Thursday, July 31, 2008

Picture Study The Charlotte Mason Way

One of the things I always wished I knew more about/paid more attention to was art and artists. As I got older and realized that cultured people knew things about art-- styles, forms, artists, periods, etc.-- I regretted not making it a priority to be more acquainted with such things when I was in school. I assessed that people who were educated and well-rounded should know a little something about all the arts. I even flirted with the idea of becoming an art history major briefly.

For these reasons, I determined when we started homeschooling that we were going to dive into the arts. I had high hopes, as the song goes, but I just found that all things artsy got pushed to the back burner in favor of doing things like multiplication tables and learning how to read. And yet, that whole "well-rounded education thing" kept tugging at me.

This is part of the reason why we are participating in Monday's Artists this year (see the interview I posted on Monday to learn more about this program)-- to guarantee my children's exposure to the arts to whatever degree they want to absorb it. I predict that some of them will love it more than others. One of mine is very excited about art class, the other wants to learn more about music. The point is, they are learning what's out there to choose from.

Today I read an explanation about what Charlotte Mason termed "picture study"-- an easy, no-stress way to expose our kids to great art and the artists behind the works. (I have been reading up and refreshing myself in all things Charlotte Mason as we are preparing for a new school year.) One of the ladies wrote this great explanation that I wanted to share with you here. She makes it sound easy enough that any of us could do it! I love that!

When I first started doing picture studies with my girls, I felt a little overwhelmed because I thought I had to research each picture and tell them all the particulars about it, really "educate" them on the meaning behind the picture, etc.

Then I saw a woman teach a picture study,and I realized that it was quite simple. You tell them ahead of time to look at the picture for about a minute or two. Tell them to remember everything they can about the picture (the people, where they were sitting or standing, describe any animals, the landscape, placement of objects, the colors and where they were located, etc.) because you're going to turn the picture over so they can't see it any longer. Let your children take turns telling what they saw. For younger children, be sure to warn them in advance that you want them to "tell back" what they saw. This process sharpen their attention skills, and they will walk away having an image of the picture in their minds. You could also ask your children to draw/paint the picture because this gives them the opportunity to focus on the details as well.

You can choose an artist to study for a month or six weeks, focusing on a different picture each week. Large coffee-table type art books are readily available at most libraries, as are picture book biographies about the more well-known artists. By investing in an easel stand, you can display the "picture of the week" in your home for everyone to enjoy. At the end of that month or six weeks, everyone will be well acquainted with the works of that artist. Then you can switch to another one!

My girls have gotten excited afterwards when seeing a picture they've studied framed in a store, printed in a book, or viewed in an art gallery. Charlotte Mason's goal of picture study was to help the child increase his attention while at the same time forming a relationship with the picture and the artist. You could read a picture book about the artist and their life or simply learn about the artist's childhood-- something your young children may be interested in at this point of their lives.

Another woman wrote:

I think two good artists for beginning picture study with young children are Mary Cassatt and Grandma Moses. I did those two with my 4, 7, 10, and 12 yr old nieces and nephews who were living with me last year (plus it was the first time I had done this with my 15 yr old son). I found books in the juvenile department of the library about the artists - picture book style for the younger children. I found the Mary Cassatt prints online. I put them on a disk and took them to Staples to be printed as 8X10's for around $1 each.

(I will add to this one that, if you do Grandma Moses, be sure to see if your library has any Will Moses (her great grandson) picture books to read during this time.)

I will also add that it is good to study nature artists like John James Audubon, Beatrix Potter, etc. as you can incorporate a real love of nature and God's brilliant creations at the same time. God pays such attention to the details of His creation, and these artists really showcased those details.

These ladies make picture study sound so doable and relatively effortless that I was challenged to add this element to our school year. I know that not all of you who read this blog are homeschoolers, but this is something easy we can all do in our homes to enrich our lives by interacting with great works and great minds in our everyday lives, having natural conversations along the way and fostering in our children an awarness and appreciation for the finer things in life.

Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things."
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Gardening On The News

Ok, pretty cool-- remember the garden that I got involved in back in the spring? (A bunch of moms got together through an online homeschool group and decided to do a co-op garden.) Well, somehow the local news heard about us and came out to film a story on us! (With the economy, growing food is a "hot topic" right now and I guess our story was a good twist on that.) So, they came yesterday for our "weeding Wednesdays" and filmed us. If you want to see the link, just go here. There is also a film clip you can watch from there.

I realize it's not Oprah, but it's still pretty fun-- and very neat for the kids to see a film crew find something their crazy mom got them involved in as "newsworthy."
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Got Basil?

We have an abundance of basil at the garden, which prompted me to promise the ladies at the garden that I would provide these recipes that I got from the magazine, Everyday Food. So, forgive me for posting for personal reasons, but I figured this was a good way to do it! If you have an abundance of basil (or just want to buy some), feel free to try out these recipes:

Chicken And Basil Stir Fry
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
coarse salt and ground pepper
6 tsp. vegetable oil
1 small onion, halved and cut into 1/4 inch thick wedges
2 bell peppers, (red, green or a mix) ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1/4 wide strips
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1.5 cups fresh basil leaves, larger leaves torn in half
cooked white or brown rice, for serving

Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels.

In a medium bowl, toss chicken with cornstarch until coated; season generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium high. Cook half the chicken, turning once, until browned but not completely cooked through (2-3 minutes total). Transfer to a plate.

Repeat with 2 tsp of oil and other half of chicken. Transfer to a plate.
Wipe out skillet with paper towel. Add remaining 2 tsp. oil, onion, peppers; cook over medium-high heat, tossing often until beginning to brown, 3 minutes. Add garlic, cook until fragrant; about one minute. Add 1/4 cup water, vinegar, soy sauce, and chicken to pan. Cook, tossing until chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in basil leaves. Serve immediately over rice, if desired.

Shrimp, Tomato and Basil Pasta
1.5 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails removed)
coarse salt and ground pepper
6 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes in juice
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 pound linguine
1.5 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Season shrimp with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 4 tsp. oil over high. Add shrimp, cook until opaque throughout, turning occasionally, 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, set aside.

Make sauce: To the same skillet add remaining 2 tsp oil and garlic, cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add canned tomatoes and their juice, along with 2 cups water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have softened and are saucy, about 15 minutes. Remove sauce from heat; stir in cherry tomatoes. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, return pasta to pot. Add tomato sauce, shrimp, and basil; season with salt and pepper and toss. Serve immediately.

Classic Pesto
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves (2 ounces)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/3 cup EVOO
Preheat oven to 350. Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until golden and fragrant; tossing once, 8-10 minutes. Remove from baking sheet to prevent further browning. Let cool completely. In a food processor, combine nuts, basil, cheese, and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Process until finely chopped. With machine running, pour oil in a steady stream through the feed tube, process until smooth. Makes 1 cup.

Basil Butter
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup (2 sticks) room temperature butter and 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil, season generously with coarse salt and ground pepper. Stir until well combined. Transfer to an 11X10 inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll into a cylinder, about 6 inches long and 2 inches in diameter, twist ends to seal. Refrigerate until firm, about two hours. To serve, unwrap and slice an crosswise. To store, refrigerate wrapped in waxed paper, up to 1 week. To freeze, transfer cylinder, wrapped in waxed paper, to a resealable plastic bag and freeze for up to three months.
Try Basil Butter on broiled or grilled white fish, on grilled steak or chicken, on corn on the cob or boiled potatoes, with boiled green beans or peas.
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Singing A Selfish Song

One cd that never leaves my car is an oldie but a goodie-- the Paul Colman Trio's New Map of The World. Every so often, I just get in the mood to hear it. This morning as I drove my son to work was one of those times. Listening to that cd got me thinking about a lot of things, so I thought I would share them here:

My favorite song on that cd is called "The Selfish Song." It's a great song, no matter how many years go by! The lyrics, unfortunately, are still true.

Here's another good one off that cd. The lines from the song:

Refusing to believe that you paid the tab for me
And that happiness is here to find
To know the truth, but to stay behind
And to burn your invitation to the promised land.

Have always reminded me of someone I love. Someone I still pray will one day accept their invitation to the promised land and believe that the tab has been paid. Do you have someone like that in your life? I am sure a great many of us do. How hard it is to continue to pray for their salvation when we have watched them strike that match and burn that invitation right in front of us. And yet... This song was a great reminder to persevere in praying for this person.

Today I want to spend the day singing an unselfish song. A true challenge but one we must take up every day if we are to live as Jesus asked us to. With His help, I think it's possible-- even though I am really bad about forgetting and letting the flesh take over, fueling my motives and my actions if I am not careful. I am prone to sing my selfish song, too loud and too clear.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Wonderful Opportunity!

I have been so, so slack with moving and traveling about promoting something I am doing on Saturday-- but that actually starts tomorrow!

It's the Heart of the Matter Virtual Homeschool Conference!

However, the coordinators of this event wanted me to let you know that it is not too late to sign up! For a very reasonable fee, you can get registered to attend a wonderful homeschool conference, hear the very best speakers out there (present company excluded of course!), learn all about the ins and outs of homeschooling (for those of you just checking it out as an option), and receive encouragement (for those of you veterans out there). And the best thing is, you don't have to leave home-- you can do all this in your pajamas!

To see the lineup of speakers and the schedule, just check out the links I provided. I am telling you, I got so excited just seeing what was being offered! It sounds like something I will be tuning into throughout the weekend.

Hope some of you will be, too! Leave me a comment if you register or if you have already registered so I will know who you are!
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Giveaway Winners!

The winners of the Notgrass Homeschool Planners are:

Gina Conroy wins the butterfly one and Jennifer wins the horse one!

Ladies, please send me your snail mail addresses and I will get these right out to you!

Congratulations and, for those of you who didn't win, I have some great books to giveaway here very soon-- keep checking back!
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday's Artists

Last week I posted about some of the classes my kids are enrolled in this fall to both lighten my load and broaden our learning through trained teachers. When I found Monday's Artists, I knew that this program was exactly what we needed! This program was launched last year by a homeschool mom who just wanted to provide her children with regular exposure to the arts-- you know, all that stuff we want to teach but struggle to find time for. She put this program together and it filled up quickly! After a very successful first year, she had the opportunity to expand the program into a nearby city (where I live) and is now franchising the program for anyone who is interested.

The program offers fine arts taught all in one morning in one place with reasonable pricing. My kids will be taking art, music, drama and public speaking. We are very excited about this new venture in our area, so I thought I would share a bit about it with you all, in case 1) there are some of you in the Charlotte area who might want to register or 2) some of you would be interested in starting a franchise in your area. I know that Kate would love to help you if God leads you to do so. Below is my interview with Kate Bach, founder of Monday's Artists:

How did Monday's Artists get started?
We have six children and none of them stand out as The Artist or The Musician. So, in wanting to provide fine arts for them, it seemed an all or nothing scenario. We found several different teachers who would accept students of certain ages. This meant quite a bit of schlepping about. We found the most affordable teachers as well, but that still added up to quite a bit of money….and this just covered art! One evening while lamenting that fine arts was never going to make it’s way into our family life (I do have the typical husband. Well not so typical, he’s a teacher and a football coach and a baseball coach and eats up anything sports. For him one Lollipops concert and a few plays a year was plenty of fine arts- we do have five boys.) A brief pointing out of the imbalance between those three events vs. the many sports we are involved with led to, “You can figure this out. Make what you need.” Hmmm, the wheels began turning and three weeks later Monday’s Artists was holding its first class.

Where did the name come from?
We played with names but found nothing that was all encompassing until we decided we would host it on Monday’s and I began playing with the Monday’s Child poem. It was a great fit that allows for altering our course load as each director wishes. Ex. Pottery instead of art.

Why do you think it was so popular?
I’m not sure why it is so popular aside from the fact that, as homeschoolers, there is tons offered to us but nothing at such affordable rates, at one location one day per week and available to all of our students.

What are your goals for students enrolled in Monday's Artist?
Each family has their own goals. This year we will include a curriculum syllabus for those families that wish to dive deeper into our weekly material. For most, I believe it is just the artistic experience/expression in a classroom setting with a professional instructor.

How did you set your fees?
Our original fees were set simply to cover a very fair wage to the instructor, classroom supplies and a ‘thank you’ tithe for the church. We hit the mark within dollars. When Kelly was interested in directing a second Monday’s Artists program in South Charlotte we realized the possibility of growth beyond just a little larger class for our main program. This meant a director’s fee as well as administration fees. Wanting to keep it affordable meant these two fees would be enough to cover our time but not enough for non-homeschool moms (wanting fine arts for their children) to look at it as a business opportunity.

How do you find teachers?
We find our teachers through word of mouth. Our family has owned/operated businesses forever and the ‘great ones’ always come through a friend or a friend of a friend. Our plans for Monday’s Artists were to achieve affordable (time and cost) fine arts for our children. God has taken this beyond our plans and we are just running to keep up with Him. When Kelly came on board it became apparent that a curriculum would be needed in order to assure program quality and Kelly was excited about getting her thoughts down on paper. Our art teacher, Stacy was also intrigued and excited.

What are your plans for Monday's Artist?
We are not pushing forward with any plans but rather allowing His plan to be revealed. This Thursday I will meet with another mom who is interested in starting another Monday’s Artists in the Pineville (NC) area and last week several moms asked me to begin one in the York, SC area. There is also a mom interested in the Charleston, SC area. We are a homeschool family (that’s busy enough!) that owns/operates a SC Accountability Association, that is our business. Monday’s Artists was just a little program to get what we needed for our children. Who knows where this will lead?? We are open to franchising all over the nation, but will only do so as interested families seek us.

What would you recommend for moms who feel led to start a Monday's Artist in their area?
If you feel led to start a Monday’s Artists I would definitely recommend you start with prayer. It is a fairly easy program to get up and running, our re-sign up rate has been greater than 80% which means your second year will be easier than your first. It does require gumption and the desire to create this program for your children. If that desire is not there, the director’s fees are not worth hosting information/registration meetings, locating a facility and instructors, keeping up with your bookkeeping, etc. It truly is not much but it is enough that one has to be interested for the intrinsic value rather than the extrinsic value.

If you want to know more about Monday's Artists, you can email Kate, and she will be happy to answer your questions!
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Menu Plan Monday

Here is our menu from now until next Monday night!

tonight) barbecue chicken sandwiches, homemade oven fries, salad

Tuesday night) my son's 12th birthday dinner! He chose to have country style steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, crescent rolls, and chocolate pudding pie instead of cake (A note about this simple pie. Get an Oreo pre-made crust, make chocolate pudding-- can do "cook and serve" just to make yourself feel like you put in more effort-- spoon into crust, chill for several hours, then add Cool Whip. This pie is always the first one gone at the swim team banquet and my kids absolutely love it.)

Wednesday night) small group cookout-- I have to bring a side dish of some sort

Thursday night) Taco salad. The P31 girls are having a get-together and I am bringing taco meat for taco salad for that, so my family will also be having this.

Friday night) Chicken and stuffing in the crockpot (crockpot recipe from Fix It And Forget It Entertaining), black-eyed peas

Saturday night) Steaks on the grill, baked potatoes, broccoli

Sunday night) ham slices, lima beans, frozen waffle fries (That's our date night, so this is what the kids will be having while we eat dinner out!)

Monday night) Tex-Mex Chicken over rice (crockpot recipe from Fix It And Forget It Entertaining), corn

Today my daughter and I have plans to make chocolate chip cookies (she ran out of time to make them on Saturday) and peanut butter cookies. These will last approximately two days in our house-- three if we are lucky. Between the pies and cookies and the Klondike bars I just bought, that will be our desserts at night. Do I always offer dessert? Yes. Most every evening after dinner I have something sweet for those children who eat all their food. But I also don't allow late night snacks once dinner is over and the kitchen is cleaned up. I think this establishes healthy eating habits. My mom didn't allow it and I do not struggle with wanting to snack at night because I wasn't raised doing it.

Do I eat dessert every night? Absolutely not! I keep the Weight Watcher fudge bars around for when I feel absolutely compelled to indulge. This is usually enough to satisfy my desire for something chocolate and at only 100 calories, is a guiltless choice. My kids are forbidden to touch them!! My biggest trick for myself to control my eating is to 1) fix my dinner on a salad plate instead of a dinner plate for portion control and 2) to brush my teeth for bedtime very quickly after I have dinner so that I don't want to eat after that. I don't like to ruin my clean teeth, plus stuff tastes terrible when mixed with that toothpaste taste! I had one friend tell me that would never deter her from eating, but it works for me!
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just Something Fun

I got this in one of those forwards you get, and thought you all might like to play along!

Leave me a comment as to what you picked, and whether it accurately describes you. And because I know you are going to ask, I chose Strawberry Shortcake.

Now don't cheat on this one, go with the first dessert you choose.

If all the eight desserts listed below were sitting in front of you, which would you choose? (Sorry, you can only pick one!) Pick your dessert and then look to see what psychiatrists think about you. It is pretty accurate!

(You can't change your choice once you scroll down!)

Here are your choices:
1. Angel Food Cake
2. Brownies
3. Lemon Meringue Pie
4. Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Icing
5. Strawberry Short Cake
6. Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing
7. Ice Cream
8. Carrot Cake

OK - Now that you've made your choice, this is what the researchers say about you...

SCROLL DOWN---No Cheating

1. ANGEL FOOD CAKE -- Sweet, loving, cuddly. You love all warm and fuzzy items. A little nutty at times. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone at the end of the day. Others perceive you as being childlike and immature at times.

2. BROWNIES -- You are adventurous, love new ideas, and are a champion of underdogs and a slayer of dragons. When tempers flare up you whip out your saber. You are always the odd ball with a unique sense of humor and direction. You tend to be very loyal.

3. LEMON MERINGUE -- Smooth, sexy, & articulate with your hands, you are an excellent caregiver and a good teacher. But don't try to walk and chew gum at the same time. A bit of a diva at times, you set your own style because you do your own thing. You shine when it comes to helping others and have many friends.

4 . VANILLA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING -- Fun-loving, sassy, humorous, not very grounded in life; very indecisive and lacking motivation. Everyone enjoys being around you, but you are a practical joker. Others should be cautious in making you mad. However, you are a friend for life.

5. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE -- Romantic, warm, loving. You care about other people, can be counted on in a pinch and expect the same in return. Intuitively keen, you can be very emotional at times but a true person in every way. You like to do things for yourself and help others learn about themselves.

6. CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING – Sweet, always ready to give and receive. Very creative, adventurous, ambitious, and passionate. You can appear to have a cold exterior but are warm on the inside. Not afraid to take chances. Will not settle for anything average in life. Love to laugh.

7. ICE CREAM -- You like sports, whether it is baseball, football, basketball, or soccer. If you could, you would like to participate, but you enjoy watching sports. You don't like to give up the remote control. You tend to be self-centered and high maintenance.

8. CARROT CAKE -- You are a very fun loving person, who likes to laugh. You are fun to be with. People like to hang out with you. You are a very warm hearted person and a little quirky at times. You have many loyal friends. You were meant to lead and teach others. A wonderful role model.
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer Suppers

Last night we had what I consider to be a quintessential summer supper: BLT's with sliced tomatoes from a locally grown produce stand, cantaloupe, tortilla chips with fresh garden salsa and Klondike Ice Cream bars for dessert, enjoyed outside on my mother in law's screened-in porch. The best part is, there was enough left over for lunch today!

The truth is, I threw this meal together when I realized in the grocery store that I had planned enough meals for not only the weekend but the rest of the week-- and inadvertantly left out a meal for that evening! It was a simple and quick meal to throw together-- which had to be the case since we walked in from grocery shopping and errand running at 5:30 pm!

What is a favorite summer supper at your house? Mine almost always includes something on the grill and some sort of fresh fruit on the side or for dessert-- watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, blackberries, blueberries-- yum!
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Weekend Plans

Today is a rare Saturday for us in that 1) we are in town and 2) we have nowhere to be. Two of our children are with my mother in law on a trip to the Outer Banks for a family reunion. So we "only" have four children-- which feels like a break for us. I have spent the last three hours weeding out emails that have accumulated in the last several weeks as we were without internet for various reasons. I would read emails quickly when I got online at various remote locations, then hit "save" with the intention of going back and answering them "later." I decided that today was "later" and have responded to a good many. You may notice that I was posting a lot of things I saved here on the blog. Good stuff that begged to be shared.

There is, unfortuately, still a good bit more to weed through. Must. Eat. First.

Curt is busily scraping wallpaper off walls in the hopes that he can get the walls ready to be painted. I wish so much that I would have taken photos of the truly hideous wallpaper that was on the walls in almost every room. He has his work cut out for him! Later today, we plan to go to a local antique shop to buy a nice mahogany bookcase we have found for our living room. If we can do it early enough, I plan to spend some time this afternoon organizing and unpacking books that are still boxed. When, I ask you, will this move ever end??

Our realtor called the other day and said she wanted to come over and see all that we have done. I paused, wondering how to break the news to her that, other than getting new appliances and beginning to strip wallpaper off the wall, we haven't done much of anything. (She is remembering the "grand plans" we had before closing.) Well reality has intervened. We bought a lot of furniture when we first moved in, and that drained our finances pretty significantly. We have set aside money to get granite countertops-- not something we intended to do right away but our hand has been forced. We discovered that part of the tile countertop that is in the house now is about to fall off (seriously, one piece just lifts right out!) and the installation guy for our smooth cooktop said it won't fit the existing hole-- and the tile is too fragile to cut into the way it is. Two strikes against the existing countertop! So we are now being forced to put in new counters before we do some things we had intended to do like paint all the brown trim and paneling. I am hoping to get some estimates for that project next week. And hopefully we will get the brown trim and paneling handled soon-- it is SO dark.

This house is and will be for some time, a work in progress. It took us eight years to get the other one the way we liked it-- and I expect the same will be true for this one. Oh well, one project at a time.

My daughter is planning to make her Martha Stewart recipe for giant chocolate chip cookies. I knew she was up to something when she started asking if margarine was the same as unsalted butter and if we had any brown sugar! Tonight my daughter and I are going to Gwen Smith's live recording concert for her new cd. We are excited to make it a little mom/daughter time. Tomorrow we will finally be back at church after many weeks away for various reasons-- that will feel good to be back. Tomorrow night, we hope to have our date night but our sitter plans are not finalized yet.

ETA: I talked to my sitter and we are on "go" for our date night-- yay!

Hope you all are having a fun weekend whatever you find yourself doing!
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Saving Money On Groceries

After yet another trip to the grocery store yesterday, I am more convinced than ever that grocery prices are on the rise. A cart of groceries that used to cost me $75 now costs me $150. You got that? Double!! If you are noticing this phenomenon, then you might appreciate this article written by a mom of ten. If you have money saving tips of your own, be sure to leave a comment on her blog and share them!
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Get Ready For The Olympics!

Whether you are homeschooling or not, the Olympics brings about a great time to not only watch and learn about the sporting events and countries represented, but also to dig a bit deeper and do some activities as a family. I received these ideas in Julie Druck's enewsletter and through an online homeschool eloop I am on. These would be great things to include the neighbor kids, a church group, or a co-op in!

As this month brings the Summer Games on August 8–24 to China, how about a short study on different aspects of the Olympics?

* Look up and discuss: Romans 12:1; I Corinthians 9:24-27; and I Corinthians 15:35-49.

* Read “Hour of the Olympics” and “Ancient Greece and the Olympics: A Nonfiction Companion Guide to Hour of the Olympics” by Mary Pope Osborne; “Look What Came From Greece” by Kevin Davis; and “A Picture Book of Jesse Owens” by David Adler.

* Print out a map from the internet and study about Beijing, China, where the Games are being held this year. Do related Chinese activities – reading, researching, study of their character writing, art, etc.

* Sample some Greek and/or Chinese cuisine!

* Visit for information, activities, worksheets, puzzles and print-outs regarding the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

* Watch the Games on television, choose a sport you don’t know much about and research it for fun.

Activity #1: What are the Olympic Games? Many people from many countries get together to play games and celebrate friendship, unity and sports every four years. There are Summer Olympic Games and Winter Olympic Games. The games take place in a different country. The first Olympic games originated in Greece, a beautiful country in Europe - show this on a map or globe. Tell the children they are going to have their own Kids Olympic Day Games. Visit the Olympic Games Web site and share with the children some great Olympic pictures and a little history of the games.

Activity #2: Make an Olympic Flag - A Flag of Friends Explain that this is a very special flag - the Olympic Flag: 1. It has five interlocking colored rings (circles) on a white background. 2. The rings represent the 5 major land areas of the world - show these land areas on a map or globe. 3. The rings are interlocked to show friendship among the nations.

Activity #3: Making an Olympic Medal - Focus on Circle Shape Athletes in the Olympic games receive medals for winning games, such as running, swimming, jumping and many other sports. Today every one is a medal winner of friendship. Now let's go to the games! Create your own medals from construction paper and make a hole to insert a ribbon about 18 to 24 inches long. Purchase inexpensive ribbon that has red, blue, white stripes or use any ribbon you have at your disposal.

Activity #4: Olympic Games Here are just a few game ideas. These need to be conducted outdoors or in a large and safe ventilated area. Materials: balloons (1 per child), a few craft feathers (craft store), drinking straws, Easter plastic eggs and plastic spoons.

Game 1: The Drinking Straw Race Each racer holds a bent drinking straw between his or her nose and upper lip. Make a demonstration. The children curl their lip to hold it tight. See who can run to the finish line without losing the straw. Make sure it is a short distance.

Game 2: The Balloon Between the Knee Race Inflate the balloon, but not too much so that it fits comfortably between the knees of the child. Have the children put the balloon between their knees and run or hop to the fish line.

Game 3: Hug-the-Balloon-Friend Relay Place a balloon between two children's tummies. Have the children hug each other tight and move sideways to the finish line without dropping the balloon.

Game 4: Birdie Feather Race Have the children take off one shoe and sock on one foot. Tuck a feather between two toes. The children will walk to the finish line without losing the feather. If they do lose it they go back to the start and try again. This can also be done with both feet (older children) and instruct them to walk like ducks.
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Throw A Back To School Party!

As a new school year approaches, I thought I would share this great idea with you guys in case some of you wanted to use it. Now is the time to make your plans, send out invites, and gather your supplies. This is a great idea for homeschoolers and moms who have kids in school-- just adjust the plans according to your situation. This idea came from Julie Druck, who sends out a free monthly newsletter that is always chocked full of devotional thoughts, great ideas for moms and kids and recipes, etc. To subscribe, just send a blank email to: and tell her that I sent you!

It’s back-to-school time again! Below you’ll find some ideas from the back-to-school party we had last year at the little, old schoolhouse down the road from our farm. Maybe these ideas will entice you to do some back-to-school celebrating of your own! (By the way, these games and activities were done with a group of 7 children, ages 9 – 13.)
* Back-to-School Cones – For a craft project, decorate schultute (SHOOL-tur-tuh) or school cones. German families have been making such cones for the last 200 years. On the first day of school, children are presented with paper cones filled with school supplies, candy and other treats. We used sturdy thread cones that were picked up at a yard sale, but you could easily fold cones of cardstock. Before the party, hot-glue a ribbon to each side of the cones so that they can hang from a doorknob. The kids can decorate the cones with back-to-school stickers and markers. We filled the cones with neat pencils, colorful pens and old-fashioned sticks of hard candy. (adapted from “Family Fun”)
* What’s In the Bags? – Label a dozen lunch bags with one letter of BACK TO SCHOOL on each bag. Then fill each lunch bag with an item that begins with that bag’s letter and has something to do with back-to-school. Tape or staple closed and have children guess what’s in the bag by feeling it. For ideas, the items we used were: B – book; A – art supplies (crayon, paint & pom-pom in bag); C – calculator; K – Kleenex (I gave them a clue that this was something that might be found in the backpack of a child that goes to school.); T – tape; O – couldn’t think of anything that started with “O” so left bag empty!; S – staples; C – crayon; H – hole punch; two O’s – empty; L – lunch money (again explained that this might be in a backpack). (adapted from “Family Fun”)
* Eraser Toss – Hand each child 3 of the small pencil erasers and have them try to toss them one-at-a-time into a basket at the front of the room. They get to keep their erasers after the game. The kids especially enjoyed this one!
* Back-to-School Word Search - Simply print off a back-to-school word search from the internet, make copies, pass out pencils and let kids complete.
* The Rotate Game – Before the party, wrap up gifts of school supplies – one per child. (Mini-staplers and mini-calculators were very popular!). Have the children sit in a circle and hand them each a gift. Explain that you will read a story that contains the phrase “Back-to-School” many times. Every time they hear that phrase they are to pass the gift they hold one time to the right. After the story is finished, they open the gift that they received on the last rotation. For the story, simply make up a funny little tale that contains the “Back-to-School” phrase a bunch of times.
* School Kits – Our last activity for the day was a little service project. We made up school kits for children in various countries that don’t have the means to purchase school supplies. Before the party we picked up handmade, drawstring bags at the Mt. Joy Gift & Thrift. These bags were made by ladies for the Mennonite Central Committee to have for people to take and fill school kits. There is a label on each bag that tells you what to put in the kits. We purchased these items ahead of time and on the day of the party, each child filled a kit. You can also choose to fill health kits as well. (Marybeth's note: you could easily contact local charitable organizations who are doing school supply drives to take these to.)
* Brown Bag Lunches - For lunch you can serve packed lunches that were made up ahead of time. Decorate a brown paper bag with back-to-school stickers and each child’s name. In each bag, place an individual container of applesauce, a stick of string cheese, a fun plastic back-to-school cup (found cheap at Walgreen’s), a plastic spoon, napkin, bag of chips or cheese curls and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. Have someone provide a thermos or two of drinks. Have another provide a yummy finger-food type dessert.
My friend, Rachel, made Ginger Crinkle Cookies and Back-to-School Cupcakes for our party. On top of the cupcakes, she placed Strawberry Newtons that she made to look like little books by writing the name of different subjects on each with an edible writing pen. She said you can purchase these pens at the grocery store in the baking section. They are pens but you use them almost like a paintbrush. Really neat!
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Friday, July 25, 2008

A Slow News Day

It's a slow news day at the old Whalen house. I have spent the morning putting out small fires around the house (bad attitudes, sibling rivalry and the never-ending question, "Can we eat now?") and working on some writing. I just wrote out a grocery list for enough meals to get us through the weekend and will head to the grocery, the cleaners and the library soon.

My life is so exciting. I just thought you might want to share in a wee bit of the excitement. Hope you all have a great weekend!
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Cold Coffee Morning

This was one of those mornings where my coffee got cold several times. Ever have one of those mornings?

I woke up to the doorbell ringing at 7:30 am. I didn't know it was legal to ring someone's doorbell at 7:30 am!! I stumbled to the door to find the grinning, way-too-chipper face of the oven repairman. (Our new oven was installed with a glass door hinge on a stainless steel door-- making it fall open.) I let him in and poured my coffee, then stumbled back to my room to have my quiet time before the kids woke up. The rest of the morning was a blur of phone calls, making breakfast, dealing with temper tantrums over the breakfast (I didn't want butter on my toast!"), dealing with sibling war over the tv remote ("She wants to watch Full House but I want to watch Dora!"), starting dinner in the crockpot, getting the younger two ready to go with my mother in law for the morning, a visit from my mother in law, unloading the dishwasher, starting a load of laundry, working on blog posts, checking emails... you get the idea.

In the end, I just dumped the rest of my coffee out. Coffee can only stand to be reheated so many times before it just doesn't taste good anymore. Thankfully, most mornings aren't this way-- I usually enjoy at least one cup before I am off and running!
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Planning For A New School Year

They are all talking about it-- all my favorite homeschool bloggers, that is. The theme of many posts of late is planning and preparing for this new school year that is suddenly upon us. Reading their posts has inspired me! So, I decided to write this up and join in the fun!

In planning what I hope will be an abundant learning experience for my children this year, I have decided one thing: it is nearly impossible to choose just one thing to study out of the plethora of products that populate the curriculum landscape. It is all just so good. I suppose I could just decide that we are using a boxed curriculum set and stick to it no matter what. But where would the fun in that be? I love poring over catalogs and making my selections painstakingly. I love making sure each subject is addressed—and of course there are inevitably some that get addressed several times just because. While I want to do a study of Little House On The Prairie and complete at least volume one of Five In A Row, there just isn’t time to do it all and so some stuff—some very good stuff—has to be put away for another year. I deliberated just doing school all day, every day, seven days a week. But I didn't think my kids would go for that somehow.

So, after much deliberation, the list you see below is our course of study for the coming year. I am so excited about what we will be studying and the opportunities my children will be getting through a combination of outside classes and instruction at home.

This year we are relying on several classes outside of the house. This is after much soul searching last year as I determined how I came to the point of burnout that caused me to put all my kids in school. One thing I know I did is to feel like I had “arrived” as a homeschooler after a decade of experience and didn’t need to be in a support group any longer. I did not realize how much the fellowship and regular contact with other moms and kids helped both me and my children. When we homeschooled without much interaction, we all came to resent it. So, this year, I have sought out classes that are rich and good—subjects I know I wouldn’t do justice. My daughter specifically asked to take an art class, so I found a new fine arts program that offered art, music and public speaking (I hope to do an interview with the founder here on the blog very soon!) In offering these classes to my children, I am also offering all of us the guarantee of regular time with friends and contact with the outside world.

I have included first my own "course of study" because the best educator in the world is the one who recognizes that learning never stops-- and models that in her life. So, to begin, here's what I am studying to make me a better home educator:

Mom’s Reading For The Year:
A Picture Perfect Childhood (just finished) by Cay Gibson—this book is excellent and is highly recommended even if you aren’t homeschooling!
Laying Down The Rails (review and interview forthcoming)
Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education (review and interview forthcoming)
Hours In The Out-of-Doors (review and interview forthcoming)
Beginning With The End In Mind (review and interview forthcoming)
The Heart of Wisdom
A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion

Both (3rd and 1st grader, some w/3yo)
Morning: Mon-Tues-Fri. (and Wednesdays when we don’t have Monday’s Artist)
Leading Little Hearts To God (daily devotion)
Cay Gibson’s Author Fiesta (for read alouds, will keep notebook and do suggested activities for each author)
Manners Study: Everyday Graces, 365 Manners Kids Should Know, Manners Made Easy For The Family
After lunch: Mon-Tues-Fri.
A Child’s Geography (review and interview forthcoming)
My First Book of Biographies: Great Men And Women Every Child Should Know (cover one person each week, with picture book biographies and additional reading on each person)

1st Grader:
Mathematical Reasoning Book B, Abacus activities, manipulatives
Language Lessons For Little Ones Book 3
The Beginner’s Bible (daily reading practice)
Visual Perceptual Skill Building Book 1

3rd Grader:
Learning Language Arts Through Literature
Making Math Meaningful Gr. 3, Calculadder drill book

Fine Arts: Monday’s Artist: public speaking, music, art (Wednesday 9:45-12)
Bible: Community Bible Study: Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (Thursday 9:30-11:30)
Science: NJoy Science: Days of Creation (Friday 11:00-12)
PE: Charlotte Eagles Homeschool Soccer Clinic (Tuesday 1-2:30)
My third grader might also be taking a theater class—time and day to be determined

Note: I realize this sounds like a lot of classes—and I might get into the year and decide we have committed to do too much and scale back. The good news is, the soccer is only for the fall, as is the theater class. We could easily drop one or both for the spring. The Science is only every other Friday and the Fine Arts co-op is only the first three Wednesdays of the month, giving us the fourth (and sometimes fifth) off. I am also considering picking up a homeschool swim team for the spring, just to get them conditioned in time for summer league. My eight year old is quite the swimmer and would benefit from ongoing instruction. However, I know better than to take that on right now!

My “still to be done” list for this coming year:
1. Make a list of supplies we will need for A Child’s Geography projects—coordinate and research other books we will need to use with this book.
2. Make copies and create notebooks for Author Fiesta.
3. Restock pencils, markers and crayons.
4. Map out some sort of plan for how we will study manners.
5. Buy a planner at the teacher store.
6. Research books available at the library on the people we will be learning about in the biography book.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Real Is Too Real?

One of the main comments I get from you guys is that you like how "real" I am. And that's great-- and a nice compliment. But lately I have been questioning how real to be on this blog especially. Because the main goal I have for this blogging thing is to be an encouragement to others. To point you guys to God and to inspire you to love your place in life-- whatever that place may be.

And yet, if I am really real, will I always do that? If I include the yucky stuff of life, will that inspire you to be the woman God is calling you to be? And yet, when I leave out the yucky stuff, am I deceiving you into thinking that you are the only one who struggles? Should I let you know that I have times when I struggle in my marriage? Should I confess that there are days that go by when I seriously think about no longer doing ministry... that I seriously doubt that I have what it takes on so many levels? Do I openly admit that I don't always like my children or want to be around them?

Because all of that is part of my life-- just not something I focus on here on the blog because I think it would depress you all! And yet, I have this suspicion that there are those of you who think that-- because I don't include it very much-- that I don't feel it. And then you think that you are the only one.

And so, I will continue to struggle with how real is too real? Because the last thing in the world I would want is to lead you down a path strewn with roses without pointing out the occasional thorn. The truth is, I struggle with lots of things. The truth is, we all do. I want to be honest about both parts of this life while staying true to my goal of being an encouragement. And yet, sometimes I think the best encouragement of all is to just know we aren't alone in our struggles. For me, I have the blogs that I read because they inspire and encourage me to do more, try harder, be better and then I have those that I read because they make me sigh with relief and laugh with delight in knowing that they have struggles just like mine. But mostly, these two are very separate-- it is rare to find the blog that does both. And yet, of course, I want to.

If you are struggling today with your calling, your marriage, your friendships or your motherhood then, friend, know you are not alone. We are in this together-- the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I may not focus on the negative very much here, that doesn't mean that I am exempt from it. It doesn't mean that I have some secret formula that results in a happy life all the time. Far from it.

And so, I ask you, how real is too real? How much do you want to know or not know? Do you need to believe that there are those of us who have "figured it out?" Or do you like it when we show our vulnerable, imperfect sides? I wish I could reach a happy medium but I can't quite get there. Just know I wrestle with it and strive to bring truth to this blog-- even when the truth doesn't always make you feel good. I am working to find the balance and that's all any of us can do.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Posting At Write At Home

Some of you know that I have a blog I post at weekly over at Precious Moms called "Write At Home." For those of you who know, you might also know that I have been severely neglectful of that blog in recent months. Well, Lord willing, I am back to posting weekly on one of my very favorite subjects-- the craft and business of writing-- especially for moms who want to write at home. (Hence the title-- clever, eh?)

I just posted a great quote from Charles Martin about the necessity of just putting your fanny in the chair and cranking out that book. If you are a writer or wannabe writer, head on over there and read what he has to say. Good stuff!
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A Great Quote I Just Had To Share

I read this quote on Christine at Fruit in Season's (see sidebar for link) blog and just loved it. She so eloquently expressed how I feel that I just had to share it!

But what would my days be without the chaos and the noise? What would I gain?
I would gain time to read, but miss children to read to.
I would gain time with friends, but miss the joy of coming back home to squeezy hugs and sloppy kisses.
I would gain a clean house, but miss little hands discovering the world around them.
I would gain significance in the world through work, but miss my purpose for growth and emotional depth.
I would gain more time for communing with God, but miss the indescribable gratitude I feel every day I see their little faces.
In reality I would gain little of value and miss everything of worth.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

A Giveaway!

All over the blogosphere, I am reading posts from homeschoolers who are in the midst of planning for their upcoming year. I am sort of there, sort of not. I know pretty much what we are doing, but I have some nitty gritty details I still need to sort out. But that will have to wait til we get finished unpacking and I finish up some other stuff.

In the meantime, I have come across two recordkeeping books I would love to give to someone who needs them! These books are put out by The Notgrass Company. To read more about them, go to this link. These were created specifically for people who use a more relaxed/unschooling/unit study style of learning. It is a way to capture all the learning that takes place. I got them several years ago with the intent of using them, but found that the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" applied. My way of recordkeeping was working, so why change it up? So, I shelved these and found them when we moved.

I will say that the covers on these are the old covers and you can't see them on the website. One is beige in color and has a horse on it and one is yellow with a butterfly. Both are cute. The horse would work for a boy or girl and the butterfly is totally girl!

Leave a comment saying which one you want and I will choose two winners at the end of the week.

Recordkeeping/homeschooling not your thing? Stay tuned-- I have more giveaways coming!
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On A Recipe Roll!

I found this recipe at Kelli's blog so I am adding it to my "to be baked" list for this week. These look so good! I have moved my plans to make Key Lime Pie to Wednesday night, as we were out of eggs when I went to make it today. It has to chill for a certain amount of time, so I had to do a quick change in plans. Instead I plan to make these this evening. Because, you know, spending all morning in the kitchen just wasn't enough.

Fruit Filled Oatmeal Bars
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
2/3 cup brown sugr
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 cup of your favorite jam
In a mixing bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 cup of the flour mixture. Press remaining flour mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 8x8 pan. Spread with desired jam. Sprinkle with reserved flour mixture. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the top is golden. Cut into squares.

I am going to make a 9X13 pan and use half blackberry on one side and half peach on the other.

ETA: I made these this afternoon and they were wonderful! So wonderful the kids and I sat down and ate them for dinner, followed by ice cream topped with hot fudge for dessert!

Am I a fun mom or what?? (Actually I am hardly ever a fun mom-- so it felt good to be one this evening!)
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Cooking, Gardening, And Julia Roberts

How's that for a title?

I have long admired Julia Roberts' acting and will usually see any movie she is in. (And yes, this little theory has burned me a few times.) But as a person, I like her and I think she would be fun to talk to and just compare notes on motherhood with. Plus I would really, really like to talk to her about Jesus. We are close to the same age (she hit the big 4-0 before me, though. Just for the record.). And I have watched her grow from "Mystic Pizza" to the highest paid actress in Hollywood. I like to say I knew her when.

So, the other day I was reading an interview with her from Vanity Fair and I read this quote, which only solidified my suspicion that, if we met, we would be instant friends:

Julia's ultimate dream would be: "A highly fulfilled and productive stay-at-home mom and wife. The highest high would be growing our food that I then make, and then composting and growing more -- that kind of circle."

I thought about our garden (which I haven't been to in about three weeks, but I am excited to go back on Wednesday!) And how much we have enjoyed this new concept of actually growing our own food. And how I still need to read Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, which I bought last summer and promptly shelved to read "later." But obviously never did. And how there is something about summer that gets me thinking about food. Mostly all the goodness of fresh foods like peaches and tomatoes and blueberries, etc.

Right now I am reading Home Cooking: A Writer In The Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. I also have More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns To The Kitchen, which I will read next. (HT to Cay Gibson.) These are not new books but oh boy, have I enjoyed them! They have inspired me to cook and to appreciate not just the product, but the process as well.

And so, that was my random thought on this Monday, as I have spent the whole morning in the kitchen preparing our dinner. I even took photos, so I can share them with you. Because, I figure if something takes that much effort, it should be documented in some way. Later tonight, I hope to share the photos of my dinner from start to finish. And I hope to report that it was so yummy that it was worth the effort!

PS. Having David Gray playing while you cook will almost guarantee that the time will go by faster and make the whole process infinitely more enjoyable. I mean who doesn't want to hear "Feels like lightning running through my veins, everytime I look at you" while tears run down her face as she slices several large onions? Good times.
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Menu Plan Monday

This is not always something I participate in because lately I haven't been the best menu planner between moving and traveling and also because I don't always plan my menus on Monday. But this weekend I was determined to get back on top of my home's organization and routine! So, one way I did that was to plan a menu for the week and go to the grocery and buy all I would need to make those meals happen! So, without further adieu, here's what the Whalens will be eating this week:

Monday) Italian Sausage with onions, peppers and tomatoes served over spaghetti (I got this recipe from the "Fix It and Forget It For Entertaining" book. It calls for five pounds of sausage so I anticipate having leftovers. Which means...

Tuesday) leftovers

Wednesday) Whole chicken stuffed with limes, sprigs of basil, garlic, and onion, then rubbed with olive oil and coarse salt, baked sweet potatoes, green beans

Thursday) Chicken drumsticks cooked in the slow cooker, wild rice, corn

Friday) Scalloped potatoes with ham casserole, lima beans

Saturday) Marinated flank steak sliced and served over a big green salad, garlic bread.

Sunday) Barbecue chicken sandwiches, french fries, sliced cantaloupes

I also have plans to make a key lime pie, M&M cookies, and homemade blueberry muffins at some point this week. I am making the key lime pie tonight but the rest will be later in the week, as we have plans keeping us busy on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also found a recipe for an apple granola breakfast cobbler that I would like to make maybe for breakfast next Saturday or Sunday.

Most of these recipes came from "Fix It and Forget It Recipes For Entertaining." I just sat down and paged through it, writing down recipes that sounded like something our family would like. Very quickly, I had a menu plan for a week! I like the Fix It And Forget It line of cookbooks because they are all recipes for the slow cooker, which as I have said before, is my friend in the kitchen. Very few things make me more content than it being 4:30 and knowing that the main effort to get our dinner on the table is already done!

I hope this inspires someone this week! Happy menu planning!
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Play. Repeat. Play. Repeat.

I can't get enough of this song lately. Good stuff. No, it's not new and no, it's not even remotely Christian. But I love listening to it, especially at night on my Ipod just before I fall asleep. My own private concert, a perfect way to end what has been a succession of stressful days.

I love pretty much all of David Gray's music. His voice is, in my humble opinion, an acquired taste. Some may not like it and if you don't that's fine.

It is possible I have written about this song before and if I have, forgive me for repeating myself. I have had a touch of senility lately. Maybe that's why I enjoy listening to the song over and over. I forget I have heard it already.

ETA: If you like David Gray, try adding these songs to your Ipod:

Please Forgive Me

Babylon (this was my introduction to him years ago when it was being played a good bit in the US)

Sail Away

The One I Love

Be Mine

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Some Great Blogs I Discovered!

I am having a blast checking out the amazing lineup of bloggers who are going to be writing for the new, Five Minutes For Parenting blog, edited by none other than my friend Stephanie, who was on the Disney trip I went on many moons ago. (Ok, so it was just a few short months ago, but lately I seem to be operating in dog years.) Anyway, these ladies are brilliant and gifted and funny writers. I already love DeeDee at FiddleDeeDee. She and I go way back to the She Speaks conference (dog years, remember?). And I just know I am going to love getting to know these other ladies through their blogs. I realize that a lot of them are quite well known but I have clearly been blogging in a vacuum. How did I miss them?

Oh well, I found them now. That's all that counts. Right?

Check out the lineup here. I especially loved this post by Stephanie. It's one I need to read and re-read. Although my version would be titled, "I Love You More Than My Desire To Unpack All These Boxes."

Disclaimer: this post is in no way intended to lure you away from my blog. I sort of feel like connecting you to these ladies is the equivalent of introducing your boyfriend to your more attractive, wittier, smarter friend. But that's just my insecurity talking. And the fact that my stats have dropped off with alarming consistency in recent months. I tried to whine about this to my husband who reasoned with me that I just haven't been that great of a blogger lately. Thanks honey! That was comforting! I have reasoned that it's just summer and people aren't reading blogs as regularly. Go with me here. And don't correct me if I am wrong. My fragile ego just can't take it.
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Sunday Morning Thoughts

It is Sunday morning. Curt is playing guitar for another church this morning and had to leave before 7 to be there on time. He won't be home til after one. Yesterday he spent several hours in the middle of the day at rehearsal. I would be lying if I didn't say that this has been a struggle for me when we still have so much to do from the move and a lot of our weekend has been taken up by church stuff. To his credit, he did as much as humanly possible yesterday morning before he had to be at rehearsal. But I still couldn't resist pointing out the stacks of boxes still sitting in our living room and complain because I still don't have bookshelves.

What's that scripture about a nagging wife? Never mind, I don't want to know right now.

I know for some folks, being busy at church is reality every weekend. But we have consciously chosen not to take on too much church volunteering because of our other commitments: Curt's busy weekday schedule at work, my speaking/writing schedule, and spending time as a family during the precious, fleeting weekend hours. So, one weekend out of many is really fine. But I am not thrilled about it. Just for the record, I am trying to have a good attitude.

Just keeping it real here on the old blog just so you all don't think that Curt and I are always hunky-dory happy and blissful. Sometimes we struggle with balancing stuff and our personal desires getting in the way of our other obligations. Sometimes we disagree about stuff and stress and tension mount in our home.

Tonight, however, we have a date night scheduled and we could use it. We are planning to see the new Batman movie-- and as I have written here before, I love any superhero movie. Spiderman and Batman are my favorites. I know, I know, that's strange for a girl to like but I blame it on The Electric Company. Does anyone else remember that show? Morgan Freeman was on it? Anyway, the Spiderman segment was always my favorite part. It started me on a lifetime of loving superheroes and I was delighted when the movies were made. So, tonight I plan to get my fill of good versus evil-- and have a nice time with my husband to boot!
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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Worst Blogger In The World

Ok, confession time.

I feel like the worst blogger in the world! And I am struggling with doing anything about it.

I know I should be posting all these great updates, complete with pictures, since I have left you all hanging for so long. I also have some posts I have promised others privately to write (a post on what we are doing for school this year and a post on balance). And then there's just those great moments in life that beg to be blogged about that I am letting slip by without even trying to capture them.

But the truth is, my house is overwhelming me right now. I have unpacking on the brain. I am tired of living in boxes, boxes, and more boxes-- as we were living among them for several weeks before we moved and I am just tired of looking at them! I want the contents unpacked, categorized, and organized. I want to reach for something and know 1) where it is and 2) that I actually have a place for it.

Yesterday I spent the whole day unpacking books. (Interspersed with making and cleaning up meals, washing and folding clothes, and various other household duties.) But mostly, I unpacked and shelved books, books, and more books. The picture at the top of this post is my six year old standing in front of a whole lot of boxes. The significance of the photo is that every single box in that photo is filled with books!

Clearly, we have a problem.

To make things worse, in our old house we had lots of built-in shelving. My books were happy on their shelves, categorized by subject and always waiting on more friends to join them. It didn't matter if I necessarily read them all. I just felt good buying them because one thing we didn't lack for in that house was a place to put our many books. I could feed my addiction without worrying about what to do with all the books.

Not so in this new house. There are NO built-ins. The previous owner did leave us several bookshelves in the bonus room, which I have now claimed for all my homeschool materials and for the kids' books. But I have several boxes of books left and I am rapidly running out of shelf space. This has caused great amounts of panic to rise up within me. (And yes, I have been weeding out as I go. I actually boxed up two boxes of books to donate to the library or Goodwill.)

To make matters worse, I have 4 boxes of books still in my room that are just my personal books-- with no bookshelf and really nowhere to put a bookshelf in my room! Again with the panic feelings.

I keep telling my husband that, once the books are all happily nestled in their places on shelves, I will feel much better about life. Much more capable. Prepared. I don't know why having my books accessible to me helps with that but it does. This only proves something you have probably been suspecting for quite some time. I am a geek. And there's no pill, no treatment, no round of drugs, no therapy that will change that. Believe me, if there was, my husband would have already tried it. But he loves me-- books and all! (The truth is, he has just as much of a book-loving problem as I do. That's how we knew we were meant for each other! Ok, it wasn't the only way but that's not what we're talking about right now.)

And so, today I will tackle the books once again. I am praying that a shelving miracle will occur that is to the level of the feeding of the five thousand or Elijah and the widow and the oil that never ran out. Just as I go to put a book on the shelf, a place for it will miraculously open up! The shelving space will appear limited, yet expand without explanation!

And if worse comes to worse, I suppose I could get rid of more books. But boy does that sound like parting with dear friends. See? I told you I was a geek!
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back In Business!

Ok, so I just walked in from a trip and guess what was waiting on me? A new modem that hasn't been struck by lightning!! Hooray!

So, I am back online and couldn't be happier about it!

I promise an update on me and my brood just as soon as I get unpacked and settled in... But first, I have lots of stories to hear and hugs to get from my kids, who were here with a sitter while Curt and I were away for a few days. It was great to be away just the two of us... but it's also great to be home. Now that we are back online and through with the crazy busy part of our summer, I am looking forward to a slower pace and plenty of time to make this house really feel like home.

Oh, and lots more time to blog... you can count on it! It's pretty bad when even your husband starts to complain about your lack of posts!
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just So You Know...

I didn't get attacked by sharks at the beach or so severely sunburned that I can't type or anything like that...

We returned home from our trip to find out that our modem had apparently been hit by lightning and literally fried. So, we are now without internet... again.

Please know I will return just as soon as I can and know that my absence is not intentional. Please keep checking back!
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Monday, July 07, 2008

We Interrupt This Move...

To head to the beach!

We are taking a few days away from boxes and unpacking to spend some time with my family in Hilton Head, SC! My mom, stepdad, stepsister, her husband, their two kids, their friends and their two boys, me, Curt, the two oldest and the baby are all in one (large) house on the beach. (Yes, that's 14 people in one house.)

(The rest of our brood is with grandma on another beach trip.)

We are having a great time reconnecting with old friends and family we don't often get to see. (These are the same folks who hosted the "Johnny Depp lookalike party" you all might remember from about a month ago down in FL.) I will return soon with several posts-- including photos from our move, photos from the Fourth of July, and from this trip.

I forgot my cable to download photos or I would have them up already! See you back here real soon!
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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Something Fun To Do When You Lack Good Blogging Content

I saw this on another blog and thought it looked fun! If you try it on your blog, leave me a comment with a link!

A is for age.
38. Sigh. How did this happen?
B is for burger of choice.
One of my husband's grilled burgers on a real charcoal grill. I haven't had a better one anywhere.
C is for what car you drive.
A 1998 white Suburban that has 118,000 miles on it. My friend told me hers is a 96 with 280,000 miles on it and still going strong-- which means I will be driving mine until I am eligible for retirement.
D is for Dog's name.
We don't have a dog-- our dog died but her name was Sophie.
E is for essential item you use every day.
Washer and dryer. You have already heard my unfortunate dryer story, so suffice it to say-- I miss my dryer!
F is for favorite tv show at the moment.
Law and Order SVU, but any L&O will do!
G is for Favorite game.
I am not a huge game player but I do like Sequence.
H is for Hometown.
The same town I live in now-- Charlotte, NC
I is for instruments you play
None-- wish I played the piano though.
J is for favorite juice.
Not a big juice drinker but I always order tomato juice on an airplane-- I have no idea why!
K is for who you'd like to kiss.
(I changed this from the original because it was a bit crude.)
My two year old-- I love her sweet baby kisses!
L is for last restaurant you ate at.
Chick fil a-- where else? :)
M is for your favorite Muppet.
I always liked the Chef. Although Kermit singing "The Rainbow Connection" is hard to beat! Check out this version by Sarah McLachlan that I have on my Ipod. Just beautiful.
N is for number of piercings.
Just my ears-- but I rarely wear earrings!
O is for overnight hospital stays.
Many. (I was sick with kidney issues as a child that involved multiple hospitalizations.)
P is for people you were with today.
My family.
Q is for what you do with your quiet time.
Read, write, study the Bible.
R is for biggest regret.
Not taking a graduate level writing class that I was invited to participate in my senior year--taught by one of my heroes, Lee Smith-- because I was already taking 18 hours.
S is for status.
Married going on 17 years.
T is for time you woke up today.
9 am-- a rare treat!
U is for what you consider unique.
Each one of my six children
V is for vegetable you love.
Tomato, although I recognize that that is actually a fruit.
W is for worst habit.
Biting my hangnails.
X is for number of x-rays you've had.
Many. (See "O")
Y is for yummy food you ate today.
Leftover grilled hamburgers and pasta salad at lunch.
Z is for zodiac sign.
Gemini-- though I don't believe in the zodiac. At. All.
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Movers And Shakers

As I write this, Curt has gone to his dad's to dry clothes. Our oldest daughter spent the whole day yesterday at his dad's washing and drying clothes. This family sure does go through a lot of laundry! Why can't we do our laundry at home? You might be thinking. Oh well, there's a good answer for that.

We had moved in and accumulated enough laundry to wash our first load with the washer and dryer the previous owner had left with the house. I washed the clothes with no problem, then threw them in the dryer, as always. When the load finished drying, I went in to pull it out-- only to find the clothes still soaking wet. "Oh well," I reasoned, "I must have put it on the wrong setting or something." I changed the setting and started it again. You guessed it: the clothes were still soaking wet at the end of that cycle, too. Curt came home and he changed the cycle again and tried his hand at it. Still wet.

I started to complain about how the owner had insisted on giving us this washer and dryer and we gave away a perfectly good washer and dryer so we could take this one because it was gas and our other one wasn't gas and how now we were going to have to spend good money to buy a dryer and how could the owner do that to us? (I said all of this without pausing to breathe.) And Curt stopped me. "Gas dryer, gas dryer, gas dryer," he said. He looked at me. "We never called the gas company and hooked up the gas!" So we were trying to dry clothes without the power necessary to get the job done! Yes, I know. But in our defense we have always had electric power and not gas-- and the only thing in this house that is gas is the dryer and the logs in the fireplace. So, we had power for everything else. And in 100 degree temps it's not likely we are going to fire up the gas logs. So, that just left the dryer.

The next morning first thing I called the gas company-- only to find they can't come out til July 10th!! So, we have to wait what seems like many days to be back in laundry business. This is just one of the many little blips we have dealt with as we have moved. These little inconveniences are not the end of the world-- but they are enough to make me say repeatedly to my family, "I hope y'all like this house-- because we are never moving again!!"

All in all, the house is coming along nicely. All the boxes that have made it into the house are unpacked-- but there are many, many more boxes still waiting inside the pod storage unit that is parked in our driveway. Yesterday I finally got all my clothes and shoes back-- that was a good feeling. I am hoping today we will go pick up some used bookshelves that I found so we can start organizing and sorting our books. I am going to pick up a small bookshelf I found for my room as well. One thing I loved about our old house is it had lots of built-in bookshelves-- perfect for bibliophiles like us! This house doesn't have any-- so we are having to buy shelves. I have found several nice ones on Craig's List, so we haven't had to spend a fortune, which is good. But driving all over creation to pick them up takes up a lot of time!!

Just a plug for Craig's List. I have been able to furnish our new house just by going to Craig's List for a fraction of the cost of what it would be to buy this stuff new! We have gotten a very nice couch, oversized chair and ottoman for our den, a kitchen table with a bench and four chairs that I love, and are possibly going to get my son a set of furniture for his room that I found. I highly recommend shopping on Craig's List if you have furniture to buy-- it is amazing the stuff that people get rid of due to moving, divorce, or just redecorating. It takes a bit of patience and searching-- but I have found that it pays off if you are willing and motivated.

And so, I figure in a couple of weeks we will have it all figured out and sorted out. Just last night, I said to Curt, "It's starting to feel like home already!" And he agreed that it is. That's great progress in less than a week. I am thankful that God provided this house in a price range that is great for our budget that has just what we needed. Yesterday I made a list of all the things we want to do to the house-- twenty things in all! We will do this over time-- updating, redecorating and making it feel like ours a little bit more every day.
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Friday, July 04, 2008


I saw this on another blog and had to laugh... and share it with you all. What truth this cute little picture contains! May we all see ourselves not as we are, but as God intends!
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Happy Fourth!

Last night as I was standing in line to checkout at Target (again), the young girls behind me in line started discussing their plans for the fourth. One of them said, "Well, I'm just not a big Fourth of July person. I just don't get it."

Don't get it? Don't get celebrating our independence? Don't get marking the anniversary of our freedom? Don't grasp the fact that-- while we aren't without our problems to be sure-- we still live in a great country that represents what so many people in the world go without?

I refrained from turning around and saying all this to her. I figured I would let her mother explain it.

As I thought about this next generation coming along behind us, I wondered how often we explain to them what they have and how absolutely blessed they are. We have running water. My friend Mary DeMuth just returned from a mission trip to Africa where their sole purpose was to drill a well for a village so they could have water. Something so simple and something we turn on our taps and totally take for granted. We have food that is readily available and not withheld from us by our government. We have freedom of religion. At She Speaks two weeks ago, I was struck by how awesome it is that we could gather in a hotel-- a public place-- and worship freely, pray freely, and shake the rafters with our songs. We celebrated God without fear of being arrested or threatened. Ask the Christians in China what that's worth.

My country may not be without its problems--but it is still an awesome place to live. I thank God He chose for me to be born here for such a time as this and I plan to celebrate Independence Day and all that it represents because I do get it. I pray all Americans do.
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Thursday, July 03, 2008

No Hold

I read in John 14:30 today where Jesus said of Satan, "He has no hold on me." This verse affected me in two ways-- one, it comforted me with the reminder that Jesus is stronger than Satan and two, it challenged me to make that my goal. Even though I know I will never accomplish that totally on this side of heaven, it was nice to consider a life where Satan has no hold on us-- where his temptations to sin are overcome. Where I don't have to fear his power on this earth because I am strong in Christ. Where I don't worry about what damage he will wreak in our family because of his potential to steal, kill and destroy. Where I seek Jesus first instead of run to Him after the fact.

He has no hold on me.

I like the sound of that.
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Moving Update

We are in. The moving truck is unpacked. Our bed is set up (the kids are still on mattresses on the floor) and the kitchen is in "barely functioning but functioning nonetheless" mode. We have internet, phone, and tv and the new refrigerator was delivered and is now cold-- and making ice! There are still appliances to order and have delivered. The big storage pod is still sitting in our driveway chock full and needing to be unloaded. There are boxes in most every room that also need to be unpacked. We have a TON of renovations and updating to do. Not to mention a lot of organizing!

I am thankful to friends who came to take kids off our hands and unload boxes and furniture in the hot weather. I am thankful to my mother in law who kept the two youngest for two days and nights. I am thankful to my in laws who brought pizzas for dinner last night and my mom who gave us some money to order out Chinese tonight and is coming tomorrow to help unpack and organize. All gifts in different forms!

It doesn't smell like our house-- do you know what I mean? And none of us seems to know what to do with ourselves. But we're here. And little by little it will become home.

Of that I am certain.
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