Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Failure is an Option

First of all, Dawson received his acceptance letter for college this week! He wants to attend a nearby community college to utilize the A+ scholarship he has earned. This is so exciting for me because when we took him out of public school at the end of 7th grade to homeschool him, my main goal was to help him come to a place where he enjoyed learning and would desire to seek further education beyond high school (if his chosen field required it). Not only does Dawson enjoy learning, but his future plans include being a high school history teacher! What a scary thing it was for us to start the homeschooling journey. But what a life-changing decision that was for our family.

Are you afraid to fail? I think human nature causes us to be extremely fearful of making mistakes, or devastated when we do. Lately I have been really in-tuned to the fact that making mistakes and wrong decisions is just part of life and that we should not be fearful of it. I, personally, learn the most when I make mistakes. It seems to be a big topic of conversation with the kids, too, from Kyndal making changes to her wedding and the little kids trying something with their schoolwork and messing up. It's okay!!

Brynne has decided that she wants to write, direct and produce a movie based on the first book in the Warriors series: Into the Wild. She is currently writing the screenplay. At first she was so nervous and worried about how hard it was going to be and concentrating on all of the difficulties. But we discussed how she would have some successes and failures in this endeavor, but that is OKAY!

Which leads up to the fact that our schooling the past couple of weeks has resembled unschooling. We are so NOT an unschooling family, but delight-directed learning has led us there. How do you tell your student "no" when they say they want to make a movie? She has taken a love for reading to a new level. She is writing, without having to follow prompts. She is creating a story. She is planning her characters and setting. She has even thought about how she will get the credits onto her movie and where she will show it (she is thinking the public library). A planned science experiment or a math page seems like nonsense when this kind of self-directed learning is going on.

The only problem is that I have to keep Eli motivated and learning during Brynne's creative process. He has been honing up on his skills on Stack the States and Stack the Countries and continuing to work on his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit maps. He is a very creative young man who can spend hours in his room playing. He is being creative all day every day. That counts for something. He is writing stories, too, but just in his mind.

This shift in paradigm has come at a good time as we have been dealing with some daily life junk that has required attention and drained me of much-needed energy for active teaching. Plus it's just really darned cool to see your kids be so excited to do something!

There will be plenty of days for grammar and math. But this boost of creativity might only last a couple of days ... or it could be the start of a budding career. These are the things we must support in our students.

In addition to all of this creative fun, we did manage to do a few other things this week. (Brynne ended up running a fever with a sore throat yesterday, so school these past two days has been from the couch.) The kids stayed caught up on current events with CNN Student News. We read aloud a few chapters of The Long Winter. We watched the clips for the last five states we are learning the capitols for: Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii. We practiced all of our capitols with flashcards, did a crossword puzzle, and then took our state capitols tests (they wrote the capitol next to each provided state, they wrote the capitol on the appropriate state on a map, and then they wrote the state next to each provided capitol.) They did lots more reading, with Brynne now on the second book in the Warriors series: Fire and Ice and Eli reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever. The kids also watched a couple more episodes of Brain Games with daddy. What a great show! Math and grammar ... nah. We didn't get to those.

Brynne will start her new after school program called Girls on the Run next Thursday. She missed the first class because of being sick. She will meet with 3rd-5th grade girls at the elementary school on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for positive self-image and health classes and to train for a 5K. I'm going to have Eli go to the library on those afternoons and work on the library educational computers, read, and attend the Lewis and Clark class (they attended last year, but it's good for him to get out.) He is also working on a new style of bowling for their upcoming state bowling tournament.

What a great week of learning.

No failure there.

Linking up:

Random Five

This has been one of those trying weeks with lots of stuff going on ... emotional stuff. These kinds of weeks make me really stop to consider what is important and what is not.

1. I would say we kind of do things differently in our family, and always have. (Dawson's favorite phrase is, "We are an odd family.") That has resulted in some disapproval and ridicule over the years, and sometimes even some anger directed toward us. But I feel like we have to be strong in our convictions about what we want for our family.

2. After 20+ years of this parenting gig, I think we must have managed to do okay because we still have a strong relationship with all of our kids. They come to us for advice, actually choose to hang out with us, even seem to enjoy it when they do, and tell us way more than we want to hear at times. The big kids prefer to spend time at home with family than to go out. They actually like to spend time with their younger siblings, and sometimes even choose to do so over something else. The little kids adore their older siblings and count time spent with them as one of their favorite things to do. We actually like to be together!

3. Our family would much rather have the memories of family vacations than to have a big fancy house, nice cars, and nice things. Stuff doesn't matter. Memories do. And we have memories that will last a lifetime from the trips we have taken as a family, whether small or big ones. We have a big trip coming up and the memories from it will stay with us forever. To go on that big trip we are having to make other sacrifices. And we are gladly doing so.

4. We have gone against the grain to teach our children that they should look deep into their hearts to decide what they really want out of their lives and should push toward those goals, even if it doesn't mean doing things the traditional way. Being passionate about what you are doing means so much more than money. And making a life decision based on the opinions of others will almost always lead you down the wrong path and into one of misery.

5. Unconditional love is the most important thing. I can give my advice, sometimes solicited and sometimes not. But I want my children to know that even if they go completely against my advice and make a mistake, I will love them through it. That doesn't mean I will bail them out. It means I will accept them and will love them through their consequences. I can only hope they will never doubt my love for them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Did you watch The Oscars? How many of the Best Picture nominees have you seen (American Sniper, Birman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash)? Do you think actors should use their acceptance speeches as an opportunity to promote their political and/or social agenda? Does that sort of speech make you more or less inclined to change the channel?

Funny, but instead of watching the Oscars we were watching a movie! Usually the majority of the Oscar-contenders aren't even shown in the Midwest. (Insert hillbilly drawl of Sandy the Squirrel from Spongebob here.) I guess the movie people don't think us here in Mizzura are smart enough to get the understandin' needed to watch them there movies. We did see American Sniper. I guess they thought we could handle some shoot-em-up. Chris Kyle was a true American Hero! Actors can use whatever platform they want to promote themselves. But we have the right to say no to watching it. I could care less what political or social agendas Hollywood has because, quite honestly, it's the complete opposite of my beliefs. I have a choice whether to watch and listen, so I don't. Instead we watched the movie The Good Lie with Reece Witherspoon about The Lost Boys of Sudan. That was an excellent movie that was full of political and social agendas worth following. As a country we should be disgusted with ourselves that we even listen to, let alone follow, the political and social views of Hollywood when that kind of genocide is occurring in other countries.

Speaking of the movies ... are you comfortable going to a movie alone? How about dinner in a restaurant (not fast food, but an actual restaurant)? The second half of this question was posed by Carrie who blogs over at It's Not Easy Being Queen ( Thanks, Carrie!

I answered a similar question to this in a recent Tuesday Coffee Chat. The short answer is no. You can go HERE to read the long answer.

What's the last home repair or home improvement project you had to pay someone to complete? In hindsight was this a project you could have done yourself?

We purchased and had installed a direct vent furnace at the beginning of winter. We hired the job done because we had to have a vent hole cut through our 9" plaster walls. That was a job we did not want to do and are still glad we did not have to do. It was worth every penny that we paid to have it done.

Have you ever had Indian food? Like it or no? If you're a fan, what's your favorite dish? Have you ever prepared this yourself at home? Is there an Indian restaurant in your current hometown?

My mom and I shared Indian food with my sister-in-law Shawna on a visit to Portland, Oregon. I was skeptical, but it was really very good! I couldn't tell you anything we had, other than there were chickpeas involved. I have never prepared it at home because my family would not like it. And we live in a town of 2,000 people so, no, there is no Indian restaurant here. We have a Sonic, Subway, Dairy Queen, a couple of local dives, and a Chinese restaurant.

A song that reminds you of your parents?

I can't think of anything that reminds me of my parents as a couple. But "The Rose" by Bette Midler reminds me of my mom and anything by the Oak Ridge Boys reminds me of my dad.

The 26th of February is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. What's your favorite, or one of your favorite, fairy tales? Do you have any childhood memories associated with a particular fairy tale?

The Pied Piper. I had a book with a record of that story. Do you remember those ... how they would 'ding' when it was time to turn the page? I loved those!

What's a problem you solved yesterday?

(This was actually done on Monday because I did my Hodgepodge on Tuesday night.) I am not sure if it was a particular problem solved, but I did stop at the end of my daily Bible study yesterday and drive over to my daughter's to talk to her. I just wanted her to know that regardless of any advice I ever give her, that I will love her and support her no matter what her decisions are. I wanted her to know that it's okay to make mistakes in her life, to recognize them as mistakes, and then to change her mind. I told her that I never want her to feel like she has to keep doing something she doesn't think is right, just because she thinks she is too far into it or that her family or others will not approve of her decision to change her mind. We had a great talk and I hope she really heard that my love for her is absolutely unconditional, that I am proud of her, and that I support her decisions for her future.

Insert your own random thought here.

Another surgery for Rick's daughter. This time her back. Sigh. Will it ever end? Insanity. Love my man for not completely losing his mind.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday Coffee Chat

Love. Amore. What is it? Does it happen at first sight? Do you only get one great love per lifetime? How do YOU know love?

To me love is a deep, abiding faith in and commitment to someone. I also believe that love is an action, being in love is a feeling. I can be in love with something or someone, but if that fades then I clearly did not love it or him/her because I have not remained committed.

Love as an emotion is fleeting ... I can love peanut butter today but detest it tomorrow (and possibly forevermore) because I had a stomach virus around the same time I ate it.

Committed love is an action.

When I met my first husband, I never loved him. I was in love with him when I met him and loved the future I thought he was going to be able to provide me. He never loved me either. Neither one of us was ever committed to each other, that was obvious in the destruction of our marriage.

When I met Rick, I loved him instantly. We started our relationship with some hardships, but I knew I was going to be committed to him despite those and others we might face because I loved him. I started taking action to show him that I loved him. The in love portion of our marriage has come and gone a few times, I will admit. Here is a shocker .. he has flaws and so do I. But it has never changed how much I love him. I have faith in him, despite his flaws, and am committed to be his wife until death do us part, regardless of what happens in our marriage. Thankfully I do not have to love my husband in drudgery or out of duty. He is a wonderful man and I respect him and am so grateful to him for all he does for our family. He loves me so, so much and shows me in little and big ways all the time. He knows my love language and uses it to show me love. (See, an action.)

Which brings me to the love languages. I believe in Gary Chapman's love languages whole-heartedly! My love language is Acts of Service. If you want me to know you love me, pick up your dirty laundry or clean my kitchen. Ahhh ... my heart smiles! Rick's love languages are Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch, which are the total opposite of mine. I would like to say that I show Rick love in his love language consistently, but I do not. It's much easier to show love in your own love language so I am just sure that at the end of the day he knows how much he is loved because I have cooked him a good meal and taken such good care of his home and children. Not so. I am sure Rick feels unloved at times from me because I fail in loving him in his love language. I try to do better, but I fail often.

This brings up my point of love being an action. I can tell him all day long how much I love him, but if I am not filling his tank in the ways that he feels loved, then he doesn't believe my words. (I sure am glad we got this question this week so I can be reminded of all of this.)

But love isn't just about our spouses. It's also about our kids and family members and the world. Our children and family members have love languages, too. It is helpful to know them.

We can say we love children in Africa all we want but if we aren't doing something for them, they do not know it.

You can end a phone conversation with your children every day with the words 'I love you', but if you haven't backed up your words with actions then your words are empty and they don't believe them.

Saying the words are important! I do not discount that. But the words start to become hollow after a while if they are not support with our actions of love.

I don't believe you have one great love of your lifetime, because that has all to do with your attitude and perspective on love. Love is a choice. It is a daily choice, minute-by-minute, in fact. It requires sacrifice (and lots of it), the biting of your tongue (sometimes until it bleeds), a dedication to someone who makes you want to kick something or pull your own hair out at times, and a heart for God and His ways and a desire to love as He has commanded. None of that is easy if we are relying on feelings alone.

So get out there and love your people.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weekly Wrap-up ~ On Thin Ice (Prairie Primer - Long Winter Week 1)

We started out the week with some snow! We work hard in the mornings to get all of our regular studies done so that the kids could get out into the snow in the afternoon for some P.E. time.

And then, friends, things got stressful on Wednesday night with a sobbing phone call from Kyndal and continued on through Friday. I was extremely tense (angry, to be exact) and very frustrated for her. The situation carried over into her wedding plans which ended with her and Collin making the decision to scrap their traditional wedding they were planning and make plans to get married on the beach somewhere. All of the details have not been made yet, but a destination wedding is a definite. The backyard wedding is cancelled. Rick and I are just happy to see a smile on Kyndal's face for the first time in a while. The stress is gone and the fun is beginning.

But when our family is consumed with a stressful situation, it is extremely difficult to get any traditional schooling done. Thankfully Eli and Brynne can do independent work. I was able to give them a few of the necessities to do on their own on Thursday and Friday and then they just did lots and lots of reading. They both finished their books and started new ones.

Even with the snowy afternoon play and the family stress, we got a lot accomplished getting through another set of lessons in grammar, math, current events, Bible, and U.S. state capitols. We also started our new Little House book, The Long Winter.

In our activity time we learned about Braille. We read the books A Picture Book of Louis Braille by David A. Adler and Secret Code by David Meachen Rau and then did some activities from the PBS website.

I used the braille translator and printed off the Eli and Brynne's names in braille. We used Elmer's glue to make the raised dots. The next day the kids were able to close their eyes and read their names in braille by feeling the raised dots. I had also printed off a translation of "I am very proud of you for learning all of the states and capitols!" and had them decode it with a braille key. They really liked this activity.

Rick had told us about a show he had seen on Netflix called Brain Games. We watched the first episode and it was about tricking the mind with the senses. It went right along with our lessons, and it was a great show! We are definitely going to watch the rest of the episodes.

The kids finished the week with some drawing. I have mentioned that they love the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit so they drew maps of the different areas from the stories.

We are certainly hoping for a more uneventful week this week.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Random 5

1. Kyndal had one of her bridesmaids drop out of the wedding because she is planning to go to Hawaii with a boyfriend she has had for six months. This friend is Kyndal's longest best friend from Oklahoma, the one who has been her friend through thick and thin, regardless of distance. Kyndal is devastated, to say the least. She was told this in a text. Pretty crappy, huh?

2. And on that note, because of the ditching bridesmaid and some other drama, Kyndal and Collin decided to cancel their current wedding plans and have a destination wedding in Cozumel, Mexico, in May. Yeah, I know, right? We were so excited for their decision and were even more pumped that we would get to share in the memories with them as a family. But they spent the majority of their day yesterday getting attacked for this change of plans and now they don't know what they are going to do. They want the stress-free destination wedding with their families, but don't want to upset anybody by making that decision. It just makes me sick for them because I have to wonder if their wedding day, regardless of what they decide to do, will be a happy one. I know my daughter. If she doesn't feel supported, it won't be. And that makes me sad.

** UPDATE: This morning a decision was made. They are going to have a small ceremony with their pastor on May 22nd to exchange their wedding vows. Family and close friends are invited to attend. Then they are going to have a blessing ceremony on the beach in either Roatan or Cozumel, but they haven't decided which destination yet, that will occur a few days later. Then they will have their originally planned reception on July 11th. Everyone's personal needs are met and they get the stress-freeish wedding they want and get to do lots of celebrating!!!

3. Days like the last two days make me want to grab my family, move to a farm somewhere, and never see or talk to anyone else ever again. Bullies!

4. Eight years ago Rick and I made a very poor financial decision in an attempt to find that elusive "happiness". It snowballed into more financial setbacks that have left us reeling since. He and I are tired of the bondage of debt, especially when we have seen no upcoming freedom. So we decided to get serious. Instead of gimping along, we now have a plan ... a very strict and serious plan that will have us 100% out of debt in 3 1/2 years, with two-thirds of that debt being eliminated by October of 2017. If I told you the staggering numbers we are tackling you would be shocked. It is going to be a very tough 32 months. But we can do it. We know that we can. We know that God wants us to be out of debt, so we are believing that He will guide us on our path to freedom from this stronghold. The thoughts of freedom make me giddy! It is very exciting! Perhaps when we get all of our debt paid off we'll move to that farm and disappear.

5. On a positive note, Dawson received his ACT score this week and applied for college. He will be attending a nearby community college while living at home using a scholarship he has earned. It will allow his tuition and fees to be paid to the junior college (two years worth), as long has he uses it in the next four years. He plans to major in Secondary Education. He wants to be a high school history teacher and/or teach multi-media. I am excited for his future. And if he changes his mind at some point, he could always be a farmer.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge

When did you last have to interact, either by phone or in person, with someone in a government run agency? On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the experience? (10 being fabulous and 1 being 'pass the Tylenol')

The last interaction I had with a government employee was a clerk with the Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement. I would give my experience a 10. She answered my questions, found some information for me, and even worked to get something accomplished and then called me back when it had been. Everyone I have talked to there has been very helpful and friendly. In fact, the last clerk ended our conversation with, "I wish you the best of luck!"

The current governor of Wisconsin is considering a run for President next time around. Scott Walker attended Marquette University but never graduated. In terms of any candidate running for the office of President (not asking here if you agree or disagree with Scott Walker's politics) would the lack of a college degree influence your vote or no? Would that be a factor in your support of any candidate running for public office, even a role less weighty than President?

To be quite honest, a man or woman who has graduated from the School of Hard Knocks would probably make the best President. Lord knows that all of the degrees and such that our current cabinet  members have earned have not equipped them to make good decisions for our country. I am almost of the opinion that anybody could do a better job than what has been done by the intellects. A self-made man/woman might be just the ticket. A lack of college degree would not sway my vote in any election. Let the best man/woman win.

When did you last visit a place or site named for George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, and what was that place or site?

I cannot think of anything recent. We took a trip to Washington D.C. when I was a senior in high school and we saw the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. There's not a lot of reference to George Washington here in Missouri, unless you are talking about George Washington Carver. I don't know anything around here about Abraham Lincoln, either. We are more in the land of Harry S. Truman here.

February 16th was President's Day in the US, but did you know it was also National Almond Day? I didn't think so! Do you like almonds? If so, what's a food/dish/recipe you enjoy most that contains almonds?

My favorite almondy-food is an Almond Joy candy bar. Dawson and I share in this love. I actually eat a lot of almonds, mostly sliced almonds on my cereal, in oatmeal, or in yogurt.

The television program Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary this past weekend. Were/are you a fan of the show? If so, what has been your favorite (or one of your favorite) skits, sayings, or characters that came out of the program?

Ugghh ... I absolutely HATE Saturday Night Live and always have! I cannot stand any of the actors and do not find them funny at all. I cannot stand Will Ferrell, for example. My husband loves anything SNL-related, including any movie with any of the comedians. I steer completely clear.

Anything purple within ten feet of you? What is it?

Brynne's Barbie house and canvas bucket full of Barbies is currently residing in our dining room. Brynne had a sleepover a few weeks ago and they were playing with it. Then we left it here so Macie could play with it while we did school work. It has worn out its welcome, though, and is going back downstairs this weekend. (Oh, the canvas tote has purple trim and the Barbie house is covered in purple accents.)

Back in December I asked you to submit a question for a future HP as part of a giveaway I was hosting. I grabbed this one from those entries, submitted by Zoanna who blogs over at Penchant for Pens ( Thanks, Zoanna! She asks, "How often do you make your bed, and how do you like to make it - pull the covers all the way up over the pillows, tuck the covers in around the pillows, or place all the pillows on top of the covers?"

I used to make my bed every single day. I was obsessed with it! In fact, when the older kids were little and I was a single mom, I can remember starting to back out of the driveway one morning and stopped to run back into the house to make the beds. I just couldn't stand the thought of them being unmade all day. I think that was one of my areas of control during a time that my life was so out of control. I have mellowed since then. I probably make my bed 3-4 times a week. Some days I don't even realize I haven't made it until I go to get into it again at night. I do love it made, though. It makes the whole room look nicer. When I make the bed I pull the covers up tight, then fold down the top comforter. I put our sleeping pillows upright against the headboard (5 of them in a King-sized bed). In front of those pillow I place our 3 European sham pillows. Then in front of them I place our 4 decorative pillows. Yeah, 5+3+4 pillows = 12 pillows on our bed. No wonder I only make it 3-4 times a week!

Insert your own random thought here.

We got glorious snow this week! My kids have been dying for some snow to play in. Monday and yesterday they got their wish. We got up and got all of our book work completed by 2:00 p.m. so they could go outside to play until they were frozen solid. It's been awesome!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday Coffee Chat

It's Tuesday Coffee Chat day with Time Out for Mom. Today's question is ...

Dance like no one is watching. Who are you when no one is watching?

Will the real Nicole please stand up?

I have always said that I am just like my house. On the surface my house looks very clean, very put together, very orderly. But if you open the closets, things might fall out on you. There is no organization in there. And behind furniture and under rugs and in the little nooks and crannies, it is not as clean as I want it to be. No matter how much I clean it, with the messiness of life it is still dirty.

That's me, too. I appear to have it all together. Most would think that by looking at me, that I do. Mostly I do. I keep my life orderly. It is important for me to have order. Inside, I'm not as together as I appear on the outside. I'm like anyone else ... I have my demons. I do a pretty good job of pushing my problems aside, out of the way, sweeping them under the rug. I am diligent about always trying to clean up my life, those strongholds that rob me of joy and of being the woman God wants me to be. But no matter how much I work at it, I'm still not as cleaned up as I want to be. And I realize I never will be.

But I am learning that God chose me to be His, even in my current condition. He has work to do in me and will always love me no matter what. I will make mistakes, and I am not afraid to admit them. I am okay with that. I know that things will end well for me. I ponder on this fact often.

On that note, I am a very contemplative person. I stink at brainstorming ... just ask my husband. I like to have everything all worked out in my mind before I discuss it. So I think A LOT! If you see me out and about and I have a frown on my face with a furrowed brow, it's not because I am unhappy ... it's because I am in deep thought. I am this way when no one is looking, too, because any member of my family can walk into a room where I am and quietly say my name and scare the poo out of me because I am in deep thought.

I am fierce when it comes to my husband and my kids. If you mess with them, you mess with me. Period.

I have a real problem with people who don't do what they are supposed to do, who shirk their responsibilities and then spend their time blaming others. And when that blame goes toward my husband or kids, I pretty much lose it. (See previous paragraph.)

And I don't like stupid people. Whether I am alone or in public, I don't like stupid people. That may sound harsh, but this post is about truth, my friends.

I don't require much to make me happy. My home and the people in it about does it for me. I don't require entertainment. Give me a t.v. show or a good book and I am all set. I don't care about nice, fancy things. I just need the necessities, and someone to share them with. I don't have many friends, and don't need them. I have my husband, my parents, my children. They meet my socialization needs. I would much rather fix a big dinner for my family and watch a movie or play a game together than to go out somewhere.

I enjoy homeschooling my kids as much as I appear to others to enjoy it. Seeing the growth of knowledge in my children fulfills my life.

I am immensely proud of the young adults Kyndal and Dawson have become, despite the heart-hurting difficulties they have endured. All of my children are kind and loving and responsible. They don't always make the choices I would make, but they make them for the right reasons and I am proud of them for their courage to stand true to their own selves.

I would rather be trapped in the house in a snow storm than to be sitting on the beach. I like a glass of wine occasionally but would prefer a cup of coffee.

I don't think I am much different in person than I am when I am alone and no one is watching, except I might shower and fix my hair more often if I am around other people and wear something other than my homeschooling uniform. I guess that would be the biggest difference. If you stop by my house during the week, I might not look as pretty as I would look out in public.

So this is the real me. This is the me I am when nobody is watching. It is also the me I try to be when someone is.

I am pretty happy with me, and am grateful for those who love me for exactly who I am.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A {Love}ly Weekend

This was one of those really great weekends! Rick got home from work late Friday afternoon and spent his evening getting attacked by the kids for his attention. I had been grocery shopping so got the groceries put away, dinner served, and the kitchen cleaned. We just did the usual Friday night stuff.

Yesterday we got to sleep in because there was no bowling! Yay!! We blew our healthy eating routine and feasted on chocolate donuts for breakfast. That didn't settle well with Brynne's stomach as she played a very intense basketball game a couple of hours later. But she held it together and even got her first basket of the season! Their team won and it was a great game.

I gave all the kids their Valentines gifts ... new festive shirts from American Eagle for all four of the older kids (so they could look cute when they went on their dates) and Amiibos for the WiiU for the younger two. We don't go crazy for Valentine's Day but I always like to get them a little something to show them how special they are to me. I got Rick a bag full of his favorite snacks. And he had bought me a new North Face coat (that was supposed to be for this coming Christmas) that he gave to me a couple of weeks ago. It was so cold on Saturday that I was super happy to have that gift!!

Rick took the kids to Subway for lunch, and bought me Chinese because Subway is not my favorite. The kids played the WiiU, Rick watched Friends on Netflix in the Sitting Room on his phone, and I took a snoozer on the couch. Perfect Saturday afternoon! Dawson and Taylar went to the movies, and Collin and Kyndal stayed home all day nursing their sick puppy dog.

I fixed a great dinner for the whole family, including my mom, last night. We had chicken parmesan, salad, french bread, and my new favorite dessert. Chocolate chip cookie dough + Oreos + marshmallows + Brownie mix = LOVE!! You layer those things in a baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Top that warm bit of gooeyness with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and O.M.G. Heaven!

We played a couples version of Game and Wario's "Sketch" (one of our favorite video games to play together as a family), and then piled up in the living room to watch Remember the Titans.

A perfect Valentine's Day.

Today the temps dropped even more! After Sunday school the kids and I put back on our pjs. I did loads and loads of laundry, got in another nap, and then made meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn for Rick before he headed back to Oklahoma for work.

The kids went to their room to play and I got caught up on a couple of t.v. shows (Have you watched How to Get Away with Murder? I love that show!) and did my online bill paying.

The snow started coming down and we are supposed to get a few inches tonight. The kids will be impossible to get to focus tomorrow because all they are going to want to do is play out in the snow.

You will notice I do not have any photos. I guess I was spending so much time enjoying my family that I didn't take pictures of them. But don't worry, I have the images of our happy family etched on my heart. We have a great family, including the significant others of the older kids. I think my mom was worn out after spending an hour or so with us. We are a pretty crazy group ... never a dull moment, and there is nothing we won't talk and laugh about! We enjoy spending our time together and it makes for a happy home.

I hope you had fun with your sweeties this weekend. That's what Valentine's Day is all about!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Chugging Along (Prairie Primer - Silver Lake Week 4)

Steady. Solid. No bells and whistles. That was this week.

But it was good. It has gotten to where it is just really good. We get up, get started, get it done. Everybody is pretty motivated and has good attitudes. I really can't ask for more right now.

What were we doing this week?

Bible had us learning about the different names of Satan this week and about how to battle him with the Full Armor of God.

CNN Student News is always the highlight of our morning. We have a trip planned to tour the CNN Headquarters in Atlanta in August. The kids are VERY excited! Hope we can bump into Carl Azuz!

We finished By the Shores of Silver Lake this week. We love the Little House series. I really think we will be so sad this summer after we finish all of the books. We will still have the series to watch, though. We are on Season 3, Episode 5. (This week Brynne drew a floor plan for what she believed the claim shanty looked like based on the description in the book.)

I see marked improvement in identifying all of the parts of speech in Fix It Grammer's "The Nose Tree" by IEW. The kids get through that daily lesson pretty quickly each day.

The kids are loving their personal reading time. Brynne is still reading the first book in the Warriors series and Eli is reading another book from the Middle School series. No complaints when it's reading time!

These are the things we do in the mornings. In the afternoons we tackle math, right after lunch before we start to get sluggish. We have finished all of the division lessons for Math U See Delta and are finishing up the last few lessons of this level next month. This week the kids learned all about calculating Volume. We pulled out the manipulative so that they could visualize it.

We are still excited about learning all of the state capitols and watching the clips about each state on "The States". Only one more week and we will have learned all of the capitols. It's been great to have them learning something that they really enjoy!

I have a funny story to tell that they will kill me for when they are older. I went to Taylar's grandpa's funeral on Wednesday at the funeral home across the street from our house. I left the kids to finish up some work. One of the things they were going to do was watch three episodes of "The States" and then practice their capitol flashcards. When I got home they weren't in the living room. I found Brynne laying on a blanket in the hall outside the bathroom. Eli was on the other side of the door taking care of some "business". He was drilling her on the capitols, using the flashcards on his side of the door and she was yelling her responses back to him. I was very impressed with their good use of time!

We went back this week and finished up some lessons on the Transcontinental Railroad by watching a couple of videos from ("Transcontinental Railroad" and "Evolution of Railroads") and doing a little real-life math with word problems about the Transcontinental Railroad.

We are participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year so we re-watched our "Your Backyard" dvd to familiarize ourselves with probable birds in our area. We started counting and reporting today.

We always finish off our day by watching our Little House episode and reading anywhere from 15-30 minutes.

Today it's Freedom Friday and the kids had a little math and grammar to finish. They wrote the sloppy copy of their Letters of Invitation. They played outside on this warmish day, running off some energy. And then they ended their day reading for about an hour.

And that was our week.

Like I said ... Steady. Solid. No bells and whistles. That was this week.

And Dawson has senioritis! He was also sick this week with a real illness and missed a day and a half of school. Monday he was feeling like this. Notice his shoes. They are moccasins (slippers). He started a trend at school ... Moccasin Monday. He really does wear his slippers to school on Mondays. This kid is such an individual. I hope he never loses his courage to be himself.

Linking up:

Random 5

1. I have been putting off watching the last three episodes of Parenthood that I had DVR'd. I just didn't want the show to end. But I prepared myself emotionally and watched them on Tuesday night. And I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed for 2 1/2 hours straight. What an amazing show that will be so missed.

2. I said last week that I had gained back 1.4 pounds of the 3 that I had lost since the first of the year. Well, I think it might have been fluid retention because at my weigh-in this week I had lost back those 1.4 pounds and 2 more making my weight loss so far a total of 5 pounds! Yay me! I only have 5 more pounds that I desire to lose and then I will work on maintenance and continuing to get in better physical shape. That is getting ready to kick into a higher gear as I start to train for a 5K with Brynne. She will be training with Girls on the Run at the elementary school, and I will also be training so that I can run the 5K with her in May.

3. I completely took myself off of my prescription Prilosec this past week and have replaced it with a morning and evening glass of water with lemon oil. So far I haven't had any indigestion or heartburn. I am not saying that it is definitely the lemon oil that is doing the trick, but it certainly could be. With eating healthier this year, I have almost completely cut out gluten which I know can be a trigger, as well. (Cutting out gluten was not intentional. It's just been a natural progression as I have replaced grain carbs with other forms, such as fruits, because they are better in my nutritional values.) I am still drinking my chamomile in the evenings, usually with a drop or two of lemon oil as well because it tastes so good, but I have also been able to drink coffee in the mornings without any problems. Here is to hoping I have found a winning combination!

4. Taylar, her mom and nana, and I went to a crazy cool formal wear shop in a nearby town on Wednesday night and found Taylar's perfect prom dress. It looks amazing on her!! It was so fun! No, I can't show you the dress now ... it's a secret. But, trust me, it is beautiful!! The theme is 007 and she will fit in perfectly! Dawson has got a cool "Dawsonish" outfit that he is going to wear to compliment her. He is not doing a traditional tux. I can't wait to see it all pulled together! (I found his tie, vest, and socks today, and ordered him a special belt. So fun!)

5. Kyndal and I finally found the perfect invitations for her wedding. They are a little more expensive than we were going to spend if we did some DIY like we were planning, but now they will be done and ready to put in the mail without us having to spend a full weekend getting them ready. They are perfect! She met with her grandmother yesterday and is meeting with her aunt today to discuss the flowers with them. They are going to take care of her flowers for the wedding, as they are both former florists. So those are two huge things we have checked off our list this week. So much more to do but at least we are making progress. Only 5 more months!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Have you ever written a love letter? Have you written one recently? Had one written to you? Did you keep it?

I can't remember ever writing a love letter, unless you count Troy Cooper and I passing notes back and forth in the first grade that said "I love you. Do you love me? Yes ___ No ___" I would come home with a lunch box full of them. (Speaking of lunch boxes, while at a consignment store last Saturday I came across the exact replica of the lunchbox I had in the first grade! I didn't even remember I had it until I saw it there.)

But back to the question. I am not very good at being mushy gushy. The only thing that would come close would be the story that Rick and I wrote together to put on the back of our programs at our wedding (actually he wrote it and I edited it.) It was called "A Story of Us", which was a love letter of sorts. I still have one of them tucked in a book that Rick gave me before we even started dating.

What's a movie that ends in a way you especially love?

I loved the way The Notebook ended (although they both died, which wasn't the part I loved ... although it was a beautiful expression of their true love, wasn't it?). It was the photograph montage of their life together at the end, a "what happened when the story was over" kind of ending. They did the same thing in Titanic by showing Rose's life in photos after her rescue. I like to see a glimpse of what happens to the characters when the curtain closes. It provides closure. (They did the same thing on the finale of Parenthood, the t.v. series, that I finally watched last night. They showed scenes from the future so you could see what happened to the families. I can now sleep at night.)

Something that makes your heart sing? And for those of you who are parents, I mean something besides your children that makes your heart sing?

A spring day with the birds chirping while I am outside piddling with my flowers or in my garden.

What's the last event you had to attend, phone call you had to make, routine task you needed to complete, or meal you had to prepare, that you did do, but only half-heartedly?

I am guilty of doing this with our schoolwork at times. We have such a routine now that I can almost do it on auto pilot. But that's not fun, not for the kids or for me. If we are not having fun in our learning at home, then they might as well go to the drudgery of public school.

And I always do laundry with only a teensy weensy bit of my heart. And I shouldn't do that. Doing their laundry reminds me of how blessed I am to have them ... even if they are wearing way too many clothes. The alternative is not having anyone's laundry to do. And that would be sad. (Well, maybe not so sad if I had them here and they did their own laundry!)

Tuna fish salad - yay or blech? If you said yay, how do you like your tuna salad prepared? Hey, this is the Hodgepodge, right?

Yes, I like tuna fish salad. I like it mixed with mayonnaise, chopped hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped onion, and a tiny bit of relish, either served on wheat toast with a slice of American cheese or on plain white bread. Don't ask me why I like the different breads, I just do.

What's something you 'know by heart'?

I know my older two kids' social security numbers, but not my younger two. I don't know why I memorized them, but it has proven useful over the years. I should probably start memorizing my younger two before they get to the ages that we need to start using them.

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, what two or three word phrase would you write on a conversation heart for someone you love? That someone could be a spouse, child, parent, cousin, bestie ... anyone at all whom you love.

On Rick and the kids' candy hearts I would write: MY LOVE ALWAYS. Because I will ALWAYS love them, no matter what, no matter where. They can screw up, do things that I wouldn't do, make decisions I wouldn't make, whatever ... and they will still have MY LOVE ALWAYS. I want them each to have a lifetime supply of those hearts so they never forget it. I want their last dying thought to be that no matter what they went through in their lives, their wife/mom ALWAYS loved them. Always.

Your can make your own personalized candy heart image by going HERE. Cute, huh?

Insert your own random thought here.

For the past few years Rick and I have been trudging along with our debt. He has done a diligent job of chipping away at it, but we are wanting to tackle it head on and get it GONE! We have been working on a plan this past week that will, hopefully, have a big portion of it gone in 14 months. We have also devised a plan for how we will not go into debt again, and how we will contribute some savings toward retirement. I feel very encouraged, even though it will be hard.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Coffee Chat

I think; therefore I have a headache. Suffer from over-thinking? Guilty of the thinking much? Or, just ... meh.

I think a lot. I am an introvert so I work things out more in my mind than out loud. But I would not say I am an over-thinker. In fact, I am pretty decisive about things. I make a decision and go with it, really not thinking back on the decision much.

I don't talk with others much about what I am thinking, either, which drives a lot of people around me crazy. I have a pretty intimate and close relationship with God so I talk to Him about my "stuff", mostly in my thoughts.

I do my best thinking in the bathroom ... always have ... while I am getting ready. It's quiet there and one of the only places I can go to be truly alone. I can solve the whole world's problems while putting on my makeup. I have made many major decisions in my life while blow-drying my hair.

I also do lots of thinking in the car. I can drive hours without even turning on the radio or talking to another person. In fact, I prefer the silence so I can think.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Freedom (Prairie Primer: Silver Lake Week 3)

I didn't realize what a big hit "Freedom Friday" would be. The kids were actually excited to get started with school on Friday. Not only that, but the prospect of the upcoming day propelled them through each school day of the week. They had already decided that one of their freedom activities was to play chess. It's been a while since they have done that and needed to brush up on their skills.

I was happy for Friday to get here because it tends to be a slower paced day and allows me time to get some much-needed housework done. My floors were especially in need of some attention as it's been super muddy this week and there have been constant doggy prints all over the hardwood floor. Mopping was a must-do activity today. But then after cleaning up prints two times in an hour, I decided to just clean as I went and mop when the ground dries up. Instead I deep cleaned my kitchen and got caught up on laundry. It felt pretty good.

The other Freedom Friday activity chosen by the kids was playing outside. We had a rare, sunny day on Friday so the kids went out to play "Lord of the Rings". They are pretty obsessed with the movies right now (including "The Hobbit") and like to put on their rings and fight the orcs and dragons surrounding our house with their swords and spears.

We had great intentions of doing some migration activities this past week, but with a rabbit trail, slow moving attitudes (mine), and a greater desire to learn about the states than anything else, we just didn't do much of it.

Warms my heart to see them sitting together, talking.

Brynne did do some research one day about different birds' migratory routes. Then we gathered to play a migration game. It was a little lame, the truth be told. Oh well. Some topics grab our attention and some just don't.

We did spend some time on Tuesday restocking bird feed and suet cakes and getting them hung outside in anticipation of a really cold couple of days. We are trying to concentrate on attracting our bird friends again over the next week so that we can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count this coming weekend. I hope they haven't abandoned us completely because we haven't been as diligent in keeping their habitats stocked.

Brynne did decide that we needed to provide some shelter for them so she spent one afternoon making a birdhouse out of a milk jug. (aka the "rabbit trail" I referred to earlier)

The kids are just really into learning about the states from our The States dvds. And I can't deny them some delight-directed learning. I love how things always tend to work out because we have been studying a lot of southern states this week and there was lots of mention of the racial discrimination of the 1950's and 60's. On Thursday we learned about the Little Rock 9 which got us talking about the movie "Remember the Titans". I actually started crying when I told the kids about that movie. It is a favorite around here. They have never seen it so we are going to have to buy it soon. It's just good stuff. I love homeschooling. I really do.

Our regular studies are moving along as well as I could possibly hope.
  • We finished up long division this week in Math U See. I am SO PROUD of the good work they are doing on this concept. It is tedious work but they have held strong and completed their assignments without much problem.
  • We are still working through "The Nose Tree" by IEW for grammar. The kids have learned to identify articles, nouns, verbs, helping verbs, adverbs, adjectives, who-which clauses, new paragraphs, capital letters, end marks, quotations, and how to change a phrase into a possessive phrase. I noticed that they were getting a little sloppy in their copywork so we read everything we had written so far in the story and did a little reboot for the next few weeks.
  • Writing has now been limited to a Friday activity, but that's okay. This week we worked on the body of our letter of invitation (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How). 
  • Brynne is half-way through the first book in the Warriors series. She really, really likes it and told me that she is so glad I introduced her to it. This week Eli started and finished The Long Haul from Diary of Wimpy Kid. We have also almost completed By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Next week we will move onto The Long Winter.
I realized this week that De Smet, South Dakota, is only 8 1/2 hours away from here. What a cool place! We can go there and actually see Silver Lake, the original Loftus' store, the rebuilt home and barn on the actual homestead claimed by the Ingalls', ride in a covered wagon, spend the night in a covered wagon, attend a one-room schoolhouse, and more. I talked to my friend from Oklahoma and we are trying to plan a quick trip for the end of August. It would be a pretty inexpensive trip if we shared the gas and lodging. What a field trip!!! (I think this might have to take the place of a St. Louis trip to ride on a steam locomotive. The kids were much more interested in going to De Smet!) I wish I had unlimited funds to just do everything we want to do. The United States is a cool place.

On Saturday Dawson took the ACT. Brynne's basketball game got cancelled so I drove him there since he had to find the testing location at my Alma Mater. (He was very nervous about making it there.) I am sure he did well on the test, although he was a nervous wreck. I spent some time browsing through a great consignment shop, picking up a cool wood box for a decoration for Kyndal's upcoming wedding.

Speaking of Kyndal, last week she was driving home from work and hit a patch of black ice. Of course she hit the only culvert on the highway and tore the bumper on her car. But Collin was driving in front of her so was right there and she wasn't hurt. My dad had a friend of ours go pull her out. You know, sometimes real life just stinks. She took another day off from her salon because of the roads. But when she worked on Friday and Saturday she had a couple of pretty full days. She is gaining a client base at her new salon. I am very proud of her.

Yesterday Eli and Brynne bowled in a youth bowling tournament. Because of a miscommunication about scheduling, their team bowled all three of their events yesterday .... nine games of bowling in a row. We could have spaced out the events over a couple of days and even a couple of weekends, but didn't realize that. Although they had some pretty great scores here and there, the exhaustion of doing so many events back-to-back really hurt their overall score. Eli even had a pretty sore thumb. But they all pushed through and did as well as they could. I was proud of them.

Today is Monday and it's time to get back at it. But I am having a grumpy Monday. How about you? We may watch some videos and do some extra reading today. Sometimes you just have to know when the day is not going to go how you want it to and embrace it.

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