Friday, August 28, 2009

This Week In History...

...lots of my relatives were born!
Happy Birthday to
My lovely SIL, Audrey (8/24)
My fabulous stepdad, Mark (8/26)

And my cute nephew, BRADY, who turns 5 TODAY!
YAY!
***
My cutie-cousin Maren has a cutie-daughter, Morgan, who turns 3 today, too (I think)...Happy Birthday, Morgan! James is right on your heels, turning 3 next Saturday...where does the time go?



Recently


If you've never been to Chico Hot Springs, it's hard to imagine how remote and beautiful the setting for last night's date was. But you can click here to get an idea.That's me and Rich enjoying Shakespeare in the Park on the front lawn at Chico.
And that's me, pre-show, reading up on the synapsis of "Two Gentlemen of Verona"
The secondary characters were so entertaining in this play--here they are as the outlaws in the woods toward the end of the play.
Here are Silvia and Valentine reunited, with Proteus and Julia feeling remorse.
***
This morning the girls got up way-early for school and got themselves ready--all by themselves, for real! Clothes, shoes, socks, hair, yogurt w/ cheerios and a vitamin for breakfast, backpacks--everything! They were super excited to ride bikes to school with daddy.
Addie & Heidi waving good bye...
Saying good bye to my 3 punkins at 7:45 this morning...

and they're off, Daddy leading the way on his awesome Townie!

***

James and I are just going to clean up a bit and pack overnight bags because we are going to Helena to celebrate Uncle Matt's new job as a Helena police officer. We'll stay over for some cousin fun and be back tomorrow afternoon. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Day of School

Last night we had a special dinner and father's blessings to start the new year. Grandpa & Grandma came by to tuck the kids in and wish them luck...Heidi was sooo ready for bed!Heidi was too tired to wear her crown!
Addie wore her crown and visited with Grandma for a while.
***

Heidi woke me up at 6:45 am to help her put her fancy pink belt on her denim capri pants. She was so excited to get ready for school! She was all dressed and groomed by 7am, and then she drew a picture of Jesus watching over her and Addie (I'll have to scan it--it's so cute, and it surprised me that she veered from drawing elephants!). Addie was pretty enthusiastic this morning, too--she even had time to watch Sid the Science Kid on PBS Kids. Oh What a Beautiful Morning to start second grade!
(that's Addie walking across the playground)

Heidi the kindergartener and Addie the second- grader

Good-luck hugs between sisters
Addie shows Heidi the way

Heidi at her locker

Addie lining up for Mrs. Meador's class

Heidi got cold feet at the last minute
(I know, can you believe it? My sassy, independent little superhero?)

I held her hand and walked her into the class room
Mrs. Thumbs welcomed all the kids and tried to put them at ease...

Heidi wasn't buyin' it.
She still looked a little freaked out when we left, but I think she's going to have a great day!
James and I have lots of laundry to fold and green beans to can, so I'm outta here!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Best Hubs Ever

Richard, I loooooove you! Thanks for a wonderful weekend of home-n-family...you're the BEST.


PS: I see HERE that Cat and friends graced SLC this weekend...what a FAB show, sorry I missed it, and too bad it was on Sunday!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sister


I have been thinking a lot about sisters this week. Cjane has written lots about her sister(s) this year, and I surprised myself with my reaction to seeing her sister's new face. Lots of people posted comments about how beautiful Steph is, how she's even more beautiful than before, and I concur. I did see light in those eyes, light that reflects the spirit inside. The sister Courtney loves is still here, maybe even better than ever. Maybe refined by the fire.

While I am so grateful for the blessings that have graced their family, I find myself a little bit sad, even envious. Not (oh, heavens NO) that I would EVER wish a fiery plane crash on ANYONE, least of all a loved one, sometimes I'd rather have my sisters suffer a tragic accident with their souls intact than what they are struggling with/have struggled with. I wish I could post a blog about my sister's struggles, about her good heart and her four beautiful children and her handsome, hard-working, long-suffering husband and garner donations to send her to the residential treatment she needs but can't afford. Because I want my sister back, dang it.

[Sam, Jill, Dana in 1989]
Like anyone who is watching a loved one struggle, I get so tired. My heart just feels cracked and heavy. For all the joys, the security, the happiness and fun I enjoy with my nuclear family, there is still so much pain in my family of origin (I know God knew it would be like this; I know in my heart he anticipated my needs in giving me an infinitely patient and loving husband who provides security and comfort for me as I deal with each extended family struggle, past and present; I am not unaware of or ungrateful for that).

A few times last week things got quiet and I wanted to just call up my sister and chat, and then I remembered that I can't do that anymore. She can't just call and bounce ideas off me or tell me funny things the kids did or give me dinner ideas because she is in rehab. And even if she weren't in rehab, the drugs she has been taking seem to have changed her brain just enough that it's hard to find my sister in there anyway. We don't share the same lifestyle anymore, at least for now. That brings a painful little stab to my heart, as does the thought, "another one bites the dust." Poor choices, bad luck, enslaving habits, etc. have taken their toll on my relationship with 5 of my 7 sisters, this time on the one that has been my best friend in my married life. Most of the time I have a strong, faithful, healthy perspective on this, but sometimes I get really angry. And by angry, I mean hurt, sad, disappointed, and tired (it feels like I have been going through this forever, because I pretty much have been for the past 20 years). And by angry, I mean furious that Satan hates happy families, and I am sick of his shennanigans. Frustrated. And more sad.
[holy freaking 80's! that' me, Lisa, & Laura circa 1987]
I know it's going to take time. I can be patient. But my Sabbath prayer this week (besides hoping my Georgia is cancer-free) is: TAKE AWAY THIS BALL & CHAIN! I WANT MY SISTER BACK!
***
Speaking of Steph, she posted THIS yesterday, and it is just so appropriate. It's for you, Jill. I love you. It's for Drew, and for everyone who loves you and is in "critical condition" with you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lift Up the Hands Which Hang Down


I really, really enjoyed this week's This American Life, entitled Going Big (click here if you want to check it out). First of all, I love how Ira Glass (or whoever) groups stories into themes each week because there is always a surprise story that fits in with the theme in a way I'd never imagine (this week it's the daughter getting closer to her mother story). The thing I loved this week was the first story about how Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone came to be. I just thought it was such sound and innovative thinking, so I'll share the parts that struck me and how I applied them to myself.

First of all, they talk about how the traditional approach to trying to break the cycle of poverty has been tragically flawed (duh). Canada himself noticed that all middle class parents seemed to be totally informed on the latest and most effective parenting techniques, while no one--he means NO ONE-- in Harlem had ever heard of any of them. It was just not part of the culture. He started to research if parenting might be the key.

Some of the research upon which Geoffrey Canada based the Harlem Children's Zone was conducted in the 1980, studying 2 sets of families--one where the parents were professionals and one where the parents were on welfare. Paul Tough explains the findings like this: “The kids with professional parents heard 20 million more words in the first three years of their lives than the kids on welfare…and those extra words had a huge effect on their verbal abilities. It was stunning news that the biggest factor in determining a child’s later success in school wasn’t any of the things we assumed to be true—it wasn’t money, it wasn’t parental education, it wasn’t race—it was the sheer number of words your parents spoke to you as a young child.”

The researcher they (they=Paul Tough) interviewed was James Heckman from the University of Chicago. He's an economist who studies inequality, and his job was to find out why Job Training was not working as a solution to welfare. He found that most disadvantaged people in his study weren't just lacking a skill set valuable to employers.

"Some very basic skills were never learned," he explained. “The ability to communicate, to solve simple mathematical puzzles, to understand even how to read the newspaper, as well as non-cognitive [skills like] self-control, motivation, the ability to get out of bed and show up at work on time, to engage and to be open to new ideas—these traits were in very serious short supply.” This observation led to the question, "How are these skills formed [acquired]?"

The answer was that they are learned at home in the first 3-5 years of life, and then after that it's really hard to teach them or make a change. The good news was that even small early interventions yield huge results. So Geoffrey Canada, trying to help people in Harlem, made the decision to stop trying to help the kids by helping the parents, and just focus on the kids from birth all the way to college. The basic philosophy is that the parents (even in they're still teenagers) are kinda beyond the point of making these fundamental changes, but they can learn how to parent (the way middle-class families automatically do) and their children are successful.

The story ends like this:

“Although Geoff is committed to his choice—save the kids rather than the parents—it still involves some painful trade-offs for him," said Paul Tough. It's tempting to want to help the parents, too, but Canada knows that the program works when everyone is focused on the kids.

“I am always surprised by how easy it is. It’s is not like decoding the human genome…it takes people to really focus and concentrate. And I am always stunned—how is it no one knows this? The reason it seems so difficult is that so few people have learned to actually DO it.” –Geoffrey Canada

“All the experts I interviewed for this story told me the same thing. It’s much easier than people think. And so far, the experiment is working.” -Paul Tough

***

So you know I am a "hand-up, not a hand-out" person and I have been pondering what I can do to contribute to the community next year when James starts preschool and I start to have more and more time that is not filled with mom-stuff. This show helped me decide.

1-Keep serving in the church: All those skills that Heckman mentioned are learned as we live the gospel and participate in church programs. I kept thinking of all the things we can learn as we participate in the Primary program, Personal Progress program for Young Women, or in scouting. These programs, while part of the church, are available and beneficial to everyone and I should invite the kids we interact to participate. It also reinforces to me that spending my time and talents on these programs is a worthwhile investment for my whole community, not just my church family.
Doctrine & Covenants 81:5-"...succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees..."

2-Participate in more early childhood programs: I think I would like to get some training and certification from the state to do more early childhood work once my kids are in school. It really is an investment in the future--the best community investment, as far as I am concerned.

PS: Next month is my birthday and Paul Tough's book, Whatever It Takes has shot to the top of my wish list. I'm just sayin'.

THANKS 4 the THANKS!

Dear Winsors, We got your note today and it was such a treat! We really enjoyed your artwork, Boston! Heidi wants to know how Alex is doing...I'll have her write him a letter next ;) Love and miss you guys!

Love, Los Melins

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday: Museum of the Rockies

One last summer trip to M.O.R....
Where the Wild Things Are! James playing dino-boy
Dino-girls
They roared their terrible roar and gnashed their terrible teeth...
We had a fun day (with lunch at Burger King). Addie is having a sleep-over with Grandma Melin tonight, and tomorrow is Heidi's turn. One more week til we're back-to-school...



Monday: Pine Creek Play Day

My friend Debbie has a tradition with her kids where they camp for 4 or 5 days right before school starts for one last summer HURRAH! They have other plans this year (since all but one of her kids is a nearly-grown teenager), but we still had a play day/ picnic up at Pine Creek on Monday.
Jenny, Haylee, Rosalie, Terin, Danny, Cassidy, Heidi, and Addie walking toward the creek
Jenny, Cassidy, Haylee, and Terin (beeeeehiiiiiives!)
Heidi feels the icy-cold creek water

James and Rosalie join in
Shoes on the creek bank
Danny and Addie at the creek
Heidi, Debbie, Hannah, Me, and James just chillin'

Me & my cutie-midgey-niece, Hannah

Heidi & Aunt Debbie=Best Pals

Heidi, James, and Hannah coloring on the picnic blanket
Heidi
Rosalie, Addie, & Danny checking out some butterflies
Addie & Danny in the woods
PEEK-A-BOO!
Aunt Debbie sent the kids on a fun treasure hunt (for tootsie pops!)
James and Hannah opted out of the treasure hunt cuz they were too tired!
They had a drink and watched a Thomas DVD instead.
Addie enjoying her sucker
Danny relaxing in Aunt Debbie's hammock
Addie & Danny got the life...
Debbie & Heidi
***
On the way home, we encountered a
Montana Roadblock...
(don't mind my nice cracked windshield)
I took this out the passenger side door...how now, brown cow?
Around the bend we found another roadblock, this time with horses.
(this is the ledge where Rich & I were engaged, BTW)
This is the last switchback coming down Pine Creek road...
the ranch is in the distance there...
I love Paradise Valley!

Babies Change the World

This is a picture of me with Adeline on November 21, 2001, just after she was born in Utah. I am talking on the phone to my Grandpa in Ari...