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Arizona Gives Day!

Tomorrow, April 9, is Arizona Gives Day! It’s a good reminder for us to look at what exactly are we giving to those around us. It’s a day to go online and connect with causes you care about and make a tax-deductible donation. The donation stays local and helps nonprofits provide much needed services and support for people in the state of Arizona.

Serving others is at the heart of our family through the giving of our time, talents and treasures. Maybe we help the less fortunate or maybe we just help a neighbor or friend.  It is extremely important that our children experience the regular gift of helping out and serving those around us on a regular basis without receiving anything in return.

IMG_4093St. Vincent dePaul is a recipient of all of our 3 T’s! We have volunteered as a family at St. Vincent dePaul’s family dining room for a couple of years now. Every third Wednesday of each month, we put everything aside to drive downtown to work a few hours together. It is a special place for all involved and it’s one of the few places that let children as young as nine get in on the action!

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Our kids have worked the bathroom, served on the salad bar line and have waited tables taking orders and delivering the meals to the families there. But, their favorite thing to do is work in the amazing Dream Center for the kids. Here they assist with art projects, help with homework and play games with the children. It is such a special place and we are proud to be a part of it!

I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that serving others is about acquiring hours for a local school group that they are a part of. I want it to be a part of who they are and what our family just does.

Evaluate where your family is putting their time, talents and treasures! To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked. Luke 12:48

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Intentionally Simplifying….

I love this time of year. Our Arizona weather is just perfect; the kids competitive sports are over (or should be, ahem… soccer…. that’s for another post) and my husband’s hockey job is coming to an end after yet another season. Our evenings and weekends tend to be more relaxed making time for bike rides around the neighborhood, board games and the occasional little league baseball game and practice. We all welcome this simpler pace.

Simplifying is one of the main reasons we are pushing pause on our normal existence. People either think we’re out of our minds for wanting to do this cross country RV trip as a family or others say they are envious and would love to do it. Many tell me stories of how they traveled around the US every summer hitting different spots with their families growing up. Family travel builds connections. It says to each member you are important and worth investing in.

I’m aware that what we’re about to do is not feasible for most people financially or time wise. I am fully aware of the blessings we have been bestowed in order to pull this off. I don’t take any of that for granted. I thank the Lord every single day.

But, if we’re being honest… how many people would really do this trip if they could? One friend called it very courageous and that’s stuck with me. I think she’s right. What we’re about to do definitely takes courage on many levels.

Right now, I relish my Mondays because after hectic weekends alone with the kids, my house and time is quiet once everyone is off to school. I can actually think straight. I know a lot of us, whether we stay home with the kids or not, relish that time when the kids go off to school and we’re alone with ourselves. There’s not going to be a lot of quiet time in 43 feet of living space with 6 people up in it for close to a year. Whoa. There will be a lot of prayers going up for patience I’m sure.

Let’s look at it this way. What if you found out you only had a week left to live, or a month or even a year? Would you be so worried about sending the kids off to school every day? Would you still race around to all the sports practices, games and lessons? Or would you drop it all and do what you’ve always wanted to do with them, whatever that may be for you?

See this is how I look at this trip. Do I really want to be home (road) schooling per say? Not exactly. Like I said, selfishly I enjoy those quiet hours of each day that are mine and that the kids are actually being taught by licensed individuals. But, I will have many quiet hours ahead of me. With four kids born within 18 months, our home is going to get quiet fast.

Parenting in the day to day can feel monotonous. Take time to think about the heart of your family and what you want your kids to take away when they grow up and move to the next phase of life. Think about simplifying your family routine. I say stop the madness even just for a little while. Push pause. I don’t think you will regret it.

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An End to an Era – Goodbye My Black Suburban

I woke up with a pit in my stomach this morning. Only two months left to get everything in order for this big trip. Keith left today and will be driving our new rig back from Florida with our dear friend Craig. Why am I not excited? I mean, I have spent the past few days giddy buying new plasticware, hiking gear and whatnots for the trip.

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A typical Suburban Saturday……….Loaded with hockey, soccer, basketball and baseball gear!

Yesterday I said farewell to my everyday companion for the past 12 years. My trusty black Chevy Suburban. We had to trade it in to get a new towable car, I guess the term is a dinghy. I haven’t even seen the new guy yet. He’s still at the dealer being detailed. I’m told it’s a Buick something or other. Our new (to us) dear dinghy. Good luck holding up to our beloved Suburban of days gone by. You have a tough act to follow Mr. Buick.

Our Suburban had definitely seen it’s days. Food was smashed into every crevice of the thing and remnants of melted crayon could be seen all over too. Scratches and dents marked the entire outside. The tan leather seats were turning grey and the smell was getting harder to mask with Bounty sheets under the seats. I even got so tired of having to drive it during the school days, that I bought myself my own little fiat as an escape.

That SUV was a part of the family though. Too reliable to discard. It took every beating we gave it and kept coming back for more. That suburban housed 4 carseats for years. Not to mention the many strollers to hockey bags. But, it’s gone. And I know he had to go in the name of new adventure, but I’m missing him today.mom and boys carseats

Thanks for the memories. You were swell ‘ol Black Suburban of mine. You will be missed but not forgotten. I will probably need a new version of you when we get back to the mundane. The hockey bags will be calling for you again….

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It Pays to Recycle in California!

 

Recycling picIt’s tradition. Recycling bottles and cans in California for cash. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve done ever since the kids have been old enough to understand about making money and helping the environment at the same time. Kids of this generation need ways to make a little hard earned cash themselves. It’s important to find opportunities like this for them to earn their own vacation money. It’s not easy at their ages to find ways to do this.

It pays to recycle

Whenever we know we have an upcoming trip over to our Dana Point house, we start saving our bottles in Arizona. We load up the car top carrier and whatever we can fit around our luggage in the back of the Suburban and off we go to Cali. Life lessons take a little crazy effort people…

 

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Yes, the kids get a little dirty doing this and the older they get, the less they are into it. They used to go down Laguna Beach picking up bottles all day long because every nickel counted to them. Now they take what we’ve saved in Arizona and are happy with that! This RePlanet is really close to our house behind our Ralphs Grocery Store, so it’s nice and convenient.

full recycle center shotsorting bottles

There are a couple ways to get your money. You can feed each container through one by one and make the amounts shown or you can fill the trash cans with bottles and you get paid by weight. It usually depends on how much we have and how busy it is. Today we did a little of both. You definitely make more by feeding them through, but it also takes a lot more time.

k and a feeding bottle CRV amounts

barrels of bottlesweigh in

Once you’re done, you will get receipts like this that you can turn into the grocery for your hard earned cash. Split between the four kids, it came to about $8 a kid. Not bad for a little time and effort. I know they will be happy spending that in the Laguna Beach candy shop later and we will be happy that we don’t have to hand over any money at the same time!

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All For One and One For All!

This is what it’s all about to me.

Youth sports can be so out of control nowadays that sometimes we can forget what’s really going on here. Parents are yelling from the sidelines so focused on that win. It can get intense and then a moment like this happens to put it all in perspective.

A tournament championship tie where penalty kicks will determine the winner. Stressful? Absolutely. To look out on that field and see our team of girls holding on to each other in support and anticipation is priceless. There is no I in team. We are in this together.

Our dear goalie, who hasn’t been able to play in net this tournament due to a wrist injury, accepted the challenge of taking off her brace and getting in that goal for her team. They all wanted her there and she was brave enough to do it without a guarantee of a positive outcome.

Wins are fun. Wins can be really exciting. Who doesn’t like to win? But, sometimes it’s moments like these that give our kids opportunities that build real character and bond teammates together, even if they don’t walk away with the medal…..like today.

Isn’t this why we really have our kids in sports? To grow, build confidence, make strong and lasting friendships and to navigate the feelings of loss and victory.

I feel so blessed that our Stanley, affectionately named by her coach a few years back, is a part of such a “great” team. We win some, we lose some. Some days we look amazing and other days we’re stale. But, no matter the outcome I always feel fortunate to walk up and down that sunny sideline every weekend joking and laughing with everyone in their chairs. We spend a lot of time together! It’s a long season. I’m feeling it about right now with 7 months and many tournaments and games behind us.

Thank you, girls, for the reminder of what we are all really here for.

You should be proud. I know I am.

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Why we don’t believe in cell phones for our tweens..

We are fast approaching the teen years and our triplets are without cell phones. I know, can you even believe it? What kind of parents are we?

Let’s actually take a look at our kids. Oldest is all about the social and would not be able to focus on anything else but that device, so he’s out. Not mature enough. Middle probably wouldn’t hardly look at the thing, but he would lose it in the first week anyway. Not focused enough. Third born is completely responsible enough for a phone, but is the one to say, why do I need one anyway? Not interested enough. And baby girl just turned 11 and in our book is way too young for such a device. Not old enough.

According to these four, they are the only ones left on the face of the earth without a cell phone. Perfect. They don’t realize this, but this is exactly the point! Don’t you want your family to be different?

1. I am a working adult and you are a child
When did our parents allow us to have the exact same privileges and material items that they had when we were growing up? Yeah, right. I find it so interesting that this isn’t really the case anymore. I get that it’s a totally different day and age, but come on. I’m afraid for this generation that we are raising. I really am on many levels. What do 12 year olds really need with a cell phone and why are we as parents so concerned with being able to be in constant communication with our kids? I think it’s very unhealthy. The boys are away at church camp this weekend and believe me, it is very strange to not be able to get ahold of each other. But, it’s OK and I have to think healthy for all of us to learn to do so. I’m really not sure if they even made it there. I guess I will find out when I go to pick them up from church this afternoon.

2. Delayed gratification. All good things come to those who wait.
I want my kids to be able to learn to wait for something. Delayed gratification is a good thing. Just because you are turning 13 and because it’s what everyone has and is doing, isn’t good enough. Every child that jumps in the car with us to go anywhere, pretty much whips out their phone and mine lean over to assist in playing the game or checking out instagrams or texts. It makes me so sad that kids don’t even know how to just “be” in the car anymore. I know we are happy when they have these gadgets in hand because it honestly means more quiet time for us, but I also know it can be detrimental. Can you imagine a road trip without a gadget in our child’s hand? We don’t even want to think of it. I’m thinking of making our car a tech free zone. Won’t my kids just die over this one?

3. Kids need to navigate life lessons
The other night, baby girl’s bestie was spending the night because it was just convenient for all involved. But, she was calling her Mom (who was out to a nice adult dinner) at 10:00 pm saying that she couldn’t sleep and she wanted to go home. Boy do I get that. I remember feeling like that a time or two growing up on sleepovers. The difference is I had no cell phone to call my Mom, so I suffered through. And you know what? I made it through and learned from it I’m sure. I learned that it wasn’t so bad after all or I learned that I didn’t want to attempt that again. Lesson learned either way. I love this girl and love her parents even more, so this isn’t a judgement, just an observation of what we are creating and I notice it every day.

4. Do kids really need another distraction at school?
I was in for a presentation in one of my son’s 6th grade classes and the teacher was having to tell students that they could use their phones to research the project but she would be walking around to make sure no one was texting. Honestly? Do teachers today really need one more distraction to worry about?

I actually had to sign a waiver for a different teacher saying if the students could use their phones in class. I signed it and checked the no box. They don’t even have a phone, so of course the answer would be no, right? A few weeks ago, she calls me and tells me that I was the only one who said no and that I may want to rethink my answer. So she sent back the form again so I could say Yes, my sons can use someone else’s phone in class. This is crazy to me.

5. Hindering social relationships-building close safe friendships
Where we live, “dating” is rampant at this age too. It is very easy to fall into a “relationship” behind texts and web posts. I definitely remember having an eye for boys at this age, so I get that. But, I certainly wasn’t telling ANYONE about it besides my very best friend, who was telling me her deepest secrets at the same time. We are loosing all innocence giving kids too much too soon. My kids need to figure out who they are and become somewhat secure in that before they can handle navigating a relationship over texts and facebook.

6. Do you have a job?
Why are we willing to fork out $40 a month or so for these kids to have a phone/data plan, etc? We’re not kidding when we ask our kids how they plan to pay for this? Do you have a job to support this cell phone thing? We have a valid point and that usually shuts them right down. Point taken. We as parents need to make sure we are creating a desire to work toward something in our kids so that they are able to buy the things they want one day. It isn’t going to be pretty when they are expecting you to pick up the tab when they are 25. They’d better get used to the idea now. I started working at Burger King as soon as I turned 15 so that I could start buying things I desired. My parents were willing to drive me and pick me up smelling like a greasy Whopper all in the name of helping me become independent.

7. Learning independence
Our kids don’t need phones also because everyone around them has one that they can always use. This happens a lot. Although, when they try and call from a friends phone from the bus or school to try and plan a playdate a hangout, I have to remind them that this is why they don’t have their own phone. I don’t want to hear from them. Love them dearly, but we can talk in person when they get home. Musical son has to go into the school office once in a great while to let us know that his lesson got done early or was cancelled so we can come get him. Can you imagine actually using the school’s landline? Wow. It is possible….Otherwise, he has to sit outside and just wait……. old school style. Yes, he is still living.

8. Just because we can afford something, doesn’t mean we need to have it
Yes, we can absolutely afford phones and family data plans. But, I think this is another powerful message to our kids. Just because we can afford something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to spend our money on. Our kids have become very aware of people (from friends to the working poor that receive free meals at St. Vincent de Paul where we serve) that don’t have “money”yet have iPhones. They would never be able to “see” and question this with their own phone in hand. I think it’s a real observation.

9. Entitlement
Kids should not feel entitled to own phones or anything else for that matter! I guess when they are 15 we will be talking about how we’re not buying them cars either…. Before you feel too bad for my tweens, you need to know that they are still very much a part of their entitled generation as they each own an IPAD and have instagram accounts. One friend advised this so the kids could dabble in this part of reality so that they aren’t obsessed with it all come high school. I get that and I agree to a point. It is good for them to start learning to tread these waters but in moderation.

10. Need a real reason
I know people have absolute reasons for their kids to have phones- having an only child, older siblings who have them or kids who are going back and forth between homes due to divorce. To each his own and only you know your family dynamic. Our family just doesn’t have a good enough reason right now. Turning 13 just isn’t good enough for us. Sorry boys. (See opening paragraph!)

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Leaving it all behind….

You’re doing what??

Do you ever shake your head in bewilderment as you look at your family’s weekend calendar? How in the world am I going to get all of these kids to their sports and activities across the valley with Hubby on the road? I sometimes wonder when life made a turn and I became a weeknight and weekend Super Shuttle driver. Maybe this is why we all long for those lazy days of summer where the hours and days are our own.

Keith and I talked years ago about how cool it would be to buy an RV and travel around the United States exploring as a family. Yes, we decided back when, let’s do it. We’ll do it when the boys are headed to 7th grade and baby girl to 6th. Perfect. It’s down the road aways, so nothing to worry about, but it’s a fun dream to have.

Well, the time is here. The boys are finishing up their first year of middle school as our girl is getting close to bidding farewell to elementary school. Do we dare talk of those long ago plans we conjured up? We didn’t really mean it or did we? We’ve never even gone camping as a family. We love traveling and adventure but are we courageous enough to make this dream a reality?

I guess we are. We are going for it. Our family will be giving up life as we know it and traveling across America’s highways in a quest for family bonding and fun along the way. We’re just taking a break from it all. The sports. The homework. The busyness. It will be here I’m sure when we return.

Life is passing us by every day my friends. I know I don’t want any regrets when my kids leave home in what will be here before you know it. I’m not into the I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve but instead I didn’t. I want to live in the now and enjoy these kids while they are still enjoyable!

Plans are in full swing. Our general plan is to leave as soon as the kids get out of school and hit the road. You will be able to follow all of our crazy plans and adventures right here!

Yes, I will be homeschooling (or unschooling is more like it) the kids in some fashion and I have no idea how I’m going to get my hair highlighted along the way. To be honest, the latter makes me a little more nervous!

Tune in to get the good along with the bad, and hopefully be inspired along the way!

 Amy

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Unschooling?

The biggest question most people have when they hear about the adventure we are about to embark on is “Are you going to homeschool then?” Well, yes, I guess if we’re pulling them out of middle school then looks like I will have to.

Honestly, it overwhelms me to think of finding and sticking to some curriculum. Ugh. That is one main reason we are doing this trip across the US to get away from the mundane of our current every day! To learn through living. Through travel. Now that excites me, not finding some online math curriculum.

I was explaining this to a friend the other night and she said “it’s called unschooling. That’s what you’re looking to do…” Unschooling?! Never heard of it, but sounds right. Yes. I think she hit it right on the head.

From the words of Wikipedia Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that rejects compulsory school as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child.

Unschooling for a few months anyway? Now the thought of that excites me.