Sunday, April 24, 2016

Where Have I Been?

After a busy and stressful summer, Mike and I reached a decision to send our minor children to the local public schools this school year.  I have not been handling the stress in my life well and am at that Peri-menopause time of life.  Stress is not something I handle well.  Crying frequently on a daily basis was a given for me.  I've always been a bit of a crier, but it had gotten bad.  Added to that was the lack of enthusiasm to get up in the morning.  Migraines took 1-2 weeks out of my life each month. We decided that this was the year for me to take care of myself. 

The girls have adjusted to public school.  Some have had social challenges.  Others have academic challenges because they freeze up during testing.  I did not do a good job of preparing them with test taking skills.  Paige has discovered much success academically, musically, and enjoys performing.  Allie ran for student council with four weeks into the school year and won.  She has developed confidence in groups and has a style all her own.  Madelyn has made friends, gained confidence in her academic skills and developed a love of art.

On the negative side, all the kids have had many experiences where their feelings were trampled.  I have always felt that some of the meanest people in the world are middle school girls.  My feelings have been confirmed.  My middle school child hurts for each of her friends when they are unjustly accused, teased or bullied by their peers.  It has been a long learning experience.  My youngest child heads to the middle school next year and at the end of this year is beginning to have some of the same experiences.

The year of taking care of myself has had ups and downs as well.  Isn't that just what happens?  Exercise is happening on a fairly regular basis now.  We are all eating better with lots of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, eggs, chicken and beef.  There are very few processed foods in our lives and rare restaurant meals.  The migraines are simmering below the surface, but I did go to the emergency room and got prescriptions that are helping to keep them in check.

I've been focusing on growing my online stores and have been seeing steady growth.  It's been a long time since there was a way to see success in my life.  So much of my time has revolved around caring for children, cleaning, laundry, meals, and teaching.  All the activities are worthwhile, but don't provide any feeling of accomplishment.  I love seeing progress and success in my life. 

I'm hoping to continue to make progress on my health over the summer.  We're still figuring out what we plan to do with the girls next school year. 

Madelyn graduates from high school this summer and will be going to a community college before she transfers to a four year university.  Steve is heading off to Wayne State in the fall and Amy is looking for an apartment.  Our house will be a lot emptier next school year.  It's exciting to watch my children grow and move on with their lives.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Wedding Part !

Katie and her bridesmaids

It was hot the week that Katie and George were married.  Humidity was extremely high.  My daughters and I were concerned that we would be sweaty and uncomfortable. The church's air conditioning was such a blessing!  The air conditioning at the reception place kept us comfortable also.

The following are pictures of us setting up for the reception.

Cassie helping to move table, while we try to make decisions about set up before Katie arrived.

George pondering some of the decisions that were made.

The groomsmen arrived to help!  Where were they when we were hauling the tables?

Placing the finishing touches on the head table.

Setting up the reception hall was a bit chaotic.  Katie was picking up some items and arrived to the hall late.  So decisions needed to be made about where to set things up.  George was there, but he doesn't make decisions quickly and we had little time before the rehearsal.  We set up all the tables and once Katie arrived, we were able to get the decorations put up.

Pastor Sidwell giving instructions.

Practicing handing off the bouquet and straightening the train.

Cassie lining up with the Best Man

Pastor discussing the proper amount of time to wait.

Giving a few more pointers.  Amy listening carefully.

Danielle and one of the groomsmen.

Steve with Emily.

Nate Mattison playing the processional.

Second run through.

My favorite photo of the rehearsal.  Kate and George look so happy.

Madelyn was scheduled to work during the rehearsal, so Paige got to take her place.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Adjustments and More Adjustments

School begins on Tuesday.  My remaining three minor children will be climbing onto the school bus or walking to school then.  It was difficult to reach the decision to send them all off to traditional public school.  I still believe that homeschooling is the optimal choice for educating children.  The problem is that my younger children are lonely.  I've tried to look for ways to meet their social needs, but our tiny community just doesn't offer any appropriate solutions to the problem.  We have tried enrolling them in various community activities, but almost everything is done through the school system here.  The extra curricular things they enjoy and where they excel are all located 35-45 minutes away from where we live.  Driving that far everyday and wasting 3-5 hours while they participate in their classes is destroying my health and sanity. 

It's impossible to keep the house clean, prepare proper meals (if we were ever home to eat them), and enjoy family time together, when we're forever gone.  I find messy houses stressful.  Sitting on my bum for several hours each day and eating crappy food is wreaking havoc on my health.  Not the productive, satisfying homeschool life we used to enjoy.

It will be a new chapter in our life and I am prepared to be unhappy with the quality of their education.  The wasted time will annoy me.  But, I can do fun educational things with the younger girls and try to ignore the rest.  It's important that the girls have friends throughout the fall, winter and spring.  No one in our neighborhood is available to play or hang out once the school year begins. 

My Etsy shops have both enjoyed sales increases of 50% for each of the last three months.  Summer is supposed to be the slow season for Etsy sales, so the extra time will allow time for the additional business.  I'm enjoying the creativity that my shops have provided.  The additional income is also welcome.  Who doesn't like extra spending money?

Monday, August 24, 2015

End of the Summer

In a few days, we will take our younger son up to Michigan State University for his freshman year of college.  Due to the distance,he won't be coming home as often as our daughters and older son. 

Katie was married a little over a week ago.  She and George returned from their honeymoon yesterday and dropped by to tell us about their trip.  It was lovely to see the so soon.  This week, she is planning on getting her former bedroom packed up.  We are forcing her to remove all her belongings from the house.  Not because we want every memory of her removed, but because other children want her bedroom and we are trying to have no storage in the basement. 

Well, almost no storage.  There will be one shelving unit for Christmas and camping items.  The house is so large that it would be easy for us to become hoarders without the house getting full of clutter.  We will only be here for another 3-5 years and we don't want to have ton of junk to sort through.

Madelyn is going to the public high school this upcoming school year.  She won't be graduating from the high school, because they won't accept homeschool classes without testing for every subject.  I'll issue her a diploma in the spring.  Our homeschool will be down to two students.  It should be an easier year because the younger two girls are only 20 months apart,  I'm planning on spending the first week or two taking the girls to various parks and getting our work done in the picnic pavilions, then having a picnic lunch and spending the afternoon hiking and playing on the various playgrounds. 

Mike is changing positions at work.  He will still be in sales, but will be a bedding specialist.  Due to changes within the company's pay structure, he should make more money with the change.  I hope it's a good move for him.  He dislikes many of the games that other sales associates play to steal commissions from other sale people.

My etsy shops are doing well.  I'm getting a steady income from them and enjoy the flexibility they provide. I'm planning ahead to create a couple of non-etsy shops after the holidays to increase my exposure on the internet and open other income avenues.  Mike has been really supportive throughout all this and is excited to see my hard work pay off.

Depression has been creeping back again.  It seems to be an on-going struggle for me.  Part of it may be hormones, but the "winter blahs" are now returning as early as August.  I'm working on eating highly nutritious foods and getting exercise each day.  I know that anti-depressants are available, but I really want them to be a last resort. 

I'll be adding a ton of photos and updates over the next few weeks and even have a few craft and cooking posts planned. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cheer Competition

The three youngest girls had regional cheer competitions in May.  Paige and Allie's team placed third and qualified for the state competition in June. 

I didn't take pictures during the routine, because the girls wanted video of their performance.  They looked really solid.  Our move to the Portage team was such a good decision.  Coach Jami has shown my younger girls that cheer is challenging, but it's also fun.  The Three Rivers coach was to focused on winning everything (which is great), that she forgets that the girls want to enjoy the classes also. 

Paige and Allie have made a number of friends on their team and look forward to class every week.  They leave practice excited to return the following week and practice their skills throughout the week without any reminding on my part.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Graduation Day

Last night, we attended our youngest son's graduation.  He did very well with homeschooling, but wanted to attend the local high school to meet some friends (we had just moved into town) and to do high school sports.  Overall, his experience was positive.  He used his high school years to experiment with new activities and found his voice when challenging authority.  I'm not saying that he was a trouble-maker, because all his teachers loved him.  He brought a totally unique perspective to class discussions and the school newspaper.  Instead, Joe considered his time and talents as valuable as the adults in the school.  When the choir director spent the 80 percent of the class period on the phone, while the students sat waiting for class to actually do something, Joe dropped the class.  The director cornered Joe to find out why he dropped and pushed him for a response.  Joe gave his reasons in a respectful manner, but didn't sugar-coat that he resented sitting around wasting time, while the teacher was on the phone. He also worked industriously to get a fencing club set up at the high school.  Joe didn't succeed with the fencing club, but did make reasoned presentations to the principal and other administrators. 

Academically, the high school was okay.  Most of his advanced classes were internet classes that he did on his own.  The school seems to be making more and more of their classes for college-bound students into on-line learning.  I wasn't impressed with most of the on-line learning.  Grades weren't posted in a timely manner.  The on-line instructor took months to respond to a question from the student.  Basically, Joe was on his own for those classes.  It worked to his advantage that he has been an independent learner for years.

Walking into the gym to Pomp and Circumstance

A little silliness after getting his diploma.

Joe (on tiptoe) and Mike

Joe with Mads, Paige and Allie
Joe with Katie and George

Monday, May 18, 2015

Turning a church Into a House

A few weeks ago, the woman who converted our house from a church dropped by and asked to see what the inside of the house.  She wanted to take photos of the interior to show her family and friends in California, where she had moved.  We had an interesting visit and I learned many things about the house.  The house was planned to be able to be three separate living spaces: a large family house, a studio apartment over the garage and an apartment in the basement.  At the end of our visit, the woman and I exchanged email address and she promised to send me some photos of the house when it was a church.

This is the first photo.  The entry goes into what is now one of our bathrooms.  The window that faces the road is now the entry into our laundry room, which was added on.  Mike and I have enjoyed many conversations as we tried to figure out how the church was set up.  The photos that the woman sent have answered many of our questions.

  We had thought that the church was what is now our family room.  We were wrong.  I think that the entire main floor was the sanctuary of the church.  We installed our fireplace where the altar once stood.

 Our house is the blue and brown one in this photo.  The original structure is the brown, while the addition is the blue.

The woman said that she had to locate some of the other photos that she has packed away.  She's going to try to send me more later.  I am so happy that she remembered to email me the photos.  It's fascinating to see the changes that she made to our home. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


The apple trees are in full bloom.  Their white flowers bring a welcome feeling that spring has arrived and soon we will be able to grow fresh food in the garden.  Last years apple crop was a failure.  There were lots of blossoms, but a hard freeze killed the apple crop in May.  We're hoping that frost doesn't kill off this years crop. 

Morelle Mushrooms were discovered underneath the apple trees last week.  Mike made omelets with them the following morning.   We'll probably go mushrooming later this week when the temperatures rise.  Paige and Allie love to gather mushrooms.  It's the only time of year that they willingly eat mushrooms.

Mike and the kids have removed all the wood and debris from the trees that were cut down.  It was a huge job, but we no longer need to worry about a tree falling on the house anytime soon.  We've managed to have 5 bonfires already this year and there is enough wood for several each week this summer and fall. 

The garden has been tilled and raked twice.  Saturday, I planted lettuce, spinach and beets.  Green beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, radishes, and turnips will be going in sometime in the next week.  The plants will need to wait another couple of weeks, because I don't want to need to cover the up at night.  Our garden is quite large this year.  I'm hoping to get enough food put up to lower our grocery bill next winter.

Mom Update

My mom has had a terrible year health-wise.  At the end of last year, she learned that her cancer is growing at an alarming rate.  The original plan was for radiation treatment in January, but it was changed to a more rigorous chemotherapy than she had had previously.  She had her first session out of four in January.  She became very ill from it and spent most of the month in bed. In February, she caught a bad cold that turned into pneumonia, which pushed her chemotherapy back a month.  March brought her chemo, followed by hospitalization from dehydration and another visit to her pulmonary doctor for her COPD.  In April, her chemotherapy was cancelled because she has shingles (for the second time.)

In January, her doctor discovered that the port my mom has in her shoulder to use instead of an IV in the arm wasn't working properly.  Surgery was scheduled to service or replace the port, but it has been rescheduled 2 times due to illnesses.

My was supposed to have the surgery today, but spent the previous 36 hours vomiting.  She's not sure if the vomiting is from chemotherapy last week or some illness or nerves. She's also discouraged and struggling with depression.  The depression is in large part due to her poor health and the fact that most of her time is spent with doctor appointments, testing, or treatments. 

Now that the warmer weather is here, the 3.3 acre of grass on her property needs to be mowed.  She's worried about keeping the yard in good order.  Mike had I tried to get out to her house twice this week to do yard work, but it rained both days

I hate the feeling of helplessness that arises from not being able to help another person feel healthier, or solve their problems, or make them happier. My mind knows that all of those things are impossible, but my heart still wants to wave a magic wand and fix everything.

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Glasses

Our family purchases vision insurance primarily because so many of us wear glasses and my eyes are so bad that I need to get them checked each year to check for retinal detachment because I'm extremely near-sighted.  The last time we all went to the eye doctor, he was extremely condescending to us.  We decided to look for another doctor in our net work, but hadn't found one.  The year was slipping away, so in December I called and made an appointment with the doctor we don't like just to get my benefits for 2014 before they expired.

Once I arrived at the doctor's office, a pleasant surprised awaited.  The previous doctor had retired and sold his practice to a new doctor.  She was thorough and pleasant.  After the exam, I spoke with the office manager and explained that I wanted to order either contacts or glasses with my 2014 benefits and would then return in January to purchase the other with my 2015 benefits.  She made an appointment for January and said that we would order the contacts then, because the doctor wanted to make sure that they were working properly for me.

When I returned in January, I was told that they had filed the claim from my previous visit without placing the order for contacts and I couldn't use my 2014 benefits any longer.  I ordered the contacts with my 2015 benefits, but left without purchasing glasses.  Due to my poor vision and need for bifocals, the lenses for my glasses would have cost me a little over $400 plus frames.

Mike wanted me to replace my glasses because it was difficult for me to read with my old glasses and I get headaches when I wear them for extended periods.  He boss at work regularly ordered glasses from an online company called Zinni Optical.  The site offers tons of frame choices.  The customer uploads a photo of themselves and then enters their measurements and prescription.  The site eliminates frames that aren't suitable for the prescription or measurements.  The customer clicks on various frames and the site loads the frame onto the uploaded photograph.  Mike was thrilled and had a great time picking out two different frames for me.  I ordered both pairs with my strong bifocal prescription, anti-glare coating, and ultra-light lenses for $160!!

It took about two weeks for the glasses to arrive.  The plastic frames fit perfectly.  A small adjustment was necessary for the wire frames, but it was an easy adjustment for me to do.  It's been over three months since they arrived and I will purchase glasses from them in the future.  The frames are slightly less heavy-duty than frames from the eye doctor, but they were also less that 15% of the cost.  My frames were $12 and $10. 

Amy and Katie ordered glasses from Zinni and recently received their orders.  They are pleased with their purchases as well.  I highly recommend them.