Monday, October 2, 2017

Freddy's mohawk, kid composers, and General Conference!

Frederick sometimes has specific requests for his hair. One day he wanted a mohawk and wore his glasses. Super cute kid. 

Gwen likes to make up songs. Most of the time, its just her singing, but one day she asked me to print her off some empty lines so she could compose a song on the piano. Charlie and Freddy quickly jumped on board. Freddy doesn't really know anything about reading music but I got him down some real sheet music for him to try and copy.  He even stapled the pages open all by himself. Charlie's song was a nice scale-type of song and Gwen's more melodic. Sometimes, I just love these kids to pieces.

We love General Conference! After not being able to focus very well last time, my plan this time revolved around making it easiest to focus. I tried to meal plan out and prepped a lot of the things ahead of time and tried to limit the people we invited over to have some sessions that was just our family. The kids weren't very interested in the packet I printed out for all the Primary kids. They are so funny, they all wanted to fill it out the Sunday before but on the actual Conference Days they didn't seem to be interested in any of the crossword puzzles or whatever.  Somehow I still managed to not be as ready for it to start as I wanted but I took a deep breath and just let go of my desire to have home-made prizes for kids who listen/take notes well. 

Gwen invited one friend over to watch the second session on Saturday with us and we had a newly married couple in the ward over for the Sunday afternoon session. We had yummy food over the weekend and what is more important we were spiritually fed.  Conference always increases my testimony of modern prophets and apostles. Their council is so spot-on and needed and I always feel a mix of a desire to improve on some things in my life and also a nice warm feeling that tells me I'm on the right track. 

Notice Gwen's nightgown? My mom made it for my sister and I when we were little as Christmas Jammies, one year. Its so fun to see Gwen loving it too. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Circus comes to town

The kids came home from school with coupons for the circus.  They had asked to go last year but we never made it. So when they asked this year, I felt like it was something we should try and do... since we don't often go out and do fun things during school days. 

I didn't have very high expectations because it had such a small-town, local feel to it and didn't look very big.  It ended up being more expensive just for the tickets than I thought because of added fees to buying the tickets online, and so I was even more disappointed to learn that besides watching the show, everything else cost even more... and not very small costs, like $5 per kid to jump in the jumpy houses, or $2.50 per kid to feed some pellets to the petting zoo animals, $8 to ride a pony and $10 per person to ride the elephants.  The show itself was pretty interesting! The talented acrobats were so fun to see up close.  It was especially crazy to see what little safety precautions were in place.  The lady in the ring was pretty awesome, then a guy juggled this huge cube. 

Another favorite was the lady who balanced on boards and cylinder blocks or skateboards stacked up.

Four beautiful white horses did some synchronized movements.

The Theme of the circus was based on Dinosaurs so they had this special number where people wearing huge dinosaur blow up costumes moved around like dinosaurs. It was alright.

The people on silks were awesome. 

My favorite might have been the elephants. They were huge and the ladies on their backs had to be soo brave, I thought. It was super cute to see the elephants walk in a line holding onto the tail in front of them.

The last act was this guy in and on a spinning cage thing.

The kids really enjoyed seeing everything. It was SUPER hot in the tent and the bleachers were REALLY uncomfortable for this pregnant body so the 2 hour show seemed a little too long in my opinion and it was right over dinner time so some of the kids chose to spend their allowance money to buy some snacks. They did a good job sharing with each other.  Unfortunately, all of the kids except Alec complained and whined a lot about not getting to buy more. It makes me sad to have spent all the money we did and try to do something fun for the kids who don't seem to appreciate it and who are never satisfied. "If you give a mouse a cookie..." kind of situation.  Oh well. Hopefully, we'll all remember it as a good experience someday.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mid-Semester Preschool Update

So, after the first week, I felt like things could only get better, but they continued to feel mostly the same. I still had one kid who couldn't leave his mom without crying the whole time. His mom was helpful and was willing to stay and try to stay in the background and that was working well, but I also felt like we needed to practice having her leave for a short period every day, so he could learn the concept of 'Mom comes back.' I guess he's never been left before outside of his parents or grandparents.  The kids were learning the routine a bit more, but also I simplified my schedule and expectations to meet 2-3 year olds, instead of 5 year olds. Every day I felt like I would come up with a new plan on how to better meet the needs of the kids and then every day I'd still have hard moments where more tweaking was needed.  A big help came just from simply taping a blue line on the carpet by the door for the kids to line up on before going out to recess. Since some of them had been to play at my house before preschool and with it being Freddy's own home, at the beginning there was a lot "During Preschool we don't...(run outside without Ms. Brittney, or climb over the gate, or get into the storage room, or empty out all the buckets, etc.."  Having them line up and wait for me really eased the stress of having 3 year olds decide it was a good idea to hit golf balls they found in a bin in the garage with a baseball bat they pulled out of somewhere at their friends as they waited for me to open the garage door to the playground.

I also got better throughout the month of simplifying the themes to go throughout the entire week, which cut down on prep a bit. I still have days where I chide myself for thinking this was a good idea. The saving grace factor in all the stress and anguish were the really cute/fun moments that happen at least once during each day where all the kids are with me and we'relearning and having fun and I LOVE that. Also, seeing how much Freddy loves it, almost makes it worth it just by that reason itself. He sometimes will grab onto my arm while I'm reading a book to everyone and just kiss it and grin up at me like he's in heaven. He LOVES to recount his whole preschool day to the kids when we pick them up for school or to Chris if he comes home for lunch or at the end of the day.

By the second month, my youngest student who couldn't leave his mom decided to take a break from preschool and I was able to fill his spot (thanks entirely to another mom of one of the other kids) within 1 day.  Things are going well now and I can imagine a time when it no longer stresses me out, but its not as simple as I thought it was going to be and I'm wondering how having a baby half-way through the year is going to change things.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Labor Day, Bike Ride on the New Road, and Fun with Instruments

We had our good friends the Gines over for a last minute BBQ for Labor Day. We got out washer toss and played soccer towards the end of the evening. It was pretty hot but as the sun goes behind the trees, its much more bearable. 

The new road behind our backyard that offers a southern entrance into Campus was finally finished! Rumor has it there is supposed to be a big sidewalk all the way down it too and we can see where it will eventually since there is dirt is raised up and leveled flat along one side of it, but its not there yet. I kinda doubt it'll get put in within the next 5 years. The kids found/made a new trail through the trees to get to our back fence where theres a big dip in the fence due to a fallen tree and we could easily lift our bikes over it. Then we lined up inbeween Chris and I and enjoyed a nice 2ish mile ride along freshly smooth blacktop.

We rode about a mile more all the way on campus to the Football Stadium. Sometimes Freddy rode in the trailer and sometimes he wanted to ride his balance bike. It was something the kids have been asking to do for a long time. I'm glad we made the time for it. It almost didn't happen because Chris had gone to the temple earlier that day and was gone from 5:00am - 3:30 pm and we had a rare date planned for that night to go see a community play "Arsenic and Old Lace"  at the theater on main street that some friends of ours are involved with. All in all, a great Saturday.

One night, we got out the guitar, and bass and ukuleles and other hand instruments to try and have a family music night. It was pretty fun despite the fact that no one really knew what they were doing. We got out a board for Gwen to tap dance on while we played. We attempted some latin/style sounds for a little while but got kinda fed up with our own incompetence and just turned on Calle 54 (Chris' favorite documentary on Latin Jazz) and were amazed at the skill of real musicians.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


The event we've been planning for 7 years has finally arrived!! The Talbot-Lewis-Archibald Solar Eclipse extravaganza of 2017.  Amy sent out an email suggesting this idea after having had a fun experience with an Annular Eclipse shortly after Chris and I moved to Canada.  The original location was going to be at the Grand Teton camping grounds Yellowstone National Park. But when we couldn't secure a group reservation site when reservations opened up Jan. 1st, despite 4 of us calling over and over again for hours, we looked into other ideas.  Amanda and Peter discovered that flights were significantly cheaper for them to come down south, and it was really convenient for Chris and I to not have to fly anywhere so we jumped on board with that idea. So Amy and Justin found this house to rent right in the middle of the band of totality for a good price in Hiawassee, Georgia near Chattanooga, Tennessee. About two weeks before the trip there was some crazy rain and cloud cover all over the South and it wasn't expected to leave before the Eclipse so the trip almost got canceled, but we're so glad our friends were willing to risk the cost of travel and still make it!

The Lewis' traveled up from Baton Rouge via our house and spent the night with us on Friday. It was SO FUN to share with them a snapshot of our life in MS and it was awesome how after an awkward couple of minutes how easily the younger kids just fell into comfortable play-time mode and had a lot of fun playing.  Of course, there was no awkwardness with seeing our friends again. Gosh, we miss them!

Saturday morning we packed up and headed to meet the Talbots in Georgia!   Amanda and I rode with some of our kids and followed Chris and Peter with the other kids. It was so awesome to have some long interrupted talk time... even if Chris and Peter got distracted and made a few wrong turns! Ha. :)  Good friends will do that to you.

We made it to Georgia for a late-ish dinner with the Talbots at the house. Because everyone else had put so much money into traveling Chris and I felt it would be best for us to take care of all the food. So I made up a menu a few days before and we brought most of the food and cooking implements - not sure how much stuff the house would have on hand. The only thing we forgot was milk, (and pjs for Gwen) but luckily the nearby town wasn't quite so packed and congested as we had potentially feared and it wasn't a big deal to grab some at the nearby store. We had heard rumors of tens of thousands of people flocking to towns and areas completely unequipped for handling such and influx.  And definitely there were a LOT more people around by Monday morning (but not really any crazy amounts).  It was a good thing we brought everything we needed though, because the house did NOT have much in the way of cooking/serving equipment. It was kind of a funny house to be honest. It was only a 1 bedroom house but it said it slept 18 between the loft area and a basement area. It was super musty and kinda not the cleanest and had some interesting artwork in the private areas ;).  But it was all we needed for a good price. The owners did NOT know about its prime location within the band of totality when Amy reserved our time in early Spring and there was a last minute effort to ditch out on us and rent it for lots more money. (They were advertising camping space on the lot for $900 a night! and asked if we wouldn't mind sharing water and a bathroom with the campers.... um. No. A water hose and an electrical cord was fine, but letting random people into the house where we have so many kids to use the bathroom at anytime was disconcerting.) I'm so grateful Amy and Justin dealt with emotionally and financially all the house stuff. They are pretty wonderful people.

It was also completely un-awkward to see the Talbots after so long and the kids all got along great and us adults basically sat and chatted most of the days. :) So so fun. I really loved sitting on the porch with our old friends, slowly eating dinner/dessert while we talked about typical EV topics (fairly intellectual and the point where I don't have much to say but just love to listen in on). Its seriously felt just like it did 8 years ago as we sat around the courtyard talking while our kids played.

Sunday, Chris and I and the kids popped over to the nearest LDS chapel for the first 1/2 of a sacrament meeting. The branch there was pretty small and met in an unorthodox rented out building space downtown in one of the small towns. There were a lot of extra people there for the eclipse and it is always a testimony builder for me to experience church in different areas. I love the worldwide unity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can be anywhere and it feels like home.

I didn't want to take too much time away from seeing our friends since we had so little time together in the first place so we left after the first speaker and spent the rest of the morning playing Bing Bang BOING with the Lewis and Talbots. Then we explored the surrounding area and lake about 24 hours before the eclipse to get a good feel of sun exposure  and cloud cover (since the weather models for both days were SO similar). Due to a stream of partly cloudy activity we decided last minute (thanks to some awesome research and investigation on the part of the Lewis and Talbots and a guy the Lewis' knew who had access to government-level weather model programming) we decided to drive to another spot in the middle of the band of totality to increase our chances of having zero cloud interference during the eclipse time.

Monday morning we were up early and split up the kids to drive 2 hours way to be in another, more cloud-free area of the totality zone.  We worried about traffic and massive crowds again and planned to take very rural roads and watch it in a very small town, far away from any medium sized town.  Here are the boys in our car as we drove... all excited for the eclipse!

In fact, the small town didn't even have a single park, so we found a public cemetery (basically amongst houses, it felt private... almost like a family cemetery) and planned to watch it there. We were glad Chris and I brought a bunch of camping chairs and sleeping bags (which doubled as picnic blankets) and had a portable lunch and dinner planned. Since we arrived at the cemetery 15 minutes prior to the start of the eclipse and stayed until an hour or so after totality.

 As the moon started to cover the sun, we all enjoyed watching it through the special glasses and then playing around, eating, talking, and repeat. It was pretty hot and buggy. I'm glad we had a big tree for some shade and bug repellent (something I've learned never to NOT have in the car here in the South). The partial eclipse was pretty cool. The crescent shadows were fun.

Even as the sun was just a sliver popping out from behind the moon, it was still SO LIGHT that without the special glasses you wouldn't really notice much.  I was extremely impressed with just how powerful the sun is... even as just a tiny sliver.

Then RIGHT before total eclipse (like a minute or something) it got SUPER hazy and sunset-feeling. Only it wasn't exactly like a sunset, it was hazier.. like I kept wanting to rub my eyes and make everything clearer. The 360 degree sunset thing was cool and the cicadas started going all loud being confused about it being dusk already.

Justin counted us down to the second for when we could look up at the sun/moon without glasses on. and SERIOUSLY. WOW. Words cannot express how exciting and amazing it was to look up at a big white-burning ring in a dark sky with a few stars around. It was so unreal, un-earthly, so impressive and heart thumping.  Everyone was talking all at once exclaiming this or that. I was trying to take pictures of it (because I didn't know that it would still be too bright to show up on my silly phone camera). I wish I would've just sat and stared up at it. It incredible experience and to see how much everyone else was affected by it was pretty cool too. Justin counted down again for the time we needed to put our glasses back on (it was so awesome to watch this with these particular friends as they're so educated and on top of stuff like this)

I was so sad to have to put the glasses back on and separate the cool eclipse from the entire world I could see around me. We reveled together in the awesome-ness of it for a while, ate some more food, took a few group pictures, played in the dirt and wandered around the cemetery looking for the oldest gravestone (we found one from a guy who fought in the revolutionary war!).



Then Chris and I had to say goodbye to our friends since we needed to be back for classes and school the next day and headed straight home. We encountered a little bit of traffic crossing back into Alabama by the major cities but nothing too bad.  It was such an amazing experience, made even more amazing by the sweet company of dear old friends. I know those words are old fashioned but they're also kinda timeless, right? I can't think of better words to describe the Lewis and Talbots.