$5 Fun

I'm always looking to change things around my house. New projects or major purchases can get expensive and stressful after awhile though. That's why I love it when I come across little changes that bring a big smile. 

Like potting these houseplants! I hadn't gotten any new ones in at least ten years, but I was in Walmart for some groceries and the nursery section just called my name. 

Getting a new kitchen rug in front of my sink. And the best part is that it was almost free because I had to use up some Kohl's cash. Yay!

Garage sale finds. This little bench was only $5. It was stained an oak color when I bought it, but a fresh coat of paint brightened it up. Now it's a little extra seating in my kitchen. 

Your turn. Have you found something inexpensive that brought you a little joy recently?

Goodbyes and Graduates

Eleven years ago, I walked into our local elementary school with my first and third graders. I had an almost two year old toddler and was pushing infant twins in a double stroller. We were quite an entourage to say the least! We were new to the school having recently moved and wondered what to expect. And honestly, after a whole summer at home I was a little shell shocked and ready for anyone to give me a break!

Yesterday, those little twins in the stroller graduated from fifth grade at that same elementary school and now my time there has come to a close. In a world where public education so often gets a bum rap, I want to say that this school gets it right. 

My kids received an excellent education there surrounded and supported by many loving teachers and staff. I will really miss it this August when I don't have any little ones to walk in on the first day. 

With elementary school ending, we say goodbye to so many rituals and rhythms that make up these childhood years. Class parties and seasonal crafts, room moms, bulletin boards, theme days, recess, and field trips. Late start times, short bus rides, dropping in for lunch, and watching class programs have come to an end. I know middle and high school bring their own advantages and perks, but elementary school is a sheltered special time in the life of a child. 

Fifth grade graduation has marked the beginning of a new era for each of my kids and we are excited to once again embrace what's ahead. These girls are ready for the increased independence and freedoms of middle school. They're looking forward to trying new clubs and new sports. They'll continue to grow and change immensely over the next several years, but I know they'll always hold a soft spot in their heart for Edmondson Elementary.

7 Ways to Fail at Family Dinners

They say eating dinner together makes you stronger as a family. I hope so because right now I would say only about half of our family dinners are actually pleasant experiences. The rest of the time we operate somewhere on the scale between teeth clenched getting through this the best we can and no one started crying or yelling so it's a success. 

Want to have a enjoyable family dinner? Don't do any of the following...

1. Mix younger and older kids at the table. Pretty much impossible to avoid if you have more than one kid, but try your best. If you live with teenagers, there will almost never be a meal where they are not annoyed, embarrassed, or tortured by the very existence of their younger siblings. They will grow out of it, but in the meantime, it's like walking a tightrope. 

2. Serve leftovers. There will either not be enough to satisfy everyone or it will be a food that someone hoped they might not see for a few weeks. There's just too much room for error.

3. Try to hurry dinner. No matter what the age, kids move slower the more they realize you're in a hurry. Do they usually blow through their meal in five minutes? Plan on thirty if you need to leave early. This will also be the night they spill something. 

4. Make the amounts on the plate uneven. It doesn't matter if it's a good food or a bad food, they will be looking around to see who got more macaroni and cheese, or who had to eat an extra sweet potato. And you will hear all about the unfairness.

5. Serve a food they don't like. Your unpleasant experience will begin as soon as they ask what's for dinner. You're making that just because you know I hate it. Yes, I am. I keep a list of what you hate and try to make things on that list as often as possible. 

6. Insist on table manners. We have been trying to teach manners since our kids were in highchairs, but seriously some nights we have to just let it go. I can repeat again, use a fork, or I can focus on the dinner conversation and hope that they aren't still eating that way at their wedding. 

7. Sit certain people next to or across from each other. There is a delicate seating arrangement that usually brings the most harmony. Messing with this balance comes at a cost. 

So are family dinners even worth the effort? Yes, because sometimes the stars align. Sometimes the mood is just right and we do have great conversations. We linger a little laughing. There's a fellowship and connection that's sweet. So sweet that it erases the memory of all our dinner failures...almost.