Life. Love. Family. My Perfect Imperfection.

Friday, January 31, 2014

this...

Sometimes, you just have to walk away from things that are causing more problems than they are helping. By doing so, you can commit more fully to the people and things that mean the most to you and have been there the longest - for me, that's my husband and my boys.

It sounds like an excuse, but it's so much more than that.
When I decided to start being a Beachbody Coach, I didn't discuss it with Jason. I just jumped right in, with both feet. Now, while it may be a great fit for some people, I've struggled with it. I want to help people, help them get healthy and fit, learn to eat right, all the while doing the same for myself. But I feel like a.) nobody is interested or b.) nobody can afford to buy the workouts and/or shakes. Now I know what other coaches will say: It's not about selling. I get that, but to an extent it is. They need to find a workout that is their soul-mate workout, and there are so many good choices and the shakes are super healthy, but most people I know though just can't do it. I'm not good at reaching out to new people, either.  Not only has it been stressing me out, because I don't know what/how/who, even with my awesome team's help (it's truly not about them, it's all about what I can and can't do, handle and control), but we have been spending money on our own shakes as well as our business fees. This has caused some budgetary concerns - minor, but very real.

After the first of the year, our insurance went up, as did the 401k  deductions, and we are trying to save some money for some home improvements we want to do as well as other things. One more reason to cut expenses.

I am trying not to think of this as quitting or giving up on something, so much as re-prioritizing. Things need to change and this is where they can. We needed to take a long hard look at things, and really step back. I choose them, over ANYTHING else.

My commitment has been and always will be, first and foremost, to the love of my life, Jason, and our 3 sons, Ethan, Alex, and Jack. When I sat down and spoke with Jason about quitting being a coach, and my why's, we discussed openly and came to the conclusion that it's what's right for our whole family, because I'm struggling with it.

 Chains do not hold a marriage together.  It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.  ~Simone Signoret
I love this quote, because for me those threads are our conversations, our fights, our compromises, our willingness to fight for one another and for our family unit.

I love being married.  It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.  ~Rita Rudner
 
I hope I don't annoy him too much, and even when he annoys me, I love him more than life.

What needs changing in YOUR life today? For me, it's hunkering down into our family more, and shutting out the world just a bit, while still sharing, growing, loving, and moving on from things that just don't fit. I'm thankful for the opportunity I had, and am not sorry I attempted. I did learn things, and will always be grateful for that. I feel like I've made some new friends along the way and reconnected with old acquaintances, too.

On to bigger and better things. Like my eldest son's school spelling bee in an hour. Yes, that's right, E won the class bee again this year, and goes to the next level. If he wins, it will be the charter school bee and possibly the Scripps regional bee again. Even if he doesn't make it, I'm proud of him and Alex for all their hard work in school. (Alex was disappointed because he didn't win his class bee, but he was happy for his good friend that did :) ) Oh, and of course, my writing, online and offline. I have had some book ideas floating around in my head for months now, and while they might not be any good at all, I need to get them on paper and share with someone...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Update on our winter fun list

I thought we wouldn't have a lot crossed off this week but it turns out we did quite a few things on our Winter fun list!

We caught up on our Saint studies yesterday (finally!) and learned about St. Andre Bessette, St. Hilary, St. Marianne Cope, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Some interesting take-aways for each of us? *I'm copying word for word what the boys wrote in their notes*

St. Andre Bessette
E: St. Andre Bessette died at 92, despite being sick very often.
A: He died at age 92 even though sick a lot.
Mom: He was highly devoted to St. Joseph, and built a chapel with very little money. Also he was an orphan at a young age, the 8th of 12 children, and sick very often, making it near impossible to work.

St. Hilary
E: St. Hilary was banished from France.
A: He was banished from France.
Mom: Even though he was exiled, he never stopped believing and professing his belief in God. Others tried to get him to renounce God as well as condemn Athanasius, who was a staunch defender of God from the East and he refused!

St. Marianne Cope
E: St. Marianne Cope's generosity did many good things, including taking care of people with leprosy, and opening a school for girls.
A: She opened a house for "unprotected" woman and girls.
Mom: Mother Marianne of Molokai willingly and lovingly took care of many people with leprosy in Hawaii, in a time when it was considered dangerous or awful. Sick people were basically quarantined and left alone and no one would go near them. She went with several others and nursed them, as well as opening a school for girls, a hospital and a home for "unprotected women and girls"! A true example of servitude, if you ask me!

St. Thomas Aquinas
E: St. Thomas Aquinas' feast day is on January 28th. Patron saint of students and universities. He wrote and teached. Lived from 1225-1274. Died at 48 years
A: Patron of students and schools. Born in end of 1225. Died at age 48. very intelligent.
Mom: He renounced the things of this world and decided to join the Dominicans. Even when his family didn't agree and even tried to tempt him, he stayed steadfast! He is a doctor of the Church, and has many great writings.

Mary, Mother of God
E: St. Mary (I know, she's not known as St. Mary, lol) was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus
A: Virgin Mary. Mother of Jesus.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
E: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American born Saint, and started the first Catholic school in the USA. Died at 46, and had tuberculosis.
A: Made first Catholic school. Husband died when she was very young. Patron saint of Catholic schools. Had tuberculosis.
Mom: She converted to Catholicism.

On Sunday, the boys and I ventured out to the library to get a few books! We found many books on Ohio and Michigan, so each of the boys got to choose one.



Ethan chose the Michigan book and we haven't actually started reading it yet.

Alex chose the Ohio book and we finished it yesterday after dinner.





Since we are also hoping to start a new series together, and finish it throughout the year (it will count towards our 50 books each, also), we chose Anne of Green Gables. I'm hoping to start on it this afternoon, since we are all stuck in the house again today :)

Learning the Rosary is going ok, although we haven't been praying it daily as I planned. Ethan and Alex both know the Our Father prayer, and about half of the Hail Mary by heart. We will continue to practice the Hail Mary, Glory Be, and The Apostle's Creed - Alex knew that it's part of the Rosary, but is worried it's "too hard" to memorize. I told him that it's ok, because I don't even have that memorized, so we can learn it together!

Swimming lessons are still going on, and they are LOVING it. Since they are in two different levels but at the same time, I sit in between where they are so I can observe them. During this time, I've noticed a few things. First, Alex listens pretty well and tries harder when E is not there next to him. For example, when told to lie on his back and use his arms and legs to move but with differing motions/times, even though he had a hard time doing it, he did not get upset and give up! He just laughed a bit and said "wow, that's hard", and kept trying. Second, E's eye contact isn't the only thing he's struggling with right now. His attention and focus are hindering his ability some. I actually intervened on Saturday, because I kept seeing him duck under the water when the instructor was talking and explaining what they should do next. I just walked over, excused myself, and said to him "If you aren't going to listen, and you are going to play in the water, we can leave. If I see you go under the water again, while he's talking, rather than listening to him, you are done for today. What he's saying is important, and it will help you learn." He stopped playing and focused much better, and I didn't yell at him! Proud of both of us. Also I noticed that he did remember how to hold his hands while doing the one forward stroke, and did good with it. He still twists his whole body a lot though, and they are working on that.

A new recipe was attempted yesterday and turned out delicious, if not pretty.





I just replaced the 1 cup of white flour with 1 cup of King Arthur's white whole wheat flour, and the canola oil with an equal amount of (MELTED) coconut oil. Next time I won't make as much of the cinnamon roll "filling" or the icing, as we had a ton of each leftover. I also plan to try and find a "real food" or whole food substitute for the brown sugar and the powdered sugar but for our first time with a new recipe, we were all very pleased with the taste. Jackson ate a good amount for breakfast for the first time in a couple of weeks!

Last but not least, on Saturday afternoon (after swimming and Catechism for the boys and grocery shopping for mom!), since Jason wasn't working, we decided to drive down to the Michigan Science Center for a few hours. While it technically wasn't new to all of us, we are counting it as our "find a new museum" on our list. E and I went there for a field trip when he was in fourth grade and had a blast, and Jason had been there when he was a little kid.

First, we went through the area where they have hands-on factory equipment, and the boys were able to try out a few things, like moving a ball with a vacuum hose, place gears on an assembly line and see Koka, the robot.








They crossed the Mackinac Bridge and walked on some roads with traffic lights while learning a bit about construction in the engineering area.






Musical instruments were played, as well as learning about magnets and electricity with the many hands-on activities.










We also went through the health and fitness area and the boys had fun trying out some of the exercise equipment!

Of course, their kidstruction zone was tons of fun, with toys ranging from lincoln logs to trains to giant foam building blocks to tents and tunnels to crawl through.




Join in the fun over here at Learning Life with 3 Sons!





Saturday, January 25, 2014

2014 Goals update

Here's our current progress:

Savings:
We are currently on week 4 of the 52 week savings challenge for OUR savings account. We did weeks one and two for each of the boys.

Debt:
Since the hospital where Jason had care for a kidney stone several years ago paid off the rest of his bill, we are using that little extra to pay down our highest interest credit card each month. Basically snowballing, adding an extra $50 to the minimum payment (unless something crazy comes up). Also getting rid of some "unnecessary" monthly items to give us some extra spending OR debt-busting money.

Home Management:
#1 The chore/point system is in full gear and working well. They have been doing great keeping track of things. The school point is going good with them bringing everything home, unpacking, doing their homework in a reasonable time, and math and reading each for 20 minutes a night. Mornings are even smoother and they have been remembering to make their beds. Behavior for E is good and though he has been whining, we aren't including that in his school behavior point. As long as he doesn't get questions/RTC, he earns his point. (He also wasn't on his meds for a bit there and now we got a refill on it and a follow-up appointment finally.) Alex is doing better with not getting warnings as often, less than 1/2 the time now, but had only been back to school for 7 days so far at that point... Chore points and round-up is going pretty well. Minimal complaining.

#2 The motivated moms app is awesome. Not only am I able to track what I'm getting done, I'm being reminded of chores I usually forget! And it's super easy to assign things to the boys, too.

#3 We've only had one Saturday since this one was started and we didn't really have a lot to do plus Alex had a friend spend the night.

Get Fit:
#1 To be honest I'm struggling with my eating right now and my motivation to exercise. I need to start fresh and get moving, though I am up off my butt more, due to getting more done around the house.

#2-6 I went a little backwards on the weight but again, by getting back on track with exercising and better food choices, I should make good progress again. I haven't stepped on the scale since last week and will do a check-in on that on Monday...

Food-related:
#1 Since our Costco membership needs renewed in March, we've been discussing this. We both like the organic ground beef better and it's a great price there: $16.99 or $17.99 for 4 lbs ($4.25 or $4.50/lb) vs $7.99/lb at Meijer and compared to regular ground beef at $3.99-5.99/lb. Also they have other things we like. I need to sit and rework the grocery budget to shop every 2 weeks again instead of every week and we are still considering a deep freezer. It may be in the basement by month's end. I've been adding things back in here and there that are organic but not much yet. I think milk and eggs are next in line, though I'd love some farm fresh, cage-free, pastured eggs. Yummm.

#2 After waking up with Jack at 3:30am and having, ahem, some digestive issues myself at the same time on Sunday, I tried to determine the cause. I had a glass of milk on Saturday and lots of cheese over the past few days, as well as greasy pepperoni and a homemade Italian sub the night before for dinner. Maybe it's not just dairy but greasy food too. I'm thinking a food diary over the next few weeks might be a good idea.

#3 See #14 under my personal goals for January's progress and plans for 2 new recipes before the end of the month!

Doctor/Dentist:

#2 E and Alex both have appointments for their yearly physicals scheduled for around their birthdays. E also has a neurologist appointment scheduled for next week for a follow-up.

#7 I have been in contact with the orthopedic surgeon's office about Jackson's thumb and should know something more next week. He may need to be seen again before they can schedule the surgery, and whether or not that's necessary, it will be sometime in the next couple of months for his surgery.

#4-6 I'm in search of a good dentist that accepts our insurance and am hoping to find an office that has a general dentist and pediatric dentist.

Personal goals:
Mom:
#1 One book down and 2nd started with a few picked out to follow. I finished Dark Souls that I actually started sometime back in November but had put it away. I found it about a week ago and read almost 3/4 of it in just a few days! I'm now reading The Remains on my galaxy tab on the kindle app. Next up is a book called Don't Breathe A Word, a kindle book I read a chapter from months ago.

#2 I've made a little progress on my project with a few rows added (10-12?) over the last few days. It's going to be a blanket, but is only about a quarter of the way finished.

#4 I'm still working slowly on the German practice and going back to work on "weaker" areas.

#6 I haven't decided what class I want to take yet but plan to look at the college as well as the rec center's summer catalog and a couple local school districts' "continuing education" summer catalogs.

#8 I am also still looking into where to take a photography class, but feel at a loss right now here.

#10 Technically, I re-purposed an old wooden cutting board into a holder for the Christmas lights but that wasn't really what the plan was, LOL.

#12 Currently doing ok with this one. I wrote 2 blog posts last week, and this is #3 for this week. I do need some "original" content.

#14 Since it's so late in the month I'm planned to find 2 recipes from Pinterest for this month's items, and then we'll kill two birds with one stone, also hitting #3 from the food/diet related goals under health goals for January. I picked out a breakfast meal (cinnamon roll pancakes - I plan to modify this slightly by using white whole wheat flour and coconut oil) and a crockpot meal (Low Fat Mexican Fiesta Chicken).

#7 and #11 Jason laughed about these, mainly due to the fact that these are so vague. He's right, of course. I need to flesh these two goals out a bit. To be honest, I'm thinking these are going to be the hardest for me.

I want to add 16-23 for my list: Visit my friend Jill in Maryland; Visit my friend Cathy in upstate NY; Visit my friend Darla who just moved to Michigan; Visit my friend Sharon in Ohio; "Meet" my friend Kate and family in AZ; "Meet" my friend Jennifer and family in SC. (I say "meet" because they are my virtual friends and we've never met IRL. I hope that we can take a short trip out West and down South this summer but these will prove to be the most difficult. The Ohio and Michigan visits will be much easier as they are closer to home, and we can make a weekend trip, with just the boys and I if Jason isn't able to go, to Maryland and NY if needed.) The last one is my 15 year high school reunion, which is possibly set for the weekend of August 8-9.

A little aside here for the boys' reading goals. I found a really good book list while on Facebook/Pinterest the other day. Mensa for Kids has some great lists according to grades and reading levels, with the possibility to earn a t-shirt as well as certificates for reading the entire list.

Ethan
#1 He's enrolled in level 2 and had his first class last Saturday and 2nd this morning and is working on learning basic strokes. He's also learning on his listening skills ;)

#2 He's finished his first book and second books: The Guiness Book of World Records 2014 and Middle School: How I survived bullies, broccoli and snakehill.

#4 After auditioning for the school musical, E got the part of "Howe". Monday and Wednesday, they had rehearsal, got their waiver, call list, and scripts.

#6 The two current video game classes at our rec center are at the same time as other activities they are in (swimming, play, catechism, cub scouts) so this will end being a summer time or at least later spring time activity.

#10 There was supposed to be a middle school dance yesterday but school was cancelled :(

Alex
#1 He's enrolled in level 1 and also had his first class last Saturday and his 2nd today. He's very close to testing out, they actually tested him because they'd like to move him up, but he needs a little more practice with some of the basics.

#2 As I said, he's technically earned this, as he's finished all the requirements under each of the four sections, but won't be awarded the badge until Blue and Gold. We are going to continue to work on achievements and electives for arrow points.

#3 He wants to earn the archery, astronomy, bb-gun shooting, chess, photography and soccer belt loops for sure. There are many other choices too, several of which he has partially finished the requirements for. The archery and bb-gun ones MUST be earned at scout events due to the safety rules, so he's hoping to earn them at camp this summer :) There are 28 sports belt loops, of which he currently has baseball, basketball, bicycling, bowling, kickball and softball and has done partial requirements for 3 others. There are 25 academics belt loops, of which he has collecting and video games and he has seven others started. He is also half-way done working towards earning the video game pin.

#5 He also auditioned for the musical and got the part of Drake. He is very excited but is also nervous about how busy we will be the next few weeks, with practices (at least) 2 nights a week most week, cub scouts on Tuesdays or Sundays, swimming and catechism on Saturday mornings, etc. plus homework and chores. I reassured him that activity nights, chores would be much lighter especially if there is tons of homework. :)

#6 Alex has finished his first 2 books! Magic Treehouse #1 and Little House on the Prairie: On the Banks of Plum Creek. He is eagerly waiting a trip to the library for the next in the LHP series (this surprised me, as I thought with a girl being the "main" character he may not enjoy it as much, but he is loving them so far, having read one in December for his most recent book report and this one! I know, I know, it's fine, but I was just surprised is all. :) )

#7 He wants to learn French! However, he is still doing Spanish in school, so this may be interesting... LOL

#9 Math practice is continuing and we may be doing some online math programs.

Jackson
#4 Level A swim lessons had already started or were full for this session, so we are looking into the one starting in March.
#9 He is learning the alphabet song and it's very cute!
#8 He loves counting any objects with me, so this has been fun so far. I think it will be an easy task for him.

Jason
As he has only just shared his goals, I don't have any real updates yet, except that he has started his classes (2nd week is almost over for the semester) and I know he won't have any trouble with his GPA. I'm so proud of him. He's taken on so much this semester with 3 classes for a total four nights a week at school (10 hours or so) plus group projects, 40-50 hours of regular work, pinewood derby chairman - meaning he runs the pinewood derby for our pack basically and "hosts" it for other packs in our area on multiple occasions! - AND working a second job as a contract mechanic for some co-workers/employees' business on the police helicopters in the D. Plus making sure he's got time for the boys and I. I'm doing my best to help him out and also make life less stressful around here by having things done. Once we get in a groove with all the new around here, it should be good.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Goals: The "Original" Hamer's list

This post is all about Jason's goals for the year. It took a while (I forgot to ask him for his... but he shared them with us on Sunday night) and now they are all ready to share here.

Jason

  1. Get tooth fixed. A few years ago, Jason chipped a tooth while helping his dad move some large tree branches. He actually got a nice knot on the side of his head at the same time if I remember correctly. It was a misfortunate accident where one lifted the branch one way, and the other went the other direction and it bounced back. He's just not been concerned about his tooth really but feels he should stop putting it off in case more damage is being done to his tooth.
  2. Maintain a 3.5 GPA.
  3. Take the summer off from college classes.
  4. Lose 40 lbs by December 31st.
  5. Put 5000 miles on the motorcycle. 
  6. Begin process of getting wrist fixed. He broke his wrist while in the Army about 14 years ago(!) and it didn't heal right. Surgery will be necessary and it's his dominant hand. Since he will have to go through the VA, we say begin process, because we don't know how long it will take to finish the process.
  7. Take at least 4 weeks of vacation from work. This doesn't mean 4 weeks of traveling or anything, just time off of work. He currently has about 8 weeks of vacation time saved.
  8.  Read ONE book, cover to cover, 200 pages or more. His words, not mine. He's not a big reader...
  9. Tattoo on left arm.
  10. Say one nice thing per (family) person per day. After writing this, he added the "family" part and joked that it would be strange if he walked around all day and said random nice things ("I like your hair" "nice shoes", etc) to random people... He seriously had me cracking up. I could almost picture him doing this with me around just to embarrass me ;)
  11. Add roof over front door. The front door and concrete steps to our enclosed porch is open to the elements and when it is cold and wet, there is almost always ice covering the stairs. In the rain, there is no stopping the downpour from the gutter right on your head. He is planning to put an awning type roof over the stairs.
  12. Fix/work on go-kart. It's been sitting in our garage since last summer, and while it runs, it needs some minor repairs.
  13. Change oil in tractor/riding lawn mower.
  14. Fix the mini-van engine. It's ticking. This will wait until the weather is nicer obviously.
  15. Fix the truck ignition. All of a sudden, and randomly, the truck will not start. There's power (lights come on) but it doesn't click or turn over. Usually after a couple of tries and taking the key out and reinserting it, it starts no problem. There is no rhyme or reason, it could be the first start of the day, or after it's been running and he makes a quick stop and then goes to leave. 
  16. Move. I jokingly wrote "to wherever Crystal says", LOL. Not sure what his thoughts are here, yet. 
  17. Cuss/curse a lot less. This is a great goal, for BOTH of us to try and achieve.
I'm hoping to have a nice update written up tomorrow. I'm actually keeping a hard-copy of the goals and our progress in a journal, too, so I don't forget in between posts here.

If you are interested in reading our other posts: Part 1: Health goals; Part 2: Money Management and Home Management Goals; Part 3: My Personal Goals; and Part 4: The little Hamers.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Outside fun with a splash of warm water thrown in

Last Wednesday, we ended up making breakfast for dinner. Turkey bacon, sausage links and patties, scrambled eggs for the boys and over-medium fried eggs for mom and dad, toast, coffee, juice, milk. Yum! I love how easy and quick breakfast is, especially on a busy school night - not just for the older boys but Jason as well! That's right! It's back to school for Jason! This semester, he's taking not 2 but THREE classes. He's got a Monday/Wednesday class from 6:30-8pm, a Tuesday class from 6-10pm and a Thursday class from 6-9pm. It makes dinner time a little less of a family meal, unless we (I) prepare better. I've been not so good about that lately and it makes for a rushed, late dinner. Now that E and Alex will be having play rehearsals most Mondays and Wednesdays through March 29 and everyday that last week from 3:30-5:30, it's going to be split up even more! Not a huge deal, I suppose but Jason will most likely be eating alone those 2 nights, or with Jack and I before we head over to get the older two. Then they will eat once we get home (dad will leave before we get home). Tuesday's dinner time works out good, because even though it's cub scout night, we all leave around the same time :)

Anyway, the whole point of that tangent was to say we crossed off "breakfast for dinner" from our winter fun list!! We plan to have eggs and toast for dinner tomorrow too, and I'm sure several more times in the next few weeks.

While I didn't get any pictures, we did go out and play in the snow on Saturday afternoon. All of us, plus a friend! Alex had a friend spend the night, whom we picked up just after lunchtime and met his dad around 11 the next morning, so there was lots of fun had. We played in the snow, had a small snowball fight that more or less consisted of the kids trying to catch me unaware, and then me chasing them and trying to get them back. Ethan made some snow angels but nobody else did, so we will do that again. All 4 boys got towed by Jason on the tractor. They had such a blast chasing down the sled and the other boys riding on it. I'd say they were out there for at least 2 hours, and Jack and I spent over an hour out there before I decided to bring him in to warm up. I regret that I didn't snap any pictures of the kids, but I was just having to much fun playing with them! Jackson posed for a couple cute ones though after we came back in:


Swimming lessons started Saturday and E and Alex had so much fun. They were both unsure about going to lessons again, even though they love swimming and have gone there before. Last time, they attended the same level but Alex didn't get moved to the next level. Since E is currently in level 2, and Alex is repeating level 1 to get some extra practice with floating and such, they are in two different areas of the pool. In a way it's kind of nice because they aren't distracting each other, and have an opportunity to work independently of each other. Alex felt bad at first but then realized he's at the "top of his class" and could get moved up before the end to level 2 if he can show competence! That improved his confidence and put a smile on his face. Even thought they only get 30 minutes of class, it's a 10 week session and they learn quite a bit. E is currently learning the backstroke and another simple stroke (not sure which, breaststroke maybe?). I did make his instructors aware of his Asperger's after class, as I know he wasn't making eye contact as often as the other 2 in his class. I wanted them to know he is listening even if he's not looking right at you, at least most of the time ;) We haven't been able to start Jackson, as this sessions classes were full or already started for his level. Planning to start in March. The boys were grateful that the pool and building were warm, not cold as they both expected.

We are currently 2 weeks behind on our Saints and are going to play catch-up tonight before Scouts or tomorrow with St. Andre Bessette, St. Hilary and this week's Saint: St. Marianne Cope. I was planning to read a little something each week during one of our dinners and I either forgot or we were rushed so it didn't get done.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014 Goals: Part 4 - The little Hamers

*A quick note about these goals. I have asked the boys for their input on these, but they have yet to get back to me. I am writing up some things that Jason and I would like for them to achieve as well as things we know they can achieve. I will add more as they share their own selections. *

Ethan
  1. Complete Level 2-4 of swimming lessons. Currently enrolled in Level 2 as part of our Winter Fun List activities. We are hoping to "graduate" to the next level and finish Levels 3 and 4 over the spring and summer.
  2. Read 50 books. He will be keeping a list to share with mom and dad.
  3. Start learning a second language, his choice.
  4. Participate in a play. There is a school musical in March, and he has auditioned. We should know something soon.
  5. Learn to cook at least 3 recipes/meals/foods. Considering signing up for a cooking class at the rec center.
  6. Take a video game design class through our rec center.
  7. Make a comic book and share!
  8. Volunteer with mom.
  9. Go to overnight camp.
  10. Go to a school dance. This will be easy as there's one coming up!
Alex
  1. Complete Level 1-4 of swimming lesson. Currently enrolled in level 1 but as he has previously taken and was *this.close* to "graduating", they may move him to level 2 (it was in late 2011/early 2012 when he and Ethan took their first classes, so he has had a couple of years of practice in his grandparents pool.) Hoping to finish Levels 2-4 throughout the spring, summer and fall.
  2. Earn his Bear badge for Cub Scouts. He has actually finished all his requirements, we are just waiting now ;)
  3. Become a Webelos Scout.
  4. Earn 5-10 belt loops for Scouts. We just found out last night that as of March 2015, they are discontinuing the belt loop program, so he is hoping to earn a few more before then.
  5. Participate in a play. Same as Ethan, he has auditioned for the school musical and should know in the next few days.
  6.  Read 50 books. He will also keep a list for mom and dad.
  7. Start learning a second language of his choice. He takes Spanish still in school, so he may consider expanding on that using Duolingo.
  8. Learn to cook at least 3 new foods/recipes/meals. Also considering a cooking class at the rec center.
  9.  Practice and master fractions. He can do it but seems to be having a bit of a hard time with them.
  10. Go to overnight Cub Scout camp!
  11. Go to overnight camp with E. 
 Jackson
  1. Potty-training!!! YAY! ;)
  2. Move to his own room. Yes, he's currently still in our room, but in his crib most of the night from bedtime till 3am or later. He's been sleeping better every night, and last night, not even a peep from 8:45pm till 6:15am! Thankfully we have a guest/extra bedroom, we just need to clear out the queen bed and E's desk. I have some ideas on how to rearrange the house to still allow E a "private area" for homework.
  3. Transition from crib to twin/toddler bed. I'd LOVE to get him a car or fire engine bed or even a train!!
  4. Level A and B swimming lessons. This month's sessions for his age groups that are at an open time are full, so he isn't enrolled yet. We are hoping to enroll in March, and continue through the summer. He can't take Level C until he's 3 but then may be able to repeat to keep learning/practicing.
  5. Learn some simple words in German. I chose German for him, because of my own knowledge of the language and ability to teach him some objects, foods, colors, etc. It will truly be simple words, as my skill level, especially for teaching, is beginner/intermediate. Should be fun, though!
  6. Learn colors. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, brown. Currently working on.
  7. Learn basic shapes. Square, Rectangle, Triangle, Circle, Oval, Star, Diamond, Crescent. Somewhat knows most, and is able to actually name them. Can point to correctly most of them, when asked, most of the time.
  8. Learn to count to 10. Currently counts to 2 consistently and occasionally 3 and 4.
  9. Learn his ABC's. He currently knows A-G of the ABC song :)
  10. Spend the night at his grandparent's house. This may be harder for me than him...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Fun List week 2 update!

We haven't done a ton around here since last week really in regards to our Winter Fun List, but here's what we did get done. Now that Jason's back to school this week, I'm hoping we can do a bunch of things on the weekend before the boys' Catechism class starts back up on the 25th. Also, I never though I'd say this, but I hope it snows again soon. Just a few inches - I'm talking 4-5 max - so we have a nice fresh coating on the ground. As of right now, we have slush and some snow and lots of patches of green/brown in the yard. Wanting to get out sledding, snowman-making and throwing snowballs at each, we would love a small snowstorm. NO snow days from school though!!! ;)

Our improvised King/Epiphany cake:

I wanted to do a tradition New Orleans style King Cake but had a hard time finding a recipe that I liked. We try to eat whole grains, and no artificial food coloring. While we could easily substitute natural food dyes for the fake petroleum-based ones, I couldn't find a whole wheat recipe. From all of the recipes I did see - I started planning this a little late - it's traditionally brioche dough, made into a round wreath, either braided or not, and then you place a plastic baby, a coin or a bean inside before baking. To decorate it, it's glazed and then drizzled with purple, gold and green icing. I didn't have green or purple natural dyes, although we do have orange left from a couple of years ago in the fridge.

To make it easier on all of us this year, I purchased a vanilla pudding cake that had white icing drizzled on it and placed a quarter inside from the bottom. We didn't actually have it until Tuesday, January 7th.

Jason laughed at me because I put candles on it, but I thought it was fitting as it's supposed to be a celebration of Christ's birth with the 3 Kings or Wise Men. The boys all liked that little touch.

We also discussed Epiphany and why it's celebrated last Sunday. We have the little blue book that our Parish hands out and there's always some interesting information in there. Although we didn't talk about St. Andre Bessette yet, we will learning about him and St. Hilary this week.

Before Mass yesterday, we were looking through Alex's Mass and First Communion Book that he got last year as a gift and started praying the Rosary together. It's nice because all the prayers are right in there: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc as well as all the Mysteries, and a nice illustration explaining the order. My plan is to spend 15 to 20 minutes a night praying with the boys and in the process have them learn the prayers. They both know the Our Father prayer, and most of the Hail Mary (I didn't realize they knew what they do!) but not The Apostle's Creed - I don't have it memorized either - or the Glory Be. Since both of them got a nice set of Rosary beads for their First Communions, they are all set.

It was so cold early in the week that we didn't get any outside activities in, and then it was back to school for the older boys Thursday and Friday. Saturday, Jason was working at City Airport, so we had a lazy day around here and Sunday was Mass in the morning followed by grocery shopping for me.

Thanks again to Learning Life with 3 Sons and Homeschool Camper for hosting this link-up! I'm hoping for a more exciting (and photo-filled!) week to share on next Monday.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014 Goals: Part 3 - My personal goals

If you have been following this series, I hope that it's been motivating you to reach for your own goals. If you would like to read about our health goals or our money and home management goals, please feel free to go here: Part 1: Health goals and Part 2: Money and Home Management goals.

Personal Goals

  1. Read 50 books this year. I hope to exceed this, but I'm starting low, because I don't always take time to sit and read.
  2. Finish the project I'm knitting, as soon as figure out what it actually is ;)
  3. Learn to crochet. JULIE!!!! lol
  4. Keep practicing my German on Duolingo, getting through the entire series of lessons. There a 72 different sections with anywhere from 1-10 lessons in each section, depending on the topic. I have currently, as of 1/10/14 finished 7 sections, and 1 lesson from section 8. Most of these have been review from my High School German class days, though there have been a few new words.
  5. Learn more Spanish, again using Duolingo. Struggling to get through this, but I am working on it. Again many sections, finished the basics (section 1), but am going through it again to practice.
  6. Take an enrichment class over the Summer.
  7. Step outside my comfort zone and do something I'm afraid of or wouldn't normally do.
  8. Take a photography class.
  9. Refurbish an old piece of furniture.
  10. Repurpose something.
  11. Learn something new.
  12. Write a new blog post 3x a week (at least!) 
  13. Get a tattoo.
  14. Pick one thing off of my Pinterest boards - whether it's a craft, DIY, recipe, decorating idea, cleaning idea - each month and DO IT!!!
  15. Volunteer. Either through our Parish or Diocese, or through some other organization. Considering the volunteer driver program or food pantry our Parish has, soup kitchen in Detroit, or maybe something like Habitat for Humanity. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2014 Goals: Part 2 - Money Management and Home Management Goals

*Originally I was going to make this a "once-a-week" series. After these original part of the series (Parts 1-5), I will write a check-in post every Friday, sharing where we are on our goals. :) *

Yesterday, I shared our health and fitness goals for the year. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, go here). Today is about household goals. Namely, money management and home management.

Money Management Goals

Saving

  1. 52 week savings challenge. $1 the first week, $2 the second, and so on for every week through the year, ending up with $52 going to savings the last week of the year, saving up a total of $1378. We will also attempt to follow this with the boys' savings accounts, though they may be helping contribute ;)

Pay-off/debt control

  1. Pay down credit card and personal loan balances. We currently have 2 credit cards and one loan. We should, if we plan correctly, pay off at least one of the credit cards this year, and make a dent in the other.

Home Management

Our new Points System (click picture to enlarge)

  1. Teach the boys better home management as well as life skills. We have a commission-based system we just started up this week. It is based on a book I'm reading on how to live frugally. It's a point-based system with daily points earned in the following areas: Morning point; School point; Chore point; Round-up point; and Extra points. They have certain tasks and responsibilities under each area that must be done to earn the point for the day. At the end of the week, they earn a set amount per point (5 cents per point) and if they earn all the needed points - 30 - plus an additional 2, then they get double pay. We will deposit in their savings accounts every Friday/Saturday as earned and they can save or spend as desired but only have what they earned. In this way, they have chores to do, but also are learning other good life skills, and understand the value of money as well as the importance of hard work. So far it's going good.
  2. Set up a good chore management system for the whole household, so I can take control and keep on top of what needs done daily, weekly, monthly. I have previously used Motivated Moms printable chore system, thanks to my friend, Sharon (I'd link to her blog, but she isn't writing anymore :( - hint hint, as if you don't have enough on your plate with 3+ kiddies and homeschooling and, and, and. LOL.) Just this morning I heard about an app from Motivated Moms via Money Saving Mom's Facebook page! Less than a day in, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT already!!! So much so that I signed up as an affiliate! This is MY new affiliate link for which I earn $ on any sales through: Click here to visit Motivated Moms. The boys already like it too, and said they find it easier than looking through a list on the bulletin board to choose from. This way they can look through all that days assigned chores and pick 2-4 (plus the ones Mom already assigns them), it's color-coded for each person, and they just click the check box when done! It goes great with #1 above!
  3. Saturday is our new team-work clean up day. Every Saturday morning, for a couple of hours, we will work together as a family and really dig deep around here. This isn't so much a goal as it is a plan.
  4. Teach the boys to cook a few simple meals. I am thinking of starting with some simple things, like scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese (although, since we generally make homemade, it's a tad bit more complicated), grilled cheese - which we have already worked on once at the end of last year - and maybe a simple dessert recipe or two.  
What are your goals or resolutions for the year? Do you like to write them down?

The next post in this series will be my personal goals for things I want to do and/or learn this year. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

2014 goals: Part one - Health Goals

*Originally I was going to make this a "once-a-week" series. After these original parts of the series (Parts 1-5), I will write a check-in post every Friday, sharing where we are on our goals. :) *

I am a list-maker. Have been since Jason and I got married. It helps me keep track of what needs done, keeps holiday meals on track, lets me figure out what presents have been purchased, and is a great way to follow-through with my goals.

This year is all about goals! I don't really do New Year's resolutions but the couple of times I did set one I didn't really follow through or it was something I couldn't realistically achieve.
My plan this year is to have lots of little (and some big) goals that we can reach to make some great changes in our lives for 2014 and beyond.

Since this is going to be very long, I'm going to make into a series, or to-be-continued post. While some of these don't really seem like "goals" and may seem like typical things someone does, especially as a parent, it helps me to write them down so I don't forget. Typically, Jason or I will remember the things the boys need, but then forget or put off things that WE need. Sometimes things get delayed and then forgotten. Sometimes, there are just so many things going on that my brain is going a million miles a minute and if I don't remember to write it down, it doesn't get done.

Health goals

Get fit goals

January 3, 2014
  1. Start Hip Hop Abs Deluxe from the beginning and make it all the way through the full 8 weeks on schedule.  I was supposed to start Monday, but am starting today instead due to unforeseen problems and bad planning on my part. I am thinking about skipping Sunday's "rest day" for the next couple of weeks so I can "catch-up". I'm in a challenge group to help keep me accountable for the first four weeks.
  2. Continue to lose weight by first reaching my 1st mini-goal of 10 pounds weight loss. Nearly there, only 0.3 lbs to go!!!
  3. 2nd mini-goal of 20 lbs total weight loss.
  4. 3rd mini-goal of 30 lbs total weight loss.
  5. 4th mini-goal of 40 lbs total weight loss.
  6. Final weight loss goal of a total of 50 lbs bringing my weight to a much healthier 142.5. I refuse to go for an unattainable size 0, 2 or even 4. Hell, I'll be happy to be in a size 10 like I was in high school!! I want to be healthier and having a BMI of 30 and a large waistline is definitely not it. I will probably never have a completely flat stomach and that's okay. I never really did even when I was 125 lbs! 13 years ago, when we got married I weighed 135. My body has carried and birthed 3 babies since then, changing its shape in more ways than just weight gain. My hips are wider, for example. That's okay, too. :) I do know that I am physically stronger this year than I was last year at this time.

Diet/Food-related Goals

  1. Slowly switch our diets back to all or mostly organic. We were previously on mostly organic foods but then tried a new menu plan which caused our grocery bill to increase. We removed most grains, but added more fruits, veggies and meat and with the price and availability of organic (meat, especially) it just wasn't feasible. We had a decision to make and we figured more fresh fruits and vegetables and healthier meats over organics at the time was the best decision. However we have since gone back to eating more grains and a little less meat and are slowly bringing back more organics.  I noticed that I have less stomach problems when we eat organic items.
  2. Cut back on dairy or even go dairy free myself. I went dairy free for 12 days in December for a challenge and not only did I lose 9 pounds, I also felt a lot better. After I went back to eating dairy, not only did my weight loss slow down incredibly, but I started having stomach issues again. For me, this means stomach aches, gas, and major digestive issues. I remember my mom telling me once that as an infant I couldn't have dairy based formula and I was put on soy formula.
  3. Try 2-3 new recipes a month. I hope to have the boys give some input here and possibly learn some simple cooking skills, so this ties in a bit with a later goal I will be sharing.

Doctor/Dentist

  1. Find a doctor for Jason and I. Actually, Jason has gone to one and liked him, but I have yet to go in to see anyone in the practice
  2. Go for a checkup. A and E are scheduled for May and July, around their birthdays and Baby J just had his. Jason and I need to still call and schedule.
  3. Take care of a minor but irritating health issue that will require a minor surgery. My minor health issue is a private one that while I have shared details with a few close family members, I do not feel comfortable disclosing the details here. I will say that I do need a minor surgery for which I will be under general anesthesia and there may be some recovery time. Its not serious, although it is definitely a standard of living type of thing. I've put it off for 2 years since finding out the exact problem and learning that anything could be done about it. Having dealt with many, many years of side effects that are from this issue before even knowing the reason behind those side effects, I'd say its time to get it under control. I deserve to be happy and healthy. I was delaying any surgeries until Jackson was completely weaned and it has now been almost 3 weeks since he nursed at all.
  4. Find a new family dentist that is closer to home.The older boys have gone to our current dentist regularly for years. However, their office is closer to our old house and for the last 4 years we've had a bit of a drive to get there. Its not super far but there are plenty closer to us.
  5. Dental cleanings for all family members. Jason and I haven't been for a few years :( Jackson, being just 2, hasn't gone yet but its time. E and Alex are due for their next cleaning, maybe even behind a few months.
  6. Have my wisdom teeth removed. One of my wisdom teeth has come all the way in over the years, as I had a permanent bridge that fell out, leaving a gap for my teeth to shift slightly on that side. Apparently even though they call them permanent, they typically only last around 10 years. I had to have an impounded molar removed when I was in high school and they put in a bridge. One other has started to come in but hasn't started causing me any real problems yet. I figure it would be good to just take care of before that happens
  7. Schedule Jackson's surgery for his thumb (trigger finger, tendon needs released.) We have known about his thumb since last May when he saw the orthopedic surgeon. When they originally called to schedule the surgery, it was less than 1 week after his other one and I couldn't bear to have him put through another so soon. Especially since the orthopedic surgeon said in reality we could even wait a year to have it done, as it shouldn't affect anything at his age and generally isn't painful. He is, however, noticing it more and more, so now is as good a time as any as any.
I know this seems like a lot. This is definitely only part of the list though. Check back tomorrow to see our money and home management goals!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

IT WAS THE FIRST DAY back to school after an extended Winter break due to the extreme cold and snow. I have to say while I loved having all three boys home, and summers aren't usually too stressful even though we have around 12 weeks of everybody at home, it was getting rough around here.

Too cold to go outside, the boys were stuck in the house the last 3 days, other than our short trip out Monday morning to the doctor's office and lunch out. This meant all of us getting on each others' nerves and pushing buttons. Boredom had set in, and too much screen time was had, making for some cranky, whiny kids.

I felt like doing a happy dance, and was all smiles when I dropped the boys off this morning. Not because I don't want them around, but because we were all in need of the routine of our regular schedule. Weekday mornings are pretty set in stone around here, and with our new point system (more on that in a future post), it's looking to be even easier. We all get up and get dressed. While I get Jackson and myself ready, E and A eat breakfast, make their beds, brush their teeth and pack their lunches and bookbags for the day. Today we got out of the house early and actually got to school with 10 mins to spare! It felt nice to have a "plan" for the day. Even the boys were smiling when I said goodbye.


I FOUND an old post about Jason on my old blog while looking for pictures for TBT on our Facebook page that got me thinking. It's the little things in life that make us happy, isn't it? His laugh, his silly voices and sense of humor, those hazel eyes that are so deep. The way he kisses me and makes me melt. The arms that wrap around me and cuddle me close. The fact that he will do anything for our boys and me, to ensure we're happy. I wish I knew how to import the old post, it was everything I want to say...

MY NEW FAVORITE thing to hear? Jackson's positive response to questions. If his answer is yes, he says "Actually!" or "Yeah, actually!" It's seriously the cutest thing a 2 year old could say! His vocabulary is growing at record speed and we are all very much enjoying it.

My final thought for today: Its hard to make new friends in your thirties! Sometimes its even hard to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances too. Or is it just me? It seems to me everyone's set in their ways, have their opinions and personalities built and already have the friends they want. It can be hard being the new kid, even 4 or 5 years later... especially if you are shy or from a different state or feel like the oddball. I never really realized how socially awkward I am,  and it seems to get worse the older I get. Its getting lonely around here and I'm not sure what to do about it. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hamer-ing through our winter bucket list






We started working on our bucket list last week and got a few things done. Some things Jason did with the boys on Sunday, but I'm not counting them for 2 reasons. One: not all of us joined in (meaning MOM. There was no way I was going out there that day. I think I'm in need of some snowpants...) Two: No pictures! I really want to take pictures of the things we are marking off the list. Ok, so the second reason isn't a really good excuse, but the first is part of the whole reason I wanted to do this. So I would actually get up and do things with the boys, inside OR outside. Starting fresh with that this week, after the wind chill advisory is lifted and we can actually go outside safely.

While the boys did all play in the snow, have a small snowball fight and go sledding (sort of) we are going to do these again, hopefully this weekend. 

Christmas Eve, we played a board game called Labyrinth together. Well, all of us but Jackson, although he certainly tried to help ;)

We had a great opportunity to go down to The Henry Ford last week when Jason took some time off of work. I had taken the boys back in November by myself, but it's been probably 2 years since we went as a family. It was really nice! We saw lots of trains and cars, which Jackson absolutely loved.


They had a neat exhibit for the Avatar IMAX film they are showing and the boys were able to do this neat interactive video activity. 
 

Props from the movie were on display and there was a computer program where you could design a plant from a combination of different species. While we didn't get any pictures of the props, I really enjoyed seeing this exhibit as did the boys and Jason.



There are tons of different inventions and artifacts from centuries and years past on display and we always enjoy learning something new. The older boys and Jason went into one of the old train cars while Jack and I walked around looking at the outsides of them. Alex made sure to tell me that the ceiling was hand-stenciled with beautiful designs.


I think one of the highlights for Jackson was getting an opportunity to sit in one of the many farm vehicles with mom.




































As well as "riding on an airplane" ;)












 Of course, we also had to stop by everybody's favorite spot for a photo op: be a hot dog!




 The following day we crossed off Make Paper Snowflakes!





Jack didn't actually get to help as he's too little to use scissors, but he loves seeing them hung up on the wall.




It was also Jackson's birthday, so we had brownies that Daddy made and frosted, after tacos for dinner.




Some other things we did last week:

Played video games; watched a movie that obviously didn't leave an impression on any of us as we can't seem to remember what it was, LOL; visited with Grandpa Joe on Saturday when he came to visit. None of these, save the movie which I'm not counting, are on our bucket list.

We did start our Saint lessons though. We read some articles on Mary the Mother of God, including about her feast day, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Before reading the articles, we went around the table sharing what we already knew. I really enjoyed this, as I felt all 5 of us learned something new from it. I'm looking forward to continuing this activity.

We are improvising a bit this week. I'll share more on next Monday but we have of course already started this week's activities, especially the faith-based things. Yesterday was Epiphany, but we didn't have our King Cake. I couldn't find a nice, easy recipe I liked yet, and don't have the natural food coloring I need for the icing. We are going to use a vanilla pudding cake from Kroger, with just a little white icing on it, and I am hiding a quarter in it, rather than a plastic baby as is tradition. Next year, we will plan ahead and do a more traditional King Cake! We are going to share it tonight though, since I forgot last night.

I hope everyone is enjoying themselves! Stay warm out there!

Linking up over at Learning Life with 3 Sons and Homeschool Camper again this week, thanks for hosting The Winter Bucket List link-up, girls!!