Monday, March 30, 2009


I think my weekend sabbatical had a few people worried. Well, I am not sick or pregnant or mentally ill (that last one is iffy). I was just tired. And, as is the case with most holidays, my role as a mother will not lend to a restful time over spring break. I will have the kids without Andy for a week with grandparents, aunts & uncles, and cousins. Which is loads of fun, but tiring! So Andy offered me time to catch up around the house and be quiet and still, too.

Pictured above is one of the focal points in my family room. Is it just me, or do fresh flowers change everything? As I was lounging, this pitcher of flowers gave me many moments of thankfulness.

My weekend consisted of sleep, lying in the bed, watching movies (I saw three), cleaning and organizing the house a little, a couple of fun craft projects, sitting in the yard and staring at the beauty of spring (including our weeping cherry tree that is in bloom), reading, catching up on homeschool planning, and lunches out. I had no idea how tired I was until I slowed down. And I feel invigorated. I hope my family will reap the blessings of a rested, encouraged Momma, as well. Here are a few pictures from the spring projects I piddled with this weekend.

Love rearranging the mantel in our family room. We're in here all the time and I need to change it up a lot.I made an Easter centerpiece for the kitchen table. These sticks were left over from a church event. This arrangement is kind of big and crazy for our little kitchen table, but it was fun to put together.

I am in the process of making green, cream, and chocolate throw pillows for our sectional sofa. Here's a peek. I'll post more pictures when they are all completed. (Who knows when that will be!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Coming home

"Always toward absent lovers love's tide stronger flows."
~Roman poet Sextus Propertius

Ready to join back in!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hot diggity

My husband gave me a last minute gift. When we talked at lunch on Friday, he offered to give me an entire weekend alone to rest. What an amazing God I serve. And what a humble, generous husband I love. back on Monday!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fact or fiction?

Our field trip today involved an entire morning of evolutionary propaganda at the new science museum. We actually had to walk out of the "station" where we viewed a movie. The movie began right on cue with the big bang theory. Except it was presented as fact and not theory. And, of course, no other theories were represented. When we went out into the lobby and sat down to talk about what they had heard, my Jaybird asked, "Momma? What's wrong with this place? Why don't you speak up and tell the man about God? Maybe he doesn't know!" And maybe I should have. But I bit my lip.
We also rebelled in the "station" where we were to spend 25 minutes in THE MUSEUM GIFT SHOP. Seriously. Well...we didn't buy a thing. We almost did, and then when I explained to the kids that we didn't want to support the museum and their one-sided theories, they jumped on board with no problems. In fact, my Toot said, "Don't buy their stuff. It's all lies!" And that made me laugh. He has a flare for the dramatic statements (I have no idea why?!). And we certainly did not hear all lies. But, by this point in the morning, there was a whole lot of truth in his statement for a person that claims the Bible as absolute truth as we do.
We did, however, have fun in the fossil digging area. What a fun idea! And after a pizza lunch, we came back and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the museum. I should have known better than to schedule a tour of the fossil gallery. I can be so naive. But I honestly am thankful for the conversation our interesting field trip produced. I whole-heartedly want my children to learn about every viewpoint and religion that I can expose them to. But, I also know that I need to keep in mind their age, vulnerability, and maturity. I was very grateful today that I had the authority and influence to be able to pull them aside and converse with them over what we know to be truth. Sweet words were exchanged..."What do we know is true? Mommy can not tell you even a small fraction of what this world is made of. But what do I know for sure? God's word is truth. Let's start there..." In those moments together, I would rather be doing NOTHING else on earth!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Science simplified and fun

We are studying the life sciences this year. January through May is dedicated to the study of the human body and animal life. We have just finished the body. I enjoyed this unit so much! We followed this book,
which gave a short lesson on each body organ and a coloring project to create this paper model.
We checked out books and did a few extra projects for interest and enrichment, but that was not necessary. The book covered plenty of information.

Here's my SIMPLE plan for our animal unit. The first week (last week) we had a general overview of animals- vertebrates vs. invertebrates, animal habitats, and the five types of vertebrates. On the last day, we chose an animal from each of the five groups of vertebrates to study. This is where it gets really easy.I found 3 or 4 books at the library on each animal. We will study one animal a week, reviewing what makes it a mammal, bird, amphibian, etc.
Day 1- Read a book. Do a picture study (draw the animal and paint with watercolor or color with colored pencils on nice, thick art paper). This activity gave us an opportunity to look at the detail of the animal and talk about our Creator God- the magnificent artist! Zebra was the mammal of choice for this week.Day 2- Read another book. Develop 15 facts we want to know about the animal. (Example: What does the animal eat? Where does it live? etc.)
Day 3- Read another book. Answer the questions.
Day 4- Do an art project or if the animal is in our area, go and see it!
Later, we will study invertebrates- mostly ocean animals and insects- with the same format, I think.

For me, simple is the way to go! Now we can all enjoy science!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A little ragamuffin

The day is almost over, and I am left wondering...
~Where did the time go today?
~Did she look like that all day?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday hikes- a new tradition

"It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to...The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures."
Vincent Van Gogh

May apples

Trillium in bloom

Wild ginger flowers
A mass of salamander eggs

One single egg and its tiny occupant
"We no longer coordinate our human celebration with the great liturgy of the heavens."
~Wendell Berry

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A room with a view

We spent the entire day outside. First, at a work day at church. And after lunch, we came home and enjoyed the rest of the day (until dinner time) in our own yard. We had the ugliest juniper bushes in front of our house. They were so big that we had to use the jeep to pull them out of the ground! They were replaced by smaller, more fragrant Camellia and Gardenia bushes. I can not wait until fall to see them bloom! We also added flowers here and there- under the window, in planters, and around the mailbox. These extra touches of beauty are so exciting for me! I love the color by the front door and driveway (and out the window) where we can enjoy them all day long! If we have another frost, I will be the weirdo with sheets over my flowers. I used to tease my Mom for planting early and pulling out the sheets. And now look who's talking! (It's worth it for vibrant color after a long, grey winter!)
As I was gardening today, I thought about what I recently read in Edith Schaeffer's book The Hidden Art of Homemaking. She says, "A Christian, who realizes he has been made in the image of the Creator and is therefore meant to be creative on a finite level, should certainly have more understanding of his responsibility to treat God's creation with sensitivity, and should develop his talents to do something to beautify his little spot on the world's surface." Her words are more poignant and beautiful within the context of the book. But either way, I agree. And I found my time outside much more fulfilling with the book's inspiration at the forefront of my mind. I have a gardening "to-do list" for this week. I hope the perfect weather continues- sunny, mid 60s!
*Pictured above: our bedroom window

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Learning to receive

The past few years have been full of paradox and wonder in every area of our life. We have had the most difficult time in our marriage- which, by God's grace, gradually lead to a strong, fulfilling relationship. We lost a baby by miscarriage, followed three months later by conceiving our first girl. We moved away from the house we built and loved to a downsize, which ironically, has become our favorite house. Andy walked away from the corporate world-not on good terms due to corruption and his voice against it- and started his own company. And now just recently, he has gone back to a corporate job in order to save money and plan for a full-time career in farming, of all things. We left a private, Christian school that was outstanding (with tuition paid in full by a loved one) in order to take on the enormous, wonderful task of homeschooling. Our life is one big, unpredictable paradox.

From the outside, we must look like a couple of nuts. Downsizing our living conditions (while pregnant with a third child), dreaming of being able to change lifestyles and moving to a farm, homeschooling, it's all so counter-cultural. I was never, ever counter-cultural until I married Andy. I have an enormous amount of gratitude that the Lord has dealt gently with me as I learn to submit and pray for a willing, joyful heart about our constant state of instability. I am learning, albeit slowly, not to put my trust or hope in the things of this world. God is teaching me how to love Him more deeply. But he teaches me within the context of my own strengths, weaknesses and limits. For example, I enjoy the art of homemaking. After a morning full of quality time with the kids, my favorite thing to do when we all need time alone is to listen to praise music and try to make a room in my house more beautiful and comfortable. When I find myself limited with time or resources, I ask the Lord. Just this month, I received two gift cards from my Dad to spend on "pretty things". Of all people, my Dad thought of this gift? I know it was the Lord's prompting. It was certainly not necessary, but much appreciated after months of pinching pennies.

Last night, we were given what I consider to be the most thoughtful gift ever. We were recently talking about how we need a date night, but feel like the money needs to be spent on other things. I could not believe it when Andy brought home a $60 gift card to a restaurant. It was from three high school BOYS that put their money together for us! They even offered to babysit for us. The Lord provides for us in ways that are completely unpredictable over and over again. And we hear what he is saying in it all, "It's me! I'm taking care of you! I delight in who you are in Christ!" How can we respond with anything other than worship? (And I will be praying that the Lord would spiritually bless these boys tenfold for their willingness to sacrifice for our family.)

I could write a very long list of small ways that we have been given tangible gifts from the Lord through His people. It is amazing to recount. I am glad that I like to decorate, because when I am given "spending money", I often buy things for the house. I can literally walk around and remember how the Lord has loved us so tenderly and faithfully. The sofa from Mom and Dad, the lighting and kitchen flooring from Mimi and Papa, the painting from Liz's Aunt Mary, the many accessories from high school students both at church and from Living Science and friends. Even the bracelet I won the other night as a door prize- a gift from the Lord.

I might sound a little materialistic naming all of these gifts that are really earthly treasures. But I think every aspect of creation, both indoors and outdoors, is meant to be appreciated to the degree that it casts our eyes upward. If we can look at something and be reminded of the beauty and love that we have in Christ Jesus, then it is of great value. I guess I am speaking of yet another paradox- gratitude for our earthly treasures leading us to a deeper love for our heavenly treasures.

"Take the gift! Rejecting a gift is like rejecting the grace of God!"
~Andy's Grandfather

Matthew 6:28-33
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I heart projects

One of my FAVORITE hobbies is decorating a little corner of our home or tackling a house project. I am a hater of clutter and this house is smaller than our last, so I am always trying to maximize our space.
Recently, I had two new housing dilemmas: the clutter on the front of the frig and the chaos in the boys' closet. Here's what I did to help:
The frig:
I took all of the magnets off the frig and put them on the front of the washer. I took all of the pictures and put them on this thing pictured above. I went into my favorite home decor store on St. Pat's day and all green items were 20% off! I got this little beauty for $8.80 (originally $11). I hung it on the door of our pantry in the corner of the kitchen. Andy found the white "W" behind the oven last night, so I washed it and added it for a fun detail. (It's hard to see.)
Now the frig looks like this...ahhhh:

The boys' closet

This is the junk that came out of the closet- no kidding! We spent less than $20 adding a lower shelf with a bar for my younger son. He couldn't reach his clothes without yanking the hangers. I also added the small plastic boxes for undies, socks and white tees. We got rid of their dresser which has added more room for their toys. It was a win-win. This is what it looks like now:

Again, ahhhh. I am hoping to paint two rooms in the near future! Fun, fun!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's day

The kids and I enjoyed a short afternoon study of St. Patrick. I was relieved when my friend emailed me the website for a free download of a St. Patrick lap book project. (see sites below) I knew that I did not have time to make the lap book, but the information was very interesting to read to the boys. And my reserved library book did not come in until this afternoon!

We were very inspired by St. Patrick's missionary work in Ireland. He was actually kidnapped from Great Britian at the age or 16 and forced into slavery in Ireland. After 6 years he escaped, felt called to study religion for 12 years in France, and went back to Ireland as a missionary. He "planted" over 200 churches and schools in Ireland! Ireland went from being a pagan island, to a Christian society. Irish life was forever changed by God's work through this man. What an encouragement!

Not only did we learn many interesting facts about St. Patrick, but I shared with the boys pictures of my own trip to Ireland. Fifteen years ago, I was in Ireland on St. Patrick's day to dance in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin with my high school dance team. I actually took some really great pictures of Irish houses, castles and pubs that the boys enjoyed.

Just for fun, we made green slushies, a rainbow craft, and found Ireland on the globe. All in all, our celebration came together nicely, being both fun and educational.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The silver lining

Today we were all sick with colds. Since I have been home schooling, I have found that sickness can really rock the ship. So today I determined to provide all the ways that I could to create an easy day for us all. Our day involved:
Slowing down to get organized...

Making sure that the house smelled and sounded pleasant...

Encouraging quiet play time...

Reading a little more in those books (which seem to be a perpetual state of "almost done-ness")...

and washing the laundry little by little...

Cooking a healthy, warm soup...

Cuddling time with nowhere to go on a rainy day...Finishing little bits of school throughout the day, no rush...
And surprisingly, it turned out to be a wonderful sick day!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Swirly fun

Last night was the most fun I have had in a long time. I got to go to a painting class. I am not a trained artist, but still, I gain a surprising amount of joy when I swirl a paint brush in paint! Not only did I get to paint, but I got to paint with my best friend. Oh, and I received one of the door prizes- a beautiful bracelet. It all perfectly combined into a fun, fulfilling night!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Living Lovely with my family

I am following Heidi's lead in her first series:
Living Lovely: Making daily connections as a family
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.
-George Moore
~Cuddles and cartoons in our bed
~Breakfast: together, devotions, prayer, plans for the day
~Music always playing in the kitchen
~Circle up for memory time- verses, poetry, hymns
~School together
~Scheduled time for the children to play together in pairs or as a whole
~Lunch: together around the table, except on Tuesdays (On Tuesdays we go to the pizza buffet), read-aloud time, discussions of "What did we learn today about our world? God? ourselves?"
~Reading aloud to the children
~Snuggle time in the rocking chair with my girl, reading, colors, counting, praying, singing
~Boys play outside together or in the room they share
~Dinner: together around the table, discuss highs and lows for the day
~Wednesdays: movie night, picnic, popcorn or candy
~Thursdays: game night
~Occasional stroll around the neighborhood at dusk to the lake and playground- my husband, the scientist, always teaching us about trees, bats or other interesting facts
~Sundays: church and out for lunch together, letters to grandparents
~singing and reading with the children in bed- always "The Lord bless you and keep you" sang with a back rub

In the past...
~Lit a small candle at dinner. We were allowed to blow out the candle when we had eaten our food.
~Questions in a mystery bag to pull and answer over dinner
Hoping for...
~dates with each child alone
~more time in the garden with the kids and Andy this year
~Sunday hikes and nature journaling
~more mercy projects together this year
~more time with extended family and at our family farm

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Adding to yesterday

I was mulling over my words. What I think I was trying to say about my decision making process is that reason does not equal wisdom. All the checklists and thinking sessions are good things. But in matters of the heart, there is no escaping the time taken to seek the Lord. Because answers to these questions are not found inside ourselves. Why does it seem so much easier to make a checklist and tally the score? Okay, maybe it is easier, just not as satisfying or life-giving.
Sometimes when I reason out my own way, I find myself being an unnecessary martyr. I'll take the hard road just for security. I love this verse that puts me in my place, "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3) And sometimes, of course, I stray off into a place where "the grass looks greener" and God puts me in my place. For that very reason, I chose this year to memorize, "Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you. Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure.” (Proverbs 4:25) And I chose "Satisfaction" as my word for the year.

So, with these lessons in mind I do not want to escape the time to lay it all before the Lord and wait. I want to go before Him and ask for guidance remembering, "I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me." I also want to seek Him in His word remembering, "My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you...then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul." The year that Jaybird was five, it took my 5 months to decide what to do about school for the next year. Five s-l-o-w months. After that long, I wasn't even sure what "a peace" would feel like. So I just "commited my work to the Lord and my plans were established" (Proverbs 16:3) In other words, when the time came, I had to do what I thought was best and move forward.

Notice in the paragraph above I used the verb "want" a lot. I so want to do that which I find myself so often not doing. So I will leave another parenting decision-making process with the attempt to listen...and obey....listen...and obey. Hopefully God will take my feeble attempt (or filthy rags, as he calls it) to be obedient and be glorified. And I am certain that He will continue to sanctify me and not leave me as I was before. With each major decision, I am more in awe of His power, and less impressed with my own.

Registering decisions

It's school registration time. Time to evaluate and pray. For a day or two I considered bailing out of this crazy way of life called home schooling. But after just a little prayer, God has made it quite clear that we are on the path He wants for our family right now.

I have been reminded of a few things during this process:
-When we walk with Christ, big decisions can not be based on comfort level. The priority has to be His glory- listening and following.
-On that note, reason is only one tool for seeking answers. I think reason and feelings are a good starting point- but we miss out on so much if we stop there. God's will for us can appear irrational.
-Things are not always black and white. I want them to be, though. Next year the boys will not go back to a private school education. But, they will take enrichment classes for a day and a half a week. I have found a "creative classical" enrichment program that uses the exact philosophy and most of the same curriculum that I have chosen. They will engage the children in hands-on, creative exercises and then send home assignments for me to enjoy with the children for the rest of the week. Lydie will continue with Mother's Morning Out 2 days a week. I am very excited!
-He never gives us more than we can handle. When we feel like we physically or emotionally can not go on- he provides as we seek Him. It helps to press on, evaluate, and seek Him over and over again.
-My children are not my own. I am not my own. Sometimes serving God is extremely difficult. But the rewards are magnificent.
"When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So, what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life."
Romans 6:20-22
So, here's to another year!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Southern weather is like southern women...our moods ebb and flow! We're unpredictable, adventurous creatures! March 1stMarch 10th

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My brother- What a guy!

Last weekend we were with family while Andy traveled to California for a work trip. I am left this week thinking about how thankful I am for my brother and his family. I feel so blessed to receive so much in my relationship with each person in their family. It is amazing and beyond what I could have imagined as a newlywed (or younger) to be a Mom with children, and sharing this adventure with my brother. We each have 3 children- all three born within a year of one another. Each of his kids are delightful and bright. He and his wife love the Lord and live passionate, fulfilling lives. It is a fun experience to be a part of.

My brother is an interactive, thoughtful uncle. Just this weekend he took Jaybird fishing, along with his own son. He held Lydie throughout shopping trips and dinners. It is entertaining to watch him fight for her affection and attention. I am amazed at how he takes the time to talk with and get to know each of my kids, in spite of the fact that all of his kids are still young, too.

I could have never imagined we would be raising our children together and it would be this wonderful. I am very proud of his wife, his children, and especially him! I don't want to forget the email he sent me last week. Not only are his words extremely meaningful and encouraging to me, but I was more touched that he took the time to express them to me. He could have just left these words as thoughts, but he told me. This short paragraph was used as fuel for several very weary days I had last week. What a gift he is to me!

"For some reason I was thinking about Jaybird last night and what a great kid he is. He is kind, loving, respectful and most of all he loves the Lord. What a great job you've done as parents. Oh yeah, your little ones are great, too. Anyway, God laid it on my heart to let you know. ___ has a boy scout catfish rodeo on Saturday from 8am to 1pm. If you want me take Jaybird and Toot I can. It is at the catfish ponds by the new Target in ____. I may ask Dad to go as well. Let me know. We love you,____"

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dr. Seuss Author Study Party

We embarked on something new this month. We invited our friends over for an author study. Our first author was Dr. Seuss because his birthday was on Monday. We had 11 friends come and join the fun! I encouraged the parents to drop off their kids- it was like a birthday party...except I was the teacher!
Here are the beautiful girls. Everyone colored Horton Hears a Who coloring sheets while we waited to begin.

And here are the vivacious boys. We began our day with fun biographical information about Dr. Seuss. We also found the places he lived on a map. The kids retained the information well...especially the fun facts. (Did you know that he read 4-5 books every week? that he is left-handed? that he never had children of his own?)

We had a Seuss-themed wacky cupcake and sang happy birthday.

The kids took home Cat-in-the-Hat hats to enjoy.

We looked at Fox on Socks and play a game I recreated called "Foxy, foxy, where's your socks?" The only materials needed are a box and a pair of socks. The same rules apply as with "Doggy, doggy, where's your bone?", only we changed the chant to, "Foxy, foxy, where's your socks? Somebody stole them from your box. Guess who? It might be you. Or it might be Horton that heard a Who." The game was a big hit and took longer than I imagined. Everyone wanted to be the "guesser" and the "stealer". Simple, free game materials
Then the kids divided into groups to read Dr. Seuss books. Not all of Dr. Seuss' books are for beginning readers. More advanced-level reading can be found in books like The King's Stilts and Daisy-Head Mayzie. The older children are sent to different areas of the house to alternate reading a page for one another. I stay with the non-readers and we read several silly favorites like There's a Wocket in My Pocket.

Next, I tell the kids we will think with numbers. We read Ten Apples Up on Top!. The text is simple, but even the second graders enjoyed it thanks to my goofy sound effects. When we are done, I tell the older kids to take a math trivia sheet that I created and work on it together in the kitchen. They have 10 challenging problems to solve. The kindergartners and preschoolers stay with me. We take ten paper apples and flashcards for the #s 1-10. We practice subtracting, adding, counting, finding a missing number, and spelling the words for the numbers.

Next, we gathered their papers to take home: a copy of the highlights from the biography, a picture of Dr. Seuss, recommended reading for later, their coloring sheets, the math sheet for the older kids, and a science project and put them together in their own folders.

I was going to read Bartholemew and the Ooblek and make gloop. We would have talked about solids, liquids and gases. But we ran out of time. So we played our Foxy, Foxy game again until the parents came.

It was a challenge to meet the levels of children ages 4-8, but I think it was done. I am not sure how the other children felt, but my kids really enjoyed learning with their friends. If time allows, I think I will make this a monthly tradition!

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!