Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

During this most wonderful time of the year, our family reflects on 2010 by wishing you a very Merry...

C -- Children: Benjamin is now seven years old, and Hannah is five and a half. They are the lights of our lives, and we enjoy life with them so much. Benjamin loves anything that involves a ball (he’s quite the left-handed athlete!), especially when Dad is playing with him, and Hannah still loves her dance class so much. They both also go to gymnastics every week, which is a great outlet for their enormous amounts of energy!


H -- Homeschool: We love our homeschooling life and enjoy the flexibility that it affords us. We started our year in mid-summer so that we could take more breaks throughout the school year, and that has worked out well. Benjamin is in second grade this year, and Hannah’s school work includes some kindergarten work and some first grade work. I am so blessed to be able to spend my days teaching them (I’m learning quite a lot myself!). I could not be happier.

R -- Rangers: We took a family vacation to Arlington in May and were able to take in a couple of Texas Rangers baseball games. We had a blast while we were there and included a tour of the new Cowboy Stadium—quite a sight! We enjoyed cheering the Rangers on throughout the season—all the way to the World Series!!!

I -- Insanity: Just kidding! That was Mark’s choice of words for “I”! We love our life in Perryton and continue to be blest by serving the FUMC here. We do try hard to not live an insanely busy life, but like everyone else, we do have our moments of craziness!

S -- Sadness: Though we have had a very blessed year, it was touched with sadness when Mark’s dad passed away in March. After a long battle with PSP (progressive supranuclear palsy), it was a bittersweet time to release Ken to heaven. We rejoice in his healed body, but we still miss his presence here with us.

T -- Tenth Anniversary: Mark and I celebrated our tenth anniversary with a trip to New York City. We took in almost all of the touristy attractions and really loved our time there. For me, the best part was seeing “Mary Poppins” on Broadway (LOVED IT!!!); the worst part was Mark suggesting we try out the NYC subway during rush hour!

M -- Mark: Mark is enjoying his ministry here in Perryton as he is in the midst of his twentieth year as a pastor. When he’s not playing with the kids or hanging out with me, Mark continues to enjoy golf as his hobby and best source of therapy.

A -- And, last but not least (this is really testing my acrostic skills!!):

S -- Stay-At-Home Mom (SAHM): I have friends who struggle with staying at home, but I absolutely love it! Homeschooling the kids, running our home, and having time to lead Bible studies and be involved at church are just a few of the perks I enjoy in this role. God has blessed me with a small circle of moms here in Perryton who also fulfill the SAHM role, and we enjoy getting together regularly and encouraging each other in our roles as wives, mom, and homeschool moms.

We know this Christmas finds you all in various seasons of life. Wherever you are, we pray God’s peace, comfort and joy for you and your family as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pumpkin Roll Disaster

Last week, Mark and I hosted a luncheon for our church staff and their spouses.  Last year I cooked the entire meal, but this year, Mark suggested we have the meal catered.  I said that was great, but that I wanted to do the desserts--I felt like I needed to contribute somehow!

I decided to do pumpkin rolls for our dessert.  For the record, I have made pumpkin rolls before--successfully--so it's not like I was going out on a limb trying something new.  But for whatever reason (I did use a different recipe this time, so I don't know if that is to blame or what), this is what the rolls turned out to look like:



No amount of powdered sugar sprinkled on top was going to fix those cracks!  Needless to say, I was rather stressed.  This was the only contribution I was making to the meal, and it was now a disaster!!  The thought of ditching THREE pumpkin rolls to make another dessert was just too wasteful.  At the advice of my clear-thinking husband, I stopped pacing the kitchen, covered them with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator until I could decide what I was going to do.

What do you do when you have a disaster in the kitchen???  Call Mom, of course!!  So I did and told her what had happened.  She suggested I make a trifle out of the enormously cracked pumpkin rolls.  What a great idea!  So I made a double batch of the filling recipe, toasted some chopped pecans, and created this:


If you are like me and think the cream cheese filling is the best part anyway, this trifle was heaven on earth--a little bit of pumpkin roll and a BUNCH of cream cheese filling!!!

Diaster averted!  Yeah, Mom!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Cooking and Spending

After an early morning trip to the grocery store, this is what the top of my kitchen cabinet looks like:

That's quite a pile of ingredients, isn't it?  I guess it's obvious where I'll be spending much of my time over the next few days!

In addition to making two batches of candy and three pumpkin rolls for the church staff luncheon we are hosting tomorrow, there's ingredients in that pile to make Christmas jelly and pretzel candy that will be gifts to the kids' Sunday school teachers, as well as all the good stuff that I needed to make my most favorite hot chocolate recipe!  There is also the makings for meals that I'll be delivering to two different families over the next couple of days--one family that just had a new baby and one that will be having their new baby next week.

A friend remarked to me today how one's grocery bill can go sky high during the holidays.  Honestly, though, ours hasn't really been affected.  Why?  Because of what I wrote about in this post: using coupons, combining them with sales, and stockpiling.  Since I am in the habit of doing these things, I already had the meat and vegetables on hand to prepare the meals for the two families I referred to (plus my own family; if I'm cooking for someone else, I double it to feed my family so that I can save time and effort!); and the dessert is being made from ingredients that were all on sale this week at the store.  So I bought a few more ingredients to add a fruit salad to the menu, and it was done.  That, plus everything else I needed to feed my family for the next week and a half, and I was well under my budget.  I even had enough left over to stockpile some other items that were at rock-bottom prices this week.

If you aren't in the habit of couponing or shopping sales and stockpiling, maybe that can be something you consider as a New Year's resolution.  The New Year is just around the corner, you know?!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Where to Start

There have been so many things floating around in my head over the past couple of months, yet none of them have ended up here!!  My sweet friend often refers to herself as a frustrated perfectionist--you know, a person that thinks if it can't be done perfectly, don't even start.  I suffer from this syndrome from time to time.  It especially seems to affect me in blogging.  I think if I can't write a beautifully fluent, inspiring post, then I'm not going to write at all.

I need to get over that, don't I?  I've come to terms in many areas of my life with the fact that I can never do "it" (whatever "it" is at the time) perfectly.  So I just do the best I can and move on.  I've gotten pretty good at it most of the time.  This needs to carry over into my blogging!!!

So, know that I'm working towards that end and plan to get on here soon to post...something. 

I just have to decide which of the many things that are floating through my head to start with!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful Things

In no particular, a few things for which I give thanks:

  1. Clean closets, cabinets, and garage--after going on a rampage and spending the past couple of weeks "simplifying", it's done!  Oh, it makes me happy!
  2. My kids love each other--they are making the most out of their time off from school.  Every day this week, as soon as the last bite of breakfast hits their tummies, they are off, in full force, to play for the entire day--with very few tiffs.  My prayer is that they will always be each other's best friend.
  3. My thoughtful husband--whether it's something small or quite significant, it's always reassuring to know we are on the same team and that he always has my back.
  4. God's stretching--I'm so glad He loves me too much to leave me where I am.  He's doing a lot of stretching on me right now, and even though it's a little unnerving, I know it's going to lead to great things!
  5. Friends--especially those that God is also stretching at the same time as me!  It's good to have a friend or two or five to travel life's paths with.
  6. Abundance--and I'm not talking about money or things.  We have food in our cabinets, clothes on our backs, and a warm home to live in.  That's more than most people in this world can claim.
  7. Medical knowledge--I have an ear that has been clogged and ringing for several days straight, and I'm so thankful that there are doctors with the knowledge and medication on hand to fix it!  Otherwise, this ringing might just drive me straight to the funny farm!
  8. Christmas shopping on the internet--'nuff said!
  9. Family--what a good feeling to have people to love and who love you in return!  Can't wait to spend Thanksgiving with mine!
  10. Blessings--there is not enough time in the world to finish this list of things for which I am thankful.  That in itself is reason to give thanks.
What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Baseball Unit Study

It was fun to take a break from our usual studies last week to spend some time studying baseball in honor of our favorite Texas Rangers and their appearance in the World Series (Yes, we are sad that they didn't win it all, but we are still so proud that they were even there!).   Some of the things we studied included a team of the day (we studied the four teams that played for AL and NL championships), a person of the day (including Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, and Nolan Ryan), some baseball terms and rules, and some baseball-related math (the kids' favorite math problems were the ones that involved going to the concession stand for food!).  Benjamin learned a lot about dictionary skills while looking up different baseball terms, and Hannah worked on her lower-case letters while copying the baseball terms we were studying.  We also learned to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and made a trip to the library, which resulted in us bringing home umpteen books on baseball!!  (I know there was probably more than that, but it's all I can think of right this minute as I hurriedly try to get this post done before heading out the door!)

We ended our study with a World Series Party complete with homemade lemonade, hot dogs, nachos, raw veggies and dip, Cracker Jacks, and build-your-own ice cream sundaes.  It was great fun!!  Here's some pictures from our fun week!
Here's Hannah helping me squeeze the lemons for our lemonade.  (It was SO yummy!  Why in the world do we ever buy a mix for it??)

These are the decorations Benjamin made especially for the party!


Benjamin & Hannah decked out in their Rangers gear, ready to party!!


Our modified menu of baseball foods:  turkey hot dogs on whole wheat buns, nachos made with baked chips, and raw veggies with dip!  I tried not to break the calorie bank completely with our party!!

Yummy dessert!!  My sundae included low-fat vanilla ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauces, a chopped up Reese's peanut butter cup, whipped cream, cherries and a few sprinkles!  Not healthy, but oh so good!!

Stay tuned for more on the homeschooling front!  I can't wait to share with you about our Mission India project!!




Sunday, October 24, 2010

What We Are Doing in School

Have I told you lately how much I love homeschooling?  Well, I DO!!

Our homeschool curriculum is from a company called Sonlight, and they are currently sponsoring a mission project called "Mission India," which is a 5-week online learning adventure where we are discovering how God is transforming the lives of children and families in India.  We watch a video every Tuesday and Thursday chronicling a visit made to India by a pastor from the United States.  We have learned about the extreme poverty in which many in India are living, literacy classes that are teaching the women of India to read and write while also introducing them to the Lord, and the Children's Bible Clubs where the kids of India get to learn about the hope that is in our Savior, Jesus Christ.  During these five weeks, we are saving our coins and extra dollars to send in to "Mission India" in order to help send more children to the Children's Bible Clubs.  For every $1 we send in, one more child will be able to learn about Jesus through these Bible Clubs.

Sometimes as a homeschool mom, I wonder how much my kids are really absorbing and processing of all that I try to teach them.  I can tell this "Mission India" project is having an affect on them.  They will randomly say something to Mark or me that proves to me that they are soaking in everything we are doing.  On the way home from the grocery store a few days ago, Hannah said to me, "Mommy, I am lucky."  I asked her why she felt she was lucky.  Her reply was, "Because I am five years old and can already read and write.  Those grown-up ladies in India are just now learning what I already know."  And she is right--we were able to look at a few pages from the primers the ladies in the literacy classes use, and the math they are learning as adult women is comparable to the math Hannah is learning as a Kindergarten student. 

Mark and Benjamin went to church early one morning this past week for a breakfast, and it was still a little bit dark and was raining a bit.  As they drove, Benjamin suddenly said to Mark, "You know, Dad, there are people in India who don't have homes.  They just live out on the streets.  Fortunately it stays pretty warm in India because if it got too cold, some of those people would die."  Those are conclusions his little mind is drawing on its own.  We did see some video of families living on the streets, but he's smart enough to realize what that really means in terms of every day living.

I want my kids to know how blessed they are to live in the United States and to have all that they have.  I also want them to know the responsibility we have as Christians to reach out and share what we have with those who are not as fortunate.  This project is really making an impact on all of us.  Thank you, Sonlight, for giving us this opportunity!

Shifting gears, but staying with the homeschool train of thought, we are going to take a break from our regular curriculum this week to do something special.  We love sports in our house, and Friday night, we celebrated as the Texas Rangers baseball team made it to the World Series for the first time EVER!  We LOVE the Texas Rangers and were able to see them play a couple of games in Arlington back in the Spring.  So, in honor of our Texas Rangers, we are going to do a unit study this week on baseball!!  The kids and I are all really excited about this!  Some of the topics we'll study include:
  • the four teams that played to make it to the World Series;
  • the history of baseball;
  • some historical figures in baseball;
  • rules and plays of baseball; and
  • science and math in baseball.
We plan to wrap up our week-long study with a World Series party, and we'll tie in some cooking projects with our party menu.  I think it will be a blast, and I'll be sure and take some pictures to share with you so you can see how much fun we will have!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Catchin' Up

I am feeling an exhaustion like I haven't felt in a while after a couple of weeks of busyness like I haven't known in a while!  I had to go into "survivial mode" several days ago--you know, when you only do those things that ABSOLUTELY HAVE to be done, and everything else has to fall by the wayside.  I haven't walked or run in well over a week--sleep had to take precedence.  I haven't done laundry in over a week--making lunch for guests and fitting in some school had to come first.  (It's pitiful that we have so many clothes that I can not do laundry for a week and we still have clothes to wear.  I'm being serious--that's pitiful.  Of course, I'm thankful for it right now because I really don't like going in public naked.)  I even led my Beth Moore Bible study group last night having barely gotten my homework for the week completed before the class started.  That's the kind of week it's been.

BUT...

The busyness has been full of loads of fun and oodles of blessings.  For example:
  • I spent this past weekend in Denver with a group of 8 other ladies from my church at the Women of Faith conference.  It's the first I've been to in over 7 years, and this one blessed my socks off almost as much as the very first one I ever attended.  I spent the weekend laughing and crying, worshiping and praising.  Between my allergies and crying, I never should have even attempted eye makeup!  In addition to the other speakers, listening to Sheila Walsh share what God has done in her life and hearing Natalie Grant sing her heart out (even being six months pregnant and being in Mile High City--amazing!) was a tremendous blessing to my heart.  I'm so grateful for that time.

  • I returned home very late on Saturday night in order to be in church Sunday morning for our revival services to begin.  As if the revival itself wasn't enough, I got to spend much of three days with some of the most precious people in my life, as they were leading the music for our services.  God crossed my path with theirs almost ten years ago, and from the first time we met, God glued us together as soul mates and I've never been the same since.  Being a parsonage family, there's always a level of guardedness you must always maintain because, well, you are the pastor and his wife.  With these special friends, we can let it all out and bare our hearts and souls.  These are the kinds of friends that cause me to cry when I first see them because I'm so happy to be breathing the same air as them and cry when they leave because our time together has been so precious.  You just don't have too many friends in life like that.  (Benjamin even realizes that our relationship with them is different.  He said to me one night after the service, "Mom, are they our friends...or are they our family?"  I told him, "They are our friends, but we love them as if they are family.")  I've already asked God if He could arrange to have our mansions next door to each other!

  • While at the Women of Faith conference, I heard them share stories with all the attendees about their partnership with World Vision and how they are changing the world, one child at a time.  There was a tug on my heart that told me God wanted me to choose a child to sponsor, so on Saturday afternoon before leaving the conference, I made my way to the World Vision booth.  I had no preference as far as country goes for the child I would sponsor, so I decided it would be fun to sponsor a birthday buddy.  I asked the lady behind the table if she had a child with my birthday.  She pulled out the folder and handed it to me, and I stood there and bawled my eyes out as I looked upon this precious 3 year old girl in Honduras in pigtails and a sweet pink dress.  I quickly filled out the form to get the sponsorship started and anxiously brought Esmeli's information home to share with my family.  We're already trying to figure out how to sponsor a child with each of our birthdays.  Don't tell my husband, but I'm also praying for God to make a way for us to all someday be able to go to Honduras and meet Esmeli and her family!

  • On top of everything else, I managed to read Mary Beth Chapman's book "Choosing to SEE" over the past 72 hours.  If you don't know who she is, her husband is well-known Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman, and her book chronicles their life story with a focus on the loss of their 5-year-old daughter two years ago.  It is an incredible book, and Mary Beth is completely transparent in her struggles with depression and with the loss of her sweet daughter.  I laughed my head off and I sobbed my heart out as I read her story.  They are an amazing family, and I would highly recommend the book to you.
I've strained my worn out brain about as much as it can be strained to write this post, so I'll close this up and plan to catch up with you more again soon!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Daily Schedule

I have not fallen off the face of the earth, though my presence here on my blog would lead you to believe otherwise!  Life can be life sometimes, and some events last week got me so out of routine that it's taken me a while to get back into the swing of things!!  But I am here now, and I wanted to continue addressing some questions that resulted from my last two webinar presentations on the HomeschoolBlogger.com.

Someone asked me about my schedule, how early I get up, how I fit exercise into my day, etc.  I thought I would post a "skeleton" of my daily schedule to give you an idea of what I aim for my my days to typically look like.  I have yet to have a "perfect" day (if you've had one, let me know--I want to know the secret!  :o), but I have to have a schedule and plan or else my day is simply a mess!!  Here it is:

5:30 am - get up, fix my breakfast, Bible study
6:30 am - exercise (walking/running)
7:30 am - fix kids' breakfast, shower, dress, start load of laundry
9:00 am - school
12:00 pm - lunch, laundry in dryer
1:00 pm - time for me while kids are in rest time/quiet play time (I read, crochet, nap if need be--do whatever makes me happy!)
2:00 pm - fold laundry with kids
2:30 pm - daily cleaning task with kids
3:00 pm - kids have snack and watch a show; I finish cleaning/laundry
3:30 pm - afternoon activity (dance, gymnastics, church, science, cooking, etc)
4:30 pm - dinner preparation
5:30 pm - dinner with family
6:00 pm - clean up
6:30 pm - family play time
7:00 pm - kids' bath/bedtime routine
8:00 pm - kids in bed; time with Mark
8:30 pm - my bedtime routine
9:30 pm - Goodnight, Mommy!

In a nutshell, that's my day!  Do I always get 8 hours of sleep?  Heavens, no!!  However, if I had my way, I'd get 8 1/2 or 9 hours!  Knowing what I know now, it is imperative for our bodies to get enough sleep, and I've had to learn to shut off my activity early in the evening in order to get in bed early enough to get the sleep I need.  I've also learned how imperative it is for me to get up early enough to exercise.  If it doesn't happen first thing in the morning, you can almost bet it won't happen at all.  Adequate sleep and adequate exercise are two of the best things we can do for the health of our bodies, and I've learned they are two of my main defenses in my battle against depression.

I'll talk more next time about how I schedule my housecleaning and laundry tasks!  Do you have any scheduling tips that help to keep you sane?  Do you have any questions about my day?  If so, just leave me a comment!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcome, Webinar Friends!

I want to say a big "welcome" to those of you who may be visiting my blog for the first time as a result of today's HomeschoolBlogger webinar.  I'm so glad you are here, and I hope you will be blessed by your time here.

Since I talked about my battle with depression today, and since I had many comments and questions about depression, medication, etc., I wanted to direct you to this post that I wrote almost three years ago.  It goes more in-depth in regards to my battle with depression, and I hope it may answer some of the questions some of you had.

I will review the chat log from the webinar and do a few Q&A posts to address some of the other questions that were brought up during our time together.  Feel free to leave comments or questions here as well, and I'll do my best to address them!

Blessings to all of you!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Upcoming Webinar

If you are a homeschool mom (or any other mom, for that matter!) feel free to join us Thursday for another webinar sponsored by HomeschoolBlogger.com.  You can go here to get all the information and to register.  I will be doing the preshow presentation--Who's Going to Take Care of Mom?--for the webinar entitled "Think Biblically, Live Godly, and Serve Practically."

It's free, so please join us!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Q & A

After speaking during the homeschool webinar Tuesday, I know there were some questions that went unanswered.  I have looked over the chat log from the class, and I'm going to take some time over the next few posts to answer some of those questions.  Some of the questions I answered during the webinar, but I'd like to expand on them a bit, too.  I'd love to hear comments from you guys about these topics as well!

1.  How do you handle the pressures of people at church wanting you to volunteer during the school year?

What exactly makes people think that because we homeschool, then we must have all this extra time on our hands?  Because, after all, we are at home all day!  I don't know why that misconception exists, but it is exactly that--a misconception with a capital M!

There are some lessons in life that take me longer to learn than others--and this is one of them.  Being the preacher's wife, combined with my natural inclincation to want to please people makes this difficult for me.  But I have finally come to a point in life where I am very much at peace over Who it is I serve and live life for.  If I make decisions prayerfully, based on what I feel God calling me to do, then I let the other pressures roll off my back.  It is the Lord Jesus Christ whom I serve and will have to answer to someday.  If I say "yes" to every volunteer opportunity that comes my way, then I will have to say to the Lord, yes, I did neglect my children in order to serve in the church.  I don't think that is what God has in mind for us as moms.

After following the authority of God and then our husbands, I believe our calling as a mom is the next most important thing in our lives.  Carrying that calling out may look differently in all of our lives, but it still remains the most important.  And if I am being asked to head up this committee or teach this Sunday School class, and it leads to the detriment of my children, my answer needs to be "NO."  I don't need to feel bad about saying no, because by saying no to that opportunity, I am saying yes to my children.  That doesn't mean everyone in the church will understand.  But at the end of the day, I need to lay my head on my pillow in peace, and if my decisions have been made based on what I perceive as God's will for my life, then I can feel good about that.

I'm sure you've all heard the quote that if the Devil can't make you bad, he'll make you busy.  I truly believe that is one of Satan's strategies for getting us off course.  If we have said yes too many times, and we are running every which way but loose, something is desperately out of order and we will not be effective in any of the areas we are attempting to juggle.

I believe we also have to keep in mind that we go through different seasons in life, and there may come a season when we CAN say yes to more of those opportunities that come our way.

2.  Do you limit how many extra activities each child participates in?

Absolutely, YES!  This is one area that can really get me going.  I can't tell you how many times I heard this from parents this summer:  "I thought things would slow down since it's summer, but it's only gotten busier!"  Then to hear them tell of all they have going and how many activities each of their children is enrolled in for summer makes me utterly exhausted!  I had to bite my tongue many times to not say, "It's your own fault for being that busy!!"

Mark and I are very much in agreement that our children do not need to be involved in every extracurricular activity under the sun.  We believe our time together as a family is more important than how many activities they attend each week.  Our son is extremely athletic, but we still have not enrolled him in any kind of organized sport and don't plan to anytime soon--simply because we don't think it's necessary, especially this early in the game (no pun intended!).  Our family eats lunch AND dinner together 98% of the time, and I want to keep it that way.  Statistics prove an abundance of benefits simply from your family eating dinner together every night.  The more extracurricular activities you involve yourselves in, the more you are eating away at your time together (wow, I'm on a roll with these puns--and they are truly not intended!  They just keep coming out!).

You ask about pressure from others?  This is the area I get it in more than any other area.  There is a member of our church that I come in contact with frequently because of this person's occupation.  It has almost become comical (when it's not making me angry!) the comments I receive EVERY TIME I am in contact with this person when my children are present.  There is always some kind of comment about what sport is Benjamin playing (none, outside of the front yard with his Daddy), or just how long do you plan to homeschool (forever, thank you), or don't you know homeschoolers are in for a rude awakening when they go off to college (are you kidding me???), etc. etc. etc.  I have to laugh or else it makes me angry and makes me not want to be around this particular person.  But once again, we feel we are following God's calling in the life of our family, and we are 100% at peace with the decisions we are making for our children--regardless of how unpopular those decisions may be with others.  No, we don't do what "everyone else is doing", but God doesn't call us to make popular decisions or to follow the crowd for the sake of following the crowd.

More Q&A to follow!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

HomeschoolBlogger.com Webinar

I was extremely blessed to be a presenter this afternoon for a webinar hosted by HomeschoolBlogger.com.  For those of you who were a part of the webinar today, here are the scriptures and quotes I used throughout my presentation:

John F. Kennedy:  "There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable in-action."

Psalm 33.11:  "But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations."

Proverbs 19.21:  "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

Proverbs 16.3:  "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."

Kathy Peel (Desperate Households):  "If you knew you had only a year to live, how would you spend your time and what would you change about the way you run your home and life?"

Proverbs 13.4:  "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied."

Ralph Waldo Emerson:  "Finish every day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day."

Colossians 3.23:  "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

2 Timothy 1.7:  "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

Henri J.M. Nouwen:  "We move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say or do are worth thinking, saying or doing."

James 1.5:  "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

Isaiah 42.16:  "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do;  I will not forsake them."

As I promised during the presentation, I will also be posting some sample lists of life skills for you to review.  I am also going to go through the chat box script as soon as I can and answer questions that I was not able to answer during the presentation.  Give me a few days, but be sure and check back soon!  Thanks for being a part of today's webinar--it was a joy for me to be a part of it!  Aren't The Old Schoolhouse and the HomschoolBlogger amazing??

Friday, August 13, 2010

Are You in the Coupon Camp?

I am.  Not everyone "coupons."  But I do.  Why, you may ask?

1.  Last week I saved $18 using coupons during my weekly trip to the grocery store.
2.  This week, I saved $38 using coupons and taking advantage of "Buy One, Get One Free" specials in the meat department during my weekly trip to the grocery store.  $38!!!

If you have held the opinion in the past that couponing isn't worth it, I think those two facts will prove that it is!

You may be saying, "Well, if you buy enough, sure you can eventually save that much."  My weekly budget (for our family of four) for the grocery store is $170, and that amount includes toiletries, cleaning supplies, and other household goods--basically, everything we need is taken care of in this one trip.  We live in a small town (less than 8,000 people), and other than the grocery store, we have no shopping options, like Wal Mart or Walgreens--only a small Alco that normally cannot compete with the prices at the grocery store.  My $170 budget is a little higher than some other budgets I've seen for similarly-sized families who attempt to live frugally, and we can get by on less, but I allow a small cushion in there to give me the ability to stockpile, or buy extras, of items that are on a really good sale.  This saves me money in the long run because I am purchasing them at their lowest price. 

If we lived in a much larger city where there was more competition and stores available, I have no doubt that I could trim that budgeted amount even more.  Also if we lived in a much larger city, the coupon selection in the Sunday papers would be better as well.  I know this for a fact after a recent trip I took to Houston.  On the way home, during my layover in Dallas, I purchased a Dallas Morning News to take home to my hubby, who loves reading it.  Since it was a Sunday, I got the benefit of having the coupon flyers in that paper.  As I was clipping the coupons from those flyers as well as the flyers in our local paper, I noticed that there were much better coupons available in the Dallas paper.

So, how do I coupon?  For starters, I save the coupon inserts from the Sunday newspaper and clip those coupons that are for items that we will use.  This is key--you can't just clip all coupons and buy any item, thinking you are getting a bargain, if it's not something your family uses anyway.  I also get coupons online from Red Plum, Smart Source, and Coupons.com.  After clipping the coupons I need, I file them by product name in a file box that has AtoZ dividers in it. 

I started this system a few years ago and have found it to be more efficient and effective than using the coupon files that are divided by category.  Different systems work for different people, and the AtoZ dividers work best for me.

Now, I don't just go to the store, buying up all the products that I have coupons for.  I save the coupons until that item is on sale.  By combining a sale price with a coupon, you are getting the most bang for your buck.  I do try to keep an eye on my file box, though, because there are times that the items don't go on sale before the coupon expires, and if the coupon is good enough, it is worth it to go ahead and purchase the item and use the coupon, rather than losing that good coupon discount.

One thing I have learned over the years of trying to trim our spending is that just because an item is in the weekly sale flyer does not mean it is a good sale!  I now keep a small notebook that is again divided into AtoZ categories where I can keep track of the best prices for the items we purchase. 

This may sound very time consuming, but really it is not.  The day the sale flyer comes out in the paper (Wednesdays for us), I grab my notebook and pen and take ten minutes max, and jot down the prices for the items in the flyer that we purchase.  This way I can see which items are really on a good sale and which ones are not.  It's amazing when you start tracking prices how many items are not really on sale that much, even though they are in the sale flyer.  I also note in my notebook the dates that the items are on their best sale price.  Then I can track how often they are at that price, which helps me even further with planning.  You'll also notice that I also do price per ounce on some of the items, which is often necessary to determine what the best buy truly is.

After receiving the weekly sale flyer and noting which items are on sale at the best prices, I then make my menu for the coming week, based on those products.  It is at this time that I pull out all the coupons I can use to combine with the sale prices and put them in the front of my file box.  (Yes, I always take my coupon file box with me to the grocery store.  I also keep my grocery list clipped to a clipboard to make it easier to deal with in the store.  Just call me the "grocery store nerd.")

I am amazed at the comments I get from the checkout personnel at the grocery store when I hand them all my coupons.  Many of them tell me how they love couponers, but how few of them there really are.  The girl who checked me out last week told me she checks out maybe ONE person PER WEEK that uses coupons!!  Really??  I could not believe that few people use coupons!!!  On many instances the checkout person is a young lady, and I really hope I am an example to her of the benefits of using coupons, because I know way too many of those young ladies are single moms living on a very limited budget.

I've heard many people say they don't have time to do coupons.  I usually clip coupons on Sundays after I've read the paper.  It's usually when I'm watching golf or some other sport with Mark, and I can be productive while watching TV.  I can clip and file them in less than 30 minutes (I know I could be more efficient if I weren't watching TV at the same time!  :o)  Then it takes ten minutes or less to jot down the sale prices in my notebook, and then less than that amount to pull out the coupons I need to use for that trip to the store.  So in way less than an hour I can accomplish this.  And to be able to save $18 or $38 each week?  It's way worth it to me.  Do you know what that $18 could buy?  When you stop to think about it, it's a lot!

I will also say this:  I buy very few convenience and pre-packaged foods.  We eat out very little, so I cook for us almost every day.  I buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  My experience has been overall that the more healthy you try to eat, the more expensive the foods are.  Thus the need for couponing and tracking sale prices.  I've always thought it was such an injustice that the most unhealthy foods in the grocery store are the cheapest.  That is just too bad, especially in this day and age when the economy stinks, people are having to watch their budgets like never before, and obesity is a growing epidemic.  They want to spend as little as possible, but yet those are the foods that the worst for them.

For me, couponing is a fun challenge, almost a game.  I get this crazy excitement inside on Wednesday mornings when I get the paper and pull out the sale flyer for the week.  I know, I'm weird.  But the challenge of seeing how much I can save each week and how many groceries I can come home with and still stay within out budget is fun to me! 

Go ahead, try it!  And be sure and let me know how you do!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Thought to Ponder

This gave me a huge WOW moment when I read it printed on the page of my journal this morning, so I wanted to share it.  Maybe it will give you something to ponder...

"Use what talent you possess--the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." 
--Henry Van Dyke

Friday, August 6, 2010

Date with Benjamin

I had such a fun day today.  I had a date with my soon-to-be seven-year-old, Benjamin!  We spent the day shopping for his birthday party, eating lunch at Jason's Deli (by his choice--because you get free ice cream!), and running a few errands.

We are trying really hard to teach both our children how to handle money in a responsible, Biblically-based way.  As has become our normal shopping routine, when we arrived at the party store to buy the decorations and goodies for his party, Benjamin asked me what our budget was.  I told him, and then we were off to the races.  Because we had perused the birthday party themes a few weeks prior, Benjamin knew exactly what he wanted and where it was.  Out came the calculator and we were set.  We first chose the "necessities" (plates, napkins, table cover), and then negotiated for the rest (center piece, invitations, party favors, etc).  The invitations went back on the shelf after I told him I could make some on the computer, which would give him six more dollars to choose the goodies he was really wanting.  Once we reached our allotted amount and he was happy with what we had chosen, it was off to the check-out stand.  I was so proud of him for knowing we needed to stick to a budget and being willing to do so without any arguments or fussing.  He is growing up so quickly, right before my very eyes.

We had a fun lunch together (With his kids' hot dog meal and my turkey wrap and fruit, we both ate at Jason's Deli for $10!  Woo hoo!  And don't forget the free ice cream!), and then continued down our list of errands.  As we were walking into one store, I thought I would do a little check-up on how this mommy is doing on the parenting front.  I didn't know what kind of responses I would receive from Benjamin, but I hoped for some constructive criticism and for a window into his little mind as to what he might be missing from me. 

I first asked Benjamin what was something I did that he really liked or wished that I would do more of.  He replied, "Well, everything you cook is good, so that's something that you do that I like.  And last night, you looked like you were pretty good at grilling (that's usually Mark's territory), so maybe you should do more grilling."  He's such a boy--focused on food!  I thought that was a pretty complimentary answer, and knowing I don't do everything well, I at least felt like there was nothing glaring in his eyes that I was missing out on. 

So then I asked, "What is something that I do that you wished I wouldn't do?"  I expected to hear something like, don't get mad at me so often, or don't be a grump so often, or something of the sort.  Instead he said, "Nothing, Mom!  I like everything you do!"  Yes, my heart melted and it was a sweet reminder of just how forgiving our children can be.

Thank you, God, for the gifts of grace and encouragement that you gave to me
today by way of my sweet little boy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beauty


"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's
handwriting--a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 9, 2010

Happiness

There's not much that makes me happier than when I see this:
I've been seeing this a lot this summer--mismatched pajamas, crazy hair and all!  My kids LOVE to read, and it thrills my soul to see them curled up on the couch reading when they could be doing any number of other summery things.  Whether it's school books, books from their rooms, or their High Five/Highlights magazines that Granny Sue buys for them, they love them all!

I've been busy planning for the upcoming school year, which begins one week from Monday.  The kids and I are both ready.  As they have observed me making preparations, I've heard many times this week, "Mommy, I'm ready for school to start!"

That makes me pretty happy, too!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy July 4th!

In honor of July 4th, we had our morning worship in the park this morning.  What a great way to celebrate our freedom as Americans and our freedom in Christ Jesus!  Sharing a hamburger lunch afterwards made for a wonderful start to a special day in our lives as citizens of these great United States. 

Have a blessed Independence Day!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New York, New York!!

Many months ago, Mark and I began pondering what we wanted to do to celebrate our approaching tenth anniversary.  We threw around the idea of a cruise, but ended up deciding on a trip to New York City--a first for me.  Mark was there eleven or twelve years ago, but only long enough to see a show on Broadway and a couple of sites.

The planning began at the most important place--child care!  We have limited overnight childcare options, but fortunately we also have a very mature, capable high-school-age niece.  We worked with her schedule, which meant we had to wait for school to be out.  But that was okay--it gave us a few more months to save a few extra dollars (that's a good thing, because almost everything in NYC costs umpteen times more than it does here in Texas!).

We arrived in NYC at rush hour--a great time to experience what life in NYC is really like, which just happened to be a little overwhelming to me!  It honestly took me about 24 hours to settle into NYC and feel glad that I was there.  I wasn't expecting that.  There is a never-ending supply of yellow taxi cabs in NYC--which is a good thing when you don't know where you are, but you know you're not where you want to be.  Overall, we had good taxi experiences--but there was the one maniac, suicidal taxi-cab driver that just about did me in!  Here's a shot of rush-hour traffic:



I had to be brave to do some of the sites in NYC.  The older I get, the more afraid of heights I become.  I don't know why--it just happens.  But I gave myself some pep talks, and Mark was able to get me to the "Top of the Rock" (Rockefeller Center, with Central Park behind me):
as well as to the top--the VERY top--of the Empire State Building. 
If you wanted to pay extra money, you could go to the 102nd floor (which just happens to be 1,250 feet off the ground--yikes!), which is above the "normal" observatory.  Here's what traffic looks like from up there (and no, I did NOT take this picture!  Are you kidding me?  I couldn't even stand to look down, much less take a picture down there!!!!):

  Ugh, that gives me the willies just to look at the picture!   I tried really hard to be a good sport--all the while my back was plastered up against the inside wall.  Well, not quite....but almost.  Mark could have stayed up there forever.


We saw all the "major sites", like the Statue of Liberty, which was incredible to see in person:

We rented bikes to ride around Central Park:

We discovered the best way to guarantee you won't gain any weight while on vacation in NYC is to walk and bike yourself around the city in record-breaking heat.  That way you just sweat off all the extra pounds you take in from having dessert every night (yes, we did!).  Every day we were there, NYC was experiencing record heat.  Incidentally, the day we left and the entire week following our time there, the temps were in the 70's.  Nice.

Mark also got me to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge--more heights! 

What an amazing engineering feat, from a time that was without the tools and technology of today!

My favorite part of the trip, bar none, was seeing "Mary Poppins" on Broadway!  It was absolutely fantastic, and the talent there was incredible.  I couldn't help but think throughout the show how much my kids would have LOVED to have been there to see that!



(I have a red coat that makes my day everytime I get to wear it.   Up to this point, I've always called it my Red Riding Hood coat.  NOW it has become my Mary Poppins coat--it looks very much like this one does, only mine has a hood!)  Moving right along...

Here's a few more random shots from the trip:



We saw several beautiful churches while touring NYC, including St Patrick's Cathedral, and this one, which is Trinity Church near Ground Zero.  The stained glass windows inside these beautiful churches are always some of my favorite things to see in them.


Here's Times Square, in all its bright, shining glory!  That's quite a sight to see!  Talk about sensory overload!

There's not much to see at Ground Zero except for lots of cranes and construction, but there was this particular cross and the sign beside it:

It was all I could do to not cry my eyes out the entire time we were walking around Ground Zero.

I could keep going on and on with pictures and stories, but I'll wrap it up with this final picture:
I just had to have a picture!  My sweet husband had me pick out a bracelet at Tiffany's for my "Happy 10th Anniversary/Happy 35th Birthday/NYC Souvenir" gift!  It was probably one of the smallest transactions that salesman had done all day, but that doesn't matter to me.  I have a beautiful heart bracelet to wear that carries many, many memories with it of a fabulous trip to NYC!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Who Are These Kids??


(besides being squinty-eyed because the sun is really bright!)

Did you say they are two kids that are glad that school is finished?
You're right!  Mostly, anyway.  They both love school.

Did you say they look like a Kindergartener and a Second Grader?
Right again!  And they are so proud of it!!

Today was our final day of this school year!  Wow!  It's hard to believe we have another year of homeschool under our belts.  Hannah was in Pre-K this year, and Benjamin was in First Grade.  Being a homeschool mom is one of the biggest blessings God has given me.  I can't imagine not getting to teach them and be by their side each day as they learn and grow in so many different ways.

Our house is only a couple of blocks from the high school track, so in the mornings that is where I go to do my walking.  I'm usually walking by the school about 7am, and it absolutely breaks my heart to see a school bus in front of the school dropping off kids for the day.  At 7am!  Those same kids probably don't get home until at least 3:30 pm or 4:00 pm each afternoon.  I completely understand that for some families, this is the only option.  But oh, how grateful I am that God has called us to a different life.

I'm not one to get on my homeschool soapbox and say that everyone should be doing it.  But I do believe that we are ALL scripturally called to be the first and most important teachers of our children, and I understand that looks different for each and every family.  I feel truly blessed and humbled that homeschool is what it looks like for ours.

We are officially on "summer break" for about six weeks, and we'll start our new year of school in mid-July.  I decided last summer that three months of unstructured summertime is just too much for us!  Our plan is to have a shorter summer break and incorporate more breaks in our school year.  I'm anxious and excited to see how that works for us!

In the meantime, my agenda includes an anniversary trip to New York City (holy cow am I excited!!), a church conference, planning for next school year, snow cones, a homeschool conference, and plenty of time by the swimming pool!!  Hello, Summer!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Family Travel

I recently read an article in "The Old Schoolhouse" magazine I subscribe to that talked about "Travel Kits" for kids.  The definition of a Travel Kit from the article is "a collection of items that will entertain and/or delight the passengers (especially the younger passengers), thus making the trip more pleasant for everyone."  This idea really resonated with me because at the time, we were planning a family vacation to the Metroplex area, which would be about a seven-hour car trip.  The longest our kids have ever been in the car was for five hours when we made our move last summer.  Needless to say, I was a little nervous about surviving the car ride!

So I decided to try out the idea for myself and make travel kits for Benjamin and Hannah to have on our trip.  After a trip to the dollar bins at Target and The Dollar Store, here is what I came up with (sorry for the sideways pictures--I have no idea why Blogger is doing that, and I don't know how to fix it!!):


The gifts included two movies each that I had picked up along the way when on sale for $5 each, candy and suckers (more sugar than they would normally have in a month!), snacks, story books, activity books, silly putty, notebook paper and pen, stencils, music CD, cars and legos for Benjamin, jewelry and Princess stickers for Hannah, and a disposable camera for each of them.  I spent a couple of evenings after the kids were in bed wrapping each gift in tissue paper and curling ribbon and putting them in plastic tote buckets to be presented to them the morning of the trip.  The finished products looked like this:
The Travel Kits worked wonderfully!!  The buckets sat in the seat between the two kids, and they were allowed to open one gift about every 30 minutes.  Who doesn't love opening gifts??  Benjamin and Hannah loved their gifts so much and were excited each time they opened something new.  It was a fun, successful, torture-less trip with very few complaints of "how much longer until we get there?".  Being able to alternate between movies, music, games, and gifts helped them not get bored and restless.  I was so pleased and plan to use this idea for future long car rides.

Now for a few pictures from our trip (for some random reason, these pictures are all right side up....go figure!):

We took in two Texas Rangers games while in the Metroplex--soooo much fun!!

We also took a tour of the new Cowboys Stadium--AMAZING!!


In front of Tony Romo's locker...


In our Rangers gear...

We had an absolute blast on our trip and made lots of fun memories.  We still have to send off the disposable cameras to get the kids' pictures developed.  I'm really anxious to see them...I think we'll have some interesting shots, to say the least!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dave Says...

In the late Fall of 2008, I was approached about facilitating a Financial Peace University class.  I had heard of this class and Dave Ramsey, but didn't know a lot of details about either.  I knew that there were things in the financial area of our lives that we needed to be doing better, and I knew there was a lot we could learn.  Experience has taught me that when you are in charge of a class or study, you often learn more than if you are simply a participant.  So our desire to get our financial lives in order combined with my willingness to lead the class landed me in front of a class of about 30 people in January 2009.

Mark and I began Financial Peace University with about $10,000 in total debt.  We set what we felt was a quite lofty goal of getting that paid off before the end of 2009.  With determination, sacrifice, a very focused drive and the grace of God, we were able to pay off the last of our debt on September 16, 2009--three and a half months ahead of schedule.  Wow, what an incredible feeling that was to be completely free of ANY and ALL debt!!  (I need to insert here that we are blessed to live in a parsonage, so we do not have a mortgage.)

We now purchase only that which we have the cash in hand to buy, which will include our next car (no, car payments do NOT have to be a way of life!), and we are determined to never get into debt again.  We have an emergency fund, sufficient life insurance, and are putting money into appropriate accounts for both retirement and our children's college.  We have a family trip to Dallas coming up as well as a tenth-anniversary trip to NYC, and both will be paid for in cash.  Having financial peace is an incredible place to be!

Having learned many financial lessons the hard way, Mark and I want our children to start early in learning how to live in financial peace.  So a few months ago, we purchased Dave's "Financial Peace Jr." kit, which is recommended for ages 3-12.  This afternoon, we spent some time getting ready to put this program into practice.  It uses Dave's sound financial foundations in teaching your children how to give, save and spend.  The kids are pumped, and I, too, am excited to get them started on the right track NOW!

In case you can't tell, we are huge Dave fans at our house!

If I have your curiosity piqued, you can go here to learn more about Financial Peace University!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ten Years

I let my mind wander to this moment ten years ago, and I find myself preparing for the biggest day of my life--my wedding!  The day when my dreams came true, and I had my own little Cinderella moment--dressed in the dress I had always dreamed of, walking down the aisle toward my Prince Charming.  Never does a girl feel more beautiful, more special, than on her wedding day.

Then the buzz of the dryer from yet another load of icky laundry brings me back to the reality of THIS day.  While it may be my tenth anniversary of being married to my best friend and love of my life, the reality that I find myself in this day is far from "happily ever after."  I may feel like Cinderella today, but it's the Cinderella BEFORE the ball. 

Today, I'm cleaning up after two kids with the stomach bug.  It is a unique, special time, but only because never in our years of parenting have we ever had them BOTH throwing up at the same time.  I'm operating on very little sleep that took place on the floor of Benjamin's room, I'm still in my pajamas even though it's almost lunch time, and a toothbrush has not found its way to my mouth yet today.  Not exactly attractive or "tenth-anniversary worthy."

As I lay in the floor last night trying to find a bit of sleep, the thought crossed my mind that this is the epitome of what marriage is really all about.  Every day is not magical; in fact, some days are just down right nasty and dirty.  Everything doesn't always go as planned (i.e., the babysitter for our anniversary date was cancelled hours ago), and there are times you wonder when the "for better" times will ever show themselves again.

But when you are married to the one God chose especially for you, and when you allow God to be the director of your fairy tale, it's all worth it.  You enjoy the "in health" moments more as a result of the "in sickness" times, and the "for better" highs more than make up for the "for worse" lows.

So on this day, I'm simply seeking survival, knowing Mark loves me bad breath, crazy hair, and all.  The kids are already showing signs of improvement, and soon this will just be a blur in our memories.

(And it doesn't hurt knowing that come June 2nd, we'll be running off to New York City for our REAL anniversary celebration!!  I can't wait!!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In an effort to halt even more procrastination (see previous post!), I used today being Earth Day as my motivation to get our RECYCLING started.  I've wanted to get us going on recycling since we moved here (ten months ago), but was not sure what facilities our small town had.  So after reading about what Earth Day is all about and talking about different things we could do to take better care of the Earth, the kids and I hopped in the car, drove to the recycling drop-off location, and wrote down all the different things we could start recycling.  Then we came home, scrounged around in the garage for some containers we were no longer using that could be REUSED as our recycling tubs.  Here's what we came up with:


**a cardboard box for newspapers
**a plastic tub that previously stored Christmas decorations, but had gotten cracked in the bottom and would no longer keep them dust-free...Ta Da!  Works perfectly to gather cardboard, magazines, and milk jugs
**a rolling cart that was only gathering dust for white paper

See all the boxes and tubs behind the kids?  That will soon be REDUCED and turned into a garage sale!

My next project:  a compost pile!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Good Enough

So, as a recovering perfectionist, I can often procrastinate simply because I don't have time to do it--whatever "IT" may be at the moment--perfectly.  For some time now, I've wanted to blog about our caterpillar/butterfly experience; Easter; life after the death of my father-in-law; what's going on with homeschool; etc.; etc.; etc.  But obviously, I have not.

There has to come a point in time when you aim for "good enough."  Sometimes I'm good at this lesson; other times, not so much.  Guess I've been stuck in one of those "not so much" times.

So here goes.  This post may be random at best, but it's a conglomeration of our life these past few weeks.  And it's just going to have to be "good enough."

I ordered caterpillars from Earth's Birthday Project for us to watch go through their metamorphosis process into butterflies.  Little did I know that God was going to step in and make the timing perfect.  They became butterflies in the days leading up to Easter, and we got to release them on Easter.  How cool is that??!! 

This was the caterpillars in their cocoons as we were moving them into their "house" where they would be when they emerged as butterflies.

Ta Da!!  Caterpillars/butterflies are now very high on my list of "God's Amazing Creations."  Reason #467 why I love homeschooling my kids:  I learn as much as they do!!  I had no idea that caterpillars are fully equipped with everything they need internally to make a cocoon and then transform into a butterfly!  So cool!


Letting the butterflies go free!  Yes, if you observe the background, we are on the 50-yard line of the high school football stadium.  I had nothing to do with the location in which we freed the butterflies.  It was all Mark's and Benjamin's doings!  Memorable, to say the least!

Moving on to Easter...

Just painting with lots of concentration--not licking the egg!


I thought their eggs came out beautifully!  I loved them!

Easter morning...wow, what a blessed wife and mommy I am!


So sweet...not always, but most of the time...

Now for some randomness...
(This picture is supposed to be rotated, but I'm going for "good enough" right now!)
This plate of beautiful cookies was brought to us a couple of weeks following the death of Mark's dad.  I was almost in tears when the sweet lady brought them to us.  They were decorated just so beautifully and obviously took a lot of time and attention.  She didn't just throw something together and bring it over.  The fact that she wanted to spend that kind of time on my family to let us know she and her family were thinking of us and praying for us in our time of loss just touched my heart immensely.  And, if you can look closely at the cute platter the cookies are on, you'll see pastel-colored jelly beans.  She told me she wanted me to keep the platter since she knew I would be making cookies for my little ones for years to come.  Every time I see that platter and use it, I will thank God for sending His hands and feet to our doorstep to love on us during a time of need.  It will also serve as a reminder of how important it is for me to not ignore, but rather follow through on those nudgings I get when I know someone is in need and I know I can do something to help them.

From tears to belly laughs...

I cannot look at this picture without laughing!  After some lengthy time jumping on the trampoline, this is what Hannah's hair looked like!  It reminds me of those electricity balls that you put your hands on at the science museum and watch the electricity travel to the places where your hands are resting!

So that, in a nutshell and several pictures, is what we've been up to!  The kids and I have been playing "catch up" with school after getting behind during the time before and after my father-in-law's death.  It has made me so grateful for the flexibility of homeschool that allowed us to drop it and focus on what was truly important at the time, and then pick it back up when things settled back down.  I am preparing to order curriculum for next year, which is always exciting!  We are aiming to finish this year by the end of May, if not sooner, then take a break until mid-July, when I plan to start our new year of school.  I am working on a new schedule for next year that will allow us to do school for five weeks, and then take one week off.  If we start during mid-July, we can still finish by the end of May with that schedule.  I'm excited to give it a try because I think having the week off every five weeks will be nice.  Plus, taking three months off for summer is just too much un-scheduled, non-routine time for all of us!!  We'll see how it works!

Coming up, we have some trips that we are having fun planning and looking forward to!  In May, we are taking a few days to run away to Dallas to watch the Texas Rangers in a couple of baseball games.  We hope to also tour the "new" Cowboys Stadium while there and hopefully meet up with some friends as well.  Then in June, Mark and I are taking a trip to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary to New York City!  Our anniversary falls at the end of this month, but our trip will have to wait until June.  I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about this trip to NYC!!  Our airline tickets are booked and our hotel reservations are made.  Now we just need to decide on which show (or shows) we want to see and what all we want to see while there so we can go ahead and get tickets purchased.  (I'm open to any suggestions any of you may have, so feel free to leave comments!!)

In all its randomness and good enough-ness, you are now pretty well caught up on life here!