Monday, November 17, 2014

My Little Turkeys Need to Stop Growing. No, Seriously.

I love the ages of my kids right now. They are far from perfect, but it's so nice to have them all still "kids" - not yet pre-teens, but no longer "pre-schoolers". For the moment, they can all still crawl onto my lap, they'll all hold my hand in public, no one is yet my height or asking to borrow the car keys.
My Three Turkeys
Jason is so self-sufficient (almost too much, sometimes) and has made his own little friends on our block that come over and ask if he can play. He comes home sometimes and says, "Mom, I know you're not going to like this, but they offered me a PB&J sandwich while I was at their house and I ate it. With pretzels. And gluten."
Such a ham
I told him that when he turned five, he wouldn't have to take naps anymore. I worked myself up to the fact that I wouldn't get a mid-day, Mommy break, until I realized I could still give him a quiet time in his room with toys and books for an hour. Whew!
On one of "those" days, Jason got the feeling he should stay quiet for a while and covered himself with stickers.
The problem is that this kid still rises with the sun, so he's not napping anymore, yet he has trouble falling asleep when we put him to bed earlier than Ryan, so he's an overtired, whiney, cries-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, whirlwind of emotions all day long. When I just can't take it anymore and wonder if he'll live to see the the age of six, I think back over the last few days, realize he's gone to bed late and woken up early, and, sure enough, when I send him for his quiet time, he passes out cold.
This is Jason "not tired"
Kaylin has also made a new group of friends in the neighborhood. They're like a little pack of 7-10 year olds who ride bikes, put make up on each other, do each other's hair and have lemonade stands. Kaylin used to have just one friend at a time in our 'hood, but since she joined a new dance class, we carpool with several families in the neighborhood and they're all adorable friends now. Most of them are Mormon and go to church together, but they graciously accepted Kaylin into their little circle. Even though we have different beliefs, I know she's playing with kids who have integrity and morals taught in their home on a very regular basis. 
She's been trying a bit of an attitude on for size, but recoils when she realizes that the sighing and eye rolling don't fly in our house. It seems that she's causing trouble with Jason, but when I listen more carefully, she's learning to stand her ground and not let her alpha-male brothers take advantage of her. Thankfully, the eye rolling and sighs is as far as it's gotten with her. If it were only that simple with the boys, I would be thrilled, but they're arguers. I'm expecting their negotiation skills to take them through law school someday.
Ryan is officially taking on the roll of a responsible tween. He babysits the other kids on a weekly basis while I run errands, get my hair done, or go to Bible study. I make sure my neighbor is home in case of an emergency, but he seems to have figured out the line between being in charge without lording over his siblings. 
The other day, I called him with my hair full of foils while at the hair dresser and asked how things were going. "Well," he said, "Jason wouldn't stay in his room for his quiet time. I told him to come downstairs and we had a little talk, I gave him a little milk, and I explained that he was grounded from screen time for disobeying. Then I told him that he needed to go back in there until 2:00 and he finally listened."
Cracked. Me. Up. 

Ryan loves to cook and bake like his mama. He helps in the kitchen quite a bit and even made us homemade turkey and wild rice soup last night for dinner. All I did was toss some celery and onion into the pot and he followed a loose list of directions to finish it off while I was out with Kaylin. 
Making batches of meatballs to flash freeze for later.
When we woke up yesterday, it was windy and cold out, so Ryan had to pull out the jeans I bought him a couple of months ago. The poor kid had to wear high-waters to church. He is growing like a weed! And he had his first zit the other day, so puberty might be just around the corner. Oy.

If you were a fly on our wall this weekend, you would wonder where all of this nostalgia is coming from, because this wasn't a great weekend. There were tears, bickering, frustrations, grounded kids…it was a tough weekend, to say the least. But I've been wanting to capture this moment in our lives for a few weeks and sometimes the timing isn't ideal, but the sentiments are the same.

I remember a few months ago when I still thought of these kids frozen in time from 2011, but that is definitely no longer the case. My kids are all kids…no teens, no toddlers, just kids. And I'm really enjoying this phase. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Don't they look innocent…?
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Sunday, November 16, 2014

#16 - Take Kaylin to Make Meaning for a Mommy/Daughter date

There is an adorable little crafty place in town called Make Meaning. You get to "choose your experience" when you arrive: painting pottery, making soap, glass jewelry, decorating cookies or cakes…it's right up Kaylin's ally and I can't believe it took me so long to take her here for a special date!
The thing is, it is NOT cheap. This adorable little cake was $40 and it wasn't even that delicious. Mike and Ryan both said, "I like your homemade cakes better." Yup, me too.

But Kaylin deserved to do something extra special. Last weekend, Ryan spent the day with Mike and his dad at the ASU vs. Notre Dame game, then my mom ended up with last minute tickets to the Cardinals game Sunday and took Jason. I knew it was time to fork over some cash and do something fun and extravagant with my little girl.

The "experience" was exactly that, an experience! Kaylin had free reign to pick whatever she wanted for her cake. She had it spray painted blue (an ombre look) and chose different fondant colors to decorate with, plus several fun candies. Dog shapes, happy faces, balloons, chocolate "rocks", edible markers, cupcakes, the list goes on and on and there was no limit to what she could use for her creation.
Once I saw the birthday balloons, I suggested that we make a belated birthday cake for Daddy. She loved that idea and it gave her a theme to work with. 

We will be going back again! I doubt we'll pick the cake experience next time, but it got me thinking that I need to buy my girl some fondant and let her go to town. She was glowing the entire time we were there. 

#16 is finally crossed off my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list. Next up, I need to find a cake decorating class to take with my sweet girl! That's #84 on my list and now I know she'll love it!
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Sunday, November 9, 2014

#38 - Pre-plan my three most important tasks for the day every evening before bed for a month

I have developed a new strategy for tackling my daily to do list. Every night for a week, as planned, I wrote out 2-3 time-sensitive tasks that I wanted to get done the following day. To that, I started adding one non-time-sensitive task that I'd inevitably been putting off "until I had time to do it." Which, let's be honest, is NEVER. 

I'm tackling all of the big and small things on my list. Get a bedskirt made with the fabric that's been collecting dust for years? Done. Put felt on the bottom of the kitchen chairs so they slide more easily? Done.

I've even been completing items that have been pinned on my Pinterest boards. I added a sticky magnetic strip to the inside of my bathroom drawer to hold all of my bobby pins in one place. Genius, right? Not my idea…Pinterest. I also updated the old, oak frames hanging in my hallway with a coat of black spray paint and they look brand new. LOVE them!

And have you noticed that I'm suddenly tackling my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list again? Yeah. This is how I'm plowing through those items. The frame above my bed that's been broken for 5 years? Done. Schedule laser eye surgery? Done. Special dates with the kids? Done. Invite neighbors over for dinner? Done. 

I was shocked at the weight that was lifted from my shoulders when some of these longer term to-do items began disappearing, one at a time. I usually add one extra household project - sometimes big, sometimes small - to our schedule each weekend. Too easily, things pile up and I get so overwhelmed that I hide to avoid it all. My friend DutchMac calls it "Ostrich Syndrome". Pretty much sums it up!

I also discovered the beautiful option of categorizing my to do lists in my iPhone. This way, when I want to sit down and get some work done, I open my Tastefully Simple to do list. If I'm feeling crafty or want to do things around the house? There's a list for that, too. Out and about? I can run an errand on the way home.

It's my own little piece of hyper-organized, OCD heaven. 
#38 is crossed off my 101 in 1001 list!
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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Using my "Good Camera"

I have an amazing camera. Buying a DSLR was on my original list of 101 Goals in 1001 Days and I was giddy for months after finally making the purchase!

But recently, I've noticed something.

Lugging along my awesome camera suddenly seems awkward and bulky, especially considering the fact that my phone takes pictures that aren't half-bad. 

A few examples...
Here's the thing; when I'm away from home and my phone is all I have, it's all fine and good. But at home, I need to walk 12 feet into the closet and grab my good camera. Because the pictures really DO turn out better, especially in odd lighting. Or if I want to get a cool bokeh (fuzzy background) effect.
Can't tell much of a difference? Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. But I have my amazing camera with amazing lenses and it takes amazing pictures every time. I definitely need to use it more!
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Monday, November 3, 2014

Being a Sheep

In most situations, I'm pretty on top of things. I know what's going on, where we're going, what I need to bring with me, etc. There are very few instances where I blindly follow someone else in charge.

As a homemaker, I'm constantly aware of the next meal that needs to be prepared, which groceries we need, which chores should be completed next.

As a homeschool mom, there always seems to be checklist in my head of the items we've accomplished and topics that still need to be discussed.

In my Tastefully Simple business, no one is going to do my job for me, so if I don't bring my A-game, my parties are unsuccessful and my income suffers.

Get the idea? Is it the same in your world? 

I'll never forget overhearing a former co-worker asking her husband to grab milk on his way home from work. He called back from the dairy aisle asking which kind of milk he should buy, because there were so many options. My co-worker replied, "You seriously don't know which kind of milk we buy? You open the refrigerator every day, pour yourself a glass out of the carton, and you can honestly tell me you don't know if we drink 2%, 1% or skim!?!?!?" She was appalled.

Personally, I remember feeling like she was pretty harsh on him. But now, 11 years later, I can officially understand how that happened. 

I went on two trips this summer where I made virtually no decisions and was "along for the ride", so to speak. I felt like a sheep…responsible for nothing, all I needed to do was comply with already-made plans.

First, I went to Kansas City for my high school reunion. The reunion events were all planned out, and friends had coordinated times where we could get together before or after to catch up in a more intimate setting. All weekend long, I was literally told where to go and what time to be there, and I just showed up. It was incredibly freeing to not have to be in charge of anything for four days. 

Then in August, I went to Baltimore for our Tastefully Simple annual conference. I traveled with a couple of girls from my team, one of which is very organized, like me. But I let her be in charge of details like transportation to and from the airport, our hotel reservations, things like that. Her authority continued after we arrived. I was so clueless that, at one point, I walked in the complete opposite direction from our hotel to the convention center. It was the first time I had to be there earlier than the other girls and I should have walked left, but instead walked right. 

With no one to guide me, I was a lost sheep in downtown Baltimore. 

Toward the end of the trip, when I realized how little I was using my brain all weekend, I drew the parallel between me in that moment and my former co-worker's husband. Or many spouses of go-getter significant others, for that matter. When one partner takes the bull by the horns, I can see how the other would think, "Why bother? She/He's got it figured out."

I am that go-getter. Not to say that Mike is a sheep, by any means. But now I understand why he asks seemingly "silly" questions now and then. He's just along for the ride, in many cases. He's become comfortable there.

It was kind of fun to be in that position a couple of different times this summer! Contrary to popular belief, I do not need to be in the driver's seat all of the time. I am very comfortable being told what to do, as long as someone else takes control.

Vacations when I'm not in charge are definitely my new favorite. 
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Saturday, November 1, 2014

#2 - Fix the frame of the collage above our bed

This is so sad. SO PATHETIC. 

While I was pregnant with Jason (you know…my kid who just turned 5…) the stucco on the outside of our house was torn off and replaced because of a builder defect. I remember laying in bed, trying to take one of those, "I'm so pregnant that all I want to do is sleep" naps while a team of men pounded away on the other side of the wall of my bed. I hid under a pillow - it was a good thing - when suddenly the frame from around the border of my over-the-bed decor began falling down. On top of me. 

I decided to do a thicker frame…after Jason was born. Now here we are, 5 years later, and I just finally got around to finishing this project. It just hasn't been a priority, to be honest. No matter how simple it seemed. 

This was the 2009 "done" picture…

A couple of weeks ago, our pastor at church was talking about laziness and how even though everyone is so "busy" these days, often we don't get around to the things that are most important. Or the little things on our to do list that don't seem important, but weigh us down. 

This project was one of those things for me. 

That day, I bought two 8' pieces of baseboard to replace the frame. That next week, I had my friend's husband cut it for me and took several trips back and forth to Lowe's and Home Depot getting the right adhesive for this never-ending project. 

Then today, Mike and I were ready to put the frame up. But, sure enough, I was sloppy with my measurements for the friend who cut the baseboards for me and there was about a 1/2 inch of green showing outside of the frame. (*sigh*)

So I taped it off and painted it. Then let it dry. 

I was determined to get this stupid thing done TO-DAY. Mike eventually hung the frame, but where I originally placed the 12x12 foam squares wasn't centered, so the top part of the frame left no green border to be seen. That had to be moved. No problem, because I used the amazing Command Damage-Free Hanging Strips. I pre-planned for mistakes!

And finally…FINALLY…I think this project is totally complete. I'm not going to comment about the fact that I think the white is too light against the tan wall because it's done. DONE. I could mess around with the centering of the squares a little more, but I'm sick of trying to make it perfect. It's done. For now.

(plus, I want to eventually paint our bedroom…)
#2 on my list of 101 Goals in 1001 Days is complete! I'm just going to have to live with it!!!
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Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Another Halloween has come and gone. We've picked out our favorite pieces of candy and will be giving the rest to our pediatric dentist, who sends it to troops overseas. 

With Halloween on a Friday night this year, a few different neighbors on our block had front yard get togethers. We went to a potluck for dinner at 5pm, then as soon as it was dark enough, the kids scattered in three different directions. Ryan went trick or treating with his friend, Morgan, Kaylin went with some of the neighbor girls from her dance class, and Jason went with my mom. I set up a chair on my driveway to pass out candy while waiting for Mike to get home from work. Another neighbor had a movie screen on her lawn with Casper the Friendly Ghost playing all night long.

There were several other firsts this year: It was strange not taking anyone trick or treating. It was nice that my mom took Jason, so he didn't slow down the bigger kids from racing between houses, but it was weird that the big kids went off with their friends. They also carried pillow cases instead of Jack O'Lantern buckets for the first time. I guess as the kids get older, it's going to be more about friends and less about Mom and Dad. (*sniff*)
Sadly, I had to stage this picture of them walking together…this does not depict how the evening transpired!
Jason was Spiderman
Her Highness, The Queen
Darth Maul
(Thankfully, it was too hot for Ryan to wear his mask for very long, otherwise he might given the neighborhood kids nightmares!)
I even dressed up this year…my leftover costume from Cowboy Day at our Homeschool Co-Op.
Another first this year was that I noticed neighbors different treats being handed out. One neighbor passed out water bottles instead of candy. The kids were so grateful - the weather was nice enough, but there was no breeze, so running between houses made them hot in long sleeves and pants. Not to mention that they were thirsty from so much sugar all night. That neighbor is a genius! I also found pads of paper in the kids' bags, baggies of popcorn, pencils, and we gave out pretzels. 
I hope everyone had a wonderful, sugar-laden Halloween!
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jason's 5th Superhero Birthday Party

When Jason said he wanted to have a Superhero Party, I pictured capes and Lone Ranger looking masks. I found adorable ideas on Pinterest of felt capes on water bottles, decorate-your-own-mask stations, themed snacks and food, the works. 

But he was thinking Marvel Superheros. I could work with that! Batman, Superman, Spiderman, red, blue, and black color theme...loved it. 
Then I realized that I didn't want to have an over-the-top party for my I-just-wanna-play-with-my-friends 5 year old kid. I decided to buy everything themed, until I realized that they don't have Superman birthday party decor…just Spiderman, Batman, or The Avengers. So most of what we bought was Spiderman, which worked out fine because Jason is planning on being Spiderman for Halloween. 

I melted chocolate chips and piped little webs (that I froze until they were stiff) to put on top of the cupcakes. 
Unfortunately, the bottoms melted into the cupcake and fell over, so we ended up laying them flat on top. It turned out cute enough. 
With the leftover, melted chocolate, I created a similar web on top of the larger birthday cake, then stuck a couple of Jason's Spiderman action figures on top. Again, cute enough!
Ryan put a bunch of painters tape in a doorway for the boys to throw crumpled crepe paper into the "web" to get caught. The kids loved this game, but had no interest in any other organized activities (including opening presents or eating cake) for most of the rest of the party. They just wanted to play with all of the new, shiny toys in the playroom.
This was a wild group, that's for sure. My first mistake was not having the pizzas ready when they arrived. Waiting for dinner took forever! Thankfully, we had tables set up outside for them to eat and make their crumby mess outdoors. I bought two pizzas for Kaylin's birthday in August and had an entire pizza leftover. Tonight, I made four pizzas and people were begging for more when it was gone. Boys clearly eat more than girls! 

Had you been in my house tonight, some things you would have overheard include:

"Is there a piñata? Because I only like parties with piñatas."

"We're not going upstairs kids, let's play down here." He shot me a very annoyed look and said, "WHY???" (um, because I would like to contain the chaos and destruction to only one floor of the house, that's why)

(screamed in a helping mom's face) "I said I wanted CHEESE PIZZA, not pepperoni!!!" (after he asked for pepperoni)

"Please don't use the balloon as a weapon."

"Don't you have any juice? I don't like water."

"Can you take your finger out of your nose for the picture?"

(from my mom) "Here is the sidewalk chalk that someone was using to draw on the walls. You might want to hang on to that."

"Why did you blow out a candle on a cake, but you're giving us all cupcakes? That makes no sense at all. I want cake."

"Let's not pull down the decorations, boys."

"No, your friends playing outside can't come in for the party."

"Please stop hugging him so tight - his face is turning bright red."

"I dropped my pizza!"

"I spilled my drink!"

"He hit me!"

"That boy yelled at that other boy!"

"No more throwing blocks."

"I don't want pizza. I'll have chips for my dinner."

"Do I have to play that game?"

"Are you going to make us watch him open his presents?"

"I don't want to be in the picture."

"Jason, get out of the front yard. There's a party inside for YOU."

"Please stop aiming the Nerf gun at people's eyes."

It was a 90 minute whirlwind adventure of birthday excitement. As everyone was leaving, I caught a dad in the backyard breaking down the tables and bringing in chairs, a mom in the playroom putting away toys, and my mom washing dishes at the sink. Had everyone just walked out the door, I would have spent the rest of the night putting back together what a dozen short little people destroyed. Thank goodness for the adults at the party!
I hope you had a great birthday, Jason! Next year, I will cheerfully be paying an establishment $200 to host the party for us. Because tonight was exhausting! And your friends are…very active little boys.
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