Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Coffee Chat

Ooops .. it's been a week since I blogged. That's because it has been a really low-key week. We are on Christmas break and feel like we have done nothing but run, run, run. Having a quiet week was much-needed.

I did go play Pitch all day Friday as a sub in my mom's card group. And they about did me in. Seriously. They are high-energy and lots of fun and when I got home on Friday afternoon I immediately put on my pajamas and climbed into bed where I stayed the entire weekend! And, that is no exaggeration. I did get up and take a shower on Sunday and put back on the same pjs, I fixed meals, and I went to the restroom. But, otherwise, I literally sat in bed reading and catching up on tv shows I had DVRd.

But this week I am back to running hard as I prepare for a week-long trip to Hawaii next week to visit my friend, Cheryl. Leaving for a week takes tons of preparation. I will be a zombie by the time I board the plane on Monday. And they will be lucky if I don't do it in my pjs and robe.

So, onto this week's Tuesday Coffee Chat ...

It's a New Year! What is one positive thing about 2017, and one negative thing about the forthcoming year?

Let's get political, shall we? (I didn't sleep very good last night and I'm annoyed so this seems like a good time to voice my opinion.)

The positive thing about 2017 is that Donald Trump will be the President of the United States. I proudly voted for him, support him and his administration 100%, and am excited and hopeful for the future (for the first time in a long, long time.)

The negative thing is all of the whiney baby celebrities that think that boycotting the inauguration or, even more embarrassing, marching on the inauguration, will make any difference whatsoever in its outcome.

Last year, my friend and our four children walked across Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and spent some time tracing the steps of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now, that was a march. Do you know what that march accomplished? The voting rights of blacks and women in this country, that all citizens shall have the right to vote equally.

In November of 2016, those voting rights led to votes that elected Donald Trump President of the United States.

And now you have all of these celebrities, who think they have any clout at all, marching in three days with HATE which is the one thing Martin Luther King, Jr., was against! He was for equality and love and peace and the rights of all Americans to vote for their leaders. These celebrities want to shout Black Lives Matter and Women's Lib and Equality for All but then want to denounce the rights of voters and the results of an election that Dr. King fought so hard for in the name of blacks, women, and equality.

It is ridiculous and makes me so angry!

I plan to pay very close attention to any celebrity who protests, marches, or speaks out against the leader of our country and boycott any of their movies, songs, television shows, events, etc. And I would ask you to do the same. For instance, I will never watch anything Meryl Streep acts in again. Did you see the Golden Globe Awards? What a troll.

I like this graphic I saw this morning.

Our country is in a position to unite as we have never done before. But, unfortunately, I do not see that happening because of the ones who are so in our face in every media outlet. Everybody wants Donald Trump to fail. Why in the world would you want that? I will tell you why ... because you do not care about anybody but yourself. You want to have a cause (blacks, whites, equality) just to get your 10 seconds of fame because in the entertainment world you make absolutely no lasting difference and once your seconds are gone, you are out.

It's disgusting. Children are watching! Martin Luther King, Jr., is rolling over in his grave right now. How disappointing for him and his family to watch his life's work, what he died for, be used in such a flippant way and with such hate. It makes me sad.

I am praying for President-elect Trump, his administration, and his family as they lead our country in the next four years. He will make change in this country. And I am believing it is for good. And I choose to focus on the positive.

God Bless America.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday Coffee Chat

Coffee Chat is back for a new year! Grab your cup and let's get to it.

What was your biggest lesson learned in 2016?

I have talked about this so much here lately that it must be becoming such a bore. But, here goes one more time.

It was actually a gradual process. Because of hurts and betrayals in relationships I began a slow decline into isolation. I began to question my approaches to relationships, my confidence in myself and, really, just stopped trying. More than anything, I stopped being me because of the relationships I thought I was losing when I was being me.

I realized right at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, after some grief-stricken emotional periods of depression and outbursts that I cannot give up being the person I truly am just to make friends and make others happy.

God made me a certain way. I am an introvert. I am not shy by any means. But I get drained very easily around people and commotion. I need lots and lots and lots and lots of time alone to have any energy at all to give even small pieces of myself to others. So it doesn't surprise me that my Love Language is Acts of Service. I feel loved when others do something for me to "ease my load" and I love others by doing the same for them. I try to love in other ways, but with colossal failure.

My greatest day is when I can fix meals for my family, provide an easy day for them, help them do something, run an errand for a family member, take a care package to a friend. At the end of the day I have loved, and loved well.

In recent years I have let others' unhappiness with the way I love affect my total ability to love them. And then that has completely thrown me off track while I flounder around trying to figure out what in the heck to do to make someone like and/or love me.

Let me give an example of several years ago. We were attending a church in Oklahoma. Wednesday night services were a struggle for me. So, I volunteered to work in the snack bar in the youth building. I absolutely loved that area of service! I was providing for the kids, slowly getting to know them. They loved me and I got to love on them with my Love Language. I went home on Wednesday nights feeling really built up. And I grew very close to several youth. A few months into my service, the youth paster came to me and told me that he wanted me to start working at the "Welcome Desk" to guide students when they came in and help his assistant with whatever she needed. I hated that area of service. I am not a small-talker. I stood there alone most of the night. I built zero relationships. Gradually I just quit working with youth. He tried to change who I was to fit his needs. And I was kept from loving people the way I love. We all lost out.

I have kind of felt that way over the past several years. You want to be my friend? You have to do it this way. You want me to show you I approve of you? You have to do this, this and this. You want me to love you? You do this and then I will. If you don't, I'll find someone else to love.

So I have spun these wheels to the point that I have been stuck in a big ol' pile of mud.

Gradually I have pulled myself out of the muck and mire. I have chosen to focus on being the woman God has created me to be. He created me to be this introvert. He has created me to love in this certain way. There is a need for that kind of love. I have realized I cannot be all people to all people. I cannot fulfill each person's need for love, as each person cannot fulfill mine. When I am feeling lacking, I have to turn to God for His love and approval instead of man's, or woman's. It is nobody's job to make me feel loved. I certainly hope others will show me kindness and grace, and even love. But when they don't, it's my fault for how I react to it instead of his or her fault for how they are not fulfilling my needs.

Now this is not to say that I will not try to be sensitive to the Love Languages and needs of my family and dearest friends. Rick has completely opposite needs for love than I have, and I suck at fulfilling those needs because they are so outside my wheelhouse. But that doesn't mean I stop trying to love him in those ways. It just means that I stop beating myself up when I "fail" because I am definitely going to. I have and I will. Each of my kids has different needs for love. I try to recognize those and fulfill them as much as I can. Same goes for my extended family members and closest friends.

But do you see what starts to happen? If I love Rick this way, each kid their way, my parents their way, each friend the way they need, then I am not left to love them the way I love and I lose myself. They get jipped because they aren't getting authentic love out of me. They are getting the me that is trying to please them. And I am completely drained and useless. And grumpy. And tired. And spent. And, eventually, done.

Somewhere in there is balance. I am desperately working to find it. (If you have any suggestions, let me know.)

But this I have learned: I have to be myself if you want to really feel any love at all.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge


Share one favorite moment/memory from your Christmas holiday. 

Having the house full with the whole family all day long on Christmas Day. We were in our pjs/comfy clothes and new Christmas t-shirts watching tv, cooking, playing games, etc. It was a busy day, but my heart was full.

What was the best thing you ate over the holidays? Was it homemade or store bought? If it was homemade did you make it?

My dad's fried chicken on Christmas Eve. Yum!

What was one of the most beautiful things you saw over the holiday?

The joy and smiles in my mom and aunt when I presented them with a jar of homemade spiced cucumbers just like my grandma used to make. I think it really made them happy to have a memory of her at Christmas.

What does fresh start mean to you?

The Webster's definition of fresh is - "having it's original qualities unimpaired". I do a lot of impairing of the original qualities that I desire to have. So a fresh start is a redo. I evaluate the qualities I want to see in myself and start over with them unimpaired by all the damage I tend to do to them. Those good qualities get a fresh washing and get to start out clean again.

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being very positive and 1 being no so great) how would you rate 2016 in terms of personal achievement and well being? Explain.

I am going to say a 5. I slacked off a little too much in 2016.

Every January 1st since 1976 Lake Superior University has published a list of words they'd like to see banished from the Queen's English. Words may be banished due to misuse, overuse, or just general uselessness ... Here's the 2017 list of banished words: You, sir - focus - Bete Noire - town hall meeting - post truth - guesstimate - 831 - historic - manicured - echo chamber - on fleek - bigly - ghost - dadbod - listicle - get your dander up - selfie drone - frankenfruit - disruption. Which word on the list would you like to see banished in 2017? What word or phrase would you add to the list?

I haven't even heard of the majority of these words. So, I'll choose "on fleek". It's just stupid. The word I'd like to see eliminated is "bestie". If you are someone's bestie, you are not their best friend. Wait about 12 minutes and you'll see that when they name someone else as their "bestie".

Large or small, light or deep, share with us one goal you have for the new year.

I am planning to give more of myself this year. I already started with taking on a volunteer position with the local Senior Citizen Center by delivering meals once a week. I know that it is a blessing to those that receive the meals, but I am most certainly more blessed by their sweet appreciation.

Insert your own random thought here.

Yesterday we honored my Great Aunt Mildred who passed away at the age of 93. She was, without a doubt, the classiest woman I have ever known. As I sat in her little home church I was so inspired by her, even in her death. She was so loved. My Aunt Mildred was not a meek and mild lady. She said what she felt, but always with love. Every time I saw her she looked lovely, dressed nicely with makeup on and her hair fixed. She never stopped contributing to her family and their needs. She was just a joy to be around. She jolted a renewal in my spirit yesterday. She made me want to be well-loved, which is something I haven't cared too much about in recent years. She made me want to make family time, extended family time, more of a priority. I am thankful for my Aunt Mildred and am thrilled that she is with Jesus and her sweet husband who passed away 11 years ago and her son who tragically passed away 30 years ago. She will be missed by us, but I can just see her laughing in Heaven as she hugs the necks or her favorite guys.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Looking out my window ... Well, it's dark. I started this post this morning but had an extra busy day so never got it finished. It is now 8:30 p.m. and I am finally in bed.

I am thinking ... about how I desperately need a day at home doing nothing but reading and binge watching Netflix. I do not like so much activity so many days in a row!

I am thankful ... for warm heat to come home to after several cold trips outside today.

One of my favorite things ... is now Catan! Have you played it? I have wanted to buy it for years but never have. I bought it right before Christmas but the printed instructions were so complicated that we put off playing it. Brynne, my sister-in-law Julie, and I watched a Youtube video on New Year's Eve that explained it very well and then jumped right in. It is so fun! I have found myself lying awake at night strategizing!

I am creating ... absolutely nothing. Creating meals and crafts and activities and family get togethers has wiped me out. I do not think I have one creative cell left in my brain.

I am watching ... not much of anything this week. I haven't sat down in front of the t.v. for more than a few seconds in several days.

I am wearing ... black dress skinny pants, a gray sweater, black and gray scarf, and gray boots. PJ bottoms and a t-shirt that says "As long as we have wine the holidays will be fine." That was my Christmas Day shirt.

I am reading ... Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. 

I am listening to ... "Billie" on the 5kto10k app telling me what to do and how to run and for how long. "Constance" was a little too sweet for me. I need someone to tell me to just do it. 

I am hoping ... that DirectTV and ABC work out their differences before the return of How to Get Away with Murder.

I am learning ... that I really want to get back to regularly attending church on Sunday mornings. At my Aunt Mildred's funeral today, her daughter (my second cousin) stood to tell about how important weekly attendance at church was to Aunt Mildred and how thankful she was that her parents had made that such a priority in her life as a child. I heard, "Get to church." As we were leaving the funeral today, that was at a very small "country-type" Methodist church in a dinky little town 10 miles away, Kyndal said, "Why don't we start going to church here?" I felt something while I was there in the service. And, apparently, she did, too. I think we are planning on attending this Sunday.

In the kitchen ... we are back to eating a little more healthy. The holidays were full of lots of yum. Now it's light soups, salads, small portions, more clean eating again. We were all ready for it.

In the schoolroom ... Break. Break. Break. Break. Ain't nothin' goin' on here.

Board Room ... Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Chicken. This is on our menu this week!

Post Script ... I am a big Lysa TerKeurst fan. She just speaks to me. Starting today, she has a 5-day Challenge called "Reclaim Your Name" from her newest book Finding I Am. Today's challenge post was called "Why Does This Hurt So Much"? Do you have a deep hurt (or hurts) or a rejection (or several rejections) that have derailed you? This small study might be for you.

Shared Quote ... "30 Problems That Only Introverts Will Understand" (Uncle John, maybe this will make it more clear.) You have to go to the link to read them all, but here are a few ...

  • When you want to cut all ties with civilization but still be on the internet.
  • That feeling of dread that washes over you when the phone rings and you are not mentally prepared to chat.
  • When you are able to enjoy parties and meetings, but after a short amount of time wish you were home in your pajamas.
  • Having more conversations in your head than you do in real life.
  • Carrying a book to a public place so no one will bug you, but other people take that as a conversations starter.
  • When you hear "Are you okay?" or "Why are you so quiet?" for the umpteenth time.
  • Not wanting to be alone but wanting to be left alone and people not understanding that.

A Moment from my Day ... Oh dang, I haven't uploaded any photos since last week and I am too lazy to do it. Let's just suffice it to say that I have had many moments to my days the last week. And I am pooped.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Year of Goodreads (and some not so good)

I started off 2016 with a good reading streak. It was about that time I heard about Goodreads, so I set up a 2016 Reading Challenge of 25 books. I had never read that many books in a year. I knew it was a stretch, but I love to read so I really wanted to commit to it. I also decided that the 25 books would not include any read alouds the kids and I would do in the year, and we usually read about 15 novels in a school year.

 Reading is like drinking water ... the more you do it the more you crave it. Once I got started reading this past year I just couldn't quit. My list of 'To Be Read' books just grew and grew and I kept reading.

I was shocked that in 2016 I read 53 books! Here is a summary of what I read this past year.

I have made a Reading Challenge Goal for 2017 of 50 books, not including any books that we read aloud as part of homeschooling. Wish me luck!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Wrap-up and a Look at the New Year

We had a really great Christmas. Did you?

If you followed along in December you saw that the kids and I made an Advent Chain at the beginning of the month and did an activity each day of it. The activities ranged from doing something for someone else, baking/cooking, studying a tradition, and just having fun. I can honestly say that I felt more Christmas-y as the big day was approaching than any other year in my past, except for the year that we had an Old Fashioned Christmas. That was a good one.

We fell off the Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath devotions and ornaments and such. And I just had to accept that we are not at that place in our lives. We love Jesus full-out. But we are more of a Martha kind of family instead of a Mary one. We do our love of Jesus instead of soak in our love of him. Maybe that will change in years to come, maybe it won't. At times I felt bad about it, like I was failing, but then I decided to give us a break and let us enjoy what we enjoy in the Christmas season. And enjoy it, we did!

On Christmas Eve we went to my parents' for dinner, as is tradition. This year we had a big old fried chicken dinner. Yum! Dawson had to work so he wasn't able to join us. It was a nice evening watching my nieces run in circles and really get excited about opening gifts! There is something super fun about hearing your 4-year old niece yell, "I love it!" when she opens the gift you got her. It was a loud night with wrapping paper strewn all about.

I mentioned in a previous post that in years past I have gotten everybody Christmas pjs to open on Christmas Eve. But they ended up kind of being a waste because nobody really wears designated pjs around here (except for me, Eli and Brynne). So I decided to search high and low for the perfect Christmas t-shirt for each member of our family for them to wear on Christmas Day. I had a blast picking them out, and I think the family got a kick out of their shirts. A new tradition has been born!

Kyndal and Collin arrived at our house Christmas morning at 8:00 a.m. The kids started in on their stockings while we waited for Grandma and Papa to arrive. They like to watch all the grandkids open their gifts. It was a great year for gifts! Nobody had really asked for anything specific (except for Kyndal .... she has her own home now so asked for some things for it). I had to really listen to the kids this year to come up with meaningful gifts, but pretty much everyone declared that it was the best Christmas ever.

I was spoiled by Rick, as usual. My big gift this year is a solo trip to Hawaii to visit my friend Cheryl. He gave me spending money and new Vera Bradley luggage. I also got some North Face clothing, a blanket I really wanted, and a water pick. And let's not forget my new laptop purchased just before Christmas when my other one pooped out.

My parents give us all money every year and this year I splurged on something I would never have purchased on my own .... a pair of Tieks! They will be here on Saturday, and I am so excited!

It was especially fun to have our Bennett with us for Christmas. Nothing says Christmas like a new baby. He loved his gifts! Something he wants: a baby bike seat for his daddy's bike. Something he needs: A new high chair. Something to wear: A North Face coat. Something to read: How the Grinch Stole Christmas board and flap book (it's his daddy's favorite story). Christmas wore him out, but he had so much fun!

I fixed a huge breakfast and a big dinner on Christmas Day. I had spent several days before Christmas preparing everything I could ahead of time (thank goodness or I would have been a stressed-out mess!). It was an amazing meal! Seriously, I had to pat myself on the back. Rick and all the kids, my sister, niece, parents, and my grandma all came for dinner. It was really nice.

One special thing I did this year was to resurrect my Grandma Alice's recipe for spiced cucumbers. As a child my grandma always brought out one canned jar of spiced cucumbers for a family dinner. I always wondered why we only had one jar to share amongst all of us. I'll tell you why .... they take 5 days to make! She rationed them! I wanted to make them to surprise my mom, aunt, and uncle. I was so excited that they turned out exactly how she used to make them. I think spending those five days before Christmas pouring myself into something so nostalgic helped to make my Christmas extra special. Christmas Eve at my grandma's was my favorite night of the whole year. I so hope that my Christmas celebration for my family will evoke the same feelings in them.

Christmas decorations came down yesterday. Funny, I usually want all that junk down the day after Christmas. But this year I decorated so simply, with a small artificial tree and no muss and fuss, that I wanted to enjoy it for a couple more days. Could this Grinch be reformed?

I am still experiencing the post-Christmas hangover (no alcohol involved). I am an introvert so, although I loved every second of the Christmas festivities, I need to be ALONE for a few days. I need to just do laundry, bake some bread, read a book, and stare into space.

Thankfully the kids and I are off school until February 6th! I am going to get a lot of rest and relaxation to get us recharged for our last few months of this school year.

As I am really wanting to recommit to taking care of my mind, body, and spirit, I am planning a new challenge for myself for 2017. It is called 2017Daily4. Each morning, before the kids get up, I am going to have my quiet time with God, exercise, and get ready for the day (including clothes and makeup!). I will do all of this by getting up intentionally two hours before the rest of the family. These four things always make my day go so much better! At first I said I was shooting for 300 of the 365 days of the year. No. I probably won't be doing this on the weekends. So, instead, I have set a goal of accomplishing this 208 of the 365 days of 2017. (That would be 4 days of each of the 52 weeks of the year.) Why not 5? Well, you know, there are just some of "those days". I am going to post about it on Instagram because I do so much better with challenges if I think somebody is watching. I would love to have some friends do this with me, but it's not required for me to work toward my goal. If you would like to tag along, you can do what I am going to do .... make a four-square collage (I use Picmonkey) of you doing each of your four things (which may be completely different than mine) and post it on your IG, Facebook, blog, whatever, with the hashtag #2017daily4. If you don't want to share but just want to do, that's great too. Let me know so I can be an encourager to you.

I plan to work on some "things" within myself this year because I really want 2017 to be a great year, not only for me but for my family. And I want to do my part. What are you planning to do to make this new year a great one?

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Simple Women's Daybook

Looking out my window ... it's a beautiful, sunny day! Cold temps but not too cold.

I am thinking ... that I am going to get my Christmas stuff down and put away today.

I am thankful ... for such a great month of December. I am usually kind of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. But not this year! I think making an Advent chain and doing some kind of Christmas activity every day really helped to boost my mood. Plus, several of our activities were for others, and it's pretty hard to be in a bad mood when you are performing an act of service for someone else less fortunate. We are definitely doing that again next year.

One of my favorite things ... total peace and quiet, has not happened for well over a week. I have loved all of the holiday activity, but it has certainly wiped me out. 

I am creating ... a mental list of what I need to pack to go to Hawaii at the end of January.

I am watching ... When Calls the Heart, Project Runway Junior, Top Chef, Shooter

I am wearing ... my pjs and robe, but am getting ready to get on my running clothes.

I am reading ... Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. 

I am listening to ... Joyce Meyer radio broadcasts each morning when I run. 

I am hoping ... for a fun weekend in Tulsa celebrating the New Year with Rick's family.

I am learning ... how to play Catan today so that we can take it to Oklahoma with us. Our family really enjoys games, and it's a hard one to learn.

In the kitchen ... I need to bake bread, make freezer waffles, make homemade dog treats. But with all of the cooking I did this past week for Christmas, I needed a couple of days off! I'm back at it today getting caught up. It would be so easy to just go buy a loaf of bread and a box of frozen waffles and a box of cheap dog biscuits, but I am devoted to providing our basic staples in as healthy a way as possible.

In the schoolroom ... We are on BREAK! Hallelujah! 

Board Room ... I love this DIY Metallic Rope Throw Basket! And I think I could pull it off!

Post Script ... "12 Weird Thoughts Only Introverts Have". Oh. So. True.

Shared Quote ... "The enemy has already robbed that season of your past. The best thing you can do is turn around today ... and begin to walk into the future that God has for you." ~ Christine Caine

A Moment from my Day ... Christmas Eve with the hap hap happiest little elf you ever did see. Our little dude thoroughly enjoyed his first Christmas. He was a very good boy and got everything on his list!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How to Make Christmas Special for the Big Kids

This is the first year that we had no "believers" in our home. That meant no clandestine Santa deliveries, cookies and milk, and reindeer food. Actually, it was kind of nice! I've spent 21 years sneaking gifts under the tree. In fact, for many years, Rick and I stayed up half the night on Christmas Eve wrapping presents because there just wasn't a time or place to do it without getting caught.

But with no belief in The Big Guy in Red, Christmas can lose its magic! How do you make Christmas special for big kids (and by "kids" I also mean those 6'3" ones and the ones who are married with their own babies)?

Here are a few things I do to keep things fun ...

The Christmas Eve gift. Each year for Christmas Eve we all get to open one gift, and it's always been the Christmas pjs. But some of us don't even wear designated pjs to bed anymore, so I decided to chuck that idea and come up with something else fun. I bought each member of our family a fun Christmas t-shirt to wear on Christmas Day since we just stay home all day. I had a blast picking out just the right t-shirt for each person. Some were Naughty. Some were Nice.

Whose Gifts are Whose? I wrapped all of the gifts ahead of time and put them under the tree. But none of them had tags on them. Each kid's gifts were wrapped in their own wrapping paper, but they didn't know which one was theirs until Christmas morning when they dug to the bottom of their stockings to find a small piece of that wrapping paper. It's super fun to watch them standing over the gifts trying to figure out which pile is theirs! They were usually wrong.

The Stockings. I still do stockings for all of the kids, my son-in-law, and the friend of Dawson's who is living with us. I try to put in a couple of small gifts, and they also always get underwear! I think the underwear is secretly their favorite gift of the day!

Family Game. Each year I buy the newest Just Dance game for our Wii. Then we boogie down as a family on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

Traditions. Every year we have a big breakfast of biscuits and gravy and cinnamon rolls. I have an open invite to my parents and my sister and nieces. After we open presents we eat. Then that evening I fix a large Christmas meal for anybody who can be here. The family loves that there is always a couple of yummy meals that day. Nobody goes hungry, that's for sure! And it's nice that family feels like they can just come and go.

A Movie. We usually watch Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve. But it is usually late and everybody starts falling asleep. This year with Bennett only being 4 months old and on a pretty strict sleeping schedule, watching it on Christmas Eve was not going to work. Plus, Dawson and Chad had to work that evening. So Christmas evening, after we were all stuffed and tired, we snuggled up together to watch our favorite Christmas movie.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Celebrating 13 Years

On Thursday we paused in our Christmas activities to celebrate Eli's 13th birthday. His wish was for the family to have dinner together at Applebee's and then go to the movies for a double header to see Rogue One and then Assassin's Creed. We had a great time honoring our sweet boy! Throughout the day I posted 13 photos of Eli on Instagram. I thought I would share them here, too.

This year Eli turned into a young man. You can see the difference just one year has made between the photo of him holding the Millennium Falcon and the one of him sitting at Applebee's. The transition has been a difficult one for him, but he is pushing forward. He has started to talk about his future, to have dreams and plans and aspirations. But, mostly, he just enjoys hanging out in his room playing video games and with his Nerf gun collection. He is a true teenager in every sense of the word. We get a few sighs and some attitude these days, but those do not outnumber his smiles and hugs. In fact, I think his attitude surprises him as much as it does us. We love our boy and cannot believe he is 13 years old. It does seriously feel like yesterday that we were bringing home our tiny little 5 1/2 pound baby on Christmas Eve. Time goes by so fast!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge

What's left to be done on your Christmas to-do list?

Wrap Christmas gifts for two of the kiddos, cook lots of food, clean the house.

The Hodgepodge lands on the first day of winter this year. What's your favorite thing about winter?

I love when it's cold outside but warm in the house. My electric fireplace is "burning" all day long and it feels so cozy. That's what I love most ... coziness!

In what area of your life are you immature? Feel free to elaborate or not.

The official definition of immature is "not fully developed". In what ways do I still need growth? ... In being the daughter God wants me to be, a good daughter to my earthly parents, a good wife, a good mother, a good teacher, a good friend. I have room to grow in every area of my life, so I would say I am pretty darned immature.

What was the most (or one of the most) important lessons you learned in 2016?

I  have talked about this a lot on the blog lately. I have really realized how much I have "hidden" myself away over the past year or so because of fear and a lack of confidence. I have realized here in the last few weeks of 2016 that I have a light to shine, and I need and want to shine it brightly.

It's Fried Shrimp Day ... are you a fan? What's your favorite way to eat shrimp? Will there be shrimp somewhere in your holiday feasting?

Yes, I am a fan. The kids are fans of fried popcorn shrimp, so we eat it at least every couple of weeks. I like to eat those popcorn shrimp in shrimp tacos. in fact, I think we'll have that for dinner tonight! My favorite way to eat shrimp is fresh from Joe Patties in Pensacola, Florida, sautéed in butter and garlic and herbs with mushrooms and diced tomatoes served over fresh pasta.

What sound lulls you to sleep?

The sound of my air purifier.

What one word best describes your 2016?

Nana. I became a grandmother for the first time on August 22nd. We found out Kyndal and Collin were expecting on January 1st of 2016, so my whole year has revolved around her pregnancy, the birth of our precious Bennett, and absorbing myself in being his Nana.

Insert your own random thought here.

I am thinking about starting an Instagram Challenge for 2017 called #2017Daily4. I have found that there are four things I should do to start my day that makes it exponentially better: Get up in the morning two hours before anyone else (currently 7:00 a.m.), Spend time in the Word, Exercise, Shower and get ready for the day (makeup and everything). I think every person, especially women, have 4 things they could do each morning, before anything else is done, that would make their day go more smoothly. I know that I love "challenges" and tend to complete them, especially if I post them on social media. I'm thinking of posting a four-square collage each morning showing me completing each of my Daily 4 with the hashtag #2017Daily4. This is one of the ways I am going to let my light shine this year. I really am hoping others will join me so that we can start a revolution of women intentionally making their days great! Plus, it's fun to see other women succeed and support them in their efforts. We need that kind of encouragement and accountability. I know that I do. And one more absolutely unrelated random thought: Whiny baby angry fit throwing Democrats ... GET OVER IT! Your party lost the election! Geez!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Tuesday Coffee Chat is on hiatus for a few weeks. So, let's Daybook instead.

Looking out my window ... It's sunny and pretty this morning after some gray, foggy days. This weekend's snow is ever-so-slightly melting.

I am thinking ... about how uncommitted people are today. If you are invited to an event and say you are going to be there, do not make other plans later and then cancel. It's rude! And then really don't post photos on your Facebook page of you doing something else besides what you said you were going to be doing. Put the event on your calendar and then show up like you said you would. If you don't want to do something, then don't say yes in the first place. It can actually be hurtful to the person you are standing up (especially if that someone is a child). It's just plain rude and inconsiderate.

I am thankful ... for brighter days ahead and an attitude to match them.

One of my favorite things ... is Christmas Day. Thankfully we do not have to travel. It's a day where we stay home in our comfy clothes all day! I cook a big breakfast, we open gifts, have visits from family members, and then a big Christmas dinner with an open invite for whatever family can make it. I do lots of work that day, but I love it!

I am creating ... as many Christmas memories with my family as I can. We have kept up with our Advent list this year and have had a lot of fun!

I am watching ... The OA on Netflix. Or, at least, I have watched the first episode. Weird. Not sure if I like it, but I am intrigued. (Dirty scene in the beginning I could have done without. It adds nothing to the storyline, so why?)

I am wearing ... warm clothes because the kids and I will be out delivering meals to senior citizens in a couple of hours and it's cold outside!

I am reading ... Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans. It's my yearly Christmas novel fix.

I am listening to ... the blowing sound of the furnace.

I am hoping ... for some peace of mind for Dawson (and me) as he tries to figure out the next steps of his life.

I am learning ... to get back out there and be myself, even if it costs me relationships in the end. Two of my good friends have really been helping me with this.

In the kitchen ... has been a whirlwind of activity! In addition to weekly homemade waffles and whole wheat bread, we have baked cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, made homemade doggie treats, and this week we are pre-prepping some of our Christmas evening meal foods. I am also working on a Christmas gift for some family members, and really hoping I get the end result I envision.

In the schoolroom ... We only have today and tomorrow until we are on Christmas break!! Yippee! And we are taking an extremely long break this year ... until February 6th! We had planned to start back at the end of January, but I get to go on a girl's trip to Hawaii to see my friend, Cheryl, so we put it off a week and worked right up until Christmas instead. We are ready for an extended break!

Board Room ... I am always pinning things for our future hobby farm and farmhouse, decor and such. This past week I pinned some fun Christmas ornaments for Brynne and her friends to make at an ornament decorating party. They turned out really great! And there's always food. My most recent pin? Beef stew!

Post Script ... 15 Easy Things You Can Do That Will Help You When You Feel Like Shit by Maritsa Patrinos on BuzzFeed. Because, admit it, sometimes you just do. I have found that these things actually do help me when I wake up and just think, "Nope, not today."

Shared Quote ... I especially love this quote when it's being sung by Amy Grant.

A Moment from my Day ... I love my daily visits with this fella! I am a blessed Nana having her little guy just a couple of blocks away. (17 weeks old)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Words of the Year ~ 2017

I do not think I am going to be able to limit my Word of the Year to just one word. There are just too many words to describe what I have gone through emotionally this year and where I see myself going because of it. I came across this quote today that pretty much sums up how I am feeling as 2016 comes to a close.

I am praying for myself and giving myself permission to live the Created me to my fullest, unabashedly and fearlessly, understanding that the relationships that remain while doing so are the ones I was meant to have. The others, maybe not, and good riddance.

Shine on!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up ~ The 12 Days of Christmas

We are now into the 12 Days of Christmas, and we are feeling the festivities. I was very intentional this year to have the kids help me come up with Advent activities so that we could enjoy some aspect of Christmas each day of December.

This week we drove through the Christmas in the Park light display in our town while drinking hot cocoa, watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas", studied about and celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Lucy, made gingerbread men, and attended our local high school's Christmas program.

We are wrapping up a few things with regular schooling. We read all but a few of the final chapters of Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians series) and The Green Ember, which yesterday was free on Kindle. It might still be today, so check it out! We will finish both those books early next week.

We are finishing Volume 2 of IEW's Fix-it Grammar Robin Hood. Only one more week of lessons.

And we finished the last lesson in Scienceandmath.com's Pre-Algebra Volume 1. We also played a new favorite game, Timeline.

The kids continued to read out of their personal books. Brynne is still in the throes of the Warriors series by Erin Hunter is is currently reading The Forgotten Warrior from the Omen of the Stars set. Eli is reading Watership Down.

Eli went to speech therapy this week. Brynne had a basketball game where she was high-point scorer for her team. She also severely jammed two of her fingers. Thankfully they are quickly on the mend.

We hosted our enrichment class yesterday. The girls wrote persuasive letters to Santa trying to convince him to hire their reindeers (ones they drew last week with our directed drawing lesson) new reindeer for his sleigh on Christmas Eve. They also did a Rudolph Mad Lib. The boys watched another episode of Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego and traveled to Vinci, Italy, and Antarctica.

Finally, we started volunteering this week delivering lunch to 25 senior citizens in our town. Our senior citizen center delivers lunch for each day of the week. We heard from a friend that they were needing a new driver on Tuesdays, so the kids and I decided it was a job we would like to do.

We only have 3 more days of school before we take an extended Christmas break. We are going to take off until February 6th. That's one way to eliminate the February slump! We will be refreshed and ready for some routine by then. At least I will be!

And how about if we end this post with a little bit of adorableness? Bennett is just a week shy of turning 4 months old. He is such a JOY, the happiest baby I have ever been around. And isn't he cute? His mama tried him out in his wrap facing forward last night to make grocery shopping a little easier. He's a Mister Nosey-body so he will love being about to look around and flirt with whoever is nearby. I think he's ready! He reminds me of that photo you see with the baby duck taped to the wall.

2016-2017 School Hours Logged: 479.5 hours, including 84.5 hours outside home. Plus Summer Hours Logged: 141.5 hours, including 54 hours outside home.