House For Six


Merry Christmas From Our Home To Yours!

Deme CrinionComment
I meant to share a quick home tour earlier in the week, but we have a couple sick kiddos on our hands.  Sully is very concerned..."Mom.  This is going to be the worst Christmas ever".  Oh, to be five and facing your greatest fear of being sick on Christmas morning.  I'm pretty sure it will still be awesome.  Just with an added box of Kleenex and maybe a bag of cough drops in the stockings.

You never can predict how the week leading up to Christmas is going to shake out.  Very dear friends gifted us a cleaning service for Christmas and we decided to use it on the 22nd.  We were set to host Christmas dinner and having the task of cleaning off my plate was such a HUGE relief.  It had been a long time since our house was cleaned from top to bottom and it was incredible!  It also gave us more time to think about our dinner menu and adding little holiday touches around the house without the rush or pressure.

We didn't pull out all the stops, but we did allow some room to get creative and spontaneous.  Basically, I found an excuse to make giant pompoms and throw them on the tree (after we used them for a snowball fight in lieu of actual snow #getittogetherohio)....

Christmas home tour
(Holiday card station - saving my butt since I made it last week) 

Christmas home tour
  (family ornaments.  always.)

Christmas home tour
(we ended up doing something different than years past for our Christmas card display, so these Santa clothespins hopped on the tree instead)

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour
 (hmmmm....missing a few key characters at the moment)

Christmas home tour
 (Mia set up this beautiful nativity set from James' grandmother and she moves the characters a little closer to the star each day)
Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour
(clearly this was a disaster waiting to happen and those bottom rows are now at the top)

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour
 (favorite new addition that the hubs assembled two days before Christmas.  IKEA, I heart you.)

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour

Christmas home tour
 (Bakers twine.  Which I use for everything and is still going strong after two years.)

And with that, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!  
Christmas cards from Minted
We hope you are surrounded by love, and filled with the perpetual hope of this holiday season.

We'll be enjoying some time as a family to finish out 2015, and when we return after the New Year we'll be back as House For Six!  Can't wait to share the new site and a look at what's to come in 2016!  I feel so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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The Family Picture Swap

Deme Crinion2 Comments
A couple weeks ago I stumbled on this post by Jackie from Teal & Lime.  She explained how her family managed to grab some great family photos by swapping photos sessions with another family.  Basically both families head out to a great location armed with cameras and take turns snapping photos for each other.  While I completely recognize the value of a professional who knows their stuff (and camera equipment much better than I do), this cost effective option seemed worth a try...not at all because of my procrastination in scheduling a photo session.  Not one bit.

We were holding out for some snow (pretty white backdrop!), but with not a snowflake in the forecast we dressed the family in festive clothes, wiped the tears over the "lame sweater", and met our friends at a nearby park on a chilly winter afternoon.  (First tip: unless there's some sort of beautiful snowy background you really want to capture, go when it's warm-ish.  You'll have more time and less cranky kids).

We both brought our cameras, and I had mine set up on the tripod for the first set.  We made sure to capture the full family photos first, since we both wanted those for a potential Christmas card.  We went to a park that had beautiful trees, trails, and an old barn...which gave us plenty of options for different shots.  (Second tip:  in hindsight we should have had both cameras snapping at the same time...but there were babies that needed to be corralled and kept from eating pine cones.  If you can swing it though - use both!)

Clearly, we captured a lot of these:  

Which I sort of love.  While a perfectly posed shot is nice, it doesn't really capture those larger than life personalities.  And ultimately I think people enjoy seeing those pictures just as much if not more than the "nice ones".  (Third tip:  snap, snap, snap! I took over one hundred pictures between our families which ensured we came out with at least one good photo and whole lot more to laugh over and enjoy).
Don't be afraid to capture those less than posed moments.  Pictures of your family interacting with each other and their surroundings makes for some great candid shots.

I randomly snapped this one after taking pics of our friends' family.  James was keeping her bundled up in a blanket off to the side and it ended up being my favorite shot of the day.
(Fourth tip: Have an idea of what you would like to do, but be flexible.  I spent some time looking at family photos on Pinterest to get an idea of setting/poses/angles we might like to try, [and we did bring along a few props] but ultimately we tried a couple different things for each family and called it a day.)

The biggest benefit to this type of setup is how comfortable the setting is - you're with friends, so likely much more at ease than with someone you don't know.  I would even recommend sharing a photography session with friends even if you do use a professional. It will just add to the ease and keep the experience fun.

We went late in the afternoon and as the sun began to set, the temps dropped right along with it.  We rushed the last few pics of the kids and didn't get to snap any of just the adults, but it was absolutely a great hour spent!  My friend and I are both still learning our cameras and we took away some great lessons learned to make the next time even better.

That night we uploaded our pics to a shared dropbox folder so we could pick and chose photos to edit.  I've always made our Christmas cards in the past, but this year I went with Minted.  The cards are slated to arrive today and I can't wait to see them!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Our Favorite Board Games (For the whole family and the little ones!)

Deme CrinionComment
Tis the season for gift giving! And soon the season of winter break (read: cabin fever with all the pent up energy and all the sibling love-hate feelings that have no place to go).  With both those in mind, I thought I would share a round-up of our favorite board games that the whole family can play.

We love having a good arsenal of games to access when the weather keeps us in, and for some family fun once Babyzilla is down for the night.  #weloveyouLivy #butyoucray

When it comes to gifts, I don't think you can go wrong with games.  My brother and his wife gifted us a few board games for our wedding and it was one of our best gifts we received!  I thought it was such a great idea for a new couple just starting out.  I love games for birthday giving since usually they're a gift that can grow with the child and have more longevity than many toys.  And of course, I'm a big fan of them as Christmas gifts.  Since all of our family is out of state we'll often do family gifts instead of individual gifts to cut down on shipping costs.  A "game night" box full of yummy snacks and a favorite board game is always a crowd pleaser.

That said, sometimes it's a challenge to find games that everyone in the family will enjoy, especially when you have young and older kids in the mix, including non-readers.

So, here's a run down of the games that are favorites in our household..from the games we can all play together, our favorites to play with large groups of friends, and favorites for that tricky not-yet-reading preschool age!
Best family board games for all ages

Favorites for the Whole Family
Charades/Guestures.  We have the Guestures game and the kids are cuckoo about the device that holds the cards.  It's a timer that holds four cards and you only have a limited time to act out a card before it drops down.  I like it because, the cards have three levels of difficulty to suit a variety of ages.  But we also love playing good ole charades too.

Headbandz. This is another one that everyone in our family loves...if we can keep Jack from running over to the mirror to look at his card #cheater.  No reading required.  It's sort of like a 20 questions game to figure out the picture that's on your headband.  And there's something that invokes giggles about wearing something silly on your head.

Scrabble.  I was surprised that our kids enjoy playing this so much.  I think the interest comes as they begin to read and learn new words.  We have the younger ones team up with an adult and I think they also like the feel of the small squares and hiding them from the other players.  This game is not cheap, but I would say it's worth it to pay for the raised grid lines to hold the letters, otherwise it's a complete mess every time you turn the board.  We got this one here (that also spins), but really the tile locks are the key, like this one.  #sanity.

Telestrations.  You guys - this GAME!  It's our new favorite! I have not laugh-cried so hard in a long time. It's basically the pictionary version of the old telephone game.  Instead of passing on a message by whispering into someone's ear, you are passing a picture.  You alternate between guessing what the picture is that's just been passed to you and drawing a picture of a word (the previous guess) that's been passed.  If you really want to challenge yourself, sit next to the 4 year old.  Young ones who can't read can play this they just need an adult to sit on one side to tell them the word to draw and to write down their guess from the picture.  This is definitely more fun with more players.  We tend to save this one for when we're hosting friends  It would be perfect for taking along on those big family get-togethers over the holidays.  Personally, I think it's ideal with at least 6 players.  We got the party pack since we planned to use it with friends, but there are different sizes including the 6 player family pack and the 8 player original.

Five Second Rule (junior).  The object of this game is easy.  Name three things in a given category within 5 seconds.  We got a small version of this as a Chick Fil A kids meal prize and the kids love it.  I found a junior/kid friendly version here, but the original is fun for an older crowd too.

Guess Who.  Oh my childhood!  Oh the nostalgia!  And our kids love it just as much.  Again, no reading required here, just process of elimination. Be sure to read reviews as some of these are made really poorly and the cards fall out.  The one I link to has good reviews at a decent price.

Apples to Apples.  This one is pretty darn hilarious - maybe more for adults but it's fun to see the kids' decision making as they decide what noun to pair with a given adjective.  Who's a straight lined kid and who has the dripping sarcasm or the goofy sense of humor?  There's a junior edition for the family or the original that might be better suited for an adult game night.

For the Littles (& great educational tools)

Spot It.  There are so many versions of these, you can find them everywhere.  And they're compact, so great for travel too.  It's basically like the game version of a search and find book.

Zingo.  This is our 4 year old's game of choice every time.  It's a fun version of Bingo.  The Zingo tiles have both a picture and the word, so it's great for those that can't read and sneaking in a little sight reading practice.

Connect Four.  What can I say #oldschoolforthewin. The kids dig anything with chips and sometimes the best part is releasing them so they all crash in a giant heap.  It might be more random play than strategy at first, but eventually the strategy comes along.

Rapid Doodle.  We recently came across this game looking for something that didn't require reading.  If your child is old enough to draw basic sketches, they can play this game.  It requires a little imagination to take a basic shape like a triangle and come up with four different pictures using that shape.  We don't use the timer when the younger ones are playing but it's pretty fun to see what they come up with.  We got this when Jack (our youngest besides the baby) was 4 and he was fine.

Uno.  Numbers and colors, hooray!  If you want a version that's a little more fun (and little kid proof) try Uno MOO.  Players have to put a piece that's the same character or the same color on the little ledge. Our kids still get a kick out of this.  Mostly because they get to knock the previous player's piece into the barn when it's their turn.  More sneaky learning.

For little ones you can't go wrong with classics like Candy LandPictionary,Go Fish, Memory (with any deck of cards), and even War (great for learning lesser/greater number values).  When Mia was about 5 or 6 years old, James even started teaching her to play blackjack (can you tell we used to live in Vegas?).  But it really helped with those addition facts and she was having so much fun betting chips that she didn't even notice she was drilling math.  We may be grooming a future gambler but until she starts counting cards I'll let it go....all in the name of math!

And in the spirit of Advent/Christmas I should mention these two games that are on repeat these days. 

To Bethlehem.  This was gifted to us a few years ago and its a really fun interactive game where the players have to try to get to Bethlehem.  Along the way they may have to pay shekels, do zany activities, or answer campfire style questions about their own Christmas memories/traditions.  Our kids look forward to pulling this out every year.  Availability seems to be low for a pre-Christmas arrival, but may be a good one to scoop up on a holiday sale for next year.
Snowmanopoly.  My kids LOVE Monopoly.  I do not (so many pieces, so many papers, so many things falling off the table, SO LONG).  But for some reason I can tolerate this winter version more than the original.  Go figure.

Overall, I think the key to finding games that all our kids enjoy playing is tweaking the rules of the "big kid" games to allow the younger ones to participate.  Instead of reading a word off the card for charades, we'll whisper something into the 3 year old's ear to act out...if we need to nix the timer to allow a little more time, great....if we need to add a rule (like a two turn limit to Memory) so that the big kids don't take over, no problem....and a lot of times, we just pair the youngest up with an adult.

How about you?  I would love to hear what works for your family...and some of your favorite games!  Let's hear em' in the comments.  It could be like the best family game list ever.   

*Some affiliate links used.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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How To Transition To A New Schedule. And Stay Alive.

Deme Crinion4 Comments
Hey friends!  Let's talk about September for a quick sec....

WTF?!?! It's such an odd month.  

We just had a week of crazy high temps - the warmest all summer - and while my brain wants to be thinking about pumpkin spice latte's (they're here!!) it just can't seem to get past the hot, wet blanket of humidity outside.

September, you are such a tease. You taunt me with one week of glorious fall weather, in which I begin to pull out my boots and favorite sweaters....and then you swiftly crush my autumn dreams, snatching back those crisp mornings as you deliver another two weeks of frizz inducing misery. 

It happens every year, so let's just call it like it is.  You're summer.  My brain will always want you to be fall, but you're not.  You're the transition month and I'm trying not to hate you.  Especially with my favorite month-child October right on your heels. 

You steal my joy with your wackadoodle weather and you push my every limit by requiring early wake-ups for school and some sort of organization lest I drown in paper correspondence and laundry.  I don't always want to simply survive you, September, but I think you can see the struggle.  

OK.  I feel better.  Is September messing with anyone else out there?  

It's rough enough transitioning from lazy summer days to having to be out the door at a certain time (even though we all crave the return of a structured routine).  But throw in the tease of fall weather in between mostly blazing days and I feel like I'm merely trying to avoid the fetal position.

We're three weeks into school and clearly we haven't yet hit our groove.  I'm certain our 5 year old was attempting some America Ninja Warrior move when he fell off the monkey bars at recess, breaking both bones in his wrist just one week into school.  So, maybe we'll take a pass for needing a bit longer of an adjustment period.

The biggest struggle I have (aside from my toddleresque attitude toward the weather), is that fall brings a certain boost of energy with it.  I've always preferred the cooler months and when school hits, an organizational kick tends to come with it.

But of course I don't tackle this in any sort of reasonable way.  It's like a new years resolution on steroids.  With the start of school I determine that I will.....

-get up early before the kids and have quiet time before they wake up
-prepare all the things the night before
-work out 5 days a week
-meal plan and reign in our grocery budget
-get into a regular cleaning routine
-assign a time for work/blog related tasks
-assign a time for personal stuff like responding to emails, reading, etc.
-keep in better touch with friends

All good things, all good things, right?  But slightly intense when you haven't been doing any of them consistently for awhile.  

I've tried many ways of doing this in the past, from scheduling our day down to the minute (too much rigidness, much stress), to allowing the day to flow naturally from one thing to the next (not enough structure, mucho chaos).

I will often draw up a schedule I think will work, only to find myself overwhelmed and defeated.  I tend to fall into two traps and this year I'm making a conscious effort to address those problems.

Problem #1: Creating a schedule that looks good on paper, but doesn't play well to our strengths or natural tendencies/preferences.

Any time you make a change to your routine or create new habits, it takes time.  There's a transition period in which your body is fighting and shouting profanities as you roll out of bed at the unfamiliar hour of 6 am.  This is the normal discomfort of developing a new habit.  But there is also the pain that comes from working against your natural rhythms/makeup.

Case in point - I am not a morning person and never will be. The difficulty is not just in waking at an early hour, it simply takes me a long time to actually wake up.  No matter the time I get out of bed, it always takes a good 30 min of being up and about until I'm awake enough to have my head in the game.  But my life simply doesn't allow me to sleep in as late as I would like.  I have no choice but to change this part of my day.  However, since I know I'm not a morning person, I've learned that I can make things easier or harder on myself by what I schedule for the morning.

If I leave showering, getting dressed, making lunches, checking backpacks, and finding everyone clean socks until the morning, well...just say a prayer for my poor children. We won't be off to a good start.

Instead: Create a daily routine that meets the requirements of our weekly obligations, in a way that doesn't make us crazy. 

Some things are non-negotiable (work/school times, lessons/extra curriculars, naps).  I write those in first and then look at my flexible items. Where would they best fit in the schedule? If I'm not sure, I start paying attention to how I feel after certain activities.

A lot of parents take their kids to school wearing their workout clothes and head straight to the gym after school drop off.  I thought this would work great on the days that Jack goes to preschool and I get a little break to myself during Liv's morning nap.  I could drop him off, come back, put the baby down for a nap, and squeeze in a workout.

But I don't really have time to workout and take a shower.  Which means I end up staying in workout clothes and then try to squeeze in a shower at some point during the day....and then try to find time to dry my hair....and then another few minutes to maybe put on some make up.  And then I feel as thought I've basically spent the whole day just trying to get dressed.

This may be just fine for some people, but I'm not in a great mindset when I go through the day this way.  I've learned that I feel so much better and somewhat accomplished when I get up and get dressed. It's really hard for me to get going in the mornings, so getting dressed forces me to wake up just a little bit more and be ready for whatever the day requires.

Problem #2:  LET'S DO IT!  The overzealous, cold turkey approach.

This will certainly work for many, but I've come to accept that I do not experience much success with this method.  I'm a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure on myself.  When I feel like I'm not measuring up or not succeeding, I tend to curl up in a hole incapable of doing anything. #ohthedrama

I end up doing a whole lot of thinking about what I want to be doing, and not a whole lot of actual doing.

Instead: Focus on one change to the routine each week. 

Now obviously, I have to go through an entire day, but where in the past I would have jumped into a totally new routine trying to fit in ALL the new things, this time I'm refining one thing at a time. #avoidscheduleschock

By default, week one was all about waking up early.  How long does it take to form a new habit?  2 weeks? Who knows.  After 3 weeks it still hurts to wake up early, but I'm actually getting out of bed after only one snooze on most days.  Occasionally, my morning person of a better half has to get me out of bed, but the 6 am alarm is not as much of a shock as it was a couple weeks ago.

Last week I played around with how to fit in that elusive work out.  While my day is a thousand times better when I start by getting dressed and ready, I also feel much better when I exercise a few days a week.  I have some back issues and am really feeling the strain from my awesome postpartum abs (read: zero core strength).

I played around with how many times a week, what time of day, etc.  I still haven't totally cracked this nut, but so far, the best compromise seems to be a workout later in the day and a shower at night.  That evening shower also helps me decompress from the day and is one less thing I have to do in the morning.

This week I'm going to work on meal planning (like maybe actually having some sort of a plan) and a better blogging/writing routine.  I have a hard time working in small chunks, especially when it comes to writing.  Which is sort of unavoidable at this point in my life, but I'm going to try doing the bulk of my post writing on the weekends.  That would leave other blogging tasks that can be tackled in small doses (photo editing, projects, social media, etc) for the weekdays. Has anyone else has success with this?

We're also taking this approach with the kids.  Because the only bigger non-morning person than the mama around here, is a blond haired third grader.  Those first weeks we worked on getting the kids to bed at a decent time, setting out clothes the night before, and adjusting to the new wake-up time.

Then we played around with the best time/place for homework, and not leaving a trail of shoes, backpacks, and lunchboxes in the middle of the floor.  Seriously.  This one might break me....the irony of the empty hooks and shoe cabinet surrounding the littered floor.  Oy.

But we'll get there!  A little bit at a time. We're never going to stick to a schedule perfectly and life is such that we constantly need to adjust. But having a good daily rhythm can allow space for all those things we have to do and most of the things we want to do.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by new routines and busier days, maybe choosing just one thing to focus on for a few days will help you feel a little less overrun. I give you permission to let the rest go for a bit.

Has anyone else been feeling this overwhelm?  Is the weather making anyone else crazy? What's the biggest adjustment for you during fall?

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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