Thursday, September 18, 2014

tHERsDay: At The Table

I had a whole post about the chaos that occurred after I came home from the soccer field last night.

"I can't be all things to all people," I spat out to Dr. Fabulous, 10-seconds after he walked in the door at nearly 9:00 pm. I had a giant smelly bag filled with dirty diaper in my one hand, an emotionally distraught daughter in the kitchen who I had to ignore, a pile of soiled linens upstairs and a child to be scrubbed sitting in the tub. The day's work not close to being done, like the frayed ends of unraveling yarn, and I was tired from a restless night of little sleep.

But, I erased that whiny post when I found this photo from last spring. A photo of a girl who prefers to hang in the margins and avoid the crowds, sitting amongst the group. Enjoying the rowdy conversations over food and drink. For that moment, fitting in.

Because, all that crappy other stuff? It comes and goes. That stuff happens. It happened before, it will happen again.

Then, there are fleeting moments of magic where the thing that seldom happens, happens. That's when everything else sort of fades off into a colorless midst and I am reminded that I can always chose. It's not always as easy as a pinky finger hitting "delete" on my keyboard. But today, it kinda was.

Today, I pick the magic over the mayhem.

Here is tHERsDay's photo. I'll title it:  "CB at the table with friends and family." 

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Weekend Wrap-Up On Wednesday

We're in Soccer season now. Pink has lost all interest in the sport, so I only have two little players to juggle. Rella's only 6, so it's still "rec" soccer and more fun and cutesy than competitive. Tink's constant begging over the past few years convinced us to let her graduate from "Rec" to "Travel," which means more practices, longer practices and (as the name would suggest) traveling.

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So, Fall for me means sitting on a soccer field four days a week between the three practices and two games. And when I sit on the soccer field, CB sits on the soccer field.  Rain and shine, cold and heat, she sits on her lawn blanket with her bent up flash cards, a few strands of beads and a raggedy pom pom.

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Saturday, we got caught in a downpour watching Tink's game but CB hung right in there.

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It used to be a bit more of a struggle for her (and for me) in the "old days." I would physically dread going to soccer practices and felt the knot in my shoulders and neck after I came home. I guess she's been sitting on the sidelines for so many years now, that it's become part of her routine. For me, it's getting better because my kids are older and more independent. More importantly, it's better because everyone knows CB now. And I believe on some level, she feels more part of the community every day she goes out into it.

In fact, the other day CB jumped up and pulled another mother by the hand to sit with her. And that mother did. She just plopped right down on the grass with my daughter and had a little one-sided chat. They sat together almost the whole practice.

That kind of thing?  That's the best. To feel like CB is a member of this amazing community, known for who she is, and cared about... that is all I ever wanted. It makes everything that feels nuts and chaotic and nearly impossible so totally worth it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How I'm Gonna Rock The Home Organization This Year

A week or two before school starts, I go on a cleaning/organization bender. I mean, I become obsessed.  I think it's the anxiety of knowing the doody is gonna hit the fan with four kids, three schools, extracurricular activities 7 days a week, homework, instrument practicing, dinners, chores... some days I feel like an air traffic controller trying to work out the logistics of it all.

This year was no different - I became obsessed with improving the organization around my home toward the end of August. "You need to develop better systems" my husband always lectures says. He is right(- ish). Systems and better habits do make things run more smoothly and when those buses unload my hungry, tired, rambunctious little angels who need to be chauffeured to various places, fed, showered, and things can start to spiral into our own little version of suburban mayhem. Throw one of CB's seizures, diaper leaks, property destruction, or bad mood in the mix and we've raised the ante.

But fear not, I am READY this year! Ready to change my stripes, alter my course, turn over the proverbial leaf.  I will be undaunted. I will be a finely tuned machine.  Because now, I have LABELS, my friend.

I discovered a fantastic label company called Kidecal. They specialize in customized, durable, affordable and adorable labels for anything and everything. What I love is that there are a bazillion cute designs and... cute is important.  More importantly, these labels are said to be made of "the most durable laminate on the market." Waterproof and able to stand the heat and cold, they can hold up on a soccer ball, gym or sports equipment bag, a water bottle, lunch boxes and back packs.  Because they are so durable, you can wash them in the dishwasher or laundry machine! They will fix securely to any surface (fabric, plastics, stainless steel, wood, glass) without peeling up and apparently won't damage them when removed, though I can't vouch for that because I haven't tried it yet. I have not put mine through the laundry either, but I have washed them and they are totally fine.

I use them for anything that needs labeling, particurly for school, sports and home organization. They would also be great for camp, homemade gifts, laptops and cell phones, stationary, beach and pool items. If your child has a food allergy, they have great labels specific for this - perfect for a preschooler or non-verbal child.

*Images downloaded from Kidecal website

What I personally enjoy is the ability to customize every label for your exact need and personal style. The prices are very reasonable, especially given the quality and the personalization. Their "Value Pack" is honestly the best bang for the buck. You can also chose the amount you want and sizes, like a mini sheet, or a mega sheet. Customizing is easy - the website walks you right through it. The only problem I had with the website is that there were so many cute labels, it was TOO hard to decide! You can shop by Use, Gender, Shape or Age and there are many colorful pictures that will inspire you to use labels in many great ways.

Free shipping on every order which I love (hate paying for stupid shipping). And if you sign up for their newsletter, you get 15% off of your first order.  Nice.

I ordered the little round stickers with our last name printed on it. You can pick any color you want, so I chose teal. They adorn the inside of my children's back packs and lunch boxes and I've saved some for clothing and coats.

My favorites are these little chalkboard labels for my glass jars in the pantry. The chalkboard REALLY works (I was worried about that). It's the little things that excite me.

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If you check out their website, you'll find a million inspirational ways to use labels instead of a thick black sharpee marker which fades off of some materials and can't be removed from others. Plus... not cute.  Kidecal labels? Cute.

I'm a fan. And so are these guys...

Visit the Kidecal Website
Like them on Facebook
Follow their Blog

*Disclosure: Product was received in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Obligatory Back To School Post

Yesterday, all four of my girls started back to school. 
Let the games begin.

This year is quite a game changer for me.  For the first time in 19 years of motherhood, and 9 years as a Stay At Home Mom, I am kidless. Kidless and not at work or in full-time classes.  I am home, kidless. All day long. 
I think I hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Hallelujah" as I run through a field of daisies. 
I know, I know. I have the life.  I'm not going to lie - it's awesome.
And I'm not going to lie - this will likely be the only year I have this little luxury before I head back into the workforce. 
But, enough about me and my kidless days. The first day of school is the main event here!
Pink was ready to go into fifth grade with her new "Trapper Keeper" (the things kids get excited about) and a good friend she absolutely adores in her class this year. 

Tink is a "senior" at the elementary school. Third grade marks the last year before heading over to the next school. She gets a locker and a daily planner which basically means she is totally mature and ready to conquer the world.  

CB is going into the 13th grade ... not that the 13th grade actually exists. In a school like hers, there are no "grades" per se.  She just keeps going to school until the age of 21, so she has 2 years left before I completely freak out. 

The big change for CB is that she gets to sleep in quite significantly. Last year her bus came at 6:30 am, but this year it doesn't pick her up until 8:00.  Only problem is it's running late and overlapping with the elementary school bus which is a little bit of a debacle, but it will smooth itself out. If this is our biggest problem this year, I'll consider myself lucky. 

Last, but not least... Rella-Cakes is FULL day for the very first time.  First grade here she comes!

I didn't have my act together to get a morning photo of all four girls.  Pink's bus came first and I was barely able to snap an action shot of her walking to the corner. 

I tried to plan ahead for the other girls.
CB made an appearance on the front step...

and just kept on walking...

Fear not, I fixed her shirt so she didn't have the "Pee Wee Herman hiked-up pants" look. 

I remember walking into the house after they all boarded the bus, and thinking someone was still home.  CB, Rella... someone was upstairs pattering down the hall or playing with their toys.  It was an odd sensation to have the entire day stretched out before me without any little voices calling my name. I vacillated between "This is so freakin' awesome!" to "I hope they are okay," to "Crap, I miss them," to "This is so freakin' awesome!" This carrousel of emotions continued until they arrived home; three separate buses at three separate times from their three different schools. Everyone returned to me with smiling faces and stories of their days... and a boatload of papers for me to complete.

The best part of us all being apart is that when we come back together?

It's just that much sweeter.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer's End (aka the longest catch-you-up-and-summarize-summer post ever known to mankind)

When last I left you, I had kicked off my summer with my very first triathlon.  That started summer off on a high note for sure, and the rest of it was a beautiful blend of both tradition and stepping outside of the box. 

Tradition: The 4H Fair and Peach Festival.  What is our summer without it?  I don't know... the same ole summer but hey, what's the point of tradition if you don't do it every year? 

Outside The Box: Swim Team. Tink and Rella "manned up" and joined our swim club's team this year.  I didn't ever think I wanted to be a "swim mom" and devote two-thirds of our summer to the intensive practice schedule and stress of the meets. When the girls started, they weren't big swimmers. In fact, Tink only learned to swim actual strokes in the Fall and Rella in April.  

Rella, at 6, barely made the "8 and Under" team on a wing and a prayer. But that kid DID it and hung with the big kids like a trooper. She swam her heart out for an hour every morning, 5 days a week and Wednesday night and Saturday morning meets. 

I was so proud of both of them. I know how hard swimming is having trained myself for that blessed quarter mile triathlon swim.  It is not easy, but these kids make it look like it is.  Well, maybe not Rella. When she swims it often looks like a hot mess, but girlfriend has got the eye of the tiger regardless. 

Swim team also means we take full advantage of that pool, which is something CB can enjoy with us as well.  That girl loves splashing in the water! I love that there are several members with young adult children who are a lot like CB and our summer community is so open and accepting of all personalities. Have I mentioned I love our pool?  I love our pool.  Seriously, love. 

Tradition: Our annual, two-week family vacation in the Pennsylvania Mountains.  Unplugged. Beautiful. Relaxing.  

There was the usual hiking, swimming, long walks, family meals...

... and there was the new of more family stopping by for an overnight visit to share the experience.

There were some daredevils this year, taking risks they wouldn't have the summer prior. climbing trees and kayaking.

And little Rella braved her first Roller coaster. 

Tink was the bravest of all staring down a wild wolf!

It was stuffed. Obviously.

Speaking of Tink, she had a very exciting summer. Her 'big girl' front teeth are all grown in and she looks... older.  This makes me sad, but proud and happy too.

She used her Holy Communion money to purchase her long-awaited Nook.

And went on her very first ever sleep over at her best friend's house. 

Pink, now a big 10 year old, went to a summer band camp and they ended it with a beautiful concert in the park.

She also went wild with the face painting kit she got for her birthday. Someone had their face painted almost daily.

CB attended her summer program as usual and spent some time with her Dad in Maryland. The rest of the summer she chilled with us at the pool...

at the playground...

and now that soccer practice has started, on the field. That kid gets dragged everywhere. She's such a trooper. 

We ended the shortest summer in the world (thanks to the 2 billion snow days that kept up in class through almost the entire month of June) with a trip to the beach to visit friends over Labor Day Weekend.

Out of the box?  Our very patient and awesome surfer-friend taught Rella and Pink the basics of surfing.

This is something I would never do, as I have a pretty big phobia of the ocean, but I'm so proud of them for jumping right in there!

School starts this Thursday. I guess summer is essentially over.  All good things have come to an end.  
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