Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's Summer!!!!! ...ish

All of the local public schools are out for the summer! YEAH! IT'S SUMMER BREAK!!!!!!


For my kids, it is still time for school!

Okay, okay, so I know the idea of splashing around in water areas, playing with friends, and sleeping in sounds like fun, but the truth is that we tend to do things like that all year long anyway. We do not need a three month break, so although it is "summer" my kids still do lesson work. Because the boys and I are home full-time, there is always time for splashing, playing, and sleeping in- but there is also always time for schoolwork! **I speak on behalf of my family, NOT for all homeschool families. Many homeschool families do take summer breaks!!!!**

Breaks are very important, but I tend to make our school breaks happen when we need them, or schedule them around trips or visits. Breaks for us do not always mean that schoolwork stops. Our busiest and most complicated lesson plans are during the break we take during November/December. When I say we take a break during that time, I mean we are breaking away from our regular school routine and going into our holiday history and Advent lesson schedule. Those school days are much longer, take more prep, and are much more intensive than most of the rest of the year.So while it is a break, in a way, it is not schoolwork-free. We do have schoolwork-free breaks, but they are generally not in very large chunks.

Summer does bring a change for us! We do not do our traditional homeschool curriculum and rotation over the summer. I take the time to mix things up, relax things a bit, and often will use the summer to try new materials or methods. I feel like the change really makes summer special and sets it apart, without totally letting us go crazy or getting the boys out of the habit of doing schoolwork. (My first year homeschooling we started after taking the summer off- HUGE mistake. It works well in some families, but not for mine! My sons were resistant, angry, and had a really hard time adjusting back to the school routine- so we have never taken a summer off since and it has worked out much better for us.)

This summer we will be continuing our Language Arts lessons with

We will be doing math from Math-U-See, and supplementing with the math lessons from Time4Learning.

I am going to be doing the summer program from Vocabulary Spelling City- we have not used the program before but the boys are excited about the idea of doing schoolwork on our tablet or phone. (This will be a test of the program. A friend of mine uses it and loves it, so I thought we would try it out, and they have a special program just for summer so I took the opportunity to sign up.)

We will be working on the kids' typing skills with games from here.

We will continue reading books from the library, our home collection, Kindle (so many free books- love love love!), Tumblebooks, and any other way we can grab them. We will be signing up for library Summer Reading Programs (but generally we finish those within a few weeks... so maybe we will make our own).

We will be doing more unit studies and less general study work. All social studies, science, additional language arts, writing, reading, etc will all be unit based. Carter and Harrison will continue writing in their 2012-2013 school year journals.

YAY SUMMER!!!!!!!!!

Let the fun begin!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, excuse me, I need to move over so Carter can work on his language arts. He is doing dictionary work, and needs access to the computer so he can search online dictionaries. (Back in my day, we had to use a book!) Then I think we will visit the library. Love summer!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


"I can tell God lives here," Carter said.

This week our family took a small trip to the city of Nauvoo, Illinois. We stayed over night, and took in many of the sights. It was wonderful, and next time we visit we plan on staying longer- there was simply too much to do and see!

We started our drive and stopped for lunch. The boys saw a Harley Davidson store and insisted on visiting and shopping for their dream vehicles. They are motorcycle freaks! Not sure where they get their passion from, but they sure love them!

When we arrived in Nauvoo, we immediately drove past the Nauvoo Temple. The kids were all quiet, and Carter gasped, and said, "Wow! Guys, I know where we are! This is Heaven! Yes, I can tell God lives here." It was quite amazing to hear his little voice seriously proclaim his feelings. Indeed, the very special feelings in Nauvoo could be experienced by everyone! 

After dropping our luggage off at the Motel Nauvoo, we went to the Nauvoo Visitors' Center. We were greeted by Sister Missionaries who gave us a tour, and the boys were excited to sit near the beautiful Christus Statue and listen to scripture recordings. 

After finishing at the Visitor's Center, we went into the Nauvoo Monument to Women.

After seeing the statues, and taking some pictures (Isn't Harrison a little ham?) we headed over to the brickyard.

We need to take a tangent now, and tell a story:

Years ago, when we only had one little child, Kurt and I were discussing Church Missions. Kurt was reflecting on his life, and postulating what would have happened to him if he had been raised a member of the Church, and called on a mission. He wondered where he would have gone, what he would have done, how some things may have been different or ended up the same. We talked about our children going on missions, and our hopes for the future. Kurt looked at me, and smiled, and romantically took my hand and said that he was excited for our future, because we would be able to serve as Senior Missionaries together someday. He gave a little sigh, and then wondered aloud about where we would be sent. I broke the moment's quiet reverence by literally jumping up and down and saying, "I KNOW! I KNOW!" Taken aback by my new enthusiasm, Kurt asked me where I thought we would be sent. "NAUVOO!!!" I practically shouted with joy. I then rambled on and on about how I could practically see Kurt in pioneer clothing, hands muddy, making bricks at the brickyard, and how I could smell the gingerbread from the cookies I would be passing at the bakery. I talked for nearly an hour about all the things we would do while there, where we would live, and the people we would meet. Kurt had never been to Nauvoo, but remembered this conversation well, and as we stepped into the courtyard of the Nauvoo Brickyard, Kurt took a picture. I asked what he was doing, and he smiled his most charming smile, and said, "I want to remember the first day I walked to what will be my job someday!" So, even before entering or taking a tour, the Nauvoo Brickyard held a special place in our hearts.

While at the Brickyard the boys discovered how to make bricks. Specifically, the children learned about hacking bricks, and where the term, "Can't hack it" comes from!

While on our way to the Blacksmith, we stopped to watch a barge float along the Mississippi River. 

We then had a nice tour of the Blacksmith shop!

While at the Blacksmith, we were presented with Nauvoo Prairie Diamond rings! It was really sweet because later, at home, Kurt got down on one knee and proposed to me with one of them! My wedding ring still has not fit since I had Seraphina, so it was really sweet that Kurt was so romantic with our beautiful little souvenir! (Prairie Diamonds are nails that are hammered into rings. The nail head has a diamond shape, and the rings are called Prairie Diamonds!)

We saw a few more sites and then picked up tickets to the play "Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo!" The kids adored the play, and had a lot of laughs!

After the play, we went back to the motel and then decided to take a walk around the town. We went to the local school and the kids played at the park, and then we walked to the Nauvoo Temple and watched the sunset. It was a beautiful way to end the day!

We walked back to the motel, and enjoyed a peaceful night's rest!

The next morning, Kurt and I took turns doing Endowment Sessions at the Nauvoo Temple. Words cannot express the supreme holiness that resides within those sacred rooms, or the overwhelming joy and purpose that can be found within the House of the Lord. It is truly breathtaking and awe inspiring! 

The Nauvoo Temple has a building next door for waiting families- it had toys, a crib, rocking chairs, and more! There were beautiful places to sit and read, and soft music playing. The kids enjoyed themselves, and it was really nice to be able to sit back while they played! Sorry for the blurry pictures of Seraphina- she is always on the move!

We then went back to Old Nauvoo and visited the bakery (Where I may serve, someday! Hey- I can hope!), the Family Center, and a few more sites. (**Pictures to come- they are on Kurt's phone) Before leaving we took a carriage ride! The boys loved the horses!

One of the many places to visit while in the Nauvoo area, is Carthage Jail. Carthage is a very special place. We arrived late in the day, and were fortunate to have a private tour. During our tour, we sat in the bedroom where the Prophet Joseph Smith, his brother, and friends, were horrifically attacked by a mob. The feelings in that room are incredible- and brought tears to Kurt and me. Our little infant, Seraphina, stayed silent during the recollection of the events that occurred the last night of Joseph Smith's life, and all of our children could feel the Spirit witness to them, and they stayed reverent and quiet.

The boys look through the window, where the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed.

It was a really wonderful trip, and rejuvenated us as a family. It was a welcome distraction as we continue to wait on job leads, and look to the future. The visit to Nauvoo made us remember that there have been much bigger trials than ours, and it humbled us greatly. While visiting, we were given a larger eternal picture- walking through the streets helped us remember that the past is never far behind, and our futures span eternity. Our earthly cares may currently be many, but our lives are aligned with God's plans for us, and in the end- that is really all that matters.

Excellent trip! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Getting priorities straight

It has been a long time since I blogged. Mostly I haven't written because I keep hoping for some grand news about a move, a new job, or something else. I keep waiting for that brilliant moment where I have excellent and exciting things to share!!!

... wait for it....

.... waaaaaait for it.....

nope, still nothing.

I am a naturally enthusiastic person. All those exclamation points I write behind things: oh yeah, I mean them!!!  I try hard to find things to be happy about, but most of the time it isn't something I have to try hard to do. I count my blessings and remember how lucky I am, how many miraculous things have happened for us so far, and I focus on all of the things we have going for us.

Really, seriously, I know we are abundantly blessed. I do!

We live in a beautiful home, provided for us by Kurt's loving and supportive family.
We are surrounded by people who love our family, and care about our well being.
We live in a great community and people here know one another and look out for one another.
We have an excellent Church family here, and we adore our Ward.
We have strong, helpful, encouraging, loving, and amazing friends (location does not matter- their love can be felt from thousands of miles away).
Everyone in our family is here.
Everyone in our family is alive.

These are just the blessings I thought of while sitting here, I could go on and on. Point is: I know we are blessed!!!

However, there comes a point where, especially for someone extra enthusiastic like me, something starts to happen in less-than-spectacular times. While I still acknowledge my blessings, I stop being ultra-enthusiastic about them. Think of it as going from:

We live in a house!!!!!!!
We live in a house!

There is still gratitude. There is still joy. There is still enthusiasm.

But there is less.

I didn't realize my enthusiasm was deteriorating. I didn't know there was a change. I didn't know what I needed. Lucky for me, I have a very insightful friend who could see what I needed, even if I didn't.

Recently I received a FedEx package. I opened it, and inside was beautiful silver paper. Tucked within the paper was a black box. Mysterious, right???

Curious, I opened the box.

It contained hope.

No, literally, it contained hope!!!

Above the bright, glittering message of hope were the words:

When found upon the darkest depths,
Or lost among the things that bite 
Remember friends are there with you,
Helping you to find the light.

How amazing!!! I couldn't stop crying. This was it!!! This was what had been missing!!! I had lost my hope. Things here had fallen into such a solid routine, I had lost hope that things would change. I had lost my hope that my dreams were in line with God's plan. I had lost my hope that there was an end to what I felt was a long tunnel. I had lost my hope that tomorrow would be better than today.

Let's follow that for a moment-
     I am fully aware that right now, right where we are, right in our current position, we are living a life that many would adore to have. Many people dream to live the way we do, and I understand that, I really do. I understand we are so fortunate, and I understand it can be difficult to understand that we want something different. I do not ask for anyone to attempt to mentally grasp our desires, I simply ask that our desires be respected. I stand by my husband and his righteous goals for our family, he and I share a vision, and I appreciate him and his plans for our future.

Back to hope.

I had been feeling pretty beat down, and I didn't even realize it. That beautifully crafted gift of hope reminded me of who I really am, and what I want. It rekindled our desires, and fueled our fire to work harder at obtaining our goals. This box of hope could not have come at a better time...

I am 9 credits from graduation. 9 tiny, little, credits. With Kurt's blessing, I enrolled for those credits. I was thrilled because graduation was in sight!

Then, Kurt interviewed for a job.

Within hours of his interview, he was called and given a second interview.

The interviews went well, but we were told to wait for a week. We thought it would be fine, because if he got the job I would just drop my classes before the tuition was due, so no big deal at all! 

We found out this week they need another week to decide...

We have a finite amount of money available. Tuition and books were a large percent of those funds. We knew we could get by on what was left after tuition and such, and Kurt knew graduation was important to me, so he fully supported it. Without getting into the complicated details, let me summarize: we have two very clear, very different paths in front of us, and both are legitimate options. We can follow my career, or his. But, our family dynamic, and our desired lifestyle, does not allow for both. Essentially we were tossing up the white flag, abandoning hope, and sailing along with what the world would say is the right thing to do: send me to work. I could finish the credits, toss in an internship, and bing, bang, boom, we could follow me to graduate school and beyond. 

I will not deny that this is a sexy option. Being in graduate school is much more respected than being covered in baby vomit and boogers all day. Publishing papers and having titles is more prestigious than making dinner and teaching 3rd grade math. Researching at the Smithsonian is much more glamorous than "just being a mom." Following my educational pursuits is so much more modern (and at times, appealing) than being responsible for the education of my children and the running of our home. 


Is that what is right for us? Is that what is right for me?

Being educated is a noble goal. Pair that with my long-term career interests in global public health, and it equates to very righteous desires, indeed! However- they are not as noble or righteous as what I can do in my little home. I will add: what is right for me, is not right for everyone. Every family is unique, and I speak only for my own. 

I do not plan to know God's plans for our family, but I do know His desires for me: my first priority needs to be to my family, and not just in financial terms. My place, in my family, is in our home.

I do not believe it was a coincidence that Kurt's prospective employer alerted us they would need another week to make a decision. I do not believe it is a coincidence that it ties in to the same deadline as my tuition payment. I do not believe it is a coincidence that we have enough funds for us to pay for my classes or to move, but not to do both. No, this is bigger than coincidence. 

I prayed. I prayed hard, and I know that dropping my classes is the right thing to do. So, I did it. 

Graduation is not as important as staying mobile. 
My personal accomplishments are not as important as the big picture.
School will still be there in the fall and even after, but this opportunity (if offered) will not wait.

More than any of that- I chose to hope.

I chose to put my stock in my husband and in his abilities. I chose to support him and his righteous and beautiful goals and plans for our family. I chose to put my own ambitions aside, for now, and keep my role in our little unit. I know my husband has the talent and the ability to lead our family and provide for us, and I know the right opportunity is coming. I love him, support him, and believe in him!

In the future much of my plans could change (I could finish this Fall, I could go to grad school in 10 years!), but for right now, with our kids at these ages, and at this stage in our life, home is where my heart is.

So, I will make the pancakes that Seraphina insists upon having each morning (she only eats fresh ones, thankyouverymuch!). I will attend the baseball games and cheer for my little men. I will smile and kiss my husband whenever he walks by. I will wash the diapers and hang the laundry. I will work with the boys on their lessons, and be there for the teachable moments. I will encourage, uplift, and support my family members in every way I can, because right now that is more important than any other outside position I could hold.

I do not expect people to understand, and I know from the world's point of view I may be throwing away (or at least postponing) a very large opportunity. But, I also know that our purpose is more than what we become in this lifetime, and I know that following prayers has never, ever, lead us astray. I know my husband, and I believe in him. I know my God, and I believe in Him. And in the meantime, I will cling to my scriptures, family, and friends, who remind me to hold on to something more important than worldly answers: hope.

"You always, if you are faithful in the Church, will be much different from the world at large." - Boyd K. Packer