Monthly Archives: January 2012

My Daily Nightmare

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So there’s this book. It’s written in the style of a children’s book but it’s not for children. It’s a parent talking to their child begging them to go to sleep. It has bad words in it. I don’t use those bad words but my 12-year-old self thinks it’s hilarious. And my 37-year-old self thinks it dead on! If you’ve ever had difficulty getting your child, or any child for that matter, to go to sleep then you might appreciate this book. If you can get past the language. I don’t want to offend anyone in the Blog-asphere so I’m not going to post a link to it. If you’re feeling rebellious and want to take a walk on the wild side let me know and I’ll clue you in. *wink*

Up until recently I completely hated bed time. It was the most stressful, drawn out, painful event. Of my life! There were almost always tears involved. And sometimes the kids would cry too. Yes, it was that bad. There was no routine in the world universe that could make bed time work for us. And I was losing my mind.

I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t because we have so many kids. It was all because of one child. That I love dearly. But he was killing me. Matt has never been one to sleep well. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure he sleeps at all. No wait…he does. But I think he waits until about 45 minutes before it’s time to get up. Then he won’t wake up. Ugh. He was born 5 weeks premature and, although perfectly healthy otherwise, had some fluid on his lungs. He spent the first 9 days of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Apparently that’s where he acquired the motto of ‘Sleep? Who needs it’. Apparently NICU babies grow accustomed to all the soft light and noise that goes on all during the night. And then they expect that to continue when they get home. He also had sleep apnea and came home with a heart/apnea monitor. He was attached to this thing for 6 months and would make this horrible ear-splitting noise when he stopped breathing for a certain amount of time or his heart rate slowed. Or when the sensor pad moved off of his skin. Which was why it went off the majority of the time. He also had what the doctor called “night terrors”. It’s like a nightmare but not. They start crying like they are awake but they aren’t. You can’t wake them up during one so you just stand there with your hand on his chest and wait for it to stop. They are terrifying, which might be how they got their name. Luckily, the child has no recollection of them the next day. That pleasure is reserved for the mommy (or daddy in some households). Matt never really was the best sleeper-through-the night but the real problems started when he graduated to the toddler bed. It didn’t matter in the crib. He couldn’t get out. Once he figured out that he could get in and out of the tiny little bed all by himself all bets were off. The child would not go to sleep. I would start the bedtime routine at 8 and he might have been asleep by 12:30. He would call my name, repeatedly. Ask for water, repeatedly. Ask amazingly awesome questions that I would need Google and a PhD to answer. He would want me to read a bajillion books. It didn’t matter what time he woke up either…wake him up at 7, he still would stay up till midnight. I was going crazy. The whole situation was stressful in and of itself. It didn’t help that his dad would get very angry when Matt didn’t go to sleep like he was supposed to. That added even more pressure on me which lead me to give in to Matt’s whims to keep him quiet so his dad wouldn’t get mad. That certainly didn’t help the situation and turned it into a different kind of problem. A few years went by, I was now single, and the problem still persisted. It would get better then it would get bad again. I finally talked to his doctor about it because I just knew there was something wrong with him. It just didn’t seem right for a young child to have the type of sleeping patterns he did. The doctor said it was a discipline problem~ ‘Give him consequences and he’ll get better’. I was so disappointed. And I knew the doctor was wrong. Ask me if it got better. Go ahead. Ask me. NO! It didn’t. It seemed to get worse.

A couple more years went by. We have a great bedtime routine in place in our new home with our new family. Matt still won’t sleep. He constantly gets out of bed, knocks softly on our door and asks completely random questions.

Matt~ “Mom, is it going to be cold tomorrow?”

Me~ “No, you can wear short sleeves. Now go back to bed please.”

A few minutes later…soft knock on the door

Matt~ “What about tomorrow’s tomorrow?”

Me~ “We’ll deal with that later go to bed.”

A few minutes later…the 6th soft knock on the door

Me~ “OMG, what?”

Matt~ “When we went to Disney World last summer what was the name of that guy that helped us on the Space Mountain ride? I can’t remember.”

Me~ “GO TO BED!!!!”

I’m not kidding. This is what we went through every single night. On top of the constant knocks on the door and random requests and questions he would have complete and utter meltdowns when told to go to bed and given consequences. And it didn’t stop there. The meltdowns would continue the next morning as well. He would be so tired when it was time to get up from not sleeping much the night before. I would have to dress him and he would fall asleep in the car on the way to school. Well, when he wasn’t sobbing and getting angry at everyone in the car.

There was one night in particular that I had my own complete and utter meltdown. I was completely stressed out. Once the kids go to bed it’s supposed to be my time. This is the only time of the day that Gary and I have to focus on each other. Instead, we had this little guy coming in every few minutes stalling for time. I was completely stressed out. Not only did I dread having to deal with Matt avoiding sleep every night but I worried Gary would get angry and that stressed me out even further. Gary never did get angry. But I had been conditioned over the last several years to expect that from your husband. It all came crashing down on me that night. I was standing in Matt’s room telling him that he needed to ‘get in that bed and stay in that bed and you need to just close your eyes and go to sleep’. And as he lay there in tears listening to me with his little arms crossed in disobedience I dissolved into tears myself. I couldn’t even finish my sentence. I just turned around and walked away. I sat down on my bed and started sobbing. Gary got Matt to sleep that night. There’s just something about a strong, loving man who can get kids to listen when their mom [or bonus mom] can’t. From that night on Gary took care of that situation. I would say Matt’s prayers with him, kiss him good night and walk away. Matt still would come knock softly on our door but Gary would talk with him. Not me. And it got a little better. But there were still meltdowns. At this time Matt was being evaluated by the school psychologist because his teacher had seen some signs of Dyslexia. I decided she needed to know about his sleeping issues. I didn’t know if it had anything to do with Dyslexia but I wanted her to know. She was really glad that I shared this with her and added it into her notes. After months of observations in the classroom and one-on-one time in her office the psychologist called me in to go over her report which I then took to his doctor. It wasn’t Dyslexia after all. Matt was diagnosed with ADHD. We also found out that Matt has ADHD induced insomnia. You have no idea how badly I wanted to stand up and scream “I knew it!! I told you there was something wrong with him!!!!” in Dr. Cabiness’ face. But I love him too much to do that so I sat quietly as he explained everything to me. Matt’s brain won’t shut off so he lays there thinking about all this stuff and he can’t fall asleep. This totally explains why he wants to know what weather is going to be like on tomorrow’s tomorrow and what the dude at Space Mountain’s name was. I felt this huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. It was all going to be ok. Dr. Cabiness suggested a natural supplement that helps you sleep called Melatonin. We were instructed to give Matt a half of a 3mg pull about an hour before bedtime. I was willing to try anything at this point so I picked some up on the way home! We gave it to him about eight that night and by 8:30 he was so calm and quiet and by 9:00 he was almost asleep on my lap. When bed time actually came around he climbed in bed and we never heard a word out of him again that night. He was sound asleep in less than 20 minutes. I could not believe my eyes. Then it hit me. “Wait, you mean all these years and all I needed to do was give him half of this little pill and he’ll go straight to sleep? If I had only known.” Matt actually got complete, full nights of sleep. And because of that he would actually wake up in the morning. Cheerfully! Well, most mornings. His meltdowns went away almost completely. We still have some rough days. But don’t we all.

I don’t dread bed time anymore. I finally get to relax and enjoy the time Gary and I have to focus on each other once the kids have gone to bed. And when I count my blessings each night Melatonin is always in the top 10.

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Go To Bed. Please.

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Bed time around our house is a bit like the Waltons. The only difference is there’s a lot more giggling, squeals and running around here than there was on the show. It didn’t take us long to realize we needed to come up with a plan to settle things down.

Before we put our routine into place bedtime was a little on the “Oh my goodness what the heck is happening?” side. Looking back now, I bet it was hilarious watching us put the kids to bed. It looked kind of like this~We’d tuck the girls in and then head to Chalon’s room and when we came out of his room one of the girls would be up. We’d put her back to bed then go tell the two little guys good night. When we came out of there the other girl and Chalon would be up chatting. We would shoosh them back to bed and then Matt or Cullen would be up. It was kind of like, oh I don’t know, trying to herd kittens. It was taking forever to get everyone to bed and we were seriously wearing down the carpet up and down the hallway. Our routine now is much more stream lined and, although we may have a rough night here and there, doesn’t take any time at all.

We have two different bed time routines. One for school nights and another one for non-school nights. Yes the kids have bedtimes on the weekends and when there’s no school. And you know what? They don’t have a problem with that. You see, the kids like having a routine. They aren’t going to tell you that, but they do. It shows. If you have a routine all through the week but not one on the weekends it makes it very difficult to get everyone back into the swing of things come Sunday night. It also makes for a much easier transition when school starts back in the [what is supposed to be] fall [but is actually still summer]. What I’m trying to say is the key to routine is consistency. That’s what makes it work. You can’t do it here and here but not there. Once the kids figure it out…you’re up the creek. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t ever stray from your routine under special circumstances. But you DO have to explain the special circumstances, how the routine is going to be different and when the routine will be resumed again. Kids like to know what’s going on. Kids need structure and routine. And you have to give it to them. Otherwise the kids will be in control all the time which means bad things will happen. Just trust me.

So on a school night the kids’ bed time is 9:30. By 8:30, no later than 9:00, we start asking the kids if they have their clothes picked out for school the next day and remind them to brush their teeth. At 9:25 they actually do it. Just kidding. Well sort of. We have to start asking these questions early because most of the time by 9:15 only a few of them have actually done it. Most nights they all have it done by then, but not always.

Now here’s a run down of how we actually put the kids to bed:
~Go into Matt and Cullen’s room and prepare the beds. [They each have a favorite blanket (Matt has two) and they each want their covers and pillows a certain way. They can do much of this on their own but still need a little help. Plus, it moves along a lot faster if we help. When they stop moving at the speed of a sleepy snail we’ll stop doing it for them. For now, I’m all about getting it done.]
~Say prayers with Matt and Cullen.
~Go to Chalon’s room shutting the hallway bathroom door on the way. Hug, kiss and tell Chalon good night.
~Go back to Matt and Cullen’s room and hug, kiss, scratch backs, answer 8-10 random questions about random topics, straighten out covers, say good night, turn light off and walk out door.
~Have my name called and walk back into Matt and Cullen’s room to answer 3 more random questions.
~Go to Emma and Paige’s bedroom. Hug, kiss, answer Paige’s 3-4 random questions, say good night, turn off light.
~Leave room praying that Matt doesn’t call my name again before I can make it into my bedroom.

Now there is a reason why we go to Matt and Cullen’s room first, then to Chalon’s and then back to Matt and Cullen’s to say good night. You see, Chalon’s room is on the end of the hall, then Matt and Cullen’s, and then the girls on our end of the hallway. If we say good night to Matt and Cullen and then Chalon we have to walk back past the boys’ bedroom. And we can notwalk by without one of them calling our name. Not even when we go all ninja and sneak by. So, we adjusted it so we tell Chalon good night first and then work our way back down the hall towards our bedroom. Which brings me to another good point. If something isn’t working…change it. You’re not going to come up with the perfect plan the first time. Wait, you probably will never come up with the perfect plan ever. But you will find what works and what doesn’t work for you and you can adjust accordingly. Monitor and adjust. A good teacher’s motto that seems to have stuck with me.

Just because the kids still have a bed time on no-school nights doesn’t mean it’s no fun around here on the weekends or school breaks. They have “sleep over movie nights”! They get to make pallets on the floor and sleep in each others rooms and watch movies. If they want to watch a movie then bed time is still 9:30. Of course the movie isn’t over until about 11:30 or so depending on the movie so it’s not like they have to go to sleep that early. If they don’t watch a movie then bedtime is 10:00. The reason for this is, well consistency. Plus, Gary and I need our quiet time together. And this is the only time we get it. I stand very firm on the notion that married couples with children need to must make time for themselves. It’s not an option.

After almost two years we finally have our bedtime routine down to a science. Or is it an art? Seriously, which is it? Anyway….we didn’t always have such a smooth transition to slumberland. It used to be the equivalent of pouring alcohol on a paper cut. You’ll hear more about that lovliness in my next post. Until then…sleep tight!

In Hot Water…..Ok, Maybe Lukewarm

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All I gotta say is thank goodness our kids are self-sufficient enough to take their own baths now. If they were toddlers again we would have two infants, a two, a three and a four-year old. I would be bathing kids for 3 hours and have raisins for fingers every night. That makes me tired just thinking about it. Just because the kids are older doesn’t necessarily mean they are bathing well but at least I don’t have to do it.

So how do we do it you ask? Scheduled bath times of course. The girls share a standard bathroom and the three boys share a bathroom with a double sink. The girls take turns being first for an entire week. This week for example Paige is first. She takes her shower, cleans up her mess [is supposed to anyway] and then let’s Emma know that its her turn to get in. The boys do the same except instead of two it’s three. This week Cullen is first. He showers, cleans up, then let’s Matt know it’s his turn. Matt showers, cleans up and then let’s Chalon know it’s his turn. The next week Cullen goes to the ‘end of the line’ so to speak and Matt and Chalon move up in the line. So next week the order is Matt, Chalon then Cullen. The week after that will be Chalon, Cullen then Matt. With this system there’s no whiny declarations of “But I was first last night.” and the like. Yes….we do run out of hot water occasionally but not as often as you think. Obviously that happens mostly in the winter. But we have a solution for that. It gets darker sooner in the winter so the kids are inside earlier. We start baths earlier in the winter to build in time between baths to let the water heat back up. Problem solved! I’m a genius. Also, if they don’t go outside and get all smelly, you know that distinct ‘kid’ smell, we let them skip baths. What? You know you let your kids skip baths too sometimes. Don’t get all judge-y all of a sudden! Besides that’s only in the winter. They are way too ripe smellin’ in the summer to skip baths. Unless we go swimming. Again…you know you let the pool substitute for a bath sometimes so wipe that look off your face. We all know chlorine kills germs!

Another question/comment we get a lot is “Y’all’s water and electricity bills must be outrageous!”. Actually no. We see the same patterns with the change in seasons just like every body else does. We did have one month each summer that the water bill was insanely high. We could not figure out what was causing it. Then one day we found the spigot on the side of the house open and water just pouring out. The kids in the cul-da-sac had been having a water gun fight and were using our water to fill their guns up. And no one bothered to turn it OFF!!!! Who knows how long it had been running. We’re guessing over night. That’s the only problem we’ve had with water and it wasn’t even our kids fault. The gas and electric fluctuates as well. Actually for a while our electric bill was less than my parents who have a smaller house and only the two of them. Dad was less than pleased. One way we save on the electric bill is we took all the kids light bulbs out of their rooms and gave them candles and flashlights. Just kidding. Batteries cost too much so they only have candles. And I make them dip their own candles. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. We did take out their light bulbs though and replaced them with the energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. It makes a difference you should try it. Or make your own candles. Whatever works for you.

Organizing the Chaos

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I am not the most organized person on the planet. If I were, my closet would look like this and not what it really looks like. In order for a family this large to run smoothly you must have at least a little bit of structure and organization. Otherwise it will be a circus. For real. Our home life is very structured and we have lots of routines and schedules at our house. Partly because if we don’t there would be perpetual arguing, which we have enough of already thank you very much. Also because a couple of the kids function better if they have reminders and daily routines. Gary may argue it’s because I’m OCD and a little kooky. I think it’s a combination of all of it. Well, except for the ‘ocd-kooky’ part maybe. Every body knows that if you have organization and a routine things run a lot more smoothly. We have several systems in place to help with bath time, bed time, dinner time and xBox time. Unfortunately the schedules and routines do not guarantee complete peace and harmony. But at least they keep the kids from killing each other.

I think we’re fairly organized but I would love to be more organized. I just don’t have the time or the money to do it. I have lots of big plans though. I’m slowly working on different areas of the house and hopefully one day I will have a basket and shelf for everything!! A couple of areas that I already have nice and organized are the laundry room, the refrigerator, the pantries and homework room. I’ll talk all about laundry, how we organize it and how much of it we do, another day. It’ll surprise you I bet! The pantries and refrigerator don’t have baskets and such [yet] but they are organized. I have everything sorted by like items. One pantry has all canned goods, dry goods and baking goods. Each having their own shelves. The other pantry has the kids snacks, cereals, breads and chips, tea and sugar. It also houses mine and Gary’s lunch boxes, a ‘junk’ box, trash bags, and paper towels and napkins. The refrigerator is organized the same way. Like items together. And just like in the pantries everything has its own assigned spot. So when you put it back in the fridge it goes right back where you took it from. None of that “just stick it anywhere”. Oh no…not in my fridge. If it stays in the same spot you won’t have to search for it the next time you want it. And you know when you’re out too. I’m a genius. PS…if you want me to organize your refrigerator I would love too!! The homework room has five hooks on the wall, each labeled with a child’s name, for book bags and jackets. We have a Rubbermaid 4 drawer cart for supplies. Each drawer is labeled with the contents that are in the drawer. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love labels. I think it’s a residual teacher attribute that hasn’t worn off yet. As is my love of sharpies. Wait, I just love sharpies. That has nothing to do with teaching. And the cutest thing in the homework room is the ‘accomplishment rope’ we have hung on the wall. It ever so slightly droops and has old fashioned clothes pins on it to hang the kids’ artwork, awards and other cute things. I love it!!

I’m not an expert on organization but I do what works for us. If I had the money I would so have somebody come do it for me. But that’s not gonna happen. I’d rather spend my money on something else. Like a new wardrobe, ten pairs of Danskos and a boat. Organization is not the key to happiness but I have found from experience, and heard from the experts, that clutter causes stress and anxiety. A clean, organized home is just peaceful. I absolutely love to have a clean house. Getting it clean is another story. And post.

It’s Chaotic In Here….Or Is It?

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A house with 7 people in it can get a little crazy. Ok, a lot crazy. There, I said it. My house is crazy. At any given moment there’s at least one kid running around for no apparent reason [although they usually do that in pairs and it’s almost always 20 minutes before bedtime], a tv blaring with no one even in the room, a dog howling because there’s a train going by [or the ice cream truck which oddly enough is still making it’s rounds in January], one kid singing on her karaoke microphone stand that Santa was dumb generous enough to get her, two to four kids involved in a dart war, one kid practicing her violin, a kid on the xBox, and someone saying “Mom/Alecia!!!” or “Dad/Gary!!!” over and over and over….and over. For us it’s nothing out of the ordinary. For outsiders it’s total chaos. And a form of birth control. Some even leave with a twitch.

I’ll be the first to admit that our house can get a little chaotic-ish. It’s not quite like this but close. Really close some days. For a while I would hear people compare our family or home to a circus or zoo. My feelings would get hurt! On the outside I would smile and chuckle and go along with it but on the inside I was thinking “Our house is NOT a circus. Why would they say that?” I imagined them coming over and thinking “Good Lord, here we go again. I can not wait to get out of here.” But then I realized, with a little help from Gary, that to other people it only seems like a circus because it’s not what they are used to. Chaos is defined as a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order according to dictionary.com. That is so not the case at our house. We’re more like organized chaos which Urban Dictionary defines as a situation or place that seems to be in chaos, but has an underlying organization and pattern which is evident to those involved in the situation. This describes us much more accurately I believe. What other people see is chaos, what we see is organization.

Over the next few days I’ll be sharing with you all the things we do around here to make our daily lives seem a little less chaotic. In the meantime go to the Circus. No really! It’s in town! Go!

Poop and other conversations I have with my kids

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I could write a book about the crazy stuff my kids say. Seriously, I am not kidding. I honestly don’t know where they come up with half of it. And they certainly aren’t bashful about anything. Our poor, poor friends and family. Thankfully they are all good sports and think it’s as funny as we do.

Here are a few gems from Paige~

“Mom, that lady is asleep in her car. Or either dead” {me- “oh my”} “Well, she’s old.”

“Mom, have you ever thought your poop was gonna be really long but it was only this big {gesturing with fingers}?”

And here’s one I overheard from the next room one day~

“Let’s play hide and seek. Our parents’ room is off limits, Chalon’s room is off limits, the bathrooms are off limits and you have to stay upstairs.”

Hmmm…that doesn’t leave a lot of options now does it?

And here are Paige’s thoughts on cartoon characters and their wardrobe, or lack thereof~

The Grinch-“Now all I need is a reindeer.” Paige-“And some pants.”

This one proves that no matter how much we try to shield kids from things they always figure it out. We were over at our best friends house and he was very particular, and sneaky, about smoking out on the deck and away from the kids. He walked back in and Matt announces in a very matter of factly manner~

“I smell smoe-king.”

Well, so much for hiding.

Our kids are the best form of entertainment. And free too! Ok, maybe not free in the long run but you know what I mean. I have to make sure I get a note pad or learn how to use that recording feature on my phone. I’m gonna write that book one day and make back all the money our kids drained out of us.

A truck, some friends and a lot of sweat

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Moving into a new place is never a truly fun experience. Especially when it’s a thousand degrees outside. But this time wasn’t so bad. We had everything planned out, the truck reserved and friends on stand by. It was the smoothest, most uneventful move I think I’ve ever had.

This is all we got out of them. They were done.

When Gary and I returned from our honeymoon his mom and oldest son had almost everything in the house packed up. That was helpful! We were able to pick up the key to the new house a day early so we decided to take as much small stuff as we could. That way the big moving day would be just that. One day. Luckily Gary’s house is in the same neighborhood as the new house. Just down the street actually. So we would load the cars up, drive 5 blocks and unload the cars. The kids were so excited about the new house they wanted to stay that night. The only problem was we didn’t have any furniture in the new house. That was all to be moved the next day after we pick up the truck and all our friends. I was really hoping to spend our very first night in the house all together as a family. My kids were at their dad’s house for the week and wouldn’t be home until Friday or Saturday. Well, I was the only one holding on to the sentimental idea so I was out numbered. We went ahead and hauled the mattresses over and slept on the floor. It turned out pretty fun actually. Except for waking up with a huge centipede thing crawling up my arm in the middle of the night. Oh my gosh…I get the shivers just thinking about it. It got flung somewhere towards the kitchen but apparently not far enough, since Gary woke to the same experience a little later. Which I found quite amusing! The next day we got all the furniture into the house after two trips. One from Gary’s house and one from my parents’ house. Then we worked our butts off for days and days to get everything settled. Thankfully I don’t work in the summer so I had time during the day to work on the house instead of only the evenings and weekends.

Can't. Take. The. Mess.

The kitchen was the first room unpacked. One reason was I couldn’t stand the mess and the second reason is this family loves to eat. And you can’t cook and eat with all the stuff you need to cook and eat packed up in boxes. I tackled one room at a time. And slowly but surely the house started coming together! It was becoming our home and it was beautiful!!! And comfortable. For the last year and half all our time spent together, which was all the time, was spent in Gary’s small house. Eight people squeezed into 1100 square feet. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad. But having 3000 square feet to spread out in was better awesome!! We had elbow room now. Everyone had their own space.

The kids transitioned almost seamlessly. We literally were together all the time before getting married so it wasn’t that different. We were just in one house now instead of two and didn’t have to say good-bye every night. I can remember telling the kids one day that we were going home and someone said “Which ‘home’? Home-home or Gary’s home?”. So it was really nice to just have one home instead of two.
I think it also helped that we began parenting the kids together. We didn’t get married, move into the house and say “I’m your step parent now. DO AS I SAY!!”. The kids already knew we expected them to

Now this is more like it!

listen to both us. A lot of the time we even handled discipline problems together as well so by the time we moved into the new house as a new blended family the kids were already accustomed to having a step parent. I understand that moving to a new home in a new neighborhood is a tough transition for all kids, even ones with a traditional family. So we still helped the kids along. We always made sure to keep them well informed and that they knew and understood our expectations. Some rules were the same, some were new. But they knew them all!

As much as I hate moving in the heat of the summer I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I had more time to unpack and arrange the house and I’m very thankful the kids didn’t have to adjust to a new house and a new school at the same time. Not to mention that I didn’t have to adjust to all that too!!