Monday, November 28, 2011

1000 Gifts: On the Road

Today I'm a west coast blogger, and it seems strange knowing that some of you will soon be eating lunch while Marc and I buy our umpteenth cup of Starbucks since arriving in Portland, Oregon last Friday.  The fun actually started last Tuesday when we loaded up the kids and dog and drove to Denver. It's nice having both sides of our family there now -- my sister and dad joined Marc's family for Thanksgiving dinner at Marc's sister's house.  Then Friday, Marc and I flew out of Denver to Portland to attend the wedding of one of my many cousins.  My sister flew out on a different airline; my dad stayed home, happy to babysit the dogs.  Marc's mom is enjoying watching our kids.  In a few hours we'll start our long trek home.

My cousin married a professional comedian, so the wedding was definitely unique.  I've never seen so many people lined up to toast the bride and groom -- it was like a comedy hour right there at the reception.  While there were many blush-worthy moments, there were also lots of genuinely funny times throughout the weekend.  I'm truly happy for my cousin and her new husband, and I love the family reunions that always come with the cousin weddings.

By Sunday afternoon, all the family were on their way back home -- except for Marc and me.  We decided to enjoy our first kid-free trip in six years just a little longer.  So as I wait for my hubby to make one last Starbucks run, I'm taking a moment to count my blessings.

121.  Five people and a dog packed into a minivan.  I love road trips!

122.  That my husband is an expert minivan-packer.

123.  That he also likes doing most of the driving on our long trips.

124.  That first glimpse of Pikes Peak from I-70.

125.  Unseasonably warm weather in Denver, especially since I forgot to pack the kids' coats.

126.  My walks on south Denver's Highline Canal trail, so I didn't feel as guilty about indulging in some pumpkin pie.

127.  Pumpkin pie.

128.  A house full of family and friends celebrating the Lord's goodness.

Marc with his mom and siblings

the blue house crew

129.  Meeting my sister's boyfriend.

130.  Seeing my dad in his new house and knowing the stress of his move was worth it.

Me, Dad, and my sister

131.  Evening of playing cards with the family, especially if it's Shanghai Rummy.

132.  Flying over the Rocky Mountains and then later seeing the magnificent peaks of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens of the Cascade Range out our airplane window.

133.  Our flight arrived a few minutes early.  We were nervous about missing the wedding with Black Friday travel, but everything went smooth and we had several hours to relax before the wedding.

134.  Starbucks right across the street from our hotel (as well as one block away in just about every direction).

135.  Weddings.  I love everything about them.


136.  Family reunions.

This handsome young man (my cousin) was the ring bearer at my wedding, almost 19 years ago!

137.  Sharing a dance with my hubby.

The bride hung family wedding pictures around the room, so here are Marc and I with our picture; my mom and dad's photo is above ours.

138.  Exploring downtown Portland with my sister, while Marc watched football with my male cousins.

139.  A fun Saturday evening with the family.

140.  Four of us visiting a really neat church Sunday morning.  Such a great reminder that we are just a small part of the church universal.

Marc's iphone pic; just so you know, we were early -- church was full during service : )

141.  Having an extra day in Portland, spent just with my hubby.


142.  The anticipation of being with the kids again and a safe trip home.

God is good!  Hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving too.

P.S.  I think this post contains more pictures of yours truly than I have included in the entire history of this blog.  So now you know I'm a real person.  ; )

Monday, November 21, 2011

1000 Gifts


Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 

1 Corinthians 9:24

I'm running a race alright.  It's just that I'm often entered in the wrong event, dashing from one to-do list item to another, forgetting that the prize is not an empty list but an imperishable crown.  A telling sign that I'm getting off track, is when I stop thanking God for His daily gifts.  So last week I again picked up the pen and started recording.

It's been awhile since I've added to my gratitude list, so I when I logged into my blog this morning, I quick scanned my list of blog posts to see just how long it's been.  It was then that I noticed I had never published my last list back in early October!  I remember that I had finished the list, but I hate posting without at least one picture, so I was going to go find the camera, and the next thing you know almost two months have passed and my list sits still unpublished.  At least God knew of those little things that made my heart sing.  So #106 - #113 are from September, and the rest of the list are more recent. : )

106.  The thunk of walnuts hitting the deck.

107.  Making a cream cheese bagel for my daughter before an early morning swim practice, even though she's too tired and grumpy to care.

108.  My husband showing up unexpectedly after his Bible study to help me out as the kids gathered for swim team pictures.

109.  Trying new things, whether it be a cross country meet or a new recipe.

110.  A long drive through the pretty countryside. Even though we were lost and late.

111.  A very large but cuddly dog squeezed under the table as his family gathered for Sunday dinner.

112.  Sunday afternoon naps. I may have already had this one on the list, so just count me extra grateful.

113.  A silent car as my three kids prayed after seeing a huge fire on the way home from church. Seeing on the news that night that it was a barn fire and not someone's house and that there were no injuries.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

114.  A swim coach (and friend) who totally "gets" my son when so few people really do.

115.  Encouraging comments (from the same coach) for a discouraged daughter.

116.  Seeing the talents of a homeschooled young man on Anna's track and cross country teams being utilized. He put together a great video of a recent meet and redesigned a website, and you just get the impression that homeschooling as allowed him the freedom to pursue his niche.

117. A friend and neighbor who answered the call to open an autism center in our area (and she's done an amazing job).


117.  A safe and fun trip for Marc and Anna to West Virginia for a cross country meet.

118.  A husband who is goofy enough to sing John Denver's "Country Roads" to a bus full of people. And my daughter, who takes after her quiet mother, didn't die of embarrassment.

119.  Learning experiences.  That's what this meet turned out to be.  Her personal result wasn't quite what she hoped for, but her team did very well and she's much wiser.


120.   A break from the busy.  Marc's working a half day today, Anna has one day of school, but then the whole family has a entire  week to rest, play, and be thankful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Family Christmas List

A sudden burst of inspiration hit me last Friday morning as I took my shower.  That's where I usually have my best ideas, but by the time I get out my brain has moved onto other things.  If I could figure out how to blog in the shower, I'd have a great new post every day!  Back to my burst of inspiration . . .

My kids love making Christmas wish lists, having inherited the skill from their list-dependent mother and father both.  But in my pondering of how to make our Christmas season more meaningful and less of the  if-I-can-just-survive-until-January mentality, I thought it would be great to get the whole family's input.  So I quick whipped up the Family Christmas List. (If you're in reader mode, you'll have to click over to the blog to see the list, or just click on the link below and it takes you to Scribd.)

Family Christmas List

The Family Christmas List is actually four different lists in one:  presents, family activities, other activities, and service/charitable giving.  It was a huge hit!  We presented the list to the kids after dinner Sunday night and they eagerly set to work.  

The list gave us a great opportunity to further train our children in Christian living.  For example,  Ryne had no problem filling out the first three categories, but left the last section completely blank.  No wonder!  Usually when our family serves Christ in concrete ways, Ryne is just told what we're doing.  The girls struggled a little with this part of the list too, so for a kid with autism it was even harder.

In case you're wondering, yes, Marc and I filled out a list too.  Actually, I'm still working on mine.  The next step is for Marc and I to look over everyone's lists and decide what we will actually do.  Ideally, I would have had this idea a week or more ago and we could already have our plans made before the holidays were in full swing.  

I know this list doesn't guarantee we will have a Christ-centered Christmas, but it at least helps us to be thinking about it and planning for it, instead of just hoping that magically this will be the year we finally get Christmas right.  

Another burst of inspiration just hit (and I'm not even in the shower):  I will do a follow-up post later in December sharing how our list came to fruition.   If you are able to use this list (or do something similar in your family), I'd love to hear what kinds of activities your family enjoys.  

Happy Planning! 

P.S. Prints on US Legal size paper (8.5 x 14)
Header created using Christmas Treasures kit from Crafty Queen at

P.P.S.  Here is another Christmas planning resource that has been helpful to me this year:  Christmas Your Way (free eBook &  printables).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On my brain . . .


1.  The last signs of fall.  I'll miss it.  We have had almost three months of perfect weather.  So perfect that I've taken it for granted.  I let busyness take over so that I didn't enjoy the season nearly as much as I should have.

2.  I'm experiencing post-Harry Potter let down. I've been steadily working my way through the series since summer and just finished Book 7 Saturday night.  I never expected I'd enjoy them that much.  Now I'm struggling with a strong desire to read, yet there's nothing I want to read.  Suggestions to get me over the hump?

3.  I'm also working my way through the Harry Potter movies.  They're okay, but mostly I'm bored with them since so much had to be cut from the books.

4.  My dear bloggy friend, Dawn, nominated me for Best Encourager in the Homeschool Blog Awards (thank you, Dawn!).  Although I love blogging, I'm not very consistent with it.  I also have lots of room for improvement when it comes to being an encourager.  But I can get pretty real with my faults and weaknesses on this blog, and I'm not above poking fun at myself.  So perhaps it's encouraging just to know that I'm not a supermom, but just someone like you -- clinging to God's grace as I homeschool my kids and figure out what to make for dinner.  Welcome to those of you who are visiting from the blog awards.

5.  I've rediscovered some long-forgotten muscles, and they hurt!  Last night was bring-your-parent-to-ballet-class night.  This is one of Grace's favorite annual events, so I will continue to attend until she finally realizes how bad I am at ballet and is too embarrassed to have her mom there (probably in another four years when she's thirteen).  Every year I'm amazed at how hard those little ballerinas work.  The worst part, however, was that I forgot it was parent participation night and had not dressed as I would have had I remembered, so I was embarrassed that everyone got to see the dirty bottoms of my socks!  I love that my hardwood floors hide dirt very well, but my socks reveal the truth.

6.  It's official -- my thirteen-year-old is waaaayyyy smarter than me.  When she asks me a question related to her school work, my usual response is, "Uhhhh . . .  I don't know."  If she weren't so stinkin' busy with school and sports, I'd hire her to teach Ryne and Grace Latin, because she's a pro now.  And I've decided it's a terrible idea to teach logic to a teenager; she is now pointing out fallacies in my arguments.  My only redeeming grace is that I still remember a fair amount of algebra (nobody is more shocked at this than I), and I kept my college textbook on sentence diagramming, which has come in handy lately.

I'm going to shock you tomorrow by actually blogging two days in a row!  I have a Christmas planning printable to share with you -- a simple way to get the whole family involved and direct our focus toward Christ in this busy season.  So be sure to stop by tomorrow.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tweeting and Pinning

I am not known for being up-to-date on the latest technology.  I often have to have Ryne's help to get our TV working after he's been using the Wii, I don't have a smart phone, and I think I'm one of the few people left who do not have a Facebook account.  (Marc is another one of the few; but sooner or later one of us will have to join once our thirteen-year-old convinces us to let her join.  If she gets an account, we'll have to get one.)  Perhaps the most telling evidence of my technological uncoolness is that the original draft of this post was written BY HAND on a spiral pad while my daughter was at cross country practice.

So it might come as a shock that I've had a Twitter account for the past several months.  Me! On Twitter!  The only problem is that I have no idea what to do on Twitter.  I have yet to write my first tweet.  Maybe there's just too much pressure to write something witty, clever, profound or interesting.  Or maybe it's that I have one friend as a follower (Thanks, Ruthanne!), so if she doesn't see my tweet I'll feel like I'm talking to myself. :) I do have a few other followers, who apparently followed me because I follow financial guru Dave Ramsey.  Really?  What are they going to accomplish by following me?  Like I said, I'm not really getting the whole Twitter thing yet.

Why bother, then?  Because I really, really wanted to join Pinterest.  Now that's totally up my alley. Hundreds and thousands of lovely pictures!  But to have a Pinterest account, one needs a Twitter or FB account, and Twitter seemed like the lesser of the two evils.  And even though Twitter has me baffled, it was totally worth it so I could be on Pinterest.  Not sure what Pinterest is?  Here is what Pinterest has to say, and here is a helpful blog post (and another).  Basically, it's a place to bookmark any picture you want from the internet.  If you are a visual person who remembers pictures better than words, Pinterest is for you.

I use Pinterest to collect recipes, decorating ideas, homeschool ideas, and even hairstyle ideas for the girls.  It's super easy for me to quick check my boards when I'm making my weekly menu to pick out a new recipe to try.  Before Pinterest, it was rare for me to try something new so I often got bored with cooking.  But look at all the goodies I've tried lately!

Okay, so maybe I've been trying more sweets than dinners, but we entertain several Sundays a month and I was in need of some new dessert recipes!  Plus, we've had a few special occasions lately that were perfect excuses for baking.  But I have plenty of dinner, lunch and breakfast recipes pinned for future meals. : )

I even found an easy way to cut down on my fruit fly population.  

Most of these links I've just repinned from other Pinterest users, but I also occasionally pin things I see from my own blog reading, like the Creamy White Chili recipe (thank you, Heather!).  I also went through my computer files and pinned some of my favorite links.  I hardly know most of the people I follow, but have found them through blogs or The Well Trained Mind forum.  They do have good taste though!

Pinterest is fun to use, and I don't find that it sucks away my time like other internet activities.  I can be on and off Pinterest in less than five minutes, making it easy to check in while making dinner or waiting for a child to finish a writing assignment.  Grace also loves Pinterest!  She'll sit on my lap, oooing and ahhing at different pictures with me.

Do you tweet or pin?  I'd love to follow you!  You can find me {not} tweeting here and {definitely} pinning here.  I plan to beg Ruthanne to teach me how to navigate Twitter and would like to start using it someday.  I even avoided my to-do list one evening by crafting a cute Twitter background, only to find out it looks wonky in certain browsers.  Maybe I'll get around to fixing it someday.  Maybe not.  If you want to join Pinterest, let me know and I'll send you an invite.  I've heard it's easier to get an invite from a friend than signing up through the site, but that may have changed since I joined.

Happy Tweeting and Pinning! {or however else you waste your time}

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Our Little Rainbow

When I was pregnant with Grace, the big question on everyone's mind was what color hair would she have? Would she have dark brown like her sister, or blonde like her brother? So when the nurse announced, "Look at that red hair!" it was clear God planned for Grace to be unique from the beginning. She has definitely brought much color to our lives.






So it is fitting that we are celebrating her 9th birthday this week with rainbows. Rainbow cookies, rainbow pancakes, rainbow cake -- because clearly I think she doesn't get enough sugar and food color in her diet. ; )

But if a little sugar is one way for me to thank her for filling my life with color, then bake I will.

Happy Birthday, Gracie!

P.S. Yes, these old photos are some of my finds from my October photo organization challenge, although I confess it was actually November 1st when I did it. I'm still counting it as October though. : ) Let me know if you made any progress in October.