Random Stuff

We've been busy, like always, but especially this past weekend!

On Saturday we were very fortunate to witness the marriage of one of my old school chums. It was a beautiful wedding and we all had a blast. They had a 1920s themed wedding and both the groom and bride looked amazing. My favorite part of the whole day was seeing the groom's expression when he saw the bride walking down the aisle, his face said it all, no caption needed. Here is my favorite picture from the day, right after they had their kiss, they look so happy and in love, I love newlyweds :)
On Sunday we got a visit from my Dad. I was pretty nervous, I hadn't seen him in at least 6 months. He hadn't been to our house in over a year so there was lots of new stuff to show him. I wasn't sure how he'd act and wasn't sure how I'd act and really wasn't sure how the girls would act, but all went well and I think it's the beginning of a new chapter in our relationship. I know he missed the girls so much. He's a Grandpa that melts for his Grand girls, Char was putting glittery lip gloss all over him and he just kept smiling. I was able to gather the courage to invite him down for Lexi's Luau, hope he is able to make it.

Monday on one of our evening walks Travis tells me he was invited by one of his coworkers to walk/hike the Appalachian Trail sometime next year. Just drop them off and they walk back home, "...living off the land..." as Travis put it, bwahahahaha! I'm interested in seeing if he will actually survive so I said, "SURE!" They aren't planning on doing the whole trail because I think that would take a few months but they are planning on making it about a week long trip. Soooo in order to prepare for his trip he tells me he wants to just start walking until we can't go on anymore. Venturing out of our nice little neighborhood (which is pretty much a big circle) and just start trekking. I think that sounds like fun, except for the traffic part, there are very few sidewalks around where we live and drivers scare the bejesus out of me! He wants to bike as well which sounds like a better option to me. His goal is to bike from our house all the way to the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, bike the whole trail and then bike home. From our house to the trail is 14 miles, the trail is 8.5 miles. WTF!? So all together that is 45 miles...that is going to be a looooooooonnnnnnnnnggggggggg day, I think we can do it though so be on the lookout for a blog about that if I can even stand long enough to type a blog about that!

Anywho, one of the littles calls so I will sign off! Until next time! Coming in the future, 'school' starts next week and we are doing "A for Animals!"

Side note: I'm on a reading mission to find the perfect blend of schooling for the girls. Montessori, Unschooling, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and whatever else I can get my hands on...keep an eye out to the right of the blog and see what I'm reading, Charlotte too!


Steps To Healthier Living

I hate grocery shopping! Especially the checking out part when I get stuck with a $400 bill for two weeks worth of groceries. I have friends who are coupon gods, saving boatloads of money on groceries. I have not seen one coupon for any items typically on our grocery list except for cereal. "They" (whoever they are) say you should only shop the outer edges of your grocery store: dairy, meat, produce. "They" fail to print coupons for such things! The majority of ourbill is meat+produce. It used to be meat+produce+diapers but since we switched to cloth we're saving at least $25-$50 a week! Woo! I wish I did cloth with Charlotte because the way I figure it we spent at least $1000 on diapers for her in just one year. So in an effort to start saving money on our bill we've been taking steps to eliminate items on our list which is helping us live a healthier lifestyle simultaneously.

Obviously step 1 was cloth diapers

Step 2 was eliminating red meat from our diet, turkey and chicken only for us! We were buying boneless skinless breasts but Travis happened to befriend a dietitian who told us they are filled with preservatives and more sodium than you could possibly ever need. So now we've switched to buying whole chickens and cutting them up ourselves. We really need to go price what they have at Central Meats and maybe we can go free range, yum! Eventually we might take step 2 a bit further and go meatless for good but I like eating meat so we'll see, that'll be like step 101.

Step 3 making our own bread products. Biscuits, pancakes, cakes, loaves, anything bread! It is so easy it's ridiculous that I haven't been doing it for longer. The last recipe I made gave me two loaves, so I figured a 5lb bag of flour will give me at least 7 loaves of bread. The flour costs about $4 the bread we usually buy costs about $3.50 a loaf. I have been looking through my cookbooks for the most nutritious bread recipe but think I may have to get an actual bread
cookbook to find the kind of recipe I'm looking for. Another plus to this step is Charlotte loves to help me cook, she's a great stirrer!

Step ? vegetable garden. I've been saying for almost 2 years I'm going to plant a garden. The first time I was planning I was pregnant with Alexis and that fell through, this past year I just got lazy and the upfront finances got in the way. I have been reading a book about square foot gardening for 2 years now, this upcoming spring is the damn year! If it doesn't happen this year I think I will make the effort to join a co-op, there is a farm right up the street from us that does it. I'm not quite sure what step this will end up being because we might come up with something else in between now and spring when we start the garden.

So far I like the way the steps are going and I like how healthy we feel knowing we are eating what we are actually eating and not some hidden junk.

I'd love to hear some ways my readers are leading healthier lifestyles!



September is the start of a busy month for us, just like many parents, but mine seems to be especially busy. Alexis is having her first birthday in September, Charlotte is starting dance classes in September and I have decided to start Charlotte in some type of schooling in September.

Before either of the kids were born Travis and I decided I would stay at home with them and we also decided they would go to either a private school or I would homeschool them. We decided to choose homeschooling. I've been reading reading reading everything I can on homeschooling. Checking out websites, finding out the laws, ordering catalogs for curriculum, etc. I was planning on using curriculum this year but have recently decided to go down a different (cheaper) path for at least this year and maybe even next year. My friend Danielle and I had a whole day kinda themed around the ocean for the kids a little while back. We went to the aquarium, checked out books about the ocean, had ocean themed snacks and even did some crafts. It was fun picking out all the activities and I'm sure the kids at least learned one or two things. Danielle brought up unit studies as a homeschooling method. That seemed to be kind of a pain in the butt in my first opinion but now that I have been reading and thinking about what kind of unit studies I would do I am thinking I might head down that path this year. I'm pretty excited to share with you the units we do, I'm thinking about 1-2 week long units, 5-6 days a week depending on the unit. So I'll try to update with a summary of what we did and what unit will be coming up the next week. I'm planning on leaving weeks open for whatever happens to happen, kind of an unschooling type of thinking, even though I'm not toooooo crazy about the unschooling method but at this age I don't think it's going to be too big of a deal. I'm thinking a letter a week for a total of 26 weeks of units. I had a friend of mine say there are 180 days of school in a year for a total of 36 weeks (even though she said 42?) so that leaves 10 weeks for random whatevers. 26 units +10 open weeks= 36 week school year. I will probably do a small summer school thing but it won't be as involved.

Other things that have been happening around here, like previously mentioned, Lexi's birthday party. I've had the idea of a Luau in my head for awhile, I don't know what I was thinking but my original idea was way too involved, so I cut back, mainly on the menu, then I was still overcomplicating it. I have to realize kids will entertain themselves with whatever is around and eat whatever they can find. I'm pretty sure that as long as there is cake they won't care what else is going on. I've been over stressing about this party, which is in exactly a month, but I've finally got only a few more things left to do! Lexi's outfit is almost complete, I have supplies bought, have to buy some decorations and the food but I think that's about it! PHEW!

Charlotte starts dance really soon! I am so excited about this and I think she is too, she has her shoes but I still have to buy her leotard, tights and little skirt and then she'll be set! She keeps asking me to take her to dance class school, it's so darn cute!

Before I sign off for the day, I have decided to write a book called "Phrases Your Kids Say that Remind You to Stop Cussing" This weeks entry will be brought to you by the lovely Charlotte who happened to pick up, "Whoa, what the hell was that!?" She says it exactly the same way her Daddy does, I'm so proud! *facepalm*


Plastic Gelatin Sun Catchers

Friday (August 13) morning, Charlotte and I started a new project that I got out of FamilyFun magazine (see Pretty Plastic Light Catchers), making plastic with unflavored gelatin. This was a relatively simple process it just took a long time to finish.
It was simply 3 tablespoons of water boiled and mixed with one envelope of unflavored gelatin. When dried it has the exact consistency of projector transparencies. Charlotte added the food coloring she wanted and the glitter she wanted and then we poured the mixtures onto plastic disposable plates (which is what the article called for but I'm sure glass plates would work as well). Now all we had to do was wait for our creations to dry. Turns out it takes a long time to completely dry! They were not completely dry until Monday. They were peeling off the plates which is pretty much how you know they are done. I just cut the circles in half, one half for Char and one for me to do whatever we wanted to do with. I traced stars on mine and Charlotte went for a more outside-the-box approach. I really enjoyed doing this craft with her and since I bought 2 packages of Knox we will be doing it again one day. Only a few things I would do differently. I think I would pour the mixture onto baking sheets so that the edges don't thicken up like they did with the circle plates and also wondering if using agar would work as well as Knox. Agar is a vegetable based gelatin and I'm thinking it won't stink as much as the Knox did, it honestly smelled like throw-up, gross. Here are our pics!

Char swirling two colors together
Pink with purple swirls

Blue with every single type of glitter we have
Blue with red swirls
Green with purple glitter
Cutting her pieces
Punching holes in stars
Threading stars with fishing line
Waiting to be hung up
Stars hanging over the sink
Char's creation
Now hanging up in our art studio

Call Me Concerned...

As the mother of a child with food allergies I was alarmed when I saw this in the most recent Victoria's Secret catalogI'm pretty sure this model is having an episode of angioedema and that they should have been giving this poor girl a shot of epinephrine and taken her to the ER instead of taking her picture. I mean look at the swelling in her lips and her eyes probably swelled shut right after this picture was taken!
Sure hope she's okay!!


Tiny Dancer

Today I registered Charlotte for her first year of dance class! So excited!! She has always expressed an interest in dancing, more hip-hop or break dancing, but every little one has to start with a combo ballet/tap class. We signed her up with her little friend Sean. I think it'll be nice for her to have someone she already knows in the class with her at least for the first year while she's learning about independence and having to follow the rules. I worry a little bit about those two though, they can cause some trouble when they're together, they get really silly :p Another thing I worry about is her speaking up to go to the bathroom. She knows when she has to go and usually tells me but I'm just a bit worried about a teacher that has to handle 15 other little ones too. Probably just normal parent worries though. If an accident happens, it happens...nothing I can really do but clean it up and stress the importance of telling the teacher she has to go. Her first class will be September 11 and I will be armed with the camera! Until then I leave you with this picture of Charlotte and Sean exploring the dance studio :)


Playroom Construction

The playroom has entered the construction phase. I was starting to run out of room for Charlotte's art work and I was also having a hard time deciding what to do when Lexi starts to make more art. Also I will be homeschooling the kids so this will become the "school" room as well. The plan for what will happen to the playroom hasn't been finalized yet but what I am trying to achieve is kid-friendly but mature enough for teens so I don't have to change it anytime soon. Can't wait to keep you posted on the transformation, here is what's happened so far...

The playroom

We had to expand into the original playroom

View from standing in the blue playroom

Pulled down the stuffed animals, what a mess!

All the artwork down

Ready to get started

Tv down


New Ride!

Travis and I have been in the car market since I got pregnant with Charlotte. At the time we only had the 1995 Subaru Impreza Coupe which is a 2-door and also a 1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse which is an asshole car, also a 2-door as well.
We got rid of the Eclipse and procured a 2000 Nissan Altima but that car is a manual so I was still stuck driving the Subaru since I am unable to drive manual. Recently we got the chance to purchase a new car so that is exactly what we did!
We settled on a 2006 Chevy Equinox and I am as in love as ever with this baby! I'd like to say I'm going to miss the Subaru but I am not! That car and I have been through a crazy journey together and it is the first car I ever bought but now its time for us to go our separate ways.
Good riddance Subi Su! I will miss your POWER light every time I stomp the gas though :'(
The Subaru

The Equinox


Dismal Swamp Canal Trail

Today we decided to bike the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail.
So we packed the two bikes onto the back of the Maxima put the trailer in the trunk and headed on our way at about 11:30 am.
I asked for lunch first but Travis said blah to that idea!
Anywho, we made it there and did our bike ride, 5 miles up and 5 miles back. The whole trail is 8.5 miles so we skimped out of 3.5 miles or a total of 7 miles.
We didn't see much, just a racoon who crossed the road and when I brought out the camera to take a picture I realized I left the battery on the charger at home.
So glad to have not seen anything interesting.
Char started the bike ride in the trailer and Lexi in the bike seat because they do not fair well in the trailer together. I think there isn't enough support for Lexi so she just ends up crying the whole time. Lexi fell asleep in the bike seat so we ended up making the switch and laying Lexi down in the trailer and Char rode in the bike seat with me. I think she enjoyed that more because she could see everything better being in that position.
After our ride we headed to Farm Fresh for their super awesome salad bar for some lunch and then everyone except me enjoyed a nice LONG nap. That's alright though I got to catch up on some trashy TV. :)

One more thing about the trail, if you are a butterfly fanatic go there! There are tons and tons of butterflies, I saw at least 10 different species.


Northwest River Park

Today after Travis got home from work he asked me if Charlotte had been a good-girl during the day. She usually is and had been that day so I responded with an affirmative followed by an inquiry. He decided to surprise her with a trip to the park. He gave her two options, Lakeside Park or Deep Creek Lock Park. I didn't think that was fair seeing as we've been to those parks already and we wanted to try something new!
We settled on Northwest River Park.
What a nice park this is! At 763 acres it's the largest park in Chesapeake and has lots to offer! Camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, putt-putt, paddle boats and obviously the chance to view nature.
We got there kinda late in the evening, around 7:00 pm but that didn't stop us from starting a nice walk on a nice paved trail. We did the Shuttle Trail which is 1.25 miles long so all together we walked 2.5 miles. The park closes at sunset which was at 8:15 pm and we got to the car around that exact time, we were practically running on the way back because it was getting dark so fast!
I think Travis and I have come to the conclusion this would be the best place to go for Charlotte and Alexis's first camping trip sometime maybe closer to the fall when it's a little cooler.
Here are some great pictures from our walk at Northwest River Park:

Charlotte hamming it up

The prize at the end of the trail

Travis and Charlotte racing

Paddle boats

Red Spotted Purple Butterfly


Finding the Alphabet

Awhile back I happened to be looking through a Pottery Barn catalog when I saw something similar to this:
I thought, that's frickin fantastic! I'll have to get one of these for our house with our last name! Well, it never happened and I just kinda forgot about the whole idea. Then I got an issue of a magazine I subscribe to with an article called Let's Find Letter Treasure filled with tips and ideas on how to capture images of the alphabet yourself.
How fun! I'm thinking as I read the article, this would be a great idea to do with Travis and the kids, yet once again the idea slipped my mind.
Well, recently we picked up Stephen Johnson's Alphabet City from the library. I picked the book just by the title, thinking it was a story about a city. Turns out it's drawings of things in the city that look like letters of the alphabet! The same exact thing that keeps throwing itself in my face.
So now my thinking is I just need to make this project my number one priority so it will just leave me alone! So that is exactly what I'm doing. Last night on our evening walk we had our eyes peeled looking for hidden letters. I didn't have my camera on me but now I know the location of a few letters I have in mind.
I will post them as I capture them and I can't wait for our alphabet to be finished. Of course now I'll always be on the lookout for things that look like letters. Just like this stupid commercial making me always look for faces

Also check out this site for alphabet photography if you just can't seem to find the elusive alphabet in your daily life.



Today was library day!

Actually, it's usually library evening since story time is at 6:30pm but since tonight is National Night Out we will be skipping story time.

Charlotte loves going to the library, not the actual picking out books part yet, but the interaction with other children part. Our library, Major Hillard Library, has a wonderful play area and there are always nice kids there for Charlotte to play with while I randomly throw books into the stroller to check out. The chance for Char to play with other kids and for me to watch from a distance (but not too far a distance) is a remarkable thing.

I have a hard time watching her at the playground because she is always jumping and climbing and not paying attention and scraping knees and bonking heads, etc. I have to sit back and let Daddy handle it because if I had it my way she would be wrapped in bubble wrap and never allowed on equipment! I know that will never do and she needs her chance to explore and get hurt and shake it off and run back for more. I usually end up having to walk away and enjoy a little quiet time with Lexi for fear that Charlotte will see the fear in my face and become scared too.

The library offers me the chance to see the mental interaction. There are puzzles and toy animals and plastic blocks that are usual scattered about. The things I've witnessed there are adorable beyond comprehension. Charlotte is usually the youngest there, the ages mainly seem to be from about 4-10, she is immediately drawn to older kids. She does whatever they tell her to do! If only she would realize I am an older kid then she would do everything I tell her to do!
The best part is that the older kids usually do this little number: take Charlotte by the hand, tell me she's fine, tell me to go away and then put Charlotte straight to work. They do this because big kids LOVE to boss little kids around! The funny thing is Charlotte doesn't realize she's being bossed around. This is a win for Char who gets to play with big kids, a win for big kids because they get to tell Char what to do and this is also a win for me because I don't have to worry about Charlotte while I'm meandering around.

The library for me is an exciting, yet stressful place. There are tons of books! A lot of awesome books just waiting to be found and a lot of crappy books just waiting to disappoint (that's right, some books just suck). My goal is to read the majority of the books at the library, right now we check out about 15 each trip (which is every other day) that gives us the chance to read each book a few times before taking them back to the library, but which books do I choose?! How do I go about choosing them?! Do I take out one section at a time, do I think of a theme or subject and check them out that way? I have yet to find a system that works for me so right now I just randomly pick books and Char is the judge on the ones she likes. I have a small notebook and I write down the authors and the books we lend, then the ones we really like end up joining our personal library, which is pretty big thanks to my picture book loving aunt. I think once I post this blog I will search online for some recommended reading lists to get ready for our Thursday trip. Then I will bust out my little notebook in front of this screen one day and put up a list of our recommended reading.

How do any of you choose books and which books are popular in your house?


On A Recreational Mission

This is my first blog. I don't spend too much time on the computer since I have 2 rambunctious little girls that require the majority of my time, actually all my time plus some, but I am going to try to post at least once a week. I think it will help me clear my mind of things going through my head and also I'll be able to share daily activities and such that the girls and I do.

Today started out like any other Sunday, Charlotte woke me up at 7:00 on the dot, we had breakfast together, played a bit in the playroom, got dressed, yadda yadda...Alexis joined us later at around 9:00 crawling straight into the playroom to play with Charlotte, of course. Travis woke up early today to get the car inspected, yesterday was the last day but since we like procrastinating it didn't get done until today.

Wow, awesome morning.

After getting the car inspected, Travis informed me he would be playing volleyball with his uncle and usual crew of crazy people that like volleyball. I personally hate volleyball, every time I think about it I am thrown back into 9th grade and getting smacked in the face with the ball, my glasses cutting the bridge of my nose, and being sent to the nurses office...oh boohoo you're thinking, but seriously I had to walk through the cafeteria (during lunch) in my gym clothes to get to the nurses office, talk about embarrassing! (Edit: A friend recently pointed out that it was actually TENNIS that sent me to the nurse, which is why I hate tennis too)

Back on track...

Turns out today they would be playing volleyball at Northside Park in Norfolk so Travis invited the girls and I to join. When we got there both the girls were sleeping and it was raining so volleyball ended up not happening but I was able to see what the park had to offer, they have pretty nice playground equipment and they are building a pretty sweet looking street skate park, which is always exciting for little people to watch. I'm sure we will be playing there in the future.

A bit bummed about not being able to play we started our mission for the day: Try to beat the rain and discover parks we haven't played at before!

So today we were able to experience:
Northside Park in Norfolk: Although we didn't play here it is on the list for the future, and then I'll give a better review.
Woodstock Park in Virginia Beach: It has two separate play areas (including equipment and swings), one for toddlers and one for bigger kids. The play areas are actually separated into their own little wood-chipped islands. This park also has a small skate park, a nice large dog park (two separate sections, I'm assuming for big and little dogs), volleyball courts (with sand), and a field area for just plain old running in circles. I also think I saw a trail but didn't
investigate, and I don't think there are any restrooms here...
Bells Mill Park: We didn't stay long here, but we will go back when it's not raining out. Basically what it looked like to me was a bunch of grassy hills and a trail, a 5k trail to be exact. When I went on the website I was able to print off a bird guide checklist so we will be going back to check off our list of birds!
Deep Creek Lock Park: This one was found by mistake, we were turning around to go to another place and happened to notice the sign. It's off the road a little. I enjoyed this one very much, and of course Charlotte and Alexis as well...It seemed to have a very old, historical kinda feel to it. This one was thoroughly shaded, the toddler and big kid equipment were on the same wood-chipped island and the baby and big swings were right next to each other so I could have pushed Charlotte and Alexis at the same time (WIN!) Since it's right on the locks there are a few overlooks, a cool little pier (with no side rails), and a trail. It also has an old tiny grave site surrounded by a fence and a couple of shelters. There is only a porta-john, which Charlotte refuses to use...
Dismal Swamp Canal Trail: This is a park that does NOT have playground equipment. It's actually just one long paved trail, in fact it used to be part of Route 17. I loved this one, I love walking with the girls and nature and this combines both of those aspects! There are thousands of species of animals to see here and we printed off a checklist so next time we go we can try to check some of the animals off our list. The one I'm most excited about encountering is the black bear! How exciting would it be to witness a bear doing it's thang in the wild, of course there are signs posted on what to do if you happen to cross the path of one of these creatures, but I think I'd be more scared to see a coyote or bobcat. This park has no restrooms but it does have picnic tables! Can't wait to plan our next trip and start checking that list!

So that is how our rained out volleyball day went! I've inspired myself to get on the parks and recreation websites and visit all they have to offer! I can't wait to tell you all about the parks we visit!


Now time to go watch some Shark Week!