Tuesday, September 13, 2016

1st Day of School!

School started last week!  The kids were excited, I was faking like I was excited too -- but, deep down I was anxious.  A new town means a lot of unknowns about our day to day life.  School is a major part of our daily routine.  I want this to be a positive experience for them.

The girls go to three different schools this year.  Dave drives the two older girls to school on his way to work.  I load Rex into the stroller and walk Kinley and Paisley to their classrooms each morning.  I love that we are once again close enough to the school building to be able to do this.  I have heard that by the end of October this town gets hit with rain that doesn't stop until March.  We may have to readjust our morning stroller ride when the wetness sets in.
 Alexa on the 1st day of school (4th grade)!  She is the only Zarkou at her school.  She has already made some great friends.  Friends are important to this kid.  It makes me happy to know she is making connections with new friends that are kind and helpful.

 Because our town has so many low income families living here, every kid at the school (including ours) get free breakfast and lunch available to them if they would like it.  Alexa is thrilled about eating hot lunch this year.  After a few days of school, She asked if she could have breakfast too.  Apparently that day they were serving pancakes and she wanted one bad!  Her eyes lit up when I told her she was welcome to get a school breakfast any day she would like.
 When the afternoon arrives, Alexa is the 1st girl on my route for me to pick up.  She is one of the 1st kids out of the building and heading towards the crosswalk.  I love seeing the excitement in her eyes when she spots my yukon.  Each day she runs to the car and hops in.  I ask her how her day went and she always says the same thing -- "Really good, actually!" is her response.
 She loves "dressing up" for school.  We joke pretty often about how some students and staff are going to mistake her for a substitute teacher because of her fancy style.
 Zoey started middle school this year (6th grade)... middle school!!!  I was pretty nervous about sending my baby off into the big world of lockers, rotating classes, changing in the gym room, and hanging out with 8th graders but, she has handled this intimidating pressure like a champ.  After week one, she loves middle school!  Her favorite class is band.  She has been having high schoolers and 8th graders help the new band students learn the different instruments and find the best fit for them.  She looks forward to band class everyday.

Language arts and Spanish are also up near the top of her list of favorite classes for the semester.  Even gym class (which she had decided would be her least favorite) has been a good experience.  She is not a fan of sports and was convinced they would be playing sports all semester.  So far it was been running and yoga -- which makes her happy.  Her favorite thing about gym is her outfit (ha ha -- such a Zoey thing to say).  We bought some adorable yoga capris this summer for her.  They are perfect for her gym clothes.  She feels beautiful and confident during that class hour, which makes her lack of sports skills a little less valuable in her eyes. ;)
 She is loving her teachers, the classes, and making some good friends.
 On our 1st day of school along the Oregon coast, it was very fitting that the rain was out during our morning.  It lacked consistency in its amount of rainfall.  One minute it would be a light mist over the air and the next second it was coming down fast and heavy enough to pull out the umbrella.  Alexa's pictures were 1st (not too much rain), Zoey was next (too wet to be outside -- opted for indoor shots), Kinley was last (back to a light mist).
 Kinley was excited for the 1st day but, cautious.  She asked if I would walk her to her classroom and wait by her desk until she felt comfortable enough for me to leave.  She is a quiet little thing.  We walked to school together and I waited by her desk while she put away he backpack.  She quickly sat at he desk and began coloring her pages set out by the teacher.  I introduced myself and her to the rest of the students at her table.  I then went on to tell the table what a kind and smart kid Kinley is and how lucky they were to be sitting next to her.  She didn't look up from her paper during the entire conversation.  She was nervous about this new setting.  I was proud of Kinley for putting on her brave face and gave her one last hug before heading home.

I couldn't wait to pick her up from school the afternoon!  After she climbed into the car and buckled in, she told me that she loved it.  Yay!  She likes her teacher a lot and was so excited to hear they have an art class at her school.  So far, I think she is having the most fun in her math class.  She comes home each night talking about this new math computer game they have been playing during the day.  Each day she is getting more comfortable with saying good-bye and entering her classroom with confidence.  I love walking by her classroom after dropping off Paisley and peeking inside one last time to see her working hard at her desk on my way out to the parking lot.  She is a sweetie.
 She loves walking to school with me each morning.

 Rex thought he needed a 1st day of school picture too (love the pose in the picture above).
 Before we knew it, it was already Friday.  The 1st week of school was complete.
 Paisley's 1st day was Friday.  I wanted to get a picture of all my school girls together.  I wasn't able to finish Paisley's hair before my older two needed to head out the door (school starts 30 minutes later for Kinley and Paisley).  So we said a morning prayer together, snapped a few pictures and hugged my older 2 (and handsome husband) as they walked out the door before finishing up my little one's hair.
 Alexa's school has special "school spirit" Friday shirts they get to wear.  She was excited to put it on for the 1st Friday of the year to show her pride in the new school.  This school is already so different from the school we just moved from!  Free lunch, school shirts for free, art classes, 3 different schools to drop the kids off at,  and lots of Spanish being spoken when you step onto each campus.  40% of the school (according to the intranet, in my observation I think it is closer to 50%) is hispanic.  Zoey has a kid in one of her classes that doesn't speak any english, and the teacher speaks no Spanish.  How stressful for these kids.  So far, this cultural diversity makes me happy.  The hispanic culture is rich in family centered living and these are nice kids my girls are surrounded by.
 Kinley, Rex, and Paisley getting ready for Paisley's 1st day.
 We are going to have some quiet mornings with just me and the little guy at home.  We will miss my Paisley girl.

 Paisley was so ready to step into this new adventure.  She could not wait for the day to begin.  Earlier that week I brought her over for a small group assessment the teacher had arranged.  She loved it!  They rode the bus around town, beaded necklaces, and got to know the classroom.  When I picked her up that afternoon, I asked if she missed me.  She said "No" and told me it was because she was having too much fun and could not wait to go back.
 On Friday when I picked her up, she climbed into the car and said "That was super fun mom!"  

She loves her new backpack and boo eyed leopord key chain on the back... and she really loves the sparkly hand sanitizer attached to the back.  She puts it on multiple times a day and told me all the kids in her class like using it too.  So, she shares with them.  I am glad she is working to single handedly keep her classroom germ free!  I sounds like I will need to be restocking my cupboard with extra sanitizer bottles ;).
 Kinley and Paisley stick together these days, as they are the only ones in the family at their school.  I love watching them hold hands as we walk over to the school in the morning.  Listening to their conversation, it is fun to see Kinley taking on the protective, older sister role and Paisley eagerly following her lead.  Kinley hugs the three of us as we say good-bye outside her classroom door each morning.  Then, onto Paisley's classroom.  It's cute to see her search for her name along the coat rack and hang her pack up after finding her spot.
 Paisley watching the birds off our deck.
 We are looking forward to a great school year!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Back to Schoo Dinner

"If you desire to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world." -- Elaine S. Dalton

This quote is our family's theme for this upcoming school year.  During the last official day of summer we took the kids to my favorite beach in town -- the weather could not have been more perfect!  It was sunny, the tides were the lowest we have ever seen, and the wind was nonexistent.  We had a beach picnic and presented our family quote to the crew.  We all discussed our desire to make a difference in this world and live with purpose.  We also talked about how to accomplish this in our day to day life -- how to be different (how to be a light), have the courage to stand up for what is right, and impact those around us for good!
After dinner the older girls went down to the ocean to jump the waves and watch the surfers with Dave while Paisley, Rex, and I stayed in the sand to play with his toy diggers. 
Then we all went over to the tide pools to look for crabs.  This was so much fun!  The tides were lower then I have ever seen them (they change hourly).  We were able to look into tide pools that are usually covered with water when we are here.  In the picture above and below Dave is holding the 1st little crab on the hunt.  After this picture was taken we found a good 20 or 30 more crabs and other sea creatures.  Some of the crabs were so big, others (like the one in the picture) were teeny, tiny.  My favorite part was walking along the side of the mountain housing the tides.  It was covered in plankton and anemones.  After taking a close look at the wall, it was also covered in crabs,  They were all over the wall -- some crawling out in the open and others hidden deep in the crack with only their eyes peeking out at us.
On our way back to the car we spotted a big heron hunting for (and catching) fish.  Kinley got as close as she felt comfortable and let me snap a picture with my phone (Do you see the bird behind her in the picture below?).
By the time we got back to our car, the kids were covered in sand and water (if you can't tell by Kinley's heavy looking clothes in the picture above).  It was such a fun day with this family of mine -- possibly my favorite day at the beach yet!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Beach Fun

 More beach pictures!   I don't think we will ever get tired of living by the beach.

We saw a bunch of whales out in the water on this particular day.  The kids were excited to see them!

Action shot -- this boy was covered in sand.

Date night with Kinley

Almost a year ago (October 2015 General Conference) I heard a conference talk stressing the importance of one on one quality time with each of your kids -- date nights.  I felt very strongly that this was something I needed to focus on in my parenting.  So, we started scheduling regular date nights with each of our kids (sometimes with Dave and sometimes with me).  Six months later, during the April 2016 general conference, I again felt a strong impression that I need to continue to focus on these date nights with my kids.  We have now been having these regular one on one activities with our little ones for almost a year.  I can't begin to describe the impact it has had on our family.  Each of our kids look forward to these scheduled events for weeks ahead of time, they feel loved and special, I am able to see their personalities in a different light (and know how to best parent them uniquely), and our relationships are solid.  I have always believed that it's possible to be both a close friend and an effective parent to your children -- in fact, I think it's an essential skill to successful parenting (How can you be an effective leader/ role model to someone who doesn't even enjoy being around you?).  Anyway, more than anything else, these date nights have been able to cultivate and nurture that friendship Dave and I share between each of our little ones -- it has been a beautiful thing!
Last week was Kinley's day!  Most of the time I give the kids a choice of four or five activities and they make the final decision.  Kinley wanted to visit the aquarium again (just the two of us) and then fill a bag full of taffy from the candy shop to bring home and share.  The picture above is of Kinley at the aquarium.  She absolutely loved being able to choose where to go and how long to stay at each animal exhibit.  1st we headed over to the harbor seals.  They are her favorite animal to watch.  She wanted to skip the petting zoo area but, was nice enough to let me have a quick peek while she patiently waited next to me.  We had fun together in the tunnel of sharks and heard some fascinating stuff about vultures.  Kinley is such an easy going, quiet kid.  Most of the time she enjoyed just holding my hand and watching the animals.
After the aquarium we drove over to the Bayfront.  There is a store on the Bayfront she has been dying to step inside since we got into town.  You cross a bridge to get into it and the shop is actually a giant boat floating out in the bay.  So, before hitting up the candy shop we stepped inside only to find out that before entering the gift shop you must 1st pay for a ticket to see an underwater diving show.  So, we paid for the show and went to the bottom deck of the boat.  After just leaving the excitement of the aquarium, this underwater adventure was pretty lame -- a snorkeler held up crabs, wolf eels, and fish to the window as a guide recited memorized facts about each animal.  After the show we went upstair and searched around the gift shop.  Kinley had a blast with this.  She quickly found a harbor seal beenie boo (she is holding it in the picture above while standing on the Bayfront) and had to have it.  She was thrilled when I said yes!  Then we headed over to the candy shop to pick up some taffy and chocolates.  She loved carrying her special bag of chocolates as we walked down the Bayfront to our car.  It was a fun afternoon with this cutie!  I sure enjoy being her mama.

Our 12th Anniversary

I can not believe we have already been married for 12 years!  I love being married to Dave.  He is an amazing husband!  Not only does he work hard to provide for our family during the day but, when he comes home at night he works equally hard to keep things running smoothly at home.  He plans unforgetable trips for our family (some just for an afternoon and others for multiple weeks -- and some just for the 2 of us), knows the doctrine of the church inside and out -- and strives to follow it with perfection, and is the most incredible dad (my kids are so lucky to have him).  The past 12 years have been adventurous, exciting, unpredictable, and eventful.  There have been many surprises and life altering decisions along the way.  12 years is a good place to be -- with each year that has gone by we have both gotten much better at perfecting our relationship.  As each year goes by in our marriage I find myself happier and happier with the decision of choosing Dave for my spouse (although I do believe this is partly because of the time we have had to learn and mature in our relationship, I also believe a large part is due to the fact that I have not been pregnant or nursing a baby for the last 2 years... sleep depravation is so hard to function through) 

Dave and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary last month!  The day happened to land on a Saturday this year -- Yay!  What could be better than an entire day of celebrating.  We started the day with some fancy presents and a 6 1/2 mile run along the beach (and up 98 steep stairs at the end -- my personal favorite part).  After a quick lunch we loaded the kids into the car and headed over to our local aquarium!  The kids had been looking forward to this activity even before we got into town.
The tank in the picture above houses a handful of neat fish, my favorite are 2 big wolf eels.  They have such a grumpy frown on their face -- the kids are convinced they must be mean.
Paisley loves moon jelly fish.  She is fascinated by their iridescent coloring and the way their bodies puff up to move through the water.  It was time to move on but, she asked me to get a picture of her with her favorite ocean creature before moving on.  That night the two of us were looking at an ocean book we own, she spotted a moon jellyfish and quickly pointed to it and said "My favorite, a moon jellyfish!"  She than began reciting different facts about this animal that she had learned earlier that day.  It was fun to see her so interested in this unique animal.
The aquarium "petting zoo" is a such a cool part to see.  There are starfish from all different parts of the ocean -- some of their skin is thick and rough while others are sticky and soft.  They are created to withstand their environment.  The one that feels like a rough rock live along the parts of the ocean where powerful waves are continually crashing against them.  Whereas, the soft and sticky one lived in calm tides of the ocean, most likely where people would choose to go snorkeling.  Kinley is not a huge fan of this part of the aquarium.  Just like with her hesitation to a variety of foods, she is very hesitant to touch anything that looks unpredictable.

My favorite little animal of the day was in the petting area.  It's a shy little crab.  She doesn't come out from under the rocks often but, this particular day, she was out.  She is called a decorative crab!  This crab had brightly colored rose anemones (and other anemones) covering every part of her body.  Zoey also loved this cute, fashionista crab.  She was a shy, little thing.  Each time Zoey reached her hand towards the beautiful crab, the crab would scrunch as tiny as it could and quickly move into a more secluded place.  Zoey and I decided if she were an ocean creature -- She would be a decorative crab -- adorning herself with bright accessories found all over the ocean.
Just before entering the shark tunnel Rex spotted this statue of a walrus and asked me to take a picture of him next to it.  Such a cutie!

I was having such a fun time with everyone, as a result I lacked getting many good pictures of the day.  The kids loved watching the harbor seals (especially Kinley).  The sharks and sting rays swimming above and below us in the aquarium tunnel was also pretty exciting for everyone (I think Dave got a picture of that on his phone -- I will have to post it later).
Kinley is in the picture above standing next to the otter home.  One of them was celebrating their birthday that day.
On the way out we let the kids each choose a glittery body sticker (temporary tattoo but, to avoid confusion between real tattoos and temporary tattoos, when my kids are young we started calling the washable ones "body stickers").  The girls were so excited it.  The lady painting them had glitter everywhere (her hair, lips, nose hairs, neck).  It made me a little nervous that our car, beds, and clothes would be looking the same -- it stuck to their arms surprisingly well for a good week or so.
Alexa chose a mermaid
Kinley requested some purple sea horses
Paisley decided to have a hummingbird painted onto her face
Zoey chose some dolphins and a heart.
Rex chose a red dinosaur but, once the paint touched his face he changed his mind and decided he didn't want anything.

After the aquarium we headed over to our favorite restaurant for some delicious dinner by the ocean.   At the end of our meal the waitress brought out a tray with every dessert option the restaurant offered.  We let the kids point out their favorite and ordered a variety of treats to go.  When we got home we ate the desserts.  They were all so tasty!

One of my favorite things during the day was when 3 random strangers at 3 different points in the day approached me to let me know what amazingly well behaved children I had and complimented me on my (and Dave's) parenting.  It made an already great day that much sweeter.  I live for being a mom and put my entire soul into being the best mom (and wife) I can for my little family.  When I work so hard to perfect something (motherhood and marriage) it's a great feeling to know that all my efforts are actually working -- I do have great kids and one amazing husband!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

More Beaches!

 The kids and Dave collecting sand creatures
 Zoey and the beautiful ocean
 Rex loved splashing in the puddle and digging in the sand
 Paisley had a good time creating the perfect home for the sand creatures Dave kept catching for her
 Rex eventually soaked himself from splashing in the puddles.
 He loved running back and forth along the collection of shallow water along the shore.  Having it splash up into the air made him smile and giggle.
 Dave and the kids
 After Rex got tired of splashing in the puddles he decided to dig in the dirt.
 This little guy loves the beach!

 Kinley also enjoyed creating a comfy home for the sand creatures.  She liked watching them dig into the sand inside her bucket. 
 I love the picture above and below.  There is a forest trail between the parking lot and the beach that we are required to walk through before getting to our destination.  This trail is every bit as enjoyable as the actual beach experience.  On this trial, Paisley has stepped on a banana slug with her barefoot, Rex learned the art of peeing in the wild during a potty emergency, and we have spotted a fascinating heron hunting for fish at the edge of this trail.  The picture above makes me smile because of the way the girls are treating one another -- Kinley with her arm around Paisley and Alexa holding Paisley's other hand as they talk with each other on the way back to the yukon.  The three of them held hands almost the entire way back to the car.  So cute!
My phone camera had a hard time getting the right lighting for my pictures this particular day but, if you look close you can see two legs dangling from Dave's arm.  Rex giggles and smiles any time Dave carries him like this -- which is just about every time we spend a day at the beach.  He loves getting hauled around like a sack of potatoes by his daddy.