Biltmore and Birthdays

I meant to post this, but I guess I never did. :/

For my bday weekend way back in March we hit up The Biltmore in Asheville. We took all four kids and grandma and actually had a good time. The kiddos were well behaved and we were able to participate in a wine tasting (the kids got juice) and play on the playground. It definitely cannot all be done in one trip. I had one of the best milkshakes there, though it cost me $6. Happy Birthday to me!

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore
We did a tour of the house, which was featuring wedding gowns from various historical movies. We explored the garden, which wasn’t blooming anything, but enjoyed the conservatory which was featuring orchids of all types and sizes! I’d love to go back and do the audio tour which is more in depth and see the flowers blooming. It was a nice day spent with the family.


Year in Review 2015

The kiddos

It’s been a good year. It started out slow. I was staying home slowly establishing my Mamabluebird stuff as a potential business while Jason was taking online classes. I decided to go back to school as well. That has always been the plan, but I wanted to wait until Henry was a little older to keep him out of daycare.

Jason and I took a biology class together over the summer. I also took macroeconomics to get it over with which I’m glad I did. It was fun to share a class. We had lab projects that we did together and we both did well. I enjoy going to school together because we can help each other as well as commiserate when things are tough.

Jason and Danielle

The kids went to their dad’s for a month this year during the summer. They usually only spend about two weeks, but we decided to extend it. I don’t want to say it was a mistake because the kids enjoyed their time with their dad, but it was too long. Noah and Nora settled into a routine there (a routine that was fake because they don’t have their own room and not a lot of rules), so it was hard to come home to real life. Noah finally understands that it’s best to live with me, but he misses his dad. Nora is in that stage of needing her father and wanting to live with him. It’s not gonna happen. Thankfully, Patrick has grown enough to recognize that his life is unstable and he doesn’t have room for Nora. He was able to tell her that, so she could settle here. She still misses him, but she’s not screaming that she wants to live with her dad every time she gets in trouble. She’s mostly accepted that she’ll live here too. They idolize the absent parent; nothing you can do about that.

Greb family

We got Chip over the summer. We love him!

Noah started 6th grade this year. 5th grade was awful. We had a bad teacher (bad in a way that she and Noah didn’t mesh well, so we had problems all year) and it was a year of growing for Noah. This year, his teachers rock. I think they are awesome in general, but Noah meshes with them nicely. He got his own locker and they treat him like he’s older, which Noah appreciates. Nora started 3rd grade with one teacher and then two months in they hired another teacher and she switched. Nora locks on to her teachers and was extremely upset with the change. This coincided with wanting to live with her father, so it was a bumpy couple of months. However, this new teacher teaches the whole child not just the curriculum. Nora has blossomed under her care, growing in confidence and becoming responsible for her actions. I’m very grateful for this new teacher. We learned a long time ago, that public school was our path, but it’s not without its ups and downs.

Jason and Henry

In the fall, Henry and Lorelei started preschool. Jason and I both took 4 classes for the fall semester. The kids went two days a week giving me time to get my school work done and some mommy time to run errands and whatnot. It was wonderful all around. Lorelei already knows her numbers and letters, but school gave her structure and friends. She really wanted to go 5 days, but it was out of our budget and I want to hold onto her for as long as possible. :) Henry adjusted quicker than I thought. His teachers are so sweet and they love him. He quickly began asking to go to school on non-school days.

Me and the girls

Jason and I finished out the semester, (3 As and a B for me, tyvm) and are gearing up for the Spring. I changed my major from Entrepreneurship to Accounting, which means I’ll be a residential student at WCU instead of online. This means more days of childcare for the kids. I found another PreK program that is much cheaper, but still awesome, than where we are currently, so Lorelei will be going 5 days starting in January. She is soo excited and not the least bit affected by the change of teachers, thankfully. Henry will go three days. Two days I’ll be at school and one will hopefully give me time to get work done. I’m looking forward to it, although it’s been quite the hassle getting into my classes.

This year I also started selling my jewelry at a local yoga studio. It has been an interesting experience. It’s awesome to have people appreciate my art and it’s been fun to walk out what I’ve learned of business. It also is allowing me to narrow my focus on what I truly enjoy making. Just a week ago Jason’s work restructured his department’s positions and he got a raise. A nice surprise at the end of the year. I’m not sure what 2016 will bring, but I’m grateful for my family and our time together. Lorelei is almost 5 and will be starting Kindergarten, so it sounds like more of the same. Changes, always changes. :)

Greb Family


This Simple Life

I remember almost five years ago frequently coming up to Franklin from Florida to visit Jason’s family for a few days at a time. Once we hit the mountains it felt like we could take a deep breath and relax. Franklin is a small town (less than 4,000 people) while our previous home in central Florida was a very large city (100,000+ people). Once Lorelei was born we took the opportunity to move to Franklin. It was quite the adjustment. I missed the ease of shopping in a large city where you could get what you want/needed that same day. I missed Publix where, “shopping is a pleasure”. The first few years were hard as Jason settled in, got promoted, settled in, got promoted, and finally started making the drive to Asheville every day. We had Henry in there too while also shuffling the kids back and forth to their dad’s and all the stress that comes with that.

We moved in October of last year, to the house we see ourselves in for many, many years. Life is still stressful as Jason is now in school full-time and I’m about to be as well, but it’s a simple life. A country life, if you will and we love it. We’ve learned to love Ingles and Walmart (as much as anyone can love walmart) and to wait patiently for packages via Amazon Prime shipping. We take a lot of walks and hikes and watch the birds on the porch for fun. We spend a lot of time with family. We have chickens and recently acquired a few more dreaming about a farm one day. I’ve got the garden growing. We love this little town.

I had friends come in for a quick visit this past weekend (Hi, Nicole!) and it made me think about living in Lakeland and how different life is now. We have crappy cell service and internet and don’t really mind. The pace is slow and the mountains are still beautiful and the seasons are fully embraced.

We went for a walk yesterday evening since we all took a late afternoon nap.
BlackberriesBlackberries in our yard.

Farmer LoreleiShe said she’s “a person that takes care of animals” aka a farmer. Lol

cookiedoughCookiedough came along for a little while.

holding handsHappily holding hands

the view

Cheese!Henry started saying “cheeeeese” thinking I was taking a picture of him, so of course I had to anyway.

I'm here tooI was there too.

Interesting flower

More blackberriesMore blackberries. Yum!

Tree stumpAny opportunity to take a picture of my sweet loves.

Oreo comes alongOreo followed us there and back exploring along the way.

Run!They love to chase each other

sleepy bugLorelei picked this flower for me and it had a sleepy bug underneath (he woke up and crawled on top)

Tired Oreo

Take my picture

Henry

me too!Monkey see, monkey do

My beautiful girl

The road back homeThe road back home.


Perfect Sunday

Most of our weekends end up being pretty busy. Jason has started helping his dad finish building Amber and Ryan’s house, so sometimes he’s gone at least one of the weekend days. This weekend, however, was spent at home since Jason was on-call. Friday night we went to Asheville and enjoyed a date night while my mom watched the kiddos for us. Saturday we did chores like cleaning out the chicken coop and cleaning up the house since I had been sick and oh so tired all last week. We had friends come over Saturday night which is always fun.

Sometimes we’re home on a weekend with no plans, but I’m antsy, wishing we were doing something. I’d rather be going somewhere and spending time together away from the house. This past Sunday was great. I was happy to be home and it ended up being really productive with hardly any fighting between the children. Always a good combo. :) We packed up a little more of our bedrooms. We purged a bit too, yay! We should be beginning the process of moving into Jason’s Dad’s house at the end of the month. It’s all kinda crazy and complicated depending on him finishing Amber’s house and moving into our’s in order to get it ready to sell. We’re really excited and as the boxes pile up it becomes more real.

Sunday afternoon on our way back from dropping off our donation at Goodwill, we went to the park. Noah and Nora raced off to make new friends, as they usually do, while Jason and I stayed with the littles.

Henry and Lorelei

Daddy and Henry

Lorelei

HenryHenry is quite the climber and he had a blast being able to play. I usually have him in the Ergo, but he wants to go, go, go nowadays.

HenryHis new thing is to shove his hand in his pants. Soo fun…

Henry

Mommy and Henry

Daddy and Henry

Lorelei and Henry

Henry

Henry

Henry slidingHenry is getting so big. This was the first time he slid down the slides with out help the whole way down.

Lorelei

LoreleiI wanted to take a picture of Lorelei, but she didn’t want me to, of course. This is her saying no and telling me she didn’t want me to take her picture.

LoreleiBut then Daddy offered to take one with her and she was all smiles! (He stood a foot or two away.)

Noah and NoraI quickly snapped a picture of Noah and Nora as they played with their friends.

NoahNoah tends to play on the outside of the playground equipment instead of how it is intended. That pretty much sums up his whole personality.

That evening I met up with a friend and watched the movie, The Giver. I read the book last year and I felt the movie did not disappoint. It is very visual and emotional, a heartbreaking film. I also got the chance go see The 100 foot journey this past week, also a very visual film full of great shots of food and the delight of French and Indian cultures. A much livelier movie. I recommend them both!

All-in-all a perfect Sunday. :o)


Happy 8th Birthday, Nora!

I’m so very glad year seven is over. I’ve come to the conclusion that the seventh year is a year of transition. They are figuring out who they are and where they fit in the family. It is a trying year, in my opinion. Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed a subtle change in Nora, for the better. She’s a little more confident, a little less dramatic and slightly more mature. She still loves dress-up and imaginative play and, of course, Frozen.

Frozen

Card readingThis year she was able to read her own cards easily and was actually interested in what they said.

Frozen tiara Frozen tiara! She also got Frozen dresses and accessories and books. She loves books!

Help with the handwritingGrandma helped with the handwriting at the bottom of the card.

Silly brotherWhat imaginative play is complete without Olaf?

Make a wish
Nora took a moment to make a wish before she blew out her candle.

She is in second grade this year and already loves her teacher. Although there is still the drama that is Nora and the anger issues, I can already glimpse the young woman she will one day become. I’m so thankful to be her mama, even though she drives me crazy sometimes, because she teaches me to be better every day.


Spring Break Day 3 and 4

Belgian horse and mom

Day three of Spring Break was spent at Deer Farm Zoo with my mom. Deer Farm Zoo is in Sevierville, TN, so Monday was spent in GA and Wednesday was spent in TN, lol. The petting zoo definitely had exotic animals including this Belgian horse (which was HUGE) and a couple of Zonkeys. That’s a cross between a Zebra and a Donkey. They are very handsome!

kangaroo

They had kangaroos, but unless your hand fit through the fence you didn’t get to pet them. They were neat to see, though!

Camel

We fed the camels. Their lips are very large and it was scary to feed them, but they were surprisingly gentle. Supposedly they can suck up your arm to your elbow and then give it back, but we did not try it. ;o) Seeing the camels, all I heard in my head was, “Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, what day is it, Mike?”.

Mom and Lorelei

We decided to go horseback riding too. It was the kid’s first time on horses. They’ve rode ponies at fairs and stuff, but this was the first time on a trail by themselves. Nora and Noah got their own horses, but Lorelei rode with Grandma and Henry rode in the ergo with me. We had fun, though Lorelei and grandma’s horse wasn’t very cooperative and Lorelei fell asleep halfway through, so grandma was holding her up and trying to steer the horse at the same time.

Noah and Nora

The kids started out being lead, but Noah took the reins soon after and Nora stayed attached.

friendly horse greetings

My horse saw a little shetland pony and said hello.

Peacock close

There were peacocks everywhere, so beautiful.

emu and Noah

I think Noah loved the emus best. He got to pet them and they were fed well. He would hold up his cup and they would reach in and take a beak full.

Lorelei and Fallow deer

Henry and deer

Lorelei liked feeding the deer even though they were as big as she was. Henry wanted to touch the deer too and we found one that wanted to be his friend.

Henry wants to touch the deer

goat

This goat stole Henry’s sock and nibbled his toes a little bit while we were hunting for tiny baby goats.

tiny goat

Noah and tiny goat

Nora and tiny goat
Nora and Noah were able to hold the baby goats as we were leaving. These were just born a week or two ago. We were in Sevierville all day Wednesday and on Thursday we pretty much stayed home. I got some cleaning done and then we went to the library.

Henry and Lorelei

Henry is all over the place now. He loves this stackable toy they have there.

Henry

Henry and Lorelei

Lorelei of course played puzzles.

Henry and Lorelei

Then she decided that she wanted Henry’s toy and it was time to put it away.

Henry and Lorelei

Henry

Henry is losing his baby face and becoming a toddler. :o( He’ll be a year in June. The time has flown. We had a fun and busy week. I loved not getting up and taking them to school! Just two more months and we’ll have a 5th and 2nd graders!


Spring Break Day One

It is finally Spring Break! What? You already had yours? Weeks ago? Yeah, I guess we do things differently around here…
Jason took Monday off and we headed to Atlanta. The original plan was to check out the Legoland Discovery Center, but the reviews were horrible and one of them said they’d rather go to Catch Air instead. It turns out Catch Air is this great indoor play area. We also wanted to go to Ikea while in Atlanta, so off we went yesterday morning.

Ikea was great since it was a Monday afternoon by the time we got there. There wasn’t many people there. Although there was an “accident” in the play area and we had to drag all four kids through the store instead of them going to smalland, it still wasn’t bad. We picked up a few things and (hopefully) decided on a new kitchen table.

After that it was Catch Air time. We decided to go to the Midtown one since it is the newest and closest to Ikea.

Noah and Nora

Lorelei

Huge slide

silliness

Funtasia on crack

Dance Area

The kids had a great time. There was even a dance area. They turned out the lights and gathered around with a character, “SpongeBob”, and danced. Nora loved it. If we are ever in Atlanta we will be sure to stop by again. We got home late, but it was a great start to our Spring Break.
(Sorry for the blurriness. Low lighting and kids not standing still!)


Jason’s New Job

I know I’ve mentioned being stressed out, I can finally talk about why. For the past six months Jason has been job hunting with no real possibilities in sight. We live in a small town and would like to continue to live in this small town, but jobs here are slim, especially for IT.

We were lucky that Jason got a job here in the first place. They were hiring at the local hospital, Angel Medical Center, but Jason was moving here from out of state, just closing his business (no one wants to be the first to hire an entrepreneur) with only an AA and zero certifications. All he had was his experience. It turned out to be perfect for the help desk job he applied for and he took the offer they gave him, gratefully. Another lucky happening coupled with a great boss and Jason’s amazing work ethic got him promoted within a year to Interim IT Director. He learned and grew in that position, as did our family, as a larger hospital, Mission Health Systems, took over the smaller one and he never got Interim taken off his title, just empty promises.

About six months or so ago, they hired an IT Director solidifying an end to Jason’s position and put us in limbo. They offered Jason a horrible job well below his qualifications and he chose to keep looking. Would he find another job equal in pay? Would it be here in Franklin or would he have to travel? Would that mean another move? Most of the jobs he found were not in Franklin and those who cold find were not enough to support us. Would I have to return to work with a tiny baby at home? This went on for months taking its toll on us. We realized that Jason might need to return to school and he definitely needed a few certifications. Some changes at work made that impossible as he has been involved in a software change and the company put a hold on time off recently.

Jason interviewed for a few positions. One was a definite no for us and the other was a maybe, but another boss seemed to be making it difficult for Jason to move on to another position than he had in mind. Luckily a new team was forming and that team’s manager kept Jason in mind working his way through the system to be able to bring a job offer to Jason.

This happened last week and Jason accepted the offer on Monday. The pay is a little more, but Jason has to drive to Asheville (1.5 hrs each way). They also require him to get his BA in Computer Science or something related, but offer tuition reimbursement making getting his degree pretty cheap.

A lot of changes come with this job. Jason will leave extremely early in the morning, so I will have to take the kids to school. Normally Jason drops them off on his way into work. He won’t get home until after 6pm, so I am on my own with dinner. It’s still a bit difficult to cook with a screaming baby. My carrier and Nora will help a lot. However, I usually drop Noah at karate and Jason picks him up on his way home at 5p or 6p. Now I’ll either have to stay and watch (along with the other three) or run back and pick him up. Last night Jason got home late giving me a taste of what it might be like soon. I made a comment about moving to Asheville in order to see him more. He made a good point that living in Asheville doesn’t mean he won’t have to leave early in the morning or get home late. He might just be fighting traffic instead of driving through the mountains. We do love living in the mountains, so we would like to stay in Franklin.

He has chosen his major and applied at ECU. I’m realizing that he’ll get home from work and have to do schoolwork. He’ll be home, but not fully. It’s gonna be a long couple of years, but it is worth it. We’ll just have to make the most of the weekends.

Shortline

Lorelei learning to ride, Shortline

Shortline

Shortline, Peek-a-boo

Shortline, Nora and Noah

I was there too

Shortline

Shortline, Lorelei

We went to Shortline last weekend to enjoy some nature and the briefly good weather.


No Qualms

image

We went to Asheville on Saturday to return some pants to Kohl’s. We tried to leave early, which meant we were out of the house by 930a (a miracle). It used to be that going out to eat meant kids meals and $30 to $40 down the drain, but I have learned. The kids don’t eat much and most adults could eat a kid’s meal and leave the table full, so when we stopped for lunch at Panda Express (our favorite chinese place) I ended up with two meals and some rangoon to share.

I spent $15 for four of us. (Jason is not a chinese fan, so he grabbed something else.) I had absolutely no qualms about asking for four ice waters either. We drink water, we like water and water is free. We ate most of the food and got fortune cookies for dessert. Everyone was happy and everyone was full. Also, Lady Luck will visit me soon, apparently. :o)


Noah’s Summer Visit

At first it was a bit overwhelming to have four kids, all of a sudden, especially with the youngest being just two weeks old. Noah and Nora have such conflicting personalities and they haven’t been around each other for a solid week in months. We can tell that Lorelei feels a little caught in the middle, but, of course, she loves hanging with her bro. She’s even taken to calling him “my noah” or “bubby”.

Our household routine is pretty established. we don’t have regular tv, just netflix and hulu, so we may watch a show or two maybe even a movie, but then the kids are expected to find something else to do. They have toys, crayons, paper, paint, chalkboard and chalk, a sandbox and their imaginations. Not to mention the outside toys. I’ve found that the days I give in and let us veg in front of the tv end up being a very depressing day with kids who have bad attitudes and meltdowns once the tv shuts off. No bueno.

sandbox play time

When I see stuff like the above picture, it makes my heart glad. :o)

Now that we are into the second week things have settled down. Noah and Nora don’t fight as much and Noah has learned our routines and gotten used to our rules. I’m also getting used to having a newborn and taking things slow again. This Sunday we’ll meet Patrick and Nora will go with Noah to his house for a couple of weeks. It isn’t a perfect system, but it gives Noah and Nora time with me and their dad.

Carrie and Fam

This past weekend, my aunt and her husband came to visit for the fourth of July. It was really great to see them even though it rained almost the entire time they were here! We played a lot of Uno and on Saturday they all went out on the boat. The kids had a great time, though it was a bit cold. Grandpa Charley brought the tube and they got to go tubing. Noah went three times by himself! I can’t believe he’ll be ten in October.

2 1/2 weeks

Henry smiles a lot. I know they aren’t the real smiles just yet, but peeks into what they will be like. Still fun to see them. He’s three weeks now and looking more and more like Jason every day.