back to school favorites

Sunday, August 3, 2014
I can hardly believe it is August! Will starts school in about 2 weeks and Kate and Harry start in 3 weeks. Every year, around this time I start getting some e-mails asking me about the shoes Kate has worn to school for the last several years and her school clothes.

Kate has worn these shoes for as long as I can remember.  Over the years, I have bought them in black, brown (Thanksgiving one year) and red.  At first, they seem expensive.  And yes, they are pricey.  But they last the entire year and look brand new all year.  It's true. I've bought Target shoes for $17.99 for Kate and they are scuffed irreparably within the first two days . So instead, I'd rather invest in one (or two) pairs of these shoes and Kate wears them for play, PE, church, and everything.  I simply clean them with a damp paper towel once in a while.  They truly have been the BEST shoes I have ever bought.

The first time I bought these, I got them at Nordstrom.  But once I knew Kate's size and how they fit I ordered them on-line here.

(Pre-K 3 , montessori)

This is when Kate cut her own hair right before the first day of school!  If you missed that, you can read about it here.  It is funny now but it wasn't then!

(Ist Kindergarten)

The red ones are my absolute favorite and for the past 5 years, we have always had a red pair in the shoe drawer for Kate.  I will remember her childhood with these maryjanes.


(encore Kindergarten)


(1st grade)

This a slightly sportier style that we went with and she loved them too. The toe is more protected if your child is a toe scuffer and they look "older."  But they are just as comfy and durable as the others.

So, this year, Kate really wanted a pair of Sperry's. I guess that is more of what the 8 year olds wear. Her maryjanes still fit and are in good shape from last year so I thought we'd get some Sperry's.  I totally lucked out.  I found these at Nordstrom Rack for $16!  So, check your local Rack but you can also find them here.


Kate also loves Toms.  I scored a pair of pink leopard ones at Rack too.  They were a great deal but they are a tad big so we're saving them for when her foot grows.  In the meantime, she wants these...


A dear friend gave us a pair as hand me downs and Kate has worn them out.   They are her current "go to" shoe running out the door most days. You can find them here in 3 colors.  I guess Kate is all about sparkle this year!

Fo Kate's unifrom, I get lots of different things from different places and they often last 2 years.  She basically has to wear navy or khaki on bottom and white, navy or red on top. I often buy these skorts.  They are soft and comfy, look cute and are very reasonably priced. We love the built in short.


  I think they are $12 on sale right now with an additional 20% off with code (CHOOSE20).

Kate also wears these shorts (major sale) on hot days to school.


For shirts, I buy a few short sleeve tees, a few long sleeve and I have about half of them monogrammed.  I have bought polo style shirts in the past but she was always reaching for the monogrammed t-shirts.  I stock up when I see them in navy or white in her size and the monogram makes them look a lot cuter.

I used to buy Kate the Matilda Jane ruffle pants in navy for school. And she does like them a lot.  But when it is cold here, these are BY FAR her favorite.  They have a little flare so they look cute.  But they are warm (for our winters) and so so soft and comfy and they wash beautifully.  The ones from last year still look brand new (they are just too short).  They are on sale now too. I am going to stock up on a few today.  They run very true to size.

Backpacks...Kate has used this back pack for 3 years.  It was still in great condition.  That is until she left a banana in there for a few weeks at the end of the school year!  I was cleaning out her backpack on the last day of school and felt something liquidy and slimy.  We have no clue how long it was in there but it was time to toss this backpack. I think we got our $$ worth out of it for 2 years of kinder and one year of 1st grade.  It was the small size and I think in 2nd grade she needed the bigger size anyway!


So, we got the lunchbox...


the bento boxes


These are great because Kate is not a big sandwich person.  She is more likely to eat healthier foods like veggies and fruits in this bento box.  Also, she loves to pack her own "snack lunch" in this box.  It is BPA free and dishwasher safe too.

And we got the backpack...


Needed to get Scout in there too.  She was freshly bathed and hasn't been on the blog much!


Every year, I scour the Ralph Lauren site for their big sales for back to school pants for Will.  I can usually get his pants for $19 (regularly over $50!) if I time it right.  His RL pants from freshmen year lasted 2 years. He got a lot taller this year so he needed all new pants.  I got incredible deals by shopping in June for these online.


Looks like a colorful year for him this year!  I love his preppy style.

I also found some awesome deals at TJ Maxx.    I love a bargain.  Really, I do.
I found some vineyard vines belts and some other great school shirts.


Mint Julep cup belt from the Derby Days collection.


Vineyard Vine flag belt.



I text Will the photos and he tells me which he likes/dislikes. That's how I virtual shop with him.  Sometimes we shop together but more often we text shop.  His dress code is long pants (any color khaki style) and a collared shirt.

P.S.  Harry wears khaki shorts and a school T-shirt.  Not too exciting.  I will share that these khaki shorts have lasted through 3 years of Will's middle school and 3 years of Harry (yes, the same ones!).  They are super durable. I have not had to buy a new pair in 6 years!

Anyway,  Just wanted to share some of my back to school bargains and favorites with you.   Let me know some of your favorites in the comments.  I'd love to hear them.

This post does contain some affiliate links.  You can read my affiliate disclosure policy here.

how does our garden grow?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I have a lot to post another day.  We had a lovely visit with some friends right as the boys returned from camp and it has been non stop ever since.  I just uploaded these pictures though and wanted to throw up a quick post.

As you know, Kate really wanted a garden this year.  I am not a gardener.  I love the idea of a garden but planting, watering and weeding in the Houston heat does not excite me.  We are a bit lazy with our garden if I am 100% honest. We do get very excited when we see vegetables though!

As a result, our garden is doing so-so.  The garden is not thriving but it is not dying either (which kind of surprises me). Our yeild is quite low.  In our region, in the summer, you really need to water every single day.  That might not sound hard but with 3 kids running in 3 different directions and me working part time...sometimes we forget.

Anyway, we have had 2 small tomatoes....


I know the brown crack is from the garden getting too dry.  We are trying to do better watering (see below).



Kate picked it on her way to gymnastics.  As an aside, this is her "lucky leotard."  She wears it a lot and claims to have her best sessions when she is wearing it.



It looks like our first green pepper is starting to grow!


And the cucumber plants are looking good too.  The beans have done the best for us for sure.  Although sometimes, we forget to pick and eat them because they come in very small batches.

Now our basil is another story....  We planted one basil plant years ago.  It comes back each year and spreads.  Now we have basil plant weeds.  They look ridiculous but we don;'t pull them cause we like having the extra basil:)  I know I need to clip the flowering parts.  Again, Im a bit lazy when it comes to that stuff.


That plant in the back is the original but look at all the little and big basil "weeds!"  That is Harry photobombing on his bike.

Hope y'all are having a great summer.  Ours has been fantastic.

camp update (and other updates too)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Well, Harry and Will are coming to the end of their 2 weeks at camp and it looks like at least Harry has had a great time.  There have been a lot of photos of him on the camp website but hardly any of Will.  I even called because Dave and I were beginning to wonder if Will was really there.  We would see photos of his cabin mates but he was in none of them.  I called to check.  He is doing a leadership course there and I don't think the camp photographers go into the class.  Will has always been an "under the radar" kind of kid as it is.

Here are a few pics from the website this week:


Harry and his buddies.  One night is a water party and there is a giant bubble pit.

I love these next few.  Harry loved wake surfing....




And here he is doing some kind or craft/science experiment thing...


Will playing beach volleyball.  


And playing mini-golf with a younger camper...


And finally doing the talent show with his cabin mates...


They get home Saturday night and the laundry marathon begins.  Their clothes come home so gross and dirty and smelly and I am a stain removal fanatic.  I will inspect every piece of clothing and work on getting them really clean.  I try to send old junky clothes but sometimes they bring a few good things too.

I have missed them a little but honestly it has been pretty nice around here.  I like having the one on one time with Kate and more time with Dave too.  We have accomplished so much. We did a MAJOR purge and organization.  We even cleaned out the garage a bit and unpacked boxes that have been in there since we moved back almost 6 years ago (I know, awful!)  I think the guys at the donation centers and the paint recycling center recognize us and our cars now.

I also wanted to update about Kate's camp experience.  She went for just a week at the beginning of June.  The first thing Kate said when she got off the bus (besides, "Mama!") was "Can I go for 2 weeks next year?!"  She absolutely LOVED it!  I mean LOVED it.  And she grew up a bit too which is one of the things I love about sleep away camp for kids.  Kate needed more independence.  The boys tend to parent her a bit and so she needed to venture out and find her voice. And she did!

Our camp only gives out two awards and they are very special character awards.  Kate won one of them.  I saw the special wristband on her and recognized it immediately (because Harry has won it as well).  I am proud of who all of my kids are inside but it is also nice when other people notice their values and character as well.  If you win these awards 3 times, you get your name on a plaque in the dining hall.  Harry has won both of them twice:)

Kate's counselors also gave her recognition for having integrity and respect.  They also wrote me a letter telling me what a joy she was, how wise she was for her age and that she definitely won the award for the most mail received.  That made me laugh.  She was there for her birthday so lots of friends and family sent cards.  One of my friends was sweet enough to send Kate a letter for each day at camp.  I have good friends.

Even though her first letter indicated that maybe horse back riding was not her favorite thing, she ended up loving it.  Her horse was named "Shorty" and she talks about him all the time.  She really bonded with him.


She also loved her hip hop class.  She came home and showed us the dance she learned.  I love that it was paired a fun Christian rap song.  I did not even know there was Christian rap:)  Kate also LOVED the cooking class.  She was by far the youngest in it but she loves to cook.  They made spaghetti squash and kale chips and my fussy, unhealthy eater enjoyed them all.  Somehow, her cookbook did not make it home so I called the camp and asked them to send another so she can cook us some of these healthy meals.

Kate has changed since camp.  She is more apt to try new things.  She has always been afraid to go on the water slides at our pools.  Just this week, she has tried 2 water slides, done a flip off the diving board and she jumped off the high dive.  That is HUGE for Kate.   





(phone pics)

There is something about going away from home and meeting new people and doing things on your own that is so good for our kids.  I sincerely wish every kid had this opportunity.  I know our kids are blessed and fortunate to be able to do this.  In fact, one of the things I love about our camp is that the last session is for kids who cannot afford camp.  It is funded completely on donations and kids who would never get to go to camp, get to experience all of this too.  And the counselors volunteer their time that week! BTW ---I never went to sleep away camp as a kid.

And the boys were so happy to see Kate when she got back.





I got the first hug and then tried to get pictures but they are blurry:)

Another little update.  Kate's garden is doing well.  Our first tomato did not make it (fell to ground) but there are two more going strong now.  We are still waiting on cucumbers and peppers but the plants look good. We have had a small harvest of green beans.


I am most surprised that no critters have gotten anything yet because we don't have any fencing or netting around it.  This is our first garden with Kate so it is all a learning experience for sure.  But we enjoy checking on it daily and we get so excited when we see veggies.  The lettuces are VERY slow growers!

And finally, the last few weeks, I have been surprised to meet some readers out and about.  Last night we were walking the dog and I heard someone yell "Scout!"  I asked her if her dog was named Scout too.  She said yes and added, "I love your blog."  We started talking and she has been a reader for a long time.  How funny. I don't know her IRL but she recognized Kate and Dave once too.  She was so sweet and cute.  I had been cleaning all day and had not even taken a shower so I was looking pretty bad. Oh well.

Then at our 4th of July neighborhood gathering, a woman said , "Kim!"  I hugged her thinking I must know her but I did think my early onset Alzheimer's was kicking in again because I could not place how I knew her.  She saved me by saying, "Oh you don't know me but I read your blog." I apologized for hugging this virtual stranger but she was sweet and said I seem like I am nice and would hug people anyway!  We talked for a while and I really enjoyed meeting her (Hi E!).

And finally in Seaside we often meet other adoptive families.  One night it was storming but we had run into the Seaside circle for something. Kate was playing with the sweetest girl (also adopted from China) in Seaside Kids.  As we were leaving the store another adoptive family was coming in. The woman looked at me and said, "I know you."  We stood talking for a long time. She and her husband were so nice.  We talked about Harry's migraines and they briefly met Harry.  Kate and their daughter hit it off so well and they played and played in Seaside Kids. The girls had an instant bond and Kate wanted to see them again:)  I am not going to name names from privacy (for them) but they did say I could post these photos..



With their son as well.  These children were SO sweet and well mannered.

I have LOVED meeting random readers the last few weeks.  Blogging has changed SO much.  Most of the big blogs now are a business with people making money off links and advertisers.  There is not as much community as there used to be in blogging. People rarely comment anymore and have moved onto facebook and instagram and twitter.  I honestly wonder most days if anyone reads anymore.  And that is okay too because I do this mostly for our family and friends.  However, it was so nice to meet really kind people who enjoy reading the blog too.  I kind of miss the supportive blogging community of the early days.

And finally, in a few days, our good friends are coming to visit!  I am so excited!  Stacy was my first childhood friend.  I have known her my whole life and we re-connected last summer at the beach.  I cannot wait to spend time with their whole family again!!!



will is 17!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Will turned 17 exactly 2 weeks ago.  I feel bad about not doing a birthday post earlier but I didn't for 2 reasons.  One is we barely saw him on his birthday and the other is that I think I am a bit in denial that I really have a 17 year old. (I've also been super busy working on some projects)

Will's birthday was the day after we got back from our family vacation.  Being a normal 17 year old, he wanted to hang out with his friends because he had hung out a whole week with us!  So, we went to church together and got his favorite kolaches but then he hung out with friends.  I have to admit, I was a bit sad/sour about that.  I totally get it but I wanted to do a family dinner or something.  Anyway, when Will got home that night he was kind of bummed.  He said that although he had fun with this friends, he wished he had spent the time with us.  He said he realizes he only has another 2 years at home and he wasted a birthday.  I told him it was not wasted and we'd have a family dinner that week (which we did the night before they left for camp).  It is hard to have family dinner (the whole family) in the summer because of Kate's gymnastics training and Will's work.


(this photo was Kate's idea:)

Will is such a neat kid.  He is spiritual and respectful.  He is very intelligent but has to work pretty hard at his current school.  Organization does not come naturally to him but he has worked so hard to be organized in high school (color coded calendar, study schedules and folders).  I am really proud of that. Not only does Will work all year as a lifeguard but he is also really involved at school. He is on swim team and water polo (was a captain on JV this year).  He is in the National Honor Society and several other clubs too.  He is also a freshmen retreat leader and part of a select core who actually plan the retreat.  Being a freshmen retreat leader at his school is a huge commitment and honor.  You have to apply and it is mostly seniors who are leaders. Will was selected as a junior. He has worked all year this year on it (the retreat happens in November) and has a weekend retreat next month for the leaders.

Will is also goofy and funny.  He is always asking how my day was.  He is confident (sometimes too much) and outgoing.  One of my favorite things about Will is that he really doesn't let things get to him.  He lets things roll off his back.  I could get really, really mad at him and yell and a few minutes later he says sorry and it is done.  He also does not let other people's criticism or insults bother him.  He shrugs it all off.  And because of all that he is usually in a good mood and is pretty even tempered.

He is an amazing volunteer.  His school has required volunteer hours and so does NHS.  But Will goes far above and beyond any required volunteer hours (even if he doesn't record them all!). He just likes volunteering and he is good at it too.  I always get tremendous feedback from the adults where he volunteers.  In fact, this summer he was supposed to work during our parish VBS.  Will switched his shifts so that he could volunteer instead.  I got the most amazing e-mail from a woman who was working at VBS complimenting both Will and Harry's leadership skills and telling me how kind and helpful and mature they both were.  Another Mom told me how much they stood out in a sea of uninspired teen volunteers because they were enthusiastic and really got the job done.  What Mom does not love to hear that stuff about her children?!


I always say that my kids are not perfect.  And Will is no exception.  But so far, he has made the teen years easy for us.  He is honest and respectful.  He is a rule follower and has a good moral compass.  I expect he'll make some mistakes but so far, he has been a joy to parent.


A few months ago, I was cleaning out a desk and I found this letter.  I wrote it to Will when he was just 22 months old.  I had not remembered writing it so it was such a gift to find. I read it to Will and he loved hearing it (and asked me to read it again).  This letter was not a birthday letter or anything special.  It was just me writing about Will when he was 22 months old.   I wrote about how he loved doughnut holes and the zoo.  I wrote about his favorite shows and books and things to play. What is interesting though is how accurate it is.  I wrote "You love water (although you call it "agua").  You run to hoses, sprinklers, puddles and water fountains.  I won't be surprised a bit if you are a great swimmer." And here 15 years later he is a swimmer!  there were so many other great things in the letter.  I encourage all of you Moms to take a few moments no matter how old your kids are and write them a letter like this.  Mine was on plain white lined paper.  It was not fancy at all. and it was just two pages long. It had mistakes but it was so full of love! I simply wrote about who Will was and what he meant to me. I know that he will cherish it forever and he will be able to look back on it when he has kids and see what he was like as a toddler.


So, my Will is growing up.  And I am so proud of who is is growing up to be.  I love you, Will!

And just to show you how much he's changed, this is the first photo ever of Will on this blog (almost 8 years ago).


Eliss2005 010

We've all aged a bit!

P.S.  About the clothes.  I will probably not be listing them until the last week of July or beginning of August.  Some things have come up around our house that required my immediate attention so I have not had time to get all the photographs done and the listings done. It is super time consuming. And we have some out of town guests coming to visit so I had to put the clothes away for a few weeks.  I apologize for the delay but will get back to it in a few weeks.