Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Favorites: Free Summer Fun Edition

The theme of this week seemed to be summer fun that was totally free. I went into the week with the plan of trying not spend money on our outings and to plan less outings in general since we had a short week. And I was successful! Yay. So it's good to know we're capable of making it through the week without spending here and there on outings that will eventually add up. My goal is to keep a good balance and to go without spending ocassionally throughout the summer. So here's what we were up to this week...

*But first, on a totally unrelated note, last Friday afternoon my sweet firstborn who hasn't taken a nap in FOREVER fell asleep on the couch. Presh. Mama isn't the only one tired around here.

*On Tuesday we got out for one little errand but stayed home the rest of the day. So I decided to try out a new activity I'd found. I let the boys count dried beans and put them in the corresponding place in their muffin pans. Austin needed just a little help at first but caught on quickly. I let the boys trade out numbers for the 2nd round and then added new, bigger numbers for the 3rd round. This activity reinforced counting, number recognition, one-to-one correspondance, and fine motor practice. Yes! It was definitely a success and kept them busy at the table for a quite awhile. 

One of Austin's finished products. =)
*We tried out a new park this week! The disadvantage to this particular park is that it's 20 minutes from our house, there's no swings, and there's absolutely no shade over the playgrounds. (There is a pavilion there but the day we went they were preparing for some kind of school function so it wasn't available to me and Layton.) We made it about 45 minutes before my kiddos were hot and sweaty and hungry. And we left just in time because about 5 buses loaded with teenagers pulled up as we were pulling out.  
*The boys thought these big slides were awesome... especially Garrison. =)

*On Wednesday we went back to the pool with daddy! And Layton swam! And Austin didn't cry! He was hesitant but he didn't cry! Layton stayed in the water with mama or daddy for close to an hour. We were so proud!

Then once he got fussy and tired of the water I held him and watched my big boys swim. Layton fell asleep while 3 out of 4 of my guys had fun in the sun. We had a later than normal night that night but this little outing was perfect for us.
*A sweet, quiet moment I captured of my big boys coloring at the table. This was their idea and they were totally independent for about 15 minutes or so. Plus Layton was napping. Double bonus! "Table time" is proving to be very important this summer.
*My big boys also did this little alphabet activity this week... multiple times. They loved it! I had them make a train with Austin's alphabet puzzle and then they had to match lowercase letters with uppercase letters. I just handed them one lowercase letter at a time and they told me the letter and then went to find it's matching uppercase letter. Austin is catching on sooo fast. I'm so proud of him. Next up- letter sounds! 
*We also tried out another new park. This one is 5 minutes from our house... but it's super old and doesn't offer much except swings and a big slide. It does, however, have shade! The boys loved the swings. Garrison is really wanting to learn how to pump his legs and swing on his own. He said he was practicing for big school. =) We'll definitely go back since it's so close even though it's not my favorite.

*Other free fun not pictured: Watching the Braves everyday, playing outside with daddy, racing hotwheels and making up games with them, visiting the library and reading all our new books, playing a version of indoor baseball, and sorting laundry everyday for mama! That last one might be my fav. =)
Next week I must get more pictures of Layton! Poor baby got left out of pictures this week. Anyway, we enjoyed our short week and are now looking forward to a special outing this weekend. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

We had a really blessed, restful, and fun Memorial Day weekend. I started this morning feeling refreshed and soooo thankful for the long weekend we enjoyed. It truly felt like the perfect mix of relaxing and fun and it's timing was PERFECT after our first week of summer had me totally exhausted.

We were able to sleep late Saturday morning... or as late as 3 little boys will allow us to. Sometimes sleeping til 7:00 or 7:30 is just what you need! After getting everyone up and ready we headed out for Garrison's next-to-last baseball game. Our team was coming off a high, HIGH... our first win of the season and a record 17 runs scored. Unfortunately Saturday's game turned out to be a low, low. Now that my biggest boy knows what winning feels like, he's not a fan of losing. We didn't score a single run, had lots of strike-outs, and just didn't have a good game. Garrison was bummed. Thankfully a reminder about the Atlanta Braves struggling and having a bad game every now and then was comforting.

We have one game left and I'm so proud of Garrison and how hard he's played and worked this season... in a league that puts a huge emphasis on scoring, winning, rules, etc. Garrison had fun and that was enough for me. I loved watching him play.

Saturday afternoon we drove to Barnesville for a cook-out with my dad's side of the fam. It turned out to be a late night but so fun for all of us. Rides on the golf cart, baseball in the backyard, playing with cousins, birthday cake.... I'm pretty sure this family gathering contained all of my big boys' favorite things. And the only good picture I got was of me and the hubs. =)

Since we got in so late on Saturday night we slept late Sunday morning... til 8:00! Woohoo!! Then we got ready for church. We didn't make it to Sunday School but were so glad we were still able to attend "big church". Attending church in Covington and our growing family are the reasons we don't spend the night in B'ville much anymore...unless it's a big holiday or special occasion. Oh how I long to move back!

Sunday morning best...

Sunday afternoon after naps (even by me!!) we got out the kiddie pool and created a little redneck water slide. Haha. The big boys LOVED it. Layton on the other hand... he mainly hung out in the shade. He wasn't a fan of freezing cold water hose water like his brothers.

Oh the SWEETNESS! I can't handle it!
Action shots...
We had such a fun afternoon. Even if a short thunderstorm made us come in early. We just threw the boys in the bathtub and got in pjs early while we watched the Braves game. Perfection.

Monday morning we let the boys wake us up again... for the 3rd morning in a row!! Oh how I needed that extra sleep! Then we had a pretty lazy morning that included breakfast, laying around watching 2 of the boys' favorite shows, playing with daddy outside, giving Layton a morning nap, and THEN, going to the pool for the first time.

Having 3 at the pool (with 0 out of 3 knowing how to swim... round 2 of swim lessons are coming soon for my biggest) kept us BUSY. Which is why I don't have any pictures of anyone actually swimming or in the water. Mama and daddy were always trading off kids and in and out of the pool and just busy. But it was so fun.

Garrison wore floaties and once he got used to the water was all the place. Hopefully this year's swim lessons will be just what he needs to truly become a swimmer. I loved seeing him confident and using some of what he learned last year... even if he did have on floaties. He's already asking when we're going back.

Austin was NOT impressed. At least not a first. It took him quite awhile to be okay with getting in the water. This was not the bathtub he had in mind. Ha! (That's what he called the kiddie pool in our backyard.) Finally he let me hold him in the water. And then FINALLY he got in his float and actually played and had fun. Terrell gave me the job of getting him in the water and adjusted to it and okay with it, and then he took over for playing and throwing pool toys and balls. All 3 of my big boys had a great time... eventually.

Layton didn't really care for the cold water. If the water hadn't been as cold and we had had an extra person to help with one of the boys I think he would've gotten okay with it. We were just out-numbered and couldn't devote much time to helping Layton adjust. So we took turns hanging out with him in the shade. And he eventually fell asleep.

We were able to stay at the pool about 2 hours and by the time we left it was super crowded. The most crowded I've ever seen it probably. I guess everyone had the same idea. So it was time for us to go. Plus we were starving for lunch. Terrell grilled hotdogs for us for lunch and then hamburgers for us for supper. The perfect meal for Memorial Day!

I had the best weekend with my family and loved the extra time we had with daddy... and the extra rest! SO thankful to live in the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE because of the sacrifices of so many. We are truly blessed!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Favorites: 1st Week of Summer Edition

This week has pretty much worn me out. I'm thinking adjusting to summer and my baby boy having a couple of not so great nights could be why. However, depsite my weary-sleepy-tired state, there have been LOTS of summer lovin this week. So here are my favs from our first week of summer...

*Monday afternoon I strolled this cutie around the driveway and backyard while his big brothers played. It was a cooler day and he was up from his nap so he got in some outside time too. LOVE that smiling face.

*Since I couldn't throw batting practice (the boys' new favorite thing to do outside) on Monday because of strolling Layton around and all, my big boys drove their cars around and did some work at the top of our hill near the golf course. They have loved playing and working with their tools... one of Santa's best investments for sure!
*We did our first little educational activity this week... and it was a big success! They used their do-a-dot markers to find and "dot" lowercase letters of the alphabet in order in their flowers (the only seasonal, fun thing I could come up with). This was a review for Garrison and great practice of lowercase letter recognition for Austin.
Then we did the same thing with numbers on a sun! Austin is learning numbers 0-10 and for Garrison I did random numbers all the way to 30 and he "dotted/stamped" them from least to greatest. Garrison clearly has his daddy's genes because he just gets numbers.

*Terrell was able to get off early one day this week so we took our first family walk since having Layton. It was a slow stroll but we all enjoyed it...although you can't tell by Layton's face. Haha. Then Terrell threw batting practice to the big boys and grilled for us and spent every minute of his extra time off with his family. Oh how I love him and the way he loves us!

*I finally found an idea to try to prevent all the sibling fighting and need to be first around here. Each big boy gets a day when they get to choose everything and do everything FIRST. On this particular day it was Austin's turn so Austin got to go potty first that morning, pick out breakfast first, choose what show(s) to watch, hit the ball first outside, get out of the bathtub first, etc, etc. Man. Being first is a BIG DEAL. So far, this is working wonders. Oh how I pray it lasts! (Original idea here.)

*I captured these sweet, precious, heart-melting moments of my big boys and baby boy one day this week. They entertained Layton while I cleaned up after lunch. Be still my heart.

*Yesterday we went to our local bouncy/jump place and had a great time! My short little Austin even conquered the obstacle course wall! Something he wasn't able to do last month when we were there.
He was SO proud. This is his "I did it and I OWN this wall" pose. Ha! Garrison was his biggest supporter and cheerleader too.
Apparently the wall wore him out though because he was asking to go to sleep for his nap immediately after lunch. =)
I am thanking God for the blessings He gave us this week. It was fun and relatively drama-free. Success! Now we are soooo looking forward to the long weekend and the opportunity to sleep a little later and rest a little more. We're heading to our next to last baseball game, a big cook-out with family, and possibly a trip to the pool. Happy Friday and Happy LONG weekend!! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Summer Lovin... and Not

This week we're enjoying our first full week of summer. Summer outings, loads of free time, lazy mornings, later nights, and wild boys are in full swing. And thankfully this week is going much better than our little summer preview on last Friday. Friday was a not so good kick-off to summer that left me questioning my parenting skills and how to manage months of summer with all of us together 24-7.

This week I've come to remember all the things I really love about summer. Summer PERKS. They are real and they are wonderful. No where to be every morning is a good feeling. No rushing around. No waking the boys up early. (Although they've been waking up before 7:00 quite a bit all on their own. Currently trying to correct that...) No lunches to make every night. Oh what a treat to be off lunch duty!! Making lunches every. single. night. after I was tired and had already cooked and cleaned up and survived the bath and bedtime madness was not my favorite. No homework or school projects to worry about. No chaufeuring back and forth all day between school and home and errands and back to school and back home. Baseball season is winding down. We're gearing up for some fun weekends and summer outings as a family. And last but least, our vacation to the beach is on the horizon!!

That's the good stuff. The things summers full of fun and memories are made of. My favorites.

But there's also some things about summer, especially this summer, that are just flat out challenging. And wearing me out.

The biggest challenge I'm facing seems to be the issue of coming up with a game plan every single night for the next day. A plan for keeping us from jumping off dressers and yelling at each other most of the day and fighting over our every possession and being bored out of our minds. Whew. Coming up with a plan every single night is work for mama. I have to think about what we can do to get out of the house, consider Layton's schedule and work the outing around him, come up with something structured to do just in case free and independent play isn't going so well, and I have fill Garrison's quiet time box with something new every night.

*Garrison's quiet time box is a medium sized storage container that I fill up with things every night for him to use and play with during his quiet time. Quiet time was becoming follow mama around time and making me just a little crazy not having 5 minutes to myself, so I searched for an intervention. He still likes to pick out a 30 minute show to watch and still does a job or 2 some days but the box is a big part of quiet time now. I put any and everything "engaging" inside the box... stamps, stickers, play doh, magnets, pattern blocks, books, a board game, coloring books and markers, puzzles, activity sheets of mazes and dot-to-dots, etc. I just keep rotating stuff in and out. So far it's working well. Yay.

So I feel kind of like I'm teaching again because of having to work on "plans" every night and prepping for activities all the time. While I don't want to keep the boys entertained every minute of the day (because I believe wholeheartedly in independent play and my kids tend to get over- stimulated and exhausted without it), I do think we need structure. And not just because they're boys and they're busy and active all the time, but because structure has a place in the wide open days of summer. Maybe not a huge place but a place nonetheless. See above where I mention preventing all the negatives that come with too much free time.

So that's a biggie. Planning outings. Planning activities. Planning plans around a 3 month old's feeding schedule. It's just a lot of work. More than I expected.

Then there's the issue of being together all. the. time. Let's just say that little fact has it's ups and downs.  

There's the issue of needing to establish a routine for Layton this summer so we're ready for the new school year yet really struggling to do that while planning outings for the big boys.

There's the issue of lack of sleep. I guess that one's not summer's fault though is it?

There's the issue of heat and sweating and pretty soon being miserable outdoors unless you're wet.

Oh summer. You come with pros and cons.

I realize all my "cons" are stay at home mom problems. And that's okay. It's real life. I know these aren't like serious, major problems. I know I'm blessed. And I'd still MUCH rather be staying at home and facing these challenges than not. And I'm sure I'll look back one day when the kids are older and feel like I made things harder than they had to be... that they weren't that crazy or tiring or challenging to begin with. Orrrrr maybe not. Ha! 

For now, though, this is where we are. Pros and cons, ups and downs, fun and easy, tough and challenging. I just hope and pray that despite the challenges and craziness and work that summer currently is, that I'll soak it up and savor it anyway. That I'll focus on the perks and what I love about summer above everything else. That I'll laugh and play and have fun with my boys. That I'll teach them and read to them and love on them daily. Kindergarten countdown and a brand new chapter starts for us right after our trip to the beach this year. So I want to enjoy this togetherness we've got going this summer... and every summer.

I want to enjoy the perks. I'm determined to.

Here's to summer lovin!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Getting Away & Tackling Summer

Friday turned out to be a reeally tough parenting day. I'm talking tears, frustration, drama, TOUGH. It was just really hard. And it was only our second day of summer. Noooooooo!

Originally I had planned to take the boys on our first little outing to Chick-fil-A on Friday morning. We'd enjoy a snack, have lots of play time, enjoy a fun outing, and then be back home in time for lunch and naps. Except that didn't work out when one of my babies decided he would tell me no multiple times and give me flashbacks to the fiasco at McDonald's. I was then forced to make a super hard decision that we couldn't go to CFA and risk something similar happening again. CFA is located in a super busy shopping center here and I knew making it out to the parking with an uncooperative little man would be dangerous and risky for all of us. Oh how it broke our hearts... all of our hearts. And all for different reasons. I hated punishing all for the sins of one but truly believed I had no other choice. (We ended up going after dinner on Friday night for dessert and play time.. WITH daddy.)

Then later on we had some issues with having too much time on our hands and not enough to do. That ALWAYS leads to disaster it seems. We also had some small issues turn into big issues when talking back and (very) delayed obedience was involved. Then, I may or may not have caught my big boys JUMPING off their DRESSER onto their bean bags. Oh Lord, please help me in this house full of boys. I need Your hedge of protection around all of us and Your infinite wisdom and patience poured out on me. Amen.

So. Friday was tough. Our second day of summer and our second day stuck in the house together with no escape. Not fun. Thankfully we made it out to eat Friday night and then enjoyed CFA for dessert and play time. A good way to turn around our not fun day and a great start to our weekend.

Then came Saturday. And my Mother's Day present. Woohoo! Way back several weeks ago when Terrell asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day I knew what I'd really love was a day out shopping. Without my precious darlings in tow. Terrell being super limited in what he can do with Layton has meant Layton is attached to me at all times. Errands, appointments, school functions, etc. Where mama goes, Layton goes. And it's been a tad overwhelming at times because as much as I love my baby boy and having lots of time with him (that I wouldn't trade), I also need a minute or two hundred to myself every now and then too. You know, for sanity purposes.

I had really been wanting just a couple of extra essentials to add to my spring/summer wardrobe and I'd especially been wanting a chance to go shopping by myself.... so my wonderful hubby made it happen. Garrison had a 9:00 baseball game Saturday morning that I thoroughly enjoyed and then Terrell enlisted the help of his mom for the rest of the day so I could go shop in peace. Nana to the rescue. Yay!

I was able to meet my mom and sister for lunch (literally can't remember the last time I got away with them without my kiddos) and then we spent the afternoon shopping. And I stayed within my budget by use of coupons and sales. Double yay! It was a super fun afternoon and so, so timely for me because mama NEEDED to get away. And let me tell you it is rare for me to feel this way. I like being with my babies and having my family together in the same place pretty much all the time... BUT, after our rough start to summer and my tough parenting day on Friday, getting away was a good thing. A very much needed thing.

I also had some time to think and pray and prepare. (Driving in the car without anyone in the backseat can do that for you.) I thought about the best way to tackle this summer full of free time we're facing. I prayed about how to handle my busy boys who need structure and outings mixed in with controlled amounts of free time. And I started to prepare. I brainstormed ideas. I analyzed when things go downhill for us during the day and when things go smoothly. I searched and wracked my brain for outings during our weekdays. Then, last night I found some educational activities that are simple but engaging and should keep us from the "summer slide" and give us some structured time at the table a few times during the week too. So coming into today felt much better. A fresh start. A prepared approach. Bring on summer. Mama is ready!!

Until this morning when we had to schedule a doctor's appointment and the whole day was thrown off. Sigh. Oh well. We're just going with the flow and trying to keep things running as smoothly as possible around here. Feeling defeated first thing on Monday doesn't help anybody. I think being flexible and lowering my expectations just a tad were lessons learned this morning.

I'm quickly learning to accept that things aren't going to be perfect and easy this summer. My little boys are just that. Little boys. They're going to be wild sometimes. They're going to get bored and act out sometimes. We're all going to get tired of each other sometimes. And we're all going to mess up sometimes. I know I have lots already and we're just on day 3. So while being prepared and having a plan and being intentional about our summer days is important and should be really helpful, so is going with the flow and not overreacting and extending grace. More than anything I just want this summer to be safe and fun for all of us. And for my boys to remember it with a smile and good memories (not with a frown and memories of a crazy, overreacting mama).

Pray for me this summer. I have a feeling it's going to be a wild one.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Favorites: Braves Game Edition

Last Saturday night we took our big boys to the Braves game and had the best time! They were SO excited and I'm pretty sure they loved almost every minute of our date. We ate at Chick-Fil-A on the way there and they got to hug the cow and everything. Then, we saw another cow at Turner Field and they got to have their picture made with him!

After making pictures and visiting with the CFA cow, we made it to our seats just in time for the game to start. Both boys did great! Garrison is just the biggest Braves fan ever and Austin was fascinated with the huge field and loved cheering and clapping.

Unfortunately we did get rained on and the game was eventually delayed but thankfully we were able to pass the time with some snacks we brought with us and by walking around. Once the game started back and we able to settle in and just enjoy the rest of our night. They were precious doing the chop. And they yelled loud and proud for the home team.

Because of the rain delay it was a super late night so Terrell and I decided we would stay until the 7th inning stretch to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Then, after seeing the Braves bat we'd have to leave whether the game was still scoreless or not. Thankfully the Braves finally scored in the bottom of the 7th so we were able to leave on good terms. =) I just LOVE this summer tradition with my boys.
My biggest watching his fav player Freddie Freeman. =)
Now for a few additional favorites this week... besides the Braves game, graduation, the last day, etc. =) 
*Layton slept through the night again on Wednesday night! He went to bed at his normal time around 8:15 or so and didn't wake up until 7:30! How wonderful!!
*I finally got a picture of him with his lip out and ready to cry. This is the sweetest most cutest most pitiful most precious face ever. It's so adorable I just love it! Unitl he starts crying and letting me know just how pitiful he is. Ha!

*We enjoyed our first day of summer yesterday even though we were stuck at home and inside (it was a rainy day and our car was at the shop). I created this little alphabet parking lot as a new fun thing for my big boys. It was a pretty big hit and occupied them for good stretches at a time. We also enjoyed popcorn and a movie and played under the garage. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. All in all, our kick-off to summer went well!

*Now I am SOO looking forward to enjoying my Mother's Day gift on tomorrow. It should be a fun weekend! Happy Friday and Happy Almost Weekend!!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Graduation & Last Day of School

My biggest boy graduated from PreK Tuesday night! Talk about bittersweet. It may have been the most bittersweet thing I've experienced since my high school graduation. Seriously. Oh the emotions. Especially since Garrison cried just a little on the way to graduation because he was sad him and Austin won't be at the same school next year and because he's going to miss him so much. Oh my heart! Gracious.

While I am so thankful my baby is ready to move on to Kindergarten and oh so proud of him and his PreK year, I am also really sad to see our "preschool only" era come to an end.  Moving on and letting go is hard to do. Where we go from here will lead to big school through age 18. Gulp. (That probably sounds dramatic but I know for a fact that it will go by FAST. Want to how I know this? I know this because I have memories of several graduating seniors' at my home church baby dedications.)

How I MUST soak it up and try my best to live in the moment. Especially this summer. I want to especially savor this summer before big changes like Kindergarten come our way. Waaaahhh!

Anyway. This graduation was totally precious. I just loved every second of it. And I know this is picture overload but believe it or not I weeded through what I had for the best... besides, you only graduate from PreK once.

Garrison's class... all lined up behind their self portraits (a PreK tradition at our school). I was so proud of my biggest for leading in his class. He did awesome. 

They performed some of their favorite songs of the year plus some special graduation songs...

Receiving his diploma and giving Ms. Vicki and Ms. Pauline hugs

This was the "declaring of future occupation" part of the program. He said, "I want to be a baseball player." He loves baseball, the Braves, and Freddie Freeman so this came as no surprise to us. =)

One of my very favorite parts was at the end of the program when they sang "Big School, Big School" to the tune of New York, New York.

Start spreading the news, We're leaving today,
We want to be a part of it, Big School, Big School!
We've worked very hard, We're ready to go
We want to be a part of it, Big School, Big School!
This was the chorus and at the end they kicked their legs up and everything. It was SO adorable. I smiled the whole time and Garrison sang right to me almost the entire program.

They had a slideshow at the very end and that's when I teared up and really had to fight from crying. Pictures to music.... ahhhh.

My graduate with his self portrait that we will keep forever.
Some of his best buds from this year... 

Family shot!

My parents and Terrell's parents were both able to come and that made things even more special. Plus I'm so grateful they took care of Layton and Austin so I could totally focus on the graduation.

Afterwards we went out to eat at Garrison's favorite place... Stevi B's. It was a fun time of celebration for our biggest boy. Huge thanks to the best grandparents ever for coming over for Garrison's special night!!

Then yesterday was our last day of school. This is what I was really dreading. The end of an era. Not going back. Leaving a wonderful school, experience, and preschool year. I honestly think the build up to it was worse than the actual experience of the last day and leaving there yesterday. It was a little emotional but it was also fun and busy and distracting. Plus I was trying to get 3 boys out of there who were all going separate directions (well maybe not Layton since he was in the stroller being pushed by me, but still) there was little time for a mama meltdown. The real meltdown is coming after our summer vacation when we're officially on Kindergarten countdown. That's not gonna be pretty.

My big boys on their very last day. (Here they are the first day of school.) They've grown so much.
Austin with his sweet teachers, Ms. Maria and Ms. Brittney
Garrison with his amazing teachers, Ms. Vicki and Ms. Pauline

Words can't express how grateful we are for the wonderful 2 years we had at FPELC. And Garrison's PreK year exceeded our expectations by leaps and bounds. The dedication and hard work of all the teachers is above and beyond. We will definitely miss our school and are so thankful for God providing the job opportunity for me there because of what it meant for our children! He knew all along we needed that school for more than just extra income. It truly is a GREAT place to grow.

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened ~ Dr. Seuss.