Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Quick, Random Update...

Hey there, Friends!

So many fun things going on here lately!

I decided to change the sitting area in our kitchen, retrieving a beautiful table that my grandmother gave me and I had kept stored in my parents' basement.  I *love* the way it looks now!  The wingback chairs were in our front room and seemed to work better with this table than the shorter chairs that were out here.  At some point this spring I'd really like to make cute slipcovers for the blue wingback chairs, but it is such a comfy place to sit that I don't really mind the color for now.

What do you think?

Bad blogger that I am, I totally forgot to take a "before" photo.  So typical of me...  : )

Here are Dan and I, working on reading and totally enjoying our "new" sitting area!

I thought this picture of our Corgi Jasper was adorable!  He *so* wanted to be out playing with the boys in our one and only snow of the winter, but he kept grabbing their gloves when they would sled past him, so they banished him to the house~ poor boy!

Ever since I decided to be brave and attend a Master's Swim class last June, I have been trying to tackle new things.  I think that I have mentioned here before how super-nervous I was before that class.  For a whole week prior I was so sick that I could barely eat!  Seriously!  All I could imagine was a class full of fabulous "real" athletes... and then there was me~ the "poser" who could barely make it to the other end of the pool!  LOL!  To my great relief, everyone was super-nice and encouraging and I did learn how to swim.  While I'll never be a superstar swimmer, I can now easily swim the 2.4 miles that would be required to compete in an Ironman event.  That still totally floors me!  2.4 miles!

So now, when I want to learn something new I am much more willing to tackle the learning curve, figuring that "if I can learn to swim at 48, surely I can learn to __________!"

So, my latest endeavor is drawing/sketching and watercolor!  Here's a peek at some recent pages in the journal that I keep open on my desk near my computer.  In the past I decorated it exclusively with photos and pictures from magazines, and quotes,  to-do lists, etc.  Here are some more recent pages with some added sketches....

I was so excited to find Junelle's blog~ *loads* of beautiful inspiration there for sketching and watercolor!  The little drawing on the top left of the girl holding the flowers was inspired by a drawing that she did.  So excited to get to participate in a class that Junelle is teaching this March!  So excited!

And my newest, unfinished, current page... just waiting for more "stuff" to be added here~ I like to see how each page evolves!

Here are a few of my first watercolor attempts.. (promise you won't laugh, ok?)

And my first person... I was seriously scared to try this... I'm holding the original photo on the left so you can see it....

The boys have also gotten in on the watercoloring fun....

And last, but not least, my biggest, scariest news?  You really, really won't believe what little ol' afraid-of-heights me is going to do this coming Monday afternoon.....

I'm going skydiving!!!!  Can you believe it?!!  Actually I'm super, super excited to get to do this~ a gift from my parents, whom I'll be visiting in Arizona for six days along with our older boys Jacob and Gabe.  Earlier in the day we will all get to try out the wind tunnel there and "practice" skydiving~ what a blast!

So, I might not have opportunity to update here with my skydiving report until later next week, but I'll be back, hopefully with an exciting, but somewhat uneventful report!  LOL!

Here's to facing fears and having a blast in the process....

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Day in the Life

Last week on Thursday I kept my camera close at hand and definitely took more photos than I usually do.  I love doing this! It is a great way for me to not only capture the small details that I would otherwise forget, but it also encourages me to evaluate what we are doing and consider things that are going well and are effective as well as what we might need to change/work on.

With some regularity I will have requests for me to share our schedule.  I am always a bit hesitant since I certainly don't want to burden or discourage anyone.  And, to be quite honest, our schedule is much more "free-spirited" than it was in years past.  There were many years when I had a large number of "little ones" that it worked best for me to schedule the whole day, in half-hour increments.  That way I could be sure that (in theory at least) each child was "profitably occupied."  And this worked really well for us for  a long time.

At this point though, our youngest is 5 (!!  How did *that* happen?!!)  so this different season called for a change.  My husband Tom is a policeman and for many years has worked an evening shift.  This has been perfect for us, as a homeschooling family, since the children get to see/spend time with their father all morning long.

Tom's "love language" is quality time, so almost every day he would ask me to sit and visit with him about this or that.  This proved to be a challenge for me as I wanted to complete my responsibilities teaching the children, etc, but Tom wanted to have a leisurely visit!  To honor him I dropped the schedule and now simply work my way down a "most important things first" list.  That way I can be more relaxed about the changes in plans which happen a lot with Tom.

On to my "Day in the Life" last Thursday!

Thursday starts very early for me with a 4:45 wake-up call for my master's swim class.  Oh!  It is hard to get out of my warm bed so early in the morning.  For many years I would be up at night with little ones, but that never seemed to be much of a burden~ it was so cozy to whisk them up and back to my warm bed with me.  That was the only time during the day when I didn't have to "share" my babies with anyone else!

A screenshot of my iPhone alarm...

Sleepy dogs curled up together.... as the wood stove cools off overnight the dogs move from the stove to this little carpet.  Poor "Dude" our Great Dane was neutered on Wednesday... thus the "cone of shame."

 One of the reasons that I get up at 4:45 is so I can spend some time in God's Word to start my day...

Then I head out the door to the YMCA where we swim.  A peek through the door to the pool area...

 I swim from 5:30 til 7:00 am which works out great since 7am is pretty much when everything starts rollin' here at home.  Most mornings we have granola and milk or yogurt here, but today I wanted to make pancakes~ yummy! (just realized that I haven't ever posted our recipe for gluten-free pancakes~ they are pretty good, if I do say so myself!  I'll try to get that written up here soon)

While I'm cooking pancakes and straightening up the kitchen, the older children are outside taking care of our animals.  We live on a little six acre farm and have Nubian dairy goats (babies due soon~ yay!), chickens, rabbits and even a duck.  

We aren't getting very much milk right now since our does are due to freshen soon, but still Jake has a bit of milk to strain and ice down each morning.

Once we finish breakfast and clean up, the older children begin their school work independently, and I begin school with the younger boys.  First we work on scripture memory (the book of Ephesians right now), then we do the subjects that we can all work on together, like science and english.  You can check out my post on "How We Homeschool" for particulars on the curriculums that we like to use, if you are interested.

A new daily activity that we have recently begun is studying geography each day by checking out the most recent "24 Hours in Pictures", then finding the location for each photo on Google Maps.  This has been *so* fun~ really making a dry subject like geography come alive, plus giving me many opportunities to touch on current world events with the boys as well.  I am seriously shocked how quickly they have learned where things are this way.  Highly recommended activity!

Once we finish our group activities I begin working on reading with each of the boys individually.  The boys who aren't actually reading with me will work on their math lesson using the computer.  We also require the children to run or bike each day for their PE... so on warmer days they will sometimes go out back to get their running done while I read with someone else.

Dan, who isn't quite old enough to use Teaching Textbooks on the computer for math, works with me at the counter in our front room.

I sometimes let Timmy work on a reading app on my iPad during this time.  The Bob Books app is pretty fun for him.

While I continued to work on school with the younger boys, Tom and Jake left to find a part to repair a lawn mower and a part for our furnace.  I *love* it that the boys have so many opportunities to work on projects with Tom... these things simply wouldn't happen if he weren't home during the day and if I couldn't be flexible with their schedule.  We do still require them to complete their school assignments, but I think these practical opportunities to learn lawn mower or furnace repair are extremely valuable.

A small detour to show you my "hexies"... aren't they coming along nicely?

Throughout the morning as I have small breaks working with the younger boys, I take a few minutes to work on laundry.  The girls like to wash their own clothes but I pretty much wash all of the boys clothes, plus Tom and I's clothes~  eight boys' clothes living here on our little (at times very muddy!) farm can add up to a lot of laundry!

Here's my laundry method: the children are responsible for bringing all of the dirty laundry down to the laundry room.  I sort the clothes by color and wash/dry them.  As soon as the clothes are dry I hang any pants or nice shirts that would wrinkle and sort the rest into laundry baskets, one for each child.  I don't fold them, just sort them.  I have a label next to each laundry basket with the name of that child and the clothing size that they are currently wearing, just in case anyone else ends up wanting to help with the sorting!  Could happen you know?!!

The boys don't have dressers in their bedrooms any more.... we found that they were mostly running downstairs each morning to get their clothes anyway.  Eliminating the dressers also eliminated messy drawers and gave them more room in their bedrooms as well!

While I am downstairs I like to peek at the little lettuce seedlings that are up under lights.  Yay for green!  I've got a bunch more seeds to start in the next few weeks~ *so* excited for spring here!

I also started a new batch of bread during the morning.  I typically make 5 loaves of whole wheat bread at a time and, depending on our menu, I repeat that every day or every other day.  I *love* making bread and the smell of bread baking in our home!  mmmmmm......

Timmy was helping me here....

I finished working with the younger boys by noon and got them started on lunch.  At this point I forgot to continue taking pictures for a while... I changed and drove a few blocks to pick up my friend Jenny so we could get a quick 4 mile run in.  She has been running longer than me, so I always feel like I am holding her up, but she assures me that she doesn't mind at all.  I'm always *so* glad that I ran, once I'm done, that is!  We did have fun together though... running with a friend is a great way to build a friendship.  She talks and I listen and pant.  It works.  ; )

Once I finished running I took a quick shower and headed out to a doctor's appointment.

And them home to complete dinner preparations. On the menu this night: Oven-fried chicken.... gluten free!  Yummy!  That's another recipe that I'll try to post soon.

Most days Tom will leave for work about now... his schedule varies.  That's why when we run together, it will usually be over lunch.  Today was his day off this week though, so we got to have him home for dinner.

On a "normal" afternoon I would also grade/check off the older children's homework.  At the beginning of each week I give each of them a printed page listing their assignments for the week so they know exactly what to do.  My goal is to grade their work daily so they get immediate feedback about how they're doing.  That didn't happen today though since I had a doctor's appointment and that's ok, we'll simply get caught up on grading the next day.

Miss Abbie setting the table....

A little laughing and horsing around during dinner,

and some after-dinner clean up.  I thought our Corgi Jasper was so cute looking up at Tom and Gabriel, hoping that something would fall.....

And there you have it... a somewhat semi-normal day in our busy household!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A bit of life here...

Hey there!

First off, a note to self: my premise that it is fine to work out when battling a cold is wrong, wrong, wrong!  I had a "long" run scheduled for this past Sunday (7 mi) and even though I was quite certain that I was coming down with the cold that the children were battling I decided to run anyway.

The run with Tom actually went pretty well, but as soon as I got home I realized that I had a temperature.  sigh.  So I rested the remainder of Sunday and ended up taking it pretty easy on Monday as well... you'd be proud of me!  I even skipped my early Masters' Swim class, which I *never* do.  I thought I acted quite mature.  ; )

Today I was feeling much better so I was able to get out and run again.  I really, really love being able to run with Tom!  He is much faster than me (and of course he didn't have to take 4 months off from running to have hip surgery like I did last fall) but he patiently slows down to spend the time with me.  He does most of the talking and I do the majority of the panting, but it works!  He likes to talk and I like to listen, so we make a good team.

And now, as is quite typical for me... some random things that have been on my mind of late:

I *love* seeing my boys read to each other!  The vintage Cowboy Sam books are a perennial favorite around here.

What do you think of my new Flemish Giant bunny?  Meet Mr. Darcy!  He is the "husband" for Miss Elizabeth Bennett... the doe that we purchased last fall.  Isn't he handsome?  I loved this picture of Jon checking him out. 

May I most humbly say that if you are not in the habit of practicing hospitality, you are *really* missing out?  Tom and I have always loved opening our home and inviting other families over to eat with us.  It is, admittedly, a lot of work, but the rewards are so, so rich!  Recently we were blessed to befriend a Muslim family.  Mouad works at a local McDonalds where Tom likes to get a salad for dinner when he is working at night as a policeman.  Mouad is from Morocco and his wife is from Syria.  

We invited them over to eat with us a few weeks ago and had so much fun hearing about their heritage and customs.  They were *so* grateful that we had invited them over.  Do you know that in the 7+ years that they have lived here, no one had ever invited them over to eat?  No one!  

They insisted that we all (all 12 of us!!) come over to eat with them last week.  Again we had so much fun and enjoyed Syrian food.  Mouad's wife joking informed us that we *really* didn't want to eat Moroccan food... Syrian food is *so* much better! After tasting her food, I would have to agree.  It was *so* good!

Here are Tom and I as we were leaving Mouad's home last week~ the children had already piled into our van, but thankfully I had Gabe snap a quick photo of us with my iPhone.  

I recently came across this fabulous post on hospitality that I'm sure you'll enjoy.  Sandy clearly articulates many of my thoughts on hospitality, so rather than repeat what she says, I'll just direct you to her fabulous post!

I'll just tell you this: don't wait for perfection to risk having friends (both new and old) over... I like to keep my house picked up, but it is *not* perfect~ we have very old, worn furniture, walls that need decorating, floors that need sanding and refinishing, and in addition, I don't think that I am a very creative cook, but honestly folks, its about loving people, not about impressing them.  Open your home and heart~ you'll be the one who comes away blessed~ I promise!

Finally, I am planning on charging up my camera tonight and documenting a "day in the life" here tomorrow~ not a whole week like I've done in the past, just one day.  I'll be photographing our life tomorrow with the intention of including a more detailed look of what our life is like right now in my Project Life album.  Also, I frequently get requests to share what our schedule is like right now, so I will post our schedule as well here.  (for what it's worth~ we are not very typical!)

For some great inspiration on documenting "A Day in the Life," check out Ali's post here.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Around here....

Time: 4:25pm

Place: home... in our cozy front room (that's where the wood stove is!)

rain drops and puddles on the stone path to my herb garden

Eating: honey crisp apples (I'll be *so* sad when they aren't available any more this spring!)

Enjoying: a quiet day at home. I was scheduled to take a short 4 mi run then spin for an hour on my bike, but decided to skip it since I am battling a cold.

Reading: People Pictures: 30 Exercises for Creating Authentic Photographs.  I am really wanting to practice and learn more about good portrait photography.  Honestly, I think portrait photography is scary compared to landscape photography.  Definitely want to step outside my comfort zone and practice/learn this.

also reading: The Time-Crunched Triathlete.  I think I will be using a version of this training plan as I prepare for my first half-Ironman.  Another totally scary thing that I am super-excited about tackling!

Wanting: the sun to come out!  We received a bunch of much-needed rain yesterday~ *so* grateful for that... but I do find myself longing for "real" high-in-the-sky sun this time of year.

Learning: how to make these "hexies" using the english paper piecing method.  So fun~ addictive really!  One of my favorite quilts is a "grandmother's flower garden" quilt that my mother's mother made.  I certainly don't have time to complete a project like that, but I think a small doll-sized wall hanging would be perfect.

Thinking: about the need for me to "create" more and "consume" less.  It is easy to read about things, research things, but much harder to really get out there and *do* challenging or new things.

Loving: being able to run with my honey again!  I was released to run January 10 after my hip surgery last October.  My *favorite* way to spend time with Tom!

Creating: a bunting from an old quilt and some fabulous jumbo chenille ric rac.  It was so much fun that I decided to make small buntings to hang above the windows by my work area.

Needing: A binder for my 2012 Project Life album, plus some "style A" page protectors~ I can hardly wait for them to be available again later this month!

Rainy Day Kitchen

Wishing: That Flickr would quit giving me grief!  I have been uploading my photos to Flickr from Lightroom and then blogging them, but it seems that every time I edit a photo in Lightroom that has already been uploaded to Flickr, Lightroom re-submits the photo to Flickr and it "disappears" from my post blog posts.  Frustrating!  I think I'll switch back to uploading to Blogger directly from Lightroom... I might try using this plug-in to streamline the process.

Rejoicing: in the fact that I have seedlings up under lights on my seed-starting shelf in the basement!  Yay for green and spring coming!