Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Life of a Student Mother

For the past 4.5 years I have been a college student, 3 of those years I have also been a Mother.  It all started when Brigham Young University-Idaho held a fireside about their Pathways program. Going back to school was never at the top of my to-do list. After high school I went to a trade school and got licensed in California and Utah as an Esthetician. (You know, performing facials and waxing, chemical peels, etc). I am passionate about skin care and was excited to be an esthetician because it meant I could also take clients from my home and be a stay-at-home Mom at the same time.  (Which I proudly do currently in my not-so free time).  However, never having that college diploma and accomplishment was something I yearned for as time went on. 

I decided to enroll in the year long Pathway program and then graduated and was accepted to BYU-Idaho as one of their online students. Since then I have taken about 2-5 classes at a time. Online schooling is not the same as independent study. There are weekly due dates, tests, and group projects. For the most part, each one of my classes have required anywhere from around 5 hours-10 hours of work a week. In the beginning it was easy because I was working part-time and was just married. We then moved to Shanghai, which was perfect because I could still "attend" the school while half-way across the world. A year ago I received my associates degree in General Studies, and I am more than halfway to my Bachelors degree in Marriage and Family Studies. (46 credits away from graduation, to be exact. But who's counting?!) 

There have been times (more than I care to admit) that I sit down and think, is this worth it? The time I took math final in the hospital the day after my daughter was born, the time I had to do a report on earthquakes while on vacation in Japan. (Woe is me, I know.) the countless exams and group projects that I have had to do with other online students. The fact that it is going to take me twice as long to get my degree because I am also attempting raising a family. The absolute hardest part is the whole work/life balance. Of course, this is something all working parents go through. The difference is that I am stuck on my laptop as my daughter asks for milk, a cuddle, a diaper change, a snack, etc. Assignments that should take a half hour end up taking 2 hours because in the meantime, laundry needs to be done,  dinner needs to be cooked, and my daughter needs tending to. 

My friend asked me the other day, "so, why are you doing it? Why are you putting in so much effort? Are you going to work full time when you graduate?" The answer, is no. Well not initially. I hope to be able to be a stay-at home mom when my children are young, but I would also love to use my degree and work in its field when they are old enough for school. I know adding more to our family will only make it harder for me to complete assignments as time goes on. (We are pregnant with our second). Why not achieve this now? 

Don't get me wrong. Being a student is not all stressful and imperfect. I get grades and feedback from my professors. I love getting good grades for all of my efforts. Since Samantha isn't old enough to give me unsolicited praise for all my hard work as a Mom (is that ever going to happen?) It is nice to get an A at something and feel proud of my GPA. The things I have learned, as cheesy as it sounds have really helped me in my life. For instance, I just took a money management class that explained in detail the stock market, budgets, bank accounts, and taxes. Since my degree focuses on Marriage and Family studies, the classes I have taken have always helped me apply my knowledge right into my home. Then there was the time I took a "Family stress and Coping" course during our move back to the United States from China. I have never followed instruction from a textbook so much in my life. This stuff is so applicable! One of the biggest things I have appreciated is the fact that when Samantha goes to school and needs help with her own homework, I won't have to send her to her educated Father. 

I look forward to the day where I can walk across that stage and receive my diploma with my children watching me with (hopefully) admiration. I know they may be too young to appreciate my efforts at this moment. Samantha is a little jealous of all the time I spend with my computer, but one day I know she will look up at me and say, "wow, Mom. You got a degree while raising us? You are a freaking rockstar." And it will show her that SHE is also capable of doing hard things. 

Last week I passed a statistics test that was so hard I literally thought I was going to lose my mind. As I clicked submit and prayed harder than I probably ever have, I saw a surprisingly high score and fell to my knees. When I looked up from relief there was my husband with confetti cannons and balloons that said, "You rock." (He's a gem, I tell ya!) After hours of studying, trying to understand this foreign stats language, and taking practice tests, I had my reward. I will pass the class that will be guaranteed the hardest of my entire degree. I like to think that it is all smooth sailing from here until I graduate but I still have my internship and practicum to complete, so I don't want to get too confident. 

If you are a parent who is also yearning to learn and progress I encourage you to find opportunities that are available. Community colleges offer night courses, online courses are available and there is even certificates that may be better and more obtainable option to some. I know I haven't graduated yet, but in hopefully 7 semesters I will, and I can happily say that it will be a proud moment. I am already proud of the person I have developed into since almost 5 years of schooling. I hope to continue to learn, so I can teach my child they are worthy of an education one day, also. 

If you are  interested in hearing more about the Pathways program to get started on YOUR degree click below!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Nairobi, Kenya- Africa Adventure Continued

We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya very late at night and after being on a plane for 12 hours and having a layover for 9 hours in Ethiopia + another 2 hour plane ride, we had the best nights sleep. We woke up early and our guide Kevin greeted us with an awesome popup van and a full day set of activities. First up we were going to the Nairobi National Park for some Safari watching. This was our first safari experience and we were loving it. It was definitely fun to see the animals in their natural habitat. It is called a national park but it mainly is just a vast environment where they roam free, and are protected by poachers. 

We came across a burial area for elephant tusks (Ivory). There are still poachers active in Africa. (People who kill the animals to take their tusks to sell on the black market. Some people believe that the ivory has medicinal properties, such as aphrodisiac, since these animals often roam unprotected, people come to kill them for their parts. It was legally banned in 1973, but some people still practice this. Because of the poaching, in 1989 the elephant population in Kenya went from 250,000 elephants down to 20,000. It was so sad to hear about. We were told that people still patrolling specific sites in parks and reserves to protect the elephants. So, what is with the burial pit? This is a tactic used by governments to deter the practice of poaching. Their thought is that it shows the poachers that their practice is futile. They also believe that this will help them think that ivory is not valuable, and convince them to stop. It also is said that it puts the people who buy, sell and trade the ivory to shame. This burial site that we saw was the first ever ivory burning pit. They are now down all over the world. It definitely made me feel more connected to these animals and see how the world is trying to take such a beautiful creature from extinction. It was interesting to learn about, and sad to hear. 

Next we stopped at an elephant sanctuary, called The David Sheldrick Wildlife Conservancy. You can learn more about it here; David Sheldrick Convervatory. The project goes into parks and areas where there are wounded elephants and rhinos and takes them back to the conservancy to nurse them back to health. Some of the elephants are orphans whose mothers were killed due to poaching. Some of them were lost in barren lands, where they were not able to fend for themselves without a tribe. The conservancy accepts sponsors and donations so that they can provide for the elephants, and the best part is that they release them back into the wild when they heal, joining them with a new tribe that will take care of them. It was fun to see the baby elephants and watch them drink a huge 4 gallon bottle. 

Next we headed to Karen Blixens house for lunch. You may recognize her name from the movie starring Meryl Streep. She was an author who decided to move to Kenya after she got married and started a coffee farm. It was fun to have lunch at her house, it was made into a restaurant and museum dedicated to her after she passed away in 1968. I honestly have no idea what we were eating, something with creamed spinach and I believe a white fish with an african sauce. It was pretty good. 

The last thing we did before heading back to the hotel to sleep was to visit the Giraffe Sanctuary. Here we listened to presentations about the giraffes, like, did you know they only sleep for about 2 hours a day, in 10 minute increments? And, their tongues can reach 20 inches in length? Fascinating, I tell you. We were able to feed them some pellets of hay. Also, some people at the sanctuary were putting the pellets between their lips so the giraffe would give them a kiss to retrieve it. Ew, ew, and ew. No thank you. 

Nairobi was very fun and I would definitely go back. It was a great introduction to safaris and animal sighting. Now off to my favorite location in Kenya, the Masai Mara! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Africa Trip- 48 Hours in Ethiopia

Our African adventure started as we departed the plane in Ethiopia. We would have a layover here before heading on to Kenya. We decided that we wanted to do a day trip tour for our 9 hour layover while we waited to board our night flight. Good idea, because the Ethiopian airport is now one of my least favorite airports. We really had no idea what to expect Ethiopia to be like. I think maybe that is why we were so shocked at what we experienced. I'd like to preface here by saying that I have seen poverty before. I have been to India, the Philippines and Cambodia, and poverty was pretty bad at those places, also. Ethiopia was just, different. I don't really have a way to explain it. The people here are very pushy and you can't tell who is telling you the truth or who just wants money, or to run a scam by you. It probably didn't help that we were the only westerners we saw the whole day. We did meet a few people that were kind, but many who were dishonest and rude. I am sure parts of Ethiopia are lovely, but we mainly stayed in Addis Ababa.

The highlight of our time there was seeing Lucy, the skeleton. Her fossil was discovered in 1973 and she is the oldest skeleton in existence. She ages back  to about 3.2 million years ago. I thought it was really interesting to see how small she was. It was mind boggling to think how we have evolved as humans and how we have changed, a bit.

Next we headed to the Holy Trinity Cathedral to check out an active church. In the back of the church were where the royal tombs were located. I forget exactly who was buried in them, but they are important. Many people go to this church as it is open all day, they set out mats and spend hours praying. I also thought it was interesting to see that the church was secluded by gender separated by an aisle. 

 Next we toured a local street market where people bought their produce, spices, shoes, coffee, nuts, etc. You name it, it was there. I thought it was sad how they were selling the food in the mud. The Ethiopian people we really sensitive about having their picture taken. We got yelled at a few times for taking pictures. I believe they do not want us to see the way that they live, or have their faces documented.

Our Ethiopian lunch. I cannot for the life of me tell you what it was, but the traditional food is eaten with this flat bread as their utensil. You take the bread, scoop up the meat or sauce and then put it in your mouth. They use this flat bread with all of their meals. 

Fast forward and on our way back home we had a few hours to kill in Ethiopia again and we decided to go to the Red Terror Memorial Museum. A sobering and unforgettable experience, to say the least. In Ethiopia in 1974 a few groups were fighting for control over Ethiopia. The people were brutalized, hurt and taken captive, approximately 500,000 people were killed. The museum has displayed of torture instruments, skulls and bones, coffins, bloody clothes, and photographs of the victims. At the end of our tour our guide told us of his own experience with the Red Terror.  He was a victim and barely escaped months of brutal beatings and captivity. In the last 10 minutes we were all a sobbing mess. I left Ethiopia on a sad note, but enlightened to have learned so much about this struggling country. One thing I love about traveling is there are so many things you learn about the world that you would've never known, otherwise. It is hard to believe that killings like this happened to hundreds of thousands of people in the 70's! 

Ethiopia was our first stop in our Africa adventure, and I am glad we went there to get our feet wet, and experience a little culture shock. Now on to our next stop, Kenya! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Easy & Cheap Ways to Keep Your Kid Busy

If you have read any of my other posts you know that I am the mother of a busy, rambunctious and curious 2-year old. As she started reaching the age of around 12 months I knew I was in big trouble. She got into everything. The folded laundry, the kitchen cabinets, the pantry, the freezer, etc. I remember asking my friends who had older children, “what the heck do you do with your kid all day?!”
Before having kids I told myself I wasn’t going to be the Pinterest mom that makes crafts and activities for their child. But then I stepped into real life and realized that I had a financial budget and I couldn’t just run out and by every educational and stimulating contraption for her at all ages.
And to be honest, she didn’t really play with her toys at all hours on end for me to be willing to spend more than $5 on it. I came to the sad conclusion that in order for her to not totally destroy my house I would have to exhibit some sort of creativity and craftsmanship. But, I also knew that I didn’t have the creative bones in my body to execute some elaborate project for her, and I didn’t have the patience to make a large undertaking. On second thought, maybe Samantha’s lack of attention span is what she inherited from me.

Anyways, Pinterest was going to be my best friend. I love that I could go on there and find good ideas from ingenious craft wizards that didn’t require me to do any thinking myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, not all of these require any preparation. And some of these only required the dollar store and some extra time.  But lets be real here, some of the days she spends play-doughing (not a word) painting, digging in dirt, and looking at books. But every once in awhile, some endeavors happen, and they are so easy and cheap that I want to share them with you.
First, you should also know that I frequent the dollar store. My two favorites are Dollar Tree- which I think has better quality. the 99 cent store has more of a selection. I got these things for some sensory boxes I made for Samantha. But a lot of it (measuring cups, funnels, and cars) I already had. I totally scored on those little plastic shot glasses. Perfect size for scooping and dumping. I chose to do one with beans and one with rice. At a later date I have plans to do one with sand and rocks. But, she can play with these boxes for about an hour. And that gives me some good solid uninterrupted me time. Disclaimer: I wish I wouldve gotten these tupperware-like bins larger than I did. They do make quite a mess, so definitely don't leave the kids completely unattended, and just do it outside. 

Dinosaur Bath- requires, dinosaurs, dirt, soap and brush. Get them all clean and then put then they can put them in a bath and scrub them real clean. After she was finished I threw them back in the dirt, and she did it again.

Church bag puzzles - I got the popsicle sticks at the dollar store and then cut the pictures out of old Ensigns. Modge podged them on lined up popsicle sticks as a whole and then slit them separate with an exacto knife. 

I took another 99 cent tupperware bin and made it into a homemade stove. She already had the fake food and utensils. I didn't want to buy a huge Little Tikes kitchen, because, who has space for that? This one doubles as storage for the utensils. Easy peasy. 

 I buy a lot of the little painting pallets at the dollar store and have her go crazy. lay down a cookie sheet and some paper.

Obviously, she needs exercise and we take this little bicycle all over the neighborhood.

If her Dad would've been home, this would've been a lot more expansive and fancy, but she really loved sitting in this little fort. Almost no effort, at all.

I learned from all our travels how valuable stickers can be. They can keep her entertained for quite awhile.

Bubbles are the greatest. Another low budget activity.

Theres a little pond by our house where you can go feed the ducks and the geese. We go here at least once a week. I am pretty sure these ducks know her by now. She has started calling the cheerios "duck cereal".

Samantha loves to read, and she really likes going to the public library. Of course I usually have to let her play a few educational games on the computer before we sit and read, but she loves going there. Plus, the library is free. Win Win situation! We also like to go to toddler music/reading time at the library once a week. They do songs, read books, and at the end they get out big blocks and cars and let them go wild. We go to this with friends.

 Just taking the baby out for a walk.

Something that she started to do when I was working on the computer was to comb my hair. She could literally do it for a half hour before getting bored and I have let her experiment with bows, also. She likes playing beauty parlor and sometimes I will let her also put makeup on me with clean brushes.

 Playdough. I have a love/hate relationship with because it keeps her entertained but it can get messy, and it definitely is a supervised activity.

She has really always loved to "read" so she often just takes a bunch of books off her bookshelf and looks at them. I love seeing her experience reading, since it is one of my favorite things to do. I can't wait until she will actually read the pages and we can read books together. I like reading out loud to her, but she's pretty good at just flipping through the pages, also. 

Painting, painting, coloring and stamping. I got these dot paints at target and the fingerpaints at Lakeshore on sale. She still prefers to use a brush for the fingerpaints, but we'll get there.