Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In the great outdoors...overcast. Hints of blue sky, but not enough to really combat the sense of gloominess. 

Within our four walls...quiet as we’re getting ready to start the day.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the opportunity to interact with fellow ministers and be fed yesterday – such an important aspect of ministry.

A heart of prayer...for the AR Baptist ministers’ wives team as they plan and prep for a new year of ministry; for the Choates as they wrap up packing and goodbyes this week; for our church to become a church of prayer; for the new pastor and family in Almyra as they settle in and learn the ropes of a new ministry situation.

Random observations...I love watching my children think more deeply about spiritual things. Much of it has to come from hardship, and I hate watching them have to deal with that. But, the results are truly proof that God is growing them – and the most beautiful part is that THEY are seeing that on their own. I don’t have to tell them what’s going on because they’re growing in their own relationships with the Lord.

My silly children...saw The Skit Guys for the first time yesterday. We first saw them very early in our marriage, so the kids have heard some of their skits from CDs we’ve bought over the years. But seeing them process through their skits is always more fun. The kids loved it!

Thoughts from the kitchen...it’s supposed to warm back up into the 60’s later this week, but soup month is still going strong. Today’s is leftover homemade chicken noodle from last week.

On my bookshelf...a new Circle C book that I snagged for review so Steven could add it to his shelf.

Projects...need to get some editing done soon. Next week I start the annual missions writing project, so that will take most of my extra project time over the next couple of months. 

Sounds of the moment...music from the dining room. Tapping from my keyboard and Olivia’s.

From Hibbard Academy...almost time to start! An odd week this week because of the Evangelism Conference yesterday (still going today, but we had to change our plans and not attend today’s sessions) and a few other schedule rearrangements.

A favorite thing from last week...Saturday with the Choates. Soaking up our last few moments!

The planner...quick trip back to Conway tomorrow morning, church tomorrow night, Tim Hawkins Thursday night (so excited! It was the kids’ big Christmas gift this year), then Livie has a youth group movie night Friday night while Doug and Steven attend the Scout pinewood derby (rescheduled from last weekend because of ice). They’ll finish up the derby on Saturday. Busy week, but fun.

Because visuals are fun...it was quite pretty in front of the church’s “bus barn” last weekend. Pretty, but VERY slick! 2016-01-23 17.43.38

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snow Day (January 2016)

We’ve been told for months to expect a frigid winter. But, up until now it’s stayed pretty mild, with just a few dips into the cold. We were beginning to wonder if that “above average snowfall” would ever actually materialize.

When, after getting ice earlier in the week, you finally wake up to this…

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…you get greeted with morning faces like this! Especially on discovering that it’s the fluffy stuff, not our standard heavy, wet fare.

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Napoleon and Josephine were excited too!

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Smokey was an entirely different story. She is NOT fond of the snow.

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Of course, when you live in the south and don’t hunt regularly, you don’t really invest in much winter gear. We did have boots for the whole family. Then feet grew. With four pairs of feet about the same size (including mommy’s!), and only three pairs of boots around about that size, you have to improvise a bit. Thick layers of socks and some Wal-Mart bags worked quiet nicely!

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Steven & Angie were all about snowmen and snowball fights.

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Shorty is in the front yard.

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Livie was more about snow photo shoots with one of her dolls.

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Of course, Daddy has to make sure it “snowed” on Olivia when she parked herself right under a laden branch!

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We did have a reminder, though, that this is a southern snow. Even though the 6-8 inches of fluffy stuff is nice, there’s 1/4 – 1/2 inch of the nasty stuff well insulated underneath it. This is why just clearing snow off the roads doesn’t always do the trick.

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My favorite part of the day was the bold, blue sky peeking through the clouds, framed by snow-laden trees. Oh, my…it was breathtaking!

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A super-friendly neighborhood Rottweiler came to visit us while we 2016-01-22 10.35.40were in the front yard. Not sure who he belongs to, but he was so excited about PEOPLE! At first, he was very well behaved. But then he got excited, and we weren’t quite sure how to calm him down. He was almost as tall as Angie when he jumped up. If he’d been our dog (one of these days we want a dog that size!!!), it would2016-01-22 10.35.43 have been fine, but we just didn’t know how to make a stranger’s dog behave. So, the kids migrated to the back yard to be able to play without getting knocked down. Olivia got cold and headed inside, and Doug went to get some hot chocolate started. Angie & Steven made snow angels, then the three of us went to work on a bigger snowman. They’ve never made a big one before, and they really wanted to this time. The goal? Bigger than Steven.

Success!!! This fella is packed tight. Curious to see how long he’s around – long after the ground around him reverts to green, I’m sure!

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In a typical Arkansas winter, this would be our only snow, even if we had more cold days or an ice storm or two. We’ll see what happens this year, but we’re super thankful for today’s beautiful, fluffy winter wonderland!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, January 19, 2016

In the great outdoors...cold, but the ice from yesterday’s short bout of sleet seems to be gone. We discovered that our roads ice easily. And when temps stay at or below freezing all day, even the little bit of late sun does not thaw them. That’s a change for us, but back to what we’d expect. In Almyra, the wind and flat openness of the land would cause the ice to disappear from the roads even with the low temps and lack of sun. But, here the hills and trees prevent that from happening as quickly or easily.

Within our four walls...pushing a little early on the day so I can squeeze in a morning work meeting. Typically all work is in the afternoon, so it’s a bit of a juggle today.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the ability to keep on going with life even when it’s icy outside. Doug ended up working from home yesterday, but otherwise we were able to have a mostly normal Monday.

A heart of prayer...for a bit of umph and motivation around our house; for much deeper needs that are really not the kind you share in a quick blurb on a family blog.

Random observations...it’s amazing how quickly things become too sweet or rich and the stomach capacity seems to shrink when you cut way back on sugar. We haven’t cut it completely out, but we limited it highly immediately after Christmas. The first few days were SO hard. But, the impact has been much quicker than I remember it being in the past. I’m not nearly as hungry, fill up much more easily, and enjoy food more again. I know sugar messes me up – but, it’s just so stinkin’ addictive!!!

My silly children...are learning neat skills to enhance their creativity. It’s fun to watch. Steven is currently trying to create his own Lego catapult pattern – something different from the designs he’s made in the past from kits or by following instructions.

Thoughts from the kitchen...Doug got a cast iron abelskiver pan for his birthday. He has not yet had the chance to experiment with abelskivers, but a couple of mornings this week he has made our morning eggs in the pan. I should have gotten a picture – they were delightful! Nice balls of egg, perfectly filled with a bit of cheese and maybe a touch of bacon. Fun!

This morning, though, it was the good ole standby – bacon, egg, and cheese on toast. Oh, how that hit the spot. Yum!

Meanwhile, we’re continuing our soup month. Today is our second round of corn chowder. I asked the kids if they were tired of soup yet, and they responded with a pretty firm, “No!” Well, then. Encore in February? Oh wait…I guess we still have enough of January left to make sure they’re not tired of it before we revisit in February!

On my bookshelf...no clue, really. I’ve neglected reading. Need to get back to that. Although I think I got a review book notification in my inbox this morning.

Projects...I got my temperature blanket project caught up, so now it’s time to start working one day at a time. The center square needed six rows a day. Now I’m on one of the “logs” surrounding the center, and it requires four rows per day. I’m hoping that one turns out, because those rows might do better with more consistent color. We’ll see.

Otherwise, I have a sewing project to finish tonight, but I got my desk in mostly functional order on Saturday, so that makes it easier. The desk/sewing area/entire sunroom are still far from what they need to be, but we’ll get to that one of these days. We just ended up needing to focus on other things on Saturday, so this project got pushed back.

Finally, I have a Scripture memory project. I’d hoped to spend all of last year memorizing Philippians. Instead, I got about six or eight verses from the end of chapter one. But, I’m not giving up! My immediate goal is to finish chapter one by the end of January.

Sounds of the moment...a bird tweeting just outside my window. Or maybe it’s a bat? Unlikely, but I thought it was interesting to see this link pop up in my Facebook feed as I was hearing the bird. And, it sounds very similar to a couple of these.

From Hibbard Academy...Steven and Angie are in the final weeks of their cores (we’re on a strange schedule with the two of them, obviously). Steven’s finishing up the first half of US history while Angela is finishing her eastern hemisphere study. Olivia’s right at the halfway mark, which is a wonderful thing considering how much time we had to take off during the fall! Yay!

A favorite thing from last week...quiet family time on Friday.

The planner...normal stuff until Thursday when we go visit the Choates for what will probably be the last time before they start their journey back to the Solomon Islands next weekend. Then Friday night and Saturday, the fellas have the Cub Scout pinewood derby race.

Because visuals are fun...Angie got a knit farm animal pattern book for Christmas. She immediately started knitting this bull – to add to her herd, we assumed. And we were wrong! Friday morning, she wrapped this fella up and presented him to her daddy for his birthday. Of course, she knows it won’t stop Daddy from messing with her cows, but now he truly has one of his own. A pretty special one at that!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Making It Ours: The Girls’ Room

So, I’m finally getting the pictures of the girls’ room up! The goals when we moved in were twofold:

1) Consolidate two rooms into one while still allowing the girls to keep as much of their personal interests and belongins as possible (and working with the furniture we had!).

2) Keep as many of Angie’s books in her room as possible. The child has this dream of living in a room where the necessities like a bed and dresser just melt into the bookshelves somehow.

Wonderful Uncle Aaron helped the girls accomplish both goals quickly, getting them into a functional room by the end of our first day!

All furniture in, and sides of the room expressing the girls’ personalities…

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…and bookshelves tucked behind Angie’s bed – not super easy to access, but still almost all shelves were usable.

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Looking at it at the time, we really didn’t think there was a way to get Olivia’s dresser more accessible than it was there beside her bed, the bookshelves exposed, and more floor space available.

But after six months of contemplating, we realized we were wrong!

Knowing there was not a lot of room for experimenting in the rearrangement process (nor a lot of time to mess with it), I told the girls they had to have a plan BEFORE we dove in. So, Christmas weekend, the girls measured their room and the furniture. They drew out the room on butcher paper, then cut out pieces for the furniture so they could move it all around. Finally, they came up with a solution. By early the next week, they had a plan.

And it worked!!! Amazingly enough, there was only one piece of furniture that accidentally wasn’t measured at its widest point, so we had to make a little tweak. But, other than that, it was perfect. And the result is pretty amazing.

First, the girls asked Doug to take the bifold doors off the closet. That made a much bigger difference than we expected space-wise!SAM_0934

Then, we switched sides of the room for the girls, with Olivia’s bedSAM_0933 going where Angie’s had been (with one bookshelf remaining along that wall at the foot of her bed), Angie’s bed where Olivia’s dresser had been, and the other two bookshelves and Olivia’s dresser along the wall where Olivia’s headboard and vanity had rested. Angie’s dresser was moved to sit beside her bed, simply closing up her Angie cave entrance a bit (which doesn’t bother her at all!).


Olivia’s vanity replace Angie’s dresser between the door and closet.


And, floor space!!! Look at that!!! Oh, and the accessible dresser and bookshelves. Hooray!


We all recognize that we still just have way too much STUFF, and we’re still working on that. But, once again, we are making this place more home. More ours.

Oh, and we now have a room that can much more easily receive guests because there’s actually space to move around! Yay! (Ready to come back, Julie?)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, January 11, 2016

In the great outdoors...partly cloudy and COLD! YAY! According to my phone it has warmed up to 24°. The ground was nice and crunchy when I went out to dump something this morning. 

Within our four walls...quiet. Makes me wonder what the munchkins are up to.

And, at least here in my office, it’s a chilly 58°. I’ll be glad to go snuggle with the kiddos in the living room as we start school!

A heart of thanksgiving...for the cold (yes, I’m a bit nutty) and for central heating; for a menu plan; for children who can dive into a school week even if Mom’s not quite ready.

A heart of prayer...for friends and family in need of God’s hand in their lives in so many different ways.

Random observations...the electric controls on the oven went out again this morning. Then came back on about fifteen minutes later. Thankful that soup is on the menu for the rest of the month and that we’re not reliant on the oven!

My resilient children...are so great on Sundays! Sunday is super-packed for us, with very little downtime. Occasionally the kids express their preferences, but they do whatever we need them to do to make Sundays work.

Of course, when Monday mornings roll around, they need a little bit of time to recover. I feel that completely!! Doug and I usually don’t have that freedom on Mondays, but I’m so thankful to be able to offer it to the kids.

Thoughts from the kitchen...lentil soup today. It will be a first. I had it occasionally growing up (although, as I look at the plethora of recipe options, I have no idea what form of lentil soup I had!), but it’s been a while. Hopefully everyone likes it!

On my bookshelf...I have a novel on the night stand, and I’ll be reviewing a Philippians study on Joy of Writing this week. Other than that, I’m looking at my stack and wondering what to tackle next.

Projects...I have several in the works!

1. Finish the sunroom organization that never quite got done before school started back. I intended to do it a little at a time over the course of last week, but I never got those little bits of time. I’ll try again this week, but it will be done by the end of Saturday, for sure!

2. The reorganization will allow me to keep my sewing stuff out and handy constantly. That means I can work on sewing projects little by little without having to completely dismantle my work station to sew or dismantle the sewing progress to work. So, my project is to outline what projects I want to work on!

2. Finish the jacket I’m knitting for Steven’s Pooh Bear. I’m making it up as I got, so it’s not great. But, I can always make another one later.

3. This one is a year-long project. Doug found this online:

temp afghan colors

Essentially, it’s the colors to make what’s called a temperature blanket. Each day, you crochet a row to show what the high was for that day. By the end of the year, you have that afghan you’ve always wanted to make!

I’ve been wanting to make a scrap afghan for a while, and I thought this would be the perfect option. So, Angie and I both created our own color scheme based on colors we have on hand, and she decided to crochet while I planned to knit.

My first plan was to just do the straight rows (and that’s what Angie’s doing), which would look something like this:

temp afghan

But then I decided to kill two birds with one stone on this project. This is actually the scrap afghan I’d wanted to make:

Log Cabin Quilt

So, I’m using that pattern, but mine will be much less predictable in color. I counted out the number of rows and figured out how many rows per log or square I’d need to crochet each day. So, obviously, the blocks won’t be as clearly distinguished or patterned as they are here. But, this will be the layout. I’m curious to see how it turns out!

Sounds of the moment...music in the next room. And the washer. Otherwise silence. It’s about school time – wondering if I’ll have to wake them up to get started!

From Hibbard Academy...um…yep…well, I’m not quite sure. I haven’t reviewed the plan and made checklists yet! Fortunately, it’s easy to give the kids enough independent work (the next page in math, language arts, etc) to tide them over until I get checklists done. And, it’s our lower-key day anyway, so I have more time to pull it all together for the rest of the week.

In other news, though, the four-day week went very smoothly last week. Yay! Praying that continues.

A favorite thing from last week...having the opportunity to run errands as a family Friday morning without compromising the school schedule!

The planner...taking Steven to Scouts tonight; Doug has meetings several nights this week (fun, fun!), so that means we don’t have a lot of other stuff planned.

Because visuals are fun...on Saturday, the girls and I attended an AHG mother-daughter tea. It ended with a little fashion show. Olivia’s squad was supposed to emcee the show, but it ended up that Olivia was the only one able to attend the tea. So, she announced all of the girls, reading off their names, their outfits, and their reasons for choosing the outfits. And there were a LOT of girls! She made it, though, and did a fantastic job. 2016-01-09 15.43.56

Angie, of course, broke the mold by wearing her antebellum dress! It’s about time for a new one. She outgrew her first beloved green and pink dress, claimed Olivia’s purple one, and now is about to outgrow that one.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

And Then There Was One

All pet owners know that one day they’ll lose their pets. And, when “old man cat” Jack died, we were sad, but we had expected it. He was old when we got him five and a half years before, and he always had hints of health issues.

But this week was a different story. This one was unexpected.2014-02-25 11.32.35

We said goodbye to this monstrous cat last night. We joked that Mina was Olivia’s cat, but all three kids loved her and are going to miss her terribly.

They’ve left us in the order they came. We’re back to just our very first cat.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Making it Ours: Living Room

For those of you who rarely move, let me share a little secret with you: It takes a little while to learn a house.

For us, the average is about six months. We move into a place and simply shove our belongings into the most logical spot – enough to get us functional. And, after our many moves, I think I’ve finally learned that I don’t really want that first spot to be the best spot. Why? Beecause there’s something about intentionally rearranging and reorganizing later that really seals the “home-ness” of a place.

Before Christmas, we tackled the living room. I don’t have a lot of before pictures, and these after pictures aren’t great. But, in all honesty, this is as much for me as for anything else. I like to look back and remember our different rearrangements and the thought processes that got us there.

So, here goes…2016-01-06 08.36.18

The bookshelf you see on the right above is really the only thing that stayed put. This side of the living room was a lot of wasted space before. That bookshelf, a cedar chest by the window, and big bookshelves where the couch on the left is now. We decided the couches would be better over there.

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On this side, we had the recliner in front of the window, a couch against the wall on the right, and a couch in the middle of the floor, essentially ending where the recliner is now. We now have bean bags (the table is temporary – Doug and Steven had it out for a project), the big bookshelves against that wall, and a space between them waiting for the piano we are prayerfully seeking. The floor space is open, which opens up the dining room and allows us to get great use out of those bean bags!

This change also gave us a great spot for the Christmas tree – something we didn’t have before. It rested in front of the window and was beautifully visible from outside.

Our next project was the girls’ room, which we did the week after Christmas. But, that’s another post for another day!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, January 4, 2016

In the great outdoors...cloudy and chilly. Temps are finally feeling a bit more wintry, and supposedly the big bad Polar Vortex should be hitting next week. We’ll see what happens! 

Within our four walls...getting back to normal. We’re all a bit groggy and sluggish, but routine feels good.

There is some residual clean-up that still needs to be accomplished, though. I think the girls finally got all of their wall hangings and knick knacks into new homes in their room. The final rearranging task of the break was adjusting my work space so I can keep the sewing machine out. That is functional, but there are still quite a few things that have not found their new homes yet.

A heart of thanksgiving...for routine; for friends; for children who grow and stretch themselves because that’s what they like to do, not because they have to fulfill a requirement; for children who love the Word of God.

A heart of prayer...for smooth transition into some schedule adjustments; for this new year in our church; for our Almyra family as they welcome a new pastor; for growing hearts; for the Choates as they work out financial details to get tickets purchased and prepare to return to the Solomons very soon.

Random observations...I love my new desk setup, but it’s a bit on the chilly side. Looks like it’s right around 60° in here right now, so it’s not too bad. But, if the big bad cold shows up next week, I might need a little extra warmth!

My silly children...are growing up SO FAST. I just thought it went too quickly when they were little and were constantly learning and very obviously growing by leaps and bounds. Now that they’re older, it’s a little less obvious at a glance, but it’s much more obvious in daily life. The things they’re accomplishing and the ways they’re participating in the family dynamics catch me off guard on a regular basis. Wow.

Thoughts from the kitchen...this is soup month!! With one exception, every meal we make this month will be soup. At least, that’s the plan. Today we are trying a new super-simple crock pot potato soup recipe. Other soups on the calendar are the staples like chicken noodle or chicken & rice, chili, dumplin’s, and broccoli cheese. But, we’re also trying out a beef and barley recipe, introducing the kids to lentil soup and corn chowder, enjoying the pasta e fagioli and spicy cheese recipes we discovered last year, and giving lasagna soup a try. Oh, and then there’s the mushroom, beef, and ravioli recipe we found a year or so ago. Except we’ve changed it to a tortellini, and we use hot and sour soup instead of beef broth. Mmmmm. It’s going to be a yummy month!

On my bookshelf...another Julie Klassen book I haven’t yet read – The Dancing Master this time. It’s my one-chapter-a-day fiction choice this time around. Meanwhile, it’s time to get back to processing through some non-fiction. I’m looking at my shelf trying to decide what I’m going to tackle first. I’d love to commit to one a month.

Coming up on Joy of Writing this month, you should finally see my Everyday Grace review, as well as reviews of Sue Edwards’ new Philippians study and the latest novels from Patrick W. Carr, Julie Klassen, and Elizabeth Camden.

Projects...finish my desk reorganization; make some nightgowns; finish the jacket for the Pooh Bear I made Steven for Christmas; making my personal Joy of Writing blog a little prettier. This blog is probably overdue a makeover as well! 

Sounds of the moment...music in the next room and occasional noises as the kids process through chores. Well, what do you know – the vacuum just started up!

From Hibbard Academy...a schedule adjustment. We find ourselves experiencing more and more interrupted weeks. Four days of school is all well and good once a month or so. But, when we only really get five days in once or twice a month, we start falling behind! So, we’re moving to a four-day schedule, just keeping five days of work planned. Much prayer went into the decision, and now much prayer is going into the implementation – especially for my high schooler! She’s excited, though, about having one day a week to be able to write and create freely. I think that will help her stay motivated through longer school days the rest of the week, so that’s a blessing.

A favorite thing from last week...New Year’s Eve with the Choates. And I don’t think I got a single picture! But, we sure did have fun!

The planner...back to AHG and Scouts tonight and a Mother-Daughter tea this weekend. Otherwise, a pretty normal school/work week.

Because visuals are fun...even the stuffies are nerds in this house!2015-12-31 08.18.02