Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Learning To Be Thankful

My friend Esther over at Content Whatever the Circumstances wrote a great post today about preparing for Thanksgiving and learning to be thankful.  It was so great that I am going to copy her idea with my own family.

She set out a basket with little pieces of paper where any one who is in her house can write down something they are thankful for and then slip it into the basket.  By Thanksgiving she is hoping it will have over 300 blessings recorded.

Every year around this time I start to go into "grumpy Christmas" mode.  This is where I am suddenly annoyed by all TV commercials that try to get me or my kids to want things that we don't need.  Where I refuse to let my children look at the sale ads in the paper because every object that looks remotely like a toy instantly becomes a "must have" on their Christmas list.  I made the mistake of letting my girls get to the Sunday paper first this past weekend where the Great Big Toys R Us Book was waiting.  My normally sweet girls instantly turned into a pack of greedy vultures within seconds.

Last year I became so disgusted with the consumerism targeted at my kids that resulted in endless begging for new toys, I pulled the plug on the TV for the months of November and December.  They were the best months ever and we never really returned to the TV.  I subscribed to Netflix and we check out movies from the library and that's what my children watch.  Rarely we will turn on the TV and watch something as a family--usually always sports.  (We're currently working on brainwashing our children to be Michigan State fans which may be working too well.  Today during Bible class when we discussed loving our enemies, David gave the example of loving Michigan fans.  When I asked if he loved his Uncle, he said yes.  When I mentioned that said Uncle is a Michigan fan, his face registered surprise and he was no longer so sure of his love anymore.  Oops.)

While my efforts proved to be highly successful in curbing the toy lust last year, this year I want to take it one step further and attempt to foster a sense of contentment and thankfulness for what they do have.  Hence why Esther's blog post resonated with me so strongly.

I have my own basket and blank note cards sitting out on the table waiting for the blessings to be written down from now until Christmas.  On Christmas morning when we have our family Christmas, before opening our presents, I will pull out the basket and read all of our blessings so we can remember the many ways that God has already blessed us this season.      

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back To The Drawing Board--Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

First attempt at eggless oatmeal raisin cookies.  A 4 out of 10

I used to be a great baker.  I made all kinds of cookies.  Cakes.  Brownies.  Lots of yummy treats, all from scratch.  And then I had David.  No eggs or nuts.  This pretty much eliminates the possibility of 99.99% of all prepackaged and ready-made baked goods.  I can't just go pick up a cake mix.  I have to make it from scratch.  But I can't just use any old recipe.  I have to find special recipes that are egg-free, thus eliminating 99.99% of all recipes.  Brownies?  Still haven't found a good recipe for that one that's egg-free.  Cookies?  I've finally perfected the chocolate chip cookie after eight years of trial and error.

Saturday Hubby asked me if we had any cookies in the house.  I just laughed.  Sunday I wanted a cookie thanks to Hubby putting the idea in my head.  Monday I talked myself out of buying said cookies at the grocery store.  Today, I really, really wanted a cookie.  I told Hubby that today was the day; I was going to make cookies.

Of course he couldn't just be happy with my tasty, well-tested, nearly fool-proof chocolate chip cookies.  Oh no.  He decided he wanted oatmeal raisin cookies.  Oye.  It's been over a decade since I've made those, let alone trying them egg-free.  But Miss Loving Wife decided to give it a shot anyway.  Maybe I'd get lucky and they'd turn out the first time.

But, where's the challenge in that?  That would be boring.  It was almost essential that my cookies not taste great the first time so that I can spend the next decade fiddling around until I perfect a new recipe.  Because I can't accept that my cookies are only mediocre, too crusty, when they should be soft and gooey.  That they lacked that distinct oatmeal raisin cookie flavor and instead tasted like chocolate chip cookie batter with oatmeal and raisins thrown in.

So I am embarking on a new quest.  To perfect the eggless oatmeal raisin cookie.  That's soft and gooey, with just the right taste, with enough oats mixed in so I can actually taste the oats.  I just hope we don't all get sick of oatmeal raisin cookies before I finally land on the perfect recipe.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Can See The Floor!!!!

Project Complete

When we walked through our house to see if we wanted to buy it, the storage room was one of the biggest selling points.  All that storage space.  All those shelving units.  The previous owners had it completely organized into blue tubs, all perfectly labeled.  It was beautiful.

Until we moved in.  The boxes that I didn't want to deal with came off the moving van and went directly onto the shelves.  Over the years we've added extensively to the collection.  I managed to keep it fairly clean in there until our sump pump failed and our basement flooded four years ago.  We had to move everything from the other half of the basement (our office and rec room) into the storage room while the carpet was dried out.  Our storage room never recovered.

Somewhere around 4 hours into the project

My mom came over about a year ago to help me dig out my basement.  We spent an afternoon and hauled out a van load of stuff for Goodwill.  I worked a little bit more on it after that, but then got overwhelmed by the project and quit.

So I guess one could look at the ebook that I reviewed, 21 Day to a More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine, as a turning point.  My basement was the only really big project I could think of that would take me three weeks to finish.  I set down my Kindle after reading the first few days and deciding I was going to tackle my basement once and for all, and got to work.

I intended to only spend thirty minutes every day on the task until it was completed, but my basement has a way of sucking me in.  Just one more box, just one more shelf.  I'd be working along and realize I'd been in there for over an hour or longer.

After finishing up my work on Wednesday, I figured I had another 10 hours of work ahead of me.  Thursday, I started carrying the trash out to put on the curb for trash day today.  Then I had to carry out the purges to drop off at Goodwill.  And break down the pile of boxes to throw away.  And then I had to finish going through the boxes.  And then I just had the middle of the floor to finish, so I worked on that for a while.

I may have to tip my garbage man for this one

Suddenly, I looked around me and realized I was almost completely done.  All I had to do was take care of the last of the trash and giveaways, move a few pieces of furniture, and then sweep the floor.

My big project, that I thought for sure would take me three weeks to complete, that I have put off and put off for YEARS because just the thought of it overwhelmed me, is now done.  And it only took me six days and about ten hours of work total.  How's that for doing something new this week?!

Loaded up and ready for Goodwill

David came to check it out and asked, "Mom, where did everything go?"  Honestly, I have no idea.  I hauled out a bunch of empty boxes, three garbage bags of trash, and two boxes of giveaways.  But that doesn't seem like nearly enough to explain where all that junk went.  I have over an entire shelving unit's worth of empty space with only empty boxes sitting on the shelves for future use.

The kids got out their scooters to try out the new space

All I can say is Thank You, Crystal, for allowing me to review your ebook and motivating me to finally accomplish this project.  It feels really, really good to finally have a clean basement.

Past posts in the 52 Weeks of New Series:
Week 1--Where It All Began
Week 2--New Cities and New Foods
Week 3--Hikes and Teaching
Week 4--Lunch Dates and New Mile Mark
Week 5--Fun with Fruit
Week 6--We Went to a Play
Week 7--Movies, Caramel Apples and Horses
Week 8--A Few Things I Never Thought I'd Do

Spread My Wings and Fly

Last week Hubby and I were driving to David's last soccer game by a very circuitous route due to some road construction blocking our main route into town.  Hubby was lamenting how annoying it is to have to take the detour because it added ten plus minutes to his commute time--not only because of the extra distance, but also due to a short light cycle at one of the intersections with lots of semis and fellow commuters between him and the intersection.  

Of course I had to comment how happy I was that the kids weren't in school anymore because if they were, I'd have to drive the detour every morning on our way to school making an already stressful situation even worse.  

It was in that exact moment when it hit me.

I was happy.  I loved homeschooling my kids.  I loved being able to watch my children learn a new concept.  I loved learning alongside them.  I loved the freedom homeschooling affords my family--going on nature walks with them, dropping everything for an impromptu tea party, taking the afternoon off from school to meet up with family at an indoor play place, having a counter full of celery for a science experiment, the closeness I have with my children.

I was happy.  I was trying new things.  Getting over life long fears.  Testing my wings.  Finding myself.  Loving on my family.  Smiling.  Meeting new people.  Speaking in front of a crowd of women.  Not yelling at my kids or giving Hubby the silent treatment when he made me mad.  My battle with anxiety-induced stomach aches that I've had since 5th grade was gone.  

A year ago I was at the absolute lowest point of my life.  I had a breakdown which prompted me to seek medical help.  I started on an antidepressent that changed my life.

I met my mom for lunch today and somehow it came up where she said that over the past year, I completely changed.  I was a new woman finally blossoming into who I was meant to be.  She said that she should have seen the signs, should have realized what was going on with me.  When I was a younger mom, I would just sit there when my kids fought, were destructive, did things that needed correcting.  And she would wonder why I wasn't doing anything about it.  She thought that was just the sort of mom I was.  But now she can clearly see that it wasn't who I was because I'm not that mom anymore.

I had depression during two of my pregnancies and post-partum depression after all of my children that lasted for the first year or so.  Just as I would start to get better, I'd get pregnant which would start the cycle all over again.  After the PPD with Joy faded away, I thought I was better.  Because I wasn't as bad as I was a while ago.  Meaning I was operating at 50%, but that's better than 20% so I was fine.

It's so easy to see the truth when you're looking back.  I spent eight years of my life in varying states of depression, fear, and anxiety.  Eight years of my life--gone.  While I am proud of the things I've accomplished in that time frame, it does beg the question--What could I have done, who could I be now, had I gotten help sooner?

I guess the answer to that question lies in who I am now.  And who I am going to be in a year after I finish my 52 Week of New Adventure.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Drop Everything and Have a Tea Party

Tea Party complete with hats

The kids went to visit their grandmas yesterday afternoon.  David went to G.G.'s (his great-grandma) to play a game of Rummikub while the girls went to my mom's to play.  I stayed home and worked on my basement.  Half an hour after the kids left, I got a phone call from my mom.

"The girls wanted to have a tea party so I thought we should go to the flower shop in town that now sells tea and coffee and have it there.  Do you want to join us?  Grandma and David are coming, too."

So of course I had to drop everything I was doing and go have fun.  The girls came running home desperately searching for their hats because apparently in Grandma-World, you can't have a tea party without wearing a hat.  They also dug my hat out of the closet and insisted I wear one, too.  Awesome.

We all loaded into Mom's van and went to the flower shop.  We had tea, hot cocoa and bottled juice.  We ate rice crispy treats and salt water taffy.  We spent an hour laughing and talking and then we went home.

Sometimes life just demands that we drop everything and have a tea party.

David and G.G. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

21 Days To A More Disciplined Life

I was given the opportunity to review a copy of the ebook 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine, the owner of the website  I've been a follower of Money Saving Mom for over a year now and it has become one of my go-to websites for money-saving advice.  So I was really excited to get to read Crystal's latest book.  I knew it'd be good.

In essence, the book is a 21 day program to help instill more discipline into your life.  Before getting into the book, I figured it'd be a great read, full of great advice, for other people.  I'm already a pretty disciplined person.  I wake up at 6:20 am almost every single morning.  I have my prayer time at 6:45 am almost every morning.  I make a pot of coffee for Hubby, and then pack his work cooler with yogurt, fruit, and a baggie of mixed nuts.  I pop a bagel into the toaster and coat it in cream cheese and set it on a plate, ready to go, so Hubby can grab it as he walks out the door for work.

Once Hubby is out the door, I turn to helping the children get their breakfast while getting my own.  Then we tackle school work which is almost always done by lunch time.  My routine goes on until bed time, but the point is...I have a schedule and I do best when I follow it.  I'm not a newbie when it comes to discipline.

And then I read Day 1: Discipline is doing what you know needs to be done, even though you don't want to do it.  Oh.  You mean that overflowing hamper of clean clothes that's been sitting in my living room for a week now?  I'm supposed to actually fold it?  Because that would be what the "fully" disciplined person would do?  Hmph.  Fine.  I'll keep reading (and get to folding).

My messy storage room

Day 3 was the truly scary day.  The day that I was supposed to come up with a habit to work on for the next 20 days.  I came up with both a habit and a project.  I have a project I've been putting off for years--the storage room.  I knew this was the one thing that I had in my life that was bringing me down the most.  I needed to clean out that room and get it done already so I could move on.  I meant to only spend a half hour on Saturday working in there, but I ended up working for a good 3-4 hours.  I tackled 3 out of the 5 shelving units full of boxes.  I dragged out 2 garbage bags of trash, 2 large boxes of giveaways, and emptied out 5 boxes by compacting what was left.  This week I've been making myself work for a half hour every day which I will continue until the whole thing is clean and orderly.

Getting ready to run the race

For my habit, I chose exercise.  I've spent the last 10 weeks running my way through the Couch to 5K program which culminated with running in an actual 5K this past Sunday.  I didn't want that to be it and to just let all my hard work at getting into shape fall by the wayside now that I've reached my goal, so I decided I'd make a new fitness goal--to join the gym and commit to working out three mornings a week with my friend.  (Something the ebook also encourages is to find an accountability partner--what better way to ensure I get up in the middle of the night to exercise than to have a friend waiting there who will know if I am skipping out on it)

Of course I am going to run into obstacles.  Lucky for me, the book helps me prepare for the things that could derail my goal.  Like illness, tiredness, laziness, snow.  I need to plan ahead--to get to bed on time so I can wake up with the chickens so I will make it to exercise class.  To take my vitamins so I can hopefully avoid getting sick.  To have a backup plan for when it starts to snow--like using the exercise equipment in my basement or wait until later in the day after the plows have come through and take the kids swimming at the gym.

But I also have to do as Day 6 and 7 say and be realistic and not give up.  I am not going to make it to the gym every single time I want to.  The important thing to remember is Do not give up.  The beginning is always the hardest.  Falling down is not failing--unless you don't get back up again.  If I miss a day, I can't just quit.  I have to keep going.  Like my 5K, I was really tempted to skip the race because I hadn't been able to run the prior two weeks due to illness and rain, I was still coughing and not feeling the greatest, but my desire to not fail overcame the obstacles.  I really wanted to prove to myself that I could make a goal and stick with it for the long haul.

Joy waiting for me to finish the race

And of course the most important part of successfully completing any goal is to surround yourself with cheerleaders.  My family came to see me run and it was hearing Joy yell, "Mommy!" as I neared the finish line that motivated me to keep running.  Joy has been encouraging me through my training--riding her scooter alongside me, telling me that she was helping me to keep running, telling me to run faster if I wanted to win, and offering to ride her scooter alongside me for the actual race so she could help me.  I never really thought about how motivating she was all those weeks, but she really was my little 5 year old cheerleader.

If you want to grow in discipline, to learn how to set goals, lay out the steps necessary to complete them, to come up with strategies to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and to establish a support system (accountability partners and cheerleaders), this is the book for you.  Even if you already feel like you are doing well with being disciplined, you will quickly learn, like me, that there is still room to grow.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Race Results

Lined up and waiting to run

When I woke up this morning, I still wasn't sure if I was going to run the 5K.  I coughed my way through the early morning and knew my results were going to be a whole lot less than spectacular if I did run.  I hadn't been running in almost two weeks.  I was at the tail end of an upper respiratory infection.  Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I just wanted to get it over with and move on to the next thing.  So I suited up and went.

Hubby dropped David and me off at the park while he took the girls for pop at the gas station.  David didn't register this time around, he just wanted to run for the fun of it.  I got my number and my butterfly t-shirt and went to the bathroom to change.  I ran into a few friends and chatted, trying not to get nervous about the run ahead of me.  I did feel a little nervous, which is silly, because I knew I was going to do bad.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to run the whole way.  But I still wanted to do well.

We lined up, the gun went off, and David took off.  I set my pace and watched as a long line of runners ran past me.  Yup, I'm slow.  Thankfully none of the walkers walked past me:)

I made it the first mile without walking, but my lungs were screaming at me despite having used an inhaler before the race.  For a while in the middle of the race I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish.  I ended up walking more than I wanted to.  I gave myself a whole lot of pep talks.  I tried to ignore the feeling in my gut that wanted to be sick on the side walk.  Apparently two weeks off from running and a cough are enough to undo nine weeks of hard work.

When I neared the finish line all I heard was Joy yelling, "Mommy!  There's mommy!"  Her yell brought a smile to my face and spurred me on the last tenth of a mile.

This lady told Hubby afterward that David talked to her for almost half the race
He wasn't even winded at the end

My time was pitiful.  I'm embarrassed to even write it.  I came in 12 minutes after David at 41:30.  But I'm trying to get over my poor showing and embrace the fact that I ran (and walked) a 5K.  That I accomplished my goal despite setbacks, even though it was really, really hard there at the end.

Almost to the finish line

And now I am moving onto a new fitness goal.  I am going to rejoin the gym and start working out with my friend at a horribly early hour in the morning.  My goal is to stick with working out three mornings a week from now until spring when it gets light enough for me to start running in the mornings again.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

While Cleaning Out My Basement...A Few Hilarious Finds

I started reading a review copy of the ebook 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.  While I'm only supposed to read it, I of course couldn't do that.  I had to actually start applying some of this stuff to my own life.  Day 1 had me pick one project to work on for the next 21 days.  I instantly thought of the only project in my house that I have been putting off, dragging my heals, hoping it would just go away.  My basement storage room.

Some of those boxes have been sitting on a shelf unopened for over ten years.  Full of things from my girlhood, teenhood, and collegehood.  And I found a few of those gems today when I started tackling the dungeon.  At one point I laughed so hard that I thought I was going to make myself sick from all the coughing.  (Note to self: Do not laugh super hard when you are still getting over an upper respiratory infection)

These gems were just too good not to share.

First up--Books.  Did my mom even know that I was reading such drivel???  I tried to convince Hubby that I should save these books and make them required reading for my girls.  He didn't go for it.

Sadly, this book is serious.  It's not a spoof.  I found this at a church rummage
sale when I was in high school and thought it was hilarious.

For the record, I married a younger man, so I guess the book didn't "stick."

Second--Old cards.  I found these tucked in between a few of the books in the box.  Innocent looking cards that left me puzzling which boy they were from.  My mind raced through the possibilities and I admit that when I did finally open them, that's when I laughed so hard I almost made myself sick.  While the notes were sweet, they were from a boy I worked with at A&W Restaurant back in high school.  He was a blip in my life that I had completely forgotten about until reading these cards.  I think the best part is card 1 after realizing it was a Sweetest Day card and today is Sweetest Day--15 years later.  (All cards have since been shredded and thrown away)

Find #3--Old things from when Hubby and I were engaged.  I think the most important part to note from these is the warning at the bottom of the "Dinner Date" coupon.  From things Hubby has said over the years, I think this warning was actually necessary.  I wasn't the greatest cook back then.

Finally, a picture of what I have to deal with.  A very large, overwhelming project that I am tackling one box at a time, a little bit each day for the next 21 days.  Hopefully it'll be all done by then.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Few Things I Never Thought I'd Do

"Joy, look scared!"  And this is what she does

A year ago I was sitting in the lobby of a hotel-style bunk house at a women's retreat cutting out coupons during my free time.  Being surrounded by a pile of coupon inserts has a way of starting conversations.  The comments ranged from, "I just throw those things away without even looking at them" to "I wish I knew how to coupon."  My sister-in-law and I were similarly horrified by the "throw them away" comments and wanting to help those who were clueless.  We joked that next year at the women's retreat we should do a workshop on couponing.

Fast forward to this year and our "joke" turned into reality.  We were asked by the retreat organizers to give a workshop on couponing and deal seeking.  I jumped at the chance and said yes right away.  I like couponing and I like telling people about it because I want to help others save money.  I planned out my half of the workshop, got together a few resources, made up a hand-out that put it all together, and was ready to go.  I didn't even stress about it for a second.

Six months ago this would not have been my response.  I would have hemmed and hawed, thinking long and hard about getting up in front of a group of women and talking into a microphone.  Sure, I am passionate about couponing, but a room full of women all looking at me!  Could I get past the fear of public speaking in order to teach women a really useful skill???

On Sunday morning of the women's retreat, there is always time for personal sharing.  This year a woman shared about how over the weekend she asked to be prayed with to be released from fear.  She had a lot of fear over just about everything.  I sat there in my seat looking at her, thinking, "That was me my entire life up until six months ago."

Fear of failure.  Fear of going to new places.  Fear of going up to even people I am really good friends with and starting a conversation.  Fear of staying home alone, especially overnight.  Fear of public speaking.  Fear of letting my kids out of my sight.  So many fears that consumed me and crippled me.  I have asked for prayers from fear for years.  I have been prayed over more times than I can count.  But the fear never went away.  I came to accept it as a part of me, defining who I am.

It wasn't until that moment, sitting in that room, listening to this woman share, that it hit me.  I'd been freed.  It snuck up on me when I wasn't even looking.  I just gave a workshop the day before and not once did I feel sick to my stomach, stress over it, feel once ounce of anxiety.  I was at the retreat itself, talking to lots of women, not stressing about who I'd talk to and what I'd say.  Not hiding away in my room because I felt overwhelmed.  I didn't even call my Hubby until late Saturday night to check in because I didn't have time until then because I was having too much fun!

This may only be week 8 of my 52 Weeks of New adventure, but I can already say that this project has been a success.  I am doing new things, trying new things, having fun adventures, stepping off the ledge on a weekly basis.

Freedom feels really good.

Past posts in the 52 Weeks of New Series:
Week 1--Where It All Began
Week 2--New Cities and New Foods
Week 3--Hikes and Teaching
Week 4--Lunch Dates and New Mile Mark
Week 5--Fun with Fruit
Week 6--We Went to a Play
Week 7--Movies, Caramel Apples and Horses

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Waiting For Baby

I've been sucked into waiting and waiting for Autumn the Giraffe to have her baby.  I have the link to the webcam that is focused on her almost 24/7 up on my computer and I check it every time I am at the computer.  Yesterday I was talking about how all she does is stand there and eat to Hubby and he looked at me oddly and asked, "Who are you talking about?"  Right.  Hubby doesn't know I've been watching a pregnant giraffe off and on for two weeks just waiting for the moment when a baby giraffe will be born.

Of course, then you realize that giraffes have a gestational period of 400-460 days.  And the zoo thinks she is due somewhere between October 16-21, but it could be later.  I think I'm going to have a long wait of watching Autumn eat.  And eat.  And eat some more.

This past Friday my sister had her baby.  A week earlier the whole family, minus my sister and her family, were over at my Grandma's house for dinner when my sister called saying she was having regular contractions.  My mom said that her bags were already packed and that she's ready to go whenever it's time.  Every day the question was, "Is she having the baby yet?"  My mom had a few false alarms in there where she gassed up the car and was on stand-by only to have the contractions stop.  But last Thursday my sister went in for a routine doctor appointment and ended up being admitted into the hospital to have the baby.

FINALLY, I was going to have a new niece.  My niece was born Friday afternoon.  I haven't seen a picture of her yet (hint, hint, sister dear!!!!), I haven't seen her yet (because of my cough), but I've been assured she's a cute little thing.  I hope to go see her next week once I'm healthy again.

All this waiting and anticipating babies being born, both human and animal, makes me think about people like Sarah from the Bible who was promised by God that she'd have a son.  Ten years she waited.  And waited before Isaac was finally born.  Or I think about Jesus.  For centuries the Israelites were given prophecies about a Savior being born.  About a baby coming to earth to save them.  They waited a really long time.  Always anticipating the day when the prophecy would be fulfilled.

It's really hard to wait for a good thing to happen.  Joy is currently sitting in the chair next to me impatiently waiting for me to finish up here so I will go and make her breakfast.  David has his last soccer game of the season tonight and he is bouncing off the walls excited waiting for the game to start.  Lizzy is also equally excited for the last soccer game of the season because it means we are going out for ice cream after the game.

Likewise, I, as a Christian, am eagerly awaiting the time when Christ will come again.  Two thousand years ago Jesus made a promise that he would return to earth again and that he would reign over the earth.  Revelation 22:12 says, "Look, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give each person according to what they have done."  And in Matthew 25:13 it says, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."   

I strive to be like my mom, always ready at a moment's notice, my bags packed and my gas tank full, for the day when Christ returns.  I may be dead before he returns, but I will continue to wait with eager longing for the day when I will see His face for the first time.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Readjusting My Goals

Almost ten weeks ago I set a goal for myself to complete the Couch to 5K program and to run in a 5K this coming Sunday.  I started out as a non-runner.  I huffed and puffed my way through just the little amount of running I did in week one.  Week four left me wondering if I was really going to be able to finish this thing after all.  Week five was the turning point where running became a little bit easier.  By week eight, I was ready for the race.  Bring it on!

And then on Friday a cough set in.  I had a women's conference to go to last weekend.  I considered staying home, but I had a workshop to give and didn't think my sister-in-law would appreciate my skipping out and leaving her to give the workshop all on her own.  So I went.  I had a great time, but I spent the weekend coughing and didn't get enough sleep.  

Monday morning the cough hit full force and moved down into my lungs.  Climbing the stairs is enough to set me off coughing and leave me winded.  It's now Wednesday and the cough isn't getting any better.  

Last night I thought I'd test out my running abilities with a very short jog home from visiting my Grandma's house five houses down from my own.  I wanted to see just how bad my lungs truly were thinking that maybe I could run through the coughing.  I was coughing and wheezing before I made it to my driveway.  

After all that training, all that effort, I am faced with the very real possibility that I am not going to be able to accomplish my goal of running in the 5K this weekend.  

I was lamenting to my friend about it last night while we watched our boys play their soccer games.  She jokingly said I should hold my own "make-up" race once I'm better and able to run again.  I laughed about it at the time, but the idea grabbed hold.  

I may not be able to run by this Sunday, but that doesn't mean I won't ever be able to run again.  It doesn't mean I should just give up on my goal completely because I've hit a temporary setback.  I can readjust it.  If Sunday morning finds me still coughing and out of breath, I will simply wait until I'm better and then I will hold my own 5K.  There may not be 400 other fellow racers running with me, there may not be a cheering crowd when I cross the finish line, and I may not even know my "official" race time, but I can complete my goal and cheer all by myself.   

My adventure into running might not end up looking like I thought it would when I began, but I learned a lot along the way about setting a goal and not giving up even when it hurt, got hard, or when I experienced a set back.  But like almost everything else in my life, when shooting at a target, sometimes you have to lean left, sometimes right, and sometimes you have to spin around in circles before hitting your mark.   Just so long as you eventually hit the mark. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Did It!

Woohoo!!!!  I am celebrating my awesomeness today.  I fixed my washing machine all by myself!  That's right.  I looked up the problem online.  I diagnosed it.  I bought the part.  I looked up the steps to replace the part.  And I did it!  My washer is working without leaking water into the tub.  The water is coming out with a whole lot more force (I think the old water inlet valve was a little clogged from years of well water running through it).  I have high hopes for much happier laundry.

I took the advice of a friend after my last DIY project of trying to get my dishwasher to work better and took pictures before disassembling the washer just in case I needed a reminder for putting it back together again.  Thankfully, the pictures were unnecessary.  Total Cost--$28.96  Total Savings--$75.00+

Step One--Remove the box the water inlet valve is attached to.

Step 2--Unhook the wires noting which one goes to hot vs. cold

Step 3--Replace broken inlet valve with the new one and then reassemble washer

Step 4--Take a picture of my little helper in all her glory

Step 5--Test it out and discover I fixed the washer and made it better than before

Friday, October 12, 2012

Movies, Caramel Apples and Horses--Oh My!

It's week seven in my 52 Weeks of New adventure.  Every week brings something new to our lives and a whole lot of fun.  Last week I was looking through the list of movies currently playing at the theater to see if there was anything Hubby and I would both like (doubtful).  I came across an advertisement for free family movies--kids under 12 are free, over age 12 are just $4.  I thought it sounded like a fun thing to do on a Friday afternoon.

The kids and I went to see Pirates, Band of Misfits.  I can't say that it was a great movie.  It actually wasn't even that good.  But it was the first time I've taken the kids to the movies by myself, and my kids laughed a lot and seemed to enjoy it.  Plus, I bought a bucket of popcorn which we ate.  And ate.  And ate.  Two whole buckets full of popcorn.  I felt a little sick when we left the theater.  I'm glad we went and I plan to make it more of a routine.  I like taking my kids to the movies, but I don't like how much $$$ a regular movie costs.  Sure, they're movies we could just borrow from the library, but there's something about the whole theater experience.

Sunday we tried our hands at making caramel apples.  Hubby quartered them, the kids stuck them with toothpicks, and then we all sat and unwrapped all the little caramels.  We melted them in the microwave with a little milk added.  Then we all took turns dipping our apples in the big bowl of ooey-gooey delicious caramel.  

David hard at work unwrapping the caramels

Yum!  We could hardly keep ourselves from eating them all.

We stuck the apples in the fridge to harden while we played a few rounds of Uno.  We finished up family night with our homemade caramel apples.  While they tasted delicious, we did learn an important lesson for our next attempt--don't cut the apples first.  The caramel sticks just fine to the skin, but it does not stick to the flesh of the apple.  

Apples ready to be dipped

Dipping the apples

Dipping their fingers and eating every last drop of the leftovers

Monday my kids got to do something for the first time.  We learned about horses at co-op and the family where we have class owns a horse.  The mom let all of the kids pet the horse.  My girls were in heaven and didn't want to stop when their turn was up.  They have been begging me ever since to arrange a time to visit outside of co-op time so they can ride the horse.  While I think it would be great fun, I'm a little worried it will just encourage them to start begging Hubby and me to buy them their own horse.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bracing For Pain

A funny thing happens when a child is five.  You take them to the doctor for their five year well child check where they will need to receive several immunizations.  They freak out when you inform them minutes before the event, crying, carrying on how they don't want a shot, that it hurts.  You hold their hands to keep them away from the needle while the nurse holds their legs down to keep them from kicking her in the face.  The shot goes in, the child cries.  And then she stops.  Looks at you.  And says, "Huh.  That wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be."  That was yesterday when I took Joy to the doctor.

Three times now I've experienced this.  With all three of my kids.  I distinctly recall taking all three of my kids in for the chicken pox vaccine and David went first.  He was crying bloody murder.  We were holding him down and he was fighting us.  The shot went in and the crying stopped.  "That doesn't even hurt," he says.  "Do I still get a slurpee?"

Life is often just like that.  We're a screaming, crying, hissy-fit throwing mess as we brace for the pain to hit.  And then it does.  Huh.  That wasn't so bad after all.

I admit that when I first decided to start training for a 5K, I wasn't sure if I'd make it past week five, let alone all the way to the end.  It looked really hard.  Run twenty minutes without stopping?  I'd be happy with five.  Run three miles?  It'd be nice if I could run one.  Yet, I laced up my shoes and went out the door three days a week anyway and just kept following the program.  Somewhere between week six and week nine, it became a whole lot easier.

The first time I made it to two miles, when I stopped running and started my walking cool down, my legs still felt like they were running.  It felt weird to walk again.  My body wanted to just keep on running.  I realized I could run even further if I had the time.

Last weekend I ran three miles.  At the end of my run, I wasn't out of breath.  Yes, I was breathing hard, but I was breathing, not gasping.  My legs weren't even at the end of their endurance.  I felt like I could have kept on running if I hadn't had to get home so Hubby could get to a meeting.

Next weekend is the big race day.  I'm not expecting to win by any means.  I'll just be happy with being able to finish while running the whole way, even at my very unsupersonic speed.

But after all this training, after wondering during the first month if I really could do this, all I can say is, "Huh.  That wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Saving Money on Technology

Per request, a blog post on how I save money on phone, internet and TV.  Our choices are not for everyone so your story will probably be very different.  No matter where you fall on the phone/internet/TV spectrum, my best advice is to call your providers at least once a year to try to get them to lower your bill.

A year ago I took the plunge and did something I swore I'd never do.  I cut our land line.  I remember having a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach the entire time I was on the phone with AT&T.  I'd always had a land line.  I was rather attached to my home phone.  I loved to answer the phone.  I liked my answering machine.  But I wasn't so keen on that $30/month phone bill that seemed rather superfluous considering we also had cell phones.

So long land line

Less than a month later, I knew we'd made a good decision.  Only the people I actually want to talk to call me.  While everyone else was bemoaning all the political calls and sales calls, I was happy as a lark that I wasn't having any such problems.  Sure, we did have a bit of a rocky start because some of the people who we actually would have wanted to talk to didn't know our new number and it wasn't in any phone book.  They'd have to call my mom or mother-in-law to get our number.

Hello Cell Phones (And yes, that is a very basic flip phone without even texting--I'm old school)

A year later and I am still sold on being land line free.  My phone goes with me, so I rarely miss an important call.  I only have one number to fill out on forms.  My phone rings a third the amount it used to...which is nice.  It makes it a lot easier to get school done when I'm not constantly answering the phone.  We've saved $360 in the past year.

We need a lot of internet speed to keep all these computers running

At the same time that I cancelled our phone service, I also upgraded our internet service from 4 Mbps to 6 Mbps (the top speed we can get in our area).  Because we received an introductory rate, our internet bill actually went down by $15 despite increasing our speed.  This rate was locked in for a year.

Our year of cheap internet was scheduled to end at the end of this month when our rates would go up to the regular price of $44.95 a month.  My brother, who makes all call center representatives quake in their shoes, encouraged me to call AT&T and ask for a price break.  So I called them last week.  I told the woman that my deal was about to end and I wanted to discuss it.  She was so very helpful and quoted me the latest deals.  I am now paying LESS than before--$24/month for the very same internet speed--with the rate being good for the next six months with no contract (not that we have any other option since they have a monopoly in my area).  I will call back in March to talk to them again before my rates are set to go up.

If we subscribed to cable or another TV service, which we don't, I would also call regularly to lower my rates.  Every three months my Grandma calls all of her technical service providers and talks them into lowering her rate--usually only $5 each time, but that's $5 more in her pocket every month.  My father-in-law switches back and forth between DirectTV and Dish Network every six months so he always gets the cheapest rate available.  My sister calls annually and threatens to cancel her service if they won't lower her bill.  It usually works.

No Cable--Only Netflix

It pays big time to call your providers, ask for the lowest pricing.  If you can stomach it, you might even want to consider ditching your land line.  A few bucks here, a few bucks there, adds up to more cash in your pocket with very little effort.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tip #203-DIY Saves Money

I went to rotate the laundry yesterday and noticed the clothes felt rather wet for having finished the washer cycle.  Especially since they'd been sitting in the washer for a few hours.  I checked the dial and it definitely finished the cycle, so it wasn't a balance issue.  Stumped, I ended up running a spin cycle to get them the rest of the way dry and threw them into the dryer.

Now that I had an empty washer, I noticed water dripping out of the fill spot (you'll notice my technical wording abilities).  I dried it off with a towel to see if that'd stop it.  Drip, drip.  I got a bowl and put it under the drip spot and walked away.  An hour later I came back and the bowl was almost full.  Huh.  I emptied the bowl and put it back and then turned off the water valve at the wall.  Came back a few hours later and the bowl was overflowing.  Double huh.  I looked behind the washer again and realized there were two water shut-off valves.  Of course there are.  One for hot, one for cold.  I dumped the bowl, replaced it, turned off the second valve and went to bed.

This morning the bowl was empty (which is a good thing or else we'd really have a problem).  Contemplating a $75 plus parts repair bill, I started the internet hunt to figure out if it is a repair I can do myself.  I started with the very technical search of "washer water leaking into the tub."  My ignorance was rewarded with several sites that told me it was the water inlet valve.  I even found a Youtube video that told me how to fix it myself step by step!  I watched the whole video and decided it looks simple enough, so I went ahead and ordered the part.

But first I had to find the best deal on the part.  I tried the obvious choice-the store where I bought the washer.  I searched for a coupon code and found one for 10% off.  Fabulous.  And then I got to the shipping.  $10.99!!!!  For one little part???  I continued my search.  I typed the part number into the search engine and found the place with the cheapest price.  I searched for a coupon code and found one for 5% off--not awesome, but better than nothing.  Shipping, while more than I'd like, was only $7.99.  Making my part now $14 cheaper than through the first site.

Total investment to date-$28.96.  If all goes well, I will have saved us $75+ by fixing the washer myself (with a bit of help from Hubby if I can't do it by myself).  If all does not go well, I will call the repair man, pay the $75 service charge, and hand him the replacement part.  I still won't be out any more money than I would be if I had called for a repairman in the first place.

I also will be saving money by fixing a water leak I didn't even know we had.  Our water pressure has been a bit low this summer and we couldn't figure out why.  We have well water, so I admit I was a little worried we'd be digging a new, deeper well when we were at the height of the drought this summer.  Now, I'm thinking that the washer has been the culprit all this time.  My electric bill should be happier next month without all that added water pumping.

Friday, October 5, 2012

We Went to a Play--Week 6 of 52 Weeks of New

Back in the summer a local facebook homeschool group I belong to organized a group outing to the theater.  I went to this theater last year for field trips with Lizzy's first grade class (before we pulled her out of school) and Joy's K4 class.  We enjoyed it, so I signed my family up for two of the plays for this year.

Friday I took the kids to see Bunnicula.  This was the second time that I have gone to the theater with all three kids (we went last year as a family with my parents), a first for taking them on my own.  I don't know how many moments I spent worrying about how it was going to go, if I'd find parking all right, if I'd find the group we were going with despite my having never met the other families joining us.  We arrived ridiculously early, and thankfully another mom also arrived very early so we sat outside and chatted while our kids ran around in the grass outside the theater.  She knew who the other moms were, so I just tagged along with her.

My kids did great throughout the entire play.  No one talked.  No one was wiggly.  They were enthralled with the story and the songs.  They laughed a lot.  When it was over they asked me to get the book from the library so I could read it aloud to them.  They asked if there was a movie we could rent.  Apparently they really liked it.

Now I'm sorry I only signed up for two shows this school year.  The kids had so much fun.  When dad asked them at dinner about their favorite part of the day, the play received top billing over lunch at Burger King with a play land and a visit to the children's museum, two of their favorite places.

I'm very pleased that I ignored my natural tendency to pass experiences up because they are out of my comfort zone.  Every little step I take toward being adventurous and trying new things makes it that much easier to say yes the next time.

Past posts in the 52 Weeks of New Series:
Week 1--Where It All Began
Week 2--New Cities and New Foods
Week 3--Hikes and Teaching
Week 4--Lunch Dates and New Mile Mark
Week 5--Fun with Fruit

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tackling My Very Neglected To Do List

On Friday I made up a To Do list of all those pesky little projects that I had been neglecting but were bugging me every time I thought about them or walked by them.  On Saturday I determined to address all of my little projects.  By Sunday, I'd only knocked one thing off my list.

I spent Saturday morning deep cleaning my bedroom.  I cleared off the dresser top, my drop spot in the corner of the room next to my side of the bed, the clothes thrown over the foot board, the clothes on the closet floor.  I convinced Hubby that he wanted to clean up his clothes at the foot of the bed and finish unpacking his suitcase from when he went to camp back in August that was still sitting in our room.  Next I dusted everything--flat surfaces, the bed, the walls, the windowsills, the door frames, the mirrors.  Then I did a thorough vacuum including using the hose to get the baseboards.

My clean dresser

After that was done, I deep cleaned my bathroom.  I washed the walls and baseboards, I purged the medicine cabinet.  I found a new home for the various bottles of things that we weren't using but didn't want to throw away just yet.

Monday I was running all day long so I didn't have time to do anything.  Tuesday I got down to business.  I washed all of the entryway and bathroom mats.  I cleaned off the big pile of junk sitting on the counter in the laundry room.  I decluttered the junk drawer in my kitchen.  I cleared off my computer desk.

Laundry room dumping zone--the water has been turned off since me moved in
since it is "conveniently" at kid height and perfect for little kid water messes
Next project: Remove sink and cupboard entirely

I can't say that I did a lot of work.  My bedroom wasn't that messy.  The laundry counter wasn't that horrible.  But there's something funny about decluttering.  Once something is no longer there, the space that it was occupying suddenly looks bare.  Empty.  Like something is missing.  I walk into my bedroom and it looks funny not having a suitcase against the wall.  My bathroom counter looks weird being completely cleared off.  My laundry room looks like it needs a new pile to replace the one that had been there for weeks (or was it months???).

I do love that these areas of my home are now picked up.  While it looks funny right now, I am getting used to the new, clean, slightly empty look.  Every time I am tempted to leave something on the dresser top or throw my sweater over the foot board of my bed, I stop myself and put it away properly because it's a lot easier to put away one thing than to allow the mess to accumulate over a month or more.  Then I will be faced with another long Saturday morning of deep cleaning my bedroom.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: Travelers Rest

I started reading Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock a few months ago.  But the beginning is slow and I soon lost interest.  Last week I had nothing else to read so I decided to give it a go and read through the end.  I'm glad I did.  It did turn out to be a good book once you got past the first few chapters.  

Jane is engaged to Seth, but before they could get married, Seth went off to war where he was shot and paralyzed from the neck down.  Upon returning stateside, Seth tells Jane to forget about him and to not come see him at the hospital.  Jane, of course, ignores him and uproots her life and moves for the summer so she can visit him anyway.  Seth claims to no longer want to get married--out of his love for her, he wants Jane to move on.  The more Seth pushes Jane away, the harder she fights to convince Seth to accept her love and keep his promise to marry her.

Throughout the summer of daily hospital visits to see Seth, Jane receives a lot of encouragement from seemingly random people at the hospital to keep on going when she is tempted to give up.  She enlists many of these new friends to help her come up with ways to cheer Seth up and to help bring out the man he used to be.

Despite her family and friends trying to convince Jane to move on, Jane remains steadfast to the man she loves.  Despite being faced with the challenge of caring for a quadriplegic for the rest of her life, she is determined to do it anyway.  Jane is a wonderful example of making a commitment and seeing it through no matter what.

I won't spoil the end for you, but it wasn't what I was expecting.  The twisting plots that seemed so random in the middle of the book suddenly came together and made sense.  The conclusion is a happy one.

**Thank you Bethany House Publishers for giving me a copy of this book to review.  All of the opinions expressed in this review are mine.**