Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Carving '10

Friday night was our (2nd annual) pumpkin carving.  Armed with the not-quite $3 kit we went to work (and by "we," we all realize I mean "I").  Jackson was beyond excited all day and kept asking when it was time--here is the face he picked out of the pattern book (picture below).  The girls designed their own.  Emmett requested "two triangle eyes, a circle nose, and a happy smile" and for Owen (and by Owen I mean "me") a pattern of an owl on a branch. ;o)
About two pumpkins into it the larger of the two nifty knives broke, leaving me with a more miniature version.  About the time I was starting in on the 4th pumpkin that knife broke too (and I felt my carpal tunnel returning . . .).  I finished up with a miscellaneous assortment from my kitchen--paring knife, dull steak knife, etc. Phew! Who's idea was it to have five kids anyway? ;o)  Isabella's tooth/gap sequence WAS rather hard to maneuver with the paring knife.  Consequently a few teeth went missing--easily remedied by skewering them back in place with a toothpick.
And voila!  Our masterpieces.  The kids were enthralled with their lanterns.  In fact they pretended the pumpkins were a family and brought them back in the next day to play with.  Jackson likes to dress his in a coat and scarf.  Oh, and he was devastated to discover I had roasted all the seeds--he was planning on a garden next year (where? I have no idea).  Fortunately for him, Grandma has seeds and is planning a pumpkin patch of her own. ;o)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Recommendation

I came across this book, recommended on a few blogs, and while I was not sure I wanted to buy it, I did think I wanted to read it.  Did you know you can request our local library purchase a book?  Now, they haven't heeded all my requests, but every now and then they do and I get first dibs.  ;o) 
It's been a good read.  I'm not saying I agree whole-hearted with everything he says (this is not a Christian parenting book) but he does present some good common-sense/old-fashioned ideas when it comes to raising kids.  It's a book about simplification, as it pertains to:
 ~home environment--we have too much stuff
~daily rhythms/schedules--we put our kids in myriads of activities and rush them around leaving them not enough time to just play (boredom is good!)
~filtering out the adult world--kids are exposed to way too much by way of tv/video games/computer/adult conversation
 I have found lots of good "nuggets" to put to practice in our life at home--like candlelight dinners and cloth napkins for instance.  Of course there has been more inspiration to keep decluttering--a job that just never seems finished here. ;o)  This book has been a good encouragement to keep striving for a simple and quiet home life, where our home is a haven from the outside world.  It has definitely given me more food-for-thought as Christmas approaches and we plan for gifts that will be bought--I think somebody will be getting some rope and clothespins for fort-building. ;o)  Soooo, if you're looking for a good read I happen to know that the library has four copies . . . although one is still in my possession. ;o)

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Magnificent Wife

Attending UNL for a degree in Business Finance, a young woman in the college group at church caught my attention. This woman who I had seen here and there during my childhood at church functions and music activities suddenly and surprisingly caught my attention one night at church. I was intrigued by her secret beauty and shyness. “What an amazing young woman," I thought to myself that night and ever since, and wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. As our relationship grew from friendship to engagement, people often asked me how I knew she was the right one. My answer was simple. Every girl I dated, I dated because there was a characteristic that I liked in each one of them, but with Janna it’s like having all those characteristics that I liked found in just one girl. She amazed me and captivated me with her passion for people and her love for music, running, and most of all pigs. After one year and one day from our first date we were married shortly after my twenty-first birthday. Too young? Perhaps, but I was not going to let this one get away. After ten years of marriage, a few problems, and many blessings later, she still never ceases to amaze me. With ten months left to go before I have two undergraduate degrees, a teaching certificate, and two classes short of a master’s degree, I still believe my most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me. If ever there was someone to challenge me and not settle for less than great it is my wife. Over the years she has created lasting impressions on my mind and my spirit which has made me a better person and for that, I thank her. When I need someone to listen to me, even about financial ammonization tables or scientific jargon, she is there. In fact, I can say that one of the best hearing aids a man can have is an attentive wife. I can go on and on about my magnificent wife, but I wanted to save room for the person whom I consider to be the mother of the year.

If caring for a husband who is gone often for studying, attending classes, or working is not enough, Janna takes on five needy children, cooking, cleaning, violin instructor, teacher, chauffeur, and mother. Understanding that it is impossible to be the greatest at all of these, she manages very well at accomplishing these tasks just short of greatness. As she strives for perfection she is often worried that she is not doing enough. How do you tell your wife that she is taking on more by herself than most people can even comprehend. “ No man succeeds without a good woman behind him. Wife or mother, if it is both, he is twice blessed indeed.” ~ Harold Macmillan. So Janna, I just wanted everyone to know you are a very important person in my life and the many lives around you. Like Proverbs 31:10 says, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” We might not have a ton of money, but I feel like the richest man in the world, being married to you. I have seen you reach contentment in the small things in life and I look forward to bringing you as much joy into your life that I can. You are my encourager, confidant, and my best friend. May you continue in your pursuit of a steadfast life as we explore God's plan for us together.
From your adoring husband,
P.S. hopefully you are still a magnificent wife after realizing that I posted this on your blog without your knowledge :)

Sewing . . .

I made another burlap runner this weekend, really not much different than the last one except it's longer.  I'm still loving that texture, the ruffles . . . And the fact it covers the unsightly gouge/gash/scratched tracks on my piano from a sliding microwave during one of our moves. ;o)  Not pretty. But the runner is and now nobody is the wiser (except everyone who reads my blog). ;o)
And here's a peak at a sweet little skirt for Marissa.  I finished it a month ago, thinking "I'll find a brown shirt or sweater to go with it, which should be easy with how common brown is . . ." Well, I'm still looking for the something brown.  We've got the tights.  I can't find a shirt!  We've got nothing to go with it.  Usually I check before I make something that I will be able to find something appropriate to match.  However, I'm a sucker for baby whale corduroy in the fall.  MUST.MAKE.SOMETHING.  And paisley . . .
Anyway, if you happen across something that would be probably at most $12, but preferably less, let me know.  Couldn't you just picture a chunky brown cardigan with three toggle buttons . . .
I'm hoping to put my sewing machine to good use for Christmas this year in the form of handmade gifts.  It's an ideal at the moment--I'd love to see everyone with *something* homemade to unwrap, and I have many ideas.  Unfortunately the rest of life keeps interfering with my hobbies. ;o) We'll see if anything becomes of that little idea--two months from today, ChRiStMaS!  And of course, I have hopes of a few things I'd like to create for myself--check out the bags in this etsy store . . . LOVE THEM.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Owen~10 months old!

We made a 2nd trip (this week) out to Pioneers Park today for a little picnic lunch--egg salad sandwiches, honey crisp apples and caramel dip, chips, and a little something I found at the store this morning . . . pumpkin spice egg nog! ;o) This weather is incredible and sitting there at a picnic table, with our picnic fare, and leaves leisurely floating down around us is nothing short of exhilarating. Sometimes I think what I love most about home schooling is the joy of just getting to "be"--functioning on our own schedule and getting to savor life at our own pace.
So, it was beautiful. The kids made leaf piles and gathered sticks. I snapped a few pics of the littlest man who just-so-happens to be ten months old today--

Just this week he's connected what sounds like him saying "bye-bye" with the hand-waving action, and he is also saying "pump" when shown a pumpkin.(Of course that would be one the first words I teach him!) ;o)  I love hearing all of his baby jabbering--it never fails to make me smile.  He has taken another step or two, but still hasn't made walking his main mode of transportation.  His favorite place to play would probably be the kitchen, opening drawers and cupboards, slamming bowls on the floor, tearing pages out of phone books.  Oh--he also likes to bite the toilet paper while it hangs from the holder. ;o) A wee bit of mischief making going on here. But we are definitely enjoying the celebration of fall from his perspective--crunchy leaves, smooth pumpkins, cozy blankies . . .
pure bliss.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Marissa's Party-the summary

 A group of girls joined us last Saturday for what we deemed "fall fun"--a little cookie decorating, bracelet beading, playing, and eating.  In lieu of a "treats bag" I sent each girl home with an apron appliqued with some candy corn fabric (in a heart shape), and of course a plate of generously decorated cookies. ;o)  You can see a bit of Marissa's apron in the picture:

The chalkboard, celebrating Marissa:

And the cake, "candy corn inspired"
and inside, surprise!
Josh has class every Saturday, and I was under no delusions that I could pull off such a morning on my own, so my mom graciously agreed to help out.  We stayed pretty busy, between party guests and the three little boys. ;o)  A third person may have been handy . . .
But we pulled it off!  I wish I could say my house has remained in a "company ready" state since that day.  Alas, it has not. ;o) But at least FINALLY! I've done a "friend party" for each girl.  Not that they've never had birthday parties before, but usually only family has been involved.  I'm heading into the next year guilt free. ;o)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happy 9th Sweet Marissa!

Oh Marissa . . .
I've thought about this day for awhile, the day where I'm "half done" raising you, knowing if the first nine years can fly like they have, the second nine can only go equally as fast.  (Although, I have a sinking feeling they will be faster).  You were the baby I looked forward to for all my growing-up years, the little girl I couldn't wait to have.  And you are everything I ever dreamed you to be.
 And here you are turning nine on me. The glimpses and glimmers of little girl-dom beginning to fade and this older-girl-on-the-brink-of-young-lady is standing in her place.  Most often you are found with your nose buried in a book--to the point I've had to ask you to please stop reading and rejoin life for awhile.  And I smile because my parents had to do the same with me.  You love to write and you love history. . . as well as playing dodge ball and catching frogs.  Daddy and I laugh because you are such an interesting combination of the both of us . . . my bookish-ness, his outgoing personality, my penchance for rules and fairness, his love of adventure . . . It makes you, uniquely you.  And YOU are delightful.  You want to please and you want to help.  I don't know what I would have done without all your awesome assistance this last year.  You are the best big sister! I'm so happy you are my daughter.
And yes, you are one of my bestest friends. ;o)

You've humbled me so many times in your thoughtfulness of others.  Including the preparation of your birthday party, which you told me I didn't have to do if it was too much work for me. 
Work or not, you deserved it. 
We are thrilled to celebrate you, and the beautiful girl--inside and out--that you are growing to be.
Keep letting that light shine Marissa!
May you glorify God in all you do.
Thank you for bringing so much joy and sunshine to my life.
Happy, happy birthday my sweet Rissy-girl!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Swagbucks Revisited

I just had to tell you how this whole Swag*bucks thing is working out for me--just in case you thought it sounded too good to be true. ;o)  In a month in a half, between Josh and I, we have accumulated for ourselves $55 in Amazon gift cards, all for doing NOTHING!  Josh used my little sign up link for his own account on his laptop, and whenever he searches and gets awarded I get awarded too (which means I'm earning double each day).  You can type in the gift card codes on Amazon and it stores your credit indefinitely until it gets used.  Now originally I was planning on using this towards Christmas shopping--what can't you get from Amazon?  But now there is another plan.  My little point and shoot camera is starting to "go."  It's still working but I'm not sure for how much longer.  I've been wanting a DSLR camera for awhile now--it's just not one of those items that you *need* hence there has been no budget for it.  But now!! I just need about 90 more $5 gift cards and I'll be good to go. ;o) Hopefully next summer sometime? (and hopefully the other camera makes it that long?!)  So, it's a long-term goal, but at least something to look forward to! ;o)  What would you save your "free money" for?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Jackson's Literature Preferences

I would venture to say we get to the library often.  Friday is our "library day" although sometimes it doesn't happen until Saturday.  And of course, sometimes we miss a week--or two. ;o) But usually I have holds to pick up, and it seems they need to be picked up on any random amount of days, so the library sees our smiling faces a lot.  Except when we are fighting over who gets to "push the button" to open the door.  Then they are not so smiley.

Anyway, last year Jackson would bring his backpack and fill it with videos.  He had his "go-to" videos, like the shark one, the Magic Schoolbus ones, and either a few Thomas the Train or Veggie Tales.  In fact I can't count how many times I would bring back the shark video only to have him check out another copy on the same visit.  He is quite the creature of habit.

This year, I've been happy to see a book or two make it in amongst the videos--and I've even found him sitting in an aisle flipping through a book. 

Last week we had a break-through--in his backpack nary a video was found, just these:
I *think* we're moving in the right direction?
Can you say B-O-Y? ;o)

(On a side note, I've yet to do a read-aloud with one of these superhero books.  Does that make me a mean mom?  Everything I've read says read them good literature, and I just don't feel like those fall into that category . . . )

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Staying Focused

This morning was perfect running weather, cool and fallish, without being too brisk.  I started out with a fast pace, reveling in the fact that it felt good, and admired the vivid pink of the sunrise on the horizon.  My thoughts were happy and full of praise for a lovely morning. 

I continued my pace as I rounded a corner and it was then that I noticed a guy on the street to my left, passing me.  I watched him, mainly because it was strange to see somebody running on the street (maybe I was being a sidewalk hog?).  I think it might have been one of my brother's cross country buddies from college, I've seen him running around this side of town before.  It goes without saying, that I had nothing on him for speed. 

He sprinted past me on his long antelope legs and within moments I daresay he was 100 yards ahead of me--and the gap was widening.

Suddenly I felt stubby, winded, and slow.  Technically nothing had changed.  But before, I had been keeping my focus on my task at hand and doing it well.  When he passed me I now had something else to focus on--his widening lead--and the happy thoughts that had previously filled my head were now being replaced with "trash talk."   Things like "Wow, you are slow!" and "What a disjointed stride you have!"

Do you see where this is going? ;o)

So many times in my life I find myself content, happily going about my life and jobs, carrying out the tasks God has given me, living the life he assigned me to live.  As long as I keep my focus on what is within my reach and capabilities, things go well. But when my gaze starts to wander? The trash talk begins . . .
"not rich enough--pretty enough--thin enough--talented enough--smart enough--clever enough" Blah, blah, blah.  I've thought them all at one time or another (or all at once . . .).  I'm going to venture to say every time I have thought such a thought I was comparing myself to someone else.

And the life that was bringing me joy suddenly loses its rosiness and discontentment rears its ugly head.  Discontentment is poison and has ruined many a good thing.

Thankfully, it is a poison with a cure~gratitude.  I have to (so very often) reign in my thoughts before they start traveling too far ahead of me, bring them back to what I have.  What I have I am very grateful for.  I remind myself to stay steady here--in this place--my spot on the journey.  Sometimes it is so lonely and it feels like I'm being passed on all sides with an intensity that makes my head spin. I have to remind myself of I Thessalonians 4:11 "and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you." Or of Hebrews 12 (which fits with my running analogy quite nicely) " . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus . . ." Note it didn't say "fixing our eyes on the ridiculously-fast-runner-that-you-would-never-catch-even-in-your-peakest-form." ;o)  But fix them on Jesus, the author and perfecter. 

My little life journey is just that, mine.  The only way I can do it well is keep myself narrow and focused--not analyzing everyone else's journey.  The same way watching antelope man become a fading dot on a distant horizon did nothing to help my own run.  ;o)  So, in summary, this is my long-winded way of saying:
Don't compare
Be content
And don't pass me 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Morning Showdowns

Wars I have waged . . .
Alarm at 5:30--beep, beep, Beep, BEEP
Score--me:1, competition:0

Me--Yes, you will show your work on your math!
3rd Grader--Then I won't do it.
Score--me:2, competition:0

Me--Yes, you will take a morning nap!
Baby--eyes me mischievously
Score--me:3, competition:0

Me--Play-dough get out of my carpet!
Play-dough in carpet--No thanks.
Score--me:3, competition:1

Me--You will say "Please" if you would like a drink.
Crazy Five Year Old--Sobbing inconsolably (for 25 minutes)
Score--me:4, competition:1

Me--Accomplish everything on schedule by noon
Schedule--HA HA HA
Score--me:4, competition:2

I'm still ahead, rather weary, but exultant.  Bring on the afternoon!

(Just kidding Afternoon, truly I'm finished for the day, might I have a quiet corner, a book, and some hot tea, please?)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Harvest Time

Today was our annual combine ride day!  The weather has been perfect harvesting weather and my mom informed me the other night that my dad was very near being done with picking corn. Since soybean harvest is rather BORING, we skipped school and hurried on down before we missed our chance. ;o)  Jackson packed his backpack with toys he thought would appreciate the ride, Woody, his model combine, and "Alvin" the baby (remember him?). 

And while they enjoyed their rides I visited with my mom, enjoyed her preparing lunch, made off with some of her garden tomatoes, and snapped a picture of some prairie--
And had myself a little "foliage forage"--
Don't laugh at my "arranging."  Is is SUPPOSED to look all messy and lopsided like that. ;o) Actually I just grabbed a bit of this and a bit of that, "lovely wayside things" that just needed to be collected and enjoyed, bringing a bit of the country back home with me.
A perfect day to usher in the first of my FAVORITE month. ;o)