Thursday, September 18, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Birthdays, Viruses, & Fall-ish Stuff

How's that for an unannounced 2 week blog silence?  Life just shoved us a platter full of viruses, birthday celebrations, visitors, and back to school crazy.  I sat down multiple times to type out some sort of wordy goodness here, but there was just so much going on and so much not focusing happening in my brain. 

So, let's take a advantage of a 7 Quick Takes Friday (thanks to Jen) and get caught up a bit....

1.  Viruses Stink.  
It's been a long time since our whole family has been down for the count.  This respiratory virus snuck up on us....first taking down Mia.....then the boys....then me.  Somehow James was spared, so at least there was one germ free human in the house to take care of us sicklings.  It was almost comical to see the boys tag team their breathing treatments.  Ok, not funny at all.  It was really sad and I'm so thankful we only have one who normally needs those on a seasonal basis. 

2. Yiayia and Papa came! 
My parents were actually at the end of a string of visitors we had over the summer.  Mia and Sully are September babies, so Yiayia and Papa scheduled their visit in between those two special days.  The weather had cooled down from the sweltering week before and it was the first time they had been to Ohio when the trees were green and the snow was just a distant frigid memory.

3.  Birthdays
We try to make each of our kids' actual birthday a really special day.  We have a tradition of sending them on a treasure hunt for their birthday gifts in the morning.  James upped his game and while I (still trudging through my turn in sicktown) tried to put together some clues for Mia, he was busy drawing a treasure map.  He wrote a secret message (the present's hiding spot) with a white crayon on the back of the map and then cut it up into four pieces. 

A piece of the map was hidden with each clue and once she found/pieced all four parts together, she had to paint over the backside with water colors to reveal the hidden message.

Of course, Sully then expected one for his birthday too, and we will now be doing this approximately 4 times a year for the next 18 years.

4.  The Backyard Party
This was the first year that we had a no kidding, real party for the kids' birthdays.  I know.  Parents of the year.  We had a good ole fashioned back yard party (which would not have happened without my parents' help) and lived to tell the tale.

I'll share more about how we kept it simple, fun, and low budget in another post.  It pretty much boils down to cake.  Serve some sort of cake and everyone is happy.

5.  Best Day
By the way, James was really excited about having 20+ kids over.  He loves children.  Really, he does.

6.  Mums!  

Clearly when you go to the grocery store to pick up last minute party decorations, and you spot mums for $4.99 you must come home with 6 of them.  James was super happy to have the back of his 2-door Explorer filled with potted flowers, while being assaulted by 10 giant helium balloons as he drove home.  Buried somewhere beneath the heap of "party necessities" was a small case of happiness in the way of beer.  So, you know...about even.

7.  Apple Picking
Every fall, I have this glorified image of us strolling through an apple orchard, filling baskets with the juiciest of the harvest....then coming home and making our own apple crisp, cider, applesauce, and all the usual fall suspects. From scratch.  With my children.  In matching aprons. 

Well, we found an orchard!  The trees were a bit underwhelming, but the place was completely charming.  And my kids, along with Iron Man, picked all of the most minuscule apples they could find.

They managed to get approximately 3 average sized apples in the bunch, but of course all the different types of apples are now mixed together and I couldn't tell you what's what if I tried.  They're all still in the bags and if I don't whip something up quick, they will all be rotting in my trash can. 

But hey, it really did feel like fall out there!  And the little country store sold a mean frozen apple cider, which we all inhaled, along with a side of brain freeze. 

The cooler weather has stuck around and these almost-fall days are absolutely gorgeous.  Hope you all enjoy a fall-like weekend in your neck of the woods!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Friday, September 5, 2014

Nursery Decor Throwdown: Soft & Pretty vs. Bold & Eclectic

I can't help myself.  I'm actually snapping the final pics of my office makeover to share next week and I'm already thinking about how to swap it all out for the impending babe.  It's sort of a flash back to the kitchen makeover and master bedroom makeover in our last house.  They were both sweat inducing labors of love.....that we only got to enjoy for about a month before we packed it up to move cross country.

I've been able to enjoy my office for a bit longer, and even though I plan to switch it over to a nursery in phases, I can still see myself going full speed ahead once I get into baby room mode.  There's just something so fun about pulling together a kid's room!  We can let go of some of the limitations that hold us back in the rest of our house and run wild with color and imagination.

But of course, I have a million nursery ideas swimming through my head.  I will forever be a lover of color and I often have a hard time narrowing it down to a specific palette.  Because all the colors are my friends. 

After mustering a bit of restraint, I've narrowed the inspiration down to a couple options....

First up is the softer of the two palettes.  This one reads much more traditional, sweet nursery to me.  The floral box in the lower corner is the packaging for a set of coasters that I originally ordered for my office.  I had a DIY planned for them but their scale was too large.  I still love this color scheme and think they could be put to great use in a nursery.  With a few gold accents, this would make for a very feminine little room.

(left: image via  INphotography; top right JCrew bracelets no longer available; bottom right: coasters via Rifle Paper Co)

The next option is much more bold.  I ordered this  Oriental Weaver's Kaleidoscope Rug (also the Lalita Rug on Lulu & Georgia)  during a huge Rugs USA sale.  I had planned to use it in our front entry, but it's surprisingly super soft.  Not that I rolled around on it or anything....I took it upstairs to my office and love the bright contrast to the white walls in there.  I think we could take the room in a bit more of an eclectic/global vibe and am really intrigued with doing something a little more unexpected in a nursery space.
(left: rug via Rugs USA;  top right: image via The Pink Couch; bottom right: Elle Decoration, photography by Jeremy Wilson)

I love both of these options for different reasons.  The good news is we already have both of the main inspiration pieces (rug or coasters) to run with either one!  Whichever direction we choose for the accent colors, we're sticking with the white walls we already have and are going for "light and bright" overall. 

So, "soft & pretty" might feel something like this...

 or this...

And "bold & eclectic" might be more like this...

or this...

Which do you like?  Soft & Pretty or Bold & Eclectic? 

You can see the all our baby room ideas on our Nursery Pinterest Board....and the colors that taunt me on the regular at our Color Schemes Board.  Happy weekend!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Land of Limbo

I do not think there's a state in life I loath more than limbo.  Waiting.  Not knowing.  Feeling helpless.  Unsettled.  Ugh.  Just, ugh.

You know it's bad when you're putting dinner in the crockpot and almost make a run for the closet with the open bottle of wine instead of pouring it on that meat.  Pregnancy saved the day this time.

We mulled and mulled over the decision to homeschool.  Then mulled and mulled some more over what curriculum to choose.  In the end, I was too intimidated and overwhelmed to plow through the mountain of options and piece together our own thing.

So, we bought a fancy all-inclusive curriculum that's probably the bees knees for another family, but it so wasn't working for ours.  I could see that the approach and their layout just wasn't clicking with the kids.  Or with me.

Granted, I have absolutely zero authority on this subject since we've been doing it for all of one week, but I think it's muy importante to look for something that mom/dad/teacher can be excited about too.  I may not learn in the exact same way my kids do, but it's just like anything, meal planning, exercise.....there's a bunch of different ways to tackle those beasts, but if you're pushing through with a method that's not clicking, then that train is going downhill fast.  In this case, I set the tone for our home classroom.  So, I need to be excited and motivated about what we're doing if success is going to be anywhere in our future.
(They all love the Word Ladder)

I'm just going to look at this curriculum overhaul as a fresh start.  Hopefully, plan out our weeks a little better (particularly for the little guys).  And hopefully, have some fun.

In the meantime, I'm cleaning.  I just couldn't beat my head against the wall with it another day.  We've still been doing our morning circle time, journal prompts, and a few workbooks/manipulatives I picked up for the kids over the summer. 
(I told Sully he could build any pattern of his choice. Uuuhhh, OK.)

But I packed up all three boxes of curriculum and sent it back.  Fortunately, this company offers a full refund without any hassles.

To be fair, it's a wonderful, high quality curriculum if you like a literature based approach to learning.  I would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting that option and will break down all the details on the old vs. new once we have our new stuff in place.  Which should be arriving in pieces from Amazon, EBay, and various other companies throughout this week.

Until then, it's limbo.  Which is better than sticking with something you hate just because you're too stubborn to admit you made the wrong choice.  Because really.  School should rock...

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Coffee Break: Surviving The First Week Back To School

It's Friday and we're all still standing!  Well, breathing anyway.  Whether your kids are schooled outside the home or with you, that first week back with a new routine can be brutal. 

And thank the good Lord for a 3 day weekend to aid the recovery mode!

The week prior to kicking off our first week of homeschool, I stayed up late every night working on lesson plans.  We had been mulling and praying and researching the decision to homeschool for several months (even before school was out last year), and finally decided to go for it over the summer.  Since then, I've been driving myself insane with choosing a curriculum.  The options are endless and the choices are completely overwhelming.  Especially if you're new to this gig.

Long story short, I ordered the curriculum late in the game, had some late night cramming and planning to make up for it, and went into this first week on little sleep.  Mistake numero uno.

After the first day I could tell that some of my hesitations about the curriculum were in fact going to be a problem.  I wasn't completely sold on it from the beginning but hello, we had to study something.  I didn't listen to my gut because I felt like I didn't have a better option lined up.  And I'm a newbie, so I was scared to piece a curriculum together myself even though that's really what I wanted to do.  Mistake numero dos. 

Over the past four days, I've cut out half the books from our all inclusive curriculum, and ended up augmenting, supplementing or somehow tweaking the rest.  Which meant more late nights trying to make this curriculum work for me and the kids.  More lack of sleep: Mistake numero tres.

BUT this is not a Debbie Downer post.  Truly!

Despite the frustrations in trying to work with something that just wasn't working for us, we learned a lot this week.  We learned...

.....our kids are eager to learn.  They came down each day dressed, teeth brushed, beds made and asking to start the day. 

.....they want more.  They like to have fun with learning but they also like to be challenged.

.....Sully is turning five in a couple weeks and I didn't plan to do too much for Kinder this year, just focus on reading, a few math concepts, and handwriting.   But woah.  This kid is wicked smart.  He likes to pretend he doesn't know how to do things, but he's not fooling anyone any more.  Of all the kids, he asks for "more school" throughout the day.  So, I need to work in some more focused activities for him.

......Jack is the opposite and could care less.  He excels at disrupting. 

.....Mia is very bright and needs to be more challenged.  But she has trouble focusing.  Part of it is probably just being out of school mode from the summer, but I've found that if I don't have specific things set up for the boys to do/play with while she's working independently, things quickly go down hill.  See item above.

.....the kids learn best in different ways but they all enjoy a little bit of everything.  Book work, hands on activities, read alouds. And we're closer to finding the right balance.

....the resources I have ordered (in desperation) to supplement the curriculum this week have been great.  I feel much better about the new direction we're going for history and meeting Sully's needs. I'm still on the hunt for better math, science, and language arts programs though.

......I don't mind doing the work.  At first I was adamant about getting a full curriculum with lesson plans to HOLD MY HAND.  But this week has forced me to do more research and come up with my own things to augment the schedule.   I'm not as terrified to step out on my own and build the program I know my kids need.

So, even though this week has been frustrating in many ways, it's also been really good.  With every fail, we learn more about our kids and more about what's going to work for us.  It's going to be a continuous work in progress, but I feel hopeful. 

How was your first week back?  Is anyone else beating their head against a wall with curriculum?  Or buried in the paperwork coming home from your kids classrooms?  Hang in there!!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Ultrasound Has Spoken And It's A......

Sweet baby gender announcement

Bring. On. The. PINK!!!  Or the purple.  Or any color really.  

I know some love waiting to find out the baby's gender until the ole birthday, but we really love knowing that this little one due in Jan is another sweet girl.  It probably all boils down to lack of patience.  Or maybe control issues.  Either way, we've found out the gender for all our kids around that 20 week mark and each time it's strengthened that baby bond.  We love calling our baby by name and the kids do too.

Back when we first told the kids another bambino was joining the mix, their first response was "We're going to have a sister!?!?!"  Uhhhh.  Maybe?  And maybe not.  Guess they knew something we didn't.

We expected Mia to be thrilled (and she was), but we did not expect the boys undying affection over their baby sis they have not even met yet.  They talk to her in my belly all the time and when we stopped by a Gymboree sale to pick up a couple fun GIRL things, they were pulling clothes off the hanger faster than I could keep up..."She needs jammies!"  "These are SO cute!!"  "Wait, she needs shoes too!" "And this!"  "And this!"  And oh my goodness, stop we're just here for a couple things.

We weren't sure if more kids were in our family's future, so we gave away everything baby/maternity in the madness of our lightning quick cross country move.  The good news is when you have friends with kids somehow it all ends up coming full circle - more details on that here soon.  And since this isn't our first rodeo, we have a better idea of the things we really need.  So, among my nursery decor scheming (which is now taking over my every waking thought), we'll be sharing a few posts on baby essentials, tips for saving money on all those necessities, stretching (not literally) your maternity wardrobe, and of course some fun DIY's as we get ready for our newest resident.

Where do you fall on finding out the baby's gender?  Do consider it one of the best surprises to wait until delivery or are you knocking down the ultrasound tech's door as soon as they'll let you in?

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day Of School!

It's our first day of school!!  And our first ever day of homeschooling - ACK!  This is the first year that I've had the back to school nerves in a loooong time.  I'm giving myself a break by keeping this first day fun and more of an intro to our curriculum, school setup, and new routine.  And hopefully, we manage to make some fun new "first day of school" traditions that will stay with us no matter our method of schooling down the road.

I'll do a full post on our first day traditions and our homeschool set up later this week, but for now, here's a few pics I snapped from this morning....

 I attempted to get some pics of normal/posed/smiling children but there were none to be found.  

This was the closest I got.  Maybe I'll try again later in the week....

They really are so excited to start!  So, you pressure or anything.  Wish us luck!  I hope any of you heading back to school today have an amazing start to the new school year!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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