Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Hate Mornings!

Actually, that is a misleading title for this brief post. I don't hate all mornings. In fact I don't hate most mornings. I do hate this morning. Why?

One very tempting recipe for old-fashioned, slow-cooker, baked beans
Another very tempting recipe for Boston brown bread, complete with whole wheat flour and lots of raisins
Down-in-the-depths digestive misery
Until 2 a.m.
And again at 4 a.m.
And again at 7 a.m.
And again at 8 a.m.

'Nuff said? I think so.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ups and Downs

On Tuesday we will have been here in Orlando for 3 weeks. The house is just about unpacked and set up, and the hype is wearing off. These weeks have been full of ups and downs. I think I'm feeling the downs a bit more than I usually would because I am plain worn out. So much has happened in the last few months.


Pepper and Snapper both got into the public school we wanted! We love Pepper's teacher, and both kids are really liking school. We found out that since Pepper got the last Pre-K spot, 17 more children have joined the waiting list! Thank you, God, for giving that last spot to our son!


Due to paperwork issues and differences between Florida policy and Arkansas policy, Snapper is not in the Gifted and Talented homeroom. However, the school psychologist has had a chance to review Snapper's records, and we should hear this week if a transfer to the GT class will happen in September. We are praying it does, as we believe the schoolwork challenge is in Snapper's best interest.


We found all the documents necessary for getting our Florida driver licenses and for getting the blue van registered in Florida.


Getting the title transferred and the registration changed to Florida registration cost us $450...Cringe! And then the air conditioner went out on that van. Cost to repair: $1400. Okay, that is SO not happening! I don't think the van is even worth that much. This is a miserable place to be without a/c. We haven't gotten the registration done on the other van yet. We had to send away for a replacement title first.


We have made some new friends! There are two couples from the church we are attending who have adopted us. We also really like a family on our street. They came over for dinner last night and we had a blast with them!


While two of the three families have boys Pepper's age, Snapper doesn't have any girlfriends her age yet. She is praying that God would bring her a special girlfriend her age.


We have found a wonderful church! The people are genuine, welcoming, and kind. The teaching is rich and solid. The worship is meaningful and passionate. I think we may end up calling this church our home...without even having to try any other churches. I know some of you have been praying about this specific issue for us. Thank you!!!


It takes 20 minutes to drive to the church on Sunday morning, and 30 minutes during the week (traffic). We got spoiled while we were in Arkansas--our church was three minutes from our house.


We are getting a lot of great house for our rent money.


Groceries will cost me easily $150 per month more than they did in Arkansas. Add in an average of $60 per month for tolls--two main roads here are toll roads--and I my budget is suffering. I think we will have to increase our support goal, which will set us back a few weeks on our support raising.


There are three swim teams within 20 minutes of our house.


The one we thought was "IT" for Snapper has turned out to be "NOT!" One really nice coach was negated by one very arrogant coach who thinks (and verbalizes) that his way is the only way. When we completed our week trial, I told the coach we were not sure his team was a fit for Snapper. It wasn't challenging enough for her. In fact, it was well below her level. They were unwilling to move her to the next level because of her age. We decided to check out other teams, in order to make sure we found the best fit for our daughter. He responded with a very mean, biting email. Needless to say, another team will have to be a fit for Snapper, because we won't be going back to the first one. This has thrown me off a bit.


We really like it here! We are biking the kids to and from school every day, and in the first week, I managed to lose 5 pounds! Woot Woot!

After lots of trial and error, I feel like I am finally able to find my way around our part of town without using GPS. The daily afternoon thunderstorms are spectacular, and we haven't had to water our lawn once. It doesn't feel like home yet, but we are well on our way. I think the "ups" are about to outnumber the "downs."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All In A Day's Work

In case you haven't noticed, I love being a mommy. I adore the two kiddos who make me a mommy. But it is really hard work, as if you didn't already know that. Just for fun, I figured I would write a post about what a typical day looks like for this mommy. Once again, this post is more for me (and posterity) than it is for you. But if you enjoy reading it, that's great too.

6:45 a.m.- The alarm rings. Matt always has to be the second alarm for me, because I just don't naturally do mornings.
7:00 a.m.- The feet must be on the floor or I will be playing catch-up all day. Wash my face, brush my teeth, throw on some workout clothes, and put my hair up.
7:10 a.m.- Wake up the kids, who also do not like getting up. I have found that putting on the cd of VBS music from this summer helps chase away the morning grumps that wake up with the kids. Make sure that Snapper's clothes don't clash horribly (she has absolutely no fashion sense), and play underwear police with Pepper, who never remembers to put on clean undies in the morning.
7:20 a.m.- Join Matt at the breakfast table with the kiddos. Matt is Mr. Breakfast in our house, and he always does a great job. I can't eat that early, but I sit with the kids to make sure they eat enough.
7:30-7:50 a.m.- Family devotions. Matt leads, I participate and add input from time to time.
7:55 a.m.- Wash faces, brush teeth, and get everyone out the door.
8:00 a.m.- Bike the kids to school. If we go the long way--through the neighborhood and out the front gate of our subdivision--it takes about 10 minutes to bike to the school. The shortcut--down the back cul-de-sac and through the opening in the hedge--is about a 5-minute ride.
8:10 a.m.- Sign Pepper in at preschool, and make sure Snapper gets to her table in the cafeteria where her class waits for their teacher to come get them.
8:25 a.m.- Arrive home, wash my face again, eat breakfast, and discuss the day with Matt. He is working from home right now, and we work together as much as possible. I am spoiled!
8:45-11:00 a.m.- Work. For me this means blogging, writing thank-you notes to supporters, writing our bimonthly newsletter, helping Matt with whatever projects he is working on, etc. This time always flies by.
11:00 a.m.- Bike with Matt to the school to pick up Pepper.
11:20 a.m.- Arrive back at home. Prepare lunch for Pepper, and talk with him about his school day.
11:30 a.m.- Eat lunch with Matt and Pepper. Debrief with Matt and plan the afternoon's activities.
11:45 a.m.-2:35 p.m.- Keep Pepper occupied and do what needs to be done around the house. Today this meant letting Pepper watch a movie upstairs while I worked with Matt on getting our newsletter addressed and stuffed into envelopes. During this time on other days, I do laundry, go grocery shopping, clean bathrooms, clean floors (the whole downstairs of this house is either Pergo or tile), do other housework, pay bills, among others.
2:35 p.m.- Bike to the school with Matt and Pepper to pick up Snapper. Why all the biking? Because our summer road trip is responsible for adding 15 pounds to the 45 pounds I already needed to lose. With traffic, the drive takes only about 2 minutes less than biking it. Having periodic exercise throughout my day has been really good for me.
2:55 p.m.- Arrive home. Fix snacks for the kids while Snapper unloads her backpack and tells me about her day. Prep dinner while Snapper does her homework. Help her when she needs help.
4:00 p.m.- Leave to take Snapper to swim team. We go backs streets on the way there to avoid the tolls. It takes about 30 minutes when we go the back roads. This is my special time each day with my girl, as Pepper stays home with Matt.
4:45-5:30 p.m.- Watch Snapper's practice. This is my down time. I sit in the shade and do nothing. It is kind of like recharging my batteries, and I look forward to that 45 minutes. Snapper swims Monday-Friday.
5:35-6:00 p.m.- Drive home. Because of commute traffic on surface streets, we take the toll road home. It usually takes 20-25 minutes.
6:10 p.m.- Take care of final dinner preparation while Snapper showers. During the week, I make a lot of crock pot meals and casseroles that can be cooking while we're at swim team.
6:30 p.m.- Family dinner.
7:00-8:00 p.m.- Hang out with the family. Sometimes we read books. Right now I'm reading "Heidi" to the kids. I don't know how much Pepper is absorbing, but Snapper is loving it. Other nights the kids just want to play together upstairs. It is our relax time together.
8:00 p.m.- Family prayers and bedtime for the kiddos.
8:15 p.m.- Matt usually checks email and Facebook during this time while I finish kitchen clean-up and pack lunches and snacks for the next day.
8:30-9:30 p.m.- And here is the only unscheduled block in my day. This week I have been totally beat and have done just about nothing but sit in a chair and play Sudoku.
9:30-10:00 p.m.- Shower and get into bed. I read my Bible and journal every night before I go to sleep. It helps me calm my mind and sleep peacefully. I usually read and journal for 15-20 minutes, but some nights I go a little longer.
10:00ish- Lights out. I have always been a night owl, but with both kids in school and working part-time and cleaning a 2800 square foot house, I am dead by 10:00. I think 4-5 miles of biking each day helps wear me out, too.

There! Ten years from now I will probably look back and laugh at how simple life was in 2010.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day!

A new school year.
Fresh school supplies.
Two eager minds, ready to learn.
New teachers.
New friends.
New school.
And a new experience for Mommy.

This morning I dropped both of my kiddos off at school. Pepper went to Mother's Day Out one morning each week last year. But this year he is in an official Pre-K program, from 8:10-11:10 every day. Right now I am sitting in my very quiet house, wondering how in the world it is that my kids are old enough to both be in school. Snapper is a 3rd grader, for crying out loud! It feels like yesterday that she was so cute and little, starting kindergarten in Little Rock. Now she is big, independent, and a great student. When we arrived in front of her classroom this morning, she saw a little girl who looked afraid. Even though Snapper is a new student at the school and has every reason to feel timid herself, she reached out, took the little girl's hand, and offered to be her friend. When we left to go home, Snapper and her new friend were giggling together on their bench. Are my eyes a bit moist? So proud of my girl!

Here is our morning in photos, because we all love photos.

French toast on our red You Are Special Today plates. Devotions with Daddy. Today's topic: God is a personal spirit. You can know Him and He wants to know you. We are using the Family Adventures curriculum, which is produced by our new ministry, Discover God 4 Kids. Shameless plug, here! If you want to check it out, you can get it for free

First day of Pre-K for Pepper.

4 years old...where did the time go?

First day of 3rd grade

Sweet and sassy

7 years old, but turning 8 in 19 days!

Big kids, going to school together this year for the first time! Pepper is just a little bit excited to be going to Snapper's school.

They looked back here because I told them to. But when we dropped them off, there was no looking back, no tears--just enthusiasm for school. I hope it always stays this way.

Pepper's class...a pirate theme!

Would you just take your camera and leave, Mom? I'm a big boy now.

Snapper's teacher wasn't in her classroom, so our photos are from outside.

This Mommy is already counting down the hours until they come home. I can't wait to hear about how their first day went! Did they make any friends? How were their teachers? What did they learn? How is this school different from our schools in Arkansas?

Daddy and I will pick up Pepper at 11:10 and take him out to lunch. Then we are heading to the bike store to get a tube for the tire of the new bike Matt got for a steal on Walmart clearance. Also on the shopping list is small bike to attach to the back of Matt's bike for Pepper to ride so we can go on family bike rides. Pepper is still timid on his bike, and hasn't figured out how to pedal hard without turning the handlebars.  

We'll pick up Snapper at 2:45 and come home for a snack--ice cold watermelon--and homework before heading back out to swim team. And thus begins our schedule for the school year. I think it is going to be a good one!

How was the First Day for your kids (if you have kids)?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Settling In

We have now been in Orlando for 10 days. Things are really coming together. We have been diligent in our unpacking, and it is almost done. Last night I shed a few tears of homesickness for Little Rock, but then I fell asleep. Thankfully, things always look brighter in the morning. There is so much to be thankful for!

1. Our neighborhood. Our community is gated, so we have very little traffic. I am totally comfortable with letting the kids ride their bikes out front, even when I am not outside. There are sidewalks on both sides of the street, and we are at the very back of the community. There are only 100 houses inside the gates, which adds to the quiet. Our neighbors are really nice. We have already been invited to swim at two homes. Another family shows a family-friendly movie on their garage door every other week. They invited us to come the next time they do that. The 15-year-old boy across the street came over and edged our lawn for us, and fixed our leaf blower. Every evening, lots of people walk their dogs. Everyone seems to stop and visit with each other, and when we are outside, everyone who walks by says hi and smiles. On school days, there are a few dads who walk all the neighborhood kids down to school. Matt will be joining that group on Monday when school starts. There is such a great feeling of community, and I am loving it!

2. Our friends. Some friends of ours from Little Rock--Mike and his son Jake--came and helped us move in. They were here all day unloading the truck and setting up furniture. That same day, another family showed up at our front door with dinner. They are friends of our landlord, and they came to welcome us. The next day they brought us another meal. The day following that, they had the kids and me over to swim. As if that wasn't generous enough, the fourth day they came over and spent 5 hours helping me unpack and move furniture. Their kids are 14, 11, 10, and 8. They are all very sweet and helpful, a delight to have around. Snapper and Pepper love them, too. We went to church with them on Sunday, and to their small group both Tuesdays we have been here. It is so nice to have friends.

3. Our community. Everything we need is within 10 minutes of our house. YMCA, Super Target, Super Walmart, Publix, Winn Dixie, a produce market, library, numerous parks, Panera, Starbucks, Walgreens, even 3 urgent care facilities! Convenience is a very nice thing, I must say! Oh, and there is a wonderful Thai restaurant as well. Drooling here just thinking about it!

4. The beach! It is only 30 miles to Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral! We went there on Wednesday to celebrate our arrival in Florida. The water was warm, the waves large, but gentle. Matt taught Snapper how to navigate the waves, and she took to the water fearlessly, even diving through the breakers. Pepper had to do what Snapper and Daddy were doing, so we took him out in the waves, too. Unlike the California beaches, there were no rip currents to worry about, and the waves took much longer to break. Because the water was so warm, Pepper loved being out in the waves. His goggles protected his eyes from the salt water, and he was happy as a clam to be out in it. After 3 hours, we had to leave because we were getting too warm in the mid-day sun. The downside to this part of the country is that there are no cool sea breezes to cut the heat. As usual, I took my camera. 

How amazing is this! We saw the dolphins' dorsal fins poking out of the water, doing their arching, gliding thing, so I got out the camera. I had it to my eye and pointed at where I had last seen the fins when this happened! Two dolphins jumping out of the water! I am still totally tickled that I got this shot! It was a sweet gift from God for me, I believe.

Now entering my office are two children, all freshened up and ready to go. We need to go buy Pepper's school supplies, and get first day gifts for their teachers. They are hanging on me and pestering me to go. They were angels yesterday through, even through 3 hours at the DMV and 1 1/2 hours at the insurance office. I feel I ought not to keep them waiting today. I think maybe ice cream or a slurpie is in order, too.  TTFN!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Hi my friends! I'm back online. We have been in Florida for 8 days now, and we just got internet today...finally! So much has happened in the last 2 weeks. As you may remember, I came down here in June to find a place for us to live. I found a lovely townhouse in a great neighborhood and good school district. We signed a lease on it, and we were thrilled with the great deal. However, if something seems too good to be true, there's a good chance it is too good to be true.

On July 29th we were driving between Spokane and our hotel in Montana. Matt had wired our August rent to our landlord as agreed. But that day we received an email from her asking us for the rest of the deposit. Wait...what "rest of the deposit?" She wanted $775 more. We looked back at our lease, which said nothing about there being more deposit than what we had paid. We emailed back and asked for an explanation. On July 31st she replied that she wanted $775 plus a $150 pet deposit. Back in June when I signed the paperwork, I asked and was told multiple times that the deposit amount was correct and that there was no pet deposit. Naturally, Matt and I freaked out a bit that all of a sudden, our landlord wanted an additional $925 and she wanted it now. Because made of money we are...

Then came a strange "coincidence." A friend of ours who is a missionary in Italy has a home in Orlando. They posted on Facebook that their renter had moved out and the next person who was supposed to rent the house had fallen through. Their house was sitting vacant, and they needed someone to rent it immediately, because they were at risk of losing the home if they couldn't get it rented.

To make a long story short, we went and saw the house, and instantly fell in love with it. Because we were so uneasy at the thought of renting a place from a landlord who tries to change the lease terms, we decided to back out of our lease on the townhouse. We decided not to try to get any of our money back, because our backing out left the townhouse empty for the month of August. Our friend didn't need a deposit from us, so it worked out perfectly. Our prorated August rent for the house worked out to be the same amount the townhouse landlord wanted for the balance of our deposit.

So, the house!
2800 square feet
4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms...and the bedrooms are HUGE!
Master bedroom downstairs
Big kitchen with appliances
Living room/dining room combo
Downstairs office and laundry room
Upstairs family room and craft room
Corner lot, on the corner of 2 cul-de-sacs
Gated community
Incredible school district
Convenient to just about everything
And the price? Not much more than we would have paid for the townhouse!
And we are meeting a need for a friend.
And all the colors in the house (except for one room) match our furniture and decor colors!

Here are some pictures for you.

Living room


Master bedroom

Office (in process, as you can see)

Upstairs family room

Guest room (don't worry, we're painting over the turquoise)

Pepper's room

Snapper's room

We are so very thankful to God for providing this great home for us. We have a wonderful work space for the days Matt works at home. And we have a big guest room...so come visit! We are 45 minutes from the Atlantic beaches, 1 hour and 15 minutes from the Gulf beaches, and 40 minutes from Disney! How very convenient! So now we are home. Home sweet home in Florida!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

phone post

So I am sitting in the car waiting to meet my friend Stephanie at church to drop stuff off and pick stuff up. This is the first post I have done on my new Android. A little bit slow, but doable. We made it safely back to Little Rock last night. Today we worked at the storage unit getting ready for tomorrow. I am hot, sweaty, stinky, and tired. I am sure you all wanted to know I am stinky...
Moving on now...
Anyhoo, tomorrow we drive. Being in Little Rock has been so weird. I have all day felt almost suspended between two worlds--what has been (life in Arkansas) and what will be (life in Florida). We stopped by our old house to pick up a few things we left, and the new owner gave us a tour. It was good closure for me. They have done some great stuff, like get all new appliances, replace the old countertops, and...sand all my beautiful white cabinets back to the wood that I was trying to cover. Oh well, it's not my house anymore, and with the black countertops, the wood looks better. But yeah, seeing the house really helped cut the last ties. I am ready to go. Ready for this new beginning. When I wake up at 6:30 tomorrow morning, I have to clean out and reload the car. Then I will pick up the turtle and the cats from the friends who have been watching them. As soon as Matt and our crew of awesome friends finish loading the truck we are off! God evened out my emotions today, for which I am truly grateful. (Especially because I have pms right now...potentially disastrous!) We will see how I am tomorrow.
Okay, I am now tired of typing on my phone. For the last time, this is Little Rock, signing out.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Even The Small Things...

Good morning, God. Today is July 31st, a day I have been looking forward to this whole trip. We are going to Yellowstone National Park today! I am excited to see Old Faithful again, and the Paint Pots. Last time I was at the park I was 9 years old. We saw bison then, and deer, and a moose. I really hope we get to see all those animals again. But even more than that, I want to see a bear. The only place I have ever seen a bear is in the zoo. I really, really want to see a bear in the wild. But that doesn't happen very often, and when it does, it is dangerous. But I still want to see a bear. The only way it will happen, God, is if you bring me a bear. I know you care about the small things in my life, even my desire to see a bear in the wild. So God, would you please bring me a bear today? Show me a beautiful bear in the wild. If I do get to see a bear, I know it will be a gift from you. Thanks God, for listening. I love you.

This was the prayer of my heart when I woke up on Saturday morning. A little bit later in the car, I gave voice to that prayer with my family. And all day, we were all on the lookout for the bear I asked God to show me.

We saw elk.

And beautiful thermal pools.

And geysers

And spectacular storm clouds.

And a pristine waterfall.

And Old Faithful.

And a bison!

We saw deer, a bald eagle, a coyote, pronghorn antelope, and beavers. We saw the Paint Pots, Yellowstone Lake, lots of wildflowers, and beautiful rivers. But we didn't see a bear. I wasn't super disappointed when we left Yellowstone, because I had seen so much else. As we drove south through the Tetons, I kept my eyes glued to the window because we had been told the Jackson Lake area is frequented by many moose, and I wanted to see a moose almost as much as I wanted to see a bear. We came around a corner and up ahead, traffic was stopped. I figured it was the entrance gate for Grand Tetons National Park. But as we got closer, we realized that everyone was stopped to look at something not five feet off the edge of the road. Something big. Something dark brown. Something hairy...


The bear was a grizzly bear, not small, but not huge, either. We're pretty sure it was a she because of the size. She was there by the side of the road, digging in the dirt and eating whatever she was finding there. She was totally unconcerned by the cars that lined up in both directions to watch her...didn't even lift her head to look at us. Because we were going south and she was on the northbound side of the road, we had a safe space between us and her. I climbed up and sat in the open window on the passenger side of the car, and took my pictures over the top of the car. We stayed and watched my bear for about 5 minutes before moving on. 

As soon as we were rolling again, our family took a minute to thank God for:
1. Listening to the simple prayer
2. Being interested in the small things that are important to His children
3. Bringing us a beautiful, grizzly bear in a very safe setting

God, you are so cool! Thank you for your attention to detail, and that even the small things matter to you.

*Update! We are going to the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in De Smet, South Dakota, today. We'll be staying tonight in Missouri, and tomorrow we will be home in Little Rock. Well, not really home, but we'll be there for a few days to pick up our stuff. On Saturday, we head out for Florida. We'll stop Saturday night with friends in Nashville, and then drive the rest of the way on Sunday. Matt will be driving our 26-foot UHaul with his van on a vehicle trailer in tow. I will be driving my van, loaded with stuff, kids, and our cats and tortoise. Please pray for safety on the road, and safety as we load the truck in the extreme heat Arkansas has been experiencing the last few weeks. Farewell for now...my next post will be from HOME!