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Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 23-29

"The Ladies" from my side of the family, my mom, my sis-in-law Lanay (and little nephew!!), my soon-to-be-sis-in-law Becky, my sister Lynsi, and me.  We were gathered for a Pampered Chef bridal shower for Becky (I've determined I need to have one of these thrown for me . . .). ;o)
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Have I mentioned the cat is ours for the keeping?  Our neighbors determined she left too much hair on their new outside furniture and gifted her on.  Sky is a nice outdoor cat, and it seems she also has a fondness for pumpkins . . . she's okay in my book.
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I tore out the one lone plant that had managed to hang on through the summer and replanted my pot with some mums and ornamental cabbage from Walmart.  Does Walmart usually have cabbage?  I don't remember seeing it there before, but I was delighted to only have to fork over $3.38 (or something like) that to acquire one.
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Emmett found a little snake amidst my flowers--Marissa scooped him up for me so we could all get a good look.  I don't mind looking at snakes, but I'd rather not have any personal dealings with them.
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My morning routine--make a cup of tea and pull out my Bible. 
 Now in my little dream world, the rest of the household would remain asleep and I would greet the day quietly.  In my real world all my boys are early risers desiring their own cups of warmth (cocoa, tea, cocoa--respectively).  And so we all set down together for the "quiet time" that was anything but.  Initially, I felt kind of annoyed, but then I decided to pull out my camera . . . I'm guessing some day, far sooner than I am ready for, my quiet time will indeed be quiet and I'll remember this picture with fondness. 
"Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters . . ."
I love these girls to pieces.
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Isabella serving at her first volleyball game.  We enjoyed watching the girls and their distinctive styles, Isabella--calm and methodical, Marissa--throwing herself every which way across the gym floor with nary a care for the pain it might inflict. ;o)
 
 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Early Autumn Runs

If you know me, you know that I think fall is THE BEST SEASON OF THEM ALL.  Therefore, it should not surprise you that fall would also be my favorite time of year for running.  While I am not piling on the mileage like I was when training for the half-marathon this past spring I still try to get out for quick little "2 milers" more mornings than not.  (And FYI morning time is also my very favorite time to run--it's just so fresh and peaceful and the light is yummy).
 
I'm awfully fond of my little running route, same one every day.  I am definitely a creature of habit. There is a little country road heading out of town, and having gotten my start on gravel roads it makes my heart happy to be navigating them again.
 
And right now, my little gravel road is looking mighty pretty--
This is the end of the first mile where I fly down this hill with two horses as my witnesses. Although, yesterday they were missing and instead I was startled by a very large raccoon--so big I nearly mistook it for a tiny bear.  Some days there are deer and some days it smells like skunk and I glance about myself with much trepidation.
 
And for a few days longer at least there are corn fields hemming me in on both sides.  I will miss their rustlings once they have been harvested.  But then the cows will move in for a feast and I'll have a new cheering section . . . ;o)
 
My little route and the solitude it affords me is a blessing.  There has been a lot of thinking and planning and praying pounded out on that gravel--it's great when exercise can multi-task, good for the body AND the soul.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

September 16-22

Just a normal Sunday evening of family pyramid building.
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My "musquee's" are SLOWLY turning orange--most pictures I see show them as variegated, but I'd kind of prefer them to be more orange than green.  And I'd also prefer them to hurry it up already . . . ;o)
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Finding an author I haven't read before (Lisa Bergren), reading her newest one (which was basically a cliff-hanger) and then going back and checking out her old ones, one series found at the Kearney Library, the other at Arapahoe's (what are those red circle on the books you ask? Well, Arapahoe uses those to notate all the book that have no language/sex . . . quite handy, eh?). ;o)  The most amusing thing about this pile though is that I have six books balancing on a book about time management . . .
But you see, we were driving to Lincoln and I can do about one book each way, and in the event of car trouble it's always good to have spares.  How do you think I survived six hours trapped on a mountain this past March?? ;o)
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Fall baking commences!! Molasses Ginger Cookies (they are Kim Harms' recipe in the new church cookbook and I love them because of the orange zest) and Salted Caramel Butter Bars which you can find here (if you like shortbread and/or caramel you will love them--truly, they are all kinds of awesomeness that can't be put into words and may or may not use a full pound of butter . . .).  A few notes though:  #1--I like to divide the crust batter in half, press half into the pan, leave the other half for the crumb topping, and #2--I put half the sea salt on the caramel, but then sprinkle the rest on the crumb topping.  I found the first time that the salt seemed to get a little "lost" in the caramel, and when I tried it on top it stood out a bit more.
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And I also made pumpkin fudge, after all the first day of fall was fast approaching and I was feeling quite celebratory.
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Apple farm field trip for the kids--so many apples on the ground!!!  We brought back lots of Melrose--they are yummy!  I'm hoping to turn out a pie sometime in the next week.
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My mother-in-law's "beauty berry bush" that I've determined I'm in desperate need of!  They get these gorgeous berries in the fall.  We were thinking how lovely they would look with one of those domesticated goldenrods . . . oodles of great fall interest! ;o)
 
 
 
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

What We've Been Reading

A few read-alouds the boys have enjoyed--
 
 

(two good stories involving baseball, both dealing a bit with World War II--what boy wouldn't love that?) ;o)
 

(this one is probably Emmett's favorites--all about the animals that live on a farm and their very realistic personality quirks) 
 

(I adore the artwork in this one, done on "scratchboard" and so vivid)

And something for me: 


This book came out in 2006, making it by no means new, but it was new to me.  What a story!  I think if you are someone who has dealt firsthand with grief in your life this would be a really hard read.  It is the kind of book you need to keep some tissues handy.  I'm sad that this author has written no other books, because truly, when I finished it I wanted to read it all over again, and there aren't a whole lot of books that bring out that kind of response in me!  All that to say, I highly recommend it!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 9-15

Marissa letting me experiment with some evening light. ;o)
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Owen drew his very first people!  This skill is one of my absolute favorites to see emerge--I'm not sure what it is, but it always makes me jump up and down happy.  Aren't first people just adorable??
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One of the fun things about homeschooling is the education I get--often I find something that piques my interest, in this case, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and am beset with a need to know more.  (That, and my newly acquired knowledge will come in handy when Josh surprises me with a European vacation some day) . . . ;o)
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The girls are playing volleyball this fall.  Arapahoe has an elementary team and we thought it would be a fun experience for them.  And seeing as there was absolutely a reason that their mother ran cross country they will hopefully acquire a set of skills that I am unable to impart. *ahem*
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Jackson has really thrived these first few weeks of school.  Seven seems to be a magical age for him, and suddenly everything is clicking in wonderful and delightful ways.  He finished this little book as part of his phonics instruction and then set off to find Owen and read it to him.  You will note that Owen is my only child who takes it upon himself to get ready in the morning.  Jackson is still in his jammies, and Emmett, well let's just say he had to be strategically positioned before I could snap a picture.
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Josh was quite excited to get to drive the golf cart at the Arapahoe cross country meet.  He claims it was more stressful than he originally thought--those runners really do just blindly follow.  But in the end, he did successfully navigate the course. ;o)
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The losing of the first tooth!  Isn't it strange that it was a top one?  Jackson is kind of a "late tooth loser" however, the two front middle and two front top all seemed to get loose at the same time.  I fear in a few short weeks there will be nothing there!
 
 
 
 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Where I Gush About Project Life

I know I've mentioned several times about my "Project Life" albums, but I really wanted to go into depth for the person out there who is buried in precious pictures of their family and has yet to dig a way out.  If you have a memory keeping system, and it's working for you, then stick with that!  However, if you are like me, somebody who loved the idea of scrapbooking, got busy making albums for each of your children, and then sometime back in 2006 stopped, this post is FOR YOU!!! ;o)

When Josh and I got married I didn't have our wedding photos put in an album--I planned to make some sort of gorgeous scrapbook wedding album.  I got a decent start on it.  We were married a full 16 months when Marissa joined the family.  I then pushed aside the wedding album and began a "Marissa the First Year" album.  Followed by a "Marissa Ages 1-4" album and then got going on an "Isabella the First Year" . . . Well, you can see how quickly this whole thing got out of control.  I was trying to write each child's history and sometimes that meant doing the same pictures/same story times three.  It was wearisome.  And so sometime around Jackson's first birthday, I kind of gave up.  I had created a monster and it was overwhelming me.

When Emmett was born in 2007 I had intentions of starting an album for him.  But a few months after he was born we finally converted to a digital camera.  I had held out super long on going digital because I knew I would be terrible about getting pictures developed. (I was right).  But I loved having a digital camera!  I was taking more pictures than ever and storing them in my handy-dandy computer.  Ultimately, aside for a special picture here or there (like for a frame) I didn't develop a single one.  In fact, five years later I am finally getting around to developing pictures.

Now, I've been blogging since 2008.  Josh has always encouraged me in this area because even though I was not recording our stories in a tangible and hands-on way, I was still getting things down.  I love going back through my blog and reading stuff from a few years ago because it is scary how much I have already forgotten.  But I still had the "mommy guilt"--I would see the kids look through old albums and notice how much they enjoyed it (especially the girls, now that they are old enough to read all the journaling).  I wanted EVERYTHING in albums that they could pull out whenever they wanted.

Here is where Project Life comes in.  I kept hearing about it out in the blogosphere, but it wasn't until the end of last year that I started to seriously check it out.  And it is SO AWESOME!!!  It makes memory keeping simple and virtually pain-free.  I think in the long run, it's pretty affordable too.  If I've managed to get you even the littlest bit curious, then you need to go here and watch some of the videos--I think actually seeing it in action will explain it a whole lot better than I can.

Here's my process--
Right now I have three of these black albums, one for 2012, one for 2011, one for 2010 (I'm working my way backwards).  They also have white albums and albums that actually match the core kits.  I'm just sticking with black to keep it all matchy/matchy.


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I've got my plastic sheet protectors (if you were to take a photo a day for a year a box of 60 would last you a year).  They come in all different shapes and sizes.  I started out with this variety pack:

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In previous years, I have had a mix of vertical and horizontal pictures.  This year I'm trying to make sure my "pic of the day" is horizontal just to keep things simple (and for the most part, that has been pretty easy).  I just invested in a pack of smaller size "inserts" so that if I have extra photos in a week I can put them there.  Here is the insert I use:


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Then there are all the cores kits!! This is what makes the creating of a layout a breeze.  The whole kit coordinates.  The little 3x4 cards can be used as journaling cards OR a filler card (everything is double-sided!).  The 4x6 cards can be used as your "header" for the week.  There is no cutting, no adhesive involved (unless you want to use it). 

I am using the "Amber" edition for both my 2010 and 2011 years (splitting the edition between the two years), and I just got the "Clementine" one for this year.  I'm still feeling my way through all this (and working backwards). Project Life saw such a crazy amount of growth (as a company) over this last year that they have been out of product for a good part of the year.  First I had to wait for the plastic pages to get restocked, then the core kits.  Next year, I'll be ready--I'll be watching for when the new kit gets released, and be set up to work in a more "current" manner.  The new kits are supposed to be released the end of November and are sooooo pretty!

And lastly, the pictures.  I've been using Snapfish to print mine.  Every few months they run a "penny prints" deal.  They are running one right now, 99 prints for $.99 (and you can use the code over and over).  I have three new orders coming and with shipping they came to $7.33 (I think).  However, I would love to use Persnickety Prints--they are "Project Life" friendly, rounding corners for you, having 3x4 sizes to print pictures.  Unfortunately, they cost a bit more than a cent . . . ;o)

That is how I'm tackling the picture monster.  I use my blog to fill in the stories I don't remember.  I check back over my facebook page for any funny tidbit I might have missed.  I always keep my yearly wall calendars and there is a lot that can be found on them too.  This year I've started writing little bits of information down in my planner (got the idea from my mom!) using the calendar pages as a sort of journal like this:

What I want these albums to do is accurately represent life where we are at.  That's why I take pictures of things I'm cooking or projects I'm working on as well as the "big" events (you know Christmas, or learning to ride a bike, or loosing a tooth).  It is amazing how much changes.  Back when Marissa was about 2.5 years old she would come out of her room every night asking Josh for a "mouse ride."  This eventually morphed into "gibbon rides" and "camel rides."  She only did this for a brief season, yet it was a nightly routine.  Had I not written that down I would have forgotten, because it has been years since she came out of her room, "squeaking" for a ride.  Things change fast.  But the kids LOVELOVELOVE to know these stories about themselves.

If any of this sounds good to you, you need to check out the website. The creator, Becky Higgins, has a blog, and you can check out all the products as well as find inspiration from the creative team.  While I am using the physical Project Life products there are also digital kits available for somebody inclined to scrapbook that way.  She is also coming out with baby albums/kits (November) that are like a beautiful marriage of a baby book, scrapbook, and photo album.  And school days albums/kits!  Truly, I think she thinks of everything!  Seeing as Emmett and Owen are still lacking a first year scrapbook I just might make good use of those new kits!  Also, everything is available on Amazon--in fact that is the only place you can purchase the products. 

Truly, I could not be happier or more excited about memory keeping.  (Ask my mom and mother-in-law who have sat through my "demonstrations" as well as the people I keep emailing "Having a baby? You NEED this!!"). ;o)  No, I'm not their spokesperson, or being reimbursed in any way, I'm just this enthusiastic because it is that awesome! So, ummm, if anybody has made it until the end of this incredibly long post, thanks for bearing with me. ;o)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

September 2-8

A few years ago Josh found this kid-sized 4-wheeler on Craigslist for free.  Supposedly, it didn't work, but Josh had a feeling it just needed a new battery and ordered one.  This past Sunday he finally got around to seeing if he was right.  So, it was a few years in the making, but the kids are quite excited to have their own set of wheels (that we are keeping at Grandpa and Grandma's house!). ;o)
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We stopped by my parents' on our way home to Arapahoe and did a bit of combine riding.  The majority of my dad's corn is dry-land, so this year's drought conditions definitely have affected the yields but at least there is corn. I know out here, many farmers haven't even messed with combining and everything has gone straight to silage.
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Isabella's van doodling.
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I picked all the Jarrahdale that are ready--11 pumpkins in the first picking!! I'm still awaiting my "Musquee . . ." ones to turn orange--maybe another week or two.  And if the frost holds off I should have some more ready sometime in October.
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"Look Mommy, Sky caught me a bunny!" he says in this soft, sweet voice, carrying his rabbit captive up to the house. (Sky being the "sometimes" cat who has officially been gifted to us from the neighbors and bumped up to permanent cat).  He set the bunny down on the sidewalk, where it sat for a second or two, stunned, and then it streaked off, Emmett in hot pursuit.  He was soooooo sad.  He really wants a pet bunny--I told him I'd never allow a wild one anyway--but he's taken to following the cat around in hopes she'll snag him another.
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Five little blonde heads huddled around a book--warms my heart.
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 The girls were laying out their outfits for church the next day and Owen thought he'd pick one out for himself. That little smile of his cracks me up. ;o)
 
 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Randomness

What's been going on . . .

Due to the fact we check out about six "Where's Waldo" books every time we go to the library we decided to get Jackson one of his own for his birthday.  To make it a little bit more fun I resized a few photos of Jackson, printed them off on regular white paper and glued them in the book.  It was a huge hit!  I must admit to feeling quite giddy with my cleverness. ;o)
Every scene includes a different picture of Jackson, and I have to say it is quite hilarious seeing what the little Jackson is doing in the context of the scene.  Jackson was delighted!
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We've jazzed up the boring (but standard) sandwiches for lunch by "Subway-ifying" them.  The kids are much more prone to eat and enjoy something they've had a hand in creating.  I've gathered a collection of lunch meats, cheeses, honey mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onion, dill pickle "stackers," sliced black olives, banana pepper rings, etc.  I spread it all out and give them creative license.  We're all much happier with sandwiches now.  And I must say, I love the added zing of red onion and banana peppers on my sandwich--it is awesome!  I'm planning on getting a basket for the fridge that will hold all of our sandwich goods--that way we can just pull everything out at once without hunting all over the fridge (also I like to prep things like the onions and lettuce for the whole week, eliminating the need to do that daily).  So if you need a lunchtime idea, there it is! ;o)
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I've tried out some new recipes--
Lemon-Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread --I doubled the recipe and made muffins out of it (made roughly two dozen).  They are yummy, but didn't come out of the (greased) pan all that well--in the future I would use liners.
French Apple Cake --this link will take you to where you can find it, but if you actually want the recipe you'll have to sign up for a free trial of cooksillustrated.com.  This was yummy and I think would taste extra awesome with a warm caramel sauce drizzled over the top and a mug of strong tea.  It kind of has a custard/bread pudding vibe going on.
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Josh has been taking all interested children to various volleyball and football games over at the high school affording me some blessed peace and quiet.  It is lovely. ;o)  I love them all, but I must admit that I'm tempted to turn cartwheels the minute they all walk out the door.  I've read that extroverts get their energy from being around crowds and introverts from having some quiet, and I would say that is definitely true for me!
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SOOOOO happy to have my favorite season upon us!  I love when the magazines begin to arrive with their awesome fall covers.  I've been fiddling with the decorating and have begun bringing in the pumpkins.  *blissful sigh*  Lots of baking in the future and the reinstatement of "Soup-er Saturday."  Life is good. ;o)
 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Growing Pains

Today marks the official anniversary--one year that we have (as a family) lived in Arapahoe.  It is strange to think that one year ago this evening I was up to my ears in boxes, and strange because I can't believe it's just been one year.  It kind of feels like it has been five.  I think--because it was a year that stretched me in so many different ways, forced me to learn a thousand tiny little lessons--I think those reasons made it feel like a much longer period of time.

I've tried a few times now to put down all my feelings about this move, but I can't seem to make sense of them or organize my thoughts with any cohesiveness.  While I aim for contentedness, knowing this is where God wants us, there remains a longing for the old life back in Lincoln. There are great things that we have experienced here, but a wistfulness lingers.  Sometimes this feels like a "waiting place."  And yet I never want to look at it that way.  Each day we have I want to live fully because we aren't promised any more than that.  I need to always embrace where I'm at RIGHT NOW, and be thankful for it.

This summer Marissa really shot up in height.  One day I think she was a little girl and now I'm asking her to sit down when I braid her hair because she is literally right under my nose.  At different points she experienced some pretty severe pain in her legs--so bad at times she would actually limp about the house.  We found a nice long soak in a warm bathtub helped immensely, and eased her through the worst of it.  While we know her growing has been a good thing--something that is supposed to happen--the truth is, it hurt.  Similarly, this last year I believe has brought forth a lot of growth for me, but the process has been kind of painful.  I've been thinking a lot on that--growing hurts!  The learning of a tricky piano passage or trying to make words flow together better or attempting a new craft or navigating a new town or {fill in the blank}--it is all wrought with struggle and fumblings, failings and trying-again.  Over and over and over.  It's true of our physical lives and true of our spiritual lives.  I cannot think of a single instance where growth in a particular area came about with ease or through giving up.  Obviously, God meant it to be this way.

With each trial I have struggled through God has taught me something new.  They have shaped and changed me immensely.  He's not done with me here yet.  We're settling into all our familiar school-year routines, the ones that were so brand-new and strange feeling last year--now slip on with a bit more ease.  And we're sad looking at all that is getting going at our Lincoln church--those feelings of missing out still linger.  But I know in the end, He wants us here.  I know in the end, His way is always best.  I don't always understand, but I just keep moving forward.
 
Philippians 1:6
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August 26-September 1

Hot day + no pool = improvisation
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Brothers all snuggly reading together (some sort of super hero book--of course!).
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Owen really wants to play the violin and he came up with this little set-up, joining Marissa.  He carefully imiated her bowing and hummed along. ;o)
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One of those moments I find myself shot through with the realization I haven't seen Owen in awhile.  I rush outside, figuring he was peddling about the neighborhood (he recently learned how to ride a bike with training wheels, "Watch me go super fast!" he says, and yeah, he does have some speed for a two year old), but rest assured he was only sitting on top of the mini-van.  "Wheeeeee!" he tells me, sliding down the wind shield . . .
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I accidentally picked my biggest pumpkin . . . I was trying to get some straw underneath it, so the top wouldn't discolor (it was growing upside down) and she snapped off, all 35 lbs of her (yes, I weighed it).  This is one of the "Musquee de Provence" ones and supposed to turn a dusky orange or a mixture of green/orange.  We'll see if it does anything now that it has been picked.
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Arrived back in Lincoln for Labor Day weekend, limping in on a dying van. (sadness, and we're still not quite sure how we are getting back . . .) Driving down my in-laws' driveway I noticed the sun setting behind some wild sunflowers, so I snapped a picture before we even unloaded our gear.
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Labor Day weekend tradition . . . bonfire and s'mores.