Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge

How should success be measured? Using that as your standard, who is the most successful person you know? (Or one of the most successful?)

Like most people, that definition has definitely changed over the years. For me at this point in my life I would say the Cleaver family pretty much sums up success. Husband/Dad has a good, steady career and leaves every morning to go to his job after Wife/Mom hands him his lunch and kisses him on his cheek. Wife/Mom is happy at home and productive there, raising her children and keeping a peaceful home prepped and ready for Husband/Dad when he gets home. The family is all together, sits together at night in the family room watching television, reading, playing games, etc. Kids respect Dad and Mom, although are far from perfect, but love and discipline guides them in all they do. As a family we strive for this ideal, although we haven't gotten there yet. I don't think I know any family that has achieved it, but I still think we should strive for it. And I think it's possible.

Have you ever been to a hot air balloon launch/fest/party? Ever taken a ride in a hot air balloon? Is that on your bucket list? According to Frommers the ten best hot air balloon adventures in the world are: Loire Valley (France), the Serengeti  (Tanzania), Napa Valley (California), Lake Champlain (Vermont), Cappadocia (Turkey), Istria (Croatia), Gstaad (Switzerland), Yarra Valley (Australia), Muelle (Costa Rica), and Albuquerque (New Mexico). Which one on the list would you most like to experience?

When Kyndal and Dawson were little we went to a hot air balloon evening light up event where you could ride in the balloons tethered to the ground. We watched but did not ride. Honestly, I have no desire for that. Me being carried by a balloon ... nope. But I love to see them in the sky! And going to a launch would be pretty fun! I have always wanted to go to Napa for a wine tasting and B&B getaway, so planning that trip around a balloon launch would be awesome!

May 25th is National Brown Bag It Day. Did you/will you pack a lunch today? When did you last pack a lunch for someone and what are your go-to ingredients for a brown bag lunch?

No, I will not be packing any lunches today. But most of our days look like brown bag days. We usually eat sandwiches, apple sauce, chips, string cheese. That is what I would pack in a lunch if I was packing one.

What's one of your favorite dance scenes from a movie or television show?

Definitely the final dance in Dirty Dancing. Oh but the United Healthcare commercial featuring the dance is my absolute favorite! That's a brilliant piece of advertising!

John F. Kennedy made famous the line ... "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." So what can you do for your country?

Back to my success answer ... I can do all I can to help my family be the people and citizens of this country that our forefathers intended. I can't change the government. I can't stop the corruption or violence. I can't get our nationwide morals back on track. I can't get anyone to read the Bible and live its ways. But I can influence my immediate sphere of influence, and that is my family. It all starts at home, folks. Until we get that in our heads, nothing will change.

Weekends are made for ......

Sleeping in, getting some items crossed off the to-do list, relaxing, watching t.v., reading, having meals together, recharging for the next week.

On this last Wednesday of the month, bid farewell to the month of May in seven words or less.

Your last day will be my favorite  .... (because we will be in Puerto Vallarta by that afternoon!)

Insert your own random thought here.

Rick and I rode our bikes on the Katy Trail last weekend. We have lived here for almost four years and it's the first time we have done it. People come from all over the country to ride this trail. We really enjoyed it! I mean, really really. So much, in fact, that we are planning to do some short rides over the next year and then maybe, at some point, do the whole Katy Trail Ride which is 244 miles from St. Charles, Missouri, to Clinton, Missouri. It is a 5 day sponsored and supported ride. We have been married for 15 years next month, and it's fun to continue to find things we enjoy doing together.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday Coffee Chat

Okay, today's Tuesday Coffee Chat is an interesting one! Leslie wants us to pretend that we write a "Dear Abby" advice column and disclose the letter we would like to respond to and then respond to it.

At first I thought I would opt out because I felt silly doing it, but then one came to me ... it's a piece of advice I would like to give to so many ...

Dear Nicole:

A couple of years ago my husband and I built our dream home in our dream neighborhood in our dream town. Our kids got to go to the new hoity toity elementary school, people said they wished they had what we had, and we generally felt like we had "made it". This is what everyone works so hard to achieve, right? But there's a problem. Our neighbors are awful! They are so snooty, oftentimes talking about us with others when we can hear them! We spend all of our time "Keeping up with the Joneses", and we don't even like the Joneses. In order to fit in we have to work tireless hours and spend money we don't have. Our kids are dressed to the nines, but I find myself stressing constantly about what we are wearing so that we fit in, even at church! I spend so much time making sure we are doing the "right" things, going to the "right" places, buying the "right" clothes and toys, etc. I am exhausted! And, I have found that I don't really have any close, personal friends. What do we do? We thought this lifestyle was exactly what we wanted, but now we are miserable!

Mrs. Smith


Dear Mrs. Smith:

The answer is simple. MOVE! Get away from there and that life that is so completely unfulfilling! None of those people you are describing are truly happy which is why they are constantly buying more, doing more, and backbiting. In fact, I would bet they are probably as miserable as you are and in debt up to their eyeballs. You have learned that lesson that others tell us that we don't ever believe: Money and stuff cannot buy happiness. I know that it is hard to downsize in the community where you have built yourself up so high because it will look like you can no longer afford it and are having to give up, that you have failed. So you have two choices: Get over it and do it anyway or move to another town. It sounds to me like the whole community where you live is eaten up with the disease of greed and prestige, so my real advice is to move to another town. Really think about the things that will make you happy, and more importantly full of joy and peace, and strive for THAT! Chances are you will purchase a much smaller house in a much smaller community with much less to do or buy. It will probably be an adjustment for your children, and even you and your husband, but I bet you will find an immediate easing of stress. You will find that less is really more. There is a latin phrase: Esse Quam Videri which means "To be rather than to seem". Find out who you really are, what you really want out of life, and do it. BE yourself instead of seeming to be someone you clearly are not. And remember that you are teaching your children valuable lessons. You don't want them to learn this the hard way as you have done. Talk to your children, show them that a close-knit family life and peace is more important than lots of stuff, and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Happy packing,

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Tell us about a time you found yourself 'in the middle of nowhere'. Was this deliberate?

Rick and I were just talking about this the other day. If you can call going "the road less taken" to get to a destination in Bermuda, then YES! First of all, Bermuda is! We went there by cruise, which I highly recommend. After getting used to the public bus system, that has bus stops literally right on the side of the road, on curves, up hills, in the most dangerous places imaginable, we decided to go to the lighthouse. We got off at a stop near the lighthouse and could see it from there, looming up above us. We weren't yet familiar with all of the stops and didn't want to end up way past it. There were two roads that appeared to go to the lighthouse. One was uphill, very curvy, and had no safe place to walk. So we decided to take the other road that looked much safer. And it was. But we walked and walked and walked and walked. It felt like we had wound all the way around and through that island. I think we walked for better part of an hour. But we saw the most beautiful sights! It was exquisite! We had the absolute best time! Finally we rounded a bend and there was the lighthouse. After touring it and taking in the breathtaking views from the top, we decided to take the bus (yes, there was a stop right by the lighthouse). It drove down the road we decided not to take and it was about a block to the stop where we started. We just laughed and laughed. We still laugh about that. But had we taken that road straight to the lighthouse we would not have ended up 'in the middle of nowhere' which turned out to be somewhere spectacular!

What's something you're 'in the middle of' today or this week?

I am 'in the middle of' a break from homeschooling, and it's fabulous! Yesterday I didn't even get out of my pajamas! It was rainy and cold all day so I snuggled up and read a whole book (Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. I give it a raving *****!) Today I am up and around early and have plans to actually do a few things other than read, although I will be reading, as well. We have all tried to be as lazy as possible. And it's been awesome! We start back to school in June so are soaking up every possible minute of this break until then.

At what age do you think 'middle age' begins? What does it mean to be 'middle aged'?

I am definitely 'middle age', turning 45 this summer. I would say it happens to different people at different times because some of it really is a state of mind. But, generally, once you hit age 40 you are middle age. Your mind may not think so but I bet your body is beginning to agree. This is when little ailments start popping up, when you start taking preventative care more seriously, when you realize that you just can't quite do that (whatever that is to you) as well as you used to be able to do it. Weight doesn't come off as easily, joints ache a little more, and what the heck is happening to your skin and hair? But I think the real meaning of 'middle age' means that you just accept and, maybe even welcome, those changes as a part of life. Middle agers, typically, have children who are leaving the nest and starting their own adults lives. The things that you used to enjoy seem to have shifted to other things, things a little more sedentary and settled. All of those things you have strived for in your 20's and 30's and thought were so stinking important and would make you so happy, fade away. You really start to realize what is important. A big fancy house ain't it. A nice car with a high car payment ain't it. The best of everything ain't it. The hustle and bustle and go go go ain't it. You realize that a quiet night at home eating dinner with your family and watching a movie really is it. You downsize and simplify and purge and then sit quietly amongst your most important treasures instead of seeking to add more shiny ones. You start to appreciate things more! You feel the need to draw things close instead of seek more. I don't know, maybe this is just me. This is what my 'middle age' looks like.

Ravioli, stuffed peppers, samosas, deviled eggs, steamed dumplings, pierogis, or a jelly donut .. your favorite food (from this list!) with something yummy in the middle. Your favorite not on the list?
Oh ravioli! I love ravioli, even if it's from a can. But my favorite is the Ravioli de Portobello from Olive Garden. I could drink the smoked cheese sauce. Yum!! Something that is not on the list? My Stuffed Mushrooms. They are an adaptation of The Pioneer Woman's recipe.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Would you agree? Have you found this to be true in your own life? Feel free to elaborate.

Definitely true. It's the whole "when God closes one door He opens another" idea. God allows us to be in a difficult situation so that we will draw closer to Him and then move on to the place He has in mind for us! "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine ... " ~ Ephesians 3:20. I have found in my life that God allows things to get so difficult at times that it's even EASY to walk away and not look back. During difficult times we should actually thank God for the opportunity to change! Most times we don't, but we should.

What's a song you remember loving from your middle school years? Do you love it still?

IMMEDIATELY the song Karma Chameleon by Culture Club came to mind. I would have been in the 6th and 7th grade when it was popular. I had a poster of them on my wall and, I swear, Boy George's eyes followed me wherever I went. Good times! I'll be singing it all day today now, I am sure.

May 18th is National Visit Your Relatives Day. Will you celebrate? Which relative would you visit if time, distance, and expense were not considered.

We won't celebrate this day. In fact, I doubt I will see any relatives today unless my mom just pops by for some reason. If I could visit any relative, it would be my Grandma Alice. She passed away a year and a half ago and I miss her. I wish we could just sit and talk. I have so many things I wish I would have asked her when she was alive.

Insert your own random thought here.

I dropped the dogs off at the groomer this morning, and I feel like I just dropped the kids off at grandma's for the weekend! I love those dogs so much, but man, they are high maintenance! I will be enjoying this day of peace! No barking, no whining, no running in and out to go potty. Quiet. Ahhhh....

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday Coffee Chat

I am legitimately drinking coffee while doing my Tuesday Coffee Chat prompt today, covered up in a blanket with my fireplace insert running. It is Day 2 of cold and rainy weather. And I thought I was lazy yesterday? Ha! I might not even put on real clothes today while I am reading and sipping my hot beverages.

Leslie at Ink Interrupted always allows me to reveal a little more about myself to you through her Tuesday Coffee Chat prompts. Today is no different.

My home has several projects requiring starting/finishing. I hate leaving something unfinished. Are you a starter or a finisher?

How is it that I am neither?

I have several projects that need to be started. Dawson's door to his room needs painted. I want to paint our metal sink cabinet. I need to do a little cleaning up in the basement (that will literally take me about 30 minutes). I need to power wash my house. We have major projects that we need to do someday, bathroom redos and roof replacements. I look at those things day in and day out and think, "I should do that soon." Yet, I don't. And, really, it doesn't bother me at all that they aren't done. It really doesn't.

And really we don't have any started projects right now that need finishing. But we have in the past. It took us about a year and a half to finish painting the trim on our house. My sweet man worked all week in Oklahoma and then came home and spent weekend after weekend painting the trim. It was a really hard job because it took several coats and we have some dangerously high peaks. Some weekends (although there were few of them), he would not paint at all. The dude needed a weekend off! He works hard, is away from his family a lot of the time, and wanted to spend time with me and the kids or just sit on the couch and watch some t.v. It didn't bother me at all. I absolutely LOVE the way it turned out and admire it almost every single day. But the months that went by incomplete didn't bother me in the least. I know that it would, and did, drive a lot of people crazy. But that stuff just doesn't bother me.

This is the completed project. Isn't it adorable? Well done, husband!

So if I'm not a starter or a finisher, what am I?

I am someone who wakes up one day, walks by something, looks at it and says, "It's time to do ....." And I do it.

I do that with reorganizing a drawer, cabinet, closet, bedroom. I do that with deep cleaning something. I do that with making small things to beautify my home. I just get a sudden gumption to do something and I jump in and do it to completion.

For instance, I wanted to have a small curtain across the front of my microwave cart to cover baskets of miscellaneous stuff for about three years. I walked by that cart multiple times a day and thought, "I am going to make a curtain for that." Then one day I was at Walmart buying something completely unrelated, found myself by the fabric department, found the perfect fabric, bought it, came home and made the curtain, and put it on. I love that curtain!! I could have loved it three years ago! But I just wasn't in the mood until that moment.

While I was at it that day I went ahead and used the extra fabric to cover the cork on my teapot bulletin board.

It's going to happen that way with painting that door and that metal cabinet. I will literally wake up one day and find myself with the power washer in my hand spraying down the vinyl siding on my house. I have some really cool wallpaper sitting in my basement given to me by my aunt that would look darling lining my built-ins in the living room, and one day I will find myself installing it.

Just not today.

And who knows when.

But when it happens, it will get completed.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Under the Blood Red Sun ~ Review and Giveaway

This year the kids and I embarked on a journey. We decided to learn all we could about World War II from the beginning to the end. Although the war was about much more than Hitler and the Holocaust and the attack on Pearl Harbor, those two events were major ones.

These topics are extremely difficult to discuss with children. My two are ages 12 and 10 and are on the mature, albeit emotional, side when it comes to dealing with such events. I decided early on that I would not shield them from the horror that was World War II. But I also wanted to be sure to mix in some of the personal and positive stories from that time period. It was an excruciating time in so many ways, but there were also some amazing men and women who showed themselves worthy of being named heroes.

Seeing the war through the eyes of children was also an important aspect of our journey. We studied Anne Frank and how children contributed to the war on the homefront.

To view Pearl Harbor from the perspective of a child we chose to read the book Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury. This book was recommended by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans (one of our primary resources) so I purchased it while visiting there last April. You can go to the museum website to view a webinar with Graham Salisbury that is definitely worth a look. It is the first webinar on the Archives page on THIS LINK.

Tomi was born in Hawaii. His grandfather and parents were born in Japan and came to America to escape poverty. World War II seems far away from Tomi and his friends, even though the harbor is full of warships. They're busy playing ball on their eighth-grade team, the Rats. But then Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese, and the United States declares war on Japan. Japanese men are rounded up. Tomi's father and grandfather are arrested. Taken away, Tomi must be the man of his family and help his mother and little sister survive. It's a terrifying time to be Japanese in America. But one thing doesn't change: the loyalty of Tomi's buddies, the Rats. ~ taken from the book jacket

Can you imagine being and feeling 100% American as a child and having your country turn on you just because you look a little different? How terrifying! Tomi is just a boy, playing baseball with his friends, going to school, doing all things that ordinary American boys do every day. And then his native country attacks his current one and he and his family are ostracized and terrorized. A big problem for him and his family is that they still carry on Japanese traditions, and others in their town know it.

The family has pigeons that their neighbors suspiciously report as carrying messages to the Japanese government. And Tomi's grandfather still holds true to the traditional Japanese ways and waves his flag around their property. It is assumed by the American government that he is somehow a spy for the Japanese.

And then there is poor Tomi, just trying to be a regular American boy in the middle of the conflicts between his old country and his new one.

When we remember December 7, 1941, we are called to think on those servicemen and family members who were ambushed on that day by the Japanese. We are called to think on those children who lost fathers on those warships in the harbor. But how often do we stop to think on those men, women and children who lived in Hawaii loving America but being of Japanese descent and discriminated against and treated like criminals just because of that descent. Perhaps the adults could understand the cause for alarm. But the children?

In this story Tomi shows his bravery in continuing to care for his mother and sister, in doing all he can to keep track of his father and grandfather's whereabouts, and in just maintaining his status as a true American citizen.

Red Sun Productions graciously mailed me a copy of the movie adaptation of the book with the same title, as well as some bookmarks and buttons for my children. I agreed to do a review of the movie in exchange and was not compensated in any other way. All opinions of the movie and book are my own.

Tomikazu "Tomi" Nakaji and his best friend Billy Davis are playing baseball in a field near their homes in Hawaii when Japan launches a surprise attack on the U.S. at Pear Harbor. As Tomi looks up at the sky and recognizes the blood-red sun emblem on the fighter planes, he knows that his life has changed forever. Torn between his love of all things American and the traditional ways of his parents and gramps, Tomi feels frightened and ashamed of his native land. Tom's friendship with Bill is soon tested as prejudice divides their island community. He must find the courage to stand up to neighborhood bully, Keet, while protecting his family's honor and its katana, a centuries-old samurai sword. ~ taken from the movie jacket

Especially in regard to my children, I always like to view a movie adaptation of a historical fiction book if it is available. I appreciate how the movies oftentimes focus on topics in the book that I, perhaps, glossed over or didn't give particular emphasis.

The movie adaptation of Under the Blood Red Sun really focused on Tomi's stance directly in the middle of his two beloved countries. The book seemed to relate to Tomi more as a child, but the movie related to him more as a child being forced to take on the role of a young man. I loved his character in the movie. It was so clear how much he loved his family and their traditions, yet he was still wanting to have the respect and approval of other Americans. He was forced to do some very mature things for such a young man, and the movie did a brilliant job of demonstrating his angst yet courage in doing so.

Tomi was definitely portrayed as a young hero. He showed strength of character, loyalty, and a maturity that children of today's age rarely see in their peers.

The movie did such a brilliant job of showing children that there are two sides to every story, that war affects all involved in unimaginable ways, and that even children can rise up and make a difference during difficult times.

For any study of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I would highly recommend both the book and movie of Under the Blood Red Sun. I felt that it highly enriched our study of this important time.

And so that you can enjoy it, too, I am giving away my copy of both the book and dvd, as well as two bookmarks and two buttons.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below telling me what subject you are most excited about teaching your children this next school year. Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 22nd. On Monday morning I will draw names the old-fashioned way and will notify the winner. Please leave me your e-mail address in the comment, as well, so I know how to contact you for shipping information.

Good luck!

You can read all about the movie at the Under the Blood Red Sun website. The movie has a runtime of 98 minutes and is suitable for children ages 8 and above. The dvd can be purchased from the website or from Amazon.

For a study guide from Random House focusing on conflict resolution and tolerance issues related to the novel, you can go to THIS LINK. You can also request a teacher's novel unit consisting of 25 pages of discussion questions, activities and chapter tests created by Janice Zmuda by sending an e-mail to and requesting same.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Random 5 on Friday

Hello again!

As I have random thoughts swirling around in my head this morning, I thought I would gather them together for a post.

1. Something I have learned about myself lately (well, I think I always knew it but now am actually admitting it) is that I like to have a slooooooowwww start to my day. It doesn't matter what time I get up, whether it's early or mid-morning, I like to have a couple of hours before I have to do anything. I especially enjoy a quiet house. During this time I drink my coffee, catch up on computer stuff, and start my new passion ...

2. Crossword puzzles. While I was in Florida my friend Megan had brought along a crossword puzzle book. I picked one up at Walmart and have been doing one crossword puzzle each day. I have gotten better at them and sometimes I don't even have to cheat!! I swear it helps with my early-onset memory loss. No, I have not been diagnosed with that, but I have the craziest memory lapses so I kid myself and my family about it all the time. They are scared about who is going to have to take care of me someday. Ha ha!

3. Yesterday Kyndal and I spent hours, yes hours, picking out the coordinating fabrics for Bennett's crib set. That's a hard thing to do! But, oh, it is going to be so cute! She is going with a cream/tan/brown color scheme with a splash of cactus green. The designs are arrows, feathers, branches, deer heads, geometric shapes. So far we have purchased the drapes (tan with cream branches) and rug (tan, geometric shapes). There is still so much work to be done, but we have a start! Fun, fun!

4. How can the exact same players on a professional baseball team win the World Series one year and then suck it up so bad the next? Those Kansas City Royals are going to be the death of me.

5. But on a positive note, look at this mug and succulent I picked up from the Amish greenhouse a couple of weeks ago. I looked down and saw it and noticed that the mug looked old. When I turned it around? ... it's a 1985 World Series mug! The Royals have only won the World Series two times, in 1985 and 2015. I watched both wins. That mug is probably worth some money! So I paid the $4 they were asking for it (yes, $4!!) and brought it home. It's pretty clear that the Amish do not follow professional sports.

Have a great weekend! We have nothing on our calendar. NOTHING! Yay!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Should Blog ...

Well, hi!

I noticed that it's been two weeks since I have blogged. I could say that it's been because we have been busy, because we have. And I could say it's because Brynne has been hogging my computer on her current Minecraft craze, because she has. But really it's because I have just not felt like putting my words into words. Know what I mean?

We finished our 2015-2016 school year on April 29th. Our last week of school was spent wrapping up our year-long study of WWII watching videos about Anne Frank and the Tuskegee Airmen, finishing up some reading, etc.

We also concluded our enrichment class where we used the money raised from our penny (copper) collection to make May Baskets for the residents of our local nursing home. We snuck out to the home after the residents went to bed and left the baskets for them to find on May 1st.

The class also completed the National WWII Museum's Get in the Scrap program. This was a big accomplishment as we did activities about recycling and energy conservation to earn 100 points.

Our family ran in the annual Girls on the Run 5k this past Saturday.

Then we scooted off to St. Louis for state bowling tournament. After running in the 5k we drove home, showered, then drove 4 hours to St. Louis where the kids bowled 6 games that evening and then 3 more games the following morning. We were exhausted but that weekend is always a lot of fun!

It was the second year in a row that my mother and I spent Mother's Day together in a bowling alley. Then Rick took the kids to City Museum and my mom, Kyndal and I went shopping. We had a really nice afternoon then met back up with Rick and the kids for dinner at Cracker Barrel.

Eli and Brynne bowled excellent! Eli bowled 11 pins over his average tournament-wide and Brynne bowled 30 pins over hers! She even had her first 50 Pins Over Her Average game and received a medal. The team didn't bowl too well all together, but Eli and Brynne killed it!

Kyndal and Collin had their big ultrasound last week and Bennett is doing awesome! He looks perfect, and was weighing about 2-3 ounces over the average. Kyndal is feeling it because he is a very active boy! She is now 22 weeks.

Dawson just finished his second semester of college, and it was a tough one. He had switched his major to computer programming and has learned that this field is definitely not for him! However, he works as a mental health technician at our local behavioral health hospital and has gotten to know the expressive therapist there. He has now decided that maybe that's the field he will work toward: Art Therapy. He is definitely a humanities guy, has always loved art, has always had a heart for special needs individuals, and is really enjoying his job. So, put all that together and you have an art therapist. (Figuring out what you want to do with your life is hard work.)

Other than all of this we have been doing a lot of relaxing, reading, watching Kansas City Royals games on tv, and catching up on shows we have DVR'd. Brynne is in her softball season but rain has cancelled practices and delayed games. Eli is soaking in every minute of our May break from school staying up late and sleeping in, playing video games, and just relaxing. Rick and I are counting the days to our trip to Puerto Vallarta to celebrate our 15 year anniversary.

All is good here! I am planning to get back into a regular schedule of blogging next week. I just needed a little break.

2015-2016 Hours Logged - 1,001 hours out of 1,000 required hours (292 1/4 hours outside home)