Thursday, December 31, 2009

The most awesome concert ever

And I have pictures! I love this little camera. I so wish I had it for the David Cook concert I went to earlier. There is always next time! Anyways, Josh and I went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert with Josh's sister and husband last Sunday. We had really good seats and I was able to take some great pics and videos. I really love everything about this band. I love the variety of music they play - classic carols, songs they've written, beethoven, and much more. I love the mix of orchestra with the electric guitar and electric violin. Just amazing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The holidays

Our holiday celebrations are now over. This year was the first year we celebrated Christmas in our home on the actual date. Every other year we've celebrated early in our own home so we could come up here for our family Christmases. It hasn't bothered me and I can't say I prefer one way to the other. We still have time with just our family and we still get to visit with our extended families and that's what is important to me. Really, the only thing that changed was the location of our Christmas eve church service.

The past few days have been busy but a good kind of busy. Friday we had our own family Christmas and then packed up to visit family for a few days. Saturday morning was my family Christmas. Sunday we went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert with Josh's sister and her husband. I absolutely love them. This is the 5th time I've seen them in concert and I don't think it will ever get old. It was also just fun to have a night out. Monday was Josh's family's Christmas.

The only negative in all these fun get-togethers is that Rachel has gotten a cold. She woke up early Sunday morning with a croupy cough. After running a hot shower to let her sit in the steam and then going outside for a minute, she was breathing easier. She seemed better on Sunday but had a rough day today. We were planning to go home on Wednesday but I suppose that may change if she appears to need to see the doctor. I hope she's feeling better for her sake but it'd also be nice to have nothing planned for tomorrow and just be able to sit around. I'm not ready to pack everything up and head home just yet.

The New Year will be here soon and I am thinking about some resolutions. I am NOT resolving to read any certain books. If I like a book, I will read it. If I don't, then reading it is absolute torture. Reading has always been an escape for me and one of the most enjoyable ways to spend my time. I don't want it to become work. At the same time, I do want to read more than fluff. I want to read things that challenge me and make me grow. I think I could resolve to read a certain number of non-fiction books. I like that idea. That way, I still have control over which ones but if something is boring me to tears, I have the freedom to drop it and pick another one and not feel like a failure.

I am off to spend a few minutes before bed reading. I doubt that I will be resolving to go to bed earlier this next year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Running . . . but not getting anywhere

Have you ever had a dream where you are trying to run away but your legs just won't move? It's like in the cartoons when they jump up and their legs are going but they're still in the same spot. I have felt like that with our finances lately.

We are doing all the right things. We have paid off all debt except our mortgage. I know that's huge. I know it's a big, important step. But we feel very stuck.

We have been working on building up our emergency fund since September. We have mastered - okay, maybe that's too strong of a word - we have gotten really good at budgeting. We've eaten out less and tried to cut back in a lot of ways. We're naming every single dollar that comes in and telling it where it's going.

But those darn emergencies keep happening and we're hitting a wall.

I have been told this is normal. I have been told that as soon as you say out loud, "We're not going into debt again!" that you will be tested. After having to buy a new van a month after paying off our home equity loan, I do believe this. But 4 months of testing is a little much, isn't it? It's hard to keep one's focus when one doesn't seem to be gaining any forward momentum.

I have also heard that there will come a point when you will shoot past the wall and gain momentum in your financial journey that you never thought possible.

I'm ready. Let's go. Maybe in January?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Break

I was going to push through and do 3 days of school next week. I knew we could cover a full week's worth of work in 3 days and figured one week and two days off would be more than enough. Then the kids asked about making Christmas cookies and I was looking at our schedule wondering when would be a good time to do that. And I decided that there was absolutely nothing wrong with taking two full weeks off of school.

I told the kids on Monday that this was our last week of school before Christmas break and they thought they knew that already. Apparently, they had been counting on that. I explained that I had originally been planning to do school next week until Wednesday but decided to take the days off and do some other things instead. Of course, they immediately wanted to know what "other things" we'd be doing. I said making Christmas cookies and chocolate-covered pretzels and some other treats and the cheers were immediate. Tori exclaimed, "That is an excellent idea!"

I thought so, too. And the closer we get to our last day, the more sure I am of that decision.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Twin Chatter

Rachel and Owen are doing more role-playing lately and let me tell you, it is quite entertaining. In this picture, they were feeding their babies, complete with bibs. They will carry their babies upstairs for naptime or bedtime. The other day, they took them up and then brought them right back down because, as Rachel explained, "Baby don't feel good - she need medicine."

The next day, ironically, Rachel woke up not feeling good so I was taking her temperature. I always have them sit on my lap and take one arm out of the sleeve and then take their temperature under their arm. After I was done and determined she had no fever, she was sitting on the couch, holding the thermometer. Owen walked in and apparently, Rachel was concerned for his health. She told him to sit on her lap and she would take his "tempin". He said no but did climb on the couch and sit next to her. He then proceeded to get one arm out through the top of his shirt and she turned the thermometer on and stuck it under his arm. When it beeped, she said he was all better. Then he realized he didn't know how to get his arm back in his shirt.

I look forward to what they will come up with next! And there is also a little trepidation there. Two minds can be so much more cleverer than one.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas times a'comin

All it took was a little shopping. Okay, maybe a cart full. But now I am in the Christmas spirit. I think it's hard for me to get excited about Christmas when there aren't presents purchased yet. I stress about when to buy presents and what to buy and all that good stuff. But then, once a lot of shopping is done, I just can't wait for Christmas morning to be able to give those presents!

Saturday, I went shopping with a friend and decided to see what I could get done. I found a lot of neat things and came home ready to decorate! Now the tree is up, the outside lights are up and our spare room in the basement is locked to keep out curious eyes.

It was a lot of fun getting decorations out this year. Everytime I opened up a storage tub, I had two little toddlers standing over it saying, "Oooh, cuuute!" and "I love this!". How can you not get into the holiday spirit with that kind of enthusiasm?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Still loving our curriculum

It's been awhile since I could say that. We've gotten into a good routine and it just really works for us right now. I was even able to keep school going while potty-training, although there were some days that it might have been better to take the day off. We managed.

One thing we haven't done much of this year is writing. Nothing besides handwriting, that is. I'm looking into some options and think we'll add that in January.

It really is amazing how little time it takes to do a lesson when you can just focus on one child sitting in front of you. I am also amazed at how much time it can take when said child has a really horrible attitude. They are learning, though. The work has to get done, whether they pout and whine and stretch it out to two hours or instead, set their minds to it and get it done in thirty minutes.

I'm pleased with the progress they've both made in math. I'm ecstatic over how well Tori is doing in spelling. I need to stop underestimating her. I especially love what they are learning in history. I should say, what *we* are learning in history. I didn't pay a lot of attention to history in school. This year, we are reading The Story of the World, The Middle Ages, and it's really interesting. I especially like reading about Britain. It's so interesting learning things with my kids. We all have an "a-ha!" moment on some days.

Yesterday we were reading about Alfred the Great - he was a king of England who defeated the Vikings. I remembered buying a coffee table book about Britain a few years ago because I love Ireland and Scotland and England and was into Henry the 8th and the whole Protestant/Catholic thing at that time. Plus, it had beautiful pictures and a dream of mine is to go over there some day and see it for myself. Anyways, I thought of that book and wondered if it had stuff about Alfred the Great in there. So I got it out with the kids and we found him! And they had pictures of Viking weapons and other interesting things that made it come alive for us.

Now, I don't know how much of this history my kids could recite back or how much of it is sinking in. But I think it's opening up their minds to the realization that the world is old and a lot happened before us. And I hope that when they hear these names again in the future, a light bulb will go off and they'll say, "Oh, yeah, I remember hearing about him".

They also have a map page to fill out for every chapter and a coloring page. I'm planning to put these in a binder for them (yes, I know it's December and that we've been in school for several weeks now) and hope that when they look through these, they'll remember what we read.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hello, December

I don't know if it's because of the weather (a mild, sunny day on Dec. 1 in Michigan?) but it doesn't feel like December to me. Maybe it's because we don't have any decorations up. Maybe it's because I have very little shopping done. Maybe I'm in denial.

I'm not a grinch - I love Christmas. I might just love it more if I was a little more organized.

Every year, I decide that it will be different the next. I will print out lists and follow all those helpful tips on how to get everything done ahead of time. I will write down gift ideas for people right away and not wait until the last minute for inspiration to strike. I will enjoy the holiday season and breeze through with no stress at all.

And every year, that does not happen.

This year is no exception. Except I did make one change. I decided to create an address database for Christmas cards and print the labels instead of writing them by hand. I started messing around on the computer and actually found one that I had done about 5 years ago! (I thought this idea felt familiar!) There were some that had to be deleted and some that need to be changed and several to be added - but it was a great start. And it made the idea of Christmas cards so much less stressful.

So maybe I can change one thing each year to make it better. And maybe I can let go of some unrealistic expectations and just enjoy the moments of the season. Take an extra long drive in the van on the way home from the store with the kids so we can look at the lights. Put up decorations when we're not in a hurry so we can enjoy the process. Watch timeless Christmas specials, eat popcorn, drink hot chocolate. Find new traditions to begin. Oh, the possibilities this month holds!