Thursday, February 26, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- February 27

So good to find ourselves right side up again this week. Mostly healthy, mostly normal schedules once again.

In addition to our regular activities at co-op and homeschool gym and swim class, we also enjoyed an evening at the wood shop to start work on the kids' pinewood derby cars. In the running this year we have a hot dog, a flag in the making, and a more traditional car. The kids have carried them around all week sanding them. They are incredibly soft! I almost hate to have them paint them.

If you have access to wood working equipment, this is a fun project and here are some helpful sites:

- Some ideas and place to purchase supplies
- The cheapest we found, if you can order it (it's through AWANA), includes kits for 8 cars.
- Various design patterns can be viewed and/or printed here, here, and here, and even more links here.
- And, we got the book Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets from the library that offered some great tips to increase the speed of your car. One simple one that my son hopes to employ is cutting away the front of your car on the bottomside. This way when the release is pulled, your car will advance earlier. Of course, in watching the way many races go, it isn't necessarily the start that clinches the race, but sometimes every second counts.

Here's an earlier project in which my daughter made a crown shaped clock. A simple flat piece of wood cut to shape, painted yellow and affixed with stick on numbers and a clock kit (similar to ones found here):

We also enjoyed a Soul Food Feast at the school we live at. Smoked cabbage, macaroni, chicken, and sweet potatoes made for a great meal. The choir sang a few appropriate selections such as We Shall Overcome and I Got Wings. We enjoyed visiting with students, parents, and staff that we don't see often enough any more. A great wrap up to Black History Month.

Friday the local schools were off and we had such a successful schooling week once again, that we headed out for a little fun in the morning (Chuck E Cheese style).

We had some cleaning up to do in the afternoon from the school week, but we enjoyed some fun, relaxing, down-time after completing our to-do list for the week. I'm just debating now if I should raise their work load. They are all completing more than a week's worth (often 5 or 6 lessons in each subject) of work in about 4 days each week and we are consistently getting more done than I even had planned for each week. A great problem to have, the first time I have had it, and I'm still debating what to do about it. Any thoughts?

Reading highlights:
- We wrapped up On the Shores of Silver Lake and jumped into Little Town on the Prairie. I hate to think that eventually we will reach the end of this series, but I know there will be more books that will grab our attention and imagination.

- Blake is nearing the end of The Story of the Greeks, which has been an interesting read. The life of Alexander the Great is an intriguing one. Such a powerful leader, an incredible mind, yet so consumed with this world. I think I would like to find a biography on him for my personal reading. Probably not clean enough for kids to read independently.

Struggles: Actually, this was a pretty low stress week. I can't think of anything out of the ordinary to log this week. Typical ups and downs, but nothing lingering or unusual. (I'll take a week like that now and then!)

Sweet memories:
- Wish I had a picture, but Faith was helping me bake one day and she made a person out of the dough while waiting for instructions. Our little "playdough" man stuck to the side of the bowl until we needed him.

- After breakfast one day, Nathan says, "I'm full." I look at him, doubtingly, and ask if he is sure. "Well, what's full?" he asks. I explain that it is when his tummy is full and won't need food for at least a little while. He clarifies, "Oh, then I'm not full, just done."

Enjoy more weekly wrap ups here.

Always be prepared

Just want you to know, we are always prepared . . . for anything. How quick on the draw are you in the midst of scrambling eggs?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Homeschool Memoirs - four legged friends

People looking for a warm-fuzzy came to the wrong place today. The story about our dog entering our home has no basis in my love for animals, but my extreme love for my husband and children. I have never particularly liked animals. Maybe a cute picture here or there, but not the actual, physical animal. Every couple years a trip to the zoo more than filled my animal interests.

Well, as our kids grew and we realized that a pet would be the next natural step, I actually found myself wanting my kids to have a dog.

Now, I think enough of her to actually have given her a reward when that memoir topic came around. And, I appreciate that she will eat any crumb of my food she can get her tongue on without a single complaint. She will devour it greedily. Makes a cook proud! Okay, and she is beautiful, even I admit that.

All in all, she has accomplished everything I hoped from a pet. My kids participate in taking care of her, they have one more warm body around for playing with, one that won't argue, and they are all comfortable around animals now. And the crate gives us a great place to keep the kids. (just kidding!!!)

If I had it to do over again, would we have gotten a puppy? I won't answer that, the jury is still deliberating.

Sibling Rivalry

This picture suits these two well. They are so lovey with each other, but sometimes I am not quite sure if they are a split second away from wrestling one another to the ground over some disagreement. Each day has its share of squabbles to settle and love to restore.

Teri Maxwell of Titus 2 shares her wisdom and encouragement for mothers. She recently posted a great article in response to a letter about dealing with bickering and complaining in children.

I often appreciate Teri's words as she does not beat around the bush, she speaks from the heart, points us to God's Word, and gives lots of practical tips as well. This Mom's Corner was no exception.

She stresses the clear importance of a solid foundation in God's Word through devotion time and in conversation. We need to set the personal example in obediently following Christ with our whole heart and our daily attitude. She also promises continued encouragement to come:

There is much more that I would like to share regarding the questions posed in the introductory e-mail of this article. The starting place is family time in the Word that takes Scripture and makes it applicable to the daily problems our children are facing. The next step involves Mom's expectations of her children and her determination to see this project as a long-term one, which she tackles with perseverance and patience. She has to take her thoughts captive so that she isn't dwelling on the negative. Then Mom wants to look into her own heart to evaluate whether there is sin in her life that might be contributing to the children's sin. May we be women who use every difficulty we face to turn our faces to the One Who can help us, Jesus Christ.

One practical tip that Teri offered that I could relate to is taking a moment at the beginning of a discipline situation to hug and kiss your child. I have recently found this "technique" helpful in a variety of settings. When I feel the frustration rising in myself, if I first take a breath and then draw that child, or children in and start with a tender hug and kiss we all can approach a resolution with more openness. Amazingly, that bitterness and resentment just melts away with some tiny kisses.

Hugs and kisses help me approach my children with greater love at other times as well. I must admit that I am not very strong in the compassion department. However, when one of my kids needs some physical care, if I first take a deep breath, hug and kiss them, and then really look at them, I discover love and compassion growing. I can mother them with a genuine concern as opposed to the duty driven nurse that I sheltered moments before.

Mothering is not a short-term project, not one that knows any off-the-clock hours, not one for the faint of heart, and not one I would trade for anything.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I thought I could, I thought I could!

One of the struggles that many homeschool parents, and apparently much of the rest of the world as well, face comes on the heels of lunch. Every day that energy dips, nose dives, plummets. Hopefully the core subjects are done, and we feel like writing off the rest of the day.

Earlier in the school year I posted my struggle with this dilemma and asked if anyone had suggestions. I got lots of responses, but they all said essentially the same thing, "I don't know, but if you find out I'd love to hear it." Encouraging to find that I would not drown alone in this sinking ship, but not very helpful.

This article on CNN talks about the afternoon blahs and recommends some of their tips for keeping productive in the workplace. Since the home is my workplace, I found their advice helpful, somewhat. Some of them I had already tried, and they work for us on occasion. We have a bit more flexibility at home as opposed to an office, so our afternoon pick-me-ups look a little different.

I have found that having a well stocked arsenal is key, because what works one day might not work the next. My afternoons have enjoyed far more productivity than in the past as we have enjoyed trying out fresh ideas to stay productive.

Breathe -- Sometimes just a few really deep breaths can give us the little kick we need. This is a simple one and something we can all do throughout each day.

Get moving -- We have our PE time shortly after lunch. Once our food has digested we head outside, up to the gym we live near, or jump into some other planned activity. Even just turning on some upbeat music and dancing around the living room together gets the blood flowing and re-energizes our day.

Get outside -- Sunshine and fresh air are incredible motivators. Today we ignored the snow on the ground and got outside to fly a kite for about half an hour. We returned inside, served up a round of hot chocolates, and hit the books again. We had another hour and a half or more of quality school time.

Don't feel guilty about a little catnap -- especially when I had more interruptions at night, I absolutely needed at least a 15 minute nap each afternoon. For me, that gave me a little rest, but didn't knock me out for the count. Every now and then I still head to bed, or the couch, for a quick bit of shut-eye.

Find some quiet interactive activities -- read outloud or listen to an audio book, play a board game, do puzzles, build with Legos. Right now we are reading Around the World in 80 Days as we have time in the afternoon. So much better than the movie! Of course, they always beg, "Don't stop, don't stop!" But, we have to get back to other activities eventually. Oh, maybe just one more chapter . . .

Plan active learning -- experiments, crafts, music, etc. My only challenge here, is that I don't often have the motivation to get into it. Once we get going it is a great afternoon choice, but sometimes it take me a bit, so this is not my first choice to renew the afternoon pace.

Have a schedule or write down a to-do list -- Most days we have a written schedule that we follow, but some days we face a hiccup to our normal routine. Even on those days I want to avoid losing the whole afternoon, so I pull out a white board and write down either an adjusted schedule or just a quick list of what we have to get done before we call it a day. This is great for partial sick days or other unexpected interruptions.

Set rewards -- we have a standing reward if all school work for the week is completed by early afternoon on Friday each week.

I while back I posted about a smattering of miscellaneous ideas for dealing with those times when we almost feel like throwing in the towel, whether morning or afternoon.

Hope some of you find this helpful to keep your day moving along. Sometimes we have set our standards too high, but sometimes we just need a little nudge to keep enjoying the plans we have laid out for the day.

These are some ideas that have definitely worked for me!

Hinds Feet

Hinds' Feet in High Places offers an insightful look at the Christian walk and the fears that we each grapple with to some extent. When Much-Afraid questioned the Shepherd about the wastefulness of wildflowers (blooming for no reason, essentially invisible), she mourned over their wasted, unappreciated beauty.

The look the Shepherd turned on her was very beautiful. "Nothing my Father and I have made is ever wasted," he said quietly, "and the little wild flowers have a wonderful lesson to teach. They offer themselves so sweetly and confidently and willingly, even if it seems that there is no one to appreciate them. Just as though they sang a joyous little song to themselves, that it is so happy to love, even though one is not loved in return.

"I must tell you a great truth, Much-Afraid, which only the few understand. All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories, and its most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows anything about, or can only dimly guess at. Every inner response of the human heart to Love and every conquest over self-love is a new flower on the tree of Love.

"Many a quiet, ordinary, and hidden life, unknown to the world, is a veritable garden in which Love's flowers and fruits have come to such perfection that it is a place of delight where the Kind of Love himself walks and rejoices with his friends. Some of my servants have indeed won great visible victories and are rightly loved and reverenced by other men, but always their greatest victories are like the wild flowers, those which no one knows about. Learn this lesson now, down here in the valley, Much-Afraid, and when you get tot he steep places of the mountains it will comfort you."

What a lesson to learn. One that was spoken in the story of the cathedral workmen, and one that God continues to whisper to my heart. He does not need me to make some landmark change in the world, just daily faithfulness. Victory over sinfulness in my life, through surrender to Him. The beauty of a life lived for Him is never wasted even if no one on this earth makes mention of it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Verse of the week - II Corinthians 4:18

In her bare cell, Corrie Ten Boom sat playing cards with a cellmate. Cards made of the rationed toilet paper. Her father had not allowed card playing and she didn't understand why at first. They seemed an innocent diversion on the long days of absolutely nothing to do.

Corrie realized as time went by that the simple card game effected her mood. Winning brought optimism, losing triggered negativity and fear about the events outside her cell walls. She stopped playing cards.

Made me think. How much do my various recreational involvements alter my perspective? Even deeper still, how much does the comparatively frivolous expenditures of time in this physical world distort my perspective of what truly matters?

This verse came to mind, just a few verses down from last week's verse, "As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Anything in this world, anything that I allow to enter my frame of reference should move me closer to God not further away. I shouldn't see the waves, I should see the Creator of the waves. If some activity brings fear, doubt, anxiety, or other negative emotions, I should move away from them and draw closer to God. In my humanness, even good activities can become a hindrance to my walk with Christ and I must guard against allowing the physical happenings to impact my eternal focus. Cards in and of themselves aren't wrong. But, they can still lead me step by step further from God's viewpoint.

I have begun thinking through the implications of this in my daily choices, in my daily schedule. What physical events do I allow to hinder my spiritual intimacy? God doesn't change, but when I feel weaker or feel as if I am failing, the cause may often come from the physical surroundings that I reinterpret as God's distance in my life.

Then I need to go to the follow-up question, should I remove or at least limit some of these things? I need to evaluate my TV viewing, my computer time, blogging, reading, craft projects, phone conversations, meetings, play dates, even ministry involvements in terms of the eternal, unseen standards. Not all of them are bad, in fact none of them are sinful. But, do they build up, or tear down? Do they make an impact on eternity, or bring a negative taste to my thinking? The physical world will pass away. That which is unseen is forever. People are forever.

Lord, please help me keep my eyes on what only You can help me see.

As we look not to the things that are seen
but to the things that are unseen.
For the things that are seen are transient,
but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~II Corinthians 4:18~

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- February 20

After a bit of a rough spell last week with illnesses and all, I took advantage of the day off Monday and got everything in order for the week ahead so we could make up any lost time.

I decided to start the week with a sparkling sink, a la Flylady, and that helped at least feel like we could have a good week ahead. . .

Sickness lingered, and one last (hopefully) doctor appointment on Friday confirmed yet another child needed antibiotics (despite loads of vitamin C, essential oils, probiotics, and garlic drops), we still had a great, although quiet week. It seems energy has resumed normal levels now that we have hit the weekend, so hopefully next week we will have more excitement to share.

We did enjoy one nature hike this week when the weather ventured above freezing and the sun lured us outside. Nothing like slipping through six inches of mucky baseball field just for fun (of course, most of us walked around it) . . .

We found lots of animal droppings and a handful of prints to discuss and the hour in the great outdoors did us all a world of good.

We also enjoyed fitting the right number of candles on my husband's birthday cake. :-) You should have seen the wax melting! Of course, I am a few months older, so I have no grounds to comment on how many candles . . .

Challenges faced: Getting healthy! I hope this is the last of it for a while.

Special moments: We had some great discussions this week about our reading. During Bible time we pray for different people groups around the world and this week was the country of Djibouti. We also got exciting news that my niece is going on a summer mission trip to Fiji and my kids eagerly opened their banks and have started seeking out ways to earn money to send it to her. Love seeing that giving heart in them!

Reading highlights: There were a few this week, but one that stood out was in George Washington's World. Catherine the Great said, "If you don't gain you lose." This prompted a great conversation about that various applications of that statement in our personal lives, spiritual lives, academia, politically, etc. I love seeing the gears turning and watching my nine year old making abstract connections.

Looking forward to next week, and despite the fresh snow on the ground, I can sense the general warming of the weather as we head toward spring. The sunshine pouring in the window many days seems to encourage us along with the promise of what's to come.

Want to hear about others' weeks?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Keep it clean

This past week I found myself opening this cabinet far more than normal. And, each time I could find just what I needed.

A child has a headache? Children's medicine

Stuffy noses? essential oils

Coughing fit? Cold medicine

Foot ache? essential oils

Fever check? thermometer (after a kiss on the forehead and a snuggle)

And on, and on. Long ago I found the freedom of having an organized medicine cabinet (which we actually keep in the kitchen, but away from the heat of the stove and oven, more central for our house).

Here are some tips that have helped me for getting it organized and keeping it clean:

- Categorize -- figure out what work for you and put your groups together. We have containers for cold remedies, bandaids, children's medicine, ace bandages and splints, external creams and sprays, pain medicine, stomach discomfort, and we keep our nail clippers in one also. Essential oils and thermometer stay out for easy use.

- Label -- I find it much harder to mix things up if a label tells me where something goes. This also makes it easy for anyone that can read to find it, and for them to return it where it belongs. Anyone that can't read shouldn't be in the medicine cabinet on their own anyway. :-) Even in bleary eyed middle of the night visits to the medicine cabinet, I can usually get things back where they belong.

- Schedule a clean up -- To keep it organized I need to get rid of expired medicine and double check things now and then. This also helps me stay on top of what we might be running low on that I didn't notice when I gave out the last dose of it at three in the morning.

I hope to not have to use this cabinet as much in the near future, but for now, it works for me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Curr click deal of the week

CurrClick has lots of great material for homeschoolers. And, if you didn't already know, each week they offer a free download.

This week they have a great ebook on President's Day available for free. This book has some great works of art featuring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, quotes for copywork, a short story about the famous cherry tree incident, and a longer story about the life of Abraham Lincoln.

I didn't get to all my planned crafts from last week, so we will carry some of those over to this week and use them along with the ebook. How perfect!

Also, unrelated, but another free resource . . . The latest edition of No Greater Joy is available online. This publication from Michael and Debi Pearl always offers some food for thought. I don't agree with all of their perspectives on parenting and the Bible, but they have been instrumental in our own home in raising our children in a way that honors God.

Soaked flour pancakes

As I began searching for ways to make meals healthier, I have taken our typical menu items and updated them with a more nutrient dense replacement.

All my children enjoy pancakes or waffles for breakfast, so I modified the regular recipe to provide them the goodness of whole grain and the benefits of a soaked flour recipe.

The night before . . .

Combine the following:
2 cups flour (I use whole grain white wheat)
1 cup water
2 tbsp. yogurt (or whey or buttermilk)

This will make a thick batter, almost like bread dough. You leave this, covered, on the counter overnight. I like to prepare this after dinner so it has the benefit of a warm kitchen to get it soaking. You can soak up to 24 hours before using. I have found the more yogurt you substitute for water in the recipe and the longer you soak, the more sour your end result. My children don't like the "delightful sour flavor" (as Sally Fallon calls it), so I generally shoot for the minimum amount. (For more on soaking in general, Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking has a great why and how of the process).

The next morning . . .

Mix in the following:

1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 Tbsp honey (or sugar if you prefer)
1 Tbsp baking powder
8 Tbsp ground flax seeds (this is 1/2 cup, I use the yablespoon measure since I already have it out for the baking powder. Also, I like to use ground flax in place of the oil. If you would prefer, you can use 4 Tbsp. oil instead)

Note: when you are mixing, the flour mixture that soaked overnight is very, um, cohesive (can you tell that in the picture?) So, you almost have to beat the batter to get it mixed in evenly. It will all combine together, but it takes some working.

Then, proceed as with normal pancakes . . .Pour roughly 1/4 cup onto a warm, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet until underside is lightly browned and surface is bubbly. These don't bubble as much as regular pancakes even when cooked through. Look more for the slightly dry appearance and bubbles around the edge. Turn and cook on other side.

Add your butter and syrup or favorite toppings and devour!

One extra tip, no extra charge . . . We now portion out each child's syrup in these dainty ramekins. They each get about one tablespoon to go with their breakfast (you'd be amazed how far one tablespoon can go, I'm almost thinking about portioning out a bit less).

This helps them not overdo, while saving me the time of dressing each pancake individually, and those that like to dip are free to do so. Also, saves the fights over the syrup bottle, but of course that could have offered quality character training, too. :-)

Check out more Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Kitchen Tip Tuesdays, or Tasty Tuesday

Verse of the week - II Corinthians 4:7

Picture of Plant Pots - Free Pictures -

Sometimes in parenting I do things right, and sometimes I do things wrong. This week as energy in our house came at a premium and sniffles, headaches, earaches and sore throats put every one on edge, my parenting skills left something to be desired. I spoke a little too sternly, reacted a little too quickly, and gave in to my desire to simply not move when arguments could have used a little intervening. At the end of the week, I realized that God still shined in our home.

We shared extra snuggles, stroked fevered foreheads, read lost of books, motivated the yucky-medicine swallowers. But, definitely not in our own strength. I gratefully, amazingly, hold this power of the gospel in this weak earthen vessel I call my body. And, in spite of, and more often, because of its frailty, God's power gets to work.

Paul paints this incredible picture in II Corinthians 4 (the whole chapter is definitely worth reading to get the perspective). Verse seven says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."

As Christians, God's light has taken up residence in our lives. When our human weakness and sinfulness hinder us, His power trumps our limits.

As Paul further fleshes out details of this at work in II Corinthians 12:9,10, he says that His strength is actually perfected in our weakness. The more cracks in my surface, the more places for Him to shine through.

Not that I seek the weakness, but I seek Him, and more fully each day. As I seek Him, more of myself chips away, and more of Him more fully pours out.

Lord, thank you for living in me. Please keep chipping away, that You may shine through me completely. That those who come in contact with me may first and foremost see You.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing
power belongs to God and not to us.

~II Corinthians 4:7~

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- February 12

My little tiger. Always ready for action.

I started the week with great ambition (crafts already planned, among other things), but by Sunday afternoon I was already rethinking them . . .

Nathan, 3 years old, had woken up with a cough on Thursday night. What I took as a run of the mill cold, morphed into a double ear infection and by Tuesday night three more kids had an advanced case of the sniffles. So, while the week went mostly as planned, we did a bit of rearranging, and at times only took some of our crew to the regularly scheduled programming.

Monday around lunch time we joined our homeschool co-op for a Valentine's Day celebration which included a skit from the drama class I teach. The kids did a great job. My son had one of the key roles in this skit, his first one this year and it was great to see him rise to the occasion on stage.

Tuesday we could not let the beautiful weather pass unenjoyed and we headed to the zoo for a fun day. (More about the laughs on behalf of Nathan, here).

The animals were active and the zoo was not overly crowded (I assume most kids were stuck in a classroom on that day). :-)

For just the price of parking we had an amazing time together. Gotta love those free days!

Wednesday and Thursday we muddled through, most of us feeling okay enough to get done what we had to. At 9:30 on Thursday morning we read the Gettysburg address along with the rest of the students in our state in celebration of Lincoln's birthday.

Friday we held our monthly Keepers at Home club here at our house. The girls worked on storytelling and the boys covered ping-pong and chess. They all had a great time and had fun working together and building their repertoire of skills, both fun and practical.

Not too much excitement, but not every week can be bursting at the seams. Now I am looking forward to a few days off and hopefully back to business as unusual next week.

Enjoy spending your weekend with the ones you love!

Reading incentive programs

Building family memories can sometimes make a dent in the family budget, but we have found in recent years that we can reduce this dent significantly while still enjoying unique opportunities and while also motivating our kids to spend extra time reading!

Here are some programs that we participate in or might be worth looking into:

Pizza Hut Book It! Students set monthly goals from October through March. As they achieve these goals they earn a free personal pan pizza with up to one topping. We have done this for a number of years. The program is easy to sign up for, offers a tasty reward, and is easy to redeem.

There is also a Book It Beginners program, but this is not open to homeschoolers at this time. It is available to schools enrolling at least four students, so if your child attends a preschool, you can ask about their enrolling in the program. It begins in March (deadline is February 15 to enroll, so you would need to act on this quickly), still giving you time to act on this for this current year.

If you have a Six Flags park nearby you can join their Read to Succeed program in the fall of each year. Students must read a total of six hours to earn a free ticket. This is not a program that individuals can sign up for. The registration must be sent in on behalf of a group of homeschoolers (a support group or co-op). The don't have new information on their site at this time, but this is worth pursuing for next year if you aren't in it already.

Six Flags also has a Math-a-thon that they use to raise money for St. Jude. Students find sponsors to pledge money for each math problem they complete. If students raise at least $35 they earn a free ticket for their participation in this program, and of course the money goes to a good cause.

With those free tickets you still need to pay applicable parking fees and entrance fees for other attendees, but we have enjoyed a full day of high-adventure for a price that can't be beat. And, of course, it truly motivates the kids to read when they have something like this to work toward.

Beyond those nationally recognized programs, ask at ball parks, museums, or other places that you would like to take your family. Some will say they don't offer anything, but many places offer free tickets or reduced passes as academic incentives.

Also, check out your local library. Ours has an individual program for summer reading and a family read aloud program for the winter months. Some of the prizes we have reveled in include free ice cream, baseball tickets, movie passes, book bags, pens and pencils, bowling passes, free kids' meals, and new books.

We love to read anyway, and my kids enjoy it for the most part, but when enthusiasm wanes, an incentive program can keep them reading.

Who can complain about free, or discounted, and well earned family fun?

For more frugal tips head over to Biblical Womanhood for Frugal Friday.

Mom's who don't do anything

The other day I stayed home with my three year old. Everyone else headed out to a birthday celebration while my son battled an unpleasant virus that morphed into a double ear infection. He was mellow, but talkative.

Somehow, our conversation turned to the "Pirates who don't do Anything." He sang with gusto in his sweet, congested voice. Then we sang about the "boys who don't do anything."

And, I had to laugh when he suggested the "Moms who don't do anything." Yeah, right. But, isn't that the typical answer?

So, what do you do? Um, nothing, just a mom.

And the song was born . . .

(hum along as you read)

Well I've never changed a diaper
and I've never cooked at lunchtime
and I've never graded homework
all while nursing baby, too.

And I've never settled squabbles
and I've never modeled manners
and I've never jumped in leaves in the fall.

'Cuz we're the moms who don't do anything
just eat bon bons and watch the Soaps
If you ask us to do anything,
Then we'll tell you, "We don't do anything."

Oh, I've never managed schedules
and I've never answered phone calls
and I've never planned a menu
'cuz I never work at all.

And I've never tied a shoelace, found lost mittens,
brushed the knots out
'cuz I never lift a finger all day long.


Well I've never ironed dresses
and I've never cleaned the bed sheets
and I've never scrubbed vomit from the carpeting at night

And I've never matched an outfit
and I've never kissed an ouchie
and I've never rocked a baby with a cold.


Well I've never planned an outing
and I've never built a fort
and I've never read a story for the 18th time that day.

And I've never balanced checkbooks
and I've never washed the windows
and I've never cleaned up footprints off the wall.


Completely the opposite of the real story, but fun to write. Do you have any verses to add?

Amazing all the stuff we might encounter in a typical day of "nothing."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Make a difference for life

Have a few minutes to spare? Not many, really, just a few.

Often in our country we speak of the right to vote and the responsibility to act on that right. As true as that may be, we cannot let our political involvement stop there.

I know, I don't have a lot of time to spare either. There are a lot of things you can do without spending a lot of time to still be involved in the political arena.

Stay on top of the issues. You could never know all of the issues our representatives face each day, but we can learn more about the key ones, and the ones that we hold the most dear. We need to find people and sources that we trust to keep us informed.

Here are just a few:

Focus on the Family's CitizenLink.

National Right to Life.

Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

American Family Association.

Parental Rights.

Obviously there are many other conservative, political outlets, but these cover the topics I feel the greatest need to protect -- life, family, and homeschooling.

Make a phone call or send an email. I started this post with a greater intent than just sharing links. Right now you can invest a few minutes to call your senator and take a stand for life and for family rights. President Obama has nominated some individuals that take very extreme views against life and parents' rights and some don't seem to have strong qualifications for the positions they would hold either. To find out more about these individuals read more on the HSLDA site, or on CitizenLink.

If you don't know who your senators are this is a great opportunity to learn and get introduced into the system beyond election day. You can find their names and contact information a variety of places, including here or here.

It is painless! I was a little nervous the first time I made "a call," but they are generally waiting to answer your call and record your opinion of the issues or nominations at hand. And, these great sites give you tips about what to say and even offer cheat sheets to print out and refer to while calling.

CitizenLink did mention that it might be best to try calling your senator's local office because a lot of the DC switchboards are tied up with stimulus package phone calls. You can always email them as well if you prefer that route.

I would urge you to get involved. If enough of us voice our strong opinions in these cases it can make a difference. I have seen it happen before, and it is exciting to be a part of it.

So, do you have a few minutes to make a difference?

UPDATE: I just made my phone calls since they were closed when I was typing all this up last night. I did end up calling the in-state offices of my senators since I only got a recording in DC. The people answering the phone were polite and it took me longer to dial the numbers than to leave my message. They did ask for my zip code as well as taking my request.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tiny talk Tuesday

Found this cute meme that was perfect for today, too!

We took advantage of the beautiful, spring-like weather (blustery and all) and the free admission to the local zoo and took a wonderful field trip.

Nathan, 3 years old, especially enjoyed our day. So many of the animals were active today and we shared the day with some good friends so we all had lots of fun.

While watching the tiger prowl around his area Nathan commented, "He must be looking for his swimsuit." (I still wonder where he comes up with these things!)

Before piling into the car for the ride home they had some hard boiled eggs left from lunch, but Brooke and Nathan didn't fail to remind me that they don't like the "cheese" in their egg (the yolk).

And, is there anything more priceless than this? Our oldest, 11, reading bedtime stories to the littles without even being asked. They might grow out of the adorable "tiny-talk" but they never stop melting my heart.

carnivals up!

Our week started with a busy Monday, and today we are headed out as well. But, I did want to let you all know that there are two carnivals up that you might want to check out.

If you have some time and are looking for homeschool inspiration head over to Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers for the Homeschool Showcase, or check out the Sprittibees' hosting of the Carnival of Homeschool.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Here are the exciting craft plans I have for the week ahead, some miscellaneous, and some to gear up for President's Day:

We will spend a couple days making this cute log cabin, I need a couple more juice cartons before we start. I like the idea of using rolled strips of paper bags for the logs.

Curious George is popular in our house, so we plan to use up our extra toilet paper tubes to make this little replica.

We'll also take a stab at the ever popular silhouette project.

If we have time to spare, I have also printed off some of these coloring pages of George Washington to fill in the gaps.

Sometimes I plan, and the kids end up creating their own craft ideas. Perler beads are huge in our house right now, and if I spent as much time ironing clothes as I did their projects I would be caught up in that arena, too.

PE inside

Kids need a time of activity for their health and for greater academic productivity. I know that, I think we all know that. Actually getting it on the schedule, and following through consistently, sometimes poses a challenge for homeschoolers.

During those seemingly rare days of great weather I find it easier to get together an outdoor activity with soccer drills or a basketball game. On those many, many days that we find ourselves trapped inside by dangerous windchills or heatstroke inducing humidity, the challenge looms large.

Some tips I have found work for us:

- Find a time that works in your schedule -- and write it in. For us, I have found that right after lunch our motivation wanes, our fidgeting increases, our focus wanders. So, it is actually a great time for PE. We get out some energy and can get back to productivity after a little heart pumping. Also, on days when I would rather crawl in bed or curl up on the couch for a nap, it gets my blood flowing again to keep the afternoon moving. It is definitely good for me, too. And, having it written down, my son eagerly reminds me that it is PE time.

- Plan for it. Each weekend during my planning for the upcoming week I determine what our PE will focus on. Sometimes we do a multiple week unit on a particular sport. Sometimes we work through the Presidential Challenge material, sometimes we learn about our bodies. There are, of course, lots of websites out there to help if you need ideas. PE Central, some PE lesson plans, here's a site with a whole list of links, and PE Universe (lots of great videos on there).

- Set goals. Keep a chart, track your minutes, record resting heart rate improvement, or blood pressure (check it at the grocery store), or join a program like Jump Rope for Heart.

- Invite some friends over. One of the challenges of homeschooling is the small student population in our daily PE class. Find a family or two and invite them over for a planned PE activity or meet at a park for a soccer game (when you aren't stuck inside). This provides greater opportunity for building teamwork and teaching good sportsmanship, still in a family setting.

- Join a class or a sports' team. Many park districts, gymnastics clubs, and other active organizations offer homeschool classes, or will if you ask. Our local gymnastics academy will offer a class with as little as three participants even if it is not on their regular schedule. It never hurts to ask.

- Set a routine. We start with warm ups, do some running, discuss the plan for the day, and then jump into it.

- Get physical! I put together a little routine using the various equipment we have purchased over the years. This could easily be adapted to whatever you have or don't have around your home.

We alternate our time between aerobic (heart pumping) and anaerobic (weight or muscle training) activities. I am not a fitness teacher, never had any real training in this, but I did really enjoy a PE class that I took in college that followed this method, and may be similar to some workout places you have visited (remember those?)

The first day we went over all the segments so everyone understood proper techniques and expectations. Here was our routine: squats, jogging trampoline, arm weights, exercise bike, body gym, jumping jacks, push ups, run around living room, sit ups, jump rope. We would do the activity for 45 seconds, and then have 15 seconds to switch to the next station. I tried to keep them mostly within eyesight of each other, so I could participate and still watch everyone. Even my three year old jumps in and does fairly well.

- Be flexible and creative. If you don't have weights use soup cans. If you don't have a big house, run outside. You can run in place. There are lots of ways to be active even without a lot of equipment or space.

- Have fun! I need to remind myself that to most typical kids PE is their favorite time of day. Now, of course homeschooling is so much fun that we could never top the rest of the day (smirk), but this should still be an enjoyable, memory building time.

Happy campers, ready to get back to work!

Head over to Shannon's blog for more WFMW.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Verse of the week - Isaiah 59:1,2

"Mom! . . . OW! Nathan pinched me."

I quickly intervene and take Nathan's hands in my own. His angry heart draws back. I lift his chin and he lowers his eyes further.

We speak quietly of the offense and his consequence, and his prompted apology. Tears, hugs, and kisses, and eventually peace reigns again, but the interaction reminds me of my own relationship with God. Sometimes I feel God keeps His distance when really my own hands have pulled away. I don't see the loving forgiveness in His tender glance because my eyes remain on the ground.

My day takes me from scrubbing floors to dusting framed memories, from Scripture to incomprehensible child-speak, from tears to laughter. Wherever it takes me, God also walks there.

His protecting hand, tender compassion, strengthening Word, and eternal direction guide me. Isaiah 59:1,2 say, "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."

He is there with His strong arm that can reach into my life, His clear vision that can see a way through and His sharp hearing that hears my despairing cry. I had already jotted down these thoughts and then I read this passage from Hinds Feet in High Places (an allegory of a girl named Much-Afraid and her journey from her home surrounded by other Fearings to the protective High Places of the Great Shepherd),
It seemed so impossible to ignore the Fearings, still less to resist them. She did not dare look at the Shepherd, but had she done so she would have seen with what compassion he was regarding her. She did not realize that the Prince of Love is 'of ver tender compassions to them that are afraid.' She supposed that, like everybody else, he was despising her for her silly fears, so she muttered a shamed 'thank you.'

. . . And missed the blessing that stood before her.

If He seems distant, I must have stepped away. If He seems hidden, I need to come out of hiding. If He seems hard of hearing, I need to speak from a pure heart. He remains the same yesterday, today and forever.

His apparent distance is really my own guilt, anger, fear, selfishness, and greed. He remains as close as ever.

Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

~Isaiah 59:1,2~

Friday, February 6, 2009

Get out of the house, or not . . .

The forecast says we can expect a heatwave for the next few days -- highs over freezing for almost a whole week! We'll be going out jacketless I'm sure.

Winter will then return, laughing at our foolish optimism that this year could actually turn out differently. And, I will again reach my hand into my bag of tricks to sustain us until puddle stomping days truly arrive, and then the summer months when we complain of the humidity and stay inside anyway. But, the cabin fever of winter is definitely the roughest.

Can you see his smiling eyes?

I shared a couple weeks ago about some of our fun plans to really enjoy that dangerously cold weather that gripped us, (I think the frozen bubbles were the best!)

This week we enjoyed "celebrating" Groundhog Day with some crafts. (Nathan always seems to be on hand when I need a picture).

When all else fails, we get out of the house for some family fun. We had earned a free family pass to an indoor play area with about seven huge inflatables. After an hour and a half of wonderful energy release we picked up the kids' free Book-It Pizzas from Pizza Hut and headed home. This on the heels of a Disney on Ice show a couple weeks back . . .

The winter truly does offer a unique time of togetherness. After soccer, beyond the holiday time, and before baseball season gets us running again. As long as I can keep the hair-pulling sessions to a minimum (mine . . . and the kids' too, I suppose) we actually enjoy this time of year.

Check out Mary's blog for more Friday Show and Tell. And, head over to Heart of the Matter for more cabin fever busters.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Homeschool Memoirs - Reading List

I have wanted to sit down and make a list of books read and to read for a while now, and my motivation came knocking this week in the form of the homeschool memoirs assignment.

In recent weeks I have begun recording our homeschool reading highlights in a weekly wrap up at the close of each week, and of course, the kids' records have all the books that they read, we read together, or we listen to together. All told, I suppose I spend about three hours each day reading either outloud or silently, not counting reading blogs, lessons and instructions.

This year Ambleside has provided our reading list (years 0, 2, 4, and 6), some more memorable than others.

Some of our favorites there have been:

The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge (year 2)

Every book by Holling C. Holling -- Paddle to the Sea, Tree in the Trail, Minn of the Mississippi, and now Pagoo and Seabird (years 1-4)

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (year 2)

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (and the rest of the series) (years 1-4)

Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (if you haven't heard me rave before, this is an amazing book! Really opens your eyes and inspires your faith by looking at the great cloud of witnesses that surround us in the last 2000 years).

It Couldn't Just Happen by Lawrence Richards (science book showing weaknesses of the theory of Evolution) (year 4)

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (year 4)

Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (we all loved this one, as well as the sequel)

Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare (year 4)

Secrets of the Universe: Discovering the Universal Laws of Science by Paul Fleisher (year 6)

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (WWII era) (year 6)

Some that didn't fair so well:
Jack and Jill by Alcott

School of the Woods by William J. Long (some parts were fascinating, and others, um, not so much)

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (I know, a great classic, but we did not really light any fires with this story.)

And, for my own reading . . .

I don't have a proposed list at this point, but in recent months I have read these books:

Genesis and Exodus

Age of Opportunity by Tripp (a great book on parenting teens/pre-teens. This helped me examine the genuineness of my own faith as lived out in the raising of my children. Lots of great motivation and practical advice from and for real life experiences.)

You Matter More Than You Think by Dr. Leslie Parrott (interesting book, but not one of my favorites. Her writing was somehow a bit too disjointed for me to follow and appreciate. She made a lot of great points about the impact we unknowingly have on other lives and I was encouraged in what I have done and in what I can do through the book, so I guess she got her point across.)

Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis (Very heavy book -- short, but intense! I read this while on vacation and had to read most sentences twice to really absorb what he was saying. Maybe my brain wanted to be on vacation, too. Lewis talks about the loss of honor in our society, of "men without chests" that have warped our thinking and our values. His words could have been written yesterday! Very timely read).

Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer (I enjoyed this easy read, and found great encouragement to tap into my "creative" side. God is the Creator, and He imprinted us with His image. We need to let this shine in who we are and how we create the environment of our home. At times I felt a bit overwhelmed and out of my league, but came away with lots of practical tips to let out the hidden art in my own life).

I am currently reading these books:

Hinds' Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard

Upgrade by Kevin Swanson

Leviticus (I'm reading through the Bible in a year along with a group blog - 66 books).

Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian (pretty much a constant for me)

Beautiful Girlhood with my nine year old

Anna Karenina by Tolstoy (my one and only truly fiction book)

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (reading during Bible time during the school day -- we are thoroughly enjoying this book. Seeing her faith in the face of the harsh realities of racism taken to its extreme causes us to really think about our own priorities and the boldness of our faith).

Other books that I have gotten recommendations for and hope to read:

Heaven at Home by Ginger Plowman

Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes

Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney

(I try not to plan too far out as I just started quite a few new ones already).

I have enjoyed looking at others' lists and look forward to many more. I think I have room for a few more good books here.

Works for me Wednesday - Calendar of memories


Kids love hearing stories of all the cute things they did when they were "little," but unfortunately, too many of those sweet habits, expressions, and memories are quickly forgotten.

Each of my children has a baby book filled, or not so filled, with memories of all their firsts. However, life keeps going after that, and I wanted a simple way to keep more of these moments protected from the erasing waves of time. With five kids I do not have time each day to journal for each of them, although I think that would be a great idea. And, with no crafty ability (and, again, not much time) I have not been sucked into the scrapbook vacuum, yet.

So, I devised my own method of recording and treasuring these memories.

I use a calendar. Each year we always receive a few freebie calendars in the mail from various companies and organizations. One goes on the wall by the phone for scheduling, and the other goes next to the computer for recording the moments that I wish were unforgettable.

This has worked so well for me. When I flip back through these quickly jotted memories I don't have to question the date it happened or the ages of the kids at the time, I find it all written on the day that it happened -- that first dentist appointment, the broken arm, the sweet mispronunciations, the sibling love, the academic achievements, the sporting events. All neatly stored in one little calendar that takes up hardly any room on a shelf or in a storage container when December 31 rolls around.

And, of course, the kids love pulling out the old ones and laughing over the silly things they did and looking forward to building more memories with each other.

That's what works for me.