Saturday, December 20, 2014

Good Tidings

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We have our very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree that sprouted up near our brush pile some time ago. Perhaps he is the offspring of one of our discarded Christmas trees of years past. We don't have many evergreens on our property, so I'm pretty fond of this little tree, especially when covered with the season's first snow.

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This school semester has been the hardest since we started homeschooling almost eight (!!!) years ago. I am worn out. My family is worn out. But when we woke up Thursday morning to a winter wonderland, our spirits brightened. Most of the area schools were cancelled, but the girls' school just delayed an hour because it was the middle of finals week. Ryne and I shoveled snow in the dark (Marc was out of town), but once the sun came up I had time for a little stroll in the woods. I soaked in the quiet beauty and then drove Anna to school (Grace, who doesn't have finals, was finished on Monday). We both just ooo-ed and ahh-ed the entire drive, except for the brief moment when my car skidded on an overpass and we thought we were going to go flying off a hill and crash land in a shopping center parking lot. It was a much welcome distraction from the day's physics and classical literature finals -- the snow, that is, not the near-death experience!

I've missed blogging and have written many posts in my head the last several months. I've also missed taking pictures. The other day I looked through my pictures for 2014, and discovered that if it didn't involve cross country/track, ballet, or a vacation, I took very few pictures this year. How sad! I clearly need more moments like this walk in the snow! If the pictures look funny, I apologize. My computer monitor has been sick all fall and I can't really see what my pictures look like. Right now they are all blue, so I hope that's not the case for you! I'm hoping a new laptop might be in my future, but that whole naughty or nice thing might be my downfall. : )

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I may be physically and mentally worn out, but my spiritual Hope has not worn out. It's been an amazing year of learning God's truths, especially through my weekly Bible Study Fellowship lessons. I wish I could go into more detail about those lessons right now, but I promised myself this would be a short post. I am, however, going to share one little nugget I came across a couple months ago in my personal reading. I starred it and made a note to post this on the blog at Christmas time, because it is so perfect for refocusing our weary minds on Who really matters this season.

The Gift of Gifts

O Source of all Good,

What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near 
on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery;
he came, God-incarnate, to save me
to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.

In him thou hast given me so much 
that heaven can give no more.

The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions

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Have a blessed Christmas, resting in His peace!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Up, Down, and All Around

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the extent of my summer gardening

What a whirlwind of a summer!

June actually started out fairly relaxed. I should have blogged then, but I was enjoying having little on the agenda. We even got math done, folks!!! I always have great ambitions of us doing regular math lessons over the summer, but it never happens. Well, this summer we actually made it about six weeks before dropping math like a hot potato.

In mid-June things started picking up when we hit ballet performance week, which was full of rehearsals, visiting with family, and two nights of performances. Busy, but, oh, so fun! Pictures are coming -- I know the aunties must be disappointed I haven't posted anything yet!

The day after the last performance, I left for Denver, by myself. My sister was traveling for work, and someone needed to be in town to be with my dad, who was having health struggles. I left the kids and dog with Marc so they could spend a couple more days with my mother-in-law, who came to town for the ballet. Jasper, our big black lab, also had some health struggles that week, and I was pretty sure I was saying goodbye to my big (old) puppy for the last time. I think I cried at least 3 hours of the 9 hour drive. (Thankfully, Jasper made quite the recovery and is back to his stinky self!)

My dad's house is half a block away from my sister's house, so each time I make one of these trips to Denver I stay at her house and take care of her two dogs.  Summer in Colorado is amazing! Every morning I would sit on her back porch, enjoying the silence, mountain air, two dogs at my feet, a hot cup of coffee in my hand, and my Bible in front of me. And each morning I'd decide that we have to move to Denver. Now, take that with a grain of salt. We've made this decision before -- even started looking for houses and Marc interviewed for some jobs -- but God made it perfectly clear 15 years ago that door was closed. And I can't imagine a move anytime in the near future -- we're too tied in with job, school, church, activities, etc. But when I'm sipping coffee, gazing at those foothills, I get that itch.

Dad was having a tough time that week. His caregiver was amazing (she's such an answer to prayer), but it was clear he wasn't going to be able to stay in the house much longer. My sister and I had been discussing this all month, but we knew it would be a hard transition. It would be so much easier if he recognized that it was time to move. And then he did. He came to me twice that week and said it was time. Again, this was a HUGE answer to specific prayer, but it was heartbreaking nonetheless. I ended up staying an extra week and we moved him out of his house to a memory care facility. He had a fall the day before the move, so he and I spent a few hours in the emergency room. That may have been the easiest part of the week. Sadly, I will have memories of that week that will rival my last visit with my mom before she died of brain cancer. It is so hard watching your parents suffer. And, yet, I feel silly and selfish even talking about how hard this was for me. Dad has been fully aware of his declining health, and I can't even imagine how hard this is for him. Or for my sister, who has had to do so much to keep him in his home as long as possible.

The good news is that Dad is in a great facility -- it was so much better than any other place we (as in mostly my sister) had looked at. The even better news is that he gets to keep his little Wheaten Terrier, Izzy, with him! Dad was so much more accepting of this transition knowing he could have his best pal with him. While the facility allows pets, Dad is the only resident who currently keeps a pet there, so Izzy has rock star status among the residents and staff.

A couple of days after he moved in, Dad was rediagnosed from Alzheimer's to frontotemporal dementia. This answered a lot of our confusion we've had the last few years, since in many ways Dad didn't really seem like he had Alzheimers and he's on the young side for Alzheimer's.

Marc was awesome during this time! He had to unexpectedly do the single dad thing for an extra week.  Anna cooked several times the first week, but they had to do a lot of scrounging the second week. Between him and the kids back home and me in Denver, we obliterated our eating-out budget for the month! Anna went away to engineering camp during that second week, so Marc had to make sure she was prepared and then drive her three hours to get there and three hours back. My brother-in-law was also awesome in that he took a day off work to go pick Anna up from camp because Marc was giving a presentation that day. And would you believe that Ryne and Grace did their math while I was gone?! What a blessing to know all was well back home!

I spent Fourth of July week catching up on everything and reconnecting with my crew. Of course, once the homeschool mom was finally back home, that's when we ditched the math lessons. Oh, well.

Then they all left me for four days -- Marc drove them to church camp in Wisconsin. We had planned months ago that Marc would take them, but I felt pretty guilty after all I had already put him through. He deserves a medal. Thankfully, they all had a wonderful time at camp.

Forty-eight hours later, Grace was off to her best friend's church camp! She came home very sleepy, but had a marvelous time.

And that brings us to this week. We have one week of normal and then things get crazy again, and then school starts! Don't even get me started on school -- I'm hoping if I just ignore school, summer will just last forever, even though I'm really more of a fall person. Can we just have fall with no school?

It's been a summer of ups and downs and a lot of driving all around, but God's hand has been so evident through it all. I hesitated sharing so much, but I feel I've honored my dad in what I've shared. He is so brave for facing what he does each day. And if I didn't share, God wouldn't get the glory He deserves. I will say it again, God has been amazing through my dad's illness. At times I have felt like Peter walking on water in the way I've had to trust in God's protection and provision, but He has gone above and beyond what I could have ever expected. I wish I could tell so much more.

Hugs to all my faithful readers!!! I've missed you as always when I'm absent from this place.

I hope your summer has been full of blessings as well!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lists, lists, and more lists

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My bloggy-BFF, Dawn, is a bird watching superstar, and she's raising a couple of birdwatching superstars. Her boys recently took part in a bird watching competition and identified 114 different birds! They also added some new birds to their life list. Serious birders have a life list to keep track of all the different birds they've identified. I'm not sure how big Dawn's family's life lists are, but I'm sure it's impressive (Dawn, please tell us in the comments!)

I've decided that since I'm hopeless when it comes to identifying a bird by its call, and it takes me forever to identify them by appearance because it usually turns into an hour-long internet search, my birding life list will consist of birds that kindly pose for a decent photo. I think, then, that makes my life list in 10-12 range. ; )

Yesterday, we were having Sunday dinner and enjoying the hummingbirds visiting our feeder that hangs just on the other side of the window. Then Marc pointed out a bird in the tree who had a flashing yellow belly, and immediately I knew it was someone I hadn't noticed before, so I jumped up from the table and ran for my camera. Of course, the camera was upstairs and was missing the camera card because I had been uploading track photos the day before. By the time I found the card and got the camera ready, the bird was less than patient, but I did manage to get a few pictures from our school room window. And then it flew directly at me and hit the window, which was quite frightening when viewing from a zoom lens! Then it perched on the gutter and chattered loudly. I'm pretty sure it was telling me off. Maybe it's the private type. At least it didn't repeatedly hit the window, like the tanager from a couple of years ago.

Anyhoo, I was greatly pleased that I was able to quickly identify our new visitor as a Great Crested Flycatcher. I would have loved to get a better shot from the front with that yellow belly (reminds me of my favorite bird, the Cedar Waxwing), but I'm happy enough just to add another bird to my list.

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Speaking of lists, today is one of my favorite days of the year -- first day of summer break, also known as list-making day. Lists of the things that need to get done this summer. Lists of books to read. Lists of homeschool materials to buy. And since I haven't been grocery shopping in two weeks, the grocery list will be one of the first lists to make. It's been a crazy couple of months, so today is a day of sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and dreaming that this just might be the summer I get it all done. I know it's not true, but just let me dream and enjoy my lists for one day. : )

Monday, May 5, 2014

Welcome, May!

The beautiful month of May brings . . .

a much needed break from school. The girls will be done in less than two weeks, and Ryne has finished or will finish most his subjects in the next couple of weeks. Just don't ask me how we're doing on science.

a much needed break from the busy, busy schedule of March and April. Remember my day in the life? I haven't had a Thursday (or any other day of the week, except Sundays) that relaxed since then! I spent my whole spring break week organizing our basement/storage room, and then it was just one activity or event after another. So many fun times (and a few bleh), but just too many of them!

I don't do well with busy-stress, and I fell back into some bad habits the last fews weeks, including a few too many stops for sugary coffee or other forms of caffeine. Plus, I only got in half the exercise I had been doing. Amazing how it can take months to lose 5 pounds but just a few weeks to put it on.

Cinco de Mayo. But before I start getting all healthy again, I figured I'd go out with a bang. And it was worth it! We actually had our Mexican-themed dinner a day early, so now I can tell you that your celebration of Mexico's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla (can you tell what we studied in history last week?) will not be complete unless you make Pioneer Woman's Tres Leches Cake right now. I want to know how I could have grown up in Texas and never had this amazing (and fairly easy) dessert before. It is a new family favorite.

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Even better, if you're really going to do Cinco de Mayo right, you must try these Chicken Enchiladas Suizas too. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Colorado Collage, but I was able to find the recipe online here.

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These enchiladas have been a family favorite for years and are perfect for entertaining. I typically serve them with black beans and some sauteed squash. Sadly, the recipe does not meet my standards for easy weeknight fare. There's a lot of chopping and shredding involved (although once I learned this tip for shredding chicken, life became much easier), so I generally save it for Sunday dinners.

Therefore, if you're trying to make a last minute decision on what to have for dinner tonight, and you're feeling the Cinco de Mayo spirit, I totally give you permission to skip the enchiladas this time and just make the cake. As in eat cake for dinner. Tell your family I said, "You're welcome." ; )

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Day in the Life {Thursday Style}

I enjoy reading day-in-the-life posts from other bloggers and have always wanted to write one myself. Not because I think my days are particularly inspiring or that you'll glean great ideas, but just to sort of capture the moment. I wish I had written down what a day in my life looked like 10 and 15 years ago, because there is so much I have forgotten. It's also easier to see all the little ways God blesses us each day when looking back over our days. So in the spirit of capturing the moment, I give you a somewhat typical Thursday at Blue House Academy.


Thursdays are one of my favorite days of the week. It's one of the two days a week the girls get to work from home instead of going away to school, so I enjoy the extra time with them. I also love Thursdays because it means we survived the busiest day of our week, Wednesday, and because we have no commitments outside the home until evening. And this particular Thursday is even better because we don't have anything going on in the evening -- indoor track ended last week and outdoor track doesn't start until next week. I've been looking forward to this day all week! Here's how it played out . . . .

6:00 a.m. I don't set an alarm on Thursdays. I just let my body decide when it's time to wake up, but it's rarely later than 7:30. This morning, Marc's alarm makes the decision for me. Sometimes I can sleep through it, but this is not one of those mornings. No biggie, I'm happy that I will get some blissful peace and quiet before the rest of the family is up. Ironically, Marc goes back to bed for another hour of sleep, but he had a busy night the night before. I change into my workout clothes, grab my Bible study materials, and head down the hall to the school room.

6:15 a.m. Well, this was unexpected! Anna comes into the school room to print a paper for school. She has some pretty big assignments due this week and next, so I guess she's getting an early start. Usually, she stays up late Wednesday to study and sleeps in on Thursday. We chat quietly for a few minutes. She let the dog out before she came upstairs and now he's barking to be let in, so I go downstairs to let him in. She's brewing some tea, but I start the coffee maker. It's chilly in the kitchen though, so I head back upstairs and curl under a blanket. I'll go get my coffee and some breakfast in a little bit.

6:55 a.m. Now Grace appears in the school room. What's going on with my family today? She's usually the last one to get up. She immediately sits down at her desk to start school work, but I force her to go make some breakfast for herself.

7:15 a.m. I hear Ryne stirring in bed. He used to be the first one out of bed, sometimes as early as 5:00, but now he seems to be naturally settling into a teenage sleep pattern. He drags his lanky body downstairs for breakfast around 7:45, and around that time Marc leaves for work.

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Despite all the commotion and interruptions, I get some nice time in the Word. I read the notes for my Bible Study Fellowship lesson, plus the daily devotion and an article in Tabletalk magazine. Good stuff! The BSF lessons on Matthew have been so very convicting this year -- oh, I can be such a Pharisee sometimes! And Tabletalk? I adore this magazine! The devotions are covering the book of Romans this year, and today's passage speaks of the glory of the atonement and Jesus as our mercy seat, so now I have one of my favorite hymns floating through my head. And then there are the articles -- I think I might like the articles even more than the devotions. Today I read "Glorifying God in the Routines", which you can read for free here.

8:00 a.m. I always have great intentions of preparing for homeschooling the night before, but I rarely do it. So now I have to check yesterday's work, write Ryne's assignments on the white board, and gather any library books or other materials we need. I also check email at this time. In the middle of this, Grace asks me to administer her spelling test. She's one of a small group of students in her class that is given a harder spelling test, which she takes at home rather than at school on Friday when the normal spelling test is given. I'm crediting that to the five seasons of All About Spelling she had as a homeschool student.

8:45 a.m. I print out a worksheet Grace's teacher emailed, make my bed, and "fluff" the laundry. I like saying fluffing the laundry, because it sounds more pleasant than I never took the laundry out last night and now I have to reset the dryer to try and get the wrinkles out. Normally I wouldn't even be doing laundry on Thursday because it's Anna's laundry day, but I was in Denver for 5 days and got back Monday night, messing up our normal laundry schedule.

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9:00 a.m. I'm starving! I kind of forgot about breakfast. I know. You're supposed to eat within 30 minutes of waking up, but at least I do eat breakfast. Today I even take time to make my favorite breakfast. I chop up a zucchini, a red bell pepper, and some onion and saute them. I transfer half the veggies into a container for tomorrow's breakfast. Then I scramble an egg into the remaining veggies and add a touch of cheese. Normally, I also add a tiny sprinkle of crumbled pork sausage that I store in the freezer (just enough to add some yumminess, but not enough to add a bunch of calories), but we're out right now. Must cook some sausage this weekend!

I never did drink the coffee I made hours ago, and now it's turned into a dark sludge because half of it evaporated. The coffee habit is still pretty new to me, and it shows in my coffee-making skills. I attempt another cup, but this time it comes out looking a little transparent. I add a tablespoon of creamer and it turns white. {sigh} I've had this problem a few times now -- the filter gets bent and covers the coffee, so the water is hardly touching the coffee. I'm able to reuse the coffee grounds and, finally, attempt three is successful. Or at least as good as it's going to get from me.

The laundry wasn't the only thing that didn't get done last night; in between making eggs and coffee I clean up the kitchen mess from last night. Thankfully, it wasn't too bad.

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9:45 a.m. Grace has stolen my spot on the sofa to do her reading for school. She was just finishing up, so I banish her back to her desk and reclaim my throne. I then review yesterday's math assignment with Ryne.

9:55 a.m. I take a 30-second moment of silence to savor the warmth of an imperfect cup of coffee, curled up under a blanket, on my throne. I've been waiting for this moment all week. : )

9:55.30 a.m. Time to reserve some library books, send an overdue email, forget to send another overdue email, and read three blog posts. One of the blog posts is about Amazon specials for the week, including the dish soap I use, so now I need to check if the price is better on Amazon or through the wholesale group I'm part of, and it turns out the wholesale group has the better price, and this is how I go off on tangents and waste a lot of minutes in my days.

10:45 a.m. Oh, dear! Ryne's assignments, written on the white board, look the same as they did an hour ago, which means there must be a problem with math. Sure enough, 3.8 seconds after I have this thought, he stomps into the room, frustrated by one of his last math problems. I give him some tips and he stomps (slightly less dramatically) back to his bedroom.

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You might remember me complaining about Grace's messy desk. It is better this year, but as you can see she still likes to spread out as she works. And, yes, she is still in her jammies, her hair hasn't been combed, and she remains that way the entire day.

She recites the introduction to the Declaration of Independence in a semi-convincing British accent, although that might not have been appreciated as much back then. Or perhaps many of them still had British accents? Focus, Kellie, before your brain goes off on another tangent!

Grace is pretty much done with her school work! She has a lighter load than usual, because she is supposed to be working on her science fair project that's due next week. We're very behind on this but are making it our weekend priority. First, we were delayed because every time she picked a topic, she found out someone else had already picked that topic, so she wanted to change (apparently 5th grade girls like to experiment only with food, and preferably food that contains sugar). Then I was busy getting ready for my Denver trip, and then I was in Denver. Now we're down to the wire and are approaching panic mode. She's doing something with marshmallows, and because of my trip I haven't even been to the store this week. I'd throw in that my dog ate the science experiment, but I think you're growing weary of my excuses. I know I am. ; )

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12:00 p.m. Remember when I said I changed into my workout clothes? It wasn't just so I could sit on my throne. It's treadmill time! I've been debating for months about whether I should blog about my exercise routine, but here's the CliffsNotes version: About a year ago, I started the Couch to 5K Treadmill program and have been pretty consistent with it, except for the month between my two Denver trips in the fall. I "run" three days a week for 30 minutes at a turtle pace, plus a 5 minute warmup and a 5 minute cool down and some additional time for stretching. Two days a week, I do a 40 minute strength training DVD. Because of my turtle pace, I don't actually run a 5K in the 30 minutes; I focus my efforts more on improving my speed and keeping the length of my workout manageable for my schedule. For the record though, I am able to go for the full 5K and will sometimes do that on Saturdays when I have more time (and I'm getting pretty close to that 30 minute goal!).

I did get off my routine when I went to Denver, so I'm expecting this to be a hard day. My body gives me zero grace if I miss a day in my routine.

12:10 p.m. TobyMac is singing will not quit, and I'm trying to decide if I believe him.

12:13 p.m. Mr. Mac was right; I decide I'm not going to quit because 1) I haven't not completed a "run" since October, and 2) I don't want to have to admit when I write this post that I quit. So thank you for motivating me to keep going. ; )

12:20 p.m. I'm not going to quit, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to die. I was right; my body did not like getting off schedule last week, and this is torture.

12:45 p.m. I'm convinced after every run that I have lost half my body weight in sweat. Unfortunately, the scale never confirms this.

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12:50 p.m. It's a beautiful day outside, so even though I have no intention of leaving my house today, I do walk outside for a minute to cool off and snap a picture of the quickly melting snow. It's pretty early to be calling it quits for winter, but this just might be the last of the snow we'll see this season.

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12:50 p.m. I head upstairs (treadmill is in our basement) and find Anna eating lunch and Ryne preparing lunch for Grace and himself. He's making his specialty, couscous. Anna made herself diced sweet potato with scrambled eggs. I prepare a salad (topped with sun-dried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, avocado, a hard-boiled egg, and an olive oil and vinegar dressing). I also reheat a small bowl of leftover curry vegetable soup (not quite as healthy as it sounds, but very yummy). Anna and Ryne finish eating and then return to their school work. I then notice Grace never came down to eat her lunch. Ryne forgot to tell her it was ready! So Grace and I eat lunch together. I do not know how that girl actually manages to eat, because she chatters the entire time. I love her enthusiasm for life.

1:15 p.m. Fluff the laundry, again, and then take a shower.

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1:30 p.m. Finally fold the laundry, and realize that there's been a wet load in the washer since yesterday. {D'oh!} I transfer the wet clothes to the dryer (there was no funky smell), and throw a new load in the washer.

It's Ryne's laundry that I just folded, and so I roll it over to his room for him to put away. He does all the laundry steps, except folding, which is on my list of things to teach him for this year. Need to get on that, because he's much better about doing things in a timely manner than I am. I bet he'll never use the fluff setting.

Speaking of chores, they have been doing them today. Ryne is so much better than the girls, and he actually does more chores than they do. Our chore system needs reworking, because needs and abilities have changed over the years. But Grace did take the recycling out with just one reminder. {sigh}

1:45 p.m. Check email and grade papers. Grace and I go over her work for the day, and then I spend some 1:1 time with Ryne. Grace draws pictures. At some point, I fold a load of laundry, without having to fluff, and transfer another load to the dryer. I keep thinking I will go make a cup of tea in a few minutes, but I never get it done.

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Do all teenage boys yawn 20 times a day? 

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4:25 p.m. Grace and Ryne finish reviewing their Bible memory work from last year and school is done for the day. We're normally done by 4:00, but Ryne didn't have school on Monday because my return from Denver was delayed a day and the girls had a snow day, so we've been trying to catch up all week.

4:30 p.m. I fold the last load of laundry, and Marc comes home from work. This is early for him to be home, but he ran an errand for Anna that had to be done in the afternoon. After he changes into comfy clothes, he and I consult on a DIY project that we started a year ago. Okay, the truth is he started it a year ago and has been waiting ever since for me to paint it so he can finish the assembly. {hanging my head in shame}

4:45 p.m. Anna and Ryne head outside for a run for about an hour. I change into my painting clothes and head to the basement. Grace is playing Minecraft, and Marc is taking a business call. After their run, Anna and Ryne recruit Grace to do some core work with them. After a shower, Ryne finally gets his screen time.

We rarely have nights with nothing on the schedule, so I am taking advantage of this time to paint. It takes me almost an hour to get everything ready, and then more time for sanding. It's going to be amazing when it's done, but at this rate I don't know when it's actually going to get done. By dinnertime, all I've accomplished is a coat of primer. You want to know what it is, right? Hopefully it won't be another year before I get to do the reveal. ; )

7:30 p.m. I prearranged for Anna to make a simple dinner tonight, so we are having nachos. If you are noticing the lack of vegetables my children have been eating today, don't worry, I am too. Trust me, we do much better other days, but it does take effort, and I didn't make that effort today. Tomorrow is another day. . . .

I paint for another hour, then take my weary body up to bed. The painting has made my back sore, and I am chilled to the bone from being in our unfinished basement for so long. Anna must have found some time to be on Pinterest because she emailed me a pin, but I know she and Grace also spent some time cleaning their room since Anna has a friend spending the night tomorrow. Ryne and Grace go to bed shortly after I do, although Ryne will stay up at least an hour to read. I read for about 15 minutes and then turn out my light and fall asleep almost immediately.

There's nothing remarkable about our day-to-day routine, but a lifetime of unremarkable days somehow brings some amazing results. I'm so grateful for the rhythm God has guided us into, and for the freedom to also relax our routine at times, whether it be in not eating our veggies or fluffing the laundry multiple times. The days we lock ourselves in the house may be outnumbered by the days we run from one place to the next, but even the busy days provide so many blessings. Writing out our day helps me remember to be grateful for every moment.

Remember the Tabletalk article I read? It pretty much set the theme for my day:

We hear Paul's instruction of "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31) and we wonder how that squares with the "have-to's" of our everyday lives. Grace sheds light on our mundane. Grace can transform the "have-to's" into "get-to's" as we live for His glory.

God is so good!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Two Generations of Princesses

Happy Valentine's Day!

Oh, boy, do I have a treat for you today. First, let's start with my lovely daughter, all dressed up for last weekend's school formal.

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Sadly, I got very few pictures this year. The poor darling was coming down with a cold and was running late, so I had about five minutes to get some pictures, unlike last year when I took hundreds. Plus, it was very, very cold and snowy outside, so I couldn't do pictures outdoors. I pushed the dining room table out of the room, and decided that would have to be good enough.

Anna is a tough athlete, but she knows how to get her princess on. Just check out her Pinterest board. She had her heart set on this dress for months.

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The price was definitely right: free! That's because the dress once belonged to her mom, yours truly.

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Woo hoo! Another opportunity to get to see my 80's self, big Texas hair and all. I also carried the same handbag (not shown in my old pictures), which actually belonged to my mother. So Anna's ensemble spans three generations. She wasn't wild about the sleeves, so we had a friend convert them into wide straps. We did have to have the dress taken in a little, but the amount was small enough to not damage my pride too much. ; ) Like her, I was a sophomore in high school when I wore the dress. I'm thinking her choice of shoes was a tad better, or maybe it's my cream colored hose that has me cringing. At least it's better than the year I layered black hose over dark green to get a two-toned effect. We won't go there.

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What fun to have your daughter wear your old clothes! I'm emphasizing old, because in case my darling daughter is reading this I'd like her to know that's it's not okay to "borrow" things from her mother's closet and not return them, especially since they are way too big for her! Momma doesn't look like she did in high school anymore. ; )

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Once upon a time . . .

Note: Remember a year ago when my blog design disappeared and in frustration I took a long break from blogging? Well, I actually did write a post about Anna's first formal, but just couldn't bear to hit "publish" when my blog was naked. Well, tonight she is at her formal again, so I decided to resurrect this old post. I haven't had a chance to look at today's pictures yet, but hopefully I'll have some nice ones to share next week.


Once upon a time, there were two little princesses. They lived in castles down the street from each other. They loved to dress up for pretend balls. They went to princess preschool together.

Then they became grown-up princesses.

The End.

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Why do they grow up so fast?! Anna and her best friend since preschool recently attended their school's annual Protocol formal.  It's a no-date affair, so thankfully we haven't had to worry about Prince Charming sweeping her off her feet yet, although Marc was so kind to point out that Anna is only 3 years away from the age when I met and fell in love with him.


Anyhoo, she had a grand time. They actually had to attend a training session a couple of weeks before the event, so they could learn about proper etiquette and manners, such as how to properly greet someone or which utensil to use and when. Good stuff! Maybe I should have her coach me. : )

The actual formal consisted of a ride in a limo, an elegant dinner, and then entertainment by a magician with a Christian message. Before dinner there was a reception that parents could attend, and students were encouraged to practice all those people skills they learned. I didn't get to go to that part because I was sick, but Marc was able to attend.

Throughout the evening, the girls and guys were paired up (usually two girls to a guy because the girls outnumbered the guys this year), so although the school wasn't promoting the whole dating thing, the boys and girls weren't totally segregated either. Definitely different from my high school experience, but I really appreciate the way the school organizes this event. It is fun, but a good preparation for adulthood as well.

I'm having trouble adjusting to all the growing up that's been going on at the Blue House. It's going by waaaayyy too fast. My baby is going to formals, and if she'd ever study for the test she could be getting her driving permit. And then there's Ryne, who recently passed Marc in height and wears a size 12 shoe.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Two of My Favorite Things

This dog. This snow.

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Jasper, at 12 years old, is an old, old dog. He's only been with us for five years; before that he spent his days tied to a tree. The neighbor kids would refill his water dish each day because he would accidentally knock it over with his rope. Those kids were homeschoolers, and their mom talked to the owners and then put out a notice on the local homeschool email list to find Jasper a new home. We already had one black lab, so I figured we were crazy enough to have two. Best crazy decision we ever made. I LOVE this dog. I've had some really great dogs over the years, so it's hard for me to pick a favorite, but Jasper is it. There has never been a sweeter, sillier dog on the planet, and if you try to argue with me I'll dunk your head in the snow.

Speaking of snow, I love that too. Our latest snow storm is reminiscent of the two years we lived in Minnesota. The official totals for the area are in the 8-10 inches range , but we already had a little bit on the ground from a previous storm, so I'm not sure what our actual snowfall was yesterday. (Updated: I've since seen that the two closest towns were 10.5 and 11 inches, so I guess my ruler is right!)

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In my opinion, there are three keys to a perfect snow: 1) Fluffy and powdery, 2) Large amounts of it, 3) Beautiful sunshine the day after so everything sparkles. That's how the majority of snow days played out when we lived in Minneapolis. We experienced plenty of snow when we lived in Chicago, but because of the lake we rarely had that beautiful sun the day after. It makes a huge difference in your mental state, trust me.

An added bonus of the sunshine is icicles! We got some biggies this time!

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This picture, taken from inside, gives you a better idea of the scale of these icicles. That window is 34 inches tall.

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Unfortunately, this snow storm is bringing very frigid temperatures, also reminiscent of Minnesota. I nearly froze taking these pictures, but perhaps that's because I was too lazy to put on warm clothes so I went out there in capri yoga pants, a long tee, and a pair of boots. But I'm not going to complain about how cold my hands were because I just finished reading The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz (the movie version, The Way Back, is available for streaming on Netflix, but I liked the book better). If those dudes can survive Siberia without whining, I can survive ten minutes in my front yard.

Hope you are all staying warm! Please don't comment if you live in Hawaii. ; )

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State of the Blue House

While political analysts are discussing tonight's State of the Union address, I know what you really want to know is what's going on at the Blue House. Well, even if that wasn't what was foremost in your mind, here are a few things that have been happening lately. {grin}

1) Two more signs I'm officially old: First, I've made coffee every day for the last two weeks. Now, before I ruffle the feathers of my coffee-loving friends, I'm not saying drinking coffee makes you old. It makes me old, because I almost never make coffee for myself. I've been fine my entire life without coffee, although I do love the occasional treat from QuikTrip or (if I'm willing to spend the money) something from Starbucks, but now I'm finding I just can't make my brain work without a little help.

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But even more humbling than having to resort to a daily coffee fix, is that I have to use a magnifying glass to check my daughter's math homework. Because of the two days at home schedule of the girls' school, I'm supposed to check Grace's math homework, so I have my own copy of the teacher key. But the answers in the teacher key are so stinkin' small I can't read them! I have an eye doctor appointment on Thursday, and I think I know what the result will be.

2) We pretty much see deer every day at the Blue House, but this year there has been an abundance of wild turkeys in our neighborhood. Love it! I quickly snapped this shot through the window of one in front of our house, but they don't stay still long enough for you to get a good picture.

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3) I am the mother of a 16-year-old now. A 16-year-old who has no interest in driving. But I love her anyway. ; ) For her birthday party she had some of her friends over for an epic battle of catch-the-flag in the back yard, complete with weapons. I want to be 16 again!

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Ryne was invited to the battle.

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Speak softly and carry a big stick.

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The birthday girl in action.

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Take that!

4) The transmission went out in Marc's car last Friday. While I'm not happy about what it's going to cost to get it rebuilt, it has turned into a wonderful blessing for me. It will take a week to get it fixed, so we are down to one car. Marc will rent a car Thursday and Friday because we have too many things going on those days, but yesterday he took the girls to school and he picked them up so he could use my car all day. Folks, that was two extra hours in my day!!! Today he mostly worked from home, but took Anna to the office with him in the afternoon and then took her to her indoor track practice because it's just a few minutes from his office. Normally, I would have driven her to practice, stayed for the entire practice, then driven her home -- total of 2.5 hours. Woo hoo! Yes, I've gotten a few more things than usual done this week. I could get used to this . . . .

5) You know when you have one of those "small world" moments when an unknown connection between you and someone is revealed? Today was full of those moments for me today. I won't go into all the details, because it would completely bore you, but it just kept happening and happening through emails, someone who stopped by the house, phone calls, etc. And everyone involved was a Christian. I have no idea what God's purpose was in revealing all these connections, but it was so cool.

Anything interesting happen in your January?