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I bought Antonella a dress a few months back, and the first time she wore it she got pizza grease on it. Grease stains on a grey dress are impossible to remove and impossible to ignore. After we tried all kinds of stain removals, store bought and homemade, the dress sat in our laundry room for weeks. I thought about turning it into a shirt, but my inexperience with sewing knit fabric kept me from attempting the task. Really, I thought, I can come up with something. I thought about embroidering flowers all over it to hide the stains, but again, the knit fabric. Oh, and I don’t know how to embroider.
Looks like the dress is no longer available, but here it is on eBay.
A couple of weeks ago I found some felted flowers at Hobby Lobby and they were on sale for 50% off! I glued them on her dress to cover the stains…
Good enough to wear until she grows out of it. Which, by the way, is happening way too fast.
Antonella: Your best friend came over to do school with us one day, and as she sat down you ran to your room and returned with something in your hand. “Because, you know, you said you wanted to go to Paris!” You said as you handed her a miniature Eiffel Tower. You have always done that–given away your toys to friends that visit you. I hope you never change.
Jeremiah: You got really frustrated with school at one point this week, struggling with concepts you know you know very well. “It’s just that my brain isn’t working today!” You exclaimed and crossed your arms. We talked through it and after a few sets of jumping jacks you finished your work. Later that day, you wanted to build a castle with a mote. I suggested you use the wooden blocks. You built the castle inside one of our cloth bins, and when I looked up from whatever I was doing you were pouring water into the bin… the mote. “Jeremiah! What are you doing?” I exclaimed, equally surprised and upset. You paused, looked at the castle, then at me, and with your bottom lip quivering said, “I told you my brain isn’t working today!”
Sam: You suddenly love to dance. Love to dance. We have been dancing a lot at Mamu and Tata’s house, your uncles taking turns playing everything from Vanilla Ice to Alan Jackson. We have all been impressed with your concentration and dedication to robot-like dance moves, and your grandpa has encouraged your gift. You paused long enough to lean over and whisper to me, “I might be famous!”
Augustine: You love to play chase, and this week we were running all through the house. “I’m going to get you, mister!” I shouted over and over while you laughed and ran up and down the hall. Suddenly you stopped, turned around, and yelled, “I’m going to get you, Big Girl!” I’m not sure how to take that.
One of the things that I love about our house is the play/school room- not necessarily because of what we’ve done with it, but because it is spacious and bright. We spend a lot of time in here, all five of us, learning, playing, working, creating. I sat at the table the other day, watching the kids just wreck it. They were playing, mind you, but there was a lot of dumping and stacking and rearranging of furniture to accommodate wars and trenches. My anxiety started to rise, scanning the room and estimating when to pull the plug to begin the clean up process. But then I really saw what was going on. All my kids were there, with me. For hours on end. And yes, it is frustrating and chaotic at times, but I am so thankful for the space to be able to be together. They forget I am there and I evesdrop on their conversations, their imaginations, their creativity, and I am so glad they are home. With me.
This is my usual view- I sit in the chair that is visible at the bottom of the picture. Light fixture is from Ikea, banner from The Land of Nod, letters from Anthropologie, pillow from Target. I don’t have any information about the picture above the couch, we picked it up here.
We store the majority of our toys in these bins. Each bin (is supposed to but they are rarely super organized) has a different toy in it: Big Legos, Little Legos, Playmobiles, Zoobs, Tinkertoys, cars, animals, small wooden blocks, alphabet blocks, people, trains, magnet rods and balls, and some miscellaneous items. I rotate them with various things from time to time.
Reading corner… August spends a lot of time on this little chair.
These are the boys’ desks. The orange basket holds their backpacks. Because we go back and forth from home to school I have them keep everything in their backpacks to make sure all their work returns to school. The cubbies under their chairs hold coloring books.
This is the business center. The bookshelf holds all my teacher manuals, a shelf for each child. The kids put all their work from school in the blue basket and I look at it and sort it into bins as time allows. The little plastic bins hold flash cards. I spray painted an old bookshelf and the basket is from The Land of Nod. I painted and covered a bulletin board with this fabric.
Antonella and I sit at the table. I had the binding cut off on all her workbooks and put them in this binder. This has helped our days so much by eliminating all the digging in her backpack and finding the right page. She has everything in front of her and keeps her place bookmarked.
Neil’s parents bought this table when they were first married from an antique store. They brought it up to Chicago for us when we bought our first house and Neil re-finished it. It is one of my favorite pieces of furniture we own!
You can see the huge whiteboard that Neil salvaged from his previous school’s garbage. He cleaned it and adjusted it good as new… unfortunately some permanent markers got confused for for dry-erase…
And now for some glimpses of color around the room…
I have a very talented best friend. She lives far away from me and although it makes me sad, our frequent phone calls and our little blogs keep us connected. When she visits, it is really like she never left.
She is an amazing friend, everything that the word means- she is.
We have shared our lives for fifteen years, mostly through long distance phone calls that last hours interrupted by short visits across the country.
She met Neil before I did and told me I would marry him.
She was there when I found out my first born would be a girl.
She loves her family passionately.
She makes time to drive to my house every time she is in Texas.
She reminded me through pain, “This is God’s mercy on you.”
She tried to dig my minivan, that had hydroplaned and hit the median wall, out of the snow with a Lego box lid.
She makes me laugh.
We will write a book together one day, and you will laugh.
As the wind blew and my kids shrieked, Jen and I just looked at each other knowingly and laughed… no surprise, just another chapter for our book. Click through to read about it and see the rest of the pictures.
I love you Jen, and I am forever grateful for your friendship.
Neil had a conversation with August yesterday that went something like this…
“Augie, if you get your stinky poo poos out in the potty Daddy will buy you a BIG prize! A toy or… a donut!”
Today, as August sat on the potty, waiting, trying, I had a conversation with him that went something like this…
“August, do you want Daddy to get you a toy or a donut?”
“Do you want Daddy to get you a donut or a book?”
“Do you want Daddy to get you a donut or… a Thomas the Train?”
“Hmm. A donut or a rocketship?”
“Do you want Daddy to get you a donut or… a NEW CAR!?!”
“A new… DONUT!”
Putting Sam, our four year old, in Pre-K was a hard decision for us. We value so much keeping the kids home during the precious early years, and our older two did not start “official” schooling until they were six. There were several factors, however, that really made the choice clear, including the fact that his teacher is amazing! Another thing we took into consideration was knowing how much I would have to focus on the older two kids’ lessons, and I really did not want to neglect him during the at-home days. Sam being in Pre-K has been a blessing on so many levels, and it has allowed me to give him individualized attention. So many of the activities that he got to do as part of his curriculum are things that we have done in our home, especially with the older kids. But with the older two in school, I am not sure I could have, or would have, made the time for him to experience as much as he did. He loved his activities and looked forward to them every day.
I took pictures with my phone of several of the activities and I wanted to share them because they are simple, hands-on things you can do at home with your little ones. They all reinforce areas of development during the toddler years. Most of these activities are found in the book Mommy Teach Me by Barbara Curtis. I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants to add some purpose and perspective to at-home activities. In the book, she clearly explains how to go about each of the activities, making the connection to the significance of training our children in the Lord.
Nine times out of ten, the other kids would want to join in also! We usually have some sort of hands-on activity right before lunch, either from Sam’s lesson or an art project, and as a side note, this is what keeps them busy while I make lunch!
Sam has practiced and developed his hand-eye coordination, left to right sequence, sorting, handwriting, patience, attention span, and so important at this age–self-control! But it is clear to Sam, and became clear to us, that the purpose of all these activities is one thing… mere training for the more important things in that boy’s life…
Neil’s grandmother lives on a farm in Mississippi, about six hours away. We visit her every year during Spring Break. A few years ago we started waking up super early and getting on the road before the sun comes up. We realized we could get at least a couple of hours in before the kids are even fully awake and arrive in Mississippi with enough daylight to run around and play.
We approached the twenty hour trip to Colorado the same way, and because it was Christmas day, the roads were empty and we made great time. We split the trip up in two days and we arrived at our half way mark before dinner. After a long day in the car, there was time for the kids to jump on the beds and spend some couped up energy. We packed a cooler with enough food for two days and found that not having to worry about where to stop was a huge time saver. The kids napped in the car both days, and although it is never for as long as you hope for, the afternoons flew by!
Here is a list of the things that kept the kids occupied and happy for the duration.
* Baggie Breakfast: I put different types of food in small baggies for breakfast: Cereal, blueberries, clementines, cut up bagels, etc. and pass out one baggie at a time. They have to finish one before getting another one. Breakfast takes about an hour and they are peaceful and entertained by their food.
* Library books: we put a basket of books between the boys in the back, and Antonella had her own pile. I made sure to get books that they had not seen before. These were visited and revisited the whole trip.
* Books on tape: We listen to books in the car on a regular basis, and it never gets old to the kids. On this trip we listened to Marley and Me and several Magic Treehouse books. I think this is the best way to entertain the kids on long trips. Hours and hours of fun!
* Stockings: I have done goody bags for them for trips in the past, but with the stockings I wrapped each small gift individually and numbered it so that they would open the same thing at the same time. Neil and I went to the dollar store and the Home Depot and picked up things that we knew they would like. The boys got flashlights, army and indian men, bungee cords, mini measuring tape, stickers, rope, cars, plastic dinosaurs, whoopee cushions and fake roaches. Antonella opened books, magnetic dolls, little animals, puzzles, stickers, and more books! They opened a gift every couple of hours, so by the time the novelty wore off, it was time to open another gift! They each had a small bag to keep their treasures in.
*Coloring books: Although crayons usually do end up all over the car, this is another good pastime for long trips. I put four coloring books and one bag of crayons in the basket along with the library books.
* Music! An obvious one, but we try to play music that we can all enjoy and get into. The kids have been in several plays so it is always fun to listen to the music from their performances. They don’t hear those songs on a regular basis, so when we play them they are singing at the top of their lungs!
* Dollar bill: We gave each of the kids one dollar towards the end of the trip to spend at a gas station or rest stop. Boy, did this ever provide distraction from the hours of traveling! They discussed and debated their choices, and at every stop they started the conversation up again. It actually led to some good family discussions about spending and the wisdom in saving.
We also had our laptops ready with a couple of movies just in case, but on the way there we didn’t need them. I think the excited anticipation was entertainment enough!
The way home, folks, is a different story. They had read all the books several times, listened to all the books on tape, practically finished their coloring books and there were no presents to open. The toys provided some distraction, but sooner or later it became clear to them that sometimes we just sit. And sit.
They watched a movie and whined and I learned my lesson. The next time we take a long trip, I will hide some books and activities for the way home! Maybe I’ll surprise them with something like this. But, I really can’t complain. Both the way there and home went incredibly smoothly and the kids did a great job!
On Christmas day, we woke up at five in the morning, bundled the kids in blankets and plopped them in the car one by one. Their stockings were waiting for them in the car, and as the sun rose we told them they could open a gift every two hours. There were ten small, dollar store gifts in their stockings. Yes, twenty hours in the car later… we arrived in Colorado!
We stayed at a friends’ cabin in the mountains, on a lake. The cabin was cozy and comfortable with amazing, breath-taking views. The first two days were perfect, sunny and relatively warm. We went to Purgatory one day and the kids loved the big tubing slides. We rented a snowboard and the three older ones took turns trying it out on the slopes around our cabin. They all got the hang of it, but Jeremiah was doing jumps and tricks by the end of the week. Glad we didn’t pay for ski school!
And then it started snowing. For three days, it snowed. We were prepared and thankfully had enough food and parked our car on high ground. The snow did not stop us from getting out there to play and sled.
The kids were thrilled to be in the snow and they enjoyed every minute of it. Well, August would sometimes refuse to walk any further and declare, “I can’t do it.” The snow was up to his chin!
We had a very restful, yet active, family vacation! It was really fun to surprise the kids and enjoy time away from our daily routines. If you are curious how our kids do on a 20 hour, two day road trip, tomorrow I will share our plan of attack! This picture was taken right outside our cabin…