Monday, October 31, 2011

{learning} Autumn Leaves and Pumpkins

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!  Can you believe October is almost over already? 
I sure love the Fall. 
I love the chilly evenings, the new sweaters and jeans, and warm beverages. 
I love the gorgeous trees, all decked out in red, orange and yellow. 
I love how on a windy day, it seems as if it is raining leaves all around our home.   
I love apple picking and going to the pumpkin patch. 

So it probably comes as no surprise that my boys love this season too.  I wanted to record a few pictures of our Fall Unit activities before it turns to winter!  (This weekend, we had our first taste of frigid temperatures!  Brrr!)

These are the books we read:

I look forward to adding to our collection throughout the years.  Do you have any favorites?   

Friday, October 28, 2011

{giving} Sponsor a Child through Compassion

Her name is Peace.  14 years old and from Kenya.  She stared at me from my computer screen, gorgeous and serious.  I knew she was the one.

See, I woke up this morning with such an intense sense of gratitude.  Gratitude for my home, for my husband and his job, for my healthy children.  And then a quote I stumbled on this week came to mind:

"When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.  It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed."
- Mother Teresa

Powerful, right?  And humbling too.  I think it has something to do with my "Fall Cleaning".  Bags and bags of unneeded clothes, toys and dishes are sitting in my dining room right now, waiting to be sent off to Goodwill.  I look and I can't help but ask myself...Why all the excess?

Funny how God prompts you in the silence.  In those early (and I mean early...I've got three crazy early birds in this house!) hours of the morning, I knew exactly what I must I clicked on the Compassion website, just to take a peek.  And I found her.  We share the same birthday.  She is almost the same age as my sister.  Instantly, I felt the nudge.  Peace.  My sweet sister halfway across the globe.

I don't have all the answers.  I still don't know what is "just enough" and what borders on "too much".  But I do know that I want to be attached to people, not things.  So maybe today I made the first step.  Maybe Peace will show me the way.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

{i want to remember} - 10/27/11

Sometimes life gets so busy that I forget to notice and appreciate the little things.  Here are some of the things I am loving this week:

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how J "shares" his food with me.  It's usually him taking food out of his mouth, but hey!  Sharing is sharing, right?

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how much fun we are having with school.  Just when I think everything I've taught has gone in one ear and out the other, M will say, "Hey Mamma, there are Chinese kids on Sesame Street.  Just like in Ping!  I wonder if they are going to the Great Wall of China!"  (True Story!)  My Mamma heart soars with pride.

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how the boys are really into forts right now.  Anything can be a fort: beds, the table, even J's high chair!  I think my tentative Christmas gift for them just became permanent.

I WANT TO REMEMBER... the lessons learned from this blog post.  Such a powerful post...definitely a must read. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

{chit chat} Middle of the Week Thoughts

Happy Wednesday!  My brain is all over the place today, so I thought I would share a few things:

SCHOOLING.  We are reading Madeline this week and learning a little about France.  It's been a bit of a challenge coming up with some "boy activities" - most of the adorable things I've seen online have been pretty girl-inspired.  I've decided to devote all of next week to a beginner's look at the human body (the link to Madeline and the human body: remember how she had to have her appendix taken out?).  I found some really fun crafts and activities too, so it should be a blast.   

BAKING.  Like I mentioned on my 27 Goals List, I'm trying to get in shape and lose a little more of the lingering baby weight.  So why in the world did I make this delicious Pumpkin Crumb Cake (half-eaten slice pictured above)?  It's so easy and good for both dessert and breakfast (not that I know that for certain...ahem).  The recipe is from barefoot in the kitchen and can be found here.

CLEANING. I have been on a simplifying mission this week.  Goodwill, get ready!  With the boys' birthdays and Christmas coming up, I want to make sure we only have what we absolutely love in our home.  All the extras are going.   

PONDERING.  This quote I found on Pinterest:
Source: None via Terry on Pinterest

Just because I chose to mother first, doesn't mean my life is over once they are grown.  Or I missed out on what could have been.  It just means a new season has begun!  Julia Child didn't start cooking until she was in her 40s, right?  There's hope for me too.  

What are you up to this week? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

{learning} An Autumn Scavenger Hunt

For the past two weeks, we took a break from Five in a Row and did a Fall Unit.  It has been much more open-ended and unstructured, which has been fun.  When I was planning the school year this summer, I hoped it would serve as a time where we could enjoy the changing seasons, while giving me a little break in the process.  (Hurray for no homeschool burnout!) 

One of the activities we did was a scavenger hunt in our back yard.  The boys used their gathering bags (also talked about here) and searched the woods for everything on our list.  I will be the first to admit that I am not exactly a "woodsy" kinda girl, but I do try to get the kids out there.  'Cause what boy doesn't love to explore?

In case you're interested in having an Autumn Scavenger Hunt with your little ones, here was our list:
  • One red leaf
  • The smallest leaf you can find
  • Rough bark
  • Smooth bark
  • Two different grasses
  • A flower
  • Something beautiful
  • An acorn
  • A rock
P.S. This is my 100th post! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

{christmas} For the World Traveler

Happy Friday!  I'm back again with another gift guide!  This one is for that special someone on your list who loves to travel! 

  • Tie a box of colored chalk to the chalkboard map and include a note with instructions to color in the states they have visited.  (I believe the same shop makes world maps as well)
  • Find a special pen to add to the journal.  Then on the first page, write your wishes for the recipient or a neat quote about traveling/dreams/adventure, etc.
  • For the recipient who travels and frequently must stay in a hotel: tie up a pair of your favorite pillowcases with twine.  Add a note explaining that they can slip this on a hotel pillow...for a touch of home while they're far away.  (Note: it's probably a good idea to use pillowcases with designs or colors.  White pillowcases may get confused with hotel linens!)
Interested in a personalized gift guide for a loved one on your Christmas list?  Contact me using the button on my sidebar!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

{in the kitchen} Baked easy a tired Mamma can do it...

Yesterday was yucky and rainy.  We called off school, declared it "Pajama Day" and just lounged around and played all day.  It was relaxing and uneventful...just what I needed and bonus: the boys thought I was the coolest Mamma ever! 

Anyway, I wanted to share what we had for dinner: a super easy, but definitely hits the spot, recipe and perfect for a rainy day.  Add a salad and a loaf of crusty bread (I had neither, but it sounds yummy, doesn't it?) and you're good to go.  I think this would be a great freezer recipe or even to send over to a new mamma.  The possibilities are endless!

Baked Ravioli
1 bag of frozen ravioli
1 26oz. jar of marinara sauce (I used Amato's Pasta Sauce...yum!  Thanks Aunt Rie!)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesean cheese

Heat oven to 400.  Spray the bottom and side of a 9x13" pan with cooking spray.  Spread 3/4 up of the pasta sauce in first.  Arrange half of the frozen ravioli in a single layer over the sauce.  Top with half of the remaining sauce, then half of the mozzarella.  Repeat layers, starting with the ravioli.  Sprinkle with Parmesean cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes or until bubbly.  Enjoy!

And for dessert, we made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  It was a good day. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

{family favorites} Tales of the Lost Binkies

So baby J LOVES his binky (that's our name for his pacifier).  This is new territory for us: M never took one and D was so-so about his and actually weaned himself off before he turned a year.  But J...well he's a different story.
He uses it for all naps and bedtimes, and honestly would have it all day long if I let him.  J and his bink are BFFs.

Notice I said "bink".  Singular.  At one point, we had four of them. But for about six weeks, we've been working with only one.  One!  Now this where you non-mammas will think I've lost my mind, while you current mammas will nod your head and understand the madness.  First, there is only one specific brand he use trying to convince him otherwise.  I am constantly on my hands and knees searching for that silly thing.  You will frequently hear in my house, "First one to find the bink wins ________".  There are text messages and e-mails to my husband, telling him I've lost it AGAIN and to say a prayer before I go crazy.  There are countless jokes that it needs to have a beep function, so I can find it when it's at the bottom of the toy basket or between the seat cushions.

Why do I put myself through this madness?  So last night, after baby J literally threw his binkie off the deck, never to be seen again, I bit the bullet and bought another pack.    We'll wean him off soon enough.  But this mamma needs a happy baby and a Diet Coke! 

Please tell me I'm not alone in this crazy binky madness!  :)

P.S. I found another mama in the pacifier craziness!  Find her words here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

{ramblings} Finding Joy in Ordinary Days

"There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstein

Sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes life is complicated.  Sometimes it's hard to see further than the here and now.  It's in these times that I must be the most intentional.  I try to consciously seek the goodness and the joy in my ordinary days.  Here are a few:  
  • wearing my new sweater for the first time
  • brother giggles
  • baby J's adorable walking, which looks a lot like tango steps
  • a happy husband doing what he loves
  • fresh vegetables from the local farm
  • warm, handmade quilts on a chilly morning
  • waking up to a clean kitchen
  • windy days and kite-flying off of the back deck 
I encourage you to take a moment and write down 10 good things.  I promise they can change the whole tone of your day.   

"Joy does not simply happen to us.  We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day."
- Henri Nouwen

Monday, October 17, 2011

{family} A Pirate Birthday Party

This weekend, we celebrated D's birthday.  Three years old already!  He chose a pirate theme for the big day.  My Memere has trouble with stairs (and my house has many of them!) so we brought the birthday party to her and set up in my parent's dining room.   

We had a fun day and my heart grew three sizes watching my sweet boy.  He is much like me and doesn't feel comfortable being the center of attention, so he was a little shy and unsure about the whole experience.  But once the formal festivities were done and the playing began, he was one happy guy.  I mean, who doesn't love making his big brother walk the plank?  
Happy birthday to my big boy, the apple of my eye.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

{home} It's Beginning to Look a lot like Autumn...

Ever so slowly, I've been getting out my Fall decor.  Why is it taking me so long to decorate?  Maybe it has something to do with those three crazy boys of mine!  

Anyway, decorating this time of year is tricky for me.  I tend to be really picky.  I don't really decorate for Halloween and I don't like scary things.  Which is humorous in itself, because I'll be the first to ooh and ahh over the neighbor's elaborate Halloween Extravaganza display.  But for my own home, I think it boils down to simplicity.  So here are the beginnings of my decorating so far:

Jury is still out whether I'll keep the plush.  It was mine from my childhood and the boys love it, but I think it borders on cutesy....we'll see.  I found the print as a free printable.  So cute and a nod to my Texan husband who actually uses the word "y'all"!
 My mantle so far.  I bought the mini pumpkins at the farm where we went pumpkin picking.  I'm kind-of wishing I bought all white, but I also had a little almost-3-year-old helper and he picked his favorites.  So who can complain?  :) 

Our "carved" pumpkins.  I HIGHLY recommend these things if you have small children or you just don't like digging your hands in slimy pumpkins.  They poke right into your pumpkin and boom, you're done.  Instant gratification and double plus: they're super heroes! (And a Mr. Potato Head pirate just to shake things up a little)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

{family} Our Trip to the Pumpkin Patch 2011

The boys have been talking about going to the pumpkin patch for weeks now.  We went on Columbus Day with my mom's homeshooling group.  The hayride and pumpkins were fun, but I think the highlight of the day was the ginormous dirt pile.  M was covered head to toe by the time we left!

And what a bad Mamma photographer I J didn't go on the hayride with us (he stayed with my mom), so I have no "Baby's First Pumpkin" pictures.  Shucks...such is the life of the third baby, no?  :) 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

{recording life} 27 Goals for my 27th Year

Today marks the beginning of my 27th year!  26 was a great year for me and I really feel like I hit my stride as far as a mother and wife.  I'm looking forward to seeing what 27 has to offer too.  To help me be more intentional with my year, I made a list of 27 Goals for my 27th Year.  (If you know anything about me, you know that there aren't many things I love more than lists and goals...and the satisfaction of crossing them off too, of course!)

So without further ado, here's my list for my next year of life:

1. Get in shape. I'm stopping the excuses and getting off my 'duff.  Healthy is my goal.  I used to be an athlete and I want to get back there again. 
2. Read 15 books.  
3. Travel to two places I've never been before.  We have one place in mind for next spring, but the second is yet to be determined.  Fun, family-friendly destination ideas on the East coast are welcome!
4. Make bread from scratch. I've gotten half credit for making it with the bread machine, but I still want to learn to do it 100% myself.
5. Write down all of the boys' birth stories.  I need to do this sooner than mind is going to forget all of those important details!
6. Send 5 "just because" gifts to family and friends.  I may or may not be the most exited about this one. 
7. Re-decorate my bedroom.  Our bedroom has become kids toy central (I still don't understand how they get in there!) and somewhat of a storage area (Christmas, birthdays, etc etc).  I am ready to make a plan and create the "calm oasis" that everybody says a master bedroom should be!
8. Write more about my feelings about motherhood.
9. Find a way to earn a little extra without compromising my time with my family.
10. Donate my hair to Locks of LoveI haven't had really long hair since the 4th grade, so this should be a fun experience and end with a great cause.
11. Read two books from my Classics List.
12. Make pasta from scratch.
13. Have silhouettes made of each of my boys.
14. Win a contest of giveaway.  Blogs always have giveaways and I have yet to win one!  15. Run a race with my Dad.  This is my year, Dad.  It may be a 5K, but we're running something! 
16. Surprise my husband with an awesome 30th birthday.
17. Plan monthly at-home date nights.
18. Eat only local foods for a month.  Challenge: do not step inside the mega grocery store.  Only eat from local farmers and businesses.  We totally could do this!
19. Start a gratitude journal.
20. See a movie in theaters.  It's only been oh...5 years since I've seen my last movie in theaters!  I think I may finagle a way to surprise my husband with this...he'd be ecstatic!
21. Finally visit of the local "sights" around our hometown.  We have so many interesting sights around us and haven't explored anything!  Time for a little staycation adventure this summer.
22. Attend a homeschooling conference.
23. Catch up on my previous scrapbooks.
24. Make cake pops.  I'm so behind on this trend, but it is definitely something I would love to learn to do.
25. Pull off special birthday parties for both of my parents.  They both have big birthdays coming up next year and I've got some great plans. 
26. Install hardwood floors.  I desperately want to get rid of our old carpet and put in new hardwood floors.  The question is: put it in ourselves or pay the pros?
27. Tell the ones I care about how much I love and appreciate them.  No brainer, but I need the reminder to this more often.

Now the question remains...what do I do first?  :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

{family} This Weekend with my Memere

Well, what a weekend. If I could, I'd have you over for coffee (or in my case, a Diet Coke or two!) and share with you all the emotions of the past few days.

See, my sweet 91-year-old grandmother just arrived this week to spend the winter at my parents' home. It is a far cry from her quaint little apartment in New England and the transition period has been a little hard. 

I haven't seen my Memere (pronounced "Mem-ay" for all you non-Frenchies) in about a year and she has definitely aged since then. It breaks my heart to see her in so much pain.

But I have to say...I feel like this weekend, I've been in a sacred place. So many people lose loved ones suddenly, without any notice or time to say goodbye. So I feel so blessed...and so honored to be able to spend this time with her now.  I love being able to serve her, to see her needs and be just one step ahead. That way she won't have to ask for help, which I know is so hard for her.  I love the opportunity to teach service to my boys in a personal way.  I love that they adore her and warmed up almost immediately. 
I am just savoring every moment, because I know that when she does go one day, I will treasure this time forever.

So that was my weekend.  If you were here, I'd thank you for listening and offer you a refill... and maybe a slice of the banana chocolate chip bread I made this weekend (it was yummy!).  And then I'd stop rambling and ask you: How was YOUR weekend?

Friday, October 7, 2011

{learning} Papa Piccolo (and a little Italy too...)

Another country traveled and two more weeks under our belt.  While I had high hopes for our Italy unit, well...I guess it was a good lesson in rolling with the punches.  Nothing seemed to go as planned: I didn't get a book I wanted to read in time, I discovered that I was out of a critical ingredient for a project, the boys didn't listen to directions and totally ruined the science experiment...sigh!  But life's too short to get all bent out of shape about trivial things like those.  So I kept rollin' and I think the boys still learned a lot.

The books we used were:

Our Art Gallery for Papa Piccolo
    Not really related to any of our themes, but the boys LOVED this I Spy sheet I found online.
    ROY G BIV puppets - M and D totally didn't get ROY G BIV and insisted they call him "Rainbow Hair Man".
    Learning about mixing colors
    Pete the Cat puppets.  I saw this book mentioned on many teacher blogs, so bought it blindly.  But it's so great!  The message is that no matter what happens, "just keep walking along and singing your song, because it's all good."  It's the perfect book for a kid like M, who tends to freak out unexpectedly. 
    Making gondolas out of Legos.  What?  You can't tell that's a gondola?  haha  Me neither...another one of the "roll with it" episodes.
    This was supposed to be a really cool experiment.  You have a pie plate of milk and add a few drops of food coloring.  Then after dipping a Q-Tip in dishsoap, you are supposed to insert into the milk and hold it there.  Key word: hold.  The colors are supposed to swirl away from the soap, making a really cool effect.  Instead, in casa "I don't listen to Mamma's directions", he started in on making his own swirl, making everything brown and just...gross.  Oh well, it's only PreK right?
    A peek into our lapbook...

    We are taking a break from Five in a Row for the next two weeks to do a little seasonal unit on Fall!  Pumpkins, leaves, and squirrels are on the list with lots of baking and crafts.  I'm excited for a little change of pace and I think M and D will love it too.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

{deals} Have you Heard of One Kings Lane?

Have you heard of One Kings LaneThere are so many "flash deal" sites out there, and while the draw is usually enticing, I rarely find something I just have to have.  NOT true with One Kings Lane! 

OKL is sort of like a sample sale of home furnishings online.  They are deeply discounted (like up to 70% off discounted!) and some of the best deals go fast.  And while many items are still much too expensive for this stay-at-home-mamma-with-three-children-with-a-limited-budget (sigh), there are plenty of finds if you look for them!  Here are a few I'm loving right now:

Eccolo Fireri Wrap Journal $25 - This leather journal is just gorgeous and would make an awesome Christmas gift.

Town & Country Balloon Cover, Matted and Framed! $159 - This would be so darling in a little girl's room (love that pop of yellow!)  I'd love it in a living room too.  And I love that it's already matted and framed, it's 20"x24"...such a great price!

Set of Four Floral Wall Plaques $39 - Aren't these plaques so sweet for a little girl's nursery?  So shabby chic and delicate.

White Half Moon Mirror $119 - I love architectural details and this mirror is so cool.  I can picture it over a sideboard in a dining room or maybe even over the mantel. 

Small Serving Tray $9 - This is one of those decor pieces that you can use in a billion ways.  Right now, I think I'd fill it with mini pumpkins and put it on my kitchen table!
This is just a small sampling of the things you'll find at One Kings Lane.  You definitely have to check it out!  And let me know what you see!       

**contains referral link

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

{chit chat} Mamma Related Links

Today I'd like to share a few blog posts I've found recently that were really thought provoking:

Being Home.  Definitely a must read.  I love the wisdom from this mom and this post couldn't have come at a more perfect time.  I recently was talking with someone I didn't really know.  When she asked if my oldest had gone to preschool (to which I replied no), she was just incredulous and pretty much made me feel like a freak mother.  This post put into words everything in my heart.  Lonely road sometimes, but so worth it.

A Letter.  Very timely post for me and one that I need to remember more.  Instead of resentment, I want to replace it with gratitude.

Boys & Guns.  Another good one from Dee about maintaining the true essence of boyhood and how her family deals with "playing guns".  
Stay-at-Home Moms Need Help.  One more interesting read.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about this one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

{family} A Fall Adventure List

Hello friends!  Can you believe it's October?  I am so excited because October and November may quite possibly be my two favorite months of the year!  Cooler weather, lots of birthdays and an anniversary (our 6th!), and then the holidays...lots to look forward to!  :)

Since this time of year tends to be so full, it's easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life and totally miss all that this season is about.  So in an attempt (I'm really, really trying!) to be more deliberate with our days, I created a "Fall Adventure List" to complete with the boys!

I've included a bunch of things and I'm sure we'll only be able to complete part of the list.  But I'm hoping it will become a nice resource for our family to come back to year after year.  I definitely see myself adding to it as the kids get older too!

So without further ado, here is our list!  I hope it will inspire you to make a Fall list of your own!

2011 Fall Adventure List

Play flag football in the backyard
Make hand turkeys
Fly a kite
Donate food to the food pantry
Go through a corn maze
Plant a few mums for our front porch
Carve pumpkins
Discover and make a new dip
Buy new hats, boots and gloves
Leave a love note for my husband just because
Brew apple cider
Make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
Go through the boys' clothing & toys, and donate unused stuff to charity
Make chili
Go to storytime at the library
Go for a ride in the car to look at the leaves
Make chicken and dumplings in the slow cooker
Complete a puzzle as a family
Write a letter to a relative who lives far away
Rake leaves as a family and jump in a big pile!
Bake an apple crisp
Visit a pumpkin patch
Write a birthday letter to each of my children
Play at the park
Buy a new scarf for me!
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