Archive for February, 2011

Mud rain and hail

I heard today on the news that some parts of the Ozarks experienced mud rain today, but I didn’t think we had gotten any till Jessica came home from her Springfield run (with Scott and Josiah – she dropped them at ANPAC then went to the library to study till her meeting with Scott at MSU) and said that when they got in our van this morning, it was covered with dirt.  Evidently a strong jet stream blew in a dust storm that had been situated over the Texas panhandle, and the rain rained down through the dust, creating mud rain.  Very interesting.

Then there was my experience while walking in the wind this morning.  It was about 42 and very, very windy.  It was so windy that I had to strap my earmuffs on the outside of my floppy hat just to hold it on, and I had to duck my head to walk into the wind on the return laps.  In the midst of all that wind, I suddenly felt a few large raindrops splashing off my hat.  I kept going, hoping that I could finish my normal routine before the rain became really heavy.  As I walked along I began to notice tiny clear-to-white pellets bouncing off my hat onto the pavement.  It was HAIL!  I had never been out walking in hail before, and it was also very interesting.  The hail continued for about 10 minutes, and then the deluge came.  I was soaked to the skin, but did manage to complete my walk.  When I got home and went into the bedroom to change, I saw a lot of slushy white hail on the roof outside my window.  The whole experience was totally odd.

Two losses

March 1 will be a losing day for me.

First, that is the day that I will lose my health insurance.  This decision was not made lightly, but we both have peace about it and believe that all will be well.  We just decided that it would not be wise stewardship to spend $879 per month to insure me with a $5000 deductible, so we will keep our money, make wise health choices, and trust God to keep me well.

Second, I will lose the pink paint on our bedroom walls.  This decision was made rather quickly (in about an hour), or perhaps extremely slowly.  We’ve lived in our house for 14 years and nine months, and for 14 years and nine months, we’ve slept in a room that is painted a bright Victorian pink that I don’t particularly like.  It’s time for a change.

Our great friend, Dave Brown, is a painter by profession, and he will be painting our bedroom and closet a lovely Malted Milk (by Sherwin Williams).  In addition, if the timing works out, he will be painting our entrance hall, stairwell, and upstairs hall all Cottage Cream, which will match our living room and dining room.  All the trim – and there is a LOT of trim in our house – will be Dover White.  We are very excited about the new look, and we’re really honored to have Dave do the job.  Everything Dave does is excellent, and it is our fondest hope that he will still be on speaking terms with us at that end of this grand endeavor (given all that trim).


Extra-nice grandpa

In honor of a major event in our lives, our kids are planning a totally wild and crazy trip to hear comedian Tim Hawkins, who will be performing in Little Rock.  The details of said trip were only worked out today.   The trip is tomorrow.  As some of our readers may know, Team Roberts is rarely inclined toward advance planning.

The tickets for the event were sold out online, but Our Purchasing Agent learned that a very few tickets were still available left.  However, they were going like hotcakes and could only be purchased in person, more or less immediately, at the host church in west Little Rock.  Four hours from our home and thirty minutes from my parents’ house.

Our Purchasing Agent contacted my dad, a man historically NOT given to fits of spontaneity, and he very graciously hopped in his Toyota, high-tailed it to west Little Rock, and obtained the requested tickets.  Wow!  He is truly an extra-nice grandpa!

Amazing progress

A couple weeks ago, I had what seems to have been a God idea.  It took several hours of rather tedious thinking, planning, and designing on the front end, but this week we are reaping the benefits.  Andrew is on a new-and-improved token system, and after only six days, we are seeing remarkable improvement in his initiative regarding chores and academics.    It has also taken a lot of pressure off of me, as I no longer have to continually remind him to do the things he knows he should be doing.  Whew!  I hope the forward momentum continues.

I’m so relieved!

I figured out what happened with that lost time.  I had originally set up my time in 30-minute blocks and told Excel to sum C3:C38  (6:00 AM to 11:00 PM).  But then I decided that 15-minute blocks would be better, which made the chart extend to row 72.   However, I never thought to change the sum formula.  When I changed it just now, the total was 9.10 hours logged during an elapsed time of ten hours, which is MUCH better.


Wasted time

I’ve been trying to figure out where/how/when I waste time, because I just can’t seem to get done everything I’m trying to do.  Other people can get their stuff done, but my to do list always seems to exceed my available time.

Today I decided to chart what I do all day.  I made a spreadsheet in 15-minute blocks and I’ve been entering what I do and how long I spend doing it.  Ten hours have transpired, and until I started writing this post five minutes ago, I have been working and/or productively occupied continually, but I only show 7.25 hours logged.  Somewhere, despite my most focused efforts, I have managed to waste 2.75 HOURS without even knowing it!  Worse, although I have tried dutifully to record my activities, I don’t even know where or when I wasted that time.

I was going to log the hours for a week and try to see a pattern, but I have decided that that would be too discouraging.  Instead, I shall try to work more steadily and in a more focused manner on whatever task is before me.  Anybody wanna hold me accountable?  = )

It ended on the roof

‘Twas yet another full day at the Roberts house, or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as a full day for our family.  It started with meetings of all kinds.

Actually, it started when, AFTER a late night of Human Clue at 5th Quarter, Jessica, Josiah, and Andrew intended to leave at 8:15 AM for some Adventures in Odyssey taping with the Browns.  That departure was delayed by a family meeting (which followed a Scott and Andrew meeting) concerning a situation with him (Andrew) and some other kids.

I began working on the Friday Night Light announcements.  My good friend, Sue, has been sending out the announcements each week via Constant Contact, and she has does an outstanding job of collecting and organizing all the necessary information and making the announcements look great.  Yesterday, I met with her for a training session, since I will be taking over this task in the coming weeks, as her family relocates to Delaware.  This is, of course, a great gain for Delaware and a HUGE loss for us, but today is not a day for tears.  (Jessica and I endeavor to schedule our crying, you know.)  Because Sue explained everything so clearly and had printed out instructions for me and even created a CD with all the information I could ever want or need, it went well, but being my first time to do it, it took quite a while.

Then, while our kids were gone, we met with the parents of the other kids.

Ours came home, we all wolfed down some lunch, and the other family returned for a meeting between the two full families.  I believe that all those meetings were productive, but since I am meeting-averse in general, my bag was over.

Scott, Josiah, and Jessica then flew out the door for Josiah’s birthday bowling party off in the next county.  It’s a good half hour drive away, and they were supposed to meet the rest of the gang out there at 3:00 PM.  They left the  house at 2:55 PM.  Andrew finished the lunch clean-up and went out to play.  BTW, when I called him in around 6:00 PM, he came from the Ipock’s yard.  I asked him what they’d been playing and he said, “cooking show.”  Fun kid.

I returned to my desk and spent a completely inordinate amount of time trying to compile all the church contact information into one form.  This is, by definition, impossible, but I gave it the old college try.  The problem was that Sue had given me a lovely spreadsheet that had almost all the information I had.  All I needed to do was to add my information in, but it seems that my additional buts of information were scattered all over my computer, in documents call things like “contact info,” “family info,” attenders,” etc.  Not only that, but my email addresses (which included a few Sue didn’t have and lacked a few she did have) were in my gmail contacts list, but not necessarily in the Constant Contacts list.  Then there was the matter of birthdays and anniversaries, many of which I have in a personal spreadsheet, but they are by month instead of by name, so someone could’ve shot some very funny video of me talking to myself as I reviewed a printout and said things like, “I know Joshua’s birthday’s on here somewhere.”

I finally called it quits, realizing that even if I DO manage to get names, cell phones, email addresses, home phones, birthdays, and anniversaries on one spreadsheet, it will have to be updated tomorrow when someone’s cell phone number changes (had three of those yesterday) or when someone’s email address changes (had two of those today).  When it’s a cell phone, I need to change it on the Attenders spreadsheet and in my own cell phone.  When it’s an email change, I need to change it on the Attenders spreadsheet, in my gmail list, and in Constant Contact.  As you can see, this COULD morph into a very time-consuming little position.  It’s clear that we should have doubled Sue’s salary a long time ago.

When I found myself going cross-eyed looking at my monitor, I did some straightening of the first floor in preparation for Josiah’s party phase two.  In so doing, I realized that we would need to bring all that ice cream we bought (he wanted Papa John’s pizza and ice cream) and have it in the upstairs freezer, which was crammed to the gills with freezer meals, odd breakfast items, and some chicken, so I made a bunch of trips to the cellar to put that stuff away.

Once that was done (at about 5:15 PM), I began the regular Saturday cleaning that I usually do between 9:00 and 11:00 AM:  sheets and towels laundry, changing our sheets, dusting and sweeping our room, sweeping the office, 2nd floor hall, and stairs (well, I didn’t actually get to the stairs yet), and cleaning our bathroom.  The reward for finishing all that was a couple slices of pizza, and an opportunity to join the gang (Josiah, Dave, Scott, Courtney, Alex, Emily, Jessica, and Cody) for a rousing game of Guesstures – which Jessica won, and in which I told Dave that I thought the only way to get people to guess “hydrant” would be to involve a dog.

Ice cream followed, and then I asked Josiah, “so what are you going to do next; climb on the playroom roof?” And so they did!  Four guys and three girls on the roof in the dark.  Quite fun.

I did the dishes and left the kids playing pool and Dave and Scott talking in the living room to tackle the pile on my desk.  However, I got caught up in trying to organize the church files on my computer.  I was trying to delete unnecessary stuff and rename more logically what remained.  Now it’s 10:00 PM, and I still haven’t even started the couple hours I need to flip, plan, and prep Andrew’s academics, or the forty-five minutes I need to do Josiah’s. In addition, we have a group here tomorrow night, so there’s cleaning to be done and a dessert to be make.  And I need to make bread.

As I mentioned, it’s been a full day, but it’s been good.  I got great pictures of the birthday gang on the roof!



It started with some meetings

First Scott and son, then

Too many balances

We use Quicken to keep up with our finances, and there are a bunch of accounts in there:  the business account, the household account, and a number of credit card accounts.  We change the latter like some people change socks, in a never-ending attempt to accrue frequent flyer miles and/or hotel stays.  Those free perks are useful when your family tends to travel a lot and when your daughter is attending college 1043 miles from home.

With our household account, we have to be kind of careful not to run it too low.  That’s fine with me, and I’m glad to look at that account in Quicken from time to time, to make sure we’re not getting into the rubber zone.  My issue is that when you look at the household account in Quicken, it shows THREE (often widely different) balances:  online balance, current balance, and ending balance.  Sheesh!  In the olden days, one simply kept a running balance in one’s checkbook, and so one always knew how much money was where, but this day clearly is not olden.

Those three balances can differ by lots and lots of money, and I NEVER know which one really matters.  Occasionally, one of them has been a negative number, which scares me, but when I’d mention this to My Hero, he’d tell me that it didn’t matter and not to worry about it.  I wouldn’t worry, but I always wondered how he knew that it wasn’t cause for alarm.  Why couldn’t I know that unless he told me so?

I finally solved the problem of the balances.  (Side note:  That makes me think of Libra in the horoscope.  I’m a Libra, you know; not that I care anything about that).   I asked Scott which balance actually mattered, and he said, “current balance.”  So I took a sticky note and wrote in Sharpie marker, “current balance matters,” and taped it to my computer monitor.  As fate would have it, the very next time I went into Quicken to record stuff, ONLY TWO BALANCES were listed:  online and ending.  There was no current balance at all!  What’s a woman to do with that?!?!

I then asked him why the one that mattered was gone.  Why would it be gone, if it mattered so much?  He replied that if I put something in ahead (what does that mean and why would I do that?), then it would show a current balance.  Not understanding anything he was saying, I asked him which balance was second in importance.  It turns out that that would be the ending balance.  So now my amended sticky note says in Sharpie, “current balance matters,” with “ending” written beneath in ballpoint ink.

I just can stand to be unbalanced.

Jessica’s grand achievements!

On Tuesday, February 15, Jessica took the American History (pre-Civil War) CLEP test and scored a whopping 69!!!  The scoring is hard to figure out, but she passed with a very high score and will receive college credit for that class.  Yee-hah!

Actually, today she and I did some high-level figuring on the refrigerator and determined the following:

The test had 120 questions.

80 is a perfect score, meaning you answered all 120 questions correctly.

You have to score 54 (out of 80) to pass GO and collect college credit.

Although it’s evident that neither of us can successfully divide 6480 by 80, we did eventually figure out that you have to get 81 of the 120 questions (a mere 67%) correct in order to pass.  However, our heroine’s “69” indicates that she  got 103 of them correct for a score of 86%.  Not too shabby, especially considering that (A) it had been a long time – maybe three years? – since she’d studied American History, (B) she only studied a month for the test, and (C) she put together her own study plan – four hours a day! – and did it all without any help or input for anyone.  GO JESSICA!

As if all that weren’t enough to make a homeschool mom beam, in today’s mail, Jessica received notice from MSU that she was awarded the Provost Scholarship!!!  That’s the scholarship for which she met all the qualifications, but for which she was late in applying, and for which she submitted letters and had an interview requesting a deadline exemption.  It will provide $2500 per year her freshman year and is renewable for three more years, assuming she completes 30 hours of courses at MSU per year and maintains a 3.40 GPA.

We were squealing with delight!  I am so happy for Jessica and so proud of these accomplishments!!!

They come a-swishing by

(I found this post that I was working on in early February, but which got buried.  I am now resurrecting it, even though it’s 60 degrees and sunny today.)

We’ve had significant snow on the ground for TEN glorious days now, and some of our kids have taken to living in their ski bibs.  Ski bibs are warm and waterproof, and if you wear them all day, you are always ready to go out and brave the snow to bring in the mail, go to town, or try out the Asselin’s sled hill.

The thing about bibs is that they are nylon and thickish, and so that even if you walk like a saddle-sore cowpoke, they swish when you walk.  This means that our kids cannot sneak up on anyone.  I can always tell when someone’s approaching, because without fail, they come a-swishing by.

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