Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wow, it's been so long again ~ over a month!!  Sitting down to write an actual post has become something of a challenge for me this year, it seems.  I don't seem to care much about taking the time to put into words what I'm thinking/feeling/
experiencing anymore.  This month will far and away be my "postiest" month.

Anyway, first and foremost...

I'm thankful today is the first day of summer holidays!
Woo-hoo, another successful school year is OVER!!

I'm thankful I am a full-time mom and that my girls can spend their summers at home.  Sure, it's almost too much "togetherness" sometimes, but none of us really want it any other way.  My girls regularly express how grateful they are for a mom who stays home.  But I'm also grateful for their growing independence and reliability when I'm not home, and I  think we're getting closer and closer to part-time work being an option the whole family is comfortable with.

I'm grateful to have survived yet another sleep-over birthday party!  AJ's 10th birthday was on Father's Day this year, and she celebrated with friends from Friday after school till about 9:30 Saturday night by the time we'd dropped off the last guest after a long day at the indoor waterpark in a small city 2 hours away.  I'm so thankful The Man was home that weekend and that he was willingly involved in the festivities.
 (He's working/living in the semi-truck in shifts of 10 days on/four days off, so he's only home every other weekend)

And speaking of Father's Day... I'm so thankful to have three great fathers in my life: my own dad, my girls' dad, and my father-in-law.  I can't begin to express my gratitude for the ways in which all those dads shape my life.  I certainly can't articulate the specifics of their influence, nor the scope of it, but I know it's there, and I can see evidences of their influence in my life spilling over into the lives of my daughters.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to demonstrate to my girls that in so many circumstances of life, the only thing we can change is our attitude.  (Notice I didn't say I was SUCCESSFULLY demonstrating it, just that I was thankful for the opportunities!!)  With their dad living in the truck and being away from home the majority of the time the last several months again, it's difficult for all of us to not be angry and frustrated with the situation.  Especially when it looks like it will be this way all summer.  It's hard not to feel sorry for ourselves.

Add to that the fact that June has been an incredibly wet month, with hardly more than a day or two in between rainfalls, and it becomes even easier to resent our circumstances.  Yet I keep reminding the girls (and even more often, myself!) that the only thing we can change about our circumstances is our attitudes.  That's what makes or breaks the day.  Gloomy outside doesn't have to mean gloomy INSIDE.  

But mostly, I'm thankful for sleeping-in.  And that my girls are naturals!!  :)

What are YOU thankful for today?

Backyard pool


WW: Last Day

>> Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ugh, MOM!  Just take the picture already.

Wordless Wednesday

Mowing The Lawn


Some[r] Specifics

>> Monday, June 23, 2014

Okay, so on Friday I shared my overall plan for beating summer boredom week after week around here.

(You know, should that be a problem.)


I'm finding that as my girls get a bit older, these plans become more and more necessary since playing together with toys for hours and hours doesn't work quite as well for them as it used to.  And because we live out in the country with only a medium-sized town nearby, the options for outings and get-togethers with friends are more limited and involve more logistics than if we lived in a metropolitan area.  Add to that a very prohibitive budget, and our whole family struggles with feeling a little stuck and isolated at times.

Anyway, Friday's post was already a little on the long side, but I wanted to share some of the specifics and materials that I want to try using as well as things I came across that interested me.

My girls both LOVE workbooks and so I ordered a couple of really promising-looking ones specifically designed to reinforce the materials learned in the grades they just finished, and introduce the curriculum they'll start learning in fall: Summer Bridge Grade 4-5 and 6-7.  (It seems the Canadian editions only go up to the Gr. 5/6 workbook, so Mack's is the American version, but given the focus is reading, writing, math, and science, I don't imagine that will matter a whole lot.)  Both books are divided into three, roughly 20-day sections, and there are only 1-2 pages per day, so nothing too strenuous or time-consuming.  I imagine there will be some concepts they're unfamiliar with, but hopefully I will be able to help them!

Another thing I'd like to work on with them is daily devotions.  I found some fun 60-day adventure type resources at Thriving Family, but I they're geared towards slightly younger kids than mine.  Plus, I wanted to encourage a daily Bible-reading habit that would last longer than just the summer holidays.  AJ finds her Bible too intimidating to even begin, and Mack's been struggling to read through her Bible on and off over the last two years, but has been frustrated by the long books, long words, and concepts she doesn't understand.  In looking for a new reading plan for myself recently, I was excited to discover one that I think will be perfect for them.  It's an overview of the Bible's incredible story in just 365 chapters.  It's manageable, very easily do-able, and will be good reading practice for both girls.  I imagine there will be lots of questions and discussion, which will be good not only for their spiritual growth and understanding, but for my own as well.  We decided to start on the first day of summer holidays and if we aim for 6 chapters a week ~ give or take a few days here and there ~ we should be done by the end of summer holidays next year.

In addition to daily devotions, I think we'll tackle memorizing the books of the Bible again.  We started working on it last summer, but after getting about halfway through the Old Testament, it kinda fizzled out.  I saw this cute idea (on Pinterest, of course!), and I think we'll give it a whirl.  Or maybe one of these ideas that won't take up quite so much space!

Creatively, there's my Pinterest board for simple crafts for Mack (plus she's still bound and determined to master the most difficult Rainbow Loom configurations she can find, as well as continue creating some of her own), and I found Code and Scratch websites for beginner computer programmers, which AJ will be ALL OVER.

And, when we've exhausted all THOSE avenues, since AJ loves French and Mack and I enjoy Spanish, there's this great site that'll teach you to converse in either language (or German as well), in short, 10-20 minute lessons.  I think that could be a lot of fun.

So there you have it ~ the plan and the resources.  Like I mentioned in Friday's post, I know there will be days and weeks when this plan goes out the window, and that's okay.  There's no requirements or checklists to worry about.  But at least there's a plan when we need one!!

Hammock 1


Summer Prep

>> Friday, June 20, 2014

Today marks the end of the girls' last full week of the 2013/14 school year.  Just three days left!  (Canadian schools generally run from the beginning of September to the end of June to make the best use of our short summers.)  Needless to say, we're all VERY ready for summer holidays, although I'm always surprised how bittersweet the last days are for my girls.  I don't remember ever feeling that way as a kid.  I was just happy to be FREE!!

In 2010 and 2011, I set very specific goals for the summer, but found I didn't like the feeling of having to meet a checklist's requirements week after week, even if the items were fun, leisure activities.  I didn't like the feeling of obligation.  In 2012 I had more nebulous goals, which felt better... but is probably also why we didn't achieve any of them.  Last summer I didn't bother making any plans of any sort and since it was a fairly busy one, that was okay.

This year, The Man will be working a lot more than he had to last summer, which means he's gone the entire week, or even 10 days at a time with a four-day weekend every second week.  Either way, there likely won't be a whole lot of camping trips this year, and our customary trip to The Big City has already been postponed till fall.  So with the anticipation of a summer spent much closer to home, I'm back to feeling like there should be a plan of some kind ~ however loosely regulated and adhered-to ~ to help combat boredom and laziness.  And not just for my girls, either!

After finding and reading this post several months ago and keeping in mind my own thoughts on the ideal schedule, I've decided to try and adopt a plan for the day where the morning is spent focusing on the things that need doing around the house and yard, as well as feeding our minds and hearts, so the afternoons are left wide open and (relatively) responsibility-free for spending time in the pool, playing outside, visiting with friends (either mine, the girls', or both), or heading up to one of the lakes for the afternoon.  My goals for this summer are really less about actual accomplishments than they are about removing my customary excuses for not leaving the house or having people over.

I'm visualizing breakfast and devotions, followed by 30 minutes to an hour of laziness (depending on when the girls woke up and ate), and then two hours of more structured time where the girls and I will pick and choose 15-30 minute time blocks to work on various tasks either together or separately.  My plan is that this will include housekeeping tasks, yardwork, and some time spent on academics.  (fortunately, both my girls absolutely ADORE workbooks!!)  Of course, there are TONS of chore and chore chart ideas available online, but I haven't quite settled on one yet, or even if I will bother.  I think I will just break down what needs to get done each week and then we can sort of pick and choose what gets done when, based on weather, days away from home, upcoming events, etc.

That will leave afternoons free to do whatever we want.  A goal specifically for myself is to have picnic food and snacks at the ready, as well as a tote of beach stuff that stays in the car, so that trips to any of the nearby lakes can be made last-minute without me protesting about not being properly prepared.  I want to make sure that the swimsuits and towels go back into the tote as soon as they're washed and/or dried, and that those food supplies are re-stocked after each use (as necessary).  And if that means we eat hotdogs at home once a week to use up buns that didn't make it to the lake, so be it!

My girls are both very creative, but in very different ways, so I want to make sure those needs get met as well.  Mack is a crafty girl who's constantly running out of supplies while AJ prefers doing things on the computer.  I want to make sure I help Mack out as much as I can (and thankfully, we have a dollar store in town!) and I've actually found a couple of great sites for beginner computer programming that I think AJ will really love.  I also want to encourage them to learn and use iMovie with their iPods, or even just use our digital cameras to make short videos.

It's a big plan and I know there will be days (maybe even weeks) where we don't stick to it, but at least the PLAN is taking shape.  It will take a bit for the girls to adjust to the idea of not being able to laze around all morning, but I'm hoping that occupying ourselves with responsibilities in the morning will mean they won't be bored by noon!  I'll share a few more specifics next week, since this post is getting a little long already.

Do you plan a summer schedule of sorts?  How does your family handle all the down time?

Backyard pool
* all photos from previous years ~ most from last year; the workbook one is from 5 years ago.


WW: Overdue

>> Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Mowing The Lawn


Using Weed(s)

>> Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Our yard is resplendent in dandelions every summer.  We spray roughly once a year, but I'm guessing if we REALLY wanted to deal them a serious blow, we'd have to do it several times throughout the summer.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to try and do something productive with this spring's abundant "crop" and so before The Man sprayed last week, he picked me an ice cream pail of yellow heads.

Then I spent the next two hours pinching the blossom bases to release the petals from the stem.  Green = bitter.  (Thumb + index finger + two hours of pinching dandelions = SORE HAND!)

Anyway, once I had four cups of yellow petals, I threw them in a pot, covered them with 8 cups of water, boiled them for 10 minutes, and then let the "tea" steep for a few hours.  (while I waited for The Man to come home from town with a key ingredient!)

I was a little doubtful about continuing at this point as the mush smelled more like cooked squash than anything else, but I forged ahead, reasoning that the 5-1/2 cups of sugar I was going to be adding to just 3 cups of the liquid would fix everything.  So I strained the cooled "tea" through a coffee filter and then squeezed thoroughly to get every last drop.  I measured 3 cups into a pot, added a bit of lemon juice, and emptied the package of pectin into the pot.  Once the liquid was boiling and the pectin was dissolved, I added the ton of sugar and stirred till it was also all dissolved.

Then I poured it into clean jars, topped with sterilized lids, and voilá...

Like the many reviews I read, we found it tasted fairly similar to honey, but a lighter and less intense flavour.  Quite good with peanut butter on toast in the morning!

I don't know if I'll ever do it again, but it's nice to know there is at least one use for these weeds!!

Butterfly watching


Let the Sun Shine In

>> Monday, June 16, 2014

It's been many years now since I found this "Ten Ways to Let the Sun Shine In" list in a Readers' Digest magazine.  I post it here on the ol' blog almost every late spring or early summer ~ including the same, now-outdated pictures I used the very first time ~ as a reminder for myself, because somehow, despite my intentions, I often realize I've been too busy consumed with my personal agenda to really sit down and enjoy the summer holidays.  To make the most of the time I have with my husband and our girls in the blissfully school-less months.  If you are in the same boat, maybe this will be a helpful reminder to you, too.

1. Get up an hour earlier. Step outside, listen to the birds, smell the air, pray. Give thanks for what's going well in your life.

2. Stay out of the supermarket. When the growing season is under way, try to shop at the farmers' markets instead. Enjoy the colours, textures, and smells; the taste of fresh food harvested just hours before.

3. Pick berries. Nothing tastes like a ripe strawberry just picked from the plant. It is the flavour of seduction.

4. Make a pie. Real pie - homemade pie - is a work of art and an act of love.

5. Eat outside. Yes, more picnics. Bring a big blanket, a straw hat, a basket of fresh bread, cheese, fruit, wine and a few good friends.

6. Just say no. Try to stay firm and save some time just for yourself; to loll, nap, daydream.

7. Get on - or in - the water more.
Haul out that old canoe and paddle down a nearby river on afternoon or slip into the nearest water hole and let the water wash away the stress of the day.

8. Find a hay field. After the hay has been cut, drive by at dusk with the windows rolled down. Stop the car and just sit there, breathing in the sweet, green fragrance, watching the swallows swooping in circles over the darkening fields.

9. Go outside at night. Walk outdoors after dark and admire the stars, the Milky Way, how the clouds look in the moonlight. Walking at night heightens the senses ~ and moonlight is a powerful aphrodisiac.

10. Let go. At least a little. Give yourself some sanctuary, some breathing room every day. When we make the time to replenish our reserves, we find new energy to reach out in ways large and small, to change our world. To change ourselves.

I've been thinking about this list and how I might incorporate it into my goals for this summer.  How do YOU plan to let the sun shine in?

Butterfly watching


Right On Track

>> Thursday, June 12, 2014

In most ways, our oldest daughter, Mack (aged 12), is very obviously our daughter.  But there is one way in which she openly defies genetics and upbringing...

She runs.

She jumps.

She loves running.

She LOVES jumping.

And she's very good at both.

Placing 1st in high jump and 2x400m relay, 2nd in 100m dash,
and 3rd in 4x50m shuttle run and long jump on May 16;
1st in 800m and high jump, 2nd in 100m dash,
and 3rd in 400m, 4x50m shuttle run, and 4x100m relay on May 30.
She also ran her very first 5K race on June 1.

On May 30th, she came within 4cm of beating the Valley record for Gr. 6 girls' high jump.  She could probably EASILY have done it, too, but at my urging, she'd entered the 800m last-minute, which had been followed immediately by the 4x100m relay, after which she had to hustle over to compete in high jump!  Needless to say, she was pretty tapped out.  The school buses were waiting already, too, so she ran out of energy AND time.

Maybe next year.



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