Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in Review: 2010

*We held our annual New Year's Day party with friends. (Thankfully no one was sick, so we didn't have to cancel like in 2009!)

*I got the boys started with their own blogs. Unfortunately I didn't follow through with encouraging them to use it. They blogged a few times each.

*I resigned my position as a Pampered Chef consultant. Very freeing!

*Memaw passed away from Alzheimer's complications a few days after her 83rd birthday.

*Jacob celebrated his 7th birthday on the 6th. Billy celebrated his birthday on the 16th.

*Caleb participated in the Kaufman County Spelling Bee.

*We got about 7 or 8 (or more?) inches of snow. It was nice the first day. The second and third days, not so much.

*Caleb celebrated his 10th birthday on the 13th.

*The boys took turns passing some fever virus back and forth, postponing their spring break twice.

*I did several things while the boys were gone for spring break (finally): got my teeth cleaned, got my hair cut, colored it, planted shrubs in the flower bed, went to Dallas Blooms for the first time, ate at Ali Baba (Mediterranean buffet), and discovered the Mediterranean Wrap at Jason's Deli, among other things.

*I blogged my 300th post with this site.

*Billy got a new Mini Cooper. We traded in my van, so now I'm driving the Rendezvous. It felt big at first, but I quickly got used to it. I don't miss the van at all.

*Jacob had a bike wreck that left me feeling woozy. It turned out to be minor scrapes. Adrenaline rushes are not my friend.

*We took a field trip to Grapevine, TX, to see glassblowers and a metalsmith. We got lucky and were able to visit a bronze sculptor, too!

*We took a road trip to Louisiana for Mother's Day (and so Billy could break in his new car). We visited Yvonne and the boys at their farm/ranch and played with the miniature horses.

*The boys spent a few days with Billy's parents. We met at Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, TX, so I could bring them back home.

*Since we got a later start beginning school, we finished up a week or so into June.

*The boys took a quick trip to visit my parents.

*The boys spent a week with Billy's parents.

*Mama and I took a wire-wrapping course in Tyler, TX, from a master artist from Hot Springs, AR. Fun! It opened up new doors of jewelry-making for me and left me with a desire to learn more about the process.

*We were too busy for me to blog in July!

*We met some other moms and kids from the neighborhood at the pool!

*The boys took swimming lessons from Kathy Self again this year. She does wonders with them!

*Mama came for a visit so we could practice more of our wire-wrapping.

*We had a week of cowboy-themed VBS. I was in charge of games this year instead of just helping with them. It worked out well, but I was exhausted every day. Thankfullyl the boys' swimming lessons were still going on, so I was able to get in the pool and cool off.

*Caleb went to pre-teen camp - and LOVED it! Jacob was beside himself the whole week because his brother and best friend was gone, but we did some special things with him so he didn't feel so left out.

*The boys spent another week with Billy's parents.

*We started back to school - on time - and got into a really good routine.

*We spent lots of time at the pool.

*We went to the Smoky Mountains for a later summer vacation. We visited Chattanooga and Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg for a week. Our days were jam-packed and we were exhausted when we got back home. The boys said it was their best vacation ever. Their favorite thing was riding the rides (especially the bumper cars!) at Dollywood.

*We began a two-month period of hosting our home team and leading it in a discussion of various themes in The Lord of the Rings. We had some great discussions and some fun LOTR-themed snacks!

*We went back to the Fort Worth Zoo for their annual Home School Day.

*We took a field trip to Cici's Pizza. Fun and tasty!

*We finished our two months of hosting/leading the home team.

*We also hosted the missionary dinner, part of our church's annual International Missions Conference. The Spaughs (Guatemala, with CAM) were our missionaries for the evening.

*I celebrated my 41st birthday on the 11th.

*I went to a SWIM seminar on Bible study methods, led by Dr. Howard Hendricks himself.

*I learned how to make baklava. Delicious!

*The boys started playing basketball with Lake Pointe Sports.

*I finally got to taste the much-raved-over (by Billy) roast that Dave makes every year for Billy's office's annual Soup Day (the week of Thanksgiving). I must have more!

*We traveled to Louisiana for our annual family Thanksgiving gathering. It was a lot of fun, but the crowd was smaller. Hopefully it'll be back up again next year.

*I made a sweet potato cheesecake - the first real cheesecake I ever made. It looked horrible because I didn't realize it needed to refrigerate for more than an hour or two before serving. It fell to pieces! It tasted great, thougn - and it was even better the next day! I can't wait to make another one.

*I made lots of handmade/homemade things for Christmas gifts this year: wire-wrapped pendants, a ring, an afghan, 17 caps for my Cubbies, and baklava. The boys painted some ceramic mugs at a local shop to give as gifts.

*I read 44 books this year!

I wonder what 2011 has in store...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Report Card

In keeping with tradition, I set goals for myself again for this year. They didn't seem as lofty as last year's goals, but after those epic failures, I thought I needed to go a little easier on myself. Let's see how I did this year...

1. Lose some weight!
Seems I set this every year. It's something I really want to do; I just like food too much to be very successful... Two areas I need to work on: moving more and portion control.

Success! I didn't lose as much as I would've liked, but I did lose 10 pounds this year! Woohoo!

2. Get my jewelry business off the ground.
This includes settling on a business name (still not too fond of "Ashley's Bead Box"), getting a jewelry blog up and running, and having a few shows. Valentine's Day is practically right around the corner. It's the next big jewelry sales event, but as far as promoting my jewelry goes, I'm not prepared for that just yet. I'm setting a goal of having a show in time for Mother's Day.

Mediocre. Well, I kept "Ashley's Bead Box" because I couldn't come up with anything else I liked. I didn't get my jewelry blog going or host any jewelry shows, but I did sell some pieces. And I learned wire wrapping, which was a big accomplishment - and something I'd like to learn more about.

3. Blog more.
I'm not talking about the jewelry blog here, but this personal blog of mine. I averaged two posts a month last year. I hate that! I love to write! I blame my lack of time/interest on Facebook. :o) I'm already doing better than last year!

Success! I had more than 3 times as many posts this year as I did last year. Many of them were weekly menus, and several were answering memes, but there were a few posts that were all my own. I enjoy blogging and I want to keep it up regularly.

4. I'd like to do something more with my photography.
I realize this statement is really open, but so is my goal with it. Yes, I'd like to participate more in the weekly Photo Friday challenges - but I want to do more. I bought Tom Ang's book Digital Photography Masterclass to help me learn more about my camera and how to take better pictures. Next on my list is his book How to Photograph Absolutely Everything.

I'd also like to sell some of my photographs. I've been looking into stock photography websites to see what that entails. Amy, a friend of mine from high school, sparked my interest in this. She listed some of her photos just last year and has already sold one.

Another thing I'd like to do here and there is to take local road trips for the sole purpose of photographing what's there. Billy and I want to make a photo wall in our entry, full of photos we've taken. Since our house has earth tones throughout, we want to have the pictures done in sepia tones, matted in off-white, and framed in dark brown. I have an idea of the types of photos I want to showcase, but we need to get out and take them!

Last year I started my Project 365, but it stalled after just a few weeks - if that. I'd like to have some sort of photoblog, but I don't know to what extent. Maybe another time, I'll try the project again. I love the idea of it, but it's a lot harder than I thought it would be. Especially for a stay-at-home mom who only gets out a few times a week.

Fail! I didn't do much at all with my photography this year. I took tons of pictures, but I haven't done anything other than download them off my cameras since March. Yes, that's going to be one major project next year.

5. I'd like to make some decision about my future as a Pampered Chef consultant.
I've found other things that I'd rather do than set up kitchen shows and worry about keeping my consultant status. Holding the shows is fun, but calling people to host them is the part I don't like. I'm not a phone person, and once I got out of the habit of making my nightly business calls, it's been nearly impossible to get back into doing it. And I'm not the go-getter type to recruit people to join my team.

Success! I made the decision to get out of Pampered Chef, and it was extremely freeing!

Overall, it was a good year, goal-wise. I've been thinking about my goals for 2011 and am looking forward to sharing them soon.

December 2010 Book List

40. Oogy by Larry Levin

Once again, another animal book caught my eye - and stole my heart. When Oogy was just a few months old, he was used as a bait dog for dog fights. He was found abandoned in a cage in an old building, half dead, his face torn, bones broken. The police took him to an animal emergency hospital where he was patched up and left alone. One of the nurses there found him a few days later, fell in love with him, and insisted that her veterinarian friend do everything he could to save his life.

The Levins met Oogy when they had taken their dying cat in to be euthanized. A vet tech was taking Oogy outside for a bit, but when he saw the Levins, he rushed over and loved them like they were old friends. Thus began Oogy's new life. The Levins adopted Oogy into their family, where he now thrives. (Larry Levin gave Oogy his name, a play on "ugly", which aptly describes Oogy's lopsided appearance.)

41. The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry

Every year around Christmas, I like to find a few short holiday novellas to read. Time is short, so I need something quick - and this was one of the quickest I've ever read!

Doug Barnes, a junior high student in the early 1960s, humorously recounts how his family came to get Walter, a dog to "replace" their recently deceased dog Frank, who died on Christmas Eve, right before their church Christmas pageant.

It's fun light reading with a few laugh-out-loud moments.

42. The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne

When I picked up this book, I wasn't sure what I was getting. I read part of the inside flap and thought it looked interesting. It turned out to be one of those rare holiday books that has quite an impact. It's not fluff. This one is hearty and it will stay with you for a long time.

Molar, who tells the story, and his older brother Aaron are taken to the mall the day after Thanksgiving to meet the new Santa - a friend of their father's who tells them he's going to give them the best Christmas present they never wanted. The catch is they have to help him on the oncology ward at a local children's hospital, where "Santa" is a doctor.

The boys come to know and love the children in the oncology ward, becoming fast friends with some of the patients. Molar and Aaron are given the special task of reaching out to two children in particular: Madhu, an Indian boy with a failing liver, and Katrina, a lonely girl who wears a paper bag over her head to hide the effects of a brain tumor.

I won't give away any more of the story, but the boys do indeed get something beyond their wildest dreams for Christmas - as well as seeing the Christmas wishes of Madhu, Katrina, and a few others come true.

This story could be true, and I often wonder how much of it is based on someone's actual experience. It's heartwarming and will bring tears to your eyes. This is a book to own and reread every year.

43. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Dr. David Henry delivers his wife Norah's twins in the middle of a snow storm. Paul is perfect; Phoebe has Down syndrome. He gives Phoebe to his nurse Caroline Gill to take to an institution, then tells Norah she died. Caroline decides to raise Phoebe as her own daughter and leaves town. And so begins a series of lies that drives a wedge between everyone involved.

Norah, caught in the midst of depression, changes her life in ways no one expects. Caroline, secretly in love with David, keeps him informed of Phoebe's development. David, wanting to spare his wife further pain, keeps knowledge of Phoebe's life with Caroline to himself. Paul, aware of the growing distance between his parents, feels things are his fault.

Plot twists throughout the book kept me from guessing what would happen next. Just when I thought I "knew" what was coming, something totally unexpected would happen.

The story is sad and beautiful. Inspiring and eye-opening. Even though it's not one of my favorite books, I had a hard time putting it down.

44. Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman

I had seen this book before, but I decided I needed to read it after we started school this year. Jacob started throwing fits before science and history each day. I was tired of dealing with it, and I thought Dr. Leman might have some suggestions. Boy, did he!

Basically, I had to look in the mirror and see if Jacob was emulating my actions (albeit magnified). Was I treating him with respect, or was I demanding that he do what I said when I said it? Was I being responsive to him in a positive or a negative way? Dr. Leman doesn't believe in coddling kids and catering to their every whim. Rather he believes in reality discipline - but I have to look at myself first and change what needs changing. Then I can start to work on my sons. (Yes, they both need some attitude adjustments here and there...)

The text of the 5-day "program" is short, easy to read. After that follows suggestions on various trouble areas families encounter and how to tackle them. Like I said earlier - reality discipline. I've been threatening and reminding, doing nothing to help my sons grow responsibly. Instead, I need to let reality be their teacher. If I say for them to do something and they don't, they need to learn from the consequences of their actions.

It's hard to do sometimes. Sometimes I just want to move on from the problem onto something else - but then they aren't learning anything and I'm just reinforcing bad behavior. (No, they aren't that bad, but there's room for improvement.)

Thankfully I have a lot of these suggestions in another Leman book, Making Your Child Mind Without Losing Yours. Great book! Now I can return this one to the library. I'm sure there are some other parents out there who need to read it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Tag

From Cindy at Notes in the Key of Life:

1.What is your one favorite dish to see on the table at Christmas dinner?
sweet potato casserole

2.Do you have a Nativity scene or a creche? How many pieces does it have?
I have a beautiful Fontanini set that I leave out year-round. I have several pieces (not really wanting to count them...), but there are many, many more available. I just don't have room for them all. Well, maybe I do have room for a few more... I could clear the few books off that bottom shelf and put a second grouping of pieces there. I'd love to have the wise men and the camels. Maybe I'll put that on next year's wish list - unless I can find a good sale!

3.What is your favorite Christmas movie?
A Christmas Story, followed closely by Christmas Vacation. More of a modern traditionalist approach. I like some of the old b&w classics, but they just aren't my favorites.

4.If you and your family could spend this Christmas in another country, where would you go?
Greece. I just want to go there anyway, but I think it would be wonderful to see what Christmas in a Greek Orthodox church is like.

5.Does your grandmother usually knit you something for Christmas, or does she give you something different — say, a Wii?
Both of my grandmothers are in heaven. Mamaw would sometimes give me something handmade (I remember getting Barbie clothes from her a lot when I was little.), but sometimes I'd get things she'd bought from infomercials. Memaw always bought us different kinds of things.

6.Have you ever gone out of the house wearing a reindeer headband? What about a Santa hat?
No, I don't believe I have. I wouldn't mind wearing a Santa hat one day...

7.Do you usually make or buy your Christmas gifts?
It's usually a combination of both. I've made afghans for almost everyone in my family. All the ladies have gotten handmade jewelry and crocheted scarves. My parents and my in-laws received scrapbooks I made of the boys one year. I even wrote a poem for my mom one year and framed it with a buffalo nickel. (The poem was about my grandfather's buffalo nickels that she had found and spent when she was a little girl.)

8.When do you set up your Christmas decorations? When do you take them down?
We usually start decorating shortly after Thanksgiving, though we've been as late as 2 weeks before Christmas. Things usually come down the week after Christmas, but last year I left everything up for our New Year's Day party. I think I'll do that again this year.

9.What kind of activities does your church usually have at Christmas?
Lighting Advent candles each Sunday, Christmas Eve services, community outreach projects for each of the adult Sunday school classes to participate in

10.Did you ever believe in Santa Claus as a child?
I don't know if I really believed in him or not, but I played along. It's fun to take part in the tradition, and it irks me when people are radically anti-Santa because they think it's a lie.

11.Which of the Gospels gives your favorite account of the Christmas story?

12.Have you ever acted in a Christmas pageant? What part did you play?
I don't remember; childhood was a long time ago. :o)

13.Do you buy Christmas presents for your pets?
I probably have once or twice, but it's not something I generally do.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ho, Ho, Hum...

Christmas is right around the corner. Just 11 days away. And what have I done? Not much. The tree is up, lists are made. That's about as far as it gets. Well, I have done a little shopping, but not near the extent of what I need to get done. I just can't get motivated to do any of it. Either someone is sick or there's basketball practice or games or there's a party to prep for and attend... There's too much busyness, as usual, to enjoy the holiday season.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have a new outlook - and some motivation to tackle the things on my list. The clock is ticking.