Friday, July 3, 2015

7QT~ 7 Quick Reads vol. 10


Hey hey look! It's vol. 10 of 7 Quick Reads!  So, yeah.  So now I am doing volumes... but how confusing is it that I've also done 23 Quick Takes posts...? Be honest.  Ah well, on to the links! And the first one is oh so apropos.;)

Enjoy your morning cup-of-coffee, links-style here at Picture a Skyline... the best of the web from the past 2-3 weeks!

~1~

Humility for Bloggers @ Humble Handmaid

This reminded me of a post I wrote a few months ago. I talked in that post about jealousy a little bit, and how hard it can be not to constantly check stats, compare selfies, and feel rejected if no one leaves a comment on a post. It shouldn't be the name of the blogging game, but sometimes, it is.

However, the other piece of the puzzle is simply the beauty of it all... the creativity, the ideas, the friendships formed or forming, by blogging, etc.  I think one thing she brings to the forefront with this post is the idea that small bloggers have a place, just as much as bigger bloggers do.  Bigger bloggers have different and sometimes harder things to deal with. Even if they have good stats and bring encouragement to many, they may struggle with feeling too "out there" for all the world to see. Smaller bloggers may not be able to bring in an income from blogging, and perhaps there is apathy or burnout, because you don't see results the way some bloggers do, but even still, small blogs are encouraging some people, and their smaller blog has a place and a purpose in God's will. It takes a lot of faith to keep going when it feels like you're too small, or you never go "viral," or win the popularity contest (!!!), but like she said, the humility is very good.  And I guarantee that if you keep going, you will keep growing. Maybe not in numbers, necessarily, but in skill and in opportunities, and in lessons guaranteed, for sure. All of it just takes time. :-)  And it's also ok with me to quit and start something new, if the growth you see isn't what you had in mind. ;)

~2~

Why We Stopped Doing Sex Change Operations @ First Things

So good, and if you haven't read it by now.... do it!

~3~

Tony Campolo Comes Out

Why does the world need the Catholic Church today? THIS is why the world needs the Catholic Church today.

~4~

Living With the World's Tiniest Hair Shirt by Elizabeth Scalia @ Our Sunday Visitor

Sometimes a little suffering goes a long way.  My life is so stressful sometimes, and putting a rock in my shoe or having something symbolic remind me that this is life is a good idea and spiritually speaking, really helpful. This spoke to me about attitude and humility, and I just thought the concept was brilliant.

~5~

10 Ways to Discourage Your Boys From A Priestly Vocation (And Holiness) @ Blossoming Joy

This woman has a gift! I absolutely love how she wrote this... "Make sure you have a parish full of joyless priests..." ha! ;) related: Catholic Women Bloggers Conference Ohio @ Blossoming Joy

~6~

I Want the Tidying Up, But Not Konmari's Brand of "Life-Changing Magic" @ Ordinary Lovely

What a good book review! It was sensitive and discerning. She moves beyond just what the book was about, and she delves into the philosophy behind why the book was written in the first place. It will certainly make you think!

~7~

What Avid Readers Do Differently... @ Modern Mrs. Darcy

What is an avid reader? Modern Mrs. Darcy has a thorough and accurate definition for you. And my two sense? The world needs MORE of these!!!


and just because I couldn't not share one more: ;)

If Nobody Likes It, It's Not Saving Money @ Real Housekeeping

I love this post and I very much agree! Eg: Cheerios, real Oreos, Heinz Ketchup (yes!), Ritz Crackers. I just don't think the name brands can be beat in some situations!

Related: I have so many thoughts on the SCOTUS decision and ruling about same sex marriage earlier this week, but it is going to take me some time to process it and find some stuff to relay onto you.  Right now my biggest concern is a lack of conscience in the public domain. Over the next fifty years, I think we will either see a return to conscience, or a complete disregard and a lot of sad people. But that is where our nation and our world will need (already needs, has needed) the Catholic Church. Amen? Amen.

Adding my link to Kelly.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Deep Clean Without Going Cray-Cray: My 5 Tips



For a little over a year, I had someone helping me clean my house. I had two babies 15 months apart and I have to say, cleaning wasn't something that came easy during that season.  Now that I'm pregnant again, and working on my final trimester for baby #5, without a housekeeper, I need all the help and tips I can get.  Here are 5 ways to stay responsible, even when you're in over your head with housekeeping, chores, and the like.

1. Devote a week just to decluttering your entire house.

Molly's last week of school, I vowed to get our house decluttered before Summer regaled us with heat.  I bagged up excess and put it in our attic for a rainy day.  I decluttered all toys, books, closets, and dressers.  I wanted to only spend 5 minutes tops putting toys away. I didn't want to run across another pair of winter pants in the girls' room.  I put all other major chores on the back burner just for a week so that I could purposefully devote any free hours to this task.  I had piles in my closet by the end of the week, and I just carried it all up to the attic on Friday. Done! If a lot of things give you joy, use your attic!

2. Devote a week to cleaning.

With all of the clutter out of my way,  I started in on the bigger tasks. I devoted the entire week before our Disney vacation to deep cleaning: the nasty fridge, the bottom of the oven, the bathrooms, the wooden furniture that needed dusting. I did not want to come home to a nasty, dirty house... and guess what? I accomplished my goal, and even my husband noticed and commented when we returned from our trip: "Wow! Look! It is so nice to come home to a clean house!"

3. Maintain the clean.

Now that your house is fresh- decluttered and clean- it will be much easier to maintain it!  Don't go to bed without cleaning up the kitchen from dinner. Don't be like me- go the extra mile and don't leave anything in the sink for the night.  Do an extra load of laundry after dinner.  Polish the furniture and scrub under the toilets and sweep/mop down the stairs at least once a week. Sweep off the front and back porch every Wednesday. You know yourself: establish some good routines that you can make doable.

4. Build on the clean: Sprucing.

As you keep to your routine, you will notice yourself going further and having the energy for a few extra windows and sinks. Every time you clean a room, add a little extra gesture of love. A bouquet of flowers for a freshly cleaned kitchen! A wonderful candle for a nice-smelling bathroom! A little goes a long way, and these extra touches affirm all of the work you have done!  You will be able to enjoy your clean house even more when you affirm yourself. Another idea: get yourself a treat for a job accomplished and well-done.

5. Get your kids in on it.

The first week we were back from vacation, I created a detailed Chore Chart for all of our kiddos over 3. :)  My oldest daughter has a list of possible chores, and when Chore time comes around, after breakfast and after lunch, so - 2 times a day, she can pick two chores to do off the chart. If she does all of her chores for the day, she gets a sticker. If she gets a sticker Monday- Friday, she gets something as a prize from the Dollar Store on Friday.  My daughters 4 and 3 have their own list of little Chores and get a sticker on their Chore Chart for accomplishing at least two or three each day. They also get to pick out something little at the Dollar Store on Friday.

I hope some of these ideas help you to Deep Clean without going cray-cray!!! Don't put too much pressure on yourself- where is the fun in that?  ;)   Try writing it down and posting it on your fridge, so that you remember which week is which- which is for decluttering, cleaning, maintaining, sprucing, and getting kids to help! ;) Then, after you have completed the cycle, start back at the top.

adding my link to Jenna's 5 favorites.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monthly Recap vol. 22 ~ June 2015 What I'm Reading, Funny Things They Say, Vacation, etc.


This has been a busy month. I can't believe it's about over. We've traveled, stayed home, cleaned and decluttered in preparation for the baby, and just generally kept busy.  I don't know why, but this month I'm particularly excited about the books I read.  I'm also all set to stock up via Amazon and the Library for July!  Let's just dig right into that, shall we?!

what I read...

I feel like I'm catching up in the reading department. Summer reading calls for a big stack of books.. one for the pool, one for the bed, one for the backyard + cup of {lightly sweetened, decaf} iced tea. I decided to forgo the kindle deals this month in favor of more "in my hand" copies. Seeing them on my bookshelf here makes me regret it for about um, zero seconds.

A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot

I really enjoyed this one. I was telling Stephen the night before I finished it that I needed help with the schedule, routine and cleaning/praying, and I was going to have to do some serious soul searching on the way home from our Disney trip. Enter A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. Her intended pursuit is after a home life and mother's routine that incorporates the Liturgy of the Hours and Spiritual reading into her daily life of cleaning, cooking, homeschooling, and caring for kiddos, etc. It is extremely well-written and her charts and thorough and helpful. I've read some other homemaking books and this is unique because she incorporates the spiritual into all things.

Savor by Shauna Niequist

Good recipes, good reflections. I give it 4/5 stars, simply because I've read too many of her books for this to be all fresh material. But re-reading some of her stuff is worth it. So all in all, good and worth picking up a copy for yourself. Modern Mrs. Darcy recently had Cold Tangerines on her Great Kindle Deals. So keep an eye out! ;)

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

This book is hysterically funny, and it is a perfect read for Moms, Dads, kids who can relate to big family life, and pretty much everyone over, under, and in between.  I thought it seemed overrated when I read the reviews, but they're not lying, you guys. I laughed my way through it, and sometimes, I was crying from laughing so hard. If you missed it, I did a giveaway here. (Now closed, but you can still follow me and I won't be sad).

These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson

I couldn't get into it at first, but it had amazing reviews from people I read and really respect (aka as Scott Hahn).  I kept plugging away, and I'm glad I did. This is a treasure of a book; it is mediations on Pope John Paul II's writings on the Theology of the Body (written in the early 80's, but as this author argues, largely ignored for all of its wisdom).  If you're in the dark about the Catholic Church's teaching on things like marriage, sex, the body, and the right relationship for these things in the context of our spiritual lives, read this book. Your understanding will be profoundly impacted.

Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses by Paula McClain 

Author of The Paris Wife, I knew I would love the writing in this memoir, and I was right. It is poetic and satisfying for a wordsmith's eye.  This book is a little dark and depressing, but it's a quick read and a very absorbing account of the foster care system in our country, including the less-than-perfect quirks and all that that entails.

Pope Awesome by Cari Donaldson

I thought of many people I wanted to share this book with, and I probably still will. I could relate to her conversion story and many of her thoughts/thought processes along the way. Good stuff, all told.

I love this book cover so much!

Strange Gods by Elizabeth Scalia

Again, like These Beautiful Bones, I found this hard to get into but it actually ended up being an easier read than the one from Stimpson.  I really, really liked this book and found myself underlining page after page.  As Jennifer Fulwiler wrote, this was a "wake up call," for people- like me- who find themselves  unwittingly entwined in the evils and idolatry of things like self, ideas, technology, and sex in our modern age.  Scalia really knows her stuff, being the Anchoress from Patheos.com's Catholic channel. Read it if you are a serious, faithful Christian looking to get a good, friendly wake up call from one of Catholicism's foremost writers in the blogosphere.

Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud and Townsend

Although this didn't make it to the picture, I also read this (it's on my nightstand, I'm not quite finished yet), at the recommendation of someone I really respect. I actually thought as I clicked "buy" on Amazon, "I don't really need to read this, but I will for my friend."  How wrong, how wrong I was. Why was I so "above" it all?  I've read Boundaries multiple times.  We have a pretty awesome marriage. Our bumps around our seven year anniversary (so typical, so typical: I see you 7 seven year itch) have completely resolved. But THIS BOOK is huge! It is so important! It is so good!  Even if you feel like you have tiny, minimal marital problems, or you don't have much room in which to improve, this book will open your eyes and help you to see how much better life can be if you just go to the root and rip out those teensy, pesky problems that you might be blind to. ;)

Do any of these titles sound intriguing?
buy here:

what we watched...

We watched "The Imitation Game"and I sorta liked it. I thought about doing a recap or even a thoughtful essay post about it, but I felt it would feel too forced, since Stephen was the more passionate about it between the two of us. Let's just say: profound, very interesting, safe for all ages, and a little strong in the gay agenda near the end. Despite the adult themes (homosexuality), it was definitely a safe one for kids, although I'm not sure kids would even be very interested? Based on a true story, with a focus on the incredibly interesting Alan Turing. But yeah, big themes.

I'm still working my way through Parenthood.  I just started Season 2. I love Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and the bear live web cam, found at explore.org or simply search "bear cam" on youtube. Seriously: sooooo interesting. I have nothing much to report in the way of listening for this month, except to say that I'm still enjoying some of my old playlists and enjoying following some others on Spotify. ;) Family Circle has a nice, kid-friendly Summer playlist here: familycircle.com/spotify Goal for July/August: make a birth playlist! :-)


I thought- hey, since we have Molly out of school, and it’s finally Summertime- but we aren’t headed out of town for any serious traveling until the third week of June, why not plan a staycation?! It ended up being a lot of fun. On Monday, we did the CDM, Tuesday, the Coolidge Park fountains, Wednesday, a walk downtown and trip to get ice-cream, Thursday, the nature center, and Friday, Heritage Park and Chik-fil-a.

Like I said, on Monday, I took the kids to the CDM.  I parked at a meter and paid the maximum time- 2 hours. I learned from a friend while inside to next time park in the garage. Time flew by. While we were there, Madeleine pooped on the floor. To my utter shock, I had a completely stocked diaper bag with tons of stuff we didn’t need, but not a single outfit change or spare pair of panties. It got everywhere… all down her legs, shorts, water apron, the- fortunately plastic- floor, everywhere. A very “concerned” and “Well-meaning” mom reported me to the front desk and loudly proclaimed our errors to me and everyone around me. A few people, including a Mom that I knew but hadn’t seen since back in high school, were all watching arrogantly and not offering to help, except to offer me their extremely disappointed and disapproving looks. Thanks guys!;)

I went to the bathroom, washing her legs, and thought I felt helpless, changing her into the only thing I had- a diaper.  I then went to the front desk to apologize and tell them- at the same time as the lady trying to “tell on me,” fortunately- that there was a mess that needed cleaning up. I asked if they had extra 2T girl clothes on hand, and they did! That was the only redemptive moment, as I would have used up all of my meter time, not to mention cut into lunch and nap times, if I had had to return to the car for an extra pair of shorts (I learned later that there were shorts in the car, so that’s good… but not when you’re parked 2-3 blocks away.)

By the time we made it to the special exhibit, we barely had an hour left to play, and the time flew by. I was a little bitter at how long the fiasco ended up taking. The kids (and I- even!) had been looking forward to this day for a while.

After that experience, I was hoping deeply for a less eventful and less time-flying experience at Disney World/the beach!  Seriously, I was worried that if the time went by that quickly because of the fiascos of children or even lines, I would be very, very sad. I prayed for short lines, and also that we would have lots of time to do all.the.things with our kids. Well, God answered and far exceeded all of our prayers, above and beyond what we could hope for or imagine. Just read my post about our vacation and all of that loveliness. Definitely the biggest highlight of June was our trip to #DisneyWorld and #thebeach!  I wrote all about it here.

Funny Things They Say....

Me: Here, try some seaweed. (Eating a piece and giving her a smaller bit to try).
Molly: Now you’re an inch healthier, and I’m… less than an inch healthier.

Frances: {singing at the top of her lungs} My heels are alive... with the sound of music!
Molly: It's The Hills...
Frances (discussing it); No, Molly, it's heels, etc.
(They went on discussing it for quite some time :-D
Molly: You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit
Stephen: Where did you learn that?
Molly: School... but I changed it.
Stephen: Oh really
Molly: I always say 'You get what you get and you don't pitch a ball.' I made it up!!!!!
Stephen:.... hm....

Madeleine (Singing for a while...) Mommy, the song "The Sound of Music" is from Mary Poppins.
Me: Hm, Ok. What’s your favorite song in the movie?
Madeleine: All of the songs in Mary Poppins.… that are from the Sound of Music.

Stephen: Think of something but don’t tell us what it is, and we’ll try to guess.
Madeleine Ok
Stephen: Is it a person, place or thing?
Madeleine: Person
Stephen: Is this person young or old?
Madeleine: Just plain old trees...
Stephen: Okaaay…….
Madeleine: Just plain old people… but… we’re strangers.

Madeleine: I’m thinking of a person.
Stephen: Is this person in our family?
Madeleine: Nope
Stephen: In our city?
Madeleine: Nope
Stephen: In the whole world?
Madeleine: Nope.  ....It’s Molly.
Stephen: (to the family) I thought it wasn’t in the whole world!
Madeleine:  I thought it wasn’t in our family.

Actual Song: And the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…
Molly: (singing) And the good shepherd has his mind on his sheep…
Frances: And the good shepherd lays down his mind for his sheep…

Friday, June 26, 2015

7 Quick Takes~ Our Vacation to Disney World and the Beach!

Today I'm combining two of my favorite things: Our Vacation, and Kelly's link-up, 7QT at This Ain't the Lyceum. I have some pictures and thoughts from each day of our trip... please enjoy!
~1~
Goal: Make it easy to spot them in a crowd!

On the first day, we did almost all of the classic things to do at Disney World. We went to the Magic Kingdom- of course! - because it’s quintessential, and because we knew our three girls 7, 4 and 3 would absolutely love it, no question.  And we were right.  Seeing it through their eyes surpassed all of my wildest and best dreams of seeing the magic through the eyes of children. It is like their logo says- Disney World is where dreams come true. (Wow am I really that cheesy?) And/but it is bona fide accurate.  And speaking of classic and quintessential:
The Mad Hatter's Tea Party (Magic Teacups ride!)

Here’s what we rode on:
Barnstormer roller coaster (just Molly and Stephen)
Dumbo, twice (the second time with Molly)
Aladdin's Magic Carpets
It was hot- certainly, because, June in Orlando, FL- but really only very, very hot at the middle of the day. We got there early enough that there was almost no line and no midday sun, for the first couple of rides. Coupled with our fast passes, mostly in afternoon, this was most definitely the way to go! Don't wait until 10 am to get there, that will land you in long lines, hot weather, and not enough time to really enjoy the park. We got to each park well before 9am everyday, (or at least to our bus station) and we packed a lot into each day. All of the restaurants were/are air conditioned, so stopping for a snack or a meal, even, and stopping for water breaks, was always the way to go when we got hot or tired of lines. Some of the rides have playgrounds or games in the line now. So much has changed since when I went there as a kid! (So much, no joke). We were still able to fit in a whole bunch of rides and shows despite our frequent stops for snacks and water! We also did....
It’s a Small World
Mad Tea Party Teacups
Carousel (with Mary Poppins Music playing- so perfect!)
Jungle Cruise
Swiss Family Treehouse
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

~2~
Orlando in June: always a perfect time for popsicles;)

On the second day, we took them to Hollywood Studios, because first of all, I wanted them to understand a little bit more about how movies are made, and second of all, it has been my favorite park since I was younger, just because of the vibe and feel of it all. It’s almost better than the real thing (Hollywood, that is!).

Since it’s more about the shows than the rides, that’s what we did: a lot of shows. And they didn’t disappoint! The waiting wasn’t bad at all, especially since we utilized our minimum of 3 fast passes per day. We loved the My Disney Experience app, and I would recommend it to anyone - especially attempting Disney at peak season!  When you’re going to shows all day, you’re in the perfectly air conditioned theaters almost the entire time! Many of the outdoor studios and restaurants are also furnished with fans and shade, so the heat didn’t bother us really at all the second day.

Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
Disney Jr. Live on Stage
I wanted to say to all of the commenters and people telling us how sorry they felt for us having 3 kids and a pregnant belly that- besides the fact we have another one at home- we were having more fun than they were !!! Haha. It’s really true. We were having the time of our lives, and not regretting a second of it, seriously. We also did:
Indiana Jones
Ariel Live
The Magic of Disney Animation
Muppet Vision 3D
Star Tours (Star Wars ride)
Frozen Sing-a-long


I only had one- count it ONE- complaint from our entire trip to Disney World, and I hate to even bring it up, for fear of sounding even remotely bitter, and simply because I don’t ever like to complain, period. And I realize how blessed we are and were, obviously. But there were so many hopes pinned to this one event, so to have it let us down was really sad. And that would be our experience of the Frozen Sing-a-long. I was deeply, bitterly disappointed with this show. And you can probably search for it on Youtube and find out exactly what I’m talking about if you’re the curious type, but basically, from a parents' perspective, it is practically terrible.
In front of the spitting camel;)

They have some characters live on stage who pretend to be the “Historians of Arendelle.” Sounds cute, right? Imagine the cheesiest, middle-age couple singing along while you watch selections from the movie. I’m not even kidding. And they’re making bad jokes. And it goes on and on. And you’re on the edge of your seat wondering if and when the princesses will show up. It was basically highlights of the movie, with a TINY, TINY almost “guest appearance” of Anna and Elsa at the end.
As is obvious, we are big Frozen fans around here. ;)

We had a fast pass for the final show of the day, so all of our hopes and dreams were basically resting on this one show at the end of the day…  something to look forward to. My girls know all the words. It was like a really bad joke. When they sang "Let it Go," I knew exactly what they meant- it felt like they were literally telling us to let it go, and it wasn’t punny, at all. It was almost like they were trying to make us mad. Now I must say that after writing this, I went back and asked my girls what they thought of the Frozen Sing-along, and Frances said, "I LOVED it." And so did Madeleine. And so did Molly. So. There's that. ;)

I know.  All in all, the vibe of Hollywood Studios still probably makes it my favorite park, and over all, it did not disappoint. The only other thing I wanted to do, but couldn’t was the Honey I Shrunk the Kids ride, because I remember that one from a High School trip, but the kids were too scared, and Stephen agreed that the large dog and some other things would probably freak them out, so we skipped it. Also, it was a long line anyway. I was so proud of Molly for going on her first roller coaster, and then she conquered her fears and did another one the second day we were at the Magic Kingdom!

By the way, I have to sing the praises of our Disney resort for a few minutes. The Caribbean Beach resort lived up to the hype and actually far exceeded our expectations. We avoided the madness of parking and waiting and walking by having bus transportation to and from the resort.  The pools and amenities were spectacular, and it far exceeded our expectations!
Just bein' cute. :-)

~3~

But back to the Magic.  The Magic Kingdom, that is. The third day this is what we did:

Aladdin’s Magic Carpets (again! ;)
Philharmagic Entertainment (A 3D show)
Mine Train roller coaster (Molly and Stephen)
Ariel’s Journey
Peter Pan's Flight
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor (A funny show in Tomorrowland)
Tom Sawyer Island boat ride + tour of the island
Train ride around the pareveral parades and live shows outside
The Magic Kingdom is really so big, with so much to see and do that you could easily spend two packed days there It is divided into five lands: Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland. We decided on this rather than Animal Kingdom (because we’ve been to SO many zoos and that kind of thing!) and Epcot, etc. because we have three little girls, who really aren’t there for the roller coasters, and we knew they would love it so much at this age! And we were right! Going back in a few years and hitting more parks (and perhaps staying longer- if we can afford it!) is also a definite and viable option for us!  Seeing it through their eyes made it fun for me, too! I can’t speak for Stephen, but I can tell you that we didn’t stop laughing at their comments and antics and he seemed to be having the time of his life- when we wasn’t corralling the girls for a water break every other second of all three days!!! He is like a water chief or something. :0) ;-) I think because of his background he really enjoyed a few of the shows and also the parades, because of the amazing musical quality, among a million other things!
Thank you, to the young woman who took this picture and accidentally cropped out Ariel... this was in front of Ariel's grotto... go figure;)

Gaston’s Tavern was our lunch option of choice on the one day that we didn’t pack our lunches.  (That is an excellent way to save money, by the way!)  The food was good, and the drinks were so yummy. The Le Feu’s Brew is an imitation of beer, served in steins if you want to pay for them, but it is made to taste like toasted marshmallows, and it is actually frozen apple juice with mango foam. It was YUMMY! I was hoping to try butterbeer but realized about a week before our trip that we wouldn’t be able to see the Harry Potter world (It’s at Islands of Adventure), so Gaston’s Tavern was a very lucky second choice.

As for the Character Meet and Greets: we got to meet and get our picture with Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, and Jake Neverland Pirates, although we also SAW but didn’t meet/greet Tinkerbell and all of the princesses in the show/parade, Sofia the First, Chip and Dale, White cat from the Aristocats, & Alice and the White Rabbit. This and the Bippity Boppity Boutique were something I was mildly interested in, but it turns out the Boutique is unbelievably pricey, and in terms of the Meet and Greets, it simply seems unnecessary to wait in a really long line, just to get your picture with a character who smiles for a picture, jumps up and down, and … that’s about it. And man, their smiles aren’t even real! Ha.

Now we didn't do autographs, but I noticed that sometimes you wait in line, only to be told when you get to the front and you're sporting your new tan sunburn, that this Mickey is going to go have some cheesecake and he isn’t going to be there for another 20 minutes (?!). I respect the characters, and all they go through just to get hired and then to be there doing their job everyday (!!!!), and I know it is really cool for the kids, but that is just my two sense.  Making it part of your trip, but not the whole reason for your trip is wise!  It could easily become a big deal if you’re trying to get as many autographs as you can and that kind of thing.

We had money from grandparents to spend on some Disney souvenirs. They got mostly stuffed animals, but Molly found a really nice charm bracelet with charms of 5 of the rides she went on. It was really cute!;)

My favorite ride was probably the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. If I had to do it again, I would do that ride again, for sure. The great thing about Disney is that the spirit of innovation is always at work, and it is always getting better. Pardon my cheesecakiness.;) They tap into the latest and greatest- such as 3D technology, and interactive features- and this ride is no exception. Unlike the Kiddie ride feel (Picture "It’s a Small World"), this ride is very interactive. Not only can you control the spin of your car, you can rack up points with a gun at the front of your "spaceship." Part of the ride includes flying in space, and the lighting totally plays a trick on your eyes, and you have no sense of where you are or how long you’ll be flying through space. Very cool.  It's definitely a step ahead of the other rides, because it is so interactive and fun! It feels like a real adventure in space!;)

~4~

On the fourth day of our vacation, we drove to Beaufort, South Carolina to stay in a Luxury Suite and visit the beach at Hunting Island State Park.  We sorta prefer the untouched beach, rather than high rises and commercialism and shopping centers of FL, so this was a perfect choice for our family. We came here for a family vacation here once before, so we had to hit up all of our favorite spots, including a little sandwich shop that serves up the yummiest "Fripp Panini," named after the famous Fripp Island nearby. So delicious. And since this is the only place on earth where you can also order "Fried Donuts," we did just that. Yum!

The town is really special to us now. We'll be returning. They have gorgeous bearded trees (Spanish Moss), a delightful waterfront coffee shop, beautiful views of boats on the water, and a tropical feel with Palm Trees everywhere. We saw dolphins, turtles, fish, and one jellyfish and fortunately, no stings, accidents, or injuries. ;)

~5~
relaxing in Paradise

so much loveliness... a perfect vacation. ;)

On day number five we hit up the beach again, then had a picnic at the nearby Nature Center. The kids and Stephen went to see a movie and I went and had a little nap, a cup of coffee, and a walk.






~6~
On the sixth day, the last day, we hit up downtown, visited the playground, bought a souvenir, and headed home, to see our sweet little guy.




~7~
On the seventh day, we recovered. ;)
***
This trip made me think about this question: why do we value family vacations? I know they can be expensive. Sometimes we need a vacation from our vacation. But why is it worth it for us? Family togetherness and the rediscovering of the beautiful world we live in only happens seldomly, for one. And also? Finding out who we are when all the shows, lights, sounds, clothes, toys, and "magic" are stripped away, and we are just us- being together, having conversation and getting along... that is what makes a vacation great. The starry eyed, star-struck, feeling of caring about appearances or what people are going to think of us?  Ugh-- that is empty. What is real?  Beauty, creativity, fun, adventure, and definitely last but not least, what our kids bring to the experience.
Where we stayed in Beaufort, South Carolina

The fun of adventure, with promise of new sites, sounds, tastes, and smells brought us to Disney.  The light in our girls' eyes- joy, excitement, inspiration, and memories, are what made it worth it and will be sealed in our memories forever. And yes, the excitement is important, but also: relaxation, and refreshment are so essential for a good break, and that's what brought us to Beaufort, South Carolina. Our intentions were: to enjoy our hotels, recover from the grind of daily life, catch a real break, and meditate on the joys of life-and the rediscovery of all the good that we have at our fingertips.  And finally, to come back refreshed. That's just what we did.

Even if things don't go our way, or we're deeply disappointed by something, good attitudes and no complaining- and always focusing on the positives- are the best ingredients for the perfect recipe for a great vacation.

What do you value- about vacation-  and just Summer or family time, in general?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to Create a Summer Craft Collection On a Dime


Crafts are a pretty big part of our Summers. In addition to reading out loud, playing outside, and doing Chores, crafts are a great thing to do with kids during the Summer, while you're trying to avoid watching screens or playing with screens  (cough, cough) ...like the plague. ;)

Here’s how we’re getting organized for a Summer of Crafting.


Summer 
Craft
Supply
Collection…
on a Dime :-) ;-)

What I Included: (all purchased at the Dollar Store unless otherwise indicated)

~crayons
~colored pencils
~stickers
~brightly colored paper
~white paper
~scissors
~tape
~glue
~ruler
~noodles*
~string*
~cotton balls*
~rubber bands*

also included: 
~watercolor paints*
~paintbrushes*
~wonder dough (from the Dollar Store)

*already had on hand



Other Ideas for Materials You Might Want to Include and/or have on hand already:

-Modeling Clay
-String
-Finger Paint

Here are 5 EASY Categories of Crafts and Art Ideas That We Plan on Making This Summer:

(1) Paper-and-Sticker Crafts:

-Make Paper Sunflowers
-Make a Paper Heart Garland
-Paint an Underwater Scene or Aquarium on a Paper Plate
-Make a Farm Scene on a Piece of Construction Paper
-Color Tea Pots, Butterflies, and Cupcakes, then Decorate them with Stickers
-Make Sticker Books
-Make Homemade Bookmarks

(2) Projects and Games:
-Create-Your-Own Journal Cover
-Do Shape Sorting and Matching on Cardboard
-Make a “Mom I’m Bored” Jar

(3)Birthday Crafts:
-Make Homemade Birthday Cards
-Make a “Happy Birthday” Paper Garland
-Make a Paper Pennant Banner or Garland
-Pick a Theme and Do Homemade Decorations based on a theme

(4) Water Color Paintings and Art:
-Make a Sponge Painting
-Make a Tree with Pencil and Paint It In
-Make Buildings and Paint Them In
-Make a Tape Painting
-Make a Bas Relief with Crayon and Watercolor

(5) Dough-Related Crafts/Other:
-Make Wonder Dough Sculptures
-Shape Dough With Cookie Cutters
-Bake and Paint Dough
-Make Painted Noodle Necklaces
-Make Tape Drawings/Paintings- and let little ones finger paint

A few of the things we have made thus far:
cut-out-and-tape watercolor fish, for an underwater scene

paper sunflowers


farm scene with stickers



Adding my link to Jenna @ Call Her Happy

Monday, June 22, 2015

How to Plan An Awesome {Extraordinary!} Staycation


We just got back in town last night, and although I want to tell you all about our trip, I'm still playing catch-up on the blog. First things first. The winner of the Dad is Fat Giveaway was:
Woohoo! Because you're awesome, I'm also going to throw in a good-smelling candle, and some amazing-smelling lotion. Just email me with your address, and I will get those in the mail for you! See my about page for more info if you're confused about email.

And now I wanted to tell you all a little bit about our Staycation, since it was a highlight from this Summer, and I didn't want to let time go by without telling you all about it!;)

Here's what we did-

-A Children’s Museum
-A Splash Pad
-Scooters + Going for Ice-cream
-A Nature Center + Nachos + Sprite from taco smell (my hub's words, never mine) on the way home don't.judge.;)
-A Park with a Creek + Chik-fil-a and Ice-cream (again!;)

Here's why we did it-

-to celebrate my daughter's completion of her school year and First Grade! A huge accomplishment!
-to kick off summer
-to stay break up the apathy and the boredom of the no-routine-feeling
-to help Mama and the rest of the gang remain patient for our "real" vacation! ;)

Here’s how we planned it:

1.  Be Amazingly Frugal.

I planned an awesome Staycation for my kiddos, and I was able to pull it off on a dime. No need to spend a bunch of money on a lot of fancy museums or a bunch of trips to restaurants! I know we’re lucky where we live, but there are bound to be some things in your town that don’t cost a lot of money.

{PRO tip: Use your closest ATM to get cash out at the beginning of the week, so that you don’t go over your planned budget.}

2. Have Extraordinary Fun.

Do some things you normally don’t do.  Do some special “Summer” things.  We skipped playgrounds, shopping the Dollar Store, and the Library, because those things are generally part of our “usual” routine. It isn’t fun unless you’re doing something different and out of the ordinary!

{PRO tip: Bring a book for Mama Bear;}

3. Get Really, Really Wet.

We visited a Splash Pad with fountains for the kids to play in one day. I realized right before we left that we had forgotten to buy swim diapers, so I ran to Walmart with the kids right before the Splash Pad. That worked out, because I was able to let them pick out a special snack to take with us to the park, and they ate before playing. The timing worked out perfectly- it wasn’t crowded, and we played right until lunchtime. And yeah, they got really, really wet! The weather was nice and hot and the clouds moved over, so that we could enjoy some sunshine. Another day, they splashed and played in a creek, and Anders threw rocks in the water with a big grin on his face!

{PRO tip: bring lots of sunscreen and a hat or visor, Mama! ;}

4. Get Some Fresh Air and Exercise.

Four out of five days, we were outside.  After the fountains, we spent a day hiking at a nearby Nature Center (for free! ;) and we played in a creek at the park, and then one day, they did scooters across a Pedestrian Bridge. Only one day we were inside at a Museum.

{PRO tip: Make some hot tea to bring for yourself in a thermos- if something crazy happens, at least you’ll have your hot tea!}

5. Eat Out, But Only Minimally.

Just like a real vacation, we wanted to eat out some, but not a bunch for the sake of saving money.  We ate lunch at home all except for one day.  However, we went out for snacks one day, and we went for ice-cream one day.  So it turned out to be affordable, but also really fun!

{PRO tip: Nachos-and-Sprite is the perfect “eating out” snack!}

6. Finish it Off With a Big Bang

We closed out the week with lunch at Chik-fil-a, going into the restaurant, and playing on the playground, and then ordering ice-cream cones (and a WARM cookie, just for me, the selfless one. ha;). It made the whole thing seem like a celebration. And it was! Happy Summer (Break) to us!

All in all, remember to have fun, relax, and enjoy yourself- and TALK IT UP with the kiddos! For us,  there was great fun in ,putting the agenda for the week on a white board up on our fridge. Monday thru Friday, we talked about what we did that day, and what was on the docket for the next day. It truly seemed like a real vacation. My kids' excitement made it way more fun! They were constantly talking about what we did and what we were going to do!

Our week would have been even better if my hubby hadn’t been working! But it was a great way to spend a week and it helped with the anxiousness of waiting for a real vacation. I hope this helps you plan an Amazing Staycation yourself!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

PHFR- Hiking and Our Staycation

~Pretty~
Playing... Scrabble! With Grandma, no less!

~Happy~
I'm always trying to get better pics of my boy. Yes, he was happy... We were about to have these Pentecost Sundaes in this picture. :-)~
all happy ;)


On the Saturday after Molly got out of school, we celebrated by taking a family hike on a nearby mountain with a beautiful lake on top.

I woke up late, around 7-7:30, can't remember for sure, and then fed the kids breakfast. I did a little bit of cleaning and organizing of my closet, then around 10am I made lunches and packed a cooler of waters for the family.  We left for the hike around 10:30.

On our hike we saw a deer, a turtle, a snail, a cricket, 2 grandaddy long legs, squirrels, a chipmunk, and three yellow centipedes. The kids had so much fun, and the location of our hike - Raccoon Mountain- had some great picnic tables and bathrooms, scenic views and drives, and a beautiful volleyball court that simply meant "Huge Sandbox" to our kids! And no, we didn't see any raccoons.

When we got home, the girls watched a movie, Anders napped, and Stephen and I had decaf coffee and read. I was trying to catch up on my goal for May: Finishing two Chesterton books.

After that, I made smoothies for the kids, and we read aloud from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.  Stephen went to the store (which took about an hour and half, but it seemed like forever!), and we mopped and played with the toy keyboard for a while.

When Stephen got home, they ate fruit while he grilled brats and burgers.  We had a great cookout, watched the first half of The Sound of Music, and had the kids in bed by 9. Not bad for summertime!


~real~
Nothing fancy... just my dollar store placemats that we've been using recently.

I tried doing a little reading while sipping on some beer, but the cookout food and the half a beer were making this pregnant lady verrrrrry tired, so I hit the sack early.  I was proud, though, because I accomplished everything on my to-do list for the day! {Care for Kiddos as usual;), Get organized, go on family hike, and read G.K. Chesterton). Big props to me. haha. I think next trimester, I'm going to give up alcohol. I could probably handle it seeing as I don't even like it that much and never drink more than one beer/one glass of wine (but it's often half). ;)

~just for fun~

And just for fun, here are some other pictures that I took this week on our family #Staycation, already recorded somewhat on the instagram. ;)









We spent one day of our staycation by a creek and it was just what the kids needed. Right before we left, a  baby copperhead poked his head out of the water, got some air, then went back down under his rock. An older gentleman was there and he identified it. It was scary, but he was tiny (pretty small) and seemed shy. He was tan with dark brown diamonds.


If you're wondering where I am next week, see this post.


Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter