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.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

No Secret

It's no secret that I haven't blogged regularly in months. I thought that while we were on our Year of America road trip I would post every day. HAHA. Not even close.

Pumpkin Patch 2016

When we got back to Rexburg after three weeks of traveling this Summer it was pretty devastating. Idaho definitely didn't feel like "home". In fact, it didn't feel like much of anything at all. It was really surreal being back in the potato state.



Fall semester hit us hard with Jon working two jobs, teaching more classes at a time than he ever had before, and serving in a young single adult ward on campus, which meant that he was out of the house for an extended period of time each of the 7 days of the week.

Meanwhile, I was depressed. I didn't want to tell people how bad it was, because I'm a very private person. I worried about judgment, criticism, people not understanding, people asking questions, etc. The list goes on and on. I held everything in and just got bitter and more frustrated with myself and everyone around me. I started going to see a counselor and also took medication. Little by little my small team of supporters helped me chisel away at the roots of my problems. It felt really uplifting! Not like a major night and day change, but just that it was good to have a direction and feel like I was making some sort of progress and finding clarity. I kept at it, tossed around some ideas, and tried to be in the moment and find joy with one thing at a time. "This week I will have joy in crafting with my kids for Halloween!" "This week I will have joy in traveling to Connecticut!" Small victories :)




After Connecticut, but before Halloween, our family plans drastically changed. I have been apprehensive about this Winter in Idaho because last year I got cabin fever really bad. After weeks and weeks and weeks of relentless grey and grey and grey and snow and snow and snow and grey, I hated Rexburg. Which makes me so sad, because I LOVE Rexburg. But I couldn't stand the grey skies and the grey streets and the grey cars and the grey people and the grey life that makes you feel like your life will be devoid of color forever. Yep, by March I was sure I would never ever escape and experience the beach or green grass under that pile of grey ever again.

Things warmed up, Spring came, bike rides came, our road trip came, and Summer was beautiful!


 






The snow this year has held off (which a friend reminded me is evidence of God's love for me) and all the way through Thanksgiving we had blue skies and dry ground! (COLD. But dry.) Only the last 3 days have been snowy. It's a fall miracle!


But the point is that I have been scared of this winter. I have been scared of how I would feel, and even though I CHOOSE to be happy and do happy things, sometimes it doesn't feel like enough. The depression comes and I feel out of control of my own emotions. I did not want to feel that way again.

Add to that my intense anxiety of bad weather that I've had since we moved to Idaho. I couldn't handle driving in any sort of snow or rain, or HECK with dark grey clouds overhead. All my errands and grocery shopping and errands had to revolve around the weather. Which in the winter basically means I can't even bring myself to go outside. It was really a downer.

Why am I telling you about all this? It's definitely not for pity. And I'm usually a VERY private person. I have always wanted to share the positive, focus on the good, and, YES, live up to the expectations of how I knew people saw me. Nobody said to my face that they expected me to be perfect, but when friends and strangers alike say things like, "You always have it all together!" "I didn't want you to see my messy house or tell you what I was going through because your family is perfect." "You are the mom I want to be!" and "I don't know how you do it!" I would just say to myself... "Wow, they see things that I don't. I can't let them down."

But if there is ONE thing that 2016 has slapped me across the face with, it is the fact that WE ARE NOT ALONE.

Many times people will say, "Heavenly Father knows your struggles and what you're going through." And I believed it, but I also felt like, "Well that's great, but Heavenly Father can't sit on the end of my bed and talk with me and give me feedback. Yes, we have prayer, but I still feel alone." I wrote in my journal, I talked to Jon, I tried to reach out to a few people... kind of. But it was a half-ass attempt, because I didn't really believe it would help.

Well, the second half of this year has surprised me majorly. I understand TRULY how much Heavenly Father IS aware of our struggles and what we are going through, and he puts OTHER PEOPLE in our path to be ministering angels to lift us up and help us know that we are not alone. I have felt the spirit in my life through friends and family in the past two months than I ever have in the rest of my life. And it's because I couldn't take it anymore. I cracked. I asked for help. And I shared. And then I shared and I shared some more. I was honest. Even embarassingly honest. And you know what? There are other people who get it. I didn't get judgments, I got love.

Things are far from "better". This is just the beginning. But I'm feeling healing. This week especially has shown me how much we all need each other. We ALL need each other. I can't believe how many people I have found this year who NEED to talk. Who NEED to feel listened to. Who NEED to know someone else will not gasp and mock and judge them. And they all feel alone. They all feel crazy. They all feel like no one will understand, or that they will get kicked out of school, or that they will let people down.

We've created quite the perfectionist society for ourselves.

But if we only knew what the person sitting next to us was struggling with or needed to hear or was dying to talk about, then we would see equals, we would see broken hearts, we would see love. And I wish I could shout to everyone that, "We will all make it through together! We CAN all make it through together! We can make it through life with friends, with love, with compassion, with the spirit of God, and with peace! We CAN. In fact, we CAN'T make it through WITHOUT one another." But we don't believe in ourselves enough to try.

Maybe it's a lofty goal. Or maybe it sounds like everyone sitting in a field with flower crowns singing Kumbaya. But I can only start change with me.

So here I am. Opening up. And letting you know that you're always welcome to talk to me about anything. No judgments.