I love, LOVE, the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree.  If you stop to think of it, it’s kind of a strange tradition… I don’t even let my kids bring sticks into the house on a normal basis, but every December, we head out, chop down an entire tree and bring it into our living room.  We then string it with lights and hang tons of sentimental  and breakable decorations on it. 

None the less, I love it.  And as soon as Thanksgiving is over, I am chomping at the bit to go cut down our tree and bring it home. 

This year’s tree cutting was a momentous one. 

2012… the year our oldest son chopped the tree down himself

Now for years, Scott’s let him “help”… some years he’d come with his own plastic saw to cut with Daddy… as he got older Scott let him hold the real saw and take a few strokes at it.

This year, he told my son, he thought he was ready to do it himself.

I think Scott did one or two strokes at the beginning to get him started and then he handed it over to our son.


(see him lying there at the bottom of the tree?)  Scott helped by pushing the tree to the side for him.   But, the work was all our 8 year old.


I was worried we wouldn’t make it, as darkness was quickly falling and the farm was getting ready to close.  He kept at it though.  And Scott was confident he could do it.

I LOVE the look on his face when he came up from chopping it down. 


He did it!  And he’s so proud!

Our 6 year old had her first gymnastics meet this past weekend.  I can’t really put into words the feelings of pride I had in watching her. 

When we first enrolled her in gymnastics 3 years ago, we did so because she was tiny, tough and flexible.  It seemed gymnastics might be worth a try for our then 3 year old.

Somewhere in the last 3 years, a light when on inside her.  It turned every curb into a balanced beam, and made every wide open space beckon her to do a cartwheel or round off or handstand. 

Saturday was her first competition.  I was so excited to see the new skills she’s learned.  But the thing that made me the most proud, wasn’t her round off back hand spring (though that was really cool to watch for the first time), but rather her ability to get back up on the beam after falling.  I was impressed with her poise and confidence.  She walked out by herself onto a wide open floor and performed her routine with people watching.  And when she got off from the music a little in her routine, she didn’t panic and fall apart, she slowed down and got herself back on track.   I marveled at her ability to shake off a rough warm up and minutes later fight her way through her bar routine and do the best I’d seen her do. 

She has lots of room for improvement in her scores.   The smile on her face and the light in her eyes on way home confirm she has the passion to keep practicing hard and I am eager to see how much she grows this season.  

I am thankful she has the opportunity to do something she loves so much and I love that light in her eyes when she walks in the door after practice.  And I’m not gonna lie, I’ve watched the video of her floor routine more times than I can count… I simply, love love watching my girl perform. 

However, as awesome as it was to watch her first meet, the day of her first meet was insane. 

Enter… the complete story of the circus family’s first gymnastics meet…

While watching her compete,  Scott and I were also literally juggling our traveling circus, as you would expect.  Somewhere in the stress to get her hair up and sprayed perfectly, I neglected to make myself a cup of coffee.  As we drove off for the meet, I was a tad grumpy.  After arriving at the meet, in plenty of time, and realizing with plenty of time to have grabbed that coffee, it soon became apparent, that I neglected some other important items for the circus crew. 

Things like diapers and wipes. 

Yes, that’s right folks, I’ve been a mom for almost 9 years now and yet I still can’t seem to remember the importance of packing extra diapers and wipes when leaving the house.  You can only imagine how well it went over when 15 minutes after arriving at the meet, our son reeks of all get out and Scott offering to go change him asks, “Where’s the diapers?”  Only to be met with a blank stare. 

(Scott headed out to find the nearest store, but thankfully he double checked the van only to find a surprise stash of diapers in our sons beloved backpack… seems the 2 year old is more on top of things than the Momma).

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I also neglected to pack food for the crew.  Any mom with any ounce of experience would have known to pack food when taking her crew of 6 to a gym for 4 hours. 

And to top it all off, my 5 year old was a giant ball of misery.  She mentioned something about her ear hurting in the morning and thankfully I paid attention enough to give her some Motrin, but it didn’t take long at the gym to realize Motrin was not going to cut it.  My usually amicable and go lucky 5 year old was a moaning, whining lump on the floor. 

Yes, to all those around us, we looked like that family.  I’m going with the assumption that most people were too busy focusing on their daughters out on the floor, to focus on our little traveling circus act beside them in the bleachers. 

This view in the van as we waited in the parking lot of Rite Time Care, made all the chaos fade away in my mind.

photo (8)

(as did a stop at Chick-Fil-A for substance and milkshakes)

The doctor at Rite Time Care to confirmed an ear infection for my 5 year old so bad her eardrum had ruptured.  So the circus van then added a stop at the pharmacy for antibiotics and ear drops…

It was quite a day for the circus fam… one that will surely go down in infamy.  But at the end of it all, once we were home, meds given,  diapers changed, and tummies filled, I found this image on my camera.  This is the picture I will treasure in my heart from the day.

Presents to Judge

I can’t wait to watch her compete again (though next time I’m packing  a survival bag for the crew and making time for my morning coffee).

I had grabbed the camera hoping for a cute shot of all 4 of them sitting in the leaf pile… but darn it they kept having fun and not sitting still for the picture… it was then that I realized, I’d rather capture the moment than the portrait.

So glad I did.








Haven’t been making the time for the blog lately, but when I uploaded these pictures from last week, I realized I wanted to preserve these smiles to look back on later… and so I am enjoying this quiet afternoon during break to catch up a bit on preserving these fleeting moments…


It’s always fun to peek in on my kiddos when they are sleeping.  Sometimes because it gives me a good chuckle, sometimes because it tugs at my heart strings, and sometimes just because it sets my mind at ease to see them sleeping snuggly in their rooms. 

Last night as I was crawling into bed, I realized I hadn’t peeked in on them.  I don’t know if I’m the only Mom out there like this, but when I realize I forgot, I just can’t shake it off… I have to go b/c sometimes this little quirky fear will rise up “What if the one night I didn’t check on them something was wrong?”

Which is why it was all the more comical, that when I opened the boys room, the first thing I saw was this.


“Oh my,” I thought.  And I confess for a split second, as my eyes scanned the room, looking for my baby boy, I had a little fear in my gut that something was not right.

And then, I saw this….


(yup, he’s wearing his big sisters bright pink Dora socks… No, she didn’t do this to him, he did it to himself…)  Stifling a giggle, I ran to grab the camera… So, glad I didn’t skip my night time peek, I’d have hated to miss this precious sight.


It was our first time trick or treating in the new neighborhood and I gotta say it felt weird this year not doing it with our neighbor like we’ve done for the past several years.  It wasn’t the same.

Still we had a good time dressing up as our favorite characters and chowing down on candy bar after candy bar when we got home.  We let the kids go all in and devour their loot when they got home… then we let that sugar coma set in while we vegged on the couch with a little Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin. 

This year we had Batman and Batgirl swoop in on the bad guys of Gotham City.




As well as the American girl doll Kit (don’t they look like twins?)


and bringing up the rear like a caboose was our very own Choo-Choo…


We now have waaaaay more candy than any household should have in its possession.


Happy Halloween from the Circus Fam 2012!

For many north of us on the east coast, Sandy was more than an adventure… it was a catastrophe.  It was devastation.  It was unlike anything I have ever seen first hand or experienced. 

So, I hesitate to even really blog about our adventure… b/c for us… that’s what it was, an adventure.  An escape from the normal day to day living for a few days.  A “Staycation” if you will. 

We heard about Sandy well before she hit MD and we did all we could to prepare.  I baked 2 loaves of bread, baked cookies, stocked up on pasta and sauce, washed all of our clothes and dishes, found flashlights and candles, bought water, filled all the bathtubs with water (so we could flush toilets when the power went out, filled pots and bowls with water for the dog, and for cooking, bought paper plates, and Scott did his very best to try and get our generator working. 

Monday evening around 6:30 the power went out.  With a LOUD pop right before.  We knew that wasn’t going to be just a flicker.  Scott raced downstairs to start hand pumping the sump pump.  Not long after I heard him yell upstairs, “Go next door and ask if we can plug our pump into their generator.”

I grabbed my boots and jacket and the kids cute little firefly lantern and raced next door.   (Thankfully Scott had already pre run the extension cords from the sump pump to the outside incase he had gotten our generator working).  When I raced back to say they said yes, he took off to plug it in and I started bailing.  I made 2 bucket trips outside while he was plugging in and my back was already sore.  I can not imagine if we hadn’t been able to plug in.   After plugging in, Scott brought our gas cans to our neighbor and we settled in for the night.

Once the sump pump was working, we were really fine.  We enjoyed meatball sandwiches and salad by lanternlight for a late dinner.  The kids went down rather easily… the big 3 wanted to have a sleep over in one room.  Scott and I settled in to read books down in the guestroom (which is conveniently right by the sump pump) and all was well.  As the winds picked up, I decided I felt safer having everyone sleep downstairs, so we brought the kids to the basement and settled in for the night…. reading and then being lulled to sleep by the sound of our sump pump working. 

photo (20)In the morning,  Scott checked in again with our neighbor and since he had plenty of power, we were able to plug in our coffee pot as well.  Priority Number 2 after the Sump Pump. 

We then took a look outside and a walk down our street to check out the hood.


The backyard looks like a swamp.  Ever wonder what inches of rain falling down in 24 hrs looks like?




We also lost 2 of our pear trees in our front yard.  We expected this.  We all took time to pray and thank God for sparing the third tree.  The kids have deemed it the “climbing tree” and we had been fearful it wouldn’t survive the storm. 

After lunch, we decided to take the kids to Annapolis to see if we could see some high water.   Here is the dock across the river from the Naval Academy.


Here is where I discovered there are holes in my favorite whale rain boots.


As I walked back on the dock, I could see water spraying out the sides with each step. Major bummer as I loved these rain boots. 


The kids had such a fun time running around in the water. 





Until they didn’t.  Then we raced back to the van, stripped off their clothes, cranked up the heat and went home to snuggle in blankets and drink hot cocoa. 

Like I said… for us, it was an adventure.  A mini stay-cation.  We camped out on the floor.  We ate dinner by candle light.  We didn’t lose anything… except the chance to take a shower. 

And now, after about 40 hours, our power is back and life goes back to normal. 

We were very, very fortunate.


Some days we wake up on “school at the building days” with clothes all lined up and ready the night before, I’ve gotten lunches packed complete with notes from Mom, and we’re out the door on time so we can arrive at the building with plenty of time to drop everyone's books off in their classrooms and report to the sanctuary for opening with time to spare.

And some mornings Mom oversleeps when her alarm goes off, laundry isn’t put away so we find ourselves scrounging through baskets of laundry looking for matching socks, lunches are packed but without drinks b/c we couldn’t find water bottles, and we stumble out the door racing the clock, with bed head and arrive at school only to discover the socks were left on the kitchen counter so we’re going in with just sneakers and no cute knee socks…

Which morning do you think it was when we had class pictures in front of the building at 8:30am sharp?

As much as I hate the cold, I really am a 4 seasons kind of girl.  I love the beginning of a new season…. bringing out favorite clothes, decorations, foods, traditions only enjoyed for a season.  It’s refreshing and exciting and makes me so grateful for the climate we live in. 

But, this year, more than most I have been crazy excited about fall.  I can’t explain it.  But, I’m more giddy than normal about pulling out my jeans and boots and sweaters.  I LOVE my fall decorations and am burning my pumpkin spice candle every waking second I am at home. 

Speaking of pumpkin, I seemed to have fully jumped on the pumpkin band wagon this year, which is kinda funny b/c I’m not really that into pumpkin ( I think I like pumpkin spice more than pumpkin itself)… but this year I seem to be a sucker for any pumpkin product… we’ve had pumpkin waffles, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin spice marshmallows… and thanks to this thing called PUMPKIN SPICE MILK I found at Aldi’s I’m enjoying pumpkin spiced lates every day at home.  (seriously, that stuff is A-MAZING and I may gone a bit overboard at Aldi’s last night and stocked up on 3 containers of it so I can have lates till November!) 

Last week we enjoyed one of my favorite fall traditions… apple picking!  I love apple picking and this year I think was my favorite year of it.  (of course the bar has been set pretty low the last 2 years…. we had the porta potty incident of 2010 and then the whining/disobedient frustration of 2011—which didn’t make the blog).   So, really it could only go up from the last 2 years. 

And up it went.

The weather was gorgeous.  The kids were agreeable (the KEY most important ingredient for a successful Mom and kid outing).   And every one got to participate this year.  I was all kinds of smiles snapping pics of my little apple pickers. 


Not only did I come home with around 40lbs of apples, but I even got a decent picture of all 4 kids!  What more could a Momma’ heart ask for?IMG_6915

While he’s been interested in going on the potty for awhile now… even going on his own every once and awhile, I haven’t yet been reading to dive full in to the potty training process with my youngest.   Just last week I was talking to a friend about our 2 year olds and I told her "I am not ready yet.” 

Because potty training is a lot of work.  It takes time and patience and flexibility.   While it is great to emerge on the other side with a child who no longer needs diapers, the process of getting there is, in my opinion, no fun.

But, today while at Target for more diapers b/c he was wearing the very last one I could find in the house (as in I had already scoured the van, all the bathrooms, and dug this one out of the corner of the closet.. very last one), we stumbled down the underwear aisle and the kids found “choo choo” undies which he of course got so excited about. 

I bought them b/c I knew they would be great incentive for the day when we started potty training.  But, I also pot a box of diapers b/c I wasn’t yet sure if that day was today… and plus, come on, it takes awhile to emerge on the other side. 

We got home and he eagerly pulled out the choo choo underwear.  I told him he had to go potty first. 

His face lit up, “Ok, I go potty!”

Look at him looking back to check out his work. 


And then he proudly points to it showing me how he went potty right there.


When he was done he raced out to put on his underwear.  I explained that he can’t pee pee on the choo choos.  If he pee pees he has to go on the potty or a diaper. 

So, he ran back to go on the potty more time. 

Then he paraded around in his new underwear.  I was working on something on the computer and turned around to see he had grabbed my phone and was trying to call Daddy.  He was holding the phone to his ear and said, “Daddy, look I got choo choos… See them Daddy?  (holds phone to his underwear)  Daddy look at my choo choos.” 

Oh my it was soooo precious. 

I guess it’s time to hop aboard the potty train.  It seems to be leaving whether I am ready or not! 

I was scrolling around on pinterest one night and a graphic caught my eye that made me stop in my tracks.  It showed 2 sides of the brains and listed descriptions for left/brain right brain people. 

Left Brain Right Brain Illustration

I think often people are largely a little bit of both.  However, when I looked at this graphic, it was like a portrait of my daughters.

I swear my 6 year old could be the poster child for the left brained person.

Left Brain Right Brain Illustration

And equally astonishing to me was the fact that as I looked closely at the adjectives for the right brained person, I found my 5 year old fit it TO THE TEE!

Left Brain Right Brain Illustration


As I think back to the post I did this summer describing her personality… this was her. 

I am astonished that both girls could be SO DIFFERENT.  While my boys appear to be more blends of both, my girls are quite distinct in their personalities. 

I see it in the way they organize their stuff, they way they dress, they way they keep their rooms, do their school work, even do their gymnastics.  I found it interesting to read up on both personalities and learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of both.   To be sure, I can’t parent them exactly the same way.  IMG_6310

Given that they are a grade a part in school and only a year and a half apart in age, they share a lot of their life together.  I think it will be good for them to have their own distinct identities and I hope they will learn to work together with someone completely opposite from them.  They have no choice since they share a room/dresser and sometimes bed with each other. 

I like to think of myself as a woman who can hold her own.  I’m not a girly girl.  I can follow a football game and I am currently 3-0 in my fantasy league.  I love camping.  Power outages don’t send me packing for the nearest Hilton.  And I will happily kill and remove any bug that comes my way without even a squeal.

However, this “tough girl” fantasy that I have of myself falls apart rather quickly when confronted with my own personal kryptonite.

2 forms actually

mice and snakes

Nothing sends me squealing bloody murder and jumping for the nearest stool to stand on like mouse droppings or snake sightings.

And I’ve encountered BOTH this week. 


Saturday morning I went to let Maggie out from our downstairs rec room and as I went to close the door, I spotted a black snake hanging down from the side of the railing.  It took me a minute to process what I was staring at before I slammed the door shut, ran into the middle of the room and started screaming and jumping up and down like a maniac. 

My oldest 3 kids found it hysterical.  My 2 year old was traumatized. 

Scott was away for the day.  So, I was left with no other option but to promptly shut every window on that side of the house and dead bolt the doors. 

Again my oldest 3 kids found this hysterical.  “Mom, snakes can’t open doors, you know.” 

I know.  And yet I still called for my 8 year old to open the back door to let the dog in. 

I know it’s not rational.  But, once you get the heebie jeebies they are hard to shake.  I am convinced in cases like this (cases of irrational paranoia) ignorance really is bliss.  If I had never seen that snake down stairs, I wouldn’t think twice about walking in my backyard.  Now I still walk out there, but you better believe I think twice, even three times about it. 

Well, if that wasn’t bad enough, Wednesday morning I spotted what I was pretty sure were mouse droppings on my kitchen floor.  I called Scott to confirm, which he quickly did.  I then jumped on our kitchen stool and squealed, “YOU HAVE GOT TO GET RID OF THEM!  AND I DON”T MEAN HUMANELY!  I WANT THEM GONE. DEAD GONE!” 

Because if there is anything I hate more than snakes, it’s mice.  I hate em.

I know they are little.  I know they won’t hurt me.  And yet, knowing that they are lurking behind my walls sets me completely on edge.  Wednesday I was awful.  I blared music all day, especially when the kids were gone and the babe was napping b/c it was “too quiet and what if the mice thought it was night and came out”.  I had a kid come with me every time I had to go into the laundry room or pantry.  I was Nazi woman about crumbs… fearful that each crumb on the floor was sure to mean mice prancing around that night.  By the time Scott got home at 8pm that night, I was a  wreak.  Nerves frazzled.  Stressed out.  Emotional.  He went to the store to by mouse traps.  Even though it was almost 9pm and he was dead tired from 2 long days at work ,b/c truthfully, I gave him no choice.  I wanted those mice dead on a platter by breakfast.  

I then found myself a weeping sobbing wreak as I went to bed blubbering about how mice are my own kryptonite.  I am sure Scott was a toss between annoyed about hearing yet again about those blasted mice and amused that his wife just compared herself to Superman.  But he lovingly let me go on and on and even said something about how maybe they’d end up being my alter ego, like batman and bats. 

Because he is a good man, folks.  A very good man. 

I guess you can say the “honeymoon” phase of the new house is over.  In one week I’ve encountered 2 snakes, mouse droppings, and a backed up septic system.    

We are three weeks in to our new school year.  I think I FINALLY have all the kids correct curriculum (missed a few things I when I ordered it this summer) and their books organized in a way that works for them, me, and their tutors at the tutorial. 

I’ve done things a little differently this year, and SO FAR, it has helped our days to run more smoothly. 

First of all, I’ve committed to waking up before the kids every day.  I’ve tried this in the past, but truthfully, what I did was sleep in as late as possible on “school at the building days” resulting in a rushed and flustered Momma trying to hustle the kids out the door in the morning.  Resulting in crabby and late kids and Momma.    On school at home days, I would just sleep till the first kid woke me and let the kiddos sleep in till they woke, with the aim of starting school right after breakfast. 

I’ll be honest.  It didn’t work great for us.  

For many reasons. 

This year I have finally resigned myself to the fact that morning person or not, I gotta set that alarm get up shower, make my coffee, prep breakfast, etc BEFORE my lil morning glory wakes.  I also wake my not so morning glory kids up (EVEN ON SCHOOL AT HOME DAYS) and we start school at the same time every day.   3 weeks in, I still hate waking up early, but I can honestly attest to the fact that it makes a MUCH smoother day for all of us. 

Another HUGE, HUGE change for us, was coming up with a visual aid to hold us accountable to our school work.  At a meeting this summer with some other moms from our tutorial, I heard someone mention something about clothespins.  I was intrigued.  I googled it and found a lot of people use clothespins to keep their kids on tasks with their chores.  You write all the chores your child has to do on individual clothespins , hang them on a door hanger or something, and as they complete them, they move them to the other side. 


My husband made a little board for each kid.  I wrote their names on the top and he hung hooks above our dry erase board in our school area.   I made clothes pins for EVERY subject I wanted them to do. This was huge for us too, b/c our tutorial doesn’t cover all the subjects and I found myself having a hard time staying on top of the ones not covered at the building… especially on “at the building days”  I also added those extra stuff I wanted IMG_6592them to do each day like catechism, piano, and for my oldest Spanish.    On at the building days, I move to the left every thing they covered at the tutorial.  For the girls this leaves them with just catechism and piano on the right side of their board on Mon and Wed.  For my 3rd grader he is left with spelling, handwriting, Spanish, piano, and catechism still hanging on the left side of the board when he comes home on Mon and Wed.    They know that they have to finish all their school work EACH day.  When they come home from school, they can’t play with the neighbor till all the clips are moved.  They also can’t watch TV.   On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, they can easily monitor through out the day, how much work they have left.  And they get that joy of checking things off of a list.  It is a MUCH needed visual reminder for all of us throughout the day of what has been done and what is left to do.    And it is great accountability for me to keep us doing all the things I want to do, but tend to let slide as most good intentions often do. 

One other little thing that seems to be working for us.  One of the clothes pins is book bag.  School is not done until their books are put back in their bags and INTO the van on Tuesday and Friday (Thursdays they just have to pack them up).  This has really helped us on Mon and Wed mornings as our book bags are already packed and in the van when we wake up!   AND our house stays tidy b/c they are putting away all of their school stuff at the end of the day.

I am really optimistic about these new things that seem to be helping things run more smoothly.  Our days aren’t perfect.  We have messes.  We write on the wall.  We clog our septic line and have sewage back up into our basement (yes, that was our little “fun” adventure on Mon).  But, things are rolling along. 

Lately, I’ve been asked several times what I do with my 2 year old while I am teaching the older 3. 

Here’s your answer. 


Yes, that would be pen mark up and down the corner of the walls in my dining room.    Yes, he did that yesterday morning while I was working with the big kids in the other room and thought that scraping sound was the sound of him scraping oatmeal of his cereal bowl with a spoon.