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. :)


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spontaneous

At the beginning of March we had the opportunity to take the kids to Disneyland for the first time!


It was a spur of the moment trip with only about a week to prepare. Which ended up being perfect. I didn't have time to talk myself out of anything, or think too much, or worry. We just did it!

We ended up doing a 3-day park visit, so to maximize our time we did Disneyland Day 1, California Adventure Day 2, then Disneyland again on Day 3.

Leading up to the trip we made tutus, shirts, and autograph books:






In the car ride down we had Disney themed snacks:



and brought along Disney themed friends!


The Minnie Mouse doll sitting with Kate was the one I got on my first trip to Disneyland 22 years ago :)

The kids had NO idea where we were going or what Disneyland even was. We put them in the car while they were still half asleep and just told them we were going for a drive... a long, long drive.

When we finally got to our hotel, the kids were super excited! They just really liked the room :D (and we did too!)


Kate in her pull-out sofa bed--she climbed right in and hugged her blankets because she was so excited!


Edwin got to sleep on the twin air mattress which we pushed partway under the desk in the room so that he had a little cave. He was thrilled!


That night we took the kids to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney.


They each got a souvenir cup with dinner to kick off our vacation!



After dinner we played at the Lego store, and Jon made a Ravenclaw wizarding version of himself ;)



***

Our first day at Disneyland was a blast! We surprised the kids with handmade t-shirts that said 2017 with Mickey Ears on them, had an excellent breakfast buffet at the hotel, then stopped at the Candy Palace on Main Street for giant lollipops.


Our first official ride of the day was the Jungle Cruise in Adventure Land. When we exited the Jungle Cruise, Moana came right up to talk to Kate! We had only seen the movie once in the theater at this point, so I think Kate was a little unsure of what was happening.


Moana gathered some more kids around and played a shape-shifting game before heading on her way to find Hei Hei. We headed over to the Tiki Room and ate Dole Whip while we waited.



That day we also had our silhouettes done on Main Street. It's something I had wanted to do for years!


Bonnie was incredible. She has been cutting silhouettes at Disneyland for 43 years. She does it all by hand in under a minute. You just sit in front of her and she cuts away! No shadows, no computers, no tracing. We were mesmerized and so impressed. Plus she's a hoot to talk to. We are stoked to hang up our family cut-outs on the wall :)


Things really got exciting when the kids got to meet Pooh bear. They squealed with excitement! We rode on the ride through the Hundred Acre Wood, and then came out to see Eeyore, Tigger, and Pooh bear waiting to greet us. Kate and Edwin could hardly wait! That was when I knew that Winnie the Pooh would be the theme for Edwin's birthday :)



After Adventure and Frontier land, we headed over to Fantasyland, and Kate got a great first look at King Arthur's Carrousel:
It ended up being one of the kid's favorite rides. We went on it about 4 or 5 times by the end of the week ;)



We got First Visit buttons, lanyards, and Mickey ear hats with our names on them. :)



We were able to meet lots of great characters, like Pocahontas! Kate enjoyed showing off her bubble wand.


The Dumbo ride also ended up being a favorite, although Kate just wanted to stay flying low the whole time.


It was great taking turns doing things with the kids so that Jon could ride the big coasters (like Thunder Mountain Railroad) and we could meet characters, or he would take them on Snow White and Pinnochio while I waited in long lines (like for Peter Pan).

Having the sit and stand stroller was also AMAZING. Edwin was able to get some naps while we walked around in the afternoon. :)


For dinner we ate at Cafe Orleans, which looks over the river in my favorite part of Disneyland. :) The Shadow Man came by the tables out on the patio while we were waiting.


Edwin slept in the stroller for pretty much all of dinner:


That night ended with the Main Street Electrical Parade (which was incredible!) and we had an excellent night of sleep when we made it back to the hotel. :)

***

The next day started early with a Princess Breakfast in Ariel's Grotto. Our outfits that day were character themed from some of our favorite movies:



Ariel's Grotto was super fun, and the first stop on the way in was meeting Ariel herself! (The kids were a lot more excited than they look, haha)







A royal announcer introduced each princess, and they would come in about every 5 minutes and do a little dance before coming around to each table and greeting us:


We got to meet Belle, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Tiana :) Most of the good pictures we took with the Instax camera for the kid's autograph books.




After breakfast we wandered through the California Adventure park, and the kids got to meet Woody from Toy Story!


We explored Bug's Land and Car's Land,


and Edwin got a giant dill pickle all to himself :)


I got to walk around with Edwin, and he picked out his very own Lightning McQueen Hot Wheel car, while Jon and Kate got to ride the big Cars racing ride together. :) Edwin and I watched their yellow racing car come over the hill and zip around the bend. Jon and Kate were in the back seat, so it is a little hard to see them in this picture.


We spent some time in Downtown Disney that afternoon and Kate built her own Pretty Flower Bear at the Build-A-Bear workshop. She also got a Woody doll from Toy Story.

That night for dinner we ate at the Storyteller's Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel. Our last ride of the night was the Toy Story Midway Mania, and Edwin got a light-up Buzz Lightyear toy as we headed out of the park for the night. :)

***

Our third day at Disneyland started off to be the most exciting. The kids were finally getting the hang of it, and could hardly wait to go out the door! We knew this would be our longest day at Disneyland so far, because this night there were fireworks and the park would be open until midnight.

Our outfits for the day were traditional Disney theme; Mickey, Minnie, Darth Vader with a Mickey balloon, and Sleeping Beauty's castle.



We spent most of the day in Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land, riding Peter Pan, the Tea Cups, Alice in Wonderland, and meeting lots of characters like Tinkerbell, Gaston, Alice and the Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins and Burt, and the Fairy Godmother.


Kate and Edwin also got their faces painted :)



We spent the afternoon in Toontown, (met Mickey Mouse!) and then headed back to the hotel for naps. We got back to the park at sunset to enjoy Disneyland at night :D



We rode the Buzz Lightyear astro blasters ride and Finding Nemo's submarines.


 Edwin had a lot of fun styling Jon's hair while we waited our turn :)


Jon and Edwin also got to ride the rockets at the entrance to Tomorrowland, and earlier in the day they rode Gadget's Go-Coaster in Toontown. Edwin loves the fast rides and roller coasters! As he gets taller I'm sure he will be a fan of Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Matterhorn too.


The kids and I took a nighttime flight on Dumbo, while Jon used his fastpass for Hyper Space Mountain, and then we met up again by the carrousel for fireworks! Kate enjoyed them thoroughly, but Edwin was a little unsure.

video

Of course we were the first ones back on the carrousel when the fireworks ended early due to wind :)


We went from the carrousel to Casey Jr, then got a churro and rode the teacups and Alice in Wonderland. By that time it was 11pm and we were super proud of the kids for staying up that late! We headed to the potty and planned to walk back to our shuttle, but then Kate said, "Mom, can we ride Peter Pan one last time?" -- well, how could I say no?? Peter Pan has always been my favorite :) We waited in line for Peter Pan under the glow of Sleeping Beauty's castle, and even though Edwin ALMOST drifted off to sleep, he made it through and we had an excellent end to our longest Disney day!


We walked back down Main Street at midnight, and I loved how the kids' Mickey Mouse balloons looked against the lights of the shops. The whole trip was just magical.


The following morning as we packed up to head home, the kids were devastated that it was over! I'm finding that it's challenging to teach kids about time and helping them to understand values of days, hours, weeks, etc. We tried to talk about how we spent three GREAT days on vacation and now we were going home, but all Edwin said between his tears was, "I want to stay at Disneyland forever, because I do!" ;) Me too, little dude.

We stopped at Denny's for breakfast after checking out of the hotel (because it was something that I had remembered doing with my family from my first trip to Disneyland as a kid) and then we took the long drive back north to Roseville.


The kids talked all about the rides and the characters and the fun things we got to do. We made a plan to save money for going back to Disneyland again someday.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, Edwin was standing by my side of the bed wearing his Mickey ears and with his special buttons pinned to his jammies. haha! I loved it!



We decopauged jars for the kids to save money in for Disneyland. Now whenever they get some spare change or birthday money it is the first thing they want to do with it! It's been awesome to see them so excited about saving their money for something big, and it's given us a good chance as a family to learn about tithing and then saving and budgeting.

It was definitely well worth the trip, and the kids were really at perfect ages for such a grand surprise. :) We can't wait to go back to Disneyland again someday and have even more exciting adventures!