Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017, and its accompanying resolutions

At the dawn of (what I thought was) 2016* Joe and I resolved to change some things - I determined I would work hard to wait to eat dinner until he got home, I would push the kids to clean their own messes rather than undertaking most of it myself, and we would do "mundane" as a family.  Joe determined to read more to the kids, to give me lots of compliments, and to appreciate the things he has.

We sat this week, discussing what we would like to get out of the new year, and how we think we did on last year's* resolutions. We agreed that we had basically done well according to our hopes! Which, when you look back at a resolution and a) laugh, or b) don't remember that you ever made that resolution, is quite exceptional! We (more or less) ACCOMPLISHED the things we resolved to do! 2016 was a WIN!

*EXCEPT. Except they were 2015's New Year's resolutions, and we accomplished them 2 years later. 2016 I resolved to say "no" to making my life crazy by taking on favors I felt overwhelmed by. Upon re-discovering this, I a) laughed, and b) didn't remember making that resolution. Looking back, though, I think I did well on this, largely due to the fact that we moved, so for a long time nobody knew us enough to ask any favors! (~dusts hands off dramatically~)

That gave me good hope for 2017, where I have challenged myself in 3 new areas:
1. To read my scriptures daily, personally.
We already read scriptures each morning as a family, but that is basic reading, not any studying, and I could stand a lot more studying! Considering how much I enjoy reading, this shouldn't be a difficult resolution, yet I know that it is! I like to read for pleasure and relaxation, and my goal isn't to read for pleasure and relaxation, thus forcing me to read in a different way. THAT will be the challenge.
2. To center my life on Christ.
This is a pretty general resolution, but I'm unsure of how to specify it more. I hear that the best way to reach goals is to set concrete steps, and I figure reading my scriptures daily is a good step on that road! I obviously plan to keep attending church in week, and I am serving in Young Women, which means I also plan and attend activities mid-week that have spiritual aspects to them. But I don't really have other mini-goals to reach, so it's more of a general shift of mindset. To focus on centering my life on Christ, instead of trying to juggle the things I already do and then ADDING to reach my goal. I want my daily activities to be reaching that goal for me - less time on Netflix shows, more time working on completing my Personal Progress experiences. Less time listening to dance party songs, more uplifting music. I assume that as the year progresses my resolution will also progress, and I'm looking forward to seeing the shift as I more fully understand how to fulfill this resolution.
3. To do something each week that scares me.
This doesn't have to be something physical, like eating a hot pepper or bungee jumping; instead, something that intimidates or challenges me. It CAN be physical, but I also find meeting new people to be a little scary; putting myself in a new situation is uncomfortable, but desirable. Doing something scary each day sounded exhausting, and once a month was too easy to procrastinate; once a week sounds about right! 52 experiences to stretch and grow me in 52 different ways. I chose this resolution because I felt like I've been closing myself down - I am so perfectly content at home, with my kids, in the same routine, I have started feeling anxiety at the smallest things! And I am not content to be content, I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet! So I needed a push.

So far I have challenged myself twice: A) I played chess, and B) I confronted a financial problem. Chess was relatively easy, but seriously - I've been afraid of chess since middle school! We did a chess unit in school, and while we all learned the rules at the same pace we didn't all pick up the same passion for it. Some kids really understood and enjoyed the strategy and the attack! I felt hopelessly lost, NO strategy, NO attack, why are you taking all my pieces and why can't we just get along?!? I felt terribly hunted and hated to play the game. Never played again. In the past few years, my dad taught Patrick to play, so Joe has stepped in and played with him at home, also teaching Eli and Caroline the basics, but I have stayed 100% of the sidelines, secretly remembering the feel of being hunted. In the after-Christmas sales I sought out a nice wooden, carved chess set, and I faced my fears and took on Joe. Maybe it's years of playing other cut-throat games, and maturity that brings comprehension of strategy, or maybe I was just excited to be taking on my resolution head-on, but I played against Joe and I really enjoyed it!
Beginner's luck, I also won! He was too ashamed to appear in the picture.

My second challenge, The Financial Problem, was much less fun because FINANCES, and I didn't choose the problem. The first of the year we received our quarterly bill from our HOA, usually $108, and it was $735. WHAAAAAT?!?!?!? One of those horrible moments where your insides disappear. I wanted to run out of the room (I calmly walked, though, because I am *cough*so mature and able to handle things*). Joe studied the bill, and the discrepancy was multiple cable TV charges - we had cable TV in our "bundle" from Comcast, and while this "bundle" made our internet cheaper, even though we don't ever use the cable, it initiated a monthly charge of $60 through our HOA for having cable TV. And then it was billed in a lump sum for the 10 months we've lived here, for $600. Again, WHAAAAT?!? So I was put in charge of detangling the "snafu," and I was pretty mad/terrified. I had to keep the mad up to overcome the terrified, but stay anxious enough to keep me civil in my contact with all parties in the bill. It took one long day of phone calls and meetings (and I'm pretty convinced interceding angels), but the charges were dropped and we could go on with out lives WITHOUT cable and WITHOUT paying the bill and WITH my guts reinstated... and with another challenge down! Now I have 50 more challenges to overcome, and I am actually getting excited! I will (I assume) be in charge of choosing most of the things I want to do to stretch myself, and the few gut-punches that come along will be met with slightly more confidence than I had before.

I have no idea what Joe's resolutions are. Maybe he should resolve to make some ;)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Kicking (and tumbling) off the new year

For Christmas we often suggest that my parents get the kids experiences, to be experienced later in the year. Sometimes it has been a membership to a museum, sometimes a day-pass for the family, sometimes an individual class specific to that child. This year Caroline has been asking to begin gymnastics class again. Last Christmas her gift was dance class and some new ballet slippers, and she enjoyed that for 2 months, but at the end of it all she kept asking when she would do gymnastics again! So I hopped on the ball as soon as we moved and did absolutely nothing about it.

Eventually, Christmas 2016 rolled around. My mom was asking for gift ideas at the same time Caroline was asking for gymnastics classes, and an idea was born! I found a studio incredibly close to us that offers many levels and age groups at many convenient days and times, and I knew Ethan would enjoy a run-around-have-fun gymnastics class, too.... but HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS, they ALSO have a NINJA class! I do believe this is a way to get older boys to do gymnastics without feeling awkward that they're signed up for gymnastics, as the skills are basically the same and the equipment is, of course, exactly the same.

Tonight was the first class! We were there early but I still managed to miss Caroline's class getting called in because I was that annoying parent who was too distracted taking pictures of the experience to actually experience the experience. But I have grandparents to appease and a blog to update, gosh dang it!

Caroline's class has 3 little girls and a lovely teacher. Caroline has really put her heart into her latest activities - piano and skiing - so I expect gymnastics will have the same gratifying feel.

Eli was the one and only kid in his class, but it's the first week of the new year so I wouldn't be surprised if that was a fluke. Still, his one-on-one experience was so much fun! He rolled and planked and crawled and jumped and tumbled to his sweaty, healthful delight. We have tried numerous times to get the kids excited about push-ups and sit-ups, but it's a bit like trying to get them excited about vegetables. Still, when a TEACHER puts out the task of push ups and sit-ups, they are an exciting new challenge! Perhaps that will help shed a new light on them at home :)

Ethan was one of two preschoolers in his class. The other girl had obviously been taking lessons for a session or two, and his enthusiastic teacher and his well-trained classmate had him running all the right directions. I was really impressed with all the skills he already showed in only one day!

Patrick is already very active in Scouts, one night a week, and began playing basketball in a local league where they practice once a week and have a game each weekend. With 3 evenings already busy for him and NONE busy for the other kids, I had my parents gift him a book so he can read while the little ones tumble. Thus he is beginning the Eragon series, which I read and loved, and it was written by a brilliant 14-year-old (he finished the series in his 20's) so I hope it hits a chord with Patch.

Happily, all 3 classes are at exactly the same time, so I think we will be having wonderfully full Monday evenings! We are definitely looking forward to enjoying our Christmas experiences.

Kids Craft-a-Palooza

In December there was a fun activity one Saturday morning where a couple moms got together, each mom bearing a craft that could be done by lots of kids (I believe we had 18 kids at the activity). It was a fun, crafty few hours, thanks to the genius of this lovely lady, Rachel:
The beauty was that I have very limited patience with my own kids when doing a craft, plus a low tolerance for messes, and after one craft I am tapped out for the day. THIS way, I had LOTS of patience for other people's kids! My one craft's mess was pretty limited, AND the activity wasn't at my house so I didn't worry about it being dragged into other rooms. I only had to do one craft, but my kids came home with 5 or 6! There were adorable tea towels

 Glittery paper snow globes. There were white pom pons glued all over them by the end, they were hung with pride when we got back home!

 Beaded snowflakes. Ethan wasn't into really any of the crafts, but he DOES love stringing beads, so he spent the majority of his time at this table.

 These cool plates! The kids used oil-based permanent markers, then the plates dried for a few days, then baked for a couple hours to help the paint set. Eli and Caroline both worked very hard on their designs, first as sketches, then as final projects - I was impressed at their concentration! The less-impressive part was the project not holding up. It's a pinterest project, just markers on a plate, so it can't be THAT solid, but even with hand-washing they immediately started scratching off. BUT... I try to remind them that a large part of the joy of crafting is in creating, not in then keeping it around forever to collect dust. So they will collect cookies for a few years until the designs are totally gone, but we will enjoy them while they are here :)
 There were a couple other stations, such as candy can reindeer, candy cane mice, and pinecone owls, so I didn't get photos of everything, but trust me - everything was cute! And we moms agreed it was SO much fun, we'll definitely make it a tradition for next year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Adventures in skiing

 We took the whole family skiing for the first time ever! Joe had the Monday after Christmas off so we thought it could be a grand adventure. Anything with 4 kids is not only an adventure but an exercise in planning, packing, and patience, so we set the bar high! When we skied last year we had 3 adults and 2 kids, so why not switch it up and completely overwhelm ourselves? HaHA, we are geniuses!

First, the planning: When Sports Authority was going out of business Joe came across great deals on their rental skis - skis and boots were only $10 each! He bought 3 pairs of skis and 2 boots, all kids sizes because that's what they had left. All of a sudden, skiing wasn't going to cost a million dollars just to get the family into skis! We got those set to Caroline, Eli, and Patrick on Christmas day (Eli ended up needing to rent boots). We looked up a few of the closest ski resorts and settled on Crystal Mountain because all kids under 10 ski free, and even though it's 2 hours away it's still the closest place. We would rent skis for Joe and and for Ethan, and I would wrangle kids in my regular winter boots and not ski.

Second, the packing: We dragged out every pair of snow pants, jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, and ski goggles because the forecast said it would be a high of 20 degrees but feel like 10, and I know the quickest way to ruin a ski day is to be COLD. We loaded up a huge lunch, because another way to ruin a good day is to be HUNGRY. The two hour drive back was sure to be a time for rumbly tummies and boredom so I made sure we had extra snacks for the drive home, and I brought along our portable DVD player so we could rest our parental ears from any potential "when will we be home???" whining.

Eli is prepared for the cold

Third, the patience: Caroline and Ethan had never been skiing before, so they would need LOTS of help and probably get really frustrated. Eli has been skiing twice before and based on his two previous experiences, would definitely needs lots of help and get really frustrated.  We're pretty sure skiing is NOT the sport for him, but he likes to think it is. Patrick would likely be no trouble in the physical portion, but he is a kid and kids can get whiney, so we needed to keep our wits about us and not lose our minds, like "we drove two hour to get here and paid good money for this skis and you will have fun so help me!!" We didn't want to be THOSE parents.

We spent the morning in the beginner zone, where they have a never-before-seen-by-me contraption that takes the kids around in a circle on flat ground. Genius! Get the feel for skis before you head down a hill! Caroline and Patrick really enjoyed this.

They had ropes for skiers/snowboarders to hold onto, and then a few tubes attached for kids who needed a break and just wanted to sit and have fun; Ethan really enjoyed THIS.

Ethan was even a step below the merry go round so I pulled him with my scarf. At first he screamed and screamed, like being pulled along at 0 miles per hour with your mother at the helm meant certain death, but he calmed down eventually and by the end of the day had devised a little "stop/go" game for me and enjoyed me taking him down hills.


So in the end, all our planning, packing, and patience paid off! Caroline ended up LOVING skiing, and Joe took her down the real bunny hill TWICE, and (with the help of Joe) she never fell! Patrick went down the bunny hill tons of times and never fell (all his own skill). Eli enjoyed the Magic Carpet zone and never broke down crying - WIN! Ethan ended up having a wonderful day with 1/3 skiing, 1/3 tubing, and 1/3 just running around in the snow. Joe had a fun day with whoever was ready and able to ski, and I had a fun day running around in my boots and not feeling frustrated that I was missing anything (like getting my money's worth, because I hadn't spent a nickel to be there myself). It was an adventure, to be sure, and took us from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with 2 meals on the road and 5 hours of driving (thanks, ski traffic), but now we can say WE DID IT.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas 2016

Some Christmases are more successful than others... and this one was one of those that make the other Christmases look like a schmuck! We had a WONDERFUL time!

I was a little stressed out at the beginning of December when my goal of having all my shopping done got pushed back, and back, and the 1st quickly became the 18th.... but I got it all done before Christmas, and it hasn't always happened that way! And somewhere in the middle there we had some friends watch all the kids for us and Joe and I had a wonderful shopping day to ourselves - it was one of the magical shopping moments where you find just what you're looking for and you're in the mood to buy it without hesitation.

Sometimes I get caught up second-guessing myself, even when it will obviously be good in the long run - this happens a lot with grocery shopping! For instance: I know I'll need more oatmeal soon, but how soon is soon? Oatmeal's not on sale right now, so maybe I should wait? But maybe I'll need it soon and I should get it now (splurge on the extra 50 cents, since it's not on sale, heaven forbid). But seriously, nobody in my family is that crazy about oatmeal, so I should definitely wait, right? I hem and haw and stand there for approximately 180478378 years, make my decision NOT to buy the oatmeal and firm up my resolve to not take this long on my next shopping purchases, but then I come to the cold cereal.... and it starts all over again. And I get home, exhausted from my mentally challenging shopping experience so I want to make No Bake Cookies, and it turns out we are OUT OF OATMEAL.

So I was worried it would be like this with Christmas shopping! But NO, it was AWESOME, and on top of it all we got to go out to lunch without kids, so we had huge, greasy, delicious burgers from Five Guys. Anything that wasn't purchased that whirlwind day was bought with Amazon Prime and came in plenty of time for no-stress wrapping (and led to plenty of  remember when Amazon was an online site for buying books, and who even needed that? conversations.)

As a common-but-still-cute-tradition we bought new pajamas for the kids to wear Christmas Eve. The Cat&Jack line from Target had adorable stuff that really fit each kid's personality, so Ethan got diggers, Eli got a bear, Patrick got a Triceratops, and Caroline got a dress.

Debbie and John sent their packages with LOTS of time to spare, and far exceeded our own purchases in sheer volume! By the time we had all presents set out, our tree skirt was full to the brim... but there is a moment if disappointment when you come out Christmas morning and the presents look basically the same as the night before (even though seriously, there are a million presents), so Santa came by Christmas Eve and added chairs and tables for a multi-layer stacking effect. And, as is our tradition, the stockings were removed from the mantle, filled with candy and a few small gifts, and set by a large Santa gift somewhere in the room, so there were presents everywhere.

Sure enough, Christmas morning there were GASPS of delight from the kids (yessssss!). You know it's a good gasp when you can hear them all the way down the hall in your bedroom :) We got clothes and books and toys and gifts-asked-for and total-surprise-gifts, we got games for now and experiences for later (paid-for classes starting in January). The big surprise gift was a keyboard for the kids, with a set of headphones (for the parents' sanity). We were SO BLESSED with gifts!

Ethan left the hubbub after he opened his matchbox cars from Debbie and digger from Santa - he was content to play in the other room on his road!

Christmas on a Sunday is looked forward to with dread, but we decided we would use 11:00 church to slow down our morning and stretch it out into a whole day, so we opened most of our gifts before church, then attended a special one-hour service that was centered around music (which makes me cry) and had a few speakers (which also made me cry). It was a wonderful break from the physical to appreciate the spiritual. I had a moment, while we were singing and I was crying, where I could see the older members of the ward as the young children, when they were singing with their parents and their grandparents, and I could see the very young children in the ward and how they will be the grandparents, singing alongside their children and grandchildren, and it all happens in the space of a moment. The days are long, but the years fly by, and all of these generations pass in a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, and we are ALL blessed by the birth of our Savior, and by his sacrifice for every single one of us. Including me! In that very moment! It was a wonderful moment.

 Wonderful days filled with wonderful moments: a Christmas miracle.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Finished! In that 98% Kirsta-kind-of-way

 I have continued working on the tree skirt, and I am pretty darn pleased with the results! There are some ornaments that are just basics, some based on actual ornaments on our tree, like the bell and the candy-cane mouse, and there are some that are based on the spirit of the holiday. Here they are in all their glory:

 And the effect under the tree is quite lovely!

The kids obviously couldn't look forward to unpacking it with their stockings, since it didn't exist until just now, but they have enjoyed helping me along as I make the designs, and we even had a nice night where I taught them how to embroider! Ethan was, of course, not a part of that crowd.

But that's it for my holiday crafting this year! I've learned that it's important to have a craft to look forward to because planning is half the fun, I've learned tree skirts don't need to be nearly as big as you think they do (I cut this one down 3 times), and I learned I need to move out Christmas tree next year because in its current location it gets walked on a lot and white felt was a bad choice for that. Ahhh, so much learning every time!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How to party when you're 6

Caroline's birthday was on Thursday and the only thing more disappointing than a December birthday is a middle of the week birthday, especially when your mom makes you ride the bus as usual and also chooses not to bring in treats to your class. There just are already TOO MANY TREATS floating around in December, including the birthday cake she was getting that night, so was practically doing her and her insulin a FAVOR... though I don't know that she saw it that way.

The day certainly wasn't a bust, though! It snowed the night before so school started 2 hours late, meaning she had lots of time for her smoothie and blueberry muffin breakfast, and to open gifts before school! Then we had pizza for dinner, her special request, followed by chocolate cake, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was the best chocolate cake I've ever made. From a box mix, but the frosting was homemade and fudgy, and I opted for a 2-layer round cake, which means MORE fudgy frosting!! We were in heaven.

The a.m. gifts REALLY worked out great because there wasn't much time the night, as picking up her special request of pizza made me re-think all my life decisions as we waited for nearly an hour for 2 pizzas that, we found out as we opened the box at home, they got WRONG. Next time I will settle for pizza I cook myself; at least I'll know what I'm getting and when I'm getting it. In the end we DID get some pizza and the worldkept turning despite my first-world problems, but HUMPH.

She got fuzzy sweaters from the Gustavson grandparents, a book and a chock-full-of-baubles jewelry box from the Jacobs grandparents, and hair accessories from us because we've really been tring to tame her mane for kindergarten and church. Good thing she's my only lady, I fall down pretty hard on the hair game! But we try.

And that was Caroline turning 6! What a day.
Her crown from school, taste-testing her frosting

 Trying on mom's boots, wearing her new sweater

Checking out her new jewelry box 

 Gifts and brothers <3 nbsp="" p="">

 ...and a dad :)