2016 Christmas Letter

…or is it a New Year’s Letter at this point? Either way, we didn’t get cards or a letter sent out this year, so I thought I’d do a year-end update here.

This last year definitely came with its share of changes and challenges, but in so many ways, things stayed the same. Our family took a few small trips, we attended Aaron’s 25 year class reunion and celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.

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We are blessed to continue to be healthy and Aaron continues to provide for our family at a job he likes – at a company he loves 😉  While his job title is the same, the second half of the year brought lots of travel for him, which has not been a regular part of his job in the past. Since June, he has been to Bozeman, Detroit, San Diego, New York City, Washington DC, Akron, OH and Newport News, VA. While most trips were strictly business, he did manage to fit in some hiking in Bozeman, a baseball game in San Diego and a trip to Times Square and a taping of Stephen Colbert in NYC. There is more travel on the horizon for him in 2017, but hopefully the kids and I will get to join him on a trip or two.

We are homeschooling Chloe again this year, and in addition to the standard subjects, she’s loving cursive and Spanish. Now that she’s in 2nd grade(ish), she gets to pick classes to take through the homeschool assistance program. During the first half of the school year, she’s taken outdoor games, Spanish, virtues and art. She has enjoyed all of them, probably as much for the content as the chance to see friends, but really enjoys art and is happy she’ll be taking it the two remaining quarters as well!

This fall, Devon started going to preschool 4 days a week. It has been a great opportunity for him to spread his wings a bit. He really enjoys the playtime they get at stations and often brings home creations out of boxes, masking take, pipe cleaners and whatever else he can find. I enjoy that most of the mess involved in creation is taken care of at school 🙂 He’s a math rockstar, without any help from us or his teacher, and has really enjoyed learning the letters and their sounds the last few weeks. It’s been fun to hear about all of his preschool experiences (they went on a field trip to a local pizza place!), but I’m looking forward to having him home for kindergarten next fall.

Both kids became semi-obsessed with watching American Ninja Warrior last season and loved creating their own obstacle courses in our backyard all summer and fall. For Christmas, we signed them up for Kid Ninja classes at a local gym and they got to spend time this last week learning skills and doing obstacle courses. They were pretty excited! At the same time, *we worked on transforming their playroom into an indoor gym. We now have indoor monkey bars, a small trampoline and a hammock chair. (The hammock chair is for me and not really for swinging. My thoughtful daughter heard me talking about wanting one when we saw one on a walk this summer and convinced her daddy it would be the perfect Christmas present for me!) Additionally, we have a foam balance beam, an agility ladder and a gymnastics mat on the way from Amazon. I’m hoping this makes another Iowa winter a bit more tolerable!
*Just to clarify the use of “we”: I came up with the ideas and my amazing, handy husband made them a reality!

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Aaron and I spent our last ten Thursday nights taking the PS-MAPP classes. Those letters all stand for something, but basically they’re the classes you’re required to take before you can be a licensed foster or adoptive parent in Iowa. We just finished the classes this week, and I’m sure all 30 hours of classes have sunk in… 🙂 Shortly after the first of the year, we’ll have a final meeting with our licensing working and be official. We plan to offer respite care at first, which is when you have kiddos in your home temporarily – overnight, for the weekend or maybe a week or two – while their current foster parents are unavailable or in need of a break. Our long-term plan is to keep an open mind, and at some point may offer long term foster care or adoption, but we’re starting out small. ‘Foster care’ and ‘exciting’ don’t really go together, because it’s a tough situation all around, but we are looking forward to being able to help out in a small way.

And, finally….

After several delays, failed transfers and many needles, I am pregnant with a ‘surro-baby.’ (A baby I’m carrying for another couple as a surrogate.) I’m mostly over the morning sickness and have started to look pregnant, instead of looking like I just ate a few too many cookies. I’m looking forward to being able to deliver this baby to the waiting parents in 2017. (Get it?! Deliver!! I still think I’m pretty punny :-D)

In addition to starting foster care and having a baby – but not losing any sleep afterwards, we’re also looking forward to traveling more, homeschooling both kids and working on some updates to our house in the next year. Hopefully 2017 is as good as 2016!


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Just like that, he’s 5!

Oh, (not so) little boy…

Another year has flown by, and you are still the same independent, stubborn, sensitive, creative, smart little boy you’ve always been. You started preschool a few weeks ago, and even though you’re a tiny bit sad every morning when I drop you off, and require me to stay until you walk back to your classroom, you have a blast – every single day. I love to hear about the friends you’re making and the adventures you have.

Not a single day goes by that you don’t simultaneously challenge me and amaze me. After a morning meltdown because I asked you to brush your teeth (like I do every morning…), you might later do some quick math in your head to figure out that if our family of four wants to ride the train at $3 a person, it would cost $12 for all of us.

You love to help with projects, whether it be handing dad tools while he works on his bike or helping me put together my latest IKEA purchase. You loathe cleaning up, but most games you play involve moving a large quantity of toys from one room to another. You want to keep every box ever delivered to our house and have an overflowing “art box” that I would consider filled with junk, but you insist on keeping and never use.

You love hummus, and generally just eat carrots or sweet peppers as a conveyor for your hummus. You recently discovered that you like Sweet Red Pepper hummus the best, although Original and Garlic are also good. The Cilantro Jalapeño got a thumbs down. The only way you’ll eat most meats is in a casserole or covered in ketchup – it doesn’t matter if it’s steak, pork chop, salmon or chicken – it needs ketchup. You have always liked clementines, but recently discovered a love for navel oranges as well. I’m not sure if it’s the flavor or the fact that you can do this.


I love being your mommy and can’t wait to see what the next year brings. Hopefully, you don’t lose your squishy, kissable cheeks. You haven’t outgrown them yet, so I’m just going to assume you never will 🙂

And without further ado… Here are the answers to the 20 questions I ask my kiddos every year on their birthday. Or at least close to their birthday. Remembering things is hard!

What is your favorite color? Blue. 

What is your favorite toy? MagnaTiles

What is your favorite fruit? Clementines and oranges

What is your favorite TV show? StoryBots

What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Macaroni & Cheese

What is your favorite outfit?  “My Paw Patrol shirt. And my Paw Patrol pants.” *smirk*
(Note: He does not have any Paw Patrol pants. I can confirm that he likes the shirt.)

What is your favorite game? Hide & Seek

What is your favorite snack? Oranges

What is your favorite animal? Cows

What is your favorite song? Go Tell it on the Mountain

What is your favorite book? Zootopia (book on CD)

Who is your best friend? Judah

What is your favorite movie? Planes: Fire and Rescue

What is your favorite thing to do outside? Set up American Ninja Warrior Courses

What is your favorite drink? Orange Juice

What is your favorite holiday? “My birthday!!” (We then had a discussion about how it’s not technically a holiday, but we do celebrate it.)

What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Clifford, Snuggle Duck and Taggie

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Pancakes!

What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Walking Tacos

What do you want to be when you grow up? “I don’t know. I’m not decided yet. Hmmm… A pool lifeguard.”

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Loyal Reader Q&A

Since posting about D’s first day, several people have asked why we’re homeschooling C and sending D to public school preschool this year. Here’s the quick-ish answer, just in case you’re also wondering…

When C was preschool aged a few years ago, I was still working for the City 30 hours a week. In Iowa, preschool is offered to all 4 year-olds free of charge, and it seemed like the logical next step for her, so off she went. Throughout her year, we loved the experience she had. She was in a classroom of 15 kids, with a lead teacher and two assistants, plus an occasional ISU student or foster grandparent thrown in for good measure. We never felt like she was getting lost in the shuffle. Her mornings seemed to be spent mostly playing at centers or outside at recess, reading books and singing songs together with her class. I know she did some learning as well, because soon she was able to write her name and use things she’d learned against me. (My favorite example of this is when she kept getting up one night at bedtime. I told her the first step to falling asleep was to lay down, because she couldn’t sleep standing up. She responded with, “But astronauts do, Mommy. I learned it from Ms. Jill!)

When C went to Kindergarten the next year, she was in a class of 26 with only her teacher present. There were many times she was left to figure out right and wrong without an adult around to assist. The educational expectations outlined for the kids seemed overwhelming for a 5 year-old and C came home exhausted, frustrated and sometimes confused at the end of the day. That’s when we decided to give homeschooling a go. We are lucky enough to live in an area where there’s a great support system for homeschoolers and we’ve loved it so far.

As the time approached for D to start preschool, whether at home or at school, we decided that it would be good for him to spend a little time away from Mom and second-Mom (aka – his sister) to have a chance to play with other kids his age on a regular basis and figure out how to feel safe away from me, in a safe environment. So, because we’d had such a great experience with C, we decided to send him to Northwood.

I felt even better about this plan after attending the parent orientation a couple weeks ago. D’s teacher explained the vision and mission of the Northwood Preschool Center. It totally fits with my thinking of how I want my kids to experience school, especially at a young age.

To create a positive learning community that fosters life-long learning by cultivating five core traits of successful learners: curiosity, persistence, flexibility, collaboration and reflection.

To engage all learners academically, socially and emotionally, and physically.

With this in mind, we’re hoping to have another great year in preschool! Then our plan continues to be to homeschool both kiddos next year when D starts kindergarten.

If any other readers have questions, please submit them in the comments below, by email or in person and I’ll answer as time permits 😉

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She’s a 2nd Grader!

We deemed today Chloe Mae’s first day of 2nd grade. It’s really pretty unofficial, because we’re been slowly adding more structure and school back into our days since the beginning of August. And today (or this week for that matter) we still won’t be doing ‘everything’ that’s planned for this year. However, we needed a day to take pictures 🙂 and I plan on us really getting back into the groove this week. In addition to the fact that it’s “just time,” Devon is at preschool most mornings and Aaron’s out of town for work, so we need something to keep us busy!

We’re excited to continue our homeschool journey this year! We are continuing with the math, language arts and history curriculums we used last year. Additionally, we’re adding Spanish and Cursive and using a Magic School Bus kit for Science.

We aren’t using an official reading program, which for a planner like me is a bit intimidating, but Chloe is looking forward to picking out books she’s interested in from different genres. Today at the library, she picked out a book called, “Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell.” She has been reading the Judy Moody chapter book series for fun, and apparently Judy mentions Elizabeth Blackwell several times, so Chloe asked if we could find a biography about her to start off the year. I’m looking forward to seeing what other choices she makes!

After we dropped Devon off this morning, we came home and Chloe Mae was all set to take pictures. She said to me, “I know you didn’t do your hair or anything, so you don’t have to take a picture with me like you did with Devon if you don’t want to.”


Hold it right there.

There is no way I want my daughter thinking that her hair has to look good, or she needs to have the perfect make-up, clothes or anything before she gets her picture taken. So we enthusiastically took a selfie. Honestly, this is probably a better representation of what I look like during my children’s childhood years anyhow (and maybe beyond. Who knows??) So, for the official (blogosphere internet) record, here it is:


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He’s a Preschooler!

I have had almost 5 years to prepare for this day. It’s been 3 years since I dropped off Chloe Mae for her first day. But, somehow, I was not ready to drop my baby boy off for his first day of preschool. I cried. Three times. The first time, we were waiting with Devon’s class in the lobby before he went back to his room. I hid behind Chloe while I cried – no joke. I cried as I was leaving the building and I cried again when Chloe asked me why moms sometimes cry even when they’re not sad.


While I was a mess, Devon bounced back and forth between excited and scared. While eating his pancake breakfast (because Daddy is awesome like that) he went from rambling about what he might do at school, to snuggling up to my side and telling me that he was “just a wittle bit nerw-vous…”  While waiting for the magical minute when he would walk into his classroom and his day would officially start, he literally bounced with excitement, then pulled Chloe and I into a giant around-the-neck-hug and whispered in my ear that he was scared. In the end, he bravely walked back to his room without a backward glance.


Chloe and I spent the morning without him, doing a little schoolwork (I swear we’re going to start in earnest next week!) and running some errands. At one point, Chloe Mae looked at me and said, “It’s so weird without Devon here. It’s just so quiet!”

We were back at the school 10 minutes before pick-up time, just waiting for our little buddy. When we picked him up, we walked out of the building, each of us holding hands with Devon, all the way to the car. He let us know that preschool was awesome and announced, “Snuggle Duck must have had a very boring day! He just sat in my backpack the whole time!” Turns out, he didn’t need any comfort from any stuffies, because school was just that great 🙂

This is what Devon had to say about his day: “I had snack, we read a few books before we left, there’s a art station, I have a blue folder and we got to learn about the stations. I made lots and lots of mail at the art station. I played at cars, the block station, the toy station, art station. That’s all. At recess, I played in sand. I can’t really explain the tools they had, but there were lots and lots of shovels.”

From the “lots and lots” of artwork he brought home, it looks like he was thinking about me while we were apart 🙂


He is so excited to go back tomorrow. And I am so excited that he’s excited. I am most looking forward to watching him grow into his own little man and make new friends as the year progresses!

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2nd Grade & Preschool

All week, I’ve seen pictures posted by friends and family of their kiddos heading back to school. And all week long, as I’ve run into friends and family, they inevitably ask if we’re starting school as well. I think they’re looking for a yes or no answer, but I don’t have a simple answer.

D will be attending Northwood Preschool Center 4 mornings a week this school year, starting next Thursday. (You all can expect my adorable first day of school photos then!) The plan is for C and I to really start hammering out her school work when he’s in school, but one of the things I learned last year, is that flexibility is key for our homeschooling, so we may or may not really start up next week. Usually, flexibility is one of the things I love about homeschooling – although the planner in me does have issues every now and then 🙂

We have some things we’ve been working through all summer, so it’s hard to quantify the start date for our new year. When it comes to covering the curriculum I’ve chosen for C’s second grade year, we’ve started a couple things, but not all of it. And we don’t do every subject every day yet.

But we do still learn every day. One of our hopes for homeschooling our kids is that we can teach them about the world, by living in the world. We read books, the kids listen to audiobooks and build with Legos, Magna-tiles and PlayStix, C reads off recipes for me, they help me at the grocery store, we take walks, they help me with chores and the kids spend countless hours playing pretend.

I might fumble through my answer if you ask me if we’ve started school yet, but I can say that my kiddos are learning every day.

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Summer Lovin’

Dear loyal blog readers, of which I know there are many of you – well, at least 2… 😉 – you might remember my dislike for winter. I may have even mentioned it once, twice, possibly three or four times on here before. As much as I hate winter, I am coming to love summer just as much.

My favorite part of summer, this summer specifically, surprises even me. I love going to the pool.


My view.

I don’t remember being a huge fan of the pool as a kid, so taking my own kids wasn’t always my first choice. Additionally, the first couple years we took the kids it seemed like more of a chore than anything. But this year. Oh, this year. The kids can swim! They’re not afraid to get their heads wet, and C has come so far, she can even go off on her own with friends for a bit to enjoy the slides, lazy river or “deep” pool. It’s 4 whole feet deep 😉

Speaking of friends – we often get to see them! Occasionally, we make plans to meet someone there, but more often it’s just a lucky coincidence! My already happy kids are ecstatic when they find friends, and along with friends, come friends’ moms, which means I get adult interaction. Score! It might sound corny, but the pool has created a sense of community for us this summer. For someone who never imagined herself being a stay-at-home mom, let alone one who homeschools and therefore rarely gets time away from the kids, this is very important!


Watching the ISU Football team dive with a friend.

As summer draws to a close (at least as far as the pool is concerned) I’m already trying to come up with ways we can recreate this community once the dreary Iowa winter sets in. I’m not sure how this will be done, but I know that it’s important. And I’m also pretty sure it will involve hot chocolate.

And in case you’re missing the Olympics already, here’s my kids’ version of a swimming relay.

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