Welcome to 2017!

We’ve made it to yet another year. This year Ani will turn 17(!) in February, Cameron 16 in October, Fritz 11 in July, and Adrian will be 9 in June. I will be 39 in April, Jamie will turn 42 in November, and we will celebrate 19 years of marriage in June.

In the fall, Cameron will start 10th grade, Fritz will begin 6th (middle school!), and Adrian will be in 4th grade. Ani will graduate in June. Hopefully, she’ll be healthy enough by the fall to take at least some on-line college classes.

Cameron will test for his second degree black belt in June and with any luck (and some better health) Ani will test for hers in December.

Ani will be seeing an endocrinologist the end of this month. We’re really hoping for some good, solid answers, a diagnosis, and a plan for treating whatever the heck is wrong with her.

Jamie and I are planning a trip to visit his mom in Ireland at some point this year. It’s been almost four years since we’ve seen her in person. If all goes well, my parents will finally sell their house and move in with us… in 6 months to a year (it’s always 6 months to a year).

During Family Home Evening last night, we all set some goals for the new year.
Jamie: Grow food we regularly eat rather than what he things sounds cool
Me: Tell the kids what chores I want them to do rather than expect them to notice things that need to get done and get annoyed when they don’t notice or do it
Ani: Get diagnosed with what is wrong with her
Cameron: Do more stop motion animation
Fritz: Play with the sugar gliders more often
Adrian: Start a YouTube channel
Maddie, an almost 17-year-old who collects mothers because hers passed away and spends a lot of time at our house: Get a job
Whole Family (Maddie came up with this one): Go on a family date every other month

Between the things we know are going to happen and the goals we’ve set, it’s going to be a great year!

My Nativities

I collect nativities. I have almost 30 of them out this Christmas, though I must have left some at my parents’ when we moved because I remember some that are not here.

My Nativities

I think I have a total of around 35. The rest will come with my parents when they move in with us.

My Nativities

My collection started innocently enough. I had three or four of them and they made me happy.

My Nativities

I happened to mention to Uncle Ralph that I seemed to have started a nativity collection and I loved to look at them.

My Nativities

He gave me one that Christmas. And another the next Christmas. And then another. And then he started giving me an amazing Lenox nativity part by part. That one is utterly amazing and beautiful to look at.

My Nativities

Some of my nativities are tiny. Some are big. Some represent other cultures. Some are just silly. One even doubles as an Advent calendar.

My Nativities

One doesn’t match at all and was found piece by piece at antique stores. One came from Panama where my Uncle Lawrence was serving as a Catholic priest.

My Nativities

One was made by Ani and Cameron when they were 8 and 9ish using upside down clay pots as part of a Christmas study we were using that December from Discover the Scriptures.

My Nativities

Every one of my nativities has a story. This one is from Uncle Ralph, that one is from my best friend Kimberlee, this one was made by my mom.

My Nativities

Looking at them brings me joy. Thinking about where I got each one and who gave them to me brings me even greater joy.

My Nativities

The best part is they only come out once a year for a few weeks. This means they are not cluttering up my house year round and becoming part of the background that I don’t even really see when I look around.

My Nativities

Instead, they remain very special. Putting them out, I remember their stories. Looking at them those few weeks each year, they make me happy. I truly love my nativity collection.

Ani’s Room, Part 2

Several months ago I posted about starting to redo Ani’s room. It’s been slow going, but we’re almost done (much to Cameron’s delight since his room is next – thankfully his plan is way simpler than Ani’s!).

Once we had her room all painted white, I used Frog Tape to form randomly sized triangles all around her room.
Ani's Room, Part 2

Then we used the five colors Ani picked out (yellow, blue, purple, orange, and green) to randomly paint inside the triangles. (The exception to the triangles is behind the shelves where it is pink and behind the desk where it is deep pinkish red.)
Ani's Room, Part 2

When we pulled off the tape, the edges were rather fuzzy. The texture on our walls makes it so good lines take a lot of work. I spent about 40 or so hours listening to Literary Disco podcasts and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and making those lines nice and straight. (Side note: I usually can’t pay attention to audiobooks, but while doing something mindless apparently I can.)
Ani's Room, Part 2

Jamie, Cameron, and Fritz installed the floor. Once we got a good saw it went in so fast. It’s gorgeous.
Ani's Room, Part 2

We put in new baseboard trim. The old stuff looked white until we painting the room white. Then it looked like an ugly shade of yellowish beige.
Ani's Room, Part 2

I painted the shelves white (they were as ugly as the old baseboards).
Ani's Room, Part 2

We installed an outlet with USB ports. We painted the outlet and light switch covers random colors from the triangles and screwed them in place. The outlet covers on the shelves/desk wall are painted the pink/pinkish red opposite what the walls they are on.
Ani's Room, Part 2

We got a bedset that goes nicely with the room and white cordless blinds for the windows. Ani loves being back in her room again even though it’s not quite done yet (she was sleeping in the room my parents will be in once they move here).
Ani's Room, Part 2

We still need to finish painting her door white and put that up, get curtains for her windows, and do a few touch-ups on the triangles. Her closet is a different story. We removed the door and wire shelving and painted the walls and ceiling using the leftover paint from the shelves/desk wall. In there, she is planning to build chests to hold her clothes that double as reading benches. She’s planning to get a little chandelier and beads to go in the doorway making it a nice, cozy little nook. We’re going to move on to Cameron’s room before we finish her closet, though.

What Homeschooling Moms Want You to Know

Anyone can homeschool.
There is nothing special about people who homeschool. I often hear, “I just couldn’t homeschool.” In every case, if they wanted to, I have no doubt they could and would be great at it. Homeschooling does take dedication and a lot of time. This is true. But especially nowadays with so many curriculum options, it’s easy to put together an excellent, well rounded education for any age student.

We’re not all superwomen.
Let’s face it. All moms have to juggle where kids need to be when. Homeschooling moms just keep their kids home and do a few hours of school while moms of public schoolers get their kids to and from school, help with or direct homework, volunteer, and do all sorts of other things related to their kids’ schooling, too.

We’re not all ridiculously creative.
I have two friends who are seriously creative. The first puts on these elaborate parties for her girls every holiday complete with themed food and decorations. The other made these incredible t-shirts for her kids to wear when they went to Disney World recently. Every craft she makes turns out amazing. The first friend is a homeschooler. The second is not. Just like some moms of public schoolers are ridiculously creative, some moms of homeschoolers are. And some moms are not creative, and others are everywhere in between. As far as creativity goes, homeschooling doesn’t make us any different from other moms.

We worry about our kids’ education like crazy.
While the proliferation of curriculum choices makes it easier to homeschool, it also makes it easier to second guess what we are using and feel paralyzed about making the “right” choice. We worry that we’re not covering everything and that we’re leaving huge gaps. We worry that the choices we make for curriculum aren’t the best ones for our kids, or if homeschooling at all is the right choice. When it comes right down to it, if something is missed or goes wrong, it is our fault. There is no one else to blame. There’s a lot to worry involved when you’re completely in charge of your kids’ education.

Sometimes we get burned out.
Sometimes we wish that big yellow bus would stop and pick up our kids. Sometimes we are tired of the worry and time homeschooling takes. For some reason the most common time for this to happen is February, but burn out can happen at any time. Burn out, though, does not automatically mean the kids should be put in public school. What it means is a little break or switching to doing something fun (like a unit study) for a few days is needed and usually we’re ready to get back to it when the break is over.

We don’t think you sending your kids to public school is bad.
Just because we homeschool, it doesn’t mean we are judging you for sending your kids to public school. Yes, we think homeschooling is the right choice for our own family. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be doing it. It does not mean we think it is bad or wrong that homeschooling is not the right choice for your family. I’ve been homeschooled/homeschooling for a lot of years and I’ve only encountered a handful of truly anti-public school, all people should homeschool are terrible if they don’t, type people. They are definitely the extreme (albeit often vocal) minority.

We are not all super organized.
Like creativity, this is another one that varies. You will find incredibly organized homeschooling moms who have their schedule planned for the whole year before the year even starts (that would be me) all the way to moms who fly by the seat of their pants. A couple homeschooling mom friends of mine were looking at my “brain” (bullet journal) and weren’t sure whether to be horrified or impressed. When they saw I have days off school pre-planned months ahead of time they decided horrified was probably the right response. The thing is, pre-planning like that works for me and I’d go crazy if I didn’t. Other homeschooling moms would go crazy being so completely planned out. But, no matter how organized (or not) the moms are, the kids still get a good education.

Not all homeschooled kids are super high achieving geniuses.
Some are. That is true. And some are behind or have learning disabilities (actually, that’s a big reason people pull their kids out of school to homeschool them). Most are average, just like in the general population. Because they can go at their own pace and one-on-one schooling takes less time than educating a whole classroom of kids, however, many average homeschooled kids do end up above grade level in one subject or another.

Homeschoolers are a pretty diverse group.
When my parents started homeschooling me, most homeschoolers were whitem middle to upper class, conservative Christian families. It’s not that way anymore. You’ll find all races, classes, and religions (or lack thereof) homeschooling. You’ll find some who believe the earth is 6,000 years old and some who think it’s several billion years old (never, ever engage a group of homeschoolers in an “old earth/young earth” debate! – just trust me on this one) and some who aren’t sure. Some are conservative, some are liberal, some are moderate. Pretty much, when it comes right down to it, we’re just regular people who choose to educate our children at home (and the reasons for that choice vary widely, too!).

2015

Last night I went to bed at 10:30. I figured the new year would arrive whether I was awake to see the clock flip (or the ball drop) or not. Of course then people in the neighborhoods all around us started the annual shooting off of fireworks. Really, they started here and there about 9. At midnight they were insane. Jamie says he heard the last of the fireworks at 12:45. I remember the fireworks and was in a sort of in between awake and asleep state through all the booms and bangs.

This year we are hopeful we’ll finally figure out for sure what Ani’s health problems are (hopefully sooner than later since she sees the rheumatologist in a couple weeks. Cameron, and possibly Ani, will likely get his first degree black belt. This time next year I should be a red belt which is right before black. That’s pretty crazy to think about.

In February Ani and I will probably be going to Utah for a long weekend. I get to see my best friend! We’re going to have a big, nerdy party in March to celebrate Ultimate Pi Day. In April, my mom and I are going to Time Out for Women and Ani is going to Time Out for Girls. My parents will hopefully be moving in before the end of the year.

Ani will turn 15 in February and will start her junior year of high school in August. Cameron will turn 14 in October and be ordained to the office of Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. He’ll start 8th grade in August. Fritz will turn 9 in July and start 4th grade in August. On Sunday he’ll move up to the scriptures series of classes in primary (New Testament this year). Adrian will turn 7 in June and start 2nd grade in August. I’ll have my birthday on Easter for the first time ever, turning 37 that day. Jamie will turn 40 in November.

Yes, it should be a very good year!

What We’ve Been Up To

We’ve completed 7 weeks of this school year. Only two more and the first quarter will be done. Time is flying, but that’s mostly because we’ve been having lots of fun!

Four weeks ago we participated in our second taekwondo tournament. We were there pretty much all day this time. Adrian did an extreme weapons form using nunchucks to the Mario theme song. Because of his age, he doesn’t get actually scored yet, but instead got 12 thumbs up.
What We've Been Up To

Fritz did an extreme weapons form using kamas to a Minecraft parody song. He also competed in sparring. He didn’t place in either category (but he did win his first bout of sparring!). His group/ring was huge and took an insanely long amount of time (they started over an hour before Cameron’s and finished about the same time as Cameron’s) and was very disorganized which was pretty disappointing and frustrating. Hopefully the next tournament in March will be better.
What We've Been Up To

Cameron competed in four events. He didn’t place in traditional form, got first in traditional weapons and sparring, and second in extreme weapons (kamas). He was also on the demo team for our school. They came in fourth.
What We've Been Up To

Jamie, Ani, and I competed at the same time and Cameron was keeping track of the little guys so no pictures of us. Jamie got first in extreme weapons (sword) and second in sparring. Ani got first in extreme weapons (kamas). I got first in extreme weapons (jahong bong to the Doctor Who theme song) and second in traditional form.

We do a lot of taekwondo. Someone in the family is usually there 5, sometimes 6, days a week, plus we practice at home. As they say, the family that kicks together sticks together!
What We've Been Up To

Ani and Cameron participated in a special class with Seth Austin three weeks ago. He’s done martial arts dancing back-up for various artists on tour, been in Sideswipe (all martial arts act in Vegas), and does stunt man work (including on Agents of SHIELD), among other things. They were both so sore afterwards. They kicked a lot and worked on tumbling, too.
What We've Been Up To

What We've Been Up To

Both Ani and Cameron are also training to one day be junior instructors.
What We've Been Up To

What We've Been Up To

Not to be outdone by Cameron, I also did some kicks down by the Alamo.
What We've Been Up To

My parents came to visit for 3 weeks. It was so great to see them. Adrian totally gave them a guilt trip when it was time for them to leave. He’s really looking forward to his “Honey” (what he calls my mom) being here permanently.
What We've Been Up To

Mommie, Daddy, Jamie, and I went to see Bill Cosby. He talked for two hours straight and was just so funny the whole time. Truly awesome!
What We've Been Up To

On Cameron’s birthday, I convinced him to go to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. I’ve always wanted to go to one and can never convince my family to go with me. I said it was only fair since 13 years before I pushed him out of my body with no drugs and he hurt.
What We've Been Up To

Last Saturday between Conference sessions we got some temporary pink dye and made Ani’s hair nice and colorful.
What We've Been Up To

Mommie and I ended up putting streaks in our hair, too. Interestingly, the pink turned purple in Mommie’s hair!
What We've Been Up To

And, of course, we’ve been doing school. We even mostly kept up with our schedule while my parents were here.
What We've Been Up To

What We've Been Up To

What We've Been Up To

Science (REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry) has been lots of fun. We observed how things do or do not dissolve in water.
What We've Been Up To

I put things (like peppermint essential oil and cinnamon) in balloons and the kids smelled them to see if molecules can escape through the balloon and be smelled.
What We've Been Up To

We made atom models of the first ten elements on the periodic table. The instructions said to use marshmallows, but we used playdough instead. The white are neutrons, the red are protons, and the yellow are electrons.
What We've Been Up To

And, one day, a two-headed monster attended our school.
What We've Been Up To

Out with the old, in with the new (year)

Last night I tried to say it was 2014 on the east coast and since we’ve only been in Central Time 7 months I was still on Eastern Time and head to bed. But I persevered and made it to midnight Central Time. Adrian conked out 20 minutes to midnight sitting upright on the couch between Ani and Cameron. Nothing could wake him up at midnight. Fritz fell asleep on my lap at 11:57. Yeah. Three minutes to go. I kept shaking him to keep him awake. He was not impressed by the sparking grape juice (he doesn’t like to drink anything fizzy… or really anything that isn’t water) and was in bed by 12:02 and asleep by 12:03. It took me about 4 minutes longer than Fritz and I was out.

So 2013 was a pretty exciting year for us. In February Ani became a real official teenager. In March we went to Ireland and spent a month there. In April I turned 35. In May we left Maryland and drove over 1,600 miles to our new home in Texas. In June we celebrated our 15th anniversary and Adrian turned 5. In July Fritz turned 7. In August the kids started kindergarten, second grade, sixth grade, and ninth grade in public school. In October Cameron turned 12 and was ordained to the office of Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood and we got Lola, our first dog. In November five of us started taking taekwondo and Jamie turned 38. Yes, it was quite a wonderful, crazy year with lots of firsts!

2014 shouldn’t be nearly as exciting as 2013, but we’re definitely looking forward what it brings us. Some things we can be sure of. Ani will turn 14 in February (and finally be allowed to go to church dances!). I’ll turn 36 in April. In June we’ll hit 16 years of marriage and we’ll no longer have any children who can show their age with just one hand any longer when Adrian turns 6. In July Fritz will turn 8 and will be baptized at some point during the summer. Ani will fly all by herself for the first time and spend about a month with her grandparents in Maryland (including about a week with her cousins from Alaska!). At some point, hopefully in the summer, my parents will make that over 1,600 mile move across half the country (making us a multi-generational household once again!). In August the kids will start first, third, seventh, and tenth grades. In October Cameron will become a teenager. And in November Jamie will hit his very last year in his 30s.

Yes, 2013 was a good year. 2014 should be as well!