Tuesday, August 2, 2016

School Preparation

It is that time of year again...Back to School...and again I have fallen a bit behind schedule but it was worth it.

My goal to begin school was August 1st but with so much that had happened this summer and most of it in June/July I have slowly pushed our start date back to August 8th. Oh I guess if this is your first time reading it may help to know that we homeschool.


The good news is that it has not taken me by surprise like so many other times, no I have been working on things for a while now. I ordered our material in May, tried to get the bathrooms finished up in June (we are SO close), started a routine including cleaning in July, and organized/purged our classroom in August. So organizing may have started in July but I finished today and hung our bulletin board boarder.


One of the reasons I fell behind wasn't the sickness, vacation, or even the collapsed sewer line (yep you read right). It was that my boys went to spend 4 days with my parents unexpectedly one of the last weeks in July. It was the weekend I had planned to do some of the fun stuff of picking out new outfits and items we may need for school. Even though we homeschool it doesn't mean that we can't join in the fun of back to school shopping. For us we get to wait until things go on sale but there are a few things like decorations that help get them excited to start.

The time away was good for both them and us. It has been a couple years since my mom had them for a couple nights but I was a counselor at camp only about 30 minutes away, otherwise it had been since before my youngest was born. I missed them like crazy but we are planning to do this more often so they can spend time with family.




My husband and I tried to make the most of it trying to come up with places we wouldn't normally go with the boys or at least places that would be good to try before taking them. It was hard coming up with ideas, but again we only had an hour between the time I mentioned the idea to my mom and her picking them up. They live 2 hours away and she was in town helping a friend so it just worked out perfectly. When my husband was working or studying I spent my time watching movies and doing absolutely nothing...again playing a part in the delay in school. :)

Now we are close to my next goal date and I have just found out I am babysitting the first 3 days but I plan on having activities for the little girl to do and just hoping the baby sleeps through the morning. He really is a good baby so I think we should be fine.

But my dilemma comes back to we haven't decorated or planned anything special to mark the first day of school. Every year I have these grand ideas in my head, pinned to pinterest, maybe even supplies bought but so far this year I come up blank. Looks like it may be a surprise to all of us.


This year I have done something ahead of time, that I haven't done since my oldest started Kindergarten...read ahead and planned. Usually I wait until the last minute to put my teacher books together and then usually I do about 4 weeks at a time. Last night I copied and assembled 12 weeks until the ink ran low and I completely ran out of paper. I actually had to go find 5 pieces to finish but we made it. This also caused me some anxiety because 3rd grade seems to be so different than the last 3 years. Maybe once we start it won't be so bad but it does feel a little overwhelming.

Let's see what happens in the next 5 days...


Monday, August 1, 2016

Inclusion

I go back and forth on whether I should do a post on this because it is personal. Yes all my posts are about my personal life but these are my emotions and these are people that I don't want to hurt even if my feelings have been.

I have always been the "third wheel" except in the congregation I grew up in. Maybe because I was the oldest but there I had a place and friends. I joined clubs, sports, pretty much anything to try to make more of a difference...ie make real friends...through middle and high school. Don't get me wrong I had some very close friends but by the time we got to highschool we had different paths but still I considered them my best friends. We don't talk now, it was more that we all just drifted apart, separated by states, interests, beliefs...just life.

Then there was the classmates I got along with but never cool enough to hangout with outside of school/sports. Maybe my problem was that I had a goal of getting along with everyone. I had my "enemies" yet I still tried to be cordial to them.

College was a little different because there were only a few people I saw frequently. Again we didn't hang out outside of class much but I am still in touch with most of those who I did. Facebook has been a huge help in that aspect.

There was one friendship during my college years that has continued granted on and off but it is one of those that we pick right back up where we left off. Sometimes I really want to ask what made us drift apart for the year or so that maybe we weren't in contact as much but I know it wasn't just their fault. I have a phone and email too. Not only are we friends but our children have grown up as friends which I am very thankful for and hope they continue to be great friends.

Now I make friends easier with those older than me. Again maybe it is because I didn't have others my own age growing up. My parents worked at a retirement center which I spent a lot of time at, I was the oldest child in our congregation and the closest female was 5 years younger or about 12 years older than me. Socially awkward  was and is who I am.

Maybe I try to hard but I'm at a time in my life where it feels like because I don't have close relationships like others that my children suffer too. When I look around I see women as best friends and their children as best friends hanging out, inside jokes, getting together for lunches. It makes me a little jealous.

Especially when my children are not invited to those birthday parties or asked to come play. I begin to think maybe it is because of me that they don't want their kids around mine. Maybe they think I don't have well behaved children, maybe I'm not crafty enough, or stylish enough. Oh my head spins and I have a good cry.

Then I realize I'm not alone. There are others that don't get invited to every thing or included in the inside joke. While it hurts I need to pick myself up and teach my boys it is not about being included but trying to include others into our life. It may not be reciprocated and we can't invite every single person to everything thing but we can try to make every person feel special in those moments we have with them.

Opening doors, saying hello or at least giving a smile, doing what is right by putting God first. Taking the worry and burden off our shoulders and living a life following Christ. Usually when I start feeling down I realize I haven't been great about studying God's word.

Kristen Duke has a couple posts on her blog that have really hit home and helped me through some of these rough times.

Conflict
Senitivity

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Branson Vacation

This year has been full of surprises and this summer has been no exception. We started out planning a family vacation, like last year to Yellowstone but slightly closer, to Texas. Unfortunately the first surprise caused us to change plans to being closer than that. Our new plan...Branson, Missouri and Eureka Springs, Arkansas area.

We started to plan our trip, although we waited closer to last minute we had our menu picked out, room arrangements made (ie we were all bunking at my brother's house) and a list of activities. The activities ranged from hikes, shopping, and even zip lining. 

Surprise 2:
In my previous post I mentioned about my youngest becoming sick. He did slightly better after running through the antibiotics but was still bad enough that we scheduled a meeting with a specialist. We didn't know how traveling would be for him, luckily we were only 3 hours from home but yet he was having a hard enough time at times waiting an hour. He was not the only one with health concerns, my brother's children had a few things happen although perfectly healthy by vacation, and my dad who was actually laid up for a while. Traveling for him was also hard, he is a guy that never lets anything get in his way yet he was in pain.

Isn't that the way life goes though, surprise after surprise. About 2 weeks before we planned to leave for vacation we found out that we were going to have company. This was a really nice surprise as we haven't seen my husband's side of the family in a while. We hosted a small birthday party for my father in law and by the time we were done with the planning and execution of the party we realized we hadn't even made a list for packing. This wouldn't be a huge deal except we were leaving the next day...or thought so.

Sunday we planned to hurry home after church and pack up to leave that evening for Branson. We wanted to get in an extra day or two away from school and home improvements and just relax. Although our 3rd "son" came home. We tried to convince him to come with us for the day before he headed to Oklahoma to see his family but alas he had things he had to do in town before he left.

Bright and early Monday morning we headed out stopping a few times hoping to find discounts but instead found homemade candy and chocolate galore. We made it to Branson right about 11am for the fun to begin. After a quick bite we headed to Silver Dollar City. I haven't been there since I was in highschool. It was a day full of new experiences and rides.

It was honestly the best day to go. A Monday and it looked like it was going to storm so we were able to get on every ride we went up to pretty much as soon as we walked up to it, no lines. The weather wasn't miserable either, low humidity and temps in the 80's.

First ride we came to was Thunderation...I don't know what I was thinking but it never crossed my mind that it was actually a roller coaster not the train ride. My poor husband kept questioning me asking if I knew what this but didn't want to say it out loud in case of scaring the boys. As soon as we got up to it I realized and they were ready for us to get in. The boys did awesome and absolutely loved it. It was one of the rides they kept asking to go back to. It was also my youngest son's first roller coaster, but now he was hooked.

We stopped in and watched them blow glass, make candy, and do some iron work. It was neat letting the boys see what we have talked about in school actually happen. Of course you have to splurge a little while on vacation so we had a funnel cake too. Around 2:30 it started to become humid again so we decided to go to the Globetrotter show. It was a blast and my husband was almost picked to go on stage. Lucky for him the teen daughters behind us were more excited to get their dad on stage and their dad more embarrassed. When he got back we all had a good laugh about it.


Back to a few more rides one being Outlaw Run. This one my youngest who wanted to ride it so badly was to short by 1/2 inch so it was his brother and I who took on this challenge. The sign said 15 minute wait but again we walked up and we were next. This was a hard one for him. It is ranked #7 of the world's best wooden coasters and 2nd fastest. He seemed to like it up until we pulled into the station and then he began to get tears in his eyes. As a parent it is sometimes hard to know when it is a show and when it is real. I lean towards show for this case but I'm not going to push it because later he was talking about how much he liked it and then how scared he was.  We will just have to see next time if he wants to try again.

By this time the park had started to get busy so we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes to go on our last ride Lost River of the Ozarks. Again this became a favorite of the boys but we were all exhausted and ready to get some dinner. My oldest ended up with a headache and didn't get to eat much but it subsided enough for him to join us swimming to end a fun filled day.

Tuesday morning I received a call from my dad letting us know "surprise 3" they were not going to be able to make it that day and would have to drive down the next morning. My brother had to work until 5 so we were happy we went ahead and bought season passes for Silver Dollar City (less than the price of 2 days) Today was much busier than the day before. The lines weren't terrible but still had lines.

Did I mention there was actually a surprise 4 in there which actually happened on Monday, I had 48 hours to get a contract submitted. Not a huge deal except when you are on vacation it is much harder to get everything together. We managed to get it done but literally came down to 30 minutes before the deadline.


Back to the rides...we rode about 75% of the rides. I think the best one which was actually one of the first we rode on day 2 was PowderKeg. Ok so I didn't care for it but mainly because I am not a coaster person but I ride them because others with me want to and my husband is not a fan. I hadn't realized that he had never been on one until after we had met. I don't think it would have bothered me as much as it is my children sitting next to me and I am more concerned about their safety. Anyway since my husband decided not to do it I had to take one child at a time and my youngest was first. It was a good 15 minute wait but he was so excited. During this time my husband and older son watched and decided he didn't want to go after all. While waiting we had conversations with several around us one being a father/daughter from Nebraska. They were concerned my son wasn't big enough to ride (he was, although it was my concern as well) and that he would be scared. Their opinion quickly changed once the ride was over though.

Reaction to seeing it take off
PowderKeg begins with shooting you 0-53mph in 2.8seconds and goes 60+ I felt that the belt was not tight enough on my son, it was but just a mother's fear. He had an ABSOLUTE blast. No pun intended. When it was done he was jumping up and down and so excited about how great it was, hence the reason the father/daughter changed their mind about him. He is my little thrill seeker. My husband tried to record it but instead caught a more subdued moment but at the mention of going again he perked right back up. You can see it here.

We had lunch in the park, not cheap but we did learn that we could have all split 1- 2 meals instead of 3. More rides and we were ready to head on to my brother's house. Of course we had to ride Thunderation one more time since it is next to the exit.

We had a great time catching up with my brother's family. This was probably the only time that my niece really wanted to sit on my lap. The rest of the time she was chasing after the other kids. We took the kids to the park on Wednesday while waiting for my parents, sister, and brother-in-law to arrive.




We decided to take it easy but took a short drive to the Roaring River Fish Hatchery. It poured on us about halfway there. For those in our car it wasn't bad but we had a good laugh at those riding in the Jeep.


Rain cleared by the time we parked
We took a free tour and the kids were able to feed the fish. A quick hike and my youngest decided he needed the bathroom so a very quick hike back down ;) Back to the house for a quick dinner and out again to make it to Bible Study in Roger's Arkansas.




Thursday was the day we had planned to go zip lining but because of my dad's back and my brother in law had twisted his ankle the previous weekend we decided to go to Branson for a shorter one.The other was a 2 hour hiking/8 ziplines. Before heading out my brother, sister, and sister in law went for a drive and found huge box turtle in the middle of the road. Unfortunately we forgot to take pictures of Titus before releasing him. He was their way of coaxing my poor SIL into zip lining with us. As soon as we arrived the wind started to blow a little harder and we were told that it would be a 2 hour wait due to the line but then if they had to shut it down could be longer. So with 12 people, 4 being under 8, we decided to go have lunch and catch a movie instead. The guys and my SIL saw the new Independence Day movie at the IMAX and my mom, sister, and I took the kids to see Finding Dory. It was perfect timing because we got out within 5 minutes of each other.


We had planned to go back and try to zipline but my dad's back was bothering him and wouldn't be able to join. What is the fun if only a handful can participate. Our hope was to try another day but ended up skipping it all together. We will save it for another time.

Have you ever rode a Duck? There was an episode of Undercover Boss which was the first time I had heard about them being available for civilians to ride. Guess where that episode was filmed? We had about 30 minutes before our tour and I bet you can't guess where you can wait in ac? Store was filled with candy. We were not going to make a purchase but after the rest of my family did and the boys kept asking and my husband kept asking, I caved. The ride was really fun and informative, we were almost hit by the Belle cruise ship as we entered the lake, and the kids took turns steering the Duck while we were in Table Rock Lake.









We also visited Dick's 5&10 but the kids...and myself were exhausted so I took them to the car while the others looked around before we headed back to my brother's house. Surprisingly the kids didn't fall asleep.


Friday we took the day to learn more about Arkansas. It was also the girls day to ride in the Jeep...although none of us can drive stick well so it really was the sisters and my brother.


First stop was Thorncrown Chapel.  Very pretty although when you enter you are asked to quietly go and sit so you can't really look around.









Next up was a neat little spot called War Eagle Mill we walked around the reconstructed mill, nibbled on a few of their samples, and walked across the bridge. The girls became brave enough to take the sides off the Jeep. It may not be about bravery as much as we were willing to deal with the knotty hair.

For a little rest and bathroom break we stopped in at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. We saw an armadillo, the kids stretched their legs, and while the adults watched a film I took the kids to learn more about Arkansas symbols. I think the kids enjoyed it and learned a little.

We were starving by this point and decided to stop in at The Short Stop for a quick bite and a GIANT ice cream cone. At this point we switched around seating so my brother could feed the cows and my mom could ride in the Jeep while the rest of us headed back to the house to make dinner.

Saturday the guys headed to the farm to do "manly" things like target practice and the girls took the kids back to Branson for a day of shopping. For those of you with kids you know this is not an enjoyable task but we bribed the kids with stopping in at Toys R Us if they were good. They had some really good deals at the outlet and I had planned on buying some new clothes but once I tried them on and saw how much weight I have gained around my midsection depression began to sit in. On the other hand I found the boys some nice t-shirts and as promised we were about to head to Toys R Us when we walked by the Disney Store. The kids voted that they would be happier to look around there instead of the original plan. We told them they could pick out one thing each under $10. I did cave and bought them each a Star Wars shirt but overall we did really well because everything was on sale even more than originally thought. My oldest got an Iron Man mask and the youngest a Hulk figure. Really for taking 4 kids an hour away to go shopping they did really well, so you can't drive all the way back without stopping for some ice cream. (I admit food is my downfall with my weight)



Sunday we planned to head back home to help give us 24 hours to recoup before going back to the grind. We went to morning services with my family and then lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant with my aunt, uncle, and family before we hit the road.

 

While it wasn't the trip that we had imagined I loved spending time with my family. Again missing my baby brother but it is always nice being around my parents, other siblings and their family. And I LOVED watching the bond between cousins become stronger.

Where should we plan our next vacation?