Tuesday, April 30, 2013

At the Old Ball Game

We went up to Louisville last weekend to see my parents. The main event of the visit was going to a Louisville Riverbats game with some long-time family friends—the kids' first baseball game and a fun gathering of three generations of friends. I was in utero when my mom met a new friend and her little red-headed toddler daughter, who would become my best friend in late elementary/middle school. It means so much that Lindsay and I can reconnect whenever I'm in Louisville and our kiddos are all getting to know each other.

Jack and Kate get along famously, and I'd be lying if I denied that the words "rehearsal dinner slide show" go through my head whenever I take pictures of these kids together.

Popi and the kids watched the game while most of the rest of us chatted and tried to keep toddlers from eating popcorn off the cement floor.

Said toddlers weren't quite to the age they could play together, exactly. They're only six months apart in age, but it's a big six months, socially! Claire didn't quite reciprocate Emmalea's efforts to hold hands. (I may elaborate on this in Claire's 18 month post tomorrow, but I keep remembering Kate at two and how much development happens between 18 and 24 months!)

Claire was intrigued by the girls in the next box, though! She and Emmalea both tried to climb over the wall to see what was going on over there!

There's a nice carousel and two playgrounds at Louisville's ball park (it's a great one—relatively new and much nicer than either Nashville's or Louisville's older one, where my parents and I frequently went to see the Redbirds play when I was a kid). I had one of my guilty "just enjoy the moment" impulses and didn't take the camera down to the play area, and Lindsay and I were both kicking ourselves; the dads and kids were so cute riding around together on the carousel!

The evening ended with fireworks after the game, and though threatening rain meant the kids didn't get to run the bases after it was over, we still all had a great time. We asked Kate what her favorite part of the game was, and she said, "seeing Jack." :0)

It's always fun going to see Nala and Popi, and reconnecting with one of my favorite cities and some of my favorite people in the world!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

WMW: Lists and Time-Tracking

A friend recently asked me for tips on getting better organized at work. I don't have a lot of super-fancy tricks or tips—my main thing is just being a compulsive list-maker. I have a master checklist for my work to-dos each week, with sub-checkboxes if there are numerous parts under one main task. For example, editing a book, I might make a sub-list of all the chapters, so that I can mark them off as I go. (That's part organization and part motivation—checking off a to-do is a proven endorphin boost, so the more small tasks you can get on that list, the more frequently you get to check one off! I'm like a productivity junkie.)

One "fancier" tool I did tell my friend about, however, was Yast.com, an online time tracker. It has become absolutely essential to my work life. I heard about it in the fall in a Forbes article listing several "must-try" online organizational tools. I tried a couple of them, but Yast is the only one I've found to be a must-use.

I actually started using it when I was full-time at my old job, just to track how long I was spending on certain tasks each day (a very educational exercise, I must say). And now that I'm a freelancer, billing some jobs by the hour, it is even more important to know how long I spend on each job.

You add your projects, grouped under higher categories if you desire, and give a color code to each one. I pixelated the names of my projects above, but you can see the two main categories, "UMPH Work" (my long-time employer for which I still do a good bit of work) and "Other Paid Work." Below that, I also have a "Personal" category for things like blogging, VBS-planning, etc.

To start the time on a certain project, you just click the blue arrow, and it starts running with that project's color on the timeline at the top and showing you the time next to the orange square on the line. On the above screen cap, for example, I'd been working for 24 minutes on my "orange" job. At the end of the line, you can see the day's total for that job (2 hrs, 20 min) and the week's total (6 hours, 40 min).

It's nice to know, at the end of the day or week, how long you've worked and on what. Yast tracks your time by the day and the week, and you can view reports of any time period (SO useful when turning in a time sheet or invoice!)

Whether you're tracking paid work by the client or project, or just want to know how long you're spending each day on various parts of your job or various other activities like email and blogging, I really recommend this tool.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pastor's Wives Uncensored

My friend Kim invited me to participate in her blog series, Pastor's Wives Uncensored. I confess my previous status as a "disgruntled" pastor's wife, and also explain some of my recovery from that cynicism.

Here's a little teaser:

Unlike Kim, I wasn’t turned off at all by the idea of dating a pastor/pastor-to-be. Matt was working in youth ministry when we met on our first night of orientation at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Being a religion major in college, and going on to study religion in grad school, I already had a notion of hoping to marry a man preparing to be either a pastor or professor. My parents told me to hang out next door at the Law School, but I liked spiritual, scholarly types, and knew there was a good chance of getting my MRS at the same place I was getting my MTS (Master of Theological Studies).

Go read the rest on Kim's blog, The Seeds You Sow.

Backyard Weather

It's a little chillier today, but hopefully this weekend will be nice enough for a repeat of the backyard fun we've had the last couple weekends, with the girls playing on their awesome, relatively-new (it was completed last fall just as the weather was turning colder!) swingset, while Matt and I fix up the yard and patio. Summer will be here before we know it!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WMW: Home Office

I got my new Thirty-One organizer hung up, so I thought it might be about time to share my lovely little home office, where most of my WAHMing takes place. (Does that make this a Working Mom Wednesday or Show and Tell? Both, I guess!)

One of the neat things about our house is the little room off of our master bedroom with glass French doors. It makes a great office and craft room, and would make a great nursery as well, if you wanted to keep a baby close for the first year or two. From the time we moved in, it housed an old desk that was my grandfather's. It had been used in a war office during WWII, and he bought it cheap after the war. It's a typewriter desk, with a platform that raises and lowers to hide the typewriter away inside when you're not using it. (My uncle has the typewriter from it.)

So between the desk, Matt's green banker's lamp, my plant and framed degrees, my office has a nice, homey feel. My new organizer helps me get papers, folders, and my ubiquitous legal pads off the floor (since the desk doesn't have a lot of spare surface space). I hung a legal pad over the calendar strap, stuck my file folders in the clear pocket, book catalogs in another pocket, and put some pictures on display. I wrote a favorite quote on the wipe-off board, a line from a Dixie Chicks' song: "If there's ever an answer, it's more love." I really feel like that's a good rule of thumb when you are stuck in any way. (What to do? Well, what's the more loving response?)

The printer just sits on an afghan-covered box, and Matt's old CD tower is getting more use than it has in years, just supporting the stack of review copies I put on top of it. And for a window treatment, I used a string of Tibetan prayer flags our brother and sister-in-law brought us from Mt. Everest.

Then there's my amazing craft area, which my in-laws created for me as a birthday present last year. I previously just had a rolling kitchen cart, but they got a cabinet to sit a yard or so from the cart and a tabletop to lay across them both, more than tripling my work space. My mother-in-law made the skirt that velcros around the table, hiding the storage cart and cabinet underneath. (The space between is the secret spot I stash gifts as I buy them throughout the year.) On Friday afternoons, when I finish work for the week, I close down the computer and move just two feet to my left to do some scrapbooking before the brood comes home!

The side of the room I'm not showing you has all my gift-wrapping supplies, several cheap bookcases full of books and random stuff. In every home we have, there is a room that never fully gets unpacked, where boxes sit for years. In this house, the office was it, though I cleaned most of that up and out when I went freelance and it became my main office, but the bookcases still have a lot of college memorabilia and other stuff we've had since our single days.

Where do you stash all your old junk? Where do you do your work, crafts, or other computering?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What A Week

I meant to write this post yesterday morning, and I wish I had, since it seems silly to write about a hard week in the aftermath of a major tragedy. We have life and limb, and all is well, but last week was nonetheless an experience.

Our teenage guest is wonderful. She is a very sweet girl, and has been great with our girls. Her school is almost twenty miles away from us, so that's a haul twice a day that is sometimes inconvenient, but what really made the week crazy was all the illness.

Monday started out nice and normal as we got our bearings with three young people in the house, but Kate got sent home early from school with a fever, requiring more driving and waiting around than intended, and then Claire had a fever that evening as well. So, we had to keep them both home the next day, and intended to go to the doctor, but then, the next day, neither of them had fevers or seemed sick at all! Matt and I traded off half days so that each of us could get stuff done while our two non-sick monkeys had a "sick day." I did the morning at home, and then went out in the afternoon for lunch with a friend, errands, work, and to pick up Theresa, then dropping her at home and picking up Kate, who was more than well enough to go to gymnastics. I was exhausted by the time we returned home.

Wednesday was pretty normal until a mix-up at pick up time for Theresa, then church, and by the end of Bible study, Kate was complaining of a massive earache. She was wailing the whole way home and went immediately to bed. Claire had a fever again that night, so we knew they needed to go to the doctor the next day.

But then I woke up sick as a dog with a 102.6 fever. The kids felt fine (of course!) and Matt had something he couldn't miss, so we had to call in the reinforcements: Granna and Opa. I went to the clinic and learned it was the flu. I got my meds and spent the rest of the day in bed. Opa went to pick up Theresa while Granna took our girls to meet Daddy at the pediatrician to find they both had ear infections. Daddy spent way longer than he needed to getting the girls' meds, and then after a quick dinner, our whole bio fam was back in bed by 8:00.

Friday, I felt somewhat better after 24 hours in bed, and sent everyone off to school with Matt. Then Claire threw up and he brought her back home. It was just motion sickness, and she was fine for the rest of the day. I, on the other hand, did a little work, but started getting major anxiety over all the kids in our care and the work I was behind on, due to illness.

Saturday, I was a little more better, but Matt started getting sick. At that point, I was definitely about to have a nervous breakdown, not wanting to call on Granna and Opa again, but wondering how a sick Mommy and Daddy with non-sick, rambunctious kids were supposed to get our writing done for a joint deadline we had on Monday! (Didn't I mention that!?!)

Well, we managed to feel well enough and care for our kids and write this manuscript and do church Sunday night and crashed Sunday night praying pleaseohplease let no one be sick this week!

So far, so good.

FYI, Theresa may be with us for another few weeks, but now that I'm not sicker than I've been in years, that seems okay. It's amazing how, when you're sick and anxious, everything seems so dire. Friday night, I was flipping out that Theresa would be with us for two years (she's sweet, but still...), a misbehaving Kate would become an out-of-control teen (that could still happen), and that I would miss deadlines I have in June (the Monday one was a possibility, but we did it!)

I had to remind myself not to take any thought seriously that I have when sick and anxious. That's good advice.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Weekend from Scratch

from scratch
  1. (idiomatic) From the beginning; starting with no advantage or prior preparation.
    There were so many errors in the program that the programmer decided to rewrite it from scratch.
    When the writer finished writing his book, it was stolen and now he has to rewrite it from scratch.
    He had no money and no rich friends, so he had to build his business from scratch.
     [quotations ▼]
  2. (idiomatic) From basic materials or raw ingredients.
    She said she wanted to build a new house from scratch.
    He was out of pancake mix so he had to make the batter from scratch.

We did several things "from scratch" this weekend, mostly akin to that last sample sentence.

Saturday morning, I wanted to make a nice, big breakfast, only to discover we were out of pancake mix. So I googled it (so much for the nine cookbooks in my cupboard) and found a recipe to guide me in making pancakes from scratch. They turned out okay. A little doughy in the middle. Probably my fault. But I did make them in the shapes of my diners' first initials, and a bunny rabbit, and a purse (which started as a mediocre bunny and Kate instructed me to connect the ears with a line of batter).

Sunday morning, we began a rare and joyous day off for my husband. Matt hardly ever takes a Sunday off, and if he does, it's because he or we all are going out of town. So a Sunday off at home is extremely rare. I have an intense fascination with "how the other half lives," i.e. the people who don't go to church on Sundays, or at least don't have to be there for seven or eight hours of the day. So before heading off to worship together as a family at the delightfully late hour of 11:00am, Matt decided he wanted to make muffins for our family breakfast. We had no muffin mix, so the googling began again, and Matt ended up making us some wonderful mixed berry muffins. Because we had frozen berries instead of fresh, their juice dyed the batter purple, so they are quite interesting looking, but very tasty.

The third thing we did from scratch—more akin to the first definition above, "starting with no advantage or prior preparation"—was start caring for a teenager. We got a call Friday night around 9:30, asking if we could take a 16-year-old girl. Because of our bio kids' ages, our social worker advised we not take teenagers (especially boys or kids who've been sexually abused, neither of which applied here), so Matt and I took a few minutes to talk it over before calling the placement worker back. We were both inclined to say yes, but nervous.

I was mainly anxious about how to relate to a teenager. I know how to connect with little kids, but I could barely connect with other teenagers when I was one. I told Matt it felt like someone who had never had kids suddenly getting a toddler—she didn't get to ease into it, getting the hang of things, etc.—only in this case, the child would be judging me if I screwed up in some way! Matt was more anxious about the logistics of getting the girl to school each morning, which would involve leaving the house with our girls and our guest, at 6:00am. (High schools start insanely early. The school day is 7:05 to 2:05. That is ridiculous.)

So this girl, "Theresa," we'll call her, arrived on our doorstep at around 11:00 Friday night, and more or less went straight to bed. Saturday, she met our girls over our made-from-scratch pancakes, and our first impressions from the night before were confirmed, that she is a very sweet girl, kind of shy, sad and anxious about being removed from her home, of course. After going out to get her some things that her sister didn't remember to pack for her, we started our Saturday plans of working on various yard projects while the kids played on the swingset. It was then we discovered just how boring our house is for a teenager. She's spent some time on Facebook, watched some TV, and played with Kate and Claire. She's very good with the girls, reading a lot to Kate, and holding Claire. They both enjoy interacting with her.

I still struggle with what to talk to her about, especially since she's very quiet, but we're doing okay. Matt and his car full of girls got away at 6:05, so we're doing well on that front! In a way, having a teenager is easier than having another toddler, like we did with Faith. To the kids, it's more like having a grown up guest than another child in the house, and she's a lot more low-maintenance than a toddler! But, it's tough in different ways, mainly emotional. Whereas Faith didn't really know what was going on and attached quickly to me, Theresa is understandably shaken and sad. We go to court on Thursday and hopefully she will be able to go live with her older sister at that time.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Show and Tell: T for Tiger

I had something else in mind for this week's Show and Tell, and then I learned last night that Kate's class is doing Show and Tell for the first time today! How appropriate!

Kate knows all her letters already, but her class focuses on a letter every week to practice writing, talking about things that start with that letter, etc. So it makes perfect sense to add a Show and Tell component—bring in anything that starts with that letter!

So with this week's focus being on the letter T, Kate decided to take in her tiger puppet, Bartholomew P. Tiger, who we bought four years ago on Kate's first trip to the zoo. She's memorized his full name and is prepared to tell all her friends about when and where she got him. And, of course, to demonstrate his RAWR!

You just can't hold him without saying, "RAWR!" Claire looked quite alarmed and backed out of the room when Bartholomew rawred at her this morning :0)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Mommy Mysteries

One of my shoes is sitting on the kitchen counter right now. I don't really know how it got there, or where the mate to it is. We have a big problem in our house keeping pairs of shoes together, mainly (I think) because Claire loves "yoos" and has to take off her own shoes the moment she sees someone else's shoes, so she can put theirs on and walk around in them. Somehow in that process, shoes often end up separated from their mates by a matter of rooms or even floors. 

It's one of those many mysteries that strike homes with small children. How do things wind up in such strange places? On the ledge by the stairs, I found a paper plate lion mask, one of my shoes (not the mate to the one on the kitchen counter), and a single baby sock.

The single baby sock shouldn't be such a surprise, since socks (like shoes) often seem to flee from their mates. My advice for new moms out there: choose one style of baby sock, and buy ONLY that one. Save yourself the task of matching them all up, because it is an exercise in frustration. Here are five mateless socks out of one basket of Claire's clean laundry.

I saw a friend's Facebook status the other day listing the items found when cleaning out her minivan: three pairs of underwear, seven (non-matching) gloves and mittens, and two dreidls (though they are not Jewish). Makes me feel a little less strange for having a baby doll belted into our backseat next to a giant snowman (in April). I did not photograph the collection of hair things, jackets, and plastic Easter eggs on the floor. I heard Honda is coming out with a van that has a central vacuum—yes, please!!

I guess it's a misnomer to call all these things "mysteries" when the answer is typically a simple four-letter word: KIDS. They do weird things. And we have to do weird things because of them. Are you ready for this one?

We now keep our band-aids in a locked, fireproof box along with our passports and social security cards.

Why? Because Kate is obsessed with band-aids and will do anything to get them. She'll whine about a teeny bump on her leg in hopes that it will merit a band-aid. If we remind her that band-aids are for things that bleed, she might even go so far as to pick a scab to make it bleed! And if we leave them anywhere she can reach it, she'll raid the box after bedtime and cover her legs in a dozen bandages.

So naturally, I put them out of reach. Or what I thought was out of reach.

One night I came upstairs when she was supposed to be in bed and found this:

 Even with this precarious stack of stools, I can't believe she could reach them in the back of the top shelf!

And that's how our band-aids came to be stored in a top-secret bunker.

What strange things have you discovered in your house lately?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Project Life: February

February was a great month, especially the middle of it, which included Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day, and our first foster child's stay with us. (Ash Wednesday was in there too, which I love, but took no pictures of :0)

We had a decent snow on the first of the month ("decent" by Nashville standards—an inch or two and it was gone by noon) and I did a little half-page about that, opposite a main page showing some Valentine fun, including the girls' valentines, which had heart lollipops stuck through them. I thought they turned out pretty cute!

I like the card of 10 fun things about our February—though I notice now I never added item 10! (I filled it out before the month was quite over.)

I did a whole page about February 9, which was the day of Claire's first haircut and Kate and Matt's time at the Daddy-Daughter Valentine Dance. Opposite that was Faith's first couple days with us, which included Mardi Gras and Valentine's. (I can't show her face or real name online, so that's the reason for the extra hearts on these pics, but I'm glad to have a page about her in the scrapbook. I still miss her :0)

A final page shows our family outing to the Opryland Hotel. Matt and I were so proud of ourselves for handling three kids! (I know to any of you with three or four kids yourself, it's no biggie, but this was a totally new experience for us!)

I saw that Shutterfly is having a big print sale through today (promo code 101PRINTS) so I better order my March photos today. And FYI, I'm linking this post up with The Mom Creative's Project Life Tuesday, so click on over for more inspiration! Have a good one!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Eggstra Easter Pics

A bad pun is about all the April Foolishness you'll find from me :0) but I did want to share a few more photos of our Easter activities.

Despite the rainy, gray Easter Day (that always feels so wrong, a gloomy Easter!) we did have some festive fun interspersed between our many Holy Week services, which ranged from celebratory to somber, as they are designed to do. By yesterday morning, when Matt left early for church and I told Kate the rest of us needed to get ready to go to church too, she said, "Again?!?!"

Yep, that's Holy Week for a pastor's family!

Before I forget, there are just a few more hours to place an order on my virtual Thirty-One party, so if you still want to check out some great bags and home organization, please do! Here's the link. I'm going to get this cool hanging organizer for my home office :0)

Our first egg hunt was the day before Palm Sunday, when we went to Breakfast with the Easter Bunny with Granna and Opa. Last year, Kate would not go near the Easter Bunny and Claire was fine. This year, totally reversed. Kate was happy to hug the bunny whenever he came near! We enjoyed a nice breakfast and then the girls both gathered eggs like pros.

(People always misspell our last name.)

Thanks for a fun time, Granna and Opa!
On Holy Saturday was our church egg hunt, and again Kate was buds with the Easter Bunny, who, like last year, was actually her daddy. That familiarity did not help Claire, though, who was still pretty wary. 

We dyed some eggs Saturday afternoon (before Mommy and Daddy went on a date to see SNL's Seth Meyers doing stand-up—woo hoo!)

Nala and Popi babysat, since they were in town for Easter. We enjoyed a nice lunch at home after church, before heading back to church for The Road. (I'll echo Kate there, "Again?!?!")

We had just a little bit of time between lunch and evening church to relax, so while Daddy took a quick nap, the girls had a jumping-on-the-bed party! What better way to express the joy of Alleluia when you're a little kid? :0) 


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