Life. Love. Family. Our Perfect Imperfection. Living life as a Catholic, homeschooling family with three amazing, unique boys, a too-oft serious, frustrated and anxious but also loving momma, and a fun-loving, hardworking dad.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

It's definitely a journey

It only took almost twelve full weeks of us homeschooling to (I hope) find our groove. This week has been good. We've gotten most of the things done I'd like to cover each day. Some days it takes longer than planned, or we need breaks. On Thursday, we decided to try a new order or schedule.

I've been having the boys do their individual things first (two days a week after a grammar lesson, and sometimes after a read-aloud about that day's Saint): cursive, journal entry, literature, math, even their religious ed workbook on the days that we set aside for that. While they always got those done, I found that by the time we were ready to do group lessons of history, geography, science, religion and anything else I would like to do, they were burnt out, or too full of energy to give their full attention. We started spending less time on those things, or it was a battle, or working on them late in the day when Jason was home. That wasn't working. It was just too distracting. Once Jason gets home, they want to play or watch TV, or Jason does, or it's dinner time.

This week, as I said, we've done better about hitting most or all subjects each day. I've adjusted my expectations. If they read the bible as part of the history lesson, it counts as religion as well. (Yes, our history syllabus includes reading parts of the bible. First, we are doing Ancient History, which includes Egypt, and the surrounding areas, so it makes sense in terms of additional historical reference to how people lived, culture, etc. Secondly, we are Catholic Christians, and we believe in the bible. Just clarifying in case anyone is curious or has anything to say. Not debating this or trying to sound rude. Nothing but love for our family and friends :) )

So on Thursday, I opted to have us start with our group lessons. And coffee. He he he. My older boys like the iced frapp├ęs that McDonald's sells, so I figured I'd ask if they'd like a small cup of hot coffee with French vanilla creamer. The little bit of caffeine has done wonders for all three of us!

Alex almost immediately said he likes doing the group lessons first, and E seemed more involved and answered more questions than usual. So a grammar lesson and history reading (The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and Tales of Ancient Egypt) were first. Then we read about Saint Theresa of Avila from my awesome resource book Saints and Feast Days and St Martin from 57 Stories of Saints. We would have done chapter 2 and the lab from our Chemistry book, but realized we didn't have toothpicks anywhere. After lunch, they watched a quick episode of Physical Geography. Alex took his facts practice test and first math test from his new book (Saxon 7/6), E did his next math lesson, and both did spelling, cursive, literature, additional grammar work, and journal entry.

Yesterday, we were planning to attend a field trip that unfortunately got rained out and rescheduled for 10/30. It threw our day off though, as I hadn't planned anything outside of spelling tests and a quick journal entry. They both ended up doing some math, and then playing together with Jackson. I figure it was already going to be a day of little to no formal lessons, so we should just roll with it.

Next week, starting Monday, my tentative plan is to start with a walk/run for PE, then history - even though we are waiting on our new syllabus from RC History, I plan to include some if not all of the books/ideas from Ancient History through Literature that we are currently using, as there are some great books! - followed by grammar 2x a week, science 2x a week (reading the text one day, and the lab on the other), IEW writing, Saint study/Baltimore Catechism/Pearls of Peace, geography and literature. After that will be the independent or one-on-one with mom lessons of spelling, cursive, journaling, literature narration and/or independent reading, math, religion using their Faith and Life books and activity books, grammar or copy work, and IEW essay assigned earlier in the week. It will look a little like this:

Together we will do:
PE: 1 mile walk/run
History: Lesson 10(etc) - read-aloud and notebook
Writing: Watch the IEW DVD for the current lesson and do the outline 1x week
Religion: Saint of the Day from Saints and Feast Days and/or 57 Stories of Saints; next lesson in St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism #2 once a week; Pearls of Peace once a week
Geography: Mapwork or episode of Physical Geography
Literature: Current book (starting The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe this week)

PE: 1 mile walk/run
History: read-aloud and notebook
Grammar: Week 20(etc) - lesson and first sentence
Science: Read the text Tuesday, do the lab on Thursday
Religion: Saint of the Day from Saints and Feast Days and/or 57 Stories of Saints; next lesson in St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism #2 once a week; Pearls of Peace once a week
Geography: Mapwork or episode of Physical Geography
Literature: Current book (starting The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe this week)
Independently or with mom, in any order, they will:
Spelling: Mon and Fri are pretest and test, the rest are activities
Cursive: one page a day
Journal: using the prompts from a kindle book I have, they each write a short paragraph or two
Literature: a short narration of what we read, either aloud or written in lit notebook, or answer some questions; independent reading of a book of their choosing
Math: the next lesson or a test in their book, both are using Saxon although we are currently waiting for E's new Algebra 1 book
Religion: Read and discuss a chapter with mom, followed by the activity book each day.
Grammar: the rest of the day's grammar lesson 2x a week (We do one full week's lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays since it's fairly easy. We will finish book 1 before January, and move on to book 2 and may slow down then.) copy work from a poem or similar 3x a week
Writing: IEW, using the outline, write a rough draft and final draft for all of that week's articles and stories.

It sounds like a lot written out!

I just told Jason this morning how the days and weeks are all blurring together. One minute I look at the clock and it's 8 Monday morning, next time it's 5:30, then it's Thursday, next thing I know it will be December, and after I blink, it will be 2020 and E will be getting ready to graduate! Only half joking! Time to go enjoy our Saturday for a few hours, since it's nearly NOON already!!

Science and swimming! What a day!

*originally written back in September! Forgot to hit PUBLISH!*

Our first official homeschool field trip was AWESOME!

To be honest, I was dreading the 2 hour drive. Right up until the morning of, in fact. But I really, really wanted to take the boys, and they really, really wanted to go. So after breakfast, packing some lunch, and loading the car, we drove to Juno Beach to meet up with some friends. It ended up being just a small group of four moms, our kids, and one other parent's kids, so I think there was right around 18 or so of us?

We met up at the park first, and let the kids run around and eat lunch. Then we walked across the road to the beach. The real beach, like at the OCEAN! (Like every other beach isn't a real beach, or something. But it is something special to see the ocean. It was all three of the boys' first time at the ocean. I'm kind of sad that Jason wasn't there with us, but it is what it is, and we will definitely go again. It was a beautiful stretch of beach, and hardly anyone was there. Well, it was the middle of the day, on a Friday, so...

After a quick picture,

we went back to the park, and to the Loggerhead Marine Life Center. The impending storm drove us inside, and we barely made it in before the torrential downpour started.

We walked through the visitor center and store for a while, before heading outside to wait for the rain to stop.

My phone battery was nearly drained, so I didn't get any pictures of the many sea turtles that we got to see. There were green sea turtles, and, I think, loggerheads.

Ethan liked seeing the turtles, but wasn't interested in signing up for the vet lab, and was being a bit camera shy. Not to mention it was terribly hot and humid out. Jackson was running around like a wild man, asking questions, playing in the little play area, and pointing out every turtle to us.

Alex decided to sign up for the vet lab, and really seemed to enjoy it. In it, each child got an "injured" plastic green sea turtle, that they had to take care of. They had to figure out it's injuries, name it, tag it if it wasn't, do "bloodwork", measurements, etc, and fill out paperwork, and listen to some facts given by the teacher.

The younger boys each chose a small stuffed animal from the gift shop before we left.

Time to go to the beach before our drive home. After taking what felt like forever to get Jackson to eat something, and then get him and I changed into our swimsuits, the four of us followed our friends back to the beach.

No pictures, because my phone was charging, and I was having too much fun swimming in the ocean with my guys! Between digging in the sand, and swimming, they all three had a blast. E made a friend while they played a game of sort of riding the waves. A and his friends made up a game to see who would be the last one pushed back to the beach by the waves. J and I swam together, and looked for shells. One of my mom friends caught a tiny crab, baby shrimp and even a itty-bitty fish using some sea weed. Nearly 2 hours later, I decided we had to call it day, as I knew they would be getting quite hungry, and J would probably fall asleep in the car before dinner if we didn't leave soon. We said our goodbyes, and after a quick rinse and change of clothes, we headed out to dinner. Several slices of pizza later, we were back on the road, and home by around 9pm.

I'd call that a huge success. The boys are already planning to go back, as a family this time so Jason can see the turtles and the beach, and when extended family visits, it's on our list of possible places to go.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

More of our July

 One week after arriving, I decided to take the boys to Biscayne National Park, the one Jason and I spent a couple of hours at in April. It's close to the house, and so worth it. It was really hot that day, and the skies were clear. You could see across the water for miles!

If you look closely, you can JUST make out Miami in the distance!
The three boys sitting on a rock, after a long walk
One of many fish we saw

After spending an hour or so of walking the trail, we decided to go inside the visitor center. I didn't get any pictures of the displays, but the boys were all excited about them. We also got some activity books, including some for Alex to become a "junior ranger". Once the weather cools, we are definitely going back. They also have a book store, which was closed that day. When Jason and I were there in April (before they moved it to it's own area), I saw a bunch of different field guides and scouting books that I want to look at for school and scouts.

3 white ibises that were hanging around the neighborhood
Over the next few days, amidst all the other unpacking, we got our classroom/school area set up.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The first week in pictures

The nearby park, swimming lagoon and in the background Biscayne Bay. Our view at dinner.

A little friend (lizard) that made me jump out of my socks the second day in the house!

Alex and Jackson looking for lizards, butterflies and who knows what else.

Lizard in our yard

Movie night in the new house

Jackson digging in the sand at our first homeschool group beach day 7/10

Ethan and Alex at the playground in our neighborhood

Jackson on the playground

Jason and Jackson playing on a police car playset at the playground

Alex climbed the tree (with a little boost from dad)

Family game night
It was a pretty fun first week, getting settled in and making some new friends on that first Friday. We met up with a small group of moms and their kids from the homeschool group at the beach/swimming lagoon, where we played for a couple of hours. I could tell from the moment we met how laid back and nice they were. That's always a good thing!

More pictures and another post about the rest of our first month coming soon!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The ACTUAL move, or our summer adventure ;)

What can I say? I think I like it here. Sure, we miss our families, and our friends. On the other hand, it is absolutely gorgeous here! 

It's only been 5 weeks today since we all moved into the house here in FL, but it feels like a lot has happened!

I should start at the beginning though. After we had our fiasco with the moving truck, went to closing, and Jason left with our household good, the boys and I spent a couple of days with my parents. I took the mini-van over for an oil change and to have the a/c recharged. Upon inspection, it was determined that the minor accident I was involved in at the school last fall had cracked the rear a/c component that sits right behind the rear passenger wheel well, under the side edge of the back bumper. Since it would be a repair covered by insurance, we would have to go through our car insurance company at a specified place. So I had a tough choice to make. We could either spend an extra week or longer at my parents while the van was in the shop, and have no vehicle to use (I don't feel comfortable installing J's car seat, so I couldn't transfer it temporarily to my mom's car, and we also don't have rental coverage) or we could skip all the visits - my sister and her family in Columbus, OH, my friend and her family in MD, and my other friend and her family in SC - and head straight to FL. Yes, with no A/C. I chose the second option, at which Jason scoffed. 

My reasoning behind it was this: 1. we would all be together in our own home, 2. we could put the van in the shop for however long, and Jason could transfer J's car seat safely to his truck, and 3. at least while we were without one of our vehicles, we (meaning the boys and I) could be productive and unpack the boxes. After texting, messaging and/or calling all 3 of the people we had planned to visit, I let the boys know about the change of plans.

So on July 3rd, we loaded the mini-van with our luggage, and headed out on the open road. I decided we wouldn't take I-75, but instead I-77 to I-95. This route took us through Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and finally the entire state of Florida. The drive that day was actually very pretty, even with some rain. At one point, the route through the mountains is very winding while going downhill. Surrounded by walls of green, we went through dense patches of fog and rain. While I would have enjoyed the view more as a passenger than a slightly nervous driver, I was amazed by the beauty of it.

Our dinner break 7/3/15
Driving all day, with only a couple of stops for lunch and dinner (and the obligatory restroom breaks of course!), we made it to Statesville, NC before stopping for the night. Since we hadn't reserved a room, I used my phone while sitting in a hotel parking lot to access our account, and was able to reserve a room using our single free night. The boys and I went in to get our key, and the woman at the front desk told me had I waited even 5 minutes, we wouldn't have gotten a room there that night. We had gotten the very last one! I'm so glad that I thought to use our free night AND that we actually got a room!

After a somewhat restless night's sleep, we were able to enjoy a hot breakfast and watch the news before spending another day on the road. Saturday, July 4th was a beautiful, hot, sunny day, and as you can imagine the van was a tad uncomfortable without a/c. Luckily, we were able to put the windows down part way while cruising and enjoy the nice weather. 

Nearly to FL, we were enveloped in a torrential downpour. Unable to drive more than a couple of miles before pulling over behind about a dozen or so other vehicles, we waited for the rain to subside, in a now very uncomfortable van whose windows we could not see out of. After about 10 minutes or so, it slowed to a drizzle, I put the windows down to clear them, and we were on our way. Not 5 minutes later we were at the Florida Welcome Center. The boys and I joked about how the Sunshine State welcomed us with rain. HA! 

Florida Welcome Center
After a quick photo op, a complimentary cup of orange juice each, and restroom break, I bought our new SunPass and proceeded to put money on it for tolls. The rest of the drive went fairly smooth, other than being long. We finally got to the house just after midnight on Sunday, July 5th. 

It sure was good to be "home".

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Six stinkin' feet!

The boys and I have been staying with my parents for the last 2 weeks while waiting to close on the sale of our house. It was either that or sit there with boxes surrounding us, little food to eat, and no internet or TV. Thankfully, my mom and dad didn't mind us barging in too much ;)

While here, I decided we should start a reduced schedule for school, officially kicking off our first year of homeschooling Monday, June 22nd. It's been interesting so far. Not too difficult, but I'm learning what's going to work, what's not, and where we get distracted. While we had intended to use Life of Fred math for both boys, it only seems to be a good fit for Alex. Ethan is a very concrete, literal thinker, and even though he likes LOF, he isn't understanding some of the topics taught. We are going to try a more traditional math curriculum and use Saxon Algebra 1/2 and Algebra 1 for him, to give him more of a textbook feel and practice problems to really get it. He was being very hard on himself. Thanks to an amazing friend and fellow homeschool mom, we have both books, the practice and test keys for both, and test booklet for Algebra 1. I will need to find the Algebra 1/2 test booklet (it's an older edition, the 2nd edition, which makes it a little difficult to find, but not impossible hopefully.) I am so grateful to Sharon for letting us borrow these for the year.

Besides school, we spent the Saturday before Father's Day with my in-laws, went to the zoo with my parents and visited with friends.

On Thursday, Jason flew from Miami to Detroit, and I drove up to pick him up and go to the house. That's when the fun began...

I had to fill out a background check release for the HOA of the rental home we are trying to get and fax it over with a copy of the lease and my ID. They need Jason to drop off $25 dollars as soon as he gets down there to pay for it, and they said they would start it this past Friday anyway. We had to get a cashier's check for first and last month's rent and the security deposit so he can get the keys for us. This part went fairly smooth, but it was just the beginning of a very rough 4 days.

Jason had called and set up a truck rental with a certain company (not sure if I should share the name, as I don't want any issues...) early last week. Having spoken to a person, rather than doing it through the online or automated phone system, we were confident it was correct. The customer service rep told us a specific township near us had the 26' truck and 5x9 motorcycle trailer we needed and would have it ready at 9am Friday. Friday morning, we hopped in the van, and while he drove toward said township, I looked up the address from our confirmation email. As I zoomed out on the map, I was confused. It appeared that the location was on the other side of the state. Thinking this surely could not be correct, Jason pulled over and called the store. Sure enough there is another town/city with the same name as the township, and it's over by Muskegon, near Lake Michigan! No way we were driving 4+ hours each way! We called the original company's 800 number and explained the issue. They tried to fix it, but there were no trucks bigger than 17' on the SE side of the state, for the entire weekend. They found us a 5x9 trailer, and we could get that even if we used a different company for the truck. After calling the other 2 big companies that offer one-way rentals, and neither having an available truck for days, we were at a bit of a loss as to what we should do. We had help arranged for Saturday to load the truck, he was supposed to be on the road Sunday morning, and closing was scheduled for early Monday morning with us having told the seller we would be out and he would have possession at closing! No truck meant no moving out. First thing we did was take care of Jason's work. He called and let his boss know what had happened, and there was a delay in his return. His boss was very understanding. During the time we were calling his boss, and other truck rental companies, the original company called back. Upon returning their call, we were told they had found us a 26' truck to go with the trailer, and it could be picked up Sunday. We waited, and checked the confirmation email, only to see that the customer service rep (a different one from who booked our original reservation) reserved us a 17' truck!!!!! There was absolutely no way we were going to fit a 3 bed 1.5 bath 1900 sq ft home - not including the full basement! - into 17'! We called, and were told that rep had gone home for the day. Another representative assisted us, found a 26' at another location a bit further away that opened at 10am Sunday. Perfect. We called back and verified, as well as went online and verified. By this point it was about 5pm, and we were so done.

Fast forward a day and a half, to Sunday morning about 9:30. We pull up the the rental store, and seeing the trucks sitting there, we both agreed the ones out in the front of the building (a small shopping center) looked somewhat small. Hoping they had some more parking somewhere else, we walked in. The gentleman behind the desk asked if he could help us. Jason told him, I really hope so, we reserved a 26' truck and 5x9 motorcycle trailer and we've been having nothing but problems. The look on this poor guy's face. He proceeded to tell us that the customer who had rented the truck previously, and was supposed to return the truck the night before had taken it back to a different location. It was nearby, but unfortunately, they were closed on Sundays. He went to great lengths to help us, even sending an employee over to try to get the keys from the other store's lockbox and bring us the truck. They were unable to and with no other choices available, we had to take the 20' truck he had along with the motorcycle trailer. After all, we had to be out of the house by the following morning and Jason really needed to head back to Florida for work. We finally got the truck back to the house by about 12:30 Sunday. With the help of my FIL, and 2 friends, the 5 of us had the truck loaded by 5. The only problem left was the 5x9 trailer, and a garage full of bicycles, a grill, other outdoor toys, and a very large Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The truck had absolutely no room left, and we couldn't see a way to fit all in the trailer. Time for a decision. Jason called his friend who offered some space in his pole barn, and asked to temporarily store his motorcycle, and then loaded the other items in the trailer.

Six feet. That's really all we needed. That extra six feet of truck that we fought to get for 3 days, we really did need it. If we had that extra six feet, we wouldn't have needed to change up anything. Six stinkin' feet!

After a very long day of packing, Jason rode 40 minutes to drop his bike off, and got a ride home from his friend. While he was gone, I finished vacuuming, cleaning up and loading my mini-van with little things. We spent our very last night in our home of nearly 5 years, before waking up to go to closing.

Closing went smoothly, and we received a check, although we had to delay depositing it for an hour or so, while they awaited confirmation of funds being transferred to their account. After stopping by the bank, Jason and I went to the house, and he picked up the truck full of everything we own. An end to a chapter. No longer homeowners. No longer residents of Michigan. Turning to a new page in the book that is our life.

Jason made a quick pitstop by my parents' house to see the boys for an hour or so - they hadn't seen each other since June 8th - before getting on the road. He should be nearing his destination in the next hour or so.

The boys and I spent the evening and night at my parents'. This morning we went for a short visit to a friend's to let the kids play, drop off a bread machine, and pick up the math books before going to lunch at Red Robin, just the four of us.

Tomorrow, all three of them are getting hair cuts before we head over to Jason's parents' house for dinner and a visit. Thursday morning, we start our trip South. The plans have changed some due to some unexpected things, but it should be fun. We are spending the holiday weekend in Columbus, Ohio at my sister's house. Then early Tuesday morning, we will drive to Southern Maryland to visit a long-time friend for about a week, before finally heading to Florida on July 13th. We had planned to swing by Greenville, SC, but it's not good timing for us, or my friend who we planned to visit so that will be put off until later in the year or next summer maybe (we WILL get together soon, Jenny!!!). My hope is to be in the Miami area by afternoon/early evening on July 15th, that gives us 3 full days to drive (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday). With it being 16 hours of drive time, it should only take 2 days with one overnight about halfway. I know with 2 big kids and 1 little kid, we will be stopping every couple of hours for bathroom breaks, food, plus gas fill-ups, so I'm figuring 10 hours each day gives us 8 hours driving and 2 hours for any stops. I'd LOVE to make it in one day, but I'm doing all the driving so there's no way. Now here's hoping all works out with the rental this week, and when we get there, I just have to help Jason finish unpacking, and we can settle in to our new normal!

I will be forever grateful for all the help from family and friends this weekend, and this whole move so far. From people opening their homes up to us to stay or even visit for the day to storing the bike to helping with the physical move to teaching my boys while I was gone to listening when I have been stressed to loaning us books, it's been amazing. Even with all the twists and turns, the wrenches thrown in our plans, it has worked out ok in the long run so far. I know it can only get better from here.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

And we are off!

Taking some time for myself lately has entailed watching some TV shows, and printing off lots of paperwork!

It's been quite a while since I sat down and written anything. Far too long. My laptop is still on the fritz, so I'm sharing Jason's (turned-family-computer) laptop.

So much has been happening for us. Jason started his new job last month, but has been training up here in MI while we have been preparing to sell our home. He leaves MONDAY! to drive to South Florida. E and A have just over a week left of school, with their last day next Friday.

Our home went on the market just 3 weeks ago! Within a 10 days, we had an offer, and executed contract. Last week, we went through inspection, and just had the mortgage appraiser out on Tuesday, and the septic tank paperwork taken care of. The buyer has been satisfied so far, so unless something extraordinary happens, we should be closing on June 30th. I'm feeling beyond grateful that this process has been fairly painless so far.

We don't currently have a place to stay in FL, but the boys and I will stay here until Jason flies back to load the moving truck. Then we are spending a little over a week with my parents and visiting the inlaws, followed by about 10 days at my sister's house in Columbus, OH. Then we are off on our "little" roadtrip! A week or so visiting a friend in MD, another week near Greenville, SC "meeting" another, and then a drive down the coast, stopping in Charleston, Savannah, and wherever else we decide to on our way to the greater Miami area. While we are stretching our trip out some, Jason will be looking for a home and maybe even moving our things in. Better than all 5 of us staying in a little hotel room for over a month.

On a sad note, we had to euthanize our dog last week. His body was failing him, and though he was alert and aware, he could barely stand, couldn't get up and down the steps to go outside/come inside, and the night before, he laid on the floor and didn't move from that spot until after he passed away and was carried to the hospice vet's vehicle. I'm glad we decided to have her come to the house, where we could all be there, and he was in his home, comfortable, not in a cold room on the hard floor with just Jason. It was sad but also comforting.

As we are slowly packing our things, to move from the house we've lived in just shy of 5 years, in a state we've lived in for almost 6 years, I try to think of all the adventures we are going to have. Moving so far - 1500 miles - and away from family and friends, to a new state, a different climate (after all Michigan and Florida don't share much in common when it comes to weather/seasons) will surely be a challenge, but there is a whole new place to explore, people to meet, and things to learn. We are leaving behind so many friends that we've made over these last few years, and I, as well as Jason and the boys, will miss them very much. What's that saying? It's not goodbye, it's see you later? Everyone that has touched our lives will not be forgotten, and thanks to cell phones, the internet and social media, we don't have to lose contact. So, as I've been reminding my 12 and 10 year olds, we aren't just going to make new friends, we are going to add more to the ones we have. Friends are forever, and we just have to remember to cultivate the relationships. A had his last den meeting last Friday, and at the end, I was on the verge of bawling. The other parents are so awesome, and nice, and so are their boys. Then there's Julie and her 3 guys from Learning Life with 3 Sons, and the boys' friends from school and their parents. Not to mention that our parents, Jason's sisters and brother, one of my sisters, nieces and nephews, and now my little, sweet baby great-nephew won't be just a short drive from us! That may be the hardest part. I know we lived 8-10 hours away from them before when we lived in MD, but that was many years ago now. And Florida is the furthest from "home" we will have ever lived (well, minus Jason when he spent 6 months overseas as a contractor...). I'm scared, and excited, and just overwhelmed about it all. In the best possible way. I feel like everything is falling in to place BECAUSE this is what we are supposed to do right now for our family. The timing couldn't be better - end of the school year - and the house is selling quickly.

If you haven't been following on Facebook, you may not have seen our other announcement! And no, we aren't expecting a baby ;) We have made the decision, partly due to the large school size and poor rating, especially for high school where we are moving, that we are homeschooling the boys next year. There are other reasons, and because we have also tried every option out there besides this one (public, private, special and now public charter) we feel this is going to be a good fit. It took a lot of discussion, research and planning to come to the decision. Not something we chose lightly, and I really feel it is the best decision. Many who know me personally, know that I would have loved to homeschool from the start, but it wasn't in the cards for many reasons. That's ok. Now is the right time. We plan to go for a year, and then take it one year at a time from there. We will be doing an eclectic curriculum, a mix of classical and Charlotte Mason. Chronological (classical) history, starting with ancient history using living books and a textbook. Latin. Spelling. Grammar and writing using Institute for Excellence in Writing, Shakespeare, poetry, and novels for literature. Chemistry, biology and possibly physics (middle school focus subjects). Life of Fred middle school math (fractions and decimals & percents) and LOF beginning Algebra. Nature study. Bible study, Catechism and Saint study. Art and Music study. Handicrafts and life skills. Health and couch to 5k for PE. Maybe even throw in some Spanish after we get settled. With our move, we are taking some books for the start of the year with us, while the rest will go with the household goods. We are planning year-round school, per the boys' request (!) and my preference. 36 full weeks of school, starting July 27. Broken into two 18 week semesters.

The first 18 weeks will look like this:
5 weeks of school (7/27 - 8/28)
1 week break (8/31 - 9/4)
5 weeks of school (9/7 - 10/9)
1 week break (10/12 - 10/16)
5 weeks of school (10/19 - 11/20)
1 week Thanksgiving break (11/23 - 11/28)
3 weeks of school (11/30 - 12/18)
2 week Christmas break (12/21 - 1/1)

The second 18 will be:
5 weeks of school (1/4 - 2/5)
1 week break (2/8 - 2/12)
5 weeks of school (2/15 - 3/18)
2 weeks Easter break (3/21 - 4/1)
4 weeks of school (4/4 - 4/29)
1 week break (5/2 - 5/6)
4 weeks of school (5/9 - 6/3)

Summer break from June 4 - mid July with some reading and writing assignments probably and Nature Study just because ;)

On top of all the changes, we are also working towards 1000 hours outside! Slow going so far, but we are trying.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why we are choosing to opt out

Paraphrasing one of our favorite teachers, "I'm a tester, not a teacher."

My sentiments exactly.

Mind you, the truth behind this statement is not by choice but by necessity, forced by the state and federal governments due to the near-constant standardized, or otherwise, testing.

My sons do have *some* amazing teachers, who are unable to do what they should be able to do (truly TEACH our kids) because they have to focus so much on testing, whether it be 30-day/monthly assessments in multiple subjects, or the THREE (I believe it was even 4 when the state of Michigan was still using MEAP) yearly standardized tests they have to give, and our kids have to take - Scantron in the Fall and Spring, and the replacement for the MEAP test, M-Step.

My boys will not be taking this new test for numerous reasons, that many others have written about in ways better than I can - just do a quick internet search and I'm sure you'll find many such articles which I won't link to here for my own reasons. However, my number 2 reason is the above: too many "tests" and not enough learning.

That brings me to my number one reason. My oldest child, you know my Aspie who has anxiety and is constantly worried about getting it trouble and what not? Well, about a month ago, one of his teacher's said something to the class in a "discussion" about the M-step. He just told me earlier this week, and while he couldn't recall which teacher it was, he very adamantly remembered what was said. I can see why he remembers, because of the fear it made him feel.

"If a student is out for the test, it's basically illegal, because it is technically stealing from the school, because the state won't give money to the school then." In other words, if a student doesn't take the test, they won't be counted for funding, and the school will receive less money from the state of Michigan. While the part about the school receiving money depending on student count is true, it does NOT mean my (or any child) is 'basically stealing' from anyone, and it's not illegal to opt out or not ensure the school gets funding because of it.

Let me restate that: My child was told, along with classmates, that if they opt out of the test, they ARE DOING SOMETHING ILLEGAL AND STEALING FROM THE SCHOOL. For all intents and purposes, this is what my TWELVE YEAR OLD son was told and understood it to mean. Indeed, he was so upset, that he at first didn't tell me, but planned to just take the test. When I told him and his brother that their dad and I would be opting them out, and they didn't need to worry too much about the test, he became upset and told me what he was told. He became visibly upset, on the verge of tears, telling me how he would be screwing up his entire life and go to jail then. Seriously??

He will, of course, not be stealing, nor doing anything illegal (nor go to jail) for NOT TAKING A TEST. He will also not be taking the test, and neither will his brother.

I have to go into the school with the opt-out form, and am unsure of the response I will be given. I also don't know what alternative activities they will be doing the days of the test - which may be as many as 5 days!! - but I am prepared to find out. If I am told that there is no plan, or they will be stuck in the office all day, some other action may be taken.

We are in the process of determining our course of action for next school year, as we may be moving, and if not, probably won't be continuing at our current school. Jason and I are considering every option, and about 80/20 on what that decision will be. This particular issue is only one of many that are causing us to make a change.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: 3/2 - 3/8

It's a no-frills kind of week around here. Lots of simple meals that (mostly) everyone will eat with no complaints. The only ones I'm a bit hesitant about are Wednesday and Saturday. Jackson (our 3 year old) doesn't really like creamy or cheesy sauces, so I will probably keep some chicken breast separate before mixing in the alfredo sauce on Wednesday. He's never had steak florentine, but loves cheeseburgers - on or off the bun - so he will probably try it, but without macaroni and cheese on the side.

It's a funny thing actually. None of my boys liked mac and cheese for years. I think E and A might have both been 5 before they liked it. Of course, now, they LOVE it, at 12 and 9, especially the homemade baked version we usually have. This week, though, I am cheating. I actually bought the 24oz box of the blue box creamy mac and cheese (not the powdered stuff. Blech! None of us like any brand's take on that, even Annie's) instead of homemade or our usual "quick" choice of Annie's. The way my nearly teenage son - he'll be 13 in 5 months - Ethan can pack away food lately, I've got to make sure we have enough to serve him! ;) And Alex, our tween (10 in just 3 short months!) is right behind him on that. Just waiting for the growth spurts!

A couple of notes:
Our favorite store-bought spaghetti sauce is Muir Glen Organic garlic roasted garlic and it's actually reasonable in comparison to other national brands. Honestly I think it may be the best jarred pasta sauce I've ever eaten. *I say store-bought and jarred, because my dad still makes THE best spaghetti sauce I've ever had. I need to make some soon. That, his chili and his bean soup. MMMMM! Too bad it would only be Jason and I enjoying the chili and the bean soup. Or maybe the boys not digging soup is a good thing, more for me ;) *
Also Monday is usually our leftover night, to clean out the fridge before Tuesday morning trash pickup, but we don't have much in there!

Monday: Spaghetti with meat

Tuesday: Pizza buffet at a local restaurant (school fundraiser)

Wednesday: Chicken alfredo with broccoli, applesauce

Thursday: Leftovers - if there are any - otherwise, pancakes or other easy make-on-the-fly food.

Friday: (It's Lent) Broiled Salmon for us, fish stick for the boys, roasted sweet potatoes

Saturday: Steak Florentine, macaroni and cheese, carrots

Sunday: ? We will be out of town most of the day, so may eat dinner at a restaurant there or something quick and light once we get home depending on the time we leave.

Check out more menu ideas at I'm an organizing junkie.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Words, words and more words

In honor of March being National Reading Month and Dr. Suess' birthday tomorrow, we plan to do a lot of reading this month. Usually the boys' school has some type of reading program or activity for the month of March. Alex always has a set amount of days and minutes to read each month (minimum of 20 mins a day for 20+ days, and he has to fill in a calendar with book and pages read with a parent initialing each day).

Our goal is to each spend at least 30 minutes a day reading, with no set amount of books. I'd also like to go to the library to find some new books to check out. The school also has their Spring Scholastic Book Fair this month, and I'm volunteering just like every year.

  1. Read 60 minutes of my own book plus 20 minutes to Jackson each day.
  2. Spend at least 1 hour deep-cleaning the house M-F (not just straightening up).
  3. Write a daily blog post
  4. 64oz of water.
  5. 2 episodes from my list of DVR'd shows max M-F and 3 hours TV Saturday and Sunday.
  6. Take (or have Jason take) all the boxes/bags to donation center.
  7. Box up and deliver all baby stuff to A & J, before baby shower.
  1. Read 30 minutes every day of the month.
  2. 2 hours maximum "screen time" (TV shows and videos on the Kindle) each day M-F after homework and reading.
  3. Play video games only on Saturdays and Sundays.
  4. Write a blog post about any topic he's interested in.
  5. Read an autobiography or biography and write a report.
  6. Do own laundry with minimal assistance from Mom.
  7. Bake cookies.
  8. Plan a dinner menu and cook it with help from Mom or Dad.
  1. Cub Scout goals.
    • Traveler badge
      • Geography belt loop
      • Map & Compass belt loop
    • Family Member badge
    • Aquanaut badge? This is a possibility if we can sign up for a local activity.
    • Finish Pinewood Derby Car
    • Nutrition belt loop
    • Family travel belt loop
  2. Read 30 minutes every day of the month.
  3. 2 hours maximum of "screen time" (TV shows or videos on the Kindle) each day M-F after homework and reading.
  4. Play video games only on Saturday and Sunday.
  5. Write a blog post.
  6. Do own laundry with minimal assistance from Mom.
  7. Plan a dinner and cook it with help from Mom and Dad.
  1. Potty training. Progress, not perfection.
  2. Coloring activity.
  3. Paint a picture.
  4. Choi classes 3 days a week (his classes are 30 minutes long, and with how much he loves it, we are continuing at least through May.)
  1. 30-60 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week - the older boys decided to take off a month or two from Choi.
  2. 2 family outings.
  3. Four new recipes.
  4. Go to a museum.
  5. Go to the library twice.
  6. Visit a new park (weather permitting).
  7. Tech-free days at least bi-weekly.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

It's been a long, cold month

and honestly, I forgot all about our goals! And my blog!

Looking back at our list for the month made me a little sad, because we had some good ideas on there.

As far as our family goals, we did watch a couple of movies together, even if I don't remember which ones. There were no new recipes tried, but we did eat a lot of good food this month ;)

The boys played Minecraft together a lot, and we took turns playing Battleship a couple of times, so while not technically "game nights" we did have some together time. I am counting that as a win!

My favorite activity this month though: taking the boys to the bounce house. They played for 90 minutes on a bunch of different inflatables set up inside a HUGE building, and had a blast.

While we didn't make any crafts together, Alex did make Valentine's cards at catechism class for each of us.

I would say he practiced his pattern at least ten different times, as well as kicking and punching. He got to break a board this past Monday, and now has a white belt with PURPLE stripe. He was upset about having to "retire" his blue stripe, but I explained that purple was a higher rank, and next month he would have a chance to earn red! Jackson is learning so much from Choi. They go over the principles with the kids, and really try to teach them. He is learning self-confidence, gross and fine motor skills, building endurance, even working on his counting during stretches.

He didn't practice with his letter "J", but there is a neat app on his Kindle Fire that shows him how to form letters and has him trace them. Jackson has really liked playing it. I think it's a Super Why game.

Potty training is taking a turn in the right direction. He's going on the potty at least once a day most days, and trying to tell us just before he pees in his pull-up, though sometimes he misses the cue by just a little bit.

Three books were an easily attained goal for him this month. He read Spirit Animals #4:Fire and Ice, Little Town on the Prairie (a Little House book), and almost all of Hunger Games, which he plans to finish today!
He didn't finish his geography or map and compass belt loops, but he did finish his religious requirements, earning him his Webelos badge. He was also awarded the Citizenship, Science, and Geology belt loops, Geology pin, and Citizen and Scientist activity badges. Parvuli Dei got pushed back again, as it's not a requirement. If he chooses to work on it, we will probably do it over the summer/fall.

E seemed less focused on reading and more on video games, which led to him a.) not tracking the books he read and b.) not reading much at all. After spending quite a while thinking about it this morning he knows he read 3 books: Top ten things about everything 2000, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the Long Haul, Timmy Failure: Mistakes were made. All of which are easily read, and 2 of which he has read at least once prior. I am glad he's reading. But I am disappointed because he reads at a high school level and chooses easy books. This month, I will be pushing him to pick some novels or harder, new-to-him books, especially with it being National Reading Month.

There were some goals or activities that were the same on both lists, and Choi was one. Outside Choi practice didn't happen at all this month, as it was replaced with a lot of screen time for all of us. Orange belt testing is getting moved to March, because the testing fee is now included in the monthly fees.

They also both wrote one letter to their pen pals in Ohio, although mom keeps forgetting to mail them out.

Today is the last day of the month, and since we have yet to have an activity planned by either of the older boys, I am going to have them plan our day. One will choose a fun activity, and the other either lunch or dinner at a restaurant.

As far as my goals, I did cut back on pop, and went nearly 2 weeks with none at all. The last two weeks, I've had a few but not every day. I did have a few snack size candy bars in the last week or so after doing really good for awhile. Progress, not perfection.

Menu planning happened, sort of. We went off plan a lot this month. I find my motivation to stay on plan is better when I remember to share on here.

I can not wait for the warmer weather, because I may actually get off my butt and exercise. I see walking and bike riding in my future, hopefully sooner rather than later. I also couldn't decide on a hair cut or tattoo this month. Just no motivation. This dreary weather is seriously kicking me in the butt.

My 365HDG posts haven't been shared on here but I have been posting on IG and Facebook, even if there are days I'm sharing two days' worth of posts quite frequently.

When I say that there was "a lot of screen time for all of us", I am definitely included in that. Rather than picking up a book to read, I spent most of my days catching up on my DVR'd shows. Not even one book finished. If I am a little disappointed with E, I am highly disappointed in myself. Not only did I not read, I set a bad example for all the boys by relying on keeping my boredom away with a screen.

On a final note:
I am very proud of my husband. Not only did he continue to exercise throughout the month, he made healthy eating choices. The night we stopped at Culver's for dinner, he asked me to bring him a salad with grilled chicken and a cup of chili, over a Cheddar butter burger with bacon and fries! I should have followed his lead. He has definitely won our "challenge" this month, not just in actual weight loss, but in spirit. He didn't give up or give in. Jason is my knight in shining armor in so many ways. I love you, honey!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

As promised

here is our January update!

As far as the family goals, we didn't really fulfill them but did do some things together. We watched 3 movies together, and played paw patrol a few times, and Jason and the boys played Minecraft together several times. We only went to one family outing, which I shared about (the water park) but have had fun this month.

It's been so cold most of the year so far that we haven't spent time outside, so our walks didn't happen. I also found that while I like the idea of doing crafts together, when it comes to actually planning, and doing them, I dread the implementing of it! I worry about the mess too much, or it turning into a not-so-fun activity :( So our crafts in January did not get attempted. This month we WILL be doing one craft for Valentine's day, but it's just going to be something little to send to grandparents.

E read or finished 4 books: Middle School Ultimate Showdown, Minecraft Hacks, Children of the Dustbowl, and The Outsiders (this one was a book they were reading in class with partners or alone). He also wrote once to his pen pal in Ohio, and received a letter back! So while he didn't reach his goal of 4 letters, it was encouraging to him to get a response. Who doesn't love mail?

A also finished up 4 books in January, just meeting the deadline by getting to the end of Spirit animals #3 last night! He also read the rest of The Savage fortress, Spirit animals #2 and Divergent!  He wrote to his pen pal just once but was also very excited to get a letter back. I know he is planning to write at least twice this month.

When it came down to their physical fitness and choi goals, E and A went to all 12 classes, practiced their pattern and speed drills several - although not 3 times a week - and came very close to being ready for testing, as well as being able to do between 10 and 15 sit-ups and push-ups with good form!

Alex also worked on his belt loops and while he didn't quite finish Map & Compass and Geography in January, he did do some of the requirements. With his den, he did earn his Citizenship belt loop and Citizen activity badge. We didn't take time to work towards his Parvuli Dei religious emblem, so today we decided to pick 2 of the other religious requirements in place of that so he can earn his Webelos badge this month. He still wants to earn his religious emblem and religious knot but now we don't have a set deadline, and can take our time, enjoying it.

J went to all his Little Dragons classes, tested and received his new belt, even getting to break a couple of boards! Since he learned his first pattern, he wants to practice nearly every day. We haven't pushed the potty training, but he will go if asked and he needs to go.

All 3 of the boys went to the dentist and there were no cavities to be found. Jackson did well for his first appointment but only got a partial cleaning. It appears that the tooth that we noticed "missing" on the top never formed, and is congenitally missing. Not a big deal, but does make his teeth off-centered. As he gets older and loses his baby teeth, his permanent teeth may need adjustments or pulled or something. He is also teething, getting some 2/3 year molars. Alex got sealants on his molars, and Ethan got 3 sealants and goes back in February for the final one, as his fourth 12 year molar was partially in.

While my food choices were not ideal, I did try to pay attention to triggers for overeating or cravings. I also followed along and participated a bit in my friend's facebook group. I call that goal semi-successful. It made me think. I failed to exercise but February is a new month and bring new motivation!

Menus were written, and while I forgot to link up 2 of the weeks, we followed them for the most part. Even when we did switch up the exact days we had specific meals, or decided to go out to dinner, we used the meals planned on different days or the following week. We tried four new recipes, but I think the only one we really plan to keep in our rotation will be the chicken verde. It was so easy, makes for good tacos and pretty inexpensive as well. Great for a busy weeknight.

31 days of declutter final tally = 24 bags and boxes! While not the full 31 I was working towards, I'd call getting rid of things we don't need a big success.

As for my other goals:
  • I shared a photo each day (or the following day - oops!) for 365 Happy Days Growing.
  • I didn't write any "original" posts.
  • I didn't go to the dentist.
  • I finished one full book (The Dark Unwinding), 80% of Screamfree Parenting, and started The Maze Runner.
Not perfect but I'm proud of the boys for their work toward the goals mom set for them (with input from them of course!), and they certainly did better than me. Looking back on the past month, I see where I need to work on things. That is part of the good thing about having goals, they are there to help you grow, learn and make positive changes.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

All about the love, baby!

It is the final day in January (duh!) and I was going to share our progress towards those goals we set way back on the first. However, it is still January so I'm taking advantage of that and using all day today to meet any goals that have just a little left to do ;)

Instead I'm taking today to share our FEBRUARY goals. You may notice we are cutting back on them some. You'll see why tomorrow... It's all good, though.


We are going to again try some new recipes and have movie and game nights.
  • 4 new recipes
  • 4 movie nights
  • 4 game nights - video or board game this month
  • 1 family outing
  • A Valentine's day craft 
  • Practice Choi 10 times
  • Practice writing "J"
  • Potty at least 2x a day.
  • Read 3 books.
  • Practice Choi 10 times throughout the month outside of class
  • Write pen pal 2 times each.
    • Ohio pen pal
  • Finish the 2 belt loops he's working on.
    • Geography
    • Maps & Compass
  • Do first 2 lessons in Parvuli Dei.
  • Do the 2 religious requirements (not Parvuli Dei) by the 10th so he can earn his Webelos badge.
  • Test for Orange Belt.
  • Choose a family activity. It can be a place we go visit, a restaurant to eat at, an event we attend, or an at-home activity.
  • Read 4 books.
  • Practice Choi 10 times throughout the month outside of class.
  • Write pen pals 2 times each.
    • Ohio pen pal
    • Arizona pen pal
  • Choose an activity for family time.
  • Test for Orange Belt.
  • No pop for 28 days.
  • No candy for 28 days.
  • Exercise 5-6 days a week.
  • Menu Plan Monday - whether or not I remember to link up (oops!).
  • Read 2 books.
  • 365 HDG - and actually share a post on here every other Sunday. Look for one tomorrow for the last few weeks.
  • New hairstyle. My hair is getting long again, just past my shoulders, and I'm ready for a change. The plan is to get it cut and colored. 
  • Get a tattoo? (This is posed as a question because a. I don't know what I want for sure, b. Not sure where I want it, and finally c. I'm a chicken-s*#%.)
Jason and I also have a little wager. We are going to spend February doing a "Biggest Loser" style competition. The rules are simple. Starting weight tomorrow. Final weigh-in Saturday Feb 28, with weekly check-ins on Saturdays. Each week whomever loses the highest percentage of weight wins for the week. At the end of the month, the highest weight-loss percentage is the overall winner. Weekly winner will get a small "prize", TBD, and the overall winner will decide what we are doing in April when my parents have the 3 boys for a few days! Or maybe something else. That's just one idea for now. He says he doesn't need it to be fun or exciting, but I personally like the idea of a motivating factor! And hence, my title: All about the love. The love for my husband (wanting him to continue getting healthier), love for myself - wanting to be healthier, and finally, the love of BEATING THE CRAP OUTTA HIM!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Jan 26 - Feb 1

We ended up switching up a few days' of meals last week - Jimmy John's on Monday, Cheeseburgers on Friday, out to dinner with family on Saturday, and homemade sloppy joes on Sunday.

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Spaghetti

Wednesday: Chicken and Gruyere sausages, roasted sweet potatoes, green beans

Thursday: Ham and cheese croissant "pockets", roasted broccoli, applesauce

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Cracklin' Chicken, roasted potatoes, carrots

Sunday: Spicy tuna cakes, fish sticks, fries, veggies

Monday, January 19, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Jan 19-25

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Chicken verde tacos and cheese quesadillas

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Kalua Pig, salad

Thursday: Homemade pizzas

Friday: BBQ beef (made from roast leftovers), fresh veggies, applesauce

Saturday: Cheeseburgers, fries

Sunday: Kabob Koobideh, rice

We still haven't had the chance to make Kabob Koobideh, and since the ground beef is frozen, we can move it to this upcoming Sunday. We had so much already cooked food in the fridge that we had leftovers last night and are having more tonight!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hitting the half-way mark

When it's come to reading, the boys are doing great towards their 4 book list. Ethan has read 2: Minecraft Hacks Combat edition and Middle School Ultimate Showdown. Alex is finished with The Savage Fortress and currently partway through Minecraft Hacks Combat Edition while also reading Spirit Animals #2

I'm a bit behind, but did finally finish The Dark Unwinding. Truth be told, I've been reading it for many months on and off, and finally really got into it near the end. There are at least 1 or 2 more books that follow this one, and at first I wasn't planning to look for them at all, but now I may add them to my February list...

I (re)started Scream-free Parenting and am just a few pages in. I know that I yell way too much at my boys, and I'm hoping to get a lot of ideas from this book on how to interact better with them (and maybe with Jason, too.)

My food choices have been okay, even though I've given in to some cravings - pop with our meals on Sunday, an ice cream bar after grocery shopping and a couple of mini candy bars from the boys' Halloween stash - I've also eaten more fruit and veggies, and less food in general. I'm not filling up on food to the point that I feel overfull, just until I'm not hungry.

Our menu plan was shared on Monday for this week, and we are trying our 4th new recipe of the month tonight: garlic beef roast.

Our newest total so far for 31 days of declutter is 10 and I like seeing things go or get re-organized.

Ethan, Alex and Jackson have been going to their choi/little dragon classes and doing well, although the outside practice has been nil so far... We also won't be doing any private lessons this month (It's $40/half hour per kid x 4 lessons! On top of the money we already spend for their regular classes!) We also probably won't be testing this month, as they may not be eligible per the school until Feb 22nd, and they also need their sparring gear which I am not ordering. Due to some probable changes within the next few months, we may not be in Choi after February, at least at this school and to spend $120 for 2 sets of sparring gloves and footwear doesn't seem reasonable at the moment.

The older boys have each written one of 4 letters to their pen pals - on Monday of this week which I'm finally mailing today... - and will also be drawing a picture and mailing that out Saturday or early next week. Alex's idea was to have Jackson draw a picture for one of the younger brothers of their pen pals and send it. I'm rolling with the idea and saying all 3 should draw a picture and mail it out!

As far as Alex's Cub Scouts goals, he's done 2 of 3 requirements for the Geography belt loop and one of 3 towards the Maps and Compass belt loop. He also worked on his Traveler activity badge, and once he earns both belt loops, he will also be finished meeting the Traveler requirements! I think it's very reasonable to think he will be able to turn them in to his den leader by the end of January. We are behind on the Parvuli Dei requirements but since E has confirmation class tomorrow, we can use that time to sit and finish a couple of the sessions hopefully.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Family Fun!

My parents bought Jackson a Paw Patrol board game for Christmas, and he absolutely loves it. We've played it several times. Last week, we sat down in the living room as a family and made a game night out of it! For about a half an hour or so, we played the game, laughed and just had a great time.

For movie night, we decided to finally watch How to train your dragon 2. While there was a sad part, and some somewhat scary scenes - fighting between the characters and/or dragons - it was a great movie! All three of the boys enjoyed it as well as Jason and I.

The most family fun we had this week though was yesterday. Alex sold over $1000 in popcorn, and was invited to choose between several special events held specifically for boys selling over a certain amount. While they all sounded fun, we wanted to pick one that we could enjoy as a family. It worked out that the most family friendly one was the soonest AND one of the closest to us. We had to buy tickets for the rest of us, but Alex got to go for free, and will receive a special goody-bag later. For the special event, we chose Zehnder's Splash Village in Frankenmuth!

The day started out with us all getting up and ready to head out. At just after 11, we loaded up the car, and drove out there. We went to Applebee's for a late lunch, and while waiting for our food, Alex suggested a game of 20 questions. I'm not sure when the last time I heard all four of my guys laugh so hard! Jackson wanted to play, and be asked what he was thinking of, too. When it was his turn, he asked himself questions, and every answer was no! Hahaha. Dad stumped us for a minute, but I finally figured out he was thinking of a buckeye tree (big surprise with him being an OSU fan, and the game tonight ;) ). But I really got everybody when I chose blueberry. They got close by finally naming some fruits and veggies, but didn't get it!

After lunch, we went to Splash Village and met up with another family from our den. Ethan and Alex went off on their own for the most part, going in the different areas, and checking out the slides. Jackson got to play in the zero depth pool and go down a water slide just his size several times. I even went on two water slides, one each with the older boys, and in the lazy river with Jackson twice. We only had one incident when I was in line getting drinks. Jason was waiting in the zero-depth pool, and one of the boys was walking Jackson around to the slide to go down to daddy, and Jack decided he didn't want to listen to his brother. Of course, his brother didn't know what to do and kind of froze up. I was just walking back and I saw part of what happened, and because I was closer, I chased Jack down and stopped him before he had the chance to slip and fall in the very deep pool by the water slides. Time for a small break at that point. Since it was nearly 6 anyway, we decided we were done. I went with Jackson and changed, while the other boys played a few more minutes. After we were all dry and warm, we drove to Zehnder's restaurant for dinner. That was probably the best fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pretty much everything else that came with the family-style dinner that I've ever eaten. E and Alex weren't very hungry and decided on some chicken fingers, while Jackson chose a pb&j. When our appetizers came, they brought enough bread and spreads for EVERYBODY, and Jack filled up on bread and cheddar cheese spread, after trying to eat a spoonful of just the cheddar cheese! He didn't like his sandwich anyway, so at least he ate something. Besides he was so tired, he fell asleep in the 2 minutes from Splash Village to the restaurant, so it's a miracle he was awake and in a good mood! All three boys slept part of most of the way home.

We had to take a day off school though today, because Ethan woke up with a stomach ache, and Alex with a cough.

Menu Plan Monday: Jan 12-18
Changing the game from Whole30. While the first two dinners below are Whole30/paleo, the rest are not fully. Three slow-cooker meals again this week, and Monday's recipe is new to us.

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: The best whole chicken in a crockpot, roasted sweet potatoes, and salad

Wednesday: Garlic roast beef, potatoes and carrots

Thursday: Chicken breasts, baked macaroni and cheese, roasted broccoli

Friday: Organic hot dogs (we like Applegate or Simple Truth uncured beef hot dogs from Kroger), french fries, baked beans and salad

Saturday: Chicken tacos - using chicken thighs cooked in the slow-cooker.

Sunday: Kabob Koobideh (from Nom Nom Paleo), rice, roasted cauliflower

Check out more ideas at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

7 days in...

and it's already time to be real. With myself. With you.

My January goal of Whole30 has fallen through, even after several attempts to restart. Yes, in 7 days (technically, 5 not counting today and because I was planning to start on the 2nd), I have failed miserably. And you know what? I am okay with that. That is the truth.

Saturday was Jackson's birthday, and we were visiting Jason's family for the afternoon and evening, while also picking up Ethan and Alex. We ordered pizza for the birthday boy's dinner and of course there was cake and ice cream. I overindulged, eating several slices of pizza - obviously not Whole30 - and a small piece of cake and ice cream. That's fine. It was a birthday with my family!

Fresh start on Sunday! I did okay Sunday and Monday following Whole30, but my patience has been thin, and cravings high. It's hard being a girl sometimes :( (sorry if that's TMI, it is what it is). Yesterday, Jack and I had to stop at the store for a few little things, including an immersion or hand blender, and he asked if we could get a small bag of mini donuts. Sure. I won't have any, I'm having eggs when we get home. 10 mini chocolate-frosted donuts, and an empty bag later, I started rethinking what to do. Dinner last night was good though. We had slow-cooker beef roast, and garlic mashed cauliflower, with fruit for the boys also.

This morning, I went in to my January goals and reevaluated my personal goals. After reading posts the last few days on the FB group I'm a member of, and realizing that maybe a super-strict Whole30 right now isn't the best choice for me - it's also a bit more expensive trying to feed 5 of us that way - I have decided that we are still going to try and eat paleo at most meals, especially dinner as a family. I am going to make a conscious effort to make healthy choices at other meal times, while probably not strict Whole30, most likely leaning toward paleo. Meaning meats, veggies, fruits, and healthy fats still, but maybe some dairy like butter or a little cheese. Still going to avoid as much added sweeteners outside of honey or 100% maple syrup as I can, and if I have a pop during a dinner out, that's okay too.

My healthy has to start with my attitude towards food. My biggest enemy is myself. I let myself overeat. I let myself choose junk food because I am tired, or stressed, or bored, or whatever.

Still, I'm going to continue reading It Starts with Food, because there is some wonderful information in it. A lot to take away and introduce to our life. Even in the book, if I remember right, it says somewhere about Whole30 not be something you do ALL the time, you have to eat what's right for you. And we all know junk food in general isn't good for anybody.

Besides all this, some things have had positive gains already!

Menu planning happened for the first full week of January and I linked up to MPM at I'm an organizing junkie. I also have 3 scheduled posts for the rest of the months menu plans, although I do need to go in and fill in most of the actual recipes. Ha! But it's a start, and having them scheduled will keep me on track to do them.

We have tried 3 new recipes already.
  1. Easy slow cooker chicken verde - which we had on Monday night - turned out awesome! I put the chicken thighs and salsa verde in around 1:30, and after choi, we came home and were able to eat a delicious dinner together. I had mine in a bowl with guacomole, shredded lettuce, diced white onion, tomato, and black olives, while everybody else had it with refried beans, cheese, lettuce and whichever toppings they chose on tortillas. Jason even made some tortilla bowls for the boys and himself with these little pans we have just for that purpose. We will definitely make this meal again.
  2. The Easiest and Most Delicious Crock Pot Beef Ever from last night was pretty good. I think it was a little overcooked. The recipe says 8-10 hours on low, and it was in the crockpot for just over 8 on low, and then on the warm setting for an additional 30 minutes or so while I made the side dish. It was a little on the dry side, but the flavor was good. We skipped the Worcestershire sauce because we were out of it, and it's not Whole30, but I think next time I will be sure to have some. The reviews were good enough to try it again, maybe cooked for slightly less time.
  3. Garlic mashed cauliflower from Nom Nom Paleo. They were ok. The texture is definitely different than mashed potatoes. The flavor was good, especially with the garlic, salt and pepper. Also I used coconut oil for the added fat, instead of ghee, because none of my guys like the flavor of ghee. I had to use my rice/veggie steamer instead of a pot with a steam insert like she says to use, and so it took quite a bit longer to get to the right tenderness. I used my new immersion/hand blender to mash them, which worked alright. Once they start getting cold, they aren't as good as mashed potatoes, in my opinion, and we didn't have any type of gravy. Our oldest, who doesn't like mashed potatoes, didn't like these any better but ate them out of love for mom ;) Not sure I will try making these again. 
Yoga! One of my Christmas presents this year was a set of yoga DVDs. My loving husband bought them for me because it was on my (very short) list of wants. The only problem is, as I was trying to do the one DVD, he and I both quickly realized it doesn't seem ideal for a beginner. Some of the moves need much more upper and lower body strength than I have, such as balancing on one arm/hand and the side of one foot with the other foot/leg lying on top of it, and other arm pointing straight up. Think of laying like a T, but then get on your side and do  it with just your hand and side of your foot touching the ground. Um, this mama is definitely not ready for that. I tried, mind you, I tried. I even did some of the easier moves, and stretches and got in about 20 minutes on Monday. Today is day 2 of three this week and I will try the other tonight.

31 days of Declutter: Slight edit on this as well. We (I) missed a few days, but will be thrilled as long as we still get 31 "bags" of trash/donate/storage taken care of. Even if we have to double up. So far, my tally is at 2. One was a desk, and the other a bunch of junk from the fridge and one cupboard. Time to hit it hard, and I'm thinking our closet and bedroom may be the place to begin.

I will have a separate 365 Happy Days Growing post with the last two weeks of pictures on Sunday, but if you are following @growingintome on Instagram then you may have seen our recent additions to this. This has been by far the easiest goal to reach.

No updates for the boys or family goals yet, but it's early still. Getting back into the swing of things with school and extracurricular activities has been all-consuming. Homework two days in a row, choi once this week, and some down-time reading, watching cartoons or playing a little MineCraft after has been our evening routine the last couple of nights. Jackson and I did make it to the library yesterday morning to return some books, and check out some preschool books for him and I to read. We also got 3 kids' craft books to look for some fun ideas to do for our family crafts. Tonight all 3 boys have choi, and after a dinner of leftovers, we will sit down and scour the books together, each picking out something we want to do, Jack choosing with a little help from me or Jason, of course.

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone!