Monday, August 26, 2013

Kiawah...Our Happy, Happy, Happy Place

Tick, tick, tick, you hear that? The summer is suddenly ticking away. We had an especially long summer this year because of a change in the school calendar. The kids had 88 days of summer this year. Our summer was jammed packed from the moment it started. The Nealons visited a total of eight states, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York and South that order. The kids attended basketball camps, farm camp, and dance camp. We did things that were new and exciting, and we did things that have turned into family traditions. 

This week is our last week before school starts. September sometimes feel more like the new year than January does because all of my kids get a fresh start. There are new teachers and new classrooms and every year there seems to be one of my kids starting a new school, this year that would be Ryan starting middle school. I always get my new planner/family organizer in September. It probably goes back to my teaching years of having everything fresh and new getting ready for my next group of students. I love freshly sharpen pencils and brand new crayon boxes. I get excited about office supplies and finding new ways to keep organized. 

I love Erin Condren planners. You can find them here.

But as much as I love the beginning of the new school year, I love summer with my kids and having adventures with them. Our last adventure was our trip to Kiawah Island, South Carolina. This has turned into an annual trip. We discovered it a few years ago and we have just fallen in love with it. All of us. This year, our week was perfect.

 It wasn't too hot, and August in South Carolina can get hot. If it rained, it was at night, and it was just a bit overcast in the morning to keep us cool on our morning bike rides. This year, I was really trying to pinpoint what it is about Kiawah that I love so much and I came to the conclusion that Kiawah makes you younger, it is, if you will, a fountain of youth. Now, I can still see my wrinkles around my eyes, and my back still aches if I move the wrong way, and I still need my contacts in order to see, but something happens to me when I am on this island. I turn into a kid. I ride my bike as if I was ten years old. When we are in Kiawah, we ride through the puddles from the rain the night before instead of riding around the puddles. We have contests to see who can ride the longest with no hands. We ride until we are hot and tired and then we reward ourselves with cool, refreshing ice cream and we call it lunch.

 We don't wear a watch because we don't need to be anywhere. The mom that lives in Virginia that has to check emails and schedules and chauffeur kids and check homework and tell kids to clean their rooms and cooks and cleans and does laundry doesn't exist in Kiawah. In Kiawah, I am ten years old. The water in Kiawah is warm, it is never too cold to go in and so I go in the water with my kids...sometimes we are in the water for hours and we find sand dollars and starfish and hermit crabs and shells. In Kiawah, we stop at the nature center and we can stop and play a game of checkers because we can, there is no schedule, there is no place we have to be except wherever we want to be.

The only thing that was on our schedule was our fishing trip.

This girl will live by the sea one day.


Calamari anyone? Actually, we threw him back.

If you ever find yourself in Kiawah, I recommend Captain Brad if you want to go fishing. You can find him on Facebook under Sonny Boy Charters. You may even recognize the girl in his cover picture.

So there you have it, there are no bad days in Kiawah.

 This week we are back to reality, today I was back on the soccer field sidelines cheering on Shannon's team and dropped off both boys at basketball. Last minute summer homework assignments are being completed this week, middle school orientations will be attended, elementary meet your teacher, and picking up a high school schedule. School supply lists will be double checked and maybe some last minute clothes shopping and some new sneakers. I will even start filling in our fall schedule of soccer and basketball games and practices, dance carpool schedules and back to school meetings into my new planner. But for one week in Kiawah, I got to be a kid, I got to forget the schedules and the to-do lists.

Shannon's hat says it all...when we are in Kiawah...we are happy, happy, happy! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Project Life and Learning the Lesson that Done is Better Than Perfect

Last week, Molly and I went shopping. We went to LL Bean to look at backpacks, we went to American Girl "just to look" and came out with a DVD and a Christmas list, she likes to plan ahead, and then we went to Barnes and Nobles.

I do love that Molly loves her books so much. She did walk out with a few. She is very excited about reading this one together, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail. It is about the smallest mouse that lives in Buckingham Palace during Queen Victoria's reign. Molly just loves anything that has to do with England.

She also picked out this one, Junonia by Kevin Henkes. He is one of my favorite children's authors. It is about a little girl going to a beach cottage for their family vacation. This is perfect right now since we leave in just a few days for Kiawah, our last trip of the summer.

At the moment, Molly and I are reading aloud From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This is a story about a sister and brother that run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Molly and I have already planned out our next trip to New York. We are going to go to the museum to see all the places they talk about in the book and then we are going to get tickets to see Cinderella on Broadway. We'll see if that happens, but that's the plan at the moment.

Our other stop on this shopping trip was to The Container Store. I've been in an organizational mode lately and needed some new baskets for my new overflow pantry in the basement that used to be Molly art room. But I never just walk out with just what is on my list. I always find something that I just have to have. This day was no exception.

Let me back track a little bit. This summer we did a lot of traveling in June and July, and then I had three full weeks of being at home and I had a to-do list of things I wanted to get done before our next trip to the beach. On that to-do list was my Project Life album. I started Project Life a few years ago. In the past, I did the elaborate, traditional scrapbook pages. I loved doing them. I enjoyed the creative part of them and looking at the pictures of my kids as they were hitting milestones and growing up. But reality now is that I don't have the time to spend an hour on a two page layout and only have a few pictures documented in an album. It just doesn't work for me anymore. So that is how I found Project Life. You get an album and a kit that is filled with journaling cards and you just slide everything into place. There are so many blogs out there that are dedicated to sharing their ideas on how they set up their albums, some do it once a week, others sit down and work on it once a month, others do a picture a day. Whichever way helps you get your pictures documented is the right way. 
I myself, fell way behind on our 2013 album. Life just gets too busy and then I get an idea in my head of how I want to do something or how I want my albums to look and then when I have a free moment, I don't think it is a long enough moment to get done what I want, so then I don't do anything. It's a vicious cycle. 

But on my to-do list for this three week period of time between trips, I was going to get this album DONE. I wasn't going to fuss over the font that I usually use and print all the cards on the computer, I was going to hand write them. I was going to do everything possible to cut down on time, and get it done because I thought, getting it done is better than it being perfect. Getting it done will make me feel good. Getting it done will mean the kids can look through the album instead of it sitting on a shelf not completed. I was going to get it DONE!

So back to The Container I was walking up and down the aisles, I found this photo storage case. I have a few of the Project Life card kits and even though Becky Higgins, the creator of the company, has some very functional boxes for the cards, they still took up more space than I would like. This case was perfect! 

The large cards fit perfectly into the smaller boxes in the carry case and you can get two stacks of the journaling cards into one case as well. I pulled out my label maker and marked each box with the name of the kit and it all fit in just perfectly.

Then it was time to get this job DONE! The only month that I had completed was January. I had my work cut out for me. I did one month a day...June took a few days because we traveled so much and there was a lot to document but it got done!

I just came across another great find. We have a Walgreens right up the street from us. I can be there in a minute if I make the light, 3 if I don't. But last week when I was picking up my pictures there was a card in them saying that they have an app and that you can upload all your instagram photos right from your phone and they will print them on 4x4 prints. I downloaded the app, uploaded the photos, dropped Shannon off at soccer and on the way back, my prints were ready.

Here they are in my PL album, just waiting for me to journal about them. I was so excited about this.

So there you have it, our January to June is Done! It may not be perfect and there are so many ways to elaborate the album but DONE is better than perfect!

You can see all of Becky Higgins' Project Life products if you click the button on the right hand side and they are now available at Michael's. I just picked up some more photo sleeves the other day to get this project done.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Little House

"The Little House was very happy as she sat on the hill and watched the countryside around her. She watched the sun rise in the morning and she watched the sun set in the evening. Day followed day, each one a little different from the one before...but the Little House stayed just the same."
~Virginia Lee Burton, The Little House

This was one of my favorite books growing up. I loved that the main character is the house. This book is "her story," it even says it on the cover under the little red house. I loved the personification of the house, that she watched the sun and the moon. That she was surprised, frightened and curious throughout the book. I always felt that the house had a heart and soul and was looking out for the family that lived within her.

This week, I've been busy cleaning and organizing my own house. I always seem to get this craving to have things in order this time of year...the weeks right before the new school year begins. After cleaning the basement for days, I came across this book and thought about my mom's house. My mom's house is also a little red house. That is how she is known, she is Grandma in the Red House. Her house was built in 1927 and she is only the second owner of her house. This is amazing to me compared to Ashburn which is still so new. When we bought our house it was only seven years old and we were already the fourth owners. Even after being in our house for ten years now, we still occasionally get mail for all three of the previous owners. 

But my mom has been in her house for 47 years. I remember being really little and eating in the tiny kitchen before she added a room on the back of the house. I remember when the room on the back was being built and standing at the edge of what was going to be a bay window and sticking my hand out into the rain during a storm. I remember being in the bigger of the two extra bedrooms when I was small and I remember when my youngest brother was born, I moved into the little room so my brothers could share the bigger room. I remember when the fireplace was added in the living room and all the Thanksgivings and Christmases and birthdays that were celebrated in the little red house. I remember waking up the morning of my wedding in my room with the blue striped wall paper and the white eyelet curtains. 

A few weeks ago, I finished reading a book, The House I Loved. It was about a woman named Rose that lived in Paris during the 1860's during the time period that Napoleon III wanted to modernize the city with a better water system but also wanted to create wide boulevards. In the process of this project, many neighborhoods in Paris were knocked down to make way for the modern boulevards. Rose's house was one of the houses to be destroyed. Rose loved her house and would do anything to stay in it. The book is Rose writing letters to her dead husband telling him about her life since he died and what was happening to their family home. 

Rose kind of reminded me of the Disney movie Up, Karl and Ellie, loving their house, Karl not ready to let go of it, willing to do anything to stay in it as long as possible, Karl asking Ellie what he should do.

As I sit here and think about my own memories of the house I grew up in and the books The Little House and I House I Loved as well as the movie Up, I think about my own house. Does she have stories to tell? What memories will my own children have of the house they are growing up in? Will they remember finding turtles in the backyard and watching fireflies in the summer? Will they remember playing for hours and hours in the basement setting up towns with blocks and Thomas trains and building zoos with the animals? Will they remember the family movie nights when all six of us squeeze on the couch, popcorn in hand and Chris always falling asleep fifteen minutes into the movie? Will they remember when we buried Mr. Bunny in the backyard and the countless funerals we had for all of our fish?

My oldest is about to start her sophomore year of high school. We don't have much time left of all six of us being tucked in our beds at night under this one roof we call home. One day, I remember Molly asking about what we were doing the next day and it was one of those days that I really couldn't think about the next day, so I replied, "Just enjoy now, and don't worry about the future." Which she then replied, "You do know, Mom, now will be the past of the future." She was trying to tell me that, "now" isn't just "now" but it is also the past. 

When Molly was in second grade, I would go into her class to read aloud. I would just pick-up wherever the teacher had left off. One of the books they read was Little House in the Big Woods. On the last page, it says:

She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown-fiddle. She looked at Ma gently rocking and knitting.
She thought to herself, "This is now."
She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now was now. It could never be a long time ago.

So, I need to take my own advice and not worry about the future, and about when this moment is someday, "a long time ago," but just enjoy the now, because now is now.

My house may not be red, but it does have a red door.