Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ya Big BABY!

You know that constant battle/dilemma we all have as parents? The one where you need to go out- you have things to do- but your child will inevitably fall asleep 5 minutes before you get home, then wake up when you carry them into the house and totally miss the rest of their nap?

My kids stopped napping very early. My first 3 that is. I was so sad when about their 2nd birthdays, they decided they no longer needed naps. Other parents would talk about their 4 year olds napping and I had no idea what that would be like. I just wanted them to take a nap! But they outgrew themso very early.

Then along came my Jayden. He is the baby of the family in so many ways. It's as if part of him knows that, and is perfectly content not growing up. While Jaxon came out of the womb ready to attack the world all on his own, Jayden loves being babied. He will insist he is BIG but he still wants to be carried, held, spoiled, waited on and snuggled.

So remember that dilemma I was talking about? We don't have that with our Jayden. That sweet little guy can sleep any time, anywhere. Afternoon hits, his little body just decides it's ready to sleep and out he goes- no matter where we are or what we are doing.

Jayden is 3 1/2 so in January, he went into primary. My other kids were so exited about this! But poor  Jayden was not so thrilled. He LOVED nursery. He loved his teachers. He looked forward to it all week. When we told him he was moving into primary, he was less than thrilled. He cried. He begged to go back to nursery. Lucky for us, they moved his 2 male nursery leaders into his Sunbeam class (not because of him), which made the adjustment so much easier. However, every week, his teachers come to tell me how he climbs up on one of their laps and falls asleep during junior primary, then they carry him to class, lay him down in the corner and he sleeps while they have their lesson :)

I find it so cute! I love that he's still my baby! I don't want him to grow up. I'll keep him sweet and little and sleepy like this for as long as possible. I just hope his primary teachers don't get tired of his loud snoring during their class :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Parent Teacher Conference

When I wrote the previous post about Mason and his teacher, I knew I was going to be attending parent teacher conference within the next couple of days. I was really hoping that there wouldn't be any surprises.

Last night was the big night. I met with Mason's teacher first. I was most anxious to meet with her because I was hoping that she had seen the same sort of progress that I had, and that our conference this time around would be much less worrisome than the last (it's not that things were SO bad last time, just concerning).

Mason's teacher said that he is doing fantastic! She said he is now the student that both she and I knew he was last trimester. His grades are all As. He is taking initiative to put processes into place for his own success. She was very impressed with his writing skills and said his last 2 papers were excellent. One of the papers he wrote was on goals. He had to identify one of his goals for this year and discuss it in detail. The goal that he chose was getting straight As :) She also invited him to test for the gifted and talented program for 7th and 8th grade. He will be doing that a week from this Saturday. It was all good news!

Next I met with Savannah's teacher. I knew exactly what to expect from this one. Savannah was nervous because she is a perfectionist, so she was terrified that her teacher would have even the smallest criticism of her. She need not have worried. Her teacher raved about her, both academically and socially. She said she is a model student who treats all the other kids kindly. Making friends has not been a challenge for her and her teacher adores her (as do we).

All in all, it couldn't have gone better. I am so proud of my children and their hard work. Nothing makes me more proud than when their teachers tell me how well they treat others. It seems my kids are following my simple motto for success in life:

Work hard
Be nice to people

Keep it up kids!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Teacher's Love

When it came time for us to move, one of my biggest worries was how Mason would adjust. Not only was I worried because he is older, and the older you are, the harder it is to start over- but I was also worried because he is so shy. Mason does not adjust to change well at all. He puts himself to bed, right on time, every night. He gets himself up in the morning and does his chores at the same time every day. He thrives on a constant routine. If you need to change things up for some reason, it's best with Mason if you give him as much of a heads up as possible and prepare him for what the change will entail. He's not big on surprises :) So taking all these things in to account, I was worried for him.

In Idaho, Mason had a huge bedroom, all to himself. We lived on 2 acres and there was plenty of room for him to be alone when he wanted, and to play when he wanted. And his life was predictable, just like he likes it. Then we took him out of that life, threw him into a condo where he had to share a tiny little room with his brothers and no longer had a yard he could go out and play on. He had no space of him own- nowhere he could go to unwind. This is something that Mason spends a lot of time doing.

Mason has always been a very good student. He is in 6th grade now and I've never had to worry about how he was doing in school. As this new year started, I hoped that would continue and I prayed he would get a good teacher. My worries seemed to be justified when I found out that just a few weeks into the school year, Mason's grades were already dropping. He was not turning in many assignments. Sometimes he would even complete them and then just leave them sitting on or in his desk while the rest of his classmates turned them in. He seemed lost. At his first parent teacher conference, his teacher expressed her concern as well. Together, his teacher, Dan and I, and Mason came up with some steps that we hoped would help him. His teacher had clued in to the fact that he was not adjusting well to the move. Instead of labeling him as a mediocre student (easy to do in a class of almost 40), she wanted to do everything in her power to help him adjust and succeed. As a parent, when you see a child's behavior change, and not for the better, it's scary. You can't help but wonder if it's the beginning of a long and painful road for your child. You know that you'll do whatever it takes to get them back on a successful path and to save them from any sort of a spiral downward. It doesn't matter if it's just 6th grade grades- you still worry- and you still do whatever you can to help as fast as you possibly can.

To make a long story short, we moved into our house in November and at that same time, we implemented the habits and routines in Mason's day that we felt would help him to better succeed. By the end of the trimester, his grades were once again up to As.

We are now halfway into the second trimester, and he has maintained his good grades. I have seen the efforts that his teacher is putting in, for him individually, to make sure he is successful. She has truly gone above and beyond her job description and has never treated him like "just another student".

Over the last 2 months, not only did his grades raise, but he won his school Reflection's contest in literature for a poem he wrote, he won his class spelling bee and is now going to be competing against the rest of the grade and school, and he also directed a Greek play for his class and did a tremendous job on that. He is a member of the chess club and one of their strongest players. He has started basketball season and is loving that as well. He is truly a different boy than he was just a few months ago.

Today, when I went to get the mail, I saw a note from his teacher. I didn't even read the envelope to see that it was addressed to him. I assumed it was to me since I am also his class mom. I opened the letter and inside was a Thank you Card.
Here is what it says: "Dear Mason,
                                          Thank you for the delicious chocolates- which were quickly consumed by me and my family- and the misteltoe soap- whose fragrance reminds me daily of you and Christmas! I am so happy you moved to Utah AND to my classroom. I know it has been difficult for you, but I am so proud of the way you handled it and of your successes. You have gained the respect and friendships of your classmates. You did a fabulous job as the director of your team's Greek play, and with your Reflection's poem, and the spelling bee and I could go on and on. You are awesome!


Mrs. Cook "

This note will mean the world to Mason. He is so sensitive to the opinions of his parents, teachers and coaches. As my children have grown, I have seen that there is such a disparity between teachers. Teachers who truly love and care for each individual child are few and far between- and teachers who do so in the midst of budget cuts and overcrowding are even fewer. I know it's not an accident that Mason ended up in the class that he did. This was one of the many tender mercies we received when we took the leap of faith and made this move. I am forever grateful for those, and for this sweet teacher who has changed my son's life for the better.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The gift of Music...

Growing up as the oldest daughter of a piano teacher, I was destined to learn to play. Not a day has gone by that I'm not thankful for this. My mother taught me, and my father impressed upon the importance of being willing to share this talent with those who needed it, particularly at church. My parents knew all too well that there are never enough people willing and able to play :)

I began teaching myself right after Savannah was born. She was the happiest baby and would sit in her chair and just listen. She didn't cry. She didn't squirm. In fact, she seemed to enjoy it. Imagine my surprise when at just 3 years old, my tiny little girl came up to me and told me she wanted to learn. Three year olds do not play the piano. 4 year olds do not play the piano. Most 5 and 6 year olds are still not ready to play the piano. And here was my three year old telling me she wanted to learn. I told her frankly that she was not old enough- she didn't even know her letters- how could she play the piano? Just a few days later, that sweet little 3 year old came to me and told me, "Mom, I've learned A-G and that's all I need to know to play the piano." I was amazed that she had picked that up just from listening to me teach other students, and thought I would humor her a little bit since she had put in so much effort. I told her I would teach her the finger numbers but that was it. She would have to wait until she was older to learn more.

And so I did. And it wasn't good enough for her. She took it upon herself to move along- to go ahead of what I was showing her. She had listened and learned enough just by watching me teach others, that she was able to pick up much more than she should have been. And so, my tiny little 3 year old daughter began reading music. At 4, she played in her first recital. At 4 1/2 she competed in her first piano festival where she got a 97/100. Students aren't allowed to enter unless they can read music on the grand staff and play with both hands simultaneously. You should have seen the look on the face of the judge as I walked her to the classroom to play her songs. You should have seen the smile on that judges face as she walked her back out to me.

I stopped teaching when I had my boys. It was just too hard to teach and juggle 2 babies. They didn't sit there, happy, like their sister had. They wanted my undivided attention. To everything there is a season, right?

My boys are older now. Mason is now old enough to help out with them. I also now have a room with locking double doors where I can teach, in peace, without interruption. And so, after a few years off, I decided to begin teaching again. I initially said I would just pick up 5 students. I don't have a lot of extra time but it's something I wanted to do. I was surprised when word got out that I was teaching, and I was bombarded with phone calls. I ended up taking quite a few more students than I had planned, but I still kept it manageable.

 As I've begun teaching again, and loving every second of it, I found myself reflecting back on my sweet little girl and her amazing ability. If someone told me they had a child that age who could actually play the piano- I'm not sure I would believe them. So I'm sure glad I took videos of that little girl doing her thang :) Here are 2 videos of Savannah playing, right before her first recital in 2008. This wasn't the actual performance and she's kind of in her own little world- she looks around the room and makes a few mistakes, but even so, I love watching these videos :) I can't wait to see what she does in the future!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christmas 2011

Ever since we became a family, we've had basically the same traditions for our Christmas holiday. Besides a couple of Christmases when Mason was just tiny, we've lived very close to our families most of our lives. And those years when we didn't, we were a small enough family that it wasn't all that difficult to pack up and go home for the holidays.

This year, we weren't quite sure what we were going to do for Christmas. This was our first holiday season in our new home. We've been thinking about starting some new traditions, now that our family has grown and our kids are getting older. The thought of packing all 6 of us up, including all our presents, stockings etc, and driving to another state for Christmas, was not all that appealing. And yet, to our children, Idaho still felt like home. It was important to them that we be there for Christmas. So, in spite of the work involved, we decided to go ahead and make the journey. Next year, when the kids aren't missing their Idaho friends and family quite as much, we might stay here in our own home and enjoy the holiday.

A few days before Christmas- we packed up EVERYTHING you can imagine. We played vehicle Tetris and were able to fit all our crap everything in the car. I was thanking the heavens that we bought the Escalade before this trip, since it has so much more cargo room than our Expedition did. There is no way we could have fit it all! The kids were bursting with excitement to see their friends.

Savannah spent the first day in Idaho with the twins, Maycie and Taylie Ard (her best friends since they were babies). One of the hardest parts of our move was leaving them. They are the closest thing she has to sisters. She had a wonderful time catching up with them and exchanging presents. We love those girls!

Christmas Eve- Christmas Eve is "The Main Event" with the Miller clan. We all gathered at David and Dana's (Dan's brother) house. We have delicious food (way toooooo much of it, as my post-holiday waistline will attest) and play some of the same games each year. The kids open their presents from Grandma and Grandpa and then we eat some more food. Later on, we play some board games and eat some more food. After that, we finish up by eating some more food :) When the clock struck "too late for kids to still be awake", we packed it all up and went back to Dan's parents house and put the kids to bed. Each Christmas eve, we also let the kids open one present-their new pajamas. We did this, and then Savannah (who is clued into the whole Santa thing) and I finished up pre-Christmas duties and put everything under the tree. It was a perfect way to spend Christmas Eve.

Jaxon and Grandpa Miller
Savannah and Grandma Miller
 Savannah was asked to read a sweet story to the family on Christmas Eve. She did a great job!

 Playing the left/right game

Christmas Day- Usually, we open our presents in the morning and then visit my parents and spend a little time with them on Christmas. However, this year, my parents flew to Alabama to spend the holiday with my sister Rachel and her cute family. Our kids were up bright and early, ready to open thei presents ( I know this is a shocking fact). And that's just what we did! The kids were thrilled with their gifts. And then.....then we just enjoyed each other. We just chilled. We soaked in the beauty of being together as a family and enjoying the Christmas holiday.

 Jaxon and Jayden in their new pajamas
 Savannah with her Zebra Pillow pet and new PJs
 Ooooh- it's a pink Ripstik! Do you know that even when the other colors go on sale, the pink one doesn't? What's that all about?

 Mason with his brand new snowboard!

We spent a few more days in Idaho before heading back home to Utah. I did a little after Christmas shopping and picked up a new tree for next year. All in all, it was a very relaxing, enjoyable trip. I wasn't sure we would be able to get everything back in the car for the drive home, but we made it (with the exception of the tree- which I did have to leave!).

As a family, we are so blessed to have each other. Although we have moved to another state, we are still close enough to visit quite often, and see those we love. Our time together is priceless.

Must be Santa!

A few days before Christmas, there was a knock on our door. We answered it and who was standing there? Santa! We invited him in and he sat down for a little chat with the "believers" (The Js). Jaxon and Jayden had plenty to tell him about what they wanted for Christmas- starting off with MORE TRAINS! They promised him they would be on their best behavior! He rewarded them with a candy cane and was shortly on his way :)

Happy 5th Birthday to Jaxon- Dec. 20th 2011

It is so hard for me to believe that my Jaxon is 5! Birthdays are always a fun time for me to reflect back on the years I've shared with my children. It's a time to recognize their unique traits and the things they contribute to our family. So first a little about his birthday and then a little about him :)

Jaxon is our almost Christmas baby, so he gets a double dose of presents during the Holidays. We were heading to Idaho for Christmas just a couple of days after his birthday. We had just our own little family here to celebrate our Jaxon. He wanted a Thomas the Train cake (surprise, right?) and had asked for a Ripstik- and he got just what he wanted!

Anyone who knows Jaxon knows that the adventure level in our lives went up about 100 fold when he joined our family. Jaxon was due just after the new year. From my mid-pregnancy ultrasound on, I was told to be prepared- this was a BIG baby! I already knew that. It was as though he didn't even fit in there! Sure enough, on December 20th, 2006, exactly 2 weeks before his due date, our 9 lb whopper came into the world. He looked like a 4 month old baby. He had an afro of wild hair. By 4 months he had several teeth. By 7 months, he was cruising the furniture. When he was 18 months to the day, his little brother joined our family. By this point, Jaxon was the craziest, most mischievous toddler I had ever seen. Every day was an adventure. I never knew what was next. I just knew that each day, my goal was to keep him alive. And I succeeded :)

I have so many stories about Jaxon and his antics! It was like, in this little (although perfectly sturdy and solid) body, a giant person was waiting to get out. Jaxon has always been so very charismatic and lovable. His smile can melt the world. His laugh is so contagious. You can't help but love this one. He is life, love and laughter, all shaken up in one crazy little boy. He is coordinated and playful and fearless. He is his father's son. I look forward to every single day we get to share with our Jaxon. Our family would be so incomplete without the joy and adventure he brings to us. Jaxon, we love you with all our hearts. Thank you for being YOU!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Welcome, 2012!

It's 2012. Not quite sure how this happened :) But here it is.

As we begin a new year- our first full year in our new home, I of course reflect on the last. 2011 was a good year for our family. 2010 was kind of a rough one. What a blessing it was to see things turn around for us last year.

2011 brought us a new job in a new industry, in a new state.
It brought us a new home, in a new neighborhood, in a new ward.
It brought us more new friends than we ever could have hoped.
It brought us closer as a family.
It taught us to embrace change- that you never know where it will lead, but that trusting the Lord can bring about great miracles.
It taught us that "home" can be anywhere the Lord wants you to be, if you just let it.

Some of the highlights of our 2011 were:

January: Daniel first came home with a feeling that life was about to change- that we should be heading in a different direction.

April: Daniel accepted a job as a program manager for the LDS church, in the media services department and moved to Utah.

May: The kids finished up their school year in Rigby, ID, and we packed up and moved to Saratoga Springs, UT. Saying goodbye to our loved ones wasn't such a highlight, but we knew it was right for our family.

June: We began construction on our new home in Saratoga. We also began attending the Saratoga Springs 5th ward, where our home would be, even though we were temporarily living in another stake while construction was underway.

 June: Jayden turned 3!!!

August: Savannah turned 8 and was baptized. What an amazing experience for all of us.

October: Mason turned 12 and received the aaronic priesthood (it was a big year for big birthdays!). He was so excited for this opportunity.

November: Our home was finally completed and we moved in to our new house and new neighborhood.

December: Daniel was called as the Elder's Quorum president of our new ward.
Jaxon also turned 5 this month! It's so hard for me to believe!

 As a family, we truly saw the windows of heaven open up with blessings this year. We embrace this new year and the chance we have to become even more at home here than we already feel. We love you all and are thankful to have you in our lives :)


The Millers