This year’s family photo



ALTON BROWN LIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feast of Tabernacles 2014 trip

When last I wrote, we had gotten up early for an eclipse that we didn’t get to see… then I moved on to my doctor’s appointment (see my other blog for that post)…and we all loaded up in the van and drove off for New Braunfels, TX to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

The first night we arrived later than we expected and our accommodations were quite a bit different than we were expecting, but after five and a half hours in the van, we were grateful to be anywhere that had beds (even in bedrooms with no attached bathrooms or door locks).

The next day I spent the day entertaining & attempting to feed the vomiting child, so I missed out on everything. Nick took the other kiddos out for lunch and we spent the evening around the very empty Schlitterbahn Resort.

Day Two I finally got to leave our lodgings and join the land of the living, just in time for Family Day at Landa Park. There was BBQ, games for the kiddos, a mini train ride, lots of talking for the adults, and as an added bonus we got to take home leftover BBQ (which we ate on all week).

Day Three we had a fantastic breakfast out at the Buttermilk Cafe, which was packed and had a long line of people outside after us. We had church in the afternoon, dinner on our terrace, and then Nick took David back up to church for a dance that evening.

Day Four we paused activities so we could do some laundry, homework, and work-that-pays-the-bills (I’ll let you guess who did what). We followed all that up with dinner out at the Longhorn Cafe, which had fantastic burgers, friend pickles, and a mini-arcade that Nick and the kids loved.

Day Five we saw David off to raft the Comal River at the Rockin’ R with the rest of the teens while the younger kids and I entertained ourselves in the Schlitterbahn pool and hot tub. Nick was doing work in our lodgings again. It was a very uneventful day (except for David. He had a fantastic day).

Day Six was a big day for us. The younger kids sang on stage with the Children’s Choir and Nick got to give a prayer during the service. After church was over, we drove out to the Natural Bridge Caverns, which is a place I’ve wanted to go for years. We toured the caverns over the course of a couple hours. It was delightful! Afterwards, David did a zip line and adventure zone while the younger kids and I toured the gift shops. We finished up the day at the Tanger Outlets in San Marcos, where we got David some new clothes and Ben some Bible tabs and Gregory some dinner at Cracker Barrel (well, we fed everyone, but that was his choice).

Day Seven was our last full day at the Feast. The kids all had presentations they did with their classes. We ate out at The Faust Hotel (an historical hotel) and brew house for lunch. Nick and I loved it. The kids, not so much. We toured around the old downtown area for a while, visiting several little local shops and what-nought before going back and packing ourselves up.

Day Eight was a double-church-service-and-catered-lunch-in-between sort of day. We stayed until the end and then drove on home.

Overall it was a really great week. Quiet, for us, but great. 🙂

Here’s a slideshow of all the good parts of our Feast of Tabernacles 2014 trip. 🙂 Enjoy!


…and then chaos ensued.

That seems to be the end of every sentence in my world lately. “My parents came to town…”  “We checked the mail and there were more Pokemon cards…” “Your aunt and uncle called and they are coming to visit next week…” “The computer says the hard drive is failing…” “Hey, let’s get a better printer for the Tyler house…”


So there’s been attempted computer repair, setting up a new computer and printer and installing all the new software and explaining how all that works to my dad (a process which will be ongoing for the next couple months despite me installing & tweaking things that make Windows 8 feel more like Windows 7), frantic cleaning, the reorganizing of ALL THE POKEMON CARDS.  


Nick sat the kids down last night and asked them to bathe and put themselves into bed without bothering me or I might explode and kill all the people.  Umm, yeah. So they did. Quietly, quickly, without drama. All while I holed up in my bedroom and drank soothing beverages and ate British chocolate and reread one of my favorite novels (84 Charing Cross Road – if you haven’t read it yet and you love books and reading, GET THEE TO A BOOKSTORE!!!). It was soul and sanity saving, to say the least. (And where did the spouse go? To hang out with my dad. hahaha.)


This morning one of my most soothing friends and her children came over for coffee and snacks and playtime. It was loveliness. Just what I needed in my week. 


After that, we went to my parents house and ate chili cheese dogs I bought us all from Sonic (there was a sale!). The children are STILL at my parents house right now. The Pokemon reorganization can’t be picked up and moved back and forth at this fragile stage of the process, so I left them there and told my parents to kick them out when they got tired of children/cards/the dog underfoot. My house is cool and quiet and I might just go back to reading my book now instead of folding the laundry…you just never know…it could happen…

Home again, home again, jiggedy-jig

Technically I came home more than a week ago. I intended on making my first blog post then with a summary of our big Eastern European trip and a thoughtful essay on things I’d learned about myself while I was away. Then the jet lag hit like a wall made of far sterner stuff than I was made of and I instead spent a week lying in bed dozing and pseudo-watching re-runs of Pretty Little Liars (I like the music on that show; it’s easy to sleep to) while the children ran amok and ate all the granola bars in the house.

So now even Nick is back – he left for Brno, Czech Republic the day David and I arrived back in the US – and we are settled back in to our regular summer routine. Well, almost. We spent a lot of yesterday at the local state park with his family and the kids came home exhausted, so they are sleeping in today: hence this blog post.

New things around here:

  1. We gave up on the themed days. The kids were not as enthused by the scheduling as they’d thought they’d be. We did a few days of it, but mostly what they wanted to do was have totally free days where they got to play all the games they wanted and watch all the tv they wanted and eat all the granola bars they wanted. So, last week they had that. This week we are going to have a different kind of schedule, just a bit. I have an idea of what kind of outdoor work needs to be done, so we’re going to do some of that. We’ve got a dentist appointment, and we’ll plan a couple play dates. My parents are unexpectedly here, yet again, so we’ll have to plan around that as well.
  2. I got a Fit Bit. I’m sure you’ve noticed the stats coming through the blog. I thought I’d set it to weekly, but it went daily. Ah well, technology.  In any case, I now weigh more and am more out of shape than I’ve ever been. I wanted something to jumpstart me into some more accountability in my physical wellness and everything I learned online lead me this direction (Well, to be honest, I’d thought about the Garmin band as well, but I couldn’t find one in town that day and it’s main advantage was the I could swim with it and I’ve currently no access to a pool, so that’s a moot point anyways.).


So now the kids are all up and I need to be directing them towards clothing and breakfast.  Hopefully I can get back into blogging with some regularity again now that we are home and things are more settled. 🙂




So I only slept about an hour last night and have been living on coffee this morning. The kids are saying things like: “MOM, YOU ARE SO HYPER!!!” and “STOP DRINKING COFFEE!” and “WE ARE CUTTING YOU OFF!!” (while drinking coffee themselves, of course.)

Oh my goodness. The morning just keeps getting better (she said sarcastically). Rose got out and we were already running late to school and I was chasing her down the street with my wild hair and inappropriate footwear and yelling for David to come help (she’ll go to him) and this sweet walker lady was trying to help and David was not coming out. Oh, it was delightful. He finally came and walked the dog back home, so we drove around the block on our way out of the neighborhood and saw the walker walking into her yard & stopped & thanked her & now she probably thinks we’re stalkers. Got back home and David was curled up in a ball on the couch moaning. He’s got the stomach virus the rest of us had last week and it’s his last B day of school and he’s insistent that he “has” to go to school. I am sure I need more caffeine now.

Note to self: being sarcastic about the morning does not make it better.

PS. I am NOT bringing cookies to the Fifth Grade Graduation tonight. No one needs this stomach virus.

Looking towards summer

I have been breathless with busy-ness (four field trips, school carnival, track and field day, and a spring recital) and all the household fallout that happens after a couple of weeks of not taking care of it at all. But today, finally, there is some breathing room and I am sitting here in my pajamas drinking coffee and looking ahead to the summer.

Summers past

Okay, so this is the past.  Look at my babies: they were so little. This was in South Dakota at our last big family reunion 7 years ago.

Let me tell you about summer in my house: if I do not plan it out, we devolve into days that revolve around the electronic screens. We end up lying around staring mindlessly into them and there’s an occasional death match figuring out who goes next for what screen or game or show and we never see the sunlight. That and eat. Seriously.  Last summer we had this kind of non-schedule and I HATED it. Not only that, but the kids hated it, too.  So it’s back to the drawing board.

This is what I want to avoid.

This is what I want to avoid.

Here’s how I plan things for our summers at home: First I put into the calendar all the camps, trips, fun days at the library or city parks, and obligations we have.  Then I go spelunking through the internet, looking for bizarre holidays/celebrations/etc that I can pull into play as themes for the days we have left. (My favorite site is Brownie Locks, which is not the prettiest to look at, but has good info and links updated every year. Holiday Insights is also pretty good and is much easier on the eyes.)  Some dates have nothing good or nothing that fit in with my kids interests, so I go ahead or behind and pull things from other days to fill in days (those are the ones listed as “rescheduled” in the pages linked below.)

At the library

At the library for storytime many years ago. That particular day a doctor came in and read the kids stories about hospitals. It was pretty cool. They still do things like this, but they also have afternoon activities for older kids.

Once I have a theme for a day, I start looking for websites that have free worksheets, interesting videos, yummy snacks, or fun projects within that theme to do with the kiddos.  I also have a board of ideas (well, one for each season and one for each kid individually as well) on pinterest that I add to year-round, so I’ll go through that and pull things out I’ve saved. This year we have swimming lessons taking up pretty much a large portion of June, so we’ll go easy on those theme days and have one little craft for each day and I’ll look up books at the library for our daily reading time to coincide with the theme. In July (after our big trip) and August, we’ll go more in-depth with things and I’ll plan bigger projects and even field trips to work with the theme. For example, for Video Games Day we’ll take a look at what it takes to code our own games on the computer and maybe go out to the arcade in the mall if the kids aren’t as interested in that as I think they’ll be (I’m betting we won’t need to go, but I like back-up plans). For Amelia Earhart day, we’ll probably visit the little local airport and watch the airplanes come and go and at home we’ll watch some of the videos that have popped up recently about her crash site being possibly found.  We might also look into how flying has changed in the last decades and study about how airplanes work (yay physics!).

One year we had cousins and still did our daily theme schedule.  This photo is from years ago, obviously. :)

One year we had a cousin over and still did our daily theme schedule. David was working on his special project and M was doing a coloring sheet. This photo is from years ago, obviously. 🙂


I also have a daily schedule that we follow. We start our day outside (because we live in Texas and it’s over 80 degrees already when we wake up), doing some gardening followed by playing in the yard or riding bikes or going to the sprayground. Then we move indoors once we’re too hot to play anymore and have a snack & spend some time reading before lunch. My husband comes home at noon most days, so we have a bit of time to catch up on our days activities while having lunch.  After lunch we start working on our “homework” type stuff. We have instruments to practice, theory workbooks, and a summer bridge activities workbook the school district sends home every year. We’ll work our special projects (or in June we have swimming lessons) around in there sometime after all that is done. Then we do some indoor chores, mainly cleaning up from the aforementioned special projects, and then the kids will have some time to themselves for a bit of screen time or personal reading or playing with the puppy. Whatever they want until their daddy gets home and it’s time for dinner and showers and bed.


An example of a Special Project - this took all summer long during "Special Project" time on our schedule

An example of a Special Project – this took all summer long during “Special Project” time on our schedule

I know some of you are going: Wait, what about friends visiting?! What about playdates at other people’s houses?! What about enjoying the freedom of summer?!  The kids all LOVE this themed day schedule, by the way.  They actually asked this year if we could go back to doing it this way. (Ok, to be completely honest, they hate the gardening part. That’s not my idea, but my husband grew up on a farm and he wants the kids to know how to grow things in case of some sort of apocalyptic future occurs they won’t die of starvation.) Just so you know,  some of these themed day plans will get thrown out the window.  We have missionary friends that are coming back home for the summer break that we’ll want to hang out with, we might get girl cousins who aren’t as into “boy things” now that they are older to come over for a day or two, we have other out-of-town friends that we might go visit for a couple of days. Some days the kids are more interested in another day’s activities or I run out of supplies for something earlier in the week than I expected to. Those days we just change things up.  I usually have two or three activities floating around in the back of my brain for days like that. There’ll also be days that we are just plain tired of being with ourselves/people in general that we may give in and have a screen-time-all-day-long break.  We’re human, we can make exceptions to our own rules.

One day a friend called and asked us over right that minute to help try out an inflatable water slide they got for a party. Of course we went right over!

One day a friend called and asked us over right that minute to help try out an inflatable water slide they got for a party. Of course we went right over!

So here are my drafts of our daily schedules and theme day plans. Feel free to download them and change them up to fit your needs. I made them in Word, so that should be easy to do. 🙂  Enjoy!




Volunteer Obligations?

Yesterday was so busy that at one point I found myself crying in the bathroom. Yeah, I felt like a real winner. LOW POINT!

Even before school was insane. One child told me he needed a monkey costume for that night, one kid told me that the shirt I’d ironed & starched for the event he had going on that day was mysteriously in the bottom of his laundry basket, my third child kept wandering around muttering “never mind, never mind.” I still have no idea what he needed.


After dropping everyone off at their various places, I spent my morning battling technology (changing passwords FTW!), organizing kid’s room closets, and preparing for my next-to-last PTA meeting as president.  I didn’t get to eat lunch because the food I thought was in the fridge for me wasn’t there and at that point there wasn’t time for anything else or I’d be late (I was getting texts from people 15 minutes before the meeting telling me people were there already.) The meeting went well, although lots of little date changes and still a TON going on before the end of the year.


I left there and ran to Chapel Hill (next town over) High School for the Middle School UIL Concert & Sightreading Contest. I got to follow David’s band through warm-up, the concert, and even into the sightreading room. They did so well. I’m so proud of them! (And I loved meeting some of the other parents chaperoning there as well)

This program had so many bands listed in it and it was all in 10 point font and so hard to read!

This program had so many bands listed in it and it was all in 10 point font and so hard to read!

This was one of two band halls in the building. This one was the warm-up room. I loved all the instrument cages along the walls. :)

This was one of two band halls in the building. This one was the warm-up room. I loved all the instrument cages along the walls. 🙂

2014-04-10 14.58.27

On stage during the concert portion of the concert.



From there, I ran to pick up my younger kiddos from a friends house, stopping only long enough to pick up a much belated lunch. We discussed yet more PTA (she’s my VP) before we ran off to change clothes for my youngest’s Mama Goose program.  We got there and it turned out he didn’t need a monkey costume specifically, he could have been any nursery rhyme character he wanted.  I nearly lost it at that point.  We have a huge costume box and could have made many different nursery rhyme characters happen if I’d known about it. (The teacher pointed out that the original note that went home about the event a month or so ago told us what they needed, but I pointed out to her that that note was also the permission slip and I’d sent it back in. I need this stuff to be sent back out a second time closer to the event or put on the school website. It makes me insane.)

Anyway, my kid wore a monkey hat and I just have to be okay with it.

Greg and his friend Sutherland (who didn't bring a costume either. See, it's okay!)

Greg and his friend Sutherland (who didn’t bring a costume either. See, it’s okay!)

During the program: Greg was on the back row anyway.

During the program: Greg was on the back row anyway.


After that we came back home (finally!) and started on homework, instrument practicing, cleaning for the Days of Unleavened Bread, and eating dinner. WHEW! Fortunately there was wine and The Big Bang Theory for after the kids went to bed.


It’s National Poetry Month…and therefore I must share poetry. Some days I’ll share my own and some days I’ll share famous works and others I’ll share works of lesser fame. Who knows what the day will bring?


Today, because it’s on my mind, a poem about adoption (I’m an adoptee and a friend called tonight to ask about my experience): (click on the image to enbiggen)



National Junior Honor Society

Our son was selected to be part of his school’s National Junior Honor Society for next year. (If you don’t know what that is, go here.)

Our son's name is called

Our son’s name is called

David receives his certificate of induction into the NJHS

David receives his certificate of induction into the NJHS

I’ll be honest here: I was not an NJHS member in junior high.  I got decent grades, but I was not leadership material at that time and I was so shy that I would literally run away if you talked to me and I didn’t want to talk to you. My husband wasn’t part of NJHS either, but his school was small enough that they didn’t offer it.

Anyhow, I could not be prouder of my son. (I’m tearing up again as I type this.) He is such a good, smart, wonderful boy.

My NJHS member and I during the reception

My NJHS member and I

The ceremony was beautiful, the gym looked lovely, and they had a wonderful, encouraging speaker, too. Getting cookies at the reception afterward was an adventure, but all three boys managed to get them AND get back to me without spilling a drop of punch. 🙂