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Fashion Challenge–Spring AND Summer 2015

Sat, 23 May 2015 11:00:00 +0000

(sign up here for the Summer Challenge) I did it.  Another Fashion Challenge from Alison at Get Your Pretty On. It started with this lovely new Trench Coat… …then I received the official shopping list and nabbed some mint jeans, a striped dress, mint cardigan, white jeans, various neutral tops, and some more! As part of the secret facebook group, you can share what you are wearing each day online and see how other women put the same outfit together.  I LOVE the facebook group for ideas! I had a great time putting together the various outfits.  It was nice to feel “put together” without having to think a lot about it.  Many of the items I purchased have become staples in my closet now.  The long gold necklace is probably a favorite!  Three friends joined me this time and they all had great experiences, even 1 as a non-shopper! Today, I signed up for the Summer Challenge!  I find that these are the clothes and outfits that become my “go-to” favorites, so it makes sense for me. If you find yourself in a fashion rut or just no time to think about “what to wear”, then give it a try! MORE DETAILS EDITED FROM A PREVIOUS POST (Fall 2014 challenge) 1.  Pick your Challenge.  Right now the the Summer Challenge is the lastest.  There are many others to choose from, including freebies if you want to check out how things work! 2.  Pay for your challenge.  The early bird fee is $29.99 for most of them.  The late fee is $39.99, so sign up soon! 3.  Download and print a shopping list.  Included with your challenge is a list of items you will need in your closet.  These items will be used to complete 21 days of outfits.  Some of the items you will own and others you will need to purchase.  Alison includes links to regular and plus size options for all items AND lists the colors she will be using. The best part is that you can choose a color scheme that works for you.  After all, you want to WEAR these clothes, right? She makes it very clear what items have to coordinate, so pay attention!  I had to coordinate my plaid shirt with a cardigan and a puffer vest, so I choose one with red, black and white because I like those colors.  (and I had a white vest and black cardigan!) 4.  Go shopping!  I spent a few hours BY MYSELF at the mall.  (Yaaaaay hubby)  Ultimately though, I had better luck ordering a ton online and then making returns.  (if you order online, you can return to your local store, so I only order from stores that are located in Raleigh!) 5.  Receive your outfits via email each evening.  At 7 PM exactly, you will receive the outfit for the next day.  You can substitute items as needed and even skip outfits if they just aren’t you.  (though I found the fun was in trying some new things) 6.  Join the secret Facebook group.  It was so much fun to hear where folks were finding good deals and what color schemes people found while shopping.  Once the challenge began, everyone was able to post their outfits each day and I truly enjoyed seeing each person’s interpretation.  Best of all, it was REAL women, so all sizes (0-20) and all ages (18-70) were on there.  I loved it!  Some moms even participated with their teen daughters! 7.  Take goofy or serious selfies.  Ok, so this step is totally optional…[...]



Typical Week–Friday–Day Five

Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:00:00 +0000

This is the last day of my “typical” week here on my blog. Overview. Day One. Day Two. Day Three. Day Four. Fridays are great days!  It just feels so good to wake up and know that it is Friday!  My alarm was set for 8:45 AM as a treat, but I woke up at 8:00 AM…oh well…. 8:00 AM – wake up 8:15 AM – I am in my running clothes because with a quick text, I scheduled a run with my friend up the street at 10:30!  woo hoo! The boys are playing legos and D (age 8) requests waffles for breakfast!  Good choice! 8:30 AM – I make waffles for everyone using my current favorite recipe.  The kids get some morning chores done and I make a phone call to cancel a doc appointment…waffles are cooking! 9:00 AM – I send the boys to wake up T (age 10) and we start eating waffles.  Fridays tend to be lazy morning.  We chat, eat, laugh and relax.  There isn’t a ton of rush this morning. 9:30 AM – We begin school in the dining room.  Everyone is goofy and annoying each other with singing, so in hopes of making it better, I put on Pandora Radio. It didn’t end the silliness or singing….so for your viewing enjoyment…. Somehow in all of this, math begins to get done.  The boys finish up all of their schoolwork pretty quickly.  K finishes up hers pretty quickly today as well. 10:30 AM – The kids take a break to play Wii.  They are excited because the boys sold their old toys to buy a new Wii Motion Plus Remote.  This means they can play a particular game they enjoy that requires that remote. I head out the door for a run in this beautiful weather! 11:30 AM – My run is done and I am showered and ready to move on. We sit on the sofa to read two chapters of, Trumpet of the Swan.  Everyone is enjoying this story! 12:00 PM – Lunch is served!  12:30 PM – We complete our Friday Freewrite.  We do this every Friday. Today’s topic: You are moving away and can only take with you what will fit in one suitcase.  What will you bring?  The goal of freewriting is to transfer the thoughts in your head to the paper without a whole lot of stopping to think.  You just write what is on your mind.  While the girls and I do this for 5 minutes, the boys draw pictures.  After the girls and I share our freewrites, the boys dictate their thoughts to me and I record it for them. One HUGE message that I try to convey to my kids is the writing isn’t handwriting, but it is THOUGHTS and IDEAS!  You can be a good writer and hire someone to record your thought for you, so I am willing to be that transcriptionist anytime. 12:45 PM – The kids head outside to ride bikes and play while I gather some curriculum for a friend. 1:30-3:30 PM – We head to the Falls Dam area of Falls Lake, which is less than a mile up the road.  Friends meet us there and we spend the afternoon playing, gathering rocks, digging in dirt, and wading in the water.  It was a perfect end to the school week! The rest of the evening included a hair cut for me!  Lots of neighborhood playtime.  And friends over for dinner![...]



Typical Week–Day Four–Thursday

Thu, 23 Apr 2015 23:00:00 +0000

The basic layout of our studies is here.  Day One is here.  You can find Day Two over here.  And Day Three is written in this place. 7:15 AM – EARLY is the alarm today.  We have a doctor appointment at 8 AM for my oldest.   My son, D (age 8) is reading on the sofa when I show up downstairs.  When I remember, I put out various library books on the sofa before I go to bed.  If I do this, then he is always reading a good book when I come down.  Today he was reading a book by Mike Venezia about the life of Michelangelo. 7:30 AM – I wake K (age 12) and make breakfast for everyone.  Once everyone is settled, K and I head out to her appointment. 7:45-9:15 AM – K and I are at the doctor.  The other three will eat and play together, probably on Minecraft, until I get home.  K and I are able to hit Harris Teeter for a few items on our way home. 9:15 –  We are home!  I have to make a few phone calls to schedule another doctor appointment, so I let everyone finish up 15 more minutes on their “screens”. 9:30 – The girls begin school and the boys play legos.  This little routine has been working well. Now, lest anyone think our days are all smooth sailing, today was not.  The girls were not focused.  There were silly arguments going on.  This meant that 45 minutes later, both girls were still working on math. 10:15 AM – the boys join in for school work.  Tricia has had it and goes out to ride her bike. 10:30 AM – K has finished math and grammar.  We finish up getting her letter in the mail.  (she wanted to print a picture for an autograph request) 10:50 AM – D (age 8) is done math and copywork. *BREAK for everyone 11:00 – They all head back in so I begin asking trivia questions from our Professor Noggin Country cards.  They take over and I wash windows as we try to answer questions. 11:15 AM – My younger three set up a game on the porch; K and I chat while she works on deleting instagram pictures on one of her accounts because she wants to take it in a different direction. 11:45 AM – LUNCH!  While eating, we read  from the Bible – book of Mark.  I read D’s grammar lesson out loud to review with everyone.  He is memorizing the definition of an adjective, so I name a noun and the kids rotate naming an adjective to describe it. Then I read the next chapter of Trumpet of the Swan. 12:30 PM – Morning chores.  Then free time. *I did not run the dishwasher last night, so I had to run it this AM, so everything about morning chores happened really late today 1:15 PM – Three other families come over to participate in history activities.  We meet every three weeks to do the “crafty/art” stuff from our history curriculum.  (no one every gets to it at home on our own, so this gives us some fun group dynamics AND crafts) Today it wasn’t my turn to plan, so I just have to set up a table in the front room and let the planning mom take over! The kids made spears, knot counting strings, and played Trivia. 2:20 PM – The history group ends and my kids play outside and on the porch again.  In addition to the game on the porch, they smash things with hammers in the garage for awhile.  They were given corn kernels to smash at our history group today and after smashing kernels, they move on to various objects in the recycling bin. 3:00 – I take K to volleyball.  The younger set had to put away the hammers before I left!!!  They are back on the porch. 3:30 – I am debating a run on the treadmill when a good friend from MD calls.  Clearly, I postpone my run to chat!  4:15 – I hope off the phone and begin to lay out the school work for tomorrow.  It is at this moment that I realize that D still has his Explode the Code to complete and T isn’t quite done her math. 4:45 – D completes his Explode the Code as I put in a pizza for dinner. 5:0[...]



Typical Week - Day Three–Wednesday

Wed, 22 Apr 2015 23:00:00 +0000

You can find our basic subject outline here.  Day One is here.  Day Two is here. Now for Wednesday… 8:00 AM – alarm woke me.  I showered and dressed because I have an appointment this AM. 8:30 AM – I head downstairs.  Both boys are there.  I make them some quick breakfast, scramble 2 eggs for me and eat.  K (age 12) wakes up. 8:45 – I wake T (age 10) to say goodbye and then I head out.  8:45-10:15 AM – I attended a consumer research group to give my opinion on siding.  I earned a $75 AMEX gift card for my opinion so I took it to Harris Teeter for groceries.  (exciting stuff, huh?)  During this time, the kids had no internet because it is acting up, so they couldn’t get on Minecraft servers.  Instead, the played Mario Party 8.  It’s basically a board game on the Wii.  10:15 AM – I am home and let them finish up their game while I unpack groceries and make a phone call about the internet…which I got fixed!  (it was easy this time…it rarely is, so that is great news) 10:25 – T admits that she hasn’t eaten breakfast, so she makes herself some food and grabs her math to work on while she eats.  K and D (age 8) start school (math) at the dining table while C (age 5) plays Legos.  I help them as needed and then ask C to come do his school work.  We all sit and work. I picked 2 Bob books for C to read to me today.  After the first one, he tells me that he doesn’t want to read the second one, so I read it to him instead.  (I try to be flexible with my kids moods and energy.   You will no longer find me in schoolwork battles….we have worked through much of that.  A post for another time….) 11:00 – C is done all of his work.  K is done all of her seatwork.  D is finished math.  T is finished copywork and math.  The boys head off to legos and K heads off to the trampoline. **Normally K has reading to do, but the year is winding down and she is finished her history titles and has finished her literature title for this month.  We aren’t starting anything new until we return from our vacation.** 11:15 – T has now finished grammar and we started to do spelling, only to realize that she had finished the book and I don’t have the next level.  SO…she is done for the day and she heads outside. At this point everyone is on bikes and playing in the gorgeous weather.  I HAD planned to do a letter writing activity before lunch, but it is too nice outside. Instead, I took the book One Crazy Summer to read on the porch while the kids played.  (I am reading one of K’s literature assignments this month and she REALLY enjoyed it.  A lot of her discussion/information was about the Black Panthers and I was curious, so I decided to read it.  I don’t read all of her titles every month anymore) 12:00 PM – We all came in and made lunch.  While we ate lunch, I grabbed one of the library picture books to read.  It is about the invention of the printing press, which reinforces our history reading from yesterday. 12:40 PM – I decide to fit in that letter writing assignment.  Every year I try to walk the kids through a formal friendly letter.  After going over the basic format, I tell them that they can write ANYONE they want.  It can be someone famous, a family member, or a friend.  K decides to write Erica Beirman, the actor who plays President Snow’s daughter in the Hunger Games movies.  T decides to write a letter to Patti Labelle to explain how much she enjoyed her dancing on DWTS.  D and C decide to write Notch (creator of Minecraft) a letter and ask for additional creations in the game. (NOTE: It appears that Notch left Mojang, so the letters are going to head to Jeb.  Probably via email) 1:15 – We have to wrap up the letter writing, though only T finished.  T put her letter in the[...]



Typical School Week–Day Two–Tuesday

Tue, 21 Apr 2015 23:00:00 +0000

I am in the midst of recording our typical school week and today was day two.  I started by listing our curriculum and you can find Monday here! 8:15 AM – alarm wakes me up!  I get dressed in workout clothes because I have found that it is one sure way to get in a workout when the time works out. 8:30 AM – the boys are up and playing.  D (age 8) is very interested in words and we began the day with a discussion about “light” as in weight vs. “light” as in bright sunshine.  I was going to make breakfast for the boys, but D had already taken care of that!!!  He made breakfast for himself and C (age 5)  There are things about this “growing up” that I love!  Self-sufficient kids is a bonus! 8:45 AM – Made my own breakfast.  Rubber bands flew over my head while I ate it because the boys were shooting them.  Then D sat down to read our latest issue of “Time For Kids”. 9:15 – The boys did their AM chores while I woke the girls.  Then we began schoolwork.  I helped D with math while C played legos.  K (age 12) came down and we worked on her math.  T (age 10) was still in bed. Both boys finished up all of their seatwork.  K finished grammar, math, and literature and went off to work on the book she is writing.   10:00 - I FORCED my little T out of bed.  Then I called my mom to chat while the boys played legos and the girls chatted.  D followed me around asking to play computer!  ARGH! 10:30 – I read two chapters of, The Trumpet of the Swan, to T, D and C.    Then we discussed what to do for Tea Time Tuesday.  Many times we go out for a snack with our poetry books, but we decided to bake a cake and cookies instead today. 10:50 – The three younger kids helped me bake a chocolate bundt cake while K made candied peanut butter oatmeal cookies.  (This was not good for my “don’t eat any sugar” week) 11:30 – The boys got on the computer to play Minecraft; K took her freetime to do gymnastics; T finished up her math and then had free time.  I slipped downstairs to the treadmill. 12:30 PM – We made lunch while listening to our history audio CD’s – Story of the World.  They ate while I was still chopping up things for my salad. 1:00 – I ate while they played. 1:15 – We gathered to do our history discussion and mapwork at the dining room table. 1:35 – T and I sat down to work on her spelling and grammar.  1:50 – We went into the kitchen for Tea Time Tuesday.  We ate cake and cookies while reading poetry by Jack Prelutsky.  Then we read the Bible.  (We are reading through the book of Mark) 2:15 – Freetime/Playtime for everyone! At this point, formal “school” is done.  The rest of the day:  My oldest had a volleyball clinic from 3:15-5:15.  I took a run with a friend to get some time outside!  Later in the day, D  and I played a math game (24) on the porch.  Then we went to the neighbors to watch our older girls and their friends put on a show.  They gave awards to our boys!  Side note:  I cooked bone-in ribs for the first time tonight for dinner – they were DELISH!  School work is ready for tomorrow!  The next two days are busy ones!!! (You’ll notice that C has 2 Bob books instead of his phonics book out.  I also put out a Countries of the World geography game to remind me to play it sometime tomorrow for fun – maybe at lunch since we don’t have history tomorrow)[...]



Our “Typical” Week–Day One–Monday

Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:00:00 +0000

I decided to record our week this week because it is a “typical” week.  Typical means it is filled with doctor appointments, sports commitments, and play dates.  

In my most recent post, I outlined the basics of what my kids study each day, but this is what it looks like practically….

sometime in the 7/8 AM, the boys woke up.  They can read, play Legos, or watch a show.

8:15 AM – my alarm went off.  Up and at ‘em! 

(uh…this is the beauty of older children…when there were children 3 and under, my morning didn’t begin with an alarm clock after 8 AM….)

8:45 AM – I went to check out some curtains for sale on a neighborhood website.  I was back in 5.

9:15 AM – breakfast for boys and K (age 12).  T (age 10) was still asleep.

9:45 AM – T woke up and stayed in bed for a bit to read. 

Boys began playing legos after doing their morning chores. (C empties kitchen recycle bin into garage large bin; D empties the silverware from the dishwasher)

K finished her chore (empty dishwasher, other than the silverware that D does). Then she and I worked on her math, copywork and grammar.  It was an easy day for math, so she did 2 lessons.  We are working on labeling parts of speech for grammar and this lesson was about prepositions.  She memorized most of them in previous years, so it was pretty easy.  While we finished up her work, T had breakfast.

10:30 – schoolwork with boys.  I worked with them simultaneously as C needs me to sit with him, but D (age 8) was pretty independent today so he sat across from us and worked.  K was next to me, finishing up.

T, who only recently ate breakfast, did her morning chore (using the swiffer in the main rooms) while we worked.

11:00 – C is done kindergarten work.  D is done everything but his grammar, so we finished that – working on contractions

Meanwhile,  T began working on lessons – she actually did her copywork and grammar in bed the night before because she stays up late, so she only had math and spelling to complete.

11:30 – T and I left for allergy shots and she brought her math to finish.  We went by the library to pick up books on hold as well.  K stayed home with her brothers and the boys played Minecraft while she worked on a story she is writing.

12:30 – Lunchtime!  While eating, we listened to the audio CD of Story of the World.  Today we learned about Martin Luther and his 95 theses and then Henry VIII, his 6 wives and his split from the Roman Catholic Church

1:15 – Clean up lunch and return to the school table to discuss our history via comprehension questions, complete a Tudor Family tree and fill in our map.

1:45 – I had to head to a doctors appointment.  I had not gotten to our read aloud title yet, Trumpet of the Swan, but T was eager to play with friends when I got home, so she read two chapters on her own while I was gone.

While I was gone, the boys played Legos and Wii.  K worked on the story she is writing.  T played Wii with the boys.

3:00 – I returned.  The girls headed out with friends.  I read two chapters of Trumpet of the Swan with the boys then the school day was declared “done”.

**I realized too late that T had not done a spelling lesson today, so we’ll start with that tomorrow.  It happens…

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Typical Week of Homeschooling–Introduction

Sun, 19 Apr 2015 11:00:00 +0000

I think one of the questions I am most asked about homeschooling is, “What does it look like?”  or “What do your kids do all day?” So I thought I’d blog a “typical” week by sitting down every night and recording our school day.  I picked this week because we have “something” going on EVERY DAY.  Last week, we didn’t have anything going on and we had a very productive, relaxing week.  That is NOT typical, so I didn’t record that week. BUT FIRST, let me give the general overview of school around here! My children are in 6th, 4th, 2nd and kindergarten. Right now (as it is always changing) it is working best to lay out their school books the night before with assignments marked for them.  Below is their basic outline for each day, but keep in mind that these assignments and choices reflect my beliefs and philosophies.  They are not reflective of all homeschoolers.  For some folks, I am too workbook-y and for others I am not workbook-y enough.  It is the balance we have found (after SEVEN years of attempts) and it works for us right now. Kindergarten Writing.  (5 minutes) I have a lined paper notebook and he tells me what word to write.  I write it and he copies it.   Earlier this year he made it through all of the letters, so we began basic “copywork” which involved him copying a few words that I wrote: his name, his birth month, etc.  One day he told me that he didn’t want to write the ones I picked.  He had his own words to write, so now he tells me the words he wants to write and I let him copy them.  Phonics (5-10 minutes)  We are working through, “Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.”  I am a FIRM believer that children will learn to read when they are ready if they are in literature rich environments AND have some basic phonics.  That being said, there are days we don’t do any phonics and there are days we read a few Bob Books.  He wasn’t ready in September, so we tossed phonics all together until January and he seemed to learn it more quickly, so we are taking it slow and enjoying the process. Reading.  (20-30 minutes)  This is NOT phonics time, but time when Mommy reads some good literature aloud.  This is KEY for our homeschooling and something that I think is really important to a solid education.  He listens along with two of his siblings.  We usually are reading through a chapter book of some sort, but we also find great picture books. History/Science.  (15 minutes- 3x a week)  Our family did science in the fall, so we are studying history this spring.  We are reading through “Story of the World” and are in Volume two.  C (my kindergartener) listens along and answers questions during our discussion, but doesn’t do the map work with us.  I do point out places on our large world map to him.  Math (5-10 minutes)  Workbook Page in Singapore Earlybird Math.  Second Grade Writing.  (10 minutes or less)  D is now doing copywork so he copies a passage from our literature book or something I have written that reinforces his grammar.  I write the passage or sentences in his copywork binder and he copies them under my writing.  Reading.  (20-30 minutes)  D has always been a reader.  He reads all day long.  He loves science books, comic books, history books, and even art books.  Anything I pick up from the library can be found in his lap at some point during the week.  D also listens to the book that I am reading aloud. Grammar.  (5 minutes)  We are working through a book called, First Language Lessons.  The lessons are all mainly oral lessons and memorization.  Sometimes we use his copywork passages to discuss grammar as well. Spelling.  (5-10 minutes)  E[...]



Homeschooling

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 11:00:00 +0000

The fear and the stress of thinking I’ll miss something

or should have done something that I haven’t

or should have done it differently if I did.

 

Should they be studying Latin?

 

The voice of public school past saying it should look this way

or has to include that

or must involve a lot of paperwork.  tests.  grades.  more writing.

 

I am pretty sure all homeschooled kid learn to speak in Latin

 

Will I fail them?

Will they get into college? 

Will they wish they had gone to school?

 

Our 14 weeks of Latin study should count for something.

 

The voice of those looking in wondering how many hours we spend each day.

how I calculate grades.  credits.  hours.  transcripts.

wondering how I know if my kids are “behind” or “ahead”

as if those things exist

 

Balancing a middle schooler and kindergartener and two in between…

 

Don’t you need more workbooks? 

Oh gosh, we are relying too much on workbooks.

Should they be reading more?

We need more nature time outside!

They have way too much free time

         and then not enough within a few days.

Can the Discover Channel just count as Science for today?

Until I am in the mood to do experiments all throughout the kitchen.

 

Veni, Vedi, Victus Sum

 

In the end

success ebbs and flows with this thing called homeschooling

I learn to appreciate my changing moods

my conflicting voices

my constant questioning

my daily grind

 

confident that most of these voices, questions and conflicts are universal to all moms.

well, other than the Latin part

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Gema

Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:00:00 +0000

On Memorial Day weekend of 2014, Gema, my grandmother (dad’s side), passed away.  It was a hard time for our family.  That weekend, I spent one last afternoon with her at her house, doing most of the talking as she wasn’t feeling well.  Her health situation digressed quickly and she passed away a few days after that visit. On our family’s recent 2015 New Years visit “back home”,  I made one last trip to my Grandmother’s house to pick up a few pieces of furniture.  It was hard to walk in the door and not see her smiling face at the table, drinking coffee and watching TV.  I walked around and cried and gave myself some time to remember…. Remember the creepy cellar and the steps leading down there and the time Uncle Jimmy put a fake hand on the steps for me to find IMMEDIATELY following my Gema telling me a scary story called, “the Green Hand” about a hand that kills people. Remember late night horror flicks when I was way too young to know who Freddy Krueger was but she would look at the back of the VHS tape in the video store and pretend she had no clue it was a slasher flick as she nodded about “the nice kids on the school bus” and would act so shocked during the movie when they were slashed to death. Remember Fluffy Macho, the kitten she let me bring home from the park one day when someone was giving away free kittens knowing full well it would probably end up at her house. Remember waking up as a young kid during sleepovers at Gema’s and being terrified of the horrific thunder outside till I realized the sound was inside the bedroom and was being made by Gema’s teeth grinding which was a trait she lovingly passed on to me so that I think of her whenever I put my night guard in my mouth. Remember the season that I drove over every Monday night after tutoring so we could watch, “Dancing with the Stars” together and Aunt Norma would call at least once during commercials to talk about the show and check in with us and Gema would always have some sort of snack prepared for me even though she never really ate much of it. Remember backpacking with her every summer starting when I was around 5 years old and Dana (my brother) was so little that he fell over as soon as they put his backpack on him with his sleeping bag so she had to carry his sleeping bag but off she took us for a 1 mile hike to a shelter to camp overnight and tell us scary stories like, “Mary, Mary, I’m on your first step…” which is one I have creeped out my own children with in memory of Gema. Remember that she accepted and loved any and all of my friends like Genna and Daisy who she bravely took backpacking with me the summer after our freshman year even though they had never even been camping AND my friend, Julie, whom she drove home the three hours from Ocean City during one family vacation in which they both needed to head out early. Remember her constantly asking if the boy at my house, or the one in my car, or who called on the phone, or I mentioned in conversation was “cute” or “the one I liked” and if not then I was to tell her “who ya like” and she never really believed that there wasn’t anyone. Remember her photography, the contests, the winning photos in calendars and the artwork she painted in the house.  In her heart, she was an artist and it showed in so many ways in her life.  In fact, I had to take a few pictures of her bathroom wallpaper.  She created it herself with bird pictures that she liked from a magazine.  It was so “Gema” to me, so I wanted to preserve it somehow and a photo seemed the best way.  And then I shut the door to the house and just cried over the many memories that had surfaced.  Thankfully, I don’t have to shut the door to my memories… [...]



Life Change

Fri, 12 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000

Since moving to NC over a year ago, I haven’t worked outside of the home at all. 

Before our move, I was a math tutor for YEARS.  I began tutoring when T was a baby and continued at least 2 times a week until our move to NC.

Sometimes I forget that I used to work two nights a week.  Many times it feels strange to have “nothing to do” in the evenings.

But I have to admit that I love it.

LOVE.

For me, it is a gift to be home with my kids all day AND have the evenings to make dinner, talk on the phone, play games with the kids, watch a show, or go for a run.  It feels so restful compared with running out the door as my husband ran in the door.  I feel fortunate that this is now our situation.

There are definitely financial tradeoffs and sometimes I miss that extra money to buy the cognac riding boots and gray skinny jeans that are on my list some extras.  I admit that many times I want to lazily grab lunch out with the kids more than I should and I miss that extra cash.

But for this season of my life, I am happy with the tradeoff.  I know I will find some way to get those boots save some cash in the budget for little treats and I also know that I can live without gray jeans some of it. 

I appreciate the gift of work for the season that it felt necessary.  Right now, I appreciate the break.  Admittedly, I talk about finding some ways to make extra income in the future and what I want to do “when I grow up”.  I have no clue what next year or the next five years will hold in terms of finances and needs, but for now, I am grateful for this season of our family life.

(The irony of this is that I wrote it about 2 months ago.  Right now I have had a few tutoring doors peek open, though I am not convinced it is time to step through them.  But, I am considering it.  It was nice to read this again before publishing it to remind myself what I am giving up if I open that door again!  Either way, I am grateful for the last 1.5 years (and possibly more) of a break from work!)

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Our last vacation day

Thu, 11 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000

Our last day was a lovely day of rest with our friends. The plan was to tour downtown Franklin.  On the way, we did the “fan” thing and drove by Toby Mac’s house, which was located in the downtown area of Franklin. Then we took a walking tour of downtown. We grabbed lunch at a local place and it was fabulous. This was the only picture I had of Jehan and I enjoying our lunch and nothing I could do to it improved the shot, but it is all I got, so there. Some folks look adorable no matter when you take the picture and no matter the angle. We spent the next few hours at a local playground.  We had a great time.  We brought along an extra kiddo with our family. Our family had a fantastic time!  These kiddos are such fun and I will enjoy this memory of Nashville for a long time.[...]



The World’s Largest Cave and a Fancy Hotel

Wed, 10 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000

So, back to Nashville… While in Nashville, we decided to drive to Kentucky and tour the world’s LARGEST cave!  With 400 miles of surveyed passageways, Mammoth Cave is over twice as long as the second-longest cave system, located in Mexico. Not knowing how the kids would handle this cave adventure, we went with the “user friendly” Frozen Niagara tour.  This particular tour was only about 1.25 hours, part of which was the bus ride to the entrance.  Another reason we choose it?  It was also the “prettiest” tour. Mammoth Cave is not a “show” cave with lots of stalactites and stalagmites.  This is due to a sandstone layer in the geology of the cave.  The sandstone prevents much water from getting through to the cave below, and hence, causes a pretty inactive cave in most sections.   An inactive cave doesn’t have much showy stuff.  It is just a fantastic hole underground through the rocks, but somewhat ugly. The Frozen Niagara section is the only active cave section because it lacks a sandstone layer.  Water is actively dripping in sections and formations are all over.  We thought the kids would enjoy this section of cave for its showiness.   So off we went into the cave… I loved watching my kids raise their hands to make comments and ask questions.  The boys were really excited about the cave.  C (age 5) raised his hand to share that this was his “first cave ever”, so the guide effectively turned that into a transition into having the real cave experience… and he promptly turned off all of the lights in the cave. DARK.  DARK.  Like, I put my hand in front of my face and could not see it at all sort of darkness.  Crazy dark. Once the lights came back on, we all felt much better. Until…our guide showed us the critters on the ceiling of the cave that weren’t visible to us until he shown his flashlight on them. Cave crickets.  Quiet and still little things.  But do not put your hand up for balance on the ceiling of the cave.  YUCK! We continued our hike to the “Frozen Niagara” section… It was beautiful! Then it was time to head out of the cave and back to the sunshine! On our way back to Franklin, we decided to stop in the northern part of Nashville to visit the Opryland Hotel. This is a fancy schmancy hotel located next to the Grand Ole Opry!  While we would have loved to catch a performance, we weren’t so sure the kids would enjoy it.  Instead, we spent some time touring around the hotel. It was great timing because the hotel was decorated for Christmas! We sat by the “river” for dinner, a delicious pizza and garlic knots. The whole place felt VERY reminiscent of Las Vegas to Eric and I.  Every hotel in Vegas is like this one.  We had some déjà vu feelings for sure! The gardens were lovely! And we found a Poinsettia Tree that made us think of the one in the mall back in MD.  The outside was beautifully lit up as well. The Nativity scene on the way out was surrounded by beautifully lit trees. After a very full day, we were ready to head “home” to Jehan’s house.   We were so grateful to have a home to head back to with friends to play with, chat with and relax with.[...]



PSA: Ebates

Mon, 01 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000

If you have not heard about Ebates, then lend me your “ear” for a moment.  This is the easiest money I have been able to make online.  (similar to swagbucks, but I find it a better deal for me)

Ebates is a site that gives you a percentage back on what you spend when online shopping.  It is VERY simple.

1.  Go to the ebates website

2.  Type in the store you want to search.

3.  Ebates will open a new tab for the store and you can shop till you drop.

4.  After your purchase is made, Ebates will add a percent of your total to your Ebates account and will mail you a check (or paypal you) the total in your account every few months.

THAT’S IT!!

Of course, if you are like me, you will go to your favorite store website and begin to shop.  Your shopping cart will be full and it will be time to check out when the thought will occur to you, “Oh no!  I didn’t go through ebates.”  At this moment:

1.  Close the tab for your store.

2.  Go to Ebates and reopen a tab for the store.

3.  Your shopping cart will STILL BE FULL and you can proceed with checkout through the tab opened via Ebates.

Voilà!

Thank me later when the bucks back begin to roll in. 

This has been the EASIEST money to make!!!  For example, on black Friday, the GAP was offering 12% back through Ebates.  TWELVE PERCENT!  The deals for Cyber Monday are great.  Go check them out and thank me later.

Of course, they also have a referral program, so you can earn even more cash by referring friends, so if you are new to ebates, then I thank you for signing up through my link.  THEN, set up your own and send ebates on to your friends and family. 

Later we shall return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

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Nashville Adventure Science Center

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

The ASTC membership to your local science center is recognized as a membership to Science Centers all across the country! We took advantage of this opportunity to visit the Adventure Science Center in Nashville for free!  (As a family of six, we REALLY like FREE!) It was a smaller science center than our one in Durham, but there was plenty to do.  The center had a multi-story climbing, play area.  There were slides, stairs, play areas on each floor.  If you climbed to the very top (3 stories), then you were treated to a glass triangle room above the science center with a lovely view of Nashville.   If you have little ones under 5, this play area would be an absolute nightmare.  Children can exit on multiple floors and in numerous ways.  Thankfully, our children were old enough to “lose” for a bit and to find them again later. Another section of the science center was focused on anatomy.  We had a great time in a laser shooting game shooting pathogens.  The kids explored various activities and learning stations. We found two ships with running water meant for dam and waterway building.  We all enjoyed this, including myself! Ambulance driving is always a hit! There was a section set up for kids to explore what it is like to be in a wheelchair.  There were three wheelchairs available with a ramp that went up and down around the outside of a basketball hoop.  There were plenty of fun places to explore.  We were also treated to a planetarium show as our science center doesn’t have a planetarium. Once we got back to the house, we were treated to another yummy dinner.  Then it was time to celebrate Eric’s birthday!  Tricia picked out candles that glowed in a variety of colors!  They were fun to say the least. Another great day of vacation![...]



Mythology, Honky-Tonk, and Art (continued)

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

Day One was clearly busy!  After our morning of mythology and our lunch downtown, we headed to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The work of Kandinsky was going to be on display.  I knew very little about this artist, and the kids knew nothing.  Before our trip, I got a few books about his life and work for the kids and I to read.  *SIDE NOTE*  This is always helpful if you want to do the art museum with kids.  Get them familiar with artwork that they will see there and chances are that they will be more engaged with the experience.  They will already have a connection. After about twenty minutes of looking at Kandinsky’s work, we moved upstairs to check out the kids area.  It was a permanent section filled with activities for kids.  The area was amazing.  I think we spent two hours exploring, playing, and creating! Building with a huge collection of Magformers was a hit all around! The kids were asked to paint in a method inspired by Kandinsky.  The kids were to paint their feelings and even had the option of painting while listening to music on headphones for inspiration! Each kid took a turn using the “printing press” and making a copy of a landscape carving. D (age 7) really enjoyed this computer kaleidoscope simulation.  He was mesmerized by it, as were some of the other kiddos. The area for creating stop motion videos was fantastic, complete with background landscapes to choose from.  This is a favorite activity on the iPad at home, so they enjoyed the different backgrounds and unique “critters” to use in their videos. By the end of our time at the museum, we were ready to head home.  Jehan, my friend who we were crashing with, made fantastic mini-Stromboli's for dinner.  It was such a treat to have dinner with friends.[...]



Wordless Wednesday: Music City Y’all

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

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Mythology, Honky-Tonk, and Art (continued)

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

Our first day in Nashville began with a visit to the Ancient Past.  After which we headed downtown to take in the sites and sounds of Nashville. Tourists?  Yes.  That would be us.   We arrived at Music Row and decided to scope out a place for lunch. As per my friend’s recommendation, we had some burgers and hot dogs at Robert’s Western World. The live music was excellent.  Had it just been Eric and I, we would have listened for a few hours. K thought the restaurant was a bit strange.  That would be because it was a bar. Yes.  Her mom and dad took her to her first bar.  Then we walked around some more and warmed up in the Country Music Hall of Fame museum store. Then we braved the cold day to walk the pedestrian bridge. We were rewarded with the passing of a coal barge under the bridge.  I think this was the highlight for a few of the male members of our crew….including the oldest one…Daddy. Beautiful view of the city… It was a fun day in Music City.  We weren’t quite finished yet, so we headed for a treat and then to the car.  Next on the list was the Frist Art Museum![...]



Mythology, Honky-Tonk, and Art

Mon, 17 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

That about sums up day one in Nashville.  Let’s start with the Mythology trip! We started with a visit to a full size replica of the Ancient Greece Parthenon, complete with a full size Athena statue AND Percy Jackson movie relics. This landmark was my choice.  I have always enjoyed the study of Greek Mythology.  It is a fascinating topic to me, though I am not any sort of expert.  I just find it interesting.  Last year we studied Ancient Greece and listened to, “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief,” as a part of our schooling.  In the movie, they visit a full size replica of the Parthenon to get a gem from the statue of Athena there.  This Parthenon replica and statue of Athena are located in Nashville. VERY EXCITING! The building is a very small art/history museum containing artifacts from the time the Parthenon was built in 1897 as part of the Nashville Centennial Exposition. The full size statue of Athena is on the second level.  She is covered in 23.75 carat gold. While I enjoy the historical significance of a place like this, I always feel a little strange looking at a replica of an ancient idol, worshipped as a goddess. Not one piece of the original statue remains, so historians and archeologists, along with artists, have pieced together their best representation of the original. The architecture of the Parthenon and the story behind it was interesting to learn about. It was a great side trip.  The building is located in a beautiful park.  It was a shame that it was so cold!! Day One to be continued…[...]



Why Nashville?

Sun, 16 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

Crazy story.  Because the reason involves more than a fun trip to Music City.

In 7th grade, Jehan was the new girl, imported from Alabama.  We became instant best friends in a crew of three of us.

At the end of 8th grade, Jehan moved back to Alabama because of her dad’s job.

Unbelievably, we kept in touch.

Without internet.  Without facebook.  Without Instagram.

We kept in touch the old fashion way, though now we employ facebook, texting and email to continue our friendship.

It just so happens that she, her husband and children live in Nashville.  I had never met her kiddos and it had been over 8 years since she had seen mine, so a plan to visit was established.

And a fantastic idea it was!

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We had a great time visiting the sites during the day and catching up in the evenings.  The kids are all hoping to do it again!

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Asheville Adventures

Sat, 15 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

After a hearty breakfast in our hotel, we took off through the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The drive is beautiful, though we were at the late end of the autumn colors.  Some fire reds and solid yellows still speckle the landscape for our enjoyment. I did some research to find a hike for us in Western North Carolina.  I wanted something short, on the way, and memorable.  I found exactly what I wanted in the Harmon Den and Max Patch Mountain area.  We decided to take the Short Loop Hike to the top of Max Patch Mountain. Planning the hike was one thing, but getting there was another. We were driving along the smooth highway and after one turn, we found ourselves on a bumpy dirt mountain road.  For about twenty minutes we followed that road up the mountain with narrow lanes, sharp turns, and steep drop offs on either side at times.  Eventually, we had to guess which way to turn.  After a few minutes, we began to suspect that we went the wrong way, so we pulled into a driveway to turn around.  In front of us, on the gate to the house, was a sign that read, “PRIVATE DRIVE.  MAX PATCH 4 miles” with an arrow pointing the other way. Clearly we weren’t the first to get lost on this mountain. We made our U-turn and headed back 2 miles and then made the other turn and drove 2 more.  We finally arrived at our destination!  We were greeted by a flock of ladybugs.  The ladybugs were covering the sign at the bottom of the path and very quickly they were covering us as well! Prepared for our hike… The troopers making it up the mountain… The short hike had a big payoff! The rewards of a leftover patch of snow… From the top, we had a view of our van down in the lot… It was a perfect morning. After a beautiful morning hike, we headed off to Nashville with one more stop at Cracker Barrel for lunch! On to Nashville![...]



Dark Sky Park Adventure

Fri, 14 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

“Stop.  We have to turn around.  I forgot my pillow!” “Are you serious?” “Yes.  I can NOT sleep without my pillow!” And so began our family trip to Nashville, TN as we made a quick U-turn to get my pillow!  I was thankful that we weren’t too far form home. Our first stop was in Burnsville, NC, the middle of nowhere. We were headed to an International Dark Sky Park.   I was fascinated by the existence of these places after seeing pictures on Ann Voskamp’s weekend blog post.  I was thrilled to learn that one in the South East had just been approved. The website was vague about visiting information, so I called for more information.  The man I talked to was so excited and gave me a little history of their quick approval and their future plans.  He encouraged us to come and gave me some directions about what to do when we got there because the gate would be shut at night.  The drive was pretty, but as it got dark,  I was worried about how it would go.   It was clear that we were in the middle of “nowhere”, but the sky didn’t look how I imagined it.  There were definitely more stars than at home, but it wasn’t as majestic as I was hoping on.  But we persisted on our scary, dark mountain drive.   Yes, driving up a mountain in the blackness with no street lights was a little difficult.  There was just no ability to see beyond our headlights. As promised, we arrived to a locked gate.  And it was DARK!!! From the back of our van we removed our warm winter coats, blankets, chairs, and headlamps and proceeded into the former landfill.  We weren’t quite sure where to go so we headed up the road until we saw a path into the field.   Without any other options, we hiked down the path a bit and set up our chairs and blankets.  And then we sat and looked up. The view of the sky was AMAZING.  This was not the sky we saw on the way up the mountain.  It was well worth this vacation detour.  We were able to see the Milky Way, several constellations clearly, satellites rotating around the planet, and several shooting stars! After about an hour of enjoying the majestic night sky, we headed back to the car.  On the way back, we took our family of 6 with all of our gear and winter clothes to the truck weigh station in the landfill.  Once we were loaded up into the car, we were ready to head out for a nighttime snack. Then we drove about 40 more minutes to Asheville, NC to crash for the night because our adventure the next day would be near Asheville![...]



Style Challenge

Sun, 02 Nov 2014 12:00:00 +0000

This fall I discovered a fun way to try some new fashion trends!  The “Get Your Pretty On” style challenges hosted by Alison Lumbatis are SO MUCH FUN.  I am always up for trying something new and since it had been awhile since my last Stitch Fix, I was ready to try something else. (This picture is the day one outfit.  I was feeling a bit self conscious trying to rock out some low boots with boyfriend jeans, but in the end, I liked it!  And I loved trying something new, especially with boots that I have owned for over a year) The basics of the Style Challenges: 1.  Pick your Challenge.  Right now the “Build Your Wardrobe Basics – Women of 40” is available to join.  Coming soon is the “Winter 2014” challenge.  And although it is no longer live, you can still get the information on the one I tried, “Fall 2014”. The challenges change each season, so you can check back for one that interests you. 2.  Pay for your challenge.  The early bird fee is $24.99 for most of them.  The late fee is $29.99.  3.  Download and print a shopping list.  Included with your challenge is a list of items you will need in your closet.  These items will be used to complete 21 days of outfits.  Some of the items you will own and others you will need to purchase.  Alison includes links to regular and plus size options for all items AND lists the colors she will be using.  The best part is that you can choose a color scheme that works for you.  After all, you want to WEAR these clothes, right? She makes it very clear what items have to coordinate, so pay attention!  I had to coordinate my plaid shirt with a cardigan and a puffer vest, so I choose one with red, black and white because I like those colors.  (and I had a white vest and black cardigan!) 4.  Go shopping!  I spent a few hours BY MYSELF at the mall.  (Yaaaaay hubby)  Ultimately though, I had better luck ordering a ton online and then making returns.  (if you order online, you can return to your local store, so I only order from stores that are located in Raleigh!) 5.  Receive your outfits via email each evening.  At 7 PM exactly, you will receive the outfit for the next day.  You can substitute items as needed and even skip outfits if they just aren’t you.  (though I found the fun was in trying some new things) 6.  Join the secret Facebook group.  It was so much fun to hear where folks were finding good deals and what color schemes people found while shopping.  Once the challenge began, everyone was able to post their outfits each day and I truly enjoyed seeing each person’s interpretation.  Best of all, it was REAL women, so all sizes (0-20) and all ages (18-70) were on there.  I loved it!  Some moms even participated with their teen daughters! 7.  Take goofy or serious selfies.  Ok, so this step is totally optional… Overall, I had a great experience and would TOTALLY do this again! Admittedly, I do like to shop.  If you don’t, this might be overwhelming to you, especially trying to coordinate the outfits.  In this picture to the right, I kept the Target cardigan, but returned the plaid shirt.  My final plaid shirt was from GAP.  I found that GAP was the store that I had the most success in terms of color, fit and style, but Target had some good basics. It was nice to have al[...]



Fun with Writing

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 11:00:00 +0000

If you know me personally (or even on this blog), then you know that I am a HUGE fan of BraveWriter! If you have kids, whether you homeschool or not, and you want to help them find their writing voice and become life long writers, then I suggest you check out her daily writing tips and sign up to receive them via email.  You can sign up on the front page of her website. I love these Daily Writing Tips and have determined that we will complete at least 2 of them each week. Today I received one in my inbox and I KNEW it would be a hit!  It was a “twist” on the game “Telephone”.  Everyone begins by writing a sentence on a sheet of paper.  Then the paper gets passed to the person on the right.  Everyone reads the sentence in front of them and illustrates it underneath.  Before you pass the paper again, you FOLD BACK the original sentence.  The next person should only see the SIMPLE illustration and it is their job to write their own sentence based on the illustration.  After writing the sentence, the paper is folded back to hide the illustration and the new sentence is passed along.  We continued in this fashion until we received our original papers.  We wrote (or drew) the final piece and then shared them as a group. Hysterically funny! “Robbers throw a girl in the trash.”;  “The Ninja Turtles boil some poor victim in a mega coffee mug.”;  “Knights kill innocent girl.” “ “I took a walk into the woods and ran into a bear”; “At the Olympics, Mickey Mouse cheers for the American runner”; “The United Nations cheer for the Americans who love mice.”   “At Thanksgiving the Indians popped popcorn and roasted marshmallows”; “After being hit by lightning, the two men popped popcorn over a fire.”; “The heat from a lightning strike is used by young boys to pop bubbles.” My girls LOVED this game and want to play with friends.  I think we’ll have a blast in a large group! Give it a shot and sign up for the emails yourself![...]



Wordless Wednesday: Zoob Creations

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:00:00 +0000

Look Mom, I made a guy eating popcorn!

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Life with my Kids

Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:00:00 +0000

July and August have flown by.  As I sit here, I am looking at a calendar for mid-September.  Where did time go?? But so much of our moments are frozen in my digital albums and I love to look through them. I love to see everyday life around here.  I am so thankful to be able to walk through life with these four great kids! If you come around on a random day, you might find mess… Actually, you WILL find a mess.  A big, creative, messy mess! You could most definitely join in on a board game: Or an imaginative game, often with blankets.  For some reason the kids just adore blankets. Lastly, you can always draw on our dining room table with us! Time flies by in this house.  I love looking back at the fun times we have everyday.  The kids change so very quickly.[...]