Friday, July 1, 2016


This spring I fell head-over-heels in love with family walks.

It all started because we were heading out on a big trip shortly after school got out.  

Man oh man do I ever have a whole slew of things to say about that (I am grateful every single day).  But for now, I just want to write about one of the things we did to prep while the kids were still in school.

Because there was going to be a lot of walking involved in the adventure we had planned, Dave and I were worried that the kids, (one in particular), might not be able to hack it.

So we incorporated a plan (copied from my sisters who came up with the idea last spring before they headed out to different parts of Europe with their families).  Hyped up by their great idea, we started our own "Grand Walking Challenge."

The goal was to hit fifty miles each before we left.  Claire whipped up a chart to help us keep track of our miles:
(I didn't get one before we started marking it up, but just imagine that that wing-dinger of a chart just begging to be filled in.)

It was in kind of a rush that we whipped up this whole plan up and threw it out so I wasn't sure how it would take.  You never know how many eye-rolls new plans will involve nor how much wailing and groaning and bawling may accompany the grand plan.

Dave was in China when we decided to take action, so I was in charge of the "launch."  The first night I proclaimed Family Home Evening would be walking to Panda Express.  I mean, you've got to start with a reward in mind, right?  Especially for one particular child who I really wanted to get excited about this plan of ours.

So we headed out.
(As you can tell, I did my hair up all pretty for the night.  Ha!)
Elle joined us about two blocks in to our walk because she was coming from something or other...
There she is.

We dawdled.

We laughed.

We talked.

We bonded.

And you know what?  There wasn't a single eye roll.  Nor bawling nor gnashing of teeth.

It was a perfect equilibrium evening where everyone was in a good mood.

Were they in a good mood before we left, or did the walk create that good mood?  Who knows, but I like to think it was the fresh air and leg stretching and talks about what happened during the day that did it.

I loved the fortunes we got at Panda Express:
(oh boy, we hope check!)
(yes and let's hope a check on that one too!)
(check...that's what we were preparing for after all!)
Let's look at the fortune and not those wrinkly fingers, ew.

And do you know what?

That night did the trick of turning on the "I-want-to-walk-and-win-this-competition-dealio" for Lucy.

(Each mile helped the kids earn some cash to spend on our trip...and the one with the most miles before we left got a bonus.)

Lucy decided she was going to walk to school every day (we are lucky and live pretty dang's a mile round trip).

She walked every day for the whole remainder of the school year.  Sometimes with Claire, sometimes with Dave, sometimes with me.

And she walked home all by herself.

At first I didn't think she'd do the walking home thing.  I figured she'd forget and just take the bus.  It was hot as blazes after all.  So I didn't talk out the plan very well or go watch for her.  But nope, that girl was serious and she walked in totally red-faced with a huge smile because she did it all on her own (there are great crossing guards at every street but I will admit I was a little nervous when I realized she wasn't on the bus that first day!)

As I was walking behind these girls one of the days, laughing to myself at how crazy Lucy is about that backpack she insisted on keeping with the zipper completely broken for the whole end of the school year, I realized it wasn't just the backpack that made her look a little bit on the funny side.  We had completely forgotten to brush her hair in all the walking, getting-out-the-door hoopla.
Oh man.

I had to run back and get a brush that day and whip her hair into shape at school.

We walked a lot of places in May.  The kids walked instead of riding their bikes to friends' houses.  They walked on the treadmill.  Dave and I walked/ran extra at our workout class.  We substituted it everywhere we could.

And little by little that chart filled right up.
Not only were these kids ready to walk and walk and walk (and hit probably 10,000 up and down steps), but we sure liked the process.
Not all of us made it to 50 miles (and the trek in the middle of it helped for a few of us) but it was the whole process of it all that we loved.

Nothing like a walk to get right down to talking business.

We are taking a walking break at the moment waiting for this furnace of a place we live in to calm down a tad, but I hope we'll remember how much we like this walking business in the Fall.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

peace out, elementary school

With all the graduation hoopla surrounding Elle, we can't skim over Claire's graduation from elementary school.

Because that's kind of big deal too, don't you think?  

This girl is headed to junior high next year and whenever she thinks about it she claims she gets butterflies in her stomach.  But she has a big smile across her face as well so I think she'll survive.

My parents flew into town on the last day of school and we went straight to the elementary school to be there for Claire's last assembly.  

(I loved the look on Lucy's face when my dad surprised her...she didn't know he was coming...that girl adores her grandfather.)

The excitement was electric in that little cafeteria, all the kids were so dang excited!

They don't do a big formal ceremony for the 6th graders (do any schools do that any more?), but I kind of like the low-key tradition they have had there ever since Max "graduated" years ago: a loud and exciting assembly to send them off, then all the kids line all the halls of the school and give them high-fives for their last school walk-through.

Also, I think it's kind of fun because the "lower classmen" (kindergarten through 3rd grade) sit criss-cross-applesauce on the floor for assemblies and the upper grades have spots on the bleachers for each grade.  I love that in this last assembly the sixth graders move to the front:
 ...and they make room for the other grades to each move up to the next "section" to take their places for the next year.

Oh boy moving up to the bleachers is an exciting thing for a third-going-to-fourth-grade kid I tell you!  Lucy had a pretty proud smile sitting in her new spot.

After the assembly all the kids head out to hold up their signs:

...and the graduating 6th graders weave their way through all the clapping, excited hallways.
I think the decorated bulletin boards along the way are an added detail this year.
There was one section that had all their pictures from when they were in kindergarten and things they wanted to be when they grew up.

 I still can't believe all these kids are moving on up.
They got their certificates back in their classrooms, and just like that, they wrapped up their elementary school career.
 Congratulations Claire Bear!  We love you!

Elle's seminary graduation

Seminary graduation was the Sunday evening following Baccalaureate.

So glad my mom and brother were in town to attend with us.
(Although Josh had to leave before we got around to taking a picture...)

Seminary is offered in our school as "released time" so the kids just walk across the street to the seminary building during that hour of high school.

I appreciate that convenience more than ever after living in China where Max and Elle attended early morning seminary.  They had the best teachers ever, but man alive it was early.  And cold.  And made me appreciate so much all the early-morning seminary teachers out there in the world, and the kids who sacrifice to be there each day to learn the scriptures and incorporate them better into their lives.

Released-time seminary can be tricky as well since it takes the place of other classes that could be taken and lots of kids around here have to do summer school and online classes to make up for it.  But oh boy seminary is awesome.  I love that high school kids can have a spiritual portion of their day that is filled with so much other mumbo-jumbo hoopla.  Yes, sure, lots of it is important mumbo-jumbo hoopla but I love that spirituality is mixed in.

Here are two cute girls pretty excited for their older siblings:

Here are some of the kids graduating with Elle who are in our same church congregation:

And here are the "first-grade girls" (we always still refer to them as the first grade girls because that's where they met and became fast friends).  They all grew up together in the same neighborhood:
So much has changed over the years and each one of these girls has branched off and become quite amazing young women, but I love that when they get back together their faces look like this.
I wrote about their moms back HERE years ago, but their moms love each other quite a lot as well :).
All that love was a great way to top off a great night.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

baccalaureate (round 2)

I mentioned before how graduation stuff kind of felt like groundhog day in a way this year.  

So many of the same events as last year but with my girl rather than with my boy.

Baccalaureate was my very favorite part of graduation last year so this year I was wondering if it could live up to the hype :)

But oh boy it sure did.

It is held just a few days before actual graduation and is the more spiritual meeting...kind of like a nondenominational service.  It's also held inside the school because the attendance isn't nearly as high as the actual graduation.

I think they may need to re-think that next year though because it was jam-packed with crowds packed like sardines in the back (they ran out of seats within the first few minutes).  I think word keeps getting around each year how great it is so it just gets to be a bigger and bigger event.  

Anyway, our high school is really quite outstanding in the music department, so they just do such an outstanding job with that, and once again, I adored the great advice given in the talks.  

Here we are waiting for it to begin...right before the bagpipes came in.

 The Principal up there.
...and the teacher selected by the students to speak up there (he was an economics teacher and gave such a great talk!

It was a beautiful program that I don't have time to upload video of, but there are some videos of the music last year back HERE if you care to listen to the caliber of the stuff I'm talking about (last year with Max.)

Once again, it made me tear up and be grateful all over again.  For this school, for music, for all the great friends who have surrounded Elle over all these years, and for this girl we get to call our own:

...for my mom and Josh who we got to have come along with us (my mom was in town that weekend for the Flips performance (back here), this, and seminary graduation which is coming next).

After the ceremony we went out take a bazillion pictures amidst the swarms of other families trying to capture the kids their kids have learned from and loved for so long.

I thought the crowds taking the pictures were as great as the crowds being photographed :)
New high school friends:
 Growing-up forever friends:
The boys:
Love these boys and the influences they've had on Elle.
All smart and kind and good...they are going to go places in life I tell you.

Graduation this time around was extra fun for me as a mom because I've known so many of Elle's friends moms for so many years.
We've been through a lot together coping and worrying and celebrating and loving all these kids with all our hearts.

Yes, a little overboard with the pictures but I'm out of time to weed out...and all these kids are just so dang great.  

I love these oldest kids of mine are at the age I remember I was all those years ago.  How I adored those kids who influenced my life in so many ways I didn't have any clue about at graduation.  They have continued to shape who I am because of who they were for my whole life...the guys who I have sadly lost more touch with as well as the girls who I still get together with whenever we can.  But whether I see them regularly or not,  I'm forever grateful for all they taught me in those formative years.

Which makes me doubly grateful for these kids molding and mentoring and loving my own kids.  I know enough to know that their influence lasts well beyond high school and Elle will take so much of them with her as she continues on this journey of life whether they are there physically by her side or not.
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