Monday, September 29, 2014

Oh! The Places We Will Go

Jeff and I spent the weekend working out the details of the African portion of our RTW trip. This will be the second leg of our journey, after 60 days or so in Europe, but because it is also probably the single most expensive part of the entire trip, we wanted to book flights and car rentals early, to take advantage of lower pricing and to insure we could all get on the same flights. We have been using Google Flights to look for deals, since you can put in a number of departure cities and find the best deals across many airlines and dates. This showed us that if we could be flexible on departure cities and dates (which we can!), we could find significant discounts--sometimes as much as $1000 savings, just by leaving one day earlier or later. Unfortunately, you cannot book flights directly with Google flights, and finding those same deals on other sites often proved challenging, if not impossible. Then, Jeff discovered the "explore" option on Kayak, where you can see prices to any location in the world, from any location in the world. Then, you can plug the best options in to their engine, and they will compare fares across sites like Priceline, Expedia and others. You can even purchase tickets directly through one of these sites, so you don't have to waste time trying to find the same flight elsewhere on the web. And, you can get great deals on rentals cars on Kayak's site, as well.

So, long story short, we booked our Europe-to-Africa flight, as well as our intraAfrica flights. (This time around the best deals came through Expedia, and we took advantage of significant discounts.) I'm so stinkin' excited! I spent a little time in Africa (Zambia and Zimbabwe) just after I graduated from high school, and I have always wanted to go back and share that experience with the people I love. We will get to spend three weeks in Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa), visiting Victoria Falls, Cape Town and Kruger National Park. And, as a complete bonus, our return flight gives us a nice long layover in Cairo, Egypt, so we will most likely get to see the pyramids and the Sphinx. This wasn't even on our radar for places to visit, so we are super-excited to have this side trip thrown in!

To keep our travels organized, and to insure we don't overlook anything from flight times to the local weather, we are using the TripIt trip planner. You can simply forward your travel confirmation emails to them, and they will put everything in order, from beginning to end, all in one easy-to-navigate spot. So far, we are very impressed with it! And, it's really, really fun to see our adventure coming together in black and white!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Taste of Italy

Our homeschool has always included language, in the form of Spanish and/or Latin. But this year, in addition to her Latin studies, we allowed Ruth to choose whichever language interested her. She chose Italian, in preparation for our RTW travels next year. She has thrown herself into it whole-heartedly. But, it's not just about learning the vocabulary. Language study generally necessitates cultural study, as well. This week, Ruth decided she'd like to do a cooking project. She researched what a traditional Italian meal would encompass, made the shopping list, went to the store with me to do the shopping, and did every bit of the cooking for the six-course meal all by herself. It was a fantastic meal, and it has whetted our appetite for things to come when we visit Italy next summer! I'm pretty sure I could not have produced something like this when I was 12!

Antipasto: Genoa Salami, Parmesan Reggiano, Assorted Olives and Asiago Bread

Primo: Bow tie pasta, with Italian sausage, tomatoes and cream sauce

Secondo: Pan-Seared Steak, with Pizzaiola Sauce

Contorno: Roasted Potato Wedges

Dolce: Tiramisu

Caffe: Caffe Latte with shaved chocolate

Our dinner mascot, created by Ruth's braces

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What IS on the line

Dear youth football coach(es),

I am terribly sad to even have to write this letter. I mean, we are only four games into the season, and I truly had such high hopes. I know that you are a volunteer, and I have been appreciative of the fact that you have taken time out of your life to allow my boys to do something they very much enjoy. It makes me happy to see my kids doing what they love. But, in the last couple of weeks, your actions and/or words during games have caused me to be considerably less appreciative and have even made me wonder if this whole thing is worth it.

I get that football is exciting and emotional. We all want our teams to do well and to win the game. Just this afternoon, I was acting pretty crazy in my living room, waiting for my beloved Aggies to finally pull out the win. Honestly, the game could have gone either way. Would I have been disappointed if they hadn't won? Sure. It's only natural.

I love football, and I feel there are so many wonderful things young boys can learn from playing the sport. But, because you seem to have forgotten that our boys (who, I will remind you, are only 6 and 8) are here primarily to have a good time and to learn some of the basics of the game, I would like to remind you that there are no full-ride scholarships or championship trophies or Super Bowl rings on the line when we get together on Saturday mornings with other 6 and 8-year-olds from the surrounding area to toss around the pigskin. There are, however, quite a few slightly more important things that are on the line:

  • Reputations--your reputation, your son's reputation, your team's reputation, and your hometown's reputation. Your actions do not just reflect poorly on you. Think about that.
  • The opportunity to positively influence some very impressionable young men--Those boys look up to you. In addition to teaching them to play the game, you also have an opportunity to teach them integrity, sportsmanship, respect, good attitudes, and so much more. With so few people in the world worth looking up to, I would think you would want to try to be the kind of person who makes a positive difference in the lives of the children you have volunteered to work with.
  • The love of the game--As I said, football is a great sport, but if 6 and 8 year olds feel it is life-and-death, they will cease to love it. It will become a burden for them, and many of them will not stick with it. Or, they may just get tired of incurring penalties on the field on your behalf and seek other forms of entertainment, where that will not be the case. 
If you are in need of a football coach to model, I would suggest Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M. I have never once seen him rant or rave or throw things. He seems to remain in control of himself no matter what happens on the field and to focus on what he can change rather than what he can't. And, as it turns out, unlike you, he actually does have something pretty important on the line: his job.

Youth football has so much to offer, and I hope you will consider how your actions influence that--for better or worse. 

Sincerely, 

A concerned, football-loving mama

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Loved to Death

My youngest child is a lover. He simply cannot get (or give) enough hugs, kisses, lap time or 'nuggles (as he calls them). He recently coined the term "Rumble, Rumble," which means "group hug," and he frequently calls everyone in for some of that special love. He needs physical touch like the rest of need oxygen, and he goes out of his way to give and receive it. Like, way out of his way.

Several times a week, he makes a middle-of-the-night trek to our bedroom and crawls into our bed sometime between midnight and 5:00 am (usually around 3), for the sole purpose of 'nuggling. I mean, he doesn't just want to be in our bed, he wants to be touching us--both of us--so, he will turn himself sideways between us in order to maximize surface contact. Sometimes, I find fingers entwined in my hair or hands under or on top of me, while a little head nuzzles under my chin. Other times, it's little feet in the ribs or back or stomach, while Jeff receives attention from the other extremities. It's all very sweet, but, frankly, all this love (and lack of sleep) is killing me! Taking him back to his room only works occasionally, and sometimes, I just don't even have the wherewithal at that time of the day to put one foot in front of the other to relocate him. And, then the next day, I'm dragging, and he's cranky and exhausted, which sometimes leads to adorable-but-regretable scenes like this:


I'm all about the love. Really, I am. But, I just wish we could get all our loving in during the more civilized times of the day.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When the baby's away, the others will play

Our big kids have been waiting what seems like forever for Clay to have "other engagements," so that we could take them to Schlitterbahn. Well, today was that day! Clay was at Nana Camp this weekend, and it also happened to be the very last weekend of the water park's season. (And, as a bonus, it was homeschool discount weekend!) It was absolutely the perfect time to go, as the weather was just right and the park was probably at its least crowded. We had a blast! Of course, I don't have any photographic evidence of this, because cameras and water slides don't really mix. But, take my word for it, we had a great time! And, Clay also had a fantastic time at Nana Camp! That's what we call a win-win!

Friday, September 19, 2014

All the oils I've loved

For a while, I have been researching and experimenting with essential oils and natural remedies. About six months ago, I was introduced to doTerra and have been using their oils regularly since. I will not enter into a debate about the merits of one essential oil company over another. I'm sure they all have something to offer, and this journey, for me, is not about the brand. It is simply about finding ways to take control of my family's wellness. My research and experiments with oils continue, and I still have much to learn. I know this isn't the path for everyone. But, for those of you interested, I thought I would share some our favorite oils and how we have used them.

Lavender
  • Treatment of eczema
  • Treatment for in-grown toenails, mixed with On Guard (see below) and melaleuca
  • Helping people calm down and go to sleep
  • Treatment of minor burns
Geranium
  • To help stop bleeding
Lemon
  • For making water tolerable to drink
Lime
  • A perfect substitution for fresh squeezed limes in guacamole
Melaleuca (tea tree oil)
  • Treatment for in-grown toenails, mixed with lavender and On Guard
  • Treatment for ear infections
  • Diluted in vinegar, along with On Guard, Terra Shield (see below) and peppermint, for cleaning and sanitizing
Peppermint
  • Diluted in vinegar, along with On Guard, Terra Shield and melaleuca for cleaning and bug deterrent
Breathe (a proprietary blend with laurel leaf, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, lemon and ravensara)
  • Mixed with water and run through the diffuser or rubbed on chests to clear up head colds and stuffy noses
Clear Skin (a proprietary blend with black cumin, ho wood, melaleuca, eucalyptus, geranium and litsea fruit)
  • I use the foaming face wash nightly and the roll-on, as needed, to help fight acne.
Deep Blue (a proprietary blend with wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, blue tansy, blue chamomile, helichrysum and osmanthus) 
  • For growing pains and sore muscles
  • We use this oil straight (because it's what we have), but doTerra has a whole line of Deep Blue products, including a cream form that is easier to use.
On Guard (a proprietary blend with wild orange, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary)
  • As a replacement for hand sanitizer
  • As germ deterrent in shared water bottles
  • Diluted in vinegar, along with peppermint, Terra Shield, and melaleuca for cleaning and sanitizing
  • Mixed with melaleuca and lavender for treatment of in-grown toenails
  • This one also comes in toothpaste, which I absolutely love!
Past Tense (a proprietary blend with wintergreen, lavender, peppermint, frankincense, cilantro, marjoram, roman chamomile, basil and rosemary)
  • For almost instant headache relief
  • For sore muscles/crick in the neck
  • It comes in a roll-on bottle for easy application. This is probably the oil I use most often.
Purify (a proprietary blend with lemon, lime, pine, citronella, melaleuca and cilantro)
  • Mixed with Breathe in the diffuser to rid the air of cold germs
Serenity (a proprietary blend with lavender, marjoram, roman chamomile, ylang, ylang, sandalwood and vanilla bean)
  • Mixed with water in the diffuser to provide a sense of calm
Slim and Sassy (a proprietary blend with grapefruit, lemon, peppermint, ginger, and cinnamon)
  • A few drops in a bottle of water to help curb appetite between meals. Tastes delicious and definitely makes water more tolerable.
Terra Shield (a proprietary blend of mostly citronella and cedarwood)
  • Mixed with vinegar, peppermint, melaleuca and On Guard as a cleaner/bug deterrent
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Ant killer/deterrent
  • This smells really good and works as well, in my opinion, as brand name bug sprays.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Finding Nemo

A pooping incident occurred at my house today, which claimed as victims all the cushions of my patio furniture and every single stuffed animal in my youngest child's room. It was…epic. And somewhat confusing. I mean, how in the world…?! I don't even know. My nephew was the prolific poop producer, so I was probably infinitely more patient with the situation than I would have been if it had been one of my own. (Just being honest here.) But, it didn't fully strike me how funny my life is until I laid eyes on this scene:


If any of you are still working on finding Nemo, you can stop now. I found him. He will just keep swimming right on through the spin cycle. See, hilarious, right?! I'm telling you, you cannot make this stuff up.