Saturday, December 29, 2012

Apres Christmas Journal

Join the Homeschool Mother's Journal meme!

In my life this week

So many blessings that came with Christmas.  Some lovely, thoughtful gifts, but lots of precious time with all five of us home.  Josh was on vacation and although he spent a lot of time working on projects, it was just wonderful having him here.

In our homeschool this week

The only thing I really did that was schoolish was read to the kiddos from George Mueller.  Otherwise they played contentedly with their new toys and watched probably a bit too much TV.

I am getting excited to attend a homeschool convention this spring.  It's always a shot in the arm to keep on keeping on.

Places we're going, people we're seeing

After our Christmas celebration with my husband's family was cancelled due to sickness, and having Christmas Day completely at home, we were ready to get out of the house and visit!  Today we were able to  have our time with Josh's family and tomorrow we head north to celebrate with my family.  We'll see friends and folks from our "home" church too.  

My favorite thing from this week

Spending the day at home on Christmas, staying in our pjs til noon (actually, the kids never got out of theirs!), taking our time opening gifts, and the peace and contentment everyone had.  Also, staying up later than usual because Josh didn't have to get up at 5 to go to work... so I didn't have to get up either!

The kids favorite thing from this week

Gifts, of course!  Mister said his favorite gifts were his Hero Factory and Lego Ideas book. Brown-Eyed-Girl said her Legos and globe of endangered species stuffed animals.  Petite didn't really say, but I'd guess her kangaroo and doll nursery (which is full of just about everything but dolls!).

Things I'm working on

Goals for the new year. Yes, I'm one of those people.  I love a clean slate, an empty calendar, a whole year of possibilities.  There is so much I want to do and I know that if I fail to plan, then I plan to fail. And yet... the Lord seems to be telling me not to focus so much on doing.  More on this later, I hope, as it becomes more clear to me.

I would love to blog more.
I would love to read more.
I would love to write more.
I would love to just be us more.

I'm reading

Another book in the Shaker series by Ann H. Gabhart, The Seeker.  I really love this series and Gabhart's writing.  Although I can't really compare the two, I enjoy her books as much as I do Beverly Lewis's... and that is saying a lot!

I'm also finishing up my One Year Bible for the year!  And reading commentary on Revelation and the Old Testament  prophets as I go through them.  Exciting stuff!

I'm cooking

Lots of dishes with some added ham have been prepared this past week.  I love Christmas leftovers.  I'm going to freeze the rest, though, and plan a fresh menu once we get home from the last of our holiday celebrations.  I made an amazing peppermint ice cream pie (found here) for Christmas and will definitely be making it again!  Ice cream pies are easy- who knew?

I'm grateful for

A food-filled pantry and freezer.  Thoughtful gifts.  Peace despite circumstances.  The steadiness of God.  The faithfulness of my husband.  The health of my children.  Hot coffee in the morning.

I'm praying for

Friends who just had a new baby.  Wisdom to choose the best over the good as I schedule things for the new year.  Blessings.

This year's picture of us with our best friends, who came for a surprise visit on Christmas Eve.
Well, because she's my best friend, she knew she couldn't really surprise me.
She called to ask if it was okay first :)  
She knows how I feel about surprises.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stuff I Love: Project Life Review 2012

2012 was the first year that I used Becky Higgins wildly popular Project Life for all of my scrapbooking.  It was last Christmas at my in-laws that I discovered this product.  We ladies were perusing the Internet, looking at some nifty ideas for our albums, when we came across Project Life. At first glance, it didn't interest me. But after watching the video explaining the premise for it, I was hooked.

Becky Higgins is well known in the scrapbooking community from her days at Creating Keepsakes magazine.  She has more of a minimalist style compared to some, and I've always liked that about her.  She created Project Life to make scrapbooking easier, less time consuming, and to reflect the true stuff of every day life.  It can be used in many ways, but the goal is simple- to get your photos into albums.

Project Life is not page kits.  The basics to use this system are a core kit (with a variety of styles to choose from), page protectors that are divided into easy 6x4 and 4x3 slots, and a three ring 12x12 album.  The core kit includes 4x3 journaling and filler cards as well as 6x4 cards.  To begin scrapbooking with Project Life, you simply insert your pictures into the protector slots and fill it in with cards from the core kit.   You can also purchase coordinating paper and cardstock to cut to size for the protector slots.

I used the Clementine core kit for 2012.  At first I tried to simply use the Project Life protectors and the paper and supplies I already had in my collection... but I soon realized it wasn't going to be as quick and easy this way.  So I ordered the core kit.  Then the matching paper.  After doing this, documenting our year became much quicker and enjoyable.

Here's what I love about Project Life.

1.) I truly documented more of the "little stuff". Getting a new cell phone.  A lost tooth.  An impromptu nap on the deck.  I didn't need many photos of a big event to create a layout with Project Life. One picture could easily be inserted into a page with a journaling card to describe it.

2.) Everything coordinates.  I keep my core kit box, paper, protectors, and pictures in a tote bag and can easily pull it out to work on it with only a few basic tools.

3.)  I get a lot done in a little time.  Most recently I nearly completed 14 two-page layouts in a day.  I stay-up-to-date easier.

4.) I don't have to spend a lot of time coming up with a page design.  I simply choose the protector style that best suits my pictures, slide them in, then fill in the rest with paper.

5.) The pictures stand out.  It's not about the fancy paper or embellishments, it's about the photos.

6.) All products are available on for free super-saver shipping or with your Prime benefits.

7.) The pockets are easy to stick other memorabilia in, too.

There are some things I learned along the way, too.

1.) Yes, use the core kit and matching accessories for ease of use.

2.) It doesn't have to be perfect.  Sometimes I even insert pictures in the wrong direction to make a layout work.  I do the same with journaling cards.

3.)  A lot of people share their Project Life albums online. But they barely look like Project Life because they are so embellished with other things.  It was discouraging.  But then I let it go and realized the point was to document the life of my family.  Project Life will not be fancy unless you make it so. But it will be cohesive and simple while looking nice.

4.) I used one alphabet stamp set for the whole album.  I packed it in my tote with the other Project Life stuff. Again, easy and guess-free as far as designing pages and titles.  I did use some other lettering sources a few times, but for the most part I kept it simple.

5.) The easiest protector styles to use are A, C, and D.

There are a few things I didn't like about Project Life.  The journaling cards only have lines going in one direction.  The 4x3 cards are made to be inserted vertically, never horizontally because the journaling lines would then run up and down instead of across. This made it really challenging to use some of the styles of protectors and add journaling cards to them. That is why I recommend the styles above.  I also thought there was a lack of graphic cards, cards not for journaling but just for adding design to the page.  After looking at the latest video on how to use Project Life, it looks like this has been remedied. The new core kits have 4x3 cards with journaling lines on one side and graphics on the other.  Another frustrating thing is that many of the products quickly sell-out and stock can take a while to be replenished. Especially at the beginning of a new year when Project Life fans are stocking up for their new albums.  I plan to use the Olive kit this year.  The website says it will be available in late December.  It's the 28th and so far it is not in stock.  And I guarantee that as soon as it is, it will sell out.  So I'll have time to finish up my 2012 album before getting next year's started.

All in all, I really enjoyed making my Project Life album, and as I said, I plan to do it again for 2013.  I'm in a season of life when simple is what I need.  I'm not up for a lot of planning right now, whether it is for homeschooling or scrapbooking.  I feel like I've rediscovered why I began scrapbooking in the first place- to  preserve precious memories of my family in the form of photographs and simple words jotted on a page.  Scrapbooking has become such a huge industry.  Fancy tools and machines, expensive papers and embellishments, yes, they make for beautiful pages.  But while my life is beautiful, it's simple.  Project Life helps me reflect that in my pages.

If you have never scrapbooked but love the idea of starting, I think Project Life is perfect. You need very minimal supplies to get started. If you love to scrapbook, but are overwhelmed and way behind, I think 2013 is a great year to start Project Life.  If you love fancy and thrive on making your own creative pages, then it's not for you.  Whatever you feel about scrapbooking, I hope you make tons of wonderful memories in 2013!

These Three

As my son says, we are blessed for three kids.  Meaning, of course, that we are blessed with three children. They are beautiful.  They are surprising.  They are so one-of-a-kind.

Let me honestly say that the first two are very intense.  Spirited.  But in completely different ways.  One is an extreme extrovert, the other is an introvert, though less extreme than in the past.  One is very sensitive to smells, the other to touch and texture.  One is a by-the-book rule follower.  The other is as free spirited as the wind.   They each have passionate and intense emotions and for different reasons.

Life with two highly spirited children has been a blessing in disguise.  Over the years I've learned to embrace how these kiddos, mingled with their two parents, have shaped our family dynamic in ways I wouldn't have guessed.  One of my catch-phrases for our family is "Just because it's supposed to be fun doesn't mean it is". Things like parades, amusement parks, hiking, board games,  party games and sports teams have all fallen into this category.  There have been many things that just didn't end up working for us because of the intensity and personality preferences of these two children.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me.  And there have been times that I wished away this intensity and wondered if I had done something to produce it in them.  Were we simply doing everything wrong as parents?  Other children didn't seem so extreme.

Then along came the baby of the family.  I call her Petite.  We had four years with just the two children, then Petite arrived.  She was born on a Tuesday and it's been true that Tuesdays' child is full of grace.  We marvel at how laid back she is.  How sweet and relaxed and decidedly less intense.  Surely she has a tantrum now and then.  But I see barely a hint of a strong will.  She's full of cheerfulness most days.  I never worry about a sudden explosion of emotion coming out of her. We can take her anywhere. She is full of positive energy.  Lately she often says to us "I'm so  proud of you.  I love you so much.  Thank you so much."  Yes, we marvel at this little girl and how just plain easy she has been to raise so far.

Yesterday when she was being and doing and saying something adorable, Josh said to me "Wow, can you imagine what it would be like if they were all like this?"

In an instant, I knew the answer.  "Yes." I said. "We'd be prideful and lean on our own understanding. We'd think we were doing everything right. We'd think everybody else's kids were awful and that their parents were doing everything wrong.  We wouldn't pray for our kids the way we do because they would seem just fine.  They could grow up as good kids and still be far from God."

God gave us a blessing when he gave us two intense children to begin with.  They have served to keep us humble and dependent on Him.  Nothing has been "easy" about raising them.  We have to constantly seek their Creator for wisdom and to refocus us on Him.  They remind us that our family is unique and that's how God wants us. When we have compared our family and what we can and can't do to other families, especially "good" families, we are miserable.  When we have embraced each personality and preference, we enjoy our family.  We have seen how deeply we, and our children, need the Lord.

We are thankful for our easy-going baby.  She has been a breath of fresh air and a complete joy to our family.  We are equally thankful for our spirited, intense son and daughter.  Life is never boring, it is rarely low-key.   We have no false sense of anyone's righteousness, especially our own.  We pray for our three children continually.  Because of that, we are encouraged that they all will turn out just fine.  Hopefully, as passionate, intense, extreme pursuers of God. With just a little bit of "easy" on the way.

Monday, December 24, 2012


The stockings are hung.  The presents are wrapped. As a mom, I can't wait for tonight, when the kids nestle in their beds and we fill the stockings and put the gifts under the tree.  It's just as hard for me to sleep on Christmas Eve as it is for them.  We've always had so much joy here on Christmas morning.

The anticipation will finally end in the fulfillment of many Christmas wishes.

The paper will get picked up off the floor.  The surprises will be made known.  There will be contentment and peace as everyone admires and plays with their gifts.  I'll sigh with happiness and something akin to relief.

I'll sit by the tree tomorrow night, watching the fire, and think "It's all over.  And so it begins again."  I can't deny that Christmas is so full of anticipation and excitement. But it's always a little anti-climatic at the end of the day.

For the past few years I've had a deepened sense of awe during the season of Advent.  It's the season of waiting, leading up to Christmas day. I focus my heart spiritually on the coming of Christ as a baby.  I ponder what the world was like for the ones awaiting the Messiah.  And I find it's not at all unlike my world as I wait for the Messiah to come... again.

Just as all creation burst forth in song and exclamations of praise when Jesus Christ was born, now it groans as it waits for his glory to once again fill the earth.  This season of waiting for the wonders and joy of Christmas day only seeks to remind me that I am still waiting. And what I wait for will not find it's fulfillment in tomorrow.  It's only a shadow of what is to come when Jesus comes again.

Tomorrow night we begin the Christmas countdown all over again.  Another 365 days til next Christmas.  The waiting will begin again.

But when what I truly wait for comes, that will be it.  There will be nothing anti-climatic about it.  The hopes and fears of all the years... will be met in Him that night. That morning. Whenever it may be.  Nothing else will matter and the longing inside will cease once and for all.  The wait will be over.

May God's grace and peace and love be with us all as we wait.

"Glory to God in highest. And on earth, peace and good will toward all men."
Luke 2:14

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ask Him

Ever ask someone a question then walk away before you get the answer?  Or get distracted by something else, so you don't hear the answer?

I do it all the time.

Many of you are asking a serious question right now.  Why God?  

We ask this question and follow it up with How could you let this happen? Why didn't you stop it?  If you are good, why did you let something so evil happen?

People are attempting to answer this question for you.  Maybe they can help you.  But if you really want an answer, I think that answer should come from God.

He does speak.  Through his Word, the Bible.  Most people have a Bible somewhere in their home. It is God's letter to you about who He is and what He has done and what He will do.  He will answer your questions for you.  Maybe not the way you would expect.  But since you asked, don't walk away from getting the answers.  Don't get distracted by something else.

I know you are angry.  I know you are sad. I am too.  I asked these questions too.  I went to the One I was asking and He comforted me with  His Word.

You could read the Psalms.  You could read the gospels.  If you don't know what to read, may I suggest you read the book of John?  You don't even need a Bible.  You can read it online here.  Write down your questions.  Read the book.  See who God is through the person of Jesus Christ.  Find your answers in Him.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Falling Over the Cliff... Together

Isn't it rather depressing that this Christmas season, what we are hearing the most of is the impending fall over the fiscal cliff?  I mean, I hardly even understand what it means, but it sounds like doomsday whenever the term is used.  On my way to shop for gifts, I hear the warning on the radio- We're about to fall over the fiscal cliff- and I automatically want to turn the car around and go home and hoard my pennies. Tighten the belt.  Cut some corners.  Ward off my own personal financial doomsday.

I'm not an economist so I don't fully understand the repercussions of falling over this cliff.  In my limited understanding however, it seems like avoiding it is a band-aid to a much bigger problem; falling over it could hurt... but maybe allow us to get back up on our fiscal feet again in time.  I could be wrong on this.  What I hear is that falling over the cliff means $2000 more dollars in taxes a year for most families... but a deficit that is cut in half.  Avoiding the cliff means more deficit but immediate avoidance of a recession.

Why is recession such a bad word?  Why have we become so fearful of hard times?  Well, yes, maybe it's the word "hard" linked with "times". That doesn't sound pleasant; it's nothing you'd wish for.  But isn't it typically the true means of change in a life, and perhaps a nation?  It often becomes my personal pursuit to avoid all things "hard" and at any cost.  I believe most people are like this and we let our nation be run the same way.

Congress called for a "What does $2000 a year mean to you?" essay from as many taxpayers as possible.  I haven't read any one's responses.  I honestly don't even know if it was the Republicans or the Democrats asking for this.  I'm so confused by it all.  But here's my answer:

Two thousand dollars a year means $40 a week. For me that's Starbucks, a few Happy Meals, and the gas it takes to get to my nearest Walmart.  I can suffer that loss.  However, I know plenty of people who cannot suffer that loss. Forty dollars a week is their gas money to get to the job they feel lucky to have in light of the dooming economy.  It's the money they already scraped out of their personal budget to pay for their child's braces.  Or in my cold winter state, it's the money they need to keep themselves warm.

I get that $40 is chump change for me and make-or-break-it for some of my dearest friends.

But this is what I think, and I don't think I need to be an economist to get this right.  We were not created to live autonomously.  Nor were we created to live dependent on our government.  The very first institution that was made was a covenant between God and man.  He created us, therefore he is responsible for us.  In a similar, though imperfect, way, my husband and I created our three children together and we  are responsible for them.  We don't expect them to buy their own food, put oil in the tank, or gas in the car.  We don't expect them to pay their own medical bills.  We take care of those things.  God intended to take care of his creation when he made it.  That's you and me.

When I read the book of Acts, I am always profoundly touched by how the early Church lived.  They are described as having everything in common, "selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need" (Acts 2:44,45)  In Acts chapter 4 it is said "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had...There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet and it was distributed to anyone as he had need" (vs. 32,34, 35).

I get really bugged when people, especially Christians, explain away Scripture. The very first teaching I heard on these passages was why this was a bad thing and why it doesn't work.  It was called "communism".  Oh my, it was anything but!  This was a people so wholly wrapped up in the goodness of  God and so filled with his Spirit, that the love overflowed to others, their material possessions became insignificant, and it was their sheer delight to help those who were poor among them.  The result is that they won favor with all men. They had a good name as Christians among everyone but the religious Pharisees.  So was their generosity abused? Did some people get lazy?  Did it breed some hypocrisy? Sure.  But I don't believe for a second it was the wrong thing to do and I don't believe for a second that God isn't calling his Church today to do the same kind of things.

I get so much joy out of watching the family of  God take care of each other.  I see it and hear about it all the time.  Believers taking care of believers.  Food gets dropped off at some one's house.  Money is given in secret. Bills get paid anonymously.  Cars get given to people.  Everyday miracles happen and it's God using everyday people to do them.  It blows my mind, blesses my socks off. And so many people miss out on this because they are either not part of this family or.... maybe even worse... they are part of this family but are giving absolutely... nothing.

Giving has gotten a pretty bad reputation, especially when linked to the Church.  Yes, it's an awesome and Biblical thing that sinners have abused and used for their own glory and their own greed.   Even if you are not a Christian you could probably tell me the names of five famous "Christians" that have stolen from the house of God.  It's gross and it's wrong.  So now we're afraid to talk about giving, because we don't want to be one of those churches that is all about money. Giving and tithing, specifically, has such a nasty connotation that we've written it off as Old Testament, not New Testament theology. Whatever. I'm not a theologian just as much as I'm not an economist.  But I guess I think that what God says about giving is true no matter how much the world has changed.  Giving should be absolutely synonymous with being a Christian and if you are part of the family of God, you should be blown away by how much more God gives to you.

So when I think about falling over the fiscal cliff and heading into a recession, what I think is that this is the time for God's people to step it up.  To deny themselves the Starbucks, the Happy Meals, the $5 DVDs at Walmart, and start giving.  Taking care of their brothers and sisters and even people who are as far away from the family of God as can be.  It hurts for like two seconds and then you watch what God does with your $5 and you get blown away.  You learn that it's God's responsibility to take care of both you and the rest of his Creation and that he will- but you have the supreme privilege of being part of it.  People will see it.  The Church might actually gain favor with men again.  Yes, you'll have some people abuse it.  You'll have some thieves in the midst.  But you might see the Church added to daily just like they did in the book of  Acts. Because you're doing what God does best and that is give and give and give til it hurts.  He gave His Son.  We have a hard time giving anything that's going to require sacrifice.

You know, you may think I'm just ranting, but I have really been bothered by the autonomy of the Church for years.  By this explaining away of the "common-ism" in the book of Acts.  By how wrapped up we are in our own lives and gaining our own world of stuff and possessions, when our brothers and sisters need food and oil and love.  If we fall over that fiscal cliff,  God is going to take care of us.  And we need to be like him and take care of each other.  We're so afraid of hard times. We avoid it all cost.  As Hosea said, however, we "sow the wind but shall reap the whirlwind" (vs 8:7).  If we fall, we  remain the arms of a loving God. He'll provide for us and help us provide for others.  We were not meant to live alone in the body of Christ.  We won't fall over the cliff alone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

No, Not Now.

Somewhere once upon a time I read something that went a little like this:

Say yes to your kids as much as you can.

Isn't it so like me to be quick to answer "no" to their requests?  They are always asking for things, whether they be basic necessities like a cup of water or indulgent things like a piece of candy.  It doesn't really matter what it is, they just always want something.  I get weary of it, so sometimes I tune them out.  I don't even really listen to what it is they are asking for.  So the first word on my lips when they say "Can I....?" is a quick, often absent-minded "no".

But I want to be the yes mom.  I want to take very opportunity I can to give them a yes and not a no- if there is no reason why I need to say no. I'm not talking about over-indulging my children, just sending them the message that every good thing at a good time is a "yes".

It reminds me of my current "season" of life.  I'm calling it the "No, Not Now" season.  I go to my Father in Heaven and say "Can I....?" and I keep getting the same answer.  No, not now Stephanie.  It really stinks to hear "no" all the time.  I've got a list of specific requests, and the answer is the same for all of them.  I've got some not-so-specific requests.  The answer seems the same.

No, not now.

But this is what I'm learning.  God's not just giving me a "no".  It's a "no, not now."  By answering me this way, He tells me it just isn't time for what I'm asking.  It's not a no for all time, just for now.  And the thing I can be sure of is that my perfect Father in heaven, giver of all good gifts, the one who has made all things "yes" in Christ Jesus, doesn't give out nos unless he has to.  A no means only a few things coming from God- that what I am asking for isn't good for me or that he's got something so much better for me than what I'm asking for.  At a better time.  In a better way.

He doesn't say no because he's tired of me asking.  Quite the opposite, he never gets tired of me asking for anything. He doesn't tune me out.  He doesn't care if I'm asking for water to drink or candy to eat or a new car to drive or for things that go way deeper than that.

As a mom, I want my nos to be that same way.  Not automatic.  But for a reason.  Because there is a promise of something better.  Or because what they want just isn't good for them.  I want to teach them how good God is and take every opportunity to say "yes".  Even to a piece of candy now and then.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Standing Where?

It's easier to stand on principle than it is grace.

It's easy to condemn government programs that help the poor or needy when you've never been poor or needy enough to use them.

It's easy to assume the sick person doesn't take care of himself.

It's easy to hate capitalism and the greedy CEOs who won't give in to a strike.

And just as easy to hate those socialist union workers who are lazy bums who'd rather live off unemployment.

It's easy to say those people weren't born that way so they just need to straighten themselves out.

It's easy to stand against abortion and then refuse to help the single mother who is struggling to provide for her child.

It's easy to condemn your President instead of praying for him.

It's easy to say "Come quickly Lord and save us from this filthy generation!" and forget the millions who don't even know the Lord.

It's easy to get up on your soapbox and spit on the people below you.

I'm not saying you shouldn't stand.

I'm asking you to remember the grace in which you stand.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What Doesn't Come Naturally

I'm not naturally predisposed to crafting.  I did a little bit of cross stitch as a girl. People tried in vain to teach me to crochet and knit.   I have to stick to sewing straight lines and, then again, they can hardly be called straight when I'm done with them.  I have neither the fine motor skills nor the patience.

I thought the same about cooking.

And raising children.

These things just don't come naturally.

Thank God you can learn.

My continuing education, the place I left off when I ditched college, has been in the school of marriage, home, and mothering.  My biggest spiritual lessons have been learned in this institution called Family.  My maturity continues to develop here.  My everyday and even my creative skills improve here.

I'm not crafty, but I die to myself and help my daughter make a dollhouse out of a cardboard box.  Never mind that we have two real dollhouses upstairs.  This one must be recycled.  And it must have a second floor.  She insists a piece of cardboard glued to the sides will hold.  I resist the urge to throw up my hands in frustration and go in search of something that will hold.  In the basement I find an old piece of paneling that looks about as perfect as can be for the second floor of a cardboard dollhouse.  I cut slits in the side of the box and my daughter squeals in delight as she realizes what I am doing.  We slide the piece of paneling into the slits and, in her words, "wah-la!".  Arts and crafts are the way to her heart.  To me this stuff is junk, to her it is a place to let her imagination run wild.

My son has been making movies for the past six months.  Let me be honest, they are terrible.  But only because I am the camera-mom.  Up until yesterday, all his movies were of Super Mario Brothers characters.  He uses stuffed animals to stand in for Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and the bad guy (what's his name?).  Each movie has a plot. Generally the bad guy attacks Mario and Luigi and the two brothers overcome him.  They often rescue Princess Peach.  He designs the "set" which stretches from the family room all the way into the kid's bathroom down the hall.  He creates traps.  I'm only supposed to film his hands and the characters, but I'm awful at this, especially as I chase the scene down the hall.  Yesterday he set up a Lego movie on the deck.  It was very cold out.  The movie was seven minutes long.  I wondered if it would ever end.  But I died to myself and tried extra hard to use some cool camera zooming effects to make his movie even better.  He thinks it's his best movie yet.

This is not natural.  Curling up with a book and reading all day is natural.

But I'm learning.

I learned to cook and now I love to do it.  I get a lot of joy from creating wholesome, satisfying meals for my family and others.  I buy helpful tools or request them as gifts.  My rice cooker and bread machine make up for my deficit in creating both from "scratch".  My citrus and garlic press get me fresh flavors with minimal work.  I do my share of book learning in this area, with cookbooks, food blogs, and magazines too.  I do have the skills and patience to cook.

I do have the skills and patience to raise children. It's not natural ability, it's learning.  I want to get more and more passionate about these kids God has given me. Study them.  Learn what they love and feed that passion in them the way I feed my passion for cooking (and food!).  There are tools that make this easier.  Craft and art supplies for my daughter; building toys for my son. Books, videos, good things that build them up.  And lots of time from me.  That can be the tool that "presses" me the most.  Three children, a home to take care of, a husband to save some energy for.  I don't naturally balance these things, but I'm learning.

Crafts aren't my thing.  But cooking?

And kids?

Let them be my thing.

Natural or not.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal for November 12th

  • In my life this week… I hope and pray for a normal schedule after a busy week of travelling and visiting, excursions outside the house, and company.  The introvert in me is ready to hibernate at least for a few days!

  • In our homeschool this week… We begin our study of European cultures and our first stop is Norway. My dad went to Norway when I was a kid and brought me home a Cabbage Patch kid from there with adoption papers in Norwegian.

  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… Take a holiday break!  

  • I am inspired by… the biography of Nate Saint I just finished reading to the kids. I've never read a lot of Christian hero biographies and they are so encouraging.  I am amazed at how God can work in circumstances, in governments, in cultures and in ways that we would never expect in our "ugly American" mindset.

  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… See above.  Nowhere for a few days, I hope!

  • My favorite thing this week was… Seeing many friends from back home, seeing the kids craft with Nana, and the great job the kiddos did at church running a bake sale to benefit Gospel for Asia.

  • What’s working/not working for us… Things are going so well this year. We have our days, but we have really found our groove.  

  • Things I’m working on… Christmas lists.  Would it gross anyone out to say that I'm nearly done shopping for the kids?  I really just want to relax and enjoy the Christmas season this year, so I do not want to find myself scouring Walmart for gifts during the crazy days before Christmas.

  • I’m reading… I am in between books. Although we begin the next book in the Kingdom Tales series today and the kids are so excited!

  • I’m cooking… Spaghetti with chicken Parmesan tonight.

  • I’m grateful for… the warmth of home.

  • I’m praying for… Our president.  He was not my choice to lead our nation, but I think it's time to stop complaining about him and put that energy in prayer.  It is only when I pray that I believe all things are possible.
So I'm used to daybooking on Mondays but I like the format of this Homeschool Mother's Journal better... but it's only open to link up Friday through Sunday.  So you won't find my link there, but you can find THEIR link here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Exiles in a Foreign Land

This morning I read Jeremiah 28 and 29 as part of my regular Bible reading.  Nearly everyone has heard the wonderful verse "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (vs 29:11)  This verse comes historically in the time when Israel is about to be taken exile to Babylon.  Dragged away from their homeland because they had turned their backs on God.

Yet God still says he has plans of good for them.

In some small way, I think I might understand the feelings of despair the Israelites felt when taken captive to a foreign land.  Josh and I spent eight years in what God promised to us was a good land.  We had our season of wandering in the desert, like the Israelites, and then the joy and blessing of entering a land of promise.  A year ago we were called out of that good land and the best way to describe our current status in our new home is as "foreigners".  We're not in the desert, but we are not at home here either.  Yes, we have a lovely home, Josh has the best job he's ever had, we have each other, yet there is that sometimes dull, sometimes profound sense that we don't belong here.

"By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion...
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?"
Psalm 137:1 and 4

In chapter 29, through Jeremiah, God tells the people : "Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; takes wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you in exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." vs 5-7

The Lord urges the people to live in this foreign land, to settle there and create homes.  What a merciful heart God has, for he could have said "You'll go there and live miserably to make you realize how good you had it when you were under my care in Israel."  No, he wanted them to live.  And he promised them a future,  hope, good, fortune, blessing when they deserved worse.

Although they were in a foreign land, he wanted them to seek the welfare of Babylon. For in that, they too would find welfare.

In a larger sense, we all live in a foreign land.  As Christians, this world is not our true home, yet God has placed us here to live and to be part of his plans.  While we know that ultimately there will be an end to all these things around us, we are also told to seek the welfare of this land that we have been "exiled" to.

I think that means you should pray for this nation, for its leaders (whether you like them or not), and for the Church.

I think that means you should vote.

I think that ultimately it means that we must rely on our sovereign God who has purposely placed us here for such a time as this.

As hard as I have found it to live in a "foreign land" after eight years in a "good land", I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God's plans for me and my family are for good and not evil. I find myself more and more dependent on him for all my hope and joy.

When the world seems foreign, that's a good thing.  It causes us to look to our only hope, Jesus Christ.   This season I am in personally, and the season our nation is in, has the power to return our hearts to their true home.

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you," declares the Lord," and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you," declares the Lord, "and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." Jeremiah 29:12-14

Monday, October 1, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal for October 1st

  • In my life this week… Lots of rain is predicted, which generally makes me happy!  I love any excuse to stay inside and be a homebody.
  • In our homeschool this week… we will spending our second week in Mexico, complete with a fiesta on Friday!
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… I still feel like a novice at this even after five years.  Needs, interests, and what works can change daily!  When I hit a wall, I tend to jump on the Internet searching for help either by comparing what I do to what others do or looking for a new revolutionary and perfect curriculum.  NOTE TO SELF: Step away from the computer and just pray about it!
  • I am inspired by… a couple I met at church yesterday. They are foster parents to their 1 and 2 year-old GREAT grandchildren.  Amazing people, doing something truly radical.
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Josh and I will be attending a banquet this week for a local pregnancy resource center.  And as I said, the cousins will be having a Mexican fiesta this Friday!
  • My favorite thing this week was… A National Coffee Day dinner party hosted by some new friends.  Each time we get together we get more comfortable and the fellowship is so satisfying.
  • What’s working/not working for us… Getting the basics of school done first thing is really working for us. I used to do all the core subjects first, but my children are such early risers that I need them as fresh as possible for math, reading, writing.
  • Questions/thoughts I have… Will anyone ever let me sleep in a little?  
  • Things I’m working on… no major personal projects, unless you count the never ending battle of keeping the house organized.
  • I’m reading… I just finished Beverly Lewis's latest book The Bridesmaid.  One of my very favorites by her.  She takes the cake for Amish fiction and in my opinion, everyone else is just an imitation. So I long for her books and buy them hot off the press!
  • I’m cooking… I need to make a menu for the week, which I should have made before I went grocery shopping.  But most likely I'll be cooking and baking with apples as we have lots!
  • I’m grateful for… the very essentials that we are blessed with. A pantry full of food, the warmth of a home, the love of my family.
  • I’m praying for… Revival, a Great Awakening.
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share…
"From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him" Isaiah 64:4

We have found it is always, always worth it to wait on the Lord.  He will act and He will come through.

The Homeschool Mother's Link-up can be found here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Half A Day

I decided to forgo my morning run in order to listen to a Bible study.  My soul needed strengthening more than my body this morning.

I dragged four baskets of laundry up from the basement and began folding.  It was the quiet hours of the day, before the kids are fully awake or awake at all.

But they always know how to find me.   As they bound down the stairs, asking for a cup of juice, a cup of milk, a bowl of cereal, I strain to hear the words of the Bible teacher. Words I desperately need to hear, encouraging me from the book of Ezra.

Someone, a small sprite, pounds on the bathroom door the whole time I'm in the shower. She knows instinctively when a door closes and she's been shut out.  And she hates to be separated from me.

Someone is moody all morning long, and it's not me.  The glass isn't even half empty, it's just plain empty with this child on this day.  Talking things out, taking a Break, giving consequences doesn't curb any of the negativity.  A plate of pretzels with a scoop of peanut butter seems to do the trick, though.

I'm accused of breaking promises, like "You said maybe we could read this book after we were done!"  This child doesn't understand the operative words maybe and done.

We have one stellar potty trained toddler in the house, the one (out of three) that I didn't have to coerce, threaten or bribe into giving up diapers. Every time she uses the potty, which is often because she drinks a lot, she completely disrobes.  And  would then like to do one of three things.  One- run around the house naked for at least a minute.  Two- pretend she wants to get dressed then refuse to let me help her.  She laughs, I try to play along. But I've got two kids sitting at the table with a book I threw haphazardly before them as I ran to try to prevent #1 from happening.  Three- painstakingly dress herself while I wait pseudo-patiently.

I'm in need of a breather and some lunch.  I make a beautiful salad made of hodgepodge from the refrigerator.  Potty-girl, who is wearing only undies, roams into the kitchen as I'm about to take a bite.  She's rubbing her eyes and crying.  She needs a nap, but first I make her lunch. Easy Mac.  Then I decide it would be better to make the other two lunches before I sit down to eat my lunch because the moment I do sit down... you know who will wander in asking for something to eat.  I make two more meals.  A ham sandwich and spaghetti-os.  I call to the other two.  "We'll be right there!" they respond.  I sit down and eat my whole salad, and they never show up.

Nap time doesn't happen.  Not for Potty-girl, anyway. I lay down with her and find myself falling asleep, however.  It's only 2 pm.  Can a young thirty-something like me really be this tired already?

The day is only half over.  What adventures await in the other half?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Still Love It

I just placed an order at Grace Works  to refill some pages in my Beautiful Life Management system.  I wrote a review of this awesome planner at the end of last year and I have to say, I still love it and I continue to build new and better habits when it comes to managing my home and my life.

I don't get any perks for mentioning these products, but I just love to pass on a good thing. Friends have asked me if I still use my planner.  And I've met a lot of mommies in the past year that are on that elusive search for order in their home.  I'm sure there are lots of android and iphone apps out there to help you, if you are a Technology Girl.  But me, I'm a pen and ink kinda girl, who carries a Trac Phone, so this has worked perfectly for me.  If you're craving some organization, check out the website, ask questions, and get hooked up with a planning system that works for you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Journal for September 4th- 2nd Week of School

  • In my life this week… I'll try to make up for the lost school day on Monday, all because I like to stick to a schedule.

  • In our homeschool this week… another week of introduction to our  new curriculum, and learning about maps/globes and ecosystems.

  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… Give everyone permission to take a break

  • I am inspired by… paint colors.  What an amazing array.

  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…I'm hoping for a fairly quiet week of getting back into routine (or finding a routine!).  I'm actually glad rain is predicted for the next two days because it well help to convince the kids that summer is over.

  • My favorite thing this week was… seeing how Mister just naturally helps me out by playing with Petite.

  • What’s working for us… math drill sheets from here.  I used these with Mister a few years ago and they are coming in handy for both he and B-E-G this year.  I love how they only introduce two new problems at a time.

  • Questions/thoughts I have… Why must math be so... terrible?

  • Things I’m working on…following through with promises. It's easy to get  side-tracked with all that is going on in our home, but I don't want to forget to do the little things I said I would (like gluing a toy back together)

  • I’m reading… I got a few new books at our local discount store including a few parenting books- and I said I'd quit doing it to myself!

  • I’m cooking… Oh right, I have to cook this week.  Better make that menu.

  • I’m grateful for… a wonderful weekend with our friends who "stay-cationed" with us.  It was just such easy fellowship.

  • I’m praying for… my little Petite, who has come down with a cold... and praying that B-E-G's ear is feeling better. Otherwise, off to the doctor we go.

  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share…
Spelling with Scrabble Cheez-Its.  Yum and fun!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


They say it's lonely at the top, but it gets lonely at the bottom too.  I don't believe for a second that my work at home is menial, but let's face it- it ain't glamorous.  And most days of the year- probably 80% of them- the only people I see are my husband and my three children.   Even my phone conversations with other adults are few and far between.  I have to admit I kind of like it that way, I'm not a huge phone conversationalist.  Most of my contact with the outside world comes via social media.  And probably only 20% of those people are actually friends.

We're three days into our new school year and already I can see it's going to be a tough one.  Maybe that is an unfair assessment so early on, but our workload seems to be heavier and the kids are being asked to really take it up a notch.  So our three days have been very full and kind of tiring for all of us. Today we went to the local library and then to our town park, which is a beautiful place to take a walk and sit and draw for nature notebooks.  The air was cool and breezy and it was so wonderful to be outside.  I hate keeping everyone cooped up on beautiful days like this.  We were the only people there today.  We sat by the stream and had a snack. The kids drew for their journals.  We walked across the bridge and down a path, then went to the playground.  No one else ever showed up.

All over facebook, my friends are posting pictures of their children heading back to school.  Their clothes are new and neat, backpacks on, they are smiling in excitement as they wait for the bus.  They can't wait to meet their teacher and see their friends and use all their new school supplies.

It's such a stark contrast to "not going back to school" here.  I'm the only one who's really excited.  The kids don't look forward to meeting their teacher- it's me and they already know how I roll.  I don't have the pleasure of welcoming them home each day and asking about their day.  I am in every part of their day- the groans during math, the frustration in handwriting, and the evil eye seems to be on me most of the day.

These are the things I think of when I see all those smiling faces waiting for the bus and then find myself alone at the playground with my children.  This is a lonely venture sometimes, especially since we moved.  

As I pushed Petite on the swing and watched my older two climb the jungle gym and race around the paths, I forced myself to pray and remind myself of the truth.  Lord, thank you that I can be home with my children. I truly am grateful. Help me to enjoy these moments when I have them to myself. It won't be long before I don't have anyone to push on the swings anymore.  It won't belong before they are gone.  Give me the strength to carry this through to the end.

And Lord, bring us some friends.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Journal for August 27th- Our First Day of School!

In my life this week… school begins for a new year and I pray for a wonderful start to an amazing year!

In our homeschool this week… we begin a whole new curriculum (My Father's World) and begin to get a taste of the many diverse people living around the world whom God so loved that he sent his one and only Son to die for them. And as my kids like to say- WOW!

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… A child's education is a not a sprint to the finish- it's a life-long journey. One day they'll take the baton and run with it!

I am inspired by… all the blogging moms out there.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… I promised the kids a trip to the beach today if school is done by 1. And we have friends visiting for Labor Day weekend and I've kept it a secret from the kids!

My favorite thing this week was… watching my three-year-old tear open her birthday gifts.

What’s working for us… the if/then chart from Doorposts. A great tool to help me be consistant with discipline and to help the kids know what to expect when they need it.

Questions/thoughts I have… What books to have my nine-year-old read?

Things I’m working on… blog posts about Petite's birthday, what she'll be doing for "school", and one on our first day once it's happened!

I’m reading… the final pages of the 3rd book in the Darkness to Light series by Golden Keyes Parsons. Excellent historic fiction.

I’m cooking… Grands Cinnamon rolls for our first day of school breakfast. This is a Christmas and first day of school only treat!

I’m grateful for… being able to be home and teach my children. I get to do this and it is my joy to.

I’m praying for… my sister-in-law as she starts school today too and for my brother and nephew as he starts a new school tomorrow.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

Me reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to my kiddos on the deck. I look kinda mean here. I must have been reading about the White Witch!

Join the Homeschool Mother's Journal at

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Summer Adventures

I have to admit to you all that I thought it might be a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad summer. Our first summer in a new town, away from the lake and daily swimming and time with friends. I was so worried about this that I planned the summer months meticulously, knowing that if something was on my calendar, we would do it. The whole "failing to plan is planning to fail" thing. Now that summer is just about over, I look back and I'm happy to say it was really a wonderful season for us.

As a home-teaching mom, summer breaks from school give me a little opportunity to get refreshed and explore some of my own hobbies and interests. My latest little joy in life is gardening. We planted roses, hydrangea, foxglove, lavendar, red sedum, and azalea in May and all of my plants thrived! I'm especially happy with my hydrangea and roses, which are always showy and take my breath away a bit when I see their beautiful pink flowers.

We also grew a few veggies in pots and that is the way to garden! We had fresh lettuce, cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, cucumbers, and the bell pepppers are ripening even now. I also planted some herbs and have made delicious bruschetta, pesto, and salsas with them. I've dried the lavendar and rosemary and drink in their delicious scents just for fun.

I've still got some work to do in the flower beds, mulching and cleaning up for fall and winter. I'll be adding more flowers next spring. It's just impossible to get everything all at once, but that's the fun of gardening.

We had a BBQ with my husband's family, everyone present except one of his cousin's who lives in in Florida. Great Grampy and his aunt and uncle were up visiting and we got everyone together and even managed a family photo. Four generations, wow!

We did so much on our list of summer activities, including nature walks, going to camp, picking strawberries, going to the beach, the children's museum, and more.

I got to do some leisure reading and also finished Teaching the Wholehearted Child, a great inspiration for this coming school year. I love the Shaker series by Ann Gabhardt and read the second book in the series, and finished a trilogy of books by Golden Keyes Parsons, the Darkness to Light series, about the Huguenot persecution in France.

I did a little bit of scrapbooking using the Project Life system by Becky Higgins and I'm fairly up to date before starting the school year, so I can't ask for too much more than that!

There were little blessings all summer, like friends and family dropping by and invitations to people's houses and...

one very special wedding of a dear, dear friend. We've been praying for a godly man for this girl for years and the Lord has blessed! I didn't want to be in this picture, but I guess I have to show up on this blog once in a while :)

I've been looking forwad to school starting. I think all moms do. We all like to return to the structure and schedule of the school year, whether we school at home or the kiddos go back in the traditional sense. The wonderful thing is that as we say goodbye to summer, a whole new and almost better season awaits us in fall!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just a note to all, I updated both blogs, deleting many old posts and tweeking a few other things. All is well!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stuff I Love- Homemade Laundry Soap

I love to share a good thing.  I'm happy to hear that many of you have tried some of the "stuff I love" and that you are loving it too.  I feel a little like Martha Stewart, sharing her "good things".  And I'm a Martha wanna-be (no snide jokes about prison now).

Today's "stuff I love" is a recipe given me by my friend Lisa.  She mentioned she was making her own laundry soap and that it worked great.  The cost per load- a mere two cents- and the ease of making the recipe were all the incentive I needed to give it a shot.  It has only 3 major ingredients, each found in the laundry soap section of major stores like Super Walmart: Fels Naptha soap, which comes in a bar, washing soda (Arm and Hammer is the most common brand), and Borax.  You'll be amazed how far these three items go to make loads upon loads of fresh, clean laundry!

Homemade Laundry Soap

You will need a bucket or container that can hold at least 2 gallons as that is how much detergent this recipe makes.

1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated or chopped up finely

1 cup washing soda

1 cup Borax powder

Heat grated soap in a a large sauce pan with 6 cups of water until the soap melts.

Add washing soda and Borax and stir until dissolved.

Remove from heat.

Pour 4 cups of hot water into bucket. 

Add soap mixture to bucket and stir.

Add 1 gallon PLUS 6 cups of water to the bucket and stir.

Let the soap sit for 24 hours. It will gel.

Use 1/2 cup per load.

You may also had some drops of essential oils if you would like to add more scent.

I put the soap to the test with some chocolate stained pants of mine and a bib covered in smooshed chocolate.  The results:


The one spot remaining is a stain that has been on the bib for quite a while- ink I think.  I'd say the proof is in the pudding- this stuff works- and I love it!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Convention-al Wisdom

Our school year wrapped up quite nicely last week. We were all more than glad to answer the beckoning call of summer vacation. As a home teaching mom, I admit I never completely leave behind all the *stuff* that school entails. Like it or not, it's part of my identity and part of every day of my life, whether it's spring, summer, fall, or Christmas. I have an insatiable urge to find beautiful books to read, meaningful art activities, and toys and games that spark creativity. I must plan ahead- sometimes I'm planning my children's high school years! While I often vow at the beginning of summer to stash all the curriculum catalogues, they just keep getting pulled out of their pile so I can glance over them while I eat my lunch. It can make my brain hurt and my cortisone levels rise, but I just cannot stop myself. I enjoy this homeschool journey too much.

So what a great opportunity it was to attend a really big homeschool convention last week, complete with many of the BIG NAMES in home education as speakers and a vendor hall offering nearly every curriculum I'd ever heard of- and many I hadn't. And to get to go with three of my homeschooling cohorts from back "home"- now that was a treat! Though the four of us are completely different in our style of educating, and well, just completely different period, it's satisfyingly comfortable just to be with other people who "get" why I do what I do. We speak the same language- Charlotte Mason, Apologia, the Bluedorns, the Great Books, the Trivium, Beautiful Feet, CLEPs. We know Sonlight is spelt with an "o" not a "u". It's weird, but it's a bond. One that I have greatly missed since we have moved.

Oh, I don't need lots of hand holding when it comes to educating my kids. I've known since we ever thought of having a family that I was called to homeschool any children we might have. And somehow that has always been enough to sustain me, even in the difficult times. I most certainly doubt myself and have come up against some hard decision making already, but in the end I know that this is what I am supposed to be doing. So even though I miss talking shop with my fellow homeschool moms, I'm okay. I didn't need to attend this convention like a heart attack patient needs to attend an ER- like STAT! Or else die! I looked forward to a few speakers in particular and a few of the sessions by unknowns seemed interesting as well. I had absolutely no interest in sessions on what I am feeding my children and how it affects their homeschool. Nor did I want any child rearing or discipline training AT ALL! I simply looked forward to being inspired and encouraged. I had already purchased next year's core curriculum. I needed one math workbook and I knew where to locate it. (But don't believe for a second that's all I came home with!)

I always love people watching and it's just as fun at a homeschool convention as anywhere else. What is remarkable, however, is that, for the most part, homeschoolers are very very normal. Sure, there were a few wearing prayer caps and some in dresses reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie, but most parents and their kids dress like basic Target and Walmart shoppers. Yes, there is a considerable lack of chains, body piercings, and tatoos- but you know, I saw some, and I think that is cool. The image of homeschoolers in denim jumpers and floral blouses, khaki pants and homemade plaid shirts for the guys, is so passe and more of a stereotype we ourselves like to joke about than the actual truth. We can laugh at ourselves, realizing that, yeah, it is kind of unusual to keep your kids home with you every... single... day.... until they are at least... 18. Especially when there is free daycare school as early as the age of four. Daycare was a joke, guys, come on... Laugh with me!

Speaking of laughing, we got the chance to laugh uproariously at the comedy show featuring John Branyan. I had never seen any of his youtube videos, so he was a real treat. His Olde English version of the Three Little Pigs is his standout soliloquy. It is hilarious and I marvel that he could even memorize it. ( He must have been taught under the classical method.) His electric cigarette may have shocked some, but you couldn't help but hoot with laughter when he blew smoke with it and pretended to be the door greeter for Vacation Bible School. I noticed that even the ladies in prayer caps had shaking shoulders.

One of the sessions I was very interested in attending was cancelled, but the person I was most interested in hearing was Susan Wise Bauer of The Well Trained Mind. She was a life-saver to me this past school year, and it had nothing to do with her classical methodology. I'll write more about that in a later post. Her session on Teaching the REAL Child was hands-down the best homeschool lesson I have ever received. I appreciated that she approached some of the difficulties we are dealing with in our children as symptoms, not sin. Some symptoms point to immaturity, perfectionism, a naturally slower-paced child. Some point to learning disabilities or, even more likely, just a learning style. This session was so helpful, I bought two copies of it to pass around. My fellow moms need to hear it.

The convention-al wisdom was appreciated, but so were the leisurely morning chats at Starbucks, the late nights with no one to put to bed but myself, and the visit to Barnes and Noble that happens only once in a blue moon. I felt just a little bit sorry for the moms who were toting their kids around because I was enjoying the absence of mine so much (which is said with much love). A few people asked me, or my husband, why I was going all the way to Hartford for a homeschool convention. Just as my husband has travelled out of state for training and education in his field of engineering, I don't see it as a strange thing to do the same in my particular profession. Neither does he, good man.

Overall, this convention, right on the heels of finishing a roller-coaster-ride year of school, was mostly a strong dose of confirmation. I am doing a great work. My kids are going to be okay. We have made a lot of the right decisions for them. They will weather the storms of home schooling just as I will. They are people. Little people with all the same needs I have- and I GET to meet those needs to the best of my ability. Oh, I just love it. What a weighty thing, but oh how precious. We are all becoming something more beautiful as we travel this path, together.

Now I always feel inclined to add a little note, perhaps a disclaimer, at the end of one of my homeschool posts. I homeschool because I am called (by God) to do it. I love it. Not everyone is called to do it. You are not a bad mom if you don't homeschool. You might even be a better one if you don't. You may not be able to. You may not want to. You may have never considered it. I think it rocks. You can go ahead and think I have lots of patience and am super smart because I homeschool and I'll go ahead and think your house is immaculate and that you have lots of time to go to the gym, scrapbook, eat bon-bons, and have coffee with your girlfriends because you don't.

Love you ALL girls!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Love on a Saturday

Love is:

Letting your husband sleep in after a long work week.

Making a pot of French press, just for him.

Taking your little sister potty so Mommy can work in her flower gardens.

Taking your son's garbage to the dump for him and helping him work on his broken down lawn tractor.

Making the corn chowder without onions for the kids.

Being camera man for yet another movie of your son that makes no sense to you.

Calling to see what your granddaughter wants for her birthday.

Dropping off a few goodies, just because.

Getting your husband a cold glass of water and a can of soda when he syphons gas into his mouth.

Hauling a bucket of weeds to the brush pile for your Mama.

Letting your daughter paint when she asks to.

Reading "I Love You Stinkyface" to your toddler when you are drop dead tired.

Mowing the lawn for your wife even when she has offered to do it.

Saying "Thank you, Lord, for this day."


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stuff I Love- Reynolds Non-Stick Aluminum Foil

Summer is unofficially here, but we don't stand on ceremony.   We ushered in this most anticipated season the first time we cracked open the grill lid and cooked up some burgers.  I think almost everything tastes better on the grill and we've been experimenting with cooking more than just meat on ours. 

Josh got the opportunity to go fishing last week with a close friend who is moving  He brought home two brook trout and painstakingly cleaned them and took the skin off.  You can eat the skin of trout, but most often it seems to peel off, along with the seasonings, once it's been baked or broiled.  We coated it in cajun and lemon pepper seasoning and decided to grill it on foil.  But we were out of foil.  I made a quick dash into the grocery store to get some and the yellow on the box of this Non-Stick Reynolds Wrap caught my eye.

Heavy duty. Non stick.  Sounded good and hopefully wouldn't peel the seasoning off our trout.

It didn't.  This is truly beautiful stuff. 

I've since cooked apples with brown sugar and pecans on the grill using this foil to make a tray for it and did the same for my first ever batch of jalapeno poppers.  Nothing burned, nothing stuck to it.  It didn't rip, it didn't get all wrinkly.  This was a good find.

Amazing how something so simple can make cooking easier.

Now, you probably don't care half as much about this foil as you do my jalapeno poppers.  Not to make your mouth water, but they were amazing.  I got the recipe from my Pioneer Woman cookbook, the first one.  The recipe isn't available on her website, so I must share it with you, Steph-style of course.  They are EASY!  If I'd known how easy, I would have made them years ago.

First, you'll need a bunch of fresh jalapenos, larger ones are nice.  I think I used about 10 of them.  I recommend wearing gloves if you can when handling them.  It's hard to get the oils from them off your hands and you might feel the burn in ways you wish you hadn't.  With that said, cut them in half, scoop out the seeds or leave them in if you like serious heat.

To make the stuffing, you'll need a package of cream cheese and about 1/2 cup of cheddar or pepper jack cheese.  I just scooped a few handfuls in.  I added some sliced green onion. Mix it up. Stuff each pepper half.  (This is so easy, as the cheese mixture is like Play-Dough in consistency).  Next, either wrap each pepper in half a slice of bacon or do what I did- cook the bacon ahead of time and then lay a piece on top of the cream cheese mixture.  Last, baste it with your favorite BBQ sauce.  But a toothpick or skewer through each one.  Lay a piece of Reynolds Non-Stick Foil on your grill.  Set the peppers on it and cook for about 20 minutes (if using precooked bacon). 

Finally, eat way more of them than you thought you would. The bacon and BBQ sauce make them irresistible. Isn't bacon like a gift from God? I know that's heresy to many. But I tend to think it's true.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meditation of the Divine Will by Abraham Lincoln

I'm unable to ignore the fact that it is a major election year. There's no escape from the opinions on facebook, the precursory ads for candidates on youtube, and of course the various news media. At some point I'm bound to jump into the fire pit and get passionate about who our next president should be. I'll butt heads with many and I think that is a wonderful thing in a democracy- so long as we remain intelligent and maintain respect, looking at the person behind the beliefs.

I was particularly affected by these words of Abraham Lincoln in my recent reading on his life. In the midst of a civil war that divided his nation because of distinctly different belief systems, he remained humble and in trust of the sovereign will of God. How it reminds me of the sovereign will of God in the political and moral climate of our own days.

Meditation of the Divine Will

(a note written by Abraham Lincoln and revealed after his death)

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God can not be for, and against, the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By His mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Song

I am so not a fan of the Delilah Show. It's nothing personal against Delilah. It's just all those songs she plays! The same "soft hits" collection that has been playing for years... and years... and years. While I once loved to tune in, I just can't fight the feeling anymore... the one that needs more than words to tell how I feel... that those songs just aren't the meaning and inspiration in my life. They've kind of lost that loving feeling, if you know what I mean.

They're cheezy.

So imagine my surprise when I was driving to the ER the other night and I find myself scanning the radio stations... and I actually stop on Elton John's "Your Song." And then I start singing it. Belting it out, really. And I just sat back and chilled in my car, thinking of how wonderful life is... while you're in the world.

(I must add, that on this particular night, the ER I was driving to was Super Walmart. It was one of those nights. I had put the children to bed by myself for 10 days in a row, they were full of energy and I was completely drained. I told my husband "I'm thinking of going to Walmart, what do you think?" in the kind of way that let him know this wasn't really an opinion question. It was me telling him I was going to Walmart. We don't have malls or cafes in this small town, but we do have Walmart with an adjacent Dunkin Donuts. A hot peppermint cocoa was just what the doctor ordered and I enjoyed it immensely as I roamed the store.)

Back to Elton John, "Your Song", and how wonderful life is...

It is Valentine's Day, after all. And it gets me thinking about "our song". And yes, it's really cheezy. If you've been together for longer than 10 years, chances are your song is one that is overplayed on Delilah's show. But you still love it. Cheezy as it is.

So Josh and I actually have *two* songs. The first is, well, the first. And as I play it in the background right now, yes, I still get all choked up. It's by an almost one-hit-wonder- group, Savage Garden, and it's "I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You". For the first bajillion times I heard it, I thought it was really silly. I didn't get it. But then I met this guy. I didn't know his name. So I guess I hadn't really met him. So I saw this guy. I didn't know his name. I saw him over and over and I just knew... he was the one. And I mean it when I say it, I LOVED this guy.

And then I met him. His name was Josh. And he was even more than I dreamed he'd be. And about 12 years ago he asked me to marry him.

So, okay, wipe away the happy tears, that's our love story in a tiny nutshell and here's our cheezy love song....

On our 10th anniversary, Josh made a photo slideshow for me using the song "God Gave Me You" which has since become a huge country hit for Blake Shelton. This is "Our Song #2". It's destined to be overplayed and annoying at some point in history, but it will probably send me to the Kleenex box every time I hear it.

So tell me, what's your song? I'd love to know.