Sunday, March 26, 2017

Family Updates

Kate and Edwin are growing up so fast! Kate is 4 years and 9 months old, while Edwin will be turning 3 in just five days :) Having them close in age has helped them be great buddies. I love seeing them giggle and play together.

Kate: 4yrs 9mo & Edwin: 2yrs 11mo

We went to the Sacramento Zoo to celebrate Jon's dad's 65th birthday this weekend, and the weather was spectacular!


The kids had a blast, eating ice cream and popcorn, riding the train, and seeing fantastic rescue animals: lions, red pandas, flamingos, zebras, giraffes, lemurs, apes, monkeys, reptiles, an anteater, and even a tortoise that they could pet. :)





Kate and Edwin's cousin AnnMarie got to come with us too. She loves helping the kids, and they think she is just the greatest!



***

When we're not having exciting adventures like going to the zoo, we keep pretty busy at home:

Kate is super spunky and into BRIGHT colors. She mixes and matches her outfits and definitely knows what she likes :)


She is a little sponge, learning more and more each day. Kate knows all her letters and can count well. She has been pretending a lot lately that she is writing stories and letters to people, and we have begun to sound out words together as we write.

Kate is also becoming more independent and sassy each day. It's crazy to me how strong willed and determined she can be.

Striking a pose for the camera!

She is very thoughtful, but almost demanding in her insistence that she gets to help others in the way that she has pre-decided they need to be helped. Kate always wants to serve food to people at dinner, butter their toast at breakfast, and pour their juice. She likes to pick out my shoes, and put the toilet seat covers down for me in public restrooms, and wants to turn the lights on for me when I enter a room. She doesn't always seem to understand why others occasionally want to do something for themselves, when she is right there volunteering! haha. But we are working on better communication and helping her see that while she has GREAT ideas, she also needs to respect others' ideas and personal space. We can't read her mind, after all, so we help her see that she needs to share her plans if she wants us to all be in on it with her ;)


Edwin is such a dear little man. He is very articulate and absolutely hilarious! He is also very sensitive and emotional.


He still needs a good solid nap each day, but we feel like he'll be cutting back soon. Right now he naps a good two hours around 2-4pm. If he skips a nap occasionally, he gets REALLY grumpy by 5pm. Although he will be 3 years old next week, I am still very grateful for his naptimes, and that I can occasionally share them with him ;)


Edwin loves to help out around the house, especially with cleaning.


He also enjoys seeing how things work, and definitely has a little engineering brain.


Having big kid bunk beds has been going great! (or, as great as it could be with two rambunctious children under 5.) They pretty much stay in their beds once we say prayers and give hugs and kisses goodnight. A few days a week they ask if they can have a "sleepover" and either Edwin will climb up into Kate's bed, or she will climb down into Edwin's and they will lay there reading books and laughing wildly together until they either pass out, or get super cranky and have to be separated again, haha! :)

I'm really enjoying their room lately.


It is full of fun things to play with (like a mini trampoline, reading tee-pee, tons of legos and stuffed animals, and a play kitchen), as well as personal artwork, and glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. The big kid beds give them room to grow while still having lots of extra floor room that we didn't have when there were two cribs in the room. I love that Edwin's mattress is on the floor, because he is all over the place and rolling around constantly when he sleeps. Kate seems to enjoy her private loft, and the bed is designed great so we have no worries about her falling out. I like that it isn't a full, tall bunk-bed height. The toddler height is perfect so that I can stand at the edge of Kate's bed and talk to her and give her hugs without even having to stand on a step stool. ;)

Kate and Edwin have also both figured out how to use our Google Home and love to talk to her about everything. "Hey, Google! Do you like me?" "Hey, Google, what's a shamrock?" They will have her set timers, play music, and answer questions all over the place. Their most requested soundtracks are Toy Story, and Mary Poppins. :)

Kate and Edwin's biggest obsession right now, though, is MOANA. We saw it in theaters a couple months ago, and then got it on DVD the day it came out... we have now seen it at least 12 times. HAHA Good thing it is such a fun movie! They have never been so into anything before, so this is a new stage for us. They love the music, and pretend play that they are characters from Moana all the time. They like to talk to their friends about Moana and ask me constantly how things relate back to the story... "Is this like Maui's fish hook??" "Is it being silly like the ocean??" "I have a flower in my hair like Moana!" "Look, we run into things like Hei-Hei!"


So far it's been pretty cute, and I think I like the movie and music just about as much as they do. ;) It's a win-win. (for now)

The last time that I asked Edwin what his favorite dinner food was, he said lollipops... but I actually think he is partial to potstickers, burritos, and pizza. Kate still speaks highly of spaghetti and meatballs, although any food we eat is very much devoured based on her mood at the time. We can definitely count on her stating that she doesn't like whatever xyz we are eating before she ever tries it. AND she is not very interested in sweets. Kate always seems to like the idea of desserts, but will typically take one bite of something and then say she is done. Yeah, I don't get it either ;)

The kids continue to have a few words and phrases that they say incorrectly, and I love it! Banalalas (bananas), and Chimera Flag (American Flag), for example.

Meanwhile our family is loving the California sunshine and the taste of Springtime. While winter brought a TON of rain this year, we have had a few days in the 70's recently, which has made for some nice bike riding and empty-field exploring. :) We were even able to have a Family Home Evening picnic up at the temple with some great friends a couple weeks ago:


We're hoping that the warm weather will continue to stick around! Right now we're toggling back and forth between long sleeves and wool socks, and t-shirts and flip flops.

One thing's for sure: more adventures from the Alston family, coming up!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thoughts

I thought that last year would be our most blogged year of all time!
We even signed up for a real website domain name (www.TheAlstonFamily.com)

But it turned out to be our LEAST blogged year yet. A lot of that was because our Year of America didn't come with quite as much battery power and internet access as we originally expected. :/

I've also relied a lot more on Instagram and Snapchat this past year. They tend to be faster, and I can share photos at a glance versus spending a lot of time uploading and waiting for blog posts to publish.

There is a lot that I miss about the blog journal, though! It's always been a fun record of the kids and our family adventures in a storytelling way that you can't really save in other ways.

All that is a way of me saying that I've missed the blog and will work harder to make more time for it. :)

In the meantime, February has kept us quite busy preparing for Beth and Derek's wedding, which was last weekend!








Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. McDonald!

We had so much fun celebrating and hope we'll continue to have a lot more fun pictures and things to share soon. :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Theme for 2017

The long-awaited theme of this year is...

THE YEAR OF LEARNING!


“With all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7)
Learning (noun) the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.

With Kate turning 5 this summer (and therefore being school-age) we have thought a lot about what her education (and ours!) would look like going forward for the rest of forever.

This is a different theme for us than any we've tried before, but will be an absolute adventure for our WHOLE family!


For many years we have discussed ideas regarding formal education and homeschooling, college degrees and trade skills, public settings for socialization, and core learning at home that involves the four of us working together. But up until now it has all been "maybe someday" and "eventually" talk. This year we are finally taking steps to put it all into action!

While many may not know this yet, Jon was accepted into a PhD program remotely through a University in England which would begin this Fall 2017. Putting together his proposal and going through the interview and acceptance process was definitely a joint effort. This 3-year program would allow us to continue living in the states while Jon works on his research and creative writing work and gain a doctorate degree. Now, with waiting on the word about funding to come through, we are anticipating changes ahead and how our family dynamic might adjust during this process!

In the meantime January has been an exciting month of really talking about what our ideal learning experience would look like for our family and children as they head into elementary years. A blend of homeschool, charter programs, and extracurricular (music, dance, and sport) activities which our kids could lead the direction on seemed perfect for us. We've asked friends and family how they have done it, what they wished they had done differently, and how we should approach it now. We've weighed many options and researched many schools. Our next step for February is to tour a few resources and prepare for our first set of enrollments in March! :D eeeee!

Along with the more structured look of our plan, we are majorly changing things at home. Steph has been working two jobs since we moved back to California, and is gradually changing those schedules to meet our family needs. In addition, Steph and Jon are working on designing a home routine that includes better emotional communication, and daily core activities to promote family work and discussion, while letting the kids lead the day and still making sure things get done ;) haha.


Learning is also important to us as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and as eternally progressing beings. A talk given in recent years to the youth of the church by President Gordon B. Hinckley stresses the importance of fulfilling our potential and acquiring as much education as we can. It is an excellent guide and one that we hope to refer back to throughout the year. You can read more of that here.

We are VERY excited about this year's theme and what it means all around. As with many of our themes, there are varied layers underneath the obvious plan. While schooling and education in that manner has certainly been at the forefront of our minds, learning in general is an ongoing process. Jon and Steph have been working on learning more about each other and effective ways to communicate as a couple. We have been attending weekly marriage counseling together, and reading more together again, which has been a very eye-opening process. Jon is also learning more about publishing and bookmaking, being a better bread-maker, and learning more about clothes making. Steph has been attempting some new sewing and quilt projects this month, and considering eventual ways to complete her college degree and start a business or two down the road. ;) Kate's current obsession is counting (which she can do up to 20 all on her own) and she is very interested in learning how to use our DSLR camera. Edwin is a whiz with his colors and getting better with his letters every day. Both of them ask questions CONSTANTLY, explore the world through play, and have a few special books memorized that they "read" to us on a daily basis! :) Our biggest goal right now is to foster and continue promoting that love of learning.

"Look, mom! An airplane!"

It's been really great to see our family grow and have the focus of our year be LEARNING. Learning new skills, learning about each other, and learning how to see the world differently.

We hope that you'll join us and seek out some new learning and understanding of your own this year!
#YearOfLearning


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Oh yeah, we moved

It's official: we're renting a house in Northern California!


At the end of BYU-Idaho's fall semester we decided the best place for our family is back home with family and friends that we grew up with (along with some better sunshine-y weather and access to better medical care.) So we hurried up and moved!


The kids (and Jon... and my mom... and Jon's mom...) all got MISERABLE colds the week that we moved :( It kept us indoors for a little bit, but thankfully everyone is on the mend and we've been able to get a lot of boxes unpacked. :) The drive itself was as good as it could have been, with only some spots of snow.


We felt very blessed to make it safely, and miss out on the crazy blizzard that hit Rexburg on graduation day!

For the time being we are living with Jon's parents and my mom. :) We had a beautiful Christmas all together and were able to visit Jon's brother Mike, his wife Amanda, and their daughter AnnMarie, as well as my dad, and sister, Michelle.


new illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to read together as a family!

By far the most beautiful gift I received this year was a hand painted watercolor portrait of me with the kids. Jon ordered it from one of my favorite artists. I absolutely LOVE it!


Kate and Edwin were totally spoiled (of course) and received new big kid beds! They are loving their twin sized mattresses and we love the bunk bed giving everyone lots of space in their new room. :D




Margo pup is still alive and well, but is staying with my dad and sister at their house in Loomis until we find a permanent dog-friendly place to live. She seems to be enjoying the yard to play in and having some kid-free space for a while ;)


Horse the goldfish is alive and well in Rexburg. We felt like the traveling would probably kill him (too much change in elevation and temperature) so our friend Paige adopted him:


Along with the new fun space in our house, I redecorated mine and Jon's bedroom! It definitely needed it.

BEFORE:

AFTER:

(fantastic sign above the bed credit goes to my friend Sloane at Indigo Rose Restoration!)

Clutter free art display space = #AllTheHeartEyes


This was SO needed! Now I feel like we have a grown-up retreat space all to ourselves :D

Meanwhile, we've been able to catch up with lots of great friends:




We've been out to sushi, had breakfast burritos, gone caroling to surprise people, tried Korean food, went to breakfast with friends, had play-dates, exchanged Christmas presents, and went go-carting! The end of 2016 has definitely gone off with a BANG.

There's lots of new stuff happening soon, and lots more from this past year to catch you up on. But for now I'm realizing that I haven't done a good job of documenting our recent friend time, HAHA

Goal for 2017: TAKE MORE PICTURES ;)

We hope we get to visit all of you that we haven't seen yet really soon!!

Here's to new fun and new #AlstonAdventures



HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Updates on the Kids

Normally I'm pretty good with regular updates on the kids. But this year I haven't reported on their milestones since March!


Thankfully, I keep track of things I want to remember on my phone. Here are some of my favorite memories of Kate and Wynn over the past 8 months :)

Kate turned 4 in August and has been a sassy whirlwind of independence! She weighed 30 lbs and was 38.25 inches tall at her 4 year check up.


Kate has lots of cute quirks and "Kate-isms". For instance, she says "thank you" to automatic soap dispensers when she is washing her hands in public bathrooms. ;)
She is very loving toward our family (well, as long as she is getting her way) and gives us all hugs and kisses often. One of my favorite things she says is, "Daddy is MY friend! He’s my little boy.”


In the fall our ward at church had their annual Primary Program which Kate got to be part of as a Sunbeam! (the 3-4 year old class) She was the only one in her class to not say her part in the microphone (even though we had practiced it all week) and she even turned off the sound from the main microphone control switch during another kid's part! To top it all off, she laid on the floor instead of sitting in her chair, and she spit over the front of the stand onto the carpet in front of the whole congregation. I was so glad that we invited all our friends to come see her ;) hahaha - we really got a good laugh out of the whole thing! I guess it's all you can do, right? ;) Manners in public are something we're working on...

During our road trip in August a lady came into the public restroom where I was helping Kate. The lady laughingly described Kate as precocious. ;) I think that sums her up well.

***

Edwin is growing up so fast! He is 3 months away from his 3rd birthday, and definitely does not feel like much of a baby anymore. (Aside from the fact that he still sucks his thumb and takes his blankie with him everywhere.) Edwin calls bedtime “dark time”, and even when we put him down for naps during the day he says, “but it isn’t dark time yet!”

He loves giving Margo bones and treats. Edwin speaks extremely well for his age. It’s nice to hear his thoughts. I think his mind processes the same way any 2.5 year old’s would, but he is able to articulate it so well. It’s really nice to hear his thoughts out loud.


Edwin loves to climb up on rocks and ask me to take his picture! Oh, and that shiner under his right eye in the picture above? Is from when he walked into the corner of our kitchen table. :'( ouch!

Wynn is very creative and loves to sing and work on art projects. For Halloween we decorated pumpkins and ghosts for our living room window. He took his glitter glue application very seriously!


Edwin constantly cracks me up with his imagination. The other night he walked down the hall into the living room where I was writing in my journal, and he was using his little lion toy like a telescope. He looked at me and I said, “Hi, Edwin!” Then he turned and ran down the hall yelling, “Kate! I think mommy is not a monster! She didn’t growl at me!” ;)

Kate and Edwin are great little buddies and get into all sorts of mischief together. 


They are also great friends to others. When the Bakers came from California to visit us in September, Kate took Cole by the hand to show him around the Rexburg Temple grounds :)


She also wanted to push Cole in the stroller around BYUI campus as much as possible!


One of my MOST favorite things about having a 2 and 4 year old is hearing their conversations together:
Kate: “Do you want to touch my little fuzzies on my arm? They’re so cute!”
Edwin: “I have little fuzzies on my arm too!”
K: "Mommy has big fuzzies! But she doesn’t want to have fuzzies. Daddy has fuzzies. His fuzzies are SO big.”
K: "Hey Edwin, do you want to touch my ears? My ears are SO cute!"
K: "Daddy, why doesn’t Edwin want to touch my ears? Maybe he thinks they’re beesgusting." (She means disgusting, HAHA!)

**To wrap things up, I'll leave you with these quiz questions I asked the kids in October:

Me: Edwin, what is your name?
E: I don’t want you to tell me something! (he means I don’t want you to ask me questions, mom.) ;)
E: Can I make funny faces on snapchat?
Me: How old are you?
E: But I want to do funny faces on snapchat!!
*I decided to give up and try again after breakfast*

Me: What is your name?
E: uh, peanut butter . . . 
Me: How old are you?
E: 2 like this (trying to hold his fingers up)
Me: When is your birthday?
E: uh, a big strawberry like this! (holding his arms out wide)
Me: how old is mommy?
E: uh, 2 like I am.
Me: what is your favorite color?
E: Purple
Me: What is your favorite food?
E: mac and cheese
Me: Who is your best friend?
E: Reese
Me: What is your favorite show?
E: Dragon Tales
Me: What is your favorite song?
E: temple song (I love to See the Temple) and Dragon Tales
Me: What is your favorite animal?
E: cows
Me: What are you scared of?
E: I’m scared of BIG strawberries!
E: *running away screaming because now he and Kate are playing that a big strawberry monster is going to eat them. They pretend Margo is the strawberry monster*…*I followed them and they ran back to the living room. They see Margo and start squealing. I finally asked Edwin what makes him happy, and he answered: Margo.* J
Me: Where is your favorite place to go?
E: I like parks!
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
E: I want to ride on trains! (Me: you want to be a train driver?) E: NO! I want to RIDE on a train. *hahahaha, touche.*

Same questions to Kate:
What is your name?
K: Kate
How old are you?
K: 4!
When is your birthday?
K: August
How old is mommy?
K: 6!
What is your fav color?
K: Red!
What is your fav food?
K: pisghety (spaghetti) with meatballs! 
Who is your best friend?
K: Olivia!
What is your favorite show?
K: Dragon Tales!
What is your favorite song?
K: Snoopy the snoop snoopy. He’s the puppy. *they had been watching a lot of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”*
What is your fav animal?
K: Elephant! What the grief! I LOVE elephants!
*hears Uptown Funk playing on the radio and starts dancing…* “hey! This is a great song!”
What are you afraid of?
K: monsters! (said with a growl)
Where is your favorite place to go?
K: Parks J
What do you want to be when you grown up?
K: an arf! (Me: what is that?) K: a costume. For Halloween. (well. There you have it.)