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A Few of My Favorite Things

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Well, besides Pinterest and Amazon. Those are my absolute two most favorite places on worldwide web. I have absolutely no idea what I would do with myself if they disappeared, lol!

1. Booklists.

If you are wondering what you should read to your child, what they should be reading, and when…check out Sonlight.com. Click on the appropriate age/grade level, and buy some of those books. You don’t have to buy them from Sonlight if you don’t want to. Amazon rocks, you know. I get to read Jackson some of these awesome books this year!

The Strawberry Girl
Pippi Longstocking
Encyclopedia Brown
The Borrowers
The Cricket in Times Square
The Door in the Wall
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
The Story of Dr. Dolittle
The Boxcar Children 1-4
just to name a few!!!

2. The Hair Bow Company

I use to make the girls hair bows, mostly because it was so expensive to buy them from boutiques or stores. Then, I found The Hairbow Company. Great bows! Super cheap! My fingers thank me for not burning off my fingerprints with hot glue. Shipping is a bit steep, but the total cost is the same (or maybe less) than me buying the materials and taking the time to do them on my own.

3. My laminator.

Best.thing.ever. Amazon also has a pack of 100 lamination sheets for $17.

5. The blog Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour.

Awesome recipes created by a teacher who doesn’t have hours to spend on dinner. She is adorable and Texan and a phenomenal blogger (her blog, The First Grade Parade, is one of my favorite educational blogs). She also has cute little crafts and home decor tips. Check it out…you won’t regret it. I’m trying this next week…yum, yum!

6. Naptime, which happens to be right now. But before I leave you, here is an update on how our first week of school is going.

Do A Dot letter A page. She rocked this!

Number matching. She loved this and did it without needing any help!

London is doing AWESOME with Pre-K! The hardest thing for her right now is just learning the structure and routine of school. I don’t force her to do anything and we just work on stuff until she has decided to move on with her day. I usually have her entertained and working well for about 30 minutes, which is perfect for what we need to do. As for the material, she is excelling! This is one of the those times where she is letting me know all that she knows; she isn’t a showboat like Jackson and keeps what she knows a secret until it just pops out. 🙂

As always, Jackson is loving his work. He is really digging the independent work schedule created by using a workbox type system.

As the week moves on, things are getting easier. I love how productive we are on a schedule, and it feels good to be back into learning again!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Brooklyn!

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At 9:11 pm last night, Brooklyn officially turned 2 years old. From 6 lbs, 3 oz and 18 inches to 28 lbs, 2 oz and 35 inches…I’d say she’s grown.

How our lives have changed since we brought our Brookie treasure home. She has filled our home with such joy and laughter! Her little personality has really begun to show through, and even though she couldn’t express it in the picture above, I’m quite sure at this moment she was thinking, “Just you wait until I laugh and bat my shining blue eyes at you. Think you can say no to me? Guess again.”

So, 2. My very last tiny face turned 2 yesterday, and I can hardly believe it. It really is strange being done with “baby” things. The crib is taken down, the onsies given away, the tiny socks a thing of the past. There are a lot of great things about a house full of older children, but I do miss the soft snuggles brand new skin and the sweet, milk-scented breath of one fully dependent on your body to make her food.

But I just adore this big-girl face.

Her silky soft curls and button nose and dimpled cheeks are some of my greatest treasures. She has pouty lips and eyes the color of a Caribbean sea. She is spunky, independent, and brilliant. She doesn’t like to share, but loves to cuddle. The sun rises and the moon falls with her Mama according to her, and she never turns down an opportunity to run into my arms. I could be gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours and my welcome into the home would be the same; a cheer and a jump into my arms with hugs and kisses.

We let her open her presents from us on Sunday.

Dollhouses are her new thing, so we got her the Fisher Price Loving Family Manor. Brooklyn declared it the “best birfday ever!”.

The dollhouse was a HUGE hit! I knew it would be; in one of the model homes we had recently been in, a dollhouse was set up in one of the bedrooms. The girls loved it, and I knew it was the perfect time to get it for them. I am going to need to order an extra baby for the set; the baby is the doll both the girls want to play with, lol!

We had some of her friends over for a little play date on her actual birthday.

Brooklyn was a little out of sorts for her birthday. Sunday had been one of those days where she didn’t nap, and she hadn’t quite recovered from it. For example, this is what she did when we sang her “Happy Birthday” the night before…

And while it wasn’t quite that dramatic when her friends gave her best wishes, she didn’t really crack any smiles, lol! Poor dear!

She had a lovely birthday, even if she was a wee bit tired and out of sorts!

Dearest Brooklyn,

Your brother and sister don’t call you by your name. They call you, “Baby”. They always have. It isn’t meant in jest, although I’m sure you will take it that way one day. It is a term of endearment; when they call you ‘Baby’, it is always when they are talking about you lovingly. They coo over you, especially Jackson.

The other day, I walked in and you and London were playing a game. It was the first glimpse I got of the relationship that is budding between you; no longer babies, but friends. Now that you both are learning to communicate more, the games of pretending are beginning and the secret laughs over things none of us know fill the room. I am jealous of you both; a sister is a treasure that you are blessed to have, and it is my prayer that the relationship you have with one another is made from the stuff that lasts a lifetime.

You, my dearest, are a joy! You joke and perform with the aim to entertain, and you always succeed. You cuddle the longest, and are content to snuggle into my side and don’t mind my face close to your hair as I linger on the coconut smell of your curls. You notice painted toes and shiny lipgloss, and most of my morning routine is spent keeping your hands out of my makeup drawer! You giggle as I pretend to put eyeshadow on you, or dust your cheeks with the faintest touch of blush. You want to be like me, and it is my prayer that I am a woman that guides you to God.

To you, a girl in a dress is a princess. “Imma pincess!” you declare if I dress you in a skirt or dress for the day. My dear, you are. You are a princess of the Most High, and I long to see you fulfill that role. You are heading into the year of 2, which brings many new things your way! Learning your letters and ditching those diapers are in the wings, and I am standing by waiting for your cue.

I am always standing by.

I love you to the moon and back an infinite amount of times. There is nothing that could separate you from my love, and I consider it a great joy and honor to be called your Mama.

Here is to 2, my love!

Water Balloon Disaster

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‘What could be so disasterous about water balloons?,” you may ask. ‘Looks like fun!’, you may say.

Don’t get me wrong…it WAS fun. However, this little family fun event turned into the most expensive water balloon family night in the history of ever.

On Friday, Jackson started reading a book called Jake Drake, Bully Buster. He loved it, and read all 10 chapters in a day in half. It was adorable…he carried that book with him everywhere and would read whenever he got a chance. After finishing it, we have this conversation:
J: Mom? You wanna know something that happened to Jake that I really wish would happen to me?
Me: What?
J: He got hit by water balloons! I’d LOVE to be hit by lots and lots of water balloons!

Luckily for me, this was a dream easy to bring to fruition! I had hundreds of water balloons tucked away for a moment such as this, so Greg and I decided to surprised Jackson with a water balloon fight after dinner last night.

It was great fun!

I took a few pictures, ran inside to put the camera down, and then closed the sliding glass door behind me as I booked it outside to join the fun.

Now, in our sliding glass door we have a bar that we lay down in the track so, after its locked, if someone tried to break in from the outside the door could not be opened. When I closed the door, the bar must have fallen down into the track.

Tracking with me? 110 degrees. 5 people. Locked outside.

Our front door is also a security fort, as we have extra reinforcements on the door that are secured from the inside. Meaning…no locksmith would be able to let us in that way, either.

At the time, we really saw no other option. So, we grabbed a leftover paver from our backyard reno and Greg got to do something he thought was cool: break a window.

Glass was everywhere! Ev.ery.where. I have absolutely no idea how much it is going to cost to repair. I don’t know if we can just replace the glass or have to get a whole new window.

The kids, of course, thought it was awesome. I filled up the pool and they played in their clothes while Greg and I gave ourselves one more project to do on this house. Yeay them. Boo us. 😉

{big girl bed}

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3 weeks shy of her 2nd birthday, Brooklyn Elle moved out of her crib and into a bed.

Like her sister, the transition was easy as pie. Her crib was in a room with a queen bed, so we just moved her over. Its a HUGE bed for such a wee lass, and she hasn’t figured out how normal people sleep.

For example, she treats it like a huge, luxury crib. I’ll put her to bed on her pillow up at the top, but when I go to check on her at 10 pm, the game is trying to find her on the bed. Sometimes she’s fallen asleep at the bottom, arms and legs stretched out like a starfish. Other times she’s curled in a ball in the top left corner.

I think its because she was moved into such a big space. A toddler bed, or even a twin bed, wouldn’t have given her so much space to roam. But, I wasn’t wasting money on a toddler bed since she is already to big to sleep comfortably in it. We are saving up to buy the girls a bunk bed to share in the new house, so I wasn’t going to spend money on a twin right now. So, the queen for a queen, apparently. 🙂

Luckily, when I move her back to her pillow before I go to bed, she seems to stay put until the morning. I think she just plays and then falls asleep wherever she happens to be! It was such an easy transition for her; no tears, no crying, no getting out of bed. You just put her in and she stays! And sleeps!

Bittersweet for me, though. The crib is gone. Not technically; its a lifetime crib, so we can use two of the pieces for a headboard and footboard, which happens to fit London’s mattresses which will be Jackson’s mattresses when we move. Follow? 😉

Now, I tried to do the whole “sneak in and take pictures of her sleeping” thing. Didn’t happen. Not with siblings clambering around, waiting for her to wake up.

That’s okay. This picture is super sweet. My children are friends. They love and care for each other.

Fills up my heart with love. *kairos moment*

 

{The New House}

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I’m spilling the beans, officially.

We are building a new house!

(See? I couldn’t even contain myself for more than one sentence. No suspense, no mystery.)

We’ve officially been in this home for 3 years now, which means we can leave. This was a great first house for us, but the location is less than ideal. Greg has a 1.5 hour commute 3 days a week, and an hour the other two. We are 10 minutes away from any stores, and 30 minutes away from the rest of them. I’m 30-40 minutes away from most of my friends and any activities they plan.

We are soooooo ready to move!

So! The house! Its in Chandler (hello?!?!? AWESOME city!) about 15 minutes from Greg’s job. It won’t be finished until sometime in January (boo!). We are downsizing a bit, which I am thankful for. Our house is too big. We have space we don’t use. Also, the new home is one floor! ONE! FLOOR! No stairs! Hallelujah! So, we are moving from 2700 sq feet to 2100, but I’m completely fine with that. It’s 4 bedrooms, but we are turning one of those bedrooms into the schoolroom and having the girls share a bedroom. We are across the street from a public library and aquatic center, which I’m really excited about!

While I don’t have any pictures now, I’m sure I will soon. I’m not sure when they will break ground; probably within the next 3-4 weeks. I’ve been busy picking out carpet and tile and lighting and all the other little details you get to do when building a home!

In the meantime, you can click HERE and see what the house will look like! In the virtual tour, our home is Model 203, except we added a 4th bedroom. If you look at the floor plans, we are model 204. The pictures of the homes are towards the end of the virtual tour; for some reason there are lots of pictures of the community!

Stay tuned! 🙂

{Why I’m Leaving Facebook}

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I know what you are thinking.

I’m attempting the impossible, and I shall surely fail.

It’s okay; I know it. I know that Facebook has a grip on my life that I don’t even really understand, and that’s why I’ve decided to leave. Let me be clear with this: I, in no way, think that this is something EVERYONE should do. I’m not declaring Facebook as the evil internet giant that everyone must escape from or surely perish. But, for me, it has become an idol in my life. It’s something that I must let go based on my own convictions and experiences in my life. I’ll take you on the journey as to how I got to this point. Pop some popcorn and settle in.

I joined Facebook in 2006, shortly after Jackson was born. I had made the transfer from MySpace, and was riding high on how awesome it was to reconnect with old friends and see what everyone was up to. Really, though, I should say how much I liked everyone being connected to me. 

I’m not exactly sure when the shift happened. All that I know is that, now, when something happens in my life, my first thought is, “That would be a great status update!”. Ridiculous, right? Instead of just enjoying whatever moment it is, whether it be staring at the lot of my about to built home, or listening to the funny dialogue that escapes my children’s mouth…I’m thinking about Facebook. I’m thinking about how many people might like the picture, or comment on the status, etc. That just doesn’t seem right to me. It seems prideful. It seems full of gloat and pomp.  It seems like something I should flee from rather than run to. That’s not the person I want to be perceived as or want to even be. Once, a dear friend said, “Facebook is the highlight reel of people’s lives. No one posts the bad stuff, but we compare ourselves to the good stuff of others.” I’m a mom. I stay at home. I homeschool. I compare myself every single day to those around me. But, I’m using people’s “highlight reels” to compare my own life to. Or, people are using my highlight reel to compare their lives against. Yes, I bake. I homeschool. I’m a generously awesome person with mad skills…but so are YOU. My house is a giant mess all the time; you don’t see me scurrying to clean the background of my living room to take a picture of the kids. You don’t see the meltdowns and anxiety of making glitter seahorses. You don’t see the enormous mess of the kitchen after the mango scones. I’m tired of being perceived as a mom who has it all together; I’m mostly a mess and I want to stand beside you in that. ‘Cause we all are.

Also, communication. While I’ve thought that Facebook has brought me closer to people, I’m beginning to realize that “more friends I talk to” doesn’t mean “more friends I’m closer to”. Facebook has turned into an ocean of inch deep relationships. I would rather have a puddle of mile high relationships. I want to get back to phone calls (remember those?) rather than wall posts. I want to spend more time hearing you rather than trying to perceive what is meant over a computer screen.

So, instead of Facebook, come here. Here is where I will still keep you updated on our life. The blog is my log of our past, and I’m keeping it. It’s become the book of my children, and I’ve neglected it to instead make status updates about them that are gone as soon as they hit the bottom of the page. Instead, I will document their lives for my keepsake, not my glory. You can communicate through comments here or emails or phone calls if you need anything. So, if you are interested in what we are doing, make sure to bookmark this site, because I can no longer link it to Facebook when I do a new post.

So, I can’t delete my account; Facebook won’t let me. I’m deactivating it, and I actually like that. I like being able to hop on if I need to in order to get a phone number or something like that. I don’t know if this is a permanent break or temporary.

*sigh*. Off to do the impossible. It feels good.

{summer days}.

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This is about the time of the year when the Phoenicians wake up, look around, and wonder if they were somehow transported to the surface of the sun while they were sleeping.

We hibernate. We stay inside. We only venture outside if there is a body of water nearby, swimsuits on, and sunscreen slathered.

Unless, of course, you have in your possession a cardboard box with a hill nearby. Then…and only then, do you venture out in 110 to see how much fun you could have.

You can have a lot of fun. Hot, sweaty fun…but fun nonetheless.

But why stop there? I mean, we can see the park! We are already hot and dehydrated, sweaty and stinky…I know! Let’s add sand and hot plastic into the mix!

It seemed like we were out there forever, but it was only like 10 minutes, lol! The kids were red and hot and sticky, so we took them inside. Filled their bellies with water, gave them a good bath, put on Tinkerbell, and popped some popcorn.

Yesterday morning, Jackson caught a lizard.

This lizard had actually been living in our house for…well, who knows how long. We noticed him the night before, but he had darted underneath our couch. In the morning, Larry the Lizard got brave and attempted a tour of the premise, which quickly found him in the cage of a tupperware, then the hands of a 6 year old boy.

Poor Larry.

After Jackson tortured played with Larry for a bit, he set him free. Larry was a bit traumatized, so he just hung out on the porch, which meant Jackson could further inspect him. It was quite hilarious seeing Jackson and Greg hovered over the computer looking up facts about this lizard, with Jackson running over to look at him every few minutes to find descriptive features.

Thanks, Larry, for your sacrifice for science.

{Bountiful Baskets}

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A little over a year ago I heard of a produce food coop called Bountiful Baskets. Basically, you sign up, contribute $15, and then pick up your basket of goodies on Saturday at the location of your choice. Now, we go through produce in this house like crazy; my kids get fruits and veggies at every meal, and that is a lot of food! However, it took me a year to finally do it. Something about it seemed intimidating to me until I saw one of my friends do it. I’m rarely the first one to try something; I usually hang back and see how it goes before I dive in. So, I’ll show you the lay of the land in case YOU want to try it as well!

First, go the Bountiful Baskets website. They have a very informative page that will answer all of the questions you have. I will write about my experience which may answer some of those questions as well.

So, this is how it went down for me. On Sunday, I set up my account. Very easy to do. On Monday at NOON (check on what time your state opens), I went to the BB site to put in my order. I clicked on “Get my Produce Basket”, clicked on my state, county, and site location that I wanted to pick up from (there was one about 5 minutes from my house…SCORE!). It takes you to your order page. You can choose between a conventional basket ($15) or organic ($25), both have 50% veggies and 50% fruit. You do NOT get to choose what is in your basket; it is whatever is in season and whatever the farmers markets have in stock for the coop to purchase from. Every week they have add-ons, which you can choose for an additional cost. This week I got a Veggie Lovers pack in Italian Theme for an additional $8. Next week I’m going to order bread…5 organic loaves for $12. Some weeks they have special add-ons…this week was a case of cherries, but I didn’t get it because they were sold out by the time I ordered. So, I put in my order and had to patiently wait until this morning.

It was SO worth it! This is what I got for a total of $28 (there is a $3 charge for new customers, so normally it would have been $25)
-1 lb strawberries
-2 canteloupes
-5 peaches
-5 plums
-huge head green leaf lettuce
-eggplant
-head of cauliflower
-yellow squash
-bag of basil, bag of rosemary, bag of oregano
-5 organic tomatoes
-8 limes
-2 pounds green beans
-red pepper
-2 lbs grapes
-3 mangoes
-huge bush of parsley
-1 lb mushrooms
-1 red onion, 1 yellow onion
-1 bulb garlic

I won’t do the additional veggie add on every week, but I wanted the fresh herbs. I got a huge amount of them…the basil alone I got would have cost me $10 in the grocery store! And the quality is superb! Today I made a Strawberry Mango salsa from the basket and they were the best strawberries and mangoes I’ve ever had! Delicious!

A few things to note:
1. Make sure to go to the website and order your basket as close as you can to the open time. Some sites fill up very quickly!
2. Make sure to check your produce before you leave; there are no returns or refunds!
3. Yes, you may get things in your basket that you are unfamiliar with. That’s the fun! I’ve never cooked eggplant before, but a quick internet search found a recipe that I can’t wait to try! Not quite sure what to do with the cauliflower though, lol!

I can’t wait to do it again next week!

{I scream, you scream, we all scream for…zucchini?}

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You are probably thinking two things.

1. You never, ever have screamed for zucchini

and

2. If I’m talking about the photo above…where is the zucchini?

What? You don’t see the 2 POUNDS of zucchini in the delicious pasta dish I’ve created above? No? Look harder…

Ah, you don’t, do you?

And neither did The Littles.

In fact, Jackson only knew it was there because he helped shred it. By the time the dish was in front of his face, he had completely forgotten about it.

Would you like to know how to stuff 2 pounds of a healthy vegetable into your kid’s bodies without them catching on? Or, if they do catch on, the dish is so delicious that they don’t care?

Follow along, friend. I’m about to rock your world. And your nutritional intake.

So, I was inspired by a recipe from the Food Networks magazine, July/August edition. It’s called Broken Lasagna with Zucchini-Tomato Sauce. I followed their recipe almost to a T, but I changed a few things. First, I didn’t use broken lasagna pieces. I used bow tie pasta. I was just lazy and didn’t want to take the extra step to break noodles, although that would be a fun job for the kiddos. Also, the recipe calls to “coarsely grate” the zucchini, which means that you see it. I really didn’t intend to hide the vegetable; my shredder was just fine, so it grated it super fine. This is how you pack all that in without them seeing it. The trick? FINELY grate the zucchini. There is no “sauce” in this recipe; the zucchini/tomato mixture is what gives the noodles their flavor. It’s awesome.

So, here is the recipe. Try it. It’s great. And minus the 3 TBS of butter, its pretty good for you!

Zucchini Tomato Sauce with Bow-tie Pasta

2 large zucchini, finely grated
12 ounces bowtie pasta
3 TBS butter
2 cups cherry tomatoes (1 cup whole, 1 cup halved)
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Boil your noodles. While they are cooking, shred your zucc’s on a paper towel to collect all the moisture. Give a gentle squeeze to drain your pile of healthy. Grate some lemon zest.
2. Heat the butter, add the cherry tomatoes and cook until blistered and softened.  Add the zucchini/lemon zest to the pan. Crush your tomatoes with a wooden spoon, add some salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the pasta and cheese. Stir it all together and serve!

The Littles gobbled it up, and Brooklyn even asked for seconds! It really was delicious! Enjoy!

{Wise ‘ole Solomon}

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I’m not exactly sure how, but we now own a dog.

I mean, I know how, but it all happened so fast and suddenly that I’m still a little on edge over it all. I’m a planner. I’m so thankful that you get 9 (or, really, 10) months of pregnancy to plan before your babies come. Even then, I still don’t feel ready.

Same with a dog. We’ve been talking about getting a dog for years, but its always been this far off thing for when we were done having children. Well, some how that “far off” thing is now here. Children are done inhabiting my body. Newborns have left the building, being replaced by preschoolers and a big boy. I’ve slept all night long for almost 2 years now (give or take a few weeks here or there)..so I figured I’d better get the dog thing out of the way before I really learned to appreciate eyelids that weren’t heavy.

So, meet Solomon. This is his story.

After a snafu with a different puppy, Greg said that he would be open to looking at the Great Dane breed. I LOVE big dogs, and have always wanted one. Once I got the okay from him, I just happened to look online to see what was out there. I came across a listing of a dog (Solomon) that was looking for a new home. I emailed the owner, inquiring about him. Luckily I called when I did; they had been trying to find a new home for him for 3 weeks, and they were moving. They were just hours away from having to take him to the pound. Within two hours, we had Solomon in our van. 🙂 I just couldn’t resist; I couldn’t let this beautiful dog go to the pound. Plus, they were a family just like us! 2 small girls, ages 2 and 4, and then an older boy, who I think was 7 or 8. So I knew that even though he was a beast of a dog, he was well socialized with children and would fit right into our craziness.

He is a 7 month old, 70 lb mix. He is half Doberman, and then his other half is split between Great Dane, Mastiff, and American Pit Bull. He is taller than Brooklyn. 🙂 But, he could not be more gentle! He moves around the children and lets them romp and play all around him without making a sound. He is still a puppy, so he gets excited really easy, but he is very smart and knows when enough is enough. He is my protector; he is literally quite attached to my leg, and follows me around the house all day until Greg gets home in the evening. He does exactly what we want him to do; he is a watchdog and very good at it, but he is also a friendly, gentle giant. He is completely potty trained. I am in love with this dog, and I’m so glad that he is a part of our family now.

We are dealing with some minor adjustments, which is pretty normal for a dog transitioning into a new home. He has some pretty serious separation anxiety, which I’m trying to work on. The crate they gave us to go with him is too small, so we are learning how to let that go a little and just let him sleep where he wants at night. He isn’t properly leash trained, so walks aren’t happening right now since I can’t be pulled by him all over the neighborhood. He starts obedience school the end of July, so hopefully we will work out all his little kinks then.

I think he’s just beautiful. Its a major learning curve for us all; I haven’t owned a pet since high school, and I’ve never personally had to raise one or be responsible for it. Hopefully in the next few weeks we will get into a groove and it will feel like he’s always been here.

For now, we have to flip for poop duty. 😉