Tuesday, September 1, 2015

♬ Try to remember the kind of September ♬


It's September 1st. {Happy Birthday, Aunt Katie!}

September is my favorite month, and 2015 is going to be an especially crazy Sept for my family--whether we're hit by an asteroid on the 23rd or not--because we're finally going on vacay. It's been, like, two or three years.

As a stay-at-home-mother I often hear working moms lament, "I wish I could afford to stay home too." I smile politely because "mommy wars" and competition like that holds exactly zero value or interest to me. What I really would like to point out, however, is that we pretty much never go on vacation, were a one-car-family up until recently, and I own one comfortable bra that I wash every other day just to avoid the underwire ones and/or spending money on bras because have you seen how children go through shoes? So, you know, define "afford". Yeah...I wish I could "afford" it too. But that's our choice, for me to stay home, and I think everyone should make the choice they like best and meanwhile pray for and support single parents while we're at it. They're the ones who should get to complain.

Look, I'd buy more fancy bras if I had to go to an office every day. I wish I could afford fancy bras like all you working moms, but there's no point in being uncomfortable yet perky when you stay at home with your kids and chickens. I think we should just stop comparing ourselves. I'm going to start saying that whenever working moms talk about how rich we must be that I don't have to work, "Stop comparing us! Anyway, how many comfortable bras do YOU own? Maybe you should stop spending so much at Victoria's Secret and then you could afford to stay at home and be comfortable too." Does that sound ignorant? Not unlike the "you must be so rich to be able to blah blah blah" I hear all the time, then, right?#yogapantsaremyuniform #dontbejealous #youmakesacrificeseitherway

What am I even saying? I've lost my mind because I don't get to talk to adults much.

What I'm trying to say is: we're going on vacation and it's SORT OF A BIG DEAL when you get to do that with one income and a family of five.

Here's how we're managing it: while we'd been hoping to afford a 1-2 week road trip out to SoCal all along, Justin's new job meant we'd probably not be able to swing that. We were bummed. Then we found $60 round-trip plane tickets one night at 1 a.m. and somehow we're going to make that vacation happen after all. My parents are coming, and we get to see the new family babies {one on each side} whom we haven't met yet.

Yes, Justin's been working a new job for a couple months now. He's still at LU, but has a new position which means Monday thru Friday again and no more commission, just stable pay. Yay! It's going well.

This morning I was reading a post on the Nextdoor app about this lady's neighbor. {Nextdoor is an app like Facebook but only for your neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods so you can get in touch with each other and share news read constant complaints about speeding/garbage cans/un-shoveled snow, fight about indoor/outdoor cats, and get on your neighborhood's most pushy Realtor's bad side, true story.} She said her nextdoor neighbor inherited his home from his dad, moved in after dad's death and doesn't work. Instead, he spends a good deal of time chain-smoking cigars right on the other side of the fence from her and her child's bedroom windows. {I wish I could afford to chain-smoke all day. Must be nice.} SO they've been unable to turn on their swamp cooler or open their windows because of the constant cigar smoke smell. She wanted tips on how to deal.

A couple posts and responses later, {someone advised she install a flood light right there as a deterrent} she opened up with more details: this guy knows it's problematic for her family and she tried before to "install deterrents" after asking him nicely not to smoke RIGHT THERE. And--get this--they guy walked into her home via unlocked door and messed with said deterrent. He also sprayed water in her bedroom window. Police were called both times, she said, but without proof they couldn't do anything.

Wow. Can you imagine? Do you have bad neighbors like that?

I'd probably turn a sermon on loudly on our Sonos player and put it right there in the window, away from water shooting range of course but loud and close enough for him to hear. Just kidding. I don't know what I'd do.

But it got me thinking about how lucky we are to have such great neighbors. Especially because we are not the easiest people to live next to, I think. When we moved into our semi-urban Denver home last year, we built our chicken coop and bought our chicks somewhat trepidatiously. While we didn't feel the need to ask their permission, we did worry about what the neighbors would think. Also, we have three kids that are home all the time. Which means my neighbors hear me a lot, standing in the front doorway screaming, "GET YOUR SHOES ON!!!!!!"

Well to one side we have a middle-aged woman who is a retired cop, home all the time, and cares for her adult disabled daughter. She's a joy! She loves our kids. She loves our chickens. She even loved the rooster and was sad when he left us. She grew up on a farm and says she loves hearing our chickens cluck.

To the other side is another almost-elderly couple. They are friendly, the are tidy, they bring over all their salad scraps about every other day so that our chickens can have them. He shares his tools with Justin liberally and brings us bulk from his garden. They don't mind the chickens one bit.

Behind us is a couple we've met a couple times as our naughty Benjamin Bunny has run away into their yard twice. We brought them eggs as a peace offering. They told us the chicken coop was a surprise when we moved in, but a happy one and they enjoy hearing them over the fence.

So you see, we've truly lucked out. I hope they never move away.

Our biggest neighbor problem is merely the 10-year-old girl across the street whom our kids LOVE to play with, and that's fine...but she invites herself over constantly, rings the doorbell for 20 minutes, sits on our porch waiting for us to come out, invites herself on family walks, invites herself to dinner, and climbs over our locked gate to play in our backyard. She's 10 and can roam the street and play but my kids are too little. Sigh. We can't complain much because she's only here every other weekend as her parents are divorced and is usually at mom's house. She's very sweet, but a bit of a pest during summer when school's out, but not here enough for it to be bad. It's manageable.

On a final note, while being a stay-at-home-mom means I don't have too much spending money of my own, I'm not totally broke either. But I will be soon. When I saw the new Pioneer Woman line that was released on Walmart's site today I about died. I want it all. Or at least one of the jadite cake stands. Or two. It comes out in the stores on September 14th--great--I might be in Disneyland that day {don't tell the kids}. I have a feeling this is going to be another Lily-Pulitzer-at-Target type of shopping spree massacre all over again, except the difference is that I actually want to buy it. {Sorry, friends, but the Lily Pulitzer stuff just looks like Magda merch to me. Ha! I was able to resist.}

"Where'd you get all that gorg' merch?!
Whaaaa? At TARGET?" - Magda


Happy Septembering,
Heather

Post title is a reference to my favorite musical...dad would walk around the house singing this sometimes in September.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blogvious


Today I'd like to talk about the blogvious. I'm wondering if you've noticed it too? 

I thought I'd coined a new term: blogvious. 

Okay, so Google says I'm not the first person to think themselves the clever creator of that term, but the meaning, maybe? Blogvious: blogging the obvious. 

To be fair, I've been guilty of it too. I forget what post it was, but I know I've done it. Perhaps it is a sign of the end times being upon us, because we've ran out of creativity? I look at Pinterest and despair. Everything has been done, I am no longer creative. 

And so maybe we've ran out of things to post about, really? Tutorials and new recipes posted on blogs 5 years ago was thrilling, but now? It's all been done.

The result is that we're having to either come up with ridiculous things {I'm talking to you, breakfast sandwich} or we just recycle what everyone knows and post it on our blogs like we created fire. Examples? Sure...

It started to become apparent to me a few months ago when I was scrolling through Pinterest. Someone had pinned a photo and link to a blog post titled, "How to make a chocolate milkshake". I clicked the link, I took the bait. I was really thinking, there must be something special here. Some special tip or secret to making chocolate milkshakes in an old shoe on a 107 degree day outside or something. Using only ingredients from your garden.

I clicked the link and actually just read the blogvious, and ended up wanting that 3 minutes of my life back. With nicely edited pictures and all as if this were sure to become the new trendy milkshake sensation sweeping the nation: mix ice cream, chocolate syrup, and milk. in a blender. pour in glass. boom. milkshake. 



Mindblown?

Yeah. Mine too.

Or at least it was in 1994 when I was ten and my sister showed me how to power up the blender when mom wasn't home and make myself a chocolate milkshake whenever. I'm sorry, but is this blog worthy? Who doesn't know how to make a milkshake? I mean, I'm sorry if I sound snotty or something...but... she went through to trouble to create a printable recipe card. Guyssssss. No.

{Although, allow me to share that chocolate milkshakes are best made with chocolate--not vanilla--ice cream, and forego the chocolate syrup, what, with its synthetic chocolate flavor. So she couldn't even get it right.}{In my not-so-humble opinion.}

It happened again a few weeks later. I won't name names but I came across a post on a popular blog, a blog I very much enjoy most of the time. But here was a guest blogger showing the internets how to organize a makeup drawer.

It was revolutionary, I tell you. First, she cleared out the messy drawer and wiped it clean. {tip? have a trash bag ready. it's where you put trash.} In case this is a difficult concept to understand, the blogger provided pictures of the now-empty drawer. Then--get this--she took this thing called a drawer organizer. It looks much like the utensil organizer you have in your kitchen, see. Apparently these are easy to find at any Walmart or Dollar Tree on this side of 1960.

She then put the organizer in the drawer, and finally put her makeup back in an organized fashion. Again, pictures included in case you need more help understanding. How a drawer organizer works.




Now, again, it'd be one thing if the post were in some way revolutionary. Like, how to organize a makeup drawer so that your toddler can't access it and toss your $55 Urban Decay Naked palette in the toilet. That might have been useful to me. But cleaning out a drawer?

This is what I mean when I say BLOGVIOUS.

Are we bloggers running out of material? It's silly, and also almost a tiny bit offensive. I'm not that dumb. I don't need some lifestyle blogger telling me how to do the most simple things in life. But I also admit, I'm pretty sure I've done it too. But as I've started to come across more and more of these so-blogvious-it's-insulting posts, I'm becoming more aware of the prevalence of them. We're running out of things to blog about...like it's the end times or something.

This post just shows a couple examples, I've seen plenty of other examples, actually, so maybe you have too? How to make sun tea...tea+water+sun. Mindblown.

What's next? How to get out of bed in the morning?

{That one might actually be useful to me sometimes.}

So is it just me, or have you noticed it too? Are we running out of fresh tutorials, blog posts, and tips to share so much that we're just blogging the obvious anymore? Maybe a lot of us bloggers just aren't as creative as we once thought we were.

Cheers,
Heather



Friday, August 21, 2015

Eisley's 1st Day of {Homeschool} School

Homeschool School

We've made some happy changes to our homeschooling style...

Just a few short weeks ago I was scrolling through the Nextdoor app {download it! if you're a glutton for drama and conflict} when I noticed a post about homeschooling and there I learned about the Denver Options program. All the other moms on the homeschooling post seemed to say the same thing, "We homeschool and do Denver Options!" All of them.

So I asked around a bit and became intrigued, hearing nothing but rave reviews about this program, which is actually ran by--GASP!--public schools.

Which is to say, it's free. Except for the yearbook fee. And by "free" I mean, paid by our taxes. So, really, it's guilt-free.

Among all the ignorant things you hear people who've never researched homeschooling say, "Children need to learn to line up and sit at desks!" is a frequent one. I don't know who started this rumor that if your child reaches 18 without learning how to stand. in a line. they're doomed. It's ridiculous.

While I've brushed that sort of lacking logic off many a time, I'll be perfectly honest and admit there is a part of the school experience that I wish I could give my kids via homeschooling. But I can't.

Everyone remembers their school days in the form of cafeteria lunches, games of dodge ball in P.E., and field trips. Those are often fond memories, and there has been a part of me that has hurt in the idea of my kids missing out on them. But it was all for the greater good, I told myself.

Enter Denver Options. It's a school for homeschooling families, and it's a one-day-a-week thing. Ends up being 20% of your child's school year. When I heard about it, I immediately wanted to learn more and I contacted the director. There was a wait-list, according to the website. Shoot.

Long story short, Eisley was able to squeeze into the first grade Friday class. We are SO excited. We feel like this is the perfect enrichment program for our family and style of schooling.

Yes, she just turned 7, but for a number of reasons we've held her back a bit. Part of it is due to her mild speech delay (though she "graduated" out of speech therapy over a year ago, and to be clear this is not a speech impediment nor is it a learning disorder, she was just slower with the speaking skills and still sometimes slips up a bit in the form of a "What did she said?"). Another aspect is that Eisley is very small for her age, usually 5-15th percentiles on height and weight, and finally, that old advice on when to push your young child into a class early or hold off and send an older child next year...we decided we'd rather her be a "chief" than an "Indian".

Excuse me. Native American.

But she's really becoming a good reader and her math skills are strong so she's in the right place, we're confident of that.

I'd never heard of Options, but it's been around a while. The director told me she has 12th graders who she had in Kindergarten at Options. But it's growing, too. They added the Friday class in recent years due to demand. And last year the Friday enrollment was just 40-50 kids. This year it's 90.

This year, Eisley will attend all day once a week and her schedule includes: P.E., music, drama, language arts, and afternoons of general schooling {math and stuff, I imagine}. For their older children, they have all sorts of classes from robotics to foreign languages to AmeriTowne programs.

The best part is, all the kids at Options are homeschooling kids. It's run by public schools, but it's not like Eisley will be showing up one day a week to learn alongside public school kids who all know each other.

Also, their information says that they avoid controversial issues in their classes (think evolution vs. creationism) and respect homeschooling needs. Okay, I had my doubts. I'll be honest. We signed up, but with reservations, because I am always concerned when it comes to involving my family and children in "the system". I'm a little bit grass roots like that. Don't want the government getting all up in my business. But Options required me signing into the public school website to register my child. Oh, the nerve...

I was nervous until we showed up to the watermelon welcome, teacher-meet-and-greet last week that I was walking into a program that might have ulterior motives. But then, I got to meet most of the teachers at this small school program. Virtually ALL of them said something  along the lines of, "I home-schooled my children, we attended Options and now they're in high school!" Most of these teachers are accredited teachers...who also chose to homeschool. So instead, as I've met other families and the staff, I've started to feel like finally, I've found my people. I'd been searching for a homeschool co-op or umbrella school that fit us well, but nothing. Until now.

Today I drove Eisley over for her first day, Orientation Day. The  drive took less than 10 minutes, Options operates out of a large baptist church (I'm tickled by the fact that Bible verses adorn the hallways and classrooms). They seem to pride themselves on safety (roll call on the hour and locked doors at all times) and focus on providing what homeschooling families can't do as well on their own. So Eisley will get that classroom experience after all. Hopefully all goes well!

***

So how was her first day in a school environment?

It could not have gone better. She tends to fret, like her mother. I expected her to be nervous, especially when it came to leaving her alone there.

Instead, I had barely parked the car when Eisley un-clicked her seat belt and said, "Okay, I'll see you later!" But it was orientation day so we had to get in and sign paperwork. Tons of families with tons of children, but you'd be surprised at how calm and quiet all the children were. {Homeschool thing? Or are all kids like this on the first day of school? These are the things I don't know.}

When it came time for us to leave her with her other 1st grade teacher, the only one who had trouble was Pax! Have I mentioned, Eisley and Pax are seriously bonded? Options also has field trips for preschoolers, preschool for Violet once a month (sadly, she doesn't qualify for kindergarten yet since she's 4}, and a parent's lounge where parents can socialize and meet other homeschooling families.

Today was a shorter day and we met her to have lunch with her and her new classmates. Eisley's teacher said she did great. She seemed to enjoy herself. She hugged new friends before we left. It was sweet. {There are 9 girls and 4 boys in her class. Almost all the girls have E names.}

I will say, she was noticeably exhausted as we drove home. Her brain seemed a bit fried, most definitely more than usual. I am sure this is the thing that comes with the all-day schooling regimen.

Look, there are pros and cons to BOTH and no one method is right for every family, but I think this is one pro of homeschooling: it usually doesn't take more than an hour or two each day, and your child has plenty of down-time, me-time, and explore-the-backyard time. Even kids need alone time, and Eisley is definitely used to that. I think that 7 hours 5 days a week of non-stop school each week can wear a kid out, understandably. I'm not saying it's bad or wrong, just different and maybe one of the perks of homeschooling.

Anyway, now you know, if you see me post things about "school" and wonder if we're still homeschooling the answer is YES. We are. {And it's going well, thanks for asking. We've really hit our stride lately.} But like the other families on Nextdoor, I can now also say we homeschool and attend Denver Options. We feel like we're getting the best of both worlds.

And we're thrilled about it.

Cheers,
Heather

 P.S. That's a slideshow at the top there, you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Eisley's Superhero 7th Birthday Party!

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday
Friends, my firstborn is SEVEN. When you have your first baby, they warn you how fast it goes by. It's cliche, but it turns out they aren't exaggerating.

Last year, if you will remember, we took the 6th birthday easy and celebrated privately as a family. After her Alice in Wonderland 1st birthday, carnival 2nd Birthday, cowgirl 3rd birthday, ice cream 4th birthday, and tiger themed 5th birthday {that one was a doozy}--I'm pretty sure I had the most fun with this theme. Together, we picked a superhero theme for Eisley's 7th, and so it became her "Super 7" birthday.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

I sewed up some superhero capes for each guest. I got lucky and hit up Hobby Lobby while the poly satin was on sale while they had forgotten to take last week's 50% off sale sign down! This was a fun sewing project and went a lot faster than I'd anticipated. I could not WAIT to see a dozen or so little satin-cape-clad little girls running around my yard.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

And so our best girlfriends were greeted at the door with their very own capes. {Might I add, making these erased the mom-guilt I felt these last couple years not making handmade Halloween costumes for my kids because I have silly standards for myself? There. I made twelve costumes this year.}

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Superhero knobs from Hobby Lobby, I couldn't resist and found this use for them. Headbands from JoAnn's became party costume too.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Oriental Trading Co. has some great superhero crafts {maybe a little lacking in quality, but nothing a glue gun can't fix!}

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

I crafted a last minute photo booth with a superhero tablecloth {Target} and teacher's bulletin board decor {U.S. Toys}.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Some wooden skewers, some hot glue, BAM!, done.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

We don't like piñatas. But we do them anyway. This one {Oriental Trading} was too perfect to pass up. Plus, it's birthday tradition. They are an annual reminder of the pain that accompanied your child's day of birth. Also, the kids love taking out their aggression on them.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

It was supposed to rain--as it usually does when I throw a summer party--right at 4 p.m. when the party was scheduled to start. 80% chance of thunderstorms, they said. Starting right at 4, they said. I set up on the back deck anyway, willing to risk it. {It did NOT rain! Hallelujah! Take THAT, Murphy's Law!}

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

The night before any party you can find me in the kitchen cursing the fondant while Justin obsessively cleans up any powdered sugar I spill because he HATES the sticky floors. Decorating wise, however, this cake was simple and inspired by Pinterest. It was mostly buttercream because, like with many political topics, people have such strong opinions about fondant. The bombs were a last minute touch. BOOM!

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

A few days before the party, I headed to Target with the kids to look for the paper party cups that matched their superhero party decor. They had been sold out the week before. Well, they were still sold out. But then I saw THESE beauties. I mean, how could I not?! Doggonit, Target. You always do this to me. {They're adorable!}

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

I've learned to keep it simple with the food for my already over-the-top birthday parties. Don't make too much, don't get too creative with all the themed snacks you can find on Pinterest. {I've made enough cake pops in the past to feed China. I'm over it.} Just feed people. That's what keeps them happy. So on top of a few snacks, we ordered pizza.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Right, Pax? Pizza makes you happy.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

So the little guests started to arrive and put on their capes and started saving the day. It was ADORABLE.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

We have some great friends.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

What's this?! A surprise guest...? Wonder Woman!!!

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Whether it's a bounce house or a party entertainer, I've learned to lean on these magical people to make the parties magical for kids. I know party entertainers aren't always in the budget for people, it isn't always for us either, but when you can afford to hire them--what a fun memory!

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

It's priceless seeing the star-stuck looks of awe on the kids faces.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

They had a pow-wow on the grass and discussed their super powers, bad guys, good guys, etc.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Look at all those girls in their capes! I want to squeeze them!

Then they brought out their super powers and poses for the parents {aka, villains} to see. Violet's super power? Kicking.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Practiced superhero poses. I love this photo.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

I about died, it was so adorable to watch.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley has been way into bald eagles lately, so she chose eagle super powers. Atta girl, Super E!

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

I can't think of a better way to turn 7.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

After Wonder Woman left {to save the day} we sang to Eisley. {Who enjoys being sung at on their birthdays? I, personally, hate being the center of awkward attention like that. I think most people do. But...tradition!}

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Presents! She's been waiting all year for this moment.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

For being superheroes, this was incredibly weak group. Nah, I'm teasing. The truth is that they make piñatas these days so that you basically need a chainsaw to get them open. They finally succeeded in breaking the piñata STICK. So Justin took matters into his own hands and busted that cheap-candy-filled thing open. {Somebody get that poor thing an epidural.} Candy-grab chaos then commenced.

Eisley's Super 7th BirthdayEisley's Super 7th Birthday

Over at the gambling table, adults placed bets on how many swats it would take and who would crack the darn thing open. {They all lost.}

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

I might have taken a million photos {you can see them ALL here} because there were so many cute moments at Eisley's Super 7 party. Like Pax with the girls...

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

I love this one, Eisley with her Great-Grandma Sander, who is 97!

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

My parents...

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

All of us...

Eisley's Super 7 Birthday!

More grandparents...

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Can't stop, won't stop.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Eisley's Super 7th BirthdayEisley's Super 7th Birthday

I have some great mom-friends. {Yes, I just used the term "MOM FRIENDS".} This one and I have been known to sneak dinner and wine into Amy Schumer movies. For the win.

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday

Can we have a moment of silence for the observance of the torture that the Middle Child experiences when her older sister and little brother have birthdays not even a month apart, while hers is 6 months away?

Eisley's Super 7 Birthday!

Maybe you could say my super power is throwing parties for my kids? Ha. It's my love language, birthday spoiling.

Eisley's Super 7 Birthday!
What a fun party this was to throw! 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Eisley girl!
There are a million wonderful things about you. 
Being your mom is the best. 

Eisley's Super 7th Birthday