26 May 2014

Remember Those Who Gave All For Your Freedom

This Memorial Day, I hope that you took a few minutes to remember why we have the valuable, and costly, freedoms that we enjoy in the United States. I know I did.
To remember the fallen, and their families. To cherish the freedoms that we hold so dear.

Rather than write more about this, I'll leave you with two pictures from Facebook, and a link to a great commentary about Memorial Day, written by my friend Joe. 
It's called "Decide for Yourself".  

In the words of my friend Joe, "1,321,612 mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teammates, strangers...

All made selfless decisions. All decided your life, and my life, was worth more than their own.

They are who you should think about today. Please do so."

25 May 2014

35 in 365

I am doing another list of goals! This is much shorter than my 101 in 1001 (one hundred and one goals to complete in one thousand and one days). This list will be 35 goals to complete in 365 days.

This list starts 25 May 2014 and ends 25 May 2015.

I do have a provision - in the event of a PCS prior to spring 2015, the list will be canceled, since most of these goals pretty much occur in New Mexico or there-abouts. We figure that we have one year left in Albuquerque and we aren't expecting a PCS before then, but with the military you never know.

The countdown: 17/35 completed - that's about half, which was right on par with my 101 in 1001 list. :)

So here goes!

1. Ride the Albuquerque Trolley
2. Ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad again 30 June 2014
3. Visit the Petroglyphs with the family (Mike has never seen them) 31 Aug 2014
4. Visit the Riverwalk OR Alamo (or both) in San Antonio 1 Aug 2014
5. Visit a Native American Pueblo  in the area
6. Visit friends in Oklahoma City 6-10 May
7. Visit the Bosque Nature Center completed 26 May 2014
8. Visit the Albuquerque volcanos and hike them (not just drive by)
9. Visit the 4 Corners (NM/CO/AZ/UT)
10. Visit the De Na Zin Wilderness (near the 4 corners)
11. Visit El Malpais
12. Take the kids to Balloon "Feesta" (we went one time with the kids, but we ended up sitting in the van - so being on the field with the kids when the balloons launch) 11 Oct 2014
13. Ride the Durango & Silverton Railroad
14. Visit the Grand Canyon 19-21 Sep 2014
15. Visit White Sands
16. Visit Carlsbad Caverns 6 July 2014
17. Take all the kids to the Nutcracker Ballet at the Kimo Theater 20 Dec 2014 - it ended up just being Sophie and I, but I'll take it
18. Go skiing (preferably at Angel Fire)
19. Go to the Albuquerque Comic Con 10 Jan 2015
20. Visit Roswell  5 July 2014
21. Visit Bandelier National Monument
22. Visit the Albuquerque Art Museum 25 Apr 2015
23. Finish my Bachelor's degree Graduated 8 May 2015!!!
24. Finish reading Lord of the Rings Dec 2014
25. Run two 5K's or one 10K race - ran a 5K 3 May 2015
26. Finish my clothing-clearout project
27. Finish my novel (first draft)
28. Visit friends in Denver and Cheyenne 27May-2Jun 2014
29. Take the kids to 2 shows with the School House Series at Popejoy Hall 10 Mar & 7 Apr
30. See an opera at the Santa Fe Opera House OR see a show at Popejoy Hall (not a School House Series show)
31. Visit the UNM Duck Pond with the kids 7 Apr
32. Get the kids passports
33. Update my passport
34. Visit Salinas Mission Ruins and Pueblos
35. Make my military family home sign

I have a plan for these goals and mapped out quite a few of them on the calendar. Wish me luck!

Thoughts on lists - prequel to a 35 in 365

I really enjoyed having a list of goals to complete with my 101 in 1001 list; I found it very motivating in getting out and seeing sights and for finishing projects. So I am thinking about doing another list - but much shorter this time. A 35 in 365 perhaps? Thirty-five goals to complete in one year - that equals about one per month. I think I can do that.

Even though my 101 in 1001 was pretty much a fail, as I completed less than half of my goals, I still really like that idea of having that kind of list. Maybe I'm crazy?

I did learn a few things about having a list like that.

1) Do not put almost two dozen scenic drives that cover over 121,000 square miles of a state on your list. Unless you don't have small children or have the money and time to spend at least one weekend a month taking a scenic drive, some of which may require a few nights away from where you live

2) It's great to be ambitious, but there is such a thing as being too ambitious (I had several huge skill-acquiring activities on my list - learn French (as in mastering the language), learn to play the piano (from the beginning), learn to quilt (I don't own and can't use a sewing machine), learn to can veggies - maybe I should have just left one on there?

3) Allow for life - I wrote my list before I got pregnant with my third child, and having a pregnancy with lots of complications and three months of bed rest can really take out a big chunk of time from being able to do stuff on the list - and that's okay. Give yourself grace. Also, something about having three children under two and a half years of age that is quite exhausting and doesn't leave much time/energy/desire/finances to get out of the house and take trips or finish projects. The survival-mode of motherhood or something like that.

4) It's a good thing for family to take priority. One of my goals was to finish my degree, and sure I could have done that, but it would have been at the expense of my family, and I wasn't willing to do that. I wanted to be home with my children - simply put - it was more important to me to be a SAHM than to finish my degree. I have since then gone back to school, but almost four years after I wrote my 101 in 1001. And I'm doing it one class at a time - pretty much during nap time and after bed. I don't think I could have done that when the kids were younger.

Anyway, all that is so to say, I am going to hopefully take my advice when I do my new list. I'll put that list in a separate post. I'm excited to get started though!

24 May 2014

Hobby Highlight

The Toltec Gorge as seen from the Tourist Car of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
 One of my hobbies is photography - I really love to take pictures! I will be the first to admit that I am pretty much self taught. I have not taken a class or anything like that, or even read that many books on photography. I love that anyone can pick up a camera and click away and learn through experience!

(I do like to think that I have almost perfected the art of taking pictures that aren't blurry from a moving vehicle!)

When I was a kid, I was always enthralled by my parents' huge Canon camera - this big, black, super-expensive camera that never had batteries and that I don't remember ever seeing them use it. I'm sure they used it at some point - probably when my brother and I were babies, but not too much after then. I always wanted to use it and was constantly curious about how it worked. I never got the chance though.

When I was a young adult, I used to buy those disposable cameras and take them to the local CVS or WalMart to get the pictures developed. Nothing like only having 27 chances of making an event or location memorable! Those little disposable cameras are surprisingly good at taking scenery pictures, but are pretty terrible for indoor pictures.

Then, in 2007, my friend Kyle got a Sony point and click camera. It was slim, it was small, it was silver - and I loved it! Since I had a good job at that point and could afford little luxuries, I went out and bought one. And I have been taking hundreds thousands of pictures ever since! (Seriously, I probably have tens of thousands of pictures on my computer - I can easily take dozens pictures in a simple zoo outing - and several hundred on a scenic drive.)

They say that practice makes perfect, right? I don't think my pictures are perfect by a long shot, but I definitely see improvement over the years of taking pictures. I have learned what I am good at (scenery) and what I am not good at (people) - although that doesn't stop me from snapping away pictures of the kids.

I would also like to mention that I do not edit my pictures or photo shop them. What you see is what the camera saw. (I tried that one time when I took some pictures of my friends' sons and really - who has time for that? Not me! I can see where it has merit, but for right now, my photos will remain unedited.)

Last summer, when we rode the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, I had recently bought my brand new camera - a Canon SX160 IS - a huge step for me. My little Sony point and click had pretty much died, probably from over use (I was so, so sad). I was still learning about how to properly use my new camera and getting the hang of taking pictures with it. Our train ride was the perfect time to snap away lots and lots and lots of pictures and get some practice in.

A month or two later, the C&TSRR Facebook page advertised a photo contest, so I thought, why not? There were unlimited entries, so I entered four or five of what I thought were my best pictures.

And . . .

. . . I was one of the winners!!

I won two tickets to ride on the train again AND my pictures were going to be used in their 2014 marketing campaign, including their new website that just launched and the brochure for the 2014 season.

I. Was. Blown. Away. Seriously! And very humbled that my pictures were going to be used for this amazing railroad.

I'm not thinking that my photography skills (and I very tentatively use that word "skills") could launch some career in photography or something, but it is exciting that my pictures will be seen by so many!

So, if you're interested, go and check out links here and here (Butterfly's famous!).

I also highly recommend riding the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad if you are in the New Mexico or Colorado area - the scenery is spectacular, the train is amazing and it really does feel like you are riding the rails in the old, old west.

What's your hobby?

23 May 2014

Goodbyes for Butterfly

Butterfly had her last week of Pre-School this week, and also her last week at the CDC. She has been pretty excited to stay home for the summer and play with her toys, plus the pending trips and Zoo Camp. I explained to her that she wouldn't see her teachers or friends after this week (some of them, maybe not ever again), but I don't think she understood that part. (I was really sad for her though . . . that's more of me though - I really disliked the end of every school year and all the goodbyes when I went to school.)

Butterfly walking back to the van from the CDC on her last day, talking to Daddy on the phone. She looks so grown up!
 I bought some good bye gifts for Butterfly's teachers, therapists and bus drivers and her teacher, Ms. Michelle, sent a sweet note and a gift home. The gift was a light-activated dancing flower - right now it's in the front window dancing away. At meals times, it sits on the table for all to enjoy - the kids are just enthralled with it - it moves on it's own!

Butterfly said she gave her teachers and friends hugs - I think she will especially miss Emmalina, her sweet friend from school. They'll be going to be at different schools next year, so I don't know if Butterfly will see her again. I really hope so. I have tried to set up play dates, but so far they haven't worked out for one reason or another.

I have been so grateful that Butterfly had such wonderful teachers, therapist and bus drivers this year - and I feel that Butterfly has been very blessed by them. She has grown and learned so much, she is doing much better than at the start of the year. She is still behind on some areas for her developmental delays, but she is much improved. She has worked really hard and I am very proud of her!

Butterfly is also really looking forward to going to Kindergarten at her new school. As for her delays, she'll still have speech and OT every week, plus twelve hours a week in the special ed classroom, mostly for reading and writing. I'm looking forward to walking her to school every morning (with Little Man and Flower) of course.

For now, that will wait and we will enjoy our summer together. :)

19 May 2014

The Date is Set

There's been a lot of buzz lately in the military community about the force-shaping boards that are happening every year for the next five years. Basically Congress has required that the military decrease its' numbers to those of peace-time. (Except we aren't during peace-time, but don't get me started.)

Anyway, this affects our family directly. Mike found out during his second pre-deployment training in February that he is up for "the boards". Basically, his career is over-manned, and they are cutting 1 out of every 3 airmen in his career field. So there's a 33% chance that the military is going to tell us "get lost and good luck".

Now, the military always has a degree of uncertainty about it. That's part of military life. It's not a huge secret in the military community that orders for a training, deployment or even PCS (permanent change of station, i.e. moving) can come at any time. Most of the time you receive advance notice, but not always. In some ways, that's part of the adventure of military life.

The degree of uncertainty that many military families are experiencing right now, enlisted and officer, is huge. Like very-stressed-what's-going-to-happen-to-us-what-about-health-care-coverage-what-about-our-job-that-we-love-is-that-all-going-away??-huge.

Congress has said that this curtailing process is to get rid of the "slackers, free-loaders" and those who are an otherwise drag on the military. They want a more fit, smarter, modern military. That's what they say anyway.

That does not help to alleviate the stress on those who are up for the chopping block though. Mike is an excellent airman (in my somewhat biased opinion)- he has received an accommodation medal, he has always maxed out his PT tests, he's got the highest rating an airman can get on his EPR's (performance evals), save one and so on. He's been continuing his education and has almost completed his bachelor's degree, besides completing two associates' degrees. He volunteers on a regular basis in a number of different areas. Is this enough to keep him in though? I don't know. He doesn't know. His bosses don't know. Only God knows right now.

We all hope so.

After all, this is our future here hanging in the balance. Mike's career. Where we live. Full medical benefits that cover Butterfly and Flower's specialists (and Flower will definitely need to see a specialist her whole life). Even the life style that we love - it could all disappear.

And the date has been set. Mike came home tonight and let me know that a date had been set for the Board meeting. And it's two months sooner than I thought it would be.

I thought I had all summer to put this stressor off and store it away in the back of my mind and focus on having fun with the kids and enjoying the summer. But suddenly, there it is - staring us right in the face. Gulp. I guess it's better to go ahead and get it over with.

Soon we shall see what the future brings. Will we be forced out of the military and go back to civilian life? Will we be able to stay in (until the next round of cuts)?? Only the Lord knows right now - and until then we just have to trust in Him.

16 May 2014

A Future Gift

These are the journals that I bought for the kiddos for their graduation gift. Their high school graduation.

I know, you probably think it's a little premature, since Butterfly hasn't even started kindergarten yet, but I'm a planner. I actually got this idea from an article that went viral a few months back about a Dad who had teachers write in Dr. Suess' book "Oh the Places You'll Go" for his daughter and gave it to her for graduation. So totally not original here, but I didn't want to use Dr. Suess. I mean, I love Dr Suess, but I was going for something . . . else.

So I spent a good 30 or more minute standing in front of the journals section at Barnes and Nobles trying to pick out a journal that I thought would be the right fit for each of my kids. Which was a lot harder than I would have thought, since they'll be reading the journal when they're 18, and they're 2,4 & 5 right now.

My plan is have to each of their teachers each year, in school and church, (if possible) write a note or letter to them. If I end up home schooling, then I'll write in their book as their teacher. I'll probably end up writing a few letters over the years as well, as will Mike.

My goal is for each child to have something tangible to read that tells them how many people valued them over the years for who they are. I want them to be able to look back on all their years of schooling and see what their teachers wrote about them or maybe how they touched someone's life. I want this book to encourage them and inspire them to reach further than they have already.

Most of all, I want them to be aware of how valuable they are as human beings, how they were uniquely created by God, and have gifts that God has given them and how they have used them over the years of the childhood.

Hopefully they won't get lost in a PCS or some awful tragedy. Lord willing that won't happen.

I got Butterfly's book from her teachers (and therapists) at school, and I have to admit, I cried. I was so moved by what they wrote. It's a pretty amazing moment when you can step out of your "mom" role and see your child through someone else's eyes.

I am really looking forward to giving these journals to the kids on their graduation day. I know I have thirteen years to wait, but time can be a funny thing. Maybe I'll still be blogging and I can look back on this post and reminisce about the day I wrote it. And the day I bought the journals. I guess we'll see. :)

Lost and Found by Sarah Jakes

Sometimes we all get lost. And in our effort to find our way back ourselves, we get even more lost. Perhaps, if we just stopped for directions and got some help from someone who has the answers, we wouldn't go through so much heart ache and pain on the way to being found. But sometimes being lost can teach us so much, even though it hurts. Sarah describes this exact scenario in the opening pages of her remarkable story of getting lost, trying to find a way out and only getting more involved and then letting the Lord lead her out.

In Sarah Jakes' book Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life, Sarah talks about how she ended up lost in her situation of being a young teen mom and then falling really hard for the wrong guy, and instead of turning to those around her who loved her, and to the Lord, she tried really, really hard to fix everything herself. And it cost her a lot. In her young twenty-five years, Sarah endured some incredible trials and come out on the other side with a beautiful understanding of God's grace and love for her. Not to say it was easy - it was a shattering experience in many ways for her. With each page she draws the reader deeper on her journey, and what she was feeling and thinking at the time, and gives beautiful wisdom and insight about pain that affects a lot of us.

I was enthralled with Lost and Found because so much of what she endured I could relate to, having lived through similar circumstances when I was much younger. I only wish that I had her insight into what was going on when I was going through those trials. Sarahs' book was so encouraging - sometimes life doesn't turn out how we pictured and we get shattered along the way, but that doesn't mean that we are worthless or useless. It simply means that we then have an opportunity to be used of God in a way we would never have imagined, if we have the courage to take the opportunity and step out and trust Jesus.

I recommend this book for anyone who has ever gone through a really hard time and found themselves so lost that they barely recognized who they had become. There is hope in every situation, no matter how much heart ache we endure, the trials that we face or how much people around us may hurt us. God gives us grace, and He gives it to us abundantly. Sarah is living proof of that and her story just may speak to you too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

13 May 2014

Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare Ballet

Me and Butterfly at the Historic Kimi theater downtown
Last weekend (the weekend before Mother's Day), a friend wasn't able to go to the ballet playing at the Kimo Theater, so she offered up her tickets and, thankfully, Butterfly and I were able to go! (What a sweet friend!)

Butterfly loves to go to the theater, and this is her second ballet, and her fifth theater production. (Check out Schooltime Series if you are in the ABQ area - lots of plays geared for kids with tickets at only a few dollars.) Butterfly loves, loves, loves the theater and I think ballet productions are her favorite.

In December, I took Butterfly to see the Nutcracker Ballet, and this time we saw New Mexico Ballet Repertory Theater's Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare Ballet - a three act ballet which featured "Hamlet", "The Tempest" and "Romeo and Juliet" inspired modern ballets. In my completely uneducated opinion, modern ballet leaves much to the imagination. The set is very minimalistic, although the costumes differ from what might come to mind when one thinks "ballet". These are not bad things; modern ballet is just different from what would be considered classical ballet.

Either way, Butterfly loved the production and was enraptured the whole time, with her eyes glued to the stage. The costumes in the third act, "Romeo and Juliet", were visually stunning. The lighting set the stage as a chess board, and half the dancers were clad in black leotards with flowing skirts, and the other half the same, but bright red. One dancer was clad in a full body suit, with a short skirt, with one half red, one half black - split right down the middle. It definitely had my brain working to figure it out as she moved and it was visually arresting.

All three acts were choreographed by the NM Ballet Repertory Theater choreographers, which made the show completely original. I really like that Albuquerque has such a neat ballet theater. The show was held at the historic Kimo Theater on Route 66, downtown. The Kimo Theater is a pretty interesting building; the art work inside on the walls, and the Native American motifs on the walls are a sight to see.

Butterfly actually loved it so much that during the two intermissions, she practiced twirling with her hands above her head, fingers pointed together. I think it might be time to sign Butterfly up for ballet!

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed to be taken during the show (party for safety reasons, which I completely understand), otherwise I would have a picture of at least at the third act for you.

Have you been to a ballet? Do you have a favorite?

12 May 2014

Traveling with Kids

I am no stranger to traveling with small kids, but there are some what I would consider experts out there. 

I recently discovered the TV show "Travel with Kids" on one of the Roku EuroTrip channels, and after I had watched all of those (which was maybe five or six), I set about searching for more shows, since there are at least four seasons, and I discovered that Amazon Prime has several of the seasons. Since we have Amazon prime membership - I can watch them for free!

The show is about a couple who travel with their two young boys and make a show about their travels. Besides showcasing all the amazing travel destinations, they have lots of helpful hints for traveling with small kiddos. And the show is pretty entertaining.

I have to admit, I'm a little envious that they get to do this! I don't know if they are paid or not, or if they break even - either way, I want in on that!

Anyway, I discovered that they have a website complete with blog today! Yay!

So, if you like to travel, even in your local area, and you have kids - then check out their blog!

Their shows are pretty good - so check them out on Amazon Prime, or Roku's travel channels EuroTrip, AmeriTrip and AsiaTrip. :)

11 May 2014

Then Vs. Now

I'm linking up with Cat at Cartwheels and Windmills and, well, basically borrowing her idea for a post. :) (Thanks Cat!)

Cat did last year verses this year (go check out her blog!), but I'm going to do 2010 verses this year. Why 2010? Because that's the year we moved to Kirtland. In May 2010 we were in full swing preparing for our pending PCS (Permanent Change of Station). And, as you will see, I was quite busy with other stuff as well!

The reason I chose to look back on 2010 is because after four years at a duty station, it's kind of expected that you're going to move soon. When you meet someone new, which in the military life, is quite often, you usually start with the "How long have you been here?" question. After hearing 4 years, the next question is almost always, "So, are you leaving soon?". They're not being mean, it's just the natural course of events in the military life. Four years at a duty station is a very long time. We aren't leaving anytime soon, that we know of, but I thought the year we moved here would be a good year to compare to, for reflection purposes. :)

May 2010 - Butterfly was 14 months old, Little Man was 2 months old and Flower wasn't born yet. I was in my late 20's. We were living at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

May 2014 - Butterfly is 5 years old, Little Man is 4 years old, Flower is 2 years old. I'm in my early 30's.  We are living at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico

Life then:
In May, we were preparing for our upcoming PCS - so I was going through the house giving stuff away that we didn't need to the Airman's Attic, traveling to the numerous clinics/hospitals we had been seen at to collect copies of medical records (including two different hospitals for Butterfly's surgeries, not including the hospital where the kids were born at), making lots and lots of to-do and packing lists and working my way through them and taking care of the kids. At the time, Butterfly was 14 months old and had not switched to a sippy yet, so I was washing lots of bottles every day - for her and Little Man, whom I wasn't able to nurse. Between the two of them, I think we went through more than 10 bottles a day, easy. We read lots of stories and went on walks, usually over to my good friend Marilyn's house on base.

Life now:
We still read lots of stories and go for lots of walks - although outings are usually to a park where the kids can run around and climb without my assistance (love that!). We're still working on swinging unassisted . . .  But, no one is using bottles - yay! Although we still wash sippy cups around here . . . I still make to-do lists, because I am totally a list person, and I am still working my way through my daily to-do lists. And project list(s). I may or may not have more than one project list. (Of course, a "project" is anything that stays on the to-do list for more than a few weeks - so "move decorations in kids rooms" is a "project".)

The park then: 

Little Man riding in the stroller - he was my little tank!

Butterfly on the swings - she loved them then, she loves them now!

The park now:
Flower, Butterfly and Thor, I mean, Little Man, on a walk to the Club Park recently.
As you can see, park excursions and walks are quite different now! Mike and I aren't the ones pushing strollers or carts, the kids are! 

Weather then:
Oklahoma is a very diverse state - there are actually nine different "ecosystems" in the state. At any rate, it's a very green state. And in the Oklahoma City area, there are lots of trees and lots and lots of green grass. How I miss that green grass! And the trees! May in Oklahoma is known for severe thunderstorms that produce tornadoes (we spent one evening in our stair closet not too long before left OKC). And remember last May? (It has been really neat to see friends rebuilding their homes through FB.)

Butterfly and our cat Jack in the stair closet during a severe thunderstorm.

The live radar on the storm.
Yeah, that storm produced an F-3 tornado just south of the base shortly after that photo was taken (the one of the radar). The tornado was headed right for base housing, but turned just before hitting the base and went due east. We were lucky, but others were not. The only damage we had was a piece of baseball sized hail that went right through my wicker plant stand outside. After the storm, we came out to a gaping hole right in the middle of the top rack and a broken potted plant, and sunny skies.

Weather now:
Windy. Dusty. A little on the cooler side. Yep - that about sums up the weather we've had this May. Some days there has been so much dust that you can't see the Sandia Mountains, or even the much closer Manzano Mountains.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman, Sept 17, 2012, from http://www.decodedscience.com/dust-storms-and-haboobs-dangerous-consequence-of-drought/32508
I did not take the picture above - and it's not from this month either, but it may as well be. That's pretty much what the skies have looked like almost every day lately . . . even if the day starts out clear, well, it ends like that. The previous springs we have spent here have not been this windy (I mean, Albuquerque is definitely windy in the spring, but not as windy as it has been - at least not for so long - this wind started back in March, usually it's gone by now). I think it is drought related. Click on that link, and I'm sure Darla will tell you more.


I think that about sums up my then verses now. A lot has certainly changed in the last four years and I'm sure a lot will change between now and 2018. Maybe we'll have PCS'd? Twice??  I don't know. I certainly hope so. I have enjoyed our time here at Kirtland, and there are certainly things that I will miss when we do PCS, but I am ready to leave. Since we are not leaving anytime soon, I will continue to enjoy the things that I really like. And I made a list of "last things to see and do before we leave" for the following year. I'll post more that another time though!

One last thought - Happy Mother's Day out to there to all you Mommies! You guys do a great job - keep it up! :)

09 May 2014

Goals and Thoughts for the Coming Summer

We are almost to the cusp of summer and whenever I have a vast amount of time stretching before me, I like to make goals and map out that time, on paper and in my head. Being a planner will drive one to that kind of thing. . . .

So for the past few weeks, I have been mulling in my head what I want to do over the summer, with the Stepping Stones and for myself. This is to include zoo camp, travel, reading, schooling or not and anything and everything in between.

I have also started mapping out our next year, since it is most likely, and hopefully, our last year at Kirtland. We have been here for just about four years after all, and when you hit that three year mark at a duty station in the military, well, you just start getting the itch to move. We're over that three year mark by a year with no "immediate" sign of moving, so I'm guessing it will be another year. (Of course, Mike could come home with orders pending tomorrow . . . .) All that to say, when your days are finite, it just gets you thinking about things you really want to do. And see. And experience. It could prove to be a busy year!

But first, summer. I consider the cusp of summer to be the last week of school for Butterfly, which is coming up in less than two weeks. Actually, next week is her last full week of school. Butterfly repeatedly requested to be taken out of the CDC for the summer, so I obliged and her last day in the CDC will also be her last day of school. At first I was very apprehensive about this, but as the day draws closer, I find myself very excited to have a whole summer to do stuff with my little Stepping Stones.

On the calendar so far, we have zoo camp, otherwise known as BioPark Beginnings, which Butterfly and Little Man did last summer. They loved it so much, that I decided to enroll them again. Flower is not quite old enough, so she'll have to miss out.

Activities - Butterfly will continue speech and occupational therapy until she starts Kindergarten in August, so we'll have that. I have also decided to look for ballet lessons for Butterfly and that search is currently in progress. I'm also hoping to get the kids into swim lessons, but not all at the same time if I have to be in the water with them. That would be too overwhelming for me - so one at a time. I haven't even started to research that yet. However, the base indoor pool just recently reopened, so I am excited to find out more. (The indoor pool was closed for several months due to budget cuts during and following sequestration.)

Of course, we'll have park days and go to the "big park" on base with a friend of mine and her children.

Travel - ah, yes, travel. I will be going to visit a dear friend before she moves back to Alaska and will also see some friends along the way there and back. And once Sierra has moved to her new home, I am hoping to go and see her. Lastly, Mike and I are hoping to get out to Oklahoma since we had to cut that part out of our vacation when we had to come back early for pre-deployment training.

A very exciting travel opportunity that we will be taking will be back to Antonito and Conejos, Colorado to ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad! My Dad will be coming out to visit and we're going to make the trek up to ride the longest narrow guage railroad in the nation. We're planning on staying in the same cabin as last year, and the kids have been talking about it since we went last July. We were originally going to go to Durango, Colorado and ride the Durango & Silverton narrow guage railroad, but I won tickets for the Cumbres and Toltec, so we're going to ride it again. (If you happen to pick up a brochure for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad - check out the picture of the train by the gorge - it was taken by yours truly. You may also see my very handsome husband and son featured in another picture.)

VBS - I wasn't sure if I was going to put the kids in VBS at the Chapel this year or not, but decided to go ahead and do it. And I'm volunteering that week too. My friend who works in the ECCD is moving shortly afterwards, so I will be helping her out that week in the ECCD, so we can hang out before she leaves.

(Now that I am writing all this out on my blog, suddenly the expanse of time that lies before me doesn't seem so empty . . . I'm telling you, this is how I end booking my calendar crazy.)

School - I decided not to enroll in any classes for the summer, since they are usually at a double time pace, or faster, but I am continuing in the fall. More on that later.

Projects - my big "project" is to go through the whole house, top to bottom, and get rid of anything that we don't need and/or won't need in the future. This includes going through all the baby clothes, toys, closets, etc. I am planning on giving quite a bit away (and have already started doing this), but I am also participating in another Mommy Market Sale in the fall, so I plan on preparing things for that. And we may or may not have a yard sale. My goal is to have the house "PCS ready" by September. Ish. Sometime in September. I am hoping that by preparing for a PCS move without the pressure of a pending PCS, it will be a pleasant, freeing project. We'll see.  The good news is that I have already started! Yay!

Reading - besides continuing to review books, I am hoping to read a few titles from my Top 100 Books List, specifically to finish the  Lord of the Rings trilogy. I also want to make some headway into the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher that Sierra loaned me. And I hope to finish the "Anomaly" trilogy by Krista McGee (the third is to be published in July). And . . . (I know, there's a lot of and's) I want to finish my Bible study - my small group will continue to meet over the summer since we only got about half way through our book, but I won't be able to join them since zoo camp falls on the same day. I'm hoping to finish on my own though.

Writing - ah, the really big one. First, I want to start blogging regularly again. I used to be pretty good about blogging regularly and throughout the years I have waxed and waned in my blog post regularity. This doesn't make for gathering a following very easy though. Granted, I've had good reason, here and there, having a baby or three, and so on, but no more excuses. By regularly, I mean I want to post at least twice a week. Hopefully three times a week. The best scenario would be to schedule a regular time in my schedule to sit down and blog. I have come to the conclusion that my blog posts tend to be long-winded and I tend to write multiple topics in one post (just look at this post!!) and I also use obscure titles. I like using obscure titles - it adds a bit of mystery I think, but maybe it's not so good for followers. What do you think? I could really use some help on this one - so please critique away. But not too harshly.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the novel I am writing. I put my book on hold, sniff, sniff, while I was taking my class at UCO this spring. There just wasn't time to work on it very much. I did write down a general outline and some notes about how I want my novel to end, but that's it. A big goal for this summer is to get down to seriously writing some more of my novel, and hopefully, hopefully finish a first draft by the time Butterfly starts school. I think in order to do this, I just need to make it a priority. I did revise my first chapter for publisher-review format, but after that, not much has been done.

How will I get all this done you ask? Well, I'm not entirely sure. For someone who loves to plan, I'm not actually that great at it. I often don't give myself enough time and overbook my schedule. So hopefully we'll get into a really good routine right off the bat and we'll be good. However, most of my nights will be free since Mike is starting classes back up and will be going pretty stead for the next year when he will hopefully, Lord-willing graduate. While he studies, I can write. Or read. Or work on my project. Or sleep to recover from my daily routine. Either way, I'll have more free time than usual at night.

So what are your plans for the summer?

08 May 2014

Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

It's an eerie and strange land filled with untold perils and unexpected sights that Foxbrush ventures into to follow the Lady Daylily, who has run away on their wedding day. A world where Faerie beasts dwell and live, a world between times, a world around times and outside of time. A world that Foxbrush can hardly believe, even as it presents itself before him and all around him. And it's a world that's a little too familiar. Could the old tales told by a blind poet actually be history foretold and simultaneously yet to happen?

I really enjoyed Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, although I did not particularly like how the character Foxbrush started out - very unmanly, afraid and fussy. I can understand why Stengl painted him in such a way, to make his transformation all the more amazing, but I found him irritating. The world that Stengl created, however, was absolutely amazing and the originality with which she wrote about how time moves and flows and the Faerie beasts dwell and how everything fit together was stunning. Sometimes it can be hard to imagine any more fantastical creatures and worlds in an age where there are so many stories of imagined lands and creatures, but Stengl artfully wove and created her world, proving that there is still much to be left to the imagination.

If you enjoy reading fantasy fiction, then I highly recommend this book. You'll start down a journey filled with twists and turns that will keep you guessing and turning the pages until the very end.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

If you only read one book this year - read this book.

In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, Nabeel Qureshi takes his readers on an extraordinary journey of faith through the eyes of a devout Muslim. Nabeel's story starts in his warm, loving and joyful childhood home where his parents brought him up steeped in the traditions of Ahmadis Islam. Nabeel, a second generation American Muslim, starts his journey of faith in an earnest effort to proselytize Islam and win people over for Allah. In his mission, he meets a devout Christian who challenges him in his faith, setting him on a path to systematically analyze the historical texts, the early testimonies of eye witnesses and more to prove (or disprove) a case for Christianity, and then for Islam. Adamant that Islam is the only way and that Jesus was a only a prophet and a man, as the Quran says, Nabeel honestly and passionately starts down a path that leads him ultimately to Jesus, the Son of God.

I found Nabeel's book to be a thoroughly captivating and equally convicting testimony to the power of God and the intensity with which He draws us to Him, through love. Through Nabeel's eyes I learned of the fellowship, worship and beliefs of Muslims and that Islam is a diverse religion, with deep differences between different sects and how they interpret the Quran. Before I read this book, I knew a little about Islam, but Nabeel's story paints an intimate portrait of the heart and life of a Muslim devout to Allah that piqued my curiosity and taught me much about a faith that billions the world over follow. More than that, Nabeel told his story of what happens when a Muslim meets Jesus Christ and turns from Allah to follow Jesus in such detail - I felt that I was there with him. In his efforts and research, Nabeel built a case for Christianity that could not be denied and found that he could not replicate his findings in his research for the case of Islam.

What I found very surprising was how convicted I was by Nabeel's story. The questions that he would put to Christians to test their faith in his efforts to proselytize them for Islam had me searching my Bible for answers. Could I have answered his questions with certainty, accuracy and conviction? Could I point him to answers in the Bible and thoroughly defend my faith? Nabeel's story has renewed a heartfelt conviction to get into deeper Bible study and know more about the faith that I profess and love.

I recommend this book for anyone who has ever searched and asked questions of their religion - be in Christianity, Islam or another. Nabeel asked questions, did the research and followed their conclusions to the undeniable answer. More than that, his love for God was so passionate, so complete, that he risked losing everything - family, friends, community - to choose God first.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”