Sunday, July 24, 2011


I have not been camping in about 4 years. I thought about going last year but couldn't find a weekend to go. I was also very nervous about taking the children by myself. Jacob went camping with me and some of my friends when he was 1 but Matthew has never gone. This year I have weekends off work so I really didn't have an excuse not to go.

The kids and I had a great time. Matthew was a little overexcited the first night which led to only about 6 hours of sleep and a very overly tired kid today. The good news is that tired and bad days for Matthew are nothing like they were even just 6 months ago so things went pretty well.

Matthew and Jacob slept really well in the tent last night and even Friday night after they calmed down enough to go to sleep. They even slept until almost 8 this morning which is really unheard of in our house. There were two pretty big storms that rolled through last night and Matthew slept through both of them. Jacob woke up a little but quickly went back to sleep after being reassured that everything was okay. I got a little nervous at one point and considered moving us to the shelter but I checked the radar on my blackberry and saw the storm was almost past.

The best part of the weekend was really just having fun with some amazing people from church. There were 8 kids there ranging from 6 months to almost 6 years old. The kids played together very well and Jacob was a great help with the younger children. Matthew is really good with babies and prides himself in always being gentle with them. He was gentle with the younger kids this weekend as well. All of the kids (except the baby) enjoyed swimming in the lake and jumping off the pier.

I enjoyed a weekend outside without TV. We don't watch much TV but we also don't just stop and enjoy nature very often either. It was amazing watching the kids explore nature. Matthew wouldn't go to sleep last night until he got a chance to say good night to the daddy longlegs spiders by the bathroom. He said they were his new friends. Jacob loved the huge and beautiful spider webs that can only be found in the woods. The kids also found a very large and wooly caterpillar which Matthew really wanted to keep. With a very sad face, he returned the caterpillar to a nearby tree after we talked about how the caterpillar would die if he kept it and it probably really missed it's family.

Now that the fun part of camping is done the not so fun part begins. The very tired kids are in bed early tonight. The van is mostly unpacked except a few odds and ends. The clothes are being washed and the tarp is drying. The tent finished drying out this afternoon and is now resting in the garage. I will set it up and clean it out later this week so it is ready to go next weekend.

Yes, I said next weekend. This weekend was camping with friends from church. Next weekend is Ethiopian American culture camp where I hope we meet new friends and have a great time. This weekend we cooked over an open campfire. Next weekend the food will be prepared for us, our days very busy and the tent really only used for sleeping. It will be a great time even if it isn't very relaxing. Hopefully, we will be able to go camping one or two more times this year. I would love to take the kids some weekend this fall when it is a little cooler but still a lot of fun.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fall Plans In Place

Everyone in my home will be attending public school this fall. This was a decision that I have had a lot of trouble making.

I'll start with me. I will be completing my last year (3 semesters) of grad school. It will feel so great to finally be finished. I really questioned whether I wanted to return after the Spring semester. It was a really difficult semester. I had a new job, was pregnant for part of it before losing the baby in a miscarriage and completed Matt's adoption. It was really just too much. I think I would have struggled without school but the demands of school were just too much. Then things settled down the last few weeks and I was able to pass all of my classes and actually did better than I thought I would.

Next year will still be difficult. I am worried about completing my internship in the spring and summer. I will have to work 16 hours a week at my internship as well as my normal 40 hours a week at my job. My employer has said they will help me as much as they can. I can do some work at home for both the internship and regular job which will help. I can also work the internship through spring break and break between semesters which will also help decrease the hours a little. A lot of how easy it will be to get all of the work done will depend on my caseload at work. Since I can't control my caseload, I'll just know that I have to work hard and it is only for a few months.

Jacob will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Another decision that was a little difficult but probably the easiest one of all. Jacob will be attending public school for several reasons. I like our school system and know he will get a good education there. I have spent quite a bit of time in the schools and know the teachers really care and Jacob will do well there. He will also have more diversity than he would get in public school or the neighboring school districts. His elementary school has a mission statement that includes celebrating the cultural history of all of it's students.

Matthew will be attending 4K in the public schools this fall. This was a little more difficult decision. I knew I wanted him to attend 4K but it was hard to decide where he should attend. The district has several sites parents can choose from. Originally he was going to attend at the Y so he would have cheaper wrap around care but I was concerned about him changing day cares. He has been at our current center for just over a year. It's the longest he has ever attended one daycare and he has been thriving there. He has some trouble with transitions so I was concerned about how changing daycares again would affect him.

I considered leaving Matthew at the daycare he is at now for 4K but it is very expensive. It would have cost about $240 a week to attend there. I could save a lot of money if I had him go to the Y and had Jacob attend daycare either at the school or at the Y. This would have meant having kids at 2 different centers that needed to be picked up every night which is not something I was looking forward to but I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the extra money.

I mentioned to the daycare that we were leaving in the fall because it was too expensive to stay there. I needed to save the extra money especially since I no longer receive a subsidy for Matthew (it ended after his adoption). The director spoke to me and we began discussing discounts if both children attend and if Matthew attends 4K off site in the morning. I called the school district last week and they stated they would provide transportation for him to and from 4K at a nearby elementary school for free. The director stated this would be fine and he will be charging me a lot less every week.

It is now affordable to have the kids attend public school for 4K and 5K and daycare at the same place they have been going. I will be saving about $800 a month in daycare costs. The kids will have the security of attending the same daycare when they aren't in school. Matthew will be able to attend "big kid" school 3 hours a day and will be a nice way to transition to full-day school next year.

So after months of struggling with trying to decide where everyone should go to school, the decisions are finally made. Everyone has spots reserved in the desired programs and registration has begun. Now, I just need to swallow hard and begin looking for sales on school supplies.

Another Weekend of Swimming

This weekend is another weekend of swimming. We have gone swimming almost every weekend so far this summer. Last weekend was Devil's Lake and this weekend was Gov. Nelson State Park. Gov. Nelson isn't nearly as nice as Devil's Lake but it's still a beautiful park where the kids can swim and get full of sand. I love it because they are cheap day trips that are still a lot of fun.

Along with the state parks, we have also been taking advantage of our Y membership. We are in the swimming pool there almost every weekend. Again another free activity since we have a Y membership.

I am very excited this year that I am going to finally be able to do almost everything on my summer wish list. Sure there are a lot of things I should do and haven't like cleaning out my house and the kids toys but I am slowly working on those things. Mostly I am just enjoying having a summer with every weekend off work.

This is the first year I have had a job that was strictly Monday through Friday. For the past ten years I worked 3 out of 4 weekends a month. Now, I get to enjoy all of those weekend activities I have wanted to do for a long time. Our summer has been full of fun activities like a Clinic At A Time fundraiser, swimming and short hikes, walks around the block, swimming outside, t-ball, soccer, birthday parties and inside and visiting sprinkler parks. There are still more things I am looking forward to such as our first family church camp and our first Ethiopian American culture camp.

I am also really enjoying having a set schedule with days off that I can plan on every week. No more telling my children we can't go to a birthday party or other event because I am working. No more telling Jacob he can't play a sport because Mom has to work. We now have a set routine and busy and full weekends.

Changing careers was a great move that has been wonderful for my family. While I lost some flexibility in my evenings, I gained flexiblity during the weekends and even during the week. I can now flex my hours to be able to go to appointments instead of using time from my leave balances. I can enjoy my children every weekend instead of paying someone else to spend that time with them. It has been a great summer in part because I have a new job.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Blessed To Be American

People have been lining up to try to come to America since 1776. During the past 235 years America has changed and I believe mostly for the best. Change is a slow process and America continues to evolve and work to find ways to make life better for all of us. People continue to line up at our embassies around the world hoping and praying for a chance to "win the lottery" and be able to come here. Refugees come here somewhat unwillingly to begin to make a new life for their families. We are becoming more diverse every year and there are some experts who believe people of white European decent will no longer be in the majority in the future. Some people have concerns about our increasing diversity but I see it as an asset. By learning about all of the different culutures in this country, we are able to become a better and more diverse America. We are able to learn from each other, enjoy new and different foods, music and lifestyles and learn how to be more accepting and tolerant as a result.

Here are some of the other wonderful blessings we have and should be thankful for.

1) Plenty of food. Yes there are people who are hungry in this country. I have worked with many food insecure families in the past few months but the truth is food is available for most of us. Those who are food insecure are able to visit food pantries and free community meals as well as receive food from the governmen. We have private and government programs to help people who don't have a way to find food. Not all countries have these programs.

2) Free education. My children will go to school for free. I don't have to worry about finding a school uniform so my children can attend. I don't have to worry about paying high private school tuitions if I don't want to. I get the luxury of spending way too much time worrying about which public or private school to send my children to not if they will be able to attend.

3) A great higher education system. I realize some people have trouble paying for college and it's very important that higher education remain affordable for Americans. Yet we also have a college system that allows most people to attend even if it means borrowing money. I recently spoke to a young woman who had the grades but not the test scores to attend college. She was able to enroll in a public university where she is taking college courses this summer as a "bridge program" to help her prepare for college in the fall. As long as she passes the classes they have asked her to take this summer she will be able to attend college in the fall. There are grant and loan programs to help people pay for college. There are many different colleges to choose from and people can pursue any degree their talent and interst is in.

4) Health care. No matter where you stand on the public health care issue, we are all blessed to live in a country where health care is easy to obtain. Anyone can show up in an emergency room and receive care. For those of us lucky enough to have health insurance or wealthy enough to pay for it, we have great health care availble. Vaccines are routinely given out and it is rare to find a child who has not been immunized. We have enough doctors and clinics to care for all of our sick and injured.

5) Clean water.

6) Paved highways and roads.

7) Electricity

8) The ability to pursue our dreams, decide we no longer have the same dreams, return to school or move and pursue new dreams.

9) Travel freely throughout the country to visit family and friends without stopping at government check points or having to explain where we are going and why.

10) State and national parks that we can enjoy for cheap or free.

There are many more blessings than just the ones I have listed here. Everyone has there favorite activities. Just remember none of these things came to us for free. Our soldiers lost their lives. Our citizens worked hard in the private and public sector. Our children have studied hard. Yes, we have a ways to go. We have a lot to work on. But we have a good start. Together we will contine to evolve and grow as individual communities and a country.

Politics in Wisconsin has shown us all how far we have to go. My hope is that the ugly policies of the recent months will soon be a thing of the past but until then it's important to remember that even with our current administration we are very blessed to live here. We need to continue to stand united and all work together to continue to make this country great for all of her people.