Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Our Trip to Utah

A while back, on September 30, our family flew to St. George, Utah, for a week long vacation.  Well, actually we flew into Las Vegas and then rented a minivan for the two hour scenic trip to St. George. Jimmy and I made this same trip two years ago for him to run the St. George Marathon, but without any of our children.  We enjoyed it so much, and the landscape was so breathtaking, that we knew right away that we wanted to return and bring the children with us.  Sadly, Olivia was at college so she could not join us.  However, when she was home for her fall break, she viewed the hundreds of pictures Jimmy made while we were out there and her siblings told her all about their adventures.

We spent our days roaming around and taking short hikes in Snow Canyon and Zion National Parks. The mountains and vegetation is unlike anything we have here in Mississippi.  God's creation really is awesome!

The children, especially Leah and Sam, climbed many, many rocks!

We hiked The Narrows, part of which included a trek down the river.  That water was FREEZING!  Leah and I turned around before the end of this hike.  We waited on the others on a rock in the sun, trying to warm up!

This picture was taken just before we did the hike up to Angel's Landing.  Do you see the warning sign in the upper right hand corner?  I stayed pretty nervous on some of these hikes, fearful that Sam would fall!  We did not actually hike Angel's Landing, but we went up to the point where you can go on to that spot.  It's called Scout's Lookout. That was a dangerous enough hike in my opinion!

Everywhere we looked, the scenery was beautiful!

Jimmy ran the St. George Marathon again, and he did a great job!  He was slower than his last time on this course, but he finished strong and healthy.  Last time he injured himself, and it took him about a year to fully recover.  This picture was taken after the marathon, and you can see that he looks good and is smiling!

Another hike.  Those kids will climb on anything and anywhere!
I began to get a little claustrophobic in this part of the hike.

The day before we left we went back to Las Vegas in order to fly out the next morning. We attended a worship service at the same place we went the last time we were in town, and it was nice to see old friends.  Later that afternoon we took the children to Hoover Dam.  This picture is taken inside the dam. We also walked across the mile long pedestrian bridge that overlooks the river and the dam.  That made me a little nervous too.

Just before going to the airport for our flight home, Jimmy took the boys to the Lamborghini dealership.  They were THRILLED.  Both of them are really interested in Lamborghinis, and they were able to see numerous ones in person.  But they did not touch them!  One of the employees at the dealership was really nice and allowed Jimmy to take their picture with every single car (but no touching!).

This is a super short synopsis of a really wonderful trip.  It was very relaxing for me.  I ran 2 times while I was out there, and running in that altitude and up and down those hills proved to be a tough workout. I never set an alarm, and the days were so nice just spending time with my family and enjoying God's marvelous creation.

It was a good trip.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I filled up my most recent Gratitude Journal yesterday.  I began it on March 18, 2012, and I wrote on the last line yesterday, November 18, 2014.  2 years and 8 months.  I aim to record 5 things each day that I am thankful for, but if you do the math, you will see that I missed some days here and there.  But still.  2,672 blessings are a lot. I wish I numbered my entries from the beginning…..I started listing five things I am thankful for each day over 18 years ago. These blessings are recorded in plain spiral bound notebooks, pretty journals, and also on loose leaf paper in various binders.

I just started a book called Climb Happiness Hill by Alan Bryan.  My friend, Joe, lent it to me, saying that he was pretty sure it was out of print.  I did a little bit of googling, and I found it!  I am taking good care of his copy, but I plan to order my own in the next couple of days.  I am not even through the first chapter, but I can already tell that this will be a book that I read and reread.  The author presents "Rules for Happy Living", and there are 15 in all.  The first rule is one that we all know:

Count your blessings, not your troubles.

Keeping a gratitude journal is one way to do that.  Also, as you go about your day, whenever stress, doubts, complaints, etc., creep into your thinking (and will eventually come out of your mouth!), purpose to count some of your blessings instead.  I began trying this yesterday.  What a challenge.  I was surprised at how many negative thoughts and internal murmurings ran through my brain.  As much as I remembered to, I would stop myself and quickly think of a positive spin on that negative thought.

I plan to continue this challenge today.  Wouldn't that be a good habit to develop?  To purpose to replace all negative thinking with positive instead.  To express thankfulness in each and every situation.  We are commanded to do that, you know.

"in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

That pretty much sums it up…..in everything give thanks.

I began a new gratitude journal today.  It is a pretty one that my girls gave me for my birthday.  I had been saving it for this purpose.

So what about you?  Can you purpose to count your blessings, not your troubles today?  Can you recored your blessings in a notebook?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Menu, Miles, MSU, and More

stir fry vegetables
brown rice
homemade egg rolls

penne pasta with zucchini and red sauce

homemade chicken noodle soup
homemade bread

baked potatoes

sauteed vegetable and hummus wraps
sweet and spicy sweet potato rounds


You can visit OrgJunkie for more menu ideas.

Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Rounds
4 sweet potatoes
2 Tbs. brown sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. paprika
3/4 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbs. olive oil

Peel and slice potatoes thinly. Pour olive oil over potatoes in a large bowl, and stir to coat.  Sprinkle spices and brown sugar over potatoes, and stir again until all potatoes are covered.
Place on a greased or foil-covered and sprayed baking sheet, in a single layer.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender or slightly crunchy.

This is the peak mileage week of our marathon training.  I ran 11 miles this morning, and I have 36 miles left.  One run will be my long run of 22 miles.  I am planning on meeting Leanna and Stacee for that run on Friday.  The rest of the week I will run 6, 4, and 4.  I think that adds up to 47!

Sadly, Mississippi State could not pull off a win against Alabama.  However, we had lots of fun watching the game----good food, good friends, good fellowship.  We had four couples and 17 children at Leanna's house for the game.  It was a fun afternoon.

My dryer stopped working on Friday, and so I spent Friday night at the laundrymat.  Fun!  I do love those huge washers and dryers though.  I got all of my laundry done in 1.5 hours.  Folded too.  The repairman is here this morning, and I will be washing, drying, and folding for the rest of today when he gets it up and running!  I am so appreciative for modern conveniences!

We plan to get our Christmas tree at the beginning of next week.  That is if the nursery where I buy my tree from each year has them.  I plan to get a SMALL tree this year.  Last year's tree grew on the way home from the nursery.  It was SO LARGE last year…..and a little bit lopsided.  It did not look like that at the nursery! So, I will be looking for a smallish tree--9 feet tall, max.

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, November 14, 2014


That's how I feel, but I am working on it!

I'm nearing the end of my marathon training.  In fact, next week is the highest mileage of all--47 miles with a long run of 22 miles.  Yesterday Leanna and I ran 18 miles in the freezing cold (31 degrees), and it actually sleeted while we ran!  We were not expecting that! Tomorrow I plan to run 9 miles with Lynn, and she just texted me that the temperature will be 24 degrees!  Crazy!  I will wear tights, running pants, five shirts, two pairs of gloves, a hat, and a headband.

Lynn came over yesterday afternoon, and she and I along with our girls went the the city of Baldwyn's Christmas Open House for an evening of Christmas shopping.  It was a lot of fun!  We met Leanna there too.  I got quite a bit of my shopping done.  Those were my first purchases of the season.  I made a list and felt quite accomplished checking many items off.  Jimmy and Leanna's cousin, Season, has the cutest store in Baldwyn, and I bought several gifts there.

I worked some on my Christmas binder this morning. I began by transferring everything to a new, larger binder.  Mine was overflowing.  I love the Better Binders from Staples, and I had an empty one just waiting to be my new Christmas binder.  I cleaned out some extra and unnecessary pages and then printed out a master gift list table.  It includes each person that I give a gift to, what the gift is (I fill in this part as I make or buy the gift), and when it is wrapped. I use basically the same table each year.  I just delete last year's data, and print out and save a new blank one.

And one more thing:

Hail State!

1Mississippi State (48)1
2Florida State (12)2

We will be watching tomorrow's game with our fellow Bulldogs:  Lynn, Kelly, Leanna, Joe, John, and Leigh (who really is a Bama fan) and all of our families. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cinnamon Muffins

These are Leah's favorite.  I made them this morning so I thought I would share the recipe before we begin school.

***You may substitute the flour with all-purpose flour.  I grind my own flours, and use those, but I am sure that regular flour will work great!  You can also use any kind of milk.  I use organic sugar (I think it's raw?…..it's pretty big brown granules…..I bought a 50 lb. bag from Azure Standard almost a year ago), but again, plain white sugar will do too. Oh, and instead of the ground flaxseed meal, you could substitute 2 eggs.

I think that is all the modifications.

Here is my recipe:

Cinnamon Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
1 cup brown rice flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbs. ground flaxseed meal
2 Tbs. cinnamon
1 cup natural (unsweetened) applesauce
3 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups milk (I use 1 cup soy and 1 cup almond)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend dry ingredients thoroughly.  Add wet ingredients and stir until well combined.  Bake in greased ( I spray with olive oil spray) muffin tins for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.
Makes 16 muffins. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's Already November

Where does the time go?  I can't believe that it is November.

I have done nothing to prepare for Christmas.  Well, I have bought a roll of red wrapping paper and two rolls of easy to tie ribbon.  And like I said last month, I am NOT buying anymore gift wrapping supplies.  My challenge for myself is to use up all that I already have!

Some years I have had all of my Christmas shopping done BEFORE THANKSGIVING!  Not this year.  In fact, I have only not even begun a list yet.  But I plan to make a list before next Thursday.  That is the night that I am going to the Baldwyn Downtown Open House. (And I totally just made that name up).  It is is downtown Baldwyn (where Leanna and I do our long runs each week), and it is their Christmas open house, but I don't know the official name of this event.  I just know that Baldwyn has the cutest gift shops, one of which is owned by one of Jimmy's first cousins, and I plan to get a lot of my Christmas shopping done from 5-8 next Thursday night.  Fun!

Last weekend was so much fun!  First, we went to our friends, the Prince's house for a Halloween party.  Jimmy and I dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, only I did not wear red spandex.  I made our costumes (don't be impressed), and they did turn out cute!  I will post a picture another day. (They are in my phone, and my phone is far away from me right now.)  Julie was Rapunzel from Tangled, and she made her costume too, and you will be impressed when I share the picture.  Leah was Dorothy, (wearing a cute costume my mother made), and Clay and Sam were, well, I'll let you see when I share the pictures.

Then, on Saturday, we went to see the Bulldogs play.  The #1 football team in the nation, Mississippi State!  We arrived in Starkville at noon, and joined Kelly and Lynn and their children for a chilly day of football, food, and fun. It was cold! We had not tailgated since the last year that we had season tickets with Kelly and Lynn, and that was was several years ago. We really had a great time.  We went early to secure our spots near the sidewalk for the Dawg Walk, and that was an experience!  Those football players were treated like movie stars walking on the red carpet!  Ha!  And Dak Prescott had three bodyguards!

We almost froze at the game, but we stayed until the very last second.  What an exhausting game.  Thankfully, the Bulldogs came out on top.  We got back to our tailgating spot about 10:00 PM.  We had already packed everything up before the game, so we hung out in and around Kelly and Lynn's truck until 11:30, and truly "tailgated".  We ate the rest of our food and drank cokes from the back of the truck.  And most of us crammed inside the truck to try to keep warm.  When the traffic looked like it was moving more than 1 foot per five minutes, we decided to ease into the line of cars and try to get home.
We arrived home at 1:00 AM.  I am so glad that we got to set the clocks back.  We needed that extra hour of sleep.

I am drowning in schoolwork, making study guides, list making, graduation planning, marathon training, grocery shopping, laundry, housecleaning (or lack thereof), etc.---just like you!  :)

Olivia is in New York for a national college XC meet.  Wow.  She is far away from us!
The kids are ready for me to read Farmer Boy to them before bed…….

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some Random Things

  1. It's October and that means Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Here is your friendly reminder to schedule or at least think about when you need to schedule your mammogram (if you are of the age or heath history that warrants a mammogram).  Also please consider cleaning up your diet and adding or increasing your exercise if applicable.
  2. For the last two years, in honor of this month, I (with the help of friends and family) have sewn comfort pillows and drain bag holders for mastectomy patients.  This year I have not even bought the supplies to do so!  I am regretful about this, but it is what it is.  This is a project that is very dear to my heart, and even as I type this I am inspired to go to Hobby Lobby today or another day this week and buy what I need and get to sewing.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I can…..
  3. Also in honor of this month, my friend John is holding another WOD for the Cure.  His first one was two years ago when I was recovering from my 3rd and final breast cancer-related surgery, and so I could not participate.  Sadly, I cannot participate this year either because of a previous commitment!  I am still buying a t-shirt to show my support.  Thank you John for doing this.  All proceeds will go to the Women First Resource Center here in Tupelo.  This is one of the organizations where I donate my pillows and bags.
  4. While I was running on my treadmill yesterday morning I watched some of the last of the Love Comes Softly DVD series.  I think there are eight movies in all, and I have watched all of them while running on the treadmill over the last few months.  Anyway, in yesterday's movie (I can't remember the name…..they all have the word LOVE in the titles), Clark had every single thing that you could think of going wrong in his life.  His wife had just died, his daughter almost burned down their house, he was about to lose his home and land because he was so behind on his mortgage payments, and the area was suffering from a lengthy and severe drought (which is why he was behind financially).  He and his father were trying, unsuccessfully, to dig a well to use for irrigation, and Clark just lost it.  He. Had. Had. Enough. Adversity.  His father offered this sage advice. (And I paraphrase.)
When you are overwhelmed, just do the next thing.  The next thing, the one that is right in front of you.  Just do it.  And then do the next thing.  And so on.

So that is something for us all to ponder today.  Whatever is overwhelming YOU today, just do the new thing.  Make a list if you have to, and maybe the first thing on your list needs to be PRAY.  Whatever it is, just do the next thing.  And then the next.  And so on. And remember...

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Colossians 3:17

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Newest Nephew

It is with great joy and happiness that I share with you the arrival of my newest nephew!  Russ, Megan, and Millie Janalee have a new baby boy in their family.  You can read all about him by clicking here.

We are going to meet Smith this afternoon, and I cannot wait to hold this precious bundle of joy!
But before that fun event, I have to do some Saturday chores. What about you?  What plans do you have for this beautiful day?  (The weather is so nice here where I live….slightly cool--fall is in the air.)

I encourage you to look around you today and make a mental (or literal) list of things that you are thankful for today.  Choose to express joy today.  Pray for someone in need.

Enjoy your Saturday!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Happy Days

Olivia is home for her short fall break, and we are all so excited! She has to go back on Sunday, so we are squeezing in all of the rest, food, and fun that we can.  We are taking off from school today, but tomorrow we plan to have a regular school day.

This week has gone by so fast!  Tuesday, Julie and Clay made the 11 hour round trip for a XC meet.  Thankfully, our two Spartans coaches each drove an 11 passenger van and took the entire team by themselves.  I was so weary from traveling--I was so thankful that Heather and David did that.  Our boys and girls teams both did fantastic!  The boys won 2nd place (coming behind the first place team by only 2 points), and our girls won 3rd place.  We also had some individual runner's awards too.  Go Spartans!

The weather is getting cooler here, and the leaves are changing on the trees. God's creation is so beautiful!

***Holiday Tip***
It's time to start thinking about your Christmas cards (if you send them).  I wanted to take the picture for our card this weekend, but the boys need haircuts.  So, I will take them during Olivia's Thanksgiving break.  I will be thinking about and planning what I want them to wear.  I may look at the cards on Shutterfly and choose my card.  Then I can match the children's clothes to the card.  Anyway, that's my goal for now.  Choose the card and plan the outfits.  I'll take the picture during Thanksgiving break and order them right away.  I should have them ready to go out by the beginning of December.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Don't Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good

I like that quote.

I first heard it this summer when I was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and then again just a few weeks ago when my friend John shared a short lesson at our Wednesday night Bible study.
You can apply this quote to a variety of situations. It is great to set goals.  In fact, failure to dream and plan can prevent you from accomplishing anything.  But, sometimes, in striving to attain the goal (whatever that goal may be, whether large or small), we may lose sight of the joy and growth during the process, or we may give up the goal altogether if the work of attaining it is too difficult.  Or too messy.  Or too whatever.
In a small way, I am applying that quote to my day today.

Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.

I began my day "behind" because I stayed up till after midnight trying to catch up on paperwork, etc., after begin away from home for so long.  I got up just in time to make Jimmy's lunch before he left for work, and by the time I had finished my Bible study and making my plan of attack for the day, it was just minutes until 8:00, my time for everyone to start school time.

I am still in my pajamas.  It is 4:04 PM.
I have not run.
I did not read Leah's Sonlight books before she left for piano lessons with her older siblings.
I still have a load of laundry to fold.
I did not get Clay's essay lesson prepared in time to teach it to him today. 
I have not done any housework today.

But, I am not going to let this define my day.  The day is not over.  But even if it was, I can choose to dwell on what I did do today. The day has not been perfect, but the day has been good.

There is always something to be thankful for, in every day, in every situation.  Sometimes you have to look a little bit harder, but it's there.

I have good health.
I read books to my sweet 8 year old.
I am listening to this same sweet little boy chatter away about his stuffed animals riding his lego creation as I type this.  (He chatters ALL DAY LONG). 
I studied a difficult algebra lesson today and I actually understood it!  I just hope I can remember it Wednesday when I have to teach it to Clay.
I almost have supper ready to put in the oven, and I may, just may get my run in after all--while the supper is cooking--if we don't lose power because we are having storms here right now, and our power goes out every time we have bad weather…..
I got all of my other schoolwork done with my children.
I made two phone calls on my list today.

So, even though today has not been a perfect day (when is a day perfect?), it can still be good.  I am preaching to myself here!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Menu and Miles


I got home last Thursday night just in time to attend our gospel meeting at our church. (I spent a little bit of extra time at the Memphis airport visiting newsstands until I found Sports Illustrated--the issue with MSU and Ole Miss on the cover--I found them!) I was weary from traveling, but it had been so, so good to visit with Olivia, even though the visit was brief.

Friday I began my day with a 16 mile run.  Not the best idea! I ran two runs of 6 miles and 4 miles on our vacation to Utah, and none, not one mile, until Friday of last week.  It had been two weeks since my last long run, and attempting that distance after that long of a break was unwise!  I made it fine (just a little bit tired) until mile 10.  It was a struggle after that.  Leanna and I had planned to run 17, but I could not make it another step.  She finished without me.  I was sore all Friday and Saturday, but I am feeling much better today.

Here is this week's plan, and I am going to follow it!

Monday:  6 or 9 (depends on how late I stay up tonight catching up on bills, mail, etc.)
Tuesday:  6 or 9 (whichever I don't do on Monday)
Wednesday:  6
Thursday:  rest
Friday:  18
Saturday:  rest
Total:  39

I took Sam and Leah to a 2 hour birthday party this afternoon, and while they were there I shopped at Bath and Body Works, Walmart (monthly shopping), Kroger (weekly shopping), and Sam's (just a few things I did not pick up last week during my monthly shopping just a couple of hours before I left on my road trip). I was flying through those stores!

Here is the menu for the week:

Monday:  veggie burgers, slaw, baked beans
Tuesday:  rice and beans buffet
Wednesday:  Julie cooks (I think it's an Indian dish)
Thursday:  turkey meatloaves, mashed potatoes, green peas, rolls
Friday:  stir fry, rice, spring rolls
Saturday:  taco soup
Sunday:  pasta salad and fruit salad

Visit OrgJunkie.com for more menu ideas.

One more thing:

What an exciting weekend for the Bulldogs!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Going or Coming?

So here's the deal.

I left home at 6:00 AM (Central time zone) with my family (minus Olivia--at college) on September 29, for a vacation to St. George, Utah.  We flew into Las Vegas (Pacific time zone) and rented a van to drive the 2 hours to St. George (Mountain time zone).  We had a wonderful time in Utah, visiting Zion National Park for two full days and Snow Canyon on two other days.  We did a variety of other fun things too. While we were there Jimmy ran the St. George Marathon.  We came back to Las Vegas on Sunday morning, worshiped with a group of Christians there, and then visited Hoover Dam. We flew home Monday, October 6 (back to Central time zone)and arrived home at 9:30 PM.  I then left Tuesday, October 7, to begin driving to Olivia's school to deliver her a car.  I stopped halfway (Eastern time zone), spent the night, and started early yesterday morning driving the rest of the way.  We have had a nice but brief visit.  She is in class right now, and I am doing her laundry.  I am flying home after lunch today.
So between Sunday and Wednesday I have been in the following states:  Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida.  I will add Tennessee to this list today.  :)

I really don't know if I am coming or going!

Here are a couple of pictures from our trip (we took over 500, I think!)

"But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more."
Psalm 71:14

Monday, October 6, 2014

Menu and Miles

Hello there!

I am planning only four meals right now.  This weekend I plan to do my major once a month shopping at Sam's and Walmart, and I will also plan the rest of my meals (loosely) for October.  

Meal 1:  salad, oven baked sweet potato and regular potato fries
Meal 2:  pasta salad, green salad, fruit
Meal 3:  taco soup (crock pot)
Meal 4:  stir fry vegetables, brown rice, baked spring rolls

I know that I list salad a lot on my menus, and sometimes with not much else, so I guess some of you are thinking, "How do they get full on salad?"  Well, my salads are more than lettuce and tomatoes.  
When I buy groceries each week, my girls and I usually chop up the broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, ice berg lettuce, and sometimes bell peppers and green onions too.  I store these in the refrigerator, and it is so easy to add them to a green salad, a bowl of rice and beans, or to our pasta salad.

Here is what we choose from when making a salad each day:

iceberg lettuce
spring mix
shredded cabbage
bell peppers
green onions
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds
slivered almonds
dried craisins
golden raisins
black beans

So, you can get a variety of nutrition from the above ingredients, mixed and matched in different ways. I always have homemade bread (made by my resident chef, Julie!) to accompany the meal.  I also always have on hand brown rice, potatoes, or quinoa to round out the meal.

Be sure to visit OrgJunkie.com for more menu inspiration.

Well I am beginning Week 5 of 14 of my current marathon training.  I did not do my long run last week because of traveling, but I plan to get my miles in this week.  :) Here they are--
9, 17, 6, 5, for a total of 37.  

Have a happy day, and let's all think before we speak today.  :)

"Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so."
James 3:10

Friday, October 3, 2014

December is Approaching

In keeping with my quest to simplify my life (and enjoy the process) I have decided to simplify my Christmas holidays.

While I LOVE wrapping paper, ribbon, tissue, and tape, I plan to buy only one roll of wrapping paper this year (red, from Hobby Lobby, as soon as they put it on sale), and to use all of the paper I have from previous years.  I also do not plan on buying any ribbon.  I have enough.  And if I run out of a particular color, I will just use a different color.

I also love buying and wrapping gifts for my husband, children, family, and friends, but this year I am putting a limit on myself.  Three gifts per person.  I tend to get "just one more tiny thing" for my children and nieces and nephews each year…..as I visit cute gift shops or our Celebration Village (a one-stop shopping extravaganza here in Tupelo, held for a few days at the end of October).  Limiting my purchases will also simplify my wrapping.

I got out my Christmas binder the other day.  I had already put in a divider for 2014, so the next thing I have to do is to print out a master gift list template.  (With 3 spaces beside each name!)  This is just a list of every single person that I will be giving a present to during the month of December.  It includes family, friends, teachers, hairdressers, etc. As I purchase or make each gift, I record it on the list.  I also include a column to check off when the gift is wrapped. I keep my list each year, filing it behind the appropriate year. I also keep a separate list of gift ideas (crafts, baked goods, cute things I see online or in a store).

One last thing that I am changing for this holiday season is to not have my sibling store.  It has been a good thing…..but this year I am asking my children to give handmade gifts to one another. I will help Leah and Sam plan their gifts, and assist them as needed.

I have fabric that I purchased last year for special gifts for my family…..and I never got around to even starting the project.  I plan to do it this year!

My birthday (September 16) marks 100 days to Christmas Day.  I am not sure what day it is today in the countdown, but it's not too early to at least think about your holiday plans.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Really Going To Start Blogging Again


I have a friend on Facebook (an internet, email group friend, not an "in real life friend", although I know that we would be friends in real life if we lived in the same town) who recently shared a link to this blog post.

While reading her post, I found myself agreeing with some of her points.  I have definitely gotten out of the habit of blogging for a variety of reasons.  I began this blog over six years ago, and until this summer, I have posted fairly regularly.  But this summer I got writer's block. What do I have left to say that I already have not already said? Why I am even blogging?  That, along with the fact that I feel my life getting more and more complicated rather than simpler, which is what I crave, has kept me from blogging.

From the beginning of my blog, I have purposed to keep it upbeat and positive.  Not that I don't have my share of problems or that my life is perfect, but I want to be encouraging, not depressing.  But there is always that balance.  I don't want to appear as someone who has it all together, because I certainly don't. I strive to serve a perfect God, one who created me in His image, and I try follow his commands daily.  I also fail daily.

So that's the struggle.  How to blog in a realistic, encouraging way without painting a false picture of total success.  Since I have not been able to figure that out over the last couple of months, I have just stopped writing altogether.  Now I don't want y'all to think that I am having some kind of mid-life crisis or that I am in the middle of a major personal or family catastrophe, because it's nothing like that, but I have been overwhelmed for a few months.

Parenting older teens and youngish children is challenging.  Logistically, emotionally, and even physically--even though I though parenting the newborn, toddler, and preschooler combination was physically exhausting too.  Older children require more brain cells to parent--papers to edit, relationship troubles, teams, meetings, music lessons, and practices, to coordinate, and so on.  I have repeatedly told my close friends that taking care of older children is so much harder in some ways than when they were small and my biggest tasks were changing diapers, fixing sippee cups, cleaning up endless messes, and buying groceries with small children in tow without losing my sanity.

I am so thankful that my older children are all Christians.  All of my children are precious gifts from God, and I treasure them.  Somewhere along the way I have become a slave to the tyranny of the urgent.  I am looking for ways to slow down and simplify.

I truly hope to get back to blogging on a regular basis.  I hope I have something that you want to read, and maybe getting my thoughts down on paper (or on the screen) will help me as well.

Please comment with any topics you would like me to write about.  :)

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Easy Crock Pot Recipe

This time of year I have to use my crock pot to prepare supper on both Tuesdays and Thursdays because we have cross country practice until 5:00 or 5:30, and then we have to drive home after that. I found this recipe over the weekend on My Plant Based Family Blog, (click here for the original recipe). Below is my version of the recipe---I increased the ingredients a little bit, and the end result was perfect for my family.

Easy Crock Pot Mexican Casserole
  • 1 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 12 oz. + 1 6 oz. can of tomato sauce (I am not sure of the ounces of those cans.it was one big and one small can)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 quart pinto beans (I used the beans that I canned this summer. You could use two store-bought cans of pinto or black beans, but drain and rinse them well before adding.)
  • 1 bag frozen corn
Just dump all ingredients in the crock pot, stir to combine, and cook for 4 hours on high or 6-8 on low. I served this with tortilla chips, and if I had taken the time to make it, a salad would have been nice to have as well.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's My Birthday!

Today I turn 45.  I am sure that I look 45, but I don't feel 45.  Most days I still feel like I am 25, until about 3:00 PM, and then I lose steam…..if I get a cup of coffee, that perks me up, but then I cannot sleep at night, and then I am tired in the morning when the alarm goes off at 5:00 AM, and so the cycle goes….


Today is going to be a fabulous day!

We actually began our celebration last night after supper. Jimmy and the children presented me with two beautifully wrapped gifts with instructions to open them "right now". So I did.  And I was given marvelous presents:  a huge bag of M&Ms, a bag of Hershey Kisses, and the movie Moms' Night Out.  Fun!  Our whole family (minus our college student) gathered in our den to eat chocolate and watch the movie.  Even the third time, that movie is hilarious!  Jimmy and the boys had never seen it, so it was fun to hear them laugh too.  Jimmy even stayed awake for the entire movie!

Today we will celebrate with a birthday lunch at a Japanese restaurant, and then this afternoon we will be watching Julie and Clay run in their first cross country meet of the season.  I slept in this morning, and I don't plan to run or do (much) laundry today.  My children and husband are so sweet to make this day special for me.  I intend to enjoy every bit of it.  Sam and Julie are in the kitchen right now preparing breakfast.

I read the book of Philippians this morning.  This verse stood out:

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."
Philippians 2:3-4

I think this verse can apply to numerous areas of my life.  From my service to God to my relationships with my husband, my children, and my family and friends.  Dying to self is difficult.  Yet Jesus commands it.

For this my 45th year and for all the remaining years of my life, I aim to keep the following verse in the forefront of my mind:

"I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:14

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Fun Weekend

We had a fun, uneventful, but very enjoyable time together this weekend.

Lori and I met Julie for supper at our favorite Starkville restaurant, Oby's.  But before we decided for sure that's where we wanted to eat, we considered a couple of more places.  Julie's daddy, who lives in Starkville, suggested the Dawg House if we wanted some place different.  So Lori and I asked the (young) guy who was checking us into the hotel if he recommended the Dawg House.  He looked at us, thought a moment, and then said, "Well……I am not sure if the Dawg House is where you ladies want to go…..it is a Friday night and all…..there will be lots of college students there…..you MAY BE TOO MATURE FOR THAT CROWD!!

What did he just say?

Did he mean mature as in "too old"?

We weren't sure.  So we just opted to dine at Oby's, and we were not disappointed!  We enjoyed our yummy sandwiches and fries, and we talked and laughed and talked and laughed (and drank lots of sweet tea) until we were almost the last people still in the restaurant.

When we arrived back at the hotel, the nice young guy at the front desk asked us where we ended up going for supper.

I told him, "Oby's.  With the mature crowd."
He sheepishly grinned.

Lori and I talked until about midnight, and then Saturday morning we met Julie and Jean Ann at the Kim C. Gee Race For Awareness at 8:30.  Lori and Julie did not bring running/walking clothes, and we already knew that Jean Ann was just going to spectate, so I decided to just watch too!  

 Jean Ann, Me, Julie, and Lori.
Young college girls!

As I expected, we shed a few tears when we saw Kim's husband, mother, sisters, and children.  But it was so good seeing all of them.

After the run, we all went to the Phi Mu house.  We were let in by some college girls, and we promptly told them, and everyone that we ran into, that we were among the first girls to live in that house (not that long ago).  We gave ourselves a tour, and we found these cute letters in the chapter room.  They were begging for a photo!

young college girls again

We wandered up and down the halls of both floors, and we found our photos in the huge composite pictures lining the walls.  Yes.  Everyone had big hair from 1987-1991.  We visited the rooms that we lived in.  We admired the improvements that had been made.  And we celebrated the news that the house was going to get a facelift and some renovations soon.

Julie and Jean Ann had to leave after this, but Lori and I enjoyed one more meal together at the City Bagel before heading back to Tupelo.  

It was a good visit.  We really missed our friends who could not join us. 
But don't worry---we talked about them!  (all good things, of course)  :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Moms' Night Out

Tonight and tomorrow as well, I am having a Moms' Night Out (although I don't foresee Jimmy and my children, nor my friends and I doing any of the following:  a.  ending up in jail, b.  visiting the ER, c.  going to a super nice restaurant, or d.  bowling.)  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  (have you seen the movie, Moms' Night Out?)

Anyway, one of my college roommates, Lori, is picking me up this afternoon, and we are headed to Starkville.  We are meeting another friend, Julie, there, and then we will joined in the morning by Jean Ann.  Many of my other dear college friends were invited to this event, but as it is with husbands and children, they all have various and sundry commitments, and so it is just the four of us.

Blast from the past--Lori and I in college!
(When I showed these pictures to Sam this morning, he said, "Are y'all wearing wigs?
No, son.  It's just the early 1990's hairstyles!

We really don't have any specific plans for the evening except eating (probably at an old college favorite, Oby's) and then talking and laughing, catching up and reminiscing, and I am sure also shedding a few tears.  

Tomorrow morning we will participate in the 8th annual Kim C. Gee 5K Run For Awareness.  
This race is memory of our dear friend (and one of my college roommates too), Kim, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer back in October of 2006.

Here is a picture of Kim and me (in our wig hair!) back in the day.  I think we had the same hair at this point in our lives…..permed, teased, etc.  We were also the same exact size, and we shared lots of clothes.  We were roommates in Hathorn Hall, our sophomore year, and we lived on the Phi Mu Floor. Fun times!

The next year, my junior year, Lori and I roomed together, and Kim and our friend Stephanie lived across the hall.  More fun times.  We were among the very first girls to live in our brand new Phi Mu house, along with Geri, Caren, Sharon D., Kim N., Jean Ann, Sharon B., Julie, and others.

Later, after we graduated, we (about 12 of us) were all in each other's weddings, and for a while we got together for bridal showers, baby showers, and just to visit for fun about once a year or so for several years. And when Kim got sick, we got together too.  And then we all gathered for Kim's funeral……
Now, at least some of our original group make it to Kim's 5K Run each year.

It will be good to see Kim's mother and the rest of her family.

And it will be so good to laugh and cry and just be with dear old friends!

Thursday, September 4, 2014


The Johnson Family is still alive and doing well.

I have been reading lots of books in my (non-existent) spare time, and so I have not made time for blogging.  Some for pleasure, and some for my children's school.

I made a major change in Julie's (12th grade) English plans, and that has required even more reading for me.  (It's a good change…..I'll share about that later).

We miss Olivia.  Missing her does not mean that her being far away at college is the wrong thing, but it just means that we miss her!  A lot.  I am still trying to send her some sort of mail--a letter, card, or package on most days.  And of course we talk, email, and text daily.

I ran the Tupelo 13.1 Miler last weekend.  It was a fun race, and Leanna and I were very happy with our time.  We got a very cool shirt and an even cooler medal.  I have tried to maintain 30 miles per week for the last month, and our official marathon training (my 6th time to train!) begins next Monday. I am crazy for training for another marathon, but I am crazy anyway, and at least I will be crazy and fit.

My swimming pool water is as green as our grass.  I have never in had water this color for so long.  I have done everything I know to do to it, but without any success.  If I can ever find/make the time to go to town, I will take a pool sample to the pool place and let them diagnose my water.  Yuk!

Chemistry is hard.  Clay is doing chemistry this year, and it is hard!  Jimmy has volunteered to be his tutor, and he spent a good bit of time last weekend studying the first two modules and teaching and explaining all the concepts and math portions to Clay.  Clay told me that he spent 7 hours practicing the math problems for the test!  And he made an A!

I cooked spaghetti squash for the first time last night.  It was good.  I just halved it, scraped out the seeds and pulp, sprayed a little olive oil mist on it, salted it, and baked in on 375 degrees convection for about 40 minutes.  Then Julie scraped it out into strands with a fork.  Delicious.

That sums it up.  We have finished several read aloud books over the last weeks, and we began reading Farmer Boy last night.  That is one of my favorites!

One more thing.  I bought a Smash Book.  Its theme is the months of the year.  I am not sure what I am going to put in it, or if I will ever even put anything in it, but I have wanted one for a while.  So I saw this one on clearance at JoAnn's last week, and I bought it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What's Going On

Here is the short(ish) version of a long story.

I left on August 15 with all five children, in a fully packed vehicle with a carrier thing on top, hours of audio books and 3 new DVDs.  We arrived at Olivia's college 13.5 hours later.  What a trip!

We spent the night in a hotel, and moved Olivia's things into her dorm room that Saturday morning.  I was greeted with a wonderful surprise and a most unexpected blessing--Olivia's roommate and her mother had moved all of their things (Olivia's too) out of storage and into the dorm room.  It was all there.  Waiting for us to unpack.  I cannot express what a delight that was!  Olivia is in the same dorm room with the same roommate, but they had to move every single thing out of the room for the summer.  We stored most of it in a climate controlled basement storage area of a nearby dorm.

I stayed for 3 more nights there, and spent the time unpacking Olivia, buying her some groceries and a few items from Target, and then, one by one, all of the children except Leah came down with strep throat!  Olivia was first, and her case was the worst, because it was two days after her throat began hurting until she began treatment.  I found a Walgreens walk-in health clinic, and she was seen by the nicest nurse practitioner.  Next was Sam, then Julie, and on the Wednesday we arrived home, Clay.  So far, neither Leah nor I have a sore throat and Jimmy was here at home the whole time working…..I figure that if we were going to get it, we already would have.

Since Olivia was feeling so badly, and since she was contagious, I bought her school books for her and ran all of her errands.  She was beginning to feel somewhat better when we left for home on Tuesday afternoon.  We took her to an Indian restaurant for lunch before we left.  Yum.

We drove halfway, and stopped for the night in a hotel.  Then on Wednesday morning we got on the road early and arrived home about 2:00 PM.

We were so glad to be home, but we are already missing Olivia terribly!

We did school Thursday and Friday, and then Friday afternoon we traveled to Jackson to attend Jimmy's 20th year medical school class reunion.  We met my daddy along the way, and he took the children to my parents' house.  Jimmy and I joined them later Friday night after his reception.
We spent the night, ate lunch with them today, and then came back home this afternoon.  Home again!

We will get back to school next week!  I had budgeted these days for travel when I made my original home school year calendar.  So it's all good.

Except that we miss Olivia.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Smooth Homeschool Day

Is there such a thing as a smooth homeschool day? What about a smooth day in general?  While no day is perfect, I believe that we can takes steps to encourage a day that flows fairly smoothly.  Now this does not take into consideration the inevitable mishaps, but having a routine in place creates stability in your day.  Children thrive with the security of routine.  You don't have to be a drill sergeant or a tedious clock watcher with a timer, but finding your own personal rhythm to your own school day, and then teaching and implementing the routine to your children, will make for a productive day.  (Well, on most days!)

I wrote a post for Real Life At Home (formerly The Homeschool Classroom) three years ago entitled, 10 Ways to Make Your Homeschool Day Run Smoothly.  This article sums up my thoughts about creating a rhythm to your homeschool day.

We completed our 6th day of homeschool for this school year yesterday.  Fortunately, the schedule/routine that I created for us to follow is working smoothly.  When Julie begins her online college courses later this month, I may have to adjust our routine slightly….it depends on how well our internet provider cooperates with the online classes!  For the first few days, she may need me to help her navigate her courses, and I will have to make allowances in my routine for this.  The younger children will be comfortable with their schoolwork by this time, and I am hoping that they will be able to work independently while I assist her.

Olivia will be going back to college soon.  We are slowly packing her up.  Thankfully I saved the master list that I typed for her last August, and now it's just a matter of putting items in boxes/bags/suitcases/ and checking them off the list.  We stored a lot of her things at her school, so we do not have as much to carry this time.

My blogging will be sporadic as I adjust to the hours of marathon training, homeschooling for 7 hours a day, the children's extra activities beginning, and keeping the household running as well.

Have a great day!

"She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness."
Proverbs 31:27

Friday, August 8, 2014

Your Scheduling Questions Answered

Do you plan your group classes together first? 
I only do Bible with all of my children together.  They are welcome to listen to each other's Sonlight books, but Bible is the only thing that I require all of them to be with me at the same time.  I choose our Bible time based on what time I think all children will be awake, fed, and through with their chores.  I also take into consideration if I am training for a marathon or not, and realistically what time I will consistently be home from running.  Over the past several years we have had our Bible time anywhere between 8:00 and 10:00 AM.  This school year our Bible time is at 9:00 AM.  I have on my schedule to do writing and chemistry (when needed) with Clay (10th grade)  from 8-9.  I am making sure that I am through running by 7:45.  Julie (12th grade) is working on her online classes from 8-9, and Leah and Sam are eating breakfast, doing chores, and beginning their independent school work from 8-9.  We do our Bible lesson from 9:00-9:30.

How do you plan to be with each child at a certain time during the day and not cross over onto another child's time? 
I plan very carefully!  :)
I highly recommend reading and implementing the scheduling methods in Managers of Their Homes (MOTH), sold at Titus2.com.  I also have learned many tips which I use on a daily basis from Teri Maxwell's other books (sold on the same website), Managers of Their Schools and Managers of Their Chores.  I used to use the sticky tack and the huge spreadsheet that is included in MOTH when planning my new school year schedule.  Now I just pull up my last year's schedule and delete, add, and rearrange blocks in the table.  Then I rename it, save it, and print it out.  
But actually it's way more involved than that!
It takes a little bit of trial and error to get it all work out, but now I pretty much follow a similar schedule from year to year.

Here is an overview of my current school year schedule:
  • 8-9:  work with Clay; Julie does online classes; Leah and Sam do chores and begin independent school (using a laminated checklist that I have prepared)
  • 9-9:30:  Bible with all
  • 9:30-11:00:  Clay and Julie work alone; I assist Leah and Sam with all schoolwork except science and Sonlight
  • 11-11:30:  science with Leah and Sam; Julie and Clay work alone
  • 11:30-12:30:  school with Clay (check all his work, go over algebra, etc.); Leah and Sam finish up any schoolwork needed, Julie work alone (or she may be done by this time)
  • 12:30-1:30:  lunch.  I check email, attend to laundry, clean the kitchen, etc.
  • 1:30-3:00:  Sonlight with Leah and Sam.  I am doing 2 Cores.  I do one Core and then the other.  I alternate which Core I begin with each day.  Clay and Julie finish up any school work and then have free time.
  • 3:00:  I check Julie's schoolwork (really not that much, and I usually do it before this time.
  • extra activities, errands, housework, laundry, etc.
  • 5:00:  cook supper, kids do evening chores
Which leads me to these last questions.

School takes all day. When and how do you fit in all of your cleaning? How do you divide your chores with your kids and when do they do them if school starts around 8am? after school? 

We have very specific chore charts and lists.  The children  have before school chores (things like bring dirty clothes, pet care, make beds, etc.) and they also have evening chores (things like tidying different areas of the house, both inside and out, putting away clean laundry, taking out trash, etc.)  In addition to these daily chores, each child has weekly chores (things like dusting and vacuuming their rooms, cleaning out my vehicle, taking the trash to the road, cleaning bathrooms, etc.).  I divided my housework into areas and jobs, and everyone, even my 8yo has work to do each week.  I do not assign a specific day for these weekly chores to be done, but they must be completed by Saturday night.  I assess fines for any chore not completed by Saturday night.  Thankfully, I rarely collect any money!  I also do my fair share of the housework--the jobs that no one likes to do and the jobs that take the most time.  I usually do my housework 2-3 afternoons a week or on Saturday.

So, no, my house is not completely clean from top to bottom on any given day, but the whole house is cleaned once a week--just not all clean at the same time.  
I will add, that I do have a housekeeper that comes once a week and cleans my main floor.  That is a huge help, and I am very grateful that I have this help.  
My children are hard workers!  Jimmy is a hard worker too, and we just seem to keep the household running.  Our house is  never "magazine perfect", but it's homey and for the most part clean and orderly.

One last tip:  We pick up all the clutter every day

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our First Day Of School

We started our 2014-1015 school year bright and early Monday morning….about 7:30 AM.  I had a special breakfast ready.  (Normally our breakfast is self-serve).

I shopped at our local teacher supply store a few weeks ago, and I bought several products with the same apple theme/print.  I had fun planning our back-to-school celebration with these apples things.

Here is the table…..I copied a table I had seen on Pinterest….with a few modifications.

 I hot-glued green felt pieces cut out like leaves to the red plates. On the right are two pieces of chalk tied with ribbon.  The chalk is for writing on the placemats!  Another Pinterest idea!  I spray-painted old vinyl placemats with chalkboard paint.  It took three coats, and some of the placemats wrinkled up, but I had 5 that turned out fairly smooth, so I used those for the children's place settings.  I taped an alphabet letter initial on each child's cup, and I made a place card using white card stock, red paper, and the apple stickers that I bought.

I made this banner by glueing some of the apple cutouts and the black letters on a banner I bought from Hobby Lobby.

Here are the children enjoying their breakfast.
Then they drew on their placemats.

After breakfast, we had our annual back-to-school treasure hunt.  I had 9 clues that the children took turn reading and figuring out, and then for clue #10, I typed up 5 separate clues, one for each child, which led to the treasure.  This year's treasure was a pack of Sharpies for everyone except Olivia, who got Frixion erasable pens.

One last thing before actually beginning our schoolwork was to take the first day of school pictures.

We began school later than what I have planned for regular school days.  I think it was 9:00 before we started.  We did our Bible lesson and worked on other school work for a while, and then we took a snack break.  Again, this is a first day of school treat---normally, snacks are self serve too--when you are hungry.
Both snack ideas were from Pinterest.  Jimmy made the popcorn sacks (out of notebook paper), and he helped me get the "chalk" out of the straws.  (I melted white chocolate candy discs, sucked them into a straw, and froze them until they were hard).

We did more schoolwork after our snack break, and then I had one more special surprise for the day:  homemade alphabet soup.  (I had put it in the crock pot earlier in the day).

We continued with our schoolwork until 4:00 that afternoon!  It did not take all of my children until 4:00 to complete their work, but it took me that long to work with my children and check their work.

And then I canned a batch of tomatoes!