Our Happily Ever after Home

Huge thank you to Compass for inspiring me to write this post! Compass is a home search company that works mainly in Washington D.C. and New York City that helps pair people with neighborhoods and agents that best fit what they are looking for. They are running a series called Starter Stories so it inspired me to write this little gem.

It was 2004 and my husband and I had been searching for “the perfect” house for a year! And then one evening we met up with our extremely patient realtor and toured the house that would become the location and setting for our happily ever after. There was something familiar, comforting, something that said welcome home.  It reminded me of the house I used to draw in pictures when I was a child. The only thing missing was the white picket fence.

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The house had almost all my ‘must haves’ …the kitchen wasn’t the best but we would change that…and most importantly the location was unbeatable! It was close to interstates, church, the mall (hehe), school, we could walk to two bowling alleys, health food store, bars, park, etc.  It was perfect!!

We took possession and within 9 months we pulled up carpeting, finished the hardwood floors, pulled off wallpaper, painted, carpeted, purchased dishwasher, garbage disposal, and had SO MANY more plans, like gutting the kitchen, and then in November 2005 we welcomed our first child. Talk about a transformation!! We left our house for the hospital and 2 days later we officially came HOME with our baby girl. Though the house didn’t structurally change it felt so different having a baby in it.

We enjoyed our little family, 2 adults, baby, cat, & dog but something was missing. We welcomed another addition in 2007, our son. And again the house didn’t change at all but it felt so different walking into our home as a family of 4. I would love to say we did a lot to the house but we were just so busy maintaining what we had already accomplished. We were scrubbing crayon off walls, trying to get scratches out of the hardwood, play-doh out of the carpeting, there was over a 1000 spills, and a couple crashes (those little boys, I tell ya, ha-ha! Our son earned the nickname Office Max after receiving staples & glue due to goofing off on the stairs & trying to fly).  And just when we started to calm the chaos and contemplated gutting the kitchen (we even had a new kitchen layout printed and in our hands!) we found out we were expecting again!!

And I tell you what; this time was the most magical homecoming! I was home with the new baby and my husband went to get our older two kiddos from my parents. We decided we wanted to be surprised and didn’t find out the sex of the baby when I was pregnant.  And since I was in and out of the hospital, (within 25 hours) the kiddos didn’t come up to see their new sibling, so they were going to be surprised big time! I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the steps with the baby, 3rd step from the living room floor to be exact. My husband opened the front door, kiddos walked in, and rushed over to me. Each eager to see if they had a sister or a brother! And then I pulled back the blanket to reveal the pink outfit, they had a baby sister!!

Four years later and we still haven’t gutted the kitchen, truth be told we really haven’t touched the kitchen. Minus our new puppy ripping up the floor. Haha! We did remove the pantry door a while back and am pleased with the outcome.

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So maybe I don’t have granite countertops or glass tile backsplash but I do have the 3rd step, and strangely that means more to me. You see years from now when we no longer live here the kitchen will be gutted; perhaps a half dozen times but that 3rd step, that step isn’t going anywhere! And besides I was much busier working on this masterpiece….this is my favorite part of my kitchen!

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Upcycled Birdbath

My 4 year old and I had the pleasure of attending a Chess Tournament on Saturday. Her sister who is in 3rd grade participated in the tournament while we kept ourselves busy for 7 hours! Thankfully it was a beautiful day so we strolled outside, played on the playground, and noticed these really cool plate & mug birdbath.  She had asked if we could make one and I couldn’t think of a more fun project for Earth Day.

 

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So we stopped by SAVERS this afternoon and she selected the mugs and plates she wanted to use. We then headed home to assemble the birdbath.  We decided to have some fun with it….she put on some fun Disney tunes and we went to work!

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She also wanted to add “decorations” as she put it.  I have to be honest it didn’t seem like the best idea and I explained to her that the birds might be afraid of all her decorations. She then informed me that no one could be scared of Mickey Mouse and that none of the animals were real.  So we added her decorations and voila!

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We found a home for the birdbath and she added water.

 

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And now we wait for the birds…..and wait…..

 

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Why I Make My Kids Cook Dinner

Mealtime seems to be a stressor in most families and ours is no exception.  Children’s homework needs to be double checked, spelling words gone through, the littlest is demanding attention in any way possible, be it painting the walls or herself, doorbell rings, dog barks, phone rings, and in the middle of all the chaos mom is supposed to cook a rockin meal!? And even if she does manage to cook said rockin meal there is no guarantee that the kiddos will eat it or appreciate the time put into making the meal. Ever have a child refuse to touch their food simply based upon the way it looks? Does your child eat around their vegetable? Has your child ever complained because they wanted something else for dinner? Does your child ever complain that they are starving and it is taking you way too long to make dinner? NO MORE!

The solution is to have your kiddos involved in not only the meal preparation but also the planning. Have your child plan a meal for the week. Have them include the protein, veggie, grain and/or fruit (I have to be honest; I try to encourage mine to pick two veggies. It they do pick a fruit it is usually melon or berries). Take this time to talk with your children about healthy eating. Here are some fun printables to help as visual aids.

Then on the day of their meal have them in the kitchen with you preparing the meal. More supervision might be necessary for the younger ones. Also, if the meal they planned on making on a certain day takes more time then you have on that day then have them help prepare it ahead of time. You’d be surprised at how well this teaches them to appreciate the food on their plate, and it is a great lesson in time management.

Here is one such meal, Naan Bread Pizza! YUM!!

 

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Our little man (and yes, I will still be calling him that long after he towers over me, hehe!) decided on pizza as his meal. Initially I think he thought if he said that then he wouldn’t have to make anything that we would order it, wrong! I asked him to decide on the toppings based upon the food groups we had discussed and he chose, bacon, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, cheese, and as we say in our house, ‘the best sauce’ Dei Frantelli pizza sauce…so the kid has good taste, what can I say? Haha!

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He helped with preparing the toppings, we played a Dean Martin CD in the background, and then he called everyone in to make their own pizzas.

 

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They drizzled the oil over the bread, smoothed the sauce around the center and carefully placed their toppings just so.

 

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And guess what happened? To everyone’s surprise and amazement, they had fun! What!? Fun preparing meals, is that allowed? Haha! You bet!

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Actions clearly speak louder than words! You can explain all the hard work that goes into making dinner but until they are in the kitchen with you it really doesn’t sink in. And I have to admit that one-on-one time together in the kitchen has afforded us some amazing bonding time…it isn’t often that they get moms undivided attention. And I am really enjoying the time with them too!

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EXTRA CREDIT:  As an added learning experience and to further enhance their appreciation for all that mom does, have your children go with you to the grocery store. Give them a budget for their meal and then have them figure out what they can afford.

 

5 Signs you are an Overscheduled Mombie

I am showing all the signs of an overscheduled Mombie, are you? Here are 5 Signs you are an Overscheduled Mombie:

 

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1. No time to get the maintenance done on your 2nd home a.k.a vehicle

I had a mini panic attack while trying desperately to find a two hour window when I could get our 2nd home, our SUV, in for some much needed mechanic work. How on Earth was I going to make this happen? I need the car for morning drop-offs, preschool pick-up, play dates, dr. appointments, school pickup, after school activities. If only there was a mechanic that came to your house around midnight, took your vehicle, worked on it, ran your credit card, and then left it in your driveway so it was ready to go in the morning, could you imagine? A girl can dream. So, I have a vehicle that has been neglected maintenance for far too long and if I don’t get it in I won’t be able to maintain our busy schedule but because of our busy schedule I can’t find a window of time to get the work done…can you relate to this dilemma?

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2. You look and act like a Zombie

I told myself years ago that I would never be “that mom”, you now the type, they look like Zombies with their dark circles under their eyes, expressionless faces, they have lost the will & strength to carry on a conversation, sometimes even have trouble forming words! Shuffling one child to baseball practice, another to dance, while going through the drive-thru with the 3rd before their piano lesson, only to do it all over again in a half hour. No, that wasn’t going to be me or my family. We were going to sit down every evening for dinner together, discuss our days, and after the children had cleared the table they could play with their friends outside, you know, a real life Leave it to Beaver type of a family! I was going to have more control over my children’s scheduling, they would have limited activities, and faith would remain of utmost importance. I had it all figured out back when my children were still in preschool. And then they grew!! And life threw us some curve balls.

3. The Family Table is a distant memory

After working at his old place of employment for 15 years my husband got a new job, one that involves travel. So I can kiss those dreams of all us sitting down as a family every evening goodbye.  But that’s okay, we all need to make sacrifices along the way and we made this decision together and felt it was the best for our family but that doesn’t mean it is easy.  And that idea of the children clearing the table and then going off to play with their friends, yeah, not happening. Why? Well, it’s rather simple, most of them are either at a different parent’s house, at afterschool care, or at an after school activity. So what do you do? Can’t beat them, then join ’em! And that is precisely what we did, though I didn’t realize it in the beginning. It was more like that frog in hot water analogy; it was a slow progress to arrive where I am today, as an official Zombie mom= Mombie!!

4. Your Priorities are askew

I rationalized ALL of it! First and foremost, of utmost importance is my children’s faith life. God has entrusted me with these miraculous little souls and I want to do my best to make certain I guide them and provide them with a faith driven life (you will see the irony of this in a few sentences).  And since they do not attend a Catholic school I made certain they were enrolled in religious education classes.  Thus, religious education classes were not open to a discussion attendance was mandatory and only once a week for 1-1/2 hours. That in addition to the rosary and reading the bible in the evenings was going to provide a nice foundation for their Faith lives during weekdays.

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But then our kiddos started learning about all the other fun activities that other children were participating in, like chess club, boy scouts, swimming, basketball/baseball (seasonal sports), etc.  And I rationalized it all….sports are a great way to teach teamwork & get some exercise, chess club is a fun way to exercise your brain, etc. And then suddenly in the evenings we were way too tired for the rosary and reading the bible so I did the next logical thing, or so I thought at the time, I had my daughter join Little Flower Girl’s Club because there she could learn about the virtues and about the Saints while I rushed her sibling around. Mind you the idea behind the club is that mothers and daughter spend this time together but I couldn’t be in two places at once so my mom offered to attend. Did I just delegate my child’s faith life entirely onto others? YEP!  And here’s the REAL KICKER, Boy Scouts, Little Flower girls club, and religious education all fall on the same day & times (ever been in 3 places at once!?) and since my children’s faith is of utmost importance to me I would clearly make certain they attended religious education class, right!? WRONG!

5. You have lost sight of the true Joys of Motherhood & are hearing your kids but NOT listening to them

I have to be 100% honest, before Spring Break I felt tired, overstressed, unappreciated, I was feeling like a motherhood failure. I figured it was just me; something was clearly wrong with me. I had never ever considered the thought that the problem might be with our schedule. But then we had Spring Break and no extracurricular activity and guess what I found over that week? I found the joys of motherhood again. The fog lifted, I had more patience, I wasn’t angry or stressed, I enjoyed hearing and ACTUALLY LISTENING to my little ones thoughts, dreams, questions, etc. I wasn’t simply waiting for silence and replying or nodding my head…I could actually process what they were saying, form a complete thought, share, and patiently await their reply, it was the most refreshing feeling!! I so enjoyed our leisure conversations over meals, no rushing off with dinner in hand or grabbing food  on the go.

 

Solution: If it’s broke FIX IT!

Things need to change. In all this running children around and being the sole caregiver at home I have practically lost myself…gone are the days were I would attend book club and get out a couple times a month. This schedule is wearing me down and I think the family is suffering.  But I think what really pisses me off is the fact that I know things need to change but I have almost found comfort as a Mombie because it is familiar.  I am literally sitting at the intersect of change & comfortable, I could maintain the same course and sink further into my Mombiehood or go for change. But change is scary; I can’t even see the road ahead…which is really scary for a gal who lives in NW Ohio where it is so flat you can see miles ahead. Haha!

So, are you showing any of these signs? How do you keep your family from overscheduling? How do you say no without feeling guilty?

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5 Signs that Spring has Officially Arrived!

5 Signs that Spring has Officially Arrived:

1. The ladies are exposing more skin. Time to ditch the scarves gals!! Let your necks feel the fresh air. And grab those open toed shoes! Get a pretty pedicure and rock those strappy sandals! Eeee!!! Thank goodness, I was getting close to burning my boots…I mean I adore them, but after 5 months of boots a gal longs for some toe exposure, am I right ladies!?

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2. Baseball, baby!! Sons playing catch with dads in the front yard, baseball practice at school, and best of all, OPENING DAY for the TOLEDO MUD HENS!!!

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 Even Will Ferrell’s Excited for the Toledo Mud Hens Season to start!

3. Everyone be all up in their grills!! The neighborhood smells amazing! The grilling starts around 2pm and goes all night….the amazing aroma of steaks, burgers, hotdogs, veggies, fish, etc. grilling is euphoric! Man how I missed that smell! YES!! It is back!

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4. Color the town green!! The salty dust of winter, the dull boring hues of leafless trees, and the gray cloudy skies are being replaced with color! The various shades of green are magnificent!

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5. The neighborhood is alive! Dogs barking, kids running around, moms pushing strollers, runners running, families walking down to the park, neighbors stopping by to chat…sometimes through the window…corner lot, I tell ya! Haha! But I must admit, I LOVE IT! It is like being on a movie set and someone just yelled ACTION, the neighborhood booming.

I just love Spring! Next on my list, flowers…I am literally counting down the days till Flower Weekend at the Farmers Market. Lookout marigolds here I come!

So what are some of your favorite signs of Spring? Are you wearing your sandals? Feels amazing, right!?!

 

Petting Sharks in Kentucky!?!

Lookout Kentucky here we come!!

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Woot Woot!! Newport Aquarium!! We have arrived and are precisely 205 miles from Toledo…kids got a kick out of the sign, had to take a pic!

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Our little biologist nearly lost her mind! She was beyond excited to see the number one thing on her list, the Shark Rays, which to be honest, I thought she was just making up; I didn’t even know they existed. But she was right, they do exist and they are such a magnificent creature.

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A cross between a Ray and Shark, duh! Wonder where they go the name? LOL! So we zoomed past most of the World Rivers and Shore Gallery aquariums in order to make certain we had the chance to see the Shark Rays being fed and boy am I glad we did, it was so awesome! They fed them lobster. Here is a clip (don’t worry it is short, promise).

 

 

How cool was that, right!?

Then our next big MUST SEE was Shark Central where we could pet a shark….we did manage to stop briefly to see this guy…..he was HUGE!

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Then we rushed by other tanks in order to PET SHARKS! The children were so excited, even the little one who was so terrified of a thunderstorm that she literally made herself sick & threw-up was overjoyed at the idea of petting a shark. What have I done to these children? Haha! They each ran up and claimed there spot and listened to the handlers instructions. As the handler jokingly said, “Use only two fingers to pet the shark so that you still have three fingers left for future use” , I started to wonder what kind of mom was I, I am letting my children pet sharks!? I glanced around at the other adults and children in the crowd; they all seemed to still have their digits in tact so I figured what the heck and joined them! The shark felt unlike anything I had imagined. I always thought they were smooth and silky to the touch. Boy was I wrong, they were actually quite rough.

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Then it was on to the Penguin show where we learned about all the different types of Penguins, their diet, climate, mating, etc. we learned so much!

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And at the end the handler who was located inside the exhibit had a microphone outside the exhibit so she could hear questions from the crowd. And wouldn’t you know all 3 of my kiddos had questions. Haha! I was not surprised that our little biologist had a question and it was a great one, one not covered or discussed during the show. Her question was what are predators of the Penguins? Our son, the 1st grader asked why the King Penguins were not as active as the other Penguins? And then the preschooler, I was a little nervous about her question. God only knew what she would ask. She already asked me if we could have one for a pet and I had to break the news to her gently, so I knew she wasn’t going to ask if we could take one home. Then I started wondering what other crazy thought, idea, or family secret she might share in public over the microphone. Preschoolers and microphones are a horrible combination it is like drunks singing karaoke; you never know what is going to come out of their mouths!! So she proudly walked up to the microphone, cleared her throat, and clearly expressed that she liked the handler’s bows in her hair. PHEW! That was a close one! Lol!

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We had such a wonderful time at the Aquarium we were sad to leave but not before hitting up the gift shop! The children save up money from birthdays and holidays for these rare and special occasions. So we spent 4 hours at the aquarium and I am fairly certain one of those was in the gift shop. I firmly believe God gifts you with such remarkable souls, little souls that help make you a better person and on that day he was making me a more patient soul. Haha! Our little biologist eventually made her final decision and we headed off to dinner. Dinner at Red Lobster, anyone see the irony in that? Haha! But man was my salmon and shrimp delicious! Then we went back to the hotel and swam like fish!

 

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It was quite the aquatic day. I shall treasure the memories for always because we will go back again but I will never go back again with a 9, 7, and 4 year old.

Thank you for the memories Kentucky!