Saturday, December 31, 2016

One Word for 2017

2016 is just about in the history books and with the way things have been this year, I know many of us are more than ready to have it in the rear view mirror.  It's been a harsh year for most of us.  The elections put a major strain on our country and divided us unlike anything else in the past.  2016 also seemed like it could be deemed "The Year The Music/Movies Died" as we saw the passing of many entertainers who made a major impact in the entertainment world.

For our family in particular, we saw miracles three times over.. We nearly lost my nephew, my daughter's great grandmother and her grandmother, both whom are very important members to our family.. However, the Lord saw it fit to allow them more time on this earth with us.

With all the losses and with all the near losses we have seen this year, I decided that this year, my one word for 2017 is:

I chose the word "Life" because that's what I want to choose. I want to give up the unhealthy crutches that I have fallen upon and I want to instead choose to lift myself up and work towards a healthier me.

I want both my family and myself to eat better.  Although we eat healthy, especially compared to a very large population of the country, I think we can do better.

I want to get off the couch and do more..  More hiking, more playing outside, more adventures out in the world and away from facebook or the television.

I want to start exercising.  I spent the last month doing 28 days of planking and watching how my body overcame and accomplished something I did not think would be possible.  It made me realize that there is so much more I could accomplish fitness wise, all I have to do is try.

I want to explore and learn more about the world around us with the kids, allowing them to discover there's so much more to life than just what is contained within the 4 exterior walls of the house.

But most of all, I want to be here for them for a long time..  Knowing that many of my friends whom I went to school with have already  had bypass surgery, heartattacks and strokes, I want to take control of my life and dodge that bullet if at all possible.  I want to be around to see grandkids and great grandkids if at all possible.

I'm 40 years old and I will turn 41 in a matter of days -  maybe it's time I actually start living life instead of just existing..

Here's to 2017.. A new year and hopefully a new me!!
Homeschool Review Crew Reflecting on 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Our Christmas

Our family loves Christmas..  It's more than just gifts, it's the traditions and time spent together than really means something to us.   Kids get toys all the time, however, there are traditions that we do as a family that just aren't done at any other time of the year.. This year, we decided to add a bit more to our past traditions as we tried to add more of Christ to our Christmas rather than focusing on the more secular aspects of the holiday.

This was the first year that we actually participated in the Advent.  Growing up in a non-denomination church (First Christian), our family did not celebrate the Advent.  As I've grown more towards an Evangelical believe, I wanted to start the tradition of the Advent - lighting the candles, reading selections each Sunday, and reading the book "Jotham's Journey" together.  This turned out to be highly enjoyed by the kids, who reminded me daily it was time to light the candles or to say our prayer every night after dinner.   Advent will continue to be included in our Christmas from here on out.

Another thing we started this year was actually making Christmas cookies.  I'll be honest, I am NOT a baker!  I can burn a frozen pizza within minutes of entering the oven, so this was actually a scary experience for me.  Usually, we just buy "Slice and Bake" cookies from the store for Santa but this year, the kids really wanted to make cookies from scratch.  And so I found a simple sugar cookie recipe on pinterest, along with a recipe for the icing and we got to work.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find the red food coloring, so we were limited to blue, green and yellow on the icing, and let's be honest, I'm not about to open a bakery anytime soon, but overall, the cookies were tasty, weren't burnt, and I've seen far worse decorated icing jobs.. LOL

One of our usual traditions is to watch "The Polar Express" as a family.  Hot chocolate and Popcorn is a must.. The kids were ready to watch, so while I made the snacks, they started up the movie.

Before the kids went to bed, it was time for Christmas Eve Service.  Unfortunately, there's not a candlelight service here on base, so one of our traditions (at least for the past four years) is to sit around the television and watch the Christmas Eve Service from Celebration Church in Green Bay, WI.  This is where Pastor Mark Gungor is and we consider ourselves part of the congregation even if we are many miles away.  Celebration Church always does a wonderful service and the Christmas Eve service was no exception.  With great worship music along with a reading of the Christmas story from the book of Luke to Pastor Mark's sermon, what a great service. "Christmas begins what Easter celebrates.  The child in the cradle became the King on the cross".  

After service was over, the kids checked Santa Tracker one last time to make sure they had plenty of time to fall asleep (at that time, Santa was in Saskatchewan, Canada), they said their goodbyes to Jack, our Elf on the Shelf.  Jack allows the kids to hold him and kiss him only one time during his visit with us - on Christmas Eve right before Bedtime.. The kids each gently cradled him in their arms and gave him a quick kiss before heading off to bed.

Then the stockings were hung on our entertainment center.. complete with a roaring fire on the television LOL .. The kids placed the "Magic Key" that Santa uses to enter our house on the wreath on our front door, and snacks for Santa and the reindeer were put out... Santa got some of our homemade cookies along with a Coke (the kids said that the commercials show him drinking Coke not milk) and apple slices for the reindeer. Ashleigh even wrote a letter for Santa.

Here's Santa enjoying the snacks ;)

NoRad Santa Tracker showing Santa flying over Edwards AFB.  Luckily the kids were asleep.

Santa came and left presents.

Kenny is completely wore out from all the Christmas eve excitement.

To say the kids were excited to open presents was an understatement.  Dad and I found them sitting on the couch waiting at 3:45am and had to send them back to bed.. Finally, at 9:30am, we woke Dad up and it was time to open presents.  The kids, however, had already had a peek into their stockings by that time.. LOL  (Btw, we don't typically allow the kids to have soda this early.. But Alyssa was drinking one and allowed Ashleigh to have the last few sips of it.. lol)

Ashleigh REALLY wanted a leopard Beanie Boo and was super excited Santa had brought it for her.  However, she couldn't have ever imagined that he would also bring her a Beanie Boo Rat.. Santa did a great job.

Garrett is completely fascinated with gears and how they work.  So Santa bringing him a K'nex set was perfect for him..

Santa brought Alyssa a set of PoloClub perfumes.

Ashleigh and Garrett exchanged gifts as well.  Ashleigh had used some of her AWANA dollars at the Awana store a few weeks ago to get Garrett a puzzle and a hot wheels car.   Garrett decided she would really like some Littlest Pet Shop toys.

Alyssa was VERY happy to receive a video game that she wanted.

Each kid gets "Something they want, something they need, something to read and something wear".. Here's Garrett opening his something to wear..    Ashleigh already received her something to wear in the form of two pairs of LuLaRoe leggings, one pair that she's wearing in today's pictures.  Alyssa received a pair of ankle high boots that she had her eye on for a while.

Garrett opening his "something to read", a book on computer programming with Scratch from Osborne books.. Ashleigh's "something to read" was a magazine subscription for National Geographic Kids while Alyssa was given two volumes of a new Anime series, "Orange" that she was unfamiliar with but came highly recommended from one of my friends.

More gifts

Garrett's "Something he needs" is more like a "Something Mom Needs"..  Because of his fascination for gears, we thought this would be a great idea, it even comes with a motor.. Great STEM idea and it will keep him from wanting to destroy electronics to get the gears out of them.. LOL

Ashleigh's "Something she needs".. She hates brushing her hair because it hurts when she gets tangles. She has already said this brush is the best thing in the world!!  lol

Mom received a nice present from Santa as well - a new Lodge 8 quart Dutch oven.. Something I have been wanting for a long time.. Kitchen gadgets/cookware are always a hit with me.

And here's a picture of before the madness... Right now, as I write this, my living room looks like a wrapping paper factory blew up.  LOL


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Accomplishments (52 Lists)

This year is just about over and I'm sure many of us are ready to see it in the rear view mirror and steam ahead into 2017.   For me, the year actually went buy pretty dang fast.  It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating New Years and we blinked and Christmas is only days away.

For this week's 52 Lists, we were asked to make a list of our accomplishments we achieved through the course of 2016.  Don't forget, if you want to make your own list, just link up over at Beauty full Slow and join in the fun :)
52 lists with Chasing Slow

I wish I could say I had so many of them, but honestly, I can't say that I did anything spectacular over the course of the 366 days (it was a leap year after all)..  But hey, I'll list what I did accomplish ;)

  • I haven't murdered anyone in my family yet!! ;)
  • I've manage to have meals on the table every day, keeping tummies full and happy, even if it was Dominos more times than I care to admit
  • read my Bible and studied scripture more 
  • helped bring my husband and children closer to God
  • read 50 books (at least, it will be 50 once I finish the one I'm currently on)
  • Started celebrating the Advent season tradition with the family
  • enrolled Ash in Awana 
  • found a home school system that worked for the kids
  • reviewed and wrote reviews for more than 70 different products
  • blogged more than 170 entries here at Counting Pinecones
  • didn't gain any weight (didn't lose any either though.. lol)
  • stopped smoking cigarettes
  • stuffed a shoebox of goodies for Operation Christmas Child
  • checked camping in Yosemite off my Bucket List
  • taught my teenager how to drive
  • Did I mention I haven't killed anyone yet???? lol

Friday, December 16, 2016

Now!! (Five Minute Friday)

This week, Kate at Heading Home has offered up the word Now for the word of the week.  If your interested in joining in with the Five Minute Fridays, be sure to click the button below  

Starting Now (no pun intended)

Now??  There's a word that has a lot of meaning.

We often live in the Now.. Everything is so rushed, everything is in the moment.  We want to be there NOW!!!  We want it NOW!!

However, a lesson I learned this week is that sometimes Now isn't possible and instead you gotta work for a future "now" rather than the "now" of the very moment.

Today, I accomplished a 2 minute plank.  That is my "now".. However, four days ago, that "now" wasn't possible at all.  A week ago, it was hard to accomplish a 45 second plank.. 4 days ago, I failed miserably at a 90 second plank.  Today's "now" of 120 seconds wouldn't have been possible if I just wanted it now, instead I had to have the past to accomplish what I did today.

My kids don't understand this lesson.  They want it all now... Christmas is many days away, but they want it now..  They want to be 4th graders now, but don't understand the work that they have to accomplish in 3rd grade to progress to a 4th grade level.

They want to be at a fun place "now" but don't realize that getting there means driving to that location, which means "now" isn't even feasible.

Sometimes, Now takes some work, planning and follow through on our part.  But once it's accomplished, that "now" moment is so much sweeter.

And that is 5.
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