August 20, 2014

Homeschooling Has Begun!

Wow! We are officially a homeschooling family and it feels WONDERFUL!! It is literally my dream come true to be teaching my children at home and I am so thankful that we are able to choose this lifestyle. As I monogrammed some special outfits for the kids the night before we started, I just kept thinking of how thankful I am that we get to explore the world as a family. By that I mean the little world around us (nature, the area where we live, local educational opportunities, our church, etc.), but also the literal WORLD. Kurt and I dream of showing our kids that the world is MUCH bigger than just ourselves, and yesterday marked the very first day of that educational philosophy coming true. Obviously you can show your kids the "world" no matter where or how they go to school! But we feel so much freedom to just explore and learn together as a family.

I don't want to paint this idyllic picture of how the first day went - the day started out with a toilet flooding incident that was so nasty I can't even talk about it, among other misadventures. But as far as the literal schooling part? It was wonderful. I know some people have kind of a "let down" feeling if it doesn't live up to the hype, but I think I knew that it would be a really subtle transition into homeschooling and I actually didn't build it up with huge expectations. I did work hard the night before to make sure I was prepared and I had things where they needed to be, so I think that did help. But overall it was just a really simple and easy morning. :)

Here's how the playroom/schoolroom looks!

I sold the really fluffy off white rug that we had in here so I could get a new one. The fluffy one just wasn't conducive to art projects, vacuum cleaners and kids in general. It was really soft and we didn't even have major spills on it - I just knew I needed to do a preemptive strike against that sort of thing. :) I found this indoor/outdoor rug at Target and I LOVE it! I also got a bigger table from Pottery Barn Kids because I knew Evy (and Liam when he wants to join us) will need a bigger workspace. I'm excited to add some art on the walls!


Even though it looks a little junky, I cleaned out this middle section of shelves and am in the process of organizing our art supplies and other things we'll use for school frequently. I also ordered a cart from IKEA to use next to the rocking chair where I sit sometimes in here.


Little helper!


Calendar area! We don't have a lot of good wall space, so we used zip ties to attach bulletin boards to our railing. It works perfectly! I still need to add some last minute things to the board, but it's pretty much done!




I got the book shelf from Amazon and we've loved it so far!


I mentioned earlier that I created a little play space just for Lynley! I needed to clear out some of the baby toys to make room for school things, and this ended up being perfect. We have an unused little room upstairs that was intended as a second laundry room (I just one the one downstairs - I would never use two laundry rooms!). It was sitting empty and then it dawned on me to give Lynley a special little space. I still need to cover the plugs (she can't reach anything yet but she's getting close and obviously I want it to be safe) and hang the big piece of artwork over the utility box (it's going to be so cute!). I got the rug and bin shelving from Target!




I found a love seat on Craigslist for a STEAL and I'm going to have it recovered so we can have better seating up here. I'm going to add some art and it will be done!


Our first day of homeschooling (and Evy's first day of Kindergarten!) were on August 19, 2014! I chose to start on a Tuesday because Kurt was off work and I knew that would help with getting started.  I also wanted Liam (especially) and Lynley to be able to play with Kurt because I knew I would need to focus the first day on what was going on with Evy. It worked great! Technically Liam is in "preschool" but we aren't pushing ANYTHING. I want him to be able to listen and participate whenever he wants to, but I'm totally following his lead on when he'll formally start school (not for at least another year).

Our sweet Kindergartner, ready to start!


Zulily was actually selling these blanks a few months ago. They came with the blank chalkboard and I just monogrammed their names!





We start with Calendar time and go through days of the week, what the date is, what tomorrow will be, etc. Then we put a popsicle stick into our place value cups and put our number into the 100 chart. Evy will write each number for the day until we reach 100. :) We chart the weather each day and sing a little weather song!


I love that Kurt was here and snapped some pictures - these are priceless to me!


Working on our address. :)



As I was sitting there singing and teaching with Evy, I thought several times. . ."this feels so natural to me." I have absolutely no doubt that this was the right decision for us!


After Calendar time, we did some artwork for Evy's Creation Book. The first week in our curriculum talks about the week of Creation, so there's Bible reading and a corresponding activity for each day.



Liam worked on cutting and gluing for a few minutes. :)


Day 1: God separated darkness and light!


I went to run some errands and decided I HAD to get a chalkboard so we could document the day. I always love seeing the cute little signs on the first day of school!








We did it! First day was a success!


We finished off the day with Oreos - a great visual for light and dark. ;)



I'm so excited for a wonderful year with my precious little ones!

August 18, 2014

Long TIme No Blog

I think the end of summer is when all blogs are abandoned! There's so much going on and the transition back into routine just takes the focus, I guess. I'm also behind on uploading pictures because I've spent most of my time recently finishing our 2012 - yes, 2012 - photo book. I'm now only 1.5 years behind. Progress! 

I think we're going to start school on Tuesday! Kurt will be off work and that will help me get the hang of the routine while Lynley and Liam are playing with their daddy. :) I'm so excited and Evy is too! I'll show pictures of our school area soon. 

Today was promotion Sunday at church. Also known as the most stressful Sunday of the year - ha! No, it was great - I just think change for little ones is HARD. And Evy went to the Children's Ministry - no Preschool Ministry for her anymore. It was really hard for me! Harder than I expected. I just think that our kids are supposed to be preschoolers in our minds forever. Liam and Lynley are still there, so I'm not officially in full-on despair. :)

We've got a busy fall! I registered Evy and Liam for a weekly homeschool co-op. They'll take 3 classes (extra-curricular-type activities). Then we'll have our weekly Words and Wiggles class with Mrs. Brandy, and Evy will continue with dance. I'm wanting Liam to start tae kwon do as well, but mercifully it looks like everything will fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays! I love knowing that I can cram all of our "out of the house" things into only two days and have a bigger portion of the week at HOME.

I am leading a group of ladies (through our women's ministry) on a trip to see Beth Moore at Living Proof Live this weekend! I am SO excited to actually see Beth in person - she's one of my personal heroes and I just love her. My mom is going and I'm so excited for the time with her! It's so rare that we get to spend time alone together and I know we will have so much fun! 

In September I'll be going to the DotMom conference in Nashville! Kelly asked me if I wanted to share a room with her and Laurie and of course I said YES!! I got to spend time with Kelly the last time I was visiting my grandparents and we had the best time. We're a lot alike and share so many things in common - I can't wait for more great memories and hearing the incredible speakers!

Then right after that I have my 10 year high school reunion! Talk about surreal - I can't even believe it's been 10 years. So much has happened! I'm a very different person than I was in high school and early college - maturity and life experiences and growing with the Lord will do that to anyone! I'm definitely the same person in a lot of ways, but I'm just the older and wiser version of myself, if that makes sense. I received my school's alumni publication last week and it's always a little strange for me. They like to feature all of the people who are doing these incredible things with their jobs or living in exciting places like New York or Los Angeles (it IS very interesting to read about!). And here I am, living in a small Midwestern town with my husband and three little ones, and I couldn't be any happier! Even though my life isn't "exciting" enough to be featured in a magazine, it's my dream come true, and I'll be so proud of talk about my three precious children and my husband who I'm so proud of. I absolutely love that we live in the country, in the peace and quiet, and we spend our time loving each other and serving in our church. I'm pretty sure I'll be the only homeschooling mom at the reunion, and that makes me smile. :) I told someone recently that I hope people just meet each other where they are at the reunion. I'm sure it's nearly impossible to disregard experiences or memories of who we were then (and nothing bad or weird happened, don't get me wrong!); I just mean that I hope everyone is genuinely glad to see each other and find out about where we are in our lives now. I'm going to stay with one of my very best friends in the world, Brooke, and I can't wait to just cherish that time with her. And of course I'll get to see Carrie

I feel like this was a whole lot of tidbits but hopefully that gives a little update. I hope to get back in the blogging swing of things soon! 

August 7, 2014

Who's Ready for a Challenge!?

Okay, so clearly if you've read my last few posts, I am totally sold on AdvoCare! I am continuing what I started with my 24 Day Challenge and I am so, SO excited about how I KNOW I will look! Here's the deal - I was never the type of person to sign up for things like this when people would offer, because I'm a HUGE skeptic. I also don't do well if I don't KNOW that someone has had great success and results doing something. So once I saw friend after friend do a Challenge and rave about it, I felt like I could trust it, and I'm SO GLAD I DID!

So let me be that person for you. You can trust AdvoCare (and me too - ha!)!! I am getting a group together to go through a Challenge! I already have about 6-7 people and I'm wanting to add MORE! I will send you a Challenge PLUS a bottle of Catalyst (awesome supplement!). This is your chance to try a 24 Day Challenge with a group of people (but I promise I won't make anyone awkwardly interact - believe me, I'm an introvert and that's my nightmare), AWESOME coaching, recipes, videos, and support! You'll be added to a Facebook group that has people in it from all over that are doing Challenges. It really is amazing what it did for my morale to see people speaking the AdvoCare lingo and who were in my boat. I am confident you will be amazed at the encouragement you receive!!!

This is what you receive with a Challenge:


2 boxes of Spark energy drink
10-Day Cleanse
OmegaPlex
1 box of Shakes
MNS supplement packs for your last 14 days

AND I'm throwing in a bottle of Catalyst!

Here's another bonus: I'm letting you choose all your flavors! You can buy pre-packaged Challenges with popular flavors, but I'm the type of person that wants a choice in flavors - I'm picky! I will order your Challenge for you so you don't even have to worry about it - all you have to do is let me know what flavors/options you're wanting!

MNS choice:
MNS-C is maximum appetite control. This is what I use!
MNS-3 is overall nutrition with a little appetite control.
MNS-E is for energy!

Then pick your Shake flavor:
Vanilla
Chocolate Mocha
Chocolate (This is what I use!)
Berry

Finally, let me know what TWO flavors of Spark energy drink you'd like (I starred the most popular):
Mandarin Orange
Fruit Punch*
Grape
Pink Lemonade
Cherry
Watermelon*
Mango Strawberry*
Citrus

I want to make this NOT intimidating and user-friendly, so I've tried to lay it all out for you to know what your choices are. And keep in mind this is called a Challenge for a reason! You are changing your lifestyle habits and what foods you're eating. You're also drinking a TON of water and doing whatever you can to get your heart rate up every day (I still didn't do great at this and I still saw great results - so now I'm motivated to exercise MORE!). Believe me, YOU CAN DO THIS! I want you to succeed and I know you can!

If you want to join our group and try a Challenge, EMAIL ME at ashley61985@gmail.com. Sometimes my comments don't go through or they get sent to another folder, so email will ensure that I get your order! After I see how many are participating and I place the order, I'll pick a start date!

Join us!!

August 4, 2014

24 Day Challenge Results!

I DID IT!!!!!!! I finished the 24 Day Challenge!! And my results are…..


I lost 6 lbs. and 9 inches overall!!!

And I want to clarify again - that doesn't mean I lost 9 inches in my waist alone. I took measurements from my waist, chest, things, hips, etc. and the combined loss was 9 inches. :)

I feel GREAT! I have really been amazed at how different I feel. I told Kurt that I really feel like I got into a zone and it was great to know what that feels like. I developed a lot of good habits like making healthier food choices, drinking water only, and really minimizing snacking. The one area that I still need to make a habit is exercise. I definitely made strides in that area but I want to make it a regular part of my routine that I consider non-negotiable. Getting there!

I DO have before and after pictures but I'm not ready to show them yet. I notice a big difference and I really am proud, but right now I just want to keep those to myself. Maybe I'll share at some point! I did share a picture of myself the other night because I was able to fit into a dress that had gotten a little too tight!


A lot of people ask what you do going forward after the 24 days are over. I'm going to basically continue like I'm still on the Challenge. I've ordered more MNS-C (my supplement packs) because they're so good for appetite control and overall nutrition. And of course I'm a huge believer in Spark now, so I'll always drink that! I'll continue eating clean and watching portions, so I will continue to see weight loss. It's pretty amazing that I lost 6 lbs in 24 days - it gives me a ton of motivation going forward!

I really can't say enough good things about AdvoCare and what a difference it's made for me! I am also really glad that I decided to become a distributor because I get a discount on the products that I believe have helped me so much. If you're interested in looking at the products, you can visit my website here. If you want to learn more about the 24 Day Challenge, look at this website!

24 days ago I was the heaviest I've ever been, and now I'm well on my way to where I want to be. I'm so thankful!

July 29, 2014

Girls' NYC Trip!

In mid-May, Carrie and I made the trip to New York City to visit SD and her family! It was surreal to be visiting her there because for several years the discussion has been on the table of when the Herringtons would spend some time there. SD's husband Peyton has always had the dream of living there for at least a little while, and so they made it happen! I was really excited to see NYC from a more personal perspective. It's so fun to do the "classic" things, but it's the first time I've had a friend actually living there, so Carrie and I got a really neat window into what it's like in the day-to-day.


DAY 1

I met Carrie in the airport (our flights arrived around the same time) and we got a cab to Brooklyn! It was so crazy to actually drive up to SD's co-op!



Here we are!


How wonderful to reunite with SD, Ann Peyton and Baby Graves!



We walked down to the subway station to get our Metro cards and then got some pizza, which hit the spot!


DAY 2

The next day we started at Connecticut Muffin which is right near SD's place.


After taking the train into Manhattan, we had to stop and take a picture. It was raining and our hair was CRAZY. We felt touristy and gross, but thankfully this was the only day it was like this!



A pretty little flower shop reminded me of a scene from You've Got Mail!



We had tea at an adorable little place called Alice's Teacup! There are several locations, and I believe our's was "II." I enjoyed this so much. I always love having tea, but it was even more wonderful with my friends, and the tea hit the spot on the drizzly day.






My "Mad Men" moment. :)


We visited the Frick Collection, which is housed in a beautiful 5th Avenue mansion. I always love art collections when they're showcased in homes, because you can picture them as they were originally displayed. It was gorgeous!





We stopped by the Plaza, of course!





I love the Plaza's sense of humor - such a cute portrait of Eloise!


In fact, Eloise has a whole little shop devoted to her!


Then it was off to FAO Schwartz!



We had stayed our first night at SD's apartment and then for the next couple of nights we got a hotel room in the city so we could be close to everything. It was perfect because Peyton was off for the weekend and SD got a fun little break! We stopped at our hotel to get changed for dinner and our SHOW that night! :)

We ate at the Bryant Park Grill in Bryant Park and it was so lovely. I feel trite using the word, but it was really chic and understated. 




We saw the incomparable Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella! It was magnificent! It was visually stunning, and the quick changes were incredible - the costume designer won a Tony award, and seeing it in person was so cool! Cinderella was supposed to be played by Carly Rae Jepson, but of all nights, her understudy was playing that night. Oh well - good thing I'm not really a fan!




I DID sneak a picture of Fran Drescher, who played the Stepmother. My friend Erin is her biggest fan and just about died when I told her that Fran would be performing!





The end of this night was absolutely CRAZY. We realized that we all had low cell phone batteries (we didn't have time to charge them at the hotel), so we were stressing about rationing the batteries. Well, as we were walking out of the theater, the bottom fell out and it started POURING rain. I mean torrents and torrents coming down. We had wanted to get dessert somewhere but it was impossible to find a cab after a show in the RAIN. One by one our phones died. I can't even remember the details of how insane it was, but we ended up navigating our way by train back to our hotel (without Google maps to help!). We were exhausted but it made for some funny memories!

DAY 3

We started off with breakfast at Paris Baguette! This place is very special to me because we ate there a lot in Seoul when we went to get Liam. I have such a special place in my heart for it. :)


 We headed over to the World Trade Center area, and it was still heartbreaking. It definitely feels more optimistic since construction is going on, but just knowing what happened there and how many lives were lost was so surreal and sobering. We also weren't prepared for all of the people trying to sell "guidebooks" (which I guess they really are guidebooks, but….). It was so distracting - you couldn't just stand there and respect what had happened. The last time I was there was 2002, when the damage was still VERY fresh, so it was at least encouraging to see the progress that's been made and that the area continues to have purpose and people thriving in it.


We headed to the SoHo area and ate at the Bowery Bar and Grill, which had the BEST atmosphere. It was a beautiful day and we sat on the patio. I pictured Kurt and I bringing the kids there to eat for brunch if we lived in the area. . .it seems like such an urban thing to "brunch" outside surrounded by city life happening. :)





After lunch we walked right across the street and visited the Merchant House Museum. It's the only fully preserved historical home in the city, and it was fascinating! This is the sort of thing I love to do on trips - find something that's a hidden gem that the average tourist would never discover. We loved it and learned so much! We really enjoyed seeing what life was like for a merchant's family back in the 1800's in New York City.

One little interesting thing: the main "den" or "family room" was downstairs. The family would relax and even eat down here on a daily basis, and the upstairs, more formal rooms were used for entertaining and special occasions.










On the highest floor were the servants' quarters. This hit home the most, because it was so primitive and stark (and this would've been considered the nicer end of things). Just imagining the intense, HARD labor that our guide described was really eye-opening. We even tried to lift one of the coal buckets and could hardly get it off the ground - and those young girls would carry two at a time up three flights of stairs. They would wake well before the sun and go to bed VERY late. I always think it's good to put yourself in people's shoes and feel their story.


After our tour, we explored some unique places in SoHo. . .


 . . .and ate some cheesecake!



We also observed some fashion trends. Get excited, ladies - these are headed to a suburban town near you!

 We went to the hotel and changed for dinner, then headed to Patsy's for dinner. It was WONDERFUL Italian food, and this was one of Frank Sinatra's favorite restaurants!




After dinner, we headed to Times Square! It's a classic New York thing, and SD and I wanted Carrie to experience it (plus we wanted to as well!)!



Of course I had to stop in the Disney Store in Times Square! :)



 DAY 4

This was Sunday morning, and I was SO EXCITED because we were heading to the Brooklyn Tabernacle for church! It was kind of a crazy morning - SD left the hotel in Manhattan early because she needed to get a key from Peyton (something complicated like that), so Carrie and I checked out of the hotel a little later and took a cab into Brooklyn. We ate breakfast at a delicious, cute little place called Putnam's. We loved it!







On the way to the bus stop, we saw many classic Brooklyn views.


After our bus ride, we ARRIVED! I've listened to the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir for years, and I just love Jim and Carol Cymbala (the pastor and his wife - she directs the music)! I couldn't believe I was actually there!




We took our seats and I just couldn't believe we were there. It was something on my bucket list and I was just overjoyed to experience it!


 A singing group from Liberty (where my brother and sister go to school) was going to be there that night. Small world!


 The worship was just amazing. Hearing the choir sing in person was something I will NEVER forget!


 It was also so special to take the Lord's Supper at the Tabernacle.





After the service, we had the most fun thing planned. A neighborhood/area of Brooklyn called Park Slope was having their annual tour of homes that afternoon! Peyton had gotten us tickets and it was SO FUN!! We got to tour actual Brownstones where families are living, and it was such a rare and special opportunity. They were each VERY different. Some had maintained a historical feel with the decorating, and others had been completely remodeled and decorated in an ultra modern style. It was another one of those times when I really imagined our family actually living in New York (or really any super urban environment) and what it would be like for us. I love letting my thoughts wander like that; I think it creates a really rich life experience when you can picture your life in a lot of different scenarios.



After the tour, we stumbled upon a Greek restaurant and decided to give it a try. It was very good and we had more great conversation, as usual!




After dinner we went back to the Herrington home and stayed up VERY late talking about every topic under the sun! Peyton even joined us for awhile and we made up for lost time all talking together. :)

The next morning was our departure day, and I couldn't believe the weekend had gone so quickly.



After a good flight, I drove myself home from the airport and felt a huge sense of peace come over me as I saw our home in the country. It was really crazy - only hours before I had been in New York City, of all places. The city that never sleeps; so much going on and SO different from where I call home. And then all of a sudden there I was, in what felt like a totally different world.


After getting and giving huge hugs to everyone, life quickly resumed with me getting snacks for everyone. :) It was the BEST feeling to be home!


I am so incredibly thankful for my precious friends and how much we enjoy each other. One thing I'm really proud of is how hard we've worked to maintain our friendship that now spans three states! We've kept that commitment to stay in touch and stay connected. I will say it's not too hard when we care about each other as much as we do. I love these girls so much and I'm so thankful for all they mean to me!

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