Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm An Aunt!

Landon William was born on my two year old's birthday-- August 29th. This is my only brother's first child, so that is very special. We are glad he is here safe and sound. Mark and Tonia, congratulations!!

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Today one of my blog readers emailed to ask about our house. Ah, you were hoping not to have to hear anymore about that, huh? Well, she reminded me that I haven't posted an update about it lately... mainly because nothing has changed. It is still for sale. We have not had any serious interest on it, and it is frankly, discouraging. My prayers still waffle between "I trust You Lord" to "Please, please, please, Lord."

We still have a house we are wanting to make an offer on-- and it is still on the market. I keep praying for God to "hold" it for us. That is what I prayed over this house when we were trying to sell our old house to get this one. And it worked, obviously.

Last weekend after church we went over to the house and prayed together about it. We peeked into the windows and imagined life in that house. We dreamed about some changes we would make to make the house feel more like our own. We approached the throne of grace with confidence and asked for what we want. That house. We asked God to sell our house for us so that we can make an offer on that house.

To be honest, we felt like after that time of prayer and unity, God would surely move that day and bring us an offer out of the blue. But no. We did drop the price on our house again, in hopes of getting the ball rolling. We had one showing yesterday, and haven't heard back about that yet.

Our realtor has given us some input as to things we could do to the outside of the house to get it in better showing condition. We have gotten lackadaisical in our stance over the three months the house has been on the market. We have let things slide, I will admit. She sent me an email and talked about staging our house to look like a model.

I had to stifle a laugh.

You see, I don't live in a model home. I live in a very real home filled to the brim with children. They are noisy, they make scuff marks on the walls and track mud into the house. They slide their dirty fingers along the wall, and the dog drops enough hair to make a whole second dog. The war against dirt and hair alone is enough to keep me busy-- much less the very overwhelming process of staging my house to look like a model.

And so, we will do what we can. Most of all we will pray. And I hope soon I will have some good news to post here. If you feel like praying, I would sure appreciate it.
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The Nice Matters Award

Beth awarded me the Nice Matters award, which is now proudly displayed in my sidebar, thanks to my very NICE blog designer, Dawn at Barefoot Blogs. The way this works is I am supposed to nominate five other bloggers for the Nice Matters award.

My first nominee is Dawn. She is so nice to fix my messes and help me whenever I need a technology boost. Want to give your blog a makeover? I recommend her work and her service highly! And I get no kickbacks for saying that either!

Next I have to nominate Lindsey. I can't remember if she has won this already but I can't not nominate her. She is so NICE-- she even drove a long distance to spend the day with me! (When are we getting together again Lindsey?) Plus her blog is just nice, and makes me think, and encourages me, and on and on.

Then I have to nominate the blog As Cozy As Spring. Because she answered a question I asked her about Memoria Press' copybooks-- and helped me a lot. Your suggestion was right on and our copybook just arrived the other day. Thanks for being so NICE! As Cozy as Spring encourages me in all things crafty and homemaker-ish. It is a very nice blog and makes me happy to read it.

Next is Bonita, whom I have known for years. Bonita is a NICE person, and is very real, which I think is nice-- and refreshing. I especially enjoy keeping up with her through her blog. Hint, hint Bonita, I am ready for a beach update soon! It would be really NICE if you would post again... hint, hint.

Then finally Amy. I didn't remember to send her birthday wishes for her 40th, so instead I will bestow this award. She truly is just a sweetheart and super NICE... so she deserves the nice award.

Ok, breaking the rules here, but I have to add my friend Terri. She wasn't in my first round of nominees, as I am not used to her being a regular blogger again after she took a NICE break for summer. Terri is super NICE and I love, love, love her. We meet very sporadically to talk writing, vent and pray for each other's ministry and motherhood, etc. It is very NICE to have a friend like Terri and I am so glad she is blogging again so everyone else can experience how NICE she is!

Nominees, feel free to snag the photo from my sidebar to post on your blog and pass along all this niceness.
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The Purse

the front view

the back view

and inside, a place for my cell phone and sunglasses-- no more digging around! It's big enough to carry my calendar and small notebook for making notes

Here is the cute purse my mom gave me. Her sister gave it to her, but she knew she wouldn't carry it as much as I will. I love the size of it, and that you can change the ribbons to match what you are wearing.

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Starting School...

is turning out to be trickier than I thought!

I had planned to start school the day after Labor Day. But then the girls who are starting the book club with me scheduled a day to meet and go over details while the kids play on that Tuesday. Never one to miss out on some fun girl time, I backed it up to Wednesday. Then I remembered that I had scheduled us to go to the Catawba Indian reservation for a tour that day, which will eat up most of the day. Oh well, that's educational, right? We will be learning. So, I thought, we will bump it to Thursday. Then I remembered CBS starts on Thursday. By the time we get home and eat lunch, we won't get much school in before it's time to run carpool. So that takes us all the way til next Friday. But why have school for just one day? And so, it looks like a week from Labor Day we will finally start. Oh well, it gives me more time to plan!
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Help Hearts At Home-- Without Leaving Yours

I received this from Hearts at Home, an organization that encourages moms through conferences, magazines, devotions, etc. I have spoken at their conference before and highly recommend going. I also have an article coming out in their Sept/Oct magazine.
So, if you would take just a minute to go vote for them, I know they would appreciate winning this makeover.

Hearts at Home needs your help! But DON'T send money!

We are participating in a "Make My Non-Profit Run Better" contest for a chance to win an office technology makeover valued at $30,000 from RK Dixon, a Midwest office technology company. This is a great opportunity for Hearts at Home, as it would take years for us to raise this amount of money to update our office computers and copiers. This makeover is something we desperately need, and it would allow us to be more efficient and effective and ultimately serve you and thousands of other moms better.
How can you help? Simply by voting online--no financial donations are necessary! The more votes we receive, the better chance we have to win. Here's how: Go to and vote for Hearts at Home beginning August 27. You can vote once per day until September 5. The first round of voting will determine the top 5 organizations. If we make it in the top 5, we'll let you know about the second round of voting that will take place September 17-September 24. Please forward this to your friends and family who would be willing to vote for us too. Every vote counts! Happy voting and thank you for your support!

Edited to add:
(I voted and thought I would point out that you have to click on "H" when the alphabetical tabs come up, then click the dot beside Hearts at Home's name, then click on vote at the bottom.)
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Go Watch

I got sent this link today and I have to admit that I was a bit skeptic as I began to watch it. Ho- hum, another cute forward and all that.

Just watch it, and stick with it til the end.

Parts of this mirrors my own story-- and yours, too I suspect. And Jess, I thought of you and what we talked about today. About stability and freedom, and I guess we were describing finding what she found in the end.

Thank You Jesus for fighting for us-- even when we don't see the battles that rage around us. He took my place. He took yours too. I want to live life aware of that.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Decisions and Revisions

Well, some things have changed since I last posted about my homeschooling plans for the year. It ended up that my daughter did get into the charter school and begged to be allowed to go. Curt said he wanted to talk to her first, so he did. As a result of that conversation, he concluded that not only is she ready to go, I need to let her go. And so, I went along with his wisdom and clarity since I was over-emotionalizing the whole issue. The good news is, she is enjoying school and making new friends, and adapting. She is learning that school is definitely not all fun and games and that studying is important. So far, so good.

With the decision to send her left the question/dilemma of what to do with the kindergartner who had served as her "place holder" for the summer while she sat on the waiting list. His spot guaranteed sibling preference-- and judge me if you want to, but I did what I had to do. After a long, hot summer with him, I decided to take him to the open house "just to see" what it would be like. And lo and behold, he loved it and begged to go back! The whole ride home, he asked me, "When do I get to go back, mommy? How many days?" Hmmm.

And I reasoned, it's kindergarten. What could it hurt to let him go?

As my friend Renee said very delicately, "Isn't he the one that is an, um, handful?"

Ah yes, my kid who does things the hard way. The kid I can best describe as:
He would rather die trying.

And then I looked at what having him in school would look like-- how it would change the family dynamics, smooth some of the rough places. And I banished the guilty, bad-mother thoughts that tend to populate my mind quite heavily and thought, "Why not, indeed?"

My little experiment has been surprisingly successful thus far, one week in. And as I have reasoned, I can always bring him home if it blows up in my face. But so far, he wakes up in the morning with his eyes wide with excitement, asking, "Is it time to go to school? Do I get to go now?"

Please make no comments about how his enthusiasm proves what you have suspected about how hard it is to live with me. I have already drawn these conclusions, trust me.

And so, I have three in school this year-- one at the local high school and two at the charter school. I am homeschooling my fifth grader and second grader. But we are taking things slow, with the intent of starting the day after Labor Day-- the old-fashioned way, the way we used to do it. The house is much quieter with the three gone, and I am enjoying what has shaped up to be an odd year for us. Perhaps it will be a one year thing, perhaps it is the beginning of a larger change. I can't really speak to that yet. Suffice it to say that homeschooling has roots that reach deep down into this mother's heart. I can't imagine not doing it-- and I have lived to see the beginning fruits of my early investments in my older children's lives. Homeschooling provides a foundation for a child that is irreplaceable and unmatched.

What I know for now is that there is a routine and a shape to our days that is punctuated with the beginning and ending of school-- the carpool line, the earlier bed times, the required reading every night. I didn't think I would, but I like it. And most of all, the kids like it too. That is what matters most, I am finding.
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Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to the sweetest, fiestyest, cutest two year old I know! This is one loved-on, doted-on, treasured little girl. Two years later, it is still like a movie star is visiting every time she wakes up. We are crazy about her and are so glad she is part of our family.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not Taking A Good Day For Granted

It is sad to say, but lately I have not been having very good days. Usually I start off good, but by the end of the day I am exhausted and disgruntled-- mostly with the kids. So, today it is nothing short of a miracle when I say that I had a good day. I enjoyed my kids, I was reasonably patient with them. I accomplished things. We had dinner that I cooked. Ok, it was spaghetti, which was like the only thing I knew how to cook when we got married, but it was dinner, after all. And I actually got my 12 yo daughter to help me prepare the noodles and bread while I went on a run before dinner.

One of the things that made this day so great is that I got together with some girls from church for playgroup. I felt like I am finally starting to get to know some of them. They are great girls and I enjoy talking with them-- even if they are much younger than me. I do a good job at not holding that against them, I think. I was actually able to commit some of their names to my permanent memory today, which is saying a lot. And so, the time we spent at Monkey Joe's just set the tone for my day. I will also humbly admit that we were the last people to leave from the group. The. Last. Ones. Can you say, "Desperate for some company??"

To make things even better, when we got home the kids were all quiet for like two hours while I got some cleaning done, dinner started and some emails answered. I was also able to type up a list of books that I want each child to read for school this year. Ah, I do love to check things off my to do list and today was a day for checking off several things!

Tonight Curt is at a Bebo Norman/Shane and Shane concert. He is happy about that and I am, honestly, happy not to be there. I like only a handful of Bebo songs and no Shane and Shane. So, he went by himself and ran into some friends when he got there-- at least I think that is what he said when I called him at the concert and asked him to bring home trashbags. His cell phone was breaking up.

To top off my night, I am going to try to go watch a Law and Order without interruption. Tomorrow is the baby's birthday. I am going to post more about that tomorrow and also some updates on our school situation. So I know you will want to stay tuned for those exciting entries!
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hey It's Good To Be Back Home Again

When I landed in West Palm Beach on Friday night, it was 6:30 pm. When they dropped me back at the airport on Saturday, it was 6:30 pm. What a whirlwind of 24 hours!! I am still recovering and my sweet husband has been so gracious to let me lounge most of the day. (Thanks, honey!)

So, to recap my trip, I was picked up at the airport by Elizabeth, who was so sweet to chauffeur me around. We immediately went to Tina's beautiful home to have a dinner with the rest of their board of directors, who had gathered to eat a yummy dinner of Caesar salad, roasted chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and rolls. For dessert there was a smorgasboard of choices. I picked a delicious banana chocolate chip pound cake that was moist and decadent. I meant to get that recipe from whomever had baked it! After we ate they held a quick board meeting to go over last minute details, then we all prayed. I was so touched by how passionate each woman was about the job she was doing, and the ladies who were coming. They wanted more than anything to bless, bless, bless the attendees-- and it showed.

After that, they took me to my hotel, which was a very nice Hampton Inn. I hopped in bed, called home, found a Law and Order on tv to watch, then fell sound asleep. All too soon it was time to get up, get showered, and head downstairs for some coffee and sustenance. I reviewed my notes while I sipped coffee, and it was just so nice and peaceful. The breakfast room overlooked a beautiful pool with a fountain and I could have sat there for hours.

Leann picked me up and we headed off to the event. Leann asked me if I was nervous, and surprisingly, I wasn't. I was very relaxed-- possibly because I had done these messages before. That always helps. After we got there, I set up my book table and then it was time to go on to speak. I spoke three times, and sat on one panel. Though the panel members certainly didn't need me-- they had some great tips and taught me a thing or two!

One real treat was that my cousin Amy came to hear me. Though she has homeschooled for years, she is not this year, but came anyway. It was such a sweet show of support to me. Amy and I didn't know each other very well growing up as we lived a great distance apart, but we reconnected at my grandmother's funeral a few weeks ago. When I told her I would be speaking in her city, she said, "I'll be there." And she was! Coincidentally, her Sunday school teacher is on the board of directors for the organization I was speaking for. Small world! We hung out most of the day when I wasn't speaking and then she and her husband took me around Palm Beach and the island of Palm Beach to see The Breakers resort and drive down Worth Avenue. Then they took me to get an early dinner at the Bellagio restaurant. It was so fun and I enjoyed having some time with them before we raced back to the airport and I boarded the plane for home sweet home.

One cool thing that happened was that I was on the same flight as Clayton King. (Never mind that he was in first class and I was not.) I recognized him first because of his voice as I heard him talking to a guy, then had to look at him a minute to place him. He has spoken at Elevation several times so I introduced myself as an Elevation person. He was very gracious and never once said, "Get away from me weird stalker person." So that was fun to see him. But then again, I don't get out much. It was probably not even a blip on his radar screen, when conversely I have now devoted an entire paragraph about it on my blog.

Curt picked me up from the airport and had a sweet tea waiting in the car when I got in. I told him, "You know that is better than a dozen roses to me!" And he just smiled and said, "I know, you are so easy to please." But it's true. I do love me some sweet tea. Though the lady at the Bellagio did laugh at me when I asked for some. I had to settle for water with lemon-- so not the same!

All in all, my time at West Palm was time well spent. I had a great time, experienced some new things, and from the sound of emails and blog comments I have gotten, lives were impacted.

Can't ask for more!
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Sunday Night Thoughts

I am listening to Stevie Nicks work her voice magic, singing "Gypsy" as I type this. Have I mentioned how much I love my Ipod lately?

The kids are in the kitchen cleaning up dinner (scrambled eggs, sausage, and cinnamon rolls)with Curt, who will leave in just a few moments to take our oldest and youngest to Target to get a few last minute supplies for school, which starts tomorrow. My oldest is going to high school at our local public school.

I was in high school like, uh, a minute ago.

Speaking of high schools, today our pastor made a big announcement that Elevation is moving its Porter Ridge campus to my son's high school, which is all of five minutes from our house. So, we will be attending there from now on when they open on Sept. 23rd. Today we had the first sermon in a series called "Everything I Need To Know About Elevation I Learned From 80's Rock." Today he talked about Kurt Cobain and how he singularly changed the rock trend by stripping away all the glitz and glam of the 80's hair bands and making it all about the music. He made the correlation that we need to do the same thing as a church. We need to strip away all the programs, extras and needless arguments in the church and get down to what's essential-- Jesus. It was a good sermon, wrapped up by my friend Paige's cousin's letter about how she always thought, "Who needs church?" But through a friend inviting her to Elevation found out that indeed, SHE needs church. And Jesus. She talked in her letter about all the things in her life that have changed after she encountered Jesus at Elevation. It was quite moving and made me excited for the millionth time about the church I am a part of. Lives are being changed-- I have seen it personally with my friend Jill.

Want to come? The opening of the Butler campus would be a great time to do so-- so mark it on your calendars, shoot me an email and my family and I would love to save you a seat!
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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Destination Florida!

Tomorrow I leave to speak at an all day homeschool event, designed to encourage homeschool moms as they prepare to dive into a new year. Go to this link to find out more about it! And if you live in the area, please drop by!

I will post about the event when I get back. I am speaking three times, and sitting on one panel, then flying back-- all in one day! I expect to be tired when it is all over!

Tomorrow morning will be spent packing and running a few errands. Then off to the airport, which is not my favorite place in the world.

Another place that is not my favorite place in the world is the car repair shop that we took our car to today. (I won't mention the name of it, but it rhymes with Wirecone.) We brought it in to get our radiator fixed and we left with a broken air conditioner. They are saying they did nothing to it-- it just coincidentally broke while it was in their care (It was working just fine when I took it in this morning)... but they will fix it if we would like to pay for them to do so.

Tomorrow my dear husband, defender, and protector is going back to speak to the manager-- and I am praying for a rational resolution in the issue. I hate, hate, hate having car problems! And so, I am without a car for a bit longer.

After all that, this evening was a bit discouraging, to say the least. To cheer myself up, I downloaded some old songs-- Jim Croce, John Denver, Ambrosia-- I mean O-L-D. Songs of my childhood. A walk down memory lane. So many memories get tied to music. Have you ever noticed that?

And as I am starting to ramble incoherently, I am taking that as a sign that I need to head to bed. G'night.
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Trying To Do The Right Thing

What is it about a death that makes people want to bring food? I guess because it is a necessary part of life and because you know it helps the person who is grieving to not have to handle anything they don't have to while they are handling the big stuff they are facing. So, you bring food-- because, other than saying, "I am sorry for your loss," what else can you do?

So, as soon as I heard about my friend Kitty losing her husband, I was on the phone and email signing up to bring food. I like to cook, so this is a natural outlet for me to offer. And it feels productive to be standing in my kitchen fixing something that will nourish the bodies of the bereft, even though we all know their souls will still feel so, so empty.

Last night I was supposed to bring out some "finger foods" for the people that were going to be in and out over the next two days with the funeral. I picked up a couple of baguettes and some jarred Bruschetta sauce, and my sweet daughter made chocolate no-bake cookies-- a staple around here! Just as we loaded up the car, it started to rain. We haven't had rain here in months, I will add.

As we drove, we drove into the storm. And I have to say that by the time we got to the intersection near her house, we just had to stop the car. The storm was that bad. I have never experienced something like that in my life. I thought for sure the winds were going to turn the car over, the hail was going to crack the windshield, and we were quite possibly going to die. It was frightening. We sat that way for a good while as we waited for the storms to pass. Our nerves were pretty much shot after that experience. The power was out all over the place and the phones were even down. But we delivered the food-- shaking our heads about how we were just trying to do something nice and got stuck in that terrible storm in the process.

Fast forward to today. They were having a luncheon for the family today at our old church so I volunteered to bring some food to that as well. I made shredded barbecue chicken for sandwiches and some banana pudding. Curt also picked up a nugget tray and ice tea that my friends donated from the Chick fil a. The plan was for me to meet him at the CFA so he could take it on to the church, where he would be staying for the funeral.

Just as I turned into the CFA parking lot, I noticed steam or smoke or something coming from the hood of my car. And the temp guage was all the way in the red. Oh no. I pulled into a parking space where Curt was waiting. He popped the hood of my car and shook his head. "The radiator hose is busted," he explained. He followed me over to the Firestone place in the same shopping center and we left the thing to be fixed. Then we headed to the church to drop the food, shaking our heads. Once again, we tried to do something nice and something bad happened in the process.

Here is a verse I "happened" to read this morning. I don't think it was any accident!
"After all, we don't want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief-- we're not oblivious to his sly ways!" II Corinthians 2:11 (MSG)
Satan hates to see us comforting each other through loss. He doesn't want us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. I am glad God overcame the situations we faced and enabled us to still reach out to Kitty and the rest of Tom's family.

But I am going to take a break on bringing them food for awhile.
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Got A Question About Writing?

I know that there are many of you out there who love to write and have dreams of being published-- whether soon or "someday."

My friend Lysa is offering something on her blog this week that some of you might want to take advantage of. She is making herself available to answer any questions about publishing you might have on your mind. Just go to her blog and post a comment and she will respond. She hopes that this will start a great conversation about the writing life, the publishing process, balancing motherhood and writing, etc. With like 11 books under her belt and five kids at her house, you can bet she knows a thing or two about these subjects!

I can't wait to see the questions and hear her responses-- so let's get this conversation started!
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Time For Processing

I have been kind of silent on the blog this week, as I have had a lot to process.

On Monday morning, my friend called and asked me how I was handling the news about a fellow homeschooling mom, Kitty. "What news?" I asked, completely oblivious.

"About Tom?" she asked, completely stunned that I didn't know.

"What about Tom?"

"He died last night."

Tom was 48 years old and a fun-loving father of four boys. I just sat beside him at a party in June, laughing about movies and other random topics of conversation on a warm summer's night. And now, in a moment, he is gone. He was playing in the neighborhood pool with his boys, when he suddenly fell back and under the water. He died of a massive heart attack. And I still can't believe it.

All this week I have been internally chastising myself for every time I have led my life as though there is an infinite amount of time to spend with the ones we love, assuming that there will be time to apologize for careless words "later." In my flesh, I still say things I shouldn't, lose my temper, etc. But in my soul, I have been reminded this week that there are no guarantees. When it happened, Kitty had gone out shopping and Tom offered to take the boys up to the pool. How many times has this happened at my house? The frantic Sunday night weekend wrap-up, the pleas to the husband to take the children somewhere-- anywhere-- just so I can have a few moments to regroup before a busy week starts again? Did she even say goodbye? Did she even look at his face one last time before she left to shop?

The funeral is today. I am not going for lots of reasons-- one of which is, I don't have a car. (More about that later.) But Kitty has been and will continue to be on my mind and in my prayers. It is a so easy to put myself in her shoes-- a bit too easy. This hits so close to home. Curt will be at the funeral and so will a lot of other people who love them. I know she will feel loved today, and I pray that she will continue to in the days and weeks to come.

I haven't had a chance to talk to Kitty yet. But I would like to. I want to learn from her. I want to hear her thoughts about moving forward with life when everything in you wants to dig your heels in and just stop. Or, better yet, go backwards. To a time when you had that husband and that life you took for granted. Because we do take life for granted, even when we don't want to.

This week I have been trying not to.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Big Stuff

I have become a big fan of Ann Voskamp's posts over at Holy Experience. This one really spoke to me, so I thought I would direct you to it. I have long heard the example of the jar and the rocks-- getting the big stuff in first so the little things fit into the little crevices nicely.

As I read her thoughts, I was struck by how two big things in my life always eluded me-- I struggled mightily for years with the idea of fitting in daily exercise and daily quiet time. And yet this year, in 2007, I have found myself getting both in daily. And it wasn't even that hard. I look back at how much I rebelled internally at the mention of daily quiet time and daily exercise, "But I have so many children! But I homeschool! I am so busy! I can't possibly do one more thing!"

And yet, now I wouldn't take anything for those big things which have become a natural part of every day. How did I go so long without doing them?

I did have to get intentional about making them happen. But once I did, that habit was formed and now it isn't an effort, it's life. Ann's words affirmed for me that fitting in the big things just takes a bit of effort, but really not that much more time. I loved what she wrote about most things taking no more than 15 minutes. I have found that myself. I think sometimes our biggest obstacles are mental constraints, not time constraints. We let ourselves get overwhelmed and psyche ourselves out of trying. I know I did that for many years, and am so glad I stopped.

Am wondering what big thing I might add to my days in 08?
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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Organizational Efforts

This is the first time I have participated in the Living Lives of Loveliness Fairs that go on over at Real Learning. If you have time, head on over to Starry Sky Ranch and spend some time looking over other people's organizational efforts for the coming school year. I plan to spend some considerable time over there today-- whenever I can get a break, that is! Can I admit what a geek I am by saying that I have been looking forward to this fair since I heard it announced on Elizabeth's blog months ago?

I was quick to title this post "Organizational Efforts" because it is not a statement as to how things actually are-- at least not all the time! I happen to love being organized and learning about organization. (Perhaps that makes me strange...) In fact, one of my favorite things about blogs is I get to peek into the lives of others and learn from them.

So here is a peek at some things that have worked to keep me organized and my household running smoother. Though with six kids, an elderly dog, and a husband, it is rarely smooth sailing around here!
This is the spiral notebook I use as a catch-all for just about everything. My notebook is for jotting down devotion ideas, taking notes on books or verses I read, copying down quotes, jotting lists, brainstorming-- whatever! I was going to post a photo of a page from my notebook, but I couldn't find one I didn't consider too "personal" to share. I keep these notebooks for years, all stacked neatly in underbed storage boxes.

This is a page from my "to do" notebook. This book is called the Cambridge Executive Action Planner Pad and it is put out by Mead. I get mine at Office Max for about $3. The reason I like this little notebook (9X5") is I can write down a list of things I need to do, but in the highlighted areas, I can make notes pertaining to the list. I might jot down a phone number, scribble out a title I thought of, or some verses I would like to look up later, make a shopping list, etc. Something about the difference in color helps me keep the two areas separate, but related. I usually make out a list for the week, instead of for the day. Sometimes I will make separate lists for certain projects as well. When I complete something on the list, I get such a sense of personal satisfaction in crossing it off! And I am not ashamed to admit it!

Here is the cover of the Action Planner Pad, in case you want to go look for it at the store. I found it with the notebooks, not with the calendars. Not sure if all Office Max stores are the same, but I thought I would let you know that. I will also note that I save these when I am done as well, just in case I need to dig back through one and find a phone number or something.

This is a handy dandy invention I found out about from Kelli's blog. It is called The Desk Apprentice Rotating Desk Organizer. Interestingly, it was developed by a team on the show The Apprentice when one of the challenges for the week was to come up with a way to organize the Donald's desk. This was the winning solution.

I got mine at Staples. This is an aerial view of the tray that lays in the top of it. As you can see, there is a space for hanging file folders, then the tray contains my tape, white out, post-its, paper clips, and business cards. This is a wonderful way to keep all your stuff in one place! Just recently, I was able to direct Curt to the tape and scissors because I knew just where they were, instead of hunting in this drawer and that.

This a side view of the organizer. I will note that this thing spins around like a lazy susan, so you can get to what you need with ease. In this picture, you can see I have my to do list and my notebook in easy reach. I also have a place for my favorite pens, a place for highlighters and dry erase markers, and a place for scissors and a calculator. It is all right here! I have loved having this to add to my organizational methods, and am glad I found out about it through Kelli. I have file folders for each child, as well as other files for specific things. I am working my way towards filing all those random loose papers that seem to accumulate into this thing. I think this will help to slay the paper monster that gets loose in our house at times!
One other thing that is not pictured is my calendar. I couldn't live without it! I use a plain ol' month at a glance calendar I got at the Dollar Store. But it does the trick for me. I like month at a glance because I like to see what the month looks like as a whole. With just one glance at my calendar I can pretty easily tell whether I have taken on too much and need to stop saying yes, or whether we are doing okay and have enough white space.
I hope this post on organization has inspired some of you who, like me, actually get inspired by such mundane things!
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Friday, August 17, 2007

Time Management

I have often looked at those hour by hour day planners and thought, "I have no need for such things." I don't have the kind of life that requires notation of activities by the hour. By the day does just fine, typically.

But today I could have used one. Here is a breakdown of our day:

6am up, coffee, quiet time

7:15 am take son to football, looking quite lovely. Think about how this would not be a good time to get pulled over by a cop. The way I look I could definitely not bat my eyes and get out of it. He would probably give me an extra ticket for driving while looking scary, or something.

7:30 am shower

8 am breakfast for kids, clean up for showing. Toss out orders like the drill sergeant I am.

9:45 leave for school open house

10 am open house (more about this later). Take call from panicked son on the football field who has been let out early and needs a ride. Call my mom who was supposed to pick him up and tell her she has to get him early. They are going to lunch and shopping for his bday. She is not happy with this new development but rises to the occasion.

11 am race home to pick up kids before people come for showing

11:15 am, early lunch at the Pizza Hut lunch buffet (Hey, what else are we going to do to kill an hour?) Showings, I am learning, can get expensive.

12 pm stop by library to pick up holds. Librarian asks, "Weren't you here yesterday?" Blush shamefully and affirm that indeed I am probably there more than she is.

12:15, home, pray that people liked the house, look at business card the realtor left and decide he looks like a nice guy. Pray again.

12:30 clean up dog pee, and put dog outside in the 100 temps much to the children's moans of how mean that is

1:00 clean up dog pee again (yes, for the second time-- she is old), but this time announce that someone else has to do it. Elect child who let her back in to do it. Announce to the dog that it is time to go towards the light.

1:10 Begin ironing large stack of accumulated ironing. Notice iron is quite obnoxiously beeping and flashing its lights when it is ready. Decide that there are enough obnoxious, demanding people in my life-- I don't need the appliances to start in.

1:30 ironing is done. Mom brings son home. She gives me a purse, which I will post pictures of later. It is just that cute. Son shows off new clothes he got for his bday. Baby goes down for nap after my mom leaves.

1:30-2:30 Tidy up and check emails. Fold two loads of clothes. Take call from neighbor who would like to take my 7yo daughter with her daughter to watch High School Musical II at her mom's house. Agree she will pick her up at 7:25 pm.

2:30 run (in 102 degree heat, but who's counting?)

3pm return and shower while daughter gets baby up and feeds her a snack

3:30 ask other kids where 11 yo son is. "Oh, he left while you were running." My mother in law is taking him for the night so he can earn some money by working in her yard. Try not to feel like inattentive mother who does not know her children's whereabouts. 12 yo daughter announces she also needs to leave, as she is going to a neighbor's house to swim and watch the premiere of High School Musical II. Hop in car to give her a ride. I can run in this heat, but princess must not be required to walk in it. Take a cell phone call while driving home from friend in TX who is homeschooling for the first time and has some curriculum questions.

3:45 put Stouffer's lasagna in the oven so it will be ready for husband and kids to eat for dinner. I love Stouffer's lasagna (not to eat, but it sure is easy to make)

4:00 log in bday boy for some computer time while he waits for my father in law to pick him up for the evening portion of his bday celebration. Bring in mail and sort through it. Consider for the 100th time joining the Writer's Digest book club based on a lucrative offer they have mailed me. (Suckerrrrr!) Dry hair and style it while baby stands beside me and begs for hairspray in her hair as well.

4:30 Grandfather arrives, bearing gifts for me! His wife got me two prints from a favorite artist of mine and promised to frame them but never did. He has the framed prints! Hooray! They will look great in my kitchen! Tell son goodbye and make sure we know how we are getting him back home. (If you are counting, we are now down to three kids.) Curt calls to say he is on his way home from Asheville, NC and will be home in time for me to meet my friend for dinner. (She offered to take me out to dinner if I would listen to her sort through some homeschool stuff and answer questions. It took me about two seconds to say yes!) We discuss whether he has time to run before he comes home. I vote no, he thinks yes. We shall see.

And now it is 5pm. In just a bit I will be leaving to meet my friend and my daughter will be leaving. My husband has miraculously found himself with just two of the kids. I am not sure what they will do! Am hoping they will go pick up our oldest so I don't have to be on a strict timetable. I would love to have a few hours to just unwind and talk to a friend without watching a clock. I have done enough of that today.

Edited to add, just twenty minutes later:
Good news! Curt is picking up bday boy from the mall! The boy has now called me twice to beg me to pick him up instead of his dad, as his dad will have the little kids and they embarrass him. Sorry!
The baby also turned on the sink in the bathroom (a favorite pasttime of hers) while the hair dryer was in it. Thankfully, it wasn't on. But still. Am hoping it still works.
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Teacher Appreciation Days (Includes Homeschool Teachers)

I got this in an email and thought it was worthy of passing along. If you are going to be out tomorrow, why not stop by and at least see what goodies they are handing out!

This Saturday, August 18, both Staples and Office Depot will be having their Teacher Days!
In the past, they have goodies for teachers...nice book bags filled with things for your classroom!
Staples is 9-1
Office Depot 9-11 with Breakfast
I hear homeschool 'teachers' need to show proof of being a hs teacher.
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Something Funny (In Case You Need A Laugh)

My friend Lindsey just posted a Friday funny that cracked me up! I loved this story-- because it is something my kids would do. I can only imagine how mortifying that moment was for her, but I have to say that I am sure glad she shared it, as I needed the laugh!

Thanks Lindsey!
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P31 Devotion

Just wanted to let you all know that I have a devotion up today at Proverbs 31's blog. Go here to read it.

If you want to subscribe to this devotion so that it arrives in your email box every day (great accountability to keep you in the Word and focused on God), you can do so at the blog or at Or shoot me an email and I will make sure you get signed up!
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Thursday, August 16, 2007


Sometimes when my son is in the kitchen talking, I will think that it is my husband in there. It takes me a moment to think, "Oh, that's my son in there, sounding like a man."

He will be 15 tomorrow. It hardly seems possible.
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Blog Blessings

During this day of blessing, I was blessed to read this post. And this one, too. Though I do not know the author personally, I certainly appreciated her perspective, and her reminders.
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Writing Update

I haven't written much about my writing lately, so I thought it was time for me to do so. I know I have some fellow writer mamas who read this blog, and actually like to hear about this type of thing. If you don't get into that, feel free to skip this post.

This week I have spent time writing some articles that were due. I wrote one for Money Matters, one for a women's newsletter on blogging, and one for The Old Schoolhouse. I also have written one of the two devotions for P31 I was supposed to turn in. I still have one more to go. This is what happens when you procrastinate-- you end up squeezing a whole lot of projects into a little bit of time!

I finally wrote a purpose statement for the proposal I presented at She Speaks, as one of the publishers requested I do, and sent it to her. I also worked on one of the Bible studies in that proposal. Interestingly enough, I also got two rejection letters for that proposal this week! Am focusing on not being discouraged about that, though. Rejection is part of the process, right?

I am also working with a sound guy to get a cd produced to be able to send out to people who are interested in bringing me to speak. Because of some technical problems, this has been more complicated than I expected! But I think we have it worked out. The sound guy (he has a name, actually-- Ben) Ben sent me the audio file to listen to, and it sounded pretty good to me. It will be such a relief to have a cd I feel good about to send out-- I have never really had that, so it's a wonder I have ever gotten booked when you think about it!

And so, that is what I have been up to lately on the writing front. I do love to write, and am still learning to balance the writing life with the call of motherhood day by day.
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House Woes, And Otherwise

First of all, let me say that I have determined to spend today reflecting on my blessings, instead of lamenting my woes. Yesterday was a day for lamenting my woes, and I worked myself into such a tizzy while doing so that I was unfit for human contact by evening.

This morning, I read Psalm 111. It starts off "Hallelujah!" and then goes on to talk about God's blessings, His love and His goodness. And I realize that perhaps my thought life has been in a bit of a pit.

Yesterday my prayers went something like this: "Please, please, please, please, please, please... sell the house. Because I really, really, really, really, really, really... want to move."

I am sure He was up in heaven, seated on His throne, rolling His eyes. With Jesus right there, as always, interceding on my behalf, saying as He always has, "Be patient, Father, she knows not what she does."

Because I don't. Truly.

And so, I am trying not to think about house stuff. I am trying to focus on our blessings, which include recently, my husband getting a formal offer for a new job. You may remember that his job was eliminated within his corporation in July. We have been waiting to hear what they were going to do with him. This was a promotion for him, and I am very proud. (It will also involve travel, but we aren't going to talk about that, as we are focusing on blessings today, remember?)

Another blessing is that we got into CBS (Community Bible Study) after two years of waiting to get back in!! Now that's a hallelujah moment! Note to self: never ever ever leave CBS again, lest you miss out on years of wonderful Bible study. This year we will be studying the book of Acts, which I have always wanted to study. I will try not to bombard you all with what I am learning, but you might as well prepare yourself to hear about Acts a lot.

Another blessing is I met with several girls from my church the other night and we decided to begin meeting very informally and do a book study on motherhood, using Sally Clarkson's book The Mom Walk. It was very cool how God brought us all together and how, though we are all at different stages with our motherhood issues, we are all personally at the same place in our hearts. I am very excited to see what God will do through this study, and glad to be making some connections at this church I so love. Interestingly enough, we are all bloggers and really got to know each other through reading blogs! Internet connections lead to real-life connections!

And so, please pray if you feel led for this house issue. I know there are those of you out there who do pray when I ask for prayer, as I felt that so much after my grandmother died. I wrote a devotion entitled, "It Just Takes One" about someone saying that to me in regards to finding a buyer for our home. I am just hoping that "one" comes soon. Mainly because we have found a house that would work well for our family, that is actually below what we can afford, that we feel good about making an offer on. But we can't do that until we get an offer on this one. And so, I wait, and I pray, and, for today at least, I focus on what I have instead of what I don't.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Craft Bargain

This is a good week to pick up supplies at Michael's if you are a homeschooler! Check it out!

Michael's Teacher Appreciation Week
Michael's Craft Stores are celebrating teachers, including homeschool teachers, this week. Teachers receive 15% off of their entire purchase (some items excluded such as Cricut products, custom framing, Martha Stewart Crafts, and custom floral arrangements) of regular price and sale merchandise. Homeschool teachers need some form of documentation showing that you are homeschooling to qualify. You may call 1-800-642-4235 with any questions.
The sale is effective for the dates of August 12-18.
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Monday, August 13, 2007

The Value Of Manipulatives

The five year old playing with a Geoboard

The seven year old playing with Mighty Mind-- a recent addition to our manipulative collection. We got ours at Rainbow Resource. They also have Super Mind for older kids.

Even baby gets into playing with the manipulatives! Here she is enjoying playing with the linking cubes. She doesn't know it but she is learning counting, patterns/sequencing, colors and matching, and coordination-- all while playing.

As a homeschooler (or even just as a parent), one of the best investments you can make is with manipulatives. I have been able to pick up manipulatives for a fraction of the cost of new by shopping used sales. One time a friend of mine was quitting homeschooling and invited me over to go through her things to purchase them before she consigned them at a local shop. I was able to stock up on a variety of things my children still play with to this day. I felt like I had hit the jackpot that day!

This year as you are finalizing your curriculum purchases, considering investing in some manipulatives. Then schedule (this is important lest they are forgotten) a time for your kids to pull them out at least once a week. There are lots of coordinating books you can buy if having a guide makes you feel better, but I find that my kids enjoy it most when I just turn them loose! Our hands-down consistent favorite is the pattern blocks. We have several versions of these in the house and my kids really enjoy the cards you can fit them on like a puzzle. Tangrams also fall into this category. We have some magnetic pattern blocks with a coordinating book I picked up years ago at a Scholastic warehouse sale that are falling apart from use. My five year old is especially good at these and blows me away with his ability to just "see" where everything goes. He didn't get that from his mama!

We have two large Rubbermaid boxes we keep the manipulatives in. One box is for preschool manipulatives and one is for math manipulatives. I will just announce that it is time to get the preschool box or the math box out. Sometimes I am met with groans, but every time they warm up quickly once they get engrossed and forget about the electronic stuff they normally gravitate towards. Even if you just purchase one manipulative a year, you can stock up fairly quickly-- especially with used curriculum sales in the spring. This year I bought one of those teddy bear balances with the bears for just a few dollars.
And if you live in the Charlotte area, check out Growing Scholars. They have a great selection of both preschool and math manipulatives!
I have never regretted buying manipulatives, but I have often regretted buying curriculum!
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Random Photos For A Monday Morning

It doesn't matter how many times you tell them not to play in the dryer...

Me and Lindsey-- one of my blogging buddies... she drove down and spent the day with us just before our beach trip. We had a great time, but I am just now getting around to posting this photo. Please pray for Lindsey right now, as she is in that stressful place of closing on the sale of her home and moving-- most of us have been there and some of us (me) hope to be there again soon-- without the stress, of course!

My daughter being a total goof-- Shari, notice what shirt she is wearing! And she did buy some Crocs-- pink ones!

I found a candle arrangement like this at a beach store, and they wanted $40 for it. I determined I could do it myself for a fraction of the price. So while we were at the beach, I collected shells, came home and used this silver bowl I already had, and placed a candle in it I had recently bought at Pier One just because I loved the smell. The candle is called, appropriately, "Oceans." I love the way it turned out and it didn't cost me $40!

Big brother "helping" little brother with his Gameboy
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Sunday, August 12, 2007


I love free stuff, and this seems to be legit. This is great for anyone who has young children or beginning readers. While I definitely believe in phonics, I also teach sight words as it increases their reading ability quickly. Just go here to get your free set:
Free Sample of Super Sticky Sight Word Notes (for children)
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Being Wise With Home Loans

I have mentioned here before that my husband Curt does financial counseling for couples. He is very wise with money-- and that has come at the hard price of making some STUPID mistakes with money (on both our parts) in the past. In fact, that is why I now contribute to Money Matters-- to try to tell our story to save other folks from making the mistakes we did. I could keep you here all day telling dumb story after dumb story.

But I digress.

The main reason for my post this morning is to direct you to Curt's blog-- especially if you have an interest only loan on your home, or if you have considered this as a means for purchasing a home. These things sound good, but are starting to fall apart. Curt writes about this in more detail in his post, plus includes a link to an article on this, with some supporting scriptures.

We are having to make home buying decisions with our home on the market and it is not easy. We went to see a home that is what I jokingly call "the dream" yesterday. We liked it, and will consider it, but we are also gunshy about putting all our financial eggs in the home basket. I want a nice house-- but I also want money left over to enjoy life. We have that now as we have dug ourselves out of debt slowly but surely over the last four years (only two cars and one credit card payment left to being completely debt free!). If we sell our house and move, we will pay off those remaining debts and just have a house payment-- but if our house payment is a large one, then we are not going to be that much better off.

And so, we pray, and we ask the Lord for guidance, and instead of giving God our timelines and our druthers, our prayers have been transformed. Instead of "Please sell the house soon, Lord, because we want this house." Or, "please let a house come on the market in this particular neighborhood with this particular school," etc. Our prayer is simply this: "I trust You." Sometimes I have to say it several times a day, over and over, like a mantra. Because the simple walk of trusting God for our home, our lives and our livelihood is easy to pay lip service to, but hard to walk out-- especially when you have a tendency to live under the illusion that you are in control.

I trust You, Lord. Do you need to change your prayers to this simple prayer today? Most of the time you will find it is the best prayer you can pray.
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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Math Emergency!

Too cute! I found this on another blog and thought it was worth posting here-- go to this link to see it over at You Tube. I don't think this was a homeschooled child, but it could have been! (And in this little guy's defense, I have totally had math emergencies of my own through the years!)
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Friday, August 10, 2007

Reflections On A Funeral

To those of you who emailed me privately and said you were praying for us yesterday, thank you. All I can say is that we felt your prayers and God had His hand on the day. Little things worked that normally wouldn't have-- perhaps the most remarkable is my two year old sitting quietly through the whole service. I actually got to hear the service and not have to carry her out-- which is what happened with my other grandmother's funeral and another child. (Names withheld to protect the innocent.) It was nice to hear this final grandparent's funeral.

The rest of the day was nice, if a funeral can be that. Time to see people I haven't seen in many, many years. Time to be around all my cousins for what could possibly be the very last time we are all in one place. My grandparents were the hub, and without them there is just nothing connecting us all. And so we go back to being scattered across many states with busy, full lives. We all seemed to linger a bit longer in the church fellowship hall, saying our goodbyes and holding onto the moments we had.

After it was over we drove home and fell sound asleep. We were all exhausted-- a combination of emotion and heat, I am sure. Later, we took the kids out for groceries and ice cream, and talked about our future and our own legacy as we drove. What will it look like? Where will it take place? (The house is on the market.) What will our children, and their children, and their children gather and say about us? What memories are we providing? What character are we reflecting? Big questions-- but good ones to ponder. Even better ones to discuss with your spouse.

Yesterday as we left for the funeral, this song came on. And last night, as we drove and talked, I shared a line from it with my husband: I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough? My grandparents did this so well.

Now it's our turn.
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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Funeral Day

There are two chickens in the crockpot, sprinkled with garlic salt, celery salt, pepper and a hodgepodge of other spices, and crammed full of chunks of carrots and onions. The crockpot will work in my absence-- a "servant girl" from Proverbs 31 in the first order.

The children who didn't bathe last night are bathing. Everyone is brushing teeth and getting dressed in outfits that were approved by me. (This is opposed to approved by daddy, whose standards are less than mine in the outfit department.)

My husband is squeezing a few hours of work in, dressed in his short sleeve white shirt so he will look like the other pallbearers without passing out from the 100+ temps. He will be meeting us there.

I have snuck away for a few minutes to sip coffee and catch up on my favorite bloggers. Appropriately, I find this post. And this. Perspective. I am thankful again for the blogging community as I read these words and wipe away tears.

My mind wanders again to what I will wear.

This is my final grandparent funeral. My first was in college and the other three have been within the last eight years. So many goodbyes, and so much hope still left-- for the legacy I have been handed by these people who loved me and prayed for me. For the rest of the family to pick up the torch and run with it as they would have wanted. For myself to do them proud, as now they have joined the "great cloud of witnesses" who are cheering me on as I strain towards the finish line they have crossed. Today I read (by no accident, I am sure) I Corinthians 15, about the resurrection we have to look forward to. And I was not sad at all as I thought about my grandmother, now whole and healed. She was a very sick woman for most of the latter years of her life-- so many little things going wrong in her imperfect human body. What a celebration that she now has a perfect resurrected body!

And yet, I am sure there will be tears today as we say goodbye. Goodbye to the woman who used to pick me up in her yellow Cadillac and take me to get lunch. Goodbye to the woman who would finish singing in the choir, spot me coming towards her and holler, "Marybeth!" with arms outstretched for me to run into. Goodbye to the woman who loved Young and The Restless and never missed it. (I never could figure that out-- how she could love the Lord so much, but watched that trash. I never asked her to explain it, though. I can't explain why I watch Law and Order.)

So many memories. Sad goodbyes and hope for happy reunions, thanks to what Jesus did on the cross.

Time to go to a funeral.
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

And The Winners Are...

After reviewing and debating over many fine curriculum possibilities, I have come to a decision about what to use for this coming year. This was also part of my personal resolve at the beach-- to figure out who we were homeschooling and what we would be using. Consequently, I spent large amounts of time just staring at a page in my spiral notebook with choices written down for each child. Then, I whittled those choices down based on availability, expense, and what I knew about them. And I have come up with a list I am pretty excited about.

My oldest will be attending our local high school. He is excited about this and is already working out with the football team in hopes of playing. He has made good choices about his classes and I am happy with his friends. As long as all of that stays the same, he is good to go.

My daughter, as I wrote about in the last post, will be attending Classical Conversations. She will be in their Challenge A program and will be taking some pretty rigorous classes, from what it sounds like. She needs that challenge and will rise to the occasion I am sure. She is going to be reunited with some old friends and is pretty jazzed about that. She will go to classes on Wednesdays and will have enough work to keep her busy at home on the other days.
She is taking:
Creative Writing (fall)
Newbery Literature (spring)
Nature Study/Body Systems
Clear Reasoning (Apologetics-type course)
Saxon 8/7
She will also continue with her homeschool Girl Scout troop and the Musical Theater company she did last year. She is also considering a cross country track program through the local parks and rec and is on the waiting list for Gavel Club and Community Bible Study. I am praying she gets into both of these. In short, the girl will be busy and will not lack for friends and exposure! I feel good about the decisions we have made for and with her, and she is excited about the coming year now, except maybe for Gavel Club, which she is very hesitant about since it involves public speaking. We told her we wouldn't force her to do it, but that we would prefer she at least try it, as learning to speak and be professional will serve her in so many areas. Gavel Club is part of Toastmasters and they teach kids how to speak, conduct business meetings, etc. My son was part of it and it has served him well as he has held different leadership positions.

The 11 yo boy (fifth grade) will be doing:
Queen Homeschool Copywork: Lessons In Leadership
Horizons Math, 5th grade
Write With The Best
Study Skills That Stick (Scholastic)/Learning To Learn (Queen)
God's World News
Recommended reading for 5th grade by Sonlight, Veritas, etc. (I am making him a list which he will have to read through by the end of the year.)

For activities, he would like to play basketball in the winter, and we are trying to convince him to audition for some plays or take a class or both at our local community theater. He is not a big "joiner" and needs to be "encouraged" to do new things.

The 7 yo girl (2nd grade) will be doing:
Phonics Level B
Calculadders Level 1
Mathematical Reasoning for Grade 2 by Critical Thinking Press
Little Annie's Book of Art and Manners
Growing with Grammar for Grades 1-2
God's World News
Recommended reading for 2nd grade by Sonlight, Veritas, etc. (same as above list for my son, but with more guidance and input from mom)

For activities, she will be taking a ballet class at a local Christian dance studio. She would also like to take the Mary Poppins musical class at our local theater. So, she probably will. She is a big joiner and would take everything there is if we didn't stop her-- same gene pool, totally different kid!

The 5yo boy (K) will be doing:
Get Ready, Get Set, Go For The Code
Horizons Math K
Can You Find Me (Critical Thinking press)
Baby Lambs Book of Art

I listed out the independent work each child will be doing. In addition to the independent work, we will be doing the following together (not including the daughter who will be doing Classical Conversations work on her own).

For our group work, we are using:
Apologia Science, Exploring Creation With Zoology II: Swimming Creatures
A Child's Geography
Manners and Life Skills
For this I am using Manners Made Easy by June Hines Moore, 365 Manners Every Child Should Know, and Everyday Graces by Karen Santorum. I am also compiling a list of "Life Skills" I want the kids to have using the book Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field and From Playpen To Podium by Jeff Myers. Using games, read alouds and activities we will introduce the different areas and move down the list. (That's the plan, at least.)
Along this same line, I am also planning to use a program I just got in the mail called "Accountable Kids." I am very excited about this program, and will definitely be posting more about it once we begin using it. It looks great for all families-- whether you homeschool or not.

Our trip to the beach has set the perfect stage for diving into (excuse the pun) our study of swimming creatures with the Apologia book. The author, Jeannie Fulbright, has a great blog, as does the author of A Child's Geography, Ann Voskamp.

We are also on the waiting list for Community Bible Study-- and I hope we get in! That will take us out of the house every Thursday. We did this in years past and took the year off when the two year old was born. In hindsight, I have since wondered if that was wise, as we have sat on the waiting list trying to get back in! If you have this in your area and they offer a homeschool program, look into it. You won't be sorry you did, as it is great for you to have that regular Bible study on a personal level, plus your kids have friends and their own Bible study tailored for their age and ability. I highly recommend it-- it was life-changing for me year after year.

I hope taking a look at our homeschool plans encourages and inspires others to dive into their year with excitement and anticipation-- whether you are homeschooling, public schooling, charter schooling, university model schooling, private schooling or unschooling. I just love reading posts about what other people are using and how they are using it. Brings out my inner geek. (And for those of you who know me, please no comments about not having to look very far to find it!)

NOTE: To view other posts for the Homeschool Open House, go to Tiany's blog. I love this type of thing and am hoping to spend some concentrated time reading up on what other folks are up to!
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Homeschooling Again

Most of you know that my oldest went to a very good charter school last year that we were very pleased with. And, according to most everyone, it was a miracle that he got in at all. And so, because of a little something called "sibling preference" our other children also had the opportunity to get in. So, I prayed about it, and submitted their names for the lottery, reasoning that we could make a final decision later. I told the Lord that if He wanted them in, then He would provide the open door.

But they didn't get in. They got wait-listed. Every single one of the Whalen kids was number one on the waiting list-- except the kindergartner, who did get a spot because of big brother being a student. Of course, the kindergartner was who I absolutely didn't want to go. But then, when big brother graduated, he became the place marker for the whole sibling preference thing. It was a mess. A mess, I will admit, that I got myself into. And the trouble was, my oldest daughter really wanted to go to school-- not because she didn't like homeschooling, but because she really wants some regular interactions with friends. She is getting to that age.

So, this whole summer has been this time of incredible amounts of dialoguing with God, my husband (bless his patient self), my kids, my friends, etc. In my flesh, I will admit that just dropping them off at the school curb sounds great. I mean, it does. It so does. For about a minute... ok, maybe five minutes. And then the realities of no longer being a homeschooling family insert themselves into my little fantasy life. Letting go of what we have made a huge investment of time into sounds foolhardy. You know the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? Well, that is what I keep thinking. My kids are good kids. I like them. We hang out together every day and they are my "mostly companions" as Eloise says. While I might enjoy a quiet house and time to pursue other interests for awhile, I know in my heart of hearts that I will miss homeschooling in the long run.

And so, I told myself that I would make a decision about homeschooling while we were at the beach-- no matter whether the school had called or not. I felt like I needed to make the decision, not have it made for me through circumstances. I called the school before we left and found out that my kids were not in, and that likely would not be in until after the school year started and some kids didn't show (which always happens). But I knew that waiting that long would mean putting off other things, like buying curriculum on time and getting enrolled in activities. And what if they didn't get in at all? Then we would just be in wait and see mode with no plans made-- that sounded foolish to me.

And then, one day while sitting at the beach I realized that for my children to get in school according to sibling preference (this was all mainly for my oldest girl, I will add), I would have to start my son in kindergarten all by himself. The mental picture of my little five year old (who doesn't want to go to school) getting out of the car and trudging alone into that school while we all went home just made me too sad. I had such clarity in that moment of how foolish all this leveraging has been. Sometimes I am so, so slow. And so, I told my husband that I was going to remove my son from the roster and with that, all the other kids would be dropped. But that didn't solve the problem of what my oldest daughter was craving in her desire to have a peer group.

Then I remembered Classical Conversations. We had looked at it back in the winter, but had been a bit overwhelmed by how much it would cost to put all the kids in. I struggle with having an "all or nothing" mentality. I want to do one thing for all my kids. It is my own selfishness in wanting things to be "simple." (Ha, ha, ha I can hear all of you laughing over the image of a mom of six saying she wants things to be simple. But I do.) So, I called my friend Kate and she put me in touch with the teacher of CC for my daughter's age and long story long, I was totally impressed with the program, we can afford to send just her and she is totally thrilled with the idea of going!

And so, my resolve to come to some sort of peace with my schooling decision over the course of our beach trip was met-- thanks largely to my friend Kate helping a sista out and my sweet husband agreeing to cough up the money for our daughter to go. And my daughter letting go of her desire to attend full time school. That was an answer to prayer, as she was pretty resolute about going. Now she has gotten excited about the other, and I am so thankful. Not that I live to please and placate my children-- but I also don't want unwelcome resentments cropping up over decisions I am making during these critical teenage years. All in all, it is just good when things work out, ya know? Thank you Lord!

And thank you Lord for educational options, and for the gift of homeschooling, and for the fact that you don't call us all to the same thing, and that You are patient and loving as we run around like crazy people trying to figure out Your will. All that mental energy I wasted and the answer was waiting for me in one short moment on the beach. Oh, the clarity that can come in a moment like that. Lord, help me to remember those moments when I start to try to figure things out on my own and get ahead of You in the process.
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Beach Living Thoughts

Changes in Attitude, Changes in Latitude--

At the beach, you don't tell time by clocks, you go by the tide. I like that. It adds a rhythm to the day that digital clocks do not.

At the beach, you learn to live with the bare minimum of everything-- I wore either my beach flip flops or my "dressier" Born flip flops constantly. Oh yeah, I did wear my running shoes too. I brought other pairs, but just didn't need them and certainly didn't feel like messing with them.

At the beach, my biggest goal for every day was getting some time on the beach, going for a run and getting a shower. That's it. I truly didn't have to think about much else.

I mentioned in another post that checking email while at the beach was a mistake. The realities of writing deadlines, details about projects, and speaking business stuff came screaming back in with their loud, insistent voices. Ugh. I love writing and speaking, but the family time was paramount.

A view of the water out your bedroom window (we were on a canal) does wonders for your perspective.

A tv in your room (something we don't have at home) detracts from the amount of reading you get done. It also does not help at all your Law and Order addiction.

Some beach trip numbers:

Number of years married: 16

Number of anniversary dinners: 2 (1 without kids, and 1 with)

Number of birthdays celebrated: 1 (my son turned 11 down there)

Number of kids we took to the beach: 6 (but there were also 5 cousins down there too-- dinners together were crazy as 8 of the 11 kids were ages 7 and under!)

Number of meals I didn't have to cook: 7

Number of books read: 3

Number of books begun, but not finished: 3

Number of visits to the beach: 12

Number of Law and Order shows watched: too many
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Menu Plan

Ok, so I went over the top on this menu plan-- but then again, I did have a ten day break from cooking! Ü

Here is our menu plan, starting tonight and running through next Friday:

Wednesday) baked potato bar (toppings: gravy, chopped broccoli, shredded cheese, bacon bits, butter)

Thursday) roasted chicken, salad, roasted potatoes

Friday) leftover roasted chicken over leftover salad (planned overs!)

Saturday) marinated grilled chicken breasts, wild rice, peas

Sunday) waffles and bacon a la Chef Daddy

Monday) barbecue sandwiches, tater tots, sliced apples

Tuesday) Stouffer's lasagna

Wednesday) homemade fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy

Thursday) chicken and stuffing casserole, lima beans

Friday) meatball subs, pineapple cubes, Baked Lays

Phew! That's a lot of cooking!
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Two Links

Here are two links I have been meaning to post for quite some time.

The first is a podcast interview I recorded back in May. They spent about an hour talking with me about our decision to homeschool and our experiences with homeschooling over the last ten years. Go here to listen.

The second is a link to the July issue of Money Matters. Curt and I co-wrote an article called "The Five Mistakes Couples Make With Money." Go here to read it online. And if you need financial advice or counseling, this is a great organization to get connected to! Curt was trained by them, and continues to offer financial counseling for couples who need help establishing a budget, working through financial problems, or getting out of debt. He is really good at it and has helped many couples. It is a great ministry for him. Be sure to email me privately if you live in the Charlotte area and would like to meet with him!
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A Beach Decision

I made a decision while at the beach (I made several-- doesn't it feel good to finally make a decision? I don't think that guys will identify with this as much as women, but that's a topic for another post).

Anyway, I decided to resign from Faith Lifts, the online devotion I have been writing for for awhile. I write a contribution every Friday and, while I enjoyed it very much, it was time to stop. We have decided to homeschool all of the kids again this year (except my oldest-- will write more about that later) and I need to cut back on any and every activity that takes me away from my kids whether mentally or physically. I was sad to leave but also relieved to leave, if that makes any sense at all. The experience was great-- having to write regularly like that was so great for my writing. It sharpened it, toned it, and made me more aware of material. Sort of like a weekly writing workout. I am glad for the time I spent there as a writer, but also certain that it's time to let someone else have that experience now.

Faith Lifts was already looking for some regular contributors, and now they will be looking for one more on Fridays. If you like to write, want to write, etc., email them to let them know of your interest. Their email is
They would love to hear from you and I highly recommend working with them!
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Beach Pictures

We celebrated our 16th anniversary while at the beach.

The kayak was a welcome diversion one day-- Dada's (Curt's dad) great idea!

This one loved the boogie board.

This photo gives you a good idea of why I call her, "Miss Sassyfrass."

My girls enjoying the beach

Father and son-- you can't tell in this picture who is actually taller! And that is probably for the best!

Our family all in one photo, and all looking in the same general direction!

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My friend Kelly wrote a post about her return from vacation entitled appropriately, "Re-Entry." That cracked me up, as I have called returning from vacation that for years! Today was our re-entry day, as I did my level best to re-enter normal life. This included:
  • Making a menu plan and buying alllll the groceries for said menu.
  • Refereeing fights and disciplining children who are also going through re-entry (read: crazy and out-of-control actions, coupled with incessant talking... did I say incessant?)
  • Answering no less than one thousand questions or requests, all of which begin with that ever popular word: "Mo-om!"
  • Tidying the house.
  • Unpacking the rest of the bags.
  • Going through emails and answering the most urgent ones.
  • Doing laundry-- and urging my son, who does his own, to move it along so that my dryer would once again be available. This sounds simple, but it can take hours.
  • Talking with my mom about arrangements for my grandmother, including my son's clothing needs as he is going to be a pallbearer. (Did I mention that it is over 100 degrees here? Dress clothes and extreme heat means we are having to be creative with this.)
  • Ordering curriculum so it will arrive in time for us to start school.
  • Picking up a few books that came in at the homeschool store and placing an order there.
  • Returning movies and library books.
  • Delivering a book to a friend.

After all of that, I decided not to tackle the meal I had planned. I quickly checked with hubby to make sure that he was cool with just meeting at Chick Fil A for dinner. Perhaps it was the tone of my voice, but bless his heart he didn't argue, nor did he remind me that I ordered pizza last night. He also didn't point out that we only have $20 left in the restaurant budget category. He put on his best happy smile and met us. Then he took me out for a Starbucks blended creme strawberry drink as an even more special treat! Of course, I had to share it with the two year old-- let me tell you, that girl can suck down a strawberry drink-- all while wearing pink shades we bought her at the beach and looking quite adorable, I will add.

And so, that was my day. Tomorrow I plan to tackle the school area, and begin to arrange the new books we will be using, as well as make a list of supplies we need. My kids love to go "back to school" shopping even if back to school for them means shuffling downstairs in their pj's! (And yes, I do let them do school in their pj's if we don't have to be anywhere. It's the beauty of homeschooling in my opinion!)

Lord willing, I will be posting tomorrow with a list of what we are using for this coming year, now that I have FINALLY finalized it! I will also post my menu for those few folks who like that sort of thing. Ok, that one person who does. The rest of you can skip it. I also hope to post some more beach pictures (I posted my favorite one as a Wordless Wednesday post) and write at least one entry about my trip. Think I can do it?? We shall see!

For now, I am going to bed and read a mindless fiction novel before I pass out from a very full day.

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Wordless Wednesdays (A Bit Early)

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Home Again

I am home.

I feel like I have been away forever, but in actuality it was only ten days.

Ten days of pure family time. Ten days of no computers, no emails, no phone calls, no stress, no bills, no stuff of life that pulls at you. One day I did jump on my husband's computer and check emails ever-so-quickly, "just in case" as I reasoned. Later on, I told Curt I was sorry I had. I could feel my buoyancy being pulled away ever so slightly. I felt infringed upon by life. And I didn't want my joy and lightness snatched away. So I yanked it back like a petulant child and vowed to stay away from the computer for the rest of the time.

But life, as it always does, had a way of creeping back in. I had planned to be at the beach for one week with my family and the next week with friends. My husband and son were going to leave on Sunday and hours later my friends Cindy and Kelly were going to arrive. We looked forward to long conversations about the coming year-- planning our homeschooling and talking about motherhood and marriage and life. We had visions of the children quietly playing board games and romping about on the beach while we sipped wine and smiled at each other. Though in hindsight I know it would have been far from that idyllic image, that is what we had built it up to in our minds.

And then yesterday just a few hours before they were going to be getting in their car I got that call about my grandmother that I knew was coming. And so, I called my friends and told them we would have to do it "later." In a matter of moments, my plans were changed drastically. Curt had no choice but to leave us there to pack and clean my uncle's house (that he so graciously let us use), as the plan was all along for him to return to work today. And so, last night just the kids and I hung out in the house, a bit bereft that our vacation was ending so abruptly and sadly. This morning we hit the ground running-- and while it took us four hours to pack and clean, we did it. And with five kids running around to boot! (I will admit that I was sort of looking around for a prize patrol to drop by and award me some sort of prize for the incredible feat of closing up a beach house, getting five kids fed, dressed and packed, and a car loaded. But the patrol somehow missed us, I guess.) By 12:30 we were headed down the highway to get home.

And the closer we got, the happier I was. I wanted to be home more than I wanted to be away. And that was a great transformation for someone who wanted another week at the beach just a day before.

Tonight I am reflecting on the awesome gift of a beach house from my uncle and how he will never know how much it meant to us for him to offer us this vacation. I am smiling as we load the photos onto the computer that we took-- so many memories! I am easing back into reality and enjoying the excuse to milk the vacation mode just one more time as I hastily order very expensive pizzas for our dinner. I am thinking about my grandmother and how she is finally at peace. I am flipping through my new Paula Deen magazine for some cooking inspiration, since apparently that will be expected again now that vacation is over. I am treasuring the thought of sleeping in my own bed. I am thinking about how much I missed talking to my girlfriend on the phone-- and how we respect each other's family time enough to not intrude, yet giggle like little girls when we finally can reconnect. I am praying for my mom, who misses her mom a lot already and has lots to go through this week.

Most of all, I am just glad to be home again.
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