7.28.2014

Gracefully made

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there lived a mostly sweet 4-year old who dreamed of being a rock star and whose parents decided to defy genetics and enroll her in a dance class.

the perfect pose for the girl I call "my philosopher"

While I have videos of her dancing, I'm not able to transfer any of my videos onto the computer.  So, take my word for it that she is ADORABLE!  She is graceful and poised... and typically a tad silly.

Overall, she LOVED dancing, even though she often wanted to skip dance class.  However, once she arrived and entered the room of mirrors, she would jump, twirl, curtsy, smile and stare.

Her teacher was a friend of mine, so once again, Hazel had the benefit of knowing her teacher well and feeling comfortable.  What a gift!

If I looked like this, I would stare too!



I must admit, that by the time the recital came around, the DANCE MOM in me began to roar it's ugly head.  It really bothered me that she didn't know the routines (but neither did the rest of the girls).  Practicing once a week for 9 months just didn't cut it.  So, I learned the routines and began practicing them at home.  It helped a lot, but next time, I'll do that MUCH earlier so that her knowledge and confidence are ready.

During her shows, she literally sparkled!  The big stage, bright lights and full auditorium didn't phase her in the least!  I was super nervous, but she was merely excited.  She did a great job, sometimes even leading her class in the right steps!

Here are her professional group photos.  She had a really nice, small class and enjoyed these "friends" (though in true preschool form, never learned their names!)...and I enjoyed getting to know their parents as we watched each week through the 2-way mirror.



Until the girls have a strong opinion, I'm alternating them between dance and gymnastics.  This year Heidi is old enough to join in on the fun!  She has waited patiently (often by dancing in the hallway of the dance studio in her ballet shoes) and I can't wait to see what amazing things the girls will do this year!

Regardless, I know there will be no shortage of adoring fans :)


7.27.2014

Summer Projects

We are at the tail end of one of those blissful summer weekends in which there are no steadfast plans, errands to run, reasons to do anything other than what you want to do.  In theory, all weekends are like this, but in reality, they are rare gems.

We watched a rocket launch and visited with friends, organized a few more small areas in the home, did a yard work, read a book in the hammock (THIS ONE WAS ME), watched a parade, shopped, cooked healthy dinners, laughed with our kids, etc.  In fact today I actually said "This is one of those days that seems to have extra hours!".  I've had time to worship, clean, play, read, do a craft project, visit, cook, and now blog!

Jake spent the day taming his gardens.  We took this year off from gardening since he was out of time between work and school and the yard has been a tad embarrassing.  Now, even though we aren't getting ready to harvest anything, at least it is tame and it is easy to imagine the gorgeous gardens that will be there again one day.

As I write, the girls are enjoying some parade candy and watching Aladdin.  I'm anxious to get back to my book, but wanted to squeeze in a little blogging time since there is so much that I want to post on here.  Jake is organizing his clothes (we've all had massive closet/dresser/etc reorganizations this summer) while waiting on friends to arrive and help lift the girls playhouse INTO A TREE.  Did I mention that it is POURING?  Thunder, lightening, torrential down pours, flood warnings, etc!

Yet, he thinks his comrades are still going to show up and lift the house into the platform he's built in the trees.  I'm a tad doubtful... and yet I've come to believe that most things are possible with Jake.

LIKE THIS PROBLEM:

This antenna has been attached to the roof of our house for a LOOOONG time.  It isn't something we use, but was not a priority to remove.  That is until a storm this spring ripped 3/4 of it from our roof.  Somehow it didn't break the window beneath- which would have been quite the horrid wake up call that it was past time to tackle this problem.

I INSISTED we hire someone to do this because this part of the house is 3 stories from the ground.  In true martial harmony, Jake ignored me and one day I found him like this (above).

Luckily, rock climbers are versatile and he had quite the system to safe guard himself.  Using more rock climber knowledge, I was able to assist the antenna down using a friction belay and the problem was solved.  Well, the antenna problem was solved.  The "how to get Jake off the roof" problem was what he had been waiting for!  Sigh...


And that my friends is what happens when you marry a Kosker.  Another project tackled, another eye roll from a wife, another happy homesteader.

7.21.2014

Lutherlyn Family Camp :: The Perfect Vacation!



I had to take a few weeks off before writing this post to fully reflect on why our week at Lutherlyn's Family Camp was the PERFECT vacation.  Spoiler Alert:  After reading this, you will be racing me to sign-up for Family Camp next year.  GO AHEAD... that's precisely what I want to happen.  I'll even offer to camp in a tent for the week if all the cabins get filled (I believe there were 5 empty cabins this summer... that's not very many!).

First a little background:  I was a camper at Lutherlyn for 5 years, summer camp counselor for 3 years and full-time staff for 2 years.  My husband was a camper there for probably 10 years and counselor there for 1 year.  We met there, we fell in love there, we've baptized our children there, we've made the majority of our "lifetime" friends there, my sister worked there, I met my brother-in-law there...  This place is HUGE for us.  It is the greatest place on the planet (though I might be a tad biased).

When I worked there, I could never understand why families would come there for vacation.  It's a place for KIDS, yet a huge amount of family campers are adults without kids.  WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT?  Even for families with kids, I didn't get the appeal.  Hey, if you live in paradise, you become immune to it, right?

Despite my history of not understanding the allure of Family Camp, this past winter I had, what my husband has deemed "MY BEST IDEA EVER"!  "Jake, why don't we go to Family Camp this year?".  The subcontext that we both immediately understood was:

  • Let's go to an all-inclusive resort where 70+ highly trained college students (they have a rigorous 2 weeks of staff training, WAY more than any other camp I've ever heard of) will entertain, teach, engage our children for part of the day while we do ADULT THINGS.
  • Let's go on a vacation where we don't have to cook or wash dishes.
  • Let's go on a vacation where we never get into our car to go anywhere.
  • Let's go on a vacation where the day is packed with awesome activities that we can chose from, without ever shelling out money for these activities.
  • Let's go to a place that attracts interesting people so we can engage in meaningful conversations while our kids do whatever they want to do on this safe, beautiful 600 acre property.
  • Let's go on a vacation with some of our favorite people (granted, this was an advantage for us... but even if you don't know anyone there, you will quickly meet people who you "click" with... there's something in the water there that makes this happen!).
THE COST:
I tend to think anything that isn't free or less than $10 is expensive.  It blows Jake's mind that I can look at any restaurant menu and feel aghast at the prices.  It's a gift.  So, let's cover this part first because for this family, this is always the first obstacle discussed.  In fact, we hadn't gone on a week long vacation with our kids EVER!

Here is what it cost my family of four (click here to see your family scenario costs):
  • Cabin= $258.  Now when I say "cabin", I mean gorgeous wooden cabin with large porch, six beds, nice bathroom, carpet and plenty of plugs for the multitude of fans, clocks, etc I travel with.
  • Adult program and meals= $284 x 2 = $568
  • Kid program and meals= $125 x 2 = $250
  • TOTAL = $1076
Ok, that is a hard pill to swallow!  But, that works out to about $180 a day (Sunday dinner through Saturday breakfast)... or $60 per meal... or

$15 per person per meal!?!?!  WAIT ONE GOSH DARN MINUTE!  For $15 per person, I can feed my family GOURMET food without lifting a finger, stay in gorgeous clean cabins, have programming for all interests and ages, get perks like swimming lessons, high ropes course, pony rides, parade with candy, have s'more roasts and dessert buffets, etc FOR NO EXTRA CHARGE?!?

Speaking of meals, camp has come a LONG way from the 5 years I was on staff.  They have a head chef who specializes in delicious foods and fascinating flavors.  I wish I had more pics, but my saliva almost ruined my camera:
Salad bar at every meal and a delicious turkey dinner!


THE ACTIVITIES:
Here was a basic day for us:
Daily Schedule and coloring fun
8:30 breakfast
Kid Bible study music into, parachute games, Adult Bible Study
9:15-11:45 take the kids to their camp counselors for their age group activities and Bible study.  I don't seem to have saved their daily schedule, but they learned A TON of songs, had a simple Bible Study played games, etc.
9:30-11:45 Jake and I head to one of the Adult Bible studies and engage in meaningful dialogue about the state of our world, the climate, our responsibilities, etc.  Jake is not interested in the Bible, yet he loves having discussions with the Director, Pastor Randy because well, we talk about REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF!
11:45-12:15 Swimming lessons
12:30 LUNCH 
1:30 Head to the cabin for rest time.  This is when we often had a babysitter (counselors available FREE OF CHARGE) so that we could do adult things like crafts or the high ropes course (granted, a friend of ours asked to be in the adjoining cabin so that she could be my kids camp Grandma for the week.  Spoiled much?  THANKS LESLIE!)
3:00 pool, explore nature center, fish, craft cabin, pony rides, parachute games, etc
5:15 DINNER 
6:00 Group activity (one night this was a talent show, one night this was minute to win it games, one night was "Christmas in July" activities, one night was SQUARE DANCING, etc)
7:15 Preschool Campfire (only offered on select nights)
8:00 Camp style worship (if we could stay up that late!)
9:00 BED (for the kids)
9:30 PARTY ON OUR PORCH with old and new friends

Hello Joe Ice breaker song, Hazel on climbing net (note: this activity is for 7th grade and older, we brought special gear and made special arrangements.  This is not available for others (ie non-Koskers), Heidi lounging on the creek hike, Hazel at swimming lessons, posing in front of the sign for the first week of camp (this was taken on July 4th), Jake and Hazel at the square dance, the FACE DIP challenge on the creek hike, by the end of the week Heidi was EXHAUSTED :)

Phew, that was one busy day!  Notice how we NEVER got into our car?  It was awesome!  My kids actually smiled for the entire week!  Plus, since it's such a safe place, they could be FREE.  After each meal, Hazel's favorite thing was to leave our table and RUN OUTSIDE where she would play with other kids.  Can you imagine simply letting your children leave your table while on vacation and running free?  Yes, they had boundaries for how far they could go, but I didn't have to worry.... there were always staff and guests near and handfuls of other kids doing the same thing.  It was so awesome for her growing sense of autonomy and self confidence!

THE PEOPLE:
Lutherlyn has the uncanny ability of attracting interesting people.  Sit next to anyone and you will find yourself deep in a great conversation.  While the majority of people there are Lutheran, certainly not everyone is and diversity is the spice of life... so the more diverse, the better!  All worships and Bible Studies are optional, I know quite a few people who attend neither and that is ok.
The majority of people who attended all week.  In case you're playing "Where's Waldo Kosker":  We are at the bottom right.

Okay, I can't resist ONE MORE COLLAGE!  I call this one "Favorite moments":
clockwise:  Hazel sang "I'm A Little Tea Cup" for the talent show...she got a standing ovation, super cute kids at a camp worship, one of the "free play" times after dinner (they found our dear friends TyManda and were playing duck duck goose.  RUN Heidi RUUUN!), more parachute games, floating candles during Friday night worship (Amanda and Hazel got to do this together with our "family" cross), Hazel riding Susie- her FAVORITE horse!


So, who is joining us at Lutherlyn's Family Camp next year?

7.13.2014

Hazel's Preschool Graduation

May I present...

On May 20th (ahem, I am quite behind on many posts!), I had the privilege of watching a self confident, sweet, joyful girl join her Preschool class for their graduation program.

She learned SO many things this year!  The first time she blew me away this year was when all of a sudden (like in October), she was able to recite the ENTIRE LORD'S PRAYER!  It never occurred to me that a 4 year old could learn such a long and difficult passage!  Throughout the year, she LOVED going to "school".  We are so blessed that our church houses a wonderful preschool program.  Hazel's first formal learning experience was in a place where she was completely comfortable and her teachers were familiar faces.  IDEAL!

Most of what Hazel would discuss with me were the nuances of social interactions.  She loved making new friends and playing with these friends, but she had (has) A LOT to learn about giving friends space and picking up on their cues.  However, she is like a flower, attracting a beautiful array of butterflies around her.  She is getting really good at setting boundaries on how people are allowed to treat her ("friends don't treat each other that way") and has learned that sometimes friends say hurtful things, but if you forgive them and talk to them, you usually still have a wonderful friendship.

Perhaps my PROUDEST MAMA MOMENT was when we received a Thank You note after her graduation from one of her teachers (we gave them flower seeds and chalkboard pots), her teacher wrote:

  "She really is a special little girl and her self confidence and independence will serve her well as she goes forward.  She's also a nice little girl, willing to include others anytime- great attitude and not all that common!" (underline in original)

WOW!  I could not have asked for a better end result to her first year of education!  We are SO proud of this little girl and honored to be her parents.

Her favorite activity in school is coloring pictures and her coloring has matured in leaps and bounds over the year.  She can consistently spell her name, though sometimes she jumbles a letter or two and she can name almost all of the capital letters correctly.  Truth be told, I really eased off forcing these skills at home once my research taught me that forcing young kids to drill writing/reading skills doesn't improve their skills long term, but often does create a distaste for learning and reading.

One of the coolest things has been watching her family portaits (and name) evolve:


I LOVE how insignificant she made Heidi in this one!  Art = Honesty :)
current:
any day now we are going to all start getting ARMS!  It's an exciting life we lead :)


All in all, Hazel "graduated" with all the skills we had hoped for:  confidence when facing new tasks, growing social skills, understanding school expectations and letter recognition.  I never imagined her changing so much in such a short time... sniff sniff...



Additionally, after A LOT of discussion and hand wringing, we've decided to send Hazel to a second year of PreK.  If she had not been born 5 weeks early, she would not be eligible for Kindergarten this fall.  She was, so she is... but we're opting for another year of childhood rather than an earlier year of adulthood.  Following?  Plus, these days Kindergarten is INTENSE!  All day, rigorous, awesome, but chock full of reading, writing, arithmetic.  Since we have the option, we're choosing to give her another year full of imagination, free play, NAPS and small intimate groups of friends.  We are sending her to a different Preschool that is in a school building and more days & hours per week.  A perfect stepping stone (we hope!).