Thursday, June 15, 2017

Train Table Makeover

Well, I have no idea why it took us 3 boys to get there, but it seems we have one "choo choo" obsessed little man on our hands these days.  I have no doubt there will be a Thomas birthday party post coming in the next couple months!  When a used train table popped up on one of the local buy/sell/trade pages on Facebook recently at a decent price, we decided that we would hop on it knowing that it would make all of Joel's dreams come true.  (And of course the big boys would be thrilled too.... they just aren't quite obsessive as the little guy currently is.)

The table came to us in used condition and was priced as such, so naturally I wanted to give it a little facelift before we brought it into our living room.  Here's what it looked like before--



More off white than white, and several scuffs along the tops and the sides, but nothing that a little paint couldn't correct.  I had the man of the house sand it all down for me so that I could get to work.  We already had some no VOC white paint that we have used on some previous projects so we stuck with keeping the table itself white.  Then after he sanded down the table top, I used some acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby to paint a more traditional train table "scene" on top.



Once the scene was set, I passed the baton to the man for the poly coat.  The only downside to pregnancy is feeling a little helpless in situations such as these when I'm not "allowed" to complete the project that I want to do.  I have this little bit of impatience about me and I like for things to be checked off of my list.  Surely I'm not alone?  .... Once the poly had a couple days to set and dry in this NC humidity, we brought the table in for the big reveal.  The big kids knew that we had the table, knew what it was and knew that we had painted it.  HOWEVER, Joel was clueless as to what this large piece of furniture hanging in our garage was, AND the big boys had no idea that I snagged some really awesome train tracks, trains and accessories at a great price from a friend to complete the package.  Here's a peek of it all moved in--



Look, no large scuffs all over the sides anymore!  And of course a drawer full of trains because the trains overfloweth. 



And the reveal to the kiddos will put a smile on your face today-- 
.... That sweet tiny voice saying "choo choo" and taking it all in.  That's what we hear most of the day whether it's begging for Thomas to be played on the TV, telling us to "rea" one of his Thomas books to him, or it's just lining up cars, boxes or buckets to make them a choo choo.  I think I have a feeling of how the boys will spend their day today and it's been fun watching them liven up and imagine together around the table this morning. 


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

End of the School Year


Another school year has come, and has gone as quickly as it came.  We are super proud of our two biggest boys and all of the hard work they have put in this year-- the biggest kid, Leeland has completed first grade, and Hayden preschool including his first Classical Conversations experience.  

We wrapped up our year of Classical Conversations with our community in April doing end of year presentations and receiving certificates. 




Leeland's class taught us about the different biomes for their end of year presentation and specifically he had a little blurb about the grasslands.  Hayden's class sang us one of their history sentences about the crusades!

Here's just a little snapshot of some of what they have learned this past year in cycle 2 of CC.


We've spent May wrapping up the last of our first grade math lessons, doing our very first standardized test to meet state homeschool requirements, and having a few fun days here and there to get excited for Summer.  (PS.  Have to brag a moment-- I am blown away by how well the big kid did on his first test!  I'm almost ashamed to admit how anxious I was about this test after seeing his scores.)

I still remember when this homeschooling idea was just a thought and had so many fears attached to it, and now here we are doing it.  Do I still have fears and failures?  Absolutely!  No hesitating in that answer.  I'm no super human, but it brings me so much joy to be alongside these kiddos watching them grow and watching them learn.  And I've said it before, and will say it again, I often feel like the Lord is teaching me SO much more than them. 

Here's a little peek at the biggest on his first day of first grade...

.... and now Leeland's last day of first grade. 


And Hayden on his first day of preschool (k4)....

... And last day.  Next year he'll be a big kindergartner! Eek!

It hasn't all been smooth sailing.  We've had some amazing days, we've had some really hard days, and we've had a whole lot of in between days but I still wouldn't change a thing.  These two kiddos are pretty amazing.  We are proud and we are blessed!  Can't wait to see what next year holds for our now 2nd grader and kindergartner, but for now we are celebrating with cake at the big kid's request!




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Baby Evelyn's Nursery

You had to know that when we broke down our school room a few weeks ago that a nursery post would be coming soon.   It never fails that I turn into a little bit of a crazy lady when I'm pregnant and frantically insist on checking items off of my list that I  have made up and convinced myself that I "need" to do.  The odd part of all of the shenanigans is that this is my 4th child and the realist in me knows that she doesn't actually need anything and that if she is anything like her bigger brothers, there's a very real possibility that she won't even use a nursery for the first year.  BUT, the nursery is so fun to put together.  AND it's a great place to store all of her sweet little clothes, and diapers we have been given..... and I mean, if we are really honest, this is my first time bringing girly things into our home so that was just plain fun.

Here's just a few shots since we are pretty much done-- no theme.  Just pink, and lace and flowers and girly things.



Hard to see in photos, but the curtains have little white polka dots and a lace trim to them.  I enjoyed making those. 


The desk above has been around for YEARS.  But sand it and put a fresh coat of paint and it looks new.  For now it serves as a changing table, but I have visions of it becoming a place where she can sit and read or journal.  Or maybe throw in a shabby chic fuzzy topped stool and call it a little make-up vanity.  


For some reason her room just didn't seem complete to me without adding in some sort of floral, so the grapevine wreath was put together and added in very recently.  


You might notice that we are missing a major piece of furniture in her room.... the crib.  That's because Joel is still using it.  For now her rock & play sits in it's place.  You can check out my post of  Joel's nursery here to see what the crib looks like.  It's a hand-me-down crib we received from a friend that we painted mint green, so once it's in, it will tie in the mint green to all of the pink.  

I have never had one of these fancy rock & plays with any of the kids but I hear people love them.  Amazon had a great deal back in January which is how we ended up with the self rocking one.  I hope she likes it!



Letters were purchased at Hobby Lobby along with the two hangers with knobs that they are hanging from.  I covered the letters in mismatched scrapbook paper with mod podge.




I LOVE LOVE LOVE this print that we ordered from All Good Things Collective  and to be quite honest the pictures taken in her room on a cloudy, rainy day don't do it justice.  It really ties in a lot of the colors in her room and it's just really pretty to me.  They had a great sale code back when they launched their new site and I scooped it up then.  I made the poster holder with some pine wood and magnets.  There's two pieces of wood at the top sandwiching magnets and two pieces at the bottom sandwiching magnets to hold it straight and then all tied up with some lace ribbon. 



This is my spot!  I go in her room and sit and rock often.  This chair has stains and isn't necessarily the right color for the space, but this is the same chair that I have rocked 3 precious boys with.  And in fact, Joel often comes back to her room to find me and still likes to rock in it.  I can't wait to rock and nurse this sweet baby girl.  I've got my Boppy and basket of burp rags at the ready already! Haha!    11 or so weeks to go. 


Sweet little jackets on hooks by the door, and the rack I purchased at Micheals.  I've got some crocheted hats and bonnets ready for her on the bottom and some bows up top, just need to get the little gal some headbands to throw in that middle spot. 


Finished crocheting her baby blanket yesterday.  I've crocheted a blanket for each of our babies and I really like how this one turned out-- a shell stitch of light pink, pink, mint, and ivory and then a ruffly  light pink border all around.  I still have the blanket that my Granny crocheted for me when I was a baby and I hope each of our kids keeps theirs for years to come. 


Large decorative sign hanging over the rocker,  I purchased at Hobby Lobby for our little gal. 

That's all there is to it.  Nothing extravagant, but I love it.  The hope is that it is decor that will grow with her for a little while.  And now that this big item is checked off of my list, I can relax, right?  Probably not-- my next big to-do to check off of my list is stocking the freezer with meals for postpartum life and that will mean a few days on my feet in the kitchen.  But for now, it's a rainy, gloomy day and I might just grab a book, and prop my feet up in that rocking chair because it just looks too cozy.  

Saturday, May 6, 2017

4-H Butterfly Emergence Project: Part 3

If you happen to be curious, you can head over to this link for Part 1, and to this link for Part 2 of our Butterfly emergence project.

Today, we pick up on day 21 as we continue to just wait and watch.

Day 21 Photo--


FOUR chrysalis now!  Caterpillars number 12 and number 11 were added to the others who had already formed their chrysalis.  A few more should be coming soon.  Thanks to a smart friend who is also doing this project, you can see in the photo that we have fashioned some Chrysalis hammocks.  Haha!  We were given glue dots to fashion the lid tops to our mesh bag (the chrysalis themselves are attached to the lids with the caterpillars silk) and the glue dots did not work.  After our first one fell more than once, I moved onto duck tape which also didn't work and then my friend said that she found needle and thread to be tedious but it held them up.  Chrysalis safety is of utmost importance around here.

In other news, we have officially declared caterpillar number 7 dead.  Certainly sad, but it is part of the life cycle indeed.  

Day 28 Photos--

We FINALLY have our first two butterflies who have emerged from their chrysalis.  This has been a whole lot more waiting and watching than anyone anticipated.  Still waiting on the rest, and with our supplies due back to 4-H in only a few days, I'm a little nervous that they will not be out in time.  


You can sort of see the broken chrysalis in the left of this photo that one of the butterflies emerged from.



Some banana and sliced strawberry was put in for them to munch on.  And as you can see, the wings of the "Painted Lady butterflies" are orange with black spots. 

......

Out of 12 caterpillars, we ended up with 8 painted lady butterflies.  We released 4 of them into the wild on Sunday April 30th, and then see below that we released the last 4 on Saturday May 6th.

Lost count of the days (haha!):  Butterfly release video


Having caterpillars was definitely a fun learning experience for the kids.  Leeland says "seeing the chrysalis" was his favorite part of watching the cycle and Hayden says "releasing the butterflies" was his favorite part.  I have to say that they took WAY longer to transform and go through the cycle than I ever anticipated, and for that reason, I'm not sure that I would keep them again.  Or if we ever decided to watch and release them again, maybe I would wait until further into Summer in hopes that the heat would be better for them.  Remember from my first post, their ideal temperature is 85 degrees so I sort of wonder if the wonky NC weather made the cycle longer.  Regardless, still fun to learn about them and watch them for sure!  Hope you all enjoyed learning and watching right along with us. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

"New" School Space

Summer of 2015 as we began our first "official" year of homeschooling the oldest as a kindergartner, we put together a fabulous school room with an extra bedroom in our house.  I was smitten.  I spent many days just sitting and looking at the curtains and maps and organizing our supplies both excited and anxious for our upcoming year..... And then having a separate school space didn't exactly go as I had planned it all out in my head.  (You can check out our old school room at this link over here.)

We spent at least a month or two religiously doing our school work back in our designated school room each day, and then the room slowly began to become a catch all, started losing it's allure, and became a little bit of a nuisance for life with a toddler.

With baby number four on the way, it was time to sit down and think about how practical it really is to utilize that room as a school space and evaluate it's usefulness.  And at the end of the day having a separate school space definitely has it's pros, but it also has some cons too.

School Space Pros-
  • A plethora of storage for all of our schooling supplies and books.  While the extra bedroom was not huge, it's still an EXTRA space meaning we had a closet and lots of wall space for bookshelves, filing cabinets and an array of storage.
  • A space to be hopefully distraction free.  I don't know that the kids struggle with it quite as much, but I have a habit of getting distracted by things around me such as a full sink of dishes, a floor covered with toys, and a couch covered with clothes.  When we had a separate space, we were basically locked away and able to focus.
  • It was pretty.  Can I count that as a pro?  I mean seriously though, we kind of had the maps and decor JUST right.  And this year we hung from the ceiling some really cute paper lanterns of the planets that we painted-- the space itself when tidy and kept up was quite mesmerizing.  (Have no fear, our beautiful planets were not tossed and are now happily hanging from the ceiling in the big boys' bedroom.)
School Space Cons-
  • Our school space was not by any means toddler proof-- I mean you can imagine shelves and cabinets full of books.  Maybe there's a way to toddler proof those, but the reality is that there were many days of fighting the toddler as he ripped items off the shelves in a tornado like fashion.  Due to this issue, there were many days of pulling our books out to the kitchen table so that the toddler could be with us or roam the living room in freedom and in eyesight.  
  • While being distraction free is nice, we were shut off in the back of the house.  I was not able to give the oldest an assignment and go wash dishes and still be able to assist him.  However, when we school at the kitchen table, I can be within earshot of him as I prepare breakfast/lunches or load the dishwasher.  
  • There's just something cozy about gathering around the kitchen table.  I mean, let's get real.  In most houses, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  It's where we host company and friends, and where we gather together as a family at least once a day but more often 3 times a day.  Even on the occasion we have people over, how often we end up standing in the kitchen chatting!  We totally have comfy couches only a step away in the living room, and yet, the kitchen is where gather.  
  • Also taken into account is baby number 4.  The reality is that 2 out of 3 of our boys have spent their first year and half sleeping in our room, so it isn't necessary for her to have her own bedroom right away, BUT what does reality look like schooling next year with both a toddler and a newborn underfoot?  Will I be able to move all of us to a secondary space and keep the younger two amused while the big kids do school?  OR will it look something more like nursing an infant on the couch while the toddler runs amuck, the 5 year old reads me a book and the biggest kiddo is a few feet away in earshot at the kitchen table working on his math worksheet?  I'm a realist, so I'm bracing myself for the chaos of the latter.  
Maybe it's just our time and our season.  I know that a separate space works and is praised by so many in the homeschool community, but it just wasn't working for us in this time and in this season, and that bedroom CAN be utilized for baby girl.  So after spending much of this year dragging our books back and forth to the kitchen anyway, we have officially moved into our "new" school space-- our kitchen table.  

We've had to do some interesting consolidating and cleaning out when it comes to our supplies and storage of our books, but overall, I'm incredibly happy with our new space!  We get to gather around the table each day, do our devotion and read aloud time of an array of books over breakfast, and then easily pull out supplies for our school day from the kitchen cabinet.  It also means that Mommy is a lot closer to the coffee pot throughout our school day AND my nesting can kick in as we decorate the nursery and prepare for the excitement of our first little girl.  

Here's a peek at our humble eat in kitchen.



The toddler on the table is pretty much a regular occurrence and battle.  He's learning lots with us though!



Same white boards and Ikea wire that were in our school room, just transitioned to the kitchen.  We use the wire to hang our Classical Conversations weekly timeline cards when CC is in session.  And the silver sign is new-- "Plant something and watch it grow."  Thank you Target "dollar" spot!  I just couldn't resist considering our school name has "Harvest" in the title.  And I'll pick up two new frames to add pictures of Joel and Evelyn to the wall in the Fall.  They aren't yet official schooling age, but they are very much enrolled in our school. Haha!


Remember I said the toddler is learning right along with us.... well today he taught himself how to use the pencil sharpener while he was on the table raiding our things.  It is as dangerous as it sounds.

So while I was looking for inspiration for our kitchen school I found that small space organization for homeschooling is lacking quite a bit.  I know many folks use their kitchens to school in.  That is not unusual, BUT many folks have space to add in a hutch, credenza or bookshelf nearby to store their supplies.  The reality is that with a second high chair being added to our small eat-in kitchen soon, we just don't have the space for an extra piece of furniture nearby.  We thankfully have plenty of kitchen cabinets and after doing some SERIOUS cleaning out and a run to Goodwill, I had an empty one to store our supplies.  It's working so far!


Want a peek at what all of these bins are?  Then feel free to watch me awkwardly show you our school stuff and how it's organized in the video below. 





Saturday, April 29, 2017

First Family Camping Trip

We spent the last few days quite literally "off the grid" even though we weren't all that far from home.  We went on our very first family camping trip.  The big boys have been dying to go camping for quite a while now, and when some sweet friends asked us about going the same time that they were planning a trip to celebrate their son's birthday, it seemed like a pretty perfect opportunity.

The big kiddos have spent one night out in the backyard in the tent with Daddy in the past, but when it came to packing, cooking, sleeping, and being away from home and outside quite literally all day long.... I'm gonna be honest that I was not really sure how it was going to go.  I just knew that I was thankful that we would be there with friends and we'd be in it and enjoying it together.

As I packed the van up on Thursday, I had a new found respect for "backpackers."  Even with passing my list through my simple and minimal check list, we still had a full trunk, and I removed a seat from our van.  What happens when we go camping with 4 and don't have the luxury of removing that "extra" seat any longer?



.... And yes, we had an electric camp site so a few of our "essentials" included a coffee pot, griddle and the Instant Pot.  One, I can't live without coffee, but it also provided us with hot water for washing dishes too which was nice.  And you can't camp without pancake breakfast, and the Instant Pot made dinner the 2nd night easy peasy on a hot day.



Loaded up and ready-- the big kids and I were chatting about how Joel had no idea what camping was because he was too little understand where we were headed.  Joel gave us quite the laugh as he continued to make a grumpy face and insist that "NO" he was not sleeping outside whenever I would ask him if he was excited to sleep outside.  

I had no idea going into our trip that my phone would be so trippy only an hour and a half away from home, but apparently we were in the wilderness and it decided that it wanted nothing to do with it.  Honestly, while it made me nervous should we or someone in my family have an emergency, it was also such a blessing to turn it off, unwind and be free for a few days.  


Have no fear.... the pack and play was moved inside the tent for sleep.  We didn't really make the baby sleep outside, but we did contain the baby while we did things like set up camp.  

I asked the boys what their favorite part about camping was...


Leeland says that he loved roasting marshmallows and making s'mores.


Hayden says having fun with his friend Matthew and playing in the mud.  


And the big boys and I guessed that if Joel could answer the question, he would say the freedom.  He's the 3rd kiddo, so if we're really honest, he's very much "free range" as it is, but it doesn't get any better than running around barefoot outside all day doing whatever you please.  

I spent nearly two days prepping and packing, the temperatures were unexpectedly high for April, setting up and taking down a tent was hard work, my 25 week pregnant self couldn't get all that comfortable on an air mattress in the heat at night, we had thunderstorms and lightning the first night, and we brought home an entire van full of laundry for me to work on.... BUT I had such a great time!  The work was so worth it and I came home with a big smile on my face.  I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.... and while we have a little time before our 2nd trip will happen because of a new baby coming and all, I have to say that I'm super excited for another camping trip.  

I now understand the appeal of camping-- I understand the relaxation because we can sit back and have no agenda.  Three days of just being present together as a family and with our friends.  Three days of yummy food, of kids running around making memories, of gathering together for 3 meals a day, of just being. Just simply being. Memories were made and even amongst the work and the little bit of chaos, there was still a great feeling of peace and rest.  I could not be more thankful with how our first family camping trip went.