Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In the great outdoors...a cloudy, cool morning. We got rain yesterday! Over two inches at our house! So very thankful. 

Within our four walls...morning preparations. And a cat insisting on being in my lap.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the rain, for God’s guidance and provision in so many ways

A heart of prayer...for Gatlinburg, TN. Wow. For the Choates as they push through another holiday season in their adopted culture.

Random observations...I was glancing through recent pictures and realized just how many are of our pets. Usually pets with children, but still. Steven with Cookie. Angie with Rose. And Smokey somewhere doing something. Frequently sitting in the most inconvenient location possible, such as in our laps or on top of our beds right at bedtime or on a computer desk chair right around work time.

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They say that those with pets are healthier. Often I disagree, because one of these animal is going to kill me one day. But, then I see them doing something really cute and sweet – and I see how much my kids love them – and I am inclined to agree.

Awwww…isn’t that precious?

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My silly children...are all so very different. So. Very. Different. I love seeing their personalities grow and mature, with their different talents, strengths, and interests growing in the process.

Thoughts from the kitchen...we have a big tub of leftover rice, so several meals this week will include rice. Today, I believe, will be General Tso’s chicken.

On my bookshelf...close to finishing The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. Excellent book. I’m a little slack on the fiction right now. I honestly forgot about getting back to Sense & Sensibility. Our new, highly anticipated book The Shattered Vigil is still in hiding right now. Doug and I both know that we’ll have a very hard time putting it down once we get it started, so we’ve been trying to be diligent to push through some other things first. I’m thinking it’s about time to pull it out. Oh, I forgot! I did start a Librarians novel. Quick, easy, fun read that I can pick up here and there as I have a chance while I wait for a good stretch of time to read The Shattered Vigil.

I’m reading back through that paragraph and realizing that it sounds like I read a LOT. But, really, I’m super slow reading through things. I’ve just made a commitment to be constantly reading something, and it’s been a good thing for me.

Projects...I have a few homemade Christmas gifts on my “hope to get done” list. Not a lot. Just enough. 

Sounds of the moment...the washer running, Christmas music playing, and the neighbor’s dog wailing mournfully. Poor thing used to get a lot of attention. Not so much these days. He’s sounds so lonely.

From the Hibbard Academy...honestly? We’re just pushing through. Last week was good for us. And we look forward to Christmas break. Some things just have to be done. Right now, school is one of those things. Well, except for our Hermione. She thrives on school and is glad to be back at it this week.

The planner...It’s a surprisingly calm week, rather atypical for the week after Thanksgiving. This weekend we’ll have a couple of Christmas parties, but otherwise it’s nice and routine.

Because visuals are fun...Speaking of cat pictures, if you could only see the glare on that face. Never mind that she ASKED to go out. But, how dare we give in to her request?

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, November 8, 2016

In the great outdoors...overcast and cool. Still no rain. Still praying for rain. 

Within our four walls...kids are finishing up chores while Doug and I dive into the day.

Meanwhile, we’ve had the windows open through all of the temperature fluctuations, such that now it is cooler inside than outside. As in, we get chilled in the house, then go outside to warm up. It’s great for now. It might not be so great if we have a real winter and have to warm the house back up with the heater. But, for now, we’ll enjoy layering, breathing fresh air, and not having to run the heat or the A/C.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the freedom to cast our ballots peacefully and without fear. This might be an insane election year with many uncertainties that breed a measure of fear, but our fear is not for our lives for choosing one candidate over the other. Even as we watch our nation spiral downward, we are still experiencing a peace that many nations cannot even comprehend.

A heart of prayer...for the American church. Regardless of the election results, we need to decide it’s time to be real!

Random observations...voting is very different in the city than it was in a small town. We have chosen to early vote since moving to avoid the crowds. When we lived in Almyra, we intentionally chose NOT to early vote because of the delight of voting day fellowship. Missing that fellowship today. (And, I must be honest, I’m also missing Mrs. Martha Ann’s divinity and Mrs. Susan’s chocolate cake!)

My poor son...has a strong internal clock. He did well Sunday and Monday mornings, but this morning I noticed his light on around 5:40. I asked him why he was up so early, and he looked at me as if I were crazy. Then his expression changed when he realized it WASN’T 6:45 like he thought. Poor kiddo.

Thoughts from the kitchen...my children have developed quite the taste for Oriental. They beg for it! But, Steven is the most surprising. He always wants it, and he likes it spicy! This from the child who had the most eating problems when he was younger. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Doug and I love Oriental food, too. We’ll have it twice this week – kung pao yesterday and teriyaki Thursday. Then we’ll have Szechuan chicken and General Tso’s chicken later this month.

On my bookshelf...I have read a little in The Rest of God each morning, but no fiction in almost a week. So, still about halfway through my reread of Shock of Night (book one) while The Shattered Vigil (book two) remains tucked away in hiding to keep from tempting us too much!

Projects...I did finally decide on some homemade Christmas gift ideas for the kids, but since they can all read the blog whenever they want, no sneak peeks will show up these days! Do you know how hard it is to prepare homemade gifts for big kids? They’re always around and much more observant than littles. And, everyone uses the room where my sewing machine is, so it’s kind of hard to hide away.

Oh, I DID get my desk cleaned off! Yay! Victory! Feels so much better!

Sounds of the moment...Smokey on the chair behind me, bathing. She keeps bumping up against a canvas bag I left in the chair.

Rose, meanwhile, is wandering through the house wailing because none of the children are available for her to pounce on.

From the Hibbard Academy...slowly catching up on grading and read-alouds. Again. Allergies and full days have my brain so sluggish that I’m not even sure what we’re learning these days! But, I did just catch up on grading Angela’s poetry lesson from last week. She had to complete couplets, limericks, and haiku. Then, she had to choose one and create her own poem of four stanzas. I won’t share it without her permission, but it was so cute!

A favorite thing from last week...seeing the turnout of volunteers to work hospitality stations at the end of the East End parade. The annual community parade concludes in our church parking lot. So, we set up the popcorn machine and a station with coffee, hot chocolate, and water. We handed out a lot, that’s for sure!

The planner...eye appointments tomorrow, a pastors/wives event Thursday night, and maybe a couple of other things over the weekend. Not sure.

Because visuals are fun...the girls “fighting” over one of their adopted little sisters from church. And you can tell she hates it, can’t you?

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Oxford Commas

I have a confession. I’m a firm Oxford comma gal. Not a Oxford comma Nazi, but I use it in my writing and correct it in my editing. (And yes, there is a reason I’m explaining this!)

For those of you who, understandably, have no reason to know what an Oxford comma is, here’s a quick lesson. An Oxford comma comes before the final “and” in a series. For instance:

The girl bought lunchmeat, bread, and mayonnaise. The Oxford comma comes after “bread.”

This sentence is still grammatically correct without that comma. The girl bought lunchmeat, bread and mayonnaise. I am among those who believe that adding a comma provides additional clarity and, in some cases, prevents misunderstanding. But, I won’t go so far as to say that those who don’t use it are wrong. (Although I may tease them about it!)

In my editing and teaching, though, I consistently use it.


And now to the story of the day…

My sweet fourth grader brought his language arts book to me to ask a question. He was supposed to be finding what was incorrect in a set of sentences.

“Mommy,” he began, “I am looking at this sentence, and I can’t find anything that’s really wrong. All I see is that it doesn’t have the Oxford comma.”

No, his grammar book does NOT specifically teach the Oxford comma (although it does teach that a comma should be there – just doesn’t name it). Yet my ten year old grasped recognized that it would be best to have a comma there, admitted that it was optional, and remembered what it was called.

Why, yes, it was a proud mama moment.

And yes, I’m weird. Thank you for noticing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, November 1, 2016

In the great outdoors...the sun is shining, the tank is clean…oh, wait, maybe not. It’s actually still quite dark outside. Not sure when sunrise is. Cool, but not chilly, and definitely on its way to another warm day. It’s also very, very dry.

Within our four walls...quiet. Olivia just now got up, and Steven and Angie are still a few minutes away from waking up.

A heart of thanksgiving...for enough food to be okay waiting a few extra days for our monthly grocery trip; for found moments to write a bit this week; for libraries and children who love to read; air conditioning, even when we shouldn’t need it.

A heart of prayer...for a growing “in need of salvation” list and needs of friends all around us; for the Choates as they prepare to return to the village on Sunday; for wisdom about a rhythm and a flow of life that will encourage creativity and relationships while also honoring the time-bound work God has placed before us; for rain

Random observations...several weeks ago, I started a Not Quite Ordinary Observations post that never got finished. Just another fly-by month around here! But, in that post, I intended to share the saga of our 3,000 piece puzzle. So, I’ll share it today instead.

When we started it in mid-February, it seemed quite overwhelming.

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We managed to get the top bar done early in March (although I can’t find the picture of this part completely done).

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The rest of the spring and entire summer passed with very little progress. But, in late September, Angie and I restarted. It seemed overwhelming, but we were determined to find little segments to tackle, searching through piles upon piles of pieces to find what we were looking for. I could primarily work on it on Fridays, but Angie worked on it much more frequently. Progress was made much more quickly than we’d ever believed possible.

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Almost TOO quickly! Steven joined in, and I started begging them not to finish. “Oh, we still have a long way to go!” they would say. But, each time I looked huge sections would be complete. Finally, one Monday night, I came home from a meeting to find fewer than 100 pieces remaining! Thinking I wouldn’t have a chance to help at all until that Friday, I made an edict that no one could work on the puzzle without me. Mean old mama.

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But, the next morning, it was taunting us. So, before work and school, all five of us gathered around and finished it together. What was once an overwhelming pile of 3000 pieces is now a gorgeous old map puzzle!

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It is now glued and waiting for us to find an inexpensive way to frame it so we can hang it on the wall.

My silly children...are always a bit extra silly on Mondays. I guess they’re unwinding from Sundays, but the flow of conversation ranges from hilarious to a bit frightening (in a funny way).

Thoughts from the kitchen...There’s a bit of frustration over the menu planning. We thought we were getting ready for real soup season with the cooler temperatures of early October. While low to mid 80s aren’t too warm for soup, there’s just something about really being able to relish a bowl of soup in cold weather. But, as I look at the kids’ suggestions for meals, at least half of each child’s choices are soup requests – proof that we’re ready, even if the weather won’t cooperate. So, we’ll be menu planning with hope.

No clue what we’re having for lunch today, but by this evening I’ll know what the plan is for the rest of the month!

On my bookshelf...The Shattered Vigil, Patrick W. Carr’s newest book, releases today. His storylines are captivating, but also complex – and we love them! But the complexity means that, before reading book two in the series, I need a refresher on the details. I got the prequel novella, By Divine Right, read several weeks ago, and I’m about halfway through my reread of book one, The Shock of Night.

Meanwhile, I finished God in My Everything, and am now on to The Rest of God, an equally refreshing, challenging, and motivating read.

Oh, and The Captive Heart, the novel I mentioned last month, was definitely a worthwhile read.

Projects...the desk is still a mess. Yes, even a month later. I’m determined that it WILL get clean this week!

Sounds of the moment...I said earlier that it was quiet, but really it’s not. Modern life is rather noisy. I hear electricity buzzing, cars flying by on Arch street in a constant rumble, the refrigerator making occasional noises as the ice tray is refilled. Then, there are the sweet morning noises of Olivia chattering quietly with the cat, and the not-so-sweet noises of one cat in demand mode and another in full-fledged hyper mode. All in all, even a supposedly quiet morning is rather noisy. No wonder some people like to tent camp in the middle of nowhere.

From the Hibbard Academy...we made it through our first nine weeks last month. Now, we are just trying to plug along until Thanksgiving break. Everyone is ready for a true break – one that does not involve having to be somewhere.

A favorite thing from last week...enjoying Arsenic and Old Lace together Saturday evening. Such a fun movie!

The planner...I have a church meeting this morning, then we have to grocery shop at some point this week. Saturday is the annual East End parade, which concludes in our church parking lot. We’ll be waiting for the parade-goers, ready to pass out water, coffee, hot chocolate (if it’s cool enough), and popcorn.

Because visuals are fun...he loves his humans.

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And his ball.

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And his blankie.

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Then there’s this little monster.

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Her name is Rose, and she is Angie’s new lap cat. She’s sweet, and she does love laps. But, she’s also a 6-9 month old kitten who is still very much a kitten. A very hyper kitten. We look forward to the day she starts to settle down a bit!

For the record, Rose has no interest in meeting Cookie. She and Smokey are getting used to each other. Rose antagonizes Smokey, and Smokey in turn shows Rose who’s boss!