Saturday, March 4, 2017

New Van

The chaos of buying a new car also happened the same day as the chaos of throwing a silk-screening-birthday-fail ... I mean party...

We had decided about 2 weeks prior that we needed a new van, ours was quite old but since it was relatively new to us we still owed money on it. It's a reliable about-town car but we didn't want to rely on it to get us to Colorado (or California in October), meaning we were paying car payments AND airline tickets and rental car fees every time we want to go somewhere. We researched available used vans around town, got a lot of online reports, and Joe had already scheduled a friday off so we decided that would be a good day to go look. Looking for us usually means buying, and sure enough we found a vehicle we were happy with at a price we were happy with and boight a van!

But nothing easy is ever easy... That Friday was a half-day at school (which was also the reason I had picked it to have the party, instead of on a Saturday), so we had to leave to pick up kids, I had to return to sign more papers, the kids didn't want to go sign papers so they stayed at the neighbors,  the papers took a lot longer than they should have because the computer kept auto-filling withother people's information, blah blah... We finally had keys in hand at 3, the party was at 5, and I still hadn't decorated or frosted the cake! This is also why I didn't have extra games in place, I was busy buying a van, which should only have taken us until 1:00, not 3:00.

At any rate, the party's over but the van is still here, so I'd say it was worth it ;) it's a 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan, black, has about half of the bells and whistles (electronic doors and hatch? Yes. Installed DVD players? No.), and we can now drive ourselves all over the country in comfortable peace of mind!

Patrick's birthday, Part Deux

Since Patrick's birthday fell on a wednesday we had his birthday party that friday. I ordered pizza (easy) and made a simple 9x13 cake (also easy) and planned a silk-screening party (ridiculously difficult). I bought a slew of cheap, colorful shirts so the guests could pick what they liked, then cut out a bunch of shapes on my silhouette so they could have a lot of options to design their shirts with. As they made their choices and placed them on their shirt, I took them to the garage where we had our workspace set up to do the actual silkscreen, and I would help them blob on and squeegee the paint through the screen.
This all sounds relatively simple, but multiply it by 6 age-9 guests, add 3 even younger siblings, divide it by 2 adults, and add paint - your final sum is utter chaos! It wasn't helped by having 6 color choices because with 6 guests I figured we would overlap and two people might pick the same... But when has my figuring ever turned out? They all chose different colors, so I had to go by who wanted lighter colors of ink first, and (of course) those were the kids who finished placing their designs last. Terrible. We got all the shirts done, but all the jostling in the garage (of COURSE they wanted to play basketball in there and not just watch! Why didn't I think of that?) meant I sent everyone inside who wasn't actually doing a shirt. Because the shirts were the actual activity I didn't HAVE any extra activities for while they waited (they were SUPPOSED to be watching), so poor Joe was inside wranglings hyped-up party guests who ran around, led by one friend in particular who turned his show-off mode up to full blast, turning everyone into CRAZY people. They sat still for about 15 minutes total - 5 to do a shirt, 5 for pizza and cake, 5 for gifts... 1 hour and 45 minutes of screaming around my house.
THE LESSONS LEARNED:
Silk screening is good with a much higher ratio of adults to kids.
Silk screening should be done with fewer kids, period.
Younger siblings should make their shirts ahead of the party so as not to add to the chaos.
Silk screening should be available in ONE COLOR ONLY - this is not the time to up the creative ante.
Side activities should ALSO be in place; possibly something that requires them to pretend to be asleep or act like a dead animal so they stop running around.
Find out who the crazy kid is, and DO NOT invite them.

It was so chaotic I didn't even get a single picture during the party! In that regard it reminded me of Patrick's party 2 years ago where kids started throwing knives and blocks of ice ... I was trying to help them not die, so pictures were the last thing on my mind. (I'm pretty sure my party planning skills for kids need work!) Happily, we will now be instituting a family-party-every-other-year rule, so I have zero planning until late 2018. PHEW!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Birthday Derbies

The Pinewood Derby happened to be on Patrick's 9th birthday (today)! We prepped for weeks, I even bought and axle-setting kit and weights, then polished the axles because last year his poor car was abysmally slow... He was embarassed, and I didn't want that to happen again! And it didn't happen, but his car wasn't terribly fast, either, as it ended up still being quite underweight (turns out I should have bought a digital scale, too!). ButHe aberaged about 3rd place each heat instead of dead last, a la 2016. But it WAS super-cute, and I think that counts for something! If nothing else, it caught the corner of my eye more than once and got me all excited that there was a snickers bar, only to be let down that there was a painted hunk of wood taunting me. 
After the derby they had cake (which I also counted as birthday cake, therefore having zero calories, which is the real beauty of 'birthday cake' vs 'regular cake') and they handed out these adorable certificates! Adorable because they already had the picture printed! If you save me some legwork, you are ADORABLE.

A few weeks ago I began a conversational journal with Patrick (I also have one with Eli), so I wrote him a birthday note and left it under his pillow. I thought his response back was adorable:
"Thanks for thinking of me" - I died! And my heart melted that my note perked up a bad day (their class changed desks again, 3rd time in 3 weeks, he was very disgruntled). If we can keep up these notes I think I'll really have a fun time with it :) Boys can be reticent and girls can be moody, but it's often helpful to write things down; this will probably be as helpful for me (if not more so) than it is for them! 

Anywho, happy birthday to Patrick! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Healthy wife, healthy life

We have really been focusing on daily fitness at our house, which makes me realize we really weren't focusing on fitness at our house! We're mostly healthy, we eat most meals together daily (kids obviously eat lunch at school), I cook those meals myself, outside of meals I push fruits and veggies and water for snacks, I feel like everyone runs around and we try to get out and hit parks and ride bikes and stuff... but I had a minor meltdown at Eli the other day.

In Ninja class they do basic fitness moves like sit-ups and pushups (I mentioned that), but of course class is only one night a week, so I had been encouraging a short fitness *something* before bedtime - usually a kids workout video or some exercises together. He kept giving up - "I can't do pushups, I can't do lunges, I can't do sit-ups..." so I hauled him to bed and sat and stewed and brainstormed. I have a high metabolism and can basically eat what I want - within reason - and be generally active and not worry about gaining a single pound. Eli is a whole different animal, and my approach to health has apparently not been working with his body type. He looks exactly like Joe did when he was Eli's age, and then Joe had a crazy growth spurt in middle school and leaned out, then bulked up with muscle for football and track. GREAT, except I do NOT want to sit around hoping that in 8 years Eli will luck out and lean out without any contributing outside factors. JOE also doesn't want that for him because, from experience, he says "it is no fun being the fat kid." So even though I've been conscious in the back of my mind, I haven't been focusing on fitness, and that needed a boost.

Changes include:
60 possible minutes of screen time, as usual, but minutes are earned by exercise. If you do 0 minutes of exercise, you get 0 minutes! Anything above and beyond 60 minutes of exercise, though, you still only get 60 minutes of screen time.
Dessert is a weekend thing. I LOVE dessert (do you even know me at all?!) so I made something sweet nearly every night, but in an effort to ditch unnecessary calories I had to calm down on the frequency.
I've been sending along CapriSuns in their lunches. I now only send water.
Our weekend fast-food trip as a family has been reduced to every-other weekend. This was actually a financial decision, but dovetails nicely.
Last but not least, I need to re-think exercise.

Here again, Eli is a different animal. I really enjoy the gym! I enjoy that physical challenge, I enjoy sets and reps, I enjoy working on my form, I like competing with myself. Caroline and Patrick also enjoy these things! Eli enjoys none of these things. Many articles I came across reiterated that kids get exercise differently than adults. Running around at the park is fun and healthy and involves running - I SIT at the park, and if I wanted to exercise I would run laps around the park. Different, see? But both running. So I have been brainstorming ways to be active without saying, "hey everybody! We're about to be active!" It gets tricky when it's not a ninja night and the weather isn't cooperative, but that's when my Mall Bingo from my last post came in handy.

For the future, though, I signed up the boys for soccer, because RUNNING. Starting in March.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mall Madness

I made up a game of Mall Bingo last week, as we needed to get out of the house (but not into the downpour outside). I looked at a few ideas online, but most of the things they listed were mean-spirited, like "someone wearing sausage-casing for pants" or "visible buttcrack." Yeah, you probably COOULD spot all those at the mall, but I wouldn't want my kids LOOKING for them - there are so many good things to see! So I kept my board pretty simple, a mixture of types of stores, things you find inside the store, and people you see shopping. My most mean-spirited was "kid missing some clothes," which could include shoes, which they saw at the indoor play place because that's the rule. As a bonus, I added seeing someone being kind to a stranger, because THAT is worth keeping an eye out for ;)

As you can see, this is very homemade, but it was fun! So I scanned a few extra copies and we can do it again another rainy day.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Caroline turns 6 a month later than usual

Before December even rolled around, I saw our calendar was BOOKED. We had the annual ward Christmas party (of which I was on the food committee), a Young Woman's Christmas party, a birthday party for a friend, a baby shower, and a whole heap of other things I can't even remember right now... but I apologized to Caroline and told her we would not be having a friend-filled birthday party any time that month. We would try again in January.

Weeks flew by and pretty soon it was time to make good on my promise! She invited friends from school and from church and we kept it pretty low-key - had kids come dressed in costume (just for fun, I didn't actually do anything related to their dress-up), played games, ate a corn dog lunch, and decorated cooking in lieu of ice cream and cake. The kids all had a good time, and by the end of 2 hours we weren't even dying from kids/sugar/hyper overload! It was helpful that I decorated a few days before, and made cookies in advance, so that day we were purely enjoying ourselves instead of time-manageing the crunch.

Caroline is still my big sweetie with a tender heart. She constantly helps me, and asks me not to do things (like cook, or screen print) until she's available to help right along. She is good buddies with Ethan (they share a room), so she also helps him get dressed, make his bed, find his stuffed animals or cars, etc. They often take baths together in our massive soaking tub, and they especially like to do that when I let them wear swimsuits. For Christmas she asked for a little sister. For her birthday I got her a bunch of hair accessories because he hair is constantly in her face, and we have been trying to be more put-together for school (and being in public in general). She wants to grow her hair out, so she has been good about brushing it herself (when I ask) and not whining about it, and she also lets me do braids and interesting styles, so some accessories were in order. She has her own style, and I generally let her wear whatever she wants, which is often a bit ridiculous. She prefers leopard print to any other style, and fuzzy (like velour) to any other feel, so her outfits usually incorporate one of those elements, and often both. Her very favorite outfit it is her pink leopard dress over her tan leopard jeggings and her black leopard shoes. It is atrocious and hilarious! She writes notes to people she loves, including friends and teachers; her kindergarten spelling melts my heart every time, and her brothers take it upon themselves to correct her every time. She is the fittest of the kids and can run circles around all her brothers, and probably Joe and I as well - that girl is the Energizer Bunny of running!. We're currently reading "The Tail of Emily Windsnap," which she loves because she wants to be a mermaid (and is hoping for a beautiful mermaid tail to wear swimming this summer).

None of these are big or important or unique, but together they create a picture of our Caro-lee-aroline. I find that my memory stinks even worse than I thought it did, so I imagine I'll enjoy reading this is a few years and not remembering any of it ;)

Wonder Women aren't intimidated by new crafts

My latest challenge is screen printing! It seems like the most random thing, but it's a long story that I'll try to make pretty short. 
1. (15 years ago) High school boyfriend showed me how to screen print - looked easy, looked cool, thought "maybe could do that!" but we broke up and I never thought about it again. 
2. (Present Day) Went to Hands on Children's Museum here in Olympia, where they set up a screen printing station in the arts/crafts room. We've managed to use the station twice, and the kids really enjoyed it! I even asked about products they used, and considered it a possible activity at some (probably far-distant) future time with my kids. 
3. Looked into planning Patrick's 9th birthday party at some artsy venue, and just can't make myself pay more per guest at my kids' party than I pay for birthday presents when my kid GOES to a party, so looked instead for something cool to do at our own house! I contemplated that screen printing idea for his party, making it considerably less far-distant that I had originally planned.
4. The Young Women have an upcoming activity that's a big deal, called New Beginnings, where we introduce the theme for the year and go all-out for incorporating that into some awesome song or skit or decorations or SOMETHING. This year's theme is, in a nutshell, Ask In Faith (based on James 3:5), and a remarkably short brain-storming sessions with the girls led to the (I believe) FANTASTIC idea of Wonder Woman. She has her lasso of truth and her wristbands of justice, and her name is WONDER... and when we wonder, we can ask in faith! Seriously, PERFECTION. The Go-All-Out portion is to have Wonder Woman t-shirts they can wear for New Beginnings, then also wear for their upcoming volleyball season. There were absolutely no cheap WW shirts to be had in stores or online (we have 22 girls/leaders, so we need CHEAP), so our Prez suggested ordering custom ones... which is SILK SCREENING. I thought, "Wait a minute... I've been hemming and hawing over this idea for months now, perhaps it's time to bite the bullet and TRY IT." So I offered to put together a prototype shirt (yipes!), then ordered a screen, squeegee, and paints from Amazon (all by Speedball, the same company the Museum suggested). I figured if the shirts didn't work out I would still have all the materials for a party for Patrick, because his party doesn't need perfect results, and if the Children's Museum can do it with children, so can I! 

I gathered my materials and a new and cheap shirt ($2.75 at Hobby Lobby), and wished myself luck. I cut out two shapes, using my now-used-for-everything Silhouette Cameo, and did the base color a solid black, then let that dry for a day. The next day I used me second shape for the resistance where I wanted black to show through, and used yellow paint. And YOU GUYS.... it turned out SOOOO AWESOME!!!


Not PERFECT, per say, but pretty dang close. And all things considered, it was my first try at screen printing and the finished product cost roughly $3! I was ecstatic, and took the shirt to show the other leaders and girls, who are also pretty excited. So I agreed to undertake the project (I already have the materials!) and bought a crap ton more t-shirts, so I will be working on that next week... because THIS week I am pulling together the stuff for Patrick's screen printing party on Friday AND I'm printing numbers on jerseys.  I had showed Joe my awesome screening skills, so when the ward men's basketball team got new jerseys without any numbers, he suggested I might be available (I AM because if you compliment me I will shower you with that compliment forever. You like my cooking? I will randomly bake you goodies for the rest of your life.)

So now I have hurdled an intimidating new craft, and I can't wait to see all the shirts that get made this month! It's going to be craaaaaaazy around the Jacobs house for a hot minute.

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!