Sunday, August 31, 2008

For Homeschoolers

Sorry I have been a bit limited in my posts lately-- I am trying to enjoy my Labor Day weekend and also get some writing done (I have a proposal that I need to wrap up and submit by the end of this week, thankfully I was able to do that yesterday) and plan for our schooling to begin Tuesday. This morning I got up and spent some time catching up on some of my favorite blogs because I have been really slack about that lately. I guess because we are getting ready to start school, this post and this one really spoke to me. If you are starting a new homeschool year, I heartily suggest reading Ann's words. Well done, my friend. Well done.
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Friday, August 29, 2008


Today I was trying to alternately eat a bowl of grits for breakfast and unload the dishwasher (take a bite, put a cup away, take a bite, put a mixing bowl away) and my kids were DRIVING ME CRAZY. They were underfoot. They were fighting. They were noisy. So, I hit upon a burst of inspiration and got the Clorox wipes out. I handed each one a wipe and told them to pick part of the kitchen floor and clean it with their wipes. They ended up going through several wipes, then moved on to cleaning the fronts of all the stainless steel appliances with the special spray cleaner! The kitchen looks better and smells great now! And my kids were occupied long enough for me to clean my kitchen, eat my breakfast and even read some blogs!
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The other day an envelope arrived in the mail with the return address state being "AK."

I am admitting to all who read this that I blinked at the envelope a few times thinking, "I wonder who sent me something from Arkansas?"

But of course it was Alaska-- as pretty much any fifth grader (which I am clearly not as smart as) could tell you. It was my little certificate from Scribbit for a Starbucks new banana chocolate shake/drink thingy. For free. I am psyched. It was my reward for finishing as runner up in her Write Away contest. (The winner got a $15 giftcard.) I have dabbled with the idea of framing it, along with the nice little note she wrote me-- but then again that would mean I couldn't use it.

And I really want to try one of those banana chocolate shake/drink thingies.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Worth The Read

This is a great post and well worth reading if you are struggling with/feeling convicted about the amount of time you spend online. I love Elizabeth's guidelines she has set for herself... now to just stick to them...
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Kathleen McCleary's House And Home

Early this week, I devoured a book in about a day and a half. It was that good. Not only was it well-written with strong, sympathetic characters (even when they weren't doing sympathetic things), I just loved the subject matter. House and Home is about a woman who is being forced to leave the home she loved-- and all the emotions that go into a transition like that. Having just moved myself, leaving behind the home I felt so strongly about, I totally identified with the feelings and emotions that she dealt with. As Ellen (the main character) struggles to say goodbye (and schemes to get out of having to say goodbye), she also deals with the nuances of a friendship that is built on proximity (her next-door neighbor is also her best friend-- but will their friendship survive if they don't live next door any longer?), being separated from her husband, feelings for another man, and anger towards the woman who is buying her house and, in effect, stealing her life. Through it all, she must mother her two little girls, guiding them through their own feelings about leaving their home. To see a very neat video about the book, just visit Kathleen's website and click on "video."

I decided to write to Kathleen to tell her how much I loved the book and to ask her if she would do a little interview here. So, she graciously answered my questions and got them back to me lickety-split... and of course, that made me love her all the more!

Hi Kathleen, so great to have you here! Thanks so much for taking time to visit with us and talk about House and Home and being a writing mom, When did House and Home come out? What has the response been so far?

The book came out July 1. It's hard for me to gauge the response, but I've had some great publicity (it was mentioned in O at Home, Family Circle,USA Weekend and The New York Times) and even more, some really heartwarming letters from readers. I hope it sells well—I won't know much about that for several more months—but to hear readers say that the book has touched them in some way, or meant something to them, is really all that I could ask for!

I love the title! It is so fitting for the book-- it speaks to the theme of the book so perfectly, the dual nature of how some abodes are houses and some are true homes. Was that your original title or one that came out of a titling committee?
My original title as I was writing the book was just "House." My agent, Ann Rittenberg, came up with the idea "House and Home" which, as you say, is just perfect for the book. And I love that the first words in the book are "The house" and the last word in the book is "home." How cool is that?

Jodi Picoult says that her books always begin with the question "What if?" How did this book begin for you?
I guess you could say it began with "What if?" Four years ago my family moved across country, a move that was necessary for my husband's career,but wrenching for all of us. I felt so bereft at leaving the house we'd owned for 11 years—the only home our kids had ever known—that I did kind of idly wish that it would just disappear so I didn't have to think about another family living out their lives there. That sparked (so to speak) the idea for the novel.

Ha, ha, ha, very witty Kathleen (you will have to read the book to know why that's funny!) How old are your two girls? How have you balanced writing and motherhood/family through the years? Any great tips for the rest of us?

My daughters are 11 and 14 now. When I started the book, they were 7 and10. I balance work and motherhood the way all of us do, by the seat of my pants. I try to write for a couple hours each morning once the kids are off to school, and sometimes I squeeze in another hour at night. When I get frustrated by all the things that constantly seem to keep me from writing—the kids' soccer practices, dentist appointments, the furnace guy, etc.—I just try to remember that all these real-life experiences are simply more fodder for my fiction.

Thanks so much for sharing with us a bit! I loved your book and look forward to subsequent titles of yours... count me in as one of your confirmed, committed fans!
Thank you. To all the writers out there, stick with it! I was 48 when my novel came out this year and never believed it would happen.
Kathleen McCleary

Disclaimer: this is a review of a secular book. There is bad language interspersed in the book, as Ellen's next door neighbor curses a lot. Ellen (the main character) goes into how her friend uses bad language liberally and how she doesn't feel comfortable doing so. If this will bother you, don't get this book. I have said this before, but I will repeat it now: I believe that, to be a better writer, you should read good writing. This book is well-written. So, I read it. You make your own decisions as to whether it could be a stumbling block for you.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You Just Never Know...

what you are going to find on the internet!

Today I made a loaf of the blueberry bread recipe I found on Kelli's blog. This particular recipe comes with a recipe for warm vanilla cream sauce to be served on top of it, making it more like a dessert than a breakfast-type bread. But I didn't want to fool with standing over the burner and making that part, so I decided to just serve it with real whipped cream instead. Though I had made real whipped cream before, I decided just to google it to make sure I was remembering it right.

I found this video. It was a good instructional video, but the credits made me laugh and want to share the link with you. Check it out for yourself to see what I mean.

I love the internet because of all the resources and answers to questions I have at my fingertips-- this is only one example of a time I needed an answer... and got it... and a good laugh to boot!
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Things That Make Me Smile

Note: many of these photos were taken before we had all the trim and paneling in the house painted white-- mucho improvement! I am actually glad I have these photos, because it is a nice "before" and "after" for me to see. As some of you may remember, my camera cord got lost in the move, so I am just now able to post these photos I have been saving to share with you all!

So, here are a few of the things that have made me smile as I have been adjusting to life in a new house, making it feel like home:

Turning this

into this
this is "Mom's Command Central"-- a whole closet just for my junk!

New school supplies and books just waiting to be used for a new year--
Don't you love my globe? I do!

A place for everything...
No more shoes thrown haphazardly around when we walk in the door
(This is just inside the back door where we come in-- one of you wrote to me and asked what shoe racks I use. These are about $5 at Target.) When the shoes overrun this little spot, it's a clue to me and the kids that it is time to do a "Shoe Cleanup!"
All my "to be read" books gathered in one place.
This of course does not include the abundance of library books that float in and out of this house.

All my cookbooks on a shelf in the kitchen--
The kitchen is not red anymore--
it's now a beautiful shade of blue that we found in the Pottery Barn catalog
The makings of fun-- found on clearance!

Making my own Cinnamon Dolce Lattes (or a close second) at home
This new "Cinnamon Bun" flavor is a limited edition, so get it while you can.
Incidentally, I saw Pumpkin Spice in the grocery store the other day.
As I oohed and aaahed over it, my son said, "Mom, why don't you just get it?"
"Oh no," I said, "I couldn't. Not yet. It's not time." He gave me that "My mom's so weird look" and shook his head, but surely you guys understand, right? Drinking Pumpkin Spice coffee before Labor Day (really before late September) seems... wrong.
A coffee table that has baskets for all our math and other manipulatives.
The fact that I found it on Craig's List for a bargain price makes it even better!

And finally, a fresh supply of small legal pads to use to make all my "to do" lists. It just makes me feel so ready, so capable, so hopeful!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


It is a yucky, rainy Tuesday-- the kind of day that makes you want to get in bed with a good book and read and doze, read and doze.... unless you have children, of course, when days like that are nonexistent! Instead of a day in bed, I have taken my middle schooler to school in the pouring down rain and taken my three who are at home to the doctor in the pouring down rain too. Question: why did I even bother doing my hair? We came home, made egg salad sandwiches (a treat!) and everyone is now supposed to be resting or doing some sort of quiet activity like reading.

I hope to make some chocolate peanut butter oatmeal drop cookies later today, and the blueberry bread with vanilla sauce that I saw on Kelli's blog. For dinner, I did something that is so easy, but good and filling-- and that's what I was going for. Lay chicken breasts in the crockpot, salt and pepper them, and pour two cans of Campbell's chicken gravy over them. Cook all day, then shred or chunk up the chicken just before serving. Serve over rice with a green veggie (we are having peas). Not a very gourmet meal-- but good enough for my hungry bunch.

My mom just went to visit my brother and his wife and my nephew-- who I have never met and is almost a year old-- this past weekend. My sister in law sent me friendship bread starter, which I haven't done in ages and ages. So, if you don't want any from me, do not make eye contact with me in the next several weeks! Or you are liable to end up with some if I think I can pawn it off on you. I remember the bread being soooo good, but I also remember the starter eventually taking over my life! I make my first batch on Thursday, so I will let you know how it goes--

And now I am off to get some writing done while the house is (relatively) quiet.
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Sign Up For Book-It At Pizza Hut!

If you are a homeschooler, you can sign your children (in grades K-6) up for some free pizzas at Pizza Hut by enrolling in their Book-It program. It takes just minutes to do, and you receive enough certificates for each month of the school year for each child. We always go at lunch and they let my kids get the buffet instead of the personal pan pizza. So, they always look forward to it and it is a nice "free" incentive!

Go here to sign up!
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading Instruction

I am teaching my fifth child to read this fall. He already knows how to sound out short vowel words (we worked on this last year), so we will move on from there. We are using Explode The Code, just like I have done with all the other ones. But this year we are using this idea, from Elizabeth's blog, Serendipity. Here is what she wrote:

Reading practice for the youngest: Read the Beginner's Bible with your child. Read one story a day. After reading, the child may dictate the story for you to print. she can illustrate. these pages should be saved in a notebook and used frequently for reading practice. In the beginning, the parent will probably be reading the stories in the book to the child. Over time, the child will read it aloud for the parent. when you reach the end of the book, begin again. The second time, the child will be reading most of the stories without help.

We did this for the first time today. The only problem with this was that the (almost) three year old loves this book so much, she kept taking the book! I think this is a great idea for any mom to do with a young child-- whether you homeschool or not!
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Life Management Notebook

Note: If you haven't read the post I wrote about being inspired to do this, you should start with this post.

This week I spent about a day making what I have termed my "Life Management Notebook." I saw that many of these binders are known as home management binders-- but mine went beyond that because I wanted it to encompass all my writing, ministry and other parts of my life than just the running of my home. So, I took some photos just to provide you with a visual:

This is the cover-- I covered up my phone number, but it's on there. One of the things that resonated with me when I was doing all my research of other similar binders that are out there on the internet was Elizabeth Foss' post about making her notebook visually appealing, so she would want to handle it. I had originally intended to use some pretty paper from Michael's-- but when I was unpacking a box and found an old Mary Engelbreit desk calendar, I had an idea. I could use her whimsical artwork and wonderful quotes to decorate my cover and make cover sheets for each section. Because the notebook I bought had clear dividers, I wanted to have something underneath as a cover sheet just to dress it up a bit. My cover says, "It's Good To Be Queen," "I'm In Charge Here," and "The Queen Has Spoken."

Here is the first section of the notebook--- entitled, "Things To Do." Behind this page is a set of copies of the "Personal Secretary" page from Heart of the Matter. I am looking forward to using these pages weekly.
Here is another section of my notebook, just to give you another visual. This section is titled 'Writing Stuff." In this section, I am keeping stuff my publisher has sent me, writer's guidelines, and anything else I might need for writing. All the quotes on this cover apply to the theme of pursuing your dreams, because writing is a dream of mine.

This is the last section of the book, and it is actually not a designated section but a page protector that I can slide recipes I clip and want to try into. I seem to clip stuff but never use it-- I think having these more accessible to go through when I am planning menus and making grocery lists will mean I am more likely to actually use them. Behind this page protector, I have a calorie counting guide, a list of fifty ways to make chicken that I wrote, some sample menus, and more page protectors for overflow recipes.

So, here's a "table of contents" of the sections of my notebook:
Things To Do: includes the "My Personal Secretary" pages
Prayer Journal: includes a page called "30 Good Names To Call Your God," a set of the "Prayer Journal" pages from Heart of the Matter, and a guide for praying for your children and your husband
Kids' Stuff: includes school forms, a schedule for the fine arts classes my younger two are taking, the info for a dance school I am considering for one of mine, the graduation requirements for my two high schoolers, etc. I eventually want to have a few typed sheets of info about each child-- weight, height, sizes, SS #, etc. (You know, the stuff you always need to have on hand when you are filling out forms!)
Homeschool: includes a typed sheet of our schedule, our course of study for this year, a list of read alouds, a list of books I would like my 3rd grader to read, a list of the lapbook themes by month that we are going to cover, a list of the classes and on what day the kids are going to be involved in, and a list of the people we are covering for our "biographies kids should know," with a beginning list of picture book biographies that our library carries for each person. After that, I have a set of these planning forms, which I will use to plan out each week. I also have a sheet of the phone numbers for the ladies at our church homeschool group, the attendance sheet our state requires, and a copy of the card our state issues to homeschoolers.
Family Celebrations: will include gift ideas, planning lists, party plans, menus, guest lists etc.-- anything to do with birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, fall, Easter, etc.
Personal Notes: includes notes from seminars, blank paper for future notes, and the essay called "If I Had My Life To Live Over" by the late, great Erma Bombeck
Life Skills And Home Training: includes copies of my friend Ginger Plowman's "Wise Words For Moms" which is a handy list of scripture and questions for when you are dealing with a child who has disbobeyed, a list of living skills and what ages they can (or should) be taught, and the "Operational Definitions of Character Qualities" handout I got at a parenting seminar years ago.
Home Keeping: includes a list of projects that we still need to do in the house, clipped decorating ideas, a routine/schedule for cleaning the house (still working on this), a list of services and service people we have used, with their phone numbers, and some ideas I printed off for making your own household cleaning projects
Writing Stuff: I already explained this one, above
Habits And Goals: Includes all the habits I want to implement, with a plan of action and also any goal setting I need to do, with a deadline, if need be. I have a chart of yearly goals I copied from Gayle Graham's book How To Homeschool: A Practical Approach years ago that I am going to begin using again. I used to fill out one of these every year. It would be easy enough to make your own. This one has personal goals in the area of "Relationship with God," "Husband/Wife Relationship," "Daily Living," and "Ministry/Service." Then below those is a space to set goals to work with your kids individually on in the areas of "Academic," "Spiritual," "Physical," and "Practical."
Finally, In the back of my notebook, I have masters for all my forms in a page protector and "The Gospel Alphabet" card I got from Operation Christmas Child years ago.
All in all, I am very happy with the way my Life Management Notebook has turned out. I think it will be a very useful tool and I am already feeling like my life is much more orderly and, well... manageable since I started using it!
Please let me know what you think, and if you start your own I would love to hear about it!
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Well, I finally tried my hand at making salsa. For some reason, this was something that intimidated me-- and it shouldn't have. It is so easy-- and so much better than the stuff you buy in a jar! It just tastes fresher, as it should. My 16 year old son said, "Mom this has ruined the jarred stuff forever." I took that as a compliment.
Here's how I make it:
The first time I made it, I used fresh tomatoes, because my neighbor gave me a bag of them that I needed to use up. This was hard for me because my handy chopper pulverized them instead of just chopping them like I wanted. I ended up using a can of petite diced tomatoes, drained of their juice, to give the salsa some body. It worked fine and I made a mental note just to use the canned tomatoes in the future. So, now I use 1 can of petite diced tomatoes, with juice. I add 1/2 of a chopped red onion, 1 cerano pepper and 1 jalapeno pepper. Then I juice one lime and sprinkle some cumin. Last I chop up some fresh cilantro and add that. Stir it up and let it sit for several hours or even over night to let the flavors mingle.
As my daughter said, "Mom, I could drink this stuff, it's so good!"
That just about says it all.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Preparing For A New School Year

Well, I have been busy around here-- organizing, scribbling down notes to myself about things we need for our upcoming school year, reading and re-reading the teacher's manuals to make sure I know what I need to buy or prepare in advance. Today I spent most of the day researching information for our venture into lapbooking beginning next week. We will start with dolphins and move on from there, with one subject to focus on per month. Right now I have our lapbooking time scheduled for them to work on during the baby's naptime. (Though I will admit she is hardly a baby anymore-- she will be three at the end of August!)

I had intended to wait to start school until the day after Labor Day, but now that my olders are in school, my youngers are actually asking to get started. So, I told them that I would scramble around and get at least part of our stuff ready to ease into our school routine gradually beginning next week. Last night I painstakingly wrote out our schedule and researched different resources that we will be using for our biography study.

Here is our schedule for our monthly lapbooking themes:

August: Dolphins
September: The History of Pizza
October: Apples/Johnny Appleseed
November: Thanksgiving
December: Christmas
January: Tis The Season (Treasure Box Press kit)
February: Human Body
March: T is For Tarheel (a book based on the state of NC)
April: TBD
May: TBD

I am leaving the last two months open just so we can plug in some of their interests/requests. Today my 3rd grader sat beside me while I was looking at stuff online and she fired off several things she wanted to study-- frogs, owls, butterflies, and horses. She is actually the one who chose "The History Of Pizza" while looking over my shoulder at CurrClick today. I was on there to buy these great Johnny Appleseed lapbook guides for just $1 and she spied the one on the history of pizza. "Oh mom, can we do that one? Please! Please!" At a price of just $10, I figured, why not?! I am sure we will try our hand at making our own pizza during that unit, as well as learn a lot more than any one human being ever needed to know about why and how pizza was invented! Because it is an ebook, I was able to instantly download it and have already looked through it-- it's actually quite interesting.

And so, that explains where I have been these past few days-- not a lot of time for blogging or anything else while you are in the throes of reading and research! And I am just enough of a nerd to enjoy that sort of thing-- Surely some of you understand...
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Thursday, August 21, 2008


School for my older three started today. I wasn't ready. I wanted more summer, more lazy days, more room to putter and piddle our time away. I wasn't ready for alarm clocks and routines, carpool lines and lunchboxes. My children, while excited for a new adventure and a new year, felt the same. We were all in a state of denial these past few days as we bought paper and pencils, binders and uniforms.

I think with the move, a lot of our summer got swallowed up in some sort of vacuum, never to be heard from again. And now the fall is rolling in-- there was the slightest hint of it in the air today as we arrived back home after taking my middle schooler to his school. The three youngest played on our swingset while I did housework, all of us settling into a new life, a new routine. And as we did, I began to accept this inevitable turn of events, embracing the possibility and hope of a new school year mixed with the slightest twinge of sadness. I recently read that you only get 18 summers with your children. That's it.

And one of them just slipped by me. I can try to preserve it with photos and stories. But the truth is, it's gone forever.

I wasn't ready for it to be over so soon.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


(This post was written on Tuesday night so it would be up bright and early on Wednesday.)

Welcome to those of you who visit after reading my devotion today called, "Somehow Form A Family." I hope that, for those of you who are living in blended family situations, this devotion offered you some hope and encouragement. Maybe today you needed to hear that there is hope that your brood can somehow form a family-- even though from where you are standing right now, that seems impossible! And yet, nothing is impossible with God. Stick close to Him, lean on Him, ask Him for help when you need it.

If you have something to share on this subject-- maybe some advice or hard-earned wisdom for people who are facing the difficult task of melding two families into one, please leave a comment!

If you would like to read this devotion, go here:

or, here:

ETA: I received this beautiful response to the devotion from one sweet reader. Her thoughts were so neat, that I asked her permission to share it here:

Thank you for this devotion today. I'm not from a blended family. I've been married 38 years with two grown children and 9 grandchildren. I'm the second oldest of 7 and also grew up in an intact family. The reason I'm writing is that I was so blessed while reading your devotion because as I read the Lord showed me...what the devil meant for evil God uses for good...

The family unit has always been a sacred thing to God..why is he allowing this broken family unit to increase today? Because we are closer to heaven then ever..His perspective or blessings on blended familes is our preparation for eternity...we will spend eternity together in heaven as one blended family..

You guys are paving the way for the world as examples of how the body of Christ comes together as one big blended family...the whole body fitly joined the pure love and grace of God.

I loved this picture of God creating a blended family of all of us in Heaven. What a neat perspective-- thanks for sharing!
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Menu Plan... Tuesday?

I haven't posted a menu in awhile, mostly because I have been making quick and easy stuff with being on vacation and then readjusting to life once we returned from vacation. Last night I did a pre-cooked chicken, some five minute wild rice, some frozen broccoli and Sister Schubert yeast rolls. Quick, easy, filling and actually pretty good! I don't cook with shortcuts like that every night, but I was glad to have a simple solution for dinner on hand, picked up by my hubby, who knew he was going to be out of town and that I would be relieved to not have to do a grocery run so soon after getting home. He was right.

In just a bit, I have to take two of my sons to get their back to school haircuts. One of mine grew his hair out over the summer, but has to cut it now, as his school has a dress code which includes hair length. He is sad to cut it-- but I am not. I like super short hair on boys! After we finish at the barber, I will run to the grocery and pick up something simple for dinner. I am thinking Stouffer's Lasagna paired with a can of pineapple tidbits.

I take it easy when daddy is gone! (He is returning tonight, but not til after dinner.)

Wednesday night is sloppy joes, corn, and frozen french fries

Thursday night is Homemade Chicken Nuggets (using the recipe on the back of the Bisquick box-- they are so good!), green beans and mashed potatoes and gravy

Friday night is Grilled Chicken tossed with this and some sliced cantaloupe, paired with Kelli's Garlic Bread Twists. I can't wait to try this recipe and use tomatoes and basil from our garden!

My neighbor just gave me a bag of very ripe tomatoes. I would love to try my hand at making fresh salsa. Anyone have any suggestions as to a good recipe? I hear it is so good, but I have never done it. Please let me know if you have any tips!
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When Eeyore Wins...

Note: Before you read this post, you must go watch this clip so you can get the voice down and read it in character, the way it was intended!

Hello, this is Eeyore here, letting you know that I won an honorable mention over at Scribbit's place in her writing contest. My old friend (literally an old friend-- we were in Pioneer Girls at church when we were like, 8) Sarah won. I guess an honorable mention is better than nothing. But I am happy for Sarah. Really. I am.

Something tells me you don't believe me. Perhaps you detect my little competitive edge... the one that likes to WIN. Oh well, maybe next time. And Sarah? If I had to get beat by someone, at least it was you-- you deserve it! Your post was way cleverer than my brain is capable of being. Well done!
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

There Is Nothing Sweeter...

Than a little girl with a very hoarse voice singing as best she can along to music playing. The words repeated over and over, "Thank you Jesus" as she stands, all alone, swaying in time to the music, unaware that anyone is watching.

Sometimes you just want to freeze time, write a moment in indelible ink on your heart so that you can hold it forever.

Unfortunately, capturing it here is as close as I can get. Oh that that would be the song on her lips for all of her days. Oh that it would be the song on all of ours.
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Karen Ehman's "Brain In A Binder!"

One of the things that Karen and I talked about while we were together this past week was her "Brain in a Binder" that she has made herself and given workshops on how to do. She has also written a wonderful book called "The Complete Guide To Getting and Staying Organized." How fortuitous that I got to spend a whole week just asking questions and having her walk me through hers-- of course, the sick baby slightly impeded our ability to dig deep or shop for the parts of the binder as I had hoped. But I was at least able to have her walk me through the different parts. She very kindly showed me that she has several tools for us all already downloaded and available on her website-- now, how cool is that?

Just go to and click on "Simple Tools To Download" in her sidebar. You will see several different things you can look over-- I liked the handout on keeping your ducks in a row, which includes a brief idea of how the brain in a binder works. She also has a sample of her routines that she keeps in the front of her binder as a reminder of what needs to get done each day. Of course, we all will have different routines, but hers is a nice reminder of what we should include. I like how she has divided up some of the big jobs around the house in a very manageable routine of weekly and monthly tasks. She has also included some photos of the cover of her notebook, the routine page, and a sample folder for each child.

I have tried so many different systems to keep track of the various pieces of paper that seem to accumulate where kids are concerned! Last year I used files-- but I found that files seem to be a dead zone-- once they get filed they are rarely seen again! I think having a binder with everything in one place is a better alternative.

Also, and I think I already mentioned this but it bears mentioning again that my friend Amy Bayliss over at Heart of the Matter Magazine is offering free downloads of a prayer notebook sheet and a "personal secretary" that is just perfect for busy moms-- it includes your errands, your phone calls, and all that sort of stuff on one sheet! Go here to snag them for yourself. I plan to include a prayer section and a "to do" section in my "brain in a binder." That's what I like about Karen's system-- you customize it for your needs and your family!

Also, I will add that Elizabeth Foss and Kim at Starry Sky Ranch keep "home management journals" similar to what I am talking about that you might want to check out. Starry Sky Ranch has links to forms and how-to's in her sidebar. I even found a whole site called Home Management Binder! (If you love organization-type stuff, plan to spend some T-I-M-E soaking up all the info on there!) In other words, between all these generous links and downloads, coupled with and some ingenuity, you should be able to produce exactly what you need for very little money.

Today I purchased the binder part of the equation in a lovely hot pink at Target for only $3.99! It has the clear front pocket and I am looking forward to creating my cover-- I am going to go buy some pretty 8.5X11 scrapbook paper and some letter stickers to spell out something clever and original like "Mom's Notebook." If you want to check for this same binder at your local Target, it is called the Probinder by ProActive and it comes with dividers, a pocket and a ruler. Back to school time is a perfect time for mom to stock up on fun supplies as well! (I also got a magazine holder so I can keep my magazines sorted and looking nice. It is a pretty leather one with a striped print liner in fun colors. Up til now, I have always kept my current magazines in a big stack on my nightstand beside my bed. This is much nicer.)

Ok, well must go feed my kiddos-- then I am going to start organizing all my "stuff" into sections in my binder. I am armed with a three hole punch, a stack of sheet protectors, and I am ready!

ETA: I found this link with a great description of what can go in each section. I worked on mine alllll day yesterday and am so excited about how it turned out! I think this is going to be a valuable addition to my life. I will post photos and a more thorough description soon!
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Why Having Six Kids Is Good For Me

Whether we have kids in school or homeschool, our lists of "to do's" at this time of year are long and complicated. My kids start school on Thursday. I just found out that the high school my kids go to has decided to have morning hours for my ninth grade daughter and afternoon hours for my tenth grade son for the first week while they finish some renovations. That means I will be driving to and from school twice, plus driving my middle schooler to his school. I can't express how much I am dreading that. And then somewhere in there I will be trying to get our homeschool stuff ready to start the day after Labor Day. Plus there are the lengthy school supply lists that I can't get til Tuesday night at open house and the required uniforms I still need to purchase. I also have to conduct a P31 conference call on Monday night and take all my kids to open house on Tuesday night while daddy is out of town-- this is after being a single parent to the five for the last week while we were at the beach. I also just found out that one of mine must have a certain booster before the first day of school, which means working in a trip to the doctor. I am also trying to finish a proposal that I promised my agent I would have done at the end of the month.

You know, life stuff. We all have it.

As I thought about this phenomenon of back to school and stress and just all the stuff that has to get done in my home and yours, I realized that having six kids has been good for me. It has made me a less anxious person. Not that I don't get stressed-- I so do. I just wrote a devotion about stress because of it.

But I realize that having this number of children has taught me a lot about control-- and how very little I have.

And how the best laid plans will never actually work out like you think or hope they will.

And how you can't predict anything when your life is at the mercy of the 7 variables I like to call "the other people who live in my house."

And how the best thing you can say to yourself is, "I can't worry about it." Because you know from experience that worrying about it won't change it or, as the mom in Hope Floats says, "Crying about it won't make it clean."

And how there are very few things in life that, if they don't get done, will alter the course of your family's destiny or unravel the very fabric of your existence. Usually, deadlines come and go and things still work out somehow. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

And how trusting that things will work out somehow is part of living in freedom and embracing your calling. Wringing your hands and worrying over things that are out of your control will age you beyond your years and lead to numerous ailments.

I think it's so easy to get caught up in the moment. To make things seem bigger and more monumental than they actually are. I am training myself to pull back from situations and ask myself, "Will this matter in ten years, in one year, tomorrow, in fifteen minutes from now?" And mostly, the answer is no, no, no, and no. I have to learn to let go of my agendas, my desires, my longing for perfection and control. Every day, my six kids give me a chance to practice this. It's good for me, even if it hurts at times. Like exercise, or eating salad when what I want is chocolate cake. Probably most of you didn't need six children to teach you such things-- God knows I am a slow learner and need consistent reinforcement. I needed these kids, this life, this intentional surrender to shape me into something more than who I used to be. I am grateful for what they are teaching me, every day.
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Please Vote!

Ok, my friend Jenni over at One Thing has been named a finalist in the Five Minutes For Mom photography contest. So, please go read her entry about it, then click on the link she provides that will take you to where you can vote. I did it and it takes just minutes. I have to say, all the finalists' photos are just wonderful. They all evoke that feeling of summer. I think you will enjoy the photos and marvel at the moments these moms have captured. Their photography inspired me to take better photos and not the standard ones I always take. I hope that all of these are blown up and framed in their respective houses. They all deserve to be on the front of a greeting card or on the cover of a book, in my humble opinion. So head over there and see what I mean...

PS. Vote for One Thing!
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We're Home!

As I type this, I am in my own bed, in my own house-- albeit a much different-looking house, as the painters came while we were away and transformed all the dark paneling and trim to a brilliant, glossy white! The house feels cleaner and looks bigger as a result. They also painted the kitchen, laundry room and small half bath a blue that I picked out of a pottery barn catalog my aunt and uncle had at the beach. (The kitchen was a dark red when we bought it and it made it feel dark and closed in in there.) The blue is so soothing and just "happier" feeling than that dark red. I like red-- just not in my kitchen. In fact, I am probably going to do red in our dining room.

I never clarified that Curt didn't get to come back and join us at the beach like we planned. His speedometer broke on his car last week so we decided it wasn't worth risking it to try to drive down. Which meant we had to close down the house, pack everything, load the car and come back alone. As much as I hated to do it, it just made the most sense. Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing-- even when you know it's the right thing. So, he got to enjoy another few days of quiet-- I am sure he loved that! Last night after I got home, we took his car in to be repaired, so the speedometer will hopefully be working again soon.

We had a wonderful time with Karen and her kids. Although I think we were all ready to get home to our respective houses. We both moved around the same time and are both feeling the added stress of getting settled, unpacked and making changes to our new places. (Her family is finishing out a basement. Our family is updating this 1982 original we bought.) Plus, we both have a new school year to plan. (She homeschools her three, I will be homeschooling two of mine this year.) I also have three days to buy all the older three who are going to school's school supplies and uniforms. (They start school on Thursday.) And we both have writing and speaking business "stuff" on our minds.

So, while the break was good for us both-- we both knew it was time to get back to real life. Although we did wonder if it wouldn't be easier to become beach bums and feed our kids junk food for the rest of our lives! She and her kids left yesterday morning before the rest of us even got up-- but we said our goodbyes the night before. Saying goodbye is never easy, but I am looking forward to seeing her again soon at Hearts at Home in MI in October, when I will be traveling as Micca Campbell's "assistant" and working the P31 booktable. I much prefer "see you later" to "goodbye." So Karen, I will see you later.

And in the meantime, it is good to be home.
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Much Better

Thanks to all of you who have written me privately or left comments to assure me you are praying-- God has answered those prayers. Today has been a much better day and Karen and her family have gotten to see the "real" little girl we all know. She has been running and grinning a lot today-- what a joy it is to see her back to normal... even if we do have to keep a much closer watch on her now!

As I write this, Karen and I are both sitting with our respective laptops, steadily working away as the little one naps and the older kids enjoy some time at the beach. We took a nice long walk this morning and are planning to head to the beach this afternoon when she wakes up.

It only took til Thursday, but now it feels like a vacation.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another Update

It rained here at the beach all day.

This afternoon, Karen and I had our first conversation that lasted longer than 15 minutes since she got here on Monday night while the kids went stir crazy in the background. The baby actually played, a little.

I changed 7 diarrhea diapers in a six hour period last night while the rest of the world was sleeping. (In case you are keeping score, that's three nights in a row of hourly waking.) I strongly dislike antibiotics and overzealous doctors right about now. Dear sweet Karen went to the store in the rain this morning to buy us some diaper rash ointment while I stayed home with the screaming-in-pain baby.

I did get a one hour nap this afternoon while she slept. Then I got a shower. I even conditioned my hair and shaved my legs, even though my husband is miles and miles away. Afterwards, while drying my hair, life seemed possible again-- I don't know whether it was the nap or the shower, or some combination thereof.

It was, incidentally, the first time I have showered since Monday morning. It's hard to bathe when you are holding a child who has draped herself across you like an extra piece of clothing.

We're hoping for a better rest of the week. And now, I am off to help assemble the baked potato bar we are doing for dinner. And there are rumors of warm brownies with ice cream on top made by the girls this evening for dessert. I intend to eat every bite.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An Update

Well, we have decided that, for now at least, we aren't going to go back home tomorrow. Curt put the big kibosh on that idea today. He reminded me of what I was going to do-- put a sick, clingy baby in a carseat and drive four hours home (while she most likely screams) with two other kids, all with hardly any sleep. Then he also reminded me that painters are at our house right now painting all our dark wood trim-- with a stinky oil-based paint. He said the house smells and the furniture is all pulled out from the wall. He said, "Believe me, if you can avoid coming home for a few days, that would be best."

I don't think that us coming home and ruining his nice quiet time with just our oldest son had anything to do with his recommendation, do you?

But it did make sense. So, I called and cancelled the appointment I had for tomorrow and am just praying for the best-- I hope we made the right call. If worse comes to worst, I have found a local pediatrician I can take her to. It just doesn't feel as comforting as going to our pediatrician, though.

Also, Karen posted a few photos and her thoughts on our time here on her blog-- so check it out at!

ETA: After a few commenters warned me my daughter could have strep, I opted to go ahead and go to the emergency room tonight. So, just as dear, sweet Karen was starting spaghetti for the seven other children (don't you just wish you were here!), I left with the baby. After several hours waiting on Xrays (her arm that hurts), strep culture results, medicines to be ordered, etc. we left with a diagnosis that was not strep, not even an ear infection-- just plain, old croup. Croup, I will add, that can't be touched by antibiotics. The same antibiotics that have torn up her stomach and caused terrible diarrhea today. Totally not necessary.

So, just a warning to mothers everywhere-- be careful how quickly you accept the diagnosis of a doctor, and how quickly you give your child prescribed medication if you aren't certain of that diagnosis. It will take awhile for her system to recover from these antibiotics that were never needed. I am just glad she didn't have anything seriously wrong with her. And I am glad that I didn't drive all the way home to hear she had the croup. But I am also sad that I gave her medication she didn't need.

And mostly, I am tired. And hoping to redeem some part of this vacation in the days to come.
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The Walt Disney World Moms Panel

I received an announcement from Michelle at Disney today. Michelle is one of the wonderful ladies at Disney who arranged for our most excellent adventure back in April-- you all might remember my excitement when I got invited to join the first ever Disney Mom Bloggers Mixer. Boy was that a neat perk associated with blogging!

Today I got the inside scoop on an offer Disney is extending that some of you might want to get in on. I'll let Michelle explain:

Beginning September 8 through September 19, interested applicants can visit to learn more about the Walt Disney World Moms Panel and enter. Candidates will be asked to answer a series of questions and write three brief essays; selected panelists will serve a one-year term and will each receive a 5-night, 6-day vacation to Walt Disney World for four people.

The Walt Disney World Moms Panel, launched in Jan. 2008, is an online forum that provides first-hand tips and insights for vacationing at the resort from a panel of park-savvy parents. This year, Walt Disney World is looking for a diverse group of moms, dads and grandparents with vast knowledge of the parks and a desire to share their experience with others. And, due to the overwhelming response last year, the 2009 Moms Panel will expand from its inaugural 12 members to 16.

Want to try out? Let me tell you that the ladies on the panel who were with us were true Disney experts-- sometimes they could even answer questions that the Disney employees couldn't answer! If you are a Disney aficionado, I encourage you to get in on this opportunity. It truly is a neat thing that Disney is doing-- and if you are planning a Disney vacation, remember that the Moms' Panel is there to help you plan a fun time for your family!
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Please Keep Praying!

Hi all-- First of all, thank you for praying for the Ehman family! They made it here safely last night.

Second, many of you have written to tell me you are praying for my daughter. I appreciate it so much-- but we need your continued prayers. She has gotten worse, not better, since we started the antibiotics. I know it can take a good 24 hours to start making a difference and I am hoping that will be the case here. The other element that we have no idea about is that she keeps complaining/crying that her arm hurts. She points to the exact same spot every time. (This has been going on since Friday. We wrote it off as "growing pains" at first.)

My first tip-off that she was going downhill was at about four yesterday afternoon. She started to cry and I could not get her to stop. (This was while she was on Motrin and wasn't near due for more.) I tried everything. Finally, out of desperation, I put her in the stroller and she and I and my 8yo daughter went for a walk. We were about halfway through our walk when she began vomiting everywhere-- which meant I had to push her all the way home covered in vomit and crying. I then had to hose her and the stroller down-- all the while she was screaming.

That was my first clue that things were not going to go as I had hoped-- I had hoped she would get two doses of medicine in her, be on the mend by nightfall, and sleep peacefully through the night.

Instead, last night was a horrible night of her waking up crying about every hour to an hour and a half. She is so miserable-- and consequently, so am I. I have no idea how much of her pain is related to the arm and how much is related to the ear. And at two years old, she can't tell me. To top things off, she now has a croupy cough that has developed and cries every time she coughs. I think it hurts her ear when she coughs.

I called our pediatrician first thing this morning and they said that I should definitely bring her in-- as in come back from the beach. She said that, if she isn't any better by tonight, we should plan to drive home and be seen tomorrow afternoon.

Did I mention that my friend Karen drove 16 hours from MI to spend a week with me here at the beach?

We had such big plans to talk and laugh and work on things together. And now it looks like I will be leaving her here with my older two and taking my younger three home. Curt has said he will return this weekend to close up the house, clean up, and retrieve our older kids. Karen is being so gracious about all of this, but I feel so bad.

So, I am just asking for an eleventh hour miracle, here. And I would appreciate it if you all would pray with me/for me. I am not sure what will happen yet-- I will keep you posted. And for all of you who emailed me or commented to say you were wishing you were at the beach, I'll bet you don't want to trade with me now!!
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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook, Monday, August 11

(For more simple woman posts, visit

Outside my Window... a view of the canal at low tide
I am thinking... about going for a run or just a long walk later today-- not sure how much my foot will be able to tolerate

I am thankful for... getting through a morning visit to the Urgent Care, a daughter who babysat willingly (even though a woke her from a deep sleep to do it), and Augmentin

From the kitchen... frozen pizza-- hey, we are on vacation!

I am wearing... jean shorts and my blue Elevation tee shirt, Teva flip flops (beach attire!)

I am reading... favorite blogs

I am hoping... my youngest daughter feels better soon and sleeps through the night

I am hearing... the cheering of the crowds at the Olympics (on tv)

Around the house... the children are all on their beds, so it is quiet-- they were running around the house acting like wild animals so I informed them that wild animals belong in their "cages" (ie, their beds) and that they needed to stay there until they could act like children again-- which, in my estimation, should take about 30 minutes!

One of my favorite things... a good friend who is willing to drive 15 hours just to hang out with me and my kids

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... enjoying time with a friend I don't get to see very much, working on my tan, relaxing

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

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Thanks to all of you who visit today in response to the devotion I have running over at P31. I am glad you visited!

My kids and I are at the beach right now for a week of fun and sun. I love being at the ocean. God's majestic creation is breathtaking-- His vast wonder is displayed as you stand on the water's edge.

My friend (and fellow speaker team member) Karen Ehman is on her way down to the NC coast to join us from MI today. They have a long 15 hour drive ahead of them, so if you guys think of it, would you pray for them? And also, if you guys could pray for my little 2 yo daughter, she is sick and miserable. I suspect an ear infection, and am going to try to find a doctor here who can treat her today. Please pray she will feel better soon-- we aren't getting much sleep and I am the only parent on the premises as Curt is back at home in Charlotte working!

I know in the grand scheme of things, an ear infection and some lost sleep isn't that big of a deal, but it feels like a big deal right now!! It's interesting that my devotion today is about stress-- I could definitely use some relief in this tight place!!

ETA: Well, we are back (three hours later) from the Urgent Care, where it was discovered that the baby has an ear infection in both ears and very swollen lymph nodes. She has already had one dose of antibiotic and will hopefully be on the mend very soon.
Thanks for your prayers-- I could feel the difference they made as I was referred from one urgent care that was already full for the day to another one about thirty minutes away! When we got to the second one, there was no one there. As we left, the waiting room was full-- God was merciful in that, while we did have a bit of a hassle getting there, once we did get there we didn't have to wait long at all. That in itself is a specific answer to prayer. Also, that she has something that can be treated and we were able to get her prescription filled-- when we got to the drugstore, the woman said it would be several hours before we could get the script. The next thing I knew the woman looked back at me and said, "Well whaddayaknow? I entered something wrong and now she's next in line!" She grinned at me conspiratorially-- she must have seen the panicked look that crossed my face when she delivered that piece of bad news! So, instead of hours, we waited just a few minutes.
If you all would pray that she would get some relief soon, I would appreciate it. She spent most of the time we waited in the drugstore holding her ear and crying. (I think that might be part of the reason why the woman "accidentally" moved us to the front of the line!)
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

One Word Answer Meme

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse
2. Your significant other? Sweet
3. Your hair? Natural
4. Your mother? Passionate
5. Your father? Absent
6. Your favorite thing? Ocean
7. Your dream last night? Forgotten
8. Your favorite drink? Tea
9. Your dream/goal? Publication
10. The room you’re in? Bedroom
11. Your church? Elevation
12. Your fear? Loss
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here
14. Where were you last night? Beach
15. What you’re not? Demanding
16. Muffins? Chocolate
17. One of your wish list items? Granite
18. Where you grew up? Charlotte
19. The last thing you did? Ate
20. What are you wearing? Jammies
21. Your TV? Bravia
22. Your pets? None
23. Your computer? Lifeline
24. Your life? Chaotic
25. Your mood? Happy
26. Missing someone? Husband
27. Your car? Suburban
28. Something you’re not wearing? Shoes
29. Favorite store? Target
30. Your summer? Busy!
31. Like(love) someone? Lots
32. Your favorite color? Blue
33. Last time you laughed? Today
34. Last time you cried? Thursday
35. Who will repost this? Readers
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Pita Chips And Hummus!

I was feeling the need to eat something-- which always hits me at precisely 11:00 every day. I can tell time by it. I say things like, "It must be getting close to 11." Or, "I think it must be after 11 because I haven't eaten and I am starting to get that pass out feeling."

Yes, I know this is not the right way to eat. I have gotten into a tad bit better habit at home because I bought a pop-up toaster and now I can coax myself into eating some plain, lightly buttered toast about 9am. That is progress in the eating breakfast department. I have not eaten breakfast since I was in junior high (that's middle school to some of you). But I am trying to make progress. I am happy to report that since I got consistent about eating breakfast ("Metabolism! It's time to wake up now!") and cutting sweet tea pretty much out of my diet (I know.) I am actually, gradually, losing weight. I mean, don't get excited because with my improved eating habits have been a marked decrease in my exercise efforts. At some point, I know I will get them both going at the actual same time. This will be good, when it happens.

You all might remember the disaster time period where I ran consistently and not one pound came off. Not. One. Pound. So, I decided to take the advice of my diet/exercise guru friends like Karen and Lysa, and my mom and actually eat breakfast. And my husband said he knew this guy who cut out sweet tea and automatically lost ten pounds. (We have to keep in mind that this was a guy and not a woman this happened to, so I was hesitant.) But it sounded good to me so I decided to attempt to cut sweet tea out. I didn't think I could, as I thought the dt's would be too violent to go on with normal life. But y'all, it wasn't that hard at all. Now, I have actually gotten to where I prefer lemon water to sweet tea from Chick fil a. I know. Now when Curt wants to do something sweet for me, he brings me a large water from CFA with three slices of lemon. (That was per my request, so don't worry-- it doesn't hurt my feelings. I am reminded of the story when Art brought Lysa a Diet Coke by accident early in their marriage and she took it as his message to her that she needed to lose weight. He tried to explain it was just a mistake as she cried, "You think I'm fat!" That story never fails to make me laugh.)

Ok, so getting back to the original intent of this post, it was getting to be 11:00 and I hadn't eaten because there is no pop-up toaster here at the beach and it totally got me off track and back to my old habits of not eating breakfast. As I tried to work up the urge to go eat something-- y'all, I know that's weird but I do have to talk myself into eating at times. This is not made up, ask Lysa, she will vouch for my weird eating habits-- and then I remembered. Yesterday I bought pita chips and hummus at the grocery store!!

And I felt so happy, I had to share my happiness with someone. And so, I figured I would share it here because I can promise you, if I shared this with my husband (the only adult around right now) I would get his patented blank stare. Blank stare means: God, give me strength because women are so weird and being married to someone who is so weird takes Your strength and Your strength alone.

But you guys understand how a good snack/lunch like that can totally make your day, right?

And now I am off to indulge myself!
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A Post That Morphed Into A Post on Resourcefulness and Prayer

I have always struggled with the idea of nature journaling, as neither myself nor my children are particularly good drawers-- nor do we show any potential of becoming good drawers! So, whenever I pushed this (years ago when I used to push such things), I was always met with great resistance and complaining. So, I totally quit, throwing in the towel completely on nature study. Yesterday I stumbled across this post and it inspired me to revisit the idea of nature journaling-- and for those of you who remember this recent post and are keeping score, yes it's yet another thing I am inspired to attempt! Please know that I am not seriously thinking I will do it all. I am still in planning mode, after all, and just entertaining ideas and seeing what will work, and when.

Which reminds me, this post is a great one to read for those of you who are in the throes of planning! I need to remember the rich resources that are already on my shelves before I fork over money for more.

I remember one year when we were just simply broke as it came time to plan for the new year. I remember being so down because I didn't have money for "stuff." My mom came through and brought the kids goodie bags filled with back to school stuff that thrilled them and got us started with what we needed-- pencils, paper, glue sticks, etc. But I still didn't have a planner and couldn't splurge on buying one. Then I hit upon a genius idea-- totally inspired by God as I prayed for His help in being resourceful. I knew He had called us to homeschooling and I knew that He would provide a way. After all, He is THE WAY.

So, I turned to a blank page in my old planner from the previous year and made a copy of it. I ran copies that only costs a few dollars to make, three hole punched them, and put them in an old notebook. Voila! A functional planner that served me well and only cost me pennies to make! I still remember the feeling of satisfaction I got from knowing I wasn't wasteful! Now we have and many other sites that provide forms we need so that we can create our own planning notebooks in just a matter of minutes. Heart of the Matter is even offering free prayer journal pages this month, which I plan to print off and use! (Karen and I are talking about designing our own planners while we are together this week. Does it mean I am a total and complete hopeless geek for actually being excited about such things??)

And so, I challenge you this year to not give up if you don't have talent or don't have money, or don't have whatever it is you feel you don't have. Pray for resources, inspiration, creativity... whatever it is you are lacking. We serve a God who cares about the most intimate of details and who will provide a way if we will only open our eyes to His activity and listen for His answers. I know I am grateful to those bloggers who provide me with answers, ideas and resources through sharing their own inspirations with the rest of us! You never know when God will use your blog to be someone else's answer.

ETA: This post is a great one about planning, too!
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Great Quote

I read this in Laying Down The Rails and wanted to share it:

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." William Morris

That makes deciding what to keep and what to toss a pretty straitforward decision, doesn't it?
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Beach Reading

What did I bring to read at the beach? I thought you'd never ask!

Streams In The Desert, my daily devotional reading

Laying Down The Rails, published by the folks at Simply Charlotte Mason. (I doubt I will finish this at the beach, as it is a rich, thought-provoking read. Well worth digging into already and I am only on the first chapter! I highly recommend this book and the other books by this company. Look for an interview with these ladies coming soon!)

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

The Creative Family by Amanda Soule

Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (Usually I read fiction at the beach, because I love to lose myself to a good story-- but this is the only piece of fiction I brought this time. I loved this movie and am interested in reading the book. I could tell as I watched the movie that it was a well-written book.)
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Friday, August 08, 2008

We're Here!!

We got to the beach, immediately changed into our suits and headed out to the beach for a few hours of sun, sand, and surf. Now we are back at Uncle Bob's beach house and I am pleased to announce that the house DOES seem to have internet-- so I can keep blogging! Curt has gone out to pick up pizzas for dinner and the kids are vegging in front of the Disney channel. They are sufficiently worn out enough for an early bedtime. And Curt and I have an exciting evening planned of running to Walmart to stock up on food for the coming week. (He brought us down here and is going to stay just long enough to get us settled before heading back home to work. What a guy!)

I love the beach. Thanks Uncle Bob!
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I Will Survive (Homeschool Edition)

Ok, I got this on one of my homeschool online groups and loved it!! So funny-- and so true! I don't know the author personally, but she is credited. If you know her by chance, please tell her it's great!

I am posting this in honor of a friend who is feeling called to homeschool and is completely overwhelmed and apprehensive about the prospect...

I Will Survive (the first year of homeschooling)
Originally written and produced by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris
Originally performed by Gloria Gaynor
Mercilessly altered with apologies by Natalie Criss
============ ========= ========= ========
First I was afraid
I was petrified.
Kept thinking I could never teach
'Cause I'm not certified.
But we spent so many nights
Reteaching homework that was wrong.
I grew strong,
so now I teach my kids at home!
We study math
and outer space.
I just kept on despite the fear
with a big smile across my face.
I bought a set of Base Ten blocks.
I bought books with answer keys.
My parents think we're nuts,but they don't even bother me

Come on, let's go walk out the door.
We're on the road now,
'cause we're not home much anymore
My friends would laugh and say we'd be unsocialized.
I heard one mumble
that I'd give up
by July.
Oh no, not I!
I will survive!
As long as I know how to read
I know we'll be alright.
I've got all my life to learn.
I've got energy to burn.
and I'll survive.
I will survive.

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart.
Decided to attend
a play date at the local park,
and I met oh so many moms
who offered eagerly to help.
They used to cry.
Now they hold their heads up high,
and so do we!
My kids are cool!
They're not those chained up little people
stuck inside at school.
So if you feel like dropping by
and just expect us to be free
you'd better call ahead first
'cause we're probably busy

ETA: I agree with one commenter who said that they could live without the line about chained up kids at school. My older kids go to school! I almost didn't post this song because of that one line, but then decided I wasn't going to let that stop me-- I didn't feel I could take liberties with the line, so I just left it as-is. Please know I am not judging those who have their kids in school-- that would be quite hypocritical of me!!
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One Last Summer Adventure!

Well, the Whalens are headed off for one last little adventure before a new school year starts! We leave in about an hour to spend nine days at my uncle Bob's beach house! Everyone is excited-- which might explain the over the top behavior in our house yesterday. (I mentioned this in my previous post.)

Curt is actually not going to be with us for this trip-- and neither is my oldest, as they both have to work. So, it's just going to be me and the five kids. Lord willing, my good friend Karen is going to be bringing her three children all the way from Michigan to spend the week with us! Karen and I are certain we will use all our words over the course of the week and are already discussing projects we want to do while we are there. The kids are all giddy about spending time with Karen's kids-- they have been internet and phone friends for several years but have never met. If you think about it, please pray for Karen and her kids to have a safe trip-- they have a 15 hour drive ahead of them!!
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I got this question submitted to me and thought I would answer it here, since I get variations of this same question emailed to me quite often. I think this struggle is common-- and if you could have been a fly on the wall at our house last night, you wouldn't be asking me how to do anything. You would just be praying for me and the hope that my kids will somehow turn out okay with me as their mother!! And so, you will see that in this answer, I don't claim to have any answers, but I can point you to experts who do!

I have been wondering lately how do you handle your kids? I have 3 and struggle with responsibility, chores, and just getting a handle on the chaos that seems to take place most of the time Do you have any resources or writings dealing with your methods? (Name withheld)

I would recommend getting some books to inspire and equip you in these areas.
One book is Life Skills For Kids by Christine Field, which is an excellent resource on training kids and what you should expect. I keep my copy handy at all times.
Another book that really inspired me, even though it's written in from a Catholic perspective (I am not Catholic), is A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. She really deals with the order of our days and turning that chaotic atmosphere around. I would highly recommend ordering that one!
I would also recommend subscribing to Above Rubies, as their little doses of encouragement for handling it all really encourage and sustain me at times! You can just go to (Disclaimer: I do not always agree with everything in this magazine, but it does encourage me to be a more loving mom who embraces my calling. Who doesn't need that?)
Finally, I would recommend a new book by Kevin Leman called Have a New Kid By Friday (I will be doing a giveaway for this book very soon!!) or John Rosemond's Parenting By The Book. Both of these men really address the authority we have as parents and how to get that authority back if you feel you have lost it. Very good wisdom-- and well worth spending some time reading.

Most of all, don't forget to ask God to be your portion and to rely on Him minute by minute for insight and wisdom in dealing with your kids-- too often I forget that in the chaos when He is right there waiting for me to just ask!! Get alone with Him first thing every morning so you can be filled with Him and aware of the Holy Spirit at work in your life. I hope this helps!! Yesterday I had a day where I felt completely out of control in my life and with my kids-- so I know all too well the feelings you are describing!! I don't do it perfectly, as you will see in my devotion. I hope you will get to a place where you feel more capable, yet not capable enough that you stop relying on God.

I attached this devotion that I wrote almost two years ago...

Squelching The Spirit
By Marybeth Whalen

John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (NIV)

“Lord,” I prayed, “Please help me to be mindful of your Holy Spirit. Please help me to live life aware that you are at work within me through the Spirit and not to lose sight of that fact today.” I finished my prayer, ashamed to confess to God yet again that I had forgotten about the Holy Spirit. How could I forget something so important—so essential to my Christian walk? Instead I had lived a life devoid of the power I had within me. This was foolishness at its finest and not one of my prouder moments.

Satan loves to trick us into living our lives mired in defeat and despair. He keeps us just busy and distracted enough to lose our focus. When he is able to accomplish this, he can detach our connection to the truth of the Holy Spirit’s power within us. If we aren’t focused on it then we can’t tap into it. Satan’s goal is to squelch the Spirit within us. He can’t have victory over the Spirit, but he can have victory over our flesh.

Armed with the knowledge of this fact, I have determined to be intentional about living life aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence. I am also trying to learn all I can about what that means. By reading the Bible, I learned that the Holy Spirit serves as my Comforter, my Counselor and my Controller. As my Comforter, he is an abiding presence whenever I feel lonely or rejected. As my Counselor, I can ask him to supply me with wisdom or even to pray on my behalf when words fail me. (Romans 8:26-27) As my Controller, he helps me control my impulses and guides my actions. (Romans 8:13-14)

For these things to happen, I can’t be lulled into passivity nor can I be distracted into over-activity—thereby forgetting all about him in the midst of my busyness.
How many of us know the passage that lists the fruits of the Spirit, yet feel defeated in these very areas: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control? So many Christians will tell you they don’t have self-control with their eating or love for their spouse or that they lack patience or peace in their home. Through prayer and intentional living, I am learning to experience the fruits of the Spirit. I have already been given these things, yet I don’t live that way! Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would be given to us permanently and that every believer would receive the Holy Spirit. We can stand on that and receive the blessings of the virtues listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Have you been too busy or too defeated to remember the Holy Spirit? Have you forgotten that he is right there waiting to help you, to hear you, and even to hinder you if necessary? A life that is tapped into the Holy Spirit is a powerful, victorious life. It is a life that is a very real threat to the devil. It is a life that is there for the taking, step by step.

Dear Lord, Please help me to be mindful of your Holy Spirit in my daily life. Help me to live a victorious Christian life by relying on Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application Steps:
Look up the verses that mention the Holy Spirit in your Bible and do a study on this part of the trinity.

Do you experience the victory of relying on the Spirit in your life each day?
How can you be more intentional about doing so?
Is there a verse in particular that would be of help to you?

Power Verses:
I Thessalonians 5:19-22, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

II Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

II Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
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Thursday, August 07, 2008


For those of you who missed Steven Curtis Chapman on Good Morning America, (like me) you can go here to see the whole interview. It is quite moving-- make sure you have a box of tissues nearby! And don't forget they will be on Larry King Live tonight at 9pm eastern on CNN.
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Words By Heart

Yesterday we were riding in the car and this song came on. I sang along, every word coming to me, one line following after the other without a thought. I haven't heard the song in years. At one point I looked over at my son and saw him shaking his head. "What?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"How in the world do you know every word to this weird song that I have never heard before?"

I shrugged and answered honestly. "It's just in here somewhere," I said, and pointed at my head. He just kept shaking his head, smiling that "my mom is so weird" smile that tweens and teens seem to inherently know how to do. I didn't mind.

As we drove on in 5:00 traffic, I wondered why in the world I did remember that song. I mean, it made no sense whatsoever. And yet, there it was. I thought about a story my friend Erica shared with us the other night about a youth group that willingly pretended that they were part of the persecuted church. With the parents' permission, the youth leaders tied them up, locked them in a dark room, and told them they had to recite Bible verses for comfort because they would no longer be allowed access to the Bible. She said that some of them hardly knew any scripture. Others rattled off verse after verse from years in Awana and Sunday school. She said that, if nothing else, those kids left that evening more convinced than ever that they needed to spend time memorizing God's word. Because you just never know when you will need to rely on it.

And as I thought about that song and how I had unknowingly committed it to memory, I wondered how much scripture I actually have memorized. What would happen to me if I was tied up in a dark room, scared and needing to rely on the Word of God? I must confess the amount of verses is sadly lacking in comparison to the songs I know by heart. After hearing Erica's story, I feel the need to be more intentional about upping that number. How about you?
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First Kiss

The Write-Away Contest hosted by Scribbit

My steps are slow, agonizing and, I am certain, painful to watch. I call it running but I am not sure any serious runner would. I take the same route I always take, plodding along determinedly, not breaking any records, yet internally applauding myself for getting out there and just doing it, as the saying goes. This daily trek takes me down the streets of my neighborhood, winding past familiar places and houses, sweating and huffing my way down streets I once walked as a young girl. As I run it occurs to me that I have not come very far in life. No big city of New York as I once dreamed. No fascinating stories of world travel. Just this place, these streets, these same houses I used to visit in elementary and middle school.

When I was a kid, my best friend Stacy lived in the neighborhood we now live in. Life never fails to surprise me in the way it loops in on itself, continually causing us to revisit the things we think we have left behind. Back in the day I spent many a weekend with Stacy because she had a pool in her backyard. And cute boys lived in her neighborhood. We would lounge by her pool by day, flipping through teen magazines for entertainment. In the evenings, we would roam the neighborhood looking for boys to practice flirting with.

Because we came of age in the greatest decade of music ever (IMHO), there was always a soundtrack playing. We listened to Duran Duran and picked which band member we thought was the cutest. We mused over Boy George's sexual orientation. We discussed which songs were the best to get asked to dance to according to which were the longest. (Answer: "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, running time, 5:30) We practiced curling our lip like Billy Idol. We belted out the lyrics to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," and watched the video countless times on MTV, cheering with all the screaming girls over the boys from England jumping around in short shorts.

As I run past these houses, I remember. I remember big dreams, good friends, and the last hours of my childhood melting away. In this neighborhood I morphed from child to teen, from girl to young woman. In the front yard of the little brown house across the street from Stacy's I received my first kiss from a boy named Tim. I couldn't have known it then, but that kiss launched me into a whole new world. After that everything changed. Suddenly Tim, and then a succession of other boys, mattered more than anything. Finding and keeping a boyfriend became top priority. Later, Stacy and I stopped being friends over a boy named Kevin. I stopped spending my weekends with her. We stopped giggling, singing songs, and sharing secrets.

And now, as life would have it, my run takes me by Stacy's house every day, the memories swarming as I go by. Stacy still lives there and sometimes we pass each other on the street. We look the other way, pretending we don't know each other. Because really, we don't. She is single and living at home with her parents. I live around the corner with my husband and six children. Our lives no longer intersect and for some inexplicable reason, that makes me sad. I wish I could talk to her, to tell her how silly it was to make the wrong things our focus, to trade our friendship for the pursuit of boys who will never give us what we thought they would.

It took me more than twenty years to learn that.

One time, I see her pulling out of her driveway and flag her down. She stops and rolls down her window out of obligation. We talk briefly about our lives-- me about my kids, her about her plans for culinary school. I smile and say good for her. She smiles and says good for me. She drives away and I run the rest of my route, each of us going about our grown-up lives. Neither of our lives turned out quite the way we thought they would on those warm summer evenings long ago. We believed back then that happiness could be found "out there" somewhere. We thought we needed to find that certain someone who would hand it to us, like a gift. That we would be awakened to it with that first kiss. When really we already held it in the palms of our hands, as fragile as blown glass, as momentary as a dandelion seed aloft on the wind.

As I run these familiar streets towards home, it occurs to me that I may not have come far in location but I have come far. I see what's important now. I see the need for respect and grace and mercy. I see that good friends are irreplaceable. I see that who I am is less about people to validate me and more about the choices I make. I know that it wasn't that first kiss that defined me, no matter how much I hoped it would back then. As my house slips into view, I strain to get home to who I am now and who I am, always, becoming. Happiness waits for me there, less than a mile from where I first began my search, looking much different than what I imagined.

Yet oh so much better.

* This post was written as an entry for Scribbit's Write Away August contest.
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Mary DeMuth's Writing Blog

Mary DeMuth is a writer I respect for her dedication not just to the business of writing, but to the craft itself. So when she emailed me to ask to link to something I wrote on her "So You Wanna Be Published" blog, I was so honored! She put it up yesterday and I told her I would include a link over here, just in case some of you wanted to head over there. Thanks Mary for all you do to encourage writers who "Wanna Be Published!" (Mary also included something my new friend Ariel wrote on screenwriting. So be sure and check that out, too!)
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Planning Update

After spending yesterday running to stores like Walgreens, The Dollar Store, and Target, I am happy to report that-- for my homeschooled kids at least-- we are all stocked up and ready to jump into our year! Everything looks so pretty all arranged on the shelf-- no marks on anything yet, no bent corners and torn pages, nothing out of place. I just go by and gaze at it lovingly every so often.

Because I know it won't stay that way.

Just like my pretty little picture perfect plans won't stay the way I make them, either. (To see my post about my plans for the year, go here.)

Already I am making new plans from the ones I previously listed. Wondering if perhaps I will take the plunge into lapbooking like I have been wanting to or if we should not take on one more thing. Wondering how in the world I am going to actually do all the things I want to do. Wondering if I actually need to read all the intros and "how to use this book" type of notes that are at the beginning of their books-- or if we could just wing it and be okay.

So far, I know for sure we are going to attempt some sort of lapbook/notebook for the first week or two weeks that the older kids are back in school and we aren't starting on our official school yet. I thought it would be fun to do something easy and not so strict to ease back into the routine of schoolwork dominating our day. I have chosen dolphins as our subject matter, which I think I have mentioned before. The kids are excited to learn about dolphins.

I have thought about doing one subject per month and make a lapbook. Dolphins would be quick and easy in late August. Then for September I thought we would do a unit on the book "T is For Tarheel." I found this really neat teacher's guide that goes with it, thanks to this video. (I have been watching the many instructinal videos on lapbooking offered on YouTube.) October we have a field trip planned with our church group to go to Windy Hill Apple Orchard, home of Johnny Appleseed! (Not really, but he pretends.) So I am sure we will be doing something about apples for that. Then in November, I saw a very neat Thanksgiving lapbook on YouTube that we might attempt. So, that gets us to our Christmas break and I will decide more after that.

As for our picture study, I think we will start off with Norman Rockwell, just because he is an American classic. I plan to learn a bit more about him, and just display his art-- a new picture each week for a month. We will choose an artist a month-- but I haven't decided the order. I know that we will probably include John James Audubon and other natural artists. So they might come next. I am being pretty noncommittal as I like to leave room for natural curiosity to dictate our direction.

I am also still hoping to choose a person a week in the First Book of Biographies and to follow Cay Gibson's Author Fiesta plan for picture books to include as read alouds.

Oh, and our church's homeschool group decided last night at our meeting to do an around the world co-op with each person taking a country a month and hosting everyone at their home to learn about that country. I did this years ago with another co-op and told them about what a great experience it was. They loved the idea and guess who they voted to do the very first country?? While the very thought of doing that right now overwhelms me, I will say that it will tie in nicely with our study of world geography through Ann Voskamp's A Child's Geography.

Speaking of our study of world geography, I was able to find a nice globe at Target yesterday and "World Landmark" flashcards in their dollar spot section. I think these flashcards will be fun to match the landmark to the place they are located on the globe! They also have a world landmark puzzle my kids have already put together and taken apart many times. It was also just $1.

So back to my plans, if you are keeping score, that's an author study, an artist study, a biography study, a country study, and a lapbook/notebook per month on a subject of our choice. That is in addition to our math, language arts, geography and various outside classes.

Think I can do it without losing my mind? I am sure going to try!
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