Saturday, December 29, 2018

My Baby is 11!

Happy Birthday to Holden!  Yesterday, he turned 11.  I guess he’s officially a tween!  I have to say that the years have really flown by with him.  I was looking back with the kids recently at my old scrapbooks.  Some of the we recorded seemed like yesterday, yet so much time has passed!  Holden only has 3 more school years at home, and then he will go to public high school.  My last one!  It’s hard to fathom.

For his one big birthday gift, he got a portable basketball hoop, which we gave him on Christmas along with the basketball he got as a Christmas gift.  He has been outside playing with it a lot, and so have Steve and Hayden, and even Haylee!  It seems to be much enjoyed by all.  I like that it gets him off the video games and mindless television and outside getting some fresh air and exercise.


I also gave him a big gift bag full of his favorite treats, which all of the kids look forward to on their birthdays.  They get a bunch of junk they don’t normally have all at once…all of their favorites.  Holden’s list is a bit different from theirs…he gets things he loves like olives, cocktail onions, and roasted pistachios in the shell, all of which get him very excited!  LOL.  He also gets lots of candy and soda and stuff, too, but he really enjoys non-traditional things, too.

This year, he wanted sushi from Fiesta Mart and watermelon for dinner, so that’s what he got.  And he wanted me to bake him the chocolat-i-est birthday cake ever, so he got a quintuple chocolate cake…it was chocolate cake with chocolate chunks, real chocolate fudge swirled through it, chocolate frosting, and chocolate sprinkles, baked as a bundt cake.  And he asked for re-lighting candles on top, so he got to have fun blowing them out over and over again!  LOL.  It was pretty cool.

Happy birthday, baby!  Don’t grow up too fast…

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Staying Connected Across the Miles

Here I am in Texas, celebrating yet another holiday season away from all of my friends in Virginia who are so near and dear to me.  Leaving them all behind has definitely been the most difficult part of transitioning to a new state.  I lived in Virginia for 39 years, and I had developed a close-knit circle of precious people who meant the world to me.

The thing I’ve learned, though, is that distance doesn’t truly separate us.  We’ve just found new ways to stay connected.  Sure, I miss chatting over a cup of tea at my kitchen table, sharing lunch at a friend’s house, or meeting up at Starbucks for a sweet treat and a cup of coffee.  But there are definitely other ways to stay in touch.

IMG953077With my best friend, Micka, I’ve been doing a daily chronological bible study this year.  Each day, we read a set of scriptures and share our thoughts and comments with each other through the YouVersion Bible App.  We’ve really enjoyed our discussions and sharing insights that we used to share over tea.  And we text regularly to catch up on personal things, to encourage one another, and to support each other through the everyday challenges of life.

20181210_233137My dear old friend and former colleague, Roslyn, recently surprised me with an impromptu plane trip out here to visit with me for a few days!  I was so excited to see her.  It amazed us how easily we just fell right in line where we left off.  You can do that with people who have been in your life forever.  It’s been so long that she was at my wedding in 1994!  I met her at work when I was just 21, which means we’ve been friends for nearly 26 years!  We just hung out at my house, worked on a jigsaw puzzle together, and went to the movies like old times.  I love her for coming all the way out here just to see me!  I really needed a piece of home, and that visit did the trick, for sure.

My dear friend and former neighbor, Valentyna, has kept in touch by texting with me regularly.  She’s gone back to school to become a nurse, and her studies have kept her on her toes!  She has been under a lot of pressure and has needed a cheerleader to keep her on track, so I’ve tried to be that from afar.  We’ve shared pictures of our kids and have managed to keep abreast of everyday life without ringing each other’s doorbells.  I do miss going to the symphony together and getting our kids together for outings and field trips, but at least we haven’t lost touch.

20180812_135024My nephew, George, was the first to visit me this year.  He now lives in FL, and he had a training class out this way for the military.  He was able to rent a car and visit for a weekend in August.  It was wonderful to see him again, and he was the first person to even be in our new house!  Our new dog wasn’t sure what to make of him since they’d never met before, but after the first day, she finally allowed him to leave the kitchen!  LOL

Another great way to keep in touch is through the Alexa app.  We got a bunch of Echo devices this year during the Prime Day Sale at Amazon.  A couple of them have video screens, so we’re able to have video calls with my nephew in FL (George), my sister in FL (Wendy), and my niece who is now stationed in TX (Katie).  And the Alexa app on my phone allows me to have video calls with anyone else who has the Alexa app, too.  Tomorrow, we’re going to use it to connect with our friends from our old church in Virginia when they get together at one family’s house for an early Christmas dinner.  That will be great, and we’re really looking forward to “seeing” everyone from church again!

My oldest son, Hayden, flew back to Virginia in early November to be the best man in his friend’s wedding.  He got to stay with my best friend, Micka, and my dear friend, Denise, from our old church picked him up and got him to services while he was there.  Everyone at church was so surprised to see him, because no one other than Denise knew he was coming!  Bless both of their hearts for their hospitality!  We really appreciated knowing he was in good hands while he was there.

So although my heart is still heavy at times, because I spend a lot of time alone with only Holden at home, no adults to talk to all day, and no friends outside of church here, I know that the friends who are nearest and dearest to my heart are only a video call, a text, an instant message, or an email away.  We are so blessed to live in an age of technology that affords us so many different ways to stay connected across the miles!

To all of you who are so very special to me and who have blessed my life in so many ways, I wish you the deepest and most heartfelt Merry Christmas and my sincerest gratitude for continuing to be a treasured part of my life, even from so very far away.  I love you all!  <3

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Panera’s FREE Bagel Every Day in December!

Image result for panera logoIf you are a MyPanera loyalty member, check your account to redeem your daily FREE bagel every day in December!  This promotion just began on Monday of this week, so if you missed the notification, you’ve only missed out on a few, and you have plenty more to collect by year’s end!  And if you’re not, sign up now to take advantage of this awesome promotion!

I like to pre-order in the Panera app, where I can customize my bagel just the way I like, apply my reward, and check out with a zero balance.  Then I just to my Panera and go straight to the to-go pickup window inside.  I don’t have to wait in line or even talk to anyone!  Easy peasy.  My daughter loves Panera bagels, so she loves to collect his particular reward as often as possible.  The Cinnamon Crunch bagel, sliced and toasted, with butter is our favorite combo.  Yum!

Set yourself a reminder, and cash in on this one as often as you can before time runs out!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Homeschool Review Crew 2018 Blue Ribbon Award Winners!!!

Every year, the TOS Homeschool Review Crew members vote for their favorite vendors and products from that review year.  We only vote for products that we personally used that year. 

So if you’re scouting out some ideas for new products and/or vendors for your school year, you might want to take a second look at this year’s list of Blue Ribbon Award Winners!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Little Homeschool Field Trip Adventure

Yesterday, I took Holden (who is almost 11) to the annual Homeschool Day at Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch up in Pilot Point, TX!  We’d never been there before, and it seemed like it would make a great little trip for a Friday when we were off school.  We were originally supposed to go back in mid-October, but north Texas got so flooded out with the massive amount of heavy rain we had around that time that they had to reschedule the event for November 30th.  There was a chance of rain, but thankfully, it held off until right when we pulled out to head home!  Perfect timing.

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It was about an hour and fifteen minutes away from us, but it made for a beautiful country drive.  It was a full 16 miles off the highway, pretty much in the middle of nowhere!  But it was gorgeous countryside, and we really enjoyed the scenery along the way.

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When we arrived, we purchased a sack of food to feed the animals, and we got right on a safari tram that took us out into the various pastures on the ranch to visit the wild animals they had.  We saw so many kinds of creatures, like the andromeda camel, zebra, zorse, zonkey, various kinds of deer, pot-bellied pigs (even an albino), and llamas.  There were buckets hanging on the outside of the tram to drop your food into so the animals could come close to feed.  Out of curiosity, I sunk my fingers into the fur on the camel, and it was so thick that the length of my fingers nearly disappeared into its fur!  It felt like a fuzzy wool blanket.  Really cool!  I think the camel was my favorite.


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After the tram ride, we walked around and visited various other animals like lemurs (so pretty!), sloths, bears, macaws, and more.  In the petting zoo, there was a fuzzy llama that stalked us for food and lots of goats, along with a beautiful pair of ponies!  They were so sweet. 

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The sloths were really adorable.  There was a mom and dad and a new one-month old baby sloth in the cage, and the three of them were all curled up together in a big ball in a hammock!  So precious!  We got to see the animal keeper hand feed them while we were there, and the way the mom and dad unrolled themselves to reveal the baby curled up between them was so cute!  They said the pair is about 15 years old, and yet they have continued to have a new baby every year they’ve been there, even though they only live to be about 20 years old, so they are quite mature to still be reproducing!  It must be true love. 


There was also a kangaroo habitat.  There were so many of them, and we sat down for a presentation about the kangaroos, and the kids got to have a little question and answer session at the end.

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They also had a domesticated camel that we were allowed to hand-feed, and he was surprising tame, only eating gently with his lips from the palm of your hand!  I think he became my new best friend!  Holden and I were trying to take a selfie in front of his stall, and he surprised us by putting his head out on my shoulder like he was photo-bombing us!  We laughed out loud and had to try again.


It was a lovely way to spend the day, and then we headed back home.  We knew we were going to pass right by Buc-ees, so of course we had to make a pitstop!  We got so many goodies to take home, and then we went next door to do some quick shopping for a baby shower at the Tanger Outlets.  As we prepared to leave, they gave us a flyer about a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony that was starting in 20 minutes, so we rested in the lounge and decided to wait for the start of the festivities.  Holden had such a great time!  They had a little comedy skit and magic show on stage followed by the official lighting of the big tree in the square, and then a live orchestra played Christmas songs!  It was so lovely.  They passed out hot chocolate and candy canes and gave away instant prizes.  It was lots of fun.  And we were under a tornado watch until midnight, so it was quite breezy as the storm began to roll in.  Just a lovely evening!

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We were out so late that we ran back over to Buc-ees to pick up some dinner.  We hit a traffic backup on the way back, so we were glad we’d thought to get something to eat.  We got home at about 8 PM, and we were exhausted!

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We just love exploring new places in Texas.  There’s just so much to see and do!  I find out about new adventures all the time.  It’s a big state!