Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Hints

Well, in less than an hour, it will be December! What a busy month!

Here are a few reminders for the first week in December:
  • Christmas cards
  • Decorate
  • Finish up online shopping.
  • Check your gift list and make note of what you need to buy.
  • Wrap 3 gifts a day.
  • Look at your December calendar and obligations. Choose which dates you are hosting parties or family gatherings. Note which dates you will be attending parties or family gatherings. List your children's activities as well.
  • Send out invitations for any parties you are hosting.
  • Secure babysitters if needed.
  • Plan what baked goods/candy/treats you will be cooking this month and make a grocery list for the ingredients. Look at your calendar and choose two or three "cooking days".
  • Plan your menu for holiday meals and parties. Begin a grocery list for these occasions too. Shop for non-perishables as the items go on sale.
  • Finalize craft plans. Buy the necessary supplies and choose a couple of "craft days".
Finally, remember to enjoy this holiday season. Create pleasant memories for your family, and enjoy some time in the kitchen baking with your children. If you begin each day with quiet Bible study and prayer, you can start your day with thankfulness for all of your blessings. Don't let yourself get stressed by the busyness of the month or the length of your "to-do" list. Remember that we are to do all of our work as unto the Lord. Show lots of love to your husband and children and hug and kiss all of them often!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Few Pictures

Here are a some pictures from the last few days.

Leah, Julie, Clay, and Olivia trimming the tree

Sam--I am not sure if he is hanging that candy cane on the tree or eating it.

almost done!

Leah with her cousins Davis and Wesley

Olivia with her great grandmother, Meme

My grandmother, Momo, untangling yarn for Julie

Sweet sisters, Julie and Leah

My daddy with Holly

a little tray of crocheted cookies that Olivia made.
She also made the tray out of plastic canvas and yarn.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We have had a super fun day with my side of the family! One of my brothers had to work today, so he and his family, sadly, could not join us. We will all be together the week before Christmas though (at MY house!). I did get to visit with my brother Rhett, and his wife Amanda and two precious boys--Wesley and Davis. Both of my grandmothers were here too. We ate lots of delicious food, and the children played outside most of the day because it was about 80 degrees here today!

My Christmas cards arrived yesterday, so the girls and I have spent the last few hours preparing them to mail. Leah was a big help this year! She really enjoyed putting on the stamps. She also inserted the cards, sealed them, and applies return address labels.

Tomorrow I plan to grocery shop and prepare food for Jimmy's family Thanksgiving celebration which will be Saturday. More food and fun.

I am extremely thankful for my God, my salvation, my husband and children, my parents, and all of my family members. I am also thankful for this free country that we live in.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Tree is Up!

The fall decorations are all packed away, and now the house looks like December, even though I know that Thanksgiving is not even here yet! The Christmas decorations are so pretty, and we all enjoy looking at the decorated house so much, that I like to enjoy it for more than three or four weeks. Just like the last two years, we are running the St. Jude Marathon (Jimmy) and Half Marathon (Olivia, Julie, and me) the first Saturday in December, and we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with both sides of our families over the next few days, so Jimmy and I decided yesterday morning that yesterday was the day for the tree!

So it was 75 degrees, and the children and I bought a live tree! When Jimmy brought it home last night the children discovered a little bird's nest nestled in the branches. We just decorated around it. I had already arranged for Kelly, a long-time friend of ours from college to come last night to do the major decorating--he hangs the garland on the stairway and balcony, makes the table centerpieces, drapes beautiful garland on various pieces of furniture and light fixtures, and decorates the mantel. Sam calls this friend Kelly the other Kelly. Not to be confused with the regular Kelly, who is our dear friend that we see several times a week. (Married to Lynn).

We all got started about 6:00 PM. The children were eager to help in any way they could! They brought boxes down from storage, cleaned the kitchen, and folded clothes while they patiently waited for me to put the lights on. Olivia (since she is taller than me), helped me put the lights on the highest part of the tree, and then they all jumped around to Christmas music while I finished the lights. Jimmy watched the festivities for a little while, but then he had to go to sleep--he had worked all night the night before, and hadn't slept since Saturday!

And finally they could begin.

For two hours they decorated our beautiful tree! They giggled and shouted and reminisced over each ornament. They know where every ornament came from, whose it is, and what stories are behind it. Precious memories. I gave them each two new ornaments, but I forgot to get them out until after they had been decorating for 3o minutes or so. They all smiled and said, "We thought you had forgotten". Of course not! Every year I give them one or two new ornaments to hang on our tree. Some have special meaning, some are related to a particular interest the child has, and some are just cute and I thought they would like it.

About an hour into the decorating Julie made apple cider for everyone. Then Sam and Leah had hot chocolate--and it was almost 10:00! I stayed busy in the kitchen switching out my every day dishes for my three sets of Christmas ones. I treasured the lively conversations I overheard while they decorated.

By 10:30 or so the tree was done! We cleaned up everything, put all the boxes away, and admired our work. Then I put everyone to bed. Next, I cleaned up my gift wrap station in the storage room. Olivia, Julie, and I have all been wrapping presents, and also I have done a good bit of shopping over the last week--the gift wrapping table was a disaster! So I spent about an hour cleaning it all up, organizing it, and now it is ready. I finished around midnight.

We have one more day of school, today before our Thanksgiving break begins.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Can Dirt Break the Washing Machine?

I'll soon find out.

Now that the weather is cooler, Sam and Clay spend every spare minute in our woods. They explore, build, jump, work, slide, climb, and most importantly, they get dirty! Really dirty.

This is what Sam typically looks like when he tries to enter my house.

Those are white socks, and yes, he wears boots. He says he does not take his boots off outside.....

He usually accidentally falls into the creek.

And he always slides down the "dirt slide".

So, I have had to create an after you play in the woods protocol. Here it is:

1. Knock on the door. Do not come inside the house.
2. Ask someone to bring you an old towel.
3. Take off all of your filthy, muddy clothes, and wrap up in the towel.
4. Make sure your boots are up high on the shelf in the garage (our dogs like to carry off boots that are on ground level. They only take one boot of each pair!).
5. Put your filthy clothes in the laundry room sink.
6. Proceed upstairs to shower and dress.

Then I rinse most of the dirt out of the clothes in my deep laundry room sink before putting them in my washer. I do not wash the woods clothes with anyone else's laundry--just Sam's and Clay's clothes together. Fortunately, Clay is a little more mature than Sam, and his goal while playing in the woods is not to get as dirty as possible, so his clothes are not as filthy.

I think Clay sometimes slides down dirt slide too!

They are having so much fun out there! They literally stay out there for hours. Hours! They have caves, roots, trees, and other structures named, and I think Sam can identify every stick.

As long as my washer holds out, it's all good!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Daily Journal Trip

Friday I took the children on a field trip to The Daily Journal, our local newspaper.

Normally, we don't attend any field trips offered by our homeschool organization--we are just too busy doing our school work to take a break for a random trip to the farm or a museum, etc. We usually take one day a week off from schoolwork (when Jimmy is off work), and we use this day for housecleaning, yard work, various outdoor maintenance tasks around the house, long runs, errands, appointments, and other things that just don't fit into our regular school days. So, I am reluctant to give up another school day for a field trip!

This week I changed my mind. We went on a field trip!

Olivia and Julie waiting for the tour to begin

Sam--showing his excitement at getting to see how a newspaper was produced

Clay and Leah

Since we receive and read the newspaper every day, I thought learning the behind the scenes might be interesting. Also, I worked at our local weekly newspaper for a while when I was in high school. Not as a writer or a reporter or anything like that! I stuffed the sale circulars into the newspaper, counted the papers, and then bundled them for delivery. I described my part time responsibilities to the children before we went. This was 25 years ago, so I told the children that I was sure that everything I did at the paper manually would now be automated. I was looking forward to finding out.

Here are the children before the tour. Notice Sam's cooperation.

The tour began with the reporters' and writers' offices. I recognized many nameplates on the cubicles---it was neat seeing the writers in real life. Our tour guide showed us all of the different departments: various news writers, ad salesmen, classified ads salesmen, the finance department, and circulation. It all proved to be very interesting!

Next was the huge warehouse-type room that housed the printing press....and the machine that stuffed the sales papers into the newspaper! Just like I thought! My job was obsolete!

the printing press

the sales circular stuffing machine! This machine can insert up to 15 circulars I think!

the huge rolls of newsprint--each one is 8.5 miles long, I think our tour guide said

Clay, standing with the newsprint rolls

After the newspapers are printed, folded, and stuffed with circulars, a machine then counts and bundles them. Just like I thought.....another one of my previous tasks eliminated by a modern machine.

At the end of the tour, all of the children gathered for a group photo (for the yearbook). Again, Sam was most cooperative.

Can you tell that he likes to have his picture made?

We concluded our tour at 10:00. I bought two end rolls of newsprint, and we headed home. We did school until 1:30, and then we headed out again! This time, for homeschool bowling. We have not been bowling all year either! There was a small turn-out, and Sam slept in my lap the entire time, but the older children had a great time.

We bought groceries on the way home, and arrived home just before dark--just in time for the boys to play in the woods for a little while.

Monday is going to be a full day of extra stuff too, so I divided one day of schoolwork into to days--they did half of it on Friday, and will complete the other half on Monday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holiday Hints

Let's talk thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one week from today! Although I have been working on my December plans, I have not forgotten about Thanksgiving. Each morning after our Bible lesson, I have been reading two or three chapters from Story of the Pilgrims by Margaret B. Pumphrey. I am also reading the rest of our Pilgrim, Indian, and first Thanksgiving picture and informational books to Leah each day.

Are you hosting Thanksgiving in your home? Or are you traveling to a family member's home? There are things to do to get ready for Thanksgiving, no matter where you are celebrating.

Thanksgiving In Your Home
  • You need to finalize your menu, deciding what you are cooking and what dishes (if any) you are asking others to bring. The next couple of days will be the best for grocery shopping. It will just get more and more crowded as next Thursday approaches. I plan to visit Kroger Friday. Many baking items are on sale right now, so stock up!
  • Clean your house. Make a list today of everything that needs to be done, and tackle a little bit each day.
  • Make sure you have all of the paper products you need, or get out your special dishes.
  • Plan how you will decorate your table--maybe a special tablecloth or placemats and napkins. Your children could make place cards or other table decorations.
  • Determine what cooking can be done ahead of time and when you can do it. Make a schedule for your cooking for Thanksgiving day.
Thanksgiving Away From Home
  • Grocery shop for dishes you will be preparing for the meal.
  • Make plans to board pets if needed.
  • Arrange for someone to pick up your mail, newspaper, check on your pets, etc.
  • Make a packing list for you and your family.
  • Clean your house. Make a list and get it clean before you leave town, even if you are just going to be gone for the day. Who wants to come home to a messy house! Plus, the Christmas decorating will begin as soon as you get home!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Our Internet is Back!

Since we live out in the country, there is no cable internet or DSL. Our internet choices are dial-up or satellite. We have Hughes.net satellite. I am thankful for the internet that we do have, but the Hughes.net does have some drawbacks.

1. It is not as fast as cable or DSL, but thankfully, faster than dial-up.

2. It does not work in the rain. Sometimes it will still work if it is a light rain, but heavy rains and storms shut it down.

3. We have a daily allowance of download. Something like 525 MB, whatever that is. If we go over the daily allowance, Hughes.net shuts down our internet speed to something even slower than dial-up for 24 hours. I guess that's our punishment for using too much internet! Our normal, every day internet usage never uses our daily allowance, but one major computer update can wipe it all out. That is what happened Monday night. We are still unsure about what used our allowance, but we were on snail speed for 24 hours. We were back to full speed last night.

I never realize how much I depend on the internet until we don't have it. I keep my laptop on my kitchen counter, and I periodically check email and blogs throughout the day. I also use google a lot to look things up, find a recipe, etc. Yesterday, I couldn't do any of those things.

It really is not big deal, but I am glad to be online at full speed again!

We have a full day of school plus the older girls have art lessons, and then we have our Bible study at church tonight. I hope to post this week's holiday tips soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm Throwing Away My Notebook!

Yesterday Jimmy showed me a new app that he put on his iPhone. It is called TeuxDeux, and it's a To Do list app. I have tried a couple of grocery list type apps, but they were not really that user friendly. I also use the Notes app on my iPhone, but I was also still using my trusty spiral bound notebook, because I couldn't make Notes exactly fit my list making needs.

TeuxDeux has changed my organizing life!

It is so much more than a phone app. In fact, it actually began as a website, and anyone, not just iPhone users, can use TeuxDeux on the web. Just click on this link, TuexDeux, and set up an account. If you have an iPhone, just buy the app, and then you are all set. (This is only the second app that I have paid for on my iPhone....the other purchased app is a word game!)

Now, my first question that I had for Jimmy when I looked at his Teux Deux list was, "Can I change the colors?" (It is black, red, and white.....I prefer pink). He referred me to the FAQs, which plainly states that no, there are no other color options! I recommend that you read the FAQs and watch the 3 short videos about TeuxDeux. They are both informative and humorous!

How does it work, and why do I like it so much?
1. The website really is self-explanatory and very user friendly. You basically type in your to do list under the date that you want to do it. When you complete that item, click on it, and it draws a line through it. If you are like me, you will really like this feature--seeing what you have done crossed off! If you prefer a less cluttered look, you can click on the little x to the right, and the item will disappear.

2. Whatever you don't cross off by the end of the day automatically moves itself to the next day! How neat is that? I used to either recopy my "undone" items to a new page in my notebook or circle or highlight them so I would see them among the crossed off items.

3. If you have the iPhone app, the TeuxDeux lists on your phone and computer sync. So if you are in town, you can cross off items on your phone, and they are also crossed off on your computer. And vice versa. And you can use any computer to access your account!

I really, really like my new TeuxDeux list.

Now I can go cross off blog.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today's Christmas Tip

Batteries and Budgeting

  • Batteries--If you are purchasing electronic gifts, go ahead and buy the required batteries too. In fact, I usually install the batteries as well. Just make a little battery checklist as you are shopping, and pick up the batteries all at once---especially if you have battery coupons and if they are on sale. Check the ads for Kroger, Walgreens, CVC, etc. for battery sales.
  • Budgeting--Really, budgeting for holiday shopping should begin in January. You can either save a little bit each month, shop a little bit each month, or do both. My girls and I usually think of the handmade items we will make for Christmas gifts in the summer. Then, I watch Hobby Lobby sales papers to see when the materials we will need are on sale.
Typically, stores like Toys R Us begin putting toys on sale and offering coupons and gift cards in late October. My boys both like to add to their Lego collection at Christmastime and on their birthdays. I make a list of Lego sets that are on their "wish list", and I note the regular price of each set at Walmart, Toys R Us and Lego.com. Then when stores start putting the toys on sale in October/November/December, I can tell which store has the best price.

All throughout the year when I see a little something that I think my mother, sister-in-law, child, etc. would like, I go ahead and buy it. Then I store it and make note that I have bought it.

One more online shopping tip. Many online retailers offer free shipping during the couple of months prior to Christmas. If the online store that you are ordering from does not have free shipping, Google a promotional code or a free shipping code for that particular store. Often times you will find a free shipping coupon or code you can use. I recently did this for American Girl, and saved quite a bit with free shipping.

Remember to be working on your Christmas cards--making the picture, ordering the cards, preparing the cards, as well as updating your addresses.

Also continue to wrap any gifts you have purchased. I like to wrap 3 gifts a day. Not that I have done that this week! But that is my goal. I plan to wrap 3 gifts tonight!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This and That

It's been busy the last few days! Well, every day is busy, but the last couple of days have been busy with extra kinds of things.

Thursday, Jimmy was off work. He took the girls on a 12 mile run (they are training for the St. Jude Half-Marathon), and the other children and I did my monthly Walmart shopping. Fun. I also ran on the treadmill that morning, and my legs did not fall off. They did not even hurt. I was surprised, because even on Wednesday it was hard to go down the stairs.
We all attended our homeschool skating session that afternoon, and finished up the night by eating out and doing a little bit of Christmas shopping at Kohl's (on sale, with a coupon!).

Friday began with my friend Lynn and I running 10 miles early in the morning in the freezing cold! Once I got home, I did our Bible lesson with the children, prepared and packed Friday's supper and Saturday's lunch for my boys who were leaving for a Father/Son campout that afternoon.

At noon, my sister-in-law, Megan arrived with her mother and two of her mother's friends. They were on their way to Jackson for Mistletoe Marketplace, and stopped by here to go to a Holiday Bazaar that some of my friends were hosting. We had a great time at the bazaar! I think all of us did a little Christmas shopping, and we certainly enjoyed The Accidental Farmwife's dip and bread samples.

I got home just in time to finish packing up the van for the boys, and then take Olivia and Julie to their friend's house. The boys left shortly after, and the rest of the afternoon and night it was just Leah and me. We had a great time! We played Sorry, Uno, Blockus, and Connect Four. Multiple times. We also made cards for a couple of sick people. I let her use my scrapbooking stamps, and she really enjoyed that!

Since it was supposed to get down to 27 degrees last night, Jimmy brought our boys and Lynn's 3 boys home at bedtime to camp out in our basement. They slept in the schoolroom, and left bright and early this morning to go back to the campsite.

Leah and I left at 6:15 this morning to pick up Olivia, Julie, and three of their friends. We all traveled to Amory for the Bobby K. Mitchell 5K.

Our official XC season is over, but this race is hosted by such a nice family, and we enjoyed their hospitality so much last year, that we just had to attend again. I watched! I also tried to stay warm, and I took a few pictures. I am not the family photographer, but I did manage to get a few decent pictures.

This is a small race. I think last year there were 24 runners.

This year there were 16. Eight of them were Spartans!

The Spartan girl runners...trying not to freeze before the race.

The Spartan boys before the race. After the race, both Andy and Forrest had frost on their hats.

inside after the race---much warmer!

The Overall Winners!
Forrest (3 time male winner at this race), and Julie

After the race I brought all of the girls to our house. They played in the woods while I did laundry, cooked a little bit, and cleaned up the kitchen.

The boys all got home around 1:45. They were dirty! All of our guest were gone by 2:00. I sent everyone to the shower and then to rest! I am resting here on the couch with Sam. He is making up for hours of lost time from not smelling my hair. We are watching the movie CARS (I think this is the 700th time Sam has seen this movie, and I think I can quote the entire thing), and he has not let go of my hair for over an hour!

I feel like we have been going in a thousand different directions over the last couple of days. I am looking forward to us visiting some friends tonight with our own family all together in the same place.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today's Christmas Tip

Today's tip is a repost from 2008.

Today's tip is about organizing your gifts as you wrap them. If you are like me, you have more than one Christmas celebration, with gifts going to more than one family gathering, plus the ones you will be opening in your own home. I have two different ideas:

1. Choose 3 (or however many different gatherings you have) different rolls of wrapping paper. Wrap all of the gifts for people that you will be opening presents with in one location with the same paper. For example, I would wrap my side of the family's gifts in green and white polka dot paper; Jimmy's side of the family's gifts in red and green "Merry Christmas" paper, and the gifts that are exchanged between my family and me on Christmas morning would be wrapped in candy cane striped paper. The presents are easily sorted this way. You can keep all of the gifts under the tree, and just easily gather all of the ones you need for a particular family event. When I use this method, I also choose a 4th roll of paper to wrap the gifts that go to people outside our home, but not to family gatherings (Sunday school teachers, piano teachers, the children's friends, etc.)

2. Wrap the gifts in whatever paper you choose, but designate a place to store the presents, sorting them by destination. When I do it this way I put my family's gifts in our guest room, Jimmy's family's gifts in our schoolroom, and the gifts for others on a table in my storage room. Our family gifts go under the tree.

Some years I wrap each of our family member's gifts in the same paper, using a different roll of paper for each person.

Happy Wrapping!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Just Call Me the Pioneer Woman

Except that (thankfully) I don't have a cow.

My family gave me The Pioneer Woman Cooks for my birthday, and this week I have broken it in. I prepared her salsa recipe, which I have been eating for lunch and snacks every single day this week! I love that stuff!

So far this week I have also cooked Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich (p. 88), Spicy Pulled Pork (p. 94), and Beans and Cornbread (p. 100). All three recipes were absolutely delicious! Tomorrow, I plan to cook Chicken Spaghetti (p. 130). I anticipate that it will be tasty as well.

I have enjoyed having extra time in the kitchen in the afternoons now that we don't have cross country practice three days a week. My mother gave me a new Southern Living cookbook when she visited last weekend, and next week I plan to try some recipes from it.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vocabulary Words

I have a post today over at The Homeschool Classroom. It is about learning new vocabulary words and then actually using them!

Click here to read the post.

Monday, November 1, 2010

1 Hour, 56 Minutes!

Saturday at the Life Without Limits Half Marathon, I met my second running goal! I wanted to run a half marathon in under two hours. This was my 7th half marathon. The closet I have ever come to breaking 2 hours was at this very same race one year ago. My time was 2 hours, 1 minute last year, and this year---1 hour, 56 minutes, 25 seconds! Woo! Hoo!

I was very excited!

Esther, Me, and Lynn before the race--still in the warm hotel.

Jimmy, Me, Kelly, Lynn, and Esther--outside before the race. It was COLD! About 34 degrees.

It was the perfect day for a race. It was cold when we began, but it slowly warmed up. I never got hot, but I did take off my gloves about halfway through. It was foggy, and the scenery going across the dam really was pretty. I enjoyed this race.

Jimmy in the middle of the race

Jimmy asked me after the race when did I know that I would make my goal. I honestly told him that I had a good feeling from the beginning. Every time I checked my pace, I was a little bit faster than I had planned on being. I felt good, so I kept up the pace. I walked a short distance at 7 water stops, just enough to drink some water and catch my breath.

At one point I suddenly felt tired. I looked down at my watch, and I was at mile 7.4. I told myself it was too early to feel fatigued, and just talked myself into feeling good again! Running really is a mental sport! I had a mind battle again on the 1.5 mile long bridge, a caged bridge that went back over the dam. This was toward the end of the race, and while it was completely flat, I felt increasingly closed-in with every step. Then I made the mistake of looking down. Way down! I didn't look in that direction again!

After coming off the bridge, I think there were about 2 miles left. I began looking for Jimmy. I was tired, the course had gotten hilly, and I needed his encouragement. The plan was for him to turn around after he finished and run the course backwards until he found me. I think we met up at mile 12, and it was not a step too soon! I was so happy to see him! He talked and encouraged me the last mile, and was rejoicing with me because we knew that I would finish in under 2 hours!

Finally, I was done! Hooray!

Jimmy had a spectacular race. He also set a personal record: 1 hour, 38 minutes! I am so proud of him. He is currently training for the St. Jude Marathon on December 4, so before and after our race Saturday he ran a total of 6 additional miles so he would have logged a 19 mile run for the day.

We hung around for the awards ceremony to see Esther receive her 1st place Master's Award. She is so fast! She finished in 1 hour, 40 minutes. Kelly and Lynn both had good race times too, and Lynn set a personal record as well.

Well, I am done with fast running for the time being. Maybe for always! I still would like to run a 10K in under 55 minutes. That is my 3rd and final running goal. Since the next 10K for me is not until May, I do not plan on running fast for quite a long time. I am running the St. Jude Half on December 4th, and another half marathon in January, so I am still going to run long runs each week--but at a sloooooowwwwww pace. I am so sore! I am having an extremely hard time going down stairs. I tried to run a couple of miles this afternoon, but it was so painful. I was hobbling, and now my legs hurt more than ever. I am going to try again Wednesday, and Lynn and I are running a long run (10 miles I think) on Friday. I hope I am recovered by then.

It was a super fun weekend. A night alone with just Jimmy, a good run, and sharing the last mile with my sweet husband.