Showing posts with label Just Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Just Life. Show all posts

Currently | December 2019



We had a lovely Thanksgiving last week.  We went to my parents' house and Derek's mom came with us.  We ate a lot of food and too much pie, played the A Christmas Story game (you know, like the movie?), and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. And now we have apparently charged full-speed ahead in the countdown for Christmas.  I'm still trying to get my bearings.  No matter how hard I try to plan ahead, Christmas always manages to catch me a little by surprise each year.

Speaking of surprises, I'm working on a freebie for all of you who are regular readers of my blog (hopefully will be up tomorrow), so I'm going to keep this "currently" short and sweet.


Wrapping...nothing.  All the presents arrived in the mail this week, so now I just need to buckle down and get them wrapped!  I actually don't enjoy wrapping presents very much.  I wish I did, but there are just so many to wrap, it gets overwhelming.  I'm going to be recruiting Derek to help me tonight while we watch a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Lighting...Christmas candles.  Weirdly, my favorite ones this year are not from Yankee Candle, as per the norm, but instead I'm really enjoying some that I found at TJ Maxx.  They have some great scents, and the candles are cheaper than Yankee, so that's a plus!  Anything pine scented is my favorite this time of year.

Baking...also nothing, but I am hoping to start on ginger cookies this week.  I've learned over the years to keep my Christmas baking to a minimum.  I'm always tempted to try a bunch of new recipes, but when I do that I tend to just get overwhelmed.  I may bring one new recipe into the rotation though, if things ever slow down enough.  I'm thinking some sort of candy recipe.

Sending...a present to my lifelong penpal, Felicia.  Keep an eye out, friend!  I'm also waiting for photos to arrive in the mail so I can start sending Christmas cards in earnest.  I decided this year to just use the boxes of Christmas cards I have collected over the years with a photo tucked inside, instead of our usual photo Christmas card.  It's actually been less complicated and stressful this way, not to mention less expensive since I'm using cards I already have!

Enjoying...quiet days at home, especially if it's snowing like it is today.  So far the first week of December has been chaotic and a little stressful, but today we have the whole day stretched out ahead of us.  We might read some Christmas picture books or bake something or do a Christmas craft.  It feels like the world is my oyster when I have a quiet day at home to work with.


(Wyatt took these photos for me a couple weeks ago - not too shabby, right?  He's getting better at using the big camera!)

Linking up here!




The Wednesday Five | Vol. 7


A Quote

"I make myself rich by making my wants few." - Henry David Thoreau

"He is richest who is content with the least." - Socrates

"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Hebrews 13:5

I was thinking about the Thoreau quote, and then found the Socrates quote by accident, so you get two for one, plus a Bible verse.  I don't know why, but contentment was on my mind this morning, perhaps because it is Thanksgiving week.  I think contentment and thankfulness go hand in hand - it's hard to have one without the other.  The Bible exhorts us over and over to be content, and the secret for the believer to contentment is that we have everything we truly need in Christ.  When we focus our hearts on what He has done to save us, how can we not be thankful?  Just some things I was mulling over this morning.

A Book

It's hard to come up with a book recommendation this morning, because I'm still working through the same old ones.  I'm going to throw out Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens as a suggestion.  My goal is to finish it before the end of my social media break.  Dickens can be really dense reading, but also, no one can turn a sentence quite like him!  I read A Christmas Carol last December, and loved it so much that I've been wanting to tackle one of his other books ever since.  They are just so long though.  Have you read any Dickens?

A Bit Of Nature




You also get two pictures, one because it snowed and it's gorgeous, and another one because the sunrise this morning was so striking.  I feel blessed to live somewhere now where I can see the sunrise!

A Recommendation

Yesterday, I spent most of the day finishing my Christmas shopping online, and I got 80% of the kids' presents from Rainbow Resource.  It's actually a homeschooling curriculum website, but they recently sent us their toy catalog.  I had the kids circle all the things they liked in it, and I was so impressed with their choices!  The toys Rainbow Resource carries are geared more toward imaginative play and creativity, and they carry good quality items (I didn't find many...or maybe not any...cheap plastic items).  Anyway, you should check out their toy section on the website.  I got so many ideas for the kids it was hard to choose!

A Moment Of Happiness

Last night I asked Derek if he would string up some Christmas lights in our room.  He was tired after a long day of work, but he was sweet enough to do one more thing for me anyway.  I put out some Christmas pillows on our couch and bed, and after he was finished we enjoyed our festive room, sparkling lights, and eggnog while we laughed through an episode of The Middle.  Our nightly routine is pretty simple, and may not seem exciting.  But I think it's a special thing to cuddle next to my husband and laugh a little together before we go to sleep.

Holiday Preparations & Foibles



We got the Christmas stuff up this weekend.  A few years ago we decided the weekend before Thanksgiving was going to be our day to decorate, and I have to say, I like it.  I don't feel that Thanksgiving gets eclipsed by the Christmas decorations - if anything, it just adds to the air of thanks for me.  It's hard for me not to feel thankful in the early morning glow of the Christmas tree.






I'm sitting in the kids' playroom right now with just such a glowing tree in the corner, and a camp mug of coffee in my hand (well, on the shelf - can't hold coffee while I'm typing).  The rowdy refrain of "Jingle Bells" is already coming from the kids' room, so I imagine I'm going to be interrupted any minute, but I am hoping to get this post done and published before my self-imposed computer limit kicks me off.

Speaking of which, how is the social media/digital break going?  It has actually been much easier than I thought it would be so far.  Maybe it's because we are just dipping into the craziness of holiday preparations, and my mind has been too occupied with that to dwell much on Instagram.  I have actually not found myself picking up my phone before realizing I deleted my social media apps, which has been a surprise.  Maybe I'm adjusting quicker since this isn't my first break from social media.  There have, however, been several times when I thought about sharing something with you all on Instagram, and then remembered that I can't. But I've been trying to redirect some of that pent-up social energy into more personal interactions, which has been lovely.  I finally started a craft I had planned with the kids, I got a date on the calendar to visit my grandpa, I've written a few notes to people, and we had a game night at my sister's house (which is already completely decked out for Christmas too).





Back to the subject of tree decorating.  Am I the only one who finds the entire decorating process stressful?  I know it's supposed to be this time of joy and family appreciation, but for the last several years I have found myself running around, pre-cleaning surfaces in preparation for decorations, shouting to remind the kids to pick up their toys (again), trying to get cute decorating pictures, and just generally being a mess.  I escaped mid-decorating this year with Gwen to go do some Christmas shopping.  It was just getting too stressful.  I also decided to take the pressure of getting pictures of the kids decorating the tree off my plate.  It's about having a fun time, not getting a cute picture, right?  Except my efforts to calm down about taking pictures were voided by requests from each of the kids to take a picture of them so I could put it in their photo book.  So the camera did appear, but in a much more relaxed way.


(It snowed last week, and the afternoons were just so peaceful and pretty.)

Speaking of trees, I had an epiphany this weekend.  You know those Christmas trees that are made of that shiny, irridescent, tinsel-like material?  I always thought those were really ugly.  Why would anyone buy a tree like that?  Well, I have learned why.  We made a trip to our local Christmas wonderland store this weekend to look for some colorful outdoor lights, and I pointed out a tree to Derek that I thought was particularly pretty - decorated in icy blue and bronze, and just glittering all over the place.  Then it occurred to me that this was one of those trees!  Those tinsel-trees that I always thought were so ugly.  It turns out that when you add in some twinkling white lights and sparkly ornaments, the whole tree just looks like a glittering masterpiece.  Now I kind of want a tinsel-tree.





Thanksgiving is this week, and we are taking sort-of break from school.  I don't want to take a full-break, because I want more days to be added into our required totals, but I've decided this is history catch-up week.  Until Thursday, we are just going to sit around, read books from our history curriculum, and drink hot chocolate.  We might throw some Christmas books into the mix, and maybe a craft.  That's my plan.  I love homeschooling.




Also on the schedule - make the perfect chocolate pie for Thanksgiving.  This year we are bringing Derek's mom with us to my parent's house, and I think it will be extra-special to enjoy members of both sides of the family at the same time. I am tasked with bringing pink fluff salad, a relish plate, and a pie. I'm thinking of making a Hershey pie.  If you've never had it, think melt-in-your mouth, creamy chocolate that is about a thousand calories per slice (I exaggerate, but not by that much).  But if you have a favorite chocolate pie recipe, send it my way!

In light of all this holiday prep, I am also hoping to get some Christmas cards written this week.  If you are a blog buddy of mine and are interested in swapping Christmas cards with me, will you fill out your address on this form?  My Christmas card philosophy is "more the merrier", for giving and receiving, and I do have some extra time to work on them now that I'm hardly on my phone!  Turns out Instagram was the major time-sucking culprit.




Tools For A Social Media Break




I knew from the start that I wanted to completely break my phone habit with this year's social media break.  I don't like how my hand is often reaching for my hone before I even realize it, and I figured getting rid of Facebook and Instagram for a while would be the first step.

There are some complications though, with taking a break from social media.  How am I going to still share photos with my family (which is a big value of Facebook to me)?  How am I going to be able to get my blog posts to people who only read through Instagram?  How am I going to have the motivation to resist signing back in to check just "one more thing"?  And would getting rid of those two apps be enough, or would I just find other ways to waste time on my phone?

I don't want my bad habits to be diverted to other digital activities during this break.  I want to spend time doing things in the real world, and develop some "analog" skills that have been languishing for too long.

As I was mulling all that over, I found a few resources that have been or hopefully will be very helpful in making the most of my attempt to break my phone habit over the next couple months, and I wanted to share them with you here!

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport - I listened to this book in two days over the weekend, and picking this book up now was so timely for me.  Newport is talking about the very thing I've been struggling with, getting a handle on your "digital life" and making sure that the ways in which you use technology are actually serving you, instead of making you a slave to technology.  This book gave me so many things to think about, and strategies for making sure that I break my phone habit long-term, not just until my break is over in January.

Freedom.to - This is a tool I read about in Digital Minimalism, and I went straight home and signed up.  Freedom.to allows you to block distracting websites (specified by you) for certain blocks of time or on regular schedules (also specified by you).  I've set mine up to block time-suck websites for the hours of 9-5, Monday through Friday.  Like I said, I didn't want my bad phone habits to just get diverted to other digital time wasters, so this tool should help alot!  They are running a special right now too - you can try it monthly for $7, or get a whole year for $20!

Later.com - I mentioned in my first post about taking a social media break that I am still going to use a scheduler, to let people know that I've posted here on my blog.  This is the scheduler!  You can set it up to share to multiple social media websites (without being signed in), but the one that is most useful at this time for me is posting to my blog Instagram, because this is the only website I'm aware of that let's you schedule posts to Instagram.  I know there is a decent portion of readers (though not as many as you might think) who keep up with blogs through Instagram, and I didn't want those of you who keep up with me that way to totally miss out while I have the app removed from my phone.

Chatbooks - Another hesitation I had with giving up Instagram specifically is that I have a recurring series that automatically prints my pictures to these cute little photo books through Chatbooks.  My kids LOVE these books and are constantly carrying them around.  I was a little sad to miss a couple months of capturing our memories this way, until I remembered that you can add photos to a Chatbook manually through the app.  Did you know that?  It will take a little more intention from me to remember to add photos to the book when I don't have an instant audience or the boost of "likes", but that's also the whole point of my social media break - to be more intentional with how I'm spending my time.  I'm thinking about printing out books of the best photos from the month and sending them to our family members who really enjoy photos of the kids.  Yes, this will cost me more money, but I have to think it will mean a little more too.  (There is also just good ol' texting for sending photos, which I plan on putting to use!)



I'll write another post soon about things I'm hoping to spend time on instead of my phone, but I wanted to share these tools this morning for a few of you who I know were also considering some sort of digital break!

Do you have any other resources I should know about that are helpful for breaking bad phone habits?

Also, real quick, did you know that I actually had a newsletter for this blog?  I haven't sent a newsletter out in years, but I figured now might be a good time to dust it off.  If you need a way beside social media for keeping up with this blog, you can sign up for updates below!



Currently... | November 2019


Wearing: These new duck boots that I ordered here.  At first I felt a little clunky in them.  But I know they will be great for ice and snow this winter, so I kept them and they've been growing on me!



Drinking: Coffee with a splash of half-and-half.  Derek and I made a no-fancy-coffee pact for the month of November, and I'm trying my hardest to stick to it.  It is embarrassing how much I can spend in one month on just coffee!

Picking: Rock for behind the new wood stove that Derek is installing this week.  Our old house had a wood stove, and I loved that thing.  It added a coziness to the living room and was a life-saver when the power would go out.  I could even cook on it!  We decided we wanted one in our new house too, but I had a terrible time picking out the rock for it.  Our old wood stove had this really pretty grayish natural rock behind it, with lichen even growing on the rock, and it was so pretty.  But real rock is expensive, and fake rock doesn't grow lichen.  I made a decision though, and Derek took the week off to get the rock up!  It's going to look good I think.



Reading: Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz. The subtitle is "tracing the heart of the gospel from Christ to the Reformation", and it looks really fascinating!  I just started it.



Preparing: For the girls' birthday party this Saturday.  I have struggled for a long time on how to handle birthday parties with five kids.  Five individual parties each year was out of the question, but I also didn't want them to never have a birthday party during their growing up years.  I still don't know exactly what my plan is, but this year I decided we'd do one combined party for the girls, and one for the boys in the spring.  The girls requested a "princess tea party" birthday.  I just ordered candy canes so I can hot glue the curved part onto plastic cups - you know, to make little "tea cups".  I'm fancy like that.  Hey, you would be shocked how hard and expensive it is to find a basic teacup these days, so I had to improvise!

Feeling: Like I need next week off after all this party prep.  But moms don't get vacation time.

Trying: To be more consistent in my Bible reading.  I typically wake up before the kids each morning to read, which works great when I can make it happen.  However, I'm finding that other days the kids pull me in a million directions right after I wake up, which leads me to sometimes forget.  I've been feeling especially spiritually weary lately, and I know it's because I haven't had enough consistency in my daily quiet time.  This week I've been settling the kids with their breakfast and sneaking away while they eat, and that seems to be working better!

Following: Speaking of Bible reading, I started this Bible reading plan in earnest, and I am loving it.  It's been a while since I tried to read the Bible within a certain time frame. At first I was a little intimidated by the sheer volume of reading each day.  Now that I'm into it though, I am loving reading bigger chunks of Scripture at a time.  Going in-depth with one section is important and meaningful, but I'm at a stage in life where increasing the quantity of Bible reading is more doable.  The name is fitting, "keeping the feast".  I feel that way right now when I finish reading for the day, like I've had a feast.

Sporting: A new hair color!  I tried to edit this photo to make the color the most accurate. It's basically a little darker and richer than my natural color, and on my previous honey-highlights, it has a red-maroon tint.  Last winter I went with straight-up burgundy hair, so this is a subtler version of that.  I'm told it will fade out really well, and I'm liking it alot!



Wondering: If you've noticed that my blogroll in the sidebar has expanded a bit?  I found a few new blogs lately that I'm enjoying!

Considering: A social media break.  I took a Facebook break for the month of December last year, and it was so lovely.  This year I'm considering taking a break from Instagram too!  Just trying to figure out logistics of how to still share blog posts and still get Christmas photos printed into books easily (since I normally use Chatbooks connected with my Instagram).  Question: how do you typically read this blog?  Do you come to new posts through social media, or do you use a blog reader, or just type in the url when you want to read new posts?  I'll put a poll below.



Listening: To Christmas music.  Yes, I am.

Watching:  Derek and I recently re-started watching The Middle from the beginning.  We were watching Blue Bloods for a while, but we needed a break from drama.  In general we are more comedy-type people, and we relate to the Hecks!  Maybe you have to be from a certain type of family to appreciate that show, because the only people I know who have loved it as much as we do are other members of my family...but we all find it hilarious.

What have you all been up to?

Linking up here.




A Typical Homeschool Week




I've thought for a while now of sharing one of our typical homeschool days.

The only problem is we don't really have "typical" homeschool days.

We don't do the same subjects every day.  Some days we might run errands or go on a nature hike, and school looks a little different.  Some weeks are lighter, and some weeks we really accomplish a lot.

What we do have is a typical homeschool week, so I thought I'd share a sample week for you to see how we fit everything in.  This is an actual week of school that I pulled right out of my record book.  I tried to pick a fairly average week.  Some weeks we squeeze in more (especially with science or history), some weeks we accomplish less.  This is just to give you an idea.

You might also notice that we don't necessarily do a math or reading lesson every day - that's because we are actually ahead of where I had scheduled us to be at this point in the year, so some days we skip.  I shared a video about how I planned out our school year, and as long as we are staying close to my goal points, I'm fine with giving us a break on certain subjects some weeks.

Okay, here we go!  I had to guess on some of the surrounding details since I don't remember exactly how the day went several weeks ago, but in general these kinds of days are pretty typical for us.


Monday

The kids wake up around the same time that I do, but I tell them to stay in their rooms until at least 7:00 while I try to squeeze my devotions in.  Some days I can do morning devotions before starting the day, some days I can't.

I get the kids eating breakfast, and fix my makeup.  Then they play while I eat my breakfast and watch the news.  We enjoy having slow mornings.

Sometime around 10:00 or 11:00, I get Wyatt started on doing his math on the computer.  We are supplementing with an online curriculum this year, so some days he does math on the computer, and some day we do one-on-one instruction.  

He finishes math, so I have him practice his cursive while I do a reading lesson with Gwen.  The reading lesson goes quick so we move right on to Gwen's math.

After Gwen is finished I switch back to Wyatt, and we do a reading lesson.  Then I take a break to start lunch.

After we eat, as I'm getting Georgie down for a nap, I have Wyatt start outlining his writing assignment for the week and cut out his "mini books" for his science notebook.  I settle Clyde in with his kindergarten workbook too.  Gwen reads or plays quietly.  I help Wyatt with writing after Georgie is settled, and then we enjoy what's left of the afternoon.

Tuesday

I decide to try to get an early start today, so I start working on reading and math lessons with Wyatt right after breakfast.  As he finishes worksheets or math problems, I start working on spelling with Gwen.  When Wyatt is finished, he takes a break while I move on to Gwen's math.  I want to get her ahead, and she's already got a handle on the concepts in these lessons, so we do three in a row before we quit.  The little kids interrupt us a few times, but mostly play together upstairs, and Wyatt reads a book in the play room.

I make lunch and have Wyatt do an extra computer math lesson while I put Georgie down for a nap.  In the afternoon I work with him on adjectives and verbs, and we start writing his story for the week.  Then he practices his Spanish lessons for co-op before we quit for the day.

Wednesday

It's a rough morning, and we get a late start.  An hour before lunch I get Wyatt started on a math lesson, and Gwen started on writing practice.  We're going to focus on science and history lessons today, so I read a chapter of our Astronomy textbook to all the kids as we eat lunch.  We're learning about Venus, and they are fascinated.  After I get Georgie down, we do our Bible lesson and read a little bit of a book about Lottie Moon, since we are studying China in our history/geography curriculum right now.

We don't have time for anything more since I have to leave around 4:00 to take Wyatt to his soccer practice.  But after dinner, Derek and I pack up pajama-clad kids in the car and take them as far from civilization as we can so we can stargaze.  We see a few planets and identify several constellations.  We give the kids cookies on the way home, and they ask to go stargazing again soon.

Thursday

We have errands to run this morning, so I have the kids take some of their work on the go.  Gwen does math practice in the car and works on handwriting (this is probably tricky to accomplish while we are driving, now that I'm thinking about it).  Wyatt does some cursive practice, and reads his current chapter book, a kids' version of Swiss Family Robinson.  When we get home, I feed everyone lunch and Wyatt does a computer math lesson while I get the littlest ones down for a nap.  We are all wiped out, so I help Wyatt finish his story before co-op tomorrow, and we call it a day.

Friday

Co-op this morning!  We run around like crazy people trying to get out the door, but we manage to get there in a reasonable amount of time.  We are all scattered on co-op mornings.  The kids go into their classes and learn some subjects together with other homeschoolers their age.  Gwen and Clyde hear a history lesson, do a science experiment, and do literature (which involves picture books and possibly a craft).  Clarice and Georgie are in the "preschool" class, so it's mostly playing, snacking, and crafts.  Wyatt has a spanish lesson, science experiments, and writing (which I help to teach).

I always have good intentions of doing some extra "fun stuff" when we get home from co-op - like music or art practice.  But honestly, we usually come home and just crash.

Weekend

Typically we do nothing on weekends, but this particular weekend we squeezed in a field trip to a "Living History Days" event after Wyatt's soccer game!  The kids got to see how people lived and worked in colonial times, which is very appropriate since that's what we're studying in our co-op history this year.



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And that's it guys!  A typical week in our homeschool.  Here is a breakdown of what we accomplished.

Wyatt (3rd Grade):

6 math lessons
2 reading lessons
3 days of writing work
2 days of cursive practice
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of free reading time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op

Gwen (1st Grade):

4 math lessons, and 1 day of practice pages
1 reading lesson (which is fine, because that's all I planned for the week since she is ahead of schedule)
1 spelling lesson (only one is planned per week)
2 days of writing work
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of free book and play time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op

Clyde (Kindergarten): 

Kindergarten workbook pages
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of play time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op


Clarice and Georgie (4 and almost-2 years old):

Lots of playing and books
Joining in on field trips, Bible lessons, etc.

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Looking at the breakdown, I am pretty happy with the amount of work we accomplished in one week, even though a couple of the days felt like light days.  It just goes to show how things tend to even out over time.  

I will say that after typing this out here, I'm reminded that I need to spend a little more time with Clyde doing more one-on-one lessons.  He is mostly getting workbooks and the whole-family lessons right now, since I'm still trying to figure out what kind of work he is ready for and how to work it into my daily schedule.  So maybe I'll make that a goal for the next couple weeks.

It honestly feels a little vulnerable for me to share this with all of you.  I know some people will look at this sample week and think we are totally slacking, while other moms might look at it and focus in on the things that make them feel like they are slacking in their homeschool.  

But keep in mind that this is just one week of our homeschool.  This is how things are working for us right now.  Like every homeschool mom, I am always adjusting our methods and figuring out our schedule a little better with each passing month and year.  As I said, things tend to even out over time.  By the end of the school year, I'll look back and be amazed at how much we learned and how much my kids grew in their skills and knowledge  - and if you are a homeschool mom, I'm sure you will be able to say the same when May arrives!  

How is the school year going for all of you?

Sometimes I Just Feel Chatty



Well, I guess this is the week for chatty posts.  I might be losing steam on my Write 31 Days project, but I'm more inclined to think this has just been a busy week and I'm feeling more like chatting on here than anything else.  Here are a few things that have been going on with me.

I've been running all over creation this week, because for the first time in my life, I am volunteering politically(!).  I have mentioned before about how I wash laundry for a nearby pregnancy resource center, and I was excited to be involved in that way.  The pro-life cause has been close to my heart for as long as I can remember (I have a post coming up about that), and I'm always looking for ways to help wherever I can.

Well, I also happen to live in a state where abortion is legal until birth, and this just horrifies me.  So when I heard there was an effort afoot to stop late-term abortion in my state, I was on board.  I signed up as a volunteer petition circulator, and I've been running all over the place trying to meet up with people in my circles and gather signatures to get a measure on our 2020 ballot!  I'm also gathering up my courage to try petitioning in front of the library, but for now I'm just trying to get everyone that I personally know who is interested in signing it.  This is historically a hard state in which to pass pro-life legislation, but I'm hopeful we can at least get this on the ballot and let the people decide.  But anyway, that has been taking up alot of my time this week.

We've also been running to catch up on schoolwork, between Columbus Day on Monday and different petition meetings (though I'm totally going to take the opportunity for a little civics discussion with my kids while we are getting signatures).  Aside from a tricky week though, this fall has been going pretty well as far as school goes.  We are getting way more accomplished per week than we did last year!  I am hoping to get around to either sharing out curriculum or a typical homeschool day-in-the-life next week, so stay tuned.

Hunting season is upon us, so Derek is going to be in and out during the day for a couple weeks here. I am taking the opportunity this weekend to see some friends I don't usually get to see, so the kids and I are going to visit one of my dearest friends from childhood!  You might remember me writing about visiting their ranch before.  It's really neat for the kids to see what kind of work a real ranch entails, and learn more about where food really comes from...and then it's lovely for me to catch up with my dear friends!  I am so blessed that so many of my childhood friendships have lasted, and these ladies are such a gift to me.

Also, on my personal Instagram (that I'm totally open to anyone who is reading this following, so if you want to follow me there, don't be shy) I did a little chatty video/story about how I'm trying to make a better effort at writing down memories of my kids.  Maybe I'll turn this into a longer post next week as well, but if you watched that story, this is the memory-keeper I mentioned.  I think it's going to work pretty well if I can just manage to be consistent with it.

I guess that's it guys!  The kids are watching a Christmas movie that we rented from the library (we are starting early this year), and I'm off to make some fudge to hopefully bring with me on our visit to my friends' ranch tomorrow (I'll probably use this recipe, minus the food coloring - its so easy!).

Also, the sweater you can see the corner of in the picture at the top of this post is from Walmart.  PSA, because they have some great sweaters this year!  Also, this is my nail polish, and it's a really pretty shade for fall.

How has your week been, Friend?


On Knowing My Ancestors' Names | Short Thoughts #2



I heard a speaker a few months back who pointed out that by the fourth generation, your descendants probably won't know your name.

That thought immediately pierced my heart.  "No," I thought, "surely not," and I scrambled to extract my great-great-grandparents names from my brain.

I came up with nothing.


It made me really sad to think that their names could be so easily lost, not to mention their stories.

Another Reason I Blog

I like to think that this blog will help my grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and beyond, to know me some day. So maybe I won’t be just a name, but if they want to, they could dig a little and know what my life was like, what I thought when I held my children for the first time, what aspects of my personality might have passed on to them.

I wonder those things about my ancestors. I wonder what it was like to live at the dawn of the last century, what struggles they faced, how they handled things. I wonder if any of them ever kept a diary, and if so, what ever happened to it? Surely I’m not the first in my family with this drive to document personal stories.

(Me, and the first generation after me, on a hike this week!  Isn't the slight golden tint to the leaves gorgeous?  I like to think a love for the mountains is passed down from generation to generation.)

Anyway, with all this running through my brain the last couple months, I’ve been gathering names from my grandparents, writing down details that they remember, trying to preserve these memories. Trying to think of different ways to do that so it would actually work, since not everyone wants to record all their innermost thoughts on a blog like I do.

A Resource I Wanted To Share

In perfect timing, this book caught my eye:

(Note: I am on the launch team for this book and got a free copy.)







I knew I had to have it.

I was able to join the launch team for the book, so I got a free copy, but I’m actually thinking of buying a few more as gifts for my parents and grandparents!

Dear Grandchild, This Is Me is a prompt book to help someone get started in recording bits of their life story. There are a ton of questions, as well as more unique pages like envelopes to tuck in letters, a map to record all the places you’ve traveled, places to write memories of historical events, etc.

The only complaint about this book that I have is that some of the “where were you when...” historical events were kind of a stretch. Is Michael Jackson’s death really noteworthy? Should we even honor a per.vert with a mention in a book like this? I think not. I might scratch out his name and write “Elvis’s death” or something instead.

Aside from that, I will mention that this book is really versatile. Several pages have “choose your own question” options, so if one prompt doesn’t apply to someone’s life and personality, a different one will. The whole idea is just to get started in recording life memories, and this book is such a great tool for that! 

I want to pass this book on to my parents and grandparents, but I also might even fill out some of the book for my own grandkids...or maybe I’ll just take some of the questions and write about them here, as is my style.

Back To My Ancestors

Back to the topic of ancestors though, now that I have a few names, I am seriously considering joining Ancestry.com to see if I can start to construct a family tree. I have a few records and names from my parents and grandparents, and I’d like to continue, for my own curiosity and for the sake of my kids. I really don’t want to be one of those people who can’t name their great-great grandparents, and I want my kids to know who they came from too.


Have you ever looked into your family tree? Can you go back four generations, or are you wracking your brain and coming up empty like I did?

Video review here, if you want a closer look at the book:


On Spying On People I Used To Know | Short Thoughts #1


I sat down this morning to write a chatty post and realized that each mini-section was ending up too long for my typical "tea on a Tuesday" type post, so I'm going to try something different this week.  I'm splitting up what could be a very long post into "short thoughts" posts.  So expect a few of these posts this week, because I've had enough on my mind lately.  Here we go.

---

Yesterday, while not feeling well because of some sort of ear infection I have brewing, I picked up my phone to zone out for a while and somehow found myself looking up people that I used to know on Facebook.  Not to friend them, just to poke around and see what became of them.

I know I am not the only one who does this, right?  But after looking up two or three people I suddenly became aware again, and asked, "Self, why are you doing this?"

I didn't really want to be friends with these girls again, so I had no intention of adding them on social media.  And it's not like they were the mean girls and I needed to prove something to myself either (well, not too much anyway - maybe a tiny bit).

I was mainly just...curious.

What a weird world that we live in, where we can remember someone from 15 years ago and immediately go spy on them on social media.  It's the kind of world that makes high school reunions obsolete, and that kind of makes me sad.

I think I would rather go 15 years without the ability to know anything about a person at all, and then run into them in the flesh at a reunion.  Catch up on their life all in one go, hear it from their own mouth, make note of the look in their eyes as they tell you what they've been up to.  Physically and emotionally see if there is any hope for a friendship left there, or if it was a good thing it faded in the first place.

And then I thought, I wonder if people that I used to know are spying on me.

That is a weird thought.

In many ways social media and blogs are a blessing - they let us keep in touch with people that we care about who may have faded away otherwise.  But they also allow us to keep people in our lives that it might be better to have fade away.

Perhaps it requires a lot of wisdom to know the difference, and to know how to handle these current times.  It's hard being the first generation to really figure out how to navigate the social media era with wisdom and grace and proper boundaries.

And as my little exhaustion-induced spying proves, I clearly have not figured it all out yet.


I guess if I have anything else to say about it, it would just be to encourage you (and myself) to evaluate whether it's worth reconnecting with the people that come to your mind - and if it is, reconnect!  Send a quick message and say hi.  Social media can be a wonderful way to naturally rekindle friendships.

And if you know that person you are curious about is not the kind of person you should reconnect with - well, try to pretend social media doesn't exist, mind your own business a bit, and let it fade.  Some people are only meant to be in your life for a season, and with social media now, sometimes we have to actively choose to keep it that way.

Have you ever spied on someone you used to know on social media?  (Come on, guys, 'fess up.  I know I'm not the only one.)

Why did you look them up?  Do you think it would be better if we didn't have that option?  


Is Summer Over Yet?



This post is a week overdue.

Last week I shot my mouth off on Instagram and assured you all that a long, chatty post would be coming in the next couple days.  And here we are, a week later, and I'm finally sitting down on my private balcony with my iced coffee to write.  And private balcony sounds all fancy-shmancy, but it's not even quiet because the kids are literally playing right below me and shouting "Mom, are you out here?".  But I'm here now, and that's what counts, right?

Summer And Me Are Not Getting Along Anymore

I feel like this promised-blog-post scenario is pretty emblematic of how the last month has been going for me.  Great intentions that don't quite come together.  I had such big plans for this summer and I don't understand why nothing is working out!

I was literally in tears the other night over this very thing.  It was a few days before the month of August, and Derek and I realized in a panic that we still had not booked our vacation that we were, in theory, leaving for in a mere three weeks.  So I spent the better part of two days researching flights/hotels/activities for multiple vacation locations.  I finally got our Florida vacation booked!  (More on that in a minute.)  

Turns out, Derek was busy during those same days ordering the mattress that we have been meaning to order for an entire year.  I knew he was doing this, and I was okay with this.  

But then fast forward to 10 o'clock at night (never my best hour of the day), when Derek reminds me that the mattress is getting delivered tomorrow. And I have not ordered a bed frame for the mattress to actually sit on, or bedding to actually cover it; and they are taking away our old bed so we will be sleeping on the floor, and I realize my bedroom will be in shambles; and I have a paid article that I now need to finish before we leave on vacation, not to mention cleaning and packing and shopping for said vacation, and we're leaving in two weeks, and oh my goodness I have wasted the entire summer and haven't done anything fun with my kids since June!

Cue the tears.

But after a good night's sleep, I remembered that I usually perform best when things get down to the wire.  I got all the shopping for bedding and vacation necessities done, and the bed is pretty much put together (except for a headboard, which will wait).  The article is mostly written now (I just have to put it together).  I'm halfway done with packing.  And I somehow managed to take my kids to the park one day, which probably qualifies as some sort of summer fun.

So it's coming together.

And all this explains why I am weirdly ready for summer to be over.  I finally understand what moms mean when they say that they miss the structure of the school year.  I need some external checks to keep myself motivated to get things done, and the routine of the school year does fill that role.  I used to enjoy the freedom of having no routine in the summer, but I'm over it now.




(Photos of my anniversary date outfit, back when I was still feeling thrilled about the summer.  Shirt and purse from Target this year, shorts from H&M, shoes from JustFab.)

Now, About Florida

Speaking of vacation, after checking to see where we could fly for the cheapest price, we finally figured out Orlando flights and hotels are ridiculously cheap in August.  

I guess hurricane season and 100% humidity scare some people off.

But after a brief discussion, we decided that we could make this trip work, so to Florida we will go!  Pray with me that no hurricanes blow into Florida this year, because we are mountain people and we are a freaked out by the idea of hurricanes with no truly high ground to retreat to.  

We are going to drive down to Miami first, and check out the Everglades and anything else cool to see down there.  (Suggestions for things we should see?)  Wyatt is particularly excited about seeing wading birds, since he doesn't get to see them in the mountains very often (at all), and I have high hopes that we'll see some unusual things that he can add to his birding list. 

(He wrote a list of all the kinds of birds that he has seen in the wild.  I didn't even ask him to, I casually made the suggestion and he practically shouted, "That's a great idea, Mom!"  I can't tell you how delighted I am by everything about this.)

After Miami, we'll head up to Orlando.  Cape Canaveral and the beach were high on our list.  I wanted to do Seaworld because I knew the kids would love seeing the marine animals.  But I do have a confession (prepare yourselves).

We almost considered skipping Disney.

I can hear the gasps reverberating throughout space.

The Whole Disney Thing 

I know alot of people are really into Disney, and it's supposed to be the most magical place on earth and all.  But I haven't been there in sixteen years, and my memories of it are a little vague and hazy.  I think I was too interested in spying out cute boys for Disney World to make much of an impression that year (that's a little embarrassing to admit, but I'm being honest here).  Nowadays, I am much more interested in the Everglades and the ocean and the Kennedy Space Center, and not so interested in standing outside in the brutal heat and rain, waiting in line for rides that are probably not as good as our local Six Flags anyway.   Not to mention paying out our noses for the privilege of standing in said lines.

But Derek said he doesn't feel like we can really go to Orlando without visiting Disney, and I couldn't really deny this for some reason.  Are you even allowed to go to Orlando without visiting Disney?  This is our main chance to take the kids to Disney World, maybe the only time we will ever be so close to going there.  And I do know the kids (the ones who are old enough to appreciate it, anyway) will be happy to go.

So we are going to plunk down the ridiculous price for six tickets and make it happen, although every second of that transaction will pain me I'm sure.

I am weirdly looking forward to the parade and fireworks though.  That stands out in my memory from the time we went there when I was eight.  

Probably because the scary Ursula in the parade pointed out me and my six-year-old sister and said we were "tender, sweet things", and I felt like she was threatening to steal our voices and turn us into those weird ocean plant-people, like in the movie.  We were both slightly flattered, slightly traumatized.

Somebody please talk Disney up to me.  Tell me the magic will completely win me over.  I will cling to your words while we are plunking down the $750+ dollars.

And Oh Yeah, School

One of the perks of homeschooling is that we are able to go on discounted trips in August when all the kids are back to the first week of school!  One of the downsides is that I'm not sure if we should immediately start back to school the week after we return from vacation.  I think I've settled on just starting in September and squeezing in extra days throughout the year so we can still finish on time.  To finish up by mid-May we would usually start in August, but I think we will need that extra week to recover from our trip and hopefully squeeze the last little bit of juice out of the summer. 

Not to mention that I also need the week to finish actually planning the school year.

If you are new to my blog, I promise I'm not usually so disorganized and crabby.  

It's just the summer, stealing my brain.



Are you ready for summer to be over yet?




Summer So Far





For me, one of the beautiful things about writing has always been the ability to capture a slice of time with my words.  It's been a while since I sat down to write a post with that intent purpose - to stop time for a minute and look at what life looks like right now.  

New Growth

I'm sitting at the library, typing, looking out the window at a pine tree that has light green summer growth at the end of each branch.  I can look and see where the branch ended mere months ago, and I can see the new growth, bright and new, stretching the branches out past what they were.  Making them new with each passing day.  In my gut I feel like this summer will be a growing one for us.  Or maybe it's just that every summer is.  

With each summer, I'm one more year a wife and mother.  With each summer my kids are stretching and growing in every way, just like that branch.  We will tick each of their grades up as the summer sails past; second to third, kindergarten to first, nothing to kindergarten.  It puts me in the frame of mind to reflect and pray, and ask the Lord who I'm helping them to become.  

Derek is home with the kids right now, working on setting up a trampoline that could be christened "Callie's bane".  I'm starting to hate that trampoline, and I'm not sure you could understand why until you've tried to set one up on mountain ground.  We've discussed the best way to go about it for way longer than is necessary, and I think it's brought out some character things in myself that I'd rather not look at most of the time.  

Maybe I needed reminding that I don't need to be in control of everything.  Things don't need to be perfect.  My suggestions don't alway need to be taken or validated.  I need to be easier-going when things end up taking longer than I like.  When I look at that trampoline now, it's a reminder of so much sin still hiding away in me.  It's a reminder that no matter how old I get, I'll still need some growing too.  But long term, I think I'll choose to look at it and let it make me grateful for Jesus dying to save me from even these stupid "little" sins that no one else sees.  

(Actually, correction, Derek also sees.  I'm also grateful for a husband who loves me and puts up with me even when I'm being a pill.)




First Week

June this year went by in a flurry.  This is the first year I put the kids in Vacation Bible School.  All of the "big four" (Wyatt, Gwen, Clyde, Clarice) went each morning, and so it was just me and Georgie for a few hours each day.  The experience took me back to the days when it was just me and Wyatt, my first baby, and it reminded me how special that time was when one child got all my attention.  It also reminded me how slow (or boring, depending on your perspective) life used to be.  I have to really think to remember what I did with myself when it was only me and my one baby.  What did I do with all that time?  Then I remember that I also worked two days a week back then, so that accounts for some of it.

The kids loved VBS and came home with a music CD that they requested every day for about a week.  But I actually didn't mind, because the music was pretty fun, even for me.  The program they went to taught them a few jazzed-up hymns, which I love so much!  We've been learning hymns all year for school, so I'm happy they got a couple more to love over the summer.  Say what you want about church music and all that, but in my book you really can't beat hymns.  Occasionally a modern Christian song has lyrics that are similar in depth and impact to hymn lyrics, but it's rare.

Second Week

The next week we had the homeschool conference, which I talked about on Instagram, and I plan to write more about it in the next few weeks.  There are such varying opinions about homeschool conferences, and I know some people who are not impressed with them, or who think they are just an elaborate attempt to sell them something.  I can understand that perspective, but I don't share it.  In my experience, any product talk is usually a very small part of the sessions, and the rest is dedicated to homeschool and parenting encouragement.  I haven't had a year yet when I didn't leave with more inspiration and ideas than when I came.  

So this year was good, and I even brought Wyatt with me one day to listen to a talk about animals of the Amazon.  I loved having my boy there with me at the conference, and it made me realize that while I'm still a little bit of a homeschool mom newbie, we are in this now.  We are doing it.  It is no longer new, my oldest will be in third grade in the fall.  This is working, and he is thriving, and even though my homeschool plans never fully pan out, we are not actually messing this up.  That's exciting to me.



Since Then

Since those first very busy weeks of summer, we have mostly been staying around the house and relaxing.  I bake muffins (and listen to Wyatt declare that I make the best muffins ever - one of my major boy mom goals wrapped up in that statement).  I clean and dust and try to keep some order to things.  I snuggle Georgie before laying her down for a nap each afternoon.  

The kids play outside and make homemade bird feeders.  They rocket down the driveway on their bikes while I remind them to wear their helmets if they are going to do that.  They scheme about how to climb our most climb-able tree, and I have to nix using a rope in the attempt.  They come up with elaborate games with their stuffed animals, and I hear some of my words coming from the mouths of Komodo Dragon and Goose, for better or worse.  I've read ten books this month, which might be a record for me.    

On the weekends we go on hikes, or plan movie nights with the kids, or (most recently) do sparklers in the driveway. We've had some rough days, when I thought the lack of structure was going to drive us all crazy and I raise my voice (code for yell) and instantly regret it.  But mostly it's been everything I want from summer.  It has been calm, and restful, and beautiful.  Summer is a season of growing and changing and stretching in the quiet, and I'm hoping for the rest of the season I can open my eyes, pay attention, and really watch it happen.



How is your summer going so far, friends?

Dear Big Toe | Little Letters


Dear Big Toe On My Left Foot,
What happened to you?  You look terrible.  I can't figure out what is going on.  One minute you're fine, the next minute you are tingly and twice your normal size, and the situation has quickly morphed into ugly black and blue bruises.   Did I do something wrong?  Did I hurt you in some way?  Whatever I did, I'm sorry.

Dear Picture Of The Big Toe On My Left Foot, 
You do not do the injury (is that what it is?) justice.

Dear Weather, 
You are really throwing me for a loop, you know that?  Please just let me know if I need to return the kiddie pool you prompted me to buy last week.

Dear Bath And Body Works Sale,
You got me.  Again.  And now I'm left asking myself, is it truly a need to have hands that smell like "Beach Cabana" in the summer?

Just kidding, I'm still saying yes.

Dear Hannah B.,
Please send Luke P. home already, before we all regret it.

Dear Fellow Bachelorette Watchers,
If she sent him home this week, don't spoil it for me!  I haven't watched Monday's episode yet.

Dear Children Of Mine,
I hope you always know how delighted I am to be your mother.  It's like a never-ending treasure hunt. Sometime I look at you and I'm just amazed by how individual you all are - fun quirks to your personalities, new interests you are developing, hidden talents I get to glimpse.  If I had to dream up my own set of five unique children to be mine, I know for a fact I couldn't have dreamt up better than you.



Dear Homeschool Conference, 
Well, you've gone and pilfered my money again this year.  I took account of the damage to my bank account when I got home, and it wasn't pretty.  It was still worth it though.  You did give me a ton of biblical resources for discipling my kiddos, including books to satisfy my rather voracious reader.  I got to pretend to be a student again and take a ridiculous amount of notes, which makes my little nerdy heart happy.  And you encouraged me by reminding me of all I can gain through this effort to homeschool my children.  That's pretty priceless.  So I forgive you for tempting me with a bunch of books I didn't know we needed.

(Wyatt, with me when we visited you, Homeschool Conference.)

Dear Harvey,
Please stop shedding now.  I just am not sure how much longer I can take the constant vacuuming and picking tufts of hair off the side of the couches.  But I still love you.

Dear State Parks,
I always thought you smacked a bit of desperation.  Like you were shouting at potential tourists "Look!  Come here!  We have state parks!"  National Parks are one thing, but really, state parks?  Now we are just trying too hard.  I'm writing today to say that I was wrong.  There is a reason for your existence after all.  We've visited a few of you now, and I must admit, you are really pretty.




Dear "How Not To Die Alone" Book,
I had some issues with you.  Language!  Language!  Do I need to pull out the soap?  BUT, you did provide me with a great little Ella Fitzgerald playlist, so I guess I don't not like you.

Dear Grammar Nerds,
Yes, that was a double negative.

Dear Library,
If you were to compile a list of the top fine-payers, would I make the list?  Just wondering.  Also, is it normal to be willing to accrue the fine if it gives me a couple extra days to finish the book?  How many of your average patrons know that if you forget to return a book for 20 days, you will get charged a $40 dollar replacement fee, but that the fee will magically just disappear if you do happen to return the book?  I think this knowledge proves that I must be an avid library supporter.  Also, my husband always gets a break on paying the fees if I send him in there to sort it out.  I, on the other hand, never get a break.  I know he's more charming than me, generally speaking, but you do see the five little duckling-children trailing behind me, right?  Future taxpayers that will help fund your library, and I birthed them.  Just saying.

Dear Blog Readers Who Are Reading This Right Now,
How's June treating you so far?

Dear Blog Buddies,
Feel free to write a "Little Letters" post if you are so inclined!  And thanks to Brittney, Michelle, Rachel, Heather, and Bekah for joining me over the last month! Your posts made my day(s)!  Good old-school blogging solidarity there. ;-)








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