Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Goals Revisited

Every year I set some goals I'd like to achieve over the course of the next 12 months. Last year, in an attempt to be more measurable with my goals, I made them more specific, complete with deadlines. Let's see how I did...

Personal Goals:
1. I will lose 20 pounds by the summer. (I'd like to lose 30-35 by the end of the year.)

Okay, THAT didn't happen. I lost 7 pounds by late February, but once I fell into The Trap, they came right back on. Thankfully I've maintained a fairly even weight this year instead of gaining.

2. I will play my guitar for 30 minutes each week.

This happened maybe the first two weeks of the year, and once more much later in the year. I even moved my guitar case into the living room so I'd see it and get back to playing. Didn't happen. I guess I need to move it back to my closet now.

3. I will read at least 4 books each month.

This might have happened up until fall. I did read a lot, and I was even keeping track of them on a list for a while. Then I got busy with other things... Still, reading is one of my favorite pastimes and it's easy for me to pick up a book and lose myself.

4. I will complete the SWIM self-study program by April 11.

Yes! I completed the self-study program. I can't remember the date, but I did finish reading all 16 books and their summaries, as well as the four required service projects.

5. I will host a game night with friends at least twice this year. (Billy and I love to play games, and many evenings we'll play a game after the boys go to bed, but there are some games we have that need more than 2 players.)

This didn't happen at all. Life got busy in March and didn't slow down until July. After that, I just didn't think about it. Well, I did think about it every once and a while, but not in time to plan anything.

6. I will scrapbook at least once a month. (Either paper or digital.)

That only happened in December when I was working on the scrapbooks for my parents and my in-laws. I worked on those things for three days!

Business Goals:
7. I will promote to Future Director in my business by May 31. (That would be 2 years to the date since I held my first show.)

I didn't even get a recruit, and you need two to become a Future Director. I'm not strong in this area and need to work on it a lot more.

8. I will promote to Director by December 31.

Well, since I didn't make it to Future Director, I definitely didn't promote to Director.

9. I will book a minimum of 3 shows each month. (They can be catalog shows or cooking shows.)

I only held 19 shows this year to last year's 24. The busyness from March through July kept me from booking many cooking shows. Thankfully I had enough catalog shows going on to keep me afloat until I could get back to "normal".

Of my nine goals for the year, only one was achieved. I'm just glad I did that one!

Now it's time to start thinking of some goals for 2009. A few will remain the same; others will change. I'll post my new list in a day or so.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yeah, I know...

... it's been a while since I last posted anything. Things got extremely busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but now that we're on the downside of busyness for a while, I hope to resume regular posting.

So, what's happened in between? Let's see...

The boys stayed with Billy's parents for a week after Thanksgiving. I spent my free time that week getting my hair cut, taking a wire-wrapping class, and shopping. We got almost all of our Christmas shopping done that week! It was nice to be able to get out during the week and shop, avoiding all the weekenders. And it was nice to get it all done at once, without having to run out here and there and pick up a little at a time.

The wire-wrapping class I took has opened up a whole new world of jewelry-making for me! I'm now able to confidently make earrings, as well as decorative silver bookmarks and more intricate-looking jewelry than just beads strung on a wire. Every female on my Christmas list got jewelry of some sort! And I'm seriously considering selling some of what I make. (Billy told me I need to do that to help support my bead habit.) Lindsay told me about an online site (Etsy.com) where people can sell handmade things, and Billy and I have been checking it out to see if it's something we both might like to do. I've also been talking with a friend of mine who used to have her own jewelry business about the ins and outs of getting started. And I'm currently reading You Can Make Money from Your Hobby for more ideas/inspiration. I enjoy my Pampered Chef business, but my passion right now is making beautiful pieces of jewelry from all the gorgeous beads I find.

Jacob had oral surgery: three white fillings in permanent teeth, 5 silver caps on baby teeth, and one tooth pulled. He was hilarious before surgery, after they gave him his "giggle juice" to help him relax. It's like drinkable laughing gas. Immediately after surgery, he was a bear. He was confused coming out of the anesthesia and he was crying that all his teeth hurt. The nurses managed to get some pain meds into him and he quieted down pretty quickly. While they were doing that, another nurse was helping me out. Just one look at his bloody mouth and I got all weak. I took off my coat, sat down in a nearby chair, and leaned over with my head between my knees. The nurse grabbed a Gatorade (gross!) out of the refrigerator and told me to drink as much as I could as fast as I could. I did and almost immediately started feeling better. They had me get in the bed with Jacob, then they rolled us back to his room to finish his recovery. Not much later, he was released to go home. We ate lots of soup, yogurt, pudding, and mashed potatoes. Oh, and milkshakes! Now he's back to normal. He thinks he still can't eat certain things, but it's just in his mind. Soon he'll have an orthodontic spacer put in.

We left for our Christmas travels on Christmas Eve morning. The first party was the family gathering at Billy's parents' house. It was a full house, as usual, though there were some missing. It was a lot of fun, and I ate entirely too much food. In fact, the last piece of candy I started eating, I had to put down because I felt so miserable. After everyone left, the boys opened their gifts, played a little, then went to bed. The next morning, they went through their Santa gifts, carefully examining each item before moving on to the next one. After breakfast, we got busy getting repacked and loading up to head to my aunt's house for Christmas lunch. After that and an afternoon visit with everyone, we moved on to my parents' house. After getting unloaded and visiting a bit more, we exchanged gifts and played with our "toys". Friday was a lazy morning, then Mama and Lindsay and I did a little shopping in the afternoon. Jennifer, Robert, and Seth came over that evening and we visited and played games and snacked on leftovers. Saturday morning, we loaded everything back up and headed home.

Today was our ideal Christmas day. We all slept in, then spent the day at home, playing with the boys' new toys and watching WALL-E. After all the rush, we needed a day to stay in and do whatever we wanted. It was very relaxing.

Tomorrow Billy goes back to work, and I have to take Jacob in for a dental check-up. Then we'll do a little shopping to get ready for our New Year's Day gathering with friends. We'll get back into our normal routine slowly, then be back in full swing next Monday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Christmas Meme

One of my Pampered Chef customers sent me this, then I found it on Cindy's blog. It looked fun, so I thought I'd do it, too!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
If it's easy to wrap, I'll wrap it, but if it's got an odd shape or I don't have a box big enough or small enough, I'll use a gift bag. Those are harder to load into boxes, though, when we travel for the holidays.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial. I love the smell of a real tree, but you get more for your money with an artificial tree because they last longer than three weeks. Plus, the boys are allergic.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Always after Thanksgiving. Sometimes it's the week after; sometimes the week after that. It all depends on our schedule and if the boys are home with us or staying with grandparents for a week. They would die if we put it up without them!

4. When do you take the tree down?
We take it down a few days after Christmas - always before New Year's Day.

5. Do you like eggnog?
I can't stand it, but Billy loves it. So does our cat.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I really can't remember, but photos show me riding around on a inchworm and a tricycle on Christmas. When I was older, I was thrilled to get a Merlin electronic game (Daddy tricked me by putting a banana in the box because I had bragged that I knew I was getting it...). Other favorite gifts were an Atari, a bicycle, and a Pac-Man phone. (I think I got those when I was in middle school or high school.)

7. Hardest person to buy for?
Daddy!

8. Easiest person to buy for?
Caleb and Jacob

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
I have a Fontanini nativity set that I keep up all year long. I "hide" baby Jesus after Easter and put him back in the manger after Thanksgiving.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
I mail them, if they get sent at all. Last year we made our own cards to send, but I don't think I'll have time for that this year. I'd like to send out cards with the boys' picture on them, but I might not get around to that, either.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Although I'm sure there is a worst, I can't think of it right now. Most likely it was a white elephant gift.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
We can't get through the holiday season without watching these at least once: A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott), and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I also love Holiday Inn.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Ha! When I have ideas and money. Inspiration usually hits me sometime before Thanksgiving and I start making lists, but I wait to buy until the sales start. I do not go shopping the day after Thanksgiving, though. I'd rather pay the few extra bucks to skip the crowds!

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
I've definitely recycled white elephant gifts, but I don't think I've ever done that with a real Christmas gift.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Turkey, ham, and sweet potato casserole.

16. Lights on the tree?
I can't imagine a tree without lights! We have a pre-lit tree, and it's really nice to not have to untangle endless strands every year. What I want to know is this: Colored lights or white? I honestly can't remember what ours are right now; we've had both. I guess it'll be a surprise!

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Carol of the Bells, Silver Bells, White Christmas, and Christmas Canon by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.



18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We always travel. Christmas Eve is with Billy's side of the family; Christmas Day is with mine.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, and Olive (the other reindeer)

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
I think we've been using a metallic gold cloth star ornament near the top.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas Eve with Billy's side of the family. The boys get their "Santa" presents on Christmas morning, then we open presents with my side of the family on Christmas afternoon.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Definitely the crowds at the stores and malls. I try to go during the week when everyone else is at work. That's worked nicely in the past.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
I like handmade ornaments. I've made different ones the past several years: beaded and sequined balls, Christmas spiders and snowmen from clear glass beads, and crocheted snowflakes.

24. Favorite dessert for Christmas dinner?
Sweet potato pie!

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
Just to spend time with family.

26. Any special Christmas traditions?
None other than what I've described above.

I'd love to read your answers!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rearranging

I've been needing to get the boys' playroom and their bedroom cleaned out and rearranged for some time now. I started on the playroom back in April, then put it all on hold until October. It was looking better in some areas, but still cluttered in others. Their room was horrible! They have too much stuff and everything doesn't have a place. They're also notorious for "losing" things under the bed and for just throwing things into the closet instead of putting them where they belong. (Well, those things that actually have a place.)

Saturday morning, as the boys were hauling their many Hot Wheels cases into the playroom for a day of racing, Billy decided we needed to tackle it. We had no plans for the day, so we got busy.

We moved Jacob's old toddler bed, which had been serving as an unused "couch" and general hiding place for stashing tubs of Legos and K'Nex, completely out. (And by "out", I mean it's standing on end in the garage while we figure out what to do with it. There's some sentimental value since Billy made it himself.) Then we moved the toy box full of Little People in front of the window where the couch had been. (The boys don't play with them anymore, but we decided it'd be good to have on hand when our friends with small children come over.)

Next we unloaded the countless Play-Doh sets and containers, puzzles, and games from the plastic shelves we got at Home Depot a while back and moved that to the boys' room.

Billy took down the train table/race car track and moved all of that from the boys' room to the playroom. Then we pulled out the tubs of various cars and Hot Wheel tracks and sorted through them, getting rid of some broken and unused things and consolidating others. Those we stored under the train table in its new location, along with the numerous Hot Wheels cases.

We took all the games out of the top of the closet and off the top of the dresser and stacked them on the shelves that we moved to the boys' room. Then we were able to put the Lite-Brite and Play-Doh things on the closet shelf. The dresser top still has a little clutter that I need to take care of, but not much.

Whew! I'm tired. And I'm not through yet, though that's all we tackled over the weekend.

I'd like to get another set of shelves for the boys' room so we can put their puzzles, Legos, K'Nex, etc. on instead of just shoving them under the bed or stacking them in the corner. Then again, that might make it look cluttered again...

Maybe when I finish cleaning out from under the bed, I'll find some of the tubs will fit under there. My goal is to be finished with it all by Christmas so I won't have all that stacked on top of what else needs to be done.

And speaking of Christmas, I think we're going to just add to what they have (Hot Wheels and miscellaneous car things, Legos, K'Nex, books, games, etc.) and not add something new that we'll have to find another place for. (Hint, hint.) :o)

Blog Analysis

I found a link to a Blog Type Analyzer through Bag of Nothing. Curious, I typed in my blog address and this is what it said:

"The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves. They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions."

For the most part, it's pretty accurate; however, I DO like to plan ahead, and I haven't had trouble with any of the management positions I've been in (either professional or personal).

How does your blog reflect your personality?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Used To

Here's a silly little iPod meme I came across on a friend's Facebook page... I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you'd like to join in, please let me know so I can read your answers.

1. Put your iTunes on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!
4. Tag 10 friends who might enjoy doing the meme as well as the person you got the meme from.

If someone asks, "Is this okay?", you say...
Beautiful One (Jeremy Camp)
Suck up...

What would best describe your personality?
Sing a Song (Third Day)
Not quite, though I do sing alone in the car. Loudly. When the boys are with me, they ask me not to sing.

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Saved (Kutless)
That's a good thing!

How do you feel today?
Second Wind (Petra)
Truly, though it's about gone...

What is your life's purpose?
Give (Third Day)
Certainly feels like it sometimes!

What is your motto?
Realize (Colbie Caillat)

What do your friends think of you?
Broken Vow (Josh Groban)
Well, I hope not!

What do you think about very often?
Come Away with Me (Norah Jones)

What is 2+2?
Not What You See (Kutless)

What do you think of your best friend?
Tell Her about It (Billy Joel)

What do you think of the person you like/love?
Even Then (Nichole Nordeman)

What is your life story?
Redemption (Switchfoot)

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Come One, Come All (Mercy Me)

What do you think when you see the person you like/love?
Down (Kutless)
Not sure what this means...

What do your parents think of you?
Only One Thing (Todd Agnew)
And what would that one thing be?

What will/did you dance to at your wedding?
Because of This (Mercy Me)

What will they play at your funeral?
Come Ye Sinners (Todd Agnew)

What is your hobby/interest?
That's Why God Made the Moon (John Elefante)
Astronomy? I have a telescope in storage...

What is your biggest secret?
All the Time (Jeremy Camp)
And I'm not telling, either!

What do you think of your friends?
Everything Is Broken (Kenny Wayne Shepherd)
Okay, most certainly not!

What's the worst thing that could happen?
Your Glory Goes On (Mercy Me)
Maybe these last two should be switched...

How will you die?
Romans 12:1 (Todd Agnew)
A living sacrifice? Hopefully not literally!

What is the one thing you regret?
On Fire (Switchfoot)

What makes you laugh?
Home (Daughtry)
Yes, I probably laugh at home more than anywhere else.

What makes you cry?
To Where You Are (Josh Groban)

Will you ever get married?
Thank You (Mercy Me)
I did!

What scares you the most?
Crazy (Mercy Me)

Does anyone like/love you?
Happy Together (David Cook)
And we are!

If you could go back in time, what would you change?
Take My Life (Third Day)
Sounds bad, doesn't it?

What hurts right now?
Daydream (Jason Castro)

What will you post this as?
Used To (Daughtry)
And sometimes still do!

This was fun! Thanks, Ashleigh!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Subtle Changes

I've been going to the gym regularly for over a year now, except for a brief hiatus over the busy summer. When I first started, I took things easy. Then in January of this year, I decided to take things up a notch. I started following a more intense workout program, focusing mainly on my upper body, with some brisk walking mixed in. The pounds started falling off at a rate of one a week. Feeling a little too confident in that, I became less diligent about what I was eating, and the pounds crept back on...

Once my summer "break" was over, I started in again, but this time I made a few more changes. Instead of focusing on weight training on my upper body, I started working in some lower body weights. Instead of following the same circuit on the weights, I began varying my routine. (They say that keeps the muscles more fit, not "anticipating" the same exercises at the same time...) I didn't focus so much on walking a mile in 17 minutes or so. I added running to my regimen and now run two laps (not consecutive ones) during each workout. Next week I think I'll run three. It's been nice, actually.

I haven't been too sure of the progress I've been making lately. I weigh in each Wednesday after my workout, but the numbers don't change that much. (I know part of it is still battling my eating habits.) Some people have mentioned that I look like I've lost some weight, but I can't really tell.

Two weeks ago, the weather was cool enough for me to need blue jeans for our afternoon errands instead of my usual capris. I hadn't tried on my jeans since sometime last spring, and I didn't have time to try them on before heading to work out. I stuffed them in my gym bag and hoped I wouldn't end up having to wear my workout clothes all day. The moment of truth came. I fit easily into my jeans! They were comfortable, not too tight, but not baggy either. Yes!

This morning I noticed something else. I usually wear some capri-length workout pants and a baggy T-shirt to the gym, but today I needed to wear longer pants. I pulled out a pair that had been a little on the snug side ever since I bought them (without trying them on first...). I decided I'd give them a shot and if they didn't feel right, I'd pull out my larger pair. They fit! Better than they've ever fit! I guess working out my lower body and the running are helping after all! Yes! That inspires me to try to do a little more.

Hmmm. I still have my jeans from a size ago hanging in my closet. I wonder if I'll be able to get back into them before too long...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Like Chewing on Tree Bark

When I was younger, I always had something specific I saved my allowance for. Whenever we'd make a trip to the mall, I'd make sure I had at least $1 with me so I could get my special treat. Mixed nuts. (Yes, I know. I'm weird...) I'd go up to the counter and ask for a dollar's worth of mixed nuts, then I'd munch on them as I strolled along with whoever I happened to be with.

I still love mixed nuts, though now I can't eat as much as I'd like. (They really help with packing on the pounds!) Caleb shares my love of them, too. His favorite is the Brazil nut, which was once my favorite. I was scooping out a few cashews (my current favorite) and almonds this afternoon and handed him a Brazil nut to chew on. I decided to eat one and it brought back memories. It also felt and tasted like I imagine chewing on tree bark would be. I wonder what the appeal was?

The Value of Life

The missionary who spoke to our Sunday school class last weekend shared how his wife has gotten involved with families of Down Syndrome children in the Philippines. Children with any type of disability are kept locked in back rooms. It's taboo for them to be out in public. (Based on the discussion that followed his mention of this, it's true in many countries outside of "the West".)

Through her efforts, she has encouraged some of the women there to take their children out in public, to let them enjoy being outdoors and experiencing the sights, smells, and sounds they've been kept away from for so long. Thankfully there is no persecution for what these ladies are doing, and more women have started taking their own disabled children out after seeing others do it. There's also talk of building a park for these children so they can have a place to play.

What touched me so much is that my older cousin Lori has Down Syndrome. I can't begin to imagine if she had lived in a society that kept its handicapped hidden away for life. She has such a love for people, and she never forgets anyone she meets. When she and her mother go "downtown" in their small country town, Lori knows everyone she sees and calls them by name - even people her mother doesn't know! And everyone loves Lori, too. She gives a big smile and says hello and always asks, "How are you?" And she's always ready with a hug. Lori is also a champion participant in the Special Olympics. She has countless medals for swimming. Those things in her life provide her with an excitement and a purpose.

Lori celebrated her 40th birthday this summer. I wasn't able to go to her party, but I heard it was wonderful. Lots of family and friends were there, and she had the time of her life, surrounded by people she loves.

I can't begin to - nor do I want to - imagine what Lori would've been like had she been born somewhere other than the United States. It seems that even though life isn't valued as much here as we would like, it's valued more here than most other places.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Missions Conference

Our church is very missions-minded; our "slogan" is "Equipping Locally to Impact Globally". We have several missionary families who have gone out from our church to serve as missionaries all over the world, and there are several who work in full-time missions locally. Each year our church hosts a 10-day Missions Conference and many of the missionaries our church supports come together to share with us what is going on in their work.

The 10 days are packed with various activities:
*small group dinners hosting missionary families;
*the International Missions Dinner, where each adult Sunday school class hosts a table featuring foods and decor from various countries;
*the Men's Breakfast at a local park, where they eat and listen to a missionary share what they do;
*the Women's Missions Brunch (This year one of our church families involved in Young Life shared what all is involved in their ministry.);
*guest missionary speakers in Sunday school and church for two Sundays; and
*the Harvest Festival, where every church member gets to participate in reaching out to our community.

Billy attended the Men's Breakfast for the third or fourth year in a row. It's something he always looks forward to. This year he saw how truly small the world is: Ryan, a Campus Crusade missionary bound for Hungary, mentioned a friend of his who works for Campus Crusade in Albania - someone Billy met and stayed with when he was in Albania this summer!

The International Missions Dinner was a lot of fun. Our class hosted an Italian table, so I took my homemade lasagna. There was also a green salad, a pasta salad, chicken tetrazzini, spaghetti, manicotti, stuffed shells, a veggie lasagna, and lots of garlic bread. (I think we had the most food at our table.) The table was decorated with various uncooked pastas and bunches of black, red, and green grapes, and opera music was playing quietly in the background.

Other countries represented were China, the Bahamas, Mexico, and New Zealand, where our pastor's wife is from. (That class won the food/decor contest and was awarded $200 to give to the missionary family of their choice.)

After everyone had gotten their plates and were seated in the sanctuary to eat, the program began. This year, Eastern Europe was the focus. Some missionaries from there weren't able to come for the conference, so they updated us through videos they had made. The ones present spoke about what is going on with their work or what they will be doing when they get there. Marlin and his family (from Kazakhstan) are here while he attends Dallas Theological Seminary; he shared what he will be doing with his church when he returns in a few years. Andrey and his family (also from Kazakhstan) are in the states for the second time. He came to DTS several years ago for his Masters in Christian Education, then returned three years ago to complete a Masters in Theology. He graduated last May and is currently working on his doctorate, which will take another four years or so. The Kazakhstan government is cracking down on Christians/missionaries there and is trying to pass laws that will make it very hard for Christians to spread their faith, even through the church.

Ryan told more about what his family will be doing in Hungary with Campus Crusade, working with both high school and college students. Apparently there's a high suicide rate there, and the government is welcoming Christians into the country in hopes that it will help the youth. The program with high school students is actually sponsored by the government.

Tim, whose wife is from the Republic of Georgia, shared how our church's donations helped a church there reach out to its local citizens who weren't able to leave the country when the fighting with Russia broke out. He and his family will be moving to the Middle East sometime in the next year, I believe. He's an ophthalmologist and will be working as a missionary in that capacity.

It was so interesting to hear how differently the countries react to Christianity, how one is trying to stop it and another is encouraging it.

On Saturday night, our small group hosted a dinner for Andrey and his family. (Jacob has also chosen them as his missionary family for AWANA. He has known their 4-year-old son since they came back to our church three years ago.) They shared with us what it was like living in Kazakhstan and showed us pictures of the city they're from. It was interesting hearing how they became Christians - after the fall of the Soviet Union and Communism. When they return in a few years, Andrey will go back to pastoring his church there, as well as do some teaching and training of pastors in a seminary there. (I think that's the same place our pastor goes to teach for a few weeks each year...)

Yesterday morning's worship service speaker was a missionary pediatrician in Ecuador. He and his family were part of our church for five years before they left for Ecuador two-and-a-half years ago. He mostly preached a sermon on how everyone plays a significant role in missions, whether they think they do or not. It was a bit long; I would've much rather heard details about how he's reaching children and their parents through his work.

Our Sunday school speaker was raised in a Christian family in India. When he was 17, he left India to get away from his family, their Christian beliefs, and his country. He told us that as his plane was taking off from Bombay, he waved to his country and said, "I'll never come back!" After coming to the U.S., he ended up enrolling in a Bible college, finding salvation through Jesus Christ, and eventually returning to India to serve as a missionary for several years. He and his family are now serving in the Philippines, where they have been for the last two-and-a half years. Next summer he and his family will be on furlough, but they're undecided on where they'll spend the majority of their time: his oldest sons (twins) will be starting college somewhere in the U.S.; his wife is from Mississippi and her mother there is dying of cancer. They hope to spend at least part of their time at our church, their home church. He shared so much information with us, that it's impossible for me to remember it all. There is one thing that he talked about, though, that really touched me. I'll share it in a later post.

Last night's Harvest Festival marked the end of the Missions Conference. It's just one of several ways our church reaches out to our local community each year. Throughout the conference, church members are encouraged to donate candy for the festival, as well as sign up to work the different booths. It's a way we can be missionaries to the people in our church's backyard - people we only see a few times each year through our outreach programs. I worked a 30-minute slot at the Cubbies'-sponsored booth, handing out candy to the kids after they played our ping-pong drop game. Probably half the kids I saw at our booth were not from our church. Maybe I'll start seeing them there one day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Besmirched

Oh, my good name has been besmirched!

The 20-year-old college student and McCain campaign worker who claimed to have been physically attacked because of her politics has now stated that she filed a false police report. (Read about it here.

Maybe her 15 minutes of infamy will be over in a flash and people will soon forget. In the meantime, I hope no one says to me, "Hey, you've got the same name..." We'll see how weird it gets.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Out of the Mouths...

As we were driving in toward Dallas on this cloudy morning, I noticed the sun was shining on the buildings downtown, making them seem to glow. Caleb saw it and said, "It looks like downtown Dallas heaven."

I don't think those words have ever been spoken in the same breath before - and probably never will be again.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

iRan

While at the gym yesterday, I decided I'd give running another shot. I haven't run by choice (except as part of a team sport like softball) since I was on the high school track team my junior year. (I quit my senior year because the coach had me training for long distance running and I didn't like it.) The one exception to that was when I attempted to run a lap around the 0.1-mile track 3 months ago, and I didn't fare so well...

I was considering giving it another shot as I walked my first laps around the track. During my second round of laps around the track, I decided to just do it. (And I wasn't even wearing Nikes...) I changed my iPod tunes from the more upbeat songs by Third Day and Switchfoot to something by Josh Groban, then I started into a slow run. I was determined to make it one whole lap.

Surprisingly, the Josh Groban tune I was listening to was also a little fast for my run. (I wasn't going that slow. He does sing a few more upbeat songs.) Still I slowed my pace enough to be sure I could last to my mark. I made it!

It wasn't bad, and it's something I think I'm going to start doing more of. (Big surprise!) Next week, I'll try two laps. Not in a row, of course. I'll run one during my first round of laps, workout a bit, then run another one during my second round of laps. Eventually I'd like to work up to running every other lap. Oh, and next week, I'm going to listen to some Norah Jones when I run.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #34


Oh, last week's lasagna was the best I've ever made - though certainly not the prettiest. I used the same basic ingredients (only switching to oven-ready pasta), but I added some fresh mushrooms and mixed my sauce and meat together instead of layering them separately... Yes, I'll be adding that to my recipe blog soon. :o)

On to this week's fare, a little more variety than last week...:

Monday: Breakfast Burritos

Tuesday: Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and Cheesy Garlic Bread
My friend Tricia gave her easy recipe for this and it's delicious! I'll definitely be posting this recipe later, too!

Wednesday: Chili-Cheese Corn Dogs

Thursday: sandwiches
We'll be at the state fair all day, and I know I'm not going to want to cook anything when I get home!

Friday: leftover soup with grilled cheese sandwiches

Saturday: Chicken Pot Pie

Sunday: leftovers or sandwiches

For more menu plans, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

What're you cooking this week?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Just Wasting Time




What Your Burger Says About You



You are very gluttonous. Even if you're full, you'll still clear your plate.


You are a very open eater. You like many types of tastes, and you'll eat just about anything.


You tend to gravitate toward strong, pungent foods. Even if it means having bad breath!


You are emotional. You have a big heart, and you tend to go for comfort foods.


You have trouble making decisions quickly. Everything looks good to you... especially at a restaurant.



Sadly, this is true. On to the next one...




Your Autumn Test Results



You are a energetic, warm, optimistic person. You approach everything with a lot of enthusiasm.


When you are happiest, you are calm. You appreciate tradition and family. You enjoy feeling cozy.


You prefer change to come slowly. You need a long transition period when your life changes.


You find love to be the most comforting thing in the world. You feel at peace when you're with your loved ones.


Your ideal day is active and full. You like to keep busy with your favorite things, and you appreciate a routine.


You tend to live in the moment. You enjoy whatever is going on, and you don't obsess over the past or future.



Pretty accurate. And finally...




What Your Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich Means



Your eating style is gluttonous. If you like something, you're going back for seconds... no matter how full you are!


You have an average sweet tooth. While you enjoy desserts, they aren't exactly your downfall.


Your taste in food tends to be conservative and traditional. It's likely that you prefer "All American" favorites like mac and cheese or hamburgers.


You belong to a class that's all your own. You resist rules and traditions of any sort.


You are a tough person who isn't afraid to live life fully. There isn't a lot that scares you.


Precise and controlled, you can be a bit anal retentive when it comes to how you like things. You're definitely a perfectionist.



The bit about resisting rules and traditions is off, as is the part about preferring "All American" food. I like food from every culture I've sampled so far! But the rest is pretty accurate - especially about being anal and perfectionistic.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Car Games

I remember growing up my family always played "Beaver" - and I have no idea why it was called that. Whoever spotted a VW Beetle and called it first got a point (or two if it was convertible, 5 if it was red, and 7 if it was a red convertible). I always thought it wasn't fair when Daddy won because he was driving and saw everything quicker than we did.

More recently, my sisters played a similar game with Jeep Wranglers. (Lindsay, you'll have to remind me what you called it, as well as the rules.) I think there was hitting involved.

I knew it would only be a matter of time before the boys started playing games like this. Well, without the hitting, of course. Caleb had started making a game of finding certain cars as we drove along. I told him about "Beaver" and he decided we needed to make up our own version of it. I don't think we've given it a name, but we've come up with some rules.

1. Each day we choose 2 different cars to find as we drive around. The more common vehicle is worth one point; the less common one, two. Convertibles get 3 points. (The points are just for determining how many we find; there are no teams, no "winners". That may come later, though.)

2. There's always a bonus car: the Smart Car. (We added this on later, after we saw this Smart car in the parking garage of my gym.) Since they're so rare, they're worth 10 points.

3. At least two people have to see the car for it to count. (Jacob can't always recognize the cars we're playing with for the day and will add points willy-nilly.)

4. Cars in parking lots are okay. Car dealerships don't count, though.

5. You can't count the same car twice - coming, then going.

Yesterday was our first day to play. Caleb decided we'd be on the lookout for VW Beetles (bugs - 1 point), Scion xBs (boxes - 2 points), and Chevrolet HHRs (PT-wannabes - 3 points). By the end of the day, we were at 73 points - including the 10-point Smart car. (We took it down to two cars after realizing how confusing it gets to try to keep up with three.)

Today we looked for Mustangs (1 point) and Corvettes (2 points). Caleb had a stipulation that if we saw a blue one with white racing stripes, it was a 5-point bonus. Lo and behold, if we weren't driving down a side road on the way home from gymnastics when a bright blue sports car with white racing stripes drove past. Caleb was so excited and I was so shocked about actually seeing one that we didn't notice what kind of car it was. (I know it wasn't either a Mustang or a Corvette, but we counted it anyway.) Our short trip netted us 22 points.

I shouldn't have been so hard on Daddy about winning "Beaver". It takes a lot of concentration to pay attention to your driving and look for specific cars at the same time. Good eyes!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #33



Monday: homemade pizza

Tuesday: lasagna, salad, garlic bread

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: vegetable beef soup, cornbread

Friday: sandwiches

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: sandwiches or leftovers

It's an easy week, but there sure is a lot of tomato sauce involved! I didn't have to work much on planning since most of these things have carried over from a week or so before. :o)

I'll try for a little more variety next week.

Friday, September 26, 2008

We're Finally Going!

After living here for 5 years, we're finally going to the Texas State Fair! (I wonder what the boys will think about Big Tex. He talks!)

I was curious about what all there will be to see and do, so I spent a while this evening browsing the state fair website. One thing the boys will love is the auto show, complete with classic cars, new releases, and concept cars. There's even a place where kids can drive their own kid-sized vehicles on a track. It's going to be hard to pull Caleb away from this!

Some other things I found were a giant sandbox - right up Jacob's alley; livestock exhibits, complete with milking demos; frisbee-catching dog demos; arts and crafts competitions; cooking contests; and free food to sample.

Then there's the food for purchase. There are some strange interesting foods on the list this year, including Country Fried Bacon, Fried Banana Splits, Deep-Fried Smores, etc. Is there some rule that says all fair fare must be fried? Thankfully the Baylor Cardiac Rehabilitation Center isn't too far from the fairgrounds. I wonder if they'll have a salad booth anywhere...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Handy Little Gadget

I've really enjoyed having my iPhone - playing games, having internet access, keeping a shopping list, updating my calendar, taking quick pictures, getting on Facebook, etc.

Yesterday afternoon the boys and I were at KidsQuest Park with some friends. Not long after we got there, the older boys (Caleb, Jacob, Noah, and Jonah) had found some nailed boards on the ground and were dragging it around. Chrissy and I both yelled for them to stop, and I went to get it from them and move it to a safer place. I recognized it as a part of the wall from the ship maze. There were several nails sticking out of it, and when I looked up, I saw where it had come from. About 6 inches above my head, there was a gap in the wall. Imagine if a kid fell from there!

I half-carried, half-dragged the heavy piece of wall to a safer place near a fence and a tree, then pulled out my iPhone and looked up the phone number for Mesquite Parks and Recreation. I reported to the lady on the other end where we were, what we had found, and how dangerous it was. She thanked me for notifying them and said they would send someone out to check on it. I had hoped someone would come immediately, at least to take the boards away and put caution tape along the gap, but when we left shortly after 5:00, no one had been by. Maybe someone will go by early this morning before the kids at the church school next door to the park go over for recess today.

I have a new appreciation for my iPhone now. If I hadn't been able to report the danger immediately, I might have forgotten about it until it was too late for someone else.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Neighborhood Drama

The 9-year-old boy across the street has severe special needs - ADHD, compulsive, manic depressive, etc. This morning Caleb and I heard a lot of yelling going on outside. Then I clearly heard, "Brandon*, get down here now!" (*Not his real name.)

Me: "Sounds like Brandon is getting in trouble."
Caleb, looking out the window: "Why is he on the roof?"

What?!?

I went to the front door and peered through the blinds. There he was, standing on the roof in his pajamas, robe, and bare feet. His mom was continuing to frantically urge him to get down. As he strolled back toward the peak of the roof to go on the other side, I grabbed my phone and wondered if I should call 9-1-1. I didn't know, though, if that would agitate him. He seemed calm. Thankfully Caleb had gone back to the couch to read his book, so I didn't have to worry about him seeing anything traumatic, should Brandon lose his balance and fall. Or jump. (Knowing what I do about this kid, it wouldn't surprise me.)

When I looked back out the window, Brandon had gone to the other side of the roof and his mom had run back inside the house. I don't know if she was taking a shortcut to the back yard or if there was an open window upstairs that he may have been going back to.

Nothing more has happened, so I guess all is back to normal there. I wonder if he'll end up going to school or to the doctor today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

10 Simple Things that Make Me Happy

This week's Ten on Tuesday will be easy! And please note the key word simple.

1. gentle breezes
2. flying kites
3. blowing bubbles
4. listening to windchimes
5. reading (blogs, books, magazines, my Bible)
6. dark chocolate
7. bright blue skies
8. leisurely walks
9. soothing music
10. the laughter of my family
11. sunsets
12. ice cream
13. hot soup on a cold night
14. scented candles
15. kaleidoscope patterns
16. playing games
17. talking with friends
18. scented lotions
19. warm sun (not hot)
20. snowflakes (that don't stay for days)
21. hugs
22. purring cats

Oh, did I do too many? I told you this would be easy - and I could keep on going...

What are some simple things that make you happy? (I won't limit you to just 10.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Like a Steel Trap

Jacob can do really well in school when he wants to. He has totally amazed me lately with his ability to remember things. I knew Caleb has a great memory, but Jacob always plays around and seems not to listen. Surprise! He does hear!

Since Awana has started back up for the school year, we've incorporated it into our school studies again. First thing each morning, the boys sit at the table with their Awana books and look over their verses. Caleb reads well, so I don't have to be right on top of his work, but I do work with him on everything. Jacob is learning to read, so I have to read each story to him and go over each verse word for word.

Jacob learned his first verse (John 3:16) in two days. We practiced it all last week to be sure he wouldn't forget it when he had book time at church. As it turned out, the Sparks didn't work on verses much last week. I think they were getting into their groups for the year and learning what to do. When I asked him if he said his verse, he told me, "No, Crazy Kevin said we didn't have to say them." (Crazy Kevin is the Sparks director.) Instead of just working on the same verse all week, I decided we'd go ahead and start working through his book. He could recite his next verse (1 John 4:14) after I had read it to him only 2 times! When we went over both verses today, he could say them both with no help. So we went on to his next verse, Psalm 147:5. I figured he might need to hear it several time and practice saying it with me, but he went right on after just two readings and said it all word for word. We reviewed his other two verses, which he said without any help, then repeated the new verse again. No problems whatsoever! Wow! If he continues on at this rate, he'll finish the book in no time!

Caleb is doing really well with his verses, too. I gave him (well, both of them) a card file box and a stack of index cards. I'll write their new verses on the card, with the references on the backs, so they can recite them and check to see if they're right. They file the card away by book (J for Jeremiah, John, and 1 John, etc.). Later when it's time to review, they know right where to find them. In the past I would write Caleb's verses out on large index cards with different colored markers. Then I'd cut the verses into phrases of 3 or 4 words for him to put in order. After a day or so, I'd cut them into smaller sections, until by Friday they'd be down to individual words. By then he can put the whole verse together. He loves puzzles, so that method really works for him. I'm not sure if I'll need to do that with Jacob, though. He seems to get things quickly by just hearing them. Caleb is more of a visual/kinesthetic learner like I am.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #32


The cooler weather this week is really putting me in the mood for some soup! I wanted to start soup nights last week, but didn't get around to it because I didn't have all my ingredients. This week I've got what I need for two different soups. Bring it on!

Monday: - grilled cheese sandwiches, chips
I have a meeting tonight, so soup will have to wait a day...)

Tuesday: - chicken & dumplings

Wednesday: - Chicken Ole (a foil packet dinner)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: vegetable beef soup, cornbread

Saturday: sandwiches
We're going out to the drag races for the day, so I'm not going to feel like cooking, and I most likely won't want soup...

Sunday: leftovers
We need something quick since we're back on our Awana schedule.

For more menu plans, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Out of the Mouths...

Jacob can really come up with some funny stuff. Tonight as we were eating supper, Billy was flipping through the channels. He changed from TVLand to something else and Jacob shouted, "Go back! That's 'Cosmic Bill'!" He was referring to Bill Cosby... :o)

It's late and I can't think of anything else right now, so I'm headed to bed. Maybe tomorrow I can think of some more funny stuff he says.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All Mixed Up

Recently I've seen Dairy Queen commercials advertising paninis. With all the greasy country fried steak strips and chicken strips they fry up, I can't begin to imagine their paninis.

In today's sale flyers, I noticed where Domino's has added hot sub sandwiches to their delivery menu, and Pizza Hut is now serving quesadillas.

I like to have choices just as much as the next person, but if I wanted a hot sub, I'd go to Quizno's, where that's their specialty. If I wanted a quesadilla, Pizza Hut wouldn't be my first - or second - choice. I don't go to Jack-in-the-Box for tacos, either.

Then there are the food items that just about everyone offers: burgers, chicken sandwiches, wraps. If I want a good burger, I'll get one at Whataburger, Sonic, or Wendy's. If I want a good chicken sandwich - or chicken anything - I'll go to Chick-Fil-A. I haven't tried the wraps everywhere yet, but that's what I get when I go to McDonald's; the honey mustard and the chipotle barbecue are both really good. Besides, their burgers aren't that great.

Before long, I'll probably be able to drive through the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut combo restaurant and get spaghetti or fried rice, with a banana split for dessert.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Freebies!

Several weeks ago - in fact, I think it was early June - a friend of mine emailed a group of us a notice about free tickets to the Texas State Fair for homeschoolers. The deadline was only 2 days away, so I got right on it and mailed off my request. I had completely forgotten about it and was talking with a friend of mine Monday about finding some tickets so we could go. (We've never been in the 5 years we've lived here, and I know the boys would love it.)

Another friend had emailed me about the Pizza Hut Book-It! program for kindergartners through sixth graders. I'll need to look over the program more closely, but participants can earn coupons for a free one-topping personal pan pizza for each of the next six months - October through March.

Last week I signed Caleb up for the Braum's Book Buddies program. For every 6 books he reads, he'll get a coupon for a free ice cream treat - a sundae, a single dip cone, or a frozen yogurt cone. He's participated in that the last two years and has really enjoyed it. Unfortunately it's only open to first- through sixth- graders, so Jacob has to wait another year.

Wednesday, after my workout, we ventured out to a nearby Dallas Rec Center in hopes of getting some free passes to the Dallas Arboretum. Score! They still had some, so I got four. Now we're just waiting for cooler weather...

Today's mail brought some nice surprises! Our state fair tickets and our pizza coupons arrived! I'll get the ice cream coupons later this month. Now I need to see what other freebies I can get my hands on!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Deceptive

Gustav has pushed a lot of clouds and wind into north Texas, creating the illusion that it's winter outside. Of course, that all disintegrates when you walk outside into the heat...

After my workout today, the boys and I went to Wendy's for lunch. As I pulled into the parking lot and was tricked again by the illusion of winter, I decided a hot baked potato would be perfect. (I was also wishing I had planned to make soup for supper...) I ordered a sour cream and chive potato - and it hit the spot!

I'm so ready for cooler weather. Soup nights. Flannel pants. Hot chocolate with a big dollop of whipped cream on top. Curling up under a blanket with a good book. Yes, I'm definitely ready.

I know it's coming. I've noticed the subtle changes in the daylight and the color of the sky. Still, the weather I'm waiting for will be slower in coming. I guess for the next month or so, I'll just look outside on cloudy days and pretend I'm a little chilled. Oh, and even though the flannel pants and hot chocolate and blankets have to wait a little while longer, I'm going to start soup nights next week. I just can't wait!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #31

I know it's not Monday, but yesterday didn't really feel like Monday. Today is my Monday.

For the last two weeks I haven't had a menu plan and I've really missed it. The first week, the boys were out of town and Billy and I ate out a lot. Last week, I think we ended up eating sandwiches or just making do with whatever was on hand because I didn't have any idea what I was going to cook. It wasn't that the pantry or the freezer was empty. I just hadn't planned, and right before suppertime is not a good time to be figuring things out.

This week's menu:

Monday: grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and Earl Campbell hot links; chips & dip; Easy Apple Crisp topped with Dreyer's Vanilla Bean ice cream

Tuesday: leftovers (There's leftover spaghetti and garlic bread from Sunday night, too!)

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: homemade pizzas - Garden Veggie Pizza and whatever kind the boys want to make for themselves

Friday: BBQ pork tenderloin, corn-on-the-cob, salad

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: sandwiches (AWANA Kick-off at church)

For more meal inspiration, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Providence

There's a large number of homeschooling families in the Dallas area, and several are seminary families as well. That's how I got to know the majority of my homeschooling cohorts.

Last fall, I got connected with Stacy, who was a homeschool mom in South Carolina on her way to Dallas. We hit it off, emailing frequently and commenting on each others' blogs. (They finally got here in May!) She was frustrated about not being able to connect with different homeschool groups in the area, and I want to do some other field trips in addition to what my homeschool association plans. We put our keyboards together - we chat regularly through Facebook - and decided to do something about it.

We planned an outing at a local park where the kids could play and fish and the moms could talk about activities we'd like to do together and places we'd like to visit. Last month I hosted a gathering for a group of homeschool moms so we could look over each other's curricula, ask and answer questions, etc., so we started with that basic group and added others to our list as we thought of them.

The big question was not what or when, but where. If you take the two families in our group who live the farthest apart, it's probably an hour difference! Stacy and I threw around a few names of area parks, then I asked Kim about Samuell Farm here in Mesquite. She said it's her boys' favorite park. There are ponds for fishing, a playground, picnic tables scattered here and there under trees, old tractors the kids can climb on, etc. And it's free. We decided to meet there.

Today around noon, nine minivans and a car pulled into the parking lot. We trooped out onto the grounds and searched out a place in the shade to eat lunch. I don't think we had been there 5 minutes when a man with a video camera came walking up to the group, asking if we minded him filming us for a news story. The local CBS affiliate was doing a story on the park because it's part of Dallas Parks and Recreation and is in danger of being shut down. It just so happened that we were there at the same time.

As we were checking with all the moms to make sure there were no objections to filming, a reporter walked out and began asking us why we were out that day and who had been there before. None of us had! Since I was answering most of his questions, he asked if he could interview me for a news segment.

He asked me preview questions, then moved me to a shady spot and had a microphone put on my collar. The cameraman began filming and I answered the reporter's questions. Then he cut the video but kept recording audio while he asked a few more questions. He was fishing for a history angle since the park is part of an old now-non-working farm, so I gave him my best "we love learning about local history" answer. I hope he got a decent sound bite. I'm sure the video will be horrible - me all red-faced and sweating, trying to hide a half-eaten carrot stick in my hand. (Well, he was there during our lunch...)

We only decided to go to Samuell Farm on Tuesday, and I'm pretty certain none of the moms in our group would've alerted the local media for something as simple as what we were doing. Certainly no news station would've sent out a crew to film and interview a bunch of homeschool moms and their kids. It was just providence for the reporter - and the farm's owner - that we just happened to show up there today.

It'll be interesting to see what becomes of Samuell Park, if what we did on a whim will have any influence on the final outcome. In the meantime, you can see me and the rest of our homeschool group on the CBS 11 news.

Update: They didn't use the interview in the story because it didn't fit with the angle they decided to go with - upkeep on the out-of-the-way farm versus the beautiful Samuell Grand Park in the Dallas city limits. They did show footage of our group, though, as background to the main story. Jacob can be seen briefly walking between the swings. His back is to the camera, but he's in a blue shirt. Caleb can be seen even more briefly as he swings past the lens in his bright green shirt. It's easy to miss him, it's so fast. Stacy's boys are the ones fishing. You can see it here.

Bead Sale!!!

I just got an email notice yesterday that Beads of Splendor is having a sale today through Monday: buy any two strands of beads and get the third (least expensive one) FREE!

Wow!!! This is huge! I saw so many different strands of beads there, I can't even remember all the things I liked! I know I want to go back there and get some, though! I may break out my mad money and buy 4, get two free!

Okay, family. Now is the time to put in your orders for Christmas if you want any jewelry! This is some great stuff!

The Trap

When I first start exercising and trying to lose weight, it works. For a little while. Once I start seeing even the slightest of results, I fall into the trap of thinking that I can get by with a little extra snacking or a few more pieces of pizza. Then that every-now-and-then treat starts becoming "normal". The weight creeps back up and I wonder, Why is this happening?

A friend and I were talking about this last weekend. Something she said really hit me: "For me, it's a mental battle."

Exactly! I know what I need to do, but when it comes down to it, I argue with myself for what I want, not what I need.

One M&M won't hurt. Then that one becomes two and three and then a small handful.

One chip won't hurt. Then I've eaten a good portion of the bag. What's Lay's jingle? "No one can eat just one. No one can. No one can eat just one Lay's brand potato chip." And believe me, it's not limited to Lays.

I went to the gym yesterday for the first time in well over a month. With the busyness of summer and the loss of my regular routine, I just didn't make the time to go. I stood on the scales after my workout and was thankful that all the time away hadn't wreaked too much havoc on my weight: 166.5 lbs.

It was good to get back into a workout routine, though I'm going to change things up this time around. I'm still going to do my upper and lower body strength training, but I'm going to vary the walking and include some time on the bike and on the elliptical trainer. That's the easy part.

The hard part will be mentally keeping myself in check around food. I can't convince myself that it's okay to eat more food just because I've lost a few pounds. I can't snack on any random thing as I pass through the kitchen, especially when I'm not even hungry. I've already started cutting back my mealtime portions. Lunch is now half a sandwich again (instead of a whole one) with a huge pile of carrot sticks or some fruit on the side. I'll save the yogurt for my afternoon snack.

I think I can succeed at losing 25 pounds if I just don't fall into the trap again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Old Fashioned

When I think "old fashioned", the first thing that comes to mind is the museum at Spring Creek Farm in Richardson, TX - the home of Owens Sausage.






For more interpretations of "Old Fashioned", check out Photo Friday.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's bothersome.

I hate watching the track events on TV. It annoys me to no end to see the runners slow down before they cross the finish line. It looks as though that's how an American lost a medal to a potential third-place finisher, who kept pushing on when the others slowed down. It paid off.

If my old high school track coach is watching, I bet she's irked, too. She was constantly drilling that into us, and although I wasn't too happy about it then, I understand it. You would think Olympians would, too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Self-Portrait 2008


I just had to tease my sister about my new iPhone...

For more self-portraits, visit Photo Friday.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Beads of Splendor

One day as I was waiting at a red light at Gaston and Abrams, I noticed the word "BEADS" in bold red letters on a shopping center sign. At the time, I had the boys with me, so I didn't even think of stopping. But I made a mental note that I definitely wanted to go back there and check things out.

Back in April, the boys had gone to stay for a week with Billy's parents. Billy and I had made plans to have lunch one day at Mai's, and I was looking forward to seeking out that bead store afterward. The day we planned lunch, it rained. No, it poured. Buckets. Streets were flooding. Thunder was cracking. Lightning was flashing all around. I decided it wasn't a good day to drive around aimlessly, looking in an unfamiliar shopping center for a bead store I didn't even know the name of. I didn't get another chance to find the store that week, so it had to wait.

This week the boys are with Billy's parents again. I was going to meet Billy today so we could get our iPhones (woohoo!), so I decided to hunt for the bead store afterward. Guess what? It was raining again. Thankfully it was only changing from sprinkling to a light drizzle - so I circled the shopping center twice and found what I was looking for!

Beads of Splendor is part of the store Splendor in the Grass. They have some beautiful beads and handmade jewelry, and they offer beading classes. (One of the other bead shops I go to offers classes, but it's so far away.) I don't know how long I spent browsing and chatting with the owner and the clerk.

I fell in love with some gorgeous rhodochrosite beads and donut pendants! I had never heard of or seen it before. It's got amazingly beautiful pink and white banding! Unfortunately I don't wear much pink..., but I might start!

I didn't buy anything today, but I'm going back tomorrow (after Billy and I have lunch at Mai's again), and I'm taking a few pairs of earrings with me so I can find some beads to make matching necklaces. I can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kids Play the Darndest Things

It's always funny seeing what "games" the boys will come up with to play. Of course there are the regular things like Hot Wheels, Legos, K'Nex, and board games, but then there are the things their imaginations bring to life.

They got their first Webkinz at Christmas and have collected a total of nine since. They aren't toys; they are their "friends", complete with names, birthdays, preferences - and voices, which can get really annoying. They played all sorts of things with their "friends". Then they started watching episodes of Unbeatable Banzuke, a Japanese game show where contestants had to race through various obstacle courses. Now their "friends" are the contestants as they watch the show, which leads to arguments over whose Webkin gets to play, whose Webkin should have won, whose Webkin gets to win all the time, etc.

I thought nine Webkinz were enough "friends", but then Jacob found a box full of Beanie Babies from who-knows-how-long-ago. Their "friend" count has climbed dramatically! I have no idea how many Beanie Babies were in that box, but now they pull them out daily and line them up for miles on the floor. I'll hear "One potato, two potato, three potato, four;..." as they determine who is "out" and who will "play" whatever obstacle course or other game they've come up with for the time being.

Not long ago, they discovered the weekly sale papers. I don't know what the fascination is with them, but they collect a week's worth and study them. They even take them to bed for reading material. Then when we go grocery shopping, they'll suddenly say, "That's on sale at (insert correct store here)!" Yeah, it was a month ago! Jacob doesn't want to throw any of them away, and I have issued an edict that they can't have new ones until the old ones are gone. I ended up getting rid of the old ratty ones last week, and they happily took the new ones that I wasn't in need of. They did beg for the Albertson's paper when I finished it, even though it had big green circles marking what I had put on my list.

Last week, Caleb got out the big box of scrap paper they use for drawing on and began drawing sections of the interstate, complete with cars, trucks, and semis, construction zones, numbered exits, and fast food restaurants and gas stations. Oh, and state lines, too. After he draws each section, he'll line them up end to end, determining where curves need to be to keep from running into a wall or under the table. Once Jacob started helping with drawing more roads, the "interstate" quickly doubled. They've amassed quite a stack of paper, and when they lay them end to end, there's up no room to walk in the playroom. That's fine with them, though. They get down in between pages and drive their Hot Wheels - their Webkinz' cars - across the pages, taking road trips only kids can imagine.

Now the Olympics are on. Can you guess what they're doing?

Beach volleyball is perfect since there are two players and two of them. Of course they're always the US team. They'll stand in front of the TV, jumping and throwing their hands in the air, making every move the athletes do. I think Jacob's favorite part is taking a dive on the sand (carpet). When they watch water polo, they act like they're splashing around and hitting the ball. Sometimes they let their Webkinz play.

But when gymnastics or swimming comes on, they sit spellbound, unable to imitate what they're seeing because they're so amazed by it. And they're impressed with all the muscles. (Caleb thinks he has a six-pack. *chuckle*)

All this reminds me of when Melissa and Lindsay were little. They would always act out favorite movies they'd watched a million times, and Melissa would always take first pick of characters: "I'll be Nadia and you be..." or "I'll be baby Jessica (who fell down the well in Midland, TX) and you be..." or "I'll be Annie and you be Miss Hannigan." (Notice she always took the starring role... Lindsay never thought it was fair, but Melissa never cared about that.)

I wonder what those boys will think of next.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Huh?

Thursday, July 31


Friday, August 1
same store


At first glance I thought they had made a mistake on their sign, but after they changed the prices the next day, the "mistake" was still there.

The 7-11 about a mile or so down the street had the average 30 cents difference between regular unleaded and premium...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Homebodies

Since I've been on Facebook, it's been fun seeing what everyone is up to at any time of the day. I've noticed, however, that on weekends, several of my friends and their families are busy running around town, going here and there, seeing sights, etc. We, on the other hand, stay home.

I look forward to Saturdays because I don't have to go anywhere or do anything. I can stay home and do nothing - or everything, depending on what doesn't get done during the week. Billy looks forward to having a relaxing day at home, and the boys enjoy spending the day playing on the computer, building with Legos, reading books, watching movies, etc. It's kind of the same as a "stay-home-day" during the summer, just with Dad home.

We aren't fuddy-duddies. We just prefer to stay in the quiet comfort of our own home and not fight crowds - or heat! Now I just need to get off my duff and invite some of our "jet-setting' friends over for an afternoon of fun...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #30 - Revised

I've rearranged things so much this week - for whatever reason - that I need to completely rework this week's menu!

Monday: breakfast sandwiches on English muffins

Tuesday: coconut shrimp and Zatarain's Caribbean rice
Surprisingly, Caleb loved all this!

Wednesday: sandwiches
We went to visit some friends after our library trip and ended up staying there until almost 6:00. By the time we got home it was too late to cook anything, so we had sandwiches instead. It was a great trade-off!

Thursday: Chipotle Chicken Cornbread Cups, salad, strawberries
I decided to try this new fall Pampered Chef recipe since I already have all the ingredients on hand.

Friday: BBQ chicken, corn on the cob, green beans

Saturday: blackened tilapia, Knorr Parmesan noodles, broccoli

Sunday: leftovers

Now I'm scouring the weekly grocery sale papers to plan next week's feasts.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

10 Things to Do When It's Too Hot to Go Outside

This week's Ten on Tuesday should be easy. We're becoming masters at this!

Here are 10 things we do when it's too hot to go outside...

1. read
2. play computer games
3. watch movies (at home)
4. go to the cheap movies (.50 or $1 per ticket)
5. church day camp (for Caleb)
6. go to the mall play area (for Jacob)
7. visit the library
8. play with Hot Wheels, Legos, K'Nex, Lincoln Logs, etc.
9. eat popsicles
10. nap (for me)

Jacob keeps asking to go out and play, and I keep telling him it's too hot. If we had shade or a kiddie pool to play in, that would make it tolerable - at least for a little while.

The boys had two weeks of swimming lessons a few weeks ago, and it was absolutely unbearable sitting in the heat for that 35-40 minutes each day. The only shade poolside was under one tree and a big crowd of moms claimed that early each day, so I was left crisping in the sun. (My feet have nice Speedo tan lines...) I would hide under the shade trees after swimming lessons while the boys played on the playground each day, but by then the damage was done. I was totally exhausted by the heat. By the last day of lessons, I was so drained of energy I couldn't do much of anything for a few days. We've been staying inside ever since - doing all the fun things listed above.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #30


We're back home this week, so I can get cooking!

Monday: breakfast sandwiches on English muffins

Tuesday: blackened tilapia, Knorr brand Parmesan Noodles & Sauce, salad

Wednesday: BBQ chicken, corn on the cob, spinach

Thursday: coconut shrimp, Zatarain's Caribbean Rice Mix, fruit salad

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: Satay Chicken Pasta Salad (a new fall Pampered Chef recipe)

Sunday: sandwiches

For more menu plan ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Real Moms

I just finished reading Real Moms: Exploding the Myths of Motherhood, by Elisa Morgan and Carol Kuykendall. At times, I felt the authors were speaking directly to me! Here are a few "real mom" statements sprinkled throughout the book that I connected with.

"A real mom . . ."

" . . . picks her kids' noses." Yes, I do that on occasion.

" . . . puts dirty socks on her kids when the clean ones run out." Sometimes you just can't keep up with all the laundry.

" . . . really likes to sleep, but when that sick or scared-from-a-nightmare child only wants Mommy, deep down she really likes that too." Thankfully those nights aren't very often, and I like them even better when I can go right back to sleep.

" . . . sometimes gets tired, frustrated, and mad at her kids."

" . . . fusses at her kids a good part of the day, then lingers over them as they sleep."

" . . . sometimes has bad days (or weeks)."

" . . . always loves her kids . . . she just doesn't always like them."

" . . . thinks that occasionally the television makes a wonderful babysitter."

" . . . shoves all the dirty dishes in the oven when an unexpected friend arrives." The dishwasher works great for hiding those things I haven't gotten to yet.

" . . . smiles at her little angels as she passes someone else's screaming brats in the grocery store - and knows she shouldn't." Yeah, this usually happens the other way around for us.

" . . . uses real plates when entertaining guests. But lots of times the family gets paper plates." They're in the pantry, second shelf, to the left.

" . . . hardly ever gets all the laundry folded and put away. She just grabs wrinkled shirts from the pile."

" . . . knows that childhood passes so quickly - but not quick enough some days." Grocery days!

Here are a few I came up with on my own:
*A real mom sometimes falls asleep while reading to her children and makes up nonsense words in the process.
*A real mom makes her children take swimming lessons, whether they want to or not. And she makes them go underwater to get used to it.
*A real mom wraps up an uneaten lunch and serves it again instead of an afternoon snack.
*A real mom makes sandwiches for lunch a little more fun by cutting them differently to make two houses. Sometimes she makes a window in each one to make sure they taste good. :o)

I'm sure I can come up with more, given a little more time. :o)

Got some "real mom" thoughts to share? I'm sure I can relate!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #29


Last week, we ate sandwiches almost every night because we came home from Billy's parents' house with a package of 24 dinner rolls and a 5-lb. container of potato salad. We put most of it to good use. This week, I'm back to cooking. Some nights, anyway.

Monday: leftover hamburgers from yesterday's grilling session - I have a meeting.

Tuesday: Taco Layer Dip - I'm hosting a homeschool curriculum gathering for several of my friends so we can look over what each other uses and ask questions about it. The big homeschool shopping day at Mardel is Thursday. Everything education-related is 20% off!

Wednesday: Florentine Scrambled Eggs, toast

Thursday: sandwiches - I will be attending a ladies' game night at church!

Friday: Chicken Quesadillas

Saturday: Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Chutney, served over a bed of rice

Sunday: - leftovers

For more menu plan ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Free Lunch!

The park where the boys take swimming lessons is one of a few in the city that participates in a summer nutrition program for kids. One lady I've been visiting with during swimming lessons said she lets her two grandchildren play on the playground after lessons, then have the free lunch. She didn't want to at first because she thought they may be taking a needed meal from someone else, but the man who works that park said the more people he serves, the more funding he gets to do it.

She said they serve a variety of hot and cold lunches. Monday was steak fingers, mashed potatoes, green beans, and chocolate milk. I don't remember what Tuesday's lunch was. We decided to stay for it Wednesday, which ended up being turkey and cheese sandwiches on wheat bread, apples, fruit juice, and chocolate milk. (I think there's chocolate milk every day, which Caleb doesn't like. I end up drinking his milk and he drinks from the water fountain.)

Today's lunch was hamburger pizza, corn (YES! I know! Pizza and corn, just like in school!), and soggy tater tots. And chocolate milk. Caleb ate everything except for a few bites of his pizza; Jacob only ate a few bites of his. I told them we'd keep doing that after swimming lessons as long as they eat the food. Once they start picking at it and wasting it, we'll stop.

It's a great program. There are so many kids that just hang out at the park all day, unsupervised. The guy who works that park brings a few board games, some crayons and coloring books, and a few basketballs so the kids will have a variety of things to do. He also provides a visible adult presence to keep down any misconduct. It's too bad all the parks throughout the cities in the Metroplex can't do something like that, but as long as some parks in not-so-great areas are covered, it's a vast improvement.

13 Staples in my Kitchen


Here's a list of 13 things that you can always find in my kitchen.

1. Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
2. Pampered Chef Sweet Cinnamon Sprinkle
3. Pampered Chef Italian Seasoning Mix
4. olive oil
5. brown sugar
6. onion
7. bread
8. milk
9. cheese
10. peanut butter
11. jelly
12. ham
13. honey mustard

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

10 Favorite Movie Characters

Here's this week's Ten on Tuesday list, in no particular order.

1. Napoleon Dynamite
2. Willie Wonka (as played by Johnny Depp)
3. Captain Jack Sparrow
4. Ouiser Boudreaux (played by Shirley McClaine in Steel Magnolias)
5. Gracie Hart (played by Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality)
6. Patrick Verona (played by Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate about You)
7. Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy in Cars)
8. Forrest Gump
9. William Wallace
10. Landon Carter (played by Shane West in A Walk to Remember)

I'm on a roll and could go on, but I won't... I'll save those for another day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bribery or Threats?

Jacob had his first swimming lesson today. He got his feet wet. That's all. He spent the whole 35 minutes of his lesson sitting at the edge of the pool watching everyone else. He was the only one who didn't get in.

His instructor tried to talk him into getting in the water, but he made several excuses why he couldn't. Later the pool supervisor sat by him and talked with him, trying her best to get him to go in. No deal. She said they'll try again tomorrow.

I wasn't so concerned with it today because the instructors were focused on gauging what each child is able to do. (They now know Jacob is reluctant, and that's putting it mildly.) Tomorrow they'll be put into equal ability groups so the instructors and children can have an easier time with the lessons.

Caleb, on the other hand, did super! He was excited to get in the pool and eagerly showed his instructor his bobs. He did the front float and glide. He's still nervous about floating on his back, though. He just won't relax enough to stay up. He keeps lifting his head up, so maybe he doesn't like having his ears under the water. Tomorrow I'll tell him to keep his ears under and find out what things he can hear under there.

But what can I do to get Jacob in the pool? I'm not above bribing him. He wanted to play on the playground after today's lessons. I told him no, but if he'll get in the pool tomorrow - and stay in the whole time - he can play on the playground AND we'll get a treat from Sonic on the way home. I've also told him that if he does well with swimming lessons, we'll get him a special toy. I'm ready to promise a black cat Webkin just like Caleb's!

I'm also not above threatening him. I paid $41 for his lessons and I don't want it to be wasted on his sitting on the edge for two weeks. If he doesn't get in the water by Wednesday or Thursday, I'm going to be really tempted to go through the gate and put him in the water myself! (There's a chain link fence around the pool, and only the lifeguard instructors and students are allowed inside during lesson times.)

Jacob is very strong-willed, so I'm not sure what's going to work. Any suggestions?

A Book Meme

I came across this meme on Cindy's blog and had to participate.

1. Do you remember how you developed a love for reading? I remember Mama talking about how I'd walk around with my chalk and chalkboard and ask her how to spell words. By the time I was four, I could read well.

2. What are some books you read as a child? I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. I also read Jack London's Call of the Wild several times. Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew were good, too.

3. What is your favorite genre? I prefer fiction (historical, mysteries, Southern, contemporary), but I've recently taken an interest in biographies. I also enjoy some non-fiction.

4. Do you have a favorite novel? I don't have one favorite, but there are several series that I'm a big fan of: the Monk mysteries, Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries, Ann B. Ross' Miss Julia series, and Karen Kingsbury's Redemption, First Born, and Sunrise series. I also enjoyed Jan Karon's Mitford series.

5. Where do you usually read? I usually read in my rocking chair, but I also read on the couch, in bed, in the car (when someone else is driving, but also when I'm waiting in the drive-through line at the bank or pharmacy), in waiting rooms, while I'm brushing my teeth, etc. I always have a book with me. Even when we're out somewhere, there's probably one in my purse.

6. When do you usually read? Whenever I get the chance.

7. Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time? Definitely. It's usually a mix of fiction or a biography along with a work of non-fiction.

8. Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction? I typically read non-fiction when my mind is fresh, and I read it more slowly than fiction. Usually with fiction, I'm enjoying being lost in the story, but I usually have a specific purpose for reading non-fiction, even if it's just learning from curiousity.

9. Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library? Most of my books come from the library. I've got limited shelf space, so I don't collect many. The only series I'm currently collecting are the Monk mysteries.

10. Do you keep most of the books you buy? On the rare occasions I buy books, I do keep them. There are some I've had to get rid of and others I've had to put in storage, but I hate doing that.

11. If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? I read different books than the types my boys like, but a few easy favorites I've shared with them have been Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, and several Dr. Seuss books.

12. What are you reading now? I've just started reading Grace Is Enough by Willie Aames and Maylo Upton-Aames. (It was recommended by Cindy!) For "professional development", I've got a few in progress: Build It Big and Why We Buy. I'm also reading two for "personal development": Real Moms and Boundaries for Kids. Is that too much at once?

13. Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list? Most definitely. Actually I have a TBR stack. There are 10 library books stacked on the table by my rocking chair that I'm working my way through. Is that too many?

14. What's next? After I finish the Aames' autobiography, I'm going to read another Sue Grafton (K Is for Killer), then a Mary Higgins Clark (Where Are You Now?). I also have Miss Julia Strikes Back and Around the World in 80 Dinners in my stack.

15. What books would you like to reread? There are so many I want to get through the first time, I'm not really wanting to go back to anything else again. If I ever do, though, it would be Call of the Wild.

16. Who are your favorite authors? Sue Grafton, Karen Kingsbury, Jan Karon, Mary Higgins Clark, to name a few.

Thanks, Cindy. This was fun!

Now I'm going to tag Mama, Lindsay, and Stacy. If I didn't tag you and you like to read, feel free to post your answers in your own blog - and be sure to let me know so I can read it!