Monday, April 29, 2013

I might be crazy! At home Summer Camp ideas!

I know it'll come across as crazy to some. But after Spring Break I realized a bunch of things.

1. We all operated better with structure (always have)
2. Jake needs some sort of schedule/structure like school offers or he just goes bonkers
3. If big brother is bonkers, the younger two simply forget our at home structure
4. When the kids go nuts, I then go nuts. I don't want to be nuts.
5. Jake is learning so much in school right now, I fear he'll backslide a ton during the summer.
6. Summer camps are expensive! Some are all day too, I don't want him gone all day either.

So during my normal bouts of insomnia, an idea hit me. Not really insomnia, I sleep like a rock once I'm actually asleep. I just have the worse time falling asleep. If you follow me on pinterest, you probably knew something was brewing in my mind. My idea was for summer camp at home. Yes, I do realize I'm not the first to of thought of this ;) Humor me as I share with you my brainstorm.

The H Family Summer Camp was invented!

I figure there's 10 weeks of summer, so I've come up with 5-7 weeks of ideas. Five I'll plan out for sure. I'll save two for back up. That leaves us one week for our family beach vacation. Then 4 weeks unplanned (don't want to overplan us or make it too much work and no fun).

It's hard to narrow down ideas. There's so many things we can do!

Some of the things I tried to keep in mind...

1. Keeping up the Daily 5 from the classroom. Involves: read to someone, read to yourself, listen to someone read, word work, and writing.
2. We know we probably only have one more summer in this area (maybe half of summer 2015) so we want to be sure to take in the sights. This area is FULL of things to do and see. Since HQ will be moving in 2015, it will no longer be an option to be around Washington, DC. Want to make sure we take it ALL in!
3. Lots and lots of outside time, exploring nature, swimming, and maybe a little learning too!
4. Include crafts, books, printables and snacks/meal that relate to theme of the week.

Here are our "camps" for our summer:

Week One: "Mucky Yucky Creepy Crawly Slimey Week"
     - Will conclude with a trip to Luray Caverns about 90 mins from us (family weekend trip)
    - International Mud Day is June 29th (Saturday, so we'll "celebrate" it on Friday - lots of MUD)
     - Do homemade Slime, Flubber, Gak, etc...
     - Learn about bats, snakes, and other cave type animals

Week Two: "America, America!"
     - Will kick off with Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello (as part of family weekend trip)
     - Fourth of July will be that week
     - US History Museum would be fantastic
     - Check out the Marine Museum (they have a great playground outside as well)
     - There's lots of great crafts and snacks to do

Week Three: "Beach Week!"
     - The last week of July we'll be headed to the beach for a week with family. This will be a great lead in, but leaves the week before to get ready.
     - The Aquarium of course
     - Have movie night, some kind of Dolphin movie

Week Four: "Secret Agent Week"
     - Start the week being announced with a "secret" envelope
     - Visit the Spy Museum here in the area
     - Have movie night, Spy Kids of course
     - Obstacle course!
Week Five: "Cowboys & Indians" (I know, so NOT politically correct, but bear with me!)
     - Visit the Native American Museum
     - Make dreamcatchers
     - "Camp out" in backyard one night complete with hotdogs and smores over a fire
     - Movie night, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron, or Brother Bear are ideas

Then ideas I had but don't have set in stone (I'll just be happy to do the 5) so using as back up in case we get restless:

- Nature week (visit US Botanical Gardens, do a "jungle breakfast" like in the girl scouts days - you just find boxed cereal, apple, banana, etc.. hidden in bushes & trees, visit the Smithonian Zoo)
- Planes, Trains & Automobiles (visit a steam engine about 90 mins from us)

Thanks for letting me be all wordy today. The east coast doesn't get out of school until after mid-June, so I still have awhile. I really hope I can pull it all together and make it work! I'm rather excited about it. Don't worry, I'll be blogging about each week and will share with you afterwards!

Now, I need to go make a sensory bin. Remember my goal to do one each month? I have one more day left in April to still meet that goal ;) Stay tuned, it'll involve birdseed.

Friday, April 26, 2013

12th Flaunt My Friend Friday! Megan!

For this 12th week of Flaunt My Friend Friday we're going to see a home that was built with some great ideas and a lot of love! I'd like to introduce you to my friend Megan. She's a phenomenal person all the way around. Someone that you just plain want to be friends with and have in your life. Simply one of the most gracious, loving and real people I know. She lives out west on a ranch and her stories and pictures always make me swoon. They spent the last couple years building their own home! Doing the majority of it on their own. Her kids are similar in age to mine and they have their family ranch... I honestly don't know how they did it. It's amazing and inspiring!

Even though they just moved in, Megan was kind enough to participate in sharing a few things in her new home that are organizational, functional, and not to mention nice on the eyes!

Here she is with her wonderful family...

Hi everyone!  We started building our home in early 2011 and just moved in a couple months ago.    My husband, Will, and I purchased a home design program and, after hours and hours(correction: Will just read this and informed me that should read "months and months") huddled around the computer screen, ended up with a home design of our very own.  Once we had a design we got to work and did most of the work ourselves, with the help of friends and family.

We designed our home with a few criteria in mind.  We wanted a welcoming space where our guests could feel at home.  We wanted room for our family of five, and enough storage and space for all that kid gear(and the grown-up gear, too).  We wanted a mud room that could handle the endless coats, hats, gloves, and dirty boots that a ranching family requires.  And, we also wanted a space that would be easy on my body and that we will be able to use even as we grow old.  I developed rheumatoid arthritis after my 3rd baby and, while physical debilitation isn't a certainty, it is a very good possibility.

First, we chose finishes that would be good for hiding dirt proof of a busy family.  Finishes like the slate-like tile in the master bath.  Also, notice that we have a barrier-free entrance to the shower.  There are no barriers at all on the main floor of our home, which we chose to do to minimize the chance of falls and make wheelchair use easier.  Most of the doors in the home are 36" wide, wider than normal to easily accommodate walkers/wheelchairs.   

For most of the upstairs, we chose circle-sawn fir flooring. 

It is so rustic and unique, and no one will ever notice a ding or scratch, they'll  just become part of the character.  Play dough cleans up nicely, too.  Our trim is stained wood, and, man, there is a lot of trim in this house.  I know this because I handled almost every piece, several times.  Sanding, staining, polyurethane-ing, and repeat.  I was so blessed to have help from quite a few friends during this process, or I think we still wouldn't be in this house.  The perk to the stained wood is that is doesn't show every little mark like white painted trim can.  And, while I do love that crisp contrast you get with painted trim, the stained wood just really seems to go with our ranch setting better.

We worked with a kitchen designer, who helped polish our initial kitchen design and suggested some ergonomic features that would never have crossed our minds.  One of those features is this dish drawer:

Pegs inside keep the dishes separated, and, best of all, it's easy for the kids to reach when they're setting the table.

Another awesome idea she had was a raised dishwasher.  I don't have to bend over at all to do dishes, now.  Sold!

Other favorites of mine in the kitchen include the double oven, pot filler, butcher block island, and the giant sink.

Our washer and dryer is in our master closet.  You can't see it, but there is a double rod for hanging clothes behind the door. 

And our second washer and dryer set is downstairs.  Can I just say how much I love not hauling laundry baskets up and down stairs?!

For flooring in the mud room, porch, and majority of the downstairs we went with stained concrete.  It's so durable, and was a great choice for us because we installed hot water floor heat throughout the house.  It conducts the heat nicely, and feels pretty good on the tootsies, too.

We have 9' ceilings in our upstairs, so, in order to maximize efficiency, we added little doors above all of our closets, like you see here above our pantry. 

These little storage areas are awesome for storing those items you don't use all the time.  This one has the ice cream maker, juicer, casserole carriers, etc.

Our downstairs bathroom is fairly unique.  I have 3 sisters and memories of getting ready for school with them/fighting for the bathroom inspired us to design a bathroom similar to those you see in hotels.

The sink and mirror are open to the main room downstairs, while the shower and toilet are in their own  small room.  So far, this setup has worked very well. 

These days, most people have flat screen tvs.  We knew we wanted to mount ours on the wall, and we knew we wanted to hide all the stuff that goes with the tv, so we planned on putting our media cabinet into the wall next to the television.  Our very talented brother-in-law, who did all the beautiful trim work, took our idea and turned it into a reality.

The frosted glass obscures the receivers, wires, and such, while still letting the remote control signals pass through.  A little pipe goes through the wall to an opening behind the tv for connections.  At some point, I'd love to get a little table to put beneath the tv, but mostly so I have somewhere to put pretty things.  The media cabinet extends into our office, but you don't get to see a picture of that because I'm still not quite moved in there.

Last on my list, but first in our hearts is our mud room.  It has two huge closets, one just for Will and all his cowboy duds.  And, best of all, it has lockers.  One for each of us.  They're pretty big, about 4 feet wide, and have plenty of shelf room and hooks.  They each also have an outlet, so you can charge your cell phone, or your spotlight if you happen to have pulled night-calving duty. 

The mud room is the only room in the house that doesn't have floor heat.  That's because my very smart and handy husband decided to heat it with radiators.

The radiators sit just across the hall from the lockers.  They do an awesome job of drying our wet clothes, and the hooks above them are really handy for the very wet items.  You can see it's been a muddy April here.  

As with everything, the mud room is a work in progress.  I'd like to paint the backs of the lockers some fun color, but at this point I'd be happy to find homes for the multitude of orphaned items that seem to end up in my locker.

I hope you enjoyed your tour of our new digs.  I am so grateful to live in this space.  And, thanks, Tyson, for having me here and for all the times you let me bounce ideas off of you during this planning and building process. 

Ha, she thanks me for bouncing around ideas, I was more than happy too. I enjoy still talking "shop", even though I'm pretty rusty after all this time. I LOVE all those extra details for organization and ease. You better believe she belongs right in that gourmet kitchen as well... not to take anything away from Pioneer Woman... but I think Megan could certainly give her a run for her money. I don't know about you, I think she should come back and guest post again to give a full house tour don't you think? :) I'll give her some time,  since they just moved in! Her post brought back some design school memories for me with their integration of universal design. Which is design that it's more accessible to everyone now and in the future no matter their physical condition. Thank you, thank you, thank you Megan for sharing, I do hope you'll come back sometime and show us more of your beautiful home.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Play Ball!

This year we signed the boys up for tee ball! Their first time doing a team sport of any sort. Gotta admit, I was a little reluctant up to this point. I just know once it all starts, it never ends. I loved always having our weekends to ourselves. But they're getting older and I knew it was time.

I find it to be an eye gouging experience between the bratty kids (seriously are parents even teaching them ANYTHING these days?) and the actual parents themselves. I see 18 mth old siblings walking around with a gallon size ziploc of freaking M&Ms... eeek! By the end of the game that little girl ate her weight in candy (my eyes probably bugged out of my head). Or the lovely parents that LAUGHED because Evan got upset that the pitcher was getting some of the balls before he could when he was on first base. Hello, he's the only player that is FOUR on the team (the rest are 6!). What kind of behavior is that from ADULTS? Then there's Luke, he pretty much throws a tantrum the entire time. Not fun. He's mad he's can't go out on the field, he's mad he can't run in the road, he's mad he can't play in thorns, etc... it's exhausting. So this Saturday Greg just took the boys and Luke and I stayed home, it was his nap time so it worked out. 

Anyway, that being said, the boys really like it for the most part. I think Jake would be more into it if two boys from his class weren't also on the team. They spend most of the time being silly & hyper together. Evan does get upset from time to time since you know, he's four... but he's a pretty good ball player when his head is in the game! Every practice and game he complains the whole time there... "I don't want to play ball" with a big ole scowly face. Then after each, he's all "I LOVE playing ball". Alrighty then, Sybil ;)

Here are some pics from their first game 2 Saturdays ago.

Little brother Luke getting in on opening day pics

Evan on first base

Evan on third base, and Greg assisting behind him

Jake ready at the pitchers mound with the coach!
Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up. ~Bob Lemon

Friday, April 19, 2013

11th Flaunt my Friend Friday! Susan!

For the 11th Flaunt my Friend Friday, I have my first relative participating! Meet Greg's cousin Susan! She has ran her own Wedding Planning business while still having a full-time job and being mommy. Unfortunately with family being spread out over the nation I've only had the pleasure of meeting Susan once during a family reunion.

Since it's not shocking to say that probably 90% of my readers are female... I think you'll enjoy this post! It doesn't seem to matter if a woman is married, unmarried, young or old... we all seem to like wedding planning, details (flowers, dresses, etc...), and just weddings in general. She sent me some pictures of her favorite wedding, and I'm going to put them throughout the post. Be sure to check out the link for the whole thing at towards the end of the post.

Susan Keough, Owner and Wedding Planner
A Moment In Time, LLC

My dreams of being a wedding planner started back in college, when I was asked to be the university’s Homecoming Director, planning a weeks’ worth of events for 20,000 students and 40,000 alumnae.  It was another eight years before I finally started my own wedding planning business.   It was the birth of my first child that actually compelled me to follow this dream. 

In the Spring of 2009, I signed up to take a training course with a nationally recognized Wedding Planning Company.  Through this course, I was able to learn about weddings, traditions, how to price my services and the basics of building my business. In July 2009, I incorporated my business and hung out my sign.  I was open for business, but on a part-time basis.  I still continued to work my full-time corporate job, and did the wedding planning as a hobby.

The first thing I did was to join the local Bridal Association, which allowed me to be a vendor at their Spring and Fall shows.  I immediately signed up for the Sept 2009 Bridal Show.  When the bridal show day arrived, I realized I was out of my league compared to the other established vendors.  Brides weren’t willing to book me without prior experience, and vendors had seen so many new wedding planners come-and-go that they didn’t bother getting to know me.  I spent the rest of the Fall up-ing my game.

But I had one thing going for me…..I had a kick butt website!  In our tech savvy world, a great website means a lot.  I was getting a ton of inquiries, just from my website, but I had yet to get a bride to sign with me. 

Two days before the Feb 2010 bridal show, I got a call from a bride that wanted to meet.  I went to that meeting with a resolve to book this bride!  I laid it out for her and her fiancĂ©, just give me a chance! They both attended the bridal show that weekend, and found my booth asking to sign the contract right then.  I had turned a corner!  Before the show was over that day, I booked two more brides, which was amazing since my year one goal was to book three weddings.  I just hit that goal….and in the next couple months I would triple that number to make year one a success.

During year two, I met my year five goals…..and we kept going.  I finally asked a friend to come work for me as a coordinator so that my company could continue to thrive.  By year three, I had three coordinators and nine interns working for me.  I was now on a runaway train!

In early 2012, my husband and I were expecting our second child.  I was already losing precious family time by being gone for weddings every weekend.  How was I going to continue at this pace with a new baby?  That is when I had to re-evaluate my priorities.  In the summer of 2012, I made the hardest decision of my life, and announced I would be taking a hiatus from my wedding planning business to raise my family.  My company still had weddings booked through June 2013, so there was still work to do, but we would not be taking on any new weddings.

Although it was a hard decision, it was a relief to know that I would not lose the precious time with my growing family, and I still had that corporate job.  The wedding business would always be there, and the reputation I built for myself wasn’t going to fade.  I could always go back to wedding planning once my girls were a little older.

Tips for Brides

·         Get a Wedding Planner.  Even if you go with the “Weekend Only” option, it will take a ton of stress off of you! 

·         Don’t ask your mom, sister, aunt, etc to be your weekend wedding coordinator.  They are supposed to be enjoying your wedding, and you just asked them to WORK!

·         A good wedding planner/coordinator will make sure the wedding party and the vendors are kept abreast of events (cake cutting, toasts, first dances, etc). 

·         The Bride and Groom should be a top priority for the wedding planner.  Both during the planning process and the wedding weekend.  Don’t let your planner become a slave to your mom or future mother-in-law.  Make sure what YOU want is what the planner is focused on.

·         A Wedding Planner/Coordinator can solve a lot of problems, but they cannot change the weather or fix relationships.

I have attached some pictures from my favorite wedding, and it was a featured wedding on Style Me Pretty.  I still get a kick out of seeing people pin this wedding on Pinterest
This wedding took place on 9/10/11 (such a cool date) and the bride described it perfectly when she said, “If George Strait and Barbie got married, that would be my wedding.”  From the Blue ’56 Chevy Pick-up that dropped her off at the ceremony, to the brides bouquet that used family brooches and rustic centerpieces, it was a wedding filled with texture and elegance.  We even had the Aggie Wranglers (a country-western dance team from Texas A&M University) come and dance, followed by dance lessons for the guests.
I love the succulents that were used in her bouquet and flowers! I love the truck! I love the lanterns, heck I just like it all. Since she's currently taking a break, there's no longer her website to share... but you can see the past weddings she planned on her blog A Moment in Time, LLC. Thank you for sharing Susan! Hope you and your family are doing well and that we get to see you again sometime soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cherry Blossoms 2013 - H Family Sight-seeing Part 10

Everyone knows about the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC in the Spring!

What I didn't realize was how small of a time frame their peak actually is AND how unbelievably crowded it gets.

We even got there at 8:20 am. Usually when we go early like that, it's just us and a few runners. Not this time. It was already crowded! Found a couple of places to park, but not for SUVs. Finally found parking in East Potomac Park for free.

Originally, we were going to do the whole Tidal Basin and see memorials of Martin Luther King, Jr., Roosevelt, and Jefferson. We ended up just checking out the Jefferson Memorial and the trees. Promised the boys we'd go back another time to see the other ones AND Lincoln again... they want to see Old Abe every single time and we're rather put out that this time we would not.

Me and the boys, the youngest wasn't feeling pictures on this day

Looking across the basin to MLK memorial

The Washington Monument is having repairs down after the earthquake a couple years ago and then two hurricanes!

Then we went to Old Town Alexandria for brunch at Union Street Public House.
The place, the service, and the meal was completely fantastic.
Great ambiance with exposed brick and tons of nautical decor.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A New Fence

Another little thing we've had done recently to the ongoing exterior makeover of our new home... the fence. Not the most exciting thing to blog about and certainly not DIY or even all that budget friendly. But it is what it is and it looks much nicer and actually functions correctly!

Before with split rail fence with gate that neither opened OR closed

New handsome fence!
Three sides of our fenced in backyard are actually our neighbor fences. We just have the fence that goes from the sides to the house. So in what's turning out to be typical... they were of old spilt rail fence style that we had to then put chicken wire over to due to the dog. Lovely.

Garage side of house mid-demo (the orange and red lines are the utility markings that must be done beforehand)
Not to mention you could barely open either gate since it was so sunken into the ground. There was no real latch to speak of either so when it was rainy and windy the gates would blow open (the opposite direction of the way that would get stuck in ground of course). Then in the morning if we didn't check every single morning... the dog would wander out of the yard. Luckily that only happened twice.

So while we really did not want to spend the money on it... however, we really needed a new fence.

The Non-Garage side of the house/fence BEFORE

Non Garage side demo-ed and ready for new!

In go the new posts!

We kept two gates, one on each side. Didn't want to, it would of been WAY more cost effective to just do the one that's on the garage side. However, the previous owners installed a pathway from the deck to a gate on the non garage side of the house. Not wanting to rip up a pathway but also not wanting a path to nowhere... we still have two gates.

The awkwardly angled walkway. Look you can see the back french screen doors we still need to replace... they're the gray-blue the entire house used to me, doesn't match now!

Not only is it awkwardly angled on the "wrong" side of the house. The plastic edging is almost completely out of ground. We all trip on it. Think we're just going to rip out... doubt it'll fall apart in the two more years we're here ;)
I like that it's very similar in design to the neighbor's. Doesn't look as choppy that way. Oh and the fence is also angled a bit because we had to match old fence line or there'd be a huge gap. Oh well!

Bonus... we moved the garage side gate to the middle so that you don't walk into a tree anymore!

The gate used to be in front of that tree. Now that area will become part of the new mulch bed

Jake declares he doesn't like that the fence is "yellow". I tried to explain it's new and it will weather and turn brown over time and he looked at me like I had finally lost my mind for good! ha.
You probably noticed in the pictures that our "grass" is pathetic. Two landscape companies say we have too much overhead tree/branches canopy to sod the front parts of the backyard :( Boo. Not what we were hoping for. We're still going to try to fertilize, seed, water, baby it, and maybe we'll prove the professionals wrong?? Maybe we can just grow a bunch of weeds that when mowed it gives the look of grass, ha ha!