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How To Make a Balloon Arch: Video Tutorial

Around here we absolutely LOVE parties of every kind! If it's not a birthday party then it's one for each and every holiday that rolls around. And because we love parties so much, I am always looking for new and fun ideas to make those events look more festive. That's why I was so excited to team up with Proflowers whenever they offered to share their video tutorial of "How To Make a Balloon Arch", with step-by-step instruction and a complete supply list! I hope you enjoy the post below and have fun creating your own balloon arch for your next festive occasion.

Planning a kid’s birthday party soon? Whether you’re looking for decoration ideas for a youngster’s celebration or planning a dinner party of your own, a balloon arch might be just what you’re looking for. A custom balloon arch will not only save you money, but really make a statement too. This creative do-it-yourself project may seem daunting at first, but don’t let the “wow” factor discourage you.

To help you create your own, ProFlowers put together a video guide on how to make one. Roll up your sleeves and get started, it’s time to celebrate!

Zola: The Perfect Wedding Gift Registry Site

Wedding season is presently in full swing and the invitations are coming in the mail for showers, parties and the wedding itself.  You're not sure how to select the perfect gift for the couple and confused on whether you should bring a gift to the wedding if you already brought one to the shower.  Don't panic!  I'm here along with Zola  to help you out with every decision you need to make as a  participant or guest of the wedding.

For me, finding the perfect wedding gift is as simple as finding the couple's gift registry.  Upon their engagement, most couples go out to their favorite boutiques or online stores and begin to form a wedding registry with their favorite items for a wedding gift.  A wedding gift wish list if you will.  And conveniently for you, the guest, to any of their showers, parties or  wedding, those places are usually listed on all invitations.  Or better yet, a site is listed that includes all of the information about the couple's wedding in general.

Today, I would like to tell you about just a few of the benefits of creating a Wedding Registry with Zola:

1.  The happy couple can customize their personalized page with photos and notes to wedding
     guests; everything is in one place.

2.  Free Shipping!  Who doesn't like free shipping?  Plus, the couple will receive notification
     when a gift is purchased and choose to have it shipped now or hold for later.  How
     convenient is that?

3.  And what about gift exchange?  I can remember whenever I was engaged, myself, having to
     load up all of the items I needed to exchange and go from store to store.  With Zola, that is
     not necessary since there is online gift exchange!

4.  And for those of you who want to get the best bang for your buck, Zola offers Price Matching.
     If the couple or guest finds an everyday lower price from another online retailer on a Qualifying
     Product, just let Zola know and they will match it!

5.  And for those of us on the go, there is the Best Registry App.  This app includes:  Barcode Scan
     so you can add to your registry quick and easy from anywhere, Real Time Alerts to let you know
     when you've received a gift, a Planner to assure that there is a gift for every guest to give at their
     preferred price point, and a Blender, which is a Tender-like feature which will allow you to pick
     out new wedding gifts.

These are only a few of the benefits of creating a wedding gift registry with Zola, but aren't these few
enough for you to take the plunge and join right now if you are planning a wedding?  Remember, wedding planning is meant to be fun, not stressful so why not put all of your wedding planning in the hands of Zola!

Fun Summer Activities to Keep Your Kiddos School Ready!

Wow!  The summer is half way over and soon your kiddos will be out there buying new school supplies and clothes, readying themselves for the new school year.  But here's what I was wondering: Have you kept your children's minds active during these summer months with educational activities? Whenever I taught school, I encouraged parents to do something educationally sound every day during the summer that would keep their child's mind sharp during the summer months.  I know what you're thinking:  "Ugh...can't I just give them a few month off from school work?"  And, "They will hate doing school related work during the summer and I just don't want to fight it."  I hear you loud and clear!  However, it's a fact that when school starts back each fall, a teacher spends the first six weeks reviewing and getting kids back to where they were before school let out for the summer.  I also hear you whenever you say your kids would hate sitting down at the table doing "school work" during the summer.  That's why I have teamed up with Education.com to give you just one of  many fun projects they have to not only keep kids up to date with their school work during the summer but to also something fun!

Summer Words

The weather may not always be warm and toasty during the summer season, but that doesn't mean your child can't bask in the light of a cheery yellow sun all summer long. Make vocabulary practice a little brighter with this summer words puzzle!

Grade: Second Grade
Summer Reading

What You Need:
  • Styrofoam circle
  • Scissors
  • Yellow paint
  • Black marker
  • Summer vocabulary list
  • Paint brush
  • White poster board
  • Place mat
  • Knife

What You Do:

  1. Put the place mat beneath the Styrofoam circle.
  2. Have your child paint the top and sides of the Styrofoam circle yellow.
  3. Set it aside to dry.
  4. Turn the Styrofoam circle over and let him paint that side yellow as well.
  5. Set it aside to dry again.
  6. This step is all you. Carefully make a shallow cut along the center side of the Styrofoam circle.
  7. Don't let him put away the paint just yet! Have your child paint the poster board yellow.
  8. Let him use scissors to cut triangles from the poster board. He should make at least thirty yellow triangles.
  9. Have your child write one word from his summer vocabulary list on about half of the yellow triangles.
  10. Without him peeking, write random vocabulary words on the rest of the triangles. These words should have nothing to do with summer.
  11. Put all the triangles on the table.
  12. Let him stick only the summer words into the side of the Styrofoam circle.
  13. As he places each "sunbeam" into the circle, quiz him on the word's definition

I hope that your child enjoys that activity and that you will choose some other fun activities from the site to keep your child on track for the coming school year!

When Life Gets Dirty

I've got this thing about dirty feet.  Not necessarily anything else, but dirty feet get me every time.  Don't get me wrong, I love to wear sandals and flip-flops and do almost 12 months of the year here in the south.  But if I get dirt on my feet, it's into the bathroom I go to wash them all clean again.  Clean is good.  It makes you feel fresh, like nothing can rattle you whenever you're clean.  What a great feeling, huh?  Well, unfortunately, the opposite is just the same with dirty.  Whenever you're dirty and have no access to water (or in some cases baby wipes...), the grime just seems to settle on you and you can think of nothing but getting things back to the way there were, clean.  The same can be said of life.  And for me, right now, things are pretty dirty.  There's really nothing I can do to clean things up because as the saying goes:  "It is what it is".  And I'm just moving on remote trying to see through the murky glass called life right now.

I haven't posted in a while; actually since we left the Florida Keys.  And I still have one post left to do  on the trip, a couple for other companies and things have just been placed on the back burner for a while.  As a matter of fact, I can't even believe that I've snuck this moment to tell you what's been going on.  Hold on tight because as I said, it's pretty dirty.

Right before we left the Keys, Hubby threw his back out pretty bad.  Bad enough for us to leave a day early, putting us right in the middle of Memorial Day traffic.  I was the driver for most of the return trip, with him taking medication and sitting with ice on his  back.  Every time he would open his eyes he would beg of me not to wreck the boat I was carrying home with us (sigh...).  I got him home and to a doctor who promptly fixed him up and was truly hoping that the calm and serenity that we had found in the Keys would follow us home.  Apparently that was not to be.

Returning home from the Keys found Caitlin, Kevin and their kids moving back from Ohio and was I ever happy to have the final chick back in the nest!  This would entail getting them all moved into their new house...at the exact same time that Ryan, Allison and their kiddos were moving into theirs.  It was a busy couple of weeks there but I think that everyone is getting settled and I will try to post some photos later to show you their cute new abodes.  Anyway, while all of this business was going on, I began to remember how much I love doing my watercolor painting while in the Keys and decided that I was going to set Mondays aside to do just that.  Pleased with myself for carving a bit of time out, I slept in the following Monday and drug into the kitchen for a cup of coffee while I decided on what my new art project would be.  I glanced at my phone to see if anyone had tried to call and that's when I saw a voicemail from my sister.  I knew right away this couldn't be good news.  My mother, you see, lives next door to my sister.  She will be 89 years old this month and actually lives alone.  Someone usually checks on her daily, including her hospice nurse.  But for quite a while I have been dreading getting a call that something has happened to her and as it turned out, that was exactly what the call was about.

The message was that my mother had fallen out of her bed and the fire department had been dispatched to pick her up and put her back in it.  I hurriedly made a call to my sister, dressed and headed out the door.  When I got there, thankfully my cousin was with her.  She was in quite a bit of pain and I knew right away that this was not good.  A possible broken hip was what I assumed. And she had been so careful to use her walker!  How in the world could this happen?!  I got on the phone with hospice and they sent someone out to do an x-ray.  I assisted with that and let me tell you it was no easy feat attempting to move her.  After that, I was truly convinced that my mother had a broken hip.  I called hospice back and told them just that and we got an ambulance there and transported her to the hospital where our fears were confirmed; her hip was definitely broken and surgery was scheduled for the next day.  She came through the surgery OK but now the hard work would begin:  physical therapy.  I knew this would be a challenge, not only because of my mother's age and the condition of her body, but also because up until this point she had never really had to do any physical therapy.  She had always been able to skate by without it and do just fine.  I had a feeling that would not be the case this time.

I left a few days after my mother's surgery to go on our scheduled family vacation with EVERYBODY...all 21 of us!  Hubby and I had talked about this being the last year that we all shared the same house because really...21 people, 21 personalities.  That in and of itself can make from some pretty trying times.  However, we did decide to stay in the same house just once more.  Oh, where did we go?  Breckenridge, Colorado!  Where it would be the opposite of the south.  It would be nice and cool and we could play outdoors...ahhh, I was ready for this little get-away.  Until less than 24 hours later the first person began throwing up (ugh!!!).

You know, whenever someone starts throwing up, the first thing you think of is:  We can keep this contained.  Sure, we can.  If we just keep them isolated from everyone else and use Lysol.  And that was the positive thought that kept going through my head, even as my stomach began to feel queasy.  It wasn't long before the next few people were hit (I was included in that group) and before the trip would come to an end, 16 out of 21 people were infected with what we believe to be the norovirus!  We honestly believe that the house we rented was infected by the bug and called the rental company to tell them that.  We promptly packed our bags a couple of days early and all headed back to Denver, where we got separate hotel rooms and attempted to recover.  For me, I was not able to eat or drink or 4 days.  I know I became dehydrated and still do not feel OK.  But as I headed to the airport the morning we left, I just kept asking God to PLEASE let me get home.  Being sick is bad enough but being sick when you are not in your own home is terrible!

We got home finally and I slept.  For hours that first day and late every morning for days to come.  In the meantime, I had to wait until I was not contagious before I could visit my mother, who was now in the rehab unit of the hospital.  I was not prepared for what I saw.  I had previously heard from friends that whenever an elderly person breaks a hip, that is usually a pivotal point in their lives.  I was hoping that would not be true for my mother, however, as I looked at her and watched her attempt to even stand, I knew it was true.

And so as I've gone back and forth, almost daily,  to the rehab to check on my mother's progress, my sister and I have been forced to look reality in the face.  My mother has always asked not to be put in a nursing home and up until now it's been in the far recesses of our minds.  When it peeked its head around the corner we would turn our heads the other way as though by doing so it would never come to pass.  But it's here now and we are confronted by a decision that cannot be postponed.  My mother has to be released from the rehab center she is in Monday and transferred to one in a nursing home.  She will be given more time to try to get on her feet since she will have physical therapy every day.  But she's not happy about this.  She's fighting us every step of the way and quite frankly we are tired.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  It's as dirty as it gets right now.  I long for some water to wash this all off and let things be OK again (if they truly ever were).  The truth is raw.  And it hurts.  And there are things that we can do nothing about.  And that sucks.  So where do we go from here?  I honestly don't know.  I do know that we can only take one day at a time.  One moment at a time.  And let God take the wheel from here.  Dirty.  That's what life is right now for me and only God can clean this mess up in His way and in His time.  All I need to do is just breathe...And be.

Exploring The Florida Keys: Picnic Island

On one of the first days we were here in the Keys we heard about a place called Picnic Island.  It sounded intriguing to me so we set out to explore it.  It was set off by itself in the middle of the water.  I wasn't sure what we would find there but WOW what an eclectic place it was!

Really now, who doesn't just love a picnic?  Whenever I think of the word it conjures up all of the good feelings of being outside on a red checkered blanket with a picnic basket full of goodies.  Picnic Island was a little different but boy did it ever impress!

 Picnic Island is really quite small but such a great place to go and just...well, have a picnic and relax  on the beach, in the sun.
People from all over have made signs with their names on them and of where they are from and the milage to Picnic Island from their home and nailed them up out there.
I'm not sure if you can see it from here but there is a wooden swing hanging from a tree!  I grew up with tree swings and love them so that was the first thing I went to whenever we got on the island.
We really didn't know anything about the island; how big it was or what was even out there but were happy to see that there were chairs, a picnic table and even a grill.
However, our first visit found us in a rain storm and we took refuge in the mangroves.  See Hubby heading over there to join us?  He and his buddy had just anchored the boat and carried our ice chest while we walked in to begin exploring.  Eventually we went back to the island but decided we needed to head back to the boat because of the rain that day.
            We headed to the Tiki Bar!  And got dried off and ate some really yummy lunch!

These chairs!  They were hanging all around the place and I could SO use one (or two...) of these at my lake house.  I can just see them hanging on the dock.  Yep, I took a picture of the tag on them and will be looking them up whenever I get home.
We actually went back one day to have lunch again and play corn hole toss with our friends!  It was a lot of fun.

As I said, we went back to Picnic Island and even met some other people there who were sailing around for months and even years!  They had their dogs with them that ran around the island, splashing in the water.  And that's when I thought...wow, how awesome is this place.  So peaceful, stuck out here in the middle of the water.  I took this photo so I would always remember it.
      And then one day used it to paint my own rendition of it in my watercolor journal.

I plan to visit Picnic Island just one more time before we leave the Keys.  I'll swing on that swing once more and let the sun shine down on my face.  Breathe in the saltwater air and let the sand slip between my toes.    And maybe even hang a sign with our names on it out there.  But mainly I will think of how fortunate I was to have been there.

Exploring The Florida Keys: Marvin Key

I'm begging time to slow down right about now because we are so loving being in the Florida Keys for the month.  A few days after we arrived some friends came to visit for a week and we had so much fun exploring the Keys.

 The guys enjoyed some fishing!  We girls tried to enjoy it with them one day but the seasickness got us so we decided to visit Key West after that and have a girls' day out with shopping and lunch.

                                              Yep, these are the ones that didn't get away...

On the day that we got seasick, our fishing guide hurriedly got us to somewhat dry land so we could get our legs back underneath us.  He took us to a place called Marvin Key.  When we got there we knew that we would have to return.  It was like the most fun tailgate party on water!
People show up as the tide is beginning to go out and a huge sandbar becomes present.  The water is very shallow all around so people bring their chairs and umbrellas out, along with games for their kids and dogs to play.

We packed up for a day out there with our friends and brought a little grill along to make burgers for lunch...
                                  And yellow fin snapper that the guys caught the day before.
                                        It was so much fun having good friends visit us here!

Our friends are early risers.  I mean REALLY early risers.  Like they got to actually watch the sun rise every morning.  I took some of their photos to share because, hey!  I'm not going to put that kind of pressure on myself.  I sleep in and catch the sun setting.  Both are equally beautiful.
                  Sunset photo that I took on our way to Little Palm Island for dinner one evening.
         And I couldn't resist taking this photo of the "almost Full Moon" just outside our house.
As I mentioned, we had dinner one evening at Little Palm Island.  You get there by boat and leave from Little Torch Key.  I snapped this photo as we were pulling out of the dock there.
And here's our 35th anniversary photo.  Our friends wanted to go to Little Palm Island to eat dinner and we had stayed there a few years back and loved it.  It just happened to be our anniversary and we had so much fun celebrating there.

It's definitely going to be difficult to go back home, to reality after being here in this paradise for a month...

                       ***Click HERE to read about our previous trip to Little Palm Island.***

A Letter To My College Self...

If I had to pen a letter to my college self it would most likely start with:  Why in the world did you wait until you were 30 years old to go back to college?!  Yes, for those of you who know me well, you will remember that I had my four children and then went back to finish my last four years of college.  Earnest, a company that provides student loan financing, inspired me to write a letter to my college self, however,  I was not sure they would be interested in the story of a non-traditional student.  To my surprise, they were.  So...here it is; a reflection of my college years as a wife and mommy.

                                          A LETTER TO MY COLLEGE SELF

     I jumped right into college right after high school and never realized how difficult it would be.  Being a music major I had an unbelievably difficult schedule to adhere to.  Not only was I expected to study for my basic classes, I was also taking piano and music theory classes along with accompanying three voice students.  I was quickly overwhelmed at not being able to manage my time.  It seemed there were not enough hours in the day.  And so I did as most college students do and changed my major.
     I did not think getting married before finishing my degree would be an issue.  Because I always intended to complete college.  And for a while, I continued to take evening classes while I also held a job during the day.  What I didn't account for was getting pregnant.  With four children in the space of six years!  Well, needless to say, that put college on the back burner for quite a while.  But the yearning to complete my education never went away.  I knew that with a college education came empowerment.  It gave me something tangible that no one could ever take away from me.  And I was fortunate enough to have a very supportive spouse who encouraged and helped me along the way.
     If I thought time was difficult to manage as a single girl with no outside demands of a family or job then I soon realized that this task I had before me was definitely not going to be simple.  My schedule went a little like this:  I would get up in the mornings and fix lunches for my children who were either in school or pre-school, drive them to their respective schools and then head to my classes.  At that time we were just living from paycheck to paycheck since my husband had decided to go into business for himself.  Between classes I would sit in my car, eat lunch and try to get ahead on my homework assignments.  After my classes were over, I would pick my children up from school and head home.  Once there, I would tackle their homework assignments with them, cook dinner, give baths and finally start on my studies around 10 pm.  I would then start all over again the next day.  It was a very difficult four years.  I was not sure I could get through them with a college degree at the end,  but I never gave up.
     My children witnessed me constantly with a book in my hand studying and I would always tell them to study hard because their education was so important.  My husband and I had very little money at the time but we had all of our children enrolled in some sort of school.  They were all private institutions so we spent our money on their educations, choosing to do without a few things for ourselves.  As they grew older and got into junior high and high school I began to talk to them about their plans for college and how they could achieve whatever they chose to put their  minds to.  I encouraged them to stay focused and to get their college degrees before their got married because I did not want them taking the same difficult path I had taken; I was the first in my family with a college degree and I wanted to break that cycle for my own newly formed family.  Apparently my constant conversations with them took root because they all four have college degrees.  They all have a bachelor's degree, one also has a master's and two are doctors.  Yep, proud mama here!  We were able to provide financially for all of their bachelor's degrees but for the advanced ones, I told them they would have to get loans and pay for them themselves.  They did just that.  That's why I would encourage any of you out there who are not certain you can afford to go to college to check into Earnest to see what they have to offer in the way of student loans.  Don't put off getting your education and empowering yourself because there IS financial assistance available to all who are willing to pursue their dreams.
     But back to what I would tell my college self...Congratulations!  Because you persevered and never gave up.  It's the end game that matters.  I hope that my college journey as a non-traditional student has somehow encouraged others to go for what they want.