Monday, February 8, 2016

Best Reads of 2015

In 2015 I had one goal.  Well, I had one goal and one wish.  My wish was to lose ten pounds, but instead I gained twenty.  But I don't really want to talk about that.  Let's talk about books instead.

My one real goal was to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I tracked my reading all year long to make sure I kept up.  (LOVE Goodreads!) Even though I've never read this much in one year previously, it really wasn't hard because I kept at it week after week and little by little book 2 turned into book 22, and in week 47, I finished number 52.  (And I had a little help from listening to two of them on cd, instead of actually reading them.)

Here are my favorites. 

Best in Family Read-Aloud

I love reading to my kids.  I mean really, truly love it.  You know how some moms are so awesome at doing crafts with their kids and some are amazing at feeding their kiddos 100% organically because they love it and are naturally good at it?  That's how I am with reading.  Snuggling those kids up in my lap and reading to them comes naturally (crafting--not so much) and just feels so right.

The Winner:
Caddie Woodlawn is hands down my favorite book I've ever read to my children.  I will forever remember the sweet, golden moments we had as we read about Caddie and the looks of wonder in my children's eyes as they gazed at my teary eyes and wet cheeks. 

Other favorites:  
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
The Twenty One Balloons by Willam Pene du Bois
The Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Bauer Wise

Best in Fiction

The Winner:
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
The Boston Girl is the story of a young girl coming of age in Boston in the 1920's. Each chapter is a short story about Addie Baum and is told as an 85 year old woman to her granddaughter.  The characters are strong, the stories interesting, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes light. 

Other favorites:
Still Alice by Lisa Genova (Foul Language Warning)
Wonder by R.J. Palacio 
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Best in Non Fiction 

The Winner:
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
This book rocked my world and you should read it.  That's all.

Other favorites
Beautiful by Katie Piper
127 Hours by Aron Ralston
My Story by Elizabeth Smart
American Wife by Taya Kyle
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Best in Parenting 

The Winner:
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
I've read this twice I loved it so much and have recommended it to anyone who will listen to me.  I've gotten numerous texts from friends as they are reading it to tell me about how much they were enjoying it too.  It's not really a parenting book, but kinda sorta is.  It's like my new bible.  I laughed so hard I cried and then I cried because my heart had been so deeply touched.  

Other favorites:
Smart Money Smart Kids by Rachel Cruze and Dave Ramsey
Real Moms: Making It Up As We Go by Lisa Valentine Clark (Written for an LDS audience.)

Here's to another year of great stories and learning. 


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Homeschool to Public School: 90 Days Later

Yesterday was the 90th day of school.

That means we've reached the halfway point.


I thought it would be fun to do something a little silly to celebrate this milestone, so I cut breakfast in half.  Half a plate, half a cup, half an egg, pancake, and orange, and half a napkin.  The kids sure got a kick out of it.  It took me all of 30 seconds and I think it is something they will long remember!

For me, these last 90 days have gone rather quickly.  One of the boys agrees and one not so much.  (Six hours is so looooooong, Mom.)  :)  Love that boy.

I knew this was the right decision for our family.  I wrote more about that (back here) when my heart was ripping out and I had so many worries and concerns.  But those boys have done marvelously.  They've had (mostly) good attitudes and positive experiences.  The frustrations have been few and far between and I'm happy and grateful for the experiences they've had.  I've been delighted at many of the crafts and activities they've done and have found myself complimenting their teachers repeatedly for their positive efforts and ideas.  

Here's what half a year of 2nd grade looks like.  Bud looks through this folder every once in awhile and he loves to show his papers to his dad.   I had grand plans to have him cull it a bit over Christmas break.  That definitely didn't happen. 

And he LOVES hanging each new craft and creative writing assignment on his wall.  (I keep thinking we need to revisit our morning routine because I've noticed a lot of unmade beds lately! Ha!)

All ready for their Halloween parties.  

I chose to skip the costume parade (massive crowd + toddler + no parking = I'll pass) and instead volunteered in both of their classes for their parties.  Hawk and Tigerlily happily joined in and Mowgli and Bud loved showing them off to their classmates. 

We've been fairly consistent with an after school snack and chat.  The boys know they need to be prepared with at least three things to tell me about their day.  Sometimes I have to follow up with more probing questions like asking them to tell me something funny, or sad, or silly, or interesting.  

 Mowgli became "bathroom certified" and cleans the kids' bathroom each Saturday.  

One afternoon, I sneaked them on out for a field trip to the Natural History Museum where we got to dissect an owl pellet.  (So cool!)  

Mowgli's tried to keep up on scouts, and he's still doing a pretty darn good job, but I've noticed it getting pushed aside for other things. 

Homework in the van has happened a time or two.  

Mowgli decided to run for student government and won!  We celebrated with ice cream.  

Hawk and Tigerlily have enjoyed their "schooling."  We don't have a set schedule, but whenever it works out, they get their backpacks on and walk around the basketball hoop in the driveway and come back and knock on the door--I welcome them to preschool.  They sure get a kick out of it and really act like I'm their teacher.  At the end, they "walk home" and come tell me all about it.  Oh boy, it cracks me up every time.  This is nothing formal or even well thought-out or planned, it just happens. 

We began doing piano lessons every other week, which is seriously dreamy and I don't think we'll ever go back to weekly music lessons.  It's been perfect for us.    

When fall break came around, I loaded the kids on up and headed for the mountains of Wyoming.  Here we are by the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park.  

And we threw in a stop to The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

 There was also that day we played hooky and ended up here.  (More days like this to come!)

Bud did a report on his culture and identity and was proud to have his dad join him for his presentation.  They did a Samoan slap dance together and showed some artifacts.  Those kids drank it up and even some of the staff and assistant principal came, once they caught wind of what was going on.  

I look forward to every other Wednesday when I spend 1 hour in Bud's classroom. (And we always take a selfie.) Some weeks I hang out for recess and play a game with he and his friends and some weeks I just stand back and enjoy watching them from a distance.   

All of the 4th graders did a super cool project on Utah counties.  They were each assigned a county that they researched and built a "parade float."  Mowgli was excited to get San Juan County and he sure loved that project!

Then the students had a parade where parents and students could walk through and see all the floats.  

We still try to make sure we have plenty of time to read together.  We've done 3 read alouds this year: James & The Giant Peach, The BFG, and A Christmas Carol.  We are currently reading The One and Only Ivan

We still try to enjoy the arts in ways we did before.  Here we are at James and the Giant Peach in live theater.  We also went to A Christmas Carol. 

Our first time at parent/teacher conferences.  (Don't ask me why my eye looks to be melting into my face.)

We still make an effort to spend time nourishing our souls in nature.  

About 6 weeks ago, one of the boys asked about homeschooling next year.  Truth be told, I was a little surprised.  They've been so positive, I began to wonder if they may want to continue on this path for another year or two (which really caused mixed emotions for me).  They've since brought it up a few more times and one of the boys is fairly (very) confident he wants to be home next year.  The other vacillates.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.

Two things I've learned:
1.  Scary, new adventures can be really good. 
2.  Seasons change and so do we.  And as we change, our circumstances, lifestyle, and choices may need a little tweaking too.

Well, my time is up.  The boys will be home shortly and Tigerlily is beginning to stir from her afternoon nap. 


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Women's Retreat 2015

Seven years ago my mom, sisters and I sat in a Chili's restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona and decided we were going to start getting together one weekend a year, just us.  That weekend we had professional photos taken and we attended the LDS General Women's Meeting and a tradition was born.  Another year we spent some time in Tuscon, then a couple of years at a condo in downtown Salt Lake City, followed by a year in Star Valley (Wyoming), Eagle Mountain (Utah), and this year in the desert of Rock Springs (Wyoming).   My dad has been able to be part of these gatherings for the last 4 or so years as well. 

It is such an uplifting time that I look forward to all year long! Over the years we've done several hikes (our favorite!), shopped, gone to movies, plays, and a taping of a live TV show. We've gone to the temple, restaurants, Music and the Spoken Word, and church at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. We attend or record the General Women's meeting that is part of the LDS Conference and watch it together. We talk, we laugh, sometimes we cry. And I'll always remember the year we drove to a lake way up in the mountains, pulled out our chairs, sat in a circle, and read our individual books for a few hours.

I love spending time with these inspiring people. I always want to do better, be better, after spending time with them. They each bring their own strengths that influence me. One sister inspires me to be more compassionate and forgiving. Another motivates me to be more healthy and organized. My parents' example of endless service sparks a desire to give more.

This year I loved sitting with my dad as he talked about the importance of this time for us as women. He talked about how essential it is for us to be able to support, encourage, and connect with each other and how differently we speak when it's just "us." He encouraged us to always make this an important time that we cling to each year and make happen--even in the midst of hectic lives and busy schedules.

The fact is: women need women.
This year's highlights included an early Saturday morning hike.  It was such a beautiful hike (and steep too) with 1,000 foot accent up White Mountain. 

We had a perfect view of Pilot Butte (pictured in the background) from the top.

I loved being able to explore the desert right out my sister's back door!  
We also snuck a movie in there (Everest), a musical my niece and nephew were in, the Women's General Broadcast, great food, conversations, and a bit of reading (of course).

Till next year!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Labor Day 2015

It's October!  But this post is going to take us back to Labor Day. 

We've enjoyed spending Labor Day in Wyoming the last couple of years.  It's the perfect getaway before the cold weather (read: blizzards!) move on in and force you indoors (in Wyoming, that is.  Utah's winters aren't quite so bad.)

We had grand plans to camp with my brother's family and my parents but the overnight lows were 29 degrees and that's a tad bit cold for this tent sleeper so my parents kindly let us stay in their trailer and they stayed the night at home. 

There are very few things I enjoy more than being in nature with my family.  It is there where I feel peace, happiness, and contentedness more than any other. 


The kids were eager to get a secret hideout made right away. 

Which turned into a family affair. 

I loved spying on Bud who was making miniature houses and other creations with pebbles and sticks. 

We were grateful to be able to go inside the trailer and warm up, I'll tell you what.  

And games while camping are definitely required!  

Here we are having a late night cereal snack and about to begin a card tournament after the little two fell asleep.  

On Sunday after church I really wanted to stop at the cemetery.  It'd been awhile since we had been there and I felt a longing to visit and to have my mom tell the stories of our ancestors to the kids.  We walked to each of our loved ones' headstones and my mom (and sometimes me too) would tell about their life.  The kids were particularly interested in the ancestor of ours who had four wives and there's headstones for each of them next to him.     

Sunday night we gathered (piled on top of each other) at my brother's house to watch The Love Bug.  

Labor Day morning we enjoyed a hike together and I love that this daddy loves to pack babies and barbies up mountains. 

I love this view of my favorite place.

We also made a quick stop at the LDS temple site.  This is the first temple to be built in Wyoming and is a pretty exciting thing to watch. 

Happy Fall Ya'll!
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