Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out of the Country Trips

For about a year now, we've been collecting miles in hopes of one day making a trip to Scotland. Since it takes A LOT of miles, which takes lots of time to accumulate, I've decided to start saving a small chunk of money toward this trip. It always seems impossible to take a trip out of the country but with a little bit of discipline, it's totally possible. I have no idea how to go about setting the trip up. I've been told that for our first trip, we'd be better off setting up a tour based trip. This way, we get to hit lots of the important points and we can always hit others on a return trip. Anyone have any advice in this area? Also, what about travel insurance ? Do we need it? Is it required?

Have any of you been to Scotland? If so, would you care to share your experiences? I'd love to hear the high points of your trip. It's going to be at least a year before we go....maybe two. I want to really be prepared so I figure I should start this new year by doing the research a little at a time. Your help is greatly appreciated, in case I forget to tell you later :-)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Birthday Fun

What a fun day we had with Caroline on her birthday. Here are various photos of the day.

Caroline got this cute mouse Webkinz from her big sister

Next, we all got to put on these beautiful shoes. The girls got the prettiest ones.

Caroline was a little embarrassed at first. This was her first time bowling.

She got over it and quickly got to work.

Caroline & I took a break, since I was winning :-0

You know your baby is growing up when she starts complaining that you are taking too many pictures of her.

What a blessing this little girl is to her family. She and her big sister bring so much joy into my life. My life would not have been half as fulfilling without them in my life. I am truly blessed that they call me mom.


Happy 10th Birthday

Ten years ago today, at 10:55a.m., the sweetest little red-head in the world was born. She wasn't red-headed at first. That beautiful surprise came later. She was cute and tiny. Her head was cone shaped for a little while. She looked like a baby doll. She decided that she wanted to make her entrance into the world the night before....while we had friends over and were playing Tri Bond. It was quite the exciting evening. You see, my water broke while we were playing the game and I wasn't sure what was happening. With my first pregnancy, I was induced so my water had never broken. Anyway, I got up without telling anyone what had happened and went to the bathroom. Of course, I was too embarrassed to come back out and called to hubby to call the doctor. Our friends had recently had a baby and were in no real hurry to leave. In fact, I think they hung around for at least 45 minutes while I stayed holed up in the bathroom :-) They all reassured me that this was normal but I was convinced that if I didn't get to the hospital, the baby was going to be born on the bathroom floor. It seems kind of funny to think about it now because I wasn't even having contractions. Hubby ended up talking to the doctor, who told us to go on to the hospital to get checked out. We arrived there shortly after and found that we were in for a long night. Looking back, I wish I could have just been patient and spent that last night in my own bed.

But this post is not about me. It's about my sweet baby. Caroline was a sweet baby and her big sister was lots of help during the early years. At first Caroline had her days and nights mixed up and it was hard for me to sleep. Couple that with the fact that hubby had the flu the whole week after she was born and couldn't be of much help at all. I was a basket case. Caroline didn't cry much....except when I put her down. I didn't spoil her by holding her. She just liked to scream her head off whenever I laid her down. That lasted for about three months and somehow I managed to survive. As each year passes now, I am reminded of just how precious time is. Babies don't stay little for very long. In fact, these ten years have flown by. I am thankful for my children. I am thankful for the wonderful craziness Caroline brings to my life. She is one of a kind.

In honor of her birthday today, here are ten things about her. There are so many things I could list but these are the ten things that come to mind right away.

  1. What they say about red heads is soooo true! Caroline has a fiery personality and I have confidence that NO ONE will ever walk on her.
  2. She is turning into a wonderful piano player.
  3. She is obsessed with making videos on a digital camera. She does this every single day. She never seems to tire of it.
  4. She loves to write letters to friends or to write journal entries.
  5. Her favorite thing to eat is macaroni and cheese. Not just any mac 'n' MIL's is her fav. She's always quick to tell me that my mac is good....but not as good as her granny's.
  6. She is NOT a morning person. Let her sleep until at least 10 each morning and she's good. Otherwise, it takes her a long time to get going.
  7. She has an infectious laugh.
  8. She loves to eat sour cream by itself. She will dip a spoonful out and go to town. She also really likes cottage cheese (ACK!).
  9. She always, always, always says goodnight before she goes to bed. She still gives us hugs and kisses and says the same thing every night before going to bed. It's become a routine of sorts and I love it!
  10. She is one of the funniest people I know. She could keep a crowd entertained for hours.

Happy Birthday baby. Mommy loves you.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008

This was our first Christmas without my brother-in-law. I have to admit that I was a little worried about how everyone would handle it. Turns out, I had no need to worry. Everyone did great and while we did miss Mike, we were able to celebrate and miss him in a healthy way. Mike was a very unique person. He had a huge heart and loved people. He knew everybody and I never heard anyone say a bad word about him. He was very charismatic and took everything in stride. He could eat more than anyone I know and never gain an ounce. He loved to play cards or board games. Probably something that everyone knew about him was that he loved the Vols.

We thought about him a lot this Christmas Eve. We celebrated much the same way that we did when he was with us. Here are some of my favorite photos from Christmas Eve:

Caroline and my niece Hannah. They took this one themselves.

Caroline, just before she started to hand out gifts.

My nephew Caleb and his girlfriend Chrystal

Logan trying her best to avoid the camera

Bobo, Mike's dog (my in-laws inherited this dog after Mike's death)

Playing Partini


Eating, Eating, and More Eating

Every year it happens. Come Thanksgiving, I'm telling myself that there is no way I'm going to over eat during the holidays. I tell myself I'll drink lots of water or that I'll eat a snack before the big meal. You can guess what happens, can't you? Every time, I get sucked in by the yummy food.....especially dessert. It was no surprise that when I walked into my cousin's house last night, the dessert table was the first one in my path. I think she did that to entice me :-) Laying in front of me were some of my favorite things....pumpkin rolls, peanut butter rolls, big honkin' sugar cookies with two inches of icing on top, etc. You get the picture. Now how in the world was I suppose to control myself? It was all over before I even sat down. Can you say Leptorexin to the rescue? Ok, it isn't that bad yet but I'm telling you, I find it nearly impossible to say no to the dessert table.

I guess I am glad that my family was kind enough to remember the 999 times I mentioned wanting Wii Fit. They got it for me for Christmas and it could not have come at a better time. I know I've put on at least five pounds since Thanksgiving. So, as soon as I get some batteries, I'm gonna fire that baby up and get to work. I'll have to let you know how it goes.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thankful for the Little Things

Back in 1999, when the idea of homeschooling first became a reality for our family, I really felt like there was no way it would last. I didn't feel competent to teach my then first grader. Plus, I had a baby under 1 and, for the first time in a long time, felt lost in my life. I had worked for so many years. Now, suddenly I had two children to care for and a husband who wanted me to be at home....not somewhere else working eight hours a day. It felt like a curse at the time. I had the same attitude that sadly, many mothers have toward their children. "How in the world can I deal with these kids all day long, much less be responsible for their education?" That was the daily burning question in my mind.

Nine years later, I cannot imagine life being any different than it is now. I can't imagine putting my children on a bus and sending them off to public school for most of the day. Sure, there are days when I want to pull my hair out. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that. There are days when we get nothing done besides cleaning up messes (and there are lots of those). There are days when the girls want to sleep late. We have days when they don't want to school at all. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Mom, can't we take the day off from school?" There are many days when we run into problems with math concepts and I think that we will never get through them. There are days when I want to quit. There are days when I wonder why God entrusted me with these two souls to care for. There are days that I am ungrateful because He hasn't given me more.

It never fails though. Days like today come.... days when I look around and see the mess and think, "what's the big deal?" When a friend emails to say that she sure is glad I want to take the rest of the month off from our joint Latin class because we both have lots of holiday obligations to deal with. Days when another friend emails me to tell me that it is complete bedlam at her home and we have ourselves a good laugh. And days when black hand prints all over the wall brings a smile to my face. In comparison to what God sacrificed for me, my problems and complaints are nothing. Less than nothing even.

I am thankful for children. I am especially thankful for my own children. I cherish the privilege of spending every waking hour with them. I am thankful for the wonderful journey of educating them at home. I am thankful for one's ability to read a 900 page book in a day and for her continual complaints of how she will never use Algebra or Biology in her future. I am thankful for the other's musical and creative ability and for going at her own pace when it comes to math. Maybe most importantly, I am thankful that I have black hand prints to wash off of my walls.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tree Time 2008

Well, we finally got our tree up and decorated last night. We weren't able to get the tree right after Thanksgiving like we normally do because of the stomach bug I had. The girls were finally relieved when I was well enough to go out with them and pick it out. My niece, Hannah, and my in-laws came over to help the girls last night and they did a pretty good job. I didn't even reposition any of their work! In fact, I sat on the couch and drank hot chocolate while they did all the work. My MIL was doing a great job telling them what they needed to fix so I let her do the dirty work!

The tree never seems to look as pretty with the lights on but they did a great job. We tried to do mostly orange and white ornaments this year but Logan couldn't resist putting her favorite ornament in the front so everyone would be sure to see it. Can you guess which one it is? Look for the blue ornament in the's a TN Titans ornament. Her favorite!

The girls had a great time together and enjoyed spending time with their favorite cousin.

After my niece and in-laws left and my girls were in bed, I couldn't help but take a picture of the tree all lit up. It looked so pretty.

In the coming days, I hope to try and share some of our special ornaments. Do you have special ornaments? I'd love to see them! From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Guess Where I'm Going?

Lauren over at Baseballs and Bows is always talking about their wonderful family Disney vacations. Our family has never been but maybe one of these days we'll break down and go. We are planning a weekend getaway though. Jeff and I are taking off to Gatlinburg for the weekend next week. Guess what the best part is? It's a free 3 day 2 night vacation. We don't even have to go listen to anyone talk about timeshares for an hour!

Back in September, we decided to sell our Toyota 4-runner because it was a gas hog. We ended up buying a smaller truck and the dealership threw in this free weekend vacation. That's never happened to us before so it seemed too good to be true...until the gift certificate came in the mail. It didn't take us long to throw our plans together and make reservations. We haven't been in awhile so it'll be nice to go and see all the Christmas lights. I'm hoping to go to the Wild Plum Tea Room that a good friend told me about. I'd never even heard of it. That makes me wonder what else I've missed!

If anyone has suggestions, I'll gladly take them. Tell me about fun things you've done down that way or great places you've eaten. That's my favorite part!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tummy Mix Up

So for the past week, I've had the most HORRIBLE stomach bug known to man. Yep, me. The one, who only last week was bragging about never being sick. At one point, I was even complaining to someone that I never got sick enough to have anyone wait on me hand and foot. Boy did I stick my foot in my mouth!

Thanksgiving went wonderfully. We had a great visit with my mom and came home from West Virginia on Saturday. That night, I started to feel a bit under the weather but it wasn't until Sunday night that the full force of it got me. I was so sick that I could barely get out of bed for anything. Clive Owen could have been knocking at the door and I wouldn't have cared. All of my bills could have been unpaid and 100 debt collection agencies could have been calling and I wouldn't have budged. Someone could have put a platter of my favorite foods within reach and I would have balked at it. It was just that bad. In fact, it was worse than that. Seriously.

I'm finally getting back to normal, five days later. I tell ya though, it's still lingering. We got pizza tonight and I ate one slice! Pizza is my favorite and I always eat more than one slice! I'm working my way up to a peanut butter shake. I'm going about it very slowly though. I hear this thing has been going around. I am thankful that no one in our house got it besides me. Not sure how that happened. Anyway, if you get it, I'm sorry. It's bad. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The only advice I can offer is get yourself a nice warm blanket, plenty of water, and go to bed. And seriously, if Clive knocks on your door, just send him to my house.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It Goes Without Saying

Friends are a wonderful blessing. Over the years, I've had many of them. I moved to a neighboring state a few years after graduation and some of my friends got lost along the way. As sad as it seems, it was bound to happen. Circumstances change. People change. We grow up, move on, start careers, start families, and all sorts of neat things. We look back on our younger years and kick ourselves for things we said or did. Maybe we even regret things we didn't say. I think the latter is where I find myself.

Back up twenty years. Growing up in a small town, everybody knows everybody. You know what your neighbor is into at all sorts of odd hours in the night because you live so close, it's impossible not to know. That was me. My mom, brother, and I lived in a small town like this and we lived in close proximity of most of my good friends, save a few. It was wonderful. It was like a giant slumber party every weekend. We'd see each other or talk on the phone....hang out at each other's home. We'd sit on the porch and watch as other friends drove by. We always knew where they were going and who they were with. They always knew what we were doing and always, always, always knew they could drop in on us. We had an open sort of house. My mom was very tolerant of my brother and I (and our friends). We had lots of friends and our house always seemed to be the gathering place. I think mom loved it. I think she enjoyed having all those kids around her and around us. I think she liked caring for them and talking to them. I think she enjoyed seeing us develop deep, lasting friendships. At least until midnight rolled around and she had to kick someone out :-) (Really, I don't think she ever did that...she was pretty cool). Other parents did the same for us. They came to ball games and cheered us on or sat through chilly track meets to see me compete. They opened their homes and hearts to me. They fed me. I felt very fortunate growing up. Even though my parents were divorced, I felt like I had multiple moms and dads. I'm sure my brother would say the same.

Fast forward to now. Twenty years later you have me....the one who rarely ever goes home to visit. My mom isn't there anymore so I tell myself that there's no real reason to go back. Except that there is. Some of those friends and parents are still in that little town. While most people look at it and see nothing, I look at it and see half my life. And then there is that one friend. The one that's been there through everything. The one that knows everything; the losses and triumphs...the good, the bad, and certainly the ugly. My wonderful friend has been there in the same little town all this time. And do you know what happens if you run into them or see them in a store? It's like you never even left town and didn't call or write for twenty years. Our conversation picks right back up, as if we never stopped talking. Our thoughts are still so aligned that we practically finish each other's sentences. It's strange and comforting at the same time. Sometimes in life, it's hard to know who your true friends are. For me, I've always known I could count on this one. Always. No questions asked. Whatever I needed would be mine and vice versa.

So the next time you are thinking of that friend you haven't seen in a gazillion years, pick up the phone and call them. Send them an email. Drop them a letter. However, DO NOT, under any circumstance, put it off. Don't waste twenty years on silence when you have the ability to tell them you love them. Don't squander those moments when you could be crying over coffee or laughing over twinkies (or peanut butter rolls and peanut butter shakes in my case). Friends are a treasure. Best friends are life preservers, just waiting to hold you up when you are going under. The happiness and joy they bring will add years to your life. I'm sure of it. How would I know, you ask? I know because I have one of those of those life preservers that I know would hold me up when I'm sinking. One of those friends that would hug me and love me no matter how many years I let slip by without calling or writing. One of those friends who can finish my thoughts, likes the same things, and holds our friendship close to their heart.

To that friend I have this to say.....I love you. I treasure you. I hold a special place in my heart for you. You are never far from my thoughts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ten On Tuesday: Ways To Save Money

These are things that I am trying to incorporate in our house. Some of them we already do, others we are trying to do more often. I think with the economy the way it currently stands, we are all looking for ways to save money. I wish we would do it no matter what state the economy is in. Saving money is always a good idea :-)

  1. Do not let the water run while brushing your teeth. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Just stop it already...turn it off and only turn it on when you absolutely have to. I would hate to try and figure out how much water we waste because of this. I hate, hate, hate it!
  2. Use energy efficient bulbs. I have to admit, I hate them in my fixtures. They are ugly and make me want to vomit. However, if it saves me money, I'm all over it.
  3. Learn to bargain shop and join FreeCycle. I can't say enough about FreeCycle. I've given away things and obtained things this way. Instead of going out and purchasing a new sink, why not check FreeCycle to see if someone has one to give away? You can find really useful things this way. As for bargain shopping, if you really want to find a deal on something, you can. You just have to be patient and not give in to that "I want it now" mentality that we all have at one time or another.
  4. Coupons ~ I can't say enough about this. A good friend at church turned me onto the Grocery Game and how to use coupons to my advantage. She also taught me how to shop at CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid and get free stuff. I have enough shampoo stockpiled to last me for at least a year. And I haven't purchased toilet paper or paper towels in at least six months. It takes a little bit of time and effort but is well worth it in the end. Plus, it's just fun!
  5. Turn it off/Unplug it~ whether it's the tv, computer, or any other electronic device, shut it down when you'll be away.
  6. Take advantage of the weather ~ Something I really hate to pay for is electricity to heat or cool our home. We use propane heat and it is expensive. It heats great but it's costly. So, I do not turn it on until someone in the house threatens my life. I tell them to put on extra layers. I go as long as I possibly can before turning the heat on. As for air conditioning, I only turn it on when I absolutely have to. I leave the windows and doors open in the spring as long as possible.
  7. Use your hands ~ Learn to make your own's healthier, more gratifying, and costs less in the long run. Learn to craft gifts, cards, etc. Not only do people appreciate these more, it's cheaper than the alternative. There are endless things to make. Jams, jellies, salsa, cookie mixes, and drink mixes are wonderful ideas for this one.
  8. Drink more water ~ Especially when you eat out. On average, purchasing soda in a restaurant runs $2 per person. We can save up to $8 a meal if we simply order water.....and we all need to drink more of it anyway!
  9. Combine trips ~ Monday is our busiest day because I combine all my driving into that day. I get Logan to co-op classes, grocery shop, and get Caroline to piano lessons on this day because I can save gas. It makes Monday a long day but in the end it's worth it. I usually don't have to go out again until the end of the week, which is good for me because I love being at home.
  10. Meal Planning ~ Planning a weekly menu has been a lifesaver for me. Not only does it make the week go smoother, it helps me save money. I do not find myself wandering through the aisles at the store. I make a list specifically around what my menu is that week and I stick to it. It really cuts down shopping time too!

To read more Ten On Tuesdays, visit

Early Christmas Present

I got my Christmas present early this year. It wasn't planned. It just kind of happened. I totally blame my neighbor, Jessica. She's the one who faithfully came to my house, picked me up, and took me (as her guest) to the gym. She had hoped I would become a member and that we could go together a few times a week. It was the perfect plan. We were both very excited. That was until my frugal side came out and ruined it for us!

You see, the yearly fee for gym membership was pretty high once you figured it up. I figured I could take that same amount of money and invest in a piece of gym equipment for the house so that I didn't even have to go out to get my exercise. The only thing I ever seemed to use at the gym was the elliptical. I already have a manual treadmill at home so there was no reason for me to use that at the gym. So, instead of spending the money for the yearly gym membership, we decided to go invest it in an elliptical. I feel good about the decision, as I think it is the best use of the money. I know that I will get much use from the elliptical and that it will only benefit me as far as my health is concerned.

So, no more thinking about alli . From here on out, it's diet and exercise all the way. No more letting myself go. No more gaining 20lbs at a time. No more feeling terrible. Just good healthy thoughts in my future!