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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eight Years

In between all the birthday madness I paused to think that in seven days I will celebrate the eight year anniversary of the day that my life was irrevocably changed. It can never compare to the day I fully committed my life to Christ, but in all honesty I was three years old and I cannot remember the actual date so clearly. Never the less this day set my life on the path to the deepest human covenant I will ever know on this earth. On August 31, 2001 Christopher Michael Medrano came crashing into my life. I say crashing only because I was a mess at the time, and my life felt like a whirlwind. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I crashed into him.

No matter who crashed into who it was a fated journey that has taken us from the tops of mountains to the lows of dark, uncharted valleys. There is something about Chris that is a rare find in any guy. The moment I saw him I would like to say that I felt I was sure and ready that this was it. Unfortunately I was jaded and scared, but the one thing I will forever remember is his face the moment we met. He was completely accepting of me, his smile and eyes welcomed me in with the assurance that says no matter what I will always love you. This was so familiar in a comforting way, because is this not truly the heart of our Father God? Through our years together Chris has continued in this manner. I know I’m difficult and I can be frustrating. There are times when I start in on a rant and I can just hear myself saying in the back of my head,” Crystal just stop, please stop while you are ahead.” Through every moment he has stuck by me and the covenant that we made almost seven years ago now.

I know eight years is not long in the spectrum of life, but as I look around and see so many casualties in the journey of true relationships, I cannot help but feel tremendous blessing. We’ve made it this far and still love each other. I am happy when he comes home from work. I look forward to our times together on the weekend. He’s my lover and my best friend. Of course our relationship has grown and changed as we go through many of life’s milestone. We definitely cannot be as spontaneous as we were before children, but these are but seasons and that time will come again. For now I relish raising children alongside him, stealing a quick date, talking, laughing, and even sometimes arguing. Of course Chris you know it is never me who starts those pesky arguments. =)

So here’s to the love of my life. Thank you for your love and your patience. Above all thanks for your commitment to the covenant you made, and for realizing it is not always about the day to day feelings or whims. You have given me joy unimaginable and a very happy heart!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Shoes


There is nothing quite like a new pair of shoes. This is especially true for a first pair of shoes. Micah has really taken off with walking. I suppose technically he had a couple pairs of soft baby shoes as a newborn. My children have never liked hats or shoes as infants so we never really purchased much. We decided this weekend it was time for Micah's first real walking shoes. He's still a little clumsy in them, and it will take some getting used to. He was quite the site toddling in an awkward but adorable stroll around Payless. He was grinning with pride from ear to ear. While witnessing this I am reminded that there is no turning back. He is growing every day. While his first pair of shoes will probably not fit long they symbolize to me all the places he will go. It is as if the whole world is opening up, and he will just walk right into it. Oh how I love my baby.

On another sentimental note, one year ago today Micah was due. He obviously did not agree with our prediction because I was still huge and sweltering in the summer heat.
As you can see I was trying to put on a happy face.


It is funny how in those moments time stands still. I really felt like he would never some out. Here I am a year later still scratching my head wondering where the time went. I apologize for these sappy, nostalgic posts. If you are a parent you should understand completely. If you are not, stick with me, you will probably understand one day.

So that is life for now. Children growing, buying new shoes, having birthdays. I am sure in about a week there will be some Christmas merchandise at Wal-Mart.

To conclude with the photo journey of life here are a few for the road.


Baby girl is getting so big. We have been asked repeatedly by retail clerks, acquaintances, and strangers if she is starting school this year. Nope she's just a tall and mature little girl. I wouldn't have her any other way!

I love this one of Micah. Look closely and you can see his first two teeth. He knows he can flash that smile and get just about anything he wants.


A short clip of some of Micah's first steps

video

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why I Will Home School My Children

I don’t remember my feelings regarding school in my younger years. As all children do I turned five and in the compliance of state education laws I entered kindergarten. These were not terrible years; I have several fond memories of wonderful teachers who had a passion for education. As I neared junior high I began to feel a great Dissatisfaction with school in general. It was not that I struggled. I generally excelled in academics. I simply failed to ever fit into the ideal model that our society deems acceptable for education. I briefly left the private school I attended most of my life and entered into the public school system in hope of finding that my frustrations were simply from the small, sheltered environment I had experienced. Once again my hopes were dashed when I found a system focused more on standardized testing and pat methods of education while masquerading as a place of diversity. I returned to private school still frustrated with my overall learning experience. I desired the freedom to learn from experience. I longed to be out in the world learning and applying that knowledge. In my mind life was not a classroom so how could we truly learn to function from within one?

Enter my own children many years down the road. Somewhere between holding that sweet bundle of joy in the delivery room to the moment you hear them make their first attempt singing the ABC’s you realize that their future education decisions are solely in your hands. It is very sobering and a bit daunting. Based on my own educational experiences I knew I could not simply take the traditional path. At this point I realized home schooling was to be our option. I will not say it does not frighten me in the least, but I embrace the challenge and honor to take a more hands on responsibility in my children’s education.

I know many people who frown upon home schooling as a sheltered environment with little socialization or formal education. I beg to differ on this. After much research there are so many options available to home schooled children. There are study groups, discussion groups, not to mention general extracurricular activities my kids will have more time to participate in when they are not busy rushing here or there on a busy 9-5 schedule. I long to see my children love learning instead stressing about exams, grades, and homework. I believe there is some validity to bench marks created in the traditional school system, but how many of our children become burned out and lose that spark they had in their eyes the first day of kindergarten. I greatly value a good curriculum, but I guess you could say I desire a hybrid form of education where children can be involved in self directed learning within the parameters of a nurturing environment.

One of the greatest benefits I am excited about is the ability to get out and do something. In a large class it can be difficult to get out much. The logistics of a field trip with an elementary school class can get crazy. I want to travel and actually see the history of this great state. I want to do more than read about science. I want my kids to experiment. Why just read the classics and take a quiz when you can watch a play or participate in a group discussion from a diverse age group? There is just too much to experience in this life, and a one size fits all education model just won’t cut it in my opinion.

I realize the choice to home school is very personal, and it is not for everyone. I know there are many bright young minds brought up in our current education system. I do not choose this path because I am afraid of the world or want to hide my kids from outside influence. My desires are quite the contrary. How can our children learn to think for themselves when they are force fed test taking skills so a school can get some good marks on their TAKS test? What real life skills can be learned when we segregate children into age groups and do not allow them to associate across a more diverse cross section of students? I do not mean this blog to knock teachers in general. There are some amazing teachers who do the best with the limited materials they are given. I only recognize that education has become a very bureaucratic system that does not give many teachers the resources or support they need to be as effective.

If there is anything I desire of other parents it is not necessarily that they home school. Rather I wish that as parents we would take a greater interest in our child’s education. It is not simply a babysitter or a requirement to adhere to the state’s compulsory education requirements. If we do not pay attention to not only what our children are learning, but the methods used to teach, we will find a generation of great test takers who lack true knowledge or experience.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Travel Tips


There is one activity I love to do on a regular basis and that is travel. I find airports exhilarating with the smells of coffee and people rushing here and there in anticipation of the next destination. I love exploring new places and seeing the vast landscapes of this country as well as those across the globe. Unfortunately travel comes at a price, and I often have to get a little creative to make my dreams a reality. There are still many limitations to my desires to travel, especially overseas, but I have found many ways to get away at least once or twice a year.
I have listened to many people talk about how they would love to get away, but the most common complaint is of course money. I have also found that with all of the resources available with the invention of the worldwide web there is still a lack of information among the general public in regards to obtaining good travel deals. On this note I decided to write a blog with some tips that I use to make travel more affordable for our family.
Tip #1 Don’t Be Scared of Priceline
I remember many years ago when priceline first came out. I love William Shatner so the commercials really stuck out to me. I’m not sure if people think this is too good to be true or if they are just worried about bidding on a hotel with little information. Let me tell you if you can be a little flexible with your wants and needs you can score big on this one. Chris and I have a policy never to pay more than $50-$60 for a hotel room. We have stayed at Hyatt’s, Marriott’s, Holiday Inn’s, etc. We usually always bid on the highest star rating available for the area, but if all you desire is a bed and a shower to rest between sightseeing than you can usually get a two star for as little as $30/night. For more tips on how to place a good bid check out this site www.betterbidding.com. This also can work really well for rental cars. We usually can get a standard car for about $20/day, but we have scored as low as $13/day. On this particular occasion we were actually upgraded to an SVU upon arrival.
Tip #2 Skip the High Life and Eat With the Locals
I love a good meal as much as the next guy, but when you are on a budget sometimes the gourmet restaurant mentioned in your Airline travel magazine just isn’t going to cut it. I have found that there are some great bargains and food to be had eating where the locals go. If you are downtown or close to a tourist area try to drive or catch a ride to a nearby neighborhood. Often you will find a hidden treasure tucked away in a strip mall. If you are in a big city with specific cultural areas check out a local pub or eatery. It can be a great way to get the true vibe of an area. It’s also possible to find some great specials. Chris actually experienced this while in Chicago in Greek town. He found a pub offering $1 cheeseburgers and some cheap drafts. It sure beats a $20 hotel burger.
Tip #3 Coupons are not just for Your Momma Anymore
It may sound silly, but when we go out of town I immediately start browsing for local food and attractions that have coupons or deals going on. Recently before we went to California I joined several restaurant clubs to receive e-mail deals. Of course most of these places are not even located in Texas, but just for joining I received a lot of buy one get one free deals and free desserts. Restaurants.com is also a helpful resource. You can pick the area you will be staying and buy gift certificates that are $10-$50 for about $3.00 a piece. You may have to order a minimum amount of food, but we usually still save quite a bit.
Tip #4 Save Cash and Leave the Credit Cards at Home
This one is near and dear to our hearts since we became avid Dave Ramsey followers. A lot of people think that a vacation is out of reach if they even tried to save for it. I have found that people do what they want to do. If you want something bad enough you can save for almost anything. I have found pulling small amounts of cash out every pay day and making a vacation envelope can have you on the way to your dream destination in no time. Just think how easily you can spend $50 a week just going out for lunch every day. Skip the lunch and brown bag it. Just $50 a week over the course of a year will $2400 towards a nice little vacation. Once you have your cash leave the credit cards at home. It is easy to become tempted by silly diversions. What may seem like a good idea at the time will translate to probably hundreds maybe thousands of dollars of interest over the years. Just think about it before you by the dashboard hula girl. You’re here for the memories which are easily captured by camera, not a tacky trinket.
Tip #5 When Booking Air Travel Refer to Tip #1
I hate to admit it, but I am a little spoiled in this. With my dad working for an airline I pay for some taxes and fees, but not nearly what a full price ticket can be. This does not mean you cannot still have an affordable experience. I have heard of many people getting excellent deals through Priceline by naming their own price. Chris also signs up to receive American’s net saver fares. He has seen some excellent deals come through this.
Tip #6 Be Flexible
I believe this is first and foremost for anyone desiring to travel on a budget. I tend to be fairly low maintenance on a lot of things so this comes a little easier for me. If you really want to get out there and see the world you need to be willing to adapt. You will find that if you can relax a little on the specifics and do your homework you can experience a wonderful vacation for a deeply discounted price.

A Day As a Stay At Home Mom

I t was my first time alone with just me and the kids. I know that probably sounds weird to the modern family of the twenty first century. Call us crazy but Chris and I just like to be together. Of course we argue and get on each other’s nerves at times, but there is something comforting about having each other around. What can I say, we love each other. We eat every dinner together as a family and spend most of our weeknights at home watching movies, playing the Wii, or talking. Chris has never had to travel with his job so it took me a bit by surprise when he was asked to travel to Chicago for a trade show. I really thought it would be no big deal a few days away and time will go by quickly. I didn’t think much of it and when Sunday came we said our goodbyes and dropped him off at the airport. I made plans for the next two days to keep the kids busy and give ourselves a little routine.
I was holding up well until we came home from swimming that afternoon. The kids were well behaved, but even when they are it is still a little work when you are used to having such a great helper around. I know I am spoiled and I have so much respect for women who have husbands who travel or are in the military and especially for any single mom. My hat is off to you! Something about coming home and the kids napping and a great quiet settles over everything. Suddenly it hits me that it’s just a little too lonely without my best friend around. Of course right about that time I get a phone call and that always makes things a little better.
Finally I get to what I really wanted to blog about. That is my day as a stay at home mom. It was bittersweet because of course I missed my sweetheart, but it was also glorious in so many ways. Of course all of you stay at home moms know there is no such things as sleeping in even when you don’t have an office waiting for you at 8am. Around seven I hear a voice next to me saying,” mommy, mommy, its morning, and I had a good nap.” Kaylie makes no distinction between sleeping through the night and taking a nap so she always just tells me she had a good nap. I ask her to please give me just a few more minutes, but then five minutes later I here Micah drumming on his crib waiting for me to come greet him. At this point I’m up. There’s just too much day to waste sleeping. I actually get to make breakfast since we are not in a rush to get out the door, and we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast of biscuits and bacon while watching my personal favorite, Sesame Street. After packing bags and quick baths we head out on our first adventure, story time at the library. My mom usually takes the kids on Thursday, but we decided to catch the Monday edition. It cute and quirky and Kaylie loves it. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much she participates. She used to be a little shy, but she really gets involved now. Micah spent most of story time trying to wriggle out of my arms so he could crawl around the room. Story time just isn’t as appealing to him yet. Afterwards we had to scrap our plans for the park as the rain started to fall. We opted instead for the mall’s indoor playground. What a zoo that place is! Micah really enjoyed it despite the chaos and my constant worrying that he would be trampled. He took his first few steps on Friday so this was his big chance to display his skills to the world.
As the rain fell intermittently through the morning I decided that we should head home for a short nap. I was successful at getting the boy to sleep, but Kaylie tends to talk nonstop in an attempt to fight sleep. At last the house was quiet and a soft rain started to beat on the windows. I cannot describe how wonderful it was to take that nap as I listened to the rain fall. How often I sit at work watching the rain just wishing I could be at home in bed. It really was all it is cracked up to be. It wasn’t a long nap, but just enough to recharge for the afternoon. I loaded up the kids and picked my parents up at the airport so we could meet Melody at The Incredible Pizza Company. It was good to spend some time with them, and a great help with the kids. That place is nuts and I could not imagine going by myself with the kids. I cannot believe how loud it was even on a Monday afternoon.
I left with two happy kids and realized it was already past four, the time I would normally be coming home from work. Why must the day go by so quickly when we are having fun?
We settled in at home and I began to prepare for the following day. I wanted everything in order since I alone would be responsible for packing bags and getting them off to grandmas. It was rough knowing it would be back to the old routine. It is no easy task managing children and a home. I will never be one to say that moms who stay home have it easier than those of us who work. I will say that the time I have had to play a stay at home mom with my children is still by far more rewarding than any other job I have ever done.