Monday, September 30, 2013

Menu and Miles

First of all, the menu.

Over the years, my cooking has changed.  There was a time when I subscribed to Southern Living, and at least once a week I would try a new recipe from the current issue.  A few years ago I gradually moved away from using a lot of processed foods.  About two or three years ago I began buying organic foods when possible, and I eliminated even more processed foods from our diet.

Then, about 18 months ago, I made the most significant change to our family's eating habits.  We adopted a plant-strong diet.  No dairy, no meat, no eggs.  I began making almost everything we ate from scratch, and let me say that it was a challenge at first!  We have now evolved into our current way of eating, which is mostly plants.  I never buy any dairy products.  I occasionally buy eggs from my neighbor's chickens (about once a month or so), and I still have a few chickens left that I bought from my friend, Heather (raised and processed by her).  In our home, I cook from scratch as much as possible, but we still eat some processed foods--things like pita chips, flour tortillas, tortilla chips, pretzels, graham crackers, and a variety of granola/fruit type bars.  Mostly we eat a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots of homemade hummus.

I serve a mostly plant-based menu.  I cook a meal that includes meat about once every one or two weeks, but I also include non-meat items on the menu as well for the members of my family who choose to eat no meat at all.

I have spent many, many hours the last year and a half trying out all kinds of new recipes.  However, the season I am in right now calls for simplicity, and I have decided not to try any new kitchen adventures for a while.  I thought of seven categories of foods that we eat on a regular basis, and I just plan to rotate those meals.  So, I will not be posting a new menu each Monday for the time being.  We are just going to eat the meals on my chart below over and over again!  Until I have time for creativity in the kitchen again.

Our breakfasts are mostly self serve (oatmeal, fruit smoothies, cereal, toast, etc.) or sometimes Julie will prepare pancakes, waffles, or muffins.

Lunches are either leftovers, PB&J sandwiches, carrots, broccoli and hummus, salads, etc.

Here is the supper menu chart.  I printed this out and hung it inside my pantry door.  Having a master plan for simple meals will cut down on my grocery list making time  each week.  When we tire of these meals, I will redo the list, but I am hoping this menu will last us a while.

pasta salad, fresh fruit
penne with zucchini, salad
wraps, chips and salsa
BBQ bean wraps
sauteed veggie wraps
taco soup
red beans and rice
white bean soup
vegetable soup
refried beans, corn, rice, shells, wraps, chips
quinoa salad, oven fries
Mexican salad, oven fries
regular salad, baked potatoes
mashed potatoes, green vegetables, baked beans
fish, roasted potatoes, roasted asparagus
roast, carrots, potatoes, green beans
chicken noodle soup

Last week I was sick, so I did not complete my miles!  I ran my 8 and a 4, and that is all! I had a cold, cough, sore throat, and I ran a fever.  I have not been sick enough to not get my training runs ever, as far as I can remember, but I really felt badly last week.  Leah got sick too, and she had strep throat!

This week's plan is 17, 9, 6, and 5.  I hope I can get them all in!

You can visit for more menu inspiration.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Birthday

Several days ago my family helped me celebrate my birthday.  It was a delightful day!  Julie did a super job of planning, preparing, and serving a Mexican fiesta.  The other children helped her, and everything was outstanding!

 The Happy Birthday banner--in Spanish.

 The festive table

 My favorite drink with cute decorations.

 The fabulous feast

 Thoughtful, pretty handmade gifts from Julie

 The birthday cupcakes

My new running shoes!

I began my day with an 8 mile run with Jimmy.  Then we rested while the kids prepared the birthday lunch.  Later that day we saw the movie Planes, and then we went out to Ichiban (Japanese restaurant) for supper.

It was a wonderful day, and I am so grateful for my wonderful family.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Recent Bible Study

I shared with some friends over the summer that I had begun copying Scripture as part of my daily Bible study.  I am still doing that.  So far I have copied Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy.  I began Titus yesterday.  I did take a short break from copying when I began working in a topical Bible study book that I bought.  But after one lesson in that book, I got back to my copying.  For now, this is what I want to do.

Copying Scripture may not be for everyone.  But if it sounds beneficial to you, I encourage you to try it.  I have a pretty pink leather journal that I am using for this.  I also use a Frixion erasable pen, because inevitably, I make a mistake here and there.  I love those pens!  Staples sells them in black, red, and blue, but Amazon sells a multi-color pack (my favorite).

I try to copy the amount of Scripture that equals one page in my journal each day.  I write only on one side of each page, the right hand side of the book.  At the end of each chapter, I outline the chapter on the first blank left hand side page.  I use the other blank left hand side pages for copying (again) specific verses that I want to comment on.  I also make notes about certain verses on these blank left hand side pages.  Does that make sense?

I read the chapter in its entirety before I begin copying each day and also one more time when I finish copying the chapter.

As many of you know, I am also a fan of reading the Bible cover to cover.  Seeing and understanding the big picture of the entire Bible has innumerable benefits.  I am not reading it in 90 days this time, but I am reading whenever I have a spare minute, using my iPad.  I hope to finish this Bible reading by January or February.  During these Bible reading sessions, I do not take any notes or copy any Scriptures, I just read.

Whatever your Bible reading/studying plan is, I encourage you to just do it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Was Spontaneous!

Hello, blog readers!  I hope to blog about my latest happenings and my thoughts about various subjects, in no particular order--beginning right now.  If I could blog while I ran, I would be in business!  Running with my husband or with friends is excellent therapy, but running alone (outside, not on the treadmill watching DVDs) is when I clear my head.  And it is also when I think of all the things I want to blog about!

So, on to my spontaneity!

Last Friday morning after Jimmy left for work, he called me and told me to go see Olivia!  We all have been missing her terribly.  This has been the longest that I have not been with one of my children!  Olivia is adjusting well, and she really loves her college.  But, the school part of it has been stressful.  Of course!  In fact she said that if she didn't have to take tests or write papers for a grade, she would love everything about college.  Ha!  That sums it up for all of us!

Anyway, I hesitated for about 2 seconds and then I said sure!  I will buy my plane ticket right now!

So I did.  And three hours later I was headed to the airport.  I rented a car upon my arrival, and I got to campus just as Olivia was returning from her Friday night XC meet.  I was super sad to miss the meet, but there was just no other flight for me to take at such short notice.

Olivia and I spent three delightful nights together.  We stayed up till midnight the first night and 1 AM the next two!  And I got up at either 6:30 or 7:30 the mornings after the 1 AM nights.  I was exhausted. I am too old for college hours!

Our weekend was pretty uneventful, and I loved every minute of it.  Olivia studied and wrote her 1000 word essay that was due Monday.  I proofread the essay (referring to her college textbook for punctuation questions), and called out her study guide to her.  It was nice.  While she wrote or studied, I tidied her dorm room, washed her clothes, bought her some groceries, fixed her lunch, and just sat beside her and read a book.  I so enjoyed just looking over and seeing her sweet face in person.

The church where she placed membership was holding a weekend gospel meeting, so we attended church services Saturday night as well as twice on Sunday.  We also attended a potluck.  I was so happy to meet all of these fellow Christians, and to make sure they were looking after Olivia!  :)  All of the young people wanted to meet "Olivia's mother".  It was so much fun!

We talked and texted with the family back home all weekend.  They all ran a race on Saturday, and we enjoyed hearing all about that.  Jimmy and Julie did an excellent job of running the household while I was gone.  They bought groceries and cleaned the entire house Sunday night so it would be clean when I got home Monday afternoon.  What a fabulous family!  They also attended the MSU football game (they were spontaneous too!), and Julie packed a full picnic for the family to enjoy.  She also kept up with the laundry.

I am so grateful for my family.  I am thankful that they allowed me to visit Olivia (which she I both needed so badly), and that they were so willing to take care of things back home.

We have a chalkboard in our kitchen, counting down the days until Olivia comes home for the weekend.  It's just around the corner!  In fact, she's coming home twice in October, Thanksgiving, and then for Christmas break.

I still can't believe that I have a child in college!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Menu and Miles

Well, even though I have not posted my weekly menu or miles for quite some time, we have still been eating, and I have still been running!

Here is the plan for this week:

8 miles
Mexican meal (prepared by sweet Julie for my birthday!)

no miles (rest day!)
baked beans, yellow rice, salad

16 miles
Maryland's Kale (this is a new recipe), baked potatoes, fresh fruit salad

no miles (another rest day)
Caribbean sweet potatoes, garlic new potatoes, salad

4 miles
penne pasta with sauteed zucchini and marinara sauce, salad

5 miles
grocery shopping

Please visit Org.Junkie for more menu ideas.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Where I Am

I have neglected my blog so much since May.  At times I even think about retiring from blogging!  Every week I plan to share our happenings and so forth and maybe even a homemaking or homeschooling tip or two, and then living my daily life happens and it seems like I am so busy actually living life that I can't seem to make the time to blog about it!

For the past few years I have said that the current school year was the hardest ever.  I am saying that again about this year!  I think I see a recurring theme--homeschooling is difficult.  And I think that the more older children you have the harder it is.  I know I used to think that homeschooling with a newborn and a two year old was hard, but I actually think my last few years have been even more challenging.  The physical workload has lessened, but the mental/organization/coordination of events workload has definitely increased.  I can only offer these few words of wisdom for fellow mothers deep in the trenches of homeschooling multiple children, some of which include high-schoolers:

  • Seek the Lord and His wisdom for you and your family--daily.  Reading and studying God's Word and praying must be your top daily priority.
  • Get your homeschooling materials as organized as you possibly can before you begin your school year.
  • Create a workable schedule or at least a routine of your days--and stick to it.
  • Be realistic with your personal goals in all areas--housework, meal preparation, projects, laundry, errands, marathon training, etc.  
  • In addition to beginning each day with Bible reading and prayer (and get up however early you need to in order for this to happen), make a list of what you need to do/places to go/food to prepare/copies to make/phone calls to make/etc. each and every morning.  
  • Meet with your children together each morning for a time for general announcements and telling them the plan for the day.  I'm pretty sure I have shared this before, but I think it is important for children to know what is expected of them each day--especially things that deviate from their normal routine.  We have this discussion each day as we begin our daily Bible time sitting aroudn our kitchen table.
  • Smile at your children and your husband, tell them you love them, and enjoy your life--warts and all!
  • Be thankful.  Remember, there is always, always, always something to be thankful for!
About this week--I am almost through with Week 2 of my current marathon training.  Leanna and I ran 15 miles this morning, and I was home by 8:20 to begin school.  I have felt pretty much wiped out all day, but except for one 5 mile run (that I plan to do Saturday), I am done with this week's running.  Sadly, Lynn is running the St. Jude Half Marathon instead of the full, so I am missing training with her.  We hope that she will join us for her long runs which will be the same distance as our medium runs some weeks.  Running, either with friends or alone, is excellent therapy.  

I am due a new pair of running shoes (I have about 400 miles on these), and I am so happy that the shoe I wear, Brooks Glycerin, comes in pink this year!  I am wishing for a new pair of pink running shoes for my upcoming birthday.

I miss Olivia.   I am so happy for her and she is adjusting so well, but I miss her.  She is spending a great deal of time studying each day, but we are talking and/or texting her each and every day.  I am also sending her mail of some sort 3-5 times a week.  We mailed her some homemade granola bars (lovingly made by Julie) today.

Leah and Sam are really enjoying our Apologia science book about the ocean animals (I can't think of the official title right now).  They spent over an hour yesterday painting a box (one each) inside and out with two shades of blue paint.  It is an "ocean".  Each week they will make sea creatures out of paper, clay, pipe cleaners, etc., to place in their ocean box.  I can't wait to see the finished product at the end of our school year.  We have been studying whales for the last two weeks, and as usual, I am learning so much myself!  We visited Winter (from the movie Dolphin Tale) this summer, and that has made learning about whales--and dolphins--so much more fun!

Clay is participating in a biology co op this year.  None of my children have done anything like this before, but I really like it.  They are doing experiments, writing lab reports, and hearing a teacher (homeschool mother) lecture about and explain the contents of each module.  The science class meets weekly for 1.5 hours on Thursdays.  And then we run a few errands and head to cross country practice.  Julie, Leah, Sam, and I go to the library while Clay is at his science class.  I do school with them while we are there, but they also have some free time to browse the library.  And of course they are bringing books home to read and for me to read to them--as if we don't have enough books (especially for me to read aloud) in our Sonlight cores!  But who can deny a child books?

That's pretty much what's been going on around here.  Oh, and Monday night Leah and I attended our monthly Keepers at Home meeting.  Lynn, Leanna, and I are teaching the class for the months of September, October, and November.  Our skill--macrame'!  By the end of the 3rd meeting, we hope that all of the girls will complete their plant hanger and earn the macrame' pin.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

First Day of Homeschool Fun!

It's been a month since our first day of school, but I still wanted to share our fun day.  

***Disclaimer***  I am NOT creative!  When I texted Lynn pictures of our Back to School Table, she commented that it looked like something she had recently seen on Pinterest.  Really?  Ha!  Of course you saw it on Pinterest!  I can't think of these things by myself.  I copied it all from Pinterest!

I stayed up until 2 AM the night before we began school.  I wanted everything to be all ready for the big day.  I set my alarm for 5:30, and I woke up the kids at 7:00.  We started our schoolwork sharply at 5:00 AM.  If you remember, a while back I wrote about making 7 different school day schedules, each schedule depending on what outside the house activities we had for that day.  Since our extra activities had not begun yet, we followed our Friday schedule each school day until we left to take Olivia to college.

The day began with our annual Back to School Treasure Hunt. I created 10 clues, 2 for each child to read, and the last clue directed them to this year's treasure---a bag of school supplies and school related items.

 the finished bags, waiting to be found

New to this year was the Back to School Table. I decided that having a cute, school-themed table might make our breakfast fun!  Here's where Pinterest helped out.

 The place setting.
Our breakfast was homemade granola, yogurt, and fruit.
The placemat is a small piece of poster board for the children to draw on.

 The entire table

 The drinking glass is a canning jar with a black napkin inside and tied with a cute piece of ribbon.

 Just a table decoration

 Little jars of crayons for the children to use to color their placemats.
I kept these jars of crayons on the table even after the first day of school.

 Table decoration

 Another table decoration

 Each child had a box of jolly ranchers at his place.

Time for the treasure hunt!  It gets harder and harder each year to think of new clues and new places to hide the clues!

 We went oldest to youngest, so I gave Olivia the first clue.

 Pausing for a picture while pondering a clue and drinking coffee.

 Here is Sam, reading his clue.

 The girls found a clue on the front porch.

We found the treasure!

 Some of the clues

 Leah, looking at her treasure.

 Eating and coloring

I left the placemats on the table for a couple of days.  The pictures below were taken some time during the first day of school.  After they had colored on them much more than these pictures show, I hung the final products in our schoolroom bathroom.  So cute!

This first day of school was one of my favorites!  The day flowed smoothly, and everyone seemed to like their treasure and the kitchen table too!
Making memories is so much fun and worth every second of the work.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Tupelo 14.2 Miler

I ran my 4th Tupelo 14.2 Miler this weekend.  Originally (back in April-May) I had a time goal for this run it at an 8:30 pace.  Well, life happened, and I had the craziest, busiest, summer ever, and I just did not have time (or make time at the expense of something else) to train at the level I needed to in order to achieve that goal.  In fact, the last month prior to the race I ran very little.  I got my long runs in each week (10-16 miles each), but some weeks that was my only run!  That is not the best training!  So, about a month ago I changed my goal to running for fun with Leanna and Stacee.

This week also marks the first week of our 14 week marathon training for the St. Jude Marathon in December, so we just treated this race as a long run.  Stacee was not feeling well, so we ran slower than normal and walked a lot.  It really was a pleasant run--not having to think about the time.  The first half of this race is run in the dark (it starts at 5:00 AM), so I did not even look at my watch until about mile 8 or so.

I did make one mistake, and I will not do it again.  I did not take a GU during the race.  I have gotten tired of that stuff, so I take as few as possible on my long runs.  However, I do normally eat one or two or three--depending on the length of the run--usually at around mile 7 or 8 and one every 5-6 miles or so after that.  I had one package of GU in my pocket (a new flavor--salted caramel!), and I planned to eat it at mile 8 or 9.  But I was feeling so good since we were running slowly, that I failed to eat the GU.  Big mistake.  At mile 12 I was done.  Tired.  Icky.  I finished the race, and then for at least an hour after the run I was nauseous.  It was the lack of nutrition during a 14 mile run.  Live and learn!

The medals were really cool this year (but I have not taken a picture of mine!).  Usually the 14.2 mile run participants get a broken in half medal....they say you only ran half of the marathon, so you only get half of a medal! Ha!  But this year they made medals fashioned after the Boston Marathon medals.  The full marathoners were awarded blue and gold medals (the Boston Marathon colors), and the 14.2 milers got pink and gold medals.  Pink!  I loved it!  The race shirts were cool (and scary) as usual.  They are always tie-dyed and feature a skull and crossbones on the front.  I do not wear this shirt to Kroger, but I will wear it to xc practice some day.

Speaking of the Boston Marathon---I signed up!  I was one of 5600 runners who had crossed the halfway point but did not get to finish the marathon (remember, I was at mile 25.8).  We were all invited back to run the marathon again--this time to cross the finish line.  After much deliberation, I decided to accept the invitation.  So I will training for yet another marathon this spring---and then I am retiring from the marathon.  I am.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Taking My Oldest To College

On August 15, the children and I left for a two day, 700+ mile trip to take Olivia to college.  I pulled a Uhaul to carry all of her belongings and supplies and such, and that was a challenge!  

Clay and Sam, waiting outside Olivia's dorm room--ready to unload.

We began moving her in on that Saturday morning, at 8:00 AM.  As soon as that Uhaul was unloaded, I returned it to the nearest Uhaul place!  Then all of the children and I joined Olivia's roommate and her family (her parents and her 4 siblings) in unpacking all of the stuff and making their room look like a home.
Jimmy flew in later that afternoon, and he joined in on the fun!

 Julie and Olivia soon after we arrived--lots of work to be done in the room.

We worked in Olivia's dorm room for most of the day, and then we attended the parent/family cookout on campus.  Later that evening we attended the New Parent Orientation.  It was a nice time of visiting and learning more about the school.  It was also a time for tissues as all of us mamas realized that we would be leaving our children behind.  

Sunday morning, our family attended worship service together with Olivia's roommate and her family. And with lots of other college students, faculty, and staff.  I introduced myself to anyone who looked like they were affiliated with the school and told them that Olivia was a freshman, please look after her, etc.  Yes.  I was that mom.

 the children outside Olivia's dorm on Sunday morning

Sunday afternoon we attended the opening ceremonies for the school followed by the president's reception.  This allowed us more time for visiting with other (mostly freshman) parents and faculty.  Again, I made my rounds, meeting various teachers and introducing myself.

Monday, I think all of the parents headed home.  All except Olivia's parents.  And that became the theme for the next two weeks!  Olivia's family stayed.  Jimmy was able to stay with us until Wednesday, but then he had to fly home to go back to work.
The children and I stayed!

It kind of became a joke around campus among the people who personally knew Olivia.  "Is your mom still here?", became the regular question.  (In a nice way---the students seemed amused by it). The following Sunday when I attended church, one lady asked me if I was already back to visit my daughter.  I had to tell her, "No, I haven't gone home yet!"  :)  

I stayed a total of two weeks.  In a hotel with four (sometimes five, when Olivia spent the night with us) children.  We made friends with all of the hotel employees, and they all knew Sam by name.  During the day while Olivia was at orientation and then when she began her classes, we went to an amusement park, a science museum, countless trips to Target and a variety of other stores, and we also managed to complete 5 days of schoolwork.  In the evenings we visited Olivia.  I continued to work on her dorm room, we took her out to eat, we drove her to her study sessions, we attended a student singing night with her--whatever she needed us to do at night--we were there to do it.  She would give me a list of things that she thought of that she needed, and I was her personal shopper each day.  And I was so, so happy to be able to do this for her!

After she met all of her classes, she was a little bit overwhelmed.  I looked through all of her class materials and helped her get it all organized.  Going from homeschooling for 12 years to 16 hours of college classes has been a big leap for Olivia--in the areas of time management mostly.  I am confident that she will do well in her classes, and I expect her confidence level to grow over the next several weeks.  The work load is great, but I have assured her that she can do it!

Many people, both friends and family, have repeatedly asked me, "How can you leave Olivia at a college so far away from home?  Why is she going there?"
My answer is this:  After much, much prayer, thought, deliberation, and discussion, we feel that this is the best decision for Olivia at this time.  We are only committed to one semester.  Olivia felt that if she didn't give this particular college a try, she would never know---but she can always come home if she is terribly unhappy.  
All of her classes will be taught from a Biblical worldview.  The classes are small, and the teachers know all of the students (and some of their mothers-Ha!) by name--both inside and outside the classroom.  School sponsored events include prayer, Bible study, and hymn singing.  The campus has such an uplifting, encouraging atmosphere.

It can all be summed up in the school's mission statement:

.... a private, independent liberal arts college, provides a comprehensive undergraduate experience designed to develop students spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially; to integrate into the students’ lives the Bible as the revealed will of God; and to prepare students for lives of service to their Creator and to humanity.

A life of service to God.  That is what it is all about.  That is the big picture.  God loves my child infinitely more than I can imagine.  And while my heart is sad at her being gone from our home at this time, I am choosing to unselfishly rejoice in this opportunity that she has been given.  That's not to say that there have not been many, many tears.  And that I can't believe how much we all miss her.  But, I am confident that for now, we have made the right choice.  

On a happy note, she joined the college's cross country team!  It was a great decision for her to make.  She has told me more than once that going to XC practice every day is such a stress reliever for her, and a nice break from studying. She is making friends with her teammates, and she has a super coach.  They have several meets beginning this Friday.  I am not sure if we will be able to attend any of them (we have Julie and Clay running XC here at home....) but I hope that we can make one of her meets.

Here are some pictures from our two week trip:

 The dorm room
These dorm rooms are so much bigger than what I lived in in college.  She has a roommate and and two suite mates.  They share a bathroom and two huge closets between their two rooms.  Everything in the room is built in, even the beds.  She has a sink in her room, and lots of drawers and shelves.  There are even four drawers underneath her bed!

 Another view

 And one more

A couple of days before I was due to drive home, Lynn flew down to visit for a couple of days and to help me drive back home. We spent one afternoon cleaning up and finishing the decor of Olivia's room, and then we took Olivia out to eat.

The next day we attended the college's daily chapel service, and then we spent a few hours on campus taking pictures, meeting people (remember, I am that mom who needed to meet as many people as possible and tell them about Olivia!), and shopping in the college bookstore.  It was so encouraging to be in chapel with the students---hearing their beautiful voices singing praises to God, and hearing an inspiring message about redeeming the time from the college president.

 at the restaurant

 also at the restaurant

One Saturday that I was there Olivia spent the day with us.  We did all sorts of fun things and then we found the coolest outdoor/indoor mall where we ate supper.

 Leah and Olivia

sweet sisters--the night before we left

It was hard to leave.  We pulled away from Olivia's dorm at 7:50 AM last Thursday morning.  Tears abounded.  But it's ok!  I have had the privilege of raising the most wonderful daughter for 18 years.  She is grounded in her faith, and she loves the Lord.  She is kind, loving, hard-working, and compassionate.  She is already making lots of new friends, and I believe that she is thriving.

We talk on the phone and/or text multiple times a day.  We figured out Face Time before I left.  We are sending her letters and/or packages so that she gets mail almost daily.  And we are counting the days until her first visit home.

Unless we go to visit her first!