Sunday, November 30, 2008

Because I blinked, and November was gone...

James has been asking me repeatedly if I was through blogging. "No," I'd tell him, "I've just been busy." I really didn't think my lack of blogging was as bad as he was letting on, particularly since he has a tendency to exaggerate such minutiae, but then he mentioned that a couple of coworkers asked when I might post next. When men I don't even know begin to inquire about my blogging schedule, it's probably time to step things up a bit.

This morning, I began to look back through my unposted photos, and I realized I've failed to post so much! While I have been extraordinarily busy, I've not been so busy to explain such a lack of blogging commitment, and for that, I do apologize (particularly to those guys I don't know).

To make up for lost time, I'll be posting about all of November today, right now in fact, in order to fill in the gaps. I've decided instead of one enormous post incorporating the missed parts of the month, I'll backdate individual posts to their appropriate date and link to them all here. A mass uploadicus of sorts. Enjoy!

November 1: Halloween 2008: The Year of Fake Hair
November 3: Adoption Intake Interview Scheduled
November 3: The Comedy of Errors at Bass Hall (New Post!)
November 4: The Stinky Cheese Man at Casa Mañana (New Post!)
November 6: The Banning of the Bits and Pieces
November 7: Unless the Corn has a Face...
November 7: Frugal Friday Linkage
November 11: Because Sometimes Sweet Tea Just Isn't Enough
November 11: Everything Looks Better in the Dark
November 12: On Nights Like Tonight
November 13: Favorite Homeschool Resource
November 14: Frugal Friday Linkage
November 14: Lunchtime Playdate
November 14: The Asian Market and My Attempt at Lumpia (New Post!)
November 14: My Christmas Wish Does Not Involve Toothpaste
November 15: In a Word...
November 15: Final Games and First Trophies (New Post!)
November 16: Bub's Family Birthday Fun (New Post!)
November 18: When a Stick Becomes a Pet (New Post!)
November 20: "My Crismas Top 10 List" by Gracie
November 21: Frugal Friday Linkage: Thanksgiving Edition
November 22: Adoption Intake Interview and Education Seminar (New Post!)
November 22: Thanksgiving with the In-Laws (New Post!)
November 25: Homeschool Field Trip to the Log Cabin Village (New Post!)
November 26: A Pizza Playdate for the Birthday Boy (New Post!)
November 27: A Joyous Thanksgiving and the Tale of Milo the Lost(New Post!)
November 28: Frugal Friday Linkage: Black Friday Edition
November 29: Bring on the Christmas! (New Post!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bring on the Christmas!

The Thanksgiving dishes are washed and packed away. The pumpkin pie is all gone. It's officially time to decorate for Christmas.

On Saturday, I went back on the roof to repair a fuse on a string of lights, then Bub and I strung lights over and around the bushes in the front. James pulled out the Christmas trees and bins of decor. The kids helped assemble and decorate the tree downstairs. (We'll be making ornaments for the tree upstairs.) We enjoyed unwrapping and talking about each of the ornaments, and this year, only one was broken (one of "hugging" giraffes that James' dad gave me for our very first Christmas).

We put garland on the mantle, put the snowmen in their places, and unpacked and dusted the Nativity sets. We went to Cheddar's for dinner, then to Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby to look for light sculptures for the yard.

A tree? For me?

When can we hang the ornaments?

It's finally time!

Such a Great Helper!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Frugal Friday Linkage: Black Friday Edition

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it's time for Black Friday! Did you know that Black Friday is called such because it's generally the days stores go from being in the red (or being in debt) to being in the black (making a profit)?

Black Friday is one of my very favorite days of the whole holiday season. Earlier, as I was devising my game plan for shopping, James said he thought I liked Black Friday a little more than I liked Christmas morning, which is just not true. But still, I really, really, really like Black Friday.

Among my friends and family, there is no question that I'll be out among the Christmas shopping crowds on Black Friday looking for my share of bargains. For me, Black Friday is a day where my inner frugal zealot unites with my giving spirit, causing a frequent conflict to subside.

I know that sounds as corny as can be, it's absolutely true. The deals I find on Black Friday have, over time, allowed me, or us as a family, to give gifts through the holiday season that we may not otherwise be able to afford. One year, my basket was equally filled with toys for my children and for children in a family I knew to be in crisis. Other years, the cost savings experienced in buying for our own family on Black Friday afforded us the opportunity to increase our holiday giving to others.

This year, Black Friday seems different -- there's such an air of reservation and trepidation. In my opinion, there doesn't seem to be as many spectacular sales. Some stores have gone bankrupt, while other stores are on their way, and they all seem to be reserved in their offerings. Despite everything, I'm off to enjoy the day. Please enjoy this Frugal Friday linkage, Black Friday style.

Black Friday: It Has to be Big and Bold ::

The "Official Site" for 2008 Black Friday Ads ::

Holidays Can Still Be Happy in Tough Times ::

Black Belt Shopping Strategies ::

In Shaky Times, Will Stores Honor Gift Cards? ::

Clever, Low-Cost Holiday Decorating Budget ::

Teach Your Kids About Money ::

How to Prepare for an Impending Layoff ::

Best Money Lessons to Teach Your Kids :: CNN Living

Santa on a Budget

How to Save Money on Gifts

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Joyous Thanksgiving and the Tale of Milo the Lost

(Gracie took these pictures, and I forgot to take any more.
Thanksgiving from her perspective, I suppose.)

Thanksgiving this year was wonderful. We shared our home and our 22-pound turkey with my mom, her friend Mike, and our friends DeDe, Bruce, Rachel and Rebecca. DeDe and I originally talked about her family coming here for Thanksgiving because Bruce's job site is about 30 minutes west of my house, which is about 30 minutes west of their house. With Bruce's unpredictable work schedule coupled with the high chance of him being called back out, it just made sense for them to meet here at this halfway point for a Thanksgiving meal that would go on, with or without him.

I put the turkey in to cook overnight, and on Thanksgiving morning, I got up to stuff the celery, make the deviled eggs, and throw together a few last minute things. Around 9:30 A.M., the power went out for the second year in a row. Last year, the electric company told us and others in our neighborhood that a car hit a transformer. This year -- the second year in a row -- they had no excuse.

Fortunately, the power was restored within the hour and the baking was back on. The turkey finished it's cooking just as Mom and DeDe pulled in for the day. The kids played together beautifully, James and Mike watched football, James and Mike napped on opposite couches, and we three ladies cooked and baked and prepped. Bruce was able to get out early and arrived just before lunch was ready. He was only able to stay long enough for us to fix him a plate before he had to run -- literally run -- back out the door.

We finished lunch, and then sat around chatting until it was time for dessert. Mom took a pie and went home. DeDe and the girls stuck around to share dessert with us, then Gracie went home with them for a sleepover.

Our Thanksgiving festivities were over far earlier than they generally seem to be, so I had ample time to organize my Black Friday game plan. I perused every single ad, and made and modified a great big shopping list. James took care of Bub's bedtime routine while I took a pre-shopping nap. I was asleep by 11:30 P.M., and up again by 3:15 A.M. I pulled out of my driveway around 3:45 and was in Wal-Mart by 4:00.

I completely finished by Black Friday shopping by 2:00 P.M. after looking for one gift in four stores and another gift in three. James and Bub spent Black Friday watching SportsCenter, playing video games, and eating leftovers. Gracie spent Black Friday with Mrs. DeDe, and after a quick trip to the doctor (Rachel developed a double ear infection), they crafted gingerbread Christmas trees, played games, and watched movies.

I picked Gracie up at 2:00 P.M. and we went out for a little more of the Black Friday hustle and bustle. All the shopping was done, but Gracie just loves to go to the mall. I'd not been to the mall at all that day, so I thought we'd browse the bargains and maybe share a hot chocolate.

I stood in Sears, leaning against a pool table, watching her explore the abbreviated toy aisles when James called to tell me that Milo was missing. He realized he'd not seen Milo in about five hours, and thought Bub may have accidentally let him out. I was instantly worried because the day before, between the kids and the dog, Milo's collar had been pulled off, and I put it on the microwave instead of straight back on his neck. I tried not to alarm Gracie, but after a few phone calls back and forth, I decided we should go home to help search for the cat.

I broke the news to Gracie that it was time to leave the mall. She began to sniffle and whine. I tried to hustle her out the door without telling her why we were actually leaving, but she was markedly disappointed in me, so selfishly, I broke the news. When I told her Milo was missing, she was absolutely heartbroken and began to wail in the aisle. "I dreamed my whole life to have a cat," she cried, "and now it's over!" I suggested to Gracie that we pray for God to keep Milo safe and to return him home to us. We held hands and prayed as I sped towards home.

We got home as quickly as we could, but we still arrived after dark. James and Bub had already walked the streets, circled the block, and knocked on the doors of the neighbors. I grabbed a flashlight and began looking under bushes. I crossed the street to talk to a neighbor who had just pulled in when James called to me from the front door to say that Gracie just found the cat. She noticed him as he crept out from under the couch -- the couch that James had picked up to look under three times already.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Pizza Playdate for the Birthday Boy

On Bub's actual birthday, we met good friends for a pizza playdate at Chuck E. Cheese. I told Gracie that morning where we were going, but we kept our outing a secret from Bub. I'm so cruel, but I just love to watch Gracie struggle to keep a secret. It's so hilarious! She often looks like she may actually burst.

Since he'd been given his presents at the family party, we'd picked up a little Texas A&M basketball hoop for him to open on his actual birthday, and included a couple of smaller items from our stocking stuffer bin. Our friend, Mrs. DeDe, gave Bub money, which he spent on a guitar at Wal-Mart immediately after lunch.

Bub, Rachel, and Gracie spent their time bouncing from game to game to game, while DeDe stood at a ball game hitting the 100-ticket jackpot time and again. (I think the final count for DeDe was 8 or 9 jackpots, a huge number compared to my one.) The kids split all tickets and still had over 400 each. They promptly turned their stacks of paper tickets into piles of plastic junk loot. Happy birthday, Bub! You'll always be my little buttercup...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Homeschool Field Trip to the Log Cabin Village

I coordinated the first field trip for a small group of homeschooling families at our young church: a trip to Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth. There are only five or six families (that I know of) who homeschool in our church, so I reached out to other homeschoolers I know in order to increase our field trip attendance numbers. What I didn't count on was this family telling that family who invited this other family, and the original count of 20 people I confirmed for swelling to 64. Still, kids get sick, and people just don't show up, so a 20% drop off was very conservative, I thought. I really expected no more than 40-45 people to be at the Village for the tour, but the final head count was 54 people. A successful first field trip, I'd say!

We were split into three groups and were taken through log cabins, told stories of pioneers, shown working primitive tools, handed lye soap and sheep's wool, and shown blacksmithing, corn milling, and candle-making demonstrations. The weather was lovely, the cabins looked beautiful against the fall foliage, and the children were all so well behaved.

Though the trip itself was a whole bunch of fun, the best part is this: on Sunday, when I went to church, a lady called my name. She said she and her family just moved here from Florida, they live 10 miles west of us, and had been trying out churches in another direction. Hers was one of the families who'd been invited to our field trip by a friend of a friend, and she decided after meeting several of us to try out our church. She said she loved it, it was no more of a drive than the churches they'd been checking out, and that we'd see her back there again. I was just looking to get a group rate on a field trip and God used our outing to show someone to their new church home. Awesome!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving with the In-Laws

Following the education seminar at the adoption agency, we celebrated Thanksgiving with James' family. Hayley had already planned to visit over the weekend, so when our seminar was scheduled, it just made sense for everyone to get together, even if it was a bit early. I made some of the potatoes and stuffing on Friday night, and put the turkey in the oven to cook while we were gone. Hayley made some side dishes and pies Saturday morning, and we sat down to eat Thanksgiving dinner about an hour after our classes were through.

It was wonderful to decompress over a holiday meal, and to share what we'd learned with people who love and support us. Poppa John got to meet Hayley for the first time, and I believe he officially approves. Do I hear wedding bells?

Adoption Intake Interview and Education Seminar

The time finally came for our adoption education seminar, and for our intake interview. When we originally sent in our interest form, November seemed so far away. Evidently, it wasn't that far off.

We left on Thursday night to make it in in time to be well-rested for our morning intake interview. The CR-V was loaded down with the family, the dog, her crate, our stuff, and Thanksgiving groceries for dinner with the in-laws. Once we got to B/CS, we stopped to buy the turkey and cold food, then headed to Jerald's for the night. Friday morning, Jerald took the kids to Houston to meet Hayley's flight from Atlanta, while James and I headed to the Pregnancy Outreach Center for our meeting.

When we arrived, we were greeted by our case manager, a very sweet man named Don. His quiet demeanor immediately set us at ease. He talked to us about our religious views, our marriage, our family, our parenting style, and our struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss. He explored our views of open adoption and explained the perspective of their ministry. He shared with us the story of growing his own family through adoption. We came away from our meeting feeling very positive, and even without confirmation of our "acceptance" into the program, that brief time with Don affirmed everything positive we felt about the heart of this agency.

Following the intake interview, we spent the day running errands -- browsing at the mall, buying kitchen utensils, eating lunch at Freebirds. The education seminar began at 3:00 P.M., and it was there we met Kim, the agency founder and director, and Victoria, the pregnancy options counselor. We were one of six couples exploring our adoption options.

At the seminar, we learned more about Open Adoption. Though we're experienced adoptive parents, our situation is unusual. Technically, it's a confidential adoption, though over time it will become more open, I'm sure. Still, our adoption is not now, nor will it ever be, the same as a traditional open adoption. There was some repetition from our previous adoption education, as well as some explanation of things we learned as new parents (childproofing, etc.) but in all, the sessions were very informative. The experience of learning under Kim, Victoria, and Don made us realize this is a ministry we want to support, regardless of the part it plays in the growth of our family. We loved them and their hearts for ministry so, so much.

We came away from the interview and the seminar feeling hopeful. We don't know for sure how our family will grow, or even if it will. We don't know yet that we're a fit for this agency, or for sure how they feel about us (though we think they feel good about us at this point). All that we know is that God has a plan for our lives and for our family. Amazing resources have opened up for us to pursue this option, and until the door is shut, we're moving forward in it. We trust that if this is indeed what God wants, if the peace in our hearts is indicative of His will, then He has the right baby and the right birthmom for our family.

That's not to say I'm not highly tempted to be motivated by fear and to turn and run. The lengthy process, the levels of trust and vulnerability required, the lifetime commitment to a family of origin, and the seemingly high chance of a match not working out terrify me to no end. Of the four adoption blogs I follow, three of them were matched with a birthmom. (The fourth is newly waiting.) Two of the three families were matched with a birthmother who decided instead to parent (the Shockley Family and the Bevins Family). I know my sources are limited because I don't read a lot of adoption blogs or websites, but still, 2 out of 3 matches that didn't end as originally expected seems scary.

But then we're back to God's will. Really, and I don't say this lightly, that is all we want in our lives. We're extraordinarily happy with the family we've been blessed with, and we've reached a point of contentment that we never expected to reach. I've seen through the Shockley Family that, in spite of a loss, the ministry of adoption is still so precious to them, and something they want others to pursue in spite of the associated risks. They feel about adoption what I feel about high-risk pregnancy: despite the outcome, in the end, it's all worth it. Every bit.

That said, despite what the numbers say, despite the risk of loss, we feel compelled to move forward. We look forward to experiencing what He has planned for our lives.

Right now, we have a very lengthy application to complete and submit, along with several documents that will lay the foundation for our home study. The intake interview would normally take place after that, but since we've already completed it, they'll just compare notes and decide if we're right to move ahead. Next, Don would spend the day at our house digging all the skeletons out of our closet (or completing the home study). Once that's complete, they again decide if we're the sort of family they'd feel comfortable working with. If so, we'll submit a photo album for birthmoms to peruse. Then, we'll do little but wait and pray.

Meanwhile, we'd appreciate your prayers for timing, time management, favor, direction, patience, and grace.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"My Crismas Top 10 List" by Gracie (with a Bonus by Bub)

My Father-in-Law is trying to wrap up his Christmas shopping, and needed the kids to complete their lists. Gracie's was just so cute, I'm copying it here for extended family members to gush over. I have loads to catch up on with regards to blogging, but we're travelling out of town today for our adoption agency intake interview, adoption education seminar, and our Thanksgiving celebration with James' family. That said, I've been a wee bit busy and a whole bunch stressed out. More to come, when I calm down. And now, the list (verbatim):

My Crismas Top 10 List, by Gracie (age 6)

1. Baby Alive Go Bye Bye
2. Barbie Crismas Carol Movie
3. Gotta Go Doll (Little Mommy)
4. Trianing To Go Potty Baby Alive
5. Swiming Boy And Girl Baby Born
6. Hello Kitty Game for DS
7. twister Hopscoth
8. Hannah Montana Sound TRack
9. 100 or 1 WebKincs
10. Kit Movie
11. Any Kind of Book except Gron Up Books and Chapter Books
12. Jammin Jeep (note: we've moved on past ten items...)
13. Lilest Pet Shop Workout House
14. Peek-A-Boo Petites Playhouse
15. Holiday Popstar (Hannah Montana)
16. A New Sundress
17. 25th Annuversary Cabbeg Pach Kid
18. Star Maker Brats
19. Oliver Doll
20. Rico Doll
21. A Nut Cracer
22. I need a new HAMPER
23. I want a new PAIL and SHOVEL
24. Don't forget to bring 1 of these and if your there I need a hug.
(can we all say, "awww..."?)

As a Bonus: Bub's List (age 8)

1. Fur Real Friend
2. Tattoos
3. Sword
4. Shield
5. Night Vision Goggles (should I be worried yet?)
6. legos
7. cars
(He's a simple man, really.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When a Stick Becomes a Pet

Bub was given a Lil' Critter Bug Keeper for a birthday gift. Not two days later, he caught a praying mantis at his Nanny's house -- the mother lode of all bug captures. He named it Sticky, and it's grown to closely resemble the branch in its cage. We've been back and forth to PetSmart buying bugs to feed the free one. Sticky's cricket diet costs 30-40 cents every day.

Not long after moving into the bug keeper, Sticky laid an egg cluster on the bottom of a branch. We have until Spring (we hope) to transfer the baby praying mantises (manti?) to a keeper with smaller air holes, or back out to the wild. Meanwhile, we're watching the progress and wondering if Sticky may decide one day that she wants to have eggs for lunch.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bub's Family Birthday Fun

We took advantage of our visit with Poppa John to have a family birthday party for Bub. Bub has the unfortunate disadvantage of having a birthday that falls right in the middle of Thanksgiving week. In general, people are unavailable to celebrate then, and since we seem to host on the holidays, I'm afraid his birthday often feels like an afterthought (though it's not).

We often schedule parties before his actual birthday, just to avoid any holiday rush, but because of work commitments in the past, Poppa John hasn't been able to come before now. Now that he's retired, he's able to travel a bit more, and he just happened to be coming on the week we were planning some birthday thing anyway. Because of his visit, we decided to keep things low-key and family-focused.

We sat around and visited, then had Bub's favorite meal for dinner -- Frito chili pie. I made a homemade cake with the greenest green frosting and sprinkles. We had vanilla ice cream cups and sweet tea, then Bub opened birthday presents from everyone. He said it was the best birthday of his life, which makes me wonder why in the world I've spent so much money on more extravagant parties in the past. :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Final Games and First Trophies

Bub and Gracie wrapped up their soccer season on quite possibly the coldest day of the year. They were both so excited to have Poppa John in the stands, and he seemed pleased to be able to come to his very first grandkid sporting event. Overall, we really enjoyed our teams this year, as well as the challenges this season brought. We've seen both kids grow and learn so much. As for the Spring season, Bub's ready to play again, while Gracie's still on the fence.

After the games, we celebrated with back-to-back parties. Bub's team planned a party at the park, but with the change in weather, the party was moved to a teammate's house. Gracie's team celebrated over giant pies and cupcakes at a local pizza joint.

Both Gracie and Bub were awarded trophies (along with every other child on the team). The trophy was Gracie's first. Both kids were so proud of their awards, and they carried them around, showing all their friends and family members. Days later, I found both trophies abandoned in the backyard.

In a Word...

I saw this meme at My Messy, Thrilling Life. It looked like fun, so I decided to participate. Please feel free to take it for your own, but if you do, please link back so I can read your responses. Essentially, you describe your life and/or your surroundings in one-word answers. Enjoy!)

Where is your mobile phone? Table
Your hair color? Blonde
Your mother? Talkative
Your father? Deceased
Your favourite thing? Sleep
Your dream last night? Forgettable
Your dream goal? Author
The room you're in? Candlelit
Your hobby (hobbies)? Blogging
Your fear? Loss
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Home
Where were you last night? Online
What you're not? Average
One of your wish-list items? Flooring
Where you grew up? Oklahoma
The last thing you did? Read
What are you wearing? Shorts
Your TV? Off
Your pet? Sleeping
Your computer? Laptop
Your mood? Contemplative
Missing someone? Everyday
Your car? Honda
Something you're not wearing? Mittens
Favorite shop? Thrift
Your summer? Short
Love someone? James
Your favourite colour? Green
When was the last time you laughed? Morning
When was the last time you cried? Recently

photo credit: robotgirl

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Christmas Wish Does Not Involve Toothpaste

So, I'm hanging out on the couch with my father-in-law, enjoying a CNN-a-thon, when I see a commercial for the MUST HAVE product of the year -- the Touch n' Brush automatic toothpaste dispenser. It's a big plasic (or deluxe chrome!) contraption that, via vaccuum pressure, blasts pre-sized globs of toothpaste out onto your brush.

Evidently, we are a nation of people so lazy that we can no longer manually squeeze our own toothpaste tubes. Oh, I'm being unfair -- the product claim is not about sparing us that minuscule expenditure of energy (though a product reviewer said her daughter "liked the fact the she did not have to deal with the toothpaste, having to unscrew the cap and squeeze out the toothpaste"). Rather, the marketing campaign focuses on the magical preservation of the cleanliness of our bathrooms. Our sinks will be spared from messiness... FOREVER!

Honestly, I am not that concerned about drops of fresh toothpaste dotting the counter top. As a mother, I find myself more concerned about little boys failing to lift and lower the seat at the appropriate point in the process, little girls who dust the room with play make-up and glitter, mishung towels that fall in the toilet, plugged-up sinks that make inside oceans, and trash bins overflowing with entire boxes of Kleenex from a child trying to deal with one bat in the cave. A product that would keep my bathroom magically clean in light of all of that -- that is my Christmas wish.

photo credit:

The Asian Market and My Attempt at Lumpia

James' dad, affectionately known as Poppa John, came up for a weekend visit. Every time he comes to my house, I do my best to replicate some of the Filipino dishes he loves. In general, I fail miserably, but hey, I still try.

In search of rice wrappers and other more exotic ingredients, we spent an afternoon in the Asian Market. I love the sights and sounds and the really great prices. Bub loves the live animals deemed "food." We always have a fun time exploring.

The Produce Aisle

Who'd wanna eat these guys?

Help Me!

Curious about the altar
(and no, she's not pledging any sort of allegiance...)

The Great Rice Wrapper Debate

The Original Cup-O-Noodles

A Sale on MSG -- Brain Damage, Anyone?

Picking Out Some Panda Candy

My Attempt at Lumpia

The verdict: the rice wrappers were too brittle, the ground pork was too course, the vegetables were too abundant, the rolls were too full -- an enormous failure this time. Fortunately, the adobo I made was quite good (according to James, though Poppa John thinks I should have used chicken instead of pork tenderloin). There's always next time...

Lunchtime Playdate

Sadie and Milo have become friends...

Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
(Ever heard of that one, cat?)

Tuckered out -- time for a cat nap.

Frugal Friday Linkage

It's that time again -- time for Frugal Friday. Please enjoy this compilation of articles and blog posts related to money or frugality that I've enjoyed this week.

Wal-Mart's Black Friday deals: High tech ::

Chocolate and Clementines :: My Messy, Thrilling Life

A Memorable, Yet Frugal, Thanksgiving ::

The Agony of Seven Days Without Spending :: CNN Living

Eating out? Save Money on your Dinner Bill :: Real Simple @ Shine

Thanksgiving on a Budget :: Frugal Living @

No Money To Pay The Bills? Barter Baby ::

Shop Smart and Save Money :: Real Simple/Real Life

18 Means for Living Below Your Means :: Marc and Angel Hack Life

20 Money-Savers That Add Up ::

Not taboo? Money Talk Flowing as Woes Mount ::

10 Reasons You Are Rich :: Marc and Angel Hack Life

One Couple's Extreme Savings Plan

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Favorite Homeschool Resource: Teacher's Planbook and Calendar of Year-Round Activities

In homeschooling, as in life, I find myself to be quite eclectic. Some of our lesson plans come from Classical perspective, some à la Charlotte Mason, while other have a child-led/unschooling bent. It would not be unusual to learn about Heaven, dragonflies, and Pointillism all in the same day, and I love it that way.

Though I'm eclectic and open to nearly any type of learning, I'm also a planner and want to have some focus. One resource I've found to be nearly indispensable is the Teacher's Planbook and Calendar of Year-Round Activities. I found a copy at Half Price Books for $2 this summer, and thumbing through it, I knew it would help to provide the guidance I craved.

The book is laid out month-by-month, and while the projects therein are really geared more for elementary school aged children, they could be modified for the older set. However, the lists of special weeks, days, and events listed under each month and the related suggested activities are the keys to this book, and that information is applicable to all ages. These lists are what make the book really great. For example, did you know:

  • November 3rd was Sandwich Day, honoring the Fourth Earl of Sandwich and the inventor of the Sandwich? How fun would have been to make a plain ol' homeschool lunch have meaning?
  • Sesame Street first aired on November 10, 1969. Let's watch and/or write about our favorite characters or show segments. (My favorite? When Grover sold Kermit some teeth.)
  • Claude Monet's birthday is November 14 -- hello, trip to the museum (followed by an art project, trying our hand at Impressionism).
  • JFK was slain here in Dallas on November 22 -- let's go down to Dealey Plaza to pay our respects.
  • Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, was born on November 29, 1832. Let's read some excerpts.
All of these facts, and so many more, are contained within the same November list, and are followed by activity suggestions that can be copied or used merely as inspiration. This book assists in creating creative learning units and in making mundane days fun and educational. I truly love this book, and use it as a starting point for planning out every month.

Even better, this book is a really great homeschool bargain. When I looked it up on Amazon to link here on the blog, I found it can be purchased used for ONE CENT (plus shipping), or brand new for 30 cents. For the compilation of fun ideas and the time savings involved in lesson planning, that's a bargain that can't be beat!

What resources do you use to plan your units or educational activities?
Have you found a good site online for national or local events?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Nights Like Tonight

"So I couldn't say, We will have another child. Instead, I said, "I hope we can have another child. It was bad enough grieving for this child... without lamenting other only theoretical children. I missed the child we lost and I wanted another and these seemed like two absolutely separate aches."

-- Elizabeth McCracken,
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir

I sit alone in the quiet. The world slumbers around me, and I am one with my thoughts. On nights like tonight, sweet baby, my mind goes to you...

November is Prematurity Awareness Month.
Prematurity is a major problem
with 1 in 8 babies born too soon.
Stop by the March of Dimes website
to see what you can do
to help babies have a better future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything Looks Better in the Dark -- Thoughts from the Fall Women's Dinner

That title is wildly inappropriate, I know. It's just that now that I'm home from the Fall Women's Ministry Dinner, I realize I don't have any good or accurate pictures of my fall table decor, and a full explanation of that fact makes for a very long blog title. I guess I should clarify and say that candle-lit fall decor looks so much better glistening and glimmering in the dark, as opposed to its appearance in the blinding, washed-out white of an unskilled photographer's flash. Please allow me to apologize in advance.

So, what's all the hubbub about this dinner, you ask?

I served as a table hostess at the Fall Women's Ministry Dinner at our church, and that's monumental for a number of reasons:

1.) I don't believe I'm hospitable by nature. Even though it seems that I'm constantly hosting people in my house for one reason or another, I don't consider myself to be a natural hostess, like some people. Setting a pretty table, making small talk -- though I love it, I have to be intentional about it.

2.) I am a planner. Even though (according to Marcie) I often put off things until the very last minute, I plan them to death far, far in advance. The two times I hosted tables at the VCC Ladies Tea, I planned for about a million years before the event. With regard to this event, I was asked Sunday night to host a table that had to be set by Tuesday morning.

Um, stress!

3.) Except for one wicker pumpkin, I don't own any fall decor. And with Christmas being about 15 minutes away, I've grounded myself from all nonsensical spending. With limited time for planning and a budget of which to be conscious, I had to be creative and open-minded. To my great surprise, everything came together much easier than I'd hoped, and the final result wasn't too shabby, if I do say so myself.

That said, please excuse my extraordinarily bad photography...

Table for Eight

White tablecloth, golden taupe sheer curtain panels as accent fabric, gold chargers, pink Tiara plates and coffee cups, pink candy dishes, wine goblets for beverages, votive holders on stems, fall cornucopia in brown/pink/gold, pine cones and fall foliage fresh from the park

Pretty fall decor under a flash
looks like a pile of freshly raked leaves.


Everything Looks Better in the Dark

Including the pictures I take,
which happen to look best when the dark is pitch black.

Poor photography or not, the evening was lovely -- enchanting, even. Every table was beautifully appointed and filled with incredible women. Together, we shared a delicious meal, good conversation, incredible worship, and a challenging message. I feel so completely refreshed and encouraged.

"And let us not neglect our meeting together,
as some people do,
but encourage one another,
especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

-- Hebrews 10:25 NLT

Because Sometimes Sweet Tea Just Isn't Enough...

Spotted down at the Chicken Express --
Chicken Smoothies!

I never imagined a day when someone would ask,
"Hey, how's your smoothie?"
and the reply could legitimately be "Tastes like chicken!"

Note: I don't think there were actually any chicken-flavored smoothies.
I think the sign people were a bit overzealous
and just put the word "chicken" in all the blank spots.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Unless the Corn has a Face...

Our homeschool Fridays are reserved for "specials," days that we go out and do something fun. We may go do things on other days of the week, but Fridays, for sure, we go somewhere. We may participate in homeschool PE, go to the library, take a nature walk, or visit the park, museum, or zoo.

Today for specials, I decided to surprise the kids with a trip to the movies to see Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. As we loaded in the car, they began guessing where we were going. Bowling, no. Putt-Putt, no. Six Flags, not today. In the midst of the guessing, Gracie recalled that I'd dropped a couple of pieces of Halloween candy into my purse. "We're going to the movies," she exclaimed, quite sure of her deduction.

Since it was a secret, I didn't confirm where we were going, neither did I confirm what we may or may not be seeing. "Well, if we were going to the movies," she said, "I'd be happy with whatever we see."

To that, I asked, "What if we see a two-hour documentary about corn?"

"No, that would be boring," she whined.

"Well," I countered, "you said you would be happy with anything."

"I meant something like Bolt, or Igor or something like that," she said.

"So, though you said anything, what you really meant was you would be happy with any kid movie. You wouldn't be happy with a movie about corn."

"Right," she said, "unless the corn has a face."

There's something to be said for standards.

photo credit: neas

Frugal Friday Linkage

It's been an unbelievably busy week, which is why I've not posted more, though I've had bountiful blog fodder. Isn't that always the way? My Friday, however, finds me at home while my husband travels for work, so I'm hoping to get caught up a bit around here (meaning the blog, the house, the world... you know, all the normal stuff).

To get Friday going, enjoy a little Frugal Friday Linkage, a newly-regular blog feature originally inspired by my friend Jenny who is spending her weekend battling breast cancer with a bunch of F.R.O.G.s. Way to go, girls!

Arguing over money? 6 tips to get along ::

Healthy, Low Cost Food Choices :: Yahoo Health

Host a (Frugal) Thanksgiving Dinner ::

Declutter Your Home and Score Free Stuff (How to be a Freecycler) ::

Existing Home Sales See Largest Gain in Years ::

$100 Electric Bill in Big House (and ideas for change) :: Thrifty and Creative Blog

Top Ten "Get Out of Debt" Tips ::

Student Loan Fugitives (and Tips to Protect Yourself) ::

The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel ::

Air Cars: A New Wind for America's Roads? (So cute, I want one!) :: Yahoo Finance

To Change Careers, Tailor Your Resume ::

"Frugal Foodie" featured on the news :: $5 Dinners and FOX45 News

Cutting the Phone Line to Save Cash

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Banning of the Bits and Pieces

In honor of National Cat Week, we had our new pet cat Milo neutered today. Next year, we're thinking of celebrating by taking off a limb.

We'd just taken the cat in for his rabies shot, when we were fortunate enough to get squeezed in for sterilization at the low-cost clinic that accepts the shelter vouchers. The kids were with me as I scheduled the procedure. and the whole day long they were quite concerned about Milo. They asked question after question after question, and I just held my breath, hoping I wouldn't have to explain the whole "when a mommy cat and a daddy cat fall in love and get married" bit. Fortunately, that particular part of the subject never specifically came up.

I picked Milo up late this evening and was told he would have to stay in his crate until morning. Evidently, the anesthesia they gave him makes him hallucinate and fall over. I was told to leave him in until morning, just to let him sleep the drugs off. All the way home, from inside his little bin, I'd hear skittle, skittle, thump and shuffle, shuffle, thump. I brought him home and tucked the carrier quietly away in the corner of my closet, hoping that was far enough from the kids and the dog and the noise and the lights to prevent hallucinations that would blow his little mind.

Milo stayed still and silent in his crate for about six hours, when he then began an attempt at chewing his way through the bin side. I decided if he had the wherewithal to formulate an escape plan, he was clear to leave the crate. I gingerly carried it to the upstairs bathroom where I'd prepared clean litter and fresh food. Then I let the cat out of the bag bin.

He swayed and wobbled and stumbled and fell, but perked up a bit when he found his food bowl. I stayed to make sure he was comfortable before I left the room, and not aggressive as the anesthesia could make him. I thought he was trying to flush himself at one point, so I went back to make sure he was safe from drowning hazards. While I'm sure he's much happier locked in the restroom as opposed to his minuscule crate, I do hear a thump every once in a while. Surely that can't be good...

photo credit:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Stinky Cheese Man at Casa Mañana

We joined a local homeschool group to see The Stinky Cheese Man And Other Fair(l)y (Stoopid) Tales at Casa Mañana. "The play is based on the award-winning picture book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith. The Stinky Cheese Man plays havoc with traditional fairy tales as characters slide in and out of each other's tales, often mixing stories and changing information in ridiculous ways.*"

The kids enjoyed the stage setting and the costumes, and they really liked the Stinky Cheese Man. They did not like the mixing up of the other tales, though. More than once, I had to whisper back, "I know that's not how the story goes." The best part of the whole day was getting to spend time with other homeschool kids who live in our area -- in our neighborhood, even -- working on some new friendships. Later, we went to lunch with a lady who lives three streets over and a friend of hers whose daughters will be on Gracie's cheer squad this winter.

A Lovely Morning at Casa Mañana

Becoming Good Friends

Before The Stinky Cheese Man:
Playing in the Echo Sculpture at The Modern

*(Source: NWCTS, p.3)
photo credit:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Let it begin...

I know I've not provided an update with regards to the adoption process because, thus far, there's not been anything worth saying. Some time back, we submitted our interest form to our chosen agency, along with payment for the adoption education seminar scheduled for November 21/22. Meanwhile, I've been gathering documents necessary for our home study, praying, and witnessing God do amazing adoption miracles through blogs of people I know indirectly.

The two blogs I'm watching most closely are Learning How to Fly, which chronicles the adoption journey of a couple from our church, and Bevins Family, the blog of my friend's sister Kim who lost two babies in a row and who is now on her way to adoption through miraculous circumstances. As an aside, would you please join me in praying for them as they wait for their families to grow? May they have patience and God's peace as they wait, may God bless the birth mothers and bring the families together quickly, may the relationships be all that God intends them to be. Also, pray for the birth moms -- that God would bless them for the selfless decision they're making for the babies they're carrying, and that they would grow closer to and rely on Him during what I imagine to be an extraordinarily difficult process.

Until now, we've only been waiting, distanced, aloof. I've considered working on our album, particularly after watching all that Holly and Ben have gone through, but with our vacation and school and my troublesome little ovaries (long story), I've not done any more. In fact, I've pushed the whole adoption issue to the point in my mind that I only visit it during prayer time, and even then, it's more of an "I'm yielding to whatever you have planned, God" sort of way.

Today, though, the whole issue was brought back to the surface when I got an e-mail that our official intake interview has been scheduled, which is part one of our home study process. Because we have to travel to our chosen agency, they're making special concession for us. We'll meet with our Child Placement Manager the morning of the 21st before attending the seminar over the rest of the weekend. His plan is to work quickly with us after that to complete our home study and move us into the approved family pool.

As for a time frame, I have no idea. I think interview until home study completion is probably about six weeks long. Provided we get approved by the agency, birth moms will probably begin seeing our album sometime after the first of the year. After that, it's all in God's hands. We could have a placement within days or years or never at all. No matter the outcome, we are truly yielded to Him in this, and know that He has our best interests at heart. Still, we would appreciate your prayers. May His will be done in His perfect timing, and may this be an experience that draws us nearer to Him.

The Comedy of Errors at Bass Hall

We took advantage of the The Children's Education program at Ball Hall in Fort Worth, and saw The Comedy of Errors from the Aquila Theatre Company. This production of "Shakespeare for a New Generation" was wonderful!

The story is that of a husband and wife who bear a set of twins. They then buy a set of twin servants for their sons, but later, the family is separated during an accident at sea. The mother, one son, and one servant float one way, while the father, another son, and another servant float another. Each group thinks the other has perished among the waves. Later, the son and servant of the father go on an adventure to the town where their twins live, and the comedy of errors begins. Wives confuse their husbands, merchants confuse their debtors, jailers confuse their prisoners. It's a hilarious tale of near misses and silly circumstances, and is a story worth hearing time and again.

The most amazing aspect of this production: the actors stuck to the original language of Shakespeare's writing, but the costumes, mannerisms, and tone of voice were all quite modern. For the younger child, a production like this told the story when the words were hard to follow. For the older child (or adult), the production helped make sense of difficult verbage. It helped to bring it all into context, making it comprehensible. I hope when my children are ready to being reading Shakespeare, we find a similar production, making their longterm study that much easier.

Ta Da!

Bass Hall

Tickets in Hand

Pictures from a Purse
(Flash photography isn't allowed in Bass Hall,
so I took these from my purse, flash off...)

A Pre-Show Snuggle

Curtain Call for Gracie before the Last Act

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