Saturday, December 31, 2011

  Can't believe it's already New Year's Eve and we're so close to 2012. It's even harder to believe that some 30 yrs ago the year 2012 was the year that some movies had us look like we were flying through space when we got into our cars.. haha.. just a funny thought to me.  :)

 With the New Year beginning it's always so fun to hear what everyone has as their "New Year's" resolution. So what are some of your goals, resolutions, or plans for this year?

 Adam and I have a goal to pay off our expedition {Woo-hoo}  and do some DIY projects around the home {that's another Woo-hoo from me, not so much Adam}  :)  Lastly, to make our way back up to Ohio to visit his side of the family, it's been a long 3 years since we have done that.

 Thinking back on the year 2011, which has gone by so fast, it's fun to ponder on all the exciting things that took place, so here are just a few memories of 2011 for me..

January 3, 2011
My "bubs" Connor was born!
Weighing in at 7lbs

Less than 12 hours later, on January 4, 2011 his sweet cousin
was born. Brooklynne weighed in at a tiny 4lbs
{mama & baby healthy & happy}

Teeth were lost...

Slumber parties to be had...

{Update on Connor and Brooklynne}
Patiently awaiting the Big surprise to come...

Another sweet cousin, Anna Lynne!

Elizabeth's baptism with daddy & papa.. so sweet!

Trying "food" for the first time..

Proposal's to be had..
{This is my brother-n-law proposing to his girlfriend}

{Update on Connor, Brooklynne, & Anna}
Sweet babies!

Swimming lessons..

Camping trips..

Fireworks on the beach..

First bike rides...

Tropical storms on the beach...

Times of remembrance, prayer and thanks!

Crawling, chasing balls.... growing quickly

A beautiful 10 years shared thus far.. love him!

A very blessed, happy New Year to you and your family!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

 With the cold air settling in, it's time to change up our dinner menu to the more rustic and hearty meals like chili, roast and potatoes, soups with cornbread, ect.
 That is one thing I love about weather changes, because as the weather changes, typically so does my menu. It's always nice to be able to change up the dinner menu because we get so tired of eating the same thing over and over again.
 One thing I decided to make a few weeks ago was some home made croutons and I'm so glad I did.  :)  They were delicious!   On top of being very cheap... and you can't beat cheap! 

 It's a very simple little recipe, but it made plenty to last us for quite a while.  We had them on salads, in soups and sometimes they even replaced potato chips at lunch time for the kids since they really liked them too.  :)

  Since I knew I was going to be making the croutons I decided to take pictures along the way with the intention of "blogging" about it.  Silly, I know, but I always enjoy pictures with recipes, so although this is very simple, I thought I would share it with you.  :)

Any kind of bread will do. I had many different kinds of french bread that was in my freezer, so that is what I used. 

You then cut your bread up into cubed pieces. How big or small is completely up to you and your preference.  I wanted mine a little bigger so that they would be crunchy on the outside but still a little more soft on the inside.

I used a packet of ranch dressing seasoning. Although you can use any kind of seasoning you would like. Even just plain ole salt, pepper, & garlic powder will give you great tasting croutons.  I just happened to have a packet of this and decided to try it.

After you have cut up your bread. You then will need your dry seasoning of choice and olive oil and prepare to get your hands dirty!  :)

Turn your oven to 325degrees. You want to cook your croutons on a lower temperature to give them time to cook evenly through.  Arrange your bread cubes onto a single layer sheet or, in my case, I used a roasting pan with sides.  Important thing is that you want to be sure to keep them in a single layer or else you will overcook some & under cook others.
Sprinkle your dry seasoning all over your bread cubes, be sure to get your hands in there so that every piece of bread gets a good season to it.  After you are finished with your seasonings then you  want to drizzle your Olive Oil, or "EVOO" as Rachel Ray would call it (I think of her almost every time I use my Olive oil. :) ) all over your bread, again don't be afraid to get your hands in there. ;)  Just be sure to not over do it and saturate the bread to much, or else you will have very crispy croutons!
 Place in the oven and "Voila" you have yourself some delicious croutons! 
Don't you smell them already?!  They not only taste wonderful, they also make your house smell wonderful too! :)
Just be sure to freeze any croutons that you are not going to eat in a freezer zip lock bag. Whenever you are ready to eat more, just toss them back onto a cookie sheet at 250degrees and cook until their thawed and crisp.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

 I was reading a post that a friend of mine wrote about Christmas shoe boxes she was making with her children to send to the military serving over seas.  It was a beautiful post, with pictures of she and her children putting these boxes together and she was using this as an opportunity to teach them about giving. 
 So I had a "deep thought moment"  :)  I was reminded of a situation that happened about 5 yrs ago. It was a tough situation, people were doing things that were so dishonest, not necessarily toward me, but in the lives of people they loved and were in covenant with. I was angry & confused. I just felt lost!  Although I was not the one experiencing the situation. I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what it meant to be a mommy, wife, friend, and child of God.  This, however, was really testing my entire understanding on all of those things. I was enjoying my happy place on earth in my bubble of important things. Having babies, buying our first home & mini van. Swapping stories about nursing, labor and delivery, & what Dr's we were using. I was having fun, feeling complete... then this happened!  Now I know this is sounding dramatic, but we all have our "ah-ha" moments that force us to mature and grow, they come in all shapes and sizes and can be different for us all, this just happened to be one of mine.  I was going to learn more about forgiveness, compassion, and mercy.  I was going to learn that there was more than just the life I was living in at the moment. 
*Although, just to clarify.  Those years of starting my family, buying our first home, swapping stories of babies, nursing, bottles and Dr's. were years of joy & building relationships with great women. They are some of my fondest memories that I hold dear, so I'm not implying that is a "bubble" of false living.  ha ha.. just want to make that clear!  :)
 I realized something about this friend who made some bad choices. Besides some of the obvious issues that lied beneath, as well as  some that are more personal.  She lacked understanding her purpose, and season that she was in.  This caused her to loose joy  as a woman, wife and mother. 
  It's so easy to become discontent, envious, & competitive through out life. There are always people who have more than you, easier situations than you, better husbands than you, etc.  It can be just as easy though, to find joy when we  find contentment, peace, and learning to accept our seasons in life.  When we find contentment with those seasons, we also find our purpose, because with every season comes a new purpose to be shared along side our husbands.
 We all need purpose, without it, whats the point. We all want to know we are making a difference in someones life. 
    So here is just a "shoebox" filled with thought...  :)

It's just to easy to feel lost and forgotten when you are doing the same thing over and over again. It has a way of robbing your joy when you don't know why your doing it. People can handle that feeling very differently. Some pull away feeling hopeless with no meaning, some may become resentful and angry, some become entitled, justifying their reasons for being unfaithful, neglectful or even abusive.

 All the while your greatest purpose and calling in your life is sleeping in the room next to you, or right beside you. They're snuggled up on the couch with the blanket and thumb in the mouth, or the one with the game controller who hasn't heard the last few times you've called for them to come get the crying baby while you're cooking dinner. The ones doing their homework, even the one throwing the tantrum on the kitchen floor.  :) 

 Embrace your seasons in life, even this one will pass and with it will come another season.  Embrace your calling and the purpose you are given.  Most of all remember that God is your strength!  He doesn't expect us to be "Super woman" nor does He bite is nails anxiously hoping we get all of our daily chores & work done, or to be perfect in all that we do. He just wants us to be teachable, content, peaceful, joyful & virtuas, as is a Proverbs 31 woman a beautiful example for us, so is a Psalms 131 woman...

O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me. Psalm 131

Be Blessed Mama's!  :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Free art

  So I absolutely love to decorate!  I love to decorate for holidays & parties, but mostly, I love to decorate my house!  :)
 My husband and I always joke that he is going to send me to work outside the home, so I can have my own "decor allowance"  :)
 We bought our home a few years ago when we were expecting our 5th child. We were looking for a 4 bedroom house to accommodate our growing family. Around here houses are not exactly cheap, especially if you are looking for one with much space for a larger family. Thankfully, we were blessed to find one that was affordable & in very livable conditions, yet also has plenty of potential to make it ours. I dream of all the exciting things I want to do around here to give it the "farm house" look & feel that I want.  For now though, it is just that... a dream! :)  At this time in our life while we are working hard at getting out of debt, and raising our family, it's just not the time for house remodels.  I am content with this season in my life, however, I still always have an "itch" for decorating.  :)   My  It's endless possibilities & creativity are a decorataholics dream site.  Major plus.. it is usually stuff you already have just laying around the house or that you can find for pennies on the dollar. 

 So here are just a few little ideas I got off of there and used to decorate around the house. 

"Home is where the Art is"  This is some art work done by some of my children that we hung using clothes pins in old frames that were lying around the house that I painted black.  This is on a wall that is in our computer room

These are, again some black frames I just happened to have. :)  I painted them black and then hung inside of them some candle holders that I have had for years now.  It just gave it a little bit of a design inside to make it intresting.  :)
This is the fireplace in our dining room. I love this thing, it was one of the things that made me love this house when we first saw it.  :)  The picture wreath hanging at the top are different family photos that I printed and taped to some card board that I used to cut a wreath out of.

Our red front door.  :)  It's nothing fancy up here, but the plant stands I found at my neighbors house out by the road when they moved, so I brought them home and painted them a dark brown along with the two lights that are on either side of the door, they were a rather rusted white. You would never know now though, they look almost new! :)

Frugal living it up

  Okay, so I know that these days we're all learning to be more frugal. It can be different for all of us and of course depending on what seasons we are in life can depend on how we decide to adjust as well. 

 For us, we decided at the beginning of the year it was time to get serious and get out of debt! I regret all the time, that we have waited this long to understand the importance of living a life free of debt! However, I'm so thankful that we decided, in agreement, that now is the time to do so.  We went through a class that our church was offering called Financial Peace with Dave Ramsey.  It was a wonderful class that teaches you how to budget, save and be prepared for the future and all the "unknowns" that will come your way.  It will also teach you alot about yourself. It really makes you think and examine how you think about money, spending, saving, ect. 

I can be pretty- free spirited when it comes to money. I don't care much for budgets, savings, 401K, things like that. I do understand the importance of those things, I just like to think when I need it, it will be there!  :)  My husband, however, thinks very diffrently than I. He likes budgets, savings, and 401K's.  He is one who thinks that "we need to hold on to almost everything because we may need it again one day", where I think "get that out of my way, I won't need that again!"  It's funny how diffrent we are!    :)

 Okay, so in order to get out of debt we have to find some extra money somewhere! No problem, we were just wasting money anyway every month with luxury's like eating out, clothes, coffee, ect. 
I wish it were that easy!  Although there were times that we were wasting money doing those things it was always just going on the credit card, so it wasn't really money that we had to begin with.  After about 6 weeks of being in the class we cut up all of our credit cards, so that option is out the window... thank God!  :)

 Instead we just pray... lots of praying!  We began to pray that God will direct us into the direction that we should go so that we can achieve our goal of saving and getting out of debt.  I would love to say... "we're debt free!" but we're not there yet, not even close.  Instead He has been showing us step by step how to make this real for our lives, yet continually teaching us faith, giving, serving, and love.

 So I'll keep you updated with our progress.  :)  Getting out of debt, saving, just learning to live a life with more contentment, and "frugal" living it up!

 "Owe no one anything except to love one another."  -Romans 13:8

*How do you frugal live it up? 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sugar & spice & all things nice...

  Finally we are feeling the effects of  Fall here in Florida!!!  :)  I absolutely love fall! It gets me excited to wake up with warm, fuzzy socks on my feet as I head toward the kitchen to make my hot cup of coffee. Ahhh... delight! 
 I also love fall because of all the fun, free family activities that come out.  Pumpkin patches, church carnivals and festivities, & parks (since we live in Florida where it's steaming in the summer, we rarely go to the park unless it's fall or spring :) )
 So last Saturday we headed toward the Pumpkin Patch that we have been going to for a few years now. They have all kinds of fun little activities along with the patch, like bouncy houses, petting zoo, face painting, ect.   There are some great things about going to church festivals.  The people are almost always very friendly, it's a great place to meet people, especially if you're looking for a new church home, and because it is a church they are not able to set a price on most of their festivities, which means that just about everything is considerable donation.  This is nice if you are on a tight family budget. Knowing your money is going toward something good is nice too.
 When we are finished at the Pumpkin Patch we go to a park that is close by called Turkey Creek. Just the name of the park alone suits visiting after the Pumpkin Patch doesn't it?  :)   This park is beautiful.  It is designed for you to enjoy a picnic under a beautiful pavilion, to then enjoy nature as there is a trail that is very family friendly.  We usually go with our extended family to this place, because "the more the merrier" here.  If you are local in the panhandle region, and have never been to this park, I will add a link for you.       

 Happy Homeschooling!

Pumpkin Patch 2011

 Turkey Creek in Niceville, Florida.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Teaching on a budget

  Homeschooling comes with so many perks, but can be so costly, especially if you are looking into any kind of extra activity outside of the home to make up for what they would receive in going to school.
 With 6 children and 3 that are in grade school, extra activities that cost money ( i.e. music lessons, art class, dance classes, sports) don't really happen right now.  I think it's a wonderful outlet if you are able to do this, but if you are tight on a budget and cannot make this happen then I have good news!  :)
  There is so much offered all around us and it's usually FREE or cost very little.  Even better news, it is  as simple as checking out your city website.  Your city website is there for locals as well as visitors, so it will always keep a calender of events, recreational parks in your area, museums, ect. It will also have links to places like your local library. Follow those links or call your library to see if they offer any story times for children.  We definitely take full advantage of our local library, story hour, and sometimes just somewhere different to do school work.  :)
 Be creative to your surroundings. We live near Air Force Bases, historic sites, & beautiful beaches. There are so many ideas and spin off's that you can use when teaching around your area.( i.e. weather, natural disasters, history, ect.)
 Also don't forget to look into off season deals.  Some places like gulfariums, & zoo's have off season passes, which usually drop to 50-60% off, which is an amazing deal if you can get a yearly pass that will allow you in at anytime.
 Happy homeschooling! 

Ahh, today is my 10 year anniverysary, so excited!! Can't wait to see my husband walk through the door, hug his neck, and say Happy Anniversary babe.
 What a great 10 years it's been so far!  Many new adventures have taken place in the last 10yrs. I look forward to many, many, more years to spend with him, and grow with him.
 Here are just a few pictures of our special day that we will never forget. I love you Adam!!

                                  October 20, 2001

       Still just as excited to be married today as I was on this day!  :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

  The kids and I went to the park with some friends on Friday. It was so nice to get out of the house, go somewhere to let the kids run free and spend some time with good friends.  We have a great park here called 'Marlers Park'  It's got great shade, and play equipment.  It is also about 200ft from a beach and a fishing dock.  After playing at the playground, the kids were begging to go walk on the beach, so we all decided to go to the fishing dock so they could look at the water, and hopefully see some marine life (since we have had a purple flag all week) and much to our surprise we saw all kinds of neat marine life swimming right by us.
 There was a man on the dock fishing, so we were sure to remind the children to be quite while he was fishing. Well, he was wonderful! He caught a blow fish for the kids to see before tossing back into the water. He had a bucket full of live shrimp that he was using as bait, and he allowed the children to look and even hold one if they wanted.  He then caught a lizard fish, which was interesting.  :)  We also got to see lots of jelly fish and sting ray swim past while looking off the rails into the water.
 It turned out to be a play date/field trip all in one, and you can't beat that!  :)
 Wish I could have captured some of these moments with a camera, but hopefully this won't be the last play date that turns into an unexpected "field trip"  :)
 Just a reminder, if you live in near beaches, that is always a great place to go and teach science. Be sure to keep an eye out for the purple flag, which means there is lots of marine life in the water.  That is a great time to find a safe fishing pier or dock and allow the children to bring their journals to write and/or draw pictures of all the neat marine life that God created to live in the water.  :)
  * For any locals, here is the link to Marlers Park.  It's worth a visit.  :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

 This morning I've been pretty emotional, lots of tears & frustration.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with day to day chores, school and life demands.  It all can seem quite impossible to achieve and get done at times.  I know this is nothing new for all of us moms out there, we all have our days (and monthly visits that only increase these emotions :) ) that can make us crumble into a sobbing mess and believing "No appreciates me around here!"  
 It's probably expected that I should say.. "then suddenly, one of my children says "Mommy, I love you" that then reminds me how blessed I am...." but nope, that is not what I'm going to say.  Instead I have an 8 month old who is tired, with a rash that appears to be getting worse instead of better. A 2yr old who wants to touch and eat everything, and I mean EVERYTHING!  Then there are my older ones who feel that they need to remind me constantly of how "bored" they are and have absolutely "noooothing to do!!!" 
 However, I have been reminded of one thing.  This is something that was told to me soon after I started having children. It's something that my parents taught me, that their parents taught them.  That something is this...              
                                     "Be patient or you will become one!"   :)

 I think today is a good day to have no chores, eat whatever is in the kitchen that does not require  any preparation or clean up. Coffee with extra sugar and cream, and seriously plan a sisters night out....soon!  :)

On a little more serious note, God also has some pretty amazing things to say about us Moms.  :)  He definetly has way of uplifting us on our down days....

                      "A Mothers love reaches far beyond circumstances or feelings, it sees past flaws and imperfections, and celebrates God's gift of love, sent from heaven in the form of a child.

              Her children will rise up and call her blessed.   Proverbs 31:28

                                     Hope today is a blessed day in your home!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Storms + Beach = Floridians

   Not sure if I've mentioned it, but we're from the Sunshine State.. Florida.  :)  I love it here! I was born & raised in the north eastern part of Florida. We're surrounded by beautiful beaches almost everywhere.
 With living in Florida and surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, we occasionally get hurricanes and pretty gusty tropical storms sweeping through here. So as most natives of Florida do, we all head to the beach when one begins to show it's strength in the water.  It's an old tradition that I grew up doing and loved.  My parents would load us all into the car, we would drive over the bridge to the beaches and park as close as we could to the sand so that we could see the waves rising high and then crash into the nearby pier.  We would usually get out of the car with excitement as we walked toward the pavilions where most of the town also stood, and we could feel the strong winds against our face. We would laugh and just be "certain" the wind was going to blow us away!  Afterwards we would usually stop by the old Dairy Queen that no longer stands, and everyone would get an ice cream cone, I now understand that was probably meant to keep us quite so that my parents could talk. :) 
 So the tradition carries on, whenever there is a storm out in the gulf, you know where most of us will be.. down on the beach.  :)  Here are a few pictures of our trip to the beach today as Tropical Storm Lee was out in the gulf... enjoy!

                            Daddy, Caden(wasn't real happy with all the sand blowing) & Connor

little Connor bubs!


mommy & Ella bug

All done at the beach and heading out for some lunch.. and ice cream!  :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Never forget..

 Starting Monday I'm going to talk to the girls about 9/11. I've searched for ideas that would be age appropriate for them,but yet still have an understanding as to what happened on that day.  I found a book that I wanted to share. I'm honored to know the woman who made this book. She was a home school mom herself. She has raised 2 girls and 2 boys who are now adults and parents themselves. She still to this day has an obvious love for children.  This is an amazing book from children themselves, of all ages, from all over the nation, and their perspective and understanding of that day.  I would definitely recommend this book to use while teaching your children about this day we should never forget!

The Voice of America's Youth

*Click on the Title and the link to her book will appear.

Don't forget to check your local area and town website to see if there are any dedications and/or ceremonies to honor this day.  Those are some great ways to incorporate lessons.  :)  Our town holds one every year at our Uptown Station.  Firemen and police officers come out in full uniform and raise the American flag while we stand in silence to remember all those who gave their lives to save so many and those who lost their lives so innocently!
 I'll be sure to update with pictures!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Trial and Error

  This is our 3rd year homeschooling and I have used Abecka curriculum all three years.  It's easy for me as the "teacher" to understand and my girls have, so far, done very well understanding it.  Yet still I decided I wanted to try something new with my oldest who has just started the 3rd grade.  The first always get to be the Ginny pigs right?!  :) 
  So I search all summer long and stumble upon Alpha Omega Switched on School house math(computer program) and their Life Pac language and spelling.  I'm super excited because not only is this my chance to play with something new, it looks  fun and easy to use. 
 We just started school on August the 22nd. and today September 1st, I have already ordered Abecka grade 3 curriculum and we're starting over.  It's nothing against Alpha Omega, it just didn't work for us. I think alot of it is because I am more common with Abecka and the way that they teach. I also really like the repetition that Abecka has in each of their subjects, so back to Abecka it is!!!  :)
 I guess this "trial and error" is just the beginning, but I'm sure glad that we changed our decision when we did.
 So tomorrow starts a new day. Freshly sharpened pencils, and text books prepared, blessed to be able to teach my kids at home!!  :)
Pray your day is wonderful too!

                                           Lauren, Elizabeth, Lindsey, Caden, Ella & Connor