Monday, October 6, 2014

Recent Events

 Because things have been difficult lately, I think its important to remember just how blessed we are. Perspective is so important but it seems to be the first thing to go in the midst of struggle and stress. I don't know if its true of other people, but I know I tend to get "stuck" in my head. The loudest noise comes from inside my head - my worries, thoughts, fears and neverending to-do lists... It also becomes so that I can only see the things that are weighing heavy on my heart and mind. I lose sight of those things that make the struggles and the trials worthwhile.
This seems especially true when I am not taking care of myself. Not reaching out to my friends and family. Not eating well or sleeping right. Not taking the time to decompress from tough days at work or spend time in the Word, or do the things I enjoy. And I haven't been doing these things lately. I've been feeling overwhelmed and tired. This situation breeds feelings of failure because I'm never at my best when I'm burnt out. Its a nasty cycle that, from my conversations with other moms, is not unique to me.
This is an example of one of the struggles we're in the middle of right now. While playing at the park recently, I fell down and sprained my ankle. I currently have a walking boot on my right foot and should have it for another couple weeks. I'm also scheduled to being physical therapy this week and then will be working with the doctor to determine if I actually severed my ligament and will need surgery to repair it or not. If there is no surgery warranted, I should graduate to wearing a regular shoe with a brace after a couple of weeks. I'll be in the brace situation for about 3 months. Its been painful and discouraging but, again, I'm thankful for our insurance, for the care of my doctor and for the ability to use the walking boot instead of the crutches I had to use for the first week. Those were incredibly painful because of my back injury. Oh, and if you noticed this is my driving foot -- extra points for you! I'm driving with my left foot while keeping my boot wedged to the side. Its definitely a challenge. It was amazing to realize how much brain power it requires to drive with your left foot when you're so used to it being second nature with the right!
Another source of excitement and stress in our lives recently has been the weather. We've experienced two very large storm systems in the past couple of weeks that have flooded parts of the valley, impeded traffic, caused power outages and, what has affected us most directly, overtime for Lowell as he has managed the pump houses on the freeways.
He had to switch his schedule to nights for a week or so in order to maintain the freeway system. This led to changes in our schedule, picking up the kids, dropping them off, my work schedule and his sleep schedule.  The first storm was so strong, and so unexpected that part of the major freeways in the valley flooded. According to Lowell, there ended up being  between 6 and 8 feet of standing water where there should have been a major freeway artery. It ended up that the pumps that are in place specifically to move water off these low-lying areas were not functioning. ADOT got quite a black eye due to this snafu and so, instead of having pump house employees be in charge of them during the storm, they assigned mechanics to watch them instead. This is how Lowell ended up with this duty.
The late season monsoons also led to a very entertaining mud fight in our front yard, followed by a hose shower for Chloe, Jillian and Wyatt.
This was water flowing through the wash on the east side of our property. While the girls and Wyatt played in the mud, Nathan got out his AirSoft gun and pretended to be a sniper in the bushes. He didn't shoot at them, of course, but enjoyed firing into the moving water.
Another fun experience lately was a morning spent at Goodwill. The kids and I were looking for some shirts for Wyatt as he has grown out of almost all his clothes recently when we happened upon the Halloween costumes. It was great to play around with the kids, to see their creativity and to laugh with each other. I also love teaching them about bargain hunting and the value of things. They've recently been given the opportunity to earn extra money around the house with extra chores. The kids have quite a few chores they're expected to do just as a part of helping the family and they don't earn an allowance for their participation in these chores - they're just expected contributions. We rotate chores regularly so they can learn new skills and so they don't get completely sick of one thing also, but I like that they now have the chance to earn their own money. As of right now, Jillian doesn't really have any interest in money (other than what she gets from the Tooth Fairy) while Nathan is constantly asking for money, but not too motivated to earn it at this point.
I love watching my kids grown and learn, change and mature. They're so special!


 These are just some moments with our littlest blessing over the past couple of weeks. He's been fascinated with minions, or "bee-do's" as he calls them, for quite awhile now. He loves his bee-do jammies and his bee-do pillow that his daddy got him.
We've only recently stopped swimming and the kids are convinced that we still could - there have been a couple days right around 100 degrees recently. By the end of this summer, Wyatt has gotten to where he could swim a little without his life jacket.
Lowell loves to swim and was great teaching him. I definitely have fish for children - they all love the water. The pool has been such a blessing, even though it has proven to be a little bit high maintenance because of the age of the pool pump and some other issues we've uncovered.
Looking forward to next year's pool parties and warm summer months but definitely excited about some fall weather around here. Its been a long time since I've worn all those cool weather clothes in my closet!! :)
Thankfully, Wyatt still takes naps everyday and although he tries to convince me that he's not tired most days, he's really pretty good about laying down and sleeping. At least when he's at our house. When he's at the babysitters it's kind of hit and miss. And then there are the days where he just plays and plays until he collapses. These are usually days when he doesn't sleep at the babysitter's and then comes home exhausted. These are days when we get cute pictures like this. :)  He's really good at bedtime too. The big kids take turns reading him a story in his little bed and then he either reads to himself or goes right to sleep. Such a good little man!
Lowell and I are both left-handed but all three biggies are right handed. I think we may have finally gotten another south-paw in our family! Wyatt likes to do his "homework" when the biggies are doing theirs and he likes to draw little pictures whether with chalk on the garage floor or with markers and colored pencils on paper. He also loves puzzles and he's really good at them!
Another favorite activity, of course, is going to the park. Like with swimming, Wyatt has no fear. He likes to swing "way high" and absolutely loves to push the merry-go-round. That's right, push it. He will ride it when he gets tired running around in circles but he loves to be able to push other kids. I think of it as a toddler hamster wheel because he gets so much exercise doing it! :) It wears him out!
He's such a beautiful blessing to our family and getting bigger every day! He's so looking forward to starting school and I know it will be here before I know it. Just a fun fact, by the way -- in two years, when he starts kindergarten, Jillian will start junior high and Nathan will be a freshman in high school! High school, jr. high and kindergarten. Wow. :)

2014 School Year

First day of school - 2014
First day of school 2014. While it seems today has been a long time coming, I think I could've waited a little longer. At least for the growth this day is symbolic of. Beginning today, I have two kids in junior high -- two, yes two of them. And now Wyatt will be going back into some sort of childcare situation for three days a week so I can continue to work.
Chloe 6th grade, Nathan 7th grade
It also means I am only weeks away from taking my counseling licensure test (that I should have taken two years ago, but who's counting?) and we are getting closer and closer to Christmas and the start of a new year.
As always, we're busy. Nathan wanted to do cross country but they decided to only open it up to high schoolers this year. Chloe is also taking some time off of gymnastics. She's been very conscious of how beginning both junior high and an honor's program are going to take a lot of her time. Since we've drilled into the kids that school comes first, she's decided to go a few weeks and see what the workload is like and then we can decide. Meanwhile, both of them have enrolled in NJHS - National Junior Honor's Society - a service group that is only for students with good grades. And one that looks great on college applications. (I can't believe I'm already thinking about college for these guys!)
Jillian in her 4th grade classroom
 Jillian decided to do choir again because she loves to sing so much. She also gets to play an instrument this year so now we'll have a saxophone and a violin in the house. Nathan decided to take a year away from the trombone to do art this year. I'm blessed to have children who are multi-talented but it makes choosing electives tricky! :) We'll see what next year holds.

Beautiful girl!
Chloe is interested in trying out for cheerleading as an alternative to gymnastics if we can't make that work and Nathan wants to do track in the spring.
Nathan's field trip this year is to Washington DC while Chloe will be going to AstroCamp and Jillian to the Grand Canyon. I'm excited because parents are allowed to chaperone to the Grand Canyon and I've never been. If I'm able to go, we'll be camping for 3 days in May. :)  Nathan will be going to the Capital in March and Chloe's trip to AstroCamp is in November, I think. I feel so blessed that our kids get to attend a school that gives them these fantastic opportunities to experience their world.
I'm not completely in love with a 7th grade Nathan being on the other side of the country for 5 days but I went to DC in 8th grade... Its just that I felt so much older than he is!!! :) He's going to be working at different venues to earn money for his trip and I'm glad that he'll have ownership in the trip because he's worked to pay for it.
Looking forward to a great year with these kiddos!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Camping Weekend 2014

                       Payson, AZ
First Weekend in August
We went camping with some friends of Lowell - there were about 30 people total. It was nice to get out of the heat and to see some nature! The kids remarked on how nice it was to see some green and also to climb on rocks, smell the trees and to look for animals. We saw elk tracks and scat and hawks, squirrels and free range cows. We were told there are bald eagles that fly around the lake, but we didn't see any.
  Nathan loved climbing on the rocks and exploring and made some new friends. They caught crawdads, played army, and were just "boys" for the weekend. Also, Lowell bought himself a knife for the trip and then ended up giving it to Nathan. Its a really nice Gerber knife with a flint and sharpener included. Its a "survivor" knife and Nathan absolutely loved it! The boys whittled sticks and practiced making fire.
At the lake, the water was pretty cold and there wasn't a very good place to swim. Lowell jumped in just to enjoy the cool while Chloe, Jillian and Wyatt threw rocks in the water and Nathan caught crawdads.

It rained quite a bit on our trip but our group was very well prepared. While it rained, we played cards and games or read books. The kids ran around and played or hunted for firewood or the perfect s'more stick. One of the other families has a 3 year old little girl who Wyatt played with but he was the entertainment for the whole group. Everyone talked about how cute he is and how silly. Actually, they commented on how good our children are, period. How good they are with each other and how well behaved they are. That makes a mom's heart proud. :) Love them so much.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Independence Day

Finale at Youngker High School
Me and my babies

Thankful for our independence
Love of my ife
 As is our tradition, we spent our 4th of July at the neighborhood family fun day at the high school down the street. The kids played red light/green light in the field, ran around, did gymnastics and played with each other. Nathan saw his girlfriend and got teased about it for the rest of the night and we sang along with the local band. They were actually pretty good! :)
The day before the 4th we had a huge monsoon storm and there were threats on Friday as well but the night turned out beautiful and mild. Wyatt loved the fireworks this year and clapped after each one. The evening was relaxing and fun -- a perfect celebration of our freedom and a reminder of how lucky we are to be Americans.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Its Been Awhile

To update everyone on our lives from September until now seems a little daunting but I'm going to try to at least hit the highlights. Here goes:

October: Halloween, of course. The three younger kids dressed up and went trick-or-treating and even tried out a neighborhood haunted house. Pumpkinology was a day at school in Jillian's class where the subjects were focused on pumpkins. Science and math, reading stories about pumpkins and, of course, gutting them to prepare them for metamorphosis into jack-o-lanters. I was thrilled to be able to spend the day with her. Unfortunately, October was also when Jillian broke 3 bones in her foot by falling off the balance beam. Chloe was blessed by a 5th grade field trip to Catalina. If you watched GMA during October, you may have seen the story on the giant oar fish that washed up on the beach -- she was there and got to see it as well as all the media coverage. Pretty cool! :)

November: Nathan's turn for an awesome field trip. His class went to Astro Camp outside Palm Springs and had a great time.Chloe and I went to state gymnastics meet to get a feel for competition since she'll soon be Level 3 and asked to be part of the competitive team. She wanted to see what it was like and was encouraged by what she saw. Of course, November ends with Thanksgiving and we spent this year's in our OWN HOME. :) It was quiet and nice. And we continued our tradition of decorating the house for Christmas.

Chloe and her friend Maranda playing the violin
The kids with Santa at SWFAC
December: Christmas, of course and all the things that go along with it: the Buckeye Christmas parade and the kids' concerts. New this year was the Winter Wonderland at the advocacy center where I work - SWFAC. It was a program put on for the children who were victims who came through the center this year. The kids came and volunteered with me; Nathan helped with the cake walk, Chloe worked in the card making room and Jillian helped with making the gingerbread houses. December ended with Lowell's birthday and New Years. Both were days we took full advantage of having my dad here as a willing babysitter and went out together.

January: January was a big month. First was my birthday and we spent the whole day together at the zoo where we had a lot of fun and I got pooped on by a bird. Then, on the 13th I learned I was losing my job. The non-profit I have worked for had decided to close our program and that we would all be out of work by the end of June. I spent most of the last two weeks of the month in shock.

Jillian and her choir teacher

February: And then spent the first weeks of February taking care of a custody case for some kids I'd been seeing. I went to court and testified on their behalf; first time I've done that and it was terrifying but it felt great to know I could help. Jillian had a shopping day at school to learn about sales and I was able to help her man her finger-nail painting station. They were given monopoly money to shop with, sold their products, and then calculated their profit and loss statements.

March: The 15th was Jillian's birthday and since she wanted a pool party, we just had a small family gathering and postponed her actual party until the weather warms up. We also did a Community clean-up that Wyatt still talks about it. We went up to an area previously used for an informal shooting range and picked up trash. The whole family went, even Grandpa and we all had a good time. Spring break happened in March and was pretty uneventful but the talent show was a big adventure. Chloe and Jillian both participated in the event - Chloe doing an original gymnastics routine with her friend and Jillian singing a solo as well as performing with Show Choir. They both did a great job and worked on overcoming their stage fright.

Jordan in the hospital. Day 1
April: April was a very eventful month, especially for Chloe. I chaperoned her field trip to ASU where we went to the planetarium and space exhibit; she was promoted to level 3 in gymnastics and invited to be part of the competitive team, and her cat, Max, had to have surgery due to an infected bite by what was probably another cat. I was also incredibly busy in April. I found a new job with a company called Crisis Preparation and Recovery (CPR) and had my last day at my Glendale location. I started working part time with A New Leaf until the final location closes at the end of June and part time for CPR at the site in Glendale. Easter was a fun family day where we spent time at church and our tradition of hiding eggs here at the house but the most memorable event of April was Jordan's accident. Jordan was driving his motorcycle up one of our roads and a truck turned in front of him. He didn't have time to stop and was thrown over the bed of the truck. He had surgery on his right arm and was in a drug induced coma for a short period of time. All told, he broke his scapula, nose, wrist, and sternum; had a compound fracture on his right arm where they inserted a rod and pins, and a deep gash on his right knee. He currently has had his cast removed and is going to begin physical therapy. The prognosis is that he may have permanently lost the ability to completely rotate his hand - palm up - palm down, but that it shouldn't significantly affect his quality of life. Otherwise, they believe he should be fine.
Chloe with her 5th grade award
Nathan with his camo birthday cake
Jillian with her teacher

May: Because of the end of school and holidays mainly, May was another extremely busy month. Nathan's birthday was celebrated just with the family because he is also going to celebrate his birthday by going paintballing over the summer. Chloe's birthday was here at home and small because she is going to take some friends to Jump Street. Mother's day was special because the kiddos made me some gifts and I got a card. Events celebrating the end of the school year included the kid's awards ceremonies, concerts, Jillian's Multiplication MathFacts Bee (in which she placed 7th) and Chloe's Amazing Race Day. We also learned both Chloe and Nathan were accepted into the honor's program. Unfortunately, May was also when I learned my friend, Lorraine has bladder cancer. She had surgery last week to remove the tumor and the prognosis is very good; at this point, they don't even think she'll need chemo. Prayers for her are appreciated!

June: As for June, on the 9th Jillian had her tonsils removed and has been recovering ever since. She's anxiously awaiting the day she can eat regular food and sing and swim. We've got a check-up with the doctor on the 25th to get her clean bill of health. Wyatt had his 3rd birthday on the 6th and we had a bar-b-que and swim party with some friends. Since Chloe had such success making Nathan's camo cake that she decided to make a "Bee-do" cake for Wyatt. (Bee-do is what Wyatt calls the minions on Despicable Me). It was adorable and Wyatt loved it. Father's day, our anniversary and Jordan's 21st birthday were all on the same day this year so we had more cake - Chloe made one for Jordan too - and a quiet evening at home. Lowell and I went to the hot springs and out to dinner to celebrate later in the week.

This is by no means an exhaustive narrative of our past 9 months but it basically gets everyone caught up on our lives thus far. :) Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us! Hopefully I'll be better at keeping this thing up to date from now on.