Out West for the Holidays

I’m really embarrassed to admit that most of J’s family hadn’t met Bean or Sweet M. Okay, I will give us some slack on Bean, since she was born in Hawaii and we haven’t been back on the mainland that long, but Sweet M is nearly 3. Eep.

I guess in fairness, that road does travel two ways, but we’ve always known that we are pretty much the ones responsible for maintaining relationships with both sides of our families, and we are okay with that because family is important to us. But it definitely gets harder the more kids we add, haha.

Which I guess leads me to our first part of this.

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The Galvans are adding to their brood! We officially hit second trimester during this trip. But I was still in the fairly exhausted stage regardless. I’d been hoping to be more peppy, but in the end it didn’t matter since everyone passed the plague around – we will get there in a bit, ha.

We are super excited to add the last little member to our family (yes, yes, for real! And I originally wrote “exhausted” as opposed to “excited,” so that easily sums up why this baby truly is Finito). We discussed a 5th. We wanted a 5th. But we didn’t exactly plan for a 5th. But it’s safe to say that God always has better plans than we do. But really, we are over the moon. We haven’t had a kiddo yet that we haven’t adored to pieces.

Anyway, we left for Dallas at about 8pm, after our big kids’ Winter Follies performance and drove straight through the night, arriving the next morning. We’d planned to stop if needed, and J and I both assumed we would need to, but he was full of energy (probably siphoning it from me like our kids are) and made it straight through. Though in fairness, he did pass out for hours once we got to his sister’s house, ha.

It was so nice to have some sunny Texas weather. It was chilly, but nothing compared to back in the Midwest, so we weren’t complaining. The kids were in love with the dogs there, and were happy to have a little cousin to play with and to spend time with their tia and tio.

I’d really wanted and planned on getting up early the following morning and driving to Waco to eat at the Magnolia Table, but pregnancy and travel, dude. It hit me hard. So I ended up vetoing it and just relaxing with family.

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She is becoming such a lady. I love watching her bloom, but oh my goodness. I swear she was a baby yesterday!
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This may be my favorite pic from the whole trip. Bean is really starting to smile for the camera these days! But really, she was smiling because of her papa here.

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One of the best sights in all the world is watching all my babies together, happy. 

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After a few days in Dallas, we headed over to Las Cruces to visit J’s mama and some of his other siblings. His mom was super excited to meet crazy Sweet M and always-hungry Bean, who by the way, also loves beans like they’re going out of style, haha.

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Jaime got put to work in the kitchen per his usual daily life (probably why I married him. Or maybe because he’s so good looking? Or makes pretty babies? Or is such an amazing papa and partner. I don’t know, take your pick. He’s an all around stellar human if I may so myself).

The kids were happy to play and explore outside, although it was fairly nippy for NM standards. But it didn’t keep them from collecting sacks full of pecans for us to take home, and they happily cracked them open and fed them to me, so I wasn’t complaining.

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We spent Christmas day in J’s childhood home, and I know he especially enjoyed that. The kids loved being surrounded by so many people and it wasn’t even a fraction of them all (J does have 12 siblings….). The introvert in me survived. It’s funny how much I love and need to constantly travel, and also how mentally and emotionally exhausting it for me because, well, people.

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We also visited with J’s good friends and it was nice to catch up and see so many people who we love.

Then we headed up to Albuquerque to visit the kids’ godparents. This was the part of the trip the kids were most looking forward to, and the part where they all got sick. Of course.

It started with H and then got passed around. Fever. Snot. Cough. General lethargy. As much as it sucked, I will say I am so thankful it wasn’t puke. I just cannot deal with puke. Ugh.

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But we still got to visit, and the kids had a pretty good time. They loved the lizard and the dogs and their godparents and their kiddos. B was stoked to play video games (he’s deprived and doesn’t have any gaming systems). J was super happy to just hang out and be with his friends. I know he really misses those connections in his day to day life. Which I didn’t fully understand until we left Hawaii and I realized how much I miss those people (I swear some day I will stop talking about Hawaii and all the lovely people. May not be until I’m dead, but it will happen).

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did get some pepperoni and green chili pizza, so despite the pregnancy exhaustion and sick kiddos, I can’t say it was a bust. And of course the company was great. And I  mean, there were some amazing views. But don’t tell J I said that because he’s been trying to move me out there for years, haha.

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We cut our trip short though to return home with our brood of sickies, instead of sallying forth up to Colorado for some snow boarding as we’d planned. And it turned out to be a wise choice because the plague continued for another week.

But really, two weeks of friends and family was worth it all.

Christmas with American Girl

We have are heading west for Christmas this year to see friends and family that we haven’t seen in way too long, so we decided to celebrate Christmas at home nearly two weeks early.

I know, I know. The kids begged us to wait and celebrate in January. They insisted we hold off and were utterly heartbroken when we forced them to unwrap gifts so early.

Just kidding….maybe someone else’s kids, but not mine!

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Outside of art supplies and books, we don’t really buy our kids toys year round. They’re saved for Christmas and birthdays. There are a lot of reasons for that. 1.) We have four kids. That’d add up fast. 2.) We want them to learn delayed gratification. 3.) We want them to truly enjoy the toys they have; not need a new toy high every week.

And if that’s not how you’re family rolls, that’s okay! All families are different, and that’s what makes life so fun and enjoyable. We all figure out what works best for us.

One thing Miss H has really been wanting is the American Girl Grand Hotel. I grew up as an American Girl aficionado, so it’s definitely an interest I love to cultivate in her. And I also love that at almost 9-years-old, she is still immersed in the world of imaginary play. I hope she holds onto that for a bit longer.

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As a Historian, I really feel like American Girl opened up a whole world of realistic fiction for me as a kid. It’s also a company that empowers girls, so I always feel good about investing in their quality products. And Mr. B and Sweet M both also have dolls from American Girl – Mr. B has Logan and Sweet M recieved a Bitty Baby for his last birthday; it was all he wanted. So I love that a company geared toward cultivating strong females, also has space for the boys, too. It’s a win-win all around.

Needless to say that Miss H was absolutely thrilled to open her American Girl Grand Hotel on “Christmas.” And Bean was pretty excited to get in on the action, too! She can attest that the doll bed is in fact sturdy enough to withstand baby sisters. Over and over again.

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H will tell you that all the the facets and details of the Hotel are her favorites, and Sweet M is pretty obsessed with the hair dryer, but as a momma of four littles who likes things tidy (I know, but we all need dreams and goals, right?), I will tell you that I especially love how nicely it all folds up so it can be put away when she’s done playing with it. Everything in the hotel has a spot, it folds up fairly compact, and can be stored away safely until she’s ready to play again.

Like all of our American Girl products, the Grand Hotel is definitely an investment I feel good in making, as it is such high quality and I know will last for years to come and be well-loved by all of my kiddos. I’m so happy we that American Girl was able to be a part of our Christmas this year!

 

 

***This post was sponsored by American Girl, but as always, thoughts and opinions are completely and genuinely mine, and I only sponsor products that we honestly adore. 

3rd Grade Language Arts with Mosdos Press

Teaching language arts makes me a bit anxious. Maybe because I love reading, and I really want my kiddos to embrace it as well. I want them to enjoy language arts the way I do, and not create a wedge where they don’t enjoy it any longer.

Outside of simply learning to read, and then reading like crazy, I hadn’t done any formal language arts program with Miss H yet. I knew they existed, and each year I would peek at them, but I just really wanted her to have a solid foundation in reading and a love for it before taking on anything more.

I was super excited when I was asked by Timberdoodle to review Mosdos 3rd grade language arts, as it had been the language arts program I’d had my eye on pretty intently for when we chose to delve in.

Miss H was pretty excited with this venture from the get-go simply because it was so aesthetically pleasing. 8-year-olds can be some of the easiest (and hardest!) to win over sometimes. But colorful books with flowers and butterflies just made her happy, so she was eager to get to work!

The student readers are broken down into two books so that they’re not overwhelmingly large books for the kids’ to work with. They also feel like they’re flying through things at an expedited rate, which for my 3rd grader is always a morale boost. She loves to see how fast she can learn and accomplish things.

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H and I both really enjoyed the stories provided by Mosdos Opal edition. They are diverse and intriguing, which for our family is an absolute must. She could read them all herself, which was great if I was busy helping other kiddos, though we do admittedly love reading them together. The teacher guide provided so many amazing notes and questions to go with each story that I could engage with her either while reading the stories, or after, to ascertain how much she was truly comprehending. But it was nice that during the hectic days, she could do the coordinating workbooks pages even if we didn’t get to have as much discussion about the stories, and I knew she was still getting just as much from the books. I love a solid program that allows for either independent learning, or cooperative learning, and both options are equally rewarding.

I can confidently say that Mosdos Press Literature will be our choice for language arts as we go forward as it is such a diverse, vocabulary-rich, fun program that makes kids want to jump in and learn each day.

 

***This review is sponsored by Timberdoodle in exchange for a Mosdos Press language arts curriculum. As always, I only endorse programs and companies that I genuinely love, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. ***

 

Kumon Science (Pre-K &Up)

When I was asked to review Kumon Science for Timberdoodle, I was pretty excited because we love Kumon books around here. I think Kumon is loved by many families, whether or not they homeschool, since they’re great, engaging, colorful books that can work as a stand alone curriculum, supplement alongside another curriculum, or supplement for kiddos educated outside of the home.

thought I’d be using this book with Mr. B, but he really took to his sister’s Berean Science and didn’t look back. Which turned out to be a great thing, because Sweet M really wanted to “do school” with his sibs. I hadn’t really planned on doing anything even remotely formal with him, as he is not yet even three (but so soon, oh my goodness!). But he is oh-so similiar to his very precocious big sister, and he is so ready, that it was hardly fair to say no based on the “norms.”

So I decided to let him start Kumon Science and he did not disappoint! He was so excited! Since he knows his shapes and colors and can use a writing instrument fairly well, he was definitely ready.

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The lessons are short and simple, so he doesn’t lose interest before he is done. He often asks to keep going and do more than one lesson!

Sweet M loves all the vibrant colors in the book, and the realistic pictures. He, of course, loves that so many of the pages involve stickers.

I love that the lessons are informative, but age appropriate. He’s learning the differences between living and non-living things,  minerals, land forms, mixing colors, and so much more, which allows for a lot of hands-on science to occur as we delve deeper into exploring the lessons.

And one other added bonus: his big sister loves to play “teacher,” and she can help him keep him entertained with his Kumon Science while I help Mr. B with reading. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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***This post is sponsored by Timberdoodle, but as always, the thoughts and opinions are mine, and I only endorse products I genuinely love.

The Nutcracker, and Time

One of the most challenging aspects of parenting is, without a doubt, time. Even if you only have one kiddo, there will seemingly never be enough time. Whether you’re an at home parent, you work outside the home, whatever.

Time is simply vengeful. And I find that the more kidlets we have, the more precious our time truly is. It’s hard to get very much 1:1 time. Sometimes I see it as a curse. Other times I view it as a blessing. Because my kids genuinely are so selfless. They know the world doesn’t revolve around them because they each have three other siblings and there just isn’t space or time for the world to be about them.

That doesn’t mean we don’t strive to spend 1:1 time with them. We do. Not only because they need it – of course they do! – but J and I also need and desire that time with them. It’s so special, and they are each so uniquely special and precious to us. Even though we don’t want them to be self-centered, we do want them to know that they are amazing, important, wonderful humans who are so deeply loved and cherished.

Because of the age gap between the boys (4.5 years), we often split them up as the “bigs” and “littles.” And sometimes that means we get to enjoy time with a “set” of them, as opposed to just one of them. And that’s always really fun, too!

Miss H and Mr. B both had friends performing in IU’s The Nutcracker Ballet this year, and they both wanted to attend. I had been in the past with just H, but this was the first time that both J and B also came along, and it made for such an enjoyable experience.

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They were excited to get all dolled up and have a grown up night away from the babies, where they feasted on cookies and hot cocoa before the show.

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They both watched the entire performance completely intrigued and devoted, even though it began at their normal bedtime (yes, yes, they do go to bed fairly early in fairness). B started to droop at the end, his little eyelids heavy, but overall I’d say it was a success, and reminiscent of our pre-M days when we attended musicals and shows with Miss H and Mr. B quite frequently.

It was a lot of fun to spot their friends dancing and recognize all the Nutcracker music the kids didn’t realize they actually all ready knew.

I love seeing what independent, selfless kiddos we are raising. I also love being with them so much it almost hurts. I never dreamt I’d just thoroughly enjoy these kids the way I do. And as time has slipped us by so quickly, funny how that happens, I hope I’m forever mindful of the time I have with them. Sure to make it quality. Sure to be present, not just there. Because they are so worth it.

A Christmas Photo

I totally had my shit together. We were up early, the kids were clean and dressed in snazzy clothes.

I had a plan!

I told them we were off to take some cute Christmas photos and then I promised them chocolate chip pancakes if we could make it through as team players.

Fountain Square mall is always so gorgeous around the holidays, and one of my fave places to take holiday pictures. We showed up with a game plan.

And the doors were locked.

For real. It was Sunday, not Saturday like I was thinking. Of course. So the mall doors didn’t open until noon.

I had four well-dressed, but hungry kids. And no place to take a nice photo.

Go figure.

So we left, defeated, to feed them pancakes.

I did make J pull over to the side of the road along the way to snag this photo.

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And it truly is such an accurate representation of the four of them.

B with his glasses sliding down his nose, wearing his button up shirt uniform that he’s dawned since he started dressing himself as a toddler. His arm around his little brother, because even though they butt heads, he loves him something fiercely.

M with his chupi in his mouth, a huge smile on his face, looking at something else because he’s always so busy and distracted.

Bean, smiling, but totally not willing to look at the camera because she has a mind of her own and gives zero fucks about what others may want out of her. I guess, pretty much the kinda girl I want her to do be.

And Miss H. Focused. Ready to get the job done. Protectively holding her baby sister so she doesn’t leap off the age, and keeping her eye on the prize throughout. The epic oldest child.

After we feasted on pancakes, we did return to the mall later for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus since the kids wanted to do so. There were way too many people around to take any decent photos with all the decorations, but I guess we will call it a win anyway.

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Berean Science: Science in the Scientific Revolution

Science has always been one of those daunting subjects for me. I’ve always felt comfortable teaching my kiddos to read and knowing just how and with which curriculum worked best for us.

Math isn’t my strongest suit, and we’ve definitely hopped around a lot trying to figure out what works best for us, but I’ve never worried that we’d miss something or they’d be insufficient in math at the end of the day.

But science?

Something about it always has me questioning if we’re doing enough. If they’re learning enough. If they’re enjoying it enough. And since H and B really love science, I hate to think I am doing them a disservice.

This year we’ve had the opportunity to try Berean Science from Timberdoodle and it’s relieved so many of my worries

We are using their 3rd grade curriculum “Science in the Scientific Revolution” but Mr. B is listening right along with us (he’s 7, technically an “older” 1st grader) and loving it just as much as Miss H.

It’s particularly fun because although they’ll both cuddle up and listen to me read aloud to them, they will also squirrel away together and Miss H will read to the both of them. Without being prompted. They just genuinely love reading their science book that much. I’m thinking we may go back and read the previous books when we are finished, as they’re zooming through this book so quickly we’ll be through it in no time!

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The kids love the colorful illustrations and the suggested science experiments (really though, who doesn’t love a fun, hands-on experiment?). There is a very concise list at the beginning of the book that tells you what will be needed for each experiment in each section, and it has thus far all been things we have in our home, which is a bonus. Plus, I love that the book always tell them to clean up their mess!

There is a good review section after each lesson to help reinforce that they grasped what they’ve learned. We haven’t felt compelled to always do the review since we’re typically chatting and working together, but if you have your kiddo doing their science independently (which they could definitely do at this age with this curriculum!) then it would be really helpful as the parent/teacher to double check their learning.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we received our Berean Science from Timberdoodle. As I said, science is daunting for me and I just hadn’t felt like we’ve really found a curriculum that “clicked” for our family, or even one particular child (we are totally open to different curriculum working best for different kiddos based on learning styles over here). But I would recommend Berean Science over and over again as we have really loved it over here!

 

***This review was done in exchange for the Berean Science from Timberdoodle, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are genuine, and I only endorse products we truly love.***

Musgrave Orchards

I have driven by the signs for Musgrave Orchards countless times over the past ten years. Always coming or going, but never stopping to check it out.

Finally, I decided to round up the munchkins up one weekend and check out this little gem of an orchard that is right in our backyard (figuratively speaking), along with my baby sister and her family.

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It’s not a you-pick orchard like some of the larger ones further away, but that’s doesn’t mean it isn’t charming and completely worth the stop!

You can walk about the property, and if you’re a dog-owner, pups are allowed on a leash. It’s great for a stroll, a picnic, or some fun fall photos.

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Inside the store you can purchase apples that are grown there at the orchard, homemade apple cider, local honey, chapsticks, and other great goodies!

You can also purchase apples slices and caramel to munch on while hanging out on the veranda where there is often local bands playing music.

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It’s not a big hoorah orchard, but it’s worth your time for sure! We will definitely be back in the future.

Mr. B Turns SEVEN…A Month and a Half Ago…

So, two of my kiddos have had birthdays since we’ve moved and I’ve still not even had time to fully process it.

Mr. B was insistent that he have a birthday party. And because he is kind of a middle child, and I relate to him on so many levels, it was important that we made that happen. Never mind that we were literally moving into our house (our household goods arrived on his actual birthday) and that I was doing it mostly solo because J was out of town up until the party weekend.

I decided to do a combined party for him and Bean, since I figured we should acknowledge her first birthday (I kind of thought that maybe if we pretended it wasn’t happening, then she’d stay a tiny baby forever, alas). Mr. B and Bean’s birthdays are exactly one week apart, so it worked out well. And since Bean’s only friends are in Hawaii, there was no competition on that front, ha.

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Truthfully, even though it wasn’t beautiful, having a brunch birthday party for him was a fantastic was for us to get to visit with many of the friends we had missed for the past year+ while we were away; and I’ve been so non-stop busy since our move, it may not have happened if B hadn’t been so insistent.

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This friend even flew all the way from NYC just to see him! Okay, maybe he flew to see his wife and this was an added bonus, but either way, B was delighted!

I made life as simple as possible and outsourced the cake making to the amazing Rebecca of Stryking Events, who did a superb job. Mr. B wanted a cookie dough cake on top, and chocolate mint on bottom. So not only was the cake freaking gorgeous, it tasted divine to boot. I will hire Rebecca again and again for our party needs because she always goes above and beyond. Always.

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This seriously is the best cake you’ve ever seen, isn’t it!?
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My momma made this dinosaur watermelon that the kids still talk about!

Mr. B is pretty much one of the sweetest kids out there. His heart is so big and so full of good; he really give me hope for the next generation of males (sorry, the climate right now is seeping into everything). When I worry about what the future may hold for the world, I remind myself that B is going to be a part of it, so it will be okay. Eventually.

He’s an absolute cuddle bug. None of my other kids are as cuddly and lovey as B is; not even Sweet M, and that is saying a lot! He loves to study graphic novels and build Lego sets. He’s still obsessed with all things dinosaurs and Jurassic World (hence our fourth dinosaur birthday out of seven…). He loves mythology and science, and I love that loves two such fascinating and complex subjects so immensely.

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He still enjoys playing his ukulele and is also slowly learning the electric guitar (please send ear plugs and coffee…just kidding. Maybe.).

He still has an amazing sense of style that puts the rest of the world to shame. I don’t know how I got such fashionable kids!

B loved Hawaii the least of everyone; he tolerated it and made some fantastic friends and memories, but he was ready to come back to the Midwest pretty much from day one. And he’s melded right back into his roll and life here and hasn’t really looked back.

I cannot wait to see what the future holds for him.

All About Reading

Miss H wasn’t even quite five years old when she sat me down for a very important discussion.

“Momma,” she said seriously, “I need to read. All by myself.”

One part of me was thrilled. Reading is my favorite hobby and pastime. Anything and everything I could ever possibly want to learn or know I’ve gained through reading. And with her being my first kiddo, I was ecstatic to share this with her.

But the other part of me? I was terrified. How in the world was I to teach this sweet girl to read? It really made me start questioning all of my life choices, and maybe I wasn’t really cut out to be her teacher after all? I mean, what if I screwed this up!?

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But like with all things, I dove head first into research and decided I was going to do this for my girl, even if it caused to gray prematurely (it didn’t!).

I did a lot of research. It’s what I’m good at.

And in the end, I settled on the All About Reading curriculum to help us plunge feet first into the wonderful world of reading.

We haven’t looked back since! She’s on level 4 now (which is her favorite because it is purple, and those things are important when you are 8), and is an incredibly proficient reader. I’m always a little surprised when I hear her read a word I didn’t realize she knew, and it’s pretty amazing to watch her completely engulfed in reading; getting lost in adventures for hours on end.

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As an adult and an avid reader, I have learned so many rules in decoding just by teaching Miss H with this curriculum, which has been a lot of fun for both of us.

All About Reading is such an incredibly comprehensive curriculum that you will never need to supplement with other reading instruction in those early years. Its multi-sensory approach “teaches phonics, decoding, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.”

Every lesson plan is greatly detailed and well laid out for you as the teacher, so all you have to do is open the book and go. With tangible letter tiles, flash cards, word practice sheets, and lots of fun reading games and stories, it’s really hard to not love All About Reading.

 

 

***I was given the ARR Level 4 curriculum from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review. As always, I only support companies and products that I genuinely love, and thoughts and opinions are all my own. ***