Thursday, October 24, 2013

The After School Crazy Hours

When our girls get off the bus at 3:50 in the afternoon and walk down the street to our house, it is safe to say that 4:00 is the average time they arrive home. From 4:00 until 8:30 it is a mad dash of homework, playtime, dinnertime, activities, reading and baths before getting these kiddos to bed for the night. It is the most challenging part of my day, and I have by no means perfected it. In fact, it has become a struggle as of late. Here are the things that need to be done:
Reading: 20 minutes
Spelling/Vocabulary practice
Math Homework: Tuesday and Thursday nights only
Piano Practice: (Hannah) 15 minutes a day
Piano Lessons: Tuesday afternoons
Gymnastics: (Leah) Thursday evenings

In addition, my kids get an afternoon snack and one 30 minute TV show (usually Wild Kratts or Arthur) before starting all the things we have to do. I suppose I could nix this time, but I really think they need it. Or if they would rather play outside for thirty minutes, that's fine too. They always have that option, but I am totally ok with a 30 minute zone out on PBS. I think they need a short mental break when they walk in the door. This also gives me time to go through their backpacks and sign their agendas, look over papers, sort out what needs to be signed and returned, setting aside homework papers, and throwing away uneaten lunch and snack items.  

My two struggles as of late are the following:
1. What to do with Lucas while his sisters are trying to do their homework. He has a hard time playing by himself and I don't want to just plug him in to a movie all the time.
2. Dealing with one daughter's attitude regarding work. She generally drags her feet, whines and complains and declares "it's not fair" that she has things to do and Lucas doesn't. It's getting old.

In addition, there is the need for me to be in the kitchen around 5:00 or 5:30 to start cooking our dinner. So that further complicates our evenings. 
Any of you out there have some tips or suggestions for making this crazy time of day run a little smoother? 
After the hurricane of homework

When it's all done, they get more playtime! Yipee!

* The child not pictured in these photos didn't get to go play because it took her twice as long to get everything done with all the whining and complaining. It was a long night for her.

Monday, October 21, 2013


My kids are really good at asking the question "why?" 

Why do I have to go to bed every night?

Why is math important?

Why do girls wear bras?

Why are wasps so mean?

Tonight I thought I would share a few of my own "why?" questions. 
1. Why does my kitchen sink constantly look like this when we own a dishwasher?

--I started my day early this morning by unloading and reloading the dishwasher. Slowly it filled up again, and I ran it just before dinner. This pic was taken at 10:00 tonight as I walked into the kitchen to have my nightly bowl of cereal. I couldn't take it. I unloaded/reloaded again. It's my life apparently.

2. Why do I sometimes stupidly agree with someone when they clealy make a verbal mistake that I know to be wrong only because I don't want to make them feel like an idiot by pointing it out? It always comes back to bite me. 

Case in point: tonight I was at my ladies' Bible study, and I was talking to a very nice woman I just met this evening for the first time. In our conversation she said, "Oh, so last year you were in Elaine's class over at Heritage Baptist church?" Nope, my Bible Study leader's name last year was Mary, but like a dummy I smiled and nodded because I didn't want to point out her mistake with the name. Our conversation went on and then she said, "Oh wait! I didn't mean Elaine, I meant Mary!" And then I had to correct my own mistake. Like "oh yeah, I forgot too!" Why didn't I just say the right name to begin with?! Now that lady thinks I am crazy. Or maybe that I have a really bad memory. 

These are the pressing "why?" Questions on my brain tonight. You have any you want to share too?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fall Break

This week the kids were out of school for Fall Break. We had two cool, rainy days which kept us inside most of the time, so when the sun broke through on the third day, we took advantage of it and headed to the park. 
Walking the path to the playground.
All the equipment was still a little wet, but that didn't stop my three. What's a little water anyway?
               My Hannah and me
We ended up on the stage where during the summer Shakespeare plays are performed. The kids were doing a little "freeze dancing" to a song on my phone.

A little exercise and fresh air were exactly what we needed. 

Hope you are enjoining your day today too! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tenkiller 2013: Days 3 &4

Have you been wondering where Lake Tenkiller got its strange name? Well, I am here to give you the answer today. According to, "The lake was named after the Tenkillers (a prominent Cherokee family who owned land and worked a ferry service near the site where the dam is now located. The Legend states that during the “Trail of Tears” era, the Cherokee warrior received his name by the soldiers and pioneers at Fort Gibson because of the ten notches in his bow."  

An additional interesting fact about the lake is that when it was being created back in 1947, part of the town of Cookson, OK couldn't be moved, so it ended up getting flooded and still stands on the bottom of the lake. It's a popular place for scuba divers to explore. Crazy, huh?

Anyway, enough history (I'm a sucker for fun historical facts). On to days three and four. Saturday morning followed suit with all the other mornings-- large breakfast, playtime and decktime. Amen. Then we geared up for a big football game. You see, down here college football is huge. The biggest rivalry around is the "Red River Shootout" between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas. The Red River forms the border between our two states and the feud is quite heated. OU has won the last three years, and Texas is terrible this year, so we were expecting a cakewalk. Uh, didn't happen. Texas won, unfortunately, but we enjoyed the game and the game time snacks of artichoke dip, pumpkin bread and jalapeno poppers-- all homemade. Did I mention we did a lot of eating on this little vacation? I'm not ashamed to admit that. While the game was on, we set up some stations for the kids. They rotated between a mini-pumpkin painting station, a few game stations (Guess Who?, Memory and Spot It) and a "salon station" where Nikki was painting all the kids' fingernails and toenails (Eli opted out of this one, but Lucas wanted his toenails painted clear. Ha!). 

Once the football game was over, and our stations cleaned up, the dads took all of the kids fishing while the three ladies got to relax in a quiet house. It was heavenly. We talked. We painted our own toenails. We sat on the deck and listened to the wind in the trees. We talked some more. Two lovely hours passed before they returned with the report of no catches at all. Not even a bite. Oh well!

Next up was a family pumpkin carving contest. Each family huddled up and planned, sketched and carved their own pumpkin. Hannah and Leah were totally into it and went into top secret mode making sure no other kids in any near vicinity even glanced our way as we were executing our plan. Eventually we had the following.......
Pumpkins #1, 2, and 3 from left to right.

We texted pictures of the pumpkins to various non-biased folks with just their numbers so no one would know who carved which one. And guess which jack-o-lantern won? #2. And guess who carved pumpkin #2? That's right. Mike Galloway. We decided to go with a pumpkin sneezing a great glob of snot. Yes, we're classy. The teeth were all Mike's creation and that's what ended up winning it for us. Nice try, guys. Bring your A game next year. (I'm kidding! Everyone did a great job. The teacher in me can't let a chance for encouragement slide.) 

Day three ended with another delicious dinner, and then game night ensued. The adults battled it out in a rousing game of Farkle followed by a noisy game of Pit. Mike won both games. I'm telling you, he was on a roll this weekend. After that, we were too tired for another movie, so it was off to bed for everyone.

Day four was really just a half day. And in that half day, we just cleaned up and washed all the towels and sheets. The kids were sent outside to play so the adults could get all that cleaning done and eventually we were ready to load up. But not without our annual tradition of family photos. We had to take approximately 1,287 pictures before we got one that was decent. 

Our family
October 2013

  The kiddos this year:
Eli (9), Leah (8), Hannah (8), Emma (7), Parker (6), Lucas (4), and Marlee (4)

 Lucas and his best buddy Eli

Nikki, Tracy, Me

Mike and Reed in a classic awkward pose. This is my favorite picture from the whole trip.

Ok, Tenkiller. We'll see ya again soon!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tenkiller 2013: Day 2

Day two started off with homemade waffles for breakfast, then the outside play/sit-and-drink-coffee time began in full force. There's nothing like staying in your pj's until noon in my opinion. Eventually we all got dressed and brushed our teeth (maybe). We packed a picnic lunch, and we headed to Chicken Creek for some more of our annual traditions-- hide and seek and kickball. Chicken Creek is a beautiful park and camping area about a ten minute's drive from the lake house.  The large trees make for perfect hiding places and the little playground keeps the kids entertained. However, when we arrived, we found the gate shut and locked. It was closed. Thank you, Government Shut-Down. Turns out, the park is run by the Army Core of Engineers and so it was temporarily "out of service." Boo! Thankfully, we called and another park in the area (Tenkiller State Park) was open, so we headed there instead. 

Once inside the park, we found a good place to eat, then walked around and found a really great spot for our games. The kids are all old enough now to really get into the games and they have so much fun. Actually, all the adults do to. I swear every time I am being chased as I run toward home base, I scream like a little girl. A funny moment came when I was "it" and started chasing down the last person hiding, 9 year old, Eli. He is one fast little dude, and we ran at full speed around the park area while everyone else was screaming and cheering. I was closing in but wearing out fast and made a last ditch effort to lean forward and tag him. Bad move. I felt my weight shifting forward and knew right away I couldn't stop the momentum. So I went with it and took my 36 year old body down, did a complete somersault, then came to rest flat on my back. The laughing that was coming from the onlookers (including my husband) made me lose it. I died laughing too because I am quite certain I looked like a complete idiot. 
Next up came a rousing game of kickball. Lucas I believe has a future in the sport if he can only play offense. He likes to kick and run. Playing in the outfield? Not his thang. Plus it was late afternoon and he had skipped a nap, so he was starting to melt down. 

Around 4:00 we went back to the house where I started prepping for dinner. Friday night at the lake house is "adult date night on the deck". The kids get to have popcorn and watch a movie inside while the adults have a nice candlelight dinner on the back deck. As my lasagna was in the oven, we could tell the sun was about to set, so we rounded everyone up for a walk around the "loop" (the small gravel road with a few scattered lake houses). The sunset did not disappoint.

At the beginning of our walk, the sky looked like this. 
Hazy, purple light fading gently into a soft pinkish-yellow.

Then the yellow turned more vibrant along with brilliant orange and gold.

Eventually we got this. Fire over the calm water.

And finally, this beauty broke forth and we all just stood and stared. 
Even the kids were into it. Sunsets are God's masterpieces of nature.

We also managed to take a few photos of us humans as we walked. Here's Eli and Leah at the beginning of our journey. This is about as good as it gets when you ask a nine year old boy and an eight year old girl to pose next to each other. We'll save it for their wedding slide show.

The ladies this year: Tracy, me and Nikki

And of course, a ridiculous shot of us. 

After we finished our walk and had our lovely, quiet dinner on the back deck, the kids went to bed and we settled in for another movie night. The selection-- Oblivion. Let's just say, Tom has a lot better movies in his repertoire. I think at least four out of the six of us fell asleep at one point or another. 

And just like that-- Day two was done.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tenkiller 2013: Day 1

This October marked the sixth year that our family has been traveling to my aunt and uncle's house on Lake Tenkiller in Northeastern Oklahoma. And in that time, it has become one of my very favorite places on earth. It's one of of those special places that evokes a large collection of fond memories. Our family has traveled out there most every summer and spring as well, but there is just something about the fall. After living in Oklahoma most of my life, I've come to the conclusion that October is God's gift to our state. We survive through a cold, icy, windy winter, then an unpredictable spring with tornadoes dropping at any time, a long hot summer with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees most days, and then comes October-- a breath of fresh air. The wind dies down from hurricane force to balmy breeze. The sunlight is golden and mellow. The temperatures stay somewhere between lows in the 50's and highs in the 70's with the occasional 80 degree day. It's light jackets in the morning and t-shirts in the afternoon. The air conditioner goes off and the windows come open. Heaters don't get turned on until November most years. If you ever plan on visiting our state, please consider October. It's glorious. With that said, our little house in the woods is a perfect place to enjoy this wonderful fall weather. Perched at the top of a hill, the front of the house has a great view of the lake below and the deck off the back is nestled into a quiet woods. 
We drove in late Wednesday night just in time to put the kids to bed, unload our coolers and go to sleep. But that means when we open our eyes Thursday morning, we're there. The kids waste no time getting dressed and heading outside to play. They basically stay outside the whole time with the exception of eating and sleeping. This year, they were excited to add to the fort we built last fall. 
My view from the woods looking back at the house. 
Looking back into the woods. Doesn't it look enchanting? Like fairies and wood nymphs are hiding there somewhere. The only sound to be heard was the gentle wind shaking the leaves and the occasional acorn falling to the ground. Oh to breathe deep.

And then I heard the sound of my husband snapping a picture of me. Followed by hoops and hollers from the six children running my way to play in their fort. Those are glorious sounds too.

Here are Hannah and Eli deeply involved in some sort of creative drama. From what I could hear, they were brother and sister left to survive in the woods alone. 

The back of the fort. 
See the awesome rock wall we built last year? And by "we" I mean the three dads.

While the kids run and play, this is where the adults hang out. We light the chiminea (even if it's warm because the cool ambiance overrides temperature). We drink our coffee here in the morning and our glasses of wine in the evening.  Many a conversation has taken place on this deck both deep and emotional and light hearted and funny. I have laughed until I nearly wet my pants sitting here and I have wept big salty tears as well--especially the fall after my mom died. Man, the heart can really heal when left to spill its guts in a quiet place surrounded by safe friendships.

After a morning of playtime at the house, we ate a quick lunch and headed down to the water. Our annual rock skipping contest had to be held. And I'm happy to report Mike is still the champion with an impressive 10 skip rock! The kids just like to throw rocks into the water and see who can make the biggest splash. This year, because it was pretty warm out, the kids asked to take off their shoes and wade in. We said why not. Which led to them wading out to their knees, then a few "accidentally fell in" which led to all of them swimming in their clothes. This was a first, but they absolutely loved it.

Throwing rocks

Lucas contemplating his next throw.

Love how the sun shimmers off the water

Wading in

Lucas opted for the shirt off-pants on look. 

Fully soaked and loving it.

Once they tired of swimming, we went back to the house for a bath and change of clothes. As my friend Nikki prepared dinner, the kids did a little cookie decorating. Pumpkins and candy corns were covered in icing and set out to harden so they could be devoured after supper.
Parker, Leah, Eli and Lucas hard at work

We saw some truly inspired color combos. 
Eli and Lucas' pumpkins were sort of Jackson Pollock inspired.

Hannah with her finished product

Our first day ended with kids going to bed early (let's just say they were extremely tired after a late night arrival and a full day of play-- in other words they turned into little crying monsters). The adults piled on the couches and watched World War Z before calling it a day. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Random Post

Get ready to see some bullet points, my friend! Here's to the good old random blog post!

* I feel like I am losing my mind half the time. Countless times a day I stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open trying hard to remember what on earth I was looking for. Or I walk into a room, stop and think the same thing. To combat this problem I have started talking out loud so I won't forget what I am after. Usually it takes the form of a chant like, "Scissors, scissors, scissors." Basically I walk around my house like a crazy muttering homeless person.

* I heard the best joke today. Are you ready?
How much does a Hipster weigh?
One Instagram.

* Last weekend my kids decided to have a parade. It turned out to be something that occupied them for at least an hour, maybe more. And that is like wining the golden ticket! They brought out our red wagon and spent time decorating it and making signs. Hannah and Leah rehearsed a dance routine to "I've Got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas. It was some sort of cross between rhythmic gymnastics and interpretive dance. I gave them scraps of fabric which they used to make scarves and ribbons to tie on to everything. They even had a patriotic moment when they waved the flag and played "God Bless America" on their iPod.

Hannah was proud that she wrote "parade" in cursive
And please excuse Old Glory on the ground. I promise it was being waved in the air most of the time.

Lucas' job for the parade was to sit in the wagon and pound on their little piano. 
He took his job very seriously.
Even Molly, Leah's American Girl doll, was waving to the crowd.

* Season Two of Call the Midwife came out on Netflix last week. Only nine episodes and I have been slowly savoring each one, making myself watch only one every day or two because the way BBC shows go, it will be another year before Season 3 is released. That show is just so, so good. Also, Mike has been trying to get me to watch Mad Men, one of his favorite shows. This past week, I made it through the first two episodes of Season One. It's good, but I've got a long way to go. And finally, since I'm on a TV rant, what is the deal with Breaking Bad? I know it just ended, but do I need to start watching it? I have been wanting to learn how to make meth. I kid! I kid! Just seeing if you are still awake.

*Finally, I will leave you with a few funny songs. My kids are obsessed with Big Block Singsongs and honestly I sort of am too. I think the tunes are catchy and the lyrics are pretty funny. We sing the "Eat" song at just about every meal. It's kid music that won't have you running for the hills. You might actually enjoy it! Here's a few of my the kids' favorites. 

"Eat, Eat, Eat!"

Favorite line: "I live with a squirrel, his name's Phil."

"Salad can be scary sometimes!"

You're welcome!
Have a good Tuesday!