Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Happy New Year!!

Okay, so I know we're already seven days into the new year . . . but it still feels new. :)  There is just something about putting up a brand new calendar every year that I love (especially when it is a beautiful Gooseberry Patch calendar--my favorite!)-.  It feels like a fresh start in so many ways!  I usually set lots of ambitious goals for the new year . . . well, last year I pretty much totally forgot about all those goals within a few months.  This year I haven't even set any so far (aside from a few specific health and fitness goals for an accountability group I'm in), but I do plan to at some point.  I have a feeling I am going to keep them really simple this year, though.  I still kind of feel like I am in "survival mode" (I think I need to re-read Crystal's book!!) as we are still adjusting to having Ari in the family.  She is TOTALLY worth it, but having a baby to care for definitely makes everything different.  There is no way I can accomplish all I'd like to in a day, especially now that we are back to school, but I'm trying to learn that that's okay.

One of my Christmas gifts from my mom was this neat set of cards that she printed out for me, called "The Best of My Days."

 There is a card for each month with a number for each day . . . a place to write one blessing, a special thing that happened, a verse, etc. Basically anything from that day that I want to give thanks for or remember.  It has already been a blessing to me!  And it only takes a minute to write down one thing.  If anyone's interested, the free printables are available here.

I also really want to get more organized with taking care of my home this year.  This is an ongoing struggle for me because I am not naturally organized.  Before I had kids, and even after Sam was born, I had good success following Flylady's system.  (That was also when we lived in a tiny trailer and had a lot less stuff, and less children!) But after a while I got bogged down in too many emails and I gave up on trying to keep up with that.  I have tried other things and never really stick to a good system, but this year I decided to once again try the Confident Mom planner (it's free!) to help me keep up with the housework.
 #1, this planner is so PRETTY.  I like pretty. :)  #2, if I actually follow it--even if I don't get all the chores done every day--I know my house will stay cleaner and more orderly.  I'm going to give it a good shot, and to help motivate me even more, I spent some of my Christmas money on a pretty binder (again, I like pretty!!) to put the pages in.
This color of blue (teal?) makes me happy, and I just happened to have some scrapbook paper that coordinated beautifully.  I even got a matching polka-dot notebook just because it was the same color and it was only .97 cents. :)
The binder was around $3 at Walmart, so for under $5 (plus the cost of the ink and paper) I have a new planner to start the new year.  I also have some lined paper in there for adding various reminders (not sure yet how practical this will be, as there is room on the planner pages for that, as well), and food journal pages, which also happen to coordinate nicely with the colors!  I even printed out some handy monthly checklists from Intentional By Grace (these are free, but you have to sign up for their email list to download).

And just because I still haven't put up a picture post of our newest little one, I have to leave you with a few pictures of little Miss Ari. :)
We weighed her on Saturday night and she is about 10.5 lbs!  That means she's gained 3 lbs. in her first 8 weeks--I think that is pretty good.  She's such a sweet baby and we are enjoying her so much.  We got her a used Bumbo seat this weekend, which I think will be nice for her to sit on the floor and watch her siblings play.
 I also got this Baby K'Tan carrier with some more of my Christmas money (found it for half price on Ebay--woohoo!) and I love it.  I had been interested in them for a while, then I saw my friend Joey's post about hers, and knew I wanted to get one.  It's very comfy and Ari has taken some good naps in it, on days when she has been fussy and not wanted to lie down for a nap.
Well, I hope everyone's new year is off to a good start so far!  Hopefully I'll have time to post again soon. :)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

So, I obviously didn't quite get all those book reviews up last week like I had planned...hoping to have time to do that over the next week or two while we are taking some time off school!  And I haven't had time yet to put up all the pics of Ari that I want to, but I wanted to at least pop in with some Christmas pictures (these are actually all leading up to Christmas).

When we put up the tree, Ari was so fascinated with the lights!  She notices them more and more all the time, and is still fascinated with them. :)
 Putting up the nativity set
 We went shopping at Mill Falls Marketplace, a favorite place that is so beautifully decorated at Christmas.  
 Jim with all the kids on a bench in the candy shop
 In front of the waterfall
 So pretty!

 The bookstore is one of our favorite shops to go in.  I loved the different displays of Christmas books.
 The Grinch is always a favorite... :)
 Here are a few pics from this past Sunday.  I absolutely LOVE this sister picture!  A sweet friend gave the hat and coat set to Ari when she was born.  The Christmas dress was Julia's when she was a baby, but she never wore it because it didn't fit at the right time.  So I was happy to get to use it for Ari!  The same friend also lent us the beautiful red coat for Julia (it used to belong to her granddaughter). This is the second year Julia's been able to wear it, and I think it may still fit her next year as well.
 Our church put on a children's Christmas musical, "Giving My Best."  Sam and Julia were two of the main characters, which meant lots of time spent memorizing lines and songs, and practicing!  All of the kids also sang and played in a bell choir.  Here's a pic of Sam and Julia singing during a song where they both had solos.
 Even though this one has lots of extra heads in the picture, I love it because of their expressions. :) 
 Some of the kids singing the final song in the program.
 We haven't had much snow since Thanksgiving--most of our weather lately has been rain--but we got some good sticky snow a couple days ago (before it turned to rain again), and the kids had fun making this snowman.
 I was determined to fit in our traditional cookie baking time with the big kids, even though finding the time for extra stuff like that is harder right now with a little baby!  We finally tackled it on Tuesday of this week.  Ari cooperated beautifully by taking a nice long nap in the swing. :)
 I love looking back and comparing the pictures from year to year.  It's amazing how much they had all grown since we first started this tradition!!
 This year, they were all so careful and creative with their decorating.  It took FOREVER to get their first pans of cookies done!  I was surprised that even Josiah took a long time trying to get his designs just right.

This picture was also taken on Sunday--it's the first good family pic we've gotten with all six of us!
Today we're enjoying a nice, leisurely day at home with just our little family.  I'm working on getting Christmas dinner ready, and later my parents will come over for dessert and some more presents. Ari is giving me the present of a lovely long nap, after a barely-napping-at-all-day yesterday, so I'm enjoying that.  But for now I'd better go finish up the potatoes and make some gravy!  Merry Christmas to all of you!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: Silenced

I read this book months ago now, and keep forgetting to post a review!  Oops.  Anyway, here we go!

Kayden McKenna had always been wary of Jake Westin, never quite trusting him because he seemed to have so many secrets hidden in his past.  But ever since discovering more about who Jake really is, and the pain he's gone through, Kayden has learned to trust him and even feels herself drawn to him more and more.  So when Kayden comes upon a dead body while rock climbing (which turns out to be something more than a tragic accident), she and Jake team up to look for clues.  With Jake's past experience as a police detective, and Kayden's dogged determination to solve the mystery, they make a good team.  But as Jake and Kayden become closer to each other, they also become closer to a killer . . . and is there another sinister figure lurking in the background?

My thoughts:
Silenced is the fourth book in Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series, and it was a fun read.  I've had the opportunity to read three of the four now (just lacking the first one) and I enjoyed continuing the McKenna saga!  This book had plenty of suspense, although I will say that I felt some of the story was a bit more far-fetched than the previous books, and the suspense aspect didn't seem as scary as some of the others.  On the plus side, though, Kayden and Jake are two of my favorite characters thus far.  One thing I really like about Pettrey's characters is that she makes them feel real--plenty of flaws and issues that they're working through.  Kayden (at least in my opinion) is one of the most "real" . . . and although she puts up a tough front, in this book we find out that she's got a softer side underneath.  I enjoyed watching her take down the walls she'd built up against Jake (and her feelings for him) over the years, as their relationship developed.  As always, I really enjoyed the Alaskan setting of the story, and I hope to have the chance to review the next book in the Alaskan Courage series when it's published in a couple months!

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.**

**This post contains affiliate links.**

Back to blogging!

I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted anything in this little space!  I had these big dreams of posting daily in December . . . well, as you can obviously see, that was a little bit of a far-fetched dream. ;)  But, I've missed sharing our lives, and I NEED to get back to this place where I can have a bit of a creative outlet and a place to record the ordinary moments of our lives.  And of course, share pictures of our sweet Ari!!  So, I'm determined to get back to blogging, hopefully posting at least once a week.  For this week though, I have a big goal of posting one book review each day till I am caught up.  I have (I think) 4 books that I need to post reviews for.  Just finished writing the first one, so I will put that up after I post this.

Can you believe our baby girl is FIVE weeks old now?!!!  Unbelievable.  She is soooo sweet.  The picture above was taken at 4 weeks old.  I have lots more pictures to share, even have a whole post full of them started, but I want to add some chatter to that one too, so I will wait a bit to publish it.  But I thought you all might like to see at least one pic!  She is growing and changing so much already, and I can't wait till she starts smiling (I think it will be soon :)).  I am going to keep this post short, but just wanted to let everyone know that we are all still alive and doing great!  Just so busy, and when I'm at the computer I usually have my hands full of baby. :)  I'm hoping that this will be the first of many catch-up posts and lots of chatter.  Stay tuned for book reviews and hopefully some more random posts soon!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Last day of October

Hey, can you believe it . . . if I finish this post tonight, that will make TWO posts on here this month!! ;)

I woke up this morning--at 9 am, I might add--to find my husband making brownies "for breakfast."  (The breakfast part was a joke. :))  What with me having to rest more these days, we had run out of sweets in the house, and that is a problem for my sweets-loving man!  So he took matters into his own hands and made a pan of brownies while I slept in.  (And I was super thankful for the extra sleep, since I had a really rough night with little sleep on Weds.)

Unless something surprising happens, it looks like I will not get my wish of an October baby . . . but that is okay. :)  All in good time!  I know it is good for this little one to "bake" as long as possible, although I have to say I am still hoping he/she comes a *little* early . . . like ANY TIME NOW, BABY!! ;)

As of today, we are officially done with our first quarter of the school year!  We do a lot of school on the couch these days, like this recent picture shows.  Josiah is making great strides with his reading!
I am amazed by how fast the first 9 weeks have gone.  It's exciting too that we got through the first quarter before the baby comes.  We are way behind on our Sonlight reading, but right on track, maybe even a little ahead, with our other subjects.  I figure we will have plenty of reading time after Baby comes, since I will probably be tied to the couch, nursing, for a while!  So hopefully we can catch up then.

The kids' neighborhood soccer season finished up this past Monday.  With the time change this weekend, it'll be too dark to play in the evenings anymore.  They sure had fun, though, and I think their skills are improving, too!
We are thankful for our neighbors organizing it, and for the fun outlet it is for our kiddos.

We have enjoyed fall storytimes at the library over the past couple months, and this week's was a special dress-up version for Halloween.  It was fun to see everyone's different costumes!  We absolutely love our small-town library and the sweet ladies who work there and put so much time and thought into planning storytime.
(In case the picture isn't too clear, Sam was a superhero, Julia was a cowgirl, and Josiah was a Transformer--the one with the mask on the bottom row.  Sometimes we buy costumes on clearance at Walmart after Halloween so they have a nice little stash of dress-up clothes, but this year Josiah was the only one who used a store-bought costume.  The other two had fun coming up with their own ideas, using dress-up clothes made by Grammy, or stuff we had on hand.

While I don't love the time change and the darker afternoons/evenings, one thing I do love about this time of year is that life seems to slow down a bit and we spend more time snuggled up at home.  We have enjoyed some nice family time lately, movie or game nights, etc., and it's just those simple, normal times that make life special, you know?  I'm also trying to soak up these last days with just three kids . . . while we are all excited about the new baby, it's been just the five of us for so long that I know we will have some adjustments to make!  I'm trying to give each of the kids a little extra one-on-one time because they seem to need it right now.

Speaking of the new baby (because of course that is kinda at the top of my mind right now), here is the cute little Thanksgiving onesie we got for him or her:

Yesterday I saw this adorable turkey hat pattern on Pinterest, so I might just have to buy it and have already asked my mom if she'd be willing to make a hat for our "little turkey" ;) if I do!  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and although I'm not yet totally sure what we will be doing about dinner this year (because I might not have a ton of energy right then!), I am excited about having a close-to-Thanksgiving baby and an extra special reason to be thankful!

Another thing I am extra thankful for right now is the way Jim and the kids have been pitching in to help me with things around the house.  Especially recently, since I have orders to do lots of resting, I haven't been able to do as much cleaning, cooking, etc. as I would like.  They have all pitched in to help with dishes, laundry, even some cooking . . . and mostly they have done it so willingly.  I'm also thankful for my mom, who has generously stocked our freezer with breakfast foods, and that I've been able to get a little more than a week's worth of supper meals in there, as well.

Well, hope you enjoyed this little bit of chatter. :)  I think I'll stop for now, so I can actually post this in October!  Hopefully November will be a little better month for blogging . . . we will see!  Oh, and I also posted a new update at Eating for Two, for those who are interested. :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Time for some chatter :)

Oh  my, sometimes it is just so hard to jump back in when there is so much to say!  I really want to do a recap of our summer/fall, since I really didn't blog much about our life over the past few months.  I also have 3 book reviews I need to post.  I am hoping that I can get to some of these things during the downtime I will have after the baby arrives . . . or even before.  Today, for example, I stayed home from church to keep my feet up since I have been having some swelling.  So I planned to hopefully do a little blogging, but I had some other things on my "must-do" list first (things I could do while sitting down, of course :)), and somehow blogging didn't happen till now, and Jim and the kids should be home any minute.

Yep, I wrote just one paragraph yesterday and worked a little on a pregnancy post, and then they came home.  So now it's Monday and I'm hoping to have enough time to write a whole post before the kids wake up (they are late sleepers!). :)

We have had the most gorgeous fall here and I wish I had taken more pictures.  It was really the nicest fall I can remember in several years.  We haven't had a ton of cold weather yet, which helped.  Lots of warm days, not much frost yet, and the leaves were so beautiful.  We thoroughly enjoyed the color all around us!  Here is a collage of iPod pics from back near the end of September--it doesn't showcase the color so well because this was from an evening walk around the bog, but still pretty.

This past Saturday the younger kids and I were on our own while Jim and Sam went hunting for youth day.  (They saw a couple of deer, but not close enough to get a shot at, unfortunately.  They had a fun hike, though!)  We were blessed with a beautiful day after a week of rain, so after doing some errands in the morning, I sent Julia and Siah outside for a while in the afternoon.  Then later I had to go out and get a few pics of them as they played by the pond. :)  (It was nice to finally have the pond looking good again, and some water running into it for a change!  The past couple months have been so dry, that the stream had dried up and the pond was pretty stagnant.  Not anymore!)

 This one is my favorite...I love how they each added a hat and scarf to their outfit. :)  These two are often like two peas in a pod!  (And Julia really IS taller than Josiah--they just look the same size here because of how they're standing.  She only outweighs him by about 5 lbs, though!)

I know this just gives you the tiniest peek into our lives, but I am going to stop here for now, since it's time to jump into school.  We are starting week 9 already!!!  Hopefully later this week I may have time to post a summer/fall recap with more pics.  Thanks for being patient since I have been a terrible blogger lately!! :)

Oh, and there is a new update at Eating for Two, for those who are interested. :)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Brothers in the garden

 This evening I asked the boys to go pick some green beans and cucumbers from our little garden.  Honestly, I've pretty much neglected it this summer, but we've still ended up with a nice little crop of zucchini, beans, and now a few little cukes . . . oh, and quite a few tomatoes!  They were happy to show off their harvest. :)

Josiah has the hardest time giving a *real* smile for pictures.  Oh well, he is cute and funny anyway!

Sam, on the other hand, has no trouble giving a real smile!  He likes to ham it up for the camera. :) 

I'm thankful for what a good help our kids are becoming, not just with the garden, but around the house too.  They are a blessing for sure!  Oh, and I made a yummy recipe with the green beans for supper.  Two out of three kids really liked it, and I did too!  (Jim ate it and said it was good, but he's not a big fan of green beans. :))  Here's the link: Lemon Garlic Green Beans.  Easy peasy, and tasty too!

Edited to add: I also put up a new post at Eating for Two! :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jumping back in

Apparently I am now a once-a-month blogger!  Oh dear.  You know how sometimes you have so many things to write about, you don't know where to start?  Time goes by, more things happen, then I have MORE to write about . . . and so, since I'm already "behind," I end up not writing about anything, because I've already missed so much. :(  Anyway, as of today I am attempting to jump back into the blogging world, and we'll see how it goes.  Fall is right around the corner, and with it comes school and a new routine, and hopefully I'll be organized enough to actually fit blogging somewhere into my schedule.  Life is zipping by so fast, and I really want to record the moments!!

It's hard to believe we are already in the last month of summer! :(  We have enjoyed having less structure to our days, getting to sleep in (pregnant mommas need lots of sleep, right? :)), and doing some fun family activities.  Last summer I instituted "Friday Adventures" as a regular part of our week.  Every Friday we would do something fun, usually away from home . . . whether it was just a walk on the local nature trail, or a trip to the beach, or the science center.  Twice we got to do BIG adventures, going to Battleship Cove and Plimoth Plantation, as part of the "Free Fun Fridays" that a lot of museums in MA take part in.  I had hoped to do the same thing (adventures) this summer, but I've found that being pregnant makes it a little more difficult.  We have gone to the science center twice (before Ohio), and we're planning to go a few more times.  We haven't accomplished a beach trip yet, but hopefully soon!  The weather actually hasn't been super hot, so we haven't been itching to swim as much as some summers!

Today I am working on making a big batch of spaghetti sauce to can.  
Our tomatoes haven't done too great this year, but we did have a few pounds of them, plus I knew I had some in the freezer from last year.  Um, well, I had more in the freezer than I thought.  I think I had two summers' worth in there!  The kids hauled up gallon bag after gallon bag for me yesterday afternoon, and I thawed them on the counter overnight.  Now they are simmering on the stove along with onions, peppers, garlic, spices, etc. (I use this recipe but leave out the oil.)  I think we had around 30ish lbs. of tomatoes total, which should make for quite a bit of sauce.  We will enjoy it this winter on pizza, spaghetti, and anything else we need sauce for!

I've been doing some thrifting lately, and that's always fun!  One of my happiest finds was this set of dishes which go perfectly in our home.  I got everything on the table for $25!
 The dinner plates have bears and trees; the salad plates have canoes and trees.  The beige mugs and cookie jar/canister coordinate, but have moose/trees (the cookie jar has a bear on one side and moose on the other).  The brown bowls/plates are not part of the same set (they're Fiestaware), but they were all being sold together in spite of that.  The red/beige set has 6 dinner plates, 6 salad plates, 8 mugs, the moose plate, the cookie jar, and bear and moose salt and pepper shakers.
Whoohoo, what a deal!!  My other super great deal was this pair of Bogs boots for $2.

 My friend Patty saw them at the thrift store and mentioned them to me at church Thursday night; she thought they might fit Josiah.  I went in the next day and they were still there!  Yippee!!  They are a little big for him, but they are in great shape, and will probably fit him this winter or next.  Bogs retail for around $78, so you can imagine my excitement over this find. :)  Sam had a pair that we got several years ago for around $20 at another thrift store, and I thought THAT was a good deal.  He wore them pretty much all the time for 2 years, till the outer fabric started to get holes.  I'm hopeful that these will last Josiah just as long (and he probably won't wear them quite as much as Sam did), and maybe we will still have them for the new baby to wear eventually, or to pass on to a friend.  We also hit an unexpected dollar day at one of the thrift stores on Weds. of this week; we ended up with 7 pieces of clothing and 3 beanie babies for the kids (a quarter each).

I've been working on organizing and planning for school a little bit.  We will be starting either on Labor Day or the day after.  I have all my curriculum now, and last week I printed off some free planners from The Old Schoolhouse, and had them spiral bound at a local print shop.  They are pretty simple, but I hope they will help keep us a little more organized this year!
 The Sonlight box arrived . . . we are continuing last year's core, so this box wasn't as big or exciting as most years.  Still fun to check out the new stuff, though!
 The planners . . . Julia already claimed hers, as you can see. :)
 A little bit of the inside.
I'm hoping to incorporate some more Charlotte Mason-type stuff into school this year.  Specifically notebooking . . . IF we can fit it in, and IF the kids seem to enjoy it.  I'm not sure on either count.  :)  I absolutely love this blog that has so many great freebies for notebooking and other extras, that fit in with the Sonlight cores.  This lady has done a fabulous job and she makes all her resources available for free!!  I also found this great series of blog posts at Intoxicated on Life about planning for a new homeschool year: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  I will be taking the time to read through them this week; they look really good!!

In other (important!) news, Jim and I celebrated our 15th anniversary on Aug. 7.  Can't believe we have been married that long!!  We went out for supper to celebrate, having had our "big" celebration with our getaway back in March.  Here is a collage of pics from our supper out, that I took with my iPod:
Jim ordered what was called the "Death by Burger."  Well, the waitress accidentally put in an order for the "Double Death by Burger."  It contained 36 oz. of beef (YIKES!).  In spite of a valiant effort, Jim was only able to eat 1/4 of it--we brought the rest home!  The best part was that because of the waitress's error, the manager deducted the entire cost of the burger, so it was FREE.  Gotta love restaurants with stellar customer service!  We had such a nice time and it was good to get away for a little while.

I've made this post long enough, and have barely put a dent in my list of things to blog about . . . but I'll wrap it up for now.  I also put up a new post (finally!) at my pregnancy blog.  Thanks so much for reading!!