Thursday, July 30, 2015

{p,h,f,r} The Red Heads, Stitches and Dangerous Book Piles Edition


David desperately wants a sibling with red hair just like him (although really I'd say his hair is every color not just red--including a brown patch right on the back of his head).  When Margaret was born I was pretty sure she was another brunette and was not going to provide him with the hair of his sibling dreams but now, I'm not so sure?

Also, I should probably take a second to apologize to Grandma for all of the window licking :)


I tried to participate in the stitch along for this Sweetiepie ABC's Sampler but completely fell off the wagon halfway through.  The finish date was July 17 and I am almost caught up and finished.  I can't really put into words how happy this little cross stitch makes me.  I have several others framed in Margaret's room that my grandmother did for my mom and several that I was given when I was born (actually they were tiny pillows that I cut apart to salvage the cross stitched panels from--as a girl I had approximately seventy-five tiny hand-made pillows adorning my bed).  I had been searching and searching for something to stitch myself to add to the collection but I couldn't find anything that I liked until I saw this.  It's just so cute!

As I've been working on it I came to the realization that I am a cross stitcher.  As opposed to some kind of embroiderer that is.  Something about making all those perfect little x's all lined up neatly in their perfect little rows is just oh so fulfilling--not at all like the willy-nilly-do-as-you-please-stitching involved in embroidery.  I have seen some really beautiful bits of hand embroidery and I have tried my hand at beautiful creative sewing (the proof is currently residing in the bottom of my sewing box) but, alas.  It's not me.  I'm not an embroiderer, I'm a sew-it-in-neat-rows cross stitcher.  This probably surprises no one who knows me.


I had a friend stop by last week who glanced at my side table and immediately began laughing at me--and this was only my living room book pile.   Am I the only one who gets distracted wanting to read all the things?  These are all so good, how could I choose just one to read at a time?  Everyone needs to read Esolen's new book.  The whole, "ten ways to..." framework didn't seem as cohesive as it was in his Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and probably wasn't really necessary but it wasn't too distracting either.   I don't think I've ever read anything he's written that I didn't love.  He just makes everything make so much sense.  And I really want to plan a day trip to visit The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap in real life because who doesn't dream of plopping their family down in some little out of the way place and opening up a used bookstore?  Or am I the only one doing that too?

Well, I've whittled down this pile and only have two left, but I've also added a few others so I'm not sure I'm really making progress.   

And then there's this.  The boys' library book pile.  I'm not sure where they get it from.


I don't know what I expected would happen when I asked John to stand next to the book pile for a size reference.  It probably should have been this though.  

And as always, pop over to Like Mother, Like Daughter to find even more captured contentment!  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On Taking a Weekend


After a very hectic couple of weeks at work the husband decided that we would take a long weekend and drive down to visit our family in North Carolina.   Of course that meant that he spent several days working late in preparation for leaving and will probably spend several more making up for the weekend so I'm not sure it was worth it in terms of time off vs. time spent worrying about taking time off.  I spent the first full day with our family and my littlest ones visiting our favorite beach.  Chris and I spent many a summer day and evening walking up and down the shore there when we were dating.  Actually, I was walking.  He was chasing crabs.

We didn't put the little kids in their bathing suits in a futile attempt to keep them out of the water because a) we didn't have any dads with us and that's a lot of kids to keep from drowning and b) sharks.  I thought we might be being silly worrying about sharks just because there had been a couple of attacks up and down the coast but then the lifeguard came jogging over and told us we needed to exit the water immediately as he had almost bumped into one on his board and I realized we were not silly.  Not silly at all.

We spent the rest of the day searching for shells, rolling in the sand with our wet clothes and not splashing in the ocean while searching the waves for shark fins.

It was a good trip, despite the sharks and all the late nights in preparation for leaving, but I think I'm ready to just relax at home and get back to our summer routine.  And by that I mean that I need to finish all the house projects I thought I had all summer to accomplish and also get ready for fall because it's August this week (!?!) and I am woefully unprepared for starting school in September.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Internet Shopping and a Membership Giveaway!

I was talking with an old friend recently who told me she never buys anything on Amazon or even online.  To which I replied "??????????"  Aside from perishable groceries, I pretty much buy everything online these days and I always price check against Amazon.  For one thing, I have to be frugal with our money and that means finding the cheapest price.  For another, it's a lot easier for me to avoid impulse purchases and also low self-esteem if I'm not habitually going into stores specifically designed to make me feel like I would be happier/prettier/hipper/fill-in-the-blank-er if I only bought whatever it is they are selling.  And lastly,  I have kind of a lot of small children so besides our weekly grocery trip I do not take my minions into stores because....who has that kind of patience?

Well, Amazon has served me well these past few years, and they will continue to have my heart when it comes to buying used books, but now has arrived on the scene.  

Have you heard all the buzz?  Basically Jet is attempting to be the low cost alternative to Amazon, which is clearly an audacious undertaking.  You pay a yearly subscription fee and then have access to all the member savings--as my husband says, it's Costco for the internet.  Now, my brother-in-law works for this company so I'm not completely unbiased but we've been beta testing the site for a while and I can assure you that the prices are cheaper than Amazon and the customer service is great.  Amazon responds to issues quickly, Jet responds quickly and with flair.  And isn't that the most important thing?  The prices, not the flair.  The flair is just a bonus.  

If you haven't already checked them out I would encourage you to pop over and see what they are all about.  There are better explanations of how it all works than I can give on their website and also some very clever videos that are definitely worth a watch.  Right now it looks like they are giving away three month trial memberships without any auto-enrolling but for you dear readers, I have four, full, year-long memberships to give away worth $49.99 a piece!  

 Margaret is excited on the inside.

Just leave a comment introducing yourself and enter the rafflecopter for your chance to win......because clearly my blog is fancy enough to necessitate a rafflecopter.

And yes, I am bribing you with these things I got for free to introduce yourselves so I can finally know who is actually reading my blog :)

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Great Fairy House Hunt


Today we went on a bit of an adventure out to the Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Maryland.  It was a hike to get to but completely worth it.  Apparently every year they set up fairy houses all through the woods with a map to find them so the kids were pretty much in heaven running through the forest.  There were actual sculptures too of course, but the kids weren't really interested.  When you check in at the admission desk they also provide fairy costumes which David and John took advantage of........which was adorable.  Henry however is much too serious to take part in such frivolity.

John:  [after putting on his wings, voice full of disappointment] I not flying in the sky mommy.
Me:  No, you're not.  Maybe if you run faster?

Poor little guy, he never did make it into the air and I took over the wings when he discarded them after he realized they weren't actually magical.

I think we'll have to come back again with Daddy soon.  The fairy houses probably won't lure him in like they did the children but there are bound to be geocaches nearby.......

Monday, July 13, 2015

On Building Better Habits

Habit Training.  Anyone familiar with Charlotte Mason knows that it's pretty much step one of her whole philosophy.  Without first instilling good habits you are pretty much banging your head against the wall trying to educate your children.    But how to train your difficult child?  Believe me it's a question I've been pondering for years.

I finally declared this summer the Summer of Building Better Habits--and by "declared" I mean told no one and made secret and vague plans which were clearly going to be very effective.   As is often the case, and despite my lack of initiative, several books found their way to me at precisely the right time and ended up being exactly what we needed.  One book, Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives offers insight into how habits are created in general, and is especially helpful in identifying your own personal tendencies so that you can create habits that will actually work for you.  The other book, Dr. Barkley's Taking Charge of ADHD offered the perfect framework for creating a system that allows us to pick a few behaviors at a time to reward and hopefully turn into habits (he also has this book which goes into more detail about his system).

I don't love reward systems in general because I find them overly complicated and time consuming and mostly I dislike the idea of using external rewards because I worry that I'm ruining the children's ability to have their own internal reward system by offering prizes.  However, Dr. Barkley says that children with ADHD need the external rewards and they need them frequently so I thought I'd give it a try--goodness knows I've tried everything else.  Now the boys earn poker chips by completing daily tasks and behaving well and then they can turn the chips in for privileges (that they mostly already were getting anyway, sneaky).

Clearly we are very advanced in our habit training since we are beginning with things like "brush teeth" and "no hitting."  The idea is to get the kids doing these things until they become habits and then phase out the chips.  Simple enough.

I'm sure there are much fancier ways to implement this system and I probably could have sat down at my computer and made an amazing printable but I think I prefer this less polished approach.  Our version has more of a work-in-progress feel which is good since the chip values always need tweaking and privileges need to be added or removed depending on interest level (currently the boys are saving up to go to Subway, which is apparently the absolute pinnacle of culinary delight).  This chart is displayed on the fridge and I don't feel the least bit hesitant to cross things off or add things in--which I think is the key to our success.  If I had spent a lot of time formatting it and making it pretty I would probably not want to ruin it or have to walk down to the basement to print a new one because....lazy.

Well let me tell you, this system has been like magic and I didn't need to buy anything to get it going which is important because I don't like buying stuff.  Chris already had a set of poker chips that I have wanted to banish from the house for years, mostly because every time the kids find them it's poker chip explosion time.  I think it's something about the feel of them in your hand that makes them want to create giant stacks and cities and in John's case use them in a game of tornado aftermath.  At least that's what it looks like when he's done.

I guess it's a good thing I never donated them because the boys will do just about anything for poker chips.

All the habits and routines I've tried to build into our days that are always being grumbled about or left undone are now completed quickly and, dare I say it, even fairly cheerfully.

Morning chores (teeth brushed, clothes on, bed made)?  Done.  The ten minute after dinner tidy-up of the playroom and living room that has never once been successfully completed?  Done.  In seven minutes flat.  With minimal complaining and full participation.  I mean, you wouldn't want your brother to get more chips than you because he's helping and you're pouting, would you?

We even took this as an opportunity to start giving allowances which we haven't done before since I could never decide the *best* way to do that without ruining them for life.  Pay for chores?  Don't pay for chores?  Expect them to do things because they are part of the family and that's that?  This way they do have to do their chores but it doesn't feel like they are being paid for them since they are trading chips for their allowance.  It's going well so far and I've even been considering making a separate list of household tasks that I don't want to do that they can do instead to earn chips if they are feeling super helpful--dust the baseboards anyone?

We decided to give them three dollars each (one to give, one to save, and one to spend) and envelopes to put the money in.  They were really proud to take the dollars that they actually earned to mass this Sunday to put in the collection basket.  Paydays are Friday nights (before movie and popcorn time but after the ten minute tidy-up) and the plan is to take them to the bank at the end of the month to put their savings into their savings accounts--and also replenish our cash supplies.  The biggest problem with giving out cash allowances is that we don't actually have cash in the house.

So far so good!  The next phase of the chip program is to take away chips for noncompliance--we'll see how well that goes :)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

On Being a Spectacle and Not Doing All the Things

We went to one of our favorite parks this morning which is about ten minutes away but it was rush hour so more like twenty-five.  It's right on the river though so I'm pretty sure there is a bit of something that may or may not be considered almost a breeze coming off of the water.  On the other hand that might be wishful fantasizing on my part.  I choose to believe there's a breeze in any case, especially if you start walking very quickly.

There was a nanny at the park, or an au pair if her employers are fancy--and we were in Old Town Alexandria so they probably were.  She seemed fairly shocked that all the children crawling over me were mine.  "You take care of all of your kids and you clean your own house too?" she asked me incredulously.  Why yes, yes I do.

Sometimes it seems like I'm always a spectacle.  Especially up here in Northern Virginia.

Everyone is just so busy here--busy working, busy driving (oh the driving!), busy doing all the things--especially the kids. If you are a six almost seven year old boy in our neighborhood you are expected to be in cubscouts year round, winter and summer swim lessons, soccer (fall and spring) and baseball which conflicts with spring soccer so sometimes you'll have to choose which game to go to on Saturday and also maybe tiquando, you know, if you can fit it in.  And summer camps.  A lot of them.  Which is crazy just logistics-wise, especially when you factor in traffic (and you do have to factor in traffic) but also cost-wise.  There are fees for all of those things plus uniforms and equipment and coach's presents and snack duty and on and on.  No wonder no one has more than two kids.  Who can afford it?  Who can manage their schedules?

Living here, I have to constantly remind myself that it's okay, the kids are okay.  They don't need to do all the things to grow and thrive.  And really, doing all the things isn't the way to make them thrive anyway--even if we could afford it.  Playing at the park, going to the pool, wandering in the woods.  It's enough.   And maybe next year we'll try to fit baseball back in.

We'll probably always be a spectacle though--that's why we usually venture out before all the other families.  That and the humidity.


And if you were wondering, that's an old broken ring box David has in the pictures that he found on the steps of the lighthouse.  I told him someone must have left it there after they were proposed to and he said he wanted to save it for his future fiance.  I told him that he'd probably get a new box with the ring he buys her when and if the time comes but he was not convinced.  He finally decided to leave it behind though after I told him the new owner of the ring might come back looking for it and we wouldn't want her to be sad :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Fifth of July

For us this year, the Fourth of July was mostly just a rainy mess that involved no parades, picnics or fireworks of any kind.  The weather broke for two hours in the afternoon but I missed it due to a much needed nap.  Well, Chris said I must have needed it since I managed to sleep through all manner of craziness that a normal, non-sleep deprived person definitely wouldn't have be to.  I had high hopes for actually participating in something festive like going to the national parade in DC or seeing fireworks at the Pentagon but, truth be told, I dislike crowds in the best of times--crowds + rain + wet cranky children due to the crowds and the rain?  Um, no thank you.

The fifth of July though, the fifth of July was glorious.  The boys had fun with dad exploring and I had fun with Margaret making sure no one drowned--which, let me assure you, was no easy task.

This weekend our city is celebrating its founding and the Fourth of July all rolled into one with a parade and fireworks so hopefully the weather (and my patience....and also my energy) will hold and we can have a patriotic redo.  We'll see!

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