Archive | Motherhood RSS feed for this section

Monday Musings: The story of our Little Free Library

2 Oct

It took us a couple of years, but we were finally able to open our Little Free Library yesterday!

Yesterday, October 1, 2017, we officially opened our very own Little Free Library. It was a project two years in the making and it means a great deal to us. Inside our library I have placed a binder which tells the history of our library along with some photos of the process from 2015 to now. I thought I’d share it here as well, for those who are not local and can’t just take a drive by to check it out in person.

In 2013, a friend gave us an article about a local Little Free Library from the Providence Journal. You can read that article here.

“If anyone would want to do this, it would be you and your family,” they said.

That following winter, we were in Providence with my brother for brunch, and we went looking for the Little Free Library we’d read about in the article, and found it.

We went exploring and found the Little Free Library from the article.

We decided that we too, wanted to have a Little Free Library. We began considering what sort of material to use for ours, but it seemed a bit beyond us, and buying a ready-made one was cost prohibitive for us.

 

 

 

 

 

In the summer of 2015, Chloe Rigg contacted me to do a story for the Cranston Herald about the Little Free Library she and her husband Jim had opened at their home in Cranston. You can read that story here.

I loved visiting with Jim and Chloe Rigg and learning about their Little Free Library. I even found a cookbook inside, that I still have today.

When I told Jim and Chloe Rigg that our family had really wanted to do a Little Free Library too, he offered to help us. He’d use his leftover scraps to create a kit for us. The girls and I could come to their house one Sunday and make it with him, step by step. He had the girls send him some design ideas for our library. A treehouse design, incorporating a fairy garden was soon in the works.

On September 20, 2015, we spent the day at the Rigg house, creating our library together with Jim.

Jim Rigg spent the entire day with us in his garage, walking us through every step of building our library and explaining what we were doing and why.

It was our intention to put it up the following spring, but it was that spring that we ended up unexpectedly having to start our kitchen renovations, and it delayed our ability to get the library up and finished. This summer, we finished up the bulk of the kitchen work and in September we were able to change our focus back to finishing up the Little Free Library project.

Now, exactly two years later, almost to the day, we are ready to open our Little Free Library.

Sadly, Jim Rigg passed away unexpectedly, just four months after we spent the day with him. We were devastated to receive that news, and we attended his memorial service that January of 2016.

We have dedicated our Little Free Library to Jim and his memory. Without him, it would not be possible and we know he would be so proud to see it open for business now.

We were incredibly sad to hear that Jim Rigg had passed away soon after our day spent together. We will think of him every day as we run our own Little Free Library. We made a plaque for ours, to honor him and the dedication he showed us out of the goodness of his heart.

We are forever grateful for Jim’s time and dedication and for the impact he has had on us and our memories from the making of our own Little Free Library and we can’t wait to see what stories we will have to share from this new endeavor.

    20150920_133840

What’s for dinner Wednesday: two weeks of meals and a new kitchen toy

27 Sep

It seemed as if everyone was getting one of these for Christmas last year. I watched, and I waited, and then I bargain-shopped.

Happy Wednesday! Since it’s been a while since I gave you a two week menu, I thought I owed you a really good post when I shared one this time around. To that end, I have the two week menu, some new recipes to go along with it, and our experiences with a new kitchen toy.

It’s been a while since we got a new”toy” to add to our collection of small kitchen appliances, but around Christmastime last year, I started seeing this new Instant Pot appliance floating around blog posts and status updates, and my interest was definitely piqued. When I looked it up, the appliance was a bit costly, and with our impending kitchen renovations, not a priority at the time.

However, it’s a new school year, we have the usual “stuff” each night and/or after school, and yet we still try to eat as healthy as we can, at home, as often as we can, together. This Instant Pot seemed to really be calling my name, in that it seemed it might be able to help us continue to achieve those goals.

I finally bit the bullet, as they say, and on the advice of my friend Kim, I used a Kohl’s coupon code to get one for 30% off, on sale, with Kohl’s Cash (and earning Kohl’s cash with the purchase too) and I scored the Instant Pot for $75 (no shipping, including tax). I picked it up in the store, carried it home, and then I wondered what exactly to do with it. It reminded me of when they send you home with a new baby: it’s very intimidating, it makes some crazy noises, and you’re not quite sure if you know what to do if something goes wrong, or how to know if you’re doing everything right. For such a tiny appliance, it’s got a big intimidation factor, just like a new baby.

Ratitouille was a request from our oldest daughter as a new recipe to try. She cited the fact that we like all the veggies that come in it, so why not try it?

We let it sit there for almost a week, and then as the following weekend approached, we broke it out and did just what you’re not supposed to do: we used it (or attempted to) without reading the directions. We were also making a new recipe for Ratitouille, which is something we’d never made before with any recipe, never mind a recipe for use with a new appliance. New recipe, new appliance, no directions. Well played. Dinner took over an hour to make because we had no idea what we were doing, but it was delicious and although we were still a bit wary, we were thinking we liked this new toy. If we knew what we were doing, we’d like it even more.

These potatoes were so fast, so easy and I used them a total of three different times, for pork, for leftover salmon, and for a potato and egg omelet.

In the meantime, two of my friends, Gina and Marcia, also bought an Instant Pot the same week I did, and we all took our new “babies” home within days of each other and a texting thread emerged, sharing recipes, tips, new “parent” fears and more.  There were some successes in that thread, and we began to try each other’s recipes the following week. I chose to make Gina’s potatoes to go along with our grilled pork tenderloin one night and Marcia inspired me to try out a Mac and Cheese recipe another night.

During our trial week, the kids would come home each night from wherever, and joke that we were at it again, making something in the Instant Pot, moving it around to the best location in the kitchen, and they’d shake their heads, but they enjoyed each and every meal we made with it, and I joked that by using it every day, we didn’t need to find a place to store it. (I wasn’t really joking.)

On Sunday, a few days into our Instapot cooking adventures, we tried something new. We took a recipe we’d made before, nicknamed “Liz’s soup” because she requested it last year and I copied the recipe off a video and I have no idea where it came from originally. It was a crockpot recipe last year, but we didn’t have enough time to devote to using the crockpot this time around. Instead we found a recipe that was similar, had the same sorts of ingredients more or less, but used the Instant Pot to cook it. We adapted our recipe for Liz’s soup to that recipe for chicken stew, and presto….we had a delicious soup in a short amount of time. Each time we cooked, we seemed to have more of an idea of what we were doing, and in the meantime, with three of us friends trying out recipes every night, we had triple the ideas and solutions to any problems.

And so, today I share with you our two week menu, some new recipe links to go along with the menu items, and my encouragement for you to try out your Instant Pot too, if you haven’t yet, and if you haven’t jumped on that bandwagon, maybe this will be helpful to you in your own decision-making and bargain-shopping process.

Growing up, I’d only had Ratitouille at my friend Jen’s house. Her mom made it often. I channeled my memories of them as we ate this delicious meal over rice and chicken.

Two Weeks of Meals

WEEK ONE: In the days before the Instant Pot

Monday: Pastene Soup recipe here (Today I brought the Instant Pot home!)

Tuesday: Meatloaf Burgers recipe here

Wednesday: Paninis recipe here

Thursday: The Instant Pot is Opened:
Ratitouille recipe here 

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Grilled salmon with pesto (be watching for a post about this meal in the coming days!

WEEK TWO:

This soup is delicious and makes the house smell wonderful!

Sunday: Liz’s soup, adapted using this recipe

Monday: Grilled pork tenderloin, frozen homemade applesauce from the last time we grilled pork, and these Instant Pot potatoes.

Tuesday: Leftovers again!

Wednesday: Six Sisters Macaroni and Cheese (I am making this recipe tonight, but sharing it now. Gina and Marcia have made it already, and I love the Six Sisters’ recipes any time I try them!)

Thursday: Burritos and Quesadillas

Friday: We are leaving our new “baby” home and going out to dinner, we’ve definitely earned a night out tonight!

Liz’s Soup is amazing, especially if you top it with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese and use some crunchy tortilla chips on the side!

 

Monday Musings: Working from home: the good, the bad and the crazy

27 Mar

When I saw this, from perceptionvsfact.com, I thought it was a perfect comedic addition to today’s post, as I am a work-at-home-mom.

Recently a video went viral. It was a hilarious video of a professor being interviewed by the BBC. Although the professor looked to be dressed very professionally and in a professional setting, with maps and books and other workplace-type items, he was actually working from home and as you’ll see in the video, right before the eyes of the public, all hell breaks loose as his young children realize the door to his home office is actually unlocked, and they proceed to steal the show. His wife quickly realizes the error and saves the day, rescuing him from the situation as best she can, and leaving him to try to recover. You can watch that video here.

As soon as the video went viral, the world began to respond in all sorts of ways. Some people were supportive, some critical. As with anything, there are always a variety of responses. My favorite response however, was the parody video which came soon afterwards where Professor Kelly is replaced with a work-at-home mother, and she deals with similar issues, and then some, as she tries to conduct her interview from home. You can watch that video here.

I appreciated both videos very much. I have worked primarily from home for the past 16 years. I started with a home-based, direct sales business in 2000. I began that business while I was still teaching part-time, with a one year-old toddler in tow, and as the years went on, I gave up the teaching, two more children followed, for a total of three (now 17, 14 and 12). Through the 11 years of running the business, a new job opportunity landed in my lap in 2008, and I took on freelance writing in addition to the home-based business. In 2011 I closed down the business and the writing became my sole career, 50% of which is done from home. I blog, often for profit, although not always, and I am an award-winning journalist, writing for several newspapers across our state.

I appreciated the videos because I could sympathize with Professor Kelly. Working from home while raising children at the same time is unpredictable. You never know what will take place in the time that you’re on the phone, teaching a class, taking a class, running a meeting, or when trying to conduct a live video interview for the BBC. I am lucky too, that just like Professor Kelly, I have a partner in crime as well, and he was often there to help me in those early days when I was working from home, keeping the kids corralled downstairs while I taught a class or ran a meeting, dealing with some of the fallout that often takes place, despite the best-laid plans.

I also could appreciate the parody. Although it was clearly a spoof, it definitely brought back memories for me of the days of having a newborn, a preschooler and a toddler, in the time that I was managing it all on my own, taking orders over the phone while feeding a newborn baby just home from the hospital, or of cooking dinner while nursing, closing the oven door with my foot while on the phone with one hand, holding the feeding baby with the other, and conducting business at the same time. I can remember my class participants or team members holding my newborn while I taught or ran a meeting at home, I can remember working through dealing with stomach bugs, running kids to doctors appointments during the work day, and the like.

One of my favorite stories that I can now laugh at, was of having been up all night with  two suddenly-sick kids after a family birthday party which had taken place here the night before. I was desperately drinking coffee after coffee, and later realized that my coffee was laced with candle wax which had melted and dripped down into the pot, the white and confetti “number 6” birthday candle having sat on top of the coffee pot once removed from the cake during cleanup the previous night. I’m not sure which was worse: dealing with two kids who had come down with the stomach bug simultaneously at 2 am, realizing we now needed a new coffee pot, or realizing I’d been drinking the melted number six candle in my coffee all day, trying to survive the hours until my husband came home again.

I think I might’ve taken that day “off” from work, although I can’t remember now. Some of it might be permanently blocked from my memory. Either way, I had the flexibility to do what I needed to do, no matter what it was at the time, thanks to my work-from-home career.

Some of those sorts of things like illnesses and doctor appointments happen still to this day, this week and last, next week and the week after, although thankfully the candle incident was a one-time thing.

It’s life as a working parent and when you work from home, you’re in the thick of it 24/7.

Working from home is not for the faint of heart and I am sure that it is not for everyone. However, for our family, and for me as a professional, it has saved us. It has allowed me to pursue careers that I love, to put my family first and foremost, and to be able to contribute financially to our family, providing my children not just with many opportunities to try out new things by financially supporting them with my income, but also with the physical means to try them out because my schedule is one that is self-designed and I can get them to and from many, many things that take place during the Monday through Friday 2-6pm time-frame.

Working in Arizona during our five week Cross Country Adventure in 2015

When I speak at Career Day fairs and events, as I did just last week, I always speak to the opportunities that we have now to work from home, much of which is possible thanks to technology. It brings the world closer to us without us having to leave the comfort of our homes much of the time. I have had the chance to work both with and for people around the world and around the country, and I have worked from all over the country, supporting my family and building quite a resume at the same time. It’s something that if you can be disciplined enough, can be very profitable and can allow you to self-design a schedule that works best for you and your family. You can work as much or as little as works for your family situation.

Oftentimes people will ask about tips for working from home. If I had to think off the top of my head, I’d say this:

1) Treat your job as you would an out-of-the-home job. I get all my kids out the door each morning, and once they’re on the buses and the coast is clear, if I am working at home I sit down as I would in an office and I work. Most of the time I shower and dress first-thing, unless I have to have a very early start time for some reason, and then I have to just work in my pajamas, but that is not my norm.

2) I work without distractions unless I have sick kids at home. On a typical day working from home, the TV isn’t on, the radio isn’t on, and I don’t take social phone calls. I take breaks to eat my breakfast and my lunch throughout the day, sometimes working and eating at the same time, just as I would if I were in an office setting, but they’re not hours-long breaks. The dishes everyone has left for me (or for our non-existent maid, I can’t figure out who they think is taking care of them during the day) which are on the kitchen counter and in the sink sit there all day, untouched. The dishwasher we ran before bed the night before, and now needing to be emptied, stays full until after 4 o’clock. Sometimes, it stays full until 6 o’clock if I have work that needs to be done first. The laundry sits until the weekend or after hours. Otherwise, work would not get done during my working hours if dishes and laundry and house-cleaning did. I look at it this way: if my husband is not sitting at work folding our laundry and doing our family’s dishes, then neither am I. If I worked from the newspaper offices, I would not bring my laundry and dishes along with me to work. If I have to stop working at 2pm to get someone somewhere after school, and not sit down to work again until after they’re in bed, I need to capitalize on the uninterrupted hours I have during the day when I have them.

2) No one with you at home to tell you to do your work. Be self-motivated. Set your deadlines and get your work in on time. I have a very difficult time staying focused, which is why I work in total silence, but I do know that it’s my sole responsibility to make sure the work I am being paid to do is done, and I know that I am paid by the assignments I am submitting, so I am driven to do it, to do it on time, and to do it well.

There are always pros and cons to every situation, and working from home is no different. I am lucky in that I have health insurance coverage from my husband’s job, or that would be a consideration. Financially, we have been sure to make the appropriate preparations for savings and retirement because I do not have a traditional opportunity for a 401K or a pension. I do not get paid sick days ever, or paid vacation days, but yet I can set my own schedule and I work from home, and I can essentially work from anywhere that I have an internet connection, so although it means I generally work when we are on vacation, and I don’t ever really get a true vacation, it means I can work without interruption and not lose my income if we are away. It also means that I can set my own hours and when my kids are home in the summer or if we have family visiting and staying with us, I can wake up very early and work before they are up, and I can work late at night after they are in bed, if I want to, so that I can enjoy the daytime hours with them while I have them. I also can just work when they’re all here and awake, if I want to. I can decide and I can do what works best for us. If anyone is sick, myself included, I can work from home if possible. If not possible, if I am too sick or they are too sick, then I can work around it in off-hours and still be paid, or not work at all, and therefore, not get paid.

When we first started our family and made our decisions for our jobs, we decided as a couple that we wanted our family to come first, we wanted to raise them ourselves, and we never wanted to say our kids could not do something because of our jobs, or that we could not be there for important events or appointments because of our jobs. My working from home has allowed us to keep to to our goals, and to allow our kids to try out new and different things thanks to our dual income, and thanks to my self-designed, flexible schedule.

Every job has its challenges, no matter what the setting, and working from home is no different. I am glad it’s something that we have pursued and that it has worked so well for us. Any of the challenges or bumps in the road that come with working from home have been far outweighed by the successes and rewards we have seen with its benefits.

Hats off to Professor Kelly and to all the working parents out there, whether moms or dads, because it’s definitely not easy, and it’s always an adventure!

 

 

 

Monday Musings: Marching Every Day

23 Jan

This past Saturday was one of the largest peaceful protests in US history. Men, women and children showed up all across the globe, in every state and on every continent by the thousands, by the millions, to demonstrate their desire for women’s rights for equal treatment, for equal pay, for equal opportunity for jobs, for their reproductive and healthcare rights, and for so much more.  They marched against the election of a president who speaks sexually in on-camera interviews about his own daughter, who speaks out about sexually assaulting women and being proud of it, and who in my own personal opinion, has many more issues than I could possibly ever list here.

We couldn’t march Saturday. We were five people split in about eight directions that day, and when I originally saw the date and saw the conflicts, I knew we couldn’t be there. At the time of the actual demonstrations, I couldn’t even really watch because we were in and out all day, although I caught snip-its of the marches that were taking places all over the world, and I was so pleased, so proud of what I saw.

However, I didn’t really think twice about the fact that we couldn’t march with the others on this one day, because I know for a fact, that we in our house, march every day. Every single day we as adults and our children are marching for equal treatment, equal rights and equal opportunity for girls and for women.

“Hey sweetheart….are you a good girl? If you are, you’ll go get me a coffee. I like it black.”

“I really wish you were a boy. Things would be so much less complicated.”

“You can’t use that logo on your project. Most girls won’t know a sports logo when they see it.”

We’re marching every single day against treatment like that, happening right now to our kids, statements like that, requests like that that they’ve all heard spoken directly to them.

We’re marching to make sure our daughters know that it’s unacceptable to be treated like that and to make sure that they know that we could never cast a vote for someone who condones such treatment either; we could never do that to our daughters or to anyone else’s daughters either. We march every day to protect them all.

Every. Single. Day.

We are marching for other people’s daughters that haven’t heard those things yet, and our daughters are standing up to those requests and statements, advocating for themselves and for others who will come after them.

“You can’t speak that way to our daughter. Ever. It’s not okay.”

“I marched up there and I told him that I can too use that logo, that girls understand sports just as much as boys do.”

Our girls are taking risks others are afraid to take, or will only take if they are surrounded by other girls. They want to excel in a world that contains both women and men.

“There are only two other girls in my computer science class. I’m trying to get some more to take the class next year.”

“There’s only one girl in my friend’s engineering class. I’m so proud of her for sticking with it, she really loves it.”

“I’m the only girl in this robotics class. I don’t care, I love it.”

“Only one girl took the six week technology class, all of the other students were boys.”

Marching day in and day out.

“Why do you want to do that kind of class? That’s for girls.”

“The girls will have to choose between the dance and the sporting event. We’ll give them a shirt from the game though, if they choose to go to the dance.”

Each day we, all five of us, get up, we show up, we fight the fights some people know about, and we fight fights no one knows about. We make a difference for those who don’t think a difference needs to be made, because we know better. We live the life. We march and every battle we fight and win is a battle that hopefully no one else will have to fight.

We do it for our girls.

We do it for yours.

We do it for the ones who are coming after ours, paving the way for them, even though they don’t realize it.

We march for those who can’t.

We march for those who won’t.

We march for those who think they don’t have to.

We march for those who came before us.

And, we march so that some day those girls who come after us, won’t have to.

It's a long road ahead, and there will be bumps for sure, but we will keep marching, day in and day out.

It’s a long road ahead, and there will be bumps for sure, but we will keep marching, day in and day out.

Monday Musings: What exactly did we create?

17 Oct
Did we dream it or did we do it?

Did we dream it or did we do it?

Recently we had a conversation in our family that has really stuck with me. At the time, it left me a tiny bit unsettled, sad yet happy, longing yet not, and questioning a few things. I had been thinking on it and thinking on it, mulling it over in my mind for quite some time, and hesitating whether or not to publish a blog post about it or not. Last week I watched a video which confirmed that yes, I did want to publish this post. I encourage you to watch this video from beginning to end. It is well worth your time. Thank you to the Attleboro High School students who spent many hours of time on such an important topic.

In the meantime, here is my post.

****

It was summertime.

We were all together and we had the occasion to find ourselves in a warehouse. There was an event there and we were attending, but the event only used a small part of the available space. It was a big, open warehouse, a different experience than warehouse shopping, like at BJ’s or Costco or Sam’s Club. The walls were black, the floors were black, it was an exciting open space, big and empty: seemingly like a giant blank canvas.

As we walked through the space, we marveled at the vast openness of it; it almost encouraged you to run wild, to yell out loud to hear your voice echo in the space, but we didn’t do that. We walked and we talked.

“What if?” Some one of us said it. I truly don’t remember who.

But I do remember what followed next.

“What if we lived here?! What if this was our house?!”

“I’d want a big space to dance!”

“A huge kitchen for cooking!”

“An art studio!”

“A stage!”

“A room filled with books on all the walls!”

“A sewing room with tons of space for fabrics!”

“A place for a 3D printer and doing science experiments!”

“A music room for playing piano and instruments!”

“A photography studio!”

And on, and on and on.

We laughed and talked and called out ideas to each other as we designed our new home. In real life, we live in a regular-sized house, like regular people do, and sometimes (okay, many times) it seems too small for all of us, but we always pride ourselves in being creative with our space, always finding ways to make it fit our needs at the time of our lives that we’re in. We’re comfortable with making changes as our needs change, and that’s just what we’ve always done. We make it work for us.

But this, this imaginary blank canvas of a home, it was exciting to think about for a few minutes as we walked through it and out, out into the bright sunshine of the outdoors and towards our car.

Once we got in the car, the conversation was over and we moved on to the next thing, back to real life and back to summer and then eventually back to school and work.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. As two educators, we’d always imagined starting our own school. Hands-on, experiential learning is our thing. As parents we have fostered that passion in our kids too.

In my mind I pondered the conversation. What did we really imagine? Was it our imaginary house in a huge open space, or had we created the school of our dreams?

And really, the school of our kids’ dreams?

It made me a little bit sad. Sad at first, because most likely we won’t ever get to open up our own school in that warehouse with all of the hands-on learning experiences. Sad second, because in reality, so much of what our kids called out as the things they’d love to be surrounded by on a daily basis, is so much of what’s been removed from traditional public schools as the years go by. I am very thankful that our school district offers a stellar option for high school students through a regional career and technical school which is located on one of our city’s high school campuses, but I know that not everyone has that option everywhere, and that the guaranteed hands-on, engaging education that’s found in a career and tech program is only for high school students, at least in our neck of the woods. I’m also happy to see instrumental music education returning to our elementary schools here, after having been gone for so long thanks to budget woes which are not unique to just our area.

That said, so much of what I used to see in schools as I covered story after story, is no longer done as teachers have said that they have run out of time to do the types of things they used to do. As more testing and seat-work move in, more hands-on experiences and creativity move out. Sometimes, if schools specialize in the arts, they leave out the sciences. As they specialize in science and technology, they lose focus on the arts-things like theater, music, visual and performing arts. That makes me sad. Home economics, cooking, sewing and fashion, wood and textile design…don’t even get me started. In so many places, although not everywhere, these areas of study, these life and career skills that students need the minute they are out in the world on their own, are gone. It is so much so that on a recent college tour, we were even told of basic cooking classes that are offered to college students getting ready to live on their own who don’t possess those types of basic independent living skills.

But yet despite my sadness, I soon had an awesome realization, and ultimately it made me happy and it made me proud.

No, we didn’t open our school (at least not yet), we don’t have a giant home and we definitely don’t have a school-sized budget. But that said, all of those things that our kids dreamed of having in their space, they dream of because they have experienced them. As they’ve grown we’ve designed our open spaces in our home to be spaces that foster creative play, learning and hands-on experiences. Whether it was dress-up and school, arts and crafts, or library and kitchen imaginary play spaces in our basement when they were little, or lessons in things like sewing, dance, music, theater and art as they got older, they’ve been able to be exposed to so many things and have had the time and the opportunity to explore and experience them all. Books have always lived on shelves in every bedroom, under pillows with flashlights and book lights. Play-doh, paint, glue and glitter have always been regular staples in our craft supplies. We have had a garden in our backyard almost every summer since our kids were young. As they grew, the books, spaces and activities grew and changed with them, and the play kitchen space became cooking with us in the real kitchen space, a passion of ours that they all share.

When learning experiences were offered in our city or nearby cities and towns for free, we exposed them to them, while enrolling them in regular lessons for some of the things they loved whenever we were able to. They’ve always been exposed to things that interest them and spark their creativity: free workshops on 3D printing or stop-motion animation at the library, free reading events and encounters with famous authors at the State House, science experiments in our kitchen, lots of opportunities for great experiences through the Girl Scouts like photography lessons and outdoor camping trips, for example.

As teens and tweens they now have a sewing machine in every bedroom. We have paint and canvases, fabric, easels and musical instruments in our home, and so many books. We cook together and they cook independently. As I look around in this instant, there are sketch books sitting out right now, out in the open here in our living room, awaiting the next burst of inspiration, and there’s a draft of someone’s book on my laptop, a dress form with an almost-finished dress on it in a bedroom down the hall.

So as sad as I was that I know we probably won’t ever have our school, and sad for what many students won’t ever have because it’s lost from so many schools and out of reach for many family budgets, after much thought, I was ultimately happy and proud. I felt that if these were the things our kids wanted in their imaginary home, or maybe in their vision of the ultimate perfect school, and if we’d somehow managed to dedicate ourselves to being able to provide them all for them over the years in our own home, in their own real lives, then we’d done a good job of teaching in a hands-on, experiential way. We have succeeded in fostering a love of hands-on learning, of reading and of writing, a passion for the arts and for the sciences, and we’ve given them life-long skills they need to be successful when they are living independently. As we now tour colleges and see the hands-on experiential learning that is taking place there, we see too, that it is the desired outcome for secondary education over any standardized test, and we know we have prepared our kids well for this type of learning which will later transcend into the jobs of the future. Colleges look for students who have experienced true learning, not the one-sided delivery of a curriculum or the passing of a test or of dozens of tests. Employers look for a well-rounded problem solver and critical thinker with a wide variety of skills in their repertoire, not just someone who can ace a test.

Although my mulling over of this conversation was initially one tinged with sadness for what wasn’t or what will never be, it is ultimately one that makes me smile. We had a dream, we had a goal, and in essence we did it and we did it for those students who matter to us most of all: our own. We did it in a small space and on a tiny budget and we continue to do it each and every day. We have always sacrificed a lot, often, and in so many other areas, but we are our children’s first teachers, they are our ultimate legacy, and hopefully when they leave our nest, they’ll be able to continue to live a life filled with a passion for hands-on learning and experiencing life to its fullest.

 

1

 

Fun Friday: Homemade Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding

30 Sep
There is just something so delicious about homemade pudding!

There is just something so delicious about homemade pudding!

TGIF Everyone!

Today’s recipe is a fast, easy, fun and inexpensive treat to make!

I love pudding and I always have, even as a kid. I remember my mom making pudding on top of the stove and having me stir and stir and stir with the wooden spoon until it changed color and texture and we knew it was done. She still has the same little glass pedestal cups that she’d put the pudding in. I took these memories and carried them on for my own kids on occasion, but not often enough, in my opinion. It had been such a long time since I’d made a stove-top pudding.

Recently I saw a homemade pudding recipe that was quick, gluten free, and had just a few ingredients. The stirring on top of the stove is what takes the longest–that and waiting for it to chill if you only like it cold.

I love warm pudding and I love chilled pudding, and the last time we had it, we had company over and we debated: do we love the skin that forms on top or not? It was a mixed review. I don’t mind it, I actually love it, but some people didn’t like it at all.

A double recipe makes about six mugs of pudding.

A double recipe makes about six mugs of pudding.

I have found that for this recipe I need to at least double it for there to be enough for five of us, but when we have had company, I have even tripled it because there were eight of us in total.

I found the recipe for this Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding on allrecipes.com, one of my favorite go-to recipe sites. It got 4.5 stars out of five, and I’d give it a whole five out of five if I were rating it!

Here is the recipe:

Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding
INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup white sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

2 3/4 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Let cool briefly, and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator until serving.

pudding-3

New year, new system

7 Sep
By the week, or by the day, I can scroll through and see who has what, but better yet, all of us can see what's going on each day or night.

By the week, or by the day, I can scroll through and see who has what, but better yet, all of us can see what’s going on each day or night.

It’s September already! The summer flew by. It seems that each one seems to go faster and faster, and seems to end sooner and sooner! This summer was a good one though, good weather, good times, an overall good break from the stress of the school year.

With the start of each new school year, I try to be reflective on the past year and see if there is any way I can make my life and all of our lives, easier, flow more smoothly, have more balance, and be less chaotic. We spent the last couple of years really streamlining our meal planning and shopping patterns and we have found it to make a huge impact on our stress in that area. We always know what we’re eating for two weeks in a row, and we’re always stocked up on everything we need for those meals. We plan them to be healthy, budget friendly and most importantly, they coincide with nights that are busy when we have quick and easy meals and nights that we have more time to enjoy a meal with more prep time. It also allows us to coordinate our calendars and keep to the rule of always eating dinner together, as often as we possibly can, which ends up being most nights. Everyone has their thing, and the family dinner is one of our big things.

So now that we had that system down pat, I could look to other areas of our life to see what I could do in preparation for this upcoming school year because once it starts, it’s full speed ahead through June. No time to implement changes and upset the apple cart midyear.

Over the summer, our kids had a friend sleep over, and in the morning after they woke up, I invited her to stay a bit longer and accompany us on an errand, after which we’d drop her off at home, rather than her parents running out to pick her up. She grabbed her phone, opened up an app, took a look, and said, “Let me check my Cozi calendar. Yup, that should work, we don’t have any plans, let me call my mom and ask if it’s okay.”

I had a lightbulb moment right then. I suddenly remembered that years ago, before the days of smartphones and apps, I actually used Cozi briefly, housing it on my laptop computer. It had been recommended to me by my brother as an organizational tool, and although I tried it and liked it, not having a portable application for it, left all my organization at home and me on the road most of the week. Also at that time, none of our kids had smartphones, nor did we. So no one else could really utilize the app and after a while, I stopped using it and went back to carrying a paper planner; an 8 1/2 x 11 bound calendar book with long columns for each day, broken up by the hour. I was the keeper of the calendar. Anyone who needed anything had to ask me first or if they were home while I was home, go look it up in the book. That system seemed to work as best it could, for years.

My post-it note consumption has dropped off considerably with all of my lists housed in one place on my phone for anyone to add to, or to stop and pick up and then cross off from the list.

My post-it note consumption has dropped off considerably with all of my lists housed in one place on my phone for anyone to add to, or to stop and pick up and then cross off from the list.

After that lightbulb moment, believe it or not, I totally forgot about the Cozi app again. My memory isn’t what it used to be. We left that day for our errands, and my lightbulb went off. However, just a morning or two later, I was on a social media page and there in front of my eyes, popped up an ad for Cozi! It was like they knew I’d seen it in person just days before. (That’s a scary thought, but that is what it seemed like.) Right then and there, since I had some time, I opted to download the app onto my smartphone and start setting it up. Now that all our kids are out of elementary school, we finally have five phones so everyone could set up the app and access it from their phones.

As I set us up, I was able to give everyone a colored dot, even the dog, since she has semi-monthly groomer appointments and regularly scheduled veterinary appointments. I could make items repeat weekly, monthly or bi-weekly, and set up reminders for my family members days or hours before an appointment so they don’t forget that we have it. I could also make grocery lists for every store we go to, and to do lists for myself, a shared list, and individual lists, as well as lists for upcoming events. I started seeing many less post-it notes all over my desk and dining room table (which serves as my other, bigger desk). I noticed that if I had a few extra minutes to run into a store, I had the list right with me and didn’t have to search my failing memory for what it was I thought we needed.

My favorite thing though, is that all of our immediate family members have access to the calendar and to the lists. No one has to ask me if we have something scheduled on such and such a day or where someone is on any given night of the week. They can look at the calendar before asking permission to go somewhere. The kids actually start their sentences with, “I looked on Cozi, and the date is clear, can I schedule…..” which takes a lot of pressure off of me having to constantly manage everything for everyone. If someone runs out of something, they can add it to the list, and if they pick it up at the store on the way home, they can cross it off. It’s been great so far, and I think it’s going to really help us streamline our organization. We even added our two weeks of meals list to the list options so at any time anyone can see what’s for dinner tonight, if we need anything from the store for it, we can switch meals around on the fly if we need to because we have the whole list in front of us as well as the calendar, and I don’t have to answer that “What’s for dinner tonight,” question four times between 4pm and 6pm each day.

I often struggle with the ever-presence of technology in our lives, and I work very hard to try to keep balance in our family with phones, laptops and the like, as hard as it is. It’s not a perfect situation, but we’re always trying hard to keep at it. However, in this situation, I like the positive aspect of technology. I hope that throughout the year I continue to see the benefits of Cozi and that it will continue to eliminate some of the stress in our lives.

By popular demand: Answers to some of your allowance program questions

11 Sep

5aEarlier this week I used my Monday Musings post to share some details about our new system for managing the kids’ allowance each week.

I’ve had some questions and I thought it’d be best to answer them here, since if one person is asking, most likely other people have the same questions and just haven’t asked yet.

The first question I got appeared as a comment and I answered as a reply to the comment, but I’m going to put the question and answer here as well.

  1. Q: Are all of the chores worth the same amount of money or are harder jobs paid more?
    A.: I purposely made all of our chores worth the same amount of money. My goal first and foremost was to make sure that this was easy for me to manage, and keeping everything to one dollar per job was easiest for me. I didn’t want to do less than a dollar and have to deal with change, but I also didn’t want to have to remember which jobs paid which amount. Everything, across the board, is worth one dollar. Additionally, I only make so much money per month on average, and my checks pay for more than just the kids’ allowance each month. I had to keep our payouts affordable so that it didn’t interfere with the other things I needed to pay out each month. If I started to make jobs worth $2.00 for example, that’s now times three kids every month. Instead of filling those higher paying job pockets with three dollars each time, I’d now be putting in six dollars per job each time. At the end of the month, the kids would be making more money than me.
  2. Q: Do all three kids do all the same jobs?
    A: Yes. Again, to keep it simple to manage and to also keep it equitable, everyone’s jobs are exactly the same all week and all three kids each have one chance per month or per filling of the pockets to get to do any of the extra jobs. Once they’ve taken their turn, they put their clip on the pocket and someone else does that job later in the month. This allows everyone to share in all of the responsibilities all month long.
  3. Q: Why monthly?
    A: I get paid once per month, and therefore that’s when I set up the allowances for the following month. However, the kids get paid by the week. It’s just laid out a month in advance.
  4. Q: Can you give us a list of the jobs for each section?
    A: I can, but I hesitated to do so initially, only because everyone’s household runs differently and everyone’s needs are different-both as parents and as kids and what they need to learn or what they need help with remembering to do, which for us is a big part of why we do allowance. For example, many people insist that their kids make their own breakfasts or lunches each day. However, at our house, because of our tiny kitchen, our morning shower schedule and routine, and our nightly schedules, that would make me crazy. Therefore, that’s a Challenge job at our house and each kid can choose to do it for one week out of the month. It gives me a little break in the mornings, yet doesn’t overcrowd my already space-challenged kitchen, and doesn’t interfere with any other carefully choreographed schedules in the morning or at night. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I know my kids will know how to make their lunches and breakfasts, and how to pack a healthy lunch for themselves. That’s my goal. That and keeping whatever is left of my sanity.

    That said, here is the list of what I chose for our chores. It addresses things we need/want them to do to help out, things we need/want them to learn and know how to do when they leave our house as young adults, and things that some one of them might struggle with remembering to do. It also rewards them for some of the things that may come easy to one of them that they always did without being told, but that the others might not have done regularly or easily.

    3a“HELP WANTED!” CHORES: These are the six weekly chores and these pockets are to be emptied and refilled every week, so each child has the potential to earn $6.00 per week minimum.
    1) Feed the dog on your designated nights of the week.
    2) Clear your place at the table after meals.
    3) Organize your school supplies after school and at night before bed for the next day.
    4) Put away your folded laundry.
    5) Do your bathroom jobs by 4pm on Saturday evening.
    6) Make your bed every day.
    FYI: I did tell them that if after 4pm on Saturday night they see one of the other kids’ bathroom jobs not done, they are welcome to do it and take the dollar. They’ve had the whole week to get it done, and I’d much rather have a clean bathroom than not. I also rotate the bathroom jobs every year so no one is stuck on toilets for five years in a row. Each child has two jobs in the bathroom per week–sink/counter tops washed, mirrors washed, toilet cleaned, floor dry and wet mopped, laundry emptied and trash emptied.)

    “#FREEMONEY$” CHORES: These pockets are filled monthly and everyone has one chance per month to do them, assuming the opportunity exists (Example: snow shoveling opportunities don’t happen every month, but when they do, they are plentiful. Additionally, I’m flexible and I’d let all three work together to do the snow, the leaves and the car washing, for example, if they wanted to.)
    1) Dishes washed (we don’t have a functioning dishwasher)
    2) Help rake the leaves
    3) Windows washed
    4) Wash a car
    5) Help shovel snow
    6) Wash the kitchen floor
    7) Vacuum the floor
    8) Dust the furniture
    9) Help fold the laundry
    10) Help out in the kitchen with meal preparations

    “@CHALLENGES” CHORES: Everyone has one chance per month to do these chores also.
    1) Make your own breakfast for a week
    2) Make your own lunch for a week
    3) Clean up the playroom/office–a “big cleaning”
    4) Extra pocket for any extra jobs

    Hopefully this will be helpful to everyone who was looking for a starting point for their own allowance and chore systems. There are lots of “chore chart” resources out there that list chores by age-appropriateness which might also prove helpful to you as well. Remember to be flexible. There may be bumps in the road or changes that need to be made, just as with any new system.

Monday Musings: Allowance…do we or don’t we?

8 Sep
Do your kids earn an allowance?

Do your kids earn an allowance?

I’m sure that’s a question every parent asks themselves at some point during their parenting journey.

“Do we give our kids allowance? If so, how much? If not, why not?”

I also know for sure that there are many schools of thought on the issue. Some people believe that a family works together as a team, and no one person on the team gets paid for pitching in to get the household jobs done. Other people believe that hard work earns rewards, whether it’s house work, yard work or school work. Yet other people don’t believe their kids should have chores at all, that their school work is work enough, and their focus should be on that and that alone.

It’s all good, I’m sure, and whatever works for one family may not work for another.

As parents, we too asked ourselves those same questions as our kids were young. We definitely knew we didn’t pay them for grades on their report cards or school work. When our kids were very small, they didn’t do much in the way of chores, but as they grew older, they were more capable of helping out around the house and cleaning up after themselves. We began to question the idea of allowance in order to encourage them to consistently get certain jobs around the house done. Early on, we went with the philosophy that we were all a team and pitched in together and everything just gets done. We mostly subscribed to that philosophy because we were not financially in a position to pay anyone anything extra, and when you have a large family, you don’t want to institute something you can’t afford. Three kids times four or five weeks of allowance a month adds up quickly and there wasn’t enough to spare, for quite a few years in a row.

But as our financial situation changed over time, so did our philosophy. We had some money to spare and our kids were all big enough to manage household chores. More importantly, we had always stayed true to the “We buy you what you need, you need to save your money for the things you want,” philosophy. It was tough though, because our kids were willing to save their money, they just had no way to earn it. A once-a-year birthday gift might garner them $25 or $50 from a family member or two, but other than that, they wanted to save for things that were “wants” and yet they had no flow of income. They were too young to go out and get a real job.

We also felt strongly that a large part of life lessons and experiences revolve around saving money, setting goals, having money, not having money because you spent it on something previously that you now wish you hadn’t, or better yet, the sense of pride of having set a goal, saved for a period of time, sacrificed not purchasing smaller items, and then walking away with a big-ticket item you bought yourself. Without a flow of income, our kids couldn’t learn any of those types of life lessons.

And so, a couple of years back, we instituted a set of weekly chores and each month I’d cash my paycheck, dole out the next month’s worth of allowance and place it in four weekly piles in an envelope. At the end of the week, if the kids had done their chores they could take their allowance. If they hadn’t, it stayed in the envelope. It was a little bit hard to track though. I couldn’t easily keep track of who had done what, who hadn’t done what, and it was hard to “dock their pay” for not doing jobs. Yet, some kids went over and above helping out with extra-big jobs, and I had no way to compensate them when I really wanted to, just as I would an employee that worked overtime. I also had extra jobs I’d love to see them take the initiative on, but I knew that wouldn’t just happen on their own. Additionally, on many occasions, I’d see a random $5.00-one week’s pay for one child- still sitting in the envelope when I opened it to fill it the next month, and yet no one knew whose it was or who didn’t remember to take their allowance during the month prior. I’d put it back in the envelope for the next month, but I always felt badly that someone lost out on their weekly allowance.

I can't take credit for this, as it was passed along to me and the rest of the Facebook nation this past summer.

I can’t take credit for this, as it was passed along to me and the rest of the Facebook nation this past summer.

This past summer, I saw an allowance idea pass me by on Facebook, and it stopped me in my tracks. I have posted it here on the left, and if it’s yours, please feel free to credit yourself in the comments. When I got it and saved it, I had no idea where it had originated.

I shared it as well, and my husband saw it and commented on it. We loved the idea of taking the money and splitting it up by jobs, and I loved some of the jobs I saw on there. The photo got my wheels turning, as I began to think of how I could change our own allowance system in order to make it more efficient and more exciting. It was summertime, my downtime, and if I was going to start a new system, now was the time to do it.

I knew I needed something that was easy to manage, something that would allow me to see who had done what and when, and who had taken their money and who hadn’t, and I also needed a way to encourage some extra work, as well as a way to reward those who go over and above when helping out. Additionally, I wanted to throw a couple of things in there that would help to remind the kids of things one of them might struggle with on a daily basis. They’re all too old for a sticker chart, but no one is ever too old to earn a dollar if they remember to do a particular thing before school in the morning or before bed at night, and it is worth more than a dollar to me if it makes the morning rush less of a rush.

As I drove around town in August, my idea began to formulate in my head. I knew I could very easily go to the local Lakeshore Learning Store and get library book pockets, the kind that used to be inside of library books to house the library card you’d sign your books out with. I also knew I could get a pack of alphabet letters. I had a nice, empty linen closet door right outside their bedrooms, right next to the main bathroom in our house, which is essentially theirs, and solely their job to clean each week. I began to think of my marketing and advertising hooks. I came up with the idea of “Help Wanted” as a title and I liked it a lot. I stopped at Laksehore one day and I was thrilled to see so many colorful options for alphabets and library card pockets. I love pretty things, and nothing helps to motivate kids more than a bright, colorful space (filled with money). I picked out a set of each and a set of adhesive squares to cut up for adhering my letters to the door without taking off any paint. The pockets were self-adhesive. I had some white labels at home that I could use to label the pockets. At the dollar store I grabbed a set of several hundred colored paperclips and I was happy to see that each of my kids’ favorite colors were represented in the pack. Ultra-convenient.

Just before I cashed my August paycheck, I set up our new allowance system, piquing everyone's interest here at home.

Just before I cashed my August paycheck, I set up our new allowance system, piquing everyone’s interest here at home.

One August day, just before school started, and just before I cashed my check, I began to set up my door. The kids helped me punch out letters, but they had no idea what they would be spelling out, at first. I put my “Help Wanted” sign at the top and started by putting my six pockets there for the kids’ weekly chores. Those pockets would be filled (and hopefully emptied) once per week. They were instantly excited.

Then, I added a new section. The alphabet set had an “#” sign, so I thought that was incredibly cute and I used it for my next section: “#Freemoney$” which I hoped would encourage some extra jobs to be done and would let the kids work extra hard if they were saving for something big. I included things that were only seasonal, things I knew wouldn’t take place every week, but I also included things I knew they could truly do at least one time each month. These pockets were filled once to start, but would only be re-filled once they were emptied. The snow shoveling job won’t be done for a long, long time, but yet the leaf raking job might get done next month.

The kids were really on board now, and the pockets weren’t even filled with money yet, nor would they be for another whole week until I got paid myself. This would let them really get pumped up before the money went in, and then they’d have another week until they could take money out; they’d have to complete their weekly jobs first. Looking at my door display however, they saw jobs that weren’t there that they thought I could add on as challenges. There was an “@” sign in the alphabet pack too, so we set up an “@Challenges” section and added in those jobs too. To me, they were similar to the Free money jobs, but I wanted the kids to be invested and involved so I let them create this extra section themselves.

3a

I had to admit, I was in love with my allowance system display and I couldn't wait to see if it worked or not. The kids thought for sure that they were about to be rich.

I had to admit, I was in love with my allowance system display and I couldn’t wait to see if it worked or not. The kids thought for sure that they were about to be rich.

The following week, I cashed my check, counted out $3 per pocket-one dollar per child per pocket- and figured out how much extra I needed to refill the Help Wanted section each week, and then I began to fill the pockets.

In order to address the issue I’d previously had with never knowing who had taken their allowance and whose was still left in the envelope at the end of the month, I used the paperclips. Each child had a color: pink, green or purple. Their color was on their dollar for every job. If they did their job that week consistently, at the end of the week they could take their dollar out of the pocket, remove their paperclip and leave it back on the pocket for me to use the following week when I refilled the jobs. If they did one of the free money or challenge jobs that month they could also remove those dollars and leave their clips. I had worked it so that if they did a particular job that week (like dusting, vacuuming or washing windows for example) they then had to do a different one the following week so that everyone had a turn to earn a dollar doing each job once a month. This would alleviate any arguing as to who had to dust last time or who got off easy by only having to wash the dog’s nose marks off the windows and door; everyone would easily be able to see who’s clip was on the pocket and who still had options to earn an extra dollar.

I'd call the first week a success! I hope that it continues on just as successfully!

I’d call the first week a success! I hope that it continues on just as successfully!

At the end of the first week, they couldn’t wait to take their earned money out of their pockets. Although one of the weekly jobs was putting away their baskets of laundry, only one child’s laundry had come through in the first week, so only she got her dollar, but the next two kids’ baskets will come through in the second week and they’ll get to take theirs, assuming they actually do put it away. If they don’t, the money will sit there until they do, and then they’re welcome to take it.

It’s only been a week, but I love this new system. Once it is set up, it’s easy to see who has earned what, and who can take what, who can’t take a portion of their money that week, and who forgot to pay themselves. It’s easy for someone to set an earning goal and then find ways to meet that goal by doing extra work around the house, and it’s a nice feeling to know that every so often someone will willingly wash a car, wash the floor or help out with raking leaves or shoveling snow. In teaching terms, it’s easy to give no credit, partial credit, full credit and extra credit. I even have one pocket left in case I think of an extra job. Last week we had little cousins in from out of town and I knew they’d be awestruck to see a closet door full of dollars, so I put their names on a post-it note on the extra pocket, and put in a dollar for each of them to take home, as a bonus from us.

As I said above, not everyone’s philosophy for allowance is the same, but for our family allowance is a vital part of learning financial literacy, and it works for us. I am hopeful that this new system will continue to motivate and reward our kids for a job well done, and I hope that it will alleviate some of the management issues we had previously. Our kids know too, if I don’t work for any reason, I don’t get paid, which means they don’t get paid either, since my job pays their allowance and all their extra-curricular activities. We talked about that at the start, and they know that if something should happen and I lose my income and they lose theirs, their weekly jobs still get done, because ultimately we are truly a team and we do all pitch in to get the jobs done. That’s what being a family is all about.

 

 

 

Monday check-in and a teaser

11 May
A favorite photo from our day yesterday. It's a sculpture found at the beach where we walked.

A favorite photo from our day yesterday. It’s a sculpture found at the beach where we walked.

Happy Monday afternoon!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a blog post, and I haven’t forgotten about my blog or about my loyal readers! This time of year is so crazy for us, and last week happened to just be one of those weeks where we were both working days and also both working nights, and shuffling kids from activity to activity, supervising homework, prepping meals and all the usual stuff, there was just no time for extra typing. I expect the coming weeks to be just like that, and then we’ll be on the other side of another school year, and getting to take a breather, thankfully.

But today, I’m checking in with you all and setting up a tiny bit of a teaser for you as well, a tip about some big things coming up. (And no, our family is *not* expanding in any way!)

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and it was such a lovely day. It was low-key and relaxing, church in the morning, spending time with family and doing lots of eating in the afternoon and evening–all of my favorite activities. We got to head down to the beach for the first time this season just for a walk, and it really made me feel great. I get excited when we head to the beach for the first time, as it gives me a glimpse into the upcoming season and reminds me how much we love where we live and how much we love our seasons. Each winter we experience gives us a renewed appreciation for spring, summer and fall, and if ever there was a winter to do just that, this was it!

I can’t wait for summer. Yesterday, I breathed the salt air in deeply as we walked, I let the sun shine on my face,and I could just feel it all rejuvenating my spirit. Summer will be here before we know it.

And that leads me to my next little piece for today….a teaser.

Although I haven’t had a ton of time to blog lately, my extra hours (when I have them) have been filled with some new experiences for our family, and we’re gearing up for a really *big* new experience taking place this summer. (And I repeat, no…it’s not what you’re wondering.)

I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but just know that all of the research, hard work, prepping and pre-writing that I’m doing now will be fun for you to follow along with this summer! All though you may be missing my regularly scheduled posts now, I promise that it will be well-worth it when we catch up with you this summer!

I hope you have a wonderful week, enjoy this beautiful weather!