Thursday, June 20, 2013


Well, we've fallen into the summer routine and it feels good.  Most mornings are a bit lazy.  We get up, do our chores, have breakfast and then the kids play a bit.  After that, we settle into some school time while Nathan naps.  The older two can track their work on their own now so there isn't as much management there.  I answer questions now and then and check work at the end.  But they are low maintenance.  Joshua needs the most attention as we prep for Kindergarten.  He is getting so much better at his printing and is starting to blend sounds together to form words.
Looking for the baby horses at Cal Poly
I am not a homeschooler and truly love having my kids attend an awesome classical christian school near us.  However, I have LOVED teaching my kids at home in addition to their school education and so far, I have wanted to be the one to initially teach them to read.  It's selfish really.  Their school does an amazing job backing me up.  But there is just something about seeing my child's eyes light up when they make the correlation between the sounds on the page and the word that they form.  So incredible.  A whole new world opens up to them!  Literacy is truly a blessing from God!  Seeing their little minds work is a gift.  Joshua has been no exception.  I am really enjoying him and school this summer, and am super pleased with his progress.

Once everyone has completed their bit of lessons for the day, they either jump on the trampoline or watch a short little movie while I get dressed and finish up any other things around the house like starting bread to rise or getting laundry loaded/switched.  Nathan usually is up before long (with a full house of kids it's hard for him to get a super long nap) and then we are off on some sort of outing or errand.

I love this pace.  It's so wonderful.  It's free.  It's "scheduled" yet, feels unscheduled.  It's not hurried.  And it's refreshing.

However, too much of this life won't work for me either.  There is something to summer being a season.  It's restful.  But when August rolls around, I am usually ready to start the year again.  Ready to put away the long, lazy days outside and exchange them for chillier weather, the holidays and the pressure of school (good kind of pressure that is).
They're all staring into the sun so no smiles...ha!
I've always loved school.  There is something magical about it to me.  So the fall is a good time.  A celebratory time.  A time to get back to learning and our routine-for all of us.

So I have been thinking about the seasons.  How will my kids remember summer?  Full of activity?  Excess extras?  Or just fun stuff like camping, playing outside all day, the pool and sometimes the beach (truth be told, I am horrible at getting my poor children to the beach and we only live 20 minutes away...I know it's's cleaning everyone up afterward by myself that is daunting; being there is great...when I don't have a baby someday, it'll be better).  I think that's how I want them to remember it...a muddled mess of math/cursive workbooks, mud, watering the garden, reading good books out loud, running to the store and getting a cookie from the bakery, and just all being together.  I love having them all home!

It's full.  It's active.  It's bursting!

It's life.

Summer is the perfect amount of rest needed to get through the rigors of life coming later in the year.

Summertime and the living is easy....sing it Ella!!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Celebration

Aaaahhhh...some quiet.  Some respite.  Some time to WRITE!  I feel like I've been lacking in any time to write a coherent thought these days.  And every time I think about sitting down, the guilt of not writing sets in and tells me to put it off another day.

But alas, today I am determined.  The big boys are at the baseball field playing, the little people are sleeping, the husband is in a meeting and my house is perfectly still.  This may only last for five more minutes but, I am going to take advantage of the quiet as long as I can!
Us with the diploma.  Since it was such an odd and huge size, we had to get it custom framed.  Worth it.  Turned out beautiful.
This last month has been a whirlwind.  A whirlwind of Steve graduating from Texas A & M, the boys finishing out the school year, Steve graduating another class of seniors, parent/child illnesses, having fun outside, getting used to the summer routine, saying good-bye to some best friends who have moved across the country and best of all...putting on the biggest, best graduation party we could to honor Steve finishing up his masters.
Just as the party is getting started and sun is beginning to wane...a little glimpse.
Truth be told, that is what took most of time.  Yup, the graduation celebration.  It was seriously the perfect night.  Whenever I think about it, I smile from ear to ear.  There are a few days that stand out to us over the last eleven years as special days.  Of course, the births of our children are up there.  But this night ranks right up there with the best of them.

Let me tell you a little bit about it.
My sister-in-law captured this and called it the "Pic of the Night."  I quite agree!  Steve told me that there haven't been many nights when he's been happier.  
I started planning this party months in advance.  Seriously.  Months.  It was one of the things that kept me going during that last semester of thesis and the final push/last class.  I kept thinking, "Ooooh, I will incorporate that into the party."  Or, "We need to have that at the party."  It was like planning Christmas in July.  I kept a running list of all of my ideas.  It was so much fun and kept my eyes on the prize.
My Daddy and me.  His beautiful backyard was the setting of the party.
As graduation got closer, there were moments when we seriously considered flying out to Texas and having Steve walk.  Especially when we found out he was graduating with honors and was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi etc.  It was so hard to keep getting emails regarding all the graduation honors dinners, ceremonies and not be going!  But the price tag was too high for all of us to attend.  So we kept telling ourselves, "We're going to throw a huge party instead and it will be the perfect celebration!"

And it was truly perfect.  Okay, I didn't have time to do my hair beforehand but other than that, it all went so incredibly well!  God blessed us.  We couldn't have asked for a better night.

One of the things that made the night perfect was the people who attended.  Of course I would've loved to invite the world!  But we had limited space and even more limited parking so, we had to work with it.  The guests were amazing though.  We had friends who drove hours to be there.  Some were very pregnant, some literally in the middle of a huge cross-country move, others in the throes of med school.  Some like my little brother, came from the other end of the state.  A lot of Steve's family drove from the Bay Area or took precious time off work.  And many of our local friends, who have lots of little kids, had to get babysitters which is expensive and can be difficult!  So our guests blessed us tremendously by just being there.  And we were so grateful!  It was a great group!
Everyone mingling
Best buddy Andy, as the party is just getting started.
Here are some of the decorations.  One of the things that was really important to me was incorporating Steve's work into the party.  I didn't think everyone would want a replay of his thesis presentation but, I did think they might wonder what a Masters in Mathematics really might look like.  So I got out his old notebooks full of problems he had worked out over the years and I used those pages to decorate.  I made bulletin boards out of them, I made table runners, and his textbooks became the centerpieces.
Bulletin board of scratch work with family pictures
Family pics in the trees  These little elements gave a personal touch to all of the decorations. I also incorporated as many family pictures as I could.  I just stole the framed pictures from my own walls, tied them up with some ribbon and then hung them in the trees.  The pictures and the pom poms made the whole night really festive and perfect.  I am not crafty.  Truly, I am NOT.  And I am cheap.  Most of the decorations I either had lying around my house (the mason jars, math stuff, etc...) or I got them at the Dollar Store.  So I was pretty proud and relieved with how it all turned out.  
Table runners, luminaries and cloth napkins tied with one of Maxwell's Equations
Steve's spot with good ole Maxwell at this side!
I also had a ton of help prior to the party, the day of setting up and during the party as well.  Both my mom and Steve's mom watched the children for me so that I could get errands done the week before.  Both of my brothers helped BBQ the sausages.  My sister-in-law and a friend took pictures.  Steve's sister helped me set-up beforehand and finish with all of the final push stuff like getting the kids dressed.  Unbelievable!  My parents cleaned and prepared their house for tons of guests.  Friends and family prepared appetizers and donated tables and chairs.  One friend spent an afternoon helping me make pom poms.  Another got me all of the linens for free from a contact she had.  Other friends drove from really far away.  The list goes on and on.  And I'm still forgetting someone, I know it!  All of the help we had was amazing.  And we were so grateful!
Pete going strong on the BBQ
The lights that made the party look amazing!  Those lights were a labor of love.  My Dad, Steve and my brother Pete spent two hours that day hanging them up.
Guests listening to me give a history of the masters.  How we got started and some of the highlights from the last three and a half years.
Our oldest, taking in the diploma.
Guests enjoying dinner and each other.  I was really intent on assigned seating.  I felt it would really add to the night so that people would know where to go and who to sit with.  Most people commented what a fun time they had at their table.
Probably one of the most special parts of the night though, came in the speeches.  After I gave my little History of the Masters, I let the guests eat a bit and then I gave some stats from the Masters.  A little history in numbers you might say.  That was something I had worked on for months.  I approximated how many cups of coffee he probably bought at Starbucks (about 688) or how many hours he spent studying (about 2128 hours), etc...It was really fun to bring our guests into our world over the last three and a half years through those stats.  That was one of my favorite parts.  Steve had no idea I was doing it either which made it even more fun.      
Nathan and me giving the stats.
But even more special were the speeches.  One of Steve's best friends and fellow MV colleague, gave him a beautiful speech honoring him for his hard work.  Seriously made me cry.  So beautiful.
Devin giving his speech.
 Then one of Steve's best friends from Cal Poly got up and read a poem he had written to Steve.  Amazing.  I pretty much lost it at that point.  So, so special.
Andy's poem
And then, the most special of all, is that Steve got up and gave me a thank you speech for all of the hard work, for the encouragement, and for believing in him.  I'll never forget him saying, "While I was out solving these massive, difficult, extremely intricate math problems, Nikki was solving every other problem around me so that I was free to do what God has built me to do."  I'll never forget those words to me-ever.
Steve thanking me for being his biggest fan and support during it all.  To me, it was a pleasure to see him fly.
 After all of the speeches, guests were dismissed to watch a slide show put together by one of our buddies here at Monte Vista, while the cake was being cut.  I'll try and get that slide show up on the blog soon.  It was so perfect and really captured the journey we had been on and all that God had helped us accomplish.

Our favorite cake in the world with Maxwell on it.  A perfect ending to a perfect night.
It was a beautiful, incredible, God honoring, Steve-celebrating kind of night.  I wouldn't have changed one thing.  From the babysitters who helped watch our children, to the shuttle drivers helping people get parked, every detail seemed to go off without a hitch.  And most of all, my husband felt totally and completely blessed beyond measure.

Thankful for these past three and a half years.  Thankful for the Masters.  Thankful  to God for blessing us through the difficulties and the seemingly endless journey with love, perseverance, a sense of humor and grace that could only come from Him.

Congrats Steve!  We love you.  You ran the race well...looking forward to all God is going to bring through your hard work.