Thursday, May 29, 2014

Finish Line, aka The Last Day of School

We've crawled to the finish line. That is to say, we've survived another school year. We've made it. Barely.

For reals. We are crawling across the line. We are worn and weary, beaten and bruised. We are done. Stick a fork in us done.

We've put up a courageous fight, but we are ragged. We've lost a homework folder. We've forgotten reading logs. We are out of clean laundry. We're showing up at the wrong time for events and picking our kids up late from practices. Our house should probably be condemned. Foul language and whining is at an all time high.

Tonight, we've fallen to a new low. The menu said we were having tortellini and garlic toast. We said "forget that mess. We're having donuts."



For dinner.

Don't judge us. It's called breakfast for dinner. It's like waffles. Sort of. But the syrup is in the form of sprinkles. And creme filling.

(Actually, the conversation was something along the lines of "who is picking the girls up from practice?" and "we didn't buy the tortellini yet" and "oh filth...the guinea pigs are out of food...need to pick up pig food.")

Our kids think we're awesome. (It could be the sugar talking.)

It couldn't be helped really, this disastrous low. It's been weeks in the making. It started somewhere around standard testing and then it ramped up a notch with spirit week (with a different outfit required for each day- DRESS up! BATTER up! All sorts of ups. It was mind-boggling.) Then there was teacher appreciation week, which we forgot a flower for. (We love you Mrs. B.) Then came grad parties, bachelorette parties, and weddings. Field trips, field days, guard practices. Orthopedic appointments, clinic appointments, and a pre-surgery appointment. A talent show creeped in with the relentless singing, the dresses to be made, the rehearsal...

We just kept crawling toward the finish line looking more haggard each day.

Then, with just one half-day left, we fell out. The Big Guy collapsed on a chair and I flopped back on the bed and we looked at each other and said with a sigh "dinner." And then the Big Guy, the stay-at-home dad extraordinaire, the rock of this family, said "donuts?" And so it was.

Tomorrow, we will drag our sugar-logged butts out of bed and push and drag each other over the finish line.

Goodbye 2013-2014 school year. It's been real.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Super Sidekick

Little Bean: This is THE X-MOTION SUPER-RACING CAR. I added the and car. When you roll it, it goes and finds a problem. Then we go find the car and it tells us the problem. Then me and Tuna set off to fix the problem.

Me: Huh.

Little Bean: Today it's going to help us find sticks to pick up.

Me: Oh. So does that mean you're going to help Tuna move the firewood?

Little Bean: No! She's going to help ME. She's my Super Sidekick.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday- Kitchen

Insurance inventory spreadsheets still dominate much of our time and conversation each week and the lack of siding on our house is a constant reminder that we are still in fire recovery- two and a half years later.

Sometimes, when it feels like we will never be completely recovered, it helps to take a look back at where we've been and then take a good look at where we are now.

In honor of Throwback Thursday, let's take a look at the kitchen.

This was our kitchen, post-fire, fall of 2011.

The darkness at the top of this photo is not shadowing- it is soot. This scene left me speechless and in tears.

This was our kitchen, post-fire, mid-demolition, in the spring of 2012.

The kitchen floor was red, but you can't see that under the layers of ash and debris. This scene left me saying "no more ugly counter tops!" (Also, "we're not moving home any time soon, are we?")

It was a long, long road, but...

This is our kitchen today.

This scene makes me say "ahhh."

We may never get this mess completely behind us, but the kitchen is open and that's the heart of the home.

It's all good.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Day Fit For A Momma

Photos with my lovely children- it's the one thing I ask for every Mother's Day. This year, the plan was to take a little lunch out to an urban setting and watch my kids romp and run while I snapped photo after photo to my heart's content. I planned to have little Mason jars full of lemon cake and lemon curd topped with fresh buttercream frosting, looking all hip against a backdrop of concrete and artful graffiti, perfect children posed just so.

Nobody cares about my plans. Mother Nature whipped up an 80 degree wind storm that was not at all conducive to picnicking or photo-taking. Whatevs.

So, we decided to have a Mother's Day game day instead.

It wasn't a bad plan at first deal.

Then Little Bean started to get all serious. 

Fish was in some sort of shock.

Tuna got all puckered up about something.

Rough Stuff was completely overwhelmed.

And then things rapidly deteriorated into some sort of far-noise making festival. Seriously- a five-minute, five-child fart noise serenade.

At this point, I realized I was not going to get Mother's Day photos. I realized that my children may never outgrow potty humor. And, I realized that I didn't really care, because at the end of the day...

I have five of the most fabulous kiddos any mother could ever hope for. I received the kindest cards, the most wonderful letters, and some of the most creatively crafted jewelry I could ever hope for. They spent the day with me and it was a perfect day in every way, fart concert included.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Chore Board and How We Use It

Life has all but run me over recently as our family has moved from challenge to challenge, illness to illness- you know...all the normal stuff of family life. When things get more hectic than normal, much to the dismay of the Big Guy, I start organizing things. It is what I do. I try to reign in the chaos and package it up into manageable, tidy little pieces. It is how my brain works. I'm a visual thinker. (The Big Guy is more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person.)

Aside from my own personal lists and visuals, we have several that we use as a family to keep our week on track. We have a schedule board that we use to keep track of where everyone needs to be for the week, and we have a menu board that tells us what we're going to eat for dinner every day. This week, I took it one step further (can you hear the herd protesting?) and created...


The design is pretty basic- a combination of my favorite features of various board designs on Pinterest. We needed something portable, and that was easy to change and adjust because our concept of chores is a bit different. For the individual chores, I painted craft sticks and applied peel-and-stick magnets to the back. I used a Sharpie paint pen to add the chores. For the board, I used an inexpensive metal cookie sheet and applied Contact chalkboard vinyl. I wanted something more permanent so I added my 'chalk' labels with the Sharpie paint pen.  

We already had a method in place. We just needed a little organization. Here is how we do chores- 

First of all, I really dislike the word chores and in hindsight I wish I had not used that word on the board. Those kinds of things become brilliantly clear five seconds after you write something in permanent ink. We don't assign chores in the traditional sense in our home and we don't pay the kids for doing them. No one pays me for doing my chores. I get paid to work. I do not get paid to do my laundry or cook them dinner. In our home, chores are the things everyone must do, to the best of their ability, to keep the house from falling into complete filthy chaos. 

If you live here, you eat here, you sleep here, you lounge and shower and change clothes here- then you need to help clean here as well. So, more than chores, I guess you could say these are the expectations. Everyone is expected to do their part, to pull their own weight so to speak.  

Every day, typically at 4:30 pm, the kids must start chores. This gives everyone time to get off the bus, grab a snack, and have a bit of down time before starting the evening routine.The Big Guy or I will look around the house and decide what must be done to regain order. Then we determine who is available and able to do what. This gives us some daily flexibility to work around various after school activities, homework schedules, illnesses, broken bones, etc.  

From there, the chores are assigned to each child. We rotate through the same basic tasks and each chore has a laminated chore card that details exactly what is expected. Chores are things like cleaning the kitchen, rinsing and loading the dishwasher, organizing the pantry, or gathering the recycling. 

Our old method was to assign the chores, then spend the next 20 minutes repeating who should be doing what because no one listened or they conveniently forgot what they were assigned. That happens after you wander away to the bathroom to read your text messages or slip away to play with a guinea pig, you know? You come back and can't remember what on earth you were supposed to be doing. I get it. I do. 

The new method  creates a simple visual reminder of who is doing what. We just pick what needs to be done and move the magnets to each child's name and voila! No more questions. Perfection. 

Let the whining begin!