Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This is Real Life. Marriage Seminar, Homeschool Edition.

This was my first year attending the CHOIS (Christian Homeschoolers of Idaho State) Convention. I had been anticipating the big day for a couple of months, and was really curious how the whole experience would be. So many expectations, and really, I'm brand new at this. I was really hoping I would attend some kind of workshop that would lay it all out for me and make this easy.

Kids pawned off to several relatives for the 3 day event - Check.
Husband scheduled time off to join me- Check.
Notebook in hand- Check.

The day started on a Thursday with a used curriculum sale that I missed because I was busy taking the girls to their cousin's for the day. Awe, schucks! But that's all right. What I was really gearing up for was the *FREE* marriage seminar that was going on that evening. Not that I just LOOOOVE to go to marriage seminars, but I'm always up for advice and tools to strengthen our marriage- I feel better being equipped than just winging it and hoping my husband and I don't kill each other and ruin our children. Especially with two kids, I know the strain they can take on a relationship and I want to make sure that my husband and I are finding ways to make time for each other.

This was the "Real Life" Marriage Retreat: Homeschool Edition.

I really wanted to take advantage because it was one of those "Weekend to Remember" type of marriage conferences that we don't typically attend since they cost an arm and a leg, and getting a babysitter and all that is just not happening for us. Fortunately, with my nieces coming to the rescue, we were covered .
Sam and I arrived at the University campus where the conference was being held, received our notebooks and sat down. There were maybe 50-75 people crammed into a small room in the most uncomfortable folding chairs the place had. Originally, Sam was excited to go, but when we sat down I could tell he was not that into it.

All of the other husbands were holding their notebooks and taking notes. When I looked over at Sam, he was doing this:

So, I was feeling a little disappointed. In my mind I was thinking: "Sit up straight, pay attention, take notes like the rest of the husbands." I felt this wave of peer pressure coming over me. While all of the other husbands were expounding on the acrostic for REAL (risk, empathy, admit, & listen) mine was giving June cleaver a black eye and stitches. But due to our competitiveness, and not to be outdone, I did this:

Notice the endearing neck tattoo that Ward is sporting, to let all of the other gents know that June Cleaver is his gal.

After a few minutes, I let go of my insecurities and was able to see my husband as the amazing man that he is. Sure he's not taking notes and wearing his shirt buttoned up to his neck, but he was there for us. It didn't take long before we were laughing and trying to keep it together so the speaker didn't stop and ask us to leave. After and hour and a half there was a 10 minute break. We got up and got some water out of our car and discussed how it was going.

Sam's first comment was " This is not what I was lead to believe this was."


I did not misinterpret any of the information beforehand. In fact, he read the whole overview himself, so I was trying to figure what he was saying. He thought that since it was the "Homeschool Edition, " we would be hearing more about the homeschooling side of things, and so far the seminar seemed to be focused more on the husband/wife dynamic.
I had to agree.
Since Sam and I have had the joy of marriage counseling and Celebrate Recovery under our belts, it kind of felt like beating a dead horse... great advice, but so far- Been there, done that. I was looking forward to hearing the next speaker and when I asked Sam what he thought he said,

"All I can think about is when they are going to split the men and women into groups and go into separate rooms."

Huh? Somehow between the neck tattoos and hoop earrings on June, I missed that part.

"Ohhh...it will be fine." I told him.

And then he looked me deeply into the eyes and said " Honey, I'm here for you. Whatever you would like, I will do. If you want to stay, I will. But if you want to go, that's okay too."


His lips were saying it, but the look of terror was telling me another story.
We went back into the room and listened to Heidi St. John, one of the keynotes for the conference, talk more on marriage. She was a great speaker, but as she was finishing up, Sam's leg started twitching and I could tell he was not looking forward to the "sharing time." He would look at me with a big uncomfortable smile on his face that was saying "I'll do this if I have to, but please get me out of here- NOW!"

So what would any good wife do?
I stayed.
I tortured him a little.
I was really enjoying what Heidi had to say, anyway.

The speakers really emphasized that unique strain that homeschooling can put on a marriage. For a mom, your kids can easily become the center of your universe, especially when so much energy is devoted to home educating. Being successful at homeschooling does nothing to improve your marriage. And in the big picture, while education is important, it is the legacy you leave your children that they will remember. A great education for your child at the expense of your marriage is an epic FAIL. Here was the acrostic they gave for LEGACY- I'm putting this on my fridge for sure:

L... Love. By working tirelessly at our marriage we leave our children and grandchildren a legacy of knowing what LOVE looks like- that they will pass on to their children.

E... Education. Very few divorced couples have any options for their children's education. Strong marriages ensure the privilege of HOMESCHOOLING.

G...Grandparents. Strong marriages give our grandchildren the privilege of knowing grandparents without all of the complications of divorce and remarriage.

A...Assets. By building a strong marriage, we leave our children and grandchildren a better FINANCIAL head start (also family heirlooms aren't divided).

C...Christ-like witness. Children and grandchildren learn about what's important to God by watching where we invest our lives.

Y... Yoke. Children and grandchildren of strong marriages have a living witness to all that can be accomplished when two people are pulling the plow TOGETHER.

Some great points to reflect and a reminder of our goal as a couple and family.

And then came the time when she said, "We're going to take a ten minute break and then the men will go upstairs to room 204 and the women will gather to the front." We casually walked out the doors into the hall with the rest of the folks. And there was Sam, giving me "that" look (of course I had already decided to leave, but this was so fun) so I waited around in the hall a little bit. Sipping my water and acting oblivious to the looks of fear and panic he was giving me. And as the men were filing up the stairs, I could see the anxiety building. Flashbacks of group therapy were filling his mind. So I waited as long as I could and then finally said,
"Let's get out of here."

I couldn't have made my husband any happier and at that moment and I truly was "Hearing what he was saying," "Reading his love language," and "Showing a willingness to prefer my spouse." We left in a dash and with a couple more hours before we had to pick up our kids, we had some time to ourselves.

We went to Taco Time. And it was glorious.
We felt like we were newlyweds again. Just Us, having a meal together, talking over Mexi-Nuggets and enjoying the Muzak. No kids. Ahhhh. It was just what the doctor ordered. I got more out of the hour alone with my husband in Taco Time than the three hours we had spent at the marriage conference. Funny thing is, we were doing just what the speakers were suggesting. We took time out to be alone and reconnect. I got to laugh with my husband and go on a date.

Sam and I were talking over dinner about something Heidi St. John had said. She said that in the room there were at least four couples who were there as a last resort. Living separated, or on the verge of divorce, and the marriage conference was their last attempt to "fix" things. It was a hard truth to hear and I was broken for the couples who were in that position. Having been there myself, I know that is the worst kind of pain. We were reflecting on how grateful we are to God that he brought us through that season and so thankful for counseling to be able to see the dysfunction and be given tools to change those behaviors that can destroy a relationship. And I'm not saying that out of arrogance. I think it was the most humbling experience I've faced as a person, aside from salvation, of course.

It is crazy how far we have come in eight short years as a married couple. I am thoroughly enjoying that we are at a place where things have mellowed out a bit and we are experiencing some real peace and joy between the two of us. But at the same time, I think, none of us are impervious to sin. It doesn't matter how perfect you think your marriage is, because on the turn of a dime, you can find yourself in the midst of chaos. This is a fallen world, and horrible things happen that can rock a marriage. And not just infidelity. Deaths. Fires. Illness. All kinds of disasters. As they pointed out at the conference-

"One of Satan's best weapons: A couple who believes their marriage is immune to the possibility of divorce."

While my husband and I feel like things are great now, there's a part of me that still needs to be on guard and working to protect our marriage. The enemy can strike at any time, especially when our defenses are low.

I really try to lift my husband up in prayer daily, it helps me keep perspective on my place in our marriage. When I am praying for him, it takes the focus off of myself, and it is then that the Holy Spirit convicts me. It is usually my heart that needs the readjustment after all, not his. I don't know how many times I've taken an issue to God and he throws it back in my face. He reminds me that it is not about me, rather "Us." Us meaning Sam, myself, and Jesus. I'd like to think that we're like the Three Amigos, us three.

That has saved me many times. And then there are times when I really do want to punch Sam in the face. And I'll just go on record and say that, no, I have never physically punched my husband in the face.

...But I've daydreamed about it a time or two.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

She's About to Pop!

Well, the day finally came. My friend Kortney was feeling better and ready for her shower. The official date ended up being on the same weekend as my yard sale, so it was a little crazy at my house for a couple of days. Fortunately for me, my adorable thirteen-year-old niece Ashtyn was able to stay with us and help. Thank God for summer break! Having my niece out of school and available to watch the girls and stay up into the wee hours baking with me is great. And we're making memories; even if I am slave-driving her to frost cupcakes and hot glue till her fingers blister. But I do have to say; What is it with these teenage girls? I remember trying to stay up all night with my girlfriends when I was their age, my nieces are wiped out by 11:30 pm. Seriously? Apparently you've got to be tough to hang with Aunt Jenny.

The shower was set for Sunday afternoon and the weather cooperated perfectly. Because it had to be rescheduled a couple of times, half of the party guests couldn't make it. But when it was all said and done, we had a great time. Even if Kortney had lost her voice the night before and couldn't talk. No joke.

My friend and her husband are one of "those" couples who don't find out the sex of their babies. It kills me! Five months of suspense is all I can handle, and I couldn't imagine having to wait till the baby was actually born. I am so grateful for advances in modern technology and ultrasounds, because I don't know what I would do if I HAD to wait ten months! I can handle surprises, but this isn't one of them. So with the baby a mystery, I had to go with a theme that wasn't girl or boy centered. After a little research online, I found some inspiration and a great shower was in the making. The theme I went with was "She's About to Pop," and that meant that all things would be literally "POPPING," from the decor to the food.

Here was my first source of inspiration:

This great blog called Glorious Treats had all the goods, down to the fine details. I loved that she made labels for all of the food and drinks to really make the theme cohesive. Bright colors that were fun and a little bit feminine too. Check out her blog, there are a lot of great pics. And by the way, her name is Glory. How cool is that?

My number two was Eight Crazy, the Blog. I fell for her starburst design and wanted to incorporate that into the baby shower labels.

And here is another blog I found. This is Pen n' Paper Flowers,

Jess did a bubble theme to go with her shower. I really loved her dessert table and again with the labels. I don't know what it is about using labels, but the extra effort just makes everything look so refined.

After playing around on Publisher, this is what I came up with:

I used several fonts, including a handwriting font for the food titles, and for the POP!, I found the greatest FREE font online from www.1001freefonts.com. It's called Chipperfield and Bailey. I love it! It is fun and circus-y. And yes, I did do a similar starburst design using images from the publisher clip art. I layered several flowers in different colors and made one long skinny sideways triangle to do the tag line. Loved it!

Jess's pop theme challenged me to find some fun treats that "Pop." She made fun Jello poppers, mini pop shots with pumpkin mousse, and the list goes on. After I researched how much it would cost to buy a bunch of shot glasses (a small fortune and WAY over my budget), I had to rethink things. Plus, what do you do with 50 shot glasses after the party? Don't answer that. I even tried the dollar store for plastic shooters and all they had were neon tiki shot glasses on necklaces and test tubes. I was thinking more along the lines of "Welcome, little baby," not "Hey guys, we're going streaking at the quad" (name that movie). Scratch the shot glass idea.
I did like that they all served popcorn. I planned to have several flavors and when I ran my idea passed Kortney's mom who was helping, she said, "Well, my husband and I make kettle corn. We have a business."

Can you say PERFECT?

So, for the menu I planned to serve:

*Flavored POPcorn
*Rice Crispy treats (snap, crackle, POP!)
*POPcorn cupcakes, I found this recipe just in time from Kraft, Yay!
*Flavored Soda POP (the Cost Plus kind, yum)
*Mini tart thingys that I love and make for every occasion. They're small and POPpable (maybe a little stretch).
*I also served Cheese bread with green chilis since I had so many sweet treats. And Kortney's mom made her favorite dessert,
*Angel food cake with Strawberries. Quite a spread for the little party.

With the food planning out of the way, it was time to work my magic. I LOVE to decorate! In fact, I LIVE to decorate.

I wanted decorations with lots of color that popped. Since I wasn't going with bubbles, I opted for a flowery, "bursting" look. I started by making a ton of medallions out of scrapbook paper in all different sizes and color combinations. I used tulle and ribbon too, they added extra dimension and really helped them to POP! These are super trendy right now and easy to make, maybe I'll do a tutorial...hmmm. I used them everywhere. Tables, walls, chairs, food. Everywhere.

I also made a diaper cake and embellished it with the medallions. I had always wanted to try one and this was perfect timing. Guess what? They are super easy to make. I found this gogle video tutorial. It shows you how to arrange the diapers using a fan method instead of individually rolling and assembling each diaper. CAKE. Literally.

I really enjoyed making all the decorations and was so pleased with how they turned out. Here are a few pics:

They stripey fabric on the table is a curtain panel that I bought for the girls' room a few months back that I haven't hung up yet. I love it when that happens.

I used my Cricut to make the letters on the banner. And the circles: Paper plates. I bought extra to use for mounting the letters. They worked great.

Can I tantalize your taste buds with a few treats?

My niece worked tirelessly cutting and assembling mini marshmallows for the popcorn effect on the cupcakes. She gets the credit for the cupcake picks too.

I made paper cones out of six-inch squares in all colors to house the popcorn. Three flavors. I bought bagged popcorn at Cost Plus and this was way too easy for how cute it turned out. Kettle corn too!

Snap, Crackle, and POP!

Here are the mini tart things. It is a variation of this recipe. Again, another winner from Kraft. I first used this Firecracker recipe on the 4th of July. Instead of Nilla wafers, I make a graham cracker crust and press them into mini muffin tins. Decadent. It is so rich and creamy. I don't know if I like the Pistachio or vanilla best. Yes I do; pistachio all the way! You could always shove a Nilla wafer into the bottom of a mini cupcake wrapper and top with the filling if you are short on time. It's pretty much a tool to get the filling into your mouth anyway.

And here is the fancy soda from Cost Plus. After I put my own labels on them, of course. The Blackberry Pomegranate flavor is my all-time fave.

Favors! And what else could go inside?

Ring POPs! Kortney's little Luella was pleasantly surprised.

...And I had to sneak in my handmade soap for the shower prizes.

It was a good day of celebration and memories made. Now the only question left is, "Boy or Girl?"

POP on over to my other post:

for more baby shower fun!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yard Sale!

Oh, I can remember the days way back when:

When I was a new bride.
When I earned a paycheck.
When I shopped till I dropped.
When I had INSANE yard sales.

And then I remember when I ended up in Celebrate Recovery to "support my husband" only to find myself uttering the words " My name is Jenny and I struggle with compulsive shopping." Phew- That was rough.

What a journey it has been! I am so fortunate that I can be on the other side of recovery and laugh about my thrift store renegades and Target trips. So grateful to God for revealing this thorn in my paw so that I could start to learn new ways of dealing with stress. Trying to recognize the avoidance behaviors before they spiral into a full-blown "episode" is definitely a discipline, but the victory is a sweet reward. And so is not feeling guilt, shame, and all that other stuff. Always in process, of course.

But in all honesty- I MISS THE SHOPPING!! We've definitely scaled back on luxuries since we had children and our income was cut in half. I loved being able to buy something when I wanted. Those days are few now, and I appreciate them even more.

Last weekend I found myself gaining a little perspective on the whole thing because we had a yard sale. It was my first one in roughly four years. We decided earlier in the week to "Just do it" since Sam had the time off, and it was more or less a spur of the moment kind of thing. (Who am I kidding? The car insurance was due, and we were short!)

Now let me give you a little history on me and yard sales: Yardsaling is in my blood.

My Grandma was a hardcore yardsaler. She didn't miss shopping a single sale. In fact, she memorized parts of town based on whether she had been to a yard sale at "that house" or "the other" and she had her own sale every year for as long as I can remember.

She had folks who frequented her yard sales. That's right, my Grandma had a following. Like the Grateful Dead, only her followers weren't trying to sell weed in the driveway. Florence Burlile was known to buy something at the thrift store, shine it up, and resell it at her own yard sale for profit. It drove my Grandpa nuts, but it was her hobby.
I say it was the Great Depression in her. She was born in 1922, right in the thick of it, and I know that it affected her every day of her life. Picking up cans, saving tin foil, reusing sandwich bags, not a scrap of food that didn't get reheated in a Tupperware for the next days' lunch. We called her cheap, but now she would be "trendy' and "Green." Ha, she would have loved that.

Florence Burlile, classy as ever. I have her to thank for my thrifty ways.

My Grandma taught me the ins and outs of yardsaling- Setting up, pricing, advertising, you name it. And she had a few tricks up her sleeve too.

She would play some of her old records in the background to keep customers around and lull them into a state of vulnerability. I can still hear Doris Day and Bing Crosby when I think about it. You could watch the people walk into the backyard, and when the sound of a gently strumming ukulele hit their ears, it was over. Before long, they were swaying to "Songs of the Tradewinds" with an armload of crap they didn't need.

Grandma was a clever lady. I remember being very young hearing this gem and trying to figure out just who she was talking about. A customer would try to haggle over a price and she would say "Oh that belongs to Millie, she is not here right now, I can't take any less than she is asking."

And the secret: Millie didn't exist.
Grandma...how could you? So sly, so sneaky, and so...


She would often put on her yard sales with my two Great Aunts, and they would all claim the broken or high dollar items belonged to "Millie" so that they didn't have to explain themselves. It ended the price war right there.
Dagger through the heart! It kills me! I just think of these little old ladies smiling amongst themselves in their old metal lawnchairs in the backyard because they were getting away with it. I haven't had the guts to pull this one yet, but it's in my bag of tricks if I should ever need it.

So naturally, after we bought our house, we began to accumulate junk faster than we could use the stuff we already had, thanks to me and my shopping habits- ehem.
And I couldn't just throw the stuff out, it was cool. And valuable. And well-intentioned (throw in a little guilt too because I spent good money on so much of the stuff I didn't need).

And so it was time to have a yard sale.

I had a yard sale every year for four years straight!
That translates to: I was accumulating enough stuff that I needed to clear it out before I could bring more in. It kind of makes me sick just thinking about it. And the yard sales, well, they were just like my Grandma's.


Something for everybody, I tell ya. Tables everywhere. Tents for shade, clothes on racks. Furniture in the driveway, everything had a department. Drinks too. In fact, the very last yard sale I had, I was actually selling my Grandmother's things. She had died that year and we were clearing out the vast collection of knick-knacks, vases, and clocks that she was known for. My mom used to say trying to sleep in that house was terrifying because there were so many clocks tick-tocking at different intervals that you couldn't relax enough to fall asleep. Sheesh. And the house was also equipped with it's own burglar alarm. My Grandma's vase collection lined every windowsill in the entire house, no one could open a window without broken glass everywhere. We're talking over a hundred. a hundred vases. Fat ones, skinny ones, colored ones, glass ones, plastic ones, brass ones. But otherwise, neat and tidy.

Hoarding is in my blood, I'm afraid. Call it quirky or call me crazy, if you want. I have an eye for color and I like to look at pretty things. There is an artistic process to how all this stuff shows up. I've seen enough cable TV to know where that leads, so I have chosen to exercise a little self-control.

Back to the yard sale, I was kind of disappointed to see how much we didn't have to sell. I know, that's the crazy again, but you kind of want it to look full. Otherwise, folks slow down and drive by, and then keep moving on. We had mainly big stuff. Furniture, air conditioners, rugs. Baby clothes of course, but that's about it. Not a lot to offer, and unless we got rid of the big stuff, we would have a full storage shed and NO MONEY. (gasp!)

Looking a little weak, if you ask me.

Well "Thank You Jesus!" Again! I swear God always comes through, even if He waits till the final hour to show His glory. We were able to sell all the big stuff, pay our car insurance, and come out ahead. It was all pretty amazing really.

We started putting our things out Thursday night for a two day sale. I had just set 2 beds out on the front lawn and my neighbor came over to check out my handiwork. I had a queen-sized canopy bed that I refinished, distressed, and was absolutely in love with... but I built a new bed, remember? This one had to go, and I am excited to say that she took it off my hands. Now I can go visit if I start to miss her. It was my favorite shade of green, you know.

My other neighbor bought our rugs. Again, my "dream rug" that I stalked at Lowes for months just waiting for a sale. The rug I "had to have" is now on my neighbor's floor. But hey, you can only cover 1000 square feet with so many rugs, right?

This is the hard part, this letting go business.

But while I was taking pictures of things to put on craigslist, I captured this moment. And now I know why I haven't had a yard sale in four years.

It's people over stuff.