Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Goodbye, Summer. See You Next Year - Don't Rush!

Today is August 31st. Technically, the last day of summer is not until September 21st... but for me, fall starts when August ends. It may not be any cooler. It may not be the start of school. But when September 1st rolls around, I think to myself, "I made it! I survived! Now - on to fall!"

I think it's partly because by now, we're in the swing of the school routine. Sweaters and coats are showing up in stores and I begin to shop for the perfect new sweater to celebrate Sweater Day (the first day when it's cool enough to justify wearing a sweater. Yes, I celebrate this day as my own personal holiday). I can start thinking about the holidays - yes, I start thinking about the holidays early. :) I start thinking about cool mornings, bundling up in scarves and coats on my way to work, stopping to get steaming coffee. Late nights bundled up in sweats with hot chocolate, stargazing. Long walks with Abigail through crunchy leaves. Walking around the county fair with Maggie.

Summer is just about over, so I'll go ahead and admit it - I hate summer. I live for fall and winter.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon going through my closet and clothes storage. I've realized recently that I can't see the back of the closet, but I still have trouble finding clothes to wear. As I was sorting through my clothes, I realized it was because apparently I never put away most of my cold weather clothes. Duh! I went ahead and put them away because as much as I'd like to believe that lined jacket weather is just around the corner, common sense tells me that sweaters would make better transitional pieces. On the other hand, my tanks are about to get retired. I'm getting one last wear out of my favorite studded black tank, and then the tanks are all getting washed and put up (except for maybe two that would work nicely over a long-sleeved T or under said sweaters).

I think getting that done made me even more anxious for fall; I realize that I have several times as many cold-weather clothes as I do warm-weather clothes, and they're pieces I love. I found two brightly-colored sweaters I bought on clearance this spring for a few dollars apiece and haven't gotten to wear yet, one in bright raspberry and one in bright cobalt. Can't wait to pair them up with some other brightly-colored layered tanks!

Another thing I miss - long necklaces. I don't know why, but somehow I never end up wearing jewelery half as much in the summer as I do in the winter. My best friend bought me a beautiful black pendant for my birthday, and my aunt and uncle gave me a gorgeous seafoam-green cut glass and bead necklace, and I'm looking forward to wearing both of them.

And jackets! Don't even get me started! I love my jackets! I was drooling yesterday as I was packing them away. Jackets, coats, blazers, etc - I can't wait to get to wear them again. A jacket and a scarf is one of my favorite things to wear on a cool fall morning.

And, of course, boots. I have two pairs right now, but I have my eye on a few new pairs already. I discovered boots last winter and am totally hooked.

So, I totally didn't mean for this to become a fall fashion post, but as you can see, it's big on my mind right now. What's on your fall wishlist?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ol' Man Trouble, I Don't Like Him...

So my cell phone died last night. At first I wasn't sure what was up, but after I cleaned out my truck I realized what had happened: last night when I came in after the play I was so dead tired that I left my phone in one of the two cupholders in my center console. Next to it was a styrofoam fast-food cup from earlier that day. Apparently sometime last night the cup sprang a leak and flooded both compartments. :(

It's crazy that this has happened, since my family has been kidding me lately about how it's been awhile since I last killed a phone. Whenever I kill a phone, it's ALWAYS liquid-related.

I tried phone first-aid - drying it off on my sweatshirt, holding it in front of the air-conditioning vent, etc, but it was still leaking. I disassembled it, dumped it in a bag of rice (which is supposedly the best moisture-sucker-outer available in a pinch) and took it with me to work.

After a few hours, no improvement, so I moved on to plan B: get a working phone with my number as soon as possible! I called Anna and had her dig out my old LG flip phone, and she watched Abby while I got on the phone with my provider and had them port the number over. Turns out I'll need a new SIM card, which will take 3-5 days to arrive. Grr!

I went ahead and had them do it, but I'm sort of wondering now if it's worth it, since I was planning on buying a new phone soon. I'm looking at switching to Straight Talk, specifically this phone. I'm excited about having video and MP3 capabilities, but I'm sad that all this no longer comes in a flip style, as I still miss the flip style and HATE the whole QWERTY keyboard thing.

I am thinking that it will take less time to buy a new phone and get my number ported on to it that it will to get the new SIM card and get my old cell phone up and running, so that's probably what I'll end up doing. I just hope my phone comes back alive enough to retrieve my pictures, recordings, and some texts. :(

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Night Live

I'm not much of a weekend-goer-outer. Maggie and I have our girl's night out (dinner and shopping) every Thursday night unless the roads are impassable, and except for the occasional lunch out with friends, that's about all the going out I can take. :) I also hate crowds, so I try to get all my errands, shopping, etc done during the week so that weekends I can spend sleeping in, doing projects, watching film, reading, blogging, etc. My weekends are pretty low-key.

This weekend, on the other hand, has been CRAZY! But in a totally good way! On Wednesday, my air mattress - the thing standing between me and back pain - died, so my main priority on Thursday was finding a new full-size double-high air mattress. Maggie and I went everywhere - it was not to be found. Twin? Yes. Queen? Yes. Full? Nope! I finally settled on the only full-size air mattress to be found, but it was only a single high and I was really dubious about it. Brought it home, set it up, woke up Friday morning, boxed it up, and took it back to the store. Bleh. I finally caved and went and bought a Queen-size double-high, which means I couldn't use my bedframe, box spring, or any of my sheets. As I was lamenting this, my brother mentioned that his bed was a Queen-size and he wanted a smaller bed. I seized on this and offered him mine, so I at least got a properly sized mattress and box spring (I just threw the air mattress on the very top). I still can't use my sheets but I'm going to see if I can find my sheet set in a Queen-size at the Wal-Mart up the street tomorrow. And I'll start looking at thrift stores for a Queen-size bedframe again (I bought my last one for $5 there). It's a little inconvenient, but at least I have a bed again, one that doesn't hurt my back.

So Friday was spent mostly sorting out the mattress situation, then running around town to various stores collecting all the odds and ends that we needed for today's rehearsal. I also repaired a costume that had come apart during a previous rehearsal, and stitched up the tree costumes so Hannah could paint them with a bark pattern during today's rehearsal. It was after midnight when I got to bed.

And morning came too soon, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much energy I had. :) Today's rehearsal went SO WELL! I am really pleased! I admit, I was stressing a bit this week, just cuz we're down to crunch time, but today was so rewarding. Hannah and I were crazy people, getting everyone in costume, assembling a few last stage props that had come in just this week, getting everyone settled, getting the singers warmed up, getting the sound system up and running... I don't think we stopped moving except to eat, but it was so worth it! Before, between, and after run-throughs, I set up a photo area with props and took tons of photos. I got an individual shot of each actor in costume, some small-group shots, and of course a couple of group photos. I am really pleased at how well they all turned out. This afternoon I ran to Wal-Mart and fed them into their "Prints In Minutes" machine and made each actor a collage with some of their best shots and a group photo. It makes a nice $2 memento of the time we've spent together. :) I also got Hannah a huge collage featuring each actor, a shot I made her pose for, and our group photo. I get to pick them up tonight, and I'll hand them out tomorrow and let everyone sign them! I'll get some of the photos up here eventually, too. :)

Tonight I got to hang out with Abigail since Chris and Natalie had a birthday party to go to. I never get to babysit on the weekends - if they go out, they usually ask my sister, Anna, to babysit - so this was a real treat! Abby was a little upset that Mommy had to go (poor baby!) but cheered up quickly. We watched a few minutes of The Tigger Movie, then we went to my other uncle's house to see my grandparents who were in from Florida, and my uncle's family. Abigail loved their trampoline and bounced all night with my cousin Emily. We also took a walk on the pier and saw jellyfish (lots of jellyfish!), crabs, fishies, and boats. They have a little Yorkshire terrier that I thought Abby would like, since it's a really small dog, but it turns out she did NOT like it at all! I think she was a little unnerved since she's used to small animals being slow or still, like the kitties and bunnies, and Baxter was quivering with excitement. Oh, well. In contrast, she shrieked with happiness when she saw a jellyfish, and waved at it and said "Hi, jelly!" What a kid. :)

By the time we made it home she was so tired, sticky with sweat and bugspray, dirty from the trampoline and running around on the grass, so I ran her a bath and poured her in. It's amazing what water and soap can do. Five minutes later she was clean and much happier (I'm kind of grouchy when I'm hot and dirty, too, so I don't blame her a bit!). She was happy to be pajama'd and read to and sung lullabies and popped into bed. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's A Good Thing

When I was in Alabama last month, Robin set up an air mattress for me. It felt incredibly comfortable, and the next day my back and hip felt better than it had in a really long time. By the end of the week sleeping on it, my back and hip pain was gone. I came home, put my regular mattress up against my wall, and borrowed an air mattress from the basement. Sure enough - back/hip pain, gone.

Last night Maggie and I were chilling on my bed, and I noticed it was sagging in the middle. I figured it was probably time for a refill, since it'd been at least a week since I'd last used an air pump on it. I pumped it up, went to take a shower, came back, and it was saggy again.

I really, really hoped it was just my imagination... but it wasn't. It had developed a hole, as I discovered when I stripped the sheets off and examined it.

I deflated it and threw my old mattress back on the bed (thank goodness I hadn't gotten rid of it yet, I guess), and... eh. Did I ever really think that this was comfortable? And immediately - seriously, as soon as I laid down - my back and hip started to ache. I guess I never noticed how badly my mattress was affecting my back before since, well, I was kind of ALWAYS in pain. But now that I've gone a few weeks pain free, I DEFINITELY feel the pressure.

Couldn't get comfortable. I knew I was going to wake up stiff and sore, and I was seriously tempted to just drive to the 24-hour WalMart and get a new one (since I obviously wasn't sleeping, anyway).

I didn't, and I felt it this morning. :( My priority tonight is to hit every department store until I find one (and wouldn't you know, my bedframe/boxspring is full-size, which apparently is the hardest size to locate). In a way, I think this is good - I've been afraid to give up the old mattress "just in case," but now I know I will never, ever go back to sleeping on it. Might I buy a better traditional mattress sometime in the future? Yup! But in the meantime, this is the $50 solution to back pain. Worth every penny.


Abby asked for pancakes this morning. Chris has said she loves them, and I've offered them to her before, but she hasn't wanted them. Today there was a bottle of syrup on the counter, and I think this brought them to mind. I made her a little pile of quarter-size pancakes, perfect for dipping, and then a little pile for myself. They were incredible. :) Pancakes at my house are whole-wheat monsters that are heavy. I forget that light, fluffy pancakes even EXIST. And I don't even feel bad, since I am so not a carbs in the morning kind of person, and I eat pancakes maybe three or four times a year.

Around 10 AM we called to let Maggie know that we were on our way to get her. Abby was so excited when I told her we got to take Maggie with us - she loves hanging out with Maggie and has asked every time we've been at my house this week to take Maggie with us, but for one reason or another Maggie hadn't been able to join us, which disappointed her deeply.

We picked up Maggie and went to Monterrey's, a mexican restaurant that we all love. Abby ate most of our chips :); Maggie ordered the chimichanga plate, and I got a "fajita quesadilla" plate. It was sooo yummy - steak, carmelized red onions, and cheese quesadilla (and it was a really good portion size so I didn't feel guilty at all), with a side of spanish rice and a lettuce and tomato salad.

Abby was so good during lunch. After lunch, we walked down the sidewalk to a coffee shop and ordered coffee. As soon as we walked in the door, Abby's eyes lit up and she got excited. I couldn't figure out why until she ran to the dessert case and pointed. Maggie and I got a good laugh at this, so we got her a little frosted cake hole (like a donut hole, I guess) with sprinkles (she was very clear that she wanted the one WITH sprinkles).

Half an hour later, I began to see we might have made a mistake. :) A very yummy one.

This picture doesn't quite cover the damage. She was COVERED in chocolate! Oh, well. A handful of wet wipes later, we were all good again. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Go Read This

Once in a while, you find out that someone has already said what you always wanted to say, and said it better than you could have said it. This is one of those times. Tiffany of True Femininity has written a great expose of the Christian childrearing myth entitled "Child Rearing Is Soul Winning... Or Not." Everybody who has or intends to have kids - and even those of you who don't! - should rush over and read this. :)

A Writing MeMe

FaithWriters Blog is hosting a writer's meme today, so I thought I'd join in the fun!

How often do you get writer's block? Whenever I've been away from writing for awhile, it's always painfully tough to get back into practice. Other than that, I'm usually pretty inspired.

How do you fix it? Music is always good, and I like to reread my own writings to get back in touch with my own "voice" as well as characters. I also find that the more inspired I am in life, the more inspired my writing is.

Do you type or write by hand? I type fiction; I write out poetry. :)

Do you save everything you write? Definitely! I learned this lesson the hard way - years ago, I got disgusted with a novella I'd written and deleted it. Now I'd give anything to be able to get it back - the story was terrific and it would be such a great piece to flesh out!

Do you ever go back to an old idea after I've abandoned it? I never abandon everything! Everything is always a work in progress. I forget who said that no poem is ever finished until the poet dies, but I totally agree!

Do you have a constructive critic? The most incredible constructive critic I've ever had was the professor/author who taught my fiction workshop in college, Wayne Karlin. I learned more about writing in general and my own strengths and weaknesses as a writer in the one semester I took with him than I'd learned in all the years before. Now that I'm out of school, I've sort of had to become my own critic, which is a really good skill to develop, but isn't quite as satisfying.

Did you ever write a novel? Yup, several!

What genre would you love to write but haven't? Wow... I think I've tried everything at least a little bit, but I think I've dabbled the least in historical fiction, which kind of makes sense since I don't like to read it, either. :)

What's one genre you've never written, and probably never will? Hm... nothing comes to mind...

How many writing projects are you working on right now? I'm pretty bouncy - I always have a couple of stories in my head.

Do you write for a living? No, I do not, although I do "write to live".

Do you want to? I'd love to use my writing skills for a living, but I really don't want to write for a living. I'm not very self-disciplined and I don't think I've make a very good novelist, for instance.

Have you ever written anything for a magazine or a newspaper? No - but I'd love to!

Have you ever won an award for your writing? No, but I made my professor laugh. :) Not an easy task!

Do you ever write based on your dreams? Absolutely! Some of my favorite stories started as dreams.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliffhangers? I favor a well-crafted ending. An ending shouldn't just be something that happens because the writer has run out of things to write about - it should be the logical and inevitable conclusion. I'm actually a fan of ambiguous endings if they're ambiguous for a good reason.

I'd love to hear answers from other amateur writers out there! If you'd like to participate:
1. Copy and paste the following to the comments and replace my answers with your own.
2. If you have a blog, copy and paste these questions and your answers to your blog.
3. Challenge your readers to do the same on their blog.
If you don’t have a blog, skip #’s 2 & 3!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Play's The Thing!

It's that time of year again - the last obstacle between summer and fall, lol - crunch time for the church's summer musical drama!

I've enjoyed directing it this year, and that is good. :) Because I have to say, I didn't enjoy it much last year. I wanted to. I know that part of the reason I didn't enjoy it is because I was really struggling with some attitude issues on my part, but it also felt like I spent 90% of my time dealing with behavioral issues from teenagers who were old enough to know better, and only 10% of my time dealing with artistic issues. This year, smaller cast - only 12 cast members! - and I felt like I was able to give guidance to everyone. I also threw out the scripts early this year, forcing them to memorize earlier. At least, that was the idea. :) I still have a few scragglers in the memorization department, but I'm not stressed yet.

Today we had our first Saturday rehearsal, and we arrived to discover that our set had FINALLY been set up! Yahoo! I looks great!

I was also good about taking pictures this year!

My assistant director, Hannah, backstage with the actors waiting for the fun to start. Without Hannah, there would be no play! We complement each other very nicely - I'm a big picture person and she's very detail oriented and so she keeps me together. :) She does the work of several people each year - she is responsible for making sure everyone has a script, issuing replacements if they get lost or destroyed, making sure we have extras for readers, etc. She also keeps track of attendance and finds readers to fill in parts for absent actors. If she can't find a reader, she may end up reading a part - or several! - herself. She follows me around and takes notes on things we have to do, props we have to get, emails we need to send, etc. She helps keep all the kids under control. This year she helped me do the shopping. On performance day, she helps get everyone into costume and makeup, and helps manage backstage.

In fact, thinking of all she does... what do I do? :)

Most of the cast onstage. Hannah is reading for an absent actor, as is my dad (who is also the Music Director).

Craig, Chris, and George singing. :) For those of you familiar with Patch the Pirate's ministry, the musical we are going is "Kidnapped on I-Land."

More Craig, Chris, and George. Chris' character "Silas" is caught between Craig's character, "King Me-First," and his trusty sidekick "Paulie Parrot" (who represents Silas' better side).
More of my guys, this time with Me-First's fire-breathing dragon, Torch.

I was running around taking pictures today and then had to turn away for a moment, so I handed my camera to a backstage actor to hold. I turn around, he says "You know, we never get pictures of YOU!" and - snap. I have no idea what I was saying/thinking. :)

Hanging around backstage, waiting for cues.

We did the play for several years with either no backstage/wings to speak of (actors would simply walk off or onstage from the floor) or with really small/modified wings. Last year I begged for a backstage and proposed this design - two "wings" with a curtain in the middle. I loved it, it looked great, and the Christmas drama program loved it so much they stole it for their musical. :) This year we ditched the curtain and just went with the two wings. I love it - it's SO NICE having a place to change costume, relax, etc.

My sister Elizabeth is my pianist this year and has done an INCREDIBLE job! I'm still kind of in awe over how well she's doing!

My sister Maggie singing one of the songs.

Maggie turning pages for Lizzie and hanging out piano-side.
I'm excited about our play this year. I think it will be the last play I direct for awhile - I'd like to take a summer off - and I think it'll be a great play to go out on. :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Prayer Request

I don't think I've ever done this before, but here goes: I have a selfish prayer request, and I have this strange compulsion to ask everyone I know to pray, even though this is a completely non-urgent matter and is, quite frankly, impossible. So here goes.

There is this class at my old school that I have wanted to take since I first found out about it years ago. It's taught by my fav psych professor - I have taken all of his other classes and he's awesome, his classes are always practical and fun, and on a personal level I love his teaching style and he likes having me as a student. :) Anyway, he teaches a "Personality Adjustment" class once a year. It's like a prerequisite to a counseling class. Whereas in counseling classes you learn to counsel others, in this class you learn to apply counseling techniques to your own life and relationships. We were talking about it once, and he told me I should go, that it was his FAVORITE class to teach, and he only taught it once a year because he really invested himself heavily in his students. People came into class and, using what they learned, did great and mighty things. They broke up abusive relationships. They lost the weight. They improved the toxic relationship. They worked through past baggage. He said he loved watching all these folks suddenly become so empowered to change their lives.

I've never been in a position to take this class for one reason or another. It either interfered with something I HAD to take, and then once I was done with my core classes I was teaching on Tuesdays (the only day it was offered).

Now I find out I'm not teaching, and the class if full. :(

I put myself on the waiting list, but there's several people ALSO on the waiting list, so at this point... nothing short of a miracle. Which is sort of what I'm hoping for.

This has been such an incredible year of healing and growth for me. In the past, I struggled with depression/anxiety symptoms from September to April. Last year, I felt down and a little anxious for two weeks in the fall, and that was it. This is incredible for me. I know I'll probably always struggle with some amount of depression/anxiety susceptibility for life, but I know now that I'll be ok. This isn't something I was completely sure about before last year.

This professor was one of the people who helped me understand why I was so miserable, and learn new ways to cope and grow, and this was only through the academic classes I took with him, where information was given in a very factual textbook manner. I can't even begin to imagine how much I could learn in an atmosphere where he was ready to really help me dig in and work through stuff.

Even though I've grown so much... I know there's more to do, more to learn, more to grow. I'm not saying that this class is some sort of golden ticket, but I do know that this would be a great opportunity and hopefully would give me even MORE tools!

So, anyway... pray. :)

Scientists In The House!

Since we were originally going to spend Tuesdays at co-op, all my lesson plans this year are designed for a four-day schoolweek. I'll fix them eventually, but this week Ruth already had a four-day schoolweek as she spent Monday going to a doctor's appointment several hours away, and the twins decided to get their schoolwork done by Thursday so that the only work they had to do Friday was a science lab with me. It worked out pretty well, although Ruth did not get quite as much done as I'd hoped. But she's still getting in the swing of things, where the twins are old pros now, so I'm hoping the routine gets easier as we go along. I will say this - having only one student needing constant attention is SO MUCH EASIER than having two! :)

Anyway, today was science day (and catch-up day for Ruth and I). We're using A Beka for science this year for both Ruth and the twins - I don't love A Beka but I wanted a curriculum that had both "book learning" and hands on labs/experiments for each week. The twins' curriculum, Science of the Physical Creation actually has its own lab manual with multiple experiments for each concept - I love! I do have to modify some of the experiments to work with household objects, as I'm not ready to sink a ton of money into science lab equipment (maybe next year), but nothing too bad.

If the twins' curriculum is acceptable, though, I love Ruth's curriculum. We're doing Exploring God's World and the focus is all on observation, hands-on experiments, and the joy of learning. I used this curriculum myself when I was around her age (maybe a little older?) and I still remember many of the concepts from it. It also taught me how to discover things for myself and think logically.

Anyway, today was science lab day. The twins have been studying about scientific notation and measurement this week, so their lab was all about tools we use to measure.

Their first task was the measure the living room using a student ruler. They had to repeat the process twice, then measure the room using a tape measure.

Next we weighed several different objects - a pitcher filled with water, a hymnal, and a crate of books - using a postal scale and a bathroom scale.

Finally, we measured out 250 ML of water using a large kitchen measuring cup, then a smaller liquid measuring cup, then a graduated cylinder.

We recorded the results of our finds in our notebooks and talked about precision and accuracy, and why scientists use different tools to measure different things. The twins then had to fill out a chapter review which, I'll admit, looked hard to me! But they did really well! Elizabeth panicked a little at the beginning (science is not her thing, lol, whereas Allen goes at it like he was a born scientist), but I sat with her and told her that learning to understand scientific terms, etc, was just like learning to speak Spanish or read sewing patterns - it was its own language and took some time. After that she did just fine. :)

Ruth has been learning about what science is, what scientists do, and how our five senses help us investigate about the world around us. The recommended lab project for this lesson was to begin a "science museum" where she could collect items and display them. This is where homeschooling requires a little innovation. The lesson is obviously designed for a classroom, which would have space to set aside for a display, but we're doing schoolwork on the kitchen table! It's hard enough to get it cleared away for lunch! I had decided earlier than instead of keeping a physical display, we would photograph and sketch the objects we study throughout the year and put them in a nature journal. Thus, instead of sending her out to collect flowers to display (and later identify and label), I handed her my digital camera and told her to go out and photography as many flowers as she could find, making sure to get a good picture of the stem, leaves, and flowers (as this will help us identify them in a later lesson). When she returned, I had her sketch the flowers using the photographs and colored pencils. I am uploading the photos to walmart.com as we speak to make prints; I'll pick up the prints tomorrow and we'll put them in our nature journal along with her sketches.

I did realize when I looked at her sketches that I'd given her too little direction about sketching. I need to teach her about sketching - counting how many flower petals there are, how the veins in the leaves branch out, etc. Just proves I'm still learning to teach!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Look At Me!

It was kind of cool to get up this morning and see my daily grind featured over at Gretchen's Fashionably Modest Patterns blog. Fun! Zip on over and check it out - while you're there, check out her modest swimsuit pattern. Yes, I know some folks feel like there is no such thing, but even they might change their mind after seeing this beautiful pattern featuring a longer skirted bottom (with attached shorts or panty), higher neckline in front AND back, and SLEEVES! Hallelujah! And no, I promise I'm not getting paid to plug. I just think it's a great design. :)

On to other odds and ends...

I got to go out with some younger friends from church last night, and we had a blast. :) We did a whole bunch of shopping for the church musicals (last minute costume rush, as usual, lol) and then got dinner at a local Mexican place and spent more than an hour talking and laughing. Love it. I always think of myself as someone who is happier relaxing at home, but I've been going out with friends a lot lately and I've loved every minute. Maybe I was lonely and didn't even realize it? Looking back, while I've had a really fun summer, it's been kind of devoid of my friends (except for that week I got to spend with Robin, and really, a week is NOT that long when we're apart the other 51 weeks per year). Hmm. Note to self: make time to spend with people. :)

I got my first Ebates check this week! For those of you who don't know about Ebates, this is the deal: You sign up - it really DOES only take two minutes, if that, and only requires your name, address, and email address. When you want to shop online - let's say at Target.com, or Wal-Mart.com, or Drugstore.com, etc - you go to Ebates, sign in, type in the retailer you want to shop (Wal-mart, Target, etc) or the product you're looking for (skirts, hotel rooms, makeup, etc), and Ebates finds what you're looking for and displays coupon codes. Click on the link, and Ebates takes you straight to the website. Make your purchase (maybe using those coupon codes?) and - this is the cool part - earn anywhere between 1%-10% back. Four times a year, they mail you a real honest to goodness check which you can cash and put in the bank.

I started using Ebates in May, so I've made $15 in three months just by buying things that I was already going to have to buy. I got this $15 by: booking hotel rooms for our family trip to HEAV through Orbitz (I also bought two plane tickets, one for my weekend trip to AL and one for my week-long vacation in July), redeeming a gift certificate for Borders, buying herbal supplies for Ruth through Puritan's Pride, and buying filters for the pool through Ace Hardware. Nothing glamorous, nothing extravagant - like I said, things my family or I were going to have to buy anyway.

If you want in on the action, go join Ebates!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


This morning when I got up I had some text messages from friends who were asking me how I was feeling now that there is no more co-op. Throughout the morning, I got more. I just want to say, thanks everyone for the concern! It really warmed my heart to know that everyone cared!

In answer to the queries... I'm fine. I'm sad that this thing I loved is (at least temporarily) gone, but I am so grateful for the opportunities it gave me and the growing I did there.

Now that it is over, though, I think I'm even more inspired to get some of my own personal projects underway. I really want to get my educational resource blog/site up and going, and I'm more determined than ever to continue being diligent about posting here and on my other blogs (my nanny blog and my writing blog).

Last week, before I knew about co-op, I started writing fiction again. Granted, it was fanfic, and granted, it was bad fanfic. :) But I was writing again, which is refreshing, and I hope that "spark" will give me some momentum towards working on my own stuff again.

Someone also brought up the possibility of teaching out of my home, which is something I've been considering and praying about for awhile now. I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to that yet - especially on such short notice! - but I'm definitely one step closer. I'd like to spend some time this coming year to really refining my class and putting together a curriculum and syllabus that I could use if I did go that route.

I also sat down again to rewrite lesson plans for the kids - GROAN! We were going to have a four-day schoolweek (four days at home plus one day at co-op), so I had to rewrite the plans for a five-day schoolweek. And you know what? It works out SO MUCH better that way. :) So in that respect, it's all good!

With all change comes sadness. *shrug* I think that's kind of the way it is. There will always be some aspect of "the way it was" that you'll miss, no matter how exciting "the way it will be/is" is.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Feeling Some Sadness

As many of you know, for the last three years I've taught a "Composition & Literature" course through our church's homeschool co-op. I started teaching because I'd just switched my major (to English) and everyone kept asking me, "So, are you going to teach?" I'd never taught anyone anything, but apparently teacher was high on the list of options for an English major, so I figured I'd better figure out if I liked teaching or not!

I signed up to teach a six-week course in poetry for sixth through twelfth graders; I was supposed to have eight students, then a few days before class I had ten, then I got the call asking if I could handle twelve, and then the first day of class showed up and I ended up with fourteen students.

I quickly discovered that I loved teaching! :) When the six weeks were over, I signed up again to teach an essay-writing class, which evolved into the "Composition & Literature" class I taught

Over the last few years, I kept learning and growing as a teacher - I honestly think I learned as much from my students as they learned from me! I loved teaching - I loved figuring out how I was going to get across new concepts, developing strategies, designing worksheets, etc. In fact, last year when I graduated and was job hunting, I stuck some of the stuff I'd done in a binder and sent it in with my application and resume, and the binder got me an interview along with two other applicants, each having over fifteen years experience teaching and writing.

Although I have good memories of all three years, last year was especially incredible. I had older students, so I was able to teach literature that was a little more mature, and I had intelligent students who were able to really digest the literature and apply the truth in it to their lives. I loved getting papers back to grade - often the students would point out aspects or elements of the literature that I hadn't fully appreciated before.

Tonight I was out with some friends, including the mom of three of my students from last year. We started chatting about the co-op, and she shared with me that she felt that being in my class last year had prepared her sons for this year's school year (they have switched to a literature-based curriculum). I was really touched - her sons are really smart guys who constantly kept me on my toes, and I was sort of always wondering "Are they bored? Do they care about what I'm teaching? Do I look like an idiot?" It was such an affirmation to hear that I'd impacted them in even a small way.

Anyway. The co-op has been in choppy waters for the last few weeks; we lost our director this year, so most of the work has fallen on our pastor, who already has a full plate. We couldn't seem to get a schedule together, then once we finally did get a schedule together the class offerings were pretty slim. I knew we were in danger of being cancelled, but I was sure that something would come up and save the day.

Tonight I got the email - there won't be a co-op this year. We'll regroup and reorganize and try again in 2011, but it'll be a year before I'm able to get inside a classroom again.

I'll be okay, but tonight I'm feeling sad. I'll miss teaching - it was the one way I was actually using that degree I earned, and I have to admit I panicked a little bit when I realized I wouldn't be teaching this year, because I kept thinking, "What will motivate me to keep reading, keep developing lesson plans, keep growing?"

Well, I'll keep growing/learning/reading because it's who I am. I don't need a classroom (as a student or a teacher) to keep exploring the world around me. I explore the world around me as a person, and I bring that to the classroom as a teacher. :) It's a subtle distinction, but an important one!

I'm trusting that God has my best interests at heart, here. I'll have lots to keep busy with this year - teaching the twins, teaching Ruth, chasing after Abigail, etc. Maybe I'll finally get that educational blog off the ground. Maybe having a year off guilt-free is really a gift.

Maybe tomorrow I'll feel that way. Tonight, I'm feeling some sadness.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Enjoying The Last Remnants of Summer

I'm enjoying these last few days of summer - mostly because I can finally see an end! I'm serious when I say that I am no fan of the hot season. If I could find a place to live that had one month of extreme heat and one month of extreme cold and five months each of spring and fall, I would be there in a heartbeat.
This weekend I met a friend up in North Beach, Maryland, for some exploring. :) We started off by having lunch at Sweet Sue's! I had the roast beef sandwhich, Becka had the Italian Duo, and she generously shared half of her cinnamon roll, which was incredible - beyond words, really.

After lunch, we walked up the street poking our heads into the little shops, including a boutique, an local art gallery (where I found a $990 painting that absolutely broke my heart to have to leave behind!), a beach shop, and - finally - a vintage candy store, where I had fun looking at the owner's collection of Pez dispensers.

When we'd explored everything on that side of the street, we crossed to the other side and into the antiques shops there! We had fun looking at everything, but I was especially drawn to the piles and piles of antique postcards, some as old as 1909 and some bearing legible messages! There was a set of cards from "Paul" to his parents as he was traveling across Europe - I found cards from Germany, Italy, and Hungary in the set. The oldest card I could find was a simple card with a small message: "Better late than never. Love, Edith" and a postmark of October 5th, 1915. I was puzzled by this message, until I turned the card over and read the front - "Happy New Year!" Becka and I both had a good laugh over that, and I bought the card ($1!) to take home. Maggie and I would like to go back on one of our Thursday night dates - I would love to find a postcard from an American soldier fighting overseas!

We took a walk on the boardwalk, admiring (and in my case, drooling over) the beautiful beachfront homes, and then it was time to go home.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Last Of The Summer Adventures

I was reading through my blog posts of the last few months, and I noticed I'd forgotten to do a post on one of the most exciting moments of my summer - Star Wars In Concert! So here goes!

Way back in May, I was watching TV during Abigail's nap and I saw a commercial for Star Wars In Concert. I went home and told my dad that as my birthday gift, I wanted him to buy himself a ticket so that we could attend together (the ticket prices were pretty steep, so I figured I'd buy my own ticket and get to take him with me!). We ordered the tickets, my birthday came and went, and I waited and waited and waited for July 17th. :)

And it finally came! We metroed into Chinatown a few hours before the concert to soak up some city sights, check out the exhibits, etc. We stopped in at Potbelly's to get a chickpea salad, then walked across the street to Verizon Center.

I had read fans rave about the exhibits that came with the concert, but I was really unprepared for how amazing it was! I'll admit, I've been a Star Wars freak for most of my life, but I suddenly felt like I was nine years old and feeling the excitement and awesomeness of the story for the first time! They had quite a few backdrops set up for photos - Tattooine, Yavin, Dagobah, Coruscant, and action scenes from the movies - and a ton of costumers, which I loved. Nothing makes me happier, apparently, than to be surrounded by cute guys dressed as Jedi. :)

They also had a ton of props set up behind glass. One of the most amazing (in my opinion) was one of John William's handwritten scores!



Aren't they cute? :)

I'd seen C3PO in the Smithsonian, but I was pretty glad to see him again.

Dum, dum, dum, dum-da-dum, dum-da-dum... :)

"I love you!"

We must have walked around and around a dozen times, but it felt like there was always something new to see!
Eventually, though, we headed up to our seats - way in the back, way up high, you might even say "in a galaxy far, far away!" We had to ride a lot of escalators to get to our seats, and when we got to our section, it was blocked off. It turns out they'd hung a banner for the following day's basketball game and inadvertantly covered up several sections that then had to be moved.
I was pretty nervous, thinking they'd stick us in one of the other cheap sections that didn't have as good a view. But the Force was with us, because instead of getting shuffled off to a rotten seat...

... we got upgraded to the front section. :)
I really couldn't believe it when they handed us our new tickets. I think I frightened my dad a little with how excited I was.

My dad and I, waiting for the concert to start.

The stage as the orchestra got warmed up.

One of the neatest aspects of the concert, for me anyway, was all the kids, lots of them in costume and all of them just excited to death to be there. I totally wanted to grab them all and bring them home with me! It makes me happy to think about having my own kids someday who will have fun dressing up like little Jedi and Queen Amidalas. :)

They were selling the cutest little lightsaber keychains, so throughout the whole concert you'd see them light up.

Then the lights dimmed... and the concert started!

Not gonna lie - I teared up a little bit when they played the opening theme. Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood. It's what started me writing, and (cliched but true) it offered hope during a really rough time growing up, that there was good and evil in the world BUT good ALWAYS wins out in the end. Also, looking back, I think this was the first time I understood in some way that you don't get to pick your parents (lol!) but that doesn't ruin your chances of becoming a decent person unless you let it. :)

After the opening theme, the conductor asked us to join him in welcoming to the stage "someone who had seen the Star Wars saga from beginning to end" and I have to admit, I thought for one glorious second that it might be John Williams, but I wasn't really too disappointed when he announced Anthony Daniels instead!

Daniels did an incredible job of narrating the concert, which lasted for about two and a half hours. We screamed, we cheered, we clapped til our hands were numb... I for one did not want to go home. Eventually, however, the concert was over.

Dad and I took a few last walks around the displays, pausing to take some pictures.

Because what's cooler than having your picture taken with a Jedi? :)

Then we walked across the street to La Tasca for a tapas dinner. I was still on cloud nine, which explains why - although I remember everything was incredibly delicious - I don't remember exactly what we ate. I know we had rare tuna, and something with aioli, but that's about as far as my memory goes. :)

All in all, it was a pretty amazing day. One of my dreams ever since I saw the Star Wars movies has been to see the music played live, and it was amazing to have that dream fulfilled with someone as special as my dad. I'm already looking forward to seeing it again next year with my sister, Maggie, who saw the movies with me when we were six and nine, and cheered on my writing for the next fourteen years. I know she'll love it just as much as I did!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

This is one of those moments when you just shake your head and go, "Ok, then!" And then you realize that you have no life, because your second thought is that you're going to have the most awesome blog post EVER!

This morning Abby and I were driving over to meet the cousins and go swimming; we pulled up to the main road, and I look to my left to see if I could cross to the median, and, I kid you not, an AIRPLANE is barrelling down the highway towards us! I pulled over out of the way, and the plane went past us, down the sideroad, and plowed into the woods, where it crashed between two trees.

Everyone on the highway pulled over and came running, cell phones in hand. A couple of the guys pulled the plane out of the woods, and the pilot - an older man - got out and seemed ok, was walking around and everything. I had a hunch that traffic was about to get crazy, so I went ahead and crossed the road and parked so Abby and I could see the plane (she was pretty excited about it, lol). About five minutes later, an ambulance, fire truck, and fleet of police cars pulled up, and a few minutes after that, a police helicopter started circling.

We decided to move along at that point, in case traffic starting getting crazy and we got stuck. :)

You can see the local news report and photos here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Good Times

This is going to be such an odd collection of thoughts, it's crazy. Just wanted to warn you. :)

On one of the last nights I was in Alabama, Robin's mom generously took Khy for the night so we could have a girl's night out. We met one of her friends at Cheddars, where I ordered the incredible Roasted Pear Salad with Chicken. We sat and talked for quite awhile, having a complete blast, then Robin and I snuck away to the nicest theater in town to see a late showing of a movie in a theater that was completely empty except for us. On the way home, the moon was full and the sky was full of big puffy ship-sailing-across-the-ocean clouds, and we turned the radio up and sang along at the top of our lungs to a whole string of favorites that just happened to all come on.

It was magical.


I've been kind of mopey since I came home. Part of it was that I was pretty much sick all weekend (I think my allergies descended in full force), but a big part of it is that it's so hard to come back to being 700 miles away.

Anyway, today was one of those days that runs hot and cold. I woke up before my alarm clock, even though I've barely slept all weekend, with the thougth that "I get to see Abigail!" first and foremost in my mind. :) I missed her terribly, and I loved getting to spend the day with her reading Dr. Seuss, playing playdough, singing songs, watching Pooh Bear, playing with the kitties, and all the other things we love to do together. On the other hand... oh, to get to do those everyday things with Robin and Khy!

Cause my bestie isn't just someone to chill with - she's someone who inspires me on every level of your life. She's someone who is always the same - always supportive, always there for me - and someone who is ever changing - constantly evolving as a person and challenging me to evolve, too. She's always introducing me to new ideas and concepts, new ways of seeing the world. She's got her own sense of style that inspires my own.

Anyway, in a small and ridiculous effort to reconcile my desire to be in both places at once, I went grocery shopping and came home to make Roasted Pear Salad for my family.

If you're not a foodie, you can stop reading now. :)

Roasted Pear Salad
Menu description:
Roasted pear slices, toasted hazelnuts, tomatoes, and shaved parmesan served on spring mix with a maple cider vinaigrette with roast chicken.

My take:

I peeled and sliced four Bosch pears, heated a largish cast-iron skillet on medium-high with a little butter, and carmelized the pear slices with a touch of honey. While they were cooking, I got my sister to make glazed walnuts (since hazelnuts, apparently, are nowhere to be found in this town): a little butter and brown sugar with a "drop" of corn syrup, brought to boiling, then add walnut halves and toss.

I used a rotisserie chicken with "Touch of Honey" seasoning to cut down on prep time. I would have added cheese, except we were out, and it never occurred to me to add tomatoes, even though we had some. We didn't miss them, though.

I loved the maple syrup vinaigrette in Alabama, and I was determined to recreate it here. I removed the pears from the skillet and added quite a bit of red wine vinegar (about 3/4"-1" deep in the pan?) with a splash of balsamic. We reduced it by about half, maybe a little more, then I whisked in a few tablespoons of maple syrup and added olive oil.

My entire family was skeptical of the dressing; I told them they had to try it, but I wouldn't be offended if they wanted to use something else after they'd tasted it. Well, nobody went to the fridge for a bottle of store-bought, and everyone except my mom voted it a repeat meal!

Doesn't that look yummy?

I love fruit on my salad, so this was right up my alley, but everybody else enjoyed it, too! Go me!

I hope everyone has made at least one magical memory this summer. I'm so grateful for my life right now, even the tough parts. :) I hope my problems always stem from having too many people to love in too many places!