Monday, August 25, 2014

A Word Problem

I thought I'd honor the first day of school with a word problem:

Jamie has 5 kids.  It is the first day of school and the afternoon looks intimidating. Jamie needs to allow 20 minutes to get from her house to town.  Here are the times her kids have to be places after noon today:
     Hays 12:00 School Starts, 2:25 School Ends, 5:30-6:30 Golf
     Maggie  2:20 School Ends, 4:00-5:30 Volleyball
     Tiki  1:30 School Ends, 5:15-7:30 Football
     Dax 3:35 School Ends, 5:15-7:30 Football
     Gabby  1:30 School Ends, 2:30-4:30 Tap
How can Jamie and the kids spend the least time in the car this afternoon?

Hehehehe.  That was fun.  I (heart) math!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Chore Chart Failure

I am a chore chart failure.  I really am.  Each year I come up with a great plan for chores.  I come up with a great reminder system and a great payment system and we're lucky if we make it until October until it all falls apart.

So this year I have another one in place.  Yea me!  We'll see.

My kids have "rent" chores.  These are daily chores they have to do and their payment is their room and board and insurance and such.  These are just chores they get to do as a member of the Braner Family.  Then they have new nightly chores that they will rotate throughout the week.  And they have a "big" chore they will do on the weekend.  These night and weekend chores are their "allowance" chores.

Where I struggle the most is the check and pay part (my chore).  My kids do pretty great with their chores, but I do pretty crummy with my chore (check and pay).  So, I'm going to work on that this year.  What is your system for paying your kids?  Hays is easy, I direct deposit into his account monthly.  I need to figure out how to pay the rest of kids without having to have cash on me at all times.

Friday, August 22, 2014

This Fall. . .

This morning we rolled out of bed and headed to school to meet the teachers (the three littles).  School starts on Monday and I cannot believe that I will have a Sophomore, an 8th grader, two 4th graders and a 2nd grader.  Wow.  Each of these grades, for me, were very memorable.  When I was a Sophomore I got my license; as an 8th grader I "went out" with my first boy (what does that even mean) and got dumped by that same boy; 4th grade was wonderful with Mrs. Frazier and it was the first grade where I didn't feel like a little kid because she made us feel responsible and fun; and in 2nd grade I had Mrs. Orth and that is when I realized that I was smart and I really liked it!  So, here my kids go--their own adventures in the even grades.

I'm excited for what they get to bring to school with them this year.  I'm excited that when they have to do a writing exercise about "what I did this summer" it will be full of adventures and stories!  I hope they never loose Africa!

They are all involved in an activity this Fall and each one of them is passionate about his or her chosen sport.  That is really fun!  Hays is playing golf and getting better every day!  He had a personal best on the course and came home so proud of himself.  Maggie is playing volleyball and although she didn't make the A team with her best friend, she is still practicing hard every day and having a fantastic attitude and I admire her for that!  Tiki and Dax are playing football and it is hysterical!  I love seeing the BRANER boys on the field together!  They love football (except for the drills part according to Dax)!!  Gabby is taking tap again this year and she really has found her athletic passion.  It is so fun to watch her thrive!  She taps everywhere and she is excited for tap to start!  My car is full of backpacks and golf bags and volleyball bags and football bags and dance bags; cleats and athletic shoes and tap shoes; dreams and goals and laughter.  I'm lucky to get to be a mom to these five kids!

Andy has so many fun irons in the fire this year and I am so excited to watch him follow his dreams.  And he is being an amazing husband who is striving to understand all of my complexities and love be well.  I'm thankful! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

One (or Two or Ten) Too Many

Normally this is how I roll.  I can spin multiple plates at once and I do it well.  I love high stress and emergency situations.  I love to have a ton going on.  I love that I'm good at spinning many plates at once.
However, I am feeling a little more like this these days.  I crawled into bed the other night and told Andy that I felt like I had one too many things going on and he couldn't even believe that those words came out of my mouth.  Me neither!

I'm a tad overwhelmed with all I have going on!  I have my jobs (yes, plural), my kids (5) and their schools (3) and their activities (5--we only let them do one activity per "season"--thank goodness), my husband, my Masters. . . .  And then on top of those biggies, I have tons of emotional stuff going on and that alone seems like several dozen plates all by itself.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, sometimes I feel exhausted (mentally and emotionally), sometimes I feel like nothing is going to get finished, sometimes I feel like I need to just finish one thing well and forget about the rest, sometimes I want to just quit it all and occasionally I feel like I'll manage just fine.  But lately I just feel behind and that everything I am doing is a knee jerk.  I'm too busy to even plan ahead and too busy to follow that plan were I able to plan ahead.

Andy asked me (during a teary moment the other day), "when do you take time for yourself?"  And my answer was that on Mondays (during the school year), I try not to go to work so that I can do all of the laundry and clean the house.  He laughed and told me that doing the laundry and cleaning the house wasn't exactly the "time for yourself" he was meaning (especially since neither one of those tasks bring me joy).  I don't know.  When do I have time to take time?  I think that was the answer in my head while I allowed the tears to stream silently down my face.

I just need a better plan.  School (my school) is much more time consuming this year and in the last 12 months I have acquired several page additions to my job description at work and I have all of this emotional stuff boiling to the surface all of a sudden and I'm stuck or something--stuck doesn't seem to be the right word.

I'm not sure why I'm blogging. . . maybe because I don't want to write one of my five papers that is due this week or maybe because I am putting off finishing all of the accounting work I have to do for camp or maybe because I am procrastinating writing the three syllabi and course descriptions for the gap year classes I am teaching next week or maybe because. . . who knows!??!

All of this to say, right now I don't feel like a beautiful and graceful acrobat of China spinning dozens of plates with a smile on my face and a perfectly placed bun on my head while doing the splits on my friend.  Right now I feel like the frazzled mom above (she has to be a mom, right?) who is spinning and dropping and yet still spinning the plates left to be spun with messy hair, no make up and a smile on her face so that her kids don't know she's totally loosing it!

I'm a wreck.  Oh my!  There it is.  I. Am. A. Wreck.

Thankfully, my husband listened to me through my tears.  He heard what I was saying. . . better than that, he heard what I was trying to say.  And he is being so good and supportive and encouraging.  And I said all of this several days ago and he is still engaging with the wreck that I am--he hasn't forgotten that I am feeling this way.  I'm thankful--so very thankful--for his love and support.  I'm blessed.

So, if you hear a loud crash, it is probably just another plate being dropped by me.  No worries!

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Personal X Factor

I just returned from Vegas where I got to dive into new information about these health and wellness products I am using and sharing.  It was a super weekend with fun friends, great information and the tools to make my dreams come true.  I really want to share with you all!

1.  The company.  It is amazing!  The priorities are right on target.  God first.  Family second.  And so on.  The people are amazing.  They are genuine.  I was blown away by the people from corporate I got to meet and the executives I got to know.  I love this company!

2.  The products.  I already know that I love the products.  My life is completely different because of them and my family is on a path to health that I could not have gotten them on before.  (I'll post my story at the end of this post in case anyone doesn't know it.)  This weekend they introduced a new product for rest, relaxation, calming, anti-anxiety, insomnia and more.  I've tried it and I love it, too!

3.  The friendships.  I have made the best friends working for this company.  I think that is what made this weekend so much fun.  I get to work with people who have become some of my best friend.  I get to work with them and travel to exotic places with them.  So fun!

4.  The compensation.  This company has the best compensation plan I've seen.  They are so generous with compensation, with bonuses, with super trips and rewards and with fun cash prizes at their conventions!
This is the President, Mark Walker, congratulating me for how hard I've worked!
A little bit of my story:
I’m so excited to share with everyone I know because I know personally that this works! My story in a nutshell: In three weeks I lost 24 pounds and 18 inches. My migraines are gone, my joints don’t hurt and I have unbelievable energy! (To date I’ve lost 40 pounds.) But my favorite part is how amazing my mood and overall outlook on life is! Indescribable!
Andy lost 11 pounds in the first 8 days. He is loving the products for his work outs and recovery.
Hays and Maggie are seeing great benefits in their puberty hormonal mood swings (they’re gone)!
Tiki has had the same success on several of these products for his ADD as he did with his prescription meds. And he is off his Adderall, too!
And the flu came knocking this year and was not invited to stay!!! These products are helping my family feel better and be healthier!
Another great benefit is that I have replaced my income from camp—and I did that in just three months of working the business. This compensation plan is the best I’ve seen!
This weekend the company introduced a new product for rest and relaxation that helps with anxiety and insomnia. I have tried it and I love it!!!
This video is about the products. The video focuses on weight loss, but it is SO MUCH MORE than weight loss. It is a true health and wellness lifestyle change!
How can I help you?!??!?!
Go to www.xyngular.com/jbraner for more info or email me and I'd love to answer all of your questions!

Monday, July 21, 2014

When The Kids Are Away. . .

. . . the parents will play.
Yesterday was so much fun!  Andy and I had a date day with no kids and it was the best!  We rented a jeep and went all over the mountains.  We made it to Telluride--Andy had never been there--and had a great lunch.  We explored the mountains, saw waterfalls, I may or may not (may) have had a panic attack at one point on the crazy mountain roads.  We laughed.  We enjoyed one another.  It was much needed and I loved the day with my man!  I'm so thankful for this time without the kids this week!
Timer pic gone wrong when my camera fell off the jeep!
Andy didn't want "another normal" picture.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

K1, UC Berkley & Raja

Maggie, Tiki, Dax and Gabby are all at K1.  They're having a great time (it looks like they are).  I dropped them off after flying straight there from Kigali and I'm sure they were exhausted.  But I know they are having the best time ever and I'm not the least bit worried that jet lag is getting them down.
I love this group of pictures because Tiki is with his cousin from Arizona, Peyton.  Those two have the greatest relationship!  They love each moment they get to be together and they get to be together for four weeks now!
I love the middle picture.  It is Tiki, Dax and Gabby with their cousin, LillyAnne.  I love that they all four found each other the first night.  The pic isn't great (couldn't the photographer have said, "hey you four, look at me and smile!"  Oh well.) but I love that they are all together!
This may be my favorite group of pictures.  This is Maggie truly happy.  Her smile is so genuine (especially in that middle picture on the right) and that makes my heart so happy.  I love when my girl is truly happy!
Meanwhile, Hays is at UC Berkley at an engineering camp for the week.  He is going to learn so much!  I am so excited that he gets to meet other kids who love to do what he loves and then the "professors" he will have (one is a big wig at NASA) will leave a lasting impact.  I cannot wait to hear all about it!!!

And in other news. . .we came home from Rwanda to a cat with a broken femur.  What?  Poor thing has been limping around for three weeks, so I took him to the vet yesterday and sure enough, he shattered the head of his femur.  Surgery?  Yep.  What in the world?  I am a dog person.  How do I have a cat (that should be the real question) who has to have surgery?  Oh my!  So, surgery for Raja on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rwanda: Day Twenty-Two

I can't believe this is our last day in the Land of a Thousand Hills.  It has been the trip of a thousand dreams coming true.  I'm so thankful for this opportunity and for the way God worked every single detail out.  His hand was so evident from beginning to end and I am truly grateful.

I have so many thoughts flooding through my mind.  I'm so thankful that my kids got this opportunity.  I hope they have been able to realize the following things (and more):

  • Rwanda is a beautiful country
  • The people of Rwanda are a beautiful people
  • Traveling internationally isn't scary...it is fun & exciting
  • People who are different from them are the same in many ways
  • Catching public transportation is an adventure
  • Go see the world every moment you get a chance
  • Don't be afraid to explore
  • Make new friend--even if there is a language barrier
  • Try new food
  • Appreciate other cultures
  • Say hello and thank you in "their" language
  • Dare to live a dream
Of course there are so many lessons I hope they learned from this trip, but those are the dozen right off the top of my head at this moment.  I've been so proud of them on this trip.  

Watching Hays get an internship and catch a moto to "work" and today catching a cab for us and getting us where we were going.  He isn't afraid to adventure into the unknown.  I can't wait to see how this trip plays a role in his life later one.  I think one of the things I am most excited about for him is that he got to meet a neat role model who is a "cool" guy working for Samaritan's Purse helping with disaster relief.  Hays now knows that a job can be following disasters around the globe and making the world a better place one broken community at a time.  I think Hays for sure got the most out of this trip and I think he will be the most surprised over the next five to ten years about what he is actually bringing with him from Rwanda.

Maggie is a gem.  She had the hardest job here.  She was mom to three children who took her for granted and pushed every one of her buttons.  But she was a patient mom who pressed on even when most thirteen year olds would have quit.  She over came her fears of being in a different country and she did it.  I'm so proud of her!  I love that she got to meet neat and fun girls who are living their adventures in Kenya and Afghanistan and South Africa.  I'm thankful that her summer break didn't include texting and walking around downtown Durango.  She grew up this summer and I didn't even think she could any more.

Tiki saw his home country.  A country which held only painful memories of dirt and mean people.  He now knows the beautiful side of Rwanda.  He has positive memories of the orphanage.  He loves the people here.  Of all of us, he connected the most and he yearned for more connection.  He absolutely loved playing with the young boys his age.  He was in his element and he was happier than I have ever seen him.  I think he'll be back to Rwanda one day for more than just a month.  I'm not sure what all he will take away, but at least he'll have these memories.

Dax enjoyed Rwanda.  He was comfortable and relaxed.  He loved the pace.  He, too, enjoyed the local boys (but not like Tiki did).  I'm not sure what all he will take away from this trip, but I know he'll know that I want him to follow his dreams.  

Gabby is a little sad today.  She really had her heart set on finding her mother.  I'm sad for her--even though I knew it wasn't going to happen.  She clang to that hope.  She is very happy in this family and doesn't want another one, but I think she longs for her roots--she longs to have a story she can attach herself to.  I don't know what she will remember of Rwanda.  I'm not sure how many memories I have from when I was seven.  But I hope this will be a bright spot in the fogginess some day.

I love this country.  I've loved this trip.  I know I'll never get another opportunity quite like this and I'm glad that I wasn't too intimidated to take it!

Here are some pictures of our Rwanda (kind of a bicycle & home version)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rwanda: Day Twenty-One

Wow!  Yesterday was long and ultimately great!  We woke up at 4:30 and began our adventure!  After having to push-start our car, we headed to Akagera Park in Rwanda's Eastern Provence.  Upon arrival, our hopes of a quick and easy safari were dashed when we found out that due to the season, we wouldn't see animals in the main part of the park and we'd have to drive for about 4-6 hours before they were spotted.  Almost immediately all attitudes went downhill and the monsters who had been woken up at 4:30 in the morning started to surface.  I put on my "everything is going to be awesome" happy face and reminded them that in order to save an apology letter later, it would be best if they tried to see the bright side.

So we drove.  And we drove.  And we drove.  (Mind you, we are squished in a car with no air condition and the road conditions are terrible.)  As we were driving we noticed that maybe the animals were MIA due to the recent brush fire--the brush fire that took up our first four hours.  By the time the fourth hour came to a close.  I was frustrated.  The day was awful.  That was my conclusion.

But then we came to Hippo Beach where we decided to eat lunch.  Our day brightened--even got fun and exciting and brought laughter!  We hopped out of the car to the sound of several hippos grunting at us and a hungry croc waiting for the baby hippo to get separated from the group.  We were so excited!!!!
 From that point on (the next 3 hours of the drive), there were animals galore!  It was so much fun!  Zebras and warthogs and Kudu and Antelope and GIRAFFES!!!!  We were thrilled to see the giraffes!
Mom, this snake picture is for you.  It was longer than the car!
All in all, our Rwandan safari was a raging success.  The kids loved it--even enough to forget that we were in the car a total of 14 hours yesterday.

After the safari, a worn out Braner Bunch headed to eat with a new friend, Justin, and his wife and baby.  It was perfect.  They were so hospitable and the kids got to be in a true Rwandan home.  Justin is going to help with the Gap Year in the future and I am so excited for his vision!
Justin's daughter didn't want to have anything to do with the muzungus in her home, but she quickly warmed up to Dax (and only Dax) and life was all good--as long as the rest of us stayed away!
Day twenty-one was super!