Friday, August 4, 2017

F I V E




 




Happy birthday, sweet girl!
We have sure loved celebrating these 5 years of life with you! :)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kate & Wynn @ 4 & 3

Katherine and Edwin are great little buddies.


They really look out for each other and want to make sure that they both get to play, have treats, and are taken care of. Kate is such a cute big sister. Like this moment when they came in from the pool and Kate wrapped her towel around Edwin and said, "Aw, little puppy Edwin, I'll take care of you!"


They are at the age now where we rarely do baths together. Instead the kids take showers on their own. I feel like it's just another milestone that shows how fast they are growing up and that they aren't little babies anymore. :(

Both kids love libraries and book stores, enjoy gardening, get really excited about helping around the house, and they have great memories for events, facts, and other random information.


Kate and Edwin LOVE primary songs, and it's all we listen to and sing together in the car (well, that and they occasionally request the soundtrack to Trolls or want a song by Imagine Dragons, haha!)

Both kids are little chatterboxes and will talk non-stop to anyone who will listen. (As Pat, our hiking guide around Madora Lake, learned last week on our camping trip.)

Bird watching with Pat @ Madora Lake - Plumas Eureka State Park

While we were camping and hiking the kids asked a MILLION questions, which was awesome!


They said their favorite part of camping was hiking, walking around the campground, campfire gatherings, and fort building with the Junior Rangers. (They also loved roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate!)


***

Kate is a bright and funny little girl who LOVES to learn.


Every time we are in the car she asks us how to spell certain words and she points out letters on buildings or cars we drive by. She is fascinated with bugs, flowers, and animals. Kate likes to collect leaves and flowers and give them to us as presents whenever possible.


Her artwork has increased in detail and personal style over this past year. She most often draws pictures of our whole family, and makes sure to add fingers, toes, ears, hair, and belly buttons. ;)


Kate loves to play dress up, and especially enjoys playing dinosaurs and pirates with her friends.


She is 36" tall, weighs 35 lbs, her clothing fits true to size, growing out of size 4 clothes into size 5T, and is in size 8-9 toddler shoes.

Kate is becoming more confident at praying on her own, and it's so sweet to listen to! She also tries to recite her articles of faith by memory (she got really close on number 3 the other day!) and her favorite primary song is "Nephi's Courage".

Kate's favorite foods are BURRITOS, goldfish crackers, pb & chocolate chip Larabars, blackberries, applesauce fruit pouches, and peanut butter with just a spoon.

***

Edwin is a sweetheart.


He still loves to cuddle, sit on my lap, and LOVES his blankie. (That thing will definitely be going to college with him.)


He still sucks his thumb occasionally and always wants to be near me.


Edwin is also very physical and brave. He jumps, climbs, runs, and powerhouses through as much playtime as he can pack in. He likes to play with pretend weapons (swords, shooting things like guns or arrows) and enjoys kicking, punching, and smashing. I promise we don't watch violent shows HAHA! He is just a very fun rough-and-tumble little boy. :)

Edwin is 33" tall, weighs 31 lbs, his clothing fits true to size in 3T, and he is in size 7 shoes.

Edwin likes to pray on his own, as long as he can say it in his head. ;) He likes when we practice the articles of faith during family home evening, and his favorite primary song is "I Want to be a Missionary Now".

Edwin's favorite foods are hot dogs, green smoothies, PICKLES, pb & chocolate chip Larabars, strawberries, apple fruit leather, and goat cheese.

I love these sweet kids and watching them grow!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lessons in Home Management

Job Title: Mom
Shift: 24/7
Most Active Hours: 7am-9pm
Duration: 18+ years for initial training, ongoing triage and supportive care availability for eternity.


Description: Growing and training of children: including, but not limited to daily nutritional provision and functional mortal maintenance, teaching basic life skills and body movement (gross and fine motor), speech development, attitude and behavior modeling, essential gospel teaching, principle understanding, and spiritual maintenance, world awareness, and positive social involvement and interaction training.


Additional Duties: Upkeep of home and surrounding yard, including plants and animals. Weekly food acquisition and preparation, including daily meals. Coordinating schedules and support of home members. Organization, sanitization, and general cleaning of various rooms and family equipment (ie: toilet, bathtub, sinks, mirrors, windows, oven, stove, microwave, sink, dishes, floors, counters, etc.)

Back-up and shift coverage may be requested when necessary.

Expected days off: Never*
*Minor breaks can and will be provided--typically not exceeding more than 5 hours in one day, or 3 days in one month. Vacation events and illness may necessitate exceptions with added assistance from family members and friends. 

---

MY STORY

I have maintained the belief for a long time that having great managerial and business skills is just as important inside the home as out. I find that many don't make this connection and generally consider these realms to be completely separate. But I've learned, and seen it proven, that if you can lead a team of employees, you can lead your home team as well. I mean, we've heard that positive feedback, the sandwich method for constructive criticism, and building unity and reward systems are some of the best ways to get your team to work at a maximum level on the job, but people are people! (tiny or grown) and if you want success at home, you run it like you would a great business. (but with more hugs and feelings)


The trouble is that when you go to a job--even a full time one--you can fake it for a few hours. You can hold a lid on the rage-meter and keep from screaming and yelling at your coworkers. Some people can't even make it that long... But in general you have adults interacting and hopefully understanding that they are there for work; trading time for money. When you're with your home team it's a constant dance of motivation and coercion, all-day-every-day, without lunch breaks, shift ends, or full days off. Plus your team members have not yet learned emotional control, the nuance of tact, or the skills to even open a banana for themselves.

I LOVE my job, but I'm not always very good at it. Parenting is one of those "sink or swim"/"throw you into the fire" kinds of jobs. There isn't a whole lot of training (although you can take some theory courses and read basic instruction manuals beforehand). Practical application comes when you hit the ground, and then never stops. It's one of those really cool, bizarre, and super stressful experiences that comes with mortal life.


Thankfully most children start off sleepy as newborns, and then day-by-day add in new skills and talents (like being able to silently sneak into the pantry, climb up to a shelf to get the tub of brown sugar, and then hide behind the couch eating it with a spoon while you're just trying to take a pee.) << True story. That happened this week. The younger ones learn advanced skills from their elder counterparts, so you can expect more tomfoolery in advanced stages as the volume of your team increases over the years.

Yes, I could spin this around into how much I adore my children and how lovely it is to be a parent and how I wouldn't trade it for the world (because those things are all true!) but that is not the point of this post. ;) What I really wanted to document is how my perspective on running and maintaining a home is growing, and what we do that works, and doesn't work. Hopefully a) to look back on this in years to come and see how much we have improved, and b) so that I can pass along some ideas to others who might be interested. Every home situation is different, every family operates differently. I mean, the needs of a hardware store are not going to be the same as a cupcake shop. Every family team has different goals, different levels of income, therefore differing in building layouts, management intensity, and budgeting needs.

I'm not an expert. But I do know that I can always keep learning, and there is a lot that you just learn on-the-job as you go along. Many ideas I get from other moms and dads: observing what works and what doesn't, seeing ideas online, people giving us suggestions, although trial-and-error seems to be the number 1 guide to what really works for our team. Here are some of the best things I've learned so far.

Lesson No. 1
THE MORE PREPARED I AM FOR THE DAY, THE BETTER THE DAY GOES

Kids can sense stress and (just like all people) they feed off the leader's emotions and model the behavior they see and feel.


The biggest and most important thing I've learned so far about home management is the importance of taking care of myself. It's like when you're in an airplane and they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before your child's; it's not because you're selfish, it's because to really be available to care for others, you need to make sure you have your life in order--otherwise both of you can suffer.

If I'm not getting enough sleep, feeding myself good food, and getting showered on a regular basis, I get hangry, stressed, cranky, and feel gross. It makes me feel less happy and energized to take on the kid's challenges and help model patient behavior and dissuade their tantrums. I have learned especially over the last year that there are things that help me function at a way higher level, and it's not SELFISH, it's SELF-CARE. I exercise more, practice yoga regularly, try to get out of the house so that I don't feel stuck inside and get cabin fever. I *try* to keep a regular sleep routine of 10pm-7am. I've also learned that I need to wake up and get myself started for the day before the kids wake up. Otherwise it's like the roller coaster is off and away before you've fully sat down and gotten buckled. No bueno.


Long story short, I am doing a few more things for me and owning that these things are important. It's great to be defined as a mom; it's the crown and the children are the jewels. :) But there is still a divine daughter of God underneath the crown, and it's not going to work for anybody if she is forgotten in the work of polishing the gold.

I've also learned how to be more realistic about our time. It takes us at LEAST 45 minutes to get out the door for anything. Between going potty, getting shoes on, stocking the diaper bag with snacks, water bottles, clean change of clothes, diapers, wipes, tissues, sunscreen (and anything else that we may need), plus gathering the keys, possibly a grocery list, shopping bags, books to read, and any last minute tasks, just going somewhere can feel like a chore. Then you have to keep everyone focused on the walk from the door to the car, and hope it doesn't take 15 minutes to get everyone cooperatively in their seats and buckled.


When I even think that we might possibly be going somewhere that day, I try to get snacks and the diaper bag packing done around breakfast. Then I get myself totally ready and my own things gathered before I even mention to the kids that they need to get dressed. This way I can focus all my attention on them. I start getting us ready an hour before I actually think I need to, and that way if anything slows us down, we have a buffer time built in. Those days have gone a million times better when I can let the kids get themselves independently buckled into their carseats, and I have room to slow down and eat a snack before we drive off. The more prepared I am, the better the day goes, and EVERYONE is happier :)

Lesson No. 2
HAPPY TEAM = HAPPY HOME

Just like any great business, team morale needs to be boosted and maintained. This is something we are currently struggling with. But, I work hard to do fun things and keep us balanced with activities during the week. For instance, last Saturday we took a family trip to the Jelly Belly factory on Jon's day off work! Mini day trips are better for us right now than huge vacations. It breaks up the month in a nice way.


I also try to keep things fun around the house and work on new projects, whether it's sprucing up the kid's room, or hanging new artwork, there is something nice about coming home and feeling like it's cozy and personal. :)

We started teaching the kids the articles of faith during Family Home Evenings, and I felt like it would be best to have a laminated picture illustrating each one that we could hang up. We wanted to put them on one of our living room walls where the kids would be reminded of it, and also so we could review them again throughout the week. When I couldn't find anything I liked online, I decided to draw my own. It's been really fun for me to make some drawing time, and the kids get excited now to see which one comes next!


The kids really love to help with this stuff too. I enjoy incorporating them into helping around the home, because it's teaching them the value of taking ownership and making it personal:




It's like when the kids spend their time and creativity building a Lego castle, and then someone comes to knock it over. They get so upset because the Lego castle was their creation! It's always easier and more fun to take care of something when you've worked hard for it.

Lesson No. 3
PLAN FOR SUCCESS

One of the best things we have implemented over the past 12 years has been meal planning. This is a multi-layered system of communication and prep work. And it didn't happen overnight! In fact, it is still growing and only in its intermediate stages. I have some great plans for our meal planning in the coming year. :)

Years ago we started with the typical paper and pen grocery list and tried to think of ideas together at the beginning of the week for what we wanted to eat, and then grocery shopped based on what we already had in the house, so that we could keep the trips to the grocery store down to once a week. (Jon being in college and me working two jobs meant that our chores needed to be kept at a minimum. Plus we liked grocery shopping together, so we always made it a once-a-week event.) Ah, I remember the days back in Provo when we would walk together to Smith's and then carry all our bags home in the evening snow. :) Gradually our needs changed, and we developed better systems and ideas for maximizing grocery shopping efficiency. A lot of the changes had to do with dietary needs and exclusions, and also learning more about nutrition, balance, and food storage. I also got tired of forgetting things at the store, or not being thorough enough that I had to run back again during the week just to make dinners. Also, losing my lists, or just not checking everything in the pantry to make sure we had lunches and breakfasts for the week. Meal planning is not just for dinners! Now it has evolved into this:


A laminated grocery list on the left is color coded into sections of the grocery store: Produce, Dairy, Bulk, Canned Foods, Packaged Foods, Frozen Foods, Cleaning, Paper Goods, etc. We mainly shop at WinCo, so the consistency has worked out well. We use the wet-erase Vis-a-vis markers to check things off the list each week. This is SO handy because it has everything we regularly buy in a typical month. For instance, I can run down the produce list and find suggestions that I may not have thought of to check on my own. "Oh yeah, we need zucchini this week!" It also prompts me to check each drawer in the fridge and each shelf in the pantry so that we don't accidentally run out of beans, or think we have an avocado when we actually used the last of it with breakfast. I rarely come home after grocery shopping and realize that I missed something that I should have added to the list. Paper also isn't wasted because we just erase the marker each week and start over. win-win-win!

On the right is a laminated meal plan for dinners of the week. This full-size sheet is relatively new. We have always listed out weekly dinners, but now this list is more clear and has more options. That way everyone knows what the plan is for dinner, and that these dinner choices will have all the necessary ingredients available at any given time that week. Part of this has been because we have 5 adults living in our house, all with different schedules. It is so much nicer to know what to expect rather than getting to 6pm and wondering what we can scramble together.

Lesson No. 4
PRIORITIZE AND OWN IT

Another thing we're working on is our daily homeschool chart.


I'll be honest: we're not using this yet as much as I thought we would. I feel like the majority of my day is just trying to make food, clean it up, keep the kids from fighting, and get a shower or bath done here and there.

This is something I've already learned, but seem to keep needing reminders of: you can't do EVERYTHING well. Either you're going to get a sewing project done, or you're going to have a great well-rounded learning day. You can't do both. You're either going to have an awesome day of bonding with your kids, or you're going to be personally productive and the kids will be cranky and/or watching a movie. If the kids are helping, your day is going to run a little slower, (and might feel way more rewarding!) but something has to be sacrificed. And that's ok! Priorities are huge.



Every day I consider what my priority is, and then I own it. For instance, I really need a project to get done that I'm getting paid for, so that day the kids are going to be playing on their own a little more, and I probably won't get the bathroom cleaned or the dishes done. Other days I put off the budget and organizing my room and instead we go to the park and meet up with great friends for a few hours and then work on craft projects.


All can be great days! But no individual day can include everything done at 100%.

It's really easy to look at my to-do list and feel disappointed about all the things that didn't get crossed off. But instead I'm trying to look at what I DID accomplish and be proud of myself for that! Every day that I can get out of bed and hug my children is a great day. :)

Lesson No. 5
NEXT MONTH WILL BE DIFFERENT THAN THIS MONTH

What works for us right now will change in a month, in a week, or even sooner! Being adaptable and willing to adjust is a skill that I'm still working on. Once I get a system working pretty well, I find new ideas, encounter new challenges, or just have to throw it out all together and start over. Everything is a constant work-in-progress. But I'm finding that is an eternal lesson. Sometimes it's frustrating to feel like things won't just stay working well for a few weeks, months, or years; we update our grocery list flow and dinner system every 6 months or so, the budget gets updated and new savings goals are set every month, or we might get all organized and moved in to a home over the process of a year or two, and then have to find a new place to live again. But the more willing I am to embrace the change and look at it as an exciting opportunity to family growth, the more positive it is for everyone in our team.


Being a family co-leader is hard work. Sometimes there are many co-leaders around to help, and sometimes I'm flying a little more solo. But the biggest tool of all is communication. The better everyone understands what the goals are, the greater the family team can work.

I'm reminded constantly by the spirit of Elder Ballard's talk from the April 2016 General Conference on family councils. Jon and I have tried to work more regularly on our own councils together (check-in time, couple's inventory, whatever you want to call it) and it's not always consistent or easy. We're also trying to pray together a lot more with the kids, and especially as they are getting older I incorporate them into making our to-do list for the day and sharing their ideas for family plans.

Elder Ballard says, "Combined with prayer, a family council will invite the presence of the Savior, as He promised: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) Inviting the Spirit of the Lord to be part of your family council brings blessings beyond description."

I think we could all use more of the peaceful Spirit of the Lord in our family home management! Family councils are such a great way to make sure everyone is communicated with and on the same page. Just like a department conference or weekly team meeting at work, a regular team briefing at home can give everyone a chance to voice concerns, make suggestions, and be heard. This is a skill that I'm hoping we can continue to improve on throughout the rest of this year to really strengthen our family and make us more adaptable.

***

I am sure there are many more lessons ahead, but I am thankful that I can take the time to recognize what I have been learning so far. Parenthood is definitely the greatest work in the Universe.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Learning

Wow, this year has just been zooming by! And I have blogged less than ever. I also deleted all my social media accounts a few months back, so I am really loving less screen time, but also feel out of the loop in a lot of ways. :)

Although we haven't been blogging as regularly, our family life has been full of great things. And our Year of Learning is well underway!

JANUARY
We started researching schools and programs for Kate to start kindergarten this fall. (Yes, she is turning 5 in August!)


My older sister, Carrie, has been an excellent resource for us because she is so involved in the local homeschool world and has been teaching in public elementary and homeschool settings for years. She encouraged us to research Inspire Charter schools and their independent study program. It helped us get excited and feel empowered; we could actually do this homeschool thing!

me and Edwin, just because.

Jon had already been looking for work since our move, and he applied to some teaching jobs within a few hours of the Sacramento region. Meanwhile I went back to work at Beverly's (fabric and crafts store) and started work part time as an Administrative Assistant for an estate law firm.

FEBRUARY
We took a tour of the Love of Learning center in Rocklin. It was a day of pouring rain, and the only picture I got was of Kate standing under a drain pipe with the umbrella. (ha!)


The homeschool center was a lot of fun. The kids got to sit in on a T-K class while we observed students at all age levels taking classes like STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, & math), taekwondo, English, and more. These classes work a lot like electives, and varying classes are offered each term from T-K up through high school. We were excited about the potential for child-led learning and that we can do the basics at home (math, reading, writing), and then both Kate and Edwin can grow up choosing what else they learn and when.

It's been so cool seeing Kate write her own name! I love watching her figure things out:


I continued working at both jobs through February, but quickly transitioned to Beverly's as my main work focus as we headed into March.

MARCH
Our main goal was to work on setting up a homeschool system at home. The idea was one I came up with, based on having a child-led daily schedule.


Laminated cards show categories that the kids can pick from. We have reading, alphabet/writing time, math and numbers, gospel learning, cooking and baking, cleaning, music, art, science, outside play, etc. There is even a bonus category for the kids to earn something special (like a trip to Jamba Juice) if we have an extra awesome day.


There is a "things to do" chart hanging on our pantry door with pockets for all the cards to go in, and then a "look what we did" chart for the cards to move to once we have done that activity for the day.


The goal was to have a well rounded day with a variety of activities so that we aren't too heavy in one thing. For instance, I have LEARNED by doing this chart that I'm super good at getting the kids involved with cooking and baking, but maybe not so much with the numbers and music. ;) We are pretty good with arts and crafts, but some of our other activities need more focus. Everything is incorporated with playtime and games, like making this homemade bird feeder and learning about what animals eat:


It's all designed to be family work, and a "learn as you go" type of system. Sometimes the learning is going for a walk and talking all about traffic signs in our neighborhood. Sometimes the learning is watching The Magic School Bus and then talking together more about the subject they discussed (like hot lava, or how our muscles work in our bodies).


All this time I was still working at Beverly's, but was feeling very strongly that I needed to stay home with the kids. Jon was still looking for work, and hadn't found anything yet, but I was trying to be trusting of Heavenly Father's guidance and exercise faith that it would work out anyway. I ended up giving my two-week notice and finished working at Bev's a week before Edwin's birthday.


Around the same time I was feeling more driven to pursue yoga teacher training as a 5-year plan/goal. I knew I wanted to go back to school, but I wasn't sure if transferring out to a college here to complete my Bachelor's should be the primary focus right now. I decided to at least cultivate a healthier and more fit lifestyle, and joined a local gym that has a fantastic yoga studio. It was about the same cost as any other local yoga studio's monthly rate, but with this system I also got the WHOLE gym and every other perk that comes with it. Score!

APRIL
In April we registered Kate for Inspire Charter School, and also signed her up for two classes at LoL for the fall. Hooray!

I jumped into yoga as much as possible and started learning a TON. I had always done yoga here and there in the past, but now I was utilizing it so much more, and really immersing myself in the practice.


Part of the goal here was to have a well rounded and eternal pursuit of human learning: mind, body, and soul. More dedicated religious practice, exercise and fitness, internal wellness through proper eating, and mental focus with meditation and restorative time.


Balancing life without work was challenging. Back in Rexburg was the first time I was just a stay-at-home-mom for a few months, and it's definitely stressful being in charge of your own time all day. Being here in California has been stressful in all new ways. I felt like I almost got more accomplished when I had work going on too, because then I knew that I had deadlines to meet with my day. For instance, "I need to get x,y,z done before 2pm because then I have an evening shift at work." But when there is no work outside the home, it's easier to convince yourself that everyone can just stay in PJs all day. In addition to that we have a lot of family living together in one house right now, so there are many schedules, eating habits, and lifestyles to consider and coordinate.

The hardest thing to figure out has been work and money. I was hoping to stay home with the kids and be the primary caretaker/homeschooler, but we also had to put all of our money saving and independent living goals on hold when we moved. Although both teaching jobs that we were hoping for didn't come through, Jon was able to substitute a couple days at the Love of Learning center, and get some classes lined up to teach in the fall. He also found a job at Placer Title at the very end of April, which was a huge blessing!

Jon and I have also been learning more about the gospel and building better habits. We always attend the temple once a month (at least), but our scripture study habits have gotten a lot better and more regular.


I got a calling in Activity Days (co-leading bi-weekly activities for the 9 and 10 year old girls in our ward at church), and that has helped me grow a lot already. Between home, teaching our kids and reading scriptures together as a family, Relief Society activities, primary, visiting teaching, and extra service opportunities, there is always room to grow in the gospel. :)



MAY
This month has been full of a lot of juggling and figuring things out. We started off with learning how to make everything function for our family with Jon back at work 5 days a week, and only one car. Thankfully we were blessed with an opportunity to acquire a second car for our family that Jon can commute to work in! (The area we are living in here in California is a lot more spread out than Rexburg...)


Placer Title has been a great solid job for us. It has allowed me to keep staying home, and we're slowly working on where to go next. Catching up with savings and everything will be slow, but at least we were finally able to get our car registered, we're getting our budget more tight and updated, and we're still debt free! That's such a good feeling.

We're also LEARNING how to handle this California heat again. We've already had days creeping up near 100*! Thankfully Nonna and Papa got Edwin and Kate a wading pool for our patio. It has been getting great use. ;)


Our stake (regional church group in Roseville) started the self-reliance program here at the end of April, and Jon and I were invited to be some of the first participants from our ward. Every week for 12 weeks we meet with a group of our peers to work on building foundation principles in one of four areas: finding a better job, education, budgeting and finance, and starting or building your own business.  Jon meets with the job/career building group, and I have been attending the education classes. It has really pushed me to research career options for self-reliance and figure out what I want to pursue. I still don't have my bachelor's degree, and without a full time supporter of our family working for us, I would not be able to take care of myself and the children (like if Jon were to die). I just don't have the skills and education in any one area to make a little more than minimum wage. This whole month of learning has accelerated my interest and pursuit of yoga and nutrition studies in a career mode. (I plan to do a more in depth blog post about this later.)

I'm learning how to manage our home better (meal planning, grocery shopping, kid's routines, my routines...)

freezer meals!

pantry organization :D

...and along with that we are learning how to balance all the family and friend extracurriculars. We like to be social.








I've also been helping my dad with estate execution work, along with sewing orders for friends and family. :) I don't have my etsy store open right now, but sewing is still a HUGE part of my life and keeps me busy.








We're so happy to be going on this LEARNING journey this year in so many ways! Whatever our long-term learning goals end up being, I'm happy that we can work on them together. :)