Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Today is my wonderful Grandma's 90th birthday. A little bird tells me she will soon be online. Happy birthday Grandma! I love you!!!

How I Got Engaged Meme

Rebecca tagged me for a "how I got engaged" meme. Apparently you tell your engagement story and then tag three others to tell theirs. Well, here is the short version of mine:

When Billy and I began our long-distance courtship in March of 1999, it was with the express goal of finding out if God wanted us to marry or not. Neither one of us was interested in a casual relationship. To this day I’m not a fan of undefined relationships—It was always good to know where we stood and enabled us to be deep and honest with each other from the beginning.

We were an unlikely couple, coming from diametrically opposite backgrounds and 10 years apart in age, but the encouragement of godly friends and family gave us the courage to step out and begin our journey together.

If one word characterized our relationship, it would be questions. We asked each other hundreds, if not thousands, of questions as our friendship progressed. We wanted to leave no stone unturned. Unbeknown to the other, each of us had a list of “non-negotiables,” issues that would have caused us to break the courtship off immediately if we discovered that we weren’t in agreement. We believed strongly that we should be united in our most important beliefs about God, family, and life.

By October we had reached an impasse. There were no more questions to ask without moving to a more intimate level than we were comfortable with, as a couple not yet engaged. (Except, of course, the things we didn’t know to ask, the things we later actually had conflict about, like the right way to make a peanut butter sandwich!) Yet we knew the time wasn’t right for engagement either. We felt very frustrated. We sort of limped along in a melancholy state for a couple more months, when everything finally began to fall into place. We entered a 2-week period of intensively seeking God to make sure we heard clearly regarding His will. This is the short version, but let’s just say the God made it abundantly clear to both of us (independently of the other) that He wanted us to marry. How that would play out, though, I was not sure.

The day before he was scheduled to move 6 hours away (as opposed to the current 3), Billy came to visit my family. When he asked me if I wanted to go out to eat after church that night, I was immediately suspicious since we’d never been out without a chaperone before. (Yeah, we are old-fashioned.) On the way I kept asking, “What is going on?!” He said, “Well, I’m about to move a long way off. Don’t you think it would be nice to go out one time before I leave?”

There was one problem no one had thought of. Nothing is open late on Sunday evening in a small town. We drove all over the place looking for a decent open restaurant, and when it became clear that we weren’t going to find anything, we had to settle for Jack in the Box! Somehow proposing in Jack in the Box just didn’t seem quite right, so we drove back to the house and talked for a very long time parked in the driveway. Finally Billy proposed, and I (obviously) said yes!

He moved the next day and we only saw each other once after that, before our wedding three months later. One year after we met, we were married, and we’ve lived happily ever after! I have to say that the absolute assurance that God gave us to each other has carried us through some tough times that might have otherwise rocked our marriage. Even when we encounter challenges, we never, ever wonder if we made a mistake, because we know that no matter what, God put us together. We were in love when we got engaged, but that is not why we married. We married because God wanted us to. And that makes our love that much sweeter.

OK, that's it! Now I tag:

My sister Leah (cause she has the most unique story EVER)

Windy (just cause I'm curious)

Lindsey (cause I bet she has a good one)

Hey, ladies, I am really shy about tagging others, so I would love to hear your stories, but if you don't wish to participate that is fine too!

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Tea Party for Felicity

Felicity finally arrived! Elizabeth saved all summer for her American Girl doll. If you've ever looked at these sweet dolls, you know that they are not cheap, but they are also beautiful, high-quality heirlooms that will last for years. I think I was as excited as Elizabeth when the package arrived. We decided to have a tea party with Felicity.

It would have been nice to make tea cookies and sandwiches, but guess what, we settled for peanut butter crackers and raisins.

Sarah and Silas brought teddy bears. They look like they could eat all the food, don't they? My sister made the multicolored bear for Elizabeth years ago. He's has never had a name, although he (she?) has been played with many, many times. Sarah says his name is Big Boy. The other bear is known as Big Bear because he is the biggest bear in the house.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed the tea party, and it was just the relaxing break I needed too.

Bargain Tea Cups

A few weeks back, on a whim, the kids and I stopped by an old house turned antique shop. The door was locked and a card instructed "ring bell"...When the proprietess opened, the first words out of her mouth were, "Oh, my, you little ones remind me of my grandchildren!"

A quick peek in the door revealed that this was not a kid-friendly place for browsing--very fragile, high-end antiques, and very crowded--so I said, "We are looking for tea cups!"

When she learned that Elizabeth and I are planning a mother-daughter tea (sometime...), she bent over backward to scour her collection for us. She sold us all these cups for just $20, although the original prices ranged from $6 to $10. She really took a shine to the kids, and they were as good as gold, which didn' t hurt either. Such a nice lady. And such a bargain!

Show and Tell Friday hosted by Kelli.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fall Mantel

Here's my fall mantel.
It's the only thing in my house that's decorated for fall, but it makes me happy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Rocking my sweet one to sleep tonight reminded me of this wonderful old lullabye.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

By Eugene Field

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam---
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
'T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea---
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
And Nod.


I woke this morning to the news that Jewels is discontinuing her blog, Eyes of Wonder. I must say that Eyes of Wonder is hands down the most beautiful blog I've ever read, so I am a bit disappointed. On the other hand, I totally understand Jewels' concern with sharing pictures of her children online. That's something I've never been personally comfortable with, simply because my kids' pictures would then be accessible to virtually anyone, anywhere in the world. So I completely respect her decision. I will miss her sweet presence in the blogosphere though.

I finished reading the book of Numbers yesterday, so this morning for my Quiet Time I mulled over Psalm 16, one of my favorites. It's a key passage in Patricia St. John's wonderful children's novel Rainbow Garden. It's amazing to me how a story can bring a particular portion of scripture to life and cause you to remember it forever.

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy...(v.11)

Psalm 16 brought sweet memories and a fresh appreciation of God's love and care for us.

Today was errand day. It was different from most errand day in that it was mostly fun shopping, compared to the usual necessities-only shopping. I received a generous gift card for my birthday which I spent on desperately-needed maternity clothes. I was down to only 2 items that fit (sort of), so I am so happy to have a working wardrobe again.

I also bought some fall decorations for the mantle. I will try to share pictures tomorrow. It's simple, but considering I've only recently had any success with decorating, I'm pleased.

I stopped at Hobby Lobby because their scrapbook papers (which I use to make cards) are 50% off this week. I picked up a couple dollars worth and mostly just enjoyed browsing, especially their already-huge Christmas section! I hear people complain all the time that stores start selling Christmas items too early, but I adore Christmas and relish every bit of it. As soon as the weather cools the slightest bit, I am ready to start thinking about the holidays. Such fun.

This afternoon the kids and I did school together and I put up my new fall decorations. I spent some time with Billy, warmed up some leftover chili for supper (yay, no cooking!), and got everyone ready for bed. I rocked and sang Sarah to sleep because she seems to have come down with a sinus infection. Poor baby was feeling so poorly tonight. I treasure times like these when I can snuggle her to sleep. I miss those baby days, and I'm thankful that we'll soon have another one to love.

Now I need to finish the dishes and get myself ready for bed. It's been a good day, a fun, peaceful day. I hope each of you has had a wonderful day as well. Sweet dreams!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nature Journal

One thing I've wanted to be diligent about this year in our homeschool is having the kids keep a Charlotte Mason-style nature journal for nature study. I've planned to do this before, but it never worked well...Mainly because our notebooks were awkward to use. Sounds silly, I know, but the simplest things can make all the difference.

This year I bought NoteSketch books from Rainbow Resource, and they are working beautifully. My only mistake was that I didn't get one for Sarah. I didn't see any point in spending another $5 for a journal for a 2-year-old, but I should have. She wants to do everything the big kids do, with the same supplies. She kept confiscating their journals and trying to draw in them. I bought her a cheap notebook which will hopefully keep her happy for now.

Our yard is tiny but lush, with plenty of things to draw for awhile.

Clarice of Storybook Woods inspired me with her comment that she tries to lead by example in their homeschool. It's a simple but novel idea, at least to me! She mentioned that one way she does this is to keep a nature journal herself. So I got a sketchbook too. Although my attempts are awkward, I have to say that I haven't enjoyed anything this much in a very long time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hope Chest Pillowcases

Well, I'm a bit late joining Show and Tell Friday today. I just forgot. And I had other half-finished things languishing in my files that I posted earlier. So this will be a day for lots of posts!

I embroidered this set of pillowcases for my hope chest when I was 18. Shhhh, don't tell anyone they aren't ironed.

I think I've lost my touch. My embroidery doesn't look nearly this nice now. Maybe I just need more practice!

Show and Tell Friday hosted by Kelli.

Teaching Hymns

Our church has a blended service that’s light on hymns and heavy on rockin’ praise and worship. We love it! But I don’t want my kids to miss out on the richness of hymns either. I know a lot of people in similar circumstances complain because their kids are not learning hymns in church. Well, I have a novel alternative—I teach the kids hymns myself. Billy and I believe that we are to be the primary spiritual instructors for our children, and church should merely reinforce that. We love our praise and worship time at church, and we love our time of learning hymns at home!

You don’t have to be a great musician to sing hymns together. We just sing a capella. Little ones honestly do not care what you sound like, but the wonderful words are getting into their hearts and souls, and their little ears easily pick up the simple measured tune and rhythm. I’ve found that small children really love hymns, whether they have been previously exposed to them or not. If you don’t know hymns yourself, I’d encourage you to get a CD of classic hymns to play in your home. They are soothing, peaceful, and rich with the doctrines of Christianity.

Homeschool Preschool

School this year is going so much more smoothly than it did last year. It seems that although I’m a homeschool graduate myself, it’s taken me several years to get in a homeschool groove that fits our family well.

Silas is especially enjoying preschool. I learned a lot from Preschoolers and Peace this year. One of those things was the idea of Circle Time. When we have Circle Time, we are doing preschool, but everyone is included. Sarah (2) is catching bits of this and that, and Elizabeth is my helper. Silas is just having fun learning. They cannot wait each day for Circle Time, especially the little ones.

As I’ve mentioned before, Silas has not been exceptionally eager to learn preschool skills till the past few weeks. This coincided nicely with the start of our school year. He already knew some of his letters, but we’re going systematically through the alphabet, focusing on a letter a week. I got this idea from Tenniel at School@Home, one of the first homeschool blogs I ever read. I’m sure it’s not unique to her, but her simple and straightforward descriptions of exactly how they did their letter of the week definitely inspired me to follow a similar pattern.

During A week we read A books, made glitter A’s, practiced writing A’s, and learned an A hymn. In fact, my goal is to teach the kids a hymn for every letter of the alphabet. (More on that in the next post.) For B week, one of our favorite activities was the “B” book we made. Book starts with B, and we filled our B books with magazine pictures of things that started with B…bumblebees, bicycles, berries, boys, books, boats. What a lot of messy cutting and pasting fun!

This is C week. Monday we talked about the letter C, and then as a special treat we walked to the old-fashioned ice cream parlor around the corner and the kids each got a candy stick. (Candy starts with C, get it?) They have the old-time display of many-flavored candies for just 15 cents. That was a cheap and fun reinforcement.

How many times have I used the word fun in this post? A bunch I think. I have always known God called me to homeschool my children, but I have never been one of those moms that just loves and adores the teaching part of homeschooling. Until this year. While we have our challenges, it’s now a joy!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Happy News and an Update

Well, I’ll ease back into this blogging thing with our happy news. It looks like another sweet little person will join our family this spring. We are excited, but said sweet little person has sure been making life miserable for me the past couple months! Hence the lousy blogging. I just have to thank those of you who have stuck around in spite of unsubstantial to nonexistent posting…I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, but most of the past weeks have been spent on the couch. The spirit is nesting, but the body is really rebellious!

I still have a lot of catching up to do, so I don’t plan to post as often as I was, at least until I get a handle on my sadly neglected house and family. However, I have a few partly finished posts and plenty of ideas, so I will be around.

If you have been waiting to hear from me, please be patient. Or I should say thank you for being so patient. I have a few things to put in the mail and some emails to write which should hopefully be out in the next day or so. I am behind on absolutely everything.

As for other news from here, there isn’t a lot going on. The weather has finally cooled to something like bearable (under 90). I have always loved fall (or as I say we have here, “fall”), but since living in wickedly hot climates, it’s that much more welcome. In spite of feeling so poorly, I’ve had the urge to cook and bake. This afternoon the kids and I made a peach crumble from summer peaches in the freezer, and also a banana pudding. Billy’s family seems to have a tradition of making multiple (not just more that one, but many, many) dishes, including dessert, and why not—his mother is truly the best cook I know. So I justify the baking splurge with the excuse of family tradition. Or “fall”. Or nesting. Or something. Perhaps I don’t really need a good excuse to make multiple desserts.

I’m off to fix supper…Maybe I’ll be able to muster a decent post tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mini Sabbatical

It feels like much longer than just since Friday that I've posted. I'm needing to take a mini sabbatical. Hopefully back in a few days.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Come Little Leaves

Growing up in our little homeschool, we sometimes sang songs from a children's songbook called Sing Through the Seasons. Come Little Leaves was one of the fall songs we sang. Now that "fall" is approaching (here we apparently just have "fall," not fall) it seemed like a good time to share it.

Come, little leaves,
Said the wind one day;
Come to the meadows
With me and play.
Put on your dresses
Of red and gold;
For summer is past,
And the days grow cold.

Soon as the leaves
Heard the wind's loud call,
Down they came fluttering,
One and all.
Over the meadows
They danced and flew,
All singing the glad
Little songs they knew.

Dancing and flying,
The leaves went along,
Til Winter called them
To end their sweet song.
Soon, fast asleep
In their earthy beds,
The snow lay a coverlet
O'er their heads.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You've Gotta Read This

OK, just popping in for a sec before I get back to school with the kids and a totally unexpected link trail has me sniffling all over the keyboard. Go read the new blog Cliff's Lost and Found. His profile says:

A truly worthless human being that found out he was important enough for someone to care about.


*sniffle sniffle*

Hat tip: Mommylife

Got Fire Ants?

If you do, you know they are a colossal pain! They're especially annoying when you have little ones who want to play outside...Not fun.

This is the best fire ant killer I know of. Best of all, it's completely non-toxic. You either sprinkle it as a powder or mix with water to create a spray. Fire ants, begone!

You can order it from Stevens Tractor: 1-800-333-9143

Link Love

Since I can' t seem to get it together enough for a real post, here are a few links for your reading pleasure.

The ladies at Make Mine Pink are hosting a virtual tea party and there is still time this week to join in! I honestly don't know if I will be able to participate (although I really want to), but it is fun and uplifting to visit everyone else's tea parties. There are some great giveaways going on too!

My dear friend Erica posts wonderful ideas to make your house cheery. So practical, so inspiring!

Finally, go check out The Joy Box, where there is a great series going on about grace in mothering. Again, both concrete and inspirational encouragement.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Which I Successfully Cook a Pork Tenderloin

I got a pork tenderloin the other day with the intention of cooking it Sunday in the crock pot. Billy informed me that that would be a good way to ruin it and it should be cooked on the grill. Since he's a much better cook than I, I took his advice! I figured everything else out all by myself though. :)

I mixed up a rub/marinade with a few tablespoones of olive oil, about 2T minced garlic, a t. dried rosemary, a t. dried thyme, some pepper and a generous shake of Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. Rubbed it all over the meat. The kids told me it would be great because I was doing it just like Rachael Ray. Wrapped it in tinfoil and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.

Then I cooked it on the grill (low temp--about 350) for a couple hours. Oh. My. SOOOOO good! I was pretty pleased with myself because cooking meat is my waterloo. We didn't eat meat very often when I was growing up, and when we did have it it was usually in the form of hamburger or stew meat. I never really learned how to cook meat, something that's good to know since I married a confirmed carnivore.

Yes, it was good. The meat took the flavors really well, and the garlic and rosemary especially gave it a great taste.

Did I mention that it was really good?

Folks, I think we have a winner.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Just One More Thing!

Whew, a week of not blogging and I have had serious withdrawals! Must step away from the computer!!!

But I have a question. Christmas is coming before we know it, believe it or not. What are your favorite ideas for gifts, especially homemade gifts? I have a few things swirling around in my brain, but I know you all are such creative people, you will have wonderful thoughts!



To my little handful of readers for being MIA lately. Between school and other things, the week piled up and I just had no extra time for blogging. Or much of anything else for that matter.

A brief upate:

Homeschool is going well. It's nice to be in more of a routine. I look forward to getting in even more of a groove. One day this week, I'll share our curriculum list for this year. I continue to be very pleased with the choices we've made. The kids are enjoying it for the most part, which makes me very happy as well.

We started MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) this week at church, something I've wanted to be involved in for many years. What a joy! It was so wonderful to have time to get to know other moms and just have fellowship. That's something I get very rarely.

Billy began his new Bible Study class for college and career age people (18 to 20-something), and including the discussion group leaders, we had 35! We are pretty excited, considering the old class for that age group had dwindled to 2 or 3 people. We're looking forward to seeing what God is going to do through that.

So...Not very profound...Not very articulate...But those are a few things that have been happening here.

More consistent posting coming up, I hope!

On Grocery Shopping Frugally...

Or, I Don't Have it All Figured Out!

Erica asked the following questions in the comments below:

I saw somewhere that you shop once a month??!!? I have to know how this works and what your list looks like! Maybe you could do a new frugal post on once a month shopping with a list example. Also, how do you keep fresh things in the house? Do you shop the local farmer's market?

To be honest, Erica, shopping monthly is not working that well at this point. It began because we lived far from town (at first) and then as I had more kids, Billy really didn't want me trying to go alone, even when we were closer. So I'd wait to go when he was able to go with me, which turned out to be roughly once a month. He is not a fan of Wal-Mart! But it was a lifesaver to have him come with me when they were all so small.

The problem of fresh food is exactly where the system broke down. We planned to go in every now and then just for produce, but...I would inevitably run out of eggs or some other staple, and we would always end up picking up this or that and it just adds up, I guess. While we have never been at all extravagant in our grocery shopping, monthly shopping has turned out to not be the most frugal way to go, as best I can tell.

It would probably work better if I had a better plan. My mom always went twice monthly and she had a detailed list and a cash envelope system, which enabled her to shop very frugally. Also, she blocked out the entire day for grocery shopping, so she was able to take her time, compare prices, and write everything down in her little grocery notebook. I'm finding that it really takes much more time to shop frugally than just to run in and grab things off the shelf. this system also enabled her to budget grocery money so that she could save up what was leftover and use it at the whole foods co-op or to order hormone-free cheese or to get berries at the local u-pick or whatever.

Anyway, I am hoping to move toward something similar. Recently I made a month's worth of menus broken down by week, and my new plan is to shop and run errands weekly since the kids are bigger and we are now just minutes from the store. Since it was nearly a month since I had been, I was out of a lot of things and I see that it will take a few weeks of juggling before I get it down to an art, but I think weekly shopping according to a menu plan will be more frugal than monthly shopping--at least the way we have been doing it. I find that when I'm using a menu and shopping each week, I am more aware of our food consumption and we waste less also.

I read somewhere that the average American family throws away half the groceries they buy (whether by leaving food on plates, not eating leftovers, just letting things spoil, whatever). That was so horrifying to me. It made me much more aware of how to cut down on the amount of food that is thrown away. One of the biggest things was to just give the kids tiny portions. They can always ask for more, but often I find that they do not eat that much.

What that has to do with monthly shopping, I am not sure. I should re-title this, A Long Answer to a Short Question! I guess I said all that to say that I really do not have it totally figured out. We've been in constant transition, so I am still finding my way and figuring out the most frugal way to shop for our family.

Thanks for asking!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

School Days

School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days

Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic

Dance to the tune of a hickory stick
You were my queen in calico

I was your bashful barefoot beau

You wrote on my slate
"I love you so,"
When we were a couple of kids.

My mom used to sing this little song to us in our homeschool when we were small, along with other early twentieth-century tunes she learned from her mom (who is turning 90 this month). In doing a little research, I see that it was written in 1907, and actually we didn't have the words quite right. But I suppose any old song has its variations...

We began school today, the day after Labor Day, as was traditional till recent years. I say started. We have schooled all summer, but this is the official beginning of our new school year. Elizabeth is in second grade and Silas is in pre-K. They are both excited, but Silas is beside himself with delight. He has been reluctant to want to learn his letters, so I have not pushed him. Actually, I think it's just been in recent years that it's become popular for little ones to learn at the earliest possible age, as some supposed indicator of superior intelligence. I'm not necessarily a subscriber to deliberately delaying a child's education, but I do think now that they should display certain indicators of readiness. I pushed Elizabeth pretty hard in preschool because I wanted her to be "advanced" and guess what, she learned when she was ready. Furthermore, by the time she was ready, she was somewhat burned out because we had already been working on it for so many years (with little success and much frustration). It's a joy to see Silas ready to learn and so filled with anticipation. He already knows many basic preschool skills, but his big goal is to learn to write. He says when he can write all his letters, "I will write all the time!" He spent a very long time this morning writing the letter A in different colors all over his paper. It is such fun to see him having so much fun.

A preschool teacher reminded me recently that preschool should be fun and not to stress too much about how fast they are learning. "Remember," she said, "They have only been alive for four years!"

Elizabeth is happy to be in second grade, especially because many of her friends have been in second grade for a whole month now, an eternity to a six-year-old. We are following the same direction we went in for first grade, following many recommmendations and principles of The Well-Trained Mind with Charlotte Mason elements thrown in. I find that this is a good fit for our family, although all-in-all we are pretty eclectic. It is nice to have the flexibility of a classical curriculum rather than a boxed one, yet I also appreciate having some kind of road map to follow.

Like the latter part of the past school year, we are following a somewhat non-traditional routine and doing most of her school after lunch while the little people are napping. We get done in half the time because we don't have the interruptions. Preschool takes place during the morning hours while the little ones are fresh. Again, I love the flexibility of homeschooling and how we can tailor it to fit our own needs and the needs of our family.

I spent a good while yesterday finishing my planning and typing schedules, routines, menus, chore charts, and other organizational tools to use as flexible guidelines. Although I got a little off-track today, the day as a whole has gone smoothly.

Which reminds me, E is doing her free reading and now it's time for me to go help her with math. Sorry for the ramble. I'm just so happy to be off to a good start. I'll post a bit more through the week as I have time.