Monday, November 17, 2014

School, Calling, Baby and More

I feel like ever since school began, life has not really slowed down. Oh, did I mention that school started? In August. It's November so I'm just a bit behind. Here are the kids' first day pictures.
Erin got the teacher she wanted. She is fun and young and loves Erin. Funny story about how young she is. When it was 9/11 she told the kids that she was in school when it happened. I was thinking like college or high school at the very least. Then Erin said she was in 4th grade! Jared and I just started laughing because it doesn't seem like it was that long ago, yet I was graduated from college at the time. So yeah, she is a reminder of how old we are getting and how young 23 actually is.
I'm still not quite sure about Alex's teacher. I think he likes her fine, but he doesn't say a whole lot. She is very strict about behavior and academics. I know a bunch of students are struggling with her and I talked to a mom whose son hates school this year because of the teacher. I guess I am lucky that Alex is so good at school and well behaved. It just doesn't seem like the best year for him either. Just a hard one for me to figure out.
Marissa got a great teacher. She is new this year, but she is really nice and friendly to the kids and parents. Marissa does really well in school and is on her fourth chapter book at home. I know this because every time she starts a chapter, finishes a chapter or is part way through a chapter she tells me, and likes to give running updates on the plot. She is good at making lots of friends, probably because she is not afraid at all to talk. When I was helping at her Halloween party she would just ask the teacher things in front of everyone without a second thought. So different from when I was a kid. The other day she came home and said that three boys were in love with her. Oh boy.
Connor is doing two preschools this year. One is Upstart, a free online preschool that he does for 15-20 minutes a day five days a week. It is helping him so much to learn to read. I am very impressed with the program, especially since he couldn't string any words together in the summer and now he is reading short, easy books. His other preschool is a joy school that I'm doing with him and two other families. I originally wanted to get more people, but everyone else was already doing some sort of preschool. I was a bit concerned about having to teach so often, but with only three kids, it makes it a lot easier. We decided to do one week at each of our homes and then the fourth week go on a field trip. So we're only teaching one week a month. I don't know why, but I really like doing it. We do a letter a week. I think it's fun and fulfilling to think of creative ways to teach different things or make different crafts. The kids get along so well too and they love free play. Anyway, it's a good year for Connor getting ready for kindergarten, and though it makes my life a bit busier, I am glad I'm doing it.
 This was Apple Art for the letter A.
A is also for Airplane

 This was the day we made Green Goo for the letter G. It was also the day before Halloween, which is why they're dressed up.
 This was the field trip I planned where we got to take a tour of the fire station. It was awesome! I'd been wanting to do it for a long time. We also went to story time and had a picnic in the park.
 This was our next field trip to the planetarium. I'd never been there either and it was pretty cool.
Hallie is liking being involved in preschool with Connor, though she can't do everything that the older kids can. She is just a sweet, cute little girl. (Notice the two different shoes in this picture?)
I've also been busy with my calling as the relief society weekday activity leader. The one in September was so much work for me. It was a craft night where we did holiday wood block decor. I took all the orders, made some spreadsheets to keep track of it all, cut all of the wood and put them together in little kits for people to pick up at the activity. We had lots of people sign up for two crafts each, so about 600 pieces of wood. I also got vinyl cut, bought other supplies and paint... it was a lot of work! I tried to delegate as much as I could, but in the end, I wanted to make sure that people had everything they needed when they got there so I made sure of it myself. It was a huge success. We'd had an average of about 20 people at previous activities and this one brought 65, including a bunch of non-members. So apparently when you say "craft" and "free" then people start coming out of the woodwork.
I told the RS president that after the November activity I would be happy to be released. We had a huge dinner and bingo night this week and it was also a big hit. This time I delegated so much to my committee that all I had to do was bring two things and show up (I couldn't even help set up because Erin had a performance right before). It is so nice to have such a great, reliable committee now. They've called some new people and it is such a relief to me. Everything got done so smoothly. Anyway, they had already told me the Sunday before that I would be released the Sunday after and gave me a new calling. It's Activity Days. I've done it before and I loved it. Erin is actually really excited to have me as her leader, which kind of baffles me. It feels kind of like the same calling as RS activities, except that the girls will actually come and be excited no matter what I decide to do.

I've been doing the RS activities for almost three years and definitely had my ups and downs with it. When I first moved here, I was going through a really bad depression and had a hard time making friends, like good close friends, which is what I needed. That made the calling a bit challenging. I remember having to hold back my tears going to meetings in the beginning. The committee was really great back then and had been doing it for a long time together, so that made things easier. Our ward split the day Hallie was born and I immediately got called to the RS activities committee. That was such a good calling because I could do whatever I was asked but I wasn't ultimately responsible. A year later, our ward split again and I got called as the leader again. Since our ward was so small, we had an almost non-existent committee. Those first activities were a bit rough. I remember feeling like such a failure because no matter what I did, it seemed like very few people would come (our ward was small at that time). There was one big one we did in March where we made freezer meals to take to anyone in need in the ward. That took a lot of coordination and preparation, and there was some miscommunication between me and the counselor I was working with. We both bought ingredients for the same recipes! Ugh. But even though I was so frustrated, I felt prompted to start talking to her and she really opened up to me. Now we are good friends. (One reason to be grateful for this calling)

There was another time when a new girl got called who was really struggling at the time. I wanted to get released a few months before, but the bishop said he thought I should keep doing it. I tried to reach out to this girl and help her feel welcome, but it wasn't until after one activity that I began talking to her and realized that we had been through some of the same things. I just really felt like she needed to hear some of my experiences, things that I don't tell very many people. I feel like those experiences were why I had to be in this calling for so long, and I'm glad I didn't quit.

At the beginning, someone's husband was making all the posters & flyers. At some point, he couldn't do it anymore so I reluctantly said I could do it. I got so many compliments on the first few posters I did, even though I was not at all confident about doing it. After a while, I realized that I liked making them and was pretty good at it. I don't know why I was so reluctant because I had put together a lot of layouts in architecture school, but it took doing it month after month to bring me the confidence I needed. I've even made them for the whole stake. Here are some of them:
Today I am 24 weeks pregnant, so less than 4 months to go. I have been really excited and happy about this one, probably because I feel like it is our last one. I have also been feeling pretty good, physically and emotionally, which I am so grateful for. I felt like it was going to be a girl since before I got pregnant (and yes, this one was very much planned in advance). Everyone else thought it would be a boy, especially my kids because we just couldn't break the pattern--but really, how can you keep up this pattern with so many kids? I was so amazed that it actually was a boy when we found out a few weeks ago. Our midwife was too and said that girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy just doesn't happen. I love that it evens everything out. I always have liked balance and even numbers. This is how I announced it to people. And I've always liked the Brady Bunch! Now if only we could get ourselves a maid.
The day we got the ultrasound, our kids wanted us to do something creative to tell them if it was a boy or girl. We kind of wanted to trick them, so when they came home, we had a bunch of pink balloons that they could see when they walked in hanging from one blue balloon that they couldn't see. They immediately thought it was a girl until they saw the blue balloon. Then I told them they could find out when they bit into the cupcakes that I had made... only half of them were pink and half were blue. Next, we had them go into the pantry where it was completely dark and we gave them each a glow stick to break. Two were pink and two were blue. Finally, we told them that they could go outside and spray some silly string that we had taken the caps off of. If it all came out the same color, that's what it was. It finally came out all blue and everyone was so excited (including our neighbors who were there). It was really fun!

Another thing that I've been doing that I love is the babysitting co-op. It is a bunch of people in our neighborhood that each have a regular daytime shift and then we rotate for Friday and Saturday night shifts. We pay in popsicle sticks, one stick per kid per half hour. I absolutely love the freedom it gives me. I can go to doctor's appointments or run errands kid free anytime I need to. We haven't needed to pay a babysitter for a long time either because of the weekend co-op. We usually leave Erin and Alex home and drop the other three kids off at the co-op. The older kids love being home alone (without having to watch younger kids) and we don't have to pay as many sticks. I love it!

My shift is Friday morning and it has been super busy every week. I always have tons of sticks, more than I can usually use in a week. I used the co-op 4 times last week alone and I still have 25 sticks left. I really don't mind watching kids once a week for a few reasons. One is that my kids have other kids to play with, thus canceling each other out. Another is that I get enough sticks to leave my kids when I need to. And the last reason is that it forces me to clean my house at least once a week. I mean, you can't have people coming over to leave their kids in a pigsty. It's a win-win. I also love teaching preschool for the same reason, I get a clean house out of it.

One more thing, last Sunday was our ward's primary program. There are almost 100 kids in our primary so they were all squished onto boards that they laid over the seats. All the kids did really well and sang great. Erin, Alex and Marissa all had their parts memorized. Connor needed some help. After Connor said his part, he ended up sitting next to Hunter, who is his best friend and who was purposely not supposed to be sitting next to him. All of a sudden, we noticed that Connor was doing some really crazy things like making funny faces and pretending to sing like a crazy person. Then Hunter started pulling on his tie and pretending to punch him. There was some sliding up and down the bench and squishing each other. It was utterly hilarious! There were some adult teachers up there, but they didn't do anything to try to stop them. I was waiting for one of them to get hurt, but luckily there were no incidents... that is besides being the worst behaved kids in the entire primary program! We were laughing so hard. I have never had a child act that way in a primary program before. I asked Connor why he was doing those faces and he said that he was just trying to make Hunter laugh. Anyway, it was really awesome.

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