Saturday, December 17, 2016


I'm here!

Apparently I am not going to get to blogging about Better Than Before until after Christmas. Or even after that!  (But I will get to it because I have multiple habits that I need to reinforce and/or add to my life). January is such a fun time of year for me---new goals, habits, and plans.

I have finished all my shopping and wrapping. Leah and I watched four Hallmark Christmas movies on DVD while wrapping the presents!  Yesterday Julie, Leah, and I baked, baked, and baked all day long. We prepared multiple good bags, tins, and boxes for our friends, family, various loved ones, and the people who provide services for us throughout the year. (If you want pleasant service from your mail carrier--for instance, when my package is too large for my mailbox, instead of placing a yellow slip in my mailbox telling me to drive to the post office in town to pick up my package the next day, she drives down my long driveway and delivers the package to my front door!--giving him or her a tin of homemade goodies in December is a great idea.)

Julie arrived home from college Thursday night. Yay!

Olivia and Brian will be here Tuesday night. Yay!

Big Sam is flying in from Romania December 27. Yay!

And all they all will be here through January 9. Fun times!

Later today we are celebrating Christmas with my parents, grandmother, my brothers and their families. After that, my mama, Julie, and I are going to shop for fabric and supplies for them to sew Julie's wedding dress. That project is on our itinerary for after Christmas Day, but before Julie goes back to school.

Tomorrow we are joining other families from our church for an afternoon of visiting the widows and elderly people of our congregation to sing to them and share a basket of goodies with them.

On January 7, Jimmy, Julie, and Big Sam are running a marathon. Clay will be running the half marathon at the same time. This is Julie's first marathon. The rest of us and my parents will be cheering them on!

During this busy time of year, make sure you pause and just take it all in. Smile at your family. Enjoy the sights, sounds, smells of the holiday season. Watch a Christmas movie with your family. Do something nice for someone who could use a little happiness.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Club, Holidays, Running, and More

I hope your Thanksgiving went well. I thoroughly enjoyed having Olivia and Julie home along with Brian and Ellie. We filled each day they were here with lots of fun and hopefully some relaxation for them.
We bought and decorated our live Christmas tree. We always say when it's done that it's the BEST. TREE. EVER. This year was no exception.

We drove 3 hours to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents, my grandmother,  and my brothers and their families at my parents' house. I cannot express how much I enjoy Thanksgiving at my parents' house. It is truly a relaxing holiday for me. My mother does all the cooking for Thanksgiving, and I appreciate that so much!  It is the one holiday/event that I do not help with or do all the preparing/cleaning/cooking for. What a delight! My mother went over and beyond this year---she cooked extra of four of her Thanksgiving dishes and put them in disposable pans for me to take to Jimmy's family's Thanksgiving meal on Friday. I was so excited about this!  What a huge blessing, and I was so thankful. Everyone enjoyed the food she prepared for the Johnson Thanksgiving. It was all eaten!

We drove 4 hours Friday from my parents' house to Jimmy's mother's house on Friday to enjoy celebrating with his family. Ellie and Brian got to visit with all of our extended family in two days. Fun for all!

Saturday after decorating the tree (we bought it Wednesday, but did not have time to decorate it until Saturday), we all went to Kelly and Lynn's house to watch the Egg Bowl. (MS State vs. Ole Miss football game.) To our great surprise and delight State won!  Ellie and Brian got to experience the cowbell, and their hearing may never be the same.

I took the four college kids to the Memphis airport on Monday for their flight back to school. They get out for Winter Break on December 15. Yay!

Ok. The book club. Honestly, I have been so busy with visiting with my children, and then trying to get back into some sort of routine of homeschool and housework this week, that I have not reread our next chapter. I plan to post about it either Monday or Tuesday. Please keep reading, and try to determine which choice you are in each distinction category. For example, in lark or owl?, I am definitely a lark.

Tomorrow is the annual St. Jude Marathon/Half Marathon in Memphis. Jimmy is running the marathon and I am running the half. I am not the best trained for this event.....I have done my long run each week and gone to CrossFit once or twice a week, but that's it for the last 3 weeks. I don't doubt I can run 13.1 miles, I am just afraid that my time will be very, very slow!  I'll let you know!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Better Than Before Week 2

I am finally posting about this chapter! After my run yesterday (which was so. cold.) I spent the rest of the day cleaning my entire house, running a couple of errands, and driving 150 miles to the airport to pick up the college kids. We got home about 10:00 last night.  I am so glad they are home!

This chapter of Better Than Before is called, "The Fateful Tendencies We Bring Into the World." In this chapter Gretchen explains the four categories of tendencies we all have regarding our responses to outer and inner expectations--how and why we create, keep, or break habits. I found this fascinating! Here is a recap of each tendency:

  • Upholders--respond readily to both outer and inner expectations.
  • Obligers--respond readily to outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations.
  • Questioners--question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it's justified.
  • Rebels--resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. (Rubin 16)
So which one are you?

When I first read this book I immediately classified myself as an Upholder. Then I took the online quiz on Gretchen's website which scored me as an Upholder as well. Lately, however, (like during the Whole 30 Food Challenge Jimmy and I did) I began to wonder if I was actually an Obliger. In fact, Leanna and I discussed this very thing yesterday during our run. I almost convinced myself that I was indeed an Obliger with Upholder tendencies. But this morning when I reread the chapter again to refresh my memory before I wrote this blog post, I realized that I am an Upholder. What made it clear to me that I was not an Obliger is the part Gretchen writes about Obligers in this chapter, "Because Obligers resist inner expectations, it's difficult for them to self-motivate--to work on a PhD thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced. Obligers depend on external accountability, with consequences such as deadlines, late fees, or the fear of letting other people down." (Rubin 22)

Also, she writes that Upholders don't have trouble meeting deadlines, and they often finish early. (Rubin 18) That's me! I have no trouble meeting deadlines, and I take great pleasure in finishing a task early, before it is due. That is how I was in college. That is how I am now. I like to be ready for an event well in advance. With five children and all the business that comes with managing our family, I don't always finish my plans as far in advance as I would like, but I am definitely not a procrastinator, and my To-Do list is my biggest motivator. 

I am definitely self-motivated (once I decide to do something), and I do not need external consequences in order to meet an expectation. Do external expectations make some habits or tasks more easily accomplished?  Of course. But when it comes down to it, I can self-motivate. I think I do best with a combination of external and internal expectations. 

Here are some examples from my life:

Personal Bible Study: I set my own goals in this area and keep them. When I feel like changing my goal or plan, I do, but then I meet the new inner expectations I set for myself in the new plan.

Homeschooling: Again, I set my own goals for my homeschool, and I keep them. Do I sometimes change my plans or modify? Yes. But when I make the adjustment to my plan or goal, I keep the new expectation. I do not need a homeschool co op to hold me accountable to teaching my children. However, if I am part of a co op, my children are definitely prepared (usually ahead of time!). And when I am not accountable to a co op, we still get our schoolwork done, but it is on my timetable.

Exercise: I am a mixture of Upholder and Obliger in this area. The first couple of marathons I trained for I completed every single run on my scheduled. I felt the need to check off every single box. During later marathon training, if life prevented me from getting an occasional run in, I was ok with that. But the difference is I decided that it was ok to have the box unchecked. So I still met my inner expectation. I gave myself permission to skip. Leanna and I pondered this yesterday while running. Would we still do a weekly long run alone if we could not meet and do it together? Well, it depends. If I was training for a half-marathon or marathon, I know I would do the run alone. If I was just maintaining fitness until the next training plan, I may give myself permission to skip. But again, it's what I decide. Which tells me I must be careful with what inner expectations I give or not give myself. I am usually and Obliger to the training plan I am currently using, but I still think it's because of the inner expectation I have of wanting to check the box.
CrossFit--I do not do the workouts at home if I miss class.  So attending the class holds me accountable to the workouts. But I am pretty sure if I made up my mind to do CrossFit four times a week, I would. Whether I did the workouts with my class or at home. For now, my expectation is to attend CrossFit class on Mondays and Fridays when I am not out of town. 

I can't wait to hear from you. What is your tendency? Was it hard to figure it out? Did you take the online quiz or determine your tendency just by reading the book?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Club Today

I know I have not posted yet about our book, Better Than Before. I have not forgotten!  I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to clean my whole entire house, change sheets on lots of beds, and cook four different kinds of soups.....all to prepare for my girls and their friends to come home from college tomorrow!  Also, the the other Kelly is coming tonight to decorate for Christmas.  So much going on!

I will post about the book either tonight or sometime tomorrow morning. But it will be mid-morning....Leanna and I are running 12 miles early in the morning. And it's supposed to be 34 degrees. Fun.

Until later......

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Club Reminder Plus Some Other Stuff

Don't forget that tomorrow we will be discussing the following chapter in Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin:
"Self-Knowledge:  The Four Tendencies."

I am looking forward to discussing which tendency each of us is.

Yesterday my family all ran a 5K (except Olivia, who has been a little sick lately).  Jimmy, Clay, Leah, Sam and I ran a race in Plantersville (close to us) while Julie ran a race in Tampa. It was a good day for running! Leah and Sam have been training so hard for XC all fall, and they wanted to test their training on a road race. Julie of course has been training and running hard with her XC college team as well. All three of them set PRs (personal records) at their 5K races yesterday! I was so happy for them. It is so rewarding to have your hard work pay off!

My college girls and two extras (Julie's roommate and Olivia's friend that is a boy) are flying home for Thanksgiving holidays Tuesday night!  I. CANNOT. WAIT.
Olivia has not been home since she left for school in early August!  I will have the house decorated for Christmas when they get here. We plan to buy our live Christmas tree on Wednesday and then decorate it on Saturday. Fun! Fun!  We will also be driving to visit my parents and Jimmy's mama and celebrate Thanksgiving will both sides of our extended family.

Don't forget to read the book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Homeschooling Update

We are still homeschooling.

With all the traveling we have done this fall (XC meets for Clay and Leah, two hours away on most Tuesdays, and trips to Florida to watch Julie run--one 8 day period we drove 3000 miles to watch her run two different meets!), it has proved difficult to get our schoolwork done each week. But we have been diligent! This past weekend Jimmy flew to Virginia to watch Julie and Olivia run their national championship meet, and then he flew to Nashville the next day to watch Clay, Leah, and Sam run their national championship meet. I only went to Nashville!

Anyway. We are schooling when we can. Most weeks we are getting five math lessons completed (sometimes they do a math lesson on Sunday afternoons). We also completed a 12 week unit study on the presidents, American government, and the election process. I began Core F of Sonlight for Leah and Sam last Monday. It will take me the rest of this school year and some of the next to complete this Core, but that's ok. We are going to take our time and enjoy the books.

Clay is taking college algebra at the local community college. At home he is doing Apologia physics, Notgrass American government, and the English class I am teaching. This class covers literature and composition. So far we have read Right Ho, Jeeves, Pride and Prejudice, and we are currently reading Hamlet. Next semester he will add health and Notgrass economics.

Leah is doing Saxon math 8/7, IEW, Daily Grams, Easy Grammar, Apologia chemistry and physics, Wordly Wise, spelling/dictation, and Building Thinking Skills.

Sam is doing Horizons math 5, Daily Gams, Easy Grammar, Wordly Wise, Apologia chemistry and physics, spelling/dictation, and Building Thinking Skills.

When I made Leah and Sam's daily checklist for school this year, I assigned each subject a number of days to work in each week.  For example, math, reading, and piano practice are assigned five days each week. Journal writing, Daily Grams, spelling/dictation, and Wordly Wise are assigned four days each week, and Easy Grammar, Building Thinking Skills, Cursive (for Sam), IEW, and science are assigned three days each week. We do our Sonlight reading four days each week. This is a doable schedule for us, and it ensures that we are getting to every subject an appropriate amount of days each week.

I would love to take the whole month of December off from school, but I have scheduled for us to work until December 14. We will see! :)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Better Than Before Week 1

Did you read the introduction? (Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin)

I must admit that I really don't have any idea how to conduct a book club on a blog! If you have read my blog in the past, you will remember that Lynn, Leanna, and I read this same book last year (or maybe it was longer than that) and discussed each chapter as we did our long run. Our procedure was to write on a card or on our hand (but this was often sweated off!) key words or phrases that we wanted to discuss while running. I think that for now, as we begin, I will follow this same format. I will list parts of the introduction that were interesting or though-provoking to me, and you can chime in with a comment either about what I listed or your thoughts on a different passage.

And of course, you can just read the book, read the blog posts, read the comments, and not respond at all. That's fine! But it will be fun if at least a few people will participate. :)

"Habits make change possible by freeing us from decision making and from using self-control." (Rubin 5)

  • This is so true. I think that is why Gretchen titled the introduction "Decide Not to Decide."  When something becomes automatic, you don't have to wrestle with yourself each day to make you do that thing. Like when I did the Whole 30. I decided to follow the rules, so I did not have to spend my mental energy trying to decide how much creamer should I put in my coffee, how many M&Ms were too much for a bedtime snack, how many days a week could I drink a Coke in the afternoons.....Once I committed to following the program, the mental part was mostly easy. I did not love every day of the challenge. In fact, most days I am sure I complained about something regarding what I could and could not eat, but it was not hard in the sense that I did not have to do the mental gymnastics every morning.  The decision was made. I followed the plan.

"Habits mean we don't strain ourselves to make decisions, weigh choices, dole out rewards, or prod ourselves to begin. Life becomes simpler, and many daily hassles vanish." (Rubin 6)
  • Can you think of a habit you have that while it may have been difficult to establish, now that it is part of your daily or weekly life, the hassles regarding that habit have vanished? Some examples may include morning Bible reading and prayer, bedtime rituals for your children, regular exercise, etc. When we make the initial decision to do something, by default, we don't have to decide every day. If you decide to not check your phone while you are eating a meal when your family, then every time you eat with your family, you don't have to decide whether or not it's a good time to look at your phone. You have already decided that family mealtimes are not the time to check your phone, so you are free from making that decision repeatedly. This made such good sense to me!
  • Gretchen listed the "Essential Seven", which are areas where most people desire to foster good habits. Do any of these stand out to you? I need to work on habits under #4 and #7.

"We feel frantically busy, but also feel that we're not spending enough time on the things that really matter." (Rubin 9)
  • Well this pretty much sums up my life! That's why I made my 10 Year Goal list, so I could see where I wanted to be in 10 years (in the areas of life that are important), and begin making choices that move me toward that goal right now.
"But I knew that different people need different solutions, so I aimed to identify every possible option." (Rubin 10)
  • This is the what the rest of the book is about. Identifying your personality and how you respond to outer and inner expectations. When you can identify these things, you can create good habits and eliminate bad habits in ways that work with your personality. 
That's all for this week. Please leave a comment if you wish to discuss anything I listed or above or another part of the introduction that resonated with you.

I can't wait to hear from you!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Online Shopping Fun

Last year Leanna, Lynn, Lesley, and I started what we hoped would be an annual November tradition. We spent an entire day Christmas shopping!  We began around 7:30 AM, and we shopped at our local stores until 9:00 that night. It was exhausting, but oh, so much fun!  And we accomplished a lot. 

This year we looked and looked at our calendars, and there was no day that all of us had open to have an all day shopping day.  Sad!  So we decided to have an online shopping party. Tuesday night we met at Lynn's house (because she has the fastest, most reliable internet) around 5:00 PM. We ordered take-out salads for supper and had M&Ms for dessert! We all sat around Lynn's dining room table with our laptops, shopping magazines, and Christmas binders all spread out. We actually got a lot of shopping done.  The UPS man has been coming to my house every day since!

So here are your holiday hints for the week:
  1. Take inventory of your gift wrapping supplies and buy what you need. 
  2. Make a list of shopping you wish to do online, then set aside some time to actually shop online. Always be on the lookout for sales and free shipping coupons. (Usually found in the magazines and catalogs that companies mail to you.)
  3. Begin wrapping at least one present a day (if you have done some shopping or crafting).
  4. Set up a gift wrapping station. This can be a card table in the corner of your bedroom, in a room you don't use often, on your dining room table (but not the table where you eat all your don't want to have to clean up the wrapping station every time you need to eat). Make sure you place scissors, tape, pens, gift labels, wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift bags, and ribbon in your station. 

***Don't forget.  If you want to participate in our Monday Online Book Club, read the introduction to Better Than Before. We will discuss it this Monday. I'm so excited!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Book Club Monday: Better Than Before

Today's book club assignment was to just secure your copy of the book we will be discussing, Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.

Have you gotten your book?  If you want to comment to let me know if you will be reading with me, great!  If you prefer to just read the book and read my discussion (and other comments) without identifying yourself, that's great too!
It will be fun either way!

By next Monday, please read the introduction, "Decide Not to Decide."

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Ten Year Goals

I recently read that in order to meet future goals, you have to begin making steps in order to achieve them right now. For example, if you want to have $1000 saved in twelve months, you have to start putting money back right now.

I thought about where I would like to be in 10 years. What would my life look like? What kinds of activities would be filling my days? After I made this list, I asked myself "What can I do right now or on a regular basis to insure that I meet those 10 year goals?" I tried to be specific.

For example:
Goal-- In 10 years I hope to be in good health and able to exercise on a daily basis.
What I can do now-- schedule check-ups at appropriate intervals, continue running, CrossFit, and/or walking at least 5 days a week, try to eat whole foods as much as possible and limit sugar and Cokes.
I can't just hope for good health in 10 years. I have to do something right now in order to make that an attainable goal.

I listed goals in other areas as well:  spiritual, marriage, family, travel, writing, hospitality, and service.  I am still working on the what I can do right now in order to meet those goals part of my plan.

How about you? Can you set some 10 year goals for yourself? Can you begin working towards those goals right now? Think about how old you and your children will be in 10 years. Try to imagine what your life will be like then.

Then make your plan.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


Hail State!

Lynn, Leanna, Leigh, and I (the only one without an "L" name!) and our families had the best time at the MSU/Texas A&M game today.  We had a breakfast tailgate beginning at 8:00 AM this morning.  Then we enjoyed beautiful weather and a fantastic game at 11:00.

We were joined by a dear friend (our preacher) and his dad who happen to be Texas A&M fans. I hope they are not suffering hearing loss from all the cowbells. Clang! Clang!

It really was a fun day...the only sad spots were that Jimmy had to work and could not join us and Olivia and Julie are far away at their college.

November Goals
So far, so good. On this 5th day of November I have managed to read/study my Bible every day, wrap one present each day (I am about to wrap today's present after I finish typing this), and I am on my way to blogging 5 days this week.

Praying for Others
Trey (our preacher) mentioned this in a recent sermon--often times we tell people that we will pray for them, and we have every intention of doing so, but the reality is that usually we forget to actually pray for them.

Here are some solutions:

  • Stop right then and there and pray with that person.
  • If it is a prayer request that you are receiving online via FB, a blog, or an email, make a note of it in a notebook, on a sticky note, or notepad. Then transfer that list to a master prayer list. 
  • If someone asks you to pray for them in person, write it down on a notepad or piece of paper, or enter it somehow into your phone. Again, transfer the information to a master prayer list.
  • On a daily or other regular basis, pray for the people on your master prayer list. I just start at the beginning and go down the list, page after page. I pray for a certain amount of time each day, then I stick a sticky flag at the name where I left off. The next day, I begin praying at that place on my list. Whenever a prayer is answered, I put a check mark and the date. I also date the entries I make when I list the person and their request. When I have prayed the entire list, I start back at the top.
  • If you at least scan your list each day in addition to praying for a portion of it, the names of the people and their situations will be in the back of your mind. Then, when you have snippets of time you can recall people to pray for. I prayed many prayers while feeding and rocking babies in the middle of the night. When I have had periods of anxiety and could not sleep, I prayed for others. In fact, praying for other people is good medicine when you are feeling down.
I think that is all for today. I'm off to wrap my present for the day!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Some Tips For Mothers of Young Children

Today as I was grabbing my gym bag to take to my CrossFit class, I was reminded of when I had babies and toddlers and always had a diaper bag whenever I left the house. I keep my gym bag stocked just like I always kept my diaper bag stocked, but with different items.

Here are some tips that I used when my children were much younger.

  • Restock your diaper bag when you get home. Every time. Replace any diapers, wipes, outfits, snacks, etc. that you used. Do it fairly soon after you get home while the contents are fresh on your mind. Now your diaper bag is all ready for your next outing.
  • Keep a change of clothes for each baby, toddler or preschooler you have somewhere in your car. You never know when a fresh outfit will come in handy.
  • Also keep a diaper station in your car: changing pad, diapers, wipes, ointments, paper towels, etc. I changed many diapers in the back of my minivan. Remember to restock this changing station frequently.
  • Prepare all the sippee cups you need for the day at one time and place them on a designated shelf in your refrigerator. My children each had their own style/color/size cup, so I fixed an appropriate amount for each child each day. I did this each morning, but you could do it the night before as well.
  • Keep a separate bag filled with "quiet time" toys, books, and activities. Use this bag only for times when you need your children to sit quietly, like in a doctor's office waiting room or a church service. 
  • Keep a trash can in your vehicle. I still do this today. With older children it has to be emptied almost every day! I have mine wedged between the front and middle seat consoles. It is a regular bathroom sized trash can. It works best if you line the trash can with plastic bags.
  • If you live in a two story house, create a diaper changing area on each floor. 
  • If you homeschool, place a rocking chair in the room where you do most of your instruction or reading aloud time. I rocked, rocked, and rocked babies and toddlers while doing school with my older children.

That's all I can remember for now.  Thinking about all of this makes me miss when my children were babies!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Christmas Binder

I began keeping a spiral bound Christmas notebook in 2001. In 2007 I switched to a 3 ring binder with the following dividers:


  • This section is subdivided by year.
  • I create a document for each year in a table format with the following columns: To, Gift, Bought, Wrapped. I list the recipient's name and the gift. Then I put an x when I buy (or make the gift), and an x when I wrap the gift. On the pages that I create for my children, I make one page per child, and instead of having the To column, I have a From column. That is because I shop for my mother and my mother-in-law most years, and I can keep track of who is giving what to whom. This list is also handy for seeing what gifts I gave to others in years past.  I also love to look at what I gave my kids in years past, especially when they were younger.
  • I keep a list of the addresses I use for my Christmas cards. I reprint this list each year because I make changes on my computer on the master list as I get wedding announcements or sadly because some people pass away.
  • I also make a list of addresses for any parties that I send invitations.

  • I keep copies of party invitations in this section.
  • I also keep guest lists for various parties here.

  • This section has recipes for all the Christmas goodies we make and share each year.
  • I include menus for Christmas meals and parties.
  • Some years I have made labels for the homemade treats we give to others. I have the master copies of those labels in this section. I like to put who the goodies are for on these labels. This helps when distributing them.
And that's it. My Christmas Binder. It brings me great joy to keep this binder. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November's Goals

Well today is the first day of November!  Have you thought about what you would like to challenge yourself to accomplish for the next 30 days? Of course you can begin a 30 day challenge on any day of the month, but I am beginning a few things today. There is never the perfect time for really anything, so just do it now!

My Three November Goals

  1. Read my Bible every day. While I already have Bible reading as a well-established habit, it seems like about once a week I fail to read early in the morning, and then my day marches on, and I never get to it. Usually it's on my long run days--I have to leave my house at 6:10 to meet Leanna, and I don't set my alarm clock early enough to do any Bible study before it's time to leave.  For November I will read/study my Bible every single day. Which means if I skip it in the early morning, I must create time to do it before bedtime. 
  2. Blog 5 days a week. Blogging every single day is not going to happen, but I plan to post something 5 days a week. I'm not set on any particular 5 days each week; I'll do them as I can. 
  3. Wrap one Christmas gift each day. 

That's it. I like to set reasonable, attainable goals. 

Speaking of wrapping Christmas presents, I stocked up on wrapping paper at Hobby Lobby last weekend. They just put it out, and it's 40% off. I know they will eventually have it 50% off, but I need it now. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Book Club

I have decided to do the book club!  I think it will be fun.  I plan to post about the first book in our book club, Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin on Mondays of each week. For this week all you have to do is purchase the book or check it out from your library. Then read the introduction which is entitled "Decide Not to Decide." I will post the first entry regarding the book on Monday, November 7. I'll share my thoughts about this chapter and hopefully some of you will chime in with comments.

That's it. Easy.  We will read and discuss one chapter each week. I can't wait!

One more thing.  It's time to dust off your Christmas Binder!  I printed out 2016 pages for mine, and I got so excited!  I actually did a little Christmas shopping last weekend, and I ordered new ribbon today.  I hope to post tips and assignments to keep us all on track as the holiday season approaches.  I'll try to do this on a weekly basis too, however, since the holidays are rapidly nearing, I may need to work on this at least twice a week.  I plan to make a master plan this weekend.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Scan and Go

Last week as I was entering my local Sam's Club, the greeter asked me if I would like to try the new app, Scan and Go. As usual when I am asked a question when entering the store, I politely said, "No thank you," and rushed on my way, shopping list in hand, on a mission! Then I paused.  I asked her to repeat what she said.  She cheerfully explained that I could install the Scan and Go app on my phone, enter my membership number and a credit card, and then the very best part of all--I could scan my own groceries as I placed them in my cart and leave the store when I was done without waiting in the checkout line.

Life Changing.

Do you know how many hours I have spent in the Sam's checkout line in my lifetime? I use the self-checkout line when I can, but frequently our Sam's has open only one of those lines, or they are for 15 items or less, or I don't's always something that prevents me from a speedy checkout process.

I had that app installed on my phone complete with credit card information stored before I had my cart in the back of the store, ready to shop.  I gleefully scanned each item as I carefully packed my cart. (I was also happy that the contents of my cart would remain untouched until I was ready to load my car.) Everything would be in the order and packed just liked I like it.

Bliss.  Walking past the checkout lines snaking though the front of the store. I showed my receipt on my phone to the exit lady. She quickly checked the contents of my cart, pressed a button on her device, and then my phone showed I could leave!  My receipt was stored on my phone, and I was out of there!  In record time! (And I texted Lynn and Leanna all about it. I was so excited!)

I was even happier a few days ago when Jimmy asked me to get two things for him at Sam's. Just two things.  I waltzed in there, glancing at the long checkout lines. I grabbed my two items, scanned them and paid, showed my purchases to the exit lady, and was back in my car before one single person had completed their checkout.  Or anyway it seemed like I was that fast!

Scan and Go.  If you are a Sam's shopper I encourage to you install and use that app.  You will love it!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wedding Planning Fun

The wedding planning is in full swing!  I have finally assembled my Wedding Planning Binder complete with 10 tabs. I made this checklist, patterning it after multiple checklists I found online and also in a Southern Living wedding planner. None of the checklists were exactly what I needed, so I made my own!  Maybe someone else can use it too. 

Wedding Planning Checklist

  • Set a date
  • Determine your budget
  • Create a wedding planner binder
  • Decide on guest size
  • Book ceremony site
  • Book reception site
  • Book officiant
  • Book photographer
  • Book caterer
  • Book florist
  • Book cake maker
  • Create a Pinterest board
  • Select wedding party
  • Choose a wedding director

  • Research wedding gowns
  • Choose theme/colors for wedding
  • Choose bridesmaids' dresses
  • Choose bridesmaids' shoes

  • Buy wedding dress
  • Buy headpiece/veil
  • Buy wedding jewelry
  • Buy wedding shoes
  • Create guest list
  • Obtain addresses
  • Create rehearsal dinner guest list/addresses
  • Register for wedding gifts
  • Check engagement/wedding announcement policy for Daily Journal
  • Choose groomsmen attire
  • Choose bridesmaids' shoes
  • Choose bridesmaids' jewelry
  • Choose music for ceremony
  • Secure sound person
  • Begin looking at wedding invitations.
  • Meet with cake lady
  • Meet with florist
  • Meet with caterer
  • Plan ceremony and reception decorations:
  • Order wedding invitations
  • Order thank-you notes
  • Order rehearsal dinner invitations
  • Arrange wedding transportation
  • Shop for wedding rings
  • Plan/order any ceremony accessories.

  • Address wedding invitations
  • Purchase cake accessories
  • Reserve rental items
  • Order reception accessories (guest book, seating sign, napkins, plates, etc.,)
  • Shop for wedding party gifts
  • Ask cake servers

  • Assemble wedding invitations
  • Check postage/buy stamps
  • Finalize arrangements with all vendors (florist, caterer, sound, cake lady, photographer)
  • Order mens' suits
  • Book hotel rooms for out of town guests
  • Purchase mother dress
  • Make hair appt. for wedding day

  • Mail invitations (April 5)
  • Make wedding programs
  • Use wedding list to keep track of RSVPs
  • Final dress fitting
  • Make seating plan for rehearsal dinner
  • Make place cards
  • Print wedding programs
  • Buy all wedding party gifts
  • Plan and practice the flip

  • Get marriage license/blood test
  • Finalize wedding music
  • Finalize reception music
  • Update RSVP list
  • Check on bridesmaids' dresses/shoes
  • Check on men's suits/shoes
  • Organize all wedding supplies
  • Write thank you notes
  • Wrap wedding party gifts
  • Confirm duties (flower pinners, cake servers)
  • Practice wedding day hairstyle
  • Select/buy rehearsal dinner dress

  • Make welcome baskets for hotel rooms
  • Plan wedding day snacks
  • Confirm all reservations and services
  • Give final guest count to caterer
  • Make out checks and envelopes for all vendors
  • Try on wedding dress, veil, shoes, etc.
  • Get mani/pedi
  • Pack for honeymoon
  • Pack wedding day emergency kit
  • Shop/assemble wedding day snacks for wedding party
  • Type detailed plan of wedding day for the directors

  • Breathe
  • Give directors timeline
  • Bring emergency kit
  • Enjoy the day!

My wedding planner tabs include: Attire, Budget, Calendar, Ceremony, Flowers, Guests, Important, Reception, Rehearsal, and Stationery.

Friday, October 21, 2016

More 30 Days of Fun

Toward the end of my Whole 30, I realized the principle of doing something for only 30 days could be applied to so many things. The possibilities of things one could accomplish in 30 days are endless.

Here are some ideas I have:

  • blogging daily for 30 days
  • reading the New Testament in 30 days
  • wrapping at least one gift a day (This would be a great challenge to attempt close to Christmas holidays.)
  • writing one letter a day to different people
  • running at least 2 miles a day
  • working on a sewing or crafting project (Set a minimum time goal each day--15 minutes.)
  • cleaning out closets or storage areas in your home (Set a minimum time goal for this too.)
I am so excited to choose one of the above 30 day challenges and to get started. I can't decide which one to begin with!

Can you think of other 30 day goals you can set for yourself?

***Update on my "sweet tooth". It's back!  :)  I tried the sugar cookie again today, and it tasted good! I have decided to not do the official reintroduction phase of Whole 30. I am not eating every unhealthy thing in sight, but I have enjoyed tortilla chips the last two days!  I still have not had a Coke, and if you know me, you know this is a big deal. I am not craving one, so I plan to go a bit longer without drinking one.  I have, however,  developed a taste for unsweet tea.

Share your 30 day challenges.  I love a challenge, and I love getting new ideas from people.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Whole 30

We did it!  Jimmy and I did the Whole 30 challenge, and yesterday was day 30. Hooray!

What is Whole 30?
Here is the link if you are wondering what Whole 30 is.  Basically it is eating only certain whole foods for 30 days in order to reset your body's cravings and/or unfavorable reactions to certain foods. For 30 days you eat only meats, fruits, and vegetables.  No sugar. No grains. No legumes (beans, peanuts). No dairy. Then after the 30 days you reintroduce each of the eliminated food groups one day at a time with 3 days of whole 30 foods in between. After each reintroduction, you can assess how you feel, how the food group affected you, or did it affect you at all.

Why did I do this?
Ha! I am not sure anymore.  But it all began when I heard the author of the program on a podcast describing the program. It's just 30 days. I thought to myself, "I can do that. I can do anything for 30 days. I like a challenge!" So I mentioned it to Jimmy, and he immediately said, "Let's do it!". Wait.  I did not even own the Whole 30 book.  I needed some more information.  So I ordered the book, and the day it came in, we began. I will admit I have still not read the entire book, but I read the basic dos and don'ts, stocked up on Whole 30 compliant foods, and we were off.

We survived road trips to Florida and Tennessee for XC meets, potluck dinners, birthday parties, and a campfire cookout, all while eating only Whole 30 foods. We ate a lot of grilled chicken on salads from Chick-Fil-A while traveling (and also waffle fries----yes, not really in the spirit of Whole 30, but   potatoes and oil are allowed......we did not want to starve while on the road!)

I have eaten more boiled eggs and sweet potatoes than I ever have before in my life.  Lots of fruit. And Larabars (only the ones with dates, almonds, and cashews) for snacks or after a run. Again, Larabars are not supposed to be a staple of your diet while on Whole 30, but Jimmy is training for a marathon, and I run almost every day and do CrossFit twice a week, so we ate the Larabars!  :)

How do I feel?
I feel great!  I struggled with sticking to Whole 30 on several occasions. I wish I had kept a daily journal of my thoughts and feelings. The first three days were ok. Then we traveled, and that was hard. I packed us as many Whole 30 foods as I could, and that helped. After about a week, I was ready to quit. I really, really wanted some tortillas chips and salsa. Or maybe some oatmeal or cereal instead of eggs, eggs, eggs, for breakfast.  Lunch and supper were ok. We ate a lot of grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, green beans, and potatoes. Oh, and lots of salad. With homemade Whole 30 dressing, because all store-bought dressing has sugar! I just ate my salads without dressing because I did not care for the homemade dressing.

Supposedly you get "tiger blood" around Day 16. That just means that you feel energetic. I do feel really good. I am not sluggish in the afternoons, and most nights I slept better than I have in a long time.

What did I learn? I actually learned something about myself.  I totally would have quit more than once if Jimmy was not doing the challenge with me. He was completely committed. If he would have said he was done, I would have been in my kitchen eating tortilla chips in one second!  But since he remained compliant, I did too. I needed the external accountability to stick to the goal. Not that he made me stay with the plan, but knowing I would have to admit failure to him (and he would have been so nice about it, I am sure) kept me on track. I did not have enough internal accountability to stay the course.

In her book Better Than Before Gretchen Rubin categorizes people into four groups based on their inclination to keep habits (or not keep them). You can take a short quiz on her website to determine your tendency. I took the quiz over a year ago, and I while I scored as an Upholder, I also scored very high as an Obliger. I have been trying to determine which one I actually am.  An Upholder keeps all goals/habits whether she has external or internal accountability. An Obliger needs external accountability in order to meet expectations. The Whole 30 challenge made it all clear to me. I am an Obliger.

(But the discussion of the tendencies is for another blog post.)

What have I eaten today now that the Whole 30 challenge is over?
I actually have not eaten anything yet. However, I have longed for Peppermint Mocha coffee creamer in my coffee for the last 30 days (I have used unsweetened almond milk as my "creamer"). So this morning I added that to my coffee, and guess what? I could not drink it!  It tasted weird!  I was shocked. I tried to drink it for a few minutes, but then I finally poured it out and made another cup just like I have been drinking for the last 30 days.
I am not sure what I will eat for breakfast (after I run, after I finish this blog post).

Will I do the reintroduction phase?
I'm not sure. Jimmy is, but I have not verbally committed to doing it so I don't feel obliged to do it!

So there you have it.  Another crazy idea!  I am not sure what my next scheme will be......

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Habits And A Possible Book Club

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin. I have read her books The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before. I read her blog when I have the time, and I listen to her and her sister Elizabeth's podcasts when I run alone. She shares so many pearls of wisdom, great ideas, happiness hacks, and interesting tidbits and facts. Yesterday she and Elizabeth were discussing hard habits vs. soft habits. Hard habits are those habits that are ingrained into your routine--you do them without thinking. Things like brushing your teeth, cooking dinner for your family, getting to work on time, etc. Soft habits are a little trickier. They are the habits that are more negotiable in your mind--exercise, reading, hobbies, eating healthier.  Soft habits are usually more difficult to stick to because you can usually find a good excuse to put the habit off until a better time.

I am considering starting a book club on this blog where where we read and discuss Better Than Before. I thought we could read a chapter each week and then discuss it via my posts and your comments.  What do you think?  Would you like to do that?  This is the book that Lynn, Leanna, and I read during our running book club, which was so much fun. There are so many fun ideas in this book and really interesting questions to ask yourself to try to figure out why you do (or don't do) what you do.

So. Please leave a comment if you think this is a good idea.

Happy Saturday!

Monday, October 10, 2016

15 Minutes

So I haven't blogged in almost a month.  In fact, blogger had signed me out.

I have struggled with time management for quite some time now.  Homeschooling, homemaking, housework, parenting, marriage, family, friends, service, outside the home obligations, etc., The same things most other women are trying to balance.  Most days I succumb to the tyranny of the urgent, and I am tired. of. doing. that.

This morning while I was running and listening to Gretchen Rubin on her podcast (love her podcast, by the way), I was reminded of a couple of things that have been game changers in my day today.

1. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.  That has been one of my problems. I have slipped into all or nothing mode in a few key areas of my life, and so since the urgent shouts so loudly most days, the all has mostly become nothing. Now I am still cooking, schooling, and keeping up with the laundry, but house cleaning, lesson planning, wedding planning, extended Bible reading, letter writing, blogging, making phone calls, visiting others, hosting people for meals, and such have been neglected because I have been waiting for the perfect big block of time to work on or do those things.

2. Something that can be done "anytime" ends up being done at "no time". This really goes along with point #1 (that's the number sign, not a hash tag!) I find myself putting the same things over and over on my daily to do lists.

So. What to do? Well, today I chose to not let perfect be the enemy of good and do some things that can be done at anytime today. I also relied on my old stand-by, my timer. I can accomplish so much in 15 minutes if I know that timer is ticking.

In my perfect world, my entire house would be clean from top to bottom in one day. Once a week. And it would not get too dirty in between.

Today, instead of aiming for perfection, I chose to clean part of my house while my children were doing their chores. I ended up having about 30 minutes, and I scrubbed my shower door (Bar Keeper's Friend mixed with water to make a paste and scrubbed on with a kitchen scrubbing pad does the trick!), cleaned the rest of my bathroom, vacuumed, and mopped the floor.   While they ran, I cleaned my bedroom (dusted, vacuumed, mopped). Yay!  Part of my house clean.

I won't have this block of time to clean every morning, but today I did so I chose to take advantage of it. I found some time to blog tonight. It's almost time for me to read to the kids before bedtime, but I knew I had about 45 minutes. The laundry is all folded and put away. The kitchen is clean. The coffee pot is set up for tomorrow morning. I set my timer for 15 minutes and connected to the internet.....The timer actually chimed about 3 paragraphs ago, but I am about to wrap this up.

I am now going to read Pride and Prejudice (for the English class I teach) in the remaining minutes until the kids' bedtime.

Redeeming the time.  One day at a time.  I hope to have another spare moment to blog again tomorrow. I will try not to wait for the perfect time but strive to take advantage of a small window of time.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The First Day of School 2016

I started our new homeschool year a little bit later than I have in the past.  I waited until after I had taken Olivia and Julie to college before beginning school here at home. Our first day was August 26.

I set the table for breakfast.....

And we began our day with clues for our annual treasure hunt. I always try to stump the kids with my clues. This one proved to be difficult for them.

(It was two picnic table benches stacked on top of each other beside a tree they like to climb. I always see it when I am running, but they haven't used it in a while, so it took them several minutes to figure out this clue. I made two clues for each child.

Back to school photos....




Here they are with their treasure bags--they contained some fun school supplies and MSU shirts for the boys.

We are having a great school year so far. Leah, Sam, and I go to Crossfit on Mondays and Fridays at 1:00 PM, so I am doing less subjects on those days in order to finish school by 11:45. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, we do a full load of school. We begin each day at 8:00 AM with a Bible lesson and Scripture memory at our kitchen table.  Clay is taking college algebra at a local community college on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and he completes all his other schoolwork independently. Jimmy is offering assistance as needed in physics.

Leah and Sam still do all their schoolwork in the schoolroom with me sitting at the table with them. We are doing history, science, and geography together, and their other subjects they work on independently. I am there to help as needed, and I check their work as soon as they complete it and have them make any corrections. 

I will share the specifics of our curriculum in a future post.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The College Girls' Dorm Rooms

Disclaimer:  I am not an interior decorator!  Olivia and Julie's rooms are cute and functional.

The dorm that both Olivia and Julie live in underwent a major renovation over the summer.  The carpet was all ripped out, the concrete floors polished and stained, the bathrooms gutted and redone, the built-ins completely removed and replaced, and even the closets were improved!

Here are some before pictures of Julie's suite. (She shares a suite with 4 girls--2 girls in each room with a closet area and bathroom between the two rooms which they share.)

 the shower
(Those are cool towel bars on either side...they swing out to hang the towels.)

 the bedroom

The beds, desks, and chest of drawers can be moved anywhere in the room. Previously, all the furniture was permanently installed. While Julie was running with Big Sam I spent about an hour moving the furniture in various ways and walking up and down the hallway to look at how other girls were arranging their rooms.  I finally decided on the above arrangement.

the kitchen area.

Here are some after pictures.  
the shower 

I raised the beds so that each girl has a two drawer chest (like the one pictured above--two are stacked) underneath their bed. They also have crates and plastic boxes holding various objects underneath their beds.  There is a lot of storage under there!

Olivia moved into her dorm a week early because she had to go to campus early for the last week of a summer school (online) class she had taken all summer. She moved all of her stuff out of storage, unpacked, and decorated her room all by herself!  She and her roommate had it all done by the time I finished helping Julie and Elle with their room. All I had to do was buy and hang some curtains over their closet. (Last year it had these groovy wooden-like sliding doors on it.)

Olivia and Morgan have an oversized room with their own bathroom.

 their desk area

 their living area

 a view from when you walk in

the closets (each girl has her own)

another view of their beds....(before I hung the closet curtains)

This room also has a little kitchen area and a huge bathroom that I failed to take a picture of.

Both girls' rooms are homey and perfect for them!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Fun Days and an Update

I began blogging over eight years ago, and up until about 2 years ago, I was a fairly regular blogger.  I want to try to get back into the habit of blogging again. I really do. My internet (or lack of high speed internet) still frustrates me, but I am going to do the best I can.

Yesterday we attended the Mississippi State football game. It was hot, we got sunburned, and State lost, but it was still a fun day with friends and family!

 The Three Amigos 
(Lynn, Leanna, and Me)
AKA The Wedding Planners
(more on that later....)
 Me and Jimmy

Sweet Sam and Jimmy
(Uncle Kelly in the background)

After the game we enjoyed an early supper at Oby's, which was one of our favorite restaurants in Starkville when we were all in college. It's still delicious!

The fun for today involved getting up at 3:30 to run the Tupelo 13.1 Miler.  Leanna, Jimmy, Clay and I joined about 800 other runners for the 5:00 AM race start.  Leanna and I had the goal of finishing by 7:30 so we would have enough time to go home and get ready for Bible Class which started at 9:00. We did it!  In fact, we ran the race in 2 hours, 12 minutes. Of course Jimmy and Clay finished well before that. 

I am resting now. 

But first, about the wedding planners.....

Julie got engaged on August 20!  She and Sam Peters will be marrying on June 3. So, Leanna, Lynn, and I are in full planning mode. Our first wedding! 

 Sam and Julie
Sam and Julie again

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Homeschool Planning

So I have been working on my homeschool lesson plans for the upcoming school year all summer. I am still not done.  And I am planning for only three students!

To begin my planning process, I first had to clean out my entire schoolroom. I cleaned every single cabinet, drawer, shelf, closet, etc.  And this led to my wanting to clean and and reorganize every single bookshelf/bookcase in our house.  I did that!  I am so happy with the finished product. I grouped like books together in various spots in our home.  I cleared out two shelves of books in one of my schoolroom closets, and moved those books to the built-in bookshelves upstairs.  That gave me much needed room in the closet for teacher supplies, binders, current school resources, etc. As I went through the hundreds of books, I found many, many duplicate titles.  I kept all the duplicates, and I can share them with my children when they leave home.

After I got everything in order I began making a school supply list.  It was actually fairly short.  I think I have enough markers, pens, spiral bound notebooks, and glue sticks to furnish an entire elementary classroom. (Clearly, I am an over buyer in certain products!) Next I made a list of schoolbooks that I needed for each child.  It wasn't too long of a list either.  I ordered everything, and all has arrived except for my final (second!) Sonlight order.

I bought new crates for the children's schoolbooks and supplies and have put all their new school things in there.  I typed up their daily work checklists, and I think I have almost everything ready to go.  I am just finalizing my daily schedule.  When my Sonlight comes in, I will need to spend some time putting the new Instructor's Guide in my binder, sorting out the books, and putting stickers on them.  The last big planning task I have is mapping out my English IV class plans.  This is a senior level English class for Clay and five other twelfth graders.

About the Sonlight.....Lynn, Leanna, and I are taking a short break from our Sonlight studies this August-November to study the presidents, the election process, and our American Government.  I am also going to finish covering the 50 states with Leah and Sam.  Beginning November 7, I will start Sonlight Core F.  My original plan was to fly through this Core, cutting books here and there and still completing the Core by the end of May.  I spent several hours culling the books and typing a 100 day plan.  But I still wasn't satisfied.  I couldn't figure out how to fit in the books and content that I wanted to cover, and I also wanted to add some of the newer Core F books.  I first used Core F 6 years ago, and Sonlight has revised this Core since then.  Last weekend I had a new idea!  I decided I was not in a race to complete this Core. In fact, I decided to order the newer Instructor's Guide (at half-price since it was a reorder!) and the newer Core F books.  I am so excited!  I really liked this Core, and I feel so much better going through it at the intended pace. We will just work on it November-May, and pick up where ended the next school year.

I am starting school later than I have in years.  I will be having various houseguests (college students) during most of August, and then I will be driving Julie (Olivia has to go a week early for a class) to school later in the month, and staying there a few days. So, I have set August 26 as our first day of school.  That leaves me exactly one month to get everything ready.  Actually, I want to have everything ready before the guests start arriving.  :)

I'll share our curricula for next year and an outline of our daily plans as soon as I get everything ready.