Friday, June 15, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: A Fun-Filled Week

I have to admit that I missed the extra time reading this week that I had last week.  It's amazing how much you can read in just half an hour.  :)

John and I tag-teamed the swim meet Saturday, having hired a babysitter for the three little girls since John had to go into work for a little while.  I enjoyed the time there, watching my kids swim and spending that time with them.  Mostly, I was pleased with their good attitudes, how they cheered each other on, and how they took responsibility for getting themselves to the right place at the right time.  The cherry on top, however, was Sarah Beth coming in third in the 50m freestyle!

I had hoped that this week would be a little slow, that we would have some good downtime since it's summer and all.  But I was wrong.  We were out of the house early (before 9:00 which isn't that early, I know, but it is summer) three mornings, and we had things the other days, too.  Remember that an ideal day for me is when we stay home all day long.  :)  But that didn't happen this week.  And that's okay.  I'm trying to have a fun-filled summer, working on my word for the year:  fun.  Without spending too much money, taking advantage of resources we already have.

Here are a few things I enjoyed this week:
  • Navajo Code Talkers by Nathan Aaseng.  I saw this book at one of the gift shops at the Grand Canyon and knew that it would make a wonderful souvenir.  Almost as soon as I finished it, John picked it up, and I know that several of my children will read it, too.  The United States Marines used Navajos to come up with a code the Japanese could not break during World War II.  
  • Heartless by Anne Elizabeth Stengl.  I'm reading this book for the second time, and it is really helping me get through my morning runs on the treadmill.  I guess I would describe it as Christian fantasy mixed with fairy tales.  Oh, so very good!
  • If I Run by Teri Blackstock.  I don't usually read thrillers, but I'm enjoying this one.  In order to escape being framed as the murderer of her friend, Casey has to flee.  Dylan is hired to find her, but some things about the case don't add up to Casey being the murderer.
  • We were supposed to meet friends at the Health Museum Tuesday morning, but things came up for them.  So we went by ourselves and had a good time.  Afterwards, we went to...
  • Costco to activate our Groupon membership and do some shopping.  I know I spent too much, stocking up, but I also know that we'll eat everything that I bought.  :)
  • I took the kids swimming Monday and Thursday evenings, and we had fun.  Hannah is getting the hang of using her puddle-jumper which means that I don't have to keep a hand on her every single second, although I do keep a very close eye on her.  
  • playing Battleship with Mary.  She's been asking me to play a game with her all week, and finally I realized that it's summer, and I want to be available for things like that.  So I said, "Yes," and enjoyed the time with her.
  • Hearts of Fire:  Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Faith.  This book reminded me how easy my life here in the United States really is.  The stories of these women were truly inspiring, and I encourage you to read this book to see what the Christian life is like in so many parts of the world.
Tomorrow I'm going to see Guys and Dolls with a friend.  This musical is one of my favorites, so I've been excited about it ever since I first heard about it.  

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Traveling with Children, Part 4: Souvenirs and Impulse Buying

When you walk into a gift shop at a national park or any other attraction, you find all kinds of wonderful things that would be lovely to own.  At least, that's what my initial impression is.  If we are not careful, however, we can spend way too much for things we realize later that we don't really want.  Here are two suggestions I came up with to help curb impulse buying.
  1. Have a budget.  It is easy to spend too much especially when you are visiting multiple gift shops.  
  2. Add to collections you already have.  As I mentioned above, there are all kinds of neat trinkets and doodads that might be nice to own.  I recommend buying things that will add to something you already own.  Daniel enjoys collecting pocket knives, so when we found one at the Grand Canyon that was really "cool," I encouraged him to buy it -- instead of something else that he wouldn't appreciate as much later.  
In case you're wondering, here are my favorite souvenir purchases:
  • Books.  Mr. Potter gave us this suggestion on our tour to DC, and what great advice it is!  Sometimes you can find amazing books at gift shops, ones you won't find anywhere else.  When we buy them, we write in the front where we purchased it.  Since books are something that everyone can use, we are all reminded of our wonderful trip when we look at the inside flap.
  • Coffee cups.  While I don't actually drink coffee, I do appreciate a cup of tea every morning.  I enjoy the visual reminder of our fun times together.  Hmmm.  I think I'm starting a collection.  :)
  • T-shirts.  John and I do like occasionally to buy ourselves t-shirts if we can find some that we really like and are not too expensive.  But we don't buy them for our children.  They're too expensive, and our children don't wear them long enough.  Although we could probably make an argument for buying one for Sarah Beth so we could pass it down to each child.  ;)
How do you handle impulse buying in gift shops?  What kinds of things do you enjoy as souvenirs?

Friday, June 8, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: Getting Things Done

During Sarah Beth's and Daniel's swimming instruction this week, the little girls and I hung out in our van because Hannah really wants to go swimming, too.  It's easier to keep her happy in the van watching a DVD than trying to keep her out of the pool.  :)  While they watch a video, I've been enjoying the time to get a little extra reading done.  Sometimes, I do a little work on my summer learning plan or just do a little catch-up on texting or email reading.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • the party on Saturday.  All three little girls had a great time, and Hannah took an excellent nap. :)
  • spending time with Mary Monday and Wednesday nights when John took the older three swimming, and I needed to put Hannah to bed early because she didn't take a nap that day.  We read some books, played some games, and folded some clothes.  :)  I don't get time with any one child very often, so I try to make the most of it.
  • taking all of the kids swimming Tuesday evening.
  • sorting through my books in the library.  Yes, I'm enjoying it; I'm that much of a book nerd bibliophile.  :)  John says I have too many books, and (don't tell him I said it) I think he's right. At the very least, if I have owned a book for several years and haven't read it yet, I think it's time for it to find a new home where it will be read and appreciated.
  • working on my math for my summer learning plan.  It's hard!  But it's stretching my brain in a good way, and it's good for my children to see me struggling with a math problem.  As they see me work, rework, and work again a problem in order to get the correct answer, I hope they learn the value of persistence. 
  • watching Sarah Beth work on her own math.  Her math book for the fall came in, and she asked half jokingly if she started now, would she be able to finish her math earlier in the year.  I said, sure!  She thought about it and decided to begin this summer to get a head start.  I'm thrilled!  I'm not pushing it, though; we're aiming for three lessons a week so she doesn't get burned out too early.  
Sarah Beth and Daniel have a swim meet tomorrow to which John is taking them while I stay home with the little girls.  Other than that (which is a big deal because swim meets can take all day), we don't have any plans.  

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Taking a Road Trip with Children, Part 3: Three Things to Take Advantage of

When we drove into the first national park we visited, the Saguaro National Park, the park ranger asked if we had a fourth grader with us.  And we did!  She reminded us that families with children in the fourth grade get into national parks free.  We had forgotten, so we were happy for the reminder.  

Here are a few things we discovered that you might want to check into, to take advantage of, if you can. 
  1. Every Kid in a Park.  Did you know that you can get into national parks for free, if you have a fourth grader with you?  All you have to do is go to this site and put in your zip code.  It doesn't ask for a name, birthday, or any kind of identifying information.  Then you print out the paperwork and take it to a national park where they change the paper for a card.  Again, they don't ask for any information.  We figure this saved us close to $200 on our trip to the Southwest because of all of the national parks we visited.
  2. Other memberships you may already have.  When we visited Uncle Ray in Albuquerque, he suggested that we visit Explora one afternoon since it was going to be too hot to be outside.  I was thrilled when I realized that we could get in free because we have a membership to the Health Museum in Houston through a reciprocal program.  They even let Uncle Ray in free with us!
  3. Rest stops.  I know I've mentioned rest stops before, but they are the unsung heroes of road trips.  When you bring your own food, they are wonderful places to stop for lunch and/or snacks.  John and I usually ate standing up since we were tired of sitting, but it was especially nice for Hannah since she could climb on the picnic benches all she wanted instead of being stuck in a high chair at a restaurant.  
What other things should we take advantage of when we travel with our children?  If you have any suggestions, please share!

In case you missed them, here are part one about keeping children happy in the car and part two about things you might want to take but haven't thought of.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Book Review: The Better Mom by Ruth Schwenk

This little book is jam-packed with practical information on becoming a better mother but only through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Dealing with topics such as not being appreciated, having to be perfect, and dealing with the feeling that everything depends on the mother in the house, this book tackles most of the feelings that mothers deal with.  Several times, as I started a new chapter, I would find myself thinking, "This is exactly how I feel!"  Then the author gave wonderful advice on how to deal correctly with those feelings.

I enjoyed The Better Mom more than I thought I would which was a lovely surprise.  There was one thing I found terribly annoying, however:  the author used "mom" as a verb.  Other than that, I found this book to be very helpful in my role as a mother.

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

Friday, June 1, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: My Summer Learning Plan

A Joshua Tree.  And my kids.  ;)

There are many things about Classical Conversations that I appreciate, and one of my favorites is that it stresses the importance of redeeming the parents' education while we teach our children.  As I educate my children, I discover things that I don't know and wish I did which gives me the opportunity to rectify the situation.  And summer provides an excellent time to work on these items since I'm not teaching my children.  Yes, I do school for myself in the summer.  :)

While some people tackle subjects like math or Latin, I didn't feel the need to dig deeply into any particular subject this year.  But I do want to spend time on several -- about an hour each day.  I came up with this plan:

  • Monday is for math via MathCounts.  I hope to start a group in the fall. 
  • Tuesday for grammar via Our Mother Tongue.  Since I'm tutoring Essentials again next year, I thought a little extra preparation over the summer would be useful. 
  • Wednesday for CC webinars.  With Sarah Beth starting Challenge next year, I would like to learn as much as I can to help with this transition.  Also, I want to do more prep work for Essentials.
  • Thursday is for Teaching the Classics.  This method looks like a wonderful way to look at literature with my children, starting with picture books.  It works with any story!
  • What about Friday?  Fridays are for my home, specifically putting things in order and decluttering.  That's not really educational, but it is therapeutic!

Here's a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • school is out for the summer!
  • Sarah Beth's birthday.  I had been given a gift card myself, and I had so much fun picking books out for myself at her store of choice Half-Price Books.
  • swimming lessons for Sarah Beth and Daniel.  They're new instructor is wonderfully knowledgeable and amazingly kind.
  • taking the kids to the pool Wednesday evening.  Mary has been wanting to go, so I made the time for it.  And Hannah enjoyed herself, too.
  • As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner.  A family moves to Philadelphia so the father can work as an undertaker a couple of months before the Spanish flu of 1918 breaks out.  The part of the book dealing with the flu is wonderfully written especially as it shows how many people were involved and what a big deal this pandemic was from the viewpoint of this particular family.  The last third of the book deals with the consequences, and they are just as hard to deal with as the initial flu.  
  • Classical Me, Classical Thee by Rebekah Merkle.  Another Essentials tutor recommended this for kids moving up into Challenge, so I bought a copy for Sarah Beth.  She hasn't read it yet (unsurprisingly), so I started it.  It's written for kids who are in junior high or high school in classical education, showing them how valuable their education really is and how they will use it when they're grown.  I'm thoroughly enjoying it!
  • doughnuts for breakfast since today is National Doughnut Day!
I'm taking the three little girls to a birthday party tomorrow.  Rachel and Mary are thrilled.  Hannah will have a wonderful time, too.  Other than that, we have a quiet weekend planned which will be nice.

Have you thought of implementing a summer learning plan for yourself?  What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Taking a Road Trip with Children, Part 2: Four Things You May Not Have Thought about Bringing But Might Want To

How do you find the balance between what you want to bring on a road trip with the room you have in your vehicle?  Honestly, I'm not sure, and that's not what this post is about anyway.  :)

As I planned for our trip touring the Southwest months ago, I started a list of things that I knew I wanted to take but that I would probably forget if I didn't write them down because they're a little unusual.  But I'm so glad that we made room for them in our van as they made our lives just that much easier.
  1. Sleeping bags.  You might have already thought of this one, or maybe your family doesn't really need them because you don't have many children.  But bringing sleeping bags on a trip makes it possible for six people to sleep in a hotel room that technically only sleeps four.  (Add in a portable crib, and you can get seven in there.  ;)
  2. Food.  You can save tons of money by bringing your own lunch food and/or snacks, especially if you have room for a cooler.  Besides, don't you get tired of eating out every single meal?  I do.  We usually eat supper out, but we like to eat our own food for lunch and some snacks.
  3. Ziptop baggies.  I took a handful of these on our trip to the Southwest, and I ran out!  I had to buy more!  They're great for dividing up family size snack packages so that your children don't fight over them.  I also appreciated having them when one of my children didn't finish part of his meal or snack so we could save it for later.  They're also handy for souvenirs with small or many parts, like a deck of cards.
  4. Handheld vacuum.  If you have room for this and already own one, you will want to bring it.  When your children start picking cactus spines out of their shoes inside your van, you'll be glad you have it.  (Ask me how I know!)  Or when your toddler drops a goldfish and another child steps on it, it can save your sanity.  :)
What unusual things do you take with you on trips?  What should I add to this list?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Book Review: The Wounded Shadow by Patrick Carr

In this third and final book of the Darkwater Saga, Willet Dura keeps drawing closer and closer to the secret of the Darkwater, making him more and more of a threat to it.  His fellow Vigil members have their own tasks to perform as they work to outwit the terrible malevolence contained in the menacing forest.  Toria Deel and Fess work to help the soldiers guarding the Forest while Pellin travels to the southern continent looking for answers from the Vigil there.  Will they discover the answers they need in time to figure out what the Darkwater is and how to defeat it?

This book was a splendid and exciting conclusion to the Darkwater trilogy.  The character development is fantastic as each person has his own personality and is fully fleshed out.  The story is fast-paced while the writing is thrilling and keeps the reader coming back for more.  What's going to happen next?  What's going to happen to Willet next?  I especially appreciated the religious aspect to the book, as the characters -- the good guys -- call out for their god's help and protection.  While not overtly Christian, there is definitely a fight between good and evil just as in Tolkien's books.  I highly recommend this book with one caveat:  start at the beginning of the trilogy with the novella By Divine Right.  You won't be disappointed!

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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Sarah Beth's Twelfth Birthday!

This year has been a big one for Sarah Beth as she finished up six years of Foundations and three years of Essentials, getting ready for her first year of Challenge in Classical Conversations.

She enjoys doing things with her daddy:  hunting, camping, whatever.  

Don't let her fool you, though; she's got a mischievous streak!

Sarah Beth is a wonderful big sister and is a tremendous help, especially with Hannah.

She loves to learn new things, whether it's reading a book or listening to a lecture on a history tour.

I look forward to see what Sarah Beth's twelfth year holds for her!

Friday, May 25, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: Lots of Activities

Daniel playing the part of an engineer at a small-scale plant.

After a relatively quiet week last week, this week felt very busy.  We were out of the house a good bit, but most of it was fun so it was worth it!  Since this is our last week of school, we also have lessons to finish up.  We're looking forward to our summer break starting next week!

Yes, I know that I said last week we had a couple of weeks left for school, but Sarah Beth and Daniel had the opportunity for swimming lessons with a world champion swimmer next week.  I wanted to take advantage of that.  Homeschooling allows you to be flexible, right?  So we're doubling up math lessons and finishing up other books this week.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • meeting friends at the park on Monday
  • meeting another family who are interested in CC on Tuesday
  • getting my teeth cleaned.  Well, that wasn't fun, but I do like having clean teeth!
  • watching Rachel have fun at her soccer skills assessment
  • attending something that John's work put on for children, teaching them a little about how a plant (manufacturing, not a flower) works along with some chemistry demonstrations
  • staying home all day yesterday; after a busy week out of the house, it was especially nice!
  • going out last night with friends; I did leave the house for that, and it was wonderful fun!
  • having cookies twice this week when it rained
This evening, our three oldest girls are participating in a short soccer clinic, and tomorrow is Sarah Beth's birthday.  She wants to go shopping at Half-Price Books, so that's our plan.  Other than that, we expect to have a quiet weekend at home.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Taking a Road Trip with Children, Part 1: Keeping Them Happy in the Car

Three of my fellow travelers.

While I do not consider myself an expert on traveling with children, I have taken four extended trips (meaning that it took longer than a day of driving to get to our destination) with my children in the past year, two of them by myself without John.  We had a wonderful trip to Atlanta, Georgia for a tour on the Civil War; a nice visit with my parents when we had to flee Hurricane Harvey; an educational and amazing tour of Washington, DC; and recently, an incredible trip through the Southwest.  With all of this traveling, I have learned a thing or two which you might find interesting, too.

The hardest thing about these trips is the time spent in the car.  There is just so much of it, and it's boring.  You're all packed in together like sardines, or at least it feels that way.  :)  So how do you keep your children happy, or at least content while also maintaining your sanity?

Here's what we've found:
  1. Audiobooks.  Admittedly, this tip has to start long before your actual trip because you have to instill a love of books.  You can usually find a great selection at your library, and I also highly recommend Heirloom Audio.  Their dramatic renditions are outstanding.  The added bonus to audiobooks that movies don't have is that the driver can enjoy them, too.
  2. Let your children pack their own bags with what they may want in the car.  I told our children they could pack one relatively small bag, but they had to keep their stuff in it when they weren't playing/using it so our van wasn't a mess.  Also, it allowed them to change seats more easily when we stopped.  Sarah Beth packed books, Mary took some toys, and Rachel took colored pencils and a coloring book.  I'm not sure what Daniel packed.  ;)
  3. Snacks.  It was amazing how my children's (and John's and my!) attitudes improved when I pulled out a snack.  It let us drive a little longer which we needed in several places in the Southwest because there just wasn't anywhere to stop.  Make your snacks something special that you don't normally have at home.
  4. Don't forget the water.  We don't usually let our children have unrestricted access to drinks while we drive because we don't want to have to stop for bathroom breaks.  But a little bit of water is necessary after eating a snack.  :)  And it was so hot and dry in the Southwest, we needed the water.  I recommend water because it's not a big deal if it spills.  
  5. Occasional quiet time.  It was nice to have some time when we weren't listening to anything, when it was quiet in the van.  However, that quiet didn't usually last long as the children got bored and started bickering.  
  6. Little ones like Hannah can be difficult.  They don't understand what's going on, why they're in the car for so long, and they cannot enjoy audiobooks.  I packed several books and toys for her along with extra snacks just for her.  (Goldfish which no one else really wanted anyway.)  She also got all of the water she wanted; wearing a diaper has its privileges!  And the child sitting next to her had to help keep her happy!
  7. Rest areas are excellent places to stop.  When you get out, you can walk around, have the kids run from here to there three times, spread out, etc.  Instead of sitting at a restaurant after sitting in the car all day, you are free to stand up and move around.  Do not neglect these fantastic places to stop, especially since the bathrooms are usually clean.  :)
Have you traveled much with your children?  If so, how do you keep them happy and content in the car?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: Being Home

At the Meteor Crater.  My little geologist.  :)

After being gone for a week and a half touring the Southwest, it has been wonderful to be home!  Don't get me wrong; we loved (almost) every single bit of our trip, but as Dorothy says, "There's no place like home."

Having arrived home about lunchtime on Sunday, we were able to get the van unpacked and most of our stuff put away.  I took Monday to finish unpacking, work on laundry, and pick up groceries.  Then we started back into our regular routine, i.e. our routine without Classical Conversations which ended the week before we left.  We're also working hard to finish up our school year.  After this morning, we will only have sixteen more days of school.  Hooray!

Then I guess we will start on our crazy-busy summer.  ;)

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • eating at home.  Yes, I got tired of eating out.
  • homeschooling which allowed us to take such a wonderful trip when everyone else is still in school.  ;)  The places we visited weren't crowded at all!  
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.  What a wonderful book about the black women mathematicians who worked for NASA!  The book has more information than the movie (of course!), and it follows the lives of several women not just the three in the movie although it doesn't really read like a story.  I really enjoyed it, though, and I learned so much about these amazing women whom, by the way, the author actually knew and interviewed for the book.  
  • Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage.  Nicely written murder mystery, great for vacation reading!
  • counting down the days until school ends!
  • starting swim team for Sarah Beth and Daniel.
I will have to admit that I really didn't enjoy getting back to school this week to finish out our year.  Honestly, I thought about saying, "Good enough," and starting our summer break.  But we are so close to finishing and have so few days left that I feel like we need to push through it.

We have a relatively quiet weekend planned.  Sarah Beth does have her end of the season soccer party, but that's all we have, thankfully.  

Do you have spring fever, ready to quit school even if you're not quite done?  ;)  What have you enjoyed this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Our Trip Exploring the Southwest

We left two weeks ago for a tour of the Southwest.  We had two goals:  to visit John's Aunt Alice, whom we had not seen for more than fifteen years, and to see the Grand Canyon.  While we did accomplish both goals, we also saw so much more.  

Our trip started with a stop at Saguaro Cactus National Park where we enjoyed learning about these slow-growing cacti.  

Then we drove to Joshua Tree National Park where we saw lots of Joshua Trees and...

our children enjoyed doing some rock climbing.

Our next stop was to visit Aunt Alice who lives an hour east of Los Angeles.  Even though I didn't get any pictures of our time there, we enjoyed spending time with her and John's cousin's family.  Also, we did some hiking on Mount Baldy along with a few other activities.  

Oh!  The Grand Canyon!  Words and pictures cannot describe how incredibly massive and beautiful this wonderful work of God's hand is!  All I can say is that, if you haven't had a chance to see it, you need to!

We toured the Canyon for two and a half days which was plenty of time.  We rented a house which was lovely after being in a hotel for so long.  John even took Sarah Beth and Daniel a short ways (two miles) down a trail into the Canyon.  They said that it wasn't too bad going down, but coming back up was tough!

We stopped at the Meteor Crater in Arizona which is a private enterprise and has a great museum.  It was very windy so we didn't spend too much time outside.  While it is over 500 feet deep, after being at the Grand Canyon, it didn't look very deep.  :)

The Painted Desert was our next stop, and it was beautiful in a different way.  Honestly, I was amazed at how lovely it was, all the different colors of the rock.  Pictures do not do justice to this desert, either.

 Inside the Painted Desert is the Petrified Forest.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the petrified trees although I don't really know why.  But we enjoyed seeing them.

We had a wonderful trip touring the Southwest for a week and a half.  There are places we weren't able to visit on this trip and places we would like to visit again.  While we haven't started planning our next trip yet and it won't be any time soon, we are already looking forward to it!

Friday, April 27, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: CC End of the Year Party!

We finished up Classical Conversations this week with our end of the year party.  Mostly, it was a party at a park with lots of delicious food, but we did have a short awards ceremony.  Sarah Beth and another child from our campus both completed the difficult task of becoming a Memory Master.  They had to memorize all of the memory work for the year and be able to recite it four different times.  It's a big deal, and I'm so proud of their hard work!

I also wanted to recognize Sarah Beth because she completed six years of Foundations and three years of Essentials, and is graduating up to Challenge next year.  It's a wonderful turning point in her education, from memorizing great information to starting to learn how to use it.  I'm very excited!

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:

  • Sarah Beth scored her first soccer goal on Saturday!  Unfortunately, I wasn't there because I was at Rachel's game.
  • no piano lessons this week.  Our teacher's children were sick, so she cancelled which meant that we didn't have to rush through school and lunch to get there on time.  It also gave us time for a quick trip to the library!
  • running errands by myself yesterday afternoon.  I was able to get my hair cut and do some other things that are difficult with children in tow.
We have a busy weekend planned with a birthday party for John's mother.  Eighty years is a big deal!  

We've had a busy April, and May looks to be even busier.  I just want you to know because I may not be around in the blogosphere much.  

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: Memory Masters Preparation and a Finished Blanket

This week started off dark and gloomy and cool, but it ended up warm and sunny which was a nice improvement!  We want to enjoy this warm weather before it becomes hot.

My week has been filled with Memory Master preparation and testing, or at least it feels that way.  :)  Sarah Beth and Daniel also have a research paper due next week, and we've spent a good bit of time on those, too.  Other than that, it's been a relatively normal week.

Here are some more things I appreciated this week:
  • finishing the blanket pictured above.  It's always exciting to finish one blanket and start a new one!
  • finishing up the Missional Motherhood Bible study.  We're starting Hosea by Jennifer Rothschild next week, and I'm excited about that one, too.  (Lifeway has the videos for this study online free until the end of May, if you're interested.)
  • seeing Sarah Beth work so hard on her memory work for Memory Masters.
  • having friends willing to help proof my children for Memory Masters.  They're busy, too, at this time of year, but they carved out some time in their schedules to help.
Can you tell how much Memory Masters has dominated my mind lately?  ;)  We have at least one more week, and then it will be done!

Tomorrow is my birthday, so I've got a slow, lazy day planned.  Rachel has a soccer game in the morning, first, though.  John is taking Sarah Beth and Daniel to hunter education so they can do some hunting this summer.  Tonight we're going out to eat to celebrate my birthday.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Monday's Quote: Are You "Just" a Mom? NO!

Upon meeting someone new, have you been asked what you do?  Have you ever responded, "I'm just a mom"?  Let me tell you something you may not know already:  you are not just a mom.  God can and does use us mothers to move the world, to shape it His way.  We have important work to do, and we need to keep that in the front of our minds because so many people tell us otherwise.  Here is Gloria Furman in Missional Motherhood:
The world says that you are just a mom and that your mothering ministry is not newsworthy.  The world says your work is mundane, but every offering and discipling moment in your life is actually unique--unprecedented in history and never to be repeated.  Your work in evangelism and discipleship done through the power of the Spirit gives Jesus praise that echoes in eternity.  And this moves heaven to notice.  (p.  198)
Does that amaze you as much as it does me?  Every time I speak to one of my children is a unique opportunity:  do I waste it with harshness and exasperation, or do I use it to bring God glory?  It also terrifies me because I think of the many times I have lashed out at my children and hurt their tender spirits.  I can never go back and "fix" that moment.  Thankfully, with the grace of God, I am learning more patience and understanding as I deal with my children, hopefully pointing them to our ever patient, ever understanding Father.

Have you ever felt like "just" a mom?  After reading this quote, do you feel like there's more to the role of motherhood than you may have thought?

Friday, April 6, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: A Day off from School

What is it about little girls and their mothers' high heels?!

Wednesday morning, I woke up to no lights.  The electricity was out.  Ugh!  That's never fun!  I had to figure out what to fix for breakfast and what to do with the rest of our day.  I don't know about you, but a house without power depresses me because usually it's dark outside, too.  Sarah Beth sweetly asked if we could skip school, and I told her that was fine since I wasn't feeling too studious, either.  Finally, right before lunch (right before we left to go out for lunch), the power came back on.  While being without electricity is not fun, it is a wonderful reminder of how much I appreciate having it.  And a reminder not to take it for granted.  :)

Other than that, we had another fairly normal week.  I think I've said it before, but I like normal and routine.  :)  That way I know what to expect and can plan around it.  It's the unexpected that throws me for a loop because I haven't planned for it.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • Daniel passing his first Memory Masters proof.  He has three more to go.
  • a trip to the library.  We don't have the time to go as often as we would like.
  • rain.  We received a nice rain Thursday afternoon.
  • only one soccer practice for each girl this week.
This afternoon I plan to take Sarah Beth for her first Memory Master proof.  Tomorrow I will take the girls to their soccer games while John takes Daniel to scout out a potential hunting camp to lease.

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

March Reading

As I look down this list, I'm surprised at how much I read this month -- and at how many good books there are on it.  I had a hard time putting them in order of how much I enjoyed them, and honestly I'm still not sure I like the order.  :)

Here's what I read:
  • Missional Motherhood:  The Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plan of God by Gloria Furman.  Does this book sound familiar to you?  It might because this is the third time I've read it.  It's just that good!  There is no such thing as "just" a mom; God uses us mothers to grow His kingdom as we teach our children about Him.  But He doesn't stop with mothers as He also uses every woman as she ministers within her sphere of influence.  It's amazing to think how God can use us "just" moms.  
  • Daughters of the Night Sky by Aimee K. Runyan.  When my mother recommended this book, I knew it was  a good one!  Telling the story of a Soviet Union women's flying squadron during WWII, it is a fascinating fictional read based on a real squadron.  This book tells the tale of a specific woman as she goes to flight school, gets married, and enlists.  It kept me riveted while I jogged on the treadmill!
  • Mary Slessor:  Queen of Calabar by Sam Wellman.  I read a little blurb about this lady in an email I received from Christian History Institute, and I thought she sounded very interesting.  So I picked up a book about her, and she did indeed live a fascinating life!  Slessor moved to Africa to be a missionary, but the Lord placed the unreached people on her heart.  She moved into the jungle to teach them about Jesus.  Once they knew, she moved further inland, and again.  The Lord used her in a mighty way to end barbaric practices and to bring people to Him.
  • The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan.  Sarah Beth found this series at a bookstore and loved it.  After Daniel read it, too, and really enjoyed it, I thought I would read it, as well.  I was surprisingly pleased with the engaging story and interesting characters.  Rangers are a kind of peace-keeper in a medieval-type world, and this book tells the story of Will who is apprenticed to one.  
  • Exiles by Jaye L.  Knight.  This book is the fourth in this Christian fantasy series.  I think it is absolutely wonderful, and I recommend it highly.  But I won't bore you with a summary because if you haven't read the first three, it won't mean anything to you.  :)
  • All She Left Behind by Jane Kirkpatrick.  Based on a true story, this book tells about Jennie Parrish one of the first women doctors in the state of Oregon.  She had to overcome many obstacles along the way from an abusive husband and subsequent divorce to the prevailing idea that women should not be doctors.  I really enjoyed this book.
  • Sacred Influence:  How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of their Husbands by Gary Thomas.  I've read several books by this author, and usually I find his advice on marriage to be very helpful.  I guess his teaching in this book is as well, but I didn't like it.  Neither did the other ladies who studied it with me.  Thomas feels like wives can have a tremendous influence on their husbands, and I agree with that.  However, the point in the book seems to be that we wives need to help our husbands as much as possible, accommodate them completely (as long as no sin is involved), and basically bend over backwards to make them happy.  Then maybe, just maybe, if we're lucky, our husbands will respond in kind and do nice things for us, too, hopefully.  Honestly, this advice made us angry:  why should we give and give and give just for the hope that we will receive something in return?  I know it appears to be scriptural, but it's exhausting.  
What have you read recently?  Anything good?  Or not so good?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday's Quote: Why Helicopter Parenting Teaches Our Children Not to Trust God

I have never wanted to be a helicopter mother.  I have always felt that children should learn to do for themselves so they learn to be independent.  However, I must admit that sometimes I do step in when I shouldn't.  But I have always figured that the biggest problem with helicopter parenting was that it did not teach children that their actions have consequences.  I was wrong.  The biggest problem with helicopter parenting is that it teaches children that they cannot trust God.  Gloria Furman in Missional Motherhood says this:
The greater concern about helicopter parenting is not that children will not learn independence, but that we will inadvertently model to them that God's faithfulness is not dependable....  The overarching consequence of obsessive overparenting is simply that in our failure to live out the truth of the big story, we fail to pass on that big story.  What is this helicopter parenting subconsciously teaching our children about God, themselves, and His call to spread His glory to every corner of the earth?  In our disciples' [our children's] eyes it may seem that God, who is so big, so strong, and so mighty, is really no bigger than we are.  God is not mighty to save; Mommy is.  (p. 168)
I have been convicted.  In addition to working hard to teach my children independence (which is still a great thing), I also need to teach them to trust a loving, all-powerful God.  And to teach them that, I have to model it.  What a huge responsibility!  Thank God that He will provide plenty of opportunities to live this trust out.

What do you think about helicopter parenting?  Are you one?  Or not?

Friday, March 30, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: A Normal Week

We returned to our regular schedule this week with Classical Conversations, piano lessons, and school.  It was a good week with a wonderful ending:  John has today off!  We always enjoy him being home, but especially when we have him home for a long weekend.  Good Friday, indeed!

Seriously, though, one of my children asks every year, "Why is it called Good Friday?"  Since Jesus died, shouldn't it be "Bad Friday"?  No, no!  We call it "Good Friday" because Jesus took our place when He was nailed to the cross.  Yes, it was bad that He died, but it is wonderful that His sacrifice took our sins away and gave us hope, a sure hope of eternity with Him.  We should call it "Wonderful Friday," don't you think?

Here are a few things I enjoyed this week:
  • we had supper with friends last Saturday.  We've made an effort to try to get together monthly, and we've all appreciated that!
  • CC.  Several children were sick this week, but we still had class.  It was a smaller, more intimate setting which was nice -- occasionally.  Honestly, we missed having everyone there! 
  • having some time during piano lessons to get ahead by working on my lesson plans for CC next week.
  • the nice weather.  It's been sunny and warm, but not hot.  Perfect weather for playing outside!
  • rain.  We did get a bunch of rain Wednesday night with thunderstorms, but since it came during the night, it didn't interfere with anything.
  • only one soccer practice this week.  Due to various things, we only had one of the four soccer practices this week -- which made things a little easier for me.  :)
We don't have any big plans for this weekend other than church as usual on Sunday.  Unfortunately, our church doesn't do anything special for Easter, and I miss that.  

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

Friday, March 23, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: My Christmas Present!

For Christmas the past couple of years, I have asked for a weekend (almost) to myself.  John does this by taking our oldest four children camping one weekend while I stay home with Hannah.  It works out wonderfully:  John and the kids have a great time camping, and I have a relatively restful weekend at home.

Last weekend was my weekend.  John and the kids left on Thursday, and they arrived back home on Sunday.  They drove up to Lawton, Ok, where John's father grew up.  Actually, it was closer than some of the parks John looked into here in Texas.  They had a wonderful time.  The weather was just about perfect, and there was lots to do.

Meanwhile, I was home with Hannah.  She loved being an only child for the weekend!  We ran a few errands and got some things done.  Mostly, I enjoyed the slower pace of having only one child for a few days.  It's hard to remember what those days were like!

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • visiting Challenge A up in the Houston area.  This is the next step up in Classical Conversations, and Sarah Beth will start this program next year.
  • getting my oven repaired.  I've lived without a display that can be read for almost five years, and it's been fine.  But now it works!  I can see what the temperature in the oven is!
  • families visiting our campus.  We had an Open House this week, and there are some families who are interested in CC for next year!
Tomorrow, Sarah Beth has two soccer games, and Rachel has one.  Then we're going to eat supper with some friends.  Fun!

What did you enjoy this week?  Have you asked for anything unusual like a weekend to yourself for Christmas?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Visual Reminder to Watch What I Say and How I Say It

A couple of months ago, I read an article about how the author tried an experiment to see if she could learn not to yell at her children anymore.  She put five rings on her left ring finger, and whenever she lost her temper with her children, she would move one ring over to her right hand.  I thought that was a neat idea and immediately bought some rings for myself.

I hate to admit that I lose my temper with my children and my husband.  I hate to admit that I speak harshly to them without real cause.  I hate to admit that I use sarcasm to belittle my children.  But I do.  I am not perfect, and I will not be until I die and arrive in Heaven.  So I need cues to help me remember to watch, not just what I say, but how I say it.

In the picture above, you can see that I only have three rings on.  That's not because I think I will mess up fewer than three times in one day.  No, if I wear more than that, they cut off the circulation in my finger.  So I wear three, and so far it's working.

That is, when I remember to wear them.

The really great thing about these rings is that they are noticeable.  My children and John know why I'm wearing them.  The really bad thing about these rings is that they are noticeable.  When I say something unkind or yell, they will quietly remind me to move a ring to the other hand.  It's humbling.  But I need their help and accountability.

With this post, I'm letting more people know why I wear these rings, and you can also help to hold me accountable.  Especially when I'm not wearing them.

Please just don't look too closely to my left hand to see how many times I've messed up already today.  ;)

Friday, March 16, 2018

What I Enjoyed this Week: A Trip to the Zoo and a Broken Dryer

 Daffodils have always been a sign to me that spring is coming!

Actually, I did not enjoy the broken dryer.  What a snag in our day-to-day operations!  Do you know how much laundry is generated by seven people?  ;)  And I really want to blame it on Hannah since it was her sheets that were in the dryer when it quit working.

Seriously, though, my dryer stopped heating up Sunday afternoon.  (While I don't usually do laundry on Sunday, this was kind of an emergency.)  It still ran, but the sheets inside it were cold and were not drying.  And I almost panicked because how was I supposed to do laundry?!!!  So I called the repairman Monday morning, and he wasn't going to be able to come out until Wednesday.  Again, the panicky feeling.  My hero husband came to the rescue.  I thought I would just wash several loads since my washer still worked fine, and then take them all to the laundromat to dry.  When I told John that, he said, "With all five children?"  Like, have you lost your mind?  He told me to take the dirty clothes to the laundromat and just pay them to wash, dry, and fold them.  I thought about arguing because it's so expensive, but then I submitted.  And how nice was that!

The repairman came out first thing Wednesday morning, and he was able to fix my eighteen year old dryer in less than thirty minutes.  Hooray!  But -- there's always a but, isn't there? -- my dryer vent was clogged.  So he told me I should not use the dryer until the chimney sweep could come out and clear it.  What?!  He was just here two or three years ago!  The way our dryer vent goes up and around our garage, it gets stopped up easily.  So we're going to need the chimney sweep out here regularly from now on, that is, if I want my dryer to continue to function properly.

By the way, did you know that there is such a thing as a chimney sweep?  And that they clean out dryer vents?  I had no idea -- until three years ago.  I had that song from Mary Poppins stuck in my head all day.

Anyway, the chimney sweep was able to come out Wednesday afternoon, so I was able to start getting caught up on all of the laundry I hadn't taken to the laundromat and that we had generated since then.

That was my adventure for the week!

Here are a few things I actually enjoyed this week:
  • a working dryer!!
  • getting caught up on laundry.  Yes, I did!
  • no CC this week!  It's spring break in our area, so I scheduled us to be off, too.  With all of the craziness with the dryer, it was nice to have one less thing to worry about.
  • a trip to the zoo.  Since we didn't have CC, we went to the zoo with a couple of families from our CC campus.  We had so much fun!
  • texting with a distant friend.  We try to interact daily via texts, and it's absolutely wonderful!
  • a meeting for one of the CC classes.  Even though it was a working meeting, it was still enjoyable to spend time with those ladies.
  • meeting a friend for coffee/tea.  She drank coffee, I drank tea, and we both enjoyed wonderful fellowship.  :)
  • pi Day.  I made a chocolate pie to celebrate!  It was pretty good, definitely worth making again, although I will use a graham cracker crust next time.  
It looks to be a quiet weekend which I'm planning to enjoy.  :)

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?  Did you celebrate pi Day?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

My Word for the Year: Fun

When I went to the Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit this year, I heard a talk by two women who had graduated their children from their homeschools.  Both mothers said that, if they could go back and change one thing, they wish they would have been more fun.  I sat up to pay close attention because you should when wiser women are speaking.

I mean, honestly, which parent is the more fun usually?  It's not the mother.  We have so much on our plates, all the time, with maintaining a home (laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning) and schooling our children, if homeschooling, and/or working.  We don't have much time left for fun.

After the Summit, I determined to change things a little, to try to have more fun at home.  But how?  That's a great question.

One of the mothers said that every time it rained where she lived in western Texas, they would stop school and read books.  But it didn't rain often because that part of the state is fairly dry.  I don't want to do that because it rains a lot here, but I thought raining might give me somewhere to start.  So I made a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, scooped it out, and froze the raw dough.  Now I have frozen cookie dough, ready to bake when it rains.  Unfortunately, it hasn't rained since I did that.  :(

I am also trying to remember to celebrate some of these fun holidays.  We celebrated Tootsie Roll Day Anniversary by reading some of the history of the Tootsie Roll and, of course, by eating some.

Now I'm out of ideas.  Do you have any?  What have you done, or what do you do, to make school more fun?  Or even what do you wish you could do to make school more fun?  I would love to hear your ideas.  :)

Friday, March 9, 2018

What I Enjoyed this Week: Racing with a Friend

I ran a 5K last Saturday, and it was great to run it with a friend.  Okay, we didn't actually run it together; she ran a good bit faster than I did.  But it was fun to have someone to talk with before the race and afterward, waiting to hear the results.  And I came in second!  (We're in different age divisions; I'm older.)  I always find it exciting to hear my name called because I run so slowly.  :)

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • talking with a woman who wants to start homeschooling her children next year
  • texting daily with a friend
  • watching Rachel read chapter books, ones I bought for Sarah Beth several years ago to start her on chapter books
We don't have any plans for the weekend which is nice.  Next week is spring break in our area so there's no soccer practice or games.

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

Book Review: A Light on the Hill by Connily Cossette

Moriyah's face was badly scarred during her short visit in Jericho seven years ago, so she doesn't think any man will want her for a wife.  However, her father finds someone, and she has high hopes for the marriage.  Unfortunately, something goes drastically wrong, and she is forced to flee to a sanctuary city.  The journey she takes along with the things she learns, help her see how valuable she is despite the scar and how much God loves her.

I did enjoy this book about Moriyah fleeing to a sanctuary city during the early settlement of Canaan after the Israelites started its conquest.  But the journey seemed far-fetched, too much too believe, almost like the author was trying to figure out how to give Moriyah and Darek more time together.  It was long and drawn out, and I was ready for it to end.  However, I really appreciated the twist at the end at Moriyah's trial.  But to find out what that was, you'll have to read the book!  I enjoyed how the author wove it all together at the end.

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

Friday, March 2, 2018

What I Enjoyed the Past Three Weeks: A Weekend Away and Other Things

I can't believe I haven't written an "enjoyment post" in three weeks!  It just shows you how busy I have been lately!

My mother came into town two weeks ago.  When she visited at Thanksgiving, she asked what I wanted for Christmas.  I replied that I would like her to keep our children for a weekend so John and I could take a short trip, just we two.  So she did!  John and I drove down to San Antonio for the weekend.  We visited the Alamo, walked the Riverwalk, and enjoyed the resort where we stayed.  Oh, boy!  The food was delicious!  Mostly, we enjoyed the time together, connecting.  And we really appreciate my mother doing that!  But I cannot believe I did not get a single picture!

Rachel and Sarah Beth have both started soccer this spring.  Rachel had her first game last weekend, and she played hard and great.  Either she's a little bit of a natural, or she learned a lot watching Sarah Beth and Daniel play.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed recently:
  • visiting with my mother although I didn't see her as much as I would have liked since John and I were out of town for the weekend.
  • having supper with friends last weekend.  We don't see them often enough!
  • a productive information meeting for Classical Conversations.  Several people came, and it looks like we will have some new families on our campus next year.  Yea!
  • watching the Olympics!  We stayed up too late and watched too much tv, but the games only happen every two years, right?!
  • seeing a rainbow on the way to soccer practice one evening.
  • I started a new Bible study on Sunday evenings which won't interfere with school like the Thursday morning ones did.  :)
I have a 5K to run tomorrow, then two soccer games:  one for Sarah Beth (her first) and one for Rachel.  It should be a busy day!  

What have you enjoyed recently?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February Reading -- Including a Couple of Children's Books

I feel like I read quite a bit this month, and most of it was very interesting.  Again, I've put them in order of how much I enjoyed each book with the top being my favorite.
  • Devotions, Advice, and Renewal for when Motherhood Feels too Hard by Kelly Crawford.  This book contains thirty-one devotions which are absolutely wonderful and applicable to us mothers when life is hard, as the title says.  I cannot recommend this book enough!
  • Liturgy of the Ordinary:  Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by  Tish Harrison Warren.  The author makes wonderful connections between things we consider sacred and things we consider ordinary, showing that really they are all sacred.  There is so much great material in this book that I plan to reread it soon.  
  • Judah's Wife by Angela Hunt.  I didn't know much about the Macabees or the time between the Old and New Testaments, so I enjoyed reading this book and learning some things.  My full review is here.  
  • An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor.  After I started this book, I realized that I had already read it!  But I didn't have anything else to read, so I continued, and it was good enough for a second read.  Dr. Barry Lafferty is straight out of medical school and gets hired as an assistant to Dr. O'Reilly who is a curmudgeon with a soft heart.  As the younger doctor works with the older one, he learns many things about practicing medicine that he did not learn in books or at school.  Warning, there is some bad language.
  • Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar.  This book tells the story of the woman in the Bible who had the flow of blood, whom Jesus healed on the way to heal Jairus' daughter.  It was an interesting read, but there was tons of backstory, and Elianna didn't get her illness until 3/4 of the way through the book.  
  • The Flint Heart by Katherine Paterson and John Paterson.  When Charles' father discovers an amulet that makes the finder cruel and heartless, Charles has to figure out how to help him.  The flint heart then gets passed from person to person until Charles with help from his fairy friends and his sister figures out how to get rid of it.  I read this book to my children as our read aloud book, and they enjoyed it.  And I enjoyed the lesson they learned about having a hard heart.  :)
I thought I would also add some children's books that we pick up at the library that my readers may be interested in:
  • Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade by Trinka Hakes Noble.  During 1918 as World War I ends and the Spanish Flu epidemic sweeps across the world, Rettie has her own concern:  will there be the Ragamuffin Parade?  The parade gives poor children the chance to earn a few pennies, and Rettie desperately wants them so that her family can have a better Thanksgiving.  I enjoyed reading this book to my children because they need to know that not everyone lives the way we do and how privileged we are.  The pictures are lovely and descriptive.  
  • Sergeant Reckless:  The True Story of the Little Horse who Became a Hero by Patricia McCormick.  A group of Marines need help getting missiles to the top of a hill during the Korean War, and they recruit a little horse to help.  Everyone is amazed at her bravery in battle, and we loved this book.
What have you read recently?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Book Review: Judah's Wife by Angela Hunt

Seeking safety and security from an abusive father, Leah agrees to marry Judah Maccabeus.  She does grow to love him, but her desire for peace wars with his need to fulfill God's will for him to fight the enemies of the Jews.  Although she tries to change him, to keep him home with her, eventually she learns that a man can make war on his enemies without destroying his family at the same time.  She also learns to embrace the plan that God has for her and for her husband.

I enjoyed this book about the Jewish people during the "Silent Years," the time in-between the Old and New Testaments.  I did not know anything about the Maccabees except for the myth of the oil not burning out for eight days which the author deals with in the afterword.  As the the love bloomed between Judah and Leah despite their differences, their reliance on each other and their God also grew.  The book seemed to be well-researched, and I do recommend it.

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

Daniel's Tenth Birthday

Today is Daniel's tenth birthday.

He loves his sisters although sometimes he forgets they are girls and gets a little rough.  :)

He works hard at his schoolwork. 

He loves taking pictures.

He took this beautiful one.

Daniel has an adventurous spirit that seems to be normal for boys, so we encourage it as much as we can!

I can't wait to see how the Lord continues to work in Daniel's life!