Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bye for now.

This post is hard to write.  I've put it off for about a week, even though I knew I had to do it.  I've decided to quit blogging.  For how long?  I've no idea--maybe six months, maybe forever.

My life is full of really good things, and a friend brought it to my attention that I needed to cut some of the good things so that the others can be great.  (Thank you, Jim Collins.) Cutting things out is hard, but I had to admit that this little corner of the internet was less good than some other things I spend time on.  "Write blog post" was a common line on my to-do list that somehow never got crossed off.

I actually love to write, but I think I might find the return to pen and paper, and my eyes only, freeing.  And if I decide to come back, it will be because I have something definite to say, and because this is the best way to say it.

Thank you for reading, whether it was one post or many. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How to Have Dinner Time without Dinner TIME

The aftermath.
Last week was so busy!  School starting combined with late practices, school and church meetings, and other sports combined to leave us with NOT ONE night to eat together as a family.  This is a problem!

It's not the first time we've had this problem, and it definitely won't be the last.  I'm not willing to abandon mealtime to our crazy schedules.  What to do?  Well, we are all at home at 6:30 in the morning.  So our family breakfast was born.

Everyone gets up about 15 minutes early so they can be dressed for breakfast.  The first time I did this, we really did end up with only fifteen minutes to eat.  But now the kids look forward to it and seem to get ready extra-fast on family breakfast mornings.  I cook a real meal, usually pancakes, sausage or bacon, and eggs, along with fruit.  (Pancakes just because almost everyone loves them.) We set the table and treat it just like dinner, with serving dishes, decent plates--no paper!--and good manners.

On weeks like we are having these days, I can feel how the kids miss each other, and the tension builds a little bit. Landing on a Thursday or a Friday, taking just a few minutes to check in with each other, I can just feel everyone relax.  That sounds really weird when you are talking about a normally busy time of day, but it just works.

Last Friday we got to sit around the table and talk and laugh for twenty minutes or so.  It may have been the most important time I spent all day.

It was incredibly liberating to discover we didn't have to abandon mealtime just because our evenings are crazy some weeks.  It just took some flexibility as we changed to "meal" from "dinner."

This week is looking just as bad, with Matthew leaving for Savannah and a football game on THURSDAY.  (I know--who does that?!) So I'm already planning a yummy Thursday morning breakfast and a good send-off for my oldest.

While my family really loves pancakes at breakfast, here are some other ideas.  I like make-ahead casseroles.  One person has to roll out of bed a little early to get it into the oven, but I find that to be a great quiet time in the morning.  Muffins, fruit and yogurt are always good, too.  And, yes, I'm committing a major blog sin with no photo of any of these.  Enjoy anyway!

Not-just-for-Christmas Casserole
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Apple Pie!!  One of Jack's favorites for breakfast (and mine!)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Week in Review, 8/17/13 Edition

I start this post with a picture to remind myself that it was just a week ago--can it only be a week?!--that we were able to use the pool.  This week has been dreary, and I'm sitting here now in my Uggs because it is 63 degrees and raining!  In AUGUST!! 

But here is a look back at our week, the first full week of school.  It was a week of building routines and setting priorities.  Here's a good example:

Someday this will be a blackboard.  (sigh) This is our week, with our Cozi calendar at the bottom along with the school lunch menu.  Cozi needs to be a separate post--it is invaluable for managing our crazy schedules!  Anyway, at dinner on Sunday night we all set one or two goals for the week and wrote them down on post-its.  This weekend we'll go over it and see how everyone did.  This week we set the bar low--Paige's goal was "survive middle school" so we aren't trying to change the world here.  But I read the book Personal Kanban this summer and think it is worth incorporating some of it into our family life.  Start small, aim low, that's us.

We had Parents' Night on Monday at the elementary school, which was only eventful in that it stormed so hard the thunder shook the blackboards!  With only one in elementary school now, this was a pretty easy night.

We did manage to fit in the usual riding lesson on Tuesday.  This was miraculous in that we had decent weather--at least half of the summer the arenas have been too wet to use. 

Darcy started violin lessons!  She has been begging for a violin for at least a year, but I waited just to see if it was a passing fancy.  It may still pass, but for now she has one lesson under her belt and loves it.  We shall see.

I feel like I don't mention Jack or Matthew, but it's just because they are so consistent.  Jack is happily back to band at school and playing three instruments.  Matthew has football practice every blessed day until at least 6:15.  I feel like I never see him!  But high school seems to be off to a good start.  He likes his teachers a lot and seems to be balancing everything so far.

Friday was the Matthew's first chance to play "under the lights" at school, in an inter-school scrimmage.  He got decent playing time considering he is a freshman on the varsity team and is at a new position (inside linebacker).  I wish I'd gotten more pictures but this one from the run-through will have to suffice.  Bill and I worked in the concession stand for most of the game so we could get rid of that obligation early!

And that brings us to today, a perfectly dreary day, custom-made for snuggling in and watching YouTube*.  Bill said earlier that it feels like October, but at least October has football to make up for it!  I agree.  We've been really lazy, just making a little jaunt to the Farmers' Market to get out of the house for a bit.  We had planned a trip to the lake for some wakeboarding, but alas! it was not to be.

Looking ahead to next week:

More dreariness.  With rain.  Would whoever is doing the rain dance please stop?

*Just to make you smile, here is what they were watching.  Soooooo cute:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Week in Review, August 10!

The start of school is a great time to start these posts again, I think!  Yes, my children started school last week, and preparations dominated the last ten days or so before the big day.  But I'll just take it one week at a time.

Between the trips to Old Navy and Staples, my kids managed to squeeze in some last good downtime.  Here's one of my favorites, the girls just hanging out after lunch with a good book and some ice cream.  I think they were there for about an hour on Tuesday.  Bliss.

Tuesday evening was our meet-the-teacher time for all four.  Matthew started high school this year, Jack is 8th, Paige started middle school as a 6th grader, and Darcy is in 4th.  Our school has two campuses for elementary school, and she has now switched to the main campus, so three of the four kids have big changes this year.  Two days in and it's good.

Here they are in their spit-shined obligatory first day picture:

When did they get so big?  And can I just freeze them just like this?  They have no idea how fun they are.

Jack wasn't in uniform because the 8th graders showed up at school with overnight bags packed and headed out on a team-building retreat for two days.  He says it was fun.  Paige and all the other middle schoolers joined the 8th graders for the second day of the retreat.  They thought it was a fun way to start the year.

Because of the retreat, Paige couldn't go to a horse show this weekend about an hour and a half away, but Darcy and I packed her trusty Sydney up and headed to Poplar Place Farm for a schooling show.  Our farm took six horses, so I got to pull my trailer again.  Thankfully my horse-hauling has been an uneventful activity so far!  We spent the night in Columbus on Friday with some other riders from our farm--so much fun.  I love just hanging out in the barn and at shows with the other riders and their families.  We work hard to have an encouraging atmosphere and it really pays off at show-time.

It did rain Friday night...here are Darcy and a couple of friends while we waited to school the cross-country course.  WET!  Par for the course this summer.

Just one shot from the show--Darcy had a fun time, a clean show-jumping round and (for the first time) no time faults on her cross-country run.  She came in third, and was pleased with the effort.  That's what counts!

We high-tailed it back home to go to Matthew's football scrimmage.  Here's my #60 at linebacker, a new position for him.  Lots of learning this year as he plays with the big boys on varsity. 

One little home decorating note:  if you haven't been to Scott's Antique Market and you live anywhere within driving distance of Atlanta, you need to go!  Here is a cool chair I picked up this weekend:

Looking ahead, this week is full of more meetings, get-the-year-started types of things.  Darcy has her first violin lesson (crazy!) and Matthew has a football game on Friday.  My world for the next few months, I suppose.

Have a great week!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Vacationing in a Mission Field

The Hopkins, Belize, school.  The yellow building on the right is the town library.
About half the time when I tell someone about vacationing in Belize, they tell me that they went or know someone who went to Belize on a mission trip.  So, would our dollars have been better spent doing charity work?  It is something to think about.

The very first thing we saw in Belize City airport was masses of Americans dressed in identical t-shirts with Bible verses on the back.  Lots of teenagers, more adults.  I get it--identical neon t-shirts are a great way to keep your group together.  And it wasn't as if my family of six exactly blended with the locals.  But it was just...so...in your face.  "We're American, we're Christian, and we're here to help YOU because you can't help yourself."

Now, I am sure that many of these people had the very best intentions.  I have sent both my boys on a mission trip this summer, and actively supported a group from my church going to Honduras to work at a hospital.   Jesus most certainly tells us to go into the world, making disciples.  But there were a LOT of mission workers, sorted into their neon groups like so many exotic birds.  (I don't know what each of these groups were doing, even though I certainly realize that you have to feed a hungry person before you can teach him to feed himself.) I was quite concerned, sitting in the airport, that we had made a huge mistake in coming to a country that was so poor that it required this many mission workers.

We were surprised, then, when we met locals.  There were an incredibly varied group ethnically (Belize is home to at least TWELVE native languages in a country of 300,000).  And they certainly weren't well-off by American standards.  But every single person we talked to was friendly, not demanding, not expecting anything from us but a fair price for the goods or services they were offering to us.  We never, ever saw a hand out for anything not worked for.

So of course I couldn't help but wonder about the mission group efforts, and if there wasn't another way to help, one that was more of a boost up than a hand-out.  Imagine how surprised I was to learn about Hope International just this week! (I arrived at the interview via Instapundit, my first stop every morning to catch up on all things interesting.)

Hope International is all about supporting small-scale entrepreneurship in developing countries.  (Sadly, not Belize...yet.) Training is based on Biblical concepts of responsible business management and work, and on respecting every person's God-given creativity and resourcefulness in providing for their own family and community. 

Peter Greer, the founder, also writes a terrific blog.  On top of that, we've found out he's coming to Atlanta to speak next month.  Bill and I are thrilled to be going.  This may be just the kind of organization that we want to work with.

Here's one of several videos with Peter Greer.  I hope you'll watch--it's well worth your time!


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Belize!

We had an amazing nine days in southern Belize last month.  Yes, during hurricane season.  Our joke was that we had to leave Georgia and go to the tropics during the rainy season to see the sun.  It worked--we had fabulous weather all but one day.

I've dragged by feet posting about our vacation because I wanted to edit some pictures.  But of course my Lightroom skills are still super-slow, so most of these are straight out of the camera.  Here are a few highlights:

We visited the ruins of the Mayan cities Xunantunich and Cahal Pech.  That was our rainy day, as you can see.

We had an incredible hike up about 2 hours in the rainforest mountains, to a beautiful waterfall and pool where we went swimming.  Gorgeous.



Zipline!


Not to mention scuba diving for the guys and snorkeling for the girls.  Those pictures are still trapped on the disposable, waterproof Kodak we bought at the resort.

We had lots of family time.



The one thing I didn't get a picture of was our nightly card game.  The beautiful resort where we stayed had zero night life!  I think the reason is that everyone played really hard during the day, so we were worn out by dinner every day.  We retreated to our treehouse every night to play a few hands of cards with the kids, and then we turned in.  Early.  Around 9 or 9:30 every single night.

More to come:  this was our kids' first time in a developing nation, and we saw a lot.  And Belize surprised us almost every day, in wonderful ways.  We fell in love with the entire country, if that's possible.  Can't wait to share more!

Monday, July 29, 2013

To Write, To Live

A few days ago a blogger whom I read faithfully recalled the reason she blogs:  "To live freely in writing." I've been turning that phrase over in my mind ever since.

My blogging has ebbed and flowed, and it's definitely ebbing right now.  I know that I don't feel particularly free here to say every single thing I think.  Sometimes my ideas aren't fully thought out, and other times they need to stay private for any of a variety of reasons.  So blogging for me isn't really a place to live freely.

But I used to keep a journal, a habit I developed in earnest after while reading The Artist's Way several years ago.  (This is one of the most important books I've ever read, by the way.)  And the whole point there is to live freely, radically so, in your writing.  By loosening up on the page, you can allow yourself to loosen up in other areas of your creative life as well.  It can be life-changing.

"To live freely in writing."  What better place to start than in my spiral notebooks?  I know from experience that my mulling, praying, and working through three pages every morning leads to a more productive day, and a more creative day. 

And that will lead to more ideas that are fully thought out, and more connections in my life that I see, and more prayers prayed and answered. 

As I get my children ready to go back to school I think I see the way through this sad season* for me.  I intend to live freely in writing, on the written page, in longhand, and then bring that to the other areas of my life that have been neglected lately.  A welcome change, I think.

*School starting has been the hardest time of year for me ever since I've had kids in school!  I love the freedom of summer, and I treasure having all of my kids running in and out of the house.  I dread the day.  Committing these feelings to paper is one of the best ways for me to deal with it, and I am glad that Ann Althouse reminded me.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Week in Review, 6/22/2013 Edition

I'll start here, my favorite part of my blog when I look back at posts.  Here's what we did this week:

The boys left on Sunday for a mission trip in Chattanooga.  Here's the group:

They spent a week working with inner-city children, at a food bank, and with an elder care home, while also studying what God's Word has to say about their lives.  So it was just the girls and dad for the rest of the week!

Bill spent his Father's Day doing just what he wanted: smoking ribs and swimming with the girls. Then we hosted dinner on Father's Day evening for my mom and dad, Bill's mom and dad, and some friends.  We had TEN around my kitchen table, so much fun.  One of my goals for the kitchen reno has been to make a bigger eat-in area right in the kitchen, so that friends and family who join us feel like they are expected and welcomed.  That was a rousing success. A good day.

Earlier this summer I hired a driver to help me manage the boys' sports practices and the girls' riding every day, since I can't be in two places at once.  This week, though, there was less driving, so Chelsea and I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned.  I am loathe to admit how awful the storage area in our basement was--a consequence of construction in the basement, then my bedroom and bathroom, and now the kitchen area, and also of my laziness in tackling the mess.  But since my kitchen is nearing completion I am determined to not live with these piles of stuff. 

If you need to declutter, let me give you a piece of advice:  hire someone to help you.  Don't use a friend or relative.  Hire someone who thinks all your junk is just that.  Chelsea forced me to focus on plowing through the piles of old school papers, outgrown clothes, and other detritus that got left in there.  Detritus, in this case, included my wedding album under a huge stack of other papers, a cradle that Bill's grandfather had bought back in the 40s, and a ton of random Christmas ornaments.  In the space of two mornings we got through all of it, collected TWELVE bags of clothes to donate, and I had a huge start on getting my house back in order.

Speaking of which, still not done.  That's all I have the heart to say right now.

The girls had a quiet, fun week.  They did a great job helping Chelsea and me, and a couple of mornings they had Chelsea's undivided attention.  For my girls, uninterrupted attention from a college girl is really special!

On Friday my mother-in-law was getting ready for a garage sale, so the girls went over to help her get ready.  They are both little entrepreneurs, working every angle for a little extra cash.  Paige spent a lot of time setting up the sale, setting prices and making sure that Grandma had "departments" set up in the garage.  Darcy set up a cookie stand and Paige had her lemonade stand going for the garage sale on Saturday.  By noon on Saturday they had covered their overhead and made a few bucks, so they were feeling good.

Coming up this week we have to leave home for a little bit while the floor has the last coat put on it.  We will head to the lake for a little mid-week wake boarding.  Matthew and Jack are also back to normal summer sports practice.  The girls and I are showing this weekend (yikes), so we have a TON to do to get ready for it.  I am riding two very different dressage tests and don't have either one memorized.  I need to get busy.

Tragically few pictures this week.  I have been taking a little break.  More to come.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What "Near the End" feels like

We are so close.  Sooooooo close. 

Then they came to put the pulls on the cabinets.

Most of them are crooked.  I am not kidding.  I brought this to my contractor's attention.  Now some of my drawers look like this:

Can't even get this picture to show up properly.  Please tilt your head to the right.
The fronts had to be removed and remade because the holes were so far off the mark.

I think some day I will not have strange men in my laundry room and kitchen, but that day isn't today.  Or next week.

Tomorrow the stone mason comes to put in the fireplace.  He was supposed to come today, but...you know.  He got, well, held up.  So we had another delay.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the dreams I've been having lately.  A couple of nights ago, I dreamed I was driving my truck on Georgia Tech's campus and had to find a parking space.  My truck is an F350 duallie.  I never did park.

Last night I had such a vivid dream of terrible news about a friend that I checked Facebook as soon as I woke up, just to be sure it wasn't true.  (It wasn't.)

This is why people don't do this very often.  Or at least why I won't do it again any time soon.

Serenity now!

Monday, June 17, 2013

It's always hardest to start again.  It would be easier never to stop.

The first post after a time away is terrifying.  I have nothing and so much to say.  There has been everything going on, and yet nothing at all. 

I didn't have my computer for a while, not the computer with an actual keyboard.  I still don't have a family room.  I have a kitchen, but on any given day there may or may not be random men working in it.  I usually have access to the laundry now.

The best I can do is start where I am.  I would like to share my renovation.  I have learned a ton.  If you or someone you love is getting ready to start on a major home renovation project, stop them now.  Only kidding.  But I will have plenty to share in the next few weeks.

I have a swanky new appliance and I have permission from one of their chefs to share some recipes.

Even though I haven't had much of a kitchen, I am very proud to say we have hosted several gatherings.  Hosting is one of my absolute favorite things to do.  We didn't let the lack of countertops get in our way.

I did finish my photography class.  It was awesome.  I think I may take it again, just because I know how little I know now.


While this little blog isn't really a confessional, I will have to share how utterly off the wagon I've fallen with my personal quiet time and Bible study.  At least I've hinted to it now. 

The end may be in sight with my huge project.  I hope this can count as a new start for the blog.

And, by the way, the pictures are just random little snips of parts of our spring.  I am noticing that there is blessed little drywall dust in them!