Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: Harbingers Cycle One: Invitation

Four people with special powers, not really super powers, are brought together by fate to help defend others against supernatural evil.  The Professor relies entirely on logic to make decisions and deductions.  Andi, his assistant, can see patterns that others miss.  Brenda, a tattoo artist, occasionally sees pictures of events before they happen.  And Tank, a college football player, has the ability sometimes to heal others; he is also the only Christian on this "team."  Using their combined gifts, they are able to keep evil forces from hurting some defenseless people.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book since I've never read anything by these authors, and actually I've only heard of Frank Peretti.  In the introduction, they tell the rules of this book:  each author would write one short story in this book (as opposed to all of them writing together), and he would write it from the point of view of one of the characters.  It's supposed to work like a tv series, and it does.  Each novella is a different episode that builds on the ones before it.

I enjoyed each of the stories, even though they were a little crazy and strange.  Obviously, occult supernatural forces are at work in the stories -- as they are in real life.  But only Tank can see the obvious, that what they experience is the battle between good and evil, between God and Satan.  I was disappointed that none of the other characters became Christians in the book, but maybe they will in a future one.  Given the opportunity, I would probably read more in this series and will probably check out some other books by these authors.

I want to thank Bethany House Publishers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection

We enjoy the Berenstain Bears in our family, and I appreciate having five stories combined into one volume, a hardback book which should last longer.  Since we did not enjoy the stories equally, I thought I would treat each one separately.
  1. The Perfect Fishing Spot.  I did not like this story.  After Mama Bear tells Papa Bear that he should just buy some fish for their supper, he goes on a bumbling trip around the countryside trying to find somewhere to catch some fish.  He keeps getting into troubles and scrapes until he finally follows Mama's advice and just buys some fish.  The moral of the story seems to be that husbands should just do what their wives tell them to.  In our world where man are made fun of and treated like idiots in movies and on tv, we don't need to add to this disrespect by reading such stories to our children.
  2. Reap the Harvest.  Brother and Sister don't know what to do with their summer until they see Farmer Ben's "Help Wanted" sign.  He agrees to hire them but will only pay them at the end of the summer via his cash crop.  He won't know how much he earns, and therefore how much he can pay them, until the corn is harvested.  The cubs work hard all summer and earn a nice paycheck at the end.  They learn about hard work and how rewards often don't come until it's all over.
  3. Faithful Friends.  Sister has a disagreement with one of her friends because she's been spending a lot of time with a different friend.  Brother shows Sister how maybe her friend is jealous because she thinks Sister has forgotten her, and he encourages her to do things with all of her friends.  The girls make up and appreciate their friendship even more.
  4. Kindness Counts.  Brother Bear loves putting together model airplanes, and a younger cub would like to help him.  Brother remembers how Papa let him help when he didn't know how, so he lets this other cub help.  Brother learns that what goes around often comes around, especially with kindness.
  5. God Made You Special.  This story is my favorite.  The Bear family has friends come visit, and they bring a cub who doesn't act like the other cubs.  It seems like he has Down's syndrome or something similar.  Mama Bear explains to Sister that God made everyone special, even people who are different.  The other mother bear adds that maybe God uses these people to teach us something.
As you can see, we enjoyed four of the five tales in this book.  I plan to keep it and read them often, just omitting the first one.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What I've Enjoyed This Week: Memory Masters! and Two Finished Blankets

Sarah Beth and Daniel did it!  They passed all four of their testings for Memory Masters!  I'm so proud of them!  I just wish I had taken a picture of them.  :(

I also finished these two blankets.  The purple one I actually finished last month except for weaving in the ends.  I enjoyed working on the blue one:  it was a new pattern which I found intriguing.  It started in one corner and each row increased stitches until it was time to start decreasing stitches, ending up in the opposite corner.  It also did not require too much mental energy which was good because I don't have much of that right now with all of the prep work for Memory Masters.  :)  The color didn't show up very well, but it's a very light blue:  not baby blue, more of a sky blue.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed:
  • My birthday was last Friday, and we had a nice, quiet day at home.  Then we went out for supper which was lovely since I didn't have to prepare or clean up after a meal.  :)  And I had a delicious store-bought cake!
  • Sarah Beth made the swim team!  Daniel decided he wasn't interested.
  • A few days off school.  Several of the children have been sick with colds, but they're getting better.  And we've all enjoyed a break!
  • Getting caught up on some neglected chores since we didn't have school.  Well, doing the chores wasn't much fun, but knowing that they're done feels pretty good!
I'm not sure why, but we don't have soccer games this weekend.  We don't really have anything planned, so we should have a nice, quiet weekend.  

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why You are the Perfect Mother for Your Children, Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post about how you are the perfect mother for your children.  How can I be so sure about this?  God gave my children to me and  your children to you, and He does not make mistakes.

Of course, this fact is all well and good as long as you and your child are similar, when you both love to read or when neither of you enjoys going to parties.  But what happens when you are different?

What if your child craves being around people and you crave time alone?  What if your child doesn't want to nurse as long you had planned?  What if you would just prefer to do all the chores yourself because it's easier than taking the time and effort to teach your children?  What if you are just different?  Did God make a mistake then?  Of course not!  God doesn't make mistakes.  Should we continue in our own personalities and temperaments and let things end up however they will?  No!

God can use our differences to help us grow.  And these examples come straight from my relationships with my children, so I can speak to them directly.  I hope that you can extrapolate from my experiences to you and your children.

I have a child who loves to be around people.  Her love language is quality time, and she needs attention from me.  However, I crave time alone.  As a matter of fact, that's what I asked for for Christmas.  :)  What are we to do?  Well, I look for ways to spend time with her that I enjoy as well, so we end up reading lots of books.  I also make a point to listen to her and speak with her when she's trying to carry on a conversation with me.  I've had to change and to give up some of what I want in order to nurture her.  I'm learning to make sacrifices, and that's a good thing.  Didn't God the Father give the ultimate sacrifice when He sent Jesus to die on the cross?  Isn't it a good thing for me to emulate the Son?  So I work on it.  :)

As for the baby weaning herself before I was ready, well, I had to learn to be flexible.  I had things all planned out for how long I would nurse her, when I would wean her, and how long I would take.  But my child decided one morning that she was done with me; she just wanted a bottle.  I had to learn to roll with the punches, so to speak, and that's also an excellent thing to know.

I have to be honest.  Most of the time, I prefer to do the household chores myself.  It's a little bit of selfishness, a little bit of efficiency, and a little bit of laziness.  I can do things better and quicker than my children can, so it's just easier for me to do it all.  But if I don't teach them how to do things themselves, they will have a harder time when they move out and have their own places.  I need to teach them now how to do things, how to work hard, so they will be better prepared for life when they leave my house.

Am I a perfect mother?  Of course not!  But I am a work in progress, and I pray that God will continue to use me to teach my children more about Him -- as He uses them to teach me more about Him.

How are you different from your child(ren)?  How have you handled it?

Friday, April 14, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: Memory Masters, a Medal, My Birthday, and First Steps

First of all, I don't want to forget to mention that it's Good Friday, the day that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died for our sins.  What a wonderful gift that He gave us that day, and I don't ever want to forget it.  The only thing that is better than Him dying on the cross was that He rose from the grave three days later.  Hallelujah!

Sarah Beth, Daniel and I have been busy the last few weeks with getting ready for and testing for their Memory Masters.  We started last weekend with my testing both of them, and they did wonderfully.  Sarah Beth forgot the name of the Netherlands, and Daniel got Cambodia and Thailand mixed up.  Those kinds of things are what they're being tested on.   Daniel had his second testing with another adult yesterday, and he did great.  He just forgot one out of a list of twenty-seven indefinite pronouns (all, another, any, some, several, etc.).  Sarah Beth has her second testing this afternoon.  Then they have another testing with a CC tutor on Monday, and an abbreviated testing with our director on Wednesday.

Remember that 5K I ran a couple of weeks ago?  I received an interesting email last Saturday:  it turns out that I won my age division.  Can you believe it?  I certainly couldn't!  Honestly, I'm such a slow jogger that I must have been the only one in my age group who ran; there were lots of people who walked the whole thing.

Lastly, today is my birthday!  My children kept asking me what I wanted, and I just couldn't think of anything.  But I kept pondering and pondering, and it finally came to me:  I want someone else to do my job for me on my birthday.  I want someone else to get up early with the children.  I want someone else to make sure the dishes are put in the dishwasher and the table wiped off.  I want someone else to change any diapers that need to be changed and make sure the baby is fed.  I want a day off from my responsibilities.  :)  There's the incentive I need to keep training my children, so that one day I will get my birthday wish -- and hopefully, in the not-too-distant future.  :)

Hannah gave me a lovely birthday gift a day early:  she took her first steps!

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • Our last day of CC.  It's bittersweet, really, because we'll miss our friends, but it will be nice to stay home instead of heading off to class once a week.
  • Swim clinic.  Daniel wanted to attend the swim clinic which the swim team puts on before try-outs, so I took him.  And then Sarah Beth decided she wanted to do it, too.  They're having a great time and learning better how to swim.
  • Rain.  We had a couple of rainy days which was wonderful since it's been so dry lately.
  • No soccer practice.  Since it's Easter weekend and the kids don't have soccer games, their coaches cancelled practice all week.  Hooray!  (But don't tell my children I said that.  :)
  • A mixed-up date.  We thought something important was next Saturday, but it's actually the Saturday after that.  So we thought we were going to miss a couple of things, but now we're not!
This afternoon, Sarah Beth has her second Memory Master testing, and we're going out to eat to celebrate my birthday!  Tomorrow, I'm taking Rachel and Mary to an Easter egg hunt which should be easy-peasy since I will only have two children!  Then a relatively quiet weekend, celebrating Resurrection Day.

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why You are the Perfect Mother for Your Children

I've been thinking about this post for a couple of months now, and I was finally inspired to write it after I read (un)Natural Mom by Hettie Brittz.  We mothers tend to compare ourselves to other mothers, wondering why we can't do the wonderful things they do.  Why can't we throw such memory-making birthday parties?  Why don't we enjoy co-sleeping?

I will tell you why:  God made us all differently, and He gave our children to us on purpose.  He uses our gifts and our weaknesses to develop our children.  He can also use our natural tendencies to protect our children.  Brittz has a great story in her book about why it was a wonderful thing that her children sleep independently in their own rooms.  But she also has a great reason why other mothers would be better having their children sleep with them.  God knows these things when He gives us our children and the circumstances in which we raise them.

Do you enjoy doing crafts with your children?  I don't.  But I do love to read to my children.  While your children develop their artistic sides, my children develop a love of books.  Both are wonderful!  Neither are bad.

Do you struggle with getting places on time?  Maybe you're more flexible or more hopeful than I am; I'm pretty regimented.  God can use both aspects in our children's lives, as yours learn flexibility and mine learn discipline.  Again, both are great things to know, and neither are bad.  (My husband would probably say that I need to learn some flexibility.  :)

Please, keep these things in mind as you look at other mothers and what they do with their children.  As long as you are doing your best, God will use that to turn your children into the people He wants them to be.

But -- what if your natural temperament works against your child?  What if you crave time alone, and God gave you a child whose love language is quality time?  What if your personality tells you just to do it all yourself because it's too much trouble to teach your children how to do it?

That is a post for next week.  :)

Friday, April 7, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: An Unexpected Visit

Doesn't this look like Hannah?  But it's Mary!

We are working really hard this month finishing up with our CC work.  Next week is our last campus day, our day to meet, and we've got a lot to do.  Sarah Beth needs to finish her last research paper for her Essentials class, and both she and Daniel are working hard to attain the elusive Memory Master title.  So we are spending as much time as possible at home, getting these things done.  I have to admit that I look forward to being done with all of this!  I can't seem to think about much beyond the next two weeks, but it will be worth it when it's all done!

I may not have much down this week, but I have been busy!  :)  Here are a few things I've enjoyed this week:
  • Yesterday, some friends dropped by unexpectedly, and it was wonderful reconnecting with them!
  • Podcasts.  Tracey had an interesting post about listening to podcasts, and I thought that sounded like a great idea -- but I wasn't sure when I would find the time.  Finally, it occurred to me that after lunch when the kids go outside to play, the house is relatively quiet so I can listen to something.  And I usually use that time to clean up after lunch (and maybe breakfast) along with doing any prep work for supper that I can.  It's a wonderful time, and I'm so glad that Tracey suggested it!
  • Music.  When I remember, I stream the Amazon music station with the classical focus.  We get to hear all kinds of classical music, and it continues to play until I turn it off -- which doesn't happen with CDs.  :)  My children don't enjoy it as much as I do; when they have their own homes, they can do whatever they want!
  • While I haven't exactly enjoyed going over CC memory work over and over and over again, I have enjoyed watching Sarah Beth and Daniel get more comfortable with it, as the answers come more easily.
I start the testing process this afternoon with Daniel, and tomorrow I will start with Sarah Beth.  We also have three soccer games in the morning.  

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

March Reading and Review of Goals

I didn't think I had read much this month until I looked at this list.  I felt like I got bogged down in the biography about Drake and just couldn't get anything else read until I finally finished it.  But I didn't do too badly.  :)

Here's what I read:
  • Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith.  This fictionalized  account of Sarah's life is well-written, and I really enjoyed it. Why did she do what she did?  How did she feel about giving Hagar to Abraham?  Of course, we don't know, but this author did a great job supposing!
  • Cherish by Gary Thomas.  You can read my review of this excellent book here.
  • Sir Frances Drake by John Sugden.  After listening to Under Drake's Flag, I was intrigued by Drake and decided to read a biography.  I slogged my way through this one; it was academic and included many trivial details.  However, I did learn a lot about the New World, Spain, Portugal, and England during the late 1500s, and I did appreciate that.
  • The King's Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight.  This book continues the story of Kyrin and Jace as they try to rescue the King's scrolls and the man keeping them before the evil Emperor gets there first.  This book has dragons which was a fun addition, and it kept my treadmill time interesting and feeling shorter than it really was.  :)
  • Fly Away by Lynn Austin.  Mike Dolan and Wilhemina Brewster are complete opposites.  He loves to have fun, and she is very serious.  She's a Christian, and he is not.  But the Lord puts him on her heart, so she tries to find a way to witness to him.  Meanwhile, Mike struggles to help Wilhemina have fun and enjoy life, as he knows the end of his is coming via terminal cancer.  Such a good book, I'm never disappointed by this author!
  • (un)Natural Mom:  Why You are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids by Hettie Brittz.  God places our children with us because we are the perfect mothers for them.  He knows our strengths and weaknesses and pairs them with our children to give them what they need.  No, we don't do things perfectly, but He knows this, too, and can use our mistakes to help our children grow as they should.  None of us does everything that we think every other mother does well.  I don't do crafts with my children, and this book helps me not feel guilty about that.  There are mothers who do lots of crafts with their children, and that's great!  God uses what we have.  There's a neat assessment you can do online (free!) to tell you what kind of mother you are.  I'm a Boxwood, and that chapter described me to a tee.  
We had a busy month in March!  My mother was here for a week, John took the oldest four children camping, and we had at least three soccer games every Saturday along with practice almost every evening.  It makes me tired just thinking about it!  :)  Here's how I did with my yearly goals:
  • I want to run two 5Ks.  I ran the first one in March, so one down, one to go!
  • Fun School Days.  We were supposed to celebrate pi Day, but my mother came into town that day, and we were too excited to see her to celebrate.  :)
  • Hospitality:  having other mothers and children over for games and such.  We were just too busy.
  • Hospitality:  we also used to have families over for supper one night each month, and we need to get back into doing this again, too.  We were too busy this month -- and probably will be again next month.
  • Date night.  It wasn't really date night, but we did go out by ourselves one morning to shoot.
  • Get comfortable enough with my handgun to go shoot by myself.  Getting there.
April looks to be busy, also, as Sarah Beth, Daniel, and I will be spending every spare minute reviewing their CC for memory masters.  Basically, they will have to recite every piece of information they've learned all year at one time, four times.  There are seven subjects and 24 weeks, so you can do the math to see how impressive this feat is!  My goals are:
  • Review and test for Memory Masters.
  • Increase my speed on the treadmill to work toward running my next 5K a little more quickly.
  • Get as much school as possible done, so our summer break can get here faster!  :)
  • Fun School Day.  If I can get my act together, maybe we'll celebrate Jelly Bean Day on the 22nd.  
What have you read lately?  How are you doing with your goals?

Monday, April 3, 2017

How to Homeschool With Five Children, Part 2 -- How to Keep the Little Ones Entertained

I want to start off by saying that I don't feel like an expert in homeschooling.  While this is our sixth year, I certainly don't feel like I have it all together, that I know exactly what we're doing each and every day.  But I do have some experience, and I want to share what I've learned in the hopes that it may help you.

We started homeschooling when Sarah Beth was in kindergarten and I was pregnant with Mary.  So I've always had little ones to deal with while doing school.  I remember working with Sarah Beth (5) while Daniel (3) and Rachel (1) sat with us at the kitchen table working puzzles or coloring.  That was so long ago that I don't remember much about Daniel; he must have sat there patiently during our hour or so of school.  Rachel, however, would get bored, and she would want to get down and do her own thing.  She was not to be trusted loose in the house, though, so I would put her in her bed with some books and toys, and she would be happy long enough for us to finish school.  Whew!

Mary, however, was a different story.  When she was almost a year old and we were starting our second year of homeschooling, this time including Daniel since we had started CC, I remember telling my mother that I wanted to pull my hair out because Mary was such a distraction to our schooling.  If I held her, she pulled the books off the table.  If I put her down, she did stay with us, but again, she pulled the books off the table.  Although my mother did not homeschool us, she had a great solution, one that I tell everyone who asks, one that I plan to use with Hannah starting very soon.  :)

Here are some ways to keep your younger child(ren) occupied while doing school:
  1. Keep it simple.  See my post last week about keeping school short enough not to exasperate your younger children.
  2. Have lots of toys, games, etc. to keep them entertained at the table.   You can see in the picture above that I have two shelves full of things they can do at the table.  I also allow them to bring books to the table and other things, as long as it's not too distracting to those who are actually doing school.
  3. Have older children play with the younger ones.  Sometimes, Rachel will get done with her school before I've finished with Sarah Beth and Daniel, and I will have her play with Hannah.  Sometimes, Mary helps, too, even though she's not technically doing school yet -- other than CC.
  4. When all else fails, here is my best piece of advice for those of you who are homeschooling with little ones underfoot:  make use of your pack-n-play.  Set it up, leave it set up, and keep some toys in it that are only for playing with during school.  My mother gave me this piece of advice, and it worked wonderfully.  The only reason I'm not doing this with Hannah right now is that she still sleeps in her pack-n-play.  Well, that and the fact that she is still relatively happy in her exersaucer.  
I must admit that it's really nice that Mary is old enough to be trustworthy for a little while by herself.  When she's finally had enough, I let her go upstairs to play.

How do you keep your little ones happy, occupied, and out of trouble while you homeschool?  Since I still have a little one, I'm still looking for suggestions!

Do you have any other questions for me about homeschooling?

Friday, March 31, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: Four Soccer Games and a 5K

I haven't posted a picture of this cutie in a while, so here you go!  She's almost fourteen months old, can you believe it?

Last Saturday was almost crazy-busy, but we did it!  I ran the 5K, all of it!  After a quick shower, we started on our four soccer games which took the whole day.  We all got a little too much sun except Rachel with whom we are always careful, and we were exhausted when the evening rolled around.  But it was a good day for everyone.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • the finish line of the 5K!
  • sleeping late.  As a reward for running the 5K, I took the week off from jogging which let me sleep late.  :)
  • a quiet week at home except for soccer practice.
  • a day off from school.  Yesterday, Sarah Beth and Rachel weren't feeling well, so we took the day off from school.
  • reading (un)Natural Mom by Hettie Brittz.  When I read the chapter about the Boxwood Mother, I felt like the author had followed me around for a week taking notes before she wrote it.  :)  I'll tell you more about this book next week in my monthly review of the books that I've read.
  • tutoring Essentials on Wednesday.  Our tutor was not there for CC this week, so I was asked to step in to tutor the afternoon class for the older students which includes writing instruction, parsing sentences, and a little bit of math.  It was the first time I've done this, but I look forward to tutoring the whole class next year!
Tomorrow we have more soccer games, but they're early -- which is good and bad.  We'll get them over with early (and be less likely to burn!), but we have to get out of the door early.  Other than that, we've got a quiet weekend at home which will be lovely.

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How to Homeschool with Five Children -- No More, No Less

Before I get started, I want to be clear that I do not feel like a homeschool expert.  Yes, I started homeschooling Sarah Beth six years ago, but she's only in the fifth grade now.  There are many people with tons more experience.  However, I am the most experienced homeschooling mother in our CC group; the other families either have younger children or have recently started homeschooling, and they ask my opinions sometimes.

I thought it might be helpful to write about what we do and why, in case you need a few ideas or some encouragement.
  1. Be as quick as possible.  Did you gasp when you read that?  :)  With a baby, however, I've got to get school done as quickly as possible or she explodes.  I absolutely cannot teach school while holding Hannah (if you've tried teaching while holding a baby, you understand), and I don't like her wandering around without supervision.  Right now, I put her in the exersaucer for school time, and if I keep us on track, we finish about when she's ready to get out.  Also, Rachel (7) and Mary (5) can't take too much school, and I'll be honest, I can't either.  :)
  2. Keep it simple.  I'll be honest with you, we don't do projects very often -- like never.  Often they're too messy especially with four children wanting to participate, and they always take more time than I feel like I have.  
  3. Do as much as possible with all the children.  Things like science, history, and geography can be done with all children no matter how old they are.  That's one of the many reasons I love Classical Conversations; we can do all of these subjects together as a family which means less prep work and time.  
  4. Don't waste time.  I feel like I'm on a time crunch, and we need to get done as much as possible in as little time as possible.  So we don't do worksheets.  I have to admit that when I heard a CC trainer say this, too, I felt justified and not alone anymore.  :)  When I extrapolate science and history, I just read excerpts from books to my children.  They don't fill in blanks on worksheets or write papers on it.  (Remember, my children are still fairly young.)  The big thing is that they memorize their CC grammar, and if they get that, I'm good.  They'll get explanations, etc., later in their schooling.
The biggest question I get, however, is how I keep the younger ones occupied while I teach the older ones.  I'll answer that question next week.  :)

What tips do you have for homeschooling five (or more -- or fewer) children?

Friday, March 24, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: My Mother

My mother came into town last week, and we had so much fun running around town with her.  If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that my mother keeps us busier than we're used to while she is here.  But we enjoy it, and we get a lot done.  Most importantly, we love spending the time with her.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • Haircuts.  It's just easier to take all of my children to get haircuts at the same time, especially if I have a couple of extra hands to help deal with Hannah.  We took care of this chore while my mother was here.
  • A clean garage!  My mother can't seem to stand our dirty, messy garage, so she usually (but not always) ropes the children into helping her clean it out.  Then she rewards them with a milkshake or something, and it's all good!
  • A clean car.  She also tackled my car, cleaning it out and getting it washed.  
  • An unexpected visit.  I received a surprise text Sunday evening from a friend we haven't seen in a while.  She wanted to know if we wanted to meet her and her children and go hiking Monday morning.  Of course!  We always enjoy spending time with friends!
  • New books.  I bought a couple of collections of abridged classic books at my Usborne Books party.  While I hoped that Daniel would read and enjoy them, I had no idea he would dive into them as quickly as he did.  He read Huckleberry Finn and then started Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I wasn't sure about these books when I bought them, but now I'm so happy I did!
  • I got a letter in the mail!  All of my children (except Hannah) have pen pals, so I've been a little jealous of their getting real, live mail.  But Wednesday it was my turn!
We did not enjoy taking my mother back to the airport.  :(  We even tried to think of some ways to keep her here, but it just wouldn't work.  However, we are a little bit, just a little bit, glad to get back to our relatively quiet routine.  :)

Tomorrow, I run my first 5K of the year!  And we have four soccer games.  Yes, four.  Sarah Beth has a double-header.  It's going to be a busy, busy day!

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Honor the Sabbath to Keep it Holy -- Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the Sabbath, things we should avoid.  Today I will tackle the question, "What can we do, then?"

First of all, remember that the Sabbath Day is supposed to holy, that is, set apart.  You should do things on this day that you don't do the other days, especially things that honor and please God.

First of all, you should attend church.  As Hebrews 10:25 says, we should not forsake meeting together, as some people do.  God wants us to worship Him corporately in church, and Sunday is the only day we can do that.  Yes, I understand that some churches have meetings on Wednesday evenings, but it's not a worship service.  It's not church.

Skipping church to spend time with your family, I don't think God appreciates that.

Of course, there are some times that you just can't make it to church, like when you have a sick child. God understands that.  When you're traveling, it's hard to make it to church, too.  I'm talking about normal Sundays.

Here are a few other things that you can do on Sunday:
  • Spending time with family.  I try to play games with my children on Sunday because I enjoy spending time with them, and we don't usually have time for games during the week.
  • Hobbies.  I don't see any problem with things like reading and knitting, as long as it's something that you enjoy and doesn't feel like work.
  • Napping.  Other than attending church, is there anything better to do on a day of rest?  :)
Now I'll be honest with you.  I do tend to a little bit of work on Sundays in order to start my week off nicely without a lot of work left over from Sunday.  After cleaning up after supper, I may start a load of laundry or make sure the kitchen is good and straight, just so that these things aren't hanging over my head all night and so I don't have to deal with them first thing on Monday morning.  A head start, so to speak.  But I don't do much; generally, it takes me about half an hour and it comes after I've spent most of the day resting and honoring the Sabbath.

What kinds of things do you avoid on Sunday?  What do you like to do?

Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: My Christmas Present!

I have the best husband!  When he asked me what I wanted for Christmas back in November, I thought about it for a while and then asked him to take the kids camping.  Since he's taken them before, I wasn't asking for something he might not want to do.  Hannah and I would stay home, and I would get a vacation!  I wasn't in a hurry for my gift, so John took them this past weekend to Caprock Canyon State Park.

They had a great time!  They hiked a lot, and there were some challenging trails as you can see in the pictures.  But it was cold!  They managed, however, and now my children have great memories with their father.

What did I do?  Well, it took me two days to get to the point where I could look around and think, "I don't really have anything to do" which is what I was going for!  I did some cleaning and straightening the first couple of days, and then enjoyed my clean house for the rest of the weekend.  I also hosted an Usborne Books party Friday night.  It was the first time I've hosted any kind of party, and while it was small, we all had a great time.

To top it all off, my mother came into town on Tuesday, and we're having a wonderful time with her!

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • Lisa from the Pennington Point wrote this post about finding joy when unexpected (bad) things happen.  (Remember my word for the year?  Joy!)  I love her daily goal so much that I wrote it down and posted it on my refrigerator.  "My goal today is to glorify God and further His kingdom through my children."  
  • Shopping.  My mother took us shopping one morning, and we had so much fun picking out new clothes.  While I do buy new clothes for my children -- when they need them, we don't usually go shopping like this.  We all enjoyed the time.
  • Swimming.  My mother and I took the kids swimming one morning, and they had a great time.
  • Time off from school!  With Mom here, I'm declaring it spring break!
We don't have anything planned this weekend.  It's spring break in our county, so there aren't any soccer games this weekend.  A quiet weekend at home?  Not likely with my mother here!  :)

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

By the way, happy St. Patrick's Day!  If you don't know why we should celebrate it, check out this post.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book Review: When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, Illustrated by David Catrow

When God Made You tells children that they are uniquely made by God, for a special reason.  Children are told that God made them with a specific purpose, a role that He created them to fill.  The illustrations are eye-catching and colorful, as you can see from the front of the book.

I appreciate the message in this book.  God does create each person on purpose with specific gifts and talents for him to use, and He expects us to use our talents for His glory even when we are children.  This book is very encouraging and esteem-building, and I like that.  I like the message in this book and most of the pictures.  Some of them are a little strange, but children would enjoy them.  :)

I want to thank Blogging for Books for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Why We Should Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

We celebrated with these cupcakes a few years ago; maybe we should again this year.  :)

What does St. Patrick's Day mean to you?  When I was growing up, I just thought it meant wearing green so you didn't get pinched.  But then I read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, and my thinking changed.

Patrick was kidnapped as a young man and taken to Ireland where he was basically a slave.  He remembered the Christian teaching he had received back when he lived in England and turned to Christ.

After he made his way back home, his heart became burdened by the unsaved Irish, so he returned there to tell them about Christ.  Many believed.

Then the Western Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire) collapsed, and masses of barbarians streamed through Europe, looting and pillaging.  They destroyed all the civilization they could find, including monasteries which were the centers for learning at that time, not just Christianity.  Europe which had been Christian was now mostly pagan.

So the Irish sent missionaries to Europe to lead the people back to God.

Instead of  How the Irish Saved Civilization,  maybe it should be "How Patrick Saved Civilization."

What stands out the most in this story is how God used one man in a mighty way to save Christianity.  One man is such a small thing, but God often works through just one man in this way.  Isn't it wonderful?

Can you think of other times in history when God used just one man?  What about David when he killed Goliath?  After that battle the Israelites never had a serious problem with the Philistines again, although there were a few small battles.  What about Abraham Lincoln?  As much as I think he was a horrible president, God used him to keep the United States together so that the Allies could defeat Hitler's Germany.

One man.  Such a small thing, but in the hands of a mighty God, well, almost anything is possible!  That's why we should celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Cherish by Gary Thomas

Cherish.  What a great word!  Wouldn't we all loved to be cherished in our marriages?  Gary Thomas took that one little word and wrote a whole book about it:  what it means to cherish, how to actually cherish your spouse, and even how to make yourself more cherish-able (is that a word?).  There is a ton of practical information in this book that will help you improve your marriage -- that is, if you follow his advice.

I have read a couple of books by Gary Thomas, and when I had the chance to review this one, I jumped at it.  His books are always filled with great information pertaining to marriage.  And who's marriage can't use at least a little improvement?  :)  I loved this book with its advice for cherishing one's spouse, and I can't recommend it enough!

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Honor the Sabbath to Keep it Holy -- Part 1

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.  In it you shall do no work:  you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Exodus 20:8-11
What does the fourth commandment mean to you?  Have you thought much about it?  I have thought about it for a while and considered writing these posts for just as long.  Here are my thoughts about the Sabbath which we celebrate on Sunday.  I'm certainly no expert on the Sabbath; these are just my thoughts, and you can and should take them with a grain of salt.

We all know that we shouldn't work on Sunday, but exactly what does that mean?  I think we can agree that cleaning the entire house or doing all of the laundry qualifies as work.  But what about things like reading books, cooking a nice Sunday dinner, or knitting?  Then there are things like preparing simple meals and cleaning up afterwards.  And what if there's a sick child and there's an emergency load of laundry?  What about these situations?

I've divided these things up into four categories:
  1. Unnecessary work.  I put things like cleaning the entire house in this category because we should refrain from this type of work on Sunday.  Why?  It's not necessary, and God commands us to rest on the Sabbath.  And cleaning the entire house certainly is not restful!
  2. Gray areas.  You may enjoy cooking a gourmet Sunday dinner for your family even though it sounds like work to me.  So I try not to cook much on Sunday.  You may not enjoy things like knitting; since it's work for you, you should refrain.  But I enjoy knitting and reading, so I do those things.  That's why I call this category the "gray area."  
  3. Necessary work.  Even making a simple meal for your family is work, and the dishes need to be done afterwords, and that is work.  I don't think that God intends for our families to go hungry on Sunday, so I think preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards is necessary and therefore permitted.  
  4. "Ox in a ditch" work.  This type of work isn't necessary most Sundays, but sometimes an emergency happens.  There's an accident that has to be cleaned up, or there's a sick child who makes it necessary to do some laundry.  Our "ox is in a ditch," and I think God doesn't mind this type of work, either.  
What about going out to eat or shopping on Sunday?  I think that falls into not having your servants work.  No, those employees are not your servants, but you do require them to work when you show up to eat or shop.  It's more honoring to God when we stay home on Sunday, and do our eating out and shopping on other days.

What are your thoughts about the Sabbath?  Do you treat it differently than the other six days of the week?

Next week, I plan to tackle the question, "If we can't do any work, what can we do?  What should we do?"

Friday, March 3, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: Texas Independence Day

Yesterday was Texas Independence Day, and we enjoyed learning about that time period at the Stephen F. Austin statue outside of Angleton.  There were different stations where my children had a chance to try making butter, learn about firearms and doctoring, hear about cooking over an open fire, and so much more!  Daniel and Hannah enjoyed the cannons the most; Hannah couldn't stop giggling after they shot it!  Mary enjoyed the sewing, Sarah Beth the rope-making, and Rachel a game with sticks and a hoop.  My favorite was learning how to spin wool into yarn.  Maybe when I have fewer children at home and theoretically more time, I can get a spinning wheel.  :)  As you can see, we had a great time and learned a lot.  Unfortunately, Hannah was a little fussy, so I wasn't able to get many pictures.  :(  Oh, well!

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • dinner with friends.  We were invited to some friends' house last Saturday evening, and we always enjoy spending time with them.  They have children whose ages are close to ours, so they have a great time playing with them, too.
  • running.  Okay, I don't really enjoy running, but I've felt really good this week while jogging.  My 5K is at the end of the month, but I feel ready for it now.  :)
  • meeting friends yesterday.  It was much more fun with friends!
  • Sonic half-priced milkshakes on Wednesday.
Other than three soccer games on Saturday, we have a quiet day planned which will be nice!  

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February Reading

One of my goals for February was to read and review the four books I had or was expecting.  I got three of them done, and they made up the bulk of my reading for the month.

Here's what I read:
  • The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee.  Yes, I read this again as there was an online book club with the author on Facebook.  I picked up a few more tricks during this read, too, for maximizing my happiness in my year of joy.  
  • Against the Tide:  The Valor of Margaret Wilson by Hope Irvin Marston.  This fictionalized retelling of the story of Margaret Wilson gives a wonderful look into what life was like for the Covenanters during the reign of Charles II when they were persecuted, tortured, and martyred for their faith.  The heroine was only eighteen when she was killed for her faith, and the book doesn't have anything graphic in it, so I had Sarah Beth (10) read it.  She enjoyed it, but I could tell that it started her thinking which was my goal.  Knowing that people have been and are tortured and killed for their faith is something our children should know.
  • King's Blood by Jill Williamson.  You can read my review of this exciting fantasy here.
  • The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn.  You can read my review here.
  • The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green.  You can read my review of this historical fiction of the founding of Louisiana here.
What have you read lately?

Monday, February 27, 2017

February Review of Goals

My little cowboy girl.

We've had a fairly quiet month at home which has been nice.  I always enjoy my time at home.  :)  I feel like I did well with my goals except for the ones having to do with hospitality.  I'm out of practice which makes it harder.
  • I want to run two 5Ks.  My training is right on schedule for the first one in March.
  • Fun School Days.  We celebrated National Tootsie Roll Day and remembered the siege of the Alamo.
  • Hospitality:  having other mothers and children over for games and such.  I invited several mothers and their children to meet us at the park, but no one was available.
  • Hospitality:  we also used to have families over for supper one night each month, and we need to get back into doing this again, too.  We were too busy this month -- and probably will be again next month.
  • Date night.  John and I celebrated our anniversary by going out to eat.
  • Get comfortable enough with my handgun to go shoot by myself.  I did not go shooting this month.
My goals for February:
  • Increase my running from 25 minutes to thirty.  I exceeded this goal and made it to thirty-six minutes which puts me in a great place with a month to go until the 5K.
  • Finish Crystal's course.  I've still got a couple more days to finish.  
  • Schedule my days in blocks of time.  I tried this idea for a few days and didn't find it helpful.  I found that I already do this mentally.  :)
  • Review four books.  I reviewed three of them, and I hope to get the fourth done next week.  
March is going to be very busy for us with a couple of trips and my mother coming to visit, so I'm keeping my goals fairly easy:  
  • Run a 5K.  My goal is to run the whole thing, and maybe, just maybe, I'll run it a little faster than I did the last one.  :)
  • Celebrate pi Day.  That day will be our fun school day for the month as we celebrate circles.
How are you doing with your goals?  What have you accomplished lately?

Friday, February 24, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: A Finished Blanket, Rain, and John Being Home for Presidents' Day

Last weekend, we got a taste of what it's like to have children in the neighborhood.  It's been almost six years since we lived in a neighborhood with other children, and, well, you don't miss what you don't know.  A couple who lives a few doors down from us and to whom the children have sold eggs, had two of their nephews visiting, and one of them was close to Daniel's age.  Andrew came over several times over the weekend, and my children couldn't get enough of him.  Hearing his knock on our door was really nice, and we all enjoyed having him over.  As added benefits, he is also homeschooled, and they even do Classical Conversations.  Hopefully, the next time he's in town, he'll come over again.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed:
  • Finishing this blanket!  
  • Presidents' Day because John was home!  We did a little bit of school (math), and then just enjoyed having a quiet day at home.  It rained all day so we were kind of stuck at home anyway.  I was able to get a few things done to help start my week a little more nicely.
  • No CC this week.  We had a break this week, and I've said this before, but while we love CC, we also enjoy a week off.  It gave me an extra day to get my weekly chores done which was refreshing.  I didn't have so much to do the other days of the week.
  • Rain.  As I said earlier, it rained all day Monday, and we haven't had a day like that in quite a while.  I enjoyed the sound of the rain all day -- with no reason to venture out into it!
  • Sarah Beth and Daniel are working toward CC Memory Masters which is where they recite all of the information they have learned all year in one sitting -- four times.  It's a really big deal, and I'm confident that they can do it.  We started reviewing seriously this week, and I'm pleased with how much they can recall.  It's still going to take some hard work, but it'll be worth it!
  • National Tootsie Roll Day was yesterday, so we read some of the history of that candy along with eating some.  :)  Fun school day at its best!
  • Yesterday was also the anniversary of the first day of the siege of the Alamo, so we read some history of that event, too.  Not nearly as much fun, but much more important.  
Daniel and Mary have soccer games tomorrow, and Mary has been counting down the days!  I can't wait to see her play.  Then we're heading to some friends' house for supper, and it will be wonderful to spend time with them.  

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Review: King's Blood by Jill Williamson

This book continues the story of Prince Wilek, his brothers, and their people as they make their way via ships to find a new land to settle after their old one was destroyed because of their unfaithfulness to the Creator-God. This one book actually contains three books bound together; the three were published originally via e-book.  In this one, the people have to deal with betrayal and treachery aboard ship, along with  storms and not knowing where to go.  After they find land, they still have old enemies to contend with as well as giants in the new land.  Will their newfound faith prove strong enough?  Will their God?

As the first book in this series, King's Folly, was a kind of retelling of the story of God's judgement -- and destruction -- of Judah, this book seems like a retelling of Judah's return from exile.  Wilek encourages his people to worship the true God instead of the false ones, especially since He has brought them to this new land.  Of course, not everyone does and Wilek has to deal with these problems as well.

I enjoyed this book as much as the first, and I look forward to seeing what happens in the final book in this trilogy.  Williamson's writing is interesting, and her characters have depth.  Some people may complain about there being too many characters to keep track of, but I didn't have a problem.  In fact, I appreciated learning about the different situations from each one's point of view.  There are some characters that I really like and others that I don't care for at all -- which is as it should be.  As long as the ones I like are the ones that are good, I'm fine with it.  :)

I want to thank Bethany House for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, February 20, 2017

How I "Fixed" My Bad Mood on Saturday

Mary had her first soccer practice Saturday, and she LOVED it!

When I chose joy for my word of the year, one thing I wanted to do was to figure out why I wasn't happy sometimes and see if I could "fix" it.  Some sadnesses can't be "fixed," and I'm not talking about those.  There are times, however, when I've gotten myself into a bad mood, and I don't know why.  Those times are the ones that I want to "fix."

These bad moods seem to happen consistently at two different times.  The first occurs when I put John into a cage of expectations -- and he doesn't meet my expectations.  The second seems to happen the most on Saturdays, and I wanted to figure out why.

My schedule is different on Saturdays than during the week because John is home.  But no, John isn't the cause of my bad moods.  I work really hard on Saturdays, but I work really hard the other days, too.  What's the difference?  I finally realized that the difference is that I have a built-in rest time for me during the week with nap time/play time.  While Hannah does still nap on Saturday, I don't send the other four upstairs to play because John is home, and they need that time with him.  I don't get my usual time to rest and recharge by doing something I enjoy.

This past Saturday, we had soccer games and practice all morning, then we came home for lunch.  After I cleaned up the dishes, did some laundry, and finished the grocery list, I headed to the grocery store -- with Rachel who had a great time!  When I got home and after I put the groceries away, I realized I had a choice.  I could immediately get to work on the dessert I was taking to church the next day, or I could rest for a few minutes and do something that I enjoyed.  I did the latter and was refreshed and recharged to continue my day.  

As a matter of fact, I took a couple more breaks that afternoon to do things that I enjoyed in between doing my other chores, and I stayed in a good mood.  And I think I actually accomplished more!  Since I was rested and happy, I was willing to keep going to get things done.

I have a question for you:  is there a certain time when you find yourself in a bad mood?  Have you ever tried to figure out why it occurs?  Maybe you'll have a breakthrough like I did!

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I Enjoyed this Week: Our Anniversary

We were so young!

Today is our anniversary!  Sixteen years!  As we tell each other often, it feels like forever and yet it also feels like it was just yesterday that we walked down the aisle.  :)

This week was a quiet one.  As I looked at my schedule Sunday night after writing everything down, I realized that I didn't have much going on, and I thought, "How nice!"  :)  Of course, my days were still fairly full with daily homemaking and homeschooling, but we didn't have much else.  But I am getting used to soccer season again, having to take Sarah Beth and Daniel to practice every evening which really impacts what I can fix for supper:  either something real quick when we get home or something real slow in the crock pot.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • Daniel's birthday.  He's such a simple fellow that he didn't plan much, but he and John had a great time playing golf on Sunday.  
  • finishing a good book:  The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn
  • Daniel was invited to go fishing yesterday afternoon and had a great time
  • taking Daniel to the grocery store with me on Saturday.  We had so much fun together!  In order to spend more time with each child, I plan to take one with me on my weekly trip to the grocery store.  Rachel's eyes lit up when she discovered that she could go with me tomorrow.  
We're going out for supper tonight to celebrate our anniversary, and we have soccer games tomorrow morning.  Fun!

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn

Kindness seems like such a simple thing that's not worth much, but according to this author -- and her research -- kindness has the power to change the world.  As we show kindness to those around us, in general, they will respond in the same way.  Felhahn also describes several ways that we are unkind without even realizing it.  She gives many examples of ways that we can show kindness.  Then she challenges her readers to implement what they have learned and show kindness to someone in particular with her thirty day challenge.

This book is the second one by Feldhahn that I've read, and I was so impressed by the first that I immediately wanted to read this one.  I was not disappointed.  As she weaves together her research with anecdotes, the idea of kindness actually changing our difficult relationships seems possible and even probable.  I haven't tried the challenge on anyone -- yet, but I can see how, realistically, it can change the one doing the challenge and even the one on whom the challenge is being done.  Yes, I recommend this book, not just because it is interesting but also because it has the power to show you how to improve your relationships.

I want to thank Blogging for Books for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Cage of Expectations

While I was at the Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit, I heard about what Roxanne Parks calls "the cage of expectations."  In the same idea, Lindsey Lambert calls expectations the "chains that bind us."  Since I received a comment about this topic from what I brought home from the Summit and because it's something I'm working on, I thought I would extrapolate a little bit.

Let's see what this "cage" looks like.

When John arrives home from work, I expect him to help me.  Never mind that he has just worked a long day himself and is late because he stopped by to pick up Sarah Beth or Daniel from soccer practice.  Never mind that God designed wives as helpmeets, not the other way around.  And never mind that I don't even have a clear idea of what kind of help I want.  I just have a vague idea that I'm tired and want some help.

One of two things can happen when John walks through the door.  First, he could get distracted by a package that came in the mail that day, something that he has been waiting to arrive.  I'm irritated because he did not meet my expectations by helping me.  Secondly, he could walk in the door, see that Hannah is fussing at my feet while I'm washing dishes, and pick her up.  He just helped me, but I'm not grateful because I expected that help.

It's a lose-lose situation for both of us, and I have put my husband in the "cage of expectations."

Of course, this concept works with children as well.  When I expect my child to do well on a math test and he does, well, I'm not happy or grateful because I expected it.  If he does poorly, however, I'm upset because he did not meet my expectations.  (I'm using the generic "he;" I'm not singling out poor Daniel.)  I see this happening with chores, too, like setting the table.  You get the idea.

It's hard to let go of our expectations.  It's hard.  But we need to.  You can see from the examples above why it's called the "cage of expectations."  I've put my husband and my children in cages, and only I can let them out.

I'm working on this, and I wrote this post to remind me to work on it.

Do you put your loved ones in "the cage of expectations"?  If so, join me, and let's let them out!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Ninth Birthday, Daniel!

 Today is Daniel's ninth birthday!  I can't believe that in a year I will have two children in double digits!

He loves to build things:  legos, models, soccer goals.  :)

Daniel is very sweet and caring with his little sisters.

 Pictures like this one melt my heart!

He is also all boy and loves to have a good time.

But Daniel also loves to read.

Sometimes, he's a little goofy.  :)

I look forward to seeing what God has planned for my only son this year!

Friday, February 10, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: The Summit!

I do have more children, but this cutie is available more often for pictures.  She tends to be happier to smile for the camera, too.  :)

Last weekend, I attended the Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit.  I had a wonderful time, and I learned a lot.  I wish every state had something similar for homeschooling mothers because we can all use that kind of encouragement and refreshment.  I went with a friend, and I also enjoyed spending time with her.  I think she went to spend time with me and was pleasantly surprised by how much she learned and was encouraged despite her twenty years of homeschooling.  :)  As I've told many people already, you know you have a good husband when he lets you go off for the weekend, leaving him alone with five children.  :)

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • texting my sister.  We don't do that enough.
  • finishing a good book
  • Hannah's birthday
  • an empty day.  One of my children was sick Wednesday, so we had to stay home from CC.  Since CC takes our whole day and we're tired when we get home, I schedule almost nothing to do on those days.  Staying home gave me a day with nothing planned!  I was able to catch up on a few things that I hadn't gotten to earlier in the week and also get ahead by doing things scheduled for Thursday.  That was nice!  In case you're wondering, we did do a little bit of school, too.  No need to waste the day!  ;)
  • soccer!  Sarah Beth and Daniel both started practices this week.  We were worried about Daniel's team because I received an email stating that they didn't have a coach for it yet.  But someone came through and volunteered!
  • listening to CDs of some of the workshops at the Summit that I missed because I was in different ones:  one by Lisa Pennington and one by Susan Seay.  I look forward to listening to the last one I have and then listening to them again!
We don't have much planned this weekend which is nice since I was gone last weekend.  Well, there's Daniel's birthday, but he hasn't asked for much, unlike Rachel.  :)

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Book Review: The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

After midwife Julianne is wrongly branded as a murderer, she feels her only way out of prison is to marry a man she has never met and sail to France's new colony New Orleans.  Things there are much worse than she had expected, and she experiences many misfortunes.  But she decides to make the best of things, as she and her new husband struggle to make their marriage work.  Along the way, she learns to trust God even through the hard times.

I enjoyed this book.  The writing was quick and lively, and I enjoyed how Green told Julianne's story.  I appreciated how she dealt with the difficult things in this book, not glossing over them, but not dwelling on them, either.  I especially liked learning about the early history of Louisiana since I had not heard any of this information before.  Also, I welcomed how the author chose to have Simon and Julianne struggle with their forced marriage, but determine to make it as good as possible.  All in all, I recommend this book.

I want to thank Bethany House for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I Brought Home from the Summit

I went out of town last weekend to the Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit.  Yes, I missed Hannah's first birthday, and no, I didn't feel guilty.  :)  She didn't even know it was her birthday, we celebrated Sunday, and I came home with ideas and plans to be a better wife and mother.

Since I know you didn't attend, I want to share a few things that I learned.  Also, I'm hoping that by typing them out, I will help solidify these ideas in my mind, making it more likely that I will implement them and continue to do so.

Here are my top three "take home action steps:"
  1. Ask John his top priority for me every day.  I had heard this idea before, but I forgot about it.  As the speaker Lindsey Lambert said, if I get this one thing done everyday, it will bless John and show him how important he is to me even if I don't get anything else done that day.  *
  2. Speak John's love language.  I need to make a point to spend quality time with John since I think that's his love language (according to Gary Chapman's book).  This one will be hard because I crave time to myself, but it's important that I spend time with John.
  3. Plan family nights.  I think this idea will be fun.  I'm not sure yet how I will implement it, but I think I'll start with one night a month.  We'll have something fun and easy for supper, maybe a yummy dessert, and then do something together as a family.  I'm going to add this to my yearly goals.
Here are a few other things I learned this weekend:
  • Women were created to be relational life-givers.  It is part of my job to work on our marriage.  John's job is to provide for and protect our family while my job is more about the relationships inside our family.  Of course, he needs to work on our marriage, too, but God made women more relational, so it comes more naturally to us.
  • The number one thing, the top priority, in homeschooling is your marriage.  The best thing we can teach our children is how important a good marriage is, and how to have a good marriage.
  • It's important to have one-on-one time with each child weekly.  That will be a hard one with five children, but we need to make it a priority.  It doesn't have to be anything special, just time.
  • We have to let people out of our "cage of expectations."  When people meet our expectations, we aren't grateful because we expected it.  When they don't meet our expectation, we are disappointed and upset.  It's a lose-lose position that we need to get rid of.
  • Children need more grace and less law.
  • Incorporate more laughter and be more playful.
  • Study our children's gifts and build them up.
  • Have the youngest child who is capable do the chore.
  • Have children do more around the house.  My children aren't looking forward to this one!
I took a bunch of notes, and I ordered several CDs of sessions that I had to miss because I can't be in two places at one time.  :)  I look forward to seeing my marriage and my relationships with my children improve as I implement these ideas.

*In case you're wondering what John said his top priority for my day is, he said that he wants me to have some time to myself every day.  Isn't that sweet?  And it shows how well he knows me.  I already have nap time/play time in place most days, but I need to think about how to get some time alone the other days.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hannah's First Birthday!

Can you believe that today is Hannah's first birthday?  I can't, either!

She is a wonderful addition and blessing to our family.

I used to think that she was pretty laid back and easy going.  Not anymore!  This little girl is a firecracker, knowing what she wants and letting you know with no doubts!

But she's a sweet little thing, too, and her smile lights up her face!

Happy first birthday, Hannah!