Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa, Reindeer, a Christmas Tree, and The Parsley That Wouldn't Die

(I enjoyed writing that title!)

Here's a bit of what we've been busy with the past 2 weeks, other than finishing up school for the year, and getting ready for Christmas . . .

A week and a half ago, we still didn't have a Christmas tree. So when Rashed had a day off work, we decided that would be the day to find our tree. First, we went to a lot with cut trees set up near a local shopping area. After only 5 minutes of wandering through the lot, with the wind blowing hard, and near zero degrees wind-chill, we found ourselves questioning our sanity and asking "WHY are we looking for a tree outside today??"

The trees were very pretty, but we decided their prices were a bit too high for us, so we hurried back to the warm van and went to Christmas Tree Place #2.

Christmas Tree Place #2 was Horrock's - a local specialty grocery store and garden center that we love. Their trees were outside, but blocked by much of the wind - yay! We quickly found a fair-sized tree that caught my eye for some un-known reason because they were all bound up and you couldn't see their shape. But this one called out to me, and home it came. After thawing out a bit in our garage and relaxing it's branches, we put it up in the house the next day. And it had a great shape!

a growing Snoopy ornament collection, that started with this first one which I've had since I was a child

(sorry, he's out of focus for some reason, but I didn't want to leave him out)

The next day, we went back to Horrock's; this time to see Santa and 2 real live reindeer. I've never seen real reindeer before. I thought they were very cute - like a mix of moose and deer.

We've never made a big deal about Santa at all, and Aaron has never done the sit-on-Santa's-lap-and-tell-him-what-you-want-for-Christmas thing. So after I quickly explained the drill, he eagerly climbed up on Santa's lap and told him he wants Legos and cars and Sponge Bob stuff for Christmas. And then Santa just kept chatting with Aaron for a couple minutes, it was so cute! After Aaron got down from the sleigh, he stopped and turned around and said "Santa? I have a question. Are you real?" Exactly like that, word for word! I guess Aaron was confused because we had told him that the story of Santa delivering presents to kids all over the world in one night, with flying reindeer, was not real. Santa poked his arm and his cheek and pulled on his beard, and said "Looks like I'm real!" Aaron just looked at him for a minute, and then said Okay! and walked away.

(aren't they cute?? By the way, the owner said they have to keep them in an air-conditioned barn in the summer!)

And finally, The Parsley!

Maybe I'm just ignorant about the hardiness and strength of parsley. But weeks after putting our garden "to rest" for the winter, one of the boys noticed that this potted parsley, which had been sitting just inside the gate to the garden, was still green and alive! We brought it up near the house, and I actually used some in November! It hasn't continued to grow, but it certainly seems to have no plans on dying this winter, as evidenced below:

December 4: (after 8 inches of snow)

December 11: (after 14 more inches of snow over 4 days)

December 14: (after several nights of temps in the teens, and wind-chills in single digits)

We're calling it our Miraculous Christmas Parsley. We'll see if it holds up in the new year!

May you have a joyful and blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's Christmas Break!

Yay! I'm (almost) as excited as the kids that our Christmas Break from homeschooling is here (as of about 1 1/2 hours ago). We had originally planned to continue on with 3 days of school next week since the boys had already had some time off in November when I was dealing with my depression again. But, I realized a couple days ago that I really needed/wanted the time off. So if the teacher's done with school, I guess the kids are too!

Even though we have taken many days off the past few months due to my health issues, I, myself, spent those days not feeling well. And then as soon as I was up to it, we were back to school and trying to catch up. I don't feel as though I've really had any real time off, so we declared that today was the last day.

Overall, I've been feeling pretty well lately, although I still have to lay down for a short nap after taking the medication that makes me sleepy and I still have to be careful not to get too busy and worn out. The naps are frustrating sometimes because I have to schedule my day around those non-functional hours twice a day (just like a baby!). But the amount of time I'm "out of it" is slowly getting shorter and less intense. And as I continue adjusting, it's supposed to get even better. Where I am now is far better than where I was, so I won't complain!

No pictures today! It feels very strange for me to make a post without pictures. But I haven't had the time or energy to download photos the past couple weeks. We've had some soccer going on, more snow, Christmas tree hunting, Santa and reindeer, and an interesting story about parsley! So lots to post about, and many fun pictures, which I'm hoping to get done this weekend or early next week. Sometime when I'm not trying to get everything finished for Christmas, that is!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Winter Is Here!

Our first snowfall began last night, and by this morning we had around 6" - 8" of snow on the ground, with a little more coming off and on throughout the day.

(looking east toward our neighbors' yards; just after sunrise)

(Our cats love to be let outside immediately every morning. This morning, Hazel was a little confused - what's all the white stuff? Both cats were back in the porch waiting to be let in after just a few minutes!)

(Just yesterday, I was marveling that some of my potted parsley was still growing after numerous frosts. I don't think it will survive this snow cover though! In the background, in a flurry, is our strange dog, Chester, who LOVES snow and races around the yard frantically every single time it snows. I'm actually thinking about asking the vet. if there's something we can do or give him to calm him down; for at least the first hour after bringing him back inside, he kept pacing around, looking out the front window, and whining to go back out. It drives me crazy!)

(heavy snow weighing down branches on the big evergreen tree in our backyard)

(a close up of some of the branches)

Today happened to be the day I needed to go have a fasting blood test done; so I was out and about earlier than usual. Near the building with the blood lab is a walking trail. I had brought my camera with me, in case there was a good shot that I just couldn't resist.

We'll surely be tired of the snow come February or so; but for now, it's always exciting and so pretty! If I ever moved really south, I'd miss the snow. Even though it can be a bother sometimes, there's nothing like the calm, quiet beauty of freshly fallen snow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

4 Years Ago Today . . .

Remembering my twin sister Cathy, who passed away on November 24, 2005 after fighting melanoma for just over a year. I miss you, Cath.

(Cathy [on left] and I in Feb. 2004, wearing matching sweatshirts that our mom had given us at Christmas. It was totally unplanned. She was visiting us in MI, and we both came out wearing the same thing!)

It's become my tradition on the anniversary of her death to take some photos that honor and remember her as a designer and artist; and remind those of us still here on earth of the beauty around us everywhere, everyday that should be enjoyed.

These are for you, Cathy; although I'm sure they don't even compare to the glorious beauty and color in heaven!

(both photos taken at sunset at Holland State Park; Holland, MI)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gluten-Free Bread & Muffin Mix Reviews

Both my youngest son and I have sensitivities to wheat, so we try not to eat it as much as possible. Aaron gets eczema, and I can feel achy, sluggish, and "brain fog" if I eat too much wheat.

I also feel better if I limit carbohydrates in general, so I haven't tried too many wheat substitutions - I just don't eat flour-based foods for the most part. But for Aaron, whom we've been eliminating wheat for only a couple months, has a harder time not being able to eat things he's used to - especially bread, crackers, pretzels, and baked goods like cookies and muffins.

We have found one type of bread that we both like. It's made by Sami's Bakery (www.samisbakery.com). It's a little dry compared to regular wheat bread, but far better texture and flavor than others we've tried. The particular basic bread type our local health food store carries is the Millet & Flax loaf bread, but I see on Sami's website that they have many others types of products also. Our store keeps the bread frozen, as it is shipped from FL. I just noticed on the website that you can order directly from them, at a cheaper price than it is at our local health food store. hmmmm . . . I'll have to think about that.

Today we tried the "Gluten-Free Pantry" brand of muffin & scone mix. We made blueberry muffins with it, using frozen blueberries. In addition to the directions, I added about 1/4 cup of oats for more texture and 1/2 tsp. almond extract. They turned out great; and we also loved the extra flavor of the almond extract. We'll definitely use this mix again, and try some other their other mixes. (www.glutenfree.com).

Sometime soon, I'm planning to compare some all-purpose gluten/wheat-free baking mixes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sleepy Improvement

I'm so glad I was able to get out and enjoy and photograph the beautiful fall colors in late October; before all the leaves fell, and before I got "sick" again. Because since then, I've pretty much been here, at home.

The good news is that a week ago, my doctor prescribed an additional medication because I wasn't seeing any improvement, and I was losing my ability to cope. The new medication took most of my anxiety and depression away in about ONE day! One day! What a relief and answer to prayer, because I literally felt like I'd been hanging on by the very last thread, which was about to snap.

The main side effect of this medication however, is that it very calming. Sedating is probably the more accurate word. After so much anxiety and inability to relax and desperation, I welcomed sedating with open arms!

So, my past week has somewhat resembled the schedule of a 3 month old baby - wake up, take medication, eat breakfast, do a few things until med. starts to knock me out. Sleep for 1 - 2 hours, wake up, "play" a little, take medication, eat, then sleep again. I take the medication 3 times a day, at meal times. At first, I would feel the effects of the medication within 20 - 30 minutes, and then sleep soundly for at least 2 hours. As the week's progressed, I am usually awake for at least 1 hour before needing to head to bed. And my naps have become a little shorter too.

This sedation effect is supposed to go away eventually, for which I will be glad so I can function a little more normally. Our oldest 2 boys left last Tuesday with my parents for a trip down to TN to see my sister and her family. So we've only had Aaron home. But you can't leave a 5 (almost 6) year old on his own each morning and afternoon while you're sound asleep for 2 hours. S0 we've had to ask for some help with him. How thankful we are for friends who have been able to watch and entertain him. And Wednesday, grandparents and big brothers will be back, so Aaron won't have to be shuffled around.

And for now, I need to go sleep, I'm getting tired of having to correct typos every other word!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ugh . . .

After 6 or 7 weeks of feeling well since my depression in late August & early September, I've found myself back at that horrible, anxious, depressed spot again.

We aren't exactly sure what caused the relapse, but most likely a combination of some scheduled changes in medication dosages as well a couple new nutritional supplements. Supposedly, the supplements I was taking shouldn't or usually don't interfere with most prescription meds. But my body always seems to be the exception, and it just got out of control.

There's so much we don't know about the brain, so I'm again needing to stop the nutritional supplements that have helped me with past issues, and concentrate only on getting my meds. stabilized. I'm again needing to give this completely over to God, because I worry about being on medication long-term.

The fear that comes through in my dark times can be intense and paralyzing. How thankful I am that the light of Christ lives in me, even when I can't feel it. Praise the Lord we won't need medications or have weary, sick, stressed, or depressed bodies in heaven!!

I'm so greatful for the wonderful, supportive friends and family that I have - huge blessings in the midst of the yuck. And thanks, Mom and Dad, for coming up to help again. We couldn't do it without you!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

More Fall Glory

A few more glimpses of the beauty of fall in Michigan.

Last weekend was at peak color, and I was able to get a few more pictures Sunday afternoon. Although not raining, it was cloudy, but by the weather reports I knew it was my last chance. Good thing too, because just a few days later, strong rain and winds blew most of the leaves off the trees.

I sure am glad that God gives us this time of beautiful color before the gray of winter comes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall Photos

Most of October has been cloudy, cold, and rainy here in MI; ruining those bright, clear, crisp fall days that I so love. :( So when there was a peak of sunshine and no rain early last week, we took some time away from school so I could get some photos.

Actually, we did fit in some school because we drove out to a friend's house in the country who has a beautiful property with a pond. Noah had to collect some pond water for a science experiment.

(clever Noah attaching a ladle to a rake handle with duct tape, to reach the bottom of the pond!)

(jars waiting for collected water, to be used for the micro-organism experiment)

(these were all at my friend's property that I try not to covet!)

(along a country road)

(another country road)

(tree reflection in a creek at a park near our house)

(creek again)

(bush that only gets noticed in the fall, on the side of our house that we rarely go!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Field Trip - Part 1

This past Friday, we went on a field trip with a homeschool group to the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon, MI.

It's a small museum, but it had some great exhibits that the kids enjoyed (and, it's free!)

Their favorite was the Science Center, lots of hands-on, interactive things to do:

Pan Pipes

pedaling fast enough to power the light bulbs

Tornado Simulator

experimenting with pulleys and weights

Anti-Gravity Mirror (or just a fun, funky mirror!)

Another exhibit showcased local Wildlife Habitat:


Run Bambi! Michiganders love to hunt!!

a fawn calming resting, too young to know about hunters yet!

And the Coming To The Lakes exhibit, showing what brought people to the area through the decades.

logging was one of the biggest reasons early settlers came to the area

what a early settlers' one-room log cabin may have looked like

archaeological evidence has shown that Mastodons once roamed the area

through the window of a typical local mercantile

My next post will be about my personal favorite part of the day; one of the historical buildings that are part of the Museum Center. But I figured this was enough photos for one post.