Monday, February 29, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, February 29, 2016

In the great outdoors...beautiful sunshine and spring temperatures. February has been a lovely month of April weather. Ha! We are expecting a stormy intro to March, though, so we’re soaking up the sunshine today. Our hope is that any late snow or ice storm hits sooner rather than later this year so we can get our fruit trees and grape vines going.

Within our four walls...we all want naps. So, we’re diving into the day with joyful attitudes instead.

A heart of thanksgiving...I just feel like I can’t be thankful enough for my amazing hubby, the delight of my children, and the incredible blessing of friends. There are so many other things to be thankful for, but today my heart overflows with those blessings.

A heart of prayer...for several people making tough decision this week; for Julie (the one who had the liver transplant – she got to go home over the weekend) as she and her family are growing accustomed to the changes in life; for little Elijah as he recovers from his second surgery (doing well and should get to go home soon); for health and rest for my family.

Random observations...pondering and praying over how to help my family truly catch up on rest.

Meanwhile, I just realized a child is a behind me. When did she sneak in?

My silly children...make me laugh every, single day. Some days they also make me want to run and hide, but that’s just life. This morning, the laughter came when a school bus drove down our street. We live on a cove and are the only house with kids in permanent residence (the others are all grandkids). So, we’re not sure why the bus drove down our street today. Must be grandkids visiting.

Of course, my kids had to respond to the anomaly. They ran around saying, “They’re coming to get us! Hide! Don’t go near the windows! Pretend we’re not here!” All while laughing, of course.

It’s Monday. We needed that silliness and laughter!

Thoughts from the kitchen...pulling away from soup for the most part this month since it’s so warm, but today we have one last crock pot of lentil soup on for Steven. There are a couple of soups that will live on even through the spring and summer, but that’s probably not one of them.

On my bookshelf...Olivia came in this morning with a bookshelf dilemma. She informed me that the Tricia Goyer bookshelf is only about three-fourths full! I rearranged some shelves a week or so ago to make room for growing series, and I was able to pull everything NOT by Tricia off that shelf. When I informed my sweet girl that I have one additional book on my desk, Tricia just finished her portion of two that she’s co-authoring, and she has a new WWII book in progress, Olivia realized that it won’t be long before we have a new problem – we’ll be out of space for Tricia Goyer books!

Hmmm…think we’re fans?

Projects...my number one focus this week is writing. I’ve got to get the missions stuff going, and I really, really, really want to get back to regular posting on Joy of Writing. Both of my blogs offer different outlets for me, and I miss when I’m not keeping up with one or the other. I also have other writing projects tossing around in my head that I want to get started. One of these days!

Sounds of the moment...the washer and dust vac are competing in pitch and volume right now.

From Hibbard Academy...everyone has officially switched completely over to science by Dr. Jay Wile. I cannot describe how much of a difference that’s making! My kids have always enjoyed science, despite my weakness in the area. But, now they absolutely love it! They all enjoy each other’s experiments and are really grasping the content. And I’m learning so much, too, from working through Steven’s with him (the girls are both independent, for the most part). The other day, we not only learned about osmosis, but we learned WHY it happens. Even in high school and college, that was never explained in a way that made sense. If I can keep up with the reading at some point while one of the kids processes through high school science, I just might figure out chemistry and physics for the first time ever!

A favorite thing from last week...I honestly don’t know. Last week was a little nutsy because we just didn’t feel well. Migraines. Ugh. Oh, but we did have to go for our monthly grocery shopping last week, and that was actually encouraging! The previous month’s grocery total was HUGE because we needed so much. But, since we buy a good portion of what we need in bulk at Sam’s, this month we benefitted from the overstock and needed very little. It made grocery shopping quite delightful!

The planner...a couple of meetings, taking a meal to a family, just little stuff like that. Still busy, but not a lot of normal busyness plus every night full. That helps. We need a few weeks of available evenings to get caught up on a few things – rest included!

Because visuals are fun...I saw this today – and now Angela has a perfect understanding of the meaning of emoticons:

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Thursday, February 25, 2016

In the great outdoors...beautiful, glorious sunshine! It seemed so bright inside this morning, and I realized it was because we had a completely clear sky to start the day. It was so refreshing!

We’re in a chilly dip before 70’s come back by Sunday. Yes, I think the extra cold winter forecast was off this time around. We have the normal ups and downs of a southern winter…and our stuffy heads are proof! 

Within our four walls...a slow morning, even slower than most Thursdays. We were late starting school and are trying to catch up on the day. But, no worries.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the flexibility that I am continually offering thanks for! I love structure. I crave structure. But, it is such a blessing to have a structure that can be flexed to allow us to accomplish what needs to be done, refresh ourselves when needed, and fulfill the ministry God has put before us.

A heart of prayer...for adorable little Elijah, the baby with heart issues we’ve been praying for since his birth in Sept (on Angie’s birthday). He’s in his second heart surgery today.

My silly children...deserve a separate post. But, I didn’t write down yesterday’s goofiness, and I don’t remember all of it. But, when I told Olivia yesterday that I was losing my mind, she informed me that she’d be getting the paperwork together for a family suite for Happy Dale so we’d be ready to go as soon as I finished losing my mind.

Perhaps I should not have let them watch Arsenic and Old Lace.

In other news, they’d now like to plant elderberries along with our grapes, apples, and peaches.

Thoughts from the kitchen...beef and barley soup. We’re almost to the end of soup month. I’m ready for something different, but not thrilled about having to menu plan again.

On my bookshelf...several review books. Need to get busy.

Projects...getting a bit behind on the afghan, but I’m on an easier log now, so that’s helping me catch up. Of course, I only have about four more rows on that one, so we’ll see what the next log is like and how quickly I can get through it! Once I’m done with this log, I have two left for this first block (roughly two months per block, give or take a few days). Then I’ll have to decide if I want to start the pattern all over or get a little creative and make each block different. I’m thinking about three slip stitch blocks and three cable knit blocks. Could be interesting.  

Sounds of the moment...Steven practicing piano. He always gets to finish with something from the Star Wars book, so I try to listen to make sure he’s diligent with the other stuff first.

From Hibbard Academy...I just finished getting Steven’s first few weeks of his new core planned out. We’re mid-year on new cores for him and Angie because we’re spreading two cores out over three years for each of them. With their late birthdays, they both started school early, and now we’re trying to slow them down a bit, filling in some extras while we slow down the cores. It’s been fun, but it is a bit confusing to be “off.”

A favorite thing from last week...a mostly free Saturday, as well as a mostly unobligated week. We still had plenty going on, but it was back to our normal routine busyness instead of the chaos we’ve been trying to pull away from since we moved.

The planner...the week’s almost over! Wow! So, what’s left? Well, tonight is an at-home night, but Doug and I both need to get some things checked of our lists. Tomorrow will be errands and work, and Saturday we’ll hopefully get to work in the yard (weather permitting) to prep for planting trees and vines. YAY!

Because visuals are fun...mild weather means a backyard fort!

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Vertically Challenged

I don’t remember who said what, and I’m sure I’m leaving out much of the good stuff, but this was the culmination of a discussion had earlier today:

Vertically challenged? Why do we even call people that? Isn’t it rude?

So, what do you call tall people? Vertically blessed?

 

And if you wonder where they get it, as I type, my husband is sitting beside me making me fall out laughing with his running church comedy monologue.

So, why is it called an offering plate, anyway? Would you really eat off this thing?

 

Meanwhile, today I said I was feeling loopy again, and my dear sweet eldest said, “What do you mean again?” Yes, I feel the love.

 

Life in the Hibbard household…Scary? Definitely. Dull? Not possible.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chicken 'n Biscuit Dough Dumplin's

Ready for another recipe? This one originated from the recipe in 3 Books in One: Rival Crock Pot, but over time we've made it our own. And the kids LOVE it! For a while, this is what the kids would request every single week for Sunday dinner. We alternate a bit more these days, but we did have it this past Sunday!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup stick butter
1/3 flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cups chicken broth, divided
3/4 cup milk (we like to use evaporated milk)
Either 1 Tbs corn starch or 1 Tbs flour  - because the corn starch is a stronger thickener, it makes the end result much thicker. For a soupier batch of dumplin's either reduce the corn starch to one tsp or use the flour.
2 cups pulled or diced chicken or turkey, cooked (When we buy a chicken or turkey, we cook the whole thing, pull the meat off the bone, and freeze it in two-cup portions to make recipes like this super easy!)
1 batch biscuit dough*
1 cup frozen edamame (shelled) or peas (optional)
Seasonings - we loved Cabela's Blackened Seasoning in ours!

Directions:

  • Melt butter in a pot. Add flour, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth and lightly browned.
  • Slowly add 2 cups broth to make a sauce. Cook until thick. 
  • Remove from heat and add milk. 
  • Pour sauce and remaining broth in slow cooker. 
  • Whisk in corn starch or flour. 
  • Add chicken and veggies (if desired) and stir. 
  • Top with biscuit dough. Stir very lightly. Cover, and cook 3-4 hours on high or 6 on low. (Note: Our slow cooker cooks hot, so we can usually start this on high for a few minutes, then turn it down to low and have it done in four hours.)
Serves 6-8, depending on appetites! 

*There are so many options for the biscuit dough. You can use canned biscuits, cut in thirds. Or, whip up a homemade batch and either roll/cut or scoop it. It's all based on your personal preference!! 

We have determined that our favorite is Bisquick, prepared as a normal sized batch (2 1/4 cup Bisquick and 2/3 cup milk). We then use a 1-inch scoop to add the dough to the liquid. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, February 15, 2016

In the great outdoors...cloudy, gloomy, wet from last night’s rain, and a little chilly, even though it’s supposed to be warming up this week. But, I’m very thankful for the rain. The fact that our yard is wet but not spongy from the rain indicates just how dry we’d gotten. 

Within our four walls...diligence for a new school day. There’s quiet right now as everyone pursues independent work.

A heart of thanksgiving...for a new liver for a church member!

A heart of prayer...for that church member and her family as she is in surgery right now to receive her new liver. So many complications with transplants.

Random observations...I love puzzles. And a couple of my children inherited my love for them. Well, Angie did. Steven enjoys them in short spurts. They drive Olivia crazy. She’s more like her daddy in that.

This puzzle, though, is far beyond anything even I have done! With a 3000 piece count, the completed puzzle will measure 48”x32”!  We had to be super creative just to come up with a surface for assembly, since the dining room table is kind of needing for this little thing called eating!

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Typically we wouldn’t have even attempted such a thing, knowing how long it will take us to complete it since we only have spurts here and there to work on it. But, Doug saw this one months ago and couldn’t resist. It’s an old map, which he loves (we all do, but he especially loves them), and it’s really quite beautiful. You can tell he likes it, because even he has gotten in on the assembly action! (Of course, he does that now and then just because he loves me and knows I like puzzles.)

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Olivia, meanwhile, is happy to just be the photographer for now.

Thoughts from the kitchen...some sourdough rolls are rising on the counter in preparation for today’s chicken & rice soup lunch. Yum.

On my bookshelf...same stuff. There are several daily habits I am seeking to re-establish. Reading is among them.

Projects...I finally finished the Pooh jacket. A little oversized and oddly shaped, but Steven likes it! Sweet boy – he likes my odd stuff.

Lots of writing and some editing upcoming. The girls need warm-weather robes, and I want to make something homemade for each birthday this year. Need to figure out what! 

Sounds of the moment...keyboards tapping; birds trilling outdoors; phone ringing…guess I should answer that!

From Hibbard Academy...Angie’s starting Sonlight’s Core G this week. I love this core. Some great books. But, I confess that one of the reasons I love this core is because some of the books are not-so-great, including the history text that is riddled with inaccuracies (Story of the World). Why is that great, you ask? Because my kids will be faced with MANY things in this world that are riddled with inaccurracies. Because they are all three history nerds (hmmm…wonder where they go that?), this is a great way to talk through the inaccuracies and learn how to spot and deal with such things.

A favorite thing from last week...honestly, last week is pretty much a blur. But, it was nice to reach my work hours limit early in the day on Friday so I could really focus on family time the rest of the day – especially since our Saturday and Sunday were packed from beginning to end.

The planner...a routine week, concluding with Olivia heading out for a youth activity while the rest of us attend Steven’s Blue & Gold Banquet.

Because visuals are fun...my beautiful girlies at work.2016-02-15 10.40.22

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Thursday, February 11, 2016

In the great outdoors...clear skies and chilly temperatures. It’s turning into a rather mild winter after all (highs in the 50’s and lows in the 30’s, on average, with a few swings up or down), but there’s still that wintery tinge. That sharpness that hints at true cold even on a 50-degree day. I’m not sure how else to describe it, especially in light of my friends who experience true cold in the winter. But, the cold feeling is still there, and I love it! 

Within our four walls...allergies. A few inexplicable tears. That sort of thing. We all slept in this morning. Just one of those days.

A heart of thanksgiving...for friends. I know I say that a lot, but I don’t take them for granted. True friends are a safe place. They renew and reenergize. I’m so thankful.

A heart of prayer...for our bodies to get used to the change in allergens, and for a wide variety of other prayer needs.

Random observations...I need a few days to just sit and write. To get a stockpile gathered of all the thoughts rambling around in my head. To get ahead so I’m not right on top of my deadline (whether personal or set for me by work or other sources). Maybe this summer that will happen. I don’t want Olivia to have to do school work too far into the summer (and she doesn’t want to either), so we’re trying to push through to get done. But she, Doug, and I would all three love a writing week, I’m sure!

My silly children...are so very different! It’s such fun to see their personalities develop.

Thoughts from the kitchen...pasta e fagioli today. Soup is not quite as exciting this month as it was last month, but we still seem to be enjoying it. We have about two weeks to begin brainstorming great ideas for next month.

On my bookshelf...same as it has been – still need to reestablish that reading habit.

Projects...writing, and I have a few sewing projects I need to get laid out. The temperature blanket is coming along, but right now I’m on the first log I don’t enjoy. It looks nice, but it’s a pill to knit, so I’ve progressed through it rather slowly, even having to remove 16-20 rows of stitching and start over at one point. Almost done with it, though. Hopefully the next one will be better.

Sounds of the moment...Olivia trying to progress through the speaking portion of her German lesson. I really, really like Rosetta Stone, but there are two areas that frustrate me. One is grammar, especially in a tough language like German. It’s hard to figure it out from context. The second is the speaking lessons. I don’t know if it’s our microphones (we’ve tried several) or the software, but it’s almost impossible to get above 50-60% on those speaking lessons.

From Hibbard Academy...independent school day today so I can get Angie’s new core prepped for next week. Steven and I decided to spend one more week finishing up his core before switching to a new one. That means I can just focus on prepping Angie’s this week and can prep his next week. Works for me!

Angie, however, is convinced that one book contains all her educational needs. 2016-02-11 09.59.58

She’s been wanting to learn cable knitting. I’ve had this book for a couple of years, and I knew it had a chapter on cable knitting. When I handed it to her yesterday, I had to add the instruction to finish her school work first. She responded with, “But this is a workbook and has chapters with assignments and even extra credit! So it’s school work, right?” Add in her cute little grin and batting eyes, and she can be quite convincing. Besides, it requires math. What more do you need?

A favorite thing from last week...Saturday. A family day, mostly at home. We needed that!

The planner...well, the week is mostly over, so most of the plans are behind us. Saturday will be full, but good I’m sure, with the fellas going to a men’s breakfast in the morning and us gals going to an AHG service project in the afternoon. Then we’ll meet a church family for dinner that evening.

Because visuals are fun...Angie’s latest knitting project, made for a girl at church. I think she’s working on a sheep dog for Steven now. I have a feeling we’ll need to buy another big box of stuffing pretty soon.2016-02-09 12.08.45

Friday, February 5, 2016

Doug's Crock Pot Chili

So, you can't have a month of soups without including chili! Doug has been experimenting with chili for years. In all honesty, I'm pretty picky when it comes to chili, but I always love his. His most recent recipe, though, is definitely my favorite!

Ingredients
1.5 lbs of ground beef (73% worked)
1.5 lbs of ground pork
2 cans of dark red kidney beans
1 red bell pepper
1 can tomato paste
2 cans tomato sauce
1 can Del Monte Zesty Chili Style Peppers/Tomatoes (we've also used fire roasted)
corn starch
white pepper
black pepper
salt
ancho chili powder

Directions:
1. Coarsely chop the red bell pepper.
2. Heat a large skillet.
3. Put some char to the red bell pepper. Use a little oil but not much.
4. Add ground beef to brown it. About a minute later, add the ground pork.
5. Season what is in the skillet with salt/pepper/white pepper/ancho chili powder
6. After it is browned, transfer with slotted spoon to crock pot. Leave liquid in skillet.
7. Reduce liquid until most of the moisture is gone.
8. Make a roux with cornstarch (gravy base--use appropriate amount to get a pasty residue in skillet)
9. Add both cans of red kidney beans, undrained, to your roux. Stir in.
10. Add can of peppers/tomatoes.
11. Stir in can of tomato paste.
12. Pour this mixture over the crock-potted meat/pepper stuff. Make sure to get everything out of the skillet.
13. Stir in 2 cans of tomato sauce (just 1 if you want it chunky!).
14. Add more seasoning to taste.
15. Let set up in fridge overnight, then use crock pot to heat to eating temperature the next day.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Last Visits

So, the Choates are safely in Honiara preparing for a conference before heading back to the village in about a month. But, what do the Hibbards do when time for face-to-face visits draws to a close?

We take a Saturday to go help pack a couple of boxes…

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And then decide that a play break is needed, including some table tennis…

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…snowy bike rides…

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…and, of course, a little snowman-building.

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Or maybe we should get out the stepladder and make it not-so-little. Six feet sounds good.

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No, that’s not tall enough. Let’s shoot for ten feet!

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Actually, twelve feet sounds like a winner!! Yep, twelve it is!

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Of course, he could use a hat, jacket, and family.

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And a cow.

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And a mini family.

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Of course, no snow fun is complete without a snowball fight!

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Of course, since we were supposed to go get the piano that day, but the trailer was iced in, we just had to go back another day. Bummer.

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Unlike the Saturday before, this trip had to include our real goodbyes. 

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Goodbyes are never fun.

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But when you can be this silly with friends you are saying goodbye to, you know it just means you get to anticipate sweet hellos again in the future.

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(Although Angie was NOT willing to let the goodbye include parting with James the Big Cow!)

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These sweet kiddos have grown up together, even across the miles.

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And this precious soul has been a true nourishment and mainstay for me over those same years.

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And our sweet fellas (who did not manage to get into any of these pictures) have made sure that we stayed actively connected through those years!

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No, goodbyes aren’t fun, but even goodbyes can reflect the joy of the relationship! Until next time!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Beef & Tortellini Soup

I’m finally in the process of creating a post about our month of soups. But I wanted to go ahead and share a few recipes first. These are recipes that we have found elsewhere but altered a good bit to make them our own.

First is one of our absolute favorites: Beef & Tortellini Soup. Even the kids who don't like mushrooms and peppers love this soup! It started with this Mushroom & Beef Ravioli recipe and evolved from there.

Ingredients:


  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1.2 lb flank or fajita steak - Actually, there are lots of options here. You mainly want thinly sliced beef.
  • 6 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced 
  • 2-4 mini sweet peppers of various colors, sliced
  • 32 oz beef broth or hot & sour soup (or a combo of the two - our favorite is about half and half)
  • 10 oz cheese-filled tortellini (frozen, fresh, or dried)
Directions:
  • Heat oil in a 4-qt pot or Dutch oven. Add meat and cook until nicely browned. Remove from pot and set aside. 
  • Cook mushrooms and peppers in meat drippings (or, if you prefer, cook them directly in the oil before you cook the meat), just until tender - 3-4 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside with meat.
  • Add broth and/or soup to pot and bring to a boil. Cook tortellini in broth, according to package directions. 
  • Stir in meat, mushrooms, and peppers, and heat to desired temperature. 
  • Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today…Tuesday, February 2, 2016

In the great outdoors...a rather blustery day, but the wind has blown the clouds away. Nice, clear, blue sky! It appears that the storm line passed us by, but we’re praying as the sun beats down on the further formation of the line on its westward journey. 

Within our four walls...a great desire for naps. Last week was a busy one with quite a few late nights. And we all do love our sleep! So, we’re trying to catch up a bit this week.

A heart of thanksgiving...for my growing children who are learning such wisdom. They humble me. I love to see them grow!

A heart of prayer...for our church as we determine to focus on prayerful obedience to Christ above all; for friendships to grow and blossom; for the Choates (who arrived safely in Honiara) as they prepare to quickly roll into a conference time before traveling on to the village.

Random observations...One of these days, I’m going to get my inboxes cleaned out. One of these days.

My silly daughter...was trying to define the Coriolis Effect for a science test. Part of the answer involved “sea currents.” As we were getting ready to grade the test, she glanced at her paper and just cracked up, saying, “I don’t know WHAT I was thinking.”

Instead of sea currents, she’d written “sea serpents.”

To say we got a good laugh would be an understatement!

Thoughts from the kitchen...it’s Ground Hog Day. So, we have to have ground hog for lunch, right?

Fortunately, ground pork or sausage works nicely in pasta e fagioli soup. Smile

On my bookshelf...Risen, Angela Hunt’s novelization of the upcoming movie, arrived for review a couple of days ago. It’s a storyline that intrigues our whole family. So, we’re looking forward to the novel.

Projects...writing projects are the biggest thing in front of me right now. But, I am making progress on the temperature blanket! I love the different textures created by slipping stitches different ways.

2016-02-02 12.23.11 The large square was first. It will be in the center of this panel when it’s done. Every six rows marks a day. You can get a feel for each day by looking at the dark green (45-54°) at the bottom with the lighter green (55-64°) coming next and the light blue (33-44°) above that. The light green was one day, so it was surrounded by two days each of the other temperature ranges.

The panel (or log, as it’s called in the pattern) on the right was next, and a day is marked by four rows. Each row was one day. Finally, the top log brings us up to last Wednesday (I’m a little behind – but it’s easy to catch up, actually; I usually do a few days at a time.). Again, four rows per day. We had quite a few “light blue” days in a row. By the time I get caught up to today, we’ll have a good bit of the creme color (65-74°), as the past four or five days have been more like April than January.

Sounds of the moment...We did have piano music in the background, but it’s gone now. Apparently practice time ended. Now, it’s just the tapping of my keyboard and Olivia’s. And, I think the dryer is running.

From Hibbard Academy...Angie and Steven are almost done with their cores! Great excitement! Just wrapping up a couple of final books. Steven will then launch into his next core by diving immediately into the Civil War. Angie will start a two-core stretch of world history. Olivia, meanwhile, is moving along so faithfully. I’m so proud of the way she’s tackled her freshman year!

A favorite thing from last week...under normal circumstances, two things would have topped the charts: seeing the Skit Guys at the Evangelism Conference, then going to see Tim Hawkins as a family Thursday night. Oh, how we laughed!!! I thought Steven wasn’t going to survive the laughter! 2016-01-28 18.43.27

But, the real joy was one last visit with the Choates. This was our “excuse” to go: we get to provide a home for their piano while they’re gone! 

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We were supposed to get it the Thursday before, then possibly the Saturday before. But, our delightful snow interrupted those plans. But that just meant we got to go Saturday for the fun of it and again Wednesday for one last goodbye.

I hope this week to post the rest of the pictures from those last visits!

The planner...a mostly normal week, for which we are thankful. Our evenings are full with this and that, but the days are a little more routine – until I head off to a project-related writer’s conference on Friday. The kids are so excited because it’s at the Baptist Building. When we lived in Almyra, we’d frequently relocate school whenever Doug or I had a meeting. Since we’ve moved, though, we’re so close that we don’t have to combine meeting trips with our other Little Rock errands. The kids have gone through withdrawals! So, even though I could just go alone and leave the kids home with Doug, they begged to go with me.

Because visuals are fun...the piano’s home for the next year or so. What an answer to prayer! The kids can’t get enough of playing it!2016-01-27 20.22.30