Day 1: COVID-19 Homeschool Begins

We survived Day 1.  Or at least until 5:45ish, which is when I had a few minutes while the kids play happily (for the most part) and Garen is cooking dinner.  You may have missed my post from yesterday about our COVID-19 schedule.  Since I posted that, I’ve seen a lot of posts joking about not having a schedule and even the schedule turning into something like this:

Updated COVID-19 Schedule for Reality

I have no idea what the original source is from but thanks Paige for sharing!  I got a good kick out of it.  As I sit here typing (and trying to ignore), I hear Kate screaming about wanting chocolate milk and freaking out over the mosquito hawks in the back yard and realize that the above schedule could be reality but I’m going to just keep trying.

Bottom line is- we survived day one.  We stuck pretty much to schedule.  Naps didn’t happen exactly when they were supposed to but I think I would’ve gotten half as much work done had I not had any schedule in place.  So what did we do today?

  • Academics
    • Read There’s No Place Like Space Cat in The Hat that we brought back from the McDonald Observatory while we were on our kid-free Spring Break before the craziness of COVID-19 hit our world.  You can watch a reading of this on You Tube if you don’t have the book- it’s a good one.
    • Also read Cat in the Hat (the original is always a classic)
    • The girls and Garen made and hung up the planets while I had morning conference calls- Yes, y’all, this man is super-dad.  And he’s mine.
    • We did rocket-ships with traceable alphabet and numbers.
    • Watched a YouTube video about the planets.



  • Arts/Crafts/Creativity
    • Played playdough
    • Did puzzles
    • Did whiteboard drawings
    • Played legos
  • Physical Activity
    • Went for a walk and jumped in puddles
    • Saved worms from drowning (yes, they found about 20 worms that we saved from drowning in the puddles- Clara isn’t afraid of bugs, worms, or anything creepy-crawly)
    • Played outside and rode bikes
    • Unfortunately, I didn’t get my workout (besides our walk around the neighborhood) in but I’ll try to fit it in tomorrow
    • You’ll notice the “creativeness” on their hands.  This is what happens when you take a work call when it’s your shift during art time.  They also “painted” their toes with markers.  I couldn’t help but crack up about that!

I took a break in the middle of writing this to eat, get kids to bed, sanitize the house.  Now, I’m having a nice glass of water that I kinda wish was wine, as I plan out tomorrow with the four offspring.

So, what’s up tomorrow in Graves Academy?

Thankfully we got some great resources from our schools and teachers today.  If you’ve not thanked your kids teacher before, I bet you sure are giving them more credit now….

  • Littles- Pre-K
    • Read Green Eggs and Ham
    • Whats the big problem in the story and how is it solved?
    • Count to 100
    • Practice writing 1-20 with a print-out.
    • Practice writing first and last names
    • Make green eggs and ham (and Pancakes since that’s what Anna has requested for breakfast- also for St. Patty’s day)
    • Make green jello
    • ABC Mouse- got a free log-in from Children’s University- we’ll see if we have time and feel up to it
  • Anna- 3rd
    • I’m not going to lie, putting plans together for the bigs was a little more challenging for me to decide on.
    • 3-D Shapes- downloaded some print-outs from this website: 
    • Mixed Multiplication-
    • This site helps you make worksheets for them to work on.
    • Word Problems- I’m also getting this from 
    • Imagine Math:
    • Our kids have log-ins for these and have already been used to using these in Arlington ISD
    • Read one of her books she bought at the book fair the week before Spring Break
    • Decorating birthday cupcakes- not just Anna but she get’s to run the show and pick the main colors for icing.
    • Pick one of the experiments that she got for her birthday out and do it together
  • Will- 5th
    • Place Value Work- if I can find it in his Google site from his teacher (I’m still a little technologically challenged sometimes)
    • Read one of the books he bought at the book fair the week before Spring Break
    • His class will be reading Johnny Tremain together using Zoom, which I think is super cool.
    • I’m honestly not sure what else yet I’m going to do with him.  I might download some more math sheets for his grade level and let him pick out an science experiment that we can do together.  Shoot me any ideas you have friends!
    • Help Garen put together Anna’s birthday present (a trampoline), which will help add to our activity level
  • Physical Activity
    • If it’s not raining, we might go on a bike ride around the neighborhood or let the kids ride scooters
    • I’m hoping to get my workout in
    • Hopefully the trampoline will come in from Amazon and we’ll get it together in time to test that baby out.
    • If I can find a few balloons, I’m going to blow them up and throw them outside with the kids- balloons tend to provide lots of entertainment for whatever reason.

In other news, I just got this from Walmart.

Walmart cancellationMe and my planning self should just stop maybe.  Obviously restocking milk without actually going to the grocery store is going to be a no-go.  (We go through about two gallons a week).  Looks like rationing is about to begin at the Casa de Graves….or I’ll be venturing out to restock at that point.  Don’t be surprised if this happens to you.

Honestly though, I’m still looking at this from the positive side and trying to keep a “glass half full” standpoint.

  • All four of our kids are finally under one roof with us!
  • We’ve got a house to protect us
  • We’ve got plenty of food
  • We’ve got enough TP (for now)
  • We’ve got each other
  • Our jobs are flexible enough that we can take shifts for conference calls, shutting ourselves in our back office
  • We’ve got great teachers that are only an email or text message away to help us out
  • We’re still healthy and so are our extended families and friends
  • We’re celebrating Anna Banana’s 9th birthday tomorrow!

Hang in there through these crazy times.  We got this!

Our Weekday Schedule for Working at Home with Four Kids (during COVID-19 Pandemic)

As most school districts have, our’s has closed for the next two weeks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Our daycare/pre-school has also elected to close, meaning the four kids (11, almost 9, 4, and 4) are at home.

I office out of our house when I’m not on the road.  Garen’s company has encouraged everyone that can to work from home as well.  Working at home with four kids has its challenges.  So, as soon as we heard school was going to be closed, we started planning on how to make it as productive as possible for us to keep working at home but also keep those little minds engaged and entertained without simply setting them in front of the TV all day.  No judgement if TV and electronics are your plan- we all gotta do whatever we can to make this work and stay healthy (and sane).

We’re focusing on the positives of having them home.  I happened to see a schedule that someone had made on Facebook and we loved the idea so much we created our own version, along with a few other checklists/schedules.  I thought I’d share with you guys in case you’re looking for ideas of how to make this work for your family as well.  Here’s what we’ve got:

  1. Weekday Schedule – COVID-19
  2. Morning Checklist (why did I not do this before this???)
  3. Weekday Chore Schedule- COVID-19 Pandemic 2020 (increased focus on cleaning- don’t judge me but I totally didn’t do this all the time before)
  4. Academic Schedule for Electronics and TV-Movie Schedule (we only have so many iPads and computers available and don’t want them just to focus on this) and TV/Movie Schedule (who gets to pick)

Weekday Schedule during COVID-19 Pandemic 2020

Feel free to download the excel documents- just know that you’ll need to change them to put your kiddos’ names- unless yours just happen to be named Will, Anna, Clara, and Kate.  Of course, I’d love it if you would share the blog, vs. just downloading, but that’s your call.  Either way, you’ll likely need to tweek this to make it work with your family’s schedule and needs.

A few other things Garen and I are doing to make working at home successful and (hopefully) all stay healthy:

  • Take shifts working vs. kid-duty.  We will work earlier and later than our normal 8-5 work schedules to achieve this.
  • Planning meals vs. scrambling for what to eat- keeping food as healthy as possible.  I figure the healthier we eat, the better off we are- we’ve also seen their behavior is better if we eat less processed stuff.  Again, no judgement- there will likely still be some corn dogs and mac-n-cheese in our future for the next few weeks too!
  • Involving the kids in cooking the meals- learning and entertainment at the same time.  I’m hoping we can make some yummy cookies together for sure.
  • Staying active with the kids outside, if possible, and doing activities inside on rain days such as dancing or yoga.  I work-out daily (using the Faster Way at home workouts), so I’ll include them if they’d like to do it with me.
  • Monitoring the sanitizing/cleaning- although our kids are good at cleaning, we still want to make sure that it gets done
  • There may be work meetings we have to go to, but neither of us have companies that are pushing for large meetings so “social distancing” should be easy for us when we do have to venture out.  When we do, we will make sure we’re washing our hands, etc. and sanitizing  during our trips out and as we return home.
  • Meetings we would’ve had in person can mostly be done over the phone or Skype, if necessary.  I saw a meme that said something like “We’re about to see how many meetings could’ve been emails.”  So much truth here.  I’d like to add that “so many emails, could’ve been phone calls and/or text messages.”  I may be chasing a squirrel here.
  • We have a dedicated office that I work in, but if we didn’t, we would’ve made our bedroom or another room our temporary office vs. an open area that creates distraction and makes phone calls hard to make.
  • Stick to the schedule- Our kids thrive on a schedule and when they know what to expect, as do we.  They’re used to this at school so keeping it as normal as possible will help.
  • Altered bedtimes- You may notice that there’s a slightly later bedtime than we usually do (usual is 7:30 for 4’s, 8 for our almost 9 year old, and 9 for our 11 year old).  This is because they get up every morning for school by 6:30 and now they really could get up by 8:30 and get everything done by the 9:00 cut-off.
  • Offer a reward- Every kid that checks off each of the scheduled things (see the schedule) gets to stay up until 9.  Otherwise 8:00 is bedtime.  We’re hoping that will be a “carrot” for them to stay on schedule and positive.
  • We plan to enjoy and make the best of our time together rather than seeing it as a negative.

Lemons to Lemonade.  Stay safe and healthy, my friends!

Photo Friday: Closing Time

The song “Closing Time” reminds me a lot of high school, endings, and new beginnings. Well, today we closed on a new (to us) home and, in a way, it will be a new beginning for our family. We’re super excited to have a little more breathing room and a lot more yard. But…we’re also exhausted…

We’re exhausted from a long, drawn-out negotiation prior to closing actually happening. Plus, this week I had a work trip to Houston and San Antonio, Garen had one to Houston today. Tomorrow, we have two basketball games, a Girl Scout Cookie Booth, birthday party, and then we will try to start moving. Sunday I head to Las Vegas until Friday to the World of Concrete!

All of this stuff is awesome! It’s just soooooo much. All at once.

However, I’m working on enjoying every single crazy moment of it. Because I believe my elders when they tell me that these days will be gone in a hurry.

These pictures were the highlights of my day were:

1. Getting the keys!

2. Having a pizza picnic with my favorite people on the floor of our new (to us) dining room.

They say it’s the small things in life!

Happy Photo Friday to you and happy Closing Day to us!

Photo Friday: Longhorn Cavern State Park

Over Christmas break, we made the trip from Hamilton down to Longhorn Cavern State Park.  I’d been there back when Will was still an only child but we didn’t have time to go on the cave tour.  It was one of the Texas Bucket List things that I’d always wanted to check off.  I don’t think anyone else in our family had ever been either so it was a great choice when we wanted to get outside to do something right before Christmas rather than sitting around the house in Hamilton.

It’s located a little north of Marble Falls, TX, so we left in time to go into town and eat at Bluebonnet Cafe, which is definitely a great place to stop if you’re ever driving down Hwy 281.  I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken fried steak and at least half of us got breakfast for lunch.  Don’t skip the pie for dessert.

The cave tour was pretty cool and we learned a little about the history as well as some geology behind formation, etc.  Imagine how cool it would’ve been to grab a drink or a concert down there?!?  Back in the day, they operated a bar, complete with a band to get more visitors because Carlsbad Caverns was so popular with their elevator at the time.  This was obviously before they knew that touching the stalagmites and stalactites stunted their growth permanently.  You science people correct me if I got those wrong….

The state park around the cave is pretty cool itself.  We didn’t explore it too much, with Harper Bear, Clara, and Kate having short legs and attention-spans.  However, we did enjoy climbing up and around the original CCC stone building there.  While the cave pictures sure didn’t turn out, I think that the ones of us hanging out above the cave were pretty cute.  We sure enjoyed our time with the Odom family!

Happy Photo Friday all!

Mommy Review Monday: Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff

Every year I set goals for myself at the beginning of the year.  Original, right???

One of my goals this year (and, honestly, the last probably 10 years) is to declutter.  However, we’re in the process of potentially closing on a new (to us) home.  With that, we will likely be selling the home we’re in.  And, because of that, we must move.

Moving brings stress.  It also brings opportunity.  Lemons to lemonade….

I digress.  The opportunity I speak of is the opportunity to declutter.  REALLY declutter.  Like get rid of stuff I don’t need and/or want.

For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE audio books.  As much as I’m on the road, I use the time to read either for pleasure, education, or self-development.  One of the latest books that popped up as a suggestion to me was called Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff by Dana K. White.  I’m a fan.  Here’s why:

Decluttering at the Speed of Life

  • She reads the book herself and you can tell she’s got a sense of humor.  It stuck a familiar cord with me.  Like we could seriously be friends.
  • It really is “decluttering at the speed of life,” meaning it’s not something you have to plan to have hours blocked out to do.  5 minutes is all it takes to get started.  Mind = blown.  ADHD friends, this book will help you out.  Get out those iphones and start your stop watches!
  • It breaks it down into the areas that matter most- the ones you can’t hide.  Her thoughts are that if you start with those, you’ll get on a roll and the others will come easier.  Kinda.  Just listen and it’ll all make sense.
  • It’s not long and complicated.  No- “do you love these things?” or “show your stuff the respect it deserves” type mumbo-jumbo.  It’s practical.
  • She introduces the container theme- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this.  Just wait… I’m guessing you will too.  I’m not going to be a book spoiler.  Just read and/or listen to it.

That’s it.  Because….guess what?!? One of my other goals this year is to blog once a week.  That means that my blog posts HAVE to start being short, sweet, and to the point.  So, with that said, Happy Mommy Review Monday and may the decluttering be as addicting for you as it’s become for me!

P.S. I’m not getting compensated to review this book.  I used my Audible credit to purchase it.  All (good and bad) opinions are my own.

Photo Friday: Five Fabulous Years Together

Seriously, folks, has it really been five years that I’ve been married to this wonderful man?!?

532It’s both flown by and seemed like longer than 5 years.  In some ways, I feel like it was just yesterday we were walking down the isle (and I was about 25 lbs lighter).  In other ways, it seems like we’ve been a married couple for ages.  Maybe that’s because so much has happened in our lives in the past five years.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Married April 26, 2014
  • Will started “real school”
  • We found out we were expecting
  • Then found out we were expecting TWINS!
  • We sold our house in The Colony
  • We moved to our current house in Arlington
  • We  added Clara and Kate to the family
  • Anna started “real school”
  • I left Texas Health Resources to work at Spec Rents
  • Garen got two promotions along the way (he’s now VP of Masonry Sales for Texas at Oldcastle)
  • Clara and Kate started pre-school
  • We’ve been to hundreds of kids events- sporting, scouts, etc. and loved (almost) ever minute of it

Now, here we are- celebrating five years of wedded bliss!  I am so thankful that I married this guy.  As I tell people about our story- Garen was our sales guy for mortar and grout when I worked at P and S Masonry.  He was such a great saleman, that I married him.

This man is so wonderful.  When we started dating, he took a huge risk getting into a  long-distance relationship with a girl that had already had one failed marriage and two young kids.  He jumped right in from the minute he met Will and Anna that first time we went to Fossil Rim together.  Although, they may not be his children by blood, he’s treated them as they are from the beginning and that says so much about what type of person he is.  When we added Clara and Kate to the mix, he knew how nervous I was about having two more human beings to care for and he has been the best baby-daddy ever.  In fact, so much so that the girls prefer him over me and for good reason!

On the flip side, being a great dad isn’t the only thing that makes him a great life partner.  He’s also just fun.  Anyone that’s been around him for a short period of time, knows that he’s hilarious (despite the terrible dad jokes) and kind.  He’s such a people person and could strike up a conversation with anyone and he’s intelligent on so many levels that it makes our discussions so interesting.  We always have fun together- whether its cleaning up the kitchen or going on a hike.

I feel so fortunate that I get to spend the rest of my days with him.  Here’s to many, many more!

Crafting with Will: Origami Hat/Boat/Snapper

Will woke up this morning and immediately started making Origami. He is super crafty like that….especially when grounded from electronics. Funny how that works. I asked asked him if he wanted to make a video to show others how to do his current favorite project and he was all about it!

I think he did a great job in front of the camera for his first time!

Now for a fun day of Cub Scouts Blue and Gold Banquet and two basketball games. Wish us luck with no naps in the schedule.

Enjoy Will’s first DIY video!

Photo Friday: Creepy Crawlers

We kinda like bugs, worms, and all things crawling around here.  Ok, maybe not all things.  Anna and Kate pretty much freak out at the sight of any spiders, while Will and Clara are overly quick to smash the insides out of anything they can.

Obviously, these smaller creep crawlers pictured below were taken by Garen without our herd around to either run from or kill.

By the way, there is no great back story as to why I decided to post these.  I honestly couldn’t come up with a good Photo Friday story off the top of my head.  I’ve been on the road for the past two days, so as I got back tonight, I realized if I didn’t find some photos fast, I was going to miss another Photo Friday.  So…. I went back and looked at some of Garen’s photos, and this chubby green worm and the black spider jumped out at me.

Thanks goodness they didn’t really jump out at me.  Kate and Anna tend to be more like me.  I like to handle most creepy crawlers from a distance and a large stick…. except fishing worms, which somehow I can handle.  That, and the creepy crawlers we used to make as a kid with an oven.  Am I the only one that loved making these things (for those of us who fall conveniently between Gen X and Millennials)?

Creepy Crawlers

If you really love it, I found one for you online at Etsy for the bargain price of…..



Yes, you read that correctly.  Here’s the link in case you’re totally reminiscing:

Vintage Creepy Crawlers Workshop Complete with Molds Molding Oven

You can also find one on Amazon for $199.99.

We recently had our own terrible experience with the mess of the Easy Bake oven.  So, I now totally understand the cringe I saw come over my Mom’s face when I told her I wanted to make creepy crawlies as a child.  I also can imagine how she felt when we ran out of the glue or whatever it was that made them.  I feel the same way when the mix ran out on Anna’s Easy Bake oven.  Whew!!!  And, no, I’m not buying another .2 oz bag of cookie or cake mix for $10.

There you go.  Another rambling post, but at least you know where these photos come from.  Credit to my very talented hubby,  The website hasn’t been updated in a while.  Don’t judge.  It’s a labor of love!

What about you?  Do you love or hate creepy crawlers – real or fake?

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My Funny Valentine

Wow, guys…..

What. A. Week.

It’s been one for the record books. There were Valentine’s Day school parties, Garen on the road two days, getting ready for helping with decorations for the school dance, and more “real work” than I can shake a stick at. And then the weekend full of laundry, washing and putting party stuff away, basketball…

The good thing….we survived. It’s Sunday and all is right in the world after a lazy morning.

How did I survive the week?

This guy.

This amazing, wonderful man keeps me sane. He is my rock. Best dad, best friend, best husband, best everything pretty much.

He’s so great that he even played along with my “fishing” dance on Friday at the school dance. You know…the one that you cast the line and “catch” your dance partner and reel them in. Not only did he play along, he totally rocked it, hook in the cheek and all. Such a funny guy.

On top of that, he barely blinked an eye when I brought two truckloads of Valentines decorations, party stuff, and serving dishes back into the house he’d just picked up yesterday morning!

Worlds most patient man ever, right here. And he’s mine! I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

Happy late Valentines Day, Garen, my funny Valentine. I love that we get to laugh our way through this crazy life of ours! Thanks for being you!

Chalkboard Quotes: Be the Reason Someone Smiles Today

A few years back, right after we moved into this house, my sweet mother-in-law gave us this frame. It was another color and didn’t have anything behind it. We debated between using it to hang wreaths or other stuff in it or get a large picture printed for it. But I had wanted a big chalkboard for a while, so Garen cut a piece of plywood to the right size and I painted it with chalkboard paint. I painted the frame black so it would be versatile. I finished this project right before Clara and Kate’s first birthday. Here’s the first chalkboard crafting I did:

As you can see, I did a combo of pictures hanging with pom pom string and mini clothespins. I used chalkboard paint markers on this project. Although it turned out nicely, it forever stained my chalkboard. I’m probably the only one that really looks closeup enough to see that it still says “Happy Halloween” but it still drives me a little crazy. Short drive there but still…

The slight stain doesn’t bother me enough to take it apart and repaint it. I’ve learned now that using plain ol’ chalk is easiest for writing and erasing. Plus, you can buy a box with color and white from Dollar Tree for only a dollar. Score!

On Wednesday afternoon last week I redid it for Valentines a whole day before Valentines Day. Great planning, right? However, I went ahead and changed it because I used it for decoration at the Wood Elementary Family Sweetheart Dance we had on Friday night.

It’s not my best work and you can tell that it got smeared a bit by people running into it. It is what it is…

Today, I decided to redo the message again since it got messed up in transport back to the house. I thought I’d share since I really loved the message. It’s perfect right now since we’re between seasons. St. Patty’s Day (also Anna Banana’s birthday) is next and a little far off for doing that. I happened to see this post by How Does She? On Pinterest that had 21 Great Chalkboard Quotes. I found this quote from there and changed up how it was drawn a bit to fit my style. There were 20 other great quotes to check out as well.

I love this quote: “Be the reason someone smiles today.” I feel like if we all just tried to make at least one person smile a day we’d have a much better world. And one of the best ways to do that is just by smiling yourself. After all smiling is contagious.

Happy Smiling Sunday!