Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fessin' up Friday.....

one day late ;D

Yesterday was the big Halloween party that we've been hosting at our house for the last 4 years, and with parent/teacher conferences in the morning and prep work all afternoon, I simply didn't have time to breathe......let alone post on my blog!

So, here's the latest on my diet:

Weight Watchers points left over for the week: 18
Activity points earned for the week: 35
Weight loss of Week 2: 3 pounds!!
Total weight loss: 6 pounds!!

I know it's the exercise that's making the difference, and I'm addicted!  My husband and I are walking at least 5 miles each day, and I love what it's doing for me!  Honestly, I haven't changed my eating habits all that much, but I have definitely cut back on "popping" things in my mouth without thinking :D  I'm looking forward to another week of losing....sad that I wasn't able to walk last night and will have to miss again today as we are headed out to an amusement park with the gang for the WHOLE day and night!!!!!!!!

(I'll try to get some pictures up from our Halloween party tomorrow!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Empowering our kids

Recently, I've been faced with several situations where I feel the need to step in and advocate for my children because I am the adult and have a slightly different view than my child who is in the center of the issue.

I am beginning to realize, however, that this isn't always the right thing to do when it comes to our children, and that sometimes it's more important to use these instances to teach our children to advocate for themselves.  After all, we won't always be there for them, and giving them the tools they need to problem-solve on their own is critical if we want them to grow up to be strong in faith, morals and character.

Let me give you an example of one of our recent struggles.  My 3rd oldest child, Sophie, is an incredible student!  She has a work ethic like no other and has the grades to prove it.  She is incredibly smart, talented and driven, and she won't let anything stand in the way of achieving her goals....with the exception of a teacher who asserts their POWER over their students.  


Sophie maintains a straight "A" average in all honors classes with her lowest grade being a 97% and her top grade being above 100%.  She prides herself on always striving to do her best work, but despite her effort, she continues to struggle in her advanced Spanish class when it comes to accumulating "speaking points."  A small percentage of her grade in this particular class is based on the amount of Spanish that she speaks while in class, and she is expected to attain a certain number of points per class period to get full credit for that portion of her grade.

From the moment she walks into her Spanish class until the time she leaves, Sophie is careful to speak ONLY Spanish, going out of her way to address classmates, friends and even her teacher in Spanish.  Her hope is to get the most points possible each day, however, while her efforts remain the same each class period, her speaking points can range anywhere from 10-30 per day.  This has caused Sophie much stress as she fails to understand what she is doing differently and the reason why she ends up lacking in points some days.

Although she feels she is doing her best each day, her effort is being valued in different ways....this is tough when she expects so much from herself and doesn't get the intended results no matter how hard she tries.  In addition, other students in the class sometimes receive more points than needed for doing the same or even less speaking in Spanish.  We've addressed the issue with the school counselor, but the answer has been that this is what works and they have no plans to change the current system, despite the fact that many other parents have expressed their concerns on this issue.

Yesterday, I picked Sophie up from school and asked her how her day was.  I could tell immediately that she was upset as she began to tell me that she had a miserable time in Spanish and wasn't able to get the points she needed for the day.  She tried to hide how upset she was, but I watched her wipe away the tears as they began to flow, and it broke my heart.  Here is a child who is talented, respectful, kind and just simply AMAZING (sorry, that's the bias I'm allowed as her mother!)...the kind of child ANY teacher would love to have in their class...and yet she is being made to feel awful.

Let me stop for a second because I know what many of you are thinking.....yes, I DO teach my children that sometimes, despite our best efforts, life is simply unfair.  And obviously, this is the perfect example of that!  It's important that Sophie understands that although she has done her best, she will not always be rewarded in the way that she would prefer.  And believe me, I used the example of my husband loosing his job recently despite the fact that his job performance was outstanding and he was a valued employee....life isn't always fair.


But that's not what this is about.

This is about Sophie and her ability to feel empowered and to speak out when she feels that life IS unfair.  I believe that it's important for us to be able to question and speak up, even if our efforts don't necessarily change the result.  In other words. Sophie has the right to question, in a respectful and kind way, the decisions of her teacher, possibly saying something like this:

I really enjoy your class, and I want to do my best.  Can you tell me what it is that I need to do in order to get all of my speaking points each day.


I believe that in doing so, Sophie would be able to alleviate some of the frustration that she feels and maybe wouldn't have such a sense of fear from the authority she is feeling under this particular teacher.  But when I asked her yesterday about speaking to her teacher, her answer was simply that it wouldn't change anything.

My reply is that it would....it would change Sophie's response.

Instead of feeling as though she has no control, she would begin to develop a confidence in herself through standing up for herself.  Questioning authority isn't a bad thing.  It's a right that we have in this great country, and it's one that we, as parents, are not teaching our children.  Instead, we have taught them to respect the status quo.  We have taught them to be "politically correct."  We have taught them to be followers....not leaders.  


We have taken away their voice.

When I think back to my days as a young adult, and I remember the things that I allowed adults and people in positions of authority to do to me because I was simply too young and too naive to know any better, I realize that I missed out.  Those were opportunities for personal growth...situations that could have changed my life if I had let them.  Instead, I chose to look the other way and accept my fate.  In truth, those people that I allowed to affect me, often in negative ways, were just.....

people.


Not kings, queens or gods...no.  Just people.

That's the lesson that I want my children to take away from this.  Your teacher, coach, troop leader....all just people... trying to get through life, the same as you.  YOU give them the power they have over you.  You can choose to let them make you miserable, or you can choose to question and stand up for yourself, becoming a stronger person in the end.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One day at a time...

Never has that phrase had more meaning to me than now as we wait ever so patiently for a job offer.

Not that we're anywhere NEAR a job offer.


Yet, this is still not the time to panic, although I must admit, it gets a little harder each day as we begin to realize how much time has elapsed since my husband lost his job (it will be 4 weeks on Friday).

Which is why I am trying so hard not to get ahead of myself and let myself drift into the possibilities of the what-ifs!

I just keep telling myself that I must remain calm, hopeful and unbelievably patient as we wait out this situation.....

ONE day at a time.

Currently we have no offers on the table, however there are multiple leads, and recruiters continue to contact my husband every day.  Some jobs we are able to cross off the list immediately, although we are trying our best to remember that a job is a job and we have to leave our "pickiness" at the door as we have 8 mouths to feed!

We are willing to go anywhere we need to go.  My husband is now in his third (and hopefully final) round of interviews for a job in New Hampshire, and while I never dreamed I would EVER move back to the east coast, it has become a distinct possibility.

The only thing we won't consider is a position that requires overnight travel.  Been there, done that, and it was miserable!  That was the main reason we left our family in Montana and moved to the state of Kansas four years ago.  We spent many years trying to survive my husband's horrendous travel schedule, and we finally came to the conclusion that, for us, it just didn't work.  We would rather take a pay-cut or move to a different place than have to go back to that particular way of life.  Our family time is just too important for us to make that sacrifice again, and we definitely learned from our mistake of trying to hold a job in a large geography that has over 50% travel!

So, here we are, almost 4 weeks later, the holiday season drawing near, trying ever-so-patiently to wait and not think about the future and only focusing on what is RIGHT in front of us...

not easy, but it's the only way to survive this time in our lives.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Life on the farm?

No, we don't live on a farm......


but we're beginning to think maybe we should!  Especially since we now own a hay wagon!


On Friday afternoon, we took the whole gang out to an old farm in Missouri to buy our very own  trailer.....


Just perfect for the hay rides we have planned this weekend at our Halloween party :D


And for only $70, we now own our very own amusement ride!!!  After a thorough cleaning and several new coats of paint, it's a sight to behold ;D


We still have plans to stencil "The Gang" on the sides, but for now, it's perfect for our planned hay rides!


We just need a barn to house it!  And, truth be told, we've decided that when we move, we will definitely be looking for a home with land......and maybe even a barn!  It just suits us :D  Sort of like the splatters of paint that seemed to find the boys clothing all weekend long!


We love to be outside, dig in the dirt, get our hands dirty....


And life in the country is sounding better and better all the time!

Not only did we work on the wagon this weekend, but we also finished off some other projects for our big Halloween party this coming Friday......


We are so excited to host this neighborhood event, and since it's likely to be our last big party here, we planned lots of fun activities for our friends!  We worked out a schedule today, and we are looking forward to having face painting, spooky hay rides, s'more roasting, fun games and a haunted house!!!  I'll be sure to get LOTS of pictures :D

Today was also the perfect day for making caramel apples!


And we didn't just make boring old apples this time!  Sophie wanted to try something different, so we did some with caramel only, some with caramel and crushed oreos....


And then we did some really amazing ones with white chocolate and crushed oreos!!!


Um.....YUM!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fessin' up Friday!

I'm starting a new Friday series to keep me honest in my attempt to lose some weight, and I'm gonna call it Fessin' up Friday!  I'd love to hear your weight loss tips and confessions (!) if you want to share, so feel free to leave me comments :D

One week ago today, I signed up for Weight Watchers Online.  I didn't think much of sitting down and signing up, but once it was done, I found myself in panic mode as I was hurled into a whole new weight loss learning curve!  The one thing I hate most about weight loss is the effort I have to put in to the diet itself.  I'm fine with eating healthy and exercising more, but I strongly dislike having to figure out what to eat and when to eat it....I like simple.  And I like something that doesn't take time out of my day!

So, after spending my first day in a tizzy, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the diet I had chosen was much easier to follow than I had anticipated.  I'm doing the new Points Plus online version, and I was thrilled to learn that fruits and veggies are "free" ;D  So I stocked up on bananas.....


and grapes....


and tons of veggies!


All that food....no points!  If you haven't heard about this diet, I'll give it to you in a nutshell.  You give Weight Watchers your height and weight, and they tell you how many points you can have each day.  Stay within your points and you lose weight!  Pretty simple!  And everything you eat has a "point value," so it's not a problem to keep track of your daily points.  I was thrilled to find that lots of products in the grocery store already have the points figured out for you and are printed right on the packages!


So I can eat that rice pudding and it costs me 2 points.  For the foods that you eat that don't have the points listed on the packaging, Weight Watchers has an app for your phone to help you figure out the points by entering some simple information per serving (fiber, carbs, protein, and fat).  So when I'm at the store, I know instantly whether something is worth buying or not!

But I must admit, WW has made it easy by providing lots of foods with their logo and points!


And the whole Smart Ones line is by WW, so they have the points plus on their cartons as well.....


Just flip them over and check out the back!


And they offer everything from pasta to desserts, so you really don't feel deprived!


Most of the meals range from 6 to 8 points, and they make a great dinner for me when paired with a point-free salad :D


Not only do you get so many points per day, but you also get a point allotment for the week.  So, in my case, I get 29 points per day, and I get an additional 49 points for the week that I can use anytime I want.    
I can even use them to eat an entire tub of ice cream if I feel so inclined ;D


And, if you're wondering, YES I did!  It cost me 16 points, but it was worth it!  Honestly, I could have easily stopped eating halfway through, but I was enjoying the fact that I could eat it because I had the points and it was more of a nah, nah at my diet!

See, look at me!  I can eat a whole carton of ice cream!  Nah nah na nah nah ;D

But it gets better!  You see, I have an unbelievable sweet tooth and would MUCH rather spend my precious points on sweets than on real food.  So I tend to eat lots of veggies and use my points to get my chocolate!


Gotta love Atkins!!!!  These wonderful treats taste SO good and are only 5 points each!!!!!


On top of all that, I'm still able to enjoy my Starbucks!  I could save some points there, but I've been choosing to skip breakfast and have a venti nonfat mocha in it's place!  Total points.....8!  Then I just eat veggies for lunch and an apple or something.....total points= 0!

I LOVE this diet!  It allows me to do what I want and not feel like I'm sacrificing!  Actually, I even ate a small piece of homemade banana  bread yesterday, and it only cost me 4pts!

Oh, and I almost forgot, you can also earn even more points through exercise!!!  I've been able to earn 5 points per day by walking 4 miles, giving me extra points beyond my daily and weekly balance.

So, it's been a week.  I weighed in this morning and guess what........

I LOST 3 POUNDS!!!!

Not much, but it's a start, and it's certainly better than the 1-2 pounds expected on most diets!

Here's what my plan looked like after one week:

I started with 29 points per day and 49 additional points per week (to be used each day if I went over my daily allowance).

I exercised each day and earned a total of 35 additional points (to be used after I went over my additional weekly points allowance).

By the end of the week, I had used all my daily points and I had 18 points left over from my 49 weekly points.  I also had ALL of my activity points left over!

I ended the week with a net gain of 52 points :D

Sadly, those points don't roll over to the next week, so I get to start all over, but that just encourages me to keep up with the exercising!  And knowing that I can lose weight and still satisfy my sweet tooth.......priceless!!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Emily's first Homecoming!

Last Saturday, Emily attended her first-ever Homecoming dance :D  In the past, she really hasn't had any interest, but this year, her friends persuaded her to go!  And it didn't hurt that we promised her she could get some brand-new cowgirl boots and wear them with her dress ;D


She wouldn't let us put makeup on her, but she did concede to letting Allie fix her hair!



I was so excited to be able to help her shop for a dress, even if it was last-minute!  I'm pretty sure the last time this kid wore a dress was when she was about 5 yrs old ;D


Emily went out to dinner and then to the dance with a nice group of girls.  They all decided to meet at our house for pictures before dinner.  Here's Caleb greeting the girls as they arrived!


But that wasn't as bad as the football game my husband had going on in the front yard the whole time we were trying to snap pictures!  He was even tossing it to the girls ;D


Yeah, we like to do things a little differently around our house!  And while I'm not sure I'll see Em in a formal dress again anytime soon, it was so fun to experience a slightly different and more elegant Emily!














The girls went out together in one of the girl's brand-new truck!


And it was the perfect place to snap a few pictures!




We were laughing about the diversity of the shoes!


And we were sure to get the ever-popular staircase shot!




Emily had a great time with her friends, and I'm so proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone and giving something different a try!


I still can't believe that my second-born is about to graduate....where, oh where does the time go?!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hump day...

About half way through the week now, almost dinner time on a Wednesday.

We'll be having buffalo chicken sandwiches for dinner....straight out of my beloved crock pot.  A neighbor told me she tried it, so I googled it and couldn't believe how simple it is.....chicken breasts in, dump on some hot wing sauce, pour a packet of dry ranch dressing mix over and cook on low for 7 hours.....shred and serve on rolls as sandwiches!  Yummy!  I'm going to get slightly creative and add some blue cheese to mine ;D

Today I took the littles to Wal-Mart to pick up some more hot sauce so I could get dinner cooking, ran over to Bath & Body to use a coupon I had on some hand soap, took Matthew to school and then helped Allie with a photography project.

She had to show stopped motion using her film camera (which she'll develop in the dark room at school), but she wanted to use her digital cameras first so she could get an idea of which ISO and aperture to use. I got to help her by chucking a handful of rocks into a glass of soda!


Cool!  That was taken with her digital, and then we did about 24 more shots with a film camera...she's hoping she got as good of a shot on film.....we'll soon find out ;D

Then I headed out to pick up kids from school, leaving a sleeping Caleb......


and a sleeping Jacob....


at home with daddy ;D

He worked in our home office while they slept in the most uncomfortable positions I've ever seen!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tired of waiting on God?

Isn't it funny how we go to church only to listen to the message and think that was directed RIGHT at me?!  It happens to me more often than I care to admit, and I suppose that's the whole purpose of church.....none of us are perfect and most of us are struggling with lots of the same things....whether we want to admit it or not!

Since I subscribed to Proverbs 31 Ministries a while back, I've been experiencing this same phenomenon (pretty much on daily basis!) as I receive emails each morning with stories and reminders about God.  And today was no different.  Today's message talked about being patient and waiting for God to answer our prayers, and I found it to be a great reminder during this time where my husband continues to be without a job, and we have no idea where we'll be in 6 months!  

I wanted to share this with you, so I copied the excerpt below......enjoy!

*Do you ever get tired of waiting on God to answer your prayers? Recently, I began to feel a sense of frustration with the wait, and also a little bit tired.
Tired of saying the same old prayer day after day, month after month, year after year. Tired of telling God about the same old problems still going on. Tired of hearing myself pray about the same old problems, leading me to wonder if God was as tired of hearing my prayer requests as I was of praying them.
So I bowed my head and admitted to God that I was simply tired of the wait.
In a heavy state of emotional tiredness, I turned to the crisp, white pages of my Bible. I was hoping God would illuminate a few verses that would jump out of the book and straight into my heart.
I began reading about when Isaac’s wife Rebekah gave birth to twin sons. One particular sentence caught my eye and I read it again and again. My heart leapt as I realized God was using this one little sentence to speak hope into my spirit. He used His spiritual highlighter just as I had wanted.
Genesis 25:26 tells us that Isaac was sixty years old when his twins were born; a simple Bible fact, yet profoundly meaningful to me on this specific day. You see, Isaac had been patient for the Lord to provide the perfect wife; he was forty years old when he married Rebekah. If you do the math you realize Isaac waited twenty years for Rebekah to bear him children! He could have chosen a concubine to bear him a son. But he was a man of great patience who waited on God. Eventually his patient faith was rewarded.
Isaac never gave up hope that his Lord could make the impossible, possible. He had learned that his Lord would provide. So he continued to pray the same desperate prayer for a son, day after day, month after month, year after year. In fact, we learn in Genesis 25:21 that “Isaac pleaded with the Lord” (NLT), meaning he earnestly and strongly prayed about his problem. He did not half-heartedly ask God for a son, he pleaded! He begged. He poured his heart out.
I can envision Isaac passionately pleading to God throughout those twenty years, with out-stretched arms and a tear-stained face pressed against the hot, dirty soil, begging God to answer his prayer.
Isaac was surely tired of the wait, but he never stopped praying or believing that his dreams could come true. And in God’s perfect timing, they did.
If you are tired of the wait, you may be pleading to God just like Isaac. It may take twenty years for God to answer our prayers, or it may only take twenty minutes. But today, let us find comfort in remembering Isaac’s patient faith and take hope in believing that God is not tired of hearing our prayers. Instead, He is simply waiting for the perfect time to answer.
Dear Lord, please help me have patience and faith while I wait to hear from You. Help me live in excited anticipation for the day when I will see how You answer my prayers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.*

Monday, October 17, 2011

Donuts, haunted houses & school spirit!

Another busy weekend!  I love fall, but I have to be careful to take time to enjoy the activities instead of just being in a rush to get through them so we can move on to the next ;D  But with hubby out of a job, we've done some cutting back this year and are sticking with the activities that don't cost an arm and a leg, giving us more time to actually enjoy each one!

For the last 4 years, we have been hosting a neighborhood Halloween party at our home, and since this will likely be our last year here, we wanted to make it the best party ever!  Emily has been re-designing and perfecting her haunted house each year, and the new additions this year are going to be awesome!  She and her dad got a good start over the weekend with some of the new plans....


Of course, all the gang was there to watch, even if it was a little loud!


Not only do we have big plans for the haunted house, but we also have some fun activities for the kids that we've never had before!  I'm not going to give them away on my blog just yet, as many of my neighbors read here, so you'll have to check back in a couple of weeks to see what we did :D


I do love that my kids are so willing and able to use tools and build things!  What a great skill to learn!


Even the 3yr-old is learning how to use a tape measurer :D


The girls spent a good part of the day Friday (no school) working on the party...


And then Emily & some friends decided to deck out our van for the big Homecoming game!


They got so many compliments on it and it's even going to likely end up in the school yearbook as the yearbook staff was excited to take pictures of it!


The girls added all the players' numbers on the sides of the van- too fun!


And it ended up being a great game with our school winning big!  Nice since they've only won one other game this season (this is only the second year the high school has been open so it's a new program)!

On Saturday morning, Sophie & Noah decided to bike a few miles down the road to Dunkin' Donuts and spend their own money on donuts for all the family (obviously NOT me!)!


It was a nice treat that everyone enjoyed!


While two were gone getting donuts, two more were heading out to a cattle-drive/trail-ride!  Allie had been hired by some friends to do some event photography out on their ranch, and Emily went along!

Here's Caleb waving "bye" as the girls are taking off :D


Allie is still really struggling with the mono, and has missed several of her classes at school, so she wasn't able to stay for the whole day to take pictures, but she was there for a few hours and got some great shots.

Caleb LOVES to see everyone off as they leave the house!


The rest of Saturday was spent at Josh's lacrosse game and then getting Emily ready for Homecoming!  I have a post planned for tomorrow with pictures from her very first Homecoming- it's the first time she's had a dress on since she was about 5 years old ;D

Sunday was spent cleaning house to get ready for an open house in the afternoon.  Josh had his final lacrosse game of the fall season during the open house, so it worked out well.  We went straight to church from the game and heard a great message about finding JOY in your daily life....The Legacy of Laughter!  Reminded us to stop our whining and get over ourselves ;D  Then it was home for baths and bed!

Prayers appreciated for Allie as she struggles yet again with a debilitating condition that is keeping her from enjoying life (mono).  I don't know how much more one person can take, and I fail to understand why Allie continues to suffer, but I know that she is in HIS care, and that HE is working on her as she goes through all of this stuff, but that doesn't make it any easier for her!  I know she has a hard time with the "why me" and I pray that yesterday's message at church gave her some peace......after all, her middle name is JOY!!!!!!!!!!!  We're still chuckling about that irony ;D

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