Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Apple Picking and Much More

Field trips are fun. But when you get to take field trips with amazing people, it’s even more fun!

Living only 45 minutes away from the Choates is an incredible blessing that we do not take for granted. Knowing it’s temporary, we’re trying to squeeze as many sweet visits in as we can. I don’t think we’d see each other enough if we lived next door to one another and saw each other daily, but we’ll take once or twice a month for as long as we can!

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Our most recent venture was an apple picking trip, where we found our favorite Fujis as well as Arkansas Black, Granny Smith, Braeburn, and several other delicious varieties.

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It was a bit hard to get good pictures at first because the kids were buried in the trees looking for apples!

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The kids did manage to avoid stepping on the tiny egg resting on the ground amidst fallen apples!

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When we left the Fuji row and headed to where the Arkansas Black (good for baking!) grew, the kids no longer had to hide in the branches. These beautiful trees were heavy-laden!

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Are those not just begging to be picked?

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And pick they did! Pound after pound after pound.

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It took mere minutes to fill those bags!

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Everyone found a friend to love on while they waiting for the bags to be weighed.

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But the day didn’t stop there. I had to get home and get to work, but our sweet friends asked if the kids could stay overnight. Spontaneity is not my strong suit, but oh, the excitement of my children when they found out they could stay! That make it all worth it!

Want a glimpse into the rest of their visit? Slip on over to The Choate Family blog and see!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Change of Scenery

Now that Doug isn’t working from a home office anymore, we get to missing him. So, we typically pack up on Thursday afternoons and go hang out at the church, doing our work alongside him like we’re used to. (Somehow we all seem to get more done when we’re together.) Of course, it also gives the kids a chance to practice piano on a real piano instead of a keyboard, so there’s another excuse for being there once a week.

This past Thursday, though, Doug was attending the annual Pastor’s Conference at our alma mater, OBU. I’ve gone with him the past few years (and loved every minute of it!), but this year we weren’t quite sure what to do with the kids. So, I wasn’t going to go. But at the last minute (Wed evening after church, to be exact), we decided that we’d all load up, ride along with Doug, and move the school room/work space to Ouachita’s student center instead of staying at home.

Of course, James the Big Cow had to go along. After all, he’s never been to Ouachita before.

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He thought about joining Doug in the conference, but decided he would be more useful helping Angie with her math.

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And serving as her pillow when she needed a little rest time later in the day.

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Apparently, he’s only a pillow for Angie. Because when Olivia took the same spot a little while later, he was nowhere to be found. Bunny’s just as loved, but he’s not quite as good of a pillow as James.

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It was fun to be back again. The kids love campus as much as we do, and they enjoyed people-watching. Oh, and running into a freshman we know from our Almyra days.

And yes, we even got a lot done for school and work. Nothing like a change of scenery to get the productivity flowing!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, September 28, 2015

In the great outdoors...a warm fall day. Leaves are starting to fall, but there’s not a whole lot of color, thanks to the dry summer. And I just noticed that the hummingbird feeder is empty. Oh, girlies!!!! The hummingbirds are calling you!

Oh, and our sweet, orange cherry tomatoes (can’t remember the exact name) are ripening finally! We planted the bush very late because of the move, so it’s ripening late.

Our precious Almyra friend Mary Ann Stone grows these tomatoes in her back yard. Every time we went swimming at the Stone’s pool, the girls and I would snatch a few. They taste like candy! I’d never found a bush before to plant them in my own yard, so I always just enjoyed Mary Ann’s. But right before we moved, I found a plant at Home Depot, of all places. I was almost in tears as I snatched it up. Eating those little tomatoes is like a sweet taste of “home.”

Within our four walls...purging time again. We’ve been here four months, so it’s time to re-evaluate all that survived the move purge.

You probably wouldn’t believe it by looking at our house, but over the years, we’ve simplified SO much. But, there’s still just a lot of stuff in our home. We know it, and it’s a long process to change habits that built up the stuff. The kids and I chatted this morning about the anxiety caused by too much stuff. They immediately rushed through their chores so they could go start purging immediately. How I love my kids!

There’s an American Heritage Girls yard sale this weekend – our only fundraiser plan for the year. (I like that so much better than trying to sell things door to door!) So, that’s even more motivation. It’s tempting to cancel school to do that all week, especially since I also need to find time to go through their seasonal clothes. But I just don’t know that the schedule can handle that with all of the days off we have coming up in the next quarter. Praying over that one!

A heart of thanksgiving...for the blessing of plenty, and for the lesson we learn as we purge. For friends. For the anticipation of seeing friends face to face (can’t wait, Julie!). For friends who love my children so much.

A heart of prayer...for wisdom about our upcoming busy season. For my children to thrive spiritually. For Baby Elijah. For our church. For our new neighbors.

Speaking of which…

Random observations...there’s a house on the corner of our street that’s been for sale since before we moved in. Yesterday the kids noticed vehicles in the drive, and this morning Doug and I saw that the For Sale sign is down. I’ve been praying for the future owners of that house. I’m excited to see God’s plans for them – and how we fit into that.

My silly children...want to listen to Christmas music so badly. They’ve started walking around the house singing it. And they’re trying to find excuses to turn it on. “What if we’re working on a Christmas project, Mommy?!”

Our Christmas music start date used to be Thanksgiving. Then we declared that we could listen to Canadian Christmas music after Canadian Thanksgiving. Haha!

This morning, we did play multiple versions of “Good King Wenceslas,” as today marks the anniversary of his martyrdom.

Thoughts from the kitchen...I’m still so uninspired. I really want cold weather food, and cold weather just isn’t coming. Struggling immensely with cooking these days. And, I think Doug misses being able to work more cooking into his schedule.

But, we must eat. So, cook I will.

On my bookshelf...same old stuff. The evenings we decided to set aside for reading/writing have been consumed by other obligations of late, and continue to be taken up for the foreseeable future. So, we snag moments here and there as we can find them.

Projects...editing for Doug (love it!), purging, sorting seasonal clothes, thinking toward Christmas. 

Sounds of the moment...birds outside my window. Quiet in the house as the children and I process through morning activities.

From Hibbard Academy...the need to make checklists for this week! I didn’t have much school prep time last week or over the weekend, so I still need to process what we should be doing this week.

Fortunately, last week I accidentally planned for Friday, even though I knew we’d be going apple picking with the Choates. So, there is school work planned for today! Nice!

A favorite thing from last week...sights like this. (More pictures from our field trip coming soon.)

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And enjoying the beauty of this friendship as the Choates spontaneously offered to adopt our children for the rest of Friday and all day Saturday, even though I had to hurry back to work Friday afternoon. I’m telling you – there’s nothing like those safe friends who you love like crazy, combined with the knowledge that they really do love you back.

The starting to show the typical fall craziness, standard for the Hibbard family. It’s the season when personal and ministerial busyness coincide. This year, though, we haven’t had a lot of our normal down times leading up to this season, and the family vacation we had scheduled for this month just didn’t happen, thanks to the move. So, we’re praying especially hard for balance and time management as we head into this season.

In the immediate, Doug and Steven have Scouts tonight (no AHG for the girls and me, but this is my only available squad planning evening, so I’ll be diving into that). Tomorrow night we get to enjoy the company of some of our newer friends, coming to play for a little while. Yay! Wednesday church. Thursday and Friday are at-home, but still full of family to-dos. Saturday, the girls and I will be working the AHG yard sale, and it seems we have something else that day, but I can’t remember what.

Because visuals are fun...I love actually teaching my children. But, if I’m honest, this is my absolute favorite part of homeschooling – planning. Laying it all out in my online planner, then transferring it weekly to my paper planner just brings me joy and pleasure. (I’ll always be a paper planner kind of gal, no matter how wonderfully convenient My Well Planned Day may be!).

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Funny Quotes

This post was in my drafts, so I’m not sure I ever published it! Just a few of the funny conversations overheard in the Hibbard household…

Doug on one knee in front of me, loses balance.

Olivia: That’s why you should keep your proposals short.


Doug: My wife! Get your own!

Steven: I’m too young to get a wife.

Olivia: You could get betrothed.

Steven: I don’t want to!!!!


Doug, dancing and singing with one of Angie’s cows.

Angie: My cow is NOT an 80’s cow!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Things I Don’t Remember

I’m tired this evening. Very, very tired. It’s not even 8:00, and I know if I go to bed right now, I’ll wake up at odd times in the night and not sleep well. So, I’m writing to try to stay awake just a little while longer.

That means you get some weird thoughts tonight. Philosophical thoughts that I usually reserve for Joy of Writing. But these fit better here. So, you get them. Ready?

There was a time when I blogged about everything. It has left me a beautiful scrapbook of little things that I otherwise would have completely forgotten.

Since I’ve blogged less in the past few years – and taken fewer pictures –  I know there are many things I’ve lost. For instance, I made a note earlier this year about Steven try to make bread for us as a surprise. I was supposed to blog about it. All I know is that he’s never actually made bread on his own, and I don’t at all remember that particular incident. And I never wrote about it, so it’s gone.

One part of me does wish I’d remembered to get those things written down. Recorded stories behind some of my pictures.

But in a way I’m glad I didn’t.

You see, I’m a perfectionist in so many ways, and it really comes out in my blogging. I want the pictures arranged just so and the text to match. So, what should be a quick, ten-minute blog-writing session becomes an hour and a half of getting things just right.

How much of life do I miss in that hour and a half?

Then I remember all of the posts I haven’t shared. All of the pictures I haven’t uploaded. And I feel behind because I never built those blog posts. How can I share THIS activity if I didn’t share THAT one?

And the hour and a half stretches…

There is a lot of beauty in right now. A lot of delight in little things like Steven climbing from the back seat of the Durango into the middle while we were stopped for gas…just because he wanted to touch me. He reached up and rubbed my arm. Just because.

And if I get so caught up in the perfectionism of every blog post, I miss the right now.

So, what’s the goal?

Well, the goal is to get back to recording more of those little memories. But, to also be less meticulous and perfectionistic. To just record the memories, even if it’s not a grand, wonderful post. To take those ten minutes and not let them turn into ninety.

Some weeks I’ll do well. Other times I’ll fail utterly. But ultimately I want to change my habits.

There…told you it was weird thoughts!

Now, let’s go see if I can find some pictures and write up a post of something I haven’t shared yet. You know, because the kids are in bed early (they’re tired too), Doug’s sitting beside me doing some writing of his own, and I want to stay awake…just a little…while…longer…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kitchen Conversations

Steven: “Someone put a grain of rice in Angie’s spot at the table.”

Olivia: “It was an alien.”

Steven: “Angie’s an alien.”

Olivia: “No, Angie’s a perfectly normal human being.”

Steven: “She’s an alien.”

Olivia: “What evidence do you have that she’s an alien?”

Steven: “Her parentage?”

Olivia, not speechless – just laughing so hard she can’t respond.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, September 21, 2015

In the great outdoors...a lovely fall day – well, at least until the next heat wave hits this afternoon! Noticing some growth in the flower garden circle in the back yard. Since we cleared that out and haven’t planted anything new, it’s most definitely weeds that need to be dealt with. I eventually hope to get my irises out there. I’d love to have irises all over that circle one day, if I can ever get them to bloom!

Within our four walls...a little sluggishness after a very full Sunday and Monday. Excited about a slower-paced Tuesday – and early bedtimes!

A heart of thanksgiving...for answered prayer and God’s clear leadership. He’s so good to us, isn’t He? If He never provided another material blessing, His guidance and very presence would be more amazing than I could ever truly comprehend. I want to keep that truth in my mind, even when I’m praying for material blessings.

A heart of prayer...for farmer friends continuing with harvest; for our church.

Random observations...So, Angie got a big “daddy” cow for her birthday. She named him James, and James has already had quick a few adventures. He even has his own Facebook page to chronicle these adventures (although many of his pictures end up on Doug’s FB page):

But, Steven managed to get ahold of him the other day and didn’t want to let go. Can you blame him? This is one snuggly cow!

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My silly children...contributed to the following conversation (I know the opening admonition was given by Doug. I was laughing too hard to determine who said what thereafter):

“Children, when you go outside this afternoon, please do not mess with the turkey bones in the yard.”

“What turkey died?”

“The one we ate.”

“Oh, that one had bones?”

“No, it was a boneless turkey.”

“You know, where boneless turkey sandwiches come from.”

And they wonder why I’ve lost all sanity.

Thoughts from the kitchen...I keep thinking about the pasta e fagioli soup we had Sunday. Then again yesterday. Although Angela wouldn’t mind in the least, I have a feeling other members of the family would rather not have it again today. They like it – just not THAT much. But it just hit the spot so well both days – and I’m not a fan of Olive Garden’s pasta e fagioli. I can eat it, but I’d rather have the salad. But this? This is GOOD!

On my bookshelf...that “want to read” stack keeps growing! Especially with two new books added to my stack last night (thank you, Tricia!!). Of course, I have to wrench those away from Angela before I’ll get a chance to read them. I should have known better than to share my favorite authors with my sweet bibliophile. If my books ever disappear, I know exactly where to look!

 Projects...writing. Now that all but a few of Olivia’s school subjects are planned through the first semester, I’m definitely feeling the breathing room in the schedule. So, I’m getting serious about the writing again. Ah, feels so good! Slowly but surely increasing the amount I write each week.

And editing a project of Doug’s. I love copy editing almost as much as writing, but my job as senior editor is more about administration and providing structure for the creativity of the content and design teams (both of which are also amazing jobs!) than about copy editing. So, it’s nice to have something to keep those mental copy editing muscles flexed as well.

Sounds of the moment...the washer. I’m so thankful for a washing machine!

From Hibbard Academy...plugging along! Because I was working on future planning yesterday, I’m almost more familiar with what will be going on in December and early January than right now!

A favorite thing from last week...two things: First, a little down time with the family on Saturday. We needed that!

But, also, watching my kids on Tuesday. I had a routine appointment, and they had to tag along – which meant that they sat in the waiting area by themselves for about 40 minutes. They immediately pulled out their school stuff and got to work.

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And when I came out, they were still happy and had made a great deal of progress on their work. So thankful for my kids!

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The planner...yesterday was our busy day with Scouts and AHG. We get to slow down a bit the rest of the week, finishing off with apple picking and a Choate visit on Friday. It won’t be long before we have to go a while without Choate visits, so we’re stocking up!

Because visuals are fun...this is what happens when someone is fascinated by my phone/camera and wants to see how it works. I end up with interesting pictures.

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Of course, there’s also the kids and their tendency to snap pictures while I’m doing something like pumping gas. Those are usually must sweeter, though! Can you tell who the photographer was?!?

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Friday, September 18, 2015

When God Plans the Lessons

I love how God orchestrates the education of my children.

Yesterday, our Bible lesson was in Colossians, but the text of the lesson referenced Prov 6. The exact verses were not shared, but there was reference to God giving us the example of the ants.

Before I could look it up to read the verses, Angie jumped in and began quoting Prov 6:6-8:

Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest. (NASB)

It just “happened” to be her current school-related Scripture memory work. (The book we’re using right now for Bible is not related to Angie’s core curriculum.)

I can devote an incredible amount of time, energy, thought, planning, and overall effort to the teaching of my children. But, only when God is allowed to be the One who truly guides all that I put into it does it truly come together. Not only for Bible lessons, but for all of it – academic and otherwise.

It’s a reminder I desperately needed this week – and will need again and again throughout this adventure of parenting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In the great outdoors...temps in the 50’s for the third morning in a row. Ah….loving it!

There’s also a cabana tent set up in the back yard right now – with no screen to keep out mosquitoes! As much as I miss Almyra, I definitely do not miss the skeeters!

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Within our four walls...getting the morning going with chores, goofy music, and plenty of Choffy and coffee. Or maybe not plenty. We could probably use a whole lot more!

A heart of thanksgiving...for the cooler weather; for the beautiful hummingbirds that brighten my day; for a boss and co-workers who seek the Lord; for plenty in the cabinets and freezer; for the blessing of fall; for friends.

A heart of prayer...for Baby Eli. God has done amazing things already! The surgery took half as long as normal, and his recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. If want to see just a glimpse of what the past week has looked like, you can go here:

Elijah’s Journey

Also prayers for friends struggling with various health issues and other needs.

Random observations...

My silly children...

Thoughts from the kitchen...hoping to have time to try out a new recipe today – a creamy chicken roll-up bake. We’ll see how the day goes. But soup weather is knocking on our door. If I had the ingredients, pasta e fagioli soup would be in the crock pot this morning!

On my bookshelf...Hope to finally start Patrick Carr’s novella this week.

Projects...I’ve made zero progress on school stuff in the past week or two. Zero. Just maintaining at this point. We have stopped doing the six weeks on, one week off because we know we need more free time in the summer now. But, I might have to take a week just to get the semester finally planned out.

Sounds of the moment...the dryer. I was going to comment on the silly music, but it’s gone now.

Oh, who am I kidding. It’s still in my head. Olivia played this for Angie to help her get something else out of her head. The “something else” must have been pretty rough if this helped!

From Hibbard Academy…let’s see…Angie’s starting Around the World in 80 Days. Fun times! Steven is diving into westward expansion, and Olivia is in the colonization period. I love history!

A favorite thing from last week...a day of just plain visiting with the Choates. Food for the soul.

The planner...last night was Scouts/AHG; about to head out the door for a dr’s appointment this morning; otherwise a full week, but nothing abnormal.

Because visuals are fun...and this face is just precious! Sweet Katherine Choate – how I love this child and her big brother and sisters!2015-09-10 12.10.15

Monday, September 7, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, Sept 7, 2015

In the great But, another cool front is supposed to be coming in mid-week. Yay!

Within our four walls...a nice start to our new week. Doug gets to be home today because the church offices are closed for Labor Day. I like that! I’ve missed his home office.

A heart of thanksgiving...for my precious family and all of the wonderful hugs I get.

A heart of prayer...for sweet baby Elijah, his parents Alex & Lauren, and his precious extended family, which includes our youth minister Brad and his wife Sheila (Lauren’s parents), and their four other children. Elijah was diagnosed with heart issues shortly after we moved three months ago, with doctors telling Alex and Lauren that he’d face surgery very shortly after birth.

Elijah made his appearance early Friday morning and was transferred to Children’s Hospital shortly thereafter. Tomorrow he will undergo the first of what is planned to be three heart surgeries. This precious little four-day-old will be in surgery for anywhere from ten to sixteen hours.

Random observations...eleven years ago, right about this time, we watched our dear friends and neighbors go through very similar experiences with their newborn son. In fact, if I remember correctly, he had his first heart surgery when he was eight days old – on Sept 7.

My sweet children...asked several times if we were going to do school today, but have not complained about it. They’re really pretty good kids!

Thoughts from the kitchen...I need to put menu items on the calendar for this week. I have the list of what we’re going to eat the rest of the month – I just haven’t divided that list out to cover specific days.

Today, though, Doug’s home. And he’ll be grilling a pork loin. And my mouth is already watering.

On my one of Tricia Goyer’s Spanish Civil War series – Valley of Betrayal. I started it before Patrick W. Carr’s long-awaited novella By Divine Right showed up on my Kindle, so I’m going to go ahead and finish what I’m on before switching. But, I’m really looking forward to that one! Meanwhile, I’m still working on Unbroken and Everyday Grace.

Projects...making great progress on the school prep. Starting to think toward Christmas. I haven’t done a whole lot in the way of homemade gifts lately. I miss doing it. Hopefully I’ll get to do more this year, but we’ll see! 

Sounds of the moment...washing machine. So thankful for a washing machine! Oh, and a whinnying horse and gobbling turkey. Our neighbor seems to have quite the farm – we’ve seen chickens (they make their way into our yard on occasion), horses, mules, and dogs. This morning we saw a HUGE turkey for the first time. He looked more like a wild turkey than a domestic one, but he was roaming about the neighbor’s yard like he owned the place.

From Hibbard Academy...yes, mean ole Mommy is making the kids do school on Labor Day. But, I’ll be making it up to them later this week!

A favorite thing from last week...a couple of very low-key days with Angie’s birthday on Friday and a mostly relaxed Saturday. So needed!

The planner...we were thinking about going to watch the Travelers – our minor league baseball team – play their last game today. But, I broke out in a lovely rash of hives over the weekend, and it’s going to be a hot day. I don’t think I’m up for sweating through a game while covered in hives.

So, instead, we’ll enjoy a Monday as a family, processing through our normal school routine and perhaps doing something out of the ordinary this afternoon. Who knows?

Most of the rest of the week is normal – well, except for an apple picking date with the Choates later this week. Yay! Then on Saturday we’ll join other Arkansas Baptists for our state convention’s annual One Day Mission Trip. Doug and Steven will be helping with a fishing derby while the girls and I prayer walk around Arkadelphia.

Because visuals are fun...I’m snagging one of Doug’s pictures today.

James the Big Cow, Angie’s “Daddy” cow, has been rather useful around the house and office over the past few days. Here he is getting ready to help Doug edit and upload sermon videos from yesterday.

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He’s also been seen researching pork recipes this morning. Seems he wants to make sure the proper meats are put on the grill today.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Happy Birthday, Angela!

Once again, we come to the end of our birthday season with the celebration of this delightful child.


This year she, like her brother and sister, chose to just have a family day for her birthday. But, true to character, she had no real plans. No specific desires. Just to be. I love how my children like to just be with the family!


As you can see, the cow love has not diminished. Fortunately, last year’s cow dress still fits. It’s a good thing, because she wears it all the time, year-round! In the winter, she just puts a shirt underneath it and replaces the sandals with boots.


Angela’s new love this year is quilting. She sat down a couple of months ago to help me sort fabric, and in the process she discovered a stack of small Christmas fabric pieces. She immediately started brainstorming a quilt. I asked Mom if she’d help Angie design and piece on, and we expected it to be a little by little process. She and Mom had it done, except for the trimming, in two days!


Not long after, Doug’s mom brought her a sewing machine. She pulls it out several times a week and sews on something – usually something quilt related.


See the little smirk on her face? This child has a bit of sass to her! She always has. She has quick responses and often leaves me speechless. She’s still smart as a whip, but has definitely matured in her ability to learn new things without feeling like she’s a failure for not knowing it in the first place.


This sweetie is growing up so beautifully, inside and out. I know she’s processing internally much more than we see externally. She’s quiet and thoughtful, and I know that much happens in her mind that the rest of us never see. But, she’s learning to handle it well.


Happy birthday, sweet Angela! I look forward to seeing what this year brings in your life!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

God’s Repair Work

Any time we go from renting to owning a house, the first thought is, “What’s going to be the first thing to break!”

Sure enough, last week while I was cooking lunch, the kids looked at the oven and said, “Why is the clock face blank?”

We have a gas stove/oven, which is wonderful. Unfortunately, the oven, unlike the stovetop, is operated by electric controls. And sure enough, the control panel was completely unresponsive.

Doug fiddled with it later that day, then researched it. This is a 25 year old oven. No parts are available.

It’s been hot, so we’ve avoided oven use as much as possible lately. So, we decided to use the grill as much as possible while waiting and praying for an oven solution.

Two days later, the solution came – the controls started working again. Just out of the blue. The panel was dark one minute and lit the next!

I’m sure at some point down the road, we’ll have to replace this oven. But, even before the oven came back to life, we knew now wasn’t the time for a new one. When the time is right, He’ll let us know.

In the meantime, I’m reminded that God’s repair work is the best!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When You Hate to Cook

For those of you who read my more personal Joy of Writing blog, this will be a repeat. But, for those of you who don’t, I thought I’d repost this here…

Okay, so I can’t say that I absolutely hate to cook. I really don’t. But, picture this scenario:

I have just wrapped up the “together” school times with each of my children and have moved to the next stage of my day, either writing or school planning/prep. I really enjoy teaching my children, writing, and planning, so my morning usually flies!

Suddenly, I look up and it’s noon - or after! I know I need to get lunch on the table by 12:30 because Doug and I both have a tight lunch window.

Thirty minutes, at the most. That’s what I have, start to finish, to get a meal on the table. There are plenty of things I can cook in thirty minutes, but suddenly I am paralyzed. I can’t come up with a single idea. Or, if I can, it’s something we don’t have the ingredients for. Or we had it yesterday. Or it’s another chicken dish, and our red-meat needing family has had chicken three days in a row and just can’t do it another day without throwing us all out of whack.

So, the minutes tick by and I’m thrown into a tizzy.

My amazing hubby works best in a situation like that. He starts grabbing ingredients from here and there and produces an amazing meal.

I, on the other hand, freeze up.

So, how do I combat this problem? Well, I have several tricks up my sleeve.

  • Menu plan. That, really, is the best trick. Plan a month at a time, go grocery shopping for as many ingredients as we can possibly store for that length of time, and have the hard part done for me. Even on the days when I don’t want what’s planned, I at least have a plan. It’s much easier to change the plan than to not have one.
    Unfortunately, I am not always diligent to menu plan. In fact, I don’t have a plan more frequently than I do. So, while planning is best - and is always my intention - I need a few more tricks.

  • Buy meats in bulk and cook ahead. Meat is usually cheaper in bulk. It takes a little shifting of the grocery budget, but it can be done. When we return home after a bulk shopping trip, we subdivide the meat, freeze some as is in meal-size portions, and prepare the rest for specific meals.

    Here are are few of our favorite preparations:
    - Pre-brown ground beef with favorite seasonings for making quick spaghetti, tacos, or other such meals.
    - Cut up chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and fry up some homemade chicken nuggets. About the same price as a bag of processed nuggets, and MUCH better.
    - Flay some small chicken breasts, place a small piece of Swiss cheese and ham inside, fold it over, dip it in flour/egg wash/bread crumbs, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes (flip halfway through). Cool, wrap each breast in plastic wrap, seal in a freezer bag, and pull out, thaw, and reheat for a great chicken meal!
    - Boil or crock pot a whole chicken. Debone and divide into 2-cup portions (standard recipe amount for most cut/pulled chicken meals) for freezer storage.

  • Double cook as many meals as possible. Making a lasagna, spaghetti, pot pie filling, chicken & dumplin’s, soup, or any number of other meals.? I go ahead and make enough for two or three meals. I used to buy disposable pans to place in the freezer. Then I snagged enough glass baking dishes that I could freeze those instead. But, as my plastic storage containers started falling apart, I needed the glass baking dishes more and more for other things. That’s when we switched to just storing meals in freezer bags. 

    When we have an exceptionally busy day (or on a Sunday), we just snag a bag from the freezer, fill the crock pot with water, and let the meal defrost and reheat right there in the bag. Quick, easy, no-mess meal.

Do these tips always help? No, they don’t. Why? Because every last one of them requires at least a smidgen of planning ahead. And I don’t always do that well. But, when I do, it makes all the difference in the world!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In the great outdoors...a few wispy clouds in an otherwise clear sky; Smokey Cat sitting on the outside window sill right in front of me; hummingbirds coming and going from the feeder (I think one or two of them are becoming a little protective of the feeder!); and a still, humid feel to the air (the sunroom windows pretty much stay open now, even on hot days).

Within our four walls...morning chores are being finished up. I think Steven finished his and decided to pick our next puzzle. He loves having a puzzle going. Fortunately, we have a nice puzzle keeper that slides under the couch, so we can keep one going without taking up a table.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the cool, dry second half of August that we enjoyed before another humid heat wave flowed in; for children who really do love to honor God with their actions; for children who love being with their family.

A heart of needs for several friends and loved ones; our precious church families – both in East End and in Almyra; so much more – it’s really hard to summarize what’s on my heart right now!

Random observations...I started this yesterday, but didn’t get it done before school. If it doesn’t get done in the morning, it just doesn’t seem to get done! So, here’s to second chances!

Meanwhile, a mile’s walk in our new community is very different from a mile’s walk in Almyra! There are these things called hills.

Speaking of hills…

My silly daughter...shared something rather surprising the other day. She said she missed the flat prairie. I’ve always loved hills and mountains. I grew up in the mountain region of north Jordan – one of the most beautiful spots in the Middle East (so declared by many visitors, not just those of us who lived there and loved it).

So, when my sweet child pops up and says that she prefers the flat, it comes as a bit of a surprise. And a reminder that I should never assume anything about the interests of my children. They are their own personalities! I notice that on the big things. But sometimes I forget when it comes to little details like flat vs. hills.

Thoughts from the kitchen...I actually have something on the menu plan calendar for every day except Saturday. Yay!

In other news, we got a bean pot for review. Interestingly enough, the packaging for this bean pot seems to assume that you already know all you need to know about cooking in a bean pot. No use and care. No “getting started” tips. Nothing. Just a few Mexican recipes, and that’s that.

Oh, and a link to a website that claims to be “for more information” but really is just order information for more of their stuff.

Not a great marketing technique, for the record.

On my bookshelf...Doug convinced me the other day that I need to stop putting off my fiction reads. I’d been trying to make sure to finish a biography (Unbroken is long, and I don’t have a whole lot of reading slots in my week!) before getting back to a novel, since we’re insisting that our kids read a biography a month.

But, he reminded me that I don’t have nearly the reading time that they do. They read several books a week, and need to be reminded to challenge themselves. Novels are my primary form of relaxation, and I keep putting them off.

So, my sweet hubby reminded me that I rarely read fluff, even reading fiction. I read fiction that challenges me to think or that teaches me something new (historical fiction is awesome!). And I’m constantly reading biographies aloud to the children. And because I rarely read fluff, it’s okay to relax with fiction instead of always having to accept a challenge for my reading time.

So, while I’m still making sure to keep non-fiction in my rotation (really enjoying Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson and I will be finishing Unbroken), I’m thankful to my hubby for reminding me that I need to not ignore my need to pull back and do something enjoyable.

He takes good care of me.

And, meanwhile, one of our favorite fantasy authors just released a free novella – By Divine Righttoday! It’s taking all my willpower not to just drop everything and dive in this morning. But book time tonight is definitely planned!

Projects...hoping to finish the semester’s school planning in the next week or so. Then I want to get my writing routine re-established. After that, I’m going to start considering sewing projects. 

Sounds of the moment…(Monday) There was just a clatter as Olivia’s favorite mug fell to the floor. Thankfully it was just a clatter, not a shatter! Meanwhile, the dishwasher is running, and I’m about to hear the washer as well.

(Tuesday) The washer is running again. But the biggest sound is the birds through the open windows. So much singing. And the buzzing sound of the hummingbirds darting around my window. Really, really loving the hummingbirds!

From Hibbard Academy...week four started yesterday! Monday is our “light” day. We do spatial reasoning puzzles together, spend a few minutes grading, and then they just work quietly while I work on school planning. It’s a good fit after busy Sundays.

A favorite thing from last week...kind of an odd one…watching my children on Friday.

I know I’ve mentioned this on Facebook, but I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it here. Doug’s dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer a few weeks ago. Fortunately, they believe they found it early enough to give a very positive prognosis – surgery, followed by topical chemo flushes in the bladder for prevention.

Well, last Friday he had the surgery and first chemo flush (and it all went very smoothly). Our incredible children got up at 5AM, spent three and a half hours in the car driving to Shreveport, then spent the next eight and a half hours in waiting rooms with only the brief break of heading down to the hospital cafeteria for a quick lunch. They did school work and then entertained themselves without a hitch the whole time.

Naturally, they had to release much of their built-up restlessness with extreme silliness the next day, but I was just amazed by them on Friday. They were such a blessing!

The planner...last night Steven & Doug had Cub Scouts while the girls and I went to a planning/get-to-know you session with Olivia’s AHG squad. It was a fun hang out and visit night, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other girls a little bit. They’re all sweethearts!

Let’s see…the rest of the week is pretty normal. Nothing special. Nope. No birthdays or anything. At least, that’s what we keep trying to say. It’s hard to convince a certain child that she doesn’t have a birthday coming up.

Speaking of the soon-to-be birthday girl…

Because visuals are fun...Angela is now fascinated by every quilt she sees. She definitely has the bug! She still needs to put the binding on two quilts that are almost done, but she said it’s too hot right now. I don’t blame her! So, instead she’s piecing a new one – her first one to do start to finish (planning and all!) by herself. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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