Friday, July 11, 2014

Transformed Dining Room

Summer slump has hit so now is the time to do a lot of house projects that won't easily get done once school starts or the holidays hit. I bought paint for my dining room back in April or May and I finally got around to painting the dining room! I meant to do it Mother's Day weekend but I threw my back out. Then I had oral surgery, twice. Then I got a pretty bad respiratory infection. Gah! So fun, right?!

One night I just moved all the furniture out and got to work. In ONE night I primed and painted my entire dining room. I wanted my family to wake up and be surprised!

So here is the before (it's from Christmas - it was the only one I could find quick! I think organizing my photos is next on my Organizing Frenzy). I HATE how the red blends with the woodwork. It's just all so blah!

 So it's dark and I'm using my iphone here to take pics. I started cutting in with Primer. The room is so big that by the time I come back to my starting point it is dry enough for me to do the next phase...

Primed and ready for some paint! It already looks massively bigger... and brighter!

Had to take a selfie, of course. Wasn't even tired... until I got to the last couple walls with the second coat of paint. You can see the first coat going on behind me. I don't use painter's tape. That's how freaking awesome I am. Or lazy. Whatever.

Tada! It's a light, pretty green. I think it's called Willow and it's a Glidden paint I think. I just painted it and already my mind has moved on and I don't remember. This was right before I turned out the lights and went to BED!

In the daytime, such a pretty and bright room now. No longer a cavernous pit of sadness.

Isn't it fabulous?! I'm so proud. I took a very long time, weeks upon weeks, to finally choose a paint color. I'm so glad the first one I chose worked out. Those little paint swatches don't always look the same once you blow it up to life-size on a wall!

I have some lovely valances being made by an Etsy artist with this fabric:

Next up? Not sure! But it's exciting planning it all out!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ambleside Schedule 2014-15

(Note: In case you're coming in on this post with no clue what I'm talking about... Ambleside is a free online curriculum utilizing Charlotte Mason's ideas for teaching children. It is created by homeschooling families for homeschooling families. The only part that isn't free, unless you get all your books from someone for free or at the library, are the literature books and regular school supplies. The curriculum and schedules they put together are *free*. This isn't an online school that is taught via video or whatever. It's a homeschool resource for parents.)


When I first looked at Ambleside I was really confused. Beyond confused! (They're redoing the site so it'll be cool to see how it turns out!) But the more I read, the more I started to piece it all together in my mind. Making schedules is one of the hardest things for me. I feel like I need structure and a timetable but at the same time it makes me feel really restricted if I have to do things at specific times.

So with that in mind I did not write down what TIME we'd be doing anything in the schedule. By leaving the time off the schedule I am open to move things around and start our school day when it is best for us to start and mold it around whatever may come up and interrupt. With a lot of smaller children who are not yet doing schoolwork and with running my business I have to keep a schedule that is more flexible.

I have 36-weeks already mapped out with weekly work and it was just a matter of figuring out how to disperse the load for the week. Best way to do that is to write down the daily work that you do, well, everyday. Then divide the weekly stuff between MWF and TTh.

We are doing Year 1 and Year 3. And of course 0 but my 4-year-old is pretty savvy and a quick learner. I have a feeling she'll be in Year 1 soon. She'll definitely be listening in on the work we're doing and taking part of a lot of it.

History (M: US, W: Geography, F: World)
Natural History Literature
Recitation (F)

Nature Study/Journal
Music (T: Composers, Th: Folk/Hymns)

The rest of the day is freed up to explore, create, play, do chores, make meals, independently read, etc. Hopefully it goes well enough that we're actually done well before lunch but we will see. I left the creative parts for last so if they extended well into the time that I need to devote to work the girls are free to continue on their own.

My mom-in-law will be doing school on Wednesdays again which is another reason I had a hard time coming up with my schedule but I decided to pencil Wednesday in as though the kids were at home with me (especially as sometimes there are sick days/snow days where they'll be stuck with me anyway, ha!). The parts they can't miss or she won't have them do at her house (chapter reading) will just be something they do before they leave for Nonna's house or makeup later... She does a lot of handiwork with them (crochet, knitting, baking, sewing, etc.) so that's a huge part that she is doing that I'm not good at. She won't do what I am doing because it is fun for the kids to learn in different ways AND she still covers the subjects that are important (she DID homeschool her four kids so I trust her!). She enjoys coming up with stuff for them to do and they love going over there. I pray they never tire of going to Nonna's house to learn and bake and sew.

Any other homeschool families out there? What are you considering or decided on? What years are your kids doing school? Have you done Ambleside's curriculum or are you considering it? Would love to hear what everyone is doing. Feel free to post links to your own posts about getting organized and prepared for school!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Homeschool 2014-15

Who knew planning school could be so time consuming? I feel like I've been at it, on and off, for weeks now! In fact I've been trying to organize many areas of my life these past weeks as well... because I have felt so chaotic. So it's actually been more than just school planning.

Time to straighten up and get my act together! I heard of Erin Condren via a friend. If you have heard the name then you know what I am about to say: planners. Not your planners of old, no way. These are almost like scrapbooks. People are going nuts with washi tape, colorful pens, stickers galore! It was RIGHT up my alley. But I guess EC is having some major customer service issues, not to mention the price was a little steep for me. So I found an alternative on Etsy called Plum Paper that is $20 cheaper. I saved up and finally got my planner purchased. I'm on pins-and-needles waiting for it to get here. I'm queen of the To Do lists. It's the *only* way I keep it all together when I'm pulled into so many different directions.

I also found these presentation folders on Amazon, in different colors, to actually make the girls some workbooks with printables that I found online. But I grabbed one for myself in order to file all the recipes that I'll need for my new, handy-dandy menu plan that I'm still putting the final touches on (ugh, seriously need to just get 'er done). I used my Dymo 4XL label maker to create a label for the folder and now I can't stop. I'm making folders for everything.

 Ta da! My "Master Book List" file with about 70 pages of lists of books, separated by subject in alphabetical order and labeled by age/grade. You can find it HERE to print. Lots of subjects and book ideas. Some books aren't ones I would ever choose, though. Just because it is on there doesn't mean you have to read it!

Then I have my recipe book. I used tabbed dividers to separate recipes into their respective places. Recipes are ones I've found online, printed and used my three-hole puncher to place in here. I created this to go along with our monthly meal schedule. Right now I'm making one menu that we will use every month. Once we are comfortable with how that goes  I'll add other menus to rotate out. You can read more about what inspired me to do that at Raising Olives. My menu does include dinner. And our shopping list will include everything we need to make wholesome foods as much as possible.

And then the blue one is our classroom schedule/curriculum that I printed off. I will be getting tabbed dividers for this as well so I can separate Elaina's stuff from Abigail's stuff as they'll be doing different schedules. You can see the inside of one page below!

The above is from Ambleside, a free online curriculum (and support network) put together BY parents FOR parents, specifically ones interested in Charlotte Mason's method of schooling. So what exactly will we be doing this next year? I think to answer that you'd have to know about Charlotte Mason's method. If interested you can go HERE. The hard part for me, the schedule, is already done and just printed off. Abigail will start with Year 1 as she is not strong in her reading yet. Elaina will start with Year 3. The years aren't based on what grade a child is in. A student finishing high school at Year 9 of Ambleside is still above the average of what other senior graduates were taught in public school, for example.

I'm still unsure of a lot of things but the foundation is laid. Now I need to nail down our math and we should be golden. I'm thinking of using Math U See because math isn't my strength either. Gee maybe that's why calendars and grids and planning are hard for me, ha!


On a side note: I'm selling some used curriculum off at Homeschool Classifieds (search user: JoyRenee to find my list and then email me if you see something you want to purchase! Or try HERE as it may lead directly to my list). Perhaps I have something you need for your own unique school!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Sometimes I go out on the front porch to photograph jewelry (natural light and all that jazz - I'm usually in pajamas, too, so I'm sure the neighbors think I'm super weird taking macro shots of jewelry on a slab of stone with frizzy hair, pjs and cute kids banging on the door at me). 

 My littlest man is jabbering differently now that he's hit that first birthday! Lots of buh buh buh buh and he tries to say "uh oh". He signs "more" and "all done" (that or he's just flailing his arms excitedly... who knows!). He loves his table food. Down to nursing him in the morning and before bed, though sometimes there's a little impromptu nursing session in there during the day. He mostly eats what we eat now if it is soft enough. He's also learned how to throw fits. He does the whole back-arching, stiff-as-a-board thing when he doesn't want to be put down, screeches and he'll throw things when he's mad. PERSONALITY is coming OUT! Watch out now! 

I think he's going to need a hair cut soon!

Judah is approaching birthday number 3 in September. The potty training battle is quite drawn out and crazy right now. He's peed in the toilet ONCE. And that was like last week. He's very stubborn and just refuses. I don't want to push. *breathe* He WILL learn... After the stinkers I've had to change this past month, though, I hope it is sooner rather than later.

Judah says the funniest things. I always call him "my boy". I'll say, "Where's my boy?" and "I love you, my boy" all the livelong day. I also call him CUTE and HANDSOME (of course!). Well apparently he thinks that I am ALSO handsome and oh so cute. And apparently I'm HIS boy. "Mom, you my boy! You so handsome!" He cracks me up!

He's also learned the blame game.

"Judah, did you do this?"
"No, Zoe did!"
"No, Zoe did!"

He actually speaks really clearly and has a huge vocabulary. He never stops talking until he's asleep. I love watching him play. He is really into imaginative play now. I love watching him pretend he's a monster (or shark or dinosaur or train) while wearing high heels, pink sunglasses and a headband (it happens when you have three older sisters... deal!). He goes and goes and goes. He's the Energizer Bunny. I'll have to try to remember some more funnies that he, and his sisters, say! I used to write them out on Facebook and even here on the blog all the time but I don't FB anymore. I need to put them somewhere... I've already done the "Now which of you kids was it that did/said this?" that moms do when they have so many kids that they start mixing up details.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rethinking the V-word

Before Silas was born the hubsters and I started discussing, well, how to prevent pregnancy. Permanently. Without going into much detail I will just say we are very much into NFP (Natural Family Planning) which I'm sure is no surprise to many of you who know me! I've never had a birth control pill or other forms of contraception (IUD, Depo, etc.). And I won't take BC due to my own personal convictions (I don't care what other people do but I choose not to use them).

That is most likely the reason we have had a baby every other year for the past 9 years. ;-) 

So Silas was born and as the postpartum weeks quickly flew by I kept nagging Daniel to make a consultation about a vasectomy. First, he was (and still is) completely on board for a vasectomy. He got a consultation set up, went to it, came home and told me what the doctor said and then marked the calendar with his procedure appointment. And........... I put my foot down. I said heck no to the vasectomy.

The entire time he was at the clinic I felt sick to my stomach. I had zero peace. I was pacing the house and furiously scrubbing dishes. I had been the one pushing him to go but when it came down to the last minute I put a stop to it. He had an appointment set up to do it and I made him cancel it. It was one thing to abstractly consider it but when he went to the consultation and then set up a date for the procedure it just became very, very real to me.

Part of me really feels done. Part of me wonders if I will still feel that way four, five, seven years from now (I'm only 29). No, I don't want to outdo Michelle Duggar (she is actually a woman I highly respect so that is not a dig at her). It's not even completely about becoming pregnant again. I really just don't think I'm comfortable with the procedure itself, altering a fertile person without a life-and-death reason. I'm fine with not being pregnant ever again. But I wonder and worry about what repercussions could arise from a vasectomy when my husband already has other physical ailments.

I'm still torn. We aren't making a decision until I feel at peace about it. My poor husband was so mad at me for weeks because of that (this obviously happened almost a year ago since Silas just turned 1). He canceled the procedure out of respect for me but he could have just gone and done it anyway; this place didn't care what the spouse thought! So I really appreciate that he canceled out of respect for me, but it was a hard decision for him to cancel it.

I'm thinking about it all over again because I've had a few regular cycles and it's usually around a first birthday that I find myself pregnant again. Let's just say there's like a mile between my husband and me right now, ha!

I think that a very painful pregnancy and then my most painful labor really motivated me to push for the procedure. I was all for it when I was still on that postpartum emotional roller coaster. Now that I have a more clear head and less wacky hormones I still feel like I can't make a decision. I know plenty of men who have had the procedure done without a hitch. I just don't know what to do. I just know that I don't want to regret it one day.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

9 and 1

Someone turned 1! And just days before big sister turned 9! My oldest and youngest are birth month buddies with four days separating their special days.

 My oldest and youngest were also my ONLY binky babies. Elaina's first birthday pics had binkies in them as well. So stinkin' cute!
 So Elaina's birthday is up first, on June 4th. Just a few days before the celebration I had an itch to run to the dollar store so I gathered up three of her siblings and left Elaina and baby in Daddy's care. I told them to each pick out two gifts for Elaina. Elaina's favorite dollar store gift was this eye mask we found because she loves her room PITCH BLACK but her little sisters, who share the same room, do NOT. And of course mommy isn't going to let little ones be scared so Elaina has had to compromise. She was so so so stoked for the eye mask and she really does wear it every night now. The other dollar gifts were: a sheet of really cool holographic stickers, modeling clay, colored pencils, pencil grips and some baton/wand thing.

We got her that Mylar balloon and the HUGE butterfly banner (behind her over the fireplace) and the dangling butterfly decor from Dollar Tree as well. I just wanted to make it special. I had been in pain and hadn't really planned a party for anyone; it was just our little (errrr big) family. But I wanted to decorate and put effort into it, other than picking up pizza and dishing up ice cream like it was any other night.

On Elaina's actual birthday her Poppy (grandpa) picked her up and dropped him off at his house for housework with Nonna before he went to work (she WANTED to go; I asked and she was beyond excited! I hope she never gets to a point where Nonna's house isn't "cool" anymore). I, however, woke up and went to the dental college to have my wisdom tooth pulled. When I was done I hit up Aldi and found this CUTE pink table cloth and some serving ware. I found lots of veggies and hummus for a veggie platter (which Judah ate most of before Elaina got home). I'm sure there was blood on my chin and I still had gauze in my mouth as the cashier rung my items up but I didn't care. I was so excited to get the house ready for my Boo girl! Being gone at Nonna's for a few more hours after my surgery was perfect because I was able to clean up and Daddy blew up balloons and we just had fun in preparation for celebrating her life!

The moment I have been WAITING for! This girl already has two American Girl dolls (because people go in on them together; wow are they ridiculously expensive) but when Isabelle came out and was only going to be available in 2014... and she sews and does ballet... it was all my precious girl could ask for and how could I refuse my baby girl? I know, I know... I spoil her! I never had an AG doll but I'd look longingly through those magazines. It'll be her last one for awhile, unless she saves up for one herself.

Okay so Elaina opens this gift. Baby Silas is asleep on Daddy's chest, right in the next room behind me. SHE SCREAMS SO LOUD that Judah starts bawling and Silas startles awake and starts screaming too. She had no idea. She was SO grateful for her dollar store gifts and just the picture-perfect recipient for gifts. I know she would have been disappointed to not get Isabelle but she'd have shown gratitude for what she DID get. That is why I can't help but bless this child. Gift her a garbage bag and she'll hold up a finger and say, "I know JUST what I can do with this!" and then she'll go off and create something amazing. She's also fun to give good gifts to because of her reactions... like screaming so loud she made both brothers cry! :-/

No cake for Elaina! She wanted Cookies and Cream ice cream. I got the ice cream from Aldi and it was actually really good.We blended the rest the next day with a little milk and had the most perfect shakes as a treat... you know because I had a tooth pulled and the cold felt good. Abigail picked out the wacky, bendy candles

Four days later I take out the cupcakes I had made, we sing happy birthday to the most jovial little red-headed baby boy and he kind of just stares at it... but he finally realizes that it is edible AND delicious! The difference between your first baby's first birthday and your fifth baby's first birthday? You KEEP IT SIMPLE with the fifth! We had a big party for Elaina's first birthday. For Silas it was, again, just us at home. And I liked it. He liked it, too, lol!

He's a messy drinker. He drinks almond milk out of sippy cups but is still learning how to drink without spitting everywhere so his shirt is a little wet. I usually put a bib on but I don't always think of it until we're in the middle of a huge mess.

 I don't know what this face is but it is cracking me up! Caption that!

 I think he actually liked the cake part more than the frosting. My sweet, sweet baby boy. Oh how mommy loves those baby blues and strawberry blonds.

Could this kid be any cuter? He KNEW how to open gifts. Just plops down in front of it and pulls out each tissue paper and then goes in for the gift. It cracked me up because the four siblings before him didn't really "get" the gift thing. He seemed to know exactly what was going on and needed zero help or guidance. And yes that is a Christmas bag; my mom-in-law recycles gift bags and she must have run out of birthday ones, lol! We don't care! He didn't mind either!

So a huge happy birthday to my oldest and to my youngest. I am so grateful to be your mommy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


A week after my broken molar was extracted I went back to the dental school. I almost chickened out. But the night before I was in so much pain I had to speak like a ventriloquist (without moving my mouth). The wisdom tooth has been out of the gum for a long time but the swelling from the lower molar removal was making all my teeth hurt on the left side of my face because everything was being compressed together. So a week after I had one tooth extracted I got another extracted. It was honestly instant relief. My teeth stopped feeling overcrowded in a snap!

After all that dental drama my Abigail got a bloody nose like I've never seen a bloody nose before. I mean she's gotten them before and they're like a faucet and she looks like she was part of a crime scene afterward. What I mean is this one would NOT stop. For over an hour! Her hands and arms were covered in blood and it was a steady pour every time we'd change out Kleenex. We used almost an entire Kleenex box.

I took her (and all the kids because Daddy was hours away) to the ER. I felt chastised by the ER doctor that "this is normal" and I was wasting their time. She told me it was just allergies and that I wasn't pinching her nose right and to tilt Abbie's head BACK (um, no). Overall just a weird experience. My main concern was Abbie losing too much blood. We have a natural treatment plan to deal with the allergies now that we're confident that is why she has them.

Well not only did I pick up a big bill from the ER... all of us picked up some nasty respiratory flu virus. I've been battling and battling it with oils and they help but we're still fighting. My voice is pretty scary after all this coughing. The congestion started the night before I was to go to the gym for the first time since my husband signed us up as members. I had already missed several workout days I had scheduled out for myself because of the oral surgeries.

I woke up on my workout day feeling pretty good, headed out the door to the gym before anyone else in the house had woken up, got my ID badge when I got there and started feeling this cough at the back of my throat. I did 10 measly minutes, though with strong resistance and a fast face, on the stationary bike before I hopped off and couldn't stop coughing. I've been coughing ever since and I'm READY TO BE DONE.

I'm done with being in pain. Done with being sick. Done with all of it so I can be done with being overweight. And I'm sure done with whining about it. Tomorrow is my workout day again (Daniel and I take turns each morning so one is home with the kids, of course) and I'm not going to be able to go unless a miracle happens.

The silver lining in all of this is that I lost 7 lbs already without effort. Well I guess it did take great effort (and courage because I almost chickened out going to the dentist both times) but not the working out, sweating kind of effort. More like the "I had surgery twice in one week and then got a nasty flu virus" kind of effort.

7 lbs down. 66 more lbs to go.
I was 135 lbs when my husband met me.
I'm just under 5'3" so my recommended weight is actually 120 lbs.
But 135 is the goal and a healthy weight!

Part of weight loss is making better food choices. I already try to avoid as much processed foods as possible. But I was skipping breakfast and sometimes even lunch. NOT eating is just as bad as eating too much or the wrong things.

So smoothies with fresh fruit, vegetables and Greek yogurt are my breakfast many mornings. Eating breakfast has always been hard for me but I can get drinks down. I'm making homemade granola (so easy and so much cheaper than store-bought!) as well for yogurt parfaits.

Trying to eat more eggs. I'm already a huge veggie lover so roasted veggies are already part of my diet. It's honestly really making sure I don't skip meals, eat the right things for those meals and don't forget the protein.