Thursday, January 29, 2009

Taking Off for a Couple Days

A dear friend has graciously paid my registration to attend a writer's conference, so we are heading out this afternoon and will be gone for two nights. I am so excited!! This is professional development and friend time all rolled into one! Please pray for safety as we drive, for the Lord to meet with us together, and for my husband and children back home. I have never been away from all of my children at the same time for two nights before. Ever. So my mama's heart is sad and I know I will miss them. If you think of my hubby Friday morning, say a prayer for him as he teaches my co-op classes for me! "See" you on Saturday!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ice Festival

We went to a local ice festival recently. It was beautiful, stunning, spectacular, and very very COLD. We were only out for about 45 minutes and I couldn't feel my toes when we got back in the van! The children did a little better since they have such lovely boots and snow pants this winter. We came home, started a fire in the fireplace, and enjoyed hot chocolate with marshmallows. That made it all worth it. :-)

Posing on an ice snowmobile.

We were surprised and happy to spot some friends from our church participating in the college level team competition!

Everyone was talking about this "Think Spring" display.

Posing with Big Bird.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Cubbie

Little Man, proudly sitting beside his very own cubbie in our school cubbie unit! I had to take a bunch of my stuff out of it and we haven't painted it in his color yet (light blue - it's still "plum for mum"!) but he is oh so happy to have his very own place for things. It's always the little things, isn't it?

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Little Man has been trying to give up his nap since his paci went bye-bye 6 months ago. Starting from that very day. I expected him to miss his paci, but I thought that after he adjusted he'd be able to nap without it. No.

I know that some children stop napping earlier than others, but trust me, he still needs a nap. He is whiney and crying well before dinner if he doesn't nap. But he won't fall asleep. Shortly after paci went bye-bye I made a deal with him. If he wasn't asleep by the time his sleep music stopped (about 40 minutes) he could get up and play in his room until I came to get him. This worked GREAT in getting him to lay still long enough to fall asleep. For about a week. He happened to stay up the whole time once, and then he "knew" the music. After that he would lay there just waiting for the final song.

I have sometimes gone upstairs and turned his sleep music on AGAIN (which he hates) and he has finally fallen asleep during the second go-round. But that is hard for me to be always watching the clock and trying to time it just right.

Last week my wonderful hubby burned a CD of our two favorite lullaby CD's ~ he combined them onto one CD. It is 79 minutes long. Same deal as before ~ if he's still awake after 79 minutes he can get up and play in his room until I get him. It has worked twice. He will often fall asleep if I stay in the room with him, sitting in the rocking chair, or bring him into my bed and nap with him. But I can't do this every day, much as I would love to!

It wouldn't really matter to me whether he sleeps or not, as long as he gets a rest time, but the evenings are a BEAR if he doesn't sleep.

Help! Does anyone have any other ideas? Do I just accept that naptime is over? If naps are over, how do we make it until bedtime without having a hissy fit?

Our Week in Review

This is what we learned about in school this week:

We continued learning about westward expansion, focusing on the gold rush. I did not realize that so many men traveled to California by the sea route, sailing all around Cape Horn at the tip of South America and back up the western side! It was actually safer to travel that way than to go overland, though it took longer. Amazing what men were willing to endure for the "promise" of riches. Some things don't really change over time, do they?

We also learned more about the presidency of Zachary Taylor. Though he grew up on a plantation and his family owned slaves, as president he was first and foremost concerned with keeping the union together. The tension between slave and free states continued to escalate during this period, every time a new state was added to the union and the question arose, would it enter as a slave state or as free? President Taylor worked tirelessly on the Compromise of 1850, but then tragically died after only 16 months in office, from eating tainted buttermilk and cherries on the 4th of July.

The Compromise of 1850 was a series of 5 measures that were passed after his death, and managed to delay the civil war for another 10 years. But as with all compromises, everyone had to give up something and no-one was really happy. As part of the compromise, California entered the union as a free state but also the Fugitive Act was passed which gave authority to federal officers in any state to return runaway slaves to their owners. As a result the underground railroad became very busy during this period. We will cover that in more depth during the next couple of weeks.

Our daughter G also read about the "mini" revolutions occurring in Europe during this same time period. Though all the uprisings were eventually put down, european monarchs were forced to be more sensitive to the demands of their citizens. The flames of freedom and representation were being fanned ever brighter!

Our read-aloud this week was (and is) Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. It's the story of a young man who lived with the Crow Indians for several years and then is reunited with his siblings (parents both died, mom died on the trail) on their journey west to Oregon. They must each learn to overcome their differences, accept each other, and truly reunite in order to survive the journey. It is good. Hard to put down!! We will probably finish this by the end of next week. The children have been playing quietly with their covered wagons while I read - it's time we all look forward to!

Since this is our first year with a child at the dialectic level, and that requires a significantly higher workload than before, we decided to delay the literature portion of Tapestry of Grace until we felt the history portion was going smoothly. Each week G reads from 5 or 6 different history books and answers about 10-12 questions in writing. She and I also have a mini discussion prior to her virtual co-op class on Thursday mornings. At first it was all she could do to finish all the reading before Thursday. Now, however, she is finishing her history reading and answering the questions more quickly, and we decided it was time to add literature to her workload. Most of the literature books are FUN. It is true pleasure reading, and the scripted literature discussions in my TOG teacher's book are just excellent. We started last week with the book The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. I forgot how much I like George MacDonald! He is such a good writer, and we are both thoroughly enjoying this book. For my fellow TOGgers, this literature selection is a multi-week book that is scheduled to end during week 18. We started it in week 18, so we are going to be "behind" schedule, but I think it will be the perfect schedule for us.

Since instituting our new schedule this month, we have been able to have our latin lessons each week and we are slugging away with that! (I am struggling, personally)

Son C is on lesson 45 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and he is amazed at how he is able to read "long" stories now! (long = half a page of large print) I have not let him look ahead to where he is reading stories that are two pages long (small print) because I don't want him to be discouraged. He is doing great right where he is and it is thrilling to teach another of our children to read. I am so privileged to be the one that gets to do this! Next to life and Jesus and unconditional love, the gift of reading ranks way up there. Four down, one to go. :-)

In science we learned about bats. It is fascinating to learn what gentle and helpful creatures they really are! I think the movie industry has done a good job of making bats seem scary, aggressive, and enemies of humans. Practically the opposite is true! We learned that bats are a keystone species, meaning that other species depend on them for survival. Did you know that a bat colony can eat 6 million mosquitos in a single night!!!????? Yes, I said 6 MILLION! Can you imagine how inundated we would be with insects were it not for bats? The fruit eating bats also help pollinate and disseminate seeds. So they are a very helpful species of animal!

Sons L and G are working on subject/verb agreement in grammar. For Bible we read all of Matthew 7 and 8. We worked on memorizing Awana verses and poetry. I read lots of books to Little Man. He is on a Curious George kick. AND......(exciting news)......he SIGNED HIS OWN NAME in Grandma's get well card! Virtually without help. Big sister helped only a tiny bit. I didn't even know he knew any of the letters in his name beyond the first one!

We finished week 18 which means we are halfway through the school year. Amazing!

In other news, I did not walk once last week. Remember my goal is to walk 1 mile each day? Oops. It was an unusually full week. My mother in law spent the week in the hospital with cellulitis in her leg and it was a pretty severe case. I am so thankful my hubby is not working right now so he was able to spend lots of time with her. She is home now, and is on the mend. Thank you Lord! So, I'm not wasting energy lamenting last week. I will try to walk again this coming week. Somebody ask me if I did, okay?

I'm doing well with the 1 vegetarian meal a week/eliminating white sugar goals, but by the end of the week I am really tired of cooking. Please pray that I will choose joy in serving my family in this way, even on days 6 and 7!

And in truly happy news, my husband has acquired a short term freelance project which will pay one month's living expenses! Thank you for Your provision, Lord!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Going West (or, never underestimate the creative possibilities of empty shoesboxes!)

One day in early spring during the year 1852, 5 families decided to travel west and stake their claim to new land in the Oregon Territory. First they constructed sturdy wagons, which had come to be called "prairie schooners" for the way they looked like ships sailing slowly across a sea of prairie grass.

They had to plan carefully how much food to take for the 4-6 month journey, as well as all the tools and equipment they would need for setting up their new life once they got to Oregon. Needless to say, their wagons were loaded full of barrels and bundles!

In the top of one chest they carefully packed the family Bible, so that they could easily take it out and read it around the campfire at night (very top of picture). Next to this chest they packed a small cabinet with two drawers, the drawers packed full of seed packets for planting crops once they got to Oregon country (top drawer pulled out in picture).

They also carefully packed the mother's spinning wheel (in my fingers) and extra fabric for making their own clothes. The trundle bed for the children to sleep in at night was stored under the big bed at the back of the wagon (pulled out, with blue blanket showing, a soccer ball and a pair of green flipflops! Hey, it can't all be authentic!).

On the outside of the wagon they packed a chest full of dishes and pots and pans they would need for cooking each day. They also lashed their plow to the side of the wagon. This would be an important tool once they reached their new land!

They all owned horses for pulling their wagons west, but they planned on purchasing oxen at a later date, so they also hung an ox yoke on the back of the wagon.

When they were packed up and ready to go, they set out full of hope!

Every night they circled the wagons and let the children play in the center. They made a large fire for cooking and for warmth.

They sat together, eating and talking and thanking God for a good days' travel. Sometimes they told stories and played instruments and sang songs. Every Sunday they worshipped together, reading from the Bible so carefully packed in the chest.

The pass through the Rocky Mountains was narrow and treacherous, but they all passed through safely. They stopped to thank God before moving on.

Finally, they made it to Oregon Territory! They helped each other build houses and plant crops. And they all worked hard and lived well for the rest of their days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


4 year old Little Man, at bedtime last night: "Mommy, I'm really thirsty."

Me: "You just drank lots of water after brushing your teeth. Now you'll have to wait until morning to drink more."

Little Man: "But I can't hold my thirsty!"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Creative Menu Planning and some Food Encouragement from the Lord

This month is our last month of guaranteed income. We are hoping and praying for a new job for my hubby soon, and he does have a couple of possibilities that may develop into a job offer. But whether or not they do, and if they do, when, is completely out of our control. So planning for next month has been much on my mind of late. I cannot do anything about the amount due on most of our bills, but I can do something about the grocery budget. I have been spending alot of time trying to plan inexpensive menus, and using this month's grocery money very carefully in order to lay up ingredients for next month when my grocery budget will probably be the smallest it has ever been. Please know, my intention here is not to whine. And I am not motivated by the fear of having nothing next month. I know God will provide for us, and I want to be a good steward of what He provides. Plus I actually love to plan! It has always been fun for me, in a beat-the-system sort of way, to get a great deal on items we normally buy lots of, or to figure out less expensive ways to make a favorite meal, etc.

Grocery shopping this month has looked very different than usual. I have always made an attempt to eat healthy, of course, and to buy as little processed food as possible. But this month I have made a huge effort to shop sales, shopped at lots of different stores, and purchased more staples that I need to prepare myself, such as dried beans, rice, oatmeal in bulk, and chicken (to cut up and cook and freeze in small portions). Last week a local grocery store was having a really great sale on milk, so I went and bought 20 gallons. The clerks looked at me so strangely! But I saved $18.00 so I didn't mind their strange looks. I poured a little off the tops of all of them and put them in our large extra freezer downstairs. I am hoping it will last all the way through February. We freeze milk all the time and it thaws well and tastes great. You should try it! Just be sure to pour a little off the top first so it doesn't burst due to freezing expansion. And you have to shake it up when it thaws because the milkfat tends to settle.

On one of our food co-op orders last year I ordered bulk bags of several different types of beans and still have a good quantity left. So this is the month to learn to cook with beans! Many people are concerned about the fact that beans can cause gas, and I confess that I am too. But I have read that our digestive systems can adjust to eating more beans so that over time this is not an issue. The reason it is usually an issue for us Americans is that our bodies are not accustomed to eating beans on a regular basis. I have received lots of helpful advice from this website. It is full of good tips on how to eat healthily and inexpensively, and has lots of good recipes. Check it out! And I am happy to report that the delicious black bean quesadillas we had this past week gave us NO gas whatsoever! (aren't you glad you came to my blog today?)

Our church gave us a large ham for Christmas. What a wonderful treat! We used it for two large dinners (one with lots of company), numerous lunches, a delicious split pea soup made from the bone, and I have several bags of cubed ham in my freezer to add to other recipes. What a blessing!

Where does my new interest in cooking more vegetable based meals for my family come in? Well, although I cannot afford to make some vegetarian recipes right now due to the cost, there are many that are very inexpensive to make. And I will save money on meat! After looking at lots of recipes online and getting a tad discouraged, I ended up going to a local grocery store that was having a sale on produce, purchasing some of their cheapest veggies, and then coming home and looking up recipes that use those ingredients. Hopefully my family will like them! You can check on the "menus" section in my right sidebar each week to see what our vegetarian meals are, and I'll let you know how it goes. I have noticed that many non-meat recipes call for cumin, so I had to purchase a large jar of cumin and I think now I am good to go!

By way of comparison, our usual grocery budget for our family of 7 is $800/month. This includes toiletries and pullups. We have 3 boys who are still in pullups at night, so this expense alone is $75/month. This month we have only spent $650, and this includes a lot of food for next month's use, as well as stocking up on toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue! Think of all the money I could have been saving if I shopped this way all the time!

Despite the planning and preparing, I found myself feeling discouraged that I had not started sooner, that I couldn't "store up" more for next month. Well the Lord is just so good, isn't He? Guess what the children and I read this past Monday during our daily Bible time?

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food? And the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap OR STORE AWAY IN BARNS, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:25-26

I had never really paid much attention to that phrase, or store away in barns, before. But that is what I have been trying to do, and feeling somewhat discouraged that I was not able to "store up" more. Well, the birds don't store up at all, yet God takes care of them! Now I am not advocating no planning or preparation for the future, but the Lord used this to encourage me that what I really need to do is ENJOY the Lord's provision for EACH DAY and NOT WORRY about the future! A lot can happen between now and February. Maybe my dh will have a job by then! Or maybe God wants to show Himself in some other amazing way. I was also reminded of the Lord's Prayer, where we are taught to say "give us this day our DAILY bread". I think God wants me to live more in the moment and not so much in the future. I love God for being so patient with me, and for encouraging me in the ways that He knows I specifically need. He is so good.

"Lord, thank you for your provision for us today. We get to eat 3 satisfying meals today, so much more than much of the world. Thank you that you know our needs. We trust You to provide for us. We depend on You. We look to You. Please encourage my husband in his job search, and bring him to the perfect job for him at the perfect time for our family. Thank you for your encouragement, and for the truth of your Word. I love you. Amen."

Friday, January 16, 2009


Me, while we were making covered wagons out of shoe boxes and I was fashioning a trundle bed for inside:

"Little Man, do you know what a trundle bed is?"

Little Man, clearly excited that he knew the answer: "It's a bed made from trundle!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


6 year old C, upon tasting the black bean quesadillas last night, and with a surprised smile on his face:

"You know mommy, these are not *totally* disgusting!" (be still my heart!)

Little Man, as I was getting ready to pray with him before nap time this afternoon, and we were talking about how he really needed to sleep and not just "rest":

"Well my brain just keeps thinking and I don't know how to make it stop!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Three Health Goals for 2009

I mentioned previously that my 3 goals for this new year are all health related. They are:

1. Walk 1 mile every day M-F. I have set exercise goals before where I intended to exercise 2 or 3 times per week, and what ended up happening is that when exercise didn't happen on Monday I'd think, "no problem, I'll do it tomorrow". And when it didn't happen on Tuesday I'd think, "well, if I do it on W, Th and F, I'll still meet my goal". And when it didn't happen on Wed I would get discouraged and just give up, knowing I wasn't going to meet my goal. I have realized that in order to make exercise a part of my daily routine, it needs to be part of my DAILY ROUTINE! I have a Leslie Sansone "walk away the pounds" video that has both a 1 and 2 mile walk on it. Basically marching in place in front of your tv, with a few additional steps to change it up a little. Does it get boring? Yes, eventually. Does it get the job done with a minimum of fuss, without having to leave the house? Yes. The 1 mile walk, from warmup to cooldown stretch, is 22 minutes. I can find time for 22 minutes. The week of New Year's I walked all 5 days. Last week was exceptionally busy and I only walked twice. But I decided not to beat myself up about it. Life happens. So far this week I have walked both Monday and today! And I have noticed already that it is really helping the arthritis in my knees.

2. Cook 1 vegetarian meal for my family each week. I have been poking around blogs and websites searching for good recipes. I really can't afford to have a "flop" right now - I need to make every food dollar count, so I want to choose recipes that have the greatest chance of success. Tonight we had Black Bean Quesadillas which were excellent! My husband raved about them!! (yay! I am always so happy when he loves the food I prepare!). They were very healthy, very cheap, and very delicious. Great combination. :-) And all the fresh cilantro made our house smell like a mexican restaurant! I got the recipe from my friend Susan's food blog. Thank you Susan! (Her name is a hyperlink - click on it and it will take you to her food blog). We got mixed reactions from the children. Two of the kids loved them. Two of the kids liked them okay. And one hated them. Any guesses on who was the hater?

I already have our vegetarian meal picked out for next week and I'm really excited to be starting this journey toward even healthier eating!

3. Eliminate white sugar from our diet. This will be the hardest one to do, but I am ready to bite the bullet. I have been convicted about this for a long time but just tried to ignore it. That ignoring thing only works so long. To accomplish this, I have set short term goals. First of all, we are limiting our consumption of breakfast cereal to 3 times a week. Pound for pound, breakfast cereal in bags is actually a very cheap way to eat breakfast. But it's also a sugary way to eat breakfast. I used to have a rule that I would not buy a breakfast cereal unless sugar was at least the third ingredient listed. Do you know how many cereals that eliminates? Most of them! So sometime last year I got lazy and just bought one of each kind of bagged cereal whenever we did our big shopping trip. Well, no more. We are eating oatmeal, muffins and yogurt, or french toast on the other days.

We already don't drink soda or any drink with added sugar. So the other big culprit is baking. I have used sucanat for baking off and on for a few years already, but I have not been totally happy with the results. The taste of the finished product was the same as if I'd used white sugar, but the texture was different. And since sucanat is brown (the word comes from SUgar CAne NAtural and is non-refined cane sugar. Since the molasses has not been processed out it is brown in color - it looks granular like white sugar, only brown) the color of my baked goods would be darker. A couple years ago I began just immediately halfing the sugar in all my baking recipes. Amazingly, the taste has not changed (at least not that we can tell!). So now the next step that I have taken is to mix white sugar and sucanat half and half. I am also experimenting with mixing sucanat and brown sugar in my baking. I am committed to slowly switching over in the process to eliminate white sugar.

The other big culprit is condiments. There is a LOT of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup in every day things we eat. Ketchup. Mayo. Pickles. It is a little more work to find sugarless versions of these items, but I think it is worth it. I have begun reading labels more consistently again and changing my shopping habits accordingly.

So there you have it. These goals are all incremental steps that are easy to measure and relatively easy to follow. Once I have these little steps down, I will take bigger steps. Judging from the last 10 years or so, it is just never going to get any easier to make healthy changes than it is right now. So now's the time!! Pray for me if you think of it! And feel free to ask me how things are going. I need a little accountability now and then. :-)

New 'Do May Be a Thing of the Past

Well, those of you who asked to see my new hairstyle may have to be disappointed! So far I have not been able to re-create it, and my efforts this morning left me with a frizzy mess that looks rather horrid. I didn't have the right tools or the right "product". I wish I'd taken before/after pics right away! You'll have to be patient or I'll have to go back and have another lesson in how to fix my hair. Or both. I love it regardless because my gray is covered and the bushy-ness is gone. And if I don't try to do something different, it will curl nicely in my former style. So, we shall see! Stay tuned.....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Us!

17 years ago yesterday, my husband and I embarked on married life together. It was a blissfully happy day for both of us! Despite the occasional disagreement, we are still madly in love with each other. In honor of our anniversary I thought I would post 17 random tidbits that you may not know about us.

1. We honeymooned in British Columbia, Canada for one amazing week.

2. We were both unemployed when we got married (he had just separated from the Navy and I was between jobs due to the marriage move).

3. We planned our wedding long distance. I was living in Indiana, he was in Virginia, and the wedding was in Washington State. I flew to WA two weeks before the wedding, taking my wedding dress as a carry on!

4. The only country we have traveled to TOGETHER since marriage is Canada (prior to marriage it was lots of other ones though!).

5. My husband wears the same pant size as when we got married.

6. I don't.

7. My husband loves recreation on water, and if you are a regular blog reader you know that I hate it.

8. Our first argument was over whether or not a landfill constitutes a mountain. He said it did. I, coming from the land of real mountains, said it didn't. :-)

9. We have never owned a brand new vehicle since getting married.

10. We were married for 5 years before having our first child.

11. Waiting that long was not our choice but now I wouldn't trade it for anything!

12. My husband is a GREAT childbirth coach.

13. I am also a pretty good childbirth coach (unless my friend Sally refutes this!).

14. We have attended the same church since getting married.

15. We love long meandering drives.

16. He is even more pro-homeschooling than I am.

17. He is reserved by nature and I am out-going. We balance each other out perfectly!

Thank you, Lord, for 17 wonderful years with my man. I love him and I love you for giving us to each other. Help me to be the wife that You desire me to be. The wife that he needs. Help me to be faithful in the small daily things that he has come to depend on me for, and help me to support him like a helpmeet and not like a mother. Please keep his thoughts centered on You, Lord, all the time but especially now as he is unemployed. Direct his steps and lead him to the right job in the perfect time. Help him to know how much his family loves him. Amen.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Salon Experience

So. I went to the salon that my benefactor chose for me on Saturday morning. It was beautiful! Much nicer than the chain salon I normally go to. The kind of place where they take your coat and hang it up for you, and offer to get you something to drink. The kind of place that also has a spa where you can receive manicures, pedicures, facials, and massages. Very, very nice. I was glad I had put on makeup that morning!

I got a very cute, very sweet stylist named Heather who turned out to also be a christian! We had a lovely talk about Jesus, churches, different ministries, family, etc. She asked me lots of questions about how I normally wear my hair and how I take care of it. She totally got it that I don't have much time to fuss with my hair in the mornings, but also encouraged me to get out of my rut a little bit. So I consented to getting a completely different hair cut. It would be too hard to try and explain here how the cut was different, but it was TOTALLY different than anything I have experienced before. The actual cutting was different. It was very interesting to watch. She taught me how to style it the way she did, and I think it will be easy to copy and won't take more time than I take now (which isn't much).

Knowing that I would have to sit for about 45 minutes letting the color "process", I was tempted to do school prep while waiting. But I was pretty sure my benefactor had wanted me to feel completely pampered, so instead I took a new fun book to read. I thoroughly enjoyed my two hours there, reading without interruption and getting fussed over.

And I left the salon with a sassy new 'do!

My hubby and I had a WONDERFUL day/night together. We were able to totally ignore our PIT of a house, with Christmas decorations still out, ornaments still sitting on a card table to be packed away, school books covering the table, and stacks of stuff on the kitchen counter, and instead really focus on each other and reconnecting. I am so thankful to our friends for watching the kids overnight. It was just what we needed! Re-entry into the real world has been a bit rough today, but that's a different post.....

My hair looks a little different today after sleeping on it one night, but hopefully later I will be able to post a pic.

Thank you again, my sweet anonymous friend!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another Blessing

I am sitting here crying. I just got off the phone with the manager of a salon in my town ~ they called to say that someone donated a cut and color for me!!!! I am overwhelmed. And I am ashamed that I complained about my hair on my blog. Was it one of my few faithful readers who did this??? Or someone else who just noticed my roots and decided to take pity and bless me? I don't know who did it, but if you are reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I am so undeserving of this generosity, which makes it all the more wonderful. The manager of the salon thought it was pretty wonderful too. She said things like this "never happen nowadays!".

Hair is such a silly thing to complain about. But it is usually the little things that can totally make our day, and this just totally made my day! AND.....our wedding anniversary is this Sunday and a friend offered to keep our children overnight. So the timing is perfect! I will go get beautiful at the salon and my hubby and I will enjoy a quiet overnighter at our home hotel! :-)

Thank you, my anonymous friend. And thank you, Lord.

Now I've gotta wipe these tears out of the keyboard.......

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More on the New Schedule (part 15)

I have had a few questions about our new winter schedule posted below, so here is a bit of an explanation and an update on a change I've made already. (yes! already! after only one day...)

Where it says "Bible with Mom", this is our family devotional time and consists of me reading from the Bible outloud to all the children while they draw what I'm reading about in their Bible Journals. After reading, we have prayer time and pray for the persecuted church, missionaries, our relatives, our pastor, and our president. We have a prayer notebook with pictures of many of these people inside, and we hold the pictures as we pray and rotate through them. We finish up this time with hymn singing. We usually learn 1 or sometimes 2 new hymns each week. We don't sing hymns very much anymore at our church, and I LOVE hymns! They are so rich in theology and truth, and the language is often so much more expressive than the language we commonly use today.

After Bible time, our two older children have their own personal quiet time in their rooms. They set a timer for the same number of minutes as their age and are free to read wherever they desire in their own bibles.

IEW stands for Institute for Excellence in Writing, and is the writing curriculum that we use. It is wonderful, I love it, and I wish we had time for it every day, but right now that is just not working for me. So our older two do it together 3 times a week. On the other two days at that same time, our oldest and I study Latin together. We did it today as a matter of fact ~ I was very rusty!!

ETC stands for Explode the Code and is a phonics workbook series.

At lunch time we practice poetry memorization, and at dinner time we dazzle daddy with it! We use another product from IEW called "Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization." The kids love doing this, and even our Little Man has learned several poems!

Our daughter, whose color is red, has "History Reading, AQ's and TQ's" after lunch. AQ's stand for accountability questions and TQ's stand for thinking questions. This is part of our history curriculum, Tapestry of Grace, and are questions that can either be answered from her reading or that require a little thought and input from her own mind. She is learning to answer them as she reads as opposed to answering them all in one day after she has done all the reading and forgotton what she read 3 days earlier.

Before we started back to school yesterday, I told the children about the new schedule, and that chores would now have to be done BEFORE having breakfast. The children gave me shocked looks, but when my hubby told them that if we lived on a farm they would probably do chores for about an hour before eating, they were quite content to do their one little 10 minute cleaning job. Problem was, not everyone finished at the same time. So two of the children were still eating breakfast at 9:00 when it was time to begin our Bible time. Since this is something that we all do together, the rest of us had to wait for them.

So last night at dinner, we told the children that not only would they have to do their chore before being allowed to eat breakfast, the kitchen and dining room would be closing at 9:00, and all food and dishes would need to be cleared at that time. We heard gasps, and "how come you are being so mean?". Wellllllll, what a pleasant surprise this morning to see ALL of the children getting dressed as quickly as possible, making their beds, and hi-tailing it downstairs to do their chore before I had even finished putting in my contacts!! They wanted to be sure they had plenty of time to EAT! :-)

I have found the secret. Food is a powerful motivator!!!

I am thankful for two days of accomplishing much, and pray that this new schedule will continue to help keep us on track.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New School Schedule (part 14)

One of my big projects over the Christmas break was making a new schedule for our school routine. I have had a MOTH schedule for many years. MOTH stands for Manager Of Their Homes, and is a scheduling tool originally made for larger families by Teri Maxwell of the Titus2 website. The book itself was extremely helpful for me to read and think through BEFORE attempting to make my first schedule. It helped me think through all of the things that needed to get done in a given day or even during the year (like those once a year cleaning jobs), and how to organize the children, myself, and my home so that all of the needed things could be accomplished. If you struggle with "getting it all done" I highly recommend this book!

Something else the book helped me with was figuring out what every member of the family would be doing at any given time. If I wanted to have a reading lesson when our oldest was in kindergarten, what would I do with the baby during this time? Where would the 2 year old and 3 year old be, and how could I best ensure that the reading lesson would not be interrupted?

Even though this book and scheduling tool were extremely helpful to me, I used (and still use) my schedule as more of a "routine" than a strict schedule. I did not want to overschedule every single minute. So for a few years my nicely color coded MOTH schedule taped to the fridge just said "school" for the 9-12 time slot for the school aged children. This worked well for quite a while, but this past fall we all struggled alot with our routine, me probably more than anyone. We started late. We didn't get our chores finished in a timely manner. Having 4 working at the same table meant that me and the student I was working with at the time were often interrupted. Our 6th grader and I were seldom doing Latin. Once we made it to lunch, I would often give the children an extra long recess, wanting to give our youngest as much outside play time as possible before his nap. That meant that we weren't finishing school until dinner time. This was a bummer for all of us. I knew in my heart that we could do better, and I had it in mind to make a new schedule that for a while was very tight - every subject scheduled out - so we could see how long things were actually taking and whether or not our allotted times were realistic. But I never had the time to do it.

Re-thinking the schedule and creating it in large poster form that all the children could read and follow throughout the day was one of my major goals during our break from school, and I am thankful to say that I got it done! We have had "family colors" for years, with everything color coded from notebooks to toothbrushes, so everyone is very used to looking for their color (I am "plum for mum"!). Today was our first day following the new schedule, and so far it is working GREAT! The children are enjoying recess as I type this. :-)

Here is our new schedule on a poster hanging prominently in our school room (the kitchen eating area). I am sure we will have a few kinks to work out, like when piano lessons alter our afternoon schedule, but I'm thankful to have a little poster to be accountable to. Just knowing it is there, and that the children are checking it frequently, is helping me to stay focused. If we can all stay focused enough throughout the day, we can finish by 2:30 or 3:00!!

You can click on the poster to see it larger. I don't know how long we will use it as is, so strictly scheduled, but probably as long as it takes us to build better habits. I have tried to work it so that when I am working on something brain-intensive with one child (like a reading lesson with 6 year old C, whose color is yellow) the others are doing things that they can do independently. We'll see how it all pans out. Okay now, off to do booktime with the younger two!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Update to the Update

Well, God is so good. Immediately after posting the previous entry I locked myself in our bedroom and had my prayer time with the Lord. It was very cleansing. :-) I literally cried into my pillow until I couldn't cry anymore and told God everything. I laid there for a long time, reciting scripture outloud and just letting God speak to me. Being still (that is hard for me to do and I definitely don't do it enough!).

I considered deleting the previous entry and just posting this one, but then you would think I was amazing and I am not. GOD is amazing. Truly! He took me from selfish and fearful to submissive and at peace in about an hour. :-)

Here is what I know:

The Lord is good and His love endures forever. (Ps. 100:5)

He gives good gifts to those who ask Him. (Matthew 7:11)

There will be trouble in this world, but He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. (Ps. 103:8)

He satisfies my desires with good things. (Ps. 103:5)

Nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)

His grace is sufficient. (2 Cor. 12:9)

He is enough! He. Is. Enough. Isn't that wonderful and amazing and powerful and humbling and satisfying???? How I love Him. And how I praise Him! I am amazed that He loves me in spite of myself, but His Word makes it very clear that He does. His death on the cross to take away the penalty of my sin makes it clear that He does. Each of us matter so very much to Him. I am filled with gratitude at the tremendous gift of His love. And at least for today, I am resting in that.


Our tree is OUT of the house. Needles are vacuumed up. Yippee!!! The ornaments are all on a card table in the family room waiting to be packed away, but already that room looks so much bigger without the tree. I do love a beautiful Christmas tree, but there comes a time when it just needs to come down.

We start school tomorrow. I finished a big scheduling project this afternoon (more on that in another post) that I think will help to keep ME on track throughout the day. I am excited to get back into our routine. Everything starts back up this week: piano, MOPS, Awana, youth group, virtual co-op, real life co-op, tutoring. Everything except Tae Kwon Do. It will be busy.

I am more than a month overdue in getting my gray roots colored. I cannot justify the expense right now, but I am sorta depressed about the prospect of having to go back to gray. I have been coloring for a year and a half now and I'm sure in that time my "natural" color has become even more gray than before. Fortunately I am tall and I have curly hair, both of which help to hide the gray. If you know me in real life please pretend you don't see it, or better yet, tell me my hair looks fabulous!! :-)

Still no job for my hubby. I'm going to be really transparent here and say that I am depressed about that too. I want to have the faith of a spiritual giant, but right now I feel like a spiritual wimp. I have so much to be thankful for that I hate to whine about it, but I am really afraid of losing the house. I don't want to be one of the statistics that we hear about on the evening news. I don't want to have to live with my mother in law (though I love her very much) or stop homeschooling to go to work, or any number of awful scenarios I have imagined. I am so tired of weighing every single purchase. I'm tired of not being able to afford something one of the children needs. I'm sad that we probably won't be able to go "home" and visit my parents this summer. It has been 3 years since we've been back to my ancestral and I was so looking forward to it. And worst of all I feel terribly guilty for having these feelings. So. Please pray for me. My attitude sets the tone for the whole family, and I simply must live out the faith that I profess to have, now more than ever. I am painfully aware of my own weakness and inadequacy, so any peace or trust or faith that is evidenced in my life is COMPLETELY the Lord. I need to have another good long prayer time, but part of me is afraid of voicing everything I fear, even to the Lord. Isn't that weird?

Our son who lives with SPD got very frustrated with one of his brothers this afternoon and you know what he did? He stormed upstairs, banged his door shut, and sat on his bed for awhile. I was so proud of him!!!!! This time last year he would have hauled off and hit the offending brother. He is slowly learning to remove himself from the frustrating situation and find a place to cool off. I told him that I noticed he was growing in self control. That made him feel very good. Thank you Lord.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!!!

Good-bye 2008, hello 2009!

For the first time ever, we let the older 4 children stay up until midnight to welcome in the new year. We shared sparkling raspberry juice and cheered and hugged and kissed each other. And then went to bed. :-)

Today we are working on setting goals for the new year. We do this every year and it is really fun to go back and look at some of their goals from years past and see whether or not they were met. We have each of the children choose ONE thing they want to learn, or learn to do, or do differently during the new year. It can be a physical thing, like learning to tie their shoes, or a relational thing, like being more kind to a certain sibling. We write them down in a little notebook and periodically the children like to check the notebook and see how they are doing. Some goals from past years include being potty trained, learning to ride a bike without training wheels, and not yelling.

If I have their permission I will share later what goals they chose for this new year!

As for me, I am a very goal oriented person (surprise, surprise) and I love the "fresh start" aspect of January. Especially since it comes in the middle of winter when it's cold and dark and harder at times to be motivated. I have set 3 goals for the new year, and they are all health related. They are small and measurable, so I will have the greatest chance for long term success. I will share them at a later time too. Right now I am off to exercise! :-)