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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What's Working, What's Not

Jules here-

Time for a little self-evaluation to see what things are working in my daily life- and what things aren't....  We have lived in our home for five months now; we have developed daily routines that will soon be changing as school approaches.  I plan on tweaking our routine to help me with the crazy school and work transitions.
My Little Middle is heading to Kindergarten next week!! AAH!
Daily Chores- Working!!
The kids have been doing really well with making their beds, straightening their room, clearing their plates, brushing their teeth, etc.  Even garbage day is going better as they are responsible for emptying the small cans and re-lining them afterwards!  No snacks, desserts, or screen time is given unless chores are done.
Sorry this is so blurry....James is so efficient with chores, that he decided to do them the night before. Of course, once you are dressed and your bed is made, the only thing to do is sleep on the floor.  I'm a slave driver.
  Bonus Chores-Working!
Grace, in particular, is saving to buy a goat for a child in Africa. We read a touching tale called Beatrice's Goat, and the children have saved $34.56 towards the $150 cost of a goat. Through selling homemade potholders, lemonade, and now doing "extra" chores they have earned quite a bit. Grace has reached the age where she likes to earn things and feel independent.  Lucky for us (ha ha) we have a WALNUT tree in our yard... and for those of you who don't know... this is what James looks like on walnuts:
So, I am paying Grace 5 cents a walnut to gather them up. Now, James won't touch them or ingest them outside, but I also don't want to lawnmower-blast them into the air either...

Daily Chore Whining- NOT Working!! But starting too....
Consistency is paying off and the dramatics, whining, and the "hard-knock life" songs are dwindling; however, I still have to deal with my middle one's dedication to avoidance of work. I have found a recent solution that I have implemented:  The Cinderella Project.  When my children begin to complain, whine, or shirk their work, I simply refer to them as: Drusilla, the wicked stepsister.  I say phrases such as, "Oh, you want your Mommy Cinderella to clear your plates, make your bed, and clean your toys? O.k. Drusilla," or, "You didn't get the plate color that you wanted? Are you going to drop it on the floor and refuse to eat your food, Drusilla?"  They are starting to understand how their whining is really making them into Ugly Step-siblings... let's hope the empathy training is working...


Living frugally is my lifestyle, and though I have had to repair my dryer, get new brakes on the van, and buy an exorbitant amount of school supplies... I have budgeted well!  Every week I review my spending and I have a very rigid limit, but I put a "buffer" zone that is really helping. I budgeted over on almost every item to help me pay for the many incidentals of life...

I wish....

Saving Receipts: NOT Working!
Honestly, I saved receipts for about 3 days until they were littering my already paper-strewn car... I couldn't handle it.  I am just no good at keeping track of all the receipts (or even looking at them again).  Plus, looking at receipts didn't remind me not to spend either...

More the Merrier with Kids: Working!
 This month, I have been blessed to babysit friends and family-- and I had a little taste of what Em's daily life must be like... I had 8 children under 8 years of age for 3+ hours.... LOTS of fun!!  Though, I must admit, I would want a bottle for the littlest one next time... I felt really bad that her mommy was dentist-delayed and I just had to hold her without feeding her!!  We also had a water fight that escalated....really escalated....

Nicely reading stories
Um.... filling a bucket with the water dispenser...
Trying to call Mom to get her away from this crazy place.

After water fight, craft time with new clothes....
 I also got to babysit my darling nephew, Charlie, so his Mommy & Daddy could enjoy one last night out before little Sam arrived this week!! Yes, I am an Aunt again!!!  Congrats Aunt Betsy!!!

 And finally... my favorite....

Hand-me-downs: Working!!
Our biggest fan, Chrissy, has her hands full with a precious newborn, but she still managed to package me up beautiful dresses for the girls!! We LOVE Sophie hand-me-downs and they have sustained us for years (see, budgeting is easier when you don't have to buy clothing!!).  So before you pack up clothing or ship them to goodwill...see if any friends could benefit! You'd be surprise how much use I get out of clothing!!

 Make sure you take the time to evaluate what's "working" and "not working" in your daily life. Don't throw out your whole plan (budget, exercise, chores, etc.) if one stage isn't working. Re-think, re-organize and try again!!

Easy Rule #434- It's never too late to start a new regime in your home.

Easy Rule #43242- If regular discipline doesn't work, use fairy tales to terrify or mock your children. It can really work.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Jules here-

My two eldest will be attending "real" school this fall and I have two quick weeks until it commences-- AHHH!!  Not only am I emotionally freaking out to have my girls gone all day, but the paperwork, school supplies, and scheduling is overwhelming.  I am truly taking one day at a time and tackling one chore after another. I am attempting to get meal planning, home organization, and lunch-box planning done prior to the start of the year-- plus I'm squeezing in as much summer fun as possible.

We have had a truly joyous summer with PLENTY of beach days:

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What did I learn from so many days at the beach? How did I handle so much sand?
  •  Only pack what you can carry.  Though I have accumulated more sand toys than a preschool sandbox, I packed only one bag of toys each day.  Each person gets a towel to carry and I carried one small backpack with drinks, snacks, and my "wishful book" (a book that I never opened all summer...) and a small chair.
    Headed to the big beach one day.
  • Sunscreen BEFORE the beach. Yes, I am blessed with a .7 mile drive or walk to our beach, but sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes prior. Plus, you can wash your hands at home to get the excess goo off.
  • Kids play more than eat at the beach. If you pack lunch or dinner, don't go crazy.  Twice I made these fantastic meals and the kids were so busy playing that they barely ate it. I hate wasting food, so I usually do small snack-style meals.
In New Hampshire, we have probably had 7-10 days since May in the high 80s and uncomfortable 90s with humidity.  Even with me moving only a few miles north of where I used to live helped keep the temperatures more moderate.  Usually at night the temperatures drop to the low to mid sixties; however, some days (especially this week) the temps have been quite high, even at night.  My goal was to make it the entire summer without installing my window unit AC... and I have made it so far.... :)

How did I survive the uncomfortable high temperatures?
  • Box window fans are worth the investment.  Pulling that cool night air in is key to survival.  I put the fans on around 7 PM and it helped take the edge off the stickiness.  I have one in each bedroom, and I plan on buying one more to circulate downstairs as well.
  • Keep the "safe" downstairs windows open at night. I don't keep my whole house unsecured, but I have a couple windows in the back that are unreachable for potential burglars that I leave open at night. As soon as I awake in the morning, I circulate the cooler air.  
  • Close down the house by 10 AM.  I shut all the windows, draw the curtains, and close the doors to keep that cooler night air in the house and the steamy humidity out.   My house usually stays below 77 degrees by this method.
  • Open up the house as SOON as temps begin to drop in the evening.  Using those fans, get that air circulating.
  • Cool the bodies.  On the hottest days, we NEEDED to go the beach, use a sprinkler, or have a water fight.  I also gave the kids a cooler bath and shower RIGHT before bed time; I took off any blankets and only left the sheet on their beds as well.  
    We bought a $1.50 round sprinkler at Wa-Mart that works great! No sharp edges to worry about and the spray is gentle and fun.
  • Eat ice cream!!  Freeze pops and ice cream became a staple in the afternoon and evening (Side Note- We have the ice cream truck drive by every few days here- Do I spring for the $3.50 PER POP every time? Have you ever read this blog? Of course not... Instead, I told them they could buy one at the beginning of the summer, but every time the truck drives by, they get a "bonus" squeeze pop. This way they still get very excited to see the truck, but I am not spending a fortune...)
On National Ice Cream Day at Friendly's

Summer goes by quickly, I definitely recommend writing a "Bucket List" for each season.  We have crossed off most items on our list:
  1. Going to the ocean.
  2. Going to at least 3 different Lake beaches.
  3. Go to 5 different playgrounds
  4. Buy Ice Cream from the Ice Cream Truck
  5. Go out for Ice Cream
  6. Have a Lemonade Stand
  7. Have a camp out
  8. Roast S'mores
  9. Go berry picking
  10. Visit with the cousins

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The Lemonade Stand!

Hope you all enjoyed your summer!

Easy Rule #5435- Don't let the summer slip by without taking the moment to appreciate the hot weather-- we will be missing it very soon...

Easy Rule #4324- Regular school is a LOT more challenging to prep for than homeschool. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Annual Reunion Time- Picture it!

Jules here-
 Once again, we hosted an annual reunion for our family in New Hampshire! Though our brother and his family couldn't make it this year (boo!!) the rest of us gathered for a week of cousin time!  It truly amazes me that the children can see each other only two times a year, and yet they fit together seamlessly.  Grace, Josephine, and Felicity jumped right in to vivid imagination play, a crafty sleepover, and hours of "plotting" against the boy cousins...

We spent the week playing games, hiking mountains, going to water parks, and eating lots of food of course (thanks Mom!!).  I have NO pictures from the water park- why? I was in survival mode and in bathing suit, so that's not going to happen on the internet.  Watching ELEVEN children under the age of 12 at a water park in the full sun was quite exhausting!! I will definitely wait until my three kids are strong swimmers to return so I would feel more secure at the park. 

My sister and her brood stayed with my parents, but visited me for a day to go to all my new-favorite local places. The kids LOVE Funspot which touts itself as the largest arcade in the world (it is quite big with an arcade game museum too...). Everyone loves winning tickets, riding bumper cars, and eating pizza!
Pop-pop on a little car....

Thirteen years until this guy is behind the wheel of a real car...

Mini-ferris wheel with Tad!

My darling Charlie :)
 We also headed to our local beach to enjoy a barbecue, swimming, and sunshine.  I loved showing them our favorite summer hang out and having the kids cool off in the lake!

Hanging out with my older nephews fills me with hope... I got to play Scrabble and Boggle with them, and they were quite good!  It gives me hope that I will survive the Candyland and Chutes & Ladders years and game nights will progressively be more fun!

Side Note- I brought the younger ones up "Zingo" to play.. and from Simona on up- they all LOVED it.  It's a picture matching, speed bingo-esque game.  We have played it for years and my children all still love it.  Highly recommended for smart 2 year olds up to ages 6 or 7.

You can buy it here....
Of course no trip to New Hampshire would be complete without a view from a mountain top, we hiked up the local Rattlesnake Mountain for some great views over the Pemi-Baker Valley; Brian and I hiked with 8 kids from ages 3-12. Not bad :)

And finally... my favorite part of the trip was meeting my newest niece- GEMMA! She is the post precious, happy, jovial child I have ever met! She will be held by everyone and she smiles easily- fantastic for a family reunion!

Easy Rule #35532- Nothing beats family. Even miles away, meeting few times a year--the bond is incredible!

Easy Rule #6345- Even the shyest, most mommy-centered kid can succumb to Aunt Julia's goofy style... HA! I won over Simona!! Woo-Hoo!!