Why I Go to Church Without My Husband

Nearly every Sunday, I line my little ones up for a quick picture before we go into church. It’s just a fun thing I do because I like looking back at the photos as they change over time. I often share them on Facebook or Instagram, and it never fails, every few weeks someone comments or messages me asking, “HOW do you do it?!” The “it” being get 5 kids dressed up and to church weekly. Well, I just do. The same way some moms get 1, 2, or 6 kids up, dressed, and out the door to school every day. It’s important, so we do it, even if it’s not easy.
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Over the years, there have been many, many Sundays when I have carried a baby on my hip and/or held the hands of little ones as we crossed a parking lot, found classrooms, and made our way to seats at church. Unfortunately, a larger number than I care to count of those trips were done alone, without my husband beside me, especially over the last couple of years. Neither of us have enjoyed this situation, but it is what it is. My husband doesn’t like missing church, and I don’t like going alone. He’s also super helpful when it comes to getting kids ready and out the door. However, his job complicates things, and he can’t always go to church with us. Currently, he’s only able to go every other week. The other weeks, I’m on my own. He’ll help me get them out the door if he’s still at home, but I can’t get up counting on his help because if he gets a call and has to go, I’m left scrambling and unprepared. Been there. Done that.

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When I show up with our crew, I usually get surprised looks and comments like, “Wow! Supermom!” I usually smile and laugh, but if little ears weren’t listening I’d tell those onlookers, “No. Exhausted mom.” Because by that point, I am.

I’ve dressed and fed them, combed hair, made ponytails, helped with requests for cologne or “smell goods,” changed diapers, refilled sippy cups, found lost shoes, herded kids to the car, buckled seat belts, taken a kid back inside to potty, retrieved dropped hair bows and blankets, driven nearly an hour, gone over our plan and expectations, found lost shoes again, found lost hair bows again, unloaded our van, and herded them across a busy parking lot. At that point it’s only about 2/3 over. Before I get to sit down, we will make our way through a crowded building to the bathroom, help 2 go potty, wash hands, stop at the water fountain, make our way back through the crowd to check everyone in, then drop kids off on three different halls in 2 different buildings. Sometimes Most of the time I’m sweating by the time they’re safely in their classrooms. I probably don’t even look like the same woman that walked in the door with them.🙂

I don’t say this to brag. At all. I say all that to tell you, it’s not easy. Most of the time I wouldn’t call it hard necessarily (unless you’ve been up all night with a baby and you’re running on 3 hours of broken sleep. Then it’s hard. Very hard.), but it is work – a lot of work. It does require planning, energy, and dedication. I don’t have it all together. When we leave our house on Sunday mornings, more often than not it looks like someone broke in and ransacked the place. Not to mention, the pictures should speak for themselves. They certainly are not frame worthy every week.

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But it’s worth it. Very worth it. Even on the Sundays when things have gone terribly, terribly wrong, there has always been that one part in the sermon, or one comment from a friend or stranger, or that moment of Peace during a favorite song that reminded me why I did it that morning and encouraged me to keep going. I’ve learned that God gives strength to the weak and rest to the weary. I’ve learned that people you have no idea exist (because you’re busy counting heads and rushing to the potty) are watching you and the example you set, good or bad. The few weeks I have stayed home and deemed it to be too much work, I have always regretted my decision.

Mamas, take your babies to church, even when it means going without your husband. I believe those may be even more important Sundays because the effort you put in shows your children that even when it’s not easy, and it is exhausting, it’s worth it. It’s important to go and worship with other believers. It’s important to join with a church family and learn and serve together. Church isn’t just something we do when it’s convenient or easy. It’s part of life, and life is messy.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Heb. 10:24-25

It’s worth it.

 

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A Reason for Homeschooling

We’re going into our third year of homeschooling at our house! Wow. That’s so crazy to think about. I read once that most people give up on homeschooling in the first three years, so that has been my goal – 3 years. Do it three years, and if then it isn’t a fit for our family, we can try something different. Well here we are, entering year 3, and I’m not thinking about quitting anytime soon.

I don’t think I was ever asked my reasoning for choosing to homeschool until this year. Then out of nowhere I was being asked over and over, “Why do you homeschool?”

There are several reasons our family homeschools, but I’d like to share just a few of them with you today. Hopefully I can provide a little encouragement to someone that is on the fence about it or is having a rough day. If you’re 6 weeks in (or 6 days or 6 years), and wondering, “What on earth have I gotten myself into?” take heart. Breathe deep, and remember that His mercies are new each morning. Is it all roses and fingerpainting? Nope. Some days there are tears all around. Some days are exhausting and overflowing with to dos, as there just aren’t enough hours in each day. Some days my husband comes home and I go hide in my room to cry because I’m certain I’ve failed terribly and I need to repent to God and my children.

If you’re on the verge of submitting that intent to homeschool form, but are scared to death, say a prayer, take a deep breath, and go with the Lord’s leading. I always tell new homeschool moms, “Find your why and write it down. Go back and read it as a reminder on the hard days.”

So why do it?

Some days ARE all roses and finger painting – on the front porch, with school books and cups of lemonade scattered around. In winter, some days are books read aloud, all of us curled in a pile in front of our fireplace with little ones on top of me and bigger ones next to me, sketch pads and Lego blocks strewn about. They also get to explore their own interests. Today we’ve had lessons in sewing, and my crew is currently working to plant their own winter garden.

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Family time. My husband’s job is demanding. It’s not uncommon for him to walk in the door, just to turn around and leave again 3 minutes later, or 30 minutes later just as I’m setting plates of food on the table, only for him to return long after the kids are in bed. When he’s off work, we soak it up. When he has a Friday off, we have a family day. There’s no rush to get everyone up and out the door. We can run errands as a family or just hang out at the house. When my husband works on Saturdays, we take that time to work ahead in preparation for the days he is off.

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Relationships. Watching my 6 year old son teach his 3 year old sister how to fold laundry. Or all four big kids having piggy back races through the house. Just this morning Ihad a conversation with my older boys about my number one job being to teach them to love God and love others. If they can recite the entire Declaration of Independence or multiply 5 digit numbers in their heads, it means nothing if they don’t love God or each other.

Because I was called. My number one reason. This is what keeps me going on those hard days. Even when I start to daydream about handing the teaching over to the local school district, I know in my heart I would be disobeying God. That is not His Will for our family. Does that mean we will homeschool forever? I have no idea. God’s plan for our family may look different in several years, or it may look much the same. But for now, this is my calling, my family’s calling, and we are thankful for the opportunity to  make it happen and the blessings it brings with it.

 

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5 Thrifty Tips for Building Your Home Library (Homeschooling on a Budget)

We have 5 kids, and live on one income. For many, that in itself seems like a major feat. Add in homeschooling, and it can quickly appear overwhelming for almost any budget. That doesn’t have to be the case though! There are lots of ways to give your children a quality education at home without spending more than you have. Homeschooling on a budget is very doable.

One of those ways is by offering them lots and lots of opportunities to read about a wide variety of subjects. (Like with our 100 Books in August challenge!) We love reading in our house! I believe that helping them gain the ability to read well and instilling a love for reading in my children is a very important part of their education. In order to encourage a love for books of all kinds from an early age, I love having shelves filled with books of all kinds of topics that may interest the children – fiction, biographies, how-to books, travel books, books of famous artwork, storybooks, etc. At first glance, our shelves of books would seem like a huge investment, but I’m going to share a few tips for building a home library on a budget.

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This article contains affiliate links. Purchasing through them will not alter your pricing, but it will benefit my family and this blog.

1. Thrift stores and second hand bookstores – This is probably the most obvious place to start. We are not lucky enough to have a second hand bookstore nearby, but I love searching through the stacks of books when I do come across one. Many thrift stores also have a sale schedule that allows you to buy items at an even bigger discount.

2. Yard sales – This is a favorite of mine. I picked up a huge lot of Magic Treehouse books, a favorite series of my oldest son, for 10 cents each last summer.

3. Amazon used book dealers – This is another favorite of mine. Many books can be found for as low as 1 cent, plus $3.99 shipping. I check out the vendor’s ratings before ordering, but I have not had a single bad experience with buying books this way. The next time you click over on Amazon, don’t assume that Prime price is the lowest you can score. Look for the used prices too.

4. Bulk book sellers – Yes, you can buy books in bulk! One book seller I’ve used is Books by the Foot. You can purchase books about a specific topic, art or golf maybe, by the foot (usually 6-12 books per foot, their site gives numbers for each subject). They also offer boxes of children’s books! Some new, some used, and some boxes can be a mix of new and used. You don’t get to pick the titles, so it was a fun surprise to sift through the big box and see what treasures had arrived! I purchased a box a year or so ago. Some of the books we already owned, and some I just didn’t care for. Those few, I separated out and sold in a yard sale of my own.🙂

5. Local library sales – Most people think of the library as a great economical way to read. Endless shelves of books you can read and return for free! But most libraries also sell their discarded books. Our small town library has a shelf tucked under a window where they keep piles of books that can be purchased for a quarter or two. The larger library about an hour away has two rooms full of books available to be purchased! A few months ago I happened to be able to stop by while they were having their monthly bag sale. That means you can fill one of their blue bags with as many books as you can cram in it, and they will all be yours for $2. Needless to say, I didn’t stop at 1 bag.🙂 I purchased 2 bags for a total of 29 books at $4! That’s less than $.14 per book. Of course not every book was for the kids – 2 or 3 were for me.🙂 Go check out your local library, even if it’s a tiny one!

We still use and love our libraries borrowing great books, but I also love having all our own books. Some books might not have looked exciting enough in the moment to be chosen at the library, but on a shelf at home, will be later discovered at the perfect time, as a treasure by one of my kids when a new interest is sparked!

 

 

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100 Books in August (2016)

It’s that time of year again! Boxes are arriving on our porch daily, filled with colorful new books, art supplies, and even several DVDs that I will be using to educate my children this year. (I’ll be sharing all about our curriculum choices in another post.)
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Once again, this year we are kicking off our school year with 100 books in August! This will be our third year for the challenge, and we’re all excited to get started. We have a stack of overdue library books to speed through, (Thank goodness for small town libraries that don’t charge late fees!) and are also enjoying The Long Winter, our current read aloud.

The goal of this challenge is for us to read 100 books in the month of August which will help us get back in the swing of reading together, and if we reach our goal (we always do), we earn a fun family activity! Once again, my kiddos have chosen Chuck E. Cheese as their prize. I may try to convince them to take another option. 🙂 This is a fun way to get us excited about getting back into our school lessons, and it gives the kids motivation to spend those super hot afternoons reading together instead of begging for screentime or whining about being bored. You’re kids do that too, right?

(This article contains affiliate links. Purchasing through them will not change your pricing, but will benefit our family and this blog.)

My 6 year old loves to read, but doesn’t usually want to read aloud, so this challenge is also good motivation for him to practice his reading skills to his siblings. This year we will follow the same rules as last year for my 6 year old’s reading to count toward our goal. Here are a few of our guidelines:

  • If he reads a book, he has to read it aloud to his siblings (because this is 100 books for everyone!), bring it to us, answer a few questions, and then read a bit of it aloud to us, for it to count. If it is listed, he will also be taking a book quiz on BookAdventure.com
  • Our read aloud chapter books will count as 1 book per chapter.
  • Books such as our science textbook for school do not count.
  • While I want to include as many different books as possible, my kids will be choosing the books most of the time, so I know I’ll be reading some books multiple times.

Join in! PRINT YOUR OWN STICKER CHART, decide on a prize for your family, and share your progress and  book choices on Instagram, Twitter, or Instagram with #100BooksinAugust! I love to see what everyone else is reading!

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Beginning our Bathroom Renovation 

When we bought our house, I wasn’t planning to renovate the bathroom anytime soon. I liked the vintage look (minus the flooring), and it fit so well with the house. We actually discussed adding an addition on to the house. However, life happened and plans changed. 

A few weeks ago we bought a new vanity and mirror for the bathroom and started to rearrange plumbing. That’s when my husband discovered our bathtub drain was completely deteriorated and every time we drained the tub, it poured out under our house! 🙈🙈🙈 Talk about old house problems! 

Soooo, we decided to just gut the whole thing. 

Then the washing machine died. 😂 

Here we are, a few weeks later, sink ripped out (and in my flower bed😁, but that’s another post), new washer & dryer installed in their temporary location, tile and new fixtures sitting patiently in the shop, and our bathroom being ripped apart.

Here’s a little before peek!
   

Did I mention this bathroom was added in the 1950s? Lol 

Our new plan will allow for a bit more space and functionality for our family. I’m excited about that. The actual process? Not so much. Anyone want to come lay some tile? 

PS – Stay tuned to see what’s under all that wall paper. 😁

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Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo at ASU

Our local homeschool group was recently invited to attend the Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo at the ASU Farm. It had been a few years since I and my oldest two sons had visited the petting zoo, so I was excited to take them back and take their sisters for the first time. We were not disappointed.🙂
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The Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo has been located in the old beef barn on the Arkansas State University Campus in Jonesboro, Arkansas since 2006. It is free and open twice each year – once in the Spring and once in the Fall. Group tours are done during the week, and Saturday it is open to the public. (That’s also a good time to check out the ASU Regional Farmers’ Market.)

We love field trips! (What homeschool family doesn’t?) This field trip was extra fun because it fell on a day my husband was already scheduled to be off work, so Daddy got to tag along for the fun.

First we headed into the barn to visit with the animals. Some of the animals are contained in gated barn stalls, and others, like the funny pot-bellied pig, wander around freely, plopping down here and there for a head scratch.

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The petting zoo is home to an array of farm animals – sheep, goats, pigs, cows, and even an alpaca! Students from Arkansas State were stationed throughout the barn to assist with holding some of the animals, answer questions, and help ease the fears of some of the younger children. (Obviously there were no fears from my crew though. lol)

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The kids also got the chance to hold chicks and visit up close with a lamb and a rabbit. The fluffy bunny and the little chirping chicks were the favorites of my girls. My boys were more fond of the big steer.

After everyone had a chance to hold a chick and pet all the other animals, our group loaded up into a trailer for a hay ride around the farm. We were accompanied on the hay ride by a few of the university students to tell us about the ASU Farm. While it is a teaching facility, it is also a working farm, raising livestock for meats, wool, and growing hay. They explained what went on in each building we passed and told us some facts about the other livestock we saw on the farm. They did a great job of involving the kids and asking and answering questions.

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After the hayride, several families walked across the street to play and visit in the ASU Display Garden of the Craighead County Master Gardeners. I wish now I had taken photos there. It is a beautiful garden with plenty of open space for the kids to run and play and a picnic area too.

If you would like more information about the farm, upcoming petting zoo dates, or to schedule a time for your group to attend the Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo:

Arkansas State College of Agriculture & Technology Website

PettingZoo@astate.edu
870.972.2087

 

 

 

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5 Tips for Moms Who Want a Morning Bible Time

I often hear moms say that when they get up early to have quiet time for reading the bible, all the kids wake up earlier. I’d like to encourage you to KEEP DOING IT, even when it seems like a waste of time. It’s not. If nothing else, you are showing your kids how important it is to be in God’s Word everyday. Satan will use anything and everything to distract and discourage us. Mine go through seasons of this too, and at first I thought it was just going to be a total fail. It hasn’t been though!

I’ve put together a few tips and tricks to hopefully get you started in the right direction with carving out your own quiet time in your schedule and will maintaining peace in your home.

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(This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links will not change the cost, but will benefit my family and help to keep this blog going.)
 
1. Teach them to stay in their room until a certain time.
Even as early as 3/4 some can learn “Stay in your room until there is a 7 right here on the clock.”  There are also special toddler clocks that you can set to change colors when it is time to get up or go to bed. (Like this Ok to Wake! Alarm Clock and the Teach Me Time! Talking Clock)
2. Readers can bring their own bible or pick another book to read in their bed, or possibly sit and read in the same room as you.
I love when my oldest brings his bible to sit beside me and read. A few years ago we got him a NIRV translation, and it has turned out to be great for him. It is the NIV translation, but on a second or third grade level, so it’s not a story bible, but it is also easy to read. (This NIRV study bible looks really neat, too.)
3. Read to them.
They probably won’t sit still or even act like they are listening, but they are still hearing God’s Word! Those little seeds are being planted! (Also, If you want to read at naptime, go in their room and sit and read aloud until they fall asleep. This worked wonders when my boys were both toddlers and naptime became a nightmare. Now with my girls, if they get in trouble at naptime, I separate them, and I read aloud to whichever one is in the living room floor.)
4. Prepare cups/sippy cups the night before and set them in the fridge so they can help themselves when they get up.
This has been a big help for me. Some days I am not quite finished when my girls get up, so having their cups ready to go allows me to give them a little independence and me a few more minutes to finish up whatever I am reading.
5. PRAY. PRAY to wake up earlier. PRAY they sleep later. PRAY for wisdom in the best way to handle it for yourself and your children.
Really this should be #1. It sounds simple, and it usually is. It may take a while for your kiddos to catch on and understand that you are serious when you say, “Go back to bed.” Pray for patience and to show them grace. One method may not work. Pray for wisdom. It may require not hitting the snooze button 4 times. Pray for self-control.

 

So tonight, set your alarm a few minutes earlier and say a quick prayer that you don’t hit the snooze or wake up the kids! These are a few of the things that have worked for me. Did these help you? Did something else work in your house?

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Teach Your Kids To Do Laundry (Even Before They Can Read!)

Lately when visitors to our home have noticed our chore charts on the wall, many have been surprised to see “wash laundry” and “fold laundry” listed on my boys’ charts. That’s right. My 6 & 5 year olds are in charge of their own laundry, and the younger one isn’t yet a reader.🙂 It is possible! When I added laundry to their lists several weeks ago, I was optimistic, but still had doubts that it would actually work. I have not been disappointed!

So how does it work?

My husband has said for a long time he wanted our kids to do laundry when they were old enough, but I was terrified of my “lay flat to dry” items ending up three sizes smaller from a trip through the dryer. To avoid that, I decided the boys would just do their own for now, especially since only one of them can read.

First, I got one laundry basket for their room, and assigned them each a day – Monday and Thursday. My boys are about the same size and share pretty much all of their clothes. This made the chore a bit easier. I also have a front load washer and dryer set. That definitely makes the process more doable for kids.

Next, I drew stars on the washing machine to show them the correct settings. Yes, it’s that simple. Little black stars beside each setting show the boys which buttons to push whether or not they can read it and make remembering each time a non-issue.
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I rinsed out an old stain remover bottle, marked it for them, and filled it with laundry detergent. I did this because I use larger bottles which are too heavy for them to pour.

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Then I just gathered the boys in the bathroom, and showed them how to do it. Of course the first couple of weeks, I walked them through the steps each time and helped them remember which opening to pour the detergent in, how much to use, etc. They caught on quickly though!

After washing and drying each load, they are also expected to fold and put it all away. For items that belong in their brother’s drawers, they fold them and lay them on his bed.

And that’s it! Now I only have to occasionally remind them to switch their load if they aren’t around to hear the washing machine end, and make sure they do put it away, not leave it in the basket in the living room for 2 days. But who would do that??😉

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Exploring Our Solar System with Rachel and the Treeschoolers (a review)

We love everything Two Little Hands around here, so when I got a chance to get a sneak peek at the new episode of Rachel and the Treeschoolers, Our Solar System, I was super excited! I knew my kids would be too. For sure.

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With a new baby in the house, I figured it was the perfect time to pull out our new DVD. Learning, fun, and a few minutes of entertainment while mommy tends to the baby? Yes, please! And unlike most shows for children now, this series is highly educational, based on Ph.D researched curriculum. and actively engages the kids in learning with fun songs and ASL (American Sign Language). My 5 year old often talks of wanting to be an astronaut, so I was especially excited to watch the DVD with him. Once again, Rachel Coleman and her Treeschooler friends did not disappoint!

Episode 9, Our Solar System, revolves around “The Mystery of the Missing Moon.” Simon is very concerned when he sees the moon slowly disappearing! Is someone stealing the moon?  Rachel and the Treeschoolers work together to solve their mystery, and in the process they also learn about the sun, moon, stars, planets, and some scientists whose questions led to discoveries about our universe.

The first time we watched it, I was very impressed by all the vocabulary included. I was so excited about all the things it introduced to my little ones that I hadn’t even thought of teaching them right now. We’ve had some great discussions about gravity, phases of the moon, Milky Way and other galaxies and more. My favorite song in this episode, ABCs of Astronomy, is amazing. It is fun and an easy way of remembering some great foundational vocabulary of astronomy. We have a set of outer space flash cards my boys have been asking to get out. As we went through them one day last week, I was impressed with how much my five year old knew. Every time I asked how he knew something, he said he learned it from, “The Signing Time movie!” Also included in this episode, are more than 50 ASL signs. We’ve had a lot of fun practicing those! Anytime learning can be hands-on is a good thing! It really helps to sink things into the memory around here.

It was definitely another win for Rachel and the Treeschoolers with my bunch. A tv show that was called “just too educational for children’s television,” yet my children, and many others, love it. I think that speaks volumes about the quality of this series!

If you would like your own copy of this and/or any of the other fun episodes of Rachel and the Treeschoolers,head on over to their web site. While you’re there, be sure to request a fun activity guide to go along with whichever DVDs you purchase. These include crafts, games, printables, activity ideas, and more to bring the topics and discussions from the DVD right into your classroom (or to your dining room table for many of us homeschoolers:-) ).

 

 

*I was provided a copy of this product for review purposes. Of course, all opinions are strictly my own.🙂

 

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What I’ve Been Up To

Things have definitely been busy around here since my last post. A little something I didn’t mention much around here is that I spent the last several months anxiously awaiting the arrival of a sweet baby boy.

 On December 18 we welcomed our 5th baby, our third son.

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(How sweet is this picture? I die.)

He’s a month old, and we finally have had a day that wasn’t total chaos from the get-go! Today I’ve prepared 3 meals (Thank goodness for crockpots!), changed too many diapers to count, bathed 3 of the 5, one bathed himself, and one more bath to go after rest time! I took a shower too! That, my friends, makes me feel like a superhero. It may have something to do with the fact that I somehow consumed two cups of coffee before 10 a.m. while they were still hot warm.🙂

The worst that has occurred, so far, has been a certain two littles coloring on the table. Oh well. I can handle that!

I’m sloooooowly working my way back into a routine that hopefully includes more blogging! Y’all, five kids is like having 3 kids all over again. Haha!

 

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