Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Growing Family

 It seems like I can't leave the house lately without someone asking about my fertility. Perhaps they see these three strapping, young n' handsome, diaper-less boys I've got and instantly think I should be ready for another one! Well, here's the truth: I'm not ready.

I remember right after I had our 3rd and last baby how disturbed I was about having more. It was a hard, painful, and stressful experience (both the pregnancy and the birth), and one I didn't want to immediately replicate. I told myself at the time that I was done completely, but maybe five years down the road or when our baby weaned, I might decide to carry another child. (Whichever one came first.) So far It's only been 3 years, and I'm still nursing! Ha! And I'm still not ready to make that decision.

So when the cashier at the grocery store asks,"So ya gonna try for a baby girl?" I answer, "Absolutely! But I'm not ready." Or when the old man at the park tells my sons to ask Santa for a little sister (yes that really did happen) I  kindly reply,"He'll bring them one when I'm ready!" And when the neighbor down the street with the 7 children asks me curiously  if I want more children, I reply,"Yes! Big families are a blessing and I would love more children, but....I'm not ready."

I know that I (or anyone else for that matter) doesn't owe the world an explanation, but I just thought I would say it out loud since people are so interested in my fertility as of lately. (Maybe they're interested in Micah's virility, too, but just won't come out and say it to his face.)
I believe that the decision to have more children is between you, your partner, and God. I'm not opposed to having more kids. I wouldn't stop having more children  because of lack of money, or missing out on that lofty career, or more leisure time. Remember the pamphlet with all the readiness questions? People have babies all the time answering NO to those questions but answering YES to having Faith!  I believe with all my heart that if you choose to bring these special souls into the world, God will support you with all that you need. Maybe not all that you want, (like an awesome body, a ton of money, or a successful career), but he will bless you with happiness, purpose, and an abundance of love. I'm looking forward to our growing family, but for now, I'm not ready.

However, here's a few things I am ready for:

 Now that we have a big, fenced in backyard, and 3 older children that can feed pets and pick up poop, we felt ready for puppies!  These puppies turned out to be the perfect addition to our family. They are Border Collie/Chocolate Lab mixes who came with lots of energy and enthusiasm for life! They keep our boys  busy and happy, wrestling, chasing, fetching, and snuggling. I love them so much and am so grateful for my husband for pushing for these puppies. I admit I wasn't completely ready at first, and was terrified of all the poopy messes I'd have to clean up,  but after much thought and prayer I realized that these puppies would bless our lives. And they have! I haven't heard my children say once that they are bored, as they always have little playmates to keep them happy. If anyone is in a good situation to have a pet dog and is still sitting on the fence about it--Just do it! Get the dog! These little puppies are gifts to our children and have brought more joy to our home.
p.s. Their names are Thunder and Brownie.
p.s.s. Our 5 year old LOVES to shovel up poop. Don't ask me why but I think he likes the challenge of finding it in the yard. It's like a game for him. We won't  break his bubble!

We're also ready for a Cockatiel!
This is Pikachu. He is seven years old and is a fabulous bird with a fun personality. 
I found him in an add online and tried to get it it as a surprise for my husband Micah. He's always wanted a Cockatiel since I've known him! It was a reasonable price and perfect timing. The day that I was going to pick him up, I called the boys together in the big bed, and told them I had a surprise for Micah. I quietly whispered that it would be a Cockatiel and that nobody was allowed to ruin the surprise. "Shhhhhh, I said, Don't tell him!" Then Odin popped his head up, pointed,  and said,"Mom! Didn't ya know Micah is right there??" And so he was. I thought he was in the  shower, but instead he was laying on one of the smaller beds next to the big bed where I couldn't see him. Doh! "Did you just hear everything I said?," I asked. 
So much for the surprise. 
He loved it anyways!
For some reason Pikachu likes Micah the best. He will sit contentedly on Micah's shoulder all day. He must sense the gentle zookeeeper in him.
Last of all, we have adopted an abandoned kitty. His elderly owner passed away at the house next door and left him to fend for himself. His name is Patches and he is the sweetest, gentlest cat I've ever known. When we first got here and found him on our doorstep our kids were really surprised that a cat would be so friendly. The only cat exposure they've really had were the wild cats of Hilo that would run around and eat all the birds and rats!Our toddler has taken the responsibility of feeding Patches and caring for him throughout the day. He loves his "Mr. Kitty," as he calls him, and I do, too. 
Mr. Kitty enjoying the attention:

So there ya have it--Our growing family. I love all of them and all the joy, fun, and chaos they bring into my life! And don't you worry, world, I'll let ya know when I'm ready for a more serious commitment. But for now, I am all good.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Chuck-A-Rama Day

 This past Saturday evening we let our kids loose on a huge buffet. It was a pretty comical experience and reminded me of an awesome Grandma Lois story, which I will get to in a moment. 
We started out by driving to St. George, which is a town about 45 minutes south of where we live. We had a wonderful day doing fun family stuff, which was mostly Micah and I taking turns doing 2 hour sessions at the Temple, while each taking turns taking the kids somewhere fun. Micah took them rock crawling at Pioneer Park.

I took them water splashing at Hidden Valley Park. 

All in all the kids got to play for nearly 5 hours straight and me and Micah got to go into the Temple. Pretty good deal, eh?
At the end of the day we were all starving, and excited to cash in a gift card at Outback Steakhouse. Come to find out, there was a 55 minute line. Who waits in line for 55 minutes to eat dinner?? Oh yes, people with no children and time to burn.....
So we headed to Chuck-A-Rama instead. If you've never heard of Chuck-A-Rama it's a large restaurant with buffet style dining that carries nearly every type of American comfort food you've ever heard of. There are tables chock-full of everything from pizzas, to lasagna, to roast beef, to salad fixings, to muffins, to dinner rolls, to soups, to mashed potatoes, to chili and corn bread, to turkey stuffing, to ice-cream, to birthday cake, to much, much, much, much  more.
To be honest, buffets are not our family's first choice for dining because of the glutton factor. Let's face it-if you stick a hundred types of comfort foods in front of my face I'm going to eat past the point of comfort. I'm just that kind of girl. I'd rather save myself the trouble of overindulging and eat somewhere healthier and simpler. But, nonetheless, here we were-at Chuck-A-Rama on a Saturday night. Woohooo! Time to Glutt-A-Rama!

We immediately told the kids they could eat whatever they wanted, basically because we didn't feel like micro-managing their food choices. No vegetables? I don't care tonight. Just go get some food on that plate and eat like an true American! 
It started to get real funny after that because: 
1. Our 7 year old came back with an entire plate of French fries and watermelon.
2. Our 5 year old returned with an overflowing bowl of cheesy, cheesy, macaroni and cheese, and
3. Our 3 year old picked out fried chicken and green jell-o for his dinner.

Micah and I got a big kick out of watching them return plate after plate for more food. It was the Disneyland of dining experiences as far as they were concerned-- so much fun! (except no lines this time.)
Right when we thought they'd be stuffed beyond reason they wanted ice-cream....and Rocky Road cake....and lemon chiffon pie.
 I took this photo of Odin right after stuffing (almost) an entire chocolate cupcake into his mouth. 
The next words that came out after he swallowed was,"Can we get ice-cream now?"
We all burst out laughing. 
Then Jonah spilled his entire cup of blue raspberry slushee all over the table. We all burst out laughing again.
Mama and Jonah enjoying the buffet experience. (I look like I'm in a food trance.)
I told the kids the story about when my Grandma Lois used to take me to buffets when she was alive. My Grandma loved buffets. Her philosophy was that if your going to pay money to eat out you might as well get your money's worth by going buffet! When I was living in Provo, Utah as a college student she would take me to the TGIF's breakfast buffet, or the Golden Corral for dinner, or sometimes the Mongolian BBQ. I have some very special memories of sitting across from my 93 year old Grandma Lois, talking about life, while stuffing our faces with good food.
The first night she took me to the Mongolian BBQ, I was really excited about it. They had a carousel of raw meats, vegetables, spices, and noodles, where you could build your own dish then watch them cook it on a large frying surface. I headed right over when we got there and started building a plate of  garlic-chicken-noodle stir fry to my taste! I handed it over to the chef and watched as it sizzled and fried to perfection. I noticed that my Grandma was building a dish, too, stacking her plate full of raw chicken, cold noodles and raw veggies. However, after several minutes I didn't know where she went because she never handed it to the chef. 
When my noodle dish was finally done I went back to our table to eat it plus to find my Grandma. To my surprise, there she was at the table, happily eating her plate full of raw chicken, cold noodles, and raw veggies!

My first thought was to stop her before she got sick. If I warned her then she could stop eating the chicken and I could save her from the dooms of salmonella bacterial poisoning! I was pretty sure she wasn't aware of the fact that she was eating uncooked meat flesh.

"Grandma!," I said calmly as I approached the table. "You're eating raw chicken."
I got no response. She just kept on eating. She must not hear me, I thought. She's a little hard-of hearing. 
Still, no response. So I shouted it even louder.
I think the entire restaurant heard me as I saw people staring over from their booths to see what the commotion was.
Finally, my Grandma looks up at me and says nonchalantly,"It is? I thought it was salmon. Well, who cares. I've never been sick in my life, I'm not going to worry about it now." And then she happily stuffed another piece of raw chicken into her mouth.
I sat there with my jaw dropped open, unbelieving that she would actually keep eating it. But she did. And she never got sick! That woman was made of steal, I tell ya! She lived to be 100 and she never got sick.

That's one of my favorite Grandma Lois buffet stories. I thought about it and smiled as I watched my children gorge themselves on junk food last Saturday night at Chuck-A-Rama. Before we left, our two older boys were lifting up their shirts trying to compare who had the fattest tummy. When we finally got up to leave the restuarant our 3 year old started screaming and crying that he didn't want to go. He was genuinely upset and frantic about it. Why? "Because my tummy isn't fat enough!!," he screamed at the top of his lungs! "I really really need my tummy to be fatter!" Little tears welled up in his eyes and I tried to fight back laughter.
 I think the entire restuarant heard him because I saw people staring over from their booths to see what the commotion was. Well, who cares. I"m not going to worry about it now. 
We definitely got our money's worth, plus some funny family memories to cherish.
Zadok asked on the way out,"Can we come back here every month?"
No..... But we can come back in one year. 

September 21st is now Chuck-A-Rama Day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Our new Home

I love our new home! We found it on craigslist 2 weeks before we moved here and moved in sight unseen. The first day we arrived I was still swirling in a surreal daze of jet-lag and no sleep, and not sure if this house was entirely for real! 
First of all, it seemed too huge for what we are used to! It's the biggest rental we've ever lived in in our entire 8.10 years of marriage and I wasn't used to the space. The boys kept getting lost trying to figure out where everything was! Odin likes to remind me about that silly first day we moved in, where he was looking for the stairs and wound up in the bathroom!

The backdoor
It's got 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a laundry room, a storage room, a large dining room and kitchen, a living room with a fire-place, and small area we call the TV room (and $100 cheaper than our little Hilo house, I might add). Another bonus is the large backyard, which is all fenced in and extends for about 1/4 acre. It has large, mature trees, a space for a big garden, and a nectarine tree in the very back. The house is not fancy by any means, and it is old, but it was built tough and built for a family. The yellow brick walls have weathered many years of beatings from sleet and snow. The built in wooden cabinets have endured generations of muddy hand prints and crayola markings, and the wood floors are covered in the scratches and scuffs from rearing and raising children and animals. It is a strong house, and a quaint house, and even feels a little funky and unconventional. I think it fits our family perfectly!

There is a secret stairway in the dining room that ends up in a hidden bedroom near the laundry room. And guess what? That hidden bedroom is my new secret woman-cave! I am turning it into a peaceful place where I can retreat after long, exhausting days of being Mom. It's going to have cool posters and bright paintings, a shaggy rug, and it's going to be my very own space-- just like when I was 16 and I had my very own room! (Can you tell I'm really immaturely excited about this!?) Should I put up a poster of my favorite band, and hang all my earrings on a heart-shaped jewelry holder? Yes, yes I should.
The secret stairway going down into my secret bedroom.
We've been slowly adding furniture to the house as we find the right pieces to fit. I don't mind going without furniture until I find something affordable that I really like. In the past I've jumped at furnishing our homes with cheap and ugly things from yard sales or thrift stores, not caring what they look like, just wanting the darn house to be furnished. This time I'm taking things slow. I still prefer to buy inexpensive, second-hand-thrifted things, but I'm done with ugly things. I want a home that feels happy, bright, clean, and pretty to look at. I want a home that has strong wooden dressers, durable book shelves, comfy beds, and soft, bright rugs. I really don't mind keeping my clothes in a bucket or sleeping on the floor til we get there. We've got time. What's that old saying? Rome wasn't built in a day.... Well, my home is my Rome right now, and it's fun playing architect home decorator.

This big, old house is new territory for us, as we've been living in very small apartments and houses for quite a while. There's nothing wrong with that, however, as each place we have lived at has served it's purpose for that time. I remember the last time we lived in Cedar City we had a small, basement apartment with shaggy, orange carpet. I loved how I could stand in the middle of the living room and see every room in the house. I loved how fast it was to tidy up and how I could always hear my children laughing in the other room. Now I find myself shouting across the house just to find people.  I even got a baby monitor so I could hear Jonah when he wakes up downstairs. My friend Ruby had to show me how to use it because I was clueless!
(How do people live in mansions? I would feel so silly!) All in all, I am excited to fill this home with furniture, family necessities, happiness, and love. I see good things ahead in this big-old, brick house.
Funky glass doorknobs
Kitchen extension

Friday, September 6, 2013

So this is Normalcy

Very shortly after we got married I went in to see a marriage and family therapist assigned through my church. I desperately needed to talk to someone and felt led to call LDS Family Services. I was feeling miserable and confused and unsure if I could keep going on being a married person.
My therapists name was Jeffrey. He had very kind eyes and a soft smile. He listened  patiently as I tearfully unloaded all my gigantic worries and fears into his little office.

"I can't do this," I said.
"Tell me more," he said.
"I'm scared." 
Scared of what?
Scared of marriage, and divorce, and everything that I can't see ahead.
Scared of your husband?
No, not like that. He's a wonderful person and I love him so much.
What are you scared of?
I don't know exactly. I don't know how to be married. I don't know how to be in a relationship. I don't trust myself to be a good spouse.
Marriage is trust. Marriage is loyalty, devotion, honesty, service, sacrifice, love.
I don't know how to do those things. I've never seen that kind of relationship. I don't know where to start. I'm scared.
You are already doing those things. You are on the right path.
I have too many fears. They are holding me back.
Give all your fears to Christ.
Take everything you're worried about in your relationship and hand it over to Him. Tell Him you need Him to take all the hard stuff so you can focus on loving your new husband. He'll take care of it, I promise. He promises.
I'll try.
You are doing everything right. You are really trying, and your fears are validated, but you need to let them go and just love your new husband. Trust him to love you. Trust yourself to love him. Let happiness take over, and let go of all the fears. Pretty soon your life as a married person will feel normal.
I don't know what normalcy feels like.  Can you describe it to me?
You'll know it when you feel it.
 I will? 
Yes, you will.

 It's been eight years since that conversation in Jeffrey's office. I think about it often. It seems like a lifetime ago, yet it's still so clear in my mind. What is normalcy? What does it feel like? 
 Well, I've reasoned that normalcy isn't a perfect life. It isn't having a perfect house, perfect children, or all the money and things you want. It certainly isn't feeling 100% happy all the time-- My marriage has been chock full of ups and downs and twisty turns as we've learned to communicate, tolerate, and have patience for each others weaknesses. Raising children together has taken a whole new set of communication skills that we've had to develop. Yet, our struggles in growing together have made us stronger, and our weaknesses have turned into strengths over the years. Especially as I've continued to pray and hand all of my worries over to Christ, I have witnessed a marriage change from something small and weak to something strong and powerful. I never could have imagined these possibilities for my life. God has worked miracles in my life. Our lives.

One of my defining moments in reaching normalcy in my marriage occurred to me one day  when I was really mad at my husband. I can't remember what I was mad at him about, but I remember being raging, fuming mad! 
It  was then that I realized that my anger didn't change anything in our marriage. I still loved him and he still loved me, and feeling mad didn't mean I was an awful person, or he was a terrible spouse, or that we needed to consider divorce. It simply meant I was mad, and feeling mad was okay. We moved past it, we kept going, and our marriage remained strongly intact.
Marriage is hard. Marriage takes stretching . I've had to bend and mold myself to be the person I need to be for my husband and family and it hasn't been easy for me at times. 
But I have been blessed in return. I have been blessed with a marriage overflowing with loyalty, devotion, honesty, service, sacrifice, love, and trust. I have been blessed with joy, happiness, hope, and excitement for the future. 

So this is what normalcy feels like:
Two imperfect people who love and trust each other dearly.
I love you Micah Jackson. (Anyways, always, and forever and ever and ever.) 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jackson Homeschool 2013-2014

I thought I would post about what our family has lined up for homeschooling this upcoming year  so people didn't assume we just dance around the house all day.
I've spent the past few weeks doing more researching on homeschooling theories and philosophies and have found myself caught up in reading other people's blogs, websites, curriculum ideas, and many, many other homeschooling resource sites. In the end I've felt everything from inspired, to overwhelmed, to excited, to unnecessarily anxious, and finally concluded that there is TOO MUCH information out there for a Mama who just wants to simply homeschool her kids!!
So, I've been learning how to sift through the fluff to get through to the meaningful stuff and I've been learning how to distinguish between authentic programs and money-making schemes, and most importantly learning how to listen to that inner voice which tells me what my children truly need.  (motherly intuition, parental instincts, the Holy Spirit, the guiding light, the voice of God, whatever you choose to call it, it speaks truth!)

So I've concluded that the first thing they need is a mother and father who are mindfully present. And since I'm home with them during day I ideally want  a mother who makes time to sit down and patiently teach, guide, and direct my children with love. Also, a mother who takes time to pray and communicate with God each day on what she can do to help bless her children's lives through homeschooling them. Lastly, a mother who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, her hair messy, and have a blast alongside her 3 boys in everything they do.

Second, they need resources. They need to be exposed to options and opportunities! They need a home filled with art supplies, educational books, science gear, fun learning games, and things to stimulate their thinking. My five year old loves doing math worksheets, so we need to provide more worksheets  for him to do. They need opportunities to get out of the house and take extracurricular classes, meet with friends, and have active social lives. They need weekly park dates with friends! My seven year old loves karate, so we need to sign him up for classes, etec, etc....

Lastly, they need a little structure in their day. Most things my kids will learn as homeschoolers, will come naturally as we simply live from day to day. For instance they learn geology each time we hike up the river and study rocks, they learn history every time we visit a museum, and they learn math and money everytime we go shopping or play store.  However, there are certain skills they will need in life that take specific learning practice like (more) math, reading, writing, and spelling. So, I've concluded that we need to set apart some time each day to work on these things specifically.

This year Z would be in 2nd grade and O would be starting Kindergarten. J is still my adorable little tot that follows everyone around.
I don't have a set schedule set up yet for how much time we'll be spending on the following things, yet ideally I'd like to spend a little formal time each day working with the boys on these subjects:

For Zadok, 2nd grade:
Math: Primary Mathematics 2A, workbook only. Life of Fred Mathematics with the family.
Reading: free phonics program, reading Harry Potter series on his own and with the family, reading Magic Tree House Series with family as daily read-aloud, and weekly picks from the library that he wants to read.
Writing and Spelling: Daily writing practice happens a lot on his own as he likes to write books and make lists, though we'll also be trying out some copywork and dictation from favorite books.

For Odin, Kindergarten:
Math: Singapore Mathematics Activity Book. Life of Fred Mathematics with the family. 
Reading:, Magic Tree House daily read-aloud with family, weekly trips to library to pick out books. Working through reading the Bob Books. (Odin does not know how to read, yet, and is just starting to understand how to put sounds together.)
Writing and Spelling: Copywork,   Explode the Code workbook

For both: 
Physical Ed: Tumbling class for Z, Karate class for Z, weekly kickball game and park play with homeschool friends. Swimming with family at rec center once a week. Bike rides with dad. Freeze Tag with Mom. Lots of outdoor activity. (we've got this one covered)
Science: We do most of our science through asking questions about the world that occur through naturally living.... i.e. astronomy, zoology, chemistry, earth science, geology, etc, we learn together through books, cooking,  science experiments (great books from the library), and outdoor exploration. Dad is a science teacher and has a lot to offer in this area.
History: Need to do more this year.
Geography: Need to do more this year.
Music and Art: No plans. Spontaneous art projects, family jam sessions with the drums, etc. Zadok would like to take guitar lessons in the future.
Typing: Would like to get Zadok learning to type. Any suggestions on a good program let me know!
Technology: The boys are allowed to play 2 hours of computer games a day (if time allows) like Minecraft, Wizard 101, Cool Math Games, PBS Kids, or Starfall Games. I feel that it's important for my kids to learn how to operate and navigate their way on the computer. I'm 100% sure that they'll need it in life! We teach them about Internet safety and make sure they are always on safe websites, with an adult  always present when the computers are on.

Religion and Spirituality:
Our family does a morning scripture study each day after breakfast. It's important for us to start the day with family prayer and uplifting scriptures. This is something that sets the tone for the rest of the day for me. We either read from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or from the LDS scripture picture story books. We also sing hymns and primary songs that invite the spirit of God into our home. This always promotes  meaningful discussions and questions from the boys about the gospel. We try to incorporate everything we learn in life to the gospel of Christ because for us, it all goes together beautifully.

I'm excited for the upcoming school-year. Since Micah is a school teacher it makes sense for us to follow a schedule that fits his schedule. So, when school is out, we will be off playing, leaving any formal education behind us as well. I'm excited for the upcoming year and all the joy, blessings, growth, and stretching we'll do together as a homeschooling family!

Websites that inspire:
Simple Homeschool -Intentional homeschooling tips and inspiration
Still Parenting -(Waldorf/Montessori focus)
Leaping From the Box -Homeschooling and Unschooling resources
Radical Unschooling--Sandra Dodd's sight
Power of Moms-A Gathering Place for Deliberate Mothers (Not specifically homeschooling but it sure is full of daily inspiration!)