Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Checking In: Summer's Docking

The boat of summer is coming to dock.  We have a homeschool kick-off activity tomorrow with other area homeschoolers, a soft-set (set up supplies and look over schedule) Friday... and then the fun begins Monday as our regular school year kicks into full gear.

Summer has drifted by.  I can't say it was marked by anything absolutely extraordinary, rather, a bunch of ordinary things which simply drifted the time by.  Of course, if you live life as I do, seeing each simple task as an opportunity for a wonderful adventure... ordinary never really is just that.

It feels like so many yet so few summers ago since that picture above was taken.  Drifting on Middle Thompson Lake in beautiful northwest Montana.  Seeing those mountains and clear crisp waters still tug at my heart.  I don't think I will ever stop missing the place which marked almost 15 years of my adult life... 15 years of having and raising babies... 15 summers and falls and school years starting. 

Yet as I look at those 15 years, I am now able to look fondly on the new years and counting here in the hub of south-central Montana.  Peering at the foothills which roll South into Wyoming, the mountains which hedge us from the west and the cliffs to the north which still whisper of Native Americans roaming about centuries before Lewis and Clark made their infamous journey through this region.

I look around my new home and it feels like we have always been here, in this newish region steeped with history.  It is hard to believe we will be celebrating our 1 year anniversary as home-owners next Friday!  1 year but a life-time.  1 summer, so much change.

A month after Ashley's fun-packed graduation and company disbanded, God used a wonderful frustrating situation at work to open her eyes to the NOW of His call to experience college.  Thankfully, we had started the enrollment process last year when she was going to try dual enroll (but had to set aside with the move and work and finishing Senior year).  There is NO way she could have started this fall had Providence not taken place summer 2015! 

So, I have my second college student.  She will be living on campus part-time to save the short commute and wear-and-tear on our car.  It is a small Christian College where she will manage Core Requirements and possibly work on a Biblical Studies degree before transferring to University to complete a degree in English-Writing.  That is the long term plan but with her various challenges (ADHD, Temporal Seizures, Mild Panic) we are simply taking it one-semester-at-a-time.

As I help her plan, pre-pack, and prepare I also still watch Brenden leaving for work at 20+ hours a week.  Brooke gets lonely when he is gone (I think they were suppose to be twins but she took 2.5 extra years to get here!!!)  I've never seen two better best friends and have been trying to help fill that hole in Brooke's heart when her brother is gone.  It was really rough when he went to camp for an entire week at the beginning of August!!!  Her and I played Sorry with Lego Mini-figures so she could get her fix (she usually only plays Legos when Brenden is in on the fun!).  When he returned we played Go To the Head of the Class with said Legos!!

As a matter of fact, when we aren't taking fashion pictures of her (she is still planning a fashion blog for young girls) we have played ALOT of games this summer.  I think, next to going to the beach and lingering in a healthy garden; playing games is another favorite summer pass-time!

I did have a week of quiet when she had her turn at camp.  It is quite possible I will have nearly a month of NO kiddos in my house next summer as she entertains the idea of being a camp counselor next year.  Her and Brenden are also talking about doing Archery camp along with counseling and their own regular camps!!!  I have until spring before I need to think on that too much.  Who knows, maybe I will join them to minister to the youth via kitchen help!
She looks so spunky, you wouldn't know she was majorly car sick when we arrived after a 2 hour drive through the foothills!  This momma was super blessed when I picked her up: she won "honor camper" which is not a common thing for a first year camper.  Honor camper is awarded to the the camper who honored God with their attitude and behavior and encouraged other campers throughout the week.  Brenden's camp didn't have honor campers but they did have a 4 day trip down the Missouri River in canoes and he almost ended up washed down-river while trying to rescue straying canoes to shore!  I praised God when I heard that He took care of my dear boy.

We are still eating healthier and hubby has really shined in his efforts to stay on track.  I am amazed and wish I was doing half as good as he is!!

Honestly, though, the biggest investment of time this summer has been on lesson planning.  I have learned over the years how valuable a well planned curriculum can be.  I like to color outside the lines so, even the curriculum I have which comes with lesson plans, I tend to tweak them!  It was all fairly easy, though time consuming, until I got to American History which I had to coordinate between an 11th grader and an 8/9th grader. The more adept Charlotte Mason expert could probably maneuver those plans with ease.... but I am only a partial Charlotte Mason-er and I really really like serious plans once high school approaches.  This year we are using A-beka History for Brooke and Pace History for Brenden.  They will join on certain projects while still maintaining their individual studies.  Timing will be interesting. We would like to share movies and books on topics like the Revolution, Civil War, Slavery, Westward Expansion and so on.

The seriousness of my lesson plans was increased when Brooke announced at the end of last school year that she was interested in maybe graduating a year early and trying some high school curriculum as an 8th grader.  She will be taking High School Algebra, English Composition, Art Appreciation and French.  I am excited for her... yet part of me twinges at realizing how completely over elementary is and how completely on us my last High Schooler is.

All-in-all I have enjoyed this summer, even if most of the adventures didn't go much beyond our property line.  I have learned I still need better balance in my blogging and, realistically, I am not a pro.  Rather, I am a wife, mom, woman of God simply trying to manage each day as best I can... and, unfortunately, blogging doesn't always make it into the schedule... but people do.  The people around me as they grow and go... the new ones who drift in and the old ones who must drift out.  People are why we are here.  To shine the light and love of God to.... but people in this bloggy sphere are important too.  Shining the light and love of God from is important as well.

With that... thank you for visiting today and reading this long and dribbling synopsis of our scattered and hum-drum summer!  I will be back, I'm not leaving the bloggy sphere anytime soon!  I do hope to revive Menu Monday at some point.... OH, that was the other oddity this summer.  A computer and then a phone update put my electronics out of sinc and now I have the most difficult time getting pictures uploaded!!  It was actually what brought Menu Monday to a halt some weeks ago.  I think things are permanently broke which means I can't always get my pictures uploaded without hubbies help.  And let's be honest: blog articles are more interesting with snazzy photos!

So, until next time... and hopefully with a fresher batch of photos... I pray your summer drifts into dock on joyful memories and peaceful hopes for a crisp Autumn!



Monday, July 18, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of July18th

This past week was productively busy.  I am getting the Menu up a bit late on account of having trouble getting pictures uploaded... and then I took a 5 hour (round trip) drive today to deliver Brooke to Bible Camp for the week.  I'll share the pictures from our little trip next week when I get those uploaded... here are the other ones we managed to pull together last night:

It may not look like much but there use to be carpet on these floors! Our missionary guest ended up leaving early on Wednesday so when Thursday rolled around, I had extra time on my hands!  It was Brenden and Ashley's day off from work and I was just going to roll the carpet out (it stunk from previous owners... no idea why... and our un-trainable cat).  The padding was so old it crumbled in spots as I rolled it up.  I was going to just do it myself and leave the tack strip for later but the kids asked me to let them help and we made a day of it!

Towards the end of the day of prying up tack strip, sweeping, hand scrubbing, popping out padding staples, mopping, and cutting up and disposing of the carpet and padding... Brenden told me he was having a lot of fun!!  Ashley heartily agreed.  I felt completely blessed.

We also moved our rabbit outside; hutch to come since Ashley and Brooke want to begin breading Loppy Eared bunnies... we just need a chance to go purchase the hutch!  And our un-trainable cat made the transition outside as well.  Believe it or not, these two are 'friends'!  My work inside is much less since I don't need to daily wash things the cat has cut-loose on, our house smells better, but I am actually more beat because, with rain moving in and out of the area, I have to watch the weather and tarp his crate and the rabbit's cage every time storms are rolling in!  His kitty house is forthcoming... but probably not until fall.  I also need to keep an eye on the heat and be sure to ice their water when the mercury climbs.  I consider it my mini-farm!

Brooke has been wanting some hot curlers.  I scored a great set at a garage sale Friday.  After practicing Saturday she was ready to set and go for church on Sunday!  My sweet young lady!

Food to share from this past week:

I call this "Hamburger Salad".  I felt like I needed something lighter for dinner on a night when we had burgers so this was my solution without cooking a different meal!  Everyone else loaded up their buns while I dressed up my salad!

To send our Summer Missionary guest with some fun breakfast, I switched up Wednesday morning's breakfast to make cinnamon rolls.  I took detailed pictures of the process to share the recipe at a later date (unless someone wants it sooner!!)

Another breakfast meal pic... save your money from going to McDonald's, these sausage and egg biscuits are cheap, easy, healthier and delicious!  Another recipe soon to come.

This week

As previously mentioned, today I drove Brooke to Camp.  I am planning an easy dinner tonight since I still need to finish juggling a rental car back in place (our car wouldn't make the trip).  I plan to spend my week really digging into lesson planning.  I am just about done fielding the basics to be ready for the in-depth stage.  Dinner can be both a burden and a reprieve from this process... not to mention there will only be 4 of us eating this week... and not all at the same time (kids' work schedules).  I'm planning my 'eat hot and ready' meals for the nights Brenden has off and my 'easy to re-heat' meals for the days he works.

Also this week is Thursday's Bible study and HOT weather so I plan to serve fruit as a dessert, not to mention I had a doctor's appointment this past week and the doctor has challenged me to loose weight for the sake of health issues developing.  Sugary heavy desserts are out... unless I have guests to eat them for me!

Friday I go for the all-so-fun mammogram.  I have never had one and, at 42 and with a family history of breast cancer, I figure it is long overdue.  I'm a bit nervous... if you think of it, please pray for me.

Saturday we pick Brooke up from camp and stay for the awards ceremony so our return home will be a bit later in the day.  I'm planning a super quick and easy meal that night.

Menu for this week...

- cereal/oatmeal
- eggs
- fruit

hubby: Rice and Chicken or Rice and Summer Sausage
me and kids: leftovers, salads


Burger and Chips
I will probably have my cheese burger salad as a healthier alternative!


Chicken Stir-Fry

Pork Steak, Baked Potato, and Green Salad

Fish Patties, Steamed Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce, and Sauteed Green Beans

The green bean recipe was inspired by a side dish from a restaurant in our old stomping ground, Lakeside.  It uses fresh or frozen green beans, sliced garlic cloves and Italian dressing.  Put a few tablespoons of the dressing in a pan and heat on Medium High, lightly saute the garlic then add green beans, stirring often.  It is so packed full of flavor and compliments the fresh taste and snap of a good green bean well!

BBQ Chicken, Oven Roasted Potato Wedges, Salad Slaw
I will bake extra Potatoes on Wednesday and refrigerate.  This day I will take them out and slice into wedges.  Then I will mix some olive oil with a dash of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and mix the potato wedges in.  Then I will take the potatoes out of the oil mixture and place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 until lightly brown.  10-20 minutes.

Hot Dogs and Left-over White Chili
The last time I made White Chili I froze the extra.  I will lay it out Friday night or Saturday morning and reheat when I get home from retrieving Brooke.

What are you doing and cooking this week?


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Scheduling vs. Living in the Margins

She looked into my tired eyes, her own were weary and discouraged, "Is our entire summer vacation going to be like this?"  I was carrying bedtime essentials and exiting the customary goodnight hug we usually share... at 13, Brooke is the only one left to still hug and share evening farewells with me (the others apparently think they are too old!).  Her concern echoed my own and I knew the changed I had been sensing as needed, was now imperative.

I asked her what her idea of a good summer vacation day/week would look like.  I know I can get wrapped up in my own great ideas... but young people often carry their own.  Her concern was, after everyone did their normal morning routine and her siblings headed to work (noon/1pm) afternoons were becoming consumed with house or yard work.  Halfway through the scattered busy-ness of our days without the others, Ashley would come home for "lunch" and then we barely had an hour before my husband was pulling in... then the evening with all of it's verities.

We both felt like our summer was running us... and exhausting us as a result. 

She longed for balance, time to breathe, relax and have fun.  She acknowledged chores as a necessity, but we both didn't want to feel like we were always doing or cleaning... like there were no margins or time for anything except what had to be done.

When I made it to bed that night and prepared to pray with my husband, we discussed the concern.  I lamented how, at this rate, I would need a vacation from my summer vacation!  It seemed we were more busy in the summer than in the school year... and I really wanted to be good and ready for our school year, not run down and tired from the summer.  The concern made it's way to our prayers... as all concerns should!

Then, a few days later, hubby was encouraging me in a writing project.  I told him I didn't have time.  He seemed shocked I should be lacking time... summer vacation, stay-at-home wife.... "why... how could you not have time?" was his concerned question.  I reminded him of the schedule conflict I was working on figuring out, he offered to help, to go over it with me and help me find pockets.  I felt blessed for his care.  But I declined, planning to pray and pour over it on the weekend.

So where was all my time going????

What happened to summers of writing projects, reading good books, and soaking up some sun while having fun with my kids?

On Saturday I set to work.  I poured over my schedule and my bucket list of summer dreams written down in June with high hopes and great expectations.  I grabbed my art basket and fresh blank copies of daily schedules and summer bucket list sheets, pulled out colored pencils and markers and then began to piece the old ones apart in order to re-create the new.

The problem became clear.

Believe it or not, my depression sensitive times of year are NOT winter with it's shorter, cloud-filled days.... rather, ,my depressions sensitive times are the endless days of summer!!  Reason being: I am a task-oriented person who does not do well outside the rigid school-year schedule.  My solution this year?  Over-scheduling!  I had planned every minute of every day, afraid to leave blank spots on my schedule.  I even themed each day to an activity Brooke and I thought would be fun to do... 3 weeks later almost none have been done!

I also recognized the uphill challenge, for the first time, of having THREE family members working outside the home now, leaving just me and Brooke home all day... my needier child (she is a youngest after all).  I felt like, if I didn't keep both of us scheduled up, boredom would be overwhelming for her.

I started the refining process by combining my daily "themes" and summer bucket list.  I made this sheet using an awesome jar stamp I found on discount at Michaels back in May.  The title was drawn with felt pens.  I made multiple copies back when I drew it up in June and have touched each version up with colored pencils and markers.

As I reviewed my brain dumped on the bucket list I filled in a few weeks ago, I saw various categories standing out.  The final ones became more articulated and made it to my final copy pictured above:

Artsy - art and craft ideas I want to make time for or try new
Breathe - moments I don't want to miss in the midst of my summer break
Adventure - fun summer do-dads to try outside the home (I will be a home-body without the incentive!)
Working It - projects I want to start or simply get more work done on while I have the extra time
Hanging out - inside the house rainy-day or in-between times

As you can see in the picture, once my final draft was done, I hung it on the cork board over my desk.  With this in hand and the hope of more margins in my day to do stuff I dove into my schedule.

I started with the basics: waking up!  Seriously.  I am a firm believer that every strong marriage sees a wife spending time with her husband in the morning before he leaves for work.  Hubby arises at 5am to get coffee, news online, and do a Bible study.  We convene at 6:30 to have breakfast together.  I have found that being AWAKE and not just waking up is most helpful.  During the school year I would get up at 5 but have gotten out of the habit with summer.  I found my own Bible Study was suffering and, as I plan each week for the study I am teaching Thursday evenings, I don't feel like I have enough prep time OR private time with the Lord.  So back up I go at 5am.  I am looking forward to it.

Without boring you with the rest of the intimate details of my day, I can sum up by explaining that I noticed the NEEDS in each day and their respective times like lunch with hubby (he usually comes home) and clean up before the end of the work day as well as Bible Studies and other outside-the-house excursions.  I even noted on the schedule as far as dinner time and bed time. Once I was done scheduling the needs I saw all the empty squares/hours left.  Before, I had filled these with miscellaneous hopes of what we could busy ourselves doing in those times.  But this time, I resisted the temptation to schedule those as well and, since I couldn't stand the empty spots, I grabbed my yellow colored pencil and shaded them all in.

Stepping back I became excited.  Suddenly my summer didn't seem so over-run... I even had room for quality personal Bible study time AND time to work on the study I am teaching.  I determined the yellow places would all be decided on, on a weekly and daily basis, determined by weather and circumstances.  Yes, some of those yellow spaces, some weeks, will be yard work or extra chores as needed (we do still have chore time but it is better spaced each day), but most of them... are open.  A time to check on my "Preserve" list, or simply ask Brooke what she is in the mood for, and see what sort of summer adventures can be had!

On my weekly planner I'm calling it "yellow time" and as I add things to my weeklies, I am shading them with a yellow colored pencil and indicating if it is for a.m. or p.m. open slots.  I feel like it is a way to give myself permission to NOT do for doing sake, rather, to enjoy the time we have this summer before school starts again. 

I showed Brooke the finished product and she really liked it.  We both are excited for this new week and new schedule to start.

I pray this can help you as well... whether it is scheduling summer break time or regular day-to-day time... always leave margins for life to happen, always make time with God #1, and always give yourself permission to enjoy even the quiet times as they come.