Sunday, November 27, 2016

FAFSA and Christmas Lights

What do you do the weekend after Thanksgiving? Those last days before school starts up again, before life and after school activities kick in? Those days that are the front end of the four weeks or so before Christmas -- a whole other set of requirements of shopping, wrapping, partying, decorating and coordinating schedules. Feels like a lot of hoping and praying for fourth parts. Sounds like a lot of organizing.

First things first, a FAFSA for the current school year (yeah, 2016-2017). Don't judge. Yes, I'm just filling this thing out today. Filling out this form which shows me we get $0 from the federal government -- must be Trump's fault, right? (Had to do it -- no political responses necessary. Go with the joke, people.)

For about, let's see, eight months, completing the FAFSA has been on my to-do lists. On the chalkboard cabinet above the cookbooks and on the pantry calendar and on the paper to-do list I carry around with me. Such motivation. Such reminder. And, yet, it's November 27, 2016. The school year is halfway over. And, my college student managed to attend a local community college without the FAFSA. Oh, but wait, he can't officially apply for scholarships for his new college which he will attend in the spring without this FAFSA for the half-way completed school year.

So much for planning. I mean, how did this slip by me? I know. I do. His community college cost was so, so low, we didn't need financial aid. Sweet mercy. I mean, if your child does not have a college affiliation, nor a scholarship to a certain college, nor any sort of idea what they want to do -- go to a community college. I'm oversharing here, but we paid $1010 for 15 hours. Yes, you read that right -- $1010. That's it. There were book costs, but that's not significant when you take some online courses and can rent through

Now, reality is setting in and we have to pay quite a bit more (maybe add a zero to the end of the aforementioned dollar amount -- God keeps us humble) -- so we need the FAFSA. By the way, the FAFSA will officially get us $0, but we need the info for scholarships -- which maybe we will receive? (Read that in a tone of confusion, plus contemplation with a touch of sarcasm.)

While I'm enjoying digging around for our 2015 tax return, my son's social security number and the FSA ID (Which why isn't it FAFSA!? Why another acronym? Details.), my family is decorating the front yard and hanging the outdoor Christmas lights. I believe I heard them singing a Christmas carol (prompted by my brother-in-law's exuberance and a playlist).

Great planning resulted in our trees going up yesterday and our outside being decorated today. G willingly (or maybe just did) pulled down Christmas from the attic Friday morning with Chris (great planning because Chris had to be at work and that kid sleeps until the last minute). And, I took care of a meeting early yesterday morning so I could get home and work on the decorations. And, we got up going this morning (OK, around 10 a.m.) so the girls and G could take care of the outside.

This all amounts to some serious fourth part very early in the day today. It's a Christmas miracle.

Yes, we have to take care of grocery shopping, some ironing and some meal prep for the week. But, we got it done.

Yes, the early bird gets the worm. But, the late bird doesn't get anything from FAFSA forms.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Kombucha and One Suitcase

Today is finally here. When we started the countdown, it was over 150 days away. Now, it is a few hours. Lots of planning took place to get here.

You see, today, the girls get to visit their best little friend who moved this summer. We are headed to Kansas City. Oh, and I get to see one of the best mom friends I've ever had! (Yay, me!)

Details that it is around 40 degrees there. Grateful that our friends up there have plenty of scarves, gloves, hats and coats to go around.

So, we decided to take this trip way back in the summer. Flights are really cheap when you buy way ahead of time (hmmm, that's a concept). I knew eventually I would have to think through the packing situation. Since I'm going solo with the girls, I also knew I only would want to take one suitcase. G pulled down the big one and everything fit (including four American Girl dolls). I think it is under 50 pounds -- praying, crossing my fingers, hoping, really praying. There is no way I could have two suitcases, two backpacks, a carry on for me, my purse and two seven-year-old girls all in tow. Again, praying, crossing my fingers, hoping, really praying that this suitcase weighs less than 50 pounds.

Kudos to me for booking a flight that leaves mid-afternoon. Typically, the non-stop flights are either at 6 a.m. or 9 p.m. This go-round, we got a 2:30 p.m. No rushing around. No waking up in the middle of the night to get ready to leave. No making sure every single thing is absolutely packed the night before.

Now, let's get to the fourth part planning.

I have lists for packing. I have, by day and potential activity, a list for me and for the girls. I started this ages ago when G, Chris and I traveled. OK, I didn't do a list for G. Chris now does packing lists for himself. Rest in that for a minute. I'm so proud.

Another important component in our packing, readying for trips approach is the suitcase review. This requires allocation of time. After fully packing, based on the aforementioned packing lists, I pull everything out for a review. This is when I whittle down, add to or refold. As a result, we rarely forget things (boy, I hope this doesn't jinx me) and we only pack what we need.

In preparation for today, I did every bit of laundry I could last night. I waited until last night because I wanted to make sure every stitch of everything was clean and I needed to match back to the packing lists.

And, viola, we've packed and reviewed with time to spare because fourth part today is not only getting to go on this trip, but also catching a bit of the Baylor football game which begins at 11 a.m. Please dear Jesus, find favor on this team and grant us a win. I mean three losses in a row. And, it's senior day. And, poor Seth is hurt and out for the season (and he's a senior). Please, let us be winning when I get on the plane (and off).

Thanks for sharing in that prayer with me.

All this planning, organizing, packing, reviewing, laundry-ing, has resulted in a bit of an imbalance in my gastrointestinal system. I promise I won't go into detail, but will simply share my solution. Delicious kombucha. Those lovely probiotics and live cultures are working magic. The flavor I prefer is sparkling ginger. It is refreshing to the palate and truly refreshes the gut. Here's hoping kombucha does the trick to put me back on track.

This trip is a true fourth part. We won't have many scheduled activities except play and catch up. I think we're visiting a museum and a park or two, plus trying Kansas City BBQ. Other than that, my packed laptop will provide me opportunity to work on photo books. Yeah, that's relaxing and something I like to do in the fourth part.

Along with catching up with a friend, drinking cocktails (or beer!) and watching three little friends reunite -- those are some great fourth part activities for which I am grateful for this Thanksgiving season.