Search This Blog

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Clean house

We've enjoyed relaxing around the house the last couple days.  But with our trip to AZ on Monday, it was time to get to cleaning.  We took down the tree and all indoor Christmas decorations.  Since the lights aren't in our way and it's freezing outside, we left the outside things up.  I figure we'll unplug them next weekend at least.  I must say, though, that it is very nice to have a clean house.  I even finished finding places for everything in our bedroom from when we moved in.  We found places for everything in the playroom and all floors were swetp/vaccumed.  I am looking forward to starting off the new year in a clean house when we return.

I continue to spend a bit of time working on the kids' rugs each day.  They are both big enough that if I wanted them to be small I could stop and call them done.  But it's really rather easy so I'll continue to work until I discover I no longer have time.  We'll see how big they end up, perhaps these will be the big rugs in their rooms rather than small.  They feel really cool to sit on and so I'm thinking I want them to be big enough for the kids to lay on them.  Just not sure how much work I'll get done once Jon goes back to work.

One thing I had intended to do over break was create a schedule for afterwards.  And that I have yet to do.  So I am committing to doing so upon our return.  Or perhaps I'll take some paper to think about it while on the plane.  Our first week back we only have gymnastics, although I'm thinking we'll head to the library as well.  Second week we're back in full swing with gymnastics, story hour, and swim lessons.  Our free days will be Wed/Fri, so I'm thinking I'll plan activities out on Wed and Fri we'll stay home to relax, do laundry, and work on science projects.  We have lots of cool new art supplies as well.  Looking forward to getting back into a routine and helping the kids learn.  I'm hoping that we can get some snow to make playing outside a bit more fun as well.

Can't wait to visit Grandpa on Monday and get some quality time with him.  Hoping for a calm day tomorrow as I tutor and finish up work for a few days.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

We had another nice day today.  I spent the morning making the sticky buns and apple pie.  They look great!  The kids were pretty good and Jon had a chance to do a bunch of cleaning while I baked.  I didn't get anything prepared in terms of real food for tomorrow, but should be okay.  Just have to mix together the cheesy potatoes and sweet potatoes.  As usual I do need to sit down and figure out a timing schedule for everything, but likely in the morning.  Jon even remembered to charge the video camera today!

This afternoon Michelle and Brian came over for a nice visit.  Miraculously, both children slept until nearly 3pm.  We all shared the birthday cake, which turned out pretty well.  I think I'll skip the almond extract next time though, because it was very strong!   Then the kids provided entertainment until it was time to go to church.  It was really nice to see Michelle and Brian and now that we're closer I'm hoping to see them more often.

We went to the 4pm family mass, which was different than when I was growing up.  They moved the children's play portion to before the official mass and the homily was fairly long.  As usual, the church was packed and we ended up sitting on the floor in the vestibule, which was okay for the kids.  Next year we'll go earlier though and hopefully they'll be old enough to actually sit through mass.  And once Carolyn starts Sunday school next fall hopefully we'll start to know some other people involved at the church as well.  It's going to be nice to be settled into one town.  We came home and had our usual special dinner, looked at the Norad Santa tracker, read the Christmas story book, then the kids put out the milk, cookies, and carrots.  They put a bunch out, so we warned them Santa might not eat it all.  I already had a couple things though.  Jon is wrapping some of the presents now while I keep watch for opening doors.  Luckily Carolyn is bad with being quiet when she leaves her room.  I am really looking forward to the look on their faces tomorrow morning.  They each will only have 7 things to open, but they're all things we know that will get played with.  Plus we know others will spoil them!  Looking forward to the big crazy day tomorrow and then a quiet time at home before we head to AZ.  Great end to 2012.

Looking forward to the many blessings that God has in store for us this week!  Merry Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Baking is complete!

Almost all the baking is complete.  Well, everything that could possibly be done in advance is complete.  Today I finished up with lemon love notes, kalachkis, and birthday cake.  We'll see how the cake tastes, but I think it looks awesome.  I used a gluten free recipe and it seemed a bit off as it cooked.  It inflated a lot while cooking and totally collapsed afterwards, although doesn't look terrible.  I put a layer of my usual frosting on it, some Christmas sprinkles, but then gave my first try ever at fondant for decorating.  Wow was this easy to work with!  Definitely will take some more finessing as far as coloring is concerned, but so easy to shape.  I have been thinking of doing a cross, but Jon suggested a star as I was mentioning my plans.  So I put a yellow star top with red and green stars around the edges.  I then wrote out "JESUS" as well.  We took a picture that I'll post when I upload.  (Looking forward to the tablet as perhaps that will make pictures here easier.)  Tomorrow I just need to do the sticky buns and apple pie, haven't decided on what other prep work I'll do.  That will most likely depend on how the day is going and what I have time for.  Not too much left overall though.

My dad and Patty were over this afternoon and it was nice.  Jon and I ran to the store to finish getting wrapping paper and stocking stuffers.  Then we relaxed, opened presents, and just enjoyed each other's company.  My dad is taking us to Disney on Ice, which I'm sure the kids will love.  They gave us a bunch of gluten free foods, which will be great as I get fully back into that in the new year.  Each kid received 2 TAG books with they immediately started playing with.  It's amazing how much they love their books.  The solar system book is sure to provide Carolyn with hours of discovery as well.  Definitely something we'll be bringing on the plane next week, since each system can have headphones inserted as well.

Well, off to go paint the handprint sets and then work a little on the doll sets.  I managed to get 1 doll and 1 outfit for each child.  So anything more is just extra, so we'll see what gets done.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Local decorations

We had a busy day today as Christmas draws near.  Jon took his car in to have the shaking at high speeds investigated.  Luckily it turns out the tires were just out of balance after the recent tire rotation he had done.  While we were waiting we had breakfast and went to The Grove.  The Holiday House is still going and has wonderful handmade crafts at decent prices.  We were truly amazed at the prices on the items and will definitely shop there in the future.  We got 3 ornaments for us, 2 for Jon's parents, and one for his grandma that are all personalized.  A great tribute to our first Christmas here.  We will likely go there for our ornaments each year as well since it's only slightly more expensive than typical stores and these are personalized and really cute.  We are thinking we'll do some of our shopping there or earlier at the craft fair in November next year.  The kids are really at a point where they don't need/want much for Christmas, so buying some well-made keepsake type things will probably be just what we want these next couple years.

Seeing the various crafts gave me some ideas for things I'd like to do.  There were pillows made similar to the fleece blankets I've made in the past.  No sewing, just tying the sides all together.  It could be nice to fill pillows as much as desired.  I could make some decorative ones for around the house as well.  Could even be something nice for right in front of the fireplace as well.  I really need to figure out a color scheme for each room in the house so we can start decorating.  I'm excited to finally have a house where I can get each room exactly as I want it. 

I started on the felt doll sets while everyone was at the store.  They are very difficult to make!  I'm having to make foam cutouts at the same time because I can't draw on the felt but the paper is too hard to work with when cutting.  But it's okay, because the kids can just dress up the dolls in the bathtub as well.  I will work more on this tonight after we're sure the kids are asleep.  It feels like Christmas has kind of snuck on me, but I'm looking forward to the craziness of the next few days and then the stillness afterwards.  The rugs will be far from finished come Christmas day, but that's okay, I will have something to work on while the kids are playing with their new toys/books.  Looking forward to some time with my Dad tomorrow as we officially start our Christmas celebration.  Then Christmas Eve with a cake, church, and special dinner.

Missing my mom quite a bit this holiday season, but I know she would be proud of what we are sharing with our children.  Love you Mom!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Well, kind of anyway.  It snowed for a little bit and accumulated a little on the lawn.  I'm hoping we'll get more tonight so the kids can have some to play in tomorrow morning.  Otherwise we'll likely head to the library, so it's a win either way I suppose.

Today was a busy day, but apparently the kids needed that.  Oddly enough, we never left the house!  We had breakfast, read a bunch of books, and then made snickerdoodles this morning.  After lunch the kids took wonderful naps, likely due to the darkness and rain.  This afternoon they each had 2 snickerdoodles for snack and then we made handprint coasters for Jon's parents for Christmas.  They didn't turn out as well as I had hoped so we plan to see if we can find anything at the Grove on Saturday.  But I'm sure they'll still love them.  I plan to paint the second set with real paint after we get some on Sunday.  I let the kids use their washable finger paint on the first set since they didn't turn out great anyway.  Maybe we'll try the real salt dough that bakes in the oven next time.  But that took us just about until Jon got home.  I have made some more progress on the rugs for both kids as well.  They are both excited to see them grow.  I need to find a way to flatten them while I'm not working on them, I'm thinking I might put Carolyn's under the overturned coffee table tonight.  James' was started second so it's turning out a little better and is still pretty flat.  I have to start to decide what size I want these to be.  It's pretty clear I bought too much fabric, but you live and learn.

Jon's last day before break is tomorrow and I'm very excited.  I have to go tutor at 4:30 so I won't get to really relax until about 6.  But we have some fun things planned and then after Christmas we get to just relax as a family!  I'm really looking forward to it and hoping I don't get asked to tutor much.

Here's hoping for a bunch of snow to dump tonight!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


We had flurries today and boy were the kids excited.  We had a pleasant start to the day, with James sleeping later than Carolyn.  After reading, breakfast, putting together dinner, and making rice krispie treats, I noticed the snow outside.  I asked the kids to look out the window so they both went to the fron door.  James response was "snow, I want to go play in it!"  At first I was hesitant, so started with "you'll have to get dressed and put your winter gear on."  The response, of course, was that they didn't mind and wanted to wear all their gear.  So we all got dressed and put them in their snowpants and snow jackets.  We went out and spent some time running for tag, walking along the bricks, and playing.  We wandered into the back and I decided to do some work.  I got more of their outdoor toys into the small shed.  I figure they'll last longer if they're kept out of the elements.  Then I worked in the garage, dragging some stuff into the big shed.  I want to be able to set up the weight bench after Christmas, so more stuff needs to be rearranged in the garage.  The kids enjoyed running around outside and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.  I declared to the kids we should spend more time outside, even when it's cold.

It appears, though, that James has an ear infection.  After a rough afternoon where he cried for seemingly no reason off and on for an hour, he cuddled with me pleasantly until Jon got home.  Then he declared his ear hurt, but he had just had his finger by it.  Later at dinner he again declared the same ear hurt.  So we gave him some motrin and he seems to be doing better.  We'll see in the morning, but I may need to find a new doctor in the area sooner than I thought!

Tomorrow we'll bake sugar cookies if the kids are up to it.  We're into 7 days of baking leading up to Christmas.  We'll still need to make snicker doodles, fudge, lemon love notes, and kalachkis.  And then of course I need to make a birthday cake for Jesus, stick buns for Christmas morning, and an apple pie for Christmas evening.  I enjoy the cooking and baking, but am also looking forward to a break on 12/26.  I have also decided on a new hobby/project to get started with as soon as I get to the fabric store.  We need rugs for various places throughout our house and it appears from various tutorials that they're pretty easy to make.  Because the ones I like are crazy expensive, I'm going to try making my own.  I'll start with one for Carolyn as we'll go choose some pink and purple fabric from whatever is on sale.  Shouldn't be too difficult and hopefully she'll like it.  I'm thinking I also want to eventually buy a sewing machine and get into making clothes and various things for around the house.  I like the idea of being able to truly customize everything and to be able to do it on my schedule.  We'll see when we have the funds to buy a sewing machine, and I'll have to do some research on what kind of machine to get.  Any suggestions?

I have really enjoyed my work slow down the last couple days.  It has allowed me to focus more on the kids and be more patient with their needs.  It makes me dream about how next year might be if Jon gets his dream job.  I can cut back on work some and we'll have plenty extra to do as we please.  Until then I will keep trying to balance everything and be as patient as possible.  I have definitely noticed that the more patient and intuitive I am, the shorter the wars we fight are.  James just needs to be held when he gets upset, Carolyn is usually tired so needs quiet activities.

Dear God, please continue to watch over us and guide us.  Help James get some good rest tonight so he may feel better tomorrow.  Continue to bless our family financial and guide Jon wit his employment.  Thank you for the opportunities we've had and that I know are coming.

Monday, December 17, 2012

New bath toys!

I finished the letters last night!  And today with the stack of foam I asked the kids what they wanted beyond letters.  Carolyn said a car, then got excited about every picture of everything we looked at.  She suggested a princess, a tree, and many other things.  We settled on a car for each child (Carolyn chose red, James chose black) and a set of numbers 0-9.  I managed to complete these this afternoon whilst making dinner (sloppy joes from scratch), read a few books, and waiting for Jon since he had a meeting.  But I got it all done so they had them for tonight's bath.  They both really liked everything and loved that the pieces stick to the walls.  Carolyn informed me she didn't do any spelling, but they both had fun and the water stayed in the tub.  I'm sure we'll come up with more ideas for these cheap bath toys.  I think we will be skipping the expensive toys from the store that get moldy quickly for the future.

Today was really a pretty great day overall.  Both kids slept in late and I got some quality time with James while Carolyn slept.  Once everyone was up we started breakfast and from there pretty much went straight to gymnastics.  Of course we spent 20 minutes looking for Carolyn's leotard that she had put in the hamper in her bathroom (she looked and said it wasn't there).  Gymnastics went well and James is improving on waiting his turn.  Lunch went late as usual on gymnastics days, but both kids went down fine.  I got to work and finished a mentor review despite the kids waking up in the middle of it.  We had a nice afternoon together.  I am really looking forward tomorrow when we'll make Rice Krispie Treats and I have no reviews to do for work.  I get to focus entirely on my children while they are awake!

I have decided that over break I am going to get things together for real preschool lessons starting in January.  We'll still have gymnastics Mondays, 1 library day, and swim lessons.  So I'm going to plan science activities the other days as well as "schedule" trips to the great places around here - kohl children's museum, the grove, the forest preserve, bowling at Pinstripes, and I'm sure I'll come up with more things to do.  But the main goal is get me away from the computer and get the kids out and about as needed.  And as I'm the planning type, I think this will be good for me.  Excited to finally be settled and get to focus on my family and what the kids need.

Thank you God for our wonderful blessings and keeping all of us safe.  Wrap Your arms around those in Newtown, Connecticut and all those impacted.  And wrap Your arms around my two sleeping children and keep them safe always.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sorting through the feelings

This weekend I've been sorting through my feelings, wondering a little while I feel so incredibly shaken by the school shooting on Friday.  Yeah, I'm part of the Columbine generation, but it had to be more than that.  I am bothered by other occurences - NIU, VT, the movie theatre in CO - but none of those stuck with me this much.  I think my issue with this is 2 fold.  First, the victims were mainly young, innocent children not much older than my own.  And second, an elementary school is supposed to be a safe zone.  You don't know if a crazy person will show up to a movie theatre, a grocery store, or a mall.  Universities and to some degree HSs aren't super safe places because of the clientele.  But elementary schools should be safe because those kids are mostly defenseless.  Little kids should feel safe going to school, a place parents should feel comfortable leaving their kids to grow and learn.  But that idea has been shattered here and I think that is what hits home the most.  I also don't want to see any of this politicized.  I want to see action - not political meandering and nothing really changes.  Provide more help to parents and families with children that are mentally unstable.  Increase gun laws to be sure there are accurate background checks, increase the cost of bullets, do something to make it harder for these people to get their hands on guns that can kill a building full of people in minutes.

And now I try to turn my mind away from all of this, to push the fear outside of my head and focus on my family.  I finished the bath tub letters for the kids today.  They are excited to play with the colorful letters and I wonder if Carolyn will try to spell any fun new words.  We tried to bake cookies today, but I believe my recipe was missing an ingredient and the cookies simply melted onto the pan.  A brief look made me realize that we probably needed an egg.  We'll move on the rice krispie treats for Tuesday though and have plenty of cookies to last until then.  We have our last day of gymnastics for a while tomorrow, so that should keep us busy.  As much as I'm looking forward to Christmas this year, part of me is looking forward to it being over and just relaxing.  I'm enjoying fires with the kids in the evenings, but I'm looking forward to the simplicity of every day life in this new house.  We have so much to explore and do.  Something seems to be missing from my holiday spirit this year - maybe it's the 45 degree weather and rain! 

Time to go spend quality time with Jon for a change.  This is going to be one crazy week between his meetings, my tutoring, and my soccer.  Can't wait until Friday night gets here and we have several days of family time with no interruptions!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Finally fully settled

We were officially unpacked weeks ago.  But I was finishing some of the final touches, with arranging picture frames and getting caught up with work.  I have been tutoring a ton and that has been creating a bit of a time crunch.  But I can finally say I feel caught up with everything and have some time to do things that got lost along the way.  So I have time to really update this blog with how we've been working on preschool things.

We got an additional 2 week trial of reading eggs that ends tomorrow.  Carolyn loves it and I think she's learning a lot from it, but it's really expensive for us.  So once this is up we'll continue to do other things and build on what she's learned.  Aside from that I've been stealing from the In Lieu of Preschool website.  I printed up some of the Bob book sheets and we tried those one morning.  I thought they were pretty cool, but Carolyn wasn't very into them.  We'll see if she gains more interest with time.  We've also been doing some math using counters, notecards, and containers.  Carolyn does a great job with it and soon I'm thinking we'll start subtraction.  But mostly we've been focusing on spending time together and baking.  I use baking as a learning experience, talking about various measurements - comparing tsp to Tbsp and we talk about following a recipe.  The kids love dumping into the bowl, and of course tasting what we make.  They like to stir whenever the chance arise as well.  We continue to read many books and I'm trying to encourage Carolyn to try to read more on her own.  The perfectionist that she is, though, she resists at times.  I don't want to push too hard and turn her off, so it's gentle for now as I know it's already in her.  She's been pulling out really long books for me to read to her lately, basically her way of saying she still wants me to do the reading.

My most recent projects involve creating felt shapes that the kids will be able to put on vests my MIL is making.  This will allow the kids to kind of create their own dress up clothes.  I've only used 4 of the 100 felt sheets I ordered so far, so we will be able to make many other things.  If I have time before Christmas I'm also thinking I will create some people with clothes and maybe scenes for them to play with.  But we'll see if I can find time when they're sleeping and I'm not working in the next 9 days.  I also started on some new bath toys.  Inspired by ILOP above, I bought some foam sheets to make things that will stick to the walls.  I'm starting by cutting out the letters of the alphabet.  I started with each child's name and am now moving on to making 2 sets of the alphabet with various colors.  What's great is that these can come out of the tub if we want during the day as well.  It should help James with his letter recognition and Carolyn with her spelling/reading.  I'm hoping to have at least one set put together by their next bath night, which is Monday night, but we'll see. 

My goal in the new year is to spend more time playing with the kids during the day and guiding them to learn as I know they crave to learn.  I will be closing the lap top more often because, really, there are no emergencies for my job.  Plus with Jon starting to coach, I'll need to be sure they are getting the attention they need.  I will try to get on here and update on Saturday nights though, mostly so I have a record of what's going on.  We will need to start to think about kindergarten soon.  At this point I think we'll register Carolyn and see how things go.  If she's bored I might pull her back home and start doing a more formal curriculum that is at her required level (which I suspect is first/second grade at this time).

Time to go cut out some more letters and relax a little!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Extra hugs tonight

Reading about school shooting wrenches my heart every time.  I don't know if it's because I am part of the Columbine generation, but it shakes me to the core every time.  I am taken back to my junior year of high school, where we were profiled in Time as the next likely school for a tragedy.  We had the SWAT team on our roof and various bomb threats.  We had police walking our hallways as we collectively held our breaths, and we were blessed with no serious issues.  When I taught at  Jacobs we found out after the fact that a violence threat was found within the school.  It was scary to find out months afterwards that nothing had been shared with even the faculty, but again we were blessed that nothing came of it.

I am blessed every day that I get to spend so much time with my kids.  Even as the fight and argue, when Carolyn turns the mixer on and sprays flour all over, and as they struggle to sleep at night, we're lucky to have them.  It's going to take me days to get over this tragedy in CT, despite not knowing a soul there.  I scooped up both kids and gave them extra hugs today.  It was hard to leave to go tutor this afternoon, with sad thoughts lingering in the back of my head.  What is a parent to do these todays to protect the most vulnerable?  Kindergartners should be immune to violence, we shouldn't find a roomful that has been murdered.

Days like today make me add another item to the list of why to homeschool.  It eliminates a place where my kids could suffer loss without me at their side.  But I don't make decisions out of fear and I never have.  So it's not really high on my list of reasons as I've written about those before.  For the next few days though I'll be checking locks twice, giving lots of extra hugs, and being sure to tell the kids I love them a few more times a day.  Life can be so short and tragic.  We'll never understand the whys of such tragedies, but I will continue to pray that something will be done to stop something like this from happening again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas is coming!

I continue to not do a good job posting here.  But life continues to be a bit crazy with Christmas coming fast and work continuing full steam ahead.  I am now up to 6 in-person tutoring clients as I have trouble saying no.  But I'm thinking that a few of them will drop off after this semester ends, and 2-3 of them aren't every week. continues full boar as I have 9 mentors and over 75 tutors, so I am responsible for over 325 tutors overall!  I billed over $1k to them for November's work, which is nice but also means I'm working a lot.  I also spent countless hours with At&t getting our internet sorted out over the past 3 weeks.  But I can now say that it all seems fixed and they didn't charge us for any of it, including an upgraded wireless router.

I am being sure to spend time focusing on the kids and our family as much as possible.  We are spending nights in front of the fire, often reading various versions of the Christmas story.  Inspired by this I did get the kids a new nativity set that they can play with.  I want them to be sure to understand the true reason for the season and Carolyn is definitely getting it.  We started our baking last week as well, with chocolate chip and candy cane.  Saturday was the annual cookie baking with my in-laws, while Jon and I went shopping.  We happened to get James his twin bed and he loves it.  We already took down the crib!  Tuesday we made toffee, which will be replaced by something else in future years.  Today we went downtown and enjoyed lunch by the tree at Macy's in the Walnut Room.  What an amazing experience for the kids each year.

I feel like the kids are really being impacted by the onslaught of wheat and I noticed an increase in pain in joints.  So I ordered flour to make a gluten free mix and will be using that in any recipes that don't require rising dough.  We're starting tomorrow with oatmeal cookies, wish us luck!  I'm hoping that Jon won't notice the difference and plan to eliminate all wheat from our home beginning in January.  So I will begin figuring out how to make some breads that actually can hold sandwhiches!

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and we finish the lead up to Christmas.  I have many ideas of things to do with the kids and I plan to enjoy just being together as a family.  It is wonderful to finally feel like we have all we need financially because we have been very blessed by God. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

All Settled!

It's been quite some time since I posted, because life has been crazy!  We've now been in our new house for 11 days and I'm feeling like we're finally settled.  The only boxes that remain are memory boxes high in the closets and Christmas tree ornaments waiting to be put on the tree tomorrow.  The rest of our decorations are up, including Jon's dream of icicle lights along the roof.  I never knew he was hoping to do that, but I really like the look too.  They're on a timer too, so no worrying about remembering to turn them off.  I put together the paper chain and lifesaver santa today as well.  I am looking forward to starting a new tradition with the kids this year - 12 days of baking.  I put together a list of 12 different desserts that the kids will help me to bake from now until Christmas.  We'll start out slow with Tues/Thurs this week, but do more as the weeks go on.  They love to help baking and with our new counters this should work out great. 

I've been really behind with Carolyn's school work lately, there just hasn't been time.  I focused this week on getting her signed up at a new gym and for swim lessons.  And we continue to read books.  I am struggling though with how to work with her at this point.  I am cutting back on work, which does give me much more time to both plan activities and complete them.  We're also now minutes from The Grove and the Kohl Children's Museum.  Jon's mom graciously bought the kids a membership to the museum for Christmas that started today, so I'm thinking we'll head over there one day this week.  I think the Grove will be good for winter days when we want to head over to look at the animals as well, and perhaps we can spend more time reading the information about each animal, writing down the names to get books at the library about them.  Carolyn is really into workbooks, so I am considering looking into getting her some that are appropriate for her age.  Time is a major factor and I'm not sure how to handle James while she's working either.  I've tried sitting her at a table to ask for help while working and sitting with James nearby reading or playing.  But she wants individual attention while doing the work.  And she still needs to nap.  I enjoy my time with her in the evenings reading chapter books, so I don't want to infringe on that.  I'm thinking I need to find activities for James to do that are age appropriate while Carolyn is working as well.  If we do just 30 minutes a day I think all will feel well stimulated and we could get through a lot.  But I'm just not sure what to do.  Any ideas on how to create activities that challenge both a 2.5 and 4.5 year old at the same are appreciated.  I'm thinking maybe something with color/shape recognition for James but creating patterns, counting, and spelling for Carolyn?  I'll spend the next few weeks brainstorming as I don't see starting anything until the new year anyway.  But all suggestions from anyone reading are welcomed.

I'm also setting a new goal in my weight loss journey.  With the new house and moving the scale, I've decided to start over.  So my starting weight last week was 175lbs.  I would like to lose another 10% of my weight by the time we head on vacation in June.  That gives me about 6 months, so just over 0.5lb/week to get there which is doable.  Considering I was down to 173 this week, it's a good sign.  I think at that point I'll be happier with the prospect of wearing a swim suit.  So I'm going to try not to eat too many of the goodies we're about to bake.  And we'll get the weight bench put back together soon.  Here's hoping for more success!

We have been extremely blessed by God and I find myself reflecting on this frequently.  Jon has a track position for this Spring that should also be a foot in the door for next Fall.  We are looking forward to the opportunity to share our financial blessings with others as we start to incorporate monthly giving into our budget.  Once we've built our emergency fund back up we're hoping to give more to church and pick a different charity each month to give $25 or so to.  We don't have a ton extra now as we work to pay down various loans, but I believe part of our blessings has been our stewardship with what God has giving us so far.  We're ready for the blessings to continue to be poured out and I'm excited to give back to some of the places that helped us along the way - like both of our undergraduate colleges.  Jesus is the reason for the season and this year it's very easy to remember that every day!