Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year In Review

Now that the new year is upon us, I thought I would reflect a little on what has happened over the past year.

If you've been around my blog for a while, you know I always like to give our years some sort of a theme or a title. Usually I can sum up the year in one word. But looking back on this year, I'm not exactly sure what stands out, except that this was the year we were really really busy!! Maybe I could sum it up by calling it the year of growth. I think everyone in the family had a lot of personal growth this year. 

For Shawn it was his promotion at work. Last January Shawn was promoted at work and now he's the boss. This year has a been a bit of a struggle for him as he's had to make a lot of changes at work and deal with some difficult situations, but he has learned and grown so much from it. He's really good at his job and I'm proud of him for how hard he works. He's really had to stretch himself this year to deal with all the work changes, but he has done a great job. 

For me the defining moment of this year was definitely going back to school. That has been a huge thing for me. So far the classes aren't hard, but just being brave enough to give it a try was hard for me. My self confidence has grown leaps and bounds as I have realized that I really can do this. Deciding to go back to school was the first step in finally completing a goal I set for myself over 20 years ago. I'm finally doing the thing I always wanted to do, and that's huge for me. It's scary and it's overwhelming and it's requiring me to step way out of my comfort zone, but I'm doing it and I'm proud of me. :) 

For Josh I feel like I could write ten pages on how he has grown this year. That kid is going places. He's getting straight A's in a very difficult academic program, he's the editor of the yearbook, he is competing on his schools academic decathalon team, he made a fantastic National History Day documentary that he's excited to enter into the competition in February, He's finishing his Eagle Scout project, he's doing volunteer work for the Leo Club, (which is the junior Lions club), and he was one of 15 kids in the country chosen to go to France this summer to study WWII. And when he's not busy with all of that, he has a fantastic group of friends and he has a very active social life. I feel like I don't see much of him these days, but he's spending his time doing great things and I'm so excited to see where it all takes him in the future. He has big plans and I have no doubt that he'll accomplish whatever he sets out to do. 

This year has been a fun year for Matthew. I have seen amazing growth in his piano skills!! A year and a half ago he couldn't play anything and now he's performing for people every chance he gets and he even wrote an original song. My mom and stepdad left the country 18 months ago to do missionary work. When they left he hadn't started piano lessons yet. They just got back from Malaysia two weeks ago and are now living back in my hometown, and Matthew is getting ready to play the piano for their church congregation next week. They haven't heard him play yet, so he's really excited to perform for them. Matthew turns 13 this coming year and we'll have another teenager in the house!! Speaking of a year of growth, Matthew's doing a lot of physical growing these days. He's starting to hit the crazy growth spurts and all those surprising changes that come along with puberty. He would hate that I just said puberty. Sorry Matthew. :) 

Clarissa is making great strides academically this year. She has really started reading and has discovered that she loves books! Which I'm super excited about because I only have about a hundred books that I've been waiting for decades to share with a daughter. We're going to have so much fun delving into the Ramona books and Pippi Longstocking and all the other awesome books my boys never wanted to read! She also started tap and ballet this year, which she has really enjoyed! I have enjoyed watching her learn and grow so much. She's so creative and artistic and I have really enjoyed watching that develop. I can't believe how fast she's growing up. It still feels like yesterday that we were waiting for that referral call.

This year was also the year of the vacations. Shawn and I went to Mexico to celebrate my 40th birthday and we took a really fun family vacation to Oregon. I put my feet in the ocean twice this year! When you live in Idaho, that doesn't happen very often!

So overall, I would say this was an extremely busy year of growth and new adventures for our family. i will look back in it as a good year. We managed to get through it with no major traumas or crisis and we all learned and grew from our adventures.

So goodbye to 2015. I will remember it with fondness and I'm excited for all the adventures to greet us in the coming year.

Happy new year to all my blog readers. Thanks for checking in with me. :)  




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Passports and driving and blood drives, oh my!

Life is busy at our house these days! We had a really great Christmas and had some time to relax and spend time together, but I feel like we're back in busy mode again already. 

Last night we got to do a really fun thing! Shawn bought me tickets to the So You Think You Can Dance tour and we got to go last night. I never watched that show before this season, but this season I watched because one of the contestants, Jim, is the son of one of my internet friends. Jim is a Korean adoptee and an absolutely AMAZING dancer. Seriously, the best. I could watch him dance all day. If you've never seen him dance, Google him, he's fantastic. I've known his mom for several years through an online Korean adoption group. So I turned into the show this season to watch him dance and cheer him on. He came really close to winning and he got to be part of the tour that the top 10 contestants get to do, so last night we went. And when Jim's mom found out that we were going, she asked him to get us meet and greet tickets! So last night we went to the show and then got to mingle with the dancers after the show and we got to meet Jim. He's even cooler in person, it was a really fun experience! 

Then today Shawn had the day off and we decided that we'd better get started on Josh's passport so he can go to France! I still can't believe that kid is going to France. We needed to get it done today because his acceptance paperwork has to be submitted in a few days and we have to have proof that he either has a passport or is in the process of getting one, but trying to find a passport office that is open and taking appointments during the Christmas holiday was trickier than we thought. We called around and decided that our best bet was to drive to the next county to do it. So we took a drive today to get the paperwork done. 

When we finished up at the office, Shawn suggested that Josh drive home. Josh has had his learners permit for about six months and can actually get his licence now, but he's supposed to do 50 hours of supervised driving with his parents first, and he doesn't have all the hours in. So he decided to drive the half hour home. On the backroads, because I'm too chicken to drive with him on the interstate! Josh actually is a pretty good driver. He's cautious and follows the rules. He does fine, I'm the problem lol! I am a huge chicken about driving with him. It gives me the same feeling that flying on an airplane does. Just a complete lack of control of the situation and like my life might end at any moment, lol. And again, Josh drives fine! It's not him, it's just me. And I don't like to drive with him because I'm afraid I make him nervous. I try to stay calm, but new drivers have no defensive skills and driving is just sort of scary. I don't really even like to drive myself all that much. 

But Josh drove us home today and he did absolutely fine. I survived, no one crashed the car or had a panic attack and it was all good. I'm proud of Josh for being a good driver and I'm proud of me for not being a big baby about it, lol. 

But while he was driving, I had a moment. When Josh was a toddler, before Matthew was born, I used to take him to the library several times a week for story time and just to get out of the house. There are a few libararies not too far from us, but I liked one a little farther out because it had a good story time lady. So I used to drive out to the library on one of the backroads with Josh all the time. And to this day, any time I drive down that road, it reminds me of when I used to take Josh to the library.

Well, today Josh drove ME down that road. That little boy I used to drive to story time is now driving me. And I had a moment where I realized this and saw how all the years had flown by and if he hadn't been driving at the time I think I would have hugged him and sobbed about all this growing up he's doing lately. Where did that little boy go? I swear I was just buying him Thomas trains and washing his ratty old blankie yesterday. At least it FEELS like yesterday! Now he's practically six feet tall, driving cars, going to France, talking about college and my sweet little boy feels all grown up! I'm so excited for him and SO sad at the same time. No one tells you about this part of parenting. Everyone tells you about the first part. The baby years, the toddler tantrums, all of those things. But no one tells you that one day you're going to be driving down the road and realize that the little boy in the backseat is now driving the car and that it's going to break your heart a little bit. I'm not ready to see my kids grow up. I'm not ready for this part yet. For a little second I wanted to cancel the passport and make him get out of the drivers seat and make him be little again. But unfortunately life doesn't work that way. Time moves on and your babies grow up. And truthfully, it's kind of amazing to watch. But it hurts a little bit too. 

And one more sign of growing up is that he's also right in the middle of his Eagle Scout project. He's putting together a Red Cross blood drive. It seemed easy enough when we came up with the idea, but wow, it's been a huge undertaking. He has signed up 95 people to give blood on January 9th and he's working on getting food donations and other things organized for the day of the drive. It's a huge job and it's really keeping him busy right now. I'm proud of how he's really stepped up and he's doing great leading a large committee of people to get this thing going, but I think we're all going to be glad when it's over. It's taking up a lot of his time right now. 

So that's what's going on in the life of being the parent of a teenager right now. People always talk about the teenager years like they're terrible, but I have actually loved raising a teenager. Despite the terror of driving with him and the sadness I feel about how fast it's all going by, so far the teenage years have been my favorite part of parenting. He's a great kid, he makes it easy. 

But I'm still not all that excited about getting back into the car with him. :) 



Thursday, December 24, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

One down, a whole bunch more to go!

I am happy to report that I have officially completed a semester of college. Yay me!!! It was only two classes and they were ridiculously easy, but I did it, I got A's in both class and I'm feeling pretty good about myself today. :) Going back to college is something I've always wanted to do and never thought I could. So having one semester behind me, even an easy one with only five credits, feels like a major accomplishment.

I'm off for a few blissful weeks for Christmas and then I start a new semester in January. It will just be two classes again, a math class (eek!) and a religion class. Then I have one more semester of this slow track next summer and I can finally be done with this part and start the full time program next fall. I still have years of school ahead of me, but I have proven to myself this semester that I'm not too old to learn and I have more confidence in my ability to keep going. I can do this! :)

In other news, It has been a week of Clarissa performances! Wednesday night she we got to watch her  sing Christmas songs with her class in a really cute school Christmas program. Then last night was her dance recital. She has been taking tap and ballet from a teenage girl down the street this year and she really loves it. They had a really cute recital last night. It was fun to see what she has learned. I can't believe she is going to be seven in February! Time is flying by so quickly! She's doing great, she's loving school, she's joined at the hip with her adorable best friend and she's counting down the days until Christmas! I sure do love her! Here's a picture of her at her Christmas program!



clarissaprogram

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Vive La France!!

JOSH IS GOING TO FRANCE!!! We got the call a few days ago but they told us not to mention it because they were still notifying people. It's been killing me to keep the secret! :) But this morning we got the acceptance paperwork and they told us it was OK to share the news, so here I am!

So in case you missed the previous post, a couple of months ago Josh was approached by one of his teachers to apply for the Normandy Institute program. It's through the National History Day organization. Every year they take 15 student teacher teams on a two week trip to France to study WWII history. It was a big application process and we had no idea if he even had a chance. But a few days ago he got the call! He's going to France! He's over the moon excited. It's major news in our family! :)

It's all expenses paid for two weeks in June. They things they get to do there sound amazing! I'm am SO excited for him that he has this opportunity! If you're interested, here's a video about last years group and what they do there. I can't believe he's actually going!! YAY!!!




Friday, November 27, 2015

November

Well, I successfully made it through another Thanksgiving! Anyone who had read my blog in years past knows I'm not generally a big fan of Thanksgiving. We usually spend it at home by ourselves and I spent a good portion of November being mopey about extended family issues, missing my dad and not really being able to go home for Thanksgiving. I'm a little sensitive about family issues all year long, and Thanksgiving is kind of a big reminder. 

So I usually spend the first part of November giving myself pep talks about how I'm not going to do that to myself this year, and by the time thanksgiving rolls around, the peptalks have failed and I'm in a funk.

But this year I did pretty good. Yay me. :) We've been incredibly busy lately for one thing, so there was less time for moping, and I'm somewhat busy with school, so my brain is busy. Plus I came up with a genius idea to get through Thanksgiving this year. One of my struggles every year is that my kids don't get very excited about a big Thanksgiving meal. They don't really like turkey all that much, so I don't really have any desire to spend the entire day in the kitchen cooking a meal that no one cares about. So every year I try a different plan to make a Thanksgiving meal that people will eat and be excited about. This year we figured it out! We found out that our favorite restaurant was taking orders for catered Thanksgiving meals, so we ordered it last week and all we had to do yesterday was pick it up. The food was fantastic, everyone loved it, I didn't have to spend all day cooking and cleaning in the kitchen and everyone was happy. We made a new tradition. Thanksgiving problem solved. 

After we ate dinner we all gathered around for our annual Amazing Race marathon. We always marathon a season of Amazing Race over the holidays. Usually an old one, but this year we were behind on the current one, so we watched most of the current season and caught up. We get really into it, cheer for our favorite teams, yell at the TV when the teams we hate do something dumb, it's a good time. :) 

So it was a good day. I crawled into bed last night happy and grateful for a wonderful family and a wonderful day. We celebrated the holiday in a way that was very "us", and it was fun. I love my family and the chance we had to spend the day laughing and enjoying each other. 

And now that Thanksgiving is over I can start thinking about Christmas, which I love! The exciting thing this year is that my mom and stepdad, who have been doing missionary work for our church in Malaysia for the past 18 months, are coming home in a few weeks! I can't believe how fast 18 months have gone by. We're excited to see them again and we're planning to take a couple of quick trips to my hometown in the middle of December and first part of January to see them. 

Oh, and one last thing, in college news, I have officially registered for next semester. When I started this whole college plan, it was kind of scary and really overwhelming to me, so I told myself that I would simply sign up and commit to one semester and go from there. Well, I'm getting A's in both of my classes this semester, I'm doing great, I'm getting used to studying again and I'm confident that I can keep going. I only have a few more weeks left of this semester. Tackling a Masters degree is still really overwhelming to me, so I'm going to continue to take it one semester at a time. I can do it if I just focus on the tasks in front of me and not think too hard about what's down the road. Next semester is math. I'm not going to lie, I'm a little scared! But I'll get through it, and I'll keep going, one semester at a time. I'm kind of proud of myself for doing this. I can do hard things. :) 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Plays and Piano

It was a big week for my boys! Wednesday night we got to see Josh perform in a play and Saturday night we got attend Matthew's piano recital.

A few months ago a friend called Josh and said that she was auditioning for a play that our church was putting on and wanted to know if Josh wanted to tag along. He had nothing better to do that morning, so he said sure. He got there, auditioned, and the next thing he knew he had one of the bigger parts!

So he has spent the past couple of months working really really hard to memorize his lines and has spent a lot of time at play practice. It was a Christmas play about the birth of Christ called Savior Of The World. I honestly didn't know a whole lot about it, except that it has been taking up a lot of his time lately, so I was excited to go on Wednesday and see it.

They performed it for about 1,000 people Wednesday night. He did an amazing job! This is the first time he's ever done anything like that. The whole play was beautiful and it was so fun to see him on stage.

Here are two pictures from the dress rehearsal!



Then last night was Matthew's piano recital. He has been working on the song Let It Be, by the Beatles for a while. I've heard this song played daily for a couple of months now. The whole family walks around humming it. He worked really hard on it and it was so fun to hear it played last night. Our piano at home isn't fancy and while it sounds fine, I always get really excited to hear him play on the grand piano at the recital hall. It sounds amazing on a fancy piano! I was really proud of him for all his hard work. Here's a video of his performance! 



He also performed the song he wrote, Summer Storm, last night, which was really fun. It's fun for him to be able to share his talent. He really loves to perform for people, and I love listening to him play.

So it was a fun week watching the boys perform and share their talents in public! I'm really proud of both of them.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy hOWLoween!

The boys are starting to grow out of the wear a costume and get their picture taken phase (sad!) so we just have Clarissa left to take trick or treating. Matthew did go out this year, but with friends. He's hit that "I wouldn't be caught dead trick or treating with my parents but I kinda still want the candy" age. And Josh got invited to multiple parties tonight, so he spent his evening making the rounds at friends houses.

But Clarissa is still at the perfect trick or treating age and it was a fun night! Every year I think long and hard about her costume. She would love to be a princess every year, but it's like 50 degrees here at the end of October and you can't walk around the neighborhood with a princess dress on without needing a coat over it. So I always spend a lot of time trying to come up with something cute and warm that I can convince her to wear.

And this year was my favorite costume yet! I found what I wanted online, but it was really expensive. So I showed it to a friend of mine who sews (Karen again! What would I do without Karen?) and she was able to replicate it for half the price. 

It's an owl costume, and before Clarissa saw it she was sure she wanted to be a princess. And then I showed her a picture of the owl idea and she squealed and said "I WANT TO BE AN OWL!!". 

So Karen made it and Clarissa was absolutely thrilled with it. I've had to keep it out of reach for the past couple of weeks so there would be no chance of it getting damaged before the big night. But after tonight it's going with the dress up stuff and I think we're going to be seeing a lot of it! It's SO cute!! 

So it was a great holiday and everyone had fun and ate way too much candy. I love Halloween!! 

Owl1
owl2

Owl3

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hello

My happy moment for today is that Adele is coming back with a new album and this song is my new favorite thing. That woman is a genius and this song is perfection.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday

I've been slacking on the blog posts lately, so I feel like I should sit down and write something, but I'm not sure what. What did I used to write about when I wrote more often? I'm not even sure, my life isn't really that exciting!

But in a effort to not be a blog slacker, here's an update. I've now been in school for almost a month. The classes aren't hard, but it's somewhat time consuming. Some days I'm really busy with school, other days not so much. I've scheduled it out so that there is always one day a week I don't have school work to do. That gives me a bit of balance in my life.

Part of this program I'm doing involves going to a meeting every Thursday night. The classes are online but we meet as a group every Thursday night for two hours to go over what we're learning. That is actually the part of this whole thing I was dreading the most. It's all the way across town, it's at night and I'm not a night person, it's a lot of group activities, and I hate group activities, we have to take turns teaching, and I despise speaking in front of big groups.

But oddly, it has become one of the things I like most about this program. The first week I went in there, I looked around and I felt like there was no one I could relate to. I don't know what made me feel that way, but it's just a really eclectic group full of lots of different types of people, and I was looking for someone like me and I didn't immediately see anyone I clicked with. I felt sort of out of my element and out of my comfort zone. Which, let's be honest doesn't take much, because my comfort zone is extremely small. But as I have gotten to know everyone over the weeks, I have found that they're all like me. Older students trying to go back to school while juggling family and other responsibilities. We're all trying to make changes, better our lives, reach goals. We're all nervous about standing in front of the class and teaching the group. We're all nervous about participating in the small group activities. We're all tying to fit this two hour class into our busy lives.

So over the weeks we've all started to bond. I love those people. I love hearing their stories, and I root for them to succeed. We have a few students in our class who are new to the country and don't speak very good English. People in our class have volunteered to be English speaking partners and give of their time every week to help those people practice their English. One woman was going to have to drop out because she didn't have a ride and we found her one so she can keep going. I still sometimes dread going all the way across town every Thursday night and giving up my evening to sit in class, but when I get there I'm happy and I'm among friends. I didn't expect that. To be honest, I was kind of determined to hate the Thursday night class, but I don't. I'm actually going to miss those people when this year is over. Which is pretty typical of me, I guess. I resist change, I hate new things, I take forever to warm up to new situations, but once I do I'm all in, and then I go through all the emotions again when I have to leave.

So overall school is going well. It has been a change, and I don't always love giving up my free time to do homework, but it feels good to work towards a goal and to finally be doing the thing I wished for all these years. I'm proud of myself for being brave and going for it, because being brave doesn't come easy to me.

So there it is, the update on my life. It's not exciting and adventure packed, but it's my life. And I kind of like it. :)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Josh the (potential) world traveler

Not much new is happening in my life, just more school. But here's what's happening in Josh's world.
A few weeks ago he told me about a school trip he had the opportunity to take. They had a parent meeting about it last week so I went to learn more about it. Basically at the end of the school year, a couple of the teachers are taking a group of kids on an American history tour of the east coast. They're going to fly to Boston, do all the cool stuff there is to do there, then take a bus to New York City, where they'll go to a Broadway play, visit the 9/11 memorial, Statue of Liberty and all that fun stuff, then a couple of days later go to Philadelphia and eventually on to Washington DC. The trip isn't cheap but it's a great opportunity to see some really cool things, so I decided to let him do it. So in June he'll be taking an amazing trip. 

I'm especially excited about this because those were all the places I visited the year I lived in New Jersey when I was 19. It has always been my dream to see NYC, so when I was 19 I spent a year as a nanny in NJ. And while I was there I took every opportunity to travel to all the big cities in reasonable driving distance. So I've wandered through Boston, DC, Philly, and I spent a ton of time NYC. I look back on that year as one of the most memorable of my life. 

So the idea of sending my own kid to see all those places I loved so much is really exciting! He's really excited to go, I think they're going to have a pretty cool adventure. 

And then today he got thrown another possible opportunity! He came home from school today and told me that one of his teachers from last year approached him today and said that she got some information about a trip to France this summer. Basically a student and a teacher apply together as a team and if they get accepted they get a free trip to France to study WWII, specifically Normandy. He would spend two weeks in France attending lectures and different things about WWII with his teacher and then when they get back they have to put together a presentation about what they learned that will be presented twice (I'm not sure where). 

When his teacher saw the info, Josh was the first person she thought of to take, which is kind of awesome. So I told him to go ahead and apply. I have no idea what his chances are of actually getting chosen to go, but they're going to give it a try!

The trick is that the France trip is four days after the American History trip, and it leaves from Washington DC, which is where his American history trip concludes. So what would have to happen is that he would go on the American history trip, they would leave him in Washington DC (we'd work out somewhere safe for him to stay, we know people who know people) and then four days later his teacher would meet him in DC and they would fly to France together for two weeks. So he'd be gone for almost a month this summer. 

Again, I have no idea if the France trip is going to happen, and they won't find out until December if they're accepted, but they're going to give it a shot! Keep your fingers crossed for him, because how amazing does that sound?!!

It so fun to watch him grow and experience new things. It's hard for me as a mom to let him spread his wings sometimes, but it's exciting to see him experience so many new and exciting things. 

I'm always talking to my kids about having an adventure. The year I dropped everything and moved to New Jersey to follow my dream of seeing NYC was life changing for me. I don't know if I would want my kids to drop out of college like I did, but that life experience truly was an education for me. I learned so much that year. So I'm always telling my kids that if life gives you an opportunity for an adventure, you should probably take it.  So I hope Josh ends up going to France this summer and has the adventure of his life. :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

One week down, six years to go :)

So I have successfully completed my first week of college! Yay me! :)

So far the word I would use to describe my college experience is...slow. This year long program that I'm currently doing is for older students who are returning to school and it's meant to be a reintroduction to college to help get us back up to speed so we can successfully complete a degree program. Which is great, because I haven't been to school for a long time and can use the refresher, but so far it's just moving really slow. It's only two classes this semester and they're very basic. We basically just spent the entire first week going over the syllabus for each class. I'm really excited about this whole college thing and I have time in my schedule for more than two basic classes, so taking the slow route is a little frustrating. It's probably the best thing for me to start slow, I'm just impatient, lol. 

But what I have on my side is an amazing mentor, so I emailed him today and told him that school wasn't moving very fast and a half hour later he sent me a list of books to read that I'll need to study for my career path. He's the best, seriously. So now when I'm bored and finish my homework early, I'm going to get started on some hefty textbooks about psychology and counseling related topics, which will really help me when I get to those classes, plus it's just stuff I find interesting. 

So school is a bit slow, but I'm finding ways to stay busy and it's all good. What I have learned from one week of school is that I'm really excited about school! I really had no idea if I was going to love it, hate it, find it easy, find it hard, etc. But so far I just find myself wanting more. I'm ready and focused, which is good. When I get an assignment I get it done quickly and wish there was more to do. So I guess that bodes well for next year when I'll be taking a full load of classes and there will be plenty to do! I'm ready for it and I have time in my day to focus on it, so I think it's going to be good once I really get going. 

In other news, Clarissa lost her first tooth the other day! She has had a loose tooth for months. I've  been telling her to keep wiggling it and get it out, but I think she's been a bit nervous about her tooth coming out. It's always a bit weird the first time. She thought it was going to hurt. So she's kind of been protecting that tooth and eating carefully so it doesn't wiggle too much. So much so that her adult tooth had started growing behind it! That thing needed to come out. So a couple of nights ago I was tucking her in bed and I asked if I could look at her tooth. When I wiggled it, I could tell that it was barely hanging on. I told her to just reach in there and pull it out, so she did and it just popped right out! She was SO excited! She ran around the house and showed everyone, we made a video about it to send to my mom in Malaysia, it was a major event, lol. Now she's got another one right next to it that is probably also going to come out soon. She's growing up so fast! Losing baby teeth is another one of those milestones that remind me that my babies aren't babies anymore! It's bittersweet, but so cute to see how excited she is about it. 

So that's the news from our house. Things are good, we're keeping busy and life is just plugging along! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

First day of school!!

Well, it finally arrived, today was my first day of college!

We have spent the past few weeks organizing, decluttering and cleaning our house from top to bottom and getting ready for me to start this new journey. I made a great study space in the den, complete with a new super comfortable office chair and motivational posters for the wall that I designed.

I planned for my first day of school to also be the first day our new cleaning lady came to clean the house. After all the decluttering and organizing we've done, the house was ready to be deep cleaned, and having someone else do it while I focused on school was really awesome.

So I got the kids off to school this morning, got the cleaning lady set (it's ridiculous calling her the cleaning lady. The cleaning lady is my good friend Karen, lol. She's starting a cleaning business and she's the best house cleaner EVER.) and I got myself settled into the den to start my first day of school.

I was super nervous this morning for some reason! All I had to do was go in my den and do work online, but I had butterflies in my stomach like I was headed off to middle school and was worried no one would sit by me at lunch. I've just been waiting for this day for so long and it feels like such a major new chapter in my life that it just started to freak me out a bit this morning!

But it turned out to actually be kind of fun. I've never taken an online class before and had absolutely no idea what to expect. It took me a bit to get used to the layout of the website and it's such a different way to take a class that it is going to take some getting used to. But once I kind of got the hang of it, i enjoyed it.

I'm taking two classes. The first one is a life skills class and the second one is religion class. Today's work for both classes was basically just going over the syllabus and introducing ourselves on the class message boards. But I did have to take notes on the syllabus and take a quiz for both classes. It wasn't a big deal, but I haven't taken a school test in over 20 years, so I was nervous! I got 100% on both quizzes. Yay me! I texted Josh at school to tell him I was an A student. It was sort of fun for the tables to turn for a minute, lol. I'm always their school cheerleader. This time he got to be mine.

It's only two classes this semester, and part of me is chomping at the bit for more, but part of me sees the wisdom in starting slow. I need to ease into this. After I do this slower paced year long program for returning students, I'll be taking a full load of classes next year and every year after that until I'm done. This year will get me into the habit of going to school again and get me used to studying and doing assignments and taking tests, and next year when I start a full class load, it won't be as overwhelming and I'll have a better chance of being able to keep up and stick with it. So for me I think it's the best way to do it, I'm just kind of impatient for this year to pass so I can start choosing my own classes and working at a faster pace. Now that I'm in this, I'm REALLY in it! I'm ready to go.

So by the end of the afternoon, I had finished my class work, aced my quizzes and my good friend Karen the awesome house cleaner had finished deep cleaning my house, and I was feeling awesome. My house feels amazing, I feel super accomplished and this has really been a great day.

I NEEDED this. I needed a new chapter, I needed a change. I don't think I even realized how much I needed it until I was sitting there doing my class work today. It felt so good to be doing something new, using my brain, feeling like I'm working towards a personal goal. I've felt stagnant and restless lately and it was time for me to shake things up.

So that's where I'm at. My house is spotless, day one of school was a success and I'm feeling pretty good about life. I can't guarantee it's going to last, but for now I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it. :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Content

Content is the best way to describe how I've been feeling lately. I feel like the last few years have just been a whirlwind of change and adjustments and we've been so busy and things have been kind of chaotic. I've been feeling kind of unsettled for a while. I feel like in the past couple of years I've been treading water with everything. Trying and failing to keep my house organized, the kids schedules on track, our finances in order, trying to make my health a priority, keep everyone on schedule and happy, it's exhausting sometimes being a mom. I'm not just in charge of my own wellbeing, but I feel like I've got the wellbeing of everyone in the house on my shoulders and sometimes it's a lot to juggle.

 But lately I feel like I've reached a place of things falling into line. Everything seems to have improved recently. We're getting our house in order, I'm so excited about going back to school, the kids are getting settled at school, Shawn is finally getting settled into his job as manager of the pharmacy, which has been a lot of stress on him this year, and I feel like the chaos is settling down a bit.

Deciding to go back to school has been a big part of that for me. I feel like I spend a lot of time watching everyone else in my family change and grow and experience new things, and I'm just always here, doing the same old stuff, being the one who keeps everyone else moving. And, don't get me wrong, I'm glad that I can fill that role for my family. I'm the family therapist. I'm the one everyone goes to when they have a problem and I help them work through it and keep things on track, and I watch everyone leave the house in the morning and go out into the world and I make sure they're all functioning and have what they need to succeed, and then I pretty much just wait for everyone to come home so I can do it all over again. Last year when everyone else was moving up to new schools, new jobs, new everything, nothing was new for me. And I was happy for my family and excited for all their new experiences, but it frustrated me just a bit. It really made me start thinking about the fact that rarely is anything new for me. I'm the calm in everyone else's storm, and I'm glad for that because my family needs me to fill that role and I WANT to fill that role.

But it just really got me thinking about what else I might want for me. I guess maybe I felt change in the air for me. Going back to school is what I need for me. And I'm really glad that I can go to school from home so that I can continue to be here for my family, because that's obviously still important to me, but I'm really excited for a new adventure for me. I'm ready for personal change.

School doesn't start for me for two more weeks (I wish it would hurry up!!) but it's been perfect timing because that gives me a few weeks to continue to get my house in order before it starts. We've really been focusing on organization and purging things we don't need lately. We did the kitchen this past weekend. We cleaned and organized the pantry, cleaned out the freezer, threw out a ton of stuff that had expired or gotten lost in the back of a cupboard that I forgot we even had, and it feels great in there now. Everything is organized, restocked and ready for me to easily make meals even when I get busy with school.

And we made another decision that I feel kind of guilty about, but at the same time not, we're going to be having someone come in to do some of the cleaning. Once the house is organized and I start school, I really want it to stay nice, and I'm worried about how I'm going to juggle everything, especially starting next year when I'll be taking a full load of classes every semester. A friend of mine is starting a cleaning business, and we decided that it just makes sense to have someone come in a few times a month to take some of the stress off. I feel a little guilty about that as a stay at home mom, but I'm also kind of thrilled with the idea. I can do school, the house will stay clean, and we'll hopefully manage to stay organized and on track while I'm less available during the day.

So as I was working on more organizing projects this morning, content was the word that kept coming to mind. I feel content. I feel good about the changes that are happening in my life. I've felt conflicted about a lot of things in the last few years, and lately I just see a lot of those worries and concerns just falling into place and solving themselves. I feel like I'm on a good path and I'm happy.

And maybe in a month I'm going to be a frazzled mess and wondering what I got myself into, but at this moment, today, I feel content. And it feels nice. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

KonMari

Have you heard of this book? The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? They call it the KonMari method, which is a mashup of the authors name, Marie Kondo. It's a book written by a Japanese woman who is a organization specialist in Japan. She has all kinds of ideas about how to organize your house, and she wrote a great book that everyone is going nuts about, including me.

We have lived in our house for 11 years. It's 4,000sf, six bedrooms, three stories, four full bathrooms. When we moved here I thought living in a big house was going to be the greatest thing ever. And then I tried to clean this beast, lol. I'll be honest and say that a lot of times I kind of hate the size of my house. Everywhere you turn, there is more house, lol. And when you have lots of house it becomes really easy to have lots of stuff. I can go a long time without organizing things because there are gigantic closets and extra rooms all over the place in this house where I can just stick things in a corner and decide to worry about them later. And unfortunely, that's what I do a lot. And then eventually I go on a cleaning binge and decide to clean things out and it's just a nightmare of stuff I forgot I even had and don't know what to do with. So that becomes overwhelming and I end up just shoving things back in closets and corners and decide to save the project for another day.

And then I discovered the KonMari book and it really opened my eyes. Her whole thing is about surrounding yourself with things you love. Don't focus on what you need to get rid of, focus on only keeping things you love. She lives in Japan and the book was originally written in Japanese, so some of her book has some little cultural things that seem a little out there. (Apparently your items have feelings and you should thank your clothes when you get rid of them? Japanese people are adorable. And I mean that sincerely. Japan just seems like a whimsical place, doesn't it? They're always doing something cute.) And also I got the feeling that when she was writing the book, she was thinking of small Japanese houses, not American monstrosities. So I didn't feel like everything in the book applied exactly to my situation, but I was able to adapt it, and the concepts are the same.

So Shawn and I both read the book and we've been working on her methods. The first thing you're supposed to do is go through your clothes. Her idea is that you should organize in categories, not by room. Often I will decide to organize one persons bedroom and go through their clothes, but then I run out of time or lose interest before I get to the next persons room. And then by the time I get to the next person, the first persons needs to be done again. It's never ending. Her idea is to organize in categories for the whole house. Don't just do one persons clothes, organize every single piece of clothing in the entire house at once and then that category is done for the house.

So last Saturday we did that. We have had a clothing crisis going on here lately. We have too many clothes that haven't been gone through in far too long. Laundry is a disaster, no one can ever find anything and it's always chaos. Ideally I like to go through everyone's wardrobes every summer before school starts and get rid of things they have grown out of and figure out what they need replaced. But the last few years I haven't done a thorough job of it. We like to hand down Josh's clothes to Matthew, so when josh grows out of something I tell him to stick it in his closet until Matthew grows into it. Josh has a huge walk in closet in his bedroom, so he just piles grown out stuff in a corner and in theory we go through it and give it to Matthew. In theory. In reality, that pile has gotten awfully large lately.

So on Saturday we started with the boys and I told both of them to clean out their closets, their drawers, their nooks and their crannies, and bring me every single piece of clothing they own and pile it in a big pile in the middle of my bedroom floor. And the pile was embarrassingly gigantic. But we sat down and one by one, piece by piece, we went through each and every item of clothing and discussed its merits. Do they love it? Does it make them happy? Does it fit? Is it in good shape? If they loved it and it was in great shape, it stayed. If not, it was discarded. Between the two boys we discarded six gigantic bags of clothes that we sat aside to be donated. And what was left was organized the KonMari way. She has a genius way of folding clothes that is going to work so great for my kids. My kids used to just stack clothes on top of each other in their drawers the normal way, and what ended up happening was that things would get scrunched up in the back of the drawer and forgotten and they would wear the same three shirts off the top. The new way is to line everything up next to each other so you can see everything in the drawer when you open it. It takes up less space, it looks neater and you can see everything you have so nothing gets crammed in the back and forgotten. They kids are loving it.

So then we did the same with Clarissa's clothes, and then we tacked our master closet. I'm not going to lie, our master closet was in sad shape! It looked like a Gap store had exploded in there. I owned more jeans and t-shirts than anyone reasonably should. And even though we have a walk in closet with plenty of shelves, we had more clothes than space. There were stacks of jeans and piles of sweaters and rows of shirts crammed in there wherever I could find a space. I can never find anything in there, and there was no organization. So we emptied the entire closet out like we were moving and piled it all on the floor and again went through it piece by piece. It took forever. I found things I didn't even know I owned. I let go of piles and piles of clothes that I don't wear. I had a whole box full of jeans that don't fit that I keep around just in case I ever lose enough weight to fit into them again. Nope, those are gone now. We didn't keep anything that doesn't fit, we got rid of anything that doesn't make us feel good when we wear it, and basically just kept the clothes that we really love. I got rid of three quarters of my wardrobe. When we out everything back in the closet, all organized and in order, I was amazed! Our closet looks AWESOME! I went from having so many clothes they were crammed in corners, to having so few that I have two empty shelves in there. And I love it! I love having a smaller wardrobe, because it's all clothes I love. What the book is teaching us is that it's better to have fewer things that you really love than to have a bunch of stuff you just tolerate.

So the project continues. Yesterday I did the master bathroom. I emptied out the entire bathroom like we were moving and piled every single thing out of the cupboards and drawers into a big pile in my bedroom and I spent the day going through every piece of makeup, every hair accessory, every brush and comb and curler and tweezer. I threw away so much makeup. I used to have a whole drawer full of it, plus a big makeup case. Now I have one small plastic box of it in a drawer, and that's it. And it's only makeup that I actually wear and love.

The author of the books says that when you finish doing this for your whole house, what you're left with is only things that you love, that you're happy to take care of, that are easy to put away because everything has a home, and then you don't have to tidy all your stuff daily, because everything is already where it goes.

This seems like common sense, and I suppose it should be. We used to have a fairly organized house, but it has really gotten away from us over the years. I want that back. I am so excited to wake up now and get ready in my organized bathroom and get dressed in my organized closet. I finished up the bathroom project by buying new towels and bath rugs, which desperately needed replacing. Everything feels new and fresh and happy.

So now that the kids are out of the house all day and I have a few weeks before I start school, I'm continuing the project throughout the house. One category at a time I'm going to be organizing and discarding and making our space fresh and happy and organized. It's not something that will happen overnight, but it's been fun to wake up every morning and decide what to organize next. Once you get started its kind of addicting!

So that's how I'm spending my first kid free days now that everyone is in school. It's a lot easier to do this project when no one is here. I can crank up the music and get to work! :) And now that I've finished my blog post, it's time to do just that. Another day, another category!



Monday, August 24, 2015

Home Alone

Well, the day has officially arrived. I sent the boys off to school for their first day this morning (Clarissa has already been in school for a couple of weeks) and I am officially home alone. I know I was sort of already home alone for part of the day last year. Clarissa was in kindergarten in the mornings last year, so I had my mornings free. But this is officially the first day I have all three kids in full time school. After 15 years of kids at home during the day, this is the first day of the new chapter in my life.

I sort of thought I would be sad about it. I'm ridiculously nostalgic about everything, especially when it comes to my kids growing up, and I thought closing that chapter would be hard after all these years. And it is a little bittersweet. But I think I'm ready for this change. I'm kind of excited to see what happens now. Knowing that I'm going into this new chapter in my life with a purpose and a plan has made this adjustment much easier. School doesn't start for me until September, so I still have a few weeks, but I'm looking forward to it! Lots of changes around here lately!

The kids seemed excited for school. Clarissa is on a different schedule than the boys, so she has already been going for a few weeks and loves it. She's figuring out how to maneuver the cafeteria at lunch time, since this is her first year eating lunch at school, and she's making new friends and seems to be enjoying the whole experience.

Matthew starts 7th grade today. Remember last year when all three of my kids were moving up to new schools? This year has been waaay easier with everyone going back to the schools they were at last year. It was fun taking Matthew to registration this year and watching him walk into the middle school with confidence, knowing the teachers, knowing the school layout, knowing how to use a locker. Last year there was a lot of nervousness with all three kids trying to figure out new environments, but this year it was smooth sailing. Matthew loves middle school and will do great.

Josh starts 10th grade today. Although, I feel bad for him because he just spent his summer doing summer school, so he never really got a summer break. He took four classes this summer. He quickly realized after they started that he bit off more than he could chew. Because of the college prep program he's in, is suggested that they take a class or two over the summer to stay ahead, but he insisted on four. I'm pretty sure he was the only kid at the school who took that many. And it pretty much kicked his behind all summer. He has worked really hard to keep up with it all. He had his finals last week. He ended the summer with straight A's, which he's really proud of, because it was harder than he thought it was going to be.

So he finished his finals last Thursday, and on Friday and over the weekend he read and annotated Farenheight 451, which was summer homework for his upcoming English class, and today he went back to school with basically no break. And I'm pretty sure that he has a test today on the book he just read. I don't know how that kid keeps up,  but I'm proud of him. The good news for him is that taking classes over the summer freed up his schedule a bit and he was able to fit in a few fun classes that he's really excited about. He's on the yearbook staff this year, which he's really looking forward to, and he's also doing concert choir. Having some fun classes in his schedule breaks up the tough academic program a bit and I think he'll really enjoy that.

Here are our annual first day of school photos! It's amazing to me how grown up they all look! Also, be sure to notice Clarissa's hair! For the first time in her whole life she got a real haircut! We have gotten it trimmed a few times, but this time we really cut it. She decided she wanted it shorter, so we had five inches cut off. It's much easier to manage at this length.

And now I'm going to enjoy some peace and quiet for a while and then work on some organizing projects that I've been putting off, now that I have the time to do them. I'm home alone all day! It's weird!

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

College bound

Now that I'm getting closer to going back to school in September, I thought I'd tell the story of how this all came to be.I know I've already kind of mentioned what my plans are, but not the whole story of how it came about. But it's sort of a weird, long story, so you're going to have to bear with me, lol.

Let's start at the beginning. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a psychologist. I'm a people watcher. I love to observe behavior, I love to read and learn about about mental illness, personality disorders, I'm fascinated by people and what they do and why they do it. I always have been. I knew from a really young age that when I had a career, I wanted it to involve helping people with their problems. 

When I graduated and went off to college, psychology was the only thing I really wanted to study. I was really excited about it, and I thought I had my life completely planned out. But if you have been a long time reader of my blog, you kind of already know what happened next. I somehow got lost after I left high school, and I had a few really tough years in my late teens and early 20's. 

Without going into it, I let someone talk me out of psychology and I decided to major in social work instead, which was the closest thing to what I wanted to do, but not really what I wanted to do. I did a year of college, I was really discouraged, I was going through a lot of personal turmoil at the time about several different things, and my year of college was a disaster. My grand plans for my life started crumbling really fast. 

So I quit college and moved across the country by myself to figure out my life. I spent a year traveling, working as a nanny and really growing up and trying to figure out who I was as an adult. Then my dad got cancer, my heart got broken by someone I loved, everything fell apart again and I spent a few more years drifting. 

By the time I sorted all of that out, I met Shawn, we got married and he was working on his doctorate degree and there was no way for us both to go to school. So I got a job to put him through school, and by the time that he was done, Josh was born and my plans for college just sort of fell away. I always felt like I had missed my window to go to college and it was too late. 

That has really eaten at me for years. I never ever thought I'd wouldn't graduate from college. When I was in high school it just felt like a given. Of course I'd go to college and earn a degree. I didn't think there was any other option for me but that. It's what I really wanted. 

I have loved being a stay at home mom all these years and I feel incredibly lucky to have a been able to stay home with my kids. Honestly, even if I had graduated with a college degree in my 20's, I'm not so sure it would have changed anything, because being home with my kids when they were little has always been important to me. But it's like I almost wished I could live two lives. I love being a stay at home mom, but I've always sort of mourned the dream that I never got to live out. I never got the college degree and the job that I always wanted. But I felt like I couldn't do both and I needed to choose the one that was more beneficial to my family, and I want to be clear that I don't regret that. I have loved my 15 years of being a stay at home mom. I know that there are plenty of successful working mothers and I have nothing but respect for them but for me and for my family staying at home with my kids was the right choice for us and for our circumstances and I wouldn't change it if I could.

But I guess when I decided to be a stay at home mom and give up my dreams of going to college, I never thought about what would happen when I would be where I am now. I never thought about the day that all of my kids would go off to school and there would be no more kids at home to take care of during the day. Josh is going to be a sophomore this year and only has a few more years before he's off to college. Matthew is in middle school and Clarissa starts first grade, so really, for the first time in 15 years, I'm going to be home alone all day. I don't have little kids anymore who need me all day long. And while I will admit that part of me is doing the happy dance at the thought of gaining a little freedom, the other part of me started to get a little panicky. What do you do when chasing toddlers has been your job for 15 years and suddenly you find yourself without any more toddlers at home? 

What I realized was that this was the perfect time for me to go back to school. Maybe you CAN live two lives. I spent a decade and a half taking care of little kids and now that chapter is over. Now that my kids are a little more independent and in the case of Josh, even looking at leaving home in few years, maybe it's time to get back to my other dream.

So in the past year and a half or so, the idea of going back to school has been creeping into my mind more and more. At first I kept pushing the thought away. I'm too old, it's too expensive, it would take too long. I had all sorts of reasons why I couldn't do it. It was partly a self confidence issue. I didn't think I had what it took to actually do it. What if I failed?

And then something really weird happened. I met someone online. And this is where the story gets weird because I don't know how much of it I can tell and still respect the privacy of the other person in the story. And let me just say that the story sounds weirder than it is. Or maybe it is weird, but it's the story, and I will try to tell it the best I can. 

I met a psychologist online who is from New York City and is well known in certain circles. He is someone I actually saw on a television show before I met him online. We met on a message board on a topic that has to do with relationships and marriage. (And before I tell this story, I know what you're going to think while you're reading it. First of all, it sounds like some weird fake internet person. It's not, I promise. And second, I met a man online, which sounds sort of scandalous or something, but it's not. To get both of those things out of the way, it's a real person and just a normal friendship. It's not as weird as it sounds, but I am very aware that it sounds weird, lol.) Over the course of several months, we chatted on the message board and e-mail and I really grew to admire this person. He has an impressive career, he's incredibly intelligent, and an expert in psychology, which even after all these years is just something I'm fascinated by. 

And then he started telling me that I have a knack for the psychology related topic we were discussing. Without knowing anything about my history, he told me that I'd be a good psychologist. And for a second that kind of hit me in the gut. I've always kind of felt like a failure for not following my dream and going to college and now here was someone whose opinion I really respect, who knows what he's talking about, telling me I should have done it. Honestly, it made me sad for a minute. It reminded me that I had given up a dream. 

But then I really started to think about it. The more we got to know each other, the more he kept encouraging me to consider college and the more it started to seem like something I could actually do. His words really stuck with me as I pondered it. Maybe it wasn't too late.

But I could still think of a million reasons why it was impossible. Cost, for one thing. College is expensive and I had my own kids school to pay for. Josh starts taking college classes through his high school next year, so we start paying college tuition in a year, and Matthew isn't all that far behind. I didn't think it was financially feasible.

Plus, being a stay at home mom, I just didn't know how I would juggle it. Would I have to be gone all day in class? What if I had a sick kid? What if I was too busy to study? I've been a stay at home mom for a long time. I'm used to my life revolving around what my kids need. What if they needed me and I wasn't there? These are things I really had to think about. 

And then it just got weirder. Over the course of the past year, in a hundred different little ways, the idea of college keeps getting brought up to me. The idea was coming from lots of random places. People mentioning college programs to me. People talking to me about what it was like when they went back to school later in life. Everywhere I looked, there was the idea of going back to college staring me in the face.

One night I was talking to a man from my church. He is someone I don't really know very well and it was supposed to just be a quick conversation, but as I was leaving he asked me what my college background was. There was that topic again! It was a totally random question that had nothing to do with what we were discussing. I told him that I had some college credits, but no degree. He asked me if I had ever considered going back through a program our church university offers, which is a really low cost way for older students to start back on the path to college. He told me to check into it and when I did I realized that not only was it realistic for me, I could do it all online and I could afford it!

Suddenly it all kind of clicked together. I could actually go to college. Clarissa will be in school all day this fall, so my days are free, I can afford this program, which is through a real accredited university, and it offered a bachelors degree that will get me on the path to the career I want.

Which, actually once I researched it more is not exactly psychology, but in the same relm. I'll be getting my bachelors in Marriage and Family Studies and then a masters in clinical mental health counseling (or possibly marriage and family counseling, I'll decide when I get there). That will allow me to eventually have a career in counseling, which is really what I wanted to do. I'll get to take psychology classes, learn about mental health and other psychology related topics and eventually counsel people, which is ultimately what I wanted to do all along.

So I told my internet psychologist friend who had first put the idea in my head and had been encouraging me and he was thrilled and offered to call me so we could discuss it. We had a great conversation and he has offered to be my mentor! This is kind of gigantic for me. This is someone whose career I really admire who is offering to show me the ropes, give me advice and help me navigate my way through my bachelors and more importantly, through grad school, which right now just sounds terrifying to me. He's been there, done that (he has a doctorate in Psychology) and he's going to be an amazing resource for me going through this.

The last hurdle I felt I had to jump was to tell my kids that I have decided to go back to school. They're used to me being here and available to them 24/7, and while they're gone most of the day during the school year, it will be an adjustment for the whole family for me to have homework to do and classes to take. My kids were amazing when I told them. I have never felt as loved and supported as I did that night when they told me how excited they were for me and offered to do anything they could to help get me through it. Shawn, of course, has also been nothing but supportive. He has always known that not finishing college was something I've struggled with and he's been incredibly supportive of my decision to give school another try.

So with the support of my family and an amazing mentor, I start college in September. I'm planning on it taking around 6 years. If things go according to plan, I could graduate with my masters degree at the same time Matthew graduates from high school. Which honestly, will be a great time to start a career. With both boys off to college and grown up lives, it will just be Clarissa at home and I'm hoping I can find a job where I can be home after school for her. Even something part time for a while in the beginning would be fine with me. I want to make sure that I'm still available to her for her teenage years. If I get into private counseling, it can be fairly flexible, which I would want.

So there is the story of how I decided to go to college. I'm terrified, I'm excited and I'm doing it. It's a brave new me. :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

July

Whew, we had a really busy July! I decided I'd better get over her and document it before I forgot all the fun stuff we did!

Earlier in the month we took our long awaited summer vacation to Oregon. We've been planning to take the kids to the Oregon coast for years, and for one reason or another it just never works out. Every summer we say that next summer will be the year, and it never is. But finally this summer we decided that it was time. I started to realize how few summers we have left with all three kids at home, and now that I know that I'll probably be in school for the next several summers, our window of being able to take a big family vacation with all of us is quickly closing.

So we packed up the car and made the trek on an epic vacation. I kind of wish I would have blogged as it was happening, because recapping all of the things we did would take forever! I will try my best to recap!

The first day we visited Multnomah Falls, which is an absolutely gorgeous waterfall on the way to Portland. We took a short hike up to a bridge to get a better view of it. It's beautiful! I absolutely love Oregon. I've been to lots of different states and two other countries, and I still think Oregon is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

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The Oregon coast is about and 8-9 hour drive from our house, so it's doable to drive the whole thing in a day, but we like to take it slow, so we spent the first night in Troutdale, which is just outside of Portland. The next morning we got up and went to the Portland Zoo.

Here's what hit me as soon as we walked into the zoo. Remember in 2009 when we took our vacation to Oregon and I got the call from the adoption agency that we had been matched with a baby at the beginning of the trip? That was the last time we went to Portland. If you were reading my blog back then (or want to go back to the posts from June 2009), that trip was pretty memorable! We were just planning to take a little weekend getaway to Portland and it ended up being a life changing moment when we got our referral call and our first photo of Clarissa, and then I spent the whole trip obsessing over the photo of the beautiful baby girl on my cellphone! We went to the Portland zoo on that trip in 2009 and I spent the whole day staring at Clarissa's baby photo. I wanted to see her in person so badly! I could hardly stand to be on that vacation, I just wanted to go home and get the paperwork started so we could go to Korea and get Clarissa.

So on this trip, the second we walked into the zoo, that memory hit me of carrying that photo around all day and starting at it, trying to imagine what that baby was going to be like when she joined our family. So to be there again this year, with our sweet Clarissa with us, was kind of awesome. I enjoyed her so much the whole time we were at the zoo because I just kept thinking of the last time and how much I wished she were with us, and now she is. Getting to go back there with her was kind of awesome for me. It just make me think about how far we've come. I'm so incredibly grateful for how everything worked out. We had a really great time at the zoo and I just had a peace in my heart all day and an extra appreciation for my kids and that we were all there together as a complete family. It was a great day.

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And after a fun day at the zoo we continued on to the coast. We rented a beach house in Oceanside for the week and we were really excited to get there and get settled. My boys haven't been to the ocean since they were little and Clarissa has never seen the ocean, so we were excited for them to see it. There's just something so majestic about seeing an ocean. It reminds you of how big the world is.

The one thing about the Oregon coast is that it's not very warm. Which actually is one reason I like it. It's been over 100 degrees all summer in Boise, so escaping the heat and going somewhere in the 60's is awesome for me. I prefer cool weather. But it makes playing in the ocean sort of tricky. The kids were excited to get in the water, but the quickly discovered how cold it is! It didn't deter them though. We played in the water every single day of our vacation. It was cold, but we were having too much fun to care. The first day we got there we didn't put bathing suits because I thought we were just going to look at the beach, but the kids ran in, clothes and all!

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The place we stayed was great, the ocean was beautiful and we had so much fun taking day trips to tourist spots along the coast.

One day drove up to Seaside to visit a little aquarium. The aquarium actually isn't all that impressive, but we remembered from a vacation many years ago that they have a tank with seals in it that you can feed, and that's what we wanted to go back to do. It was as fun as I remembered it! You can buy some disgusting fish parts for $1 and then toss them into the tank for the seals. The seals get very excited about that and will do little tricks and try to get your attention. I kept sending Shawn back for more fish parts because we were having so much fun to wanted to keep doing it.

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After that fun we stopped at a restaurant in Seaside for lunch. It's funny as a mom which parts of the vacation were most fun for me. We did a lot of big fun activities, but for some reason that lunch stands out to me as one of the best parts of the trip. It wasn't a special restaurant or anything, but as we sat there eating we were all laughing and joking and talking about our favorite parts of the trip and things we still wanted to do before we went home, I just had one of those moments where I looked around at my husband and kids and I wanted to save that memory forever. Everyone together and laughing and happy. That's all I want in life. Just those four people around me, laughing and enjoying our time together. It was perfect.

On a different day we drove to Newport, which is a great town to visit in Oregon. On the way we stopped at the Yaquina Head lighthouse, which is absolutely gorgeous. You can walk down a bunch of stairs to the beach and there are tide pools, seals and sea lions in the water, and it's just an absolutely gorgeous view. We had a really great time there. That is a place we've never been before and I will definitely go back the next time we're in Oregon.

On that day we also visited the Newport Aquarium, which is really big and nice. We had a great day there! OH!! And I have a funny story! Remember the story of the snow globes in Mexico? Clarissa wanted a snow globe and we broke the first one so we bought another one and it got taken away at the airport, so we bought a third one and almost got that one taken away?

We told the kids that they each had $20 to spend on souvenirs on the trip. Clarissa said that she wanted to add to her snow globe collection. We found her a snow globe at the gift shop at the aquarium. We carried it around in a bag for 20 minutes before it got dropped and broke. At which point I looked at Shawn and said "SERIOUSLY?!!" We went back to the gift shop to buy another one. They took pity on us and let us exchange it. They wrapped the second one in several layers of bubble wrap. We are not responsible snow globe owners.

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Another day on the trip we visited the Tillamook Cheese factory. We learned how cheese is made, had cheese samples and ate ice cream. The entire week we were in Oregon, I think the cheese factory was the most crowded place we went. There were long lines everywhere! In the line for ice cream there was literally a sign like at Disney World that said 'from this point your wait is 12 minutes" or something. Of all the amazing and beautiful things to do on the Oregon Coast, the cheese factory had the most people. The cheese factory. I think that says something about Americans, lol. Get out of the cheese factory and go take a walk on the beach. Says the woman who waited 20 minutes in line at the cheese factory for ice cream. Hey, no one was handing out free cheese at the beach. :)

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The rest of the week we played on the beach, we had movie nights and games at the beach house, we took a train ride by the bay in Garibaldi, we laughed, we bonded, we ate salt water taffy and I bought fudge...twice, we took a beautiful nature walk to Cape Mears lighthouse, and we just enjoyed a glorious, amazing, beautiful week together.

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On the way home we stopped in Portland again and visited OMSI, which is a really cool science center. We watched a 3D documentary about the ocean, we did some science experiments, we walked through Ripleys Believe it or Not exhibits, and had a great day. Also, we ate pizza at the restaurant there and Matthew declared in the best pizza he's ever eaten.

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On our way out of town we stopped at Voodoo donut, just because it's one of those famous Portland places we've heard about and needed to find out what the fuss was about. Weird place, good donuts. There's my review. :)

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And then we said goodbye to our vacation and made the journey home. We had an absolutely amazing week, but everyone was happy to sleep in their own beds again.

I am SO glad we finally took that vacation. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. It might be the last big vacation we take for a bit, so I'm glad that we did it. Next summer I'm going to be taking college classes, Josh will probably be taking some classes and will likely have a job, so I don't see us fitting in another big trip for a bit. We are planning to do a couple of small ones, I think we're planning to go to Utah for Spring break next year for a few days and I want to take a trip to my hometown for the 4th of July next summer, but with college to pay for and everyone so busy, this might be our last big adventure for a few years.

The rest of the month has been just as busy! As soon as we got back from Oregon, we got the boys packed up and they went on a pioneer trek with our church. Every four years they do a really fun pioneer reenactment. The kids dress up like pioneers and they pull handcarts through the wilderness for a few days. It's a big event and the kids had a really great time. It's kind of fun to look at the pictures and see hundreds of kids dressed up like pioneers pulling handcarts. Maybe that sounds miserable, but the kids came home happy with lots of fun stories to tell!

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Last week Josh and I carried on our family book club tradition and we read Paper Towns and went and saw the movie. It was cute, I had a fun time bonding with Josh. There haven't been as many book to movies this year, so I was excited to have one we could read and watch together.

Then last night we had a really exciting event! For Josh's birthday in May we gave him four tickets to see Imagine Dragons in concert and last night was finally the big night! We bought the tickets in February and then kept them a secret from Josh until May, so this has been a long time coming!

So we arranged for Clarissa to spend the night at a friends house and Shawn and I took the boys to the concert last night. This is the first time the kids have been to a real concert, so they were really excited. We made it a big night out and took them to dinner beforehand. The concert was amazing! We all had such a great time, but didn't get home until almost midnight and we were exhausted. It's been too long since I've been to a concert. We had so much fun that now I want to see what other concerts we might be able to go to. I forgot how fun they are!

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So there is our busy July! Now we're into August and it's going to be just as busy with back to school stuff. Clarissa starts school in a week, so I have a lot to do to get her ready for that, and then the boys go back later this month.

I'm anxious to get them back to school because once they're all settled, I start college in September! I'm really nervous, but really excited! I haven't talked a lot about college or the strange circumstances that led to it, but maybe I will next month when it gets going. This is going to be a good thing for me.

Also, as long as I'm sharing pictures, here are a few I took of Matthew and Clarissa in the backyard the other day.

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Ok, so now that I've caught my blog up on our recent adventures, I'm going to go enjoy a quiet Sunday afternoon before a busy week ahead! :)





Thursday, July 2, 2015

So this happened

This morning I picked Josh up from his last day of drivers ed. He got in the car with a grin on his face and a drivers permit in his hand. He passed drivers ed and can now officially drive. Supervised by Shawn or I for the next six months before he can his actual license, but he's now officially on the road!

He has to log at least 50 hours of supervised driving in the next six months, so we decided this morning was as good a time as any to get started, and I let him drive home from drivers ed. I'm not going to lie, it was kind of terrifying! He did fine, but it was SO weird to see him in the drivers seat!!

It was one of those milestone experiences in a kids life that is a little bittersweet for a mom. I'm so excited that he's growing up and doing all these new things, but a little terrified at what this newfound freedom means and a little sad that my little boy isn't a little boy anymore. All these milestones make me want to smile and cry and be proud and feel terrified all at the same time. I wonder if it gets easier with the second and third kid. Probably not.

But I'm proud of Josh his latest milestone. He's a great kid and I'm confident that he'll be a great driver. He looks pretty grown up in that drivers seat!!


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