Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Windy Wednesday!

I do believe that winter is coming. For the last several days we have had some extremely strong winds in our neck of the woods. The temperature has been fair, and the days mostly sunny, but that wind has been wicked!
Our annual fall family get together was last weekend. We hosted the event, since so much of the things we like to do in the fall involve the outdoors. Having a home on 50 acres in the country qualifies us for the hosting. It was a rather sad weekend for me, since most of my immediate family was not there. By immediate, I mean my daughter, son, son in law weren't here, and most of the time my husband was working. Amanda and I sort of "held down the fort" in their absence. Jessica and Scott had the flu all weekend, and of course Josh is still away. We had lots of help from extended family, and for that I am thankful. Some got the straw for the hayride, and others helped set up the table and campfire. It turned out to be a great weekend, weather wise. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, chatted around the fire, watched the 6 young children play and then went for a short hayride. The evening ended with a TV viewing of the wonderful victory of the Mizzou Tigers over Oklahoma. These events really make me aware of the blessings of family. We are 25 + strong, and try to get together at least once a season. This commitment to convene on a regular basis has kept the family strong. I certainly missed the ones who could not make it and hope that next year we will all be together.
I guess now that we have had the fall get together, autumn can give way to winter. But the wind and the howling of the wind have really made me wish that winter was still a few months away. Happy fall!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sure to be a best seller: Llama, Llama at the Hair-O-Rama. by Maddison Taylor.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

School Daze!

I may have mentioned before that Maddison is a kindergartener this year. It has been a long time since my children were in elementary school. I am amazed at how much more advanced the curriculum is in kg than it was when my children were there. During the first week of school, Maddie brought home "popcorn" words to study. Formerly know as "sight" words, the popcorn words were something my children were briefly exposed to during the last month of kindergarten. Reading was saved for first grade. Last weekend, Maddison surprised me by telling me the difference between fiction and non-fiction, what quotation marks meant, and how to use an exclamation point. I thought maybe this was something they were just introduced to that she happened to remember. I soon found out that she actually understood what those things meant and could use them appropriately.
Maddison wanted me to help her write a book during Mason's nap time. She stapled together 6 sheets of paper and got out two crayons. To back up a little, I have to share that Maddison, Mason and I love the "Llama, Llama" books which are picture books about the adventures of baby llama and his mama. We have all three Llama series books and really enjoy sharing them together. Well, Maddison decided that we needed to write a 4th book in the series. So we brain stormed and decided that this book would be titled; "Llama, llama at the Hair-O-Rama". (Her mother is in cosmetology school). Maddison designed the cover and wrote the title out with a little spelling help from me. Then I wrote the story, as dictated by her, about baby llama getting in trouble at the hair shop while waiting for mama to get her hair done. She told me when and why we needed to use quotation marks. Then she would insist that she punctuate the really dynamic sentences with an exclamation mark. I was truely amazed at her knowledge of a story and specific elements of writing. The book is definitely a keeper. I have to admit, that education isn't what it used to be. . . but in this case it is more!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Talk about the simple life! Mason works to "milk" a cow at the Moberly Parks and Recreation Fall Festival at Rothwell Park. He really loved this activity!!

The Simple Life

Ahhh, to have a "simple" life! I got the neatest homemade birthday card today from my sister. It touched me deeply. It was in the shape of a tea pot, with a tea bag inside with this poem by John Burroughs: To be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter, To be thrilled by the stars at night, To be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring. These are the rewards of a simple life. I really wanted to cry when I read that verse. That is what I believe and have lately been striving to obtain. Right now it is still an elusive dream, but I think I can make strides to have it become a reality.
Don't you sometimes just want to put your life on pause for a while? It seems like the more we do, the more we have to do. I like staying busy, but when "busy" gets in the way of what is really important in life, something needs to change. I have become much more relaxed about some things in the last few years. My house, for instance. . . I have lowered my standards of cleaning since the grand kids spend so much time here. They have a play area in the house, and it really does not bother me to have it messy in there. That is quite a lot different than when my kids were younger.
I have simplified my meal preparation, which seems to suit both my husband and me. Our meals are very basic, often leftovers or "make aheads" done on the weekends. I still love to cook, but I make it a labor of love when I do it. . . a "fun" event, not a "have to" activity.
And then there is the clutter matter. My kids used to make fun of my basic rule: if you buy something new, then something you have needs to go. If I bought 3 new shirts, then 3 older ones would have to be discarded (or given away). That keeps a balance in life and the closet. To me the simple life means not being loaded down with a lot of "stuff" that you don't really need or use. I have almost become utilitarian in my decorating, my wardrobe and my gadgets. I have often thought of what I would replace if I lost everything I owned. The list of must haves would be fairly short. There are a few things that I value that could not be replaced. Those would be the items that I would miss the most: a quilt from my husband's grandmother, a Victrola and antique phone from my grandmother, photos, scrapbooks (with artwork from my children) and some personal items that I received as gifts.
And what, you may ask, does all of this have to do with the "simple life" mentioned in the poem? Well, I believe that as long as we are weighed down by our stuff and the general clutter in our life, then the simple life is difficult for us to obtain. The greatest gift we have is our world, and how many of us are so busy chasing the dollar to buy the stuff that we don't need that we forget to enjoy that world?
The moon, the stars, the trees. . . now that is stuff worth keeping!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work, work, work!

Have you ever had times in your life when your work consumes you? I think this is one of those times for me. My workload has seemed to be building quite a lot lately. Now I have two staff out for an extended period of time, and I couldn't get my work done before they were gone. When times are like this at work, I just have to pace myself and remember to leave it at work when I go home. I love my job, it is full of challenges, diversity and a sense of helping others. However, when there is so much more to do than time to do it, it can be overwhelming.

On the home front, I have to say that we had a very nice visit with Josh while he was home. Of course the time went by much too quickly, and the quality was there, even if the quantity wasn't. We spent some time outdoors and enjoyed each others company. Josh will be home again for a short visit in a month, and then he will get to come home for 2 weeks at Christmas. After the first of the year, he will have to decide if he is going back for a few more months, or if he will stay in Moberly. I think the job situation here will help him make up his mind. He sure misses his family and they miss him. But, work is work, and in these hard times, you have to go where the work is.

Funny, how so much of our lives revolve around work. Working can sure give us something to complain about! However, if you have ever not been able to work, and needed to or wanted to work, that is an awful feeling. I believe I can live with the few work problems I have, and just stay thankful that I have a job!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Apple Pie

Is there anything homier than apple pie? I baked two apple pies this morning in preparation for Josh's homecoming. Apple pie is his favorite, and I wanted to have it ready for tomorrow. Everything about this food says comfort. The smell, the look, the feel of the crust between my fingers as I pinch the edges, and of course the wonderful taste! I rarely make pie, not because we don't like it, but I guess because we do! We certainly don't need the calories, but there is just something about a homemade pie that says love.
It is a beautiful fall day in Missouri. Warm temperatures, bright sunshine, soft breeze through the leaves. Scott has spent the day here cutting wood to sell to supplement their income. It is a hard way to earn extra dollars, but when jobs are scarce and dead trees are plentiful, it can work. Randy is enjoying a rare weekend off of late, the kids are napping, and I am still cooking. In addition to the pie, I made some oatmeal, raisin, nut cookies, also a favorite of Josh's. It has been quite a while since I cooked for him.
I have to admit that I love days like this. They seem to come too rarely, and end too soon, but I plan on enjoying every minute while I can! Happy October.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tales of Woe

Everywhere I have turned this week there have been tales of woe. At work, at hubby's work, some family, friends etc. It has been an exceptionally sad week at my work. I have seen co-workers struggling with life, several clients have been in tears and even my husband came home today and shared two stories about people that we know in crisis. I have always tried to be an optimist, which can sometimes have trouble co-existing with my strong realist side. But these days the outlook is definitely cloudy and gray. The two biggest concerns are financial security and health. There are literally zero jobs to be had in this area. The diminishing "middle class" is getting squeezed by un and under-employment. The majority of the help available is designed for people who have very little. But the poor working family, who based their lifestyle on both husband and wife working, has been hit hard by this economic downturn. At WIC, people who have never had to rely on any type of aid are coming in and applying for benefits. Sometimes their income is just over what is necessary to qualify. Of course these folks don't qualify for food stamps, and with the rising cost of health care, fuel and other necessities their paychecks stop short of meeting their needs. They have paid taxes all of their lives, but when they need help the most, they aren't able to get it. It is frustrating to me as I am sure it is to them.
I have always been interested in the depression era. I have wondered how people survived the struggles of that time in history. I have marveled about the intestinal fortitude it took to make it through those times, and at the lifelong impact surviving those times had on individuals. I believe that we are in a similar situation in our country. The hardship is not as widespread, but to the people who are not working, or who have had to drastically reduce their lifestyle the effects are the same. I tend to be a patient person, but I sure wish that the economy would take a turn for the better. I think we would all breathe a sigh of relief.

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010

This is a picture of the morning sky that greeted me on my birthday. It had the most amazing colors and streaks that I have ever seen. I had to just stop and look at it for awhile!


Well, I am officially older today than I have been in a year. To celebrate, we had a family night out on Saturday at Shakespeare's pizza in Columbia. It is just the kind of place that I love; authentic home made food, very casual atmosphere and a welcoming place for small children. On Sunday we had a cooking day. Jessica and I spent the day cooking and freezing foods to have ready made meals for busy evenings. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. We probably prepared 10 meals and 2 desserts in one afternoon. So, today for my birthday, I woke up to the cutest card from Randy. He got me a musical Snoopy card that played the music theme to all the Peanuts shows. Anything having to do with Peanuts is very nostalgic for me. My Mom (whose Birthday I share) loved the Peanuts characters, especially Snoopy. She always got us Peanuts cards for our birthdays. This card was extra special, and Randy wrote a sweet note (I won't get specific on what it said, but it reminded me of a famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem. . . come grow old with me. . . .) I think after 31 years of marriage, he has finally figured out how easy it is to please me. The simpler, the better! I heard from all of my loved ones today and even had the YMCA computer sing me Happy Birthday as I scanned my card in! Flowers were delivered for me from my Grand kids. . . another nice surprise! All in all, it has been a very good day. Reflecting on my life, I become acutely aware of how blessed I am to have such a loving and caring family. Not everyone shares my good fortune in terms of family. Not one day goes by that I don't give thanks for all the blessings in my life.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Friday

So, here we are. Finally the end of the week is here. It was a long, hard week, probably because I struggled with a sore throat and cold symptoms all week, I had two evening obligations and two days of training. I am absolutely opposed to wishing my life away, but I am sure glad it is Friday. It is one of those great fall days where the temperature is warm, the sun is shining, and the air is crisp. I trudged through the grocery store after work and came home to unload and put away food, fold laundry and pay bills. Now I have a few minutes to rest before I need to start supper. It will be a busy weekend I believe. I think we are going to have the children both days this weekend, since Amanda works on Saturday and has a competition for school to attend on Sunday. I hope to spend a lot of the weekend outside with the grandchildren. On Sunday Jessica and I are planning on doing some bulk cooking and freezing so we will have ready made meals for busy nights. This week, on the evenings that I worked late, we had pizza one night and fast food fish the other night. I hate it when we do that. I am about 95% dedicated to eliminating convenience and fast food from our lives. It is that 5% that sneaks up on me when I get too busy to cook. Maybe if we get some frozen meals together, we can kick my dedication up to 99%. (I have to admit that I can't commit to never having another McDonald's french fry.)