Friday, November 21, 2014

Living the dream!!!

My view, as I type this.
Today I realized I am living the dream.
I am sitting in my nice warm house. It's a wonderful, quirky, special old house. And the view? It doesn't get better!!!
I have three amazing children. Carter talks (we were once told he would not), writes stories, has a beautiful desire for justice and equality, and even at the age of 9 has a wildly fantastic imagination. Harrison is empathetic, creative, brilliant, and one of the most friendly people I know, with an insatiable desire to learn new skills each day. Seraphina is alive (we thank God for this every single day!)- she is smart, happy, and so adorable, we don't remember what life was like BFee.
I get to stay home! I get to bake any time I want. I get to sew any time I choose. I get to homeschool my amazing kids and offer them such a unique educational experience, custom fit to their ability levels and learning styles! I get to buy groceries, make dinners, and feed my family whatever I want. I get to clean my house and make it beautiful and welcoming. I get to see my friends, call my mom, and take day trips whenever I want.
I am married to the perfect man for me, who loves our children wholly and their mother passionately. He loves his job and (97% of the time) comes home happy- fulfilled at work and excited to come home. He is hard working, determined, and visionary. 
I get to read whatever I want, whenever I want. I get to snuggle my fuzzy kitty cats. I get to game on our well-built (thanks to Kurt) computers. I get to visit the Temple, go to the fudge shop, or visit the library just by taking a few steps out my door.

I have a degree in a field that inspires me. I have friends that help me grow as a person. As a woman in America, I have so much freedom in what I do and choose to be. I am free to attend the Church of my choice, voice my opinions, educate my children, and visit places in the community without fear for my life or safety. If a member or my family is injured- we have access to immediate life-saving medical attention. 

I am living the dream!

Do I feel like this every moment of every day?


But if we all sat down and listed our blessings- even if they are as simple as, "I have food in my pantry and a dinner plan for tonight," "I have two arms, two legs, and two working eyes and ears," or "I have the most amazing memories!" it really can help put things in perspective. I am not talking about going through the motions. I am talking about putting ourselves in someone else's shoes, and outwardly observing our lives as the blessings they really are.

I had originally sat down and written a second part to my "living the dream" segment. Item for item it was all the negative things that I could say about each thing I had listed as being something I loved and as a blessing. Yes, I have sweet kitties- but they have times where they fight and make me want to pull my hair out, they are expensive, they shed, they make me obsessively vacuum, they require vet visits and flea treatments. Yeah, I get to homeschool my kids- but there are times where I Google boarding schools and imagine how quiet things would be if they were all off at Hogwarts and I had time alone! There are days where I have to call another homeschooling mom, and cry- actually cry- because things are going so poorly in a certain subject or a certain topic. It did not take long before listing these negative aspects started to depress me... you know, life is not easy... for anyone.

So why is this living the dream?

Because this was always my dream.

I always wanted to live in Nauvoo. From the moment I first visited here in 2001, I was passionate about this amazing city. Now that I am here and part of this amazing community, I am living the dream.

I always wanted romance. My truck is running better than it has in years. I am married to a truly great man.

I always wanted to be a mother. I have loved children, and babysat and nannied for years and years. I desired to have kids, and from our third date Kurt knew I wanted the option to stay home and raise my children full time. I get to do that- I am a mother, a wife, and a homemaker (bonus points that my kids and husband are generally pretty awesome)- I am living the dream.

I have freedom. My time is truly mine. Sure, I have priorities and I have to-do lists- but I also have the freedom to completely scrap them all. We homeschool year round and even on most holidays, so I have the option to randomly take days, weeks, or even months off. Because of Flylady the house is nearly always clean and orderly without much effort, so I could literally take whole days and do whatever I want. I don't- because it's not really in my nature- but I have the freedom to, and really all I want is the option. Living the dream!

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I know my life has meaning, purpose, and value- just as your life does! Any time I struggle with something- no matter what- I have resources and people there to help me. Prayer, scriptures, Visiting and Home Teachers, local Church leadership- all there any time. Uplifting messages, inspiring magazines, enlightening books and speeches- all available online for free. I also have the extremely rare privilege of living across from a Temple. In most religions featuring sacred structures, living in such a proximity would be reserved for leaders, elite, or wealthy individuals of the community. I am none of those things, and still I get to live a stones throw from sacred ground. I am living the dream!

Thanksgiving can be an amazing time of year, but it can also be a really difficult time for a great many people. Daily struggles are very real. Burdens, trials, and hardship are something that touch all of us. My prayer is that this Thanksgiving, we are all able to reach deep within ourselves, and grasp onto the goodness in our lives. Hold on to the light and beauty all around. Search for things that are pleasing, and bring real joy. Find peace in the present. Share goodness.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


It is already chilly here! I love it!!!

Okay, on the the subject at hand: November Homeschooling!

We homeschool year-round, with a lighter load in the summer and then we COMPLETELY switch gears in November and December.


This last week was a really good reminder... sit back and let me tell you about it...

Usually I start our holiday homeschooling in October. (I give Halloween a few weeks.) It starts mid-October and basically I start small and grow from there. When I say we do holiday things, here is what I mean:
  • I put little Halloween stickers or graphics on just about everything...
  • I choose reading material that has to do with Halloween, silly spooks, or trick or treating...
  • I do language arts activities that are themed for Halloween...
  • We increase our crafts and art by about 500%, and all of them are around fall or Halloween themes... 
  • Pretty much ANYTHING we do, say, write, or make has to do with the season or Halloween...

Did I do that this year?

We were in SUCH a great groove I just kept truckin'...

But the kids had NONE of it.

By the end of the month- just a few days before Halloween- my kids were bonkers. They tried hard but just could NOT sit still, could NOT focus, could NOT pay attention- it was a homeschool headache! I reached out to my dear friend, Brandi (a very zen homeschooling guru), and she summed up my issue in just one sentence, "It's all the excitement of Halloween!!!"

She was right.

So- we are going back to the original plan. Honestly I thought my kids had "grown out" of holiday madness, but apparently not!!! 

It it would have saved me a lot of stress to just go back to doing what I used to do... why fix something that isn't broken!? (Remember that next year, Self!)

November and December are a different story. I
have thought and prayed about this over the years, and even though my content has differed each year- the theme has always been the same. November was about American history, and December was focused on Advent.

I have decided to change November.

Why? Because November WAS broken.

The anthropologist in me has a lot of problems with the traditional stories that go along with the First Thanksgiving (and much of American history... but I digress). My children are eager learners, and I do not want to teach them something "historical" that is actually historically inaccurate. Without going deeply into it- a lot of the current representation of early American history is grossly distorted, and I refuse to teach it to my offspring. When they are older, we will dive into America's history- the good, the bad, and the ugly- with accuracy. But for now I will spare my children the horror of what actually happened when various waves of settlers arrived. I am not doing this to be unAmerican- I am as American as apple pie (if it is gluten free...) and I adore our great nation! I just do not want my kids to be disillusioned. (I sure was! "What do you mean they weren't friends!?!?!?!?!")

November will now be built upon the theme of gratitude. We will be teaching the kids about Thanksgiving- as a holiday celebrating things for which we are grateful- and we will discuss the settling of America as it comes. I will gently correct misinformation we come across, and we will be researching topics together- so they can see the differences between scholarly research versus adorably-illustrated-yet-completely-inaccurate-children's books. Yes, I understand this might seem strange- but I figure it is better to teach them the truth the first time, than make them recite, write, review, repeat, and regurgitate complete nonsense. (All that said, they will probably watch the Charlie Brown special on the Mayflower... but that is as close to foofoo as we will get.)

Here are a few of the things we will be doing in November:  *I will not be using ALL things from each site, but here is a quick guide of the direction I am heading.

  • The Thanks Giving Tree- a beautiful printable with scriptures we will read daily. 
  • Thanksgiving Interactive Sites, including:
  • Reading Library books- we will be continuing to visit the library for story hour, and we will be checking out books on the subjects of Thanksgiving, gratitude, autumn, and if I am feeling up to it- Christmas ones here and there too... =)
  • Gratitude Journals- the boys usually journal in their notebooks, but these are a neat chance to add scripture and a spirit of gratitude as well. There is some tracing work in here too, so we will be using that instead of our usual Getty-Dubay Handwriting books.
  • Spelling You See
  • Math-U-See
  • Independent Reading- the children get to choose their own books and read during this time each day.
Next month we will be diving into our Advent study- and it is our busiest month ever. Exciting! I love this time of year!!!

**Photo from SouthPark

Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy Halloween!

We had a really great Halloweekend! Well, sorta. HAHA!

Trick or treating was on Thursday night. I am pretty happy they held it Thursday because I ended up waking that night with a really icky bug- and was sick the whole weekend! But that did not stop the kids from having fun with daddy!!! (And now that it is Monday, Fina and Carter are sick as well- icky!)

Batman, Robin, and Doc McStuffins!
After a bit of Trick or Treating- all they really wanted to do was sit on the porch and pass out candy to the rest of the kids!

While Fina and I were taking naps, Kurt took the boys outside for lots of fun in the leaves!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, Fina!

Seraphina's birthday was last month! 2! Already? Wow... where does the time go? Remember when she had just turned one??? (The picture to the left is our little princess, at Disney World, on her 1st birthday! Has it already been a year???)

It was an uneventful day- mostly because we planned it that way. Kurt and I found that postponing her birthday a few weeks actually made her birthday much more enjoyable, so we might just do that from now on.

Anyway, I digress!

We celebrated her special day together as a family, and spent time together at home. She was pretty shy about the whole concept of presents- but in the end the idea grew on her.

Her birthday outfit was a super adorable custom creation by Blueyedesign- the shop owner is a friend of mine, and she was SO sweet when I couldn't make up my mind!!! Seraphina loves Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, and Hello Kitty- and we decided to do her birthday outfit in kitties. Isn't she TOO cute?! Blueyedesign made the shirt and the bow, and she arranged for me to have extra fabric to make Fina a matching skirt. I just loved it!

Below: a picture of Fina in her birthday outfit when it was finished. The picture on the right has an adorable back-story! I get super nervous whenever I have to cut fabric, so Kurt always offers to cut it for me. He is so awesome about measuring it twice and is super accurate- it is awesome! Seraphina saw him sitting at the table with the fabric, and pulled her blanket up next to him, proceeding to mimic his every move. Haha! 

In the end, we decided to do a birthday celebration with all of the things Fina loves, instead of choosing a single theme. So- we had Doc McStuffins toys, a Sofia the First cake, and Hello Kitty outfit! Seraphina LOVED it all!!

"The Doc is in!"

October Visiting Teaching

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a very special organization for women aged 18 and over. As a matter of fact- it is not only the oldest women's organization in the United States, it is also the largest! The organization is called Relief Society- and was created to "build faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need."

Among the many awesome things about Relief Society, is Visiting Teaching. I love Visiting Teaching, and I have a very strong testimony of the beauty, helpfulness, and necessity of this divinely inspired program.

Here is a definition of what I get to do:
  1. visiting teacher
  2. visiting teacher is a woman assigned to watch over and help another woman in her Latter-day Saint ward or branch. Two visiting teachers are assigned to each woman; they contact her at least once a month and encourage her efforts to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Awesome, right? But it gets better!!! Not only is there someone that I get to to reach out to, befriend, share the gospel with, enlighten, and uplift- there are also TWO women who do the same for me!!! They are not just here to chat, encourage, and bring awesome messages- they are also there for me to call when I am in need of something: if something comes up and I need help with the kids, if I am sick (or just had a baby) they help coordinate sisters to bring over meals, if I am personally (or spiritually or physically) struggling- they are really there to help me out!!! It is wonderful!!!

I have been so blessed to have amazing Visiting Teaching companions throughout the years. I love going Visiting Teaching, but am not very good at making appointments. I think Heavenly Father understands this, and tends to place me with women who are excellent appointment-makers, haha! Playdates, dessert meetings, brunches, and chats in the kitchen- I have enjoyed Visiting Teaching in so many different settings!

One of my favorite things about Visiting Teaching is what I get out of it when I visit someone else. I love reading our Visiting Teaching Messages, and often will create some type of little handout for our sisters- something small to help them remember the message in their everyday lives. Every letter I type, cookie I bake, or craft I put together, helps me think more about the monthly message, and about all the millions of things that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have done for all of us!

This is what I made this month, it is a small bookmark. I printed it on cream colored cardstock and backed it with some simple brown construction paper. I then laminated it. I am going to put it in a little treat bag with a votive candle and a little packet of herbal tea. Feel free to use this, or share it! This month's message is so great!!! (Aren't they all? haha!) and it is all about the divine mission of Jesus Christ! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Piano

Earlier this year, we asked the boys if they wanted to learn a musical instrument. They both enthusiastically said yes! They were allowed to choose any non-wind instruments (they just do not have the lungs for them quite yet- in my opinion) and Carter chose the violin, Harrison chose the piano.

Harrison has picked up the piano remarkably fast. "He is an Einstein-level genius..." his teacher says, with amazement in her voice. Harrison is not just a natural, he seems to truly love playing, which is a wonderful thing for us all!

Yesterday I worked with Carter first, while Harrison was finishing up another school assignment. Carter worked very hard, and he was able to play through a rather tricky song! We were thrilled for him, and Harrison came in to congratulate him on his accomplishment!

Carter took his instrument upstairs, and Harrison sat down to work on the piano. What usually comes easy and somewhat effortlessly, was not flowing well at all. His brow furrowed, his face set in extreme concentration. Measure after measure, the notes did not come together. The more frustrated he became, the more clumsy his notes rang. To try and help him I played the song along with him, just an octave higher, so he could try and get back into his groove. It did not work, and he became completely discombobulated- not a single measure came together! 

Harrison pushed away from the piano and stood up, his little face full of agitation and despair. He turned and quickly started to walk away.

"Where are you going???"

"Mom, just a minute- I really need to pray."


I heard the pantry door close, and the sound of his voice, praying aloud- calmly- as if he was talking reverently to his best friend...

I sat alone on the piano chair, and marveled at what just happened.

Harrison had struggled. He worked as hard as he could, but nothing seemed to come together correctly. He knew what he wanted, but just could not get it to happen. Instead of freaking out, tossing in the towel, or throwing a tantrum- he sought solitude and a chance to pray.

Minutes passed. I could still hear his little voice. I waited.

He came back, a look of peace on his face. It was not an expression that read he expected things to go perfectly, but the tension and pressure were now completely gone.

He sat down, put his fingers to the keys, and played the song beautifully.

A lot can be learned from this little boy, his prayer, and his piano...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Carter and Harrison dot com!"

A few years ago Carter and Harrison came to us with our tablet. They happily showed us a video they made with their Lego figures. Weeks before that they had built a roller-coaster in the front yard. Weeks after, they grabbed Kurt and took off for a few hours- returning as the proud owners of their own mini-golf course- all created from things found in the machine shed.

Their adventures became pretty entertaining, and I loved hearing about them and seeing them. However, it was not long before they told us they planned on putting their journeys online.

"Yeah! We are going to put all this on Carter and Harrison dot com!"

At 7 and 5, my boys had plans involving the internet. I was horrified. My husband was elated.

They had come up with their own internet address?! When?! How?!

It took some convincing, but eventually I agreed to allow Kurt and the boys to create a website for Carter and Harrison. The site, it has been decided, will contain stories of their adventures, random homeschool info, recipes, links, videos, books, and pretty much anything the boys decide they want to share with their extended family and the rest of the world. The site will be kid-friendly, and will be monitored by their dad and me. However- the content will be all theirs.

They are very excited to roll out their new site. Today's post is already up! Click HERE to enter!