Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bringing Home Paradise -- Week 4 -- Practical application


No matter how breath-taking, everything gets hum-drum without a fresh perspective. Ask people that live by the ocean, or by the mountains, or with kids, or who own a Bible. After a while you take it for granted. You know, those glazed eyes of children on Christmas night when all their toys have already taken on an air of familiarity? No matter how majestic the view, how powerful the words, how amazing the experience, it can get old.

Even marriage, one of God's gifts to mankind from the days of creation can get stale. I realized that I need to constantly guard against complacency in my home and marriage. I need to recognize God's blessing, have a thankful heart, and intentionally cultivate the precious relationship that I have with my husband.

When the stirrings for this series started in my heart a couple months ago, I knew a month would really be just the beginning. I have worked hard to establish and reestablish habits that would grow my marriage. Prayer has become part of my routine, keeping my husband a priority has constantly influenced my thoughts and decisions, and these last couple weeks I have found great joy in showing my husband love in practical expressions.

One night this week we talked about our love for each other. We shared what we appreciate in each other and what we appreciate most from each other. Sometimes even when we know someone well their answers may surprise us. I need to continue being a student of my husband and learning more of who he is, what he loves, and what he prizes. People present a challenge to truly know because we all change. Our likes change, our preferences, our hobbies, our interests, our abilities. At the core we remain mostly the same person, but a marriage can never just be left to ferment, because the ingredients don't remain the same.

I pray that this series has blessed your home in some way, even something small that will continue to grow and blossom. While I wrap up this series of posts, I have definitely refocused my priorities and find greater joy in my marriage.

Even if we have grown dull to the marvels around us, all it takes is a deep breath and reopening our eyes to what has been there all along, and the marvel returns.

How has your marriage grown? Please share in a post what God has taught or is teaching you, tips for maintaining that "spark," or some other encouragement about marriage or this series. Then sign in here with Mr. Linky. Be sure to link directly to your Bringing Paradise Home relevant post so that others can find it easily and please also post a link back here so others can come and be inspired through the ideas and encouragement shared. ~Thank you!

If you don't have a blog please feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts and ideas as well. I would love to hear from you!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- January 30

I can't believe we are heading into week 20 of our school year already, and summer still seems so far away when I look out my window. Before we know it . . .

For my weekly wrap ups rather than go by days of the week, or even by subject, I decided to just post the highlights of what we accomplished. While I love lots of moments throughout each day, much of it would put you to sleep if recounted here, so I'll spare you the details.

Favorite moments:

- Blake is enjoying reading through The Secrets of the Universe (a great book, by the way, if you can find it. It puts fairly complex scientific laws into easy to read language) and often takes initiative to attempt the various experiments as well. Following this picture and its accompanying description in the book:

We constructed this apparatus:

I run experiments the same way I cook, making substitutions based on what I have around. We didn't have aluminum screws, so we used foil. We didn't have a "lantern" battery so we connected two nine volts. We did have the test tubes and a large pan (or cake topper lid . . .) By running the current through the water under the two test tubes we separated the water into its hydrogen and oxygen components.

If you look closely, you can see the tiny bubbles rising in the tube.

The result was pretty cool. The tubes start filling with water by the reaction and one tube fills with hydrogen, the other with oxygen.

The one of the right in the picture is collecting the hydrogen, hence the bigger bubble already visible.

The hydrogen fills twice as fast, since it is H2O. When it was full (took about a half hour after we connected a couple more batteries to speed things up). Then, we lit a candle, lifted the tube out of the water still upside down and held it quickly over the candle. Since hydrogen ignites easily we got a few impressive pops as the hydrogen came out of the tube.

- One popular craft we did this week was a "dancing ballerina."

I pulled a ballerina from clip art and blocked out half of it. Created a rectangle with alternating lines going up the sides for them to cut on when folded in half. They had to draw the other side of the ballerina and cut it out and it kind of dances when you dangle it over the table.


- Running so many levels at once. I could get everything done easily if the kids all worked in their own separate boxes. Not that I want to discourage their curiosity, but sometimes I have a hard time balancing their desire to do everything that everyone else is doing, and hear every lesson that I teach to everyone. They don't have time to do 3-4 grade levels worth of work everyday, but they try to. It is great that they are all eager to learn so much, but hard to get done what has to get done, and I would think it has to impair the depth of learning of their material when they keep hopping around from the Dark Ages to Colonial America to Ancient Greece!

Reading highlights:

- Corrie Ten Boom. Can't say enough about this book. Each week we get more involved in the story, in the secret room, in understanding life in times of war. Amazing faith, incredible challenges to appreciate what we have, and riveting incidents to spark our thinking.

- Started Rebbecca of Sunnybrook Farm. New books always take a few chapters to love the characters, but once we got acquainted and got comfortable, we have enjoyed the story. We loved when she "borrowed" the neighbor's baby. She had complained about all the babies back home, but realized that no babies was far worse than too many. I definitely agree.


- Bible time -- I realized that while I have made Bible time a priority in terms of time (it is always the first thing we do so it doesn't get missed), I have not made it a priority in my planning. I want my kids to love this time of day and interact more with it. So, this week I set a bit more of a routine and planned participation activities for the kids.

This year we are working through the fruits of the spirit and are currently on patience. I typed up the word on a paper and put 12 references on the page (one per reading child per day, except Friday). Each morning they would choose a verse to look up, read aloud, and write on a sheet what they learned about patience from that verse. These sheets get stuck to the door around the original picture and will serve as reminders in the weeks to come as we read and act out the life of Job.

To wrap up some other weeks, look here.


Dark areas show a mudflow from the peak of Mount Redoubt earlier this week.

Dark areas show a mudflow from the peak of Mount Redoubt earlier this week from CNN.

Nothing exciting yet, but I found a webcam for Mount Redoubt in Alaska. They are anticipating an eruption any time soon. This is not a video, but broadcasts fresh still images every so often. Once the ash starts spouting you should get some interesting views.

Also, my experience from the Iditarod has shown me that Alaska's technology is not generally used to a lot of attention. So, I would anticipate these websites loading slowly and at times not at all.

Case in point, this message appeared on the Alaska Volcano Observatory's site:

Due to very high load on our web server, we can only support a very limited website. We are working to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. Thanks!

Alaska Volcano Observatory
Information Statement
Thursday, January 29, 2009 1:53 PM AKST (13:53 UTC)

Redoubt Volcano
60°29'7" N 152°44'38" W, Summit Elevation 10197 ft (3108 m)
Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

Currently we have no indication that an eruption of Redoubt has occurred or is occurring.

Unrest at Redoubt Volcano continues. Seismicity has remained at a relatively constant level for the past 24 hours, and is still well above background.

Staff are currently monitoring the volcano 24 hours a day. We will issue further information as it becomes available.

They have some interesting links there if you want to see how people are told to prepare for a potential eruption. I know all about tornado drills, and have heard about how to brace yourself in an earthquake, but volcano preparedness is not something I know much of anything about. Evacuation would most likely be my method of choice.

Here are some sites that you might be able to find a current image on:

- Anchorage weather site

- This article has a link to a webcam also, but it was not viewable when I was on earlier.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Frugal Friday -- the freedom of a budget

Some see budgets as a constraint or a killjoy. Others see them as a waste of time. To some they seem impossible goals.

The truth? A budget can bring freedom.

Freedom from guilt. Freedom from the world's standards.
Freedom to live simply. Freedom to give.
Freedom through knowledge and control of your resources.

Recently my sister-in-law told me about the Disney Ice Show in town and a deal she found on tickets. I considered it, and then initially decided against it because tickets add up quickly when you have five children. Then, I took a peek at our budget for the month. We have hardly spent any money outside of necessities since before Christmas, and our groceries are coming in way under budget this month. I quickly realized, we could go!

I so wanted to take my children to this memory-making experience. I remember as a child attending these shows on occasion and thoroughly enjoying them. I wanted the same for my children. And, thanks to our budget I could go, knowing I could afford it. We could enjoy the show guilt free, kind of spontaneously, thanks to that $100 a month that we set aside for fun stuff -- going out to eat or ordering take out, movie rentals, field trips, church activities, and family outings.

Sometimes that negative perspective of a budget keeps you from formulating and living on one, but if you don't already, I would encourage you to get on a budget. If you are a spender, they help you see where your money is going and not get frustrated with overspending while still being able to enjoy activities and purchases. Those of you that are savers like me, they give you the freedom to enjoy special times that you might otherwise pass over to "save more."

Those smiles? Priceless! Especially when I know it was all done within our budget.

For more Frugal Friday tips check out Crystal's blog.

Homeschool Memoirs - unit studies

We incorporate unit studies into our homeschool on an irregular basis. Sometimes I use them heavily, sometimes not at all. Right now we are loosely studying Hawaii a couple days a week, and in February we will jump into a unit on the Iditarod.

When I use unit studies I still maintain their regular math and English work, but the units help bring us somewhere new in our history, science, current events, vocabulary, Bible geography, art, and other miscellaneous areas.

Before I had kids at so many different levels I used them more, and we really enjoyed one that we did through Konos volume two on responsibility.

I enjoyed that the unit focused around a character quality and then explored that through so many levels and subjects. In particular I remember the weeks spent learning about beavers and ants. We built a dam and got completely messy. It is hard work trying to build and anchor a wall in the midst of running water. Really opened our eyes to the skill that God gave the beavers.

We were supposed to spend an hour watching an ant hill, but I could barely drag them inside for lunch. We put out different foods -- honey, crumbled bacon, water, cereal, and whatever else the kids grabbed. And then, we watched. With magnifying glasses and without, on our eyes, and stretched out on our bellies. We followed them and wondered at their diligence. Amazing!

I really enjoyed Konos studies, but the version I had was pre-internet days and some of the books and materials were unavailable. We still enjoyed everything that we could get our hands on and it was adaptable to many ages all in one lesson.

For more unit study favorites check out the Homeschool Blog Awards.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ambleside Online -- Year 2

At this season in our homeschool adventure we are enjoying using Ambleside Online for our basic outline and reading directions. However, I want everything that I need for each of my kids in one place, especially since I will be going through each grade level multiple times with subsequent children.

Currently we are using years 2,4, and 6 so I will gradually be compiling these resources onto this post for handy reference for myself and others in the same years. Even if you are not using Ambleside, they have great recommendations for free reading books or supplementation to other studies you may be doing.

For now this is a work in progress . . .

Here are the links to the Year 2 booklist page and the Year 2 Weekly Reading List.

These are the recommended books for free reading along with any links I have found to them and our thoughts on the ones we have read so far:

Heidi by Joanna Spyri (another copy available online with illustrations)
- We all enjoyed this delightful story (see the Wiki entry on Heidi) of a sweet child raised by her grandfather in a remote area in the Swiss Alps. We romped through the fields with the goats relishing the sunshine and almost tasting the fresh milk and cheese. We marveled at Grandfather's ability to fix almost anything and the wonderful, simple life that they lived. We also watched the movie with Shirley Temple and compared and contrasted the two. We enjoyed them both, but the book carried us further into Heidi's precious world and innocent perspective on life.

A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and it's sequel, Tanglewood Tales
The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
- My kids all really enjoyed this, and adored Polly throughout the story. I was a little more indifferent to it, but found the ending satisfying.
Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales
Pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Browning
Abraham Lincoln by Ingri D'Aulaire
Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Of course this whole series has charmed us. We can't stop with the "suggested books," but keep on working our way through this enjoyable look at the daily life of the pioneer families of the late 1800s.
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
- We read this a couple years ago, and although we enjoyed the book overall, we did find it a bit dry in parts. Doctor Dolittle is a likable character and we were drawn to his animal loving ways, especially my animal loving daughter.
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater (wiki post)
- Who would not love to redo their basement into a refrigerated den for penguins? This book definitely sparked our imagination. It also made me think again about a simpler time -- the father in the story only worked part of the year (as a painter), and through the winter months sat at home usually reading the paper and living on beans with the family since that was all they could afford when he wasn't working. So different from this day and age.
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
Chanticleer and the Fox Barbara Cooney's is one version
Along Came A Dog by Meindert De Jong
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angli


An Island Story by HE Marshall (Our Island Story is the same book) Free Audio at Librivox Part 1, Part 2. Kings and Queen timeline figures here.
This Country of Ours (TCOO) by HE Marshall
A Child's History of the World by Virgil Hillyer
The Discovery of New Worlds by MB Synge

History Tales and/or Biography

Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (This is a powerful book! Some spots I do adjust as I read to younger kids since it doesn't skirt some of the gory facts of martyrdom. I have had to choke back tears during more than one reading as we witness the power of God spoken through many humble servants. I would highly recommend this book).
* ** The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge
*** Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley


Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling (there is a map in the book, and online map as well)

Seabird by Holling C. Holling

Natural History/Science

The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock (a 1911 version is online in various formats here) -- we bought this book before our Ambleside days and have enjoyed its vast information and topics
The Burgess Animal Book for Children ( I prefer the format on the Baldwin Project, found here) by Thornton Burgess See Kelly Kenar's taxonomy key to supplement the learning and get a visual on the categories of animals.

- I also found a site called the Tree of Life, and despite its strong evolutionary slant, it is a great resource for pictures and animal classification.

*** Pagoo by Holling C Holling

- Here are some notebooking pages and ideas for reading Pagoo.


Walter De La Mare

Eugene Field and James Whitcombe Riley
Christina Rossetti


Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
Pilgrim's Progress Book 1 (Christian's Journey) by John Bunyan
Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty, selected tales
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (published as "Betsy" in the UK)
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (available as an unabridged audio with British accent from

Monday, January 26, 2009

25 "random" things

A few people that I know have posted theirs recently, and I figured this is kind of a fun way to get to know people. You can learn things that wouldn't usually come up in conversation or blogging. So, here goes, 25 random things that came to mind . . .

1. Before kids, I figured two or three would be enough, now I don’t really think there is such a thing as “enough.”

2. I am the fifth of seven kids, and we are all named alphabetically, hence “Erin”.

3. I don’t enjoy cooking.

4. I can speak at least a few words in 11 different languages (English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Hindi, Telegu, German, Sign, Latin, Japanese) and can say, “I don’t speak (name of language)” in five of those.

5. I enjoy writing and public speaking

6. I teach a homeschool drama class

7. I don’t like shopping – at all!

8. When I was little (like kindergarten!) I loved horror movies – Dracula, the Pit and the Pendulum – organ music and stormy weather and I was lovin’ it!

9. I enjoy blogging (this varies a bit from #5, as it doesn’t always qualify as writing)

10. I would enjoy being a photographer except I take horrible pictures

11. I have taught every age from two year olds to high school seniors in a professional setting. I don’t think I could pick a favorite if I had to.

12. My eleven year old is on the verge of knowing more about math than I do.

13. I have witnessed a drive by shooting (no person was actually hit though).

14. I have had over 100 boys come through my home in the last 10 years. Such a privilege to be a part of that!

15. I have traveled to 20 countries, mostly before I was 20.

16. I have a passion for missions.

17. I had my fourth baby in the car, four blocks from the hospital, in the parking lot of 7-11 with just my husband there.

18. I only drink about 6 cups of coffee a year, but I do have tea about once a week.

19. People say I am organized, but I feel I have so much yet to learn and implement before I can accept that label.

20. I am extremely laid back.

21. I love spending time with just my husband – going for walks, staying up late, etc.

22. I am a morning person, as long as I have had a reasonable amount of sleep.

23. I can’t get enough of God’s Word – loving reading all the way through it again this year.

24. I kind of enjoy busy work (laundry, filing, grading papers . . .)

25. I am glad this is number 25.

That wasn't so bad.

If you want to join the fun, just leave a comment and a link.

Bringing Home Paradise -- Week 4 -- Practical application


The challenge for the week ahead is to find a way each day to speak visible love to your spouse. A key to using these to express greater love in your home is to remember that overall quantity does not matter as much as quality does. A candlelit time of dessert after the kids are in bed once a month can show more love than hastily written notes every morning. If we are really investing in our marriage, we must put the effort in to make these gifts really count. They don't need to cost a lot of money or take more time than we can set aside, but they do need to take our commitment to show the depth of our love sincerely to keep the flame burning.

These ways will look different in each home, but here are some definitions from Chapman's site and ideas that correspond to the different languages:

Quality time:

Quality time is more than mere proximity. It’s about focusing all your energy on your mate, even an intimate dinner for two can come and go without a minute of quality time being shared.

Quality conversation involves sharing experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. A good mate will not only listen, but will respond to assure their mate they are truly listening. Many mates just need a sympathetic listener.

An important aspect of quality conversation is self-revelation. It is only when you understand your emotions and inner feelings will you then be able to share quality conversation, and quality time with your mate.

Quality activities are also a very important part of quality time.

Some ideas:

- Look your spouse in the eyes and ask how his/her day went

- Have a game night and stay focused on the conversation and laughter that flows

- Think about a special memory and relive it with your spouse

Receiving Gifts

Some mates respond well to visual symbols of love. If you want to become an effective gift giver, many mates will have to learn to change their attitude about money. A person who is used to investing and saving their money may have a tough time. These people must understand that you are investing the money not in gifts, but in deepening your relationship with your mate.

The gift of self is an important symbol of love. Sometimes all your mate desires is for someone to be there for them, going through the same trials and experiencing the same things. Your body can become a very powerful physical symbol of love.

Giving gifts:

- pick up some of your spouse's favorite candy along with a card to express that you are thinking about him

- Make sure you budget for gift giving if this is a love language spoken in your home.

- Make something your spouse would enjoy (baked goodies, a card, a picture, etc.)

Acts of Service

Sometimes simple chores around the house can be an undeniable expression of love. Even simple things like laundry and taking out the trash require some form of planning, time, effort, and energy.

It is important to do these acts of service out of love and not obligation. A mate who does chores and helps out around the house out of guilt or fear will inevitably not be speaking a language of love, but a language of resentment.

Using Acts of Service to show love:

- While your spouse is gone spend some extra time cleaning the area of the house that matters most to him or her.

- Plan and prepare a special meal

- Take care of a household chore that your spouse typically does

Physical Touch

Many mates feel the most loved when they receive physical contact from their partner. For a mate who speaks this love language loudly, physical touch can make or break the relationship.

It is important to discover how your partner not only physically responds but also psychologically responds to various touches. Some touches are irritating and uncomfortable for your mate. Take the time to learn the touches your mate likes.

It is important to remember that this love language is different for everyone. What type of touch makes you feel secure is not necessarily what will make your partner happy. It is important to learn each other’s dialects.

Showing love through physical expression:

- Give a back rub

-Grab your spouse's hand while you walk together

- Reserve some of your energy for the end of the day

- Greet your spouse with a hug in the morning or when reuniting after work

Words of Affirmation

Mark Twain once said “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Simple statements, such as, “You look great in that suit,” or “You must be the best baker in the world! I love your oatmeal cookies,” are sometimes all a person needs to hear to feel loved.

If a loved one listens for “Words of Affirmation,” offering encouragement will help him or her to overcome insecurities and develop greater confidence. Here are some examples: reinforcing a difficult decision; calling attention to progress made on a current project; acknowledging a person’s unique perspective on an important topic.

Offering words of affirmation:

- Leave notes -- on the bathroom mirror, tucked in a briefcase or backpack, in the mail

- Recognize all that your spouse does in a day and verbalize your appreciation of that.

- Compliment your spouse's appearance, cooking, compassion, wisdom, etc. (sincerely) :-)

Hope that got your creative juices flowing a bit more. Start plotting and scheming to show greater love in your home this week. Can't wait to hear about it!

milk bubbles

Just a little fun to start the week. We had some stray straws in our cabinet and the kids wanted to have "Root Beer Floats." Actually, it is just milk. But, I guess the bubbles make them think of more exotic drinks. :-)

Of course, give a kid a straw and there will be bubbles everywhere.

The funniest thing, while I was getting focused to take this picture Nathan is saying through his teeth, "Take the picture." I had to laugh!

Verse of the week - Deuteronomy 4:29

Sometimes God seems far away, almost irrelevant. Getting caught up in the daily routine, I can easily forget how He is intimately acquainted with my life.

He is always there.

When I stop to look at creation, I cannot ignore the beauty and majesty in the work of His hands. When I quiet my soul and mind, and listen, I hear His still, small voice calling me. No matter where I have gone off to, He is there.

Deteronomy 4:29 shares this sweet promise, "But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul." We need to look for Him, but He is there. We need to search sincerely and earnestly and He will give us the eyes to see.

I don't need to come perfect, just seeking.

This week I want to seek after Him with my whole heart and soul -- all my passions, emotions, thoughts, motivations, priorities -- turn everything His direction. How will I live differently if my goal is seeking after Him?

But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.

~Deteronomy 4:29~

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bringing Home Paradise -- Week 4 -- Practical application


Grounded in prayer and a look at our priorities, we worked to put a fresh outlook into practice. Now it's time to get practical! I kind of think of this as the fun stuff. The previous three weeks laid an important foundation for this week, but now we get to really do some visible stuff and put action to all the preparation.

We can carry around the best intentions, but if it never enters our daily expressions, it remains meaningless. Our spouse must be able to see our love in order to feel it.

Do you know the best way to show love to your spouse? No, this does not have a trick answer, or even the same answer for everyone. If you have not explored it before, I would encourage you to take a look at the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. You can take a quiz, (pretty simplistic really, but can help if you are unfamiliar with these) and evaluate your love language or your spouse's language. Another site has a more detailed quiz, based on the book, but I still find it difficult at times to choose one over another.

In studying these over the years I still have a hard time nailing mine down. In fact, I almost think it more helpful to think of them in a hierarchy rather than as languages, some of which you might not speak or understand. Gifts and physical expressions of love are pretty non-existent on my list, but the other three all validate love to me. I find encouragement when Charles washes the dishes or helps with laundry, but without his words expressing appreciation for what I do each day, it does not mean as much. And, I treasure time alone with Charles, both after the kids are in bed on a daily basis and more extended time alone on "dates" or vacations now and then.

All that to say, sometimes these languages are not cut and dry, and it is okay to speak more than one language in your home. In general you must do something. Love needs intentionality. Pray for God to infuse this week with joy as we put feet to our foundations.

Each day this week, and hopefully for many days to come, I want to challenge you (and me) to make a plan and execute it. Each day think of one way to show love to your spouse. I'll give more ideas as the week goes one, but these can be as little as leaving a note on the bathroom mirror or making their favorite dinner. Or, as complex as planning a special date with them in mind or putting together a scrapbook of memories to encourage them. The sky is the limit and I look forward to hearing from you throughout the week about what ideas you have come up with.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- January 23

We started the week with a much enjoyed day off! Our weekend had more than enough activities packed into it, so I really needed the extra day to get prepped for the school week.

I always take an hour or two on the weekend to prepare for the upcoming school week(s). This includes:
- grade any papers that didn't get taken care of during the week,
- look ahead a few weeks to see what books I need to put on hold at the library,
- Double check that we have everything on hand for the upcoming week,
- Write out the assignment sheets for the week ahead taking into consideration any out of the ordinary activities,
- Complete and file the sheets from the week before. I like to include on these any books that the kids read silently, we read together, or we listened to on audio; activities and field trips they participated in; special moments from the week; anything else that I think should be recorded,
- straightening and organizing anything that is getting out of order in the school room,
- planning some of the extras for the week (art, PE, etc.)

I have enjoyed more ideas from a fun craft site with lots of simple ideas, and they will even email a week's worth of inspiration each week. Kids Craft Weekly has filled lots of my craft times already.

Tuesday we stopped to enjoy the inauguration, and enjoyed lots of conversation about our country, its processes, and our new president. This occasion peppered our conversation the rest of the week as well.

We amazingly accomplished an entire five day's worth of work this week, even with the inauguration and we took off Friday morning to enjoy the Disney ice show. The kids worked really hard and deserved this fun morning treat!

Special moments:
- Brooke is learning to read! As she just turned five, she is the youngest or my kids, so far, to really start making connections in reading. She is so excited to read and wants to practice every day. I love her enthusiasm.


- Staying consistent. I could write a whole post on this. I can have all the best curriculums, schedules, physical areas, etc. at my disposal, but I need to consistently use them and hold my kids accountable to a high standard of work and attitude in order for them to work effectively.

Favorite passages in books:
- In The Hiding Place we are heading into war, and the kids hate that we only have a few minutes to read from it each day. The story is so gripping, especially coming from the quaint days of watchmaking and shopkeeping.

- We have quickly moved into and almost through On the Banks of Plum Creek. With the extra bit of driving we have done this week we are almost through it, and we just started Monday! Faith asked if Laura was poor, and I wasn't sure how to answer that. In a way, I suppose they were, but they had what they needed. People just used to live so differently, not accumulating debt, living with just the essentials, and keeping life simple. We had a great talk about that question as well.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In Christ Alone

Picture of Cross on a Hill - Free Pictures -

Through the ups and downs that come with motherhood I find myself relying on Christ more and more. The lyrics to a song I learned about 15 years ago, which many have remixed since then, encouraged me today and I had to take a break at the piano mid-morning and sing my heart out . . .

In Christ alone will I glory
Though I could pride myself in battles won.
For I've been blessed beyond measure
And by His strength alone I overcome.
Oh, I could stop and count successes
Like diamonds in my hands,
But those trophies could not equal
To the grace by which I stand.

In Christ alone I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross.
In every victory let it be said of me
My source of strength, my source of hope is Christ alone.

In Christ alone will I glory
For only by His grace I am redeemed.
And only His tender mercy
Could reach beyond my weakness to my need.
And now I seek no greater honor
Than just to know Him more,
And to count my gains
But losses to the glory of my Lord.

More often, I want to claim the victories as my own. I want to somehow take credit for my son's math ability, my daughter's kind heart, and my smooth days. However, I don't want to take the blame for my son's less than tidy handwriting, or my daughter's spelling struggles, or the unkind words that sometimes enter our home. Today had more of the events I would chalk up to "failures" than those I would want to claim as my successes.

God brought me back again, even as I faced those frustrations and discouragements, my glory should come only in Christ alone. Regardless of what victories or failures I may have to walk through, my life will eventually be measured by what Christ accomplished on the cross and my daily surrender to His control in my life.

I needed a reminder once again, that I can do all things through Christ.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hidden Art

Sunrise on Haleakala Crater -- God's canvas

We serve a creative God. And, God calls us to be like Him. In her book Hidden Art Edith Schaeffer highlights this. I am enjoying this book, but also feeling rather convicted by it, because I am very unartistic. I don't enjoy crafts, I don't really enjoy artsy activities, and I don't feel that I do well coming up with creative ideas. I can mimic something else fairly well, but as far as composing unique creations, I generally come up empty.

After reading though, I realize that I do need to put some more effort into making my house more homey. It doesn't help that I live in the residence hall at a school -- very institutional decor -- but that is really just an excuse. I remember marveling when we visited some friends of ours earlier in our marriage at their home in Ohio. She has such a gift of hospitality and homemaking. I can handle the housekeeping, but the homemaking is another story. They had a fairly small one bedroom house in the middle of no where, so to speak, and yet it felt so warm and inviting. You just walked in and felt welcome and peace. I want that for my home as well.

So, I read on, hoping to find inspiration that I feel like I can actually follow through on. These paragraphs inspired me a bit:

I feel very strongly that this modern fear of the home becoming non-existent can be countered only if those of us who want to be sure our little spot is really a home take very practical measures to be sure that it is just that, and not a collection of furniture sitting in some sort of enclosure being protected from wind and storm. Of course, human relationships make a house into a home: either the relationships within the house, or the welcome and understanding that guests find. Human relationships depend upon communication.

But this communication takes time. It is also helped by atmosphere, and the atmosphere is helped by the 'things' which are arranged with love and with an expression of creativity in a visible form.

I think we have the relationship part moving along well in our house. Our house is one of laughter and conversation. We truly enjoy one another. But, then she gets back to the physical atmosphere of the home -- decorating, flowers, music, etc. There are a lot of little things I know I could do, but nothing I feel very qualified to conquer. I like the thought of these changes, but don't really know if I can do them and make our house better for the effort.

We'll see . . . Any ideas for how you make your house a home would be much appreciated. I will share my inspirations as I come to they, or them come to me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bringing Home Paradise -- Week 3 -- putting into practice


We have devoted a week to prayer, and hopefully made that a daily habit now, and we spent a week evaluating our priorities. Now we get to start putting this into practice, and next week will jump further into the practical realm.

Because Charles is a priority in my life, it will show in my habits. This week I will work further on cultivating these habits that reflect that. I like to have one a day, but you might choose one or two to work on throughout the week. Here are some ideas:

- Get to know your spouse even more. This can be done through observation and actually asking questions. What really makes his/her day? What are his/her pet peeves (that you should try to avoid)? What prayer requests should you be bearing? What matters more to him/her a clean house, good meals, quiet time, arriving places on time or early, clean kids, etc.?

- Give thanks for your spouse, and to them. If our prayers include a time of giving thanks for our spouse it can really transform our thoughts through the remainder of the day as well. If we focus our prayers on what needs changing we sometimes forget to dwell on all the blessings this person brings into our life. Then, verbalizing those words of thanks bring encouragement as well.

- Smile! Amazing what that little muscle reaction can accomplish. I know even a forced smile helps my own attitude improve.

- Take time to really look at your spouse. This is a simple little thing that I started doing recently. I fell hopelessly in love with this man about 19 years ago and it started with a look. Both of us have changed in appearance, but I still enjoy the way he looks, when I take the time to notice. So often my eyes are dashing all about looking at the work that needs to be done, but I continue to work on letting them rest on my husband and enjoying his physical appearance. This also makes me more aware of my own (a whole nother area that needs to be a priority) and thinking how I can look the best for him.

- Give compliments. Again, even forced ones (as long as they are true) can change the atmosphere. Think about what you really love about your spouse and say it, either verbally or in a note. Send an email, leave them a message, get the word out that you are in love and can't shut up about it.

- Take time to remember. We all have treasured memories of our spouse over the years. Remembering the way my husband has shown love to me bolsters my own love for him. I remember the time when we were dating and he broke his ankle right before my birthday. Stuck at home healing, he baked me a checkerboard cake that was amazing and arranged a special day even though he couldn't drive or do things the way he had hoped. The list could continue for quite a while, but remembering those precious moments that have connected us continues to bring us closer together.

I'm sure you can add to this list as well, but I hope this gets you started. If you have others areas that you think we should consider please leave them in the comments. Next week we will focus on more specific practical ideas (date plans, greeting them when they come home, etc.) so you can start thinking along those lines as well. Here's a website with some more ideas if you need more inspiration.

I look forward to hearing how you put into practice all that we have been praying and planning for these past couple weeks.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Verse of the week -- Philippians 4:11-13 (part 2)

Every time I read through Scripture, even passages that I have heard time and time again, God whispers a new understanding to me. His word is ever living. Although I chose these verses for the verse of the week about seven months ago, this weekend they struck me in a new way that I want to carry with me this week.

In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." As I read over the oft quoted phrase in verse 13 two things stood out to me.

First, the earlier verses dwell on finding contentment whether we have much or little. I realized that sometimes I find it easier to keep God on the forefront of my thoughts when I am in one of those extremes. When things "abound" I see God's blessing in a tangible way and I praise Him. When I feel abased, I recognize my great need for reliance on Him and I flee to Him often for strength. However, then there are all of the in between days -- where I actually live most of the time. Somewhere in between tragedy and excess I must still find contentment, and daily reliance on Him.

Even in the everyday of runny noses and cooking meals and grading school work. In the humdrum of life I need to remember that I need Him and that He is blessing. That is the secret of contentment -- relying on Him even when we don't feel like we "need" Him, and recognizing His blessing even when it doesn't seem to be overflowing.

Secondly, I was reminded that the flow of this passage teaches about learning contentment in a wide spectrum of situations through Christ. Don't know why I often skimmed over that. We like to focus on the "all things are possible" part of the verse. I was reminded of this in a song we sang at church today. That phrase was repeated over and over, but we need to make sure we finish it.

All things are not possible on our own. Not in our own strength, not with our eyes on our present circumstance, not with worldly wisdom, not without faith, obedience, and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I need to keep my focus on the "through Christ" part of my life, even in the everydayness of my life.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

~Philippians 4:11-13~

Friday, January 16, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- January 16

A very full week this week with outside activities, but still amazingly productive.

Monday co-op, Tuesday home all day, Wednesday gym and swim, Thursday trip to my parents, and Friday we hosted Keepers Club (a small group -- but we had a great time learning about American Sign Language) and amazingly managed to finish a full week's worth of schoolwork.

Thursday we enjoyed a trip to my parents' house to meet another homeschool family from their church with kids around our kids' ages and to try out a game my mom put together about the life of William Carey.

This game could be easily adapted to a variety of topics. It challenges memory, listening skills, and teamwork. Here's the gist of it (sorry, no pictures, I didn't think to bring my camera):

She took each of the letters of William Carey's name and wrote them on a piece of paper (this gave us about 12 options which was a stretch, but doable). On the back of the paper she wrote the answer to a question (some were numbers, some were short phrases). Then she hung them on a wall so we could not see the answers.

We divided into two teams (although this could be done as a non-competitive group learning time as well) and then she explained the rules and began to read an intro to William Carey's life referencing the book she had taken it from. After a paragraph she got to a question, "What did William Carey's family own that most other families of the time did not?" The first team had to pick a letter in response.

The first few guesses are just blind guesses because we don't know what answer is under any letter. The other team did happen to guess the right letter(!), but after that we won some and lost some. However, as the game goes on you learn more of the answers and have to keep them straight, and figure out what answer goes to which question.

After one team misses a question it goes to the other team (without revealing where the right answer is still hiding). If it is missed twice in a row, it is skipped and repeated again in the next round. The game continues until all the questions have been answered correctly.

Some answers were humorous, especially when put to the wrong question (What was the second foreign language he learned? While Greek is the right answer we turned over "His wig" before later finding the correct response).

In between each question is a paragraph or two of description from the life of Carey and this would be read gradually throughout the game to reinforce the answers to the questions. The kids had a good time and learned some new information about the Father of Modern Missions. This would be a great activity for a homeschool co-op, a family review of a recent school unit, or just for fun about other great Christians. You just need to come up with questions, answers and put together the paper with the letters and answers on them. Our game lasted about an hour and worked well for our kids that fell between the ages of 6 and 11.

We enjoyed (using that term loosely) a serious bout of cold weather near the end of this week and got to see seriously cold weather at work. With forty below windchills we had to stay safe, but we still saw the power of the cold in a variety of interesting formats.

Favorite moments of the week:

- Faith came to me asking for more Scripture verse to memorize to combat her scary dreams. Amazing to watch her tender faith flourish. Here's some from her list: Psalm 23, II Timothy 1:7, I Peter 5:7, Psalm 56:3,4

- Finally opening the sewing machine the kids got for Christmas. They were all over that thing! They all have big plans, and my five year old couldn't stop giggling. She was so excited to get to really sew.

My son (11) made this with some scraps of fabric and ribbon (and no help from me). It is perfect for a purse for my daughters' American Girl Dolls!

This is my first attempt sewing doll clothes. I have hardly done much sewing in my entire life, but kind of enjoy it. We just read the patterns carefully, cut and followed directions. My girls are excited about the possibilities. Even with my slim to none knowledge of sewing these pants took me only about 30 minutes!

Challenges faced:

- Staying warm!

- Staying active enough to keep energy levels manageable -- Spring is still sooo far away.

Favorite passages in our books :

- Farmer Boy -- we talked a lot about the week that the kids spent home alone. Obviously, they were older than my kids are, but none of us could imagine handling all the jobs of managing a house and farm for a week while the parents spent a week on "vacation" at a relative's house. It would be one thing nowadays when we are a phone call away, 911 is always on hand, and neighbors are right next door. But, when they had no phones, the nearest house was about two miles away, and transportation was slow horse and buggy -- wow! I think that sometimes our modern conveniences help us forget to trust God, and even still worry is such a normal part of life.

- Little Cloud by Eric Carle -- I have read this about a dozen times in the last week. Nathan loves it right now and gets more animated with each reading. A great book just for reading, or leading into some simple cloud activities. And, it reminds me of warm afternoons lazing on the grass watching the clouds roll by. ahhhh, I can dream!

A word for moms

I had heard it before, but when this email came up on my computer I wanted to share it again. I searched for an author and found it is by Mary Lynn Plaisance. Hope you find some encouragement here.

Invisible Mother......

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'

, not.

No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being.
I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.
She's going; she's going; she is gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England ..

Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in.

I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.

I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.'

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe ..

I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:

My Dear Friend, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam.
He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.

It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction.
But it is not a disease that is erasing my life.

It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder.
As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're going to love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right.

And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!

Hope this encourages you when the going gets tough as it sometimes does.

We never know what our finished products will turn out to be because of our perseverance.