Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

We're snowed in here in Kalamazoo so it's given me some time to get caught up in some areas I've been slacking in, like this blog for instance.  I always have great ideas of things I'd like to write about but writing them in my head doesn't take up near as much time as typing them out.  Of course there's also the excuse that every time I sit down to the computer a child "needs" to use the computer, or needs a snack, or a drink, or.....the list could go on forever.  At this moment however, the stars are aligned and all children are engaged in their own activity aka "screen time" and I have twenty minutes before the "Mom, can I's" start up again.

Once again, Christmas went way too fast this year.  Of course having one less week before Thanksgiving and Christmas totally wrecked me.  What a difference 7 days make!  Ben was especially difficult this year which added to the already stressful month.  For some reason this year he struggled a lot with the transition.  It made him crazy that all the decorations weren't put up in the time he thought they should be and he was very anxious about what presents he was getting from who.   Finally about 3 days before Christmas, after he had gotten two of the gifts he'd really wanted from grandparents, he calmed down and seemed less intense. We enjoyed a very nice, quiet Christmas together.  It was very relaxing and we really enjoyed spending time together.

As a family we're very excited about our new membership to the YMCA that we received as a family gift.  We've been able to go to open swim times and  take advantage of the exercise equipment.  We're very excited to be able to have somewhere we can go together as a family.  It's getting harder to find activities to do as a whole family with a 15 and 7 year old.

Some of the fun things we did over break

  • Lots of movies - both in the theater and at home.  Our favorite was Frozen
  • Game nights - New favorite game is 5 Second Rule and this is one we can all play.
  • Joe went to his first Air Soft war.  A family from church has a ton of property and hosted the middle and high school youth group.  He had so much fun and is eager to start a collection of guns.  
  • Lots of sleepovers.  So many that we've declared January as a non-sleepover month.  

We started back to school this week despite the snow and school closings.  We took off the month of December so we needed to get back to work.  It's been nice to not have to go anywhere and ease back into a daily routine.  As much as the kids grumble and complain about schoolwork I think they are getting bored and need the structure.

I hope you had wonderful Christmas!


Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Good Start

I cannot believe how fast the past 6 weeks have flown by!  We are six weeks into the school year and fall is officially here.  We are trying something new this year with our homeschool schedule. I am moving towards a year round school schedule so we are doing 6 weeks on and one week off, 3 weeks for Christmas and a shorter summer break.  This coming week is our first week off. Yay!!  I think this will be a good thing for my sanity and also for the kids.  It worked out perfectly that our first break landed on the week Matt would be working at the Covered Bridge Festival in Rockville.  Rachel and Joe went with him to work and enjoy the festival.  Hannah, Ben, Jacob and I stayed behind and I have a loooonngg list of things to do while they’re gone.  One being a long overdue blog update.

I’m pretty sure I am the only mom on the planet that didn’t take pictures of my kids the first day, week or month of school.  Yep, mom failure. Sorry grandma’s!  Even without the picture they still started school six weeks ago. 

  • Hannah is back at HCA for High School.  Yes, it’s as hard to type it as to say it.  She eased right back in as if she’d never left.  She is happy to be back but not thrilled about the homework, to which Rachel loves to remind her that SHE doesn’t have any. 
  • Rachel is in 8th grade this year and is staying home again this year.  She is still volunteering at True Vine Equestrian Center and is sure she has found her calling.  She is taking a class at KAT (Kazoo Area Tutors) and really enjoys the teacher.
  • Joe is in 6th grade and moved up to Middle School.  He is very excited to be part of the youth group at church.  He’s playing on the Homeschool Soccer team and is having a lot of fun.  He chose not to play football again, he said it was too hard to run in the pads but we’re pretty sure he wasn’t fond of seeing kids larger than him charging towards him with their only goal to be to knock him on his behind.  Just our personal opinion.
  • Ben is in 3rd grade and has had a great start to the year.  He has actually been the easiest to work with.  He was ready for a routine again and is doing well.
  • Jacob is in 1st grade and can be found hiding underneath the dining room table whenever he hears the word school.  We are focusing on three things this year. Reading, Math and Handwriting and we rotate those three ALL DAY LONG.  He is improving but some days I’m tempted to just teach him how to type.

IMG_4779Ben and Jacob are completely obsessed with all things Star Wars right now.  Joe was excited about this until his brothers started playing with HIS Star Wars stuff.IMG_4781

Meet Smore’s.  Rachel wanted another bunny so she searched and searched online until she found this furball.  She is super soft, loves to cuddle, and help her with schoolwork. Ahem.


This is an igloo project gone bad. Ben and Jacob made igloos but then decided to invite their Angry Birds, pigs and Star Wars guys to take up residence.  Does that still count as “educational”?



Yes this is my Hannah’s silly cat.  She finds the strangest places to sleep.  She loves to sit on my printer while I’m on the computer and one day I went to grab a towel out of my bathroom closet and found her up on the shelf.  I love the way she looks at me like “What? I’m just sleepin”  She makes me smile and there are some days I need a smile wherever  I can get it. I love her. She makes me happy, happy, happy. Smile




I hope your school year/Fall is off to a good start!

And yes, I just realized I forgot to take my kids pictures but I have 4 of the cat. FAIL.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Florida Vacation Part One

For over a year we’ve been planning the big one.  The big vacation to Florida to attend Matt’s brother’s wedding.  Matt’s parents wanted us to take advantage of the location to enjoy a large family vacation. Beach houses were rented and I began planning for the longest drive we’ve done with five kids and the longest time we’ve been gone from home.  Since we were already making the long trek to Florida we decided to add on a trip to Orlando to do some Theme Parks since it was highly unlikely we would travel that far again.  The big stressor for me was the drive.  Since about 2 years old Ben has been a TERRIBLE traveler.  A two minute drive to church on Sunday can al be almost unbearable.  He struggles with being strapped to a seat, enclosed in a small space with 6 other people, and the anxiety of how long it will take to get somewhere. We decided to leave on Friday night just before bedtime and drive all night to let the kids sleep for a large part of the drive.  This was the first time Matt and I also attempted to drive through the night.  We left at about 8:00 p.m. and arrived in Pensacola around 1:30 p.m. the next day.


Thanks to A LOT of people praying for us and Pinterest the trip was a success.  The kids did amazing, especially Ben.  I packed a tote of activities, favorite snacks and some new movies.  Our destination was worth every minute in the car.


This was the view from our back door. The ocean was just on the other side of those houses.

The beach houses were amazing.  Four families stayed in one house with all of the younger kids and everyone else stayed in the house next door (with the blue roof).  We spent the first four days relaxing, swimming in both the pools and the Gulf.  We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, the girls went to get our nails done and the guys had a night out with the groom. 


This is what the view of the pool looked like for four days straight.

I was very nervous about the kids swimming in the ocean.  The thought of them getting sucked out to sea made me sick to my stomach but once I got out there with them it was too much fun to worry about what could, but probably wouldn’t, happen.

IMG_4075 Both of the boys loved the waves.  Jacob called them “mean waves” because they kept knocking him over.  Every once in a while he’d really get knocked down and he’d get mad, storm off, take a break and jump right back in.  Ben has been very into geography this summer so he was absolutely geeked about swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.  IMG_4077IMG_4086

The guys played football and the kids had quite a collection of shells by the end of the week. 



I asked Bridget to take some family pics of us, taking advantage of the beautiful background. It was HOT and the sun was so bright that it was hard not to squint but I am still happy with the pictures we got.  I look at these pictures and I can’t believe these are my kids and how blessed we are! God is so good to us!


  The houses and location couldn’t have been more perfect.  Matt and I enjoyed early morning walks on the beach, sitting by the pool under the stars and every night falling asleep in the porch swing right outside our bedroom door. The house was big enough that Ben didn’t get too overwhelmed by all the people.  He was able to have quiet times by himself and had fun playing with his cousins.  It was the perfect balance of family, relaxation and fun.  I will hopefully have all my pictures posted on Facebook this weekend.

The week went by so fast and it was time for the wedding then pack up to leave for the next adventure. 

To be continued…..in Orlando!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up–The one with the Blahs

We were in Rockville last weekend so I didn’t have time for an update so I’m rolling the last two weeks together.  We went to Rockville to celebrate Grandma Nicola’s birthday.


It was really good for me to get out of the house and town for a few days.  The week before was really a blah week.  After a week of excessive grumbling and complaining from the kids I was ready to pack up and leave town for a few days, even if I had to take the kids along. Winking smile  I heard on the radio that the 3rd week of January is typically the most depressing week of the year for people.  I was glad to hear I wasn’t the only one.  After hearing that, I decided to pick myself up and do what needed to be done regardless of how I was feeling. 

Here are our Top Five from the past 2 weeks

  1. Going to Rockville.  It’s always nice to stare at someone else’s four walls for a few days.
  2. The kids went to an Eagle watch at a power plant.  They were able to learn about birds of prey and see the birds up close.
  3. The girls started Jterm at Heritage this week.  Hannah is taking a candy making class and skating lessons.  Rachel is taking a babysitter course and Equestrian lessons.  They were very disappointed with 3 snow days during the first week.  Praying for NO snow days this week. 
  4. Hannah went on her first Winter Retreat with the middle school youth group this weekend.  She had a blast and I missed her terribly.
  5. The kids learned how to play spoons at my dad’s.  It was so much fun and they LOVED it.  I haven’t played in probably 20 years, it was a blast! 


I hope you all had a great week!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Weekly Five

I know, I know.  I’m not doing very well keeping up with this blog thing.  I enjoy keeping you all updated on our everyday lives and I know someday I’ll be glad I can go back myself so I’m going to try something new.  Insert “The Weekly Five”.  I’m going to try to  each week write about five things that happened during the week that will give you a peek into what we’re up to. 

This week’s Five

  1. IMG_0913First I thought I’d share how Joe spends the first 20-30 minutes of each morning.  Yep, that’s Joe under that blanket, along with the heat register. (and yes his cereal bowl, *sigh*) It pretty much takes me threatening to take away everything he enjoys in life to get him out from under that blanket.  I don’t get too upset at him, I’d be there too if I had a choice. I love that kid. 
  2.  IMG_0915 Hannah is learning about earthquakes and volcanoes in science so she shared a Powerpoint with us on volcanoes.  Yep, that’s Rachel with her bunny in the background. It’s just all part of the slightly controlled chaos here each day. Later that day I had to tell her to get the rabbit off the table during school, pretty sure no teacher has had to say that, ever.

3.  IMG_0910I’ve started reading the Magic Tree House books with Ben to try to get him interested in chapter books.  Even though he fights me every day to sit and listen, about 2 pages in he gets hooked into the story.  This week we read Mummies in the Morning.  He liked it so much that he wanted to “do a movie” about it.  Matt was Jack, Rachel was Annie and of course Ben was the mummy. 


4.  IMG_1584Hannah took a photography class last semester at The Learning Community (TLC) and really liked it.  This week she and Rachel went outside and Hannah took TONS of pictures.  She started her own album on Facebook if you want to see more of her pictures.  Rachel was the subject of most of her sessions.  Even though I had to delete over 500 pictures I’m glad they found something to do together.

5.  I “caught” Ben reading a book to Jacob this week and though this was a cute shot of them.  Ben really liked watching Charlie Brown Christmas over break and I found some Peanuts books at the library.  He was very excited to read them.  IMG_0908

We didn’t do anything too exciting this week but we spent lots of time together and hopefully made some good memories. 

Hannah wrote this on the board and then took a picture of it.  It makes me smile.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Monthly wrap up???

Ok, so I’m a little behind on my weekly wrap-ups.  Perhaps monthly or even seasonal wrap ups may be in order???  HA!

So, this month we survived our first month of homeschooling!!!  We’ve been home for 4 weeks and A) my children are still alive and B) I still love them!!!  Overall, it’s going very well.  I admit I had pretty low expectations. Over the past 6 mos. I’ve had numerous people look at me in shock and say “ALL FIVE???”  “I will pray for you!”.  This left me thinking “what are all the homeschool moms online not telling me, because they seem to love it?”.  Well, for now I can say that I love it. (this may change mid-February)  These are my top 5 reasons

5)  Flexibility – Both in academics and in life.  Joe was struggling with the math program so we switched it and said goodbye to the frustration.  We can drop everything for a last minute field trip.

4)  NO homework in the evenings -  This was a huge stress for us for the last two years. Joe has practice 2 nights a week and the girls have games 2 nights a week but there’s no worries about when they’re going to get their work done. (this is Matt’s top reason)

3)  Time (see #4) - I feel like I’ve been given the gift of time with the kids.  Yes, what everyone has been telling me for the last 14 years is true – It goes SO fast! Hannah is going to be leaving us in 5 short years, and I am loving the ages the girls are right now.  So I am enjoying just being with them.

2) Lesson Planning  - I love all the organization of planning.  I love the books and getting things ready for the week.  Most weeks I don’t get through 1/2 of what I planned but I still enjoy doing it.  I’m sure I’ll get tired of it eventually but for now I really like it.

1) Less stress!! – Our days are so much more relaxed.  This has been the biggest blessing. It just seems to be a more relaxed lifestyle.  The mornings are quiet and relaxed, and the day just seems to have a nice flow.

The kids are adjusting better than I thought they would.  There are things they really like about it.  Getting up later, finishing by 1:00, no homework seem to be the top three.  They miss their friends a lot but they have made some new friends through sports and homeschool group.  I am so proud of them for their good attitudes and effort to meet new people. Volleyball has been wonderful for the girls.  The girls enjoy having my mom for History and English.  She comes here one day and we go there one day.  It seems to be a pretty good balance. 

Here are some pics of our first month


We went to the beach when everyone else was having their first day of school.  I knew the older three would struggle not going to school to see their friends so we enjoyed the empty beach for the afternoon and then got ice cream on the way home.


Our first field trip was to the Renaissance Festival with Grandma & Grandpa Nicola. 


  Joe is in the homeschool beginning band.  He is playing the saxophone.  He really looks forward to Tuesdays because his good friend Joe is also in the band.  Isn’t he cute in his shirt? Smile






Fifi loves homeschooling because she gets to spend more time with Hannah. 


I can’t believe how fast the weeks are flying by.  I’m still welcoming those prayers because even though things are going surprising well it’s still not easy.  There are daily struggles with getting along, lack of motivation, (by both kids and mom) and bad attitudes.  There are days when I doubt myself and whether or not I can/should be doing this. I am finding that at the end of the day God has given me just enough grace to get through it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

But I had a plan….

I had a plan.  It was a great plan.  I even announced how wonderful my plan was to the world on my blog.  I couldn’t wait for summer vacation!  The kids would sleep in, I would have 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time to exercise, shower, pray, blog and get a head start to the day.  I had grand plans for the kids each morning to do a little chores, and schoolwork.  I made schedules. Laminated schedules.  We made a bucket list.  This was to be the summer I was proactive! No more “I’m bored”.  Then,

  1. Ben decided that during his summer vacation he was going to get up at 6 a.m. every day to not waste one minute of his summer vacation.  Which makes for a very. long. day. for mom. 
  2. The older kids rebelled against the 8:30 to bed, asleep by 9 plan which means unless mom and dad stay up until 11 there is zero alone/adult time.
  3. It has been an all out mutiny against me and my plan to have them do ONE math assignment per day.  Well, except for Ben, he likes having his morning folder to do each day.
  4. Screens. iPad, wii, Netflix, computer  It didn’t occur to me that my children had their own plan of moving from one source of technology to the other to fill up their summer.  Which has turned my summer into a full time job of Screen Police. 

So with these disruptions to my plans I’ve had arguing, grumpiness, whining and complaining.  Which means by 9:00 every morning I’m already irritated, frustrated, mad at my kids and bedtime is 12 hours away!  But I had a plan!!!  After calling and venting to a wonderful friend who is in the same trenches as me, she gave me some wise, encouraging  counsel.  First – Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.  Raising my children to be productive, responsible adults will not happen in one week of summer vacation. Second – my kids are kids.  When I was thirteen would I have been jumping for joy at doing schoolwork  during my summer break? Um, no. 

So, it’s time to regroup.  I am going to stick with my original plan because I think it’s what’s best for my kids, but I’m not going to expect them to be excited about their laminated to- do list (even though they make my heart go pitter patter).  Instead of getting angry at them I’m going to use it as an opportunity to mold their and my character.  I really dislike it when I pray and ask God to change my children and the answer I consistently get is that I need to change :-/ 

Philippians 3:13   But one thing I do; Forgetting what is behind me and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

Galatians 6:9   Let us not become weary of doing good.  For at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.