18 August 2017

New Idea: A Rotating Chore System

With school starting next week we've been making an effort this week to get back into our normal school year routine as much as possible so hopefully the transition won't be as challenging for the boys.  So we've switched back to doing chores, cleaning up the bedrooms that we neglected all summer long, the boys have been better at getting in their daily piano practice, and we switched from getting up at 7am in the summer to getting the family up at 6am for family scripture study (we've found over the years that the only good time for our family to do scripture study is in the morning, because our schedule is always changing in the evenings and we're all less likely to fall asleep while reading in the mornings).  So, on Monday when I informed the boys that we were going back to our normal routine of their daily responsibilities (each boy regularly has one main chore, piano practice, and has to help clean up his room each day) the boys asked if they could trade chores.  It's been a while since they traded around, so I was fine with that.  For the last year or so Kolby has been in charge of vacuuming upstairs, Eli walking the dogs, Camden sorting and putting away a couple loads of laundry, Isaac sweeping downstairs, and Courtland doing the dishes once a day.  So the boys started into a debate about who wanted to trade chores with who, each trying to secure what he felt was one of the easier chores.  They went back and forth for a while, before Isaac, Eli, and Kolby had an idea to rotate chores each day.  I didn't love the idea at first -- I was thinking about how it could be hard to remember who was doing what each day, but after a while I warmed to the idea.  5 kids and 5 weekdays a week means they could each rotate and have the chores be as "fair" as possible.  (Woohoo, after all these years when many occasions would have been more convenient to have an even number of kids -- rides with two seats each, each of the kids wanting to split a meal at a restaurant, etc. -- finally a time when having 5 kids is the most convenient solution!)  Camden and Courtland were not excited about rotating chores.  (Camden probably mostly because he just has a hard time accepting the idea of change).  But after a while I just made an executive decision and told them we were going to try this out for a month and we can reevaluate at that time.  After I told them we were doing the rotating schedule, Eli started talking about trading chores with someone else for the day, and I told him we weren't going to trade -- often when kids trade chores for the day the result is one or the other not doing a good job or leaving it undone, and arguments about one working harder than the other, etc.  I just didn't want to deal with that, and I told him there wasn't really a need to trade because everyone would have a chance to do each different chore once a week.  It's the most fair option I could think of, actually.  Elijah was not excited about that, but he got over it eventually.  And the best thing was, once all the debating and arguing about deciding on the chores was finished, they all went and finished their chores relatively quickly and painlessly.  I made them a chart (and hung it up on the backs of bedroom & closet doors throughout the house so a little reminder would always be available if needed (and I included the chore descriptions because some of the responsibilities changed a bit since last time, and I didn't want to deal with arguments about what parts of the chores they did or didn't need to do).  So, they did the chores all week, and I am actually loving this system so far!  Very little arguing about their chores, and so far they've been motivated to complete them quickly most days.  So it seems like it may work out.  

16 August 2017

Courtland's Teeth

This evening Courtland knocked his knee into his mouth while doing a backyard water fight with his brothers and then running onto the trampoline, and pushed his top front teeth backwards.  I know mouths bleed a lot, but this was by far the most blood I've ever seen from any of our kids' injuries.  Our friend Spencer Mauseth, who is a pediatric dentist, took X-rays and said Courtland fortunately doesn't have a root fracture, and there's only a slight chance that one of the teeth has a small fracture, which we're crossing our fingers will heal well because of his age. He has a flexible splint (which looks similar to braces on his front teeth) to keep his teeth in place while they get strong again, and we'll do checkups & X-rays every couple of weeks for a couple months, then monthly, then eventually we'll just have to do it again every year. He's hopeful that it will all heal well, but he said he'll need to monitor it carefully, we should feed him only smoothies for 2 weeks & carefully brush his teeth for him, and the teeth aren't out of the woods yet. He did say that often these things come back to bite people several years later. But I'd say it turned out really well overall.  And Courtland was feeling a lot better by the time it was all done -- but pretty sleepy by the end of the night too.  We're thankful for kind friends who are willing to give up hours of their time to help us out with this at night too!

Courtland's strawberry plants

Well, Courtland asked for a way to earn money, and I happened to notice that the strawberry plants all started to send out runners recently.  So this morning I helped him learn how to propagate new strawberry plants from the runners (which I was just going to cut off and throw away anyway), and he plans to water them each day and then sell the new plants once they grow. 

It was also a good lesson about costs and risks of starting a little business (I told him he has to pay me for the potting soil & cups), and so we figured out how many plants he would need to sell, then setting aside a percentage for his tithing and his mission savings account, and then pay his debt back to me, before he would start making a profit. So lots of real-life math.  He ended up planting 30 of them, so hopefully they grow. (And hopefully Berkley doesn't decide that the cups look like chew toys to her).

Summer Adventure: San Diego Botanical Gardens

A couple weeks ago the boys, my mom, and I did an impromptu adventure to check out the San Diego Botanical Gardens in Encinitas for our first time. I had read about this place about a year before, but had crossed it off my list when I found out it cost money to get in (I prefer free outdoor adventures when possible). But I recently found out it's free for SD County residents on the 1st Tuesday of the month.

Although we were busy preparing for a trip, we decided to take a break from packing for a couple hours and check out the gardens, since I think it won't be until next summer that the boys have another 1st Tuesday of the month off school.  It was much larger than I expected, and we started out through the bamboo gardens, and then enjoyed seeing all the different types of fruit trees in the fruit gardens, then we stopped at the lookout, before heading over to the children's gardens. I'm sure we didn't see nearly all of the gardens there -- would be fun to check it out again on future 1st Tuesdays. 

The hands down best part, though, was the tree house in the children's garden. At first I thought it was a real, massive old ficus tree that they had built it in, but after very carefully studying it I found that it was actually constructed of cement or some similar material, although they had gone to great lengths to make sure that it had the correct form and texture of tree branches. And little nooks and crannies had been designed all throughout the tree, where live plants and vines have been planted, making it hard to tell at first that the tree isn't real. There are all sorts of rope ladders, tunnels, a spiral staircase, and lookout points -- all covered in beautiful vines and plants. It was the best playground I've ever seen!  Great time, we'll defiantly have to check it out again sometime.

18 July 2017

Summer Adventure: Bridge to Nowhere again

While Michael was with Kolby & Elijah at boy scout camp last week, the three younger boys and I decided to plan an overnight adventure.  After doing a little swimming and cliff jumping on Friday, we headed up to Azusa and grabbed some dinner and some food for breakfast at the Costco there before heading up the canyon to tackle the Bridge to Nowhere hike for a second time.  We had gone back and forth trying to decide between backpacking and sleeping in the car on this trip (but I just didn't quite want to try out my first backpacking trip with kids without any other adults along), so we decided on the car.  Because Michael had the van at the boy scout camp, we had his civic -- but the boys tested it out at home and decided it would work just fine.  Because the dog's paw pads were a little roughed up from a hike earlier that week, they stayed at home and my family helped take care of them (which freed up a little room in that little car).  I slept in the driver's seat, Isaac in the passenger's seat, and we folded down the back seats to expose the opening into the trunk.  Courtland slept across that back seat area, and Camden opted to sleep in the trunk (which isn't quite as bad as it sounds, since it was open to the inside of the car).  They loved it!  It won't be too many more years before there's no way they could fit in those spaces anymore.  Although it was a smaller space than when we have slept in the van in the past, I did fall asleep, and only woke up once at night when other people in the parking lot were talking -- then I was surprised when I woke up a second time and it was already 5:30am and the sun was out -- I can't believe I slept most of the night in the car without waking up at all.  
We headed out on the trail at 6:15am, and with the way the canyons are situated and the trail generally follows the right side of the canyon, although the sun was out and was slowly rising & shining over the mountains onto the opposite side of the canyon across from us, we hiked almost the entire 5 miles to the bridge before we hit a gap in the hillside beside the trail which allowed the sun to shine on us.  That made for a very comfortable morning hike that never got too hot.  The boys swam and jumped into the swimming holes near the bridge and watched the bungee jumpers jump from the bridge before we headed up stream to explore further than we had hiked before.  With a little coaxing I was able to convince the boys not to stop at every single swimming hole on the way upstream, only by promising them that if they would keep moving on and go exploring as far as I wanted upstream then I would be glad to let them stop and swim as much as they wanted at every spot along the river when we returned downstream.  We finally got a few miles up river from the bridge to where the canyon walls just barely started to feel like they were getting wider and less steep, and we picked a pretty little turquoise swimming hole to be our furthest point on the hike that day.  We stopped and swam and then decided to build a dam, which eventually raised the level of that little pool a couple of feet.  

When we headed back downstream the boys stopped and swam in a few holes, but then they came across the tent.  All along that river there is evidence of abandoned gold miners' campsites -- I don't know why so many people have gone to the effort to haul camping & mining equipment all the way out there, only to leave it long abandoned (we came across numerous weather-worn tarps, tents, several sleeping bags, buckets, pots, broken shovels, some shoes, a pick axe, and a wheel barrow without a wheel).  And of course, my boys wanted to take all of it home.  They didn't understand why I refused to let them haul back a perfectly good pick axe for the 7 or 8 miles back to the car.  And had the wheelbarrow had a wheel, I'm sure they would have insisted on giving each other rides in it all the way back to the car.  I did give in when they found the tent, though.  They ran over and told me they found a tent, and when I saw the faded bag with a large hole down one side and a handle ripped in half, I said no way.  And when they pulled a tent out of the bag that appeared to be in perfectly new condition, I told them that a tent without poles is useless.  But when they pulled a smaller bag out with a complete set of poles, I had no more arguments.  So they took turns carrying that tent all the way back to the car, and are eager to try it out in the back yard soon.  (At least we did our part to clean up a very small part of the things that have been left out in that wilderness area).  

Anyway, we had planned to hike in all the way along the river, but when the boys found the tent they were so excited to go home and use it that night that they opted to hike back on the trail so it wouldn't take as long.  It took us about 2 1/2 hrs to hike to the bridge in the morning, and we tried to beat our time on the way back, but we only just barely beat it by hiking back to the car in about 2 hrs 20 min.  We were tired by the end, but nowhere near as tired as last time we did this hike.  I think knowing what to expect and tackling it again anyway helps a lot with that.  At one point during the hike Camden told me we should hike there every Saturday, then we would be strong.  And near the end of the hike he turned to me, gave me a hug, and thanked me for taking him there.  (Love that -- don't get that very often, so have to enjoy it when they do that on their own).  I asked the boys on our return hike to rate their top 5 adventures in order of favorites: one boy listed Bridge to Nowhere as his favorite and Three Sisters as his second, another one listed Three Sisters as his favorite and Bridge to Nowhere as his second, and the other one couldn't decide which of the two was his favorite.  They also included some like Black Canyon, Black Star Canyon Falls, Barker Valley Spur Trail, and Penasquitos Canyon Waterfall.  One thing I like to point out to the boys while we're on a challenging hike (but when we're at a point in the hike when they all happen to be feeling pretty positive about it, not when they're totally worn out and starting to complain), is how doing our adventures helps us to know that we are strong and we can do hard things in life.  At one point I asked them, "Aren't you guys glad that you have an 'adventure mom'? Or would you rather have a soccer mom?"  [And for a split second I regretted asking that question, thinking they very may well think they'd prefer trying out soccer because it would be something new and fun to try].  But I was relieved when Courtland got a grin on his face and answered, "No, I would prefer to have an adventure mom, and an adventure dad, and 2 adventure dogs, and 4 adventure brothers!"

That's the parking lot where we spent the night

9:00pm fell asleep
11:00pm woke to talking
5:30am woke up
6:15am started hiking

8:30am sunshine hit us

8:39am arrived at bridge

It's hard to see in the shadows, but that's Courtland jumping off the rock into the water down there.

8:52am sun came over mountain to swimming hole near bridge while Camden was doing a cannon ball into the water

The sun just crested that hilltop as I took this picture of Camden jumping in.

I just love how clear the water is in the whole river, and how every deep pool is a beautiful turquoise color!

9:50am headed up river

Isaac jumping!

Camden's turn


10:15am saw water coming from side canyon and decided to explore
10:18am Camden got startled when he stepped within about 3 or 4 feet of a rattlesnake, we saw a little waterfall up the canyon a little further

Look close!  (It never rattled once).

I loved the occasional remains of stone structures that we sometimes came across, even in the more remote areas. 

11:45am Isaac caught his foot between rocks in the river and feel & hit his head -- luckily he was just fine, but had a decent-sized goose egg on the side of his head
12:20pm dam building
1:09pm finished dam


Our dam

This shows how far we ended up going on this hike.

1:28pm headed back down stream
2:20pm boys found tent
3:22pm left bridge to hike back

One thing I love about this hike is that there are so many different little paths to get to/from the bridge (but it's hard to get too lost, since you will eventually get there if you keep following the river).  Because we took a slightly different route back this time, we came across these remains of a tiny stone cabin, not far at all from where we had hiked past previously, but had never seen this before.  I love these little pieces of history out there in the middle of nature.

5:55pm arrived at car
8:32pm arrived home