Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer Activity Jar

I can get so focused on my own projects and household needs and the kids generally are so self-entertained that I found, after just the first week of summer, that we needed to have something specific to do with the kids that was 'fun'.... and also we needed to pick up the playroom at least once a day or I would go crazy. So we started a Summer Activity Jar. Alec and I came up with lots and lots of ideas of free and fun things to do together at home and wrote them on strips of paper and stuck them in a jar.  Each day, as soon as the playroom was clean, each of the kids could pull out a slip and then vote on which activity to do. Alec put in "watch 2 movies" and "watch 4 shows" so most days they would get all excited and try really hard to pull one of those two out. (Once or twice I MAY have pre-pulled those out so they wouldn't even be an option) 

Heres two pictures from the first week of summer that show how crazy the playroom can get after just an hour or so: Also, aren't those motor-home duplo creations awesome!? My older kids still love playing with duplos. 

Painting with pudding:

Stomping in the rain:

Visiting the library's Summer Reading Program (Not specifically in the Summer Activity Jar, but still a fun activity we did this summer)

Making home-made Play-do:

Picking Blueberries: (Again not actually in the jar)

Flying kites:

Make a volcano:

Paint with our feet:

Run through the sprinklers:

Make card towers: (not in the jar, but the kids LOVE to do this.. then they'll flip dominos or matchbox cars at one another's tower and see how many it takes to knock it all down)

Eventually the kids did pull the watch 2 movies and watch 4 show strips. They were in heaven. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Last trip to Memphis Zoo and musings on budgeting

This past year we've had a membership to the Memphis Zoo. It paid for itself after just going twice with our family and it made a nice place for one of us to take the kids while the other went to the temple and sometimes Costco. It is a really nice big zoo and has some cool water features that the kids can play and practically even swim in. I forgot my purse as we left Starkville and didn't want to make Chris late for the temple session so I just played with the kids at the Stake Center Gym across from the temple while we waited for Chris and then we all went to the zoo together. Since usually just one of us took the kids, this was our first time going as an entire family and it was nice to have both parents there.  We really enjoyed their new Hippo / Zambezi River exhibit. 

We watched them feed the crocodiles... really cool. Everything looked SO BIG under the water and it was really cool to see them so close.

Charlie and his polar bears. He's getting a little less excited about them, I wonder if he's found a new favorite animal. 

It is super hot and humid in Memphis in July so the kids were very happy to swim in the 'river'.  I don't think we'll renew our membership for another year. We may try to make it to the Birmingham Temple and I think the kids would enjoy trying out a new 'thing to do.' I'm hoping we can find a more interactive children's museum or science center or some parks, or even just play in the Stake Center again. We brought some of our soft IKEA soccer balls with us and the kids had plenty of fun playing with those in the big gym. We also put on some short plays on the stage, which was really cute to see. We did Caps for Sale and Little Red Riding Hood. This one sweet older Catholic lady was wandering around the building about 2 hours ahead of time for her neighbors baptism. At the suggestion of another gentleman who was there cleaning the church, I invited her to wait in the Gym with us and watch the kids' little plays. She loved it, and I love it when people think my kids are cute.

Anyway, after the zoo, we stopped at Costco on the way home and managed to keep to our strict grocery budget and only spent around $150! We're having fun using a budgeting system (a combination of a free App, MINT and our own spreadsheets) that actually makes it easy to budget ahead of time how much we can spend in a certain category and give us updates on where we're at in that category on any given day.  Its very empowering to be so on top of finances. I just have to try and not dwell on the depressing thoughts of how little all our efforts to save a penny here or there make in the face of big random out-of-your-control expenses like car repairs, or hospital bills.  If we stick to staying on budget, its going to make a difference somewhere someday, right?? We have so many dreams to improve our house and pick out furnishings and take future family trips.  I just also need to try and remember to balance these dreams with gratitude and content in my current situation. I get a good glimpse every now and then of how different my life could be if I had been born to different parents and it offers me good and needed perspective. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lazy summer days, summer projects and Hillbrook Preschool

After such a busy May, our stay-at-home June was absolutely wonderful. Its what I always imagined a summer with school kids to be like. (All of our previous summers were full of renovations, moves, vacations, service trips, etc. that we've never had an entire month at home over the summer) The kids still had to do a 5 minute job and piano practice before getting their screen time, (20 min. each) and some days they were too busy playing to even bother trying to earn it. We slept in, -- which for our kids is like 7:30 -- we had friends over and we started a Summer Activity Jar, we made a list of summer projects and family fun activities to slowly work on over the summer.  

Chris got this awesome work  / overalls for his birthday from his parents. Our first project was to mow the lawn - we had to replace some beat up blades and tinker a bit to get the mower to stop making such a rattling racket.. so this took us a few weeks to take care of. Mowing the lawn also involves us gathering up all the dead branches from the yard which meant we could start burning down the big stump by our bedroom window from the tree Dan Smith cut down for us last summer. 

We also tackled the draining problem by the playground. When it rains most of our bark gets swept up with the water and goes down the drain under the playground and out to the farther parts of the yard, or gets spread out in the grass and concrete. Also when it rains really hard, even the rocks will get swept down the drain. This is what it looked like when the landscape crew  left early this year: (they did the cement work and playground/bark set up)

We got some big rocks and filled in the little rocks more, and put a wire grate thing in front of the pipe. It looks better and I'm not worried about Freddy throwing balls down the drain like he tried to do a few times. But we still have to figure out how to transition from the bark to the rocks... we're pretty sure the moving bark problem will be solved once we get gutters. 

Also, we wanted to get some parking spots set up off the side of the driveway so when people come over there's a spot to park without blocking the driveway. We didn't know how much rocks to order, but once we found out the deliver fee was the same no matter the amount delivered, we thought we should just order the max amount since we planned on putting a rock boarder all around our house. Turns out 8 yards of rocks is ALOT!!

Meanwhile, the kids have discovered a way to lay across all the swings while they're swinging. Alec thought of it and taught the others and Freddy wanted to try it too, but he's too small so we figured another solution out. 

We used our long mornings at home to play around with hair styles. So fun. 

Probably our biggest summer project was getting ready for me to start a preschool! I spent a lot of the spring trying to work out a logo with Todd, deciding on an overall business plan, researching licensure codes, and getting a website running, and online enrollment, and flyers and advertising etc.  There was also a lot of work to do to create the preschool classroom of my dreams. ;) I played with lots of different layouts trying to maximize the space and balance my needs for a classroom, with our family's needs of a playroom.  I was surprised what a big difference it made just rearranging furniture: taking out the TV and couch and setting that up in the living room, bringing down from the craft room the long little white table Chris and I made a few years ago.

The project that made the most difference in feeling ready for preschool was building the giant magnetic chalkboard! Chris is so awesome and patient with my big dreams. I'm used to my dad just fixing and building anything but Chris has little experience with handyman type stuff and is a lot more thoughtful and meticulous about creating stuff so we have to both give and take when we start a project. 

It turned out so great!! I LOVE how it looks, and its stable and safe and functional! We needed to put twice as much magnetic primer on to get magnets to really stick and so by the time we got the layers chalkboard paint the surface was bumpier that I would've wanted.  But it works!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Swimming lessons and Lake TiakOKhata

We signed the kids up for one week of swimming lessons during the 3rd full week of summer. Freddy was too young for the class and it was almost torture for him to watch the other kids swim and not get in the pool too. My genius idea to put Freddy in the child care there at the gym while I worked out during the lessons was a total bust since the childcare place was closed during that time. The class divided up on the first day into two groups, Alec in the older group and Charlie and Gwen in the younger. I was so surprised how much the kids improved in just 1 week. Charlie and Gwen even swam half way down the pool all on their own! 

The swimming teacher said they all pretty much get the gist of swimming and just need practice so we made a few trips to the lake during the summer to follow orders. :) Lake Tiak-o-Khata is an awesome lake about 40 minutes away with water slides going into the roped off swimming area, docks with diving boards and a basketball hoop and free, first come, first serve lounge chairs and even some umbrellas.  The kids could've stayed there all day. 

We met Gwen's good friend from Kindergarten, Ashlynne there for her birthday one time, and then randomly ran into her there another time. So fun!