Wednesday, November 30, 2011

12 hours away: chickens, police, and detours

Today's events unfolded like this:

6:30 Rise and shine...muffins in the oven and lunches packed, my chores done

7:00 Kids up for breakfast

7:15 Kids'chores and getting dressed/ I get a shower

7:45 Boys feeding animals...

8:00 Boys still feeding animals due to loose chicken

8:15 On the road...5 minutes late

8:30 Emergency potty stop for 5 year old at the gas station

8:40 Back on the road

8:45 Remember the boys have guitar lessons and they are guitar-less.

9:00 We are now officially late for classes and we have fifteen minutes to go. This logically explains...

9:05 Police lights flashing in the rear view mirror. Drat. No speeding tickets for fifteen the second one in two months. I tell the kids quickly, "You know how sometimes you deserve discipline but Daddy and I extend grace instead? Well I deserve to pay a fine for speeding, but could you all pray that I will receive grace instead?" Was that wrong? Doesn't matter because I got the ticket.

9:20 Boys make it to class. Their teacher is the most gracious, sweetheart on the planet. Thank you Jesus for the grace.

9:35 Arrive late to Bible study and brunch. Remember I was supposed to meet the church secretary about decorating the church Christmas tree (at 9:00). Send a quick apology email. Laugh with ladies about my morning. Because it really is funny! Wonderful, wonderful time together in a beautiful house in the woods with new friends. Thank you Jesus for grace, again.
12:00 Lunch with the sweetest five year old I know. And then a quick hour shopping spree at Hobby Lobby for aforementioned tree decor.

2:05 (SO close to 2:00) Only five minutes late for Women's Ministry meeting. LOVE these new friends. So excited to be a part of what God is doing through them.

3:15 Get all the kids and we leave, on a mission for the Lego advent calendar. I am DETERMINED to have it by tomorrow (December 1st)!! After three strikes, finally call and get a store across town to hold it. Get it. Get back on the highway going south instead of north. Cross county lines before I get to the next exit to turn around.

5:15 Husband calls. He has made it to Ohio, had his meeting, and flown through two airports, dropped off rental car, and driven half way home. I am still not close yet. Amazing.

5:45 He waits for me to catch up and the kids and I meet him for Chinese food. According to my math this advent calendar was a 2 and a half hour, $35 investment. I figure it might be okay considering it will provide 25 days of fun anticipation. Plus, who can mess with tradition?

7:00 Headed home. Panic. Puppy has been Call neighbor and verify he is alive and kickin'. Breathe easy and listen to the children giggling and playing so well in the back seat. Thank you Jesus for grace, again and again. Pull into gas station. Need gasoline. Just filled the tank yesterday morning. Goodness. Tempted to add up cost of December's gasoline + Christmas presents/events/food + new speeding ticket. Decide to listen to Christmas music instead. :)

8:00 Get home. Chickens are dehydrated because the boys cranked up the thermometer too high. Andy has a mess to clean up (dehydration=upset tummies). Puppy is hyper. Cat is bellowing. Kids are excited. No matter how tired they are, they always feel this way when they get home. It's sweet. Home Sweet Home.

And that is what a homeschooling/hybrid schooling, farm-living, women's ministry loving, wife of a farmer/biological consultant who sometimes travels, dog/cat/chicken owning, wife/Mom's day looks like when we are away for a 12 hour stretch. Please tell me you have days this crazy, too. Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds! Because here's the irony in it all: I really enjoyed my day! (Except for the speeding ticket.) I told myself in the car on the way home, I would much rather have my hands FULL than EMPTY! And I pray I am willing and able to have them full all the days and seasons of my life! What a gift!

"We live the given life, and not the planned."

Wendell Berry

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Penny, caverns, and a fruit tree

Since we took trips out-of-town in September and October, today was our first local field trip for the school year. We went to Desoto Caverns. I remember going in elementary school, but had forgotten how amazing it is. All of the kids enjoyed it very much. I am very excited for them to learn about Alabama's history. And then when we came home we made this beauty for a brunch I am attending tomorrow. It's the first Christmas party of the year. Yay!! We made the fruit tree assembly-line style. Wash-pass-dry-pass-toothpick-pass-spear fruit. Over and over. I got the idea from pinterest. That website might be my new favorite invention.

Besides Pinterest, I am currently obsessed with Christmas music and recipes. I can not believe it is almost DECEMBER! I have some really fun things planned for the kids and me to do this month together! Lots of crafts, a musical, a ballet, good stories, devotions, and hopefully some mercy projects mixed in. And the parties...yippee! Again, found great ideas for the boys' hybrid school class party from Penny. (My pet name for Pinterest.) Also, if you HATE to make menus and grocery shop as much as I do, this website may enhance your life (almost) as much as knowing Penny:

You can find weekly menus already planned. PERFECT! I followed the recipes for week 2 this week. I am making all seven meals. So easy.

I am off to ask Penny if she has any ideas for decorating our church's Christmas tree. I know she won't let me down! Let the Christmas season begin!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Birthday goodness

The day after Thanksgiving I turned the big 3-6. It was the best birthday ever! When I was a kid I hated that my birthday landed the day before, after, or ON Thanksgiving. Some years my friends would not be able to come to my party if it was too close to our school break. But now, it is a huge bonus! I get to celebrate with my entire family! And most years I am really spoiled.

This year might have been the best birthday EVER. The week was kicked off with a fun night out with my parents and brother's family.So sweet! And Chelle, I have been using my wax melter (what's it called?) all week. Cranberry scent really masks the new doggy smells. Thanks!! My Mom and Dad also spoiled me with a Christmas dress and new pillows for our bedroom. Tuesday I got to spend the entire day with my nieces and nephews (they spent the night after dinner). On Wednesday my best friend was driving through town to see her family (see what I mean about the holidays being a bonus??), and we met at the park with the kids. She gave me the most thoughtful gift. She knows I am a Momma-on-the-road. She found a bag that looks like a cute canvas purse, but actually has hanging file folders inside. Seriously!?! Thank you, Lizzie! You really are a sister to me!!

Then on Thursday we enjoyed sweet time pulling all of our thankful notes out of our thankful jar. It's been on the kitchen island since October collecting little moments of gratitude. And we thanked God for how richly we are blessed. Then we headed to the lake to spend time with my family. Lunch at the lake flew by and then we were on our way to Birmingham.

We spent the night with Andy's parents. Andy and I have a tradition of shopping together on Black Friday. We think it is really fun. We have never been shoved, punched, or pushed down. In fact, generally people are cheerful and chatty when we are waiting in lines or freezing in the cold waiting for stores to open. This year we started at 4 am (a late start since many stores opened the night before...BOO). By noon we had bought all but one Christmas present, found all six of our December birthday gifts for family members, and I found a new outfit myself for our big night together! At least the craziness was not in vain!

Loved an excuse to buy red wedges. Fun!

Around 1:00 we left for an overnight, birthday date! Andy made reservations for us to stay in a beautiful hotel suite. I arrived to roses and champagne in our room! After a long nap, Ruth Chris steaks ordered to our room for dinner, and plenty of time to get ready, we headed to the concert. Andy had reserved a hotel that was connected to the concert hall. We just walked next door when we were ready! We say Lady Antebellum, along with her two opening bands Eden's Edge and Josh Kelley. It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Loved dancing and goofing around with Andy all night long!

The next morning we slept in, enjoyed breakfast, and watched football. We met Andy's parents (along with our children) at his brother's house for a belated Thanksgiving celebration. It really was such a fun week! Thank you friends and family (especially my thoughtful, romantic husband!!) for celebrating my birthday with me. I feel very loved!!Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Girls' weekend with Mom

Sometimes I love it when God changes things up. He hears our desires and plans, but then steps in and "orders our steps". What an encouragement! Case in point, my weekend. I had big plans of a reunion with my college friends. Seven sweet sorority sisters were invited months ago. As the weekend got closer, one by one they realized they could not get away from their families. Then, when only one friend was left and available, she offered to postpone so that my Mom and I could have a weekend alone. She knows of her cancer. I am AMAZED at her thoughtfulness and selflessness, as I know she too was looking forward to a fun weekend break! Thank you, Rach!!

As I prayed about it and talked with Andy, I decided to take her up on the offer to postpone our weekend, in hopes that the other ladies could come another weekend, too. So Mom and I had an entire weekend alone.

We haven't gone anywhere without the rest of the family since I got married! We talked, talked, talked...rested, watched Jane Eyre, and shopped.
Mom had lost the majority of her hair the week before, but she didn't tell me. I was a little shocked when I first saw her. But I seeing her without hair is just a good reminder to pray for her. And she looks great in hats! Below is the one I bought her in Auburn. So cute!!
We stayed at the lake house, which is less than 30 minutes from Auburn. So we drove by after the game and enjoyed a freshly rolled Toomer's Corner, along with a lot of happy fans! We only cooked one meal (breakfast on Saturday), and otherwise we ate out or just snacked. We sat on the sofa both Saturday and Sunday until eleven o'clock with coffee. It was so much fun! My prayer is that our time together was an encouragement for Mom as she approaches her second round of chemo. She has been so brave and strong! I am very proud of her!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Our little reunion on the farm

This past weekend we had a house full. Andy invited two of his closest friends and their families to our farm for the weekend. Andy's friend Justin was a huge blessing to our family, and still is. But particularly his friendship sustained Andy through some real struggles when we were in Atlanta. He was the first person at our house when we had our miscarriage in 2005. He was a real brother in Christ for Andy when he was hating his corporate job. And they have prayed and listened to one another through many other struggles and joys over the past eight or so years. We had not seen his children since his daughter was born 16 months ago! Their visit was long overdue!! His wife Stephanie is such a sweet friend, too. She is probably the best listener I have ever met. She has a knack for asking just the right questions, and I love how bubbly and witty she is. Their darling children fit in very well with our three. We enjoyed s'mores over a campfire, playing around the farm and with our new puppy, playing with *all* our toys, and eating tons of food with all kinds of beer and wine. I cooked like a crazy woman. Andy would say, "Chicken wings sound good. Let's get those...and chili. How about some queso? Let's smoke a ham and make a cobbler..." And on and on. Saturday night we all felt sick from it all. But being together was worthy of a little indulgence!

Our friend David joined us on Saturday morning. He also worked with Andy and Justin and they were all buddies. David just got engaged a couple of week ago, but his fiance couldn't join us because she is on a mission trip in China! Lydie and Justin and Steph's son will be flower girl and ring bearer in David's wedding in April. Should be pretty adorable! Lydie has always ADORED David. As in, it's a little embarrassing how many hugs and kisses she gives him.
When the house was quiet and we were back to just us five last night we were all pooped. After several days of preparation for our guests and then late nights all weekend we were all asleep by eight. But it is SO worth it to see good friends. (Even if they are Georgia fans and the football game was humiliating!!) May I never be tempted to not host because of the extra effort it takes. Now off to get ready for another busy week!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chicks and squawking

The lady at our rural post office called this morning and said, "Mrs. Renee? Your chickens are in." I could hear anxious peeping in the background. The kids all hopped in the truck with Andy to go pick them up. There was only one "expired" chick in the box. 23 out of 24 is supposedly good. Now the kids will need to keep a curious puppy and two dozen chicks alive and well. Oh my. I adore bird watching and listening, but I detest actually touching birds. These littles are on.their.own! (That call from the lady at the post office was the latest "China" moment, by the way. How many of you have gotten a call from the post office telling you to come pick up your chickens?)

The chickens are all hens, and we anticipate fresh eggs soon. I only cook eggs on the weekends, but I do use eggs frequently for baking, especially in the fall and winter. It should be a treat to have our own. And hopefully these little things won't grow up to require too much work. We (Andy and I) have never in our entire life felt like the days are so short.

We simply can not manage to EVER get even a fraction accomplished that we would like. Making relationships and home schooling are my top priorities right now. And those are good things! But my housework is always behind, and I rarely find myself organized enough to make it to the grocery store with any idea of what needs to be bought. I have always been a menu/shopping list planner. This current state of "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" craziness is a little distressing for me. So I keep telling myself to just "do the next thing". It works pretty well until we are half way through a shower and run out of shampoo (with the nearest store being a half hour away). Or until I find myself pushing my car to the nearest gas station because I didn't keep my eye on the gas meter due to rushing around preparing for guests. THEN "the next thing" is not so comforting (albeit a little funny)! (This past weekend I ran out of gas in the car for the first time in my life.)

My Dad came by today and made himself at home in our living room. I didn't hear him and I was simultaneously cleaning the toilet, disciplining a child, talking on the phone with a friend (about how behind I am in my housework :) ), and chugging a Diet Coke. He just sat and listened to it all from around the corner. Later, he politely suggested that I ask the neighbors if anyone would like to come and clean my house. He said "the farm account" could foot the bill. Without hesitation or any dignity whatsoever I said, "Sounds great. Let's do it." So I think relief is in sight! What a purely delightful gift that would be! Just the thought of it thrills me more than Christmas morning.

But for today, house cleaning was on my own. With relief in sight, I pressed on and organized the kids' rooms, washed all of our curtains, cleaned the house top to bottom (mind you we only have a total of 9 rooms!), and washed all of the clothes. I also did basic homeschooling lessons (math, grammar, spelling, memory work, reading, and history). Our guests will be here tomorrow and slowing down was NOT an option. I did, however, boycott cooking dinner. Andy and the kids are out to dinner now, and I am eating a bowl of cereal with a sweet puppy in my lap.

Maybe the solution to my organization issues is to just have house guests or a party every couple of weeks! That would provide accountability and fun!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Good words from Bible study today

~Good theology is useless unless it "puts on skin".
~Seeking control and feeling entitled robs us of joy. Letting go of "what I deserve" (good health, obedient children, working car, loving spouse, nice house, whatever) and wearing humility brings joy. Focusing on Christ, not myself leads to deep, abiding JOY!!
~Expectations kill relationships! Expectations are "premeditated resentments". Especially in our relationship with God.
~Joy comes out of (after) gratitude.

"I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts."

~F.B. Meyer

~John 3:30
~Matthew 18:4

"Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purposes and in whatever way you may require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with your grace."

~D.L. Moody

Monday, November 07, 2011

Our sweet new addition

We finally got the children their first dog. We've been promising since March when we moved here. Toby will make a good companion and guard dog for them as the children are gaining the freedom to venture farther away on our property. And I think he will be good company for Andy on the days when he is planting and doesn't see or talk to anyone else during the day!
He is a 3 month old chocolate lab/hound mix. He is very affectionate and so sweet. We adopted him from the Birmingham Humane Society. He slept in a storage box by our bed last night and didn't make a whimper. (This was after trying to have him sleep in our kitchen alone. He whimpered/howled like he was being torn to pieces!) But in the box, by our bed, with the ticking clock was the ticket! The children love him already. He is just like a toddler...feed, tee tee, poop, play, put things in his mouth, teething, stay with him at ALL times! I think this enormous task of having a pet came at the perfect time for the kids. They will do a nice job ushering him from puppy hood into a well-mannered companion, I think. Isn't he adorable?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Grace upon grace

Tonight we had a fun, celebration dinner in town. First of all, I turned in our report cards for the first quarter. My boys both made straight As! The good grades are exciting, but I am mostly proud of their perseverance and hard work. My sweet Jackson who works so, so diligently in Math (literally giving himself a headache several days a week) earned a 95. It was a well-deserved, enormous accomplishment for him. He is learning the sacrifice and reward (both physically and spiritually) of pushing through something that is very difficult for him. I feel certain he will use these lessons through out his life with much more important matters than decimals and long division!

Both boys are excellent students (and sons)! Although I do often hear, "How many more subjects do we have today?", I rarely hear complaints. I pack in a pretty heavy work load in school for these little guys! But I know they can do it, as their reports have proven!Honor roll boys

And even bigger baby girl became a Christian today. I was reading her devotion with her this morning. The verse said, "Except you be converted, and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) I explained to her that converted means turning away from sin and turning to Jesus in faith. This verse wasn't chosen to scare her. It is an ABC Bible verse book and she is learning to memorize a verse for each letter. This was the closest on they could find for the letter X- "eXcept..." It was God's providence! At the end of the story that went along with the verse she asked, "Have I been converted? Can you help me?" And we talked and prayed together. Then she went squealing through the house to tell her brothers and Dad.

What a day! Jackson said, "Now we'll all be in heaven together some day!" Amazing grace!! And Lydie thanked God at bed time "for making her a Christian". Praising God for the sweet memories of being with our children when all three were converted. Again, His grace is amazing.

Note to self (because I will forget ):

"These steps with the small, these are the giant leaps not to be lost. Saving the world, it begins with the salvation of one child. There's only a harvest in the kingdom when someone attends to the smallness of a seed."

~Ann Voskamp

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween fun

Hayride and Trunk or Treat at my brother's house on Halloween

**Jackson and Joshua opted out of costumes this year. So sad!!!**

Our church picnic on Sunday afternoon
Tonight enjoying kids sacked out early...the low after the sugar rush. It's dark, cool, and quiet outside. Very thankful for my brother and his family for letting us adopt their community of friends while we are settling into our own. They have a very sweet school and neighborhood. We are eager to get to know more families in the church we are visiting. We are slowly making new traditions and putting down roots. It's just a matter of patience and time!