Monday, August 25, 2014

first day of school...

Well, it's a wrap.  Summer vacation of 2014 is officially over.  I have a few posts that I've written about our adventures pending, but I wanted to post the kids first day of school pictures. 

I was a little worried about the first day of school, because my boys finally learned to sleep in last week.  Last week.  Literally, they went from waking up every day at 7:00 to waking up at 9:30.  It was awesome and frustrating all at the same time.  On the one hand, I loved the time alone in the morning.  My favorite thing to do in the morning is sit in the quiet of the house before anyone else is up with a fresh cup of coffee.  I'd really love to do this on my screened in porch, but since I don't have one I usually sit in my living room and imagine how great it would be to be on my screened in porch.  On the other hand, I was concerned that this tendency to sleep in would make the start of school hard for all of us.

But all my worry was for naught.  Last night, Grace woke me up at 2:00am and stayed up for the day.  Yipee!  I finally brought her downstairs after my shower at 6:15 and discovered John asleep on the couch, he hadn't been there at 6:00 when I came down for my first cup of coffee.  Apparently, he had a headache and woke Mark up for some medicine.  At 6:30 Luke came down and said 'Mom did you forget?'.  To which I said 'forget what?' and he replied 'Forget to say 'Good morning boys, it's time to get up for school.'?'  I just starting laughing because that is literally what I say every morning and said, 'No Luke I didn't forget.  You are all up an hour before you need to be to get up for school."

The boys were excited to go back to school to see their friends but not thrilled that summer vacation was over.  John said he was a little worried about the amount of homework he would get in 5th grade and the fact that he was told the teacher is very strict.  I asked him why that bothered him since he never gets in trouble at school and he said it just did.  Luke couldn't wait to see his best friends, which includes most of his class.  He was a little concerned about the amount of homework he would be getting in second grade after John told him he should be concerned.

We tried to stay on top of learning this past summer by reading and doing workbooks but I think it will take a while for us all to adjust to the routine of school again.  One way I've found to reduce the amount of stress in our days is to write out morning and afternoon routines.  These are not complex schedules but rather the steps that the boys need to follow to get ready for school.  For example, the boys wrote up the following morning routine; get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth and comb hair, put on socks and shoes, pack school bag, play time.  I type the lists up and post them in our kitchen on our pantry door. 

We've been doing this for three years now and I like this practice for two main reasons, 1) I am helping to teach them how to organize and plan their time.  This is something that is intuitive for some people and not for others.  So it is a really valuable skill to teach your children.  Also, as they get older I'm hoping will translate into their school work and other areas of their lives.  And 2) I have found that it cuts down on my yelling in the morning and the boys whining if we have written routines of what they are supposed to do. Now all I have to do is say, 'What should you do next?' and they look at the sheet and do it.  They also know what time we need to be in the car to leave for school, so if they want play time they learn not to fool around and just get their tasks done.

We also have an absolute rule of no screen time in the morning.  None.  At all.  This is not something they are thrilled with but they accept it.  We do allow screen time during the week after homework is done and they know that this can be changed to weekends only if they complain or while about it.

Hope the first day of school was a good one for your crew.  Next week it's Grace's turn to go back...


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

checking in...catching up...and a new video...

We are so enjoying our summer!  I think we have had a perfect balance of days with plans and thing to do and lazy days without plans and playing outside with friends.  However, when I turned the page to August on Monday (I know I was a few days late) I realized that we only had 3 more weeks until school started and I panicked.  My immediate reaction was, 'Oh no, I only have 3 weeks of summer left'.  The boys were also sad to learn summer was almost over.  So I'm taking that as a sign that we've done a good job with our summer so far.

We have taken 3 trips, which I will blog about separately, and crossed off a lot of activities on our summer fun list.  So August will have a slower pace than June and July, but I think it will be great for our family.  I'm also working on my annual update post about Grace, you can read last year's update here.  It is amazing to see how much she has changed and grown in the past year.  I say grown lightly, because at a recent doctors appointment they told us she is in the 2% for height.  Which totally cracks me up because everyone (and I do mean everyone) comments on how tall she looks.  I think it may be because she is crazy skinny for her age or maybe it's because she is so developmentally delayed that she acts like a toddler but is really 7 years old.  Any way whatever the reason, it cracks me up.

Speaking of Grace.  Last year we came across a video that Grace really liked and we watched it a lot.  We like to think that we were a large part of why this video was viewed over 2 million times.  As I've mentioned before, Grace is completely non-verbal but really musical and keeps a beat better than most.  She also has begun to 'sing' to songs by making the intonation of words, so we like to say she sings along to songs now.  Here she is watching the video and 'singing' along to Happy while she eats breakfast.

Well, Chris Rice released another tap dance video this week and it was just as good if not better.  We have watched this video almost constantly since it came out (and that's no joke).  The boys have decided that John is Chris and Luke is Clay Thomson and they make up dance steps to all kinds of songs now.  We all tried to do a handstand today, based on Clay's walking handstand at the end of the video, and I have to say that mama still has it.  I'm sure Mr. Noble, my first gymnastics coach, would be proud that I can still do handstands and cartwheels at my advanced age.  I didn't take pictures of that but here are all 3 kids watching last years video, which we still watch all the time.

The boys then decided that they wanted to help fund Chris's next project (and yes, my family is a little obsessed with Chris and Clay), so we clicked over to kickstarter and gave a little something.  John wanted to give $2,500 so we could be in his next video and get a dance lesson but that was a little out of our budget.  They are so proud that we are now patrons of the arts and still want to visit Chris and Clay in NYC (my boys act like we actually know these guys instead of just creeping  following them on line).  I'm sorry to say that neither one of my boys wants to sign up for dance lessons, no matter how much I beg them to sign up.  So it looks like we will have to continue watching Chris's videos.  Check it out, I think you'll enjoy it.  However, now the kids all walk around signing Happy and I can't get it out of my head, no matter how much 80's grunge rock I listen to).

Hope you like this video as much as we do!  #Tappy


Thursday, June 19, 2014

summer fun list / summer plan...

Our summer officially started last Friday and we could not be happier.  It has the boys jumping for joy!

For the past four years, we have created a summer fun list.  I saw this idea on a blog and promptly stole it.  It is a great way (for us) to stay focused and to have a general plan of things to do.  We come up with the list as a family and everything is fair game.  It is also a very visual reminder, as we check off items, of all the things that we have done during the summer.

This year, I decided that I wanted an even mix of going big places and staying home creating fun.  I want to make sure that for every day I take my kids somewhere that is entertaining, say the zoo, that there is a day at home where they just play.  My three words for this summer are; organized, intentional and creative.

I know that it is up to me as the mom to organize our summer so that we don't just drift through our days and not do anything.  I love summer days without schedules or places to be.  As a result, I don't have my kids in a lot of camps this summer.  I'm also a procrastinator and love nothing more than curling up with a book and not leaving the house.  So the summer list helps this introverted / procrastinator get out and do stuff.  

I want to be intentional about how we experience summer this year.  I don't want to be subject to a schedule every day but I do want to intentionally plan days where we go and do.  I also need to combat my boys natural inclination to ditch school and anything related to school.  If you are raising a child who voluntarily reads, please take a moment and thank God for that.  Seriously.  You may not understand the gift you have been given.  I came up with a what I thought was a reasonable summer reading program and they can earn rewards for reading this summer.  Basically, I'm bribing my boys with ice cream to read this summer.  I'm not too proud to admit that.  I also have several workbooks that we are going to work through and the boys each created a summer journal.  They are going to use these to document our summer with words, pictures, ticket stubs and photos.  Here is a link to the blog where I got the 'directions' to cover our notebooks (Maggie Holmes has such a lovely blog).  You almost don't need instructions but I encouraged John to read the directions out loud and then both boys were able follow them without my help.  And BAM, he was reading without even realizing it!

My boys have a strong affinity for playing video games.  Do you like how I said that?  It seemed nicer than saying they were addicted to playing on devices.  It is a challenge to balance allowing them time to play devices and having them not use them.  We have limits and family standards but we don't have it down perfectly.  We were hesitant to open the door to hand held games because we knew that once it was open it was going to be super hard to close.  But we are managing the constant requests to play on the ipod and ipad in a way that works for our family.  One thing I knew for certain, was that I didn't want this to be something they pestered me about doing all day long did everyday all day long.  So, we have a bunch of creative things on our summer list.  For example, my boys love to paint, color and draw and we have a few days set aside that we will do just that first thing in the morning.  My boys, being boys, also love to blow things up.  So we have exploding paint bags on our list, which I found here.  This blog, Growing a Jeweled Rose, has a lot of really great ideas for kids activities.  Some of them are too young for my boys but are still really great.

We've already checked off a bunch of stuff from our list and we are only in the first week.  I'm hoping that I can stay focused on the summer.  Traditionally, I start off strong and have really good ideas and lots of energy but by August I'm done.

What's on your summer fun list?  What's your favorite thing to do in the summer?


Friday, June 13, 2014

last day of school...

Well, it finally arrived!  Today is the last day of school for my boys.  It should have been last Friday but the winter did not cooperate and we had 1,000 10 snow days to make up. 

Here are the first and last day of school pictures for comparison.  I'm so glad I take these pictures because it is amazing to see how much they grow and change in just one school year.  My babies aren't babies any more...

Here's some jumping pictures to celebrate the last day of school...

The boys have a half day today, so we are going to go out to lunch to celebrate two months off.  They picked MCD and asked for happy meals.  Yuk!  Then we are going to buy craft supplies for a few summer craft projects. 

Yay!  It's summertime...


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

beach trip 2013...

{I realized that I wrote this post last summer but never posted it.  So here is a recap of our beach trip from last year.  I can't wait to go again this summer...}

Mark and I are beach people.  In fact, my dream has always been to live at the beach.  I sometimes regret that I never did this in college when I was able to do so.  Mark and I have always talked about retiring to the beach when he no longer has to work and the kids are grown.  Of course, now we talk about Mark, me, Grace and her care taker living at the beach together...

We have been going to the beach with Mark's family for our entire marriage.  We would rent a huge house in the Outer Banks and spend a week together.  This trip was awesome and the kids always had such a great time with their cousins.  Unfortunately, this tradition ended a few years ago due to cost and family schedules.  So the last time we went to the beach as a family was 2011 (you can see pictures here, here and here).  That was too long for me to be away from the beach!.  So when my parents invited us down to the house they rented in Bethany Beach, we jumped at the chance to go.  The last time we were at this beach was also in 2011 and I posted about it here and here.

We drove down to the beach on Sunday afternoon and as soon as we got there the kids wanted to go to the beach.  It was windy and cold but we were all so happy to be there.

The next day the boys got up early and couldn't wait to go to the ocean.  John and Luke did what kids do everywhere and made friends with another boy on the beach.  They then proceeded to have his parents bury them in the sand.  YUCK!

Sister did not want any part of being buried in the sand!

She did however, play in the sand and was quiet happy to be at the beach. 

It was a quick but awesome time at the beach.  Next year we are planning on going for a week.  I already miss the beach.  It is my happy place...


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

conversations in the car...

As our school year draws to a close, I was reflecting on the fact that I drive my boys to and from school every day.  It is something we choose to do as a family for a number of reasons but really, it just works for our family.  One of the things I enjoy about all this driving is the conversations I have with my kids. We spend time on a variety of topics.  Here is a peak into some of the conversations in our car this past year...

Sometimes, we talk about the future and what it will look like to be older:

L - Mom, when Sarah and I are in High School and have five kids can we live with you?
Me - (loooooooooooooong pause)(thinking, thinking, thinking) 'Sure'
L - Ok, thanks.  Just checking.
J - Seriously.  Luke, you can't have kids in High School because you won't be old enough to get married.
L - Oh, really.  Ok.  How about when I'm in college can I get married then?
Me - How about we get you through first grade first and then start planning your wedding...

At home later, I told Mark he needed to have the s-e-x talk with the boys because Luke was planning on having a large family and starting early.  And yes, I did spell it out even though we were the only ones in the room.


The boys have picked out the cars they are going to buy.  You know you can never plan too far ahead for your first car.  They are 10 and 8 right now...

 L - John what kind of car are you going to get?
J - An orange mustang convertible with black stripes.
L - That's awesome.
J - How about you?
L - I'm getting a red mustang with a spider on the front.
J - I don't think they make cars like that.
L - I'm getting a custom paint job
Me - Say whaaat?
L - Sure Mom.  They have places that paint cars anyway you want them to.
Me - Well, I knew that but how did you.
L - Duh.  Mom.  The movie Cars.


Sometimes we talk about silly things that are fun to discuss...

L - Let's pick super heros for everyone in the family.
J - Ok.  I'm Ironman
L - I'm Spider-man (shocking!)
L - Who is dad?
J - How about Superman?
L - Yeah.  That's great.  How about mom?
J - Mom, what super hero would you be if you could be any one?
Me - I would be Storm because I like her boots.
J - (eye roll) (dramatic sigh) Mom, you can't pick your super hero based on her shoes.
Me - Ok.  I'd be Storm because she can fly and control the atmosphere AND because she has cool boots.
L - Who is Grace going to be?
J - How about Wonder Woman?
Me - Oh.  I forgot about her.  Maybe I'll be her.  I like her outfit.
J - Moooooom! (said with disgust)  It's a costume not an outfit.  AND You.can't.pick.your.super.hero. because.of.her.costume.
Me - Ok.  Don't get mad.  I'll just borrow Grace's boots
J - mumbling


Sometimes we tackle big, heavy topics that require thoughtful answers and grace filled words.

J - Mom, do you know what the N word is?
Me - Yes, honey I do.  
J - It's really bad.
Me - I know.
J - Why do people call other people mean things?
Me - I don't know but they do.  Where did you hear it?
J - At school.
Me - (at your private, Christian school?)  Can you tell me what you heard?
J - Mom it's really bad.  I don't want to say it.
Me - It's okay.  You're not really saying about someone it since we are discussing it together.  Also, this is how you learn and grow by talking to me and dad to figure things out.
J - Ok.  (he whispered) Nerd.
Me - Hmmm.  (Thank you Jesus!)  That is bad.  
J - Do you know the L word?
Me - I'm not sure.  Why don't you tell me?
J - Loser.
Me - Yup.  That's bad too.  Are boys calling each other names in school?  Or how did this come up?
J - Some of the boys are saying these things but not calling each other the names.  I think they heard them on TV or something like that.
Me - Well, remember if you don't have anything nice to say just don't say anything at all.  And name calling is never nice.  It just makes you look bad.
J - Mom!  You always say that.
Me - Well, it's true and it bears repeating.


We listen to a lot of music in the car.  And of course, if the music is on, someone is always singing.  Which brings us to lyrics.

One day, the song Team by Lorde was on the radio and the boys were singing.  But each boy was singing something different.  So I asked what they thought the words to the song were, and that we could look them up when we got home.  Here are their answers and then the real lyrics:

J - I'm going out soon
L - The girl is absent
Actual - Send, the call out (repeated over and over and over again).

We love JT in our house.  So the boys request his songs all the time.  We were listening to the song Suit and Tie one day and John realized Luke was singing 'can I show you a toothpick' instead of 'can I show you a few things'.  Now, every time the song comes on we laugh about this...


We talk future careers... 

Me - What do you want to be when you grow up?
J - An inventor.
Me - Really?  What would you invent?
J - Repulsers just like Tony Stark.
L - That would be so cool.
Me - You do realize that being an inventor requires you to be really good at math and science.
J - Well, maybe I'll just design them and someone else can do the math part.
L - Like Rhoddy?
J - Luke, they're not real people.  It's pretend.
L - I know that.
L - I want to be Spider-Man when I grow up.
J - Luke, he's not real either.  It's just a movie.
L - (thinking, thinking, thinking)
L - Ok.  Then I want to be an actor and be in a Spider-Man movie.
Me - Sounds good to me.  (wonder if they have any summer stock for kids locally)

It has been a pleasure to drive my boys to and from school everyday but, like them, I'm ready for summer vacation.  We are officially counting down and have 3 more days of school.  Yipee!


Monday, June 9, 2014

happy birthday mark...

Mark's birthday was Saturday!  It was awesome because we didn't have any plans (on purpose) and he was off from work.  So I asked him what he wanted to do.  He said 'finish up the yard work.'  I was like whaaat?  I don't think I understood your answer.  He explained that he had had this task on his to do list for a while now and really wanted to get it done.  I said that that was fine as long as he understood, those words would never (never ever) come out of my mouth and my plans for the weekend included eating more meals out than I had to prepare.  He agreed.  After 15 years of marriage, we are on the same page.

Mark doesn't get a lot of face time on the blog but he is the rock of our family.  He is truly an amazing husband and father.  He is a great example to our boys of what a Christian man of integrity looks like and he is Grace's favorite person.  He works very hard at his job and as a business owner, to ensure that our family is well taken care of.  I couldn't ask for a better man to spend my life with and I thank God for him!

Here's a picture of Mark and the kids at one of his favorite local restaurants.

 Happy Birthday Baby!  The best is yet to come...