Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January's End

Running . . . 37 miles!  Signing up for the half marathon made me a wee bit nervous as it is winter and I have no treadmill.  January was more than agreeable!  My goal was to get out five days a week for two mile runs.  I didn't completely do that--I averaged four days a week.   I realize a hardcore runner could probably log that in a week or two, however, it is the most I've done (and most consistent) I've been since high school. Baby steps. ;o)

Reading . . . 8 books!  My favorites were Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry and Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin.

Listening . . . We discovered David Garrett (watch this, or this, or this). We "youtubed" him almost daily, loving not only his classical pieces, but also some of the modern pieces he has put a little "violin spin" on.  I investigated seeing him in concert this year only to find the closest he would be to us would be Chicago . . . just this past weekend.  Maybe next year . . .  And as far as my girls go, I've been enjoying Marissa playing Dvorak's "Humoresque" and Isabella playing Schumann's "The Two Grenadiers."  I'm not going to lie, Suzuki-styled violin has been a major investment of my time as I have to practice with them daily, but it's so exciting to really see/hear some musical growth in each girl lately. 

Watching . . . I'm not a big tv watcher, but Josh and I do enjoy getting caught up on previous seasons of "White Collar."  And I must admit to developing a fondness for "Bones" (also previous seasons, we only have Netflix for tv, no cable/satellite/antennae).  I usually wait until Josh has watched the first five or so minutes so I don't have to endure the whole "shock factor" of finding the body. Blech.  But the solving of the crime is always interesting, and I really like the main character Temperance (cool name).
Entertaining . . . not only did we have the pleasure of Josh's parents coming out this past weekend, it also just so happened that some friends of the girls had a daddy doing business in the McCook area. He dropped them off this morning and we're having a sleepover tonight. It is so fun to have visitors!!! The kids spent nearly the entire afternoon outside--what amazing January weather!!

Around the house . . . I packed up the Christmas tree and promptly rearranged the living room.  I'm liking the new set up so much more! (Old set up here--scroll down for a more complete picture) I also FINALLY got my books unpacked!  Josh built me a matching shelf (to the one we built a few years back) and I painted it black.  They each flank the big living room window. I also organized my craft area in the basement, and hung one wall of pictures.  In the end, lots of little projects got done, and I'm happy with what I accomplished.
New Set-up:
That blank wall over the other shelf is where the next grouping of pictures is going.  I switched the piano and tv (and by "I" we all know that means "Josh under coercion"), and then moved the small hutch to sit diagonally in the corner between the piano and tv.

Onward to February and the end of wrestling season!! ;o)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

January 22-28

My driver.
I had Marissa take him out to the van, and a few minutes later, when I followed and opened up the passenger door, there he was in the driver's seat, wearing Potato Head glasses, and asking, "Are you ready Mommy?"
Owen insisting upon making his own peanut butter and jelly.
A good mail week overall, beginning with my Snapfish order of 454 4x6's (yay for penny prints!!).  I had to make a purchase of $10 to get this deal, so I ordered a few 8x10's and 5x7's.  Shipping was kind of expensive, but it all ended up to a really good deal.  These are ALL of 2011's pictures (at least all the ones I wanted printed out) and I'm hoping to get them into an album . . . step one of getting caught up on photos!!  My albums for last year and this year arrived in the mail also.  I'm just waiting for Amazon to restock the photo pages and I'll be all set.
An accurate depiction of life right now
.  I was thinking that there are probably not that many more evenings of "rub a dub dub three boys in a tub" left.  One of these days Jackson is going to decide he's ready for a less crowded bathing experience.  One of these days my floor won't get flooded on a near-nightly basis . . .
FINALLY! After years of loving gallery walls I took the plunge and began my own. Yes, I know there are tried and true methods for doing this, all of which I ignored and just "eye-balled" the whole thing (so if you think the spacing isn't quite right, you are probably correct). ;o)  But I'm happy with the results and excited to do another collection on the other side of the window.
A little boy sitting in the shadows on my table reading a seed catalogue--what's not to love? ;o)
Josh doing his coaching thing.
  Josh's parents arrived in town the day before (yay, company!!) and we all enjoyed watching the wrestlers (and coach) ;o) in action. The older four went back to the tournament with Grandpa and Grandma and I spent the afternoon home with a little boy who was SUPPOSED to be sleeping.  Oh, is he wired today!!  I'm certain he'll crash just as we're ready to head out for supper tonight--such is life. ;o)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Valentine's Day Favorites

A few ideas from the "ghosts of Valentine's past" . . .
Look at the cute little Rissy and Bella with their little red bows still trying to hide the shorn-off bangs.
I believe we made these for Cubbies treats that evening and they were so fun--just use some food coloring to dye the marshmallow mixture before you dump in the Rice Krispies, cut out with a heart cookie cutter, and use some a red gel frosting tube to spell out some cute sayings.
Another tasty and pretty treat--we used pretzel "checkerboards" as our base and then a bag of "Hugs" and a bag of Valentine M&M's, melt in the oven (can't remember the heat, but not a high heat oven and not for too long, just watch them, but I do believe no longer than 10 minutes). I love the little stripes! ;o)
A Valentine mailbox making party!  The girls have been requesting doing this again this year.  I'm hoping to get organized shortly so that we can set up a "mail system" in our home for the first half of February, delivering little love notes to each other all the way leading up to V-Day.
Of course, a cookie decorating party--not sure there is a holiday we haven't done this for (although we don't hit every holiday every single year!). ;o)  My best cookie decorating tips--a cookie recipe that makes a nice crisp cookie (less breakage), gel food coloring for bright/vivid frosting colors, and lots and lots of holiday "sprinkles."  We also use plastic Wilton squeeze bottles for piping frosting.  In some ways they are easier for kids to use than a piping bag, but you do need to make sure the frosting is just soft enough to be squeezable, but then, not too soft.  We have had our share of clogs . . . and "exploding" bottles.  If attempting something like this definitely do the baking on one day and the decorating on a separate day--much more doable that way! ;o)
And then there's the Valentine's Day pinboard where I'm collecting some other ideas--feel free to browse. ;o)

Sunday, January 22, 2012


This apron was my grandma's--I never actually saw her wear it or know the story behind it, but I love its "vintagey-ness" (that's a word, right?) ;o) and it makes a great Valentine's decoration.

Rissy and her daddy--after a particularly intense tickle session!
Okay, so I ADORE this picture.  He was watching out the window (with his new best friend, stuffed doggie) for Daddy to arrive for lunch.  I just LOVE the expression on his little face.
What Emmett brought home from the library this week--he was so delighted with his finds. And me, well, I think I'm going to have to keep my eye on that one . . . ;o)
Where I find Marissa most afternoons, yes, sometimes still in her jammies (oh the life of a homeschooler . . .) writing her latest novel or reading the next "Redwall" book.
The flakiest biscuits I ever made--they literally peeled apart in layers!  And they're square because I was pressed for time, so I just quickly "sliced and baked."  They went nicely with some homemade chicken noodle soup--YUM!
A little paper heart garland . . . Funny story, when I was in Kearney on Tuesday I tried several different stores but nobody had a big heart punch.  I returned home rather dejected since I had these pretty papers but no way to make the hearts.  And then a lightbulb went off--while certainly a punch would be slick and easy I DO have scissors!  Yes, it did take me a bit more time, but it's not like I spent hours cutting out hearts (maybe just half an hour).  It was a fun little craft--I've actually never sewn on paper before!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snowmen at Night

A little art project we did today (idea found here).

If you're familiar with this book--
Then maybe you'll recognize the inspiration behind (some . . . ahem) of the drawings.
I tried to have them do some shading like the directions said, to show the side that would be in the shadows, and also have the snowman doing something interesting. 
What we ended up with:
Marissa--a snowman sledding down the hill on his belly
Isabella--a snow-woman singing into a microphone with a snow-baseball player who appears to be perhaps dancing?
Jackson--a snowman literally holding a smoking gun after shooting a bear (and he poo-pooed the idea of a moon, he wanted a sun, so not technically a snowman at night  . . . ) ;o)
Emmett--his actually started out with some cute little multicolored snowman wielding swords (I swear we don't watch or participate in violent things!!) and then there were a few planes (one which poked a snowman in the bottom . . .) and then this "red lava" came and covered everything up . . . and well after that, it was just layer upon layer of color.  He spent a good 1/2 hour longer on his picture than anyone else (not that you can tell by looking . . .).
Owen--he said he was drawing snowmen, so we'll go with that ;o)
All in all a fun and fairly simple project to fill an afternoon that has Daddy gone to a wrestling tournament (but yay he's home tomorrow!).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Last week he started singing, "I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart . . ."
Today I found him unloading my dishwasher and then he set the cups for everyone at the table for lunch.
He LOVES an audience.
He stayed dry overnight for the first time a few days ago.
He almost always tells me thank-you.
He can eat those "cutie" clementines like they're going out of style (and peel them too!).
He always tells me when there are birds at the feeder.
He doesn't like to be cold.
He is horrendous to go shopping with . . . anywhere . . . he's convinced he should walk and/or push the cart.  He expresses his disapproval LOUDLY.
He is my snuggler.
He is well-loved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My View

Last night I went to bed about 10:30, and a few minutes later Josh poked his head in the door and said, "Did you know there's snow on the ground?"  And sure enough, there was!  It's not much, but enough to cover the ground and cause the temperature to PLUMMET this morning.  Eyeing the bit of ground cover and a thermometer that read 1.6 degrees I decided to skip the morning run.
And so I watched a brilliantly bright sunrise from the confines of a cozy living room.
As the sun rose higher I noted that moving my couch in front of the window was really doing nothing to help our visibility . . .
Oh, it did open up the living room nicely.  But now instead of fingerprints that end at about four feet they go ALL THE WAY UP.  ;o)
Pristine or not, it's a lovely view all the same . . . one day the windows will stay clean and I'm quite certain I'll miss those little fingers (and from the looks of things noses and mouths!). 
For now, I'll just enjoy my present view.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 8-14

Isabella wearing her new coat for the first time . . . got it at Kohl's after Christmas--one for her and one for Marissa--they were 80% off, making them each $15, plus I had $10 in Kohl's cash, making each lovely dress coat a mere $10.  I LOVE a deal like that! ;o)
Owen and his beloved penguin hat, regardless of the fact the weather this month has been ridiculously wonderful and hats and even coats have hardly been needed.
The full "wolf" moon, sinking at dawn.
One of those times when I realize I have THREE BOYS--and ones lacking clothing at that. ;o)
My reading binge . . . four down, three to go.  I may or may not have taunted Marissa, "I've already read four books this year and how many have you read?"  Today she finished her third, so my lead will most likely be short-lived. ;o)
"Best Brownies"
I used to be a "box" girl until this recipe came along, and now I'll never make a box mix again. I think the frosting is where it's at! These are the kind of brownie that require a glass of milk . . . and a bunch of people to help eat them, because if left to your own devices it could get ugly fast. ;o)
 (recipe in new church cookbook for those of you that have it)
Saturday was kind of a slow picture day--all I have is some chopped veggies that were the base for my Wisconsin Cheese Soup.  I also made some pretzel bread bowls to serve it in--it was a good combination.  I've never made big soft pretzel styled bread before--the whole boiling the risen dough lumps was intriguing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fun at the Feeder

Lately, the activity has picked up at our feeder.  For the most part we see a lot of finches--I think a variety of house finches, purple finches, and maybe a cassin's finch--all three are kind of similar in look.  We also have been visited by gold finches, I was initially thrown off--it looked like a gold finch but wasn't nearly as yellow as the ones I had seen in the summer--but of course the birds would have duller shades in the winter!
(gold finch)
We've also been visited by some agile red squirrels. Even though the feeder isn't specifally for them, they're still quite entertaining to watch.  Today we had three--one on the feeder, two on the ground-- apparently the news has spread on the free food!
And I've been trying forever to get a picture of a white-breasted nuthatch that visits more sporadically.  However, he's a quick little guy, in and out in moments.  Today I managed to catch him mid-flight with a sunflower seed in beak!
(white-breasted nuthatch)

None of these pictures are that great in quality--I'm snapping through a window, and then having to crop in a bit--but it is still fun to have a record of our wildlife visits.  The feeder seems to be the busiest between 9-11 a.m, right when we are in the midst of  schoolwork.  The birds and squirrels are definitely an enjoyable interruption to our work!  It has yet to lose its novelty. ;o)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Coffee Filter Wreath

One of these babies has been on my list of things to do for awhile--
And I must say, they are just as easy and cheap as rumored to be!
My wreath is a 14 inch styrofoam form from Hobby Lobby ($4.99, but I used a 40% off coupon), two packs of "natural" coffee filters ($1.12 each at Walmart), and a bag of floral pins (I think they were $2.49).   I found it easiest to work in three rows--inner circle first, then moved the next row about an inch back, and the final row about an inch beyond the middle one--there's no exact science and in the end the filters are fairly forgiving.  The floral pins are like long staples, and I pinned two filters per one pin (one for each prong, if that makes sense).  You could probably just pin one filter per pin, but then you would need another bag of floral pins.  It probably took around an hour to complete the whole thing.  I love it's ruffly plushness! I was thinking how fun it would to do that coffee filter tie-dye craft, let them dry, and then do a colorful wreath for a girls room or something.  That however, would be a bit more involved. ;o)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 1-7

My kids have been on a MAJOR game kick . . . it began with Sorry back in November, there was a brief romp with Clue, then Stratego, then Chess, and then Josh sat down and taught them Monopoly. And now Isabella wants to play it every day . . .
This Lego kit was a Christmas present.  First Jackson made the deluxe log cabin and then tore it down to create this model--that opens up so you can see inside.  The little Lego guy enjoys sitting at his table eating a leg of chicken (when he's not outside admiring the view of his pond).  Nothing like a new Lego kit to keep Jackson occupied for hours. ;o)
For Isabella's special time with me she wanted to sew with the sewing machine.  She laid out a "charm pack" I had gotten her a few months ago and I showed her how to piece together a simple quilt top.  She has plans on it being a quilt for her dolls.
On Jackson's day he wanted to play Stratego with me.  I told him we would be able to do so during the youngest boys' naptime.  He had his side all set up by about 10:30 in the morning.  And then for good measure added a cheering section of Lego men.  It must have worked, because he beat me . . . twice.

That lower number? That was the temperature on the 5th day of January in Nebraska . . . crazy but wonderful!
My afternoon tea . . . a nice robust "Irish Breakfast" lovely way to relax while the older three played outside, the younger two napped, and I read a book. ;o)
A most magnificent sunrise that gave way to a rather overcast day (and light dusting of snow).  But WOW!!! what a way to start. ;o)

Friday, January 6, 2012

An Ephiphany of Sorts

We're half way (and one week!!) through our school year, making us also that far through Jackson's kindergarten year.  Jackson has kind of always "marched to his own beat" and that being said, first semester didn't go down exactly how I had hoped.  There was more than a fair share of him sitting at the table, arms crossed, angry eyebrows furled, me trying to coax just one little three letter word out of him.

It wasn't pretty.

And I was perplexed.  My two girls came into reading easily at the older end of four years old.  I was trying not to compare, but Jackson was closing in on six and a half and I was thinking I should see *something* by now.  He knew all the sounds, he could even spell some words (if I asked "What does CAT start with?" he could go letter by letter and spell it out), but I could not get him to verbally read them.  He enjoyed working with numbers. He was fascinated with keeping score on sports games.  He adored maps and memorized the names of places and even drew his own maps.  I knew he had a good attention span because he could sit with a Lego kit for HOURS following the directions and putting some cool stuff together. He WAS learning, but he just wasn't reading.  I kind of realized it wasn't so much about not being capable of reading, but just having absolutely no interest whatsoever. 

And there lay my problem . . . how to make him interested. 
The last few months Jackson got into board games, awakening in him a fierce competitiveness--a competitiveness that reminded me of a certain brother of mine, who also happened to be the first boy after two girls. ;o)  Over Christmas I was chatting with this brother about how Jackson reminded me of him sometimes.  We talked of my brother's utter disinterest in all things scholarly while he attended the little country school two miles from where we grew up--all that changed when he started up in a public school with a classroom of kids to compare himself to.  He realized he wasn't up to par and started working hard so he could be grouped in with the kids who were more advanced.  It's always been about competing for him. 
And so I wondered if that would be the case for Jackson?  I needed to find a way to make this reading thing competitive, but we homeschool, so how to do that when he has no actual classmates his own age?  In the end I took a piece of paper, handed him a "Bob Book" and told him I would make a mark for every word he read and then I would add them up when he was finished.  He was delighted, and suddenly he could read.  Oh not perfectly by any means, but he knew what to do, and for the first time there was progress.  I wondered aloud if he could read more words tomorrow.  And sure enough he could!  He asked to try a 2nd book.  And each day he wants to read more than he did the day before.  He asks to read!  *she faints in shock*
This boy, he stretches my brain in so many ways--always a puzzle for me to solve.  After several days of my "score-keeping" he is excited to sit down with a little book.  His excitement over this new "game" has made Emmett interested and he wants to do the same.  Jackson suddenly wants to write words, hanging a sign on his door with words he informed me he knew how to read.  I made him his own little books and he has begun copying the stories from the "BOB books."   (which he intends to sell for $100 . . .) ;o)  It's still early in the process, and by no means is he a fluent reader, but I'm delighted that we finally found some momentum . . . now just to keep it going!!
So my lesson . . . study your children and meet them where they're at.  Oh, they are endlessly surprising (and all SO VERY different).
Some reading resources for anyone interested:
Our favorite first readers--
They have five different levels as well as having added some new series with sight words.  These are SIMPLE and BASIC but a huge boost to a child learning to read when they can do a whole book all by themselves.
How to make your own little books:
Try this link for inspiration
I basically just use printer paper, folded in half and then sliced in half to form the pages, construction paper for the cover, punch two holes in the in the crease and thread some embroidery floss through and tie it all together.  They're pretty simple, but you could make them pretty if you used neat scrapbooking paper.  They could be a fun gift for a birthday party . . . throw in some colored pencils and some sticker sheets and you have a little author kit already to go. ;o)
Idea for a writing center--easy and accessible to create to their heart's content.
I'm debating some rearranging in the boys' room--maybe moving the train table to the basement and moving in a table for writing/drawing/creating.  What I wouldn't give for a fourth bedroom. . .

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Plans and Projects

I have a soft spot for fresh starts . . . I love a brand new year, get giddy at the start of a school year, perhaps because it's always an opportunity to try again, to do better.  I'm always planning and dreaming, always aware that if you  "aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."  Or something like that.

So towards a new year. . .

because at the coercion suggestion of a friend I did it . . . officially signed up for Lincoln's half marathon. *gulp*  It's really the only reason I found myself pounding gravel at the brink of sunrise, my face utterly numb and devoid of feeling . . .  And really I DO like running, I just think I prefer the temp to not be any lower than 28 (ish) degrees.  Fifteen degrees=cold

with the camera, trying a "project 365" (ahem, 366, this year)  Should that fail, I did discover a simple form of scrapbooking, kind of a hybrid between a plain photo album and a scrapbook.  I have been planning (for ummmm several years now) to get into the whole digital scrapbooking arena, and it just hasn't happened.  I like this new idea because it's simple, and I can still use my own handwriting for journaling.  Intrigued?  Check out project life.  I've been stalking Amazon waiting for the products to get restocked. I'm hoping to do the basic black album, and I'm not sure yet if I'll do one of their paper packs or just pick my own. Pretty paper kind of ranks up there with pretty fabric, you know? ;o) I think I can handle slicing up some 4x6 and 3x4 rectangles. This just might be the year I start getting caught up (I haven't scrapbooked since Jackson was a baby!!).

making a list of books I want to get through (and checking which libraries have what I want, which books I may need to purchase), hoping to do a family read-aloud through all of Narnia, and trying a new approach that will hopefully lure Jackson to the written word . . .

to spend my Christmas money on new books or the 50 mm lens . . . books? . . . lens? . . . oh the dilemma ;o)

Josh to build me another bookshelf

okay, not really a word, but I'm going to get the girls going on some keyboard skills

each child a day of the (school) week, Marissa on Monday, Isabella on Tuesday, etc. (five children, five days, how perfect!) when I will spend some one-on-one time doing something they want to do.  And I'll pray, specifically and more in depth for that child on that day.

Any special plans on your agenda for the year??

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year . . . A New Word

As another year has closed and a new one begun, I find myself thinking towards a "theme word" again.  It's truly not something I do lightly or on whim . . . after all, the year I chose "joy" I found myself with a brain tumor, and last year, the year of "patience" found me moved to the middle of nowhere . . . God always takes these words and somehow they end up a central theme for me--usually in ways I hadn't imagined.  It has been suggested I find a word that seem more promising--like "prosperity" or "abundance" or something--but I just have a feeling if  I were to choose something like that I would find myself pregnant with triplets.

I've thought on and off about the word throughout December, but nothing was jumping out and singing to me.  I debated a "Patience-Part Two" year--truthfully I'll spend the rest of my life working at being a more patient person.  If anything, 2011 revealed how much I need to grow in that area.  For awhile I considered the word "abide."  The dictionary describes that word this way "1. to stand fast; remain; go on being 2. to stay; reside 3. to await 4. to submit to; put up with." And well, if you know me and my heart right now, you will understand why I identify with that word a lot.  But that word kind of depressed me--not that it isn't a lovely word, but after a year of patience I needed something with a bit more action (I think . . .).  ;o) And then I landed on it, a word that popped out of this verse:

Hebrews 10:24, 25
 . . . and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the days draw near . . .

and it kind of whispered to me
I like it for a number of reasons--
that I might be that kind of wife
that I might come alongside and encourage my children (not "guilt" them)
for here on my blog
(one of the reasons I started blogging was in hopes of being an encouragement to others in one way or another)
that I be that kind of friend, sister, daughter, etc.
as a reminder of all those who have gone out their ways to encourage me

A year focused on encouraging sounds so cheerful and happy, striving for words that are edifying to those around me.  I'm ready to dig in . . . I think. ;o)