Friday, January 31, 2014

7 QT: Suburban Wildlife

I'm taking a break from writing about books for a week, but don't worry, there will be more book recommendations in the future! Today I'm addressing the kind of critters we find in the wilds of Oregon City.
Security chickens…with these gals around we have nothing to fear
These are our neighbor's chickens, but they enjoy hanging out on our porch.  This may or may not be due to the fact that we tend to throw stale cereal and sandwich crusts to them.  Max has not figured out that throwing gravel AT the chickens is not the same as throwing cereal TO the chickens.

Spotty the cheetah
Spotty the Cheetah (based on the book Put Me in the Zoo) enjoys some birthday cake (i.e. blue 
Ruby the hoppy bunny
Grandma Laurie's second gift box did not remain unseen until Valentine's Day. Oh well…I guess the kids have to wear their new adorable clothes now.  What a burden! (Not.)
Ben the snuggle bear
(All together now) Awwwwwwwwwwwww!
Max the dino/monster guy
Jury is out on whether that hat makes him a dinosaur or a monster, but he looks skeptical either way.

Cooks or Kooks?
What kind of nutty nutballs request purple popsicles in January?  These ones.  I particularly like Ruby's ensemble: hat, coat, rain boots, and sunglasses.
Hemi the gentle giant
Delilah the not-shy bunny
Hemi and Delilah are the class pets at Ruby's school, Redland Montessori.  I got to visit on Thursday and I'm going to do a post or two about it. It was awesome and I'm so glad that Ruby gets the opportunity to be there (thanks Mom!)
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Nice Compliment

A few months before we got married 
My husband paid me a lovely compliment tonight.  It was one of those nights, where the kids went to bed way too late and were exhausted and all three of them were crying (loudly) in unison.  You feel me, fellow parents?  Yeah, it was rough.  And then, out of nowhere, my husband told me the nicest thing.  I asked him to type it up.

A few days before our wedding
I (Allen) told her that she was like an anchor for me.  Generally, I have a difficult time putting up with bedtime shenanigans from the kids and often revert to yelling far too much.  Tonight, with Jenny in the room, it was like having a constant gentle reminder/example of what I was capable of (being gentle) and I felt like I could draw peace right from her.  

August 8, 2009

Isn't that all kinds of "words of affirmation" (which just so happens to be my top love language)?  Awwww.

Our firstborn, Ruby

I love you, Allen, and I'm glad that (sometimes) I can be a calming, gentle, and gracious presence for you and for our children.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tribute Tuesday: My Mom

This post could be endlessly long, you know.  I mean, we're talking about my mom, Laurie Lowe.  I don't even know quite where to begin, or quite how to say it all.   I feel pressed for time yet fearful that I might leave out any good thing.  I guess I'll just do some straight up thank yous.
Mom, thank you for teaching me about Jesus.  You made the introductions when I was very young, so young that I can't even remember a time before knowing that Jesus loved me.  You planted the seeds and worked to cultivate the soil.  Of course, God has been the one to make the seeds grow, and He's done lots of pruning and cultivating over the years and through many people.  But I will always owe it to you for teaching me the faith and seeing to it that I always had a Bible to read, good books and music to learn from, a good church to attend, and lots of prayers said over me.
Mom, thank you for being a great reader and always keeping me (and now my children) well-supplied in wonderful books.  You never stop reading, it seems.  You inhale books that would take other people weeks in the course of hours.  You read both widely and deeply.  I grew up in a house with so many bookshelves full to bursting, and like a child I assumed that books were a central part of every house.  It was not until I was in graduate school for education that I truly learned that not all families have as many books or read as often as ours did, and I know that we kids are all the richer to have such literate and book-loving parents.  I certainly doubt I would have chosen a Great Books college if I hadn't seen such a love of literature exuded at home.
Ruby's love of books has a solid foundation
Mom, thank you for making me do things I didn't want to do.  Whether it was eating splush or practicing piano or rewriting a report that I thought would be "fine" but you wanted to be "excellent,"you held me to a high standard and I met it.  This is probably the hardest part of parenting: knowing when and how and in what ways to encourage your children to be their best.  I know I will struggle with it, and I know I will make mistakes.  But I also know that it will be okay.
Mom, thank you for working hard to provide us with so many opportunities.  I got to take piano lessons, do swim team, take art classes, acting classes, choir…you gave us so many chances to be enriched (even when we resisted, cultural philistines that we sometimes were.)  While the boys and I were in elementary school you did all kinds of odd jobs--custodial work at the church, data entry, working in a high school computer lab--so that you could make a little extra for us to do neat things AND still be home with us when we got home from school.  You were never too busy to help with homework, prepare dinner, and do all of the myriad of household chores that parents have to do.  You worked hard inside and outside of the home to enrich our lives, and you still are. Even from 2,000 miles away you are enriching the lives of your grandchildren, before they even grasp what you're about.  But I see it now, and I am so very thankful.
Mom, thank you for your inspiring work ethic. You are a multi-tasker, a thinker, a hard worker, and one who never accepts anything less than excellence from yourself.  I have never, ever seen you do a job halfway or do anything even remotely close to shoddy work.  It just doesn't even enter your realm of thinking.  I know that you inherited some of that from your mom, and I am glad you passed it along to me (although I'm afraid that I'm not nearly as disciplined as you and often settle for mediocrity in some areas, like making my bed!)
Mom, thank you for being there at so many milestone events, at great personal expense.
Mom came out for my 25th birthday.
…and getting my MAT.
…and for a week before my wedding

and for my wedding itself, of course
Mom, thank you for loving your grandchildren.  I know it is hard for you to have to be so far away from them, and maybe in a few years we'll be able to remedy that situation…but even if Ruby, Max, and Ben always live far away from "gumma and gumpa", I know that you've learned from the best about how to be a grandma whose long geographical distance won't amount to emotional and relational distance.  Thank you for coming out when each was born to help us (and do some home renovations).  Thank you for bringing us out to see you guys.  Ruby can't wait to go to your house again, just as I always eagerly anticipated going to my grandma's house.   
Loving on the baby who made you a grandma for the first time

You've got your hands full!

You always said you wanted lots of grandchildren, so we just keep 'em coming...
 This litany of thanks is far from complete, but please know that you have been one of the greatest influences in my life for good.  I love you, Mom!

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

    and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:25-31, ESV

Life in the Cookie Jar

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Good Day for Mail

You know what's awesome?  Getting something in the mail that is not a bill, junk mail, or misaddressed mail (given our frequency of moving, that happens a lot).  Heck, I even get excited about getting my high school and college's alumni magazines, so you can imagine my level of excitement when I beheld my mail today.
Not one box.
Not two boxes.
But THREE boxes were sitting on my doorstep, guarded by our neighbor's five security chickens (wish I had a picture of that).
I got two boxes from home and one that I had ordered two weeks ago.
What's that you're murmuring?  Oh, how I wonder what is inside those boxes!  Well, it's your lucky day, because I am going to give you a running photo commentary!
First, the box that I ordered.  This was exciting because I was really excited to receive the product.  It's a Mama's Notebook Weekly Planner & Organizer.  I am not a terribly organized person, so having a planner is important…and it's also satisfying to look through what you've accomplished.  I always have a better year as a teacher when I keep a detailed lesson plan book (which I did this school year, mostly because I knew I might have to turn it over to a sub at any moment), so I'm hoping that the same successes will translate into housekeeping.  I'll show you a few pictures to whet your appetite for getting one, too!

I'll just list the table of contents for you:
Year at a glance (2013-2015)
Weekly Charts, Lists & Goals (pictured below)
Standard Food Shopping Lists
Go-To Meal Ideas
Daily Routine
Weekly Routine Charts
Other Activities/Commitments
Social Life (!)
Basic Weekly Chore Chart
Chores, Cleaning
Spiritual Life
Long Term Projects

The Weekly Chart Page(s)

The Weekly Lists & Goals Page(s)
How awesome is that? I'll tell you, it's awesome.  I know some of you out there are very organized on your own, or you've already made/bought your own system that works for you, which is great and hats off to ya.  But in case you, like me, are not naturally organized and you still haven't found anything that works for you, maybe this is the planner for you.  As a bonus motivation, the planners are made by a mom so every purchase is helping her family directly.  Heather has other ones, too: a New Baby Notebook, a Budget Notebook (that's next on my wish list), and a Knit/Crochet Notebook (hmm, could be a great present for my sister!)  So, check Heather's site out and if you see something you like, well, you know what to do. 
Nota Bene: I was not paid to write this review, nor was I given a free copy so that I could review it.  I bought it with my own money, so no tricks or kickbacks here, folks!  Although, if YOU have a company and you want to give me a free sample of something you make to review, I would be more than happy to chat with you about that!

Moving right along to the other two boxes: oh my, they contained wonders and treasures. You see, they were sent by my ever-loving mama.  My mom (as you'll discover in tomorrow's tribute!!) is an amazing lady, and one of her many, MANY talents is sending THE BEST care packages in the world.
You still get care packages?  You're not in college anymore, and you're not in the military! 
 I know.  I totally don't deserve this level of awesomeness.  It's called "grace," folks, which is getting what you don't deserve.  Anyway, my mom is awesome at sending periodic packages that contain all sorts of fun and/or necessary goodies for our family.  Here's what was in today's boxes:

First up, some Christmas stuff.
Stockings and cookie cutters for next year :)

My sister has taken up my grandma's mantle of knitting personalized Christmas stockings.  I know everyone out there has their own special take on Christmas stockings, and I'd never be so churlish as to say that these are the best…but, they kind of are the best.  The front bears the person's name and the back bears the year of his/her birth.  She knit one for Allen after he married me but somehow it got lost, so she knit him a new one.  And then we've kept her quite busy by having kids all the time, but she's now current and has a stocking for all three kids.  Yay!  I guess we'll have to keep all of our future children's names or nicknames short, though, since it is impossible to fit long ones on the stocking.  

But that's not all she knit!  I got my Christmas present in the package, too. Her gift to me was to knit me the item of my choice. I requested a scarfy/hatty thing I saw on Pinterest, and she made it.

See? It functions as a scarf and a hood!

It is sooooo warm.  I love it.  I might not take it off for the next few months.  Of course, Ben wasted no time in spitting up on it, so I will have to take it off to clean it, but other than that, I am digging the babushka look.  Those babushkas were warm, darn it all, and I like to be cozy in the winter time.  Thank you Sarah!  You are the best!  If you weren't so busy being a straight A student/Shakespearean actress/cello player/baker/knitter/senior in high school, you could sell these things!  Priorities, kid, priorities.  

What else was in the boxes of joy?
New socks, because Mom read my post about only having holey socks and took pity on my feet

These books look like they will have some great craft ideas!

I didn't even get into the second box but it is Valentine's themed with new clothes for the kids!
There was also a wonderfully providential check from some friends from Old Orchard Church (a belated wedding/babies present!)  Thank you Gary and Mary Beth!  And of course there were other books and a stuffed animal, but those are already being played with.  

That was my awesome batch of mail today.  I hope your day provided something similarly great.  And I am pleased to let you know that if you are a young and eligible bachelorette, there is still time for YOU to get my mom as your mother-in-law.  I have one brother who is single at the moment so feel free to marry on into this family. I'm not sure I'm ready to put my sister on the market yet but young and eligible bachelors out there, take note and be ready to apply in a few years.