Sunday, August 29, 2010

Christmas in July! Er, August?

Organized Christmas Rudolph Club
Every Summer on July 25th, my year-round Christmas on-line group the Rudolph Club has an assignment to choose a holiday plan for the year. There are many to choose from these days. And since I so enjoy kicking back over my holiday break, sipping eggnog and playing games with my family, I like having all the planning and preparations finished and my house squeaky clean down to the inside of closets and cabinets well before the big week arrives. I have had a few bad years, especially my first years as a wife and mother, and I would not have even considered starting to get ready until the weeks just before Christmas arrived. That created several very stressed out, over-spent and ill-prepared years that made me crabby when I should have been enjoying my family and friends.

The holiday plan that I have been doing for nearly two decades, with slight diversions to try something new from time to time, is Katie Leckey's (and the Get O list serve group's) Holiday Grand Plan. It starts in late August and gives a system of deep cleaning the house from top to bottom, or end to end, room by room, from late summer until the late fall/early winter celebrations begin. You also get a system of holiday preparation tasks to make sure you are calm and sane when the weeks of celebration begin.

Cynthia Townley Ewer of Organized Home and Organized Christmas has had a Christmas Countdown plan around since 1998, that basically focuses on getting the holiday tasks completed over a six week stretch. I have done this a few years, usually when I was so disorganized that the Holiday Grand Plan had got started before I was ready to commit, and CEO's Christmas Countdown saved me (and my family).

Cynthia's newest version of Houseworks
This year I am ready for year two of the Housework's Holiday Plan, also created by Organized Home's CEO (Cynthia Ewer, Organized) that is part a Houseworks book club and part a tweaking of the Holiday Grand Plan that focuses more on areas of living rather than room by room cleaning. It went very well for me last year. This year I am teaching nearly until Christmas Eve, so I can't wait until Christmas Break arrives to get it all together. So I am starting this week, today in fact, with planning, dusting off my holiday planner and getting my home office area in ship shape as a beginning to a stress free autumn/holiday season.

For those that are not ready to start a holiday plan just yet, but want a plan that will help them Cruise Through the Holidays, FLYLady Marla Cilley's plan will begin in a month or so, and can help you to babystep your way through. I have many FLYFriends that have used this stress-free plan and had very nice results over the holidays.

So let the Houseworks Holiday Plan begin...and remember there are only 117 days left until Christmas. And as Cynthia likes to ask, "Will you be ready?"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer Half-time Report

Today marks the beginning of the second half of my summer break from teaching. During the past weeks I've pretty much kept up with my routines, except my often neglected desk day duties. I've cleaned out my bedroom closet, my mud room entryway and my drawer in my home office desk. I thought cleaning out my overflowing desk drawer would help motivate me to work on the stuff on top of the desk. No such luck. I've made a list of some furniture and a few organizing accessories that will have me on the lookout when I'm out and about in the next month or so.  I've read a few good books (nothing great yet), took a few day trips, went to see a few movies, and relaxed  while occasionally  getting splashed in the pool. I have had several days that I really didn't do much of anything. They were days when I just did the basic, bare minimum, routines and whatever I wanted to do like catching up with my television programs, reading all day and even into the wee hours of the morning, cyber-socializing and surfing the net, hanging out with friends and family, or sitting by the pool drinking something cool and refreshing. I've also kept up with work as most teachers do, reading parts of a couple of education books, getting caught up with reading my education journals (magazines), spending a day at a workshop with a couple of colleagues, and working on plans to restructure the classes I teach and preparing for a smooth start for the new year. Planning and writing has started for an education themed blog that I hope to launch soon, and I am currently playing around with a couple of specific ideas for its name and purpose. I've spent a couple of days in my classroom getting supplies, books and manipulatives uncluttered and labeled, and at least an hour or two each week I've spent working on planning for the smooth start for the new school year.

So much for the reflection of the first half. It's done and whatever my level of productivity, I feel rested, semi-organized and ready for what is to come. Now it's time for the pep talk to prepare for a great second half. Very soon we will be on the go as my family has been planning our summer vacation for weeks. It is hoped to be an exciting trek north and west to see Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park,  the Seattle, WA area and our family living there, the Olympic and Rocky Mountains, my favorite city, Colorado Springs, CO, and everything in between. Joe is staying behind this time to work as this is the busy season for his new job. He has a long list of projects that he is hopeful to complete while the boys and I are away, and hopefully some quality fishing time. I've arranged for neighbors to take care of the flowerbeds and the dog as those are things that Joe may not have time to deal with day to day. My almost ten year old and I will be celebrating our birthdays during mid-July and when we return, we will also have an extended family party here at home. Before school begins again we are planning to see a couple of movies when they are released in theaters, a day trip to the zoo and another one to a theme park. We will do some camping on our trip northwest and hopefully will do some lake time and more camping with Joe when we return. And before it all begins I am working on getting a lot of things organized. Whew! Is that enough? I'm amped to get as much as I can out of the rest of this summer break. Ready....Set.... Just do it!!!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Be Very Afraid!!! It's My Closet

I have a good Twister and FlyFriend, Diane from Denmark, who has been facing things she has been putting off for one reason or another, but ultimately needed to give herself a dose of courage to begin. She has been working past her excuses, trying out things that are new or tackling tasks that have been on her to do list for far too long. She calls these Scaredy Cat Challenges. Then she blogs about them. Thank you, Di, for the inspiration to challenge myself.

In rising to the challenge, my goal is to follow Unclutter Your Life in One Week. Day one, Monday, asks me to focus first where I begin different parts of my day; my personal closet in the morning, my desk when I arrive at work and the entryway when I return home. Closets are the places where things can be stowed away, unseen by anyone passing through the room. Why am I so reluctant to deal with these spaces? Why the fear? My personal walk-in is large for a closet, and holds far more than what I need in a simpler life. And scarier still is the fact that my home has many closets. I had them built into the design as I have lived in several homes without adequate closets. In hindsight, I did omit a couple of important closets in our current home, an entry closet for coats and backpacks and a linen closet for the boys bath and linens. In my personal closet I have clothes that fit from all seasons, clothes that fit well just two years ago (and now do not *insert heavy sigh*), shoes, coats and jackets, an iron and ironing board, mending tools, gift bags/boxes and many items that are my personal belongings that just don't have another home. This closet has thirty square feet of floor space with ten feet of hanger spaces and above that 10 square feet of shelving. Joe has his own, identical closet, that seems mostly empty, and his also contains his dresser and most of his personal items. My dresser, in my bedroom, has drawers that contain more clothing and the very large bottom drawer stores my collection of purses and bags. How do I find the courage to take on the "Monday" challenge? Knowing I can conquer anything for 15 minutes at a time.

Where did I start? Being a follower of FLYLady, I had a difficult time taking everything out. The rule is you should never take out more than you can deal with and return in an hour or less time. But I had a different plan to follow and was determined to complete the task. First a sorting of the clothes. They were all laid out on my bed. Everything. Every piece of clothing that I have was laid out. Nothing left in the laundry or seasonal storage box. All was being considered. The sort resulted in about two-thirds of my clothes going out the door. Some, my mother reminded me, I have had for far too long. 

After the sort I returned the items I wanted to be keepers to the closet. Most of these are now sorted by type of clothing and then by color and are hanging on colored plastic hangers. All that remain can be worn this season, fit and have actually been worn in the past year. My work clothes, following the same guideline, are also hanging there ready for mid-August to arrive. Only 3 things are on the floor; a line of shoes, an ironing board and a bag of gift wrapping items. I am looking for something that will work for my closet to get the shoes off the floor, and my shoes are down to where I can live with the "one pair in/one pair out" rule. I have two pairs that could use replacements, but I need to find the perfect fit and style before they can be trashed. I should also be searching for a hanger to put the ironing board on the wall and off the floor and hang up the bag of gift wrapping and then the floor will have nothing on it. On one of the shelves above the clothes-hanger bars I have one large Space Bag that I’m using to store clothes that are out of season. Also on the shelf there are jeans and shorts folded neatly in a pile, although the jeans very well could end up on a hanger since I don't have an overabundance of clothes in there now. The other shelf stores my iron and mending tools, a couple of hats and a few other personal possessions that live best in their long time home in my closet.  

For those things that were in the closet and were not clothes, they either were trashed, passed on or found more appropriate places in my home. There was a large bag of clothing that was trashed and a large box and bag of clothing that was loaded into my van and taken to the donation drop-off dock.

The next stop in getting uncluttered was my desk at work. I really can't set it up right now, as the items and tools that normally sit on the top of my desk in my office and the desk in my classroom are packed up, but I did prep everything so that I can come back in early August and just pop everything out as Unclutter Your Life in One Week, Day One outlines. I will revisit that part again when I am ready to set up my desk, but for now getting everything ready to flow helps. I look very organized with my desks completely cleared. During any given school day though, it can seem a bit of a mess. I have also considered buying a product called WonderFile Portable Workstation, but I haven't found any reviews from people that have actually purchased one, so I am yet wary of making the purchase.  It is a desk area that folds up to a portable size. I think that would really work for me, as I carry my work home almost daily, and spend more time than I like reorganizing things as they move from school to home to the school desk again. I'll keep researching this, including keeping my eye out at the As Seen on TV stores, as a television commercial is where I first saw the product (watching the History Channel).

I have already established the habit of clearing my desk before I leave work every day, having the things I need set out and ready for the next school day makes a very smooth start to my day. It is also nice to be prepared in case I have a substitute the following day, as no one can know when illnesses are eminent or when something is going to come up and I end up dealing with a student situation or have an unscheduled meeting first thing in the morning.

I spent my work day in early June getting the supply cabinets in my classroom organized and even labeled. I still have a couple of file cabinets with paperwork and plans, etc. that need to be organized, but after two years in my present classroom and five years at my present school, I finally feel that all that I have are the resources that I actually use and not a lot of extra materials from my predecessors. My paperwork files need some work this summer anyway as my class structure is going to change drastically in the coming year. I will need updated assignment lists, activity materials and assessments, but I am spending at least a day each week this summer to work on getting ready to gear up.

The last area of the "Monday", day one, assignments in Unclutter Your Life is the entryway. It is the area I first see when I walk into my home when I return after work, and is the last of my firsts. For this house our entryway is the “back porch”, which is essentially a mud/utility room. This is where shoes are removed upon entering and put on again before leaving. It also has a washer and dryer with flat surfaces that have proven to be real hotspots for items that belong either out the door or inside the house somewhere. I have a functional shoe rack and a chair for people to sit on as they take their shoes on or off as they come and go. There are three doorways that take up a large part of the wall space and need to stay clear. One door leads out to the outside patio area, another leads to the kitchen and the last is a doorway only (as we removed the door) that leads to my pantry. When you walk into my home you can see the porch and pantry, so they both really need to stay clutter free. Kids frequently leave multiple pairs of shoes, boots, flip flops, etc. in the floor and not neatly on the rack. The rack was overfilled as each of the family members has multiple pairs of shoes that they believe should live on that rack, and several pairs of shoes were really trash as they had been replaced. There was even a pair of shoes that had been on the rack since my last clean out and still no one claimed them. Out they went. My shoes are stored in my closet unless they are dripping wet, muddy or covered with grass cuttings. I clean them off and return them to my closet  regularly. I try to encourage the rest of the family to put the shoes they don’t wear frequently in their own closets, but it doesn’t always work.

I do not use the porch as our launch pad as the book suggests. I already have a system that works for me. My launch pad is next to my desk, a place where I keep my purse and workbag. Keys always stay in a pocket of my purse. There is a place for my laptop and cell phone to charge and my iPod to sync and charge when needed. It is close to where I work on projects and plan or prep for work, make grocery lists, catch up on personal or work e-mails, and just about anything else that may need to be added to things that come and go from my home. The boys have their own launch pad, locker that we keep at the end of the hallway near their bedrooms. This is where they keep anything that does not belong to them (i.e. library or school materials), and things they take out the door including backpacks, coats or jackets. a drawer for hats and gloves, and there is a space for visiting cousins to stow their belongings when they come for a sleepover.
So I am now on a search for an attractive shelf with hooks or pegs to hang in the back porch above the shoe rack and a more sophisticated piece of furniture to use as a launch pad to replace the locker the boys are using now. Also on my list is a nice shoe holder and a hanger for the ironing board/iron in my closet. It would be nice if the portable desktop turns out to be legitimate as well. I guess I have some shopping in my future.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cardivascular Jump Start

After morning routines were completed yesterday I felt that I needed to get my workout back into being a part of my morning routine. Now that mornings can start at 6:30 or 7 a.m. (as opposed to 5) and I don' t have to be anywhere early for the next few weeks, it's a good time to get workouts out of the hit and miss time slot of afternoon or evening and back in the morning. My workday will be starting earlier when I go back in mid-August, so getting this habit well under way will help to energize the change when it comes.

EA Sports ActiveSo, after I put on my heart rate monitor to measure my workout, I went in to get my EA Active fired up. I usually do a fitness check with Wii Fit first so started that program on the Wii and the balance board wouldn't turn on. The batteries needed replaced. No big deal, I thought. I found the charger in the wall and a freshly charged set of batteries were ready to go. I put the batteries in and pushed the button again. This time the board flashed the blue light on and off over and over again. Now what? Do I need to sync it? Well I got it to work during the Wii Fit balance/fitness check, but not for the EA Active workout. So to save time and any further frustration on my part, I just did the workout without the Wii balance board. I think I will settle for my workout DVDs for the bulk of my fitness plan. I just hate how slow the interactive workouts are. EA Active is better than Wii Fit when it comes to time between exercises. Even so, I burned 449 calories with a maximum heart rate of 172 bpm in the 46 minutes it took me to get through the workout which varied between cardio and resistance exercises.

Yesterday also was time to get the yard mowing done before the next rain. I had a little help with the rider over the middle and bottom yards. I did two separate push mower workouts to do inside the fences in the top yard. It was an awesome day for cardio. Mowing burned a total of 891 calories in  a total of 76 minutes. And that adds up to over two hours of workouts. I really needed that.

Today, my workout was with an old friend, my Denise Austin DVD. I love how her workouts always have a variety of types of exercise. It sure keeps it interesting while I work up a sweat. I am so ready to start running again. I can't wait until my body has joined my mind.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer Challenges!!!

It's been a while since I updated my blog. Busy, busy, busy...that's my life. I am enjoying slowing down a bit and focusing on some personal and home goals during this brief, but much appreciated, break from work.  

Unclutter Your Life in One WeekI have purchased the book Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Rooney Doland. I bought it several months ago thinking I could focus on one day in the book for seven weeks, but even that proved too much of a challenge for me. I only made it through the first two "days" in the book and it took me over two weeks to complete them. So I am going to begin the process again and follow through with it during the next week and see how far I get.

I have several other goals I want to explore over the next two months as well. I have a large stack of books to read, and I haven't even started after almost a week of surplus time. I did get caught up with The Tudors series on Showtime. I had been recording the new episodes since April and just caught up on them this week. Bittersweet. There are only two episodes left, and I wish the series would continue beyond the reign of King Henry and onto those of his children. I really love that show. Oh well, I'll have to find more good novels to read. Did I ever mention I am a big connoisseur of history? I love reading both biographies and historical fiction, but will also spend time reading fantasy, science fiction novels as well. Another item on my to do list is to get back into working out daily so that I can be in shape to run again. I miss the level I was working at even a year ago and how healthy I felt. I need to get that back on track to enjoy some new energy. And the last goal I have is staying connected to the people who mean so much to me. I really enjoy keeping up on Facebook, but have also attended many family and friend events over the past two months, taken a few day trips, as well as welcoming family over to visit on many occasions in May. I am planning a trip in July to visit family and national parks in the Northwest with all five boys, but Joe will stay behind to work. That should prove interesting, as I have not taken a vacation without Joe, aside from many day trips with my sisters or kids. Joe has taken several "fishing trips" with the boys, including a productive trip to fish for sharks, crab and salmon with my cousin in Washington several years ago.

My life and home are buzzing along pretty well, with daily and weekly routines and my ability to delegate some of the household tasks to my husband and children. But every life and home can do with a lightening, a decluttering, and simplifying by dealing with less stuff. For today, I am going to reread the chapters I have read previously and begin the "Day 1" tasks which include decluttering and organizing my clothing closet and drawers and working on getting my office and desk streamlined. I hope to report back with progress later. Onward and always upward!!!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let the Challenges Begin

I am a sucker for a good challenge. And I have been presented with two new ones over the past few weeks. When I first heard about each of them, I knew that I was up for them both since they so closely mesh with the goals I have set for myself and my life. One is the Fitness Challenge that Jonathan Roche has given to those following the No Excuses Workout system.  It matches up very nicely with my goal to get healthy by working out often. The second challenge came from Crystal, aka Money Saving Mom and Jessica, aka Fishmama. I have been focusing on menu planning and freezer cooking, and their challenge pricked my interest.

Denise Austin: Burn Fat Fast - Cardio BlastJonathan Roche's invitation is to workout with a plan each week, and record them for accountability. This is the seventh challenge he has given and the third I have participated in.This competition is twelve weeks long starting today. Yesterday was my one year anniversary in using the NEWO system. So for this round of my fitness venture I have had a good start, today doing an interval workout using Denise Austin's Cardio Blast workout DVD. I did the warm-up, the Kickboxing and Cardio Dance segments, and the cool down. I did stop the DVD and slow the pace when I needed to so I could get my heart rate down for the intervals. Each of the workout segments on the DVD are 10 minutes long. There are two other cardio segments, Athletic Intervals and Retro Aerobics. I have had this DVD for two years and enjoy coming back to it over and over again. 

The menu planning challenge is one I have read about over the past two weeks from some of my friends on Twitter and some really great food blogs. They soon led me to Menu Saving Mom and Life as Mom's websites, as they are the source of this challenge. Both web authors felt that their pantries were full and that they needed to use what they had and inspired many others to follow them. I too have spent the weeks leading up to the holidays stocking up. In addition, I have also spent some time preparing meals that are now waiting in my freezer. So this week, and maybe the next several, my family's meals will involve eating solely from my pantry (and freezer). After paying my electric and propane bills this month, I am sure my budget will appreciate the break in grocery spending. I'm sure I'll have to get fresh milk, bread and just a bit of fresh produce, but everything else we'll need for the week is already here. Now I need to see how many weeks I can stretch this challenge.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday Fog

The thick fog that covers the land makes it quite difficult for me to get to work on time. Traffic on the highway slows this morning to about 40 mph. It is just past the point of the morning when the day begins, but clouds make it difficult for the sunlight to stream through so many layers of the dust and moisture. On the highway, it is difficult to see how many vehicles are preceding mine, but from time to time a get a glimpse of a very long line of taillights, and then the light quickly fades. We move together, in and out of the clouds that are hanging, clinging, permeating the blacktop and surrounding landscape. Our caravan, in our brief moment out of the cloud, view a vision of trees that are off to either side of the roadway. The trees are thickly frosted, and have a promise of a radiance of their own if only the light would send a stream of energy their way. They seem to be wanting the fog to lift as much as I do. We drive into the next fog bank.  I can barely see the small truck that is directly in front of me. The outline of the tailgate brightens and dims over and over as the traffic changes the pace of travel throughout the drive. I look at the clock on my dashboard thinking that the trip is taking longer than the extra five minutes I had allowed. I reset my iPod so I am listening to some upbeat music as the twenty minute podcast has ended and left the air hanging quietly. It is too silent until the selection is made. The familiar rhythm of an old favorite brings a smile to my face and soon our entourage melds into the traffic of town as we join local traffic. The fog thins, but is still a frame of all that I can see. I pull into my parking spot, and the fog tries to follow me into the building. I push it farther behind me as I walk into the glow of florescent lighting and smiles of favorite people. The fog evaporates and is left outside to battle the sun for dominance of the day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Training

I had a training meeting this morning, so after spending an hour after work yesterday preparing for a substitute to take my classes half the day, I enjoyed an extra 45 minutes this morning at home before I had to head out the door. The training was great, but the nice part was the information was relevant to what I am doing now, and I had some of my brilliant colleagues to collaborate with during the activities and discussions.The district did have a continental breakfast there, but after my morning shake I skipped the bagels and donuts, and ate a banana and had a small glass of orange juice. Two fruits down for me!!!! I was very, very good.

I returned to school in time for lunch (leftover pasta and yogurt) and a plan session, taught my afternoon classes and headed home in record time. A very good work day.

My body training started in the late afternoon again today. I was a bit of a slug this morning, too, since I had stayed up so late last night. After work and dinner I did my NEWO with Jonathan Roche's DVD and called it a day for my workout.

There is still a foot of snow that has yet to melt in our yard. Raymond's poor trampoline is bulging from the weight. I hope it bounces back after the thaw.

The boys and I have been enjoying bird watching. The bird feeder in our yard attracts all kinds of birds and over the past weeks the birds have been very hungry. My favorite visitors are the cardinals. We had at least four pairs of the red birds that show up this afternoon at the same time. I think the birds are getting the word out, because every day there are more birds than the day before.

The melting starting yesterday with temperatures just above freezing. Today we were not that fortunate. Icicles hanging from the house over five feet long. The day started out foggy and dreary. The day ended dark and dreary. I am so hoping for promised (forecasted) sunshine tomorrow. And a warmer day too.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Made It Through Monday

Jillian Michaels - 30 Day ShredFinally back to work today. It was a bit of a relief to return to a normal routine. I was up at 4:30 (that's a.m. for you people who sleep until it's light outside) and at my workout in the great room by 5. Today I again tried the Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. It is a kick your tushy workout for sure, and I only worked the level one session. There are two higher levels that you progress through after doing the workout four or five times in a week, and you progress to the next level when you are ready. With the 30 day title, I interpret it to mean about 10 days at each level, so next time around I should be ready for level two. As I am mixing up my DVD workouts I have noted that this is not my favorite, but it is definitely challenging. And I am a sucker for a good, healthy challenge.

I didn't do much toward my own happiness today. Well I did write two blog entries, snuggled with the little boys as they fell asleep, and watched the new episode of House with Joe and our three oldest boys. But I stayed at work far longer than I liked (and finished), had to run to the store since Joe didn't get around to it yesterday (and picked up my coffee I was nearly out of) and didn't get home until the boys had already had their baths, had their stories and were just tucked into bed for the night (did I mention we snuggled for a bit?). A productive day I suppose, but I'll need to work on getting home extra early tomorrow.

Grandma Gann

My mother's mother's 89th birthday is today. She is one of the loveliest people I have ever known, and up until the past few years she has been my biggest cheerleader and has listened intently to every word I have spoken in her presence. If you know me well, you know what a feat that is, and I so adore being the center of her world if only for five minutes or a half hour at a time. Actually I am happy to share the bright beams of her attention with any of my family.

My earliest memories of Grandma are of me sitting in her lap while she told me interesting stories, shared how she and her brothers and sisters worked and played in her childhood, revealed her dreams, and always gave unwavering proof of her love of me by holding my hand in hers as she talked. I can remember her trying to explain to me that while my sister Anne was older than me, I could one day be bigger than her. I really didn't get it until years later remembering her words. I must have been only four or so. Other memories include the strong scents of her kitchen. Pumpkin pie spices and mincemeat always remind me of watching her baking when I was about five. The smell of mint takes me back to visits to her herb garden. The sound of her laughter takes me back to sitting in the kitchen watching her reading letters that her family or pen pals had sent her. I remember thinking how much I wanted to write letters to people. It seemed to bring such joy to her. Sadly, although I do write a lot, I do not write many letters. And funny that most of the letters I have written have been to her.

As I hit that confusing age of 13 our family moved closer to my grandparents. We would spend time in her garden as I shadowed her, weeded, harvested, and talked about all of her favorite flowers and herbs.  Afterward we would sit around drinking the sweetest sweet tea as she talked with me about things she had read or seen, and she would also give me some of the best advice I got in my life. Like how to make chocolate cake taste good even on the third day (serve it with pudding), how to decide if a man is husband material (see how he treats his mother and sisters), and how to get smarter (read, write, do puzzle and play challenging games like Boggle or Scrabble as often as you can).

I remember snuggling up in the softest quilts as I was growing up, too. I don't remember what happened to the quilt that she made for me, or the one she made for my doll when I was about seven or eight, but I can still picture their patterns and blend of colors. My mother also makes quilts, but I obviously had some gene defect because I have no skill with a needle, let alone the artistry required to be a quilter. I am very fond of the small lovey-sized quilts that my grandmother made for my four oldest boys. Each quilt she created had its own story, its own personality and matched the temperament of each boy who delighted in dragging it around as a cape or wrap, throwing it over a table or chair to create a tent or fort and later to have it draped over them as they napped.   

It has been very difficult for the past several years for me to see Grandma fade from her role as a vibrant, creative and witty spirit as she continues to slip in and out of the here and now. She is no longer at home, and when I go to visit her now, I am ever hopeful that she will find some comfort and recognize me as one of her "folks". I am delighted, ecstatic,  if she recognizes me for me. If I can get a giggle, or even a chuckle out of her, I feel my mission is successful. Even if she thinks of me as one of the neighbors she is so fond of, we have a good visit. January 11, 1921 was a very great day. Dorothy Ellen came to be a part of the world and later became the mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother to a bunch of lovely people I call my family. Mwwaah Grandma, I love you so.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Soothing Sunday

I really like to look at Sunday as the beginning of my week. What happens today usually sets the tone for how things go for the rest of the week. An ideal Sunday includes a combination of renewing my spirit and getting prepared for the rest of the week. Sometimes my efforts are a big flop all the way around, and sometimes I start my week prepared and mentally refreshed. Days of being able to actually renew myself have been pretty lean this past autumn. I am hoping to improve that this year by keeping ahead and delegating as much as I can. I think today was a success as I seem to be refreshed and prepared. I hope the rest of the week follows suit.

I need to spend some time this week reflecting on my basic plan for the week. I need to get it where it works for me. I usually do my Weekly Home Blessing (see FLYLady for how it works) on Sundays. And I think that it works for me. I am home and have the block of time, and usually can get someone to give some assistance. It is also the day that I plan what I am going to wear each day (if it is a work week)  But I think I am trying to do too much on the weekends (like lesson planning and meal planning and bill paying) and really need to focus on using an hour each day just to get targeted stuff done. Maybe if my energy level stays up, I will be able to make the plan I should be using more effective. I'll keep thinking about it as this week plays itself out.

I am happy to report another success with moving somehow for yet another day. I did a 40 minute Interval workout using my personal trainer Jonathan Roche's NEWO system. I used the music from Podrunner Intervals (available for free to download on iTunes). I have also added to my Sunday to-do list planning my workouts for the week as Jonathan suggests. I plan to do one workout each day this week. I am feeling stronger than I did last week. It is nice to be making positive changes and not just sitting around wishing that I would.

I am doing some reading to work on my happiness goal. I have been reading F. LaGard Smith's The Daily Bible since the first of the year. It is compiled in chronological order, and I have read it through three different times in the past decade or so.With all the time I've had off from work lately, it has not been difficult to keep up. I have read the Bible through many other times, but I have also stalled out on the book of Genesis while beginning to read through the Bible more times than I can count. I have several other books, four actually, I have yet to start that are sitting on my desk ready to be read. Three of them were written by favorite authors. I have a couple of books I would like to read for the Literature class that I teach as well that should be fun. light reads. And I have also been online, with all of this time on my hands, looking at several books, and I am working on a wish list that should have me reading good novels well into the summer months.

Ahhh, Sunday. The beginning of what I have decided will be a wonderful week, whatever comes my way.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Spinning Saturday

No, I don't mean a spinning workout. Although that sounds interesting. I mean what was going on in my head at about 5 a.m., not too long before the dogs whined for me to let them out this morning. The spinning in my brain has happened on several previous occasions when I get congestion in my ears. Vertigo. It is a very unsettling feeling that I have had to learn to manage. My first episode was about five years ago and it was really bad as I didn't know what was going on and I tried to get up and move around. The spinning room sensation generally creates nausea, which is just as debilitating as a spinning bed, chair or floor. Through the advise of my doctor and my experiences with vertigo, now I know to quickly take a decongestant to get relief at the first sign, prop my head up on lots of pillows or sit in a recliner and start drinking lots of water.Then I lay still until the medication starts to work and hope that I don't have to get up before relief comes. Today I was able to keep from the nausea altogether and relief came quickly.

Although I didn't do any spinning at the gym, my workout is finished. I was a bit cautious about working out today, and delayed it until the middle of the afternoon. I am pleased that I decided to go ahead, and I'm really feeling good about my increased energy level. I have also spent much less time with pain in my joints this past week of moving daily.

Denise Austin: Boot Camp - Total Body BlastOver many years of doing a wide variety of workouts, Denise Austin is one of my favorite exercise personalities. I used to watch her program each morning on cable television and have also bought many of her workout videos over the years. The reason I like her so much is because she is so positive and very consistent in giving lots of encouragement during each part of the workout. I also like that she gives me a lot of information about the parts of the body I am working on and what research shows is the safest and most effective ways to exercise. Today I did two sections of her Boot Camp Total Body Blast; a 20 minute Strength Boot Camp and 10 minutes of Flexibility. There is also a 20 minute Cardio Boot Camp session on the DVD, but I didn't do that today as I was trying to limit my maximum heart rate. Both the strength and cardio boot camp sessions on this DVD use intervals, a researched based method of increasing the bodies metabolism by raising and lowering the heart rate throughout the workout.

And continuing with today's topic and my goals for life, here is my spin on happiness. I have not always been a happy person. I can get down and depressed if left to focus on how hard the world can be, and I have had my share of tough times and rough weather. Thinking about that today, I am reminded of one of my favorite Mother Goose rhymes;

 Cross Patch
Cross patch, draw the latch,
Sit by the fire and spin;
Take a cup and drink it up,
Then call your neighbors in.

I enjoyed the rhythm of this childhood verse when I as very young and remember my Dad reading the poem to me when I was only five or six. I read The Real Mother Goose book many more times to myself or my younger siblings and cousins as I learned many of the nursery rhymes rote. It wasn't until I was a mother myself, reciting it to my oldest boys that I sat down and really thought about what the words meant. How do you get happy when you're feeling upset or ever a martyr? Take some time to be alone, do something productive, get busy, spin, enjoy a cup of tea and then invite family, friends and neighbors in and get on with life and the people in it. I love it!!! And it definitely works for me.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Frigid Friday

The dipping low temperatures are here in Kansas, and schools are closed in the area for yet another day. So on bonus day number three, I am going to do something unusual for a Friday. Hang around the house. Well that's a bit of a joke since this is now the third Friday in a row I am hanging out at home. It is funny, but as much as I love home, I am starting to feel very restless. Over the past three weeks I have been out of the house exactly five times; for work and errands for two days, out shopping on two days, and to my aunt's for a party the Saturday before Christmas. That means that 16 of the past 21 days were spent here at home. I think what I am feeling may be cabin fever, so I really need to get something productive going so I won't feel so restless and listless.

Dancing with the Stars: Latin Cardio DanceMy workout report. Today I did a second round of Dancing with the Stars: Latin Cardio Dance. This workout started with a five minute warm-up with Cheryl, who is a two time champion dancer of the show. After warming up I followed the lead of Maksim, also a pro dancer from the show, for the cha-cha. There are four different 10 minute dance workout sessions that can be programed into the routine. Besides the cha-cha, there is the merengue, the samba and the mambo. I chose just to do one dance session today, as I was shooting for a 30 minute total workout.  I ended the workout with the 15 minute dancer's toning workout that included basic lunges and other cardio steps, and some abdominal work with a cool down stretch.

Besides getting my workout behind me, I worked on some room rescues and did FLYLady's mission for the day. Today's mission was to really clean the kitchen floor with a thorough sweep and mop. It took a bit longer than the suggested 15 minutes, but it really is (was) clean including all around the edges.

Dinner was a very easy stir fry made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts that went into the screaming hot oiled pan first followed by a bag of frozen veggies and soy sauce and that was served atop brown rice. I also made monkey bread with bread dough pieces dipped in cinnamon and sugar, placed in a greased bundt pan, with a brown sugar and butter mixture poured over and then baked for 35-40 minutes. Both the stir fry and monkey bread were absolutely awesome. Finicky Daniel didn't get past the stir fry tonight, so he missed out on tonight's after dinner treat. Silly boy!!!

A Bonus Day with Boys

Disney Aladdin Cartoon Movie - Magical Blue Genie PatchThursday was snow day number two and I was joined by the younger boys. This time we didn't have to wait until morning to find out, so the boys stayed up "late" (9 p.m. insead of 7) Wednesday evening and got to enjoy watching the Disney movie Aladdin. I was so funny watching Danny watch the movie, as he was catching a lot of the jokes and laughing until he gave himself the hiccups (Robin Williams as the genie is hilarious). While we were sleeping, the last of the new 7 inches of snow fell, and Thursday morning, I enjoyed a bit of a sleep in. 

The Biggest Loser: The Workout - Boot CampThursday's workout went well. I did the Biggest Loser Boot Camp for the second time doing the Level One 30 minute workout. This is one of the new DVD's I bought just before New Year's Day and it is my favorite of the three DVDs I picked up. Instead of doing the recommended repeat of this workout four or five times a week, I am mixing it up with other workout videos and shooting for moving somehow everyday. I love Bob Harper's training style, but rest assured, this is not his last chance, in your face workout, but a very positively supportive set of workouts that gradually increase in intensity over a six week period. After that, a 45 minute maintenance workout is recommended.

Normally Thursday is my errand day, but this week I tried to get them done on Tuesday before the bad weather hit. It was extremely cold Tuesday after work, but I managed to get to Aldi's for some milk, eggs, fresh veggies and a few other things we needed to take us through the week. I also stopped at the pet store for crickets for Gex (our leopard gecko) and had to tuck them into my coat because it was too cold for them even with the heater on in the van for most of the drive home. Fortunately I had already filled up the gas tank on Monday as the gas gauge measured below a half a tank, and that's my winter signal that it's time to stop an fill up. Since Tuesday is my desk day, I probably should have spent part of Thursday at least clearing off my desk. Instead I played board games and Wii with the kids, read with Daniel, hung out on the computer with Twitter and Facebook friends and watched a couple of movies.

I did get a chance to listen to FLYLady's Blog Talk Radio show. She and Pam Young started the show talking about Pam's book, Sidetracked Sister's Happiness File. Since being happier is one of my goals for the year I really enjoyed listening to why it is so important to find things to make you smile and laugh every day. I was in the show's chatroom as others that were listening were listing what it is that made them happy. Shiny sinks, favorite music, reading good books, flowers and many other ideas were shared. I will have to listen to the archived show in my iPod later so I can think about the idea some more. It has been about a decade since I read Pam's book, but the ideas on collecting and surrounding yourself with things and people that make you happy is very important for each person's well-being.

We spent the last part of the afternoon making a pot of soup with leftover grilled steak, some fresh and frozen veggies and mushrooms. There is nothing like a pot of soup when the weather is cold and the wind is blustering. We also made a batch of drop biscuits. Daniel helped me with dinner (stirring and directing) and Steven helped with the chopping (my sous chef). As we cooked we also were waiting on the news as to whether or not school would be in session for Friday. The word came for the little boys early in the afternoon, and dinner preparations were nearly complete before I got the news. Snow day number three, coming to a cabin near you. Watch out for the fever.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Arctic Blast

Baby, it is cold outside! I'm still wondering why I'm at home this morning, as it's not snowing yet and the morning temperature is about 15 degrees warmer than yesterday. I am a bit confused as to why, but I am still enjoying the bonus day with no work responsibilities. I am also anticipating that we will not return for the rest of the week as the snow is supposed to arrive this afternoon and continue overnight with arctic temperatures moving in and blizzard speed winds blowing the snow around.

My bewilderment started late last night. I had felt pretty good about getting to bed at the reasonable hour of 9 p.m., although I was a bit stiff and sore from my previous days' workouts. I was not only surprised, but a bit disoriented, when the phone rang at almost 10:30 p.m. and woke me up. Okay, the no school message was received, and then I had to pass on the information to the next person on the phone tree. When she ansered the phone, I said, "Hi J, this is Sheila. I just got the call that we are not having school tomorrow." I obviously had woke J up as she said, "Okay, there is school today, but not tomorrow then?" It took me a second to figure out she thought it was morning already, so I explained it was just late and still Tuesday. Well, I was really awake by then, and it took me at least an hour to get back to sleep. I started checking to see whether the little boys would have school. No message, so I finally went back to bed and slept until nearly 6. This morning it was determined that the boys were having school, so I bundled them up and sent them off to the school bus.

So now I'm thinking, what should I do with my "snow" day? Hmmmm... there are many possibilities.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's a Great Day at Work Today

I went to work today 100% prepared for the day and caught up with all grading and preparations for the coming week's lessons. When I turned off the lights in my classroom and locked the door behind me all the reports I am responsible for are completed, meetings have been attended, new meetings and a training date that were planned today are marked on the calendar and e-mails and phone calls that required a response have been answered. This is a monumental day as it is the first time this school year I have gone into work and left work with my job complete. I love it, love it love it.

Why is this the first time I have had this feeling all year? My school district went through some very big changes over the past summer in how they manage technology. As the school year approached and limped into session there were many technology glitches and new program updates. The glitches added many, many extra hours to work around them and too much time discussing the frustration with administrators and teachers on my team. There were delays in many tasks that are normally completed before the students arrive for their first class. Pretesting that usually is scheduled during the first weeks of the school year did not happen until the end of the first quarter, and there were computer labs that could not be used because they were not part of the network for many weeks. Once we could get on the networks, then computer programs were updated, and it took time to learn how to use those with no initial training. It was not a stress free start.

Hindsight and feeling refreshed after a nice long winter break bring me a great appreciation for this day, today. Even as the students arrived to start the new semester, I felt prepared for the weeks ahead and good about the coming year.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Transitioning Back to Normal

I was up at o'dark thirty when the alarm rang (here that's 4:30 a.m.). Old Man Winter has moved in even though I told him he was no longer welcome, and is continuing his deep freeze with temperatures again dropping down to 0 degrees F. this morning. The forecast is calling for more colder temps and snow on Wednesday and Thursday.

So after I slugged out of bed and started my morning routine, dressed for my workout and filled the coffeepot with water for my morning cup of tea, I did my workout. Today's scheduled plan was level one of Jillian Michaels' 30-day shred. I made it through. Jillian is a tough, and not very nice, trainer. I am thankful she is not actually at my house as I know what I want to do, and what I don't want to do. I did make it through most of the workout, but didn't push myself to the maximum level as I am still feeling the effects of The Biggest Loser Boot Camp workout from yesterday and the Dancing with the Stars workout on Friday.

Then I set off to work after putting the kids on their school bus for their first day back. It was a nice day for me, getting things in place for the coming month, briefly visiting with friends and colleagues with few time restraints and enjoying a late lunch that we had delivered to school with some of my teaching team. Since there were no students, I had my list of tasks and a few blocks of uninterrupted time. My list included papers to finish marking, new seating charts to make after rearranging the classroom furniture, lesson plans to create for the month and preparing materials for lessons over the next few weeks. I left work for the day feeling that I had accomplished enough to feel ahead of the game. Woo Hoo!!! Tomorrow....bring on the kids. I am ready for them now!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

End of Christmas Vacation

Bittersweet. That's one word to describe today. Feeling a bit sad that spending some time with the boys and being able to do things that are on my own agenda is near over. Despite that bit of sadness I do have to admit that I also feel refreshed and ready to meet the long second semester coming up for the school year. I feel blessed that the little boys and I have had a very long break together, and last night I stayed up late one last time and slept in (after one early morning check to make sure Rick made it to work safely in all the new slick snow).

You may notice that I have finally updated the counter at the bottom of this page. It is now counting the days until Spring Break. We do have a couple of extra days off between now and then, but Spring Break is the halfway point for the semester, and includes a week off of teaching classes. So that's what I am shooting for, making the best of my time between now and then, keeping on track and staying positive all along the way.

So my plans are to get everything set up for tomorrow and then enjoy a laid back, easy evening. I wonder if I can pull it off.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Year 2010, Day Two

I wonder how many times I will have to write 2010 before it becomes a habit. Hopefully I will do it enough times over the next three days that I will not regress to writing in retro. I've labeled a batch of freezer bags and tomorrow and Monday will work on lesson plans so I'll get some practice.

The tree came down and went out the door last night. The rest of the Christmas decorations are in the process of being put back into the handy cranberry colored totes that I bought last year to replace the cardboard boxes that had been storing our seasonal stuff for 25 years. Danny was a little sad about storing it all away, but we explained to him that it wouldn't be special if we kept it out. When it comes back out at the end of November he should be ready to enjoy it all again. Danny and Raymond helped Joe and I pack away the tree ornaments last night. They were not interested in the packing of the rest of the decor. So I'll be pacing myself through the day with my timer close by, puttering in the kitchen and packing things away from all parts of the house.

I'll be doing some more freezer cooking today using my newest investment from Leanne Ely's Saving Dinner website. It is a big set of e-books including freezer meals, pantry to freezer cooking and much more. I will be trying out a variety of these over the coming months to have on hand when life gets hectic. Around here that is between August and December and again from January through May. June and July are easy, breezy in comparison since we eat fresh salads or off the grill most of both months. I also, usually, have much more time on my hands to get creative and try new things. So I'm off to cut up my big batch of onions.

After my cooking session I will try out another fitness DVD. I doubt I will be able to get on the Wii to do Active or Wii Fit, so I'll settle for one of my Denise Austin workouts. It's been awhile since I've done them, but her workouts are like working out with a good friend.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

This year's New Year's Party theme was, "The Game is On". Family and friends were invited over to celebrate the new year's arrival with food and plenty of games from which to choose.
Food and snackies for the night included barbecue roast beef sandwiches, little smokies in sauce, chips, dips, cheeses, crackers, fruits with dip, flavored popcorns, triple chocolate cookie bars and Ritz crackers and peanut butter dipped in candy bark.

After the first round of eats, we decided to play Scene It , the Movies version. It's an interactive, and fun, DVD game. That was followed by a very friendly game of the interactive DVD version of Family Feud and then a Scene It, TV version round.

The Wii, Connect Four, Safari and Madagascar Fishing were a hit with the younger kids. When they weren't playing games, they were generally bouncing around.

Most of the older boys went off to play "Magic" cards, my sister and niece headed home to welcome the year in with my brother in law and the rest of us tried to get a game of Mad Gab in before the countdown.

As midnight approached, games paused and we watched Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve with Ryan Seacrest and the ball drop (an hour delayed) in Times Square, New York City. Dick Clark has been a tradition at our house since I was a kid myself.

After the horns blew to welcome in the year it was sparkles and bubbles and then some Black Eyed Peas (the food and the music group performing on the Rockin Eve progam).