Sunday, April 20, 2014


This Easter was a a bit different for us in a couple ways, the main is that last year my nephew was living with us. Last year had a couple challenges we didn't have this year. For starters the "Easter Bunny" didn't have to accommodate for the large gap in egg seeking skills. Also last year Joey woke before everyone else and found EVERY single egg, Easter basket and present. No joke he had them all laying on the couch and woke us to show just how proud he was from finding them all, all on his own. We were all less than pleased in his job well done.

Jordan has found some of the plastic candy filled eggs for the past 12 years and know just where to look from his years of experience. Last year he complained that the eggs were always too easy to find. This year the Easter Bunny left him a letter stating that he has gotten too good at locating the eggs, that only eggs were hidden for the younger boys. Jordan was given the opportunity to either have a letter left for him or to look like the kind older brother who decided to just let the boys find the eggs. He thought it would be more believable if the bunny left a note. He still received the same amount of candy, which he munched upon while we watched the boys find their goodies.

Grandparents and the Grandsons
Jordan, Julie (me), Julee, Matt, Joey, Jacob, William, and Matthew
After getting a small intake of sugar we dressed to impress and headed down to Papa and Grandma's to attend mass with them. After mass we spend the rest of the day at their house. My brother, his girlfriend, and their boys came to celebrate with us. We took our annual pictures in our Easter best. Shared a lovely meal then after my niece showed up it was time for the kids' favorite part, the egg hunt. We did things different this year. We normally give the kids a set number of eggs to find. The problem is that with the difference in ages the easy to find eggs are quickly found and the younger kids are stuck finding the harder to find ones. So we color coded the eggs and had the boys pick their color from drawing from a hat, Raven as the only girl got stuck finding the neon pink eggs (she didn't mind). While Grandma and Papa kept the kiddos entertained in the house with the curtains drawn us parents set about hiding the eggs in the yard. (We can't do this a head of time because the kids usually play outside until after dinner and would sneak peeks.) We hid the eggs for our own children based upon their seeking skills. This was nice for the older two because they actually had to seek out their eggs.
The egg hunt went exceptionally well and we'll probably use this system again next year. It went well with only one little hiccup, two of Joey's eggs couldn't be found. After hiding 15 eggs per kid, I hadn't a clue where I had hid them. Actually I wasn't counting as I hid them so there may have been a mix up and only have been 13 yellow eggs (Joey's color was yellow). While everyone was helping search for Joey's missing eggs Papa made an egg with a special prize inside. He didn't know at the time we were still searching and hid his special egg, and it was a yellow egg. After some seeking Jacob found the special egg and earn the prize of money. Joey's two missing eggs if they are out there are still out there, we never found them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Going Back To Basics

I have often joked with friends about the joys of having a teenager and all their mood swings and attitude that comes with it. I foolishly thought that would never happen with my child. We have a great relationship. We have an open and honest lines of communication. Jordan has always gone along with whatever goofy plan or project we were doing. I've always treated him with respect and avoided talking down to him. Jordan has a good head on his shoulders and has always been goal orientated. He keeps good grades at school and has been planning the steps he needs to follow to get into the college of his choice and to follow his dreams to become a computer programmer.

Literally since his 13th birthday he has been making gradual changes to fit the typical teen mold. At first the attitude showed up in full force. He and I had a chat about how just because we hear about the dreaded "teenage attitude" didn't mean he needed jump right on the band wagon. Soon his attitude cooled and I had my reasonable child again. Recently his attitude is back, this time he's not doing it for show. The rebellion is there too. Thankfully it's not nearly as bad as it could be. Really, refusing to brush his teeth isn't going to hurt me any. (Why is that one of the main things for teens to do? They all seem to feel having gunky teeth and funky breath is acceptable. Yuck!). It broke my heart during our last bucket list when Jordan started opting out of our activities. We try to plan activities that all of us will enjoy and some of the ones Jordan opted out of are things he enjoys doing, like family game day. I had excepted most of these things and accept that they won't last forever. He's attitude towards his younger brothers has been less than kind. He stopped accepting responsibility for his property and his actions. I needed him to understand just how not okay this was.

When his behavior in class started to go south along with his grades.  Assignments weren't getting done or turned in. Homework almost never came home. He picked up the habit of taking things just because he wanted them. Nothing major just swiping things that belonged to other family members. Then there was the hiding of and lying about taking the objects because he knew it was wrong. He has tested out using "little lies" over little things. I understand that middle school age is when kids start messing up. I remember all the trouble I caused when I was younger. While its part of growing up and figuring out who you are. I want to keep Jordan from doing things he may regret when he gets older (like dropping his GPA drastically), or tarnishing his relationships with his brothers.

I have tried informal talks about his behavior, then formal "sit down we need to talk" talks, taking away privileges and haven't seen much change. I figured I needed to try something more drastic to make sure he gets the message he's going astray. I didn't want him feeling like there's always the threat of losing something; that good choices equals more privileges. I was informed that Jordan is the only 13 year old in America who does NOT have a cell phone; I know I'm a heartless mom :p

I thought maybe the lines have become fuzzy about what was expected of him. We have a list of house rules that have been in place and posted for years, it seems they're more like just part of the decor now. I sat down and wrote out a contract for all 3 boys, outlining exactly what was expected of them and the consequences for not upholding the end.  So while he was in school I rid Jordan's room of everything except his bed, dresser, desk, and his books.  I went old school and setup "star charts". He has the opportunity to earn back all his stuff by maintaining his responsibilities. The younger boys still have their toys in their room because they have been doing well and losing a privilege is still working with them. I made contracts for all the boys so Jordan didn't feel singled out and they were a good reminder for the younger ones.

After school I sat down with each of them one-on-one and went over their contracts and chart.  They all signed that they agreed with the terms, some more readily than others. The general gist is maintain your responsibilities listed on your chart. If you skip 3 things you lose a privilege, if you have no privileges to lose than you have one week to complete either a book report or history report determined by mom (I try to get in education wherever I can). If you complete the week with no lost  privileges or reports you earn back a privilege (or an additional privilege if you had not lost anything). Taking things that don't belong to you (no matter how insignificant) and lying (even the little white ones) result in an automatic report.  I'm also not a fan of assigning chores, that everyone just helps out because we all live here, but each boys was assigned two chores a week, that will rotate every two weeks. The chores as been an added blessing, because I get a break from doing dishes for two weeks :)

The point of the "star chart" was to get them back in the habit of completing things that have slowly been slipping away. Example: Jordan had not been bring homework home so one of his responsibilities was to bring all school books/folders home everyday. That way he was sure to have the materials he needed to complete his assignments. After little over a week he was in the habit of stopping at his locker to gather his books. He now only has to bring just the materials needed home, unless he starts "forgetting" again.

I've had our contracts and charts in place for about a month, they seem to be helping. There has been a couple reports turned in to mom and privileges that had been regained and lost again. Sometimes while trying to help our children find their way, we have to go back to what had worked in the past. Jordan is working hard to get back on track so he doesn't have to do the little kids "star charts" (No, I don't actually put star stickers on Jordan's chart). 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Spring break is here, although it's felt like we've been on break so much lately with all the days school has been canceled due to the weather. Spring break around here is usually a week of laziness. We typically stay home and veg out, maybe visit some nearby parks and walk the nature trails. During their week off the boys usually will take turns spending a night or two with their grandparents. This year my mom approached the idea of all six of us (the boys, my parents, and myself) taking a family vacation. We have been talking about heading down to Missouri to visit with some of Jordan's extended family for a while. Many of his family members have been having health issues within the last year or so and we were feeling the need to visit sooner rather than later. The last time we made it down that way for a visit Joey was almost 2 months old (almost ten years ago).

We were planning on heading down but everything depended on how my mom's minor surgery went and if she would feel up to hours in the van. Jordan called everyone we were planning on visiting to give them a heads up that we should be on our way there. Jordan cracks me up, when he called he asked if they had any plans for the next weekend, and said "oh, mind if we stop by for a visit?" as if we seen them all the time. Obviously they were over the moon. For about a week I received text messages multiple times a day asking when we were leaving, how the surgery went, and when would we be there. It was hard planning the trip, because we couldn't really plan anything until we knew how my mom's surgery was going to go and how she would feel afterwards.

My mom had her surgery and everything went well. She was feeling up to traveling and we ended up leaving a day earlier than we intended. We drove for about 5 hours the first day. We made it across the state of Michigan before deciding to find a room for the night in Michigan City, Indiana. The stays in the hotels was one of the highlights for Jacob. With an early start the following day we drove through Illinois and finally made it into Missouri. We made it to our destination (Great Grandma Betty's house) around 2:30. We were greeted by cousin Diana (who was Jordan's age the last time I saw her) and her two daughters, Great Grandma, and cousins Tiffany and Loyal. After tears and hugs we sent a message to Jordan's other Papa (Frank) so he could see us all too. Papa Frank use to live in Michigan only a couple miles down the road from us and use to see Jordan every other weekend. It had been harder on him not seeing Jordan in almost a decade. Cousin Tiffany and Loyal remembered Jordan from pictures we sent over the years.

First hug in almost a decade. Great Grandma
Betty and Jordan (cousin Diana in the background)

All the kiddos
After the excitement of seeing each others again (and the younger boys meeting everyone) we left to track down a hotel and somewhere to eat. The hotel we were planning to stay at (and was a stone's throw from Great Grandma's house) was completely booked and we ended up in less than flattering motel a couple miles down the street.

All the kiddos got along as if they see each other all the time, but there wasn't much for my younger guys to do. Sitting and listening to the adults chit chat was going to make for a really boring visit for them. Papa and Grandma decided they would take the little guys to Kansas City to visit Legoland. Jordan and I stayed back and visited. This worked our really well, Jordan was able to be in the spotlight and not have to share any of the attention with his brothers. The boys, Papa and Grandma has an absolute blast in Legoland.

Jordan taught Tiffany how to properly throw a football

I love anything that makes people different from me, so I had the younger boys all excited about hearing the southern accents and how we'd still get to hear it on our way home because Jordan seems to pick it up rather quickly. I was disappointed that we couldn't really hear an accent from anyone down there, even family members. We were at a restaurant for breakfast and as the waitress left our table Jacob was all excited, because he heard her accent. We did however hear a different accent; we attended mass while there and our priest was Irish with a very thick Irish accent.

Jordan was totally hamming it up being the center of attention, and everyone was just eating it up. After spending the day catching up and recapping stories from years ago we were able to get a room at the hotel that was closer to Great Grandma's house. The next morning (our last day before heading home) we caught up with Aunt Angel (she seriously makes the best sweet tea I have ever tasted) and Uncle Justin. Poor Loyal and Tiffany were really bummed they had school and wouldn't get to see us off.

Walking the zoo in a constant drizzle.

After more hugs and tearful goodbyes we were back on the road. We left somewhat early so we could stop by the St. Louis Zoo on our way home. The zoo has free admittance (although they wanted $15 for parking) and as luck would have it, it was raining for the whole day. We walked the zoo in the rain anyways. Actually it was kind of nice walking around in the rain; we were one of like only three families in the zoo and it wasn't raining hard, just a sprinkle. We were able to see some of the animals we no longer have at our local zoo, like elephants and hippos. They had an awesome set up for the hippos where you could see them both in and outside of the water. I also really like that they had most of the animals indoors because of the all day rain.

Crossing the Mississippi River

After the zoo we head back to the expressway to start our journey home. That's when we noticed the "Gateway" and remembered that was one of the key stops I wanted to make. After driving in circles in downtown St. Louis during rush hour, while a baseball game was going on, and construction we finally found somewhere to park. We had to hoof it to the arch due to the construction, but it was so worth it in my opinion just to see the Arch. We had missed riding to the top by an hour, but hung around (in the rain) for a couple pictures. Jacob was fascinated by the Mississippi River and that we were right at the side of it.

Back in the "Mitten"

Then it was back on the road. We ended up taking a different route home and stay another night in a hotel in Illinois and complete our drive home the following day.

All-in-all it was a great vacation. We traveled through parts of five different states and crossed the Mississippi River twice, and stayed in a couple different hotels (all but one had a pool). Papa and Jacob visited Missouri for their first time, and we spend time with family we really need to see more often. Bonus was that we were home by Thursday and the boys don't need to be back at school until Monday, so we have break to recover from our vacation before having to get back in routine.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Year Long Goal Progress- March

Time again for our monthly check in with how we have been doing towards our year long goals. March was a bumpy month for us, which leaves plenty of room for us to do better in April. Along with our typical busy schedules be dealt with some cabin fever which has switched over to spring fever.

As for our personal goals Jacob has done better than the rest this past month with is. He still has his moments where he isn't sharing as much as he could, but hey, he's an 8 year old. He has parted with dome of his treasures so Joey could play with them. He has even gone as far as to set the kitchen timer for Joey's allotted time with his toy. They has been more sharing in the sense that they are playing together with each other' toys with minimal arguing. I was pleasantly surprised Sunday when both boys got remote control cars from Papa and Joey forgot his at Papa's house that Jake shared his. Well he shared it in 30 second increments, but he did share. This is huge for Jacob!! Having 3 boys things tend to become community property at some point. When they receive a new (or new to them toy) they are given a once week grace which they are not required to share their new item (for birthday and other holiday toys they get a two week grace). Both boys go their cars on Saturday and on Sunday Jacob was willing to part with his for short periods of time, a decision he made all on his own. By Monday night Joey had moved on up to three 15 minute blocks.

Joey has been hit or miss when it comes to his friends this month. The positive to being in third grade is that you are presented with the opportunity to remake friends with kids who have already been your friend. As far as I know he's friends again with all his friends from the beginning of the month. During the beginning of the week I hear that he and "Mikey" aren't friends anymore but usually before the week in out their are best buddies again.

Jordan, oh my sweetie child, I don't even know what to say about him. I guess we'll look for the silver lining and he has not been on any electronics for majority of the month. However this was not by his choice (well, I guess it kinda was), the Big Mean Mom hid the electronics. Again this month his teenaged mouth and "clever ideas" (go ahead and toss in the eye rolling also) has lost him the privilege of electronics. Actually he ended up losing more than just electronics, but I'll have to write about that another time. So I guess as far as him limiting his electronic time, he stayed away from them for almost the whole month.

Now for how I have been doing. I have kind of let my "me time" slip for a good portion of the month, but regain it near he end. I grabbed a couple books throughout the month, but ended up return many that I didn't allow myself the time to read. I recently have recommitted to completing Jacob's Christmas stocking I have been very slowly working on for about a ear and a half (Ne goal to finish it before summer). I slipped away from my sign language lessons I was doing via the internet, wanting to wait until I started my classes (signs can vary depending on where you live. I just wanted to make sure I was learning the ones used in my local area). Not that I have signed up for classes yet, I still plan on doing so before the ear is up. I've slacked of with my healthy eating habits and seem to be still working on puffing up my "winter coat". With bathing suit season fast approaching I'll be cutting down on my sweets and snacking. I have done much in the form of exercising, I prefer to stay active while at outdoors and the weather has made it difficult. I have maintain my water intake and am up to 32 ounces a day. I have also done well with heading to bed before midnight, some night well before midnight.

Our family goals are still progressing along nicely. As many of you know we finished most of our Winter Bucket List and will continuing with a spring list. We haven't had a chance to sit and think up what to put on our list, but it should be up soon. Things have been a lot more organized around here lately thanks to our wonder friends over at Homeschool Camper who shared a challenge they are taking part in during Lent (you can find her post here). Also in very recent days, like the last day of March, I made up some contacts and new routine schedules for the boys to help them  get better organized. We slowly still adding to our 1000 Hours Outside Challenge, our year-to-date is 191 hours and 45 minutes. In light of March being reading month I had hoped for multiple books being completed, we just couldn't find the time to sit and read. Year-to date book total for the whole family is 66 books, we're a bit behind where I would like us to be but we'll catch up. Joey has been doing fantastic with reading along with the books on CD. Jacob has been flying through books he says he's now in competition with me for the most books read :) Jordan has been swiping my library books before I could get to them and is really enjoying the series. Downside to him reading my books before me, he's not real good about keeping key information to himself i.e. did you get to the part where they find out the shy guy, turned out to be a bad guy.

Books read this month were:

Jacob: (6 books read this month) Pokémon Pikachu's Rescue Adventure by Tracy West, Pokémon I Choose You! by Tracy West, Pokémon Island o the Giant Pokémon by Tracy West, Mrs. Dole is out of Control by Jim Paillot, Bailey School Kids Dragons Don't Cook Pizza by ebbie Dadey, and Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman by Dav Pilkey.

Joey: (4 books read this month) The Deadly Dungeon, The Empty Envelope, The Falcon's Feathers, and The Goose's Gold all of which are by Ron Roy

Jordan: (3 books read this month) Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Embrace by Jessica Shirvington, and Crescendo by BVecca Fitzpatrick

Me: (10 books read this month) The Giver by Lois Lowry, Eve by Anna Carey, Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, Torment, Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Find a Stranger say Goodbye by Lois Lowry, Embrace by Jessica Shirvington, Messenger by Lois Lowry, Son by Lois Lowry, and A Grown-up Kindof Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson