Friday, September 23, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook, 9/23/2011

FOR TODAY, September 23, 2011
Outside my window..
. it is gray and dreary, but it is FALL!!! The trees are starting to show hints of color, almost like red and yellow halos. The temperature is falling, and it is a pleasure to have the windows WIDE open!

I am thinking... about the last 22 years of marriage Pete and I have shared. We've really experienced the entire spectrum of the vows we pledged to one another. Better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, and health. It's all been there. Some of the "worse's" have been REALLY worse, but it's all part of God's plan for us to face it together. I really do not believe we would have survived without our shared faith. Feelings just aren't enough to get you through the rough patches.

I am thankful... for the wonderful friends who are more than willing to offer our children a safe and loving place to "visit" while Pete and I celebrate our anniversary tonight alone. It really is the best anniversary present we have ever been given!

From the learning rooms... we had yet another "bug" lesson last night, as our reading nook was invaded by a praying mantis! I tell you, between the spiders and the mantids, we've gone buggy! Jamie has become obsessed with learning all she can about insects and creepy crawly critters, and the rest of us ... well, we're following unwillingly at times! As far as school goes, the older two are starting to "get" reading more and more by the day. Danica is now reading '-at' words and is just thrilled to no end to be able to READ one of her little Sonlight beginning readers! Sometimes it feels like we aren't getting anywhere with their focused studies, but then something will "click" with one of them and all the light bulbs seem to come on at once with all three! Weird how that works.

In the kitchen... I am going to be doing something new for our anniversary this year--I'm making dinner at home! Pete and I would love to go out to a fancy restaurant, but finances just aren't where they need to be. We'll eat at home and then go out to a movie afterward. That way we can enjoy the foods we love--stuffed mushrooms, tomato-mozzarella salad, chili-lime salmon, and roasted balsamic asparagus--and still be able to do something together that we don't normally do!

I am wearing... jean shorts and a white tee, but that will all change pretty soon. The temperature seems to be dropping with every passing hour! It is supposed to be in the 50's tonight; we're going to be COLD on that motorcycle!!!

I am creating... a beautiful setting for our dinner tonight. Even the girls are commenting on how pretty it is in the dining room! LOVE that.

I am going... to make one last run to the grocery store before taking the girls to our friends' house for their sleepover. Funny how they're as excited about staying with their buddies as we are about having a "date night"!

I am reading... a couple of e-books that I got for my Nook last week: 100 Days to Christmas 2011 and True Christian Motherhood. One organizational, the other challenging and encouraging!

I am hoping... for a safe and enjoyable weekend. Pete and I don't get many opportunities to go for motorcycle rides together, so we are both really looking forward to the ride we have planned for Saturday.

I am looking forward to... hmm, I think I just answered that! LOL I'm also looking forward to surprising my hubby with a wonderful anniversary celebration. We don't do this every year; most times we will just go out to eat. This year, though, we have a lot to celebrate--two of our children are married and our own union is healed to the point that we are both willing and able to look back and see how God can really use our experiences to help others. That in itself is a huge blessing of healing for us. If we don't allow God to use it for His purpose, what we have been through was nothing more than a horrible experience. I fully believe it's got to be worth so much more than that!

I am hearing... the girls giggling as they try to narrow down what all they're going to bring with them for the night! Easier said than done ...

Around the house... are little hints of the season. I started pulling out my Fall decorations and placing them here and there. I love this season, and the colors we have in the house just go SO well with Fall decor!

I am pondering... what all needs to be put on the to-do list for the next several weeks. Whew!

One of my favorite things... FALL!!! Can you tell? :)

A few plans for the rest of the week: Um ... I got a seriously late start on my Daybook this time around, so considering that it's Friday already, my plans include dinner and a movie with my hubby tonight, then a motorcycle ride tomorrow!

Here is picture for thought I am sharing... the dining room table is already prepared for our anniversary dinner tonight! All it lacks is food and US! :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I don't have time for this!

A confession--I am a Facebook addict. It started with Facebook being an easy way to stay in touch with people we don't see every day. I'm not a texter. I also do not do phone calls well. I make, on average, ten phone calls a week--one of those being a LONG phone call to my mom. I might call Pete every now and then if I need to know when he's coming home or if he can run to the store on his way home. Thing is, I still like to know how people are doing. Facebook provides a decent format for me to do just that. I love seeing pictures of people's everyday lives; I love sharing in the little details of life, hearing little funnies, etc.

It is out of control. Seriously.

Well, this morning, upon logging on to Facebook, I found their "new and improved" format, and I have to say, it gave me a headache. I hate it. I get very easily distracted by "streaming" anything. So ... good opportunity to break that habit, right? YUP!!

I really do not have time for Facebook in my life, when it call comes down to the nitty-gritty details. I just have too much going on. And it's only going to get WORSE. It is almost the end of September, and ahead of us BEFORE Christmas, we have two three-week-long trips to Germany to send Pete on, a weeklong trip down to Florida for Thanksgiving, and a five-day visit from Pete's mom that we just found out about last night! Um ... can you say BUSY???? Nevermind there is also an anniversary in TWO DAYS, but also the last kid-birthday of the year and two MAJOR holidays to plan for. Oh, and school. And homeschool meetings, field trips, Bible classes, and now my newest venture--college classes.

Where does Facebook fit into this mess? It doesn't. There just isn't any room. Something's gotta give, and this headache/head-scratcher social media thing is it. I'll catch up at night with what everybody's doing. I have too much living to do!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What IS this room, anyway?

When we moved into this house almost two years ago, there was one room that we weren't really sure what to do with. It was very obvious that this room wasn't well-planned. The awful wood paneling was dark and dingy; there was a horrid forest-green coat of glossy paint on the trim (including an almost randomly-placed chair rail that made NO sense), and the bottom third of the paneling had been painted WHITE! Look at how awful this was ...

Yes, as a matter of fact, that *is* an avocado-green laminate countertop you see on that shelf. Pretty awful. It was very dark, cold, and cave-like in there. I knew I couldn't live with this nightmare long, so I set about getting ideas for what I could do for a short-term fix. It took FIVE layers of paint--two of primer, three coats of yellow--to cover that paneling. And when I removed the painter's tape from the wall after painting the trim, the tape took some of the paint with it. Lovely. But you know what? Even though it's not perfect, it is MUCH better. I couldn't see this room as anything other than a dining room, thanks to the fireplace in there causing an odd traffic pattern. After the paint, it became our dining room.

 Not too bad, but after almost a year, it felt ... not right. Not close enough to the kitchen, and we still didn't enjoy using it all that much. So ... it became the schoolroom! I kind of liked having this bright, cheerful space for the girls to do their schoolwork in.

HOWEVER ... time and daily life dictated that this space needed to be something else. The schoolroom becomes cluttered very easily, and it just wasn't working out. We would get sick of seeing the school-clutter, and it wasn't pleasant having the back door right smack in the middle of where we were all trying to work. The dog going in and out, the cats wanting in and out, KASEY wanting in and out ... we just needed a better plan. So even with the sore and weak shoulder, I acted on my "wild hair" and switched things up AGAIN. I'm thinking this just might stick! The schoolroom is now in the bonus room, and Pete's workspace remains untouched (he was worried about that!). It actually works out fairly well to have all of the work-stuff in one room. I'll get pictures of that when it is closer to finished. But my "yay" moment was getting that odd back room turned into a little reading nook! LOVE this. Love, love, LOVE!

This is now a very cheery, HAPPY place to curl up with a book and just RELAX. There is no screen anywhere in this room. The outlets aren't even three-pronged, so we can't even hook up a laptop to charge! Archaic, I know ... but there really is something completely wonderful about a room where no technology invades. Well, unless you count my Nook e-reader? I cannot WAIT to get the fireplace and chimney repaired so I can curl up in here under the afghan my grandmother crocheted and just enjoy a crackling fire while I read and sip a cup of tea. It has long been a dream of mine to have a reading room that I can escape to when I can't manage to find quiet. I really need to get something on the walls, but right now I just don't know WHAT!? It'll get there. At the moment I'm enjoying it far too much to focus too much on blank walls!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Let the holiday planning BEGIN!

I have to admit, I am a Christmas addict. It is really a sickness. Thanksgiving can't get here fast enough for me every year--not just because it is a wonderful time of family togetherness and reflection on our blessings, but it also marks the 'official' countdown to Christmas! I have always watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with wide-eyed anticipation of the end ... Santa's sleigh riding in signaling the beginning of the festivities. I love *almost* everything about Christmas (I'm not real keen on the commercialism of the whole thing--it cheapens it--but for the most part I just ignore it and focus on the good stuff), and while I don't really look forward to the craziness, there's another little bit of excitement found in the organization and planning that adds to the joyful anticipation. In the past I have used Organized Home's Holiday Grand Plan (and the organizer printable pages) to get my holiday merrymaking in order, but I'm always up for a new organizational tool, especially when it's a Christmassy one!

THIS year, I bought the 100 Days to Christmas E-Book for my Nook (also available in Kindle and PDF formats) and I'm LOVING the daily reflection and slow-but-steady planning. Do you realize we have only 97 days till Christmas today? Guess what? I'm NOT stressed about it! Why? 'Cause I've got my PLAN on this year! Do you? NO? Well, by all means, go get yourself an e-book and get to it!
Are you more of a blog-follower? Well, they have that too.

So far, since last Friday (day 100 for those of you who are still not with the program! LOL), we have made planners, gathered calendars and started making wishlists for our family. Today is all about budget planning. Eww, I know ... but as with all plans, if you don't have one, you'll blow it!

Personally, frugality is something I quite enjoy. I've tried to instill in my children a love for things that are made with love instead of just purchased to placate. Hmm ... that sounds bad. I'm all for wishlists and telling the department-store Santa what's at the top of a child's list, but trying to fit everything on those lists under our tree was a rather financially-painful endeavor (and didn't do them any GOOD) when we had just two children. NOW we have seven--plus those two children-by-marriage, and hopefully we'll start being blessed with grandchildren soon, so ....... budget planning is a major necessity. Buying anything for seven children can get VERY expensive.

My own saving grace is clearance sales! LOVE those holiday clearance sales! In fact, I don't think I've paid full price for holiday wrapping paper in ... ten years, maybe? I've also not paid full price for stocking stuffers. My strategy is to have some money set aside for *after* Christmas to stock up on little items that go on clearance to put away for the following year! I've already got quite a stash in the gift closet, but I really do need to get in there and figure out what all I've bought!

This Christmas is going to include a couple of budget-busters, but every few years, that isn't a big deal, really. We don't make a habit of it. Morgan is *really* hoping for an American Girl doll, and Jamie has been BEGGING for her own Game Boy DSI since Morgan got hers for her birthday. We don't usually mind too much spending a little more when we know they are more responsible with their belongings. We do, however, need to figure out how much we plan on spending (and NOT spending) on the rest of the family. Time for a hubby-conference! I do know that Pete and I have pretty much decided that our older children will be getting "couple" gifts instead of individual ones. Since all four of them will be home (okay, not THEIR home, but ours) for this Christmas, we'll probably do stockings for everybody this year too. Not exactly expensive, but with 11 of us, it could be! I think we need to do some tree ornaments in the adult kids' stockings so when they start having their own trees, they will have some special ornaments to put ON them!

Oooooooh, my holiday juices are flowing!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hello FALL!!!!!!

I know, we still have a week before it's "officially" Autumn (I'm all too familiar with the official arrival of Fall; it was the reason my wedding colors included teal and not aquamarine. Don't groan too loudly--it was 1989!), but considering how hot and steamy the weather has been in the last two months, we are REALLY ready for this. Fall came loudly to North Alabama last night with a strong but short-lived thunderstorm ahead of a rather powerful (yay!!!) cold front. When we got home from Bible study last night, the temperature inside the house was 82. When we woke up this morning, it was 70, and half of the windows were still closed to keep the rain out!!!

We have had a very dry summer. Not as dry as Texas, but still dry enough that the trees started to show signs of stress a few weeks ago. In fact, our catalpa tree out front has lost about half of its leaves already, and several of the trees in the back are almost completely yellow (and dried out). Today, though, with the gray and dreary cloud cover, the still-damp ground, and the brisk breeze, it looks like FALL!!!!

The view down the street. Just past our nextdoor neighbor's house is a hay field that was cut and baled this week!

In the backyard ...

Ooooooh, check out what ELSE I came across this morning!!!! I am actually a day ahead of the game, so I am seriously going to "play" this year!

I have some seriously intense crafting (sewing, actually) projects to get started on for Christmas but first I have to get my housecleaning finished so we can be ready for our End-of-Summer BBQ after church this Sunday! I'll be blogging about my sewing project, I have already had a couple of people on Facebook ask about it, I'll just have to be careful so the recipients don't sneak a peek! 

Today is a wonderful day to look ahead to all that the next couple of months brings, so I decided to sip my coffee from my CHRISTMAS mug this morning! Yes, I know, it's early. WAY early. I just wanna, ok??? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Color-coded children!

I'm asked all the time how I keep my sanity with five little ones at home, how I keep things organized, etc., because all of the STUFF that these little people require certainly must warrant some sort of system, right?


I have become one of "those" mothers. I color-code my children. For us it works out really well that each of the girls has a DIFFERENT favorite color (YAY!) and that those colors pretty much are available in anything we need. We have color-coded beach towels (yes, seriously), color-coded shoe bins, color-coded school supplies, and color-coded earrings. We tried winter coats, but those get handed down and it really doesn't work to be "off" a color!

Color-coding has solved a lot of challenges for us--especially when it comes to school supplies. I always know at a glance who hasn't put away something. Is it purple? JAMIE!!!! Come get your folder!!!!! We don't even need to put names on their supplies--they all know whose color is whose! The biggest challenge, oddly enough, has been drinking cups. Having all one color is rather dangerous with five girls who are incredibly THIRSTY all the time. "Who drank my juice!!!????" "HEY!!!! I just poured that lemonade! That's MY cup!"

Enter the color-coded cups.
 Pink for Morgan, purple for Jamie, blue for Danica, green (the color of TURTLES!!!!) for Shelby, and orange for Kasey!

We use the smaller cups for juice in the morning, the bigger cups for lemonade, water, and to take with us in the van. By the way, the lidded cups were from Ross for $2.99 a piece!!!! LOVE Ross!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Labor Day field trip!

Try as I might, in fourteen years of homeschooling I have not been able to get a "head start" on our school year. We have never ONCE managed to start before Labor Day, no matter how well-planned I was. Something has always come up to derail our plans. This year was no different. We actually started school on the 1st of August ... and then the septic tank backed up, I had a shoulder "glitch", a wedding, a pretty seriously ill oldest daughter ... well OKAY then. I can take a hint. I guess it's not so bad to plan for a summer vacation--I certainly hope to be doing a lot of garden-harvesting and canning next summer anyway, so why not just run with it!?

You're probably going to find this little detail ridiculously silly and petty, but my biggest beef with beginning the week of Labor Day is that "lost" school day on Monday when we always spend the day with Pete since he's off from work. I detest having four-day weeks. It looks funny on my calendar, and totally messes up my even by-fives plan. Dumb, I know. I'm a little OCD that way. So this year I **FINALLY** got my head screwed on straight and fixed that problem. How? FIELD TRIP!!!! The girls love it! Field trip with Daddy, counted as a school day, and Mom can be completely okay with checking that little block on the attendance chart!

So where'd we go? Not far, actually! The US Space & Rocket Center here in Huntsville was having its last day with "Sue the T-Rex", so we decided to brave the torrential rain that Tropical Storm Lee was dumping all over the Southeast and go see the dinosaur display! It has been a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG time since our family visited the Space & Rocket Center. In fact, last time we were there, we only had two children! We did find out that an obscure little momento we received as a "thank you for your service" back in 1993 is a real, actual, valid lifetime membership card (!!!!!) so we will be able to make many, many trips to see the displays and enjoy the wealth of information and history available to us right here in town! This trip was just a whetting of our appetites! Um ... and a literal "wetting", as  you can well see. We got DRENCHED!
Once inside, though, we very quickly found the dino-display! I have been to the Natural History Museum in the Smithsonian ages and ages ago (I think the dinosaurs might have been a relatively NEW display, it was that long ago! LOL), but I don't remember seeing any full skeletons. Certainly not a tyrannosaurus! For our Jurassic Park-fan family, this was just TOO COOL!!!! Somehow I envisioned T-Rex being a little bigger, but it was still pretty impressive to stand next to a complete skeleton!
 Kasey was absolutely fascinated with that big lizard!!!!
 The full skeleton was too far away to touch, but they did have a skull casting that the girls could touch, along with a couple of teeth. I do NOT think I would like to have been this close to one if she had skin on.
 Digging for fossils!
 Space Cadets! I think the girls are really going to enjoy going back and having many, many opportunities to explore all that there is to be learned about space exploration. You know what's a bit sad to me? The era of shuttle launches and children wanting to grow up to be astronauts has ended--at least a large part of it. It's actually history now. Wow.
 One of the hands-on "training" areas, where the children can climb up a "Mars cliff".
 What do you MEAN I'm five pounds too light to do this? Well that just stinks!!!
 Morgan made it 3/4 of the way up to the top and then it just got to be a little too scary for her!

Aside from the 30-minute-long 3D movie that ended up being nothing more than evolutionist propaganda, the we all had a really good time. However, since we are studying ancient history this year (including dinosaurs!), we will have plenty to talk about as we dive headlong into our studies. This was a fun way to re-start our school year! I think we'll make a tradition out of it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Just the passing of another season ...

As I type this, I have three little people around me begging to dig out the winter clothing box, because they're cold. I received a teeny, sarcastic little reprimand from my physical therapist yesterday for being inappropriately dressed for the weather--I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, which I guess is just all wrong?! People are funny about the changing of seasons, especially when the season is changing from a sweltering summer to the cool days and nights of fall. True, the temperatures dropped quite literally 40 degrees in a matter of four days, and some of us are in a wee bit of climate shock, but we'll get used to it in a few days. Isn't that the way it always is with the changing of seasons?

This month brings a lot of changes for our family--but we're no strangers to change! In a few weeks' time BOTH of our adult children will have finally moved on to begin their lives with their new spouses. Jon and Meagan are working on getting their residence established up at Fort Campbell, while Kelsey will finally be able to move down to Pensacola with Derrick as he begins another (longer, this time) Army school. This means we will no longer have either of our oldest two children "available" to us anymore. Having all of our children present for a worship service in the same building is now going to be a once-a-year (at most) occurrence, and we will only be sitting around the same dinner table "regularly" at holidays.

I'm not sad. A little melancholy, because I'd sort of hoped that our children would settle close to "home" so we could enjoy their company, but I'm not sad. This is exactly what is supposed to happen. They grow up, marry, and move on to begin their own lives! Soon, Lord willing, we'll have announcements of grandchildren on the way as another generation begins. It's a bit shocking to consider what is ahead in the next couple of years, but it is really no different than any other season of life. The sudden changes do bring stun us a little, but as with the change of the summer to fall, it's something we'll get used to.

We always do.
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