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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Life with Preteens

The winds have changed in our lives. In what felt like an instant, we shifted from a family of young children and babies to a family with preteens and quickly maturing kids. Gone are the days of diapers and binkies; they've been replaced with extra-curriculars, reports, friends, and homework. I have been dreading the drama and emotional drain that I've heard comes with teens-- and I still can't speak to that stage-- but this one, this not-babies-anymore-but-not-quite-teenagers stage-- is awesome.


Let's start with Logan. He's nearly eleven (next month) and is now legitimately old enough to babysit in short spurts, which is possibly the best thing that's ever happened to me. We bought him and Savannah Gizmo watches which are basically a super dumbed down cell phone built into a watch. This new independence and communication has changed our dynamic completely, and I am like a drug addict that's had her first taste of meth. It's addicting, this letting your kids be responsible thing.

Savannah, at eight and a half, isn't even really in the preteen category, but man, she feels like it. Last Sunday Jeff and I came home from an early morning choir practice, and she had made up a pan of German pancakes completely on her own and without any prompting from us. It was baking in the oven when we walked in the door, and the table was set and all prep dishes had been washed. This girl speaks my love language! She has been noticeably trying to be extra helpful around the house lately, always asking me what she can do.  She's a good cleaner, too. When she sweeps, I don't have to redo it. Holla! She even spent two hours weeding with me yesterday. About an hour in her friends from next door came out to play and I thought I would lose her, but she just moved closer to me so she wouldn't be distracted by them and kept going. Finally, I suggested she go play, and she said she hadn't wanted to make me feel bad by leaving to go play with them, but if I was ok with it, then she'd like to. Seriously? Since when is she so sensitive to other's feelings?

On top of that, during a ten minute car ride to pick up her brother from karate, she spilled her guts to me about a problem she was having at school. Two of her friends are struggling to get along, and she feels torn because she wants to play with both of them but can't do that without hurting one or the other. I was (a) surprised because she doesn't talk to me about friends very often, and (b) sad that she was having a hard time, and (c) stressed that we are already having conversations about friend drama, but (d!!) secretly elated that she had come to me completely on her own volition and that we could have an open conversation about things she could try. I know this is the first of many conversations like that, but if they can all be that transparent and sincere, we will get through the teenage years! It was reminiscent of a conversation I'd had with Logan a few months ago about his own struggles with friends at school. When I asked recently how his situation was going, he said that he'd worked through it and learned to get along with a boy that had rubbed him the wrong way. Can a mother's heart take this much pride in your kids?! This year has had many firsts for me, and coaching my kids (and seeing them come out on top!) through friend drama is one of them.

Another moment to record for books is a family home evening a few weeks ago. Savannah had been assigned an article of faith to study and report back on, but had forgotten to do her prep work. Instead of letting it roll of her like she usually does, she had a complete melt down and was distraught at her lack of preparation. Jeff and I made a spot for her on the couch and let her cry between the two of us for the majority of FHE and a good half hour afterwards. It was strange for her to get so worked up-- Savannah is typically overly silly and doesn't take life seriously (even when I wish she would). But instead of being frustrated, both Jeff and I later commented on how relieved we were to see her be vulnerable like that. It gave each of us a good opportunity to express our love for her and how proud we are of the young woman she is becoming. And I think it's another sign that she is growing up and feeling the weight of maturity, which isn't always a bad thing.

Dr. Suess day at school

And then...



Today I got a permission slip sent home for Logan to participate in the maturation program. Good heavens. Maybe I'm not ready for this after all.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Jinxed First Week

After a nice long winter break, I was ready to jump back into teaching for the winter semester. I upgraded from one class to two this semester, one being an online class which has been a completely new and exciting adventure. My first week, however, was less than stellar. If I were one to give credence to jinxes, I would swear someone had placed one on me that week.

For example, my first day of class I had a brand new course assistant. Last semester I had the most senior, tenured assistant available, and she was fantastic. Don't get me wrong, I really like my new assistant, too, but he's new to the game and sometimes we have to figure things out together. Like which set of lecture slides to use. And why there was no microphone. And why the projector wasn't working. And so on. I think my class must have thought they'd landed the most incompetent team in the department after those first few days! Did I mention I forgot to put my own last name on the introductory slide? Smooth, Professor Carly.

Then there was the online class. Which, no doubt, I could have worked harder to be prepared for. But some things you just have to try and fail at in order to learn. So when I tried to host the first day of class online, I couldn't get in to the virtual room I'd set up. Um... not a good start. Then, when I did get in, I apparently didn't record any sound. But of course I didn't realize that until after I'd been talking for 45 minutes and thought it had all been recorded. Head slap.

So I should have know not to join the faculty meeting remotely that week, because of course I would forget to mute myself and send the sound of my TV blaring Octonauts over the web into the conference room right in the middle of a prayer. I also should have known to double and triple check before deleting the schedule from the learning management system to make sure it was the right class that I was deleting. But nope, I didn't take precautions in either of those cases, and deleting the schedule used by over 1200 students resulted in a desperate phone and a late night as I painstakingly repaired my mistake.

The good news is the semester could only go up from there, and up it went! These past two months have been great, and I'm really enjoying the online class now that I've worked out the bugs. With the end of this semester in sight, I'm so grateful for this dream job and how perfectly it fits with my calendar, priorities, interests, and family life. The BYU Statistics department has blessed my life many times over in the past, and it is still doing so today.


Back to Bentonville

January marked a year since we moved back to Utah, and the pangs of homesickness for my friends, family, and home in Arkansas have only dulled, not subsided. I was looking for any excuse I could to go back and visit, so when Meg told me she had a brand new foster preemie placed with them, I had to visit her and take newborn pictures, right? I mean, she needed me, and I couldn't ignore that.

The day I flew out we got hit by another one of our crazy snow storms, so I switched my plans and rode tracks up to the airport instead of driving. It took a little longer and I froze my tush off waiting for the train and the transfer to tracks, but overall the entire commute was so relaxing, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I was worried my flight might be delayed just looking at the runway, but Utah knows how to do snow and we took off right on time.


The guise of this trip was to "help" Meg with her new baby, but who am I kidding? It was to spend time with one of my favorite people on the planet who has been painfully absent in my life this past year (although we still text and call almost daily). I needed my Meg fix, and I think she needed me, too. We have a nice healthy relationship like that, where we run until on the verge of collapse, then somehow meet up to pick up the pieces and rebuild together.


And this little stud was a highlight, for sure. I wish I could show you some of the priceless pictures we took, but with his sweet little future in limbo, it's better to protect his identity for now. 


When not taking pictures, Meg and I took a food tour of the city, hitting up all our favorite restaurants and treat spots. I even ordered a dozen of my favorite pumpkin muffins to take back home with me and froze them to savor their amazingness as long as possible!


I loved spending some quality time with the Willardsons. Each of the kids is so special to me. The older three were my piano students, among other things, and I couldn't wait to give each of them a lung-squishing hug! We spent a fun night watching When Calls the Heart with the big girls and Meg's mom. I love being a surrogate Willardson. :) The littles were a treat, too. Sloane and I share a birthday, so of course she warmed up to me (and my cell phone) right away.


I don't have any pictures as proof, but I also convinced the Shepherd/Pendleton clan to get together for lunch one day. Our gatherings are always so comfortable, so familiar, and so heart-warming, it was painful to realize how much I had missed them.

Table Mesa was a must, and what better way to indulge in my favorite restaurant than with my favorite girls? What a treat to spend the night reconnecting with these treasured friends! It is hard to believe we only lived in AR for 2.5 years. My love for these ladies runs so much deeper than that amount of time should have allowed.


The trip was over much too soon, and before I knew it I was driving back to Tulsa to fly home. I was glad to fly in and out of Oklahoma, even though I didn't get to see any of our Okie friends. It made me feel like I had a chance to say hello to another state that is dear to my heart. I think Oklahoma was happy to see me, too, and gave me this beautiful sunset to remember it by.

Snowmageddon

This has possibly been the snowiest winter I have ever experienced! I can't find any definitive data to confirm it, but I'm pretty sure we are breaking state records left and right this year. Back in January we got dumped on with 16" overnight. It came just before we headed back to school after winter break, and they ended up delaying school for 2 hours to give everyone a chance to shovel themselves out. That may not sound like much, but school is never cancelled for snow here, and even delays are pretty much unheard of. There have been mornings I wasn't sure my car could make it to the school and back, but no cancellations or delays. So to have a 2 hour delay was a good indicator that this was a storm to be reckoned with!



Unfortunately, our four-wheeler was out of commission for the first few big storms including this one, so we shoveled our driveway (which felt like it had doubled in size overnight) by hand with one regular shovel and one kid-sized shovel. (Just to note, our four-wheeler is now fixed and we have increased our shovel collection to four.) This is what I found when I tasked Logan with shoveling the front sidewalk.



On top of shoveling the driveway, we also had to shovel our trampoline (which we had failed to take down in the fall-- big mistake) and a path to the chicken coop. I could barely find the coop under all that snow!




It was a gorgeous day and I actually really enjoyed being outdoors working hard. The kids broke out the sleds and had a marvelous time sledding and playing before school started. This tree in our backyard was almost axed when we landscaped, but we decided to keep it and I'm so glad! It keeps these berries all winter long and has been so pretty throughout every season.

 
We've had a couple other big storms and plenty of moderate snowfall since then, but this still stands as the biggest storm of the year. I'm grateful for the moisture and am tolerating the shoveling now that I can jump on the four-wheeler and plow the driveway in 10 minutes, but I am getting anxious for spring! Is it here yet??

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lego Derby

One of Logan's brilliant scout leaders decided that instead of a pinewood derby, this year we would have a LEGO derby. Best. Decision. Ever!


This was Logan's third and final scout derby, and boy was I happy to just hand him the base and let him work on it solo! I think he designed and re-designed his car at least a dozen times before the race. Our kitchen scale helped him stay within the weight limit, which he was constantly exceeding with all his extra features.



The best part of the Lego derby was watching the cars crash at the bottom of the track. Legos went flying everywhere! It was all fun though, because they'd gather the pieces, reassemble their car, and be ready for the next heat. Like I said-- brilliant!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

End of the Year Clean Up

After a week of relaxing and mess making, we decided New Year's Eve was the perfect time to clean up and freshen up, just in time for the New Year. It took the entire morning and most of the afternoon, but our home is now spick and span (or at least as good as it gets with our messy bunch living in it)! It always feels so refreshing to put away the Christmas decorations and wipe down perfectly empty surfaces. I almost don't want to put anything back on them. I think I feel the same way about myself this time of year. It's a chance to clean myself up, take a deep breath, and start a fresh new year. Whatever messes may have happened over the last 365 days don't matter. 2017 is a blank slate and I can't wait to work hard and turn it into something amazing.

But on a less philosophical note, a clean house is pretty darn amazing, too.


Except for this room, which was too pretty to take down just yet.

Sledding with Grandpa


With all the glorious snow that came on Christmas, we decided to spend an afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa Pendleton's sledding on their golf course. We have a nice little hill in our backyard that had seen a lot of sledding that week, but it was nice to get out to a bigger, more open hill and let loose! Isabelle was not so sure at first...


... but quickly warmed up and loved it!


Even Sawyer tried some independent sledding and was as daring as anyone come the end of the day!


It was one of those perfect memories that I will treasure forever. Just an afternoon spent with my favorite people, doing something we all love and enjoy in the beautiful world we live in.






Don't let this picture fool you, Logan loved it as much as anyone. He also loved waiting at the bottom to throw snowballs at anyone coming down the hill. Sigh. Boys.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Friends Day

The week after Christmas was pure bliss. Jeff's office was closed, which means he took real time off for the first time in a year! Every morning we slept in, stayed in pjs till the afternoon, and did whatever we wanted. The snow made it hard to get out, so we used it as an excuse to stay in. It was wonderful.

By the end of the week, though, I had some work I wanted to get done and thought it might be nice to have some friends over to entertain the kids while I did it. We started making phone calls and before I knew it, we had six friends over in addition to our four. Ten kids can make quite a racket! Needless to say, I didn't get a lick of work done, but I really didn't care. Everyone was so happy and my house was already a wreck, so none of their creative play bothered me. At one point I couldn't even hold a conversation over the talking, singing, background music, and laughter. It was a turning point for me. It was the first time I have had a houseful of kids where I genuinely loved it. I am looking forward to the next several years when playdates are less work and more fun!





The White Christmas of 2016

Christmas morning dawned cold and snowy. It was the first big snowfall of a record-breaking winter, and the perfect exclamation point to start our morning.



I think the minutes right before coming down the stairs are my very favorite part of Christmas. The anticipation, the excitement, the faith that something magical is waiting just around the corner... I can't get enough of it! Most years I make them wait there just a little longer than is necessary so I can soak it in.



Santa spoiled us big time this year. I think he felt bad that we weren't on a cruise with our family like we had thought we might be and overcompensated in gifts. Everyone was ecstatic as they opened their loot.


This is my favorite face of Christmas and it's all over... wait for it... nail polish.


Santa got extra sneaky with Logan, and wrapped his Nintendo 2DS in an oversized box stuffed with toilet paper. Logan immediately started thinking of ways to use the toilet paper, but I confiscated it before things got out of hand. We have long told Logan that we will not buy him a DS, so he went the only route he could think of and asked Santa. That rascal.



Isabelle had asked Santa for a Frozen castle for her Barbies. He must have had a shortage of Frozen castles and brought her a Cinderella castle instead, which Izzy loved just as much. Once it was built it was a good 2 feet taller than she is!


Sawyer scored a set of remote control "Caterpillars." These have been a fun toy for everybody in the days since. Savannah's Santa gift is in the foreground- a hospital set for her American Girls dolls, just what she asked for.


By the time we got through Santa gifts and stockings, it was time for church. We quickly ate breakfast and cleaned up and barely made it in time, thanks to the snow making for terrible road conditions. Jeff and I sang in the choir, so our kids spent the whole time on the bench with our neighbors, the Binghams. Merry Christmas, friends! The program was 90% music, with a short talk at the end by a counselor in our bishopric, comparing the Nephites' anticipation of the Savior's birth to our anticipation of his second coming. It was a beautiful program.


After church, we finished assembling the Santa toys and then resumed gift opening. I don't ever try to speed up this part of Christmas, and we managed to drag it out well into the afternoon. Spoiling kids is so much fun!






Mixed into the afternoon gifts were the presents the kids bought for each other. I loved how excited they were to see their secret person open their carefully purchased and wrapped gift. And the thank you hugs afterwards... priceless.



Note: Logan is mysteriously absent from all these afternoon pictures. The explanation is actually pretty straightforward: once he had his DS in his hands, it did not leave them for several days. Not even Santa's family gift of an Xbox drew him away until later in the week.