Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You Either Got "It" or You Don't

Patience, that is.

To keep you from smacking your tailbone on the floor as you teeter there on the edge of your seat - I'm NOT a patient person, and I think this has a great deal to do with a general lack of self control. Which feeds that perceived need I have for instant gratification.

Today I did the shopping and buying of our curriculum for the 09-10 school year. Some homeschooling moms may take days to do this, weeks even. I'm not one of those moms.

Some moms do lots of research and cost comparisons finding the absolute, rock bottom, best deal. Nor am I one of those moms.

Some moms consult their husbands and carefully flesh out the budget and decide where, exactly, the monies will come from and how many weeks of rice and bean and store brand macaroni & cheese they're facing. Sadly, I'm not one of those moms either.

Some people wait up to a week to have the winning, under-budget bid on E-bay. Nope, not her either.

Some moms scour the library card catalog and shelves to create their own un-schooled curriculum. Some moms hoard books by the hundreds that their kids just devour, or sew period costumes and build teepees for history class or bake Johnny cakes, tap trees for syrup and build smokehouses for unit studies. I'm not her, her, her or her either. (That 3rd 'her' needs a blog of her own, don't you think? I think week after next when she pops out number 5 she should get right on that...)

So, who am I, (or "who am you") you ask? Truth be told, I'm the mom that sticks with homeschooling because it's still best for her kids, but mostly because she gets to sleep in every day and hang out with her most favorite people. Besides - if I send them off to "real" school, who will clean the house? That's why I had these kids in the first place - cuz I was tired of doing all the house cleaning and decided the best way around that was to spawn me some merry maids. (I'm totally kidding about that last part... I wasn't really tired of doing all the house cleaning.)

But I finally feel like we might be catching on to this whole homeschooling thing. We're finding our feet as we come the the start line of our sixth year. This is really saying something if you never really feel like you reach the finish line each year, but just re-stretch, splash some cold water on your face and start over again, only in the next book up.

I was never one of those moms that always dreamed of homeschooling her kids. It was my parent's dream for their grandchildren, but not mine. I never thought I had it in me. Turns out I was right. I maybe wasn't cut out for this, but there I was, near the middle of the first semester of a school year four years ago, thrown head first into the deep end and I came up only doing the dog paddle. I've felt like I was doing the dog paddle ever since. (To assist you with the math - we did homeschool our first through kindergarten - but it wasn't really "official" in my eyes at the time - just those big fat workbooks you can buy at Costco or Sam's Club. Now I wear that year like a badge of honor!)

But now I feel like the train is pulling into the station - my ship is coming in - my eagle is landing... I think what has done this for me is the "silver lining" effect.

Let me explain:

It's been a really rough year where my babies' daddy works. There have been hundreds of folks laid off as they've scaled back production at his company. We're just so glad to hear that "change is happening" and this nasty recession is over (cough, sputter, gag). But the silver lining on this dark cloud of an economy, at least for us, is that since those nice people are no longer coming to work, they no longer need their computers. And if the computers are just getting older and more and more obsolete, why not sell them or practically give them away? Here I was begging for a "newer" computer just a few months ago, to replace my 10-year-old dinosaur with beads sliding on dowels where the calculator button should be, and the Lord sees fit to bless us with not one, but FOUR "newer" computers. Every one of them faster and more better than my dino. And three of them with flat screen monitors! And ALL of them for less than half the price of one new PC.

I was gobsmacked and still haven't recovered. Then the dream of actually having my students/children use a computer based curriculum that grades itself and keeps its own academic records was actually a possibility! Sweet mercy! My children could sit with eyes glued to the glowing screen with headsets muffing their little pointed ears while I sat at my own screen catching up on the blogs of my friends and the latest Drudge Report! Or perhaps talking on the phone for un-interrupted hours while flipping through a favorite scrapbook magazine (that hasn't been canceled in this recovered economy) all the while nibbling bon-bons and sipping diet Sprite from a champagne flute.)

See? Gobsmacked.

But it's a dream come true. Maybe I've found the homeschooling mom that I AM. I'm apparently Michelle Duggar - her kids use the same curriculum we're going to use and I got a 12% "Duggar Discount" on the parts of it I didn't buy on E-bay. Personally, I think it should have been 18%, but I'm not complaining. So we're exactly the same, Michelle and me - except that she has six times the kids that I do... but other than that, just the same. Right?

Well - not totally the same. We'll be holding on to our Saxon Math, and Michaela is still just a little young for a fully computer based curriculum. The beauty of that is that she'll have more focused one-on-one time with mom - something that's been lacking for her with mom being more focused on the older brothers. So don't worry - I won't be completely self absorbed, but I may get a little bit more time to actually blog or at least earn some Kinzcash to decorate my Webkinz estate...

I wish you the same wonderful, well thought out, caught up school year that we're going to have (starting in two more weeks...)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mostly Almost a Milestone

The party's over - but the occasion is still just on the horizon.

Since school starts for most this coming week, we planned my dear in-laws 50th anniversary party(s) for two weeks before the actual event, when the most family could be there. In fact, only one grandson was missing from the immediate extended family (a term I just made up meaning children and their children...) and he's nearly 18 and was permitted to decide this on his own. His story actually got a little mixed up along the way, like did he get time off work or didn't he... did his meanie boss keep him there working or was he off for the weekend to the beach with friends... hmmm... Ah to be 18 and carefree again... Anyway - the rest of us were there and we had a great two weeks together making all the plans and executing them.

Because we home-school, and the first day of the school year is at our whim, it was totally OK that for the last three weeks (since we returned from our 4 week vacation) that I neglected all of my duties that did not involve something "gold". If it didn't have gold paper, gold wax, gold foil, gold paint, gold ribbon, gold ink, gold glitter, gold confetti, gold tulle, a gold topper, or a gold wrapper I didn't have to pay any attention to it at all. Thankfully my sis-in-law was around to help keep my kids from total starvation and I've accumulated so many clothes that it was possible to keep covered and still go a week without doing laundry (unless any part of your day required you to move around in the laundry room. It's taken 3 focused days to see the laundry room floor again.)

Each time I have anything to do with event planning, I'm accused of being some kind of a "party princess" or told I should be doing this for pay. Lemme tell ya... for the time I put in - people wouldn't be willing to pay! I guess that means I'm inefficient... Anyway - I thought I'd give you a few simple tips for event planning and the process I go through.

Last Sabbath, we covertly invited the church family to join us for cake after potluck. We did a little decorating to add a bit of festiveness to the atmosphere. (Please excuse the burnt orange chairs... some things must just be ignored when you're on a tight budget...) This consisted of ivory table skirt and damask table cloth on the cake table, and 7 yards of antique gold tulle bunting accented with gold bows I made from ribbon I picked up at Costco. I LOVE the Costco ribbon - it's under $7 for 55 yards! Can't beat that... I made an 8x10 reprint from their wedding photos and put it in a gold frame with an ivory mat - I found it at Wal-mart for less than $13. There was also a candle holder with gold accents and "fifty" embossed on the side that I found a few months ago at Hallmark in the clearance section for $13. There were lots of fresh flowers from the flower market on the cake table and yellow roses on the potluck tables - plus thick paper tablecloths (also from Costco) that was a nice change from the normally naked tables.

On this small side (card) table we had a scrapbook album (picked up at Hallmark in the clearance section for 40% off – seriously… party plan ahead!) that we (my sis-in-law mostly) made some sign-in pages for so that members could leave written greetings, and a basket for cards and one for party favors (acetate boxes folded together and filled with little gold wrapped candies – pick these up in the wedding section at Wal-Mart or a craft store. They come with pre-cut ribbons, but they were silver and that just didn’t work for our purposes.

By far, the most expensive piece of our party at the church was the favors. More precisely the candies inside the little plastic boxes. We certainly could have cut costs here by using less expensive candies, but they were pretty in all their gold wrappers. To shave costs, chose just one candy and go with something simple like Hershey Hugs or Kisses.

The straight sided vases were from Wal-Mart too - just $1 each for the small ones and $2 for the one with the large arrangement on the cake table. Those water carafes are some I purchased (with church funds) long ago - but you might still be able to find them at a Dollar Store. The gold candles were an after Christmas 75% off purchase. If you know what's coming up you can really save yourself a lot of dough... These particular candles did double duty - serving as decorations at our Valentine banquet at church earlier this year. And while we're talking about these tables - consider the cost of fabric tablecloths if it's something you'll use more than a couple of times. I do have ten ivory damask tablecloths that my church purchased (at my "suggestion") for about $10 each - and I've used them countless times.

You can't really see them, but my sis-in-law, Shari, is putting out pitchers of juice.They are clear pitchers (a Target Dollar Spot find a few years ago around St. Patrick's day...) We filled them 2/3 full with white grape juice and then 1/3 grocery store brand lemon lime to give it a little 'zip'. Kinda like a sparkling white grape flavor. My SIL says that ginger ale is a better flavor than the lemon lime, but we'd already purchased the lemon lime. I'll try the ginger ale next time.

The plastic plates and two cakes were from Costco - 40 some servi
ngs each for $17. THAT's a great price if you've priced sheet cakes at a bakery lately - even the grocery store bakery! We ordered one vanilla with vanilla cheesecake filling and one chocolate with chocolate mousse filling. Both had white buttercream icing in keeping with the "wedding" theme.

The flowers were my favorite part... My Perfect Friend turned me on to a wholesale flower market in the big city. I got a HUGE armload of flowers for about $60. (I spent another $30 on foam, dishes, candle holders, ribbon, and cake knife and server.) I was able to make this arrangement here, the corsage and boutonniere, the 8 tables with a yellow rose, baby's breath and fern, another full vase of alestrameria and lilies and 3 gorgeous arrangements used at our dinner party the following day (more on that later). When you consider that a corsage alone is about $20 (from the grocery store) and that the local florist wanted $69 each for simple table centerpieces, I can't complain about the price of flowers at all! In fact - we talked about having an arrangement at church for the "actual" anniversary next weekend and saw one for $99... I'm thinking I'll just go back to the wholesale market and make it myself for a fraction of that price.

This is the chocolate cake. Now, these aren't the best cakes
I've ever had... that honor still resides with Publix in Florida (where shopping is a pleasure...) but these were pretty good. Most especially since we picked them up on Thursday and served them on Saturday. We got the most compliments on the vanilla with the vanilla cheesecake filling. Though, the chocolate got its fair share of praise also. The only real drawback is the limited variety in decoration. You pretty much have to take what you can get - but if you're willing to compromise it's a great deal and big-time money saver.

Here's my top party decor tip - DON'T go all "theme-y" and "matchy-matchy" with everything. First of all - it's just too much! You don't want the plates and napkins and tablecloths and balloons and cups to have the same print. We could have easily just gone to the 50th anniversary aisle in the party store and picked up everything in the same theme, but it would have really LOOKED cheap and COST way more than what we actually spent here.

What I recommend is finding either a printed party plate or napkin that you like and pulling out no more than three of the solid colors in the pattern for the rest of your decorations. You might get a printed dessert plate and complimentary napkin in a slightly different print, say a floral for the plate and stripe for the napkin, and use plain colors for everything else. Use the same rule of thirds for the color that you would use in making a card or scrapbook page... a Gallon of the main color, a quart of your supporting color and a pint of your accent color. (In the case of this 50th anniversary, the main color is the ivory (white), the supporting color is the gold and the accent is the yellow.) This way you avoid sensory overload. Remember - less is more and it's better to go simple and elegant rather than overdone and gaudy. To dress up those plain paper tablecloths we "randomly" sprinkled them with gold "50" confetti we purchased from Hobby Lobby for $4. You can tell it's not your standard confetti - it's larger and looks more like something diecut with a Quickutz - exactly what we were looking for AND we used it again (see the next post about this anniversary...) Oh... in case you were wondering - nothing I do is "random". Just ask the sisters-in-law that I had spacing and up-righting the confetti as it fell onto the tables...

One last note: the only thing we have with a "pattern" is our napkins (that say "50 Year's Together") I don't count the damask tablecloths as pattern...

Now, this is what it's all about...

More tips and junque on the next post - the "real" party and the first time I've hired a caterer and I don't regret it! (except for one little part - but I'd still do it again...)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And In Other News

Contrary to reports you may have heard, I am not dead, nor have I given up blogging.

I'll have you know I've been blogging a LOT... just not finishing the posts and then after a day or so they're horribly outdated by the next big blog-worthy thing and I don't feel like I can publish them.

For an abbreviated update: We (and by this I mean the Royal we and my multiple personalities) are staying up until all hours of the night and wee hours of the morning working on the details for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. I am once again lamenting the fact that I never read those books that come with stuff like photo editing software... I'm guessing it would go faster if I wasn't "doing and undoing" and rather just "doing".

These Anniversary things were all supposed to be secret (yes... I realize this is on the world wide web... but the in-laws don't read my blog often - seeing as how they don't have a computer...) but the proverbial cat has been let out of the bag twice now, that I'm aware of.

We mailed about 50 announcements out to family and close friends. Here's what the announcement said:

Two hearts and lives joined long ago
Bound by love, laughter and tears.
We've surely felt God's blessing
All through these golden years.

On August 30, 1959, two people pledged
themselves to one another.
A marriage partnership lasting the test of time
is certainly something worth honoring.

Their children and grandchildren
are delighted to celebrate the
50th wedding anniversary of
Clarence and Elaine Ourlastname

A "Golden Memories" album is being assembled.
You are invited to send your contribution of
memories or photographs to be included.
They should be received no later than August 14th.
Please send in care of their son
My Babies' Daddy
(Our Home Address)
If you are sending your greetings or high-resolution photos
by email, please send to
(our personal e-mail address).

The in-laws address appeared nowhere on the announcement or the envelope. And yet, a great aunt, that I've never heard of before now, decided to write to the in-laws and say "what a nice photo your son sent of you - I'm not sure I have any memories or photos to share, for the album but maybe if they came to visit me in Florida..." Then this same great aunt wrote to us to tell us she'd written a two page letter and sent it to father-in-law. (sigh.) Oh well. She did have a stroke almost 17 years ago... so I'll give her a pass.

The second leak came from an un-named friend at church that happens to also be a cosmetologist (emphasis on the "cosmos" part...) and fellow blogger. Right now she goes to the back of the line for cake and she just might not get a party favor! This particular friend is a repeat offender... Same sort of thing happened for father-in-law's 75th birthday surprise a few years ago. I'd link you to her blog, but I'm in a sweet mood after getting plenty of rest. (P.S. ... she's on my links list ;0)

To her credit, my mother-in-law is pretending like she doesn't know what's going on yet. And I suppose there are still some surprises... she doesn't know what the color scheme will be for her golden anniversary party...

After a successful 7 hour defrag and re-boot I'm ready to face another day in the party planning trenches.

Stay tuned - photos will follow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Wheel is Spinning, But the Hamster is Dead..

I'm tired.

Yes... I've been back from my vacation for only a week and aside from unpacking and getting stuff put away, I'm feeling very far behind. But life goes on and so must I.

I'm desperately trying to find the time to catch you up on the last month of my life(s) with photos and a run down of the action, but the time is just not coming to me... except for maybe right now while I sit here next to my daughter at a little after 1 a.m. while she talks my ears bloody.

You see, she's been under the weather (is there really any other place to be???) during the day for the last two days - running a low to moderate fever and just feeling puny in general. This has led to some late afternoon and early evening naps - and she wakes feeling much better, resulting in some very late nights. Last night was particularly strange as she seemed to be having some mild hallucinations as well. A dose of Ibuprofen and a season of prayer later she was doing much better and I tucked her roasting body in bed next to me until about 9:30 this morning. Uh... I mean yesterday morning.

She's finally decided she's tired again and has wandered off to bed leaving me here with an unfinished post.

Better judgment tells me I should be tying ribbons on little acetate boxes filled with gold foil wrapped chocolates. I've got two of them done - only 97 to go (one of the boxes was defective...) My in-laws will be married for 50 years this month, and wherever you turn in my sCrap room you'll land your eyes on something with "gold" on it. More to come...

Tomorrow (later today) I'll pick my sis-in-law and two youngest nephews (I've only been blessed with nephews) at the airport and we'll begin their trip here with errand running to places like Hobby Lobby and Party City and then wrap up with a gourmet dinner at Costco.

So, yes, I'm tired. But the "Me" I'm striving to become (a blog post still in the "draft" column with dozens of others) is working on projects well before the 11th hour so that I can enjoy the actual events myself rather than being a sweaty, unkempt mess when the festivities begin. Warning: this may result in even fewer blog posts and more "sum ups".

And while we're on the subject of summing up... (sorry. I don't have the energy for a pithy segue...) Here are a few photos from our anniversary trip to Branson, Missouri covering two days.

A frozen lemonade for two in a souvenir mug at Silver Dollar City.

A photo of my favorite theme park carb - funnel cake! Taken with my phone so I could share the love with a friend.

Let's just assume that the winning score is on mine... from the Flooded Mine ride at Silver Dollar.

After a day at SDC, a timer photo of the happy couple in front of the dancing fountain (that really is dancing, you just can't see it) at Branson Landings before our uncharacteristically under-par dinner at Macaroni Grill.

It pays to fill out the online survey with the number on your receipt - they later mailed us gift certificates equal to the amount of our meal. The "make-up meal" was much better.

Our first hotel room (really a time share place) that really wreaked of cigarette smoke - and was labeled as a non-smoking room.

The hotel very graciously moved us to another room - which was just the opposite layout. And we were able to enjoy the TV of our neighbors all night (thank goodness it was only TV, but hearing their TV changed our agenda a little...) and then their burnt toast set off our smoke alarm in the morning. The connecting doors might need a better seal...

Me and my friend Stacie, also from the great state of Texas, when we met up again at Silver Dollar on our second day.

Really - it's not what you think, or think she's thinking. She was just checking to see if we were... uh... lined up. Which is a sad testimony to the taller of the two girls... :0/

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