Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Great Plans

It's kind of sad (to me anyway) that June is almost gone. June is a good month, even if it was pretty hot this year. :)

I'm consoling myself with the thought that July is going to be packed with lots of fun stuff! For starters, there's the 4th, which means a four-day weekend, fireworks, and a picnic at my granddad's. What's not to love? Then the following week my family is going on a canoeing trip on the Shenandoah River. I will probably not be going along for the whole trip, but I'll most likely drive down one day for a day on "my" river. :) I haven't seen the Shenandoah for a few years, so I'm totally stoked!

Every year for the last few years I've wanted to make it up to the Shore Leave convention, but I've always been up at Kingsfest in Richmond instead. Well, this year I won't be getting to go to Kingsfest - wa! - but I might get to go to Shore Leave. I didn't want to go alone, and didn't figure Maggie would be interested, so I called another scifi enthusiast friend, who still may or may not be going, and then Maggie heard about it and was surprisingly enthusiastic, so it looks like I'll be going regardless of whether or not my other friend can go. Exciting stuff!

On the seventeenth, my dad and I have tickets for Star Wars in Concert at Verizon Center. Do I sound like enough of a nerd yet? I am SOSOSOSOSOSO excited! EEEEEEE! Seriously, whenever I think about it I give a little shriek inside. :) What makes it even more amazing is that my dad has promised to spend the day in the city with me, seeing the sights and eating dinner at La Tasca. I love the city, so this is an amazing late birthday gift. I've always wanted to spend a day with just him, exploring. Not sure how much time we'll have, but I'm definitely looking foward to a great concert, an incredible dinner, and street music. :)

Finally, at the end of July, I'll be going back down to Alabama to see Robin and Khy again, this time for a whole week! I am pretty excited about this - this is always the highlight of my summer. In fact, I was just looking through my pictures from my trip last year, and I realized that even though in most of them my hair is greasy, my skin is breaking out, and my clothes are deep in vacation mode - but I barely even notice because I'm glowing. I'm happy. I'm with my best friend. I can't wait!

Anyway, I'm settling in for the summer's busiest month. What's your busiest month?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Zoned Out

Last week, the kids all voted on a new house-cleaning system. Our previous system has been 1) notice house is dirty - really dirty - 2) muster everyone (or at least everyone who is available at that moment) to clean house, 3) negotiate who's doing what, and 4) clean, then wait to repeat until the house is, again, really dirty.

Anna's been saying she wanted to try to the "jurisdictions" system a'la the Duggar family, but I wasn't sure it would work well, and we kept debating and debating the best method to use and, of course, nothing got settled. Finally I was thinking last week and it occurred to me that when I took over schooling the kids, I didn't research the best options for months before stepping in; there was a need, we started working on it, and we made adjustments - some minor, some major - as we went along.

But because we get compared to the Duggars enough, I decided we'd call our plan "Zones." And it sounds cooler. :)

Basically, each room in the first floor (we'll add the second story later) got zoned 1-4, and we created a list of "daily tasks" as well as a "weekly tasks". In other words, the floors have to get vacuumed each day, but the molding only needs to get dusted once a week. Everyone has to do their daily tasks every day - duh - but we have free reign over when to do our weekly tasks, which works well for everyone's crazy schedules - Lizzie can get all hers done on Monday morning, Allen can do one task per day all week, and I can super clean on the weekends when I'm home more.

It was kind of tough the first week because Anna was gone. We did really well the first few days, but everyone sort of slacked off toward the end of the week, myself included. I ended up cleaning the house myself on Saturday because I felt guilty over not having done my tasks at all for the last few days. However, I would definitely say that the cleanliness of the house has improved somewhat. I think it will be easier with Anna home, as she's also our cheerleader as well as another pair of hands. I'm also determined to be super-diligent this week and set a good example, even though I'm sort of struggling with tiredness lately... I think it's a combination of the heat,the fact that the later sunsets makes it hard for me to fall asleep as early as I would like to, and that I've been swimming almost every day.

This week I drew Zone 4 - the mudroom/back entrance. My only daily task is vacuuming - but trust me, this room gets dirty twice as fast as any other room in the house, lol - but it does have a lot of weekly tasks, so I got a head start on those today.

Anyone else have a good house-cleaning system?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Living "Between Two Worlds"

A scifi author I loved to read when I was younger once said in an interview that he felt like he was living "between two moons" - i.e. between two things that were pulling you in opposite directions. It resonated with me deeply, for reasons that I'll explain later. However, the author of one of my favorite blogs, True Femininity, just did a blog post called "Between Two Worlds" which said many of the same things I've felt over the last few years. I hope to do a response post soon, but in the meantime I thought it was worth reading!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Just Chillin'

Half of the family is out of the house today at various events, so Mom, Maggie, Ruth, and I went out for a late lunch at Teariffic to take advantage of their 20% off dim sum Saturday special. I had a gift certificate from Abby and her parents (love you guys!).

Florence has recently updated her menu to include a kids menu, so Ruth ordered the Teriyaki Chicken... with a side of fries. LOL! I have to say, though, that they were some of the best fries I've tasted in the county! Maggie, Mom, and I ordered a bunch of dim sum to share: a couple orders of spring rolls, fried wontons (they usually come with peanut sauce, which I personally adore, but Ruth has a peanut allergy and my mom hates the flavor, so we ordered it with a side of lemongrass dressing instead, and it was quite yummy), fried pork dumplings, and fried vegetable dumplings. I got my favorite chilled kiwi Jasmine green tea, of course, and Maggie and I ended up splitting an order of Custard buns for dessert. So good! I'm always amazed at how incredible everything is here... the Teriyaki chicken was tender and the sauce was perfectly balanced, not too sweet or overbearing; the spring rolls were crisp and perfect, the wontons and dumplings were perfectly seared and carmalized... the only thing I didn't love was the vegetable dumplings, but I think that was just due to my own personal tastes.

After lunch we ducked into Target to pick up some produce and a few random odds and ends, and then we came home for a lazy afternoon, which included a lot of Star Trek watching for Maggie and me. :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summertime (2)

We live too far out in the country to get cable or DSL – welcome to the "dark side" of a charming small town, lol – so pretty much our only option for high-speed Internet is a little thumb drive modem from Verizon that comes with a five gig limit. Five gigs doesn’t go very far between eight people, and it’s fifty cents per megabyte after that, so when we ran out of time a week early this month we had to go back to dial-up. So no pictures today. And if you wrote me an email, I will get back to you eventually, I promise. :)

We’ve had a crazy past few weekends, and then this week was kind of nuts, so I spent most of my weekend in chill mode. Maggie and I went out for dinner on Thursday – just dinner, no shopping, no errand running, etc. It made a nice change, even though we drank way too much mango iced tea (seriously, is anyone else addicted to Ruby Tuesday’s fruited teas?). Some people look forward to the weekends because they get to drink alcohol. I look forward to the weekends cuz I get to drink caffeine after 2 PM and stay up crazy-late – like, as late as 11 or 12!!! – and sleep in til 9 or 10. Yup, folks, I’m living on the edge big time. :)

Fridays are usually my rest days, but we had to take the cat to the vet for an infected abscess, so that ate up most of my morning, then I decided to run the rest of my errands. Friday night, Maggie and I grabbed dinner at Panera Bread while I snuck in a few minutes of Internet on their wi-fi, then we met up with a bunch of friends to go see Toy Story 3. I found the demographics of this group hilarious – eleven of us in total; only three girls; everyone over the age of fourteen; eight of us over the age of twenty. And we arrived early to get good seats. Because Toy Story 3 is that important. :) Do I not have the most awesome friends?!?! Granted, there were a lot of older folks in the audience along with us, but I still thought it was pretty cool that we were all so excited to see a kid’s movie. Although, as we discussed afterwards, the first Toy Story movie was our childhood movie, and in many ways Toy Story 3 is still marketed to our age group, especially in terms of the theme of growing too old for cherished toys but still clinging to the memories they represent. We all laughed through the entire movie, and more than one of us (myself included!) admitted to tearing up at parts. Good film. Go see it and support Pixar! :)

Saturday was pretty low-key... My mom and I went to the thrift store and farmer’s market in the morning, then when I got home the kids helped me clean the house and we headed off to the pool. I tried to catch some sun and got a very, very slight tan. :) I love to read pool-side and that day I was rereading The Great Gatsby to screen it as a possible book to teach next year. After we went swimming, Maggie and I came home and made basil and cilantro pesto with gnocchi, chicken Kiev, and a mixed berry pie (with raspberries from our garden and blueberries from the Amish). It was very nourishing to both body and soul... I love to cook but I get to do it far too little.

Sunday morning was church, then we came home for a leftover gnocchi and roast dinner. I spent the afternoon alternately napping and rereading Wuthering Heights (another potential teaching book). I was napping when everybody else left for church, so I stayed home, lol. It was SO HOT Sunday, so once the sun went down Maggie and I took a swim in the pool to cool off before bed. The stars were quite bright, even with a gorgeous half-moon, and the fireflies were thick and bright and close and felt like living stars around us. :) We enjoyed stargazing and then cloudgazing when the clouds rolled in (beautiful non-stormy clouds that had gorgeous patterns to them and were almost as much fun to watch as the stars!).

It was supposed to be a killer hot day today, but it wasn't as bad as I expected... Abigail and I threw a tea party for her dolls and toys and one very naughty toy lizard who kept biting the toes of all the toys and eating up all the cake, and had to be put in the mailbox for punishment (do you see yet why I lovelovelove my job?!), then we played on the front porch with her bubble machine and the two kitties, Sharon and Cocoa Puff. the kitties jump from the garden boxes to the porch and back again with great agility, and Abigail has decided they jump like Tigger. She is forever asking me to "make" them bounce like Tigger, and how do you explain to a 2 year old that nobody makes a cat do ANYTHING, lol? :) After playing for awhile we picked up the cousins and went to the indoor playground at McDonalds. We were going to go to the big outdoor playground but the heat was getting to be a little much, though it still doesn't feel as bad as Sunday was. Abigail napped all afternoon, and Chris came home a little early, which was a nice surprise treat. I spent the afternoon in the pool, soaking up the sun and trying to read (this time C. S. Lewis' Of Other Worlds). A big horsefly kept trying to land on me, and I kept trying to swat him away, and I finally quit when I accidentally reflexively dunked my book into the water trying to swat him.

After dinner, the rest of the family went off to get hay bales, and Maggie, Ruth, and I (who couldn't help due to allergies or injuries or both, lol) ducked up the street for a slushie. I swear I am on a slushie kick lately. On the one hand I feel sooo guilty about it, because it's basically just frozen sugar-dye-water, but on the other hand, I haven't had a slushie in YEARS, and once I'm done with my little addiction I probably won't have one for YEARS more. I'm more inclined to just go with it. Wawa just got a mango-passionfruit flavor which is driving me BONKERS! I love it! Unfortunately that flavor was being defrosted when we got there so we had to settle for cherry, which isn't half as good. :( If I thought Natalie wouldn't murder me for it, I'd take Abigail and go get one tomorrow. :)

I had to take my truck in yesterday to my mechanic, Rob, for him to look at the AC system. I had it in for repairs a while ago and when I first got it back, it worked great, but over the last few weeks it's just gone downhill until it's barely blowing at all (I thought it was still cooling some, but Rob told me that in his opinion, it wasn't working at all). They called me tonight and told me that the part that pulls moisture away from the AC unit (the driver, maybe? he told me but clearly I've forgotten, lol) was shot through with holes and is useless. I'm a little bit annoyed that he didn't catch this when I brought it in and told him to figure out what was wrong with the AC and to fix it, whatever it was, but oh well. The repair bill is going to come to almost $400, so there goes any fun money I may have had this month. Boo. Strangely, I'm actually so excited about getting my AC working again that it kind of takes the sting out of the bill. I guess this is good. Abigail does NOT like Maggie's car (which I borrow whenever my truck is in the shop) so I know she will be excited, too.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time To Celebrate!

I love my birthday. :)

On Monday, I ducked into Wal-Mart and found the writing table that I've been hunting for forever. I've been wanting to replace my chunky desk with a very slim, very shallow table or desk, and use the saved space to fill with (more) bookshelves. I've been looking for the perfect table, but I hadn't found anything I liked until Monday. I brought the box home, assembled it that night ALMOST all by myself (my dad had to help me with, of all things, screwing on a stubborn drawer pull) and got it in place. Tuesday I got my whole room cleaned, and took my truck for a birthday vacuum and car wash (there's an unwritten rule in my life that new years must start with clean room and truck, lol).

Anna took Abigail for a half-day so I got to sleep in, which was exciting since I was totally wired last night with excitement (not just about my birthday, although that was a huge deal, lol, but also that my room is finally starting to look put together!). I got up around 8:30 and Maggie and I went out to the local diner for breakfast (blueberry pancakes!) and to pick up a comforter set that I'd picked out on (this one, in case you wanted to know). I accidentally picked up a Queen size instead of a Full, so I went back to swap it out before picking Abigail up.

Abigail was still sleeping when I arrived, so I crashed on the couch to watch TV until she woke up (they had Iron Chef America recording, so I watched that, lol). When Abigail woke up, I packed us into my truck and we went to meet my dad at the new Olive Garden in town. The atmosphere was great, the service was great, the food was ok - this reaction may be more because my mom and I cook some awesome Italian food, lol - so it was a lot of fun. I got the manicotti and a bowl of minestrone, and my dad got the sausage soup, a salad, and breadsticks. His salad had the most incredible kalamata olives in it, which I kept stealing. :)

After lunch, I took Abigail to my grandfather's church, where he and my siblings were fixing dinner for the church that night. We played in the gym chasing balls until my uncle arrived to get her. :)

I came home, put my new comforter set on my bed, gave myself a DIY pedi, and watched Stargate: SG1.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thinking About It

We're reaching a point now where Abigail has the physical skills to do a lot of things, but lacks confidence in herself. She'll climb up on to her rocking horse, then fuss to be lifted off, even though she knows how to do it herself. When I tell her 'You're a big girl and you know how to do it - just climb down!' she'll fuss for a second, then climb right down, no problems. Once she's down, she's SO PROUD to have gotten down by herself. Today at the playground she climbed onto a bridge, then fussed to be rescued. I told her to 'get low' and climb off, and she complained loudly about how it was TOO HARD and she COULDN'T POSSIBLY DO IT - all while she was climbing down. When her feet were on the ground again, she turned around beaming and said something I'm sure was her version of 'I did it!' Watching her makes me wonder how many times I go into a challenge kicking and screaming and yelling - all the way to success. What foolish creatures we humans are. :>

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summertime Is Finally Here...

... You can tell, because the church drama/musical program has started up again!

For the past few years, it's been a teen ministry, and we've used younger or children only when we ran out of teens to press into service. This year we had a very low turnout (I have my suspicions why, and it makes me sad, but I won't go into that here) so we had to open it up to younger kids. I am not sure how I feel about this, lol! I do NOT - repeat, NOT! - work well with younger kids, so I am trying to think of this as a gigantic growing experience. And to be honest, things are going really well! I am impressed with all the talent we got this year, and how attentive everyone has been - so far, at least. :) I guess we'll see how it works out.

The musical we are producing is Majesty Music's "Kidnapped On I-Land" (one of the Patch The Pirate adventures). Last week we did a dramatic reading of "act one" (everything leading up to arriving on I-Land) and this week we did a dramatic reading of "act two" (everything beyond that point).

This past week, the teen in the church held a yard sale, and there was tons of stuff left over - clothes, toys, etc - so we warmed up by having everyone grab the craziest piece of clothing they could find, then taking a few seconds to "work the character" and the rest of us guessed who they were. It took maybe five minutes and really broke the ice. When we started our reading a few minutes later, I didn't have to do a lot of coaching. :)

In other news, we got back from HEAV last night. I will be doing a separate HEAV post telling about all the fun we had, but be assured that we had a great time and found a lot of encouragement and resources.

Right before we left for HEAV, my hair-cutting-wizard friend Tanya came over to give everyone a round of haircuts. She did a lot of dead-hair-removing on the three youngest girls, and cut flowing layers into Ruth and Lizzie's hair. Allen even got into the act and came away looking like a million bucks! Maggie arrived home from her Doctor's appointment just in time to get a trim (she got her hair styled last month) and Tanya trimmed my bangs for me. My neighbor even stopped by with her daughter for cuts! Everyone looks so nice now. :) The dead hair and split ends have been bugging me for awhile, and Tanya kept everything nice and long, so everyone is happy. :)

And... it's my birthday week! I know, most people celebrate their birth DAY, but I celebrate the whole WEEK! Sometimes the whole MONTH! Saying that out loud sounds terribly selfish. :( I am not saying that I treat myself like a princess the whole week, or that I expect other people to do so, but I do a lot of little things to celebrate being alive, and having a whole other year to live in. One of the ways I celebrated today, for instance, was buying a small mango-passionfruit slushie at Wawa on my way to rehearsal and enjoying it TO THE MAX (I was sooo thirsty, and I had stopped for bottled water, but there was this little kid walking out with one and... you get the rest). And finding a gigantic green velvet cape in a bin of clothes at church and taking it for a whirl. :) One of the "celebrations" I'm looking forward to this week is a night of stargazing (not quite sure when, but it's definitely going to happen!). I also may actually get to sleep in on my birthday, as Anna might be willing to take Abby in the morning for me. :) Things like that make everything a celebration!

But, okay, I'll be honest... there will be some shopping. :)

I hope everyone is having a great summer so far, and if you need a little celebration in your life, I invite you to come join me. :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Doing Stuff :)

I've been getting lots of little things done lately... I can definitely tell my birthday is next week - for some reason I'm always very motivated to get my act together right before I turn another year older!

Today I took a minute to organize my blogroll. Sadly, some of my fav blogs have now been relegated to the "Other Blogs" list for one reason of another (they folded, or their owners stopped posting; their content has changed and isn't so relevant to my life anymore OR my life has changed and their content hasn't, so it isn't so relevant, lol; blogs that were an ok read when I had time to sit on the computer just aren't that engaging when my times is limited). One of these days I'd like to do a post about the blogs I read on a regular basis.

My room is also clean and organized. I finally rehomed the dresser I've been wanting to oust for awhile now. It was a very nice dresser, very well-made and large, and it was given to me free, but it was too large to fit well into my closet, and my room is too small for another piece of furniture. A few weeks ago I was given a much smaller dresser, which fit my needs perfectly, but needed some slight repairs, so I hung onto both until I could resolve them. Well, last week my dad got the little one all fixed up, so I finally cleaned out the big one. I love Facebook, lol - I posted a status update that read "Would anyone like a free wooden dresser? It is tall and has 4 very deep drawers. I love it but it doesn't work with my room" and five minutes later it was claimed. The very best part is that the friend who claimed it was giving it to a friend it hers who had asked her to keep an eye out for a free dresser for her infant daughter. Love it!

I also did a very little bit of weeding in my wardrobe... definitely not a full cleanout, but I did donate some things that have accumulated. I also found a few things with labels still attached, so I'm taking them back for store credit. Free shopping! :)

This weekend my family and I are going down to Richmond, Virginia to attend the HEAV convention. Last year I went for the first time, and it was just an incredible time to recharge, refresh, and find inspiration. I found a ton of incredible resources, got all pumped up by the workshops, and my soul was really bolstered by the whole atmosphere. Last year was also sort of an adventure for me, since I went entirely by myself, booked myself a hotel room, and enjoyed being on my own. This year the entire family is coming, although I still booked a separate hotel room for my sister and myself since I couldn't stand the idea of sharing a bed with someone with all my weird back/hip issues. I'm looking forward to experiencing the conference this year with everyone, then doing some exploring with Maggie that night. Also, the hotel has a swimming pool. :) I'm also looking forward to hanging out with some dear friends - one of my mentors from church and her family, a fellow teacher from co-op and her family, and other families from church, will all be coming. Lots of good folks!

I will bring back pictures and stories next week - have a good weekend, everyone!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


It's official - it's summer here in Southern Maryland. And, really, folks, I am trying to be a good sport and trying to enjoy (???) the heat and trying to get into the spirit of things, but... I'm pretty sure that somewhere in my family tree there is an Eskimo, and I don't like the heat. At the end of the day, that's just what it comes down to: I wish it were twenty degrees cooler. Especially at the end of the day, when - even with the air conditioning running full blast - my room is five to ten degrees hotter than the rest of the house.

One thing I do like about summer is being able to get in the water. I love water. :) I started taking swimming lessons before I was one, and I've pretty much been a fish ever since. Our little pool is up in the yard, which is nice, but the real treat is my grandparent's pool just a mile up the street, which is a bona fide in-ground pool that stays nice and cool (ours is so small it tends to get too warm pretty quickly).


On Thursday, Abigail and I packed up to go to the pool, and when we swung by my house to pick up my swimsuit and beach bag, all the cousins wanted to go, too, so we ended up packing everyone up to go. :) It was a lot of fun! We played in the water for a long time, until I made her get out to warm up, but she was laughing and playing the whole time. Next time, I will definitely get pictures!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama, Part 3

Monday was a little bittersweet... it was so much fun, and we were glad to be together, but sad that by evening I'd be back in MD. :(

Monday was our shortest day, and also the least busy day, but probably the one I enjoyed the most. :) Robin let me sleep in - I'm still shocked I didn't hear her and Khy get up! - and then we took Khy and went into town to run errands. On the way into town we stopped and had breakfast, and on the way back we picked up frappes from McDonalds. Once home, I snuggled some more with Khy while we watched an episode of Merlin and just generally hung out. :)

My flight left at five, so by four we were at the airport saying goodbye. :( It broke my heart to have to leave.

Lol, looking back on this post, the day sounds so boring, but really I think it was my favorite time of the whole trip. It was "just us" for most of the day... okay, well, just us and the baby, lol... and we got to talk and laugh and say "Remember when?" a lot. I watched "Pooh's Grand Adventure" with Abigail the day after I got home, and there's a part where Pooh Bear says, "You are all the best of my best friends... I could do anything with you... but only Christopher Robin and I could do nothing." It was so much how I was feeling at that moment that I teared up. Everything is good with your best friend... running errands, driving, cleaning... doing nothing. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you're together.

I am so grateful for my best friend, for so many reasons. I read once somewhere that only something like 27% of folks say that have a best friend... that's roughly only one quarter of the population, people! And for once I landed in the favorable part of those statistics!

Anyway... moving on... it was an amazing trip, and I'm already looking forward to planning another. :)