Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Dwarf Tree

It's that time of year again! Yay! Break out the decor and Christmas cheer!!!

I love Christmas. I love it so much I have been known to do a "Christmas in July" and even start the Christmas stations on Spotify in October (...or earlier...)! I have a lot of memories and traditions that I cherish from holidays of my past, and being a mother has been a really amazing part of the Christmas experience now. I get to continue old traditions, add new ones, and really cultivate a Christmas experience that is perfect for our little family! I do have a new appreciation for all the work my parents did, traditions are not easy- but seeing the magic in my children's eyes has made every moment thus far well worth it!

One of my very favorite decorations of the season? The TREE! A few years ago we started doing real trees. I switched and have never looked back! I love the experience of choosing a tree, the smell, the texture of the branches, I really adore it all! I found it added a special new experience in our holiday traditions, and I look forward to the tree with great joy!

Last year my parents came in mid-December. Our little people adore their grandparents, and asked to wait to choose a tree until Grandma and Grandpa could join us and help. When my parents arrived we all took a trip into town and went to a tree lot. While the adults walked the isles and gazed from tree to tree, the children instantly took off running to a tree they found in the very back, hidden among giants, some 12 feet tall.

"THIS IS IT!" They screamed in unison. They jumped, danced, and laughed with such glee. THIS was the tree!!!

The tree was... not my favorite. In fact, if you had asked me to choose 10, it wouldn't have been on there. 20? Yeah, still not on there. It was not what I pictured in my little perfect Christmas. The kids were dead set on that tree. The tree was about 5 feet tall, and nearly as wide. It was not a fir, but a pine. I like firs. Ugh. We asked the kids to visit a local store, and promised to discuss the tree. We went to the store, discussed it, and they were still set on this tree. We went back to the lot, and the kids formed a circle around the base of the tree, arms outstretched hugging the tree and faces deep in the needles.

"This is it, Mom! It is the perfect tree! This tree needs us, and we need it!"

I took a deep breath, and smiled. The tree came home...

One year later...

It is now December 2015! We are overjoyed to be expecting a new baby - who can safely arrive anytime after Christmas Eve! My parents live pretty far away, and they are coming in January to celebrate the baby and to watch the grand-kids if we deliver on baby's due date. The trip was planned back in September or so, and within days the children came to us with an announcement: they are postponing Christmas.

Kurt and I tried to talk the kids out of this, just because we were sure that they would regret the decision. Days went by. Weeks. My parents talked to them. Friends talked to them. Everyone was fascinated by their passion to move the holiday, all three are dead set on moving Christmas. Their rationale was that they wanted to spend the holidays all together- they wanted their grandparents to be a part of the traditions and memories. They wrote to Santa and asked him to come later, and they talked to us and asked that if Santa still comes on Christmas Eve could we please hide the gifts until Grandpa and Grandma arrive. They plead with Elfden, our Elf on a Shelf. They had made up their minds.

We agreed to move Christmas. Not all of Christmas, just the Santa and gift portion. In our family we spend one day completely focused on Christ, and the other is on the Santa and gifts. This year Christmas Day will come with a birthday cake for Jesus (they are aware it is not his exact birthday, but a symbol- similar to us moving their birthday celebrations to the weekends so their dad can be off work and spend the whole day celebrating too). We will play games, sing songs, make crafts, watch movies, drink cocoa, and really saturate ourselves in the joy of Christ's birth! And then? A few weeks later, Santa will come!!!

Because the kids moved Christmas, and we do a real tree, we waited on picking up our beautiful conifer. The day finally came when I just couldn't wait any longer (I made it to the 15th of December, people- this is a miracle!), and I took the children to go get a tree. I had told the kids that the tree had to be a fir tree. Last year, aside from being short and squat, our tree (a pine) made Harrison's eyes water and his nose run. Poor guy had to be on Claritin just to live in his own house! We were able to switch him to an herbal formula a week later, but I didn't want to deal with that again. Plus, the fir trees tend to be more tall and stately in appearance- which I love. Win, win! Right?

While I browsed the 9 foot firs (let's take advantage of these super high 1850's ceilings, folks!) the kids went down another isle. And then... it happened.

"MOM! MOM! MOM! WE FOUND IT! IT IS THE MOST PERFECT TREE!!!!" Shouts of glee, jumps of joy, cheers. I stepped away from the elegant fir I had been admiring and walked to them. Wouldn't you know, they found the shortest, fattest, most full fir tree I have ever laid eyes on. My eyes beheld the misfit runt of the Christmas tree world. My kids eyes, on the other hand, were filled with visions of magic, twinkle lights, and adoration. Looking at them, gazing at their "perfect" tree, filled my heart.

We took it home.

The kids and I pulled out the decorations and while I put the hooks on the ornaments, they placed the ornaments on the tree. We worked together, Christmas music playing, and the tree was decorated. They sat back and admired their work. Their faces aglow in the lights. They will tell you theirs is the most beautiful tree in the whole world.

Is it the 9 (or 10) foot tree I was thinking of? No. It is decorated the way I would do it? No. Does it look the way I pictured in my head? Not even close.


I am very aware that our children may not always love short, squat, "dwarf" trees (they named it Dwarf... they said they need it, as they are hobbit sized, so a Dwarf tree is perfection). I know this because years ago Carter would only choose green pumpkins, and he grew out of that. I allowed him to choose and love his little green pumpkins- loners in a field of perfectly fat orange ones- and he grew to be comfortable loving things for what they were, instead of striving for (or settling on) someone else's idea of perfection. I find myself admiring my kids- their passionate love of things I see as quirky, odd, or flawed- they instead see as beautifully unique.

Someday Kurt and I will choose the tree without little kids there to offer suggestions. Someday I will spend hours and hours decorating things exactly the way I think they look best. Someday I will have my tall and slender tree, my lights all mathematically aligned, the ornaments spaced just so. And then I wonder if I will look around at the picture-perfect rooms... and miss the dwarf tree.

I am not sure, but I do know that the years are passing quickly. If we stop having children right now* we only have 7 Christmases left together under one roof. That is it... just 7. Yes, we will have 19 with the new baby, but as a whole family unit- just 7. Only 9 left with half of our kids. Wow. That is not a whole lot. And in the grand eternal scheme of life? That will pass by so quickly.

So for now, dwarf trees ARE perfect.

*We have no plans to have or not have more children at this time. Just as it is unwise to grocery shop on an empty tummy, it is unwise to discuss future children with a hyperemetic woman in her 9th month of pregnancy.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

We lost our baby.

We lost our baby. We found out for sure yesterday. Our hearts are heavy, but we question not the will of God. Our grief is tied to our earthly plans for our family- and God's plans are of an eternal perspective- there is no way to know the purpose of such things. I do, however, have nothing but faith that God needed this to happen for some reason- and I am honored to be a part of His plans in any way. I love Him.
I am a member of an online non-denominational Bible group called Good Morning Girls. I am so thankful, in a way, that I was a little behind on my scripture reading for that group- because this morning I was able to catch up. I think I needed that extra time today. In the dim dawn hours I read and before I knew it an hour had passed. Psychologists call this "flow" - where one becomes so engrossed in an activity (usually one that is enjoyed) that time just seems to pass without notice. Indeed- I enjoy spending time with Jesus, by reading His holy words.
I love the scriptures. What beautiful blessings, promises, and comforts are there.
I stopped at Matthew Chapter 26. I am going to read that with my family today. Today is the day Jesus suffered in Gethsemane. He suffered things incomprehensible to me, for the sake of us all. God knows suffering and pain beyond any scope I can even fathom- and He knows how losing a child feels. My little baby was still comfortable and warm in my body- and passed away feeling safe, loved, and wanted. Jesus had no such earthly comforts in His passing. I can only begin to imagine that pain. The things He suffered are just... it makes me cry just thinking about it. I ache for Him. And knowing He did it willingly... There are no words to express my awe, gratitude, sorrow, and love.
The support shown to us during this process has been extraordinary. For a long time our culture has had a tradition of waiting to announce a pregnancy. Why? Because of loss such as this. Kurt and I do not usually announce our pregnancies this early, but we did this time. I was 7 1/2 weeks. WHY did we announce now? Mostly because we did not want anyone worrying about my health or worrying they could catch what was making me so ill. When we learned we lost our baby my heart turned to the children who knew we had been expecting. What a horrible blow. I felt awful I told them. 
A dear friend of mine told me to stop. She told me there was a teachable moment in this grief. She told me they, as a family, are working out a way for their children to process this. She told me not to feel sad I told anyone- to feel sad about the loss. She is right.
Tuesday a neighbor watched my children so I could go to the doctor's office in quiet. Another neighbor made lunch, and brought us dinner, so I could rest. My Visiting Teachers just happened to stop by, and they brought little toys for the children, and brought dinner the next day. The next morning a friend brought over warm banana nut muffins. Then, my neighbor watched all of my children so I could go to another appointment out of town. That same neighbor had a delicious hot lunch waiting for me when I walked in to collect my children. Dinner was brought to us that evening, complete with dessert, tearful embraces, and emphatic pleas for us to call if we need anything at all. Dinner is provided for us today as well, as is some light entertainment for the kids. My 6 year old neighbor girl asked me what she could do to help me feel better. When I had no answer, she offered to do my laundry. SIX years old, and offering service to another. I wish words could express her beautiful little face. She looked at me as if she was searching my soul for some need she could help fill. 
Mosiah 18:8 tells us to mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. 
The support we have been given is nothing short of extraordinary. We are so blessed to be surrounded by friends and family- both in-person and on-line- who have prayed for us, thought of us, and offered us kindness and love. Regardless of location, religion, or family situation- people have shown us such compassion. It has been beautiful, and I feel so comforted.
Thank you all for your prayers and support for my family. You are wonderful. Every single message. Every single text. Every single prayer. Every single thought. Every single gesture. Wonderful. We are so grateful. Thank you.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Back from Mexico!!! (told in pics)

Oh, man! Vacation was SO fun- but sheesh, this food poisoning thing needs to end soon.

I feel so icky, I can't even sleep. What should I do now?

Oh! I know! I will unpack the little stuff! Kurt hates the little stuff! That will make him super happy if it is all done before he wakes up!

Awwwww! The family boarding passes! Such awesome keepsakes! I will file these in the scrapbook!

             Wait a minute here......

1, 2, 3, 4, 5...... 6!?


Yes! SIX!

SO thrilled to announce our newest travel companion! Arriving late fall 2015!

Well, what do ya know?! It isn't food poisoning after all!


Monday, February 23, 2015

February is almost over!

It is cold. No, not like, "Oh yeah, look at that- it is cold! Let's hope it snows so we can make a snowman!" I mean it is like, "Holy crap. It doesn't matter if it snows or not, it is too cold to go make a snowman!"

0 degrees, and I don't want to know the wind-chill temp. Cold.

But... sunny! So, that is awesome!

I got my hair cut today! It feels AWESOME. Totally needed it done. I have not had it cut in like... psh... a year? Two? Seriously, it might be almost 2 years... maybe less, but it was at least a year ago because I haven't had it cut since we moved here. That is nuts! It was so long, and not in a cute I was growing it out kind of way, but more like a is she a member of one of those religions where you cannot cut your hair kind of way. *There is absolutely nothing wrong with such religions.

(This is a pic of the haircut. I already LOVE it! This picture does this cut no justice. When did my eyes get so green? I swear they are getting greener each year. Anyone else have color-changing eyes?)

Yoga this week was good, but not as good as I am betting the yoga will be this coming week. My hubby is out of town for 6 nights- I have a feeling I will be bringing a lot to the mat while he is gone. Just in day 1 and the kids were bonkers. The little tykes do not do well with big changes and out-of-town daddy.

And the Oscar goes to... (I did not watch all of the Oscars- it was just too political. All I cared about were the outfits anyway...)

Pose: This week's winner is Balancing Butterfly. What a cool pose. Seriously, what a neat pose. Just so cool. Love the feeling on my feet.

Video of the Week: Another Adriene video! This one is Yoga for Bedtime (and where I first saw a pose similar to the one above- only the one in the video is supported- so do not fear!)

Best Sequence/Additions: This bedtime restorative sequence. You might be thinking, "What is with all the bedtime and sleep stuff here, lady?" Well- I am an insomniac. I get it from my dad. It happens fairly often and is chronic, with the worst periods coming in cycles that last a few weeks. It usually starts with one bad night and somehow creates havoc for a couple of weeks after. So annoying. Herbal teas, essential oils, and some bedtime yoga help- anything catch more Zs, right? Kurt being gone hurts it too, as our toddler LOVES midnight snuggles- but midnight snuggles keep me awake until 4am... this leads to a pretty sleepy homeschooling mom. Not a good thing. So, the fact that I started this latest insomnia cycle even before Kurt left is no good, and now do not have the evening support I am accustomed to having! (Kurt knows how bad this can get, and often will try hard to arrange for me to sleep as long as possible to try and break the cycle or at least help me get a bit more rest- but with him gone all that is gone too!) No, I will not take meds. I used to, but after talking to my pharmacist (pretty sharp guy) I decided meds are not the answer and stopped taking them a few years ago.

Physical Benefits: Totally forgot to weigh myself, so I have no idea on that one! I am sleepy. So that is a good thing- I can log off and sleep!

Soundtrack Song of the Week: Such Great Heights (just love this song! It is old, but good!)

Monday, February 16, 2015


I have totally cheated the last two weeks. I have no idea why- but I was just done. I would literally do ONE pose a day, so I could say I did my yoga... but it was such a cop out!

I could sit around and be angry with myself, or I can choose to recognize that for whatever reason I needed to take a break. I am okay with that. Could I have handled it better? Could I have been more motivated? Determined? Disciplined? Yes. But- this is not a sprint- this is a marathon... and maybe that was the time I needed to reset my pace. So, for whatever reason (seriously not even interested in analyzing it), I took a break. But- the last three days I have been back on track and feeling really good about it- so I am choosing to focus on that =)

Also, about mid-through January, I noticed I had stopped losing weight. What's up with that? I speculated on increased muscle being heavier, not drinking enough water, etc. I figured I would just give it some time. However, as the weeks passed I was getting frustrated. No, I am NOT doing this to lose weight- but I sorta thought it would follow as I was more active and eating cleaner. I finally ended up posting for help in an online health-group, and one of the members pointed out I was SERIOUSLY missing fats from my diet. I mean they were almost completely absent. I was not intentionally forgetting to add fat- I just wasn't thinking of it. I was juicing a great deal (mostly veggies), and would have nice big salads for lunch- but because I was short on time/energy I would forget to add some avocado or some homemade dressing- so I was just eating a giant pile of more veggies. While this may seem really healthy- the truth is that MY body doesn't react well to things like this. My body has issues with absorbing fats already (my cholesterol was usually around 125, even while eating the standard American diet full of processed foods, fast food, fried foods, etc- at its highest it was 155, and that was while I was pregnant) so by removing even more fats I was doing myself a HUGE disservice. SO THANKFUL to have the internet and health and nutrition gurus at my fingertips!

I started remembering to add my fats- oil to the pan, side of avocado, fish oil, nuts/seeds, even some dark chocolate... and guess what?

We are now -5.

I know that is not a huge amount, but I am happy to have discovered the problem and been able to adjust my diet to fix it. No wonder I didn't feel like doing yoga. I sorta didn't feel like I had the energy to do much of anything! Well, that is solved now! YAY! *I am not saying this was the cause of my yoga-rebellion, but it does make a bit of sense.

Pose: Vajrasana I love this! I struggled with this a great deal last month, but kept trying- and now can be in this pose very comfortably. Happy =)

Video of the Week: Yoga for Cramps/PMS (yoga for ladies!)

Best Sequence/Additions: I was researching headstands, and I found information on some issues with anatomy. Sometimes a neck may be too long to be comfortable in a headstand- and when I read that I was like: YES!!!!!!!!!!!! It seemed like no matter how much I pushed out of my shoulders my neck still felt a decently large amount of pressure. I attributed this to my weight, but even as I increased my upper body and core strength I could not overcome the problem- even when I was pushing WAY out of my shoulders. A few articles suggested that it may be an issue with neck length (I do have a long neck), and recommended some support under the arms. I added a blanket under the forearms and elbows and BAM- no more pressure! It was so great!!! I found I am now able to hold the pose even longer, and even more comfortably. Wonderful!

Physical benefits: the yoga for cramps really helped... and that is as much as I will say about that...

Soundtrack song of the week(s): Truth.   This is my new favorite song ever! I save this for my hardest poses- and it just helps me groove along. LOVE!

Saturday, February 7, 2015


January is over. Yup, gone. I will be honest- that felt like it went fast!

This month was really awesome. Knowing I can set a goal and stick to it- pretty neat- especially when the goal involves _doing_ something instead of just abstaining from a bad habit (my usual goals).

I tried hard to think of something profound to write about month 1, but in truth I didn't have any extra thoughts beyond what I already shared.

I will say this: I realize now that my practice- and most things in my life- are between 70-90% mental. The physical aspects of many of the poses are challenging, yes- but they can be built up to. I found that my attitude, thoughts, and determination level all mattered. And, once I realized this, I found it extends far beyond my mat. I know that many (most?) people already know the power of a good attitude and positive forethought, but I had never extended it into so many parts of my day. For example: I am an introvert. I enjoy peace, quiet, and alone time. I homeschool my very active children, so sometimes peace and quiet is hard to come by, and I tend not to schedule things because when those moments come I need to grab them and recharge. However, one week in January was particularly busy- but because I shifted my attitude and dove in with enthusiasm and optimism, things worked out really well! **I did have to recharge later that weekend, which was a bummer to my family, as we use weekends for family stuff- so having that much scheduled during the week will not be happening a lot, but it was good to know I could do it- and do it joyfully!

Good month. =)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week 4

It has been 4 straight weeks of yoga. Wow, amazing- go me! I have had times where I did yoga often, but I do not know if I ever did it this many days in a row (I am probably wrong- just never did it consciously).

This was actually the hardest week. I am not sure of why. I just felt blahhhhhhh.

Saturday night I did yoga with a friend- that was awesome! She was so sweet, she let me lead us- it was a really cool experience. If we ever live in a more metro area, I can see myself taking teacher trainings. It was really awesome to share a practice.

I do not really have much to say this week. Weird.... maybe? I don't know. I mean- I feel good. Settled. Calm. Don't feel like I have any big unfinished business hanging over my head- so that is nice.

This week's highlights:

Pose: Camatkarasana, or "Wild Thing" pose (aka flip dog). This pose is just FUN! As soon as I got into the pose I couldn't stop smiling! It was a great feeling! My cat was sitting directly next to me when I did the first side- and it was really neat. I don't know- can't describe it. Just a neat moment between me, my mat, and my cat.

Video of the Week: I only did this video this week, so I guess this is the winner. I do not foresee myself doing the video again- it was just too... blah... I don't know... boring? Standard? To be honest, when I am doing my bare bones home practice, it looks a lot like this video- so maybe that is why this didn't appeal to me as much. I don't know...

Best Sequence/Additions: I did some sun salutations and then did this sequence from Yoga Journal. LOVED it! It was lots of fun, and there were poses that I do not normally incorporate in my home practice. Good stuff.

Physical Benefits: Energy levels are up, and I am feeling a lot stronger. My skin is clearer than it has been in years- but I am not sure if that is the yoga, or the cleaner eating. Overall I feel amazing, so that is good!!! -2lbs

Soundtrack Song of the Week: Cough Syrup

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mercury in Retrograde! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

A few months ago I nearly had a breakdown. Okay, not an actual breakdown, but definitely a freak-out-session-worthy-of-calling-on-a-bestie. (I keep a handful of besties for just such occasions.)

I texted her, spazzing out. My kids weren't listening. Nothing was going right. Printer stopped working. Vacuum would turn on and randomly turn off (and my livingroom carpet is hunter green- I NEED to vacuum every day or it looks horrible!!!). My family life felt insane. The internet pissed me off (is EVERYONE on crack?!). My brain couldn't focus- it felt scattered- sort of like someone went into my mental file cabinet and just dumped out every single drawer- it was clear, but cluttered. It was a nightmare. What was going on?!

I word-vomited this to my buddy, and she simply said, "Mercury is in retrograde!" I had no idea what she was talking about, but she went on to explain. It sounded too good to be true. There is actually a REASON for all this crappy crap going on?


I do not pretend to know everything about everything. I do not even pretend to know a little something about everything. Whether or not our energies can or can not be affected by the cosmos is beyond me, but any emergency worker, clinician, or hotline worker will tell you when the moon is full. Likewise, my kids can tell me exactly when Mercury is in retrograde. Coincidence? Maybe. Or, maybe it is more. Maybe they are highly sensitive to visual planetary spins (when they should be in bed sleeping anyway). Honestly, I have no idea. Here is what I do know:

Mercury in retrograde is something that can be read about here. Basically, this is about planetary rotations interacting in a way which may affect things here on earth. Things like what? Well, it is not recommended that you sign contracts, make big ticket purchases, get married, accept a job, or make any giant life changes. This, instead, is a time of reflection. This is a time for you to finish projects, meet old friends, complete unfinished business, tie up loose ends.

I did not subscribe to this being a big deal, I just loved the idea of it being the reason for my kids being insane (mostly because there is an ending period!), so when my brother and another bestie were buying their homes during the last retrograde (two separate families, two separate states)- I said nothing. Nothing. I didn't want them to think I was a bit weird... but it turns out I probably should have said something, as BOTH home purchases had really bizarre complications (that were beyond the control or fault of my brother or friend!). The complications ended up costing them money, stress, and hassle. Now- were those the fault of Mercury being in retrograde? Maybe not. But... maybe it was...

I do not know the answer to all things. But I do know that yesterday my kids were COMPLETELY bonkers. They started getting into it a few days earlier, and it just got worse every day, and climaxed yesterday. Today was no different, and I was ready to call it quits when my dear husband texted me, "Mercury is in retrograde!!!"

Yeah... either my kids' freak-out times are just coincidentally on schedule with Mercury in retrograde, or it is a genuinely real phenomenon that affects people. Regardless, I am happy to follow the astrology advice that suggests we take a few weeks to ponder, reflect, relax, and finish things that need finishing, and wait for this phase to pass (be it a phase in child development or visual phase of the planets).

If you absolutely hate what I have to say- chalk it up to Mercury in retrograde. (It is known for messing with all forms of communication, you know).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

21 Days to make a habit!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it is a myth and studies show it is closer to 66 days- but shush. Growing up my father would often chirp, "21 days!" and remind me to pick up my towel, have breakfast, or do some other good idea that he wanted to make habitual. And today officially marks day 21 of yoga daily!!! (Yes, I started before the New Year, but from now on I will only be referencing the New Year as the beginning of my personal challenge!)

This was a good week, yoga-wise. I felt a lot better (no more icky sicky), but to be on the safe side stuck with more gentle videos and postures. This week I did my very first (unsupported by partner or wall) Sirsasana!!!! This is a HUGE deal for me, and I am all the more thrilled that my husband was there to cheer me on and celebrate the moment! Wait... GENTLE and you were doing Sirsasana??? Yeah, let me tell you about it!

Some takeaways this week: my practice is a lot more mental than I ever realized. I had been going gently for days, and then did a calm yin practice, but really wanted to try Sirsasana. I asked my husband for some help, and he was there to talk to me and make me feel comfortable ("You are so close- almost there. You actually had it for a moment- did you feel it!?" Super encouraging!). The next day I wanted to try again, and I did- and that was when I nailed the pose. I have been doing this pose for years (I seriously think the first time was in 2007) but NEVER did it without wall or partner support before. Why? There were times I was much more physically fit- so why didn't I do it? I am not sure- but whatever my hurdle was, it was obviously mentally and not physically based (as I said- I was more fit in years past than I am now).

There were days this week when I did not feel like doing yoga. This is mostly because I was feeling blahhhhhhh. My husband is out of town on business, the kids were making me nuts, and all I wanted was to grab something chocolaty and go to bed and watch Gilmore Girls (I am new to the show- it is pretty cute!!!!). However, each time I would drag my mat out and start moving I felt a LOT better (I always felt more peaceful, calm, and happy). So it worked out well!

This week's highlights:

Pose: Sirsasana, hands down! (Or should I say, head down?) Oh man- what a feeling!!!!!

Video of the Week: You know, I saw some pretty interesting ones... I have to say I think this little yoga video for sick people is the winner. It is short, sweet, and perfect when you feel ill!

Best Sequence/Additions: I carried my daughter around and found that my back was aching. I did this quick video and felt a lot better.

Physical Benefits: Any time I felt a headache I did a bit of yoga, and it went away. I love love love love being able to do something that is healthy and helps heal, rather than popping a pill! -4lbs

Soundtrack song of the week: Que Sera, Sera!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Spring Term 2015

I love homeschooling!

I love it for zillions of reasons, but for now I will focus on just a few. Specifically- I love our homeschool routine!!!!

Homeschooling, for us, is a year-round endeavor. In the spring I work hard to research the best possible curricula for the coming school year while I am in the thick of the materials bought the year before (this is so I can purchase the bulk of our homeschool items, subscriptions, and materials with our tax return). Summer is spent with fewer school subjects, mostly wrapping up anything that needs review or may have been missed. In late summer and early autumn we get back in the swing of things and start the new traditional school year*. During the holidays we have special units and change a good deal of our curriculum to fit those unit themes.

*The children may have advanced levels before this time in one subject or another, but for record-keeping purposes we do not advance their "grade" until the fall. If a child advances far enough that they are basically a year ahead, we skip a "grade" the next fall without really skipping anything, as the work was actually done the previous year.

Our typical homeschool day begins at breakfast time. The kids meet downstairs and start their breakfast notebooks (November editions pictured at top). I heard about breakfast notebooks a few years ago and fell in love with the idea! It is a really great way to teach the kids things like addresses and phone numbers (VERY important things to know!!!) and months of the year, etc. I first learned about breakfast notebooks from some friends of mine, who pointed me here. The website shows a breakfast notebook for a younger child. Currently our own breakfast notebooks have our school schedule on one page (pictured above- currently Minecraft themed), a calendar, math journal (it is more advanced calendar work), number of the day math sheet, their scripture/Article of Faith/memory work, a science unit outline and checklist, a scripture map, and then pockets for any worksheets I may add. Most of the breakfast notebook pages are in sheet protectors, and the kids just write on them in Expo markers and erase them at the end of the schoolday.  I change the breakfast notebook covers and contents, checklists, etc every so often, just to keep it fresh and fun. I try hard not to make major changes to the curriculum unless absolutely necessary, as some major changes can be the academic equivalent of changing schools.

For science we usually do unit themes, but right now we decided to dive into the Starting Point Science book and do that for the remainder of the school year (works for us!). I love it so much- I am happy we ended up doing it! I will be tracking down a volume 2, and getting the other new books in that collection as well. If my math is correct, we will finish both volumes and the other books before next school year. We basically cover about two pages per day- which is essentially one concept as part of a larger unit. I really love this, and we quickly review what we learned so far (or already knew) before moving on to the next topic. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to do a nice and thorough review of some really great basic scientific concepts! There are so many amazing articles, videos, worksheets, and more online- we supplement as we go and it seems to be working out REALLY well!

We read scriptures every day and map out where we are. We are currently reading The Book of Mormon, and we are keeping track of our reading on charts such as these. The kids love these maps, and I love them too! We have discussions on our readings, and talk about what is going on, what was learned, and our general take-aways.

We have been using Math U See for a few years now and I am VERY pleased with the curriculum. We start a new chapter by watching the DVD lesson, then we sit down and I work on the new concepts with the child. The child then does daily worksheets that help reinforce the new concept, as well as review past concepts. I allow our children to tell me when they are ready to take the chapter tests. Sometimes tests may happen on day one or two, other times it may take every worksheet in the workbook (a week), and occasionally it takes the workbook sheets and printouts from the Math U See website too. We focus on mastery, and do not move along until a score of at least 80% is achieved- however, this program is so good at teaching, building, and reinforcing math concepts- we have only had each child score that low (80%) once. Usually they pass with 95% or higher (and we have them self-correct their worksheets and exams). The Math U See program really focuses on logic building and uses word-problems at every step and every level. Word problems are the kids' favorites (a passion I never shared growing up!). Very happy, and we will continue using these math books.

Spelling You See was a new addition this year, and one I am so happy we made! I have tried spelling lists, spelling apps, spelling this, and spelling that- and honestly none of them really spoke to my kids. I have one child who is a flashcard genius and would just drill himself until he scored perfectly- but months later when he saw the word again it was often missed. UGH! He would get so frustrated! I saw the Spelling You See program and decided to give it a try. We LOVE it! It takes just a few minutes each day, and really helps the kids learn to spell naturally. This is wonderful for my little kinesthetic learners, who learn best by doing. Now they are learning to spell by writing! We will continue this next year as well.

We have been using Getty-Dubay handwriting for a few years, and I like it a lot. It is an italic to cursive writing method, which I felt was important for them to learn. They do just a page a day. We tried other handwriting methods, and I was not as pleased with the results. These look much better. (Getting them to bring that nice penmanship outside of the workbooks is not as easy!)

Journaling started as my own way of getting Carter to overcome his fear of writing. He HATED writing. H A T E D. Never wanted any part of it! Years ago I handed him a little notebook and told him it was his daily journal. I asked him to draw me something every day. Then I asked him to write me a word (any word) each day. Then I asked him to make me lists, "What are your favorite colors?" "What are your favorite books?" Then I moved on to asking him to tell me stories, tell me about trips, dreams, experiences, etc. I did the same with Harrison, and now they pretty much write about anything. It was once my intention to correct these for grammar, spelling, etc- but I have found that the leaps their journals make from the beginning of one school year to the next- without any interference from me- are a really neat demonstration of the advancement of their language arts skills. So, for now, I do not correct them. (I do keep them and intend on showing them to their future spouses.) The journals are an excellent creative writing activity, and something the kids look forward to eagerly. Our rule in journaling: journals are personal, and we do not read another person's journal without permission. Mom always has permission- all others must ask first.

Reading is vital, and each child has 30 minutes of independent reading per day. This is in addition to any special family reading, book club/group reading, scripture reading, reading done together at the library, reading we do with siblings, reading of recipes, reading of textbooks, etc. 90% of the time the kids get to choose these books. At ANY time they are able to ask to go to the library (it is the next street over).

"Special Work" is my personal favorite thing. This is MY insert-whatever-I-want-to-do-today-here slot! We might do crafts, computer work, special worksheets, family reading (we read the unabridged A Christmas Carol every year. Why? Because I want to, and this is MY slot!), documentary viewing, an outing, yoga, dance party, trip to the store, extra science experiment, super cool math worksheet, really-whatever-I-want-goes-here thing! This gives me the freedom to be super spontaneous while giving them the heads-up that I have something planned. They know that there is something that will happen that is not on the usual schedule, but that is okay- because it is on the daily list. Freedom for me, routine for them, everyone wins.

"3rd/4th grade work" aka generic grade-level work, is different from previous years. My mother sent me these awesome Brain Quest workbooks and I LOVE THEM!!!! They are so great! Each has an entire year of curriculum-based exercises and activities in one fun book! (I literally just copied that from the cover.) This replaced our Time4Learning online work as our kids are still on an anti-computer streak (all them... I don't get it, but am happy to have something else that works!). These workbooks are a great chance for the kids to learn, review, or check their knowledge in various areas. Great stuff. This is where language arts, vocab, structured reading/writing, math skills in various forms, social studies, and generic science are all addressed and completed.

The kids practice their instruments daily. I once asked for 30 minutes but it was too much. We got down to 20 but even that was a headache and frequently missed. For us, for now, we are just 15 minute-a-day musicians. And for right now, that has to be okay. It is one of those times where I have to say, "Okay, Self- are we going to do 0 or 15?" because that is where we kept coming. So, we were honest with ourselves and just made it 15. (And now it happens!)

The last few entries of their breakfast journals list recess and snack/talk time. You might think, "What the heck is that listed for?!" Good question, glad you asked. Honestly, those are listed because they are important. Yes, my kids are home all day... always here... every day... all the time... never gone... but still, it is important for us to talk about things: news, current events, common interests, thoughts, plans, ideas, etc. Why? The conversational skills of American youth are becoming increasingly concerning, especially with the development of handheld technology and the cultural acceptance of public/private/anytime screen-time. Social skills are on the decline. Children need to learn to have face to face conversations, and here at home is a wonderful place for them to practice those skills. And recess? Great things come from recess- especially in a community with a lot of other homeschoolers! (Just today the kids ran around outside with kids their same ages- all of whom are also homeschooled. It was a little neighborhood gathering!)

And that is our homeschool!

I love it. I feel like this is an excellent groove for us, and I am very happy with it! 

Taste the rainbow!

I love science. LOVE IT! I generally get my curriculum formed around the same time that I buy all my materials for the year- thus insuring I will have everything I need for the year to come. I do my homeschool shopping around the time we get our tax return (great investment!) but this year I realized we are pretty much out of materials and new subjects to cover! What should I do?

Drum roll!!! 

I found this awesome Starting Point Science book in my bookcase. I have so many science materials- this sweet little book was missed! I am SO happy I found it because it covers a lot of really great and important simple topics (allowing me to go more in-depth if I choose- but still covering the basics! Great for reviewing past things as well!) and even has some really simple experiments that we can do with objects laying around the house (today we demonstrated how rainbows are formed using a glass of water, some sunshine, and a piece of white paper).

The boys and I read the Rainbows section of the Starting Point Science book (this particular book is a collection of other science books), and then we watched this video of Bill Nye discussing colors and light. We then watched this really adorable video all about Roy G. Biv. I used the whiteboard to write out ROYGBIV and we discussed the spectrum. The boys then colored some rainbows.

We were about to break for snack time when the boys requested we make ROYGBIV rainbow juice. We looked around the kitchen and pantry and gathered fruits representing the various colors. It was really fun to watch them discuss what fruits or veggies should represent each color! "No, let's not do a banana for yellow. Let's use a lemon!" "How about a Cutie orange instead of a navel orange?"

We juiced their creation and they were thrilled to report it was the best juice they have EVER had! Haha, little hams!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Imaginary Captive

There are so many things I feel obligated to do (or not do) based solely on my personality. For example- I feel this compelling need to sign up for things, and then when the time comes to do them my introvertedness (yes, Spellcheck, that is a word) occasionally takes over and I bail. Not only do I bail but I feel a huge amount of incredibly heavy guilt over the whole thing, shame for my decision to pass on whatever was going on, and a private resolution to do better next time accompanying some kind of personal challenge (over which I mentally obsess). The process leaves me feeling like crap.

Today my husband and I were discussing this when I had an ah-ha moment.

There is something I have an opportunity to do, always sorta thought I wanted to do, I am fully capable of doing, and signed up to do- but when push comes to shove- I have not been doing.


I do not really want to do this thing at all.

At all.
I want to quit.


NO QUITTING ALLOWED, MISSY! (This is my personality talking... usually followed by A, B, C invented reasons for why quitting is not allowed.)

For SO LONG I did not quit. I prolonged, dragged, pushed, made excuses... but not quit.

Until today.


I made a decision.

I will no longer be held captive by my personality. 

I will not stay uncomfortable just because I am used to the feeling.

It was quite freeing, last week, to write my resolution to do yoga. Writing it out and sharing it with the world was so against my nature- but doing it felt great.

Quitting this thing felt great.

I wish I had known I could do this! How many awful books have I MADE myself finish? How many hours of sleep have I missed because I MADE myself clean, or study, or socialize? How many times have I basically punished myself for ridiculous (and self-invented) reasons?

I am stepping outside of the box I created for myself, and it is a good thing. The box was imaginary, and was holding me back from some pretty awesome experiences. (For others, it may be the opposite problem. It may be a challenge to stay in, or get motivated, or finish projects, etc.) For me, breaking out of this imaginary personality box means I am being kinder to myself. I am allowing me to verbally express my thoughts more openly, and acknowledging my personal boundaries and limits (realizing those change from time to time, season to season, and that is okay).

Don't get me wrong. This box allowed me to do some pretty awesome things. I have read Heart of Darkness and Moby Dick, and I have a really great GPA from my University. My life-goal of memorizing all of Shakespere's sonnets is going well, and I can recite many without any difficulty. My house is pretty much always clean, and my kids are at-or-above grade-level in their homeschool lessons. There are times when my particular personality comes in handy, and that is neat. (Especially if anyone nearby needs soup, babysitting, or help of any kind. I just jump in without thinking twice!) However- there are times when I need to "lighten up" too (And mostly, any lightening needs to be in the load I place upon my own shoulders.) and I need to work on that.

This week, I actually told a friend I would not be calling her because I was "feeling a bit too introverted" that day- but I told her I would catch up with her soon. Was she angry? Did she freak out and hate me? No! Actually, she admitted she had days like that too! It was wonderful for me to be able to be honest with my friend, and I am sure she appreciated my honesty too.

I credit a large part of this discovery to the yoga I have been doing each day. Yes- even though my writing is a bit late- my resolution is still intact. Yoga every single day. DONE. This week I actually managed more time than last! I averaged 51 minutes per day. Not too shabby- especially considering I have been feeling under the weather.

This has been almost 20 days now I have done daily yoga sessions. While muscle memory is allowing me to slip into positions that once took years to reach, my practice is (and always will be) a work in progress. Reaching this point so quickly caused a minor dilemma: do I dip my toe into more advanced poses, or should I stay where I am? A great thing about yoga: you push yourself without realizing you are pushing, if only because it feels pretty awesome to do so.

It is not going to kill me to take my inversions away from the wall, and it is not going to kill me to step outside of my personality. 

This week's highlights:

Pose: Butterfly Pose Baddha konasana. This pose just called to me- especially on the days I felt the ickiest. I allowed myself extra time here, and it felt wonderful. It was only later I thought to look it up and check out all of the physical benefits. Excellent stuff for when you are feeling yucky.

Video of the week: This is a hard one! I did three videos this week, and I have to say I loved them all! I followed the winner of last week again, and I also did this practice and really enjoyed that too! However, if I had to pick a super favorite it would be this short practice for headache relief. I had a headache and it was gone after this little session- so I highly recommend it! Give it a try if your head is aching!

Best sequence/additions: This Yin practice was really awesome, and hit the spot for what I needed this week. Yin Yoga has never been my favorite... ever... but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was extremely enjoyable.

Physical benefits: I started feeling under the weather earlier this week- but the severity and duration have not been bad at all! My inversions are going much better- Kurt has been working with me on unsupported headstands. Love! -4 lbs.

This week's soundtrack song: U2 In a Little While 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


My resolution started around Christmas. I knew what I wanted to do, but was pretty scared.

I have pretty much always stuck to resolutions that involved me *NOT* doing something: giving up something, stopping something, etc. And honestly, my resolution success rate is pretty high! (Like when I resolved to give up Tom Cruise movies in 2013! No, really, that actually happened....) Mostly my resolutions have already been things I have resolved NOT to do/see/be a part of. So, when it comes time to officially "do" them starting New Year- it is easy mode.

This was the first one I ever made that actually made me take some kind of action... no more "not" doing something... this one MAKES me do something.

Yoga. Daily.

For those few interested in WHY I chose this, here is a history...

I have practiced yoga for years. I started when I was 14 or 15- in my room with my Seventeen magazine (or was it Cosmo? Don't judge... whatever.) and I started doing yoga by practicing the poses in the diagrams listed on those glossy pages situated between perfume ads. I picked up a few videos along the way and did yoga in a few gyms, Churches, dance studios, and homes with friends etc. When I lived in Saratoga Springs a free yoga class was offered each week and I loved it! I would go and felt amazing. I tried to do "yogalates" but hated it (it was there I got my first taste of "yoga" versus "exercising and calling it yoga because there are a few asanas and stretching involved between pushups".... just loved that regular hatha yoga class. Had a few mats, had a few outfits, kept going to class and doing home practices between classes. My first inversion was in that little hatha yoga class. I was terrified and thrilled! I DID IT!

Fast forward to my time at the U of U. By this time I had experienced so many different kinds of "yoga" I was pretty sure I knew what it was... but I was dead wrong. The yoga instructor teaching my yoga class on campus was AMAZING. It was the first time I ever did 90 minute practices (longest had been an hour), and the class introduced us to even more types of yoga. CRAZY AWESOME FABULOUS. It was there I mastered my Ujjayi breath, learned to step out of my comfort zone, realized the correlation between yoga and just about everything else in life, and found my personal yoga-nemesis (if such a thing were actually exist): yin yoga. 

When we left campus and moved to Reno I found an AWESOME studio called Yoga Loka. I signed up for unlimited yoga and went as often as possible, and even signed up for special classes to learn more about various types of yoga. Had to stop when Kurt's work schedule got more crazy, but we were members of a local tennis club with a yoga instructor who was pretty good as well, and they had a childcare center there so I could bring the kids. Got pregnant with FinaFee and did prenatal yoga, and loved that. It was in Reno that I met my soul-mat: the Manduka Black Mat Pro (extra long, because I am 5'11" and wanted more space). I love that mat so much, if I wasn't married I would marry it. I learned that the mat can really make a difference. (I donated my other mats. I will never need another mat again! No I am not paid to say this- it really is just that awesome. If you have knee issues at all- look them up.) 

Moved to Iowa. I started doing yoga a LOT more often. I remember bringing Fina home from the NICU, and grabbing my mat and a blanket and going outside, I did sun salutations to the sunset. It was awesome- in the sense that it was awe-inspiring. When I was later with Fina at Blank Children's Hospital I did yoga in Fina's MRI waiting room... it was one of the times I could not help but cry in my pose.. I remember crying like a baby in downward dog... makes sense now... wow. Our time in Iowa was by far the hardest emotional time of my entire life (thus far) and I know yoga helped me stay grounded. While in Iowa I continued to practice at home (thank you, Yoga Journal and GaiamTV) but did not go to classes (this is my own fault. I didn't even try the classes at the Y- I had already made up my mind that I would hate them, so didn't bother. There were classes available at studios in Des Moines, but I just couldn't justify the drive). I was invited to teach a yoga class for a local studio, and had started researching yoga training when we moved.

Moving to Nauvoo actually halted my practice for a long time (I suppose in the scheme of life a year isn't "a long time" - but in my yoga life, it has been the longest I have ever gone without practicing). I got busy with school, homeschool, dig, pageant, etc. Just sorta fell out of it. My Yoga Journal would keep coming, but often went unopened (shame!) and I found that my health and wellbeing were out of balance. My spirituality increased exponentially, but my physical health was being neglected. I noticed it about a week before General Conference, and decided to make changes. Then, General Conference solidified my decision, and I was able to lose about 8 pounds and was feeling good about the path I was treading (And then the holidays happened... and we just won't discuss the peppermint bark my mother brought for me....or the cookies... or the other candy... we just won't go there...). At the end of the year I had gained (really putting myself out there now!) 16 pounds. NOT okay.

So, I knew I wanted to be healthier. Not thinner, per se- I mean, that would be cool too- but my main concern is for HEALTH. It was then I realized I needed to get out my mat!

So... there you have it.

Every day I will be doing yoga. Even if it is just a few sun salutations. Even if it is a single pose, held for 90 minutes... because sometimes that is what has to happen... My goals are to have a nice fat 90 minute practice at least once a week (I would love more, but homeschooling 3 kids and having a husband who works more than 60 hours a week makes that a bit tricky- but you've gotta work with whatcha got!), a *gulp* yin practice once a week, and to go with whatever I feel drawn to in between.

The point is that this year I have a resolution, and I am going to share it. I LOVE resolutions, but was not willing to share it before now. No way. Too scared. What if I don't actually accomplish this? Then I will have failed. And if I tell anyone, then all of the world will know I failed. I will be a FAILURE. It was not until I took a fun little personality quiz and saw that the INFJ resolution outcome was: will not tell the resolution for fear of discovery of failure. Pfft. Stupid accurate personality typing.

Here's the thing though. I am more than my personality type. I am more than my fears. I am more than the poor food choices and health choices I made in 2015 (or for years before then). I am more than that. And you know... I want to talk about it. I want to share what it is like. I want to share my journey. Why? Partly so I will be able to look back on it, and partly because there is a microscopic chance it might impact someone else too. Mostly it is to tell the universe that I am seriously ready for this- and I want it to happen. I am not afraid.

I was meditating on this the other day, and I realized that this is one of those moments where I have absolutely no idea as to what the outcome this action will bring. While I am sure there will be physical benefits (I have already lost 2 pounds), I cannot help but wonder what kinds of spiritual, emotional, and mental benefits will come as well! That is exciting!!!! So, I want to be able to document the process- not to hold myself accountable (I do that well enough on my own)- but to remember what I was experiencing along this journey.

I am really excited. It has been a little over a week (I started before New Year), and I am already able to do poses that had once taken me a year to perform (thank you, muscle memory! WOOHOO!) and I am feeling really great about this. I did my first headstand inversion tonight- with the support of a wall. I had not done a headstand in close to 3 years! But you know what? Tonight was actually the longest and most comfortable I have ever held a headstand, and I was even feeling good enough to float without the support of the wall for some of the time! My heart was so happy!!!!

The week's highlights:

Pose: Best headstand EVER! By that I mean I was happy and comfortable in the pose!
Best video I did this week: here. This class had foot massages! 90 minutes. Totally awesome.
Best sequence/additions: here. I loved the affirmations of each pose.
Physical benefits: Increased flexibility already. Had that lovely post-workout light-sore feeling all week. -2 lbs.
This week's soundtrack song: Shake It OFF! Letting go of my fears!