The kids returned to their tutorial this morning.


Well three of them returned and one, very excited 5 year old entered the building as a student for the first time.  IMG_3011

Despite the fact that I have been working tirelessly to prep for this school year AND I even woke up 2 hours before we needed to leave the house, we STILL arrived late.  BUT, perhaps that late arrival made for a smoother drop off for Momma b/c there wasn’t time for me to get weepy as I ushered my lil man into the opening assembly.  He was so, so excited to finally be at school.  As we walked up to the building, wearing his backpack and carrying his lunch box, I had a flashback to his toddler self carrying a backpack to the building when we dropped off the big kids.


He’s been lugging a backpack to the building as long as he can walk.  Often filling it to overflowing with books and pencils. 

Today as we walked into the building, he happily exclaimed, “hooray I get to go to school!”


Boy, those  years flew by fast!  He was just growing in my belly 6 years ago when my now middle schooler began his school journey.


Stop the crazy train!  How is he in MIDDLE SCHOOL?? 


And just like their brother before and after them, the girls are growing up right before my eyes!

4th grade!


Third grade!


I think more than any other year, I find myself fully aware of the daunting task before me this year.  The weight of my responsibility feels heavy on my shoulders.  6th grade, 4th grade, 3rd grade and kindergarten!   And at the same time, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for this time I get to spend with them.  Because these years are flying by waaaaay to fast!  And I am so so grateful for the extra time we get to spend together learning round our kitchen table.


And I am so grateful for the supportive Daddy and husband we have.  (who surprised us real quick by popping back home to wish them well on their first day day back at the building)…. He really is the best!


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Bye Bye Summer

September 12, 2015

in summer

Well, it’s pretty much official.  I think I will pull out the fall décor this weekend and start lighting my beloved pumpkin spice candles.  Summer has come and gone.  But before I take my first sip of a Pumpkin Spice Latte (I always hold out for that one till the kids first day of their tutorial….), I do want to look back on our summer.

I did a lot of deep cleaning this summer and attempted to reign in the chaos and instill some order in the circus house.  It pretty much takes all summer for me to catch up on the back slide that occurs during the school year. 

The kids played.  Nothing notable really.  Just unstructured play.  I’d almost say 2015 was the summer of play.




I got to go on a few date nights with my most favorite person.  I love living life with him.  But I also love sneaking away for some time alone with him. This summer we got to do both.


We went camping… several nights at state park in PA.  We also did one night in the Bowie Baysox Stadium with our friends and one night in my parents backyard with cousins.



We visited our beloved Steelers at training camp.


We spent a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge with our cousins, grandparents and aunt and uncle. 11167668_10205188524084927_4776505672344789372_n

And we celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday with grandparents, cousins and uncle for a weekend in State College, PA.


Whenever anyone asks my oldest daughter how her summer was, she answers, “Good!”  And when they follow up with, what did you do, she always replies, “Went to Woodward.”  Gymnastics camp was the HIGHLIGHT of her summer and she is already talking about next summer!


In the month of August they got really into rainbow looming.  Once they found out about tutorials on you tube the girls become slightly obsessed.  They were making charms and fancy bracelets for literally HOURS on end.  August was the month of Rainbow Looms.IMG_2381IMG_2384

Summer wouldn’t be complete with out our annual Labor Day weekend with our friends.  And this year didn’t disappoint. Though I posted about it here, I can’t do a summer recap without including at least one pic from the weekend.    IMG_2714

This weekend promises rainy days and cooler temps, I can’t think of a better way to usher in the new season.  I am so thankful we live in a place with all four seasons.

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Back to School!

September 10, 2015

in home school,homeschool

The circus fam started back to school last week.  Some students were more enthusiastic than others. IMG_2397

And yes, I decided to do recorders for music this year.    After our Bible lesson, our very first lesson of the 2015-16 school year was music.  30 minutes of ear piercing recorder playing. The kids are enthusiastic and I am finding it to be an IMMENSE lesson in patience for this Momma.

After years of watching round the table, my youngest was beyond excited.  And I must say his excitement was rather contagious.  I am totally keeping his art project from this day, forever.  It was his very first art project on his very first day of school.  He was so proud and enthusiastic and I was rather impressed.  (art for kids hub is a WONDERFUL resource for art with kids).


Our tutorial doesn’t start until Sept 14, but I felt that was MUCH, MUCH too long to wait to start school, so we began on August 31st.  We have been working very, very hard on math, as well as reading, art, music, and we even took two field trips in the first two weeks. 


Scott is working on setting up our computer station for school this year and I am SO excited about it!. 


During week one, we visited the Sight and Sound Theatre and saw Joseph.  This fits in perfectly with our history study of Ancient Egypt first quarter.


During week 2, we visited the Museum of Industry in Baltimore.  This was so exciting to me, because I had really wanted to take them last school year when we studied the Industrial Revolution.  We didn’t make it, but they had a homeschool day yesterday and I was glad we could take advantage of it before we started in on the new history curriculum.  Perfect timing!



It has been a wonderful first two weeks of school and I am actually excited to delve fully in next week when they return to our two day a week tutorial.  It is without a doubt, going to be my hardest year of homeschooling yet.  But, I have been working hard to get us on track, and if we stick to our schedule, I think we will all make out well.  

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I think one of my favorite things about our annual Labor Day weekend away with our friends, is the fact that it has elevated Labor Day to the status of super special holiday.  Prior to our tradition (14 years in the making) Labor Day was just a three day weekend at the end of the summer, or a reprieve as you adjust to the routine of school back in session.  Because my kids have literally grown up celebrating Labor Day with a 3 day weekend away with friends that feel more like family, they assume Labor Day is right up there with Thanksgiving.  


Ok, maybe that is my second favorite thing about Labor Day.  My first favorite thing is watching our children grow in their friendships with each other.



And every year I think I am enjoying it more than the last, but this year I feel like we truly are in that sweet spot where the kids are old enough for both us and them to enjoy letting them have independence.




Aside from the fact that we did eat three meals together as a group each day, and we had our our church service together Sunday morning,  there was no structure to our day.




I love the time gathering all together and worshipping our Lord as a group.


The property that we have stayed at the last several years is AMAZING!  And the kids take FULL advantage of the fun to be had from sun up to sun down.


They took hikes, splashed in the stream, built a fort, shot sling shots, swung on the tree swing, caught cray fish, went canoeing, swam in the lake, played Ghost in the Graveyard, and so much more.  Then there was of course board games, and books and coloring and the pool table.  We also added a fantasy football draft for those interested. 


So many special memories were made as friendships grew and my heart was filled with gratitude.  Gratitude for the 5 ladies who God brought into my life way back in high school, for the men they married, for their children and for the friendships between the 36 of us.

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Since going to training camp last year, my oldest has been scheming and planning exactly where he would stand to try and get Ben Roethlisberger’s autograph.  My parents got him Ben’s jersey when he was a baby.  Ben was our rookie quarterback when our son was a newborn and he has proudly worn his #7 jersey for the past 11 years.  And more than anything, he wanted him to sign his jersey. 

Since our training camp experience didn’t go exactly as we planned, we no longer had a game plan for the autograph.  We knew that after practice the players would walk off the field towards the locker room and if they chose, they would sign autographs.  So, at first we headed off towards the path they’d walk, with his hand made sign and jersey in hand.  We talked to some of the training camp volunteers/employees and they said that it was family day at training camp which meant it was the day the players family came to watch them play and visit with the players.  This meant the likelihood of getting his autograph went down.  My son and I talked about this.  We talked about how if Dad was away for two weeks and he got to go see him at work for a few hours, he probably wouldn’t want his Dad to go off and sign autographs for other kids.  My son agreed and understood and said, “But man that stinks!”  Agreed.  We then heard that most of the big players get carted off the field in golf carts and don’t walk up the path to the locker rooms.  And typically IF they sign autographs, the last few days they had been on one corner of the field.  Knowing that really it is all a gamble and there are no guarantees, we moved spots again. 

I guess you can say that is all part of the training camp experience. 

IMAG0591Part of the experience is just getting to watch the players up close.  There is such a thrill to see the players you watch on TV, in real life… on the field right in front of you. 

Another huge part of the experience for our family is just getting to experience life in the hometown.  Living in MD, means living in the arch rival of our beloved team, so being in the hometown crowd is such a unique experience for us. As we walked in from the parking lot there was this huge BLACK and GOLD sign that said, “You’re in Steeler Country!”  My 5 year old said, “Wait, you mean everyone here is a Steelers fan?”  “Yup,” I replied.  “You mean, there are no Ravens fans here?” he asked.  “None,” I answered.  This is such a unique experience for my 5 year old who is pretty much heckled by random strangers and friends every time he wears his jersey.  And he wears his jersey so often the numbers are fading. IMG_1628

I’m not gonna lie though, a huge HUGE part of training camp for my kids is hoping to get the autographs of their favorite players.   And so my 11 year old and I stood an hour before practice down by the sidelines holding his sign and hoping to get Ben’s attention.IMG_7333

When practice ended wives and children ran on to the field to hug their Dad’s and play ball.  We learned that the lady who had been literally 2 feet in front of us playing Simon Says with her toddlers was in Heath Miller’s family.  Then we watched as Ben’s wife and two kids ran over to him.  He lingered on the field a long time, playing with his kids and with his team mates children.  IMG_1762

My son kept hoping.  But, Ben didn’t do any autographs.  Tears filled my son’s eyes as Ben eventually walked over to his golf cart with his family and left the field.   That’s ok I told him.  We will try again next year.  Let’s enjoy today. And so he got his football and sharpie and a Steelers license plate we had and went off for other autographs. 

He got our #1 draft pick.  He got some starters and he some people we had never heard of.

The older kids were running around getting autographs and my 5 year old was standing with me. 


“What about me?”  my youngest asked.  I want an autograph.  So, I handed him a terrible towel and a sharpie and lifted him up to the fence.  And he got two autographs!  This man right here was so kind and so patient with him.  He totally interacted with him, saying, “Ok, now I need your help.  Hold the towel nice and tight so I can sign it.”  It was awesome! 


The look of joy on his face as he had a real Steelers player RIGHT in Front of him, talking to him and giving him his time. 

Antonio Brown is credited with staying late after practice and getting there early.  I love that.  Brown stayed and ran drills after practice.  And his family stayed and watched.  And then he headed to the sidelines.


Antonio Brown is one of the BEST receivers I have ever seen, Steelers or not.  He is so fast and so amazing.   I have to tell you when he came to the fence, I was farther down with my 5 year old.  My big three were over with my husband.  I honestly don’t really know what all went down.  I do know that my husband was close enough to Antonio Brown to snap this picture.  (poor Scott had my 8 year old on his shoulder and his head pretty much in a trashcan but he did look up enough to snap this picture). 


AND two of our kids got Antonio Brown’s autograph!!!!   I can’t even believe it!  What a thrill!  I mean, he was right in front of them and he signed our license plate and our notebook.  Antonio Brown! 

Ya know how some families go to Disneyworld and get to meet princesses and cartoon characters?  You know how parents will stand in line for HOURS on end so their daughter can take a picture with Elsa or their son can get Mickey Mouse to sign his autograph book?  You know it’s a big deal.  They are meeting these characters that they see on tv or in movies and they are larger than life.

Well, for our family, training camp is like Disneyworld.  I am not exaggerating.   It’s that same thrill.  Meeting the players, getting their pictures and their autographs.  It’s almost magical.  We left training camp, all 6 of us grinning from ear to ear.  We met the Steelers!


And the following week when we were snuggled on the coach watching the preseason game on the internet and Antonio Brown walked on to the field, my son looked over at me with awe and said, “Mom, we have HIS autograph!” 


Lest anyone think our life is some picture perfect world where everyone always gets along and the sun is always shining…

It isn’t.

We had some moments like this.


And truthfully our vacation didn’t start at all like I had planned.  We were supposed to leave early on Friday and drive to Latrobe to see the Steelers Friday Night Lights practice.  One practice per training camp the Steelers play a scrimmage practice under the lights at the local high school.  We went last year and had planned to go this year.  My oldest has been planning since last year the exact spot he was going to stand in order to maximize his chance of getting Ben’s autograph. 

I busted my butt all morning on Friday to get everything packed and ready for training camp, camping, and my Mom’s 60th Birthday party.  Around noon on Friday I called to check in on our van which had been in the shop since Wednesday night and was supposed to be ready…  it wasn’t ready!  Ack!  I asked if we could just take it without the repair b/c we really needed to get on the road to make it in time for the game.  Our van was in parts, not drivable, and I was powerless to do anything about it.  It would be a few more hours, too many more hours, and we weren’t going to make it.

Tears started to flow and I got off the phone as quickly as possible.  I called Scott at work and was full out sobbing.  I guess it was the straw that broke my back after a crazy long week of Scott working overtime. The kids had woken up early and put on the Steelers jerseys and “Here We Go Steelers” had been blaring in our stereo all morning while they packed.   How was I going to break it to them?  I was frustrated and disappointed and mad.  I am not usually a crier, but I was full on crying when I called Scott.   He listened and then called my mom and then called me back with Plan B.  We’d skip Latrobe and go straight to my brothers once the car was ready.  We’d still do my mom’s party on Saturday as originally planned but instead of going to our campsite directly after church on Sunday, we’d go to the Steelers practice Sunday afternoon.  It wasn’t our plan, but it would allow us to get a Latrobe training camp practice experience. 

It was a good plan B and we all rolled with it.  We had an awesome time at training camp (more to come in future post) and it was so so nice to have AC in our van again after a summer without it (that was the pivotal repair).

That wasn’t our only hiccup.  Our second camping night it rained.  IMG_1882Not a little but 3 separate thunderstorms rolled through from about 1-3am.  The floor on half the tent was SOAKED… and huge drops of rain dripped through the ceiling.  We grabbed kids, scooted to dry spots and slept as best we could.  We woke Tuesday morning with our one unaware child remarking, “MY PILLOW IS SOAKED!”  She had no clue it had rained till she woke around 6 with a sopping wet pillow.   During the night I assumed the day would be wasted with a tired trip to the laundry mat to dry everything out.  Thankfully, the sun came out on Tuesday and we were able to lay everything out (pillows, ground pads, sleeping bags, sheets) and let it dry naturally before bed that night. 


IMG_1881Contrary to how some posts may make it sound, circus life doesn’t always go the way we want.  Plans fall through.  Chores still need to happen.  Kids argue. Parents are tired.  And life can be boring.

One thing I do greatly appreciate about my family is their ability to roll with the unplanned.  Flexibility makes vacations, and life in general, so much more enjoyable.  That said, I think it may have been the super LONG week with crazy work hours, and the busy weekend with scrambled plans, that’s helped me find our few days of ‘nothing’ such the perfect remedy for this circus mom.

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