Friday, December 31, 2010

365: Something New!

Photo a day

My sister-in-law issued a challenge for a 365/photo-a-day blog for 2011.  The idea is to take at least a picture a day.  Ideally, one would also post them somewhere.  Eventually.  Maybe sooner than later.  And maybe peek in on others who are doing the same. I've accepted the challenge, and created a new somewhere.  It's here! I'm calling it my Photography Journey, and using it as a place to keep my photography resources, thoughts, and ideas.  I'll still be posting photos with stories here at The Journey.  Would anyone care to join us for this adventure?  You don't have to start a new blog, or get a flickr account up and running by January 1.  You just have to start taking pictures!

Star Search at the Capitol

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You know it's just like us to go searching for stars. We are like the paparazzi. OK, maybe not. But we heard there was this thing you could do at the State Capitol on the weekend, where they would give you some "art treasures" in the architecture to search for and you would put a gold star by each one. At the end if you get them all, you get the official state seal and the autograph of the architect. So we had to check it out.

We found a lot of cool stuff there. But THIS was my favorite!

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The rest were pretty cool too, though. Highly recommended if you are in my neighborhood!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I've been busy!

A few weeks ago I told you that I had earned some free cards by posting about Shutterfly. In fact, I had a total of 70 cards that I had earned, and that was more than I wanted to use for Christmas cards. So I made up some winter cards, and some anytime cards, and some special birthday cards. I also have my 2010 scrapbook done because I got a great deal, and had done most of the work on a book for the grandparents for Christmas. I took advantage of a special on multiple copies of our vacation book as well for my brother and nephews. I've been super happy with the results, and all the great deals for members. Plus, I appreciate that they are now giving some tangible encouragement to bloggers who love and share their products. Seriously. Get to know Shutterfly!

Classic Powder Blue 5x7 folded card
Unique party invitations and announcements by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

If the kids had their way... (which often they do)

Apparently it is now a tradition to go to the parade downtown at Christmas time each year. We didn't really mean for it to be. But according to Bethany, it is. Not according to Ben. He decided he didn't like freezing his back side off and stayed home. He's a big boy. He can pick and choose his traditions if he wants to.

Of course, it is also a tradition to ride the light rail, and to go to the Macy's display afterwards. Honestly. It's hard to argue with all of that cuteness.



Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Wrap-Up

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We added a new Advent tradition to our Christmas celebration this year. Before we decorated the tree, Bethany wanted us to leave 25 ornaments off and add one each day until Christmas. There should be a star at the top on Christmas, she thought. It reminded me of something a friend had told me about called the Jesse Tree.

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The Jesse Tree tells the story of redemption from the creation to the birth of Christ, demonstrating God's covenant relationship with Israel, his faithfulness to the covenant, and Israel's unfaithfulness and need of a Savior.

We found several great resources online, including a daily devotional and ornament patterns. There appeared to be some variations, but we used what worked for us. Our ornaments were very simple color, cut and paste, but there are some beautiful patterns for more elaborate ones. The devotional was fairly brief, and on days when the Bible reading was familiar, we let the kids choose whether to read it or to tell the story themselves. Each day included a discussion question that related the lesson to our own lives. Perfect for our kids' ages. Of course, there were a number of days we had to catch up for a missed day or two. Christmas time is like that. We are flexible!

Just in case you need something to stash away for next year, the links are here. And yes. There is a star at the top.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Blessings

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Oh holy child of Bethlehem
descend to us, we pray
cast out our sin and enter in
be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angel
the great glad tidings tell
Oh come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Immanuel.


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Merry Christmas, from our home to yours!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Home for the Holidays


My creation

The past two years we have driven across the country to see our parents for Christmas. It's been warmer there, yes, and no snow shoveling. We have precious memories of our kids and their grandparents and other family members. I suspect we will do it again. But this year we are home, and it is extra special to decorate once again. The tree is up and the lights are up. The little village is bustling with activity. When the kids went to decorate the tree, they squealed over each of their ornaments like a long lost friend. I kid you not. And of course, it's snowing. It is good to be home for Christmas.

Updated: Now I am laughing because I noticed I already wrote about the kids squealing over their ornaments. I am a broken record. Truly I am. Just wait 'til I'm 80!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Digging deep for Jesus

Wow, do I ever have a lot of catching up to do over here. But I'm just trying to keep my priorities straight, ya know?

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We REALLY dig Jesus!

And since you made it this far, I'm offering three more pieces of Christmas randomness free of charge:

1. You really haven't lived until you've stood on a stage singing at your church Christmas musical while your kid makes a beeline for the door, followed closely by the kids choir leader, and watched through the windows as he bolts for the bathroom.

2. I get totally distracted if I'm listening to someone read the Christmas story and they say, "...she wrapped him in clothes...". It's CLOTHS. She wrapped him in cloths. NOT a onesie.

3. I cry every time I hear the Hallelujah chorus. Every. Single. Time.

"The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. And he shall reign forever and ever! Hallelujah!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

School is cool!!

During the fall trimester our kids have had some amazing opportunities to explore their creative sides at school. There has been a choir for a long time that goes through the winter months, but this year for the first time they put together a show called "Pirates: The Musical". Seriously, an elementary school musical production! The music teacher didn't know what to expect, but she thought she would give it a try. She was more than a little surprised when 96 kids signed up! It was way beyond what we could have imagined--so very cool! Bethany loved it!

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Ben would have made a great pirate, but he was too busy on the school's robotics team. He programmed up a storm to make the robot accomplish missions, which they took to competition last week. I can't tell you how great it was to see Ben competing with his brain instead of his body.

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The competition has a different theme each year, and this year's was biomedical engineering. Each of the robot's missions had something to do with a technological solution to a physiological problem. The team also had to do a presentation based on research of a specific medical challenge of their choosing. Ben's team did awesome, especially for a first-year team of fifth-graders. They also came home with the team spirit award. No big surprise! :-)

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When I quit teaching to stay home with my kids, there were several people who were surprised that I didn't choose to homeschool them. But I was a public school teacher, and we always knew that public school would be our first option for our kids, as long as it turned out to be a good fit. While we intentionally live within the boundaries of a good school district, we didn't choose our house by first hand-picking the school we wanted. We just bought the house we wanted, and went with our neighborhood school.

Our school has talented, articulate, committed teachers who go so far above and beyond to give our kids great opportunities that it truly humbles me. It grieves me when I hear people complain about "how terrible the public schools have gotten". Sure, there are tired out teachers, and some schools and districts that have gotten into trouble. Horror stories sell well in the news. And yes, everyone needs to know their children and choose the option that is the best fit for each of them. But I would love to give a tour to anyone who thinks that public schools on the whole are bad. They would stand in AWE.

I thank God for public school teachers all over our country who are doing a totally incredible job of pouring their hearts and lives into our kids, each and every day! They are shaping the foundation of our society's future. Pray for them!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Picture me festive!

Right now, I am in the throes of getting ready for Christmas.

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We've been out of town the past two Christmases, so we haven't decorated much since three years ago. This year we have gone all out. The other night when we decorated the tree, the kids oohed and ahhed over the ornaments like they were long lost friends. It was very sweet.

There is all kinds of stuff going on in our world. Good stuff. Much of it Christmas related. I hope I get to sit down and write and post pictures about it soon. Ben was so juiced after a busy day yesterday that at bedtime he requested time to write an ABC acrostic poem about his day. How could we say no to that? We have such fun kids.

This week at iheartfaces, the theme is self-portrait. My sweet friend and photographer extraordinaire Susan Keller is always challenging photography enthusiasts to get in the picture. I couldn't agree more. Stop over this week and check out the creative ways to include yourself in the photo. Better yet, DO IT, and enter your own!



I'm curious. What does "getting ready for Christmas" mean to you?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Little girl in the big city

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This week at iheartfaces they are looking for scenic black and white. I love this photo of Bethany at Millennium Park in Chicago. But it is a little surreal to see her so dwarfed, and yet, so at home. Click on the button to see some more great shots, or enter one of your own!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful?

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This has been another year of blessing in my family, a year where it is hard to give thanks, only because we couldn't possibly list all of the things we have to be thankful for. But each time I feel that way on Thanksgiving, I am aware that so many have to dig very deep to find cause for gratitude. This post is one of the best things I have ever read to help me put it all into perspective. And this scripture reminds me of the blessings that can never be taken away in any circumstance. Wherever you find yourself, may you be filled with the peace of knowing the God who cares so very deeply for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

He made know his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger , abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children--
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord , all his works
everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

Psalm 103

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Special Gift

I don't know about you, but during November when I walk into Target to do my grocery shopping and see the Christmas decorations, I feel like hyperventilating. I have to tell myself to breathe deeply, for there is still PLENTY of time to plan and prioritize the ways I will observe the celebration of first Thanksgiving, then Advent, and finally Christmas.
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(cover)

Of course, looking for opportunities to get a great family photo is a year-long endeavor. I'm still scheming about that. But here is a great way to use the best of the photos you've been snapping all year long, and for the best price ever...FREE!!! It is never too soon to save money, right?

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(inside right)

Shutterfly is offering a great deal for bloggers. I have bragged about them before, TWICE, free of charge. (Go ahead, refresh your memory. I'll wait.) But now they are offering to pay me, and YOU!, for blogging about their photo cards and gifts.

See how cute these cards are? Now there is no pressure to get one awesome photo, because you can include several--one great photo of each family member, and a few group shots. They have all kinds of great designs, and you can use one photo, or as many as you want. You are BOUND to find one you love.

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(inside left)

And all I have to do is press "publish" here, and they are going to send me 50 5x7s of this card. Free! (Did I already mention that?) You can click here to find out how to take advantage of the same deal.

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I am in the middle of two photo book projects as well, and have plans for a couple more to use as gifts. The grandparents adore them, and you can make more than one copy of the same book for no extra effort. I know they will have some great specials in the next few weeks, so I am scrambling to be ready to order. My brother and sister-in-law gave all the family members Shutterfly photo calendars last year, and I am hoping for another one (ahem). I keep everything on it, and I love that it is notebook-sized. It's by my computer at all times, except when I am carrying it around.

Thank you, Shutterfly, for my first gift of the Christmas season. Even if it is before Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas to you too!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

So glad I asked!!

One of the big benefits of this blogging business is the collective wisdom available from a very unique and diverse community of individuals. Besides that, we do not have a specified meeting time with children to be farmed out and picked up at a certain time, and a set topic for consideration when we do get together. In what other context would I feel free to take the time to ask a group of wise people to help me figure out how to answer "The Question" (of how my time is spent as a stay at home mom of school aged children) when it arises?

And wise people, you did NOT disappoint! Thank you so very much for helping me process my thoughts about how to speak intelligently to people about my chosen occupation. Your comments make a better post than I could ever write.

Givinya (a.k.a. Kate): "I often think that people's minds would BOGGLE if I were to write a list of the tasks I complete in a day - I am rarely still, I rarely sit down, and I rarely have time for myself."

I know! I often think that, and I don't even have kids at home during school hours like you do. Plus, I don't want to reduce what I do to a list of household chores and task management. It is so much more than that.

Melissa Mae (my dear "Real Life" friend who I truly would talk to face to face about these things if we weren't watching the time and the kids): "I do it so I can spend significantly more time with my children, so I can spend time needed to make healthy meals, so I can proactively engage with their schools, our church, and community, and so I can *try* to keep up with the house and the housework."

I love how this gets to the heart of the matter! I also love that you pointed out the fact that it is a blessing and privilege to "stay at home", and a choice that isn't available to everyone. That's why I think it's so important to answer "The Question" with respect, and also with enough substance to let people know why we would make financial sacrifices to do it. Because yes, our husbands are blessed with great jobs, but we could have a lot more cool stuff and fancier vacations if we chose to continue in paid professions. There maybe people asking the question who don't think they have the option...but who, in reality, might think differently if they understood how the benefits stand up against the cost.

Stitchin' (a.k.a. Marlene): "I do the things others only dream of..."

Your list made me absolutely smile. You are such an encourager. I do a lot of similar things, things that are a blessing to both myself and others. They are precisely the things I would be reluctant to list in response to "The Question", because I LOVE doing them, and I feel as though I am living in the lap of luxury to have time for them. Maybe there is a little part of me that is ashamed to admit how spoiled I am. I probably just need to get over that, huh?

Skeller (a.k.a. Susan): "I'd bet big bucks that you're not a woman to let any dust collect under your feet while you eat bon-bons and watch soap operas."

That makes me laugh! I cannot have sweets in the house because I would TOTALLY sit around eating bon-bons if they were available! We're headed into baking season and I can already hear my jeans stretching. But you're right about the soaps. I don't even know how to operate our TV. You are very kind!

You made a great point about change in acceptance of the stay at home mom since a generation or two ago. Staying home with your kids was the default option back then, so of course it was rarely if ever questioned. Those of us who choose this occupation today may have to go a little farther out of our way than next door to find a support system. I think it's challenging to not sort of band together to fortify a defensive position toward the "outside world". As more of a minority, we have a new position as people who have chosen thoughtfully from a variety of options. While I completely agree that it's precarious to be asked "The Question", it affords me a rare opportunity to influence someone's assumptions about the role of the stay at home mom in family and society, if I am prepared to do so in an engaging manner. Instead of sitting there with my mouth gaping open with nothing coming out like I was the other day. ;-)

Betty: "Me? I could never do it, be a SAHM. I was always at a "job" part time. It was something I needed and brought a balance to my life. I admire women who stay home full time for their family!"

This is a beautiful comment. It acknowledges the fact that we need to know ourselves and our families well and intentionally choose pursuits that bring balance to our lives. That's exactly why I want to be able to articulate my reasons for my choices. The fact that we choose differently doesn't make one any better than the other. I'm SO thankful for the moms who are the teachers at my kids' school. They have blessed us in immeasurable ways through both their educational expertise and their parental wisdom. I'm very glad they have chosen differently from me.

Thanks again, ladies, for giving me such excellent feedback. For the record, I just spent about 90 minutes of my day processing all of this. With only minor interruptions from my telecommuting husband. And a little laundry. In case anyone wants to know. Spoiled, I tell you. Absolutely spoiled. (But I did not watch Oprah.)

UPDATED:  "The Answer" to "The Question" (for me anyway) is now posted here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thank God for Grandparents!

Wow, we have had a busy fall! There has been a lot going on, but the highlight has certainly been welcoming both sets of grandparents to town. Lee's parents came a few weeks ago...

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And then last week my Dad and Jeannie came to town. From Florida. Just in time for snow. Sorry guys!

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They had made plans for today, but their plans fell through. They called and asked if I could meet them for lunch at what used to be Dad's favorite spot.

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I decided to be crazy and go get the kids from school to go with me. Lee joined us.

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We had never been to White Castle before, and the kids were most impressed with the computer ordering kiosk.

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I was more impressed with the sweet potato fries.

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We so appreciate that our parents would go to the effort of coming all the way from Georgia and Florida to visit us, even in the midst of taking care of some health issues. Even as seldom as we see them, our kids absolutely treasure them. So do we.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What do you do all day?

I was sitting at a dinner in a large room full of people, most of whom I didn't know. The woman next to me was in her mid- to late twenties, I suppose, married, no kids yet. We had never met. She was an accountant. She asked me what I do. I told her I used to be a teacher, and retired to be a "stay at home mom". Which I was. When the kids were little and we didn't go much of anywhere. Now the "stay at home" part of being a stay at home mom is totally invalid.

She asked me if I home school. I told her no. But that's not entirely true. We definitely home school our kids. It's just not while they're at public school. Well, except when it is. Because I'm over there quite a bit helping out.

So she dared to ask The Question. She asked it in a very respectful way, because she sincerely wondered...So what DO you do with your time?

It's a fair question. It's one I ask myself all the time. I cannot for the life of me imagine where the time goes. After all, my kids are gone almost seven hours a day. You know what's interesting? I can always tell you what kept me so busy this week. It's rarely what kept me busy last week. Often I forget what kept me busy last week. I think to myself that this is just an unusually busy week in what is normally a very cushy schedule.

I'm too exhausted from my weekend right now to try to think of everything that got me this way, but I'm going to start working on my answer to "The Question". People deserve to know. Because seriously, I have the best job in the world.

Are you a "stay at home" mom? If you are, how would you answer "The Question"? If you aren't, what do you wonder about those of us who are?

UPDATE:  "The Answer" has now been posted!  Also, great discussion in the comments to this post, with follow-up here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea.



Staying in bed all day, that is.

Because when you look out your bedroom window and see this:

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none of your plans for the day are going to go as expected. They just aren't.


And they didn't.


But I got out of bed anyway.


Because of this.

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and this

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and this

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and this

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I'm so glad I did!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orange

This week over at iheartfaces, the theme is ORANGE.

There was no question which photo I would choose for orange. It was originally posted in THIS, one of my all-time favorite posts, where I tell the story behind the smile.

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If you're looking for some photographic inspiration, iheartfaces is the place!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photo Hunt Kids' Entries

A couple of weeks ago I posted my photos from our photo hunt at the lake. The kids finally picked out their favorites from each category. Here they are in no particular order. They would love any feedback you have for them!

Airplane




Cool Rock



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Animal




Beautiful Leaf




Tall Building

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Reflection




Shadow




Ben




Bethany




Mom

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