Well Enough

The thing is, I’m a pretty lousy housewife. I’m not tidy or well-organized, and I rarely have a warm dinner waiting when my husband gets home (I do feed our kids, just not him 😬). I’m great at creating a budget, but not so hot at sticking to it because something always comes up with 5 kids (usually a trip to the doctor).

I’m not going to win mother of the year anytime soon. I get frustrated too easily. I spend more time telling my kids it’s good for them to be bored than I do actually enjoying fun activities with them. My “playing” skills are limited to reading them books. All day. I have no grace when it comes to bed times because I need that hour after they’re asleep to recharge the introvert in me. They will probably remember the mother of their childhood constantly saying, “Is that kind or helpful?” about nearly everything.

I spent last night reading through grad school programs and then just laughed; because I won’t have that sort of time for way too many more years to come. And at that point I won’t have anything to write down useful enough to get me accepted. Can shower one handed while holding a newborn? Good at making mediocre dinners while wearing two babies (as depicted)? Stellar butt-wiper of tiny humans? Great middle of the night cuddler even though I hate being touched while I sleep? I’m not sure any of those will help… .

I am constantly saying I am behind on everything in life. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get caught up. Not enough cups of coffee to keep me running. But maybe I’m not so behind. Maybe I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Exhausted, sometimes a little depleted, but gosh darn it, so well loved. I just hope that these 6 humans I live with and adore so very much will one day be able to look back on all this crazy beautiful blur of season and say the same: that I loved them well enough.

Farmland Math

Somehow Sweet M is 3.5. HOW? And as precocious as they come, much like his big sister. I’m always finding ways to keep that little brain of his busy and challenged; not that he can’t do that on his own, but it often leads him  into quite a bit of mischief. Which seems on par for a three-year-old.

He loves “doing school” like Miss H and Mr. B, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more fun ways to incorporate “school” for him that is still primarily play based – because play really is the school of children! I want him to love learning, and I want for it to be as organic as possible.

So when we came across Farmland Math on Timberdoodle as a part of their full preschool curriculum, we knew it was for us!

Farmland Math is a set of fun, brightly colored animals, a waterproof farm mat (that flips to a dinosaur terrain on the opposite side – can’t beat that!), and a small 36-week long teacher’s guide.

68599452_314402766012728_8608018659173990400_n

You could 100% ditch the teacher’s guide and simply, talk, and observe, and still get in so much new knowledge and hands on learning if you felt compelled, but I really like having the teacher’s guide because I like having ideas. Also, it allows my nine-year-old to “play” math with him while I’m nursing the baby or Mr. B does is AAR lessons. Although she is stellar at playing with her younger siblings, she also really loves to feel in charge (what oldest child does not?), and this is a great, fun way for her to get her fill of that.

Farmland Math guides kiddos through counting, sorting, recognizing colors and patterns; all those early math skills they need to be successful later on in life. But it does it in such a fun, playful, age-appropriate manner that no one sees it as “school work” (unless that’s what they’re wanting and you so you tell them it is so!).

I particularly love the chunky, colorful farm animals. They’re great for getting the “work” done, but then Sweet M and Bean (2), can also play and entertain themselves for quite a while on their own with them. And because it’s all so durable and easy to clean, I know it will last through Sweet M and Bean, and that even baby Ave will get to enjoy it when she enters her preschool years! And when school should be play, it’s great to see the materials work for both school use and every day play use; it makes you feel confident in your investments.

68546509_2434392170125802_6054382962131075072_n.jpg

I really cannot recommend Farmland Math enough as part of your home school preschool or simply as another fun addition to the playroom.

Cat Crimes

We’ve been super busy with a newborn around here this month (whose birth story I am hoping to get up soon!).

We were fed so well and loved on her first week of life. And the kids are all adjusting so well, as they love her to absolute bits (not surprising, she’s fairly scrumptious). J has been a professional toddler wrangler so I can cozy up with our darling Avellana (her Spanish nickname that J dubbed her – not her legal name) and just drink up all this newborn bliss. Because even after 5 sweet little babes, it just does not get old.

And our big kids? They had the awesome experience of getting to spend this past week with their grandparents up north, but before that they were doing a stellar job of being helpful and self-entertaining.

They’ve been reading lots of new books, and building crazy Lego and Plus Plus contraptions, as well as playing lots of games together. I love that they both enjoy playing board games and the like, because they are getting big enough to play games with each other without the need of adult help – and they can play with J and I! I mean, games that are actually enjoyable for us, too (you can only play Candyland so many times before the colors all start to blur together…)

Their newest favorite game to play comes from Timberdoodle, and is called Cat Crimes. H and B were both super excited when it arrived, and could not wait a second to start playing. Lucky for them, the toddlers had all ready been put to bed, so it was safe to take it out and have a go of it.

67361994_2292378437505766_2090663305143123968_n

Cat Crimes is a fun “who done it” logic game, with increasingly more difficult challenge cards, so kids (and adults!) can up the complexities and difficult level as desired the more rounds that they play.

It’s rated for ages 8+, and Mr. B is almost 8, but it could most definitely be played by younger kiddos, too. I think they both would have been able to grasp it and enjoy this game as early as 6. And at almost 8 and 9, they are able to play it over and over again without any adult assistance, which has been lovely these past few weeks.

But it’s also such a fun-filled, brain-working game that J and I enjoy popping in for a round when able as well. I definitely see Cat Crimes as a game the whole family can enjoy, and it will be in heavy rotation around here. So if you need a fun game that helps work on their logic skills (but is so fun they have no idea it’s helping their brains expand!), Cat Crimes gets four big thumbs up from Miss H and Mr. B!

Chasing Fireflies

My kids recently had a friend over and stayed up late enough to go outside and catch lightning bugs with J. Sorry, fireflies. Apparently “lightning bugs” is a term of my youth, and not couth with my kids, ha.

Because we are typically pretty big sticklers about bedtime – I prefer happy well-rested kids, because it makes me a happier momma – they rarely get to stay up late enough in the summer for the fireflies to light up the skies (I mean, 10pm is past my bedtime). So when we had the opportunity to check out the super fun game Chasing Fireflies from Timberdoodle, we were all over it!

Although the game says it is for ages 4+, all four of my kiddos – aged 9 years, 7 years, 3.5 years, and 22 months – loved playing this game. It was so much fun to watch them run around, finding the blinking fireflies around the yard (and maybe they had some drippy ice cream to go with it).

They broke off in teams so they had to work together to find their colored fireflies: green or blue. And off they went!

64825212_894498854231100_2122294931824312320_n.jpg

There are two jars of fireflies that come in the game Chasing Fireflies. A few of the fireflies had to have their batteries re-positioned to get them lighting up, but otherwise, they were flawless and well-loved straight out of the box. Sweet M even wanted to take a jar of blinking fireflies with him to bed! He sure does know how to re-create my childhood.

65442951_376774049710118_6567030172682289152_n.jpg

It was also really nice to see my boys working together to chase down their fireflies, as opposed to knocking heads: I loved that this game has the ability to be as competitive or collaborative as one may want. And that as few as two people can play (or really, even just one kiddo would still delight in running about, chasing down the fireflies on their own!), or that larger groups of kids could play in teams.

Chasing Fireflies is top notch and I would recommend it over and over again for any preschool or elementary-aged kiddo! And I have four babes who all unanimously agree – which is saying a lot!

65640210_382847045674146_3858638729425977344_n.jpg

 

 

*** I was given the game Chasing Fireflies from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are genuine, and mine alone. 

Florida Vacay Pt. 3

Soooo….

Let me continue.

Basically Florida was a blast. The water was warm, the sand was soft, and the weather was gorgeous.

To make it just that much better, Miss H had the amazing surprise of one of her oldest friends coming to visit for the weekend from Jacksonville! I mean, I loved it too because her momma is one of my dearest friends, but the surprise for H made it all the better.

61509844_10106242796318049_6750153391906750464_n

It’s one of the things I love most about kids. How they can go ages without seeing each other or speaking to one another and then they just pick up how they left off. Miss H and her friend M hadn’t seen each other since before we lived in Hawaii – eep! And they were knee deep in fun and giggles in pretty much minutes.

And it was so nice for me to have a friend to just chill out with and talk to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so fortunate to have a husband that I so deeply adore and who is truly my best friend, but man! There are just some things a woman can relate to better. And having a friend who you don’t have to be guarded around or worry about judging you is kind of a magical thing.

61644103_10106244980900129_9147277525745926144_n61748323_10106244980825279_5146102953618178048_n

Miss H’s other epic surprise was….

SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS.

Okay, before you judge me too hard, we had agreed long, long ago when we first moved to Hawaii that we would make this dream of hers happen. But time slipped away and it never happened, and I didn’t want her to be the person who grew up and still remembered how her parents promised to take her to a Broadway show in NYC and never did….err….swim with dolphins (I definitely don’t have any lingering thoughts over my own childhood, haha).

So, we made it happen.

And it was pretty epic. Both the experience and her reaction.

She loved the dolphins.

61867661_10112949358309009_3598225769823731712_n.jpg

But she was also pretty crushed. She deplored that they lived in an exhibit and were essentially circus animals, because she wanted them to be free as animals are meant to be. It was definitely hard for her animal-loving heart.

So I call it a win-win. We were able to carry out our promise and she was able to do something amazing, but she also was able to truly see the situation for what it was, and I find that to be pretty amazing for a 9-year-old.

62154258_10112949358503619_4454419253944123392_n.jpg

Over all, it was a fantastic week and a half and we definitely need to get back to a life of low key, lazy beach days. It’s just so good for our souls.

Florida Vacay Pt. 2

So I’m not going to lie, when people say things like “it’s not really a vacation with kids” I’ve never truly related to that. Like, for sure it’s different. In one scenario you are solely responsible for entertaining and keeping yourself alive, and in the other you are responsible for a lot of people.

Maybe because I’ve never been a partier or a drinker really, and don’t find that to be “fun” or even a little bit relaxing, being responsible for other humans doesn’t typically feel that tedious or as if it’s taking from the vacation. I genuinely enjoy being with my kiddos, as terribly crazy as they often are. And fortunately J does, too. I wouldn’t say we’d never do a totally kid-free vacation, because maybe some day, in the future, we will. Who knows? But for now, we enjoy having them with us, and we are super fortunate that we’ve built a relationship where neither of us feels underappreciated or whatever if we don’t have constant (or if we are being honest, like any) one on one time with each other.

All that said. This vacation was exhausting. Oh my gosh. It wasn’t even the kids, ha. I think it was my rotund stomach and the extreme sleepies of third trimester pregnancy. I was lucky enough to get several naps in, to sit on the beach or in the water and take a load off while J primarily care for the littles, but still. It was exhausting. But no more exhausting than if we’d been at home.

The kids were so happy to be on the beach. It’s really all that Sweet M and Bean remember, and they talk about it daily. Bean even squealed, “I love da beach!” while M inquired, “Shouldn’t we be living here always?” I told him I’m working on it. I’m not sure how many more years, or even months, of cold I can withstand. I thought I wasn’t bothered by cold and snow. And then we lived in Hawaii and I realized I was wrong. So, so, so very wrong.

There is a completely different sort of vibe and atmosphere to being near the water. Life is just more mellow and calm. Everyone is more chill. It’s the way life is supposed to be. Or at least mine anyway. I am not cut out for the hustle and bustle of busy life.

Anyway, here’s a bunch of photos of beach life. I’ll write later about H’s fun surprise. Well, both of them!

62131266_366497094071524_8569923377295261696_n62144565_527880857747990_7024436579024240640_n62160511_2322383494517129_3786472429765787648_n62165868_328939378008056_6452470716154511360_n62171086_2586870481326194_7422694538306650112_n62171335_2476027025749970_8569681995838259200_n62188709_436467683577907_1809509763784900608_n62218834_476905586391589_7180884542352261120_n62234160_438623050048927_7551175779137093632_n62256813_455142031919292_4057628644468588544_n62256820_334918363856375_7955762321190551552_n62303336_421713998414991_895269062219661312_n62315980_2403295999904298_2590070828032851968_n62340353_612636869233854_5590941714421383168_n62356223_451774875624273_7901209691001192448_n62396677_2763164803757339_4481955775337463808_n62425995_2777133839028518_2757818317740703744_n62430147_561915457668318_4462364127397937152_n62432639_368568740443957_3168311706841513984_n62440625_1247585822109775_3442074442706976768_n62485923_407117866549711_5693299555408281600_n62492632_2367289590219797_2464589776477487104_n62500273_435940277185456_1591156555623956480_n62517364_391053671508543_5989310917651726336_n62578208_2242053082553219_8068400179285327872_n62591702_2181608118603756_3194444233490563072_n62610816_2764892926914992_5974747667098501120_n62655401_454390012038653_2201470540802162688_n64204689_318858032372443_4588906087415021568_n

Florida Vacay Pt. 1

We just got home for our last hurrah vacay before baby Fimito makes his appearance in a full short weeks (WHAT!?)

But our drive down is getting a post in itself. As well as our time there because I’m a busy lady and need to get some stuff done theoretically (but I’m also exhausted, so it’s nice to have an excuse to sit!).

Anyway, we decided to drive down and split the drive into two days, stopping at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, which we get into for free with our Wonderlab pass – woot woot! And then traveled another hour or so south and stayed the night in Montgomery, before finishing an easy drive the next day to our destination in Panama City Beach.

We departed on a Sunday, and two days prior the air conditioning went out on the van. For serious. It needed something specific and they couldn’t get the part in until Wednesday (three days after we were set to depart) so we made the drive with no air conditioning. 35 weeks pregnant. With four kids. Yep, we are cray cray. I would not have been cut out for the Oregon Trail, that’s for sure!

But the kids were stellar. We left at around 6:30am, and made it to Birmingham at 1ish. And everyone was mostly happy and amenable. We stopped a few times to stretch and run around, but they’re mostly pros at this point, even though Bean is still not a fan of the car at all (she wasn’t such an agreeable traveler on our way back…).

I made J listen to all the Janet Lansbury under the sun with me. Literally hours. The whole way. He is such an amazing human, haha. Because he even actually listened. No ear plugs or anything, bahaha. And would stop it to ask questions or discuss things that we agreed with or had concerns about. I still marvel at what a good man I married sometimes.

The McWane Science Center was totally worth it. We spent about 3.5 hours there and definitely did not get through it all. It was so nice to get the kids out of the car for the afternoon and play. And they thoroughly enjoyed it.

62022849_3368816913143746_7171822685343711232_n.jpg

It’s all very hands on and fosters lots of thought and imagination. And they have a huge section for the under 6 crowd that the babies loved! (Although, I guess they’re toddlers +. I should stop calling them babies all ready).

61935328_2465025043755683_7040422653458382848_n.jpg

62145481_2083865061906750_8213776700471771136_n.jpg

After that we loaded up again, let the kids enjoy some Wendy’s for dinner, where when asked what she would like Bean replied, “ketchup.” I turned around to look at her and she furrowed her little toddler eyebrows at me and sighed. Yes, she sighed. Pray for me, guys. And then said, “Chicken nuggets.”

And then we unloaded in Montgomery for the night, where we woke up to this sweetness before heading to PCB.

62209343_312311196367285_2783714423619977216_n.jpg

To be continued…

 

Light Schooling through the Summer

Do you school year-round, or take the summer off?

I always like the idea of giving my kids long, “school”-free summers, but it’s never the reality.

Mostly because they thrive on some bit of structure (though obviously they spend most of their time in free play because I’m the world’s biggest advocate in that). And also, I want to make sure they retain the information they’re learning, and don’t slide back.

Now that Sweet M has officially joined the school bandwagon – by choice – I didn’t really do anything outside of lots and lots of reading with Miss H and Mr. B in their preschool years, I’ve really had to put some thought into what each one of them is doing because I have to prioritize our time with a family of soon-to-be five kids. But it’s worth it!

So although we don’t do full curriculum schooling over the summer, there is still some structured schooling going on. My kids call it “light schooling.”

So what are they all working on over the summer?

Miss H is officially doing spelling and math. She is such an avid and voracious reader, that I haven’t felt as compelled to do much with her in formal terms after she completed all of the All About Reading program (which seriously, I cannot rave enough about!). Her spelling, however, is just not there. And I know, I know, it takes time, and not everyone is going to win the spelling bee. But at 9, officially a 4th grader, even simple words are very kreatyv. But I will be honest, we’ve tried several different spelling programs and philosphies, and nothing yet has “clicked” for her. So I’m still searching.

For math we have really been enjoying Math Lessons for a Living Education. Again, we’ve tried several over the years, and this is the first that both she and Mr. B have both really enjoyed. We are also working on memorizing her times tables through 12. She isn’t as keen on that, but hey. There are some things you just gotta know.

We’re also doing a bit of geography with everyone, fun cooking from around the world, and lots and lots of reading literature.

Mr. B is working on reading and math primarily. He’s still working through All About Reading Level 1 with the enticing incentive that once he is reading fairly fluently and independently, he can finally download Minecraft. He’s taken a little longer to catch on to reading, and I am okay with that; everyone learns at their own pace. But I do know he’d be so much happier if he could read independently because he wants to, he just also doesn’t like things that are hard work.

He is also buzzing through the same math as Miss H, because math and science are really his strong points, and I want to keep him busy in things he loves, too. Obviously. I don’t want to ever crush his love of learning.

And Sweet M? He’s pretty much got his colors and shapes down like a pro, and he’s super interested in his letters, so I got him the Illustrated Alphabet book and big bananagrams and he’s having a lot of fun learning about recognizing letters and their sounds. I’m thinking may incorporate some number games as well, and maybe even these feelings flashcards, because he’s been having a hard time expressing and identifying his feelings at times. It’s been a pretty big year for him. But he really wants to “do school” like his big brother and sister, so I figure that isn’t in the too far off distance for him!

Miss H’s First Communion

I’m not going to go into the debacle of what was originally supposed to be Miss H’s first communion back in April. Let’s just say the world should be really happy that J and I are both super easy going individuals, haha.

So Miss H ended up receiving her first communion this past Sunday. And it was beautiful and emotional (for me), and a long time coming.

60932042_338398766876440_6692959313880678400_n

I was baptized Catholic as an infant, but I wasn’t raised Catholic. I wasn’t really raised as anything, so it’s intriguing in some ways that it’s where I teetered back to.

I had the privilege of attending a Catholic high school, by choice, for two years before moving back to Indiana, although I did not remotely identify or practice as Catholic then. It wasn’t until I began my sophomore year of college, a little overwhelmed from the cards I’d been dealt that summer, that I really started to seek a quiet refuge in the idea of religion.

There are a lot of things I probably don’t agree with in the Catholic Church as a whole. I also genuinely do not care if my children grow to decide they want to be Buddhist or Atheist or whatever. It’s their journey, not mine. I’m happy to share with them how I came to this place, but it’s not my choice to decide what or how they believe. That’s up to them.

I was confirmed in the Catholic Church while I was living in England the year before J and I wed, and I knew if I was going to do marriage I wanted it to be a through the Church, for better or for worse. J was born and raised Catholic, and though he was not, and is not, very much a practicing Catholic, he has always whole heartedly supported my decisions and precarious faith.

61028621_615330315649339_57761945717047296_n.jpg

We gave H and B the choice to participate in religious education classes and whether or not they wanted to take the steps toward their first communion (B still has another year of classes before he is there) and both said yes. And they’ve both definitely enjoyed their classes more than actual mass, haha. Which I don’t blame them. The few Christmas masses I sat through as a kid I wasn’t particularly fond of. It wasn’t until I was an adult.

Anyway, H’s first communion came. The babies were wild so J ended up outside with them and missed the whole thing, which I know made her a little sad, and J, too. But that’s just life sometimes.

I cried. Because that’s what I do. And by cried I got teary-eyed because I very rarely truly cry. But she was beautiful and it was a beautiful moment and I’m so glad that for now, it’s the path she is choosing is right for her heart.

61297825_357196601594887_4018659040392380416_n.jpg

And her heart is so big and so full of love and goodness, I sometimes can’t believe she came from J and I. She is definitely proof that it is so much nature, and only a sliver of nurture, as much as we sometimes want to believe otherwise.

And I am so, so thankful, that God felt like we deserved Miss H in our lives, and that we are remotely good enough to be a part of her life’s journey, because she is truly one of the best people I know.

Another Kid is (Mostly) Potty Learned

I’ve talked about potty learning before. And the thing is, I’m not some kind of professional, or wizard, with lots of sage advice or tricks up my sleeve.

But also. It’s been really easy with all my kids thus far.

Miss H was kind of magical, I admit. We had no idea what we were doing and zero plans. J and I hadn’t even discussed potty learning. Like, it wasn’t even a thought in our minds. But she went every where we did, so naturally, she got super curious about the potty early on. At 14 months she was asking to sit on the potty, and by 16 months she was wearing chonies (underwear) pretty much full time during the day (nighttime is a different story).

Mr. B had zero interest in the potty so I assumed he’d be my kid in diapers until he was 3 and I wasn’t really that concerned because I just don’t have the time or energy to stress over those sorts of things. Like, whether he used the toilet on his own at 18 months or age 5 didn’t make a difference to me; either way I wouldn’t be changing his diapers in college. But low and behold, a little over a month before his second birthday he asked for chonies with airplanes while shopping one day. We bought them, he put them on at home, and that was that. Literally. I think he maybe had three accidents after that. Ever.

Sweet M was pretty much as easy, but we were in Hawaii and I was more hesitant to put him in chonies full time, even once he was very consistently using the potty, because omg. Traffic. Honolulu traffic is nothing like Midwest traffic and I really didn’t want accidents in the car seats because that’s a pain to clean out. (But I also wash their car seats way too frequently because – food. So I probably shouldn’t have worried.) Anyway, on his 2nd birthday I pulled the trigger, put him in chonies, told him no more diapers, and that was that. He had a very small handful of accidents that week, but none in the car. Though there were a few days when we’d have to pull over several times in a 30 minute span for him to go potty, but whatevs. It was short lived fun and that was that.

I figured Bean was going to be it then. She’d be the one in diapers forever. But just like all the others, she showed an early interest. And at 20 months, I haven’t pulled the trigger on no diapers at all, but she is naked or in chonies 90% of the time, and has approximately 0-2 accidents a day. Again, it’s more me than anything, I imagine. She’s pretty committed (there is definitely a thrill for her when she squeals “shi shi in the potty, Mommy!” as we are driving down the road), and most of the accidents occur in situations where she does tell me (because I don’t believe in taking a kid to the potty every x amount of minutes, because that’s too much work and I’m too lazy for that, haha), but we just don’t get to a toilet fast enough. Fortunately, it’s getting warm though so she can rock the t-shirt and chonies look, and it makes things easier. She’s been the most drawn out process of all of my kids, but even still, it’s been easy and stress free.

I figure most kids likely have the ability to be potty learned early on. I know it’s common place in many other countries. Again though, I’m not an expert.

Being present, being aware and alert, offering lots of opportunities where they can choose the potty, talking about the potty, reading about the potty, and not stressing or forcing it all seem to have been and currently be pretty important key components for all of my kiddos in potty learning.

And before you think I just have super easy, malleable kids, I assure you, I do not. Not one of them is “easy,” but damn, they’re all loveable and amazing. Bean’s current favorite two phrases are “I don’t like that” and “I don’t want that.” And she wears the same ratty dinosaur dress her Aunt Bucky bought her almost every single day by shrill-shrieking choice (it’s probably why I always call her my sweet, angel baby, haha). My kids are stubborn and opinionated, but they also like to be in charge. And having control where their potty learning is concerned makes them feel quite mighty, I infer.

Having us praise them every time they succeed, and not being upset or frustrated when they don’t quite make it, makes it a smooth-sailing, stress-free process.

And now that Bean is pretty much out of diapers (except on the playground, I am still mostly worried she is going to pee on the slide and ruin it for everyone, ha), I guess we will see how sweet Fimito decides to finish our potty learning easy streak.

Until then.