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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kids are Back in School!

Can you guess what we did yesterday?!
 Exactly!  First day of school - woohoo!
I am not one of those moms that spends the whole summer wishing the kids were back in school but I have to admit that there are a lot perks for Stay at Home Moms when the kids are in school.  Like the fact that the only dishes in the sink or crumbs on the counter are the ones I put there.  ;)  And the quiet - oh the quiet house!

The kids were ready for a change too, even if they wouldn't admit it.  I couldn't help smiling to myself as I listened to my oldest help her brother select his clothes the night before and at his excitement in the morning to finally put on the new I-can-tie-them-myself! shoes he has been so excited to wear.  Our morning went very smoothly with no issues getting up and out the door with plenty of time to take photos on the porch before heading to the bus stop.  They were both so bubbly and chatty when they got home from school, too.

True to form, I did my best to add a few special touches to the first day of school.  I made special muffins for the kiddos for breakfast and made sure they had something fun in their lunchboxes.  And I pulled out the last of my husband's award winning chocolate chip cookie dough from the freezer so they could have fresh from the oven cookies when they got off the bus.  However, what I personally look forward to the most is my annual Back to School Mom's Brunch!

 This is a tradition I started back when my daughter first started school as I knew I would be a little sad to see her growing up and wanted a way to celebrate the milestone - and to distract myself.  It served its purpose perfectly and I have had a casual Mom's Brunch every year since.  I don't go into full out party mode - the point is to keep it casual and just enjoy some time with the ladies without (most of) the kids running around.  I set aside the first day of school for myself with no real worries about the To Do List or running around so brunch can go on as long as we feel like it.

I do Mom's Brunch potluck style so prep work on my end is minimal though I do like to add just a little bit of fun to the food display.  A few weeks ago I ran across this great Dr Seuss printable (here) and with our big moving date looming in the near future I knew that a Places You'll Go theme was exactly what we needed this year.  In keeping with the chalkboard style I printed out a few more school-type signs (ran out of time though so only one made it onto the table - the fun flags and water bottle labels will have to get their turn another time.  You can find those printables here).  Then I added a few maps to round out the Going Places idea.  The maps themselves were road maps of the states - one for North Carolina, one for Utah, and the others were the home states of some of my friends.  And yes, my friends did actually notice and comment on the fact that their states were included.  (See?  The details DO matter!)

I know - I should have taken the covers off the dishes and the coffee cake wasn't even out of the oven for this photo but hey - when you have to decide between taking beauty shots for the blog and actually participating in your own party... ;)
Happy Back to School Everyone!  I hope this year is a wonderful one for all!

Linking to:
Party Bunch Linky Party

Friday, August 22, 2014

Halloween/Thanksgiving 2x4 Craft - Double Sided!

If it weren't for other people, I don't know if I'd manage to work in time for "fun" crafting very often - especially right now when I seem to spend most of my days in the garage working on drying racks or sorting through yet another closet or stack of boxes in an effort to pare down all the STUFF before we move.  However, I get pretty cranky when all I do is "work" so a couple months ago when I was asked to put together a craft for the women's group at a local church I was pretty quick to agree.  I love introducing people to one of my favorite hobbies!
It didn't take us long to decide on an easy (and hopefully quick!) 2x4 craft for Halloween and Thanksgiving - yes, it's double sided!    The easier it is to change out holiday decor and the less space it takes up in storage, the better, right?  The front side reads "BEWARE of little Monsters" and the back side says "THANKS for little Blessings."
We ended up with almost 30 people signed up for the craft - Yay!  I'm told most of them have never done anything crafty so I've been thinking extra hard about how to have it all go as smoothly as possible.  Over the last week or so I've pulled together a kit for everyone and while I was at it I figured, hey, why not pull together a quick How To for the blog.  I haven't done one of those in a while.
In the kit they will find the wooden blocks, vinyl lettering, patterned paper cut to size, a couple pieces of ribbon (which I forgot to put in the photo!) and even a nice little reference sheet.  I took the extra time to type up the reference sheet because 1) a few of the people won't be able to make it tomorrow but still wanted to make the craft and 2) with that many people they may not be able to have the example blocks right in front of them and I wanted them to at least have photos for reference and 3) some people learn better/retain things better if they can read it instead of just listening to a quick explanation.

*For those of you that are going to ask (and I know someone is going to ask!) here is a quick run through of the sizes for the wood pieces.  You can use a 2x4 for all pieces (I got 2-3 sets out of one 2x4).  Cut out two pieces 7 1/4" high, two pieces 4 1/8" high, and two pieces 3 1/2" high.  For the base block I cut it 14" long then ran it through the table saw (or rather, my awsome husband did) so that it was 2" high.

The rest of the process is pretty easy:
-paint all sides of all wooden pieces.  (Actually I would have preferred to stain them, but the stain has to dry overnight and it really messy so I figured paint was a much better option for craft day)  It will probably take two coats.
-cut your patterned paper slightly smaller than the size of the blocks.  Adhere patterned paper with Modge Podge or similar adhesive
-apply vinyl lettering
-apply another coat of Modge Podge over the top of everything, including the sides that are only painted (this keeps the finish consistantly glossy on all sides)
-when dry, attach ribbon embellishments using wood glue or a hot glue gun.

Told you it was easy! ;)  Now for the beauty shots.

The big craft day is tomorrow!  I've already been over to help set everything up - can't wait!  I'll let you know how it goes... ;)

Linking to:
Link Party Palooza
BFF Open House Link Party

Monday, August 18, 2014

Road Trip Activity Folder for the Kids

'Tis the Season for Road Trips!  At least it was for our family.  Typically we plan one big vacation every year to go back to Utah and see our families.  This year we wanted to be there for a few weeks, and not wanting to leave the pup with anyone for that length of time, we decided to road trip it.  Oh yes we did! LOL  Three full days in the car (each way!) with two kids and a dog.  I'll blog about how we survived that one soon.  But for today, I just wanted to do a quick round-up of some of the activities I prepped to keep the kids busy while we were on the road.  Because, let's face it, while technology is awesome and we used it a lot, I didn't exactly want to see this every time I looked in the back seat.
 Yes, we did pack the mini DVD player (and a brand new movie), the tablet (with a couple new free apps) and the Ipods (again, with updated playlists).  We also uploaded an audio book the whole family could listen to (we highly recommend the Heros of Olympus series by Rick Riordan) and that served to keep us entertained for the majority of the time.  For variety's sake - and to get the kids to look out the window or carry on a conversation with us once in a while - I prepped quite a few activities ahead of time and put them in a couple of binders.

I found quite a few cute printables (like the Slug Bug one) here  and you can check my pinterest board for other ideas.  Each child got their own folder full of printables and I packed some dry erase markers so they could write directly on the page protectors then wipe them off to use again.  I also kept another folder in my bag full of more activities so I could change it up if I needed to when they got bored.  This included things like Lego instructions for the little guy (a couple sets in his binder and more ideas in mine) and origami folding instructions for Miss Kate.

Of course I also printed out maps for each day of our route.  One of the most exciting parts of the trip was anticipating when we would cross a state line and we would start counting down the miles 5-10 miles out from each one.  Kaitlyn even marked her map with the times we crossed each one so we could really see our progress.
Trip Journal Page found here.
Origami instructions found here.
Printable State Activity Pages found here.  I thought these were absolutely fantastic.  I kept them in my folder as well and handed them back to the kids as we entered each new state.
Of course, best laid plans and all - they did a few of them but often they were busy with other things and most of the state pages went into their folders unused.  No worries - we will be making the trip again in a couple of months (EEEK!  The move is coming so quickly!) so I kept it all together in their folders and my activity prep will already be done.
Another activity they enjoyed was making duct tape projects.  Again, I printed a few instructions out ahead of time and Kaitlyn was able to use the techniques and make up her own design for a wallet.
I also printed off some very detailed abstract coloring pages and packed a set of colored pencils for us to use (crayons and hot cars sounded like a bad idea) and found that even I liked to pull them out and color a bit while listening to the audio book.  (now that is something we should all blog tips about - forget about entertaining the kids, how do we adults pass the long hours in the car?!)

All in all, an hour or two on the computer and a small collection of office supplies and we were all set.  If only all of my projects were that easy...

Friday, August 15, 2014


 I've alluded to it a couple of times on the blog but I don't think I've said it straight out.  We're moving!  I'm oh so excited!  And nervous.  And kinda overwhelmed.

Any move is a big life event but this one feels like a giant leap since we made the decision to move not based on financial reasons but because our priorities have changed.  We really feel that the most important thing is for our kids to grow up close to extended family and in a place we know will be good for them.  I am not knocking the reasons we chose to go active duty four years ago and make the move out here.  It has been an adventure full of valuable experiences and lessons, fun times, new friends and definitely new perspectives.  I wouldn't go back and change that.  However, the longer we were away from "home" the more we knew that was truly where we wanted/needed to be.  And now we are finally taking concrete steps to make that happen.

The house is up for sale (or rent - spread the word please if you get the chance!) and the paperwork is turned in for the husband to go back to the Reserves instead of full time active duty.  We have made plans with my parents to start building a house on the family property and to live in their basement until the house is finished (yikes!  That's going to be an...adventure in and of itself).  And here I sit with a notebook full of To Do lists and an ever-growing pile of stuff in the playroom full of items that won't be making the move with us.

Wish me luck!  We have just over two months before moving day!  That doesn't feel like enough time to take care of everything while the other part of me wants to be on the way right now.  Funny how that works.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How Many Days Til School Starts?!

It's creeping up on us.  AGAIN.  That time when the kiddos put away their well-used shorts and tank tops, put on their stiff new shoes and painstakingly chosen First Day of School outfits and... all of us Stay At Home parents get the house to ourselves again!
Kidding! ;)  I've really enjoyed having the kids home with me this summer and it went by all too quickly, as life often does lately.  But I do enjoy the Back to School shopping and the planning and anticipation of a brand new year.

We've been in school preparation mode for the last few days.  It started out with one of my pre-move sort/toss sessions - this time in one of the storage closets and a box full of office supplies.  Or maybe it was someone mentioning shopping for school supplies on Facebook.  Whatever it was, I finally remembered to pull out the kids' school supplies list and started seeing what I could pull from our already existing stash of school supplies.  As luck would have it, I was able to pull almost everything on their lists out of the supplies I already had on hand (well other than the multiples and random things.  Since the kids are only going to be at this school for about 6 weeks I don't think they need 20 gluesticks or 3 boxes or tissues, etc etc).  Score!  That only left new pencil pouches and a pack of lined paper that I easily picked up the next time I was out.  That really put me in planning mode and it wasn't long before I was on the computer seeing what else I needed to get ready for school.

If you need inspiration of your own, I have a TON on my Pinterest board. (here)  I've been reviewing it myself so I can print out this year's round of Must Haves for photo ideas and memories.  My picks so far:
-First Day of school signs for photos here or here.  I think I will use the chevron print ones again this year - at least here in NC.  I love the idea of the conversation bubble ones and am thinking those would be a great First Day of School AGAIN photo prop after we move and the kids have their first day at the new school.
-First Day of school interview questions (printable here or here).  I try to do this every year in one form or another.  I think I used this one last year
-Stocking up on lunchbox jokes like these cuties here and here.

I was on such a roll that I decided to finish the Back to School shopping over the weekend.  We had run into fantastic deals for Tyler while we were on vacation so he was already set for new clothing.  So Kaitlyn and I left the boys home Saturday and went shopping on our own.  Turning it into a Girls Day Out was so much fun.  At almost eleven she has opinions and a style of her own but is young enough that the thought of spending a whole day out shopping with just me feels really special - especially when she gets to chose the restaurant for lunch.  She talked non-stop the entire day and I realized how easily I go through my days with the kids not fully tuning in to what may be on their minds or having full conversations with them.  So I gave myself a "good mommy" pat on the back for doing that and vowed to be better at that.

Sunday found us all out at the Outlets in search of shoes - the final thing on the list.  Does anyone else find that shoes are the hardest part?!  We hit three full stores before Kaitlyn finally decided she wasn't going to find any she was truly in love with (and I had already accepted last year that I was no longer going to get off without shelling out a good chunk of change for shoes from now on *sigh*) and settled for a pair that were comfortable but not much of a fashion statement.  Thank goodness we had already ordered her a super-cute inexpensive pair of boots online a couple weeks ago.  The compromise on the gym shoes wasn't as big a deal when we remembered that.  We found Tyler a decent pair of new cowboy boots plus some gym shoes he was excited about and after getting home I spent the next 30 minutes reteaching him to tie his shoes.  Any bets on how long it takes me to get frustrated with his slow progress every morning and change out the laces for elastic again this year? lol

With that I considered myself entirely done with Back to School prep.  Until yesterday.  When something prompted a discussion on dressing up Kaitlyn's jeans and I heard myself mentioning we could Bedazzle them.  Mental head slap right? I was DONE.  She was HAPPY.  But we had settled for 4 pairs of the exact same style of jean because my skinny little girl always has a hard time finding pants that fit and those were the only ones that worked.  And they were very Plain Jane and you should have seen Miss Kate's eyes light up at the thought of adding sparkles to her jeans herself.  So today they went from this

to this

Ta Da!

Now I'm done with Back to School Prep... except I need tags for the teacher gift...and maybe something cute to dress up the table at my annual Back to School Mom's Brunch... ;)

Linking to:
Best DIY Projects and Recipe Party
BFF Open House Link Party

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I'm Ba-ack!

Wow.  Whirlwind summer so far.  I love it - we've had a lot of fun and it's always better to have time fly by than to crawl.  But, oh the poor neglected blog! ;)  I have four, yes four, partially finished posts sitting in the drafts folder plus the Back to School one I started this morning.  Yikes.  It's a good thing there aren't any blog police!

So what have we been up to?  Well as soon as school let out we had a couple short weeks here at home full of swimming lessons, friends, time at the pool, and me valiantly trying to get ahead of orders on drying racks (for the Etsy shop).  All leading up to a more-than-three-week-long trip to visit our families in Utah - road trip style, at that!  So so fun!  (even with taking the dog with us cross country LOL.  That's a blog post of it's own right there)  Even more exciting is we are now finally moving ahead on plans to move back home to Utah! We absolutely cannot wait!  But of course that means that in the two weeks since getting back from vacation I have been frantically playing catch up on the Etsy orders, putting the house on the market, getting the ball rolling with all the other things needed for the move, trying to look ahead and get things taken care of for Back to School, sneak in a little more time at the pool and with friends, and on and on.  It's a lot.  Still kind of overwhelming, actually, until I remind myself that I only need to tackle one thing at at time.  I can do this!  Right?!
And just look where we will be when it's all behind us.  The view from my parent's basement, where we will be living while we build our new house. :P  Oh the adventure that awaits...