Friday, December 30, 2016

Josh got his braces off!

After two and a half years, Josh is finally free of his braces! He looks great!


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

One more school update

Final grades posted yesterday and I got an email letting me know that I am no longer on academic warning with the university! I'm pretty sure I mentioned it a while back, but when I went to my one disastrous year of college at 18, I dropped out on academic probation. And then when I decided to go back to college at 40, I was still listed as being on academic probation all these years later. I got that upgraded to academic warning by taking a little mini class before the semester started, but my good grades this semester (straight A's, yay) finally bumped me off of the warning status and I have now officially repaired the academic mistakes of my 18 year old self. I have spent the past 23 years being really bothered by the fact that I made such a mess of my college goals all those years ago, but as of last night I feel like I officially wiped that slate clean. I know it doesn't really matter, but it feels like a weight off my shoulders. It feels good to fix something that has bothered me for so many years. Even if I never take another college credit (don't worry, I've got 14 coming up next semester), I feel a lot of accomplishment knowing I went back and fixed a really old, but really bothersome mistake. If you look up my college transcripts, there is no longer a big red "academic probation" mark on them, and probably if you looked into my brain, there is no longer a big red "you failed college" mark in the there either. It feels good, and I felt like sharing it. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Semester complete!!

Last night I officially hit the submit button for the final time this semester and I can officially declare it complete. I'm still waiting for some grades to come in, but I feel really good about everything and I expect to finish with straight A's. Yay me!! This semester turned my life upside down a bit, because I had to get used to a full time schedule for the first time. After 16 years of being a stay at home mom and having a lot of freedom in my daily schedule, having deadlines to stick to and figuring out how to balance school and motherhood was a challenge. But I kind of got in the groove by mid semester, and it got easier after a while. I survived, and I'm proud of myself for hanging in there.

 I'm currently signed up for five classes/14 credits next semester. I'm going to give that a try and see how it goes. My original plan was to do 12 credits, but I want to kick it up a bit and see how that feels. There is a possibility that I may drop one class early in the semester if it feels like too much, but I want to give it a try. The sooner I can get through all of this, the better, so I'm going to keep plugging along. The good news is that I have pretty much finished my boring core classes and now I get to start taking the fun stuff. Next semester I have some marriage and parenting classes coming up that I'm looking forward to. I'm finally taking the classes I want to take for my major instead of all the English and history and math they make you take in the beginning. So that will be fun. It's more credits that I've done before, but it's also classes I'm actually excited about, so that might help keep me going through the semester.

But for now I have three blissful school free weeks to enjoy before next semester starts. Our whole family has been crazy busy this year. Shawn has had a difficult year at work with some things they've been dealing with, Josh's plate is so full with school, work, and extra curricular activities that he's rarely home anymore, and Matthew and Clarissa are always busy with friends and school and their activities. So I'm looking forward to shutting it all down for a few weeks at Christmas. Christmas is the one time a year when everyone comes home and we kind of lock ourselves away from the world for a bit. We have lots of fun traditions that we enjoy and it's a good chance for us to reconnect for a few weeks. After the year we've had, we really need it.

So I guess I don't have a whole lot more to write about besides that. I feel bad that I've abandoned my blog lately, but it feels like the main thing in my life right now is school, and it's a boring blog topic.  The tales of my history tests and English papers aren't really that interesting.

In family news, Josh is currently hard at work on another documentary for National History Day in hopes that he's going to make it to nationals in Washington DC again this summer. He would love to get back there and see some of his NHD and France trip friends again. His topic is really interesting this year, so I think he has a chance.

Matthew is still hard at work at the piano and he's starting guitar lessons after Christmas. Is Santa going to bring him a guitar for Christmas? We'll have to see. He doesn't read my blog. The answer is yes, lol.

Clarissa is loving life, as always. She's such a happy kid, just always excited to be along for the ride. She's looking forward to Christmas and hoping that Santa is going to bring her lots of art supplies to replenish what she is constantly running out of. That kid loves art. She paints, draws, loves to make jewelry and all sorts of little crafty things. I think she can look forward to lots of art supplies for Christmas. She turns 8 in a couple of months, can you believe it? That's how old Josh was when I started this blog. Crazy how fast time goes.

So we're doing good. Busy, but good. I feel like that's all I ever say in my blog anymore, but that's life in our family these days. I'm excited to be done with the semester, eager to start the Christmas festivities and hopeful about what's coming up next semester. Life just keeps moving forward!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Playing catch up

So, clearly I'm way behind on blogging. Life is good here, just busy. School is going great, but I'm ready for the semester to be over. I'm getting straight A's and doing well, but I'm ready to be done with these classes and move on to new material. Only three more weeks left of the semester! I got registered for next semester. I'm excited because my required core courses are basically out of the way and I finally get to start taking the fun stuff. Next semester I'm taking classes on marriage, family relationships and all sorts of fun stuff. Except I'm also taking social stats, which I'm kind of terrified about, but I'll be through it.

Anyway, things are good, we're all just plugging along. I don't have a whole lot to say, but I did want to catch up on some of the photos I've been meaning to post over the past couple of months. We went up to the mountains in September for Shawns birthday and did some family photos, which turned out nice.






Josh went to his first date dance. It was Homecoming at another school. How cute are they?! She's a good friend of his, I really like her and I was excited for them to go on a date.


Then a few weeks later he went to homecoming again at his school with a different date. This time the theme was Great Gatsby, which explains the hat and the clothes. :) I didn't get to take a picture of his date that time. The bummer about having boys is that you miss a lot of the date stuff because he goes over to their house, the girls don't always come here. Therefore I don't get to be the momarazzi, which you know I love. :)


Then we had Halloween and Clarissa was the cutest Darth Vader princess you've ever seen. Seriously, how fantastic is this costume?! I had it custom made on Etsy in September. Now that I only have one kid left who dresses up, I get to focus all my attention and Halloween budget on one costume. I'm not going to lie, I love it. :)


Then tonight Matthew had his piano recital and got to play two songs. This one was the prelude piece at the beginning of the recital (which explains the guy still setting up chairs in the back). I love this song, he did a great job.

So things are good here! This week we're getting ready for Thanksgiving, which if you have followed my blog for a while, you know it's the only holiday I hate. We'll be staying home and ordering out as usual. Thanksgiving can bite me. I'll be fine by Friday, lol.

So there's my update! Life is good!

Monday, October 10, 2016

I'm still alive!

So, I've basically abandoned my blog, but life is so busy right now that I just haven't had time to sit down and write. And I have so many things to write about that it's a bummer that I'm not doing it. I have pictures I wanted to post and things I wanted to talk about, but I can't seem to fit blogging into my schedule lately.

But here is a super quick rundown.

In school news, I'm swamped. That's the biggest reason I haven't been blogging. In fact, I shouldn't be blogging now, because I have a pile of things I should be working on right now. I'm both enjoying and not enjoying school. I like having something to do to keep my brain busy all day and I'm incredibly proud of myself for doing the thing I always wanted to do. My grades are awesome right now, and it's HARD, so I'm proud of me. But I'm taking a math class that I absolutely despise, I'm working around the clock including most weekends to get everything done, I'm often overwhelmed and a little burned out. I feel like I do homework and sleep, and that's pretty much it.

College is a lot different than it used to be when I went the first time in the 90's. It used to be mostly lectures and tests. Online college is mostly reading (sooool much reading), writing (soooo much writing), posting on mandatory group discussion boards, and a pile of various assignments each week. My English class has three units a week. Which basically feels like a weeks worth of work, three times a week. It's a beast. My math class basically has no teacher (it has a teacher, but as far as I can tell he just monitors our grades and answers occasional questions) and we're basically teaching ourselves out of the text book, which does not work for me at all. I've basically abandoned my very expensive text book and I've moved on to searching for YouTube tutorials every week. It's a mess. Josh is usually my math tutor, but he's busier than I am right now, so I rarely ask him to help. He's taking more college credits than I am, plus he's working, he's in every extracurricular activity you can possibly imagine and he has an active social life. I'm fairly certain he still lives here, but judging by the amount of time I actually see him here, I'm not so sure.

I'm also taking an American History class, which is not super hard but it's so much dry reading each week. It's fine, just a little tedious, a religion class that is mostly just a lot of busy work, and an intro to Marriage and Family studies class that isn't hard, and will be over in a few weeks. Sadly, it's my favorite class. So I get to lose a class in a few weeks, but it's the one I actually like.

I could go on all day about group projects, my frustration with group projects, the gigantic amount of research I'm doing for an English paper right now, a 2,000 word rant about taking a math class with no teacher, and many more things, but I will stop here. Basically, I'm busy and tired and overwhelmed, but I'm doing things I never though I could do and I'm ridiculously proud of myself for hanging in there. I've got this.

In family news, Josh is rocking college. He's taking something like 18 credits, working as a pharmacy tech for Shawn in the afternoons, he's Vice President of the film club, running for president of the National History Day club, he's the senior member on the Academic Decathalon team and they're studying WWII this year, which his specialty, so he's really excited about that. He volunteers as a math tutor once a week at the school's tutoring center, he went to his first date dance, Homecoming, a few weeks ago with a girl from another school and he's going to his schools Homecoming dance with another girl this Saturday. I'm sure there some stuff I'm forgetting, but that's the gist of it. He's also getting straight A's. Oh, and he's considering running for student council this year.

Matthew is in 8th grade and doing awesome. He's in the gifted program and all the honors classes, and he's loving that. He's doing a really intense PE class this year that he likes and he discovered that he likes to run, so he's thinking of doing cross country next year. He's still playing the piano and he's awesome at it. He's writing his own music now. He can hear a piece and play it by ear, which mystifies me, because I don't understand how he does it, but it's cool to listen to. He's also the most social of our three kids and there is a steady stream of teenage boys in and out of this house all afternoon and weekends. Someone is always calling for him or knocking on the door. I told him he needs to hire a secretary.

Clarissa is in second grade and doing awesome! I wasn't super impressed with her teacher last year, but this year she has an amazing teacher. Clarissa really loves her. She excitedly comes home every day and tells me all the fun things they did. Clarissa likes to read, she's struggling in math a bit (you and me both, sister), but we're working on it, and she's an amazing artist. She loves to draw and paint and color and our whole house is covered in her artwork. It makes me so happy to look at. She's still joined at the hip with her best friend Sophia, which I love, and she's eagerly awaiting Halloween, which is one of her favorite holidays. Clarissa is obsessed with clothes and dressing up, so a holiday where she gets to dress up is pretty much her dream come true. I love that kid.

Shawn is doing awesome, just so incredibly busy at work. He's the manager and it's a daunting task sometimes. He's been really stressed over some recent changes, but he's pushing through it. That man is a rock star. We're all running around like chickens with our heads cut off lately, but there's no one I would rather ride out a storm with.

Oh, and in extended family news, my mom and stepdad, who just got back from an 18 month church mission to Malaysia in December, left yesterday to serve another 18 month mission in Ghana, Africa.

So that's us in a nutshell. There is a lot more I would love to blog about, but my homework isn't going to do itself and I've got quite a pile of it waiting for me.

I'm busy, I'm tired, and I'm stressed, but under all of that, I'm happy about what I'm accomplishing. Look at me, I'm doing it! :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The one where I wondered what I was thinking

So, school started yesterday. I'm a full time college student! And today I don't know whether to celebrate or cry, lol. I'm taking 12 credits, which really didn't seem like all that much. It's barely full time. Josh is taking more college credits that that right now and he's plugging along just fine. And he has a part time job, after school commitments and a social life. Oh, to be young again. :)

I'm taking five classes. Math, advanced writing, American history, religion, and an intro class to my marriage and family studies major. Classes started yesterday, but they opened up the online classes over the weekend, so I've been poking around at them for a few days.

And to be honest, I feel like I'm drowning. :( I know that's it's just because it's new, and new things always come with an adjustment period. I keep telling myself that it's going to get better, and I know that it is. It's going to be just fine. People go to college all the time and survive. I just wish I could get past this first part, when everything is new and different and I don't know what I'm doing.

Most of the classes aren't too bad. I'm kind of starting to figure out what's going on and I'm making myself a color coded calendar of assignments and due dates and all of that so that I keep it together and stay organized. It's just a lot at first and I'm really overwhelmed. I'm taking math again and two days into it it's already kicking my butt. I struggle so hard with math. I took a math class last year and as much as I hated it while I was doing it, I also really loved it because for the first time in my life, I felt like I really started to get a handle on math. I learned a ton in that class. And I felt like I could use that knowledge to speed right through this class, but nope. I feel like I'm back to square one, limping along again. It's not particularly difficult math, it's more finance math, not algebra or calculus or anything. It's not that hard, I just really struggle with math, and the class isn't laid out very well. I'm having a hard time with not just the material, but figuring out how to navigate the system and figure what to do next. I don't mind taking most classes online, but I really hate taking math online. I need to sit in a classroom with a teacher for math. It looks like a lot of this class is reading a math textbook and teaching ourselves, and that's going to be a semester of torture for me. I'm struggling with it.

Aside from that class, which is taking up most of my time, the rest of it seems like I'll be able to get through it. I don't mind writing, that looks doable. I do have to write a 15 page research paper later this semester, but I like to write and I can handle that. And American history is mostly memorizing dates and events things like that. That will take a fair amount of studying, but I can do it. It's just that darn math class that I'm not sure how I'm going to get through.

The one class I am excited about is the intro to marriage and family studies class. It's a class that everyone in my major has to take that introduces us to what we need to do going forward. We'll be making a graduation plan and discussing career options and things like that. I'm so excited to finally be getting to the classes for my major. I'm really anxious to get the rest of these generals out of the way this semester so I can start focusing on what I really want to learn about. This class gives me a little taste of what's coming, and that's helping me push through this hard and mundane stuff.

So it's going to be fine. I'm having a lot of moments right now of wondering what I've gotten myself into, but I'm trying my best to push through it because I really do believe that it's going to get better. As much as I sort of want to quit and never speak of it again right now, I know if I push through it, I'm going to get to a place where I'm more comfortable and it's not so overwhelming.

Clearly I've given myself a lot of pep talks the past couple of days, lol. It has been a dream of mine to go back to college for years, and I'm finally doing it! So when I get discouraged I tell myself to suck it up, because this is the thing I wanted to do. I can do hard things. I just might complain about it a bit, lol.

So there's the update. I'm sort of hating it right now, but I'm optimistic that it's going to get better and that hope is pushing me through the hard parts.

But right now I'm going to go put my jammies on and watch mindless TV, because hours of trying to figure out math today has given my a headache and I'm tired.

I'll get there. I might limp along a bit, but I'll get there.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

College bound

I've really been enjoying the fact that Josh and I are both in college this year. I never thought I'd get to go back to college and I've been so excited about this opportunity, and then with Josh starting his associates degree now too, it's just been a really fun thing for us to bond over. We both got college acceptance letters this summer and we've planning our classes.

Josh is getting his degree through Idaho State University and I'm getting mine through BYU-Idaho. So I decided that it would be fun for us to get college t-shirts and do a photo shoot. Josh in his teenager-ness (I love you Josh!) gave me a bit of an eye roll at the idea, but he was a good sport, lol. I can't help it, I like pictures and this is something I want to look back on and remember later.

So yesterday we put on our college t-shirts and sat for a quick photo shoot. This was the result. It will be fun to look back on this and remember the time we got to be college students together. :)


Monday, August 22, 2016

Home alone

Well, another school year has begun for the boys and I am officially home alone. You would think that would be super exciting for a mom, but to tell you the truth, I get lonely pretty quickly. It was fun at first last year to have the whole house to myself all day, but I got over that pretty quick. I like having my kids around. I start school on September 12th, and once that happens I'll be busy, so it will be fine, but until then it's just too quiet around here.

The boys were excited for school this morning! Big things are happening in Josh's life this year. He in a junior this year, and thanks to the dual enrollment program at his high school, today is also his first day of college! He is a full time college student through the Idaho State University. He's taking five college classes this semester (and three high school classes). He takes them at his high school, but they're college level classes and he gets both high school and college credit for them. His schedule this year is intense. Basically no electives or fun classes, it's just a full load of really heavy college courses. He's taking stuff like college chemistry, college biology, a college art history class, some sort of European history class, along with college level English and advanced math. Plus he's going to compete in the academic decatholon again this year, he's going to help the teacher he went to France with start up a National History Day club, and I don't know if I mentioned it, but he worked as a pharmacy tech for Shawn all summer and he's going to continue to do that part time during the school year.

So that kids schedule is beyond packed. He thrives on being busy, so for him it's good, he'll be fine. But honestly, I'm kind of in awe of what he's got going on. When I was his age I was barely getting by taking regular classes and I spent my free time writing notes to boys I had crushes on. I don't know where Josh came from but he rocks.


Here is Josh's yearly front porch collage. It occured to me as I was adding this years picture that aft all these years, he only has one picture left. Next year he'll be a senior and this collage will be complete. Ugh. I can't talk about it. No crying today.


Matthew started 8th grade today! 8th grade is my favorite for my kids. When they start middle school in 6th grade, the 8th graders look so old and they're so intimidated by the big kids. And then they eventually become one of the big kids and their confidence really skyrockets. Josh really found his niche when he hit 8th grade, and I think it's going to be the same for Matthew. He's involved in some fun things this year. They have expanded the gifted program this year, so he'll spend more time there, which he loves, and he's in all honors classes. Being a kind who loves school in middle school can be hard, but once they start honors classes and they're in there with other kids who love school, it gets a bit easier. Those are his people. Matthew is also in the National Junior Honor Society this year and he's on the yearbook staff. He's really looking forward to those things. I think he's going to have a great year.
Next year he's off to high school with Josh! He's planning to go to the same high school as Josh and do the dual enrollment college program, so it will be fun to have them in the same school next year.



So now that leaves me home alone. I have a few projects I'm working on for the next few weeks and then I'm really looking forward to starting school in September. I'm ready to tackle full time school. I've got the time in my day for if and I'm ready to get moving on my degree. Exciting things are ahead! Bring it on!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Teenager #2!!

Matthew is 13!! I can hardly believe we have another teenager in the house. He had an awesome birthday. My mom was here to celebrate it with us and he he got some fun presents that he has been loudly hinting about. :)

The other fun thing we did was the tradition we have where we redecorate our kids room when they turn 13. I don't have good before and after pictures to share yet, but Matthew and I had a lot of fun this summer redecorating his bedroom. His room needed a lot of work and it got a complete makeover! He wanted a reading room, so we bought him a big bookshelf for his books and a fun reading chair he can curl up in. He's really been enjoying that. We also finally got rid of his loft bed and bought him a bed that fits him better. He's happy not to be climbing a ladder to sleep anymore. His room turned out great, it was a great welcome to the teen years.

Matthew is an awesome kid and I'm excited to have another teenager in the house. We love you Matthew!!! :)


Monday, August 8, 2016

Second grade!

Big morning at our house, it's Clarissa's first day of school! (The boys don't go back for another two weeks.)

She seemed really nervous this morning, so I'm a little nervous for her, but I'm sure she'll do great. We met her teacher last week and she seems great. I think this will be a good year!

Here is the first day of school picture!



Monday, August 1, 2016


I'm so excited to share the video of Josh's news interview!! I'm so proud of him!

His portion starts about 11 minutes in.

Here's the direct link if the video doesn't play.

Friday, July 29, 2016

And then this happened

Josh and his teacher were invited to share their France story on a local news talk show this morning! So he got all dressed up and we got to spend the morning at the news station. It was really cool, Josh loves anything video camera related, so seeing how the news was filmed was pretty fun for him.

They filmed a really great segment about their experiences in Normandy and the silent hero project. I was so nervous watching him, but he did great!

The show airs on Sunday. I'll post a link to it when they add it to the news station website.

In the meantime, here's a sneak peek photo!!


Friday, July 22, 2016

Phase one complete!

Last night I went to my last college class and finished my last assignments and the year long program I was doing is officially over. I did it! And with straight A's! Yay me! :)

I originally signed up for this program mostly because if I completed it the college would reduce my tuition for the rest of my degree. Thanks to this program I'm going to be getting my bachelors degree for really cheap, which I really needed if I'm going to afford to get through grad school.

But honestly, I wasn't really that excited about the program. Two online classes a semester for three semesters and we had to meet as a class for two hours every Thursday night. I really wasn't excited about the Thursday night meetings. When I found out that it was going to be a lot of group participation and taking turns teaching the class I almost dropped out. I'm such an introvert. Group participation isn't my thing.

But over the year I really grew to love my classmates and I learned that I can teach a class and participate in group discussions and last night, sitting in a circle with all these people I've grown to love and practically think of as family, I realized how profoundly changed I have been by this experience. We all had a hard time leaving for the last time last night. We've been through a lot together. We've tutored each other, cheered each other on, listened to each other complain when it got hard and celebrated each other's successes. It's going to be weird not going there every Thursday night anymore. I went there for the promise of cheap tuition and I left with a group of friends I truly love.

So now I'm done with school for a bit, and done with this program. Now that this program is over I'm just a regular college student in regular college making my own schedule. I'll be taking 12 credits online starting the second week in September. It was weird this morning knowing I don't have any homework to do. That program lasted 40 weeks. It's been a while since I've had a big stretch of time  without homework to do.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my time now. I've got some projects to get done before school starts, so it's time to work on those.

The first project is Matthews bedroom. When our kids turn 13 we have a tradition of redoing their bedroom. Teenagers need a teenage bedroom. So we're completely redoing Matthews bedroom. He has a small bedroom so when he was little we bought him a loft bed to maximize the floor space for toys and things. But a loft bed isn't working as well for an almost 13 year old as it did for a 6 year old, so we're getting rid of that bed and buying him new bedroom furniture. We're also panting, giving him a little reading corner and searching for cool room decor. We're just starting, but we have some fun ideas that incorporate his love of books and music.

This summer has been weird because the boys have been gone so much. Josh was in France for two weeks, then he came home and Matthew left for a week for scout camp and when Matthew got home, Josh left again for three days to go to a church event. And now that Josh is finally home, he's working full time as a pharmacy tech at Shawn's pharmacy, so hes still not really home much. It's been a busy time around here. We've been trying to find some time to take a little family trip, but with everyone so busy I don't think it's going to happen.

OH! Here's something cool going on next week! Our local TV news station finally got wind of Josh's France trip and they want him to come on the little local talk show type program they do. Next Friday morning he and his teacher are filming a segment for the show about the silent hero project they did in France. It will air next Sunday. I'll post the link for it once they have it on their website. He's really excited about that!

So school is done for now, but we've got a lot to keep us busy. As usual, time is flying by and I'm just trying to keep up! :)

Thursday, July 21, 2016


I got my hair done the other day. I think the red is definitely here to stay for a while. I love it!



Friday, July 1, 2016


After three weeks, two countries, four hotels, one dorm room, six airplanes and one incredible adventure, my sweet boy is home, and I could not be more thrilled to have him back. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


No big deal, just hanging ' out by the Eiffel Tower like it's a random Wednesday. :)

Josh is in Paris today getting ready to fly back to DC tomorrow. Friday afternoon he flies home and I finally get my baby back. This trip has truly been life changing for him. The little I have been able to talk to him, it just sounds like every minute of it has been truly special.

This is their last night as a group before they all go their separate ways in DC tomorrow and he said the kids were all staying up late at the hotel to enjoy their last night together. Two weeks ago he had never met these kids and now they feel like friends for life. I'm so happy for all of this. Life is an incredible adventure. You never know where it's going to take you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Technician Fourth Grade Ray O. Coffey, you have not been forgotten. ❤️

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bonjour France

Josh arrived in France a few days ago and is having the time of his life. This has been such an amazing experience for him. We have gotten to FaceTime with him every afternoon and he always has a bunch of fun stories to tell. And I'm just sitting here hanging on every word and soaking up every photo, because I can't believe he's on such a cool adventure! I miss him like crazy, but I'm SO happy for him. He's really learning a lot and getting to see some amazing things.

They're staying in a town called Bayeux, which is next to Normandy. From the pictures I've seen it's the most beautiful Frence village. I've never been to Europe, but after seeing his photos, now I'm dying to go! It looks amazing. 

They have spent the last six months doing a really intense, extensive study of all aspects of D-Day, and this week they're finally getting to see all the things they have studied and researched. After spending so much time studying it, it's such a meaningful, special experience to see it. It's more than just a sightseeing tour of random historical sites, they've really spent a lot of time learning about all the places they're seeing. He told me about walking across a bridge the soldiers marched on, and how you can still see damage in it from bullets. He said it gave him chills to know he was walking in their footsteps. It has really been an eye opening, perspective broadening experience for him that he is never going to forget.

I keep getting all these great pictures from him. Josh sitting in a French village eating baguettes, stained glass on centuries old churches, neat statues and WWII artifacts. He ate escargot today! This is a kid who barely eats anything that doesn't come with fries, and he ate snails?!  AND he said they were good. I'm still skeptical. lol I'm loving all of it, because he's loving all of it. Every time I talk to him and he is very animatedly telling me all the amazing things he's seeing he just keeps saying "THIS IS SO COOL!!". I love all of this.

So here are a few photo highlights of his trip: 

Seriously...SNAILS!! 😳

Best adventure ever. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

France, here he comes!

I just Facetimed Josh to say goodbye. After a week of living in the dorms on the University of Maryland campus, he is getting on a plane this afternoon and heading to France. We have literally been talking about the possibility of this trip since October. I can't believe that the day has finally arrived!

I don't remember how much I have written about the specifics of his trip. One of the main purposes of the trip is something called a Silent Hero project. Every kid who was chosen to go on the trip was assigned a soldier from their state who died during D-Day in Normandy and is buried at the American cemetery there, and that have spent the past six months researching them. The purpose is to honor the forgotten. We remember the generals and the well known heroes and those who came home, but so many people went there and sacrificed their lives and were never really talked about again.

Josh was assigned a man named Ray O. Coffey. He was a soldier from Idaho who died 17 days after D-Day on the beach in Normandy. In fact, today is the 72nd anniversary of his death. The purpose of the project was to learn everything they can about his life, find photos, letters, put together a life history, and then Josh will stand at his grave above Omaha beach in Normandy and give a eulogy to honor his life.

The good news is that someone who was forgotten is going to be honored at his gravesite in a few days. The bad news is that he truly was forgotten and they had a very hard time finding information about him. Josh and his teacher have spent months scouring ancestory records, high school yearbooks from the 1930's, trying to contact family members, digging through military records, and they have come up with very little. They even told the story on Boise public radio in hopes that someone would come forward who had more information. No luck. They were hopeful that while they were at the national archives in Washington DC this week they would be able to uncover more information, but after hours of searching, even that failed.

When Ray died in France, the Red Cross contacted his family in Idaho and they didn't want his body back. He is buried in France because his family didn't want to bring him back to Idaho and bury him next to his parents. He was in his late 30's when he died and was never married and had no kids, and both of his parents were already dead, so he left very little behind and there are few who remember him. His name is not on our state war memorials and he has truly been forgotten over time.

But Josh has enough information about his family, what he was doing in the war, the battalion he was in and the circumstances of his death that he wrote a beautiful eulogy that he will read at his grave when they arrive in France. After all these years, someone is going to stand at his grave and give him the thanks he deserves. Josh is dissapointed that after all this research he has still never even seen a picture of Ray Coffey, but I keep reminding him that that is even more of a reason to make sure he is remembered. He gave his life for our freedom and no one remembered his name. So this week when Josh stands at his grave, he will finally get his recognition. And I like to think that somewhere, Ray is aware of that. I hope he's looking down and knows that he's being remembered.

I wanted to share the Facebook message Josh wrote this morning.

I'm incredibly proud of Josh for taking this journey. It wasn't just a free trip to France. It's been six months of hard work and research to honor a man who deserves to be thanked for his service. When I talked to Josh this morning I could tell that he's completely emotionally and physically exhausted. He's been going nonstop for two weeks and he has another week to go. He's nervous about taking his first international flight and I'm nervous to let him go, but this experience has been life changing for him and I'm incredibly grateful he was given the opportunity. 

So keep him in your thoughts today while he travels. And me, because I'm a nervous wreck, lol. I love that kid. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

College Girl

Well, it's official, I'm registered for college as a full time student! Today I spent practically the entire day trying to get my college classes all figured out. It was a big of a mess, but I'm pretty sure I've gotten it sorted out.

I'm back at the same college I went to when I left high school at 18.  I thought that would make it easy, because all my old credits are there, but it was actually incredibly complicated. When I went there it was a two year junior college, but several years ago they turned it into a 4 year university and changed a lot of things. The general courses that I had to take back then were all different than the requirements they have now. Plus I have the credits that I have earned over this past year, that are sort of complicated because they're from a program that is associated with that college but not exactly that college. It's complicated. So I wasn't sure how the credits I had from before were all going to transfer over. I was really overwhelmed by it this morning.

So I started making phone calls to see if I could get it straightened out. My file is confusing for several reasons. It's all under my maiden name, because it was from before I was married, but the credits I've been taking over the past year, which are associated with that college, are under my other name, and every time I go onto the university website there are things under both names and it's all weird. So I got that straightened out.

Then here is the thing I really hate to admit. When I left college after one year when I was 18, I was on academic probation. For several reasons that year of college was really awful for me. It was just a really crappy time in my life. I'm not even going to make excuses, but let's just say my GPA was dismal and embarrassing. So for over 20 years I have been on academic probation with this university. So I can register for classes, but I can't actually earn any more credits until I pass their little mini course on being a successful student. So I spent my afternoon taking that. I had to read all these things about how not to suck at college and take some quizzes on what I learned.

It was actually sort of an interesting experience, being 41 years old and answering to the mistakes of my 18 year old self. When I left college that year, I didn't think I'd be back. I didn't care that I was on academic probation because I had given up on school. But now here I am, righting the wrong. It's sort of amusing to me that I still have to deal with this over 20 years later, but it actually feels kind of good. I'm fixing mistakes that have really weighed on me. Eighteen year old Wendy would be proud of 41 year old Wendy. It might have taken me over 20 years, but I finally pulled myself together. :)

So I am now off of probation and can move on with a clean slate, but unfortunately my embarrassing GPA will follow me. I'm going to be trying to get into grad school when this is done, and my ugly GPA from 20 years ago is going to factor into my current GPA, which means that I'm going to have to work my behind off to get really high grades to make up for my one bad year. This year long program I'm just finishing does factor in, and I've gotten straight A's all year, so that helps. But I'm really going to have to work hard to raise my cumulative GPA so it's strong enough to get into grad school. It feels like a bit of an uphill battle, but I can do it. My poor grades from before had nothing to do with my ability to learn, they were more a motivation issue and a reflection of what was going on in my life at the time. Things are different now.

So I registered for classes. I had 29 credits from my one year at college and 15 from this program I've been doing this year, so I only need 18 more to get my associates degree. I spent a lot of time on the phone with someone at the college today and they were great about figuring out how to use some of my old credits to count for the new requirements the college has now. I got lucky, really. They were very accommodating. Like, I took an earth science class that year that they don't even offer anymore and now there is a different life science class everyone is required to take, but they accepted the old credit in its place so I don't have to take it. They did that for a few different classes. It really helped.

But I do still have to take an English class, another math class (eek!) an American history class and some religion classes because it's a religious university.

What it all boils down to is that I registered for five classes (actually four and a half, because one is a one credit half semester class) for a total of 12 credits. That only leaves me with 6 more credits that I'll take the next semester and I'll have my associates degree in April! Then I can really start focusing on my bachelors degree.

To tell you the truth, I'm pretty terrified about going full time. Can I handle it? I'm only taking 5 credits now and it's super easy, but what is 12 going to feel like? What if the classes are hard? It feels really overwhelming right now.

But it also feels really exciting. After all this time a college degree actually seems within reach. As scared and unsure of myself as I am, I'm also ridiculously proud of myself for taking the plunge. This is so far outside my comfort zone, and I'm a girl who really enjoys her comfort zone. It's taking a lot for me to do this. The last time I went to college, I failed. I'm scared of failing again. But I'm also really excited about the thought of succeeding. I might actually pull this off!

And the great thing is that after I finish all these random generals classes, I'll get to focus on my majors courses, and they're all subjects I love. I get to take psychology classes and parenting classes and things like conflict resolution and family dynamics. Those are the things I'm passionate about. Those are subjects I can talk about and learn about all day long. It's the associates level generals classes that are stressing me out. I don't really want to take another math class. I could take or leave an American history class. But get me past this part and I think I'll love the bachelors program. I'm ready to dive into that.

So things are good. I'm getting this college thing figured out. I'm actually still finishing up an English and religion class for another month, and then I get one glorious school free month in August before I start up full time in September. In the interest of getting this done as quickly as possible, I'm planning to go year round. They offer a summer semester, so at least until I finish my bachelors, I'm going to push through it year round. The clock is ticking, it's time for me to get to work! :)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Planes Trains and Automobiles

The White's have returned from Washington DC! Well, two of us have returned, anyway. Josh is currently residing in the dorms on the University of Maryland campus before he flies out to France in a few days.

So here is my trip recap. Have a seat, it's a long one. :) 

We flew out last Saturday afternoon. As we all know, I hate airplanes, so that is always an ordeal. The crappy thing about living in Boise is that the airport isn't big and it doesn't fly to that many places, so unless you're vacationing in somewhere like Denver or Minneapolis, you're gonna have a layover. Which means I have to get on two airplanes. Which is twice the ordeal. But I survived it. Josh was with us and this is the first flight he's taken since he was little and I didn't want to make a big deal about how much I hate it, because I don't want him to hate it, so I mostly tried to keep my hatred of airplanes to myself, lol. Honestly, it wasn't that bad. Maybe I exaggerate how awful airplanes are. Just a tiny bit though. They're still kind of awful. 

Here we are at the airport. Look at us all fresh and happy and ready for an adventure! :) 

We got to DC at 11:00 at night and we were actually staying at a hotel in College Park, Maryland, because National History Day is held on the University of Maryland campus in College Park. So we had to figure out how to get from the airport in DC to College Park at night, and it's like a 30 minute drive. So we got brave and learned how to Uber. Boise has Uber, but everyone here has a car and public transportation isn't really much of a thing here, so I don't think it's a big thing here. I've never used it. It sounded scary! But we were brave and we figured it out and it's actually super easy and so convenient. We ended up using it several times on our trip. I'm glad I learned how to use it. It's kind of cool, actually. We felt like city people, lol. 

Three thousand kids and their parents descend on the University of Maryland campus every June for National History Day. All the hotels in the area are totally booked and it's a bit of a madhouse. But it's fun seeing all the kids from different states all so excited about their history projects. 

One of the funnest things they do is pin trading. Every kid that comes to NHD brings pins or buttons from their state and they trade them all week long. The goal is to get a pin from every state by the end of the week. It's a great ice breaker activity and really gets all the kids talking to each other. It was really fun to see kids in the lobby of the hotel or even at the events in downtown DC or on the subway and have them run up and ask what state you're from so they can trade pins. Pin trading is serious business at NHD! Josh had a blast with that. 

Here he is doing some pin trading:

We stayed in a hotel a couple of miles away from campus, so there was a lot of going back and forth from the hotel to campus all week. One of my least favorite parts of the week was transportation. We didn't rent a car, so getting around was tricky. There was a shuttle that went back and forth from the hotel to the campus all week, since pretty much everyone at the entire hotel were NHD families. But it was a bit of a pain to catch the shuttle at the right time, so we did a lot of waiting for that. If we wanted to go into DC, which we did several times, we had to catch the shuttle from the hotel to the campus, take a bus from campus to the metro stop, and then take the subway downtown, which could take up to an hour depending on where we were going, and usually required a subway transfer. We spent a lot of time waiting for transportation that week. Waiting for busses, waiting for subways, waiting for shuttles, waiting for Uber. Lots of waiting. We pretty much used every form of transportation I can think of besides boats on our trip! We totally should have taken a boat tour. :) 

We got really good at the DC metro system! We have very little experience with subway systems, but we were pretty proud of ourselves by the end of the week. Shawn especially is an expert at getting us on the right trains. Who knew he had that hidden talent, lol. 

Here we are on our first subway ride! Such a tourist thing to take a picture of! 

The University of Maryland campus is really nice. We got quite familiar with it during the week, especially the student union. We walked all over that campus all week.

To give you a rundown of our week, Sunday we started out at the National Zoo. We wanted to see the famous giant pandas. We saw them. It was really really hot and I wasn't all that impressed with that zoo. I love zoos in general, but that one was sort of a bust. It was my least favorite activity of the week. 

Monday we got the opportunity to do something really cool. NHD set up a private tour of the Holocaust museum in DC. We had to sign up in advance, and we were glad we chose to do it, because it was pretty neat. Next years NHD theme is Taking A Stand In History, so we got to attend some lectures and a private tour based on that theme. They showed us some exhibits at the museum about people who took a stand during the holocaust, and then we got to attend some lectures and great discussions on that topic, followed by a reception with some yummy food. It was a neat experience and we really learned a lot. After the museum we walked over to the Washington Monument, which is gigantic and cool to see, and then we decided to catch an Uber to the White House. 

I actually went to DC 20 years ago when traffic actually went in front of the White House and you could go stand in front of the fence. There is a lot more security these days and you can't get quite as close, but it's still early cool to see the White House in person. And of course we took a selfie. :)

Tuesday was a big day, it was the day Josh got to present his documentary for judging. He got dressed up and looked all handsome and professional. 

He would want me to tell you that I made him do this pose. But it's hilarious and awesome. 

Presenting his documentary was INTENSE. Holy crap, the judges were scary. I was incredibly proud of him because that was really high pressure situation and he handed it like a champ. He played his documentary for three judges in a classroom on campus and then they asked him questions. But they weren't sweet nice smiley people who asked him softball questions, it was like he was up there defending a masters thesis or something. They asked him ridiculously hard questions about the gold rush. Like, what percentage of gold miners were married and supporting families vs. how many were single men? Explain hard rock mining to us. Uhhhh....? And they had very stern faces like they were not playing around. I would have crumbled under the pressure. But one thing Josh has going for him is that he competes on his school's Academic Decathlon team and he has a lot of practice and experience with this sort of thing. He has been trained to present things, handle interviews, etc. So he handled the questions like a champ. He knows exactly how to answer a question he doesn't really know the answer to. I was really impressed with him. 

Unfortunately he didn't advance to the finals and didn't win, but I could not have been prouder of him. He worked so hard on that documentary and he really did his best. He learned a lot this year that he will use when he starts next years project. And yes, he's already planning his project for next year!

After the pressure of competing, we headed off on the adventure I was most nervous about. Some of the other people from the Idaho group decided they wanted to do a three hour sunset bike tour of downtown DC. Now, we all know how much I love bikes. But three hours? Downtown? In the heat? I am so out of shape. I was imagining all the worst case scenarios where I wouldn't be able to do it and someone would have to carry me and my bike back to the bike shop, lol. I was really really nervous about it. 

We got to the bike shop at 6pm. There were about 10 or so of us signed up for the guided tour. Our tour guides were awesome. We got our bikes picked out, put our helmets on, and we were off, riding on the streets in downtown DC traffic. It was scary for a few minutes, but our guides knew exactly where to go and what they were doing and then it was pretty much the coolest thing ever! The weather totally cooperated. It was in the high 70's with a breeze. Perfect. And miraculously, I could actually do it and keep up! It was honestly one of the coolest things I have ever done. We spent three hours riding around DC and to all the memorials. It wasn't three hours on the bikes, we got off frequently to check out the memorials. We rode past the White House, we rode to the Washington Monument, we rode to the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR memorial, the MLK Memorial and then as the sun was setting we rode to the reflecting pool, the war memorials and the Lincoln Memorial. An absolutely gorgeous evening, beautiful views, amazing memorials, just the best night ever. I loved every second of it. I will never forget that night. It was the best part of the whole trip. If you ever go to DC, you absolutely must do it. Capital City Bike Tours. Look them up and go do it. Even if you're out of shape and think three hours on a bike sounds like it might kill you. It won't, go do it. 

Here we are having the best night ever!

Did I mention that it was the best night EVER? I loved it. 

The bike tour ended at 9pm. We still had to make the hour subway trip back to College Park. They are currently working on the subway system in DC, especially at night, so the subways are occasionally backed up, crowded and slow. We were SO hot and tired after the bike trip and the journey back to our hotel was both hilarious and ridiculous. The subways were absolutely packed, twice they stopped and kicked us all off and said they were done for the night and we had to wait for another train to come along, and it was just a long, silly, weird, crowded adventure. 

Here were are crammed on a subway. I can't explain to you why this is funny. It just is. You had to be there. Everything is funnier and dumber when you're tired. That's just all I have to say about that, lol. 

OH! And here's a story that Josh won't want me to tell but I'm going to tell anyway because it's adorable! Sorry Josh. :) We happened to be on the subway that night with some other NHD kids who were trying to get back to College Park. While we were all crammed like sardines on the train, there was an absolutely adorable NHD girl who kept giving Josh the look. You know the look, lol. They finally struck up a very flirty conversation and Shawn and I and the girls dad all chuckled and tried to pretend that we weren't there. He got her number, took a picture with her and texted her the rest of the trip. She was adorable. He's adorable. The whole thing was adorable. He actually met up with her again at the Smithsonian later in the week for a few minutes. Adorable. 

Wednesday we headed back out to DC to visit the National Art Gallery. This was one of Josh's bucket list items, so it was a big deal. Ever since Josh was five years old, he has loved Vincent Van Gogh. Josh was not a typical five year old, lol. We spent months when he was five pouring over books on Van Gogh. The only thing he wanted for Christmas that year was a framed print of Van Gogh's Langlois Bridge At Arles. It was the most expensive gift I bought anyone that year! It still hangs in his room to this day. He loves Van Gogh. And Wednesday was the day he was going to see a Van Gogh in person for the very first time. He went into that museum like most kids walk into Disney World. He was SO excited! We asked the front desk guy to point us in the direction of Van Gogh and we made a beeline for it. 

I wish you all could have been there to witness it. We walked into the room with the Van Gogh's and it was magical. Josh got teary, I got teary, we stood in front of his self portrait like a bunch of crying weirdos. There it was, a real Van Gogh. Josh couldn't stop staring at it. He examined it from every angle. We marveled at the brush strokes, we couldn't believe we were seeing it. The guard finally had to come over and tell us to back up because I think we were making him nervous, lol. We weren't going to touch it, of course, but I think the guard wasn't quite sure, lol. It was a really cool moment. A really really REALLY cool moment. A picture can't begin to convey what a cool moment that was. 

After we composed ourselves and left the Van Gogh room, we walked around the museum and saw so many other cool things! We saw Monets water lilies! Which by the way, was good timing, because Josh is visiting Monet's garden on his trip to France. Lucky. We went to the modern art section and saw a Jackson Pollock's Lilac Mist!! It was a really really great day. 

Except for one thing. My feet. My feet had been bothering me somewhat through the whole trip, and by Wednesday I was in a lot of pain and my feet were swollen up like balloons. By the end of the art museum I could barely walk. We still had a bunch of things planned, but I was starting to become concerned about the state of my feet. So after much discussion and deliberation, I decided to leave the boys in DC and I took an Uber back to College Park. I spent the rest of the day with my feet on ice. 

The boys spent that evening at the American History Museum. I'm bummed that I missed it, but they had a great time.

Thursday was the awards ceremony for NHD. Josh didn't win and I stayed at the hotel with my feet up, but they had a good time at the ceremony anyway. 

Thursday afternoon was the day I had been dreading. It was time to transfer Josh over to the dorm he would be staying in for the France trip. The France trip is done by the NHD people, so they plan it to start right when NHD ends. The group spends several days in the dorms in the UofM campus before going to France. There are 15 kids and 15 teachers on the trip. The dorm they're staying in is actually brand new, it was just built last year, I think. So as far as college dorms go, it's really nice. I was impressed. Plus, it's empty except for them, so they get the whole nice thing to themselves. So we went over there and got him checked in. We were one of the first ones to arrive. I helped him make his bed, we hung up his clothes, we found the bathroom and the laundry room. Then I told him to sit on the bed so I could take his picture. He sat down on the dorm bed, I took one look at him and burst into tears. Ugh. So many mom emotions. We had just spent this absolutely amazing week with him and now we were saying goodbye, and seeing my baby sitting in a dorm room was just a little too real. He's so grown up and independent and all of a sudden I realized that my baby isn't a baby anymore. But I'm apparently a big baby because I stood there and cried in a dorm room like I was sending my kid off to war or something. It's only two weeks. I know it's only two weeks. But, ugh. I'm a mom. I'm entitled to the occasional my-baby-is-growing-up-too-fast meltdown.

So Thursday evening we said our goodbyes and left him in the dorms. I went back to the hotel room and cried some more. 

Friday morning we got up bright and early and headed home. Two more airplanes. I survived. 

Unfortunately my feet haven't survived so well. We've been home for two days and I still can't walk. I'm actually a little concerned that I might have a stress fracture in my left foot. It's fine as long as I'm sitting, but I can't walk on it. If it doesn't feel better in the next day or two I'm going to go have it x-rayed. 

Josh is still on campus in Maryland, having a great time. We text pretty frequently, so I'm getting the play by play. Saturday night they got to go to a really fancy dinner at the Decatur house, across from the White House, that was put on by the White House historical society. It was a super fancy suit and tie dinner. Josh has never been to anything that fancy, but he said it was really cool. He was excited because they gave all the kids boxes of White House Jelly Belly's. :) 

Yesterday they visited the war memorials and they have attended several lectures on WWII. At the fancy dinner they actually got to meet a WWII vet who gave a speech. So cool!

For the next few days there will be more lectures, a visit to Arlington Cemetery, and then they're going to be doing research at the National Archives. On Thursday they fly to France! He's going to have such an amazing time. I'm so excited for him that he has this opportunity. He's never going to forget it. I miss him like crazy, but this is a great experience for him. 

So there you go. The very long version of our awesome trip to DC! We really had an amazing time. I'm grateful that we had the opportunity to do it. Taking a trip with just one kid was actually really special, and it has made me realize that I want to do that with Matthew and Clarissa when they're in high school. The one on one time with Josh was really great. This is a trip none of us will ever forget. 

And now that I'm home, I'm moving on to something else exciting! While we were in DC I got my official college acceptance letter. I'm officially a full time college student! This week I'm figuring out what classes I need and getting registered for the fall semester. I'm really nervous about going full time, but ready to get started. Life is exciting around here lately!! :)