Sunday, August 21, 2016

Starkville's Building Open House

Although we've been meeting in our new building for about 18 months, the church has finally squared things off with the builder so we can officially take ownership and dedicate the building.  The Branch Council chose to have our open house towards the beginning of the school year when all the 'back-to-school' events were kicking off to try and start the year off on the right foot (especially with our large and largely semi- to in- active Young Single Adult members). The hard part about this means that most of the planning happened over the summer or in the 3 weeks we had in August before the Open House date. Chris and I were both HEAVILY involved with this and keenly felt the weight of such an amazing missionary and community opportunity.  Each auxiliary was in charge of decorating/setting up displays in their rooms, (the primary was asked to emphasize the Plan of Salvation and Baptism since we had the baptistery in our room) and I was also assigned to handle any kids in the building during the two sessions (either from our own children, or children of people who came to visit) I organized two activity rooms, and enlisted people to oversee them. Also, I helped orchestrate getting a Family History couple from our Stake to come set up a room about Genealogy and helped with some set up in the Gym to display temples all over the world, and made cookies for refreshments, and ended up arranging all the flowers for displays in the hallways and chapel. Also our family tried hard to INVITE INVITE INVITE friends, neighbors teachers and acquaintances.

It turned out pretty well! Anthony and Amberly came back for the weekend to help watch our kids so Chris and I could be at the building almost all day making sure everything ran smoothly. The first session was great. We had maybe 20-30 people come, including Starkville's Mayor, our Stake President, a newsreporter and camera, and a writer for the Starkville Daily News, and one of Gwen's friends and her mom. The second session was much slower with maybe 5 people but it was still fun for us because one of those people was Chris' Department Chair at work!  Plus, I got to actually sit and talk with some of my fellow branch members and good friends for an extended period of time, which RARELY happens at regular church functions... since usually I'm busy chasing or teaching kids.  It would've been nice to see more of the people we invited come, but it feels good to have given the whole event our best efforts and to have it completed.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Despite decent efforts to get my preschool going, (evening changing days, lowering the age, and cost) I didn't get any takers for this year. I kept enrollment open for all of August and decided to just start teaching still (just me and Freddy) since Freddy has been really looking forward to it and it'll be good practice and helpful to feel out the routine I was planning on using. Freddy and I had fun the first few days. In fact, the first day I did the entire day's plan and Freddy just looked up at me with such love and interest, I can easily guess his thoughts, "Wow!! Mom is playing with JUST ME for 3 whole hours!! THIS IS SO FUN!!" 

 He entered the classroom with a backpack on, found his cubby, did our attendance activity, free played with toys for a bit, sat on the carpet squares for circle time, did the calendar, days of the week, and weather. We read books and sang songs and did large motor activities about our bodies. Then we went outside for recess and came back in for snack and an art activity and finished with some more songs and books. 

Freddy was super cute and when it was all over and we finished singing our goodbye song, he said, "Do it again! Your turn, Mommy!" And he pushed me out the door with his backpack and for the next 20 minutes mimicked EXACTLY what I did (welcoming me in, sitting by the chalkboard, pointing to the calendar and saying random numbers, reading me a book, and taking me to the table for snack...) hahaha. He is so adorable and we had a lot of fun. 

The kids are so sweet and ask Freddy all about his preschool when they come home and play with some of the things we've left out.

As the weeks went by without anyone signing up for this year, I got less and less motivated and Freddy's and my preschool got less and less involved until its pretty much stopped.

I have mixed feelings. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to put good use in my classroom that I spend so much time and thought setting up (and that I'm really excited to use!).  I'm sad that I won't be bringing in some extra money every month, and I'm a little embarrassed that either nobody is interested in what I thought was a good idea, or that my advertising skills are so terrible.   On the bright side, I feel relieved to just be able to focus on normal life (which is actually quite full and rewarding as is), and I'm really happy with how the playroom is now organized and ready for all kinds of play (my kids LOVE it) and its gotten me to play more with Freddy.  Plus.. there's always next year!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Normal Life

 Between summer trips and school and preschool, Chris' getting ready to start a new school year and getting ready for our Church building's Open House on top of regular responsibilities we kind of almost forgot about our anniversary. We were almost falling asleep around 11:30 on Sat. night when I looked at my watch with a big jerk wondering what the date was because maybe we had totally missed our anniversary! I was both relieved and a little stressed to realize it would officially start in 30 minutes. We both forget the date. Almost every year my thought process goes something like this:  is it the 9th? or the 8th? or the 7th? No, the month is the 8, not 7, like my birthday, but the 9th is my parents so its not the 9th, so it IS the 7th. 8/7: August, 7th.   I didn't want to let Chris off the hook for almost forgetting so when he asked what was wrong, I thought about something else to say about why I would look at my watch so quickly. He said nothing for a minute and then said, "Did we miss our anniversary?" So Chris remembered too... just barely. We hadn't had any plans or gifts or anything and it was a Sunday - which usually are long days with lots of meetings and responsibilities.  Usually, I will get bent out of shape about missing the chance for some celebrating, but it was interesting to exercise the creative juices and try and come up with something special, free, and spur of the moment.  We watched our wedding DVD with the kids and looked through our wedding photo album. Then we put the kids to bed a little early and just enjoyed time together reminiscing about our early years and where our life has taken us.  It was actually a very sweet and memorable anniversary.  (With NO expectations it is impossible to be sad about UNMET expectations.)

We are finding a nice rhythm for life back in school.  The tantrums and tired behavior, while expected and realized, haven't been too overwhelming for me. Our system of work and rewards is relatively the same as last year. Kids have to do a 5 min job, their homework, and piano practice before getting their screen time... (20 min for each kid) they have to at least do their job before watching somebody else's screen time, and on Wednesdays piano lessons count as both their 5 min job and as their piano practice. Also, 6:00 is mandatory homework time if they haven't already done it. For poor choices or really annoying complaining they get extra jobs that they have to finish before the next time they watch screen time. They get smiley faces (our family's "money" that correlates to allowance) for doing homework, jobs, piano practice and taking showers/baths. If you hurt anyone, you give them 5 smiley faces and sometimes earn extra jobs.  If anyone complains too grotesquely about food at dinner they have to wait 5 minutes before they can eat (which doesn't start until they're done complaining).  Monday, is an early dinner day and FHE because Alec has soccer from 6:00-7:30. Tuesdays Gwen has Ballet from 4-5, Wednesdays is Piano Lessons from 3:30-5:00 with cub scouts for Alec (and soon for Charlie) in the middle of that from 4:30-5:30. Thursday night both Alec and Charlie have soccer, Chris has late meetings on Tuesdays and Y/M on Wednesdays and occasionally Branch Presidency visits on Thursdays night. Friday is still (almost religiously) Friday Night Movie Night where we eat pizza in the living room while we watch a family movie.  Freddy's bedtime changed over the summer from 6:30ish to when we start putting the rest of the kids down at 7:15. We go from one to the other, until Alec usually around 7:45 or 8.  The kids read in their beds for as late as they want really, so sometimes Alec and Gwen are up for another hour or so. Charlie usually falls asleep pretty quick. It makes for a tired Gwen some days: 

Freddy does the most annoying thing! He always gets out of bed after we tuck him in, either for naps or bedtime, and lays at the base of his door and falls asleep there. He likes to look under the crack and listen to the (often chaotic) sounds of us trying to get the older kids to sleep. He still has a child lock on his door so he can't open it. Its dangerous because we can't open the door without crushing him. Chris very gentle and has long strong fingers so he slowly lifts and nudges Freddy's sleeping body out of the way inch by inch until he can open the door wide enough to enter and carry him to his bed. I usually end up pushing the door in little bursts until I can squeeze in. I think I've only hurt him once doing this.. but it must not bother him that much because He. Keeps. Doing It. 

The kids were losing too many smiley faces for poor behavior and kept getting mad at us for never letting them buy things that they would see at the store every time we entered one.  Alec's "Its OUR OWN MONEY... and you NEVER let us spend it... why do we EVEN HAVE IT?" struck a chord and we knew we needed to change something.  Warning them of the dangers of Impulsive Buying and trying to teach them about Quality toys, and smart purchases wasn't doing anything if we never let them buy anything. So we instituted something we called Buy Days, that would happen around twice a month.  Days set aside for them to spend their money (hopefully on things they have been thinking about and maybe even priced out before hand). Its been a hit. Both with the kids and in our bank account. ;) And although it hasn't completely stopped the whining for stuff at stores, it has decreased it dramatically.  

Also, we had to try our hand at a legit mohawk before giving Chris a clean cut before his class started - despite being sorely tempted to 'be-that-crazy-professor-with-a-mohawk.'  It seems like every year Chris comes up with a new way to 'be-that-crazy-professor-who..." I love that guy.

In other normal news, Freddy is absolutely lovable. Be he sick, or crazy, or tired he's adorable to everyone in the family. He likes to cover his ears whenever a scary part comes on during a 'moo-mie' or expecting loud noises like the blender, or vacuum, or the kids' remote control helicopters.  And somewhere in my crazy brain I thought it was a good idea to try and potty train him in the middle of a very crazy week. Luckily my sanity returned after an hour so when Freddy asked for a diaper I obliged and we've shelved the potty training for another time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ballet for Gwen!

I've tried for a few years to get Gwen excited about taking Ballet lessons, but she always gets really nervous and indecisive about if she'd rather do that or gymnastics or soccer.. and when it came down to deciding she didn't want to commit to any of them because she's pretty shy and nervous when it comes to new things. We stopped by the dance place, Dance Divine (recommended by a good friend) and let her observe for a lesson. After that, with some encouraging, she agreed to try it.  She found out 2 little friends are in her same class and after the second lesson, she said she wanted to take dance all this year and next year too! She's gets so excited the night before and will get her ballet bag all ready and tell me a few times to not forget to bring it when I pick her up for school. She practices the dances she learns at home and loves to show me all she's learning.  The first half of the class is classical ballet with barre work and everything and the second half is tap.  I'm not nor ever was a real ballerina like my sister, but I took lessons for a couple of years and had fun and I enjoy its a little weird how much happiness it gives me to watch Gwen love it.  The studio is Christian based and they have a prayer circle at the end of each class and have a handout with a scripture on it. Its so cute. Another reason to love the South!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Anthony and Amberly!

My cousin, Anthony lives in Louisiana flying planes for the Air Force. Chris and I have stopped by his house a couple of times on our way down to Texas to visit Thom and Brittany and they fed us lunch and gave us a good place to stretch our legs and let our kids play. He had some training in Alabama for a month and realized our house was a good half-way point in between him and his family, so they met at our house for the weekend to spend some time together and with us.  Anthony and Amberly's kids are so cute. Gwen and Leona get along so well, and James plays well with Charlie and Alec, and then cute little Susie just walks around and Freddy and her like to stare at each other. 

Anthony helped Chris out front get the drainage ditch dug and filled with rocks. We didn't warn Anthony ahead of time so he didn't have good mud-able shoes, so he went barefoot for 1/2 of the time. Amberly is one of those wonderful people who have to clean in order to stay sane, so... despite the added 5 people in our home for the weekend.. our house never looked so good!  And the healthy smoothies she made may have jumped started a healthy smoothie kick for our family! Hot pink smoothies with beets, coconut water, carrots, cashews and strawberries.. it actually tastes delicious.  Aside from getting free labor, we really enjoyed having them stay because they're so fun to talk to and hang out with. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

First day of school!

 Having got back into town on Sunday night late, Monday consisted of shopping for school supplies, groceries, unpacking, etc.. Tuesday I kept my friend's 4 year old all day and was the kids open house where we could drop off all the school supplies and find their classrooms and meet their teachers. Gwen's teacher just had a baby a few weeks prior and was going to still be on maternity leave for the first month of school.  Also during these last days before school I was really focused on getting my preschool set up: advertising with more flyers and social media posts, putting together organizing cabinets we bought at IKEA out west, and putting supplies in the right place.

 Thursday was the first day of school! I was watching my friend's child again (because his preschool didn't start until the next week) Alec in 4th grade (wow, that sounds so old), Charlie in 2nd grade and Gwen in 1st grade. Last Spring the next door County School District failed some kind of Diversified Ethnicity benchmark set by the national government and the final out come was for Starkville City School District to absorb the schools in the East County. (which is a little ironic because it just makes our school district less ethnically diverse but I guess not low enough to be in violation of the National benchmark or something.   Anyway, to accommodate the influx of students our school district decided to make room at Sudduth Elementary for the new kindergarten and first graders by sending all second graders to the next school: Henderson Ward Stewart with the 3rd and 4th graders and open a new school just for 5th graders at the old Overstreet buildings and I guess the Jr. High (6-8) and High school (9-12) basically remain the same.  Anyway.. this means that Alec and Charlie go to one school, and Gwen goes to another. It also means that in a few years when Freddy is in Kindergarten, I'll have 4 kids in 4 different schools.

Because of how CRAZY traffic is around and in between the two schools during the first week or two of school we have to leave our house BEFORE 7:00am to get all the kids to school on time. Chris and I tag team and he drives and waits in the drop off line while I walk the kids into their classrooms. Traffic is so bad that I can get back out to Chris before his line gets out of the school parking lot (at least at HWS). Charlie is the only one who will let me take a picture with him and his teacher.  I'm glad that I know this crazy traffic will last only a few weeks, and in a month or so, Chris will be able to leave the house a few minutes after 7, and drop off by himself at both schools and be to work by 7:40. Both schools start and end at the exact same time. 

I'm on my own for after school pick up...but its not as bad as morning drop off because more kids ride the bus than in the morning.  I have to leave my house around 2:30 and get home around 3:45. It can be frustrating at times, but again, after the first few weeks, pick up moves fast enough that I can leave at 2:50 and get us all home at 3:30.