Saturday, August 31, 2013

September Shopping Challenge

 I always love a good challenge, and I love using my blog and the month of the year as a medium in which to attempt a challenge. If the challenge includes alliteration, all the better.

This month, I am attempting, and inviting all of you to join me, if you so choose, to curb my bad shopping habits.

I'll be frank; I'm a shopaholic. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, and I do have a problem. This whole year, I've been on a journey towards Simplicity, which has had its ups and downs, but has in general been fairly successful. I've been working towards simplifying my possessions, my schedule, my faith and now, my spending.

For the month of September, I challenge myself to set aside ONE day for doing all my shopping with the exception of ONE mid-week emergency trip IF NECESSARY. I will refrain from doing any shopping (which includes online) throughout the week until Friday, when I will do my full week's grocery shopping/other shopping. The exception will be if we run out of milk or bread or something totally necessary, on which I will be allowed one brief trip the store on Tuesday. I will aim, however, to avoid even the emergency mid-week Tuesday shop.

My reason for this simple. When I go shopping, I tend to overspend. If I go into town for only milk, I will return home with three bagsful of stuff. Instead of spending just $4 on the milk, (milk is frickin' expensive over here! How I miss Farmfoods.) I end up spending $50. Also, I don't realise that over the course of the week how much these individual trips are adding up. However, if I do a lot of shopping all in one day, I feel very aware of how much I am spending and feel much more cautious.

My thinking is if I save all my shopping for one day a week, I will first of all need to be much more organised in my meal planning and more realistic on how much we will need to get us through the week. I will also be less likely to spend money on things I don't really need, because I will see it all add up in that one day and will feel the burden of spending so much.

I am choosing Fridays, because Fridays are Double Points days at Kroger, my grocery store of choice, which means I am also saving money on my petrol.

I have given myself the option of a possible mid-week shop when necessary. I'd love to cut this caveat out, but realistically, I know that if we run out of milk mid-week, I can't avoid getting more. However, to help make sure this doesn't happen, I am doubling up on how much milk I buy on my weekly shopping trip. Again, this makes me see that even the cost of a jug of milk adds up, and I will see that plainly when I pay for my three gallons each Friday! But in case I have not estimated accurately, I am allowing a quick trip on Tuesday nights after soccer practice (with three kids in the car, a great deterrent) for mid-week top-ups.

This challenge does not just include groceries, though. This is all shopping. If the kids need something for school, or new clothes, or if I realise I still haven't bought a whisk, or I really want a Wendy's Frosty, this all can only take place on Friday. Again, my thinking is that once I've seen how much groceries are, I'll be less likely to overspend on school supplies or new clothes, and a lot less likely to waste money on that Frosty. If we decide to have dinner out, it'll need to be on Friday. Not on Tuesday, either; Tuesdays are emergency clauses only.

The one thing that I'm afraid may have to exist outside the challenge is petrol. While I'd love to say we'll only buy petrol for the cars on Fridays too, this is not realistic. Scott has to get to work, and unfortunately, if the light comes on on a Wednesday, well, he'll need to fill up. For myself, though, this challenge will help me include how much I drive my car. If I know I'm low on petrol, I'm hoping the challenge will help me consider whether or not I really need to get out in the car that day. After all, I won't be needing the car for trips to the store each day, so I won't be using the car as much anyway.

The September Shopping Challenge sounds okay to me from the outset, but I know it's going to be difficult - really difficult. I know things will come up, like, 'Oh no, I forgot so-and-so's birthday is this week!' and immediately I'll want to run out and gift shop. But I'm going to keep it to Friday. It means I'll need to be more organised about everything, but it also means that on Friday, I'll have more money waiting to be spent than I would if I made all those interim trips to town where extra money gets spent that isn't needed.

Already, I can see how I'm going to find this hard. For instance, Monday is Labor Day, and we're going to my mom's for a BBQ. Scott and I are supposed to bring the ribs. I haven't bought the ribs yet. Emergency Tuesday will be too late, which means I'll have to break my challenge already on Day 1, September 1st. This makes me ill. It means tomorrow, the first day of my challenge, I'll have to go to the store on a non-shopping day to buy ribs, all because I wasn't organised enough on Friday past. (This challenge has been on my mind for a few days, and I knew I was doing it on Friday when I did my first Friday shop.) So it means that tomorrow, a Sunday, I'll have to be absolutely, completely self-controlled; I'll need to walk into the grocery store, head straight to the meat, and head straight for the checkout. Do not pass Go, do not collect (or spend) $200. Then vilify yourself the whole way home on screwing up the challenge one day into it, vowing not to screw up again.

So, who's going to join the challenge with me? You pick which shopping day works best for you, and if you blog, or use Facebook, keep us all up-to-date on your progress. I'm going to be using my blog for accountability; I will document my successes and my failures (hopefully more the former than the latter). Let's see how much money we can save in September by just saying NO to shopping!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Today, I...

Took my youngest two children to the local library for Storybook Time. We checked out some books and DVDs, so tonight I'm finally going to get to watch Pride and Prejudice and read Crime and Punishment.

Walked to school with three other neighbourhood mummies and kids. Afterwards, we walked an additional mile and a half, totalling two-and-a-half miles walked this morning with other adults (and kids in prams).

Got new tires put on my car. One needed replaced but finding the right tire was difficult. My step-dad ended up locating the right tires, nearly completely new (only 100 miles on them), and got all four of them for $100. The garage bought my old tires off of me and fit my new tires. Instead of paying him, I got money back.

Used my new Swiffer Wet Jet Mop for the first time. I spent about ten minutes trying to figure out why it wouldn't spray until I realized (thanks to Yahoo Answers) that it needs batteries. Luckily I had batteries in my camera that fit.

Mailed a parcel to Scotland for Lolly's best friend's birthday. It did not cost me a fortune, thank goodness.

Received Scott's new computer parts in the mail. He is excited about building his new computer tonight, and I'm excited about getting my laptop back.

And finally...

Spoke to Fifi's Principal today about her grade placement. She has organized for Fifi to get her assessment today, and we will meet tomorrow about what to do. I am hoping there will be no issues, and they will offer me a quick solution... like skipping her a grade. She is bored stiff practising how to write her letters and numbers, and studying reading words like 'mat, cat, hat, can, van, man'. Every day after school she asks me, 'Have you written a letter to my teacher yet about my education?'

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Home Alone Without the Macaulay Culkin

Tonight is Fifi and Lolly's soccer practice night. Even though nothing much happens at soccer practice, I really look forward to it. Same with church. Not that the church we are visiting is terribly exciting, but I look forward to it every week. And it's the same with the walk to school every morning and afternoon. Though I hate sweltering in the heat, I look forward to it.


I think it's because I am around other people at these places.

I am not used to being on my own so much. Probably there has never been another time in my whole entire life where I have been alone so often. I went to school and college, always surrounded by people. I moved to Scotland, and there I didn't know anybody, true, but I went to work. And then I stopped working to have kids but quickly met people at baby swimming and breastfeeding groups and TinyTalk and was never on my own since.

But here, I neither work nor socialize. I spend all day from early morning to late afternoon with only Lolly and Jaguar for company. Then Fifi comes home, and then Scott comes home, and then sometimes in the evening I see my parents. That's it though.

I love my little kids, of course, and I love my husband and parents, but I have no idea what to do with all this alone time. I look forward to soccer practice, because I get to sit in the bleachers with other parents watching the same kids on the team, and I have someone to make small talk with. I look forward to church, because I keep hoping I'll make a friend there. I look forward to walking to and from school thinking I might meet someone along the way.

Now, I'm not wholly without friends. Thank God for Devon, whose been one of my best friends since high school. Meeting up with her now and again has been great. No small talk necessary, I can just be myself without going through that initial getting-to-know-you phase. And there are a few other people scattered around that eventually I'll get a chance to meet up with, people I either knew years ago or that I have recently met.

But at this present stage, it's pretty much me on my own. It's weird. It's quiet. It's nice in a way, I guess. It's nice not having to rush around like crazy all the time but just hanging out in my comfortable, clean, air-conditioned house. It's been good playing with Jaguar and Lolly and the dog. But it's kind of lonely. Not terribly lonely yet; I'm not crying into a box of tissues or anything. I just wonder how and if I'll ever end up meeting anyone.

The people around here, maybe they are just different from Scottish people. I just find people so very insular here, so isolated. When I try to strike up conversation with someone at the park, it falls flat. When I make small talk with another mother at the library storybook time, it doesn't really go anywhere. No one at the school stands around waiting for their kids but instead stay in their air-conditioned cars in the carpool lanes. The people at church come, sing, hear a sermon, and go home. (Except for during that incredibly uncomfortable 'Stand and shake hands with someone/Peace Be With You' segment which makes me and Scott both want to crawl under a rock.) People I guess just have their lives and their things going on and don't really have anything to do with anyone else outside of that.

Scott used to think Southerners were annoyingly friendly. He must've been basing this on restaurant waitresses and department store salesmen. I remember thinking when I moved to Scotland that West-of-Scotlanders were much friendlier. Always you have someone making chit-chat with you about the weather, the price of groceries, the weather, the tardiness of buses, the weather. It was all small talk, sure, but it was friendly. Maybe Southerners see small talk as meaningless and therefore avoid it. There's a point to that, I guess, but it makes it hard to strike up random friendships. After all, it was through random small talk at baby swimming that I met one of my best friends, Maria!

Eventually, I'm sure, I'll start to meet people. I've signed up to be on the PTA. I've joined a book club. I'm going to start selling Pampered Chef. I'll meet people eventually. For now, I'll just need to learn to enjoy my 'me' time, and be so thankful I've got a few friends from way back when, which is more than someone moving to an all new town would have. I'm definitely lucky to have that.

And I'm so thankful for Skype and text messaging and Facebook, which lets me keep in touch with all my great friends back in Greenock!

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Grade

I realised after reading my Texas sis-in-law's blog that I never really wrote about Fifi's first day. I wrote about Lolly's first day of homeschooling, but at the time of that writing, Fi was still at school... so I didn't know how her first day had gone.

Fifi has now completed a full first week of First Grade.

What follows will potentially sound like a big bag of whinyface mixed in with excessive annoying parent-pride, but hear me out.

In Scotland, the kids start school between ages 4.5 to 5. Because of where Fifi's birthday falls, she started when she was 4.5, a year earlier than she would've started school in America. By the time we'd moved here, she had completed P1 and P2, the equivalent of Kindergarten and First Grade. Yet because of her age, the schools here placed her back in First Grade. Scott and I were really not sure about this move, though we approved of her being with her own age group. I spoke to her teacher at the Open House about Fifi's situation (repeating First Grade) and spoke also the Principal and Vice-Principal. Everyone agreed that following beginning-of-term assessments, they would review where Fifi should be placed.

On Friday, Fi brought home her class work for the week. I was a little bit upset. It was just as I thought. She was back to practicing how to write her numbers... counting to ten...

I know it was only the first week. But I also know that if this is the review level for first grade, well, I'm not trying to say my daughter is incredibly clever (though, of course, you know, she's a genius, obviously) but seriously, she has already completed this grade level. She was going into P3, or Second Grade, in Scotland.

I feel torn. I think Scott and I both do. Do we keep her in with her age group and allow her to have an easy year? Or do we push to have her moved to Second Grade? Will keeping her in First result in her being bored, unchallenged and potentially hating school and/or becoming a class room menace? (She already comes home with stories of how she 'helped so-and-so with his maths and so-and-so did very good with her reading, she didn't even have to ask me for help', which makes me think she's already turning into Miss Bossypants.) But will moving her to Second Grade result in her being a bit intimidated by the older children and at the end of the day, graduating high school before she turns 18?

I have gotten conflicting advice from everyone. I don't know what to do, except give it another few weeks then make another appointment with the teacher or the Principal. The teacher is very young, presumably not long out of college, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but will she know how to challenge the kids who need challenged while giving the appropriate support to the ones who are behind, or - the most unfortunate of all - those who are working to the average? I suppose that could be a topic all on its own.

Anyway, academics aside, Fifi IS adjusting to her new school beautifully. She's making friends with the kids in her class. She likes her teacher. She loves the library and the playground. She doesn't so much like the walk to school in the heat, but that's something we're all adjusting to!

And school aside, she starts football - erm, I mean soccer - tomorrow and Girl Scouts next week. I'd say she is really enjoying her new life.

We all are. :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Day of American School

The first day of school.


I got up early this morning to make sure I'd be ready and not rushed. I had my shower, did my make-up, got dressed, ate breakfast and had a cup of tea, all before waking up the kids. They woke up excited and cheerful, and got ready faster than I've ever seen them do before. They ate their breakfast, got dressed, brushed their teeth and even made their beds without being asked. We were all ready to go with about 45 minutes to spare.

We only live a couple of blocks away from the school, so we put Jaguar in the stroller, Gracie on her leash, and we walked down to school. All along the way, we passed kids from our neighbourhood standing at the end of their driveways, presumably waiting for their bus. I saw kids in their cars from our neighbourhood driving to school. Seriously? Can't Americans even walk the length of themselves? There is even a sidewalk (which is unusual) on the road leading up to the school, but we were the only people I saw using it. Then when we got to the school, there was no safe place for kids to walk up to the building without cutting across the bus line! Crazy, seriously.

Anyway, Fifi went in without a single worry. She kissed her brother and sister goodbye, patted Gracie and gave me a kiss and a 'Tha gaol agam ort', and she was away into the building. My big grown up girl.

Lolly, Jaguar, Gracie and I walked back home to start Lolly's first day of school. Originally we intended to send Lolly to pre-kindergarten but the cost was just more than we could justify, so we decided to homeschool her in preparation for kindergarten next year. She has been so excited about this. I am actually going to do a prepared homeschool program called HIPPY (Home Instruction Preschool Preparation for Youngsters, or something like that) with her, but it hasn't started yet, so until it starts, we are doing our own thing. Each day will start with a bit of yoga to get my wild child focused.

We then looked at pictures of different foods and identified them. Lolly thought that was great fun. Afterwards, we had a snack of A-A-Apples and practised writing her letter A's.

Following that we did a bit of big-and-small, tall-and-short work, by which time she was getting very Lolly and tired of work. I let her draw pictures of Tinkerbell for a while, then put on a Tinkerbell DVD for her while I fed Jaguar and tried (unsuccessfully) to put him down for a nap. After the DVD we will get into the kitchen together, get dinner started for tonight and have our lunch. After lunch, we'll read some books and go play outside.

It doesn't sound like much, but it IS just pre-school. And it's fun. It's low-key. It's very Lolly.

Then later this afternoon, we'll be that weird family again who walks to school to pick up our kids. I can't wait to see Fifi again and hear how her first day went!

(And ask how she liked her first Back To School bento lunch!)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Benefits of Having Little

Those of you who have been following my blog, or who know me in person, know what a challenge it was for our family to sell/give away everything we own to move back to the United States. From a three bedroom flat full to the brim in belongings, we whittled our earthly goods down to what fit into twelve suitcases (for a family of five) and a few boxes of keepsakes to be stored in my sister-and-brother-in-law's cellar. I don't know if that sounds as crazy as it was, but essentially it was something like this: each family member (except the baby) had one suitcase for clothes each, one suitcase was for kitchen supplies, two were for toys, one was for baby clothes, CDs and DVDs, one was for shoes (and that was AFTER getting rid of tons), two were for pictures, breakable items such as pottery and other meaningful items, and the last was basically miscellaneous bits and bobs we didn't want to lose. The boxes left in Scotland are full of photo albums and books and Christmas decorations that have sentimental value.

Now that we are in our new house, we have had so much support from family and friends in getting set back up. We have been given furniture, kitchenware and money, not to mention the loan of cars, to help us get started. But still, our belongings are pretty sparce.

We LOVE it.

If I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. I'd do it even if we weren't moving. It was the most freeing experience I can imagine.

Friends of ours, Graeme and Emily, moved back to Canada after a few years in Scotland, and Emily really encouraged me. At first, the thought of losing everything was horrible. So many things felt so important to me, like the display units Scott's gran passed down to us, and paintings I had done, and... I can't even remember any more, but they all seemed irreplaceable. But Emily told me, 'It's all just stuff. You won't miss it.' I didn't believe her, right enough, but I adopted her attitude and tried looking at everything as just material goods.

Now, before I go further, there are two things I need to say. First, I am not about to talk about how great it is to lose EVERYTHING. We were not in a fire, we were not robbed. We chose what went and what stayed. We made the decision ourselves on what really meant the most. This is entirely different from having everything taken from you outside your control. Second, I am not saying we have NOTHING. We have the necessities. We have things beyond the necessities. I am not comparing us to anyone in poverty, and I do not meant to be insensitive and imply that poverty is great. Having little is not the same as having nothing.

Saying that, we have less now than most middle class people in the Western World, and it is a wonderful, clean, refreshing feeling.

First of all, everything I see now really does just feel like 'stuff'. If something breaks beyond repair, I can just throw it away. When I'm shopping and see something attractive, I can admire it without buying it. In fact, many of the things I kept, I now wish I hadn't kept, because they weren't really necessary come to think of it.

Having little means my house is easy to keep clean. I don't have mountains of things with no real purpose or place. The kids still have more toys than they need but not so many that they don't each one have a special allotted space to be stored. My dishes don't pile up, because I only have one set which I wash and reuse immediately. I even marked 'dish drainer' off my list of 'needs', because I only have a few non-dishwashable items, which I can handwash immediately, dry and put away. My laundry doesn't pile up, because we don't have enough clothes to allow it to. In fact, I am finding it so hard to make a full load each time I wash, that I run it on Small Load more often than Medium or Large. With the help of my Motivated Moms Chore Schedule, I'm finding it incredibly easy to get to all those little jobs that used to be overlooked by all the dishes, laundry, and clutter I used to have to sort through first.

Scott asked me if I miss anything. Really, the only things I miss are my books (I love love love to read), my cookbooks (I'm lost in the kitchen without them), and some of my bento supplies that got lost along the way (my hobby and for a short while, my business). I also miss my Pampered Chef stoneware, but I'm coping without it! Some things that I miss I do hope to replace eventually, such as my sewing machine, but at the moment, I'm surviving without them.

If it hadn't been utterly necessary, I would never have been brave enough to clear out my entire 'life'. It would have seemed impossible, not just because of my attachment to my earthly possessions, but also because of the obligatory feelings attached to things - gifts given to me that would seem rude or ungrateful to get rid of. A few months ago I could hardly have used this word, but luckily I HAD to get rid of all those things, and thanks to that, I feel so free.

How do I encourage others to do the same? It's hard. I don't expect anyone will be able to do it to the extent we had to without a good reason. But I categorically DO encourage everyone to start seeing everything they own as mere 'stuff'. Don't be afraid to give away or throw away. Think, 'Will I miss this ten years from now?' With your wardrobes, think, 'Do I NEED six different black t-shirts? Or could I just wash the one or two on a regular basis instead?' Above all, remember It is all just stuff. You won't miss it.

Every time I walk into my new house and see a bare floor, clean walls, and empty tables, I breathe a sigh of relief. When I open my tiny kitchen cupboards and see tidy rows and lots of extra space, I smile. When I visit my kids room and ask them to clean up, I know it can be done quickly and relatively painlessly. When my chore schedule says to clean out the shower, I know I can manage it, because the general tidying up clutter doesn't need to be done first and foremost. At night, when the kids go to bed, I can do a quick sweep and hoover and then relax, or if needed, fold a (single) load of laundry or iron some clothes while watching Scrubs on DVD. Because I don't have a house full of rubbish to tackle at all times. It's amazing.

In a few years, I'm sure I'll own more, and it won't be so easy then to just give it all up. But it's changed something inside me, the need and the desire to own things. I just hope I can inspire others in return to think differently about their possessions and not be afraid to let them go. At the end of the day, we don't need much to get by, even comfortably, and very few things really matter.

Except maybe books.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

With You In Spirit and In Wardrobe

When you move away, there's always this feeling that you'll be forgotten... you know, 'out of sight, out of mind'. My friends Heather, Paula and Elaine made my day with this little Facebook message:

These girls came over one of the last nights before I left and helped me pack and clean the house. While they were there, I got out a big bag of my clothes that I was taking to the charity shop for them to go through first. They all picked out something and jokingly said they would wear it every Tuesday night for Craft Night to remember me by. Obviously, it was a joke, so when I saw these pictures, and saw that they actually wore my clothes on Paula's birthday night out, it put a huge smile on my face. I'm still smiling. They haven't forgotten me any more than I've forgotten them.

I love you guys. Hope you're still saving money in your jar to come visit me!

Mom Always Listens

As it turns out, I must be doing something right after all. Fifi made me this last night in VBS. The kids made a card for everyone in their family with something nice written about all of them. This just melted my heart. She told me, 'Really, Mum, you do always listen.'

I think of all things she could've said about me, that was the most meaningful.

(And I love that Dad is smart, because he really is. Like freaky, irritatingly smart.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Lemonade Sales

School's Out For Summer

After a total roller coaster of a summer break, I can hardly believe school starts back up in one week.

This has by far been the longest, most eventful summer holiday ever! We took Fifi and Lolly out of school/nursery two weeks before the end of term in June. Since then, we moved to another country, had a 'two-week holiday' with Scott's mum here, lived with my mom for another month after that, Scott applied for and got a job, and we moved into our own house. One more week of holidays, and school will start for Fifi. It's been such a long, emotional, busy, stressful and exciting summer for all of us.

When we arrived, and had all the time in the world, we made all these plans for things we would do. We wanted to make this an exciting time for the kids, to help them transition. We made it to the zoo and a cave and the cinema and bowling, but there are still tons of things I'd still like to do with the kids before I run out of time.

Today, I'm taking them bowling again. I subscribed to a Kids Bowl Free thing that gives us all two free games every day until October 31st. We've only been two or three times, so I need to step it up to enjoy the promotion. I'd love to take them back to the zoo, too, and to Heifer Village and the local water park.

Despite our efforts, I don't feel like I've given the kids a very relaxing summer. It's probably just Mummy Guilt, I know, but with all the emotional stresses of moving twice in six weeks and looking for jobs and missing friends, I've been overly snippy and tired and cranky. As much as I wanted to make this move as smooth as possible for the kids, it's been hard all around to keep tempers from flying and the stress from bubbling over.

I guess it's probably been okay from their perspective. It's just that everywhere I go, all I hear and read is about how we parents are messing up our kids emotionally with our imperfections. It's like we better be perfect human beings who never get frazzled, angry, tired, grumpy, busy, stressed or hurried or we will damage their frail developing souls and cause lasting trauma from which they will never heal.

I get the point, but I wonder if the people who say these things are actually robots who have only robot children.

I keep having to remind myself that my brothers and I grew up with normal parents who lost their tempers, were busy with chores, got worn out, made us play outside so they could get some peace and sometimes even - gasp - punished us, and for the most part, we all turned out fairly unscathed...

So I'm just going to remind myself - and anyone else who feels the same - right now that just the fact that we do worry about damaging our kids and that we make the effort to build them up as best as we can, has to mean that we are doing something right. Our kids, in fact, probably are pretty happy. I'll keep trying to do better, but I am saying No to The Guilt.

And I'm going to love my last week with the wee rascals.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Little Greenock

I put Wallace and Gromit on the TV for the kids, so I could steal a quick blogging moment. This moment could be spent taking a shower or drinking a cup of tea, so I hope you appreciate the update! (Or whatever.)

Incidentally, it's a bit weird blogging from the US again. When I wrote updates, like the one here forthcoming, it was for the benefit of family here in the States. Now I guess I'm writing for the benefit of my family in Scotland, and any Scottish friends who still take the time to see what's going on in my life. I've always known blogging to be a pretty narcissistic practice, but I'm feeling self-consciously so about it right now.

Anyway, I'm wasting time. Jaguar is still fairly distracted with his exercise of climbing all over his sisters, and his sisters are still preoccupied with the TV, but all this is fleeting.

So, we are in our new house. It's just a rental for now; we hope to buy a house in a couple of years at most. Meanwhile, our little house is wonderful. Square-feet-wise, it's probably only a little bigger than our flat in Scotland, but it's laid out so differently that it feels huge. The living room and kitchen are open-plan, and while the kitchen itself is smaller, it's very functional, and feels open because the dining area and living room are not blocked off. Each of the three bedrooms has a walk-in closet (mine and Scott's is huge), and the master bedroom has an en suite bathroom. WITH A JACUZZI BATH. The house has it's very own laundry room and a two-car garage. It has a fair-sized back yard with a cute little tree in it. And the kids are loving the brick mail box, where they can post their letters to friends back home without going to the post office - you just put up the flag and the mail man takes it! (This is nothing new to me, but the kids are amazed.) And Scott's loving only having the take the garbage out the front door and into the bin, then to the curb, instead of out the front door, down three flights of stairs, out into the wet back garden, and then through the close to the front on pick up day.

I have been trying to think of a name for our little house. I want to name it something Gaelic which we could put on the front door and add to the top line of our mailing address. It's in a subdivision with cookie-cutter houses all around, so there's nothing really special about its looks to name it after, like 'Taigh Gorm' (blue house) or anything. But I've been thinking of making a play on the sunshine of Arkansas and the fact that Greenock in Scotland is 'sunny' in Gaelic. I've been thinking of something like Beagan Grian or Beagan Grianaig, which would be 'Little Sun' or 'Little Greenock'. My Gaelic speakers out there, can you tell me if it would be beagan or bheagan? (Grian is feminine, so I guess it would be bheagan?)

Scott has started his new job, and he likes it. Fifi starts school week after next, and Lolly will start pre-kindergarten here at home with me, using the a local home-school preparatory program for kindergarten. She is surprisingly very excited about it. She said she wants to always home-school... Well, we'll see how she feels about that after a year together! That is assuming, of course, we both survive without killing each other.

Other than that, the only other news I have is that we have a dog! We have adopted my mom's little miniature dachshund, Gracie. Mom had only recently acquired Gracie herself, but when she got her new puppy she'd been wanting for a long time, she offered us Gracie. The kids ADORE Gracie, especially Lolly, which is great, seeing as Lolly has always been afraid of dogs. But having Gracie has seemed to curb Lolly's fear of dogs in general. She now doesn't scream and freak out when a dog approaches. She jumps a bit and keeps her distance from strange dogs now, but she isn't afraid of them. She'll just talk to them and maybe pet them if they are nice. Gracie unfortunately was the pet of an elderly couple who never trained her at all, so she isn't house-trained at all and has to stay outside most of the time. She sleeps in a crate inside, but can't play inside, because she just 'does her business' anywhere she takes the fancy. However, Mom bought her some doggie diapers last night, which we put on her today so she could roam the house, which was pretty darn funny!

This afternoon, we are hosting a play date with a few kids whose parents I sort of know/am acquainted with/met on Facebook. We are looking forward to a bit of socialization. The kids then have Vacation Bible School (VBS) tonight, which has been great for them. It's their third VBS this summer!

Aaaaand that's my time up. The DVD is skipping and the magical spell has been broken. Now to find some way to squeeze in that shower....