what’s been happening around here

I totally feel like I have to rewind here.  I haven’t posted in a while – we have been so busy!

So let’s start with some summer stuff…

We started a fairy garden, just for fun.  It looked pretty pathetic for most of the summer, but by September, the ground cover we added had grown and now I’m thinking it looks pretty cute.  It’s a fun summer activity for little ones – even more fun if you make an event of searching your backyard for things to use in it (pebbles, rocks, wood pieces, bark, moss, ground cover, etc.).  Search fairy garden on pinterest – you’ll be amazed!  Here’s a pic of ours:

Fairy Garden

I also bought this secretary at Goodwill in August… and finally painted it the first week the kids were in school.  I’m loving how it looks in the kitchen.  I had hoped that it would solve the problem of papers piling up on the kitchen table, but apparently you have to actually put things in it for that to work.  ha.


Then school started.  So far, so good.  Kids have been doing well, with the slight exception of one phone call home regarding a 10-year-old boy who talked too much.  I guess that’s normal boy stuff – but definitely a first for me.  I hope it’s the last.

Let’s see, what else?

This seems to be the year where I have officially become the mom taxi.  Kids have activities three nights a week.  Then you add in my activities and my husband’s… and we are running around a lot.  But they are all good things – Bible quizzing, irish dance, MOPS, etc.

One of my oldest daughter’s activities are advanced math and science classes (for which she is actually getting college credit!) at the local community college.  I must say it felt weird to drop my 7th grader off at a college campus!  She has started rolling her eyes at me when I remind her not to talk to strangers or go anywhere alone every time I drop her off.  But I still do it – ha ha!  After all, she IS only 12!  But I’m finding a fabulous side effect of all this growing up she’s doing – she no longer has to be woken up!  she gets up on her own!  and showers every day without reminders!  Let’s just say I’m a little happy about that.

Then in October came MOMcon (previously known as the MOPS Convention) in Kansas City.  As always, it was amazing.  I got to see/hear Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, Lysa Terkeurst, Ken Davis, and more.  It is always a spiritually refreshing few days away for me.  The challenge is letting what I heard sink in and change me.

Halloween came and went, and my littlest was just the cutest thing ever – Madeline:


She thought no one would know who she was – but so many people commented and loved her costume.

Then our computer hard drive crashed and all our files were unrecoverable (is that a word?).  Sad day, people.  Because even though you KNOW you should back stuff up, like all those precious photos of your little ones, do you really do it regularly?  Well, we did not.  Over the years I’ve been pretty good at actually printing our photos, which I am thanking God for.  I hadn’t gotten any 2013 pics printed, though, so I’m pretty bummed about that.  Not to mention all our other files besides photos!

My P.S.A. for today – back up your files, you never know.  

 And so November is here now, with Thanksgiving right around the corner.  I love this holiday and everything about it!!

The kiddos and I will be doing this week-long “giving thanks” activity from Ann Voskamp.  I think this is great for older children who can write – it stretches out the thanksgiving for all week!


And a nice little video how-to for folding it into a little booklet are here:


So now your turn – what’s been happening in your neck of the woods?


Advent Calendar Ideas

This week I will be working on this year’s advent calendar for the kiddos.  Can’t believe it’s almost December already!

Hope you all had lovely Thanksgiving celebrations!

Here are a couple of handmade advent calendars we’ve done in past years:

::Christmas Tree Advent::

::Clothespin Advent::

We will be using the Clothespin Advent Calendar again this year… but with a couple of new twists!

Instead of paper bags, I will be using toilet paper tubes, decorated for Christmas and used as gift boxes!  (see this tutorial).

I try to have a good mix of both goodies and activities for the kids to do.  I found this fabulous printable list of advent activities that is going to be perfect.  Not to mention it’s going to save me some time and energy!

{By the way, both of those blogs are wonderful – I am a regular reader of both and I’m so thankful for awesome bloggers who are willing to share their great ideas!}


2011 Advent Calendar

Been working on this project the past couple of weeks… and finished just in time for December 1st!

Saw the idea on pinterest (sorry, don’t know what the original site was!) and made it my own.   Used some scrap wood from the garage, some paint I already had on hand, some rub-ons that I thrifted last year for 99 cents!, and my trusty glue gun.  I did have to buy some clothes pins.  A hint if you try this yourself – don’t buy clothespins from the dollar store!  That’s where I bought mine, but they’re kinda flimsy and I don’t know how many years they’ll hold out!

This was definitely a little more difficult than last year’s advent, but actually took probably the same amount of time!  And this can be used again!

I just wrapped the little gifts / activity suggestions in brown lunch bags and secured with ribbon.  The majority of the days have things to do rather than gifts – like read Luke chapter 2, put up the Christmas tree, bake cookies, etc. 

I love how it turned out and I’m so looking forward to all those activities with my kiddos!

Happy December!

Summer’s over? Already?

I cannot believe that school starts tomorrow!

We really have had a fabulous summer.  I thought I’d wind it down by posting pictures of a few of my favorite memories from the summer.

Mini cherry pies for the Fourth of July (this recipe was definitely a keeper!), with cherries from our own backyard.  Overall, it wasn’t a good summer for backyard fruit.  Wet and cold through June, a hot, hot, hot and dry July, and then an average August do not make for good produce!!  My homemade jam stash is meager!

And then there was the day that I gave Miss Bella a much-needed bath and then she proceeded to roll in fresh-cut grass.  She ended up dyed a beautiful shade of green.  Note to self:  bathe the dog the day BEFORE the grass gets cut!

We had a great time at Lamb Farms for the MOPS summer get-together in mid-July.  We learned a lot about cows, including that they have big runny noses and they pee right where they’re standing.  Great fun.  (Actually, we really did learn a lot of useful info about cows.  But I thought I’d share the stuff the kids thought was the funniest). 

We also had ice cream.  Fortunately not while watching the cows pee.

I was refreshed and renewed at the MOPS Convention in Nashville.

We made all sorts of crafty stuff.  Miss L made a crocheted scarf, and here’s a picture of her making a rug using old t-shirts.  (Instructions at http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/hula-hoop-rug-995304/, if you’re interested).

Mr. D, on the other hand, was busy with legos.

And Miss A, as always, marches to her own beat:

We went camping at Jellystone and had a great time at the waterpark there.  Here you can see Miss A, still marching to her own beat and always on a mission.

And Miss L and Mr. D had a “way better” time than last year because they chose to actually GO on the slides:

And we cannot forget our day at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure.  They had a large variety of animals and getting up close and personal so that we could feed them right from the trolley was a treat. 

The girls have been getting along great – including Miss L doing the little one’s hair on occasion!  What a nice break for me, and she does a great job!

And last, but not least, I made some homemade peach cobbler today to go with our labor day celebration.  There is nothing better than the smell of baking peach cobbler!

Happy Labor Day, and may all your back-to-school adventures go smoothly!

First crocheted scarf!

L learned a new skill this summer!

Here she is showing it off…

And here’s an up-close picture.  She did a great job! 

We picked up free instructions for this scarf when we bought the yarn at Michaels.  It was called “Quick 7 Row Scarf” from Loops & Threads.

Don’t you just *love* those bright colors?

Thanksgiving Weekend Activity…

This is what we worked on Saturday ~ our very own Christmas Tree Advent Calendar:

The kids helped make the trees… but what is under them is a surprise (an assortment of treats, activities written on paper, small gifts)!  They are busting at the seams waiting for December 1st ~ I’m not sure that the trees will stay taped down until then!

If you want to make your own, you can find instructions here.

In other news, my three-year-old made these at church yesterday:

I am so thankful for my kids!  They are such blessings to me, including making me laugh on a daily basis! 

(Hmmm – I do wonder about the disparity between the pictures of mom and dad, though ~ what would a psychiatrist say about that??)

Enjoy your week!

Summer Planning Round-up

EEEK!  School ends in 2 days! 

If you have school-aged children, you know exactly what I mean.  Yes, it’s lovely to have a more relaxed schedule, have more time to play and enjoy your kids, not have to help them with homework, etc., but you also have the kids at home with you.  🙂 

My two older children love to bicker.  And bicker.  And bicker some more.  Honestly I’m not looking forward to having them together 24/7.

So I’ve started to plan for the summer.  Learning experiences.  Field trips.  Camping trips.  Very Important Playdates (read:  time away from one another).  Some sports activities.

I thought if you’re a new reader, you might like some of my ideas for summer from the past. 

~  Read about various local field trips we’ve taken here.  (A side note:  do NOT spend money on the Jell-o Factory.  I mean, come on, there’s not even any jell-o to be had!)

~  Thinking about camping?  Go here.

~ Get some ideas for traveling with kids here.

~  And, I thought I’d posted about planning for summer, but I couldn’t find it!  So I’ll give you the highlights of what we do here..

  1. Print out a calendar of the summer months.
  2. Find out what your kids are interested in, and pick a topic for each week of the summer (e.g., farms, fish, gardening, etc.).  We usually don’t include the week after school ends, or the week before school begins.
  3. Brainstorm, for each week, a field trip, a food, and a craft that is related to the topic.  The internet is a great resources for all types of subjects – you can find crafts, coloring pages, activities like word searches and crossword puzzles, recipes, etc.  I usually try to find these types of activities and print them out a week ahead of time.
  4. We picked Wednesdays as our field trip days, and then spread out the food / craft / other activities throughout the week. 
  5. At the beginning of the week, go to the library and find a few books about the subject (age-appropriate).  Then depending on age, you can either read the book to them or have the kids read it.  The library is also a good resource for other summer activities – reading programs and whatnot.
  6. I’ve found that doing this planning with the kids is a great way to keep them engaged and busy during the summer.  I’ve also found it helpful to clearly outline to the kids at the beginning of the summer how much screen time (and when) they’ll be allowed, as well as to reiterate what the house rules are.  We have even printed out a weekly schedule that includes when they can watch tv / play on the computer / have playdates / field trips and put it on the fridge to remind them.  I also print out the house rules and put them on the fridge as well.

And, last but not least,

~  Make some ice cream with your kids.  Instructions are here.

Well, I hope this helps you get more enjoyment out of your summer!  Happy Summer Vacation!