Friday, July 29, 2016

House Tour: Playroom

Our home does not technically have a "bonus room". But as soon as I saw it I knew the dining room would make an excellent playroom. And while my husband would probably prefer it as an actual dining room he knows the kids and I are there far more than him and we need it to function for us. So it's our playroom. 

It's right off the living room and kitchen. Very accessible for the kids but not actually visible from the front door. Meaning the mess is out of sight! 

The backyard is right off the kitchen/playroom so it feels like part of our play space...

And I'm pretty sure it goes without saying but it is rarely this clean and picked up. I snapped these pictures just moments before we got on the road for Minnesota. And the only reason it was this clean was because I know my husband would throw away any toys we left out! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's Up Wednesday

I'm The kids and I have officially been gone from home/on the road for 4 weeks (+2 days) now. During this time there have been many random things I've wanted to write about but just haven't. I stumbled across this blog link up and I am thinking maybe this will be a way for me to get some of those thoughts out of my head and typed up. Maybe. It's worth a shot. 

What we are eating this week...

Whatever my mom serves us. Which really has been the theme for this entire trip. We eat what our gracious hosts serve. And I'm not complaining one bit! This break from cooking has been lovely. My children on the other hand have had a few less than kind things to say in regards to the food they have been served. I get it. It's different than what they are used to. But it's been a real eye opener in regards to teaching manners as their mother. Or the lack thereof. I'm sorry to anyone we've offended in the past four weeks. I swear I'm trying to raise respectful human beings. And thank you to everyone who has opened their home to us and fed us. It's no small undertaking! I really appreciate it. Going back to planning and preparing and serving 3 meals a day to my family is going to be hard...we have been spoiled!

What I'm reminiscing about...

This one is easy! After a week in Wisconsin I can't help but reminisce about our first home (that we purchased and renovated while living in it). It's more than just the house though. It's about life then versus now. 

Though I didn't realize it then, life was so much simpler. We moved into this house with just one infant and we left four years later with two kids. During those four years we not only renovated the house but I completed graduate school and worked my first year as a Physician Assistant. Joe was working his first job out of college as a banker. It was here his dream of becoming a doctor began. And he pursued that dream by going back to college. His acceptance into medical school is what took us from this home. We made good friends while living in that house. It was really where we became us. Or at least the us that includes kids and careers. And finding a way to blend it all together. 

What I'm loving...

Summer in the Midwest. It's beautiful! I'd forgotten how lovely 80 degree days with evenings in the 70s and 60s are. Every time someone here mentions how hot it is outside or that it's too hot to be outside I'm always surprised. Because I haven't once thought it was too hot! I guess I'm used to the Texas heat and humidity. 

What we've been up to...

Beyond visiting as many friends and family as possible. And doing as much as possible. Not much. The kids have unfortunately all taken turns being sick. Nothing major. Honestly I think they are worn out from all the fun we have been having. 

Isaiah has picked up a new hobby this summer. Whittling. And I love it because as a child I whittled. I even pulled out my knife collection to show him. My cool factor increased 10x in his eyes this summer! 

What I'm dreading...

Driving back to Texas next week!!! That's it. I miss my husband. If it weren't for him I might just choose to stay here indefinitely. Just because I survived 1400 miles alone with my kids once doesn't mean I can do it again! Plus originally the plan was to have my dad help drive us back. Due to schedule conflicts that's not going to happen. So it's me and the kids once again. And this time I'd like to do the drive in two to three days. Not five. Did I mention I miss my husband?

What I'm Working on...

Setting up plans for when we return to Texas. Nothing major. Just little things to look forward to because I'm afraid regular life will be a little bit of a disappointment after all the fun we've been having. First up will be Hannah's 4th birthday party. She's dreaming of real ponies and princesses. I'm planning sprinklers and water games. Maybe a piƱata too. Yup. Real life is going to be a bummer. 

What I'm excited about...

My sister and her family drove into town last night! I'm excited to spend time with my sister (it's been 6 months!). And I'm excited for my kids to get some time with their cousins. It's going to be a great way to end our time back "home". 

What I'm watching/reading...

Nothing. My parents own two tvs. Neither are plugged in or connected to cable. Plus there is no time for tv. As far as reading goes when I first arrived in Minnesota I was feeling ambitious so I took the kids to the library and we stocked up on good free reading material. My children have devoured all of  their books meanwhile I made it through the preface of one Jodi Piccoult novel. Why I thought I would have time to read on this trip...I don't know!!

What I'm listening to...

Five little boys playing. Tractors and trucks. Balls. And nerf guns. At the moment its pretty peaceful. 

What I'm wearing...

The same six outfits over and over and over again. I might have slightly under packed for myself and overpacked for my children. But it's really made things easy. I just grab the clean outfit on top of my duffel bag and go. My friend did give me one of her tank tops on this trip. It's been nice having one "new" clothing item. 

What I'm doing this weekend...

This will be our last weekend in Minnesota so of course we are going out with a bang! In addition to spending time with my sister and her family my aunt and cousins will be joining us for a day. I have a dinner with high school youth group friends. And lastly a mini reunion with the same friends + our kids. 

What I'm looking forward to next month...

Seeing my husband in person. FaceTime is a wonderful thing but it's just not the same.

What else is new...

Not much. I'm all out of thoughts. Until next time:)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fun & Plans

Today did not go as planned.

Today was our last day with our best friends. So the plan was to go to church together in the morning. Then we would have a nice relaxing lunch together in their home. (Or as relaxed as one can dine with 8 children in one house!) We were going to finish our week together with a birthday cake & celebration for everyone. Because when you only see your best friends once a year you celebrate ALL the birthdays at once! Then my kids and I were going to drive the 2.5 hours back to my parents house for a quiet evening of dinner, baths and a much needed early bedtime. I hoped to stop and visit a few friends on the drive back as well. 

Some of those things happened. A lot did not. 

We all made it to church. A few minutes late. But we were there. (See picture above) After church we arrived back at their house to discover that we had 45 minutes until prospective buyers were arriving to tour their home. The house at that moment was a DISASTER. And full of kids. And all our stuff. This is where things derailed from the plan. 

AFTER we furiously and speedily cleaned and evacuated the house that last meal together turned into a picnic in the park. Casseroles and green beans may not be ideal picnic food but we made it work. The cake and party supplies even made it to the park with us. 

(The cake was frosted and decorated at the park. Not bad, eh?)

From there the kids and I did make the 2.5 drive back. But there were no visits with friends along the way. And the evening was not quiet and early. Instead we drove like crazy to get back in time to meet my brother and his family at the playground/splash pad for a late evening adventure. 

13 kids at the park at sunset (only four in this picture). It was not what I had planned for our evening. But it was fun. Maybe even better than the original plan? My kids would definitely say yes. And I have to agree despite having a pounding headache. 

We eventually made it back to my parents house where the kids collapsed into, sweaty and tired. I also collapsed into bed. Tired too. Actually exhausted. After nearly 4 weeks on the road I'm tired. Happy. But very, very tired. Tired and a little bit whiney. Thankfully I have an understanding husband - he let me whine to him as he was driving to work. And whining helped. I'm feeling ready to face another day. Because plan or no plan there is fun to be had...and my children and I are going to find it! 

(And I really hope my kids think back on this trip fondly and remember all the FUN they had because it's been a lot of work for me!) 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Travels & Summer Fun

"How is it traveling solo with four kids? How do you do it? No. do you do it?!!?!"

Those are the most frequently asked questions I've had since the kids and I left home 18 days ago. Followed closely by "Is Joe joining you later?"

The short answer to both of those is, "Slowly. And hahahahaha...nope!" 

But seriously how do I do it? Very slowly. One mile. One hour. One event. One day at a time. First we drove to Dallas and then stopped for two nights to play with cousins. Beyond Dallas it took us another 60 hours before we reached my parents' house. (For reference: It's only 12-13 hours of drive time but we can't move that fast.) Besides lots of movies and snacks, I didn't have much of a travel plan when I hit the road. Yes I shamelessly put screens in front of 3 out of my 4 children for 90% of the drive. Let's be honest it was survival mode for me. Thankfully little traveler #4 turned out to be incredibly content with very little. His pacifier + scenery out the window + an occasional snack kept him happy for all except 30 minutes of our 5 day drive! Back to my main point: traveling slow. I quickly discovered it worked best for the kids and I to get out of the van every 3ish hours. And I don't just mean fill up the gas tank and take a quick potty break/walk around the gas station. No I mean take a real break. Stretch our legs. Play. Eat real food. My natural instinct while traveling is to power through with as few stops as possible. By forcing my self to slow down and stop frequently I got to be the "fun mom". The kids and I explored a state park, a couple splash pads, a couple small towns, one Walmart and many playgrounds along the way! We fell into a rhythm of sorts. As the kids were buckling themselves into their seats at each stop I would find a town about 180 miles away (on the route). I'd then quickly google the town and find a fun (free!) attraction. I'd set that address as my next stop and off we'd go! A few movies and many snacks later and we were at the next stop! The kids would play while I made our picnic lunch (or dinner). We would eat and play some more. And after about 2-3 hours we would get back on the road. Like I said it was a sloooow process. But it worked! The kids and I (generally) stayed happy. And more importantly I survived the drive with my sanity (mostly) intact. 

One thing I'm super glad I did was pack a small but easily accessible swim bag in the back of my van with just the essentials. Because you just never know when you are going to swim/go to a splash pad/have a water balloon fight/run through a sprinkler/etc. Not having to dig through multiple bags for every child's swim suit & towel has been fabulous. Other sanity savers have been packing individual bags for individual destinations. NOT individual bags for individual people. Like a travel bag with all the kids' clothes and essentials together. Also camp bags packed and ready to go since we headed to camp 48 hours after arriving in Minnesota. Other travel sanity savers for me have been the roll of paper towel I have in the front seat and the potty chair in the back of the van we pull out when nature calls:) Oh and all of our toiletries are in a caddy (think college dorm bathroom) in the front of the van. Always available. 

Ok. Enough boring travel talk. Let's get to the fun stuff. Because there has been plenty of that! I told Joe before we left that I thought the kids and I might get bored for an entire month in Minnesota. Ha! That's hardly been the case. We have been going from one thing to the next. There has been no time for boredom! 

We started with the Fourth of July celebration with my mom's side of the family. Then headed "up north" for summer camp. Which was followed immediately by a long weekend at my cousin's house to visit with my dad's side of the family. There were card games and horseback rides and sprinklers and food galore! We then spent a day with my grandparents. And my grandpa made me some stilts and matching ones for my kids! Just like the ones I had as a child:)

From there we returned to my parents' house and we've been busy. We had a park & splash pad afternoon with friends. A zoo morning with other friends. And a cold and rainy parade with yet some more friends! Oh and a morning of fishing and swimming and paddle boating with even more friends:) I even snuck away one night for time alone with my best friend from high school. No pictures were taken that night. But I promise it was a fabulous evening of eating, talking, laughing and a little crying. It was a little like therapy. Oh to know and be known. 

So much fun....even my big kids are crashing and the oddest of places....

They both told me they weren't tired just moments before they fell asleep! They both slept right through supper that night:)

Lastly we've been soaking up as much time as possible with Joe's family. Boating with Papa & Grandma. Quality time with uncles and aunts (including soon-to-be aunts!!) on the lake and at the pool. 

So much time with family and friends. It's good for the soul. We are loving it!!! And this weather (besides the cold rain!) has been amazing. All this fun is making it hard to miss Texas...except Joe of course. We all miss him. Charlotte especially feels bad for her daddy all alone in our empty house. We've talked and facetimed a few times which helps. Though I'm thinking the peace & quiet aren't bothering Joe too much;-)

So that's how we are doing it. One fun event after another. No time to rest. Even when sick! Yes. I got sick unfortunately. A summer cold that left me tired and achey. I wanted to just crawl in bed and quit. But I couldn't. So instead I texted Joe and whined to him. Then I put on my big girl pants, took some ibuprofen and carried on. Because the fun just never ends:)

I've done my fair share of complaining about medical school and residency for the past five years, but I have to admit they have done a fine job of preparing me for traveling solo with kids for weeks at a time. I've got lots of practice! What I wasn't prepared for was the stench that is coming from my filthy van...I can't find the source. Scary. I know. But we are learning to live with it. It's all part of the experience. I'm just glad my van is still running. Today I had a moment when my drivers window wouldn't roll back up. I was slightly panicked at the thought of driving all the way back to Texas with my window down or taped shut. Thankfully I restarted the van and it cooperated. 

And now we are off once again. Next stop Wisconsin for a week with good friends!

Monday, July 11, 2016

House Tour: Guest Bedroom

A little over a year ago when Joe drove down to Texas to find us a home I sent him with a list of must haves in order for us to consider purchasing a house. It was a short but very important list. One item on that list was 4 bedrooms. We wanted a fourth bedroom so we could have a guest room and house visitors easily. Our family of six can (and does!) easily fit in three bedrooms so the fourth bedroom is an extra. And since we live far, far away from family and friends we have used our guest room often! I'm so glad my husband understood the importance of the fourth bedroom and passed on any house with three bedrooms. With our budget we could have had a much newer (nicer?) home if we would have considered three bedrooms and our realtor showed Joe a few. But we opted for older and more space. And most of the time I'm glad we made that decision. Because while couches and air mattresses work...having a designated space for guests makes opening our home to others easy. 

Here it is...our guest bedroom with an attached bathroom:

It's nothing special to look at. But it's served us (and our guests) well! Clearly it needs a little more decorating as it is quite blah. Someday. Maybe. 

We are very loosely going for a beach theme. For most of the year that we've lived here that meant we painted the bathroom aqua and....nothing else. A few days before these pictures were taken I went on a small shopping spree at my new favorite store (Burlington Coat Factory) and got a few "beachy" things for this space. That's why there are still tags on the bathroom items:)

Joe and I made that wall hanging from a pallet. It's pretty much the only decorating we have done. What this space lacks in character it makes up in functionality. As I mentioned in the bedrooms tour post, we all live on the main floor of our home. However this room is on the second floor. Meaning our guests have a separate and private space. It's perfect. I couldn't have designed it better myself. And as a real bonus there is a fifth bedroom upstairs too! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would have five bedrooms. But we do! And we love it. 

Here's a peak into the fifth bedroom:

And a peak is all I'm going to show because clearly it's our catch all room! It's basically the equivalent of what I would normally put in our basement. Sewing area. Futon for even more house guests! Legos. Legos. Legos. A closet full of craft supplies. And a pile of stuff waiting to go in our next garage sale. I sure miss having a basement. But I'm glad we have this space. 


Somehow the summer Charlotte was born my mom convinced me to volunteer  as a camp "nurse" as a brand new PA graduate. So there I was with my 4 week old daughter, 3 year old son and my shiny new degree ready to serve! That first day of camp was completely overwhelming and I asked myself at least a hundred times "What in the world am I doing here? I can't help anyone!" I felt like a fish out of water. And I doubted my ability to take care of my own two children + campers. But somehow it worked. And I loved it! My kids loved it too. Well at least Isaiah did. Charlotte started sleeping through the night at camp so I took it to mean she approved:) Six years later and my kids haven't missed a summer! (I unfortunately missed last summer due to moving to Texas.) And this year is a pretty big deal because it's Charlotte's first year as a camper! In a cabin without me!!! Thankfully she has two big cousins with her because she was nervous (and excited!). This is Isaiah's fourth summer as a camper. He's an old pro now. 

I am so happy to be back as a nurse this year. And I have Hannah and Levi with as "helpers". My mom is also a camp nurse this week and my dad is one of the Fishing Grandpas. They have my niece and nephew as their "helpers". It's a family affair. 

Admittedly driving up to camp yesterday I started to wonder once again if I was crazy and if I would be able to actually help while managing my young children. But after just a couple hours at camp I am confident once again that I can do this. I can help even with a few "helpers" tagging along. And I really love being here and doing this. There's no place I would rather be then right here right now. 

***Since this post didn't upload at the beginning of the week I've added pictures from the week at camp. Which was a huge success!***

Levi decided that this week at camp was a good time to start talking. Or at least adding a few words to his vocabulary. Like "oon" for spoon. And "wah bot" for water bottle. And "whe-a-oo" for where are you? Oh and the ever popular "no no".