Saturday, March 14, 2015

10 Years of Blogging

Ten years ago today, I typed my first little post in this space, titled "Something new."  Boy, how long ago that seems!  At the time, we had only one child...hence the "samsmommy" blog address.  Sam had just turned one, and we lived in a tiny little trailer while we were building our house. It's funny to think how much has changed in that time...we've added more kids, accumulated a lot more stuff, finally switched to high speed internet (which should make blogging a whole lot easier, but somehow I post even less than ever before).  We've changed in some ways, stayed the same in others.  We've been part of a really big church and now part of a small church.  We've built new friendships and said goodbye to other friends who moved away.  We've gone from the baby and toddler years into the school years, and now back to the baby years again!  I've tried to chronicle the bits and pieces of our life, and though I've missed some things along the way, I feel like we have a pretty good family journal of the past ten years.  I've written here at least once every month except for last November, the month Ari was born.  Not sure how I missed that one, but it was probably because I posted about everything on my pregnancy blog.

I had no idea back then that I was writing on "Pi Day" (3.14).  Today all my math nerd friends have been posting about it on Facebook (apparently today is the ultimate Pi Day that only happens once a lifetime . . . 3.14.15.  Not being a very Mathy person myself , I really do not "get" this, but it's still cool that it happens to fall on my blogaversary!

It's fun to think back on the different looks my blog has had over the years.  I started with a Blogger lighthouse template and have switched things up quite a few times, trying to make it more personal as I've learned a little bit about editing, making headers and buttons, etc.  I still have a lot to learn, but not as much time to play around with things as I would like!

I had really hoped to do some kind of a giveaway to celebrate this fun milestone . . . but of course I didn't plan ahead enough, so I'm not doing one right now.  I'd still like to do one this summer sometime and count it for the 10 year celebration anyway. :)

I'm really thankful I discovered blogging all those years ago.  It was the "new" thing then, and there weren't too many that I followed.  Now it's a well-established part of the internet, and there are way too many good ones to choose from!  Writing here has been a good outlet for me, it's helped me journal and preserve some memories, and while I may not have become a better writer, at least I know I've continued writing (something I love) almost every month.  I may not have achieved my dream of writing a book or doing anything "big," but I get to share things with others and have even met some new friends this way!  And reconnected with some old friends too, which is just so cool. :)

So anyway, I just didn't want to let this day slip by unnoticed, and I wanted to say thanks to all of you who read here!  Even if nobody read my thoughts, I would want to record some memories for our family . . . but knowing people read my ramblings makes blogging even more fun. :)  And if you're reading this and have a minute to comment--even if you're a lurker who's never commented before--I would love to hear from you, just a quick note to let me know who you are and how you found my blog, or anything else you'd like to say!  Thanks to all who have joined me here over the past ten years, and I'm looking forward to continuing the journey for the next ten and beyond!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A couple of fun freebie deals!

Okay, so probably most of you are readers of Money Saving Mom, and may have already heard about this deal, but I'm going to share it anyway, just in case.  Through her site, I heard about Schoola, a children's used clothing site.

Right now they are offering a $15 credit when you sign up, plus they are (for a very limited time) offering free shipping, and you get a 25% off coupon via email when you sign up.  So, I was able to order 5 items of children's clothing for FREE earlier today.  (I mostly searched for items under $3 or $5.) After ordering, I received a referral link to share with others . . . so if you order through my link, you get the $15 credit and I get another $15 credit too!  I shared this on FB earlier and had one friend place an order through my link, so woohoo!  More free clothing for me! :)  I know many of you love a bargain just like I do, so I wanted to share this with you.  I found the Schoola site very easy to navigate and the item descriptions seemed to be fairly detailed (as far as telling the condition, if the things were worn or had spots, etc.).  They even have some women's clothes if you look under the high school section.   Obviously you can't tell how things will fit with buying them online, but with kids' clothes it's pretty safe, and I figure I will even order a few things for me, since if I don't spend any money on them, it's no big deal to donate them to a thrift store or pass on to another friend if they don't end up fitting.  Anyway, if you're interested you might want to jump on this deal since the free shipping probably won't last long. :) Note: I saw in the comments on Money Saving Mom that some are having issues getting the credit.  I had no problems at all and my order went through just fine, but I just wanted to add that in case anyone might have issues.  I will update this post if I end up having my order cancelled or anything weird like that!

And the second freebie is this ebook that's free for Kindle just through the end of today:

I really enjoy Jamerrill's site, Free Homeschool Deals, and love reading her articles about her family, as well as watching her Youtube videos.  I haven't yet read her book, but I downloaded it yesterday and I'm sure it will be great!

Hope someone will find these freebies useful!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A photo shoot with Ari

On Saturday, I decided to try to get some frame-worthy photos of our girlie.  The big kids helped by standing behind me and talking to her and generally being silly, so she would smile. It worked well. :)  I took over 100 pictures, just snapping away in the hopes that I would get some good ones . . . I'll spare your eyeballs and only show you 10 of my favorites!

Now, how in the world will I choose which one to frame?  She is too stinkin' cute.  Love this smiley-pie so much!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A winter Saturday daybook

Way past time for another update!!  I decided I'd like to try posting a daybook every now and then (I'd love to do it weekly, but no promises!  Maybe monthly?), after being inspired by Sarah's recent post at Amongst Lovely Things.  I used to do these via email with a dear friend a few years back, but got away from the habit.  But they're a fun way to post snippets of real life in a random-style update, so let's give it a try!

Outside my window: Snow.  And more snow.  (But it's not actually snowing at the far, anyway.  We're supposed to get some today and tonight, but it hasn't started yet.)  We are not buried in the white stuff like the folks in Massachusetts and southern/seacoast NH, but we do have plenty!  It's also been VERY cold.  This is the longest spell of consistently cold weather than I can remember in quite a few years.  I actually don't mind the winter weather that much . . . but give me another month, and I'll definitely be feeling some spring fever! :)

Around the house: I took some time off school this week to do a bit of cleaning up.  I didn't get near as far as I'd planned, but at least we made a start.  There were some problem areas that were driving me crazy, and I got the worst of the mess tackled.  Hoping to hit some bathrooms today!  At least my kitchen and entry areas are more under control now, the living room doesn't look bad (although still dusty), and our bedroom has been vacuumed and straightened.  We did the kids' rooms a few weeks back, and they're still looking fairly good at the moment.

In our homeschool: As mentioned, we took time off from school this week.  We skipped most of the kids' workbooks, but we caught up on our read-alouds, which felt really good!  We also received our first Magic School Bus science kit this week, so we did a few of the experiments in that.

 The kids seemed to really enjoy it!  (We subscribed to a year's worth of kits from an Educents sale.)  We also ordered two new Life of Fred math books from Educents (another sale!) and those came this week as well.  We started reading "Cats" yesterday . . . the kids were cracking up.  Fred is ALWAYS a hit around here!!

I am reading:  Lots of things.  But too many blog posts and articles, and not enough real books!  When I stopped to think about it, though, I realized I'm reading more books than I thought.  I just have a lot going at one time.  We have ongoing school read-alouds; we just finished Toliver's Secret, which we all loved!  I'm also reading On the Banks of Plum Creek to the kids.  They love it and always beg for just ONE more chapter!  For personal reading, I'm loving the Hearthland serial novel by Chautona Havig on my Kindle, and am a few chapters into The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle (also on Kindle).  Hilarious!  In "real" books (vs. Kindle books), I'm slowly reading through Beyond All Dreams, my current review novel by Elizabeth Camden, and Caught Up in a Story, by Sarah Clarkson.  Yep, lots of books going at once, and it's nice to see that I'm actually reading a lot more than I realized!

Thankful for:  My hardworking husband.  He is working super long hours right now (58 last week, close to the same this week) and it is hard on him (and all of us) in some ways, but we know it is for a season, and we are thankful for a steady paycheck at this time of year!!  I'm thankful too for friends who take time to encourage me and pray for me.  Godly friends are a wonderful gift!

In the kitchen:  Still trying to work on eating "Trim Healthy Mama" style . . . making little steps of progress, but not completely sticking to it yet.  Trying to get more organized with menu planning again, and realizing the need to use my crockpot more!  Also thinking about doing a big freezer cooking day at some point, so evening meals will be easier.  Lately we haven't been eating till 6:30 or 7 pm, mostly due to my lack of having a good plan.

I am loving:  The "big kid stage" of my older kids.  There are parts of it that aren't so lovable of course, but overall they are such good helpers (yesterday they carried in ALL the groceries and helped me put away everything without being asked), and play really well together.  They can all dress and feed themselves, do their chores, help out with Ari . . . they are such a blessing.  There is still training to do, attitudes to deal with every day, problems that need to be sorted out now and then, but the good parts outweigh the harder times!

I am thinking about:  Changes I need and want to make in our homeschool.  I recently read Teaching from Rest, by Sarah Mackenzie, and it really gave me a lot to think about.  In fact, it was the breath of fresh air I needed right at the moment, and a wake-up call that I've been stressed out way too much about "getting all the things done" and doing too much "pushing through" instead of focusing on a love of learning.  It would take way too long to condense my thoughts on this (and I'm still sorting them out), so maybe I will do a separate post on that sometime.  Suffice it to say that this little ebook was really good, and I highly recommend it!

I am buying: LOTS of groceries these days.  Apparently kids eat more and more, the bigger they grow. Who knew?! ;)  Thankful for frequent sales on chicken breast!  Also, I just ordered this lovely scarf yesterday--thinking ahead to summer.  I love a good deal, and this is currently just $5.95 (with free shipping) from Cents of Style (using the coupon code SPRING).  I was going to get another print as well (coral chevron), but it was sold out by the time I got around to ordering.  Maybe I'll get one next time the sale comes around.

Some of my favorite things: Baby smiles.  Spontaneous lunch dates with my kiddos.  Movie dates with my man.  Watching The Great British Bake Off (baking competition) free on PBS and/or Youtube.  Warm fires on cold days.  Sleep.  Baby snuggles.  Reading out loud to the kids.  Visits with friends.

Good links around the web:  
  • This post from Money Saving Mom.  Love her reminder to take time for ourselves as moms!
  • This recipe for peanut butter chocolate chip mug cakes (THM friendly!) from All Day I Dream About Food.  I've made this multiple times and it is super yummy!
  • This new Lent study at She Reads Truth.  While I don't actually observe Lent (I've always thought of it as a Catholic thing), I love the focus of this study--Returning, Repenting, Remembering--with the theme of "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross" (which also happens to be one of my favorite hymns).  I'm trying to follow along with the daily Bible study and it's been a blessing so far!
And I think that's a long enough daybook for this time! Hope you've enjoyed this random peek into our lives! 

Monday, February 02, 2015

The "New" New Year . . . February Goals

{Icy snow hanging off our roof}

Here we are at the start of another month, already.  **deep breath**  I've missed setting goals here, and I decided it's time to get back to that!  It remains to be seen how well I will actually do at accomplishing those goals, but I need to try. :)  I was listening to a podcast recently where they mentioned the term "the 'new' new year" in regards to fitness.  The "first" new year is January 1st, when everyone is gung-ho to jump into a new fitness plan, sign up for a gym membership, start a diet, etc.  The "new" new year is later on, when most of the people have already fizzled out on their resolutions and there are just a few left who are ready to keep giving it their best.  Well, I decided to make February the "new" new year for myself. :)  I didn't set any goals in January, other than some fitness goals as part of an accountability group I was doing.  I did okay, though not perfect, at reaching those goals (the biggest one being to walk 20 miles on my treadmill).  Now it's a new month, another fresh start, and not just for fitness but for goals in general.  So here are my goals for February:

  • Be more consistent with my daily quiet time
  • Keep up with using The Confident Mom planner 
  • Blog 2-3 times a week
  • Post 3 book reviews on the blog
  • Read/finish 2-3 books
  • Sew a jumper for Julia
  • Complete weeks 18-21 of school
  • Read/finish 3 books
  • Clean/declutter office
  • Begin decluttering master bedroom
  • Follow fitness challenge/accountability group with friends on Facebook
And here are my specific fitness goals for the above challenge (which is actually running for about 8 weeks, so these will run over into March):

  • Go through the 30 Day Shred
  • Walk 15 miles on the treadmill
  • Follow Trim Healthy Mama eating plan (by the way, if you've ever considered getting this book, it is currently under $30 on Amazon...a good deal since it retails at $35!)
  • Drink 3 qts. of water per day
  • Take vitamins daily
  • Only weigh in at beginning and end of challenge, but take measurements weekly
After I had already decided on the title of this post, I was browsing through my blog reader and discovered Joy's post titled "February is the New January."  I guess I'm not the only one thinking along these lines! :)  

We stayed up late-ish last night to watch the Superbowl online, even though we are far from being devoted fans and pretty much the only thing I understand about football is that the teams are each trying to get the ball into their endzone.  (To me it basically looks like a bunch of big guys trying to kill each other.)  It was a fun game to watch, though, especially since it ended happily for the Patriots. :)  
{Jim, Ari and I watching the Superbowl--Ari wasn't too impressed ;) }

Today we're back to a regular work week for Jim, and another school week for the rest of us.  After this week we will officially have 18 weeks under our belts, although we're a little bit ahead in a few subjects.  Today I was running behind (I overslept after being up too late last night) so we got off to a late start with everything.  We ended up only doing a few school subjects, so I could take more time to plan for the rest of our week, and make copies that we needed for the next month.  Besides, it's snowing and has been all day, which means most of the local schools are getting a snow day anyway . . . so I kicked my big kids out the door to play.  And I am enjoying the peace and quiet while Ari naps. :)  But now, I'd better get this posted while I have the chance!  Then on to tackle some housework and laundry.  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Random ramblings :)

I'm still trying to figure out how to make blogging work in a busy season of life.  I realized recently that I had so much more time for this when my kids were little and all took naps!  Even when I started school, up till the point we added Josiah to school, I seemed to have more time to post stuff.  Or maybe I just organized my time better!  Anyway, Saturdays are a good time to post, and I'm hoping I can work in some short posts on other days.  I think maybe I need to not strive for long, chatty posts as much as short little snippets from our days--maybe a picture or two with a few words.  Maybe I'll give that a whirl in February.  Anyway, here is some chatter interspersed with some pictures. :)

These are from a few weeks ago--early January, I think.  Ari has started "communicating" a lot more, and it's so much fun to talk to her and have her "talk" back. :)  She's also quite the photogenic subject, so we take a lot of pictures!!

Can you ever have too many pictures of a sleeping baby?  Probably . . . but I still take a lot of them. :)  I thought this one was cute, with her arm curled up like that.
 I am really enjoying having kids that are old enough to hold her, watch her for me, and love on her . She doesn't lack for attention! Josiah is the most eager to hold her of all of them.  Unfortunately sometimes he's a little too invasive of her personal space, and she seems to cry more for him than the others!  But I feel like they will probably have a special bond when she gets older.  He totally adores her and calls her "Ari-girl." :)  
 Another sleeping baby pic :)  My mom made this blanket for her and I LOVE it!
 I sometimes still get comments on how "tiny" she is, but as you can tell from these more recent pics, she is chubbing up nicely.  We weighed her recently and she's around 11 lbs.  Her next dr. checkup is in mid-Feb, so we will find out an "official" weight then.  Two Sundays ago we were all dressed and ready for church, and I wanted to snap a few pictures with the girls.  Then the weather got bad (freezing rain) and church ended up being cancelled, but we took a few pics anyway.  Unfortunately Ari wasn't in the happiest mood, so this next picture is the best one we got of her!
 Our attempt at a picture . . . with a very unhappy little camper!  
 So then Julia and I decided to make silly/grumpy faces to go with Ari's. ;)
 But sometimes, she looks like this: 
 We bought her a Ty plush doggie with some of her Christmas money.  Each of the other kids has a dog of this size and we thought it would be fun for her to have one, too.  I didn't really think she'd be ready to actually play with it for a while.  But, we gave it to her one day while she was in the bouncy seat, and this is what she did: 
 Now we usually give it to her every time she's in the seat, and she usually gives a big smile as soon as she gets hold of it!  She likes to suck on its nose and ears. :)  The bouncy seat is her new favorite place, too.  She stays happy in there for quite a while, and we rarely use the swing anymore.  Which is a little sad . . . how did that happen so fast?!  Still, it's really nice that she's able to be more easily entertained now, even though she doesn't sleep quite as much!
 She was enjoying her bath so much one day, I had to get a few pics. :)  This was after she was done giving me the biggest smiles, but she still looks pleasant.
 We take so many baby pictures that sometimes I forget to take some of the older kids.  Oops!  We had snow earlier this week . . . not the "blizzard" that was predicted--we only got about 4 inches.  Still, the kids were happy and had fun playing outside.  We got a few more inches yesterday, and may get more early next week too.  Anyway, they like to have hot chocolate after playing outside, so we took a few pics of that.  Hot chocolate and cookies . . . what could be better? :)  (Please excuse the messy table--just keepin' it real, because it looks like this more often than not!)

 Had to include this funny one of Julia. :)
 Most of the time, Ari likes to kick and play in the bouncy seat.  But sometimes (twice, I think), she actually falls asleep in it.  Which means I have to take more sleeping baby pics. :)
 One more--couldn't resist, because this little monkey bum is so cute! :)
Okay, I ended up putting way more pictures on this post than I had planned.  And my chatter ended up being mostly about Miss Ari!  So let's fill you in on the rest of us a little bit.

Jim didn't have much work for a couple months after Ari was born, which was lovely, because that meant he was around home a lot and was able to help us all with the adjustments.  He had a few little projects here and there, but nothing big.  God opened a door for him to take a job working for a logger friend of ours for the rest of the winter, so now he is driving a skidder and working some pretty long days.  It's definitely been a change, but a blessing!  He has a few carpentry jobs coming up in the spring, and we'll see what happens this summer.  In the meantime, we're thankful for God's provision and clear direction too.  He is enjoying learning something new.

We are almost halfway through the school year and I think we're finally hitting our groove, figuring out how to do school with a baby.  I knew this was going to be the year I would have to give myself and the kids a lot of grace, and we're not getting everything done that I would like . . . but, they are still learning and we're hitting all the main subjects. :)  I'm going to try something new for science for the second half of the year.  We've been using "God's Design" from Answers in Genesis, and while it is a good, creation-based curriculum, I have to say I just don't totally love it.  I feel like I need a more visual/hands-on/maybe more Charlotte Mason-style science . . . okay, something just a bit more FUN, I guess.  So for the next semester I am going to try using free Magic Schoolbus videos on various topics (available for free on YouTube), and then see if we can find hands-on things to do to go along with the topics.  I'm only planning to do science one day a week, and do it all together, which I think will also help with the fun factor.  And I'm going to let the kids be involved in choosing what topics they are interested in learning about.  They are excited about the change, and I'm hoping it goes well.  I'll update when we've done it for a while!

I haven't been doing so well keeping up with my new planner, but I am not giving up!  I figure if I can hit even one thing on the list every day, it will help.  This past week was a total bust, but I'm starting fresh in February. :)

I hope to get a post up tomorrow or Monday with some goals for the next month.  I can't believe we are at the end of January already!  For now, I'd better go fold some laundry and do some other housework.  I'm hoping to start a sewing project this afternoon, but I need to finish some other stuff before I can.  If you're still reading after all this chatter and all the pictures, thanks for sticking with me!  I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend.

Pictures from Ari's first month

This is a picture post I had started AGES ago and I decided to go ahead and put it up anyway, even though all the pics are "old" now. :)  These were taken from sometime during Ari's first week (I think) to somewhere around the first week of December.   Just a little slice of our life that I wanted to share. :)

Her siblings love her so much!
She rarely takes a paci anymore, but it was useful for a while. :)
This is one of my favorite pics of her.  But she has already changed so much since it was taken!
One of the staff ladies at our doctor's office gave her this sweet hat (she makes hats for all the new babies).  I love it, but sadly it is already getting too small!  It's funny to see how big it was on her in this picture.
We took this pic after her first or second bath.  She hated her first few baths, but now she loves them!
Julia found it funny how Ari was "punching" her in the chin. :)
These pics are from the storm we got around Thanksgiving.  There was sure a lot hanging off the roof!

Wearing her cute Thanksgiving onesie :)

Working on decorating the Christmas tree

Ari loved the lights!  
Sweet sisters.  I made them matching turkey hair decorations, although they are hard to see in these pics.
I love this one!  It captures their personalities really well. :)
A lot of our schoolwork is done on the couch with a baby these days. :)  Here Josiah is holding Ari while I hold his reading book for a lesson.
One of her first little smiles

Snuggling with Daddy.  Looking at this pic, she looks so tiny and skinny!  She has really filled out since then. :)
Now I am off to start a post with more chatter and fewer pictures (but still some--because every post is more interesting with pictures, right?!).  Thanks for your patience as I try to figure out where/when to fit blogging into this busy life!