Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Our three little snowflakes decorating our front yard!
Well, today is the last day of 2012.

This has been a year of ups and downs and, honestly, as I read back through my blog this year, I'm not very happy with where this year has taken me.  Instead of an extensive recap (I'm still recovering from pneumonia and my stamina is short today), here's a run down of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good
* Teaching Jazzercise
* My new class that I taught this fall
* Loving my career as a university professor
* John getting Endorsed for Candidacy for Ordination (BIG yay!)
* Getting a lot done toward my dissertation
* The children finishing first grade, starting second grade - we love their school and feel so very blessed to have the option to send them there!
* A free piano and inexpensive piano lessons for the children
* Loosing 3 clothes sizes (I'm not going to mention pounds :)  )
* The children's ability to read improving so much
* Ditto for handwriting
* Being able to take our Anniversary retreat at the last minute
* Our CSA involvement
* Our summer camping trip
* Bonfires in the back yard
* Weekly Date Nights for John and me
* Really instituting a Family Night each week
* All the preaching, teaching and worshiping that we did with John's seminary journey this year
* Meeting new friends
* Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University
* The amazing ways God has blessed us through and with our faith family and our many friends

The Bad
* Pneumonia for me - not once but twice (though it probably just never left the first time)
* Having a really crazy summer fall
* Both kids getting step throat
* Finding out the hard way that our daughter is allergic to Penicillin
* Everyone getting a huge virus at the same time - right before Christmas too
* My Dad having to have emergency cancer surgery
* A very dear friends spending most of her fall in the hospital with very severe bronchitis
* The conditions from John's Endorsement (this is a really long story)
* My being sick for all of October, November and December and part of March, July and August too
* Missing the many dear friends that have gone to their heavenly home this year
* Not finishing my dissertation this fall
* Realizing how far we really have to go to reach our financial goals
* The icky stuff that keeps going on at our home congregation

The Ugly
This one isn't a list, it's a thought process and a finding out and a reflection - or all of the above.
I've realized that I have a really poor attitude - the Lord has blessed us so very much and I keep seeing the negative.  I have come a long way from where I was (I used to be just terrible) but I discovered that I've been slipping back into old habits, especially when I am not feeling well and with the pneumonia I've had for the last 3 months.

My children aren't old enough yet to realize that Mom can't do things because she's sick, not because she doesn't want to.  The hurt in their eyes when I have to go lay down rather than play or we have to delay doing something we had planned because I'm just to sick to do it, breaks my heart.  I know that some day they will be able to understand but, they just aren't old enough yet.  I often feel like I'm a huge burden on John and that he has to pick up the slack so much in ways that I don't want him to.  I get very frustrated when I can't meet the obligations I set for myself and often feel like a terrible failure because of this.

In the midst of all this God has blessed us so abundantly - ample finances (even though we're not where we want to be)  and abundant material possessions when so many others are struggling just to pay basic bills, careers we both love, the health of our children, amazing family and friends and faith communities, and so much in the way of opportunities.  I have chosen to focus on the negative rather than all of this bounty.

I realized particularly over the last few weeks that I have chosen to lean on my family and friends and the ability of my own very limited physical body rather than on the Lord.  It is only the Lord that can provide the peace and security that I am looking for and if this is what this whole journey has been for (for me to learn this), I welcome it with open arms.

What about 2013?
Come back tomorrow, for a look at what I'm hoping for in 2013.  I'm definitely imperfect and so 2013 will be imperfect, but I have a short "Hope List" to share and what I'm planning to do make those things move from hope to reality.

Have a blessed and safe New Year's Eve!

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 30 and Pantry Challenge!

Birthday Dinner for My John - Crab Legs!

Can you believe 2012 is almost done?  I'm not sure I'm ready but the last half of the year has been a bear and I'm definitely ready for a fresh start!

One of the things that we're doing for January is an eat from the Pantry Challenge.  We haven't done a ton of grocery shopping the last few weeks - picked up some milk here and there and only did one "real" shopping trip between Thanksgiving and now but for some reason, our freezers are packed to the gills (John put the stew meat I bought Saturday in our upstairs freezer - the one attached to the fridge - and said "Don't open that! Everything will fall out!") and so is our pantry and our kitchen cabinets.  They're also a mess and need to cleaned out. 
So for January, our grocery/toiletry/paper product budget for the month is $50. 
Yep, you read that right - $50.  I already put together a menu for January using what we have and we have veggies, meat/protein and starches basically covered so the only things we'll need to get are fruit and milk and anything that we see that's a really good deal!  We've done it before and we can definitely do it again!

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, December 30:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Breakfast Tacos, Apples, Blueberries
   Snack:  At the Movies (a friend gave us 4 passes to see Rise of the Guardians, so we bought
   Dinner:  Scalloped Potatoes and Ham, Pineapple-Melon-Blueberry Salad

Monday, December 31:
   Breakfast:  Oatmeal with Blueberries and Almonds
   Lunch:  Hot Buttered Noodles with Parmesan Cheese, Oranges
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner:  Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks.
   Desert:  Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices and Christmas Cookies

Tuesday, January 1, New Year's Day:
   Brunch:  Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges, Baked Eggs
   Snack: Yogurt Parfaits
   Dinner:  Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Tossed Salad, Pineapple-Melon-Blueberry Salad

Wednesday, January 2:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Almonds
   Lunch: Apple Slices with Peanut Butter, Yogurt, Carrots or Tomatoes, Pretzels, Cookie
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner:  Turkey Pot Pie, Tossed Salad, Pineapple-Blueberry-Apple Salad

Thursday, January 3, John's Birthday:
   Breakfast: Pancakes with Blueberries
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Dinner: Crab Legs, Steamed Carrots, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges
   Desert: Birthday Cake

Friday, January 4:
   Breakfast: Tropical Smoothies, Toast
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup and Apple Slices for the Children, Date Night Out for the Adults

Saturday, January 5:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Orange Wedges
   Lunch: Tuna Wrap Sandwiches, Carrots and Celery, Apple Slices
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Chicken-Wild Rice Soup, Baking Powder Biscuits, Apple-Banana-Orange Salad

A couple of quick notes:
* Eating out is a separate part of our budget and we usually only eat out once a month and then usually it's just John and I.  We typically spend about $20, though we've also definitely spent less, for dinner for two, either using a coupon or going to a local place that has great soup and sandwich combos at a terrific price. 
*The crab legs are what John typically asks for as his birthday present - good, fresh seafood is hard to find here in the mid-west so these come from our gift budget rather than our food budget.  They're a splurge but that's a great birthday treat once a year and we usually have enough crab left over to make crab cakes later in the year too.

For more information on the what a "pantry challenge" is, visit Jessica at Good (Cheap) Eats.
For more menus visit Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie!.

And Happy New Year!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

From our house to yours....



Monday, December 10, 2012

Goals - Week of December 9, 2012

Things still continue to amaze me.

My Dad ended back in the hospital on Friday. His blood pressure was 86/60.  Yikes!  Turns out his medication is way off and so they took him off it and are letting him re-adjust.  Still need to solve that internal bleeding problem, but that part is stable and shouldn't change as long as he doesn't try to do too much.  He's tired, so reading, watching TV and a little bit of writing are his big activities right now. 

We're nearing the end of the semester for me. WHEW!  I'm sure ready for a break.  We have about a week and a half of chaos left and then we're done. Whoot.  Except for grading but everything but a final term paper will be done at that time.  Then I can relax and spend some time enjoying my family and finally get well again! At least that's the plan!

 Here's how I did last week:

Be Prepared for each class period
Update class web pages
Take notes from the book I borrowed from a colleague 

Meet with my adviser  We chatted on the phone and will meet this week instead.
Move two books from school to work Didn't get over to school this week to move the books.
Write 2-5 pages  

Teach 4 classes 
Submit my November paperwork
Learn 2 new routines I learned one.

My Family:
Piano x2
Dance x4
Family Night: Dinner out with extended family after the Christmas program on Saturday evening 
Christmas Program Practice x2 
Visit with Extended Family this week 
Date Night: At home one night during the week  Totally missed this do to all the other stuff.

Our Home:
Guest room ready for company
Find my parents Christmas Cards (long story) I keep thinking these grew legs and hid themselves!
Tidy the office space (i.e Put a few things back where they belong) 
Bake Sugar Cookies for the Program 
Finish Making gifts for the Sunday School Teachers
Put out the Nativity
Go through Christmas Decorations

Children's Christmas Program (see above)
Write our Compassion Child 
Make Daily devotional times a priority 

Call for a follow-up doctor's appointment  Did this but can't get in until January.
Send back the top I ordered that didn't fit 
Print off Christmas letters

In spite of the added chaos, it was a pretty good week productivity speaking!

Here's what's on tap for this week:

Writing Final Exams
Last Couple of Classes to teach
Final Update of Web Pages

Meet with my Adviser
Last data analysis redo
Move 4 books from school to work

Teach 4 classes
Learn 2 new routines

Piano x2
Dance x4
Date Night Out with John (Free childcare at church this week!)
Family Night: Decorating our Christmas Tree
Talk to my folks daily to keep up with my Dad's health progress
Finish Making Teacher Gifts with the Children

Clean out for 30 minutes each day Monday-Thursday
Wrap all the presents we have to wrap
All the ironing
Finish decorating the living room
Hang the outdoor wreaths
Find my parent's Christmas cards!

Make Daily Devotions a Priority
Work on Memory work with the children
Choir Practice x 1

Hair Cut
Foot Scrub

 What are you up to this week?  Visit Money Saving Mom to share and be inspired!

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 9, 2012

We've got a busy week this week and we're eating a lot of chicken.  I went through the freezer and basically we have chicken and a little bit of pork plus a few other rather random things for meat right now.  That means eat chicken!   I'm planning on buying a ham this week since they're on sale for 89cents/lb and we'll see what else we can get into our freezer over the next couple of weeks.  I'm planning an eat from the pantry and freezer month for January so we'll be able to empty out and start over a bit again!

Here's what we're eating this week:

  Breakfast:  Apples with Peanut Butter, Blackberry Scones
  Lunch: Leftovers
  Snack: Christmas Cookies and Lefse
  Dinner:  Lasagna, Tossed Salad, Bread Sticks

  Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
  Lunch:  Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
  Snack: Yogurt
  Dinner:  Ham and Cheese Crepes, Tossed Salad, Apple-Pineapple-Banana Salad

  Breakfast:  Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
  Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner:  Whole Roasted Chicken, Baked Butternut Squash, Apple-Pear-Pineapple Salad

  Breakfast:  Raisin and Walnut Oatmeal
  Lunch:  Apples with Peanut Butter, Carrots or Tomatoes, Yogurt, Cookie
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner:  Venison Stew in the Crock Pot, Baking Powder Biscuits, Orange Wedges

  Breakfast:  Chai Spiced Oatmeal
  Lunch:  Carrots and Celery with Dressing, Yogurt, Sliced Pears, Cookie
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, Tossed Salad, Apple and Pear Slices

  Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
  Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
  Snack: Yogurt
  Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup and Apples for Children, Out for Adults

  Breakfast:  Oatmeal Muffins with Bananas
  Lunch: Vegetable Soup, Tossed Salad, Orange Wedges
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner:  Homemade Pizza and Bread Sticks, Fruit

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In the Refiner's Fire - Sometimes I'm Just Amazed

Sometimes I'm just amazed at how God manages to get our attention.

Sunday evening I got a call from my Mom. 

They had gone out to brunch after church with some friends after church.  When Dad got up to pay the bill, he passed out - and ended up going to the hospital.

It turns out he is bleeding internally (quite a bit) and they don't really know why.  It's not the usual culprits, so he has to have tests, tests and more tests.

Thankfully he's home now - supposedly resting and taking it easy - but he has to go in daily to monitor his blood pressure and blood volume.  After 3 days in the hospital, he's very thankful to be home.  We're very grateful that his heart and brain "look fabulous for someone 80 years old" and in the case of his brain, better than 92% of most Americans as the doctor put it (where he pulled that statistic from, I have no idea).  We just have to find the cause of the bleeding.

On top of that both the kids and I had the flu over the weekend. And we have family coming for the weekend and the kids' Christmas program.  The guest room has a giant pile of 'stuff' waiting to be put away elsewhere in it - and that's where they're supposed to sleep. 

When I came in to work on Monday I had no idea if I'd need to fly across the country to be with my Dad. My department chair and the other faculty teaching the same class I am have been great.  And I spent Monday and Tuesday getting all my ducks in a row so anyone else in the department could walk in and teach my classes for me. 

All of a sudden all the little things - the squabbles at church, the dust on the piano, the 5lbs I gained over Thanksgiving (when I had pneumonia and couldn't work out), the fact that our piano needs to be tuned again and that I can't get a follow-up appointment with the doctor about my pneumonia until January don't matter at all.

The things that are important became crystal clear (in no particular order here):
- Being with my Dad through this
- Praying for him and his care team
- Having space for my family to sleep this weekend - not necessarily having everything 'perfect' (they truly don't care and understand perfectly that I've been busy with more important stuff)
- Comforting my children in their concern about Grandpa
- Keeping the children's routine as normal as possible
- Spending time in the Word and with the Lord

Everything else is icing on the cake.

Sometimes I wonder how dense am I that God needs to use something this big to shuttle me into the right priorities.

And I'm amazed that He is willing to do that for my own good.
And that my attention and time is so important to Him.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Goals Week of December 2, 2012

Well, I hope everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving and that everyone was able to spend some time relaxing.

We did.  And it was fantastic.  We got to spend a lot of time with family and now I'm still slowly on the mend from pneumonia, the sinus infection and a bout of the flu that ran through our house after all of that!  Yikes. I think in terms of sickness I'm more than ready for 2012 to be done!

I actually got almost everything on my to-do list from the week of November 11th done - though it took two weeks rather than one.  I'm perfectly okay with that.

Here's what I'm hoping for this week:

Be prepared for class each class period
Update class web pages
Take notes from a book I borrowed from a colleague and return the book

Meet with my adviser
Move 2 books from school to work
Write 2-5 pages.

Teach 4 classes
Submit my November paperwork
Learn 2 new routines

My Family:
Piano x2
Dance x 4
Family Night:  Dinner out with extended family after Christmas Program on Saturday Evening
Christmas Program Practice x 2
Visit from Extended Family this week
Date Night: At home one night during the week

Our Home:
Guest room ready for company
Find my parents Christmas cards (long story)
Tidy the office space (i.e. Put a few things back where they  belong)
Bake Sugar Cookies for the Program
Finish making gifts for Sunday School Teachers
Put out the Nativity
Go through Christmas Decorations

Children's Christmas Program (see above)
Write Our Compassion Child
Make daily devotional times a priority

Call for a follow-up doctor's appointment
Send back a top that I ordered that didn't fit
Print off Christmas letters

What are you up to this week?  Visit Money Saving Mom to share.

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 2, 2012

Our salmon dinner the other night - with couscous, salad, and pears. Yum!
We're into warm-weather food here this week!  It doesn't seem like true winter here yet.  We're warmer than normal (low 40s F) with no snow.  Instead, we have a threat of freezing rain and even had a "freezing fog" (!!!) advisory today.  YUCK!   At least I can stay inside where it's nice and warm most of the time and warm my tummy with nice warm things like soup and spaghetti and stew.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, December 2:
  Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
  Lunch: Tomato Soup and Turkey Sandwiches, Cut Apples and Pears
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Apple-Banana-Grape Salad

Monday, December 3:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Almonds and Cinnamon
  Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
  Snack: Cheese Stick and Apple
  Dinner: Cracker Baked Chicken, Rice, Tossed Salad, Grape-Apple-Pineapple Salad

Tuesday, December 4:
  Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
  Lunch: Crackers and Cheese, Carrots, Applesauce, Cookie
  Snack: Ginger Cookies
  Dinner: Salmon, Couscous, Tossed Salad, Pineapple-Watermelon-Banana Salad

Wednesday, December 5:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
  Lunch: PB&J, Applesauce, Carrots, Cookie
  Snack: Cheese Stick and Apple
  Dinner: Soft Shell Bean Tacos, Pineapple-Watermelon-Mandarin Orange Salad

Thursday, December 6:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Raisins and Almonds
  Lunch: Apples with Peanut Butter, Tomatoes, Crackers, Cookie
  Snack: Ginger Cookies
   Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Watermelon

Friday, December 7:
  Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
  Lunch: Hot for Children, Leftovers for Adults
  Snack: Cheese Stick and Apple
  Dinner: Calzones, Tossed Salad, Pineapple-Apple-Orange Salad

Saturday, December 8:
  Breakfast:  Scrambled Eggs, Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas and Oranges
  Lunch: Ham, Cheese, and Mushroom Crepes, Tossed Salad, Sliced Apples and Pears
  Snack: Popcorn and Ginger Cookies
  Dinner: Out with Extended Family After Our Christmas Program

What are you eating this week? Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Getting Ready for Christmas

We are into the season of Advent here at our house - the season of waiting and preparing for the arrival of our Lord and Savoir. 

I love this time of year - all the twinkling lights, the smell of evergreen and the excitement that's in the air.  Baking is a big deal in our family and we take part, making favorites like sugar and ginger cookies as well as traditional family fare of krumkaka and lefse (we skip the lutefisk, thank you very much!).

We're slowly decorating here.

Right now we have the Advent Wreath up with the four purple and one white candle.

The Nativity is waiting in it's box to be taken out later this week.

The pine cones and bulbs and soft felt Christmas ornaments from my childhood are waiting to be added to the china cabinet, also later this week (hopefully).

The presents are starting to be made and some are even finished!  A few even are wrapped!

Our advent wreath from last year - surrounded by cookies for a Christmas Day party! Isn't it lovely?
 Truly, getting ready for Christmas is one of my favorite things!