27 June 2014

What Summer Looks Like

We are playing hard this summer.

We're checking many items off our summer bucket list. We have to be creative about getting out of the house in between naps, but we usually manage one outing a day.

Sometimes, the slip 'n slide is set up by 9am to beat the heat.
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Blake takes his invented lifeguard job very seriously.
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Crew happily watches the commotion from the confines of the trampoline. The netting might be an eyesore, but it is sure nice to zip Crew in there and not have to worry about him falling off.
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We visited the bird aviary. The boys did their best impression of flamingos.
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My uncle sent them some wooden dinosaurs that he built and painted.
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He also included a few kits for the boys to put together. We started with the airplane (no small feat!) and painted it orange to hang in Blake's room.
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We accomplished one of the most anticipated activities of the summer; walking over a street overpass. Aside from the blazing mid-afternoon heat, the outing did not disappoint.
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Many parks were visited.
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We saw "Cinderella" at an outdoor theater. The boys about died when I suggested a play containing a princess. I sat them down to watch the movie earlier in the week since they had never seen it and they threw huge fits. I might as well have curled their hair and painted their nails in the process. 
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They adjusted to the idea once their friends and treats were involved.
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I think they might have even enjoyed the production.
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They still played good guys/bad guys on the stage during intermission though. They had to insert a little masculinity after sitting through the prince's ball.
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Plenty of indoor creativity happened as well. They spent hours sliding down the stairs on trampoline boxes.
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Settlers of Catan Junior was also played on repeat. I'd rather play that than Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders any day; I admit to even liking the junior version.
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The boys started their first round of swimming lessons and in two short weeks were swimming across the pool, diving to the bottom, and jumping off the diving board.
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We decided to take lessons from a private mother/daughter team instead of at the community pool this summer. I couldn't be happier with the attention they received and the progress they made. Nash didn't wipe the smile off his face the entire time.
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We spent a day at the amusement park that the boys have been asking about going to for years.
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Their grandparents had some special admission passes and Troy even took the day off work to join in the festivities. With a pregnant mom and a dad with recent surgery in tow, Grandpa Tanner stepped up and was a good sport to go on so many rides with the boys.
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There's no doubt we're taking full advantage of summer.


26 June 2014

The School Dilemma

Choosing schools for our children has always been a priority for us.

Since I was an early education major in college and Troy and I were both fortunate enough to grow up with fantastic public school systems, we have done extensive research about the options in our community.

I mean, I visited seven preschools when we were at the beginning of that journey. I'm sure that any one of them would have worked out fine, but I wanted to make the most informed choice for our children.

We chose to send Blake to Kindergarten at a school that I would have to commute to. There were many great things about the school and a few not so great things. I'm sure that can be said about any school. But we mostly loved the experiences he received in Kindergarten.

The biggest drawback was the commute. Last year, I only had to make the 40-minute round trip twice a day since Blake was in school half-day and the times coincided with Nash's preschool that was located around the corner.

But next year is going to be a different story. Blake will be in school all-day, every day, and Nash will be in school three mornings a week. That results in making three commutes a day on preschool days and somehow juggling two babies and their various nap times in the mix.

It just does not seem feasible.

We have been really concerned about what in the world we are going to do. We don't want to sacrifice our children's education, but I also have to consider the needs of our younger children at home (and my sanity!).

We looked into a few other school options that didn't pan out.

I emailed three other families that live somewhat in our neck of the woods to see if we could set up a carpool. Two of them already had arrangements set up, and I didn't hear back from the email I sent the third family.

Last week, I decided to call that third family and give the carpool option one last shot in case they didn't receive my email. I was shocked when they answered right away and were thrilled to be able to set up a carpool.

It was an answer to prayers. 

I'm still in disbelief that it's going to work out after fretting about the situation for months and months.

We've had so much thrown at us this year that has been completely unexpected and out of our control and it is such a relief to have one less thing to worry about.

We are really happy that Blake will be able to continue first grade in the same school he was at last year. When we attended his art appreciation night right before school got out, I realized what a good thing we would be giving up if we moved him elsewhere.

The halls and walls were covered with student art and the students participated in a myriad of interactive art activities.

The boys' favorite station was splatter art modeled after Jackson Pollock.
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They ended up covered head to toe in paint.
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They rotated to other stations throughout the school, molding and painting clay, contributing hand cut shapes to a Picasso mural, and participating in a variety of hands-on activities.
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We're so glad Blake is staying put for the time being.


25 June 2014

Lego Expo

Back in May, I took the boys to a Lego expo. Not only were there hundreds of Lego displays to look at, but there was a brick pit containing 100,000 Legos for the kids to play in.

Blake and Nash settled right in to build some masterpieces.
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My eyes glazed across the sea of Legos, and I couldn't believe who I spotted.

My brother, plopped down on the floor in the midst of children.

I about died laughing. I guess I shouldn't have been that surprised since he has always been a Lego fanatic, but seeing him playing right along with a crowd 15-20 years younger than him was incredibly amusing.
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The boys didn't mind combining their efforts with the Lego master one bit.
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24 June 2014

Goodbye Orange Oak

I officially reached the "nesting" point in my pregnancy. As per tradition, once I made it a few weeks past the midway point and finally felt human again, I tackled a few massive projects with my newfound energy.

I have done this with every pregnancy. When the sickness subsided with Crew, I burlap-ified our Christmas decorations and prepped our basement for a major addition. I built a headboard, a play kitchen and revamped all of the bedrooms when I was pregnant with Nash. And with Blake, I went gung ho on the nursery while teaching full-time. 

I knew exactly what to take on with this pregnancy.

The dated orange oak handrails that I have detested for years.

I have held off on updating them because each year we've thought we might move. But since our three year home has turned into our six year and beyond home, I decided enough was enough.

I saved up my meager design income to have the handrails replaced. But then Christmas, Troy's broken leg, and a surprise pregnancy happened and there were extra bills to be paid. So, I started saving again. I was all ready to hire out the job when I realized the quotes carpenters were giving us didn't even include the paint.

We decided we'd rather go to New York and Michigan this summer than spend a fortune on replacing the handrails, so I decided to take on the project myself.

Instead of having them completely ripped out and replaced, I resorted to plan B.

Paint.
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Let me remind you of what the handrails looked like when we moved in.
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It was definitely time to say goodbye.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began this project.

I mean, how hard could it be to add some paint to each spindle?

It took over a week to add two coats of primer and two coats of paint. Having young children around made it more challenging, of course, so I took advantage of every single one of Crew's naps and the bedtime hour. It also happened to be the last week of school which was probably the worst timing for such a massive undertaking.

But one morning I woke up and decided I couldn't stand that orange oak one more day, and once I get an idea in my head, you can't stop me.

It was completely worth it. I smile every time I see the finished product.
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After wiping down the entire surface with rags dipped in TSP solution, I used two coats of Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer from Zinsser. I love that it dried within thirty minutes since I had little ones around who would inevitably brush up against my work. I also loved that it was water based and low-VOC. I was a little worried at first when some yellow wood spots were showing through the primer, but when I added the second coat, I had complete coverage.

I grossly underestimated the amount of time it would take to prime each and every spindle, twice. But sanding every groove was completely out of the question. 

I did minimal sanding except on the inevitable drips that resulted from painting on vertical spindles. I tried to be as careful as I could, but drips still happened. Light sanding was one thing I could do while Crew was awake, and he became my chief sanding assistant. 
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After everything was primed, I painted two coats of Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex in semi-gloss. It was an expensive finishing paint, but since the handrails are in a high traffic area of our home, I wanted to make sure to invest in a product that looked professional and would last. I couldn't be happier with the end result.
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Now, to do something about those floors. Even after tons of updates, the projects in our home still seem never ending. But I think I'll be satisfied for at least a while with this major improvement. It makes a world of difference.