Saturday, April 26, 2014

Yard Sale Season!

It's finally Spring. Flowers are blooming, kites are flying, and the blue skies are smiling. Not to mention one of my favorite signs of the season, the poster board signs that are popping up all over the place directing me to all of the hidden treasures that await. I am talking about the plethora of yard sales. I had no idea that I lived in the heart of yard sale central, but there have already been some serious "saling" weekends and I am sure there are more to come. 

I have to be careful when I hit up these community events, because I love a good deal, but lets face it, I don't exactly have a place to put anything other than the essentials. However, the kids are always growing out of their clothes and there are other items I am on the look out. I just try to use restraint as I pass over all the unnecessary temptations. 

I landed some awesome deals on some clothes for SJ today, but what I really want to show off is this bundle of goodness I picked up a couple weeks ago. 

I purchased over $200 worth of loot for TEN smackeroos.  I was so excited. We really wanted a Brita water filter because we buy a lot of bottle water, so I was thrilled to find one with two filters for $2 total. I also got a swim suit for Ezie for $1 and a cool little storage caddy for two bucks that can fold up all these different ways. I love it and it was brand new. 

Then my two favorites- a new winter coat for Z that is like 3 coats in one. 

It was the perfect size, like it was placed in my path divinely. 

Z had the same coat for 3 years, which isn't a problem. I was thrilled that it fit him that long, but we knew he would need a new one next winter. He loves this trendy ZeroXposure ski coat, which is just like the ones his friends at school have.


 Then we found a wooden baby gate for a dollar!

We desperately needed a gate to keep the kids out of the office area where there is no door. They had previously broken the two cheap ones we had before, and we knew it was time to invest in one that actually opened and closed. When we found this one for a buck we didn't even care that it needed a little work. You know J, he tweaked it and he had it functioning perfectly in no time. It really has been a huge blessing to us!

Also, this isn't about yard sales, but I scored big on some brand name shoes for the kids that I found at the thrift store. 

Z has a pair of Keens are PERFECT for all the hiking that we do (you can't see them that well, but they are in the photo above) and SJ has some adorable pink Sperry Top Sider's that are like new.

 Both shoes are valued at $50 each and we spent less than $3 each. Sorry, to do a whole post showing  second hand purchase shenanigans, but I can't contain my excitement when I save more than 90% of retail value on quality items.

Have you done any "yard sailing" lately???

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kindergarten and Common Core

If you somehow stumbled upon this blog post looking for a deeper understanding of what Common Core is, I am not your gal. I still don't totally get it. I was told it was the new national content standards and not a curriculum, but it seems like there is curricula attached to these new content standards in some form or another. 

When I went to meet the teacher night at the beginning of the year I am pretty sure that Z's Kindergarten teacher talked about it, but I just remember her saying that they were going to be expecting a lot more this year and they would be packing a lot of information into a short amount of time. I personally was excited to hear that because I wanted Z to be challenged. 

I admit that I had some issues at the beginning of the year regarding Z being in Kindergarten instead of 1st grade, but now the school year is almost over and I haven't regretted the decision to place him public school at all. In fact, I have felt like he has had private school treatment. I won't go into all the details right now, but one reason I know that they have customized his assignments is because the first week I showed up for the parent orientation night they had these projects hanging in the hall and while all the other children dictated "David's instructions" Z wrote his out himself.  

It's hard to see because it's in pencil, but his is the 2nd down on the right column. At the beginning of the year Z was tested on some basic kindergarten skills and he exceeded the year-end goals in every area. Even then, he still has learned so much more than what he went in with! Here I was concerned that he would become stagnant or bored, and it turns out that I had nothing to worry about. When SJ is mainstreamed she will have an IEP which will include some pull-out sessions. So she need special attention as well, but in a completely different way. Needless to say I have a vested interest from both ends of the spectrum, believe me. 

As far as Common Core, I have heard a lot of controversy. I don't even watch the news, but it's kind of hard to avoid the viral math problems that have been circulating. Z's school had a seminar for parents to attend and learn more, but it was on a night that I could not come out. Fortunately they had a webinar later which included participation via live messages. I was impressed that the school would facilitate an option like this and I tuned in the entire time and I did ask a few questions. I still don't understand the ins outs of both view points regarding the political hot button, but it's boiled down to one thing for me, my children. When I see things like this on the internet I cringe. 

Then I read one article after the other of parents choosing to take their kids out of public school because they suddenly started doing poorly. If it was just here or there I wouldn't think anything of it, but there must be a legitimate cause if it is happening at an alarmingly increased rate across the nation.  

But at the end of the day my son is excelling and he has a very loving teacher that makes learning something to get excited about. I don't know what this means for each and every public school, but I don't have the energy to fight for the all of the students of the nation today. Although, I am grateful for those that do. I consider myself an involved parent that makes informed decisions to the best of my abilities and I have not seen any evidence of this controversy having a negative impact on my son's education so far. In fact I saw this homework assignment posted online under the title "Epic Fail- Parents Reveal Insane Common Core Worksheets" 

The complaint in this case was that common core homework makes it necessary to keep a supply of brass fasteners on hand. The funny thing is, my son had the exact same worksheet with a brass fastener taped to the front. People are circulating these so-called atrocities that really have more to do with individual teachers, schools, and even students, but not necessarily a reason for a revolt. I am not saying that there is nothing wrong with the system. I have seen red flags myself, but I am completely satisfied with how Z's school is handling everything at this point and I have been assured that they are using local curricula and teachers are teaching with the same liberties they have had. 

With that said, I am prepared to keep tabs on everything, but I am also pleased to announce that we have had a very successful first year. I am grateful that Z is getting started now because by the time he is doing some of those wacky math problems hopefully they will have worked out all of the kinks. Anyway, I know plenty of people that didn't have their child's first year go so smoothly so I consider myself very blessed to be in this place at this time. What a relief. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

SJ's Latest Evaluation

This week was parent teacher conferences at SJ's school. I wanted to do something special for her teacher's because SJ goes to the best school ever with the greatest staff in the world.

Exaggerate much?

Well, to me it is all of that, and it's been a God send for SJ. The least I could do is look up a simple thank you on Pinterest. I liked this printable from Tammy Mitchell Designs.

Instead of having SJ (Sedona) sign them I scanned her name and added it to the printable. That was her teachers favorite part, getting to have a keepsake of her name which she had JUST learned to spell.

In fact, out of nowhere she has been blowing me away with her handwriting. She can't read, or sound things out. She doesn't know ANY of the alphabet. So, considering all that, it is amazing that she can not only spell her name by heart (which is a long one), but she also knows several letters from her friends and family's names. Just one example is when she saw the word Happy and thought it said "Hailey" which is a classmate. Then she had written some names on a piece of paper to which she pointed from bottom to top saying "Sedona, Zion, Ezra, Mommy"

 Some of the letters she did get right, and I don't think it was just a coincidence. She is starting to make the connection. She also very suddenly went from scribbling blobs to drawing houses, rainbows, buildings and people.

And here is one of daddy playing guitar.

There are other areas she is falling a little behind in. I don't want to focus on that because her team assured me and reassured me that she is doing wonderfully and it's nothing to be alarmed about. I am going to work on making sure she keeps her implants on ALL the time at home and the school is going to pull her out of nap next year, since she doesn't nap anyway, so that she can have more tutoring. I'm sure she will be fine and we can all pray and believe that she catches up in the area of sentences and can continue to move forward in order to really reach her fullest potential!

Lastly, here is a video I put together for her teachers to see the progression she has made since coming to the school a year ago. If you've watched any of the videos on my blog you've probably seen most of these and can skip this, but it's still interesting to see 18 months unfold in 6 minutes. The first clip is with hearing aids and she can't speak at all, she is mostly just looking at the therapist and trying to mimicking through the visuals. Nearly 6 months later she is implanted and activated, and she started to hear words and repeat them. This potato head video was an enormous breakthrough for Sedona. The third clip is summer school and she is still mostly repeating words with prompting, but she recognizes several vocabulary words. Then fast forward to this year where she can understand a TON more and is saying a few simple sentences and communicating by answering questions. The last clip is one I took at home of her practices some of her vocab. She knows 300 words now (give or take) and is has even started to sing for the first time.

That's what's happening with SJ. I want to do a blog post about Z's school next. I was a part of a Common Core webinar yesterday and it's been confusing and a little scary, but nevertheless I love his school. I will elaborate on all that later. I hope everyone has a really GOOD Friday!

Monday, April 14, 2014

So Apparently We Are Loud

I had a friend call once and hesitantly asked if it was a good time to talk. I told her it was, and she responded with "Are you sure? because it's sounds like you are out and I don't want to interrupt." I said "No I'm at home with the kids". She thought I was at Chuck E. Cheese. I'm not too surprised. That's just what it sounds like on any given day, except if we really were like a Chuck E. Cheese then my children wouldn't always be begging me to go to Chuck E. Cheese. I don't even think that we are that loud, we are probably a very moderate volume. We just happen to have 3 children ages 6 and under in a relatively small space, so the sound has nowhere to go.

Last week we had a visit from apartment management to change a filter and some routine stuff, but on their way out the land lord informed us that there had been a complaint. My mind immediately went to all of the items that the baby had been throwing over the balcony, but no, it was the noise level. We defended ourselves by saying the kids go to bed at 8:30 so it's not like late night partying, and we were told when we moved in that children were welcome. They understood, but apparently one tenant has been pretty persistent that there has been running, stomping, and jumping happening at night and on weekends. For the record the woman that said this works during the weekdays (from what we can tell by her car) so in other words when she is home, that is when she hears it. Welcome to my world. 

The odd thing about this complaint was that the renter that lives directly under us is a young woman that plays loud music and has always been very kind and understanding about our circumstances. So I found it hard to believe that she would relentlessly place calls with management in such a way. After J and I went through every possible option of who would make this call, all we could think was that it was the woman that lives two floors below us. But how could that be? Could she possibly hear us from that far away?

Turns out she can, and here is how we know. Shortly after this all took place she left a note right out in the open taped to the front of the young woman's door that lives below us. It actually had my name on it so I truly thought it was intended for me although, I guess we just happen to have the same name? It basically said 

 Sorry I didn't take my complaint to you first, I just wasn't sure how I would be received. I don't think the noise I am hearing is a TV. It's more like stomping, running, and jumping. Maybe it's the people above you. It bothers my dog and makes him very nervous and scared. Then he gets sick. That is why I informed management. Thank you for your note. 

Now I am no detective, but I have enough clues to fill in the missing pieces here. The lady with the dog had a note taped to her door the week before. I saw it when I went to do laundry, but it didn't mean anything to me and so I thought nothing of it. I'm guessing it said something to the effect of

I was informed by the landlord that there was a complaint about the noise level of my apartment. The only thing I can imagine this could be caused by is my TV and if it is too loud then I wish you would just come to me so that I can turn it down….  

It sounds like all parties involved are being pretty considerate, so I appreciate that. And I do feel sorry for anyone that lives below my family or Jim Gaffigan's (that was a plug for the book Dad Is Fat. If you  haven't read it then you should and then you'll get it). But what it comes down to is a dog that gets nervous vs. my three energetic children. Now I hate to be an obnoxious neighbor, but I refuse to raise my kids in a prison cell and they will continue to be allowed to be children during daylight hours. I do the best I can to get them out of the apartment to get their exercise at McDonald's, the nature center, a local park etc. It's not easy, but it's for my sake and theirs that I do this. Even with all of that there are days that weather, illness, or money does not permit recreational activity or days where despite my best efforts they still manage to be silly and hyper at home.

In conclusion, I make sure the kids take off their shoes when they come inside (something they are supposed to be doing anyway) and I have let them know at 8:00 it's quiet time. That's really the best I can do. Unless maybe someone knows where I can find some doggy ear plugs.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Healthy Outlets -

We all have different ways of letting off steam. Some people de-stress by knitting, others like to take it to the gym. I personally have always found writing to be therapeutic (surprise), for J it's playing guitar. Not that it's limited to one activity, but I think it's important that we find ways to connect with our emotions and clear our minds every once in a while.

Z has been at an interesting stage lately. He still has meltdowns, but he's the only one I don't have to worry about throwing an uncontrollable fit when it's time to leave the park. It's a beautiful thing to watch this level of control develop. Some days are better than others, but it won't be long before he catches up to J in terms of temper tantrums (okay, I'm kidding). Besides just managing emotions, I have noticed something else. He is finding his own unique way of self expression.

Several months ago (Just before Z turned 6) he began to secretly write some of his frustrations out on paper when he was mad or upset. I know a lot of children do this, but as far as my observation among my friends it's especially common for girls. The one that made me cry was when his grandparents were in town. It was time for them to head back to Texas so we walked down to their mini van and said our goodbyes. Z seemed totally fine, but after a while of not hearing a peep out of him I peeked in his room. I noticed he was drawing and I asked him about it.

He showed me a picture of the family crying in-between the van and the apartment building. I said, you miss grandma don't you? That's when the big tears that had been forming became too heavy to hold back anymore, and he just broke down. We called grandma and she suggested he count down the days until our Christmas trip to Texas and mark them off daily.

November-February were taped together like a calendar on his wall.

Z responded well to that idea. Later we printed December off the computer and he drew a car on the day that we were leaving and returning and put happy faces on the days we would be there.

 This wasn't the only time he used drawing/writing to express his emotions, but it's not always this sweet. Sometimes when Z is mad at me he will disappear to his room and write something like "I wish I was never born" or "dad is bad" or one time I found the words "I don't like mom" crumpled up on the floor after we had a big argument. I picked it up, flattened it out and read it, but he very defensively said he was joking. I told him that I didn't believe that and I was sad that he felt that way, but if he was ready we could talk about it. Then he said "Well, I didn't mean it. That's why it's trash." We talked about it and everything was fine. Even when it is hurtful I encourage this type of outlet because we all have to vent, and he is finding a healthy way to decompress at a very young age. How awesome is that?

I get it, because it is JUST LIKE ME. I received my first journal when I was in 2nd grade. It was a Secret Garden journal from my aunt in California. I got it for Christmas and it even had a lock and key! Then when I was in high school I started writing poetry. I have a little notebook full of pages of poetry. Poem after poem of all of my hopes, fears, and pain. Some of them were really dark. Thank goodness I used journals to cope instead of drugs right? Actually, I was never offered drugs. Still, I like to believe I chose to stay away from them (wink wink).

Yesterday after being told he was done playing the wii for the day, and then throwing a monstrous baby fit about it, he was sent his room. Moments later a paper airplane crashed just short of me with a message on it.

With broken spelling it said "If you treat me that way then I guess you don't care about me and I see you don't love me either" on the back it said "read and then sign here _________". So I signed it and wrote "I will always care about you and love you no matter what, in good times and bad". Then he signed it and wrote "thanks for the note" We had a talk about whether his behavior was respectful or disrespectful and he recognized his poor choices and that was our big melt down for the day. It was dramatic for sure, but a lot of maturity has happened in the past two years.

Z showing off the first time he tied his shoes.

I mention this because Z, as the first born, has been quite the pioneer in teaching me when to expect what as far as age appropriate development. When babies are too young to talk we understand that they are frustrated because they cannot communicate with us. Then around two, three, four (you know that blissful  stage of cooperation) they can talk and so all should be well, right? First of all we are always a work in progress so there is never a certain point that you arrive and no one ever has to deal with your crap anymore, but beyond that let's go back to the first paragraph. How do three year olds de-stress? How do they cope? They can't blog, they can't go shopping, or go for a hike. They can jump around and scribble. I am sure that helps, but my point is, what if the the thing that they were inherently born with that allows them to feel a sense of relief and self gratification is not developed or discovered yet. It makes it a little easier to sympathize with them instead of just getting frustrated that they are so frustrated so often. I know there is a lot more to it than that, and I am no psychiatrist, but in the mean time I can have some grace and patience for these little bitties (and bigger kids too). In the same way that I don't demand that a 10 month old "use their words", a can't expect my two year old to have a mature sense of self expression.

I would encourage you as your child gets to be around the age of 5 (according to The 5 Love Languages of Children) to see if you can recognize what activity, hobby, or interest is their healthy outlet. What can you do to nurture that God given desire in them? Or maybe you are still in search for that thing yourself. Either way we all get cranky, we are all progressing, and we all need grace.

One of Z's first stories- The dog is red. The sky is blue. The sky is cool blue. The dog is red. I love the dog. He is my pet. The end.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Photography Take Over

It's been over a week since I have blogged. That has almost never happened. I have a really good excuse though. The reason I have been so busy lately is because I have decided to start up my photography business again. It's Facebook official. Actually, I did start a Facebook page, but there is nothing on it yet, and there are still a ton of details that I have to figure out. For example, the fact that my camera recently broke. Not just a little broke, but it's dead. It's toast. Done. Finito. My brother has been helping me out by allowing me to borrow his equipment, but obviously I need to replace my camera if I plan to operate a photography business. So we'll see what happens. Anyway here are some of the projects I have been working on. 

A masquerade themed sweet 16 party.

Daddy daughter dance (he gave the best speech ever by the way).

 And the guests of honor's nieces rocking the photo booth.

A few days later I did the superlative photos for my church's private school (which is where I attended until 6th grade). It was definitely a small class, but what they lack in size

 They make up for in personality. So that ended up being a super fun assignment.

Lastly, I photographed the latest fundraiser for SJ's school. It was a hip hop fitness/ Zumbathon. I participated a little tiny bit, but I mostly stuck to snapping pictures in awe of the mad skills these ladies (and a few men) had.

Other than a brief intermission they danced for two hours and it was an amazing turnout. It definitely made me interested in taking up Zumba. 

Even my brother was involved in that he made this thank you video from a couple of the kids at the school.

It's been two years since I have considered myself actively practicing photography and I don't think that I need to explain why. It feels like the Lord is bringing me back to it though, which is both exciting and scary. Still, I know if He is with me I have nothing to be afraid of. This new (old) venture will all fall into place if that is what is supposed to happen. So far it's been effortless and it's reminded me what I loved about the art of capturing people's precious memories and weaving them together to cherish forever (and that would be my shameless blog for "Memory Weaver Photography"). Full Facebook page coming soon.