Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins

One of my co-workers brought warm pumpkin muffins to an in-service earlier this year. I was hooked. I started making them for the family every few weeks. Now, we pretty much eat them weekly. And when we run out, Joshua immediately asks me to go to the grocery store so I can make more. I figure they are somewhat good for you with pumpkin in them. :) (By the way, I stock up on pumpkin any chance I get...there was a shortage earlier this year and likely will be another one next year). Anyway, I had a request for the it is. Simple, but yummy!

1 small can of pumpkin
1 bag of cinnamon chips (made by Nestle I think...around here I can only get them at Harps, and I am not just saying that due to family connections...if you go to the Nestle website and put in your zip code, it will actually tell you where to find them. If you cannot, then I have heard chocolate chips or butterscotch are good substitutes.)
1 spice cake mix

Mix the three ingredients together. Nope, no water, oil, etc. needed. Just those ingredients. It is really thick and gets difficult to stir, but keep at it. I figure I am building up my arm muscles anyway.

Fill muffin tins, even with tin. A couple of things I have learned. Using cupcake liners is a LIFESAVER. Helps so much during clean up time. If you don't use them, spray well. They are sticky. The other trick I recently discovered...I am now using a cookie scoop. You know the thing that you push on with your thumb and it pushes the dough out of the scoop? Well, that thing is amazing. When I used to try to fill the tins with a regular spoon, I had to scrape because as I said, it is really sticky. I can whip those things out in no time with the cookie scoop. And I use it for the muffins way more than I do for cookies. I can easily make 12 large muffins and 12 or so minimuffins with the recipe. It makes a lot.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

You can also add raisins, nuts, etc. And some friends have even added a glaze. However, for us, the three ingredients is ALL we need. Yum, yum, yum. (Oh, and if you have any left over, just warm in microwave the next day...good as new!)


Home Again, Home Again...

No church for us today. The streets are still covered with snow and ice. I do not see how we will have school tomorrow unless we have a sudden heat the next few hours. :)

Katie O, you asked about "reasonable rates" for a beach vacation. One of the few things I have learned in planning beach trips is that you can spend about as much or as little as you want. If you are willing to stay in a place not on the beach, you pay less. And if you aren't nearly as paranoid about sounds as I am (as in us making too much noise), you can get a condo most of the time for MUCH cheaper then townhouses or houses. During the summer, almost all rentals on the beach are weekly. However, if you have the flexibility to travel at different times, most of the rates are cheaper right before June or after mid-August. Unfortunately, our prime travel time with school and all is right during the highest peak in prices. (same with Disney World) The townhouses I mentioned in my last post were even as cheap as 1000 or so for the week. They are "beach view" but from what I can tell from the pictures, they really have a decent view of the gulf and are still pretty close. (Just for the record, to be more economical, I told Mark we could stay in one of those...he went ahead with the one that is directly on the beach) Oh, and obviously some beaches are cheaper than others. There are so many beach areas on the Gulf. Some are really pricey, others a bit cheaper. You really just have to google and see which are which. I would also recommend rentalo. I don't think we have ever actually gotten a rental through rentalo but it is a good place to start. You type what you are looking for and soon you will have offers from people (condos, houses, etc) that meet your requirements. It is a good starting point. Plus I always check out the major realty places in the area...most handle rentals. In our house, I usually do the legwork, spending a day or so searching rentals and bookmarking the most promising, then Mark makes the final call. Anyway, you can also go cheaper if you have a camper...there are some awesome campsites on the beach. With food, we usually like to eat out once a day (it is a vacation after all, plus the seafood is...delicious!), but we always stop by the store and pick up groceries for the other meals. And obviously to save money, you can eat at home the whole time. Most rentals will have a full kitchen. Hope that helps!

We had home church today because our church was canceled due to the ice/snow. Our church parking lot is a bit...hilly. I honestly have no desire to get out on the roads at all. They don't look like fun to me. I am just not a Northern girl at heart.

Anyway, our home church never goes like I think it will. In my mind, it will be this sweet moment of praise and worship. And we do have those. But they are mixed with a lot of other moments. For one thing, there is no nursery to take Child 4to. And he takes full advantage of that. He gets into as much as he can while we have "church". Today we used some music off the i-Touches to sing with. Oh my, have I mentioned how very musically challenged we are as a family? It hurt to listen to. It truly did. I can only hope that God's ears have a special filter and that it sounded charming to Him! Overall, though, it was a special time of worship. I enjoy those times.

The two big kids have been outside as much as possible. They cannot get enough of sledding. A big thanks to our neighbors across the street for letting them sled (we have no hills really at our house). I really need to consider a trip to Colorado for them one day (as long as it doesn't interfere with the beach of course :); I know their daddy is always ready to go.

I think, maybe, just maybe, the kids are growing up a bit. Maybe. Today they were all up around 8:30 which is pretty late for us. (It sure was a treat though) It used to be that as soon as they were up they were asking for food. Today I got up, made pumpkin muffins, and didn't hear one complaint about hunger until the muffins were ready to come out of the oven. That includes the little guy who used to think he was starving...all of the time. It kind of gives me hope for the future.

Yesterday we were on such an organization kick. Today not so much. I have a lot to do before next Sunday though! (We are hosting our Bible Fellowship's Super Bowl party...finally getting a chance to showcase our Panasonic suite of goodies! Anyone is welcome to join us. :)

Recently I have started getting "spam" comments on here. I get all excited when I see that there is a comment then open it to find it is from someone I don't even know trying to get people to visit their sites (which I don't recommend). I have seen an increase in recent weeks...not sure why. Part of me thinks I should feel flattered (haha) but most of me is just annoyed. I am trying really hard to not go to word verification because they frustrate me to no end. (They are always so hard to read, letters all jammed together) For now, I am just deleting the comments as they come and hoping for the best. Spammers, spammers, go away!

I am not sure how my weigh in will go on Wednesday (if we are even in school then). I have been eating fairly regularly and normally (rather than lighter like I should). But I have also been exercising a bunch. Wii Active was almost too much for me today. One thing I have learned as I get older is that my knees are not as young as they used to be. Lunges and squats are tough on them!

One funny thing about Wii Active... I used to do my exercising after the kids were in bed. In a lot of ways it was easier. Okay, still is. But for one thing, I have more energy when I first get home rather than late at night when I am just ready to crash. So I have been doing my workouts shortly after we get home which means I typically have an audience. It is funny to watch and listen to my kids. It is like having cheerleaders around me. "Come on, Mom, you can do it!" (when I am moaning about another set of lunges which I despise) Today I pulled my hair back. You would have thought I had changed the color of my skin. They were in awe and amazement that I had a ponytail! And when I have to run (which is every stinking time), they are usually jogging around the living room with me.

I hope my hubby has a plan for dinner. I don't! I really have been doing better about cooking. (For one thing, I have to...Wii Active asks me how many fast food meals I had the previous day!) Last night I made shrimp cooked in teriyaki sauce. I thought they were divine. Unfortunately Child 2 was the only other one who seemed to enjoy them. Today I have no inspiration. Only hunger for things I shouldn't eat.

Sometimes I feel like the Seinfeld of bloggers...blogging about a whole lot of nothing. Sadly that is my train of thought most of the time. :)

Okay next blog I promise to share substance. Seriously. I have been reading a book called "Gender Matters". It is fascinating. I am reading it for school but am finding it applies just as well at my house!


Saturday, January 30, 2010

All Roads Lead...

to the Beach...

For Christmas, one of my favorite gifts was a shirt with this saying. I had seen it in a magazine or something and had fallen in love with it. I am already ready for warmer weather just so I can wear it! (I did get to wear it while in Florida over the Christmas break)

Anyway, I didn't grow up going to the beach. We did take trips to Disney World sometimes, and when we did, we usually stopped by the beach. And I did spend some time playing on the sand dunes of Lake Michigan when we visited our grandparents in the summer. But otherwise, I had little beach experience other than occasionally watching a Beaches. :)

In college, one spring break I did do a beach reach with a trip to Hilton Head island. Yes, we actually did mission work AT the beach. I remember enjoying the trip; I actually have more vivid memories of that trip than a lot of others. It was fun, but I don't remember my heart just being sold out...yet.

When our big kids were young, Mark took a business trip to Destin. I have no idea why they had lighting meetings in Destin, but he went anyway. I remember him calling and saying, "You have got to see the beach here, Reba. It is beautiful. The sand is white. The water is so blue." So when our daughter was around one and our son was three and a half, we took a little trip to Destin. It was everything Mark promised and more. We didn't know much about beach rentals. For instance, "beach view" as listed on advertisements actually means you will be able to see the beach. It doesn't say that you might have to stand on the roof or see just a glimpse of it between the high rise condos that are between you and the beach. In our case, we failed to see "a short walk to the beach" as having to cross a fairly busy highway. We also didn't know at the time that those little umbrellas and chairs set up were there for use IF you were willing to pay to rent them! We learned a lot that trip. Some of my favorite memories: Child 2 eating sand. I have pictures of her little mouth just covered with sand. Swimming with the dolphins at a local aquarium. That was SO much fun. Mark and Child 1 taking a helicopter trip. Don't you know as a preschooler that was a big deal? And first time to do it. I never knew that fish would go crazy over frozen peas! Anyway, it was fun.

We didn't go to the beach again until Child 3 was home. The first full summer she was with us we packed up and headed to Galveston. Yes, we always drive. We just cannot afford to fly. Mark doesn't particularly care for that part but it is a necessary evil. (Of course, he would fly two towns over I think if he could...he much prefers flying over driving) The good part is that often the rentals are weekly, and with the weekends in there, we have enough time to drive and still enjoy much of the week. Anyway, Child 3was three, Child 2 was six, and Child 1 was eight. We rented this beautiful little beach house...gulf front. We learned a few things about wording. :) It really was gulf front too. We walked out the door and walked down the steps and onto the sand. It had a huge deck where we could listen to the waves. We stood on that deck and watched a sand crab scuttle down a dune. Favorite memories? Child 3 in the water...her first time to see the ocean other than flying over it. Visiting NASA in Houston. And finding out that our youngest's DNA test was being done...we were in the midst of another adoption already. (I know, crazy, huh? :) My very favorite memory though is just our time together. I loved watching Mark and the big kids boogie board. Sitting out on the deck. Collecting seashells. That time together. It was then my heart was hooked. A year later, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston. I am pretty sure that beautiful little beach house we stayed in is gone. (It is no longer listed as a rental property anyway) My heart still aches. It wasn't as pretty of a beach as the Florida coast but it was beautiful and holds dear memories that I will forever cherish in my heart.

Two years ago, we decided to visit Gulf Shores, which is sometimes referred to as the Riviera of the South. This time, we decided to stay in a townhouse. While we loved the beach house, we realized that with children, having pool access was a pretty big deal. Yes, even when you are by the ocean! And that is what we did...we spent time in the ocean. And then the kids would spend some time in the pool. Favorite memories? Joshua's first time to see the ocean. Watching Child 3 jump in the water our first day there, fully clothes. Having our family portrait (several hanging in our living room) made on the beach. Visiting Dauphin Island by ferry. The zoo...little but with a lot of animals! A dolphin cruise. And food...lots of good food. Like Lulu's. Yum!

Last year we decided to return to Destin. This time we looked for those cue words "gulf front" (I don't have a lot of experience with other waters, but we LOVE gulf water...warm and fairly gentle). We found a wonderful townhouse on a quiet beach. We also took our first visitor...Our oldest's friend L. joined us for the week. Favorite memories? Walks on the beach. Crabbing. Visiting some friends at a nearby lake. Watching the kids build sand castles. Snorkeling with kids. Sitting with Mark on the deck overlooking the water. And seafood nachos at Elmo' mouth still waters when I think of them!

Needless to say, I am hooked. I don't know if it is the warmth. I have mentioned how much I prefer warm weather over the cold. Maybe it is the peace that comes from walking barefoot on the sand with the waves crashing at your feet. I feel closer to God there than most anywhere else. Of course, I also think it is the slower pace. There is no tug to go do chores around the house. I don't feel depressed looking at the unorganized piles that need to be dealt with. We get to truly just enjoy ourselves. (Oddly, we do laundry better on our vacations than at home...there is just something about doing it at our own leisure and listening to the waves crash around us...) And of course, lastly there is that time together. My heart feels like it will burst when I watch the kids run into the waves laughing. Or stretch out on the sand together. Or dance in the moonlight as we "hunt" for crabs. It is just one of my favorite memories, something I look forward to each year. (Not that it is all smiles...they still argue too. But for some reason, it doesn't bother me as much there :)

As usual, with snow swirling outside, my thoughts turned to the beach again. It happens this time of year...I start to think, "Hey, let's plan a trip!" I told Mark that for six months I am basking in the memories, then for the next six months I am in eager anticipation of our next trip :). I like to travel, which is kind of funny since I am such a homebody. I like to see new places, try new things. And my travel list is long. I want to go to New York City, the Grand Canyon, back to San Francisco, visit Hawaii, spend some time in Chicago, travel the East Coast. I have lots of places I long to see. And maybe one day I will. But for now, all we can afford (if that) is one "real" trip...and I choose the beach.

I had thought we were going to be traveling with some family this year. It just didn't work out which was crushing. I want so much to experience those beach times together...maybe one day we will. And unfortunately while I was waiting to find out if it would, the townhouse we stayed in Destin filled up the summer rentals. I was feeling a bit defeated. Then this week my thoughts kept going back to Gulf Shores. I had just assumed we would go back to Destin, and I hope we will next year. But Gulf Shores is a bit closer. Plus they have Lulu's. :) I started looking at Fort Morgan which is nearby but not quite as busy (I think). I spent much of yesterday checking out rental possibilities. I finally narrowed down to what I thought was a good option for us. And today, I watched Mark push "reserve" on a townhouse there, "gulf front" of course :).

So, now for the next six months, I am going to eagerly anticipate the time we will spend on the sand and in the rejuvenation for the year. (There are still some townhouse rentals available, some for very reasonable prices if you want to join us :)

After all, all roads lead to the beach!


Friday, January 29, 2010

Still holding on...

Our power, that is!

Unfortunately, the latest news (which is not from a news station but rather the updates on Facebook :) indicate that some power outages have occurred in our area. Ugh! Not again!

Oh, I am postponing my "special post" that I mentioned in my last post for a couple of weeks. I will explain more later. I am sure you were on the edge of your seat just waiting for it. :)

We have been hearing of a "winter storm" all week. All of this is on the anniversary week of the terrible ice storm we had last year (one that we as a community have not completely recovered from). The good news around here (or my little bit of hope) is that sometimes here in NWArkansas, we tend to overdramatize winter weather. I cannot tell you how many forecasts, actually...whole newscasts, I have seen dedicated to winter weather that just never happened. In fact, for a long time, if the forecasters (and I have nothing against them...I just think they have a tough job) declared winter weather was on its way, it was a guarantee that we would get NOTHING. Of course, since winter weather is not the norm around here, even if we get a half an inch, our area shuts down. We just aren't used to it nor really equipped for it.

Anyway, so yesterday all day at school, there was this buzz. The kids were giddy with anticipation. They told me all day, "We are having another ice storm, Mrs. Cloud!" My intern asked the kids to predict whether we would be getting snow this weekend. Only one student said "no". I even had kids asking me, "When is it going to start?" Apparently one of my teacher roles is forecaster. :) Anyway, we watched outside all day. I checked the radars all day. Before I even left school, I found out that all of the kids' afternoon/ evening activities (which includes gymnastics, swimming, and basketball) had been canceled. As soon as the day was over with, I left as teachers called, "See you Monday!"

When I picked up Child 4, it was starting to drizzle. It didn't seem like anything but rain. However it was pretty cool out. By the time we got home, the car and the ground were wet with bits of ice here and there. Last night we let the kids stay up, though part of me wondered if we had been blinded again by all of the hype. Apparently we hadn't. I went to sleep listening to ice pelt the windows. (By the way, I fell asleep at 9:30...a very rare occurrence for me!)

And now here I am today. School is canceled. (Thankful to know that before we went to bed last night...I love shutting that alarm off!) I think the ice has finally stopped and now a steady snow is falling. If we are going to have anything, I will take snow any day! Mark did go to work (I haven't found any weather that stops that man...not sure if he just really wants to work hard or escape us :). And the kids are enjoying electricity while we have it, getting Wii games in while they have the chance.

We are enjoying the lazy day.

Hope you are too!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hopes of all hopes...

that the winter weather predicted for us for this weekend is not nearly as much or as bad as we have heard! This time last year we had the famous Icegate. Now they are using that "i" word again. And they are also using such dirty words as "power outages", "being prepared", etc. I cannot tell you how many posts on Facebook were about people stopping at the store on the way home and finding the shelves wiped out.

We are not totally naive. We realize that there is some storm making its way across the states. We will likely see something. And Mark did go ahead and run to the store for some "essentials", like milk and bread which we always need anyway. Child 2 was going to charge her Nintendo DS just to be prepared. And Child 1 has a flashlight ready (one of those that you crank up). So we are prepared physically. But mentally? Not!

I only have a few minutes, then I must prepare for the day. I wanted to type last night, but I collapsed out of exhaustion. I even missed exercising last night...I just didn't feel 100%. (and no, it wasn't because I felt discouraged from the weight I GAINED last week!) Now I am waking up with a big headache to start the day. Off to a good start. :)

I better do my gratitude journal before I sink back into a pity party like the other night :)...
  • The youngest is still walking into daycare happy! His first words when we pick him up? "I not cry, Mommy, I get to play my Leapster!"
  • Heated seats in my van
  • Friends at school who encourage me in my exercise and my diet
  • my co-workers...even staying until after 6 for a meeting (making up one of our snow days/missed inservice) isn't too bad when you have co-workers to share with and learn from
  • teachers who love my kids and have high expectations for them
Do you have any gratitudes to add?

More later...

There is something special about the next post...guess what it is?


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad...

Okay, so it wasn't quite that bad. It was just a disappointing kind of day. a lot of little things that add up to a disappointed heart. First there was something at school that was a letdown. (I am not sure if it is the situation that is a letdown or the fact that nobody seems to want to help out) Then there were some grumpy children at my house. (Even after I made breakfast for dinner) Then I found out a family vacation I had been hoping for (more than I even realized) this summer (with extended family) will not happen after all. (I have been hoping for this for some time...guess I will hope for it some more) So I decided to go ahead and check out our own summer vacation (the beach, of course!). Well, while things were up in the air for us, apparently a lot of people figured out what they wanted to do. The place we stayed (and all of the other units there) are booked already. We were really happy there. Part of me just wants to throw up my hands and walk away, except the beach vacation is really one of the year's highlights for me. It is my chance to rejuvenate, awaken, and bask in His glory. Sigh. And my poor computer with no screen is still screenless...there are more delays with that too. Plus tomorrow is going to be a VERY long day.

Not a terrible day. Just not a fun one. A day of broken expectations and hopes and having to change my heart's plans...

Hoping for a better tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Falling Asleep at the Wheel...

Of my computer mouse. :) That was me last night. I was laying in bed, snug in my fuzzy robe, wrapped up in my electric throw, computer on my lap, dozing off. I would wake up for a few minutes, drowsily stare at the screen, then promptly fall back asleep. I don't know if it was my lack of sleep the night before. (There is that vicious cycle...I LOVE Sunday naps but then cannot sleep on Sunday nights, throwing my whole week off...) Or maybe it was my Wii Active workout which was more of a workout than I have done in a long time. It was squats and lunges day. Oh my. Have I ever admitted I was not an athlete in school? I do remember watching basketball players do things like "sit on the wall". Didn't understand the purpose of it then, and still don't now. :) The only good thing was that my kids were watching me while I did it. And they heard me say, "Oh, no, more squats?" Then they saw me do it anyway. And that is exactly what I want them to learn! It could just be the normal fatigue of being a mom, a teacher, a wife. I don't know. I just know that I could not stay awake. And I am not exactly hopping out of bed this morning!

Quick update: Mark's mom got her test results. The levels weren't as high as the doctor's originally thought. She has a follow up next week and surgery will be planned then. Of course, they won't know much more until surgery but it sounds like the doctors are feeling a lot more positive about everything.

Another quick update: I don't think I ever mentioned that by the end of last week, my friend Jill posted that her husband Jeremy's test results (follow up to colon cancer) came back benign! (He had had some polyps removed during his follow up tests that the doctors were concerned about) Such a praise!

Since I didn't get on yesterday, I didn't get to say..."Happy birthday, Bonnie!"

If I weren't running so late, I would post links above. But for now, I must go face the day.

More later,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week End Wrap Up

I know that on the calendar Sunday is the start of the week. However, when you are a teacher (or a student), you live on a different calendar. Your year is August to August. And your week starts on Mondays. So I can honestly say this is a wrap up of the week because in my mind, the week is just now coming to a close. :)

We had a good weekend. It wasn't as busy as it has been which was a nice treat. However, you would think I would have accomplished a whole lot more since I didn't have many places to be!

We started the weekend with a basketball game. Child 2 had a game at 8 a.m. yesterday. Ow! Saturdays are meant for sleeping in. I don't like to miss her games, but we do have other kids too. So, Mark took her (and met up with Child 1 who had spent the night with my parents), while I stayed at home and let the little ones wake up on their own time. Our days are much more pleasant that way! (They unfortunately don't sleep in like I want them too, but they did sleep until 8:15 or so). Through Facebook and Mark, it sounds like she played pretty well. Her team is undefeated which makes her very happy. She definitely has my competitive spirit, though I didn't use mine in athletics...only academics. I admire that about her. She is a hard worker and very "coachable". It has been fun to watch her play. Hopefully next week's game will be later so I really CAN watch her play!

Last night we had taco night. I don't know why it is our one of our favorites, but it is. We eat it up. Yum! It is one of the few meals everyone will eat without complaint, even though they all like different parts of it.

Today we went to church. All of us. Nobody was sick or out of town. That may be miracle #1. Miracle #2 is the youngest. Every single Sunday he willingly goes to church but within a few feet of his class door, this magnetic force (invisible :) seems to come down and prevent him from walking in willingly. Suddenly we are passing his limp body over to the teacher as he cries for us down the hallway. Loads of fun, especially since we have been going to the same church for...his whole life with us. Thankfully all of the teachers are sweet and patient and just take him as he is. And by the time we pick him up, he is having a good time. Well today he told us he wasn't going to cry. We of course said "Sure..." Guess what? He didn't! Mark said not only did he not cry, he willingly walked in, handed his teacher his backpack, kissed Mark on the leg, then went off to play. It really is a miracle.

The last miracle was that I offered up our house for the Bible Fellowship Super Bowl party. You would have to know me to know why that is a miracle. For one thing, we usually go to my parents' house which is nice. They have a fun playroom for the little ones, which means I can watch the commercials in peace (since I am not a die hard fan of pro football). Another thing isn't that I don't like to socialize. I do. I don't even mind entertaining, though I am not sure how entertaining I am (no comments please). I just worry about how organized the house will be. I will want it to be perfect, and even then, it won't be good enough. Our house is a decent size...we all live here comfortably. But it isn't nearly as big as many others I know. Plus I am not a decorator at all. So this is no Southern Living home. All that stresses me out a bit...I am afraid it will be a disappointment. (The one thing we do have going for us is that big t.v. we won through the Panasonic Living in HD program!) So I was torn. But I think once I get over the feelings of panic, it will be a lot of fun!

I can never remember what I said on Facebook and what I said on here. Did I mention our carpet? About 18 months ago, we got new carpet. We made the last payment (it was an 18 month, no interest deal) in December. However, in the last few months, we had noticed some issues with it, particularly in the "transitions" spots...the part where it butts up against our kitchen tile. It happened in both the living room and our bedroom doorway. It pulled up, giving it a "bald" look in spots. It also left staples or something exposed which I think we all managed to step on a few times. Ow! Anyway, so Mark called the carpet company. And they came right before Christmas to check it out. Right away, they agreed it needed to be fixed. The head guy came out and he too agreed. So this past Friday, we got new carpet. They took the living room carpet and put it in our bedroom. Then they put new carpet in our living room. The only problem is that the carpet in the living room came from two different lots or whatever you call rolls of carpet. And there is a very obvious seam down the living room. Again, the carpet people agreed it needed to be fixed. However, it will be about a month before that happens. Meanwhile, I am slowly (and very slowly) putting things back knowing that in a month, we will have to empty out the room again. Ugh!

Have you seen "cuties"? Those little oranges or orange like fruits? My kids are addicted (all but Hunter who won't touch a fruit or vegetable). They are really easy to peel. We just have to give Child 4 an opening and he will have the whole thing peeled and sectioned in no time. He asks for them at every meal. I actually found myself saying today, "No, you cannot have any more cuties today. You will have to wait for tomorrow."

Uh oh, I am listening to the youngest. He is coughing quite a bit. Where did that come from?

Today I got to take a really long nap. That was a treat! During naptime, Mark took the big kids ice skating. Child 1 has decided he doesn't care for it. Child 2, on the other hand, loves it. She is already asking for her own ice skates (pink).

Today in church, our pastor started talking about adoption. Today was Sanctity of Life day (I think that is the right term), so he was talking about the option of adoption. He urged people to think about adopting. Then he invited anyone who has been involved with adoption to stand up. It was very emotional for me (and totally unexpected since we have never done that). Child 3 got the cutest smile on her face, kind of like "Hey, this is for me!". Needless to say, when I had that long nap, I dreamed about Guatemala. As usual, I dreamed we had gone back to visit and show our daughter where she came from. I hadn't had one of those dreams in a while but they are so real when I do. I was even panicked because I didn't remember taking my passport. I wasn't sure how I was going to get back into the US. Thankfully I woke up before it was a problem! :)

Quick Biggest Loser update...I don't weigh until Wednesday. And I really don't know what to expect. I cannot tell a big difference in my clothes, so I doubt I have lost much. I told someone that I am trying to eat smarter but I will not give up food completely (good food). I just really enjoy flavors! I am trying to eat smaller portions, more fruits and veggies, and limit sugar. I am limiting my soft drinks to one a day (with the exception of Friday when I indulged in two). I have also probably doubled my water intake. I have so far exercised every day since we started. I am just learning that I have to get up and do it...even if that means giving up other things (like the computer :). I am mainly doing a 30 day challenge on Wii Active which is quite a workout and supplementing with the elliptical, Richard Simmons/aerobics, and walking. I don't know that there is a big difference in how I look but I do feel better! (That being said, we had flank steak, potatoes, bread, and black eye peas for dinner...yum!)

Oh, before I go, and I do need to go...I have school tomorrow, I need to add a few more gratitudes. I keep forgetting which is a shame. We can always find things to be grateful for, right?

  • A husband who is willing to go out in the cold to grill flank steak for our families. And it was yummy!
  • A carpet company who wants to do it right. They could easily walk away but thankfully don't!
  • Pumpkin muffins. Oh, easy and so delicious. And I figure they cannot be too terrible for you. They have pumpkin in them, right???
Have a marvelous Monday!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Comfort One Another

Yes, two posts in one day! Who knew??? :) This is one that has been on my mind all week...

First of all, I want to clarify that I am not an expert. I will NEVER claim to be an expert on anything because that would mean I had to possess all of the knowledge on that topic, and I am so far from that in any area of my life. Do I know a little about teaching? I have learned a few things over the year. Am I an expert? Oh, goodness no. I am always learning and in awe of teachers much better than me. Though I have learned a little about parenting along the way, I am no expert in parenting. Anytime I even begin to think I might know something, my kids prove me wrong! Besides, even if I were an expert in motherhood, there are no guarantees that my kids will turn out "right". After all, they are their own people, they make their own decisions.

Now that we have concluded that I am no expert, I wanted to offer a hopefully helpful post about comfort. Again, I am no expert on this. I personally have not lost anyone closer than a grandparent to me (and even then, I was married with children when I lost my first grandparent...I then lost three in a few years period). A few years ago I started following some caringbridge websites of children with cancer or life threatening diseases. It was kind of a God thing when it happened. And it happened at a time in my life I needed to concentrate and pray for others (our adoption stages). Sadly, several of the children I prayed for have since gone on to heaven. Since then I have watched people I know (or know of) bury their children, their spouses, their parents. And again, I am NO expert, but I have learned a few things along the way about comforting others with losses...

  • Offer to help. You can ask how to help and some people may be able to answer but from what I have heard and read, there is a "brain fog" when you lose someone. Sometimes it is hard to think and articulate what you are thinking. So offer to help and if you can see a definite need, just do it. When I lost my first grandparent, even though it was kind of expected, it was devastating. We had young kids. One of my sweet co-workers immediately offered to come and take care of the kids during the funeral (they were just too young to go). She also brought a meal that could be frozen.
  • Speaking of...meals are helpful (from what I have heard). I have heard more than one person say that after losing a loved one, making decisions is a bit overwhelming. After all, your mind is already dealing with so much processing grief, emotions, details, etc. Where is one of the biggest places that requires decision making? Grocery stores! I remember one friend who lost a parent unexpectedly saying that standing there and deciding on what exactly she needed was just too much. Really, just go and stand in front of the ketchup at the store. See how many bottles there are. Brands. Flavors. It is overwhelming for me in a normal, daily state of mind. Imagine facing that after facing the very real loss of someone you love! Bringing a meal helps reduce that decision making plus it relieves your friend of having to use the energy to cook. I highly recommend taking disposable can be overwhelming for anyone (new moms too) to have to figure out what dish belongs to who and how to get it back to the owner. Another recommendation: the Care Calendar. If you know someone who has lost someone close, you can set up a care calendar. I have only seen it set up for meals, but I think you can set it up for other tasks too. People get a password to log on but then they can find a day where a meal is needed, sign up online, and even see what others are bringing so nobody eats lasagna five days in a row.
  • More on food: something I remember reading on Bonnie's blog was that some people were bringing her other foods like things for breakfast. Again it saved her a trip to the store plus all that energy that goes into shopping. (I myself have to psyche myself up to go). I never would have thought of that before. I am sure even picking up an extra gallon of milk (which is a regular trip to the store for us) would be appreciated.
  • Be careful how you word things. I think a lot of well-meaning people say things without thinking about how they sound. Things like "It is for the best..." doesn't seem very helpful to me. Saying "I know how you feel" probably isn't true unless you have been in an identical situation.
  • At the same time, say SOMETHING. Just an "I'm so sorry for your loss..." or "I am praying for you." Ask them how they are doing, what they need, etc. I think a lot of people shy away from saying anything because they are so scared of saying the right thing. But then, I am thinking, how would I feel if I just lost someone and nobody said anything to me?
  • Remember special days. That first year after someone dies, there are lots of firsts...first Easter, first Valentine's Day, first Christmas. All tough. Let your friend know you are thinking of them that day. If you are really close, help keep them busy (if they want) on a special day with activities.
  • Remember the other days too. Even not special days are tough. And they are all tough even beyond the first year.
  • Don't be afraid to cry. Or just hug your friend when he/she cries.
  • Know that you are in different places for now. The little things that annoy you (like getting cut off in traffic or dealing with a telemarketer) are so very minor in the life of someone who just lost someone they love. It doesn't meant that one is better than the is just different places. Be sensitive to that. I don't think that means you have to stop sharing your life or your feelings with your friend, just be sensitive to where they are.
  • Acknowledge the loss. Even if it is someone you don't know well, send them an e-mail or a handwritten note saying, "Hey, I am thinking about you today." Be the support they need!
  • Anytime they come to mind, pray for them. It doesn't have to be long or detailed. God knows. Just pray that He will meet their needs, whatever they are.
  • Share memories of the one they lost. From what I have read, anyone who has suffered a loss needs that "connection". Plus you might share something they had never heard before (like "I remember his generosity when he paid for my meal...")
  • Go to the funeral if possible. I saw that on someone's blog, that they remembered exactly who came to the funeral. And in some ways that is true for me with my grandparents...I remember a lot of who was there. And it meant alot. I also shared not long ago that I didn't go to Bonnie's husband's funeral. At the time I didn't know her all that well. Now, I wish I had. Learn from my regret!
  • Know that everyone grieves differently. Some people may weep for days, others may not weep (at least in front of you) at all.
  • Along with that, know your friend. Some may want you to just listen while they talk, others may prefer to grieve in private (that is when sending a quick e-mail is a good way to go).
  • There are lots of ways to help. If you don't want to cook, maybe you can help do things from a "honey do list" if a spouse or child recently passed away. When a child is sick, offer to stay to help out or just give the parent a little break.
  • Grieving goes beyond a year. Remember your friend two or three years later. Send a note on an anniversary or special birthday and say, "Hey, I am thinking about you today..." Let them know you remember the loved one. Isn't that always the fear we have? That our loved ones will be forgotten...
Well, enough of that. I think you get my point. I don't know why I posted has just been on my mind recently. Hopefully nobody will have to put it to use any time soon!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trojan Wars

Well, it all started innocently enough. Last night, we did our usual busy routine. I had faculty meeting, so Mark picked the kids up. Then I headed out for a couple of errands (kid free...woo hoo!). When I got home, Mark and I enjoyed our sushi (while the kids ate their own dinners of choice). The sushi was my treat to myself for exercising every day last week! (I did go DOWN on the scale too...yippee!) I almost cried when the sushi was was so yummy. I hadn't had any in a while. At that point, I passed the "baton" (pretend one anyway) to Mark. He ran out the door and headed to church for a meeting. I was left to deal with the kiddos and bedtime. That hasn't been fun lately. The youngerwo have been SOOO tired and cranky at bedtime (which I even moved up a little this week). Tears everywhere...I wasn't far behind. It was not one of my finest Mommy moments. Finally everyone was in bed.

When Mark got home, we turned on the t.v. to watch a little American Idol. We had the DVR set for it. Mark checked the DVR list. No American Idol. It was going to be "our time" to relax and enjoy. I felt a sense of panic start to rise up. (We later found out that because the show wasn't coded as "new" even though all American Idol episodes are new, it didn't get recorded to our settings...bummer!) I decided to do an Internet search to see if anybody had it to watch. So I googled. That is when things went downhill.

I found a few sites that looked (on the surface) promising. I clicked on them. Uh oh. Fatal error. Okay, "fatal" may be a bit strong, but you get the drift. Shortly afterward I started getting these annoying pop up messages saying I had a virus on my computer. I had lots of plans for the rest of my night (besides watching American Idol which never happened), including starting up on my online Bible Study. Instead, I spent the rest of the night trying to clean up (without much luck) my computer. Unfortunately, while I could download malware programs, the virus/Trojan thing disabled it so I couldn't use it. When I tried to research how to get rid of it, the Trojan thing would re-route my website to something else. It was frustrating and annoying. I finally forced myself to go to bed around 2 this morning. Thus, no post yesterday! (I feel like the little kid standing in front of the teacher saying, "And that is why I don't have my homework..." :)

Needless to say, I am not having fun times with technology right now!

Okay, a quick cute story before I forget (and with only four hours sleep, that is a VERY likely possibility)...

Mark asked Child 1 after swimming this evening why he was such a bear this morning. I mean, it was stormy outside but that didn't mean it had to be stormy inside! Our son told him that he likes to sleep facing the north. And that is true. Anytime I go in there to say good night or pray with him, he is facing north. Well, apparently when he woke up this morning, he was facing the opposite direction. He was facing south. So, he told Mark that he apparently woke up on the wrong side of the bed! I think from now on, we will make sure he gets up facing north...

Speaking of the grumpies, the two youngest ones are about to do me in this week. They are both so tired and grouchy. There is NO reasoning with either one. I can't get them to bed early enough. I am hoping that next week will be a better week!

Well, this is short, but since I am on Mark's computer, I better get off and let him play for a bit. Plus I need a little more sleep tonight than last night!

PS In light of the not feeling so happy this week feelings, I better share a few "gratitudes"...
  • A friend who just e-mailed to let me know he got my computer cleaned up (which was badly infected). He is also going to fix my other computer/screen when it arrives. I am SO grateful for the help because I obviously don't know WHAT I am doing.
  • Losing some weight. I know that it won't always happen. And I just cannot give up all of my indulgences. But I am SOOO happy with losing what I did and hope it happens some more!
  • Crockpots. I ran home today and threw a Chuck Roast Barbecue in the crockpot. When we got home from school, I could smell that chuck roast cooking away. Oh yum! (The only bad thing is that I was hungry right away and had to wait a few more hours)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another Day, Another Dollar

Well, another night I was just sure I was going to get out some posts and thoughts that I had hoped to get out. Big mistake on my part. I am Single Mommy tonight...Mark is out of town. I have been running around (and throwing in some exercise) with very little time to sit down. Not that I haven't missed it...I have. I love my computer time. It is my "down time". Just not today (which is really yesterday but if I haven't been to bed, the day is still the same day to me :)

Today of course was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The kids did not have school (thanks, Grams!) but I had in-service. The youngest did go ahead and go to his school. Sometimes keeping his schedule as normal and consistent as possible helps. Oh, he had his second day (with that promise of playing the Leapster later hanging over his head :) of NO crying! He loves school. He just doesn't like drop off. But we are getting there. :)

Tonight I was thinking (sorry, totally random thoughts today. It is late or early depending on how you look at it, so logical and deep thought flew out the window a few hours ago), it is getting easier. Not EASY but EASIER. I made most of dinner without interruption. I did have to deal with a little behavior issue, but for the most part, I worked without much interference. It seems like just last month, oh, wait, it WAS last month, a little person wrapped himself around my leg as I tried to cook. We were talking recently how going out to eat has gotten easier. Child 4can usually drink out of a cup with a straw. He sometimes uses a bib depending on the food, but can do fine without it. We do try to take our Table Toppers, but again, we are fine if we don't. It is getting easier. Well, sometimes...

Please continue to pray for Jill and Jeremy, my friends I mentioned yesterday. He had some of his tests today and some polyps were present. Now there is more waiting for the pathology report. (We were hoping for clear reports all around) The waiting is SOOO hard. Please pray for peace as they wait and of course, a clean bill of health. Also, please continue to pray for my mother in law. I think her test results will be available tomorrow/today.

Since I am mentioning prayer requests, I need to throw in two families in our area who are STILL waiting for kiddos in Guatemala. Adoptions have slowed down (the existing ones...all others are closed) tremendously. We have two sets of friends still waiting for their children to be approved. On top of it all, Guatemala had an earthquake today. Thankfully, there was no damage (or reported, last I checked) but as a mom, imagining your child without you in an earthquake...heartbreaking! Please pray that both kids will be home THIS year! They started shortly after we did to give you a time frame.

I don't think I ever mentioned my New Year's "goals". I actually didn't start ON New Year's...more like last week when I returned to school. I am exercising daily. Instead of sticking to the "mandatory" half hour, I am trying to actually go a little above. I am trying to be more faithful with the Wii Active which is a BIG workout for me. And I try to throw in some walking, aerobics, elliptical, etc. Another "goal" is our house. We are trying to clean up and clean out. It is a long process, and I know that going into it. I figure if I can do just one thing a day (and most days I do more) to better our house that goes above and beyond our normal house routines, then I am making progress! Going back to the "it is getting easier" argument above, one area that I have been cleaning out is Joshua's dishes. He doesn't need some of the specialty plates or cups he once used. So we are passing them on to whoever wants them. My final "goal" was to re-ignite my passion for Him. Last year I clung to a quiet faith, a steady faith, especially in light of some sorrow and pain experienced by friends. This year, I want that passion back. That means getting back in the Word. One thing I am going to do is an on-line Bible Study with some other teachers in the area. I am looking forward to that accountability as well as having this time to grow but at times that are convenient and possible in our daily lives!

I know, I know, I am rambling. I must get to bed. Early to rise tomorrow...

More later.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For...

So yesterday I was bellyaching a bit at the failed efforts I had in organizing our house.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I hear the all too familiar, "Dad...I just threw up." Not that I am Dad, but since I am in the same room, same bed, I hear it too. (This should be a time I say "thank you" that this particular child, being our oldest son, ALWAYS goes to Dad's side first!) Thankfully (again) my husband usually does the sick clean ups because otherwise, there might be another sick episode (being me). I can handle blood. I can handle loose teeth. Vomit? Not so much.

So this morning comes around, and we start doing the guessing game...what do we do? He seems fine. He only threw up once. It was probably something he ate. What do we do? In the end, Mark took the other three on to church, and I stayed home with the patient who seemed to be feeling just fine. We decided not to risk it just out of consideration for those in his class and his teachers.

So I got some time this morning to organize. A few hours doesn't go too far (especially when you have to exercise in there too). But I got a lot of the girls' room done. It still needs some more work but it is a bit more organized (other than the pile where I threw stuff that was nowhere near where it needed to be).

I also got a nap today. Woohoo!

Random thoughts:
Child 4 still says "probably" probably all day long. "I probably done with my nap, Mommy..." or "I probably took her cars away; I probably won't do it again." I don't remember any of my others going through this stage. He is unique, I suppose!

Please continue to pray for Mark's mom. She will find out test results on the tumor on her pituitary gland tomorrow. Pray for the doctor's wisdom when reading the tests.

I have exercised five days in a row. I think that may be a record for me. :) I am trying not to get my hopes up that I might actually lose weight, but I am hopeful. The other day we were watching something on t.v. I don't remember what it was but there was a commercial for weight loss or a diet. Hunter quickly said, "Mom, you need to do that so you can lose weight for Biggest Loser!" So I am getting encouragement (I think :) at home.

Please pray for my friend Jill. Her husband Jeremy has had treatments for colon cancer through the second half of last year. This week he will have tests done to determine if the treatment worked and he is cancer free.

I am about ready for spring time. I am ready to get back to some hiking on the weekends!

I better go. I have more to say but as usual not enough time to say it. :)


Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's a Bust...

We had BIG plans for the weekend. This was going to be the Cloud house clean up. We have new carpet coming in this week (well, new "used"...we have some carpet issues and they are fixing it), which means we have to clean out a couple of rooms. We still have Christmas stuff down (not out, it is all on the dining room table). And I am in a constant state of organization. Or at least constantly LOOKING for the state of organization. So this weekend it would happen. Well. Maybe.

You see, we slept in this morning (just until around 8), which was much needed. It was a long week getting back into our routine after a three week Christmas vacation. Then, I had to (yes, HAD to) make some pumpkin muffins. They are hard to make throughout the week because they take 10-15 minutes to prepare, then another 30 to bake. After about a week, I am so ready to have some they are a family hit. Meanwhile, we had dishes that needed to be put away (from the dishwasher) with dishes in the sink ready to go INTO the dishwasher. Meanwhile, I took a few minutes of quiet time in my room (door closed and everything) to work on a meal schedule for the next week which leads to a grocery list. I originally intended to have a two week menu, but decided in the end, I can only do one week at a time at this point in time. Plus, I HATE having to have two carts.

Then we put on our running shoes. Mark took one to his swim team practice. I took the other three to Child 2's basketball game. She played well; I love to watch her play. Child 3 hung out with another kindergarten sibling (who happens to be in my class). And Child 4...well, he was all over the place. By the time the game was over, I was about as tired as the players. Keeping up with him is no easy task! (I try really hard to contain him which is a challenge with a toddler but I don't want to disturb anyone else)

After the game, my mom graciously agreed to keep the three kiddos so I could head to the grocery store with the before mentioned list in my hand. My big boys headed to the Razorback basketball game.

After we got home, the kids (two young ones) went down for a nap. I finished putting away groceries. That usually leads to a quick clean out of the pantry, lazy susan, fridge. I got started on some laundry. Then I got busy cooking (or getting started on) dinner. When Mark came home, he did do some work outside and in the garage. I just added to the dishes in the sink.

I went to visit a friend. leaving the kids to clean the toy room (under Dad's supervision). When I got home, it was almost time for dinner. Then it was bathtime (for the kids, not me), books, and bedtime. Suddenly it is 10 o'clock (okay, so I rested for about an hour, chilling with my iTouch and a rerun of Chopped), and I still needed to exercise.

Needless to say, not much was cleaned or organized today.

I want to be. Clean and organized that is. I want our house to be "homey" but also fairly organized. However, I have decided for this to happen, life is going to have to come to a standstill. Until then...well, we are doing what we can!

I am still working on the habit of sharing praises/items of gratitude. Here are today's:

  1. Getting to see a former student who was keeping the scoreboard at the basketball game. She was a delightful student and has grown into a precious young lady. Yes, young lady. She is a junior! How did that happen???
  2. Getting an e-mail from a co-worker sharing about a few of my former students. (She ran in to the sister of one who also happened to be the cousin to a couple more) I am so glad to hear how they are doing.
  3. A husband who steps in when I feel "called" to visit with hurting friends.
On this note, I must go for now. Have a wonderful Sonday, worshipping and praising His name. :)


Friday, January 15, 2010

Out of the Mouths...

of babes.

Yesterday I wore a skirt to school. Sometimes I feel like I just wear the same things over and over, so every once in a while, I like to mix it up. Child 3 looked at me and said, "Mom! You cannot wear that! That is for church!"

When I got to school, one of my kiddos looked at me and with a big smile told me I looked gorgeous. (their word, not mine) Doesn't that make the heart feel good? Shortly afterward another kiddo came up to let me know about my hair. I had showered that morning and just left it straight. The child looked at me and said, "You hair looks really nice...NOW." Gotta love kinder kid honesty!

Last night we had to run all over the place. Child 2 had gymnastics right after school. Child 1 had swimming. The boys had haircuts. Child 2 had basketball practice. It was just one of those days. Child 3 asked what we were having for dinner. I told her sadly that we were going to have to have dinner on our own (free choice) because I didn't have time to cook. She grinned from ear to ear and yelled "Woohoo! I love that!" Makes me wonder why I am cooking on occasion...(I really am not a bad cook and generally make good things everyone likes)

Forgot to do my gratitude journal is today's (that may cover the last two days since I am behind)...
  1. I am thankful for a father who doesn't say (at least out loud) that I am crazy when I ask him to come to our house and set our DVR for a show (can you guess which one?) because we were on our way to dinner and forgot...and even better, he did it. Isn't he awesome?
  2. I am thankful for a husband who fixes the kids' breakfasts every morning (when we are in school). It gives me a few minutes of just "me" time.
  3. My class. I have a very sweet bunch this year. I always enjoy teaching and this group makes it even more fun!
I better go. Oh, before I go, I am going to throw out a prayer request. Mark got a text message yesterday from his mom that she was having an MRI done because there was some kind of mass on her brain. It turns out there is something on the pituitary gland. The test results are not in yet about what it is they are dealing with. Either way, she will be having surgery soon. Please pray for her peace as she waits for test results and for the doctor's wisdom!

I will try to be a better blogger this weekend! This new exercise schedule is wearing me out. I thought exercise was supposed to give me more energy. :)


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Drive By Post

It is amazing how much more difficult it is to post when I am back in school. On Christmas break, I had all kinds of time to do it. I am back to falling asleep as I type.

Yesterday was our Weigh In day for our Biggest Loser contest. I think I have mentioned before that some of the teachers at our school pair up to see which team can lose the biggest percentage of weight by spring break. I knew that I had gained a little weight but I wasn't sure how much. In fact, I had gotten to where I wouldn't even look at the doctor's office if I had to weigh. I didn't want to know. Well, yesterday was the day I had to know. And I was NOT happy with the results. So I am feeling motivated right now. I did exercise last night. And I am keeping my Mountain Dew to one a day (preferably a small one). My hard part is the food. I do love food. I feel a lot of prayers for self control coming up!

Some quick follow ups...

I know you are just really wondering with a burning curiosity, but Ribby (the fish) is still swimming. A fish expert told a friend who asked for me that likely our house is too cold. I wouldn't dispute that. So we have been moving his bowl around to warmer parts of the house. He seems a bit happier. But of course, he is a fish, so you never know...

No, our car didn't not get towed at the Little House on the Prairie musical. When Child 2 and I walked out though, I was holding my breath as I approached the parking lot. I was SOOO relieved to see that little dirty minivan sitting there! (Who would ever think that would be a sight for sore eyes? :)

Child 4's first day back to "school" was predictable. He told Mark (through a lot of tears) that he didn't want to go there. But when I picked him up, he was fine. He still cries at drop off but then he still does it at church too. It seems to just be part of who he is. :)

The other kids settled right into school. They (especially child 3) are really tired at night, but otherwise, I think they were really ready to go back!

Okay, I must get up and at 'em. Today is a crazy busy day. School, gymnastics, basketball, haircuts, and of course, exercise in there head is just spinning!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gratitude Journal

I am not a die hard Oprah fan. In fact I have watched very few of her shows. However, I have read a little about the "gratitude journal" she encourages others to keep (I am guessing she has done the same) where every day you take time to remember a few things you are grateful for. I have a hard enough time keeping up with house, kids, etc. but I do like the idea (which to me is just a take off of the song "Count Your Blessings...". So I thought I would do that here. It may not happen every day but I do want to remember some things I am grateful for. There are SOOO many things I can list, but I am going to stick with 3 for time's sake. Here are my three from yesterday:

1. Child 2. I am grateful for the way she entertains and plays with the little ones, especially when I am trying to cook dinner. I rarely ask her to do it. She just does. And I am so very grateful! Sometimes I am not so sure she couldn't step in and take my place!

2. Warm chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven. I can't be grateful for those very often or I will weigh a whole lot! But once in a great while, it is a treat! (Unfortunately those will become even rarer because today I am starting "Biggest Loser" at school. :()

3. Kisses and love from Child 4. He has been in a kissing mood. He gives very deliberate kisses on the cheek or arm. Last night he kept kissing my cheek and sweetly said, "Mommy, you no smell..." Since he said it so tenderly, I think it was a compliment. :)

Well, my time is short and I must get ready for school. Hopefully today I won't walk outside to find the snow falling...that was quite a surprise yesterday! I am more hopeful that my next gratitude journal will be about the warm temperatures we have this afternoon. And that soon that snow is long gone. I have had enough for the whole year. :)


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Probably Yes

This will be really short since I am REALLY going to school (unless I get REALLY sick) tomorrow!

We made it to church today! Yeah! With our travel and sickness, we hadn't been in some time. It felt good to be back. I think everyone was happy except for possibly child 4. He still (two years later) has difficulty going to the church nursery. It is a traumatic experience for him every time. He recovers though. I keep thinking he will grow out of it...

Mark and I had a date night tonight. That was a treat. Thanks to my mom and dad for watching the kiddos for us while we went. (and feeding them too) We just haven't had much "us" time recently. We thought about going to a movie but we decided to eat out so we could just talk...uninterrupted! That was a very nice treat. This time of year we like to look ahead at the year, goals, dreams, worries. We also talk a lot about the kids (same things...goals, dreams, worries...). I don't think we solved the world's struggles or anything but it was nice time. And the food was really good too. We went to a place called Crabbys. It is mainly seafood, though we had steak with a lump crab topping. I also had a yummy wedge salad. The waiter also told us that tomorrow they are going to start serving lobster bisque. I told him I was really sad to miss that...I LOVE lobster bisque. He brought me a little "sample" (a small bowl of it)...yum! I had thought I would eat dessert because tomorrow I must start eating better and exercising. (I know for most New Year's resolutions start on January 1 but for me, I follow a school schedule.) However, in the end, I was way too full and couldn't. That was sad.

Another sad thing is that Mark took my other laptop (which has most of my pictures on it) to a friend to install the new screen. Guess what? It was the wrong screen. :( It was SO close...the product number is one number off. That was a bit of a bummer. So now I will have to send that one back then wait for the new one...sigh.

Oh, and the title? Our youngest's word of the week is "probably". I will ask him if he is hungry. He will answer, "Probably yes." I will ask him if he is tired. He will answer, "Probably no." Tonight he was saying that he wanted to go "there" as he pointed to a picture of a Lego pirate ship. I answered, "Oh, you do?" He responded, "It is probably a fun place to go..." or something like that. I don't know where he got it, but it is so cute hearing him say it.

On that note, I must get to bed. I actually have to set the alarm. Night night!

Oh, you might say a prayer for child 4. He is going back to school after a three week break. He doesn't do well with separation (as noted above) especially after that long of a "break". Or maybe you should pray for his teachers...


Friday, January 8, 2010

Mickey and Minnie's Pad

I don't "advertise" on here very often, but we had such a positive experience at the condo we rented near Disney World, I just have to share. This is totally unsolicited, and I am getting no compensation for it. Just wanted to be upfront. :)

When we decided to go to Disney World (fairly last minute), I immediately checked out the Disney resorts. It didn't take long to realize that most things were booked, that Disney does not really cater to larger families (though I realize we are small by some standards...I mean more than four people), and that it would be QUITE pricey for us to reserve something. After I got over that disappointment, I expanded my search.

I did look at hotels but again, a family of six usually involves renting two rooms. Then I started checking out condos. I usually make a list (I just google for rentals) of available places and highlight any "pros" about them and e-mail the list to Mark. Then he narrows it down. I do all of the legwork I guess, and he makes the final decision. I have to say, he has yet to fail us. :)

The place we found...Minnie and Mickey's Pad. It is a condo in Davenport, FL, which is about ten minutes from the gates of Disney World. The area is fairly quiet and away from the busyness, which we really liked. Yet there was a grocery store just down the road, and numerous food places within ten minutes.

One of the selling points of the condo was that it was ground floor. With four little people running around, we need ground floor. People above me don't bother me at all (though I never really heard much from anyone). And the way the condo is situated, you have window views from all bedrooms and the dining room (with a little patio even). There was nothing behind the condo except a field area which was nice.

Another selling point was the size. It was a three bedroom, two bath condo, which is a huge plus with our crew. Mark was impressed with the size of the kitchen (which I forgot to take a picture of but you might see on the website). It also had a full size washer and dryer (which we used often) It was just nice and spacious. Not that we need a lot of space, but again, with four little people, it is nice to be able to move around and have a little space.

When I e-mailed Audrey who owns the condo, I was impressed with the price. I love that it included the cleaning fee and taxes already. That took out alot of the guesswork. If it had been warmer, I am sure we would have enjoyed the pool/recreation area. We also had free Internet. (It wasn't wireless but it was high speed)

The next week, we filled out the rental agreement and sent in the fees. During that time period, Audrey, who lives in England, called us to introduce herself. She wanted to put us at ease since we were renting via Internet. (I had seen this condo listed on several rental sites so I wasn't too concerned, but you cannot help but wonder when you "shop" online :) It was nice to talk to her, ask any questions, and find out more about where we were staying. She also assured me she was just an e-mail away. And she was. (She also called us our first day there to make sure everything was to our liking.)

Overall, it was a positive experience. And though I know staying on Disney premises has benefits (like the meal plan or "magic hours", I honestly am not sure we wouldn't just stay at Minnie and Mickey's Pad again. It was comfortable, "homey", reasonably priced, and a nice size. We also enjoyed the location. Here are a few pictures:
The room the girl's stayed in (two twin beds)
Another view of the girl's was so fun!

A view of the living room and the dining area

The room the boys stayed in. We took our pack and play because of our stop in Mississippi, but there was actually one there we could have used.

I wish I had gotten pics of our room and the kitchen. Anyway, you get the idea. :) If you ever are interested in staying there, feel free to ask me about it (or you can e-mail Audrey...she is quick to answer!).

More later,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snowed In

Okay, not really. A lot of snow melted already. Except I think we might be getting a dusting right now. Either way, we did not have school again today. I know a lot of people don't understand why. A lot of the roads were clear. However, there were still some slick spots. And asking parents all over the district to get out on those roads...well, I will just say I support the decision made! So far it has not been canceled for tomorrow, so we will see...

We have enjoyed our time at home. No, I don't really like that we are using up snow days. For some reason, I think we may have more snow this year than normal (number one piece of evidence...a white Christmas). At the same time, I cannot change the weather. So I just have to go with the flow. And not plan any summer vacations too early...

Mark asked me last night what I do with four kids at home all day. Before any bashing begins, I will say that he didn't ask me in an ugly way or even a questioning way as in questioning, "So, what did you do today, Honey?" It was more of a curious question. So for him (and you) is a short list of what I did today:

  • spent the first few minutes of my day chatting with our oldest and answering questions as I answered e-mails. It is rare that my first few minutes are my own. However, I know to treasure these moments because in a few years, I will be begging that child to talk to me!
  • fed four kids breakfast
  • cleaned up the kitchen after feeding four kids breakfast
  • folded a couple of loads of laundry, washed a couple more
  • assigned today's chores
  • helped child 3 with her chore (emptying the dishwasher)
  • answered e-mails
  • attempted to take a shower...I guess that was successful but I was told two tattles, gave a correction/instruction, and played games on the shower door to entertain the youngest all in the course of just a few minutes
  • signed a petition for a friend
  • served morning and afternoon snacks to J-man
  • supervised the girls' cleaning of their room
  • packed up some of the toys/books the girls decided not to keep after cleaning their room
  • tried the potty thing with child 4. He just isn't quite ready. The will is there but the timing is not. :)
  • sorted through the mail
  • fed four kids lunch (and got to eat a little lunch myself)
  • helped child 3 get dressed to play outside
  • answered American Trivia questions from a game that child 1 got for Christmas
  • helped child 2 with origami (from a kit she got for Christmas)
  • organized child 4's books
  • found homes for the big bag of stuff Mark emptied out of my van before our vacation
  • re-loaded the dishwasher
  • typed up a grocery list for Mark then asked him to pick up take out after he went to the store :)
  • brushed child 4's teeth, read bedtime stories, etc.
  • took a much needed nap
  • worked on catching up on newspapers from last week
  • worked on report cards and comments
  • took down the Christmas tree
I could probably go on but will stop. :) It is strange. It isn't like we have an overly structured day. Yet it is busy. I will start working on clothes, then get interrupted to change batteries in the youngest's Leapster, while the two girls come in with an argument about how to clean their room. I feel like I am going in circles sometimes!

I want to say a little about the place we stayed in Florida, but have to work on the pictures. My pictures are on the computer but they are playing hide and seek...I have to figure out where they went :)

Thank you for praying for Bonnie yesterday. I know she feels that. Please continue to pray for little Hannah's family too.

I usually do a Year in Review with pictures on New Year's. Like my "Christmas" cards, it is just may be a little late. I know you are just on pins and needles with excitement!

Okay, I am rambling. And since school has not been canceled, I better get to bed. I actually have to set my alarm! Hope I remember how to get to school...

More later,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


So sorry I didn't post last night. You would think I had all kinds of free time on my hands since we had a snow day. However, the day was filled with children, snow gear, laundry, unpacking, etc. Then last night when I settled down to write this, I couldn't find my pictures (on the computer). Before I knew it, I was sitting there with the computer on my lap, warm as can be, sound asleep.

We have another "snow" day today. I won't even voice every thought I am having about the complaints the district has received due to this decision. I have some strong opinions though and will just summarize by saying that I am thankful to work for a district that does put its students first. While much of the roads appear clear, not all of our students live IN town. Driveways, sidewalks, and parts of the road are still NOT clear. I was out today, and even my school parking lot is still not clear. We really don't get snow often so it is not financially sound for the district or even our city to have major equipment to deal with this. I know our summers get shorter when we have snow days, but the safety of our students and teachers comes first! There. My rant for the day.

Speaking of snow days, it was this day last year that a tragedy occurred. We were having our in-service...the first day returning after our Christmas vacation. That morning I went to a kindergarten meeting at another school. Later in the day we were in our own schools. I was in the hallway when I heard someone talking about the weather and asking if we had heard about the accident. While the ground was not covered, it was cold and a little icy that day. Apparently a teacher on his way to the in-service was in a car accident when his car slid on the ice; he died that morning. When I heard the teacher's name, it sounded familiar but I really don't know many of the high school teachers in our area. When I heard a description of his family though...a kindergarten teacher at another school who was taking a year off to stay with their daughter and was pregnant with their second child...somehow the pieces came together. My heart sank. I can remember well the hollow feeling left in my stomach.

I didn't know Bonnie well. Well, at least not in person. We were blogger friends. Somehow she had found my blog which in turn helped me find her blog. We had a lot in common: we were both moms and kindergarten teachers and bloggers. In fact, at one kindergarten meeting the year before, she had come up and introduced herself. Otherwise, we only knew each other through blog comments. But now her life was very different. I still cry thinking about it. There are many things in life I don't understand, and this will always be one of them.

Over the last year, I have gotten to know Bonnie more. She is an amazing person. She was a devoted wife and loves her children with all she has. She has a giving heart; I don't think she could be mean if she tried. She is so much of what I am not. I am constantly amazed at her patience, her encouragement, and her complete faith in God despite the struggles she has had to face this past year (including delivering their son without her husband by her side). I have done things thinking I was helping her only to find myself leaving feeling more encouraged and loved than when I came.

My one regret is that I did not go to the funeral. At the time, we had only met once in person. I was afraid that it would be odd for me to just show up. I also knew it would be really crowded. Mr. Culp was a well loved and respected high school teacher with many students who were mourning his loss too. Our faculty was actually asked to help substitute if needed at the school where Bonnie's sister teaches. In the end, I chose not to go, and I am sorry for that now. At the time, all I knew to do was pray. And I did a lot of that. A lot of people have. I really think and believe Bonnie has felt those prayers over the year. She has a strength that comes from Him. Thank you to all who have prayed for that strength and peace for her this year!

When I first started this post, I didn't mean to go this in depth. I guess it has been on my heart more than I knew.

More later...