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


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.


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!