Thursday, August 27, 2015

Coming Up For Air

*First, thank you all so much for you kind words on our last post about homeschooling.  We're big fans of homeschool and we're big fans of traditional school...basically we're big fans of encouraging each other as we figure out the best choices for our families.  I'm grateful that this community is so supportive!

Like most everyone, I was so ready for the routine that comes with going back to school, But man, am I feeling out of sorts.  The house is a wreck, the papers are everywhere, and I'm feeling desperate for a better daily rhythm.  This monkey bar incident a couple days ago didn't help matters...

Sully was playing at recess and fell on his arm, breaking both bones in his wrist.  He was so brave and such a trooper with all the different nurses and doctors asking him to try moving his wrist in different ways.  They are being cautious with the full arm cast, to prevent him from moving his arm too much this first week.  They'll take another x-ray next week and if it's healing well, he should be able to go down to a short cast and eventually a brace.  Hopefully, we're looking a 4-6 weeks.

The first night was pretty rough...he just couldn't get comfortable #bigcasttinyarm  But last night was much better and he's getting used to doing more things one handed.  The school nurse, staff, and teachers have all been wonderful.  Our family is just a bit toasted....we're ready to catch up on some rest, crawl out from the school paper/laundry/dishes takeover, and settle into a routine.

So, while I work on taming our house and cleaning something (anything!), here are a few good reads to encourage you if you're feeling the onslaught of fall too.....

I loved this post by House of Smith's about how she talks to her girls once they get home from school.  She has a great list of questions to encourage conversation with your kids about their day beyond the one-word-answer inducing "How was your day?" and "Did you have fun today?".  I like her ideas on individual time with each kid too.

The Nester never disappoints and since we're not only drowning in school papers but unfinished projects, this was like a life line...

And Jess Connolly had a great Periscope video on battling the fall overwhelm.  (I think it's up for the rest of the day but there's also a free printable schedule on her instagram profile).  Brain dump/schedule/to-do list...coming right up! And this sneak peek of the Naptime Diaries fall line is slaying me.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
 photo f1_zps95f50ae9.png  photo f2_zps8e4c66fe.png  photo f4_zpsabace950.png  photo instaw_zps951d8ab3.png

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More Than You Wanted To Know About Our Homeschool Experience And Why We're Back In Traditional School This Year.

Tomorrow is the day, y'all!  The first day back to school.  The day that I will set my alarm for 6am, protest cry, and attempt to drag my body out of bed before the children.  #IthinkIcanIthinkIcan

We're at a new school this year and we're all pumped!  The big kids have reassured me many times, "Oh, Mom!  You're going to be so lonely! What are you going to do??  Well, don't worry, Beanie will be here to keep you company.  You can do baby school for her".

Wait.  Weren't you homeschooling?  

Yes!  We were.  But this year we're not.  

Do you remember when we decided to homeschool?  And when I changed the whole curriculum a week into it?  And then we put one kid back in school mid-year?  It's sort of a giant blur to me too.  One that I didn't document very well either.  I blame it on being enormously pregnant and the foggy newborn months that followed.

I've wanted to write a follow up post on our year, but in all truthfulness, I still feel vulnerable about the subject.  People tend to have very strong opinions for/against homeschooling.  I want to be protective of our choice without feeling like we have to defend ourselves...and for awhile I wasn't even sure how I felt about the whole experience.  But time has a way of widening the lens.

My parents were visiting over the summer and while out driving my dad asked, "Now that the school year is done, how do you feel about how things went?".  I've had a lot of time to think on that and for the first time I was able to wholeheartedly respond, that I was glad....

...glad we tried homeschooling all three, glad we recognized that traditional school was a much better fit for Mia (and moved her accordingly mid-year), glad we kept the boys at home for the remainder of the year, and glad that they'll all be walking through the doors of the same school tomorrow morning.

If you ever wanted to know more about why we chose that path, then read on!  Or you can just scroll down a bit for our lessons learned.

Have you ever heard something so clearly at your deepest core that ignoring it would be like slamming on the brakes at a green light?  That's how I felt when God clearly said, "I want you to consider home school." 

Really?!?  But why??  Oh, well, I might know...

Our move from Albuquerque to Dayton was so fast.  Within two months we got news of relocating, sold our house and bought another here in Ohio.  We had a 24 hr house hunting trip in which we saw 10 houses and were able to visit one school.  The school was highly accredited/desired, so that's where we enrolled Mia to finish out 1st grade.  I wanted to visit a smaller school I found in our city research, but there simply wasn't time.

Towards the end of that year we began to notice some red flags.  Mia was coming home exhausted.  Physically, mentally, emotionally...exhausted in every way.  Her relationship with us and her siblings became strained.  We noticed some behaviors we weren't crazy about.  And we began to have some concerns about the school itself.  Sure it was big and fancy, but it was proving to be less community and more well-oiled machine.

When registration for the next year rolled around, the warm fuzzies about our great school were quickly disappearing.  Sully was right at the age cut-off, so we enrolled him for the next year's early fives class instead of kinder.  The student to teacher ratio for that age was really high and Jack would have to attend a separate school.

Then, we found out baby #4 was on the way, and maybe it was time to give homeschooling a more serious look.

But not before a litany of irrational reactions...

-First, I was mad.  Homeschooling was not for me.  I had friends growing up that were homeschooled and several friends who now homeschool their children.  And no, come to think of it, they aren't odd or socially inept...but still!  That's just not me.  I didn't want to think about that option!

-Then the perfectionist in me saw it as a challenge and wanted to do it.  To know if I could. To prove that I could.

-The planner kicked in shortly after and got all gung-ho about making lists and planning out our days.

Such misplaced motives....

I finally simmered down and returned to what God was asking of me.  Not to jump in with both feet and plan out our year.  Just...look into it.

So, we started researching. We joined homeschooling forums to ask questions.  We talked with families that have successfully homeschooled....and those who chose to go back to school. We prayed and researched more.  We talked with teachers who have taught in the classroom and at home.  We visited local co-ops.  We prayed.   We read.  We prayed some more.  And little by little, one small affirmation at a time, we arrived at yes.  Yes, we would homeschool all our kids for the coming year.  Because we were certain we were called to it and felt confident in the resources available to us.
Our homeschool experience

Isn't it funny when you find yourself on a different path, the need for understanding can become this insatiable quest?  I can't help but do that.  I need to figure out the why.  But God doesn't always promise the why.  In fact, in our experience, He doesn't reveal the why up front very often, or even at all.

I know this and yet there I went trying to figure it all out and put together all the pieces of God's plan.  I was convinced I had found it.

Oh yes, God.  That was a good move.  You were right to call and challenge us in this way.  Mia needs this.  She's been in such a state of flux and transition and pressure. This will be such a better environment for her to learn and thrive.

Well guess who hated homeschool?  My dear Mia.  I believe the direct quote was, "I've loved every school I've been to except homeschool."  Followed by a very dramatic slump in her chair and head thrown back.  Good thing I have semi-thick skin.

Mia loves structure and craves routine.  She is a rule follower and does. not. deviate. from the plan.  So, the beauty of being able to skip over concepts she's already mastered and spent more time on ones she's struggling to grasp?  Torture to her order-loving heart.

Being able to do school during non-school times when I may have more energy (big ole preggo remember?) or when Dad was home?  Ridiculous!  The consistency craver was crushed.

This culminated before the holidays and with registration for this coming year happening in Feb and a baby due in Jan we thought it best to tour schools before the Christmas break if we were going to consider going back to traditional school the next year.

As soon as I sat down to pray about where to even look, that smaller school I first found when researching from Albuquerque came to mind.  From the moment we stepped in for our tour it felt so different. So unlike the huge school that placed more value on accolades than the person, yet still held high academic standards that would challenge our kids.  And their arts program (Mia's jam) was so incredible.  By the time the tour was over James and I both knew - this was our school.  They also had a preschool, so all three kids could be in one place.  We planned to sign them all up for the following year.

Then our family was graced with one super sweet and super colicky baby.  Mia struggled with this the most and the majority of my day was suddenly spent holding a screaming or lightly sleeping baby.  We got back in touch with the school to see about Mia finishing the second half of the year there.  The next quarter was about to begin and a few other new students were starting soon. A couple weeks later Mia was part of the second grade class and loving it.

Through all that, here's a few things we learned....

-The decision to homeschool (or not) is personal and belongs to you and your spouse alone.  You know what's best for your children.  Once we had made our choice, I dreaded the impending conversation in which we actually had to tell people.  I felt the same way about telling people I was becoming Catholic.  I was in no way embarrassed or ashamed of our decision, but how do you sum up months upon months (or even years) of research and discernment in one short conversation?

We took a lot of time to really dissect all those preconceived ideas we had about homeschooling. Our friends and family did not.  So, try not to take it personally if they aren't as excited or seem leery.  Chances are they simply care about your family and want the best for your kids.  Try to be patient.  Explain as best you can, then accept that they may never come to the same place of understanding.

-Your homeschooled children will not be socially inept, if you ensure they aren't.  I think the biggest argument against homeschooling is "what about their social skills and being around other kids?!"  This was actually the least of my worries.  We have always been a very social family, active in both our parish and community.  Our children are around other kids in various settings (including structured class) all the time.

Yes, there are some families who try to create a bubble around their children, shielding them from the world and all of its influences.  They have withdrawn their children from brick and mortar schools but from every other aspect of society as well.  They have created a very safe haven of like-minded families, and their children only interact with these other children.  

And where we have parents building impenetrable shelters around their children from mainstream society, there are those just across the way who send their kids out the door with nary an idea or care as to what they're doing or who they're doing it with.

Those extremes could leave your kids very awkward and lacking in social situations, or incredibly rude and self-serving (or a whole slew of things in between).

While I certainly want and will continue to shelter my children from many of this world's realities with appropriate boundaries, we are meant to live in this world.  We cannot be salt and light and share the beauty of God's love and goodness by hunkering down in our very comfortable, non threatening life.  Or by only interacting with the people who already have it.

I think children take most of their cues for how to interact with the outside world from us.  If and when you are out in the world, they are learning as they watch you.  Then they get to apply it when they are with friends at school, or co-op, or church, or play dates, or sports practice or wherever. As parents we get to identify concerns within our children's education, and we do the same with their social life.  If we see a social need or where a skill is lacking, we get to determine the best way to work on it.  And there are lots of ways beyond the traditional classroom to do that.

-Trust your gut.  The curriculum choice about killed me.  I had never done this before so I wanted something comprehensive.  I wanted something that would tell me what to do and hold my hand. I didn't want to be spending hours on lesson plans.

I was never totally sold on the curriculum we went with (even though it was popular) but I needed to make a decision.  I quickly saw that their set-up and materials were not working for us.  I would spent hours each week chopping up the pre-formed syllabus and piecing it back together in a way that made sense for us.  And I cut out half of the books that came with the curriculum.  Which totally defeated the purpose of having a comprehensive set.

I finally stopped beating my head against the wall, returned it all, and pieced together my own curriculum.  It's what I wanted to do from the very beginning, but didn't feel confident enough to try off the starting blocks.

The good news is that homeschooling is very forgiving.  You can adjust and change as you go.  Don't be afraid to give something a shot. Sometimes you have to try something out before you know if it's going to work.  And certainly don't feel locked into something that is clearly not working.

-Planning is good, but flexibility is better.  I thought Mia would love curling up on the couch for school and hopping around different subjects, but as we've already discussed....No.

I read I should have things for the preschooler or he would just disrupt and destroy.  So, I had workbooks and manipulatives and fun activities for him to do....and he didn't give a hoot.  He was happy to "do school" for a short bit, then was off to do his own thing.

I heard that I shouldn't plan much for kinder....a little reading and basic math should do it.  Mostly play.  But Sully was our wildcard.  He wanted SCHOOL.  He kept asking for more (which had me scrambling!) and ate up everything we planned for him.

I said that I was either homeschooling all of them or none of them, we were not doing a bunch of different things!  Turns out that wasn't best for everyone either.

-It's not ever time lost. We learned so much about our children's abilities and how they learn during the short time we homeschooled. Our extensive research on schooling methods was so valuable for the long haul and is knowledge that will continue to aid us in our approach to our kiddo's education.

If you're thinking about homeschooling, but are worried about making the wrong decision and losing a're not going to screw up your kids.  I promise.  They are so resilient and gain so much more than we realize even from the simple work of daily life together.  That intentional time together is never time wasted.

-It's OK to pull back if that's what your family needs.   The idea of stepping back from school and pulling back for a year is so taboo.  It's all strive, strive, strive, high test scores, extra curriculars, social's a lot for a kid. It's a lot for a family.  If this year has taught me anything it's that I'm totally fine going against the grain of our societal rat race.  I'm OK if my kids aren't at the top of their class on paper or aren't competing on the best swim team in the city.  I will not crush them with a schedule full of things that are "good for them".   I still believe that in the end, our family unit is the best foundation for our children's future success, regardless of our schooling method.

-Grace abounds.   Oh goodness, there is grace.  I'm pretty sure no parent ever said, "You know, I really excel at patience and enjoy the thrill of chaotic multitasking. I should home school."  And if they did, then yes, they probably would be an excellent candidate for managing their children's education from home. However, most of us that have faced those waters have done so with a great deal of fear and self-doubt.  Some of us are better equipped than others for teaching, but if God has called you to this particular mission then He will be faithful to pour out the grace needed for the task.  One day at a time, Mama.

When it comes to "mommy war" battles, our experience with homeschooling reinforced that each family is so different.  There are certain moral truths that deserve our firm and enthusiastic resolve, but this is not one of them.  There are many ways to educate our children and the best person to make that decision for your kids, is you.  I think most of us know when something is not working and we also know how good it feels to thrive when you're in the right place.

I had to let go of a little pride to admit that homeschooling was no longer working for us.  Our short stint homeschooling was not primarily about Mia, as I thought it would be.  It was also about giving Sully a better foundation and time to mature for kindergarten  It was about giving our family time and space to recover from the fast paced move of the past year.  It was about saying no to something that seemed really good, so that we could eventually say yes to a better option.

So, will we forever be a traditional school family?  I'm not sure.  Right now, it's the right place for us.  We're fortunate to live in an area with fantastic schools, and we seem to have found one that's a great fit for our kids.  We know we're blessed to have these options.  If our situation changes, then we're grateful to have home education as an option in the future.....although, I would have to work on the "structure" bit for Mia's sake.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
 photo f1_zps95f50ae9.png  photo f2_zps8e4c66fe.png  photo f4_zpsabace950.png  photo instaw_zps951d8ab3.png

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How We Tackle House Projects With Little Ones Underfoot

One of the most commonly asked questions/comments we get around here is "I don't know how you guys do do you get projects done with little kids underfoot?!".  The short answer is we basically stumble our way through and hope we still have some sanity (and unscathed children) at the finish line.

We're far from experts when it comes to DIY with kids, but we have found a few things (through much trial and error) that seem to work for us.  And keep us coming back for more once we've recovered from the trauma.

So for those inquiring minds, here's:
how to tackle DIY projects with young kids

1. Communication.
I put this at the top because it's most important.  Not because we're good at it.  James and I frequently joke at how poor our communication is after nearly 10 years of marriage.  There's is still a shortage of mind reading and the intuitiveness that should come from 10 years of intimacy is...well, clouded by loud distracting children. Which means we still have to talk to each other.

At a minimum we've learned it's really important to talk through the idea, agree on a good time to actually take on the project (read: remind Deme that she is in fact an adult and not an impatient toddler who expects things to happen now, now, now!), set a budget, and do a lot of checking in along the way.

 Is this more taxing than we thought?  How are you holding up physically?  How are the kids coping?  Has anyone stepped on a nail? Are we about to kill each other?

2. Get it on the calendar.  
I may express the desire to tackle a certain project and in my mind that means "I want to start this weekend".  And to James that means "she's daydreaming again".  The reality of taking on projects with kids is that they usually happen over time in small chunks stolen during naps or bedtime.  But for the projects that will really cause some disruption to our daily routine (like having to temporarily relocate large furniture to another room), we try to set a specific time frame to get it done.  And we put it on the calendar.

There are so many other family activities happening that it usually requires a "no" to something else in order to make time for a project  And always, always plan for more time that you think you'll need, especially if you have an older home.  It never goes as smoothly as it plays out in our heads.  If you end up ahead of schedule, then hey, crack open that beer and celebrate.

3.  Decide Who's Taking The Lead and Who's On Kid Watch.  
I'm almost always the one with the idea.  I can put money on James never approaching me with "Hey Babe, I was thinking maybe we could plank that wall in the family room.  It would add some interest and give the room some character.  Here, check out the 'Planked Walls' board on my Pinterest account".  #saidmyhusbandnever

Yet, I can't actually execute most of those big project ideas myself (or choose not too).  Painting?  I'm your gal. I'm fine with the drill and I'll wield that nail gun all day long...but I'm not stepping foot near a power saw or other large power tools with giant sharp blades.  I admire those that do, but for me...just, no thank you.

That typically means James takes the lead for a portion of the project (building, installation), and I take the lead on the finishing details like paint, caulk, and putting the place back together.  Whoever is not running point, is on kid duty.  That means entertaining them, feeding them, and generally keeping them out of the other person's way.  We team up on things when the kids are sufficiently occupied (see #9) or asleep.

4. Get Into The Details
Bust out that notebook.  Think through each step of the process.  Look up tutorials.  Research materials and make a detailed list of the supplies you'll need.  Take measurements and write them on your supply list.  Be specific.  Take note of paint colors and finishes. Because here's the're going to be at the home improvement store a lot, and 2 trips is better than 7. #askmehowiknow

I can't tell you how many times I've run out to the store, only to find I FORGOT TO BRING THE LIST WITH THE MEASUREMENTS.  Try to think through as many details ahead of time and write them that when you're busy trying to grab the right piece of trim with one hand while keeping your kids from building a pyramid with the crown molding and corbels with the other, you don't have to think about what you need.

5.  Adjust your expectations and timeline.  
I used to be so gung-ho, ready to take down huge projects in just one weekend.  I have since learned that we just aren't that crew.  We have kids that like, need to eat and stuff.  And be entertained and kept away from nail guns.

What that's come to look like for us, is a big project ramp up once or twice a year. And when we do, we try to knock out as much as possible while the place is a wreck.

Most recently, we had a fridge leak that damaged the existing floors with a ripple effect that meant the floors throughout the family room, kitchen, and dining room would need to be ripped up and replaced.
how to tackle DIY projects with young kids

It was most cost effective to coordinate with our insurance company to do the work ourselves.  And while the room was a construction zone we decided to knock out a few other projects like white washing the brick fireplace, replacing the kitchen desk top, installing new baseboards, and painting.  It was a little more work for less disruption to our lives in the long run.

This kind of massive undertaking typically wipes us out for a couple of months #oldandweak  Once we've mentally and physically recovered, I ease back in with smaller projects and then we can finally think about what to tackle next. We've learned it's just not good for our family to have the house in a constant state of construction.  It's a literal safety hazard, but it also messes with our daily rhythms and the overall level of peace in the house.  So, we only put that on ourselves in short but intense bursts once or twice a year.  It just works for us.

6.  Be Ok With Unconventional.
Normally we would rip out all those floors first and then begin installation.  However, the kitchen is the busiest spot in our house, so we wanted to maintain some usability throughout the project. We also would have needed to displace a ton of furniture into the other living areas of the home - I'm sure the kids would have been thrilled with the furniture jungle gym, but I would have been pulling my hair out over the impending broken arms.

Instead we worked in small sections, moving furniture to one side of the room while we ripped up and installed floors at the other. It made the work space a little cramped, but it was worth being able to keep the other areas of the house fairly normal.
how to tackle DIY projects with young kids

We don't always do things by the book in order to make life more bearable for our kids (and us) during project mode.

7.  Get them involved. 
Get them involved, but chose wisely.  Don't pick something that will make you hate yourself and go prematurely grey.  I think this greatly depends on the age of your children.  Little ones can hand Daddy screws if he's putting together a piece of furniture.  They can help choose color and fabrics to feel like they're part of the process (only present them with your favorite options!).  Or just give them a roll of painters tape and have them place some "very important" marks on the wall.
how to tackle DIY projects with young kids

Of course, the one job they're always begging to "help" with is paint.  Children + paint = nightmare.  So, when we do have a situation where we're painting and ripping out the old flooring, we'll let them jump in there when we don't care about spills. We've also learned to load up the brush or roller ourselves, then hand it to them.  You can also paint a big circle or box on the walls and have them paint only inside that space.  Throw some of your old t-shirts over their clothes and keep lots of baby wipes on hand for quick drip clean ups.
how to tackle DIY projects with young kids

It doesn't have to last long.  They were thrilled with their 15 minute paint-palooza here.

8.  Plan Ahead For Meals.  
Let's be honest.  I'm not cooking dinner if my house is in total disarray.  We try to have lots of grab-and-go or easy to prep stuff on hand, a well stocked freezer, and the understanding that we'll probably be eating a few meals out or lots and lots of sandwiches.

9.  Keep Them Busy and Accept Help.
We try to have a few fun activities for the kids that will occupy them for a decent chunk of time (a new movie or fun game).  We also welcome offers for play dates and accept babysitting help during the messiest part of the project...or the phase that offers the most potential for safety issues.

If you also have friends offering to help with the work, say yes.  Many hands make the job go so much faster and they really are happy to help.  You can always repay the favor on their next project or in beer.

10. Invest in the right tools.  
This is obviously limited by budget, but over the years we've slowly added a few key tools to our arsenal.  And they are huge time savers.  We started out borrowing tools from friends and when we came across something we really liked and knew we would use again, we saved up for it.  I don't consider us hard core DIYers.  In fact, over the years, I've become much more inclined to hand it over to the pros if there's going to be a steep learning curve to get the job done.  The tools we've acquired over the years are the ones we use over and over and they've made the whole DIY experience much less painful.  Any amount of time saved is priceless in getting the house back to a livable state and maintaining sanity.

11. Know when to call it quits.  
This is two fold.  I think it's important to acknowledge when you're in over your head and call for back up...especially when dealing with an old house.  But it's also critical to recognize when the family is getting close to imploding.  The choas that comes from DIY can be exciting for the kids at first.  That's our bed in the living room while we worked on our master bedroom in the last house. #cuesleepoverparty
how to tackle DIY projects with young kids

But there comes a point where you just need to regain some order.....and sometimes that moment comes before the project is complete. When we see that coming, we find a good stopping point, clean up, and put the room back together.  Sometimes this means that you go months without baseboards or with only 3 of 4 walls painted.  The unfinished can drive me crazy, but it's not worth making my family even more crazy.

12.  Embrace The Suck.  
This has become our DIY mantra..Embrace the suck. Just do it.  It's going to be messy, and frustrating, and you'll be sore.  But keep going.  Grab another iced coffee and push through to the end (or until you reach #11). Nothing's worse than throwing in the towel halfway through a project which leaves you with an unfinished eyesore and without the feeling of satisfaction that makes it all worthwhile.....or having a project disrupt your lives for months on end.  Like our last kitchen.
how to tackle DIY projects with young kids

There has been a point in every single one of our major projects that I felt completely overwhelmed and regretted starting. The middle is so chaotic and it's easy to question yourself at every turn.....but then we finally get to the end.  The glorious end.  When you get to kick up your feet over your new floors, and pull the plates out of those freshly painted cabinets and it's all worth it.  Because even if it's hot glue creating that "perfect" curtain hem, you did it!

 Although most of our projects took twice as long because we have young kids in the mix, I'm so glad we didn't wait.  Our home is a gift and the ability to make it a place that truly reflects us and works for our family is also a gift.  Yes, it's slow going, but we're not in any rush.  This is our home today and tomorrow and for however long we're here, no matter what it looks like.  Each project just makes it feel a little bit more like a custom fit.

*These are some of the ways we've made DIY work for our young and growing family.  I would love to hear how you make it work! What are your best tips for tackling projects with kids...or with a busy job....or a severe aversion to painting?

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
 photo f1_zps95f50ae9.png  photo f2_zps8e4c66fe.png  photo f4_zpsabace950.png  photo instaw_zps951d8ab3.png

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Get Ready For School Pow Pow

I have such mixed feelings about the summer coming to a close.  I mean fall is my favorite season and I pine for it all year long.....the crisp air, the beautiful trees, the hot drinks, the wearing sweaters and not sweating, FOOTBALL, and.....the routine.

As much as I love these lazy summer days and continue to resist acting like a responsible adult, the routine that comes with the start of the school year does all of us a great deal of good.   After the indoc period that is.  Getting my daughter out of bed and in the car by 7:30 is going to be like.....I don't even know....the impossible dream?  waking a hibernating bear?  self-inflicted torture? Probably, all of the above.

We're going to have two in school full time and one in half-day preschool three days a week.  Last year our mornings were stressed just getting sleeping beauty ready and out the door on time....and her father drove her to school!  I didn't even have to be out of my pajamas.

This year, my shirking days are over.  I drive the swagger wagon, so I'll need to transport children for their ejumacation.  It will probably look something like this:
Too rushed to pour it into a travel mug

Lord, help me. I actually really enjoy mornings and feel the most fresh physically and mentally then (after coffee).   It's the waking up part that kicks my rear.  My husband can pop up at his first alarm and be showered, dressed, and out the door in minutes.  While I'm still hitting snooze.  Even after I've been up and walking around it still takes me awhile to fully wake up and get my head in the game.  So, my personal routine is going to have to change too (see references to "impossible" and "torture" above #applereallyclosetothetree).

We've got two and a half weeks before school starts so it's time to start shifting gears.  Throughout the day,I keep thinking of a million things that James and I need to discuss, but by the time we get the kids to bed my brain and my memory are shot.  So, I sent him the following email:

Hey Babe, 

I had mentioned talking through some things one night this week.  Would you be opposed to setting a date and me typing up an agenda?  I know it's OCD but my mind is fresh in the morning and mush at night, so it would help me out.  Let me know.  Love you.

And because he's a good man and [usually] does not make fun of my list-making ways, he agreed.  Here's a peek at what's on my mind.  My to-do list is far more detailed.  This is more big picture discussions to get everyone on the same page....

Summer Bucket List
We made one, and we did a lot.  But there are still a few unchecked items the kids are eyeing.  We won't be able to do them all, so what can we squeeze in without totally breaking the bank or our sanity?  Which ones would make a nice finish to our summer? Let's put them on the calendar.

We've slowly fallen into a go to bed later and not really sleep in (except Mia) routine.  Our morning will need to look significantly different during the school year.  What's our morning routine going to look like?  What time do the kids need to get up/go to bed? What's going to be on their morning to-do list?  What time do we need to get out the door?  What time are we getting up and ready?  What prep items can we shift to the night before to make the mornings easier?  WHOSE MAKING THE COFFEE??

What about our afternoons and evenings?  Homework routines? How do we want to spend our weekends?  What items do we need to tackle during the week, so we're free to enjoy our days off as a family?

Chores/Household Responsibilities
What are our expectations for the kids during the school year?  What daily/weekly/monthly chores will they have?  What about us?  How can we tweak meal prep/cooking/shopping to make our lives easier?

Organize and Purge (my favorite!)
We've continued to work on purging and organizing the house over the summer, but there's still plenty to do.  What are the problem areas that could bite us in the behind come fall?  What areas could we tweak to better serve us during the school year (pantry/kids closets/entryway/etc)?  What do we do with the items we've already purged (sell/donate/burn)?

The budget's been updated to reflect the coming school year...any adjustments?  What larger items or events to we need to have a saving plan for (birthdays, Christmas, vacations)?  What additional school supplies/clothes do we need?

House Projects
Prioritize the items on my our list.....what can we realistically accomplish and what should we cut from the list?  Which are best to tackle during fall and/or winter?  Set timeline and anticipated budget.

Do we have a good system for managing the impending paper flood?  How will we manage the family calendar?  Do you hate me for this pow-pow yet?

We don't have these kind of structured, official-like meetings very often.  Usually we just chat at the end of the day or touch base via a few quick emails until we can wade through the details in person together....but the start of school pretty much flips our routine upside down, so I felt the need for an AGENDA.

Anyone else feeling the sudden need to get organized and ready for the school monster?  What things do you hash out with your partner in crime ahead of time?  Who just wings it?  And please, fellow non-morning peeps....tell me your secrets!  I'm thinking I'll shower at night so my morning routine is minimal but I really just want to hug my knees in a corner and pray it's not really happening.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
 photo f1_zps95f50ae9.png  photo f2_zps8e4c66fe.png  photo f4_zpsabace950.png  photo instaw_zps951d8ab3.png

Friday, July 31, 2015

Oh Weekend, I Heart You

I hoped to get at least one post up this week, but visitors, followed by a week of solo parenting, a few sick kids mixed in, and getting a coherent post up just wasn't in the cards.

My sister-in-law had a conference in Toledo last weekend, so she brought her three kids along for a long overdue cousin visit.  The kids stayed with us while she spent a few days at the conference. Our goal?  Wear. them. all. out.  Because we like sleep.   We had a fun, non-stop, very loud weekend and the kids were pretty sad to say goodbye on Monday....especially since James had to leave the next morning for a business trip.

About 30 minutes before he left the house, Mia (after complaining of a stomach ache) threw up all over her bed.  Her and Sully came down with some sort of stomach bug or food poisoning.   Thank you sweet baby Jesus it was very short lived, but quite the start to our week.   Single parents and spouses of deployed service members - you are heros.  Truly.

The next day the baby woke up with a runny nose - her first official cold.  Is there anything more sad than a sick baby?  At that point in time, no.  Fortunately, that has been fairly mild too and she's still been throwing around plenty of smiles.  And making all kinds of advancements on the baby development front, as evidenced here:

I'm so not ready for this.  I thought my house was fairly childproof until I really thought about all the non-safe things lurking behind my very non-child locked cupboards.  I have so much work to do and so many baby gates to acquire.

James gets home tonight and we're ready to soak up these last couple of weekends before school starts!  And by "soak up" I mean pull weeds and other yard work.  Maybe we'll throw dinner with friends in there too.   Have a great one and we'll catch you back here next week!  I finally decided on a paint color for the kitchen/great room and think we actually have a plan in there now.  Why is it so hard to make those choices for your own house??

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
 photo f1_zps95f50ae9.png  photo f2_zps8e4c66fe.png  photo f4_zpsabace950.png  photo instaw_zps951d8ab3.png

Friday, July 24, 2015

Baby Dresser Organization

One of my favorite pieces in Liv's nursery (to both use and ogle) is her dresser.  It was a free hand-me-down from a sweet neighbor and one of my favorite "power of paint" transformations to date.  You can catch the details on that project here.

The tallish dresser has three deep drawers and we did our best to maximize that space.  Wanna take a peak inside?  Sure you do.  Cause baby stuff is cute.
baby dresser organization for the nursery

Before we loaded the drawers with any of that cute gear, we gave the inside a good wipe down. Then, I grabbed a roll of wrapping paper I found on clearance at Target.  I'm pretty sure this was left over from the Hanukkah stuff, but I couldn't resist the sweet subtle pattern it provided for the bottom of the drawers.
baby dresser organization for the nursery

We measured the base of the drawer, cut a sheet of paper to size, and used a little modge podge on the back side to hold it down.  I intended to put an additional coat over the top to protect the paper, but I think I'll use this clear contact paper method instead. Also, wrapping paper with measured graph lines on the back = best thing ever.

Once the drawers were lined, it was time to think about how to organize things.  I originally had everything folded in piles inside the drawers....we quickly realized that was a recipe for a clothes mosh pit.  Case in point (about a week in):
baby dresser organization for the nursery

baby dresser organization for the nursery
I don't even know how a rogue diaper ended up in there.

Given the state of things, the next time we did a size up rotation of clothes we added a few of these IKEA Skubb drawer organizers.  I employed my child laborers (paid in fruit snacks) to assemble.
baby dresser organization for the nursery

These come in a 6-pack with three different sizes - two large squares, two small squares, and two long rectangular ones.  They were the perfect mix for the hodge-podge of baby items and various types of baby clothes.

Since this dresser pulls double-duty as a changing station and lacks any surface area for storage, the top drawer was dedicated to all things diaper change.  And cute socks.
baby dresser organization for the nursery
The long skinny bin was perfect for a stash of diapers and we left some open space next to it for wipes and creams.  Extra wipes and diapers are stored in the closet.

We also keep extra changing pads, plain white onesies, and jammies in here.  As part of Liv's nighttime routine, James gets her changed and into pj's.  So it was helpful to have those supplies all together in the most easily accessible drawer.

baby dresser organization for the nursery

The middle drawer has the clothes she wears most frequently.  Babies grow so dang fast and we're doing laundry so frequently that we really don't need walk-in closet sized options for the babe's wardrobe.  We try to keep clothes in her current size limited to this drawer.  As she grows and her clothes get larger (or during colder months with bulkier clothes) we can expand to the bottom drawer. But for now, this works perfectly.

baby dresser organization for the nursery

Outfits are in the large bin to the left, dresses in the middle, one skinny bin of onesies/tops and one skinny bin of pants/bottoms to the right.
baby dresser organization for the nursery

The lowest drawer has extra sleep sacks and clothes in the next size up that she could move into fairly soon.  With the other kids I would constantly open up the box holding the next size up only to find clothes that were already too small.   Hopefully, this drawer will help me catch more of those borderline items before we miss their window.
baby dresser organization for the nursery

Clothes in much larger sizes or for the next season are stored in her closet, along with blankets, crib linens, and miscellaneous items.  I would show it to you, but it's a disaster.  It still has a bunch of my office/craft stuff and the kids art projects.  It's the last area of her room I need to tackle, so you'll see it in all it's ridiculocity here soon.

As the bambina gets older, we'll be able to better utilize the full size closet and even under the crib storage if needed.  Babies come with a ton of stuff.  It's unavoidable since they seem to need different things at different stages, but we're doing our best to keep it to mostly necessities.

What have you found to be the best storage solution for all that baby gear?  How do you organize all those little clothes?   The kids are so sad to see their favorite Livy outfits cycled through so quickly and want to "keepsake" every one.  Admittedly, I'm totally with them.

*Affiliate links used.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
 photo f1_zps95f50ae9.png  photo f2_zps8e4c66fe.png  photo f4_zpsabace950.png  photo instaw_zps951d8ab3.png