Saturday, August 29, 2009

Faithful Reminders

I really wrestled with changing the look of the blog. I just love the beach (and have dreamed several times in the last two weeks of running away to one :). But since school has started, I thought I should do some kind of educational tribute...

Anyway, one of my cousins recently sent me a sweet message. She wanted me to know that she was praying for whatever we were dealing with. She also mentioned that she knew that I didn't feel like I should be blogging about everything going on, BUT that she also knew writing is how I process thoughts and feelings...she encouraged me to get a journal (an old fashioned one) to jot down my feelings. And she gave me one more piece of advice...record God's faithfulness. Even when things seem really hard, and they have recently, remember how God is being faithful.

The last couple of weeks have been hard. I have struggled with so many questions, emotions, etc. (Again, none of this is marriage related :) I have always had great joy in eating (though I try not to do it nearly as much as I want to), but the last two weeks, eating became merely a chore. Even when I did eat, I would feel sick immediately afterwards. I have had a knot in my stomach all day, every day. I have felt exhausted but cannot sleep. And a few (maybe several) times, I just asked God to take me away, right then and there. I want to pray but sometimes when your heart is aching, it is hard to focus on anyone, even God.

That being said, I can look back and see many times God has been faithful, sometimes in big ways, other times in little joys...

  • I cannot remember what I have blogged and what I haven't, but recently we received a letter that Mark's student loan (as in from his college days) was paid in full. We never have really kept track of our balance with it; it had a low rate and was just not of the utmost importance to pay. That being said, what a treat to find out that we have finished paying it!
  • Child 2 reached a goal that she has been trying to reach for a couple of years with school. I have never put any pressure on her to do it; she wanted to do it on her own (maybe somewhat related to me :)...and she did.
  • I don't know if I mentioned, on top of all the stress we have been dealing with, the same day it all began, Mark's laptop was stolen from his truck (in our driveway). Okay, so that isn't really a blessing (and yes, we are feeling a bit violated in the last year). But when I mentioned it to a friend who had also dealt with a recent vehicle break-in, I also mentioned that it appeared the vehicle was accidentally left damage. She told me we were fortunate; their vehicle's window had been busted out and of course, they had to pay to have it fixed.
  • This past week, one of the kids started running a fever. We have been hearing a lot about a possible flu "epidemic" this flu season, so my heart just sank. I was able to get into the doctor right away for a flu test. No flu. Just a virus. (Huge praise right there) I had taken all of the kids just in case they all needed to be tested though nobody else had symptoms. The doctor was happy I had brought all of the kids (I am glad, because all five of us in the exam room seemed overwhelming to me); he went ahead and flu misted everyone. Even our youngest was old enough this year, though he was not crazy about the syringe going up the nose. He still tells us about it. :)
  • A free sundae at a local frozen custard restaurant (and a husband who brings me such things :)
  • A very sweet class this year. I am eager to see where the year takes us!
  • The prayers of friends. Even not knowing what they were praying for, I was so touched by the sweet messages from friends via Facebook, the blog, e-mails, cards, etc, just letting us know that we were loved and being prayed for. All I could think of was the last scene of "It's a Wonderful Life". We have been very blessed indeed!
  • A mom who is willing to love on my sick children when I return to work
  • My sister. I am not so sure I would still be sane (or as sane as I am) without her. We struggle through the highs and lows of parenting together; it is comforting to know I can share anything and everything I feel with her without judgment or criticism no matter how crazy I sound sometimes!
  • My co-workers (all of them but especially my kindergarten crew)...we are a team. The way we function together is a classic example of work smarter, not harder.
  • My kids' teachers. They give of themselves day in and day out, making learning a truly memorable experience for all of them... (I have to give extra props to Hunter's teacher...this is her third year in a row to teach him-3rd, 4th, and 5th)
  • A flexible husband...we have had a busy week with Open Houses, first of school, plus other situations. He has cooked and picked up food so we can eat at a time I just cannot concentrate on meals.
  • A weekend away (coming up)...with kids. We haven't done a weekend getaway in some time and a wonderful opportunity presented itself. I am looking forward to it!
  • My kids. I do love my kids, even when they are a bit whiny or irrational (which seems to be a side effect from starting school). They make us smile with their silliness and their loving hearts.
  • The youngest's language...he is really starting to use more and more complete sentences when he talks. He can also share sweet memories. One of the sweetest ones is that he constantly tells us about the baby monkey we saw at the zoo a few weeks ago. For some reason, that made a huge impact on him...he tells it in such a sweet and tender way. (The mommy monkey was "brushing" the baby monkey) Child 3's language continues to amuse us do we go from no words to speaking ALL of the time?
  • God. I cannot always feel His presence, and recently the world has seemed so dark and cloudy. But He is still there.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Kinder Kid

Just stopping in (at home with a sick, or semi-sick, kiddo today...I do NOT do this at school :) to give a little update on our kinder kid. Our kinder student had assessments all last week, so she actually started school this week with her actual teacher (right next door to my room). I haven't taken any pics of her yet because I have been a little busy with my own class. But I will say that she is loving school. She is excited to go each morning and shares (really, for the first time) things she learned when she comes into my room in the afternoon. I was a little on the fence about whether to send her since she has a June birthday. And if problems arise, I am open to doing whatever we need to do to help her. But for now, she is doing well. She has been a bit, um...sassy?, at home but otherwise has handled the transition very well.

I will say that for the first time, we are getting some adoption questions from kids. I occasionally get them from grown ups who are usually pretty discreet when they ask. And I don't mind answering them usually. But at school, we have had two different children look at her, then look at me (usually after she calls out "Momma!" very loudly...her loud voice may be a downfall :), and ask in disbelief..."You are her mom?" One even asked me who her dad was. I guess I knew that this would come up at some point, just wasn't thinking about it at this point in time. We of course have always been very honest when our daughter asks us questions (lately we are getting a lot of "who was in whose tummy as a baby" questions); it doesn't take a lot to figure out that she is adopted. I just hope as those situations arise, I always handle them with honesty but also respect for her as I answer them. I hope she grows up to be proud of who she is.

As for now, I am proud to be her momma...


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I Do What I Do...

I will save my embarrassing story for later. I have a lot to do and such little time to do it. Tomorrow is the first day of school. For our oldest...fifth grade...his "senior year" in elementary school. Child 2...third grade. Oh my goodness, how did that happen? And Child 3...her first day of kindergarten. And tomorrow will be my first day yet again. I seem to have those often (like every year). The first of kindergarten is not easy. It is a lot like herding cats...

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE my job. I love my kiddos. They are so eager to learn. It is just a bit of a challenge...unless you have taught kindergarten you have NO idea. The idea of getting in a line, opening glue, listening to an adult speak...whole new world...

But there is a reason I do what I do...

This is it.

Happy first day of school, fellow Arkansans!

Following Up

I really need to go to bed, but I wanted to follow up with a few things and not leave you hanging. I am sure many of you (well, the two or three of you out there :) are just on the edges of your seats waiting for the rest of the story. :) Oh, by the way, I know it is late, but I want to say I have been making a remarkable effort to go to bed earliER. Not early, just earlier. And it is late, but this is still early for me. :) Hopefully in a few weeks, once life settles down, or as much as it can around here, I will actually get to bed before midnight...maybe. :)

The is finished! Well, it could use a little sanding (volunteers? :), but otherwise, it is done. Mark took some time today to build the ladder for it. It is just amazing for me to see. I just casually threw out that wish (for a loft) at the beginning of the summer and he completely designed and built it just by looking at others in the building. I had NO idea he could build with wood. Mark gave a lot of time and effort, and I will always be grateful. He is a good guy!

This isn't really a follow up but we had a bit of good news in the mail, which is somewhat unusual since we typically just receive bills. We received a letter saying that Mark's student loan (we have been paying on it ever since we married) is paid in full. We had NO idea. Honestly I won't believe it until I see that another payment is not taken out, but the letter seems pretty legit. It is just a little money in our budget we can assign to new things (like paying for three kids' lunches at school :).

I had a pretty good day. It was not a good "watch what I eat and exercise" kind of day, but today was really busy, so I had to make do. We had a breakfast at the Chamber of Commerce for "teacher appreciation". I had the privilege of seeing my very own Daddy there...I always feel proud to see him serving me sausage biscuit. I did not win any prizes, but that isn't really unusual... Afterwards, I came home for a quick lunch then headed over to a district wide meeting...there are a LOT of teachers in our city! After the meeting, we had our Back to School social. I conducted a couple of kindergarten information meetings for parents. Somehow, me, the one who avoided any kind of public speaking class, is the kindergarten spokesman. :) Afterwards, the teachers got together at a nearby Mexican restaurant for a little back to school "bash". Then it was off to the store (which ironically Mark had gone to but I didn't realize, so our milk supply is GOOD) and home to get the house cleaned up. Busy day.

Final follow up then I go to bed...


I don't remember who visited whose blog first. I think maybe Bonnie visited mine first. I don't remember. I do remember the first (and only time pre-accident) that I met her. She was teaching kindergarten in our district at the time, and she came up to introduce herself at a teacher in-service since she recognized me from my blog. It took me a minute to realize who she was because her blog is named after her daughter; I didn't make the connection at first.

It was in January, our first in-service back, that Bonnie's husband Thomas was on his way to work...our in-service. He was a teacher at our local high school. I never had the privilege of meeting Thomas though I look forward to that one day. I remember standing in the hallway and hearing the whispered news of an accident. Again, it took a minute for the name to sink in, and when it heart was crushed. Along with learning that Thomas had passed away, we (the local viewing area) learned from the news that Bonnie was pregnant at the time with their second child. (Their daughter is just a few weeks older than Joshua)

Since then I have had the pleasure of spending more time with Bonnie; she is an amazing woman. What you see on her blog is what you get with her. She is genuine and truly has a caring heart for others.

As I have mentioned, her doctor noticed that Bonnie was measuring bigger than expected in her pregnancy. She (the dr.) made the decision to induce Bonnie today (or rather yesterday), the 17th. Unbeknownst to the dr, that day had significant meaning...Thomas (the father) would have celebrated his 30th birthday that day. Now that birthday will be shared by baby Thomas.

It seems only fitting that we started hearing news at the in-service. I was a wreck...jumpy, fidgety, emotional. You would think I was personally involved in the delivery...nope. Just a bystander, waiting for a word. During our afternoon in-service, a group of high school students shared an arrangement of the Phil Collins song, "You'll Be in my Heart". I just teared up as I heard the words of the song thinking about her, wondering how her day had gone, knowing Thomas was not here (in person) to join the celebration.

What was even more fitting...just as we were being dismissed for the day, our superintendent made his way to the podium, paper in hand. He proudly announced that Baby Thomas had been born...just moments before. Cheers and applause (and probably a few tears) erupted in the auditorium.

From her website, I have learned that he was 7 pounds 15 ounces. He and mommy are doing well. If you click on the link above, you can see a picture of Bonnie, Thomas, and big sister Caroline.

God is good. All of the time.

More later,


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Unveiling...

The front view, before "loading" Corner view

Another corner view :)
After the "loading" of furniture
A side view, with furniture. My housekeeping is on top, reading and storytelling on the bottom...

Well, it isn't quite finished. I think a ladder is one of the last steps. But for the most part, the loft is UP.

Isn't it beautiful?

Okay, eventually I would like to stain it, and it probably needs a little sanding (any volunteers? :), but for the most part, it is ready for use. (Kids won't use it for a week, but I wanted it up and ready for our Back to School social tomorrow.)

I had no idea my husband could build things like this. I am already trying to figure out what he can build next. :) He has worked very hard on it all week. I am so blessed that he is willing and ready to help. I truly am. It is such a gift to me and for the classroom.

As for me, I am exhausted. For the second day in a row, no nap. You know my Sunday afternoon nap is sacred. Well, somehow my older kids missed that memo. Grrrrrr....

Quick prayer request...
I have mentioned a few hundred times, Bonnie is going to be induced tomorrow, baby Thomas will HOPEfully be born tomorrow...his daddy's birthday. What a special gift for Bonnie. Please pray for her delivery, for the many emotions she will face, and for Thomas to be a healthy baby boy! I will let you know once I find out something and can get to the computer...unfortunately tomorrow is the longest day of the week for me. I am REALLY hoping by this time tomorrow night, he is here!
Nighty night!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

When Two Worlds Collide

As I noted in a recent post, teaching has been a wonderful career for me as a working mom. I didn't choose it for that reason since I was young and single when I began. I actually just always wanted to teach. And I have never looked back. I have always been thankful God guided me this direction though because it does work well with my role as a mom...


And my husband says that the word "but" means everything said prior to it was a lie. I don't think that is true. I meant what I said...


once in a while, my worlds (teaching and motherhood) collide.

This morning we went to the school. I have "Open House" on Monday. I don't know which kindergarten students will be "mine" yet, but many eager little faces will parade through my room. So I am in crunch time to get it done. And it is getting there...slowly. Now I have been working hard a few weeks before I was technically "contracted" to be there. But with the kids, my time has been limited. So I am doing what I can.

Now the loft is going in. And I cannot WAIT for it to be finished. Both because I am excited to see it "complete" (I will post pics once that happens) and because then I can put my room back together. I am hoping with ALL hope that we can do all of this before tomorrow night. I have meetings all day on Monday until almost right up until Open House. So it is tomorrow or bust.

But I usual.

So we, as in all six of us, went up to the school. Mark needed to work some more on the loft (which is "up" in the room, just not complete yet). I wanted to see it and start doing anything I could to prepare for Monday.

The kids? Well, they just wanted to play. I haven't plugged in the t.v. in the room yet (The t.v. is mounted and is up much higher than I can reach), or I might have been tempted to extend screen time. So that left four children with active imaginations.

In a matter of moments, several things were dumped all over the floor (yes, the youngest was the main culprit). I found myself just following them around, "Pick that up. Who got this out? Why is this over here?" And my head started throbbing.

It is one of the few times my worlds collide. One of the few times I wonder what life would be like if I were JUST a teacher or JUST a mom. Thankfully those moments are short lived...

And it was. Short lived I mean. I will hopefully get to go up tomorrow afternoon once Mark is finished and work alone, at least get it prepared enough for Open House. It will get done. It always does.

As for the rest of the day...CRAZY.

After my worlds collided, I slunk back home in defeat. We had lunch then waited for a special trainer to come...all part of the Living in HD family program. We waited and waited and waited. Finally Mark decided to work on the ladder for the loft and I attempted a nap. Oh, about an hour or more after our "appointment time", we found out that it had been postponed...I guess that communication got lost somewhere. I think the ladder turned out better than my nap. The two oldest children were up and I was reminded why I have them have a "quiet time" every day. They were in and out of the house, as in SEVERAL hundred times (or so it seemed :). Every time they went in or out of the garage door, the door chimed (part of the security system) and then they slammed it. Since our bedroom is adjacent...well, sleep interrupted.

Afterwards, Mark took one to a birthday bash (a princess ball), then another to work on the loft some more. I took the two little ones to a swimming party for one of child 3's friends. That is always tiring because the youngest requires extra supervision since we are near water. Child 3 did have fun though (I am sure Child 4 did too). While we went home to get ready for bed, Mark and the big kids went to a Naturals game. Crazy day, crazy times...

More later,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Loft"y Goals

Well, first day back. It was as hard (to get up) as I thought it would be. :) I know, I know, I have always heard to "wean" yourself into it, but I would rather go cold turkey. I don't want to give up any more sleep than I have to. :)

Let me back up a bit...
Last night I REALLY needed to get to bed early. I thought I would. Then my son sweetly reminded me that it was Meteor Shower night and that I said I would take him out to watch them. So I checked on optimum times to look for meteors...midnight to dawn. That is a lot like when the repairman calls and gives several hour range. I decided to go for the midnight. So around 11:45, I woke our son up from a sound sleep and we slipped out into the back yard. At first he was dazed and confused, but as he woke up in the chilly night, he became talkative. After a few minutes, I was beginning to think we wouldn't be able to see any even though we could see several stars. We stretched out on my lawnchair, then zoom. I saw the first one. It was faint but definitely there. He kept looking around, so I finally had him lay all the way down and just look up at the sky. A few minutes later the second one shot across the sky. This time he spotted it. His first meteor. He was SO excited. In about thirty minutes, I saw around 7, him a few less. That isn't as many as some people can see (especially in the country) but I was pretty excited since we are in "town" and have trees blocking our view. :) It was just precious time with my boy.

So, fast forward to this morning. That alarm went off and I felt like a zombie for the first hour. Thankfully I am easing into our routine since the kids stay with my mom; I deliver them in their pajamas. Even then, I didn't get to the school as early as I had hoped (though I wasn't late either). Oh well, we will get there.

It was a good day overall! I need some time to really work in my room, but we did have some good meeting time to work out some details for the first weeks of school. I love being home, but if I am not home, it is a joy to be in my home away from home. Oh, and the kids? They had a fabulous time...they get to do more at Grams' house then with me, so nobody is ever in a hurry to get home. :)

Though I didn't have kiddos today (in my classroom), I am quite tired, so I better keep this short. I have learned...this is what it is like this time of year. It will not be like this forever, though I am always a little behind on sleep. Soon, we will find our bearings and be on our way into a great school year.

Oh, as for my "resolutions", I did have a quiet time though I was a bit groggy. I had some good one on one time, mostly with Child 4 because the other kids were in, out, all over the place. I finally tried out my Wii Active...that is a workout! My eating was so so. Not sure I really organized anything, but my classroom is my main project right now...

Oh, and back to the title. I mentioned this on Facebook but don't think I have here. My husband is building a loft for my classroom. Many of the teachers in our building have one. It adds some "space" to the room and of course is just fun for the kids. He has been working diligently to construct it. (He is using cedar wood; our garage smells so good) He hopes to have it done in a couple of days...I am SO excited! I will post pictures once it is finished.

Oh, if you e-mail me and I don't e-mail you back right away, don't take it personally. I forget how limited my computer time is during the school year. I will get to it, I promise (well, God willing).

A few prayer requests to leave you with...
  • Bonnie's "delivery" date is set for Monday. Baby Thomas is supposedly (we hope) coming on Thomas (her husband's) birthday...I think he would have been 30. Please pray for her during this must be bittersweet...she gets to finally meet her son but will be doing it without her husband by her side (at least physically...I have no doubt he is with her spiritually).
  • Jeremy has been battling cancer for several years. He and his wife have had to make some very hard decisions regarding his care. I am just praying for his peace about decisions and of course God's healing hand.
  • The other Jeremy (hubby to my friend Jill) is in the midst of chemo treatments. So far he has done pretty well, though there are some miserable side effects. However, they are both back at work. Please pray for his strength during the treatment and of course his healing.

Oh, while I was typing this, I got the itch to watch for a few more meteors, so Mark and I headed to the backyard to watch for them. I think I saw 7 again. Very cool! I enjoyed the time.

Really, heading to bed now. :0


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Farewell Thee, Summer

It is easy to focus on what we didn't do this summer. Every year when we come home for the summer, I have such high hopes of what we will accomplish (both fun and not fun) in our time at home. And now, I am a day away from returning to school (kids don't start for another week). I look at my of my "to do's" for the summer. It is still not very organized and full of things I need to go through. I open up my cabinet under the sink and remember how very much I need to get under it and clean. I look at the yard and wonder where our playtime went. And I look at Maria and remember now I was going to work on some handwriting lessons with her. And now it is too late. The summer is ending. My "vacation" is done.

But then as I look back through the pictures, I remember many things we DID do this summer (good and bad)...

  • playing in the sprinkler (though not as much as I thought we was kind of a weird weather summer)
  • swimming at friends' and Grams'/Grampop's house
  • twisting and spraining my ankle which threw a HUGE wrench in my plans to exercise and lose weight this summer
  • playing with cousins (our Kansas and Mississippi cousins)
  • snow cones (the girls got the snow cone machine for their birthday; it has been used a LOT since then...many times by me late at night after they are in bed :)
  • AAO camp
  • VBS
  • music camp ]
  • neighborhood walks
  • a weeklong trip to Destin
  • Crab hunting on the beach
  • snorkeling
  • seeing dolphins from our townhouse...amazing!
  • The Gulfarium
  • meeting up with our friends, the Melvins, at the lake in Florida...good times!
  • the kids' first time tubing and riding a Sea-doo or however that is spelled
  • Fishing (for the big boys)
  • Child 1's busted lip
  • my 29th birthday :)
  • farming with my sister (Farmtown on Facebook)
  • Kiwanis Kid's Day Football and Cheerleading
  • our unexpected week of swimming lessons (a week early)
  • LOTS of block building, book reading, game playing
  • backyard sports (football, baseball, sometimes a combination of them :)
  • a weekend getaway to Mount Magazine (for the grownups)
  • a 7+ mile hike, some of it in the rain and some amazing views
  • the start of chores...why did I not start this earlier?
  • The DS, the lemonade and shell stand that went in to paying for it...the kid's first big "buy" (Thanks to M. for her part in that)
  • our rather productive garage sale though there are still remnants in our garage that I need to deal with.
  • my 20th non-high school reunion with the Berryville class of '89
  • our night away in Eureka Springs (while attending the non-high school reunion)
  • an actual movie together (The Proposal)
  • bike rides (for the kids)
  • lunch with the church interns
  • date nights with the hubby (not many but all enjoyable)
  • school supply shopping for THREE kids (okay, that isn't quite done yet)
  • our Living in HD installation...still enjoying that!
  • precious visits with a friend
  • emptying and refilling the dishwasher a few hundred times (some days 3 or more times in a day)
  • the College World Series (for the big boys)
  • Our daughter's 8th birthday dinner at Shoguns
  • my weekly Shrimp Tempura
  • the girls' birthday party...horses galore!
  • Another daughter's 5th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese with dessert at Marketplace Express...yum!
  • Mark's birthday (he was on the road in Omaha)
  • Father's Day
  • celebrating my niece's birthday complete with swimming and a piƱata
  • belated "fireworks" (sparklers and glow bracelets)
  • Sesame Street...a whole new world for Joshua (it is called "Elmo's World")
  • playdates (I am pretty sure Child 2 is more of a social butterfly than me)
  • a trip to the Tulsa Zoo on a HOT, HOT, HOT day
  • lunch at Casa Bonita (in Tulsa)
  • Shark Week at the Aquarium in Jenks, OK
  • dentist and doctor appointments galore...and really, we were pretty healthy this summer)
  • Child 3's "eye patch"
  • the building of a loft (in progress)
  • in-service
  • catching up with friends from all phases of my life on Facebook (and occasionally my hubby too :)
  • blogging, my therapy

Hmmm, what did you do this summer? :)


Monday, August 10, 2009

New Year Resolutions...

I know, I know, for much of the world, New Year's is January. But NOT when you are a teacher. My year is from August to August. So really my August is like January. And this year I find myself making some resolutions...I will share them but I need YOU to hold me accountable and say, "How is it going?"

1. Going to bed earlier. Obviously that is not starting today. I have a feeling it will take a couple of weeks to fully implement. There is SO much to do this time of year and I am finding it is impossible to do with kids. So I have to wait until they are in bed. But I do hope to be in bed by midnight most nights. :) How is that for commitment?
2. Quiet times. I have been on and off with my quiet times (Bible study and prayer) the past couple of years. I really want to get it back in my schedule, even if it is just for a short time in the mornings. That is why #1 is so important...I cannot get up earlier if I don't get to bed earlier.
3. Organization. I cannot stand the or at school. The school clutter is actually not a lot, it is mainly my files I need to go through, some cataloging of some books and pictures, etc. So my hope is that for about 15 minutes a night, I will devote some time to an organization project for either home or school. It won't be major projects, but I am hopeful if I stick with this, that after a while, I will notice a MAJOR difference. :)
4. My body. I am not happy with my body. I knew that as I got older, the weight loss would be harder. I am well aware of that. But I have to make more of an effort. The eating out (regularly) has to stop. We have really had to do it more lately with football and cheer, but now I hope to get back into cooking mode because I cook fairly healthy, as far as we go anyway. Of course, right as school starts is probably not the best time to make that goal, but it is my goal for the year even if we don't do well the first few weeks. Along with this is exercise. I had been exercising so well, then I hurt my ankle. Well, I am healing pretty well now. And I need to get back to it. I just started a notebook tonight of my measurements. They weren't pretty. I nearly choked on a couple. But I am going to start measuring once a week. I am also going to record exercise and how I did with food. I can change, right?
5. My kids. I am going to make more of an effort to give them my full attention for at least a few minutes when we get home. It is hard sometimes with homework, dinner, after school activities. But as tempting as it will be to want to veg for a little bit (which is what I usually want to do), I am going to try really hard to focus on them. It may not be for long but hopefully it will be a good time to reconnect for all of us. .

I know there are other ways I can improve, but this is probably enough to challenge me for a while. :)

We had a good weekend. Today was a really nice day. We had a good day at church. We came home and ate some lunch (nothing big) then the kids got a little playtime in before naps. The only not fun part of my day was my nap (and you know I love my Sunday afternoon naps) was cut short by two arguing children. I won't name any names, but the youngest two were still sleeping. :) During that time, Mark started on the loft he is building for my classroom. I cannot wait for it to be done...I am so excited! Meanwhile, I made dinner which has not happened much lately due to our crazy schedule. It was a fairly easy recipe but it sure was yummy! The oldest child raved about it. (Zippy Paprika Chicken) Afterwards, I made snow cones and we headed out back to eat them and play in the backyard. The weather was very pleasant. Mark played football with the big kids while the younger 2 roamed the yard. I got started on our is looking better. Afterwards, we came inside for showers and bed. While we were waiting for kids to take showers, Mark and Child 4 were playing (around me) on the floor. It was just one of those "Awww, this was nice" nights. Oh, once the kids were in bed, I got started labeling school supplies and sorting it out. I have just a few more things to get for the kids, then I am done. Yippee! As you can imagine, they take up much of our dining room table. :)

I have more to share, but I have got to get to bed. I am doing a short presentation tomorrow and then working in my classroom. A HUGE thanks to my friend A. for watching kids for me. I am SOOO blessed by your kindness!

More later,

Friday, August 7, 2009

It's the Little Things...

I know, I know, I have been in "deep" thought lately. It happens this time of year. And honestly it has been a bit stressful around the house. Football and cheerleading have taken over our evenings. I am trying to get my classroom organized but have little time to do it. And our precious little toddler is acting just like a...toddler. :)

So I am taking a break for a minute to just reflect on a few "little things" that make my heart smile...

  • I have been recording Sesame Street on the DVR. We don't watch it daily but at times when we have a little downtime, I turn it on. The younger 2 are glued to it. (The big kids "casually" watch it too but not in an obvious way :) I personally love it. I love the concepts that are introduced, the different cultures which is important in our house, and the tried and true characters. Anyway, tonight we watched it. Child 4, who has been on a roll recently, was in my lap and things were very least for a while. :)
  • Speaking of Child 4 he is now going around the house singing the Elmo introduction..."Nananana nananana, Elmo's World..." Makes me smile
  • My friend Bonnie got some neat news today about the upcoming birth of her baby boy. I could tell you but I would rather you read it yourself...made my heart smile all night! Just a reminder: her husband's name was Thomas, and that will also be the name of her baby boy. If you don't remember that, you may get confused. :)
  • I got a few more birthday gifts today from my parents...a pair of dolphin earrings, a pair of my favorite tennis shoes, and a book called "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" which I have read rave reviews about. I started reading it and appreciate the information in it. What really made my heart smile was reading that I am already doing some of these things. Makes me feel like I might know something after all.
  • Speaking of toddlers, only one "tantrum" today and that was first thing in the morning (today being Friday; I am finishing this on Saturday)
  • I get to go to a lunch tomorrow (or rather today) with a friend...that is a rare treat! It isn't that I don't like to do these things or want to, but most of my friends are as busy if not busier than me, so it doesn't happen as often as I would like. Sometimes you need a little "girl" time.
  • Tonight we went as a family to watch Child 2 cheer. Child 1 also had a game (and Child 2 cheered again) but it was at 9:30...too late for the little ones. It was nice being out all together.
  • My mouse (for my laptop) died. I was so sad. I do not do well without a mouse. It's a wireless mouse with a USB and the USB just wouldn't work. Later that night, I (on a whim) changed the battery. Good as new. (The reason I hadn't changed it is usually the laptop tells me fifty million times that it needs to be changed before I change it...this time, didn't say a word)
  • I had planned on seeing the musical production "Wicked" this weekend but we just couldn't get tickets for a reasonable price. And that is okay. I have a lot of things I can be doing at home. But it would have been fun. However, in researching the tickets I discovered that "Little House on the Prairie" (the musical production with Melissa Gilbert in it no less) is coming right here to NWArk in a few months. Our oldest daughter has been reading the series so I think it will make a perfect girl "getaway" for a few hours.
  • I never know what people think when I am rambling like on my last post about motherhood. Getting a couple of comments though made me helps to know that I am not the only one who struggles with all of this.
  • One of my biggest challenges each year is to make my classroom "fresh". I have a fairly set room layout because I have been in it enough time that I know what works. But bulletin boards and the hallway display (initially) are also big thoughts. (After school starts, I just use children's work which is more fun anyway) I finally settled on both and even got most of my big bulletin board taken care of today. I have been researching and contemplating what title to use for the board (I know it sounds like a little detail but it is the first impression I get to make with parents). Today I finally discovered one. Shortly afterward a teacher from a message board I am part of e-mailed me the exact same one. It was like confirmation. :) It really is the little things...
  • I posted on Facebook that I was going to have to hire a sitter on Monday for a few hours because I am just not getting any work done when the kids come with me in my classroom. I immediately had a couple of people offering to help...such a blessing!
  • A box of books I ordered for school arrived today...I love getting new books!
  • I think we finished up the school supply shopping today but I need to doublecheck against the list. If so, it is a HUGE relief!!!
  • My ankle is getting better I think. It is still really stiff if I have been off of it for a while. But overall, I am feeling a lot better, giving me hope for the future.

Well, I better get off here and get ready for the day. I needed to be reminded about the little things...sometimes on their own they are easy to dismiss. However, together, I am again reminded how blessed our lives are!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Our Own Worst Enemies

I have been thinking alot about motherhood recently. Well, for about 11 years now, but even more so the past few weeks. I kind of touched upon some of this with my "Best of Both Worlds" post last week. But I am realizing more and more that, as I suspect many mothers are, I am my own worst enemy in life.

When you have a child, you feel like it is an extension of who you are. And in some sense it is your walking DNA (well, in the cases of half of my children). I give my all to raise them, well, most days. Some days like today I gave alot but not my all; I was too wiped out from yesterday. :) I spend a lot of time in prayer, though, study, discussion, research, etc...all figuring out the best way I can guide them through life. I will not do it perfectly. I want to. I really do. I am a perfectionist. I cannot tell you the tears I have shed over my own mistakes, fearing that I am ruining their lives forever with poor decisions or misguided attempts. I have often said you will NEVER hear me claim to be an expert at this stuff. I have a lot of experience, but I do not in anyway know the answers to it all. (That being said, I don't mind at all when someone says, "How did you handle...?" because there is a good chance I have learned a few things in my failed efforts of motherhood)

Going back to extensions, I think we as mothers tend to think that everything about our children reflects upon us. When they do something good or seem to be "early" with skills, we puff out our chests in pride. And sometimes we may have influenced our kids with our guidance or training. But more often, what a child accomplishes has to do with him/her, not us. Children develop at their own pace. We can encourage, we can motivate, but ultimately, how a child develops is out of our hands.

With Child 1, we read a lot to him in utero. When he was born, we spoke to him often. He had our whole world of attention. He spent days with my mom who is in my mind a master child conversationalist. And he did talk. Sparingly. He said just enough words to be considered "normal" by the guidelines of whoever sets those guidelines. However, I would meet up with moms of other kids his age (probably around 2 at the time)...those kids would be speaking in complete sentences. And I would feel like I failed as a mommy. Like somehow his speaking (or lack of) was a reflection on me. (Follow up...around age three, he too started speaking in paragraphs. And he is still speaking paragraphs around me :) Why is that?

I have spent too much of my motherhood experiences dealing with this. In the age of blogging and Facebook, I find myself green with envy or questioning everything I do when I read about kids doing chores or sweet things without being asked (a rare occurrence around here), making honor roll or All Stars, siblings adoring each other, doing things much earlier than mine. And just recently I have felt like God is saying, "Stop! Don't compare. Each child is different...embrace your children for who they are...for who I created them to be." (As a teacher, I will tell you that I cannot typically tell who was bottle fed/breast fed, who slept all night early and who didn't, who potty trained at 18 months and who at 3 1/2, who walked at six month and who waited...really they just-most of the time- end up doing those things in due time and it doesn't influence their success in school or socially AT all :)

Having four kids I have actually been on different ends of the spectrum. Some of my kids talked early, some didn't. Some were out of diapers early, some weren't. Some have known their letters early, some haven't. Eventually they all do what they are supposed to do. (Another side note, while it is nice that kids know their letters, I cannot usually tell you at the end of the year which students knew letters and which didn't coming into the end of the year, they all know them) Why spend time worrying or stressing? Even more, why think they reflect on me as a parent? (both positive and negative)

I am a child of God. But I am my own person. I make my own decisions. Oh, how some of them must pain Him. I am pretty sure though when I do mess up (daily), He does not shake His head and think, "Where did I go wrong?" Since He is perfect, it cannot be something HE has done. It is me, all me. He completely recognizes that I am my own person. I make my own choices...good and bad. And thankfully, in spite of this, He loves me.

Isn't that how I should be with my own kids? There are things I will do because I think I am called to as a parent. I will teach my kids about God, His love AND His justice. I will limit their "screen time". I will insist upon certain behaviors. I will value education and hopefully impart that onto my kids. I will pray for their character and choices in life. But ultimately, they make their own choices. We have all known people who had good lives, good solid parents, who have taken very wrong paths in life. We also know people who had very poor family lives growing up who grow up to be successful and content with lives completely different than they had as a child.

I have four kids with very strong, vibrant personalities. I see so much good in them, like the generous heart willing to donate time and money or the child who is ready to help me when I need it most. I also see the "not good" things like the stubbornness (you can insert any child's name there :) and "half effort" that is given in tasks. While I can try to guide those personalities and hopefully influence my children to use their gifts as strengths not weaknesses, again, ultimately it is up to them. (At the same time, while I can be proud of the things they do accomplish, I need to be proud of THEM not myself because was up to them).

I don't know if I will ever have an all-star or a valedictorian, nor the star of a musical (which involves musical talent...not so much in our family). I am pretty sure I will not have any quiet, passive kids no matter how much I pray about it. Sometimes I will have the children that people stop and compliment on their way out of the restaurant while I beam with joy. Other times I will have the kids who are kicking and screaming on the floor of the store for no apparent reason while I find myself wishing I could just melt INTO the floor. Either way, on this journey of parenthood, I am going to make more of an effort of loving my kids for who they are, even the not fun parts. I will try really hard to not compare to them to others. I will avoid situations, conversations, and people that make me feel bad as a mom or question my every move. And I will stop beating myself up for mistakes or failures on the part of my children (which really are often the true learning experiences that build character)...I will just love them, hold my head up with pride that I am their mom, and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Joy of Sisters

Ahhh, the joy of sisters. They give you pink umbrellas to play with, Care Bear socks to "skate in"...we are never quite sure what they will do with their little brother on any given day. In case I worry too much about their influence, he is quick to point his finger and "shoot" me.

Oh what a couple of days. My normally sweet boy who is usually full of joy has been everything but recently. I don't know if I am being punished for leaving him, if it is just another fun phase that hopefully will pass quickly, or if it is just has been a roller coaster ride around here!

Yesterday I was more distracted than I should have been. I just wanted to finish up some housework so we could do some fun things this week. I forget sometimes that just because I see the bigger picture, my kids don't. They just know that I am not focused on them. Some don't mind...they kind of "run" with it. Others, like the little one, act out instead. Of course, then I am not so eager to spend time with him either. :) Needless to say, it was a tough day.

Today I woke up feeling optimistic. It was a new day. I had planned on taking the kids to breakfast for donuts then to my school for a bit. Everyone was excited about the plan...well, almost. Child 4 LOVES donuts but for whatever reason, he was not in the mood to go. (He does wake up thinking he is starving) Trying to get him dressed was like trying to wrestle a calf. Not fun. Finally we got out the door. He was happy as a lark eating half a dozen donut holes. Then the switch clicked and next thing I knew he was having a fit about something. Thankfully the donut place was not too busy at that point. school. I knew we wouldn't get much accomplished but sometimes I have these wistful misguided thoughts. The girls immediately found some friends, so they were out of the room...good in a way but then not so much in a way. Child 2 is such a HUGE help with Child 4. Basically I tried to organize while having to follow Child 4 around and say, "Pick that get it out, you clean it up." I will say that for alot of it, he was pretty good about picking it up. Until he dumped some things out of a shelf. Then he refused. The joy of it all...

Then it was time to go. We were all ready to head home to eat. All but one. Guess who? I turned out the light and shut the door most of the way while the other kids ran down the hall. Nope. Didn't bother him a bit. Finally he sauntered out, looking pleased with himself. Then we got out the door. Again, he just kind of stops and looks at me as if to say, "So what?" I told the others to get into the car. He wasn't going to budge. I got in the car and turned it on. He started to cry (he was quite a distance but easily within sight) but still wouldn't budge. I put the car in drive and pulled forward just a few feet (still not anywhere near him but within easy sight)...then he decided he was ready to come with us.

By the time we got home, Child 4 was feeling fine. He ate lunch (kind of). Then he couldn't wait for the babysitter to come (so I could go undo everything the kids had done that morning). He kept calling her name, waiting for her to show up. Finally she arrived. And he was thrilled. Until he realized I was leaving. Then he wasn't. He came running up to me, frantic, saying, "Go Mommy bye bye". I told him I was leaving but that he could stay with Miss S. He cried. :( (She did text me later and say he was fine as soon as I left)

While I was out, I got to go to a couple of stores in search of some supplies for my classroom. Then I hung out in my classroom for the rest of the afternoon. I did accomplish a lot but you cannot necessarily tell by looking at it. I keep reminding myself that every little step is a step closer and to not be too hard on myself for not being done (like some of my friends are). Four kids is no easy task. (Plus it is football/cheerleading time so our evenings are booked with practices and games...that should be done this weekend!) I do know it will eventually all get done.

When I came home, Child 4 was happy to see me. But then Daddy had to leave with Child 1 and then he was sad again. But then I told him that I would play blocks with him. Happy. (Playing blocks was an experience...this child has a certain way he wants the blocks...he has the "plan" in his mind and apparently I don't understand it. I would put a block down and he would quickly tell me no and move it! It was very interesting watching his mind work as he created this "house"...later he "lit" the cylinders and blew them out like Mommy did on her birthday cake) Then I told him I needed to make sandwiches for dinner. Sad. It was like this most of the night.

Do you see the roller coaster ride I am on?

Let me off, please, let me off!


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Highs and Lows

So yesterday was my birthday. As much as I would like to hide the age, I cannot since I do the birthday blessing list each year. 38. I am not really excited about that age. I don't think I will age gracefully. I preferred being younger. Now I am nearing another big "milestone"...ugh. Plus, I like odd numbers, not even numbers. 37 was okay. 38 is not...

But since I cannot stop time from marching on (across my face), I just have to go with the flow. Yesterday morning we slept in. It is just so sweet to truly sleep in without anyone coming in to ask if you are up yet. I checked e-mail and was touched to have receive some birthday greetings on e-mail and Facebook both...gotta love the tech age! We enjoyed a little breakfast, packed up, and checked out. Then we went on the final Arkansas' highest point. Before we headed up the hill, we took one last picture by the lodge. Sadly this was the only waterfall we found...right in front of the lodge, totally manmade. :) (We are always in search of beautiful waterfalls and have yet to find one via a matter what the brochures say!) On our way up the hill, we (okay, Mark) spotted a doe having some dinner. It was up the hill from us. We just stood and watched it for a bit, staying as quiet as possible. The picture is a bit blurry, but you can see it behind the tree looking down at us. It must have decided we were just went on munching.
Thankfully this was the shortest hike of all, and other than being on an incline, the easiest. When you get to the "high point", it is a bit anti-climactic. Thankfully I had been warned, or I could have been VERY disappointed. It is int he middle of the woods. I always think of a mountaintop experience as being at the top of a mountain looking all around to the valley below. Nope, all we could see was trees. There was a neat map of Arkansas made out of stone though. In this picture, Mark is standing on a little dome that shows where the highpoint is on the map.

There happened to be another family at the high point also, so they snapped a picture of the two of us...
After that, we hiked back down (much easier) and headed back home.

We celebrated my "big day" at my parents' house.

We were greeted at the door by most of the kids. A big surprise for me was the treasure hunt that my two oldest children had "planned" for me. They gave me a clue then sent me off around the house and yard looking for more clues. Occasionally I would find a homemade card with a clue. My mom said they had planned the whole thing themselves. The clues were really cute and clever. My kids don't typically do things like that on their own, so that was a sweet treat.

For dinner, my mom (even after having the kids all weekend) made one of my favorite meals...mostaccioli. Oh, yum. It was SOOO yummy. After dinner, we went out to the backyard for a while to just enjoy the cooler weather. It started off just being Child 1 and I; he wanted all the details about Mt. Magazine. (We thought about him the whole weekend knowing he would love it there) However, soon it was everyone out there, swinging, playing football, etc. It was a nice time.

Afterwards we went inside for presents. I have mentioned before that looking at the Five Love Languages (encouraging words, acts of service, physical touch, gifts, and quality time), I probably fall into all five categories. I am not ashamed to say that I love gifts. Doesn't have to be big is the thought behind them. Anyway, every year, my husband asks my parents for a gift card so he can go choose his own things (he is really picky with clothes). I am the opposite...I like to unwrap presents. :)

There aren't a lot of pics of me, not really out of modesty or anything. I am the prime photographer in our family and I have yet to figure out how to take my own pictures. Mark tried and got a few but there is always so much action, it is hard to get many that are not blurry...

I did get some Target pjs, a motherhood book, a dock for my i-touch, an armband for my i-touch, a Wii game as well as a DS game, some bath gels, and flash drives that I can never have too much of...I take a lot of pictures to store. :) The gift opening was quite an experience. The girls kept shoving presents in my face to open (and I like to open SLOWLY), while Child 4 screamed for much of the time because they weren't his presents. It never is quite what I envision it will be...

As soon as presents were done, Child 1 performed a "fly over" of a toy jet for me. That is a huge honor coming from him. :)
We ended the celebration with my favorite strawberry cake...yum! I only get it once a year...on my birthday. Thankfully my mom didn't insist on using all 38 candles. She put 3 on one side and 8 on the other. What did I wish for? I will never tell. :)

So, those were the highs of the day.Add Video

The lows? Well, more of those were today. Child 4has been on a roll. He is wearing me out today. I am madly trying to do that final clean up before we start back. It is like a never ending process because when I am cleaning, the kids are playing and getting things out. And my ankle is pretty sore and stiff. I think I am getting old...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Counting the Blessings Yet Again...

Yep, today it is time for me to count my blessings. 38 this year! Where did this past year go? I really think it was just yesterday I was in San Francisco writing out my list of 37.

Well, as you may or may not know, this list is my yearly birthday tradition. Instead of focusing on how old I am feeling (which some days is REALLY old), I take some time to think of what I appreciate about my life. These are in no particular order, and there are actually many more I can add. These just happened to come to mind at this point in time (and pay no attention to how many involve food :). (I also do not look back at previous years so many may be repeats :)

38. Hearing the waves crash against the sand as I lay in bed at our beach house/townhouse...
37. a long, uninterrupted Sunday afternoon nap
36. Shrimp tempura rolls, a regular treat for the two of us...yum!
35. digital cameras...I love to take pictures, crop, edit, delete if needed. Such a fun way to capture the memories
34. Weekend excursions to Branson with my family
33. Ice cold Mountain Dews...yum!
32. A hot bath and a new magazine= time to myself to relax
31. Farmtown. Yes, it is probably a silly little game here on Facebook, but it is a great way to unwind and feel like I have accomplished something for the day. Plus, it is a special time when I get to meet up with my sister (who doesn't live here) and chat.
30. My students. I love the honesty and enthusiasm of kindergarten students. They are so eager to learn and MOST days make my heart smile with their childlike perspectives and sweet spirits.
29. Friendships...some friends I have had for years, others have developed in the last year even through difficult circumstances. I am so thankful for each of them.
28. my i-Touch. I enjoy being able to listen to my music while I exercise or sit out in the yard with the kids, do a quick e-mail check, or play a game. Fun stuff!
27. Michael W. Smith's latest CD...A New Hallelujah. Every song. I love EVERY song. My favorite is "The River is Rising" which is one of his most upbeat songs yet. Any time the mood in the car turns sour, I just turn it on and up, and soon we are all singing along.
26. Our youngest daughter's servant heart. As I put laundry in or fold clothes, she is right there to help.
25. A new box of 24 crayons (which you can get cheap this time of year)...oh, the possibilities! And midnight blue will ALWAYS be my favorite color.
24. Rainbows. I only see one or two a year, and every time, they take my breath away. As I look at the beautiful colors, I cannot help but think about God and His promise to us.
23. Losing myself in a book. I don't let myself do that often because I get SO lost in it, I forget there is life around me.
22. Our dishwasher. It is a pain to empty and fill one to three times a day, but I am so thankful I am not doing it all by hand!
21. Tax refunds. I know, I know, we would be better off not withholding so much but it is still a sweet treat in the spring!
20. White lilies. They are just so graceful, so pure, so lovely.
19. Conversations with my oldest son. He can have the most in-depth conversations for a young one. He is a neat kid with many interests and a lot of knowledge. I especially appreciate that he walks to his own beat of the drum...completely!
18. A big heaping serving of Mostaccioli...that will be my birthday dinner tomorrow!
17. My souvenir t-shirts (Destin, Gulf Shores, San Francisco) that remind me of the wonderful times I have had
16. A husband who gives me weekend giveaways, a full tank of gas, and toothpaste on my toothbrush is the little things he does that shows me how much he loves me.
15. Mornings I DON'T have to set my alarm and can just sleep, well, at least until little people wake me up.
14. Facebook. I love getting to keep up with the lives of my friends (from all phases of my life) in the quiet of my home once the kids are in bed.
13. God's comfort. It seems like each year God shows Himself in different ways. This year, He has been the God of comfort as I have witnesses too many friends walking through difficult times. I don't know how to help, though my heart aches for them. I can only pray for His comfort to bring peace and rest to their lives (and to mine in our own struggles)
12. my parents...they are such a model of servanthood, love, and a Godly marriage. I am blessed.
11. The joy of our youngest boy. He can be a bundle of energy but he brings a smile to my face daily. It is hard to just have to experience it for yourself.
10. Organizing. It is a neverending process at our house, but when I can get at least one little area organized, I feel SO much better inside.
9. Target pajamas (cotton bottoms with a tee on top). They are comfortable, modest, and fun!
8. Online banking and automatic bill pay. One less thing to keep up with in life!
7. The sunset. I am never up for sunrise, though I am sure it is beautiful too. But sometimes at night, I stare at the sky in amazement at the blending of colors. God is such an artist!
6. Our oldest daughter's sense of humor and quick wit; I love her outlook on life!
5. Ghiradelli's Dark Chocolate with Caramel squares...a little taste of heaven each day.
4. Family walks around our neighborhood after dinner
3. weekend getaways with my husband, rare but always a treat. We just have a good time together!
2. Two birthmothers in Guatemala I have never met but truly appreciate for the beautiful gifts they brought into the world. We are blessed!
1. You! I am thankful for friends and family who love me in spite of who I am! Thank you for being a part of our lives!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

We're Going on a Bear Hunt...

Take pictures with my camera...

If you have children, you know this song (Bear Hunt). My kinders love it. Well, we were on the look out for bears, but no luck. (Apparently black bears are not uncommon up here, there are many signs to make you aware :) I did take a few pictures though.

We slept in this morning, then had a nice breakfast at the one and only restaurant up here. Afterwards, we put on our hiking shoes and headed outside into the...rain. LOTS of rain. We went back into the lodge to see if there might be any rain ponchos for sale in the gift shop. There was a LARGE selection of pool toys and swimsuits, but no rain ponchos. The gift shop worker called the visitor center (down the road) to check if they might have any ponchos. Only youth. There are advantages to being really short. I can wear youth. So we dashed out in the rain and drove over to the visitor center to buy one cheap youth poncho. I made the mistake of trying to stretch the neck a bit and tearing it (the tear got bigger as the day went on) but it served its purpose. And it was cheap, so I won't feel bad about tossing it in the end...Here is a picture from the back porch of the visitor center... as you can probably tell

When there was a break in the rain, we headed down the first hiking trail outside the visitor center...the Will Apple trail. It was a "blue" trail meaning easy, a good one to start with. :) There was an old homestead along the trail. Here is a tree growing with the barbed wire fence in it. It fascinates me how that happens!
Everywhere we looked, green. Arkansas is the Natural State, after all! This is actually the remnants of a swimming pool from the 1920's. It is filled in with plantlife now, but you can see the wall at the end. It was actually very neat to see; I had never thought about pools that many years ago. (This photo was taken after our biggest rain of the thankful for that cheap poncho that kept my backpack and most of my body dry...)
Along the hike, we were fortunate to see a wide variety of butterflies. I have loved butterflies (and their carefree fluttering) since I was a young child. I think one of my rooms had butterfly wallpaper even when I was a child. I don't know enough about butterflies to identify them. They just look pretty to me!
Along the trail...We decided to hike Bear Hollow Trail. I was lured by the description of waterfalls and beautiful bluffs. Well, we didn't see one waterfall. The creeks were dry, which was ironic since the day was so very wet. :) We did see bluffs at the VERY end of the almost 3 mile trail. I think in all we hiked about 7 miles. Some parts were easy to hike, many parts were not. The uneven terrain was kind of tough on the ankle, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

We didn't get to spot a lot of animals. They were wisely staying out of the rain. :) But we did see a few frogs.

This is Inspiration Point which was at the end of the Bear Hollow Trail. It was a beautiful lookout.
Me, the scaredy cat, out on the ledge of Inspiration Point. I am typically scared of heights, but it was so beautiful out there, I had to take a peek. I am just thankful it is not a close that point I was a sticky, sweaty mess.
My goofy man. Cute, isn't he?
I am not a plant expert. I don't think these are even plants, maybe more of a fungi. But I thought they were cool looking, like little stars!
One of our favorite parts of the hike was spotting "splashes" of color. I won't even tell you how many of these yellow flowers I photographed today. They were just so gorgeous against the green background. We also really enjoyed the red leaf that would randomly be growing among the green...I love God's handiwork!

This is Sunrise Rock. It was beautiful too, though we preferred Inspiration Point.
Hiking up the incline. There were a LOT of inclines. I really felt like we went up more than we went down. :)

I know, not the most exciting pictures, but again, I just love that little splash of color. This was a red mushroom or toadstool...did I mention I have very little knowledge about nature? I don't study it, I just admire it.
Here is another butterfly. I just loved it on the purple flower. I watched it for the longest time (which also gave me a nice little break to catch my breath...)

This is me about 6 miles into the hike. I wanted to just sit down and give up but the only way back to our vehicle was to finish the hike. I am hugging the sign, hoping we make it back. A little funny: when we did get to the end of the hike which came out near the visitor center, a park ranger driving by stopped to check on us because we looked confused. Dazed and confused. That is us. :)

I know, yet another random picture. Do you see what happens when I have no children to photograph? If you squint, you can see a green beetle in the middle of the picture. It was the most amazing electric. Really cool.

Yet another frog, trying to blend into his surroundings so I would leave him alone. :)

After we arrived back at our vehicle and both breathed a sigh of relief to be sitting, we took a little drive over to Cameron's Bluff. Before we even got to the overlook, Mark got to see an amazing sight. A large deer (8 point buck, possibly, which means little to me) crossed in front of our vehicle just ahead of us. It was a beautiful creature. Mark grew up hunting deer. I on the other hand cannot fathom killing anything beyond the occasional fly and mosquito. I asked him how he could kill such beautiful creatures. I obviously do not have the "hunter's mind"...

As we were walking out to the overlook, I spotted yet another butterfly. Aren't they gorgeous?

The view from the overlook was amazing. And we didn't even hike to it, we just drove and walked down a few steps. :)

We ate dinner at the lodge restaurant, which I mentioned is the only restaurant in the near area. The food was pretty good, though I was greatly disappointed at the end to find out that the special (which hadn't been shared with us) was crab legs. Bummer! However, the service was REALLY slow. So while we were waiting for our dessert (that I now regret eating but it was so yummy), I slipped out to take a few pictures from the back of the that point, most of the clouds had cleared out. The sun was setting; it was just beautiful. I don't think the camera always captures the beauty, but it is fun to try!
That is Blue Lake down in the valley (a reservoir of Petit Jean River) and the Ouachita Mountains.
Another trail...this one is for rockclimbers/rappellers. I don't think we will be taking this one. :)
My fella :)

Another "hold out the camera and snap blindly" shots. It is one of the few times we can get a picture of us together. :)
I love my man. Thanks, honey, for the weekend getaway. It was a great way to end my summer!