Saturday, November 8, 2014

Good grief!

My husband left a comment on my last post: "When are you going to post again?!"

Uh now, duh! Cool your jets, Danny-boy.

So my youngest little man is 17-months-old and his "two" is already showing. He knows what he wants and what he doesn't want, for sure. He has been known to throw himself on the floor and put his head in his hands and cry.

But he also laughs and laughs. He'll throw his head back and laugh, then put his hand over his mouth while laughing (so cute!). His newest thing is raising his eyebrow at us with the most serious face, as if to say, "Are you kidding me?"

He was looking out the window when I said his name and caught him off guard, ha! But he's so adorable. (Ignore the trash bag outside; it's actually a bag for the thrift store that I set outside so kids would stop getting into it!)

His haircut is making him look like such a big boy! He's got the reddest eyelashes and eyebrows.

I got this picture of Judah-boy today. He and I went outside for a little bit and I managed to get one good shot of him (the rest were blurry because he won't stay still). The things this boy says! He just turned three and he's pushing every button he can push one moment... and then melting my momma heart with his sweetness the next moment!

Judah likes to put his forehead against mine and talk to me eye-to-eye. I call him "my boy" and so he started calling ME his boy lol!

Getting pictures of all five kiddos isn't always easy. I was doing selfies with one child and then they all slowly made their way to me and I managed to get us all in a shot! On my PHONE! Technology, let me tell ya...

My oldest needs to stop looking so grown up all the friggin' time.

Another walk and had the kids pose before the setting sun...

Here's our pumpkin from a few weeks ago! It's probably the best pumpkin we've ever cut into. The seeds were really beautiful and delicious. We named our pumpkin "Happy"! He doesn't look so happy anymore... he's pretty rotten. :-D

Monday, September 1, 2014


Our heads are full of daydreams lately. We've been scrubbing, cleaning, simplifying, destashing, recycling, cleansing. Working to get this old house into an attractive state for potential buyers. Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up and say, "Just put it on the market as-is and let's see what happens" but it's not practical. We have to put a little money into it in order to sell it at a price that allows us to pay off our mortgage on this house yet have enough to put down on another.

This is stressful.

The Zillow app was on my phone once.
The baby accidentally deleted it.
I resisted putting it back on my phone.
I finally re-downloaded it.
I have dozens of houses hearted.

I'm trying to learn to be content. I keep telling myself that maybe this is one big test. To be faithful with little in order to be blessed with much. And "much" isn't riches. "Much" is just a different way of life. Actually a simpler but harder way of life. "Much" is more responsibility. But more on that another day.

So we continue to daydream, continue to try to love on this old house. I cannot wait to see this house with a fresh coat of paint on it. It was a nasty taffy pink when we moved in and it's still a nasty taffy pink 8 years later. I'm thinking a pretty shade of blue or green, maybe even yellow (who doesn't love a yellow Post Victorian house?!). Now if only these guys Daniel called to come out would finalize the day they'll come out (they're people we know, not some random strangers).

A new season is coming. I'm scared, anxious, excited and thrilled!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

So far, so good

Week one of school done and about to embark on week two! My kids were so excited the night before our first day that it was like trying to go to bed on Christmas Eve.

I had heard "Charlotte Mason" in passing but never really took the time to research her or her methods. I don't like to put myself in a box. I like flexibility and eccentricity. I felt that to get into a single method or "genre" would be limiting. But one fateful night when I was reading blogs I came across the words "Ambleside Online" and was hooked immediately. The way Charlotte Mason encourages strong minds and great character is exactly everything I'd have hoped for as a growing child and how I'd like my kids to learn. It leaves so much room for flexibility. It's not an online school (no assignments or grades to turn in) but a community and a free curriculum that other parents have devoted countless hours in creating and piecing together. 

Our first day of school started out with Bible reading and poetry. Then we did our other readings, copywork and art. We were done before 9:30. I sat there, dumbfounded, because last year we were doing school work well after lunch because of dragging feet and having too much work. Honestly I feel like we have a bigger workload this year with more difficult subjects/reading but the way it's all laid out makes it fun and makes it a breeze (thus far; I'm sure we'll have "those days").

We did miss our math curriculum this week, though. I ordered it late so I'm sure that'll tack on maybe 30 minutes? I'm not sure yet but maybe even less than that. One major thing that Charlotte Mason stressed was: QUALITY, not QUANTITY. We are taking an entire year to read a single book, to chew on it and weigh it and learn it. Of course the kids can whip through other "free read" books as fast as they want, I'm only speaking of the scheduled readings. And wonder of wonders kids begin to live the books they read by acting them out and using their imaginations and showing that they are retaining the information.

So far we're all loving it! They get their work done, we have tons of time to play outside, bake, build blocks and get imaginative. I have time to cook meals, get some of my business work done without stressing about finding time (like I did last year! And I get cranky if I don't find my work time!), clean and *play with my kids*. Isn't that part of why homeschool is magical? The special time we get with the kids?

Silas and Mommy hanging out on the porch:

 He's such a goofball! He just started making this face at me!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Year..............

The beginning of the school year is full of so much motivation, determination and spirit! By the time winter break rolls around you're definitely in need of the break. We are starry-eyed with the thought of all we will do this school year...

 We will bake and cook!

We will enjoy our new classroom setup!

We will make-believe...

We will play and learn sportsmanship!

 We will get outdoors...

And explore!

And pretend!

Make new discoveries (he's watching ants carry a peanut).

Enjoy God's beautiful creation...

Express ourselves!

Get messy and creative.


 And we will dance and care for our bodies!

Our goals are to slow down, explore, learn many new things, dive deep into literature, take new chances that might be scary at first and just have fun.

Personal goals for Elaina (age 9) would be to practice better penmanship and writing, memorizing poetry and Scripture.

Personal goals for Abigail (age 7) would be to strengthen her reading skills and helping her to build her self-confidence. She needs to do an "outside-the-home" activity. She has shown interest in clay sculpture and piano (she got a weighted keyboard for her birthday and already taught herself a song just by listening to the notes!).

Personal goals for Zoe (almost 5) would be to allow for more freedom in expressing herself artistically, allow her more opportunity to help in the kitchen since she shows passion for cooking and to be more independent in age-appropriate ways (pouring her own milk, putting her laundry away).

***As a homeschooled child himself, my husband made it very clear to our kids that they had to choose an outside-the-home activity. He didn't get to do that and wishes he had. Elaina and Zoe both already attend a professional ballet school and ministry. Abigail needs to make a choice. The boys are too young but will get to choose something when they're older.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just a Walkin'

This week has been a week of many firsts. Silas, 13-months-old, is officially a walker. He stands right up and toddles all over the house. Mostly following me around like a lost puppy, whining and crying for attention. His love language is definitely physical touch and he wants to be held constantly... or he's perfectly content to climb all over you the moment you sit on the floor near him.

He also says "buh buh" for bye-bye, signs "more" and "all done", will immediately stop what he is doing and get to the front door as fast as he can when someone says, "Is Daddy home?" He has got some serious dance moves and rhythm! He loves to shake his head no but has yet to say the actual word. He sleeps through the night *most* nights. He nurses maybe once a day and loves putting his hand down my shirt. Like he will get ticked off and keep putting it back if I remove his hand from my shirt. He now does it to other people, like his 9-year-old cousin and his aunt, when they watch him.

Oh my binky boy. He's so funny with these things. I tell ya - babies either really love them or really hate them. Elaina was a binky baby. My other three gagged on them, no matter the brand or size. Silas will speed crawl to his binky, pick it up and pop it in his mouth. At least he can keep it in his mouth on his own! Elaina could NOT. I was the mom driving with her arm stretched behind her to hold the binky in for Elaina or it would be nothing but screaming from the backseat.

If I pluck that binky from him he'll grab it right back, grin and put it back. Oy I don't look forward to weaning him from it but when the time comes... the time comes.

These photos are not edited. He's my little GINGERbread man! He may end up being my only blue-eyed baby. Zoe's blues have turned green. I hope his hair stays like this but I do notice it's getting blonder lately.

He's going to need a haircut very, very soon. I'm constantly brushing his bangs to the side.

Other newness this week: Judah wore underwear for a full day! He turns 3 in September so we're right around that potty-training time. He's had a lot of accidents. He's still trying to figure out all the sensations and trying to figure out how to hold it and then let go once he reaches the potty. I should time him sometime. I think he's sat on the toilet for about 40 minutes once. He just sits there looking at books, singing, talking to me, we'll watch Vines on my phone, etc. I've noticed that he pees when he cries.

The first time he sat on his Thomas the Tank Engine potty seat (it clicks to the regular toilet) he was sitting there for FOREVER. Momma was busy and starting to lose patience. Honest I try to be calm and sweet. But he started unrolling the TP when I turned around for a few seconds so I snapped, "Judah do NOT do that!" He started crying..... and peeing at the same time! It shocked him so bad he stopped crying and then we all did the potty dance.

Today one of his sisters made him cry so he started coming downstairs to get me and peed on the way down. So... yeah I'm noticing a trend here. Crying = peeing.

His obsession is Thomas the Train. So his potty seat is Thomas. He has a Thomas potty book that came with a Thomas potty-success chart and Thomas stickers, his underwear is Thomas... He got a big Thomas stuffed pillow/toy thing for choosing to be a big boy and going potty (carries it everywhere) and has a handmade Thomas pillowcase, handmade Thomas blanket, etc. I'm NOT a person who gets into the characters. But somehow 'the little engine that could' has weaseled it's way into our home BIG time.

I tell him that Thomas doesn't like to be peed on so he has to try to hold it and not pee on his Thomas underwear. He still makes mistakes and Thomas and Friends have needed a good cleaning but we press forward. I can see the anxiety in his eyes when he has an accident so I giggle and smile. He immediately melts into a grin and his eyes relax. I try to let him know it's OKAY and we can clean it up. Then I talk to him about how it felt when he needed to go and encourage him to try to do that in the potty next time instead. He always tells me a cheery, "Okay!" Not sure how much he's understanding but it's probably more than I realize.

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. It's called Willow by Glidden. 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.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Goodbye School Year, Hello School Year

We are at the end of our school year and I've already begun the process of laying out the calendar for the upcoming school year. I'm finally to a place, after little man's birth, of feeling a little more myself. He's becoming more independent which lends me more freedom to really delve into things and top priority lately has been getting organized (hence the chore chart)! From storage to homeschool to my home business I am diving deep and trying to come up with solutions to keep everything more orderly. I do not like feeling chaotic and when my house is chaotic so am I. But let's talk school!

I've tried the more laid-back approach to homeschooling. I've tried flying by the seat of our pants. It just doesn't work. I need a plan. I need a list. I need a general structure to cling to so that I don't mix business, school, housework. That each thing has it's own place and time. Because right now I am doing things "as I have time" or switching things up. No more! School needs to have a specific time so that I can do work at a specific time.

So some things I'm considering for next year's school:
Math-U-See and Ambleside Online

Math-U-See is obviously mathematics. I am not good at math. This is a program I'm interested in because an actual math teacher teaches the math concepts on DVD as the child follows along.

Ambleside uses Charlotte Mason's approach to education. It's actually quite fascinating and I'm eager to use this approach. Ambleside is a free online curriculum. It is run by homeschooling families FOR homeschooling families and is volunteer-based. It is Christian education, though anyone can use it. And like anything you can mold it and use it to fit your own unique families and schedules because it is mostly books/reading.

Ambleside is like a dream-come-true. It is very much how I would have liked to have learned as a child. It also just makes so much sense to me regarding how children learn. If you're interested in learning more about it please click the hyperlink a few paragraphs up where I first mention it. There's a forum you can join in on and it looks as though they're updating the website to make browsing more efficient.

Just a quick overview from what I understand in my recent research: it is very much literary-based. History, science, grammar, spelling, etc. are learned through reading. Reading GOOD literature. There's also emphasis on the arts and learning foreign language.

So right now I'm busy using some downtime from my tooth extraction a couple days ago (oh haven't heard about that? I'll put a blurb at the end) to really focus on a classroom schedule right now. I haven't ended this school year yet and I don't know what to start the next year just yet either. I'm so indecisive, about a lot, but I'm trying to be more bold and confident in my choices.


The tooth extraction? I feel like I'm aging so fast! I have had so many little health things pop up and this tooth problem is one of them. My poor tooth had a filling from when I was a kid. The filling failed (the tooth kept decaying beneath it even though I care for my teeth) and almost half my tooth broke off! That was back when I was pregnant with JUDAH (two years ago). I had a wonderful dentist and he told me it needed a crown ASAP but I kept putting it off... and putting it off... and putting it off.

Until about two weeks ago I bit down on something and pain shot through my entire body and I couldn't even catch my breath. Apparently my broken tooth was dying and developed an infection at the root. I went to two dental appointments at the local dental college (not my old dentist as I no longer have dental insurance) and finally came to the decision to just have it pulled rather than do a root canal/post/crown. Now I have to decide if I'm going to have an implant or bridge. Oh joy.

Lesson learned: if you break a tooth do NOT wait! Get it checked out ASAP because saving your tooth is better than getting a fake one.

So now I'm sitting here, two days after the extraction, with a huge gaping hole in my gum where my precious God-given molar was. A student pulled the tooth. It was the longest and most uncomfortable dental work I ever remember having. When my former dentist (and an already established dentist, NOT a student) pulled my two right-side wisdom teeth he pulled them both out in under a minute. It was over so fast I didn't believe him when he said it was done. So I anticipated that this extraction would be the same! It was not. The student was slow. He was clumsy. He kept knocking my other teeth (in fact one molar that was next to the one that broke feels like it is out-of-place and pushed back!). He had to ask his professor for help twice, the first time with numbing me up (I got 4 times the typical amount because he kept injecting in the wrong spot!). He didn't rinse out my mouth when the nasty tasting medicine spilled out into my mouth and I kept swallowing it (but his professor kindly rinsed my mouth after he took a turn injecting, finally, into the correct spot). The second time the student asked for help was in having someone else come dig out the root that broke off when he finally got the crown of the molar out. I overheard his professor say "So you're giving up already? This is what you need to do..." and then he gave him a list of different torture devices, I mean TOOLS, to use. I felt like the guy was breaking my jaw when he worked. In fact my jaw, right where it hinges, is where it hurt the most afterward. He forgot to give me a syringe to take home so I could clean out this gaping horror show in my gum.

It's actually one of the best dental schools. But I feel like I was this guy's first solo in extracting teeth. He had the head knowledge but it wasn't translating to his hands while he worked. So far the healing is going as expected and I haven't taken anything but a few Ibuprofen. I have another wisdom tooth that is almost all the way out in my left, upper side and I think I'll be calling my former dentist to see what he'll charge out of pocket... quality means way more to me than quantity when it comes to pulling teeth!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chores for Kids

Things have gotten a little (err a LOT) overwhelming lately. My husband's back is really bad so all of the physical labor involved with keeping a three-story house clean fell onto my shoulders. I am usually the last one to go to bed, I'm the one who gets up in the middle of the night with the baby (and anyone else who gets woken up by thunder or a bloody nose or nightmare) and then my feet hit the ground running the moment I get up for the day. Housework, homeschooling (while trying to keep the littles occupied and happy?!), trying to answer messages and complete custom jewelry orders, cooking food, squeezing in a shower or grocery trip, etc. Not to mention lack of one-on-one time with the kids or special playtime and just feeling so, so tired. It's enough to make you want to collapse on the ground and cry!

While I have had the kids help around the house a lot it's been a battle and frustrating and very sporadic without a clear definition of what I needed and expected. They'd fight about not wanting to do a chore or they'd fight over doing a chore that they all wanted to do. They'd take all day to complete one task or just not do the chore at all (which I'd find out later!).

I decided we needed a little organizing to set us on the right path. I kept hearing this statement echo in my mind as I drew up a plan for a chore chart: kids need structure. We are creatures of habit. While none of this is set in stone it has been so valuable to our family this first week of implementation! I'm not good at the whole "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" thing. It's not working out.

So my chart isn't that glamorous but it works. I had the kids sit at the table with me and come up with ideas rather than just tyrannically dish out orders. They picked out their own Sharpie color, too! I think Elaina was really overwhelmed until she saw the end result was that each child had 1-3 daily chores. On scrap paper our list looked long and super intimidating to an 8-year-old but once it was written out over a week it wasn't so bad at all. I also explained that just because they had a chore, maybe a hard one like doing dishes, doesn't mean they had to do it alone. That is something I want to make clear! I don't just send them off to do things on their own. That will come in time. Right now I'm actually standing there with them and showing them and teaching them how to do each job well.

WOW what a difference this week has been. Having a clear directive has helped them to understand their role and importance in the family. They are eager to get their chores done. They are already starting to initiate their own chores to get them completed. There's no squabbling because they know who has what job each day. You can't fight with the chart when it clearly says who is to do what job. There's no whining because they know these things have to get done.

Another part of making the house cleaner was decluttering. I've been decluttering and have taken so much to the thrift stores... I do not even know where it all came from or where it all fit! Simplifying has made huge improvements. If we don't use it, haven't used it, won't use it... it's gone! That includes clothing from the youngest girl and youngest boy. I'm not holding on to any of it. Okay so maybe one or two little outfits, lol! Definitely not keeping bins and bins of clothes anymore.

The house IS cleaner, I'm less stressed, everyone is working together instead of against one another and it's just making for a wonderful environment. I have found that I have more free time to break out the blocks and play or snuggle up and read books to them.

This has inspired me to make a more clearly defined schedule for our homeschool next year, too! More on that to come as I work through how I want it to look next year. We haven't even ended this year yet and I'm already ready to tackle our schedule next year?! That definitely lets you know how much better I feel having the family on board with chores!

*Daddy isn't anywhere on the board. He has physical limitations due to his back so he does things for the family that he can't really share so I didn't add them to the chart. For the sake of creating a very family-oriented chart I may add his jobs to the blank spaces at the end so we can all remember to put value on his contributions and be grateful for the work he is able to do. He takes the girls to ballet and stays there for their entire class time, he sometimes runs to the store for me so I don't have to take all the kids, he takes trash out to the curb for trash day, he does odd jobs, etc.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All Five

Late to the party, as usual! Easter was probably the first time, in a long time, that I got pictures with all five kids together.

I actually had nothing planned that weekend. Holidays always seem to sneak up on me these days. My mind is constantly pulled in several directions so sometimes I have to think on my toes. So the Saturday before Easter I opened the fridge. We had one dozen uncooked, brown eggs. Woo hoo! I looked up a recipe on how to make our own egg dye.

Just vinegar and food coloring I think. I love how muted and old-fashioned the eggs turned out. They probably would have been brighter had they been white but I prefer the brown. And eating them? They were the fluffiest, most delicious hard-boiled eggs I've ever made.

 Can't forget to get a pic of the littlest guy! He is a messy boy, with graham crackers all over his face.

Looky there! ALL five and almost all are looking. The sun was in their eyes so I think that's why Judah's eyes are closed.

The next day, Easter Sunday, Daddy and Judah stayed home sick. Can't tell here that he was sick but Judah had the nastiest, phlegmatic cough. So I took the girls to church. Elaina and her cousin did a ballet performance so her Nonna did her hair so pretty. I am not gifted in the hair department! Zoe's pigtails here are about as good as I get, ha! And then the dress Elaina is in is one SHE sewed. She specifically requested a "prairie" dress and she likes to play pretend in it that she lives back in the days of Laura Ingalls. It reminds me of a dress a little Amish girl might wear, except for the fabric print!

Judah adores his big sister! Two little peas in a pod...

Can you believe she will be 9 next month?! She was just a baby yesterday!

These two fight and makeup like cats. Arguing one moment and then curled up together, purring another. Okay not literally. That was a metaphor!

If you put a baby in grass, especially when it's super bright out, expect that he will NOT look up at you or the camera. Too much wonderful, cool grass to pull up!

I pulled Judah onto my lap for a selfie. His face says it all! BUT..........

He couldn't resist my charms and finally laughed!

Silas loved being pushed around the yard in this! I'm surprised he did but I got this long video of Judah pushing him around the yard and he's just kicking and waving his arms in delight, protesting any time Judah stopped pushing!

Another little brother to adore his oldest sister. She helps me out SO much with him. She really is like his little momma or momma's helper! The other girls help, too, but they're not quite strong enough to hold him long nor attentive enough right now.

Last one - Zoe and me. She is at my favorite age - 4! Four is when they've finally overcome that 2-3 year old angst and get engaged in super playful and imaginative play, where they start to say the darndest things and yet can show you such ferocious love still with random hugs and kisses. They still have tantrums and have trouble expressing feelings but they understand so much more and it's easier to work through those rough patches than with a 2-year-old who can't articulate anything once they've hit "that wall". And while they can be stubborn and strong-willed most don't outright or purposefully rebel. I mean maybe a few rare kids do but for the most part they're still so innocent and sweet. I asked her to stay this little forever. She sighed a long-suffering sigh and said, "Mom, I can't! I'm growing up!"

So we're all keepin' on. I hear the pitter patter of kids waking up (Silas woke me up at 4:30-ish this morning and I decided finishing orders before kids got up would be wise... we shall see if I don't crash at 3! COFFEE TIME!!!).