Monday, December 30, 2013

Biking Beginnings

 Six months ago if you would have told me it was possible to use biking as a means of transportation for a family with six kids who live down a step hill and long "country" road, I would have laughed in your face.  Probably in my not so Christian sarcastic manner asked you "What are you smoking?"

But if you told me that same thing today I would 100% agree because well we do it!  Why you ask?  Because one day I basically woke up and needed a change.  I wanted to take up biking, and do triathlons with my friend but didn't know how to start or what to do with the kids.  Then one day poking around on the internet I ran across a couple articles on biking families (mostly in Seattle area).  I began researching bikes and realized, if I had a cargo bike, I could bike with all my kids by myself and what better way to get in shape for a triathlon then training while pulling a ton of weight.

So I researched cargo bikes until my eyes popped out and decided that Yuba Mundo was going to be the best one to start with.  And boy was I ever right.  I love it.  It is so versatile and so safe with the kids, easy to maneuver, and can handle hills well.  My favorite part about it is the redesigned NuVinci 360 hub for shifting.  I don't have to think about changing gears or worry about losing a chain while I have the kids with me, you can even change gears while stopped.  Its pretty much awesome.

Here is my Mundo with the twins on it.  They absolutely love to go on the bike.  When I only have one peanut seat on they fight for who gets to ride there and who has to go in the trailer!!

Here is the Mundo with the trailer attached and one peanut seat off.  In this configuration I can literally take all 5 kids with Sam riding his bike by myself.  It is slow and heavy but can be done!  

I am also getting stronger which is good.  The trailer was a bit difficult to figure out how to attach, I ended up asking my brother (the aerospace engineer) to get'er done and he sure did!  I will have to take some close ups of it for another post.  

We have picked the kids up from school with bikes and rode to and from gymnastics and then just varies other rides for fun and or weekend activities. We haven't attempted morning drop of to school yet, with cold/rainy weather and then the holidays it just wasn't the right time for a first attempt but we will in January.  The commute to school is about 30 minutes and the commute home 45 minutes (home is all hill).  Round trip is eleven miles.  

Serafina loved it! (I don't know why it is snowing but I can't make it stop)
Its really fun when Janice comes along for the ride, which is most the time!  She is always up for taking a few pounds off my bike, here she pulled Serafina on the trail-a-bike, with AJ in the trailer!  You go girl.

Matt had the twins in a trailer which meant I only had Matteo, I felt spoiled all though my bike does weigh twice if not three times as much as theirs.  But who's keeping score

Here is our fleet of bikes all lined up after another ride to the Voler outlet store for some great deals!!  I had the twins on the Mundo, Matt pulled Matteo on the trail-a-bike and Janice pulled AJ in the trailer.  (Serafina was at rehearsal!)  

Loving the shadow.

The boys ready to cruise.

Riding the Railroad Safety Trailer into SLO on Christmas eve.  Matteo and Serafina got to ride their bikes along the safety trailer but then when we hit the streets of downtown we locked up their bikes and they had to get on ours until we headed back down the trail.  So much fun and so great to see Matteo and Serafina get a chance to ride, they were loving it (ok Matteo loved it, Serafina not so much but she is getting better).

And sometimes after you do a 20 mile + ride with your BFF you have to stop for Milk shakes and fries and village grill, right?!?

So if you ever wanted to bike and thought you couldn't, maybe you should think again!!

Some more photos: click here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Foster Christmas

We had the Foster Christmas Saturday evening - meaning Nana and Papa and all their descendants. Very traditional menu: prime rib, 7-layer salad, twice-baked potatoes, and ice cream with caramel syrup for dessert. OK, the caramel ice cream was a little different, but a big hit. We tried a new prime rib cooking process. Very simple. Not-sure-it-could-work simple. But it worked well - process. All photos:

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Review of Kindle's FreeTime App

In case you hadn't noticed we are a little conservative when it comes to our kids and electronics, gaming, phones, and all that jazz.   Our kids do not have cell phones, personal iPad's, personal computers, TV's in their rooms, or unlimited access to such devices.  When it comes to all that they are strictly monitored and limited.

However as my kids have grown older they have been requesting more access. Also I can see the good things this technology can bring to them.  Like reading, and learning, and math skills.  Access to up to date information and learning problem solving skills and how to research.

I feel this has lead Matt and I down a tug a war of parenting, how to let out the reins but still guard, their hearts, eyes, and minds.

We tried getting the kids iPod touches last year.  They have been OK.  But we found we still had to watch closely what they were doing. We still couldn't allow them in their rooms and once again it was a fight or battle.

Then this Christmas, enter in the Kindle Fire HD.  We have a couple old (as in original kindles) but hadn't ever upgraded to this new technology.  We use the kindle reader on all our I Pads and phones and love it.  Then I heard about the FreeTime app.  I read about it and decide what the heck, let's try it.  My parents bought the kids two Kindle Fire HD's for Christmas and the kids (mainly the older 3) where so excited!

Matt and I setup the FreeTime app and I was immediately impressed by the app.  I didn't spend much time looking at all it offered as the kids were excited to get the kindle in their hands, but what impressed me off the bat was I could setup different accounts for each child (all of which can be accessed on any of the two kindles because they are all under my one account), and that once a child is in the app they literally can not access anything but the programs I have selected, nor can they exit the FreeTime app with out my password.  Even if you turn the kindle off and back on again.  So we handed the Kindles over and the kids were off.  They enjoyed playing games, reading books and watching shows (hey it was Christmas).  

Finally, when they were all off in bed it was my chance to really dive in a learn more about FreeTime, and what I found made me as giddy as a school girl.  

This is the interface that my kids see.  It works just like that of the Kindle Fire but they only have access to the content I choose (see I am not a horribly mean mom, they have Temple Run and Angry Birds).  Also, when they are in FreeTime, your GPS location and ads get turned off in all apps.  AWESOME!  They literally can not get out of this without a password.  Its like full lock down.  Trust me I tried.  A lot.  No getting out. 

Here is the parental control center.  You can see all the kids accounts, and how many items (ie -apps, books, shows) each kid has access to and who has timers and goals set.

This FreeTime app not only does everything I mentioned above but I can set up time limits on every category. There are basically three categories, Reading, Apps, and Movies.   I can setup up the program so the kids can have unlimited access to everything or I can limit it all by having the Kindle shut off after a certain amount of time.
But it gets even better then that.  You can limit just one or the other.  For example, you can allow 30 minutes of Apps, 45 minutes of Movies and unlimited Reading.  WHAT!!!  That is awesome.   
From there I found you can also have unlimited reading but setup the program to turn off at 9:30 pm so your kid doesn't stay up all night reading.  

So at this point I was pretty sure I had died and gone to heaven.  I had spent 'God knows how many hours' trying to find a program like this for the Ipad to no avail and here it finally is on the kindle..why had I waited so long.  

And then I found the holy grail.  

You can setup up reading goals.  As in, the program will lock your kids out of Apps and Movies until then Read X amount of time.  WHAT?!?! 
It's as easy as that and I personally don't have to monitor it?!?!  The app does it for me?!?  Sign me up and count me in.  You can also set it so they have to play X amount of educational apps before they can play say angry birds.  I immediately setup this bad boy feature up.  Thirty minutes of reading a day before you can access anything else!!  And you know what?!?!  My daughter woke up this morning and said I think I am going to read this morning!!  LOVE IT.   Also you can setup up different time limits and goals for the weekdays vs the weekend!!!

It hasn't stopped there.  When all of them run out of app and movie time...they READ...even Matteo, he has Bob books and other beginning reading/picture books on his account.  Did I mention, I control what each kid has access to and each kid can have different times/goals/and content.  So Matteo doesn't have all of Sam's books in his account and Sam can't spent 30 minutes reading Bob books!! 

Basically I am ready to by 4 more Kindle Fire HD's so all my kids have their own personal one and I have NEVER felt that way about any other electronic product and it is all because of this app.   Thank you to the makers of Kindle and Kindle FreeTime for finally getting it and getting it right.  I couldn't be happier.  I felt like I need to share this with the world, because I know their are other parents out there trying to balance technology and raising kids who stay innocent just a little longer.  This is a beautiful combination of both and it motivates reading and who can argue with that!!

(I am not getting anything for writing this post.  I was just truly that amazed and happy with the FreeTime app I wanted to share my thoughts)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nana's Christmas Reflections

Christmas at the Compound - a warm fuzzy day for all. In the middle of the night I was awoken to Serafina singing at the top of her lungs “Born is the king, rejoice in the day…” only then did I realize that it was 7:30 Christmas morning. Oh my goodness, I cannot remember ever sleeping in until 7:30 on a Christmas morning! I ran upstairs to get the bubble bread in the oven only to be greeted with the yummy aroma of bubble bread baking in the oven. Tracy was hard at work in the kitchen preparing the potatoes and veggies we would enjoy in our breakfast burritos later in the morning. I could hear Matt in the bedroom trying to keep the six excited Christmas urchins at bay until all were ready for the grand entrance to the “Christmas Room.” Ahh….my Christmas blessing – the changing of the guard – Matt and Tracy have lovingly taken over the major chores and responsibilities of the Compound.

We got Robob tucked snug in a chair, then me and my coffee and pa with his camera we waited for the children’s entrance down the stairs...

From there the day was a relaxed blur of squeals of delight, juggling, games, books, laughter, and yes, even a nap! Favorite memories – Matteo’s delight when he finally “saw” the giant bear Santa brought him (a special request). The bear has been named “Giant” and is now being dragged everywhere Matteo goes. Sam’s delight in his Bronco hat and pillowpet. Serafina wearing her lensless spectacles (yes, they are still on today). AJ quietly playing with a tiny car wrapped in his own world while a tornado of activity surrounds him. AND the twins – one can’t even begin to explain the overflowing joy, love, and amazement one feels while watching those two toddle around actively exploring their world – our little miracles.

Christmas 2013, a year of enjoying the moment with the folks you are with, quiet – “secret Santa” gifts that no one will ever know who the benefactor was, and enjoying the joy life brings to us all!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Just Our "Little" Family Christmas

For the first Christmas ever, as in ever ever, as in since Matt and I were married, as in since Matt and I had kids, I mean since we moved into the Compound, in case you don't understand, for the the first time ever it was just our "Little" Compound family for Christmas.

No out of town guests, no in town guests.

Just the eleven of us.

No schedule, no meals that had to be just right, nothing but us.

It was great.

Don't get me wrong, I love all our extended family, but there was something great and simple about today.

Normally, we grown-ups are a little preoccupied with traditional breakfast, and/or dinner for a group of people.  We are visiting with relatives and friends we might only see on Christmas so little things get overlooked.

But for today we asked the kids what was important to them: Bubble Bread. That was the one tradition that mattered. So we whipped up some Bubble Bread and called it a day.

We opened stockings, and presents and instead of worrying about the next meal or dishes, or what everyone else was doing, we played with the kids. We read books together, drew pictures, built model airplanes, and raced cars.

We watched Christmas movies and planned family getaways. The babies played and napped as they needed. And AJ had a great day, barely a fit.

I know the kids fell into bed tonight exhausted and happy. It has been a wild, crazy year around these parts but oh how blessed I feel to have my "little" family and to have had our quiet little Christmas this year!!

Merry Christmas to All!!

P.S. The rest of the photos:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Nana and Papa's Christmas Letter

Getting it out on Christmas Eve still counts as "before Christmas", right?!

So, if you're willing to come along on a brief (2 pages, mostly pictures) tour of our 2013, click here.

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Amazing Evening

We had a bitter sweet evening a few night backs.  When we connected with Grace the boys Tummy Mommy, I never mentioned that her husband was in the air force.  He was here in the states through out the pregnancy and delivery of our boys.  He was able to see the babies as they were delivered,  in other words being pulled out and whisked off to the NICU for ventilation.  He can recall hearing David give a cry and Jonathan not making any noise but he was never allowed in the NICU to see, touch, or hold them.  By the time Grace and I meet Brandon was stationed in Korea.  Once again he couldn't come hold or meet the babies. 

Five months from our first meeting Brandon, and with no time to spare as they are moving to another state after Christmas, got a chance to meet the boys.  It was bitter sweet knowing that it would be the last time we would be able to see them face to face for awhile but was so so awesome to see the love and happiness and watch Grace and Brandon play with the boys that they helped give life.

The boys were a little cranky having being at their NICU follow up clinic earlier in the day but Brandon being amazing with babies was David's best friend by the end of the night. 

 This might be my favorite set of pictures.
    Jonathan:  "No Don't hold me"
    David:  "Brandon and me BFF's"

"Why are you still holding me"

"Yeah lets keep fiving"

"If I wave will you let me down"

"We're bro's and point together"

 Here this baby likes to be held!!

Now that  I got my way I will smile!

After dinner everyone played.  Jonathan even got into the action. 

These two became fast friend.

At the end of the evening we all went to lay them down for bed.  I said good night to the boys and then Grace and Brandon said goodnight.  This mama teared up as she watched Grace tuck them in and kiss them goodnight.  It was almost to much.  It made me think of a sign I saw earlier in the week"

 "Your beautifully messy complicated story matters. Tell it!" 

There is nothing that makes sense in this story of ours but it is beautifully and it is God's work at hand.  It shows unconditional love, mercy and grace.  We are so blessed to have Grace and Brandon in our lives and will be for ever great-full for the gift they gave our family.  

Safe travels Grace and Brandon and we will can't wait to see you again.  Hopefully sooner than later.