Sunday, July 26, 2015

Work Hard

Most of what I post is us PLAYING HARD but believe it or not, I also believe in WORKING HARD. You shouldn't have one without the other!

I have 4 kids ages 14 to 7. Before they can go off and play with friends or watch TV or do anything really, they have to pass off 4 things all before noon. 

1. Room clean means bed made, nightstand tidied, and floor picked up. 

2. "Zones" are areas of the house that have to be cleaned. We have 4 main areas and the kids rotate these weekly--more on that later.

3. 30 minutes of music practice. 2 of my kids play violin and 2 play piano. I keep 2 handy timers in the music room for this. One of my kids was a real stinker about practicing (maybe you have one of these too) and so a musical instrument is not on their agenda. This child gets to do an extra 30 minute job for me while the others are making music. E.g. cleaning the car, organizing a closet, folding laundry, etc.  A good resource for this is

4. Read-aloud. (My favorite). I remember my mom reading aloud to me books like Treasure Island under our canopy of backyard trees in the summer. We don't do worksheets to keep up our math skills but we do read. I love passing this tradition on to my kids. We finished Number the Stars by Lois Lowry already this summer and we're currently reading Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims. We've voted on reading time before lunch. After, I have them narrate back to me briefly what we read about. Boy do my kids know the meaning of the word, SUMMARIZE.

I have a whiteboard near my fridge where I write who has what zone for the week. Then I erase the names and rotate them downward. You see I wrote the word Bano (bathroom)  for one of our zones. That is just one of those situations where a Spanish word is more convenient than it's English counterpart.  

Now our rule is that everyone be home by 6 pm. That's dinner,  After dinner the house is messy again! This is crazy, but for some reason it does not stay clean during the day--especially during the summer. We divide those after-dinner chores up as well. No more jumping up from the dinner table and leaving mom with the mess. We crank up the Pandora hits and  everyone pitches in with their job.-- wiping all the surfaces, loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor . My favorite is the dinner helper job-that lucky person gets to prepare a salad or shred cheese or fry the tortillas or whatever help I need with dinner prep. After dinner they can just chill. Dad puts away the food. 

Allowance?? I don't do it. My kids can earn money by passing off songs--$1/piano songs and $3 for violin songs. I can also come up with a lot of extra jobs if they really want to earn money--mowing the lawn is worth $7 at our house. Vacuuming the entire basement--$5
Great resource for teaching kids about money: SMART MONEY SMART KIDS, Dave Ramsey.

Lastly, everyone in our family has a set day.( "Wednesday Brynn'sday")  If it is "your" day that means you set the table for dinner and it's your turn to say family prayer. 

That's what we do. What do you do?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reunion Time

Summers are for family reunions. We had a big one with Brandon's side of the family in Payson, Utah.

We got a professional family portrait in our matching tees.
We had a few devotionals, hymns, and stories around the campfire to reiterate it.

The cool kids

Highlights for the kids: giant blow-up waterslide, building a fort in the mountains, water games, and wildflower crafts.
Highlight for me was just being in the beautiful mountains and the campfire singing.  New pretty scenery just takes the fun up a notch.

Everyone agreed that the low was sleeping because, in our tent, we didn't get any! Who needs sleep any way though. There was fun to be had.

Other activities were gunny sack races, photo scavenger hunt, nature crafts, and ultimate frisbee in the dark, and hiking BlackHawk trail. 

The reunion ended with Grandma's birthday and a cake to savor the celebration.
We are very fortunate that we can call this great bunch of people, FAMILY. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wild Summer Wednesdays

We are continuing a summer tradition that started a few years ago.
On our fridge is a list of summer activities ranging from bowling to hiking to swimming.
Each week one of the kids gets to pick the activity AND invite a friend along to join us.  We've chosen Wednesday as our day for the chosen activity and we call it Wild Wednesday. The only rule is that everyone participates and they have to stay within the $20 budget.

The youngest started us out the first week of summer by choosing.
1. Manti pool and splash pad. We went for ice cream after.

2. The next week Adrie chose to go to the movies.
We saw INSIDE OUT and loved it.

3. For Brynn's week we went to SEVEN PEAKS waterpark. We are pass holders so we only had to pay for the lunch we packed in the cooler, parking, and ice cream treats for the drive home.

4.  Kate chose our favorite natural splashpad, Maple Grove Campground. It has river with a rope swing, some waterfalls, and is just a beautiful place in the mountains to just hang out. With the $10 after day-use fee, she and her sisters picked up some treats at the store to supplement our picnic.

Work hard. Play hard. Next I'll post about our daily summer chore list.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

El Cheapo Beach Vacation

  1. Needless to say, we love the beach. We go to great lengths to get there from our landlocked state. Such was the case this year. This time, we traded the chilly California waters for the tropical blue of Mexico, 4 hours South of Phoenix, in Puerto Penasco. 

This is the warmest beach we can get by car-- 12 hour-drive to the tropics.  We rented a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo, with kitchen,  a gorgeous view, and just steps from the beach . All this for a fraction of the cost we would have paid in California.  (total cost for this trip: gas, food, lodging for a week, souvenirs, etc. $1200) 
If that doesn't make you run to the border...

View from the stairwell.
 Princesa Resort is located on Sandy Beach, with a string of other resorts. Included for our use were 3 pools, BBQ pits, beach volleyball, hot tub, fitness room, and restaurant.

Beach vendors roam the beaches selling everything from, icy sweet helado, freshly cut mangoes, to jewelry, and Mexican handicrafts. 

Who could pass up a Pina Colada?

So what did we do all week on the beach??

Snorkeling--we brought our own gear.

For $7/person we had a wild ride on the banana boat. It's pretty sad if mom is screaming louder than all the kids combined. 

The great thing about the resort, was the access to pools. We spent about half our time here. Heated pools. Yay!

The last time we were here, this girl was 2! She did not have enough hair to get braided then like her sisters but this time she did. Last time she also was the only one to get stung by a jellyfish. This time too!  So upset, she vowed never to go to the beach again. Her resolve broke down after a couple of hours.

 No rules against collecting shells here!!

Amazing sunsets. Evening was my favorite time to walk along the beach. Next time, horseback riding into the sunset... oh yes.

We went into town one of the days to  El Malecon shopping district. There we scored more good deals. Brandon even bartered for and bought a sombrero of some type for himself--probably the only thing he has ever bought for himself on a vacation. 

At one point during our beach lounging, Adrie asked me how I could just sit and do nothing. I thought about that. Only at the beach can I really sit and be in the moment. I enjoy watching the waves, and the people. It is the only place where I don't feel like I have to be doing something! But if I wanted I had a pretty good book in my beach bag, 

We only ate out once. All our food (and water) we brought and consumed right on this balcony with this fantastic view. 
The trip was pretty smooth sailing, but right as we were about to cross the border...the flashing lights and sirens of the Mexican policia pulled up behind us. And, that's exactly what you Don't want to have happen in Mexico. The policeman told us, in Spanish that we were speeding (there were signs way down the road, he explained) Luckily, I spoke Spanish because he didn't speak English. He explained that because we were going so fast AKA: we were the only gringos on the road that morning, we would have to pay a fine. How much? $75. Then it went like this.
Me: I don't think we have $75
Policia: $40 will be okay.
Me: Not sure if we even have that ( we bought way too many souvenirs)  Brandon counted $31 dollars from his wallet and handed it to the policeman. He was pretty pleased with that.
TIP: Keep an envelope with a $20 bill in the car (just in case) and travel in a caravan of other cars.

So, we made it across the border with only a minor inconvenience and no sickness. What a great time! The only thing that would have made it even better? friends and family.

Find your adventurous side and join us next time!

Tips for traveling to Mexico: 
1.adults need passports, kids need birth certificates to get back across the border.
2. purchase Mexican auto insurance (we used, online, Full coverage $100/week) 
3. Add an international calling plan to your phone(s) from your provider. We paid $30 for unlimited text and 120mb data. Turn off your mobile data or put your phone on airplane mode once you get across the border.
4. We booked our condo through VRBO and everything from the booking to payment went smoothly.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Summer Begins...

Summer has been going swimmingly. According to my kids, I ruined it with chore charts and reading lists. A little structure never hurt them and it's certainly key to my sanity.
Here are some of our top of summer activities.

1. Tubing down the canal

 2. Dip-dyed hair with Kool-Aid.

3. This kid lost his FIRST tooth!  Most kids have hobbies. This kid has "obsessions." Currently, it's Skylanders. He earned half of the money to get a starter kit. (not from the tooth fairy, from doing lots of odd jobs.) He talks of nothing else.



Everyone was sad to see Sofie go back home to Denmark. She was part of the family. She was everyone's favorite sister. 
She made me think twice before yelling at the kids to do their chores! At the same time, it was exciting to see her start off on a new life adventure. We know we will see her again.

She left us with gifts and surprised us with a scrapbook she had made about our year.

Sofie's flight left early in the morning.  We all went back to the hotel, a little teary-eyed, and went back to bed.

I had planned a fun day at Lagoon, so we could drown our sorrows in churros and coasters.
However, upon driving there, we found out that it was CLOSED.
What a sad day it was turning out to be!

 It is always good to have a plan B.  We ended up at the trampoline park and that was pretty fun too.

From the Desert to the Mountains

It was our last day with Sofie. I had told her in advance that she could choose anything she wanted to do and we would do it. She thought about it and said, "Our family is happiest in nature. I want to do a fun hike."  Love that girl!!  She comes from Denmark, a county with no mountains, so I thought we would wow her with the most majestic mountains in the State, also near the airport, Snowbird resort up Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Rewinding just a bit...The night before we visited Grandma and Grandpa--and kicking myself--I didn't get a picture with Sofie and her American grandparents!!  Next time. They treated us to ice cream and we had a nice visit with them.  Then it was off to the canyons.
I guess I had been in the desert too long. I thought we could take the tram and hike down but up this high it still looked like winter. Not enough to go skiing but enough to prevent hiking.  We went up Big Cottonwood canyon next and decided to hike one of my old teenage favorites...Donut Falls, about 3 miles total.

 To the little guy's dismay there were no donuts available at the end of this hike. The hike gets it's name from the stream that plunges through a hole in the rock and comes back out again. Another day another waterfall.

Nature was on our side this day because driving down the canyon we spotted 2 moose in a meadow. Seeing wildlife makes me feel so lucky. Imagine how I would love an African safari.
Also, as I was walking down the trail, I couldn't help but think of my mom, who used to take us up these canyons all the time. Everyone else had run ahead, and I was just taking in the beautiful landscape when a ruby throated hummingbird decided to stop 2 feet in front of me. It stayed there beating its wings, within touching distance, for a couple of seconds--which is a long time in a hummingbird time.  My heart was happy for this little tender mercy.