Monday, January 30, 2017

An Excited Child!

Steven has always loved Legos. Several years ago, he decided he wanted to eventually get into Lego Mindstorms, the robotics side of Lego. So, he started saving.

He has been saving for a long time. That’s a huge deal for anyone, but it’s really huge for a 7-10 year old. In the meantime, there were several other things he desired as well. He bought his own new bike when he’d outgrown his old one. He purchased a couple of step-up Lego kits, including a mechanized airplane, to try to help prepare his skill level for the more advanced nature of the robotics.

Even with all of that, he tallied up his money after Christmas and a recent job, and figured he was only $50-75 away from his goal. But then his daddy went hunting in warehouse deals on Amazon, and voila – a kit that fit into the amount Steven had saved up was available!

It wasn’t scheduled to arrive until Feb 8.

Then Doug got a shipping notification on Thursday. It would be here Saturday! We didn’t say a word until the mailman showed up.

Do you think maybe he was a bit excited?


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I’m SO incredibly proud of this kid. Lego Education is truly a wide open program with so many benefits that move far beyond the standard "cool kit!" concept. Even with this starter Mindstorms kit, Steven has so many options for learning and exploring. So, this is a huge investment, and I’m excited about what he will learn as he programs, reprograms, builds, rebuilds, and explores his new robot. Who knows where this could lead him?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

Something about Today…Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It’s a sunny, warm day. We’re soaking up this sunshine! It was supposed to rain a bit today, but it hasn’t come through yet. It’s also supposed to cool down substantially by tomorrow.

Something about the Week

It’s a mostly routine week. Grocery shopping for February has been the main diversion from the normal routine.

Something I Have Observed

Buying groceries on a monthly basis definitely helps with the grocery budget, because it reduces impulse buying. But, it’s also difficult sometimes to really evaluate how much we need of one thing or the other. I’ve been trying to do better about that for a couple of reasons. First, it can be hard to store everything, especially when we have a little extra. Second, there are months when our grocery budget could really use whatever break we can give it.

This month, I was really critical of everything on our restock list. There will be several things that will be tight by the time the end of February rolls around, but I’m very excited that we got to keep the list nice and short this month!

Something I Have Read or Heard

I’m sitting in the church office right now, and all of my quotes are on my Kindle or in a notebook at home. So, nothing new this week. But, I will say that I am thoroughly enjoying everything I’m reading. Chapter six of Passion and Purity was especially delightful to me, because I have had similar conversations with young women before!

Something on My Mind

Pondering an outline for a book. I’m trying to really get serious about doing this.

Something I’m Thankful for

Skype. Technology that spans oceans. And friends who give of their precious time to stay in touch.

Something about My Kids

Sunday night was business meeting at church, but I had a nasty migraine I couldn’t shake. So, the kids and I stayed home. As I dozed on the couch, I heard the kids chattering about this and that, trying to make a decision about what they were going to do for the next little while. I heard one of the girls call out to Steven to “come in here so we can have a kids’ business meeting!”

Over the next few minutes, I could faintly hear motions being made and seconded, then voted on. It’s nice to know my children have at least a basic familiarity with Robert’s Rules of Order!

Something I’m Working on

The aforementioned book outline. And still working on a good, workable daily routine that allows for writing, editing, etc.

Something from Hibbard Academy

We had an odd day today because of the need to run some errands. But, the kids all managed to squeeze their schoolwork in here and there without an issue. So proud of them! Meanwhile, Olivia sat down to work all the way through a practice ACT in preparation for taking the real thing next month. We’ll be going over it together soon!

Something That Makes Me Smile

Seeing my kids with their little adopted “siblings” at church. My girls always have other little girls at their side or on their hips. It’s so precious to me!

Something Coming

Reorganizing the kitchen! Just another step in the purging and organizing to make our home more functional.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Surprise Solutions

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When we lived in Almyra, one of our precious, precious church members gave Olivia piano lessons. Olivia loved those lessons and loved Mrs. Joyce. When we moved to Little Rock, she wasn’t even sure she wanted to find a new piano teacher because she missed Mrs. Joyce!

But, we looked anyway, mainly because piano was such a relaxing thing for Olivia. Sadly, nothing ever seemed to work out. Every lead we got was too expensive or did not work with our schedule or was too far of a drive to fit with what we could work out.

Then I saw a Facebook ad.

I’ll be honest – I normally don’t click on Facebook ads. But, this one said, “Online piano lessons for only $2.95 per lesson!” I thought, That’s too good to be true.

I was wrong.

I clicked the link and found Busy Kids Do Piano.

A pastor’s wife. Piano teacher. Busy mom. Someone who gives piano lessons in her home. Someone who takes her kids to their various activities. Someone who knows how hard it can be to get your kids to piano lessons, much less pay for them. Someone who decided that she wanted to offer affordable piano lessons to families who weren’t near her but couldn’t, for whatever reason, work out the details of piano lessons any other way.

Families like ours.

I paid for one level. Then she offered a lifetime membership. I paid for that. And now, every level and bonus lesson she adds is ours to use whenever and however we please.

The kids started at the very beginning and have been speed-processing through reviews to make sure all three of them are developing good habits and correcting bad ones. Now, they’ve all just about reached their skill level and are ready to slow down and spend a few days on each lesson, honing their skills. They are combining the Busy Kids lessons with the Bastien books we’ve had all along. But the books aren’t necessary – they are just adding a bit of variation to the theory and music options, reinforcing the lessons.

The most beautiful part, though, is not that we’re getting piano lessons. You see, Olivia had lost her delight in the piano. It was no longer relaxing because she was no longer advancing. She’d kind of given it up. But, after starting these lessons, even though she still had not reached a challenge point yet, I began to see the love return. Suddenly, I’d find her sitting at the piano just for the pure pleasure of it. I saw her playing around and creating again.

That was worth every penny!

We’d been praying for a solution, and God had it ready for us. It wasn’t what we expected, but it fits perfectly with where we are.

I love it when He does that!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sunshine!

It has been cloudy for days. Many, many days. Not really rainy – just cloudy, gloomy, and even four or five days in a row of fog.

Today was supposed to be another cloudy day. But, as we were out running some errands this morning, we saw the sun start peeking out. Then it peeked out some more. Then the clouds really started disappearing!

(Carry, also dubbed Super Magna-Cow, decided to climb a lightpole to see if she could reach the last few clouds!)

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We were on our way home for lunch when Doug said, “This sunshine makes me want to stop by a grocery store and pick up picnic food instead of going home!” The idea was, naturally, met with enthusiastic agreement.2017-01-20 12.56.20

We picked up a package of cold friend chicken and a few sides, then headed to Two Rivers Park where the Arkansas and Little Maumelle Rivers come together.

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We found a picnic table and spread out our lunch. The kids were most excited about the cheese we got to go with their chicken. Because, after all, we are a cheesy family!

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After lunch, the kids went and sat on the boat ramp to watch the ducks, which were originally right up close to the ramp. By the time I got over there with the camera, they were that thin strip of black you see close to the other bank.

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We took a few more pictures, ran around a bit, then headed back home so the boy could play with his dog and the girls could ride their bikes around the neighborhood. What a perfect Friday!

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Game Time!

We enjoy strategy games in our household. Steven has been wanting Risk for a while. He got some Christmas money, but he’s been saving up for a Lego Robotics set, so he wasn’t sure he wanted to spend his Christmas money. Then, he realized he had a TON of loose change. So, instead of adding that to his savings total, he used it to buy Risk.

Warning: There are some vicious conquerors in this house. And sometimes they gang up on you! Ouch!

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My earliest experience with strategy games was a game called Targui. Only 10,000 units of this game were ever produced, so it is quite rare. Getting ahold of a collector’s edition now will start at $100 and quickly jump up from there.

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For Christmas, though, Mom and Dad surprised my siblings and I with a copy of the rules and a homemade board, complete with beads and handmade cards, so we could play this game from our childhood! I’m looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

Something about Today…Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The sun came out! This bright, shiny, rejuvenating light that has been buried for days behind dense fog – it actually showed its face today! It was sporadic, but still full and beautiful when it was visible. I do better with cloudy days when there is actually rain. But, apart from a brief thunderstorm last night, we haven’t really had rain. Just gloomy fog. So, today was a wonderful blessing!

Something about the Week

We’re all trying to return to focus this week. Our first week back to routine was great. Last week, though, we all floundered. We’re not sure why. So, we’re fighting that mental battle this week to get back on track!

Something I Have Observed

Our family is starting to tackle good habits together. We’ve always sought to teach our children good habits, but they are now reaching the age to be working on more lifelong habits.

Something I Have Read or Heard

Oh, I have so many quotes! That’s the problem with reading so many books at once. I’m going to choose this one for today:

“It is a wonderfully encouraging name for the God you serve, yet it’s possible to let it pass through your eyes and into your brain without stopping to celebrate its glory. In Romans 15:5, Paul calls your Lord ‘the God of endurance.’ This title really gets at the center of where your hope is to be found. Let me state it plainly: your hope is not to be found in your willingness and ability to endure, but in God’s unshakable, enduring commitment to never turn from his work of grace.”

- Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies, Jan 12

Something on My Mind

Opportunities. They stretch us, don’t they?

Something I’m Thankful for

Today’s sunshine. God’s continual provision. The opportunity to share that provision on occasion.

Something about My Kids

They are learning a lot about themselves these days, and it’s fun to talk through that with them! Sometimes it brings tears. Other times, laughter. Either way, there’s a new maturity about their pursuits. They are asking for prayer and support in managing their time well, taking their thoughts captive, and honoring God with their work and play. It’s neat to see the Holy Spirit nudging them in those areas, even as He molds us.

Something I’m Working on

I have no project going right now. But, I do have something I want to sew. So, I guess that’s my next step! I’m also considering taking the picture book Angie and I created as a Christmas present and seeing if I can create a Kindle book out of it. Not sure how well that will work, but it might be worth a try.

Something from Hibbard Academy

It’s fun walking through church history with Olivia. Brings out the nerd in me! How I loved those classes in college.

Something That Makes Me Smile

leaf piles, and children who create and enjoy them

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Something Coming

Let’s see…we had Browning Christmas yesterday here at our house with my parents and my brother Ben and his family. That was fun! This week is mostly normal. Doug has a meeting tonight, but otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary until Saturday. We’ll be participating in a missions activity. Yay!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Evil Cows

Daily Riddles with Steven

Q. What do you call cows when they turn evil?

A. Moo-licious.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Lovely May…er, January…Day

The weather has done what Arkansas weather frequently does and has gone from frigid to warm and humid. It’s been a muggy, mid-70’s week this week. This afternoon, the kids finally have a real chance to get outside in the warmer weather. They are playing with the dog, raking leaves (for fun!!), putting away some outdoor decor (I was on top of the indoor stuff, but not the outdoor!), and enjoying the fresh air.

That’s all well and good for everyone except Rose. Her Angela is in this strange, big place where Rose can see her but can’t get to her.

If you could only hear the pitiful wails!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Snow Day

So, it wasn’t much. But, here in Arkansas where we can’t be sure that any snow will fall, we get excited about even a dusting. There were no snowmen this time around, and temperatures in the 20’s meant that we preferred to enjoy the sight of it from within our nice, warm house. But, the kids did get out for just a little while.

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Steven was excited to see whether or not Cookie would enjoy the snow. He seemed to like it!

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Of course, he likes anything as long as someone throws a ball or a frisbee for him!

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We still hope for a nice, deep snow before the winter ends, but we definitely enjoyed this one! But for now, it’s back up to the 60’s with rain and t-storms! That’s winter in Arkansas for you!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

Something about Today…Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As the sky started lightening this morning, it was completely purple in a way we have never seen before. It is completely overcast, and all of the clouds were a beautiful, solid purple hue. Gorgeous! I love how God brings beauty even into the glum. It’s just a solid gray out there now, but the purple is still in our minds.

Something about the Week

We have something nearly every day this week. It’s just one of those weeks! But, we’re trying to keep our routine going. The neat thing is that we’re all learning to build a routine instead of a schedule. In a set of reports for her health course, Olivia talked about using flowcharts instead of schedule blocks. Great idea!

Something I Have Observed

So many things are easier when we stay in the habit of doing them. Reading. Writing. Eating well (or poorly!). Exercising. Prayer. Planning. I want to keep good habits!

Something I Have Read or Heard

I have a quote – or two, actually – from my hubby this week in a recent blog post: “Heaped Obstacles: Joshua 3

“Joshua 3:1, first, has a simple point that is valuable. The people of Israel come to the brink of the river and lodge there. As in, they stop to rest. Rest is not just for the lazy, it is a critical need for people. Get your rest.”

and a bit later… “[L]et us look at our practices in preparation for the work of God. First, of course, is the idea of getting some rest mentioned above. This one is not merely a physical constraint. It’s a commandment. Rest.”

Something on My Mind

Friends who are grieving.

Something I’m Thankful for

The beautiful sunshine we had yesterday morning. The promise of rain. I need sunshine, but oh how I love rain!

Something about My Kids

Typically, Mondays are absolutely crazy. There seems to be a need for release after Sunday, and it manifests itself in utter craziness. This is why we begin our Mondays with spatial reasoning puzzles instead of diving straight into school work. But, the past two Mondays, we had no more than the usual amount of silliness. Last week, I attributed it to having been on vacation and not having the full slate of Sunday activities. But I have no explanation for yesterday. It was so…peaceful!

I like the peace, but I also like that my kids have the freedom to be goofy on a Monday morning, even in school. It’s definitely a constructive way to release any tension that might have built up before diving into the school week.

cats and goofiness (the solitary glimpse of the goofy side)

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cowgirl

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diligence…and so big!

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Something I’m Working on

Learning how to bind my own hardcover book. The first attempt was fun, but I definitely see ways to improve. Second attempt coming soon!

I’m also building a booklist for this year on Goodreads, trying to get back to learning German, and working on a way to get ahead on writing to make room for bigger writing goals and an annual paid project coming up next month.

Something from Hibbard Academy

I am absolutely amazed by the week we had last week! When I asked the kids for praises yesterday morning, all three of them said, “The way last week went so smoothly!” I was astounded. The first week after a long break has never gone this well, and I am so thankful. Over Christmas break, we had all discussed ways to make the days run more smoothly, and those little tweaks seem to be working!

Something That Makes Me Smile

Watching the cats bat at each other. It’s really quite funny. Interestingly enough, Smokey is finally starting to show signs of playing with Rose instead of fighting with her. She’s still annoyed with the energetic newcomer, but less than she used to be.

Something Coming

A meeting tomorrow, a women’s ministry round table Thursday, some weekend activities, and finally getting to have the Browning Christmas gathering next Monday.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Creativity

I used to think I had no creativity. Oh, I could follow a pattern, but there are others who can just see design and d├ęcor and make it happen! I’m not one of those.

Being a parent, though, has shown me just how many facets there are to creativity. First, I see in myself the various ways I am forced to think outside the box, whether in homeschooling, budgeting, helping the children problem solve, or whatever else. Yes, creativity takes many forms.

Then I look at my children, and I am continually in awe of the creativity. It is so much fun to watch it blossom and grow in each of them. It is neat to see how maturity changes their creativity.

The Poet

Olivia’s creativity shines through in many ways, but none so tangible as the written word. I am still astounded by this. The child who despised writing – who told me she would never understand how I could sit down and write for fun and relaxation – now unwinds best through writing.

Lately, it has been poetry, ranging from silly and frivolous to deep and meaningful.

You can see for yourself on her blog, Creative Olivia.

The Seamstress

Angela loves to create through thread and material, with the occasional paper craft thrown into the mix. Machine sewing, quilting, crocheting, knitting, origami…most recently, she’s learning to tat.

Lately, she has enjoyed making a variety of knit and crocheted Christmas gifts.

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After making Steven’s wolf hat for Christmas, she decided she and Olivia needed hats, too. Olivia’s has constellations on it, and Angie’s is a cat.

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The Architect

Steven is still learning to match his creativity with skill, but his skill is definitely growing! Lately, he surprised us with a couple of neat things. One was a game, complete with a cannon and targets. I thought I had a picture, but I can’t find it.

So, instead, I’ll show the napkin holders. We were surprised one day with these on the table.

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Steven chose designs fitting for each family member. He made a t-rex for himself…

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…and mine is a flower.

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The angle is not perfect on Olivia’s, but hers is a computer on a desk, honoring her writing.

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Angie’s is a sewing machine.

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Doug’s is a skillet on top of a burner.

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He loves making airplanes, spaceships, and ships. It has been neat to see his creations mature!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

Something about Today…Tuesday, January 3, 2017

It’s foggy. We have had several days of fog this week.

Something about the Week

Routine is working well, two days in. We have always tended to be a rather scheduled family. But, when the schedule is interrupted on a regular basis, it’s hard to be scheduled. Through much prayer and trial and error, we’re finding rhythms and routines that work well for us. Those are more easily managed in the presence of interruptions. I think we’ve been heading this direction for a while, but this week it’s very intentional and conscious.

Something I Have Observed

We regularly do things and say, “We’re going to write about this!” Then we never do. The longer we wait, the less likely we are to write. I really need to “write about this” day of. When we get home. Make it intentional.

Something I Have Read or Heard

This is not a specific quote, but a thought that has been running around in my head as I read Heart of Revelation. In chapter three, Dr. Duvall talks about our comfort lying in the fact that we will never face the wrath of God, not in the promise of no persecution or suffering. I think sometimes we miss how great the wrath of God is. We might not consciously realize or admit it, but I think we fear persecution more. Persecution is nothing compared to the wrath of God. And as His children, we are protected from that wrath for eternity. Wow.

Something on My Mind

So many people losing loved ones right now. The most recent was yesterday – we woke up to the news that a friend’s husband, admitted to the hospital with pneumonia just a few days before, had passed away. He went from young and healthy to the presence of Jesus in a matter of days. Thankful that our friend and her children do not grieve without hope, because they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is with Jesus. But, they and others we know still grieve. Death is bad. And goodbyes are hard.

Something I’m Thankful for

My wonderful family. Each day God grants us to be together.

The gift of wisdom, imparted to us from the Father Himself through His Spirit. That’s so huge! How many kings intentionally send out their messengers to ensure that their people – their common people – receive wisdom?

Something about My Kids

They are so creative! And as they grow older, they are learning the skills necessary to bring their creativity to life. I was going to put all of the most recent “evidences” here, but instead, I’m going to write a separate post about it. (That whole intentionality thing again!)

Something I’m Working on

Writing projects and a plan to get back to sewing regularly. Finishing up Christmas presents for our last Christmas gathering this weekend. And reading. Good grief, what have I done to myself?! I’m usually a one-book-at-a-time kind of gal. But, I currently have FIVE books going, one fiction and four non-fiction. No, this will not be a quick process (it will take months). Nor will I make this a habit. But, for right now, I’m seeing progress.

Something from Hibbard Academy

We had a great start back yesterday! I was pleased with the focus and the work put out by all three kids. We’re trying out a new routine, and day one went well. We’ll see how week one and two go, then see if there are adjustments that need to be made.

Something That Makes Me Smile

Well, laugh, really. Angie’s cat Rose is so funny. She hasn’t yet figured out that she can go out this cat door, probably because Smokey doesn’t like to go out that way anymore now that Cookie is in the back yard. She’ll come in this way door if she doesn’t feel like waiting for us to let her in the front door. But, she rarely goes out.

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Rose (or Fluffy, Monster, Death from Above, Cactus Slayer, Speedy Gon-cat-cat – her name changes regularly), on the other hand, has never been outside. But, she sits at the cat door and stares out at the birds and squirrels. It’s her personal window. Occasionally, she nudges the door as if she’s going to figure it out, but she never does. It’s hilarious to watch. (Why, yes, we do have lives – why do you ask?)

Something Coming

I just realized how ominous that starter sounds. It could be the title for a cheap horror flick!

Anyway…let’s see. We have to get a grocery shopping trip in, then our last Christmas gathering with a portion of the Browning side this weekend. Otherwise, mostly normal, routine stuff!