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!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fall 2014

I cannot believe summer (academically speaking) is already over! That just flew by!

Our summer was filled this year! Archaeological dig, Nauvoo pageant, frequent visits to the Temple, a mini-holiday in Chicago, trip to a theme park, homeschool lessons, fabulous visit with my parents, a book convention, my graduation, sleepovers, Cub Scout rank advancements, camping- wow! I am getting a little tired just typing all of this!

Here are some pictures of our adventures!

So much fun!

The boys have started the next year of homeschooling! We broke out the next level of books- always such a treat! Carter is in 4th grade, and Harrison is in 3rd! They are both excited! Their friends Julio and Jose come over and we all do crafts and read together- so it is even more fun than ever!

Yes- both are homeschooling this year.

Carter did attend the local private school. However, after a month, he decided he was finished. In his own words, "Mom, their work is a lot easier, but school takes too long!" There you have it!

We are continuing to use Math U See, Spelling You See, Getty-Dubay Handwriting, Usborne books, Breakfast Notebooks (here is a simple site explaining them- ours are filled with more advanced materials), Brain Quest Workbooks, and unit work. I CAN'T WAIT to get to our Charlie and the Chocolate Factory unit! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! We already finished sharks and are now on football (mostly health and fitness, but they all wanted to learn about football- so we are putting that in there too!). This will be the best homeschool year EVER!

That about does it as far as school updates go!

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Dear Facebook,

It's not you, it's me.

We have changed. Grown apart. And I am through.

Remember when we first met? We would see one another occasionally. I remember I added everyone who ever requested me as a friend. I thought it was so fun! Friends I had known back in elementary school were now on my "friends" list! It was great! It was delightful!

Remember when we grew up? It was just a few years later that people got a bit more bold (or maybe I was paying more attention?). I remember posting something, and having people openly fight with me! It was so weird! I got dramatic too. Take that- world! That phase did not last very long- thankfully- and rather than debate and dramatize, I realized it was easier to "unfriend" and keep things positive. I refused to get into the drama.

That, for years, was my MO. Keep it positive. Pictures of kids, family, travels, adventures, cats, uplifting! I was determined to make Facebook a fun little place that would inspire and bring joy! Facebook is amoral- so I knew it could happen!!! I found that I could only handle having about 120 "friends" at any given time. I enjoy reading things my friends post, and 120 seemed my limit. I kept the 120 to people I could talk to, confide in, and trust. I wanted to be able to post things unfiltered if necessary- and I chose people carefully.

But you got smart, didn't you...

Your brilliant marketing geniuses added a trending feature. You tossed in more adds. You added a feature that posted similar articles below links my friends would post. You weren't happy with cute cats and little families- no... you wanted more.

Well, it worked.

I would find myself, often, caught up reading interesting articles, stories, or blogs. Subscribe to Scientific American or Popular Science? Nah- all I have to do is read the articles online! Oh, look! Here is a blogger and early childhood expert telling people to do what I have always done, yeah! OH! Look at that AWESOME homeschool unit on Mummies!!! YES! A new recipe! Oh look! It is a whole BLOG of new recipes! YAY!!!! Wow! Did you know that there are entire sites with cute personality quizzes?! Which Disney Princess would I most likely be?!!? (Aurora.) Which character in The Breakfast Club am I most like!?!? (Claire.) What Hogwarts house would be my perfect fit!?!?! (Gryffindor, baby.) Oh yeah... you got smart, Facebook.

But the smarter you got, the less I enjoyed you. I started walking away feeling less fulfilled. I stopped hearing cute stories from friends or my favorite bloggers- because your filters stopped showing them, or your trending topics gave them something else to discuss. You stopped being fun.

So, I quit you.

I have thought about it for a long while- but needed to grab the courage and do it.

Well, this week I got the courage and I did it!

And you know what?

I got five different texts that day.

Three different the next.

I wrote six letters this week.

My house is clean, I have the next week of homeschool work all printed and sorted, and I baked cookies twice (chocolate chip- they are awesome). I sewed a new dress for Harrison's baby-doll, and am half done with a dress for Fina. A friend and I are working on making a free cookbook. I have had cups and cups of herbal tea, and I read my scriptures three-times-a-day instead of one. And I feel amazing.

I didn't think I was spending too much time on Facebook. And thanks to your marketing, I wasn't. Instead I was clicking links and reading and reading and reading mindless fluff. Was there an occasional inspiring link, message, or blog? Sure! But it seemed to happen less and less. If someone had asked me how much time I was spending online I seriously would have said 20-60 minutes. However, based on the large amount of fun crafts and the perfection of my house now, it must have been a lot more.

I remember seeing this a few years ago:

I remember I liked her message, but I didn't understand. Addicted to Facebook? Like, you are addicted to your friends? I don't get it.

But now I do.

I am not addicted to Facebook. I am addicted to information. And you, sir, were feeding it to me by whopping spoonfuls. And, like eating Cool Whip, it was unsatisfying, unhealthy, and unwanted in my life.

So, I am done.

See? It's not you. It's me. I need more. And my family and I deserve more. So, for now- we are going to part ways.

Kurt will keep his Facebook, and people can always reach me at home, phone, email, or by text.

My email is


Saturday, May 3, 2014

My marriage is like an old truck...

Years ago, in one of our marital counseling sessions, our therapist asked me to describe my marriage. Being the analogy lover I am, I came up with this:

My marriage is like an old truck. 

The therapist asked me to elaborate, and I did.

Trucks are strong, built for the long haul, and specially crafted to carry heavy loads. Trucks are durable, and I imagine they can handle stormy weather, rocky roads, and can be a safer alternative for passengers to get from point A to point B.

That is how I see marriage.

The therapist asked me why my marriage was like an old truck.

Maintenance is important for any vehicle. Trucks are strong and can handle a lot, but they still require regular service in order to run smoothly. Neglect of oil changes, filters, or any other fluid levels can wreak havoc on what would otherwise be a perfectly running system. Older trucks require even more care- not just routine service, but occasional replacement parts, upgrades, and additional tune-ups. 

My marriage is like an old truck.

What happens when the truck breaks down?

Unlike a truck, a marriage is made of two people. Two people with two different personalities, two different sets of life experience, two different minds. The marriage dynamic between my husband and I had him driving the truck, and me as a passenger. I could navigate, change the music, and set temperature controls- but ultimately he was at the wheel, in charge of the destination. That said- we were both knew we were in the same truck. Our eternities, our decisions, and our fate (although we may experience them in our own ways) we saw as being shared.

So, again....

What happens when the truck breaks down?

Picture this:

We parked our badly beaten truck at a lovely home in Nauvoo.

The truck was in bad shape.

Here are the facts: the truck had not been routinely serviced. Not only were simple oil changes ignored, but more serious repairs had been left undone. The truck barely, and I mean barely, made it. The wary driver and passenger had clung to prayer and hope just to get it as far as Nauvoo- both believing that being close enough to the Temple, and a new start, would help offer them some rest from what had been years of rough roads. 

And yes, the roads were rough. Everyone can agree on that. Career changes, moves, considerably dangerous medical crises- the road had been anything but smooth. 

But now, the truck will not start.

Seems simple. Go fix it? Take care of it? Just toss in a few quarts of oil every so often?

It is not that easy.

There is a story floating around the internet about a woman whose husband had told her he was leaving. In the story, she declared that she wasn't buying it- and kept carrying on as if things were fine. She gave him his space, and just kept her shoulder to the wheel. She decided to keep the truck moving. She drove it herself, but she kept the truck going.

Years ago in our own marriage, we had our truck break. It was pretty badly broken for a few years, but Kurt managed to fix, repair, and replace so much of the truck that it drove better than new. He had decided to keep the truck moving. He did much of this himself, and he kept it going.

Many times a truck will experience a breakdown, and couples will tirelessly work together to pick up the pieces- seeking help when necessary. They work together, even if they are both exhausted, wounded, or hate the setback- they keep it going.

Sometimes there are opportunities to improve truck performance. Just as an improved suspension can help trucks creep over boulders in the road, couples can work together to increase the strength of their trucks to perform better and longer, while hauling more, preparing for uncertain terrain.

There are so many different types of marriages, and marital dynamics. So many different solutions to so many different difficulties. I could probably write a few thousand scenarios! Just as along a road, there will be many people along the way will offer advice, products, or services- that can either help or hurt a truck and journey, so it is in a marriage. It can be confusing enough just to drive a tuned-up truck, let alone be stuck in a rut with a broken one!

It is all to easy for onlookers to comment or pass judgement on another person's truck:

"Ooooo, that comes with air conditioning and cruise control? You are so lucky!"
"You are so lucky you have a truck at all. I would love a truck! ANY truck!"
"A lot of people don't have trucks, so stop feeling sad!"
"Your truck seems so perfect. I am so jealous."
"You should ditch your old truck and get a new one!"

"My truck performed better with product X- you need product X in your truck."
"Your wife should clean your truck."
"Your husband should get the oil changed on your truck."
"So-and-so got a new truck- doesn't she look happy! I wish I was as happy with my old truck as she is with her new truck..."

Similarly- all too often people enjoy commenting or passing judgement on another person's marriage. Don't believe me? Just read those above in a new way:

"Oooo, your husband does the laundry and makes dinners? You are so lucky!"
"You are so lucky to be married. I would love to be married! Any marriage is better than this!"
"A lot of people want to be married, you should be thankful for your marriage, stop feeling sad!"
"Your marriage seems so perfect. I am so jealous"
"You should ditch your husband/wife and get a new one!"
"I did ____ and it saved my marriage. If you want to save your marriage do _____!"
"Your wife needs to stop nagging you to make dates."
"Your husband should spend more time with you."
"So-and-so is so happy with her new husband! I wish I was that happy in my marriage..."

See? If you have not heard any of those, in some form or another, chances are you still may have caught yourself thinking them in your own head. While some of these comments could come from people who are well-meaning, it is important to remember than while all of us can see and hear about another person's marriage- none of us are actually living it. Just because I can see your truck, doesn't mean I know how it drives- and even then, test driving a truck is not the same as owning one- so it is best to try and keep comments like this in check.

It is best not to compare whose grass is greener - let's all just try to water our own lawns.

Our marriage has been broken for awhile. As I said, we barely made it here. Our own thoughts and feelings about this conflict greatly, and that does not help. Matt Townsend once told us that we needed to stop fighting about the smoke, and figure out what is causing the fire. Currently we are trying to do that- but the smoke is pretty thick, and we disagree on the cause of the flames. This process is not something that can be fixed quickly, and we are both busy- so even this seemingly simple step takes a lot of time.

I can say this: there are flames. There is a lot of smoke. The truck is broken.

I can tell you that I am exhausted. I feel like I have been in charge of caring for this truck so long, that I am just done with it. I feel like if I do not schedule the truck for service, and take it myself- it doesn't happen. I have had a lot on my own plate (We moved, and because of scheduling I did most of the packing and unpacking. I just graduated, our kids are both homeschooling again, and Fina decided she wants to potty train)- so I have not been able to handle any of the maintenance at all. My husband works 60 hours a week in a new job, and there is still yard-work, more unpacking, and weekend errands to run- so he doesn't get to working on the truck either.

So the truck is broken, and neither of us is fixing it.

For a long time we were nervous or afraid to mention our truck's current state because we have seen- firsthand- the extreme damage that can be done when someone shares information like this. We have witnessed couples go from civil separations to excessively hurtful divorces- all because, in their moments of pain, they allowed others to influence them. We have seen the significant damage that comes from allowing others to plant dangerous seeds- and we have tasted the bitter cup of regret for allowing ourselves to be fed the wrong kinds of "support." Neither of us hates one another. Neither of us wants to be single. Neither of us wants to be divorced. However- the truck is broken. Our marriage is broken. It teeters on the edge of ruin, and that has some very serious eternal consequences for all five of us. For this reason- we reserve the right to place immediate, appropriate, and healthy boundaries on EVERYONE. 

Some of you may be asking, "What can I do?"
DO offer your prayers.
DO NOT offer criticism of our spouse.

DO offer your ears.
DO NOT offer your own opinions.

DO offer small gestures of love.
DO NOT call us demanding to know details.

DO send texts or messages saying you care.
DO NOT demand us to tell you our plans.

DO support us as we figure out our next step.
DO NOT expect us to tell you what that step will be.

We have a lot of options. We are both reasonably intelligent people, who are trying to be calm during this time. We are trying to make good and healthy decisions, as rationally as possible, while dealing with our own pains. There is a lot in our past, a lot going on right now, and we have a lot in the future- and careful consideration is necessary at every single step.

My marriage is like an old truck... that has broken down... and it hurts.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I have a secret... (told in memes)

I have a secret.

But- it has to come out at some point, so here it goes:

My eldest son attends school outside of our home.


It all started a few weeks ago....

We were in the car going to the grocery store. My middle son, Harrison, said, "Mom? I think I wanna go to school."

Although this is not exactly how the conversation happened, this is how I can best sum it up:

I was shocked. However, I was supportive. My eldest, Carter, laughed at the idea of going to school and told Harrison a sarcastic, "Good luck!" and we went about our errands.

While we shopped I thought hard about what Harrison said. We discussed reasons for why he might want to go to school, and I listened carefully.

I talked to my husband that night and we agreed that it would be a good idea for us to check out the local schools. We talked for something like five hours. It was a late night, but worth it. We discussed a lot: our own immediate reactions, our first thoughts, the best timing for the kids, the various pros and cons, the changes in our lives, etc. After those five hours, we agreed it was best to look into the schools before we thought or discussed further.

(Even though I am the one who did the homeschooling, 
Kurt was a very large part of the process!)

The next morning I visited two local schools (and by local, I mean both within 3 blocks). Both schools were excellent, but I felt one of the schools would be a better "fit" if Harrison did indeed end up going to school. There was a lot that went into that decision, but I will spare you. I went home and discussed my take-aways with my husband, and we talked a few hours, and then decided the next step was to show Harrison the school.

My husband went to work, and I took the children to the school for a tour. Harrison bounced from room to room, excited by the happy faces, bright colors, and all of the neat things he saw. Carter walked more slowly. He wandered the rooms, hands tucked in his jacket pockets, analyzing things without saying much. The kids toured the music room, gym, lunchroom, 1st/2nd grade room, 1st grade room (the classes are combined, but 1st and 2nd graders are separate in the mornings), and offices. The principal of the school was wonderful, and answered Harrison's questions and told him what to expect if he decided to attend school.

At the end of the tour, Harrison told her he wanted to come. She said she would talk to the teachers, staff, and Priests and get back with us. We were about to leave when Carter said, "Where is my class?"

I felt a little like this:

After years of Carter insisting he wanted to homeschool, Carter wanted to attend school.

I was floored.

The principal was shocked as well, but did not skip a beat. She showed him the 3rd/4th grade class, and introduced him to the teacher. She answered his only question, "When do we start?"

I filled out paperwork and picked up uniforms the next day.

They changed their minds about fifteen dozen times over the weekend.

The kids started a trial on Monday. The school was so wonderful, and very supportive. We all agreed a trial was best. We woke up, everyone had breakfast together, and the boys showered and dressed in their uniforms. The boys went to school. I picked them up at the end of the day and they both expressed how much they enjoyed it! Their reasons varied, but the outcome was the same: school was great!

The evening was a bit more difficult. The kids couldn't wrap their minds around the concept of homework. "I was at school all day, and now I have to do more schoolwork at home?!? WHY?!" Kurt and I assured them it was a normal part of school, and we helped them complete their assignments. That evening, Harrison came to us and said he changed his mind and wanted to continue homeschooling. Carter changed his mind a few times as well- but he flip flopped both ways. They both agreed to try another day.

The next day Harrison told everyone he would not be attending any longer. He said his goodbyes. Carter asked to continue attending school.

It has been a few weeks, and Harrison is here (to my right, practicing the piano) and Carter is at school. It has been a difficult adjustment for everyone- from our patriarch to our toddler- not a single one of us goes untouched by this change. However, the fact that there are only six more weeks until the "end of the school year" made this a much easier decision! I am very thankful this came up when it did so they could get a taste of school without any large commitments. During this time both boys have had daily discussions about what they felt were the best parts of their day. 

Both seem to be settling into the fact that homeschool seems a great "fit" for Harrison...

While school seems a good "fit" for Carter....

I do not know what we will be doing this fall, but I know we will continue to homeschool during the summer, and Carter will be included in the lessons. Beyond summer will take more thought and discussion, and we will continue to allow the kids to offer their thoughts and input. 

I feel the need to express: We believe that homeschooling is an excellent academic opportunity. We also believe this particular school offers an excellent academic opportunity. There are positives and negatives with both options, so for our family, in this situation, at this time, we allowed the children a large "say" in the process. If we believed there was a "best" decision, my husband and I would make the decision- but as we see it, there are two wonderful academic opportunities, and we allowed the children to individually choose the one they felt was right for them. We are so fortunate not to have to choose a "lesser of two evils" but instead have a "best of two greats!"
Carter was welcomed in the school newsletter!

Carter walks to school. The school is just around the corner and a block down. Loves the walk!

Carter and Harrison play on the school playground (yes, that is a castle- it even has a bridge!) after school.

Carter attended school for just over a month, and then came to us and told us that he wanted to return home full time. We talked with him about it for a few days, while he continued going to school, and then ultimately brought him home. In his words, "Mom, your school is a lot harder... but going to school took a REALLY long time..."

We are thankful for a supportive school and community, where the kids felt safe to make their own decisions. Thankful for great educational options! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vacation! (part 2)

Universal Studios!

Sorry it took so long to finish this update- we had a lot going on! More on that later... in the meantime, let's talk about Universal Studios! **Pretty much all of my pictures of Universal Studios are in the camera. We recently moved and I have not unpacked the camera yet, so more pictures will follow!

Universal Studios was a place I never cared to visit. I always saw it as Disney's weirdo fourth cousin or something. I just felt like it would pale in comparison, so why bother visiting? As a child I was never a huge fan of most of the Universal characters or experiences anyway, so as an adult I didn't think twice. But then... the game changer happened.... Hogwarts! (Dooo de de dooo deeee dooooo doooooooooooo, dooo de de doooo de doooooooooo- you totally just sang that, didn't you... it's okay, embrace it!)

Ah yes, Hogwarts. Hogwarts was the ONE and only place my mother requested to stop. That was totally cool with us, because we all wanted to visit too! Carter started reading Harry Potter right away, and we started to plan our trip!

Planning a Multi-Disney-Multi-Universal week was a lot of fun. As a child I would watch my father pour over guides, maps, and even catch a program or two (generally Rick Steves- love that guy!) and spend hours upon hours planning a trip, so for me it felt like a torch and some big shoes were passed!

One of the first things we planned was where we would visit each day. Some parks close early on some days or during some events of the season- it is really important to check the hours! We had to work around Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween (where additional purchases are required to stay and ride the rides in Disneyworld park), a few random early close days (some parks would close as early as 6 on certain days), and factor in our personal endurance (5 days, 4 parks, 3 kids) to come up with our perfect schedule. I also looked online to find trackers that estimated park attendance on various days, based on several factors (such as advanced ticket sales, local events, past history of business that week, etc) for each individual park, as to maximize our time spent on rides rather than in lines. Cross checked that with days that offered shows, theater events, parades, or park-closing entertainment we wanted to see. I put into account parks we wanted to close (Disneyworld fireworks are a MUST SEE for us!), and what parks open the latest the next day (I knew if we stayed at Disney until 10pm we wouldn't want to be up super early the next morning). I read blogs on what time was best to be at the gate, and what order to do the fastpasses and rides, what time of day to see each show, etc....Overkill, you say? Well, we rode everything, multiple times, and saw everything we wanted to see. So I would say the planning was well worth it. I also loved the planning, and grew more excited with every day- so for me (and hopefully the family!) it worked great! This was the most research and planning I had ever done, and it was the best of the park trips we have ever experienced. So- I highly suggest pre-planning. A little homework now can save you a lot of hours later!!!

We opened the Universal Studios park. We had planned on doing a bell-to-bell at this park, so we had a full day planned. Universal Studios now has two different parks, and we planned on visiting the original park first because ... I won't get into the factors (did you not see the algorithm logic above?)... but there was a method. Anyway, we opened the park, and this was the day we decided to test out Universal's drink and meal plans.

The Universal drink plan is awesome. While none of our party are huge soda drinkers, the selection at the park was great and there were many stops for us to choose to refill. It was a good value, and we ended up doing it again at the other park on our other Universal day.

The Universal meal plan is hit-or-miss. We weren't sure how it would work for us because so many of us are gluten or dairy-free, but decided to give it a try after reading favorable reviews online. Basically, a select number of restaurants offer a select menu for those on the meal plan- and there are GF and dairy-free options available. We calculated costs and this plan did end up saving us money, and none of us were hungry during the day- so it was a good value. *HOWEVER* it is so close, that if you are itching for off-menu items, it could end up costing more than it was worth. That said- we only ate one lunch and one dinner- and it is unlimited, so if you are super hungry it would have saved you a lot more! Just something to consider. The servers were super nice and careful about our GF needs, and none of us experienced symptoms of contamination- so that was EXCELLENT!

Before entering the parks we all looked over the maps and listed things we wanted to see and do. We always made sure to do those first, so that we didn't have to worry about missing anything. Minions, Transformers, Men in Black- we did it all! We ended up seeing and doing everything at the park, and some multiple times! The park services offered Harrison and Fina birthday buttons, and many ride attendants waved us to the shorter line and wished them a happy birthday. If you have a birthday in your party, take the extra few minutes and get a button!

Universal offers a pass that allows riders to go on shorter lines. We debated getting the pass, but because all of our readings speculated a low turnout we did not pick one up. It worked out well because the only thing we actually waited in line for was Minions, and sailed onto rides the rest of the time because of birthday buttons, or lack of crowds! (If you go in the summer, consider picking up the Unlimited Express addition if you hate lines!)

We stayed for the show. It was pretty neat: water, lights, movie clips, etc. If we are being honest I would say it was the least impressive show of the trip- HOWEVER- it is hard to compare clips of ET to a half hour of fireworks and a flying Tinkerbell- you know? So the show was good- and worth it I think- but was not something I would consider necessary. (Just my personal opinion.)

Here are my overall take-aways:

I will probably never skip this park again. Seriously, it was that amazing! The rides were fabulous! Thrilling, exciting, amazing! There was an excellent mix of roller coasters, themed rides, and children's rides. No one was bored!!! The park was much larger than I realized, and I was pretty tired in the middle of the day, but MY DAD (grandpa of the kiddos!) practically skipped us from ride to ride! Men In Black? SO fun!

The fact that we had a 1 year old with us was a non-issue! Universal Studios was AMAZING with littles. Dare I say it- it was actually BETTER for the adults than Disney! Allow me to explain: Disney is cute, and wonderful, and has lots of stuff for kids. (I ADORE Disney!) However, Universal Studios rides were amazing for ADULTS too (the graphics, the quality of the rides themselves- just felt better... almost sorry to say it- but it is true!)- and they have this unique way of handling littles: Most of the themed rides that did not allow littles had a special system. Families could all be in line together (no more waiting outside with baby!), chatting in the lines, seeing the neat sights along the way (lots of neat things to see in the line area- we didn't spend much time there because we went on a day with low crowds- but still! I would have hated to miss seeing a lot of those things!), and then at the end there was often a special room where someone could stay with the littles while the rest of the group rode - there might be movies playing, there may be interactive decorations on the walls- they were all different! AND THE BEST PART: The family members who rode leave the ride- swap guardians of the littles- and then EVERYONE gets to reride (I think they said up to 5 people?!). So in our family- I would sit with Fina, Grandpa and Grandma would ride with the boys, and then Grandma would stay with Fina while I rode with Grandpa and the boys AGAIN! The boys LOVED riding everything twice without waiting in line again!!!! It was SO awesome!!!

Yeah- so... Universal is not Disney's weirdo fourth cousin. Universal is also not Disney's twin. I would say Universal is Disney's sibling- and they are different, but they are both fantastic. I will not be skipping this again!