Our Blog

Thoughts on Kindergarten


Corbin has now been in Kindergarten for 6 weeks.  Today was his last half day and on Monday he will start full day.  I thought this would be a good time to post some of the thoughts I've had sending my oldest off to school.

The first several days of school I could barely get any information out of Corbin to tell me how his day went.  I decided that I would have the kids each tell me things they did that day while we eat lunch.  Corbin has to tell me 5 because he's 5 and Cason has to tell me 3 because he's 3.  They caught on to that real quick and now requre me to tell them 32 things I did.  (I pretty much tell them every little detail of my day and I may or may not actually get up to 32.)  Once they tell me the things they did then it is easier to ask follow up questions.  Then I get a better sense of their day. 

Normally, this is what Corbin tells me he does.

Roll Call.  His teacher told the class they could say "here" or "present".  Corbin likes to say "present".  

Morning meeting.  I'm not exactly sure what goes on during this time.  Probably go over the calendar or any other business Kindergarteners may have.  I'm sure it's all very important.

Recess.  Right now he just has one snack time recess which will change when they start eating lunch at school.  He loves to play ninja with his friends.  One friend in particular always says "Hi ninga" whenever he sees him.  Corbin says it back.  It's pretty cute.

Read-a-loud.  Corbin's teacher reads a book to the kids.  

Math.  I've tried asking about this but get nothing.

Marbles.  They get marbles put in a jar for good behavior.  When the jar is full they get a popcorn party and watch Finding Nemo.  They also get marbles taken out of the jar for bad choices.  Corbin tells me who made them get the marble out and what they did wrong.  But he also tells me how happy he is when a friend makes a good choice. 

Coloring.  I get so many coloring papers that it is crazy.  But his school drawings are way more detailed than his home drawings.  Also, he tells me how they will draw stories with different themes.  One theme was sad and he drew a picture of Cason hitting him.  Another theme was exciting and he drew a picture of his family on a roller coaster.  I haven't actually seen these drawings yet.

I asked Corbin what his favorite thing to do at school was and he said to do the work and make something for his teacher.  His least favorite thing about school is when one of his classmates "calls out" which means talking without raising their hand.  He also doesn't like that he can't bring a backpack to school.  For some reason they told the Kindergarteners they can't bring them.  Each Kindergartener has an envelope that is their "mail bag" that they bring home papers in.  

Some of the things I've loved about Kindergarten for Corbin is that after school a lot of his classmates say bye to each other.  On our walk home we constantly hear "Bye Corbin".  There are these twins in his class that drive by us every day and yell "Bye Corbin" out their window that their dad has rolled down for them.  It's so cute! (By the way, there are 12 sets of twin Kindergarteners at Corbin's school this year.  He has one full set in his class, and 2 other who are separated from their siblings.  And that's just what I know for sure.  Crazy!)  I also love that Corbin knew 4 kids in his class before.  2 from preschool and 2 from church.  I like that his school has a song about being responsible and respectful and they talk about it with the kids a lot.  The first week of school he told me lots about what it means to be responsible.  Which brings me the last thing I love which is even in these short 6 weeks, Corbin has already learned so much.  He will tell me random things he has learned like the difference between fiction and non-fiction.  He has been learning emotions better and has to draw "sad" stories or "exciting" stories.  Another thing that I have been liking more than I thought I would is the homework.  The only required homework they have is to read or be read to 20 minutes a night and we keep a log of the books.  And then have optional homework as well which is to keep a journal at home and then a monthly family project.  I still have Corbin work in an at home workbook so that I can track how he is doing and we decided to do the journal as well.  I think it's all just good practice for him.

What I haven't liked is there are a gazillion things to remember.  This volunteer opportunity, this snack, this fundraiser, this picnic, needing to wear a certain color on a certain day.  Seriously, the paper work is never ending, my calendar is filled to the brim with notes and reminders.  And I still feel like I'm not on top of everything.  Honestly, it is crazy.  I can't even imagine having all 3 in school full time.  The other thing I do not like is what he may be learning from other kids or what other kids may say to him.  At lunch, after only his second day of school, Corbin asked me "Where do babies come from?"  Cason said, "From mommy's tummy!"  I agreed with Cason and said "Yes that is where they come from."  Corbin then asked, "But how do they get in there?"  I gave him a brief, age appropriate answer and since I mentioned the word "egg" he moved on to talking about how he just thought birds had eggs.  It was all fine, but I had wondered if it had been mentioned at recess or if he really just thought it up on his own out of nowehere.  Also, the other day Corbin told me that some kids from another class started calling him "baby" on the playground.  He said he told them to stop, which I said was the right thing to do.  I don't think Corbin really cared that much but he did care enough to tell me.  I know stuff like this will happen all his life but I just wish I could stop it.  

The last thought I had about Corbin at Kindergarten is how much he seems to be like me.  There are just certain things he does or thinks that remind me of exactly how I was at school.  It will be interesting to see if that continues.

We are excited to see what full day Kindergarten will bring!


I guess I'm in a "posting my thoughts" mood and this is another one that has been on my mind lately.  It's no secret that Connor and I are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons.  We take our beliefs seriously and they are very important to us.

Why do I believe?

1)  I cannot discount the countless number of times I have felt strong impressions that this is the church I should belong to.  I believe those impressions come from God through the Holy Ghost.  They are sacred and special experiences to me.  Some people believe feelings are not enough of a reason to believe something.  I think feelings are everything.  We all make choices every single day based on feelings.  


2)  This brings up another point, evidence.  What would prove to someone that what I believe is true?  Would seeing angels, or God, or Jesus be proof?  There have been times in history where this has happened.  But either those people are called crazy OR the people themselves may discount those experiences.  I think Heavenly Father knows there is never going to be enough proof for some of His children.  So that's why I think that proof and evidence are pretty relative.  What may be proof to me may not be proof for you and vice versa.  


3)  I know there is negative information out there about the church.  I don't know all of it, nor do I need to know all of it to make my decisions about being a member of this church.  How can I know that the information I read from who knows what source is the complete truth?  How can I know that information isn't exaggerated or lied about?    How can I know ALL the facts and intentions involved?  The truth is, I can't know.  I can know what I know.   I know what I feel.  I can choose who I believe, and what source feels the most accurate to me.  Not everyone chooses the same I do.  That doesn't make what I believe any less accurate to me.  You could argue for days telling someone that it's ridiculous they don't look at the evidence when really they just may see the evidence differently.  I also think it is pretty silly to think that we could have all the evidence for everything right now.  Every day there is something new to be learned.  


4)  I definitely do not understand every thing the church teaches.  But that is not enough reason to leave the church.  I didn't understand everything I was taught at school, but that was not enough reason to leave school.  I don't understand everything the world teaches, but that's not enough reason to leave the world.  One of the best talks I have heard about this was given in April of this year by Elder Holland.  


5)  I think anyone who loves their family or who has lost someone close to them can understand the hopelessness that comes of thinking you may never see them again after death.  I believe that I will see my family again, even though losing my dad was the hardest thing I have ever gone through.  I need that belief that I can be with my family forever.  Life would be much harder without knowing that.

IMG 0692

6) There is obviously some contreversary about what we believe, specifically about gay marriage.  And that has been an interesting subject especially living in California.  It hasn't been an easy to try and figure out for myself either.  I have thought about it a lot and realize how sensitive it is for everyone.  First of all, I feel love towards everyone.  I do believe people should be able to choose how they live, who they love, what causes they want to support.  Basically everything in life is a choice and we all have free will to make those choices.  I do think I deserve that same freedom.  Just like I don't call other people names for their choices, I deserve that same respect.  And let's just say that when we die, if we find out that the Mormons were right, isn't it better for me that I did what I thought was best?  That when I meet God, He doesn't ask me why I didn't do more when I believe what I do?


As Elder Holland counseled,

I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have.  I AM asking you to be true to the faith you DO have.  


What I believe, know, and have faith in is this:  I know there is a Heavenly Father who loves me and all people on this earth.  I know His son, Jesus Christ, was sent here to earth to help all of us to return to live with Him.  I know that we are given trials and challenges to make us stronger.  I know that life isn't easy.  I know that I can live with family forever and I have no doubt that my dad is going to be there waiting for me when I die.  I know that I will never know everything on this earth.  I know that prayers are answered.  I know that following commandments to the best of my ability brings me peace.  I know that helping and serving others only brings me more blessings.  This is what I want my family and even the world to know.


Our House: Becoming Homeowners

IMG 7655

Here are some of my thoughts about owning a home.  (Take it for what it's worth since we've only been homeowners for exactly 2 months.)

-People say you can do whatever you want to your house and not have to worry about landlords.  That is true, but whenever we do something to our house I think about potential buyers if we ever decide to sell the house.  So that's pretty much the same.

-You are no longer paying rent, of course, but there is the potential to lose money that you invested in a house.  That doesn't happen when you are renting.  But, of course, there is no possibility to make money either.  Unless the whole balance is paid, technically you are "renting" the house from the bank but you still have to fix what goes wrong.

-We just had our first fix it situation as homeowners.  The tub faucet starting leaking hot water.  Since the previous owners had us purchase a home warranty before we bought the house then it was covered but there was still a deductible.  Less than it normally would cost, but still not "free" like it would have been if we were renting.  

-I think one of the main things I love about owning a house is the security.  We aren't going to be kicked out and we feel like we can more long term plans.

(I may add more to this if I think of anything.)

Kinsley is 15 Months


Oh this Kinsley girl is growing up too fast.  I feel like she is just developing way more rapidly than the boys.  Of course she is still tiny but the things that she does.  Crazy. 


-is 18 lbs 14.3 oz. and in the 4th percentile.  So far no worries about this yet.
-is 29 inches and in the 10th percentile.  
-has a head circumferences of 44 3/4 cetimenters and is 25th percentile.
-loves to color.  The boys do workbooks in the afternoon before naps and Kinsley was making it so hard for them to do them becuase she wanted one of the books and crayons.  So I got her own book and now she is as happy as a clam to be "working" too.


-is talking more and more.  Some of her words are: mama, dada, nana, papa, hot, hot dog (gog gog), please (sees), cheese (tees), thank you (ta you), eye, hi, bye bye (buh bye), ball (ba), banana (nana), night night (nigh nigh), sock (ock).  When she wants something she points and screeches for it.  Sometimes she babbles while points.  She sometimes will have conversations.  She will just babble and then wait for a respoonse and then babble some more.  It's so cute and fun to see how much she thinks she is communicating with us.  
-is still obsessed with fluffy animals and loves to snuggle them.  She also loves animals, dogs and birds in particular.  She can also say a lot of animal sounds as well.  Sheep, dog, duck, lion, fish, tiger, cat, horse are the ones she knows.  Her favorite animal sound is the sheep sound. 
-is still pretty friendly but she is more hesitant around people.  At the doctor today she wouldn't smile and was not very cooperative while she was being checked out.  The most friendly she got towards the doctor was when I told her to say "bye bye".  
-has been folding her arms when we say a prayer for a month or so now.   But it would just be clasping her hands together for the start of the prayer.  Now she is full on folding her arms and keeps them folderd through the whole prayer.  


-is mostly happy.  She is very clingy from 3-5 as all my kids have been and it seems most kids are.  The way I've been able to make dinner is stick her in her chair at the counter and give her a few snacks.  This girl could snack all day long.  


-is very affectionate as all my kids have been.  We love to give snuggles and loves in this house!!
-is walking very well.  She tries a little bit of running and she can climb on stools.  I don't have to watch her too closely for this yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

Kinsley's schedule hasn't changed much in the last several months but it will soon once Corbin starts full day Kindergarten.  Here it is her schedule for the next couple weeks (and hopefully on all the days Corbin doesn't have school).

6:30am:  Wake up
7:00am:  Breakfast
8:00am: Gets dressed and play time
9:15am:  Nap
11:00am:  Wake up
11:30am:  Pick up Corbin and sometimes Cason from school
12:00pm:  Lunch
1:00pm:  Workbooks
1:30pm:  Nap
3:30pm:  Wake up and play
5:30pm:  Dinner
7:00pm:  Bath, pj's, books, song, prayer
7:30pm:  Bed

There hasn't been much waking up in the night lately and if she does she goes right back to sleep after we make sure she has her binky, blankets and animals.

Our House: Our Likes and Dislikes

We love our house.  We love pretty much every single thing about our house.  There are only a couple things (that can't be changed) that we don't love.

1) It would be nice to have a llittle bit bigger backyard to put a whole play structure and/or tampoline in but we still love what we have!!!!
2) It would be nice to have a garage that we can fit junk and both cars in.  We only have room for junk and 1 car.
3) It would be nice to have a bigger kids bathroom.
4) I would love to have a bathtub in the master bathroom.
5) We don't hate that we are on a busy road but it would be nice not to be and if we are talking location it would be nice to have the house across the street to be in the better high school district.
6) The power lines in our backyard.  These bother Connor more than me since all the older houses here have them so I'm pretty used to them.

That is it.  Not huge problems.  Definitely things we can live with and we ultimately feel blessed to have this place as our home.  

What we love about our house:

1) That we have a yard.  A yard that we can entertain in, that the boys can ride bikes in, and do all kids of exploring in.  I also love that we have fruit trees and have space to grow more food!
2)  That we have 4 bedrooms.  It's nice to have an acual room for guests to stay when they visit.  
3) The laundry room.  (More on this soon!)
4) The kitchen.  I honestly didn't think we could ever have a kitchen that would come close to our last one but this one does.  The color choices may not be my favorite, but I definitely love being in my kitchen.
5) I love that the kids toys and the living room are separate.  We rarely have toys in our living room now and I LOVE THAT!!!!!
6) I love looking out the master bedroom window and to have a view of the mountain-hills as I call them.  It's not the best view in the world but it is a view and I've never had one before.
7) We have a digital speed limit sign and a light pole in our front yard.  While it isn't the nicest thing to look at we actually like that the sign telling people to slow down is in front of our house.  And to have our yard lit up all night long also makes us feel safer.  (Not that we don't feel safe anyway.)
8) I love having a linen closet.  
9) I love having a separate dining room even if we have never used it to eat at once the whole time we've lived here.  See #10
10) I love having an eat in kitchen with a counter and stools.
11)  I love having double ovens.
12)  Even though this kitchen is not as tall as our last place, we have more cabinet space.  I have a couple cabinets and drawers that are empty and some that aren't even organized properly.  Once I do that, I'll probably even have more free space.
13) Our mud room in the garage.  (More on this soon!)

There are also things that we don't love about the house that can be changed.  And I'm sure those will be blogged about when they get done.  

Academy of Science

Corbin has been asking for weeks if we could go to the aquarium sometime.  Since we haven't been to the one in San Francisco since it had been renovated years ago, we decided to head up there on a free Saturday we had.  We surprised them the morning of and they were pretty excited.

Aquarium 2df

When we got there Corbin was rushing through most of the exhibits.  I couldn't figure out why.  I thought maybe he was just so excited to finally be there.  Well, when we got to the big fish tank with all the fish that is when he stopped and slowed down and watched all the fish.  He could of sat there all day. 


But before we got there, we went through the rainforest exhibit that was so cool.  It was beautiful and there were birds and butterfles flying all around.  Kinsley, Connor and I loved this part.  It was cute to see Kinsley so excited to see all the butterflies and try to catch them.


After looking at the aquarium part, we had lunch and then checked out a few of the other exhibits.  There was an earthquake exhibit that the boys thought would be too scary but it ended up being Cason's favorite.


Then Corbin was excited to hold a hippo tooth.


I swear I took more pictures than this.  But I guess not.  Here are the kids as we are leaving.  As you can tell they are very cooperative for pictures.


On the way home, tuckered out.  Pretty much the only way Cason will take a nap these days is in the car.


Bicylce! Bicycle!

About a week ago, Corbin was playing with some toys and started belting out this song, "Bicylce! Bicycle! I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bike."  I instantly recognized it as a Queen song and it made me think of my dad.

I have memories listening to Queen and singing aloud this song with my dad and siblings.  Another reason it reminds me of my dad is that he loved to ride his bicycle.  After he passed, none of us could believe that we had no pictures of my dad with his bike.  

But Corbin LOVES to ride his bike and I have a feeling my dad is with him every time he does!

IMG 4869

Marriage for Eternity

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…Children are entitled to birth within the bond of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.                                                     -The Family: A Proclamation to the World


This is a subject that has been on my mind for some time now.  I would say months, even a year.  But in reality it has been on my mind since I was about 12 years old when I first learned that my parents would be divorcing.  After listening to the talks on marriage and family on Sunday, I decided now would be the time to write out my thoughts.  I  know this isn't the most read blog in the world, but it is for my kids and I want them to know how important this subject is to me.

My parents told me they would be getting a divorce a few weeks before my 13th birthday.   I had already suspected since I was aware they were no longer sleeping in the same bed or even the same room.  I told them they could not talk to me about it until after my birthday, one, because I thought it would ruin my birthday and two, I didn't want to face the reality of it.

About a month after my birthday, I went to my first Girls Camp and I came home to a new house, and my dad gone.  To say I was devestated is an understatment, but since I was basically still a child, I didn't know what else to do but keep pressing forward.  I don't think I cried a whole lot at first.  That came later and then often.  


My mom took us to counseling and signed me up for a "kids with divorced parents" group at school.  I don't know if I actually got anything out of that group, other than getting to miss class an hour a week.  I know I didn't want to be there but I did take it for what it was worth.  Maybe what I learned was that divorce sucks for the kids and parents don't seem to care or understand.  That seemed to be the consensus.  

One specific, horrifying moment I had in 7th grade, was with my science teacher during a class time.  This was a teacher no one liked.  He was sometimes inappropriate with students and years later I heard he was fired.  He pulled me out of class and I can still remember where we were standing and the sights and sounds around me.  He started asking me about my parents divorce and asked me if my dad was seeing another woman and was that the reason they separated.  I shook my head no and he said "At least not that you know of."  I broke down crying since that thought hadn't even crossed my mind and he told me to get my things and go to the office.  Looking back at this, I have no idea what he was trying to achieve and it seems completely unacceptable and inappropriate for a teacher to behave this way.  As a child, I just did what adults asked and figured they knew best.  I'm pretty sure my mom talked to the principal about this but as far as I know nothing came of it.  

I had a hard time with my parents dating.  When I was 15, my mom told us she was getting remarried.  This was harder for me than the divorce.  It made things feel more final.  I felt she was choosing him over her kids and I told her how I felt.  She asked me if I wanted her to be happy.  Of course I did.  


After my mom remarried, she took my sister to live with her and her new husband.  My brother and I moved in with my dad (or more accurately, he moved in with us) so that we could stay at the same schools.  Of course, this wasn't the ideal situation, but there is no ideal situation after divorce.  My thoughts on marriage for eternity changed dramatically.  My parents weren't going to be married for eternity so why would I care about getting married in the temple for eternity.  This just wasn't a goal of mine anymore.  

High school was fun but also hard.  Family relations were good but sometimes strained.  Some how I got through high school relatively okay.  My high school had a project for our last year called a Senior Exhibition.  We picked a subject, any subject, that we would study and research and write a 15 page paper on.  Then we were to give a 20 minute presentation about it.  After brainstorming many ideas, I finally settled on the topic of "How divorce affects children".  All my research showed negative affects on children with divorced parents.  There wasn't really anything good that came of divorce for the children excpet in rare cases.  

After some time, both my parents were remarried.  It has been interesting process adjusting to step-parents.  There hasn't been anything easy about it and I have seen the problems that can arise because a spouse is step-parent and not the "real" parent.  I've often wondered about what the role of a step-parent should be.  I know what the role of a mother and father and husband and wife is.  That is plainly told us from God in the Family Proclamation.  But what about when there is a step-parent?  Do you put your spouse before your kids if they are a step-parent to them?  I will say that it is extremely hard to be a child that feels second to a step-parent.  And I don't think that feeling is the same when you are put second to your actual parent.  


Fast forward to when Connor and I were engaged.  Obviously, by this time, I did have a goal to get married in the temple and was blessed to find someone who loved me and wanted this as well.  Connor and I had a lot of conversations about the importance of marriage, the sanctity of marriage, and our NO divorce ever pact.  In fact, we were given advice to never even suggest in anger or in jest, getting a divorce.  Connor admitted to me that he never really wanted to marry someone who had divorced parents, but for some reason he felt he should marry me.  I also felt very strongly he was to be the person I should marry.  Before we got married, I never doubted that Connor was the one.  It wasn't until soon after we were married that the magnitude of the committment we made started to set in.  I could not go back now.  It was a little scary and I hoped and prayed for the best.  


The first year of marriage was probably the hardest as we were learning how each other does things.  It was also the most blissful since we just had each other and could still do almost anything we wanted to.  The next several years were hard too.  We started adding children and sometimes we disagreed what felt like all the time.  We contemplated counseling at various times but we would push through those times, not once mentioning divorce.  Right now, we feel at a really good place.  We feel more love for one another and we are truly happy with our choice to be with each other for eternity.  

IMG 7996

I do know that 7 years is a relatively short time to be married and we aren't naive enough to think we have seen the end of any problems or trials.  In fact, we are pretty certain there will be more and probably harder times to come.  This also isn't to judge other situations as every one is different and has their own choices to make.  Rather this is so my children know where their father and mother stand with each other and that we are committed to one another.  I know that there are lots of circumstances that one may say, "Well, what about this?  Surely, this is reason enough for divorce."  Connor and I decided early in our marriage that we would work and work and work for months or even years on issues that will come up.  We will do whatever is necessary to be together AND to be in love.  We don't want to just stay married for the kids.  We want to stay married because we love each other.

On our wedding day, my grandma gave me some advice.  She told me to write down everything I love about Connor.  And when we were having hard times, to go and read the list.  Sometimes when we are mad at our spouse we have a hard time remembering all the good things about them.  

After going back and reading this, I feel that it comes across as that maybe I don't have long lasting affects of the divorce and that this trial has helped me to be the person I am.  That is true, of course.  But I still feel the affects of it.  Sometimes I am still insecure.  Sometimes I still feel sad or angry about it.  Sometimes I still think my parents could have and should have tried harder to stay toegether.  Sometimes I still feel like they didn't think of us at all.  Sometimes I wish they hadn't gotten remarried.  Sometimes I feel like I deserved to have a mother and father who loved each other.  Sometimes I wish that I could have seen my parents happy together forever.  I do think my mom and dad were wonderful parents.  I just think they could have been even better parents if they had stayed married.  

So this is why I feel the way I do and why I feel so strongly about staying married through everything.  I know that my kids will be happier if Connor and I stay together forever.  And more than that, I know that I will be happier if I Connor and I stay together forever.  


© The Duke Fam 2014