A Little Bit… of Everything

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Whew.  Ya’ll, contrary to popular belief, I have not fallen off the face of the planet.  I have not blasted into outer space (though my kids HAVE sent me into orbit more than a few times lately).  I have not tunneled my way to China (though I have considered digging a hole and sticking my head in it – ostriches don’t pay attention to politics!).  Nope.  I’m still here.  It’s just been crazy around here.  The words for it might more likely be busy, insane, freakish, out of the ordinary…  And yet, through it all, we have been blessed.

My best friend was in the hospital 25 days.  Her sweet daughter who is 13 has been living with us.  In that last 25 days, we moved Grayson into his big boy room upstairs, partially set up the guest room back downstairs in what was the nursery (the rest of it is still in my balcony taunting me every time I sit at the bar or on the couch and look up), climbed Mt. Laundry more times than I can count, surfed the waves of dishes in the sink (again, more times than I can count), drove to visit my parents for four days to do a million and one fun things together, and drove across the worlds largest city (ok, I realize this is an exaggeration) practically every day we were in town to make hospital visits (and once, we even did it twice in one day!).  I’ve been prepping for back to homeschool, running my organization training on Facebook, I’m attempting to start a new workout routine (Beachbody PiYo with a friend, Kelly, coaching me!), oh, and did I mention I’m guzzling coffee like, well, like a Starbucks addict?

Yeah, it’s been crazy.  But wow.  We are SO blessed!  We have a home where each of our kids (including our adopted niece who is currently living with us) has their own personal space.  We have clothes to wear and dishes to eat off.  We have pets to snuggle with and parents/grandparents who love us and planned super fun stuff for us to do on our trip.  We have a very reliable vehicle who gets us where we need to go safely, and with some pretty great gas mileage.  We are blessed.

tulsa collage

And in it all, I am blessed with so many amazing friends who have been encouraging every step of the way.  Every time I walk into Gray’s room, I am reminded of the sweet friends I have from PWAT who came and spent a few hours with me to make his room simply stunning.  He is a very blessed little boy.  He has a beautiful mural to look at on his wall every day, and he has these women in his life who care enough about him to go out of their way and give up an entire day to do this for him.

the process

finished details

finished room

I have friends who have been praying for us multiple times daily.  That’s support that I can’t say thank you enough for.  I have friends who have simply been there to listen to my crazy stressed out self as I have vented about whatever the day’s stress is at the time.  I have friends on social media that I’ve never met in person who have stepped in and accepted the challenge to trust me as I teach them to organize their homes for homeschool.  My “adopted niece” is an amazing help with the kids, household chores, and just generally fun to hang out with.  I love her as if she was my own daughter, and our bond has gotten so strong through all of this.  We. Are. So. Very. Amazingly. Blessed.

w hannah

The heart of a servant is not one that is easily and readily available.  It is one that has to be earned through hard work and tribulation.  And yet, it is what I have been praying for.  My grandmother was a servant.  Through her passing back in February, I was reminded of how I always admired her willingness to put everyone else first.  Sometimes she did it so much that it became an issue of her not being able to think or act for herself.  I want to be an emotionally independent woman.  But I also want to be a woman who is willing to step aside and let God take the glory and do whatever work He has for me.  These last 25 days I have grown in ways I never thought possible.  I desperately pray daily for my friend to be healed.  More than once we have been given her release date only for something to come up and she has to stay in the hospital.  Then, yesterday she got to come home.  Only to have to go back today due to breathing problems.  I want to scream at God and ask Him why on Earth He would put her through this physically, and why He would put us, her family, through this emotionally.  WHY?

Why?  Because.  Sometimes He needs to hedge us in with thorns as He did the children of Israel in the book of Hosea.  Because when He hedges us in with thorns, we are reminded of He who is in charge.  We are reminded of His power.  And we are struck by the awe of Him.  We are forced to focus on the blessings because the stress is just too much to look in the eye.  So why?  Because God.  Because He has blessed us.  Beyond compare.  And it’s taken all of this for me to realize it and fully appreciate it.  And because it’s His way of teaching me how to become that servant that I strive to be. It’s not about being a Martha who daily is climbing Mt. Laundry and surfing the waves of dishes.  It’s about being a Mary and stopping in the midst of the chaos to sit at His feet and see His glory all around me.  It’s about seeing the beauty and not missing the moments of laughter.

do not worry

P.W.A.T… for all ages!

I love to paint.  Seriously ya’ll, I LOVE to paint.  And I love nothing more than hanging out with good friends and painting!  And I definitely want to encourage my kids to love art as well.  Earlier in the summer I mentioned that we’re doing this summer on the (relatively) cheap.  And we’re doing pretty good at that.  But the one thing I mentioned in that post that was worth a splurge was Painting with a Twist.  And ya’ll, it so is worth the splurge.

This past week, I finally took the kids (and our babysitter!) to go paint.  I registered Becca and Hannah for canvases, and then planned to just wing it with Gray.  The girls were super excited, and both of their paintings turned out amazing!

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It never ceases to amaze me that these art teachers who instruct adult classes can be so good with even little bitty kids like Becca!  Nik was so patient with her, and when she decided to follow Mommy’s footsteps and “go rogue” with her painting… he didn’t bat an eye!  Instead, he and Katie (the manager/owner’s daughter) swung into action and what was to be a sea turtle turned into a fabulous chalk outline of a dolphin at Becca’s request!  I was so impressed with how compassionate they were and so willing to oblige.  And ya’ll, yes, these are my friends.  But I know they’d do the same for any other child that was in the studio.  And they have BECOME my friends because that’s the kind of people they are…  Because that’s just how they roll.  Becca is so proud of her dolphin – she hung it in her playhouse in the family room.

Katie even provided chalk to occupy Gray so that he could color on the butcher paper covering the table.  Talk about fabulous service!  I drew him a turtle outline, and he loved scribbling all over it.

Gray had a blast, too… it was so much fun for ALL of us, and made me feel like it really is possible to take both of them somewhere and have a really fun, positive time where they both walk away happy and successful!

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All opinions in this post are my own.  I was not compensated for any mention of Painting with a Twist on this blog.  This was my own decision to share this information, and I was not asked to create this post for any intent of advertising for the company.  I am not an affiliate nor employee of Painting with a Twist.

Giraffes, giraffes, and more… giraffes!

You know that moment?  The one when your child blows your mind, again… and you think, “Really, God?  Am I REALLY the right one for this job?”

This weekend Cody took me on a fabulous two-night stay to Las Vegas.  It was our first getaway together since before we had kids.  (No, a “babymoon” when super pregnant with each child does NOT count as a true vacation with my sweetheart!)  And we had a wonderful time.  We did Vegas right.  We went to our favorite History Channel reality show stops (Gold & Silver Pawn and Count’s Kustoms), we spent time at various resorts along the Strip, went to do the Freemont Street Experience, spent a about $20 in some slot machines, and yes, we even renewed our vows in a service performed by none other than Elvis himself.  It was a wonderful weekend.  And then we came home.  Which was wonderful, too.  The kids were happy to see us, and it was great to sleep in our own bed again (although that bed at the MGM Grand was as close to perfect as I have slept in at a hotel in a very long time).

But then this morning came.  And reality dawned.  The two hour time difference smacked me in the face and coffee just wasn’t enough.  After dragging the kids through a grocery shopping trip that was simply exhausting for all three of us (each in different ways and for different reasons), we finally checked out and got into the car.  And that’s when it happened.  That moment came.

Becca opened her mouth.

And out flowed the most amazingly long run-on sentence with no breath taken in between that I had ever heard.  Basically, she wanted to learn EVERYTHING there is to know about giraffes IMMEDIATELY upon arrival to the house.  I convinced her that we could wait until after nap time, and Mommy would be more prepared.  (Aka – Mommy could be prepared at all because I have ZERO clue where this sudden interest in knowing EVERYTHING about giraffes came from, and of course had nothing printed about giraffes.)  So, instead of slamming my head repeatedly on the steering wheel (as I wanted to do), I calmly drove home, wondering, as mentioned above, how I could possibly be the right parent for this amazing child.

So, I somehow got the groceries unloaded, kids into rooms for play time, groceries put away, and then sat down to my computer to do a little work… and to find something, ANYTHING on giraffes.  Because with Becca, there is no hoping that she’ll forget.  Nope, I said I’d have it after nap time, so I’d better have it after nap time or I’ll have a sad scientist on my hands.

This is where Teachers Pay Teachers came in handy once again, for the bazillionth time.  I swear, I can always find just what I need on there – and this time each of the activities I got was free.  So I’m linking to them below for you – the creators have information about his/her products inside the files themselves.  And then I felt like I needed one more activity that would be a little bit more hands-on, so I created a cut and paste alphabetical order worksheet, which I’m also attaching below (for free!).

As soon as she got up, the first question she asked was “when can we start learning about giraffes?”  So I got her some lunch and when she was done, we sat down to begin.  She read the information sheets and answered the questions (I write her answers for her as she dictates them to me), and then she did the alphabetical order sheet, which she loved… and anytime I can get her to practice cutting it’s a good thing!  When we finished (about ten minutes later), I set her up to watch the Wild Kratts episode about giraffes, and she was super content.  When her daddy came home, she showed him her work sheets and told him everything she had learned about giraffes, and was so proud of all she had learned.

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Whew.  Mommy saved the day.  Again.  Barely.  So, if you have a child who is super into giraffes, there are some fun (and FREE) activities here.  Or, if you have a child who spontaneously spouts out things they want to learn about, check out Teachers Pay Teachers and search under the free stuff – you never know what treasures you’ll find!  :)

Links to FREE printables about giraffes:
Graphic Organizers – with non-fiction Giraffe text IMG_8426

Giraffe Alphabetical Order cut and paste worksheetIMG_8423

Reading Comprehension Giraffes worksheetIMG_8425

Safari Literacy PacketIMG_8424

Let’s Get Organized!

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Well, so a LOT has been going on around here this summer.  And one of those things has been some work in my heart… to finally get brave.  To get brave and step out of my comfort zone to do something that I’ve never done before!

I’m super excited to be launching my first online video training course – which will start July 25th!  It will be in a secret group set up on Facebook, and there will be five training videos to view at your own pace, before/after challenges, accountability partnerships made, and of course notes and printables to help you keep it all together!

The main focus of our training will be for homeschooling moms who are prepping this summer for “back-to-homeschool.”  But, anyone is welcome to attend – the trainings could easily be applied to non-homeschoolers as well.  Our video sessions will focus on:
-what to do with all those arts and crafts supplies that are coming out of your ears (including some GLITTER and FEATHER storage options that will hopefully be helpful!)
-how to keep your completed work and thematic units from overtaking every nook and cranny
-how to set up a home/homeschool command center that can easily be cleaned and put away (in 5 minutes or less!)
-how to organize (and help your kids maintain) an activity/game area
-some general things to be sure to include in your homeschool room that will help you AND your kids stay focused and on task!

THE BACK STORY…

So what makes ME of all people feel like I’m qualified to teach people how to get organized?  Maybe it’s partly because I have lots of friends who tell me I’m the most organized person they know.  (If you want references, I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige!)  But I think it’s also partly because when I was in the classroom teaching, I always felt the constant struggle to maintain order in my classroom.  I had great ideas but they rarely came to fruition… and I never could figure out how to get organized, because I simply didn’t have the time in the day to focus on organizing when I was so focused on test scores and assessments, assessments, assessments.  In my home, however, the DESIRE to be organized has met the REQUIREMENT to be organized.  I feel the pressure of educating my daughter not only to the best of my ability, but also she is my daughter!  I need to train her how to keep a tidy home, how to organize things, and how to pass along her knowledge and skill to her children, should she choose to have them.  There’s another piece to that organizational puzzle though… and that’s the dollar signs.

ORGANIZING ON A BUDGET…

Ya’ll, I am NOT independently wealthy.  We have not found the seeds for a money tree to grow in our back yard.  (If you ever find some, just one would suffice – I have a green thumb!)  So I’m all about organizing using diaper boxes and containers I already have.  I’m all about Dollar Tree.  And while over the years I have spent WAY too much money on some FABULOUS and AMAZING organizers from Thirty One, ALL of what I’m going to teach you in my training courses can be done with things you ALREADY HAVE IN YOUR HOUSE, or can be purchased at Dollar Tree for less than $20.  So don’t feel like you’re going to lay down $7 for this class and then have to go out and spend $200 to make it happen.  NOT HERE.  If you chose to lay out $200, that is between you and your spouse – because I’m not about to promote that.  Save your money for curriculum and manipulatives!

ACCOUNTABILITY…

I have some fabulous friends that have been there for me day in and day out – I can text them a picture of my “before” mess and set my timer for 15 minutes and get some serious work done, then send them my “after” and get the praise and positive reinforcement that I seem to crave.  And I realize that what will make this course the most successful for you, is if I provide that accountability for you as well!  So, the Facebook group will be there for you to post questions, comments, and most importantly… your before/after photos!  The support in the group will continue throughout the fall semester, so as you face questions or new concerns, you can continue to share with us and I can offer support and new ideas as time goes by, and we can brainstorm together to solve these problems as they arise.  I will also randomly ask you to post a photo of certain areas of your home for accountability.  Remember – it’s a SECRET group, so only the people participating in the course will be able to see what you post.  And seriously, all of this is just $7.  Wow.  I must be crazy to offer this so cheap, right?  Nope.  Just wanting to share, and be helpful!

HOW TO JOIN…

SEND ME AN EMAIL TO GET ADDED TO THE LIST!  CLICK HERE!

So you like what you’re reading?  Awesome!  I can’t wait to have you join us!  I will be sending out a welcome email with details on how to make your payment ($7.00USD – though the course is available to anyone anywhere – yes, even Australia, my lovely Aussie friends!), and how to get added to the secret Facebook group!  All you need to do to get started is simply send me an email so that I have your email address!  And it’s as simple as that!  Please tell your friends so they can join us as well – the more, the merrier, and the more ideas we’ll have to pass around as we conquer questions that have to do with home layout and size/multiple students in your homeschool/various ages of students… not only do you get me with this, you get each other!!  So be sure to share!

SEND ME AN EMAIL TO GET ADDED TO THE LIST!  CLICK HERE!

Mind Block

I’ve been in a slump.  A summer funk.  Enjoying life, don’t get me wrong… but seriously just not feeling like writing.  Perhaps it’s because the only thing I feel passionately about right now is something that I prefer to keep to myself – my political opinions.  I don’t like to get involved in messy confrontations or debates.  Because my opinion is my opinion, and I have it for my reasons… and your opinion is yours – for your reason.  Neither of us is going to persuade the other to be any different.  And honestly, I think that’s ok.  Because it’s important to stick to your convictions.  But when I sit down to write, it’s what pops into my head, and I just flat out refuse to take my blog to a political low.  I could go at it from the parenting angle of why I feel the way I do because of the future for my kids, but seriously, that’s still a political low.

SO, here’s what we are doing this summer.

Becca is driving me bananas because she wants school, school, and more school.  So I have pulled out some science review worksheets she can do starting tomorrow to occupy her and stave off some of that desire for school.

Gray is into everything.  And he’s talking up a storm.  He is rapidly discovering his world, and learning how to express what he’s learning.  He is easily frustrated when he doesn’t know how to verbalize his thoughts, and he cries easily.  It drives me bananas.

I have been working on reorganizing and rearranging much of the house in preparation for this fall, when we’ll be full-on officially homeschooling for Becca’s “Pre-K” year.  I decided that I never felt comfortable having toys and school stuff in the dining room, and that I wanted it cleaned out. So I did.  I have rearranged our family room, and cleaned up my office – so that my office can be our classroom – right next to where Gray can play.  But with all this rearranging and reorganizing comes the issue of all the stuff.  And, well, all the stuff we have is driving me bananas.

Notice a theme?  We could start our own zoo.  Or perhaps our own bakery. I’ve been making a lot of banana protein muffins, which the kids love.  And in an effort to cut my unhealthy snacks, I decided today to try the reduced fat cinnamon swirl bread at Starbucks instead of my usual banana bread… and I decided that it’s not worth it.  Either get the banana bread, or don’t get a snack at all.  The cinnamon swirl was ok, but slightly stale… or perhaps since it’s healthy it’s just that dry to begin with.  Either way, it didn’t fit my tastes.

I feel like I’m rambling.  But it’s good to write again.  I just wish I had a topic.  LOL.  Seriously, though, I’ve made some mini-posts on my Facebook page, so if you aren’t following over there, you’ll want to dive in and go ahead and hit “like” and “follow” – because right now the more educational content is over there.

This fall I look forward to diving back in full force over here as I work through units with Becca.  Gray starts Mother’s Day Out after Labor Day, but I may go ahead and start getting into some school routines with Becca before that.  We’ll see.  I love that we have some flexibility.

Also this fall will be our process of IQ testing and charter school lottery entering, and all kinds of other stressful parenting experiences that I’m sure to write about, so stick around, the good stuff will be back soon.  Right now I’m just working with a fried brain… the heat index of 110 tomorrow is sure to make me even more scrambled.  It’s hot, ya’ll.  Really hot.

So anyway, this was a totally random post just to write again and remind you I’m here… and implore you to stick around.  God bless, and stay cool!

This super fun and easy painting project was a mini-blog post over on my Facebook page today.  Check it out for more information!  And we'll be finishing up a project with our completed art work in the next couple of days and will share there as well!
This super fun and easy painting project was a mini-blog post over on my Facebook page today. Check it out for more information! And we’ll be finishing up a project with our completed art work in the next couple of days and will share there as well!