Friday, September 22, 2017

Who Likes A Routine?

I love the fall. I love the crisp air and the crispy leaves crunching beneath my feet. I love all things apple and pumpkin. I love making soups and stews and breads and cookies. I even love the time change.

But what I love most about the shifting seasons this time of the year, is the family ROUTINE. Kids are getting up with their alarms so there's no more morning blanket tug-o-war. Afternoons are filled with productivity and I know where all my kiddos are. Family dinners are a regular occasion and sometimes, if we're really lucky, I'll pop popcorn for some good old fashioned family TV-viewing. Oh, it's so glorious!

So, here are some ways to get in the spirit of a new school year and fill your heart with all-things-autumnal: 1. Get yourself a planner or calendar, maybe even a pretty one that you can decorate with washi tape and stickers and pretty pens.

2. Schedule all the essentials: work events, sports/activities, BTSN, date nights, holiday parties, etc., but leave room for much needed downtime and family fun. (I bet you didn't know it but you can actually say NO sometimes. Try it...it's very liberating!)

3. Sign up for some family volunteer opportunities, maybe at your church or a local food bank. It's amazing how much your heart grows when you help others.

4. Make a priority of checking in with your family members and close friends, cultivating those relationships, careful not to overextend yourself.

5. Chart out your goals for the year and have your family do the same. Add some silly ones (for example, I really want to learn how to replicate CP's chocolate chip muffins), and some not-so-silly ones (like, I really need to organize ALL THE CLOSETS AND DRAWERS AND GARAGES AND THINGS...UGH!)

6. Then, watch the routine and progress make things sweet.

So bake with your kids, dance with your partner, plant some pretty flowers, light a candle or two, use the good stuff, and LIVE life full and out loud. There's no better time than NOW.

Happy Fall Y'all!

{J}

Friday, September 1, 2017

Ten Things I Learned Going Back To School

Well, we made it through the first week and this is what I learned (or re-learned) going back to school:

1. No matter what grade, no matter how many years your child has been in the same school/district, there is a boat load of paperwork to fill out on day one. (Though it's getting a bit better with the parent portal - right, CUSD friends?)

2. It never fails, when shopping for school supplies, you will not get ALL THE THINGS on your first trip. It will take MANY trips to many different stores to secure ALL the things. Don't be discouraged. I'm pretty sure it's a test.

3. School clothes shopping is not just for parents anymore. Grandparents are out in droves. I've seen them, mostly grandmas. They're covering their ears cuz "the music in these stores is sooo loud." They're shrugging their shoulders when their grandkids come out of the dressing room. They're ringing their hands, "will your mom and dad approve of that?" If this happens in your family, be a love and send grandma with a list and any applicable dress code details.

4. If YOU are the one shopping, good luck to you. That is all.

5. Homework happens immediately. With earlier testing dates, higher standards and a changing curriculum, there's no easing them (US) back into it. Get ready.

6. Fundraising. School sports and/or performing arts. Boosters. School pictures. Yearbooks. Get a second job. Or a third one. Go. August and September are more expensive than December.

7. Electronic devices need to be shelved for a bit. It's called DETOX and it's necessary for everyone (at least in my family.) It's painful but it's the only thing that will cure DIDBD - Device Induced Brain Drain Disorder. If that isn't a thing, it will be soon. Just wait. I bet it's on Webster's list already. We're trying the NDDSD - No Device During School Days - treatment method. If you see my kids and they're twitchy, or RUDE, you know why.

8. School is magical. At EVERY age. But for very different reasons. ASK your kids. All of them - the sullen, non-verbal teen, the moody (scary) tween, the precious little - and find out what part of school induces that twinkle in their eyes. Just listen. Don't try to influence. It might be the cute boy in chemistry or the cow eyeball dissection in science or the "Super Duck" (shoot me now) fundraising prizes. Whatever form it comes in, celebrate the magic.

9. Teachers are SAINTS. This isn't new news, but I really mean it. Your kid might not always get his/her/YOUR favorite teacher but no one does the job of educating and preparing our kiddos for the next steps in life better than the professionals. Remember, this week is approximately 28-32 times harder on them. Be kind and patient.

10. Peace is a choice people. Going back to school is stressful, for EVERYONE. The only way to soften the blow is to find a few moments each day to relax. That goes for the stressed-out-because-she-already-has-two-tests-AND-the ACT 12th grader, the can't-get-enough-sleep-cuz-has-to-be-up-for-surf-at-5:30 9th grader, and the fell-asleep-doing-homework 8th grader. The same applies for you, mom and dad. Carve out some time for a pedicure or a bike ride, a great work out or a date night. And if time permits, maybe work intentional PEACE into the rotation. It's good for all.

Sooo...tell me about your week. Learn anything?

{J}

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

They Say You Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends...True??

Help! I'm just not sure how I'm going to manage the emotions of this year. Bella is a senior and will be leaving for college in about thirty-two seconds. Logan is a freshman and made the surf team, so SHARKS. And Noah will graduate eighth grade, which means his childhood is gone. GONE!!

So you may need to send a therapist. Or a priest. Or sugar. (How the hell could Cinnamon Productions leave me?!?!) Or vodka. Or all of the above. I'm really concerned for my sad, sorry self. And all those around me. But mostly me.

That is all.

(Please don't forget the vodka.)

{J}

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Anniversary Checklist

Twenty-one years.

Three babies that somehow turned into teenagers.

One beach rental, one condo and two houses.

Two churches. Eight sacraments.

Two Bachelor's degrees; one Master's.

Two school districts; one City.

Four SUVs. Zero minivans.

Two sedans.

Four dogs; only Magic remains.

Four cats; only Columbus remains.

Three bunnies. Thumper's still hopping.

Three snakes. Snakey's still slithering.

Two turtles, both rescued and released.

Too many departed fish to count.

Thousands of books read.

Hundreds of movies viewed.

Innumerable games played.

Seven international vacations.

Dozens of camping trips and domestic adventures.

Thousands of beach days and park visits and play dates.

Block parties, birthday parties, amusement park visits.

Concerts, recitals, Taekwondo tournaments.

School plays, school fundraisers, talent shows.

Arguments, illnesses, bedrest.

A few curse words and several tears.

More apologies and unlimited forgiveness.

Thirteen photo albums and forty-seven pictures framed.

Countless memories with cherished family and friends.

Endless potential for blessings as this well-loved life unfolds.

Happy anniversary, my love.

{J}

Friday, July 14, 2017

It's All About Progress!

Just a quick update. Holly and I are still writing fantastic fiction together. We've had some GREAT feedback from our editor and beta readers. (Thank you...you know who you are.) What's next, you ask? We are actively seeking a literary agent. We are also working on book two people. BOOK TWO!!

It can take a long time to secure an agent and get published or it can be speedy quick. So if you have any extra prayers or positive vibes, please feel free to send them our way. We'd like the fast track but we'll totally settle for more patience and less nail-biting.

Thanks for all of your support. Happy sunshine, summer bliss to you and yours!

By the way, this meme was created at memegenerator.net. If you haven't been there, go. Now. GO! You're welcome.

{J}

Monday, June 26, 2017

Graduation News!

Our first college graduate!! We are so excited to share in her success and her bright future. Our sweet Elena...all grown up!

The story started in 2010 when our family was blessed beyond measure to meet Siyu Xu, or Elena, as she likes to be called. She was shy, sweet and new to the United States. Her home was thousands of miles away, in China, and she would call us her adopted American family from that day forward. In the years since she moved here, she has graduated high school and college, mastered English, learned to drive, traveled the states, lived on her own, and matured into a beautiful, sensitive, intelligent woman.

This year, Elena has earned a BA in Economics from UC Irvine and is taking time to study for the GRE and apply to graduate school. Her father, who has business in California (and all over the world), will also give her a chance to work and learn the family business. In the meantime, we're excited she'll have more free time to visit.

While Elena has had doors open because of her education in the United States, more importantly, she opened her heart to us and enriched our lives immensely. She is a more than a testimony to international exchange programs, she is part of our family, and we are so so proud of her. Congratulations, Elena!! We can't wait to see what the future has in store.

Love you!!

{J}

Monday, June 19, 2017

To PREP or not to PREP...That is the Question

When I was 17, I don't remember my parents or my school making a HUGE deal about preparing for and taking the college prep tests - ACT and SAT. I know, that was the "olden days" and the world has evolved, but does anyone else feel like the pressure is a little much? And I mean on us parents.

So Bella took a prep class. It was determined that the ACT was better designed for her success. She took a test and did OK and she has been studying for the next one...sort of. There are two things you should know right now: my 17 yo daughter does not like tests and she is a master procrastinator. In other words, she's a NORMAL teenager. But her mother, inundated with articles and posts about the frenzy and importance of these test scores, does not appreciate her carefree, lackadaisical approach. Bella argues that she is more than the sum of her grades and test scores and she will land exactly where she's intended to land. I argue that she still needs to invest some time in preparing for the next test because I said so. We're really in sync right now.

Teenagers can be hard to be around. And sometimes, it seems they're impossible to parent, at least in my house. But I think she may be a little right. (Don't tell her I said so.) So instead of hounding her all summer about test prep, this is my new attitude: "Why should I care more about your future than you do?" I've decided to withhold my wisdom-nagging and let other wise people do the work. Like Gandhi. Remember that magic book I talked about in this post? It's my new best friend. I don't use my words anymore, I just leave her messages from the universe. In her room...her bathroom drawer...her wallet...on her phone. It's AWESOME! And I don't have to be there to witness her eye-roll. WIN-WIN!

Feel free to employ this tactic with your own parenting challenges. You can purchase this treasure trove of inspiration here. It's the best $5.48 you'll spend EVER! You're welcome.

{J}