7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 23: Spelling, Old at Heart Toddlers, and more

1. Spelling. My nine year old is having trouble with spelling. He is doing great in most other subjects, but spelling is just his tender spot. His last teacher pointed out that, while he has been taught with Spalding phonics since kindergarten, he actually reads without really sounding out words – which makes him a fast reader with good understanding, but a terrible out-loud reader. He reads more by idea than by sound of the words. (I wish I could read like that!) But that doesn’t help his spelling at all.

It also doesn’t help that he really just doesn’t care about spelling. He sees the subjects that he has to learn; history and science are interesting, math seems to be a fun puzzle game, if tedious at times, Latin and music are exciting challenges. But spelling? What good is writing words that he can read just fine no matter how they are spelled.

You and I know the value, of course, but he is a tough sell.

I stumbled across this article on spelling: Why Some Kids Can’t Spell, and Why Spelling Tests Don’t Help, and found it very enlightening. This week we went through his spelling words in a different way. For some words we used memory tricks, for example with the word “monastery” he was having trouble remembering where the “a” and “e” went. So we talked about what a monastery was- a place where monks or sisters might live, and how they would probably grow some of their food, and might have an apple tree in the middle of their monastery. A=apple, in the middle, so the “a” in the word is in the middle. It sounds complicated, but his brain can think these things way faster than I can type them. We also went over the base words for some of the words: erode=erosion.

Low and behold, he came home with 25/26 instead of the usual 50%. So it looks like we will be doing a lot more etymology in this house!

2. Toddlers as old fogeys. Gus(almost 3) has such a funny way of speaking. He came up to Posy this morning and asked, “Can I drink of your drink?” To which she answered, “What century are we in?” Earlier he had exclaimed, “This is a tasty pear!” He also frequently asks, “Are you sure this is appropriate?”

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3. House update. Our old house is still off the market as we wait and prepare to make the necessary repairs. Since we had no trouble buying the house in 2008, we never foresaw the trouble we would have selling it. To recap: There is a slight negative grade (slope towards the house) near the back family room. This room used to be a part of the patio, so it is still level with the rest of the patio. When we got a lot of rain, we have had flooding in the room. In the 6 years we lived there, we had water in the room twice. Since we moved out in July, we have had severe flooding twice, one time necessitating replacing the carpet.

We now have a workable solution to the problem: adding drains across the patio and increasing the drainage area on the side of the house. This has the thumbs up from two termite inspectors, who are the ones who ding this issue on inspections. Hopefully the house will be back on the market in another week.

4. Today was my due date. The baby I miscarried in February was due September 26th. This has been a rough week for me. I realized this had come up last Saturday, so I was able to at least take some tiny steps to be a little nicer to myself this week, although it was a super busy week.

I had wanted to have a cake or something with the family, but now I am not so sure. When I was at Target the other day, I thought that maybe I would buy some baby clothes and diapers and donate them, in remembrance of Ambrose. Except I found myself crying in the baby section of the store, not really willing to touch any of the baby things. Apparently I am more raw than I expected.

I know I will be okay. I am trying to give myself the space to lean in to the feelings and be sad, instead of running and hiding. In the mean time, maybe cake isn’t such a bad idea.

5. Another fascinating article – about how rewarding children who are already motivated harms their motivation. My husband was telling me about this one, it had come up in a book he was reading (and that I am now reading), You are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney. Jay told me that he had read about this, and began to explain it, saying that researchers had done a study on preschoolers. They took a group of preschoolers who naturally gravitated toward drawing and art…

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… and they offered those children a reward for doing a good job drawing. And do you know what happened?

I knew right away! I was a kid just like that. Those children stopped drawing and creating.

The article I linked to talks about how there are two kinds of motivation, intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external, like a reward) and if children, or any people really, are given an extrinsic motivation for something they already have an intrinsic motivation for, the brain starts to think that is just too much – somebody must be trying to trick it into doing something, because there is too much motivation surrounding the activity. Fascinating!

6. Kid angst. The toys are just totally out of control. The weather is still blisteringly hot. And the kids are going crazy. There have been lots of meltdowns lately, just out of overwhelm and no place to run out the extra energy they accumulate. I don’t even ask them to pick up all the toys at this point, it’s too overwhelming of a job. I have to get a handle on it this weekend, and probably remove a good portion of the toys while I am at it. So hit me up, what are your favorite toy organizing tips for a whole bunch of kids?

7. We got a Roku. My dad gave us one. We haven’t had time to set it up yet, but I have heard good things about it. Do you or have you had one? Can you get sports on it? ( <- That question is near and dear to my husband’s heart.) While we really haven’t missed cable, or at least don’t miss it anymore, watching sports, football and baseball primarily, was something Jay enjoyed and misses.

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend!

Go see Jen @ ConversionDiary for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 22: Posy, Paperless, Pinterest

1. Posy is home! We had a lovely homecoming last Friday night. Lily, age 7 had no idea that Posy was coming home. All through her time in France, Posy had told Molly, whose birthday is in November, that she would certainly be home by her birthday. At one point Lily, whose birthday is September 14 – last Sunday, asked if Posy would be there for her birthday too, and a plot was born. Posy told Lily that she didn’t think she could get back that soon, and that she was coming home on the day after her birthday. So Lily had made sure that any plans to celebrate her birthday were not scheduled until Posy was home. She didn’t even want to have cake on her actual birthday if Posy wasn’t going to be there.

Friday night after dinner, I told the kids that we had to go run some errands. Tessa (age 12) was in on the trick and had been helping the kids make some posters for “next week” when Posy got home. She smuggled those along with us in her purse. The kids all loaded up, none too curious because “errands” are always boring.

When we pulled up to the airport, a couple of them got the idea, but Lily didn’t fully figure it out until minutes before Posy came out of the gate, when Tessa handed out the signs. Her face was priceless. She had tears in her eyes when she found out that Posy had made these arrangements just for her, so that she could be here for Lily’s 7th birthday.

2. My Etsy shop, Tools of Grace, is open! I am still busy adding products and details, but it is open for business. My Mass Books, and Jay’s CDs are available at new lower prices. Please take a moment to check it out, favorite my shop and Like the Facebook page. There will be a lot more to come, including a giveaway sometime in October.

3. Paperless? I’m trying to move us towards a more paperless house, at least as far as office stuff. But how far do I go with this? I’ve already had one moment when the internet in the house was down and I really needed to get at the bill for our internet service so I could call them. Thank goodness I could get at it from my phone. It made me second guess myself though.

4. Pin all the things. I have dabbled in pinterest up to now and it just never really meshed with my brain. And then suddenly it did! I know, I’m like the last person on earth to figure out the joys of pinterest. I’m looking for ideas for handmade Christmas gifts, ways to simplify our home, and tricks & tools for evernote. There is so much to be found! Must. Pull. Away. From. Screen.

5. It’s one of those terrible decision times – go up a size or put the cookies down. I am a stress eater, and my stress usually tastes like sugar in some form. My body also declares that either I can give it energy by getting some rest or it will demand energy through carbs. I have to get a hold of this, but I am reticent (or making excuses?) about starting to count calories again. I think it must be done, though. Sigh.

6. I realized why I am fine about not having a dryer and maybe it is not such a good thing. I was kind of proud of myself, because I thought that I just didn’t want to spend the money on one because I was getting by without it just fine, but looking at the state of our checkbook, I see that I am not afraid of spending some money. I thought about it some more. Earlier this year, we invested in the 2nd biggest set we could find – matching! I would have a matching set again. Hi-tech! Top loader HE machine! A gas dryer to save money and dry faster!

I am really proud of this stupid set of appliances. I don’t want to “settle” for a dryer that doesn’t match. So even though I could have a dryer for cheap, I have been choosing to go without so that my set doesn’t look hobbled together.

Shallow much? I’m sure I can work it out, with all this time I have to think about it while I hang clothes to dry.

7. Cheers. In one of those weird spare moments when I had some free time and didn’t feel like reading, I put on the first episode of Cheers. Aw, I loved that show, and seeing the pilot (which I don’t think I had ever seen before) brought back all the storylines and spinoffs that followed.

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What caught me by surprise though, we the nature of the show. It’s been so long since I watched a show taped in front of a live audience, and it had such a different feel too it – very much like a play. It was just a fun thing to see.

Have a great weekend everyone! Go see Jen@ConversionDiary for more Quick Takes!

 

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 21: Hiccups, Houses, Laundry, and Etsy

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1. I keep waking myself up with the hiccups. What the heck is going on with that? It gives me some time to get a little more reading done, since the hiccups are loud and violent, and I have to leave the room to let my husband get some sleep. (He doesn’t make me, I just think it is a nice thing to do.)

 

2. I had intended to get my quick takes posted last week, but I was on a Mom’s Retreat instead. We watched the video series “The Genius of Woman” by Katrina Zeno. (She also has a book on the same topic: Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey.) She weaves together teachings of Pope St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” and “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” to show how our identity is affected by our gender and how to live fully in the Body of Christ as a woman. She also talked about how Satan attacks us specifically as women and ways to combat that. Beautiful teachings! The best part of the retreat for me was getting to laugh and cry, to learn and explore beautiful parts of the faith with great friends, who I have rarely seen for the last year or so – when we switched schools. We also escaped the heat and went up to the cool pines to a cabin for our retreat. It was just wonderful and I can’t wait for our next one, next summer.

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I’m the one on the far right in front.

 

3. Every time I try to bump up my posting schedule, I fall on my butt. Not literally, of course, although I suppose I shouldn’t rule that out as a future possibility. I’m sure it would be difficult to type much with a wounded behind. My plans are not His plans or vice versa or something. I also tend to think of blog post topics in the car and my brain flushes as soon as I open the door and they are *POOF* gone forever. So if I could just write while driving, this would be the most awesome blog ever. Until then… I’ll just keep forgetting what I meant to say. Maybe I could teach my 4 year old to take notes on my thoughts. That could work, right?

 

4. I have now lived for six weeks without a dryer, and it hasn’t killed me yet. I can’t hang the clothes outside, since my kids have terrible seasonal allergies. (Which I used to think was just a made up thing until I had kids who either couldn’t breathe or had murder-scene-equivalent nose bleeds because of allergies.) Therefore handing them clothes and sheets impregnated with pollen is a really bad idea. Thankfully, this house has a room that we are using as mostly a storage room. The middle of the floor is clear and the perfect place to set up drying racks. This one from IKEA is my favorite.

I also have this one from Costco, which is pretty awesome because I can hang lots of big shirts, pants, and towels at once. It also has a hanging rack up top. But it’s really tall, I have to be careful when I move it because I am forever whacking it on the ceiling fan.

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Between the two of them I can dry two loads at a time. I actually own a very nice dryer, but it is a gas dryer and there is no hook up in this house. Because of reasons stated below in #6, we have not purchased a different dryer. I’m not in any big rush, this just hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be.

 

5. Okay, so I knew this year was going to be busy, but what the calendar looks like and what it feels like day after day are two totally separate things. I’m not sure if you know this, but there are, in fact, only so many hours one can be awake every day. What I am learning is that this year will require an intentionality heretofore unexperienced in our family. We have always been more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of family, in an organized sort of way. But there is much less room for error this year. Especially if everyone wants to eat dinner! (And they always, always do. Darnit.)

But as one child was falling apart this morning, after going to bed too late two nights in a row, I realized that I need to not just be intentional about when the work gets done and the cooking, shopping and meal planning, but also about the down time. I need to consciously set aside time for each of us individually, and all of us as a family to just be. I’m not exactly sure how to implement this – whether I should direct my children to something or just let them figure it out themselves. I’m sure we will fine tune it as we go. What works for our family?

 

6. I came literally down the mountain from my retreat this weekend and then was dragged figuratively down the mountain immediately after. We lost our buyers for our old house, then Sunday night/Monday morning, Phoenix was hit with an epic storm. Here in the desert, the ground is baked hard and dry through the summer, the water has no place to go. This is a picture of a major freeway:

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We received and emergency alert on our phones at 3am Monday morning that there was a flash flood warning. My husband, Jay, immediately went to out house-on-the-market (it took him 40 minutes to drive 7 miles, the flooding was already so bad!) only to find water gushing into the family room. The one where we had just replaced the carpet. He spend hours pumping water away from the house, suctioning the carpet, and doing everything he could to stem any damage. Later in the day we had a restoration company come out and look at it, but we couldn’t afford their quote. (Reasonable quote, we have just been, well, sucked dry by this house; we painted it, repaired it, replaced carpet, etc.) The man who evaluated it was very nice, however, and he helped me set up our rented high power fans and told me the steps to getting it cleaned up and dried. It is coming along nicely, just with lots of work and it still cost a lot, in spite of us doing it ourselves.

It’s worth noting that while we lived in this house for 6 years, that room flooded twice. Once when I went to bed and forgot to turn off the water to the pool, and once from a storm. Since we moved out of that house in mid-July, it has flooded twice with freak-of-nature level storms.

 

7. Because of the above, I am opening up an Etsy store, Tools of Grace, where I will sell my mass books, handmade rosaries, and eventually baptism gowns. I have been making rosaries now for 8-9 years and have mostly just sold to friends. It is imperative now, though, to dig ourselves out of this hole. I will keep you posted and bug you in all sorts of ways when I open. The site is live now, but there isn’t much to see yet. Hang in there, lots more is coming! Keep your eyes peeled, and send a few prayers that this will help us out. Thank you!

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Go see Jen@ConversionDiary.com for many more quick takes! God bless!

 

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 20: Take a Breath!

Lots of lists this week, but like I said in my 5Faves, I just want to get my blogging juices flowing again. A lot has been going on, so lists are a helpful thing.

1. We have added in almost all the activities for the year, just one more left to start. They conveniently started one per week for the first three weeks of school. Gymnastics, then Ballet, then Boys Choir. My head is swimming. Why did I think this was a good idea? Oh, right. Because we are having a ball watching the kids expand their talents. I had one friend tell me I was crazy last night, but she didn’t see the light in each one’s eyes as they do the thing that they love and which expresses their talent so well. So what is another night of crock potting? What did become apparent was that I really need to be on top of meals for those busy days (Mon-Wed). I’m not only going to have to come up with a plan, but also shop for it. That is the hard part. It is amazing to me how long I can go between full shopping trips with this many people in the house. But I’m afraid it is going to have to be done. (If you have any delicious crock pot recipes, send them my way!)

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2. Gus is settling into preschool. My little baby, in school. I spent those hours this week just recharging my batteries, working on some other writing projects, running a couple of simple errands. Do you have any idea how quickly you can get out of the car and run into a store, buy milk and be back on the road again? I had no idea! An errand that would have been a major energy expenditure ended up taking just a few minutes. I was seriously driving away thinking, That was too easy! Surely I forgot someone!

3. When my first child started kindergarten, I was only 23 years old, easily the youngest momma in the bunch. That was a lovely feeling, although it seemed that no one took me very seriously then. Now I am on the older end. I went to curriculum night for our little kids last night and in my 1st grader’s room, I sat in Lily’s desk and met her seat-mate’s mom. Teeny-tiny, very young. Her oldest child was “so grown up now” in 1st grade. I felt old. And frumpy. And tired. I wondered what I looked like to her. I can’t really remember what I thought of the older moms back when I was the newbie. I sometimes think that older moms intimidate the younger ones (and sometimes the teachers, too) even though we don’t want to.

4. I was able to talk to a couple other moms like me at the event. (I’m going to stop calling us “older moms” now, I really don’t like that phrase now that it applies to me.) They had lots of kids, former homeschoolers, not really stressed about the whole school thing anymore. It was a breath of fresh air. For the first time I felt like maybe we fit in there. Switching schools has been rough on me socially. Last year, since we had some of the kids in a temporary solution (for us, it was a great school, just not our final destination) there was no way for me to dig in and get to know anyone. I have hope that is changing. Just remember, as you go about your school involvement, that some other parent may be feeling just as awkward as the new kids they just brought to school. For a thought on how to help that, see Dwija’s post on an easy way to break the ice, even if you are shy. Oh, and also remember that person who looks pissed off – may just be feeling really nervous and terrified. Ask me how I know.

This image came up when I searched for a picture for "shy". It fits well with awkward too, I think. And cuteness. Because we always need cuteness.

This image came up when I searched for a picture for “shy”. It fits well with awkward too, I think. And cuteness. Because we always need cuteness.

5. I started reading “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” by Richard Swenson. I have the older edition, which I bought about 10 years ago at a homeschool convention. It sat on my bookshelf beckoning me ever since. In a fit of insomnia I picked it up the other night. It’s a great book so far, even if he does spend a little too much time pointing out the obvious problem, lack of margin. After about half a chapter, I had to set it down and go hunt for something to start annotating and underlining. One thing that hit me was, “Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity.” The irony of reading this at the start of our busiest year ever (at least as far as kid activities goes) is not lost on me. It is helping me to take a careful look at those times in between things, or waiting times, or time in the car. I feel more motivated to grasp those times with intentionality and use them to slow down, connect, and breathe.

Another quote: “Food plus warmth plus health plus education plus affluence have not quite equalled Utopia.”
We need to live more like the Shire and less like Saruman’s war machine.

Now that I have recommended the book, I hope I can finish it!

6. A two year old’s storyMom, what if a dinosaur had a sword? And then a tiger had a sword! And what if they fought? And then superman came down and told them, “Hey guys! Stop fighting!” And then superman flew away.

Later that same day, we were walking into Costco when he stopped and looked up at the tall, outside wall. He caressed it a little and then said, “Mom, can I climb this?” I told him, “No, you aren’t Spiderman.” And he said, in complete awe, “Spiderman can do anything!”

7. Our house still hasn’t sold, which is certainly a stress, but for now the painting and repairs are done. And that is a huge relief. Keep praying for a quick sale to the right buyers.

Thanks for checking in with me! Be sure to tell me what you are up to in the comments, and go see Jen @ Conversion Diary  for more Quick Takes!

Five Favorites: Gus’s Favorite Books

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This is my first 5 Favorites. I feel a little shy contributing to the link up here, but what the heck, why not? I want to get my writing and blogging juices flowing after taking an extended break while we bled money and fixed up a house. I’m afraid I’m not going into any cool beauty products today, because this topic was just so much easier. (And funner!)

So here are Gus’s (age 2.5) favorite books:

1. Where the Wild Things Are

6196EufH+uLWe have actually bought at least two copies of this book per child, it just gets so well loved. They carry it around, sleep with it, tear it apart, leave it outside. I can recite this whole book without any trouble, and I still think it is precious. To people who are offended by book damage, I am truly sorry. Just make sure you never lend me a book. I love books just as much as my kids do, and by love I mean I break the spines, underline, dog-ear, and everything else needed to just really enjoy the book. I allow my kids to do the same. “Where the Wild Things Are” has deserved every carefully applied piece of tape it has received. We will buy another copy soon, I am sure of it.

2. Pumpkin Soup

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This one surprised me. The copy we have was one we got for free somewhere, and it just got shoved onto our bookshelf and forgotten until Gus found it. This is a truly adorable book. The pictures are beautiful and the story is engaging, without too much focus on a moral. (It seems to me that children’s books have gotten entirely obsessed with teaching a moral in every story and have forgotten what a really good story can be.) The only moral to this story might be something along the lines of “Let your friend be a jerk sometimes”, but it’s still not a bad story.

3. Zed and the Monsters

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By Peggy Parish – you know, the one who wrote Amelia Bedelia? I have to admit, I am thoroughly tired of Amelia Bedelia, but this book is a nice change. It is a little on the long side for a bedtime read, but like Pumpkin Soup in #2, it has an actual story with a plot that goes beyond jamming a lesson down a child’s throat. You’re probably starting to think that I hate teaching my children morals at all, but that is not the case. I think children can learn from stories without having morals spelled out so carefully for them. Give the little buggers some credit! They are paying attention. Go ahead and try to tell me that your child hasn’t called you out on doing something wrong before. Leave the heavy handed morals in Aesop, where they fit so beautifully into an engaging story, and let the kids just fall in love with plain old stories too.

Anyway… Zed and the Monsters is about a lazy little boy, who runs out of money and goes to find a job. He stumbles upon a mayor with a monster problem and uses his wits to help him get rid of the monsters and get paid in the process. It’s a little gory in its ideas (one monster pokes his own eyes out) and it does have monsters who want to eat Zed, so a sensitive child might be bothered by it. But the illustrations are very cartoony and there is no blood, so if the child can handle Wile E. Coyote, he could handle Zed.

4. David and the Giant Goliath – Tess Fries

I don’t have a picture for this one, because it was a cheapy my husband picked up at Walgreen’s or something when he was out of town one time. It is cheap looking. But the adaptation isn’t terrible and it has swords in it, which are Gus’s favorite things. If he had a 5 Favorite list, he would probably list 5 different swords.

5. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

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Pete the Cat is a big favorite. This is another one we will have to replace soon. My personal favorite Pete story is “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons” but Gus will have no other Pete book read to him now that he has discovered this one. There are predictable responses in all the Pete books, so the child can complete some sentences. When the book asks, “Did Pete Cry?” Gus loves to call out “Goodness, no!” The Pete books are just all around fun reads with good phonemic awareness and other goodies like counting or color recognition. See, I don’t hate ALL educational books.

And now, as a special bonus, Here is my sweetie-pie, Gus:

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Next time I promise to post some fun Mama goodies, my daughter works in cosmetics, so you can be sure they will be good ones!

Go see more Five Favorites at Mamaknowshoneychild.com!

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 19: In Which I Try Not to Whine About How Busy I Am

1. First, let’s just get this out of the way. The busy: fixing up the old house, with all the mini crises and rabbit trails that come with it, unpacking and settling the new house, not having a dryer, school starting for six kids, husband working extra hard at all his jobs, a monsoon storm that ruins indoor carpet. And now, that is all I am going to say about how I am losing my mind and there is not enough of me to go around. But I just had to put this out there because, you know, OH MY GOSH I AM GOING SUPER CRAZY!

2. My baby started preschool. My baby. The youngest person in the house. The. Bay. Bee.

Molly and Gus start school

I thought that my heart would break, but… see number 1 up there. It will hit me someday. There are all sorts of things to talk about there, but that deserves a real post. He has done a great job so far with the perfectly appropriate amount of homesickness and missing momma. Everyone’s question for me is what I will do with “all that free time.” The answer is, aside from #1 above, I will do all the things I didn’t have time for, like cleaning the house, shopping the grocery sales, and maybe – I hope – a little blogging thrown in for good measure.

3. Game of Thrones. I succumbed. I gave in. I am reading the books. I just finished the 3rd one and am dying to start the 4th. I haven’t gotten sucked into fiction like this in a long time. He’s no Tolkein or Lewis, but he is a good writer and the story is epic. EPIC. I watched some of the shows, but I think I need to bleach my eyeballs after that. Tyrion and Arya are my favorites. (Arya is so exactly like Molly!) So for the ten minutes that my eyes can stay open after I crawl into bed, I am reading Game of Thrones. Two thumbs up.

4. I got my hair did. At a real salon, by a real stylist (for bonus, she was my bestest buddy in beauty school!). I really love it, it is still longish, but less, um, shapeless, I guess. The problem I am running into is that I have a hairstyle that can be a real style, but what I am spending my time doing is… sorry, back to #1 again. Anyway, physical work, moving things, cleaning things, chasing people (only my own children, I promise!), and always, always hoping for a chance to take a nap. And it is hot. SO hot. Do you know what that means?

Pony tail.

I have this great cut and I am still living in pony tail land, which is why you don’t get a picture of it.

5. Time budgeting. We have come a long way with our money budget in the past few years, and generally have an idea of where our money is going. We usually even have an emergency fund, since we are so great at generating emergencies. One of the things that I have learned is that if I plan to use every penny that comes into the house every month for a designated purpose, I will be over budget every time. There is always some crazy thing that comes along that we have to throw money at – sickness, repairs, field trips.

I realized the other day that I am not budgeting my time well. I have assigned every minute of the day, every day of the week. And when something extra comes along – and it ALWAYS does – I am left exhausted and overwhelmed, my time budget is overdrawn. My mission now is to have an emergency fund of sorts, with regards to my time. I don’t know how that will look or how I will get there. I think this will mean having some time when I plan to do nothing. That will help me to refill my always overtaxed introvert tank. In addition to that I think I will probably need to have some “time to be assigned later” when I will expect to work, but not know until later what that work will be, because there will always be some unforeseen things that need to be taken care of.

I’ve always been good at planning, but this is a whole new level I am stepping into now. How do you build in an emergency fund in your time?

6. The start of school meant bumping my wake up time a whole hour earlier. Yawn. I’m tired. Wait, this take is starting to sound whiny, what can I do to turn this around? You know, I have a choice, I used to be the kind of mom who would stumble out of bed just in time to get the kids up. No more. I have to have the time in the morning to drink my coffee in a stupor, to mumble out a prayer or two, and to do a really bleary eyed attempt at bible study. Lately I have even been able to take a super quick shower and, yes, throw my hair in a pony tail before getting the kids up. I just need to start going to bed earlier, which will make it easier.

7. Please say a prayer for our house to sell. This part always stresses me out. Thank you!

Go see Jen @ Conversiondiary.com for more quick takes!

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7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 18: Moving Right Along

I’ve been M.I.A. around here for the last few weeks. Something had to give and this blog was what gave… among other things. But I’m back and ready to tell you what I have been up to!

1. Once upon a time, less than three weeks ago, we were living here:

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and thinking that we would probably be spending another few months there at least. Our search for a house closer (than our current 18 miles) to school was looking less and less likely.

2. Then there was this email. From our wonderful Realtor. There was a house available and it was actually bigger than our current house. Just about everything else that had come down the pike had been pitifully small, at least for a house where 8-10 people would live. So we went and looked and fell immediately in love. In a whirlwind of days we found ourselves packing up and moving, just 9 days after looking at the house for the first time.

Do you see why I haven’t blogged? Packing up a house and moving lickity split is no small thing. But we did it!

3. No I am not going to post pictures of the new place, yet anyway. The new place is halfway unpacked, but the bulk of our energy is going towards getting the old house ready to go on the market. That house was well loved, in the beat up looking teddy bear sense of the phrase. But the new house is great! We even have a play room! I am so delighted!

4. Painting is the main work right now. We are painting about 90% of the interior of the old house.

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In our spare time.

Stop laughing. We are seriously doing this in our spare time. Sometimes someone can watch the little kids, sometimes they come along and “help”. A couple friends even donated most of a Saturday to come and paint with us. Thank you again, SJP!

Allow me to confess this: I am a messy painter. My husband cringes when he see me carrying the stuff. I am also a messy cook, so maybe those two are related. So, pray for my dear husband, please. Not only is he working tons of hours these days, in the blazing heat, but he is also dealing with whole house to paint and a wife who can be a little too expressive with her roller flinging. He’s being really awesome about it though.

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Progress.

5. Today we finished the master bedroom. Like really finished. There is no more painting to do in there, so I got to rip up the paper and plastic that covered the floor.

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It was less satisfying than I expected. Sort of like unwrapping a Christmas present, but way more work.

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And little stubborn bits of tape that nearly made me crazy. My knees are not as good at crawling as they once were. But we are slowly but surely making progress.

6. And then there was dinner. An old friend, who is kind of like a new friend, brought us a lovely dinner tonight. She offered to bring it when I stopped by her house to pick up the microwave she gave us when our new one blew up smoked a lot and smelled like it was burning. And with dinner were these:

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Beautiful flowers (posed by the microwave, of course!) and gluten free, egg free cupcakes that even my husband could eat! Thank you TM!

7. And all this happened in the nick of time because school craziness begins this coming week! Bookstore, registration days, meet the teacher nights… so much. The last precious days of summer are slipping through my fingers as we speak. Even in all of this, it will be easier, we are closer to school and all of our activities. I am so thankful right now.

Thanks for catching up with me! For more Quick Takes, go see Jen@ConversionDiary!

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 17: One Crazy Summer

I thought this summer would allow me to slow down a bit. This conclusively proves that I have learned exactly nothing from being a parent all these years. Here is a small sample of what is going on these days:

1. Gymnastics – We added two gymnastics classes a week for the summer and now I hear “Watch this, mom!” about a thousand times a day. Usually someone is about to show me their bridge, cartwheel, or splits. It has been a lot of fun for all of us and I have never in my life seen my kids so happy to just be moving around.

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Molly wants to be an acrobat.

2. One More Bird Flies the Nest – My son James took off for his first real long term adventure away from home. He will be working on an organic farm in Alaska (!!!) for an undetermined amount of time. I am excited for him, I think this will be such a growth experience for him, but at the same time my heart just aches to have him so far away. With one child in France, one in Alaska, and the rest of us in Phoenix, we are truly spread far and wide.

He left on a plane on Tuesday with just a few suitcases and his guitar. Gus may be only 2.5 years old, but he knew what was going on. He woke James up the morning he was leaving by stuffing his teddy bear between James’s arm and face and telling him, “I love you so big James!” over and over.

Contact me for his address if you would like to write to him.

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Some brother snuggle time.

3. The Time Puzzle – I am trying so hard to figure out how to mange all of our activities and schools next year. We added gymnastics, which will continue once a week during the school year. Lily moved up a level in ballet, which means she will have a lesson twice a week. Max was promoted to Town Choir with the Phoenix Boys Choir which will now meet three times a week. Molly will probably be going to Kindergarten in a nearby preschool. Both Lily and Max finally got into our school of choice, which is still 18 miles away because we haven’t had any luck finding a rental that meets our needs over on that side of town. (Ballet, Gymnastics, and School are all in the same area, the preschool is near our current house.) My extra drivers are all gone or employed, and Jay works very long and unpredictable hours, so it has to be possible for me to do all the driving, even if I may sometimes have help. This is the puzzle I have been trying to work out in my head for the last couple weeks. I still haven’t come to any kind of conclusion.

Being on the other side of town would help, but I can’t count on that. (Know any investors who want to buy a house for us to rent-then-buy? We won’t be able to purchase another house until we have owned our business for another year or so, and we hope to move out of this house to sell it, because keeping a house ready to show with this many people living in it and this much craziness going on is a recipe for, well, craziness.)

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Lily before her ballet performance.

4. More Dietary Restrictions – Poor Molly has still been having constant belly pain. Trying her with gluten was an obvious fail, and even with a new med regimen her pain still wasn’t going away. Back to the G.I. doc we went and were given orders to strictly avoid milk and eggs as well as gluten. She really thinks that Molly’s issues stem from a food sensitivity (or two, or three) and we just have to figure them out. In the mean time, this has eliminated a good portion of the foods that Molly was able to eat before. Ever try to shop for gluten free baked goods? Almost all of them have eggs. I have to rethink my meal planning, I have to pack snacks when we go places… I know many have it much worse, but it’s just complicated.

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Miss Molly in the treehouse.

5. A Quiet Getaway – Last week Jay and I got away by ourselves for two whole days. It was so nice! We stayed in the city, in a pretty little resort with great summer pricing and spent time talking and relaxing and stuff.  We even put a puzzle together. It is so seldom that we have the time to really unwind and get past dealing with the day to day business of family and living and enjoy each other’s company like we did last weekend. The kids were in good hands and had a good time of their own, and the house was only mildly trashed when we returned.

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Our puzzle

6. My Morning Study – Since I have been trying to slow down this summer, I decided to take a different route for my morning quiet time. Instead of my usual Bible study I am gong through the book “Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace.” I am well aware of the fact that I am no longer a homeschooling parent, and, as I mentioned above, our kids are finally all into our school of choice, so I have no plans to go back to homeschooling. But I think that every parent can benefit from taking a homeschooling perspective on how they approach and teach their children. We are our children’s first teacher and what we do at home matters more than what happens during the hours our children are at school.

But let’s face it, parenting is exhausting, and when I am exhausted, I don’t act like a very good teacher or parent to my children. This book has been a refreshing look at setting priorities in our family and has helped me to take a calmer look at all of the needs of little people that surround me every day.

Plus, she put together a little study guide/journal to help you think through the ideas, and I am all about writing and journaling.

7. VBS and Other Summer Activities – We are finishing up our week of VBS, which the kids have loved so much, but which meant we had to go back to getting out the door at an early hour. Tessa took a few voice lessons and has had some extra work with her gymnastics coach as a helper for some classes. My dad has generously been teaching the kids piano. Max has been taking a geography course that involves the game of Minecraft. Ben has been active in his band and needed a lot of rides. We still haven’t found the time to take him for his license. Jay has been extra-busy with work and some choir events. We have moved around a lot of possessions with James moving out and we have gotten rid of about 10 yard size black trash bags worth of clutter. We can almost park the car in the garage again, which will be very nice because it means that Gus will stop whining all the way through every single car trip. I can’t believe June is nearly over, I know July will tick by just as quickly and then we will be preparing for school again. We haven’t even had time to be bored.

 

Don’t forget to check out my latest Catholic Stand post!

That’s all for now, go see Jen for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 16: School Year Countdown

It’s after six pm on Friday and I am just now starting my quick takes. So much for having them as being a “High Priority” task for Thursdays, right? Anyhoo… here goes.

1. Concert week. Holy School Concerts, Batman! There were 4 this week on three days. The kids did beautiful work, as always, but I can definitely say that the one when we didn’t have to take the younger kids with us was the most enjoyable. Gus (2) spent most of one concert upset that he couldn’t clap as loud as daddy. We also discovered that Molly (4) has a penchant for cat calls. Who knew?

2. Max (9) finished the whole Harry Potter series. What a great reader! We’ll be discussing more of the plot points and watching more movies in the weeks ahead!

3. With all the extra running this week, laundry has reached epic proportions. I just thought you should know why this is such a half… done quick takes.

An old picture, but it looks just like this right now.

4. We received some special surprises this week from Posy in France. She sent Gus a wooden sword with a scabbard, Molly got some Hello Kitty jewelry, Lily received French children’s books (which she did a decent job reading!), Max got a pocket watch, Tessa got a music box and a bracelet, and we all got some yummy candy!


Action shot as he draws the sword out of the scabbard

 

5. Back to Harry Potter, since the movie is on right now. I read somewhere this week that Delores Umbridge is actually the scariest character in the books/movies, because she embodies an evil we run into every day, that pseudo-justice seeking, willing to hurt anyone, evil disguised as niceness or normality. Evil that is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is. I mean, I hated Delores before, but I thought she was just straight up terrible (and so many pages were dedicated to her terribleness). She was a slippery kind of terrible though. What do you think? Who is scarier, Voldemort or Delores Umbridge?

6. The clock is ticking away the rest of the school year. One more week for the little guys. While I have loved their school, this particular blend of schools for my kids has been the hardest yet. I have had years where I had kids in four separate schools, but this year’s three schools was so hard. They were far apart, and the amount of driving made it hard for me to be involved in any of the schools. But we are almost there, almost to the end. Next year we should hopefully have most of the kids on one campus, with maybe a preschool as our second location. Next week will be a difficult one, with crazy school schedules, but it is just one week. Tick tock, tick tock.

7. Now, to repeat a take (sort of) I am going to go and fold all that laundry. My kids have had empty drawers all week, which was torture to my fashion-fickle four year old. (But probably resulted in less laundry for me to wash.)

Go fetch more quick takes. Next week maybe I will have my brain back and can write something worth reading.

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 15: Gluten and Citrus Colored Couches

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I haven’t been sleeping well, and I’m totally not feeling the logging love right now so this will hopefully be a quick quick takes.

1. I was all excited for Gluten. Molly has been off of gluten for a year, and for the first time all her symptoms seem to be under control. Since part of her problem was constipation, and that has been dealt with, we decided, at the prompting of her allergist to trial some gluten.

One cracker…. wait two days… NOTHING!

Another cracker… wait two days… NOTHING!

One more cracker… BOOM! Her poor tummy blew up like a balloon and she looked about 7 months pregnant. Hard-like-a-drum belly.

Then there was a GI appointment, and we were told that was our sign. No more gluten until further notice. Sigh. And I was all ready to take the poor baby out for a cupcake.

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2. I got to go antique shopping! With no kids! Just me and a friend!

I found a lot of the usual stuff. One store was clearly and “Antique” shop, not an Antique shop if you know what I mean. But OH! The cute kitchen stuff! All sorts of things like this:

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Next time I need kitchen stuff, I’m heading here instead of Target. Nice glass dishes with lids, for not much more than Rubbermaid. And so much cooler!

3. I confess that I may buy my next couch there too. They had a lot of them that looked like this:

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And while they were nearly as ugly as sin, and yellow is almost my least favorite color (next to brown, unless the brown is chocolate, or brownies) the couches were in great shape and cheaper than ikea couches. Which is saying something. And if someone throws up on a couch like this, it doesn’t really wreck it. Right?

4. More about couches.  When I first met my husband, he had 4 younger brothers who were in the 4-10 year old range. They were a force to be reckoned with. Over the course of the first couple years I knew him, his parents went through about 4 couches. People would just give them the couches they were getting rid of.

My family, on the other hand, bought our furniture in a store. And I always wondered why his mom didn’t want to get a nice couch.

Now I know. Smartest. Woman. Ever. (Love you!) The thought of a newly bought couch gives me hives now. These little people would wreck it SO FAST.

5. We looked at a rental house this week. We almost jumped for it too. Great neighborhood, great location, great kitchen. Oh, I salivated over the kitchen. It had one of those deep drawers for pans. How awesome is that? BUt when we got home and I kind of took inventory of our furniture, just the furniture the we HAVE to have, like the bookshelves and our “office” cabinet, I couldn’t figure out how we could work it. So we took a great leap of faith.

We started the day thinking our leap of faith would be grabbing this house and moving before we thought we ever could, but in the end our leap of faith was believing that something better is out there for us. I do hope we can find something. Pray for us, please!

6. Another confession here, I kind of hate Mother’s Day. This Buzzfeed pretty much explains why. I think they should put Mother’s Day back in September when I’m all on top of the world and managing all the school stuff like a Boss. Not in May when I just sent my preschooler to school this morning with out even brushing her (curly, and therefore very unruly) hair and her t-shirt was so short her belly stuck out. Oh, and there were knee holes in her pants. This is my little prissy girl. She doesn’t even care anymore at this point in the school year. By May I just kind of feel like a fraud as a parent. I’m just the babysitter here, ordering up the pizza (oops, gluten.) er, Chick Fil A again. Veggies? French fries count, right? Or watermelon?

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7. What I am really craving right now are slower days and  little more sleep. Ahhh sleep. How I have missed you all these long months. We will be together again soon, I promise.

Go see Jen for more Quick Takes!