Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Wrap-up and a Look at the New Year

We had a really great Christmas. Did you?

If you followed along in December you saw that the kids and I made an Advent Chain at the beginning of the month and did an activity each day of it. The activities ranged from doing something for someone else, baking/cooking, studying a tradition, and just having fun. I can honestly say that I felt more Christmas-y as the big day was approaching than any other year in my past, except for the year that we had an Old Fashioned Christmas. That was a good one.

We fell off the Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath devotions and ornaments and such. And I just had to accept that we are not at that place in our lives. We love Jesus full-out. But we are more of a Martha kind of family instead of a Mary one. We do our love of Jesus instead of soak in our love of him. Maybe that will change in years to come, maybe it won't. At times I felt bad about it, like I was failing, but then I decided to give us a break and let us enjoy what we enjoy in the Christmas season. And enjoy it, we did!

On Christmas Eve we went to my parents' for dinner, as is tradition. This year we had a big old fried chicken dinner. Yum! Dawson had to work so he wasn't able to join us. It was a nice evening watching my nieces run in circles and really get excited about opening gifts! There is something super fun about hearing your 4-year old niece yell, "I love it!" when she opens the gift you got her. It was a loud night with wrapping paper strewn all about.

I mentioned in a previous post that in years past I have gotten everybody Christmas pjs to open on Christmas Eve. But they ended up kind of being a waste because nobody really wears designated pjs around here (except for me, Eli and Brynne). So I decided to search high and low for the perfect Christmas t-shirt for each member of our family for them to wear on Christmas Day. I had a blast picking them out, and I think the family got a kick out of their shirts. A new tradition has been born!

Kyndal and Collin arrived at our house Christmas morning at 8:00 a.m. The kids started in on their stockings while we waited for Grandma and Papa to arrive. They like to watch all the grandkids open their gifts. It was a great year for gifts! Nobody had really asked for anything specific (except for Kyndal .... she has her own home now so asked for some things for it). I had to really listen to the kids this year to come up with meaningful gifts, but pretty much everyone declared that it was the best Christmas ever.

I was spoiled by Rick, as usual. My big gift this year is a solo trip to Hawaii to visit my friend Cheryl. He gave me spending money and new Vera Bradley luggage. I also got some North Face clothing, a blanket I really wanted, and a water pick. And let's not forget my new laptop purchased just before Christmas when my other one pooped out.

My parents give us all money every year and this year I splurged on something I would never have purchased on my own .... a pair of Tieks! They will be here on Saturday, and I am so excited!

It was especially fun to have our Bennett with us for Christmas. Nothing says Christmas like a new baby. He loved his gifts! Something he wants: a baby bike seat for his daddy's bike. Something he needs: A new high chair. Something to wear: A North Face coat. Something to read: How the Grinch Stole Christmas board and flap book (it's his daddy's favorite story). Christmas wore him out, but he had so much fun!

I fixed a huge breakfast and a big dinner on Christmas Day. I had spent several days before Christmas preparing everything I could ahead of time (thank goodness or I would have been a stressed-out mess!). It was an amazing meal! Seriously, I had to pat myself on the back. Rick and all the kids, my sister, niece, parents, and my grandma all came for dinner. It was really nice.

One special thing I did this year was to resurrect my Grandma Alice's recipe for spiced cucumbers. As a child my grandma always brought out one canned jar of spiced cucumbers for a family dinner. I always wondered why we only had one jar to share amongst all of us. I'll tell you why .... they take 5 days to make! She rationed them! I wanted to make them to surprise my mom, aunt, and uncle. I was so excited that they turned out exactly how she used to make them. I think spending those five days before Christmas pouring myself into something so nostalgic helped to make my Christmas extra special. Christmas Eve at my grandma's was my favorite night of the whole year. I so hope that my Christmas celebration for my family will evoke the same feelings in them.

Christmas decorations came down yesterday. Funny, I usually want all that junk down the day after Christmas. But this year I decorated so simply, with a small artificial tree and no muss and fuss, that I wanted to enjoy it for a couple more days. Could this Grinch be reformed?

I am still experiencing the post-Christmas hangover (no alcohol involved). I am an introvert so, although I loved every second of the Christmas festivities, I need to be ALONE for a few days. I need to just do laundry, bake some bread, read a book, and stare into space.

Thankfully the kids and I are off school until February 6th! I am going to get a lot of rest and relaxation to get us recharged for our last few months of this school year.

As I am really wanting to recommit to taking care of my mind, body, and spirit, I am planning a new challenge for myself for 2017. It is called 2017Daily4. Each morning, before the kids get up, I am going to have my quiet time with God, exercise, and get ready for the day (including clothes and makeup!). I will do all of this by getting up intentionally two hours before the rest of the family. These four things always make my day go so much better! At first I said I was shooting for 300 of the 365 days of the year. No. I probably won't be doing this on the weekends. So, instead, I have set a goal of accomplishing this 208 of the 365 days of 2017. (That would be 4 days of each of the 52 weeks of the year.) Why not 5? Well, you know, there are just some of "those days". I am going to post about it on Instagram because I do so much better with challenges if I think somebody is watching. I would love to have some friends do this with me, but it's not required for me to work toward my goal. If you would like to tag along, you can do what I am going to do .... make a four-square collage (I use Picmonkey) of you doing each of your four things (which may be completely different than mine) and post it on your IG, Facebook, blog, whatever, with the hashtag #2017daily4. If you don't want to share but just want to do, that's great too. Let me know so I can be an encourager to you.

I plan to work on some "things" within myself this year because I really want 2017 to be a great year, not only for me but for my family. And I want to do my part. What are you planning to do to make this new year a great one?

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Simple Women's Daybook

Looking out my window ... it's a beautiful, sunny day! Cold temps but not too cold.

I am thinking ... that I am going to get my Christmas stuff down and put away today.

I am thankful ... for such a great month of December. I am usually kind of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. But not this year! I think making an Advent chain and doing some kind of Christmas activity every day really helped to boost my mood. Plus, several of our activities were for others, and it's pretty hard to be in a bad mood when you are performing an act of service for someone else less fortunate. We are definitely doing that again next year.

One of my favorite things ... total peace and quiet, has not happened for well over a week. I have loved all of the holiday activity, but it has certainly wiped me out. 

I am creating ... a mental list of what I need to pack to go to Hawaii at the end of January.

I am watching ... When Calls the Heart, Project Runway Junior, Top Chef, Shooter

I am wearing ... my pjs and robe, but am getting ready to get on my running clothes.

I am reading ... Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. 

I am listening to ... Joyce Meyer radio broadcasts each morning when I run. 

I am hoping ... for a fun weekend in Tulsa celebrating the New Year with Rick's family.

I am learning ... how to play Catan today so that we can take it to Oklahoma with us. Our family really enjoys games, and it's a hard one to learn.

In the kitchen ... I need to bake bread, make freezer waffles, make homemade dog treats. But with all of the cooking I did this past week for Christmas, I needed a couple of days off! I'm back at it today getting caught up. It would be so easy to just go buy a loaf of bread and a box of frozen waffles and a box of cheap dog biscuits, but I am devoted to providing our basic staples in as healthy a way as possible.

In the schoolroom ... We are on BREAK! Hallelujah! 

Board Room ... I love this DIY Metallic Rope Throw Basket! And I think I could pull it off!

Post Script ... "12 Weird Thoughts Only Introverts Have". Oh. So. True.

Shared Quote ... "The enemy has already robbed that season of your past. The best thing you can do is turn around today ... and begin to walk into the future that God has for you." ~ Christine Caine

A Moment from my Day ... Christmas Eve with the hap hap happiest little elf you ever did see. Our little dude thoroughly enjoyed his first Christmas. He was a very good boy and got everything on his list!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How to Make Christmas Special for the Big Kids

This is the first year that we had no "believers" in our home. That meant no clandestine Santa deliveries, cookies and milk, and reindeer food. Actually, it was kind of nice! I've spent 21 years sneaking gifts under the tree. In fact, for many years, Rick and I stayed up half the night on Christmas Eve wrapping presents because there just wasn't a time or place to do it without getting caught.

But with no belief in The Big Guy in Red, Christmas can lose its magic! How do you make Christmas special for big kids (and by "kids" I also mean those 6'3" ones and the ones who are married with their own babies)?

Here are a few things I do to keep things fun ...

The Christmas Eve gift. Each year for Christmas Eve we all get to open one gift, and it's always been the Christmas pjs. But some of us don't even wear designated pjs to bed anymore, so I decided to chuck that idea and come up with something else fun. I bought each member of our family a fun Christmas t-shirt to wear on Christmas Day since we just stay home all day. I had a blast picking out just the right t-shirt for each person. Some were Naughty. Some were Nice.

Whose Gifts are Whose? I wrapped all of the gifts ahead of time and put them under the tree. But none of them had tags on them. Each kid's gifts were wrapped in their own wrapping paper, but they didn't know which one was theirs until Christmas morning when they dug to the bottom of their stockings to find a small piece of that wrapping paper. It's super fun to watch them standing over the gifts trying to figure out which pile is theirs! They were usually wrong.

The Stockings. I still do stockings for all of the kids, my son-in-law, and the friend of Dawson's who is living with us. I try to put in a couple of small gifts, and they also always get underwear! I think the underwear is secretly their favorite gift of the day!

Family Game. Each year I buy the newest Just Dance game for our Wii. Then we boogie down as a family on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

Traditions. Every year we have a big breakfast of biscuits and gravy and cinnamon rolls. I have an open invite to my parents and my sister and nieces. After we open presents we eat. Then that evening I fix a large Christmas meal for anybody who can be here. The family loves that there is always a couple of yummy meals that day. Nobody goes hungry, that's for sure! And it's nice that family feels like they can just come and go.

A Movie. We usually watch Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve. But it is usually late and everybody starts falling asleep. This year with Bennett only being 4 months old and on a pretty strict sleeping schedule, watching it on Christmas Eve was not going to work. Plus, Dawson and Chad had to work that evening. So Christmas evening, after we were all stuffed and tired, we snuggled up together to watch our favorite Christmas movie.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Celebrating 13 Years

On Thursday we paused in our Christmas activities to celebrate Eli's 13th birthday. His wish was for the family to have dinner together at Applebee's and then go to the movies for a double header to see Rogue One and then Assassin's Creed. We had a great time honoring our sweet boy! Throughout the day I posted 13 photos of Eli on Instagram. I thought I would share them here, too.

This year Eli turned into a young man. You can see the difference just one year has made between the photo of him holding the Millennium Falcon and the one of him sitting at Applebee's. The transition has been a difficult one for him, but he is pushing forward. He has started to talk about his future, to have dreams and plans and aspirations. But, mostly, he just enjoys hanging out in his room playing video games and with his Nerf gun collection. He is a true teenager in every sense of the word. We get a few sighs and some attitude these days, but those do not outnumber his smiles and hugs. In fact, I think his attitude surprises him as much as it does us. We love our boy and cannot believe he is 13 years old. It does seriously feel like yesterday that we were bringing home our tiny little 5 1/2 pound baby on Christmas Eve. Time goes by so fast!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge

What's left to be done on your Christmas to-do list?

Wrap Christmas gifts for two of the kiddos, cook lots of food, clean the house.

The Hodgepodge lands on the first day of winter this year. What's your favorite thing about winter?

I love when it's cold outside but warm in the house. My electric fireplace is "burning" all day long and it feels so cozy. That's what I love most ... coziness!

In what area of your life are you immature? Feel free to elaborate or not.

The official definition of immature is "not fully developed". In what ways do I still need growth? ... In being the daughter God wants me to be, a good daughter to my earthly parents, a good wife, a good mother, a good teacher, a good friend. I have room to grow in every area of my life, so I would say I am pretty darned immature.

What was the most (or one of the most) important lessons you learned in 2016?

I  have talked about this a lot on the blog lately. I have really realized how much I have "hidden" myself away over the past year or so because of fear and a lack of confidence. I have realized here in the last few weeks of 2016 that I have a light to shine, and I need and want to shine it brightly.

It's Fried Shrimp Day ... are you a fan? What's your favorite way to eat shrimp? Will there be shrimp somewhere in your holiday feasting?

Yes, I am a fan. The kids are fans of fried popcorn shrimp, so we eat it at least every couple of weeks. I like to eat those popcorn shrimp in shrimp tacos. in fact, I think we'll have that for dinner tonight! My favorite way to eat shrimp is fresh from Joe Patties in Pensacola, Florida, sautéed in butter and garlic and herbs with mushrooms and diced tomatoes served over fresh pasta.

What sound lulls you to sleep?

The sound of my air purifier.

What one word best describes your 2016?

Nana. I became a grandmother for the first time on August 22nd. We found out Kyndal and Collin were expecting on January 1st of 2016, so my whole year has revolved around her pregnancy, the birth of our precious Bennett, and absorbing myself in being his Nana.

Insert your own random thought here.

I am thinking about starting an Instagram Challenge for 2017 called #2017Daily4. I have found that there are four things I should do to start my day that makes it exponentially better: Get up in the morning two hours before anyone else (currently 7:00 a.m.), Spend time in the Word, Exercise, Shower and get ready for the day (makeup and everything). I think every person, especially women, have 4 things they could do each morning, before anything else is done, that would make their day go more smoothly. I know that I love "challenges" and tend to complete them, especially if I post them on social media. I'm thinking of posting a four-square collage each morning showing me completing each of my Daily 4 with the hashtag #2017Daily4. This is one of the ways I am going to let my light shine this year. I really am hoping others will join me so that we can start a revolution of women intentionally making their days great! Plus, it's fun to see other women succeed and support them in their efforts. We need that kind of encouragement and accountability. I know that I do. And one more absolutely unrelated random thought: Whiny baby angry fit throwing Democrats ... GET OVER IT! Your party lost the election! Geez!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Tuesday Coffee Chat is on hiatus for a few weeks. So, let's Daybook instead.

Looking out my window ... It's sunny and pretty this morning after some gray, foggy days. This weekend's snow is ever-so-slightly melting.

I am thinking ... about how uncommitted people are today. If you are invited to an event and say you are going to be there, do not make other plans later and then cancel. It's rude! And then really don't post photos on your Facebook page of you doing something else besides what you said you were going to be doing. Put the event on your calendar and then show up like you said you would. If you don't want to do something, then don't say yes in the first place. It can actually be hurtful to the person you are standing up (especially if that someone is a child). It's just plain rude and inconsiderate.

I am thankful ... for brighter days ahead and an attitude to match them.

One of my favorite things ... is Christmas Day. Thankfully we do not have to travel. It's a day where we stay home in our comfy clothes all day! I cook a big breakfast, we open gifts, have visits from family members, and then a big Christmas dinner with an open invite for whatever family can make it. I do lots of work that day, but I love it!

I am creating ... as many Christmas memories with my family as I can. We have kept up with our Advent list this year and have had a lot of fun!

I am watching ... The OA on Netflix. Or, at least, I have watched the first episode. Weird. Not sure if I like it, but I am intrigued. (Dirty scene in the beginning I could have done without. It adds nothing to the storyline, so why?)

I am wearing ... warm clothes because the kids and I will be out delivering meals to senior citizens in a couple of hours and it's cold outside!

I am reading ... Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans. It's my yearly Christmas novel fix.

I am listening to ... the blowing sound of the furnace.

I am hoping ... for some peace of mind for Dawson (and me) as he tries to figure out the next steps of his life.

I am learning ... to get back out there and be myself, even if it costs me relationships in the end. Two of my good friends have really been helping me with this.

In the kitchen ... has been a whirlwind of activity! In addition to weekly homemade waffles and whole wheat bread, we have baked cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, made homemade doggie treats, and this week we are pre-prepping some of our Christmas evening meal foods. I am also working on a Christmas gift for some family members, and really hoping I get the end result I envision.

In the schoolroom ... We only have today and tomorrow until we are on Christmas break!! Yippee! And we are taking an extremely long break this year ... until February 6th! We had planned to start back at the end of January, but I get to go on a girl's trip to Hawaii to see my friend, Cheryl, so we put it off a week and worked right up until Christmas instead. We are ready for an extended break!

Board Room ... I am always pinning things for our future hobby farm and farmhouse, decor and such. This past week I pinned some fun Christmas ornaments for Brynne and her friends to make at an ornament decorating party. They turned out really great! And there's always food. My most recent pin? Beef stew!

Post Script ... 15 Easy Things You Can Do That Will Help You When You Feel Like Shit by Maritsa Patrinos on BuzzFeed. Because, admit it, sometimes you just do. I have found that these things actually do help me when I wake up and just think, "Nope, not today."

Shared Quote ... I especially love this quote when it's being sung by Amy Grant.

A Moment from my Day ... I love my daily visits with this fella! I am a blessed Nana having her little guy just a couple of blocks away. (17 weeks old)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Words of the Year ~ 2017

I do not think I am going to be able to limit my Word of the Year to just one word. There are just too many words to describe what I have gone through emotionally this year and where I see myself going because of it. I came across this quote today that pretty much sums up how I am feeling as 2016 comes to a close.

I am praying for myself and giving myself permission to live the Created me to my fullest, unabashedly and fearlessly, understanding that the relationships that remain while doing so are the ones I was meant to have. The others, maybe not, and good riddance.

Shine on!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up ~ The 12 Days of Christmas

We are now into the 12 Days of Christmas, and we are feeling the festivities. I was very intentional this year to have the kids help me come up with Advent activities so that we could enjoy some aspect of Christmas each day of December.

This week we drove through the Christmas in the Park light display in our town while drinking hot cocoa, watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas", studied about and celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Lucy, made gingerbread men, and attended our local high school's Christmas program.

We are wrapping up a few things with regular schooling. We read all but a few of the final chapters of Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians series) and The Green Ember, which yesterday was free on Kindle. It might still be today, so check it out! We will finish both those books early next week.

We are finishing Volume 2 of IEW's Fix-it Grammar Robin Hood. Only one more week of lessons.

And we finished the last lesson in's Pre-Algebra Volume 1. We also played a new favorite game, Timeline.

The kids continued to read out of their personal books. Brynne is still in the throes of the Warriors series by Erin Hunter is is currently reading The Forgotten Warrior from the Omen of the Stars set. Eli is reading Watership Down.

Eli went to speech therapy this week. Brynne had a basketball game where she was high-point scorer for her team. She also severely jammed two of her fingers. Thankfully they are quickly on the mend.

We hosted our enrichment class yesterday. The girls wrote persuasive letters to Santa trying to convince him to hire their reindeers (ones they drew last week with our directed drawing lesson) new reindeer for his sleigh on Christmas Eve. They also did a Rudolph Mad Lib. The boys watched another episode of Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego and traveled to Vinci, Italy, and Antarctica.

Finally, we started volunteering this week delivering lunch to 25 senior citizens in our town. Our senior citizen center delivers lunch for each day of the week. We heard from a friend that they were needing a new driver on Tuesdays, so the kids and I decided it was a job we would like to do.

We only have 3 more days of school before we take an extended Christmas break. We are going to take off until February 6th. That's one way to eliminate the February slump! We will be refreshed and ready for some routine by then. At least I will be!

And how about if we end this post with a little bit of adorableness? Bennett is just a week shy of turning 4 months old. He is such a JOY, the happiest baby I have ever been around. And isn't he cute? His mama tried him out in his wrap facing forward last night to make grocery shopping a little easier. He's a Mister Nosey-body so he will love being about to look around and flirt with whoever is nearby. I think he's ready! He reminds me of that photo you see with the baby duck taped to the wall.

2016-2017 School Hours Logged: 479.5 hours, including 84.5 hours outside home. Plus Summer Hours Logged: 141.5 hours, including 54 hours outside home.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

When Mama Teacher is Just Not Feeling It

Some days the kids are a little sluggish. Our relaxed homeschool style caters to that because they can just do their work curled up on the couch in a blanket. But as the teacher, my day is go-go-go no matter what. On top of school there are meals to prepare, housework to complete, dogs that need to go potty, etc.

I am a scheduled kind of girl so when we have our day planned we just go for it, checking those things off the list. I do not have to feel 100% to accomplish all I need to in one day.

But what if the mama teacher wakes up one day and thinks, "Nope. I just can't today."

I woke up feeling that way on Monday.

I had some coffee. That didn't help. In fact, it didn't even taste good. (Red alert!) I took a shower. Nope, that didn't perk me up, either. I just knew it was going to be one of those days.

Sometimes it's situational, sometimes it's hormonal, and sometimes there is absolutely no reason I can find. It just is.

So how do we handle a school day under those circumstances?

Well, we cut things down to the bare minimum. We complete our grammar page and math page (because they are non-negotiable), watch CNN Student News, read some books, and maybe play a game. Everything else can be made up on Freedom Friday (our day where we do extra activities, catch up on work, and kids do all delight-directed learning without any formal teaching by mom).

Sometimes we even pop in a movie. I try to keep some on hand that fit with what we are studying so we can, at least, feel like it's not just a free day activity.

And that's all we do.

Comfy clothes, couches, blankets, and popcorn. A full school day without much effort from this tired and overstimulated introvert of a mama teacher.

And hope that things will be better tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Are you more task oriented or people oriented? Elaborate.

I'll be with you in a minute. I have a task to complete.

December 15 is National Wear Your Pearls Day ... do you own/wear pearls? If you're a man answering the question, does your sweetheart own or wear pearls? Everyone share a 'pearl of wisdom' with us here today.

No, I don't own pearls. A 'pearl of wisdom' for today ... This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. I woke up saying these words today and hoping to make them my daily mantra to help me remember to focus on today and all it has to offer.

Speaking of pearls ... oysters? Are you a fan or not a fan? If you answered yes, tell us your favorite way to eat oysters? If you said no, be honest .. have you ever tried one or does just the idea of eating an oyster make you gag a little?

Ugh, no! I have never tried one, but I do not have any desire to eat anything that is going to try its best to crawl back up my throat while I am trying to swallow it.

Time Magazine has named President-elect Donald Trump Person of the Year. Let's take presidents and presidential candidates out of the mix for a minute. If a political figure had not been chosen who would you name Man or Woman of the Year for 2016?

I am going to have to go with Dolly Parton. The efforts she is making for the forest fire victims should be honored.

The Pantone Color of the Year for 2017 has been announced, and it's a vibrant green aptly named - Greenery. Your thoughts? Is this a color currently in your home or wardrobe? Will you add something in this shade for the new year?

Ahhhh!!!! My signature color is the Color of the Year! I didn't know this was my signature color until I realized that I was buying a lot of my accessories in it. My bicycle has this color in it, my bicycle helmet is that color green, and so is my adventure backpack. My selfie stick handle is green. I just gravitate toward that color. I have it in my kitchen, also. And these items I use every day are of that shade.

Today I've had too much ______________.

being out running around in the cold. I do love winter and cold temps, but I enjoy them most when I am snuggled up on the couch in my slippers covered up with a blanket and sipping a hot beverage.

Share a favorite lyric from a favorite Christmas carol.

" ... and so I'm offering this simple phrase for kids from 1 to 92, although it's been said many times many ways, Merry Christmas to you."

Insert your own random thought here.

Last night I watched an interview with Megyn Kelly from Fox's the The Kelly Files that I had DVR'd from C-Span. It was about her book Settle for More and covered many different aspects of the life including her children, how she was raised, how she was bullied as a middle schooler, her career, parenting, her relationship with Donald Trump, and other things. So much of what she said resonated with me. I see so much of myself in her and her personality. I immediately purchased her book on my Kindle and started reading it today. A big issue I have dealt with in my life, and still deal with today, in regard to my personality is one with which she has also struggled. It was the first time I have ever had someone else articulate how I am feeling exactly, in the exact same words I use in my head all the time! I hope that her book reveals some of the ways she worked to overcome this issue. I have felt so alone for so long, but I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest because there is someone out there, albeit a public figure, who has suffered as well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Coffee Chat

If you could make ONE holiday wish this year, what would it be?

It seems that lately I am hearing a lot of "Are you okay?" and "Are you in a bad mood?" and "Why are you in a bad mood?" and "Mom is cranky all the time now."

And, I am. Cranky, that is. Despite my best efforts.

I have had a lot on my mind lately. Most of it centers around my relationships, my part in them, my lack of them, my inability to take care of them. And with dwelling on these thoughts I actually make the relationships I do have worse.

I feel really tired and frustrated. I feel stuck a lot of the time, like I want to do things differently but don't know where to start. I haven't been sleeping well because I wake up and worry about it. It is so incredibly aggravating because I have always been a confident person so have just happily pushed forward in my relationships regardless of any return on my investment. But when I look back on them now I actually only see my mistakes and am suffocated by them. Times that I was giving it my all in relationships and thought they were going great were times when they really weren't. My confidence is shot! Do people really not care about me but just pretend that they do?

Let me give you just a simple example (and probably a little silly). I have always sent out Christmas cards, the cute family photo kind. Most years I would send about 50 cards to family and friends. I started to notice that we received fewer and fewer return cards each year. And the ones we did receive always came a good couple of weeks after we sent ours. And we weren't getting the cute photo Christmas cards that I know those families were sending. We were getting the generic cards, the ones that were picked up at the dollar store because those families had already sent their photo cards and got ours and said, "crap, we didn't send them one and now we need to." (I know this tactic because I have done it in the past.) This year I decided not to send cards. What's the point? And do you know how many Christmas cards we have received this year? Two. It just makes one stop and think, doesn't it?

These are the types of things that weigh heavy on my mind.

Happy Holidays, huh?

So here is my ONE holiday wish this year. I want to quit worrying about these kinds of things because they don't matter! I want to enjoy the holidays with my family, each and every little moment. I want to give all of my love to those who choose to spend time with me and to freely receive back all the love they have to give in return. And recognize that if I don't straighten up that they aren't going to want to spend time with me, either, and who would blame them? I want to get back to a place where I just love on people with all I have and not worry about whether they love me back. I want it to start with this holiday season so that I have momentum going into the new year.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right ~ An Eating Plan for Children {Review}

This is a topic I have been reluctant to write about on my blog: How to approach your child when she is overweight.

Three of my children have always been stick skinny, actually underweight to be exact. So worrying about their food was not something I ever did. It's sad because for years I didn't worry about the food my children ate because they weren't overweight, but I also didn't worry about nutrition, either. I equated what they ate with what they weighed. Even though they were skinny, it is doubtful that they were very healthy. So I didn't really have a healthy viewpoint when it came to food for my children.

My fourth child has been overweight since she was about 5 years old. Now, she is also built very different from the other three. She is not tall and lanky. She is shorter, stouter, with a more athletic build. That's good, because she's an athlete. (None of my other three kids played sports.) God knew what He was doing when He made her. There is a lot of power in that body.

But she is, in fact, overweight. It is mostly my fault because I have never worried about what the kids ate so I didn't with her, either. I always knew she was "chunkier" than she should be, but I figured she would outgrow it, get taller, etc. Well, she hasn't and she didn't. It is pretty apparent she isn't going to get a whole lot taller than she is right now.

The experts scare you about discussing weight with your daughters. What if I say the wrong things and she develops an eating disorder? What if she ends up having low self esteem? Shouldn't she be told that this is how God made her and He doesn't make mistakes? It's tough!

Typically as a family we eat pretty healthy. But we do indulge. We do eat too many carbs because we love pasta. The kids do love those frozen thingies they can cook themselves. We like to eat cereal, pop tarts, donuts on Sunday. And eating these things in moderation is not totally awful. But, it got to where eating these things became the norm instead of the special treat. This was my fault. I got lazy.

A couple of months ago we took an impromptu family photo. My daughter looked at it and said, "I look fat." The sad thing is that she did look heavier than I had ever seen her look. I could tell she was really upset about it. I felt so bad for her, and angry at myself for letting her weight get out of control. I asked her if she wanted to do something to lose some of her weight, and she said, "But it will be hard." I told her that it might be, but that if we worked together that we could do it.

I immediately went to work researching a plan. My daughter is a homeschooler so during the day is more sedentary than she should be. But, she also plays sports all year round (basketball, 5k training, softball, volleyball, swimming). She is active a couple of evenings a week for a couple of hours. I knew that we needed to continue to watch her activity level and make sure she was getting enough exercise.

The real key was going to be in her eating habits. I absolutely DID NOT want her to be on a diet. I did not want her to ever get in the lifestyle habit of dieting. Instead I was looking for a plan.

I stumbled across Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right by Joanna Dolgoff. After reading the book and the plan it reminded me a little of Weight Watchers, and I learned a lot about food choices when I dabbled with Weight Watchers several years ago. The plan appeared to be very simple and was all about food choices and portion control. And the best part is that NO FOOD is off limits. There was no food that she couldn't have. She just had to choose when she ate those foods and how much.

The idea of the plan is that there is a list of foods that are Green foods (up to 100 calories), Yellow foods (101-200 calories), and Red foods (above 300 calories). After computing her BMI, which actually showed that she was in the obese range (really?) we were directed to a chart that told her how many of each color she was to eat each day. Basically, she is to eat all Green foods if she can, but she can replace two Green foods with a Yellow, if she wants, and is allowed two Red foods per week.

Her plan is to eat 2 Greens for breakfast, 1 Green for morning snack, 3 Greens for lunch, 1 Green for afternoon snack, 4 Greens for dinner, and 1 Green for evening snack. All fresh fruits and vegetables are FREE foods! She can eat as much as she wants.

It took her a little while to get used to the plan, but once she did it was easy. She calls them "numbers" so we discuss her "numbers" for the day. She is a creature of habit and tends to eat the same things for breakfast and lunch every single day. Once she figured out which foods fell within her number guidelines, then it was easy. It is then up to me to calculate her numbers for dinner. She is very active in asking what her numbers are when planning what she wants to eat next.

She is not a vegetable eater AT ALL but I told her she had to find one raw vegetable that she likes to eat (or at least can tolerate) to add to her dinner each night. Strangely, she found that she likes raw mini cucumbers and mini red and orange peppers. So for dinner each night I slice her a cup of those vegetables that she eats before she begins her meal.

This plan is all about choices! She can have a couple of cookies if she wants, but then she'll have to take away some of her green foods so will get less actual food to eat that day. She has to decide if it's worth it. She has quickly found that sugar does not keep her full like healthy meals and snacks do. And, she has had some tummy aches after indulging in sweet or fatty foods.

But if she goes to a birthday party or has a friend over to spend the night and wants a cupcake or a donut or is offered a treat after a basketball game, she is allowed to have it.

And we have seen results! After one month she lost one full inch off each her waist, hips, and thighs. We haven't measured her since then but she has obviously lost more inches. You can even see it in her face. She feels fantastic and is loving the way her clothes feel better on her body. She is finding that she enjoys her food more, appreciates what she is eating. We have seen her trying new foods, too. It could be because she has expanded her palette, or maybe because she is just hungrier when meals come along, but just this week she has eaten black bean and spinach enchiladas and taco soup with vegetables! These are foods she wouldn't have even tried two months ago. It has been a miraculous change in her eating habits!

Her actual weight is not of concern to us, other than to just get her in the "healthy range" for her age and height. And I am not really even too worried about following the recommended chart that closely. We had to weigh her at the beginning so I could calculate her BMI to find her appropriate plan. But I told her that if she never weighs again that I do not care. She decided to weigh yesterday morning because it's been about two months on the plan. She was thrilled to see that she has lost 7 pounds!!

The overriding fact in our approach to this plan and her eating habits is that God DID give her this exact body. It is her job to take care of it, just like it's my job to take care of the exact body God gave me. If she exercises and sticks to this plan and is still not model thin, then that is perfectly fine because God did not create her to be that person.

I want her to be HEALTHY, not skinny. And I want her to feel amazing in the body she has. I want her to feel strong.

This plan is working. And it's something that she can take with her for the rest of her life. We have plans for her to continue with her current plan for another two months and see where she is. Once she gets down into the healthy range with her weight, then we will be able to add in more green foods each day for maintenance.

Another great thing about the plan is that it is not just for overweight kids. This plan is designed for all children, even underweight ones, to get them eating the rights amounts of the right foods each day. I find myself feeding us all more according to the plan because I am naturally calculating numbers with our meals.

I think we HAVE to discuss weight with our children when it's a problem. For so long I felt like I would be damaging my daughter if I did. But, the damage was occurring because I didn't. As Dr. Phil has said (one of my favorite quotes because, really, it's so true), "If you don't get real about getting fat, you're going to get real fat." That might be a little harsh, but it's a fact. Folks, we are fat people and our children are fatter. Or our children are malnutritioned and too skinny. It is up to us, as their parents, to do something about it. I hope that I have started my daughter on the right track to a healthy lifestyle. I hope that she feels good about who she is.

{I was not contacted by the vendor for this product for this review. I did not receive anything in return for it. The opinions herein are my own.}

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up ~ December School

We are still moving along. I always love this time of year with schooling because it is spent finishing up some units or volumes of curriculum, finishing some good books, throwing in some holiday activities (and calling them "school" because, hey, the public schools do it!), and going on some field trips.

When we conclude our first semester we will feel accomplished and completely free to enjoy an extended break. Or, at least, that's how I will feel. The kids will just feel FREE!

This week's Advent activities included decorating gingerbread houses, making food garlands for our birds, studying St. Nicholas and having a St. Nicholas Day Feast, making homemade Christmas cards using a tutorial from Hodgepodge Mom, watching A Christmas Story (my kids had never seen it), and playing games as a family.

Yesterday we went on a field trip to Lexington, Missouri. In Missouri history we had been studying the Civil War. There were two major Civil War battles in Missouri: Wilson Creek near Springfield, Missouri, and the Battle of Lexington.

The University of Missouri Extension Center worked with the City of Lexington to create an audio and walking tour of the city and to trace the Battle of Lexington. This was a really neat way to go on a field trip! We were able to download the tours on our phone, listen to them in the car, and follow the map to learn about all of the historic places and events. That's good because it was about 20 degrees outside. The audio tour would give you directions to a particular place, have you stop your car, and then give you all of the information about the buildings in that area and the events that occurred. There was even some voice acting from different historical figures.

In the 1860's, Missouri was a Confederate-sympathizing state as it did have slavery. However, the government decided that it would not be wise to secede from the Union. We were in a precarious geographical location. The Confederates decided that if they took major cities on the Missouri River that they could force them to secede. Thus, the Battle of Lexington ensued. It was a bloody, three-day battle that ended with the Union soldiers surrendering to the South. The South succeeded in its attack by stealing hemp bales, soaking them in the Missouri River, and using them as rolling shields in approaching the Union soldiers. This battle is also referred to as the Battle of the Hemp Bales.

The field of the Battle.

Confederate General Sterling Price had his headquarters in downtown Lexington across from the county courthouse. A cannonball, theorized to be directed at Price Headquarters, missed and hit the courthouse. That cannonball is still in the courthouse today.

There are five unidentified Union soldiers who were uncovered in the 1930s. They were re-buried near the field of the Battle of Lexington.

This cabin was found under siding of a home that was going to be demolished. It dates back to the Civil War era. It was relocated and is now a personal residence.

One last neat artifact we saw was a cannon from Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution, that is located in Masonic College Park which was the headquarters of Union Colonel James Mulligan.

At the park is also a marker which shows where Col. Mulligan had his tent, under which was buried over $900,000.

This was a neat field trip. It is so interesting to really look into the different historical events that have occurred in our state. Our Missouri history studies have probably been our favorite subject this year.

2016-2017 School Hours Logged: 444 hours, including 78 hours outside home. Plus Summer Hours Logged: 141.5 hours, including 54 hours outside home.

(Technically, we are done with our required hours for this first half of the year. But, since we are taking an extended Christmas break into the first week of February, we are going to keep on for another two weeks to get ahead.)