Thursday, December 29, 2011

I have been loving this Christmas!  Vince has time off he has to use and we are home together as a family.  I don't remember the last time we could just relax and just enjoy our family at home.  Delightful!

The only thing I really haven't been able to do is take the kids sledding.  Where is the snow?!!

This past week I also made bedroom curtains, restained my nightstands, painted a wall in my bedroom and redecorated it.  I use the term redecorate fairly loosely (I'm still developing decorating skills).  I know--I need to have Eva take pictures and post them here.  But I'm not finished yet!

I know that the 23rd of Christmas is an odd time of year to be making curtains but on the night of the 22nd a neighbor stopped by to warn us of a possible peeping Tom so we decided to take immediate precautions.  We had window coverings but to be safe decided to improve them.  Of course, once the curtains were finished there were other obvious things that needed improving.

Last night, warned by yet other neighbors who were helping to watch over us we caught our guy.  He was caught laying down on the ground by my girls' windows.  Vince stood outside with him and a neighbor while I called the police.  Vince wrote a statement and the young man was taken away.  It is a sad story.  I feel grateful that we are cared for and protected and yet concerned at what this could become.  I also feel sorrowful for his parents.  When they were cuffing and patting him down I pictured a boy being cuffed.  The boy I remember when we moved here.  It's all so sad.  I'm grateful for free agency and yet bewildered at some people's use of it.  I know his parents have been working with him for years and have tried everything yet he continues to break their hearts.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I've decided it's time for a long update.  I prefer short quick blogposts but I can never seem to find the time for any posts and I guess it's been so long since I've posted that this one will be long.

Vince was released from the high council to be the young men's president in our ward.  I guess it took the stake several months to let him go at our Bishop's request and even after he was released was asked to finish up some projects.  It was neat to see many in our stake express sincere gratitude for his work.  He LOVES working with the young men.  There was a 3-week lull where he had been released and hadn't officially received his new calling yet while they put his presidency together and he was at first very excited (talking a ton, if you can believe that) and then getting super antsy.  It was cute.  He has always wanted to work with the young men and/or be a teacher and this is almost the first time he's ever had the opportunity.  He's like a little kid and he wears the cute "little boy" grin a lot.  I love it!  He once got to work with Webelos for about six months but other than that he has mostly been in a bishopric or on the high council for most all of the 16 years we've been married.

I got a job at the elementary school as a literacy aide.  I love it!  I work for 3.5 hours each morning and then I have the afternoons off.  This means that most days I work at school then come home to teach at home or take Nathan to speech.  I'm still trying to figure out when I clean the house and exercise but that's going to take me some time.  Working at the school has been good for me in so many ways.  I work with two women that I have looked up to and respected since we first moved to Tooele.  I get to put into practice teaching techniques I've been learning from the speech clinic.  AND I get to take home anything I need/want to help Nathan with.  Which means that Nathan and I are very busy.  I can already see a difference in his reading level, mostly because of my access to leveled reading materials.  It's very exciting!  I think seeing his improvement makes my job most worthwhile, and then extra income is helping us keep him in speech.  The opportunity for this job came just after all the major car drama which was expensive and nearly caused us to take a "break" from speech.  Of course just after I was hired Vince's work had a company wide pay cut again due to the still weak economy.  His cut amounts to roughly half of my new income so we have definitely been blessed.

When I started working it became obvious that I could not keep up my schedule with everything and keep house myself as much as I have been and one of the first things we started was giving every member of the family a night to cook dinner.  This helped me a ton.  There are six of us so they all have a day and I have two days.  We've been trying this out for a couple of months now and it is kind of working.  What I noticed was a nearly complete lack of vegetables when the kids were cooking.  Shocking, I know.  The other week a solution came to me and I spent the first day of Christmas break setting it up.  For the next several months each child is going to cook four meals.  Nathan's meals are things like hamburgers and grilled ham and cheese with tomato soup and salad.  They get more complicated based on their skills--Ethan's making things like Enchiladas and Eva's cooking Chicken Squares.  They selected their 4 dinner items--and I did recommend that Eva choose some simpler things because a lot of her stuff is going to take quite some time.  Ethan selected things he could freeze ahead and wants to spend time over the break preparing 4 of each of the 4 dinners to put in the freezer.  I put all the recipes in page protectors in a small binder and made 4 grocery lists--one for each week that I can just print out and then cross off things I do not need to purchase each week.  Ivy's menus go something like this--1.  Before school take meat our of the freezer  2.  At 4:30 after your lesson, get the tall black pot and....   Very specific.  In four months time they will have prepared each meal four times and over spring break we will select new menu items and start a new rotation.  I'm hoping this will mean a real meal gets prepared even (or especially) when I'm not home because of speech to supervise and help.

I also prepared chore stuff which wasn't exciting for anyone.  In the past I've made some fun ones but now I think we're old enough to just get things done.  The trick has been in coordinating everything and everyone and I think we have a handle on that now.  We'll see.  Getting hired in the middle of school didn't give us any time to get organized and make plans for this stuff.  I was really caught off guard.

A quick update on kids.  Eva is loving school especially MESA and yearbook.  She especially loved playing church volleyball and even stayed after school to participate in some volleyball after school.  They do sports oddly here.  She still loves violin and piano although both of us are having a little trouble with 6:15 am violin lessons.  It was OK until it got colder :)  Her piano is especially advanced.  She is now memorizing a piece that my "great" student learned in college.  She is going to begin a longer piano lesson in January.

Ethan is still learning piano and guitar and still hating piano and liking guitar.  He played his guitar in FHE the other week as we sang silent night.  We all enjoyed that and we'll have to get him to play more for us.  He really, really wants to do sports and is counting down for junior high when he can participate in them after school.  He's in the early morning advanced math class but he doesn't like it as much as he thought he would.  He was looking forward to learning more advanced math but the State of Utah has a new Common Core law that makes it virtually impossible for them to teach the kids past the core curriculum.  I won't get started on our opinion about that.  Vince especially was a bit steamed about it.  I just shrug my shoulders.  The only way to get around it is to homeschool...  This law even affects Eva's education in the junior high.  I'll stop now.  Ethan's doing great!  He loves scouts and loves spending time with his friends!  I think he even likes that his dad goes to most of his stuff now.

Ivy is most excited that she gets to cook once a week!  She has always been interested in cooking/baking.  I'll never forget her as a 5 year old going to the adult section to check out cookbooks.  She did that for years and still goes over there to see if they have anything new.  Monday she made chili and cornbread--from scratch.  She used canned tomato sauce and canned beans but used a recipe and not a mix. She was in the kitchen a very long time because she's quite slow (at everything--Ivy just works on her own time frame) and she loved every minute.  She wants to learn violin but she doesn't want to practice.  She really excels on the piano.  She's almost caught up to Ethan and has started playing for pleasure--which is exciting.  That's when kids really start playing well. She reads all the time.  Her reading scores are VERY high for her grade.  But one of the assessments is a measure of how many words the student can say about a passage after they have read it.  This is a huge boost to Ivy's reading score!  That girl is a talker!!

Nathan is doing great.  He's starting to do more chores around the house, although it is difficult because he is so busy.  Homework, speech, and reading tutoring with me has him very busy.  He gets to play before homework many days when we don't have speech--I send him out while I'm teaching and we work after dinner.  He's learning piano but his progress is slow because I don't like to make him practice.  A big part of me hates that he's taking lessons but it's what he really wants so we try to get him just enough practice to get by.  He started the year at a reading level of F which is a level for the middle of first grade and he's advanced to an H now.  His assessments at school don't show any improvement but I don't worry about that because I know more about the test and they wouldn't show improvement--I'll have to explain that sometime.  By the end of the school year a second grader should be reading level L or M, I can't remember which.  I'm hoping to get there by the end of the summer.  Maybe.  Eventually I believe he will catch up.  It's hard work for both of us but very rewarding.  The difficulty is that at an H level he has to try to read things he can't even say correctly.  Which make sounding them out extra difficult.

His speech has improved a ton but when you listen to him and realize you can understand everything he can say you may not realize that he only uses words that are comfortable for him.  It's sort of like running around the ball in tennis so you don't have to hit a backhand.  And then there are language and grammar challenges that small children learn when they learn to talk that he missed.  It's overwhelming to think about.  The reading and speech interventions are symbiotic--they support each other.  But I don't think I will ever believe the progress is as fast as I would like.  These things just take time.  And like my sweet sister said on her blog it is most often two steps forward and one step back.  It seems like it's always that way unless I look at 3-6 month intervals or more.  I know life isn't fair but it I don't know if I'll ever be entirely comfortable with the fact that these kids have to work so much harder than everyone else.  It really isn't fair!  And then by most all measures and standards they have little to show for their efforts.

So there is the long update on what's been keeping us busy!!