Wednesday, September 20, 2017

a few thoughts on a Wednesday

There are a few things going on over here I sure think about a lot lately.  So I figured I'd write them down to get my thoughts out...

There's a huge new charter school that was recently built close-by.  It incorporates K-12 and it's a great school.  I went with a group of friends to take a tour of it's sister school near the end of the school year last year and was pretty impressed.  It's smaller than our giant high school, the caliber of students impressed me, and I was really interested to find that they take IEP students like Lucy.

But the thing I liked the very most is that our tour guide guy told us they don't allow cell phones.  From the moment the first bell rings to the end of the day kids aren't allowed to have cell phones out.
At all.

Why does that speak to me so much??

After talking to many of the kids who go there I've realized that it's not a hard and fast rule, and that kids are still texting a bunch, but there's something so appealing to me as a mother thinking about that distraction being gone during the day while kids are trying to learn.  It's one thing for one mom to try to limit her child's cell phone usage, so tough to do in a sea of kids who are glued to their phones.  But if EVERYONE leaves their phones and just talks face-to-face for a whole day at school, and listens whole-heartedly to teachers, how incredible would that be?

I guess I'm just so old fashioned, but I think cell phones are such a huge problem with teenagers and getting worse all the time.

But I'm not delving into that today...I'm working on a whole post all about that because it takes a whole post to express my myriad of feelings.  For today, I just have to say I think it sounds dreamy if there's a way to at least limit cell phone usage at school.  That being said, I really love that I can text my kids during the day.  I love that they can tell me how they did on a test or let me know how they're feeling, and that I can text them too.  So I'm a wildcard on that one.  But we are sure trying to figure out a balance around here.

Back to this whole big new fancy school dealio though...there are a bunch of kids moving over there.  We have thought it through as a family, together and individually and we all feel like we want to support public schools and we really do love the schools where these kids are.  We love the school spirit, the traditions, and even the size to a certain extent which brings a little more diversity.  And we LOVE the support Lucy gets.  Our public schools here in this district are incredible with special needs kids.

But somehow I'm hoping that having all that competition (there are so many charter schools in our area!) will help the public schools step up their game so they can retain kids rather than unraveling them by being able have more flexibility in what they offer.  It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

On another tangent, I help Lucy brush her teeth every night as she adjusts to her braces.  Let's be honest, I did before braces as well...her fine-motor skills just don't do super well with teeth brushing (we each usually have a "turn" and she's getting better, but still needs help).  But this braces thing is throwing us for a loop.  It is so difficult for her to loosen her cheeks enough to get that toothbrush back there to keep her gums healthy.  We are struggling!  Any suggestions anyone has on that would be so welcome.  Her brackets keep coming off as well.  Hmmmm...

Claire listens to music so loud every morning I have to get right next to her to tell her anything.  She is turning into such a teenager it is craziness over here.

We have three girls-choice dances coming up at the high school.  

Right in a row.  Crazy right?

One is a fund raiser for the cheerleaders that's new this year.  So everyone is asking like crazy to the next two dances.  Grace asked one boy to the "harvest dance" one night and then someone else to "winter formal" a couple nights later.  We are in for some serious dance business coming on the horizon...right after we finished the last one.  Fun times for that girl.

Elle is settled back in Hawaii and having what she claims are "the very best days."  She's in a new house with mostly new roommates, is settled into all her classes, and still finds some good time to surf.  Makes me happy.

And Max, well, I just talked about him back HERE.  He is in a pretty great stage of his mission.

I wish I could remember all the things Lucy says these days.  She cracks me up, melts my heart, and drives me crazy all in unison.  We had a conversation about prayer lately.  I told her I'm trying, every once in a while, to only thank Heavenly Father for things, not ask for anything (inspired by this talk that one of the missionary letters we get recommended:

She looked at me incredulously and asked how in the world she would pray for all the people who are hurting from the hurricane?  And how would she pray for my back to get better?  (I hurt my back pretty awfully a couple weeks ago.)  And all I could do was hug her with all my might and tell her how lucky I am that she's mine.  We did pray a gratitude prayer after that, kneeling beside her bed.  We thanked God that He inspired Lucy's teacher to collect food for those suffering after the hurricanes, and also that He made our bodies that they can heal themselves all up relatively quickly.  And her little bedroom felt so full of love and beauty that night.

There are certainly all kinds of awfully annoying and taxing and boring things to being a mother, but the goodness fills it all in so beautifully.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Homecoming -- Grace's first dance

Oh boy, it was a big weekend around here last weekend.

Because it was Homecoming.  

Which marked the first high school dance since Grace became dateable (age 16).  


We were all pretty excited around here.  

I posted about when she got asked back HERE.

Grace started preparing for this puppy since that first night she was asked.  But of course, even then, there are still some hiccups when it came to the real-deal.  But she emerged radiant and glowing, ready for that cute date to pick her up.

And they had the best night.

But let's back up to the prep for a sec.

My cute niece came over to do her hair all up fancy.
(She did this for Elle you Brim!)

We went to the MAC counter at the mall to get her make-up done...which turned out to be quite a bit more than she had requested.

But she came home and wiped a bunch of it off, we cut off part of her little slip dealio to make it fit better and her more comfortable in the seconds before her date showed up, and she came out to greet him just as gorgeous as could be.

Her date came to pick her up.  Seriously the greatest kid, love him.

They dolled each other up...

 (aren't those flowers gorgeous?  Loved them)

 And I snapped a couple pictures before the crowds arrived.

Then everyone came and showed up in our front yard for pictures.

They all looked so beautiful!
It was a HUGE group of 28 of the nicest kids.

And those flowers...

Here are the boys:

 They cracked us up trying to think of all kinds of ideas for poses.

 ...and the girls:
Let's take a look at all those cute shoes and corsages:

 More boy poses :)

 Some close-ups of cool hair-dos:

 That good dad sending off his daughter:
 ...and her mom who sure loves her more than words can say:
It was fun to take all those pictures, but I gotta close with my favorite:
...which kind of sums up the night I think.

Fun times I tell you!

We sent some of these pictures to Max this week and he could hardly believe them.  This girl was 14 when he left.  He's going to be so surprised to come home to all these grown-up sisters of his!  

That girl of ours came home with such a big smile.  It was a good night :)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Missionary Monday

The things that every seasoned missionary parent has told me have come true: the first year passes like molasses.  

You miss that young man of yours more than you ever thought could be humanly possible.  

Then, as the long months start to melt away, you start to wonder if there really is a real boy who you once scolded and hugged and taught and learned from because he's been gone so long you can hardly remember the lines in his face, how huge his hands are, how he fidgets with his hair and t-shirts and how quickly he can make his sisters' faces light up.  

But you don't forget his smile.  Because it is there, beaming at you from the computer screen surrounded by people he loves that you have never met.  And their smiles smile back.  
And there is something about all those smiling faces that makes your heart cinch up and soften all at the same time.  It misses that boy more than ever, yet it is so incredibly overflowing with gratitude that he is there.  

Not at your side.  

Because he's learning things he could never learn anywhere else.  

Then you get in the swing of things.  

You get the letters down to a science (even though you leave every Sunday night wanting more since he is still not a man of many words).  You learn names of faceless people you pray your guts out for as your son falls in love with them and their families.  You try to picture how that once-so-shy child of yours looks talking to strangers on street corners and teaching lessons to other missionaries as their leader.  You think of his mission president who is guiding him with so much love, and the other missionaries he is learning so many good things from.  And the people.  Always the people.  His family away from his family.  

Gratitude mounts and multiplies like never before.

And then suddenly there's just a little over four months left.

And at the same time as you can almost feel that hug you'll get so soon, you wonder: has he learned the things he's supposed to learn?  Has he found the people who are searching for the light he wants to share?  Has he gleaned from the light they are willing to share?  Is he truly happy?  Does he know how precious these last months are?

And then you get a letter like the one we got last week, and you are reassured once again, he is in the right place.  At the right time.  And he realizes more than anyone else in the whole wide world how lucky he is to be right there.  Right now.  

This is what he wrote in response to Dave's question as to what has brought him most joy on his mission:

I feel like every day is just super joyful honestly like every day when we ride our bikes home at night i just spread out my arms and close my eyes and just soak it all in with the wind and everything and think about how great life is. 

Made my eyes well up with so much emotion.

In response to how his clothes are holding up: 

I should be good. My clothes are all falling apart but I should make it work for the next little bit. I lost my beloved pair of slip on leather shoes this week (the sole came off), but I have another pair that will get me through.

In response to Dave's question about how weird he is (missionaries live in such an interesting environment where obedience is so important and beautifully learned, but sometimes it takes a little to adjust when they get home ;):

I honestly have no idea if I am weird or not ...I can tell that my sense of humor has gotten better tho. I crack myself up haha


(I have to say on a side-note that I loved Dave's letter just as much as Max's...he's such a great Dad.)

When you hear that kid of yours who is so dang happy you realize that it's really ok that he's not going to be home in time for Christmas.  Or school.  Or anything else for that matter.  Because he's at the most golden time of that mission.  

Sure, there have been lows along with the highs.  This kid has struggled with all kinds of things through the last year and a half right alongside all the joys.  As you can imagine, living in a foreign country with complete strangers speaking a foreign (tough!) language in a vastly different culture makes for some rocky times.  Many feelings of insecurity, I'm sure some homesickness, sorrow and despair have surely been paired along with the wonders. Missions are tough.  There's no doubt about it.  But I believe with my whole heart that those things: the despair and the sorrow, are exactly what makes the joys and the triumphs so incredibly wonderful.  Without the lows all the wonder would be tough to recognize so beautifully.

Yes, what all those missionary parents said was so true: the beginning is slow and the end whizzes by.  Before we know it he will be home. That boy we adore who's details have become so fuzzy will be here, clear as day, filling up our space and emptying the refrigerator, and taking on all the hugs he's going to be smothered with.

And we cannot wait.

But there is an interesting sense of wanting, paired with the missing, to stretch out those last few months, hoping their golden-ness will stretch and build and provide opportunities in a way that will help him finish off in the best possible way. Praying the last months continue to mold him into the kind of kid he truly wants to become.  And that they mold him, pointing him toward the person God knows he can eventually become.  Oh, and even more importantly, that he finds those who want to listen to his message, and that that message will change them and help bring them more happiness than they could imagine.  And that he will listen to and learn from their hearts as he shares his own.

He's sure working on it!

Friday, September 15, 2017

August little things

Grace got home from China the end of July, so the beginning of August was filled with Chinese gift-giving:
...picture reminiscing:

...and driver's license testing.  More about that back HERE.
Our life has changed for the better in SO many ways with that girl driving.  I honestly say a little prayer of thanks about every day for that little piece of plastic and the girl who holds it...helps me out so much.

I love when kids are in the "I'll drive anywhere for you" stage of early driving.  Hoping it lasts for a long, long time.

We had our traditional night-before-school haircuts which we all needed so badly...
(We love Aubrie!!)

It was monsoon season so we saw a few of these:

New teachers were met and back to school nights were in session...all about that back HERE.

Then school started.

All about the first day over HERE, but here's a recap of our traditional "cookie chat."  It looks like everyone was just there, hanging with their mother after school, but in reality it was like herding flies to get everyone home at the same time.  It seemed like everyone had a million different directions to go that first day!
And I wrote about the first week and all the random stuff that happened over HERE.

We introduced a new school-year theme for our family (just started that new tradition last year), ...wrote all about that over HERE.

The moms had to get together to try to figure out life with a new school year...
Love these ladies so much.  We've been through a lot of child-rearing things together over the years which makes me love them even more.

Grace got asked on her first dates.
Pretty exciting times over here...more about that over HERE.

Elle took these girls (including Bo) on a date while Grace was busy with something this picture:

Lucy, as usual, was on a reading frenzy in August.  She got addicted to this mermaid series called Emily Windsnap and read five out of the six lickety-split:
(and just finished the last one too).

Speaking of Lu, we finally went through some of her art from art masterpiece last year.  These three were my favorites:

(Picasso's blue period above)
(Van Gogh-esque self-portrait above...hoping I can talk her into no-bald-spots some day...that girl is pretty set in her ways on lots of things...)

I love finding her writing samples around too...
...we really need to get going on the book she wants to write.

We love Bo.
She doesn't look to sure about things in that last picture, but I think in general she's pretty happy to be part of the family.

Monsoon season dancing-in-the rain:
We adore those storms.

Grace and her friends from China did a little FHE dealio evening to let all us families in on more of their adventures:
I told all about that and other school prep stuff back HERE.

We had a wedding.  Our nephew married such a great girl and we are so dang happy for them!
We were so sad we couldn't be there for all the festivities...luckily they had a beautiful open house here in the desert (coming)...

One of our best friends' sons got married and had his open house when these kids find such amazing partners.  He's been such a great example to Elle and her friend Macey (below) through the years.

Elle tried to put her graphic design skills to work to help me with a new blog logo while she was home.  We didn't get very far...
Some day this blog is going to have a new whiz-bang new look.  If anyone has any grand ideas about that, send them my way.  

I loved this goal brainstorming from Claire that she did one Sunday at church.  (It says 2014 but it was really just now.)  I wrote all about this in my "sibling love" post back HERE but I forgot to put this picture in...
 I love when kids can see where they need to improve and work hard on it.  And I love how she wrote how Lucy can help by "not being annoying."  Yep, let's keep this thing real around here!

A little cookie baking with some of the friends that Claire has coming in and out of the house:

The 2017 Turkey Trot meetings officially began with this Turkey Trot Dream Team (that's my name for them):
Those men put in so much work and effort to pull that thing off every year.  So grateful for them!

A little reading together that Lucy was so dang excited about, can you tell?
 ha ha ha.

Really, this was a night I want to remember though.  I wrote a lot more about it in my parent/child relationships post back HERE.

Had the opportunity to go to the temple at the same time with a couple of Elle's friends.
It was a beautiful day.

New favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for August...
Although we have really been being so good at healthy eating around here.

Dave and I have been working on our macros and feel so good when we do.

Lots of Elle's friends at a wedding reception:

My two favorite lake pictures from August right here:

Oh man I love those expressions.

They did get up...this trick is kind of a tradition.

Our nephew's open house...with all these cousins so happy to be together:

And this lovely couple...
Who Lucy adores...we were kinda trying to rein-act this picture we took over Memorial Day weekend...

An early-morning soccer game under some soggy clouds:

Some of Elle's art work from her beloved drawing class:

Lucy does this a lot in her spare time:
Kind of an interesting past-time, but it makes me happy.

Lucy peeled one potato while Elle peeled ten for one Sunday dinner.  Love that she sure tries with enthusiasm.

Dinner with Nana and Papa:
They are leaving to head back to Ghana before too long so we need to soak them up while we can!

Elle agreed to take over leading scripture study for a few of the days while she was home.
And near the end of her time home I figured we sure better take advantage of having her around and we took a day off from all the stuff we were working on and went on our own little date:

Loved this quote:

Lucy's Braille teacher and I did a little discussion with Lucy's class about vision loss.
All about that back HERE.

Claire and I started full-force into her home-school English.  Look how hard she's working with that slime :)
We are both really loving this arrangement.  We both have a lot to learn, but so far we've been reading, writing and memorizing poems.

Oh and running errands one day.  Ha!

I took her out of school early that day and it just so happened to be a day when all her friends took a group picture that everyone was posting on every social media account.  So Claire decided to take matters into her own hands and put her head in there too.
She also put me in there.  Can you find us?  hahaha

We experimented with some new hairstyles.
Since Elle has been doing some work with barefoot blonde instagram we have been following some of the hair tutorials and thought this one was kind of cool:

A driver's license licenses Grace to take her sisters on some pretty fun dates.
And oh boy they sure feel lucky about that.

Job charts are starting to fill in as we get a little more self-disciplined around here (our school-year motto):
Elle's Hawaii girls came for a visit:

We took them to the lake one day:
...which happened to be a completely nutty day because we had some Canada passport problems that day getting ready to go out of town and my heart was sure racing on that boat!  But it was great to be with those girls and get to know them better.

Elle came with Dave and I to a bunch of our workout classes in August:
We loved having her along.

Grace was busy as could be with student council.  This was the banner they made for the student section for the first football game:
It was HUGE!

First football game:

Lucy and her friends sure come up with fun stuff to do...

Lu and I got to go on a little date:

One of Lucy's teachers from church brought her over the sweetest journal and marker set.  She said she always sees her taking notes and listening so well in church so she thought she could use a new notebook.

How incredibly sweet is that?

Here is Lucy's note back to her:

This cute girl left for Max's same mission the exact same day he did:
Which is crazy because she is HOME!

Girls serve missions for 18 months as opposed to the 24 months guys serve.  Such a huge difference in so many ways.  It was so great to be able to go to this girl's homecoming at church.  She sounded like she was sure a great missionary.

We gathered with cousins to wrap up the end of summer hoopla.
It was so fun to see this kid, second from the right below, who just got home from his mission:
He served in NYC and had quite an amazing missionary experience there.  So great to hear more about it.

Listened and listened and listened to this book:
It is a LONG sucker!  But so interesting.  Much more about that back HERE.

Elle and I hung out in the passport office during the eclipse but we loved seeing all the hoopla thrown out in social media.  Love that Claire got to see it with one of her classes at school:

Best little tiny airplane that took Dave, Elle and I to Canada:
We had a pretty grand couple days up there...which I wrote all about over HERE.

We did a lot of homecoming-dress-option-try-ons.
I still cannot believe this little girl of mine is going to Homecoming.  She is pretty on top of things and has everything arranged.  I love it.

Took the girls to visit such a cool exhibit in a local contemporary art museum.
All about that over HERE.

Elle's friend McKenna and her friends nailed it at their concert (over HERE).

Grace went on her "day date" for Homecoming, and had a grand time:

Elle snuggled up her sisters before she had to take off:
I should actually say "got to" take off though, because boy that girl was excited to get back to that island!

These girls (and all the big girls too), helped to prepare hearts for those who lost loved ones this last month:
We had some pretty sad stuff happen in August which I talked about back HERE.
I started following "ldsdailyscpipture" on Instagram and it's interesting how often something pops up that speaks right to something I'm worried about.  This one was perfect for that week of deaths:
My brother went up to watch the eclipse in a prime spot near Jackson Hole.

One night we asked him to come give us a little report on what he did and show us some pictures.
It was pretty fascinating stuff I tell you!
Made me wish so bad we could have been there with him!  But this was second best.  So cool to hear everything from his perspective.

More heart-attacks.

I loved what Lucy wrote on her hearts:

In other student council news, they hosted this huge regional leadership conference at their school and it was quite the undertaking.  Here's a shot of the dance they did:

On top of that, it's homecoming this next week.  This is how they decorated the front hall:
I thought it was pretty awesome.
Grace's cousin was at the leadership conference.
Sometimes I wish these kids went to the same school, but at least they get to meet up at stuff like this.
I thought this was pretty funny:
(After she heard the new Taylor Swift song.)

So funny how those girls of mine were pretty questionable about that song and now it seems to be on repeat quite a bit...

We had a youth activity for church at this surfing place.  And these girls all showed up accidentally like this:
Kinda funny.

The kids had so much fun.

Grace and her girls...including Claire in the back :)
Phew!  August was a big one.
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