December 24, 2010

hip, hip, hooray for Christmas Vacation!

I seriously love National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation :) I never saw it as a kid/teenager but it was one of the Olson family faves so I now have it on my official "must-see Christmas movie" list. We all love it! Other movies on our must-see list:

* Elf
* A Christmas Story (another one we never watched as kids. I actually refused to watch it with Eric for a few years because I thought it looked so stupid. Now I love it! The kids love it too)
* Mickey's Christmas Carol
* The Santa Clause
* Bad Santa (for us... NOT the kids!)

We always watch more movies than that but these are the MUSTS in our family!

Anyway, tomorrow is Christmas and our family is hosting the big get-together at our house this year. This always makes me happy... and stressed! The stress is just part of who I am and I just deal with it and it's always worth it but for a few days before Christmas I feel on the brink of a break-down.

So what's been going on lately? Well, I have been baking up a storm and it seems that all my treats disappear far too quickly. I keep meaning to give some away but then they are all so good that we just keep eating until there are only a measly few left and not enough to gift away! I made a ton of fudge and little turtle pretzels last night that solved my dilemma and today got a few goodie trays and tins put together for gifting to friends and loved ones. I made plain chocolate, chocolate with toasted walnuts, toffee crunch, and mint.

Today I have been in the kitchen nearly the entire day and I see no end in sight over the next few days! I do enjoy being in the kitchen but it would be far more enjoyable if I didn't have kids hovering over everything I do! Love my kids but right now I need them to wander off and play somewhere else! On todays agenda was a yummy breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast, prepping the cinnamon roll dough and pans, chicken dumpling soup for supper, and some yummy homemade granola for my niece who will be here tomorrow!

Speaking of tomorrow, the plan is to do cinnamon rolls in the morning, leftover soup for lunch, and maybe homemade pizza for supper. We'll see about that last one. In between I need to prep dishes for Sunday's dinner which will be the big Christmas dinner since Saturday is a day of travel for our out of town visitors and we thought it would be best to do the big meal on Sunday.

Sunday's dinner will be cherry citrus glazed ham, creamy herb potatoes, gingersnap sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls, asparagus, and pumpkin pies. Yummm...

So tomorrow is Christmas and I am ready for the kids to get those presents open! I think I did a great job this year of not only getting great deals but making sure that those great deals were on things that the kids would actually enjoy. Most of the gifts are fun AND educational in nature. We only got one small item for each of the girls that were frivolous. I found lots of fun things for our homeschool and I'm excited to start using them!

Well, I better get going. I have so much more I want to write and pictures to post but I am just too tired and still have so much to do!

Make each day count!

December 19, 2010

The day when my daughter learned about her name.


For those who don't know, my kids names are Jenna, Marah, and Alexander. I love each of my children's names, of course, but one of my kids does not have a name that means something lovely or strong or, really, anything good at all.


Marah. It means bitter. It comes from a story in the Bible where Naomi asks to be called Mara because the Lord has "dealt bitterly" with her. We did not choose the name for its meaning, but because we thought it was a really pretty name.

So last night, we were sitting around the Christmas tree, singing Christmas songs and I had sung The First Noel and told Marah how Noel means Christmas and that Noelle is also Jenna's middle name (named for my best friend in high school). So then we started a coversation about our names and what they mean and it went something like this:

Me: So, Noelle means Christmas and you know your middle name is Sue and Sue means Lily. Lily is a beautiful white flower.

Marah: And what does Marah mean?

Me: Well, Marah means bitter.

Marah: What's bitter?

Me: It's like something that tastes bad.

Marah: Oh! And what does Jenna mean?

Me: Jenna means "little bird"

Jenna: Oh! Little bird! I'm like a little bird!

Marah: And I'm yucky!

And that is when I cracked up and could not stop laughing! Honestly, I thought Marah would be mad when I told her that her name didn't mean something pretty. I was surprised when she didn't seem upset by it. However, I was really surprised when she announced, with great joy, that she way yucky!

The girl never ceases to amaze and amuse me :)

p.s. of course I know that bitter can also be interpreted as being in a bad mood, being upset about something, etc. Bitter is a feeling as well as a type of taste, but it was the first thing that came to my mind, and really I don't think I need to give Marah any excuse to act bitter... she does that enough on her own already :P

December 14, 2010

The day when my brother came over.




For those who do not know, I have an amazing brother. Here are some little facts about my life with my brother.

- My brother is younger than me. I am the oldest of four siblings but I spent my entire childhood growing up with only one brother because my younger sisters were adopted after I turned 18.

- My brother and I were best friends when we were really little.

- We then spent the next... I don't know, 10 years, hating each other (but loving each other at the same time. You know how it goes?)

- One time my brother was gone for a week at Bible camp. I was so bored and lonely that when he came home I was super excited and went crazy finding photos of him to tape to the front door to greet him when he came home.

- The next day I hated him again. :P

- My brother became my best friend again once he started attending the high school with me. We would fight all morning while getting ready for school but as soon as we sat in the car together (with me behind the wheel, of course), we were best friends and all the drama of the morning was forgotten.

- Seriously, like, the car was magical or something.

- I helped my brother get his first job. It was at Golfland, a mini golf and arcade, it also was where I worked for three years.

- My brother is hilarious.

- My brother is one of those easy-to-like-right-away guys because he is just so personable and he knows how to talk to people. Is that the same thing? Well, whatever!

- He was not always this way! Growing up he was super shy, and introverted. He surprised our whole family when he announced that he was going to be in the school musical and then surprised us even further when we discovered that he was really good! I went all big sister and got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when I watched him perform.



Yeah, I love my brother. The last time I had seen Ryan was a couple of weeks after Alex was born. In 2008. Yeah. So I was so very excited when he told me that he was planning a road trip with his girlfriend, Ai, to introduce her to the sights of the USA (Ai is from Japan and this was her first trip to America), and would be coming up this way for a quick visit! I was hesitant to get my hopes up because you know... the best laid plans and all, but the day finally came and before I knew it, I was opening my door up to see my brother standing there with a full on (well, we can use that term loosely) beard and a goofy look on his face that I can't even begin to explain except to just call it the "Ryan face" and I hugged him and started crying. It was a happy moment. I'm tearing up again just thinking about it!

We spent the evening doing the home tour, getting to know Ai-chan, and just being all happy together in my home. I don't get to have my family in my home very often so I was just beside myself a bit. Here are a few photos from that first night and next morning:




The next day I took Marah to school and the rest of us just sat around talking, eating (Ai-chan ate her first bowl of cocoa puffs), drawing, and relaxing. At 11 we all headed over to visit Marah for lunch and Ai-chan got to visit an American school for the first time. Marah was so proud to have so many visitors :)



That night we played Rock Band, made pumpkin muffins and went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.



The next day we went to Cabela's and followed that with a trip out to my sister-in-law's house where her hunting fanatic husband, Fred, showed Ai-chan how to shoot a gun. It was hilarious! Unfortunately no one caught a picture of her being knocked down from the power of the rifle (don't ask me what these guns were all called, I just know that it was the black one). Ryan was a natural with the gun and had no trouble shooting clays with the big boys ;)



On Sunday we went to church before the two headed out for Seattle and I was left a sobbing mess with Marah patting my leg and rubbing my back and Eric offering me Ativan, which I declined :P


I hope it won't be another 2 years before I see my brother again, but it is more likely than not that it will be. It's the hard, cold (literally) truth of living in rural Minnesota when my family lives in San Diego. I miss them but that's just the way things are for now.


In the meantime I just thank God for these moments, few and far between as they may be, and enjoy them as best I can.


Make each day count!

December 10, 2010

A Year of Facebook

I know this is incredibly long. I'm really posting it for myself but you can certainly read it if you'd like. I love this application on Facebook! It's a great way to remember your year. I post far more frequently to Facebook than to my blog AND I can remember so many wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) moments over the past year in a short little journal of sorts. Isn't the internet wonderful? :)
If you want to create your Year in Status on Facebook just go to http://apps.facebook.com/my-year-in-status and choose the status updates that mean the most to you. Have fun reminiscing about your year!




Hey!


You stay classy San Diego!



The Christmas/ holiday season has found me in a bit of a downer spirit. I'm trying to snap out of it but not seeming to have much success. Tonight we will be putting the kids to bed early then surprising them with a warm car and hot cocoa to go for a Christmas lights drive about 5-10 minutes later. Maybe this will be what I need to perk me up and get me in the right spirit.

Well, that and a house cleaning fairy. If you know of one can you send him/her my way? I'd be much obliged. :)


Make each day count (even when you don't feel like it)!

October 18, 2010

the time, the time, who's got the time?!


I should just accept and admit that I will never be able to be a regular blogger. It's so time consuming! I'll never give up on blogging, because it is a great way to record what happens in our lives and, if it weren't for my blogs, I would be missing chunks of photos from my kids lives since our computers have crashed and left the unprotected photos that I may have forgotten to back up, well, unprotected. Meaning: gone. Forever. Sad. So when I went to look up our family photos from the past four years at the pumpkin patch, I was upset to find that I was missing most of October 2007. I knew that I had posted some of those photos on my blog back then and so I was able to recover one shot of the girls with their pumpkins for this post today. Whew!

Anyway, we took our fourth annual trip to Nelson's Pumpkin Patch in Emerado, ND on Sunday. We always have a great time and the girls look forward to it each year. It's hard to believe that next October Alex will be the same age that Marah was the first time we took her! As I was going through the pictures I took on Sunday I was struck by how sweet it is that we have these pictures of the kids each year and how much they have grown. So I thought I should post them here and wish you all a wonderfully pleasant October and harvest season! We are certainly enjoying it here.


2007- Marah (3) and Jenna (7)

2008- Jenna (8), Alex (2 itty bitty weeks!), Marah (4)

2009- Jenna (9), Alex (1), Marah (5)

2010- Jenna (10), Alex (2), Marah (6)

And then, just because I couldn't resist, my little gooby-goob each year on the hayride :)

2008- 2 weeks

2009- 1 year

2010- 2 years


Sigh... memories. They make my heart happy :)

Make each day count!

September 28, 2010

Don't Hate


I've been hearing the horror stories of 107 degree temps or some insane, hellish number like that over the last few days in So. Cal. (where my family and many friends live) and I have to say that I am really glad I'm not living there right now. You want to know why? Besides the obvious detestation of ridiculously high temps? Besides the fact that Fall is officially showing off its' glorious hues of red, orange, and gold here in Minnesota? Well, you see, today we reached a balmy high of 69. Yes, 69... I know. You want to know what I did? Are you sure? You might hate me forever...



I turned on the central A/C.

*ducks*

*hides*

*peeks out from hiding spot*

Are you still there? I'm sorry. I know I'm spoiled. It's ridiculous. I just get warm in the afternoon when the sun comes beating in through the huge window in our living room. It really does warm up the house. Really! I could open a window. I would. The thing is, there are bees out there that somehow find there way through the little cracks in the window. Look, I don't know how it happens, but it does! So the windows stay closed and I turn on the A/C. I'm a jerk.

You stay cool San Diego! ; )



September 27, 2010

Don't forget about ashtinafayelou!


I have put up a few new posts and have more to come soon. Also, be sure to check out the post I made about the blog party I will be a part of this week (giveaway anyone?)!

Thanks so much!

September 16, 2010

Books


I love books. Books are probably my very favorite gift to give my children. They may not enjoy being on the receiving end quite as much as I'd like, but overall they do enjoy books... for the most part. I won't lie, they would much rather get new video games or movies or toys, and their dad would be okay with that, but I don't let it deter me from letting books make up the majority of their gifts each birthday and Christmas.

So I figured I would share some of the wonderful treasures I have discovered over the 31 years I've spent on this earth. I've received books as a young child, checked out numerous books from the library as a teenager, read to my children, read for myself as an adult, and used books in our curriculum over the last few years as well.

Today I want to focus on a fun curriculum book because education has been at the forefront of my mind lately (what, with school starting and everything). However, this book does not have to be strictly for home schooling. If you don't home school but have kids, this book will definitely get plenty of use by your children!

ART: This morning a large, heavy box of art supplies from Blick Art Materials arrived on our front porch and got me all kinds of excited! You see, I have a little artist in my home and buying quality art materials for her has been something I've been wanting to do for so long. After discovering ARTistic Pursuits art curriculum, and seeing its' wonderful reviews, I decided to buy the Grades K-3 Book One, An Introduction to the Visual Arts and the accompanying art kit. This curriculum introduces students to the historical side of art with mini biographies as well as the techniques used by those artists.



This book is awesome! Not only does it introduce your child to a wide array of artistic medium (acrylic paints, watercolor, collaging, stamping, resist techniques, chalk pastels, oil pastels, wax crayons, and more) but gives several ideas and instructions for projects that are fun, unique, interesting, and creative! I had high expectations for this book after reading the reviews and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was really impressed by the wealth of information and ideas in this book! If you are looking for a book that will help spark your children's artistic creativity but cannot quite afford an art curriculum or don't want to invest in an art curriculum (perhaps art is not quite as high on your list of priorities as mine), this book would be perfect. We love it in our house!

Just be prepared for your kids to beg to pull out the art supplies and make a mess :)

Make each day count!

September 10, 2010

Rhythms

Yummm.


It's Friday. It's rainy. It's cold. It's windy.

It's perfect.

The start of a new school year has forced me into a new schedule and I am getting used to this new rhythm of our days.

Alarm sounds at 6:50.
Hit snooze.
Hear Little Man cry 1 minute later.
Curse.
Turn off alarm clock and remember the days when hitting snooze actually meant something.
Wake up the Princess.
Keep trying to wake up the Princess.
Reminisce about how much she is like you.
Wish that she wasn't.
Hit the bathroom.
Get the stinky Little Man out of his crib.
Wonder why his diapers reek of ammonia lately.
Drag Princess out of her bed by the hair.
Put Princess's clothes on her body while she whines.
Resolve to take her to school in her pjs next week if this continues.
Reminisce about the days where we all stayed in bed until 9:00.
Wonder why I decided to try this public school thing again.
Remember how much I hated doing this with Miss Artsy.
Serve breakfast.
Poke Princess with a cattle prod to induce a faster rate of eating.
Wonder why this doesn't work.
Poke again.
Cry a little inside.
Poke.
Leave the table before I do something I'll regret.
Like pull out my branding iron.
Realize I don't have one of those.
Wonder why not.
Get my own self ready.
Change the Little Man's stinky diaper.
Tell the Princess it's not time to go yet.
Turn on the TV.
Tell the Princess to get back upstairs.
Beg the clock to hurry up.
Ask Miss Artsy, for the hundredth time, what time it is.
Tell the Princess it's not time to go yet.
Give up and decide to leave early.
Load up the car with the little ones.
Tell Miss Artsy to get dressed and do a chore while I'm gone.
Drive to the school.
Park.
Walk the Princess to her classroom.
Glance at the clock.
Wonder why I thought we would be early but are really just right on time.
Resolve to synchronize our clocks to the school clocks when I get home.
Drive home.
Forget to mess with the clocks.
Collapse in the desk chair for my morning Facebook and blog time.

So there you go. My morning in a crazy list form. As annoyed as I sound (and really, I am annoyed while it's happening), I am actually kind of enjoying it now that I've gotten into the swing of things. I'm not a morning person and so I always know that the morning is not going to be my favorite time of day, but I just try to make the best of it. This particular morning I decided to pick up a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks in an effort to bring myself a little joy.

I think it worked. :)

Have a lovely Friday!

Make each day count!

September 1, 2010

Random

Today

Alex got into the pantry at least 5 times.
Alex also got into the junk drawer at least 5 times.
Alex also colored on the linoleum at least 5 times.
I'm talking about big scribbles all over my dining room floor.
Alex threw at least 20 crayons to the floor.
We stepped on several of those crayons.
That nearly doubled the crayon count on the floor.
I gave up on keeping the house tidy.
I was on day 2 of being out of Zoloft.
This made today a pretty crappy day.
I slept almost all day.
That gave me a headache.
I'm still fighting that headache.
The TV has babysat my kids pretty much the whole day.
I am not proud of this.
Today was Back to School night for my kindergartener.
She was beaming with excitement over every new discovery.
It was so adorable.
It made my day a lot brighter.
I'm going to put my kids to bed now.
Then I will tidy up my house.
Then I will fold laundry.
Then I will do some embroidery.
Then I will edit photos.
Then I will read in bed.
Then I will fall asleep while I'm reading.
Then I will wake up to a better day.

Make each day count!

August 30, 2010

On My Mind Monday







August 29, 2010

Letters to my Children


Life has been getting to me lately. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way, but I always try to learn and grow from life no matter how it may be presenting itself at any given moment. Something that has weighed on my mind lately is the legacy I will pass on to my children and how much I want them to know that I love them with all of my heart. There are moments I want to remember and I want them to know everything that I was feeling during these moments as well.

So I went to the store and picked up two simple journals (I already had a blank journal that my parents had given me for Christmas) with the intention of buying something nicer next time around when I had a bit more money, in the meantime I just wanted to get started. One journal for each of my children. Something that I can fill with my own handwriting, something they can read when they are older and need advice or just want to be comforted, a treasure just for them, all about them.

So I'd like to try to remember (yes, I said try) to post a letter each Sunday. Something that I hope will inspire you to start something similar for your children or another of your loved ones. Start a journal for a future spouse or a child that has not yet come into being. Just start writing.

August 29, 2010

I have to tell you, Marah, there is not much in this world that makes me as happy as when you crawl into my bed in the mornings to snuggle with me. I love the feeling of your warm, fresh from sleep, body up against mine. The smell of your hair against my nose, the tickle of your fingers as they trail up and down my arms, the flutter of your eyelashes against my cheek.

This is a moment I treasure particularly because I know it cannot last forever... or, maybe it can.

When you're a teenager, don't be embarrassed to come snuggle with me. When you're married, don't be afraid to kindly explain to your husband that your mornings are reserved for your mother. And when you have kids of your own, feel free to bring them with you and I will gladly snuggle you all.

I love you.


Make each day count.

July 27, 2010

Why I Home School My Children


There have been times that I've been asked this question, though not as often as I had expected. I've heard stories of parents getting looks of disapproval or being given the third degree when it comes to questions from friends, family, and even strangers regarding their decision to home school. I have been fortunate because this has really not happened to me. I don't know if it's the Good Lord keeping watch over me, knowing how fragile I am when it comes to confrontation, or if it could be that I just look so confident when I tell people that we home school no one feels the need to question it, but whatever it is, I am glad for it.

However, that does not mean that I don't have a firm stance on it. It doesn't mean that I don't know why I home school. I know why. I have many reasons and I believe they are all important. I am not in a position to condone or condemn your family's personal decision regarding the schooling of your children, just simply putting my reasoning out there for anyone who cares to read more about it.

My main purpose in choosing to teach my children from home is to develop their relationships within our family, both biological and eternal. My children are able to spend so much more quality time with each other, with Eric and myself, with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, close family friends, and other people that they care about. Through these relationships they learn about being good neighbors, about love and devotion, and about being examples of Christ's love. I firmly believe that family should be the number two nurtured relationship in our lives (second only to our relationship with Jesus).

Another reason I chose to home school my children is because I want to be able to choose what they learn, when they learn it. Why should that be something that I blindly leave up to my local school district? The further our society moves into the future, the more questionable material I see being introduced to our children. I am not opposed to learning about different cultures or religions or whatever, I simply prefer to be the one teaching my children about those things. Just as I would expect a Muslim or an Atheist to want to be the one to teach their children about other beliefs in conflict with their own.

I have not fallen prey to the "socialization" argument. I do not believe that my children are socially deprived because they are not spending 6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week with 25 other children their own age. I have seen school socialization both as a student for 14 years and as a recess/lunch/after school aide. I know what it's like there and it is not the kind of socialization I would like my children to have. My husband had to "deal with" school socialization and it was torture for him. My children are socialized. They know how to follow direction, how to listen to authority, how to move from one activity to another, and most of this they learned at home. My children are involved in extra-curricular activities at church and Girl Scouts and have participated in sports when they have had the desire.

I believe that God has called me to this mission and I do consider this home to be my mission field. This is where He wants me to be and I plan to be here until He calls me to another field. I consider it an honor to teach my children at home, to have them with me everyday. I want to help them grow into well-rounded adults who love to learn as well as love the Lord with all their heart. It may mean putting my other pursuits on hold for awhile but I'm okay with that. This season of life will pass so quickly and I want to cherish each day that I am blessed to spend with these treasures God has blessed me with and trusted me to care for.



However, I haven't perfected this and I don't expect that I ever will. There are days when I feel like giving up, but that's a post for another day.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts. These are my thoughts and my beliefs and I know that not everyone shares them and that's okay with me. I only ask that you speak respectfully :)

Make each day count!

July 15, 2010

Hey, Peter. What's happening?






Still enjoying your summer? I have been trying to make the most of it despite my summer blues I've been experiencing. When you have kids you can't wallow in your lethargy! So here are some things that have been happening around here lately.



Ramona- I read through Beezus and Ramona with the girls each night before bed... okay, not each night. More like when I felt up to it or remembered. It took awhile to remember to do it each night but once we got into a routine I was able to read nightly. It's been really nice. We've been snuggling up together in my bed with the side light on so it's nice and cozy. The girls have been enjoying Ramona and it's been awesome for me because I am a huge Ramona Quimby fan! Last night we started on Ramona the Pest which is all about Ramona starting Kindergarten. Perfect for us right now because Marah will be starting Kindergarten at the local school in the fall! The girls have also gotten really excited about watching the new Ramona and Beezus movie which we are planning to see with their cousin, my niece, Zion when we head down to South Dakota for her birthday.



Speaking of school- I have finally made up my mind to send Marah to public school for Kindergarten. I waffled back and forth between public, private, and home school for her this year but ultimately decided on public school because it is full day, (the private school was half day)I need extra time to help Jenna get caught up this year, and because she really wants to go. It was really hard for me to decide and I struggled with worrying about if I was making the right decision but ultimately Eric and I have decided that this is the right choice and if things don't turn out well we can always take her out of school. It will likely be only this one year that she goes to public school and I will continue her home schooling next year for first grade. It is important to me that I have the extra time with Jenna this year. Hopefully I can get her up to grade level or close to it in math and writing. She is doing great at everything else!

Speech- Jenna is being retested at her speech therapy appointments to see if she has reached age level in certain areas as well as to set new goals because she is doing very well there! I have been so pleased to hear good reports from her SLP and also to notice the improvements myself. She really has been growing in her language development and this has just been so wonderful to see!


My favorite breakfast as of late.

Food- Food has been a real focus lately because I have started doing the Atkins program. I started on Saturday and have been doing great! I am really enjoying the new program which includes more vegetable options and there is even a recipe for what is known as a MIM (Muffin in a Minute) that I am loving! It's been a great substitute for bread. I even made one in hamburger bun form last night to eat with the yummy burgers Eric grilled for us! I've lost 6 lbs so far and I am feeling so good about being able to do this long term. The diet has really come a long way from when I remember my parents doing it years ago.

Cozy pink and grey blanket in it's baby stage.

Crafting- I have been trying to keep up with all the projects I have rolling around in my head lately but that's really just not possible! I did manage to make some new pillows for our couch which was nice and I do love them so much more than the ones that came with the couch. I'm working on a little embroidery project for my friend's baby (due in Sept) as well as one for my home and soon will be working on a little paid project for a friend. I do love embroidery! Oh, and yesterday I started a crochet afghan for our bedroom. Eric had asked me to make one because it reminded him of his Grandma and how she was always making blankets for everyone. I honestly wasn't looking forward to making one until I found the yarn I loved at the store and in the colors of our bedroom, too! Within 2 hours I had used both skeins of yarn and now I'm dying to go get more! I can't wait to see it finished and lying on our bed. It is super cozy yarn. It will be perfect for winter.

Otherwise we have been picnicking, visiting the local parks, going to the library, playing at home, resting, relaxing, enjoying our time together. It's been a nice summer.

Alex loves to color.

The kids love to have pillow fights!

These two love to snuggle.

Coloring princesses with my little princess.

Alex's home jungle gym. He likes to stand up there and dance.


Make each day count!