Sunday, December 29, 2013

Link up for Winter Bucket List

I didn't figure it out, my friend did and set it all up so everyone will be able to join in. I have the greatest friends!! I have already shared our list, but will include it in the link up also. For those who don't have a blog but would like to share you Winter Bucket Lists please feel free to share on our Facebook pages. Each link up will be posted for a week and a new one will be open every Monday as everyone shares the progress through their lists!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Winter Bucket List

The boys and I had actually completed two activities from our Winter Bucket List before we had even finished writing it out. Our list is a little bit longer than our fall one was due to we are counting on a couple snow days from school in which to do a couple items. However because we live in Michigan and snow is not always guaranteed during winter, we limited the number of snow related activities.

So here is our completed list:

  1. Make snowmen (outside) 12/27
  2. Shoebox weaving
  3. ice candles
  4. make candles
  5. indoor camping
  6. write a winter themed story as a family
  7. Q-tip snowflakes
  8. paper snowflakes
  9. sock snowmen
  10. marshmallow igloos
  11. pop bottle penguins
  12. Grow icicle candy (rock candy)
  13. make popcorn "snow"balls  (or snowmen)
  14. walk a nature trail
  15. complete a whole coloring book
  16.  board game day
  17. mom VS kids on video games
  18. puppet show
  19. sledding/snowboarding 12/27
  20. make a fort 
  21. snowball fight
  22. reverse meal day 
  23. cards/craft for senior center
  24.  make a cherry pie
  25.  pillow fight
  26. snow art
  27. visit the fire department
  28. boys cook dinner
  29. secret valentine
  30. dance party

We repeated a couple things the boys really enjoyed from some of our other lists, as well as the two things we ran out of time for from our summer list.

I was planning on hosting a link-up for the Winter List, but haven't had the time to research into what I needed to do. If I can figure it out, it will be up within a week. I welcome you to start a "Bucket List" or "Fun list" with your families and please share you journey with us on our Facebook (If I can't get the link-up set up).

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fall Bucket List Wrap Up

Our Winter Bucket List is ready to be posted!! First let me give a wrap up of our fall list.  We were off to a great start back in September, with a visit to the nature center were we had our picnic and walked the trails. We also collected items from the ground for our nature pictures we completed the following weekend along with making caramel apples. The caramel was adventure in itself. We were able to mark off quiet a few when we visited the cider mill including picking apples and walking a corn maze. That same weekend we also took our flashlight walk and made our first attempts at popcorn balls. Our Bat hunt didn't go according to plan, but we improvised and things worked out. We had many apples on hand so we used the opportunity to bob for apples and made two apple pies. Just days before Halloween we walked about a mile during our pumpkin count and again had to improvise to make monster cookies. Of course we also carved our pumpkins during this time. We started on thankful jar so that we would end it just in time for Thanksgiving.

During November things were off to a slow start with just our bonfire then a week later we were blessed to have someone offer us their pile of leaves to jump in. Just before Thanksgiving things picked up a bit and we flew through creating a couple different styles of leaf art and constructed our own versions of leaf people, as well as finished our family book. The boys also did their shopping for our local food pantry and dropped off their donations. We ended the month with our friends over at Homeschool Camper helping us out with taking our family fall picture (with us in winter coats) and my boys putting together a second Thanksgiving dinner that we shared with my parents. We finished on the last possible day with finally baking apples.

While more of our activities this time around lead to having to get creative and improvising, it was fun to see what we could come up with to complete our list. Some things I think turned out better after having to think outside the box for. I can't wait to see what challenges our Winter List brings us.

A cousin of mine had mentioned he likes following our updates but I have never explained why we were doing the list to begin with.  I got the idea from a friend who had  found a page called The Happy Family Movement 2013 Summer Bucket List. I figure our family had strained a bit with having my nephew living with us and participating could help bring us closer again. During our summer list we tried many things for the first time and some were things we have done in the past and wanted to make sure we included on our list. While we came close to completing our insanely long list, we ended up missing two of the activities. Posting the list help keep me accountable for neat things I've said I would like to do with my boys and never made the time to do. The boys loved marking off when we completed something and seeing how many people were following us through our list. We decided to do a Fall List but there was no way we were attempting another list with over 100 things. 25 seems like a  nice doable number and this time around we just squeaked in the last one.

If you missed any part of our journey through our fall list or even our summer list you can find the links to them here. (Some of our posts from our Summer list were written when I was co-blogging with a friend and didn't survive the switch, I'm hoping to be able to somewhat recreate some of the posts).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas and the Day After

The boys were still full of energy and wide awake at midnight on Christmas Eve, so we went to their first midnight mass. It will be a couple more years before we attempt to do that again. Jacob made it 15 minutes in the service before he was out like a Christmas tree light. The older two complained most of mass about tired they were and sat through much of the service, I figured that would happen and wasn't to bothered by it. The last 10-15 minutes though they completely lost it from being overly tired and were so giddy and got the giggles. Even when I gave them "The Look" they giggled harder. It definitely was an adventure, one I don't plan to repeat for a couple years.

I was blessed with children who slept in Christmas morning due to not getting home until almost two in the morning. Joey was the first one up and waited patiently playing with his new toys from the day before for everyone to be awake. Opening gifts went smoothly with only a hiccup with the video camera, then later another one when my camera decided to invert colors. The boys didn't get everything they had hoped for, but were excited with what they did receive. Some of their favorites were a bow and arrow, Mine Craft Xbox game, iPod speakers, and a TMNT pillow (and the cat liked the new bed Santa brought for him).

We had planned on going down to the grandparents early so I could work on the laundry while we were there. We were all very involved with checking out their new stuff and get even leave the house until after 2:00 in the afternoon. Once there we exchanged gifts with my parents, my niece, my nephew, my brother, his girlfriend and her little boy. My brother is a chef and brought over a duck as part of our dinner. My poor niece has a pet duck and wasn't thrilled by the idea that one we would be eating one of it's relatives. I was surprised that eventually she did taste a small bite. Actually everyone tried at least a tiny bite, Joey and I were the most reluctant but we did it (and actually liked it). Jacob LOVED the duck and asked when Uncle would be making another one. We enjoyed the day as a family, including watching a movie all together.

Today was a day of trying out their new stuff; putting together the Lego sets and testing how difficult the video games were. Jordan spent most of the day on one video game. Joey built a carnival ride out of K'Nex and drew many picture with his Spirograph. Jacob spent majority of the day resting on the couch with a sour stomach. I also tried out some of my new things like my much loved George Foreman, I don't care much for standing in the snow to BBQ. I have been  putting the loom set Joey  got for me to good use making hats. Being not real sure what I was doing I started with a hat for our cat. He's such a good sport about dealing with all our tomfoolery. The younger two did make it outside for an hour to get some fresh air (that's our only outside time so far this week).

While Christmas is over, we are not done. We are still planning on working through our Christmas Around the World just on a smaller scale. Also part of our Winter Bucket list is up, but we're still looking for approximately another 10 items to add to our list. You can have a sneak peek  by looking under 'Our Seasonal Bucket Lists" tab.

Orange Rhino update:
I was thrilled to make it to day 12, I always stumbled on day 10. I however am back to day 2. I fully understand that the boys  being giggly in church was not their "fault", but while explaining why it wasn't acceptable I did raise my voice. I caught myself right away, but the fact remains that I did raise my voice. I also understand that my boys would not have been giggly if it wasn't  after 1:30 am and I also probably would have maintained  my lower volume if not for the time and myself also being extremely tired. I now that I can make it at least 12 days, and should be able to get there again with more ease.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas A Day Early

The boys are excited about heading over to visit with family and have been pestering me all day. I think part of their excitement is that they know just before we leave they get to exchange gifts with each other as we get home later after visiting. On the years we don't head out to visit on Christmas Eve day they exchange gifts just before bed. This year they were more excited to have everyone open the presents they bought VS opening the one they were to receive. I think they are gaining a better understanding of the season as they get older.

They have been begging all morning to open presents and I finally gave in. The nice thing about them opening gifts a bit earlier this year is they all happily playing with their new stuff and didn't me to hurry up and leave. All the boys did very well and bought things that their brothers will really enjoy. We have played some of their new games already.

The boys were correct and I did get some interesting gifts, they were also correct that I love what they purchased for me. From Jordan I got a new coffee mug that has saying about how awesome moms are and some flavored coffee creamer. Joey bought me round loom set so I can make them some hats, also he made me a reindeer ornament and a hand made coupon book in school. Jacob's gifts to me where a couple pairs of socks (you can never have too many socks) and an elephant Webkinz.  He was kind enough to recommend naming him "Trunks" and even offered to set it up on computer with his Webkinz, her name in "Little Bit" and he showed me how to set up my own account. He thought a Webkinz was a great gift because I love playing games on the computer.

Some of the things the boys bought for each other are:
Jordan from Joey- a sketch pad and watercolor pencils
Jordan from Jacob- a mini gorilla pillow pet
Joey from Jordan- Jenga
Joey from Jacob- space Lego set
Jacob from Jordan- Skylanders Trouble game
Jacob from Joey- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster

We spent time with our extended family and ate very delicious foods and treats. my cousin took family pictures for everyone, I'll be sharing ours when she posts them.

We are planning on attending midnight mass tonight. The deal with the boys is anyone falls asleep before it is time to head to church we are going to call it a night and everyone head to bed, and attend mass in the morning. With just 2 hours until church starts all 3 are still going strong, we may just make it to church tonight.

I probably won't get a chance tomorrow to get on here, so from all of us at Learning Life With 3 Sons we are wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas!!! May your day be filled with good food, great company, and an abundance of love!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Snagged Some Computer Time From The Boys

I had forgotten how hard it can be to write anything when the boys are home. It doesn't help me out any that I took away the cable, they now spend their time playing games on the computer. Even when I can snag some screen time I'm often distracted by "cool things" they want me to watch and to referee whose turn it is on the Xbox. While they are on break from school I will try to post as much as I can, but it will be sporadic at best, bare with me.

Here's what we've been up to, basically not much. Saturday my parents came out on took the boys shopping so they could buy presents for me. They also stayed to help the boys with wrapping as I was sent upstairs so not to peek. I was informed "my brothers got you some interesting gifts, but you'll love what I got you" by each of the boys. I will be very surprised I'm sure by whatever they picked out :) and I will love every gift they got for me because they put so much thought into what they thought I would like. The rest of Saturday was catechism for Jordan followed church, and relaxing with a Christmas movie later in the evening.

Sunday around here was totally a day of rest. Not one of us got out of our pajamas! We had a movie marathon day and the boys played their electronics on and off throughout the day. That's basically it. Not all that exciting, but very relaxing.

After a day of total relaxation we were a bit more energized. Grandma came out to spend some time with the older two while Jacob and I joined his den for a field trip (Yep, two days before Christmas). We visited the very exciting world of the city's water treatment facility! Actually it wasn't too bad, the guide for our tour was very good and kept the boys entertained, well as much as you can at water treat facility.

They were having so much fun!! 
Rockin' the PJ's again
After dinner we tackled making some Christmas cookies. Joey and Jacob made just about four dozen chocolate chip cookies (Santa's favorite!!). While the cookies we baking Jordan made some cornflake Christmas wreaths. After a wash of everything all three boys made some shortbread cookies, that we will be icing in the morning. I just finished making some fudge to take to our family get together tomorrow night. My house smell delicious!!

 Orange Rhino update:
Today I made it to and through day 11 without yelling!! Well, so far; I still have one who is still awake and working on my nerves but if I can hang in there until he finally falls asleep I can get past the 10 days and having to restart the challenge. It has been a trying 11 days and more than a couple times I almost had to start over. Knowing that I was so close to reaching my goal really helped me to keep it together. My manta for the past four days " Just __ more days, you're almost there".  Next mini goal to reach the 2 week mark, then a month.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It Was A Snow Day But We Didn't Even Play In The Snow

Today was an unexpected snow day, due to icy roads. The roads seemed fine to me when I drove Jordan to school, before I released school had been canceled. While I had some things I would have liked to get done while the boys were in school, it worked out well for us and we got some other things done. Thankfully I had things we could do today, because for a snow day it was too rainy to get outside and play in the snow.

Around here snow days = electronic days, so the boys were slow moving this morning. Jacob didn't even get up until 10 this morning. Once I pried the games from their hand we headed to Five Below so the boys could pick up some Christmas gifts to give. On the way there I talked with my mom who volunteered to take the boys shopping for gifts for me. It's always hard to help them shop when they already a gift for me in their baskets, they worry I might accidentally see me present. We started off with a $2 per person budget, and soon changed it to $3. Most of the things they kept choosing were five dollars and soon their budget jumped again. I want to teach them to learn to shop within their means, but just about everyone goes a little over budget around the holidays and I caved. They were for considerate of what each person might like or would use. This was a new concept for Jacob, he has a history of buying his brothers toys HE wants and after they open them and don't actually play with them, he takes them as his own.

After shopping we headed home to wrap their finds before snooping brother could discover what they got. I made sure we had enough tape, but of course we ran out of wrapping paper and had to double back to the store again.

I'm still only 3/4 done with Jacob's stocking, I got distracted with making scarves and throw blankets. The stocking they have from last year are really too young for them, Jacob refuses to use the Elmo one. I grabbed a couple felt stocking from the dollar store and some glitter from the craft store. They were given complete freedom to do what they wished on them. I only requested that they have their names on them. I plan on keeping these as a keepsake, as their writing style and artist abilities change so quickly. You can tell from Joey's that we have really been working on him writing smaller. I love that Jacob's is written on slant, and Jordan's letters are more uniformed. Jacob didn't really want to decorate the red portion on his (Glitter is for girls! *Sigh*) but decided to add dots after watching his brothers go to town making snowflakes. Oh course I made one too. I have a stocking my mom made for me when I was maybe Jacob's age, but I needed one that says Mom instead of my name. Having boys doesn't give me many opportunities to use glitter, I forgot how difficult it can be to clean it up. I believe hours there are probably still traces of glitter on and/or around our table.

We finally made our baked apples from our Fall Bucket list. They we delicious!! I have some very talented chefs, we enjoyed them with our movie tonight. We had attempted a few time the past couple of weeks and often time didn't allow for it and once someone ate our apples for snack. With technically hours to spare we complete our whole Bucket list! I'll have a wrap up of our Fall Bucket List up hopefully within the next couple of days. We have been planning our winter one but we still have tweaking to do on it before we post it, but it should be up soon.

A quick Orange Rhino update:

In spite of the full moon, I am very proud to report I completed my mini goal of not raising my voice for a whole week!!! I had been challenge plenty of time this past week also. My new goal is to finally get to and through day 11. Earlier this year when I first took the challenge I could repeated get to day 10 and blow it. My main goal is to make it 365 days straight without yelling, but I'm taking baby steps to reach it. It's a bad habit that I had got into a long time ago and one I can't wait to break (along with some other bad habits).

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Talking With Santa

Last night was the Christmas party with the cub scouts. After all the scouts received the badges they had earned they hurried to get in line for the bake sale. I'm proud to say the fudge we took, was completely sold out by the time we left. They kept the bake sale simple for the kids, everything was a quarter. Shortly after everyone was in line a surprise visitor showed up. YAY! Santa was there! They called the boys up by their dens so they could tell Santa what they would like for Christmas and were given a treat bag along with their Pinewood Derby car kit.

I was thrilled to see that Santa was there, that meant I wouldn't need to go stand in line at the mall. After all the scouts and siblings had their chance to visit with the St. Nick, I went up there with my boys for our Santa picture. Even Jordan poised for a solo picture (what a good sport!). When Santa seen him coming he said that he'd just stand next to Jordan VS. having him sit upon his knee. Jacob the little stinker shielded his mouth when he whispered to Santa what gift he wanted the most. Jacob also called Santa an imposter, saying his beard wasn't even real. When Santa pointed out that that wasn't his beard it was the fur on his coat, that he had trimmed his beard special for his visit with the scouts, Jacob conceded and said he was just testing him to make sure he was the real deal. Joey also whispered is request to Santa.

After everyone was all sugared up and Santa had to head back to the North Pole it was time to head home and try to convince my kids to sleep.

Staying with the Santa theme, Joey had a paper he had to write tonight for school tomorrow. I absolutely love the idea of this paper. The assignment was you had to imagine you were placed upon Santa's "Naughty List" and you had to persuade him to put you on the "Nice List". I absolutely LOVE what Joey came up with. I swear my kids can argue just about any topic. I think I may have Jacob write one of these too.

Here is what Joey wrote:

Dear Santa,

I know it looks like I wasn`t also a good boy this year.  I want to be off the naughty list. Let me explain. I hope you`ll understand why I got in trouble. After you hear my story you`ll understand. Hopefully I will get back on the nice list.

I have hurt my little brother. He can be really annoying. He likes to take my stuff. Also he`s not always nice to me. I have been working on being nicer to him.

I haven`t been listening real well to my mom.  She keeps asking me to clean my room. It is more messy than just I can clean. She wants me to sit and finish my all my homework when I could be playing outside snowboarding. It is important to be active and get fresh air.

At school I get A LOT of work to do. I really try to get it all done but there is A LOT! The work I do get done is really good and I get good grades on it. Sometimes I get my work done and forget to turn it in. I forget a lot of things I’m only 9.

          My teacher thinks I talk way too much. I have a lot of cool things to say. I like to share the things I know with my table. I’m not the only person at my table who talks. We are working on our socializing studies J

          You see my story now. It is all just a big misunderstanding. I’m a really nice boy. You should put me on the nice list. I promise to leave you extra cookies this year.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Most" Posts of 2013

I'm linking up with Amongst Lovely Things  for their 2013 "Most" Post. Although this is still a fairly new blog, there are enough posts to review. I have really enjoyed looking back over all the things we have done this year. I am reminded of what awesome kids I have and how very blessed I am to be their mom.

Post with the most clicks:
How We Are Dealing With ADHD

This post was very eye opening for me. While trying to write it I was able to experience the feeling of overwhelming jumble of thoughts my son deals with all the time.

Post with the most comments:
How We Are Dealing With ADHD
Not surprisingly, this one took the tile for most comments also. As many parents can relate to dealing with one or more children with ADHD, and we learn different techniques to try from each other.

Post with the best picture:
Precious Memories
Mainly because the whole post is pictures.  Not just any pictures, but of my boys when they were so much younger. This post served as a reminder to me just how fast they grow and how much they have learned about themselves and the world around them.

Post that was  the hardest to write:
Tough Conversations
This post was written just after I had a conversation with my 7 year old about missing his father who had passed 7 years ago. Even though his daddy's passing was awhile ago, it still effects this life. The topic of mortality can be difficult to discuss with your child.

Post that was your personal favorite:
I love everything I write if it deals with my boys, but my overall personal favorite would be a toss up between Why I Love Being A Single Mom With Sons and My Mom
The first one was so much fun to write! While there is a long list of why it is so hard to be a single parent, I was able to reflect on the positives of being a single mother. It definitely has some perks. The second one because I didn't write it, my oldest did. I love that I am able to share a love for writing with my boys; even if we're not much good at it, we still do it and enjoy it. In this post he wanted to share some things he has learned about me, seems fair because I write about him a lot.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Finally Ready For Christmas...I think

Earlier this week I wrote about although we have been preparing for Christmas, the decorations have been set out, we have been following Holy Heroes daily and reading a Christmas book every night; that somehow Christmas had still snuck up on me. Well, I'm proud to say, "Bring on the holiday cheer we're ready for it". Within the last two days I managed to get all my shopping done (with the exception of one gift that needs to be picked up tomorrow). Everything is bought, wrapped, tagged, and either under the tree or safely tucked away. Jacob has his book for his class's book exchange, the younger two are half way through their crafting of gifts for their teachers, fudge is in the process of being made for the scouts' party and bake sale tomorrow night. I am all caught up after getting a late start. I'm not done being in store though, the boys' still have their shopping to do.

I've gotta tell you it feels great!! I'm a planner and list maker and usually am the person who drives you nuts by having all my holiday shopping done before December (if not before Thanksgiving). To be so wrapped up in all the "extras" and lose track is just not like me. I have learned from watching my mom how to get things done while racing the clock; a very useful skill, although I never thought I would need it. I'm use to having everything done early that we can afford the time for all the "extras", this year I guess we did it kind of backwards, and I have no choice but to be okay with that.

This evening we attend a concert for two of our neighbors who have been working very hard on learning to play the violin. We were a bit late getting there after picking Jordan up from practice, but we able to hear them play their last song. We stayed for the rest of the concert and listened to some of the older kids play as well as their middle school choir. All the different groups played very well and the choir was also great and entertaining to watch. Thank you again for inviting us to watch you play :) I'm proud of both of you <3

After we got home from the concert the boys' Godparents stopped by to exchange gifts with them, as they will be out of town for Christmas. My boys' are very excited about and love what they received. We are very blessed to have such loving, caring Godparents in our lives.

So, with the first gift exchanged (and mine finally bought) let the fun of the holiday continue, without any more stressing on my part. I'm finally ready for Christmas....I think.

Orange Rhino update: Made it to and through day 5! TOOT! TOOT! (< Tooting my own horn) Almost to my mini goal of one straight week without raising my voice.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Almost Ready For Christmas

We have been preparing for Christmas all month and I just realized that it barely over a week away. Crunch time now!! I haven't bought any presents yet and still haven't finished cross stitching Jacob's stocking let alone the ones for the boys. Looks like a plan B for stocking this year. Worse case scenario they use last years that are kind of young for them. I'm hoping plan B works out, I'll grab the supplies tonight for it. (I haven't been working on them like I should have been. I got distracted crocheting new scarves and throw blankets with the stitch I had just learned.)

I made some progress in the present department today, although I'm only half way done. Remember those list with prices the boys made the other day, I went back there today and bought from their lists.  Not only did I manage to complete all the Santa and mom shopping for the boys, it is all wrapped, tagged, and stored away. Now if I could just figure out what to get my parent's I'll be able to finish my shopping.

We are planning a visit with Santa sometime this week, when we have a free evening. I'm going to brave the mall and stand in the line for a couple hours so the boys can hand their list to one of Santa's "Helper Santa". If I'm lucky Jordan will even pose for the picture just to humor me.

Also I have to take the boys out shopping so they can "buy" presents for family members. They are getting older now and will be graduating from the dollar store; I have so many things that fall into the category of "Wow! What a creative figurine!" and "That sure will be useful". I love watching them shop, watching all the thought they put behind their gift choices. That's the important part of the gift anyways, the thought and they sure put some serious thought into what they get. They can spend more than an hour in the dollar store choosing "just the right" gift for everyone, I wonder how things will go now their budget is higher and in a store with more options. This will be fun to watch :)

They boys spent another 2 hours outside again today. After school they tossed their backpacks in the house and rushed out to turn a pile of snow into a hill to snowboard down. It was freezing out there too, below 10 degrees; I don't think the boys noticed it any though. All it takes is a couple inches of snow and they can't wait to get outside to play.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Let It Snow!!

Sunday night which means another late post because we spent the day visiting with Grandma and Papa. Followed by our last dash to get everything ready for Monday morning and school. With lunches and snacks packed, dress clothes pressed for Jordan's game and double checking that all folders and forms have been signed; I finally get to take a breath and reflect on our day. Realizing that in my hurry to get us home so we weren't rushing about, that I had left my purse (with Jacob's book report in it) at Grandma's, and still ended up rushing everyone off to bed.

No mass today, Saturday service seems to work better for us. So we enjoyed a slow start to our day not heading down to tackle the laundry until after lunch. I love spending time at my parents house and using their fenced in yard. I know I can send the boys out back to play and not have to worry about what other people may approach them. Before the boys could jump in all the snow that had fallen the past two day we had some running around to do. Joey snapped one of the buckles on his snow pants yesterday while taking them off, and Jordan had borrowed a pair of Joey's. After a quick run to the thrift store Jordan now has to pairs of snow pants (without the little kid shoulder straps) and Joey got a pair as well to use as a spare. The best find was a pair of pink snow pants that fit ME!! I haven't owned snow pants since I was Jordan's age or younger. My thinking was if I wasn't so cold every time we went out to play in the snow, the kids could stay longer.

With everyone having appropriate snow attire we went out to play. Well actually I went out and shoveled and the boys played. I did however make a few snow angels with Joey knowing my jeans weren't going to get wet. The snow was still to fluffy to make a fort or decent snow ball, so the piled up snow that would later need for their fort. Jordan had started another bonfire, because well because Papa said he could. I believe the boys did stand by it for small bits of time to warm up a little. Being so toasty warm in my new snow pants we were outside for 3 hours. That's the longest stretch of time we've had since middle of November, bringing our year to date total of outside hours to 141.

The boys had hoped to visit a nearby snow hill either yesterday or today. We could have gone yesterday, but I had gotten confused and thought Jordan had catechism this week. Then today we were at the grandparents. There are a few hills not far from them, but I had too much laundry to tend to that we just didn't have enough time this weekend.

On a side note, I have discovered why every other week it seems like we have double our normal laundry. I have one sweet teenager who likes to hoard his dirty laundry in his room until he has absolutely nothing else to wear. Not sure why that is, as he passes the laundry basket every time he enters or exits his room; the teenage mind, I just don't understand it sometimes.

My Orange Rhino update: There has been some really good day, some close calls, and some days I lost control of my mouth. I did reach and pass my last set goal of 5 days before I ended up having to start over. I'm still working on it, I'm back at 3 days without raising my voice at my children. The freezer has taken the brunt of my not so nice tones, so my words were not directed towards the boys. I have been working on while the holidays may be stressing me out, the kids are excited and not to take away from their joy of a wonderful season. The snow will be an added blessing not only to get them outside playing, but also to burn off some of their energy (and mine) which helps me not feel the need to raise my voice.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Catechism Can Be Fun!

Last night we went to the store to walk up and down the aisles so the boys could make their Christmas want lists. Their choices for what they put on their lists really reflected their personalities. With Jacob anything went didn't matter how big or how small, from a laptop to toys from the dollar bin; mainly action figures or additions to sets he already has. He's putting a lot of faith into Santa can bring him just about anything his heart desires. Joey who is also still a believe in the jolly old guy, chose things that just so happened to have sale tags, even though some of the sale prices we well over $100. He chose a lot of games and things to use for make believe games. Jordan who has things figured out was also considerate of mom's wallet and looked for some of the less pricey things. He has a bunch of computer and video games on his wish list along with to my surprise workout equipment.

Yesterday Joey also brought home a progress report (Jacob claims he did not receive his, although he usually has pretty decent grades anyways) and he is doing awesome this year. He has managed to pull up all his grades and is at honor roll standing as of now. Joey has not had a honor roll qualified report card/progress report since maybe first grade. To acknowledge how proud I was of just how well he has been doing and how hard he has been trying, I gave him a DVD that I had put away from Christmas that he has been wanting to see since this past summer.

What our poinsettia craft should
 look like when it finished.
Using pencils to help attach tissue
 paper to the Advent wreaths.
Today was another fun filled day around here. We started off a bit bumpy but quickly found our groove. Waking up late, then locating the van under several inches of snow and finally racing off to catechism for a family workshop. Being new to the parish I wasn't sure what the workshop was all about. We started off with a short service, then spilt off into groups for a round robin of crafts. Our first stop was practicing some Christmas carols. The boys sung very loudly which the choir director enjoyed, even though they were completely off key and displayed their lack of rhythm (they inherited from their mother). Then we were headed over to listen to a story a little girl and the first poinsettia, the story took up all of our allotted time and we were given a poinsettia craft we could complete at home. I love the idea they used by having the shape of our home state as the poinsettia pieces, upper peninsula for the green parts and lower peninsula for the red. We made an Advent wreath at our next stop. Even though we are starting the third week of Advent, this a project we will be able to set out next year. The boys almost had their whole wreath completed when it was time to go to our last. I think the last session was my favorite! We learned about the meaning of Posadas. A large part of the congregation is Hispanic which made this very interesting for us. Father explained what Posada was all about and those who knew Spanish and the Posada Song. Half the church sang part and the other half sang the response. Father also explained the religious significance of piñatas.  Then everyone gather in one of the hallways and all the children participated in the piñata game. Those who knew the song sang during the game, sung if for every child. Once the candy was spilled and gather by the excited children, it was time to head home.

Jacob getting ready to
take a whack at the piñata.
(and everyone else waiting
 nicely for their turn)

I am very proud of my boys, after gathering some of the candies, they gave it away to some of the younger children. The candy contained dyes (which we don't do) and they thought the younger ones would enjoy it. They were given some chocolate candies and some praise from the priest. I took a few minutes to ask the Father how I would go about locating a "baby Jesus" for our Rosca de Reyes. Knowing that someone in the congregation had to know, the people at Meijer looked at me like I was crazy when I asked them which aisle they would be in. The church actually had some and offer to give us a few when we attended church later in the evening.

After our family workshop, it was a quick lunch and to watch the new DVD again. After the movie the boys couldn't stay inside anymore knowing there was all that snow outside. After bundling everyone up and getting some friends to join them, they spent an hour outside. They would have stayed out much longer but it was time for evening mass.

I had hoped the fresh air would wear the boys down some so the would be settled for mass, not the case this time. After an hour of all 3 fidgeting and practicing sign language instead of paying attention, I was ready to go home. It just happened that they were serving soup tonight following mass, and Jordan told Deacon we would be glad to join them. I couldn't figure out how to tell Deacon "thanks, but no thanks", so we fellowshipped while we ate soup. I'm glad we did stay as we were able to meet some of our fellow parishioners.

The boys had hoped to play outside again once we were home, but seeing no other kids were out opted for another movie. It was a long and busy day, but we had so much fun. While I had planned to wait until after Christmas to work on our Christmas Around the  World, it worked out well that we were able to learn about Mexico from people who practice the traditions.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Over Crazed about Christmas

Sorry there has been no post, things have been crazy busy around here. I am realizing that I try to cram too much into every holiday. Now that my boys are getting older and busier it is harder to get all the fun holiday themed activities in before the actual holiday. While they are in school I have the time to sit and plan things for us to do because I feel like I have all the time in the world. Once 3 o'clock rolls around there is very limited time to do all the fun things I had planned. While I usually have 2 kids with down time while the other one participates in their activity, I'm holding out hope to complete all my ideas as a family.

With that said Christmas Around the World is getting pushed back to our Christmas break, so we will be able to enjoy the activities more and not feel so rushed. Pushing Christmas Around the World back will allow time for our Christmas traditions and some Christmas shopping. We'll still be following Advent Adventures daily and reading our 22 Books for Christmas (and A Christmas Carol). This weekend I'm making a point to finally complete our last bucket list item and make bake apples.

There is less than 2 weeks before Christmas and my boys still haven't made their wish lists. Not watching TV tends to make it harder for them to rattle off a list of things they want, they just don't know what new toys are out there. Soon we'll be heading to the store with a pencil and paper to create their lists. A couple years back I started doing thins with the boys and they love it. We walk up and down the aisles and they bring me the items they want and I write them down (as well as the price). This has helped eliminate some of the toys they think they want, but turn out not being what they thought. Playing with a toy in the store you can see if it as cool as the box claims (or if it looks like it would break easily). We'll be doing this this weekend because it tends to take a couple hours to check out all the toys.

Next week we'll  be cooking cookies, making gingerbread men, and gingerbread houses, and possible trying to make some fudge. Oh, I guess we better add Christmas shopping seems the boys haven't done any at all so far. There will be a couple crafts tossed in throughout the week as time allows.

I'm still working on not putting so much stress on myself to have the "perfect holidays". I make all these plans then have to back track and start crossing things off or bumping them to another time. I have to learn, I don't have to do it all for it to leave lasting memoires for my boys. It's a working progress, I'm getting better at noticing when I have given myself too much to accomplish.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Back to Brown Bagging Lunches

As you can see from the multiple pictures I share of my boys, none of them are by any means fat. Those who know me personally know I often worry that they are too thin. However since the beginning of the school all 3 have been packing on the pounds. For my older two this is great (Jordan was almost 13 before he finally reached 100 lbs.) but I don't think they are gaining weight in a positive way. My Jacob has recently had to switch over to husky for his pants sizes. I know part of his gain is from his CVS. He is also a lot like me and craves sodium rich foods. They aren't big eaters and have (mostly) healthy snacks. I think the culprit is their school lunches. I have noticed most of their classmates are also on the "huskier side".

I know Michele Obama has set in place for healthier school lunches, but are they really that healthy. I do love that the junk foods are not in the vending machines and that students can no longer buy pop during school hours. What is really in our kids' lunches. The fruit they get comes out of huge cans, it's not fresh fruit and it's overly processed. Same with the cooked veggies; out of the can, warmed up , and handed out. Having worked as a lunch lady I can reassure you your child is not eating the cooked veggies they are served. The number of times pizza is served amazes me, for my younger guys the 3 weeks of school this month there'll be pizza 4 times; Jordan has the option to have pizza everyday for lunch. Looking at their menu, it's high starch, loaded with sugars and dyes. Three days this month the hot lunchers get an "extra" treat of a cookie or a bag of chips (I have seen last June's menu where they received cotton candy). The "extra treats" are not on days kids most likely would pass on the lunch; they're on pizza day, chocolate chip Eggo waffle day, and Chef Boyardee ravioli day.

Our elementary school does have alternatives, the students can get yogurt or salad as their main dish. Jacob has done this a few times when the main dish was something he couldn't eat. I like that there is an option. The salads vary day to day, chicken, taco, turkey, etc. but who want to eat salad everyday (I've tried it, it gets old fast). My boys don't like that everything is mixed together, on taco salad day Jacob can't get it unless he want to risk eating the cheese. The yogurt sound like a good option except its a 4 ounce sized Danimal yogurt; that's it, their main part of lunch is basically sugar.

Point being; while hot lunch is a great option for some, it does not work for us. After really looking at the menu and looking at what my kids are really eating, no wonder it is effecting their weight. No wonder all these kid seem like they are bouncing off the walls; they consume so much junk then crash, with the crash comes the moodiness and not wanting to do their work.

We have opted for brown bagging it everyday again. My boys LOVE pizza so once or twice a month they'll grab a pizza lunch from school. This way I know what they are eating and that they will have things in their lunch that they will actually eat. When they have "fresh" fruit/veggies it will be fresh from the produce department, not a can. Also they will get a larger variety of food, the hot lunch menu consist of rotating pizza (and Bosco sticks) , waffles and variations chicken (chicken rings, chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, popcorn chicken, southern chicken) with the occasional hot dog or corn dog tossed in there once or twice.

I am not one of those all organic only eat healthy foods kind of mom, although I try most of the time.
I try to teach to boys to be aware of what they put in their bodies. Not that I want them counting calories or anything like that. Just to understand which food help their bodies work more efficiently and what will bog them down. We read labels, try to keep things in moderation, and try to keep active after some "not so good for you foods". We eat food that's not good for our bodies, Heck we've even had pizza twice in one week due to crazy schedules. I love cookies and sweets (as do the boys), and don't deprive us of them. I think the key to teach balance between which fatty unhealthy foods you eat, how much, and how often.

*While the younger ones are taking lunches everyday, Jordan has chose to continue getting hot lunches. I have to trust that he's making the right choices, I can't always be there to tell him to take carrot sticks instead of two cookies.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

I'm Grateful For My Dad

I have to give a shout out to my wonderful dad. I don't know what I would do without him.

Last Thursday, there was a strange noise coming from my back brake. I'm in no way mechanically inclined, so I called dad. That night he had me switch cars with my mom so he could take a look at it. When we went down to visit on Saturday, he had fixed the brake but still needed the van for another day. He planned to fix the heat or rather lack of heat also. For the last year or so there has been no heat to the front of the van. I didn't really worry about it much because the boys had heat in the back and I did have heated seats up front. We have made do, it was what it was. As a single mom it wasn't really high on my priority list. I crochet enough blankets that if for some reason we ended up losing all heat we could muscle through. I have had a couple friends who husbands had offered to help us out, but my van is never still long enough for them to work on it. My sweet father took it upon himself this weekend to fix the heat. Last night my parents brought my van back out to us, windows cleaned (I'm really bad about the van windows), brakes fixed, and heat fixed.

This morning when we woke to snow coving everything, I was grateful for not having to stand outside with a hand held heater to defog my front window. I warmed up the van and 5 minutes later when we jumped in to take Jordan to school it was toasty warm. AAHHH!! Pure Heaven :) Jacob even said on the way to school, "Wow, it's really warm in here."

While my dad knows we would have made it through another winter on limited heat, he wasn't going to allow that to happen. He's always there for me, instead of letting my struggle he steps in and helps us out. I know I can count on him to be always be there when I need him (and even when I don't realize I need help), as well as he is there for my boys. We are very blessed to have him in our lives and we thank God for him.

Thursday must have been the day for things to break around my house, because for no reason the DVD player decided to just stop working. We watched a movie and went to swap it for another and it wouldn't read the disc.

My dad also came to our rescue with a couple DVD players when he returned my van. I am shutting off our cable for a while. We don't watch TV Monday through Thursday anyways, plus on the weekends the boys usually play their electronic games. It just didn't seem practical to keep paying for something we seldom use. We have a nice collection of movies we can watch if the mood strikes us. I have a few shows I love, but I can watch most of them on the computer.

I guess what I'm saying is thank you dad for always looking out for me and my boys. We love you and appreciate all you do for us. Your truly are a blessing and I am very lucky to have you as my dad and a Papa for my boys.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tree Lighting

Last night was the tree lighting for Grandma's city, seems we missed the one for our village we thought we'd attend theirs. It was bitter cold, according to my phone it was 23 degrees which means it was much colder with the wind chill. We covered just the basics while we were there and were done in just about an hour.

We stood and listened to some carolers, listen to the major's speech and watched Santa arrive on the city fire truck to receive the key to the city. After they flipped the switch to light the tree Joey wanted to stop my the cub scout tent, where we got a craft to do at home, since their glue had frozen in the bottles. They choose different pinewood derby cars to race for a bit (noting the designs of the winners for when they make theirs). Next was to see Dancer and Blitzen who escorted Santa down from the North Pole. We were not able to actually pet them, but did get to snap a few pictures. There was a petting farm area also. The kids really liked the camel best. I had left my purse locked in the van, so I didn't have any cash on me to buy animal feed. My boys picked a couple of carrot pieces from the ground to feed the camels. Jacob had his hand nibbled on by a friendly camel when he held out a small carrot stick. We spent a some time petting the other animals before spotting a multiple person bike. We took a ride on one of the two original 6 person bicycle that the decked out with Christmas lights. Being thoroughly frozen we headed to warm up our numb fingers and toes. We didn't wait to visit with Santa (although he look authentic) because there was an extremely long line and we were hungry. We'll catch up with Santa another time.

What better way to warm up then a pizza buffet. We spent more time at the buffet then we did at the tree lighting. I love the atmosphere of this one and the creative décor they have. Jacob was able to get a pizza the way he can eat it, pepperoni no cheese. After eating way too much it was finally time to head home for our carbohydrate comas that follow.
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Around the World- Russia

Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom!

Aren't you glad you don't have to write that out on every Christmas card? All that is simply Merry Christmas in Russian. The Russian "Santa" is "Ded Moroz" which would be Grandfather Frost or more commonly known as "Father Frost".

Today we started our Christmas Around the World, for no particular reason we chose Russia. Here's some of the cool facts we found about Russia.

They celebrate Christmas on January 7th, and consider it as part of their Festival of Winter. The Festival of Winter is 39 days long, and begins at the end of November and goes until the evening of the January 6th. During the festival people exchange gifts, go to parties, go skating and go tobogganing. They also fast for 40 days. Which means not eating eggs, milk, meat, cheese, or any other food made from animals.

On January 6th dinner starts when the first star is in the sky (or if it's cloudy when it gets dark). They have 12 different courses for dinner; the 12 dishes represent the 12 apostles. Example of what their dishes may consist of; fish, cabbage, dried, fruit, and beet soup (borsch). the most traditional dish is a special porridge call Kutya (Koo-T'YA). Even during dinner they not allowed any of the "fasting foods", also alcohol/wine is not permitted. After dinner kids go door to door singing/caroling and receive treats. To celebrate people go to church, say prayers, and sing hymns and carols.

Jordan's finished Nesting Dolls
Russia is known for their babushka (Matryoshka) dolls also known as nesting or stacking dolls. While I told the boys about how Russians celebrate and the types of traditions they have, they worked on a simple nesting doll craft. I found a template for the babushka dolls on line and ran off copies. In order to "nest" them we used a bathroom cup to glue the largest doll to and placed the dolls in the cup.

To help make this a hand-on learning experience we attempted in making Kutya. The Kutya didn't go over too well. My boys are usually good about trying something new; with the exception of Joey, he likes what he knows and knows what he likes. Jacob and Jordan said it was just alright, Joey took a no thank you bite. I liked it, I wasn't something I would want to eat all the time, but it wasn't bad. It reminds me of eating oatmeal but the poppy seeds makes it taste grainy. I explained to Jacob that his ancestors from his dad's side are for Ukraine and this is what they also at during Christmas. Then I explained what ancestors meant. He cracks me up, he asked "Wow! How many Aunt Sisters do I have?" If you would like to give this porridge a try the recipe is listed below or you can try another variation which can be found on line.

Trying a traditional
Russian Christmas dish.
Joey didn't really care for it.

1 cup wheat
4 cups water
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup poppy seeds
Honey 2-3 Table spoons

1) Was wheat in cold water, then put it in a bowl or pot and soak it in water over night.
2) Pour water out, and wash wheat again. Place wheat in a pan, then add 4 cups of water and cook for a few minutes until ready, you can add more water if needed. (It didn't tell me, but you have to wait for the wheat to pop open and get gooey for it to be ready)
3) Meanwhile, put the poppy seeds in a bowl, pour water over them to cover them. Then cover the bowl and leave it stand for about 1 hour. Pour the water out and use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
4) Put the raisins in a bowl of water, pour boiled water over them, cover and leave for 20 minutes or until they swell. then pour the water out.
5) When wheat is cooked, add honey, ground walnuts, poppy seed and raisins. Serve in a bowl.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

What We Have Going On

There seems to always be more than one thing going on in my house. I don't know if I should chalk it up to everyone's ADD or if we are just really good at multitasking. I think part of why my boys have a difficult time focusing on just one thing at a time is a learned behavior. I rarely do just one thing at a time. If we are working on a craft I'll have something cooking or running to switch the laundry. I read multiple books at a time and have multiple crafts for myself going at once. Daily we have many places we need to be, usually back to back with other activities.

Currently I have a couple things I make to time to do for myself. I'm still working on cross stitching stocking for the boys, Jacob's it 3/4 of the way finished (the hope it I can get it done before Christmas). I learned a new to me crochet stitch and am working on making a couple throw blankets for the boys. I just finished crocheting a queen size blanket for my bed and soon will be fixing the "small hole" in Joey's. I also have 4 scrapbooks I'm trying to catch up (this will never happen with how many pictures I take). I'm reading a book a neighbor has lent me along with re-reading one of my favorites. Jordan and I have just started reading A Christmas Carol. I'm researching for our Christmas around the world. Then there is the everyday things like getting the boys to their activities and things around the house. Oops, and blogging (how did I forget that one?).

Jordan currently also has two books (The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan & The Fire Eternal by Chris D'Lacey) going as well as the A Christmas Carol. Basketball practice or games five days a week. He also has his daily school assignments to maintain.

Joey is reading Beware the Ninja Weenies by David Lubar , The Holy Bible that he reads at his leasure and whichever book he chooses for his monthly accelerated reader through school. He is also working on a craft present for someone for Christmas, but may need to give it to them for their birthday instead (it's a slow and steady project). He has scout meeting once a week and the at home achievements to work on. Plus keep up with his school work. Then catechism once a week.

Jacob has the lightest load with scout meetings once a week as well as catechism. He's also reading multiple books, he has been working his way through The Wimpy Kid Dairies and the Magic Tree House series on top of a book of his choice for his weekly book reports.

As a family we are working towards finishing up our Fall Bucket list and planning our winter one. We are following Holy Heroes daily for Advent as well as our blue book from church. Working our way through our 22 books of Christmas. Within a week we will be working on our Christmas Around the World. Lastly attempting our 18-20 hours of outside time a week. Of course there is church every weekend also.

Thankfully we seem to do wonderfully with multitasking, I don't know how we would get everything done if we weren't. Even though we all have a lot on our plates there is always some down time to enjoy our own interests and family time together. I like that we are busy most of the time, it helps teach the importance of time management and organization to the boys (plus they love all their activities). We have also decided to easy up on our supplemental school work until after the new year.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Making Discoveries - 1000 Hours Outside

We are halfway through our 9th week of participating in the 1000 Outside challenge and we are currently at 131 hours and 15 minutes spent outside. The past couple of days we have not made it outdoors due to Jordan's basketball game and wet weather; I'm holding out hope that we'll get at least one hour today. I was surprised by how much time we actually spent outside. When the weather is nice we are out there a lot longer than I thought, but when the colder temps hit we hunker down in the house and there's little to no outside time. We have gone from 3-6 hours a day in October down to 0-2 hours a day by the end of November, I'm sure the earlier nightfall plays a part in that also.

With the colder temperatures some days it is harder to encourage the boys to get out of the house, when I would rather stay toasty warm inside. Once the snow comes they'll be more excited to head out and play. When we can see a reason for the cold it tends to make us more accepting of it. Plus with snow comes many fun games and creations. We have been making an effort to bundle up and get out, even if I may be watching the clock to reach an hour. Once I get the kids out there it doesn't take long for them find something to do and the time passes quickly.

While staying toasty warm inside suits us just fine, we have seen some neat things during our outside time we had been missing. Once a week the younger two and I head to the park while Jordan is at basketball practice, last week we were greeted by about 50 Canadian geese. As we walked towards the play equipment the geese walked away from us and many went into the nearby water. Half the geese took to the water, while the others found us not to be a threat. This lead to a teachable moment of why birds don't freeze in the cold water. The boys kept checking to see how many geese had stayed in the water. There was on funny little guy who kept waddling up to the water's edge, stared at the water and waddle back towards the grass. The boys were waiting to see if this little one was actually going to follow the others into the icy cold water (he didn't by the way). We also walked down the pier and noticed the ice that had formed around the pillars just above the water. On the way back to the playground Joey noticed that there was ice on the sand and a little bit of snow, even though there was no snow elsewhere at the park.

While walking with Homeschool Campers on a trail near their home Jordan had discovered a set of deer tracks and near them a set of coyote tracks. We also explored an area where some deer had recently bedded down. There was also a lot of play with the ice and breaking the ice. Our friend Elder Cracker Jack had figured out that if you stick your hand in the hole in the ice the pocket of air there is a few degrees warmer. Jacob grabbed a piece of really cool ice from a hole one of the other children had made, it had formed a neat twist below the surface.
Jacob's ice find
Deer tracks
Coyote tracks

While I could have taught my boys these things sitting comfortably in our warm house, there is just something about discovering things in a hands-on way that helps them make the connection. I love seeing them get so excited about discovering something new. If we hadn't taken the challenge and had not made a point to be outside, we would have missed these awesome opportunities

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