Friday, October 31, 2014

My Kids Wish They Had a Mom Like Me Too!

Happy Halloween!!! If there is one thing I noticed this year, it is that my kids are NOT fond of carving pumpkins! I truly believe that we keep doing it for ourselves. They don't like picking out the pumpkins, cleaning them our or helping to carve them. What do they like? Drawing the faces on them. My kids love to draw, but that's about it. I find the pumpkin pick and carve to be a tradition dating back to when I was a kid, even if my parents weren't getting along (which in all honesty, when were they ever??), we always did this one small thing together. Oh well at least they are still young enough that they don't have a choice! Hahahah!!

As I sit here drinking my smoothie this morning, I realize that this blog post is about to take a different angle than where I was originally headed. Today was going to be an educational game round-up, but after getting another e-mail that pretty much asked the exact same thing as others before...well it was time to address it publicly and not just by replying in messages.
My kids wish they had a mom like me too! Yes, it's true! So many e-mails I get speak of how lucky my kids are to have a mom like me and how their kids would absolutely love it and how they
wish they had the energy, the time, the means to do it all too...wait...WHAT?! Oh dear, is that what it truly seems like? I then hear how mommy bloggers are depressing! Ohhhh no?! Really?!! STOP THAT TRAIN!! There is so much that goes on behind the scenes of a mommy blog that in reality you are just seeing a tiny sliver of our lives. My kids often look back at the blog and remark about how awesome and fun a certain day was and then of course that is when I have to remind them that in that very moment the youngest was behind me pitching a fit because he didn't want to do school or to the left of that photo with our craft of the day is a massive pile of laundry waiting to be folded and put away...or that Roman is the only one in that picture, because the big kids were arguing about something rather ridiculous at that very moment. Sometimes it is comments about how I have time to make breakfast, homeschool, craft, blog, run a business and the like...the simple answer is that I don't.  Plenty of things get pushed on the back burner to get it all done. Look at the long lapses there are on this blog when I just don't have the time and I often get paid to blog! I prioritize, but of course it is not always done right.
Sometimes days and projects look so perfect, but in the blogosphere you don't know how long it took that blogger to actually finish. The beginning photo could have been from 1 year ago and the end photo from 2 months ago and they are just NOW getting around to blogging about it. Meals may look impressive, but what you don't see is the giant mess in the kitchen! Houses may look absolutely perfect, but what you are missing is the pile of bills that it took to make it look that way or the artful angle at which it was taken to obscure the other not-so-perfect half of the house. Of course these are only opinions but they are mostly true. Mommy Bloggers are only blogging about what they love, they are not out to feel superior, just out to make friends, reach out and help someone but certainly not to make you feel inferior. 
Believe me, we are all the same, whether we are working or at home, rich or poor, single or married, homeowners or renters...we are all women that love our children. That is all I ever wanted to convey in my blog posts, I am a mother that loves her children. I yell and lose my temper, I may be madly in love with my husband but he drives me crazy as I KNOW I also do to him. There are not enough hours in the day, I have not seen my family in over a month and they live only 2 hours from me, I have not seen my mother in law in MONTHS and she is around the same distance...Yes, I would LOVE to do it all, but nobody can. We do what we can with what we have and you know what? THAT is what makes a good parent. THAT is what makes a good human being and THAT is what we teach our children, to only do what we can do and the rest will fall into place. Motherhood is not a competition, it is an adventure in which we all take different paths, have different outcomes but always the same intentions, to do what is best for the ones we love. No, my life is not perfect, but I love it that way. It makes it unique to me.
Go on my friends, head out and enjoy every minute!
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

16 Things NOT to Do in Disney World


Hello my friends! As many of you know, we were recently in Disney World (What, has it been a month already?!?!). We are the type of people that usually go once a year, but at least once every other year. It seems that so many things are constantly changing that it is a new park every time we go. This year for some odd reason, we noticed some very upset people and figured it was time to write a list of things NOT to do in Disney World... 
1. DO NOT USE YOUR STROLLER AS A BATTERING RAM! We are all headed places, we are all on vacation and guess what?? It's time to take it easy, not RACE places! You miss out on so much when you are running everywhere you go and you risk severely injuring someone. A man hit my daughter with his stroller because she was walking to slow and we had to take her to get bandaged up at first aid. She was BLEEDING due to this man racing his massive stroller somewhere. Believe me, I GET it, people are SLOW, we have 3 kids and have been taking them as young as 4 months old, we have had small strollers, massive strollers and even double strollers in the parks. This is still NO excuse to use it as a weapon to get what you want or to get to where you want. That man didn't apologize or even look at my daughter who had fallen to the floor in tears.

2. DO NOT go to Disney doing research.So many people show up, only to be upset that the lines are over an hour long (in the off season) and it's hot and the food is expensive and the souvenirs are pricey and the characters they wanted to see are not even out...the list is extensive, but all that can be avoided with a little research and not spending any money to do it. Your local library has the most current guide books, if they don't, request them and they will borrow them from another library. Look online, there are message boards, facebook pages and blogs all dedicated to the mouse and these people are 100% more than willing to help you!! I LOVE helping people get the best deal they can and answer any questions they may have. If we blog about Mickey, chances are we LOVE talking Mickey! Those that come back from Disney World saying NEVER AGAIN, are usually the ones that did not do the proper research.

3. DO NOT pay full price for your Disney World vacation. You will not believe how many people were surprised that we were eating 2 full meals a day for FREE on the Disney Dining plan when we just went. Of course it was too late for them to add it on to their package and that just made them grouchier when they asked about it. There is always some type of special going on! Google it first, call a travel agent (they are FREE!!), Not on a package? There are always room discounts and ticket discounts, DO NOT BUY THEM AT THE WINDOW!! You can save so much money with a little research and then put that in your souvenir fund and it's like getting gifts for free! Did you know that you can bring food and drinks into the park too? They do not force you to buy their food as other theme parks do, take advantage of this!

4. DO NOT get angry at long lines! Take out your camera, get silly and enjoy! Disney World Imagineers KNOW that that lines will get long and they design the queue area JUST FOR THAT! In every line you will see something you missed the last time around! This is something we miss with Fast Pass +, there are hardly any lines with that, we just seem to fly right in! Remember that your kids feed off of your energy, if you are putting bad vibes out there, they will begin getting cranky right away, which will only set you off. We bring a hidden mickey book with us in the parks and lines, there is always something to look for!! Did you know that each ride has a STORY? Read about it before hand and use this information to keep kids and the people around you interested as you walk through. I like to print out this information, even if I already know the story and pass it along to someone else that may not know it. This year our oldest was telling our youngest the stories as we went through!


5. DO NOT stay off property. I know this will get the biggest backlash, due to cost and other reasons, but this is only my opinion. When doing the proper research, it NEVER makes financial sense for us to stay off property and we are a family that often needs TWO rooms on Disney property. Off property buses usually have designated drop off and pick up times, if you don't use their buses you have to pay for parking. Disney has transportation 24-7 and if you do drive to Florida as we do, you can leave your car there the minute you arrive and not touch it until you leave! They have prices for all budgets and each resort is so unique that once again, no detail is ever overlooked. You can also take advantage of making dining and fastpass reservations before the masses, it is a great way to countdown until your vacation!!

6. DO NOT expect your maid to have followed you on vacation. So many people leave their messes on tables and benches expecting the Disney Robots to sweep right in and clean it up. One lady even changed a diaper on a bench and threw the diaper NEAR the garbage can, when she missed, she left it...Disney does work hard to keep the parks clean, but 9 times out of 10 it is fanatics like us that clean up your messes so that it can remain clean for others on their first visit! We always carry wipes with us to wipe down tables and or ride seats and the like.

7. DO NOT forget to make reservations ahead of time if you MUST eat somewhere! Restaurants get booked up FAST and that is because those staying on property get to book so far in advance. Character meals are how we see most of our MUST SEE characters, this way we don't have to waste park time waiting in character lines. My in park reservation tip is to book the first seating for breakfast in ANY park you want to get in early and then you are usually let into the park early and can ride those MUST ride rides ASAP! This helped us tremendously for those rides that only 30 minutes later are over an hour long and some even TWO hours long!!

8. DO NOT SLEEP IN!! I know this is a vacation, but it's not one of those types of vacations. Did you know that if you make it to rope drop (we were first in line at the gates every morning and every park), that you can make it on ALL the big name rides within 45 minutes?! Yup, we did this at Magic Kingdom in 35 minutes, Hollywood Studios in 30, Animal Kingdom in  45 (Safari ride is long and the park is very widespread) and Epcot in 35.  All of this was done with a family of 5 (one little guy with short legs at 6 years old), not shoving or pushing anyone once as we went from ride to ride.We arrived at each park 1 hour and 15 minutes before opening and just brought our breakfast with us (pop tarts, pb&j's, bottles of water), because we knew we would just do an early lunch after all the rides were done and we had walked around some. We also brought Disney Trivia Books and cards to sit on the floor and play games or chat to kill the time.

9. DO NOT forget the stroller! What?? Yup, we have big kids and we STILL bring a stroller with us. WHY?? We keep a change of clothes in there, light sweaters or jackets and then have room for anything we may buy while in the parks, this is because we park hop and DO NOT go back to the room at ALL until around midnight or 1am!  We are not racing through the parks with a battering ram..ummm I mean stroller, we park it right at the front of the park in the first stroller parking spot we come across and only head back if we need something. NO, in the 10 years of doing this have we ever had anything stolen from our stroller and NO it is not a pain to bring it around, it is super beneficial and we often had people complement our idea of a stroller for stuff!

10. DO NOT RUSH! If this is your first time, you are doing yourself a great disservice going from place to place without truly enjoying your time in the parks. Check out EVERYTHING, the paths, the gardens, the landscaping, the shops, the statues...they are all designed by Imagineers and they all have something pretty awesome to lend to the park. Taking in and photographing the small details are what you will remember the most. Remember, you can ride rides at any theme park, you chose Disney for other reasons! This is truly another WORLD! There are many learning stations throughout the park where the kids will learn things they may have and will never know! I know we learned some awesome things as parents!!

11. DO NOT start at the front of the park! So many people rush to the gates and just get in the first line they see, this is what most EVERYONE does! Head straight to the back and you will find the lines so much shorter and it's a great way to navigate your way through the park as you will be right at the exit when you are ready to leave! Also when a line splits off into two, go left. The brain has a natural desire to go right and that line will always be more crowded and as the park people know this, they make that queue line longer, so that it does look shorter. Try it, break up your group into 2 parties and you will get some interesting results.


12. DO NOT have a parental melt down. Are you about to lose your cool? Step away from your family for a second and gather your thoughts. Step into an air conditioned building and maybe just breathe in a bit. This happens to us all and you don't want to be the one group that someone else remembers most from vacation. We all paid a ton for this trip, we all did it for our kids, we all are usually 10.00 shy from not having any more vacation money left...on and on it goes but calling your kids names, hitting them or even just yelling at them in front of other people not only makes you look bad but also really does not do much for the self esteem of your child. NO, my children are not perfect and we have had to have a talking to about the gimmies or the desire to just hang out in the hotel room and watch tv ( we don't have tv at home, so it's a true novelty) but we take our child aside into a quiet area and chat with them eye to eye.  
13. DO NOT BE RUDE TO CAST MEMBERS! The long lines, the heat, the rain, the cost of the vacation...none of it is their fault. They are berated all day and there is not much they can do, remember that. They will continue to smile and hope to make that moment magical for you, but it will eventually get to them, they are human too. A simple thank you and a look in the eye for the lady handing you a plate in the food court will not only help you relieve stress but will change their demeanor entirely. I witnessed this first hand when the waffle line was taking too long at Chef Mickey's and everyone was moaning and groaning to her, as soon as I smiled, she smiled and you could see the tension leave her shoulders. I asked how she was doing and we had a nice conversation. We learned that she was from out of the country and talked about that as we waited for the waffle refills to come in. Did you know that? Disney gets their cast members from all over the world and it's AWESOME to talk to them, you learn so much and can sometimes even make a friend for life! My son has an intense desire to go to London ( we go in 3 years!!)and he met someone from there, they hit it off chatting about all the places to see and what to do. Cast members are people too, just remember that most. Complaints can be taken to the guest services building by lost and found and they will help you with pretty much anything!

14. DO NOT buy Bandits for your Magic Band, they fall of repeatedly and even with the receipt, they could only replace one set for me. We knew this going into the deal and crazy glued the ones we ordered before our vacation to the band. I wish I had remembered the crazy glue on vacation, because I would have done the same for the ones we lost. These are soooo cute and you will have an INTENSE desire to buy them, but just know you will most likely lose them. It was a poor design on Disney's behalf and they are aware of this. I just wish they would collect them when they find them and pop them into a jar at lost and found so that you can just tell the cast members which ones you lost and they could go and check if there is one in the jar! Hahaha! We did have an AWESOME Big Thunder Mountain cast member that used his garbage grabber to grab one that we lost on the roof! My husband tried to get it with a light up sword and he was a hair too short, so this man came up and saved the day!

15. DO NOT chalk Disney up as too expensive! You can pay your trip off monthly, book over a year in advance, ask for gift cards as spending money for all holidays and birthdays, once at the parks you can get free souvenirs just by taking your time! There are free games with stickers and stamps and treasure maps and trading cards at almost every theme park! (By the way if anyone reading this has any Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Trading Cards they would like to trade, please let me know!!). There are way to make everything happen!! Believe me, we are a 1 income home :)
16. DO NOT forget you are on vacation! Smile, put on some Mickey Ears and have fun with your family!! This is a vacation that is most likely pricier than others you could have taken and you need to get every single pennies worth with memories!
Remember to enjoy every minute my friends!!!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In This Moment...

Taking some time for reflection on our bike ride!

Taking moments for ourselves throughout the day, reminds us to be thankful for every little bit of our lives. This morning as I sit with my cuppa and think about all the changes that have happened to us in the past year, I reflect about life...In this Moment I am:
::Smelling the casserole in the crock pot
::Listening to my children read "quietly" in the other room

::Drinking English Breakfast tea & discovering that I don't quite have a fondness of English Breakfast
::Thinking about how thankful I am to my husband for working hard, so that we may stay home
::Making my to-do list for today
::Feeling felt in between my fingers as I try to come up with some new felt board items
::Trying to suck up the chill in my bones with a sweater
::Realizing that never again will my children be this age that they are this very second...so I am signing off and going to read to them!
Enjoy every single minute my friends! It all goes by too fast!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Round Up!

Fall seemed to have arrived while we were on vacation and we came home to a yard full of leaves, the sky turning dark super early, a chill in the air and pumpkin everything...it is an amazing transformation to leave sand, sun, tank tops and shorts to come home to leaves, darkness, long sleeves and jeans! I love Autumn (why we named our daughter that!), don't get me wrong, but it takes some getting used to! We collected leaves in all of these clear cylinders to decorate the house for the season and they looks so cute! We put them on the fireplace and peppered throughout the living room.
The Day The Crayons Quit has to be the most AMAZING book we have read in quite awhile! It is hilarious and sooo cute that we bring it everywhere and have people read it. Have not read it yet? Get to your library or even just head to Barnes & Noble, you will love it!!
With Autumn sneaking up on us, I knew I had to start preparing for Winter. One of the kid favorites is painting in the snow. These squeeze bottles are the perfect size for little hands. My kids absolutely love doing this, even making the paint with food coloring and water is a fun project in itself! You can even use squeeze bottles with food, check this out HERE!
One thing my kids loved in Disney World was the Pirate Map treasure hunt. They had so much fun following these maps that it has inspired our next birthday party coming up in December! We plan on having a treasure hunt themed party, with maps and hunts and prizes in trunks. The kids are so excited and I can honestly say that I am too! Follow my Pinterest Board for this Party HERE!

When we take on new studies, I love to use things that I can find around the house, are inexpensive and can be taken on the go! Learning the 50 states and capitals is made fun with this double sided-popsicle stick game. One side has the state and the other the capital. It can be played like a game of pick up sticks, can be used alone as flash cards. My kids also love making up their own games to play, the have added in a timer and give a time limit, added in a note pad and had each person pick 10 and lay them flat, then write down what would be on the opposite side of the stick, they sometimes grab them and use them to quickly decide who goes first, second and third in other games! I keep them accessible at all times and the kids gravitate towards them every now and them outside of class.
Our car ride was electronic-free and the kids didn't notice one bit! We had card games, travel games, homework and plenty of chatter. We all had a blast and in all honesty 20 hours went by in no time at all! One thing that we always keep on hand are chip clips, they are perfect for holding cards for little hands when playing games!
Remember to enjoy every minute my friends!



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Monday, October 27, 2014

Menu Plan Monday!

It's Monday! That means it's time to plan for dinners this week. I change up my template pretty often, just due to how our needs change. Here is the one I am using now. Do you have one you use? Please share it in the comments.
MONDAY: Meatloaf & Steamed Veggies with Cesar Salad
TUESDAY: Baked Potato Bar
WEDNESDAY: Chicken & Cheese enchilada casserole
THURSDAY: Parmesan Garlic Shrimp over Pasta
FRIDAY: Homemade Cilantro-Lime Chicken Tortilla Soup with Garden Salad
SATURDAY: Out with family & friends
SUNDAY: Pork Roast with Carrots & Potatoes


Remember to Enjoy Every Minute!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Playing Catch Up ABC's

Another month has flown, but we've been on field trips, road trips, bike trips, city trips, ocean trips and even to DISNEY! I will keep you all posted on each of those trips very soon, for now let's catch up with a round of  ABC's:

Adventure: A true adventure is what we set out for and it is what we got in return.
Blessed: Being able to spend this time together was a true blessing.
Car: Our VERRRRRY old minivan was our transport across the country and to places in between!
Disney: We spent an amazing 14 days in Disney that could not have been any more magical.
Escape: Our family needed to get away from it all and just connect with one another.

Florida: Our favorite go-to spot never let us down!
Georgia: The LONGEST state to drive through when you just want to get to Florida!!!
Homeschool: Yes, my children still did work on the drive to & from Florida & some while in Disney!
International: The International Food & Wine Festival in Epcot ~ the food & drinks were delicious!!
Jealous: As we left Disney World at 2am, I was jealous of everyone pulling in and just starting...
A chip holder is perfect for holding playing cards in little hands! The car ride was electronics free!

Kentucky: The cheapest gas came from here and some of the friendliest people!!
Love: I loved taking my kids to the spot we were married and showing them where it all began.
Moms: I met so many mothers at our co-op field trips, it's great to make new friends.
Nashville: We spent some time at Opryland resort and it was amazing as always!
Ocean: Taking breakfast to the ocean at 4am and watching the sunrise from the beach...wow.
Ponce de Leon: We visited the fountain of youth and learned so much!
Quick: It went by far too quickly...
Redo: Can we do it all over again! I would change so much and then again nothing at all!

St. Augstine: The most beautiful coastal town EVER! We fell in LOVE!
Ten: It was our 10 year anniversary in September & that was what we celebrated on vacation!
Universal Studios: Harry Potter was great, but the lines were so long, we did not get to do much else.
Volunteer: Our year of volunteering came to a close and it left me feeling confused...more to come.

Wisconsin: We just biked 14 miles in Wisconsin with a 7,8 & 9 year old! They were awesome!
eXhausted: The past month has been a whirlwind and I feel like I need down time...but when?!
Year: 1 year until we return to Disney World with our kids! We booked before we left!!
Zoo: We trick-or-treated at the zoo this past weekend and had so much fun counting Elsa's!
Enjoy every single minute my friends, it goes by in a flash...

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our Catholic Homeschool

It's no big secret that we are Catholic's, in fact I am quite proud of that fact. It is just not something that I blog about often. I am not a Catholic blogger, I am more of a blogger that happens to be Catholic. I blog from a parenting/teacher/homeschooler perspective. I unfortunately notice that when I post about Catholic activities that I have done with my children, I lose likes on facebook. It's too bad, and as I do not do it often, I will not stop posting about it. It is part of our education process, so I will share. As many of you already know, we use a Catholic curriculum to homeschool with and it is SETON SCHOOL. This is a fully accredited school, which my children will receive a high school diploma from, NOT a GED. Anyway, today's post is about some religious activities I have put together for my youngest as he goes on to prepare for his First Communion!
We use this awesome Liturgical Calendar from Illuminated Ink to keep track of our Holy Days of Obligation and Saint Feast Days! This great little number was a bit on the pricey side at 25.00, but in the end I found it a good investment. We also added tabs at the back of the binder to divide up the liturgical year and keep any crafts or worksheets in the back so that I have them all ready to go when we reach a certain time of year.
It comes with all the stickers you will need to complete the calendar and many pages for your Littles to color. The only negative comment I have on this is that seasonal stickers it came with. The small purple, pink and white color stickers that you place on each day for the season we are in (Ordinary, Easter, Etc..) These were so difficult to peel that they tore and we ended up ruining so many that we just colored them appropriately in the end and gave up on the stickers. Other than that, this is an awesome binder that we use all the time! I do wish it was a bigger binder though, we are overstuffed but don't want to lose the beautiful picture it came with on the cover of their binder. 
Some fun Saint Printables from Arma Dei, gave us an AWESOME opportunity to turn our Guess Who game into Saint Guess Who! We took it even further and keep the Fr. Lovasik Saint books nearby and we quickly read about which saint we got. At the end of the game, each person tells a little bit about their Saint with everyone else.

Illuminated Ink strikes again with their awesome Saint Symbol stickers! These stickers are so fun for the kids to color, but then we purchased poker chips to place the stickers on and as each pack comes with multiples of each saint, we were able to make a memory game!

Blessed Mother paper dolls were a hit at our house when these beauties came home with us from the homeschool conference! Once again from Illuminated Ink! I am beginning to regret not buying a large poster for the kids to color. 
As each week passes, I like to teach the Mass to my First Communicant. We are in the process of creating our own Mass Kit in a DIY style. I introduce a new piece each week and it does double duty as a lesson manipulative and then as part of the overall mass kit. These 'hosts' were made from wood circles that I picked up for a song at the craft store.
A bread plate from Family Christian was the perfect tray to hold our hosts along with a simple tray that holds the pitchers for the water & 'wine'. This is as far as we have gotten, but I plan to add felt pieces as the altar covers in proper seasonal colors. There is so much more to come, but we are doing just a small bit each week, to ensure comprehension. This is also a great set to practice carrying the gifts, so your littles can be prepared should your family get selected! We are lucky enough to be regulars by now, but I still get nervous when they hand my klutzy guy the hosts!
Our family absolutely loves coloring pages, I enjoy making some of my own for the kids to learn prayers from. This simple Hail Mary prayer becomes easier to learn as they recite each word while coloring it. Using a different color per word makes it easy to memorize.
I was challenged this week to share my favorite bible verse and I didn't even have to think about it! This one has always been it. During a struggle, I have to always keep in mind that this is the path the Lord has set me on. Enjoy every minute my friends! 

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