Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Highlights and Lowlights, or, 2011 in Review

You know we're getting closer to the end of the year when all the review shows come out. The Biggest, Brightest, or Not So Much of whatever year is about to close. I usually find them sort of annoying, but this is my list, so how annoying can it be? I'm not seperating them by category. This is just the list, good, bad, or otherwise.

  • We started the year with great expectations and an impending move to Texas. So much excitement! You have never seen someone pack a box quicker than me. I had boxes stacked on boxes stacked on boxes. We cleaned out and purged and gave away and threw out. We had to clean out the shed to have room for the boxes. We said good bye to friends and family. We cried and laughed and touted the benefits of technology and the various ways of keeping in touch. The day before hubby and I were going to leave to find a home in our new state, hubby got a  phone call. The job was on hold. Good thing we didn't leave. That was the week of the horrible ice and snow and we would have been stuck for at least that week, if not longer. The job remained on hold for another four months. Hubby finally called and asked for his name to be removed from the job. The hold had taken it's toll on our family and we were miserable. Two months later the boss called and said the job was finally released. Would hubby be interested? No, but thank you. The unpacking was just as miserable. All the hopes and dreams gone like dust and memories.
  • We stayed in Florida! Our friends are our family here. There were many tears shed when we announced our move. There were gatherings where goodbyes were said and then we stayed. At one point, I heard there were rumblings we had made it up, that we were never really moving. Then you don't know us, do you? It was comforting to be welcomed back into the fold of loving friends. Thank you for that!
  • The kids and I went to Texas and were able to spend many weeks with family and friends. I wanted the kids to be able to go to Mermie's and spend some time. I wanted them to spend time with their Auntie and their cousins. We don't get to see them often and I NEEDED them to have that connection. I needed to have that connection. It was glorious!!! I got to see family and friends. I got to help, and in some cases hinder. We absolutely loved it. The only downside: hubby had to stay home and work. We missed him something fierce! It was so good to see him at the airport. And he brought me a Cinnabon. Because he rocks that way. And he loves me. Crazy man.
  • We bought a hydroponic tower. Hubby has been into hydroponics for years, but never really did anything about it. This was like a starter kit for him. It has been trial and error, but we love it! He even has a few design modifications he wants to try when he builds another one. We see it as a step to self-sufficiency. We're already planning spring crops. Strawberries will be part of that. And bok choy. And spinach. And zucchini, and, and, and...
  • Hubby got a solar kit for Christmas. It is quite the little project. Our dream is to one day be off the grid. If we could afford the house to be solar, it would have been done years ago. I like that we can start small and work out the kinks. I like that we can make this a reality one day. I like the learning curve.
  • There has been a rift in the family. Hubby and I have distanced ourselves from his brother and his brother's wife. I have excused myself from all family gatherings, including holidays. I have tried three times to mend the rift, with no help from the other side and even some meddling from a parental unit. Instead, I get called all kinds of names (joy sucker being my favorite) and have become the one that caused the rift. Bite me. I have always thought that if you are big enough to say the words, you need to be big enough to say them straight to someone's face. Just trying to take some responsibility, but that didn't happen either. I hate this phrase now: it is what it is. No, it is what you make it. I can make this whatever I want. I choose to make it gloriously freeing!
  • For the first time in years, I can actually say that I enjoyed the holidays. It was stressful and touch and go there for a little bit, but once it was settled, it was settled. We had great holidays with our pod and lots of offers from friends to share in their joy. We declined, needing to make our own joy. And we did! It was one of the best holiday seasons we have ever had.  
  • Music has filled our home!! We bought a piano from an auction house/thrift store in a neighboring town. When I say we bought it super cheap, I mean we bought it SUPER CHEAP. Her name is Mabel and she is beautiful. She was horribly out of tune and had sticking keys, but no longer. The sound of my girls playing just brightens my day. The baby was given a guitar early in the year, or at the end of last year. When the choice came to play piano or guitar, she chose piano. The boy, on the other hand, chose guitar. We were lucky and blessed enough to find a wonderful teacher for the boy. The boy is loving it. Since my dad plays, it had always been my hope that one or all of my kids would play. And that goes in the plus column.
  • School has been fun for us. There are the required books, but we started an art study towards the holidays. We needed to unwind and do something fun. We are going to continue that. The kids have really enjoyed it and so have I. I've enjoyed it so much, I may go get myself a sketch book. The kids all have one, and I'm a little jealous. I may sit down and lesson plan today. After the laundry and dishes. Hmmmmm...
  • We found two new libraries in our county system that have become favorites. One is very small and is about 10 minutes from the house. It is very comfy and homey and the people there are nice. They even removed a nasty note that one of the librarians at our other library had attached to each of our accounts. The second library is quite big and is on a junior college campus. The kids section is bigger than most and the kids beg to go there. The big girl likes the "youth" section. I still need to watch what she picks up. Some of those books should be in the adult section. I randomly picked one off the shelf and flipped through it. Yeah, not what I want any teenager reading, specially mine. The kids like the library so much and the selection of books, I have to limit how many books they can check out. It has reignited the love of reading in my kids. Yea!!
  • We are dancing again this year! We had stopped for awhile, one of the reasons being the move. Amazing what doing what you love can do for your spirit. The baby girl has turned out to be quite the tapper. I am just overjoyed that she chose to tap. Makes me miss my tap shoes. She taps everywhere we go: standing in line, shopping, waiting for an appointment, wherever. The boy is back to jazz. I think that is where his dance heart lies. He is such a great dancer. He is again the only boy in his class, and he is alright with that. But you should see his grand jete. Great height and extension.He may take some ballet over the summer. We'll see. The big girl has moved from the hip hop class she has been in for the last 3 or 4 years. She likes her new class, and in my humble opinion, is the best one in the class. Who would have thought that my sweet, quiet girl could be so funky? Um, me, for one. And even Mama is taking hip hop. It's something I've wanted to do for many years, but the scheduling never quite worked for me. This year, it works. I miss tap, but I fill that with hip hop. I just love dancing and am very happy about the chance to get to shake my groove thing. 
  • And finally, I have become the mother of a teenager. Holy smokes, how did that happen? You should see her. She is beautiful. And very well protected from stinky boys. And hubby has guns. And he knows how to use them. And if you come near her, he'll use them. All of them. But that isn't where this is going. She is amazing and I love her and I am blessed to be her mama.
That's our year in review. Not much, but tons all at the same time. The new year will bring new challenges, but also new blessings and new beginnings. May yours be bright and joy filled and fruitful and prosperous and blessed. Ours will be!

Have a great day. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Parading Through the Streets

We did it again this year. We were in the local Christmas parade. The kids loved it. I had a great time. Even hubby enjoyed himself. The rehearsal schedule threw me for a loop, but that's ok. This year the boy got to dance as well as the big girl. The baby is champing at the bit for next year. She'll be old enough to dance, too. Here's some pics for you. I don't like the shiny eyes, but I can't help that. I took these with my phone. You get what you get. I did manage to crop them without losing them, so I'll take it.

 I sure wish everyone would have smiled. It could have been our Christmas card picture. If I did Christmas cards. But I don't. I still wish...

 The boy and the baby with two of their dancing buds. They have danced together for about three years now.
 That really isn't a smirk on the big girl's face. You would know it. She has "the look". It can knock you down from 10 paces. This is her "I'm going to humor my picture crazy mom" smile.

 The big girl with her friend, K. K didn't dance, but she marched and held the sign. She said she's dancing next year.
 LOVE this pic. We kind of look like we're plotting something. Yes, you should be scared...

 This is the group of dancers. See how nicely they lined up and smiled. The baby's group, well, not so much. That was like herding cats. That was the 7 and under crowd. It was the under that was the issue.

 The baby on the float with her dance buddy, I. Love the earmuffs. Felt and cotton balls decorated with glitter. My friend N made them. She said there was glitter in her house for weeks. I can believe it!

 Ms. Val. She owns the dance studio and teaches tap and the under crowd, as mentioned above. There is no one better with the kids. If it wasn't for her, we probably wouldn't be dancing. Amazing woman and loves what she does. Cannot ask for more.
 Love the blue lights. It made the float look icy. Yeah, like that happens around here. But it looked good.

 The theme this year was "Winter Wonderland". I thought they did a great job. It made me want hot cocoa.

 See this boy? I absolutely love him. I have very few pics of him just smiling. This is one of my favs.

 The kids were practicing before the parade. I tried to get video, but it didn't turn out very well. You can see the big girl just at the right edge of the pic.

 Liked it so much, I added it twice. Oops, my bad.

That is me with hubby. Or hubby with me. Or the two of us together. He walked with us. Aren't we cute?

A good time was had by all. So good in fact, I was thinking about asking Ms. Val if I could dance next year. We'll see. The kids always have a great time. It's time they shared the joy.

Have a great day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What the Kale?

One of the things I like about veggie co-op is that it has forced me to try new things. Who would have thought that we would like beets? I can get stuck in a rut quicker than you can think about it. I make myself buy something new and look up recipes for it. One of the things that I have found we all like, well except the baby, is kale. It is dark green and frilly looking and I had no idea what to do with it. I have several friends that like to make kale chips. I tried. That is not for me. I'll try again because I can never leave a recipe alone. I'll change a couple of things and hopefully that will do the trick and get us off those bags of yuck on the store shelves. If not, I'll figure something out. I hope.

The first time I bought kale, I used it like I would a cabbage. I cooked my beautiful, organic kale with smoked sausage and beer. Then we piled it on white rice. Yeah, there's a learning curve. Thank goodness it's a big curve. It was really good, too. But really, I was defeating the purpose, wasn't I? Fine. I'll try something else.

My friend K had a raw foods cookbook at the park one day. I know, it's an oxymoron, but what else am I going to call it? As she was leafing through it, I was sneaking peaks at some of the recipes. I saw a couple that had potential and asked her later if she would send me a copy of a kale recipe I had seen. Thankfully, there were only two kale recipes. Good thing because that book was huge and I couldn't remember what the recipe was called. I changed it, of course. I didn't have everything the recipe called for, I don't like some of the stuff in it, and really, that's just how I am. Here's my version:

Kale Salad

1 bunch kale
1 avocado, sliced and cut into chunks
1 zucchini or yellow squash or both, shredded
basil to taste, fresh or dried


1-2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey or to taste
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbls Italian seasonings or to taste

Mix ingredients for dressing until combined. Take kale off stems. Cut in to small pieces wth kitchen shears if desired. Add kale to dressing. Massage kale for at least 5 minutes. Add avocado, zucchini and/or yellow squash, and basil. Mix and serve.

You have to massage the kale if you are eating it raw. It is very fibrous and tough if you don't. Wear gloves or the honey is a huge mess to try to lick wash off your hands. Always taste your dressing before adding the kale or anything else. If you don't like it, you won't like it on the kale. Adjust to your liking, then add kale. Kale is very salty, so easy on the salt when you make the dressing. The kale will more than make up for it. The original recipe calls for agave. Use it if you have it, but start with a measure smaller than 1/4 cup. I don't have any so I use honey. You could also add raisins or cranberries or almonds or walnuts or any combination of those.

Hubby liked it, but was a little skittish about the avocado. He isn't a big fan, but he ate it. He's good that way. My friend S had given me a similar recipe, so I just kind of combined them and it turned out great. The kids ate it which made me happy. Well, except the baby. But it has veggies in it, so really, she was done before we got started. But she did take her no thank you bite and survived. Crazy girl.

Have a great day.


Traditions- Old and New

This will be a different Christmas for us. Hubby and I have stayed pretty close to tradition in years past, but this year we are making our own way and our own traditions. I'm actually looking forward to it. That is a new tradition, in and of itself.

  • The kids have been working on Christmas songs with their music teachers. I have said it before and I will say it again: I love music being played in our home. Some of the music has the lyrics printed, some don't. The ones that don't I'll look up on the internet and print for us. Then the kids will play and we'll do a sing along. The kids have been practicing and we even do a little singing with them as they practice. This is going to be fun!
  • The boy requested ham for Christmas dinner. Well, ok, then. The girls and hubby are fine with that. We normally have beef, but things are different this year. Hubby has requested crab legs. We'll have some, just not a ton of them. Those little buggers have gotten expensive. We are having pumpkin pie. I have two more pumpkins to process. I'm hoping to have enough left over to do pumpkin french toast Christmas morning. It was a big hit at Thanksgiving. Goodness, with some left over ham that would be super good. I think I'm drooling. 
  • Hubby is off Christmas Eve! He normally has to work. It's hectic and crazy and we do not like it. He rushes home, takes a five minute shower, gets prettier than he normally is, then we fly out the door to church. We huff and puff our way to church since we practically run in the door just as they get started. Then it's flying after to the IL's to open presents. It's not relaxing and it isn't fun. No running this year!! And hubby might actually have six minutes for a shower. He's so happy.
  • We will still read the story of Christmas before we open gifts. We've all heard it a million times, but to us, it's important that the real reason for Christmas is emphasized. It's all great to have gifts, but we were given the greatest gift. EVER. BAR. NONE.
  • We are Christmas Eve openers. It's what we have always done in our family and I am not about to change that. I can't wait and neither can anyone else, so why bother? I'm glad Santa comes to visit or we would have an empty tree come Christmas morning. 
  • One of our new traditions is to pop some corn and watch The Nativity Story. Good movie! And then, because it's been specially requested, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Gotta love that one, too. 
That's about it for now. We are done with school until the new year. We will take some time to do some drawing. We didn't get to draw enough before the end of school. That does not hurt my feelings, let me tell you what. If I don't get back before Christmas, may yours be joyful. Merry Christmas, y'all!

Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


With all the brouhaha surrounding the holidays, alot of times we overlook the blessings and gifts that happen all around us. I am certainly no exception. I keep a piece of paper and a pen handy to jot down blog topics. I was looking it over and realized that I have been the recipient of some pretty special gifts. Ready? Here we go.

  • One of my dance friends sent me a message a few weeks ago. She had 5 boxes of curriculum. Did I want it? Um, heck yeah. You should have seen all the goodies. It is no secret that I'm a curriculum junkie. The best part? I am basically set for curriculum all the way through high school! I may need a couple of things here and there, but not much. The better than best part? I took the leftovers to the park for my park mamas. I had three very full, very heavy boxes. They were overstuffed, but I had limited room in the back of my minivan. When the feeding franzy was over, I had very little left over, and what I did was stuff I had been eyeing, but didn't want to be greedy or a glutton. Then she sent me another email. She had found one more box. Did I want it? Absolutely. And I love it when good books find great homes. There was much shuffling and sharing, borrowing and lending. What a gift! And it was enjoyed and appreciated by friends. Thank you so much, KK! My park mamas think you're awesome. And so do I. 
  • I have a deal with a friend. I pick up honey for her, she picks up quinoa for me. She has never liked honey, but they have cut all sugar from their diet and needed a sweetener. So I gave her a jar that I had to see if she could at least tolerate it and if her family would like it. They loved it. I was so happy. Last co-op she asked if I would pick her up some more honey. Yup. She had found a great deal on some quinoa and wanted to know if I wanted her to pick me up some. Yup. We communicate well, don't we? At the park, I delivered her quart size jar. And she gave me a bag of quinoa wrapped with a pretty bow. Love it! That bad boy got opened the next night and we had quinoa pilaf. She's picking me up two more bags next time she goes. Like having an alternative to rice. I like my white rice, don't get me wrong. I just picked up a bag yesterday. But we don't eat as much as we used to. Thank you, KS!
  • Mabel. Goodness we love Mabel. She's our piano and she's beautiful. My friend N saw her online and called me. I went and looked at her and fell in love. She was horribly out of tune and had sticky keys, but you could tell she was a beauty. We happen to go to church with a very nice man who is a retired piano tuner. He took very good care of her. She sounds so pretty when the girls play. The big girl almost had me in tears with "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel". But I'm a sucker for my kids and an even bigger sucker when they play. 
  • We have the gift of music in our home. The kids are able to take music lessons and we have some really great teachers. My friend N, as mentioned above, teaches the girls piano. So blessed to know her, but doubly blessed because she has a joy and passion for piano and shares that with my kids. Whoo hoo!! The boy's guitar teacher, Mr. R, comes recommended from friends. The boy is always happy on guitar day. Mr. R is so good with him. The boy is doing very well. You should see him with his gig bag. Oh my gosh! Mr. R loves playing music and wants as many people to learn to play as possible. We were gifted with music teachers that love what they do. You cannot ask for more than that.
So many gifts. And sometimes we don't take the time to appreciate the little things. Those little things can be larger than life if we let them.

Have a great day. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

An Open Letter to My Park Mamas

When we started homeschooling, I was as scared as I could be. How on Earth was I ever going to be able to teach my kids? How was I going to be able to give them everything they needed for their education? I barely got the baby potty trained and now I was responsible for filling my kids' heads with knowledge and information. There are professionals that do that!!

My friend MS said "Come to the park." Um, ok, how is that going to help me? I'm freaking out here!! With nothing better to do, I went. My life has never been the same.

Those women are a crazy, diverse group of incredible people that have all decided that their families are the most imortant thing in the world to them. It was like having the blinders taken off and seeing the big, wide world for the first time. The encouragement, the friendship, but, I think more like kinship, have become so valuable. I realized that they all started the same way. Even those that homeschooled from the beginning shared the same anxiety and apprehension that I did. But they also helped me realize that not only have I been teaching my kids since they were buns in the oven, I will continue to teach them by my actions, words and deeds, whether they are are homeschooled or not.  

I'm probably the loudest, but by no means the only one with an opinion. I am probably the most dramatic, but by no means am I the only one with drama. I have leaned more from these ladies in the last four years than I ever thought possible. I have learned that friends are family, just not family you were born to. I have learned what intelligence is, and it's not just how smart I am. I have learned what true beauty is, and not just what I see in the mirror.

I could not have a better group of friends. You lift me up, you council me, you are there whenever I need you, not just on park days. This journey called Homeschooling, and the bigger journey called Life, could not be accomplished without you. Your love and support and friendship have been an amazing addition to my family. I live for park day when I can be surrounded by your beauty, intelligence, love, and laughter. Is it park day yet?

Have a great day.