This and That

Forty Ways Not To Lose Summer

Elizabeth Foss posted Forty Ways To Keep Summer From Slipping Away last week and I loved reading her summer goals.  For the last week or so, I've thought about how I want our summer to look, so I decided to follow her lead and write out my own Summer goals for our family and me. 

1.  Even though I can sleep in because school is out, I'll continue to rise at 5:00 am for my coffee and prayer time.  This really is the best time of my day.  A friend asked me recently how I get up so early and I told her not to be too impressed.  I'm wired for early mornings.  In college, when everyone arrived to the library for late night study sessions, I was usually packing my things to go home.  I'd much rather get up at 3 am than stay up until 3 am.  It's weird, I know.

2.  Continue to write every morning from 6 to 7 am.  Work on being detached when I'm interrupted by needy children.

3.  Continue to exercise three to four times a week.  Vary the routine with both exercise DVDs, walking, and running.  Involve the kids as much as possible.  (Side note:  I just started the Jillian Michael's videos.  Wow.)

4.  Read good books.  Our great books club is slated to read The Aeneid this Summer and I have to confess, I'm not at all excited about it.  I realize how uneducated that is to admit, but it's true.  I'm going to have to supplement my reading list with some other books I really want to tackle to keep myself motivated.

5.  Have the kids keep a list of all their Summer reading.  Maybe create a friendly competition and offer a date night with mom and dad to the winner?

6.  Take pictures with either my real camera or my iPhone everyday. 

7.  Take the kids to the swimming pool or the lake at least once a week or more.

8.  Prepare dinner on the grill as much as I can.

9.  Host several outdoor family movie nights.  (We hosted one last summer and invited our friends and it was so much fun.)

10.   Read a few picture books to my little kids everyday.

11.  Institute thirty minutes of required reading everyday.

12.  Blow bubbles and color with sidewalk chalk.

13.  Take a long weekend trip to Florida with my girlfriends.

14.  Teach an iPhone photography class to elementary and middle school students.

15.  Persevere on that writing project.  Don't listen to negative Nellies (also known as my thoughts).  Keep going.  Have confidence.

16.  Blog more.

17.  Hire a babysitter every week and leave the house for five hours by myself.  (This one I've already planned and organized and I'm so happy about it.)

18.  Help my kids make their summer bucket lists.  Try to help them fulfill their goals.

19.  Plan one on one dates with one of my six children once a week.

20.  Ensure everyone hits Confession at least once every two weeks.

21.  Invite kids over to my house and let them play in the hose.

22.  Try not to complain about my messy house.  Try not to get angry about it, either.

23.  Keep most of our time unstructured.

24.  Help John plan a weekend away for himself with one of his college friends.  Don't complain about his impending absence in the few days before he goes.

25.  Plan at least one date night a month and surprise John.

26.  Take the kids to baseball games.

27.  Build a fire and make s'mores outside.

28.  Take the kids berry and peach picking.

29.  Make fruit pies.

30.  Eat watermelon outside.

31.  Plan play dates with my girlfriends.  Let the kids run around like wild minions and come home dirty and worn out.

32.  Make art with my girls.

33.  Let the kids sleep in their tents outside.

34.  Make a day trip to the beach.

35.  Sit in the sun.

36. Go over the finer points of the birds and the bees with Patrick and Meaghan.  I'm not looking forward to this one, but it's necessary.  The older kids--all of a sudden--are in a new season.  WHAT THE HECK???

37.  Take the kids swimming and Deedo's and Papa's pool.

38.  Visit with my sister the Sister.

39.  Hire a swim instructor that will actually teach Christopher and Camille how to swim.  The swim instructor doesn't have to be "nice" but he or she must be effective. The last two years of swim lessons have been a waste.

40.  Go easy on myself.  Relax my standards.  Chill out.  Remind myself everyday the kids are going to be fine.

Anything I'm forgetting?  Share your ideas with me!  I'm all over it!

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY

Outside my window...

the kids are making berry juice.  It's a complicated process.

Directions:

1.  Pick (potentially poisonous???) berries from my holly bush and place them in the bottom of a trash can.

2.  Add water.

3.  Use a stick or some other large paddle to smash berries, thereby making the water purplish/pinkish.

4.  Beg to bring disgusting berry water to science class so to impress science teacher.

5.  Ignore mother when she repeatedly asks you to not put your hands in the berry juice.

6.  Make sure she sees you completely submerge your hands into the (potentially poisonous???) concoction.

7.  Watch as she flips out no one is listening, dumps the entire trash can of "jam", and ends the hours of berry juice making fun.

I am thinking...

about the book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

The author, Jen Hatmaker, fasted an entire month for 7 months in a row on one of the following:   media, stress, possessions, shopping, food, clothes, and waste. Lots of good food for thought in this very readable book.

I am thankful...

I'm finally starting to feel settled after our move back to the East Coast.  I saw an acquaintance from Church on Saturday at the grocery store and we hugged when we saw each other.  We chatted for a few minutes in the frozen aisles about kids and school and child-induced insanity.  We laughed.  Then we went back to shopping.  Two years ago, I wouldn't have recognized anyone at the grocery store.  Now, I do.

I don't feel so isolated anymore and it's really good.

In the kitchen...

Patrick went to a friend's house for dinner last night.  With him absent from our table, I didn't feel guilty about serving this pasta dish, which is difficult to re-create for someone on a gluten/soy/dairy free.  It was awesome.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4

1 lb box of large pasta shells

12 oz ricotta cheese

2 cups chopped spinach (fresh or frozen)

3 cloves of garlic (pantry)

1 egg beaten (pantry)

Salt and pepper to taste (pantry)

3 cups simple tomato sauce (recipe below)

Note - If you are using frozen spinach thaw it first and squeeze it in a clean dish towel to remove the excess liquid.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Combine the cheese, egg, spinach, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Once the pasta is cooked and drained (do not rinse the pasta) stuff the shells with the cheese mixture, place them in 13x9 inch baking dish and cover with simple tomato sauce and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is heated through.

Simple Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

2 tbsp olive oil (pantry)

¼ cup diced onion

2 cloves of minced garlic (pantry)

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 tbsp dried basil (2 tbsp if using fresh) (pantry)

Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 3 minutes before adding the garlic. Allow the onions and garlic to sauté for 1 additional minute before adding the remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat and cook for 6-8 minutes.

I am wondering...

if I'll ever have time to do the things I like to do again. 

The beginning of the year has kicked my butt.  Perhaps it's because I'm pregnant, perhaps it's because we're trying something different with the homeschool academy, but I am busy all the time.  Last night I sat down to write and I had no energy left.

Zip.

Zilch.

Nada.

I don't foresee this any change in my lack of energy/time combo changing in the foreseeable future.  It's just the way things are right now.

It is what it is.

Whenever these seasons of life occur, I wander down the "maybe I should just close this whole blog down".  I read books and blogs by women who have more children than me and who--somehow--manage it all.

But I'm struggling.

And I'm tired.

I feel like I may be tired for the rest of my life.  

I am reading...

Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

and

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's biography

(I'm gonna finish this one.  I'm determined.)

I am looking forward to...

surprising the kids with a trip to

Hershey Park

.  Some dear friends gifted us with tickets they weren't using and we gratefully accepted.  We typically avoid theme parks and the like because they are too expensive for a family of 7.  (The tickets are about $40 a pop per person, which makes a place like Hershey Park too steep for the Duggan's to justify.)

But this little gift fell from the sky and I'm so grateful.

The kids don't know we're going but on Saturday morning, we're hitting the road early and taking everyone to the land of Chocolate.

It will be

my

their dream come true.

I am learning...

how to deal with teenagers.

Again.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy teenagers.  I've always said I think I'll be better with teenagers than I am with toddlers.  (Be quiet those of you currently living with adolescents; I'll find out in time whether or not this is true. Please, let me live under this illusion.  Just this one, Okay?  Thanks.)  Teenagers are cool.

But....

I've been out of a high school classroom for over ten years.  And in that time, I've forgotten that

you must be on top of teenagers

.  They are going to try to bend the rules.  They are going to assume you have lost your mind and don't remember what you said.  They are teenagers, this

is what they do.  Just like toddlers throw temper tantrums because you gave them the wrong color sippy cup, teenagers try to shirk responsibility. 

Piaget labeled all of this in his famous stages.  It's developmentally appropriate and stuff.

 I don't mind it; I'm just getting used to it again (and it doesn't help I'm not exactly on top of my game right now.)

Around the house...

He looks harmless.  But he's annoying.  And smelly. 

we have been invaded by stink bugs.  I attribute the infestation to two things:

the unseasonably warm weather we've had this Fall

and the cracks and crevices in this 200 plus year old house. 

Typically, the cold weather usually kills these buggers off before they overtake us, but this year?

Not so much...

I went to war on those pesky critters for over an hour yesterday.  My assistants, Meaghan and MB, vacuumed while I sprayed them down with a solution of liquid Dawn soap and hot water.  It did the trick in every place except the girls' room.  I think those nasty creatures are coming in through the window somehow and whatever we accomplished yesterday has been completely undone today.

It's disgusting.

Meaghan told me she spent last night hidden under the covers so stink bugs wouldn't crawl on her.  We may be evacuating the girls to sleep in different hindquarters this evening lest we get the bug problem under control.

Any suggestions?  I'm open.

(John and I discussed insect bombing the house but supposedly there aren't any insecticides that will get rid of these Asian creepy crawlers.)

A favorite quote for today...

"I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."  Ghandi

One of my favorite things...

Coffee.

Every morning, I force down a few swallows, but for whatever reason, I just cannot do coffee this pregnancy.  I'm dreaming of my first delicious cup sometime in late November.

A few plans for the rest of the week:

I'm running a children's book club this week, homeschooling, teaching grammar, driving players to soccer practice, visiting Hershey Park, and overseeing arrival at appropriate Boy Scout activities.

A peek into my day...

Cupcakes for book club

7 Day Blog Challenge: The End.

Conversations with Christopher:

John:  Do you see that hawk?

Christopher:  Yeah, I saw it.

John:  Which do you think is bigger-- a hawk or a crow?

Christopher:  A cow.

John:  Which is darker--a hawk or a crow?

Christopher:  A bald eagle.

John:  Who is stronger-- Iron Man or Thor?

Christopher:  The Hulk.

This is what I like to call effective communication or perhaps a budding oppositional defiant disorder.  The jury is still out.  I'll keep you posted.

___________________________

Meaghan and Mary Bernadette are at art camp this week, which means they're staying with Deedoe and Papa.  If the van ride home was any indication of what my week is going to be like, I anticipate spending most of my time making sure Christopher and Camille don't kill each other.  Apparently, Meaghan and MB act as a full time buffer between the two bickering little ones.

I thought this week might be a bit easier than usual, but after only an hour of the girls' departure, I realized I have inherited even more work than usual.

Hurry home, girls.

___________________________

Because we spent some time in the car as one big, noisy family, and because I'm still reading Les Miserables, John shared the story of Susan Boyle with the kids.  Then he had them watch the moment where she became famous.  Have you seen it?  Do you remember her?  It's worth a watch if you haven't seen it because her story teaches the importance of not jugding people by how they look.  

The kids loved it.

I decided when I finish reading the book, I'm purchasing the Les Miserables soundtrack.  If this song is what the musics like, I want All The Songs.

___________________________

I survived the 7 day blog challenge and only missed a day.  I confess, I did better than I anticipated.  

My biggest lesson from the week?  I talk myself out of writing updated blog posts because I allow my perfectionist tendencies to keep me from the work. 

I know, shocking. 

___________________________

I'm happy to announce the winner of the book giveaway is Tina Fisher.  I promise to send your copy this week, Tina.  Congrats!  

Have a wonderful Sunday evening.  I'm off to read Les Miserables..some more.

7 Day Blog Challenge--Back From Our Staycation

Joining the masses for Jen's 7 day blogging challenge.  Try to contain yourself...this is navel-gazing at it's best.

____________________________________

Camille:  "I wear your glasses, Ra-Ra?" 

Aunt Sarah:  "Your wish is my command, Camille."

My children are in the inevitable detox brought on from a week spent at my parent's house.  My Sister the Sister (of the infamous Nashville Dominicans) and my attorney Sister and her hubs were in town, so we did a Staycation with our entire family.

My kids are just now coming off a week long sugar binge and the experience of having 5 other non-parental units indulge every single one of their minute personal desires.

The detox isn't pretty.

For instance, when I wouldn't let Camille have some goldfish crackers until she finished her sandwich yesterday, she said,

"If you don't give me some goldfish, I'm gonna pee on you."

And I silently cursed my entire family for creating such monsters.

____________________________________ 

We returned from our Staycation Saturday evening and this morning, I woke up with an anxiety attack.  This is the last week of swim team, which means our swim schedule is grueling.  (Practice everyday plus two meets this week and a swim party on Saturday.) And August is right around the corner, so Summer is almost over.

While I lay in bed making mental lists of all the things I still haven't taken care of---book buying, securing school supplies, doctors and dentist appointments, gifts for the swim coaches, locating a babysitter for my mandatory teacher's meetings--I started dreading August and the impending school year.

Then I got up, and wandered downstairs where I noticed all the dirt and filth, the unorganized piles of stuff, the unpacked suitcases, the overgrown lawn, and the general unkempt nature of my home, and I panicked some more.

____________________________________  

Because I wasn't feeling stressed enough, I decided to keep my 11 am dermatology appointment so the doctor could examine a few suspicious moles.  I was right to get them checked out because the doctor biopsied two a-typical ones.

I wasn't too nervous about the procedure, until I saw the life size posters of the various stages of skin cancer and then....my imagination got to working.

Maybe it's just me, but the in depth information on the classification system of melanomas while waiting for a dermatologist to biopsy some weird moles seems like over kill.

____________________________________  

MySummer Book Club is reading Les Miserables, which is a novel almost 1300 pages in length.  While the story is breathtakingly beautiful, Victor Hugo could have benefited from an editor.  Oh, I know.   I'm immature, uncultured, and uneducated to think one of the greatest novelists who ever lived needed an editor.

But the dude was wordy.

And that's saying something coming from me.

____________________________________  

Christopher has been wearing this outfit since we returned home on Saturday evening.  I noticed some serious stains on it, but I'm pregnant and it's super hot and I'm picking my battles.  If he wants to wear it to the moon and back, I really don't care right now.

See you tomorrow.

I'm sure you can't wait.