Matt's Un-Birthday

Matt's birthday is today, but our 3 kids have 3 ballgames and a cheer practice between them tonight.  Ugh!  So, we decided to pretend that his birthday was yesterday in order to spend it together and celebrate a little.  We had doughnuts at our favorite local shop, watched a lot of bike races (just like last year), and went on a hike (the family is up to 12 miles walked together!).

We also worked from a gift idea from last year (beer of the month club), but with a bit of a change.  This time around we included a mix of gift cards for drinks out and about & gift cards to pick up a 6-pack of a new beer (it benefits us this way too, right?).  The kids decorated index cards for each month and we attached the gift cards to the back and then stored them all in a plastic index card case.

This big excitement of the day was that each of the kids got in on the bike racing action.  Jack had some gear issues (like maybe we should have told him which one to be in or something), EJ stopped at the starting line to check on a kid who got knocked down, and Liv got a push up the big hill...but they all had a lot of fun!

EJ on the pro course

Liv and some friends at the staging area (yes, she did the race with training wheels)

Life Moves Pretty Fast

{my kids having a Ferris Bueller moment at the park}

This week has been total crazy-town and I've never been happier to see a white space on the calendar.  We have NOTHING planned tonight and I don't think we'd make it through plans if we had them anyway.  Everyone is stressed and tired and cranky (sorry Summer school teachers and swim instructors)...we need some serious chill time this weekend.

Let me regroup and say that things get much easier after this week and we do have some downtime ahead.  I may have been a little overzealous in my summer scheduling though.  A word of advice to all with smaller kids...just because your youngest is done with naps does not mean you need to fill that time!  Just a little fyi from me to you.

Of course we would also love some nice weather this weekend (weather, are you listening?).  There is an awesome bike race right in our hood on Sunday and we'll also be celebrating Matt's birthday that day (because on Monday night the kids all have games at the exact same time).  Come on Summer!

Our bathroom remodel has been slowly moving along.  This week our tile finally came in (the wrong stuff arrived first and luckily the tile guy realized beige stone was not my thing) and as of this morning...we have a floor!!!  Yay!  We knew we'd be waiting as we are a small job, but we have not had a floor since mid-May, so this is a big step.  Things have been "adjusted" several times and it will not end up as I had imagined, but I am still thrilled with everything (so that is a good thing).  I can't wait to have water up there again (now that we have a floor, sinks and a toilet are close possibilities)!

This week I was on snack for Jack's baseball team, so I had an amazing woman make these awesome cookies.  Huge hits!  The coaches loved the Mud Hens cookies so much that they didn't want to eat them.  And best of all, we had just enough left to share with EJ's softball team the next evening.  Double score!

First Week of Summer

As expected, the first week of summer was not a warm one (2 of 5 swim classes were canceled), but we still managed to have some fun.  We signed up for all the summer reading clubs, walked another 2.5 miles as a family, and even managed to do a couple science activities.

Puffy paint

Adding paperclips to a full glass of water

The kids cooked dinner for the family

We did our annual flower shopping and planting with Grandma...and also discovered this cool ant colony under a patio brick at her house.

The girls invented this game where they bounce a ball off the first bucket and try to make it into the other buckets down the line.  Reminds me of beer pong...keeps them busy for ages!

And we wrapped up the week with a family dinner out at a neighborhood restaurant in honor of our 16th anniversary (photo by EJ).

The second week of summer is crazy busy.  We start at 8am and go from one activity to the next until bedtime (sometimes we get to stop home for dinner and a uniform change).  Everyone is starting to get a little cranky (the cloudy weather is not helping) and I am longing for the weekend (and summer weather).

Father's Day 2014

Our Father's Day tradition is to go fishing.  Every year I feel that Matt tortures himself a bit in that he never actually gets to fish on these outings and instead spends a lot of time baiting hooks, helping cast, and untangling lines.  But he insists that it is fun, so we keep going.  This year he added a new degree of difficulty by taking out a boat to fish.  It was a little chilly, and we just missed a big rainstorm, but overall it was a great time!

We came home mid-afternoon, took showers and had a snack.  Jello "water" with teddy grahams using gummy Life-Savers as pool floats.  I am planning to attempt a big bowl version of this for a cookout this weekend too.  It was a hit (and easy)!

Then we took our first walk to dinner and back.  The kids were worn out and we definitely had our share of bumps in the road during the day, but I think everyone had a blast!

In the Nick of Time

We are having a rainy and dreary day full of thunderstorms.  This kind of weather really limits the summer activities we've all been waiting to start.  The kids are busy this morning but I have a feeling that the "I'm bored!" comments might start sometime after lunch.  Luckily, I finished off this year's version of the bored jar this morning, so we should be all set!

This year the kids can do a lot of the same things and actually like to do them together as well (yay for me), so I mixed things up a bit.  The bunch on the right are separated into two types...things anyone can do alone (three dots side by side) and things they should do in groups of 2 or 3 (dots all bunched together).  The bunch on the left are things they can do alone (each child has their own color dot) that are child-specific.

This works really well for us in the summer months in those "down time" moments.  My kids tend to forget about what they have once the items are put into drawers and closets, so these sticks help them to remember all the fun toys/games/crafts they love (but I have "organized").  I'm crossing my fingers that this helps us through the rainy summer days!

How We Do Summer

Five years ago, I started this blog as a way to share our summer activities.  My family looked like oldest was five and the girls were two and zero.  We were going to be stuck at home a lot with a napping baby and I wanted Jack and EJ to still have fun and stay busy during the summer.  The only things we had going on outside of home were t-ball once a week (for about a month), a one-hour summer school Spanish class (for 3 weeks), and half-hour swimming lessons (for about 2 weeks).  It was going to be a long summer if we didn't have a plan for things to do each day.

As we head into this summer, my kids look like this...the youngest is now five and the other two are seven and ten.  These days I wonder when we actually get to be home.  Our days are now filled with baseball, softball, t-ball (for the youngest this time around), half-day summer school, classes at the university's in the city, swimming lessons, soccer camps, pom poms, karate, and girl scout camp.  Things are just a little different, but also it is a lot easier to start a random project (even run to the store to get materials) these days.

I was planning to skip the big list this year, but the kids were not having it.  So, I brainstormed a short list for ideas in 5 categories (Outdoor, Science, Help, Art & Places to Go).  The kids are old enough now to pick what they want to do each day, so it requires very little planning from me.  We'll also be doing summer reading, explore our parks, search for geocaches and they've asked me to update their daily/weekly to do dry-erase frames in the hall (my kids beg to check things off a list...don't know where they got that from).

The best part of them being a little bigger is doing things all together as a family.  The kids made this chart (another plus...I'm not in charge of all the charts anymore) which is a take-off from this family biking chart.  Last night, we walked to dinner and back...3 miles down, 97 to go.  Yay Summer!

A Simple Way to Track Summer Reading

I have three kid readers in the house this summer and that makes for a lot of tracking for summer reading programs.  In the past we've done library & store reading programs (which we will do again this year) and other personal plans where we've read specific books together (here and here).  This year we are going simple.  In this gum-ball machine are 100 mini super balls.  Each time someone finishes a book (including me), they get to "buy" a super ball.  When we get to 20 balls, we get a treat (ice cream, candy store visit, something else the kids brainstorm...and agree on).  If we go through the 100 balls, we'll load it up and start again.

And while there is no set "reading list" this year, I did update the lists I keep all year round for the Jack and EJ of "books I think they might like."  This way in addition to the authors and series they already read, they have an easy way to find something new.  You can take the librarian out of the library, but you can't make her stop suggesting books!

I honestly have no idea how this will go over.  I think maybe it will go in spurts or that one kid will "carry" the group at different points of the summer.  I promise to update, but I am very curious how many books we will read this summer...

Reading List Summary, May 2014

Mom's List
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  (Mindy Kaling)
Sure Signs of Crazy (Karen Harrington)
I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, The Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom's Highway (Greg Kot)

Jack's List
Vespers Rising (Rick Riordan)
The Year of Billy Miller (Kevin Henkes)
Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson)
The Medusa Plot (Gordon Korman)
A King's Ransom (Jude Watson)
The Dead of Night (Peter Lerangis)
Shatterproof (Roland Smith)
The Lacemaker and the Princess (Kimberly Brubaker Bradley)
The Magic Trap (Jacqueline Davies)
Shakespeare's Secret (Elisa Broach)
Island of Thieves (Josh Lacey)

EJ's List
The Panda Puzzle (Ron Roy)
Mystery Ranch (Gertrude Chandler Warner)
The Runaway Racehorse (Ron Roy)
The Quicksand Question (Ron Roy)
It's Spit-acular! The Secrets of Saliva (Melissa Stewart)
Mike's Mystery (Gertrude Chandler Warner)
Liz at Marigold Lake (Callie Barkley)

Olivia's List
Mr. Putter & Tabby Row the Boat (Cynthia Rylant)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Drop the Ball (Cynthia Rylant)
Aggie Gets Lost (Lori Ries)
Mr. Putter & Tabby See the Stars (Cynthia Rylant)
Good Dog, Aggie (Lori Ries)
Penny and Her Marble (Kevin Henkes)
Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge in the Family Trees (Cynthia Rylant)
Aggie and Ben: Three Stories (Lori Ries)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Feed the Fish (Cynthia Rylant)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Write the Book (Cynthia Rylant)
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa (Erica Silverman)

Read-aloud List
Last-But-Not-Least Lola Going Green (Christine Pakkala)
Mouse and the Moon (M. Christina Butler)
Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope (Lisa Moser)
What's the Time, Mr. Wolf? (Debi Gliori)
Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going to School? (Bill Martin Jr.)
Rosie Revere, Engineer (Andrea Beaty)
CommuniTree (Andrea Skyberg)
Digger and Tom (Sebastien Braun)
Duck & Goose Go to the Beach (Tad Hills)
I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes! (Linda Davick)
Odd Duck (Cecil Castellucci)
Two Speckled Eggs (Jennifer K. Mann)
Mama's Day with Little Gray (Aimee Reid)

Keeping Warm on the Sidelines

We have had an especially cold year up here in the Midwest and I have spent both the Spring and Fall freezing my butt off on the soccer field sidelines.  One of the other families had these double-layer fleece blankets every week and they just looked so warm and cozy (I was a little jealous).  So, even though summer is approaching, I finally decided to tackle the project myself.  Their blankets were tied.  I decided to try crochet (mostly because the idea of cutting the strips to tie scared me).

There are a bunch of methods to make the holes along the edge of the fleece and after some trial and error, I went with my 1/16" hole punch.  This made the perfect size hole, but it's not super easy to punch through the two layers.  My forearms are still hurting!  I also was not super careful about the distance between the holes and so the edging is a little ruffly (but it's the girls' blanket so it works).  I am already thinking about rigging up something on the punch to help me judge space as I punch.

The border is pretty simple and I used scrap yarn for all of the rows, so the project really only cost the price of the fleece.  The first row is a double crochet and chain all the way around (with 3 repeats in each corner).  The second row is two double crochets in each chain space.  The third row is all single crochets and the final row is four single crochets, picot (skip 1 sc) repeated around (with a little fudging on the single crochets in order to have a picot in each corner).

I'm happy with how the blanket turned out (especially because it is truly going to live in my car for sideline use only), but I'm thinking about how to make the next one better.  As you can see below, there is one more set of fleece just waiting for me.  Good thing I have the entire summer to get it finished!

A Little Update...

I've been a little MIA around here lately.  Two big reasons were this guy (the grown one) traveling a lot over the last couple months and also some major home renovations.  Things aren't complete, but at least my partner is back in town...yay!  Another big factor has been the kids' sports schedule (and Liv hasn't even started any summer activities yet).  The soccer season is winding down (although they practice all year), but baseball and softball are in full swing and tons of fun!

My Mom has not been feeling well lately, so I was thrilled to be able to bring her some flowers from my yard.  The irises were my Grandma's plants, so that makes it even more cool (in my opinion).  They made my car smell amazing!

EJ bridged to Brownies last night and she was so excited and proud.  They sang us some songs and walked over an actual bridge.  Older sibling scouts were on hand to escort them across the bridge and give them their new pin as well.

After the ceremony, we had a little dessert reception.  Each parent brought a dessert to share, but this parent had no interest in baking this weekend.  So instead, I made a bunch of these rainbow licorice treat bags (lazy, but cute).

The ceremony was at 6pm and I decided to wait dinner until we got home.  This would not have been a problem except for the fact that we have been eating super early for the last couple weeks to accommodate the sports/event calendar.  Livie did not fare well.  She wore her "Brownies Rule" shirt to the ceremony and I was hoping to get a cute photo of her and EJ.  Maybe something like this...

But no...this is the photo I actually got.  Classic!

I'm going to try to be a better poster.  Summer vacation starts in one week!  YAY!

New Look

The outside of our house has gotten a little facelift recently.  The painters have been busy making the trim more inviting, the front door much more obvious (but I love it) and staining the cedar shakes so that they might survive a bit longer.  You can also see the semi-new garage (last summer's project) peeking out behind (I still wish we weren't forced into the dark brown door, but I love having a new, sturdy garage).  I'm usually one to focus on the inside of the house, but I do love these changes.

This photo is from two years definitely "before."