Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In the great outdoors...overcast and cold – the cold finally came! We were so hot on Sunday, but when I was out yesterday trying to rescue our outdoor nativity scene from the wind, I think there were ice pellets mixed with the rain spitting on my coat. 

Within our four walls...Christmas decorations are down and mostly put away (still have to put away outdoor decorations that are currently just resting in the garage). I normally don’t like to take decorations down so quickly, but this year I wanted to be able to spend the week re-establishing our normalcy.

Also, the girls want to rearrange their room. Like with the rest of the house, their room is set up the way it had to be to make it functional quickly when we moved in. But, they’ve since had time to live in it, consider the implications of sharing a room, and even map out some considered reorganizations. Right now they’re cleaning off shelves and dressers in preparation for help from me in the actual shuffling of furniture. It will be like one of those slide puzzles – getting everything moved around in a confined space!

A heart of thanksgiving...for cold weather; for a full week to renormalize life; for protection of friends and loved ones in recent storms and flooding; for a halt in the rain that has brought flooding to much of our region.

A heart of prayer...for those dealing with the aftermath of Christmas weekend storms and flooding. A couple I know from college both work at a school that was devastated in a tornado. It’s amazing to see pictures of walls completely demolished while just a few feet away, posters still hang on bulletin boards and baskets sit on shelves untouched. Tornadoes are horrific, yet so fascinating!

Random observations...weaning off of sugar is tough. But I already feel more energetic after greatly minimizing my intake the past couple of days!

Also, Facebook is down. Kind of funny. I still post regularly on Facebook and try to keep an eye on what other people are up to. But, it’s not as big of a deal anymore when it’s inaccessible. I like Facebook. But I’m also trying to pay much more attention to how much time I spend on it. So, the outage is not really that big of a deal. I like that.

My silly children...keep me laughing.

Yesterday, I was missing things right before my eyes. I just had to remind my children that I was crazy – and I thanked them for putting up with me.

Angie responded with, “That’s okay. Crazy runs in the family.”

Steven, of course, had to tag on, “It practically gallops.” (our family’s favorite Arsenic and Old Lace reference, for those who don’t “get” it)

Almost simultaneously, the two kids began to gallop around the living room while “singing” the William Tell Overture.

Yes, I enjoy the galloping insanity of the Hibbard family!

Thoughts from the kitchen...parmesan chicken cordon bleu with rice is the plan for today. I have a new potato soup recipe to try later this week. And I’m sure the crock pot will be in heavy use as the cold finally (hopefully) settles in!

On my bookshelf...I got my fiction review books done. Just need to get the rest of the reviews written. Now to figure out what to dive into next. I want to intentionally read in the coming year, but I also want to intentionally write. We’ll see how that all balances out.

Projects...rearranging the girls’ room, then rearranging my own space to keep the sewing machine more accessible. Not sure yet how it’s all going to work out, but I’m looking forward to trying. Yes, I want to work in intentional sewing with intentional reading and writing. Prayerfully considering how to balance all three.

Sounds of the moment...the girls chattering as they continue to clean off bookshelves. There are a LOT of books stored in their room! Then, there’s Steven piddling with Legos at the table. He got a Crazy Contraptions instructional book for Christmas, and he’s created quite a few neat contraptions already! Can’t wait to see how he uses the concepts in his creations.

From Hibbard Academy...one more week off. Tomorrow I’ll start prepping for the new week. We’ll be adjusting the schedule a bit. It’s time. We’ve stuck with roughly the same schedule for almost a year and a half. Amazingly enough, it’s still working for Steven and Angie – just not for Olivia. Fortunately, Steven and Angie are very flexible and don’t mind changing up to help their sister.

A favorite thing from last week...we had a nice super-quick trip to Monroe, a beautiful Christmas Eve service, and a good visit with my family on Christmas evening. But, I must confess that what I enjoyed the most was the chance to have a Saturday in which we truly could just relax and do what we wanted to do. We got to stay home and fill the time our own way. It was very, very nice.

The planner...Doug’s at work most of this week, but we’re at home. In the mornings, I’m tackling home stuff I want to do before we get back to school, and in the afternoons I’m working. The kids are helping with the home stuff and enjoying the break from school. We’re planning on some time with the Choates this weekend – squeezing in those last delightful visits before they leave next month! Oh, what a treasure their closeness has been!

Because visuals are fun...my silly middle child recreated a favorite Doctor Who scene. Any DW fans recognize what’s going on here? (Of course, you have to ignore the fact that the twelfth Doctor and Clara are observing in the background. This is all about center stage…and that infamous fez in Amy Pond’s hand.)

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas from the HibbardFive! We thought we’d give a nice, wordy update on the year that has passed, but it’s been a chaotic year, so we’ll hit the highlights. First, the family overall: in May, we relocated to East End, Arkansas, where Doug now serves as pastor of East End Baptist Church. That led to a series of goodbyes and hellos that are still working through our system.

We continue to teach our children at home, even as Olivia has started 9th grade. She’s adjusting to the heavier workload well. Angela and Steven are working through the middle school and elementary years well. The girls are now in an American Heritage Girls troop in Benton, and Steven has moved up to the Webelos level of Cub Scouts as well as changing packs from Stuttgart. They are working together to learn piano and beginning to try out new instruments. So far, we have a bugle, a violin, and drums. It’s a bit noisy at times. We also toured the vault at the Arkansas State Capitol, and the kids got to hold $325,000!

Doug is learning the ins and outs of pastoring our new congregation in a much more highly populated area! He is currently focusing on the balance between pastoring and working through some writing projects while praying through future education prospects.

Fortunately, the move did not interfere with Ann’s work as Senior Editor for HEDUA. Since she telecommutes, the slightly better Internet speeds here in town have helped her out. She continues to be the main teacher for Olivia, Angela, and Steven.

We put the kids up to writing their own paragraph for this letter, so here they are:

Olivia: This year has been a strange one for our family. At the beginning of June, we moved from our little town of Almyra to the outskirts of Little Rock. That has required some adjustment, but we enjoy our new life. I now have a youth group that ranges from ten to twenty, and we have regular activities. That has also been something to adjust to. And there was the busyness. In July (at least I’m pretty sure it was July), I went to PraiseWorks one week, my grandmother’s the next, and Camp Paron the week after that! We have joined an AHG troop, and have been involved in several service projects because of that. But it has been a fun year, and I am glad for where we are.

Angela: I have been learning how to quilt and sew, and started working on following a pattern in knitting. The stuffed cow collection has grown, and all the cows do weird things together. This was my third year to do a music camp called Joy Works, at Ouachita Baptist University and we have also been working with piano. I have been in that weird stage of not little, but not a teenager yet. But the year has been fun.

Steven: Title: My Year. My year has been a lot of fun. This year I am experiencing Christmas in a new house. This year I have been growing, learning, getting, giving, playing, moving, and snuggling. This year I am looking forward to making new friends and having Christmas in a new house.

We Hibbards wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. May you walk closer to Jesus every day.

Doug, Ann, OIivia, Angela, Steven, Smoky, Mina

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In the great outdoors...indecision. Is it supposed to be cold or warm? Humid or dry? Yep, it’s December in Arkansas.

It reminds me of December 17 years ago (among others, but that’s the most definite one for me). Christmas was on a Friday that year, too. Three weeks before Christmas, we were in shorts, sweating in the humidity as we visited a tree farm to pick out our Christmas tree. Six days before Christmas, it was more pleasant humidity-wise, but I was still comfortable in my sleeveless dress. Christmas Eve? Ice storm. Yep.

At least right now the sunshine is very decisive! And beautifully abundant! 

Within our four walls...getting the day started, each of us at our own pace, it seems. I have a fuzzy companion helping me get some writing done.

When the kids were smaller, I was the only one this cat wanted to be around. But, as the kids grew and became more tolerable to be around (translation: stopped chasing her around on cute, chubby toddler legs and started just calmly loving on her), she began to prefer them. But, for the past few weeks, she’s been back to pressing up against me whenever I’m sitting down. And woe to me if I try to move her!!

No, I’m not a huge cat lover. But, she’s a pretty tolerable cat.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the ease of transitioning back and forth between A/C and heat – not to mention the blessing of even having those luxuries! Why yes, we have needed both this week – or maybe even on the same day.

For sunshine. I love the rain, but the sunshine is a huge blessing this week.

For my diligent, talented, thoughtful, learning, growing children. They amaze me daily.

For my incredibly faithful husband. We will celebrate 17 years of marriage this week, and he’s ready to go for 17+ more. Wow.

A heart of prayer...for our music minister, Bro Ed, as he undergoes unexpected bypass surgery today. For a friend as she also faces surgery today. For my mother-in-law as she has surgery coming up next week. Seems ‘tis the season for surgery!

And, still, for the Choates as they see God’s hand working in their provision for a return to the Solomon Islands. They still need one-time gifts to help with immediate expenses and a few more pledges for long-term support, but God is definitely answering prayers! Yay!

My silly children...are very, very quiet right now. Very quiet. Hmmmm…

Thoughts from the kitchen...So, yesterday I was problem-solving and lost track of time. I didn’t have anything planned for lunch and didn’t have a clue where to start. Doug calls – on his way home – and asks, “Need a plan?” Yes, please! So, over the phone, he dictates a delightful way to combine and use leftovers for a whole new meal. Just like that. I toss it all together, and voila – a meal everyone loved.

Oh how I wish my brain could do that with food, but I sure am thankful HIS brain can do it!
As for today? I have several new crock pot dishes to try, so I’m going to see if I have the ingredients on hand to get one of them going today.

On my bookshelf...two books that I’ve read but still need to review. Current read is The Painter’s Daughter, Julie Klassen’s newest release. And, I’m reading Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. And, of course, my own hubby’s Advent book.

Projects...making great progress on picture sorting, and I cut out one sewing project. Hopefully this week I’ll make a LOT more progress on the Christmas projects. 

Sounds of the moment...like I said…quiet. I did just hear a chair squeak. I believe Angie & Steven are doing chores. And Olivia – who ended up awake about an hour earlier than normal – has already finished quiet time, breakfast, and chores and is now enjoying some extra time to write and get a head start on school work.

From Hibbard Academy...a light week. Still getting all necessary core work done to keep us on track, but cutting out some of the superfluous work. You know, the stuff that really is useful for solidifying what is being learned, but doesn’t HAVE to be done all the time. And the last couple of weeks before Christmas need all the help they can get!

A favorite thing from last week...a couple of hours with the Choates to finish off our Saturday. And Joanna’s grandmother – a delightful woman with over 60 years of minister’s wife wisdom – joined them, as they came straight from a wedding. This beloved family’s time in Arkansas is drawing to a close, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am that they choose to bless us by sharing some of those precious remaining hours and days with us. We’ll miss them, but we’re so thankful for the time we have with them right now. They energize us!

The planner...um…yeah…we have several things going on this week, but I wrote them down so I wouldn’t have to keep them all in my head. And my planner is…somewhere? Guess I should locate that, because I know there are several to-dos on today’s list. Oh, how much better I do when I actually use my planner.

But, the biggest thing is the aforementioned 17th anniversary. We’re keeping celebration simple this year – just dinner out. I often chuckle because December is an INSANE time for a pastor to have an anniversary. Especially six days before Christmas. But, at the same time, it’s really nice to have a ready-made excuse to look at others and say, “This day is for us. No matter the chaos, we’re pulling back to celebrate each other today.” So, it really is a blessing. Somehow, I think God might have known what He was doing when, on one hot July day, He guided us to plan a wedding for December 19.

Because visuals are fun...Angie had fun meeting Samson, a mini Hereford, last Saturday. 

Look at that face! He loved having his forehead scratched, right between the eyes.

Why yes, they are great pets, from what I’ve read. And sure, Angie, you can have one – just as soon as you come up with about $1500, plus money for feed, plus about five acres of land for grazing. Sure!

But, he was definitely cute!

Then there was the llama. Awwwww...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In the great outdoors...beautiful, bright sunshine, and lovely spring-like temperatures. Yes, I’m ready for real cold, but we probably won’t get many days of these lovely temps combined with beautiful sunshine when spring rolls around. So I might as well enjoy them fully now, even if I would rather have a cold December!

Within our four walls...quiet. Well, except for the running of the dishwasher and the dryer. Thankful for both!

A heart of thanksgiving...for healthy kids; for conveniences; for a tornado siren that has only had to be used for testing purposes since we’ve lived here; for the flexibility of homeschooling.

A heart of prayer...I start the list, and it just keeps growing! Praying for so much. Salvations for multiple loved ones; our churches; our family as we seek the best schedule and routine for us; the Choates as they seek timing wisdom and financial provision for their return to the Solomons.

Random observations...I realized this morning that my children consider homeschooling a given. It’s all they know. Steven was playing with Legos, using a measuring tape and math to consider how many “dots” he has. He came and told me, “When I teach my children math, I’m going to use Legos.”

I love that they love homeschooling! But, I also want to begin instilling in them the reality that obedience to God’s leadership is more important than which educational choice we make.

My silly middle child...always has a project in her hand. And, right now, that pretty much means a Christmas present. She creates right in front of us, and we all KNOW she’s working on gifts. But, she does it in such a manner that we never have a clue what she’s actually working on, and it’s always a surprise. She’s so much fun!

Thoughts from the kitchen...I love my rice cooker. I know it’s a convenience and a luxury. And I know rice is easy to cook. But, I just love being able to turn it on and not worry about it. And I love the texture we end up with. And, it can be used for other things, too – even “baking”! Yes, I really love my rice cooker.

On my bookshelf...the newest Julie Klassen and Elizabeth Camden books – ah, the joys of being a reviewer! Now to exercise self-control!

Projects...sorting pictures now; a bit of sewing and knitting; much fewer homemade gifts this year, but still a few. The kids like them, and I enjoy making them. 

Sounds of the moment...the aforementioned dishwasher and dryer.

From Hibbard Academy...a light schedule this week and next week, while still keeping up with the curriculum such that we won’t be pushing further into the summer. But, we don’t have to do EVERY assignment.

A favorite thing from last week...last week? What did we even do last week? Oh yes!!! Family pictures!! Our precious friend Tiffany met us and took family pictures on Saturday. Here’s a sneak peak: SpeakLight Hibbard Family album

It was so good to see her, and also fun to just laugh, relax, and goof off for an afternoon (and she still managed to get good pictures in the midst of all our goofiness!).

The planner...Our days this week are mostly normal – school (light schedule), working on tasks and Christmas prep, and work. Last night was our only unplanned evening. Monday night we had AHG and Scouts. Steven’s was a Christmas party, so the girls and headed over there after AHG. Tonight is church. Thursday night we hope to get to go watch some of our Sheridan band members play in their Christmas concert. Friday night is DATE NIGHT!! (YAY!) Saturday we’ll participate in an AHG service project at our host church, then hopefully get to see the Choates for a bit that evening (it’s been two months, and we’re experiencing massive withdrawals!).

Because visuals are fun...I ran across this picture while sorting today. My child excited about a future British lit course. It just makes me chuckle.

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Meanwhile, this was Angie’s outfit yesterday. She looked so CUTE!

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My girls are growing up…

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Wednesday, December 2, 2015

In the great outdoors...a sunny morning after three days of rain and two more days of cloudy gloom. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of sunshine!

Within our four walls...Christmas decorations are up! Oh, and we did a little rearranging weekend before last. Because, you know, when you first move into a house, everything has to just go somewhere to be made as functional as possible as quickly as possible.

But that doesn’t make it “home.”

This week marks six months since we moved in. And, we typically rearrange something every six months anyway, just to liven things up. So, it was time.

We only rearranged the living room. But, it made it much easier to set up a Christmas tree. It also economized our space a little better. And, we’ve been praying for the Lord to direct us to an affordable piano. The rearrangement is a step of faith because it opened up the perfect spot for the piano!

A heart of thanksgiving...for a warm, dry house; for safety in travel as we enjoyed family time last week; for praying friends; for creative children.

A heart of prayer...for all of us as we enter the holiday season – wow, it can get crazy! May we truly exemplify and radiate peace to those in chaos all around us.

For our beloved friends the Choates as they wait patiently for provision and wisdom from the Lord. They cannot return to the mission field until their financial support is back to 100%, but they also have to purchase plane tickets well in advance. Such a tricky spot!

Random observations...have you ever stopped to wonder about the literacy of the Israelites? In a world where, historically speaking, literacy was limited to the ruling or priestly classes as most? Yet the Israelites even came out of Egypt with a sense of literacy in their own language – Hebrew. Even as shepherds turned slaves.

Throughout history, the Israelites were set apart in many ways. Not a big deal is made out of their literacy (in fact, some argue that they were NOT literate, and hold that as their proof that the Bible was not written over an extensive period of time). But, part of God’s plan involved a literate society. I love the way God works!

My silly children...should have been down here for school over twenty minutes ago. They seem to be hiding from me. Obviously, I’ve been super diligent to get them started, too. Yeah, we’re not very motivated right now.

Thoughts from the kitchen...pot pie Monday and pizza yesterday. Something beefy today, but not sure what yet.

On my bookshelf...I pulled out Liz Curtis Higgs’ The Women of Christmas over the weekend. I started it last year, but never got the chance to finish it. So, restarting this year. Doug and I also had the chance to just relax and read a bit over the weekend, so I perused the shelves for a Julie Klassen book I have not yet read. The Silent Governess won the toss-up this time around. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it finished over the weekend, so it taunted me Monday and yesterday. Remember that motivation struggle? Yeah, diligence is hard when you’re in the middle of a great novel.

But I finished it last night. It’s done. And it was well done. Now to avoid starting a new book.

Ah, temptations never cease!

Projects...calendar, photo book, and other Christmas gifts. Now that my kids are older, it’s harder to sneak around and make Christmas gifts! Bedtime is not quite as early and they’re so stinkin’ observant. But, I’ll get it done! Some way, somehow!

Sounds of the moment...typical morning sounds – the washer rattling (it sounds a little cranky this morning), and soft Christmas music in the background.

From Hibbard Academy...prayerful consideration about how to approach the next three weeks. We need to do school. But, we also need a real break – something we did not get Thanksgiving week due to all of the traveling.

A favorite thing from last week...Thanksgiving with family; discovering how our Christmas d├ęcor fit with the personality of our new house.

The planner...pretty routine – nothing much out of the ordinary except family pictures this weekend.

Because visuals are fun...a turkey/bean bag “snow”man. Because we’re goofy like that.2015-11-28 09.58.38

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ishtar’s Odyssey

I love celebrating Advent. Our family celebrates slightly differently every year, the main “tradition” being our Advent wreath. But, with people often asking me about Advent and how it should be celebrated, I do enjoy having resources to point them toward, especially resources that both explain Advent and provide guidance for the celebration.

Ishtar’s Odyssey is one such resource. In content, this book is 4393 ishtar cover CC.inddprimarily a story. It’s an enjoyable story, full of adventure and excitement. And, of course, it ends at the manger.

So, before I share my favorite aspects of Ishtar’s Odyssey, I will touch on the story itself. How does it align with the biblical narrative? How much liberty is taken? How well does it handle application?

  • If parents read the introductory material in Ishtar’s Odyssey (highly advised!), Ytreeide makes it a point to point out that this is a work of fiction. And, as such, it works well to paint a historical scene. I love that! Historical fiction brings familiar information to life, drawing the truth of history closer to our hearts, allowing us to live out those truths.
  • So, how does it align with biblical narrative? Well, I could not find a way it contradicted Scripture. Some might disagree with Ytreeide’s interpretation of the biblical narrative, but, in all honesty, there are a lot of gaps in Scripture. We don’t know the timing or the exact nature of every detail. Ytreeide’s literary license honors the integrity of Jesus’ birth – delving the spiritual truths while honoring what’s actually in the text.

Having that groundwork laid, let me point out what I really like about Ishtar’s Odyssey.

  1. The supplemental information is exceedingly helpful. Ytreeide offers a history/explanation of Advent, a discussion on the benefits of using fiction to bring Scripture to life, menu suggestions for identifying even more closely with Ishtar’s culture and experiences, and a calendar to help plan an Advent observance.
  2. The story is divided beautifully! Because the exact length of Advent adjusts each year, it is hard to provide a daily reading to cover all of Advent. Ytreeide provides distinct, manageable readings for the definite Advent days, then offers a calendar to help parents know how to combine the final parts of the story to fit that year’s exact schedule.
  3. Each day’s reading finishes with an application thought to encourage family discussion.

If I were to choose a negative, I would probably come back to the application/discussion starter that ends each chapter. Sometimes, we go too far when we take a story and lay out an application rather than letting the readers/hearers digest and apply for themselves. Sometimes, instead of making the application, simply asking questions is a better route.

In the final reading sections of Ishtar’s Odyssey, that’s exactly what Ytreeide does. He uses simple, one-line questions to spur thought and discussion. In the earlier reading allotments, however, he goes ahead and provides an application.

While this application is not a true negative, I can see how using a simple, one-line question throughout the book could be useful. Perhaps provide the application as well as an option to guide parents. But, for those who would prefer to nudge their children to draw conclusions, the question might be a more useful tool.

But, does that truly detract from Ishtar’s Odyssey? No. Because, in all honesty, parents can use the application portion however they please. In fact, my primary reason for bringing it up is to simply encourage parents to consider asking questions instead of feeding their children the application. But, it’s helpful for us to have a starting point, isn’t it? And the included information provides just that.

So, bottom line, I would definitely recommend Ishtar’s Odyssey as a family Advent resource.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Wednesday, November 18, 2016

In the great outdoors...the after-effects of a very wet couple of days. The sun peeking through clouds, shining down intermittently on yellow and brown leaves is quite stunning. I love fall!

Within our four walls...much sniffling and sluggishness.

A heart of thanksgiving...to be feeling better after of weekend of feeling rotten; for a roof that doesn’t leak; for reports that yesterday’s storms only caused minor damage – no major tornadic outbreaks; for four weeks without hives; for kids who not only are independent, but who also enjoy worshipping together, even if it’s at home and combined with a bit of silliness.

A heart of prayer...for our churches; for safety as hunting season is well underway; for friends as they go through their daily lives.

Random observations…sometimes being tired is not only about lacking sleep or running non-stop. Sometimes it’s also about not being able, for whatever reason, to spend time on the things that energize us. Not recreationally, but spiritually and relationally. 

My sweet children...are so very tired. And, I think it’s the combination of a hefty schedule and the aforementioned lack of re-energization. 

Thoughts from the kitchen...the kids are SO excited because they’ve been asked to fix baked potatoes for lunch today. They have really, really, REALLY missed being a part of Wednesday night suppers, and baked potato night was one of their favorites to prepare. They had quite the system going. When we asked them to prep a bag just for our family today – some for lunch and some to turn into potato soup later in the week – they all acted like we’d just handed them an early Christmas present!

See what I mean about things that energize us?

On my bookshelf...Ishtar’s Odyssey is up for review this week. I’ll probably post it here as well as on The Joy of Writing since it’s a family Advent story.

Then there are all these books I want to read:

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Oh, and I just received notification that I’m on the list to review the latest from both Elizabeth Camden and Julie Klassen in just a couple of months! These authors are like Tricia Goyer and Liz Curtis Higgs. They don’t write fluff. They write stories with depth. And I learn about nuances of history I’d never known before. Yes, I’m just a bit giddy!

And I have just enough room on my Goyer/Camden/Klassen shelf for these two – and maybe one more!

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Projects...the sewing machine still needs to come out. But, knitting is in progress. Hopefully it will turn out – it’s a rather odd pattern.

Sounds of the moment...the dust vac running in the living room.

From Hibbard Academy...we’re a little slack this week, just because we all desperately needed to catch up on sleep (evidenced by the fact that my typically early-to-rise children are having trouble rousing themselves before 8:00 this week, if even that early!).

A favorite thing from last week...seeing my girls embrace a decision that was forced upon us.

We were supposed to go on an American Heritage Girls mother-daughter camp weekend. I’d been battling gunk for a week or so, but by Friday morning, I was for-real sick. I’m rarely for-real sick, folks. VERY rarely. I might feel yucky and need to slow down, but rarely does sickness get me all the way down. But Friday morning I knew I couldn’t spend the weekend at Camp Paron. And sure enough, I spent the next three days on the couch.

I was in tears as I told the girls, but they were just fine! They’d been so excited, but that morning, they were almost relieved to be staying home. And they had such a GOOD weekend together. Truly enjoying one another’s company. So thankful.

Oh, and then there was Sunday morning’s home church. That might require a separate post. It was fun!

The planner...We just finished a couple of pretty busy, full weeks. This week is nice and slow before heading into Thanksgiving week. What a blessing!

Because visuals are fun...Steven came in all excited just now and said, “Mommy, there are rainbows on the living room floor!”

Obviously, my poor photography skills just could not capture the beautiful patterns on the floor. But I still tried!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In the great outdoors...a sunny fall day. We probably need to tackle the leaves in the front yard. Not too motivated to add that to our busyness, though.

Within our four walls...I’m not sure I can get past the attitudes sharing the couch with me. Both cats are here, and they are in a mood. Their behavior the past few days shows that they miss Jack.

About that…

A heart of thanksgiving...for just over five and a half years with Jack.

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When we rescued this monster, he was skin and bones and so very sick. His fur was so dirty and unhealthy that the white was almost not even visible. His head looked three times too big for his body, and we really thought we were just giving him a comfortable place to die. Then he miraculously recovered, and this old cat seemed to almost become youthful again for a while!

There have been several times over the years that his health issues have made us think we were about to lose him, but he always rebounded. This last time, though, we knew for sure. It was really real. So, we all started preparing, and the kids made sure to hold and love on Jack most of Thursday and Friday.

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We had a bed fixed for him indoors, but he didn’t ever want to stay there. He insisted on going outside. When we couldn’t find him Saturday morning, we knew. Sure enough, our neighbors found him on their front doorstep Saturday morning (I hate that for them, but appreciate so much the way they took care of him!).

Our old man cat drove us crazy at times – okay, lots of times – but he was a sweetie. Thankful to have had him for as long as we did!

A heart of prayer...for friends who continue to battle health and other issues. For our churches. For our hearts as believers to be turned to Christ alone, undistracted by the piddly little things that tend to turn our heads so easily.

Random observations...Three weeks. I let three weeks go by without writing a thing. I didn’t even finish sharing about our fun bloggy friend adventures! My struggle to keep up with writing reminds me just how much  I struggle with discipline. Discipline of my time, energy, and thoughts. Which leads to a deeper question of what I allow to control my time, energy, and thoughts. Is it Christ, or is it me and my whims? Yeah…too often it’s the latter. It’s not about how much I get to write. It’s about a deeper issue of surrender. That HAS to change. And when it does, hopefully the writing will become more regular, too. But, if not, I will at least know that I have the real issue taken care of, knowing Jesus can handle the rest and the Holy Spirit can and will guide me to what I need to be doing.

My amazing children...inspire and bless me so greatly. They have such security, trusting the authority and sovereignty of God, yet also resting fully in the knowledge of His love. I see it in their transition after the move – even though they still have tearful days because they miss Almyra, they show no bitterness or regret because they, too, know that God brought us here. And they’re determined to fully root themselves where God has planted them.

I’ve also seen it as they have dealt with death. I first noticed it with Grandpa’s death in August. They cried and were sad, but they were so confident. Not an attitude of “I’m going to cry for a bit, then bury this emotion.” More of an attitude of “I’m going to cry and be thankful all at once.”

And, even though a cat holds no comparison whatsoever to a grandfather, they handled Jack’s death so well, too. We didn’t have to discuss whether or not there’s a cat heaven or anything along those lines. We simply got to talk about God’s blessings and how He blessed us with Jack. They were very quickly able to talk freely about him and his absence.

I don’t really know how to put into words what I’m seeing in my children, other than to call it confidence. They are all still so young in their faith, but they know God’s control and His love. That’s enough for them. I love that!

Thoughts from the kitchen...a crock pot full of water warming a bag of frozen something – my friend this week.

On my bookshelf...making good progress toward finishing Everyday Grace. I’ve really enjoyed that one.

Meanwhile, two review books on my coffee table. Ishtar’s Odyssey is an Advent story that I’ll be reviewing next week.

But, then there’s the really distracting one. The one that makes all of the discipline I discussed earlier much, much harder.


This one was so long-awaited. And, in typical Patrick W. Carr fashion, I am more confused with every page turn. But also more intrigued. Unfortunately, this is just book one in The Darkwater Saga. Which means I have to wait for the rest. Yeah. I might have to go back and reread The Staff and the Sword series while I wait.

Projects...Christmas stuff! My sewing machine WILL come out soon!  

Sounds of the moment...the dishwasher. Kids playing. Music.

From Hibbard Academy...plugging along. They’re so independent these days that they even do a lot of their own grading. It’s helpful, but it makes it harder for me to remember exactly where we are!

A favorite thing from last week...the Annual Meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention was last week. Seeing people is always fun, but our favorite stretch of the meeting is the Tuesday night service. And this year, several church members joined us! We’ve been talking up that particular service for years, encouraging people to join us. This is the first year anyone has taken us up on the invitation. It was so much fun to have others come and enjoy the service with us. (Next year it will be in Little Rock the last Tuesday of October. Come join us!)

Even James the Big Cow got to attend the last service on Wednesday morning.

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The planner...a pretty full week of meetings and activities, including friends coming for a little while this morning, a ministers’ wives event tonight, a couple of meetings this week for Doug, normal church activities, and AHG and Scouts events this weekend. The girls and I have a mother-daughter activity, and Doug and Steven have a Webelos hiking activity. Lots of social interaction right on the heels of the convention, so we’re probably going to resemble hermits by next week. But, we’ll have fun in the meantime.

Because visuals are fun...Steven snagged his sister’s famous hat. (It’s hilarious the number of people who have tried to buy this hat off of Olivia!) Looks pretty cute on little brother, too!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

More Friend Time & Pinnacle

Back to our adventures with the Choates and “Grasshoppers” (as my family has always called them)…

Friday we went down, so Saturday, we headed up!!

Arkansas “mountains” are nothing compared to the west coast mountains Julie and Tate are used to. But, we all thought a hike up Pinnacle would be delightful.

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The energetic kids dashed ahead, then posed themselves along the way. Somehow they seemed to know the mamas would want pictures!

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And there’s no doubt they’re a good-looking bunch! But, the scenery was gorgeous, too. God’s artistry takes my breath away.

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Julie said this one reminds her of a blown volcano. I’d be inclined to agree.

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Olivia and I ended up a little behind everyone else, and we turned a different direction at the top. We finally spotted the rest of the crew on a boulder a little to our left and below us. We snapped this fun picture before heading over to join them.

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There are teenage boys who will let nine-year-olds tag along with them, but not many would include him as a natural part of their “group.” Benjamin and Tate were so sweet to Steven, never making him feel like he was just the little kid that they tolerated.

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Such a great bunch of teenagers!

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And a pretty cute almost teenager.

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These princesses found a nice shady bench to enjoy a snack, some rest time, and the beautiful scenery.

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Love these ladies!

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When it was time to head back down, Benjamin came and asked if Steven could join them heading down the east trail – a more challenging trail. Not only would they have to descend this more difficult path, they’d then have to walk an extra mile around the base to get back to our starting point.

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He was all for it!! So, off they went!

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While the gals returned the way we’d come, enjoying a lighter descent and some sweet visiting.

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We didn’t have to wait too long, either, for the guys to rejoin us at the base. They made great time, and their slight “delay” gave Doug enough time to join us (he’d been at a church work day) for a late picnic lunch.

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The kids were pumped to the last second and didn’t want to say goodbye. But, we could tell they all needed it…even before we saw the evidence.

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Angie didn’t even budge when we stopped for gas, nor when we made a quick grocery stop. And yes, Olivia is asleep sitting up.

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Only my big boy in the back managed to stay awake!

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Another great day with great friends!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, October 19, 2015

In the great outdoors...fall. It cooled off over the weekend. And I mean REALLY cooled off. Lows in the lower 40’s, highs barely into the 70’s. Delightful! Especially after hitting a record 98˚ last Thursday. (Previous record was 94˚.)

But, it’s also very, very dry right now. Even when it hit 98˚, we didn’t close our windows because it felt much more like a Jordanian heat (we had no A/C there) than a typical, humid Arkansas heat. The house got warm, but not unbearable. And none of us wanted to give up the fresh air.

Within our four walls...routine. Chores being done by the children. Mama preparing for the day. Daddy off to work. We might actually have a whole week of routine! What’s that?

A heart of thanksgiving...my hives are staying off my hands and feet, even when they get really cold! I was not looking forward to dealing with itchy cold hands and feet this winter, but it looks like I might be able to escape that. My legs still get itchy from a combination of hives and dry skin, but that’s so much easier to deal with than hands and feet. Yay! Thank you, Lord!

A heart of prayer...for baby Elijah and two others from our church in Children’s Hospital. We’re so thankful for Children’s, but we’d really rather not have to use it. That’s just not fun, folks. In addition to Elijah, there’s another baby with some type of infection, and a young man whose appendix didn’t just rupture – it truly burst. Yuck.

Also, always for East End Baptist and FBC Almyra. Oh how my heart longs to see God glorified incredibly through both churches!

For work. Oh, how I love my job, but that doesn’t keep it from truly being work. Deadlines, mental challenges, and problems to solve. That’s just the nature of it!

And for rain. It’s so dry that our grass is crunchy. We haven’t needed a mow in forever. But leaves are falling, too. Which means people are going to burn no matter how serious the county is about the burn ban.

In all honesty, there’s a lot more on my heart. But, I’ve been rather unfaithful about praying through them all. So, this week I hunger to discipline my heart and mind more faithfully to be fully surrendered in prayer.

Random observations...a new outlet mall opened near us. Very near us. We almost never go to a store on opening day (something about not liking crowds). But, I had a doctor’s appointment Friday morning, and when driving back home (right by the new mall), it was obvious that it was busy, but not crazy yet. So, we went.

Yeah…it’s really not safe to have an Auntie Anne’s and Kitchen Collection that close to our house.

More helpful, though, is the VF. Brand new pants for thrift store prices? Yes, please! Especially for my growing boy! After all, they were on the list. And the Old Navy, since Angie and I are both hard to fit when it comes to jeans, and Old Navy fits us both perfectly. I hate to pay for brand name clothes, but we’ve just learned that sometimes we have to look for what works. Fortunately, the outlets usually have better prices.

It started really getting congested around lunch time as we were leaving, and by Friday evening, traffic was horrific in that area. Which will be significant as we approach the Christmas shopping season, because the mall is right on our main driving route.

My silly children...are all bundled up this morning. But they like being cold as much as I do. They like bundling up. It’s fun!

Thoughts from the kitchen...soup, soup, and more soup. We had soup twice on Saturday and again for lunch yesterday. We’ll probably have another kind of soup today. Then it will warm up again, so we’ll defer for a few days. But, it will come back this weekend. I’m so excited!

On my bookshelf...same stuff. Yep, I’m just slow. Well, I did actually finish Tricia Goyer’s Spanish Civil War series. Doug and I have been waiting until we’re both in a gap before reading Patrick W. Carr’s e-book together, so hopefully we’ll get to read that together at least one or two evenings this week. We just want to get it done before book one in his new series comes out!

Still reading – and enjoying – Everyday Grace as well.

Projects...Christmas time is coming! And at least one child does read the blog. So, no hints on the projects I’m planning. I am almost done with Steven’s second sock. Poor child will be able to have both feet warm! 

Sounds of the moment...the broom brushing across the dining room floor.

From Hibbard Academy...maybe a full week of school? Maybe? Hopefully? I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve managed a full five-day school week. While we do have the flexibility, we’re using a lot of it up in the first semester. Second semester is going to get LOOOONG if we don’t save up some break time. So, I’m hoping we’ll be able to get in a lot more five-day weeks between now and Christmas.

A favorite thing from last week...no evening meetings for Doug. We’d gone through a week and a half of him having something every night. One night it was 10:45 before he got home. It was nice to have him home in the evenings last week!

The planner...a pretty normal week. School and work, Scouts and AHG tonight, church Wed, date night Fri, then Doug’s parents come up this weekend. We’re taking a Hibbard family trip to Little Rock’s dinner theater to see Arsenic and Old Lace. It’s a particular favorite for the whole family, so when we found out it was coming back to Murry’s, we just had to plan a trip!

Because visuals are fun...I’m not a selfie kind of gal (I always end up with a strange expression from trying to concentrate on taking the picture), but HEDUA’s social media guru asked for selfies of staff and kids. So, I snapped this one. How did I end up with such cute kids?!?!

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Blanchard Springs

Having friends comes to visit means you have the perfect excuse to do some of the things on your “get around to one of these days” list. We have tossed around the idea of going to Blanchard Springs Caverns with the Choates, so we used Julie and Tate’s visit as the perfect excuse! P1120014

We were excited to be able to pile all 13 of us into a church van so we could be together the whole time. Although somehow I can’t find the picture taken from the mom row that included Joanna, Julie, and me.

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Blanchard Springs boasts one of the top ten caverns in the nation! I knew it was a top-rated attraction, but I didn’t realize we ranked that high.

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Entering the main room of the caverns, though, quickly showed me why. There is no way to capture the breath-taking beauty with even the best of cameras.

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But that didn’t stop us from trying!

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Fortunately, we were able to use the flash, so that helped us capture these smiling faces.

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This cave is known as a “living cave” because it is continuously growing.

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The red and gray/white color of the stalactites and stalagmites reflects the different minerals that have contributed to the formations.

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Of course, these sweet, curious, delighted faces are even more precious and beautiful!!

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If I remember correctly, this column is over 70 feet tall. When it was first discovered, it was measured with helium balloons attached to string.

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Our guide says that different people see different things in this view. So, what do you see?

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I wish we’d been able to see the cavern space behind us in this picture because it was beautiful! But, I must say, so is this group. I love these people!

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And I do have a small glimpse of what was behind us. This is the straw room because the small formations on the ceiling are hollow.

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There were also formations above us that weren’t hollow, but were broken. An earthquake actually snapped off the ends of many of these stalactites, revealing the milky white interior beneath the darker “skin.”

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After a delightful hour, it was time to head out. Sadly, White Nose Fungus has made it into Blanchard Springs Caverns. This fatal disease has been known to practically wipe out bat species in northern states. Arkansas worked hard to keep it out, but now that it has infected our caverns, the goal is to not spread it. One of the prevention methods includes walking across these disinfectant soaked mats upon departure from the caves.

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I just have to show off this great-looking bunch again. I was so excited by the way Tate just dove in as one of the group. Our kids LOVED him!

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First stop after the caverns was a quick picnic lunch – quick to both beat the incoming rain and make an appointment that afternoon.

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Oh, and then we had to make one more stop – at a soda shop for ice cream! Yum!2015-10-09 13.23.39

We headed back down the mountain to Conway where everyone spread out and relaxed for a few minutes. Katherine loved playing with her new “big brother”!

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Once again, it was time to split up and say goodbye for the evening. But, we had Saturday plans to regroup for yet another adventure!