Friday, December 30, 2016

There were helicopters back then?

I was playing some music videos for the kids, among which was Phil Collins' Easy Lover.  Scott's like, "This was made a long time ago."

I said, "Yeah, the 80's."

"There were helicopters back then?"  He asked.

"You're funny,"  I said.

"No, seriously,"  he started.  "There were helicopters back then?"

Nice.

I feel I need to educate the kids on quality music.  They already like Coldplay, so that's cool.  Tyler wants to learn some of their new stuff on the piano, so tonight we went over Hymn for the Weekend.  Then I did Paradise for Kira.  It's her favorite song.  Yeah.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Contentment

I have been thinking about doing a simple remodel for our kitchen.  I am not willing to spend a ton of money at this stage of life for the mere fact that I don't want to worry about things getting ruined.  Friends have installed ikea cabinets, I looked at them last time I was at ikea and liked how they looked.  They seemed perfect for what I was looking at.  Granite is simple enough which could be done in a day or two and lastly new appliances.

Well, I was going to start the project, then I realize I just want to do it.  I would rather have my kitchen in one piece.  I would rather have that time to spend on the kids.  I would rather not drag Danny through something that I am certain he doesn't want to be a part of.

So i realized I was perfectly content and it was such a nice feeling. I am even content with my family room that is simply good enough.  It isn't decorated exactly how I want but Kira is starting to turn our home into a mattress jumping trampoline zone so realize that is a great room to do that.  It serves our families need and function.

This brings a sense of peace that I get to spend time doing the things that I want to do and love. Spend times helping and enriching my kids lives, spending time with Danny and have some spare time in my day to work which I love.

I will never have the most fashionable home and that is totally ok.  I have decorated my home to make it functional and good enough that if feels like home and makes me happy and that is a great thing and realization at this stage of my life!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I'm a great parent

I'm a great parent.

At least in my head.

In the eyes of the kids, I'm the worst parent.  Compared to other parents, I think I'm in the 50th percentile.  My latest endeavor was a program to teach Scott to clean up his clothes from off the bathroom floor.

Sometimes I throw them in his bed.  Once I put them in his backpack so he took them to school.  I was hoping that he'd open up his backpack, see his dirty choners and be so embarrassed that he'd never leave them on the ground again.  But that failed.

This time I told him that if he didn't pick them up that I'd hide them.  He shrugged and said he didn't care.  So I hid them.  After two days he started asking where his clothes were, and he had apparently missed the laundry cut-off.  I told him he could buy back his clothes for a dollar each.  I wanted him to feel the pain of losing money to a lame cause but he said, "I have a lot of money and I have a lot more coming to me."  Wow.  I know his tooth fairy and I know the other sources of income he has, and I was taken off guard at his confidence in his own wealth.

He showed me some of his twenties and I said something to the effect of, "If you keep leaving your clothes out you won't have any more money."  I'm sure Heidi would disagree about this strategy but I'm humble enough to know that some of my kid-raising strategies have been failures.  But I also know that you can't try the same failure again and hope for a different outcome.  Albert Einstein said that is the definition of insanity.  Plus, Thomas Edison had thousands of failures before he got the light bulb to work right and he said, "I just learned a thousand ways that it didn't work."

By the time I get this all figured out, the kids will be out of the home and have kids of their own.  Then I can sit back and chuckle.  I'll be like, "Got any twinkies, Margaret?"

The end.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Home schooling

I have spent the week researching home schooling the kids.  I have the most amazing friends who took time out of the busy days to talk to me, to meet with me, to just answer questions or let me talk and process my thoughts and ideas.  The past couple of months I feel like I have been so much more home bound than usual.  I used to love going to the gym to work out and talk and process ideas and life with friends.  Since I started working, I have spent the mornings with blake and parker, cleaning the home, prepping dinner.  I think some of it is that I get social interaction at work or outside the home. Sometimes I think it is dealing with the emotions of my parents deaths and the toll of caring for them.  Sometimes I wonder if staying home is a form of depression.  Probably.  The funny thing about life and emotions is you never quite know why your body reacts or craves certain things.  But getting to the gym and being with friends in the morning was so healthy for me.  Something that I love.  I am soo blessed with amazing friends.  Women from all different aspects of my life who I just feel are the most amazing women.

Some women have a certain group of friends who is there circle of friends.  They go on vacation together, they always get together with the same women.  I don't have that in Brentwood.  I feel like I have women who I can call on at any time who are true, genuine amazing friends but not a part of a group of clique.  And I really love that about my friendship circle.  I feel like my mom was the same way.

Anyway, I talked with two this week, who I have always looked at as amazing women and who I just love being with and realized that this is the village I would love to raise my kids alongside.  I yearn for the time with my kids to just sit and read a book.  I used to have that with Scott.  Life was simpler when they weren't so involved in sports and after school activities.  I read with him for 30 minutes each day in 1st grade.  I have maybe read to Kira 5 times since being in 1st grade.  How sad is that!!  I want that time again.  The thing I LOVE about her gymnastics is the quality time we get in the truck together.  We get to talk, play games uninterrupted.  She comes to work with me and gets to be a part of my work.  She is welcomed, loved and just hangs out.  It is quality one on one time and I have seen it change her, bless her and fill her.

I had that with Scott when we went to the pool.  It was amazing.  He loved it.  I don't know if he realized he loved it but it filled him and it filled me.  We would go and get sodas when we filled up the truck at a certain gas station and talk about life. There weren't other distractions, just the two of us.

It is funny how I questioned driving 30 minutes away to work and how it has turned out to be quality time with my kids.  I had to make some adjustments of not working with the seniors to include Kira in the journey, but once I did, I felt peace and balance.  I was blessed for putting my family first.  I miss a couple of days of dry land but it is ok.  It all works out.  It is amazing how the Lord truly has blessed and balanced my life.

And the blessing of the truck.  The world is focused on material items. I drive this beat up, small, clunky old truck of my dads.  It has been a blessing that I didn't even realize I had.  In it lies the greatest blessing of being able to sit and talk with my kids.  I love that life lesson.  Sometimes when we forget what the world says is important and focus on what really is important, miracles can be seen.  That truck has brought me blessings that my cars could never have brought me.  How I love that little tuck for that.  In some ways I feel like it is symbolic of a lesson that my parents instilled in me and my sister.  That family is the most important.

So my search and pondering continues for home schooling, but my heart is starting to see and yearn differently than it once did.  I leave it to the Lord to continue to guide me and open up my kids heart to feel and see what He wants as well.  I know as I continue to pray, we will be guided.  How grateful I am for that.

Sometimes I see areas where I feel like I was wiser months or years ago and need to improve.  But one thing that is evident in my life is that I trust in the Lord more than I used to.  I still have a ways to go.  A long ways, but I trust more than I once did and that leads increased patience and peace.  I had to make a decision for work, I made appropriate phone calls, was open in my dialogue and did all I could and then left the decision in some ways to others and the Lords hands.  Praying that it would work out how He wanted.  And it brought peace.  When we include prayer and the Lord in our lives, it really does increase peace and faith.  I know He is aware and will bless my family and my life regardless of the outcome.  I love that!

An update.  A day or two after writing this, I went to a multi faith Christmas concert to watch Danny sing.  After 3 hours of church, the last thing that you sometimes want to do is go to another 1.5 of sitting and quieting kids to listen but I knew that it meant a lot to Danny and would be a nice event to at least give a go.  We lasted through a couple of songs and then the baby and Blake became restless.  I don't have kids that will just sit.  It is not in their DNA.  We work on it and eventually they get better but man am I sometimes envious of those babies or toddlers that just sit.  But at home I am certain I would not be busy enough.

So I go into the hall and a couple of minutes later the other kids come out and the sweetest lady came into the hall to talk to me.  She said she just felt like she should see if I wanted some help since I was alone.  So sweet.  I was good, the kids were pretty good.  I thought she was someone else and so asked her if she homeschooled, which she did and she talked and talked and talked about her experiences and listened and was a sounding board to my ideas.  Then another friend came up who used to homeschool and it was such a great conversation.  I am aware the Lord listens, provides guidance and people as sounding boards.  She was so good at not suggesting, but instead just sharing with me to pray and seek guidance and trust.

I called the charter school the following day and they have one kid on the wait list and said most certainly Scott would be able to get in at the semester, so I am 90% sure I am going to try it with just him.  The one thing this mom said was to just do it with Scott in the beginning to get used to it and that is something that a couple of people have said and I feel good about.  So I think just Scott and I are going to give it a go and see how it goes.  If it isn't something he wants to keep doing, no big deal and if it is, then I think it could have a lot of great things come out of it.

Jaredites

I have been studying the Book of Ether this week for Gospel Doctrine.  The past couple of months I have gotten lazy with preparing.  So this week, I really tried to repent, improve and study.  It is just incredibly amazing how the Lord opens up the scriptures to you when you truly study them.  The book of ether actually talks about crying unto the Lord and I feel like that is a lesson that is so powerful.  When we cry unto him either in prayer, or by how we ponder and dive into the scriptures, he can speak so much more powerfully and clearly.

The book of Ether has so many lessons in it.

It is another testament of the book of mormon.  It is incredible to me how the Lord truly testifies through the mouth of witnesses.

It is about a journey to the promised land or a life back with him.

It is about building vessels to get there.  We are the vessels.  What we must do, how hard we must work in order to return to him.

Ultimately, it is a story of the constant need of a Savior.  The theme time and time again is that the brother of Jared can only get so far without the Saviors help.  And it takes crying unto the Lord.  Not just asking or praying, but crying and crying from a prophet.

It is amazing how much symbolism in the book of mormon. When I just read it to read it, I miss it.  When I read it to study and ponder and pray on it, the spirit teaches and I get a little bit more each time.  I get some of the symbolism.  Unfortunately, so often I read the scriptures just to read them, instead of really delving into them.  I am going to do better with that.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Great Sunday

We have had the flu going around the past couple of days.  It started with Blake throwing up on Thursday night, me going in the spare room to sleep with him and getting sick the next day.  Danny getting sick Friday night and the Kira and Scott throwing up in the middle of the night on Saturday.
So today, I decided to stay home with the kids from church so we didn't pass this around to everyone at church.  Even though we were at a ward party the day before.  I hope people don't get this.

The kids played so nice all day.  That is rare for us. And it was like a magical day!  Danny went to church in the morning.

Kira and Tyler colored and played games.  Then the kids would go from one kids to another playing various games, coloring, cards, etc.   I think it helped that Scott laid on the couch too sick to move most of the morning and Kira was probably lethargic from the night before.

We are doing the advent of #lighttheworld that the church is doing this year.  Essentially you do 25 things leading up to Christmas.  Today was thinking of how we can honor our Father and doing something for him this week to better honor him.  Danny wants to read the scriptures every morning, I want to study the scriptures for 30 minutes each day and journal, Scott wants to say morning and evening prayers, Tyler, Kira and Blake want to be kind.

In the afternoon the boys played chess.  Then they cut fabric and started making bean bags.  The sewing machine has been out since Danny wanted to give a christmas tree oranment to Britton and Renee Olson for Christmas.  It has actually been a blessing to have it out on the table because Scott and Tyler have been using it for various projects.  It is fun to see them sewing and figure out how to better use the machine.  They put it to use to make bean bags and now Scott wants to sell them for the next open market.

We ended the night with the Christmas Devotional which was really good.  Elder Eyring spoke on doing a family nativity with his kids and how it taught them to love the Savior.  I really want to start that tradition with our family.  I didn't grow up with the gospel in my life or really many faith promoting traditions and realize that it is difficult for me as a mom to stick to traditions.  But that is something that we can do, no matter how small or simple it is.  So that is a goal I have for this year. It was nice to listen to the mormon tabernacle choir and a great tradition to enjoy listening to the devotional.

Danny made home made cinnamon rolls that he worked really hard on all day.  He ran off to choir (which he forgot about tonight) and put on a timer.  I went up to put the kids in bed and read to them and when the timer went off I came down and they are pretty burnt.  I feel so bad.  I guess we will just have to try again.  Other than that, there was added peace in the home today which I am so grateful for!

School

More and more people are homeschooling.  It is something that years ago was something that I had 0% interest in but as time goes on I become more intrigued.  The past year I have found myself listening to my friends or even strangers telling their story and reason to homeschool.  I feel like it is a road that is becoming more popular and the reasons are vast.  I feel a yearning to learn more, to explore and to be open minded to the idea.  It is a desire that keeps growing in my heart and in my mind.

My kids generally like school, like learning and like their friends.  Everything that school should offer.  This year, I have found sports and activities fill our afternoons.  As the kids get older, I find our time together becomes more limited.  I have a 5th grader who has been bored for the past couple of years and I feel like this year is the first year that the culmination of boredom has really hit him.  He goes to school and is bored.  Maybe it is hormones or the age, but part of it is that school comes extremely easy for him and as the school system seems to keep making school easier, standards easier, without the thought for the kids who it is already too easy for.  Maybe it is the area we are in, maybe it is our district.  The school tried to do an accelerated 4th/5th grade class for the district, but it didn't get enough of parent support. I didn't support it because it meant driving him 20 minutes away, a curriculum that wasn't certain and no plan.

When you talk about allowing kids to be taught at their learning level, there is really no solution because then it would be a problem the following year or not possible because of their peers.  You realize that public school has to somehow come up with a curriculum that best serves the majority and at the same time not leave anyone behind.  Teachers are spending more and more time focusing on the kids that need to meet the standards.  Accelerated kids fall into special education but I don't see special education doing much to stimulate and help them grow.

There are things that seem really appealing to me about home schooling.  Spending more time with family.  Spending more time with siblings.  Developing the qualities that are the most important for kids to learn....qualities of love, faith, service, kindness.  Spending time working at their true academic levels.  Spending time on activities that interest the kids.  The flexibility seems amazing.  The influence seems great.  The things that I am hesitant about it having the responsibility, time and energy to make it work.  The biggest concern is taking them from what mainstream society does and says is right.  Taking them from friends and recess.  Taking them from a diverse population that helps them to teach, be patient, be a learner and the myriad of things that a classroom teaches kids to get along with others and work with others.  When I think of the negatives, I realize that there is no reason why they still can't have friends or remain friends with their peers.  All it takes is phone calls just like it does today.  Not to mention the many kids they would continue to meet in a new settting.

I know homeschooling now offers those opportunities.  I know as more and more people choose this option, their are groups and classroom settings that are still available that still offer the flexibility to be the major driving influence for each child.

A topic that is on my heart and I will explore and ponder and figure out what is best for my little and big kids. I am grateful there are so many options available today.  I have no idea if it is something I will ever do but I do find my heart and desires changing.

Scrooge

We are so lucky to live within an hour of a temple that has a visitors center.  They put on the musical scrooge this week.  Last year I really wanted to go see the nutcracker but it was sold out, so this year I made sure to get on early and get tickets.  I also decided to get tickets for Scrooge.  We went for a family and it was fun.

Scott is playing Scrooge for his class play, which is very low key but fun for him to see the real production.  We got a last minute babysitter for Parker and went to the temple.  The parking was CRAZY!  I wasn't expecting that many people at all.  I dropped off the kids to find their dad in the line, which thankfully they did and then searched for parking.

They did a good job at the play.  It was a good production.  It was a little long for the kids and maybe adults but we all had a fun time and most importantly seemed to get something out the message.  Tyler said, "I wish the spirits could visit me so I could be nice."  I laughed.  I told him that he didn't need spirits to come visit him to be nice. He is trying to be nicer to Kira.  He has gotten into a habit of being mean to her.  He says God isn't answering his prayers to be nice to her.  I told him that he will answer prayers to help him be nicer, but ultimately Tyler needs to choose to be nice.  The power of agency.

At least he is thinking about being nice.  That is a start.  Today he was actually a lot nicer to her than he usually is.  She gets anxiety and I think it is 90% his doing so it is something we are really working on in our family.

I would love to have one more kid, but then realize that there is so much that we do from skiing, going out to dinner, activities, etc that are hard to do with babies.  We started to get babysitters, which makes spending time with the family actually happen, instead of walking the halls with a toddler.

Overall it was a good time!

Our Au Pair

Since I started to coach again, Danny and I looked into the different options for child care.  Last summer Rebekah took care of our kids most days.  She was awesome and would bring them to the pool, watch the baby and bring them back home until I was done.  With starting Aquabears, I realized I needed someone in the fall as well.  It gets a little more tricky since the kids are in various activities and I need someone to drive them to their sports and pick them up.

There is always a surplus of teenagers, but not all of them can drive and that is really what I needed.
Danny and I looked into getting a foreign au pair through cultural care au pair.  A couple of our friends have used the au pairs and it seemed like it would be a good solution for our family.  We thought it would be good for the kids to have someone who they were totally comfortable with and was almost like an older sister.  Especially Kira who seems to get the most anxiety when I am not around.

I called them to look into the company.  I spent over an hour talking to them about the company, screening, my needs for a driver, etc to see if this would be a good fit and of course everything they told me sounded like it would be a goo fit.  We started looking through profiles and talking to nanny's without any obligation.  We found the sweetest girl from Mexico who seemed like she would be a good fit for our family.  Really sweet, outgoing, personable, responsible and genuine love for the kids.  She was referred to us because of her excellent driving experience.  That was the thing I told the agency was the most important thing, which they reassured me they screened for.

We picked her up in San Francisco and she was so nice!  She came with Danny to a meet the first weekend and I had her drive home and it was SCARY!  No driving experience.  Going through stop signs, driving 15 mph, veering off into other cars, not able to merge.  About the equivalent of 1 week of driving experience.  I called the company so upset.  It wasn't something that could be fixed.  She wasn't safe to drive by herself and probably wouldn't be for a couple of months.  After that, who knows if I would be comfortable with her driving my kids.

Turns out what I was told over the phone was not the reality of the company.  They told me I would get any of my money back, could get another au pair.  I at this point didn't want to have anything to do with this company.  After many phone calls and emails showing several things they failed to do, they said they would reimburse my money as long as I signed a contract stating the company didn't do anything wrong.

So now I decide whether to sign it and get my $ back or bring them to small claims court and get my money back that way.  Of course signing the paper would be way eaiser for me, but it is the principle of the matter.  This company is totally misleading and putting kids and au pairs in danger.

I felt so bad for our sweet au pair.  She got rematched with a family in Washington DC.  I think she is doing well.  It was a very stressful two weeks when we had her living her and were fighting with the company and didn't have any way of getting our kids to their activities except hire another babysitter to drive.  The whole thing taught me a lot.  I can go on and on about our experiences.  It made me realize the importance to document things.  The company told me conversations I had via email never occured and then I would show them the email.  They took down pieces of my profile which I made sure to save.  When I showed them the saved copies, they didn't have anything to save.  The whole thing was one big joke.  When I looked them up on yelp and better business, it was 50 stories that replicate our story.

So we will not be using an au pair in the future or be able to endorse these companies. Some things that their employees told me shocked me about the agency.

Aquabears

Mike called me in the summer on a long shot to see if I would at all be interested in coming back to Aquabears.  I had been thinking about going to Aquabears for the Fall program with Scott and thought maybe that would be a good solution.  He needed someone for the Senior group and their beginner group.  I told him I would do 2x a week for the seniors and do the 8&unders.

Scott swam with Russell and Steve, who are awesome.  It was fun to see him try new events.  He was really good in the 200 free.  He swam it twice in the fall and both times I think had anxiety leading up the event for week, but did it and realized he can indeed swim more than a 50.  Rec swimming is so intense in some ways.  The kids get up and race, race, race.  It is a lot of pressure to win and race.  USS takes some of that pressure off and it is more about the journey, trying new things and long term development of the kids, which I like.  There are pluses and minuses to both and a definite need for both.  He liked it but once is got cold outside, got sooo cold for him.  Miserably cold.  I remember how I used to be and how cold I would get.  He would go 3x a week taking wednesday off for Scouts and Friday off to hang out with friends.  Once the 3x became too hold, I would tell him to just get out when he wanted, but he would feel bad.  He made it through mid November and had a good experience.  The weekend of JO's he said he wished he could go which I thought was pretty funny.  Glad he tried it and tried new things.

When Kira started gymnastics, doing the senior group was too much because she wanted me at gymnastics.  I called mike and he was soo understanding and told me to take care of Kira.  The one thing I love about Aquabears is that they are so understanding, so family friendly, so good to the kids, coaches and families.  They really do have balance in mind for everyone which I love and think is so healthy.

I am enjoying it.  I like working with the little kids.  It is something that I really do have a passion and love for.  I feel fortunate that I get to do something that I love to do.  It is a constant battle of finding balance in my life.

I have tried to really make the most of my time with all the kids. Working really forces you to make the most of your time.  I try to do dinners before I go, which sometimes gets done and sometimes doesn't.  In the mornings, I really make the most of my time with Blake and Parker.  I enjoy the days Kira is with me, but it leaves me with limited time with Tyler and Scott and I am not sure how I feel about that.  For now, I continue doing it.  Dana  Hills starts mid April and I will stop Aquabears for the spring and summer.  The thing I love about Dana Hills is that all my kids are there which I really enjoy.  It is very much a part of our family so it isn't as hard to find that balance, because my kids are there with me.


Gymnastics

Kira has been going to gymnastics for about 10 months at Black Diamond.  She really liked it and then went through a period that she was scared to do anything.  She was scared to try new things, scared to be without me, scared to go to school.  I am not sure what it was the result of.  Her therapist at school said she would funnel all her fears into one specific thing but it really changed her.  I don't know if it was experiencing my mom and dad dying, me going to work, Tyler being normally mean to her.  Probably a combination of it all.

We live in a relatively new community that is about an hour from the City.  That means that most people commute.  It also means that a lot of kids programs are not as developed or available in Brentwood. We went to the only gym in the City.  Unfortunately it was about 20-30 minutes from our home, depending on traffic. She liked it and the teachers were really nice.  When I started to work in Walnut Creek and Clayton and Scott started to swim in WAlnut Creek, I decided to look for different options for my kids sports that would be closer to us.  Swimmer families recommended a Community Youth Center in Concord.  Kira went and tried it out and the place is CRAZY!

It is a center where kids can do wrestling, soccer, gymnastics, taekwando, etc. at the center.  They have homework centers that the kid can do to and the kids can be dropped off and picked up with gates and alarms around the entire facility. 

I have been wanting to get Blake into something and Tyler into some type of martial arts for various reasons, so we gave it a go.  

Kira spent the first week scared to do anything but bars.  Crippling fear to even go out on the floor.  I sat with her and patiently remembered what she was like at swimming and gymastics in the beginning.  Realizing this is her.  Internally, it tried every fiber of my being.  I wanted to tell her that this was the same thing that she would do at her other gym that she loved.  But logic doesn't work with her fear.  I am hoping she continues to feel more comfortable with time and overcome her fears.

If she learns one thing from sports, it is that she can do things that are out of her comfort zone. Realize she can do things that might be a little scary or hard.  Get used to trying new things.

Over time, she would go out and just watch and I thought that was a victory of the day.  Then she would go out watch and do a little and that was a victory of the day.  This week she went out relatively early and did almost the entire practice.  On Friday she actually did everything from the warm up to beam, which is her hardest skill.

The girls and other parents are SOO nice and SOO supportive.  They were always so kind to her  Her coach went out of her way to help Kira.  To allow her to process her fears.  I am really grateful for that.

So we make CYC a new home for our family.  I am excited for her. She has grown to really like her coaches and the other girls.  I am really impressed with the program and she wants to practice her tricks at home.  

It is fun to watch her feel more comfortable and grow as a little human being.

After a month, she goes out with a smile on her face and is really enjoying it.  When I tell her that she doesn't have to do it, she explains that she can't wait for gymnastics.

I sit and watch her for 2 hours and then afterwards we go onto my work.  She comes with me M, W, F and does her homework, eats from the candy machine, reads or just wanders around. It is kind of fun to have some one on one time with her as we drive out and drive back.  There was a talk a couple of conferences ago about being at the crossroads and I realize that is what it means.

I have been using my dads truck as my commuter vehicle when I just need to bring 2 or less kids places.  It allows whoever is watching the kids to have a van.  Or Danny to have the van after work and makes it so I don't have to use Danny's car which he appreciates it.  The best part of it has been able to sit and actually talk with the kids.  It is really nice not having a television and being right next to them instead of what seems like really far away.  So even though it bumps up and down and looks like it might break down, it has been a good little addition to our family.  Plus, my dad would be happy that we have a truck to dump or home depot runs.