Sunday, December 30, 2012

The heavens and the earth {Scripture and a Snapshot}

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

"God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:31

Scripture and Snapshot

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 in a Dozen Pictures

PhotobucketI'm sharing all these pictures as a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew's "Looking Back" Blog Cruise this week. The whole group of posts will go live on Tuesday morning, January 1st. Be sure to click on the button below (or here) to see other homeschool families that are taking a look back at 2012.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our White Christmas Eve

I'm beginning to appreciate winter in Arizona, even when the only snow we see is what's on the top of the mountains that I see in the distance. On Christmas Eve, we headed out for a hike and found that it was a bit colder than we expected. We even found patches on snow left on the mountain. I guess we'll consider it a White Christmas after all.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Goal Planning -- Christmas Break

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the days leading up to Christmas, I'm going to take a few minutes to record goals accomplished for the past week and look ahead just a bit towards the days after Christmas.

Last week's goals:
1. Gifts: All of the gifts were mailed on Tuesday, a few days ahead of the USPS deadline for Christmas. Unfortunately, one gift hasn't made it to its destination quite yet. There's still a chance it'll get there on Christmas Eve, though. The rest of the gifts are almost done. (I'm waiting on the last one to dry right now.) I just have to wrap them.

2. Blog: I posted all I wanted to post last week. I decided that the reviews would be better suited for publishing around New Year's. Somehow I don't think Homeschool materials are on anybody's "must get" list for this weekend.

3. Calendar: It's nearly all designed and ready to print. I need to put together the cover -- maybe a collage of my favorite 2012 pictures will work.

This week's goals:
1. Relax during the next few days of Christmas celebrations. Remember that it's about the joy of being together as a family and not about having everything perfect or on time or whatever.

2. Buy more paper to print my calendar on, print it, and take it somewhere to get spiral bound. I'll be sure to post lots of pictures once it's all finished.

3. Start writing down all the things that we intend to do "over Christmas break" so that time doesn't slip away from us.

4. Think about goals or resolutions for next year, consider writing them down, too.

I'm sharing this post with my friends at Real Life Unscripted, where a bunch of us gather each Monday to share our goals and encourage each other along the way.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Scripture and a Snapshot

To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will rest on his shoulders.
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Scripture and Snapshot

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thankful for Crooked Braids

It never fails. Lauren is up at the crack of dawn every morning except the mornings when we have to go to the hospital to have her blood drawn.

This morning I let her sleep as long as possible before I tiptoed upstairs to wake her up. It takes a long time for her to get dressed with her cast on, and then she couldn't find where our elf on the shelf was hiding. I was feeling pretty rushed as I helped with her shoes and then started to fix her hair. She wanted her hair in two braids down the back, the same way she's wanted it fixed every morning for the past few weeks.

I finished the first braid and started to grumble. It was too straight and needed to be redone. You see, Lauren's braids aren't crooked because I still haven't figured out how to part her hair straight down the back. She has had a rather large bald spot in the back of her head ever since a hospital stay when she was about 14 months old and very critically ill. I intentionally part her hair off to one side in the back so that nobody can see it.

I stopped myself as I grumbled. I remembered how incredibly blessed I am. Blessed to wake up my little girl, even if it does mean going to the hospital for yet another round of routine lab tests. Blessed to help her straighten the shirt that was bunched up on her casted arm. Blessed beyond measure to fix crooked braids early this morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Read Aloud Gold Mine

Instead of merely listing all of the books that Lauren has been listening to this week, I'll share the exciting treasure that I found last weekend.

It's fairly common for Lauren to think of a book title and ask me to put it on hold at the library for her. Last Saturday morning, she asked me to find the audiobooks for the American Girl Julie series. They were one of her favorites from our library in Arkansas. When I looked for them at our new library, I was disappointed to see that they weren't available in CD form, just as electronic resources.

I clicked through to find out more about the audiobooks, expecting to be taken to the Overdrive website. I've used Overdrive in the past, but primarily to find ebooks for myself.

Instead of going to Overdrive, the library website took me to the other electronic resource provider that we have access to -- OneClick. According to our library website, OneClick has many favorite audiobooks as well as some that are only available on OneClick. Better yet, most of these books are always available, meaning that I wouldn't have to deal with placing (and waiting for) an electronic reserve.
It took me a few minutes to install and figure out how to use the software to download the Julie audiobooks for Lauren. She was thrilled when I told her that the entire book series was now on her (hand-me-down) iPod and that she could plug it into the CD player in her room. She later decided that it was really awesome that Tim and I had switched cars for the day. Tim's car has an iPod hook-up to the stereo.

I later went back to the OneClick website to see what else I could find. It turns out that they have audio versions of nearly all of the American Girl books. I didn't know it was even possible to get audio versions of them; they've never been published as CD versions. I know Lauren will be ecstatic to find out that she could hear her favorite Molly stories without waiting for me to read them aloud to her. I'm keeping it a secret for a while longer; I'm sure we'll have an occasion before too long when a new (and already loved) audiobook series will be much appreciated.

I told my friend Debra at Footprints in the Butter that I'd be sharing about these books so that she can introduce them to her daughter. Lauren has loved the American Girl books for quite some time now, but the lengthy chapters sometimes make it difficult for me to read them aloud to her. All of the American Girl books provide a generous helping of historical background along with the fun stories about the characters. It's not necessarily history study in terms of dates and historical figures, rather the books tell the stories of what life was really like in that particular time period. Lauren's favorite character, Molly, lives during World War II and talks about her dad going to England to help in the war, a British girl coming to stay with them, vegetables from their Victory Garden, and more. I'm still a bit surprised that the Julie books, set in 1974, are part of the historical books. It is fun to hear of Julie reading the same books I read, playing the same games, and even talking about some of the same political issues.

I'm linking this post up to Debra's weekly Read-Aloud challenge. Feel free to stop by and share what you've been reading or listening to lately.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Virtual Cookie Exchange

Although I enjoy baking cookies, I don't normally participate in cookie exchanges due to the multiple food allergies in our family. This year's Virtual Cookie Exchange at Treasuring Life's Blessings looks awesome, though. I can pick my favorites and adapt the ingredients as needed.

These are the chocolate snowflake cookies that Addison and Brennan made a few weeks ago to take to the single Airmen at the Air Force Base. There is a big Cookie Crunch at our base where people drop off homemade goodies. The treats are all repackaged and distributed to the military men and women living in the dorms on base. Many of these young people may not get to travel home for the holidays and will definitely appreciate homemade treats.

Although these cookies are not allergy friendly for our family, they are easy for the big kids to make on their own. I often keep the ingredients on hand for those last-minute occasions where they need to take a dessert to an activity.

Cool-Whip Cookies

1 box of cake mix
1 small tub of Cool Whip (8 ounces)
1 egg
Powdered sugar

Mix all the ingredients well. Scoop out into small balls, roll in powdered sugar, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350* for approximately 12-15 minutes.

Choose a cake mix based on the flavor and/or color you'd like the cookies to be. We've had a lot of success with red velvet cake, chocolate, and lemon.

I originally found this recipe on my friend Amy's blog -- Bow of Bronze, and she graciously allowed me to share it here as part of this year's Virtual Cookie Exchange.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

O is for Ornament

I made this incredibly cute ornament today, and I can't help sharing. It's my tribute to life as a military family.

For anyone not familiar with the colored stickers that I put on my ornament, they are the stickers that a moving company puts on every single piece of furniture or box that gets moved. Although they are easily removed once everything gets to the other end, it usually takes us a while to get them all peeled off. These were the ones we found by peeking under tables, behind tables, and on some of the garage tools.

The idea for the ornament was not originally mine -- a fellow AF wife saw it on Pinterest and then later posted a picture of her version on Facebook a few weeks ago.

Since ornament begins with "O," I'm going to count this post as my contribution to "Blogging Through the Alphabet" with Ben and Me. If you have any ornament pictures to share, this would be an easy week to join in the fun.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Monday, December 17, 2012

Goal Planning Monday -- December 18th

Last week (on Tuesday), I said that I doubted I'd post this week because of our busy plans. I decided that busy wasn't a good excuse -- I'm always busy. Busy isn't an excuse to give up on keeping up with schoolwork, housework, or accomplishing goals.

Last week's goals:
1. Finish Christmas gifts. The two gifts that have to be mailed are wrapped and in their mailing envelopes. I'll have time to stop by a post-office when I'm our running other errands tomorrow.

2. Blog: I didn't finish the reviews, but I've made some more little progress. My recipe for the Virtual Christmas Cookie Exchange will be published tomorrow or Wednesday.

3. Calendar: I'm using my latest draft of it to make sure I don't want to make any changes before printing/binding it all.

This week's goals:
1. Gifts: Mail the two packages sitting on the kitchen table. Finish some presents that still have to be made for my immediate family. (I suspect a really late night before too long.) I also have a stash of gifts that still needs to be wrapped. Every year I tell myself that I'm not going to wait until the last minute...

2. Blog: Reviews. If I finish the ornament I'm making, I'll share it for "O" week on Blogging Through the Alphabet. If not, I'll have to find something else to post about.

3. Calendar: make the final revisions and start printing it.

I think that's more than enough to keep me busy until Christmas.

I'm sharing this post with my friends at Real Life Unscripted, where a bunch of us gather to share our goals and encourage each other along the way.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

N is for No Words

Last Thursday night, I finished a rough draft for this week's Blogging Through the Alphabet meme. I was going to share a cute picture of the way I have my necklaces displayed in our bathroom.

On Friday morning, I heard the horrific news from Newton, Connecticut.

Somehow my post about necklaces and organization didn't seem to matter anymore.

I've seen lots of people post responses over the past few days -- on blogs, on Facebook, or wherever.

I don't have a response or a reaction to share.

Truly I have no words.

It's at times like this that I'm thankful for the power of prayer.

I'm thankful that when I don't know where to turn, I can turn to God. I'm thankful when I don't know how to help, I can pray for the people with broken hearts. I'm thankful that God is still in control, even when I don't understand.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Read-Aloud Challenge (week of Dec 11th)

I stumbled across an idea earlier this week that it making a difference in our homeschool days.

I have one child that rises at the crack of dawn, one child that stumbles downstairs to grab a cup of coffee before going to her online class at 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning, and one child that prefers to sleep in.

For quite some time, I've struggled to wake Brennan up in the mornings. I've decided to embrace this sleepy time in the mornings and use it for our read-alouds. Cuddling up under his blanket on the "fluffy pillow of awesomeness" (aka our new, huge foam beanbag) is almost as good as staying in bed.

We're currently about halfway through The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. I think it's the newest book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series, but since it's a prequel to the others, it doesn't matter that I've only read (or heard) the first few in the series.

I can't always find books that interest all three of the children, but it's become a family tradition to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever sometime during the holiday season. "Hey! Unto you a child is born."

Meanwhile, Lauren has continued listening to quite a large assortment of books. Off the top of my head, I can remember reading parts of a Boxcar Children book, one of the American Girl McKenna books, and an Ivy and Bean book. We listened to The Long Winter in the car, and we're nearly finished with The Wizard of Oz.

I'm sharing my list of this week's read-alouds with Debra at Footprints in the Butter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Almost Wordless Wednesday

"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"
Gladys Herdman, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Goal Planning Mondays -- Mid December

I'm not quite ready to quit calling it "Goal Planning Monday," even if it does seem like I never manage to post on Mondays. Next weekend puts us right in the midst of the busiest choral weekend this year so I doubt I'll post next week. That's probably for the best, though. I might need two weeks in order to accomplish all of my goals.

Goals for next week:
1. Finish Christmas gifts and put them in the mail. I've done most of the shopping, but I have quite a bit more work to do for some of the presents. (They're still top-secret so you'll have to wait until after Christmas to see what I'm busy doing.)

2. Blog: I can count three reviews that I really want to get caught up on. I want to post a Christmas cookie recipe as part of the Virtual Christmas Cookie Exchange, to give an update on our Read-Alouds (including a change in our day to make life and read-alouds easier), and to continue blogging through the alphabet (halfway-done).

3. I'm designing my own calendar and planner, and I really need to have it finished before the New Year starts. I actually need it now, but I can make do if I get it done in the next week or so.

It seems like such a short list now that I've typed it. I'm not sure that it's any less overwhelming, though.

I'm sharing this post with my friends at Real Life Unscripted, where a bunch of us gather to share our goals and encourage each other along the way.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

M is for Menu Planning

I suspect that most every mom has some housekeeping or parenting task that falls at the very bottom of their favorites list. For me, it's meal planning. For a long time I sat down every week and tried to dream up what exciting meals would bring the least amount of complaining from my hungry family. You see, they aren't particularly picky -- they just don't like having the same thing over and over. They groan if I serve the same meal, even a favorite meal, twice in the same month.

A few months ago, I finally figured out a meal planning system that has saved my sanity. It may have even made meal planning so easy for me that I don't dread it quite so much.

I started with a my calendar, my recipe book, and a stack of index cards.

When I looked at my calendar, I realized that I was most concerned with fitting meals into our schedule and not necessarily what specific foods we ate. For instance, I need a crockpot meal for Sunday lunch. It doesn't necessarily matter if it's chicken or beef or even vegetarian; we just need something that's ready when we get home from church.

I brainstormed the meal types I needed and wrote them down on separate index cards. I had a card for crockpot meals, ones good for our weekly potluck gathering, ones that can be reheated easily for the nights when we're all coming and going, ones that take a little bit more preparation time than others, and favorites that didn't fit into any particular category.

I then divided up all of our favorite recipes into six weekly menu plans. These weekly plans only included Sundays through Thursdays. Each week, I am free to choose either an old favorite or to something new on Friday and Saturday nights. My two flex-days in each weekly meal plan allow us to enjoy something especially complicated, to grilled something on lazy weekend days, or to try the latest meal idea I've seen on Pinterest.

While I was brainstorming favorite meals, I went ahead and made an index card of favorites that didn't make the rotating schedule. That makes it especially easy to figure out what we'll have on my flex days.

I hesitated to share my planning idea because I feared it wouldn't last. Now that we've been through it for a few months, I'm confident enough to recommend it to others. It's organized enough that I'm not starting from scratch every week and yet flexible enough that I can adjust to fit our crazy life.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

I am linking this post with others that are Blogging through the Alphabet. Be sure to stop by to see what some of my other friends found to share about or, better yet, join us on our crazy journey through the alphabet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

First Day Photos (December)

I cannot believe that it's already December and that the end of 2012 is nearing. Our December is packed with activities. I'm thankful that I took the time Saturday to snap a few first day pictures. I hope that next month I remember to snap more pictures so that I'm not left looking at my collection thinking that I wish I had taken a few more.

quick stop at the Commissary

rowing exercises for PT

pulling the scooter across the carpet is quite a workout

the playground across the parking lot from Addison's chorus rehearsal

relaxing with friends after the CD release party

forget adding the hot sauce to the chili

"the fluffy pillow of awesomeness"

I am linking this post with all the others at Journey to Josie. Click the cute paper airplane button if you'd like to join us.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

L is for Laundry Day

Several years ago, I had a friend share one of her tips for successfully juggling three homeschooled children, their outside activities, and household chores. She designated one day each week as "Laundry Day" and didn't schedule any outside commitments on that day. It was her day to stay at home and make sure she got caught up on everything.

At the time, I laughed at the idea of being able to have one day each week that I could just stay at home. Lauren was still itty-bitty and had multiple doctors appointments each week. For years, I adopted another popular theory on taking the laundry demons -- wash a load or two every day. It worked, but I felt like I was always doing laundry.

About a year ago, I thought back to my friend's Laundry Day plan and tried it out. For some reason I took this picture about a year ago. Perhaps it was one of my first laundry days, and I was incredibly proud of the way all of the clothes were clean at the same time.

Over the past year, I've tweaked my Laundry Day approach. I realized from the start that I couldn't possibly get all of the clothes clean unless I was focused. I couldn't hear the dryer buzz and think, "I'll get to that in a few minutes." I have to pay attention to changing the laundry as soon as it finishes so that I don't waste any time.

I've recently added even an extra challenge to my laundry day. I decided that it wasn't enough of a challenge to get all of the clothes washed, dried, and folded in a single day. What I really wanted was to have all of the laundry completely finished so that I didn't have to worry about it the rest of the week. For the past several weeks, I've decided not to put a new load of clothes in the dryer until the previous load has been folded and put away. Usually the dryer finishes ten to fifteen minutes before the washer does, and I have plenty of time to fold the clothes while they are still warm and wrinkle-free. It's just a matter of taking a short break from what I'm doing to go take care of them instead of putting it off just a bit longer.

The great thing about Laundry Day is that I only have to do laundry one time per week. I don't restart the washer because I left a finished load in there so long that it smells funny. I don't have wrinkled t-shirts that are a pain to fold because they've been in the dryer for a few days. The absolute best thing about Laundry Day is the feeling of satisfaction that comes from finishing the job and not having to worry about it until next week.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

My laundry confessions are linked up with others that are Blogging through the Alphabet. This week Kelli at Adventurez In Child Rearing is hosting the link-up; be sure to stop by and see what some of my other friends found to share about.

Also, I blogged earlier this week about Lilla Rose Flexi-Clips -- two "L" posts in one week. If you haven't already stopped by to enter my giveaway, please do.


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