant size.  It's coming but slowly.  Partly, I don't mind slowly because I think that is what I need to make it stick and partly I hate slowly because I'm impatient and want to be thin already.  I'm finding snacks and foods we all enjoy that are healthier for us.  The boys love these dark chocolate strawberry muffins.  
4.  Our garden is somewhat frustrating.  We have a lot of tomatoes, a pepper plant, mint, basil, cilantro, parsley, a blueberry bush, one cantaloupe plant, a strawberry plant, and a watermelon.  We also have a grape vine and Isaac just plated some corn from a scout meeting and we will see how that grows.  The birds, bugs, and bunnies have been having fun with our plants.  Also, I'm not certain about the soil and it looks like all the leaves are starting to rust.  I'm not sure what is going on.  Everything seems to be growing well so far but I'm worried it's going to be a losing battle.  We finally got smart and covered our strawberry plant with the lid to the fire pit.  It seems to be working great at keeping the bunny stumped.
5.  I've been doing Yoga.  I used to think yoga was a non-exercise.  It was always boring and felt like it was doing nothing for me.  In my pursuit to be healthier and not just lose weight, I've picked up yoga and I actually love it.  I've actually made all of the family do it with me from time to time.  I especially like to do it before bed so I can relax and let go of the stress of the day or the morning because I really enjoy going out to my deck and doing yoga while I listen to the birds chirping and look at the view in my backyard.  It's cool.

6.  We are having fun summer days and nights so far.  The kids have been having pillow fights with Piper on the trampoline.  They let her hit them and then pretend that she hits them hard enough to knock them over.  We've had tin foil dinners, S'mores, swimming almost every day, park dates with friends, etc.

7.  Things are still growing like crazy.  I am currently enjoying the Lilies along the fence and waiting for the Hydrangea to start growing.  Also, the honeysuckle from the woods behind the house is pretty cool.  You can't see it very well in the picture but it's so fragrant and pretty.

8.  This little guy hung out on my deck for a while on Saturday.  He had a friend with beautiful black wings and I tried to get him too but he was too busy flying around and checking things out while this one just calmly sat near me.  I thought he was pretty beautiful and I was grateful he let me take his picture. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dollywood and the Nursery

Our family went to Dollywood this past week.  It was a long, fun day.  I have only been on two roller coasters, both at Lagoon in Utah.  That was way back when I was a Senior in high school.  When we lived in Colorado we went to The North Pole and they don't have roller coasters but they have a bunch of rides.  I got queasy on those rides.  Mike, on the other hand,  has gone on a lot of roller coasters in his lifetime and always enjoyed them but now as an adult he hates them because always wants to throw up.  The day was so much fun.  We went with some friends and took turns going on the rides with the kids.  I didn't get very many pictures but I got a few to prove we were there.  Piper and her little friend got to ride on a couple of little rides and then they mostly played while the boys went on the rides.  The rides freaked me out and I mostly just kept my eyes closed on all of them but I went on them!!  Mike got sick after the first roller coaster so I had to ride the others with the boys.  I'm glad I did it even if they did make me want to wet my pants.  Will and Eli wanted to ride the rides over and over and thankfully, my friend is like a little kid and was more than willing to go with them multiple times.

The other news is that the Relief Society Presidency was released on Sunday which means I was released as Second Counselor.  I wasn't in the calling long and I have mixed emotions about being released.  I feel like I was just barely getting the hang of the calling and we were just starting to feel really united as a presidency when we got released but if I'm being completely honest, I didn't love the calling.  It was hard for me for various reasons.  I feel sad that I was just starting to like the calling and then got release before I could really embrace it.  I do feel however, so grateful to have had the chance to work with the women I worked with.  I feel as though I have learned so much from them and grown by working with them for those few short months (just six!).  Now my calling is Nursery leader.  I know that a lot of people think, "Poor sucker!"  I am not one of those individuals.  Perhaps my experience as the Primary President in Oklahoma taught me how important Nursery is.  That ward could not get anyone to humbly accept the calling to work in the Nursery and the Nursery was dissolved.  It caused me a lot of frustration and anger.  I could go on but I won't.  I guess I just feel sad that so many people do not see the importance of Nursery.

I was thinking about this calling and one of the little girls came to my mind.  Her mom is a convert as is her uncle and Grandpa.  They are new converts (well, the Mom is) and I thought about how this little girl is just learning the gospel along with her family.  Besides what they are learning at home, I get to be the first real influence on introducing her to the Gospel and teaching her about Jesus Christ and God.  She is the first generation of that family to be growing up in the church and I have the chance to influence her life.  She isn't going to remember me or Nursery, most likely, but she will hopefully be started on a path of faith and feeling that she is loved by God.  It is quite humbling actually to think about.

The Nursery in this ward is small--just five girls.  One girl is moving soon, and then it will be Piper, her little friend Hayley and the girl I mentioned above.  Along with these three girls is a girl named Mae.  She has multiple disabilities and is blind.  Even though the group is small, they are all either an only child or the youngest child and then adding Mae makes it a kind of crazy group.  I think if we can get someone help with Mae it will be easier but for the time being, it's just me and whatever sub I can find each week to help me.  I hope we can find someone willing to work in the Nursery with me.  It's a great place be and we will have tons of fun!  Playdough!  Bubbles!  Songs!  Snacks!  Toys!  Who wouldn't want to be in there?!  ;)

Thursday, May 07, 2015

School stuff

We are getting close to the end of the school year.  Hooray!  I love summer.  The boys have some things coming up this summer.  Usually we just do things around the house, go swimming, to the park, etc.  I love the lazy summer days.  This year will be a busier one for us partly because we are planning on trying out homeschooling in the fall and therefore, I want the kids to be more involved this summer in activities away from home with other kids.  The two older kids are going to scout day camp in the beginning of June and all three boys are going to go to a basketball camp.  The pool will open soon and we will spend many days there.  We also have a family reunion in July and I have a trip to Colorado coming up.  So, it's going to be a busy summer.

But, this isn't about summer, this is about the boys and their school activities of late.  First up, they had state testing this past week.  It was pretty stressful for Isaac.  The teachers make such a big deal about them performing well and the kids come away believing if they don't do well enough they won't get to move on to the next grade.  It's so ridiculous.  I didn't really know that I could opt out.  I know that some states have that option but I didn't know that we did and truthfully, I hadn't really tried to find out.  My sister called and told me I should look into it but it was the day of and when Mike and I discussed it we realized that the more important thing to us wasn't how much we dislike the test, it was wanting the boys to do hard things.  Isaac was so nervous to take the test and I didn't want him to back down.  I wanted him to realize that he could approach stressful situations with courage and face his fears.  After the first day he said, "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be!"   He and Will actually found the testing to be pretty easy and after the initial fear and worry, they discovered that it wasn't something they needed to be afraid of.  The other thought on my part was that this next year with homeschooling Mike and I may choose to test the boys just to see how they are making progress but it won't be the same stressful situation so I thought I'd just let them do it this year and then this next year we won't have to worry about it.

I thought I'd add this funny conversation I overheard in the car the other day.  I don't write it to brag on the kids or anything but as a person who is not particularly academically bright, I am always amazed at the brains my children were blessed with.

Isaac:  It really bugs me and embarrasses me when my class always talks about how smart I am.
Will:  I know, right?  Today we watched Bill Nye the Science Guy and and my class kept saying, "We should say, 'Will Nye the Smartie Guy."  It really makes it hard not to get prideful when they always talk about how smart you are.

Ha, ha.  I couldn't help but bust out laughing.

Will had a play that his grade put on.  He tried out for the part of the octopus and got the part.  I was really proud of him and his courage.  I never felt comfortable with solos or acting parts.  He did a great job!

Eli is really loving art lately.  I bought him a sketch pad and some how to draw animal books and he is quickly filling up his sketch pad with drawings.  He also just recently started to enjoy reading.  Both he and Isaac struggled to appreciate reading.  Both of them were behind in reading when they entered first grade.  I didn't see the point in pushing them.  I wanted them to learn to enjoy it and I felt that with time and practice they would pick it up.  We did our required reading for school each night but I just kind of left it at that and never really pushed more than that.  Both boys have caught up in their reading now and they love to read.  I am so pleased with that because I love books.  I get so excited to hold a new book in my hands.  We have seven bookshelves in my house, all of which are filled with books.  I can't keep up with books for Will.  We get him a book and in two days it is finished.  In fact, we bought a history curriculum for next year and Will already finished his history book for next year and then started reading one of the recommended books for additional reading.  Eli is loving the Magic Treehouse books and Isaac is starting the second book in the Percy Jackson series.  Hooray for reading!

Finally, not to be left out, Mike has ended his first year of his PhD program!  We had some hard months and weeks and then some not so hard ones.  I'm proud of him and how hard he works.  I'm really uncertain about what this next year will bring.  I don't know if his research will be really involved and hard or if it will be less time consuming than his classes were.  His drive to the lab where some of his research will take place is 50 min so I'm hoping it won't be a crazy involved year but it might and if it is, I'll probably complain a bit but then we will get used to his schedule and it will become the norm.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Laila's fourth birthday

Every year since Laila's death the weeks leading up to her birthday are gloomy and I am weepy and sad.  My birthday comes and I try to be happy for the kids sake but I usually just have no real desire to celebrate my birthday.  Mike and I even discussed celebrating my birthday on my half birthday so that it wasn't so close to Laila's birthday.  We always choose a service project to do as a family and then spend that day together as a family.  We get the kids out of school and spend the whole day just being together.  The first two years resulted in huge fights between me and Mike.  Something you learn when you go through such an emotional event is how to let others grieve in their own way and not to put expectations on the other person to grieve in the way you do.  Mike is such a different person than I am and we have had to learn to support each other and compromise when it comes to our individual needs with grieving Laila's death.  I think we've figured it out for the most part and last year and this year were argument free.  The arguing and the emotions of the day often make it hard for me to feel a sense of satisfaction and I often feel such a let down when it's all over.  

This year was different.  I was uncertain about how I would feel this year.  I knew I would not be able to visit her grave and I had not felt a strong impression about a service project.  As time approached Mike and I discussed our service ideas in detail and decided that we would once again invite anyone that wanted to participate to do so.  

 We wanted to choose a service that the boys could have fun with this year and so we decided that we would do a lot of fun little acts of service throughout the two weeks leading up to her birthday.  It was so much fun!  We made get well packages, put smiley faces on windshields in the Target parking lot, took donuts to friends, and gave our neighbors Otter Pops with a note saying, "We think you 'Otter' know that we are happy you are our neighbors!  The boys took a fun gift into their teachers and Mike and I did a few service things for the boys since they were taking state testing at school.  We took a journal to a teenager who is struggling and passed out roses to strangers at a park.  

Friends and family took on our challenge and served as well.  I had people tell me about their experiences and the joy that it brought to them to serve.  My heart felt so happy!  I feel like it was our gift to Laila but also her gift to me.  If I ever started to feel gloomy I would think about all the people who were being served and all the happiness that was being spread and I would feel better.  This year was so much different than the previous years and by the time her birthday came I felt it didn't matter if the details didn't happen exactly the way I planned.  It was a quiet, happy day.  

We woke up and found that our yard had been decorated for Laila's birthady!

 Friends surprised us with a sidewallk chalk message!
 We went to a park and the kids swam in the water.  I wasn't anticipating that we would swim so they all got sandy and wet in their regular clothes but they had fun and didn't seem to mind too much that they were wet on the ride home.  Once we got home we had dinner and then went to the backyard to release our balloons.  In Colorado there was always enough wind to make our balloons disappear quickly and it's kind of a let down.  This year there was hardly any wind.  We wanted to fly kites this year instead of release balloons but it isn't very windy here in Tennessee so we had to give up on that idea and do the balloons instead.  It ended up being great though because the wind was so calm that we all laid on the grass and watched our balloons slowly float away.  We probably laid on the grass for a good ten minutes watching the balloons as they turned into little colorful spots in the sky.  They were so slow that I actually had success this year getting some pictures of our balloons.

 We ended the day with cake and ice cream.  It was a simple cake and didn't take too much time.  This year I didn't even really decorate with a garland or anything.  Just cake and ice cream.  It was simple.

I wish I could describe how thankful and happy I feel with all the service that was performed this week.  My desire was to spread happiness and bring hope to people.  I feel like I've changed in so many ways in the last four years.  I could write a book full of lessons I've learned.  One thing is that service is powerful.  It allows us to feel happiness and compassion.  It doesn't solve our problems and it doesn't take all the pain away but it does soften the blow .  It allows us to feel gratitude and focus more on what we have rather than what we lack.  I hope that everyone that participated in our service for Laila was able to feel a change in them this week and a satisfaction knowing that in a small (or big) way, they influenced someone's life and I hope that if you didn't serve with us this year, you will consider participate next year.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pinewood derby

Piper got sick from the boys.  She has had a fever the majority of the week.  I took her into the doctor because I was sick of her being sick all the time.  They did a bunch of tests only to say that her blood count is fine and she has a virus.  Bleh.  She's been screaming at me all week and it's been grating on my nerves.  I know she isn't feeling well so I've tried to be patient but man, I hate when she is sick and all the attitude that comes with it.  

I've had lots of topics on my mind this week--Laila, family relationships, friends, personal goals, callings, needs of the boys, etc.  I took a couple of pictures this week.

I told my mom about these vibrant bushes outside my house.  These bushes are all around town.  They come in red, pink, and white.  The white ones look like popcorn.  They are so pretty.  I had no idea this plain looking bush outside my front door would bloom into this gorgeous bush!
 My house looks so big in this picture.  Makes me feel immensely spoiled.  I love the blooming trees, bushes, and pretty landscaping that previous owners did.
 This week the boys have been working hard on their cars.  After last year when Will was second to last place he decided he wanted a fast car.  Last year he just made it the way he wanted it to look without much thought to how it would run.  Mike was in Tennessee visiting the school and I had no clue what to do with a pinewood derby car.  We showed up without any weights and I didn't even know they had to have weights.  All the dads frantically got to work helping get Will's car so it would qualify to race.  This year Will watched videos about how to build a fast car.  He told us colors and designs and shapes.  Then he told us how he wanted his wheels and where he wanted the weights.  Isaac also watched the videos and told us design and colors but he wasn't nearly as involved in telling us what he wanted.  Ironically, Isaac did much better than Will.  Will was pretty disappointed but he still had a good attitude.  His car was in the middle of the pack and Isaac was 6th of 25.  They both did a good job and I think Will was mostly just relieved not to come in last in any of the races.

 We all went to cheer the boys.  Piper's little friend was there and they had both brought their stuffed animals.  It was so cute to watch them sit by each other and love on their animals.

 Mike was the MC.  He had to make some adjustments to Will's car right before the derby started and he drilled into his finger!  It got blood all over Will's car and on the concrete.  Gross.  He pretended he was fine and did  a great job as the MC.

Yesterday we also went rollerskating with some friends.  It was a lot of fun and we are all sore from skating for 3 1/2 hrs!  On Friday we also met some new friends to let the kids ride bikes and play.  It is really nice to be making friends here and feeling like we fit in.  I'm happy the boys are having such good experiences with friends and activities.

I do have a negative thing I'd like to point out about Tennessee however.  I get so incredibly annoyed with how quickly the produce goes bad.  It's a losing battle.  If it isn't eaten in two days it's bad.  Our garden better start growing and I better find a good way to keep the birds from eating all our food!