The Perfect Lake Escape.

There are great lake house rentals and then there is The Dragonfly

We have had a hell of a 2020 – along with everyone else at this point. But in all seriousness, we were separated while John was relocated to start a project. We sold our house and moved across the country and were in a mold-filled corporate rental until we could find and purchase our house out here. During this time, the lockdown happened. We had zero toilet paper and enough food for 3-4 days… for a family of SEVEN. The shelves were empty and we had nowhere to put anything. We lived off the same seven days worth of clothes, had no tv or internet, and were banned from parks and playgrounds. We were a day away from losing our minds. 

We found an amazing house, moved in, and dealt with neighbors who were too scared to bring groceries inside, let alone be our friends. All the while, John was working 16 hour days, 11-12+ days in a row, and having 2(ish) days off… (the -ish is because he was still working 24/7 even on those days ‘off’). It was a 100 day project and we knew it would be intense. The kids and I pushed through and finally made friends in the neighborhood. We schooled throughout the summer to kill time, and we took several little vacations. But it was a LONG 100 days. 

Here we are, on the other side of the project. We were both burnt out. We were in need of a retreat. We booked an amazing week-long stay at Hawk’s Cay Resort in the Keys, but as it approached, we learned the kids’ club, spa, arcade, and kids’ pool were all closed. We also learned that we could reserve a 2-hour spot at the pool each day, masks were required on all over the age OF TWO?!!! (WTAF) – and on top of it all, the prices were the EXACT SAME AS EVERY OTHER YEAR. My mind was blown and we got our money back. 

Everything was booked. We wanted to cry.

Along came THE DRAGONFLY.

Lake Gaston has clearly become a favorite vaca-spot for me, but John had not experienced it yet. A neighbor messaged me about her rental property and offered it to us, leaving a week early from their own planned vacation. I was ready to cry… but I had no idea what this rental had in store for us.

It was gorgeous. Beautifully decorated for fall, full of every kitchen item you could possibly need (a wok?? Who had a wok to make fried rice? I was in heaven!) There was a hot tub, paddle boards, kayaks, a lake trampoline and slide, and a boat ON PROPERTY. The rain may have kept us inside the first day, but the Wii and TV’s all over the house were enough to entertain the kids. We brought games and puzzles that helped too! Once the rain cleared, it was GAME ON.

Since we had an entire week there, we broke it up with great friends joining us for a night. We had 8 kids and 4 adults – and every single person was in love with this house. We made s’mores over the fire pit and listened to music on the speakers (that were located EVERYWHERE.)

Our food was delicious. The boating was peaceful and just what we needed. The entire trip was one for the books. I cannot wait to return.

What made the trip even better? We were able to spend 4 days in North Carolina beforehand! I had an amazing opportunity fr work, and we jumped on it to add on to the trip. We stayed with family and had the best time. 

As I sit at home – a clean home (because you ALWAYS have a cleaner come while you are on vacation) – with a pizza being delivered, I am so grateful for the last 10 days.  

Although, I’m a bit jealous… John headed to the Florida beaches for the next 5 days with 2 of the kids!  However, our soccer kid decided he NEEDED to return home before missing any more practices or games. Insert Mom of the Year award here for giving up a beach trip for travel soccer.

Morning Baskets: Educational Games for Schooling at Home

Well, it looks as if everyone will be spending the majority (who are we kidding? The WHOLE) school year at home this year. No one is thrilled – even us seasoned homeschoolers. But here we are, reliving Groundhog Day over and over.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge “play mom.” I have five kids and they don’t need for me to crawl around on my hands and knees in their world of make believe. They have the greatest imaginations and there are enough of them for me to sit and sip my tea instead of playing. This also rolls into games. While board and card games are a lot of fun, I never seem to gravitate towards them on a regular basis.

Insert The Year of The COVID.

I needed to get my act together before we were waist deep in the quicksand of the school year – grasping at anything to just make it through. We love homeschooling, but I need to get out of this COVID FUNK and get my ducks in a row (all five of them) so that we actually enjoy this year. My goal is to not just survive until normalcy, but for us to thrive and find joy in our learning environment.

After talking with a few besties, I decided to jump on the “Morning Basket” train. What’s a morning basket, you ask? It’s simply a basket that you have ready each day (or week – because, well… I’m not a Pinterest mom) with things you will do TOGETHER. Throw away the morning word because you can do it in the afternoon or evening – or on the weekend.   What you put in your basket depends on the ages of children you have, but basically, you want a read aloud book, a little lesson, something fun (like a game), and maybe some copy work.

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We started using our morning basket this week, and I realized just how amazing it is and that YOU NEED ONE NOW. It helps get everyone on the same page and moves you through your school routine calmly. I pick a game, a book, a bible verse/motivational quote for discussion and copy work (on the top of the page, I have them write a word to describe how they are feeling that day), one of our Mrs. Wordsmith vocabulary words, and a calendar activity. (Because my homeschooled kids aren’t exactly on top of their days and months – haha)

If I have anything that can be taught to the whole gaggle, I do it at this point. (Think: History story can be read together and then the 6th grader can break off to answer her questions, review 1st grade spelling lesson because everyone needs to remember how to spell those basic words, etc).

I then put on a song and have them transition to wherever they want or need to be for their individual work. Thanks to HomeschoolPlanet.com I have my entire school year planned out, down to the page numbers for each day. I can easily bump things, delete things, add things, and merge things with one click, and at the end of the year, I’ll have a transcript for my 4th and 6th graders! (I only put in basics for my 1/2nd grader because he’s working between grades and somedays completes 4 days worth and others nada.)

So what are we loving right now for that morning basket, you ask? Well, HAPPY SHOPPING!!!!!  (as always, affiliate links are included!)

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I purchased a few fun activities and books that correlated with things we are studying this year (anatomy and astronomy) and a few great nonfiction reads, too. My oldest is choosing a historical figure each month to complete a biography on, so I included some easy read biography books, too. But, you can simply grab whatever books you know your kids will love! (I included a few new ones we just added). And if you are an Usborne Book lover (LIKE ME!!) then head over to my live link and grab something before it sells out!)

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Don’t forget to get a few little things for your toddlers to play with quietly… You’ll see I added the flower building kit at the bottom. Mine love this inside or outside on the deck with the watering cans!

Grab Your Kids and Meet a Friend for a Week.

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My skin is a few shades darker, and my babies are all blonder. I’m flipping through over 900 pictures, and daydreaming of buying a lake house (and a boat). 

If you have never loaded your car full of kids, duffle bags, scooters, and snacks to hit the road to meet with a like-minded mama-friend and her kids, you need to, ASAP.

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When you escape solo, it is a much needed getaway, but when you take the kids on a grand adventure solo, you are allowing yourself to grow and blossom into the confident and capable mother you truly are. Knowing your kids and their needs will grant you the ability to plan an amazing vacation that everyone will remember.

In times of COVID, one of my besties needed to hit the road cross-country to get some QT with her oldest boy who lives in the northeast. We jumped on the opportunity to meet up for an entire week! Instead of our normal resort stays, we opted for a killer lakefront VRBO. I highly recommend skipping the hotel scene right now and finding a rental where you can cook and live as easy and normal as possible. 

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If you have never explored Lake Gaston in NC/VA, start planning. Depending on where you stay, you may be quite isolated as far as food and shopping options are concerned. We had a gas station and a food lion 30+ minutes away – but we made the most of it with one big online order and curbside pickup. 

No matter where you vacation, meal planning is key. It is the best way to make sure you are consuming nutritious foods and staying on budget. There is no way I can feed 5 kids from restaurants for 6+ days – nor would I want to. Instead, I emptied my pantry and brought all of gluten/dairy-free items to bake, and any food I could utilize throughout the week. With limited kitchen items, a wine bottle came in handy as a rolling pin, a neighbor’s pan worked perfect for gf/df brownies, and the blender made great popsicle fillings! We filled the table with buffet-style meals and snacks all day, every day. Waffles, bacon, sausage, every fruit possible, hummus and veggies, etc. But dinners? We knocked those out if the park!  John sent us on vacation with smoked pork butt, and we used it on tacos, burrito bowls, and homemade pizza! We butterflied and roasted a chicken with potatoes and cauliflower, too. Definitely have fun cooking with your bestie – turn on the music and dance in the kitchen!

The kids needed nothing more than rafts, sunscreen, fishing poles, and kayaks for the week. We had an amazing dock to cannonball off of, too! Sunset kayak trips, nighttime fishing, and late night wine drinking were all the rage! I was able to keep my running streak alive and get in great workouts lakeside each day while everyone slept in and relaxed. 

One more giant recommendation: Throw A Party Together.

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Streamers, glow sticks, games, and music. We celebrated 1/2 of 2020 being over (hallelujah) – but you can come up with any reason to party – Taco Tuesday? Wild Wednesday? Sunday Funday? You name it, it’s party time!

But in true Our Lucky Seven fashion, I had to pull off a surprise. After calling every marina within 45 minutes from our VRBO, I found the last ski boat rental available for the week. I woke Emmett up early on Thursday morning and we headed out. His face was something I’ll remember forever when he realized his mama could hop into a ski boat and take off. Pulling into the dock at our rental, we were greeted with squealing kids! We borrowed a few killer rafts and spent the entire day exploring the 21-miles of lake we could access. I threw kids off tubes, jammed out with dance parties, and taught a few of the kids how to drive the boat. Talk about memories.

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We wrapped up the stay on Friday, and I took the opportunity to take the boat back solo… where my soul connected to the calmness of this grand lake just after sunrise. I swore I would not take anything for granted. I am so blessed to have such an amazing friendship and a family that will pack up in a moment’s notice to take on every adventure with me.

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We are living in odd times right now. There is great diversity happening in so many ways, and it’s happening everywhere. However, if everyone could take a breath, step back – perhaps even take a vacation – maybe we would all realize that our passions and beliefs throughout everything are all rooted in goodness. Instead of burning things and yelling, let’s stop the panicking and start the supporting. Take your health into your hands. Take the education into your hands. Smile to everyone and find a way to spend time with someone who will help you remember these things. Let’s grow together through these slower days. Let’s appreciate more, together.

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So you may want to homeschool: curriculum help.

My Tools 4 Wisdom 2020-2021 calendar arrived yesterday and reminded me that this holding cell we have all been trapped in doesn’t mean time stood still. Instead, it has sped up – the months now ticking by as we slow our lives drastically down. But, there is a huge stampede heading for everyone in just a few weeks: a new school year.

I have had my e-mail flooded with questions from families considering keeping their children at home and opting out of any in-person or virtual schooling offered by their school systems. The emails generally read as follows:

“Please help; I’m overwhelmed with where to begin. I don’t know how to teach! We aren’t structured enough to do this, but I just can’t send them back. I’m scared. How will I know they are learning? What if they hate it! What if I hate it? Do your kids fight a lot? What about curriculum – how do you even choose one? How do I transition to homeschooling?”

Instead of answering every email and message, I thought I’d share some advice here on the blog. 

Breathe. 

I cannot tell you if homeschooling is the right fit for your family, but I can tell you that I understand why you are considering it. Know that you have the ability to re-enroll in the school system at any time, so why not just throw caution to the wind and join the homeschooling community! 

Is it hard?  Only if you make it hard.

Is there fighting?  Only if you and your children are on different pages.

Will you be overwhelmed? Yes. You are a parent. You are always overwhelmed.

However, you can do this. The transition is the hardest, as you need to take a few months to just be with your kids – without curriculum or expectations. Read together (at every age), play together, explore, and build. Give them freedom to explore and play without you, too. This time is to adjust to being together and filling the hours of the day without stress. Once you all can spend a week doing ‘not much’ without major complaints or 8 hours of screen time, you know you are ready to bring in some curriculum!

I’ll share our curriculum choices in a moment, but first understand that homeschooling does not take 7-8 hours of time sitting at a desk. Homeschooling is completed quickly (depending on your child’s internal motivation, of course).  My 1st grader finishes his entire day within 45 minutes most days! My 4th and 6th graders take longer, one finishing in about 1.5 hours and the other taking 3 hours, depending on the subjects/assignments of the day (but she is a very slow worker-ha!) The rest of the day is spent outside playing, doing legos, creating things, watching science videos, playing games, or whatever else they want to do!

As for curriculums – the selection is very overwhelming. You do need to decide if this journey will be short and you will be re-enrolling as soon as you feel it is appropriate, or if you will be sticking with this for a longer period of time. I say this because our math program does not exactly line with each grade level, as it is foundational and builds upon itself instead of introducing 15 new concepts a year and then reviewing them every year. But there are fantastic programs that allow for a more seamless transition back to school! 

Our choices may or may not fit with your family, but they may make a great starting point. I would recommend ordering ASAP because we expect there to be a great shortage with the number of families wanting to educate at home this year.

 

Preschool Level: (I have an almost 3 year old and a 4 year old)

Keep it very very simple and utilize learning videos with phonics and fun characters.

Great curriculums to look at:

Abeka: They have great options across the board, but we utilize their spelling, language, reading, writing for first grade – and their history and geography for middle school.

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Math-U-See or Saxon for math of all levels

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HAKE – Writing and Grammar 

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Science and Reading Detective – we start these in third grade. 

 

All About Reading – Great to start around kindergarten!

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Bob Books – Wonderful filler books for brand new readers.

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The Reading Lesson – This book takes 5 minutes or less a day and really helps the child’s fluency.

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Evan Moore – Great workbooks, we use their spelling series currently (but may switch to abeka in the future!)

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180 Days of Workbooks – These are easy workbooks for all grade levels. They read a short passage and answer questions. If you choose these, you’ll want to check out some library books to really get deeper with the topics.

 

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Handwriting Without Tears – We love these little workbooks! 

My First Reading Library (Usborne) – Great books the kids will work their way up with.

Brain Quest – These are great for road trips or dinner conversation!

Gakken Workbooks – For the little kids – cut, trace, count, etc.

Gifted Learning CogAT flashcards – Again, great for a quick 5 minute lesson or fun learning moment.

Online Fun:

Duolingo – Free language learning (Scarlett does French here)

Dave Ramsey Programs – You can get a great deal right now. Kids are never too young to understand the value of money.

GenerationGenius.com – This is our science program. You purchase for a year at a time and have access to lesson plans, experiments, videos, etc! 

BrainPop – A fun and educational app that let’s you grant guilt-free screen time.

MathPlayground – Another great app!

outschool.com – You pay by the class and can find a class on any and every subject you can imagine. The kids log into zoom and have a blast!

typing.com – A free typing website that tracks progress.

I’m sure there is more, and I’ll add it as I think about it! But this should be enough to help you start exploring. Look for any coops in your area, too – although ours were all cancelled, put online, or opening with very strict regulations this year, so we opted out and decided to just get together 1-2x a week with other like-minded friends! 

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6 Things to Start with Your (Older) Kids During Isolation

We may all be at home a lot longer than we expected, and the lives of our children are most effected. They are old enough to understand what is happening, but young enough to not have a job to be working, a car to be using, or friends to be social-distance hanging out with right now. 

We are finally settled in our new house after the cross-country relocation. Our days are filled with school work, cleaning, playing outside, and cooking. For the most part, we are adapting okay; however, we are not homebodies and are desperately missing our soccer academy practices, scout meetings, wrestling tournaments, and o.m.g. our countdown to swim team season. While I do enjoy a perfectly clean house, I would much rather have a few more fingerprints due to running out the door to get to homeschool coop classes. But, alas, here we (all) are. 

I spent the last week figuring a few things out to help pass the time for my older kids. I’ll be detailing our favorite workbooks, websites, and curriculums soon, but these ideas are completely separate and just fun ideas to keep the kids stimulated until our freedoms are put back in place!

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6 Things to Start with Your (Older) Kids During Isolation

Virtual Book Club

This one happened on a whim in our house. Scarlett, age 10, loves books and I order them by the boatload regularly. I came across a book that I knew she would love, but after reading (and crying) over the synopsis, I realized that she needed to have friends who would read it to… but how? Insert a virtual book club here!

We started a monthly zoom club for girls that meets weekly, does project, cooking, or crafts together as they discuss a list of questions about the book they are currently reading. Most of the members have never met in person! So far, this little adventure has consumed Scarlett in the best ways possible! 

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Online Sports Training

Did you know that coaches and trainers have turned to online platforms to continue working with their players. There are also hundreds of trainers offering their skills virtually to kids all over the globe. This is the perfect time to increase a skill set – and can easily be a time when skills are lost. Our oldest son, Emmett (8) is working once a week with a soccer trainer – doing homework drills that have to be video’d and submitted! 

Snail Mail Pen Pals

Bring back the paper, pen, and stamps. All five of my kids have wanted in on this action, but the oldest 3 (6,810) have really made the effort (sometimes while whining) to send snail mail to their friends. You can get create with this and have them type, cut words from magazines, or write in invisible ink.

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A Garden (No Matter How Small)

It’s planting season, so make an essential trip (or place an order) for flowers and veggies of all kinds. Grab planters, pots, or set up a garden bed and let your kids take over. You can research which plants thrive near each other and really get technical!

Cooking

Everyone is cooking at home these days, but have you let your kids pick the menu AND cook it? There is no reason kids can’t run the kitchen. When you give them respect and trust, you may be surprised by how well they do. Stand nearby to help out when and if needed, but let them figure things out.

Subscription Boxes

Kiwi Crate:

These are the favorite in our house. We are trying out the geography version along with the tinker crate right now.

Green Kids Crafts Box:

Science and art kits every month.

Kid Stir Cooking Kit:

It even comes with tools for them to use!

Amazon STEM Club:

Amazon has subscription boxes, need I say more?  

BitsBox Coding for Kids:

Another one from Amazon: I can’t wait to review this one for you, as all of my kids are wanting to code, and ours should be delivered this week!   

Little Global Citizens:

This one has the kids traveling the world without leaving the house. You can add on to it by exploring documentaries and cooking authentic meals from each country.

A Letter to the Make-Shift Homeschooler

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To the make-shift homeschool parent-

Welcome to the homeschool world! I know you never thought you would be here, but here you are. I wanted to take a minute to let you know that those of us doing this for some time now, we are here – utilize us! 

We are here to let you in on all of the secrets.

Put away those schedules floating around on social media. They only set you up to feel like a failure. 

Your child does not spend 7+ hours a day at school receiving a one-on-one education. Please do not try to give him this at home. What is covered in those 7 hours inside of a school can easily be covered before lunch at home with you – and in even less time the younger the child! 

Do not stress over ‘teaching.’ Teaching does not equal learning. Lecturing does not mean your child is absorbing. Checking the boxes does not equate to an education. Let this time be a time in which you learn your child. Let him guide you, have conversations instead of lectures, and work together to reach daily goals.

Your daily goals should not be the same as what a teacher would be doing at school. Your goals should include bonding, sharing, learning, and letting your child play. There is so much research about play-based learning. Let him collect sticks and rubber band them together. Let him build forts. Let him be bored to death until something creative comes out. Turn off the screens and eliminate yourself from the equation. You are allowed to walk away from your child and let him figure things out. Do not provide constant entertainment or offerings to him – let him figure things out! 

Cooking, cleaning, creating art, listening to audiobooks while playing — these are all wonderful ways to spend the day. Remember that the best way to teach is to set the example yourself. If you want your child to read, he must see you reading throughout the day. If you want him to clean up after himself, make conversation and do it with him a few times, he’ll pick it up.

You can get through school work without losing your mind. This one sounds crazy, but it’s true. Take a deep breath. Take breaks whenever needed, make things fun, and take the pressure off of getting it all done. The beauty in doing this at home is that you are in charge… even when the school wants you to turn it all back in. You can include a note that includes all of the other learning opportunities you are providing!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are hundreds of free apps and websites offering services right now, use them! Set up an email account and give your kid pen pals to write to. A successful day is one in which you and you children are happy and growing together. 

Moving Far and Saying Goodbye: It’s Different For Each of Us

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We are a box of emotions right now. Each one of us expressing our anxiety, sadness, and excitement in different ways. Our countdown is ticking closer and closer to hitting the road, and reality is truly setting in. 

John has been living in a hotel for 3 weeks in Virginia; the kids and I have been in house-selling-survival mode. But after going under contract (to a delightfully wonderful family who loves the house as much as we do!!), my emotions are ready to explode. I won’t lie, I woke up with ‘Seller’s Remorse’ the morning after we accepted the offer. I have been burning from both ends over the last few weeks, and the reality of walking away from this house hit me hard. We only have days left of beautiful backyard sunsets, trail runs, and playing with friends here. The tears are real and falling hard.

As much as I could write about why I am crying, and why this move is so hard, I decided to try to shift my focus to how differently each of us is handling this – and how I am ((trying)) to support everyone’s needs while also keeping my sanity and checking the boxes of all that needs done.

I should start by acknowledging just how unique each of my children are. They have different love languages, different wants, and very different ways of releasing their emotions. I’m sure you can relate to this within your own home. Knowing each child as an individual is the first step in helping them with something as life-changing as a cross-country move. We did not handle our move to Nebraska well when considering the support our oldest child would need. She was 7 and internalized her anxiety and heartbreak to the point that it make her physically ill – ER trips and all – for months. So this time, I am determined to do better.

Scarlett, now age 10.5, is once again struggling with our relocation. She remembers Virginia and is battling with too many feelings at once – happiness, sadness, anxiety over change, and the heartbreak of saying goodbye – to her room, her house, and her friends. 

Scarlett is an empath. She absorbs all that is thrown out into the world. She was referred to as our little Earth Fairy throughout her early years, and I believe now more than ever that the title suits her. Here’s the biggest problem that we are experiencing right now: I am the opposite of Scarlett. My anxiety is not internalized AT ALL. Mine is spewed viciously out as if throwing it will somehow help it leave me. I make lists and tackle 12 projects at once. I stay up all night worrying and doing. I try to do others’ jobs as well as my own. I burn until everything is complete – and then I breathe. As you can imagine, my energy is not helping Scarlett. She has spent days at a time curled under a blanket doing little more than eat a few bites and sip water. 

Instead of push, as I tend to do, I am letting her sleep. I am also letting her dance it out in the kitchen, write it out in a diary (that no one else is allowed to read), and get lost in her books and podcasts. I purchased a weighted blanket for her and am trying to sit with her and just hold her more.

Emmett, age 8, is most worried about friends. I have helped him write letters to his closest friends and organize an open playdate for Sunday afternoon so anyone available can stop by and see him. He is rarely alone here, always surrounded by great friends – and these friendships are going to be missed. I don’t think the reality of everything will hit him until we are gone. Emmett gets overwhelmed easily, and he tends to become overly emotional – crying loud, hard, and acting in uncontrollable (but instantly regrettable) ways. While most of my energy is being spent on supporting Scarlett right now, Emmett is going to need a lot more once the boxes are packed and we start the drive. We plan to keep his diet clean (as he is the most effected by foods) as we travel, make sure he has time to run each day, and give him all the physical touch he needs – he’s a hugger. 

Lyle, our 6 year old, will remember this house. He will remember these friends. In all actuality, this will be the first home he remembers. Lyle retreats when his emotions become too big for him to swallow. He runs and hides and needs to be held – but also to have space. He cries, but in a different way than Scarlett, who cries of heartbreak. He cries in a different way than Emmett, who cries as a sensory overload. Lyle cried sweetly, gently, and purely. He is wise beyond his years, and he is already understanding the distance on the map. 

The littler kids are reacting to the energy that I’m throwing out. They are still young at ages 2.5 and almost 4 (but an immature almost 4). They will adapt and be okay as long as Mommy’s bed is open for them to snuggle in every night.

John flies in the night before the boxes are packed, and I couldn’t be more excited or terrified. It means that I have 2 days to organize everything for our drive, the rental house, and cross off 50 other items on the list. I’m feeling overwhelmed with the tasks, but more so, I am feeling heartbroken to say goodbye. Our neighbors have become out family. They cheer us on, share their wine, help us in every way possible, and have the biggest hearts. I know that I am drowning myself in the anxiety of the move and the children instead of handling my emotions of walking away from these amazing people. 

But today I am dedicating time to acknowledge my love for these friends. I am going to cry ugly tears over moving from this house. I am going to raise my wine glass to everything that Omaha has brought into my life – the slower pace, the longer conversations, and the focus on family. Cheers to Omaha. 

Staying Calm in the Chaos of Selling Your House with Kids

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Moving is a pain in the ass. It’s time consuming, frustrating, expensive, and causes extreme anxiety. These feelings are intensified when you are both selling a house and purchasing a new one. There are just so many factors that have to happen for everything to go as smoothly as possible. It’s basically just a few months of torture.

We are moved about every 3 years or so for my husband’s company. Even when we think we’ll be somewhere longer, 3 years seems to be the sweet spot. We were flown to the midwest in February 2017 to house hunt, and here we are exactly 3 years later listing that house and awaiting another cross-country move.

This time is a bit different, though. We have to sell this house (for a good amount of money) to purchase a house in Northern Virginia. The cost of living and housing prices are (shall we say) INSANELY different compared to here. This of course increases my stress levels. 

To add to it all, John was already relocated to start the project in Virginia. The kids, dog, and I are in charge of selling the house – which means that I’m flying solo with 5 kids and a dog for a few weeks. 

I guess you aren’t here to read about just how stressed out I am, though, right? You are here for the opposite. So here’s how I’m staying sane and calm throughout this entire moving process.

Tips to Staying Calm While Selling a House with Kids

Declutter and Store Things

I’m talking cut your shit in way more than half. Kids have too much crap as it is. It is time to purge! You want almost nothing sitting on shelves, actually, you want to get rid of random, chipped, leaning bookshelves – they will not help your house sell. You can get tubs to put toys, books, and random items in and then put them in storage along with unneeded furniture, etc until you move. The less ‘stuff’ in your house, the better. (Also, it is way easier to clean!)

Minimize Closets

Is it winter? Pack up the swimwear and shorts. You get the point. Make a trip to donate anything outgrown or not worth moving and pack away half of the rest. Keep just enough to make laundry easy. 

Catch Up on Laundry

Get rid of your laundry pile and then start a habit of doing a load every day. Wash, dry, fold, and PUT IT AWAY immediately. 

Do Everything Immediately

This goes for washing dishes, picking up toys, making beds, etc. Anything that will add up to more work later needs to be done now. 

Hire a Cleaner

You need a cleaner on-call. Before a day of multiple showings or an open house, your house needs to be cleaned- and not by you. Kids make toothpaste messes and fingerprint messes. windows need cleaned, ovens, and all refrigerators, too. Do not take this stress on; hire someone. You can negotiate a great deal if you have them come once a week until you sell.

Clean Every Day

Keep up with what the cleaner has done. Vacuum every day and wipe sinks out after the kids are in bed. You may only get an hour notice before someone wants to see your house, and that hour is needed for you to herd the children out the door – not clean the house.

Eat Off Paper Plates

It is not environmentally-friendly, but it will save your sanity. Eliminate doing more dishes and just throw that crap away. You need everything looking gorgeous. 

Make Simple Meals

Eating out with kids is annoying and expensive, but you can stick to simple, one-pot/pan meals at home. You are not out to impress anyone; chicken nuggets work just fine when selling your house.

Book a Hotel for Open Houses

Run away the moment your house is clean and a day of showings or an open house is scheduled. Make it a weekend getaway or a little in-town stay-cation! We found a hotel with an indoor waterpark to live at for a few days!

Have a List of Fun Things To Do

It’s hard enough to get out of the house in time for a showing, so having a list of fun things to go do can help. Go see a movie, grab ice-cream, walk around Target, visit the local children’s museum, or have a list of friends on speed dial. 

Workout Every Day

This is how I’m saving my own sanity. I have to release my anxiety with a good workout. Go for a run, do yoga, or just blast some music and dance it out. 

Moms: It’s time to check in on your pain.

Maybe it’s the high pain tolerance after five natural births, or perhaps it’s just motherhood.

Maybe it’s the ability to push through discomfort, or perhaps it’s just the craziness of motherhood.

Maybe it’s the inability to put myself first, or perhaps it’s what mothers do – putting everyone else first. 

Maybe it’s just me, and my anxiety and fears of something really being wrong…

But I know that I am not alone. For some reason, mothers tend to ignore pain, symptoms, and warning signs that their own bodies send them. It becomes overwhelming when it all is listed out:

  • Wrist pain after that 3rd baby that never really went away.
  • Hip pain after that half-marathon training that still hasn’t healed a year later.
  • Pelvic floor issues.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hemorrhoids that seem to come and go at the most random times.
  • The back pain. Oh, the back pain.

During my recent trip to Denver with John, I was unable to hide my chronic back pain any longer. There were no children to distract me from it. There were no children to distract John from my suffering. It was four days of reality: face-to-face with my pain. John saw the way I lay on floor with my legs on the bed for hours at night. He saw me holding on to walls and stopping every 15-20 steps due to the pain when I walk. He saw me try to fake it. He also finally made me do something about it.

I was an athlete my entire youth into my early adulthood. I was a ballerina and a martial artist, competing in the ring all over the country. I trained seven days a week most of the time and lived a body-stressing life. I also loved it. But it took it’s toll on my back. In my early 20’s, my back began to hurt. I was informed that it would one day need surgery, but to have kids and avoid the operation as long as possible.

Here I am, five kids and over 12 years later. I have done the therapy. I have done the acupuncture. I have been adjusted regularly for a decade. I have eaten well and exercised daily.  I have run marathons and washed approximately 1,000,000 loads of laundry. I have birthed babies, worn babies, and breastfed babies. I have hiked mountains and carried groceries.

I have also silently cried while walking the dog. I have had to sit instead of play. I have had to miss events due to pain. 

In 2019, I began teaching a few martial arts classes. I only sparred a few times. But something happened to me. My back went into shock. The pain grew more intense and impacted me in a way that I cannot even begin to explain. I was unable to do any of the things that I loved in a way that didn’t hurt. I kept pushing through and trying though…

After an MRI, x-rays, and several opinions, I have answers. 

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2020 will be the year to heal myself. I have a bilateral fracture in my vertebrae. It is a mobile disc at a grade 2-3 spondylolisthesis, which means that no matter what position I am in (walking, sitting, laying, stretching, etc) it causes pain. I have numbness and pain from my butt to my toes in both legs throughout 90% of every day. My back feels tight and as if I constantly need to ‘pop’ it. But the leg pain… 

The nerves are so severely pinched that doctors looked at me and asked how I have managed to run at all – let alone lift a laundry basket. 

My answer: MOTHERHOOD.

My youngest is almost 2.5 years old now. My oldest is close to 10.5 years old. I am finally seeing things clearer and hearing the cries of my body. It is my time. 2020 will be hard, as spinal surgery isn’t an easy feat, and the recovery is going to take help from family and friends, but it will be the start of a happier life. I’ve been told that I can start running (slowly) again about 3 months after the surgery. They are predicting the nerves will take closer to a year or more to fully recover, though.

Here is my cry to you:

Start hearing your body. Stop putting yourself dead last. I have been terrified to pursue this because of my fears of surgery. But the truth is this: if I had listened when things got worse last year, I would have already been on the other side and healing by now. Instead, I am at a place of waiting – waiting to fit into the best surgeon’s schedule, waiting for the right month so family and friends can help with recovery, waiting on all of the uncontrollable things.

As mothers we automatically do all of the things for everyone; most of the time, we may do this to avoid doing things for ourselves. Take the time to evaluate yourself both physically and mentally this year.

 

12 Last Minute Experience Gifts for Adults

The countdown is so close that shipping cannot be guaranteed in time for the big day. If you let the days tick away while failing to come up with the perfect present for your significant other, parent, best friend, or other adult-in-need-of-a-gift, I have a list of experiences you can choose from that would make anyone excited!

John and I just got home from a 4 day trip to Denver without the kids. We had ample time to talk and reconnect. Once of the things that we continually circled back around to was how must we enjoyed just walking together. We talked about future gift ideas, trips, and (of course) all of our potential moving locations – because that convo never ends in our house!

You can use this list as a jumping off point or just take something and run with it. 

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Experience Gifts for Adults

Movie Tickets – Simple, affordable, and will never go to waste. Who doesn’t want to grab some popcorn and see a movie?

A Book – A gift card will do just fine, but if you know the genres that would bring a smile to the receiver’s face, then go ahead and pick out a book or two.

VISA Gift Card – What most adults don’t want to talk about is their financial situations. Cash can seem odd to give, but a gift card that can be utilized in any way needed will be much appreciated. 

Spa Credit – Don’t believe that a man wouldn’t want to be massaged. Find a great co-ed spa and book a men’s package for him. As for a woman in your life, the sky is the limit here: facial, hair, nails, massage, body wrap.

Airline Credit – Did you know that you can purchase gift certificates to airlines? You can! Even if it’s not enough for 1st class, this gift will at least help a vacation or family trip take place.

A Hotel Stay – Sometimes self-care is as simple as spending one day alone (or with a partner) without children or teens to be fed or looked after.

Theater Tickets – Going to the theater feels like you have arrived in life, right? Look for a great musical to purchase tickets for.

Museum Tickets – Museums often hold extraordinary exhibits that are a once in a lifetime experience. they tend to sell out if you wait to buy tickets close to the opening day. Do a quick search to see what will be coming near you this year, and consider gifting the experience!

Rock Climbing Gym – Rock climbing gyms have popped up in every major city across the country. They are fun and promote a healthy lifestyle, but they also encourage friendship and teamwork.

Art – It’s a bit late to have a framed piece under the tree, but you may get lucky if any local restaurants or cafes display artists’ work for sale! You can also contact a local artist to see what they have on hand.

Concert Tickets – It doesn’t matter when the concert is, but grab those tickets online now!

Sports Tickets – If a favorite team is going to be within driving distance, select some great seats as a gift.

A New Year’s Tradition – Since your order can’t arrive in time for Christmas, consider gifting for New Year’s instead. You can have a case of champagne delivered or 100 oysters flown in. New Year’s Eve and day should be celebrated in a way that brings happiness and love into the home. You can easily help make that happen!