Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I Know The End Is Near

I know the end of the school year is near when every square of the calendar is filled with activities. I mean, it's May, right???  And technically that would mean the school year is nearly over, except that due to snow days our kids go until June 23.  Yes, that is right.  Almost July.  Lord help me!  I will survive!

In the meantime, our days have been filled with many concerts, sporting events, presentations, science experiments and more!

Vu had multiple choir concerts and a huge presentation to end 8th grade.  So proud of this kid who has such determination and talent!

 Mei Mei and Patrick also had band concerts and the traditional ice cream afterwards.

Mei Mei has been busy with lots of activities:  

If I was a smart mom I would have kept every single science experiment my children have ever completed, and then SOLD them to other moms saving them from many late night races to the store for poster board.  I would be RICH!!

Mei Mei also went to Outdoor School.  She was so worried about it, but in the end loved it!  She also has a new haircut, with the idea coming from the Disney show "Andi Mack."

Patrick finished up track and field and went to Districts.  Yes, he gets his speed from me.  Ha!  We did enjoy running a 5K together--my first!

Little KJ cheered us on!  

Lan Lan was inducted into the National Honor Society.  This child has so much tenacity and a desire to learn.  Despite having dyslexia and auditory processing challenges, she works hard, stresses herself out, and ultimately succeeds.  

Lan Lan also applied and interviewed for the Nordstrom Fashion Ambassador Program, a mentor program for high school students who want to go into fashion.  She was just a wee bit excited when she received her acceptance!  

Last week we went to see our beloved Beavers.  Their baseball team is AWESOME!  A very fun night followed by a weekend birthday party for my dad.  

Paul went to Districts in golf.  He was so disappointed he didn't make State.  He loves, loves golf. Who knows?  Maybe he will play in college.

He also went to prom with his girlfriend.  They looked adorable and had a wonderful time.  And here is your tip of the day--buy a tux on Amazon (tie and cummerbund too), because it's cheaper than renting.  

My little boy is growing up.  How exactly did that happen?  He graduates next week, which reminds me that I still need to finish his poem.  Do you remember that I write a poem for each of my kids when they graduate?  Yeah, well, I almost forgot.  Or maybe it was me trying to forget because my creative brain no longer functions.  

At this point I'm thinking something like:

P = Patient
A = Awesome
U = Unique
L = Loving

What do you think?  Would I be the lamest mother ever?  What a hoot!  By the time I get to Mei Mei it might just be a one word poem. 

More fun stuff coming up.  I'll check back in soon!  

Monday, May 15, 2017

You Know You Have A Large Family When . . .

You know you have a large family when your drive-through order looks like this:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

More Birthdays

Patrick and James both had birthdays in March.  And it's May now, but May is also an "M" month, so I'm not really behind, right?

Patrick and James were born 19 years apart.  You've heard the story of how we nearly gave James an aren't-you-too-old-for-that-heart-attack when we told him the news.

He thought we were joking.

We weren't.

But he took it in stride, like he tends to do in life, and has been an awesome biggest brother!  You can understand with the photo above why Patrick loves sports as much as James.

For James' birthday we were in California, so celebrated with Mickey, and later with dinner.  It was also my mom's birthday, so she joined in the celebration.

James still loves the wine business, manages a fancy-shmancy restaurant, loves basketball, hiking, trips to the cabin, fishing, and adventure.  He's as laid-back as they come, kind, patient, funny, and smart.  He isn't with his girlfriend anymore, so we keep asking him if he wants us to set him up on a blind date, but so far he doesn't seem to trust the old-fart parents to find the winner-winner-chicken-dinner.

Patrick turned 15 two weeks before.

Patrick wanted some expensive headphones for his birthday, along with a big soft blanket.  Can you guess what is in the package?  And can you guess what is in the bag?  Well, actually, you aren't as smart as you think because what's in the bag is actually an Amazon gift card.  But not enough for the headphones. And what we were thinking was that Patrick could combine some birthday money with the gift card for the headphones.  And Patrick seemed perfectly happy with his gifts.

But here is what happened later.  Vu took me aside and told me that I really need to step it up a notch on birthdays.  Vu, our emotionally intelligent genius, picked up on Patrick's disappointment that I didn't, and Vu told me we probably should have ditched the blanket in order to spend the cash on the headphones.  He said, "I mean really Mom, a kid only turns 15 once in his life."  As much as I love Amazon, I have to admit it's not the same to have to order your own birthday gift, and then wait several days for arrival.  Duly noted Dr. Vu.  Patrick, I'm still learning not to be a slacker mom.

Would I be an even worse mom to say Patrick may or may not have been the most beautiful baby in the world?

I'm happy to report he morphed into a handsome dude.

Patrick is blossoming in high school.  He's a busy guy with marching band, basketball, track, and AP courses.  And the occasional girl friend.  Lord help me.  He's currently single and I'm hoping he will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

He has mellowed so much since his toddler days, when I worried he would grow up to be the next unabomber.  He loves speech-and-debate, science, history, video games, sugar, and wants to be a pediatrician when he grows up.

My babies continue to grow bigger and more independent.  I miss the old days, it gets quieter and quieter around here.  

But I also look forward to all the future holds.  Happiest of birthdays Mom, Patrick, and James!  May your year be filled with all  the goodness life has to offer!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lessons On A Budget

Since we're on the topic of finances, let's talk about lessons.  Obviously, they can be expensive, especially when raising a passel of kids.  But it is possible to make it work, especially when it's a value of money well spent.

When I was young I was raised for many years by a single mother.  My mom was a teacher, so I am sure that by the time she paid for all the basics, including child care, there wasn't a lot left over.  It was a big deal to eat out, and we only bought new clothes at the beginning of the school year after the Sears catalog arrived.  I kid you not.  Yes, I am old. My grandmother also made us beautiful dresses, 

and we would occasionally get something special like a new pair of jeans for the Pendleton round-up. 

I am quite sure I was a fashionista girl.  Check out those crazy pants!

But back to affording lessons.  I don't know how my mom did it, but we all had various types over the years, especially music, swimming, and art. Sidenote: I didn't take riding lessons.  I grew up near my grandparents' cattle ranch and riding was a part of life, no lessons needed!  

We had art lessons from a nun at the church and I fondly remember my piano teacher.  Thank you Mrs. Coates for all your patience and love.  

When my own kids were born, I discovered how challenging it can be to find affordable lessons. What I've learned is don't give up!  There are so many ways to do it. 

Sometimes a trade can be worked out.  I watched the violin teacher's children one afternoon a week in exchange for half-price violin lessons for Paul and Lizzy.  We won't talk about the time her son accidentally got hit on the head with a hoe and had to get stitches!  Kim and Paul attended piano lessons on an every-other-week schedule, which honestly worked out fine.  Especially when they are little, one of the main points of lessons is just to have someone to keep practicing on task.  Vu got started on the guitar from a person down the street--I asked on our neighborhood Facebook group if anyone would trade homemade cookies for guitar tuning and a beginner lesson.  In the process we met someone new.  A sweet friend gave us low-cost Spanish lessons.  You-tube is now an awesome place for beginning lessons.  And it's free!  And finding a talented teen can also be an inexpensive way to start lessons.

The key is just to ask!  And not just for lessons, a friend of mine found greatly reduced orthodontics by offering to clean the orthodontist's office in an exchange.  Many years ago, our piano was given to us by a beautiful soul at church who heard we were looking for a piano and wanted to see hers go to a loving home.  I am still awed by how God worked that out.  And how cool is it that the brand comes from Korea?

Our parks and rec has been a phenomenal resource for inexpensive lessons--ballet, tap, guitar, gymnastics, golf, and swimming.  I will say that with swimming, if a child is really ready to swim, money is better spent on semi-private lessons.  The group lessons are great for just getting kids used to the water (they spend a fair amount of time holding the wall) and for kids who already know how to swim and will be swimming laps, learning technique.  Swimming lessons aren't cheap, but they are an absolute safety need, especially when living in a state with so many water risks.  In Arizona, a friend with a backyard pool hired a swimming instructor to come and give affordable lessons for neighborhood kids.

Other ideas are to check out books and videos from the library, and grandparents sometimes enjoy providing a gift of lessons.  Local schools and churches often have after-school enrichment, art, music, or sports activities.

Lessons--keep looking, be creative, and find options!