Monday, September 29, 2008

Mentoring moments

This Saturday Paige and I awoke with anticipation of what the morning would bring. Before bed on Friday I had set out the tea cups, tea, spoons, honey, and books in our homeschool room. She woke and found it all ready to go, and knew I had been thinking of her as well.

We are both early risers, so after taking the dog out we had the house to ourselves and had another special time of chatting away. We used the Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood for our springboard and the next 30 minutes flew by. (A half hour seems just about the right amount of time at this age).

We talked again, briefly about the joys of the age my daughter finds herself in. The fun of childhood, and yet approaching the verge of early womanhood. Still much to learn, but also plenty of time to do so. I encouraged her by acknowledging the breath of fresh air she brings into our home each day, thanking her for her dear, gentle ways. She has an amazing gift of sweeping away the little ones when they need attention while I am in the midst of something else. She can soothe them and make them giggle again almost as well as I. Her gentleness and sweetness make up for what she may lack in maturity.

We talked seriously about dreams and ambitions. She shared that she enjoys not having to worry about it for now. The day will come, but for now she is right. All she needs to focus on is growing and learning. That carefree spirit is a bit contagious. How often I get bogged down in future matters that truly matter little today.

We also talked about the need to develop character. As we spoke, this spoke as much to me as her. Growing in character and godliness continues our whole lives. The book challenged us to list the ways she cheerfully served others for the day and this has turned into a few day long project. Each day she finds a few ways to serve others, but wants to do even more, and more consistently throughout the day. Reshaping a mindset takes a long time, again a challenge to me to set the standard and example here.

Challenges to me as Mom to continue to raise the bar, strengthen my hands, stay the course. Joy to see the growing young lady before my eyes. Encouragement to see the bud of a mature relationship, slowly growing into more than mother to young child.

I already look forward to next Saturday morning . . .

Fall flavors

With fall comes my favorite season of the year. We haven't taken part in celebrations on one particular day, but celebrate the whole season through. I love the changing leaves, the crisp air, the feel of getting comfortable with the new school year, and the end of the harvest season. We try to make at least one trip to pick apples and pick up a couple pumpkins to transform into a window or front step decoration. Perhaps most of all, I love pulling out my fall recipes and enjoying the flavors of the season.


We have already made one batch of pumpkin pie in our house, and now I just need to get my next batch of pumpkin baked for making pumpkin bread. Here is my all time favorite pumpkin bread recipe (adapted from All recipes Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread by Laurie Bennett).

Here's my tweaked and slightly healthier version:

1 3/4 cup cooked and mashed pumpkin

4 eggs

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup ground flax seed

2/3 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 1/2 cups white wheat flour (I have made this with regular whole wheat as well, we just prefer the white wheat)

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flower three 7x3 loaf pans ( I prefer to do one loaf and then a bunch of muffins of various sizes).

Mix together pumpkin, eggs, oil, flax, water and sugar until well blended.

In separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients and blend into pumpkin mixture until blended.

Pour into pans.

Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean (about 20 minutes for muffins and 8 minutes for mini-muffins).

These are incredible fresh from the oven, and as impossible as it may seem, even better the next day.

Use your pumpkin carving time intentionally. Never let a moment slip through your fingers. We love to carve pumpkins with shapes, patriotic designs, fall pictures, or our own inventions. You can use this time to talk about the light of Christ that should shine brightly in each of our own lives. One idea for a devotional time built off of pumpkin carving time can be found here.

We have recently enjoyed finding patterns online to import onto our pumpkin. The Huggies website had a few cute Disney designs. We have also gotten some neat designs off of this site in the past. They have a lot that we would not use, but we did enjoy some of the patriotic or autumn ones.

Don't forget to save the seeds to bake and snack on. I was going to type up some simple instructions and suggestions, but I found this very thorough posting on pumpkin seeds, so feel free to check out more information than you could possibly need on using and enjoying the pumpkin seeds.


We just went to the orchard and came home with about 20 pounds of apples in our half bushel bag. We probably consumed about 5 pounds during our time picking as well!

Now, what to do with them. Most of them will get eaten plain or with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on. Others will turn into juice, apple butter, pie, applesauce, muffins, cobbler, apple crisp, and I think I will just have to whip up a batch of my favorite apple treat . . .

If you have some time on your hands or you have kids who like to help in the kitchen, these caramel apple bites are amazing, although a bit time consuming to construct. I have made this recipe as is a few times and it has gotten rave revues!

Whether enjoying pumpkins or apples or just the wonderful fall season, I hope you have a wonderful fall, and discover how others celebrate the season at Heart of the Matter Online.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Spaghetti and Lasagna recipes

I put up my menu for the week (well, pretty much every week), and here are a couple of the recipes that we enjoy each week in our house:

Spaghetti Sauce:

I make a huge batch of this that I break into 6 meals (five for the freezer, one which we eat right away).

Into my crockpot:

5 – 15 oz cans of tomato sauce (I use Trader Joe’s organic)

5 – 6 oz cans of tomato paste (same brand)

2 pounds of ground beef (I get my helpers to help me roll this into small meatballs, takes about a half hour. I throw them in raw)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 1/2 tsp. Oregano

1 tsp. Black pepper

3/4 tsp. Basil

1/2 tsp. garlic

Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low 6-8. Meatballs should be cooked through when done. I freeze in two cup portions with about 25 small meatballs in each. When I defrost and cook I add an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce to the two cups of pre-made sauce. This covers about 3/4 pound of pasta and feeds our family of 7-8 when accompanied with garlic bread, salad, and carrots.


2 - 15 oz cans of tomato sauce

2 - 6 ounce cans of tomato paste

1 - 8 oz can of tomato sauce

1 pound ground beef

9 lasagna noodles (why cook the whole pound when you don't need them?)

16 oz of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 tsp. Oregano

1/2 tsp. Black pepper

1/4 tsp. Basil

1/8 tsp. garlic

Prep: Oven to 350, grease 9x13 pan and coat with half of the 8 oz can of tomato sauce

Brown ground beef, drain.

Add in tomato sauce, paste and spices

Cook noddles according to package.

Place three noodles in bottom of pan, then 1/3 of cheese, then 1/3 of meat/sauce mixture. Repeat for three layers (will finish with sauce). Cook uncovered for 30-40 minutes until bubbly around edges and hot in center.

I'll put up more recipes as I have time . . .

Menu Planning Monday


My first, and perhaps only, edition of Menu Plan Monday.

Why first?

Because I have procrastinated terribly at this task (posting it anyway, I almost always have my menu planned for about the last year or so).

Why only?

Because in our house we eat basically the same menu every week with the exception of Sunday lunch (or dinner, depending on what you call it . . . the meal we eat when we return home from morning services at church.)

Really? Every week?

Yup, pretty much. We have a number of supertasters in our family. Never heard of that, eh? (here's an unusual, unscientific test to determine your tasting level, or this slightly more scientific-sounding one). I was skeptical until the Tribune had an article on it a couple years back and now I see even Wikipedia has an entry covering it. It must be legit if you find it there. J Supertasters have super sensitive taste buds, or more of them, and enjoy only fairly simple, non-combined foods without lots of sauces or unusual spices. They can tell when I switch the brand of tomato sauce I use, or if I use a tablespoon less butter in the Mac and Cheese, or add even a smidgen of whole wheat to a recipe. The road to healthier eating has been slow and not without its bumps, but we have made considerable progress in the last few years. Supertasters have strong aversions to cabbage type foods in particular, among other things. We keep things boring simple at meal time in our house.

I do rearrange the meals based on our activities, guests, and last minute schedule changes. We generally eat all 21 meals together as a whole family (my husband rides his bike home from his office on campus of the school we live at), and my brother in law joins us for lunch most weekdays since he works with my husband.

For this coming week we don’t have anything too unusual . . .


Breakfast: cereal (I like to start the week easy and the kids can help themselves while I get extra cleaning time in), orange juice, grapefruit

Snack: apples

Lunch: Sandwiches (PB&J), carrots, water

Snack: pretzels(in car on the way to ballet and drama)

Dinner: Chicken and rice (usually rice-a-roni, I try to also make some plain brown rice, which I prefer.)


Breakfast: pancakes and/or waffles (I keep them both going at the same time so I can feed more mouths at a time), milk, fruit.

Snack: hardboiled eggs

Lunch: Beef Stew (from a can) and buttered homemade bread

Snack: crackers and peanut butter

Dinner: Cheeseburgers (I don’t add anything to my ground beef, it is straight beef from our local farmer, no breadcrumbs, spices, eggs – nothing!) and baked fries


Breakfast: oatmeal with nuts and blueberries (optional, most like it plain)

Snack: kiwi

Lunch: sandwiches, carrots, water

Snack: pretzels

Dinner: Spaghetti, salad, garlic bread


Breakfast: scrambled eggs and toast, milk

Snack: oranges

Lunch: Chicken and Potatoes (this is a favorite around here, and the easiest real meal I make)

To make this I put chicken breasts in one pan with a dash of olive oil, a few sprinkles of garlic powder, salt, and oregano and cover the pan with foil. The potatoes get diced and tossed in another pan with 3 Tbsp butter and sprinklings of salt and pepper, and then cover the pan with foil. I put it in the 250 degree oven when we start school in the morning about 9:00 and take it out to eat at noon. Salad and water to drink completes our meal.

Snack: choice (fruit, veggie, pretzels, crackers, toast – do it yourself)

Dinner: Pizza (I buy frozen from a pizzeria that we love or else make homemade, this week we will have frozen) and a movie in the living room


Breakfast: French Toast

Snack: fruit kabobs (my kids love making their own)

Lunch: Sandwiches (probably grilled cheese for a switch), carrots and water

Snack: popcorn (popped in coconut oil, with a little salt and butter. Sometimes I make a second batch with a little white sugar - 1/4 cup - for a kettle corn taste)

Dinner: Mac and Cheese with ground beef and sausage, peas, salad


Breakfast: oatmeal and yogurt

Snack: nuts (soccer day)

Lunch: Left over buffet

Dinner: Lasagna


Breakfast: Cinnamon rolls and smoothies (yogurt, blueberries, bananas, ground flax, honey)

Lunch: Roast (this is the one meal that varies regularly we either have turkey or a roast, and occasionally go out to eat instead) with carrots, beans and potatoes, homemade rolls, and salad

Dinner: Pizza (yup, twice every week. Works for me . . .)

Now that I look this over, I realize that I do offer other healthier options (lots of salad and fruit around our house) and maybe I will do a “Part 2” next week with how those fit into our regular meals. I try about once a month to offer something new during a “sandwich” meal. That way it is not the main course, but lets some of our non-super tasters explore new tastes and dishes. Also, right now I am working on retraining my tastebuds, loosely following Perfect Weight America’s plan. I will write up what I eat this week and post it next Monday.

I have also written up a second post with some of the recipes and directions for our meals. You can find that here. I'll add more to later posts as I have time.

Verse of the week -- Galatians 6:4,5

A few rare times I don't have a book by my bedside, and other times I have many. Right now, I have many. Among others, I started Ordering Your Private World, which I have long wanted to read. Then a book came in at the library that a friend had recommended, You Matter More than You Think. These two have many interesting corollaries as I switch back and forth between them. They also weigh in on two sides of a balance that I have recently found challenging -- Selflessness and self-care, more on that in future posts, I know.

In the second of the two, Leslie Parrott writes specifically for women and delves into a challenging topic that I look forward to working through in my own life. Near the beginning of her book she quotes these verses from Galatians 6:4,5 that continue to come to mind. She uses the Message version which says, "Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."

I had to look it up in the King James for even greater richness, "4But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For every man shall bear his own burden."

This spoke to me so much as a mom. We love to play the comparison game, which Paul challenges specifically a few verses earlier at the close of chapter 5. We love to worry about everything except what God wants us to worry about.

In my own life I think this stems partly from an overactive occupation with self-judgment. I look at my own accomplishments too critically, and if I can find a weakness in someone else in an area where I enjoy success, somehow that makes me better. Hence, the reason I need this challenge to prove my own work, examine it, take a closer look, stand accountable for it. And, in so doing, rejoice in it. I can rejoice in those successes that God has brought into my life and character, into my home and children. Rejoicing in Him, not in prideful accomplishments, of course, but finding joy not judgment! Not rejoicing in my so called successes as compared to someone else, but simply in and of themselves.

When I come to the end of this life, and in some ways, at the end of each day, I have to answer for how I spent those 24 hours, those months and years that God allotted to me. With the skills and abilities, disruptions and tragedies, the victories and milestones, the tears and laughter that came with each day. Did I accomplish all that God wanted me to do each day? He placed me here with these children, these challenges, these circumstances, His unique expectations for working in and through me. I alone will answer for how I invested or squandered my resources.

I look forward to sinking myself into my work and life as a wife and homeschool mom all the more this week.

But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

~Galatians 6:4,5~

Friday, September 26, 2008

Haven't seen it, but . . .

Opening today, from the creators of Facing the Giants:

Here is the official site for the film, Fireproof.

To find a theater showing this film near where you live, check this link.

For some more information, I found this interview with Kirk Cameron about the film.

And, a follow-up website with lots of information on "fireproofing" your marriage.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Some links I have enjoyed for one reason or another:

Someone in our homeschool group started circulating this video that reminds all of us homeschooling moms that we will survive!

Which reminded me of another homeschool video that always brings a chuckle.

In a more serious vein, Your Sacred Calling offered up a powerful reminder about not growing complacent.

As usual, I found a challenge and encouragement at Generation Cedar as well.

And, in our tree studies we stumbled upon a tree that we have probably passed hundreds of times, but never noticed. We used this great site to figure out that we had an interesting Eastern Rosebud in our path.

Hopefully something useful or at least something to give you a little laugh as we head into our final day of the regular week!

Amazing picture by Jean Guichard

As I got ready this morning the words to this precious hymn started running through my mind:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

My hope does not find inspiration in our nation's economy, or lack thereof, but in Christ alone. Who knows what life will look like 5 years from now, or 5 minutes from now for that matter. Fortunately, my hope does not build its foundation in this world, but rather in the one to come. That promise does not change. Even through all the ups and downs I know one day I will stand faultless (WOW!) clothed in His righteousness.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs - Summer photo essay

This week's assignment gave me the opportunity to peruse the many pictures of the summer and briefly relive the memories made and milestones passed. This summer proved itself a monumental one in many ways . . .

School wrapped up on Thursday night and Friday morning we left for Washington DC. Our first big family trip in a few years and we saw and absorbed a lot in the few days we spent there.

On the way home we decided to swing by Niagara Falls and take in the sites.

We returned to an abundant crop of lettuce in our garden and enjoyed this early return on our investment.

A summer at our house would not be complete without fishing. Blake always hauls in the best ones from bass to catfish.

June wraps up with our "baby's" birthday. Three already! We should be wrapping up with diapers by now, too. But, no.

Through the fun of summer we still sneak in school subjects including some fun with art. Sharpies and rubbing alcohol. Fun for all ages.

Summer affords us time to stop and smell the flowers, and pick them, too.

. . . And, just be goofy sometimes, okay, in his case pretty much all the time.

August brings two more birthdays as Paige and Faith celebrate two days apart (and two years). They requested a beach theme and we had fun with the cake.

Shortly after turning seven, Faith lost her first tooth, at Chuck E Cheese no less.

We found it!

With August came a significant change in our lives. We resigned from our position as houseparents(for more info on what we did, feel free to check out the 'work' category of blog postings) which we had held for over nine years. We had an incredible nine years of impacting lives outside of our immediate family for the better and living out our faith in front of the children and families that we served.

We rearranged everything in our home as we now have the whole dorm area to stretch out in. (Love the rubber gloves on their feet.) Lots of painting, furniture moving, and re-moving. Another six months we should be done. . . maybe.

The summer wrapped up with some simple reminders of the season ending and anticipation of the year ahead. We spent a beautiful day at the bog with my parents,

harvested our few, but gigantic, sunflowers,

and enjoyed playing in the rain that drenched our area (among others) for a few days.

Me and a few of my fellow memory makers

So many lessons learned, both academic and eternal. Relationships strengthened. Dreams sustained. Joy built up. A summer well spent.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mentoring my daughters

This past Saturday morning was a long time in the making.

Ever since I first held that tiny newborn little baby with a pink ribboned hat I knew I had a special task in raising my daughter. At a certain age, boys tend to follow their dads around more and enjoy the tools and power toys, whereas girls fall more under my domain for a longer time, and in a deeper way. Not that I have any less responsibility to raise my sons, but definitely a different one.

With my daughters I have more knowledge to pass along, more life experience to share, more mentoring to do. As much as I love to play catch with my son and wrap up each day chatting about the day's events, I have a different role with my daughters, at least at times.

I have long wanted to pick a time to spend one-on-one with each child, but have given up at times when it seemed too hard to keep up with. When my oldest daughter celebrated her ninth birthday this past summer she wanted to go ice skating with just me for her birthday gift. We had an amazing time, and she talked the whole time! I realized that now was the time, capturing this moment, this age, this openness and love.

I heard Shelley Noonan speak at a homeschool convention about mentoring daughters and again felt that longing to set up this type of time with my daughters. I didn't know how to fit it into the schedule, though. This summer as my daughter reached her ninth birthday, and with her birthday request ringing in my ears, I realized I needed to make this happen now.

This past Saturday provided us with a special "first" time together. We had about 30 minutes to use up in between her soccer pictures and her game. So, we snuck away to Panera and capitalized on a gift card I had stored away for a special occasion and the rare alone time we had just then.

We had a great time, just talking and laughing and enjoying a special treat together. We also read the first chapter of the Beautiful Girlhood book together and talked about the joy of childhood merging with the responsibility of maturity in the years to come. We talked about the joy of the age she is at right now. I think it released me as well to realize that we do still have a lot of years ahead of us, and she can still enjoy just enjoying childhood for a bit yet, even as she inches closer to adolescence.

Pumpking Seed Press, Shelley Noonan's company, sells the Beautiful Girlhood book as well as the Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood which offers great questions and Scriptures to supplement an already excellent book. I didn't bring the companion guide with me this time, but I am excited about covering these additional questions and topics this coming Saturday. There are a few books geared toward mentoring daughters of various ages on their website. Christian Book Distributors also sells the Beautiful Girlhood book, and for a dollar less, but not the companion guide. I'm sure that you can mentor your daughters well without these resources, but the key is doing it intentionally. That's where I had to start.

Now that we have started, we are both excited to continue. Before I did not know how to find the time, and now I realize that we can have a little "tea time" with just the two of us right at home almost any time throughout the week. I can always, well almost always, spare 30 minutes to grow that relationship.

So, Saturday morning it is.

Tea in the school room, just the two of us.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Verse of the week -- Nehemiah 6:9

I recently wrapped up reading through the book of Nehemiah during my morning quiet time. A powerful reminder of a life lived with God's focus rather than a human one.

Nehemiah, despite dire consequences, could not prevent his sorrow from overwhelming him in the presence of the king. He sorrowed at the disrepair of his home, specifically the walls around the city of Jerusalem. Despite the knowledge that he could lose his life for not keeping his emotions in check as he served as royal cup bearer, this need consumed him.

As I started reading on, I challenged myself to look at the walls that needed repair in my own life.

Could my marriage use some fortifying?
My parenting skills?
My stewardship?
The fruit of the spirit in my life?
My evangelism efforts?
My self discipline?

Obviously, the list got rather lengthy. I chose a couple to keep in mind through the reading of the rest of the book. Even focusing on just a few areas to build up, the work can grow wearying. I became encouraged and inspired by Nehemiah's unwavering focus to get the job done. So much opposition came up against him, life threatening opposition (hmmm, maybe his eternal focus kept him from fearing for his physical life so often . . .) Yet, Nehemiah stuck to the task that he set out to do.

Even as he faced harassment and threats from other forces he kept on and did not allow fear to control him. He definitely experienced fear, that we know. He did not give into the fear that still seeks to cripple us today. But he cried out to God as it says in chapter six verse nine, "
For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands."

For some reason those last few words jumped out at me as my battle cry for the week ahead.

O God, strengthen my hands!

This is not my work I do, not my task to accomplish. It is His. As I parent, as I fulfill my role as helpmeet to my husband, as I seek greater surrender and discipline in my spiritual walk, I can't do it in my own strength. My hands are definitely weak from work. But it still has to get done.

Every day, I have a job to do, walls to build throughout my home and schedule. We often think of walls as harmful. They block out and obstruct. However, these walls fortify, protect, comfort, unite, strengthen. This work is essential and cannot stop simply because of weary hands.

O God, strengthen my hands!

For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

~Nehemiah 6:9~

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The rest of the story . . .

Yesterday I had this amazing workout in the morning that I could tell stretched me in all kinds of new ways. Well, this morning my leg muscles ached unbelievably! It probably didn't help that I mowed at high speed for an hour at night also . . .

So, I had to Google it, of course, and this is what I found. Whether you have overlunged, or overworked some other muscle group at some point, you might also find this information helpful.

I found this site that offered a good explanation and encouragement. It actually has a name, "Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness (DOMS). The pain is usually felt 12 to 48 hours after exercising."

Studies showed that stretching didn't really help considerably. Ibuprofen can offer temporary relief (but I generally avoid taking any medication if I can). Encouraging light blood flow can bring relief as well (light aerobics). I took a brief walk this morning and did feel better afterward, makes sense.

While I hobble around like a nine-month pregnant woman I will remind myself that I am building new muscle. Yeah! (ooch, ouch!)

The myth of the teachable moment

One mantra of homeschooling, and perhaps motherhood in general, revolves around the teachable moment. I have even said it myself, that we need to look for and capitalize on those teachable moments. People often view these as rare moments when the window of influence opens in our children’s minds. We must remain ever diligent to jump on these opportunities to pour into their life while they soak it all up like a sponge.

The other day I realized that I need to stop talking about and thinking in terms of teachable moments. Because these “moments” really last for 18 years, and beyond. Every moment that we have to interact with our child becomes a teachable moment.

This epiphany struck me during a brief 5 minute interaction with my three year old. We continue to work through potty training with this one (after four others you would think I would have this down, but, no . . .) In those short five minutes our conversation covered hygiene, patience, consideration of others, obedience, maturity, and self care either in speech or behavior. This was obviously about far more than potty training.

Was my three year old asking for information on preferring others?


Did he really want to learn about patience?


Did he want to practice dressing himself?


Yet, the moment wreaked of teaching, passing on character and godliness and practical life lessons, all in the midst of potty training.

Each moment we spend with our children we teach them. Our attitude, our choices, our reactions, our directions, our clothing, our habits, our schedules, our priorities, our conversation, our curriculum, our answers, our questions, our glances, our mistakes, our consistencies, our forgiveness, our sin, our love, our faithfulness, our attention. The list goes on.

Whether we would classify it as a teachable moment or not, every time they watch us or listen to us we teach them something.

Is it a teachable moment? Here is a quick test.

If you are in the proximity of a child, ask yourself the following questions:

- Can you talk?

- Can you move your body?

- Can you make facial expressions?

- Are you awake?

If you can answer 'yes' to any of these questions, you can be pretty certain you are in a teachable moment . . .

What are you teaching today?

Homeschool Memoirs - Favorites

Funny, as I called to mind the "Favorite Things" song the first line that came to my head was "When the dog bites, when the bee stings." And, for a moment that was all I could remember . . . Clearly those were not favorite things. Ah yes, at times like those I remember my favorite things, then I don't feel so bad. Sounds like Philippians 4 philosophy to me.

Although Scripture is perhaps my most favorite "thing" I decided to focus this favorite's post on something I currently have focused on in my life and free reading time -- health. Peppered throughout the following paragraphs are some of my favorite websites, books, and resources for bringing greater physical health into our home.

My journey to greater health started almost three and a half years ago. Shortly before the birth of our fifth child my neighbor gave me The Maker's Diet book. I didn't have time to read it until I was holed up in the hospital after the birth and it completely changed my outlook. Aside from the word "Diet" I really enjoyed that book. I have never really gone on a diet per se. However, I have often wanted to eat healthy and be healthy, but just haven't gone the "diet" route to get there.

This book opened my eyes to a whole new understanding of health and nutrition. I began to see just how bad processed and fast foods were for my health and my family's health. There remains a large rift in my children's eating preferences, pre-Maker and post-Maker. They all eat what we tell them to, the younger ones just actually enjoy the healthier fare.

Then I got a Nourishing Traditions cookbook and went to a Weston A. Price (LOTS of good info on that website) meeting. I was not as obsessed (I mean that in a good way . . .) as the other attenders, but did find great encouragement, tips and motivation from being around like minded individuals.

Just recently I went to buy some Primal Defense supplements at the store and they said I could get a free book if I wanted. Well, why not? That was Saturday. I just finished reading the book, Perfect Weight America. New books and material always renew my motivation to take my health to the next level and not slip back to where I came from.

This book even made an impact on my workout this morning. As some of you know, I started the couch to 5k program a while back. After reaching my goal in that program and wondering where to go next, Courtney sent me a note with the idea of varying my pace using those same times that I started with. Instead of walking and jogging I would now use those times to jog and sprint. Wow! what a workout! I liked that, and realized that I needed to further vary my workout. Building on this thought and some concepts in the Perfect Weight book I walked, then sprinted (15 seconds), then walked, then did some lunge squats (I don't know what they are really called . . . I took about 20 large steps, lowering my back knee to the ground with each one), then walked, then sprinted, then walked on my jelly legs the last little bit home. I look forward to mixing my routine up more in the days to come.

Next on my radar, a ten day cleanse, well my own version (not buying any products, just eating "cleansing" foods). Never done one before, but have been interested in the idea. I did eat raw for almost a week last year and it did great things for my body, resetting my taste buds, and clearing my head.

Any journey becomes easier when we have encouragement along the way and some of my favorite blogs in this sphere include the Nourishing Gourmet, the Passionate Homemaker, and the Keeper of the Home. And, of course, the recipe site that I first enjoyed that led me to these others was Tammy's Recipes.

If you have more favorite health resources feel free to share with us.

And, for more favorites head over to the Homeschool Blog Awards.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Homeschool carnival

The new edition of carnival of homeschooling is up over at the Nerd Family blog. Always lots of good inspiration, ideas, and helpful tips from homeschoolers around the blogosphere.

Some good posts on high school homeschool plans and executing them (the plans, not the kids). I still have a couple years before that time, but I am gearing up for it already.


This is me with internet withdrawal

Yikes! On Saturday this amazing deluge of rain we have enjoyed (using that term loosely), knocked out our internet service.

What do I do?

Unfortunately, cables need replacing, major works needs doing, and I sit, saving blog posts to my Word documents to post . . . some time. I don’t have many, as it came on a weekend when I post less anyway, and a few days off now and then can refresh and refocus.

Meanwhile, we enjoyed the rain . . .

My kids learned to use “vortex” as a verb.

“Wasn’t that awesome how the frog vortexed down and shot out the other end?” (nature’s toilet . . . )

We marveled at fields that became lakes and trickling streams that became gushing rivers.

We praised God for His protection and sustenance.

We enjoyed puddle stomping in pajamas

We remembered that time passes too quickly to not enjoy a “rain day” now and then.

Friday, September 12, 2008

First keepers club

Today we enjoyed our first Keepers and Contenders club of the new year. This officially launches our second year and we look with excitement into the year ahead.

Today I led a focus on nutrition and exercise.

Here is a run down of what we covered and some of the resources that I found helpful in preparing and teaching this lesson.

Even young children can begin to understand the importance of eating healthy and staying active. We had a variety of fruits and vegetables to sample and it seemed that the students were more willing to try something they found unfamiliar away from the formality of a dinner table. Many of them enjoyed or at least tried the beets, green pepper, arugula, and other samples available. Of course, our sunflower seeds were a hit as well.

We opened our time with a discussion of the spiritual significance of taking care of our body.

- We read from Daniel 1, the verses surrounding verse 12. After just 10 days of eating vegetables and water, Daniel and his friends showed a clear improvement over their counterparts. He definitely saw eating well as part of obedience to God.

- We also looked at I Cor. 6:19 Which stresses the importance of remembering that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are not our own.

I had found a few helpful books at the library that covered vitamins and minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates. (those links will take you to a view of the books that I used). These were packed with information, so we just skimmed them together. I hope to go through some of them in more detail with my children at a later time.

We talked about the names of the vitamins (easy to remember since they correlate to letters of the alphabet.

The most interactive conversation we had involved foods we should avoid:
-French fries
-White bread
-Funnelcakes (of course my kids had to bring this up . . .)
-High fructose corn syrup
-Hydrogenated oils

Foods to seek out (I forgot to mention some of these. As with all best laid plans, something always gets left out, *sigh*):

-Sweet potatoes
-Wild salmon
-Whole grains
-Dark greens (spinach, kale)
-Citrus fruits
-Black raspberries
-Flax Seeds
-Green Leafy Vegetables

I found a concise chart of nutritional content of some common fruits and vegetables.
fruit face
We talked about eating a rainbow

- I found a couple helpful sites on "rainbow eating."

- One of them came from a camp's website.

- Family Fun also had a page about eating a diverse selection of produce.

- My favorite page on eating a rainbow comes from a site geared toward people with disabilities and offered a good visual explanation of this concept.

I had samples of different colors of foods, mostly from our garden and we discussed making healthy choices.

MyPyramid food plans are designed for the general public ages 2 and over; they are not therapeutic diets. Those with a specific health condition should consult with a health care provider for a dietary plan that is right for them.

After the samples, the kids each got the supplies to put together a health notebook. I encouraged them to keep track of what they eat each day for the next month and decide if they eat healthy or if they could improve a little bit. They also each got a handout on the pyramid and the nutritional content charts.

Then we moved on to exercise . . .

We read the book Get some exercise! by Angela Royston. Although this is clearly directed at a fairly young audience, it gave a concise explanation of the benefits of exercise and covered everything I wanted to cover (warming up, stretches, choosing to be active, etc.)

We talked briefly about different exercises:

- calisthenics (jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups)
- aerobic (running, walking, bike riding, swimming, gymnastics, dancing)

They were then encouraged to create an exercise routine that they could perform at least three times a week and write it down.

Then, we put it into practice and stretched, grabbed a drink of water, and went for a run around the lake out front. The track is about 1/5 of a mile and many of them made it most of the way around. One boy even took a second lap. We reviewed the need to cool down as they walked around a smaller section of sidewalk before wrapping up club for the day.

This topic may not offer the most exciting club, but I think it is an important topic to keep fresh in their minds. They did a great job staying attentive and absorbing the material.

I love Keepers Club and the opportunity to cover all those 'extra' topics in a fun, but organized format that provides interaction with others and rewards as well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs - Something New!

As part of the Homeschool Memoirs group we have a weekly assignment, and for this week we get to share something new that we have incorporated into our homeschool this year.

Each year homeschooling holds something new for us, and this year that "new" is Ambleside. I dabbled in it last year as we went through year two corporately in a very loose manner. This year we have jumped in with both feet, each in their own grade level.

Trying something new . . .

When I find something new I like to start it at a slower pace to make sure that I know what I am doing and don't miss anything. Last year rather than trying to keep up with everyone going different directions, we worked through a year of Ambleside together. We chose year two since we had just finished a year of Sonlight and that one seemed to kind of pick up where we had left off. We enjoyed the books, schedule, availability, and cost (free!) so much that we decided to continue and expand this year.

I also needed to figure out how this would fit into our schedule, our home, our kids, our environment. Since each child has some fairly hefty reading assignments I needed to figure out a way to keep up with it all. Whenever we are driving we are listening to audio books (I could do a whole post on audio books!) I rotate through the kids' school schedules and try to choose a book that they need to read for us to listen to in the car. This way we all enjoy it together, it keeps the car rides more peaceful and it takes advantage of that time we have to drive somewhere anyway. Our library has been a great source for audio books. I cannot believe the assortment of books they have on hand. We usually work on two at a time, one for car rides when my husband is with us, and another for midday running around that is just me and the kids.

We also needed to actually get it written into our schedule. While I wrote about our daily schedule last week, I also give each child a written assignment schedule to check off as the week goes on. This sheet looks a bit different every year as I adjust it to fit our current program and academic needs and goals. This year each child gets a two sided sheet every week. On the back is the corresponding Ambleside reading assignments for the week which they should complete throughout the week. On the front is the following:

Name: _________________________ Week of: ______________, 200___

Math Lesson #

Reading pp.

English lesson:

Handwriting pp.

Copywork _____ minutes M T W Th

Practice music ______ minutes M T W Th F

Typing ______ minutes M T W Th F

Silent reading ______ minutes M T W Th F

Dictation passage:

Bible M T W Th F





Keeper’s/Contender’s project:

On back: write books you have read for silent reading this week and summary of reading book.

This gives me room to write down extra things that we cover spontaneously throughout the week, like our sunflower "project" that came up last week. These sheets become their permanent record of the week with item checked off when completed and crossed of if skipped or moved to the next week.

Adapting for the best fit . . . Even with the plans in place, the first couple weeks required some tweaking. We skipped a couple of the readings as we gained momentum, we held things over that we needed more time on, we elongated our school days as needed and shortened a few to enjoy the waning summer weather. Too often I have needed to remind myself that flexibility is the name of the game in homeschooling.

This year is far more organized than any homeschool year yet. The thanks for this goes in part to having a homeschool room for the first time ever (having everything in one place is amazing!) and in part to a website (mostly about high school, but helps for those of us still getting there, too) I have enjoyed on record keeping, among other things.

Time for school!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My role

Keeper at home. Keeper AT home.

Hmmmmm . . .

I keep mulling over that particular phrase, or rather that specific word. Of course, in all justice we cannot pull out one simple phrase in Scripture and build our life on it. But that one word keeps popping out at me. Thanks, in part, to a post on another blog, Generation Cedar, that keeps me thinking right now, as her posts often do. There has been quite a thought-provoking debate about the appropriateness of Palin's appointment and acceptance over there in recent posts.

We have to be at home. Physically, emotionally, psychologically. I don't work outside the home, so I am usually home physically, although I do need to be more careful about this. Somehow the 'no' keeps coming out "I'd love to!" Need to keep working on that . . .

But, what about emotionally and psychologically . . .

Do I ever . . . wish I was elsewhere?

Wish the days went quicker?

"Escape" on my computer, or telephone?

Let down my guard?

Become self-centered?

Lower my standards?

Do things my way?

The questions continue. So many areas to keep plugging away at. I so desire to be a keeper at home. To be discreet, chaste, good, obedient to my husband. Grateful I have a few years yet to get this right.

Always seeking to do more, often by doing less.

To walk more closely to Him, by walking more separate from the world.

To live, by dying.

Sounds odd, but that's just our human logic rearing its head again.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Authentic Jesus

Yesterday our pastor started a new series on the "Authentic Jesus." I plan to be seriously challenged about the genuineness and authenticity of my faith in the next few months.

In the core of my being I know that I trust my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who died on the cross in my place and rose again with the promise and hope of eternal life for his followers. Daily I seek to die to self and follow Him, humbly learning in his footsteps. However, I still fail. I still hold back. I still fall short and get hung up in all my humanness.

Our pastor said that a gap exists in all our lives between who we portray to others that we are, and who we truly are. True authenticity, narrows that gap, with the goal of eliminating it. Now, of course we don't want to change our portrayal, per se, but rather who we truly are. Walk the talk. Be real. Step it up. All in.

When I say God is at work in a certain area I need to really open that area up and attack it, and work at change, obedience and submission. When God teaches, I need to listen and apply, not just temporarily. My faith needs to continue to take over every part of my life.

Always so much to work on, better keep at it . . .

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Minimizing Monday -- book shelves (yikes!)

I actually tackled my bookshelves a few weeks back when I had my minimizing motivation without a place to direct it. Here is the result of my successful and freeing bookshelf purge:

Now, this past year I already went through and weeded out about twice this amount of books that I did not want. Now I needed to weed out the things I do not need. I think that is the difference between decluttering and minimizing. Decluttering removes the clutter, minimizing only preserves the essentials.

As always, I know I could probably do even more. Someone else would still see 20 books I could do away with from their perspective. Minimizing continues even after the initial purge as the mindset takes hold.

Here are the books and videos that I removed from my shelves. Most of these I haven't used or could easily borrow from the library if I want to reread them some time:

Of course, as always, my kids had a hard time parting with their "favorite" _______ that I had put in the pile. However, I persevered and was rewarded with this:

That holds all my kids' current homeschool books as well as items I need to keep on hand for the coming year(s). I used to have the base of the hutch full of books as well, but was able to move all of that onto the shelves and still have some room to spare. In addition, I cleared off all the dog paraphernalia that we kept on the windowsill and stored it in the hutch now. Not only do I have a neater bookshelf, I have an almost empty windowsill (aside from the bag of library books).

Feeling motivated to minimize? Please, feel free to go after your bookshelves or some other deserving nook and cranny of your home, and share about it on Handprints on the Wall.

Kitchen tip -- blanching vegetables

If I can ever avoid work, I mean . . . make a job simpler or more efficient, I look for that opportunity. I don't like doing unnecessary work as there is by far enough necessary work to keep me busy into my unborn grandchildren's adult years. So, I have questioned the necessity of blanching vegetables before freezing them. I mean, if I am just going to cook them when I take them out anyway, what's the point?

I had to do some research. I found some helpful information, and enough knowledge to motivate me to take the time to blanch before freezing. This website offers the following explanation for blanching:

Blanching is scalding the vegetables in water or in steam for a short period of time. It is a very important step in freezing vegetables because it slows or stops the action of enzymes. These enzymes are essential for growth and maturation of the plant. If the enzyme action is not stopped before freezing, the vegetables may develop off-flavors, discolor, or toughen so that they may be unappetizing in a few weeks.

Further down the page on that same site is a handy reference chart for blanching times and procedures for various vegetables.

Blanched and frozen, nutrition preserved!

Blanching and freezing does an excellent job of preserving the nutritents in the produce and keeping them easily accessible in the off season. Canned vegetables are often cooked longer and have lost some of their nutrients in that process. For more on that check out this website. Here's another article that says frozen is even better than fresh, obviously not better than garden fresh. However, frozen stays as is for quite a while, whereas fresh vegetables lose their benefits more quickly. Of course it is better to eat canned than none, but if you are growing them, freeze them for long term storage if possible, and if you are freezing them, blanch them!

I had a heap of beans to freeze, so I sliced them, blanched them and they look beautiful! How exciting to enjoy garden fresh green beans in the summer time, and it really only took a few minutes. For even more great details on canning and freezing I have seen a few others refer to another site that gives thorough information about all things canning.

And, for more kitchen tips, head over to Tammy's Recipes.