Saturday, November 30, 2013

Love Notes

Over the years, I've collected quite a few love notes written by husband. Some of them are very well-written. Some of them have a lot of flowery language. Some of them sweet and sentimental. Some grateful and thankful. Some of them funny. It's always a fun treat to go back and read them.

Lately, my husband's love notes have been very short and simple.

Nowadays, he just gets right to the point.

How very practical.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Smiles, Love, and Food

So often, holidays do not live up to expectations. For me, this is usually true of Thanksgiving. We've gone to different places the last couple years and so it just hasn't felt very traditional lately. With so many families to try to include, it has been hard to find our "place."

When we go to other peoples' house, it doesn't always feel right. Everyone is on their best behavior. But my family is loud and crazy. To me, holidays are just not the same when there isn't loudness, people fighting for food, and trying to talk over each other.

Also, somehow the stress of the holidays always results in tension between my husband and I. This is the single biggest holiday killer and has a domino effect on everything else going on that day. But yesterday was perfect in every way.

Yesterday, the kids woke me up at 7:00 am and, after making them a fancy breakfast of crepes stuffed with eggs, chicken meatballs, and cheese (which they totally did not appreciate), I got to work cooking for dinner. I made this sweet potato casserole recipe. This recipe for scalloped potatoes. And my favorite ricotta gnocchi recipe. It was all so amazing!

In total, I spent four hours in the kitchen, sipping a vanilla cappuccino, singing along to the music of Annie, and taste-testing as I cooked. My husband got the kids started on coloring hand turkeys and every other minute, one of the kids would storm into the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear, to proudly show me their art.

I was done cooking by noon and got to putter around the house and hang out with the kids. My sister, whose husband is overseas, came by to join us for Thanksgiving. We hung out and created a very amateur, impromptu Thanksgiving skit for the kids to act out, complete with costumes (nothing Martha Stewart would approve of!) The skit and the costumes came together in less than an hour, thanks to our pathetic creativity, leftover Halloween felt, and a hot glue gun.

It was awesome having my sister there for Thanksgiving since I couldn't be with my parents or other siblings. She helped me bring more chaos and loudness to the Thanksgiving celebration and was my partner in crime for our grand performance. She was also there to snap a rare family photo.

The kids loved that they got to eat olives and grapes for dinner (and only olives and grapes)

Then we had our grand performance. My sister was the narrator. Jacob was the Pilgrim. I had to be the Indian since my nephew (for whom I had designed the part) was not too trilled about the idea. With some coaxing and with the promise of going into the hot tub, we convinced my nephew and niece to be Turkey 1 and Turkey 2. Please note my fantastic turkey costumes on the right:

We only did a couple pre-performance run throughs but Jacob memorized all his lines well and impressed the heck out of me. He just may have a future in theater.

Here we are singing our Turkey Song: "I like big butterballs and I cannot lie."

At the end of the day we all gathered in the living room to chat while the older kids were upstairs playing. Ryan, getting a rare opportunity to have all the adult attention to himself, stood in the middle of the living room entertaining everyone. He kept taking a funny exaggerated stance, pointing his pointer-finger at everyone (including the dogs) and yelling "shoot, shoot!" (something wonderful he learned from his older brother). Then he kept marching around in circles, totally hamming it up, and doing pig impressions until he would make himself laugh too hard to keep going.

Ryan is usually the quiet, overlooked child in a large gathering of people because he is so content and easy going and shy. But he has such a big, lovable personality which he usually reserves just for his parents and grandparents. It was wonderful to see him take a turn in the spotlight.

We got home, tucked the kids right into bed and snuggled on the couch to catch up on our favorite shows (Homeland and Boardwalk Empire). Then we just sat and reflected on the wonderful day and our home full of blessings.

The day was so full of smiles, our hearts full of love, our bellies full of food, and our glasses full of champagne. It was a fantastic day.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Homeschool Update: Fall 2013

We've officially completed term one and moved on to term two.
I am both loving Ambleside and feeling absolutely overwhelmed by it.
These first 12 weeks have been a learning curve for both Piper and I.
There have been days that have been rich and beautiful and exactly what I want our homeschool to be.
There have been other days where I've wanted to throw in the towel and switch curriculum.
Thankfully, I am far too frugal to do that so we have plugged away day in and day out.
And I really think it will be worth it.

I should also add that we have continued to love Handwriting Without Tears.
Piper is printing things left, right and center and feeling very confident.
Using the Treadwell Primer for reading has turned out wonderfully despite my panic attacks over not having a full reading curriculum with all the bells and whistles this year.
Although we do deal with phonics as we came upon various words in the primer, I felt following something systematically would help me feel confident we were staying on track.

MEP math has been amazing!
I still cannot believe it is free!
Piper has totally taken off with this program and LOVES doing math.
(Until we start a new concept. Then she despises it until that concept clicks. Then she loves it again...)

Home Art Studio has been such a blessing.
It is welcomed every other Monday with much excitement!
I love seeing the end product especially since I have nothing to do with it! 
Piper follows the instructions herself and has created some really sweet art!

We have stayed pretty faithful to our artist and composer studies.
All of us really enjoy our tea times together listening to classical music and discussing a piece of art.
I am stunned by how involved the girls are in these discussions.

On the other hand, I have been less consistent with nature study and French lessons. 
Considering how many other things we do in a week, I try not to be too hard on myself for slacking off in a couple of areas but I'm determined to improve.
I think it will help to schedule specific studies for our nature study day and to keep our French cd in the van.
They memorize oodles of songs that we play while driving around so I'm certain French songs will be no different!
My other goals are to pre-read everything and to be better at encouraging narration as well as interesting and thoughtful conversation afterwards.
I also plan to get our timeline going this term.
It's up!
Now I just need to get on the ball with adding to it as we read various history selections!

Both Piper and Taitum have been doing swimming lessons this fall.
They have loved it so much that I decided to allow them to do a second round of lessons.
Taitum completed her fall term dance class.
As usual, we were able to watch her on the last day of class.
It is so sweet to watch her move around, twirling and skipping and dancing to her heart's content!
Piper has been attending piano lessons.
We are looking forward to her first recital in a few weeks.

We have faithfully been attending our homeschool co-op every Friday.
This is the excitement of the week!
Taitum and Renly take part in a littles group where they sing songs, learn colors and play with other little ones.
Piper has enjoyed learning wilderness survival (the girl was building shelters, starting fires and using a compass!) and is now doing an art block where she has had a chance to try felting and chalk pastels, among other things!

I had intended to use the book Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready with Tait.
However, it just didn't work very well for us.
I need more of a daily schedule to stay on track so instead I started using God's Little Explorers Preschool curriculum.
It provides a 4 day schedule which includes simple yet enjoyable suggestions that are perfect for a preschooler and do-able for me!
Taitum loves having her own school time and is learning so much!
Piper and Renly often join us as well and so it becomes a family affair!
It is so nice to see them learning together!

Now we are looking forward to Christmas and all the preparation that goes with it!
We will continue with our usual school schedule but I am hoping to do a few extra Christmas related things each week.
I am debating doing Jesse Tree ornaments this year (as opposed to the paper ones they have colored in the past).
However I'm afraid it will be too much of a commitment since it would involve making 25 different ornaments!
I am really good at biting off more than I can chew!
So we may just stick with our usual Jesse Tree and do a few crafts as part of Truth in the Tinsel
Also, our homeschool group is doing a couple Christmas Around the World days which I am really looking forward to!

I know this was a long post!
But if you've made it this far thank you for taking the time to see what we've up to!
As I'm sure you can see, our days are busy and full and as a result my blogging has been at a minimum!
I hope a little update here and there will suffice!
I truly appreciate all your prayers, kind words and encouragement!

So to conclude, I'll leave you with a poem by Piper:


Taitum and Piper jump in the leaves
Inside for cocoa
Back outside to rake the leaves
Go for a walk
Sit by the fire

The End


Can you believe that it's already the week of Thanksgiving?  I haven't partaken in the daily facebook thankful post (I love to read them) but I still want to jot down just a few of the things I'm most thankful for this year.

1//  My faith.  My faith is my foundation.  I am far from perfect but Thankfully, God is loving and merciful – eager to forgive!

2//  My Husband.  Tyler is our rock.  He keeps me grounded and treats me like his queen.  I often tell him I love him and adore when he responds with, "I'm in love with you."  There is a big difference.  We are In Love.  He still makes my heart flutter ;)

3//  My little cowboys.  Both of these little guys have filled my heart with so much love.  We waited over five years to have children.  We were selfish/young and scared... I don't know if anyone is really 100% ready but somehow once Keeler entered our world it just made so much more sense.  I still think regularly, THIS is what life's about.

 4//  My career.  I am so thankful that I have a job that excites and challenges me.  I get to be creative and work with some amazing people.  We live in a rural community without a lot of opportunity and I am so thankful that God led me to where I am today.

5//  Our Family.  I have the best family.  My parents and sister are amazing.  I have always had such a loving, caring and supportive nuclear family.  Growing up I almost dreaded dividing my time with in-laws because I loved spending time with my family so much.  My mother-in-law found this out first hand when my aunt told her at my bridal shower that I once said I wanted to marry a man who's mother had passed so I didn't have to 'deal' with a mother-in-law (yes, true story - I almost died of embarrasment!!).  Again, I am overly blessed because not only has God given me the best family I also married into an amazing family.  I remember finally spending a holiday with Tyler's family and enjoying myself so much.  Yes, I missed my family but Loved my new family.  Best of all, I am so thankful that my little cowboys have ALL these amazingly supportive, loving and caring people to call their family.  Over the years my parents and Tyler's have become great friends.  We even spend Thanksgiving altogether - who gets to do that?!  Beyond thankful!      
Wishing everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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Toaster Husband

Sometimes, I don't know why women get married. Most of the things a husband does in a marriage can be accomplished by a toaster.

A toaster would be a great stand-in for a husband in the evening. After work, all I would have to do is plop the toaster in front of my husband's computer. Add a pair of headphones...voila....a husband.

Having a conversation with a toaster is the same as having one with a husband.

"Hey toaster, can you take a break from your computer to tell me how I look in this dress."

"Thought so."

Also, when I have a really bad or interesting day at work, I can come home and tell my toaster. It's basically just like telling a husband. Our conversations involve the same level of empathy and emotional intelligence.

"Toaster, my day was really hard today. The boys screamed the whole way to my mom's. I had this really long meeting and then I had to write a 20 page brief."

"Oh...and I may have scratched your car...just a little."

Raised eyebrows? Is that a hint of emotion?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weekend Whoas!

Just a quick recap of a cold weekend at home.

We got SNOW on Friday, close to 5" of snow!  
Saturday the little cowboys played in the snow with Tyler while I went shopping with a friend.  I missed out on getting any pictures of the boys in the snow but scored some cute Christmas gifts at our local bizarre.  

In the evening the boys and I watched the Polar Express while daddy went and played poker.  
 The little cowboys are going on the Polar Express next weekend with Mimi and Jim-Dad.  I thought watching the movie would make it that much more fun.  Keeler loved it!  I loved cuddling on the couch with popcorn ;)

On Sunday afternoon we decided to go look at new washers and dryers.  After almost ten years our's are starting to make some pretty strange/loud noises.  We didn't intend to buy but found a great deal.  We also got the little cowboys some snow boots.  Who would've thought snow boots would bring on so much excitement?  
 We had a nice lunch at "the best sandwich place ever" (according to Keeler, aka Arby's) and a quick trip to Target before someone had a major meltdown... 
It was a "you're so lucky you're cute" kinda day for this guy! 
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A Tribute To Brothers

A relationship between brothers is as complicated as is each brother individually. For the big brother, becoming a brother is a lot like being slapped in the face. Except everyone expects you to enjoy it. 

 The little brother has absolutely no clue what is going on and will never realize the turmoil he has wrought about his sibling. He is born content and accepting of his lot in life. He knows nothing else.

To big brother, little brother is a new thing, like a weird birthday toy. New thing is interesting. Big brother picks up the cues of others to learn how to react to the new thing. Big brother is told to kiss it. Big brother kisses it. Where did this new thing come from? It has tiny fingers. It can yawn but not speak. It's kinda loud. Ok, really loud.

But then the new thing is no longer exciting. Big brother may be a little disappointed. It turns out that little brother does not like to play Thomas the Train. The little brother is kinda boring.

For a while, a lot of the smiles are forced. Except for when the little brother does something hilarious. Like pick his nose or toot. And in something as trivial as a bodily function, a love-seed has gently sprouted.

Big brother and little brother, learn their new roles. And as little brother can do more and more, he once again becomes interesting. There is no milestone more sweet than that first moment big brother sees little brother mimicking him. A light bulb goes off. "He is like me," thinks big brother. A lifelong friendship sprouts  from that tiny love-seed.

This doesn't mean brotherhood is easy.

Sometimes, there will be a struggle to find enthusiasm.

But is does have its rewards. Like companionship. When you have a brother, you will never have to be alone.

There will always be someone to toughen you up.

To walk by your side.

To share the brunt of Mom's latest "ideas."

In your brother, you have someone to keep awake on Christmas Eve. An ear to catch your excited whispers each time you think you hear Santa. 

A brother is someone whose life parallels yours. You start in the same place and collect shared memories. Until the day you each branch off and start new adventures. And then, your brother only shows you what you could be, if only you were different.

He is always there to give you a push.

And wrestle you down when you need it. Sometimes you are on top. Sometimes you are on bottom.

Sometimes, you are just lucky the prank is not on you.

Brothers learn side by side. Each seeing the world from a different angle and opening up the other to new possibilities.

You don't always get it right the first time around. But don't worry. Your brother is there to laugh at you and show you the way. In that order, of course.

Affection often comes in many forms. Sometimes it is reluctant. But always it is there.

In your brother, you have someone to loiter with.

Someone to teach you a lesson in sharing: i.e. that it doesn't always happen.

Someone to party with. To get dressed up with.

Someone to take the spot light when you would rather not.

Someone to share in humiliation.

Someone to squirt water in your face when you need it.

To explore. 

And enjoy the wonders of life.

To laugh with.

To help you create a good thing from a bad situation. 

To teach you the important things. Like golf.

And whatever this is.

And to check you for skid marks before the doctor comes in.

Before you know it, your brother has become an extension of you. Big brother. Little brother. The two are inseparable.

The years that separate you are forgotten.

The experience and knowledge of the bigger brother is exchanged for the adoration and the wonder of the younger.

Where there once was an intruder, there is now a best friend. Because really, is it any fun to eat a Ring Pop alone?

And only your brother would want to play half-naked, teeth brushing, laundry-pillaging pirate games with you.

The blood you share is thicker than the tears that occasionally fall. It is stronger than the stubbornness and selfishness that will no doubt arise. Because despite these things, it binds you. Two rivers, running side by side. With just one source but different destinations.