Friday, January 30, 2015

A LOT OF YEARS & KIDS LATER ...

Once upon a time I had a friend named Derick. One night he left my apartment, looked up in the window of an apartment across the street, and saw the girl he'd marry. Her name was Greta. A little time passed and I met the guy I'd marry. Pretty sure you know his name.

The four of us all hung out with our larger group of friends and more time passed. Then Derick and Greta got married and moved away. Then Tim and I got married. We saw Derick and Greta at our wedding and I unexpectedly ran into Derick once a few years later, but otherwise we didn't see each other for sixteen-ish years. We took turns having kids. We kept in touch on Facebook.

One day Greta said she was going to be in my general neck of the woods, which is way far away from her own neck of the woods, and asked if we could meet. So we did. She and three of her kids spent a few hours with the little Ws and I at our place this afternoon. I made lunch, she brought cookies, the kids played, and she and I talked about life.

It's impossible to get seven kids to all look at the camera with genuine smiles at the same time, but we tried. Here's smiling pose. Yes, Naomi's face is painted lemon yellow. It's how we roll.



And the silly faces.



The moms sitting down.



And the moms standing up.


It was so neat to meet (most of) their kids and have a chance to talk as married adults with kids. Just a completely different season of life. I'm thankful for this sweet friend who loves Jesus, her husband, and her kids, who is honest about her own struggles, thoughts, and questions, and who I'm comfortable enough with to share things that fall into the "very few people know this" category, even though I haven't seen her in years. She's a treasure!

BOOKS I FINISHED - JANUARY 2015

I've been trying to get back in the habit of being offline and through with responsibilities by 9:00 and reading for an hour before I hit the sack most nights, so this month was high on personal reading ... but it was a slacker month on school reading. Actually, the big boys did a lot of reading, I just didn't read with them, and Naomi listened to one book on CD that normally I would have read to her. As usual, this post is a combination of books I read on my own and some books the kids read that we liked enough to tell you about. Links in green text or through the pictures.




Hornbooks and Inkwells and Whatever Happened to the Pony Express?, both written by Verla Kay and illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Like the covered wagon story we read in December, these books by Kay and Schindler were fun to read. The titles are pretty self-explanatory and we've now read three of the seven books in this series of history books that the library has. Off to reserve two more!




Non-fiction. I really enjoyed this book. The author, who is now a licensed mortician with her own alternative funeral practice, talks candidly about her experience working at a crematory in her early twenties. Not only does she give a behind-the-scenes look at a place most people know nothing about, but she also shares all sorts of information about death practices around the world, talks about what she thinks is wrong with the way our culture handles death, and has a great sense of humor. She declares herself secular and I'm a Christian, but those differences didn't impact my ability to like the book at all. We obviously disagree on some things, but I found myself agreeing with most of her opinions. Heads up that there is a scattering of profanity in the book, but no more than I would expect from a secular person with a sense of humor working in the death industry.




Little Mercies, written by Heather Gudenkauf
Fiction. A dedicated social worker finds herself on the other side of the system. A lonely widow supports people, both strangers and loved ones, during difficult circumstances. A young girl tries to make it in a world where everything seems to be against her. Abuse and neglect come up in this book, so steer clear if those are topics you need to avoid. 



Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters, written by Rachel Macy Stafford
Non-fiction. I heard about this book on Crystal's list of top ten books she read in 2014 at Money Saving Mom. It drives me absolutely batty when people are glued to their phones, so that's not something I personally struggle with doing, but I can (and do) get caught up in feeling overwhelmed by all the things I have on my plate and take my stress out on the people I live with. So, while this book didn't seem like it had any new information for me, it's always good to be reminded to keep my priorities in order. It would probably be a great read for people who never have their phone more than six inches from their body. Here are a few quotes that stood out to me.

p.38, The truth hurts, but the truth heals - and brings me closer to the person I desire to be. 

p.116, If you get upset about the little things in life, how in the world will you handle the big things?

p.176, When the collisions of life are upon me, I look at my children's faces and remember that what I say and do in that moment might very well be with them forever. (I read this on the heels of a super bad parenting move that really upset one of my kids. Needless to say, it was timely for me to read.)

p.182, If I asked my children to describe me in three words, what would they say? (I think this would be interesting ... and maybe hard and maybe awesome ... with anyone, not just our kids.)



The Cricket in Times Square, written by George Selden and illustrated by Garth Williams
School with Naomi. All three bigs have loved this story of a cricket who accidentally travels by train from Connecticut to New York. Befriended by a mouse and cat, cared for a little boy, and admired by the city, he eventually has to decide whether to stay or return home.



The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs is a Little Perspective, written by Andy Andrews
Non-fiction. Tom, my pseudo-FIL, recommended Andrews' books when he was over and this is the first one I read. I think I've actually read another one in the past, as the title was familiar, but I couldn't find it in any of my book lists. Anyway, I busted out this easy read in a couple hours one evening and enjoyed it. Each chapter focuses on a different person's situation and shows how a man named Jones helped them view their life's struggles from a different perspective. It was an easy book to read in one sitting, but I think it would also be good to read slowly, mulling over one chapter for a few days at a time and maybe doing the reader's guide questions in the back before moving to the next chapter. Seemingly fiction, simply because Jones is a mysterious person, but actually a true story. In addition the the following quotes from the book, I also posted one earlier in the month, which you can read here.

p.15, Ask yourself this question every day: "What is it about me that other people would change if they could?" (I think this pairs well with the question above from Hands Free Mama about how others would describe us in three words. Other people's desires shouldn't control our lives, but their perspectives should certainly influence our lives.)

p.30, "Most folks figure a true friend is someone who accepts them as they are. But that's dangerous garbage to believe. But a true friend holds you to a higher standard. A true friend brings out the best in you. A best friend will tell you the truth ... and a wise best friend will include a healthy dose of perspective."

p.56, After all, the seeds of depression cannot take root in a grateful heart.

p.111, Have you ever considered how often we judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions?




Amos Fortune: Free Man, written by Elizabeth Yates and illustrated by Nora S. Unwin
Non-fiction. This biography is actually a juvenile book, but it's a Newbery book that I wanted to read. (Sidenote: I've given up on my goal of reading all the Newbery books. Lots of good ones, but too  many that bore me.) The true story of an African prince who was captured and sold as an American slave, became free many decades later, then made it his goal to buy the freedom of others when he was able. I love how he, more than most people in the world, could have very easily justified a life of anger, self-pity, bitterness, or complaining, but instead he chose to live his life with integrity, choosing to make the best of where he was at in life and keep moving forward. A quick read and inspiring story. I also had the big boys read it.



The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, written by Alice Ozma
Non-fiction. I expected this book to be more about the books and less about the father, but it was the other way around. I don't know exactly how my expectation would have looked like in real life, but it took me a while to realize this is really a memoir of Ozma relationship with her dad. I feel a bit neutral about the book, but I'm excited to use her book list at the end to get some ideas of new things for the kids to read.

p. 63, My father will not lie, so he tries to say the best possible thing that is also the truth. He doesn't realize that this is often worse than just saying what he thinks as nicely as possible. (This one just made me chuckle because it's so true.)

p. 179, There is nothing more annoying in a heated argument that a nonpartisan, logical peacemaker. (Sometimes I've been the peacemaker, sometimes I've been annoyed.)



Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving, written by Greg Tang and illustrated by Greg Paprocki
Non-fiction. This was a neat book that shows famous paintings on one side of each page, along with a little rhyme that tells you about the artist and style of painting, then asks you to solve some math problems using pictures inspired the painting on the other side of the page. Solutions to all the problems are in the back of the book. Art history and math. Perfect! As I looked this book up on Amazon I realized Tang has several other books, then headed to the library site and found out they have eight of them. Time to put some on hold!



U.S. Presidents (Junior Genius Guides series) written by Ken Jennings and illustrated by Mike Lowery
This book is filled with all sorts of random trivia about the presidents our country has had over the years and is written in such a way that it's easy to just skim through, reading the parts that interest you and passing over the rest. We reserved the other two books the library has from this series after reading this book.

(This post contains affiliate links.)



Thursday, January 29, 2015

MENU: 1/29/15 - 2/4/15

I have two awesome new recipes for you this week!

* sweet green muffins - I tore this recipe out of a magazine a few months back and finally got around to making them last week. They're as green as grass and taste like banana, a hit with the whole family when I served them alongside carrot soup.

* cranberry scones with almond cream - I love the flavor combination of cranberry and almond in Nantucket cranberry pie, so I knew this recipe had to be good. And it was. Pure deliciousness, in fact.

ADVANCED COOKING (These aren't always planned, so they'll often be things I did the previous week.)
* I'll make up all the taco meat for this month and pop it in the freezer.
* I'll make peanut butter and crockpot beans, just like I do once or twice every week.

BREAKFASTS
* egg, spinach, and potato scramble
* doughnuts at church
* oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon, milk, homemade peanut butter, maple almond butter, raisins, dried cranberries, fresh or frozen fruit, huh-koe-pee milk, and/or energy mix as optional toppings x5

DINNERS
Cuban black beans and coconut rice
manicotti/sauteed cabbage with garlic and seasoned salt
* ham/mashed potatoes/frozen green beans
* Greek chicken salad (raw chicken in herbs pulled from freezer)/simple bread
* burgers/fries
* tacos - seasoned meat, crockpot beans from the freezer, and some other toppings served in a tortilla, bowl, as a salad over a pile of greens, or with mound of rice
* leftovers 

SNACKS & DESSERTS
* pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
produce 
* popcorn (kernels from the Winco bulk department that get popped in my Lodge Dutch oven, but you can see my thoughts on both the wonderful Dutch oven and the fantastic West Bend Stir Crazy in this post)

(This post contains affiliate links.)

1/29/15 - THANKFUL THURSDAY

I'm thankful for flower bulbs that pop through the dirt within a week of Christmas.

What's something that you're thankful for?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BLOGGING & FACEBOOK

From time to time someone will ask me why I blog, tell me all the reasons they don't use Facebook, or initiate some other similar conversation about those two things. The reasons to blog or be on Facebook, or not to, are countless and all valid, but here's why I do both of them.

Facebook - I was hesitant to join and wasn't very impressed once I did. Now, more than six years later, I'm still on Facebook and really enjoy it. It's a very convenient way to keep in touch with people who don't live locally, has reconnected me with people from my childhood and college years, makes rallying the troops for various needs super easy, and gives my extroverted self a chance to shoot the breeze with people in a season of life where I'm home a lot.

I never send out friend requests (actually, I think I've sent two or three ... but that's basically never), always accept them from people I know, regularly unfriend people I don't actually interact with, hide and block as needed, get unfriended and blocked (and hidden, I'm assuming) as other people need, and work hard to make sure I use FB as a way to learn more about other people on a daily basis. Of course, I also talk about what's good and bad in my own life, post pictures of the other Ws, link to my personal blog, ask for help or input when I need it, and so on. And I'm not above FB stalking, or "sleuthing", as I prefer to call it. Sounds classier, don't you think?

Blogging - My decision to blog was completely spontaneous, a pattern that I've recently started to realize lends itself to long-term changes and/or positive action for me. I've never had a goal of increasing my readership or focusing on some particular subject matter. Do people read it? Yes, but only when I link up on Facebook. And I'm fine with that. Do I address topics that go beyond chit chat? Sometimes, but there's no particular subject that I talk about on a consistent basis. And I like it that way.

I simply enjoy having a place to share what our family is up to, sort through my thoughts on various things, and so on. For me, blogging is a combination of giving friends and family a place to conveniently check in on our family and keeping a journal of sorts. One of the things I've come to really love is scrolling through all the posts filled with quotes I like and my monthly book lists (hmmm ... maybe I need to separate that link into books from the monthly list and books that aren't). I do that once or twice a week and it keeps all the quotes (which I also include in some book posts) fresh in my mind all the time. And, of course, I love looking at old pictures of the little W. And being able to look up details of things that happened a while ago when my memory fails or someone is asking about it.

There may come a day when I don't find blogging to be worth my time or Facebook no longer serves the purpose I use it for, a time when the pros no longer outweigh the cons, but for many years they've both been something I find useful and enjoyable,

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

1/27/15 - TEN ON TUESDAY

Book - Silas found a random spot to soak up some winter warmth while he was reading one morning.



Candle - A friend gave me a gift card to Bath & Body Works and I spent part of it on a candle that I love. The scent is cinnamon and clove buds, the brand is White Barn, and I got it for 50% off. It smells wonderful and burns completely without any unmelted ridges along the side. And it was a bargain. What's not to love?!

Facebook - I took a spontaneous break from Facebook for the last two weeks of December. Nothing prompted it - no drama, no time management issues. My mind was just wandering one night and I realized that I regularly took breaks of various lengths from a forum I was very active on for several years, but I'd never taken a break from Facebook. So I took one, effective immediately. It was neither wonderful nor challenging. It just was. I'll probably do it again sometime just because I can.

Game - Ashley gave us IQ Twist on Christmas and I don't think it was set down for the next 24 hours. The initial novelty has worn off, but it still gets played with several times a week. It's interesting to see who is able to nail it time after time and who has to strain their brain to figure it out. I fall into the latter category, but I still think it's a fun game. The goal is to arrange the various pieces, all of which have different shapes, and pegs in a multitude of ways that all fit on the board. It includes an answer key in case you get completely stuck and hints for the first several combinations.



Goals - I'm not a big goal-setter, but I recently bought a little notebook to write down the goals I do come up with and the date I accomplish them. I made it retroactive to last year so that I could include baking yeast breads and finishing Couch-to-5K, just because those were both a big deal to me.

Heels - Naomi had to throw on a pair of heels and walk out to the corner in the drizzle to wave goodbye when Aunt Tracy left earlier this month. She believes heels make everything in life better. Even saying goodbyes.



Pinch Me - I found out about Pinch Me from a magazine and have been getting a couple samples a month ever since. Once a month I choose the samples I'd like to receive in the mail, then I post a review after I've tried the sample. Easy peasy.

Reading - This was the view from my end of the couch on Friday night. Everyone else had gone to bed early or on time, but Devon and I stayed up late, each hunkered down with blankets and books. Perfect evening.



Soap - My favorite sample from Pinch Me so far has been this Shea Moisture African black bar soap. It smells sooooo good! And it cleans us up well. But, really, it just smells so good.


Wildlife - There was a lion roaming around our home one day.




(This post contains affiliate links.)



Monday, January 26, 2015

FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS

Proverbs 27:2 Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

Either my parents had us memorize that verse when we were kids or they just quoted it to me enough that I memorized it unintentionally. Either way, it popped into my several weeks ago. I had just reached a running milestone (don't even remember which one now) and the only thing on my mind was posting it on Facebook, letting everyone know what I'd accomplished so that I could get some virtual pats on my internet back. Then, along came the verse and I knew that I couldn't share my milestone.

Have I posted things that I knew would solicit praise in the past? Yes. My motives have ranged from excitement (getting my hair whacked off and loving how it turned out), shock (I, the one with absolutely zero natural athletic ability or coordination, actually finished a nine week running program),  a sense of accomplishment (getting our living room painted or bathroom redecorated), or accountability (getting household tasks taken care of).

Will I do it again? I have no idea, but more than likely, as I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with telling others about our accomplishments. All I know is that for right now I'm not sharing those moments publicly because I know when my motives aren't right, when I'm deliberately seeking out the praise of other people, rather than just feeling excited, shocked, accomplished, or in need of accountability, and not really giving a rip about the praise that would probably come.

Have you ever had a similar experience, a time where you realized you were telling people what you'd done, created, written, or whatever simply because you thought you were awesome (at least in regards to the topic at hand) and wanted to give others an opportunity to stroke your ego? It's pretty embarrassing when you realize that's what you're doing! At least it was for me.