First day of school!! Went great.. lol, now I feel like I should wait for the other shoe to drop. L did great with her new books, and seemed to really enjoy some of the new stuff we got for this semester. And Z and H were awesome with preschool. Kept asking for more, and were they ever excited over some of the little activities I had them do.

I’m using a new planner/chore organizer too. It is a daily check-off thing, which is exactly how my brain works. Found it at http://www.confidentmom.com ($14!! and there are coupons available at motherhoodonadime.com for $2 off it too!), so we’ll see how it works long-term. So far, I’m liking. Space to put dinner plans, add extra chores/errands/special events in each day, even a reminder to take my vitamins and drink more water… haven’t managed that yet, but I like the reminder.

I’m using Homeschool Tracker (downloadable program) to keep track of school stuff for L. I used a binder/notepad last year, but so far this is working. I may go back to last years tactic, simply for the ease of planning, but I kinda like being able to print off a day at a time, and not have to flip through a subject section to find the next assignment. Imputing was a bit of a pain, but I can definitely see the plus in getting reports and things out of it.

I’m beginning to ruminate about having a family closet. Where all the clothes are in one place, and everyone goes to the same room(s) to get dressed, and laundry is all in the same spot too. I dunno if it would work here, since in order to have laundry facilities, it would have to be in the basement, and I’m just thinking that’s too cold a place to get dressed and too damp to store clothes long-term. I love the idea behind it, but perhaps not now or here.

My new favorite site is ana-white.com. She’s a mom who is a diy-er, and plans and builds furniture! I’ve seen crafters and seamstresses, decorators and scrapbookers, but some of her stuff looks downright professional. Bonus? She publishes a lot of her step-by-step plans online free. Complete with dimensions, materials and diagrams. I love it, and I so want to make some of her stuff. It looks awesome.

I just wish she had plans for a triple bunkbed. I was looking at my little girls’ room today, trying to picture toddler bed in with the bunks, and realized that there’s no way we’re getting another twin in there with the bunkbeds. Just not happening. So we will need to get a triple, I think, but triples tend to be really tall dimension wise, and really expensive. With our income the expensive part already puts it out of our reach, but even if money were no object, how do you get around slanted ceilings and lack of wall space, and young kids and height?? I’ve seen a triple I love (can’t find it now for the life of me! lol!) where it was lower to the ground, yet each bunk seemed to have plenty of space, and it had stairs instead of a ladder. It looked really cute. The middle bunk was perpendicular to the upper and lower, which were parallel. L-shaped bunks we could do, I think.

So many things to think about when you have kids. I love it! I’m having so much fun — I’m not sure there’s a corporate career that would compare to the endless variety, challenge and sheer work having a larger family involves, or that would be as satisfying as a toddler falling asleep in your arms or the sticky kisses of your 2 yr old or the cheery “good-morning” from your preschooler.. Life is beautiful, is it not?

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Tomorrow is our first day of school. First day of a new semester. First day of a new school year! It’s also another very special first. It’s the first day of preschool for my two preschoolers. Z is 4 and H is 2, almost 3. I’m excited and nervous, because it will be the first time for me to be schooling more than one child.

We school year round, divided into 3 semesters, with about a month’s break in between. So, school from January to March, taking off April, from May to July, taking off August, and from September to November, and off December. It works really well for us, because we hit most of the major holidays, and in the summer, we get the best weather in August, typically. So the first semester of the year is usually intensive, the 2nd lighter, and the 3rd review. This year, it will really work well, because of our new baby coming in April. The timing should be perfect, or close to it! I hope, LOL.

This semester we are going back to Student of the Word (SOW) for Bible, which I really really like. It teaches inductive study, as well as giving ample opportunity for exploring topics and biographies. We are not doing the writing response this year though, like we did last year, as I found it difficult for my oldest, L (who is just 9) to really make the connections yet. I think she needs more time before we do that more. We are using a couple of old-fashioned texts (written in the early 1900s!) for writing and math, and Grammarland for grammar, spelling and vocabulary. This is an old story I found introducing the parts of speech, that I adapted for the basis of language arts, that my daughter is really enjoying. Then we are using Tapestry of Grace for history, Abeka World Geography for geography and Apologia’s Exploring God’s Creation series for science. Whew. I know it’s intensive, but as I said, we do lighter in the spring, and review in the fall, so it really works.

For my preschoolers, I’m using an online preschool, Chalk Preschool (www.chalkpreschool.com). From what I’ve seen, it looks quite thorough and has a lot of entertaining videos and songs. I think all I’ll need to add is a Bible lesson, since it is secular-based. But one of the reasons I was attracted to it is because it offers lots of hands-on opportunities for the kids to play and explore, without me having to do much prep besides grab all the materials. I don’t have to look it up, tweak for age-and-stage and match to the lesson — it’s all done for me. It’s designed for ages 2-5, so both my kiddos should be able to get a lot out of it.

Hopefully the toddler (V) cooperates! Thankfully Daddy’s still home right now, so I’m hoping I can get him to keep her occupied while I’m with the preschoolers, and then they can all play together when I’m with L. Plus the usual chores and cooking… it’s going to be a busy day. Frankly, I hope I’m up to it! Energy has been in short supply this pregnancy.

So.. off to bed for this tired mama, after a bedtime snack. G’nite all…

Why in the world do children’s toys seem to multiply over night? I swear there are more in the morning than there were the night before. Of course, it is right after Christmas, so there really are more toys than there used to be last month, but still..

Also.. why do kids insist on dragging every single toy out in one day?? The floor gets covered in playfood, dress up clothes, baby dolls, magnetic dress up dolls, colored balls, toy horses, and assorted fairies and princesses. Can you tell I have girls?? We do have blocks and trucks and things too, but that was the last rotation.

One thing I’ve done to save my sanity and tame the toy monster is to rotate toys. I do it about about every 4-5 months or so — approximately whenever I get tired of picking up and sorting the same damn things every week. It’s just like Christmas for my kids then. New stuff!! I can hardly get everything out fast enough before they are diving in with renewed enthusiastic play. Another thing we’ve done is to only buy toys in “sets”. We don’t buy the latest and greatest electronic gadget or craze. I stick to tried and true sets — dress up clothes, wooden blocks, play dishes and food, etc. It seems to get the most mileage anyway. I try for quality, not quantity, but with 4 kids (soon to be 5)… there’s definitely quantity too.

That brings me to storage. I’ve tried a toy box/bin. And all that does is wind up with everything on the floor and a lot of broken stuff and missing pieces. I’ve tried shelves and boxes for each set, but at this point, it isn’t working well either. I’m still getting a lot of stuff on the floor, broken pieces (though it’s easier to find the broken stuff early) and I’m the one that has to sort through it. Maybe its an age and stage thing? I’m thinking what I need is cabinets with doors so they can’t see everything at once, and have to pick and choose their toy for the moment. And then make it a rule that it goes back before they get a new one. Perhaps locks on those doors might also help this mom’s toy craziness.

So I’m shopping for cabinets. Low ones, with big enough shelves to hold boxes, but doors on them that I can at least latch (so they aren’t playing with the doors instead of the toys!) Preferably heavy enough to withstand tugs and pulls and climbers too, without getting damaged or falling over (although we will secure them to the wall too.. safety first!) I’d also like some dresser-like storage for craft and school supplies, and these definitely with a lock or a way to install a lock. I have some pretty creative kids, but I don’t need their creativity to result in “face painting” with marker again, or stickers and crayon all over my walls..

You’d think from what I write here that I don’t supervise my kids. I do, honest. But when you’re changing the baby’s diaper, and directing the 9 yr old’s school work, plus trying to keep an eye on the pot on the stove, and still manage to gulp down a bite of lunch.. well some things slip through the cracks. My kids are loud, creative and very active.. and I adore them! They are so much fun!!

So I was thinking about this new year, and wondering what kind of year I’ll have. A year with changes, but for me, that’s pretty much par for the course. Having a new baby will do that, of course, but I know other things will change too.

I want to make some changes regarding my house, and how it flows. We have a formal dining room and a living room, that are connected through an archway (but have doors that close in each room to the rest of the house). They are filled with big windows.. and awkward spaces, lol! I think I want to switch them around — put the living room where the dining room is, and vice versa. Maybe add a low dresser for craft/school/office supplies (to keep them out of little hands!) and a media cabinet that locks would be awesome too. We have a piano I would love to use more, but where it is right now just isn’t working for me.

I also want to reorganize my kids’ playroom. The toy storage situation just is NOT working and I’m so freaking tired of seeing the floor literally covered from one end to the next, where it’s actually unsafe to let the baby in there. I know toys out everywhere is pretty much going to happen, but we need to do something different.. Maybe a dresser or cabinet that has doors? So that they aren’t tempted to bring everything off the shelf all at once..

My husband thinks its the beginning of nesting stage, and it probably is. I am cringing everytime I see the dust bunnies and cobwebs, and I know there are a million toys reproducing under the furniture. My kids love their books too, and it’s hard for them to keep them off the floor where their shelf is. Again, it’s becoming a safety hazard.. I keep slipping on little kid picture books!

I want to rip all the wallpaper off the front entry way (I HATE!! Hate hate hate wallpaper! Whoever thought *that* was a good idea??) and repaint, so I’m dreaming of paint swatches and perusing decorating blogs. I so admire those women that can decorate, but every time I see a perfectly-put-together living room, with cushions on the couches and chairs and every side table filled with little decorative knick-knacks, I gotta think … they don’t have 2 yr olds, or if they do, they aren’t allowed in that room. I can barely keep the sofa cushions on, let alone any throw pillows. And throw pillows here live up to their name — thrown!

What is it about a new year, a turning of the calendar page that makes people want to reorganize and re-evaluate? I always do, and its funny, I didn’t think I was going to feel like this leading up to New Year’s. But now that is actually is a new year, all I want to do is have a clean slate.. or at least a clean house!

It’s a new year, and I’m full of anticipation and want to make big plans. The problem is, I’ve made big plans before… and there’s always a monkey wrench. Or in my case, a munchkin. I have 4 of them (soon to be 5), all adorable, active, beautiful, busy, creative and crazy (and I could continue the ABCs.. ) little girls.

My house is a beautiful, 4 bedroom, with a very nice wide front porch and absolutely breath-taking flowerbeds (here’s hoping I don’t destroy them!! *crossing fingers*) that we bought last year. It needs wall-paper removal, floor refinishing, window treatments and a desperate need of usable, short-term storage space downstairs. But we have a large airy kitchen (with so few cupboards, it’s laughable!) and my favorite thing: a playroom!! Kid chaos containment, as my husband calls it.

We have books galore, papers and crayons and clothing everywhere, and crafts in various stages of completion/destruction stashed in the oddest places, along with cups, bottles, stuffies, socks and the other assorted accessories girls seem to need.

I would love to put in place a system of homekeeping — with the old fashioned phrase “a place for everything, and everything in its place” as my motto. I have two issues with this, however. For one, I’m one of those people who is very very visual: if I can’t see it, I don’t know that it’s there. This results in buying duplicates. Or having lots and lots of one thing, and nothing of something else. Second, I have little children who like to pull things out, and don’t know how to put things away very well. Who are also very very visual… Well, you get the idea.

So I have been storing things up. Up on shelves, up in baskets on shelves, up in boxes on shelves.. which becomes visual clutter on my walls. Not the restful space I long for, but c’est la vie, I guess.

I would love to organize my time better as well. Fluidity has its moments, but routine I think would be more beneficial. However… a lack of energy (pregnancy related) and having 3 of 4 children be aged 4 and under… sometimes the routine gets trashed just because of a teething baby, or potty-training toddler. I have things I would like to spend more time on doing (like writing!) and things I should spend more time on (like housework!), and things I waste my time on (like email!) and finding a balance that works is difficult at best.

I think I need professional help! LOL

So.. I’m hoping my theme for this year will be organization. In preparation for a future full of crazy, chaotic, creative, curious, cute children, and a house that will be a haven of a home, I really need to declutter, repurpose and re-evaluate what I use and what I spend my time on. Maybe if I take the time now, I will have more time for what I want later.

And maybe it’s all wishful thinking. Only time will tell.

It is the first day of school, and my husband has started a new, though temporary, job. So I will be starting my daughter on her new lessons, while supervising (and trying to keep them from killing each other!) my 4 and 2 year old, and making sure my almost 1 year old doesn’t get all the books off the shelves (again…)…all while coping with the first trimester fatigue and morning sickness of my fifth pregnancy. Yes, we are expecting again!

But I can’t help but smile. As busy as life is, as chaotic as my house stays, we are blessed.  We are blessed with happy, healthy children, with a beautiful home, with freedom to choose how we educate our children, how we parent them and how we worship our God. We are blessed with friends and family who love us and support us, with a community that is safe and friendly. We are blessed with a marriage that is growing stronger and closer than ever.

I can hardly bear to read the need feed on my Facebook page today. So many parents celebrating the first day of school, and their kids leaving home. It makes me want to cry. I couldn’t imagine leaving my kids in the care of someone else for that long every day, of not seeing them for that long, and letting someone else impart to my children their values and worldview.  I’m thankful that my husband and I are in complete agreement that our children will never set foot in a school institution, if we can help it.

But we are blessed! Incredibly so… Thank you Jesus!

I have a new phone that”Swypes” not types, so please forgive any typos.

I cannot wait for next week. A are going on vacation, to my parents. A have plans to meet old friends, new friends (like my brother’s girlfriend, finally), and then there’s the family reunion at the end of the week. I live seeing my family, even if they aren’t quite sure what to do with me.

It’s funny how even thinking about a vacation energizes you (not that I have much energy lately, but that’s a different post.) I am excited and so looking forward to this. Packing hasn’t started yet, but will in the next day or so.

We even planned this weeks menu around going, to prevent leftovers and dishes being left behind dirty. Just wish I could have arranged for my hair cut before we left, but time did not permit.

Yes I meal plan. I have to! When you feed five mouths (baby doesn’t count yet…) and need to do it on a budget, you’d better meal plan. I did better before we moved, but I’m out of practice a bit now. Hopefully once we are back into school routine, I’ll be betterat doing a lot, more regularly.