Monday, December 31, 2012

Colorado Bound!

Yep. That is a screen shot of setting my alarm for tomorrow morning. We leave for Colorado with the kids tomorrow at 6:40. The flight leaves then and doing the math... Yeah. I have to get up at 3:15. And, you'll notice the "repeat" part of the alarm - never. Darned straight.

So excited though! Kids can't wait and we're pretty stoked too. :)

Happy New Year to everyone. It's been a great year and I know 2013 will be too. Bring it on!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

Another fantastic Christmas in the books! (Well, one more celebration is to come on Thursday after this blizzard passes through and my family can trek out to Indiana.)

Josie's favorite gift? An Angry Birds Game we played all afternoon. Tessa's? Her $4 t-shirt from Walmart. And, they're both using coupons from their Crazy Christmas Coupon Books tonight - blueberry muffins and coke for dinner then popcorn and a movie afterward. :) I just love this age when they can be so satisfied with thoughtful, creative gifts that don't cost very much and all come from stores within 5 miles of our house.

Jack had a blast with whatever he opened today. He particularly loved his train track from Katie and Jason and his car transporter from Amy and Joey. He also got some tools and books too that he really gobbled up. Not to mention, all of the candy in his stocking. That kid was in hog heaven. He was one sticky, sticky boy by noon. :)

Tom and I went to bed around midnight last night after helping Santa, and after I finished Killing Lincoln. (Excellent book - highly recommend!) At 2:30, Tessa came in our bed not feeling well. Never fails - Christmas comes and kids get sick. She coughed and tossed and turned until around 3:30. I got up around 6:30 to shower and wait for signs of Josie. We told them they couldn't leave their rooms until 7 but she didn't wake up until 8! Jack was shortly after.

Started the holiday by decorating gingerbread cookies on Christmas Eve...

Then, took the Christmas Eve photo...

After all were asleep and all gifts were under the tree, I took this photo...

Tom was pretty sure Santa must have landed outside of Josie's room on the metal roof. He was right.

We read the Christmas story on Josie's bed before going downstairs.

Jack wasn't a fan of letting us take a photo of him on the steps before going down.

We let him look over the balcony at all of the presents and he changed his mind.

I don't think we started opening until 8:30 at least and took until noon to finish with everything. First, more pictures...

Finally, the presents! I love Tessa's stance in this one.

This was a good, inexpensive, "big" gift from Santa. They have played with this thing all day long. Best thing is it will hit the trash the first trash day after New Year's.

Stockings were last on the agenda.

The adults have spent the day lounging and cooking leisurely. We made Philly Cheese Steaks for lunch and a turkey breast and twice baked potatoes for dinner. I've been working on an arugami (crocheted) elephant from the book Tom got me. I've really enjoyed my day today after all of the preparation. I only cleaned up once, though we kept it clean throughout the present opening, and the cluttered house is starting to grow on me. I'm sure I'll be over it tomorrow. :)

Now, we're settling in for the Blizzard Warning tomorrow. It should be interesting if this thing comes to fruition. Right now, they're calling for 8-12 inches of snow but I've also seen 10-15 on another network. It's hard to imagine that much snow. I'm thankful it happened this year and not last when we didn't have a garage. And, we have nowhere to go tomorrow, so I just plan on picking up around here, crocheting some more and getting ready for my family on Thursday. Of course, that will be my third full day without leaving the house so I may in fact go crazy. That has to be a record for me - even when I've had babies I have to get out of the house and go somewhere.

Usually, Christmas is the start of a long, boring winter season. But, not this year for us. January brings Colorado and Mexico, February will be Colorado again and then we'll wrap it up in Florida for March. If it weren't for Tom's impending knee surgery, I would really be looking forward to the winter which may be a first. :)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This Little Light

We live in a dark and broken world. Very broken. Our pastor talked about this in church this morning and he was able to put words where I could not. His words worked on me throughout the day, but I will not be able to do my thoughts justice. My only hope is to get some reprieve from letting them rumble around in my head over the next week.

Even before the service this morning, the events in Connecticut on Friday have made me more than introspective over the last few days. Perhaps it is because I have a first grader and a kindergardener and I can relate all too closely. I can picture my children huddled in a closet. I can picture their teachers shielding their little bodies. I can picture going to the local church and seeing the other parents, parents of my girls' classmates, learning they will not see their children again. And, I can picture myself as one of those parents.

It has hit me hard.

We are a broken people. We live without God in our schools, without God in our workplace and without God in our government. We are afraid and ashamed to wish people a Merry Christmas or to tell them we will pray for them and their struggles. We see an event like this and point fingers and refuse to admit this is just pure evil and, instead, look for something or someone to blame.

This darkness and brokenness has helped me understand that there is only one light in this world on which we can count. Jesus. Jesus can shine a light in the darkness. A light of hope and peace and love and safety and security. This world cannot give us any of those things. The problem is, that is just where we search for such things.  We look to laws and legislators and law enforcement and money and shelter  and...things. We won't find it there and that hurts and burns us every single time.

The light of Jesus is hard to find. That is because we are the ones that have to carry his light and we are all broken people. We have to be the ones to carry the light of Jesus and let it shine. We need to be the ones to let it shine on our kids and teach them to shine the light in everything they do. We need to shine His light on the broken and the forgotten and downtrodden and the ones wrapped in darkness.

Even in our darkest moments (and there will be many), we need to shine the light of Jesus. My hope is in Jesus and in the light only He can shine on all of the darkness of the world.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Two Weeks with My Two Year Old

Two weeks is a long time. Great things could be done in the span of two weeks. As I mentioned before, our sitter is on a two week trip to the Philippines. Jack and I were on our own to accomplish what we could. Of course, I had all of the best intentions. As I sit here, with only two days before he goes back to the sitter, I can't help but notice the discrepancies in these two lists...

What I Hoped to Accomplish
- Go into work a few mornings early right after getting the kids on the bus and have Tom trade Jack off around 9:30.
- Take Jack to the gym most days while the girls were at school.
- Plan the Christmas Fun Day we're going to have at our house next weekend for a few neighbors.
- Organize my bathroom closet and drawers.
- Organize the piles of paperwork and buy a filing cabinet.
- Finish Christmas Shopping.
- Wrap everything.
- Start applying for auction items for some Rotary events we have in the next few months.
- Organize the laundry room.
- Take in/pick up items for dry cleaning and alterations.
- Organize the craft cupboard in the kitchen.
- Organize the bins in the mudroom.
- Pick up the guest room (AKA Catch All Room) for the guests we're having for the holidays.
- Various other items on my "work" list.

What I Actually Accomplished
- Went to work one morning - with Jack.
- Made it to the gym once - last night. I did fit in a run around the neighborhood with Jack in the stroller but made it short because of the 40 degree weather.
- Took in the dry cleaning and alterations, but only was able to pick up the dry cleaning.
- Organized the pantry (and cleaned the fridge).
- Spent entirely too much time on the Trip Advisor Playa Del Carmen Forums daydreaming about our trip.
- Started and finished my book club book.
- Crocheted.
- Started my addiction to Downton Abbey. I somehow made it through the whole first season during Jack's naps and while Tom was out for an evening.
- Overheard WAY too many Dora's and Diego's.
- Snuggled on the couch every morning with Jack while watching Dora and Diego.
- Had a selection appointment with a customer. And Jack.
- Cleaned up the kitchen 14 times and did all of our laundry twice.

My "Hope" list actually made it on paper, which means I should have actually gotten more done. They're all longer term projects that have been on my list forever (except for Christmas). I really have no motivation to do them so that's why I didn't.

Really, I feel like I've been on vacation for two weeks. Toward the end, I really checked out of any productivity and just started to enjoy my last few days. I have had so much fun having Jack around and with me 24 hours a day. He is just a blast when we're one on one. At the Auditor's Office while I was filing our exemptions for property taxes, he announced the whole room he had a booger. Then, at Rotary this week, he bowed his head very sweetly for the prayer and then raised them, almost as is in praise, at the end. He sure seemed to charm everyone there and everywhere we went.

So, back to work on Monday and it will be a more than full week. End of the year means HOA budgets, tax planning, Christmas events for our homeowners and employees and much more. Not to mention, I'll be spending more time out of the office just around the corner for the holidays.  It will all get done. I am thankful for these two weeks with my two year old. I am also thankful for our sitter coming home. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Starbucks to the Rescue!

I stopped for a rare Starbucks today since I had an errand to run in the area. I have been dragging since about 2:30, likely due to the "lets solve all the world's problems" gab session that Tom and I had until midnight last night.

All I could think of when I got my coffee was "Starbucks to the rescue!!!" Said in my very best Diego voice. I have watched, or had running in the background, entirely too many of these episodes in the last few days.

Monday, I go back to work. I think I'm ready for some adult interaction. :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book List 2012

This year, I decided to read a book a month. I used to be a huge reader, but have virtually read nothing since having kids. Tom gave me a Kindle for Christmas and so I started the year by reading a book I bought just for my Kindle. I really didn't think I would like it, but I soon became a huge fan. I could start a book on the Kindle, read a little on my phone while waiting in the Kindergarden pick up line and then finish it up on the iPad. I love how it all syncs to all of my devices. I was hooked after that first book and started scouring the library for free books.

I got sucked in to a few Amish series by Beverly Lewis early in the year. Something about a nice, feel good book made the winter go a little faster. Then, I was asked to join a book club with some other moms. That took my reading to another level! Before, I generally read for total pleasure and stuck with murder mysteries and Amish love stories. Now, I get to read one book per month that stretches my comfort zone.

I would love to review each book on here, but that's just not going to happen. Most of these I would recommend although some are tougher to stick with than others. I'm going to try to write a few words about each book here.

Here is my list. I hope to finish one more this year to take me to an even 20. Next year, my goal is two books a month. I know this pales in comparison to what some take on in a year, but for me, it's a good number.

Abrams Daughters Series - Beverly Lewis - Books 1-5 - Easy Reading - Romance/Mystery/Christian

Don't Blink - James Patterson - Typical James Patterson - Mystery

Heritage of Lancaster County Series - Beverly Lewis - The Shunning, The Confession - Easy Reading - Romance/Mystery/Christian

Amish Country Crossroad Series - Beverly Lewis - The Postcard - Easy Reading - Romance/Mystery/Christian

The Paris Wife - Paula McClain - Book Club - Historical Fiction - Chronicles Ernest Hemingway and his first wife in Paris

Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand - Book Club - Biography of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and WWII airman who was lost at sea and spent time in a Japanese POW camp - highly recommend 

Three Weeks with My Brother - Nicholas Sparks - Book Club - True Story - Chronicles Nicholas Sparks journey around the world with his brother and retells stories of their childhood - grab your Kleenex

Stay Close - Harlan Coben - Typical Harlan Coben - Mystery/Suspense

The 500 - Matthew Quirk - Mystery/Suspense - slow starter and unremarkable

Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell - Book Club - great book on success and the factors that contribute to highly successful individuals - great book for business AND for moms - highly recommend

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini - Book Club - Set in Afghanistan - follows Afghani women from 1959 through the present - tough read because of the circumstances however great read to gain perspective into the Afghan culture, history and the application to today's war - highly recommend 

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak - Book Club - follows a little girl in Nazi Germany through WWII - also a tough read but good for historical perspective - not sure I could recommend it, but I'm glad I read it

The Last Cavaliers Series - The Crossing Series - Gilbert Morris - Easy Reading - Historical Christian Fiction - follows a boy as he joins the Confederate Army under Stonewall Jackson - I really enjoyed this one 

Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall & Denver Moore - Book Club - Non-Fiction/Christian - true story of a Louisiana Sharecropper/homeless man and a wealthy art dealer and his wife who formed a friendship - another major tear jerker - I cried my eyes out - highly recommend 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Thirty

Today will be my last post this month. I have enjoyed giving thanks for everything in my life this month. It has kept me focused on all of the positives in my life even when I feel like nothing is going my way. I wanted to do recap of all of my posts today.

Day 1 - A Full Briefcase
Day 2 - Staying Home with Jack
Day 3 - A Free Saturday Morning
Day 4 - A Creative Husband
Day 5 - For Soap and Other First World Provisions
Day 6 - The Privilege of Voting
Day 7 - My Hope in Jesus
Day 8 - The Triplets
Day 9 - Friends
Day 10 - Sweet Kids with a Sense of Humor
Day 11 - Finished Laundry
Day 12 - A Husband that "Gets" Me
Day 13 - My Parents
Day 14 - My Bed
Day 15 - Tom's Parents
Day 16 - Movie Night
Day 17 - Weekend at Home
Day 18 - Pinterest & Blogs
Day 19 - Our Kids
Day 20 - The Christmas Spirit
Day 21 - Our New Town, Greenfield
Day 22 - An Attitude of Gratitude
Day 23 - Retail Stores
Day 24 - Previous Generations
Day 25 - Our Home
Day 26 - Our Babysitter, Aneth
Day 27 - Teachers & Staff
Day 28 - Our Customers
Day 29 - Rotary

Today, I am thankful for everything I didn't get a chance to mention. Here's just a brief list...

Extended Family - Brothers, Sisters, Cousin, Aunts,  and Uncles (Can't believe I didn't get this one in - it will be at the top of my list next year!)
Diet Coke (Ridiculous I know)
Our Employees
Being Able to Run/Exercise
My Health
My Family's Health

That will be a good starting point next year. That is if I do this next year. I'm pretty proud of myself for sticking with it and finishing up on the 30th and not the first of December. I'm not sure I can top that next year. I highly recommend doing this to those of you with blogs, or even just in a journal. Thirty days of thankfulness is a lot and it really did make me think about how much I have and to be thankful for it.

Signing off now for a little blog break. It won't be a long one, but I can assure you I will not be posting tomorrow. :) Thanks for indulging me this month.

Thanks Given - Day Twenty Nine

Another day late. At least I'm consistent...

Today, I am thankful to be a part of Rotary. I know I've said a word or two on here about our group, but it's probably time for more of an explanation. Rotary International is a service organization with a motto of "Service Above Self" with 34,000 clubs all over the world and over 1.2 million Rotarians. The mission of Rotary International is to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders. One of their largest, and most familiar, initiatives is the eradication of Polio across the globe. Through the Rotary Foundation, individual clubs across the world work on projects that are in one of six areas of focus - 
  • Peace and conflict prevention/resolution
  • Disease prevention and treatment
  • Water and sanitation
  • Maternal and child health
  • Basic education and literacy
  • Economic and community development
Source (and to learn more): Rotary International

So, what do we do? And, why am I thankful? Our club meets every Thursday at noon at the local Ponderosa and is comprised of a variety of business professionals throughout the community. Each meeting has a time of Happy Bucks where we each put money in the pot to talk about something, really anything, that has happened in the last week. This money goes towards our many projects throughout the community. Generally, we also have a speaker. 

Outside of our meetings, we work on all kinds of service projects. We take apples to all of the teachers in the local school district once a year. We raise money for fresh water in other countries. We ring the bell to raise money for the local Shop with a Deputy at Christmas. We pick up trash on the highway. We sponsor exchange students - both inbound and outbound. We put up pergolas on the local bike trail. 

Our largest, signature project is the Gift of Life program. I talked a little bit about it in this post. We have a huge auction every year to raise money for the program which funds heart surgeries for children around the world. This year, we are the sponsoring club for a Vocational Training Team heading out for Uganda tomorrow. One of our club members is the team leader and will take over a team of doctors and nurses to train the surgeons in the hospital there more about heart surgeries on children. That is what you call a sustainable project! You can follow their progress and cases on their blog. This is a photo from last year.

I am so proud to be a part of a club that does so much good in our local community and around the world. What a better path toward world peace than healing the sick, feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty. I am thankful to be a part of such a generous, hardworking club.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Twenty Eight

Good thing the month is almost over. I'm getting slower and slower at keeping up with the every day thing. I'm still thinking about it everyday, but as we all know, thinking does not equal doing. Here's how yesterday's post would have looked.

Today, I am thankful for our customers. (I'm losing track a little, but I don't think they have made the list yet.) This week, we have had eight closings. Not all are Timber Run sales and some are multiple closings on the same property (long story), but still eight closings will keep anyone busy. :)

Although I am eternally grateful for all of our customers, I think I have the softest place in my heart for our very first customers - both at Timber Run and now our first customers at Joyner Homes, our custom side. These people believed in us before we even started up the bulldozer to clear the ground, let alone started building homes. It takes a lot of trust to be the first customer at any business, but to be the first on one of the largest investments of your life takes it to a whole new level.

I look back at our first Timber Run customers and think about how far we have come. I imagine how far we will be in four years on the custom side too. We've been building at Timber Run for four years now and built and closed 36 homes there with another 8 under construction and then 28 more to go to be 100% complete.

On the custom side, we started with our own home which we finished in April. Now, we have two officially under construction, with one more slated to start in December and a renovation that we hope to start shortly after that. Again, there is that level of trust while we move on to the next stage of our business.

I am incredible thankful for all of our customers. Every last one of them. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Twenty Seven

Ach! Another day missed. I'm determined to stay caught up though. Last night I had no excuse. I spent my computer time obsessively researching our trip to Mexico. I think I have read every snippet on every forum online about our hotel and the area. I'm just a little excited... :) Here's yesterday's post...

Today, I am thankful for all of the great teachers and staff that have had a part in my life and my kids' lives so far. I met with Josie's teacher and the speech pathologist today to talk about the results of Josie's speech test. I was surprised at the thoroughness but not surprised at the results of the test. She will be doing two days a week of speech at school for 10 minutes each. (It cracks me up that they can get anything done in 10 minutes but they must get down to business!) Tom and I both went through speech therapy during school and I wouldn't be surprised if all the kids need it at some point. I'm a little sad that her little flaws will be trained out of her, but totally understand it's a part of life. I certainly wouldn't want her to talk like that when she's 15.

I can still remember all of my teachers in elementary and most of them from junior high and high school. But, I have a really tough time naming more than two or three in college. Isn't that funny? Shouldn't my memory fade when I get back to 25(+) years ago and be pretty clear for only 15 years ago? I think that just shows what an impact teachers can have on a child so early in life.

Tessa and Josie have been so incredibly lucky to have had two wonderful teachers at Mt. Comfort. Mrs. McCleery is only in her first year and has done such a good job really making things interesting for the kids and going the extra mile to make it memorable. So far this year, she has created a book club in the classroom and made Josie a chart to track the Magic Treehouse books she has read. Josie just loves her and probably mentions her name at least once a day. And, Tessa has Mrs. Brown again this year. Our experience has been the same as last year - wonderful. Tessa doesn't talk about school as much as Josie, but I can tell she is having a great time and really enjoying her time there.

These girls just adore their teachers and are always thinking about them. I am constantly amazed at the energy and time it must take to be a teacher in these younger grades. My three kids wear me out and I can't imagine a whole classroom! I am so thankful for teachers that care for my children and are teaching them so many new things - so much more than reading and math!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Twenty Six

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. Not true.

Today, I am thankful for our babysitter, Aneth (Annette). She, and her husband, are in the Philippines visiting her family for the next two weeks. I miss them already. :)

Aneth and Steve are true blessings in our lives and in the lives of our kids. The girls have been going to Aneth's since Tessa was a year old. Jack has known nothing else. They beg to go there and are sad to leave. To trust someone with your children takes real trust and they have ours completely.

Most importantly, and special to me, is that they pray for us and the kids everyday. When the kids are sick, she always tells me they prayed for them the night before. It means a lot. I'm so thankful to have found them.

These will be a long two weeks. We don't have a back up. Mainly because they're never gone. So, Jack gets to tag along with mom and dad for two weeks. It's not too different than the first six months of his life when he did the same. Ok - a little different. He watched WAY too much TV today and walked around with a dirty diaper for too long as I forgot wipes. But, he was a cute office mate. I'm looking forward to it and have big plans for around the house which probably won't happen. A girl can dream though. :)

So, a big thank you is due to Aneth and Steve! We hope you enjoy your trip - you certainly deserve it!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Twenty Five

Today, I am thankful for our home. To me, it is so much more than shelter. (Of course, I'm thankful for that too.) But, I just love everything about it and it fits us so perfectly. We put so much thought into every detail. It was a ton of fun watching it come together and I love living here even more. I'm also thankful that Tom and I were so much on the same page about things. I've heard horror stories about people building houses together, but we didn't go through any of that. In fact, I've not had any of our customers go through that either, so maybe it has to do with the builder. :)

That's it. I'm keeping it short tonight because I'm trying to get caught up around here and I'm in the middle of a good book that is calling my name...

Thanks Given - Day Twenty Four

It's a good thing I'm not getting graded on the timeliness of these posts. I'm falling behind and trying to catch up! I posted yesterday, but it was for the previous day. Tonight, I need to do two to catch up. We'll see if that happens. Here is yesterday's post...

Today, I am thankful for previous generations and the wisdom they are able to share.

We went to dinner with Tom's parents and his grandmother, Grammy, to celebrate her 88th birthday tonight. We ate at the Chop House in Newark, which used to be the Natoma when we were still in town. So many fun nights were spent there. Even when Tom and I were just dating in high school, Grammy and Grandpa took us out to dinner there every other month or so. Then, as the family grew up, we would all go out on special occasions. It was very fun to sit and reminisce in the place that has such meaning to the Joyner's (me included).

With a big extended family, and our own three little noise makers, we don't get to just sit and talk to Grammy very much. Between Tom and I, she is our only living grandparent. So, we talked a lot last night about her childhood and her family. (Side Note: Tessa's middle name is Coad, which is Grammy's maiden name and still the name of the family potato farm in Utica.) We heard such a rich history, one that revolved around taking care of family members, being generous and trusting in God.

Grammy remembered that once her mother didn't have a nickel to give her for a pencil for first grade. And, bananas were a special treat and didn't come along very often. Although, as a farmer, they did have access to milk, butter, grains and meat, which was not as common. She said she never felt poor but knew they didn't have any money.

The night was also reminded me of my Grandpa Paul, who also grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. I know Grandpa, and likely my Grandma Elnora (mom's mother), grew up much the same. My Grandpa Chuck grew up a coal miner's son which I can imagine was not the lap of luxury. Unfortunately, I don't know much about Grandma Jeannie's childhood but I do believe she grew up in the city and I'm sure had a story to tell there too.

Our generation has come so far. And, I'm not just talking about in my family history. But, really, as a society. We have advanced past the point of living off the land. To decide to live a life like that again would likely get us committed. In fact, just today, I read an article about a family in West Virginia that did that and they really did seem a bit nutty.

I am thankful for their generation and that they have given us the stories of their past so that we do not forget from where we came. I tried to savor much of last night's conversations, and the ones of my grandparents, and commit it to memory. I hope that one day, I can be a spry, 88 year old passing down the wisdom of my generation to my children, grand children and great-grandchildren.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Twenty Three

Missed another post. Here's what yesterday would have looked like...

Today, I am thankful for having stores to provide for my every want, need and desire. I get to do things like cook, bake and crochet for fun and not for sustenance. I'm sure I could live off the land if I had to, but I sure don't want to. So, I'm happy that I can go into Target and buy clothes for my kids without having to buy the fabric and sew them together or buy pre-sliced deli meat and not have to smoke the pig first. Even 100 years ago, this would likely have not been the case.

We took the kids to the Works again today and watched the artisans in their shops dipping candles, working the general store and weaving on the loom. The girls do not look very impressed with watching the candle making, but they did seem to enjoy everything else. Candle making is a little slow going...

While I can get nostalgic for a simpler time, I am thankful for modern conveniences a little more. After the Works, mom and I did a little shopping just because it felt like the right thing to do. I picked up a few gifts and a few Christmas decorations and was impressed by the cordialness of the other shoppers and workers. For working all morning, by 3PM, they were still happy and had smiles on their faces!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Twenty Two

Well, today is the big day. The day in which the whole country sits down at a table together and says thank you. Today, I am thankful for this blog and the "attitude of gratitude" I have acquired during this month of Thanksgiving.  

About four years ago, we went to a motivational seminar in which some big names spoke. One of them was George Ross of Apprentice fame and I've already blogged about what an impact that made on me. The other speaker was Zig Ziglar. I have read a few of his books and see his quotes sprayed about on Facebook almost weekly. At the time, Zig had recently fell down the stairs and had problems with his short term memory. His daughter interviewed him and helped to keep him on task throughout his segment. It seemed that his fall caused him to get waylaid and repeat himself frequently. I remember smiling because he did do that occasionally, but you could tell that he had told the stories so many time, they were right there on the tip of his tongue. 

Zig is famous for his one liner motivational quotes. Here are just a few...

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. 

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want. 

People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.

The day that we saw him, he continued to come back around to his attitude of gratitude. He talked about a wall of gratitude that he had in his office with photos of all of the people who helped him get to where he is today. He must have returned to these talking points three or four times during the interview with his daughter. It was obviously an important part of his outlook on life. In any case, it stuck with me. 

This is a link to a video of his Wall of Gratitude. I wanted to embed it but it won't allow me to do it. It's worth a watch. 

Has my life been perfect during these twenty two days of giving thanks? Nope. Have I whined and complained and been grumpy at home and work? Yep. Would blogging about any of those things made it any better? Absolutely not. So, I'll leave you with two final thoughts from Zig. I think this is a key to why giving thanks daily has improved my life over the last twenty two days. 

Of all the “attitudes” we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life changing.

Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will. 

I will end this "Thanks Given" on Day 30, just like I had planned. But, I am hopeful I can remember the lessons I have learned this month and that I can carry the attitude of gratitude throughout the year. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Twenty One

Today, I am thankful for our new town. I mentioned on Facebook yesterday that we have officially been here for five years, and a month or two. We have already lived in three houses and three school districts! I am so thankful that we have gotten connected and made a lot of new friends. Greenfield reminds me so much of our hometown and we knew we would be happy here. I remember when we were getting ready to move here, I made a few phone calls to get utilities, insurance, etc., and I remember telling Tom that everyone was so nice here!

Even though we are back in Ohio today and reminded of our hometown and all of the people we miss daily, I am thankful that we have a new hometown to which we are always happy to return!

Thanks Given - Day Twenty

Today, I am thankful to actually be in the Christmas spirit, and early to boot. Usually, we rush back to Indiana after Thanksgiving and hurriedly put up our Christmas decorations only to come back after Christmas to take them down in a rush. This year, for whatever reason, we decided to get them up last weekend before Thanksgiving. Strangely, since they're up, now I feel like I can actually enjoy Thanksgiving and not stress about getting back to do everything on Sunday.

Not only that, but this year I am so happy to be spending December in our new house. We designed our living room with our Christmas tree in mind and I even added an outlet near the stair railing because I knew I wanted lights right there during this time of year. One of the big reasons Tom and I wanted to move from our old house had nothing to do with practicality - it had to do with Christmas. We didn't have a fireplace and that was our vision of Christmas for them - stockings, Santa, the whole bit...

On a sad note, this is the first year, out of my 33 Christmases, that I will not be seeing my parents on Christmas morning. In fact, I think I've only not slept in my old room once or twice on Christmas Eve. Even then, it was just around the corner at Tom's house. (To be honest, I'm not even sure that's happened...) Since we've been engaged, I've also seen Tom's parents every Christmas morning. This will be a big change for us but one that comes with some bonuses. We are now starting that tradition with our kids. Josie, Tessa and Jack will get to wake up in their own house on Christmas and rush down the stairs to see our tree and find the Christmas pickle. :) We'll see Tom's parents before Christmas and my parents, brother and girlfriend are coming to our house the day after and I'm so excited about that!

I'm thankful to be in the Christmas mood this year. I have been known to be a bit of a Scrooge around this time of year - stressed to the max and too concerned with checking things off my list. I plan to stay ahead of the game and to be able to enjoy some of the special Christmas activities I have planned for the kids. Now, if someone will just remind me of this post the week before Christmas please... :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Nineteen

Today, I am thankful for my kids. I certainly can't go into detail about every little thing that makes them so special but they really make my life so much sweeter. Now, do we have our rough times? Do they yell and scream at me (and sometimes I at them)? Do I sometimes want to run away for a day or two? Oh yeah. But, it comes back to that unconditional love that is understood by mothers and their children.

Tonight, as I was putting the kids to bed, I was so thankful that Jack still lets us snuggle him and gazes up at us like in a dream when we sing him songs. He's always been a squirmy kid and I have to bribe him for hugs and kisses but not at night. The light goes out and his head hits my shoulder.

The girls and I have had the same bedtime routine for over three years now and it's so simple yet always finishes up the day in a calm and quiet way. No matter what may have happened throughout the day, it's all over after a story and a song. To those of you with young babies, there is nothing better you can do for yourselves or your baby than to establish a routine and become diligent about it. It seems silly but is so helpful in all kinds of ways.

I am extra thankful for them today. They're still at the age that they love their mama no matter what and I can (almost) do no wrong. What's not to love about that?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

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Thanks Given - Day Eighteen

Today, I am thankful for Pinterest and the blogs I follow. Before you scoff and laugh and chastise, I will assure you that I am serious. :)

These things have helped me try new things and stretch outside the box when it comes to creativity, which is by no means my strong point. Today alone, I tried two new projects. First, I made salt dough ornaments for the girls to decorate. I realize this recipe is old as dirt, but I was "inspired" by Pinterest none the less.

I also decorated our stair railing with Christmas cards that we've sent out over the years and added in some Santa pictures too. I saw this one on Clover Lane. (I would link but I'm on my phone. Google it!)

I should also say I'm thankful Tom puts up with all of this too...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Seventeen

Today, I am thankful we have another weekend at home with no plans. We've seemed to have a lot of these lately and I'm always glad when they come along. I'm always inclined to plan something like the children's museum, etc. (only because i get grumpy when we all stay home all day) but today we hung around the house. Tessa and I hit up the craft stores for some Christmas decorations and the grocery. Tom took Josie (and Jack) to the church for Upward basketball assessments. When we all got home, I took off for a run and Tom made shredded chicken sandwiches. We then worked outside and decorated the house a bit for Christmas. I feel like we're super early which feels really good. Spent the late afternoon watching the Buckeyes. Nice little Saturday. :)

Here are a few photos of the "tree" the girls decorated. They were devastated when I told them we couldn't leave it up. They came up with all of this on their own, including the "star"fish beach toy for the topper. (I threw in a picture of the house and Tom too.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Sixteen

Tonight, I am thankful for pizza, popcorn, a fire, a blanket and Brave with the girls. I'm most thankful that we are doing it all as a reward for Tessa's great behavior at school this week. We are always assured by her teacher that she is very well behaved, but she struggles to get all "blue smiley faces" every day during the week. Something always seem to trip her up and keeps her from getting five days in a row for the week. I know she tries so hard, but is also a little social butterfly and always up for fun.

So, this week she did it. She's so proud and we are too. We all get to celebrate. Well, all of us but Jack. He's upstairs going to bed. Poor little guy can't make it up until 9:30. :)

Here's a photo of her chart for the week with our "real" popcorn maker too. This thing makes awesome popcorn and makes popcorn feel like a special occasion. It's a Stir Crazy by Westbend. They come out at Christmas time and I highly recommend it as a gift to anyone with a three-four year old or older. Practical and takes up no space in the toy room. :)

Thanks Given - Day Fifteen

Yep. Missed another day. Oh well. Here's how yesterday's post would have looked...

Today, I am thankful for my fantastic in-laws. In the in-law deck of cards, I think I ended up with a royal flush. (They love Vegas so I thought that was appropriate.)

Not only did they manage to raise a great son, they also manage to give enough time and energy to all of their kids to make us all feel like we're their favorite. :) Every year, they give each family a week, or more, of babysitting so us moms and dads can get away together. They understand that we not only need the break from the kids, but that this one of the secrets of a good marriage. They have set the example of becoming your spouse's best friend.

They have always loved being with each other and got away when they had little ones too. Now, they do almost everything together and wouldn't have it any other way.

What an example they have taught their kids. They've taught us so much about being good parents but also about being a good spouse.

I would have typed this up last night but I spent the first part of the night planning our week away. The second part of the night was spent with them as they were returning after FIVE WEEKS in Colorado helping with the triplets. I told you they were good. ;)

Thank you Barb and Vic for raising a great son and for everything you have done and will do for all of our families! We are so blessed!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Fourteen

Today, I'm thankful for my bed. It's an awesome bed. We've searched high and low for the perfect sheets and the perfect comforter. High and low eventually brought us back around to Target. We have two sets of the same sheets that we switch while we're washing one set. They're that awesome.

It's been a long day and that's where I'm going now. I swear there is no better feeling than crawling into a cold, crisp bed when you're tired.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Thirteen

Today I'm thankful for my parents. They both came to mind today at different times so I thought it appropriate to write about them tonight! I will not do them justice...

Here's a super old photo of the fam. I think it was Matt's Senior Night, which would have been 2000. I just happened to have this one close by so I thought I would use it tonight.

Today, we received a note my dad wrote to Tom and I about an article he found that we thought we may like and he sent the article along too. The article was a printout of a web page that he could have easily just have emailed, but he didn't. These days, it's just not that common to get real letters in the mail. In fact, the only other hand addressed piece we received today was junk mail. Junk mail that was actually hand addressed by some poor sap sitting in a cubicle hand addressing fake frequent flyer rewards in South Dakota. They know we'll open it.

I digress...

My dad has always been quite the example. I always thought we were so much alike and we really are. Growing up, I always thought it was because we both liked pepper and we both loved to read. Now, I realize it probably goes a little deeper than that. :) Dad has always been a shining example of how to do for others - both in his actions, his money and his time. I don't think I realized just how busy he was when I was a kid because he was always at everything, had time to help with times tables and almost always made it home for dinner. Now, as a parent who is still MUCH less busy than he is even now, I realize what an effort he had to make to do all of that. He has set a great example of how to be there for his own kids and yet still be involved in the broader community and take care of "their kids." He has taken this to the next level by being the leader at a bank that strongly encourages community service, outreach and monetary donations by its' employees. I have a hunch that he has played a strong hand in encouraging the community activities of the "local" bank.

And, I can't forget to mention what a strong, hard worker he has always been and putting in his time for so much more than a paycheck. Now that no kids are home, it's not uncommon to find him at work on a Sunday afternoon getting ready for the week. Oh yeah. He works Saturday's too. My favorite dad quote? You can't win if you don't finish.

And, my mom came to mind tonight as I was struggling to get the kids' wonderfully nutritious dinner on the table - bagels, yogurt and apples. When I was young, we had a home cooked meal together a family almost every night. And, how many times did I come home and say, "What's for dinner?" and then proceed to groan. Ugh. How I wish I could take all of those groans back now!

Again, I digress...

When I was kid, I would have always labeled mom as a stay at home mom. Why? Well, it was simple. She was always home when we were home. Or, it seemed that way anyway. In reality, she graduated from college when she had a huge belly full of me. And, worked as a teacher for two years before Matt came along. If I remember correctly, she took a few years "off" while Matt and I were young tots. I say "off" because we all know what it means to be at home with two youngsters. Not to mention, I know she worked at the YMCA running a Mom's Day Out program and probably did a bunch of other stuff too that I've never thought to ask about. Then, when we were in school, she volunteered for everything under the sun. I specifically remember that she did kindergarden screening for the little ones going to school and helped determine if they needed early intervention. Finally, when I was in high school, she got hooked up with A Call To College as a volunteer and soon took over as Director. She has now built that from a simple $500 grant program for high school seniors to a multi-grade, multi-year scholarship, multi-employee, early access program (with a large fundraising/endowment arm) enabling hundreds of students to get a post-secondary education. Until recently, I've never really thought about the balancing act she had to do as a parent.

One other realization I've had in the past few years is how much I am really like my mom. I won't go into detail here, but we are so very similar. As I'm sure all moms have done, I find myself almost daily saying something my mom said to me. And, I don't cringe like some do. I nod and smile because I know she had it right all those years ago. I really did think I was so much like my dad when I was young. Lesson here? I think I take after both of them... and I'm just fine with that.

Thank you mom and dad for being such a good example - raising a family, teaching us what to do with our time, what to do with our money and how to help others. I think it wore off... :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Twelve

Today, I am thankful for Tom, again. Having a husband that talks me through decisions (personal and business) and is ALWAYS on the same page with me is a real lifesaver. After 16.5 years as a couple, 12.5 of them married and 6.5 of them self-employed together, we've gotten to know each other really well. To say the least...

I know that if I'm upset about something, he will be too. I know if he gets fired up about something, I will be too. I know that if I care deeply about something, he will too. Our passions in life have aligned. We actually have to be careful about how fired up we get because we can really go off at times. We've been known to talk for four hours about how to fix the system. What system? You pick it and we've discussed it. :) We've learned that when one of us is in a fit about something (politics anyone?), the other needs to lay low and nod their head a lot. Otherwise, the combined forces of our ire will cause heads to roll...

Just like in high school when I needed a push to skip school and bum around T.J. Evans park my senior year, he still pushes me outside of my comfort zone. (Flash Back: This really happened. I remember we were called into the principal's office and scolded. Some teacher saw us at Tee Jay's for breakfast. I remember I told my mom and she just laughed. Every kids needs a rebellious streak and she knew that. Ask me about my belly button piercing sometime...) I like to think I keep him a little more grounded too and down to earth. However, at times, I definitely feel like I squash some of his creative ability and his natural entrepreneurial spirit. I'm getting much better at trusting him with his ideas (most of them really are great) and helping him run with it the best I can. On the other hand, I know that when I find my true passion in life (not sure I'm there yet...), I know he will back me 100%.

Thanks Tom. I don't say it enough. :)

PS - I think I hit the record on rewrites for this post. I'm all over the place today. Thank goodness for the undo/redo functions and copy/paste. I'd be a horrible journaler...


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Eleven

Today I am thankful to have a cleaned off bed (see photo). Sound crazy? I fold laundry on the bed and usually stack it there until I go to bed and then move it to the floor. Today I was able to fold and put away (with the help of the girls and Tom) all of our laundry. Therefore, I have a cleaned off bed. Isn't it nice? Now, there is already a half load in the laundry room just from today that is taunting me and telling me I'll never be officially done. Oh well.

I also have a cleared off counter and cleared out sink. It was a nice domestic day today. My list for the week is long so it feels good to start off with an organized house. I seem to always start Monday with laundry on my list so it is awesome to have it knocked off before the week begins!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Ten

Today, I am thankful for sweet kids who know how to have a good time. I feel like all of our kids have a great sense of humor and, in general, really enjoy life. Sure, they have their temper tantrums and may whine too much. But, they really are happy kids with an optimistic outlook on life. It all comes out when they start to dance. You may remember the dance parties and associated videos. (Click on the dancing kids tag on the right side) Happy, happy kids.

Tessa and I took this picture after I read a blog post about getting moms out from behind the camera and into the shot. It is a good suggestion. :)

Thanks Given - Day Nine

Well, I made it eight days of posting every day. If I had posted yesterday, it would have looked like this...

Today, I am thankful for friends. Tonight, we went out to dinner with neighbors. Tomorrow, I'm going shopping with some girl friends. And, Sunday, I'm taking the girls (and probably Jack) to a play that our neighbor, their friend, is in downtown.

Friends just make life more fun!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Eight

Today, I had planned on being thankful for family. I saw a wonderful Facebook post today though that made me so very thankful that I had to change it up just a bit.

Almost exactly one month ago, three very special babies were born in Colorado to Tom's brother, Joey, and his wife, Amy. Yes. Three. (Side Note: All three of Tom's brothers and sisters now have multiples - two sets of twins and now triplets.)

All of the babies were healthy a great size for triplets as they were able to hold off until 35 weeks 2 days for delivery. Each baby was on it's own timetable (as with all siblings...) and came home when they were ready.

Jesslyn was the first baby home about 10 days ago.

Evelyn made the trip home next. She arrived on Sunday - exactly one week after her sister.

Finally, I was brought to tears when I saw Amy post that Levi was coming home today.

This is the culmination of a long (very long) journey for this family. This is their story to share so I won't attempt to do it justice. Suffice it to say, their actions and attitudes have demonstrated just how much faith and conviction can get you through just about anything.

Today, I am thankful for the following...

1. That three (healthy) babies get to spend their first night together in their new home.
2. That two very deserving people have received such a blessing.
3. That we do NOT have multiples :)

I'll close with the following Facebook post from Joey about a week ago.

"Having one baby at home is a piece of cake. I can only imagine that three babies at home will be like three pieces of cake."

Savor that cake tonight. You guys will be parenting rockstars.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Seven

Today I am thankful that my hope is in Jesus and not anyone else.

From Matthew 12

19 He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
20 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
21 And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”[a]

This has given me peace this morning.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Six

Well, today is an easy one. I'm thankful for the privilege of VOTING!

I had to Google whether voting is a privilege or a right in this country. Turns out, the US Constitution mentions the "Right to Vote" five times - more than freedom of speech or freedom of religion. However, I would argue that on the worldwide scale, I consider it my privilege. And, maybe it's just the privilege of living in a country in which voting is a right. Maybe it's the privilege of going to a poll and knowing my vote (and all of our votes) will count. Or, maybe it's that I don't have to go to the polls that are guarded by the military with guns. Maybe it's just that I get to go to a little country church a mile down the road and I don't have to travel long distances to my polling place. Either way, I'm thankful that I get to do it.

It may have been mentioned five times in the Constitution, but somehow women and minority citizens had to fight for their right to vote. In 1870, we had the Fifteenth Amendment allowing all citizens, regardless of "race, color or previous condition of servitude" to vote. Apparently, there was some controversy between this suffrage movement and the women's suffrage movement. Some of the big players in the women's movement did not support this amendment because it did not allow all people to vote. Others believed that by enfranchising the black population, the women's movement would gain more traction. Either way, it passed with Tennessee being the last to ratify in 1997. (What?!? More research to be done here...)

In 1920, the 19th Constitutional Amendment had to be passed stating that right would not be limited by sex. This Amendment took much longer to come to fruition. Women were fighting for the right to vote since the 15th Amendment (part of the Reconstruction Movement) in 1870. Fifty years later, the 19th Amendment passed and women could vote too. (Not that I'm a Constitutional scholar or anything but it seems that neither of these Amendments would not be necessary if it was mentioned that many times as a right.) Mississippi was the last to ratify this one in 1984.

Look how happy these suffragettes are... I think I'll leave the polling place playing my trumpet today. :)

So, right or privilege, is still debatable in my mind. I'll take it either way and make my way to the polls today. I'm picking the girls up from school and bringing them along with me. I remember voting at a "kid's" poll once when my mom voted and I'm carrying on the tradition of bringing my kids along. It's so important to pass this torch to our children and hope that they never take it for granted. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Five

Today, I am thankful for soap.

Before you think I've given up on this whole thing and can't come up with anything else, let me explain.

This weekend, I finished up a The Book Thief for our book club meeting tomorrow. It is a story about a teenage girl growing up in a very poor area around Munich during World War II. Her family was dirt poor. Her mother would cook up a thin pot of split pea soup on Sunday and they would eat that until the next Sunday when she would make a fresh pot. A few times, glorious, and extremely rare, "fat" was mentioned and it was truly just that. A hunk of animal fat to either be eaten straight up or used in cooking. No bacon or pork chops or hamburgers - just fat. No money for books or paper or anything not truly essential to staying alive. There was no safety net in Nazi Germany and I'm not sure that there are too many people living like this in the US today.

It's not hard to look around and see how many "non-essential" things we have around us these days - i-pods, i-phones, junk food, excessive clothes (more than one outfit anyone?), shoes and purses. The list goes on for ages. When you really get down to it though, even things like soap, a warm winter coat, indoor plumbing and fat that actually tastes decent should be on that list.

Not only are we fortunate enough to not have to choose between soap and food for our children, but we get to have a different soap for our hair, our face and even our dogs. The soap is obviously just a metaphor for all of things in this life we take for granted. And today, I'm thankful for every last bit of it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Four

Today I am thankful for my husband, Tom. Among so many of his talents is his creative genius. He whipped up Josie's room this weekend exactly as she requested and had the patience to let the girls help. That would not have been me. :) After twelve years of marriage and four more of dating, he continues to amaze me with his talents. Not to mention, he keeps me grounded and out of the nut house.

This has been a wonderful relaxing weekend and its not over yet. I just warmed up a cup of coffee and sat down to blog and work on my book club book. Not too many of these come around and I'm trying to soak it all in!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Three

Today, I am thankful for Saturday morning's with nothing planned. Tom, Josie and Jack are at Home Depot shopping for paint for Josie's room. Tessa is watching Disney and completely snuggled under a blanket with Trigger near by. I am only on my second cup of coffee after sleeping in until 9:45. (Almost clocked 12 hours. Also took a three hour nap yesterday. I may be caught up now.) I'm catching up on my magazine reading and the news. Plans for the rest of the day include a birthday party for the girls and possibly a date at Starbucks with my Kindle to finish my book club book. (Tom will be painting all day!) Pretty perfect Saturday! :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thanks Given - Day Two

Today, I am thankful for being able to stay home with Jack on Fridays. I don't get to do it every week but today I do and I'm happy. A free day is a bit daunting for me and almost paralyzingly. I feel like I have to get something done or it goes to waste. Today, I think Jack and I are hitting the mall. He's a fun kid to take shopping and is usually well behaved. We may even get cookies before the day is over. :)