Wednesday, July 1, 2015

{around here} Weeks 25/52 & 26/52: Weeks of 6.22.15 & 6.29.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

celebrating my brother and his girlfriend's engagement!  So happy for them and excited to add another sister to our family.

watching the baby birds hatch in our hanging basket.  The kids had a very serious discussion about names, with the top contenders being Sam & Pippen or Bilbo & Frodo (can you tell what movie is big in our house right now?).  We finally settled on a compromise of Sam and Frodo.

cheering for D as he lost one of his top front teeth.  He is so excited to finally do the "straw trick": keeping your mouth closed while drinking.

listening to M's dreams for owning his own restaurant someday.  When I asked him what he would serve, he said "eggs, steaks and pork".  So basically a Paleo eater's dream.

packing for a week-long vacation the morning we left. Um, never again.  That was the craziest morning with lots of "Have you seen ___?" and "Wait, don't forget to pack ____!"  Next trip, I'll be returning to my type-A, packed three days in advance ways.

traveling 12 hours in the car.  We hit more traffic than we expected, but the kids were troopers and TJ was even better than we had hoped.  He was so funny every time we stopped: we'd take him out of his carseat to come sit up front with me and he would excitedly look all around him and then want to touch everything, like a puppy!

feeling all the feelings watching my children play at the farm, where I have so many memories.  Watching them make memories with my extended family makes my heart want to burst too.  

celebrating the new marriage of my cousin and her groom.  She was beautiful and the ceremony was perfect.  J and Sophie were in the wedding and passed out long-stem roses to the ladies as they walked down the aisle.  I was afraid they may have some stage fright, but they did great!

laughing at Sophie's conversation with her Poppa: "You are a peach."  "No, Poppa!  I Sophia!"

eating lobster, local strawberries, Italian sandwiches and whoopie pies.  I veered off my healthy diet big time, but so worth it.  

driving home in the middle of the night, which is a great idea to miss traffic and have sleeping babies, but hard on us adults.  We were all so sad to leave, but thankful to sleep in our own beds.

thinking about what really matters for our family.  Getting away on vacation was the perfect time to look at what's working and what is not.  It feels like the theme of our marriage so far has been "more": more money, more children, more house, more stuff, etc.  All wonderful, necessary things for which we are so thankful.  But as we soon embark into the next decade of our marriage, I think we're at a great point to slow down and really enjoy all that we have.  I'm craving simplicity and ready to make the changes needed to get closer to that goal.  It's one thing to say you want something and quite another to actually take the steps toward it.  Hoping I can match my prayers with actions. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

{family favorites} Our Five Favorite Games for Kids

Mark and I have always loved games and it is so fun having children who are just the right ages to play too.  Joining Jenna today to share five of our current favorites!

Qwirkle // A little bit like Scrabble and a little like a matching game, Qwirkle is really easy to learn.  The instructions talk about keeping score, but we tend to skip that part.  The older boys like the strategy angle, while the little ones just think it's fun to match the shapes and colors.  The box recommends ages 6 and up, but my four-year-old caught on fast.   

Spot It Jr. // This is the newest addition to our collection and is quickly becoming a favorite!  To play, you look for the one and only animal match between two cards.  I love that you can play five different games with the same set of cards and they vary in difficulty.  So I can play a simple matching game with Sophie, but add speed with the big kids.  I also love that the games are quick.  

Stratego // My two oldest, at 8 and 6, love playing this one with Mark.  We're a tad competitive in this family, so the battlefield strategy is fierce.  It takes a lot of planning and deception and it's fun to watch how their minds work.     

Jenga // I think I love Jenga as much as the kids.  Quick set-up and you can play a few games in 15 minutes.  We also make crazy games like "Who can make the tallest tower?" because yeah, competitive.     

Monopoly Jr. // Monopoly is big in this house in any form.  It's actually one of Mark's favorites, but I dread it because it takes forever.  Thank goodness the boys love it as much as their dad.  We started with the Junior version and now the bigger boys have moved up to the original.  We actually own the electronic banking version and it's great for kids still learning about money in big amounts.  The bank card is so much easier than trying to explain making change for $1 million. 

What are your favorite board games?  

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Friday, June 19, 2015

{around here} Week 24/52: Week of 6.15.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

praying about our future and the decisions we may want/need to make in the next few years.  On Monday, I wrote in my planner, "What would a calm, thriving life look like?" and I've been slowly jotting things down all week.  Writing down everything from the big to the little.

watching TJ play by the windowsill.  It's his favorite place in the whole house, I think.  We started calling him our puppy because of the way he excitedly stares at the neighbors outside.  

inspired by a podcast on simplifying.  I've been tackling the house with new determination, starting with the kids' clothes.  We have SO much and just the sheer volume of it overwhelms me.  We're definitely in the worse before it gets better stage, but I'm hoping to pare down to our favorites and give the rest to people who need it.  We know of one young couple in our parish (pregnant with their first) and I'd really love to pass some things along to them.  

lifting for Week Four of Livefit Trainer and feeling much more confident.  This was a repeat of last week's exercises and I'm taking full advantage before the routine gets switched again!  It's crazy to think that I was using 8 and 10-pound weights during Week One and I've already moved up to 15 and 20s.  

working hard on Big White Farmhouse and starting to see itty bitty results!  Sometimes it can be hard to put my heart and soul into something and hear crickets in return, but perseverance pays off!  We're still not wildly successful (yet!), but everyday is a baby step closer.  (Other BWF noteables: we are now accepting Paypal as a purchasing option and we started an Instagram account!)

listening to the advice of Ginny and trying to give each child my attention when they have something to share with me.  I am guilty of trying to multitask as they speak to me and it's a habit I'd like to break.  Trying to look in their eyes and really listen.  

stitching, but not much!  Anna and Elsa are up next (Sophie's favorites!), so I've got some work to do. (linking up to Erica's Summer Stitching Stash Blast #4!)

watching our birds and getting excited to see the little babies hatch in the next few days!  We also love watching our tiny garden grow.  Our lettuce is ready for picking, our pepper is finally starting to turn red, and we have tons of tomatoes popping up.  I'm already planning for a much bigger garden next year.

trying to embrace my wavy/curly hair.  My hair is way too long and it is way too hot to blow dry it straight everyday.  I'm thinking about trying a technique I saw on a Youtube video.  

learning new things, always.  Did you know that early American needlepoint samplers did not include the letters J and U?  I stumbled on this article and found it so interesting: "Many early samplers do not have the letters “J” and “U” in their alphabets because they were not part of the early Latin alphabet and so the letter “I” was used for “J” and the “V” for “U.” The letter “s” is often replaced with the printers “s” which looks like the modern f."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

{family} One Fun Thing a Day: Update No.01

We are entering our third week of One Fun Thing a Day and already, I think it has been so fruitful for us as a family.  As you'll see below, the activities are super simple, don't require a lot of money, and often are completed within 15-20 minutes.  

While the kids always love a good surprise, I think the real reason they are continually excited is because it's a full family experience.  I'm not just the teacher, directing the show and standing to the side.  I'm right in there with them (and Daddy too on the weekends): flying my airplane, eating my lunch on the picnic blanket, and pushing them on the swings at the park.  

One Fun Thing a Day is another lesson in what really matters most: time.    

Day 01 // Cooking School: English Muffin Pizzas.  The boys have been asking to learn how to make food on their own, so we started with an easy culinary favorite.  I set out all of the ingredients and we all went to town.  Their favorite part was "decorating" with mini pepperonis. 

Day 02 // Paper Airplanes.  After trying a Youtube video for a complicated design and getting super confused, we scrapped that idea and I taught them how to fold a classic paper airplane.  They colored and decorated and then we had a throwing challenge (this was my inspiration).

Day 03 // Indoor Picnic and a Movie.  It was a rainy day, so instead of a picnic at the park, we had a picnic and a movie inside.  I made them each a paper bag lunch, complete with a juice box and cookies.  It was a big hit.    

Day 04 // Cooking School: Chocolate Covered Strawberries.  It was another rainy day, so we had cooking class again.  We melted milk chocolate chips in a homemade double broiler and then the kids each had five strawberries to dip as they pleased.  I saved mine for Mark.

Day 05 // National Doughnut Day!  Thank goodness for social media.  After hearing that this was a "thing", the day practically wrote itself.  We always love a good doughnut!

Day 06 // Decorating Plates using a MakIt Kit.  The kids are so excited about this project.  We completed step one of the kit, which was drawing designs on special paper.  The finish products totally fit their personalities.  Now to get them in the mail to be turned into plates.

Day 07 // Homemade Shooting Range.  Mark recently went to the shooting range and the boys thought it sounded so cool.  We made them their own with cardboard boxes and tissue paper.  It was a great opportunity to talk about responsibility and safety and it was fun for all of us too!   

Day 08 // Sumo Wrestling.  I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.  If you were a fly on the wall, you have seen three boys with pillows stuffed into their daddy's t-shirts, a mama who tried to do the same (let's just say there was a little less room, ahem...) and Sophie and a baby looking at us like we'd lost our minds.  

Day 09 // Rubberband Powered Lego Cars. After about 20 minutes of digging through Lego bins to find the right pieces, I thought this may be our first dud.  (I think I was more frustrated than they were, hah).  Fortunately, their perseverance paid off, we found what we needed and it even worked!  We used this tutorial.

Day 10 // Fan fort.  With this picture as inspiration, we made a fort using a big fan and a queen sized fitted sheet.  All four were able to squeeze in (I could only fit with two of them) and they loved it.  They even requested snacks!

Day 11 // Discover a new playground.  We set out bright and early on our adventure to find a new playground.  We stayed over an hour and when they were sufficiently exhausted and sweaty, we found the nearest Chick-Fil-A for lemonades.

Day 12 // DIY Slushies.  It was over 90 degrees, so the obvious choice was to make something cool and refreshing.  We tried this recipe and it worked like a charm!  The kids loved it, but since I've been reducing all forms of sugar in my diet, I couldn't drink more than a sip or two.  I found it sicky sweet, but the kids didn't have a problem. 

Day 13 // Lowes Build & Grow Clinic.  This was the first time we've taken advantage of this clinic (it's FREE!) and it was great!  Mark took the three oldest and they really enjoyed it.  The summer series is all about super heroes and they made Ironman and his Avenjet ("and I even got to use a hammer, mama!").  They can't wait to go again.

Day 14 // New Lego Set.  We surprised the kids with a new Lego set of just different colored pieces and we used our imaginations to build something new.  (Namely, anything other than Star Wars and super heroes...) 

Day 15 // Tissue Paper Suncatchers.  We were long overdue for a craft!  This was an easy one that used items we already had at home (you just need contact paper and different colored tissue paper).  I love the end result!

Our Favorites so Far:
M: Slushies and Sumo
D: Lowe's Build & Grow and Designing Plates
J: Fan fort and English Muffin Pizzas
S: New Playground

Friday, June 12, 2015

{around here} Week 23/52: Week of 6.8.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

loving Sophia's latest.  Everything is "A bit more, mama?"  

launching a brand new section of Big White Farmhouse!  It's called "Celebrations" and the hope is that it will encourage customers to celebrate even the smallest occasions.  So far, we have banners made from eucalyptus wood ("Oh Happy Day" is my favorite), single serve confetti packets, beeswax candles, gift tags in six colors and even a DIY confetti balloon kit.  I am so pleased with everything and can't wait to expand the line even further...soon.    

listening to Sophie's nonstop singing and dancing!  It's a new addition to the household and generally super cute, except in Mass when's it's not so cute.

calling our hanging basket "the condo" and watching our new bird residents.  The kids and I actually had a serious discussion this week about names and have agreed on Penelope (nickname: Penny) and Steve (nickname: Milkshake...this one wasn't my idea).  There are two new eggs in the nest and we have "hatching day" marked on the calendar.  I think I've reached a new level of bird lady crazy.

enjoying the first week of conversation in the Inspired Reader's Book Club.  Many of the ladies have already been very honest and vulnerable and I am so inspired by them.  Can't wait to dive even deeper with next week's topics.

finishing up Week 3 of Livefit Trainer and woo, this week was hard!  I'm still pretty weak in my triceps and still do assisted pushups and pullups.  I tried triceps dips for the first time and almost fell off by set #3!  But there are a few positives: I was able to move up in weight and am currently using mostly 10-15 pound dumbbells.  Back&bicep days are my favorite, followed by legs.  Like everything, I keep having to remind myself that Rome wasn't built in a steps forward.   

finding a rhythm with our summer days.  I've added in focused work time during afternoon quiet time and it's working great.  TJ is usually napping and I can knock out a lot of that day's to-do list in the one hour period.  I don't get everything done most days, but am feeling thankful for the time I have.  I've also tried devoting a little time at night after the kids are in bed, but remembering to have devoted time with Mark too.  It's all a balance.

creating rubberband powered Lego cars with the boys as part of One Fun Thing a Day.  We've had a really fun week of activities and I've actually been keeping up with documenting it all on Instagram!  I hope I can remember all summer...I'd really like to create a photo book keepsake at the end.

praying for an old friend from high school's wife who was diagnosed with cancer this week.  She is a mother of four young children and I can't help but be shaken by the news.  Her story definitely puts life in perspective for I leading a life of what truly matters most?     
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